German researchers defeat printers' doc-tracking dots

Found on The register on Wednesday, 27 June 2018
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Beating the unique identifiers that printers can add to documents for security purposes is possible: you just need to add extra dots beyond those that security tools already add. The trick is knowing where to add them.

Anybody can take a scan of the document, and clear “empty” areas in an image editor, but the group's second technique is more sophisticated. After their algorithm identifies the pattern in use, it takes a mask of all possible dot locations in that pattern, and adds extra dots that conform to the layout, but render the code meaningless.

If you think about it, the idea is pretty simple but clearly very efficient.

OnePlus 6 images reportedly leaked by Amazon Germany

Found on CNet News on Sunday, 13 May 2018
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German tech site Winfuture posted images of the front and back of the Chinese phonemaker's new flagship handset, saying they were originally posted by Amazon's German marketplace.

The alleged leak comes three days before OnePlus is expected to launch its next marquee phone in London. Wednesday's unveiling will also be a fan event, with admission tickets to the event selling out in just a few hours.

Welcome to the sick world of marketing, where the release of a product for daily use gets celebrated like the first newborn child. Not to mention that nobody believes anymore that "leaked photos" got indeed accidentally leaked.

Predictable senility allows boffins to spot recycled NAND chips

Found on The Register on Monday, 07 May 2018
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With the embedded device market booming and semiconductor companies hard-pressed to keep up with demand, the re-circulation of older memory chips has grown in recent years. Because chips become more apt to fail as they get older, newer devices that are outfitted with recycled chips will be more likely to experience problems.

The group hopes that the techniques could be used by manufacturers to test and weed out the older chips that, in an industrial control device, would cause the entire unit to go down should they fail. In the process, they hope to make embedded and industrial devices more reliable over the long-term.

For the normal consumer, the only option is trust.

Loud Sound From Fire Alarm System Shuts Down Nasdaq's Scandinavian Data Center

Found on Bleeping Computer on Friday, 20 April 2018
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These systems work by releasing inert gas at high speeds, a mechanism usually accompanied by a loud whistle-like sound. With non-calibrated systems, this sound can get very loud, a big no-no in data centers, where loud sounds are known to affect performance, shut down, or even destroy hard drives.

Nasdaq said there weren't enough servers in the whole of Sweden to replace the destroyed ones, and had to import new machines.

Pretty sure they are now trying to find out who was supposed to calibrated those systems.

PC Building Simulator is (most of) the fun of building a PC—without pricey GPUs

Found on Ars Technica on Thursday, 29 March 2018
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The "simulator" genre of PC games was already pretty meta, but it has now reached a new level with PC Building Simulator, a game currently available via Steam Early Access. In it, you build desktop PCs (mostly the gaming variety) by opening up the case, installing components, plugging them into the motherboard for power, and more, all in a 3D simulation.

In free-build mode, you're given a storage unit full of every available component, and every part of your workshop is unlocked, so you can just build whatever PCs you please. Want to put in some LED lights and install a transparent case? Go ahead, you l33t simulator, you.

Seriously now? Whoever plays this game should just go out a little more and socialize; you'd be surprised how many request come in once people realize that you are good with that "computer stuff".

Anyone fancy testing the 'unlimited' drive writes claim on Nimbus Data's 100TB whopper SSD?

Found on The Register on Monday, 19 March 2018
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The 100TB ExaDrive has a 3.5-inch enclosure, a SATA interface, and is built from MLC (2bits/cell) 3D NAND. It has, Nimbus claims, the lowest power/TB rating, down to 0.1W/TB, 85 per cent lower than Micron's 5100 drive.

Savings offered by the ExaDrive over these drives are physical space and power. A theoretical 100PB constructed from 3,264 Samsung PM1643 SSDs would need 6 x 45U racks, according to Nimbus, and around 50kW of power.

The same ExaDrive-sourced capacity would need one rack, 990 drives and draw about 16kW.

At 500MB/s write speed, that 100TB drive could be loaded with roughly 41TB per day. Other manufacturers give a warranty for up to 10 complete drive writes per day. So basically Nimbus just makes drives slower so that they last longer; no magic.

If you love CDs you need this

Found on CNet News on Saturday, 03 March 2018
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While a lot of audiophiles still enjoy large CD collections, most of those folks use CD, DVD, Blu-ray players or computers to play CDs.

Of course you can use any CD, DVD or Blu-ray player with digital outputs as a CD transport, but will they sound as good as a dedicated CD transport?

True audiophiles probably never really embraced a digital format; and amongst those who do, there is that fraction which will happily buy expensive cables that "make the bits sound better".

WD My Cloud NAS devices have hard-wired backdoor

Found on The Register on Monday, 08 January 2018
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WD mostly markets the My Cloud range as suited for file sharing and backup in domestic settings. But several of the models with the backdoor are four-disk machines suitable for use as shared storage in small business and also capable of being configured as iSCSI targets for use supporting virtual servers. Throw in the fact that some of the messed-up machines can reach 40TB capacity and there's the very real prospect that sizeable databases are dangling online.

At the same time, politicians still believe that backdoors are a safe and secure way to access all data of citizens. As soon as a backdoor gets exposed, it will be abused.

Amazon: Intel Meltdown patch will slow down your AWS EC2 server

Found on The Register on Friday, 05 January 2018
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Punters said that, since AWS began rolling out anti-Meltdown updates in December, they have noticed an increase in CPU utilization by their EC2 virtual machines. The solution is to either optimize the application code, or move to a more powerful and expensive host server to take the extra load.

"Immediately following the reboot my server running on this instance started to suffer from CPU stress," one admin noted after installing the patch.

So (obviously) Intel's statement that patches will barely have any noticeable performance penalty was pretty much fake news. It was already clear the moment Intel released the propaganda statement.

Major flaw in millions of Intel chips revealed

Found on BBC News on Thursday, 04 January 2018
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A serious flaw in the design of Intel's chips will require Microsoft, Linux and Apple to update operating systems for computers around the world.

Experts have said that the fix could slow down the performance of computers by up to 30% but Intel played this down, saying that "for the average user, performance impacts should not be significant and will be mitigated over time".

The flaw is also likely to affect major cloud computing platforms such as Amazon, Microsoft Azure and Google, according to The Register, which broke news of the bug.

The average user rarely makes full use of his CPU to notice; but if you ever did some video encoding or 3D renders, you now can drink a few cups of coffee more while waiting for results. However, Intel should be way more concerned and not try to downplay the impact of the bug. After all, it also affects all those who use Intel CPUs in their servers, and there a 30% performance hit can be dramatic. For many this will include buying new hardware to cope with the loss, and those customers sure won't be happy about the way Intel handles all this.