[H] Enthusiast Archives: March 2017 Archive Listing

Friday March 31, 2017

Comcast Vows to Not Sell Customers Individual Web Browsing Data

In a post to the company's corporate privacy blog today, Comcast CEO Gerard Lewis promised to not sell their customers personal data. He went on to state "We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so."

Note the oddly specific use of language referring to "individual web browsing history". This does suggest that some data, presumably aggregated user data, is used for marketing purposes. As some were disappointed to find out after an attempt to counter this legislation by crowdfunding and buying the browsing data of members of congress, that's not quite how it works.

In other words, it seems there is nothing new to report here. Comcast won't be selling your individual browsing data, just like they weren't selling it before, but we still don't have a clear view of exactly what data they collect, how they aggregate it, what they do sell, and what security they have in place to protect that data. They are also asking their customers to trust that they do as they say, and won't change their minds down the road, which is a pretty large leap considering they are not virtually unregulated.

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In view of all the misinformation and inaccurate statements that have been made in the last week, we want to make sure that our customers understand how strong our privacy protections really are. So we will revise our privacy policy to make more clear and prominent that, contrary to the many inaccurate statements and reports, we do not sell our customers’ individual web browsing information to third parties and that we do not share sensitive information unless our customers have affirmatively opted in to allow that to occur.


Ryzen FMA3 Code Sequence Bug to be Fixed in AGESA in BIOS Updates

Those of you out there running Ryzen systems concerned about the FMA3 bug which can result in a hard locked system should start keeping your eyes open for new BIOS updates. According to AMD's blog, BIOS updates containing the new AGESA code, v., will start hitting the public in early April.

See below for a list of fixes/improvements.

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  1. We have reduced DRAM latency by approximately 6ns. This can result in higher performance for latency-sensitive applications.
  2. We resolved a condition where an unusual FMA3 code sequence could cause a system hang.

  3. We resolved the "overclock sleep bug" where an incorrect CPU frequency could be reported after resuming from S3 sleep.
  4. AMD Ryzenآ™ Master no longer requires the High-Precision Event Timer (HPET).


Parents Must Identify Pirate Kids or Pay Their Fines, Court Rules

Germany's Federal Court of Justice this week ruled that if parents are aware that their children have committed copyright infringement they must identify them to the court, or pay their fines. This was a ruling in a case stemming from a 2011 distribution of an album by Rihanna by a minor.

This may not seem entirely strange to many here in the U.S, as we are used to parents taking responsibility for the actions of their underage children by, for instance, paying for any damage their kids cause. In Germany, however, this was slightly more controversial legally, as local law protects family members from having to testify against each other.

I'd imagine this ruling may result in families in future cases "having no idea" who might have illegally downloaded something on their connections.

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The Court did throw potential future defendants a lifeline, however. If the Internet account holder does not know the name of the infringer, he or she is not obliged to monitor the Internet usage of other family members or to examine computers for the existence of file-sharing software.


Gaming Accessory Maker MadCatz Files for Bankruptcy

Troubled accessory company MadCatz which was recently delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, yesterday made a voluntary assignment in bankruptcy. Yesterday also marked the effective resignation date of all off the company's directors and officers. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has been appointed to handle the liquidation of the company's assets.

If everything proceeds as usual, by Monday PriceWaterhouseCoopers should be announcing that La La land is the winner.

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The Board of Directors made the decision to have the Company make a voluntary assignment in bankruptcy after considering various strategic alternatives, the interest of various stakeholders of the Company as well as a number of other factors. The Board of Directors has been advised by the Company’s financial advisor and management that no viable strategic alternative in respect of a sale of the Company or other corporate sale transaction is being made available to the Company by any third party. In addition, the Board of Directors has also been advised that the Company’s lenders will not increase the amount of its credit facilities beyond the current levels.

Ongoing Discussion

Galaxy S8 Facial Recognition can be Bypassed With a Photo

If you plan on getting one of those sharp looking new Samsung Galaxy S8 phones, you might want to think twice before utilizing the face unlock feature. iDeviceHelp has posted a video on YouTube showing that the face unlock feature can me fooled with a picture.

I had thought that this shortage in phones and face unlocks had already been overcome through the use of movement, and the requirement to capture the face from multiple angles. The video does state that maybe they were dealing with a problem with pre-release software. Let's hope that is the case. With the awkward position of the fingerprint sensor on the S8, chances are good that a lot of people might want to use face unlock.



JEDEC announced that in the in-progress standards for DDR5, the next generation RAM technology is planned to double both the bandwidth and density over DDR4, as well as to deliver improved channel efficiency. They also discuss a new hybrid NVDIMM-P standard. Work on both standards is reportedly progressing quickly.

Personally I am still on DDR3 in my x79 Sandy-Bridge-E system. If I don't have a reason to upgrade soon, maybe I will skip the DDR4 generation all together? I haven't skipped a RAM generation since the 286 days (with the exception of Rambus RDRAM of course)

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Mian Quddus, Chairman of the JEDEC Board of Directors, said: "Increasing server performance requirements are driving the need for more advanced technologies, and the standardization of next generation memory such as DDR5 and the new generation persistent modules NVDIMM-P will be essential to fulfilling those needs." He added, "Work on both standards is progressing quickly, and we invite all interested engineers worldwide to visit the JEDEC website for more information about JEDEC membership and participation in JEDEC standards-setting activities."


[H]ardware Round-Up II

New PCIe SSD - Highpoint SSD7101A-010T @ {S}oftForum

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ECC Memory & AMD's Ryzen - A Deep Dive @ Hardlessware Canadians

AMD Ryzen Memory Analysis @ Ticks Powered Down

igabyte GA-Z270X-Ultra Gaming LGA1151 Motherboard Review @ Pissed Crustaceans

MSI X370 XPower Gaming Titanium Motherboard Review @ Shart Pudu

AMD Ryzen: Problems and Solutions (German) @ No PC Experience Needed

Kolink Continuum 1200 W @ Wretk Voltage Up

BitFenix Shogun Dual Tempered Glass Case Review @ Filet3r

Creative Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08 Review @ Hernando Cortez

Amazon and Walmart are at War over Prices and it is Terrifying CPG Brands

Some of America's biggest Consumer Packaged Goods or CPG brands are terrified of the price war that Amazon and Walmart are waging against each other. Both Amazon and Walmart are asking CPG companies to lower prices anyway that they can even if it means cutting marketing budgets. Walmart wants to have the lowest prices on 80% of the products they sell. Even if Amazon is selling a product for a loss, Walmart wants to be able to sell it for the same price, but at a profit. So they are putting extreme pressure on brands that sell in their stores to lower their prices because Amazon has taken a new approach with an algorithm.

Amazon's new algorithm is taking the bulk pricing at Costco for example, and applying it to single item sales. Naturally this is creating a rise in shipping costs and cutting profitability. In exchange for making their products more eCommerce friendly, Amazon is selling CPG companies premium advertising spaces on their Amazon store. This would include creating products that can be shipped affordably and make a profit. Some companies are going the extra mile like Green Works that took their household cleaning products and re-imagined them into a concentrate form. When you order some of their products, you get a concentrate version of the cleaner, instructions on how much water to mix it with, and a bottle to contain the mixture.

Another re-imagining of a product would be the packaging. Typically In a retail store, a product's packaging needs to be large to attract sales, and sturdy to deter thieves. Companies now are making their packaging smaller and lighter to become "frustration free" as Amazon has been doing for years. Again Amazon is rewarding those companies that comply with premium advertising space in exchange for making the cost of shipping less.

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In the end consumers win, but are we ready to purchase powdered soft drinks to cut down on shipping costs? I was wondering why The Clorox Company announced Clorox Bleach Crystals and now I see why. It is amazing to see how Amazon has revolutionized eCommerce in the same manner that bulk packaging revolutionized B&M stores decades ago.

"Once every three or four years, Walmart tells you to take the money you’re spending on [marketing] initiatives and invest it in lower prices," said Jason Goldberg, the head of the commerce practice at SapientRazorfish, a digital agency that works with large brands and retailers. "They sweep all the chips off the table and drill you down on price."

But this time around, Walmart’s renewed focus on its "Everyday Low Price" promise coincides with Amazon’s increased aggressiveness in its own pricing of the packaged goods that are found on supermarket shelves and are core to Walmart’s success, industry executives and consultants say.

The result in recent months has been a high-stakes race to the bottom between Walmart and Amazon that seems great for shoppers, but has consumer packaged goods brands feeling the pressure.


Linux Build of Mad Max Under Vulkan API Boosts Nvidia 1080 Ti Performance 100%

Feral Interactive has released a new Linux Mad Max build that brings the Vulkan API to the game. This new build alleviates the CPU bottlenecks that the OpenGL version was plagued with and boosts performance of the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti by up to 100%! This performance boost is prevalent throughout the bench-marking that Phoronix detailed in their performance review. At the points where it isn't a 100% boost it is still a substantial boost to performance!

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This is a great showing for what the Vulkan API can bring to gaming even in a non Windows environment. On Feral Interactive's Facebook page, they are answering questions from the community, so if you're a Linux gamer make sure to check that out! I hope that they are considering bringing the Vulkan build to Windows also.

Tests completed for this launch-day comparison were several of the NVIDIA Pascal cards including the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080 Ti. On Friday I'll likely have a larger comparison completed with the complete Pascal line-up plus Maxwell and some Kepler cards too. All of this NVIDIA Linux driver testing with the latest Mad Max public beta build is using the 378.13 driver release. While the GPU usage, is finally able to be maxed out with Vulkan thanks to no longer being CPU bound as is the case with OpenGL.


[H]ardware Round-Up

ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Review @ Guru3D

MSI X370 XPower Titanium Motherboard Review ($300) @ Neo Seeker

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ASUS ROG Strix Z270G Gaming Review ($199) @ OCaHolic

Kolink Core Series 500W Power Supply Review @ Play3r

ENERMAX PLATIMAX D.F. 600W PSU Review (German) ($145) @ Overclocked Inside

Ballistix sport LT 2666MHZ DDR4 RAM review ($130) @ Myce

Samsung 960 PRO Review آ– 1TB M.2 SSD ($630) @ Play3r

WD Black PCIe NVMe SSD Review (512GB) ($200) @ The SSD Review

Cooler Master MasterCase Pro 6 Review @ Modders Inc.

Test boitier Cooler Master Mastercase Pro 6 (French) @ CowCotLand

Noctua NH-D15 SE-AM4 Cooler Review ($90) @ Funky Kit

HTC can Track Eye Movement in VR to Determine Your Interest in the Ad Placement

HTC has devised a new system where companies can place advertising in VR applications and then HTC can track your interest in the advertisement. If your gaze leaves the advertisement such as you intentionally looking away, the advertiser doesn't have to pay for the placement. There are quite a few ad placement formats that I detailed in the quote after the video. There is a HTC Viveport developer article release for more information on the subject.

SMI Eye tracking HMD technology, that was demoed on a HTC Vive, had a prominent showing at this year's GDC. It is only a matter of time before something similar is fully integrated into the HTC Vive. The ability to track a user looking away by moving their head from an advertisement is one thing; to truly track their eyes to see how far they read the text in an advertisement before looking away is on another level of interaction. I believe a system like the SMI demo could bring this level of tracking to assist advertisers in creating better ads.

Here is a refresher video for those that missed the SMI presentations. I want to add that I hope that the ads aren't louder than the VR app they are contained within. That would not be cool. There is a reason why we are moving on from TV broadcasts to the internet for consumption of media. What do you think? Are you ready for VR advertising? Would you be more likely to buy a product or app advertised within a VR environment that on a Steam Store page?

With the VR Ad Service, advertisers only pay for an ad after a user has seen it. The service is strictly opt-in, meaning that ads will only show up in content where developers have decided to include them. On its website, HTC writes: "Ads that appear in immersive VR environments can not only provide more effective impressions, they can also track whether the users have viewed them or have turned away their gaze."

Some of the advertising formats being considered are:

  • Loading Scene

  • Big Screen Video

  • 3D Model AD

  • Mixed AD

  • In App

  • 2D Placement

  • 3D Placement

  • End Game

  • App Recommended


Kaby Lake Pentiums and Celerons won't Support Optane Memory

Tech Report has an article up about an interesting aspect of the Optane launch that everyone seems to have missed last week. We have long heard that in order for Intel's Optane disk caching system to work, you need to be running a Kaby Lake CPU. Well, apparently not all Kaby Lake CPU's qualify. The cheapest CPU's in the Kaby Lake line won't get support.

This is particularly puzzling because Intel is targeting the tech at caching traditional spinning hard drives, which is a budget approach compared to the enthusiasts fast m.2/PCIe SSD's, yet the technology doesn't work with Intel's budget CPU's. The guys over at Tech Report do make a good point in this regard, but as always be wary of bias, as their ownership is very close to AMD.

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We've gotta say: this is a baffling decision on Intel's part. Assuming ARK is correct, the cheapest CPU one can pair with an Optane Memory device is the Core i3-7100, a $120 part that's $28 more expensive than our budget-favorite Pentium G4620. The Core i3 adds 200 MHz of clock speed and AVX support to the bargain, to be fair. Even so, paying $65 or so in total to get that Core i3 CPU and the 16GB Optane Memory hardware itself seems like a hard sell for the frugal system builder who's already chosen a capacious hard drive.