Learn more about Stuxnet, the first computer virus with physical symptoms

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2014 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: stuxnet, manufacturing plant, siemens

There have always been stories floating around the net of viruses which could cause your PSU to short or release the magic smoke from your chips but until Stuxnet those have just been silicon faerie tales.  Stuxnet was first detected in 2010 in a uranium enrichment facility in Iran, a full year after the original infection took place and after Stuxnet had caused the physical failure of numerous centrifuges by altering the limits place on their cycling speed.  The virus was designed to infect Siemens S7-400 PLCs, as well as the Step 7 and WinCC software and Profibus communication used on PCs to interface with the controllers.  It was spread by USB drives as the machines were not connected directly to a network, the attackers went after companies which had maintenance, replacement and other types of contracts with the enrichment facility and who would unwittingly spread Stuxnet to the vulnerable equipment.  You can read a brief overview of the Stuxnet sage at Wired, they are promoting a book on the subject which will be released this month and should make for interesting reading for anyone interested in computer security.

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"Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm that came before. Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak physical destruction on equipment the computers controlled."

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Source: Wired

Microsoft OneDrive Is Moving from 1TB to Unlimited

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 10:13 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, onedrive, skydrive, cloud storage, subscription service, subscription

I guess if you are going to take a hit on the enthusiasts by offering a 1TB tier, then you might as well just go all the way. Microsoft has been rolling out an unlimited tier to their various subscription products, starting with Office 365 Home, Personal, and University. OneDrive for Business customers, who are currently limited to 1TB of total storage, will be granted the unlimited tier, starting with "First Release" customers in 2015. It will probably arrive to "Standard Release" customers a couple of weeks later.

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The 1TB tier was not around too long. It launched to several different subscriptions in late April, starting at $5 per user per month. Now, the current cheapest option is $7 per user per month, but it comes with a license of Office 365 Personal. Note that the first three tiers, Home, Personal, and University, are each non-commercial licenses. The rapid increase in capacity could mean either that the original initiative was very successful at wooing new customers, or the exact opposite of that. It is even possible that unlimited was the original intent, but they arrived there by way of a 1TB plan, either to shake up competitors, to double-up on media attention, or simply to dip a toe in. Basically, they could have done this for any reason under the sun. We have no idea.

Unlimited storage in OneDrive for Office 365 Personal, Home, and University is currently available, starting at $7 per user per month. OneDrive for Business customers will need to wait until 2015.

Source: Microsoft

Roccat Offering Ryos Tenkeyless Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard With Cherry MX Switches

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 12:59 AM |
Tagged: TKL, tenkeyless, roccat, mechanical keyboard, gaming, Cherry MX

Roccat recently launched a slick new mechanical keyboard called the Ryos TKL Pro. The "TKL" in the name stands for "tenkeyless" and signifies the lack of a number pad. The new keyboard features your choice of Cherry MX switches in a glossy black (micro dot finish) frame with raised keys and a large palm rest with thumb buttons. The keyboard further packs in two ARM Cortex processors and 2MB of flash to store up to 470 macros and drive the per-key LED backlighting. Developed and tested by professional StarCraft II gamer HyuN, the Ryos TKL Pro is a cool looking bit of hardware that is available now with a MSRP of $140.

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The Ryos TKL Pro measures 23.3 cm x 40.4 cm and holds 91 programmable keys. The keyboard connects via a 1.8 meter braided USB cable. It sits on five rubber feet with two being retractable risers. The mechanical keyboard supports USB report rates of 1000Hz and 1ms response times as well as N-key rollover anti-ghosting technology. The onboard memory allows users to store macros and secondary key functions when using the EasyShift+ and FN keys. The Ryos TKL Pro supports per-key illumination with special effects allowing any number of keys to be lit up while the rest remain dark. It can be configured to illuminate only the keys used in game, for instance.

Roccat has chosen Cherry MX switches for the Ryos TKL Pro like its larger Ryos MK Pro sibling. Specifically, gamers will be able to select models sporting Cherry MX blue, black, brown or red switches.

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Other features include support for Roccat R.A.D. software to display game stats and achievements and Roccat Talk to interface with other Roccat gear.

The Ryos TKL Pro incorporates most of the features of the Ryos MK Pro into a more compact design. (You mainly give up the USB/audio hub and dedicated macro keys). If you are looking to ditch your number pad (and while this keyboard looks cool, I could not live without the good ole' num pad!) it might be worth looking into for your next keyboard. It is available now for $140.

Read more about mechanical keyboards at PC Perspective.

Source: Roccat

Corsair Shows Off Sabre RGB Gaming Mice With Optical and Laser Sensors

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: optical, mice, laser mouse, gaming mouse, corsair

Corsair showed off new gaming mice at PAX Australia outfitted with your choice of optical or laser sensors. The new Sabre RGB mice are squarely aimed at PC gamers with a stylish automotive design aesthetic, customizable lighting, programmable buttons, and the choice of sensors. The optical model starts at $60 while the laser sensor variant has an MSRP of $70.

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Corsair has packed quite a few features into gaming mouse weighing 100 grams. As the name implies, the Sabre RGB includes four LED-backlit lighting zones that can be set to one of 16.8 million colors. There are eight programmable buttons including two under the thumb on the left side of the mouse and a 1.8 meter (5.9 feet) braided USB cable. The choice of sensor and Omron switches rated at 20 million clicks are traits that competitive gamers should appreciate. The optical sensor tops out at 6400 DPI while the laser sensor can hit 8200 DPI. Corsair is bundling the mouse with CUE software which allows gamers to adjust the DPI, acceleration, smoothing, backlighting, macros, and USB reporting rate (25Hz to 1000Hz). According to Corsair Gaming Product Manager Jason Christian, the Sabre RGB was designed to be a lighter and sleeker mouse that builds upon the company's M65 and M45 series.

The Sabre Optical RGB and Sabre Laser RGB are available now for $60 and $70 respectively. More information along with a chance to win a Sabre RGB mouse, NVIDIA graphics card, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel can be found on the Corsair Gaming website.

Also read: Computex 2014: Corsair's Cherry MX RGB Keyboards Launch

HTML5 Finally Released as W3C Recommendation

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 03:56 AM |
Tagged: w3c, javascript, html5, html, ecma, css

Recently, the W3C has officially recommended the whole HTML5 standard as a specification for browser vendors and other interested parties. It is final. It is complete. Future work will now be rolled into HTML 5.1, which is currently on "Last Call" and set for W3C Recommendation in 2016. HTML 5.2 will follow that standard with a first specification working draft in 2015.

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

For a website to work, there are several specifications at play from many different sources. HTML basically defines most of the fundamental building blocks that get assembled into a website, as well as its structure. It is maintained by the W3C, which is an industry body with hundreds of members. CSS, a format to describe how elements (building blocks) are physically laid out on the page, is also maintained by the W3C. On the other hand, JavaScript controls the logic and programmability, and it is (mostly) standardized by Ecma International. Also, Khronos has been trying to get a few specifications into the Web ecosystem with WebGL and WebCL. This announcement, however, only defines HTML5.

Another body that you may hear about is the "WHATWG". WHAT, you say? Yes, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). This group was founded by people from within Apple, Mozilla, and Opera to propose their own standard, while the W3C was concerned with XHTML. Eventually, the W3C adopted much of the WHATWG's work. They are an open group without membership fees or meetings, and they still actively concern themselves with advancing the platform.

And there is still more to do. While the most visible change involves conforming to the standards and increasing the performance of each implementation as much as possible, the standard will continue evolving. This news sets a concrete baseline, allowing the implementations to experiment within its bounds -- and they now know exactly where they are.

Source: W3C

Cooler Master Introduces Octane Keyboard And Mouse Combo

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 12:45 AM |
Tagged: Octane, gaming mouse, gaming keyboard, cooler master

Building upon the Devastator combo, Cooler Master has unleashed a new and improved keyboard and mouse combo dubbed Octane. The Octane keyboard and mouse are aimed at PC gamers with customizable LED backlighting, anti ghosting, high DPI mouse sensors and other gaming friendly features. It is available now with a MSRP of $59.99.

Sold as a set, the Octane gaming bundle includes a USB keyboard with custom membrane keys and USB optical mouse. As is customary with gaming gear, the kit features lots of sharp edges and angles. The keyboard in particular is heavily stylized. Both devices can be independently assigned colored backlighting with seven colors to choose from (blue, red, green, purple, yellow, cyan, or white). The backighting can be further set to one of several modes including full backlight, pulse, or a breathing mode that gradually cycles through all available color options.

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The keyboard is mainly constructed of ABS plastic and uses custom membrane keyswitches. It is a full QWERTY keyboard with a number pad on the right side, a Windows button lock switch, backlight control key, and six dedicated media playback keys along the top. The space bar is a unique triangle/wedge shape (wider on the right side) that differs from a standard keyboard, however. There is a short palm rest with a Cooler Master logo sitting in the center below the space bar. Cooler Master claims that the Octane keyboard supports 19-key anti-ghosting technology along with adjustable repeat rates.

Cooler Master Octane Keyboard and Mouse Gaming Combo.jpg

The mouse included in the Octane set uses a AVAGO 3050 optical sensor that supports DPI settings from 500 to 3500. Users can adjust the DPI on the fly to one of four adjustable DPI levels. It is allegedly rated for 10 million clicks over its lifespan. Aside from the two main mouse buttons and the scroll wheel, the gaming mouse has two DPI buttons beneath the scroll wheel and two thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse.

The Octane bundle is an improvement over the Devastator series, at least on paper, though at increased cost. The hardware is shipping now, so reviews should be forthcoming from the usual suspects. The Octane mouse and keyboard bundle is available now with a 2 year warranty for $60 USD.

Internet2 goes down the Software Defined Networking path

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2014 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: internet2, software defined networking

The Internet2 Network is a project being run by universities to develop or modify TCP/IP for the next generation of connectivity and to take advantage of the benefits of fibre optic transportation.  They are also developing monitoring and management tools better suited to handle the huge networks which are becoming commonplace to enable users and machines connected to them to better interface with each other.  The Register talks about their newest research and development phase in this story, it seems that Universities have embraced the Cloud and Software Defined Networking in their development of the next generation of networking, likely to the dismay of Cisco.  The CloudLab runs a total of 15,000 cores to support the various slices of Cloud that are being implemented, follow the links in the story to get more detailed information on the various projects that are underway.

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"The SDN rollout uses the FlowSpace Firewall to slice up segments of connected campuses' 100 Gbps Internet2 connections into discrete slices whose resources are protected from other traffic on the network. That means the 40 attached nodes in America will be able to get their own OpenFlow slices on the network."

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Source: The Register

Bitcasa Discontinues Infinite Drive Cloud Storage

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 07:04 PM |
Tagged: online storage, encryption, cloud storage, bitcasa

Bitcasa recently announced that, as of November 15, 2014, the company is discontinuing its "Infinite Drive" and will no longer be offering unlimited cloud storage space. The company made its debut at the start of last year with an infinite storage product (Amazon S3 backend with custom applications and client side AES-256 convergent encryption). Since then, the company has grown to store more than 40 Petabytes of user data. Unfortunately, the unlimited storage space model was not sustainable despite heavily increased pricing several months ago.

According to Bitcasa, less than 0.5% of users stored more than 1TB while 0.1% of users used more than 10TB. The alleged lack of demand coupled with violations of the company's Acceptable Use Policy were the final nails in the infinite storage coffin.

There is a bright side to the announcement, however. Bitcasa has re-engineered the storage backend and is promising faster uploading, downloading, and streaming (over the web interface) of files. Users wishing to stick with Bitcasa will need to transfer files over to the new storage system by the November 15, 2014 deadline. After the deadline, all files that have not been transferred or downloaded will be deleted permanently. 

Bitcasa has put together a FAQ that explains the situation and how it will affect each of the account tiers on their website.

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Essentially, Bitcasa is shuttering the infinite storage tier completely. Users storing 10TB or less will be allowed to move to the Premium or Pro tiers. The Premium tier remains the same as the old plan at $10 per month for 1TB of storage. The Pro tier has been changed from 5TB for $49 per month to 10TB for $99 per month. Users storing over 10TB will need to reduce their stored files to fit within at most 10TB of space. Of course, users are not required to stay and are free to download their files and move to an alternative service. Finally, the free storage tier has been cut from 10GB to 5GB going forward.

Any existing accounts (so long as they within the lower storage allotments) will be grandfathered in (including pricing on paid tiers) and any"extra" storage space gathered from referrals will remain in effect.

  New Plans   Old Plans  
Storage Tier Storage Space Pricing Storage Space
Pricing
Free 5GB $0/month 10GB $0/month
Premium 1TB $10/month ($99/year) 1TB $10/month ($99/year)
Pro 10TB $99/month ($999/year) 5TB $49/month
Infinite n/a No longer offered Unlimited $99/month ($999/year)

There are some snags in the transfer process to be aware of though. Past version history on files will not be preserved post transfer and any mirrored folders will have to be recreated. It is possible to move the mirrored folders after the transfer if you do not have access to the original PC(s), but you will have to recreate the mirrors using the applications when you want to keep them in sync again.

Also, Bitcasa notes that iTunes payments for Bitcasa storage will no longer be accepted and Facebook and Twitter logins will not be allowed (you will create new a new login during the transfer process). Finally, streaming to Plex is not currently working with the new storage system, but a fix is being worked on.

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Upon receiving the email from Bitcasa yesterday, I logged in and completed the transfer. The process took about five minutes (including downloading my mirrored folders I no longer had access to on my home PC). My free account is grandfathered into the 10GB limit. When the service first came out, I tried it out for awhile and it was decent. At one point I even considered moving to the paid infinite tier, but at the new prices the amount of storage is no longer economical for personal use (>1TB). It is notable that Microsoft started offering unlimited (used to be 1TB) storage to Office 365 subscribers this week, and I wonder how long that will last and if they will run into many of the same problems Bitcasa did. 

What do you think about this announcement? Will unlimited storage always be too good to be true (ie an unsustainable business model).

Source: Bitcasa

Workstation class X99 from ASRock

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: x99 ws, Intel X99, Haswell-E, asrock

ASRock has a Work Station class board for Haswell-E with five PCIe 3.0 slots, support for up to 128GB of RAM which can be ECC if you install an appropriate processor and on the back are four of both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, one eSATA ports, audio and a pair of LAN ports.  They also included A-Tuning overclocking software which seems odd for a Work Station but proved to be very important as [H]ard|OCP could not get the system they built with this board to POST at default settings and had to change UEFI settings to get it to boot.  Once it did start up the performance was solid and it was one of the better ASRock boards that [H] has reviewed though with a street price over $300 it is hard to recommend.

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"ASRock comes to us with its "Work Station" version Haswell-E motherboard. This time our out-of-box experience with its X99 WS was as rock solid as it could be and did leave us with feelings of getting to work with a quality component. As you all know, we are much more interested in how it performs at high clocks while under stress."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Podcast #324 - Civilization: Beyond Earth, Consoles Performance Issues, Samsung SSD updates and more

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, video, steiger dynamics, ps4, podcast, nvidia, Mantle, LIVA, Intel, ECS, Broadwell-E, amd, Alienware 13

PC Perspective Podcast #324 - 10/30/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Civilization: Beyond Earth Performance, Consoles Performance Issues, Samsung SSD updates 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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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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