Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2017 - 12:09 PM | Alex Lustenberg
Tagged: video, vesa, toshiba, titan v, synaptics, Silverstone, shazam, radeon, podcast, PBT, nvidia, nervana, keylogger, jonsbo, Intel, hp, hdr, corsair, Clear ID, apple, amd, Adrenalin, 14tb
PC Perspective Podcast #479 - 12/14/17
Join us for discussion on NVIDIA Titan V, AMD Adrenalin, and more!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano,
Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg
Program length: 1:12:23
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 12, 2017 - 02:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: synaptics, security patch, security, keylogger, hp, Cyber Security
HP has issued security patches for more than 460 models of the company's laptops and thin clients to address a hidden keylogger present in the Synaptics touchpad drivers. Discovered by security researcher Michael Myng while delving into the Synaptics Touchpad Software in an attempt to change the backlight behavior of the keyboard, the keylogger was reportedly built into the software stack to debug errors. While it shipped to customers disabled by default, an attacker that was able to achieve administrative privileges could change the appropriate registry value and enable keylogging to locally record all of the user's keystrokes without their knowledge. Further malicious code or local physical access could then be used to retrieve data for analysis of possible passwords, usernames, account numbers, and other personal information.
Image courtesy Robbert van der Steeg via Flickr Creative Commons
HP claims in its security bulletin that at no time did it or Synaptics have access to customer data and that this security vulnerability is a "local loss of confidentiality" and should be acted upon as soon as possible by downloading the security patch for your laptop from HP or by running Windows Update.
According to the HP security bulletin, the vulnerability reportedly affects all Synaptics OEM partners including HP that have shipped systems with certain Synaptics Touchpad driver versions. In the case of HP this includes commercial / enterprise notebooks, tablets, thin clients, and mobile workstations from their G2, G4, G6, Elite X2, EliteBook, Thin Client, ProBook, Spectre Pro, Stream, X360, and ZBook Mobile Workstation series and consumer devices with Compaq, Beats, ENVY, OMEN, Pavilion, Spectre, Split, Stream, and even the 15" Star Wars Special Edition laptop!
While this is a serious security risk, there is no need to panic. You should apply the patch manually or through Windows Update as soon as possible, but so long as you have been and continue to follow security best practices (strong passwords, running anti-virus and anti-malware scans regularly, restricting physical access, and not running as administrator on your daily driver user account, ect) you should be safe as there are several steps that would need to be completed before an attacker could take advantage of this hidden keylogger, especially remotely.
You can find the full list of affected laptops and their associated security patches on HP's support website. For a PGP signed version of the page you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 12, 2017 - 12:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: synaptics, security, fingerprint sensor, fingerprint, biometrics
Synaptics, the California-based "human interface solution developer" founded in 1986, is no stranger to PC input and interface devices with more than 5 billion units shipped to OEM partners and a large patent portfolio. Today, the company is getting into the lucrative smartphone market in a big way with its Clear ID In-Display fingerprint sensor which sits just under and scans a user's fingerprint through a standard smartphone display (including glass overlay and screen protector).
Current sensors sit in a fixed position at OEM discretion and activate only when needed. Future in-display sensors will target larger areas and eventually the entire display.
Synaptics has designed and positioned the FS9500 fingerprint sensor at smartphones with so-called Infinity Displays and seeks to address the problem of where and how to mount a biometrics sensor (or even a camera for that matter, but that's a different problem) on smartphones that are moving towards edge to edge displays with no physical button area or bezels to mount front facing sensors! Rather than requiring an unusual cut out display (like the iPhone X) or settling for larger bezels, Synaptics has instead opted to take advantage of the large display area by laminating the thin fingerprint senor module to the underside of the display and using the OLED display itself as the light source to illuminate the user's fingerprint so that the optimized CMOS image sensor can scan the fingerprint from the reflected light bounced through the gaps in between pixels.
Synaptics claims it is using "Quantum Matcher" and "PurePrint" machine learning technology to enhance security as well as to adapt to different external lighting environments (e.g. direct sunlight), and as a result its fingerprint sensor is able to work faster and in more situations than competing 3D facial recognition systems. Specifically, the company claims its fingerprint sensor is able to accurately read a user's fingerprint in 0.7 seconds versus 1.4 seconds for a facial recognition camera biometrics sensor. The Clear ID In-Display fingerprint sensor is rated at an approximate 99% spoof rejection rate thanks to the AI-powered PurePrint technology that discerns real fingerprints from fakes along with an on-board encryption module that establishes an encrypted connection from the biometrics sensor to the phone.
With the biggest hurdle to the continued relevance of the fingerprint sensor on modern smartphones solved by placing it under the display itself, smartphone users are able to continue to enjoy the benefits of fingerprint biometrics versus the fancy new facial recognition systems (which are admittedly cool, but do seem a bit "gimmicky" to me) including being able to unlock the phone naturally by picking it up, not having to look directly at it before it will unlock, and being able to quickly unlock the phone even in bad lighting (too dark or too bright) situations.
If it works as well as they claim, it seems like a neat way to integrate a secure fingerprint reader. Fortunately, we should not have to wait long to see it in action with devices using the technology expected as soon as next year. Perhaps we will see more information or even product announcements and design wins at CES! (Also, how the heck is it almost CES already?? heh)
Interestingly, Synaptics is not the first company to attempt the under display fingerprint sensor, with Qualcomm showing off an "ultrasonic" sensor earlier this year and Samsung reportedly filing patents for a pressure sensitive in display sensor, but Synaptics may well be the first to actually deliver, and with a product that is faster and able to work with thicker "top stacks" (the distance between top of sensor and finger including the display, glass overlay, and screen protector) up to 1.5mm.
Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2016 - 12:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: fingerprint, synaptics, ironveil, security
Synaptics, the company most likely responsible for the trackpad on your laptop has released a new product, a 4x10mm fingerprint sensor which goes by the name of IronVeil. The idea behind the product is to incorporate it into peripherals and pair it with Windows Passport to allow you to log in by touching your mouse or keyboard, similar to the current generation of cellphones. Synaptics also suggests it could be used in eSports to ensure that the person behind the mouse is indeed who they claim to be. The Tech Report tried out a Thermaltake Black V2 mouse with the sensor embedded and talk about their experiences with the mouse as well as introduce you to the FIDO Alliance and some of the authentication process which occurs behind the scenes in their recent article.
One cannot help but point out that while passwords can be hashed and salted, the same cannot be said for fingerprints which leads us back to previously mentioned concerns about the security of the online storage databases these prints would be stored in. The eternal battle of convenience versus security rages on.
"Synaptics' IronVeil is a tiny fingerprint sensor module that serves as the foundation for a variety of new authentication techniques for home and business users alike. We've spent a couple weeks with a pre-production IronVeil mouse, and we've explored how it might be used in practice."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Hey, Intel and Micron: XPoint is phase-change memory, right? Or is it? Yes. No. Yes @ The Register
- Big reader? Toshiba tweaks endurance, wrings out low-write SSD @ The Register
- Microsoft plans Surface Pro charger recall due to fire risk @ The Inquirer
- Digitimes Research: Global notebook shipments in 2016 to fall 2.5% on year @ DigiTimes
- D-Link DIR-890 AC3200 Ultra Triple-Band Wi-Fi Router @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2015 - 08:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: touch, synaptics, smartbar, opinion, gaming, computex 2015, computex
Synaptics revealed more details on its SmartBar technology today at Computex. The human interface company most known for its trackpads is looking to expand its reach into keyboards. Specifically, SmartBar is technology that will add touch input functionality to the keyboard spacebar. Using the technology, OEMs can integrate capacitive touch sensors into the spacebar allowing for several unique and productivity boosting gestures.
The SmartBar spacebar can be broken up into five logical (touch sensitive areas) buttons each of which can be associated with user created macros using a bundled macro editing utility. Alternatively, users can enable touch gestures. Synaptics is touting the ability to use quick left and right swipe motion to edit text by moving the cursor back and forth word by word though a document as well as the ability to use a two thumb pinch gesture to zoom in and out on an image or document. The touch input would also be useful to gamers who want to future increase their actions per minute in RTS games or even something as simple as shifting gears or switching weapons in racing and first person games respectively.
Along the lines of gaming, it turns out that Thermaltake under it's Tt eSports line will be the first adopter of this SmartBar technology, and while Synaptics did not reveal any exact products I am looking forward to see what Thermaltake does with the technology in its future gaming keyboards. This could be a gimmick, or it could really take off and be a must have feature depending on how well it is implemented in both hardware and software. It does make sense though; the spacebar is the natural resting place for your thumbs, so it should not take too much effort to incorporate touch gestures (literally at your fingertips...) to improve your game or work efficiency. A simple but promising idea for sure.
From the press release:
“Desktop PCs still represent a sizeable portion of the PC market, especially in the commercial segment, but most desktop users have been left behind in terms of next-generation interfaces such as touch,” said Tom Mainelli, VP of Devices & Displays at International Data Corporation (IDC). “Companies are always looking for ways to help drive employee efficiency, and feature-rich, touch-enabled keyboards represent a straightforward, affordable way to help increase worker productivity.”
The SmartBar technology is available now to OEMs, but we might have to wait until CES to see actual products offering touch sensitive spacebars.
What do you think of the technology, and would you use it for gaming?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 19, 2013 - 11:36 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: typeguard, synaptics, clickpad 2.0, clickpad
Human interface solutions developer Synaptics, makers of touchpads, touchscreens and touch interpretation software, are showcasing a pair of new technologies today that will be included in upcoming notebooks and Ultrabooks this holiday. ClickPad 2.0 improves the company's design and mechanical implementation on the first iterations of ClickPad while TypeGuard aims to improve recognition of false input from users to improve performance and experience. Even better, this combination has been recognized as a CES Innovation 2104 Design and Engineering Award honoree.
In 2010 Synaptics released the ClickPad, a solution for hardware vendors that included the design and manufacture of the entire touchpad solution. This was a shift for the company that had previously done product licensing and custom solutions for specific vendors. There were some issues with the technology in its 1.0 and 1.5 iterations that prevented users from clicking near the top of the touchpad, for example, as well as the new wrinkle of Windows 8 gestures that weren't implemented perfectly.
With ClickPad 2.0, Synaptics claims to have addressed all of these issues including top and corner clicking capability as well making the feel of the click consistent no matter where the user might push down on the pad. Window 8 gestures can now be support by a separate, but integrated, side-pad integration option. The sides of the touch pad would be textured differently and only function as gesture controls, leaving the entirety of the touchpad face for primary input functionality.
TypeGuard is a set of software algorithms that improves false inputs that might occur during use of a laptop. Palm rejection while typing is one of the biggest annoyances for users that are frequently writing on their notebooks and with TypeGuard Synaptics claims to nearly completely remove false cursor movements, taps and scrolls.
As touchpads become larger, palm contact is going to be much more likely on notebooks and preventing these kinds of accidental inputs is going to be crucial to providing a good experience for the consumer. Apple has long been considered the leader in this area (and with touchpads in general) but Synaptics believes it has matched them with this combination of ClickPad 2.0 and TypeGuard. Doing its own in-house studies has revealed a 73% decrease in false movements but we will obviously need our own hands on time with an integrated product to see how it acts over extended use.
The good news is that might be pretty soon. The HP Spectre 13 Ultrabook actually implements both of these technologies and is available for preorder in various locations.
HP will be offering this machine for $999 with a 128GB SSD, 4GB of memory, Intel Haswell processors and Windows 8.1. I am hoping to get one of these units in for a review and to use it to evaluate the strong claims that Synaptics is making about its new touch technologies.
As a frequent user of Apple portable devices, the touch experience on them has always exceeded that of the Windows environment and I'm hopeful that we can finally level the playing field.
See the full CES Innovation award press release after the break!
Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2012 - 04:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, trackpad, synaptics, forcepad
We've been hearing about Synaptics ForcePad, a new type of touchpad which can register the amount force used when pushing down on trackpad and using that for alternate functions depending on how hard you push. The Tech Report actually had a chance to try out the ForcePad on a demonstration model at Synaptics. They report that while initially a little odd to get used to, as the ForcePad does not feel different when pressed harder, once they became accustomed to it they really liked its functionality. As well this technology will do away with the phantom clicks caused if the chassis warps a little because you are holding onto a corner and may also help with those times an arm hair brushes against the touchpad while you are typing causing your cursor to go a-wandering. As far as The Tech Report are concerned, the ForcePad, ThinTouch keyboard, and Series 4 ClearPad are all worth looking forward to.
"Next year, Synaptics' ForcePad will bring pressure sensitivity to touchpads. It can track five fingers independently, each with up to a kilogram of effective force in precise 15-gram increments. We got our hands on the ForcePad, among the company's other new input tech. We also fingered the ultra-slim ThinTouch keyboard, recently acquired through the purchase of Pacinian. It combines secretive switches with a side order of capacitive touch, and the keys feel as good as those of the MacBook Pro. For an encore, we've captured the latest in low-latency touchscreen tech on our high-speed camera."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Synaptics Wants To Reinvent Touch Interfaces @ Legit Reviews
- Sharkoon Skiller Gaming Keyboard @ Tweaktown
- Rosewill's RK-9000-series mechanical keyboards @ The Tech Report
- Roccat Savu Mouse Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Mad Catz Cyborg M.M.O.7 Gaming Mouse Review @ NikKTech
- Sharkoon DarkGlider Laser Gaming Mouse @ Tweaktown
- GIGABYTE Force M9 ICE Wireless Mouse Review @ Techgage
- Scuf Xbox 360 Controller Review @ eTeknix
Subject: Mobile | August 22, 2012 - 12:51 AM | Matt Smith
Tagged: touchpad, synaptics, notebook, laptop, keyboard
The march towards thinner laptops has challenged computer manufacturers in a number of ways. When designing a laptop that’s just three-quarters of an inch thin or thinner, everything matters. Even the size of thickness of a keyboard or touchpad makes a big difference.
Synaptics is responding to these design realities with the introduction of new user interfaces. One is the ForcePad, a new type of touchpad that is capable of measuring the precise amount of force the user inputs. This makes it possible to drop physical left/right mouse buttons entirely, reducing maximum thickness from 5mm to 3mm. It also provides additional input which can be harnessed by software for precise control.
The company is also introducing a new keyboard design called ThinTouch. This keyboard redesigns (or rather, eliminates) the keyboard switch to reduce overall thickness by 30 to 50 percent without sacrificing an optional backlight. The keyboard is also force sensitive, which means that users can activate alternate characters by pressing harder instead of using the Shift key.
Both new technologies are interesting, though also potentially problematic. Of concern is the lack of key travel in the ThinTouch design, which is evident in the picture above. There’s little movement in the key, which makes me wonder what typing on this keyboard is like. I’d wager it’s not the best experience. I find it very odd that a company responsible for designing user interface elements for a laptop would seek to reduce one of the laptop’s most noticeable advantages over a tablet – a tactile keyboard.
With that said, I'm sure these devices will make their way to ultrabooks in short order. Reducing the size of the keyboard and touchpad will allow for a larger battery and/or better cooling. The battery life increase will be of particular use to OEMs, who see battery life as a nice, easy figure that can be used in marketing materials. A better battery can be explained with a handful of words. Explaining a better keyboard takes more time.
No release dates or launch products have been detailed yet. We'll probably hear more at CES 2013.