Mozilla to Preview Servo in June

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 01:26 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, servo, Rust

Mozilla, the open-source creators of Firefox and Thunderbird, have announced that their Servo project will reach public alpha in June. Nightly builds will be available, presumably around that time, for Linux, OSX, Windows, and Android. Servo is a browser engine that is built in Rust, which emphasizes security and high performance (especially in multi-threaded scenarios).

mozilla-architecture.jpg

The technology is really interesting, although it is still quite early. Web browsers are massively single-threaded by design, which limits their potential performance as CPUs widen in core count but stagnate in per-thread performance. This is especially true in mobile, which is why Samsung has been collaborating on Servo for almost all of its life.

Rust, being so strict about memory access, also has the advantage of security and memory management. It is designed in such a way that it's easier for the compiler to know, at compile time, whether you will be trying to access data that is no longer available. The trade-off is that it's harder to program, because if your code isn't robust enough, the compiler just won't accept it. This is beneficial for web browsers, though, because basically everything they access is untrusted, third-party data. It's better to fight your compiler than to fight people trying to exploit your users.

Again, it's still a way off, though. It might be good for web developers to keep an eye on, though, in case any of their optimizations implement standards either correctly, but differently from other browsers and highlights a bug in your website, or incorrectly, which exposes a bug in Servo. Making a web browser is immensely difficult.

Source: Mozilla

Accessorize your PC for Spring!

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: peripherals

Over at The Tech Report you can read through six pages of their favourite PC peripherals currently on the market.  Adaptive refresh monitors take up a respectable amount of the article as you might suspect, a mix of Freesync and G-Sync monitors are represented with all but two running at 1440p or 4k resolutions.  They also cover numerous keyboards, mice and gamepads, though they leave the wheel recommendations to Josh.  Check out those recommendations and the other various devices that received a nod right here.

pg27aq.jpg

"In this edition of our peripheral staff picks, we dive deep into the world of monitors, keyboards, mice, and other useful add-ons for PCs to bring you the best of what's around right now."

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Podcast #391 - AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 03:07 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, XConnect, gdc 2016, Vega, Polaris, navi, razer blade, Sulon Q, Oculus, vive, raja koduri, GTX 1080, msi, vortex, Intel, skulltrail, nuc

PC Perspective Podcast #391 - 03/17/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

I love it when a bad guys plan doesn't come together

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malware, security, idiots

With the lousy news below the fold, up to and including yet another StageFright exploit, here is a bit of amusing news to balance out the bad.  A recently unleashed ransomware program seems to have been developed on stolen code and the original developer has taken offence to this.  His original program, EDA2, was designed to illustrate how ransomware works and he intentionally included a backdoor to ensure that the data could be unencrypted. 

He has used that backdoor to break into the program and has obtained the complete list of decryption keys and posted them to the net, The Register has a link to that list right here.  It is good for the soul to see incompetent bad guys every once and a while.

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"A software developer whose example encryption code was used by a strain of ransomware has released the decryption keys for the malware."

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Source: The Register

Logitech G Announces Orion 610 Brown and Red Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 11:48 AM |
Tagged: orion 610, mechanical keyboard, logitech g, logitech, gaming keyboard, cherry mx red, cherry mx brown

Logitech has announced a pair of new mechanical keyboards today, with the Orion 610 Brown and Red. Those familiar with mechanical keyboards will probably guess from their names that these are using Cherry MXswitches, with the MX Brown and MX Red switches in the respective models.

Logitech G610.jpg

The keyboards also offer customizable LED backlighting, and while they are not RGB (these keyboards are white LED backlit), each individually-backlit key can be customized with different brightness levels. There are also options to change the lighting patterns and synchronize with other Logitech G products using the Logitech Gaming Software.

Here are the specs from Logitech G:

Product Specifications

  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 153 mm x 443.5 mm x 34.3 mm                    
  • Weight: 1.2 Kg (without cable)
  • Cable length: 6 feet    
  • Cherry MX Key Switches:
    • Actuation distance: 2mm
    • Actuation force: 45g
    • Total travel distance: 4mm

System Requirements

  • Optional LGS download works with Windows 7 and higher
  • Powered USB port
  • Internet connection for optional LGS download

Warranty

  • 2-year limited hardware warranty

Logitech G610_TopDown_FOB__WhiteGlow.jpg

Macro functionality is available via customization of the F1 - F12 keys, and the keyboards feature dedicated media controls as you would expect. So how much will these cost? Retail for the Orion 610 Brown and Red will be $119.99.

Source: Logitech G

Hunter-gatherers required a surprising amount of modern hardware to function

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 05:43 PM |
Tagged: gaming, far cry primal

The game may be set in the distant past but you will need modern hardware to get the most out of Far Cry Primal.  With a single GTX 980 Ti or Radeon R9 Fury X, you won't break 40fps on Ultra settings at 4K though the Fury will provide an experience that is essentially playable.  A pair of vanilla 980's or R9 390X cards will break 40fps on Ultra, with the Crossfire experience being noticeably superior at 4K assuming you enable VSYNC as [H]ard|OCP discovered.  For those who track memory usage the game never reached 4GB of usage, even at 4K.  This one does tax current GPUs somewhat but is unlikely to appear on many reviews as upcoming hardware will play this Far Cry without breaking a sweat. 

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"A new game in the Far Cry series is out on the PC called Far Cry Primal. We will run FCP through its paces on six video cards including SLI and CrossFire with the latest drivers and game patch to see what it takes to push these pixels. We will discuss this games stripped down graphics quality compared to Far Cry 4 and what it means for gaming."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

The continuing fall of DRAM prices, a trend we can all get behind

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: DRAM, price cuts

Recently the President of Nanya Technology, Pei Ing Lee, stated his belief that DRAM prices will continue to fall at the same rate they did over 2015.  With the arrival of DDR4 we all had a bit of sticker shock but when you look at the prices now they are nowhere near as painful.  As an example a 32GB kit of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 launched at $639.99 on Nov 13, 2014 and will now cost you $164.99.

Not all prices are going to fall to that extreme of a level but we saw the price of DDR3 and 4 drop over the past year and this is predicted to continue.  At current production levels Mr. Lee predicts drops of 20-30% but if Samsung, Hynix and Micron ramp up new production capacity at a similar rate to Nanya then a drop of 25-40% is not completely out of the question. 

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"Increased DRAM capacity coming from advanced processing nodes from Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Micron Technology may result in some pricing uncertainty in the market in the second half of 2016, according to Taiwan DRAM maker Nanya Technology president Pei Ing Lee."

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Source: DigiTimes

Ransomware Spreading Through Major Websites Via Infected Ad Servers

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 05:12 AM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malwarebytes, Malware, adware

Compromised ad servers have been pushing out ransomware directly to unwitting users of many popular domains. As reported by Ars Technica (via MalwareBytes and others), whose story is heavily referenced here, the domain list contains a number of high traffic sites.

"It hit some of the biggest publishers in the business, including msn (.com), nytimes (.com), bbc (.com), aol (.com), my.xfinity (.com), nfl (.com), realtor (.com), theweathernetwork (.com), thehill (.com), and newsweek (.com). Affected networks included those owned by Google, AppNexis, AOL, and Rubicon."

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(Image credit: Ars Technica)

Unfortunately, the story doesn't get better from here. The Ars report continues:

"The ads are also spreading on sites including answers (.com), zerohedge (.com), and infolinks (.com), according to SpiderLabs. Legitimate mainstream sites receive the malware from domain names that are associated with compromised ad networks. The most widely seen domain name in the current campaign is brentsmedia (.com)."

The ads have been traced back to multiple domains, including: trackmytraffic (.biz), talk915 (.pw), evangmedia (.com), and shangjiamedia (.com). The report continues:

"The SpiderLabs researchers speculate the people pushing the bad ads are on the lookout for expired domains containing the word "media" to capitalize on the reputation they may enjoy as a legitimate address."

The full article from Ars technica can be found here as well as the source link, and the cited Malware Bytes post can be found here.

So how did they do it? The banner ads themselves contained the malware, which could infect the viewers system undetected.

"When researchers deciphered the code, they discovered it enumerated a long list of security products and tools it avoided in an attempt to remain undetected.
'If the code doesn't find any of these programs, it continues with the flow and appends an iframe to the body of the html that leads to Angler EK [exploit kit] landing page,' SpiderLabs researchers Daniel Chechik, Simon Kenin, and Rami Kogan wrote. 'Upon successful exploitation, Angler infects the poor victim with both the Bedep trojan and the TeslaCrypt ransomware...' "

Of course it goes without saying that advertising online is a sticky issue. It can be intrusive, with ads blocking article text, or autoplay videos creating a cacophony of unwanted noise, somewhere amidst the many open tabs. Of course it can be done with class, respectful of the reader's experience (and I would use our own site as an example).

A large number of web users employ ad-blocking extensions to their browser, though it is often the case that ad revenue pays for the costs associated with keeping such sites online. This outbreak is a further blow to the current financial stability of many sites when news such as today's ransomware debacle hits the tech (and soon the mainstream) press.

Source: Ars Technica

Basemark Announces VRScore Virtual Reality Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2016 - 09:32 PM |
Tagged: VRScore, VR, virtual reality, gdc 2016, GDC, crytek, CRYENGINE, benchmark, Basemark

Basemark has announced VRScore, a new benchmarking tool for VR produced in partnership with Crytek. The benchmark uses Crytek’s CRYENGINE along with the Basemark framework, and can be run with or without a head-mounted display (HMD).

VRScore Screen 04.png

"With VRScore, consumers and companies are able to reliably test their PC for VR readiness with various head mounted displays (HMDs). Unlike existing tools developed by hardware vendors themselves, VRScore has been developed independently to be an essential source of unbiased information for anyone interested in VR."

An independent solution is certainly welcome as we enter what promises to be the year of VR, and Basemark is well known for providing objective benchmark results with applications such as Basemark X and OS II, cross-platform benchmarks for mobile devices. The VRScore benchmark supports the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Razer's OSVR headsets, and the corporate versions include VRTrek, a left/right eye latency measurement device.

Here’s the list of features from Basemark:

  • Supports HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and OSVR
  • Uses CRYENGINE
  • Supports both DirectX 12 and DirectX 11 
  • Features Codename: Sky Harbor, an original IP game scene by Crytek
  • Includes tests for interactive VR (VR game), non-interactive VR (360 VR video) and VR spatial audio (360 sound) 
  • Can be used with or without an HMD
  • Power Board, an integrated online service, gives personalized PC upgrading advice and features performance ranking lists for HMDs, CPUs and GPUs
  • Corporate versions include VRTrek, a patent pending latency testing device with dual phototransistors for application to photon latency, display persistence, left and right eye latency, dropped frames and duplicated frames testing

VRScore-Trek.png

VRScore Trek eye latency measurement device, included with corporate version

VRScore is currently available only to corporate customers via the company’s early access program and Benchmark Development Program. The consumer versions (free and paid) will be released in June.

Source: Basemark

Oh snap, old phones and new IoT devices just sprung another leak

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2016 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, security, iot

TrendMicro discovered vulnerabilities in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series, including the 800, 805 and 810 on devices running a 3.10-version kernel.  They have privately discussed the issue with Google who have since pushed out updates to resolve these issues on their phones, preventing attackers from gaining root access with a specially crafted app.  Unfortunately that is the tip of the iceberg as according to Qualcomm more than a billion devices use Snapdragon processors or modems, many of them IoT devices which have not had this update.  With the already fragmented market getting worse as everyone and their dog are now creating IoT devices the chances are very good that your toaster, fridge and other random internet connected devices are vulnerable and will remain so. 

You should think twice when considering the balance of convenience and security when you are purchasing internet connected household appliances and other IoT devices.  You can see what Slashdot readers think about this here if you so desire.

sd_processor_03.png

"Security experts at Trend Micro have discovered a vulnerability in Qualcomm Snapdragon-produced SoC devices. In fact, it is the same vulnerability that cropped up earlier in the month, affecting Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy Edge Android handsets. This in itself is concerning as these are devices that are no longer in line for security updates, but more concerning is the fact that the same chips are used in IoT devices."

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Source: Slashdot