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General News News (1414)

Malware Contained in Minecraft Skins Infected Nearly 50,000 Accounts

Category: General News
Posted: April 19, 2018 01:14PM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

If you enjoy playing Minecraft, you may want to be cautious of the skins you use. Apparently Avast Threat Labs discovered there were user-created Minecraft skins with malware embedded in the PNG files. Some 50,000 user accounts might have been infected by the malware that tries to reformat hard drives, delete backups, and delete system files.

Fortunately the issue has been resolved, with non-image date being removed from PNGs when uploaded to Minecraft.net, but even then the code would not be run by Minecraft: Java Edition.

The PNG format allows for more information to be stored in the files than just image data, and that metadata is no being stripped from the files when they are uploaded. If a user did activate the code, there is a good chance antivirus software would have caught it and alerted you to it. If you are concerned you might have been infected, a full system scan is recommended to find and remove the malware.

Source: WCCFtech and Minecraft.net

AMD Provides Spectre V2 Mitigation Update

Category: General News
Posted: April 11, 2018 02:11PM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

After multiple months from the public disclosure, news about the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities continues to come out, but at least much of this has been good news concerning the release of mitigations. Intel's efforts have been discussed before and now AMD has released an update on its work to block the Spectre Variant 2 vulnerability. Spectre Variant 1 can and has been dealt with through operating system updates while the Meltdown vulnerability only impacted Intel CPUs. There are mitigations for Variant 2 that can be deployed to operating systems, and Microsoft actually just pushed out patches to do this, but these also need microcode updates to support them. AMD has now released these updates to its customers and partners to deliver them to users of processors going as far back as the original Bulldozer processors released in 2011. You will want to watch manufacturer websites for BIOS updates that contain the microcode changes.

Source: AMD

Steam Profile Privacy Settings Get New Options

Category: General News
Posted: April 11, 2018 01:27PM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

If you have ever looked at your Steam profile and wished you could hide the library you have built over the years, you now have that option. Valve has changed profile privacy settings to make it possible to hide your 'game details,' including the games you own and have on your wishlist, as well as the related metadata like achievements and playtime. This information can be set to be public, viewable by friends only, or hidden from everyone. Your total playtime though can be hidden separately from this command, so you can keep that secret while still showing off your collection. The 'game details' setting also impacts whether you are identified as being in-game by others, and if the title of the game is shown.

These are not the only privacy changes coming, such as the addition of an Invisible mode alongside Online, Away, and Offline. With Invisible selected, you will appear to others as though you are Offline, but still have access to your friends list and the ability to send and receive messages. I can definitely see this as being useful for some and will be a welcome change when it arrives.

Source: Steam Blog

Chris Hook Leaving AMD

Category: General News
Posted: April 11, 2018 01:15PM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

For the past 17 years Chris Hook has been working at ATI and then AMD, ultimately becoming the company's Senior Director of Global Product Marketing, and he has now announced he is leaving the company. Many things have changed since he started, like what counted as high resolution and the unit for measuring transistor size. Exactly what he will be doing next is not publicly known, but in his announcement he says this new role outside of AMD will being at the end of the month. It will be interesting to see where he goes but also who replaces him, and the kind of changes the replacement brings with them.

Source: WCCFtech

Intel May Enter Discrete Gaming GPU Market in 2020

Category: General News
Posted: April 9, 2018 11:34AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Following the announcement Raja Koduri was leaving AMD's Radeon Technologies Group to join Intel, this rumor might not be very surprising, but it is still rather interesting. Presently there are two main duo-opolies in the tech industry, with Intel-AMD being the pair for x86 CPUs and AMD/NVIDIA being the pair for GPUs. Intel has wanted to disrupt the GPU market before, with little to no success, but as the highly parallel design of GPUs becomes more desirable for more applications, it wants to try again. This new attempt at an Intel discrete GPU currently has the code name Arctic Sound and though it had been targeting data centers and edge applications, the rumor is there will be two variants. While one will keep to the originally expected targets, the other will be for gaming, potentially launching in 2020. Arctic Sound will also take advantage of Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) which is currently being used in the hybrid Intel+Vega packages that combine an Intel CPU with a Vega GPU and HBM 2 onto a single package. Using EMIB to enable a multi-chip design may help Intel and its fabs compete with the current GPU leaders AMD and NVIDIA that have had many years to develop and refine techniques and technologies.

This currently exists as just a rumor, but it is not unreasonable and is interesting nonetheless. It also says the successor to Arctic Sound would be Jupiter Sound, but it would likely only exist on paper at this point.

Source: WCCFtech

Complaint to FTC Alleges YouTube Violates Child Online Privacy Protection Act

Category: General News
Posted: April 9, 2018 10:27AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

One of the amazing aspects of the Internet is how so much information and content are available to people, but it is also a potentially dangerous aspect. A complaint has been filed with the Federal Trade Commission claiming YouTube violates the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which is limits how a company collects data on persons under 13 years old, including requiring parental consent. As such data collection is used by YouTube, and other websites, to sell and target advertising, this could potentially mean the company has been profiting off of this information too.

According to YouTube's terms of service, it is not for those under the age of 13, and indeed to have an account you must say you are older than that. While that is what the TOS says and the accounts require, videos can be viewed freely without an account, it is possible to use someone else's account, and kids could lie when creating the account.

The complaint claims YouTube collected data over the source of years on 23 million children. If the FTC does find the company in violation of COPPA, it could fine YouTube up to $41,484 per violation, which very rapidly adds up into billions. It is also possible the FTC could require YouTube age gate its videos, but as an employee of one of the signers of the complaints points out, kids could just lie to get through the gate anyway. The preference would be to find a way for YouTube to still have content for kids but also find a means to comply with COPPA, and with the FTC reviewing the complaint, it may play a role in deciding what happens next.

Source: CNN Money

Report Claims Apple Might Replace Intel CPUs with Its Own in Macs Come 2020

Category: General News
Posted: April 2, 2018 04:18PM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

While it might be April 2, this is a rumor and likely not a prank. According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a plan to drop Intel CPUs from its products for an internally designed processor, starting as soon as 2020. Apple already designs its own ARM-based processors for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV, so such a move could unify the various products on to the same platform. It would also allow Apple to release new products on a timeline it controls, instead of following the release of new Intel CPUs.

While it is estimated only 5% of Intel's revenue comes from its deal with Apple, it stocks dropped as much as 9.2% today (though the whole stock market also dropped) making it the biggest intraday drop in over two years. This plan, with the code name Kalamata, is still in the early stages of development according to Bloomberg's source, so its timeline could change or the entire plan could be dropped. Part of it may depend on what can be expected from the Apple-designed processors, as Intel CPUs still provide greater performance than ARM-based processors, but if the company feels its products will not lose capabilities, then perhaps we will see this happen.

For now this should probably just be considered a rumor, but it is one that could have a significant impact on the technology industry, if it turns out to be true. Apple could become the first of several companies deciding to turn to internally-designed processors instead of purchasing them from others.

Source: Bloomberg

SK Hynix GDDR6 Memory Reaching Mass Production in June-July

Category: General News
Posted: March 30, 2018 08:09AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

It was about a year ago when SK Hynix put out some information about its upcoming GDDR6 memory offerings, including that it will be used in a "forthcoming high-end graphics card," and now GamersNexus learned at GTC 2018 that the next generation memory will be reaching mass production in about three months. While there are no details on what the new graphics card might be, the speculation is it will be the part of NVIDIA's next series of GPUs. If SK Hynix is a launch-day memory provider, then it might not be long after mass production begins that these graphics cards could come to market, but if the company is not, then the wait might be longer.

Other information GamersNexus learned was that GDDR6 will be roughly 20% more expensive than the current standard, GDDR5. Considering it should be twice as fast while running at a lower voltage, that is not too bad an increase, but also as manufacturing continues, the cost should drop to 15% and even 10%.

WCCFtech adds that SK Hynix will be producing GDDR6 chips in both 1 GB and 2 GB capacities, which is important because each 32-bit GDDR controller connects to a single chip. A GPU with a 256-bit wide memory bus would then be able to have either 8 GB or 16 GB of memory. If NVIDIA is the only customer for this, then that would allow the same or multiple GPUs to have different memory configurations, or this could be an indication of other customers. We do know AMD has also been working on a GDDR6 memory controller, so while there is less anticipation of a new series of GPUs from them, they are also working to adopt the new memory standard.

Source: GamersNexus and WCCFtech

AV1 Video Codec Specification Released

Category: General News
Posted: March 28, 2018 09:08AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Whether we are watching a movie off of a Blu-Ray disc or streaming a video from YouTube, the video codec used is important. The long-held standard is h.264, or AVC, and while it has served our video needs very well for years, as the desire for more media with more detail at higher resolutions has grown, a successor has been needed. While technically better codec do exist, like h.265 (HEV) and VP9, there have been adoption issues, including the cost of the license, which is why the Alliance for Open Media, AOMedia, was formed to create the AV1 codec. Today the AV1 specification has been publicly released, which is a major step toward seeing it adopted in software and hardware.

The AV1 codec, or AOMedia Video Codec 1.0, has been developed with the goal of providing 4K UHD and higher resolution content while being more efficient than other encoders and royalty free. Its target is video streaming and with an average of 30% better compression compared to its competitors, it is meant to help bring better quality videos to more devices.

As the specification has only just been released, it may be some time before we see AV1 deployed in software and hardware products. Although with partners like AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, the roll-out might not be slow. Still, it will likely take some time for encoders and decoders to become optimized enough to compete with some current standards, like x264, which might not offer the same level of compression but will almost certainly be faster.

Source: AOMedia

Ethereum Mining ASIC Coming and May Impact GPU Sales

Category: General News
Posted: March 28, 2018 07:32AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Cryptocurrency mining has been the focus of a lot of debate and argument for several months now, and receives a lot of blame for the high cost of video cards today. While Bitcoin might be the most famous of them, Ethereum is also a favorite of many, in part because of how some GPUs are able to mine it very quickly. There are now reports that the cryptocurrency mining company Bitmain might be releasing an Ethereum mining ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) which might upset the current state of video card sales, but there are also reasons why its impacts might be limited.

According to CNBC, at least one analyst at Susquehanna believes the release of the ASIC will result in AMD shares dropping to $7.50 from $13 on Friday and NVIDIA shares falling to $200 from $215. These predictions came along with a downgrade for AMD from neutral to negative. While an Ethereum ASIC might be disruptive though, there are some problematic points to this analysis.

The analyst estimates Ethereum related sales accounted for 20% of AMD's sales, and 10% of NVIDIA's. In AMD's Q4'17 earnings conference call though, the company stated the annual revenue related to Blockchain was around "mid-single digit percentage," which is quite far from the 20% estimate. I do not recall a similar estimate for NVIDIA, but with its even larger GPU market share and the preference for AMD GPUs for mining, one would think it would be less than its competitor. Another issue is Ethereum is not the only alternative cryptocurrency out there. There are many others and even if Ethereum is no longer profitable on GPUs, any of these others might be and continue to drive sales.

Source: CNBC and AMD

Vive Pro HMD Recommends GTX 1070 or RX Vega 56 for Best Experience

Category: General News
Posted: March 27, 2018 11:49AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

The Vive Pro HMD from HTC will begin shipping on April 5 and like many peripherals, it has a list of recommended computer specs (at the bottom of the page). While the complete list of recommended GPUs is fairly sizeable, below the list is a separate recommendation saying you want a GTX 1070 or RX Vega 56 (or better) for the best experience. Those are both upgrades over the GTX 1060 and RX 480 that are listed above this note, but this is not too surprising to see. The Vive Pro has a pair of 1440x1600 displays in it that ideally will refresh at 90 Hz, so that is a fair amount of work for your GPU to do. These higher requirements no doubt reflect this, even though less power GPUs can get the job done well enough.

Source: Vive

Foxconn To Purchase Belkin for $866 Million

Category: General News
Posted: March 27, 2018 11:35AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Foxconn is a company you might be familiar with, either from the different times it has been in the news, or because it made or assembled products you use, such as Apple's iPhones. It has been announced the Taiwan-based company wants to purchase Belkin, a Los Angeles-based company and owner of Linksys and Wemo. Linksys is a recognized wireless router brand and Wemo products are for smart home systems.

While this deal, if it goes through, would be a significant investment into the United States, Foxconn is already aiming to spend some $9 billion to construct a plant in Wisconsin to make device screens. It is not certain this deal will close, as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States will likely need to approve it. The committee was recently investigating Broadcom's bit to purchase Qualcomm, which was ultimately blocked by President Trump over national security concerns.

Source: CNN

Mozilla Releases Facebook Container Extension for Firefox

Category: General News
Posted: March 27, 2018 08:25AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Facebook has recently been coming under great scrutiny for the data it collects on users and what kind of access others have to this data. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted mistakes were made with how this data was handled previously, pledging to make changes to better protect it in the future. If that is not good enough for you, or you would simply prefer to have tighter control over what Facebook can learn about you, Mozilla has released an extension to restrict what access the social media site has to your data.

This new extension is the Facebook Container extension and it will put Facebook in a separate container from the rest of your tabs. After installing the extension it wipes your Facebook cookies and logs you out, but the next time you log in it will be in a special container. From this tab you can do everything you normally can with Facebook, but any other site you visit will be outside of the container. This includes sites you get to through links found on Facebook. This prevents Facebook from being able to track your behavior or other information, except for the times you may click on the Facebook Share buttons from outside the container. This button will inform Facebook you clicked it, but the Facebook page it opens will be placed within the container.

Because of how your Facebook log-in is isolated like this, some features may not work properly, such as embedded Facebook comments and Like buttons when you are logged in but in a tab outside of the container. This prevents Facebook from knowing the website you are on, but may result in some websites looking different than you remember.

While the Facebook Container extension is specialized to work on Facebook specifically, there is also a Multi-Account Containers extension for use with other websites and log-ins.

Source: Mozilla [1] and [2] (Facebook Container Extension)

In 2017 Steam Potentially Brought in $4.3 Billion

Category: General News
Posted: March 23, 2018 09:57AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

These numbers are just estimates, but as they come from the person who runs Steam Spy, Sergey Galyonkin, there is a good chance they are accurate. According to Galyonkin, 2017 may have set a new record for Steam by bringing in $4.3 billion, which is up from 2016's $3.5 billion. Looking more deeply into the data, there were 21,000 games that appeared on Steam in 2017 and the top one hundred brought in half of the total revenue. Doing some quick math and we see that means a bit shy of 0.5% of the new games on the platform accounted for half of the money it brought in.

The top earning titles are not too hard to guess, with PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds reaching $600 million in sales across its 28 million players, with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive behind it at $120 million, and then Grand Theft Auto V coming in third with $83 million in revenue.

It is worth noting these numbers are from game sales and so do not include micro-transactions and subscriptions, which means the actual total revenue could be significantly greater.

Source: Kitguru

Zuckerberg Admits Mistakes Were Made Concerning Data Collection By App

Category: General News
Posted: March 22, 2018 02:10PM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

A recent topic in the news has been Cambridge Analytica, a company that had data for millions of Facebook users, despite most never approving their data being collected this way. It took some time, but Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has finally commented on the story, admitting Facebook made mistakes. According to him though, "the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago." This is a reference to changes in the Facebook developer platform policies made in 2014, but it was prior to this the 'thisisyourdigital life' app that collected the data was made and used. The app was made by a university academic Aleksandr Kogan and it paid some 300,000 users to take a personality test and have their data collected for academic use. The way the numbers went from 300,000 users to 50 million users is because the app also collected data on the friends of the approving 300,000.

According to Zuckerberg, Facebook learned of Kogan sharing the collected data with Cambridge Analytica, and the company reacted by banning the app and demanding both Kogan and Cambridge Analytica delete all of the improperly acquired data. While both provided certifications that they had deleted the data, it appears Cambridge Analytica did not, which has prompted the current controversy and Facebook to respond by promising to do more to protect users' data.

Part of the response is going to be an audit of all apps that had access to large amounts of data prior to the 2014 changes, and any developer that does not agree to the audit will be banned. Also developers will lose access to a user's data if they have not used the app for three months, and users will have a tool at the top of the News Feed indicating the apps they have used and a means to revoke permissions to the data. The amount of data an app can get when you sign in will also be reduced to just your name, profile photo, and email address.

Source: The Inquirer

CLOUD Act Might Pass With Omnibus Spending Bill

Category: General News
Posted: March 22, 2018 07:17AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

When looking for a file on a computer, it is going to be as easy as accessing the computer and looking for it, but when a file is in the cloud, the access and search becomes much more complicated, a fact US law enforcement has been running into. For some cases the information stored in the cloud is actually located on servers in another country, leading to the issue of if a company providing it to the law enforcement of one nation violates the laws of the one that actually contains the server within its borders. This is a very real issue as there is a case the Supreme Court is considering about whether the Department of Justice had the legal power to require Microsoft to turn over emails stored on a server in Ireland, without getting the permission of Ireland's government.

To address this the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act has been drafted and is now part of the Omnibus spending bill. What the CLOUD Act will provide is a legal framework for law enforcement to request data from overseas servers, something technology companies and law enforcement desire. This framework would not be one-sided either but also provide a basis for reciprocal treaties with other nations, for requests of data from computers within each other's borders. By passing the CLOUD Act, the pending Supreme Court decision would be rendered moot and substantially reduce the amount of time it takes to navigate treaties to collect evidence, which can take years currently.

Source: Axios

Oculus Releases Hardware Report on Computer Running Oculus Software

Category: General News
Posted: March 21, 2018 10:29AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Oculus has released data on the hardware people are running Oculus software one for the four weeks ending on March 19. According to the data on CPUs, Intel leads AMD at 89.1% with AMD processors powering just 10.9% of the computers surveyed. This is not too surprising and roughly matches the numbers in the Steam Hardware Survey, though it is interesting the only AMD CPU to crack the top 15 is the FX-8350 (at 2.1%) and none of the popular Ryzen CPUs surpassed the 1.8% of the Intel Core i7-4790. The top two CPUs are the i7-6700K (9.8%) and i7-7700K (8.3%) while the newer i7-8700K is at the number eight position (2.8%).

On the GPU side, NVIDIA is in a commanding 92.2% of Oculus software running computers, compared to AMD's 7.8%. The three top GPUs are hardly surprising, being the GTX 1070 (19.4%), GTX 1080 (17.3%), and the GTX 970 (10.4%). The first AMD GPU to appear on the top 15 list is the RX 480 with 2.0% and the RX 580 is next with 1.4%, taking the eleventh and twelfth slots. The GTX 960 (1.3%) separates the RX 580 from the R9 200 series and R9 390 series, which both came in at 1.0%. AMD fares a little better in the current Steam Hardware Survey data, but NVIDIA still clearly holds the crown over its competitors there too.

Source: Oculus

IBM Developing Very Small Computers to Use Blockchain to Secure Products and More

Category: General News
Posted: March 21, 2018 09:54AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

I keep my desktop under my desk, so next to my leg is a mid-tower case with an E-ATX motherboard and a CPU the size of a credit card, and in my pocket is another computer, a fair bit larger than a credit card. These are both pretty powerful devices, compared to what was possible a decade ago, especially when you also consider the size of the current devices. You have to go back almost three decades for the performance equivalent, but IBM has recently shown off a new computer it has built that is smaller than grains of salt.

The entire package of the computer, processor, memory, communications, and photovoltaic cell for power, comes to just one square millimeter but still offers the performance of an x86 processor from 1990. It can also be made for under ten cents. What is the purpose of such a tiny computer? While more may be imagined in the future, one currently considered application is to secure various products using blockchain. These computers would serve as crypto-anchors and could be used to check the authenticity of products, such as medicines, and track their sources, which would be valuable for diamonds and other resources, by following something from the point of manufacture to delivery to the customer.

IBM is currently working with prototypes of these computers, but clients can expect the first models to be available to them within 18 months and within five years, advances in various technologies may take it from the lab to the marketplace.



Source: Mashable and IBM

Futuremark Working to Bring DirectX Raytracing to 3DMark

Category: General News
Posted: March 21, 2018 08:48AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Microsoft, NVIDIA, and AMD have all made announcements of ray tracing recently, and bringing real-time techniques and technologies to games, so it is probably not too surprising Futuremark, the developers of 3DMark have also been working on the technology. Today the company has released a demo to show off DirectX Raytracing (DXR) as it works to eventually release a new 3DMark benchmark test that will use it.

Ray tracing is not a new method, but is quite demanding, which is why its use has been very limited for decades and almost vacant for any real-time applications, such as video games. As computer hardware has become more powerful though, and more advanced algorithms have been developed, it appears the industry at large believes the time to bring ray tracing to modern graphics has come. What Futuremark specifically describes though is not a move to completely using ray tracing, but combining it with the long used and very fast rasterization for creating scenes. The ray tracing is used to enhance various light effects, such as shadows and reflections, which you can see in the video below. If you follow the source link you will also see GIFs that go between having DXR on and off, to better illustrate the difference ray tracing can make.

Futuremark says it hopes to have the new benchmark test out by the end of the year, but it also states the DXR tech demo is able to run in real-time on current GPU hardware. It was also relatively easy to implement into the company's DirectX 12 game engine, as it is built on existing methods, which is something you can learn more about at Microsoft's DirectX Developer Blog. Futuremark also states that it should be “relatively straightforward” to implement in modern game engines. The tech demo does not use NVIDIA RTX or AMD’s ray tracing solution and only exists as a tech demo, so you should not expect it to be part of a future 3DMark test.



Source: Futuremark

AMD Releases Initial Assessment of Security Flaws Found by CTS Labs

Category: General News
Posted: March 20, 2018 02:10PM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Last week a number of security flaws in AMD products were reported by CTS Labs, a security research company. The company only provided AMD with the information on these issues the day before publicly announcing them, but already AMD has news to report on these issues from its initial technical assessment.

While many of the issues were described as relating to the Zen architecture, AMD states the issues are actually only associated with the firmware for the embedded security control processor (AMD Secure Processor) in some of its products, and the chipset used in some AM4 and TR4 platforms. AMD also makes a point that all of the issues require administrative access to the system, at which point the user has unrestricted access to the system and can use a far greater range of attacks than just those described by CTS Labs. Additionally, modern operating systems and enterprise-quality hypervisors have security controls to prevent unauthorized administrative access.

While CTS Labs had listed them as 13 issues, AMD has grouped them into three categories for a table to describe the impact of these issues and the planned mitigation. For all of these, AMD states patches to the AMD Secure Processor firmware or Promontory chipset should mitigate the issues, with no performance impact expected. AMD is working on the firmware updates to release in the coming weeks and is working with the third-party designer and manufacturer for the Promontory chipset to create mitigations there. All of these patches would be deployed through BIOS updates.

Source: AMD

Ubisoft and Vivendi Reach Deal for Vivendi to Exit

Category: General News
Posted: March 20, 2018 01:04PM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Some time ago Vivendi purchased stock in Ubisoft, and for a number of months there have been concerns Vivendi was trying to take the company over. Ubisoft has been trying to prevent such a move and today revealed plans for doing exactly that with Vivendi selling its entire stake in Ubisoft. Ubisoft is purchasing some of these shares back through a structured transaction, while Guillemot Brothers SE, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Tencent, and Accelerated Bookbuilding is used to purchase the remaining stake. Vivendi has also agreed to not acquire any shares of Ubisoft for five years and Tencent also has some limitations on it, as part of the agreement. Tencent will not transfer the shares it will acquire and will not attempt to increase its share or voting rights in Ubisoft. The two companies have agreed to a strategic partnership though to accelerate Ubisoft's reach into China.

Source: Press Release

AMD Showing Off Real-Time Ray Tracing with Radeon ProRender

Category: General News
Posted: March 20, 2018 06:44AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Yesterday NVIDIA revealed its RTX real-time ray-tracing technology and Microsoft unveiled DirectX Raytracing, and while AMD's GDC 2018 session on integrating real-time ray-tracing techniques into existing renderers is scheduled for tomorrow, it has shown off some of it today. The company states it has achieved real-time ray tracing by combining aspects of the very fast rasterization rendering with ray tracing. Rasterization is used to draw basic structures and surfaces very quickly and then a ray tracing process is applied to compute various advanced light-effects, such as reflections, shadows, and transparency.

Support for this real-time ray tracing method is coming to Radeon ProRender, a physically-based rendering engine AMD developed some time ago and continues to improve. It has been built using OpenCL, allowing it to work on multiple operating systems, and is able to work with GPUs and CPUs that supports the required version of OpenCL, regardless of its vendor. It can also support multiple GPUs and CPUs in the same machine and at the same time and its source code is available. This new real-time ray tracing has been built on Vulkan, so it too should support multiple platforms, but AMD partners need to contact their AMD representative to gain access to it.

While Radeon ProRender does target the work of 3D professionals, game developers will also able to use this technique to increase photorealism in games, without sacrificing performance. How this will be applied to improve gaming graphics will be discussed in the future though.



Source: AMD

Some Information on How Silicon Valley Keeps Its Secrets Revealed

Category: General News
Posted: March 19, 2018 09:53AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

There are many people who believe a job at a company like Facebook or Google would be wonderful, but as The Guardian reports, the public image companies like these put forward may be more of a façade. While any company will take measures to protect its intellectual property, some Silicon Valley companies are apparently going to extremes that involve extensive digital and physical surveillance, as well as incentives to keep secrets after leaving the company. One example of this is from a former Facebook employee who was brought before the "rat-catching" team after he had leaked some "innocuous information" to the press. The team had records of screenshots he had taken, links he had clicked on or just hovered over, and apparently the team also indicated they had viewed chats he had with the journalist prior to him even joining the company.

This former employee also pointed out that at Facebook, a lot of information is made available to everyone, such as that on upcoming products you are not associated with, and thus have no need to be aware of. The tradeoff to being trusted with all of this information is that if you step out of line, "they'll squash you like a bug." This kind of trusting environment is also used to create a tribal mentality, making people less like to betray it with leaks, but according to some this also results in problems being left alone. One former Google employee says he had to deal with a manager that had anger management problems that no one would do anything about until a vice president actually witnessed the manager yelling at him in a hallway.

While potentially surveilling the activities of employees is one thing, apparently the contractors, who are not full employees of the company but still do a great deal of work for them, can have things even worse because of how easily they can be fired. The Guardian got to look at a contract signed by a European Facebook content moderator that allowed the company to monitor and record his social media activities, including his personal Facebook account, emails, phone calls, and Internet use. When on company premises his belongings could also be searched and refusing would be considered gross misconduct. The Guardian also states security teams at these companies may use USB drives as traps, leaving them out to see how the staff reacts to them. If someone after finding it actually connects it to a computer, they are escorted out of the building.

There are more stories and details on some of what Silicon Valley companies are doing and what it is possible for them to do at the source link, so check it out if you are curious.

Source: The Guardian

Mozilla Master Password Solution Not Very Secure

Category: General News
Posted: March 19, 2018 08:52AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Adblock Plus is a fairly popular extension for browsers, allowing users to easily block various kinds of content as they browse the web. Wladimit Palant created this extension because he was interested in Firefox extensions, but he has interests beyond it, including web application security. Recently he looked into how Mozilla, the company behind both the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client, implements its master password system for securing your various log-in passwords. In a word, he was very disappointed in what he found.

In these two Mozilla products the master password is used to protect your various saved passwords, both by hiding them from anyone looking at your profile and by serving as the basis for an encryption key. Without a master password, the passwords are effectively stored in "plain text," because while the passwords themselves are encrypted, the key is stored without any protection. Going through the source code for the master password, Palant discovered the function to create the encryption key does so by salting the password and then hashing it with SHA-1 once. As he points out in his post, an NVIDIA GTX 1080 can work through 8.5 billion SHA-1 hashes in a second, so cracking this key would take, on average, one minute, based on a password strength he believes is an overestimation.

By using more hashing iterations, it would be possible to make such a brute force attack more difficult, but Palant feels a strong algorithm would be a better solution. Unfortunately he doubts if it will be implemented because while he only discovered this recently, the issue was first reported nine years ago and has been unfixed in all this time.

If you are thinking other browsers would be better, this is not necessarily true, nor is this the only security issue Firefox suffers from. While looking at Palant's website about the master password issue, I also read a more recent post about the syncing tools Firefox Sync and Chrome Sync, neither of which is very secure. For Firefox Sync, the process for securing the information is actually pretty good, but it is done on the server. The client uses a different system that runs the hashing algorithm only 1000 times, which a GTX 1080 could crack in five days, on average. While this password is not stored on the server, there is the potential for an attacker to intercept it.

I am not a security expert, but Chrome Sync looks to be in worse shape. First, setting your own passphrase to protect your synced data is an option that is not even presented to you when installing. This means Google would set the key, potentially allowing it to have access. Even if you do set your own passphrase (under Settings – Sync – Encryption Options, if you were curious), it could be broken in just two days, on average, using a GTX 1080. It is even worse than that as the salting algorithm used is constant, which means the same password will produce the same key for any Chrome user. In just days, someone with a single GTX 1080 could have a key to access the information of many users, but someone with more powerful hardware could do the job even faster.

Suddenly I feel like a touch of paranoia is a good thing.

Source: Wladimir Palant's notes [1] and [2]

Tobii and Qualcomm Bringing Eye Tracking to Mobile VR/AR Headsets

Category: General News
Posted: March 15, 2018 09:01AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Head mounted displays for virtual and augmented reality are still relatively new technologies with new methods and techniques being developed to further improve the experience. One of the ways being worked on is the integration of eye tracking into the headsets, and now Tobii and Qualcomm are working together to achieve exactly that. Tobii is a leader in eye tracking technology and has made devices specifically for gaming, including the Tracker 4C that brings both eye and head tracking to games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance, F1 2017, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided while Qualcomm is a leader for system on a chip products, like the Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform. Together these companies are creating a full reference design and development kit for this platform that will including Tobii's EyeCore tracking algorithms and hardware.

By bringing eye tracking to headsets several features will become possible, such as more intelligent foveated rendering. Foveated rendering reduces the graphical detail of the periphery of the image, focusing resources at the center of the frame and improving efficiency, and with eye tracking this can be better applied to where you are actually looking. The distance between your pupils can also be measured this way, allowing images to be automatically oriented to them. Additionally eye tracking can be used to improve the accuracy of controllers and so in-game content can make direct eye contact with you, improving social interactions.

Personally I see how these technologies are a natural fit and am looking forward to see what comes of this collaboration.



Source: Tobii

NVIDIA Coming Under Fire for GeForce Partner Program

Category: General News
Posted: March 12, 2018 09:21AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Last week, Kyle Bennett of [H]ardOCP put up an article that is providing an interesting look at some business dealings between NVIDIA, OEMs, and AIB partners through the GeForce Partner Program (GPP). According to an NVIDIA blog post GPP is meant to provide full transparency into the graphics card and software they are sold and to that end, wants to bring consistency across NVIDIA brands and partner brands. NVIDIA would therefore be promoting GPP member brands through their public channels, like social media and events, and these members will get certain benefits from NVIDIA as well, including access to innovations and engineering teams.

The reason Kyle Bennett started looking into GPP is because AMD reached out to [H]ardOCP and other websites about it, and while what AMD presented was not enough to tell a story, he reached out to contacts at seven companies for more information. As is stated in the source link below, not one of these contacts was willing to speak on the record, if they said anything at all, and those that did requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs or their being retribution by NVIDIA on them or their companies. According to Kyle, there were a number of consistencies across the interviews he did get, including the concern the terms of GPP "are likely illegal," it will hurt consumers' choices, and it will disrupt business with those companies doing business with AMD and Intel.

The primary source of those concerns is a GPP requirement that the member companies must have its "Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce," and Kyle has also read documents with this spelled out. This requirement would mean if a company has a gaming brand, which many do, it could not contain anything but GeForce products, so AMD-based GPUs, for example, would be forced out of it, to some non-gaming brand. This would not be limited to gaming graphics cards, but all gaming products such as laptops and pre-built desktops.

While joining the GeForce Partner Program is optional for companies, not being a partner can lose you a number of benefits including: high-effort engineering engagements; early tech engagement; launch partner status; game bundling; sales rebate programs; social media and PR support; marketing reports; and marketing development funds. Kyle specifically pulls out the marketing development funds as being reminiscent of the monopolistic practices Intel used in the past. Multi-billion dollar fines were eventually placed on Intel for those practices.

I suspect this is only the beginning of this story, and hopefully more information will come out before long to better explain the terms of the GeForce Partner Program.

Source: [H]ardOCP

Xbox One S and X Gaining AMD Radeon FreeSync Support

Category: General News
Posted: March 12, 2018 08:41AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Recently Microsoft launched its Inside Xbox series to show more of Team Xbox and celebrate its games, features, and fans. While I do try to keep to just PC news, I think one of the upcoming Xbox One S and Xbox One X features would be worth sharing. Both versions of the console will come to support variable refresh rate on AMD Radeon FreeSync displays. FreeSync is an open standard AMD developed to enable supporting displays to alter their refresh rates in order to match the source. This means when playing a game, screen tearing and stuttering should be removed, provided the frame rate is within the display's FreeSync range.

With FreeSync, the two newer versions of the Xbox One should allow for smoother gameplay, which can be difficult to achieve on consoles with their limited performance as games become more demanding. Of course the display, whether it is a monitor or television, will need to support FreeSync for the variable refresh rate technology to work, when the update with it comes out.

Source: Xbox Wire

Takeover Rumors Push AMD Stock Prices Up

Category: General News
Posted: March 8, 2018 09:47AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Those of you with stock in AMD, or who just follow the stock market, may have noticed a sudden spike recently. The reason is rumors started circulating that someone was going to attempt a takeover of the company. The rumors are unsubstantiated and the name of the entity wanting to purchase the company is also unknown, so it is quite likely the rumors are not true, but it still did help push the stocks up to $12.68. There are other factors to increase the company's valuation of course, including the recent release of the Ryzen APUs, upcoming release of the Ryzen 2000 processors, continued sales of Vega-based graphics cards, and that EPYC-based datacenter products are hitting OEM channels.

Source: WCCFtech

Oculus Rift Platform Temporarily Broken Due to Certificate Expiring

Category: General News
Posted: March 8, 2018 09:01AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Those of you with an Oculus Rift VR headset might have noticed it being unusable recently, an issue that lit up a corner of the Internet it seems, but has since been fixed. Apparently the issue relates to how the Oculus software contacts servers as the security certificate used to protect the connection expired. Without a current certificate, the connection would not succeed, causing the problem.

Oculus has now issued an updated certificate, but, perhaps ironically, delivering it presents an issue as the software cannot automatically update itself to receive the certificate. The company has put together a support page where it directs you where to find and how to install the patch. While the technical issue has been resolved, there are some users who are less than pleased with Oculus, as the company lacks 24/7 customer service and apparently also failed to notify users of the problem, by either reaching out or posting the information in a timely manner. Perhaps we will see Oculus customer service improve for the future.

Source: Oculus forums

Vulkan 1.1 Released

Category: General News
Posted: March 7, 2018 10:26AM
Author: Guest_Jim_*

Today the Khronos Group has released Vulkan 1.1, a new version of the open source, low-level API that brings many improvements. Among these improvements is the integration of a number of extensions for Vulkan 1.0, including those for simultaneously rendering multiple views of the same image, using multiple GPUs in one system, and cross-process API interoperability that is used in demanding applications like virtual reality. Additionally Vulkan 1.1 comes with Subgroup Operations that enables highly-efficient data sharing and manipulation between tasks running in parallel on a GPU and the ability to perform rendering and display operations on resources that cannot be accessed or copied.

Along with the release of Vulkan 1.1 is the SPIR-V 1.3 specification for shaders to support subgroup operations and make enhanced compiler optimizations possible. Also concerning shaders, and very important, Vulkan 1.1 Core supports HLSL, which is a Microsoft shader language, meaning DirectX shaders can be used by Vulkan 1.1. Easier translation of HLSL to SPIR-V also means we may see improved support for Vulkan in the future, by making it easier to develop for both it and DirectX 12, but we could also see Vulkan running on top of DirectX 12 in some application too. The Vulkan Ecosystem Forum has also been created to make sharing issues and opportunities between developers easier.

There are a number of features to be interested in here, especially subgroup operations and the built-in support for device groups, making multi-GPU a part of the core API and easier to enable.

Source: Khronos Group

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