Top Stories for the Week of November 15, 2017

  • Episode 530
  • November 15, 2017
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday November 15, 2017

The in-browser mining of cryptocurrency is becoming a serious issue.

It has now been confirmed: The cryptojacking craze that maxes out your CPU is exploiting at least 2,500 web sites.

A researcher has documented almost 2,500 sites that are actively running cryptocurrency-mining-code in the browsers of unsuspecting visitors; a finding that suggests the unethical (and possibly illegal) practice has only just picked up steam since it first came to light a few weeks ago.

Willem de Groot, the independent security researcher who reported the findings last week, says that he believes all of the 2,496 sites he tracked are running out-of-date software with known security vulnerabilities. He further explained that these vulnerabilities are being exploited by the attackers who then use their access to add code. The code secretly harnesses the electricity and CPUs of visitors—to generate the digital currency known as Monero. About 80 percent of those sites, he added, also contain other types of malware that can steal visitors' payment card details.

It's not just smaller sites that are affected either. For example, when the researcher visited the Australia Subaru page (which contained the code), the CPU on his Macbook began spiking, and the fan could be heard as well. He says, "Besides putting a noticeable strain on my computer, the site also draws additional electricity from my office. The arrangement allows the attackers to reap the benefit of my hardware and electricity without providing anything to me in return."

There are other indications that the in-browser cryptomining racket is getting worse, too. In a report published Tuesday, endpoint security provider, Malwarebytes, said that on average it performs about 8 million blocks per day to unauthorized mining pages.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

A new machine is going to print metal parts at a tenth of the cost of today's manufacturing systems; potentially launching a revolution in small part production.

A new machine is going to print metal parts at a tenth of the cost of today's manufacturing systems; potentially launching a revolution in small part production.

Desktop Metal, based in Boston, USA, has opened up pre-orders for its Studio System which uses inkjet-like technology (rather than laser-based techniques), to produce precision metal parts.

The system isn't cheap—it's $120,000 to buy outright, or $4,000 a month for 36 months—but compared to other ways of producing metal parts, especially in small numbers, it could be a game-changer. Sure, there are already CNC machines that cost from thousands, up to hundreds of thousands, of dollars. But this fat gizmo is supposed to be a challenge to that.

The printer will be made available in mid-2018, at which point the company hopes to expand even further with a production version of the machine. The production version will offer 3D printing at 100 times the speed and a twentieth of the cost of current systems.

Traditionally, metal 3D printing has been used only for prototyping given the slow speed and high-cost of making each part. Once a design is finalized, it then goes to traditional extrusion and casting methods for bulk production.

Desktop Metal claims to be able to turn that model on its head, bringing the price down so significantly that it may be cheaper to use its system for many products; rather than requiring expensive tooling equipment to be created for bulk production.

It can print items with a range of metals, including steels, copper, and titanium using commercially available powders. What makes their solution unique is the printing process itself, as well as the quality of the parts manufactured.

The 3D printing system works in much the same way, except in three dimensions; placing a layer of ink (or in this case metal powder) on top of the previous layer. It's not that simple of course—the machine also sprays a plastic binding agent and layers of wax into very specific patterns.

The final printed part is placed in a "debind" fluid that breaks down the wax and most of the plastic before then being placed into a furnace where the rest of the binding agent—which has a boiling point of just below the metal—is burned off, leaving just the metal. The metal fuses creating a density of between 96 and 99.8 per cent, according to Desktop Metal. Final finishing then completes the process.

3D printed parts are still going to work out to be more expensive than bulk production in the traditional ways, but the cost reduction means that producing a small number of units is going to be cheaper. In some cases that may mean that a company would not need to bulk produce parts at all.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Keep your iPhone X warm, otherwise it may not work.

Apple's $1,000 iPhone X may have trouble operating in the winter weather.

This is according to multiple complaints from owners (as well as an admission from Apple themselves), that in cold temperatures the OLED touchscreen on the expensive new handsets, can become temporarily unresponsive.

When taking an iPhone X outside in chilly weather, users have found that the device struggled to notice finger swipes and gestures.

The iPhone X uses a 5.85-inch OLED display, and apparently it is particularly sensitive to changes in temperature. The timing of the engineering blunder is going to be particularly troublesome, as the autumn weather turns to winter for much of the world, and temperatures drop.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

And, Intel vs. AMD? Forget about it: the arch rivals are working together to bring out a new hybrid.

Intel has teamed up with arch-rival AMD to create a powerful new processor.

The unlikely pair are working together on a new unified chip that integrates Intel’s Core CPU architecture with AMD’s graphics technology.

Intel says the new processor should deliver the same sort of gaming performance as current-gen, discrete-notebook GPUs, but in a smaller, less power-hungry size.

This will allow OEMs and system makers to create thin and light laptops that provide the graphic power that gamers and content creators look for.

The innovation doesn’t stop there, however. The newfangled chip will also carry new, low-power HBM2 graphics memory. This takes up less space and provides greater performance than traditional DDR5 GPU memory.

Intel said in a press release, “The new product, which will be part of our 8th Gen Intel Core family, brings together our high-performing Intel Core H-series processor, second generation High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2) and a custom-to-Intel third-party discrete graphics chip from AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group – all in a single processor package.”

When can we expect to buy this hybrid Intel AMD processor? As early as next year.

Intel says they’ll be revealing more about the chip—including the branding and devices that make use of it—in the coming months.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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