Hacking Android into an iPhone; sort of

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2016 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: hack, iphone, Android

It is more of a bootloader, in that a custom 3D printed iPhone case hides a device based around  LG Nexus 5 which plugs into the iPhone and allows you to launch Marshmallow 6.0.1 on your iPhone.  Once you unplug the lighting cable connection between the iPhone and the case your phone reverts to iOS, thus avoiding having to flash the protected innards of the phone.  The interface is described as somewhat laggy but it has a functional USB port, HDMI out and room for a microSD card.  This is the same fellow who managed to get Win95 running on an Apple Watch so we may read more about his rule breaking modifications at The Inquirer.

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"ANDROID RUNNING on an iPhone? Really? It's true. Sort of. The latest episode in our ongoing series of things running on other things is a doozy, the Holy Grail."

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Source: The Inquirer

E3 Demos Versus Released Games

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2016 - 07:39 AM |
Tagged: E3

With E3 coming up, JohnGR pointed out a video in the comments of one of our E3 trailer posts that compares Ubisoft's demos with their released games. I tend to be relatively forgiving of these issues, personally, but the video is quite well done from an editing standpoint. It has quite a few moments of dry irony, especially with the contrast between the demo's busy audio sequences and the game section's silence.

We'll be seeing a lot of demos over the next handful of days. It's good to keep in mind that they are promotional snippets, either video or playable, that represent what the developer or publisher wants their game to be viewed as. Sometimes, it's just an overly optimistic view of what they can accomplish.

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst DRM Rumors Are Wrong

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2016 - 08:42 PM |
Tagged: ea, dice, DRM, origin

GamersNexus wrote a piece that claimed Mirror's Edge: Catalyst has DRM that limits the number of hardware changes to four. According to an email from EA's press contact, it turns out that GamersNexus' article is not accurate. According to EA PR, if Origin detects five activations in a single day, the user will need to wait until 24 hours after their first activation to attempt again.

So you can change your hardware as many times as you want over the life of the game, just not more than four times in a single day, on a single account at least.

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Image Credit: GamersNexus
This message didn't seem to say what they were implying it did. Turns out, it doesn't.

I decided to ask EA when I read the error message that GamersNexus posted -- the article's  interpretation didn't seem right. The wording was as follows: “Too many computers have accessed this account's version of Mirror's Edge(TM) Catalyst recently. Please try again later.” It seemed very odd to me that the wording “recently” and “Please try again later” would be attached to a permanent bricking of the game.

Again, it turns out that this is not the case, unless our press contact was not up to date about this specific title. As much as I dislike DRM, being a proponent of art preservation and archival, this part of Mirror's Edge's DRM should not affect the vast majority of users. This is something that should only affect people who are literally benchmarking a half-dozen (or so) graphics cards.

In short, it sounds like this is a non-issue after all.

Source: GamersNexus

The Vives are coming

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2016 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: htc, vive, VR

As of today if you order an HTC Vive VR Headset you should receive it mere days after you place your order, no longer is it a preorder process where you would need to wait an indeterminate amount of time.  The package will cost you  $799US or $1,149CAN so it is not quite an impulse buy but it certainly is very tempting.  You can order online or drop by a Microsoft Store, Gamestop or Micro Center if such things exist in your neighbourhood.  Al took a look at some of the technology in the Vive in this article, which is interesting to look at even if you can't quite afford one yet.

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"HTC ViveTM can now be purchased through www.vive.com in 24 countries, shipping within 2-3 business days of purchase. In addition to online availability from HTC, individuals can now buy the revolutionary Vive virtual reality system in select Microsoft Stores, GameStop and Micro Center locations. Pre-orders placed through these retailers will be fulfilled beginning this week."

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Source: HTC

Even Mods Have Pre-E3 Trailers -- Skywind

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2016 - 07:15 AM |
Tagged: skyrim, morrowind, elder scrolls, bethesda

TESRenewal Project is basically about taking earlier Elder Scrolls titles and bringing them to newer engines. Three mods are under the control at the moment: Skywind, which puts Morrowind into Skyrim; Skyblivion, which puts Oblivion into Skyrim; and Morroblivion, which puts Morrowind into Oblivion. Morroblivion is already out in the wild, with the latest release dating back to November, 2014, but the other two are being worked on behind closed doors.

They have now released a small update teaser video (above) -- less than two minutes long -- that shows off various environments (and the assets in them). Obviously, at this point, Skyrim is fairly old. It was released almost five years ago, and it still runs on DirectX 9. It is still very popular though, and what we can see from the trailer looks at least as good as Bethesda's default content.

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Skywind will be a non-commercial mod, although it will require both Skyrim, Morrowind, and their expansions (except Hearthfire) to play -- even though it doesn't use any Morrowind assets. This may or may not be a Bethesda requirement; they tend to be quite restrictive with their copyrights and trademarks. (The Mod Workshop payment issue, the Scrolls trademark issue, and the Fallout-posters fan site trademark issue all jump to mind.)

Either way, it will be free if you own both titles, and it looks like an interesting total conversion.

Yooka-Laylee Trailer for E3 2016 Released

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 03:46 PM |
Tagged: windows, pc gaming, osx, linux

The next week-and-a-half should be good for video game enthusiasts. E3 2016 starts on June 14th, although EA, Bethesda, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Sony, and AMD (with PCGamer) have press conferences throughout the 12th and the 13th. Of course, not to get lost in the traffic, many entities are releasing their announcements prior to those conferences. For instance, Watch Dogs 2 will have a reveal on this Wednesday, June 8th, five days prior to Ubisoft's press conference.

This post is about a Kickstarter project called Yooka-Laylee, though. This title is being created by Playtonic Games, which contains several past employees of Rare, apparently to create a proper Banjo-Kazooie-style platform title. It raised over two million British Pounds (~3 million USD) and targeted an October 2016 release date. That has since slipped to Q1 2017, but that should be expected for a crowdfunding project, especially when the stretch goals start piling up. It is scheduled to be released on Windows, Mac, and Linux... and a few other boxes.

Of course, they couldn't resist making a Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts joke at the end...

... I chuckled.

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Unboxing

A few years ago, Ryan reviewed the Couchmaster. It was a simple keyboard and mouse holder that suspended those parts above your lap, much like a computer chair, but at your couch. It was a cool concept, but at the time, living room PC gaming hadn't gained much popularity. While we don't all suddenly have living room PCs, the concept has gained some steam. We've seen recent launches of devices like the Corsair Bulldog - a rather beefy DIY living room PC meant to handle enough hardware to support living room gaming at up to 4K resolutions. This left a bit of a gap in Corsair's lineup. They make keyboards, mice, and now a living room PC, but where do you put those peripherals while sitting on your couch? Enter the Corsair Lapdog:

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Along with the Lapdog, Corsair passed along a Vengeance K70 (single LED color, but with key-by-key adjustability) keyboard and an M65 Pro RGB mouse

Setup

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Above is the setup process staged with the keyboard and mouse plugged into the integrated 4-port USB 3.0 hub. Note that we did not need to plug in both keyboard connectors as there is no need to use the USB pass-through feature of these keyboards as the mouse gets its own dedicated port. Owners of the older K70 RGBs might note that even though the early models did not come with a pass-through port, they still had an additional connector for additional USB current. Fear not, as the second plug of those keyboards is also not needed here since the Lapdog uses a powered USB 3.0 hub that can provide sufficient current to light up those models over that single connector.

The cable that combines both power and USB connection from the Lapdog to the wall/PC is 16 feet long, which should provide plenty of space to stretch between just about any TV + couch combination. It was a great idea by Corsair to combine the USB cable and power cable in this way, minimizing the mess and cable clutter that reaches across the floor. You get another 5 feet or so of length for the 12V power adapater as well, so install should be a breeze for users.

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Here we see the removable block-off plate. This comes pre-installed in case the user intends to use a K65 (short-body) keyboard. For those cases, the plate keeps the surface flush while covering the area normally used by the number pad. We are installing a K70 model and will be removing the plate for our configuration.

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In case you're wondering how to remove the various cover plates and mouse pad in order to complete the installation, there is a mini hex driver built-in to the back of the foam lap pad.

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Looking at the bottom of the Lapdog keyboard/mouse housing, we see six magnets that mate with the appropriate places on the bottom of the foam lap pad. The pad is made of cloth covered polyurethane foam. It does not appear to be memory foam and is fairly rigid, which is desirable as we need to keep the keyboard and mouse on a reasonably firm surface when using it on a lap.

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On the right edge of the Lapdog we have rear ports for power and USB 3.0 back to the PC, and on the side, we have another pair of USB 3.0 ports off of the internal powered hub. This lets you do other cool stuff like plugging in portable USB storage or even connecting and charging your phone.

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With the build complete, I'd just like to comment on how seamlessly the corsair keyboards blend with the rest of the Lapdog. The anodized brushed aluminum is a perfect match, though it does add some weight to the completed product. There is a slight lip at the bottom and right edges of the mouse pad which keep it from sliding off when not in use.

Impressions

After setup, I spent some quality time with the Lapdog. In gaming, it definitely works as advertised. With the device on your lap, WASD + mouse gaming is essentially where your hands naturally rest with the default positioning, making gaming just about the same as doing so on a desktop. The lap pad design helps to keep it from sliding around on your lap while in use, and the overall bulk and heft of the unit keep it firmly planted on your lap. It is not overly heavy, and I feel that going any lighter would negatively impact stability.

I also tried some actual writing on the Lapdog (I used it to write this article). While the typical gaming position is natural when centered, the left offset of the keyboard means that any serious typing requires you to scoot everything over to the right. The keyboard side is heavier than the mousing side, so there are no tipping issues when doing so. Even if you were to place the center of the Lapdog over your right leg, centering the keyboard on your lap, its weight will still keep the Lapdog planted on your left, so no issues there. Long periods of typing may put a strain on your back if you tend to lean forward off of the front edge of your couch, but the Lapdog is really meant to be a 'lay back' experience, and extended typing is certainly doable in that position with a bit of practice.

The Corsair Lapdog is available for $119.99, which I feel is a fair price given the high-grade components and solid build quality. If you're into PC gaming from the comfort of your couch, the Corsair Lapdog looks to be the best solution your you!

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What did we just tell you about bloatware?! Now ASUS Live Update is the risk of the day

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: asus, bloatware, security

After last week when several laptop OEMs, including Lenovo once again, were caught installing highly insecure bloatware on their laptop you might hope that this week would be different.  Sadly you would be mistaken as once again software preinstalled on laptops is in the news.  In this case it is ASUS Live Update which transmits requests for updates in plain text and does not check any software updates which come back for authenticity.  This of course leaves you wide open for man in the middle attacks, where someone posing as those update servers could feed you whatever installation files they desired.  As the pull quote from The Inquirer below states, removing it immediately would be a very good idea.

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"My advice to anyone who purchased an Asus device: remove LiveUpdate. It's really that simple. If you're an IT administrator, find devices making periodic calls to Asus's domains and blackhole them, get the user to come and see you,"

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Source: The Inquirer

Linux Gaming Is Growing on Us?

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 07:46 AM |
Tagged: steam, pc gaming, linux

According to Phoronix, gaming on Linux has experienced exponential growth in recent times. Over the course of the last two years, Steam's catalog on the platform expanded from 500 games up to over 2200. This is a little over a 4.4x increase over two years. If I'm doing my high-school math correctly, and I seriously hope I am, this corresponds to an average increase of just under 2.1x year-over-year.

In other words, this is litearlly the trend, minus half-life. Snicker snicker snicker.

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The quantity of Linux's games catalog is a very different argument from its quality, of course. Still, you can find many interesting titles there. Valve has been porting their catalog to the OS, as have other, high-end titles, like Tomb Raider, Trine, Civilization V, Civilization: Beyond Earth, XCOM, and a couple Borderlands versions. If interested in specifics, and you enjoy a sense of humor like you would see on our PC Perspective Podcast, check out LinuxGameCast for their reviews of specific titles.

Source: Phoronix

A Potentially More Harmful Coil Whine Issue

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2016 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: security, Cyber Security, coil whine

As new hardware launches, many readers ask whether they produce any noticeable form of coil whine. For instance, this is an issue for graphics cards that are outputting a very high frame rate. The electronics create sound from the current oscillating as it flows through them. It can also be an issue for motherboards or power supplies as well. You can check out this fairly old video from LinusTechTips for a demonstration.

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Image Credit: ACM

It turns out that, because this whine is related to the signal flowing through the oscillating circuit, security researchers are looking into the types of information that can be inferred from the whine. In particular, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) published a paper called Physical Key Extraction Attacks on PCs. It discusses several methods of attacking a device, such as reading minor fluctuations in its grounding plug or monitoring induced radiation with an antenna. Its headlining method is “Acoustic” though, which listens to coil whine sound produced by the computer, as it decrypts RSA messages that are sent to it, to gather the RSA secret key from it.

While they have successfully demonstrated the attack using a parabolic microphone at 33ft away, and a second demonstration using a mobile phone at 1ft away, the news should be taken with a grain of salt. Mostly, it's just interesting to realize that there's nothing really special about a computer. All it does is stores and processes data on whatever physical state we have available in the world. Currently, that's almost always radio-frequency radiation flowing through semiconductors. Whatever we use will have consequences. For instance, as transistors get smaller, to push more complex signals through a given surface area and power, we'll eventually run out of atoms.

This is just another, often forgotten side-effect: electric signals induce the transfer of energy. It could be electromagnetic, acoustic, or even thermal. In the realm of security, this could, itself, carry some of the data that we attached to our world's state, and allow others to access it (or sometimes modify it) without our knowledge or consent.