Microsoft Admits That Meltdown And Spectre Fix Will Slow Down Older Computers

Microsoft has warned users that its resolution for the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities may cause some performance issues, particularly for those on pre-2016 Intel processors.
According to Microsoft’s security advisory, the performance reduction is related to the second variant of the Spectre vulnerability; classified as CVE 2017-5715. The developers have had to rewrite the CPU instructions to prevent attackers from abusing the predictive tasks arrangement.
For the most part, computers running on Intel’s Skylake and later processors will only see single digit percentage drops in performance. It’s unlikely to be noticeable for the majority of users, where processor loads are rarely pushed to their limits for long periods of time.
On the other hand, Haswell and older processors will see double digit performance drops. Microsoft claims that those on older versions of Windows will be affected more than those on Windows 10; but it looks like everyone across the board will experience slower computers.

It may be tempting for some to skip installing the security update to avoid the performance hit, but that only invites more danger. Especially since these two vulnerabilities are understood to be rather critical and could result in becoming the victim of all sorts of cybercriminals.
AMD users are not entirely spared either. Microsoft has halted updates for these systems while it figures out why the patch prevents some machines from booting up.
[Source: Microsoft]
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CES 2018: Western Digital Announces Two Rugged Portable SSDs

Western Digital has launched a new range of rugged and portable SSDs. The Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD and My Passport Wireless SSD are designed to be used out in the field by “avid photographers and drone enthusiasts”.
Sandisk’s Extreme Portable SSD is a pocket-sized device, using USB-C connectivity for data transfers. It is encased in a durable housing that is rated IP55, so it is both dust and water resistant and can work in extreme conditions. On paper, it can function in temperatures as low as 0°C to as high as 45°C.
The Extreme Portable SSD supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface, with transfer speeds of up to 550MB/s. It comes in multiple storage sizes: 250GB, 500GB or 1TB with prices starting from US$ 100 (RM 400).

Meanwhile the WD My Passport Wireless SSD is an upgrade to the company’s previous offering, the WD My Passport Wireless Pro. Instead of platter-based drives, it now houses solid state drives for that extra ruggedness factor. It still features a SD-card slot, WiFi connectivity and a built-in battery that can now last up to 15 hours on a single charge.

The My Passport Wireless SSD comes in either 250GB, 500GB, 1TB or 2TB capacities with a sticker price starting from US$ 250 (RM 1,002). Both drives are expected to start shipping from the middle of February 2018.
(Source: Western Digital)
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Galax Unveils The GTX 1070 Ti HOF Graphics Card

Galax has showcased its latest graphics card called the GTX 1070 Ti HOF. For those who are not aware, Galax’s HOF (Hall Of Fame) series of graphics cards feature the industry’s best components for the sole purpose of obtaining the best possible 3DMark benchmark scores – at least according to Galax.
When it comes to design, the GTX 1070 Ti HOF retains the same aesthetics as previous HOF series graphics cards. The new Galax card features an all white cooler shroud along with three 90mm open-air cooling fans (TriMax), which Galax claims will remain relatively silent even under heavy load. Besides that, the GTX 1070 Ti HOF is equipped with a backplate as well.

Performance-wise, the GTX 1070 Ti HOF features the same clock speeds as other custom GTX 1070 Ti graphics cards in the market. That said, Galax has fitted this graphics card with one-click option (through Galax’s Xtreme Tuner Plus) for consumers to bump up the clock speeds significantly. To be more specific, one this is done, the clock speeds of this graphics card is raised to 1657MHz (base) and 1860MHz (boost).
Unfortunately, the pricing and release date of the GTX 1070 Ti HOF was not mentioned by Galax at the time of writing. That said, we do expect this graphics card to come with a rather hefty price tag once it becomes available to the public.
(Source: VideoCardz, SegmentNext)
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Samsung To Launch The Galaxy S9 At MWC 2018

Samsung has quashed rumours that it plans to launch the Galaxy S9 at CES this year. Samsung Mobile president DJ Koh has said that the next flagship will be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February; dashing hopes that Samsung would be making an earlier announcement.
An MWC announcement would be a departure from Samsung’s recent trend of holding a separate event for its flagship devices. The Galaxy S8 was launched at Samsung Unpacked, which took place a month after the mobile technology tradeshow.

Koh also revealed that Samsung would be releasing its first foldable smartphone next year. The user experience is apparently giving designers of the device problems, but industry insiders are saying that production should begin later this year. However, it should be pointed out that Koh had also said the same thing last year.
A new version of the Bixby AI assistant is in the works for this year, and Samsung intends to get it supported on all mobile devices by 2020. Then again, the company has already said that it wants Bixby support on all home appliances by 2020 as well.
[Source: ZDnet]
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Kodak Is Introducing Its Own KodakCoin Cryptocurrency

Kodak thinks that it can capitalise on the blockchain revolution to change modern photography. The company is building what it calls KodakOne, a system that combines digital photography rights management with the new KodakCoin cryptocurrency.
The idea is that KodakOne will provide a platform for photographers to upload and license their work. It will handle the difficult bit of tracking copyright and is designed to crawl the web to ensure that all royalties are paid. On the surface, this looks like something actually useful for professionals and amateur photographers who often have trouble keeping track of who happens to be stealing their work.

KodakCoin is the second part of the equation. Acting as a medium of exchange, the cryptocurrency is meant to be used to pay photographers on the KodakOne platform. It’s important to note that the currency must be mined on its own after the ICO; allowing it to behave more like a traditional cryptocurrency.
In all, this doesn’t exactly sound like a cheap cash grab that seems to be becoming a trend. Kodak seems to have a plan in mind, and is going to provide a legitimate service in return for people getting on board with KodakCoin.
Of course, stock markets love anything that includes the word blockchain. Kodak’s stocks have doubled in value since making the announcement. So it looks like the plan is already working.
[Source: BusinessWire, KodakOne]
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CES 2018: Intel To Deliver Meltdown and Spectre Fixes For Majority of Its Product Within A Week

Truth to be told, Intel didn’t really have a good time recently. While Meltdown and Spectre security issues might be affecting all manufacturers, the company was badly hit by it especially when reports pointed out that fixes to these issues might cause performance degradation. Naturally, Intel decided to address the issue at CES 2018.
At the start of the company’s opening keynote for the event, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich has stated that it will be releasing updates to cover processors and products that Intel has introduced for the past five years. More than 90 percent of the products will be covered within a week while the rest will be patched by the end of January.

Brian also pointed out the performance impact of these fixes depends highly on the type of workload that users run. Some might be higher than others but nevertheless, Intel has pledged that it will work together with the whole industry to continuously minimize the impact on the affected workloads over time.
Not to forget, the CEO also pointed out that Intel has yet to receive any reports of the security issues being exploited to obtain data from its customers. All in all, things seem to be under control but nevertheless, it is always a good thing to be vigilant when it comes to security matters.
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CES 2018: Lenovo Smart Display Gives Another Dimension to Google Assistant

Thanks to a partnership with Google, Lenovo has created a new product line called the Smart Display. Essentially a smart speaker with a touch display, the Lenovo Smart Display is designed with a pretty focused usage scenario: for the home kitchen.
For that reason, the Lenovo Smart Display can be seen as an upgrade to a smart speaker. With a dedicated display, the Google Assistant is a lot more useful, because as it turns out, it’s a lot more effective to see your day’s schedule instead of having it read out to you.

Inside, the Smart Display’s hardware reads like a low-end tablet. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 624 processor, and comes in two display sizes: 8 and 10 inches. The Smart Display is also fitted with up to a 10W speaker (5W on the 8-inch model), increasing the versatility of the product.
The software not only contains the Google Assistant, but there are other Google products pre-installed as well. Google Photos lets you turn the display into a digital photo frame when not in use. YouTube and Play Music works seamlessly with the Assistant to play videos suggested by the Assistant, while Maps shows your commute and various point of interests.

There is also Google Duo, which takes advantage of the display and the 5MP front-facing camera to be used for video calls. Making and receiving calls can be done completely via voice, while the camera itself has a physical shutter to ensure greater privacy for users.
To be available from Q2 this year, the 10-inch Smart Display will retail for $249.99, while the 8-inch model will go for $199.99. The 10-inch model comes with a classy bamboo back, while the 8-inch model gets a soft touch grey back.
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Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 Hands On: Not Your Average Convertible

At CES 2018, Dell unveiled two very interesting laptops: the compact and sleek XPS 13, and the new XPS 15 2-in-1. After spending some time with the convertible XPS 15 – and taking a closer look at its hardware – it’s really quite a compelling, powerful Windows laptop. However, it does have its fair share of shortcomings too, and the “maglev” keyboard may not appeal to everyone.
Before we get to it, let’s get the XPS 15 2-in-1’s hardware out of the way. It features Intel’s eight generation Core i5-8305G or i7-8705G processor paired with up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM, SSD storage options ranging from 128GB to 1TB, and a 75WHr battery, which provides up to 15 hours of battery life. The convertible XPS 15 can also be configured with a 15.6-inch 4K or 1080p InfinityEdge touch display.
But what makes the XPS 15 2-in-1 a really interesting convertible lies in its integrated GPU: it comes with AMD’s new Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics. While it’s not quite as powerful as the GH variant, this integrated GPU is still plenty capable – it’s said to be slightly faster than Nvidia’s GTX 1050 GPU.

Now that we’ve got the XPS 15 2-in-1’s hardware covered, let’s move on to one of its most…interesting features. Of course, I’m talking about its new maglev keyboard, which relies on magnets to provide tactile feedback. So how does it feel to type on? Weird.
See, the convertible XPS 15’s keyboard only offers 0.7mm of key travel – that’s about half the travel of the conventional XPS 15‘s keyboard. Needless to say, the XPS 15 2-in-1’s keyboard feels quite shallow. In fact, it feels a lot like typing on the 12-inch MacBook’s equally shallow keyboard.

However, the maglev keyboard does excel in one vital area: tactile feedback. As it uses magnets to simulate feedback, it’s one of the clickiest laptop keyboards I’ve tried. In fact, I quite enjoy the…”unique” typing experience, though I reckon those who prefer key travel over tactile feedback won’t be too thrilled with this maglev keyboard.
The trackpad of the new XPS 15 is quite good too. My fingers can glide effortlessly on the smooth surface, it can recognise gestures really well, and it’s also quite an accurate trackpad. Not the best in the market by any means, but definitely above average. Oh, the optional active stylus is quite natural to use too.

Aside from that, the XPS 15 2-in-1’s display is very impressive. The almost bezel-less InfinityEdge display give the laptop a very sleek aesthetic, the display itself is bright and vibrant, and the tiny bezels also reduce the overall dimension of the laptop. However, while the convertible XPS 15 is more compact than your conventional 15-inch laptop, it’s still quite a large machine. On top of that, it also weighs close to 2kg – not exactly a very light laptop.
As it was the case with the new XPS 13, the XPS 15 2-in-1’s connectivity options has been revamped to cut down on the thickness of the laptop. Not only are there no more full-size USB ports – they’re all swapped with USB-C ports now – the SD card reader has been replaced with a microSD card reader too.

Beyond the love-it-or-hate-it maglev keyboard and connectivity options, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is truly an exciting convertible. Not only is it one of the first laptops to ship with Intel’s new processor with Radeon RX Vega GPU, its sleek InfinityEdge display and compact form factor make for a really compelling laptop.
But it does come at a price: retailing from $1,300 (about RM5,215), it’s quite a pricey laptop. Nonetheless, set to be available sometime in spring 2018, I’m definitely excited to see how much Dell will price the XPS 15 2-in-1 once it arrives in Malaysia.

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CES 2018: Dell Mobile Connect Allows Seamless PC-Smartphone Integration

In a rather interesting move by Dell, the company has announced a new software that will enable users to seamlessly utilize their smartphone on Dell PCs. Called Mobile Connect, users don’t require a specialized device in order to use the software.
In fact, Dell Mobile Connect will be made available on new Dell XPS, Inspiron, Vostro, and Alienware devices throughout the world starting from this month onwards. It will also be pre-installed into Dell’s small business PCs line-up as well.

The idea behind Dell Mobile Connect is to eliminate the need for users to shift their focus from their PCs whenever there is a notification, message, or phone call comes into their smartphone. Made possible via Bluetooth and WiFi Direct, all of these can be viewed directly on their PC via the software.
Yes, that included making and receiving calls as well as messages. Additionally, users are also able to access apps on their smartphone through the software’s mirroring function although this particular function is only applicable for Android devices. Soon, Dell will even add drag-and-drop file transfer capability into the software as well.

Since Mobile Connect is a point-to-point communication software, users’ phone data is limited to the paired PC. As mentioned before, customers can expect to see the software inside new Dell consumer and small business PCs starting this month.
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CES 2018: The Lenovo Mirage Solo is the World’s First Standalone Daydream VR Headset

Lenovo has unveiled the world’s first standalone Daydream VR headset here at its annual CES event. The Lenovo Mirage Solo combines an all-in-one VR headset – without the need of a smartphone or tethered to a PC – with the inside-out tracking technology on Google Daydream.
As a standalone VR headset, the Lenovo Mirage Solo packs some pretty powerful hardware. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM, while the lenses provide 110 degrees field of view. The screen inside is a 5.5-inch 1280 x 2440 LCD panel, with 64GB of internal storage as well as a microSD card slot. Leveraging on Google Daydream, the Mirage Solo headset also features WorldSense, the motion-tracking technology that allows for incredibly immersive VR experiences without being tethered to a PC.

WorldSense relies on a set of front-facing cameras as well as a combination of motion-tracking sensors, allowing accurate tracking of six degrees of movement. This unlocks a much more immersive VR experience, and allows VR games that are interactive to the user’s physical movements that can now include forwards and backwards as well as crouching and jumping.
With a battery life rated for seven hours of use, the Lenovo Mirage Solo also is designed to be comfortable, even after long periods of use. Adjustable visors and dials accommodates virtually every face shape, head size, and also accommodates various visual aids (such as glasses). The headset has also been engineered for better load distribution to reduce strain on the wearer. Breathable, insulated, and contoured padding around the areas that touch your face is designed for comfort.

The Lenovo Mirage Solo headset will be available globally sometime in Q2 2018, and at a retail price of $449 (about RM1800), the headset will not come cheap. In addition to the headset, Lenovo is also bundling a wireless Daydream controller, as well as a bonus free VR experience set in the Blade Runner world.
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