Besiege your friends on custom levels

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2017 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Besiege, Spiderling Games

Remember Besiege, the game which allowed you to create your own engines of destruction and which lead to an influx of rather amusing videos of successful and not so successful inventions.  Spiderling Games have announced that they will be releasing an update which will allow you to design custom levels and invite up to 7 friends to join you in that level.  As you can see from the video below you can work together or battle it out after creating your particular machine.  Drop by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for more details.

"Multiplayer and a level editor are coming to physics-based warmachine workshop Besiege later this year, developers Spiderling Games have announced."

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It has been a while since the last legal battle but Qualcomm may be our next contender

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2017 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: sueball, qualcomm, Intel, blackberry, apple

Ah, the old days of Microsoft versus governments, Apple and Samsung, Intel and AMD, SCO and ... well just about everyone; lately there has not been much legal vitriol in the headlines.  This may change as Qualcomm is now involved in several suits which are likely to become high profile.  First up is what may be the driving force behind their need to seek restitution from Apple; they were just ordered to pay Blackberry $815 million after that company was successful in their legal battle to dispute certain royalty payments.  Even a company as large as Qualcomm is going to feel the pain from that.

On to the real upcoming battle royal, featuring Apple and Qualcomm over the iPhone 7.  It seems that Apple has taken offence to Qualcomm's claims that Apple handicapped their chip to ensure it did not out perform the models which contained an Intel chipset.  Qualcomm released a large rebuttal to the lawsuit which Apple launched this January which you can read about at Ars Technica, or follow the link to read the entire document.  This may prove to be the next interesting technological legal battle, stay tuned for more.

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"For example, Qualcomm’s technological contributions enable popular smartphone apps such as Uber, Snapchat, Spotify, Apple Music, Skype, Google Maps, and Pokémon GO, among others."

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Source: Ars Technica

UNIGINE Superposition GPU Stress Test Released

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2017 - 09:09 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, UNIGINE, unigine 2

There are quite a few game engines available these days. Unity stepped up its game and Epic Games, Crytek, Amazon, and others entered the market with various free-to-start licensing options. Back in the early DirectX 11 days, UNIGINE released their popular Heaven benchmark to promote their engine, which had a relatively affordable, up-front fee. (I don’t remember what it was at the time, but the engine currently starts at $1495 USD, albeit royalty-free.)

Available up to 8K60, because lol why not?

Today, they have released a new benchmark, called Superposition, which focuses on two things: VR and GPU stress testing. The setting is some old-timey physics lab, and it includes some minigames to keep you entertained after you determined that your overclock is stable and your performance is assigned some value. According to Phoronix, UNIGINE has been looking into Vulkan, but they haven’t added it to the engine yet. On Linux, you’ll be using OpenGL 4.5, but Windows has a choice between that and DirectX 11.

UNIGINE Superposition is available for Windows and Linux.

Source: UNIGINE

SK Hynix has huge stacks of NAND

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2017 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: SK Hynix, 72 layer, tlc

SK Hynix have created an impressive die which has 72 layers of TLC 3D NAND.  The storage density of their chips are somewhat lower than the competition, this particular chip sports 256Gb of capacity.  This is due to the larger size of SK Hynix's cells, which has the benefit of allowing more layers than other manufacturers have been able to successfully create.  The Register was told that compared to the previous generation of 48 layer NAND you could expect to see up to a 20% increase in read and write speeds, another benefit to their new process.  To think, it was just a year ago that Al first introduced us to what 3D NAND would mean to the PC industry.

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"Korean flash fabber SK Hynix has built a 72-layer 3D NAND die with 256Gb capacity. That number of layers, in effect a higher-rise flash chip than anybody else has built, is impressive but the 256Gb capacity is not; Toshiba's 64-layer flash die has a 512Gb capacity. Like the SK Hynix chip, it is a TLC (3bits/cell) device. It started sample shipping in February."

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Source: The Register

EpicGear's Morpha X gaming mouse, you can swap the sensors and switches as well as the weight

Subject: General Tech | April 10, 2017 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: epicgear, Morpha X, gaming mouse, input, ADNS-9800, PMW3360, pixart

Modular gaming mice with changeable weights and shells have become common; ones that allow you to switch the sensor on the other hand are rather rare.  EpicGear's Morpha X lets you do exactly that, it comes with two PixArt sensors, a PMW3360 optical sensor and an ADNS-9800 laser sensor.  The Tech Report strongly suggests disconnecting the mouse when swapping sensors to avoid any possibility to need to reset the mouse.  It is not just the sensors you can swap, the mouse ships with several Omron D2F switches of varying colours as well as a tool to help swap them.  The mouse is a little pricey but for those with a strong opinion as to which sensors and swiches are the best, this mouse is worth a look.

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"EpicGear's Morpha X gaming mouse offers a wealth of customization options, from its shell to its sensor to its RGB LED accent lighting. We swapped out every component and tested every setting to see whether the Morpha X delivers a spot in the gaming-peripheral hall of fame."

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Another successful VLAN thanks to the Fragging Frogs, AMD and PCPer

Subject: General Tech | April 10, 2017 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, kick ass, gaming, fragging frogs

The Fragging Frogs' VLAN 15 was a success, wrapping up early Sunday morning as the final golfers headed for the 19th hole.  At its peak we had over 50 people on simultaneously, with 70 unique participants joining throughout the event.  There were over a dozen games played, from newer releases such as Rocket League, Ghost Recon Wildlands and Escape from Tarkov through classics like TF2 and UT2K4 as well as some games only the truly odd can love like Dino D-Day.

Prizes included four motherboards, a cooler, a case and a keyboard which have all featured in reviews here at PCPer as well as a Ryzen 7 1700 straight from AMD.  You should drop by the forum thread to pass on your appreciation of the contributions mmettin, Brandito and of course Lenny, without whom these events would not be possible. 

Hope you had fun at VLAN 15, if you didn't make it this time we hope to see you for the next one!

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Fragging Frogs VLAN 15 on Saturday April 8 10:00 AM ET, come celebrate 14 years of gaming!

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2017 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, kick ass, gaming, fragging frogs

A long time ago on a website far far away, a brave group of Frogs embarked on a long journey of fun and well ... virtual murderation.   In April of 2003, back when UT2k4 was shiny and new and not retro-gaming the Fragging Frogs held their first live event, a tournament to crown one of us the king of Unreal Tournament.  Since then the gang have been hosting drop-in games every week in a come as you are format and every once and a while Lenny and the crew put together a VLAN party.

FraggingFrogs.jpg

The time has come again to announce another official Fragging Frogs VLAN, this one kicking off at 10AM EDT on Saturday April 8th and going as long as there is still someone gaming.  The previous VLAN saw over 90 people join in at one time or another, with an average of over 50 people active on TeamSpeak and in games.  No matter what type of game you are looking to play, there will be a group you can hook up with to play together or against!

As is tradition, there will be an undisclosed amount of prizes given away at the event but you will have to be on Teamspeak in order to qualify to win.  These prizes are supplied by hardware manufactures, software developers and even from the closets of certain reviewers here at PC Perspective.  You could end up with your own Joshtekk memorabilia!

Post to the official thread to let Lenny and the gang know you plan to attend, especially if you are not yet a forum member as the thread will let you know what you need to do to be eligible to win as well as how to connect to the TeamSpeak server and what patches and mods you should set up.  The list of games people plan on playing has hit 20, if you have one you want to play that is not on the list then make sure to comment in the thread.

See you there!

Windows 10 obsessive net nanny edition

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2017 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, creators update, stalking

The discussion surrounding the telemetry and data of users of Windows 10 which is collected by Microsoft has been energetic and not without a certain amount of vitriol.  Until this past week, much of it has been based on educated guesses and traffic analysis, with Microsoft deigning to provided specifics.  That has changed with the upcoming release of the Creators Update and Microsoft have finally released the details of what data they collect in both the new Basic and Full modes. 

The list is impressive.

The new Basic mode is the same as the previous Full mode, collecting hardware and software information and how they are used, driver usage data, inking and typing data and allowing remote access of your machine and documents without your knowledge.  While this will certainly help with troubleshooting Windows issues it does seem a bit much to collect without users approval.

The new Full mode is even more like an overly attentive software company, it includes all of the above plus it collects your user settings and preferences, installed browsers and the use thereof, an inventory of attached peripherals and how long you use them, a list of every application you've ever installed and a long list of other data which the Register lists here.

Windows 10 Enterprise and some of the Windows Server 2016 editions offer a bit more control which is good, considering many companies sign agreements with clients to the effect that none of their data will be shared with third parties.  That is something Microsoft seems to have trouble comprehending as they continue to pressure businesses to update their infrastructure.

All of this data does help Microsoft collect errors and develop effective fixes but one questions the necessity of the sheer amount of extraneous data collected at the same time.  Perhaps some of the more paranoid claims made by people on the internet were not all that far off base after all. 

If Microsoft does not offer ways to disable at least some of these features, let us hope that security companies find ways to block them; every single one is a vulnerability which could be exploited by people other than Microsoft.

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"Right now, it's doing a little damage control, and preempting complaints about privacy, by listing the types of information its operating system will automatically and silently leak from PCs, slabs, and laptops back to Redmond."

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Source: The Register

Canonical (Ubuntu) Abandons Funding for Unity Desktop

Subject: General Tech | April 6, 2017 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, linux, canonical

For the next long-term support (LTS) build, Ubuntu 18.04, Canonical is moving back to the GNOME desktop. For the last several versions of the operating system, they have put their home-grown Unity desktop at the forefront. The official blog post also announces that Canonical “will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell” to focus on desktop, cloud, and internet of things.

As always with open-source software, it’s possible that someone could take the project and keep it going, but I doubt that this will happen (outside of the hobbyist and archivist circles). The general consensus, from what I’ve seen, could be summarized as: “Finally!”

Update (April 6th @ 6:45pm EDT): Speaking of, UBports, which is a Patreon-supported group of hobbyists that port Ubuntu Touch to new devices, apparently expects to continue Unity development.

I haven’t heard any discussion over what this means for Canonical’s engineering team. I hope that this will just lead to reassignments, rather than lay-offs.

Also, this has nothing to do with the Unity game engine. That's a very different company and a very different product. I just thought I'd make that clear in case it comes up.

Source: Canonical

I want my ... I want my ... I want my CMD

Subject: General Tech | April 6, 2017 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: powershell, cmd, windows 10

One thing you may notice about Windows 10 Creators Update is that the open command window here option in your context menu has been replaced with Powershell.  You can do a lot more with Powershell than from cmd.exe but there are many commands which do not immediately translate and you may not want to take a bash at new things. 

You can follow the instructions here to restore the option to your context menus, as with most things Windows the feature has not been lost but only hidden.  It does involve rooting around in the registry please do back up before trying either of the methods here at Winareo.  You will have your beloved cmd back and also retain the Powershell option in case you are feeling adventurous.

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"Starting with Windows 10 build 14986, Microsoft enabled PowerShell by default in the context menu in File Explorer. The good old command "Open command window here" was removed. You can get the command prompt back in the context menu of File Explorer in Windows 10 Creators Update with a simple Registry tweak."

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Source: Winaero

Windows 10 Creators Update Opt-in and ISOs Now Available

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2017 - 10:23 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

A few days ago, we mentioned that early adopters of the Windows 10 Creators Update can access the new build early by running an opt-in tool from Microsoft. At the time, it was unclear whether users couple perform a clean install without downloading the Insider build, which would also require enrolling in the Insider program.

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As it turns out, Microsoft, today, has updated their Media Creation tool to produce media for the Creators Update. I haven’t yet installed it, because performing a clean installation on your only PC takes a fairly clear schedule, but I’ll probably give my first impressions on this post tonight or tomorrow. I have already opened the ISO, though, and a lot of the files are dated March 18th, so I'm confident in the reports that this has been updated to Creators Update.

Again, I would recommend that the vast majority of users wait until at least April 11th, if not longer, to give Microsoft extra time for tuning the new build. The first couple of months of a new build have, thus far, involved frequent updates and some compatibility issues. Microsoft is confident with enthusiasts grabbing the bits tonight, so go ahead if you like, but it might be a little bumpy for weeks and/or months.

Source: Microsoft

Graphics performance out of this galaxy; benchmarking Mass Effect Andromeda

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2017 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: mass effect, andromeda, gaming

The new instalment to the Mass Effect series has arrived, with a lot of press both positive and negative.  What many want to know is not which bug is most amusing, but if their GPU has what it takes to run the game at 4k or if they are better at 1440p or 1080p.  [H]ard|OCP's testing shows RX 480 and GTX 1060 owners can manage 1440p with some graphical sacrifices which owners of GTX 1070s or 1080s will be able to enjoy.  For those looking for a playable experience at 4k the GTX 1080 Ti is the only card that can manage it and even that card struggles somewhat.  Pop by for all the details, including memory usage.

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"Let’s find out how various video cards perform in Mass Effect: Andromeda and what it takes to play this game smoothly at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K. In this preview we’ll examine several video cards, compare apples to apples performance and find the highest playable game settings for each video card."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

UEFI ransomware may brick your BRIX

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2017 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, brix, uefi, ransomware

Be careful what you do with your BRIX as two rather unpleasant vulnerabilities were disclosed at a recent BlackHat event.  Gigabyte did not implement two security features which these exploits take advantage of, there is no write protection on the UEFI firmware nor a system of cryptographic signatures on UEFI firmware files which can let any file update the UEFI.  While the proof of concept demonstration only prevented the infected BRIX from booting again, this could also be used to infect your machines UEFI quietly and in a way extremely difficult to repair, you would need a UEFI update that wrote over every sector of the firmware to ensure you removed the bugs.  Pop by Slashdot for more on this depressing topic.

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"Last week, at the BlackHat Asia 2017 security conference, researchers from cyber-security firm Cylance disclosed two vulnerabilities in the firmware of Gigabyte BRIX small computing devices, which allow an attacker to write malicious content to the UEFI firmware."

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Source: Slashdot

Just can't mount that SD card?

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2017 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: sd card, nand reader, DIY, data recovery

Hack a Day have posted a quick quide on how you can recover data from an unmountable SD card in a safe and fairly easy manner.  With the use of sandpaper, solder and enamelled wire you can hook up the VSS and VCC pins to a NAND reader, as long as there is a working controller on the card and no physical shorts.  If you don't happen to have a NAND reader, they link to a project that will show you how to build your own, or you can source it from a supplier.  Once you have read the data you can flash it to another SD card or learn about how to translate the content if you have the tools.  Check out the comments for more and keep an eye out for a follow up article on working with the recovered data.

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"If you ever find yourself in need of an SD card recovery tool you could always roll your own DIY NAND reader. We will likely give this process a try just to play round with the concept. Hopefully we’ll never need to do SD card recovery!"

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Source: Hack a Day

DDR5 is still coming and it won't be a volatile launch

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2017 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: ddr5, NVDIMM-P, NVDIMM-F, NVDIMM-N

Move over Optane, DDR5 would like its time in the spotlight as well.  In 2018 we will see the full specifications of DDR5 being released, including a new non-volatile standard called NVDIMM-P.  NVDIMM-P will handle terabytes worth of flash storage, with a latency about 10 times as much as the more standard NVDIMM-N at 100's of nanoseconds which should allow large scale storage with very low latencies and will retain data after being powered down.  Pop by The Register for a deeper look at the non-volatile future of DDR5. 

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"The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association has revealed that a full standard for DDR5 memory will arrive in June 2018, along with a new NVDIMM-P standard to house the memory, connect it to computers and protect the contents of RAM."

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Source: The Register

Unity 5.6 Released with Vulkan Support

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2017 - 07:54 PM |
Tagged: Unity, pc gaming, vulkan

If you are a perpetual license holder for Unity 5.x, then your last free update has just arrived. Unity 5.6 brings Vulkan for Windows, Linux, and Android. I just installed the new version and checked to see which graphics APIs it uses on Windows when you uncheck the auto box, and the list comprises of DirectX 11 and DirectX 9. It’s possible that auto could be choosing Vulkan, but I’m not going to query which process is loading which DLL under a variety of conditions. If you’re interested in Unity development, go to File -> Build Settings -> Player Settings -> Other Settings and choose the load order of your APIs, using the + button to add one that’s not there by default.

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The lighting system should be more impressive, though. In Unreal Engine 4, I’m used to having dynamic lighting until I stop everything and start a lighting bake. When it’s done, I have static lighting until I invalidate it with a change (and the level is set to invalidate light maps on changes). In Unity 5.6’s case, though, it will just slowly replace the light maps as they are calculated, getting progressively higher quality. Since you can notice problems at low quality, you only need to wait as long as it’s required to see the errors, which speeds up development.

In terms of platforms, Unity 5.6 adds Daydream, Cardboard, Nintendo Switch, and WebAssembly.

Unity 5.6 is available now. The preview of Unity 2017, the next version, should arrive this month.

Source: Unity

Mad Catz Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2017 - 04:04 PM |
Tagged: Mad Catz, bankrupt

Back in September, we reported on the purchase of Saitek, from Mad Catz to Logitech, for $13 million USD in cash. Unfortunately, we now need to report that Mad Catz has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on March 30th, 2017. This level of bankruptcy is strict; it involves shutting down and liquidating. If we see a Mad Catz in the future, it will be someone else who purchased their trademark.

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When I first heard this news and posted it in our PC Perspective Slack channel, the immediate reaction was, “Is this an early April Fool’s joke?” Apparently not, but it highlights how out-of-the-blue this seemed if they weren’t on your radar. Last year, they shrunk their workforce by about 37%, but the news kind-of flew past us. (A good barometer of company health is that lay-offs around 10% is typical for a restructure. When you start getting past this level, like 15% or more, then it’s okay to be suspicious about whether it’s driven by something other than the stereotypical handbook of corporate management.)

Other than this early tremor, and the New York Stock Exchange delist story from earlier this month, it seemed like the company was just coasting along. Hopefully everyone affected will have no problems finding new employment soon.

Windows 10 Creators Update Accessible on April 5th

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 08:53 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, creators update

TL;DR:

  • Windows Update will begin pushing the Creators Update on April 11th
  • Early adopters can, this time, use a tool to force the update as early as April 5th.
  • ISOs are currently available, but marked as Insider Preview.
  • The earlier you update, the more patching you should expect to do, historically.

While Jeremy has already given a brief mention to the news that the Windows 10 Creators Update will begin rolling out on April 11th, Microsoft has just announced that users can opt-in as early as April 5th. If the Anniversary Update is any indication, then the average user should wait until Windows Update devices to passes them the new bits (or longer). In fact, the main reason (besides just liking new things) for forcing an early install should be “it was a convenient time”.

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Of course, as I say this, I’m remembering my experience with the November 2015 update, refreshing Windows Update for two days. I was participating in an Epic Games game jam at the time, and I didn’t want the update to drop right in the middle of my work. It should be any minute now, right? ... Yes, Microsoft giving enthusiasts an explicit opt-in tool is a great step forward. I’m definitely glad they did it. I’m just emphasizing the point that the first few weeks of a Windows feature update are, historically, a bit dicey.

The ISOs for the final build (15063) are already out, but they’re currently on the Windows Insider Program website. I’m not sure if the contents will change at some point, and, if so, when that new ISO will be available for public consumption, so clean installers will probably want to wait a little bit still.

If previous updates are any indication, we’ll be in for about a month or two of updates every week or so until it gradually slows down to “Patch Tuesday”. Or, you can stay on Anniversary Edition (or another OS entirely). Personally, I’ll probably be installing the Creators Update sometime late next week.

Source: Microsoft

Ryzen from the Ashes in a new optimized state

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: amd, ryzen, ashes of the singularity

[H]ard|OCP takes a look at the new optimizations in the Oxide Game Engine and come up with similar positive results as Ryan.  They tested the CPU by dropping the resolution and quality in AotS and utilizing the CPU focused benchmark, as opposed to the GPU focused benchmark utilized by many sites, including ourselves.  Their tests showed a 16.46% improvement which shows these optimizations do not simply have an effect on graphical performance but also improve CPU calculation performance as well.  Pop by for the full review.

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"There has been a lot of talk about how AMD's new Ryzen processors have pulled up somewhat short at low resolution gaming. AMD explained that code optimizations from game developers are needed to address this issue, and today is the day that we are supposed to start seeing some of that code in action."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Microsoft won't teach an old, or possibly deceased dog new tricks

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, server 2003, security

Microsoft is once again putting sales ahead of customer security, although it is for a 10 to 14 year old operating system which they officially pulled the plug on almost two years ago.  Sadly the end of support did not have any impact on the infrastructure budget allocations of tens of thousands of businesses and so Server 2003 remained in use.  Security researchers spotted an attack last year which exploits a vulnerability in IIS WebDAV which will allow a buffer overflow attack to succeed.  Predictably Microsoft's answer is that you should buy a brand new server OS, with hardware upgrade costs likely to be required as well.  Thankfully there is a patch available from a third party, which you can check out over at The Register

It is a dream, but perhaps this might convince some bean counters that an infrastructure upgrade might be a reasonable investment.

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"Microsoft will not patch a critical security hole recently found and exploited in IIS 6 on Windows Server 2003 R2 – the operating system it stopped supporting roughly two years ago."

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Source: The Register