A quick guide to SSL and what its major maladjustment is

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2011 - 01:48 PM |
Tagged: SSL, black hat 2011, CA, Comodo

While the boys were having fun at an event in Texas, TechwareLabs were at a show of a completely different colour.  Black Hat 2011, the yearly computer security convention was also taking place in Las Vegas, bringing to light the discoveries of the past year when it comes to vulnerabilities and how to protect yourself against them.  One of the topics for discussion was how the Secure Socket Layer works, by assuming that a Trusted Authority is behind a security certificate which requires them to provide a secure connection between yourself and their servers.  Over the past year we saw a hack at Comodo, who are a major Certificate Authority, which lead to nefarious people getting their hands on certificates assigned to Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, which allowed them to easily fool even a computer using SSL. 

Taking that as an example of the failure of the idea of single, large CAs as the way to implement SSL.  If you were to no longer trust Comodo and its certificates then about 1/4 of the secure sites on the net would never allow you to connect.  Instead a programmer detailed a FireFox extension called Convergence as an alternative.  This distributed way of dealing with Certificate authentication would allow you to switch between trusting and untrusting certain CAs without damaging your ability to connect to secure sites on the web.

TWL_convergence.jpg

"This interesting presentation concerns a security protocol that you probably use everyday. It is in your browser, on the server you connect to, and bought together by a “Certificate Authority”. The idea behind SSL is to provide a secure connection between you, the client browser, and the server providing the sensitive data to you. For instance a Bank website is designed to provide the client with convenient access to account details, transactions, etc. But there is a major issue with a pivotal player in this process. The Certificate Authority or CA is charged with certifying the organizations to which it provides certificates. The CA is supposed to be a trustworthy entity working on behalf of us, the end users, to ensure that any organization it issues a certificate to is credible and trustworthy. After all many users depend on the CA’s, SSL protocol, and issued certificates to enforce authentication and integrity in the online space. You have little choice but to trust the CAs and expect them to provide a high quality level of authentication services."

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Let us do some math, shall we? The cost of consoles

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 7, 2011 - 04:11 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, consoles

There is a lot of discussion over how expensive the PC is compared to the consoles. I have heard from a number of former PC gamers who switched to the console to escape the large cost of ownership. I have also heard from a number of console gamers who claim that they cannot afford a three-thousand dollar gaming behemoth to just launch the typical PC game. Suffices to say, my head has exploded more times than causality allows for.

bitcoinexhaust.png

Is your PC bleeding gushes of money?

Let us clarify something straight out of the gate before tl;dr kicks in: the true cost of a console is not the price you pay for the box itself. For proof, look at Sony: the cost of the $499 PS3 at launch was $805.85 according to CNET. That means that for each PS3 they sold they lost $306.85. You may think, “Pfft, that’s fine. They’ll make it up later.” Nope, it was mid-2010 before Sony made any money on each PS3 sales. They were bleeding for 3 years.

So where does Sony and Microsoft make their money? Firstly, Microsoft has that cash-cow Xbox Live that they have been milking for a substantial time now. You may consider $60 per year to be chump change however after 4 years that tallies up to 240$. I want you to consider the following: Xbox Live every 4 years, or a Radeon HD 6950 (Bundled with Dirt 3) for four years without paying a cent more? (Actually, okay -- you pay 3 cents more at $59.99-per-month{{edit: year, typo}}). It is also pretty much given that not only will your games look better than on a 360 by a long shot, you will also still be able to physically play games in four years’ time. You might be turning the quality settings to medium or low near the end of your card’s life cycle, but hey: at least you have the option for quality settings. Also, just because a console claims to run a game at a specific resolution does not mean it actually is. For instance, most Call of Duty games on the consoles are actually rendered at approximately 600p but are up-scaled to their listed resolutions.  To claim an upscaled 600p is 1080p would be like claiming a DVD upscaled is the same thing as a BluRay.

And this leads to our next point: You can buy a three-thousand dollar computer. You can also buy a Porsche. You do not need a Porsche to drive to work, but there are some distinct advantages to owning one that make it viable for a portion of the market. The rest of us can be perfectly happy driving to work with a Hyundai or a Chevy. Besides, it’s cheaper than paying a taxi. For good examples of cost efficient PCs, check out our constantly updated Hardware Leaderboard. Technically a license of Windows is not included, which is the one kink in PC gaming openness. Ideally we would be all running Linux or a similarly licensed OS not just for cost but also for longevity. Videogames will struggle as timeless art so long as the platforms they run on are not timeless. Unfortunately even in the PC gaming sphere there is no guarantee that the platform will just be torn out from under your dependent art. But, at least the PC platform is not designed to be disposable like the consoles. It is the lesser of two evils, and baby-steps to an ideal future.

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A moment of silence for your wallet.

So how much money are we talking about? I personally summed up how much I spent on the first Xbox in $10 per game license fees and $60 per year Xbox Live fees which came to $520 excluding the cost of the system itself and accessories which need to be replaced each generation for no sensible reason. Keep in mind; I was not a very extreme gamer purchasing only five games per year on average. Had I been PC exclusive, however, that would have been $500-some-odd dollars over the price of the system and accessories itself that I would not have needed to pay. The truth of the matter is over the long run you pay more to be a console gamer than a PC gamer unless you physically choose to pay more for your PC. Also, do not forget: due to the existence of proprietary platforms, if you own multiple systems because your games are only available on one or another, you are even further worse off.

There will be a follow-up article to this in the near future discussing what you are paying for with consoles – spoiler: it is, in general, not desirable.

New Rage trailer causes an Uprising at Quakecon?

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | August 6, 2011 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: rage, quakecon, id

The most important difference about Quakecon this year is that they can finally, for the first time in years, promote an upcoming in-house title. RAGE was definitely all the rage this year as John Carmack spent the majority of his keynote discussing the technical decisions made during the game for the 360, for the PS3, and for the PC. The biggest take-away that a lead game programmer could learn from the keynote is that you should never tell the artist team when approached about design specifications, “Make beautiful stuff and we’ll figure out how to make it work.” However, for the rest of us not on iD’s programming department, we get to see what a comment like that looks like in the new RAGE trailer.

Reminded of USENET a decade ago, “Syntax Error: Asking for the best computer, money is no object.”

Something has us believing that this will be a very profitable year for Bethesda’s parent company, Zenimax. With two large games, RAGE and Elder Scrolls V, coming out this autumn from Zenimax we hopefully should see them able to reinvest and grow over the coming years. As for the game itself, I get three distinct vibes from the most recent cinematic trailer: The first is Doom 3 which is most felt in the intro as the player is loaded into the pod-like device; the second is Fallout 3 from characters interact; the third vibe I cannot pin against any given game and mostly consists of the vehicular aspect of the trailer. What does it remind our readers of? (Registration not required for commenting.)

Source: iD Software

This Two Will Passed – Episode 4 released of total 5…ish.

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 6, 2011 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: tablet, sony, S2, S1

Want to rest your eyes from all of the Quakecon coverage? How about another Sony tablet ad? The first three parts of Sony’s S1 and S2 ad campaign are behind us with the conclusion of this five part series occurring in the fourth part. Frankly I do not really understand it either, but apparently the fifth ad will be a collection of the previous four making the fourth one the actual finale of a series of five. I guess that somewhat makes sense: what better way to promote the products’ collective slogan “Open Your Imagination” than blowing your mind? I say nothing.

This Two Will Passed… okay? Go play it.

The title of this video is “Together anywhere” and features an unsurprising amount of tracks for anyone who watched any or all of the preview videos. Besides metal rails, be sure to pay close attention to the setup prior to the couch station because you will drop bricks at the end of the video. This is also the first time that lyrics appear in the ads which put a very uplifting feel on the campaign. While not as metaphorical as the first two parts suggested, I believe they got their point across. Now all that is left to do is see if it will translate to sales.

Source: Sony

Intel Releases $700 Bill of Materials For Thinnest Ultrabooks

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 5, 2011 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook.asus, Intel

Digitimes reported today that Intel will be meeting with its Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) partners in Taipei next week to discuss the Bill of Materials (BOM) that outlines the components to be used in Intel's Ultrabook notebook class.  The goal of the meeting will be to tweak the Bill of Materials such that the initial selling price will be below $1,000 USD.

Intel has further broken up the Ultrabook category into two thickness classes of 18mm and 21mm.  The 18mm reference designs, of which Intel has rendered five, have thus far omitted any optical drives.  An example of the 18mm design can be seen in the upcoming Asus UX21 and UX31 ultrabooks.  The proposed Bill of Materials for the 18mm ultrabooks is between $493 and $710 USD while the 21mm ultrabooks BOM is between $475 and $650 USD. 

asus07.jpg

Beyond the Bill of Materials, the site notes that Intel is further planning to release next generation ultrabooks based on 22nm Ivy Bridge processors in 2012 and 22nm Haswell CPUs in 2013.  These ultrabooks will come in sizes ranging from 11" to 17."  The 11" to 13" models will have a thickness of 18mm while the 14" to 17" models will be of the 21mm variety.

Apple Insider notes that the push from Intel to keep the cost of materials and initial selling price for its ultrabooks below $1,000 may be due to the $999 entry level Macbook selling so well and Intel's desire to provide a competitive product that can match the thin-ness of the Mac notebooks and is priced to sell.  Do you think Intel's ultrabooks will catch on with consumers, or will it be another niche and/or gimmick product?

Source: Digitimes

Quakecon Steam Deals: Catch up with iD and Bethesda for $70

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | August 5, 2011 - 03:44 AM |
Tagged: steam, quakecon

A lot of news is blowing up about the exciting conference happening right now called Quakercon. For those of us not lucky enough to bask in the PepsiCo subsidiary that popularized Amish oatmeal delight there is another, smaller conference going on right now called “Quakecon”. Frankly, I think they’re ripping off our wonderful breakfast food company. Still, if you cannot check out Quakercon treating us to tonnes of steamed meals – why not check out Quakecon treating us to tonnes of Steam deals!

quakecon-deals.png

Yes I realize there is no such thing as Quakercon… … yet.

In the event that you are following Quakecon and for some reason do not own many iD or Bethesda games, there is a bundle that will roll you pretty much entirely up to date for just shy of $70. The Quakecon Pack 2011 contains the following:

  • Quake III Arena
  • Quake IV
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • The Ultimate Doom
  • Final DOOM
  • DOOM II
  • QUAKE
  • QUAKE II
  • QUAKE II Mission Pack: The Reckoning
  • QUAKE II Mission Pack: Ground Zero
  • QUAKE III: Team Arena
  • HeXen: Beyond Heretic
  • HeXen: Deathkings of the Dark Citadel
  • Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders
  • Spear of Destiny
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  • QUAKE Mission Pack 2: Dissolution of Eternity
  • QUAKE Mission Pack 1: Scourge of Armagon
  • DOOM 3
  • HeXen II
  • DOOM 3 Resurrection of Evil
  • Master Levels for Doom II
  • Commander Keen
  • Rogue Warrior
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind® Game of the Year Edition
  • Call of Cthulhu®: Dark Corners of the Earth
  • BRINK
  • Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition
  • Fallout: New Vegas
  • Hunted: The Demon’s Forge™
  • Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money
  • Fallout New Vegas: Honest Hearts
  • Fallout New Vegas: Old World Blues
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion® Game of the Year Edition Deluxe
 
If $70 is too much for you but you have plans to pre-order Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and RAGE: doing so will knock the price of this combo pack to $40. Also, you will likely not even install a third of this pack at best, especially if you plan on putting a dent in to RAGE and Skyrim.
Source: Steam Store

Breaking in to GlobalFoundries' Integration Testing and Development Center

Subject: General Tech | August 4, 2011 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: fab 8

It has been a while since Al's successful break in at the Intel/Micron fab, which means that PCPer readers haven't had an inside look at a fab in a while.  [H]ard|OCP has not only seen the ground where GLOBALFOUNDRIES will soon have a Fab 8, they just had a look at GLOBALFOUNDRIES' ITDC.  Fab 8 is intended to be almost fully robotic, with not a single human hand, bunny suited or not, touching a wafer until it is complete.  In order to make sure that the processes are implemented properly, the ITDC is intended to test the new wafer handling, management, delivery, and tracking systems; all before Fab 8 is fully constructed.  You can catch the HD version of their video tour on YouTube

H_itdc.jpg

"You ever heard the numbers thrown around about how many wafers will be produced by a fab? GlobalFoundries is telling us Fab 8 will build processors using up to 60,000 wafers a month when it is under full production. Have you ever wondered how all those wafers get to where they need to be? We show you how that happens."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Jon Peddie defines 2011 as anomalous for the GPU market

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | August 4, 2011 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: peddie, market share, gpu

TIBURON, CA-August 4, 2011—Jon Peddie Research (JPR), the industry's research and consulting firm for graphics and multimedia, announced estimated graphics chip shipments and suppliers’ market share for Q2’11.

Shipments during the second quarter of 2011 did not behave according to past years with regard to seasonality, and was higher on a year-to-year comparison for the quarter. 2011 is shaping up to be an anomalous year as businesses take their own path to recovery.

Normally, the second quarter of the year is a slower business quarter in the graphics industry (and in the PC industry as a whole). This year, Q2’11 did not conform to the normal seasonal cycle. Instead, sales were up significantly compared to previous years. The growth in Q2 comes as a welcome change, if not a bit worrying—is it inventory building for back to school and the holiday season, or channel stuffing?

Our forecast for the coming years has been modified since the last report, and is less aggressive on both desktops and notebooks—tablets have changed the nature of the PC market. Our findings include Desktops, Notebooks (and Netbooks), and PC-based commercial (i.e., POS) and industrial/scientific and embedded; and do not include handhelds (i.e., mobile phones), x86 Servers or ARM-based Tablets (i.e. iPad and Android-based Tablets), Smartbooks, or Servers.

The quarter in general

  • In Q2’11, Intel celebrated its sixth quarter of Embedded Processor Graphics CPU (EPG, a multi-chip design that combined a graphics processor and CPU in the same package) shipments, and enjoyed a 21% average growth in Desktops and Notebooks.
  • AMD and Nvidia lost in overall market share, while Intel grew compared to last quarter.
  • Year to year this quarter Intel had tremendous market share growth (14.7%), AMD had a loss of 14.2%, and Nvidia slipped 18.4% in the overall market partially due to the company withdrawing from the integrated segments.
  • The Q2’11 change in total shipments from last quarter increased 6.3%, significantly above the ten-year average of 3.5%, and raising concerns about an inventory buildup.
  • Netbooks contributed to notebook growth a bit,however, iPads and Android tablets have probably cannibalized some netbook sales.
    • Over 84 million PCs shipped worldwide in Q2’11, an increase of 2.4% compared to Q1’11, (based on an average of reports from Dataquest, IDC, and HSI) causing speculation that the 6.3% up-swing in graphics could be an inventory buildup and have a negative impact on Q3 or Q4.
    • AMD’s HPU quarter-to-quarter growth has been extraordinary at an average of 80% for desktop and notebook, and Intel’s EPG growth was significant at an average of 41%. This is a clear showing of the industry’s affirmation of the value of CPUs with embedded graphics and is in line with our forecasts. The major, and logical, impact is on older IGPs, and some on low-end add-in boards (AIBS).

Graphics chips (GPUs) and chips with graphics (IGPs, HPUs, and EPGs) are a leading indicator for the PC market. At least one and often two GPUs are present in every PC shipped. It can take the form of a discrete chip, a GPU integrated in the chipset, or embedded in the CPU. The average has grown from 115% in 2001 to almost 160% GPUs per PC.

Since the crash of 2009, combined with the introduction and influence of ARM-based Tablets, the PC market has deviated from historical trends. Until the segment for Tablets is clearly defined the fluctuations in the market data is likely to continue. The disruptions probably won’t settle down for a while as Tablets find their place in the market and agreement can be reached on to include them in the PC market analysis, or to not include them.

Market shares shifted for the big three, and put pressure on the smaller three, and they showed a decrease in shipments as indicated in Table 1 (units are in millions.)

Intel continues to be the overall market share leader in Q2’11, elevated by Core i5 EPG CPUs, Sandy Bridge, and Pineview Atom sales for Netbooks. AMD gained market share quarter-to quarter and Nvidia lost share. Nvidia is exiting the integrated graphics segments and shifting focus to discrete GPUs. The company showed significant discrete market share gain (30% qtr-qtr) due to they say strong connect with new Intel Sandybridge notebooks. Ironically Nvidia enjoyed some serendipitous sales of IGPs in Q2. AMD share dropped 7.3 points.

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Bumpday 8/3/2011: AMD stole my gigahurts – give it back!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 3, 2011 - 09:24 PM |
Tagged: bumpday

Just recently we looked at a Tom’s Hardware review of CPU architecture since about 2005. While the performance of the CPU itself was not covered in the review, that was entirely not the purpose of the article; the problem investigated was whether there was a lot of innovation with the architectures themselves or whether companies were just ramping up the clock rate and adding more cores to get their performance. Implied in the article’s findings was the extent to which Intel was relying on a higher clock rate to even be comparable to AMD at the time, and even if they were being comparable is debatable. At some point AMD decided to change their tactics and stop ranking their processors by clock rate due to the huge disparity between Intel’s performance and their own at any given clock. This drew some flak in the forums but ended up sticking as even Intel dropped the Gigahertz moniker.

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I owned a Core 2 Duo E6600 MHz! It’s so fast they needed to count in hex!

Scott, not me but another Scott, accused AMD back in 2001 of confusing users about the actual clock rate of their products. That post was crushed by video gaming’s most popular astrophysicist: yes, exactly. That didn’t stop the debate about whether that is an ethical thing to do, whether Intel’s ethics are any better, or whether they’re hypocrites. Regardless, the soapbox was eventually put away and everyone went back to their lives.

BUMP

Source: PCPer Forums

Bad Steam! Stop downloading DirectX you naughty program you

Subject: General Tech | August 3, 2011 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: steam, gaming

Could it be?  Is there an actual explanation as to why every single Steam game you ever bought just has to install DirectX, even though you just installed it for that last game you bought and the one before that and the one before ...

Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has the explanation as to what is going on, though it is up to you to decide if it is reasonable or not.  Gone are the days of one DX fits all games, instead each of the currently used versions of DX, as in DX9, DX10 and DX11 depending on your software and hardware have many sub-versions.  In DX9's case, there are over 40 versions of a D3D helper library called D3DX and that number grows in DX10 and DX11 and that is before you toss in 32bit versus 64bit OS versions. 

Doesn't it make you happier to know the reason why you are stuck watching that stupid progress bar slowly grow instead of being able to play the game you just bought?

RPS_dx.jpg

"Oh God, not again – can’t I just play the damned thing? WHY? [Stomp, stomp, stomp."] This is a sound surely as familiar to the residents of the Brunswick area of Brighton as are the constant squawks of seagulls fighting over the contents of their recycling boxes. This is a sound I make, or at least variations upon it, every single time I first run a game I have downloaded via Steam. This time, I always think. This time it won’t ask me to install DirectX again first. Surely the 1023rd time’s the charm. That dream will likely never come to pass. However, at least we now know why – Valve have explained this particularly modern annoyance."

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