ZeniMax Awarded $500 Million USD in Oculus Lawsuit

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2017 - 08:19 PM |
Tagged: zenimax, VR, Oculus, facebook

On May 1st, 2014, ZeniMax, who owns id Software and Bethesda Softworks, sued Oculus VR, claiming that it had some ownership of their virtual reality technology. This accusation occurred about a month after Facebook announced that they were acquiring Oculus for $2 billion USD. At least part of their claim was due to work that John Carmack did before he left id Software the year prior, in August 2013.

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Today, a North Texas jury awarded ZeniMax $500 million USD from Oculus. This figure is broken down as follows: $300 million against Oculus as a company, $50 million against Palmer Luckey as an individual, and $150 million against Brendan Iribe as an individual. The jury found John Carmack wasn’t responsible for any damages as an individual, so he’s clear of this whole issue.

Oculus and Facebook plan to appeal their judgments.

According to this decision, the jury believes that ZeniMax has some ownership over Oculus’ trademark and source code copyrights. They also believe that, again, according to the verdict, which is hosted by Ars Technica, Oculus violated a non-disclosure agreement that caused $200,000,000 in damages to ZeniMax, but will not continue to damage the company in the future. (See the few pages before Page 49, inclusive.) The personal judgments against Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe are due to the pair not acknowledging ZeniMax’s contributions to Oculus.

Update (February 2nd @ 12:30pm EST): As pointed out in the comments, that was an old tweet from 2014. I just came across it and somehow missed the date stamp. My mistake!

After this decision, John Carmack tweeted:

 

 

As always, lots of things can change during the appeals process. For now, it looks like both ZeniMax and John Carmack received a little vindication, though.

Source: Ars Technica

What's up with WhatsApp

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2017 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: whatsapp, fud, facebook, encryption

By now you will have seen a headline screaming something about the security of Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service, ranging from somewhere between a backdoor purposefully inserted into the app to a complete denial of any security risk at all.  The actual issue is much larger than WhatsApp and address a security issue with all applications which depend on public key encryption. 

Many applications utilize public keys for their encryption, the encryption relies on keys unique to the sender and receivers devices and which use the public key to verify the authorization of a new device.  If your accounts key was permanently attached to a specific piece of hardware you would need a separate account for each device you used, which would be quite onerous.

The issue is that the Open Whisper Signal protocol is configured by WhatsApp in a way which makes the data vulnerable to a man in the middle attack.  If you can managed to block the transmission of a message, then take over one of the authorized devices accounts or phone numbers and trigger the generation of a new private key via a public key request to Facebook then you will be able to read messages until people realize what is going on.  This is not impossible but far from easy to accomplish, and effects any similar encryption system, not just WhatsApp.

Perhaps more worrying is Facebook's ability to take advantage of this, as they can generate a new public key to read messages, if they so choose.  If you are concerned about this, you can enable the Show Security Notifications setting under Settings -> Account -> Security to be notified whenever a contact's security code has changed.  The Register links to several articles which delve into the technology as well as the media's reactions here, if you are interested.

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"The problem – which is "endemic to public key cryptography" – was raised in April last year, and at the time WhatsApp said it wasn't a serious enough design flaw to spend time fixing."

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Source: The Register

Blizzard Announces Live Streaming

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2016 - 10:19 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, facebook, OBS

So I was greeted with an interesting pop-up when I updated my Battle.net launcher today. Turns out Blizzard is pushing Blizzard Streaming to “the Americas, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand”. Currently, Facebook is the only platform that you can stream to, and Blizzard hasn't announced bringing it to others, but the settings area is clearly a vertical list of horizontal widgets, so that suggests they intend to add more than one at some point.

As for the application, itself, this could be useful (especially if other services are added) for users who only stream Blizzard titles, and who want something designed a bit more mainstream than OBS. That said, Raptr and GeForce Experience both fall under this category. Moreover, Blizzard doesn't clarify whether or not the stream will make use of NVIDIA's NVENC, Intel's Quick Sync, or AMD's VCE, all three of which are supported on OBS Studio. Granted, Blizzard titles tend to be easy to compute, but it is hard to beat encoding on an idle, integrated GPU, if you should have one.

That said, choices are good, and you now have another.

FMS 2016: Seagate Demos Facebook Lightning, 60TB 3.5" SSD!

Subject: Storage | August 10, 2016 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: FMS 2016, ssd, Seagate, Lightning, facebook, 60TB

Seagate showed off some impressive Solid State Storage at Flash Memory Summit 2016.

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First up is the Nytro XM1440. This is a 2TB M.2 22110 SSD complete with enterprise firmware and power loss protection. Nice little package, but what's it for?

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..well if you have 60 of them, you can put them into this impressive 1U chassis. This is Facebook's Lightning chassis (discussed yesterday). With Seagate's 2TB parts, this makes for 120TB of flash in a 1U footprint. Great for hyperscale datacenters.

Now onto what you came to see:

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This is the 'Seagate 60TB SAS SSD'. It really doesn't need a unique name because that capacity takes care of that for us! This is a 3.5" form factor SAS 12Gbit beast of a drive.

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They pulled this density off with a few tricks which I'll walk through. First was the stacking of three PCBs with flash packages on both sides. 80 packages in total.

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Next up is Seagate's ONFi fan-out ASIC. This is required because you can only have so many devices connected to a single channel / bus of a given SSD controller. The ASIC acts as a switch for data between the controller and flash dies.

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With so much flash present, we could use a bit of fault tolerance. You may recall RAISE from SandForce (who Seagate now owns). This is effectively RAID for flash dies, enabling greater resistance to individual errors across the array.

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Finally we have the specs. With a dual 12 Gbit SAS inteface, the 60TB SAS SSD can handle 1.5 GB/s reads, 1.0 GB/s writes, and offers 150,000 IOPS at 4KB QD32 random (SAS tops out at QD32). The idea behind drives like these is to cram as much storage into the smallest space possible, and this is certainly a step in the right direction.

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We also saw the XP7200 add-in card. I found this one interesting as it is a PCIe 3.0 x16 card with four M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs installed, but *without* a PLX switch to link them to the host system. This is possible only in server systems supporting PCIe Bifurcation, where the host can recognize that certain sets of lanes are linked to individual components.

More to follow from FMS 2016! Press blast after the break.

FMS 2016: Facebook Talks WORM QLC NAND Flash, Benchmarks XPoint

Subject: Storage | August 9, 2016 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Worm, storage, ssd, RocksDB, Optane, nand, flash, facebook

At their FMS 2016 Keynote, Facebook gave us some details on the various storage technologies that fuel their massive operation:

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In the four corners above, they covered the full spectrum of storing bits. From NVMe to Lightning (huge racks of flash (JBOF)), to AVA (quad M.2 22110 NVMe SSDs), to the new kid on the block, WORM storage. WORM stands for Write Once Read Many, and as you might imagine, Facebook has lots of archival data that they would like to be able to read quickly, so this sort of storage fits the bill nicely. How do you pull off massive capacity in flash devices? QLC. Forget MLC or TLC, QLC stores four bits per cell, meaning there are 16 individual voltage states for each cell. This requires extremely precise writing techniques and reads must appropriately compensate for cell drift over time, and while this was a near impossibility with planar NAND, 3D NAND has more volume to store those electrons. This means one can trade the endurance gains of 3D NAND for higher bit density, ultimately enabling SSDs upwards of ~100TB in capacity. The catch is that they are rated at only ~150 write cycles. This is fine for archival storage requiring WORM workloads, and you still maintain NAND speeds when it comes to reading that data later on, meaning that decade old Facebook post will appear in your browser just as quickly as the one you posted ten minutes ago.

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Next up was a look at some preliminary Intel Optane SSD results using RocksDB. Compared to a P3600, the prototype Optane part offers impressive gains in Facebook's real-world workload. Throughput jumped by 3x, and latency reduced to 1/10th of its previous value. These are impressive gains given this fairly heavy mixed workload.

More to follow from FMS 2016!

Now that the Oculus Rift has arrived you can see how shady the T&C's are

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2016 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: Privacy, rift, Oculus, facebook

As expected, Facebook has added some questionable features to the Oculus Rift and if any of it surprises you then you haven't been paying attention.  The Register went through it to pull out a variety of terms than many may find questionable.  Your usage will be tracked while you are using the headset and just like Facebook and many other social media apps it will use the data collected for targeted advertising.  There does not seem to be any incognito mode, so think twice before using the Rift for certain applications unless you want some interesting adverts showing up on your Facebook page. 

A Slashdot post points out a different concern for content creators, if you use the Oculus to create something original then while Oculus can't claim to own it, it can use it without your consent and without  having to pay you for for using it.  Again, this should not be surprising but if you weren't aware of the possibility, you should consider these T&C's before picking the Rift.

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"THOSE OF a weak disposition should look away. News has reached us that face fun virtual reality machine, and eye of Facebook, the Oculus Rift has features that track things that people do, and use the information for the purposes of advertising."

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Source: The Register

Oculus VR Grabs Google Glass Electrical Engineer

Subject: General Tech, Displays | May 18, 2014 - 03:19 AM |
Tagged: oculus vr, Oculus, facebook, google glass

Who would have thought that John Carmack would have opened the flood gates of talent to Facebook. Apparently, not only was he the first in a long list of people to join Oculus, a large chunk of his coworkers at id Software followed him over (if a Glassdoor review is to be trusted) in Februrary. Their latest grab is Adrian Wong, former senior hardware engineer for Google's Glass Explorer program.

Okay...

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Didn't see that one coming...

Clearly, something is happening at Oculus VR. This acquisition by Facebook is giving them a warchest to grab as much top talent as possible. Ironically, without Oculus, I doubt that most of these hires, if any, would happen. Without knowing the internal structure of Facebook and Oculus, it is hard to predict how much benefit the parent company can gather, but the acquisition could be paying for itself in raw talent.

The Oculus Rift DK2, announced at GDC, is currently a $350.00 pre-order and expected to ship in August.

Source: TechCrunch

Now Valve Doesn't Have Michael Abrash OR Jeri Ellsworth

Subject: General Tech, Displays | March 28, 2014 - 04:21 PM |
Tagged: VR, valve, Oculus, facebook

Today, Oculus VR issued a statement which claims that Michael Abrash has joined their ranks as Chief Scientist. Abrash was hired by Valve in 2011 where he led, and apparently came up with the idea for, their wearable computing initiatives. For a time, he and Jeri Ellsworth were conducting similar projects until she, and many others, were forced out of the company for undisclosed reasons (she was allowed to take her project with her which ultimately became CastAR). While I have yet to see an official announcement claim that Abrash has left Valve, I have serious doubts that he would be employed in both places for any reasonable period of time. With both gone, I wonder about Valve's wearable initaitive going forward.

Abrash at Steam Dev Days

This press statement comes just three days after Facebook announced "definitive" plans to acquire Oculus VR for an equivalent of $2 billion USD (it is twice the company Instragram was). Apparently, the financial stability of Facebook (... deep breath before continuing...) was the catalyst for this decision. VR research is expensive. Abrash is now comfortable working with them, gleefully expending R&D funds, advancing the project without sinking the ship.

And then there's Valve.

On last night's This Week in Computer Hardware (#260), Patrick Norton and I were discussing the Oculus VR acquisition. He claimed that he had serious doubts about whether Valve ever intended to ship a product. So far, the only product available that uses Valve's research is the Oculus Rift DK2. Honestly, while I have not really thought about it until now, it would not be surprising for Valve to contribute to the PC platform itself.

And, hey, at least someone is not afraid of Facebook's ownership.

The Rift between Oculus, Kickstarter and you

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2014 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, Kickstarter, john carmack, facebook

You've heard by now that Facebook has purchased Oculus and you likely have an opinion on the matter.  There are quite a few issues this sale raises for the technologically inclined.  For the Kickstarter backers, the question of the propriety of Vulture Capitalists benefiting monetarily from a project which began in part because of their donation made on Kickstarter; which still did net them a device.  For those hoping that Oculus was going to be a project designed and lead by Palmer Luckey and involving John Carmack with little oversight or pressure from a company that wants an immediate return on their investment.  For some the simple involvment of Facebook is enough to sour the entire deal regardless of any other factors.

KitGuru offers some possible benefits that could come of this deal; Facebook cannot afford to slow development as competitors such as castAR will soon arrive, nor can they really push Carmack around without risking his involvement.  Before you start screaming take a moment to think about everything this deal involves and then express your opinion ... after all you don't get reality that is much more virtual than Facebook.

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"I know guys. I know. I’m mad too. I’m sad, disappointed, even betrayed, but these are all things I’m feeling and I bet you are too. We’re having an emotional reaction to two companies worth multiple billions of dollars doing a business deal and though I can’t help but wish it hadn’t happened, I know that if I look at it logically, it makes sense for everyone."

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Source: KitGuru