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Cambridge Analytica Files for Bankruptcy, or The Permanency of the Status-Quo

So, here's the thing: everyone that has some sort of window to the world around them has been made aware of the Facebook data scandal that's connected to Cambridge Analytica. Rivers of ink have already poured from journalists' metaphorical fountain pens. However, let's be honest: what real impact has this had on peoples' minds and overall level of comfort with debatable practices and data maintenance or access? What real impact is this having in the grand scheme of things, period?

Facebook exited its 1Q 2018 with record-setting numbers, for one. It just goes to show the entrenched fortress that Facebook has become, the efficiency of its advertising machine, the gargantuan state of dependency and the strength of network effects, of traction, as she put it - everyone (well, not this editor) has one, and thus no-one wants to be left out. Even things as simple as how easy it is to login and register for different services by connecting a Facebook account leads people to stay - and thus the status quo is maintained. The $11.97 billion in revenue with $1.69 EPS that Facebook achieved in its Q1 report, alongside the increase in 48M daily active users should give everyone pause. Is this becoming a case of being too big to fail? What would be required for such a scenario to manifest itself? What sort of betrayal of customers' trust?

Oculus Go VR Headset Now Available Starting at $199

Facebook has announced that their Oculus Go portable VR headset is now available in 23 different countries at oculus.com, Amazon, Best Buy, and Newegg. The headset features a cordless design which means that it doesn't need to be connected to a PC or smartphone to function. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, the Oculus Go boasts a fast-switch LCD display with a 2560 x 1440 WQHD resolution and a pixel density of 538 ppi. The headset is designed to be worn by consumers with or without glasses. However, consumers can purchase compatible VirtuClear prescription lenses and insert them directly into the Oculus Go. The headset also comes with built-in spatial audio and an integrated microphone for communication. The unit is shipped with over 1000 VR games, social applications, and 360° experiences for users to experience. The Oculus Go starts at $199 USD for the 32 GB model and $249 USD for the 64 GB model.

Alliance for Open Media Announces the AV1 Royalty-free Video Format

Consumers' video expectations are being shaped by the brilliant images promised by 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video and beyond. However, the technical-based hurdles and data demands of higher quality video mean that the majority of users only have access to full HD or lower video technology. For nearly three years, the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) has been working in lock-step with its members, the world's best-known leaders in video, to develop a better quality internet video technology that benefits all consumers. Today, the Alliance is proud to announce the public release of the AOMedia Video Codec 1.0 (AV1) specification, which delivers cross-platform, 4K UHD or higher online video, royalty-free - all while lowering data usage.

Whether watching live sports, video chatting with loved ones, or binging on a favorite show, online video is becoming a bigger part of consumers' daily lives. In fact, video is so important to users that by 2021, 82 percent of all the world's internet traffic will be video, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index , 2016-2021. To remove many of the hurdles required by older, optical disc-era, video technologies, AOMedia developed AV1 specifically for the internet video-era, paving the way for companies to make more of the royalty-free, 4K UHD and higher video devices, products, and services that consumers love.

Twitter Reportedly Looking Into Banning Cryptocurrency-Related Ads as Well

After Google has actually announced a change to their financial services-related ad policies that will ban all cryptocurrency-related ads that run through its advertising platform, reports now place Twitter as the next major service to follow suit. According to Sky News, the banning will affect the majority of ads relating to cryptocurrency products, services, and advice, cutting it diagonally and indiscriminately if services are actually legit or fakes. The publication says the decision comes "amid looming regulatory intervention in the sector."

Sky's sources say this ban will enter into effect within the next two weeks. If so, this is now the third major servie (after Facebook and Google) to ban all crypto-related content form its advertisements. That regulatory intervention is looming on the sector is putting it mildly; and it's high time that happened. The cryptocurrency market really is "being chilled", to quote Mike Lempres, chief legal and risk officer at Coinbase. And it's coming from all sides: regulatory bodies, general services, John Oliver shows, mainstream media, and even investors' own risk-assessment. It was bound to happen - the frenzy was getting quite old, really - and is an expected development. Let's hope this is just the beginning of a renewal of sorts for the cryptocurrency and blockchain world.

EU Plans to Add 3% Tax On Tech Giants' Revenue Based on Customers' Location

"Treat equally that which is equal, treat differently that which is different" seems to be the motto of the new EU proposal for increased taxation on tech giants. The proposal, which will be presented just this Wednesday (March 21st), could lead to increased taxation to tech giants that do business with EU customers by as much (or as little, depending on your point of view) as 3% of their gross revenue (the value still isn't final, but should stay within 1% and 5%). It isn't clear how the customer location business will be defined, but it seems that the EU believes its citizens provide increased revenues for companies than other citizens in other parts of the less developed world do.

This move specifically aims to capture real growth and value of digital-first companies, such as Facebook and Amazon. These are types of companies that the EU feels aren't being taxed proportionally (meaning, they currently provide less than they should to public coffers) to the true value they derive from the region. As most EU matters, any tax proposal will need the unanimous approval of all 28 current members before turning into law, so one country alone could block it.

Viceroy Research and CTS-Labs Make Their Positions Known on "AMD Flaws"

In separate interviews with Vice Motherboard, Viceroy Research, the AMD stock short-seller that posted an obituary of AMD, and CTS-Labs, which claims AMD "Zen" architecture is infested with glaring security vulnerabilities; crystallized their financial positions on "AMD Flaws." CTS-Labs and Viceroy Research each went on record to state that they have no financial relationship with each other. "Viceroy [Research] is not a client of CTS[-Labs], and CTS[-Labs] did not send its research to Viceroy [Research]," said Yaron Luk, co-founder of CTS-Labs, but confirmed that his company's business-model involves sharing their cyber-security research with stock research firms (like Viceroy Research), which probably use the information to short tech stocks (a highly unethical though not yet illegal practice). "We are a for-profit company that gets paid for its research by a variety of research clients," Luk stated.

It's becoming increasingly clear that entities other than AMD had access to CTS-Labs' work, at least the report, if not the "research package," greater than 24 hours before public disclosure (i.e. before even AMD could see it), and one such entity, referred to as an "anonymous tipster" in the Motherboard report, "shared" the information with Viceroy Research, which quickly bought itself a shorting position against the AMD stock, and posted a 25-page doomsaying report to accelerate the fall of AMD stock (which isn't quite happening at the time of writing this post). Viceroy Research is brazen about its position on the matter. "We haven't hidden the fact that we short the stock," said Fraser Perring, founder of Viceroy. Cybersecurity guru Alex Stamos, who is associated with Facebook, without taking names, tweeted an ominous warning that short-selling fueled security research "is going to end in tears. Hopefully due to lost money, and not because naive researchers go to prison." Does this foretell new regulation by the SEC that renders Viceroy's position into a black-hole for their money? The SEC has taken a great interest in the behavior of tech corporations and investors around cyber-security research.

Hack Like It's 1998: Sites Still Vulnerable to Revived ROBOT Exploit

Another week, yet another security bulletin in tech news, with yet another vulnerability that joins the fray of both Intel's meltdown and Western Digital's MyCloud hacks. A team of researchers recently wrote a paper they titled "Return Of Bleichenbacher's Oracle Threat (ROBOT)". This paper went on to show how a well-known, circa 1998 exploit is still a viable way to take advantage of websites of even big name companies and services, such as Facebook and PayPal (in total, around 2.8% of the top 1 million sites also tested positive). The ROBOT exploit, a critical, 19-year-old vulnerability that allows attackers to decrypt encrypted data and sign communications using compromised sites' secret encryption key, is still valid. Only, it's 19 years later.

The heart of the issue stems from a vulnerability that was discovered in 1998 by researcher Daniel Bleichenbacher, who found the vulnerability in the TLS predecessor known as secure sockets layer. The attack is dubbed an Oracle threat because attackers can write specialized queries to which the websites and affected systems respond with "Yes" or "No"; as such, it's possible, given enough time, for attackers to build up the amount of disclosed sensitive information and get a clear picture of the protected data. To the flaw's discovery by Bleichenbacher, SSL architects apparently responded in a B-movie type of way, which nevertheless might have been needed to keep all systems green: by designing workarounds on top of workarounds, rather than removing or rewriting the faulty RSA algorithm.

NVIDIA Teases Titan X Collector's Edition Graphics Card

NVIDIA has been doing a great job maintaining its leadership position in the discrete, high-performance graphics segment with its Pascal graphics cards. Rival AMD delivered a somewhat unconvincing effort with its RX Vega graphics cards - to which NVIDIA has already answered the most interesting AMD graphics card in that lineup, the Vega 56, with its own GTX 1070 Ti. As such, corporate bottom lines and profit maximization likely mean that the company is in no rush to introduce its Volta architecture to the gaming market. However, the company's recent tease either marks the first iteration of a halo product based on the company's Volta architecture to the market, or, more likely, a limited edition Titan X graphics card still based on the Pascal architecture - as if the Titan Xp wasn't limited and premium enough, naturally, but I digress.

The short teaser, posted by NVIDIA on its GeForce Facebook page under the "It's coming...a Collector's Edition" tagline, shows a distinguished-looking cooler shroud, which borrows design elements from the company's iconic Founders Edition graphics card, but with some added geometry and detail touches. The card will apparently incorporate RGB elements, seeing as the teaser shows both green and red colors. There's some speculation that this Collector's Edition Titan graphics card could be the first consumer graphics card to leverage GDDR6 memory, upping the ante from today's top of the technological crop, GDDR5X. Time - NVIDIA - will tell.

Facebook, Microsoft Finish Installation of 160 Tbps Subsea Data Cable

It might come as a surprise to some that the actual majority of global communications is done via subsea cables that connect continents - and people - together. This editor remember being dumbfounded at the mere idea of this whilst reading Frank Schätzing's "The Swarm", some 9 years ago. However, the installation of subsea datacables isn't new; in fact, the first ever recorded datacable installation occurred in 1850 - though it was simply used for telegraphy. The times change, though, and nowadays, there are cables that can transmit 160 terabits per second connecting continents. According to Microsoft, that's more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, making it capable of streaming 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously.

One such is the new MAREA cable, laid down across the Atlantic by a Microsoft/Facebook joint operation, which connects Bilbao (northern Spain) to Virginia Beach, in Virginia. The cable is settled more than 17,000 feet (five kilometers for us metric system junkies) below the surface of the ocean and measures more than 4,000 miles (again, 6,400 kilometers) in length. It weighs nearly 10.25 million pounds (around 4,629 tons) and is situated along a route south of existing transatlantic cables, which should ensure more resilient and reliable connections for customers on both sides.

Oculus Shuts Down Its VR-driven Story Studio - The Empire Falters

VR is one of the most important buzzwords in tech, not only for current development, but also for what studios and tech insiders deem to be our entertainment future. Oculus, which paved the way for VR with its Rift headset concept (before being snagged by Facebook), is one of the biggest, most recognizable players in this space. Now, after a series of hurdles such as the Oculus-ZeniMax sonata, which saw the former facing payments of $500 million, and Oculus' founder Palmer Luckey abandoning the company, a house of cards is crumbling. Namely, Oculus' VR-driven Story Studio.

AMD Confirms Vega is Launching this Quarter

Via Facebook, AMD has confirmed that Vega is nearly here - at least, as nearly here as a "this quarter" can be. This means Vega will launch in two-months time (Q2 extends through the months of April, May and June, after all.) Through a post on its Facebook page, AMD replied that Vega will be coming "when it's ready... And it will be this quarter."

According to previous leaks (and our own deep dive on Vega's architecture), Vega should go a long way towards bridging the power/performance gap between AMD and NVIDIA's GeForce series. It will be the first time since Fury that AMD will have a competitive, high-performance graphics design (expectedly, and hopefully, since no-one likes to buy over-priced graphics cards.) The fact that AMD has teased Vega in two different pieces of media that come out in May (Arkane Studios' Prey, which comes out on May 5th, and Alien: Covenant, which also comes out during the month of May.) I've previously posited that AMD wouldn't tease Vega's launch alongside one of the most promising games of the year without giving us the chance to power it through Vega come launch day, but as Prey's release date approaches and there is no more information on Vega (much less an announcement), it's looking increasingly likely that we'll have to wait until we can see that universe in all of its Vega-rendered glory.

NVIDIA Teases Something New, Announcement on April 29th

NVIDIA has been on a roll with product launches lately, with the new GTX 1080 Ti and Titan Xp launches, and it would seem the company isn't putting on the brakes just yet. NVIDIA Italy, through its Facebook page, has put up a teaser which points towards April 29th as being the day of a new showcase or announcement - the nature of which is as yet unclear. However, I think it's safe to rule out a new high-end GPU (rest easy, early Titan Xp users, it's unlikely NVIDIA would supersede their highest-performance GPU so soon after launch... Again.)

A Volta announcement is unlikely at this time, at least on the consumer side of the equation; however, the door is open towards the workstation and server side of the equation. NVIDIA does have other lines of consumer products that aren't graphics cards, though, so a Shield announcement, or even a new materialization of the company's expertise in a new product, are possible.

The Carmack-ZeniMax Odyssey Carries On - Carmack Files $22.5 Million Lawsuit

Tough breakups aren't easy by definition, and the breakup between legendary programmer John Carmack and former employer ZeniMax has probably been one of the most worded of all. Now, Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack has filed a lawsuit against ZeniMax for $22.5 million, money he claims ZeniMax still owes him from id Softwares' $150 million sale to ZeniMax back in 2009. Carmack says the amount he is filling for is part of the $45 million owed to him for the sale, of which he has already been able to convert 22.5 million (the non-missing half) in ZeniMax shares. However, Carmack says ZeniMax is unlawfully withholding the remaining $22.5 million because of "sour grapes".

Carmack claims ZeniMax is holding back the payment as payback for "a series of allegations regarding claimed violations of Mr. Carmack's Employment Agreement", referencing the Zenimax/Facebook lawsuit over the supposed theft of trade secrets. However, Oculus was recently found not guilty of stealing trade secrets, though the court ordered the company to pay $500 million for copyright infringement, false designation and the violation of Palmer Luckey's NDA. Oculus is appealing the case, calling the prior ruling "legally flawed and factually unwarranted."

OSVR Gets Sensics Home Suite - Proximity Alert System, Dedicated Home Screen

One of the things keeping OSVR from becoming a de facto platform for VR is that its software stack, being open source, still hasn't received as much development as Facebook's Oculus or HTC's Vive platforms. However, Sensics, one of the players which has put its stock on the OSVR ecosystem from the beginning, is aiming to gradually change that. Its recent introduction of the Sensics Home Suite brings, in itself, some much-needed quality of life improvements for any VR platform.

Oculus Faces Potential Legal Injunction Over Zenimax VR Code Used in its Products

Earlier this month, Zenimax was awarded $500m when a jury found that VR pioneer Oculus had violated a NDA and illegally used code from the game publisher. That may just be the beginning of the legal ramifications facing Oculus however, as Zenimax has just asked the court to block Oculus from using the code involved in the court case altogether, potentially blocking the sale of a good number of games utilizing the technology of the Oculus VR headset.

Oculus is appealing the case, and calls the prior ruling "legally flawed and factually unwarranted." To their credit, the court did agree that while Oculus had violated a non-disclosure agreement, it did not find that they had committed the larger crime of stealing trade secrets.

NVM Express Elects Facebook and Toshiba to Board

NVM Express, Inc., the organization that developed the NVM Express specification for accessing solid-state drives (SSDs) on a PCI Express (PCIe) bus, today announced the results of its recent board elections. Elected to Promoter positions were Facebook, Micron, Microsoft, Samsung, Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital. Facebook and Toshiba are new to the Promoter level, and the others are incumbents. The election winners join existing Promoters Cisco, Dell EMC, Intel, Microsemi, NetApp and Oracle, whose current terms expire at the end of 2017.

Representatives from the 13 Promoter companies form the NVM Express, Inc. Board of Directors, which governs the organization, including setting strategic direction. All Contributor and Promoter member companies are eligible to run for Promoter positions, where there are elections each year for roughly half the positions.

"We're very pleased to welcome Toshiba and Facebook to the NVM Express, Inc. Board, to help shape the future direction of NVM Express technology and the organization," said Amber Huffman, NVM Express President. "In 2016, we marked major milestones, such as publishing the NVM Express over Fabrics specification. We look forward to publishing revision 1.3 in the first half of this year - with much more to come later in 2017."

ZeniMax Awarded $500 Million in VR Patent Lawsuit Against Oculus

ZeniMax Media Inc. has been awarded a $500 million settlement in a virtual reality (VR) patent dispute with Facebook-owned Oculus. A jury in Texas found Oculus in violation of VR patents held by ZeniMax. Oculus in 2014 was acquired by Facebook in a $2 billion deal. ZeniMax owns id Software, a pioneering game studio led by John Carmack. ZeniMax alleges that core components of Oculus Rift VR headset were developed by John Carmack, when he was working at a ZeniMax subsidiary, making them ZeniMax' intellectual property. Carmack left ZeniMax to work for Oculus in 2013.

NVIDIA Ansel Post-FX Based on Stolen MasterEffect ReShade.fx Code?

Game modder Marty McFly Modding accused NVIDIA of stealing their post-processing shaders for Ansel without authorization or credit. Ansel, NVIDIA's pioneering "in-game photography" tech, which lets you take artistic stills (2D and VR) of your games, gives you additional post-processing tools, to let you enhance your shot. Some of these post-processing shaders, Marty McFly Modding alleges, was copied verbatim by the people behind NVIDIA Ansel, without even a third-party credit.

Marty McFly Modding stated on their Facebook page that "Its (Ansel's) custom.fx contains almost 1:1 the colormod pass with my original descriptions. Same for the other files, where many variable names, code, comments and defines match MasterEffect code, also my 1D gausian blur solution, 1:1, just DX11 ported. There may be even more Framework code in it, I just recognized my own code, there might be SweetFX/other code in it as well. While it's an honour to be apprechiated by such a big company, they could at least drop some credits like we do."

Qualcomm Announces its First Socketed Enterprise CPU

Qualcomm, which holds a ton of ARM SoC patents, and put them to good use with its Snapdragon line of SoCs for smartphones, tablets, and convertible notebooks, is foraying into enterprise computing market. The company is ready with its first prototype of a 24-core high-performance CPU based on the 64-bit ARM machine architecture. ARM-based processors are picking up momentum in the server and micro-server markets owning to their low cost, low cooling requirements, and high energy-efficiency; and Qualcomm wants a slice of that pie. Most enterprise Linux and FreeBSD distributors have versions of their server operating systems for the 64-bit ARM architecture, as do most popular server software providers.

The prototype 24-core CPU is socketed, and ships in a large land-grid array (LGA) package, much like Intel's Xeon chips. The first production chips will have a lot more than 24 CPU cores, said Qualcomm senior vice president Anand Chandrasekhar. As a proof of concept, Qualcomm assembled three server blades using these chips, which were running Linux with a KVM hypervisor, streaming HD video to a PC using a LAMP stack (Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP) built with OpenStack. Qualcomm's target consumers are big Internet companies like Google and Facebook, which purchase hundreds of thousands of CPUs each year to cope with growing user- and content-traffic.

TechPowerUp Announces the Thermalright and Nanoxia Giveaway

We here in TechPowerUp want our hardware to be as quiet and cool as possible, and the two other companies that share our passion are Thermalright and Nanoxia. In partnership with the two, we're presenting the new PC Cooling giveaway. To take part, simply "Like" our Facebook page (if you haven't already), and fill up a short form. Up for grabs are three bundles of Nanoxia DeepSilence 1 Rev. B cases and Thermalright HR-22 CPU coolers, each! The giveaway is open from today, till next Monday (28/09), and open to residents of Europe.

To participate, visit this page (Facebook not required).

MSI to Host US$200,000 Masters Gaming Arena 2015

MSI MGA (Masters Gaming Arena), a globally renowned eSports tournament formerly known as MSI Beat IT and hosted by the leading gaming brand, MSI, has partnered with ESL and will be ready to launch its 6th culmination as the months approach. Eric Kuo, MSI Vice President of Global Sales & Marketing, talks about renaming the annual gaming tournament from Beat IT to Masters Gaming Arena, "The rename marks our determination to evolve and do even better as one of the world's leading gaming brands. Years of MSI Beat IT gaming legacy will be carried on in the name of Masters Gaming Arena. MSI's gaming spirit and unflinching devotion to eSports live on. MSI MGA will continue to bring global players together and hand in hand we'll write thrilling chapters in the gaming history!"

MSI MGA will kick off with regional qualifiers for the United States, Europe and Asia. The first qualifier will start in June for Asia, with subsequent weeks covering the rest of the regions across the globe. The 4-day Grand Finals will be held in late August in the United States, where the best gamers from all around the world will compete over more than $200,000 USD in cash prizes and travel support.

TechPowerUp and GIGABYTE Announce GTX 960 G1 Gaming Giveaway

TechPowerUp and GIGABYTE bring you this month's giveaway, showcasing the season's hottest mainstream graphics card, the GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 960 G1 Gaming. One of the highest-clocked GTX 960 cards, the G1 Gaming pairs NVIDIA's super-efficient "Maxwell" derived GPU with a massive triple-fan cooling solution, which stays silent until a high temperature threshold is reached. Pair a 120W TDP GPU with a 300W-capable heatsink, and you've got yourself a massive "silence" headroom. One lucky winner gets this card. All you have to do is "Like" our Facebook page (if you haven't already), fill up a short form (or have Facebook do it for you), and answer one simple question. Good Luck!

For more information, and to participate, visit this page.

We're Putting Finishing Touches to the Radeon 300 Series: AMD

In a response to a question on its Facebook page on whether AMD's next-generation Radeon 300 series comes out before GTA V PC launch (March), the company responded, stating that it's giving finishing touches to its new lineup. "We're still putting finishing touches to the 300 series, to make sure they live up to expectation," the reply from AMD's official Facebook handle stated. In its recent Q4-2014 and FY-2014 results investors' call, AMD CEO Lisa Su stated that her company will launch its next-generation GPU and CPU/APU products only in Q2-2015.

TechPowerUp and MSI Announce Far Cry 4 Giveaway

TechPowerUp and MSI are back with another interesting giveaway, this time celebrating Far Cry 4, the open-world shooter adventure in a Himalayan setting. Simply fill up a short form (or have Facebook do it for you), and five lucky winners stand to win UPlay keys to Far Cry 4; one lucky winner gets an MSI X99S Gaming 7 socket LGA2011v3 motherboard, which is armed to the teeth with every feature a serious gamer can possibly need! For more information, and to participate, visit this page.

TechPowerUp NVIDIA Shield Tablet Giveaway

TechPowerUp is giving away an NVIDIA Shield Tablet, the most powerful handheld game console, which can double up as a conventional Android tablet. Powered by NVIDIA's in-house Tegra silicon, the Shield Tablet has so much processing power, that NVIDIA created its very own game and app marketplace that sells games, which take advantage of that power. And that's on top of Google Play Store, which sells games that just any Android device could play. The tablet comes with an ergonomic game controller, which gives you the kind of control you expect from a conventional game console. To participate, simply "Like" our Facebook page, if you haven't already, and fill up a short form (or have Facebook do it for you). One lucky winner will be randomly picked at the end of the giveaway.
To participate, visit this page.
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