vineri, 2 septembrie 2016

Samsung recalls Galaxy Note 7.





Samsung has officially announced a recall of its Galaxy Note 7 device, due to launch in the UK today, following reports of a battery fault resulting in numerous fires.

Samsung has formally begun the recall process for its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone-cum-tablet, following reports that the battery can swell, rupture, and catch fire under normal use.

Originally due for release in the UK today following earlier international availability, Samsung has announced that it is delaying the launch and preparing to recall those handsets that have already been sold due to a serious flaw in the battery design. 'In response to recently reported cases of the new Galaxy Note 7, we conducted a thorough investigation and found a battery cell issue,' Samsung's statement explains. 'To date (as of September 1) there have been 35 cases that have been reported globally and we are currently conducting a thorough inspection with our suppliers to identify possible affected batteries in the market. However, because our customers’ safety is an absolute priority at Samsung, we have stopped sales of the Galaxy Note 7.'
The cases to which Samsung refers include incidences of the device catching fire, seemingly as a result of a flaw in the design of the battery. 'For customers who already have Galaxy Note 7 devices, we will voluntarily replace their current device with a new one over the coming weeks,' the company's statement continues. 'We acknowledge the inconvenience this may cause in the market but this is to ensure that Samsung continues to deliver the highest quality products to our customers. We are working closely with our partners to ensure the replacement experience is as convenient and efficient as possible.'
The recall is expected to add at least a two-week delay to the UK launch of the Galaxy Note 7.

Logitech G launches Prodigy.

Logitech G has announced the launch of the Prodigy range of gaming peripherals, comprised of a keyboard, two mice, and a headset.
Logitech's gaming arm, imaginatively named Logitech G, has announced the impending launch of a headset, keyboard, and a pair of mice under the Prodigy Series branding.

Logitech G's Prodigy family of products begins with a pair of gaming mice: the G403 and G403 Wireless, differing only in the obvious manner. Based on the PMW3366 sensor, Logitech claims that the Prodigy G403 mice are perfect for pro-gaming and casual use, and can be used immediately out-of-the-box or customised via the bundled software. Both models include built-in RGB LED below the logo, a 10g removable weight in the underside, and on-board memory for storage of settings for the six programmable buttons and sensor sensitivity.
The G213 Prodigy RGB keyboard continues the family's launch, offering a spill-proof full-size layout with five-zone RGB LED lighting. Although based on a rubber dome system rather than mechanical switches, Logitech claims the G213 has been designed to 'enhance the tactile experience' with feedback said to be four times faster than a standard keyboard as well as an anti-ghosting matrix. An integrated palm rest and dedicated media controls complete the keyboard's specifications.
Finally, the Prodigy family is complete with the G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset. Based around 40mm neodymium drivers, the stereo headset with unidirectional boom-microphone is claimed to offer a high level of comfort during long periods of wear thanks to 'carefully selected sports performance cloth' which can be removed from the ear cups for washing. The headset's cable additionally includes in-line controls for volume and microphone mute.
Logitech has confirmed all four devices are available now, with recommended retail pricing set at £59.99 for the G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse, £99.99 for the G403 Prodigy Wireless Gaming Mouse, £59.99 for the G213 Prodigy RGB Gaming Keyboard, and £49.99 for the G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset.

AMD,announces GlobalFoundries deal.

AMD has agreed a new deal with former subsidiary GlobalFoundries, but while it gains flexibility it will be hit with a $335 million charge and has to pay GlobalFoundries for every wafer it purchases from rival fabs.

AMD has announced it is making another payment to GlobalFoundries, the company formed by spinning off former AMD fabrication facilities when the chip designer chose to go fabless, in order to allow it to farm out manufacturing to third parties - but in doing so is taking a whopping $335 million charge and paying GlobalFoundries for every wafer it purchases from rivals.

In the years since AMD spun off its fabrication facilities as The Foundry Company, later GlobalFoundries, the company has made a number of major payments to its once and former subsidiary - largely relating to exclusive manfuacturing deals between the two companies. In 2012 AMD sold its final stake in GlobalFoundries and amended its wafer supply agreement in order to allow APU products to be built at rival facilities. However, that same year AMD would renegotiate again following weaker-than-expected demand for APUs, paying $320 million for wafers it had agreed to purchase but now no longer needed.
Now, the company is once again amending its deal with GlobalFoundries in an agreement which covers the next half-decade. 'The five-year amendment further strengthens our strategic manufacturing relationship with GlobalFoundies while providing AMD with increased flexibility to build our high-performance product roadmap with additional foundries in the 14nm and 7nm technology nodes,' claimed Lisa Su, AMD president and chief executive, of the renegotiated agreement. 'Our goal is for AMD to have continued access to leading-edge foundry process technologies enabling us to build multiple generations of great products for years to come.'
Under the new terms, which run through to 2020, AMD has established a framework for technology collaboration between the two companies as a means to reach a 7nm process node, set minimum wafer purchase targets - the issue which cost it $320 million back in 2012 - and has agreed terms that will allow it to spread manufacturing across additional fabrication companies. However, these terms come at a cost: AMD has agreed to pay $100 million in cash to GlobalFoundries, spread across 2016 and 2017, and will make unspecified quarterly payments to GlobalFoundries for every wafer it purchases from the company's rivals. AMD is also to issue a warrant for 75 million shares at $5.98 per share, costing it around $235 million.
In total, the new deal will see AMD hit with a $335 million one-off charge in the third quarter of this year, with ongoing costs from the third-party wafer supply agreements to continue into the future. For a company which has long been struggling financially, it's hard to see the terms of the deal in a particularly positive light.

Intel launches Seventh-Gen Kaby Lake.

Intel has officially launched its Kaby Lake parts, beginning with low-power chips for laptops and convertibles with higher-power enthusiast models promised for January.
Intel has officially launched its next-generation Kaby Lake microarchitecture, beginning with low-power parts for laptops, tablets, and two-in-ones, and with desktop parts to follow in January 2017.

Part of Intel's revamped three-stage development cycle, which replaces its classic tick-tock cycle, Kaby Lake comes with a tweaked 14nm manufacturing node the company refers to as 14nm+. In 14nm+, Intel claims, it has been able to boost the final processors' performance by 12 per cent over its previous 14nm node thanks to improved fin profiles on its tri-gate transistors, improved transistor channel strain, and heavy integration between its design and manufacturing divisions - the latter a none-too-subtle dig at companies like AMD who farm production out to third-party companies.
As you might expect from a process node tweak and microarchitecture improvements, performance gains are modest but measurable: Intel claims the 15W Core i7-7500U Kaby Lake chip is some 12 per cent faster in the SYSmark 2014 benchmark than the i7-6500U it replaces, thanks largely to a 3.5GHz peak clock over 3.1GHz, and 19 per cent faster in the WebXPRT 2015 benchmark.
In addition to improvements in the CPU portion of Kaby Lake, the integrated graphics processor has also received some love. Compared to the previous generation, Intel claims that the integration of new VP9 and High-Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) 10-bit decode engines allow for Ultra HD video streaming in either codec without impacting battery life - indeed, for selected laptops, Intel claims 'All Day 4K' streaming for nine and a half hours will be possible.
Intel's launch includes ultra-low-power Core m3 and low-power Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors, with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) scheduled to begin shipping Kaby Lake equipped systems in early September. Higher-powered desktop parts, including enthusiast-grade models, have been promised for January 2017.

AMD confirms early 2017 launch.

AMD has confirmed that its Vega graphics processors won't be hitting the market until early 2017, despite rumours pointing to an October launch.

AMD has officially confirmed that its next-generation graphics processor microarchitecture, Vega, won't be coming to market until early next year.

Designed to offer roughly the same performance-per-watt improvement over Polaris than Polaris did over its predecessor, Vega is set to be built on the same 14nm three-dimensional FinFET process by AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries. Vega also promises to bring High Bandwidth Memory 2 (HBM2) to the table, offering an increase in the speed at which the GPU can communicate with the video memory. As with its predecessor HBM, HBM2 works by stacking memory dies vertically on an interposer board with a direct connection to the GPU to form a single-package GPU-and-memory combo with reduced latency and boosted bandwidth.
Originally, AMD had hinted at an October 2016 launch date for Vega, but it has now formally announced a different release schedule that sees Vega hitting retail in the first quarter of 2017. No reason for the apparent delay - which isn't, it must be noted, an official delay, as the October date was never officially announced - has been given.
Vega is scheduled to be replaced at the top end by Navi in 2018, which will include similar performance gains again along with increased scalability and what AMD teasingly refers to as 'Nexgen memory,' details of which have not yet been released. As with its previous launches, AMD is expected to release high-end enthusiast cards early followed by lower-cost mainstream parts later in the year. The company is also expected to be making much of the combination of Vega graphics cards with its upcoming Zen processor, and will likely launch upgrade bundle packages into the market in collaboration with its various hardware partners.

EC ruling puts Apple on the hook.





The European Commission has told Ireland to recover €13 billion in illegal state aid - plus interest - from Apple's Dublin-based subsidiaries.

Apple has been found to have illegally benefited from €13 billion (around £11.1 billion) in tax benefits from the Irish government, with the European Commission demanding that Ireland recovers the cash back from the company.

Like most multinationals, Apple's corporate structure is deliberately opaque. Part of this involves setting up national subsidiaries in countries where corporate and income tax rates are lower, then funnelling profits through these subsidiaries in order to reduce the amount of tax owed. Apple's Dublin-based Irish subsidiary exists for exactly this reason, but the European Commission has found that Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe have benefited from hefty tax breaks that the Irish government had no legal right to offer.
In the conclusion to an investigation begun in June 2014, the European Commission has found that two tax rulings made in Ireland - one in 1991 and one in 2007 - existed purely to offer the company a selective tax treatment which runs counter to European Union state aid rules. According to the Commission's findings, the tax rulings gave Apple tax breaks equivalent to paying just 1 per cent corporation tax in 2003 dropping to 0.005 per cent in 2014. That gaffe is on the Irish government, but Apple is hardly innocent: the Commission has also found that its practice of attributing profit to its Irish head offices is misleading in the extreme: 'the Commission's assessment showed that these "head offices" existed only on paper and could not have generated such profits,' the EC statement explained.
The result: Apple managed to dodge taxation on what the Commission claims was 'almost all profits generated by sales of Apple products in the EU Single Market.' Admitting that 'this structure is however outside the remit of EU state aid control,' the Commission is nevertheless to order recovery of illegal state aid for the ten-year period preceding its first request for information filed in 2013. The result: Ireland is being made to recover the unpaid taxes for Apple's business through 2003 to 2014 inclusive, a sum of €13 billion plus interest.
Full details of the Commission's findings can be read in the official press release.

vineri, 26 august 2016

Apple Issues Emergency Fix.


Apple has released an emergency security update for iOS devices to resolve three zero-day vulnerabilities leveraged in targeted attacks against human rights activists, journalists, and other persons of interest. 
Named Trident, the vulnerabilities were exploited by a piece of high-end surveillance software dubbed Pegasus, which researchers classify as “the most sophisticated attack seen on any endpoint.” The spyware is modular, highly customizable, and uses strong encryption to avoid being detected. The software is sold by NSO Group Technologies Ltd, a Herzelia, Israel-based company that has been founded in 2010. 
More importantly, it takes advantage of how integrated mobile devices are in people’s lives, while also being capable of leveraging “the combination of features only available on mobile — always connected (WiFi, 3G/4G), voice communications, camera, email, messaging, GPS, passwords, and contact lists,” mobile security firm Lookout explains
The Trident Vulnerabilities
The vulnerabilities leveraged by this piece of malware were patched in iOS 9.3.5, which was released on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. The three security issues include CVE-2016-4655 and CVE-2016-4656, both affecting the Kernel, and CVE-2016-4657, which affects WebKit. According to Apple’s advisory, iPhone 4s and later, iPad 2 and later, and iPod touch (5th generation) and later are affected by these security bugs. 
CVE-2016-4655 is an information leak in the Kernel that could result in information being leaked to the attacker, thus allowing them to calculate the kernel’s location in memory. To address the issue, Apple has improved input sanitization to ensure that the kernel cannot be mapped out. 
CVE-2016-4656, on the other hand, is a memory corruption bug that could lead to jailbreak. The 32 and 64-bit iOS kernel-level vulnerability can be triggered silently, thus allowing an attacker to jailbreak the device and install surveillance software without user knowledge. Apple addressed this bug through improved memory handling.
Vulnerability CVE-2016-4657 is a memory corruption bug in the Safari WebKit, which allows an attacker to compromise the device when a user clicks on a link. By crafting a special website and tricking the user into visiting it, an attacker could execute arbitrary code on the device. This security issue was also addressed through improved memory handling.
The attack sequence and the NSO Group
To leverage these vulnerabilities, an attacker uses a classic phishing scheme: a text message with a URL is sent to the victim. When the browser is launched to access the link, the malicious webpage exploits the vulnerabilities and installs a persistent application to exfiltrate information. All without user’s consent or knowledge, of course. 
The exact same scheme was attempted on Aug 10 and 11 against Ahmed Mansoor, an internationally recognized human rights defender, Citizen Lab reveals. Mansoor received a text message promising information about detainees tortured in United Arab Emirates (UAE) jails. To access the purported details, he was supposed to click on an included link. 
Instead, Mansoor sent the messages to Citizen Lab researchers who, in collaboration with Lookout, discovered that the link “led to a chain of zero-day exploits that would have jailbroken Mansoor’s iPhone and installed sophisticated malware.” Mansoor has been targeted with similar “lawful malware” before, in 2011 with the FinFisher spyware, and in 2012 with Hacking Team spyware, researchers reveal. 
Citizen Lab explains that the link Mansoor received earlier this month is believed to be part of an exploit infrastructure provided by the NSO Group and notes that the same infrastructure has been also leveraged by the UAE-based Stealth Falcon APT group. 
“NSO Group appears to be owned by a private equity firm with headquarters in San Francisco: Francisco Partners Management LLC, which reportedly acquired it in 2014 after approval from the Israeli Defense Ministry,” Citizen Lab notes. Unlike other similar organizations, NSO Group tried to avoid media attention, doesn’t have a website, and there appears to be no prior technical analysis of its products. 
The Pegasus software
The Pegasus spyware used by the NSO Group has been mysterious, with few technical details on it available online until now, although it was previously linked to a few attacks. “Much of the publicly available information about Pegasus seems to be rumor, conjecture, or unverifiable claims made to media about capabilities,” Citizen Lab says. 
However, documentation found in the Hacking Team materials that leaked online last year suggests that the software might have been created in 2013 by Guy Molho, the Director of Product Management at NSO Group. Apparently, the group was offering two remote installation vectors for the spyware: zero-click and one-click. The latter was used against Mansoor.
The former, however, requires sending the malicious link via a special type of SMS message, like a WAP Push Service Loading (SL) message, which causes the phone to automatically open the link in a browser, without user interaction. However, newer phone models have started to ignore this type of messages and network operators might soon block them altogether, researchers say. 
The software’s documentation also explains that the malicious website used for the spyware’s installation communicates with a Pegasus Installation Server located on the operator’s premises. When the victim visits the website, a request is forwarded to the server, which determines whether the device can be exploited and sends the appropriate exploit chain, such as Trident, to attempt infection. If the infection fails, the victim is redirected to a legitimate website, to avoid raising suspicion. 
Once a device has been compromised, the Pegasus spyware can survive on it even after the operating system has been updated. The Trident exploit chain is re-run locally on the phone at each boot and the spyware also disables Apple’s automatic updates, while searching for and removing other jailbreaks from the device, to ensure persistence. Moreover, the program can update itself to replace obsolete exploits.
Data collection and exfiltration
The spyware was built to actively record or passively gather a broad range of data on the infected device. The operator has full access to the phone’s files, messages, microphone and video camera, thus being able to turn it into a silent spying device. 
While observing the variant used to target Mansoor, researchers were able to confirm this functionality and to determine what kind of data the attackers were after: phone calls (including those made via WhatsApp and Viber); SMS and messages sent via popular apps like Gmail, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, FaceTime, Calendar, Line, Mail.Ru, WeChat, SS, Tango, KakaoTalk, Telegram, and others; and personal data such as calendar data, contact lists, and passwords, including Wi-Fi passwords.
Collected data is sent to a Pegasus Data Server using the PATN (Pegasus Anonymizing Transmission Network), which appears to be a proxy chain system intended to obfuscate the identity of the government client associated with a particular operation. In the observed attack, two PATN nodes were used, aalaan.tv and manoraonline.net.
Exploit infrastructure and other victims
The NSO Group has established an exploit infrastructure that has been already used against other targets, researchers reveal. The group has been using fake domains impersonating websites such as the International Committee for the Red Cross, the U.K. government’s visa application processing website, and multiple news organizations and major technology companies to conduct its nefarious operations. 
The researchers also identified a series of common themes indicating the type of bait content the group was using against victims, most of which pointed toward the use of fake news articles to distribute the spyware. Other themes included online accounts, document sharing, shipment tracking, corporate account portals, and ISPs, similar to other spear-phishing attacks.
According to researchers, while the UAE and Mexico were the most targeted countries, other geographies were also prevalent, including Turkey, Israel, Thailand, Qatar, Kenya, Uzbekistan, Mozambique, Morocco, Yemen, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Bahrain.
Among the other identified targets, Citizen Lab researchers name journalist Rafael Cabrera, who recently reported on the Casa Blanca controversy. Last year, Cabrera received messages supposedly coming from UNO TV, and which also included malicious links that match domains linked to the apparent NSO Group infrastructure. 
Citizen Lab also found a past tweet discussing the opposition in Kenya, which contained a link to the NSO Group exploit infrastructure. The message was sent by a “Senior Research Officer” in the Office of the Senate Minority Leader and references Moses Wetangula who is the current Minority Leader of Kenya’s Senate.
Zero-days and surveillance software
The attack on Mansoor, researchers say, is clearly connected to the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware suite, which is sold exclusively to government agencies. The investigation into the group’s activities, however, wasn’t triggered by this attack, as Citizen Lab had already mapped out a set of 237 servers linked to NSO Group before that. 
What the attack did, however, was to allow researchers to visit the malicious links and to observe the exploits in action and to find the zero-day vulnerabilities and report them to Apple. Two weeks after the incident, a patch for these security bugs is already available for download. 
“Apple has been highly responsive, and has worked very quickly to develop and issue a patch in the form of iOS 9.3.5, approximately 10 days after our initial report to them.  Once an iPhone is updated to this most recent version, it will be immediately protected against the Trident exploit chain used in this attack.  While we assume that NSO Group and others will continue to develop replacements for the Trident, we hope that our experience encourages other researchers to promptly and responsibly disclose such vulnerabilities to Apple and to other vendors,” Citizen Lab researchers note. 
Zero-day exploits remain an important tool in any threat actor’s arsenal, mainly because they are rare and tend to be highly expensive, “especially one-click remote jailbreak exploits for iPhones, like the Trident,” researchers say. Last year, exploit acquisition company Zerodium was willing to pay up to $3 million on iPhone exploits and ended up paying $1 million for a “remote browser-based untethered jailbreak” affecting iOS 9.1 and 9.2 beta. Earlier this month, Exodus Intelligence said it would pay up to $500,000 for iOS 0-day vulnerabilities.
When it comes to surveillance software, zero-days appear critical for continuous operations, and last year’s breach at the Hacking Team proved that. Among the hundreds of gigabytes of data stolen from the organization’s servers, researchers identified several exploits, including a zero-day for Adobe Flash Player.
As soon as the next month, the European Union is expected to propose tighter rules on the export of dual-use technologies, such as those from companies like Germany's FinFisher GmbH and Italy's Hacking Team, which have been used by repressive regimes to target activists and journalists.

Princeton launch 25-core CPU.

A team of researchers at Princeton University have released a 25-core processor design under a permissive licence, after taping out a physical implementation in the 32nm process node of an IBM fab.

The Princeton Piton Processor, as the device is known, is based on a 32nm silicon-on-insulator (SOI) manufacturing node, making it cheap and easy to manufacture. The chip itself boasts 25 cores running at 1GHz, based around a modified version of the OpenSPARC T1 architecture. The idea, its creators have explained, is to build highly-parallel systems from entirely open components - and with three on-chip networks and directory-based shared memory, it's claimed the Piton can scale to hundreds of thousands of cores in a single system.
'With Piton, we really sat down and rethought computer architecture in order to build a chip specifically for data centres and the cloud,' claimed David Wentzlaff, a Princeton assistant professor of electrical engineering and associated faculty in the Department of Computer Science, of his team's creation. 'The chip we've made is among the largest chips ever built in academia and it shows how servers could run far more efficiently and cheaply.'
The 6mm² core of a Piton processor packs in 460 million transistors, while the high core counts and scalable architecture make it well-suited to data centre use. Coupled with techniques like execution drafting, where similar instructions can be spotted in a queue and executed in a row, the performance is impressive: execution drafting itself is claimed to boost performance by 20 percent, a memory-traffic shaper system adds an additional 18 percent, while other cache memory management techniques offer a 29 percent increase, all in comparison to traditional processors used in a data centre.
'We're very pleased with all that we've achieved with Piton in an academic setting, where there are far fewer resources than at large, commercial chipmakers,' crowed Wentzlaff, during a presentation at the Hot Chips conference this week. 'We're also happy to give out our design to the world as open source, which has long been commonplace for software, but is almost never done for hardware.'
While OpenPiton, the open-source release of the processor, was first announced in June 2015, it is only recently that Wentzlaff and his team have been able to build Piton chips in a commercial fabrication facility and prove its worth outside theoretical models. More information is available on the official website.
Researchers at Princeton University have launched an open-source 25-core CPU, with claims it can scale in to the thousands of cores per system and billions per data centre.

Report claims Google is slashing its Fiber budget.

Hopes that Google will bring its high-speed gigabit Google Fiber broadband service to international customers are looking on shaky ground today, with the company reportedly slashing half the staff from the division.

Having captured the overwhelming majority of the western internet user market and having largely failed to make a dent in the eastern market, Google's long-held plan for future growth is simple: if we're already in front of all the internet-connected eyeballs we can be, then let's connect more eyeballs to the internet. Google Fiber [sic] is one of the company's efforts in this direction, offering full-duplex gigabit connectivity at a very low cost and tying it in to as many Google services as possible.
Its roll-out has been slow: despite rumours of international expansion plans, Google has thus far been concentrating on small-scale city-wide launches across the US. Now, any hopes of future growth are rocky thanks to a report in The Information which claims the company is slashing Google Fiber's budget and sacking half its 1,000 staff members.
The report claims that Larry Page has told Access, the Alphabet division publicly known as Google Fiber, that it needs to cut costs and let go of staff. The reason, it is speculated, is due to weak uptake and a desire to concentrate on recently-acquired wireless broadband provision technology - something which would not require the infrastructure commitment, such as digging trenches and laying cable, of a fibre-based roll-out.
Google, Alphabet, and Access have not commented on the claims made in the report, with the official plan still stating that the seven cities currently served by Google Fiber will be joined by five more in the near future.
Hopes that Google's gigabit fibre-optic broadband service could see an international launch are on shaky ground with claims the company is slashing the division's budget.

Mozilla calls for EU copyright reform.

Mozilla has hit out at European-wide copyright law, launching a petition calling for immediate reform of what it claims is a legal framework badly lagging behind the progress of technology.

In a blog post published this week Katharina Borchert, Mozilla's chief innovation officer and former chief executive of Spiegel Online, launched a call for immediate reform of EU copyright law. 'In the EU, certain laws haven’t caught up with the internet. The current copyright legal framework is outdated. It stifles opportunity and prevents — and in many cases, legally prohibits — artists, coders and everyone else from creating and innovating online,' claimed Borchert. 'This framework was enacted before the internet changed the way we live. As a result, these laws clash with life in the 21st century.'
Cited examples included laws that technically make the creation of a meme - in this particular definition a derivative work made by placing a text overlay on an existing image for the purposes of humour - illegal, the artist's copyrights preventing photography of the Eiffel Tower at night, and restrictions on the use of copyright material in education.
Ahead of a planned review of the EU copyright framework, Borchert and her colleagues at Mozilla have called for signatures on a petition which makes three primary requests: an update for EU copyright law better suited to the 21st century and the technology, like social media, we enjoy; reviewing the laws with a view to building in openness as a means of fostering innovation and creativity; and 'don't break the internet,' defined as 'the principle of innovation without permission.'
The petition is live now.

Mozilla has called for signatures on a petition which asks the European Union to address the claimed gulf between EU copyright law and technological progress.

joi, 25 august 2016

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro.

Manufacturer: MSI
UK price (as reviewed):
 £1,499.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $1,499.00 (ex Tax) (128GB SSD)

There was something of a revelation when we first heard about the latest laptops sporting Nvidia's Pascal architecture. In short, there are no M-series GPUs this time around for the simple reason that even Nvidia's top-end mainstream card - the GTX 1080, only had a TDP of 180W, falling to 150W for the GTX 1070 and a paltry 120W for the still respectfully powerful GTX 1060 (the Titan X leaps up to 250W but at $1,200, it's hardly considered mainstream).What you will be seeing, then, are fully-fledged desktop Nvidia GPUs in the latest range of laptops, and that's rather exciting. Previously, if you went for a GTX 970M-based laptop, you could expect something in the region of GTX 960 (desktop) performance - in essence, just drop a level lower to convert from laptop to desktop performance, as the GPUs were cut back in terms of frequency or other features to reduce power.Now, though, laptop manufacturers feel confident that their latest cooling tech can handle full-on desktop GPUs, even in laptops as small as the 14in MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro we're looking at today. Clearly, then, the hope is that at last, you'll see desktop performance in laptops. That might not quite materialise in the way we hope, though, for the simple reason that some small cutbacks have had to be made to reduce power consumption, even given Pascal's power efficiency. For instance, the GTX 1060 in the MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro is clocked 100MHz lower than its desktop counterpart, with a noticeably slower boost clock too.



With that out the way, let's take a look at the MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro - a £1,500 pocket rocket that weighs just 1.6kg - that's about the same as one of Dell's super-light magnesium 7000-series Latitude business laptops. Despite this, a 61Wh battery is included that should mean a decent life away from the mains. With a depth of less than 25mm at its deepest point, the GS43VR Phantom Pro is extremely portable, and the 14in screen is still very useable - much more so than its 13in and 12in cousins, but it's less of a dead weight than a 15in model, albeit with less screen real estate.
There's not too much pizazz in terms of lights and stickers - in fact it's a fairly minimalist chassis with a few red-tinged edges with a mix of brushed aluminium and plastic. The touchpad is large and responsive although if you're not a fan of the rocker-type pad and prefer physical buttons for your mouse controls, it's probably not for you. The surface has very low friction and it felt very solid too - no complaints here. The keyboard is typically small, as are all 14in laptop keyboards but the enter, space and shift keys are large enough not to cause typing headaches. In fact, typing for long periods was fairly pleasant, and while the chiclet keys are responsive with a fair amount of travel, they are a tad noisy. The keyboard sports red backlighting, although it's fairly subtle and not very visible outside of dimly lit rooms.
It's certainly an attractive laptop, with cooling vents at the rear and sides as well as intakes underneath. The lid and hinges feel sturdy with only small amounts of flex, although the screen does have a fairly hefty bezel with an integrated HD webcam. There's no USB 3.1 support - instead, a USB 3-powered Type-C port is included along with a smattering of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, plus HDMI and mini-DisplayPort sockets, the latter being the only port on the rear of the device. The power, USB, SD card and audio ports are all located on the sides - probably due to the packed interior here catering for the cooling system, which you can see over the page.
The specification, of course, includes a GTX 1060 with the full 6GB of GDDR5, plus an Intel Skylake Core i7-6700HQ quad-core, hyper-threaded CPU offering eight threads and 16GB of 2,400MHz DDR4. MSI has opted for a PCI-E M.2 interface and includes a 256GB Samsung SM951 SSD along with a 1TB hard disk. The screen is a 14in affair, with a non-glossy coating (there's no touch-enabling here). It's an IPS panel and our particular model offers a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, which is a sensible choice for gaming seeing as the GTX 1060 should offer silky smooth frame rates in all games. There are 4K versions available, though, but you'd likely have to dial down the settings to get playable frame rates in a number of games.

Specifications

  • CPU Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz/ 3.5GHz turbo-boost)
  • CPU cores Four physical (quad core) + Hyper-threading
  • Memory 16GB (2 x 8GB) Kingston 2,400MHz DDR4
  • Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
  • Storage 1 x 256GB Samsung SM951 SSD (OS), 1 x 1TB hard disk
  • Chipset Intel H170
  • Screen 14in non-glossy IPS, 1,920 x 1080
  • Dimensions (mm) 345 x 245 x 23 (W x D x H)
  • Networking 1 x Killer Gigabit LAN, Killer N1535 Combo 
  • Audio 8-channel ESS SABRE HiFi audio DAC, microphone, headphone, 2 x 2W speakers
  • Keyboard backlighting Yes (red)
  • Battery Li-Po 61Wh
  • Webcam HD
  • Weight 1.6kg (with battery)
  • Operating system Windows 10 64-bit
  • Ports 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, headphone, microphone
  • Warranty 2 Year Collect & Return (1 Year Global)

Interior

Quite how everything is packed into this tiny 14in laptop we were keen to see and as expected, the top third section of the GS43VR Phantom Pro is largely dominated by the dual fan cooling system and a mass of heat pipes cooling the GPU, CPU and various other hotspots. The fans are fairly diminutive, though, so it remains to be seen how they fare in dealing with the hefty heat load from such a powerful setup. 
The battery is a sizeable one for such a small unit with an 8060mAh capacity, although this is slightly less potent than the 73Wh unit Aorus managed to shoehorn into its 13in X3 PLUS V5. Whipping off the rear cover was simple and provides access to the full array of ports and slots for upgrades.
There's no additional cooling for the M.2 drive, although this has been less of an issue than it was with previous generations. Still, it's good to know that swapping out the hard disk, M.2 drive and memory are fairly easy tasks, should you want to tweak the specification in future.
There is one issue with the cooling system, though, which is that the intake vents on the underside are extremely small. In addition, one vent doesn't quite clear one of the internal fans, blocking it by around a third. We'd imagine every cubic millimetre of air is important in keeping a tiny pocket rocket like this cool so it's a shame there's such an oversight, especially in an area where a larger vent would have zero impact on aesthetics.

Battlefield 4

From our Battlefield 4 review:
'From the start to the end of the campaign you literally have no idea who’s who, why they do or don’t like each other and even what part you play in the whole thing – the latter point not being helped by the fact you’re mute throughout the whole game. You just meander from mission to mission and get on with the task set before you. Still: who cares, right? Battlefield has long been about its multiplayer, and sure enough here, again the game truly shines. Largely it’s a continuation of what came before but there are enough extras that it feels, if not totally new, different enough to learn all over again.'With its demanding Frostbite 3 engine, Battlefield 4 is a tough challenge for any GPU. We run the game at its highest 'Ultra' settings with motion blur at 50 percent and the resolution scale at 100 percent. We also manually disable MSAA at 4K, as it's unnecessary and too demanding at this resolution. We run a 60 second benchmark on the game's sixth campaign level, Tashgar, during the on rails section at the level's start, and begin the recording as soon as the subtitle for the first line of dialogue appears on screen.

Crysis 3

Mixing the open-world combat of Crysis with the more tightly scripted urban jungle of Crysis 2, Crysis 3 is a smorgasbord of visual effects and polygons galore. With DirectX 11 support, high resolution textures and incredibly detailed characters models, it's laid down the gauntlet for the next generation of consoles and games alike when it comes to gorgeous graphics.We test using the Very High detail preset and with Very High texture resolution. lens flare and motion blur are both enabled, although due to its heavy performance impact, anti-aliasing is disabled. As explained earlier, we use a custom macro-driven 60 seconds play-through from the single player mission Red Star Rising. The 60 seconds of gameplay takes place in a large open environment heavy on water and particle effects. Each test is repeated three times, with the average result taken.

Unigine Valley 1.0 Benchmark

Unigine's free Valley 1.0 benchmarking tool works well as a graphics benchmark as it is GPU limited and is thus incredibly taxing on the GPU whilst placing the CPU under very little stress. Unigine's scoring system is effectively linear: a card with 2,000 points is considered twice as fast as one with 1,000 points, and half as fast as one with 4,000 points.

PCMark 8 Video Editing

Video Editing V2 Part 2 (Creative 3.0 test suite)

This workload uses FFmpeg to apply video enhancement filters to a high bitrate H.264 video and then encode it to a format suitable for distribution. The FFmpeg binary used is custom-built by Futuremark using a development version of the source available from the project's code repository. The test applies a deshaking filter to a source video at 3,840 x 2160 (4K UHD) before scaling down and outputting at 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p).

PCMark 8 Photo Editing V2

This workload involves making a series of adjustments to a set of photographs using ImageMagik - an open-source image processing library to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and gamma. When a favourable balance is found, the changes are then applied to the rest of the images in the set. TIFF files up to 67MB in size are used.

Terragen 3

Planetside Software’s Terragen 3 is a highly realistic landscape generator used to create background images in films and games such as Star Trek: Nemesis, Stealth and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Our script renders a single frame of a snowy mountain scene at 640 x 480 on all the available CPU execution units.

Cinebench R15 64-bit

Cinebench uses Maxon's Cinema 4D engine to render a photo-realistic scene of some shiny balls and weird things (we miss the motorbike). The scene is highly complex, with reflections, ambient occlusion and procedural shaders so it gives a CPU a tough workout.As Cinema 4D is a real-world application - used on films such as Spider-Man and Star Wars - Cinebench can be viewed as a real-world benchmark.

Battery Life

We complete two separate tests to assess battery life. Firstly, we run Unigine Valley's benchmark continuously to simulate a lengthy gaming session. This is performed at half brightness with Wi-Fi enabled and the maximum performance mode enabled in Windows.The other test uses PCMark 8's Coventional Battery Test. This simulates using web browsers, spreadsheets and other light non-gaming tasks that should give you an idea of how long the battery will last under typical conditions. For this test, we reduce brightness to minimum and the power setting to Power Saver mode, but leave Wi-Fi enabled.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results

CrystalDiskMark uses incompressible data files. We report the read and write results of the sequential and 4KB random tests

PCMark 8 Storage Traces

We've selected two benchmarks from PCMark 8's array of storage tests - the Battlefield 3 and Photoshop Heavy storage traces. These mimic real-world usage, for instance, loading a game and entering a save game or performing image editing. The final results are given in seconds.

Display Performance

The 92 percent coverage of the sRGB spectrum is on par with other IPS laptops we've seen from the likes of Aorus, while the brightness is well above average at 315cd/m2 and combined with the anti-glare screen, the GS43VR Phantom Pro was easily visible outside in sunlight. Similarly, the backlighting evenness at 100 percent brightness was similar to other laptops we've seen, with a maximum 12 percent variance thanks to figures from the bottom right corner of the screen.Colour accuracy was reasonable, and in general the screen looked sharp and vibrant thanks to the decent brightness and 1080p resolution crammed into a 14in screen, although the delta-E was a little higher on average than the Aorus X7 Pro V5 for example. Our Datacolor Spyder 5 Elite colorimeter churned out a score of 4/5 - actually the same as the Aorus thanks to the latter's average luminance uniformity at lower brightness levels.

Performance Analysis 

First up are the all-important game benchmarks and the GS43VR Phantom Pro wowed us with frame rates vastly superior to the GTX 970M and in a different league to the GTX 965M. In fact, performance wasn't far off two GTX 970M's in SLI, which we've seen in a couple of laptops - an amazing feat from a 1.6kg 14in laptop. It managed a minimum frame rate of 69fps in Battlefield 4 at the ultra detail level, with an average of 83fps.Crysis 3 was a similar story, with a minimum and average of 64fps and 71fps - again not far away from GTX 970M SLI and vastly superior to the GTX 970M. For reference, a GTX 960 only managed a minimum of 40fps here and the GTC 1060 in the GS43VR Phantom Pro is performing better than a desktop GTX 970 - a huge amount of performance from any laptop.
However, under sustained load in Unigine Valley, which dishes out plenty to for the GPU to do over a 5-10 minute benchmark, we noticed that the GPU would regularly top 80°C or more, even with the fan set to maximum in the included software. As a result, we're fairly sure it's throttling as the Unigine Valley result of 3112 is only a little faster than a desktop GTX 960, which would otherwise be battered by the might of the GTX 1060. This is a shame as it means that longer gaming sessions under heavy loads may see performance suffer, although given the native resolution, seeing the minimum frame rate drop from 70fps to 50fps may not even be noticeable.
There was a slightly slower set of numbers coming from the Core i7-6700HQ than we've seen with other laptops sporting the same CPU as well. For instance, the Aorus X3 PLUS V5 managed to complete the PCMark 8 4K Video Editing test in 132 seconds compared to 149 for the MSI. It was two seconds slower in the Photo editing test and noticeably slower in Terragen 3 too - again this could be down throttling.Noise-wise at low and medium loads, the GS43VR Phantom Pro does a good job of keeping noise to a minimum and there's very little heat emanating from the chassis too. Ramping things up does see the fans become quite loud and there's a fair amount of heat at the top rear of the chassis and underside too.Storage performance was fantastic, as expected with an SM951 at the helm, with a read speed of 2,254MB/sec in CrystalDiskMark and a chart-topping result in the PCMark 8 Battlefield 3 Storage Test too. We're not entirely sure about the Photoshop storage test - the result was much slower than several other laptops we've seen, but this appears to be down to the use of RAID, which seems to boost the scores here.Finally, we come to battery life, and we were suitably impressed here too. The GS43VR Phantom Pro managed over an hour in Unigine Valley's 3D benchmark while perhaps more importantly from a battery life point of view, PCMark 8's conventional battery test puts the GS43VR Phantom Pro at lasting nearly 4 hours of typical tasks from web browsing to dealing with word processing, meaning that as a portable gaming machine, the GS43VR Phantom Pro is hard to beat.

Conclusion

There's a lot to consider with the GS43VR Phantom Pro and sadly it isn't all rosy. The throttling issues are a shame and possibly even avoidable if MSI had used larger vents for the intake fans. However, this may or may not be an issue depending on the games you play - during repeated testing in Crysis 3 and Battlefield 4, we didn't see any issues, but under sustained heavy load in Unigine Valley the result was much lower than expected. The CPU results were a tad slow too.On the plus side, though, not only is the GS43VR Phantom Pro cheaper than other 14in gaming units we've seen, but its screen offers solid performance and good brightness, its storage is lightening fast and its low weight and generous battery life (for a gaming laptop) mean that it's far more flexible and portable than we'd been expecting. Considering that even when the slow downs did occur you're still getting better than GTX 960 level performance, the GS43VR Phantom Pro is a fantastic 14in gaming laptop that's otherwise very well rounded. Despite the mentioned issues, we'd still buy it if we had £1,500 to spend on a portable gaming system, although we'd probably want to wait for the competition to show its hand before splashing any cash.

Windows update breaks PowerShell functionality.

Microsoft has warned users that its most recent update for Windows 10 disables a pair of features in its recently open-sourced PowerShell tool.

Released earlier this week, the Windows Client KB3176934 update has broken both the Desired State Configuration (DSC) and implicit remoting functionality of the PowerShell command line interface and scripting platform. While embarrassing at the best of times, the gaffe comes less than a week after Microsoft open-sourced PowerShell and released cross-platform binary builds in an effort to convince sysadmin, devops and the like to switch from rival scripting platforms to its in-house creation.The loss of implicit remoting is likely to be particularly hard-hitting for businesses: during implicit remoting operation, PowerShell commands are executed on a remote target computer rather than the local host; following the installation of the update, this will fail with an error - though thankfully without silently executing the commands locally instead.For now, the only workaround to restore full PowerShell functionality on Windows is to uninstall the KB3176934 update. The team behind the software stated that fixes for both issues are ready to be deployed, and will be released publicly on August 30.
Microsoft has apologised for a gaffe in a recent Windows Client update which breaks two key pieces of PowerShell functionality.

miercuri, 24 august 2016

Critical Vulnerability Found in Moxa Servers.

Several products from industrial networking and automation solutions provider Moxa are plagued by a critical vulnerability. The vendor has released firmware updates for many of the affected devices.

Security researcher Maxim Rupp discovered that some Moxa serial device servers and cellular IP gateways are affected by a flaw that can be exploited to brute force their authentication mechanism and gain access to the vulnerable system (CVE-2016-5799).
The expert also determined that the products are exposed to attacks due to a less severe issue related to the storage of plaintext passwords in configuration files (CVE-2016-5812).
According to an advisory published by ICS-CERT on Tuesday, the security holes affect OnCell G3100V2, G3111, G3151, G3211 and G3251 gateways, which allow organizations to connect serial or ethernet devices to a cellular network. The products are used in various sectors, primarily in Europe and Asia.
However, Rupp told SecurityWeek that the authentication bypass flaw, which has a CVSS score of 9.8, also impacts OnCell G3150 gateways, OnCell 5004 industrial routers, NPort 6150 and 6450 secure terminal servers, and NPort 5250A and MiiNePort E2 serial device servers.
The vulnerabilities can be exploited remotely and the researcher said he identified roughly 400 Internet-connected Moxa devices in the past year.
Rupp reported the issues to ICS-CERT in December 2015. Moxa appears to have released firmware updates that address the vulnerabilities in OnCell products in late July and early August.
Last month, Rupp was credited for finding a critical authentication bypass vulnerability (CVE-2016-5804) in Moxa MGate, a serial-to-ethernet modbus gateway used by organizations around the world.
Another critical flaw was found by Zhou Yu of Acorn Network Security in Moxa SoftCMS, a central management software for large-scale surveillance systems. The weakness, disclosed earlier this month by ICS-CERT, is a SQL injection (CVE-2016-5792) that allows a remote attacker to access the vulnerable product.

Flaws Allow Attackers to Hijack VMware.

VMware informed customers on Tuesday that it has addressed a couple of vulnerabilities that can be chained together and exploited by attackers to take complete control of vRealize Automation (vRA) appliances.

One of the flaws, tracked as CVE-2016-5335, can be exploited by an attacker with access to a low-privileged account to escalate their permissions to root. The flaw affects vRA 7.0.x and VMware Identity Manager 2.x.
The second vulnerability, CVE-2016-5336, can be exploited for remote code execution, allowing an attacker to gain access to a low-privileged account on the affected vRA 7.0.x appliance via port 40002.
Remote code execution flaws are often rated critical. However, in this case, VMware decided to rate this issue “important” due to the fact that an attacker can only access a service account with minimal privileges.
However, while taken separately these vulnerabilities are not critical, VMware has warnedthat an attacker could combine them and completely compromise a vRA appliance – use CVE-2016-5336 to gain access to a low-privileged account and CVE-2016-5335 to escalate their privileges on that account.
The flaws have been patched in VMware Identity Manager version 2.7 and vRA version 7.1. As a workaround, customers can prevent attacks involving CVE-2016-5336 by creating specific firewall rules in the vRA appliance.
Users have been advised to update vRA to version 7.1 as soon as possible or apply the workaround.
VMware also informed customers on Tuesday that it has updated an older advisory describing a critical deserialization vulnerability to clarify that vRealize Operations appliances prior to version 6.2 are also affected.
Earlier this month, researchers detailed a VMware Tools vulnerability that can be exploited to hijack a DLL and execute arbitrary code on the targeted system.