Rumor: Abu Dhabi Fund Seeks to Sell GlobalFoundries

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2015 - 04:45 PM |

Several years ago, AMD spun off their chip manufacturing infrastructure into a company, which was named GlobalFoundries, and became a fabless integrated circuit designer. This transaction meant that AMD would be free to shop around when they needed something printed, and they wouldn't need to pay for the upfront expenses. That burden would be placed on the shoulders of stakeholders in GlobalFoundries, and of course the revenue they acquire from their larger pool of customers.


Image Credit: Wikipedia

Speaking of their stakeholders, GlobalFoundries is wholly owned by Advanced Technology Investment Company, which is owned by Mubadala Development Company, which is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi. GlobalFoundries merged with Chartered Semiconductor and was actually paid by IBM to acquire their fab business, at a reward of $1.5 billion USD and binding IBM to a ten-year exclusivity deal for server processors, which helped bolster the company. Oil prices have been fluctuating though, and sources tell Bloomberg that Abu Dhabi is interested in selling some or all of GlobalFoundries at a valuation of around $15-20 billion USD.

The report stops there, without declaring any potential candidates, but speculation doesn't. A lot of it just sounds like listing names who have lots of cash. If the source is even accurate, we don't know who are involved or how serious they are.

Source: Bloomberg

Old Video About an Older Gaming System...

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2015 - 07:33 AM |
Tagged: snes, retro, Nintendo

So I missed this one until yesterday, when Dave Voyles of Microsoft tweeted it out. While the video was published in 2011, it doesn't have too many views and this topic only gets better with age (pretty much).


Image Credit: "Wikipedia SNES PAL" by JCD1981NL - Own work
Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

The narrator opens up a Super Nintendo, which is a PAL kit for North Americans wondering why the casing looks so different. The console has a dedicated CPU, RAM, two sound processors with RAM, and a four-package video chipset of two graphics chips and two VRAM packages. The two video chips, each paired with a package of RAM, are used in tandem but apparently cannot see into each others memory. This reminds me of the split-memory architecture on the PS3, which provides 256MB to the Cell processor and 256MB to the NVIDIA GPU.

Another interesting note is that, because the sound system has its own 8-bit Sony processor, sound effects and music will continue to play when the main system freezes. I never really thought about it until I watched this video, but I believe I've actually experienced that a few times in the early/mid 90s. I just never thought much about it because computers were still somewhat magical back then.

Source: YouTube

Shame about the name but power over WiFi would be nice

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2015 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: poWiFi, wireless power, iot

It is going to take some work as it is not currently that impressive but the experiment at Cornell University shows that power over WiFi is not impossible.  The experiment was not all that impressive, they charged a Jawbone headset @ 2.3mA and after 2.5 hours which they managed to charge the battery to 41% over a distance of 5-7cm.  Those results are poor compared to Qi and other wireless charging solutions on the market but are promising.  The power is transmitted by a wireless router that can also send and receive data so for wireless cameras and other low powered devices which transmit data this could be quite useful.  You can read the research paper by following the links from Hack a Day.


"There have been a few reports of power over WiFi (PoWiFi) on the intertubes lately. If this is a real thing it’s definitely going to blow all of the IoT fanboys skirts up (sorry to the rest of you *buzzword* fanboys, the IoT kids flash-mobbed the scene and they mean business)."

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Source: Hack a Day

PC Gaming Services Want Your Black Friday Money Too

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2015 - 11:22 PM |
Tagged: uplay, steam, pc gaming, origin, GOG

While everyone's in a turkey and gravy coma, retailers are hoping that you'll feel a bit browsy with your drowsy. Black Friday deals are popping up everywhere; some are good, but some are token at best... including the Black Friday sale on tokens at the local arcade.

Too soon?


Anyway, four (edit: Fixed typo) of the largest PC gaming services are Steam, UPLAY, Origin, and Steam is predictably the largest sale. It's another “Exploration Sale,” which is another way of saying, “Here's a few examples of great deals; browse for crap you like. You might find something cheaper. I dunno.” Speaking of a few examples, Elite Dangerous is now just a third of its price. Grand Theft Auto V is now reduced too, although it's not yet in the impulse buy territory. Call of Duty Black Ops III also received a little chop in price, which is unusual for the franchise. You'll probably want to browse Steam in general, especially if there's a game that you've been eying but couldn't justify buying yet.

UPlay's sale is a bit more... weird. If you played Tropico 5 but put it down before buying the DLC, the pack of boosters is now 75% off ($11 CDN here). Surprisingly, the vast majority of sales have nothing to do with Ubisoft titles, and the three exceptions are from 2013 / 2014.

Origin is a bit more rounded in terms of old and new titles. FIFA 16, released just this fall, is about 40% off where I am. Tomb Raider is in the mid-single digits of dollars. Battlefield Hardline is about $10. Do not buy The Witcher 3 here though, if the Canadian prices carry over to the US. The sale even extends back to Command & Conquer: The Ultimate Collection, NHL 09, and Medal of Honor: Airborne. It just keeps scrolling.

Now for GOG. This is, again, a sale that you should probably browse. If you were interested in The Witcher 3, purchasing it from GOG instead of Steam will get you the same sale but DRM-free. Its new price is $29.99 USD, unless you're Canadian. We get it for $23.49 USD at GOG or $29.99 CDN at Steam. I guess they feel like giving a slightly larger discount to compensate for the lack of turkey-goggles. Browse the “On Sale” tab in the bottom right before you leave too.

The Internet of Things loves to share

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2015 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: idiots, iot, security

You would think people would be be taken aback if someone suggested saving money by using the same key on every new house built in a neighbourhood, if so you don't work for companies developing hardware for the Internet of Things.  In a recent survey of  4,000 embedded devices from 70 hardware makers, Sec Consult found that many had the same hardwired SSH login keys and server-side SSL certificates.  The numbers they provided The Register were a total 580 private keys were found distributed over all the analyzed devices, of which at least 230 are in already in use on the internet.  To be fair this is not uncommon in consumer level firmware as companies do not even bother to check over the source code let alone change the security keys held within but it is a huge security risk.  For a glimpse at how bad some of these supposedly secure certs and keys are read on at The Register.


"Lazy makers of home routers and the Internet of Things are reusing the same small set of hardcoded security keys, leaving them open to hijacking en masse, researchers have warned."

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Source: The Register

Bringing mods to the post-nuclear wastelands of Massachusetts

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2015 - 01:41 PM |
Tagged: fallout 4, mod, gaming

The modders over at the Nexus community are already hard at work creating mods for Fallout 4 and Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have compiled a list of the best ones currently out there.  After a quick tutorial on how to apply mods they jump into the list and of them all the first one may be the most useful as it allows you to tweak your display resolution, mouse sensitivity, field of view and the many other settings you might have expect to be changeable in the game itself.  From there they move onto improved lighting, longer death cam viewing, a higher settlement budget and even dialogue expansion.  Check out what is there or head over to Nexus Mods to see what others catch your interest.


"While official mod support for Fallout 4 [official site] hasn’t arrived just yet, Nexus Mods have opened their proverbial gates. Their community is fast at work creating handy customisations and helpful leg-ups to see you right as you dive head first into the irradiated unknown."

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There's data in dem der lightbulbs; moves really fast too!

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2015 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: wireless, li-fi, 1GBps

Li-Fi is a new experimental wireless data transmission technology which sends data using the same lights that illuminate the space you are in, at such frequencies and intensities that your brain does not process any change in lighting which your eyes might capture.  It transmits at an incredible speed, under perfect conditions in the the lab they saw 224GBps and recently have successfully transmitted at 1GBps in the field.  Yes, that is 1GB per second of data transfer, light travels rather quickly after all.  There are limits on where this technology can be used, in large spaces signals from different lights could interfere with each other and if you are outside then you will not be able to benefit but for offices and the home this could be rather impressive to behold.  Read more about the researchers and how these lightbulbs could be tied into existing lighting at The Inquirer.


"BOFFINS HAVE field tested Li-Fi for the first time, achieving wireless speeds 100 times faster than WiFi."

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Source: The Inquirer

Deals of the Day: 960GB SSD for $199, $69 Athlon X4, GTX 970 Price Drop

Subject: General Tech | November 24, 2015 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: SanDisk Ultra II, MSI GTX 970 Gaming, GTX 970, 960GB SSD

The internet is full of sales this week, and there are some great PC hardware deals out there beginning with the best price per GB on an SSD we've ever seen.


At $199.99 shipped this 960 GB SanDisk Ultra II SSD is a stunning $0.20/GB, and offers good speeds for a SATA III drive with up to 550 MB/s reads and 500 MB/s writes, along with "n-Cache 2.0" which SanDisk explains is "a large, non-volatile write cache (which) consolidates small writes to boost random write performance".

What better to fill up that huge SSD than a library of games, and if you're in the market for a new graphics card to drive them there are some excellent deals out there. A good mid-range GPU option is the oft-maligned NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, and memory controversy aside it's a very high performer for the money. Lately prices have dropped a bit, and there some great options out there when you factor in rebates.


While you can find some lower-cost GTX 970's out there this is a good deal for one of MSI's overclocked Gaming series cards. And if you're looking for a quad-core processor to help drive a new GPU, how about AMD's ultra-affordable Athlon X4 860k, now under $70!


It's nice to see prices starting to drop on some solid upgrades, and we're currently working on our annual holiday gift guide with more recommendations for a tech-filled holiday season. Stay tuned!

What the hell Dell?

Subject: General Tech | November 24, 2015 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: dell, superfish, security, edellroot

As Scott mentioned yesterday, Dell refused to learn from Lenovo's lesson and repeated the exact same mistake with eDellRoot, a self-signed root CA cert with an unknown purpose.  Unlike SuperFish which was to allow targeted ads to be displayed eDellRoot serves an unclear purpose apart from a mention of Microsoft-like "easier customer support" but it exposes you to the exact same security risks as SuperFish does.  You could remove the cert manually, however as it resides in Dell.Foundation.Agent.Plugins.eDell.dll it will return on next boot and can return on fresh Windows installs via Dell driver updates, something which will be of great concern to their business customers.

Dell has finally responded to the issue, "The recent situation raised is related to an on-the-box support certificate intended to provide a better, faster and easier customer support experience. Unfortunately, the certificate introduced an unintended security vulnerability." and provided a process to remove the certificate from the machine permanently in this Word Document.  You can check for the presence of the cert on your machine in those two links. 

However the best was yet to come as researchers have found a second cert as well as an expired Atheros Authenticode cert for BlueTooth and private key on a limited amount of new Dell computers as well.  As Dell made no mention of these additional certificates in their statement to the press it is hard to give them the benefit of the doubt.  The Bluetooth cert will not make you vulnerable to a man in the middle attack however the second cert is as dangerous as eDellRoot and can be used to snoop on encrypted communications.  The second cert was found on a SCADA machine which is, as they say, a bad thing. 

We await Dell's response to the second discovery as well as further research to determine how widespread the new certs actually are.  So far Dell XPS 15 laptops, M4800 workstations, and Inspiron desktops and laptops have been found to contain these security issues.  The chances of you falling victim to a man in the middle attack thanks to these security vulnerabilities are slim but not zero so be aware of them and keep your eyes out for them on your systems.  With Lenovo and Dell both being caught, it will be interesting to see if HP and other large vendors will learn this lesson or if it will take a third company being caught exposing their customers to unnecessary risks.


"A second root certificate and private key, similar to eDellRoot along with an expired Atheros Authenticode cert and private key used to sign Bluetooth drivers has been found on a Dell Inspiron laptop. The impact of these two certs is limited compared to the original eDellRoot cert."

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Source: Slashdot

Windows 10 Tool Now Reverted to Build 10240

Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2015 - 08:15 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

UPDATE (Nov 24th, 8pm ET): As I was informed, both on Twitter and in the comments, the update has been restored. Apparently the issue was that this tool, when upgrading Windows 10 to Windows 10 1511, accidentally reset four privacy settings to default. They also happened to be four of the less-severe ones, such as whether to allow apps to run in the background and whether settings should sync between devices. It has apparently been fixed and the tool will install the latest version of Windows 10 once more.

Source: Ars Technica

Regardless of your opinion about Windows 10, I'm glad that Microsoft has once again provided a way to force a specific version on your device. Their recent statement, telling users that Windows Update will give them the correct build eventually, is not comforting if someone is failing to receive the update. Is it coming? Or did it block for some reason? I also wonder if the 30-day policy would still be enforced, making clean installs that much more annoying. Turns out it was all hypothetical, and Microsoft was planning on reinstating it instantly, though.

This is a bit surprising and disappointing. When the November 2015 update for Windows 10 went live, existing users could upgrade with Windows Update (if it let them) and the rest could force an in-place upgrade from Windows 7, 8.x, and earlier builds of Windows 10 using the tool. The latter method has apparently been reverted to the original Windows 10 build from July 2015.


This image is getting a lot more use than I intended.

Why? Who knows. They are still offering the update through Windows Update, and Microsoft claims that they have no intention of pulling it. This concerns me, because there are a few situations where Windows 10 updates will get stuck, such as if you get it through Windows Update then uninstall it. I have not seen any report cover the official procedure for this issue. Also, I wonder if there's a way to get past Microsoft's 30-day no-update policy.

According to WinBeta, Microsoft's official statement contains the following: “Microsoft has not pulled the Windows 10 November 10 update. The company is rolling out the November update over time – if you don’t see it in Windows Update, you will see it soon.” (Emphasis not mine.)

We'll probably hear more about this as the week goes on.

Source: WinBeta