HP laptops have once again been hit by a hidden keylogger

HP laptops have once again been hit by a hidden keylogger

HP laptops have been blighted by another keylogger (following the discovery of one in the firm’s notebooks earlier this year), with the issue affecting almost 500 devices – and it could even affect other manufacturers’ portables.

A keylogger is capable of stealthily recording everything the user types on the keyboard (like logins and passwords), so this is clearly a major problem. Security researcher Michael Myng made the discovery, with the security flaw nestled deep in the Synaptics Touchpad driver.

The keylogger is turned off by default, but can be enabled by modifying a registry value. Apparently it was put in there as part of debugging functionality, but should (obviously) have been stripped out for the production driver.

HP acted quickly to patch the problem, and listed the affected laptops, which number around 460 models. They include HP Envy, Omen, Pavilion, Spectre, Stream, EliteBook, ProBook, ZBook models and more. Check here for the full list, and the relevant updated driver you should download and install to cure the problem.

More notebooks affected?

HP noted: “A potential security vulnerability has been identified with certain versions of Synaptics touchpad drivers that impacts all Synaptics OEM partners. A party would need administrative privileges in order to take advantage of the vulnerability. Neither Synaptics nor HP has access to customer data as a result of this issue.”

As observed, this issue could affect other manufacturers’ laptops which have the same Synaptics Touchpad driver, if they haven’t already been patched. So if you have a Synaptics touchpad on a non-HP laptop, it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for any news of an issue (and indeed a fix if that’s the case).

It’s really not been a good year for HP given that the firm was also hit by a keylogger buried in a Conexant audio driver back in May. And at the end of last month, there was the whole fracas about alleged spyware installed on HP laptops in the form of the firm’s own Touchpoint Analytics service.

Via: BBC

Source: http://www.techradar.com/news/hp-laptops-have-once-again-been-hit-by-a-hidden-keylogger

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Climate Change Could Take the Air Out of Wind Farms

Climate Change Could Take the Air Out of Wind Farms

Big offshore wind farms power Europe’s drive for a carbon-free society, while rows of spinning turbines across America’s heartland churn enough energy to power 25 million US homes. But a new study predicts that a changing climate will weaken winds that blow across much of the Northern hemisphere, possibly leading to big drops in clean wind energy.

That’s because the temperature difference between the North Pole and the equator, which drives atmospheric energy in the form of winds and storm systems, is shrinking as the Arctic warms. A warmer Arctic means less of a temperature difference and therefore weaker winds across the central United States, the United Kingdom, the northern Middle East, and parts of Asia. It’s just one of many weather-related effects that scientists forecast are likely to occur as concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide continue to rise in the Earth’s atmosphere—from stronger hurricanes to weaker polar vortexes.

“Our results don’t show the wind power goes to zero, it’s a reduction of 10 percent over broad regions,” says Kristopher Karnauskas, a climate scientist at Colorado University Boulder and lead author of the new study published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience. “But it’s not trivial.”

Wind derives its energy from instability between regions of the globe—in the Northern hemisphere, from instability between the equator and North Pole. “That’s why we have a constant parade of weather systems,” says Karnauskas. “They are there because of this contrast in energy between the equator and the pole. Because the Arctic is warming so much faster than the rest of the world, you can imagine how it changes the gradient.”

Down under, things are likely to be different. Under some climate change prediction models, the Southern Hemisphere will see stronger winds because the difference in southern land and sea temperatures will increase. Changing wind patterns in the Southern hemisphere might have other effects as well, including pushing masses of warm water off the Antarctica coastline and melting glaciers from below at a faster rate.

Karnauskas and colleagues used several climate scenarios from the latest IPCC report and combined them with a formula that the wind industry uses to derive how much electricity a turbine can produce. The study used 10 climate models, each one using a different level of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations by 2050 and 2100. Together, those data indicate changing weather patterns will cause an 8 to 10 percent drop in wind across much of the Northern hemisphere by 2050, with a 14 to 18 percent drop by the end of the century. “Most of the human population and wind farms are in the Northern hemisphere,” says Karnauskas.

And a small drop in available wind can translate into a bigger drop in the amount of wind energy produced by turbines. “The total energy from wind farms would drop significantly,” says Geoff Spedding, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Southern California who was not involved in the study. That’s because power output is windspeed to the third power—so Spedding calculates that a 10 percent drop in wind power would result in a nearly 30 percent drop in wind-derived energy.

That doesn’t mean the potential for wind power will disappear. Karnauskas says that a changing climate would merely “shift the potential for wind power from the north to the south.” The study calculates potential wind power hotspots in places like East Australia, West Africa, and the Brazilian coast, for example. The big losers will likely be the Central US and Scandinavia, places where wind power has surged in recent years. That kind of shift may mean new players in the global wind game, especially if there’s an economical and efficient way to store this energy.

Spedding notes that the operators of wind farms are used to dealing with variability in wind speed and direction—they will likely find ways to compensate for a future with less available wind. That idea is shared by a co-author on the paper who studies the turbulent airborne “wake” produced behind the spinning blades of 300-foot tall wind turbines, which reduces the energy available for turbines downwind. Julie Lundquist, atmospheric scientist at CU, says that researchers are considering ways to get the next generation of turbines higher off the ground where winds travel faster. They could put turbines on kites for example, or change the position of individual turbines in order to reduce the wake that flows behind.

“Existing wind farms won’t stop working,” Lundquist says. “But we should be on the alert to look for indications of change.” The US currently gets about 5 percent of its power from wind turbines, although five states in the Midwest generate more than 20 percent of their electricity from this renewable source of energy. Hopes for East Coast offshore wind farm were dashed recently when Cape Wind pulled the plug on an operation between Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard after strong local opposition. But developers and state officials in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina are hoping that projects in those waters will soon be replacing coal-fired energy with wind power. Of course, if those winds peter out, future wind farms could be left stranded—or at least in search of new technologies to keep green power flowing.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/climate-change-could-take-the-air-out-of-wind-farms/

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Am I The Worst For Looking at People’s Texts on the Subway?

Am I The Worst For Looking at People’s Texts on the Subway?

Q: I Catch Myself Peeking at Other People’s Texts on the Subway. Am I the Worst?

A: Imagine being eaten by a cave bear. Or a saber-toothed cat. Imagine, with that first gash of claw or incisor, instantaneously transitioning from being a person to being food. Imagine what it feels like, the first, dangling bits of you being rent apart, ground up and ingested, while the rest of you watches.

Very unpleasant stuff. And yet for much of human history we lived acutely under such a threat. Just think how hard it must have been to relax! If prehistoric humans were anything like modern animals, one way they fended off predators was by vigilantly monitoring the creatures around them for signs of danger, in case they saw the terror coming a split-second sooner.

There were subtler benefits to watching other people too—particularly when they didn’t expect us to be watching. Keeping tabs on private behavior helped enforce social norms; food hoarding or sexual transgressions could be exposed and censured. In short, spying helped us thrive, and so we became exceptionally good at it, innovating like crazy. (Apparently, the Mehinaku tribe in Central Brazil can tell who had sex with whom by identifying the footprints that accompany butt-cheek imprints in the sand.) We became, as one psychologist has put it, a species of “informavores”—a surreptitiously symbiotic race of hyper-­obtrusives, sucking up information about one another. Our business has always been getting up in each other’s business.

This was all upended 10,000 to 15,000 years ago when human beings started living behind walls. But the impulse to know what was happening on the other side of those walls remained. So we stood outside, under the “eavesdrop,” where rain spilled off the roof, and collected what information we could. We just couldn’t help ourselves. As John Locke, a linguist at Lehman College at City University of New York, writes, “If we are to find out the answer to humankind’s most important questions—who we are—it is necessary to know what others are like.”

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I learned all this from Locke’s book, Eavesdropping: An Intimate History. Years ago, Locke was editing a draft of the book on a flight to London and a woman nosed over her headrest to ask what it was about; she’d been snooping. Locke met her gaze and explained that his book “concerned the intense desire of members of our species to know what is going on in the personal lives of others.”

At first I imagined him delivering that line as a sick burn—subtext: Mind your own business, lady. But Locke told me he wasn’t particularly put out. The woman didn’t seem all that guilt-ridden, either; after all, she volunteered that she’d been spying on him.

Certainly, some violations of privacy are more aggressive, heartless, and immoral than others. (Reading a text over someone’s shoulder on the subway is different from hacking into their email.) The immorality of eavesdropping also depends on the intimacy of the information you end up gleaning, which of course you have no way of knowing until after you glean it. An excruciating paradox!

And yet, I took the point of Locke’s airplane story to be, as he explained it, that eavesdropping is pretty bilateral—there’s an understanding that “you eavesdrop on me now, I eavesdrop on you later, and neither of us can claim to be innocent.” We grasp that eavesdropping is mostly harmless, because we know everyone is doing it. As the other John Locke is often paraphrased, “We are like chameleons. We take our hue and the color of our moral character from those who are around us.”

So are you the worst? I can only answer by saying you are human like the rest of us. We are all informational predators. We are also all informational prey. I’d only ask that you bear that in mind and be careful not to abuse any power or privilege that the illicit knowledge affords you. Keep your eyes open—fine. But keep your claws retracted.


This article appears in the December issue. Subscribe now.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/ethics-of-reading-other-peoples-texts/

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The best VPNs for India in 2017

The best VPNs for India in 2017

When it comes to internet freedoms in India, things aren’t quite as peachy as they could be. The local government performs regular blocking and restricts access in various parts of the country, and downloading copyrighted material is obviously illegal, but can also potentially land you with serious jail time.

Although streaming and merely visiting blocked sites isn’t necessarily illegal as such, it’s best to avoid any potential grey areas by staying protected. And when we say protected, we mean using one of the best VPN services which will not only keep you private and secure, but also allow you to bypass restrictions with ease.

How to choose the best VPN service for India

We have already established the two primary concerns in this matter – privacy and security. Whether you’re a local, expat or a visitor on business or otherwise, you’ll want as many local server locations as possible for a fast and reliable connection.

Ideally, a good VPN provider should offer quality customer support round-the-clock to address any issues swiftly and accordingly. Everything else is a bonus, although it’s always good to have straightforward and user-friendly native clients (and preferably strong mobile app support).

Without further ado, here are our five choices for the best VPN for India.

1. IPVanish

Best all-round VPN for India

Number of servers: 950+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: 40000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5

Good security
Excellent performance
Windows client needs work
No free trial

[57% Off] IPVanish (Official Promotion) – Get up to 57% Off TechRadar’s #1 Rated VPN Service  with IPVanish’s top-tier network delivering some of the fastest speeds in our tests. Zero logs gives you total privacy. 

IPVanish offers six servers in New Delhi which should guarantee a stable and good quality connection. In our performance testing, we certainly found download speeds to be excellent, and actually faster than our normal rates with the VPN turned off.

The dedicated Windows client is one of the best around with a wide range of settings that cover both basic and advanced features, although we did encounter the odd network glitch (but your mileage may well vary). The service allows torrenting and unlimited P2P traffic, which is doubtless a huge plus for some users.

On the security front, you get OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols, along with additional goodies like being able to set your IP address to automatically change after a certain interval. A strict ‘zero logs’ policy is in place with 24/7 customer support to deal with any problems.

IPVanish’s pricing is slightly higher than most other VPN providers, and there’s no free trial to test the service. However, the three available plans include a hassle-free 7-day money-back guarantee. The 1-year plan is your best bet as the most affordable option. The packages available are:

2. Tiger VPN

Fastest VPN

Number of servers: 300+ | Server locations: 64 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 2-5

Fast speeds
Free 500MB trial
Overly basic clients
Monthly plan only offers 2 connections

This Slovakian VPN provider has servers in Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai. TigerVPN runs its own servers and network infrastructure, with our tests showing excellent results performance-wise. The service offers native apps for all the main platforms – iOS, Android, Windows and Mac – and these are very easy-to-use, if a little light on advanced options.

TigerVPN is P2P friendly, and in terms of protocols you get OpenVPN, IPSec L2TP, and PPTP support. Additionally, there’s a NAT firewall, and the service uses meshed IP addresses for enhanced privacy. TigerVPN doesn’t store any logs of your internet activity anywhere, and customer support is available instantly via email, live chat, a ticketing system or the native apps.

You can get a small sampler of the service with a free 500MB trial. If you want to sign up, in total, there are three pricing plans at your disposal. The monthly plan only supports two simultaneous connections, so your best bet is the 12-month plan that provides five connections and a cheaper overall price. The packages available are:

3. ExpressVPN

Best for mobile users

Number of servers: 1500+ | Server locations: 148 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 3

Wide choice of servers and locations
Superb mobile clients
No free trial

ExpressVPN boasts lots of local coverage with servers in Mumbai and Chennai, and furthermore it offers locations in almost all neighbouring countries to India. In terms of performance, this VPN gives you above-average speeds. There’s also an impressive variety of easy-to-use clients for all major platforms. The Android and iOS apps are quite intuitive and well-designed, offering an array of useful options. 

Security-wise, ExpressVPN uses OpenVPN, L2TP-IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP protocols. There is no logging of network traffic, and 24/7 customer support is available via email or live chat. This provider supports P2P, as well.

ExpressVPN doesn’t offer a free trial – but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. Subscriptions are a bit more expensive than many rivals (although you can get some money off via the firm’s referral program). Of the three plans, the yearly subscription is the most affordable, as usual; plus you get three months free. The packages available are:

4. SaferVPN

Most affordable VPN

Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 34 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 2-5

Above-average speeds
Easy on your wallet
No P2P support
Detailed session (not traffic) logging

This VPN provider has a total of nine servers in India, and manages its own server network. Our performance tests yielded generally very good results with only small drops in download and upload speeds. There are native apps for all the main operating systems, namely Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, and they’re nice and user-friendly.

The service supports IKEv2, OpenVPN, L2TP and PPTP security protocols. There is no logging of traffic data but the provider does collect session data (connect and disconnect times, your incoming IP address, and so on). That’s more information than we’d ideally like – and another slight downer to bear in mind is that torrents aren’t supported here.

Customer service is available around the clock via live chat or email, and you can test this VPN out with a 24-hour ‘all-access’ trial. That’s backed up by a 30-day money-back guarantee. Among the three price plans, the 2-year option offers the most value-for-money. The packages available are:

5. Buffered VPN

Best VPN for responsive browsing

Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 46 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5

Impressive speeds and low latency
Good refund policy
No mobile clients
One of the pricier VPNs

This Hungary-based provider has decent local coverage for India, and offers excellent performance. We saw top-notch speeds and low latency in both short and long distance connections during testing, which made for very responsive browsing.

The service boasts solid desktop clients, but nothing on the mobile front when it comes to native software, sadly. There are instructions provided for Android and iOS involving the OpenVPN Connect app, but they could take you a while to get working.

Buffered VPN is not cheap, even if you opt for the year-long plan. However, the firm’s refund policy is a highlight of the service, and will be very useful for those who want to give this VPN a try, knowing they have a safety net to fall back on. You can get your money back as long as you haven’t used the VPN connection for more than 10 hours of time, 100 sessions or 10GB of bandwidth (whichever comes first). The packages available are:

Source: http://www.techradar.com/news/best-vpn-for-india-our-5-top-choices

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Banking apps (and one VPN) hit by worrying security flaw

Banking apps (and one VPN) hit by worrying security flaw

Security researchers have found that some major UK and US banks had vulnerabilities in their mobile apps which potentially allowed malicious parties to steal login credentials, although these holes have apparently now been patched.

Researchers from the computer science department of the University of Birmingham in the UK found that banks including HSBC – and also a VPN provider, TunnelBear – had flaws in their iOS and Android apps which allowed for so-called ‘man in the middle’ attacks to take place.

The issue pertained to the way that the apps conduct ‘certificate pinning’, which allows the software to specify a certain certificate that is trusted for a given server. The vulnerability was in the implementation of certificate pinning and verification used when creating a TLS connection, Threatpost explains.

The result being that it was possible to spoof said certificate and therefore pull off a ‘man in the middle’ attack, in which the malicious party can then obtain the victim’s login details.

Critical compromises

This is obviously particularly critical when it comes to online banking, and the affected apps included a whole range of HSBC apps (including the basic HSBC app, and HSBC Business app), along with Bank of America Health, Meezan Bank, and Smile Bank.

It’s also worrying that a VPN provider could have a hole in its software, too, considering Virtual Private Networks are all about making the internet a more secure and private place for users.

According to the report, all the banks have fixed the relevant vulnerabilities in their apps, but it just goes to show you that even software which really should be ultra-secure can still have holes in it.

While TunnelBear isn’t mentioned, presumably the provider has implemented a fix as well, you would hope.

The researchers concluded: “Clearly, the abundance of pinning implementation options available to developers has played a role in causing these flaws to be made. Platform providers can make this less of an issue by providing standardised implementations with clear documentation. To this end, Google have introduced Network Security Configuration in the Android 7.0 SDK.

“If app developers make use of these standard implementations, instead of rolling out their own or using 3rd party libraries, these errors will be much less likely to occur.”

Source: http://www.techradar.com/news/banking-apps-and-one-vpn-hit-by-worrying-security-flaw

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The best cheap Fitbit deals for Christmas 2017

The best cheap Fitbit deals for Christmas 2017

Cheap Fitbit deals for Black Friday 2017 became available today, meaning the world can stay healthy in a cost-effective way. The fitness tracker is sometimes hard to find on discount, so this is a rare weekend.

Inexpensive Fitbit sales do exist, however, and we’ve had our collective noses to the ground in search of the lowest prices for Fitbit’s range of wearables. If you’re in need of a healthy change, start here to find your match.

Fitbit Alta

Fitbit’s most fashion-forward wearable

Size: Three sizes | Display: OLED | Weight: N/A | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 5-7 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Striking design
Week-long battery life
Tap-sensitive screen isn’t sensitive enough
Not a tremendous value

While the Fitbit Flex 2 offers a sporty look, the Fitbit Alta offers something else entirely. On the wrist, the Alta is a fetching, form-fitting fitness tracker that looks more like a bracelet. But don’t let its looks fool you too much. Underneath, it packs in the same Fitbit smarts, like step, exercise and sleep tracking functionalities. To top it off, the battery life is astoundingly good. On the downside, the small display doesn’t show off nearly as much info as the Fitbit Charge 2, nor is it as responsive to the touch. However, if fashion is key, this is your Fitbit.

Read our review: Fitbit Alta

Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit’s most fashion-forward wearable, now with a heart rate monitor

Size: Three sizes | Display: OLED | Weight: N/A | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 5-7 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Striking design
Week-long battery life
Accurate Heart rate monitoring
Tap-sensitive screen isn’t sensitive enough
Not a tremendous value

The Fitbit Alta HR takes the fetching formula of the original and adds heart rate monitoring into the mix. During use, we found it to be surprisingly accurate and the OLED display shows the metrics in a simple, easy-to-read fashion.

Much of this package is also available on the Alta, like the usual Fitbit smarts, including step, exercise and sleep tracking functionalities. To top it off, the battery life is astoundingly good. 

Opt for this model if heart rate-based exercise is important to you. It’s mostly the same as the original Alta, but the added functionality for not much extra cash down is a good thing in our book.

Read our review: Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit Charge 2

A low-profile, yet info-packed tracker

Size: Three sizes | Display: OLED | Weight: N/A | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 5 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Big screen
Multi-sport tracking
Limited phone notifications

Fitbit Charge 2, another modern spin on a Fitbit classic, is packed with improvements and thoughtful tweaks over the original to make it worth your consideration. First off, the screen has been blown out to display even more information than before, including smartphone notifications – even if the feature is a bit limited. In addition, the Charge 2 features multi-sport tracking through the comprehensive Fitbit app that we know and love. This Fitbit isn’t the cheapest model out there, but if it’s multi-sport tracking data and on-screen information you seek, the Charge 2 will fit the bill.

Read our review: Fitbit Charge 2

Fitbit Blaze

Fitbit’s take on the smartwatch

Size: Three sizes | Display: LCD | Weight: N/A | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 5 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Good value
Unique fitness features
Display is unresponsive at times
Isn’t as robust as most smartwatches

If the Apple Watch and Android Wear (and now the Fitbit Ionic) smartwatches have caught your eye, but you don’t want to sacrifice fitness know-how (or hundreds of dollars), the Fitbit Blaze may be the wearable for you. It boasts a vibrant display that showcases fitness metrics and a healthy share of smartphone notifications. This is one of the most versatile Fitbits that you can purchase at the moment. This model is splashproof, but not waterproof like the Fitbit Flex 2, nor is its battery life as spectacular. But, the Fitbit Charge is much smarter than most and is one to consider if being connected is important to you.

Read our review: Fitbit Blaze

Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit’s newest fitness-focused smartwatch

Size: One size (S & L included) | Display: LCD | Weight: 50g | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 4+ days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Slick smartwatch design
Engaging fitness software
Expensive for a Fitbit
Few third-party apps

The Fitbit Ionic is the newest member of the Fitbit family and moves deeper into smartwatch territory. It combines the best Fitbit goal-tracking software with all of the major features of a smartwatch, and it’s a little cheaper than an Apple Watch. Plus, it works with both iOS and Android.

Read our hands-on review: Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit Flex 2

A simple, swimproof wearable

Size: Two sizes | Display: N/A | Weight: N/A | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 5 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Comfy and lightweight
Fun, engaging software
Slow to charge
Lack of screen might baffle some

Another of Fitbit’s latest wearables is an update to one of its oldest: the Fitbit Flex. The new and improved Fitbit Flex 2 doesn’t do a whole lot to change the familiar look, but the innards have been refreshed to make this the one worth buying over the original. It’s smaller, more fashionable, and most importantly, it’s water-resistant, which is a first for Fitbit. The lack of a screen might be a bother for some, but if you can adjust, this fitness tracker compensates by being remarkably low-profile. You don’t even need to take it off before you hop in the shower. If a no-fuss tracker is on your list, this is your match.

Read our review: Fitbit Flex 2

Fitbit Surge

Fitbit’s most hardcore wearable

Size: Three sizes | Display: LCD | Weight: N/A | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Battery: 7 days, 10 hours w/ GPS | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0

Built-in GPS
Heart-rate monitor
Quite large on the wrist
GPS totally drains the battery

If you’re someone who works out a ton, you’ll want to know about the Fitbit Surge. Competing against Garmin’s high-end trackers, the Surge is Fitbit’s most robust offering, packing in a long 7-day battery inside, along with a GPS sensor that can track your run or walk for up to 10 consecutive hours. It costs more than many other wearables in the Fitbit range, but it is generally better value than most smartwatches boasting similar specs. The inclusion of GPS, its splashproof design and a battery that can last up to 7 days makes it a smart option for workout enthusiasts.

Read our review: Fitbit Surge

  • You’ve seen the deals, now see the best Fitbit in our ranked list

Source: http://www.techradar.com/news/cheap-fitbit

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AMD’s next-gen Ryzen processors could arrive in just a couple of months

AMD’s next-gen Ryzen processors could arrive in just a couple of months

AMD will push out Ryzen 2 processors (‘Pinnacle Ridge’) built on a 12nm process as early as February next year, if the CPU grapevine has got it right.

According to Wccftech.com, Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 2000 series processors will arrive complete with a bump to clock speeds, as well as more overclocking potential. As mentioned, these will be 12nm as opposed to the existing Ryzen products which use a 14nm process.

The second-gen Ryzen 7 CPUs will be the first to arrive in late February according to the tech site, followed by the mid-range Ryzen 5 and budget Ryzen 3 which will pitch up in March.

These chips will offer better power efficiency, and on the performance front, core counts will allegedly remain the same, but clock frequencies should be boosted by 200-300MHz or thereabouts across the board, Wccftech.com asserts. The processors will also apparently support faster DDR4 memory frequencies.

Compatible chips

It’s also worth noting that the chips will be compatible with existing (AM4) motherboards, so if you want to upgrade from an original Ryzen processor, you’ll be able to do so, with only a BIOS update required for the motherboard. However, there will apparently be new motherboards (sporting extra features) launching with these fresh CPUs for those who want them.

There aren’t any further details on the second-gen desktop processors at this point. Note that there’s also a story doing the rounds about new AMD processors with a Ryzen 7 sequel offering 12-cores and boosting up to 5.1GHz, but this is an entirely different rumor which has been proved to be false and based on a fake slide.

As for the mobile versions of Ryzen 2 processors, these should emerge in April, and second-generation Ryzen Pro CPUs are expected to arrive in May 2018.

Meanwhile, as we heard at the end of last month, speculation has it that Intel’s next mainstream Core i7 CPU (out next year) will boast 8-cores (with 16-threads) in order to keep pace with Ryzen’s multi-core skills.

Source: http://www.techradar.com/news/amds-next-gen-ryzen-processors-could-arrive-in-just-a-couple-of-months

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When Your Activity Tracker Becomes a Personal Medical Device

When Your Activity Tracker Becomes a Personal Medical Device

Fitbit spent its first decade selling activity trackers. With its latest moves, the company is starting to look less like a gear maker selling pricey accessories to fitness buffs and more like a medical-device company, catering to hospitals, patients, and health insurers. The company’s business-to-business arm, called Health Solutions, is now addressing four health conditions—sleep disorders including sleep apnea, diabetes, cardiovascular health and mental health—for employers, health insurers, healthcare providers, and researchers.

Fitbit has deals with insurers like UnitedHealthcare, which pays its clients up to $1,500 a year for hitting step-count goals. United has done years of research to calculate its return on these payouts, says Fitbit CEO James Park. “The business models are finally catching up to the data we have been collecting.” The next stage is to add in heart rate data, he says.

Fitbit’s newest product, the Ionic smartwatch, uses a blood-oxygen sensor to screen for sleep apnea and detect a type of heart arrhythmia. The company has completed clinical trials on the use cases and is awaiting US Food and Drug Administration approval. If it receives approval, Fitbits could replace expensive chest patch scanning to perform initial screenings for atrial fibrillation on some patients, Park says. The company’s data has been popular with cancer researchers.

There are plenty of reasons behind the company’s transition: For one, Fitbit will always battle high abandonment rates. (“Fitbit? More like Quitbit,” The Atlantic once quipped.) Fitbit’s sales of fitness trackers, and in turn, its stock price, have reflected that fatigue; revenue fell 22% last quarter and its stock is trading at a 77% discount to its opening price in 2014. But most important, the company needs to differentiate its offerings from the Apple Watch, which debuted in 2015 and has studies that address some of the same areas Fitbit is chasing. Fitbit beat Apple in the third quarter in terms of devices shipped, taking 13.7% of the market, according to IDC. Apple, which took 10.3% of the market, experienced a dramatic increase in sales, while Fitbit continues its decline.

Fitbit believes its position as a neutral player that works with any phone makes it desirable to insurance companies and hospitals. Apple Watches only work with iPhones; if an employer, hospital or insurer wants its clients to use them, it won’t be able to reach people who have Android phones.

Fitbit’s push into medicine is not without risks. Park agrees that over time the company’s products will become a form of medical device, but he’s reluctant to call them that outright. The company’s brand is valuable because of its association with fitness and self-improvement, and consumer psychology is a critical component in making sure something like a step tracker is successful, he says.

“There is a dramatic difference in consumer acceptance and engagement when you say, ‘Hey, here is a medical device from Medtronic, go wear it,’ versus, ‘Here’s a Fitbit, wear this instead,’ ” Park says. “One is aspirational, the other implies that you’re sick. Consumers just go in with a different mentality based on how it’s portrayed and that is actually really, really important.”

That’s why Fitbit is participating in a new FDA precertification program aimed at digital health products, announced in September. “The FDA recognizes that there is this potentially new class of devices that’s not a consumer device and not a traditional medical device, but somewhere in between, and that there needs to be a new regulatory pathway,” Park says. Fitbit’s rival, Apple, is also a participant.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/when-your-activity-tracker-becomes-a-personal-medical-device/

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The US Flirts With Geoengineering to Stymie Climate Change

The US Flirts With Geoengineering to Stymie Climate Change

The thing about humans is, for all our faults, we’re actually pretty good at fixing things we know we’ve screwed up. Lead in gasoline? Bad idea—let’s ban lead in gasoline. Running out of oil to make gasoline? Let’s switch to electric vehicles.

Runaway climate change because humanity has taken too long to ditch fossil fuels? That’s … a bit trickier. Because even if the world meets the emissions goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, it may be too late to fix what we’ve done.

So a growing chorus of scientists have been mumbling about geoengineering. Doing things like spraying sulfur in the stratosphere or whitening clouds to bounce light back into space to help cool things down. And last week, Congressman Jerry McNerney joined them, introducing a bill that would ask the National Academies of Science to explore technologies to geoengineer Earth. In two reports, they’d explore research avenues and oversight of that research—that is, if the bill gets past McNerney’s colleagues and then the only world leader to shun the Paris Climate Agreement.

To be clear, McNerney would love nothing more than for the US to cut emissions. But the climate situation has become so dire that he thinks geoengineering is now something the US is obligated to explore. Not, like, initiating a full-scale manipulation of the stratosphere next week, but at least looking into the idea. “It’s very important that we understand what our tools are,” he says. “What options do we have? How much risk is there?”

The options are few and the risks murky. Take, for instance, sulfur seeding. The idea is to inject sulfur dioxide into the lower stratosphere, where it turns into sulfur aerosol that reflects light back into space. Problem is, just last month researchers released a study showing that if you injected the stuff into the Northern Hemisphere, you might reduce hurricanes in the Atlantic—and kick off a drought in north-central Africa in the process.

At the moment, no scientist is flying around in the stratosphere dumping out sulfur dioxide. They’re working with models and, conveniently enough, studying historical precedent—because the same sort of cooling happens when a massive volcano erupts. In 1912, for instance, an Alaskan volcano popped 30 cubic kilometers of ash and debris into the atmosphere. The next year was the only year on record without a hurricane, which is in keeping with the new models.

Another geoengineering option is called marine cloud brightening, which entails … the brightening of marine clouds. To do this, theoretically you’d spray a fine mist of water particles in clouds. Because when clouds are dark and stormy-looking, the particles within them, known as cloud condensation nuclei, are larger. “If the droplets are smaller, there’s more sunlight bouncing off all the surface area and the cloud is lighter and fluffier,” says Kelly Wanser, principal director of the Marine Cloud Brightening Project at the University of Washington.

The problem is that when you’re reflecting light away from Earth, you’re drawing heat out of the system. And when you do that you’re potentially reducing evaporation, which of course produces rain. “In general,” Wanser says, “and this kind of shows in the models, these geoengineering techniques are likely to produce a little less precipitation, and that effect is likely to be uneven and may be really hard to predict.”

Which brings us to the question of regionality. One country might decide it wants to tinker with its atmosphere, but that could muck things up for its neighbors, both near and far. And as you might imagine, there’s no treaty on the books that says you can’t geoengineer your neighbors into oblivion. “The current framework for ensuring accountability under international law is pretty thin on what it substantively requires,” says Anna-Maria Hubert, principal investigator at the Geoengineering Research Governance Project. “And whether it could even be enforced is a separate question.” (A reminder that McNerney’s bill would task the National Academies of Science with exploring the critical matter of oversight.)

Complicating matters is that in the eyes of the international community, big US initiatives on anything remotely related to climate change look … weird. “From an outside view, it’s difficult to see how the US taking leadership on solar geoengineering will not be met with expressions of distrust and even some hostility from the international climate community,” Hubert says. Consider that this geoengineering bill would put the Secretary of Energy in charge of interfacing with the National Academies of Science. That would be Rick Perry, who’s said humans aren’t the primary driver of climate change.

Complicating matters still further is that geoengineering would be a mighty tempting excuse to just emit whatever we want now. “That’s one of my fears,” McNerney says, “is that people will say, ‘Hey we’ve got this great science and technology, we can just continue to emit.’ But man, that is the absolute wrong answer.”

All complications considered, these are still very, very early days in geoengineering. McNerney wants insight at this point, not immediate solutions. This is science, after all. It’ll move slowly and methodically, and almost certainly not lead to humans making matters worse for themselves. Almost certainly.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/the-us-flirts-with-geoengineering/

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