Lenovo for those who don't care about security

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2015 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: superfish, Malware, Lenovo

Since 2014 Lenovo has been selling consumer laptops installed with an innocuously named program, Superfish.  For those not in the habit of wiping their laptop and installing the OS fresh to avoid the bloatware generally present on consumer products, you have been sharing the exact same SSL certificate as every other Lenovo owner and the icing on the cake is that it is self signed by Superfish, not a certificate authority.  This means any and all transmissions done on a browser (apparently other than Firefox) could have easily been unencrypted by anyone who captured your wireless transmissions since the SSL key you were using is well known seeing as it is present on every recent Lenovo machine. 

Lenovo is downplaying the security issue and emphasizing that Superfish was just intended inject ads into your browser based on history and that it could be disabled manually or by not agreeing to the terms and conditions when you turn on your laptop for the first time.  As the commentors on Slashdot rightly point out, that argument is disingenuous and exposing your customers to a man in the middle attack just so you can serve them up some targeted advertising is a gross oversight.  Samsung has not seen much success with the argument that their monitoring software could be manually disabled either.  The program is no longer bundled on Lenovo laptops, as of this year.

index.jpg

"... doesn't mention the SSL aspect, but this Lenovo Forum Post, with screen caps, is indicating it may be a man-in-the-middle attack to hijack an SSL connection too. It's too early to tell if this is a hoax or not, but there are multiple forum posts about the Superfish bug being installed on new systems. Another good reason to have your own fresh install disk, and to just drop the drivers onto a USB stick."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

You can't stop the undead; check out the mods that exist for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2015 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: gaming, vampire the masquerade

Just because White Wolf and the World of Darkness were purchased by Icelandic studio CCP Games who are now doing nothing with the IP doesn't mean you can't explore the world with your favourite clan of vampire. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines which was originally released in 2004, gained a massive following of players many of whom are skilled modders who have been cranking out patches and mods over the years.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has just posted about two of the newest, one which unlocks Bloodlines Antitribu clans allowing you to play a far wider variety of clans and use their particular Disciplines.  That particular team is currently working on Sabbat storylines for the game as well.  In addition a new version of The Final Nights is available with a huge list of changes, additions and improvements.  Even if you have no Humanity left you should check out the work that has gone into keeping this game vibrant and interesting.

vampantt.jpg

"I’ve been conservative with Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. The only modding I do is boshing on ye olde unofficial patch, without even enabling the optional new bits, and maybe replacing my character model with a nicer NPC model. I might be bolder next playthrough, as apparently we’re spoilt for choice with Bloodlines mods at the moment."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

AT&T is late to the gigabit game, but you can pay them for "privacy"

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2015 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: irony, Privacy, google, gigabit broadband, AT&T

Kansas City got Google Fiber back in 2012 and not surprisingly a lot of users jumped to this ~$70 service from their current ISPs the moment they could.  Two of the incumbent ISPs suddenly came to the realization that there was demand for broadband at this speed and turned on some of their already laid and configured fiber connection so they could start to offer actual broadband and now several years later AT&T discovered that they would need to do the same to be able to attract customers in that market.  The fiber has lain dormant for quite some time as most ISPs have argued that there was no demand for that level of connectivity; at least until Google offered it and customers left them in droves proving that the demand had always been there.

From The Register we hear that AT&T now offers $70 for a1Gbps connection, an additional $50 will get you TV and you can even bundle home service into the deal if you wish.  For an additional $29 per month AT&T also offers not to log everything you do on the web over their connection, something which Google does not offer.  This makes for an interesting discussion as most surfers no longer blink at Google the search engine tracking what they do online, but what about Google the ISP; does that create a different gut reaction?  Then again considering AT&T's loose definition of unlimited, what do they mean by privacy or even gigabit for that matter?

index.jpg

"We've moved quickly to bring more competition to the Kansas City area for blazing-fast Internet speeds and best-in-class television service," said John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri, without apparent irony."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Crucial's DDR4-2666 prefers 2400

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2015 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: crucial, Ballistix Elite, ddr4-2666

Make sure to visit your UEFI after installing Crucial's Ballistix Elite DIMMs' as this 16GB kit defaults to the JEDEC profile of DDR4-2400 @ 16-16-16-39.  One quick click later to XMP and you will hit the advertised DDR4-2666 16-17-17-36.  This kit ships with the Crucial Ballistix M.O.D. utility to give you temperature readings in real time, see exactly what frequencies and timings you are running at in Windows and for those kits which sport LEDs, the ability to program a lightshow.  Hardware Canucks spend some time overclocking this kit and found the best performance to be with DDR4-2750 @ 12-12-12-26-1T.  It is a good kit of DDR4 but remember it will cost you, in this case about $335.

BallistixEliteDDR4_2666_5.jpg

"Enthusiasts have been waiting for Crucial's Ballistix Elite to hit the market and it is everything we could have wanted; overclocking headroom, performance and a lifetime warranty...it's all here."

Here are some more Memory articles from around the web:

Memory

Ignorance may be bliss but it will cost you $600 per Server 2003 installation

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2015 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, server 2003, idiots, EoL

If you ever feel ignored when offering technical advice to executives or anyone ranking above you in your business then this statistic about Server 2003 that The Register quotes will come as no surprise, "47 percent of 1,000 Fortune 500 IT executives had no idea that end-of-life was coming".  Of course this does not signify that they were never told nor that Microsoft obfuscated the EoL date, it shows that they completely ignored the professionals that work for them and warned them.   Now they will have a choice, they can run servers that no longer receive security updates nor support from Microsoft or they can pay $600 per server for a year of extended support, with that amount likely increasing every year.  It does not make business sense to migrate to every new server or client platform that is released but postponing that upgrade for over a decade in the assumption that your supplier will never cut you out is bordering on idiocy.   Just to add to your frustration, none of those supposed IT executives are likely to be fired as a direct result of this poor planning and on the off chance one does leave; the severance they pick up will likely be worth more money than you have made since the release of Server 2003.

pic4.jpg

"MICROSOFT HAS PUT a price on extended support for servers running Windows Server 2003 after it reaches end-of-life this summer."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Just what kind of lining can you expect on the Kingston HyperX Cloud II headset?

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2015 - 06:29 PM |
Tagged: kingston, HyperX Cloud II, audio, gaming headset, dsp

As regular subscribers of the PC Perspective Podcast are aware, not every headset is created equally and while poor to moderate sound reproduction on the speakers can be ignored to a certain degree, poor sound capture quality on the microphone cannot.  Kingston's original HyperX Cloud was not too bad for sound capture and most of the ears which were attached to people that reviewed the headset found it quite enjoyable.  Techgage tried out Kingston's follow up product the stereo Cloud II with inline DSP to allow virtual 7.1 surround sound recently, focusing more on the audio reproduction than capture.  From their review it does indeed sound like Kingston has put out another audio winner but as they did not do much testing of the audio capture quality we are not sure if this product might make it onto a podcast near you.

kingston_hyperx_cloud_ii_headset_01_thumb.jpg

"Sequels… they’re either blockbusters (The Empire Strikes Back) better than the original or busts (Caddyshack II) that should have never seen the light of day. In the world of PC peripherals, it’s rare when we see a direct follow-up to a product. Kingston, though, bucks the trend with its new HyperX Cloud II gaming headset. Is it a blockbuster, or a bust?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Techgage

Bring back the mobile overclock NVIDIA, but stick a warning on it

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2015 - 01:09 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 900m, overclocking, responsibility

It seems that the recent ability to overclock the GTX 900M on laptops was a bug and not a feature, according to the response of an NVIDIA representative on this thread, to the many reasonable and well thought out posts on the thread on their forums.  This started in the 347.29 release and continues into the current 347.52 release which supports the newly released Evolve as well as overclocking on desktop components. 

It would be very nice to see the restoration of the ability to overclock mobile NVIDIA chips so that users can decide if they wish to or not but perhaps it is worth reminding those who want to overclock that they are doing so at their own risk.  This does not mean the voiding of the warranty which will happen but refers more to the actual risk of damage to the GPU and the laptop it is in, by exceeding the thermal design of the laptop you risk destroying the expensive machine you just bought.  Laptops have nowhere near the thermal flexibility or compartmentalization of a desktop, not only can you not pop the side off or slap in a new fan, the heat from the GPU is bleeding directly into other components in the laptop as their is no significant air gap between components. 

Restoring the ability to overclock either natively or through third party applications is something that would be very appreciated, however there should be a strong warning presented to users if they do chose to.  If you are running GPU enabled BOINC or Folding@Home on an overclocked laptop which you then leave unattended, it is your fault if the damn thing catches fire not NVIDIA's so do not go suing.

Burned_laptop_secumem_11.jpg

"Nvidia has removed the ability of users to overclock their GeForce GTX 900M series GPU equipped laptops in a recent driver update. The driver in question is the GeForce R347 driver (version 347.29). Before the update users of the laptops in question had no problems overclocking or even underclocking their GPUs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: HEXUS

Raptr's Top PC Games of January 2015

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2015 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

If you are interested in the top five most played PC games, according to Raptr, then the rank order has not changed much. Each of them bled a lot of mind share though. In January, the top twenty games accounted for 61.93% (give or take rounding error) of total time, with 44.05% of total time dominated by the top five. In December (2014), the top twenty games had 78.41% of total play time, or 57% for just the top five. This means that PC gamers, at least those using Raptr, were spending a lot more time playing a diverse spread of less-popular games last month.

raptr-most-played-january-2015.png

The biggest change (by rank) was Warframe, which lost six ranks and 43.2% of its play time, even though that was only 0.6% of Raptr's total. The second-largest change in the bottom fifteen games is Diablo III, which climbed up five ranks due to a major update that was released halfway through the month. The third-largest change is Dragon Age: Inquisition, which lost almost half (43.3%) of its play time, resulting in a drop of three ranks.

Even though the ranking had a few big movements internally, all twenty were also on last month's list.

Source: Raptr

Ubisoft Discusses Assassin's Creed: Unity with Investors

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 15, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: ubisoft, DirectX 12, directx 11, assassins creed, assassin's creed, assasins creed unity

During a conference call with investors, analysts, and press, Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, highlighted the issues with Assassin's Creed: Unity with an emphasis on the positive outcomes going forward. Their quarter itself was good, beating expectations and allowing them to raise full-year projections. As expected, they announced that a new Assassin's Creed game would be released at the end of the year based on the technology they created for Unity, with “lessons learned”.

ubisoft-assassins-creed-unity-scene.jpg

Before optimization, every material on every object is at least one draw call.

Of course, there are many ways to optimize... but that effort works against future titles.

After their speech, the question period revisited the topic of Assassin's Creed: Unity and how it affected current sales, how it would affect the franchise going forward, and how should they respond to that foresight (Audio Recording - The question starts at 25:20). Yves responded that they redid “100% of the engine”, which was a tremendous undertaking. “When you do that, it's painful for all the group, and everything has to be recalibrated.” He continues: “[...] but the engine has been created, and it is going to help that brand to shine in the future. It's steps that we need to take regularly so that we can constantly innovated. Those steps are sometimes painful, but they allow us to improve the overall quality of the brand, so we think this will help the brand in the long term.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. When the issues first arose, it was speculated that the engine was pushing way too many draw calls, especially for DirectX 11 PCs. At the time, I figured that Ubisoft chose Assassin's Creed: Unity to be the first title to use their new development pipeline, focused on many simple assets rather than batching things together to minimize host-to-GPU and GPU-to-host interactions. Tens of thousands of individual tasks being sent to the GPU will choke a PC, and getting it to run at all on DirectX 11 might have diverted resources from, or even caused, many of the glitches. Currently, a few thousand is ideal although “amazing developers” can raise the ceiling to about ten thousand.

This also means that I expect the next Assassin's Creed title to support DirectX 12, possibly even in the graphics API's launch window. If I am correct, Ubisoft has been preparing for it for a long time. Of course, it is possible that I am simply wrong, but it would align with Microsoft's Holiday 2015 expectation for the first, big-budget titles to use the new interface and it would be silly to have done their big overhaul without planning on switching to DX12 ASAP.

Then there is the last concern: If I am correct, what should Ubisoft have done? Is it right for them to charge full price for a title that they know will have necessary birth pains? Do they delay it and risk (or even accept) that it will be non-profitable, and upset fans that way? There does not seem to be a clear answer, with all outcomes being some flavor of damage control.

Source: GamaSutra

No one has talked about mouse mats in a while

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2015 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: mouse, gaming mat, input, XTracPads, Carbonic, Ripper, Ripport XXL

They are not the most glamorous of peripherals but they do save your desk and can help you with your accuracy, so pop over to Overclockers Club to take a look at XTracPads.  They offer three different sized gaming mats from the paper sized Carbonic at 8.5" x 11" x 1/8" to the Ripper at a larger 11" x 17" x 1/8" to the immense Ripper XXL at 36" x 18" x 1/8" which is going to cover a goodly piece of your desk.  They are priced at roughly $15, $22 and $35 so it is not a major investment to pick up and well worth it if you are looking to replace an old mat which has seen better days.

1_thumb.jpg

"From a casual gamer perspective, I am sure someone who can game competitively will likely notice a greater improvement than I. Personally, I have had trouble with mouse pads that were too hard, not stiff, but solid cutouts of plastic (I don't even know if they are made anymore really). I have also had issues with mouse pads that accumulate a bunch of gross after a bit of use. I can live with poor or cheap mouse pads, but now that I have had a taste of the other side I really don't want to anymore."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk