Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2016 - 01:51 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, VR, osvr, razer, sensics
There’s a few competing VR standards at the moment. Obviously, mobile has a bunch of them; Google technically has two of their own. On the PC, the top two are Oculus and SteamVR. A third one, Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR), was co-founded by Razer and Sensics.
Valve has now added their platform to Steam, including the tools that users will need to filter compatible content for that headset.
OSVR is an interesting initiative. For instance, when they released their second developer’s kit, HDK2, they also released an upgrade kit for the original. Currently priced at $220, it upgrades the screen to 2160x1200. They also have a Leap Motion upgrade, although that’s currently listed as “coming soon”. It has also been added to Unreal Engine 4 for the last few versions, so engine developers are considering it worthy of first-party support.
Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2016 - 12:47 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Japan, supercomputer
According to Reuters, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have set aside 19.5 billion yen to build a high-end supercomputer. This will translate into 130 PetaFLOPs, which would put it ahead of all other announced clusters. The article claims that the government will rent the computer out to Japanese corporations, many of which currently use American-based cloud services.
The supercomputer has been named ABCI: AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure.
Image Credit: つ via Wikipedia
From a hardware standpoint? There’s not a whole lot else to say about it. The money has been set aside, but no-one has been selected to build it. Companies will submit their bids by December 8th, and we assume they’ll make an announcement at some point after.
This also means we don’t know what is planned to go into each node. Despite targeting ABCI at AI, Japan is sticking to the “FLOPs” rating, and thus will probably be focused on floating-point workloads. It would be weird to see such an expensive machine be focused on 8- or 16-bit instructions, but then we see Google creating custom ASICs, called TPUs, that seem to get huge performance boosts by sticking to low-precision workloads. Could that even scale to a competitive supercomputer? Or would it cut out too many potential customers that need 32- and 64-bit precision?
Either way, I would guess that this computer will use more conventional, GPU-style co-processors from someone like Intel (Xeon Phi) or NVIDIA. Really, we don’t know, though. No-one does at this point. It’s an interesting branding, though.
Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 11:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: logitech, mouse, keyboard, g900, g810
I braved the Black Friday lines... at about three in the afternoon, because this guy isn’t going to get trampled for discounts on computer hardware. Luckily, Best Buy still had a single G900 Chaos Spectrum mouse in stock at 50% off, and a few G810 Orion Spectrum keyboards at about 35% off. I was actually looking to pick them up on Boxing Week if they dropped in price, because I surprisingly needed another mechanical keyboard, but this is even better than I expected.
So, I picked up one of each.
One of the things that attracted me to the G900 was its ambidextrous design with a tilt scroll wheel. It’s surprisingly hard to get a mouse for left-handed users that also has four directions of scrolling. The 2014 left-handed edition of the Razer Naga has a tilt wheel, although its left and right mouse buttons are swapped, so those who are used to right-handed mice will need to wait until Razer Synapse loads and connects to reverse them to left-on-left and right-on-right. What I’m trying to say is that, for the last two years, my old mouse would have left button right-click and right button left-click until my profile abruptly kicked in about 30 seconds after login. I don’t need to deal with that anymore, while still keeping the mouse tilt wheel.
I did notice that Logitech’s G Software refuses to allow binding scroll wheel input to mouse buttons (which I attach to my thumb buttons for comfortable scrolling). Both EVGA and Razer allow this, albeit you need to perform a full click for each notch, short of writing an AutoHotkey macro. It’s not too bad, because you can bind the keyboard’s up and down arrows instead, but scrolling and arrows might not behave the same in all applications, such as with Tweetdeck.
As for the G810, this keyboard feels really nice. The coating of the keycaps are nice and non-stick, the RomerG switches feel pretty good to me, keeping in mind my favorite Cherry MX switch is the MX Brown, and the keyboard’s feet are possible the best I’ve used. There are actually two sets of feet: one set that inclines the keyboard to about 4 degrees, and another that raises it to about 8 degrees. (These values are written on them.) Even better, it’s stable and takes quite a bit of force to slide.
I would prefer it to have a couple of macro keys, even a single row of them, but there’s only so much I can ask for. The media keys are RGB backlit and surprisingly clicky. I’m not sure what type of switch they use, but it feels mechanical... but a very short one like you would see on a mouse, not a keyboard. The G810 also has a volume roller, which I was a huge fan of when I was introduced to it with the first generation of Corsair K60 and K90 mechanical keyboards. (If another brand did it before them, in 2012, then I’m sorry! Corsair was the first that I’ve seen do it!) I should note that the Logitech roller is a bit smoother than the Corsair one, but, again, the K60 and K90 are about four years old at this point.
So yeah, that’s about it.
Tesla stores your Owner Authentication token in plain text ... which leads to a bad Ashton Kutcher movie
Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 05:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Android, Malware, hack, tesla, security
You might expect better from Tesla and Elon Musk but apparently you would be dissappointed as the OAuth token in your cars mobile app is stored in plain text. The token is used to control your Tesla and is generated when you enter in your username and password. It is good for 90 days, after which it requires you to log in again so a new token can be created. Unfortunately, since that token is stored as plain text, someone who gains access to your Android phone can use that token to open your cars doors, start the engine and drive away. Getting an Android user to install a malicious app which would allow someone to take over their device has proven depressingly easy. Comments on Slashdot suggest it is unreasonable to blame Tesla for security issues in your devices OS, which is hard to argue; on the other hand it is impossible for Telsa to defend choosing to store your OAuth in plain text.
"By leveraging security flaws in the Tesla Android app, an attacker can steal Tesla cars. The only hard part is tricking Tesla owners into installing an Android app on their phones, which isn't that difficult according to a demo video from Norwegian firm Promon. This malicious app can use many of the freely available Android rooting exploits to take over the user's phone, steal the OAuth token from the Tesla app and the user's login credentials."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- CERT tells Microsoft to keep EMET alive because it's better than Win 10's own security @ The Register
- Amazon Makes Good On Its Promise To Delete 'Incentivized' Reviews @ Slashdot
- Tech giants warn IoT vendors to get real about security @ The Register
- 8 of the best outdoor gadgets and accessories @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 12:01 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, windows 10, microsoft, arm
According to Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, Microsoft is working on emulating the x86 instruction set on ARM64. Her sources further claim that this is intended to be a Windows 10 feature that is targeting Redstone 3, which is the feature update expected in late 2017 (after the upcoming Creators Update in early 2017). Of course, Microsoft will not comment on this rumor. Mary Jo Foley is quite good at holding out on publishing until she gets multiple, independent sources, though. Still, projects slip, pivot, and outright die all of the time, even if the information was true at one point.
Media Center is still dead, though.
So, while keeping in mind that this might not be true, and, even if it is, it could change: let’s think.
The current speculation is that this might be aimed at enterprise customers, including a potential partnership with HP and Qualcomm. This makes sense for a few reasons, especially when you combine it with Microsoft and Samsung’s recent efforts to port .NET Core to ARM. Combining rumors like this might be akin to smashing two rocks together, but you never know if it’ll spark something. Anyway, you would expect these sorts of apps could jump architectures fairly well, because they’re probably not real-time, form-based applications. You might be able to get a comfortable enough user experience, even with the inherent overhead of translating individual instructions.
Another possibility is that Microsoft hasn’t given up on the Windows 8 / Windows RT vision.
Back in that era, the whole OS seemed designed to push users toward their new platform, Metro. The desktop was an app, and that app contained all of the Win32 bits, isolating them from the rest of the PC and surrounding that tile with everything WinRT. The new platform was seductive for Microsoft in a few ways. First, it was more secure, and people considered Windows the operating system that’s plagued with malware. Second, it let them assert control over their apps, like Apple does with their App Store. At the time, they even demanded that third-party web browsers be nothing more than re-skins of Internet Explorer. Firefox? Don’t even think about bringing Gecko in here. It’s Trident or bust.
Say what you like about those first two points, I know I have, and often disapprovingly from an art enthusiast standpoint, but there was a third one that also interested Microsoft:
The WinRT runtime, when it was first unveiled, was pretty much designed in a way that Microsoft could swap out everything underneath it if they wanted to jump ship and move to a new architecture. At the time, almost a decade ago, Intel wasn’t competitive against ARM in the mobile space. This kept Windows applications, and Microsoft, watching the rest of the world sail away.
But supporting both ARM and x86 isn’t good enough. What if IBM wins next time? Or a completely different instruction set? If everything calls an API that can be uprooted and transplanted elsewhere? There will never need to be this mobile concern again.
But then we have this whole decades of stuff that already exists problem. While I don’t like the frog boil analogy, it could be Microsoft’s attempt to uproot enough x86-locked content that people can accept UWP. I’m not sure that will work out, especially since we rely upon real-time software that is not accepting Windows Store, but it might be their goal.
What do you all think?
Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 09:17 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming, black friday
Okay, I admit it: I’m a little late on this one. Sorry, all! Sometimes you need to shelf a post because it’s taking forever to write, but you only realize it after days of researching and editing have gone by. In the mean time, simple posts, like this one, begin to collect dust in the queue. You just need to know when to let go, even if it’s temporarily. This time I didn’t.
Oh well. So Valve decided to host their Autumn Sale from now until 1pm (EST) on Tuesday. To me, a sale that starts just before American Thanksgiving and ends hours after Cyber Monday... seems like a Black Friday sale. They even acknowledge it as such in their announcement, so I guess I’m not alone.
There really isn’t much to say, though. Gabe Newell will get your money via big discounts on new and bundled back catalog games... oh wait, there is. Remember how Steam was pushing “Discovery” with their new store aesthetic? How it was supposed to help users find relevant content within their store? They just decided to create “The Steam Awards”, which are user-nominated through the store listing.
This is quite interesting. From Steam’s perspective, it allows a handful of games to get promoted to a wider audience, which could allow some games break out of their niche. On the other hand, since it is user-selected, it would need a niche to have a chance at that exposure. Whether it helps good games find an audience that would otherwise die off? Not sure. I am interested to see, if this really is a phase in the Discovery initiative, what else will be introduced. Time will tell...
Subject: General Tech | November 24, 2016 - 05:35 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: security, hack, audio, Realtec
Security researchers have discovered a way to flip an output channel on onboard Realtec audio into an input channel, thus turning your headphones into an unpowered microphone. The ability of a speaker or headphone to be used as a microphone is not news to anyone who has played around with headphones or input jacks, but it is possible some readers had deprived childhoods and have never tried this. While you cannot mitigate this vulnerability permanently you could certainly notice it as your headphones would no longer play audio if the port is configured as input.
Drop by Slashdot a link, and if you have never tried this out before you really should find an old pair of headphones and experiment with ports as well as snipping off one side of a pair of earbuds. One supposes iPhone 7 users need not worry.
"In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. It essentially "retasks" the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in. This isn't a driver fix, either."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft's nerd goggles will run on a toaster @ The Register
- Microsoft is reportedly sharing Windows 10 telemetry data with third-parties @ The Inquirer
- Google Sends State-Sponsored Hack Warnings To Journalists and Professors @ Slashdot
- Samsung might flog its PC biz to Lenovo for £680m @ The Inquirer
- HTC denies rumors of selling its smartphone business @ DigiTimes
- Samsung fires $70m at quantum televisions @ The Register
- 11 Essential Black Friday Computer Parts for Gamers @ Hardware Secrets
Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2016 - 06:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: nvidia, gears of war 4, gaming, dx12, async compute, amd
[H]ard|OCP sat down with the new DX12 based Gears of War 4 to test the performance of the game on a variety of cards, with a focus on the effect of enabling Async Compute. In their testing they found no reason for Async Compute to be disabled as it did not hurt the performance of any card. On the other hand NVIDIA's offerings do not benefit in any meaningful way from the feature and while AMD's cards certainly did, it was not enough to allow you to run everything at maximum on an RX 480. Overall the game was no challenge to any of the cards except perhaps the RX 460 and the GTX 1050 Ti. When playing at 4K resolution they saw memory usage in excess of 6GB, making the GTX 1080 the card for those who want to play with the highest graphical settings. Get more details and benchmarks in their full review.
"We take Gears of War 4, a new Windows 10 only game supporting DX12 natively and compare performance with seven video cards. We will find out which one provides the best experience at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p resolutions, and see how these compare to each other. We will also look specifically at the Async Compute feature."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Total War: WARHAMMER NVIDIA Linux Benchmarks @ Phoronix
- Total War: Warhammer’s Wood Elves like to shoot and run @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided DX12 Performance @ [H]ard|OCP
- Star Wars Battlefront’s Rogue One DLC on December 6th @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- AMD Radeon RX 470 Hitman Complete promo goes live @ HEXUS
- Shadow Tactics demo offers Commandos-y stealth @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- AMD & NVIDIA GPU VR Performance - Google Earth VR @ [H]ard|OCP
- Quick Look: Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel @ GiantBomb
- Origin/EA Black Friday Sale
- AI War 2 returns to Kickstarter, smaller and cheaper @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2016 - 05:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: hack, bank, atm, security, cobalt
Imagine walking down the street, only to notice an ATM spewing money out of its slots and into a bag held by a shady looking character; but not in a video game. In at least 14 countries including Russia, the UK, the Netherlands and Malaysia, hackers are using a program dubbed Cobalt to conduct remote logical attacks on ATMs. These attacks cause the ATM to empty itself, into the waiting hands of an accomplice who only needs to show up at the appropriate time. As the attacks are conducted remotely the mule may have only the slightest connection to the hackers that compromised the banking system which makes them very hard to catch. The Inquirer has links to more information on Cobalt, unfortunately they do not have any details on fortunate times or locations to be present at.
"HACKERS HAVE MANAGED to hack cash machines so that they do what everyone who has ever used one has wanted them to do, which is just spit out cash like it was going out of fashion."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- KitGuru Reader Awards 2016 – Your Winners Revealed!
- Outlook outage outrage @ The Register
- Helm: The Kubernetes Package Manager @ Linux.com
- Netgear Orbi AC3000 Tri-Band Router @ Kitguru
- D-Link DIR-885L/R AC3150 Ultra Wi-Fi Router @ MissingRemote
- Iron Tips: Soldering Headphones and Enamel Wire @ Hack a Day
- Apple Captures Record 91 Percent of Global Smartphone Profits: Research @ Slashdot
- The Lenovo IdeaCentre Y710 Cube Gaming System Revealed @ TechARP
Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 09:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, dishonored 2, bethesda
When Dishonored 2 came out, it apparently had quite a few performance issues. Users were complaining about stuttering and low performance, even with high-end graphics cards. One post on Reddit grew popular when an employee of Bethesda allegedly tweeted that a GTX 1070 should get ~60 FPS on Very Low at 1080p. The card is generally recommended for users looking for maxed out 1080p or 1440p for the next couple of years, so you might be able to see the expectation mismatch.
The second patch, released yesterday, is primarily aimed at performance optimizations. First, NVIDIA users are recommended to upgrade to 375.95, which was pushed to GeForce Experience and their website late last week. Beyond adding an SLI Profile, Bethesda “strongly advise[s]” the driver to fix a performance bug.
On their side, they fixed an issue with AMD GPUs when cloth is simulated and they now allow those cards to use HBAO+. They also allow the user to limit frame rates all the way up to 120 FPS, although the physics engine cannot handle rates above that, so it’s hard-capped there. This sucks for users with 144Hz monitors, but 120 FPS is pretty generous of a cap if one must exist. Bethesda also addressed stuttering and they fixed the engine attempting to allocate more VRAM than the card has. I’m not sure whether this bug led to outright crashes, or just stuttering as the asset is pulled from system RAM or disk, but either way is quite bad.
If you had a problem playing Dishonored 2, then you might want to try again. If you are waiting to purchase, or have already refunded the game, then unfortunately I can’t say whether it’s all better; I haven’t played it, at least not yet.