If you thought IoT security was already bad ...

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2016 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: iot, security, ssh, idiots

The research that SEC Consult has conducted shows that almost half of all IoT devices, from your router straight through to devices in hospitals and factories use public SSH host keys and X.509 certificates.  Since these keys are known far and wide it is depressingly easy to break the encryption on any communications from these devices and harvest passwords and other data or even to change the contents of that package on the fly.  Imagine a heart monitor which reports a strong heartbeat long after the patient has died or a large machine in a power plant being given different readings to allow it to exceed safety margins and destroy itself.  This is only getting worse, as many companies creating these IoT devices are either trying to save money by using packaged software or in some cases are totally ignorant of the effect of reusing keys.

If you can, change your keys to be device specific and isolate them on your network.  As The Register unhappily points out, this is not something your average consumer or purchasing department is aware of, let alone proficient enough to change keys on their devices.

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"Millions of internet-facing devices – from home broadband routers to industrial equipment – are still sharing well-known private keys for encrypting their communications."

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Source: The Inquirer

Europeans: Epic Games Is Hosting a VR Game Jam

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2016 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, epic games, valve, htc, vr funhouse, vive

So Epic Games, NVIDIA, and HTC (with Valve) are hosting a game jam aboard the MS Bleichen ship in Hamburg, Germany. The purpose is to develop mods for VR Funhouse. Nothing says a fun VR experience like room-scale experiences on a boat. Hopefully it will be firmly docked to prevent judges from getting sea-sick... or not. Maybe that will make the carnival games even better?

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The jam takes place between September 24th and September 26th. Epic, NVIDIA, and Valve will be donating prizes to the event. Tickets cost 16.67 Euros, although I'm guessing that doesn't include food or a place to sleep -- they don't say one way or the other. The general public can also buy tickets for the last day, to experience the creations.

Source: EventBrite

USB Type-C to HDMI is coming soon

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2016 - 01:07 PM |
Tagged: hdmi, usb type-c, HDMI 1.4b

HDMI Licensing have agreed to allow a single cord converter that converts HDMI 1.4b to USB Type-C, no additional dongle required.  The HDMI Alt Mode will support all the features of the new HDMI standard, including 4k resolution and an audio return channel.  That will mean any computer, tablet or other device with Type-C out can be plugged into an HDMI port on an external display with a single cord, no additional dongles or other hassles.  The Register does point out one small defect, the HDMI port is not reversible so you will still have to turn it three times before it will plug in.

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"HDMI Licensing, the administrator of the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) spec, has decided that the time has come to do away with dongles and given the thumb's up to USB-C."

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Source: The Register

Razer Announces Ornata Line of Mecha-Membrane Gaming Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | September 5, 2016 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: razerzone, Razer Chroma, razer, Ornata, Mecha-Membrane, keyboard, gaming

Razer has annouced a new line of gaming keyboards called Ornata, which feature the company's "Razer Mecha-Membrane" technology, which is described as a cross between membrane, and mechanical-switch keyboards.

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"Designed to combine the most desirable traits of membrane rubber dome design with the merits of mechanical keyboard technology, the Razer Mecha-Membrane delivers both a soft, cushioned touch and a crisp, tactile click with each keystroke.   

Traditionally, users choose membrane rubber dome keyboards for comfort, while mechanical switches are favored for fast actuations and distinct tactile feedback. The Razer Mecha-Membrane is a unique mid-height keycap hybrid that provides a comfortable and efficient typing experience unlike any key type on the market."

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Two versions will be available, beginning with the Razer Ornata Chroma, which offers individually-backlit keys with Razer Chroma RGB color effects.

"Gamers can choose from 16.8 million colors and a variety of effects. Custom settings can be created using the Razer Synapse software platform and shared with millions of other Razer software users via the Razer Chroma Workshop. In-game Razer Chroma lighting profiles are also integrated into popular game titles, including “Overwatch,” "Call of Duty®: Black Ops III," "Blade and Soul" and more."

The second version is the Razer Ornata, which does not include Chroma effects, instead offering green backlighting behind the keys.

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The Razer Ornata Chroma is priced at $99.99, with the Razer Ornata priced at $79.99. Both keyboards are available immediately at the company's razerzone.com store, with worldwide availablity slated for October.

Full press release after the break.

Source: Razer

Have a thing for old disks? FLOPPYFlash, for those who like it at 3.5"

Subject: General Tech | September 2, 2016 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: FLOPPYFlash, Compact Flash

It may be masochism or an extremely dated OS or piece of software you support but there are some people out there still using 3.5" floppy disks.  Trying to source new disks which are not yet dead to replace the ones that die on you will be a frustrating experience but there is hope thanks to Solid State Disks Ltd.  Their FLOPPYFlash drives use Compact Flash as their storage medium and connect to your machine using the old 34 pin floppy disk ribbon cable, or even the rarer 26 pin or 34 pin slim and Shugart connections. You can also set your data rates, 125 and 500 Kbit/s being the norm; which should successfully convince your machine it is reading from its old pal, but you will know better and likely sleep better at night.

Pop over to The Register for a look.

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"Floppy disk sales have, well, flopped but there are still masses of PCs and old embedded PC-based systems out there with floppy disk slots and drives. Now this near-dead space can be made usable again, with a 32GB FLOPPYFlash drive from Solid State Disks Ltd."

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

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I don’t think it should come as a surprise that, as the PC gaming market has grown, so has the need for high performance and deeply customizable accessories. Just look at the explosion of companies like Razer, Corsair and SteelSeries, all fairly new entrants into the world of gaming-specific PC keyboards, mice, audio devices and more. Logitech is likely the oldest name in keyboards and mice that many of us know; also, if you have been paying even a semblance of attention recently, you know that the Logitech G brand has been putting the giant back into the mix in regards to those coveted high end PC gaming buyers.

But what about the rest of the community, the growing segment that includes kids, parents and users that were once dedicated console gamer? For many of the people that fall into this category, the idea of paying $150 for a keyboard and $150 for a mouse seems ludicrous, and sometimes it’s hard not to agree with them. To counter, how many of these newer and less experiences gamers are banging away on keyboards that shipped with their computer or with a keyboard and mouse combination that Mom or Dad brought home from the office? There remains a need for a set of gaming peripherals that are both gaming-centric but easy to use and low cost enough to address the mass market.

Logitech’s answer is the Logitech G Prodigy brand of devices. Launching today with two mice (wired and wireless), a keyboard and a headset, the Prodigy collection is meant to be low cost and easy to use, but still offers the key technologies and advantages that higher end hardware has created.

G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse

Available in both a wired and wireless version, priced at just $69 and $99 respectively, the G403 Prodigy mouse is a step above standard mice for gaming. The shape and feel of the unit are very clearly an iteration of the old Microsoft Intellimouse, which is one of the most, if not THE most popular input devices of the last 20 years. This gives the mouse an instantaneous familiarity to a large number of gamers and hey: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?

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The G403 has some impressive performance as well, with the same 1ms polling rate as the majority of Logitech G’s gaming mice. Both wired and wireless versions use the PMW3366 optical sensor, of which I am big fan of based on previous reviews and long term usage. This sensor is the same as the one used in the G900, for example, that doesn’t utilize pixel rounding giving gamers the most accurate translation from hand movement to screen without annoying mouse acceleration.

Continue reading our preview of the new Logitech G Prodigy product line!!

Podcast #415 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1060 Turbo, Intel SSD P3520, HUAWEI Mate 8, ASUS Strix X99, and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2016 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: yoga, video, strix x99, ssd, Predator, podcast, P3520, Mate 8, Lenovo, Intel, Huawei, Fanatec, CSL Elite, asus, acer, 1060 turbo

PC Perspective Podcast #415 - 09/01/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS GeForce GTX 1060 Turbo, Intel SSD P3520, HUAWEI Mate 8, ASUS Strix X99, 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, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath and Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:49:46
 
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 1:07:04 IFA 2016
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn:
      1. Update your iOS devices (really bad root exploits finally fixed)!
      2. HTC Vive users - enable bluetooth and standby your beacons
  4. Closing/outro

Wireless VR, a possible upgrade coming to the HTC Vive

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2016 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: htc vive, Quark VR

Bulgarian based Quark VR have met with Valve representatives to demonstrate their almost wireless prototype for improving the experience of users of the Vive.  Their device is a small receiver that you wear on your body which transmits all necessary signals up to the Vive so you will not have any wires connecting your body to a PC, backpack or otherwise.  As the device uses WiFi to transmit the signals there is the possibility that this could introduce lag into your VR experience, something which can have a very negative effect on your carpeting and walls.  Drop by Ars Technica for more information on this project.

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"A Bulgarian VR startup is promising a fix to the problem, though, saying that an untethered, wireless solution for the HTC Vive will be ready for demonstration sometime this fall."

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Source: Ars Technica

Qualcomm joins in VR fun, designs VR820 reference platform and HMD

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 1, 2016 - 10:30 AM |
Tagged: VR, snapdragon 820, snapdragon, qualcomm

After Google's unveiling of its pending VR platform, it would follow that the major players in the technology field would toss various hats into the ring. We saw Intel announce a reference head mounted VR system at IDF last month called Project Alloy. Today Qualcomm takes the covers off its own reference head unit, creatively called VR820.

The reference platform is built on exactly what you would expect: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC with the Adreno 530 graphics subsystem in place to handle 3D rendering. Thanks to the heterogeneous computing capability of the QC platform, the VR820 integrates an impressive array of data input including the standard gyro and accelerometer. VR820 adds in dual front-facing cameras to allow for spacial tracking and 6-degrees of freedom for movement (left/right, up/down and forward/backward, pitch, yaw and roll) and to integrate see-through or augmented reality applications. Most interesting to me is that the VR820 is among the first platforms to integrate internal eye tracking, ostensibly to allow for tricks like foveated rendering that allow the system to dynamically change quality levels based on where the users' eyes are actually focused. 

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The VR820 is a reference platform so you'll likely never see a Qualcomm-branded device on the market. Instead VR820 will be available to OEM out for product and resale as early as Q4 of this year, meaning there is a SLIGHT chance you'll see something based on this for the holiday.

Despite being built on what is essentially a smartphone, the VR820 will allow for higher performance on the CPU and GPU courtesy of the looser thermal constraints and the larger battery that will be built into the device. Qualcomm stated that they expect the device to allow for "a couple of hours" of use in it's current implementation. That doesn't mean a partner wouldn't decide to implement a larger battery to expand that time frame.

The current display in this device is a 2560x1440 single screen, though the SD820 and Adreno 530 could address two independent displays should a partner or future reference design call for it. Looks like Qualcomm switched up and implemented a 1440x1440 display per eye in this reference platform. It is an AMOLED display so you should see amazing color depth though I am a bit concerned by the 70Hz refresh rate it peaks at. Both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift are targeting 90Hz as the minimum acceptable frame rate for a smooth and high quality user experience. Though I will need hands-on time with the product to decide either way, I am wary of Qualcomm's decision to back off from that accepted standard.

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That being said, with the low latency AMOLED screen, Qualcomm tells me the VR820 will have an 18ms "motion to photon" latency which comes in under the theoretical ~20ms maximum for an immersive experience. 

The current iteration of VR820 is running Android, though other operating systems like Microsoft's Holographic OS should be compatible if the ecosystem buys in. 

It's clear that the goal of untethered VR/AR is the target for mass market experiences. I personally have doubts about the capability of something like VR820 or Intel's Project Alloy to really impact the VR gaming market without being attached to much higher end processing like we see with the Rift and Vive today. More mainstream activities like movies, conferencing and productivity are within the grasp of a processor like the Snapdragon 820. But how well will it handle games that try to emulate Job Simulator or Eve: Valkyrie? Will eye tracking capability allow for higher effective resolution gaming?

There is still a lot to learn about Qualcomm's entry into the dedicated VR space with the VR820, and though pricing will obviously depend on the specifics of the OEM that licenses the design and what modifications may occur, QC thinks the reference platform as we see it here should be in the $500 ballpark.

Check out Qualcomm's full press release after the break!

Source: Qualcomm

PC Gamer Surveys Piracy

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2016 - 12:47 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, piracy

There's a lot of ways to gather information about a topic. Surveys allow a lot of responses quickly and easily, but they have many limitations.

PC Gamer ran a survey for a couple of weeks, polling their audience about whether they pirate computer games, and why. It attempts to correlate this act by age, income, country of residence, and reason. It also asks about how this practice changed over time. They acknowledge that this system could easily be gamed, whether by multiple votes or deliberate misinformation, but noted that it's an interesting study none-the-less. They even highlight a few areas of concern, like non-zero income for people who claim to be under 10 years old (of which some are probably guessing their parents salaries, but still).

The survey is interesting, though, and you should check it out.

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It's important to know a bit more about how surveys work, though. Simply put, people often report information that is much different from what would have been measured, especially in hypothetical or long-term situations. Someone who records what they ate during the day, through a survey that occurs multiple times per day, is likely to be fairly accurate.

However, asking someone if advertising works on them is hilariously bad. When I've seen surveys on this, they are overwhelmingly “no” or “it informs me of products or services I would have otherwise not been aware of”. Hate to break it to you, but that's crap. It works. It works on everyone. There is an industry that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, in the US alone, that testifies to it working.

While you would typically expect a survey about piracy to be skewed in a way that makes the respondents self-identify better, even that is not necessarily the case. About a decade ago, Paulo Ceolho was pirating his own book, leading to an increase in sales. The same happened for a comic book artist, named Steve Lieber, whose sales peaked about ~20x higher than being reviewed on Boing Boing; this peak lasted longer, too.

These sorts of effects, as well as many others, will probably not come up in a survey. In the latter case, there is an emotional reaction to an author who treats you with respect, even though you pirate their work. You actually need to test for these effects with concrete experiments.

In short, read the data with a few grains of salt. This is not an effective acquisition method for what they are attempting to learn, but it's well done for what it is.

Source: PC Gamer