The Intel SMM bug is bad, but not that bad

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2015 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: fud, security, Intel, amd, x86, SMM

The SSM security hole that Christopher Domas has demonstrated (pdf)  is worrying but don't panic, it requires your system to be compromised before you are vulnerable.  That said, once you have access to the SMM you can do anything you feel like to the computer up to and including ensuring you can reinfect the machine even after a complete format or UEFI update.  The flaw was proven on Intel x86 machines but is likely to apply to AMD processors as well as they were using the same architecture around the turn of the millennium and thankfully the issue has been mitigated in recent processors.  Intel will be releasing patches for effected CPUs, although not all the processors can be patched and we have yet to hear from AMD.  You can get an over view of the issue by following the link at Slashdot and speculate on if this flaw was a mistake or inserted there on purpose in our comment section.

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"Security researcher Christopher Domas has demonstrated a method of installing a rootkit in a PC's firmware that exploits a feature built into every x86 chip manufactured since 1997. The rootkit infects the processor's System Management Mode, and could be used to wipe the UEFI or even to re-infect the OS after a clean install. Protection features like Secure Boot wouldnt help, because they too rely on the SMM to be secure."

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Source: Slashdot

DOTA 2 to Increase Custom Game Mode Player Limit to 24

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: valve, DOTA 2

MOBAs tend to be focus on gameplay mechanics with three to five players per team. The concept is that a handful of players will need to balance between the various attack paths, and a limited amount of cooperation is possible before you start leaving zones uncovered. It also means that one problematic player can tank an entire team.

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This will not change in the official DOTA 2 game, but Valve is expanding the limit for custom games. At The International 5, Valve announced that those games can support up to 24 players. The first public game was a 10 vs 10 match at the end of the fourth day of the tournament. While I don't play DOTA 2, it sounds like Custom Games in DOTA 2 Reborn are a lot like StarCraft Arcade, where users can create mods like dungeon crawlers and even objective-based games. In this case, an increased player limit would be very useful. I am not sure whether it works for the base game, though -- maybe it works better?

This patch launches next week.

World of Warcraft Legion Announced

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, wow, blizzard

Shortly after Blizzard has released their financial results, they announced “Legion”, a new expansion pack for World of Warcraft. They are arriving more rapidly than they have in the past. The amount of time between Mists of Pandaria's release and Warlords of Draenor's announcement is a little more than a year and a month. A year later, Warlords of Draenor was released and now, nine months later, Legion was announced. I expect that the stream of content is to either stimulate subscriptions or, less likely, finish the narrative before the game fades out.

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Image via PC Gamer

Before we get to the expansion, we'll briefly mention those financial results. In May, Blizzard reported that, while Warlords of Draenor pushed the subscription count to over 10 million, it fell back down to about 7.1 million by the end of the quarter. This is a loss of about 29%. This quarter saw another loss of about 1.5 million subscribers, from 7.1 million to 5.6 million. This is a loss of about 27%. This is a fairly steady, exponential loss of a little more than 25% every 3 months, which is fairly quick. This also means that Draenor was enough to offset about six months. Not much more to say about that -- I just find it interesting.

As for Legion, it will be a fairly sizable boost in content. The level cap has been increased to 110, which will hopefully include new skills and armor leading up to it. A new class, Demon Hunter, has also been added. You will not need to level them up from 1, and they will be capable as either DPS or tank. Of course, new raids will be included. Blizzard seems to have wanted to highlight dungeons, however. The way it was described to PC Gamer makes it sound like they want them to be more interesting as set pieces, with story and an interesting environment.

No pricing or availability information, but we'll probably hear a lot at Blizzcon.

Source: PC Gamer

Wireless productivity, Logitech's MX Master and MX Anywhere 2

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: logitech, mx master, mx anywhere 2, input

Logitech is found on many desktops, both gamer and spreadsheet slaves often choose this familiar name in peripherals.  The Tech Report looks at two wireless mice aimed at those who use their mice to make money as opposed to war, the larger MX Master and the smaller and more portable MX Anywhere 2.  Both these mice can have up to three profiles to let you move between different PCs, letting you save base station or Bluetooth 4 connections and swap them at the press of a button.  Check out how they perform in their duties in the full review.

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"Logitech's MX Master and MX Anywhere 2 mice represent the pinnacle of the company's productivity-oriented pointing devices. We spent some hand time with each one to see whether they're truly the overlords of the office."

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Podcast #361 - Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Lenovo LaVie-Z and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: Z170-A, z170 deluxe, Z170, video, Skylake, podcast, nvidia, maxwell, logitech g29, Lenovo, lavie-z, Intel, gigabyte, asus, 950ti, 6700k

PC Perspective Podcast #361 - 08/06/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Lenovo LaVie-Z 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!

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  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

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

Can it Run VR? Crytek and Basemark Join Forces to Create Virtual Reality Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: Basemark, crytek, oculus rift

With the release of Oculus Rift and various other head mounted displays you may be wondering if your current machine is powerful enough for you to use one of these devices or if you need to upgrade before you will enjoy the experience. 

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Basemark and Crytek have joined forces to create a new benchmark to test how your system will fare.  The benchmark will give you information on latency, verify your if hardware is able to run at 60, 75, 90 or 120fps with varying levels of graphics detail and even verify if your audio source can properly provide spacial audio cues.

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Helsinki (Finland) and Frankfurt am Main (Germany) August 6th, 2015 – Basemark and Crytek today announced a new partnership to help create a definitive PC system test for virtual reality gaming.

The new VR benchmark will enable gamers and PC hardware companies to easily assess the level of experience they can expect when running virtual reality content, and will be the first service available that gives users recognizable, real-world metrics to describe their system’s VR readiness with various HMDs out there.

Developed using Crytek’s CRYENGINE technology, the benchmark will provide detailed feedback in areas such as the best graphical settings to use with a variety of VR headsets. Basemark’s expertise in measuring performance standards will be key as they formulate an objective test that evaluates everything from frame rate capabilities to memory consumption, latency issues, 3D audio performance and much more.

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Crytek’s Creative Director for CRYENGINE, Frank Vitz, said: “Basemark is already helping to measure technology standards in other areas of gaming, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with them as we work to establish a user-friendly yardstick for VR performance. We believe CRYENGINE can become a go-to tool for developers looking to create compelling VR experiences, and this partnership means players can also count on CRYENGINE as they evaluate whether their PC is ready for the most advanced, cutting-edge VR content available.”

“We wanted to make a real-world VR gaming benchmark as opposed to a theoretical one and hence we’re very excited to announce this partnership with Crytek, the leading game engine company”, said Tero Sarkkinen, founder and CEO of Basemark, “By using CRYENGINE as the base and vetting the test workloads under our rigorous development process involving all the key technology players, we will forge the definitive benchmark for all PC VR gamers.”

Source: Basemark

Everyone needs an automated elastic band turret

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: DIY, turrent, arduino, 3d nand

With Black Hat in full swing anyone with even half a mind on their systems security is already depressed and likely to be even more so by the wrap up.  That is why you should all stare at this 3D printed, Arduino powered elastic band turret.  At the very least it should cheer you up and at best get you downloading the Thing Files to start printing your own.  The full load of 24 rubbers can be launched in a very short time, either automatically if you program the Arduino appropriately or manually with an optional joystick.  Head on over to MAKE:Blog to see this new step in desk defence.

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"Looking like it would fit in perfectly in the smash hit game Portal, this little turret can launch a barrage of rubber bands on command. Designed by Kevin Thomas, this perky little gatling gun is mostly 3D printed, with an Arduino for a brain."

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Mount & Blade II Bannerlord Progress Update at Gamescom

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mount & blade ii, mount & blade

TaleWorlds has a cult classic franchise with Mount & Blade. Warband, the follow-up to the first Mount & Blade but didn't earn its own number, placed right behind Skyrim in Ars Technica's Steam Gauge for “Most Played Older Releases (2012 or Before) on Steam”. It is my most played game by far with over 800 hours recorded, albeit over the course of several years. I also participated in (and even hosted) organized events on a regular basis throughout that entire period, too.

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The new game looks quite interesting, though. While the previous game's mods were more popular than its default content, its Siege mode drew a lot of attention. Armies were able to push siege towers against fortresses and slowly overtake the defenders -- attackers had unlimited respawns, but defenders did not. Eventually they would take a flag. Mods even played with destructible walls and buildings to force the attackers to create their own ways in, and the defenders to adapt in response. It seems like this version is expanding upon that with battering rams, catapults, and other team-controlled devices. While this is not as effective as a Napoleonic-era cannon, this might lead to the same effect.

They also flaunt time and weather rendering effects, and board games. Still no release date (or even publisher). This information is not even on their website yet. They're not known for rushing, at least.

Source: PC Gamer

Corsair Launches New RGB Peripherals

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 5, 2015 - 11:42 PM |
Tagged: corsair, gaming mouse, mechanical keyboard, gaming headset

At Gamescom in Germany, Corsair announced the Strafe RGB mechanical keyboard, the Void RGB headset, and the Scimitar RGB mouse. As you can guess, each of these have colored lighting with a full range of 16.8 million choices. The devices will be trickling out over the coming months, but we should have everything by October and their prices are all competitive.

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First is the Strafe RGB mechanical keyboard. This device comes in three versions: Cherry MX RGB Red and Cherry MX RGB Brown for $149.99, or the “Cherry MX RGB Silent” switch for $159.99. What is a “Cherry MX RGB Silent” switch? No idea. I cannot find anywhere that says whether it is tactile or linear, so who knows. It allows 104 key rollover on USB, which means that you could press any combination of keys and each will be recognized. USB has a limit of about six, but Corsair probably registers the keyboard as several input devices to communicate the extra events. They are scheduled to launch in October.

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Next up are the Void RGB headsets. The analog stereo one is available at $79.99, 7.1 USB raises the price to $99.99, and wireless 7.1 bumps the price up further to $129.99 (or $149.99 for a special Best Buy edition). The analog one doesn't do RGB backlighting, though. They are scheduled for later this month (August).

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Last is the Scimitar RGB Gaming Mouse. This one is more interesting. Basically, Corsair took the number pad layout of the Razer Naga and Logitech G600 and did their own version of it. Its sensor is higher-precision at 12,000 DPI, but that metric has maxed out long ago for basically everyone. The number pad on the thumb side will allow a little more than a quarter inch of adjustment. This means that you can align the buttons slightly to match your grip. Each button is also mechanical, like the Razer Naga 2014, which is good for me because I have a problem with side buttons wearing out. Its price comes in at $79.99 and it will be available in September 2015.

Source: Corsair

LibreOffice 5.0 Released. x86 and x86-64 Builds for Windows.

Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2015 - 10:48 PM |
Tagged: libreoffice 5, LibreOffice

On the same day that Intel released Skylake for mainstream enthusiasts, The Document Foundation has published LibreOffice 5.0. This version brings a 64-bit version for Windows, which is another baby-step in the application's trend toward performance and stability improvements. There doesn't seem to be too many features to point to, besides new branding images, but it's the first release in their 5.0 branch. It is also numbered 5.0.5 because pre-releases don't want us to have nice things.

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Despite having a supported 64-bit version, the 32-bit x86 build is still default when you go to the download page. If you manually select the x86-64 version's installer, it will erase previous, standard installs of LibreOffice 4 x86. I'm not sure if selecting a custom folder will change that, in case you wanted side-by-side installs for some reason, but it is also nice that the installer cleans up the previous version.

You can download it for free from their site. You will need to scroll down for the 64-bit version.