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Imagination Builds A Neural Network

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Imagination Technologies has been showing off its standalone hardware IP neural network accelerator which is powered by its PowerVR architecture implementation for neural networks.

The tech means that companies can build SoCs for mobile, surveillance, automotive and consumer systems can integrate the new PowerVR Series2NX Neural Network Accelerator (NNA) for high-performance computation of neural networks at very low power consumption in minimal silicon area.

Neural networks such as Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) and Long Short Term Memory networks (LSTMs) are enabling an explosion in technological progress across industries. Neural Network Accelerators are a fundamental class of processors, likely to be as significant as CPUs and GPUs, both of which Imagination already delivers.

They could end up being used for photography enhancement and predictive text enhancement in mobile devices; feature detection and eye tracking in AR/VR headsets; pedestrian detection and driver alertness monitoring in automotive safety systems; facial recognition and crowd behavior analysis in smart surveillance; online fraud detection, content advice, and predictive UX; speech recognition and response in virtual assistants; and collision avoidance and subject tracking in drones.

There is a serious need for this particular type of technology.

According to the January 2017 Embedded Vision Developer Survey conducted by the Embedded Vision Alliance, 79 percent of respondents said they were already using or were planning to use neural networks to perform computer vision functions in their products or services.

A broader range of companies will be able to develop products and services with neural networks. Imagination customers are already developing and deploying NN based systems into markets including security, mobile, automotive and a set-top box.

Jeff Bier, founder of the Embedded Vision Alliance, said: “Numerous system and application developers are adopting deep neural network algorithms to bring new perceptual capabilities to their products.

In many cases, a key challenge is providing sufficient processing performance for these demanding algorithms while meeting strict product cost and power consumption constraints. Specialized processors like the PowerVR 2NX NNA, designed specifically for neural network algorithms, will enable deployment of these powerful algorithms in many new applications.”

As neural networks become increasingly common, dedicated hardware solutions like the 2NX NNA – which provides an 8x performance density improvement versus DSP-only solutions – will be required to achieve the highest possible performance with the lowest possible power and cost. In addition, neural networks are traditionally very bandwidth hungry, and the memory bandwidth requirements grow with the increase in size of neural network models.

This introduces significant challenges for SoC designers and OEMs in designing a system that can provide the required bandwidth to the NNA. The PowerVR 2NX can minimize bandwidth requirements for the external DDR memory to ensure a system is not bandwidth limited in terms of performance. Widespread availability of dedicated hardware like the PowerVR 2NX NNA will allow for further development of applications based on these neural network technologies.

PowerVR 2NX was designed from the ground-up and Imagination says that it can provide the highest inference/mW IP cores to deliver the lowest power consumption. It can also manage the industry’s highest inference/mm2 IP cores to enable the most cost-effective solutions.

It runs on a low bandwidth with support for fully flexible bit depth for weights and data including low bandwidth modes down to 4-bit and can manage a performance of 2048 MACs/cycle in a single core, with the ability to go to higher levels with multi core.

Chris Longstaff, senior director of product and technology marketing, PowerVR, at Imagination, said: “Dedicated hardware for neural network acceleration will become a standard IP block on future SoCs just as CPUs and GPUs have done. We are excited to bring to market the first full hardware accelerator to completely support a flexible approach to precision, enabling neural networks to be executed in the lowest power and bandwidth, whilst offering absolute performance and performance per mm2 that outstrips competing solutions. The tools we provide will enable developers to get their networks up and running very quickly for a fast path to revenue.”

The PowerVR 2NX NNA is available for licensing now.

Courtesy-Fud

Trello Add Native Desktop Project Management App

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Trello subscribers can now access the project management tool directly from their desktop after the launch of native Windows and Mac apps.

The software had previously been browser-based only, meaning that Trello boards could easily get lost amid a multitude of browser tabs.  The company said in a blog post that the desktop app should make the software simpler to use, since Trello has added a navigation sidebar to help keep track of boards in a similar fashion to channels on collaboration tools such as Slack.

Other features include “more granular” keyboard shortcuts and desktop notifications. Those using the latest Mac Book Pro laptops will also be able to open boards and create new cards from the Mac’s Touch Bar.

A desktop presence is an important option for collaboration or productivity tools, said Gartner research director Larry Cannell. “To be successful, workers need to be using them on a day-to-day or minute-by-minute basis,” he said.  “Why should Outlook and a web browser be the only apps open on a desktop? For teams using Trello, this will be a welcomed addition.”

The company also announced Wednesday that Trello boards and cards can now be embedded in separate applications, including Bitbucket, Dropbox Paper and Confluence Cloud.

“By embedding Trello cards and boards inside the apps you use to plan, work, and communicate, teams can stay connected and see who’s doing what (and what needs to get done) without switching apps,” the company said in a blog post.

According to Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, the addition of features such as the desktop app shows how Trello’s technology has evolved since its acquisition by collaboration software provider Atlassian for $425 million earlier this year.

“The big picture here is how Trello – and the entire Atlassian portfolio for that matter – is evolving,” said Castañón-Martínez.

“The company is enhancing its products with new features that allow users to be more effective with their work; for example, interacting with other users across other Trello boards and across other applications. This enables them to get more work done in one place rather than jumping around between applications.”

He called creation of the desktop app a “natural progression” for Trello.

“It is evolving from an application into a workspace,” he said. “The benefit for the end user will be that it enables them to work with less distractions. Jumping between applications is a productivity-killer.”

Is Virtual Reality Poised To Take Off

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality may be growing at a slower pace than many would like, but its enthusiastic supporters remain staunch in their belief that VR is still going to take off. Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and a Carnegie Mellon professor, is one such person. His studio’s VR puzzle title I Expect You To Die (IEYTD), which launched last December, just recently passed the $1 million revenue mark. GamesIndustry.biz caught up with Schell following the news to learn more about his VR development experiences and to gain some perspective on where he sees the VR/AR business headed.

“We’ve learned so much. The experience has confirmed our theories that making games specifically designed for the strengths of the medium is absolutely the right thing to do,” he says.

“IEYTD works because we focused on protecting player immersion as much as possible: making sure in-game and out of game player body poses are proprioceptively aligned, ensuring there is a depth of interactive sound effects, and playtesting much more than for a normal game, so that you can respond to everything that players try to do in the game. The best part is that our experience confirmed for us that VR is amazing, and that people want great experiences in it.”

IEYTD is one of a handful of VR success stories, but even “success” at this stage in VR’s infancy when installed bases are so low, doesn’t mean profitability is guaranteed. Schell is not deterred, however.

“We don’t generally share specifics of internal budgets, but it was more than a million — so, not quite profitable yet on a pure cash basis, but when it comes to lessons learned, and some of the other projects this has brought our way, this has been a very profitable project indeed,” he explains.

During GDC 2016, Schell gave a talk outlining his 40 predictions for VR/AR, and one of those was that by 2017 we’d see 8 million high-end VR headsets sold, with Oculus Rift at 3 million, PSVR at 4 million and Vive at 1 million. Clearly, the actual numbers are going to fall way short of these predictions, and a big part of that is a result of price. Even with the price cuts we’ve seen this year so far on the respective headsets, the devices are too expensive for many. It’s only a matter of time before that changes, though, and then Schell sees the market really picking up. He likens it to the early computer era.

“The numbers are slower than I anticipated, and this is partly because prices are higher than I anticipated. But the growth is absolutely happening,” he says. “What will create a tipping point will be a combination of price drops with a hit title, probably a social multiplayer title.

“We are in a time like when home computers first arrived in 1978. At that time, we had the Atari 800 and the Apple II, and they each cost over $1,000, and people said, ‘Yeah, pretty cool, but too expensive — these home computers will never take off.’ A few years later, and we had the Commodore 64 at $299, and it sold ten times the number of units as the Apple II. Price will really be the driving factor. There are already hundreds of great studios making interesting content. When the prices get low enough, we’ll see the growth curve take off.” While a number of Schell’s other predictions will undoubtedly not hold up, there are some that the designer is not afraid to double down on. The social ramifications of VR is one of those.

“My confidence in the power of social VR continues to grow,” he notes. “Games like Rec Room are proving that out, and social VR is now the prime focus for our next wave of VR titles. The sense of physical proximity to a real person while you hear their voice and see their body language is powerful in a way that no other medium can touch.”

Schell is also still a believer in Nintendo doing something in the space. Thus far, publicly at least, the house of Mario has avoided committing to VR/AR, but Schell thinks that Nintendo is working on a standalone device behind closed doors. And if a company with Nintendo’s weight gets behind VR, that can only help make the technology more mainstream and more accessible. That said, it’s not vital for Nintendo to get in the game for VR to succeed.

“With Nintendo’s passion for invention, they must be working on a VR device with a unique Nintendo spin,” Schell muses. “Certainly they can help make VR more mainstream, but they don’t need to. There are already dozens of headset manufacturers, and more on the way, and exciting tech and price breakthroughs are being announced every few weeks.”

While many people have predicted a far larger and more impactful market for augmented reality, especially as companies like Apple and Google get involved, the differences between the related technologies are beginning to blur. Additionally, when it comes to pure gaming use cases, Schell stresses that VR will remain the better tech for hardcore gamers.

“One prediction I am definitely rethinking is my prediction that VR and AR headsets would remain very separate entities. I am coming to believe that as VR headsets start to sport stereo cameras, that having video pass-thru AR experiences on VR headsets will actually become the dominant form of AR, because it will be cheaper and have a wider field of view,” he says.

“When it comes to games, I more and more think that VR is to AR as console is to mobile… That is to say, VR will be more for the hardcore gamers who want deep, immersive experiences, and AR will be more for casual gamers who want lighter, less immersive experiences. AR may have more users in the long run (provided it can find some killer apps), but VR will be where the best gaming experiences are.”

The unfortunate state of actual reality, when you consider global politics, terrorism, climate change and more, could also be a factor in virtual reality’s favor. As Schell says, “In troubled times, people are always looking for places to escape to. The Great Depression was the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood. When people are frustrated with how the news cycle makes them feel, their appetite for fantasy experiences vastly increases.”

As VR does become more popular in the mainstream, Schell thinks the media may start drumming up stories to point fingers at the tech in much the way that news outlets blamed video game violence for real-world crimes. “The media likes to scare us about anything that is new, because we always want to know about the dangers of new things, so it is good business to feed our fears. I can’t say I’m worried about it, but it is certainly inevitable. Horror movies about VR gone wrong will be a hot ticket in the summer of 2019,” he says.

One area of the VR industry that is hard to predict is the arcade or location-based segment. Vive has made a big push with its Viveport Arcade, particularly in China, but VR arcades may not necessarily be a more natural fit than VR in the home, as some have said.

“There is room for VR in arcades; I am sure of this because I helped developed the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet VR experience that ran continuously at DisneyQuest in Walt Disney World for nineteen years! However, VR in arcades has many challenges,” Schell says. “The systems are hard to keep clean, and are often too fragile for that environment. These are solvable problems, but not trival ones. Ultimately, people expect a VR arcade experience that is a radical step up from the home experience, and that is expensive to create, especially because there is an expectation of multiplayer gameplay at VR arcades, because people go to arcades to be in social groups. So, developing VR arcade content is very expensive. Arcades are a great intro to the experience while the tech is new, but as the tech matures, it will be much more at home, uh, at home.”

Getting into VR development is not for the faint of heart. Game makers may have to endure some hard times, but the pay off will ultimately be worth it, Schell believes.

“If you are looking for a short-term win, or to just port the same games you’ve been playing for 20 years to VR, go do something else. But if you are ready to invent the most important medium of this century, and you can afford to be a little patient as the rest of the world catches up with your futuristic visions, this is your time,” Schell says.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Microsoft Updates Teams Collaboration Software

September 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has added enhancements to its Teams collaboration software, including guest account access and beefing up security and management capabilities for IT admins.

The guest access means that Office 365 users can now add people from outside their company to a team, enabling third-party users to participate in chats, join meetings and collaborate on documents.

The new feature means that IT staff will now be able to centrally manage guest accounts, enabling them to add, view or, if necessary, revoke access.

“This is a very significant milestone for Teams, as up until now it was only available for internal use,” said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “Now customers will be able to collaborate with people outside of their firewall, opening up a much broader range of use-cases.”

Anyone with an Azure Active Directory account can be added as a guest in Teams.

Microsoft said that there are currently more than 870 million Azure Active Directory user accounts.

While guest users must have an Azure Active Directory account to use Teams, there are plans to allow anyone with a Microsoft Account to be added as a guest. If a guest doesn’t have an existing Microsoft Account, they would have to create a free account using their email address, whether they use Outlook or other email providers such as Google’s Gmail.

Guest user access will fall under the same compliance and auditing protection as the rest of Office 365, the company said.

Security is an important factor when enabling guest access for users. With this in mind, Microsoft said that guest accounts will be added and managed within Azure Active Directory via Azure AD B2B Collaboration. Azure Active Directory provides features such as conditional access policies for guest users as well as machine learning algorithms to detect anomalies and suspicious incidents, and it can automatically trigger security processes such as multi-factor authentication when required.

The addition of guest access brings Teams in line with competing messenger tools such as Slack and Cisco Spark, which also enable external access, as well as Microsoft’s own Yammer collaboration software.

“It is encouraging that Microsoft is rolling out the ability to allow external users to collaborate in Teams, but it is a feature most collaborative applications have had for a while,” said IDC research director Wayne Kurtzman.

“To be a serious contender in the collaboration applications market, has to catch up with the market on a lot of features and functions,” he said.

In addition to the new features, Microsoft offered insights into how Teams is faring six months after its launch. According to the company, 125,000 organizations have now used the Slack competitor, compared to 30,000 back in January. That leaves plenty of room for growth, of course; Microsoft claims there are currently around 100 million Office365 users globally.

Is Mixed-Reality A Big Move For Microsoft

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

2017 is shaping up to be perhaps the most important year ever for Microsoft’s ambitions as a consumer technology company.

The firm, which in recent years has struggled to balance its commitment to business solutions and cloud services against the often conflicting demands of being a consumer tech firm, is set to launch two major product lines this year – an update to the Xbox One console that is, in essence, an entirely new home console device, and a range of “Mixed Reality” headsets, controllers and certified PCs, which are being manufactured to Microsoft’s specs by some of the industry’s leading hardware firms.

Both of these are big launches, and each of them deserving of attention. On the surface, you might expect that Xbox One X – the new console – would be a far more mainstream prospect than a range of VR headsets, especially given how niche VR remains in spite of the buzz that’s been built up around it. Yet all of the signs point to Mixed Reality being Microsoft’s really big launch for 2017, and the one that may have the most impact on the company – and the whole technology industry – down the line, while Xbox One X is being positioned both by commentators and by the company itself as something of a niche device for a specific and limited audience.

In a sense, the direction being taken with these two devices is entirely different. Xbox One X takes an established platform (albeit one running a distant second behind Sony’s dominant PS4) and essentially creates a high-end “premium” version, with price tag to match. It doesn’t so much represent a turning point in Xbox strategy (there’s no surge in first-party software or major service launch to accompany it) as an appeal to the slim but high-value slice of the market for whom constant talk of 4K HDR screens and Dolby Atmos sound systems says “this is the best you can get,” as distinct from “this isn’t for the likes of you.”

On the other hand, Mixed Reality is all about the democratisation of a technology that’s often seemed inaccessible to average consumers. Its hardware specification calls for headsets with inside-out tracking (so no external cameras or sensors) which mount cameras on the front of the headset to track motion controllers – again, removing external sensors from the setup – while its business model aims to create a range of low-cost headsets by leveraging competition between manufacturers like Dell and Asus. The PC specs being certified for use with the headsets also promise relatively low cost of entry to consumers interested in VR.

In essence, Mixed Reality (which is a bit of a misnomer, as these first-generation headsets are not the bridging of VR and AR promised by the “Hololens” concept; they are VR headsets, pure and simple) is an extremely well-designed and technologically impressive mixture of the best parts of many VR approaches we’ve seen so far. It’s about as affordable as Sony’s PSVR and just as easy to set up (in fact, slightly more so, since PSVR still requires a single camera); yet it offers a technological fidelity that’s surprisingly close to that of Oculus and HTC’s pioneering headsets.

Working with firms like Dell ensures ubiquity, while Microsoft’s control of the Windows ecosystem ensures compatibility and ease of use, and the firm’s highly open approach with the standards it’s promoting – including supporting content from Steam from day one – is an enormous bonus. As the only console VR platform out there, and with Sony’s content support behind it, PSVR will continue to have a market, but anyone picking winners in the VR space right now is likely favouring Microsoft’s play in the long run, especially given its potential for non-gaming applications (which may yet turn out to be VR’s “killer app”). It’s notable that Sony’s small PSVR price-drop came this week just as Mixed Reality gear was being lauded at IFA in Berlin, though also notable that the company’s promised restocking of PSVR hardware into retail channels has still not come to pass.

The elephant in the room here needs addressing; why, given two hardware launches that seem so complementary, isn’t Xbox One X supporting Mixed Reality headsets out the gate? The door seemingly remains open to that possibility down the line, but thus far Microsoft’s two big consumer tech efforts of 2017 remain frustratingly separate. On paper, you’d imagine that launching the most powerful console ever with the ability to drive high-quality VR experiences through a range of new headsets would be a far more exciting prospect than simply updating the Xbox One to take advantage of some very, very expensive televisions; even if VR is more niche than console gaming right now, the prospects for growth in VR are huge and the chance for a firm like Microsoft to establish and own the standards that define an entire sector for years to come is surely too important to pass up.

Microsoft’s own position seems to express that sentiment; while Xbox One X is rolling out with very few major software releases to support it (essentially copying the low-key rollout of PS4 Pro), the upcoming slate of software supporting Mixed Reality is being talked up significantly and includes a Halo title from 343 Industries. For an Xbox console to launch without a Halo title in support, or even officially on the slate (though one will inevitably be forthcoming), while a different Microsoft product has a Halo title being talked up, is actually rather eye-opening.

The reason for Xbox One X not supporting Mixed Reality at the outset may be quite prosaic; Microsoft’s strategy for its headsets involves cooperation with hardware manufacturers who want to use Mixed Reality as a way to sell PCs. Those partners might be far cooler on being involved with this initiative if they felt that their PCs were going to have to compete with a partially-subsidised console being sold by Microsoft itself, and the exclusion of Xbox from the Mixed Reality ecosystem may (this is all speculation) have been a condition of the likes of Asus throwing full-throated support behind the new headsets.

If so, it may be a timed exclusion, with headset support coming to Xbox One X down the line; or it may be that this helps to explain why so much of Microsoft’s software approach for Xbox One appears to have shifted to being about well-optimised One and One X versions of Windows 10 software rather than console exclusives. This would potentially allow people with high-end home theatre setups to enjoy the best possible version on Xbox One X, while VR fans can enjoy the same software as optimised for Mixed Reality, and those with Xbox Ones or gaming PCs would enjoy their own tailored version. That fits well with Microsoft’s vision both for a contiguous ecosystem and for how cross-platform development should work, the inability to plug a headset into an Xbox being only a small wrinkle in this cloth.

While in the long run not a big deal, in terms of this year alone, the separation of headsets from console creates an odd tension in Microsoft’s line-up; Xbox One X may even find itself competing for Christmas dollars from the same set of consumers who are considering a Mixed Reality setup. With Switch also riding high in customer’s mindshare and PS4 continuing to steamroller ahead of the competition – not to mention major consumer electronics launches outside the gaming space, like Apple’s iPhone Pro or whatever they’re going to call it – this winter is going to be one of the most competitive ever in consumer technology, and Microsoft is entering the game with a hell of a strong hand.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is Another Palm Smartphone On The Horizon

September 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Next year TCL says it is planning to release a Palm smartphone next year – sadly without the OS which made it famous.

It was not clear what was happening to the Palm brand which has been moved out of HP-connected devices then into a limbo. LG got its paws on the Palm operating system and continues to be used (in some form or another) in LG smart TVs.

TCL acquired the Palm brand in 2011.

According to Android Planet TCL Marketing Manager Stefan Streit confirmed that they’ve finally gotten to a place where they can make a Palm phone.

Streit suggested that new Palm devices would be announced in early 2018. While Streit did not specify which devices would be coming, AP suggested that a smartphone and a new PalmPilot would be obvious releases.

Palm would be made for adult users, presumably those who are old enough to remember that the Palm was a brand they trusted and will see Palm as a brand new high-quality smartphone brand. Of course they will have to forget that the new Palm is a totally different machine, but if people buy brands TCL might score a win.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft To Release First Upgrade To Windows 2016 Server

August 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is scheduled to release the first upgrade to Windows Server 2016 in late September.

“We’ll be launching Windows Server, version 1709, at Ignite,” Jeff Woolsey, a manager in Microsoft’s Windows Server group, wrote on a company blog.

Ignite, the conference successor to the long-running TechEd, will run Sept. 25-29 in Orlando, Fla.

Windows Server 1709, labeled in Microsoft’s yymm release format, will be the first of an every-six-months upgrade cycle. The Redmond, Wash. company introduced the new cadence in June, saying at the time that it was synchronizing Windows Server upgrades with ones for both Windows 10 and Office 365.

The twice-yearly releases will be delivered by the “Semi-annual Channel” release track; that name will also be used for Windows 10 and Office 365.

While Microsoft implied that the upgrades for Windows 10 and Office 365 would appear Sept. 12, it had not hinted at a Windows Server release date during the month. By linking Windows Server 1709’s debut with Ignite, Microsoft demonstrated that it sees Server, or at the least its first rapid release upgrade, as more promotional and less routine.

The follow-up to Windows Server 1709 will be version 1803, the latter to appear in March 2018. Cumulatively, Server’s twice-annual upgrades will comprise the feature set of the next Windows Server X. In two or three years, Microsoft will put a stake in the ground by christening Windows Server 2018 or Windows Server 2019, built by the iterative process of shipping Server upgrades.

 

Will Asian Chipmakers Pass Intel

August 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Not everyone is mourning the slow death of Moore’s Law and Chinese chipmakers could use the period to catch up with their Western rivals.

According to Shang-yi Chiang, a former TSMC executive VP and co-chief operating officer, China’s semiconductor industry could have a chance of strengthening its position.

Chiang, who now serves as an independent non-executive director for Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) thinks every cloud has a silver lining and that can be applied to the current state of Moore’s Law.

Talking to Digitimes,Chiang said that Moore’s Law will reach its physical limits in a decade. The existing innovation will allow the industry to enter the 3nm generation, but more technical breakthroughs will be required to bring us down to sub-3nm processes.

This gives China a good chance of making significant progress in the development of its local chipmaking industry, Chiang indicated.

He said it was time for Chinese chipmakers to lay out their strategies for developing technologies in the post-Moore’s Law era, which may help them catch up with their bigger international peers, Chiang said.

Chiang suggested that developing homegrown CPUs was essential for the country as it provided national security, and went beyond economic considerations.

There are already homegrown CPUs developed in China, such as Loongson- and ShenWei-series computer processors, Chiang identified. Improving the chip performance is an issue, and expanding the chip sales substantially is another, Chiang said.

He admitted that developing its own chips was tricky but worth it. He wanted CPU developers, foundries, backend houses and system vendors to cooperate and develop jointly their own platform for servers and other computing systems.

Such a move will also drive the local industry development, and pave the way for China to expand its chipmaking influence in the global marketplace, Chiang said.

Courtesy-Fud

Is The Locky Ransomware Back To Wreak Havoc

August 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Locky Ransomware is back from the dead with two new strains, security researchers at Malwarebytes have warned.

Locky was one of the three most widely distributed forms of malware in 2016, along with Cryptowall and Cerber, but although ransomware has boomed during 2017, Locky has been largely quiet.

But on 9 August, Locky made a dramatic return, using a new ransom note and file extension, ‘.diablo6’, which it followed up a week later with another variant, with the extension ‘.Lukitus’.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the method of distribution.Rather than rifling through the trove of spilt US National Security Agency exploits, as the groups behind WannaCry and NotPetya did, Locky is distributed via phishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office files or zipped attachments containing a malicious script.

The new Locky variants, adds Malwarebytes, callback to different command and control servers (C2) and use the affiliate id: AffilID3 and AffilID5.

“Over the last few months, Locky has drastically decreased its distribution, even failed to be distributed at all, then popped back up again, vanished and reappeared once more. The ups and downs of Locky remain shrouded in mystery. One thing time has taught us is that we should never assume Locky is gone simply because it’s not active at a particular given time,” the company warned in a briefing note. 

In 2016, a US hospital was forced to pay $17,000 in bitcoin in order to recover devices that had fallen victim to the Locky ransomware.

Locky is a variant on the Dridex banking Trojan, which is believed to have been behind the theft of around £20m from bank accounts in the UK alone, refitted for ransomware rather than stealing online banking credentials. Both are associated with the Necurs malware distribution botnet.

Back then, security researchers at Proofpoint pointed out the connection between Dridex and Locky.

“While a variety of new ransomware has appeared since the end of 2015, Locky stands out because it is being delivered by the same actor behind many of the Dridex campaigns we have tracked over the past year,” warned the company in an advisory.

“The actors behind Locky are clearly taking a cue from the Dridex playbook in terms of distribution. Just as Dridex has been pushing the limits of campaign sizes, now we’re seeing even higher volumes with Locky, rivalling the largest Dridex campaigns we have observed to date.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Intel’s Core i3 8th Generation Processors Are Forthcoming

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

While we have already seen some details for the upcoming Core i3-8300, a couple of recent leaks show a bit more information regarding two other Coffee Lake Core i3 SKUs, the Core i3-8350K and the Core i3-8100.

Spotted originally at Anandtech Forums and later further detailed over at Videocardz.com, it is now clear that Intel will push for the higher core count with its upcoming 8th generation Coffe Lake CPUs. Unlike the Core i5 lineup, which will supposedly consist of quad- and six-core CPUs, with and without hyper-threading, the Core i3 lineup will be quad-core SKUs without enabled hyper-threading.

We’ve already had a chance to see some information regarding the Core i3-8300 and it appears that the Core i3-8350K will be quite similar, featuring 8MB of L3 cache and 4.0GHz clock speed. Unlike the Core i3-8300, the Core i3-8350K will have a somewhat higher 91W TDP and be unlocked.

The Core i3-8100, could be the cheapest Core i3 SKU and work at 3.6GHz, have 6MB of L3 cache and the same 65W TDP, as the Core i3-8300.

As announced by Intel earlier, the company will unveil its 8th generation Core Coffee Lake CPUs on the 21st of August so we will have a chance to check out full details for this 14nm Kaby Lake refresh.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft’s Surface Tablets Not So Reliable, Says Consumer Reports

August 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The breakage rate for Microsoft Corp’s Surface devices significantly outpaces that of other manufacturers’ laptops and tablets, Consumer Reports said, adding that it was removing its “recommended” designation for Surface products.

The non-profit publication surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found that an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices would be presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership,” according to a study published on Thursday.

“If you are very concerned about how long your products are going to last, it might be better for you to go with a brand that has a higher predicted reliability,” Jerry Beilinson, electronics editor at the consumer goods testing publication, said in an interview.

Microsoft disputed the study, saying the company’s return and support rates differ significantly from the Consumer Reports study.

“We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation,” the company said in a statement.

According to the Consumer Reports survey responses, the Microsoft devices were found to freeze, unexpectedly shut down or have issues with their touchscreens, Beilinson said.

Altogether, the reliability issues made Microsoft a statistical outlier compared with other brands. Apple Inc had the most reliable devices, Beilinson said.

Microsoft entered the hardware market with its first Surface tablet in 2012. Since then, the company has released a series of new Surface tablets and laptops, including the well-reviewed Surface Pro, which launched in May.

The Surface devices serve as a face for the company and exemplify how Microsoft’s manufacturing partners can build hardware around the Windows 10 operating system. However, Surface is a small part of Microsoft’s overall revenue, and Surface revenue has declined year-over-year for the past two quarters.

Will Desktop Computers Grow Next Quarter?

August 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

While desktop demand was rubbish in the first half of 2017, it expected to start growing in the third quarter driven by new products from AMD and Intel for the gaming and high-end desktop markets.

Digitimes researchers, talking to suppliers, said that AMD and Intel will kick off a surge in buying. AMD’s new top-end 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 12-core 1920X will hit the shops on August 10, while its 8-core 1900X is scheduled to be released at the end of August.

Several vendors have already begun accepting pre-orders for desktop models using AMD’s latest top-end CPU processors since the end of July, including the Alienware Area-51 Threadripper from Dell.

AMD recently announced its new Vega-based GPUs including the Radeon RX Vega 64, using liquid or air cooling modules, and Radeon RX Vega’s prices start from US$399. AMD offers free games and discounts on hardware including Samsung’s CF791 monitor as well as price-cuts on CPU/motherboard bundles to help consumers save up to US$300.

Intel is releasing its next-generation 14nm Coffee Lake processors in the near future and will initially launch products such as the Core i7 8700K. Coffee Lake will also force users to buy a nice new motherboard.

AMD and Intel are also seeing growing sales in the server segment. AMD’s EPYC 7000 series processors were unveiled at the end of June. Although the processor series currently only accounts for less than one percent of the server market, orders for related server makers have been picking up recently and are expected to stay strong in the second half of 2017 with players including Microsoft, Baidu, Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Supermicro, Inventec, Wistron, Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Technology and Tyan eagerly promoting their systems.

Intel debuted its Purley server platform in July which is seeing strong orders from enterprises looking to replace their existing server systems. Some market watchers believe the replacement trend will last for a whole year and shore up Intel’s profitability and revenues.

Courtesy-Fud

Google’s Chrome Exploring Strengthen Of Ad-blocking In Browser

August 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has included a built-in ad blocker to earlier version of Chrome, signaling that it will assume responsibility for barring some online ads in the polished product as early as October.

The ad blocker appeared in some users’ copies of the “Canary” build of Chrome last week; Canary is the name Google gives to the preliminary version of the browser, one that is updated nightly and precedes the three-step release process of “Dev,” “Beta” and finally “Stable” code.

Chrome’s ad blocker was present only in Windows’ Canary build; it was AWOL from the macOS edition.

Reports of Google’s ad-blocking plans first surfaced in April, shortly after the Coalition for Better Ads announced a set of online ad types that users in the U.S. and Europe said were the most annoying and disruptive. Google was a founding member of the coalition. Two months ago, Google confirmed that it would introduce ad blocking to Chrome, saying then that the target timetable was next year.

“We plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018,” Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, a product management executive, wrote in the Google post.

On the desktop, Chrome will block pop-up advertisements; ads that automatically begin playing both video and audio; “prestitial” ads accompanied by a countdown clock that appear before content is shown; and what the coalition dubbed “large sticky ads,” those that account for more than 30% of the screen space and which remain in place no matter how much the user scrolls.

Those and other types of ads will also be blocked by Chrome on Android- and iOS-powered mobile devices.

Ads will be blocked by site, not by individual advertisement. In other words, Google will craft a list of websites it contends “tend to show intrusive ads,” and then block the ad categories that violate the coalition’s “standards.” A stray “bad” ad displayed by a site not on the list, however, will not be blocked.

While Google has pegged 2018 as the launch of the baked-in ad blocker, the tool may debut sooner. The current Canary of Chrome is version 62, which according to the release schedule, will release in final form as the Stable build on Oct. 17 for personal computers, Oct. 24 for mobile.

Was Apple Profits Really As Good As The Wall Street Spin

August 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple managed to convince the world’s press it was doing ok despite falling iPhone sales, declines in China and a fall in profits by 14.6 per cent.

Apple appears to have also fobbed off concerns about delays of its new iPhone by revealing a marginal increase in sales of its existing effort.

The launch of the latest iPhone could potentially move to October or November, instead of September, due to production issues, but Apple did not want to talk about that. Instead it claimed that its sales of the current iPhone were higher than expected.

It told the press that phone sales were staggering 1.6 per cent, or 41.03 million higher in the third quarter.

The Tame Apple Press went mental, and long with averts for the coming iPhone sent the company’s sales up 6 per cent. To put this figure in perspective a 1.6 per cent difference in predictions is well below a three percent accounting margin of error.

To make matters worse the figures confirm that the iPhone cash cow is still dying. This is the the second quarterly drop in iPhone sales in its third quarter earnings.

The new sales figures include its most recent phone, the iPhone SE, a cheaper four-inch display phone. Considering the iPhone takes up nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenue, this isn’t good.

All that is different is that the drop was expected by analysts.

The real truth of the figures is that Apple reported revenue of revenue of $42.36 billion, down 14.6% year-over-year, and an earnings per share of $1.42.

Apple’s fourth quarter generally includes first-weekend sales of the company’s latest devices so the delay in the new phone is crucial.

The company said iPhone sales rose 1.6 per cent to 41.03 million in the third quarter ended July 1, above analysts’ average estimate of 40.7 million units, according to FactSet StreetAccount. Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones a year earlier.

The company’s net income rose to $8.72 billion, or $1.67 per share, in the three months ended July 1, from $7.80 billion, or $1.42 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $45.41 billion from $42.36 billion in the quarter, typically the company’s weakest. Analysts on average had expected $44.89 billion.

Other warning signs for Apple is that that its Chinese sails are going down the toilet. Apple needs China to keep its growth. Apple’s revenue from the Greater China region fell 9.5% to $8 billion in the latest quarter, as consumers switched to newer domestic offerings.

Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri did a good job spinning this news too. He said China sales appear to have stabilized after several quarters of much larger declines. In fact the region saw a 21.6% jump in the company’s services business – which includes the App Store, Apple Pay and iCloud – to $7.27 billion.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Announces Windows 10 Creators Update Ready For Businesses

August 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft announced that its latest Windows 10 upgrade, the “Creators Update,” is ready for broad deployment by businesses, marking an important milestone for the edition and simultaneously setting its retirement in 14 months.

The move also begins a countdown clock on support for the late-2015 version of Windows 10, which will be struck from the rolls in October.

“Windows 10 1703 is ready for that broad deployment, based on feedback that we’ve received from organizations, ISVs, partners, OEMs, and consumers that have already done it,” said Michael Niehaus, a director of product marketing, in a post to the company’s TechNet site, a resource for IT professionals. Niehaus referred to the Creators Update by its numerical label, 1703, which is in Microsoft’s yymm format.

Microsoft first offered 1703 on April 5, but has limited automatic delivery to consumers since.

Previous versions of Windows 10 were promoted to the “Current Branch for Business” (CBB) — one of three release “tracks” the company maintained — when they were fit for business use. But Microsoft has discarded CBB, as well as its consumer-grade accomplice, “Current Branch” (CB). In April, the company said it would synchronize Windows 10’s terminology with what it had already settled on for Office 365, and squeeze CBB and CB into a single label, “Semi-Annual Channel” (SAC).

Because there is just one SAC — unlike earlier reports, which had speculated that the channel would be separated into “Pilot” and “Broad” subsections to denote deployment purposes — Microsoft will no longer “promote” a version, like 1703, to another track.

It will, however, continue to declare the acceptable-for-business milepost for each edition.

To celebrate 1703’s new status, Microsoft will update the edition’s installation packages and .iso disk image files by integrating the July 11 cumulative update, the most recent set of security fixes. The installation packages and disk images will be refreshed on Windows Update, Windows Update for Business, WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), the Volume License Servicing Center and MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network), said Niehaus.

Update and patch platforms, including Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), can, of course, roll out 1703 to PCs at IT’s discretion.

With 1703 now ready for broad deployment in enterprise, Microsoft also set the end of support for the first Windows 10 upgrade, dubbed 1511 to mark its November 2015 launch: 1511, which does not have a catchy alternative name, will be retired on Oct. 10, that month’s Patch Tuesday. After that date, Microsoft will refuse to provide security updates and bug fixes to devices running the edition.

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