Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for February 9th, 2017

This Digital Foundry video goes into detail about the PS4 Pro’s Boost Mode improvements on many games. Earlier this week, we were surprised by reports that the new Version 4.5 beta firmware for the PlayStation 4 Pro offered an unannounced “Boost Mode”  promising “improved gameplay, including higher frame rates, for some games that were released before the introduction of PS4 Pro.” The folks over at the excellent Digital Foundry have now put that new mode through its paces , finding frame rate increases of up to 38 percent on unpatched PS4 games. Those frame rate improvements are very dependent on the specific title in question, though. Destiny for instance, is locked to 30fps in its code, and thus gets no benefit from Boost Mode. An intensive online shooter like Battlefield 4 , on the other hand, can stay at a solid 60fps in Boost Mode, without the frequent frame-rate dips that can occur during a 64-player match in base mode. Many games seem to see the same modest 14 percent bump in their frame rates in Boost Mode. That coincidentally matches the 14 percent faster clock speed that the PS4 Pro’s GPU has over the original system (911Mhz vs 800Mhz), suggesting that the additional processor cycles are helping on GPU-limited games. Boost Mode doesn’t seem to make any use of the 18 additional compute cores available in the PS4 Pro, however—for that, you need a game-specific patch to be coded by the developer. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Patrick Wardle ) Malicious Microsoft Word documents that abuse macros have long been the bane of Windows users. Now, security researchers have found what may be the first such real-world attack to infect Macs. The attack was found in a Word file titled “U.S. Allies and Rivals Digest Trump’s Victory – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.” When Mac users open the document in a Word application configured to allow macros and ignore a warning, an embedded macro automatically: checks to make sure the LittleSnitch security firewall isn’t running downloads an encrypted payload from hxxps://www.securitychecking.org:443/index.asp decrypts the payload using a hard-coded key and executes the payload The code contained in the macro is written in the Python programming language. It was taken almost verbatim from EmPyre , an open-source exploit framework for Macs. By the time the researchers found the booby-trapped document, the securitychecking.org was no longer serving the payload, so it wasn’t possible to know precisely what it did. But the Empyre component the macro borrowed allowed for persistent infections that contained a wide range of capabilities, including monitoring webcams, stealing passwords and encryption keys stored in the keychain, and accessing browsing histories. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Windows 10 is getting a picture-in-picture mode

Posted by kenmay on February - 9 - 2017

Microsoft just made it easier to use multiple applications at once on Windows 10 , especially when dealing with video-focused programs. The company released Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15031 to developers today, and the main attraction is the introduction of so-called Compact Overlay windows. The new feature allows users to run a program in a small window that’s pinned above other applications, so it can be seen without being as intrusive as a standard window. Compact Overlay windows appears useful when dealing with video. For example, keeping a YouTube clip or Skype call visible in the corner would make it easier for users to do things like take notes or check email while not losing sight of the video. The good news for developers is that Compact Overlay windows “work just like normal windows in all other ways, ” so it should be relatively painless to adapt existing programs to be compatible with the feature. It’s unclear if Compact Overlay windows can be resized or used with Snap (a feature just pulled from Xbox One ). We’ve asked Microsoft to clarify. The update also adds full-screen Game Bar support for 52 games, including Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto titles. Microsoft isn’t the only company dabbling in picture-in-picture modes. Apple last year debuted a similar feature for MacOS , which works in much the same way, but is only compatible with Safari and iTunes. Compact Overlay windows are only available to developers at the moment, although Microsoft says that the Skype Preview and Movies & TV apps will soon be updated to take advantage of the new feature. Source: Windows

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China’s Ministry of Public Security said today that starting on Friday–tomorrow–at one airport then at others, the government will begin recording fingerprints of each foreign visitor upon arrival. China is ramping up security along its borders, according to reports in state media. (more…)

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Just because you’re using Facebook Lite , it doesn’t mean you want to compromise on features. Neither do any of the 200 million users worldwide taking advantage of the bare-bones version of the app. Fortunately, there’s an update that rolls out many missing features today such as the ability to Like, Comment and Share posts. Facebook created Lite as a pared down version of its main app in 2015 for lower-end Android phones with spotty network connections. COO Sheryl Sandberg was keen to outline the benefits that users of the standalone app are getting. Business users, for example, can use the more feature-rich update to reach mobile-only and mobile-first customers while using less data. Performance improvements are a given with any update, especially when the company wants to assure a fast, reliable connection to the social network no matter what. Facebook has also found that people who use Facebook Lite tend to share phones, so it has provided an easier way to log on and off their accounts in this new update. The update brings Facebook Lite to more regions, including the definitely not emerging markets of South Korea, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Italy. It’s available in 150 countries in addition to the original eight of Bangladesh, Vietnam, Nigeria, Nepal, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Update : Contrary to the information we initially received, Facebook has confirmed it added Like/Comment/Share support to the Lite app last March, when it announced over 100 million monthly active users. We have updated this post to reflect that. Source: Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) , Facebook Lite

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