AMD and Intel in bed with NSA? Are backdoors built into processors?

Charles Gantt | Hacking, Security & Privacy | Jul 31, 2013 4:04 PM CDT

The Australian Finance Review has just published a new story that suggests that the NSA may have hardware level backdoors built into current generation AMD and Intel processors. Leading security expert Steve Blank says that he first caught on to the practice when he noticed that the NSA had access to Microsoft emails before they were encrypted. He says that he would be extremely surprised if the NSA did not have access to a processor microcode level backdoor on every PC in America.

His reasoning behind the theory is quite simple. The sheer power needed to brute force crack AES 256-bit encryption on a single file would be equivalent to "the power of 10 million suns" and that a hardware backdoor would require almost no effort to enter and would allow agents access inside your PC in a matter of minutes. Jonathan Brossard, another expert in the security field, demonstrated this as a proof of concept at last year's Black Hat conference. These backdoors are made possible because they are placed inside the microcode which is stored on the chip itself and gets updated every time Microsoft, Apple, or any other OS pushes out an update.

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Xbox 360 gets new stand-up comedy app from Comedy Central

Charles Gantt | Gaming | Jul 31, 2013 3:03 PM CDT

Yesterday, Comedy Central launched its new CC: Stand-Up app on the Xbox 360. The new stand-up comedy app brings over 6,000 videos from more than 700 comedians straight to your living room for the first time ever. Comedy Central says that the app is different from the iOS and Android versions as the Xbox app focuses more on long term viewing rather than on discovery of new comedians and new material.

"We're looking opportunistically at all these different platforms, moving down the chain from biggest to smallest," said Ben Hurst, Viacom Entertainment Group's vice president of mobile and emerging platforms. "We want to get digitally distributed content everywhere." When asked if the company is worried about the new digital content leaching off viewers from its cable channel, Hurst said "We've now introduced fans to a new comedian or have gotten them excited to watch the new special. We view this as additive, not cannibalistic."

Comedy Central also launched a companion site to the Stand-Up app earlier this month named CC: Stand-Up Direct in which users can access the full stand-up library over the net and pay $5 per stream or download. The new Xbox CC: Stand-up app is available free of charge to Xbox Live Gold subscribers, which costs just $5 per month with a one-year agreement.

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Samsung responds to benchmark cooking allegations, denies everything

Charles Gantt | Mobile Devices, Tablets & Phones | Jul 31, 2013 2:05 PM CDT

Late last night, reports started to surface that accused Samsung of rigging the code in its Exynos 5 variant of the Galaxy S4 to boost clock speeds when the device ran specific benchmarks. Our own Anthony Garreffa covered the story shortly after the news broke. This morning, not 12 hours later, Samsung has responded and as one would expect, the company denied everything.

Samsung says that the "BenchmarkBooster" used on the Exynos 5 is not intended to boost frequencies when running certain benchmarks. Normally, I would tend to give the company the benefit of the doubt, but with the code being named "BenchmarkBooster," I am finding it hard to drink this glass of Koolaid. However, regardless of benchmark performance, the Galaxy S4 is still one hell of a phone and with the code in question only boosting performance by 7 percent, does it really matter? Everyday average users could care less about a benchmark result that says this phone performs 1.3564 percent better than another phone.

Samsungs full statement is below.

Continue reading: Samsung responds to benchmark cooking allegations, denies everything (full post)

Next-gen Kindle Fire HD to feature high-end specs, but low price

If we were to just look at the amount of employees Amazon has, and the amount of extra jobs they're creating across the US, one would think they're preparing for the company to get bigger in the near future.

Well, according to a report on BGR, Amazon are looking to refresh its Kindle Fire HD, which would include a huge performance boost from the current device. Amazon are looking to bake in the speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC to reach that high-performance category. We are to expect three new devices from Amazon, ranging from 7 inches up to 8.9 inches.

The first, would be the entry-level 7-inch Kindle Fire, which would receive a refreshed 1280x800-pixel display. The other two models would replace the current Kindle Fire HD 7- and 8.9-inch models, and would include the super-fast, and very capable Snapdragon 800 SoC.

Continue reading: Next-gen Kindle Fire HD to feature high-end specs, but low price (full post)

Google provide some tips on how to use Photo Sphere on Android 4.3

Anthony Garreffa | Software & Apps | Jul 31, 2013 6:29 AM CDT

Google released Android 4.3 into the wild last week, but the latest iteration in their mobile OS includes some improvements to Photo Sphere. Photo Sphere is used to take 360-degree photos, and is quite a nice ability of Android.

The latest software improvements to Photo Sphere in Android 4.3 make it easier to upload and share pictures on Google Maps. Google have taken the how-to a step further by providing a couple of handy tips:

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Paperboy in VR? Oculus Rift and Kinect enable 'Paperdude VR'

How many hours did you put yourself through in Atari's 1984 classic, Paperboy? I know I rode through that game for countless hours, and it looks like I might just do it again with Globacore's new title.

Globacare are a creative technology company who specialize in large multi-touch displays, and have unveiled a new work-in-progress, first-person homage to Paperboy, Paperdude VR. Paperdude VR uses Oculus' VR headset, Rift, as well as Microsoft's motion sensor, Kinect. You can see in the video above that player rides on a stationary bike, attempting to throw newspapers into peoples' mailboxes.

Paperdude VR is a great concept, something that might just keep gamers a bit fitter than they are now. Constantly peddling your bike in a game is sure to keep gamers a bit fitter. The more I see on Oculus Rift, the more I want it.

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Canada reaches for deep space with next-gen robotic arm

Canada's Next-Generation Canadarm (NGC) have developed a new version of their robotic space arm that will help out with space exploration. The program itself is designed to support missions in both low-Earth orbit, and deep space.

The next-gen robotic arm will be used for jobs from repairing communications satellites to helping out on manned missions to the moon, asteroids, Mars, and other vast parts of the universe. Alain Ouellet, the Director of Space Exploration Development at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) said:

"With the retirement of the space shuttle, a new generation of crewed space exploration vehicles will soon become available. However, these new vehicles are much smaller in size compared to the space shuttle, and therefore there is a need to adapt the robotic arm technology developed for the shuttle and the International Space Station."

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Samsung caught cheating in benchmarks with the Galaxy S4

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is one of the company's best-selling smartphones of all time, and one of the hottest devices on the market right now. This all comes down to how it is perceived in the market, and how reviewers (like myself) and users, talk about the phone.

Well, it looks like AnandTech have donned their detective outfit, and found that Samsung have been tweaking the Galaxy S4 to perform better in benchmarks than it does anything else. AnandTech found that the Galaxy S4 has its GPU limited to 480MHz in most apps and games, but when it comes to benchmark tests such as AnTuTu, GLBenchmark 2.5.1 and Quadrant, it overclocks to 533MHz, giving it a huge advantage.

You'd think the funny business would stop there, but it doesn't. Samsung have also souped up the CPU clock speed in certain benchmarks, where in GLBenchmark 2.5.1, the CPU clock speed is at 1.2GHz, and never drops below that. But in GFXBench 2.7, the GPU clocks between 500Mhz and higher. AnandTech even found a string that shows the Galaxy S4 is hardcoded to specifically perform better in specific applications for benchmark testing with "Quadrant standard, advanced, and professional, linpack (free, not paid), Benchmark Pi, and AnTuTu" being mentioned.

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Sub-$5000 4K-capable TVs are making their way Down Under

Anthony Garreffa | Displays & Projectors | Jul 30, 2013 9:50 PM CDT

Not even two days ago, TCL announced their new 50-inch 4K-capable TV for the US market, costing only $999. Australian's are usually the last market that most companies cater for, but TCL have decided to go Down Under early.

The company have announced the TCL E5691, which is a 65-inch edge-lit LED 4K/UHD TV, for $4999. Expensive, but considering high-end 65-inch 1080p HDTVs are around that price in Australia, you can't complain too much. TCL will be cramming in SMS on Demand, SMH.TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other apps into the TV. As for inputs, we have three HDMI inputs, 3D-support, and a USB port that supports Time Shift PVR settings.

The TCL T5691 provides a 4096x2160 resolution, and will upscale HD content to 4K, meaning that your Blu-ray movies will look a little nicer than they usually do. TCL will be releasing other sizes, which has my interest more. We start with the 40-inch for $899, a 46-inch model for $1199, a 50-inch version for $1399 and a non-3D version that comes in 32-inch for $549.

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iBUYPOWER's Valkyrie and Revolt are now available with AMD CPUs

Anthony Garreffa | Computer Systems | Jul 30, 2013 9:29 PM CDT

Earlier today iBUYPOWER unveil their new competition-grade gaming systems that involved a partnership with Computer Logic Gaming, and now they're just announced a partnership with AMD that sees their Valkyrie and Revolt systems powered by AMD CPUs.

First up, the Valkyrie is available with AMD's high-end A10 quad-core CPU and a Radeon HD 8970M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The AMD-based Valkyrie systems can be configured with both an SSD and a HDD for the best of both worlds, super-speed and huge storage. iBUYPOWER also decided to offer an AMD option on their Revolt system, where customers can choose an AMD A10-6800K quad-core CPU. This means that the Revolt remains "the industry's leading benchmark in compact, high-performance gaming systems" according to iBUYPOWER.

Darren Su, Vice President of iBUYPOWER has said: "At iBUYPOWER, one of our core strengths is being able to offer customers a wide selection of configurations for any of our systems. Yes, we're about producing the best performing systems, but we also want to answer the call for choice. With new Revolts and Valkryies featuring AMD components, we cater to our customer's needs."

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