MojoKid writes: Whether you use Linux at home or manage a Linux server, you should waste no time in making sure your OS is completely up-to-date. An exploit called "Dirty COW" has now been revealed, and while it's not the most dangerous one ever released, the fact that it's been around for nine years is causing alarm throughout the Linux community. Dirty COW might sound like an awfully bizarre name for an exploit, but it's named as such because the Linux function it affects is "copy-on-write." COW happens when more than one system call references the same data. To optimize the amount of space that data uses, pointers are used (as with data deduplication). If one call needs to modify the data, that's when the data is copied entirely. As a privilege escalation exploit, code execution could happen after this bug is exploited. Imagine, for example, if someone gains access to a system via SQL injection, but lands as a normal user. With this exploit, the equivalent of root access could be gained, at which point the OS is at the mercy of its attacker.
MojoKid writes: Are our ever more powerful, compact and thin smartphones putting us at risk? Or are we just more sensitized to events like smartphones blowing up since Samsung's nasty Galaxy Note 7 debacle? Regardless, it's beginning to look a lot like the latest smartphone feature trend is spontaneous combustion. While taking a surfing lesson, Australian Mat Jones put his brand-new iPhone 7 underneath some clothing on the seat of his car, safe and sound. Or, so he thought. Upon returning to his vehicle, it was filled with smoke and the source was undeniably his iPhone 7. Not only was the phone destroyed, but his car was torched as well. All smartphones using Lithium-ion batteries have the capability of exploding or catching fire, due to their internal chemical makeup, but under normal circumstances and operating conditions this should never be an issue. Extreme heat can be one contributor to a catastrophic event like this, but that seems an unlikely cause as temperatures are moderate right now at the South Coast of Australia — about 20C (68F) on average. The iPhone 7 in question was also not charging at the time as well. Apple is reportedly working with Jones to determine root cause of the explosion.
MojoKid writes: Samsung announced its latest, consumer-class NVMe M.2 based SSD 960 Pro solid state drive a few weeks back but today marks the official launch of the product. Samsung's new drive is an absolute beast with peak transfer speeds in the 3.5GB/s range and ultra-high endurance ratings too. The Samsung SSD 960 PRO NVMe M.2 series tested here will be offered in three capacities: 512GB, 1TB, and a beefy 2TB. All of the drives have the same M.2 (2280) "gumstick" form factor and offer peak read bandwidth of 3.5GB/s with 2.1GB/s writes, while their max IOPS ratings vary at higher queue depths, as do endurance ratings, which start at 400TBW (Terabytes Written) and scale to 1200TBW for the 2TB drive. At about $.63 — $.65 per GiB, they aren't the cheapest NVMe drives on the market (the 512GB drive drops in at $329) but the new SSD 960 Pro is definitely the fastest consumer SSD currently as benchmark testing clearly proves out.
MojoKid writes: Most folks love the creativity behind taking old-school computer equipment, like floppy drives and other devices that emanate audible tones, and harnessing their internal bits generate musical bliss in full geekery. In this particular case, it's not just floppy drives that were used, but some hard drives and even a scanner or two. The "Floppotron," as its creator calls it, is comprised of 64 floppy drives, 8 hard disks and 2 scanners, to be exact. The result is downright wonderful as this old school computer hardware band shreds through Metallica's heavy metal classic, Enter Sandman.
MojoKid writes: Apparently Apple has been working on some unique upgrades to its MacBook line and not just underneath the hood. One of the bigger feature upgrades could actually be in the keyboard. As previously rumored, the new MacBook Pro is likely to sport a secondary touchscreen display at the top of the keyboard. It will sit in place of where the Function keys used to reside and display different graphics and icons, depending on the program that's up and running. However, according to an anonymous reddit user named "Foxconninsider," Apple's also planning to launch a new version of its Magic Keyboard, one that takes advantage of E-Ink technology. Similar technology was developed by a start-up company named Sonder, the same company Apple is in the process of acquiring. The tipster describes is each key having its own E Ink display. That means individual keys and/or entire rows can change based on whatever app is loaded. In any event, we should know more soon—Apple's expected to announce new MacBook products later this month.
MojoKid writes: A recent discovery has the Linux community buzzing, and it involves a bug in systemd, an init (initialization) system used in many modern Linux distributions to bootstrap the user space and manage all processes. It would be nice to think that most every modern distro has adopted it for good reason. For others, though, it's the target of extreme ire. Whether that's justified or not, there's no denying that any discussion about systemd is bound to lead to a heated argument. Look no futher than Andrew Ayer, a developer that found a simple command that can crash many systemd-based Linux installs. The bug has since been patched, but systemd developer David Strauss claims that it was never a severe bug like Ayer claimed. Some claim that the command needs to be looped to take effect, while others claim that is trying "too hard" to prove that a bug is worse than it is. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, rated the bug at 3.5/10, with 10 being the most severe.
MojoKid writes: Oftentimes when a smartphone maker debuts a nifty new idea, its competitors find ways to implement their own version of whatever feature everyone is excited about, whether it's a premium design, a digital assistant, or something else. But spontaneous smartphone combustion? Following Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 debacle, pictures of a charred iPhone 7 are now making the rounds. A user on reddit posted several photos of the burnt iPhone 7, which he says was pre-ordered by a co-worker who never got to use the handset. Apparently the smartphone arrived that way, suggesting a serious Q&A failure in the packaging department that sent it out, or more likely that it overheated during transit and melted itself and part of the packaging. Reportedly, an account executive from Apple's Texas offices reached out for more information and set up an expedited replacement with AT&T.
MojoKid writes: One common gripe in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last anymore. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. However, one computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. The computer in question here is a Commodore C64 that has been balancing driveshafts non-stop for a quarter of a century. The C64C looks like it would fit right in with a scene from Fallout 4 and has even survived a nasty flood. This Commodore 64 contains a few homemade aspects, however. The old computer uses a sinusoidal waveform generator and piezo vibration sensor in order to measure changes in pressure, acceleration, temperature, strain or force by converting them to an electrical charge. The C64C interprets these signals to help balance the driveshafts in vehicles.
MojoKid writes: Microsoft has angered users over the past year for its willingness to push the boundaries of acceptable practice for promoting adoption of its operating system. Also, some feel it crossed that line with respect to user data collection and privacy concerns. However, Microsoft stands to garner a lot more criticism if its recent patent filing comes to life in a production software product. The title of the filing is "Query Formulation Via Task Continuum" and it aims to make it easier for apps to share data in real-time so that the user can perform better searches. Microsoft feels that the current software model in which applications are self-contained within their own silos potentially slows the user down. To combat this disconnect, Microsoft has devised a way to facilitate better communications between apps through the use of what it calls a "mediation component." This is Microsoft's all-seeing-eye that monitors all input within apps to decipher what the user is trying to accomplish. All of this information could be gathered from apps like Word, Skype, or even Notepad by the mediator and processed. So when the user goes to the Edge web browser to further research a topic, those contextual concepts are automatically fed into a search query. Microsoft says that this will provide faster, more relevant searchers to users. The company says the mediator can be introduced as an optional module that can be installed in an operating system or directly built in. If it's the latter, plenty of people will likely be looking for a kill switch.
MojoKid writes: In early August the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the FCC had no authority to prevent states from imposing restrictions on municipal internet. This was a result of the FCC stepping in last year in an effort to "remove barriers to broadband investment and competition." However, the courts sided with the states, which said that the FCC's order impeded on state rights. In the end, this ruling clearly favored firmly entrenched big brand operators like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and AT&T, which lobby hard to keep competition at bay. The federal ruling specifically barred municipal internet providers from offering service outside of their city limits, denying them from providing service to under-served communities. The fallout from the federal court's rejection of the FCC order to extend a lifeline to municipal internet providers has claimed another victim. The small community of Pinetops, North Carolina — population 1,300 — will soon have its gigabit internet connection shut off. Pinetops has been the recipient of Greenlight internet service, which is provided by the neighboring town of Wilson. The town of Wilson has been providing electric power to Pinetops for the past 40 years, and had already deployed fiber through the town in order to bolster its smart grid initiative. What's infuriating to the Wilson City Council and to the Pinetop residents that will lose their high-speed service, is that the connections are already in place. There's no logical reason why they should be cut off, but state laws and the lobbyists supporting those laws have deemed what Greenlight is doing illegal. Provide power to a neighboring town — sure that's OK. Provide better internet to a neighboring town — lawsuit
MojoKid writes: Politicians are not the only ones mudslinging this season. Huawei's Matebook and Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 have teamed up to continue to try and humiliate the iPad Pro and its various shortcomings. In Huawei's latest commercial, the iPad Pro is being pushed out of the cool kid's table. The advertisement battle all started when Apple released its initial iPad Pro commercial. The iPad Pro ad is titled "What's a computer?" and starts with "Just when you think you know what a computer is, you see a keyboard that can just get out of the way...and a screen you can touch and even write on." The commercial ends with the statement, "Imagine what your computer to do, if it was an iPad Pro." The implication in this ad is that the addition of the keyboard makes the iPad Pro a "computer." Of course Microsoft could not resist poking fun at Apple in their own Surface Pro 4 commercial, suggesting that it is a real computer while the iPad Pro is a wannabe. Huawei's own commercial plays on the Microsoft's ad. All three devices are side-by-side at a party with a piñata. The Matebook says "Hey, congrats on that keyboard" and then the iPad Pro responds, "who are you?" The Matebook runs off a list of its various features and tells the Surface Pro 4, "I think we are going to get along great." The Surface Pro 4 then replied, "welcome to the party." Huawei's ad of course implies that the Matebook is not only better than the iPad Pro, but is on par with the Surface Pro 4. The Matebook starts at $649 USD and is currently available from Windows, Amazon, and Newegg.
MojoKid writes: For the first time, Amazon's Alexa voice service is headed to a tablet. It's one of the standout features of Amazon's new Fire HD 8, a budget slate built to offer users all-day battery life, faster performance, double the onboard storage of previous versions Fire HD tablets and for a low $90 price tag. The Fire HD 8 tablet's 8-inch HD (1280x800) IPS display is driven by a quad-core 1.3GHz processor and 1.5GB of RAM and a capacious 4,750 mAh battery that is claimed to deliver up to 12 hours of mixed use battery life. In addition, Alexa voice services works on the Fire HD 8 just as it does on other supported products, only here the voice assistant is conjured up by long pressing the home button. You can then task Alexa with reading the news, giving weather reports, playing songs, and so forth. The new Fire HD 8 32GB model is available to pre-order now for $90 with special offers or $105 without.
MojoKid writes: There was quite a stir caused recently when it was determined that Microsoft would only be fully supporting Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's Zen next-generation processor microarchitectures with Windows 10. It's easy to dismiss the decision as pure marketing move, but there's more to consider and a distinction to be made between support and compatibility. The decision means future updates and optimizations that take advantage of the latest architectural enhancements in these new processors won't be made for older OS versions. Both of these microarchitectures have new features that require significant updates to Windows 10 to optimally function. Kaby Lake has updates to Intel's Speed Shift technology that make it possible to change power states more quickly than Skylake, for example. Then there's Intel's Turbo Boost 3.0, which is only baked natively into Windows 10 Redstone 1. For an operating system to optimally support AMD's Zen-based processors, major updates are likely necessary as well. Zen has fine-grained clock gating with multi-level regions throughout the chip, in addition to newer Simultaneous Multi-Threading technology for AMD chips. To properly leverage the tech in Zen, Microsoft will likely have to make updates to the Windows kernel and system scheduler, which is more involved than a driver update. Of course, older versions of Windows and alternative operating systems will still install and run on Kaby Lake and Zen. They are X86 processors, after all.
MojoKid writes: Video game developer Gun Media took the opportunity at PAX West to showcase a trailer for its upcoming horror game title "Friday The 13th" and it's a bit of a shocker to say the least. Discussions about video game violence have historically spurred passionate debate and even sparked congressional deliberation. Ultimately, video game rating systems were implemented in an effort to prevent impressionable children from seeing things that were deemed inappropriate for their age. Back in the day, Mortal Kombat, which featured gratuitous violence, blood, and "fatalities" was at the center of many debates regarding video game violence. Well, when you see Gun Media's game trailer for Friday The 13th: The Game, Mortal Kombat is going to seem almost cute by comparison. The trailer is absolutely not for the faint of heart. Many of you will find it disturbing. Viewer discretion is definitely advised. Friday The 13th: The Game will apparently have a Left 4 Dead type vibe, with Jason Voorhees in the role of the massive zombie hordes that attacks players. It is up for pre-order now and is due to ship later this year. However, it's not the concept of the game that some people might take issue with; it's the intense violence depicted in this footage.
MojoKid writes: AMD has been talking about the claimed 40% IPC (Instructions Per Clock) improvement of its forthcoming Zen processor versus the company's existing Excavator core for ages. Zen's initial availability is slated for late this year, with lager-scale roll-out planned for early 2017. However, last night, at a private press event in San Francisco, AMD unveiled a lot more details on their Zen processor architecture. AMD claims to have achieved that 40 percent IPC uplift with a newly-designed, higher-performance branch prediction and a micro-op cache for more efficient issuing of operations. The instruction schedule windows have been increased by 75% and issue-width and execution resources have been increased by 50%. The end result of these changes is higher single-threaded performance, through better instruction level parallelism. Zen's pre-fetcher is also vastly improved. There is 8MB of shared L3 cache on board now, a unified L2 cache for both instruction and data, and separate, low-latency L1 instruction and data caches. The new archicture offers up to 5x the cache bandwidth to the cores versus previous-gen offerings. However, after all the specsmanship was out of the way, AMD actually showcased a benchmark run of an 8-core Zen Summit Ridge procesor versus Intel's Broadwell-E 8-core chip, both running at 3GHz and processing a Blender rending workload. In the demo, the 8-core Zen CPU actually outpaced Intel's chip by a hair. Blender may have been chosen for a reason but this early benchmark demo looks impressive for AMD and its forthcoming Zen architecture.