If you have a Trane thermostat you should update the firmware immediately

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: trane, iot, security

It is not a good sign when a security team refers to your smart thermostat as "a little malware store", especially when the flaws have been known for some time.  Indeed the original issue of hardcoded SSH passwords has been known since 2014 and the update took a year to be created.  Unfortunately most owners of a Trane Thermostat will not have upgraded their firmware, even if they knew about the update as it is not something which was installed remotely.  Instead you need to download the new firmware onto an SD card and manually install it on the thermostat.  Last month another update was released to address a remote code execution vulnerability in the ComfortLink II, which was not generally known until The Register posted about it today.  If you are using this device you should get an SD card handy and download the firmware.

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"In April 2015, one year after the first alert, Trane fixed the hardcoded password issue with a new release of the ComfortLink's firmware. Cisco then tipped off US CERT about the remaining issues. Trane eventually addressed the flaws in its code in January 2016, but didn't tell its customers that new firmware is available."

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Source: The Register

ASUS Announces ROG Horus GK2000 Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2016 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: ROG, Republic of Gamers, mechanical keyboard, GK2000, cherry mx red, asus

ASUS has announced a new mechanical keyboard from their Republic of Gamers division, and the Horus GK2000 sports an aluminum upper body, with Cherry MX Red switches under the ABS keycaps.

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The keyboard is a standard 104 key layout, with an additional 5 macro keys to the left, and wheels for volume and backlight control on the right side. It features 1000 Hz polling rate and offers a 2x USB 2.0 hub and 3.5 mm audio passthrough. As mentioned above key switching is handled by Cherry's MX Red, a linear switch which provides a lower actuation force than the MX Black.

In addition to the angular styling and large detachable palmrest, the GK2000 also offers adjustable (red) lighting to further enhance its appearance. We've seen quite a bit of the black/red color scheme for products targeting the gaming segment, and in this case it compliments the design of the company's ROG Swift monitors and other gaming products.

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Specifications:

  • Interface: USB 2.0 (1000Hz) with NKRO (can be disabled)
  • Layout: Standard 104 + 5 macro keys (left) + ROG key (right) + volume and backlight wheels (right)
  • Keyboard switches: Mechanical Cherry MX Red 45 g, 2 mm actuation, 4 mm travel
  • Volume knob: Infinite wheel switch (scroll to increase/decrease backlight)
  • USB hub: 2x USB 2.0
  • Audio pass-through: 1x audio, 1x mic
  • OS support: Windows XP/ Windows Vista /Windows 7/ Windows 8/ Windows 8.1/ Windows 10 32/64 bit
  • Approx. dimensions: 52.65 x 17 x 4.9 cm
  • Palm rest: 47.2 x 8.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Cable: 180 cm braided cable
  • Keycaps: ABS with UV grip coating
  • Materials: 3 mm brushed aluminum, 3 mm sandblasted aluminum, ABS underside 
  • Weight: 1700 g

No pricing or availability information accompanied the announcement.

Source: ASUS

A friendly reminder about your OneDrive storage amount

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2016 - 05:06 PM |
Tagged: onedrive, microsoft, cloud storage

Remember the good old days when OneDrive moved from offering you 1TB of storage to an unlimited amount?  That did not last too long, they changed their minds and dropped the paid service back to 1TB and the free version from 15GB to 5GB, with a chance to grandfather in the additional storage if you followed up with them.

A viewer recently encountered this for the first time and it seems appropriate to remind everyone about the change.  If you have the paid service and are storing over 1TB you may have already heard from Microsoft but if not then consider this the warning that you have better trim down the amount of data you store on OneDrive as the changes are going to happen in the latter half of this year.  The same goes for free users who have 15GB, or 30GB if you opted into the camera roll service, get the amount of files you have stored on OneDrive under 5GB or risk losing data you would rather keep.  The standalone 100GB and 200GB plans will be reduced to 50GB, the price will remain at $1.99 per month.

The whole situation is reminiscent of a teacher in a classroom full of kids choosing to punish the entire class for the actions of a few individuals; in this case the tiny percentage which exceeded 75TB of usage.  Make sure to clean up your OneDrive as soon as possible, this is not something you want to wait until the last minute to do.

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"If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage."

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Source: OneDrive

Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 in VR

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 4, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 2016, epic games, ue4, VR, vive vr

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4 at GDC two years ago, and removed its subscription fee at the next year's show. This year, one of the things that they will show is Unreal Editor in VR with the HTC Vive. Using the system's motion controllers, you will be able to move objects and access UI panels in the virtual environment. They open the video declaring that this is not an experimental project.

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Without using this technology, it's hard to comment on its usability. It definitely looks interesting, and might be useful for VR experiences. You can see what your experience will look like as you create it, and you probably even save a bit of time in rapid iteration by not continuously wearing and removing the equipment. I wonder how precise it will be though, since the laser pointers and objects seemed to snap and jitter a bit. That said, it might be just as precise and, even still, it only really matters how it looks and behaves, and it shouldn't even prevent minor tweaks after the fact anyway.

Epic Games expects to discuss the release plans at the show.

Source: Epic Games

Are you going to phish or cut clickbait?

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: security, google

Remember the thrill of finding the actual download button for the software you need, hidden on a webpage featuring at least four other large download buttons leading to unrelated and generally nasty software?  Well those horrible people at Google want to take that joy away from you!  Instead of practicing your skills at slapping the monkey, shooting the duck or pretending you are on an online version of Let's Make a Deal trying to pick the right download button to reveal the prize you want, they will present you with a bright red warning screen. 

For some reason those hacks over at The Inquirer think it is a good idea to take away the hours of time spent with your family, and all the interesting things that "just appeared" on their machines.

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"Google is still chipping away at creating a secure online experience and has just unearthed a new element for safe browsing that stops click-happy idiots doing click-stupid things."

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Source: The Inquirer
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech G

A mix of styles

Logitech continues its push and re-entry into the gaming peripherals market in 2016, this time adding another keyboard under the Orion brand to the mix. The Logitech G G810 Orion Spectrum is, as the name implies, an RGB mechanical keyboard using the company's proprietary Romer-G switches. But despite the similarity in model numbers to the G910 Orion Spark announced in late 2014, the G810 has some significant design and functionality changes.

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This new offering is cleaner, less faceted (both in key caps and design) but comes much closer to the feel and function than the tenkeyless G410 from last year. Let's take a look at how the G810 changes things up for Logitech G.

Keyboard Design

The G810 Orion Spectrum is a full size keyboard with tenkey (also known as the numeric keypad) that has sleeker lines and more professional lines that its big brother. The black finish is matte on the keys and framing but the outside edges of the keyboard have a gloss to them. It's a very minimal part of the design though so you shouldn't have to worry about fingerprints.

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At first glance, you can see that Logitech toned down some of the gamer-centric accents when compared to either the G910 or the G410. There is no wrist rest, no PCB-trace inspired lines, no curves and no sharp edges. What you get instead is a keyboard that is equally well placed in modern office or in an enthusiasts gaming den. To me, there are a lot of touches that remind me of the Das Keyboard - understated design that somehow makes it more appealing to the educated consumer. 

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This marks the first keyboard with the new Logitech G logo on it, though you are likely more concerned about the lack of G-Keys, the company's name for its macro-capable buttons on the G910. For users that still want that capability, Logitech G allows you to reprogram the function keys along the top for macro capability, and has a pretty simple switch in software to enable or disable those macros. This means you can maintain the F-row of keys for Windows applications but still use macros for gaming.

Continue reading our review of the Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum keyboard!!

Microsoft Lets Anyone "Git" Their Deep Learning On With Open Source CNTK

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: open source, microsoft, machine learning, deep neural network, deep learning, cntk, azure

Microsoft has been using deep neural networks for awhile now to power its speech recognition technologies bundled into Windows and Skype to identify and follow commands and to translate speech respectively. This technology is part of Microsoft's Computational Network Toolkit. Last April, the company made this toolkit available to academic researchers on Codeplex, and it is now opening it up even more by moving the project to GitHub and placing it under an open source license.

Lead by chief speech and computer scientist Xuedong Huang, a team of Microsoft researchers built the Computational Network Toolkit (CNTK) to power all their speech related projects. The CNTK is a deep neural network for machine learning that is built to be fast and scalable across multiple systems, and more importantly, multiple GPUs which excel at these kinds of parallel processing workloads and algorithms. Microsoft heavily focused on scalability with CNTK and according to the company's own benchmarks (which is to say to be taken with a healthy dose of salt) while the major competing neural network tool kits offer similar performance running on a single GPU, when adding more than one graphics card CNTK is vastly more efficient with almost four times the performance of Google's TensorFlow and a bit more than 1.5-times Torch 7 and Caffe. Where CNTK gets a bit deep learning crazy is its ability to scale beyond a single system and easily tap into Microsoft's Azure GPU Lab to get access to numerous GPUs from their remote datacenters -- though its not free you don't need to purchase, store, and power the hardware locally and can ramp the number up and down based on how much GPU muscle you need. The example Microsoft provided showed two similarly spec'd Linux systems with four GPUs each running on Azure cloud hosting getting close to twice the performance of the 4 GPU system (75% increase). Microsoft claims that "CNTK can easily scale beyond 8 GPUs across multiple machines with superior distributed system performance."

cntk-speed-comparison.png

Using GPU-based Azure machines, Microsoft was able to increase the performance of Cortana's speech recognition by 10-times compared to the local systems they were previously using.

It is always cool to see GPU compute in practice and now that CNTK is available to everyone, I expect to see a lot of new uses for the toolkit beyond speech recognition. Moving to an open source license is certainly good PR, but I think it was actually done more for Microsoft's own benefit rather than users which isn't necessarily a bad thing since both get to benefit from it. I am really interested to see what researchers are able to do with a deep neural network that reportedly offers so much performance thanks to GPUs. I'm curious what new kinds of machine learning opportunities the extra speed will enable.

If you are interested, you can check out CNTK on GitHub!

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #385 - Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance, 3x NVMe M.2 RAID-0, AMD Q1 Offerings

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 11:53 AM |
Tagged: video, Trion 150, tesla, steam os, Samsung, rise of the tomb raider, podcast, ocz, NVMe, Jim Keller, amd, 950 PRO

PC Perspective Podcast #385 - 02/04/2016

Join us this week as we discuss Rise of the Tomb Raider performance, a triple RAID-0 NVMe array and more!

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!!

Windows 95 in a Web Browser

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 02:15 AM |
Tagged: windows 95, javascript

This one is quite interesting. We've seen DOSBox cross-compiled into JavaScript using emscripten before. For instance, The Internet Archive has been publishing a huge catalog of DOS-era games on their site, including John Carmack's Catacomb II. In case you're wondering, memory management is handled in emscripten by reserving a large, contiguous chunk of memory as an ArrayBuffer. The C application can do its typical memory management tricks because it sees an unmanaged chunk of memory.

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This example is an image of Windows 95, complete with its default applications such as Minesweeper. It was ported by Andrea Faulds, who is a major contributor to PHP. The Windows 95 demo was apparently created in 2015, according to her personal website, but I just found out about it.

Who's a pretty boy? Is it you Fallout?

Subject: General Tech | February 3, 2016 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: modding, gaming, fallout 4

[H]ard|OCP has put together a little guide on improving your Fallout 4 experience with the help of modders and the great people at Nexus Mods.  They describe the basics on how to install mods as there are steps you need to follow to ensure your mods successfully apply, whether installed manually or with the Nexus Mod Manager tool.  They explore several mods than greatly increase the size of textures, making them much better looking as well as adding weather and storms to the mix.  As long as you meet the graphics memory requirements which they mention you should not see much performance degradation when using these mods.  Soon Fallout 4 may be meeting or surpassing Skyrim's impressive mod community.

Of course immediately after [H] covered this topic Bethesda released a new patch which enables HBAO+ for all GPUs and extra debris effects specifically for NVIDIA GPUs.

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"Fallout 4 has been out for several months and it is possible that you might find the image quality lacking overall. We take some of the most popular and highly downloaded image quality mods and find out how we can improve the environment in Fallout 4. We modify for visual improvements to give you more immersive gameplay."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP