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Wednesday February 21, 2018

Nest Camera Gains Enhanced Spying Abilities

Owners of the Nest Cam IQ can look forward to a free update rolling out this week that will install Google Assistant on it. Ina report from the Associated Press, the update comes just 2 weeks after Nest moved back under Google's direct control instead of it's parent company Alphabet. While the voice-activated Google Assistant can already be used to control Nest devices, this is the first time people will be able to interact with it through a security camera.
I hope that Google at least makes this update optional for people that have this camera. The article also cites a patent from Google to use cameras in order to target advertisements based on the furniture in your house. Folks, I like gadgets too, but please stop paying hundreds of dollars for a wiretap. "Hey Google, does my butt look big in this?"

Privacy watchdogs are particularly worried that Google eventually may use some of the information collected from devices inside homes to get a better understanding of a person’s specific interests so it can sell ads for products that the targeted individual might like.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 6:00 PM (CST)

Humans Powerless To Stop Robots Escaping And Killing Us ALL

Cyberdine Systems Boston Dynamics has released another video to remind us of our impending doom at the cold metal claws of our robotic overlords. Earlier this month their SpotMini robot sprouted an arm and used it to escape captivity. Now we have a video of the same robot toying with a puny human who tries to impede its escape.
Hockey sticks are no match. Canada will be the first to fall. Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 5:14 PM (CST)

German Court Says Facebook's Real Names Policy Violates Users' Privacy

In a report from Techdirt a German court has ruled that Facebook's real names policy violates local data protection rules. The ruling from the Berlin Regional Court states that users must be allowed to sign up for Facebook using pseudonyms to comply with privacy law. The court ruling was detailed today on German website VZBV, whi is appealing the court ruling, stating that Facebook's claim that it is "free" was misleading because people pay with their data.
I have to agree with Techdirt, with Germany's recent and repeated attempts to crack down on "bad content" on Facebook, making the service more anonymous seems detrimental to their efforts. Thanks to Jeff T. for the story.

So, if you're Facebook, at this point you have to wonder just what you have to do to keep the service running in Germany without upsetting officials. You can't let anything bad happen on the platform, and you can't get user's names. It increasingly seems that Germany wants Facebook to just magically "only allow good stuff" no matter how impossible that might be.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 4:37 PM (CST)

Samsung Galaxy S9 Images Leaked

Samsung is set to unveil the new Galaxy S9 and S9+ next week at Mobile World Congress 2018. Attendees of the show, and those wishing to view the event's livestream were encouraged to download an app called Unpacked 2018. Hidden away in the app is an Augmented Reality feature that allows people to scan the Samsung logo or box to see some teasers, a reddit user was able to decompile the app and find 3d models of the new Galaxy S9 hidden within. The full set of pictures can be found on XDA Developers.
It looks like a Samsung Galaxy. Woo. At least the Bixby button is still there for all you Bixby fans.

This modification was not easily done, though, as the models are not inside the actual app but available on Samsung’s website. Thus, it required a modification to the Unpacked 2018 app and a proxy to download the 3D models. However, /u/thesbros was able to get it done, and we were able to access the Augmented Reality 3D models in order to show off what the Samsung Galaxy S9 will look like.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 3:57 PM (CST)

Intel Releases Updated Microcode For Meltdown and Spectre

Intel has announced that it has released production microcode updates to OEM manufacturers for Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and Skylake platforms. Along with this announcement, Intel has finally given us a schedule and availability table for the microcode revisions that can be found here.
Nice to see they haven't just went quiet and hoped we forgot, I was actually asking yesterday if anyone had heard anything. It's nice to see that in their guidance paper that they plan on going back further than initally thought, though we will have to see if they make it out of "planning" or get pushed out by vendors. Also there are some CPU's that seem to be missing from the list. Keep checking your motherboard manufacturers sites for updates, you can find a list we compiled here.

Based on these efforts, we have now released production microcode updates to our OEM customers and partners for Kaby Lake- and Coffee Lake-based platforms, plus additional Skylake-based platforms. This represents our 6th, 7th and 8th Generation Intel Core product lines as well as our latest Intel Core X-series processor family. It also includes our recently announced Intel Xeon Scalable and Intel Xeon D processors for data center systems.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 3:21 PM (CST)

VR Finally Gets a Quality RTS With "Brass Tactics"

Brass Tactics has come out for the Oculus Rift and UploadVR is giving it a glowing review. Fans of the genre will be happy with the classic RTS style gameplay set in a steampunk setting. The game's campaign has 4-6 hours of content, and the whole game features 20 different maps, multiple armies, as well as both cooperative and competitive multiplayer.
I must say even though I'm not a huge RTS fan, this looks like a lot of fun. Now I just need to get an Oculus so I can give it a try.

Brass Tactics is a big step forward for RTS games in VR. The tactile feeling of picking up, directing, and interacting with units using your own hands is excellent and the mixture of single player, as well as both cooperative and competitive multiplayer, all adds up to one of the most feature-rich strategy games we’ve seen yet. It lacks some of the depth and complexity of its modern non-VR counterparts, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more competent and engaging RTS in VR right now.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 2:34 PM (CST)

A Tour of the Corsair Headquarters

Corsair is one of the best known brands in the PC market, and Legit Reviews got the opportunity to take a tour of their 64,000 square foot headquarters in California. Featuring a store with display units everywhere, a dedicated comic department, an impressive LAN gaming center and even a full bar.
Amazing office for sure. I wish that Legit Reviews got some pictures of the R&D and testing areas though and not just the more public spaces. I also hope that 20 person DRAM procurement meeting went well, we need it right now.

Corsair has various departments at their office and it is easy to forget just how many markets Corsair is involved in, but just to give an idea, I walked by one meeting involving DRAM procurement that had twenty people in it, alone. It’s crazy to think how many people are involved in bringing us the computer peripherals and components we use and how much planning goes into making these products.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 1:33 PM (CST)

AMD Enters The Embedded Processor Market

AMD is looking to break into the embedded processor market with 2 new processors according to a report from PCPerspective. The new processors are going after the Xeon D-series and Core chips with the Ryzen V1000 APU, and the EPYC 3000 series. The top of the range for the Ryzen V1000 series being the V1807B, a 4 core 8 thread APU with 11 GPU compute cores a 3.35GHz base frequency, and dual 10Gb ethernet ports at 35-54 watts. All the V1000 series will support up to four, 4k displays. The EPYC embedded processors do not have an iGPU, but it's flagship is the EPYC 3451, a 16 core 32 thread 100w chip, with 2.15GHz base 2.45GHz boost (all cores) frequencies, 32MB of L3 cache, 64 PCIE lanes and a TDP of 100w.
For people needing embedded solutions these new processors look fantastic on paper. Only time will tell to see how well they get adopted by the industry.

Both the Epyc 3000 and Ryzen V1000 chips represent the first time AMD has targeted embedded customers with specific features and capabilities at the hardware level. During the design phase of its Zen CPU and Vega graphics architecture, business unit leaders included capabilities like multiple 10-gigabit network integration, support of four 4K display outputs, ECC memory (error correction capability for mission-critical applications), and unique embedded-based interfaces for external connectivity.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 1:10 PM (CST)

Overclocking the Budget AMD Ryzen Raven Ridge 2200G APU

If you are looking at building a budget gaming box to play mainstream shooter games on at 1080p, this article over at TechSpot is worth a read. No need to buy an expensive GPU and the cost on the 2200G CPU is only $100, you can pick up a B350 chipset motherboard for about $94 more. Throw in 8GB of Corsair RAM for $119 and a Seasonic 450W PSU for $64 and you are on your way!

Today we'll be overclocking AMD's Ryzen 3 2200G to the max with a $20 air cooler from DeepCool called the Gammaxx 200T. Now, you might be questioning the idea of splurging on an aftermarket cooler for a Raven Ridge APU that only costs $100 itself and already ships with the Wraith Stealth heatsink that is sufficient for mild overclocks. However, we've been keen to see how much more can be extracted from the APU when using an upgraded heatsink and whether that works out value-wise. Using the R3 2200G's stock cooler we were able to push its integrated Vega 8 GPU from 1.1GHz up to 1.6GHz, and while this lead to some nice gains, it also pushed operating temperatures well into the 80s and for this reason I wasn't able to overclock the CPU cores as well. Our overclock saw a 45% increase in GPU frequency, providing around 35% more frames and truly transforming the affordable R3 2200G's potential when it came to gaming. This got us thinking...

Discussion Posted by Kyle 10:58 AM (CST)

The Future of Gaming is eSports is VR DEATHMATCH!

Well, "VR Deathmatch" is not exactly how Reuters spells out its take on "Esports," but I felt we had to run with it as you will see below. eSports events have started to garner enough support that Reuters announced today that it will "devote a wire" to covering this section of the industry, which is getting YUGE! While a lot of eSports events look like the picture below, we think it is going to be a bit more than that.

For some publishers, esports will offer a new and younger audience to their platform. According to Statista, worldwide audience is expected to reach 589 million viewers by 2020. Approximately 23% of esports viewers are between the ages of 25 and 34 and a majority are male.

Gearbox Software and the city of Frisco, TX have been cooperating with eSports in mind. Recently, what used to be Texas' biggest LAN gaming event, "The FRAG," was brought back to reality. HardOCP, InsideVR, and others were involved in our first test event at Dr. Pepper Arena. InsideVR (which I am a partner in) invested our time and resources to put together our first two-person VR Arena that allowed users to play head-to-head live-action Raw Data deathmatch while standing side-by-side in their own VR pods. You can get a look at how that turned out below. Even with it being a small event, watching the VR deathmatch was quite exciting and we were able to live stream the event as well in order to test out all the new equipment, which we showed off some of a couple weeks ago.
The EdgeTV VR Arena all started out as an idea that progressed through a bunch of testing, to building, to testing in my garage, to finally becoming an reality this month at The FRAG. It has been a fun journey and I think VR will surely find its place in eSports. The fact of the matter is that it is a whole lot more fun to watch, and certainly a lot more fun to actually participate in. We have no less than six more events scheduled for 2018 here in North Texas and I am going to suggest that you might find the VR Arena popping up a few other places as well!
Discussion Posted by Kyle 9:41 AM (CST)

Mine Crypto While You Drive - Or - Jacking it in Your Tesla

Did you know that you can mine cryptocurrency while you drive your Tesla? Well, YOU can't, but Pirate Cryptojackers can. According to ZDNet, Redlock Cloud Security Intelligence has discovered cryptocurrency mining scripts running on Tesla's AWS resources. Well, that's not good.

Researchers from the RedLock Cloud Security Intelligence (CSI) team discovered that cryptocurrency mining scripts, used for cryptojacking -- the unauthorized use of computing power to mine cryptocurrency -- were operating on Tesla's unsecured Kubernetes instances, which allowed the attackers to steal the Tesla AWS compute resources to line their own pockets. Tesla's AWS system also contained sensitive data including vehicle telemetry, which was exposed due to the unsecured credentials theft.

I told my mom that I was cryptojacking in the car the other day and someone saw me. She told me that I was going to Hell for sure, and if I got caught doing it around a school, I was going to have to register as a sex offender. Discussion Posted by Kyle 9:00 AM (CST)
Tuesday February 20, 2018

WaterCool.De HEATKILLER IV PRO Goes with the Flow

We were getting the HEATKILLER IV PRO water block fired up here on the test bench for a bout of AMD Threadripper abuse and I left a bunch of extra air in the lines so we could get a look at the flow pattern during startup.
Discussion Posted by Kyle 9:59 PM (CST)

Elmnator Live - Shiny Full Copper Hard Pipe System Build

Now that Elmy has bent, re-bent, and re-re-bent enough copper tubing to supply the US Mint with pennies for the next two decades, he is back live on Twitch putting Project Venus all back together. He is just getting rolling and it sure does look purty.
Watch live video from Elmnator on
Discussion Posted by Kyle 6:46 PM (CST)

Intel Shares Details Of Discrete GPU Prototype

In a report from PCGamer, Intel has shared a few diagrams at ISSCC (IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference) in San Francisco, which were then shared online by Japanese site PCWatch. The diagrams show a discrete graphics chip based on Intel's 9th generation graphics architecture, built on a 14nm process and has 1.5 billion transistors. For speeds it's shown to peak at 400MHz at 1.2v.
Unfortunate that it isn't player three entering the game of high end discrete graphics, but perhaps this is them getting their toes wet in the market. I asked Kyle Bennett if he had tested the last Intel GPU back in 1998, and was told "I remember having one and testing it, but I don't remember writing a review about it since is sucked, and I wanted to spend time on good products." Hopefully the new one is at least better than that. Thanks to cageymaru for the story.

All indications are that this is a lower end discrete GPU, likely intended for laptops and maybe systems like the NUC. It's actually a two-chip solution—the first chip contains the GPU and a system agent, and the second chip is an FPGA that connects to the host PC.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 6:33 PM (CST)

Facebook Co-Founder Says Digital Economy Will Continue Destroying Jobs

In an interview with CNBC, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes said that thinks that technology is going to "continue to destroy work." He also states that Americans who make less than $50k a year should be given a government stipend of $500 per month, as long as you are working. The boost he says should be similar to the earned income tax credit, but expanded, modernized, and made flat.
I see where Chris is coming from, and I can relate for sure, I was let go from a job I was at for over 10 years with the reason of "position eliminated due to technology." I will also say as someone who makes less than $50k a year, while $500 a month won't pay for much on its own, the fact he only extends it to those in the workforce makes sense.

Under his plan, Hughes said, "As long as you're working for your country, your country takes care of you." He explained, "If you make less than $50,000 a year, and you're working, you get $500 as a guaranteed income in the background every month via direct deposit or a debit card."

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 6:08 PM (CST)

Burnout Paradise Returns With $40 Remastered Edition

EA is announcing that Burnout Paradise is coming back with Burnout Paradise Remastered, featuring 4k graphics, 8 player online and offline multiplayer, the full original soundtrack, and the 8 main DLC packs from the original release. The remastered version will run at 1080p 60FPPS on the PS4 and Xbox One, and 4k 60FPS on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. It's releasing for consoles March 16th, and PC "coming soon"
Way to slap me in the face with disappointment EA. I loved Burnout Paradise! Original Soundtrack. hell yeah!! "PC Coming Soon." Damn. Oh well, it will give some time to figure out how EA will manage to shoehorn loot boxes in.

In 2008, the original Burnout Paradise™ came roaring off the starting line ready to demolish the competition. Featuring breakneck racing, high-flying stunts, and — most importantly — shameless amounts of automotive destruction, Burnout Paradise set the bar for what an action racing game could be. And now, ten years later, it's back and ready to show a new generation of consoles the true definition of a "smash hit."

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 3:33 PM (CST)

Swype+Dragon Keyboard Discontinued

XDA Developers is reporting that the Swype Keyboard with Dragon Dictation has been discontinued. The developer Nuance made a post on reddit announcing that they will no longer be updating Swype+Dragon keyboard for Android or iOS. Swype was founded in 2002, and the public beta started on Android in 2010, being the first to introduce sliding between letters to type.
I must say I'm a little bummed, but not surprised by this. Swype was the first paid app I ever got after moving to Android, and I used it for years before switching to SwiftKey after several Swype updates had very undesirable results.

Nuance will no longer be updating the Swype+Dragon keyboard for Android. We’re sorry to leave the direct-to-consumer keyboard business, but this change is necessary to allow us to concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 3:03 PM (CST)

Update for Chromebooks Enhances Security, Wipes All Data

In a report from Androidpolice, security researchers recently discovered a bug in the Infineon TPM firmware which allows hackers to potentially brute-force a Chromebook to obtain encrypted data. The bug potentially affects all Chromebooks using the newest Infineon TPM chip, the full list can be found in the original article. The downside is, the way the TPM module works, it requires you to wipe the computer in order to update the firmware.
Doesn't sound to me like most people will need to do this update, as the chance of a brute-force on most people's devices are fairly slim. Makes me wonder if the Intel patch for Meltdown and Spectre will just be a bottle of kerosene and a match.

I did the whole process on my ASUS Chromebook C302, and it only took about a minute. Sadly, wiping your Chromebook is more of a pain with the advent of Android apps, since most of them don't back up user data to the cloud (like the rest of the OS does).

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 2:30 PM (CST)

Steven Seagal Has His Own Cryptocurrency Now

Steven Seagal has become the brand ambassador for Bitcoiin2Gen according to this press release. The new coin is starting its "pre-ICO period" now, with the coin launching next month. Bitcoiin2Gen is ethereum based, and will have its own wallet and mining machines. You can sign up for the Bitcoiin-2nd Generation here by using referral code "Seagal 9."
Here is where I usually add a witty comment or my opinion, this time I think the quote below really says it all. On a scale from 1 to Even... I can't.

As a Buddhist, Zen teacher, and healer, Steven lives by the principles that the development of the physical self is essential to protect the spiritual man. He believes that what he does in his life is about leading people into contemplation to wake them up and enlighten them in some manner. These are precisely the objectives of the Bitcoiin2Gen to empower the community by providing a decentralized P2P payment system with its own wallet, mining ecosystem and robust blockchain platform without the need of any third party.

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 1:31 PM (CST)

5-Way Mech Keyboard Roundup & 2.5 Tech Guys at Hot Hardware

Chris over at Hot Hardware took the time to do a roundup review that covers five difference mechanical keyboards from Corsair, Azio, HyperX, Aukey, and Cherry. Interestingly enough, the one from Cherry, was the only one that sucked.

Overall, the cons were limited, as all the keyboards performed well and some exceeded our expectations. They all offered some solid features that ranged from customizable backlighting to silent key switches, and we have to say, overall we were impressed their quality, considering how varied the boards were. So, if you were looking for a clear-cut winner, there really isn't one here. What we have are five different mechanical keyboards that all do different things, servicing different user requirements, at different price points.

While you are over there, catch the latest episode of 2.5 Geeks which mentions "Geek Love" in the synopsis. I am afraid to watch.

2.5 Geeks 2/14/18: Geek Love, Raven Ridge, GTX 2080, Snapdragon 845, Clever Dog Bots, New SSDs!

Discussion Posted by Kyle 11:32 AM (CST)

PUBG to Start Using Ping Times to Pool Matches

That guy with the 7ms ping got you down because you are facing him with your mighty 50ms ping and expecting to get the drop on him? Fret no more! The PUBG devs are going now testing implementing ping-pooled matching. Awesome pings are prioritized, and suck pings, well, I guess are not. I think?

Unlike the method considered earlier, we are going to divide the matching pool depending on ping. This means that the users with lower pings will be prioritized during matchmaking. The team is expecting to improve the overall play experience by splitting the matching pool rather than restricting connection depending on ping. Preparations are underway to test this method in some regions, with first trials planned to start this week. Specific dates will be shared when ready.

Discussion Posted by Kyle 10:36 AM (CST)

Flight Sim Labs Adds DRM aka Malware to its Airbus

The company, Flight Sim Labs, that apparently makes and sells add-on planes for the game Flight Sim X, decided it would spike its Airbus A320-X with malware. If you downloaded its plane without paying for it, you were the target. The file would scan for a legit serial number, and if it did not find one, it would then send all your passwords stored in the Chrome browser back to the company. Not sure what was intended to be done with the information. The virtual A320-X costs $100. Funny that the company tried to pass it off as a DRM measure.

""Test.exe' is part of the DRM," he said, "and is only targeted against specific pirate copies of copyrighted software obtained illegally.… we realize that a few of you were uncomfortable with this particular method which might be considered to be a bit heavy handed on our part."

Discussion Posted by Kyle 7:58 AM (CST)

Maduro Pump Petro-Backed Crypto as Bitcoin Continues Comeback

While Venezuela is being pounded to death by runaway inflation, the Venezuelan Government and Maduro have decided to start selling its Petro cryptocurrency (PTR). Every PTR coin is supposedly backed by a barrel of Venezuelan oil. Maduro is looking to sell his 100M crypto tokens for $6B. I think "token" is the key word here. I highly suggest you run, don't walk, in the other direction, but what do I know? There are only 82.4M coins left!

"The largest and most important companies and Blockchain in the world are with Venezuela, we are going to sign agreements," Maduro expressed. "Six weeks ago I announced the creation of the Venezuelan cryptocurrency," the president adding that the government had been working to launch the currency since then. Maduro previously announced that the value of the entire Petro issuance of 100 million tokens would be just over US$6 billion. The cryptocurrency, which will be backed by the oil resources of the country, aims to begin a new economic era in the nation.

Bitcoin continues its steady rise on the week as well.
Discussion Posted by Kyle 7:40 AM (CST)
Monday February 19, 2018

Sneaky Ways App Developers Get You Addicted

In a report from Business Insider, Jonathan Kay, chief operating officer of app analytics firm Apptopia goes into several of the ways that app developers use to get people hooked on using them. The article is incredibly detailed, going from Instagram's push notifications, to Twitter using the spinning wheel for loading in the same way as used in slot machines.
Fascinating stuff for sure. We have seen for years how companies use subliminal messages in ads and the like, so seeing how it's implimented in apps is new territory. I'm also happy to say I have exactly zero of the apps mentioned in the article on any of my devices, dirty sneaky devs can't trick me.

For another, app makers are using deliberate techniques to attract your attention. They aren't simply relying on you to come to them whenever you have downtime. "I think people want to be sucked in," Kay said. "Then it becomes a game of who can be more clever at grabbing that attention."

Discussion Posted by rgmekanic 5:39 PM (CST)

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