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25 Apr 2022

Google's $5 billion Mandiant acquisition just hit another snag

Google recently announced its plan to acquire cybersecurity company Mandiant for $5.4 billion, in an effort to bolster its services and entice new customers into the fold. 

However, as with any huge acquisition, regulators are looking closely at the deal to make sure that it passes muster – especially in terms of harming competition. 

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mandiant executives disclosed that their company and Google had received enquiries from the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

"On March 21, 2022, Mandiant and Google filed the Notification and Report Forms required under the HSR Act with the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission," the filing explains. 

"On April 20, 2022, Mandiant and Google each received a request for additional information...from the DOJ in connection with the DOJ’s review of the Merger. The issuance of the Second Request extends the waiting period under the HSR Act until 30 days after both Mandiant and Google have substantially complied with the Second Request, unless the waiting period is terminated earlier by the DOJ or extended by agreement of Mandiant and Google."

The merger is still expected to complete within 2022, but this could present a snag for the search giant and its plans to cement its place in the cybersecurity space with netowork mapping, ransomware protection and risk management services from Mandiant.

Both parties expect to reply promptly to the DOJ's requests, which have been described as routine. 

A huge move in the security space 

Google buying Mandiant is a really big deal and it's no surprise that various parties are opposed to the merger. Recently, a shareholder filed a lawsuit claiming that Mandiant made "materially incomplete and misleading" in shareholder letters.

Whether these moves go anywhere remains to be seen – and presumably Google is fairly confident it can get the deal over the line – but the deal would bring one of the largest cybersecurity firms under direct control of one of the world's largest companies.

Mandiant has made a name for itself by offering tools to detect and counteract malware and other forms of cyberattack, as well as offering public-facing research into a variety of online misdeeds. 

Mandiant also recently partnered with CrowdStrike, its key rival, which is perhaps a sign of goodwill from the company ahead of scrutiny from regulators. 

Via The Register

25 Apr 2022

Nvidia could make a surprising move with RTX 4000 GPUs

Nvidia might stick with the PCIe 4.0 interface with its next-gen Lovelace graphics cards, according to a fresh rumor.

This comes from a prominent hardware leaker on Twitter, Kopite7kimi, who spilled a couple of fresh nuggets of info in some recent tweets about what will presumably be RTX 4000 GPUs (though Nvidia could depart from the obvious next step for the name).

See more

Existing Nvidia RTX 3000 GPUs (Ampere) use a PCIe 4.0 slot in the motherboard, but with Lovelace, Nvidia was thought to be possibly stepping up to PCIe 5.0.

Mainly because Nvidia is adopting PCIe 5.0 with Hopper, its next-gen heavyweight (data center) GPUs, so it’d follow to some extent that Team Green might look to shift the incoming consumer graphics cards in that same direction. At the very least from a marketing point of view, particularly now that PCIe 5.0 is provided by Intel with the 12th-gen Alder Lake range, and the cutting-edge standard is expected to be adopted by AMD with next-gen Zen 4 processors that should debut later in 2022 (which is when Lovelace is scheduled to arrive).

Furthermore, Nvidia is expected to use PCIe 5.0 power connectors with the RTX 4000 range – as already seen with the RTX 3090 Ti, in fact, given the GPU’s heavy power demands – so Lovelace will theoretically use PCIe 5.0 for power, but stick with that PCIe 4.0 interface.

Analysis: Will we really need PCIe 5.0 before RTX 5000, anyway?

While this might seem like an unusual situation to have a graphics card with PCIe 5.0 power but slotted into a PCIe 4.0 interface, it’s not really that surprising when you think about it more. As mentioned, the new 3090 Ti already does this, and is purportedly a test drive of sorts for RTX 4000 cards, if the rumor mill is to be believed (as Neowin, which reported on this, points out). Naturally, all of this remains speculation, so let’s not get carried away – we’re cautious about how much stock to put in this fresh rumor anyway.

Still, it does make sense that Nvidia might want to keep PCIe 4.0 for the next-generation purely from a practical point of view. It would cost more to equip Lovelace graphics cards with the cutting-edge PCIe 5.0 interface, and to no real end – PCIe 4.0 already offers plenty of bandwidth.

While PCIe 5.0 would provide future-proofing, of course, realistically by the time PCIe 4.0 is struggling to cope with gaming demands, Nvidia will likely be releasing RTX 5000 cards – and those can come with the PCIe 5.0 interface.

In short, it doesn’t feel like there’s a compelling need to step up to PCIe 5.0 just yet, and the cost savings of sticking with PCIe 4.0 can likely be put to better use elsewhere in terms of juicing up Lovelace performance. So we won’t be particularly surprised if this turns out to be the case, or worried for that matter – the real concern about the RTX 4000 family for us is those rumors around huge levels of power consumption.

With tales of Lovelace graphics cards pushing power usage up to 600W, or maybe even further – like 800W at the flagship level – this is definitely the biggest worry around the next-gen GPUs. What gamers don’t want is a situation where they have to think about upgrading their power supply as well as buying a new graphics card (with GPUs being more than expensive enough already, though at least inflated prices are finally coming down in recent times).

25 Apr 2022

Google, Meta and the rest will be forced to explain their mysterious algorithms

The European Commission is moving ahead with the Digital Services Act, an attempt by the regulatory and legislative body to police the actions of America's large tech giants. 

The EU finalized the DSA on Friday, after 16 hours of negotiations, revealing how the piece of legislation would work in practice and which companies it would target. 

"The time of big online platforms behaving like they are ‘too big to care’ is coming to an end," said Thierry Breton, the commissioner for the internal market. 

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the DSA "will upgrade the ground-rules for all online services in the EU”.

“It gives practical effect to the principle that what is illegal offline, should be illegal online. The greater the size, the greater the responsibilities of online platforms," she told The Verge.

While the EU hasn't yet released the final text of the DSA, the details released show that Meta, Google, and others will need to open up their recommendations algorithms – i.e. the mechanism whereby content feeds are tailored to the individual user – to all for inspection.

Platforms will also need to offer users alternatives to algorithmic feeds, which would likely mean the reintroduction of chronological feeds, as Instagram recently announced.

EU expanding its reach 

The goal of the DSA is, basically, to regulate huge tech giants that are headquartered in America, which has historically put them just beyond reach of the EU, despite many, many attempts to impose fines and restrict their activities.

The DSA gives the EU power to levy heavy fines and ban services if they are perceived to not be doing enough to meet their obligations with regards to content moderation, targeted advertising, and more.

The legislation follows the Digital Markets Act, which aims to control "gatekeeper" companies that offer marketplace services in the EU.

While opening up algorithms for inspection might sound like a positive step in theory, the feasibility of the EU's proposal remains to be seen, especially without the final text of the bill. 

Some, such as Meta's Dare Obasanjo, were quick to pour cold water on the proposal. 

See more
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There is also evidence to suggest regular people are not as displeased with the behavior of Google and the like as the new proposals and quotes from the EC imply.

The DSA will take effect on 1 January 2024 at the earliest, but the start date will depend on precisely when the new rules are voted into law.

25 Apr 2022

Amazon is sinking a pile of cash into developing human-like robots

Amazon has announced a $1 billion Industrial Innovation Fund, which will help fund companies and startups at all stages across customer fulfilment, logistics, and supply chain technology. 

"We see an opportunity to look beyond our own experience and empower companies that are developing emerging technologies in customer fulfilment operations, logistics, and the supply chain,” said the ecommerce giant. 

“We know there are companies out there that share our curiosity and excitement to invent. Whether our investment helps them grow or leads them to work with Amazon, or both, we’re excited to help advance these technologies as online shopping becomes even more important to people who are looking for more convenience and time savings.”

The first batch of companies that Amazon will fund includes Agility Robotics, which makes bipedal robots for warehouses. The company will receive $150 million from Amazon and others.

Other startups set to benefit from the scheme include Modjoul, which makes wearable safety tech; Vimaan, which uses computer vision to manage inventory; BionicHIVE, an automated shelf-stacking robotics startup; and Mantis Robotics, which is developing a tactile robot arm.

Ecommerce is expensive 

The news of the $1 billion fund comes after Amazon CEO Andy Jassy emphasised a commitment to improving the safety of workers at the company, in response to a recent study that showed its workers are twice as likely to be injured than at its competitors.

“These industries are inherently complex,” said Amazon's Alex Ceballos. “With our scale, Amazon is committed to investing in companies that will ignite innovation in emerging technologies that can help improve employee experiences and safety while seamlessly coexisting with workforces across the supply chain, logistics, and other industries.”

Spending $1 billion is a drop in the ocean for Amazon, which generated almost $470 billion in revenue during 2021. 

But the competitive edge provided by being early to fund startups that help create efficiencies in its vast warehouses could prove priceless.

25 Apr 2022

Windows 11 is filling your hard drive with unwanted apps – so why not switch to Linux?

Windows 11 comes with a host of default apps that are pre-installed, and a new report suggests they take up a significant amount of hard drive space.

Microsoft has been coy about how much space these apps take up, and until now, figuring it out has been difficult as they are are installed across various locations. However, as the Out of Office Hours website reports, there’s a PowerShell script that can give us a good idea of just how much storage space these apps actually use, and the news isn’t great.

According to Out of Office Hours, the preinstalled apps take up around 1.6GB of storage space. That’s quite a bit, especially if you have a smaller hard drive of around 128GB or so, and if you rarely – or never – use those apps, you may be rather annoyed to see that space going to waste.

Even worse, many of these apps can’t be easily uninstalled, which means you’re left with them clogging up your hard drive.

Analysis: Whose PC is it anyway?

While it may seem a bit churlish to complain about 1.6GB – especially when hard drives often offer capacities over 1TB – it’s not an insubstantial amount of space, and the fact that Microsoft makes it difficult to uninstall these apps highlights an issue many people have been increasingly having with Windows operating systems.

If you buy – or build – a PC, you’d expect to own it, and have full control over what’s installed and what apps you’re going to use. However, if you install Windows 10 or Windows 11, you seem to be giving up some of that control, with Microsoft dictating what you can and can’t install or remove on your PC.

One obvious alternative to this is to use an open-source operating system, such as Linux, which gives you much greater control over your PC. While there’s a learning curve to switching to Linux, there are user-friendly distros that can help, and as we’ve seen with the Steam Deck and Steam OS, you don't have to stick with Windows if you want to play your PC games.

25 Apr 2022

T-Mobile confirms Lapsus$ infiltrated its systems

Telecoms giant T-Mobile has confirmed its digital premises were breached by the notorious Lapsus$ hackers, but played down the severity of the incident.

As reported by BleepingComputer, the group of hackers was apparently unable to obtain any valuable data from the incursion.

"Several weeks ago, our monitoring tools detected a bad actor using stolen credentials to access internal systems that house operational tools software," a T-Mobile spokesperson told the publication.

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Stealing source code

T-Mobile went in to further details as to precisely what the attackers were able to access, and how the company responded.

"The systems accessed contained no customer or government information or other similarly sensitive information, and we have no evidence that the intruder was able to obtain anything of value," said the firm.

"Our systems and processes worked as designed, the intrusion was rapidly shut down and closed off, and the compromised credentials used were rendered obsolete."

However, other sources offer conflicting reports as to the nature of the stolen data.

According to a report from security expert Brian Krebs, based on leaked chat logs allegedly showing a conversation between Lapsus$ members, the group managed to steal proprietary T-Mobile source code. A total of 30,000 source code repositories were taken from T-Mobile's endpoints, the report claims.

The group is also said to have obtained access to Atlas, a powerful internal T-Mobile tool for managing customer accounts, as well as access to company Slack and Bitbucket accounts.

The motive behind the desire to steal source code is unclear, the report further states, but Krebs suspects that it could be about extortion, or turning a profit on the black market. 

In the past four years, T-Mobile has disclosed a total of seven breaches, including one in which threat actors accessed data belonging to 3% of all of its customers. 

Recently, the company’s customers notified the FBI of “unblockable” SMS phishing attacks, which are linked to one of the earlier breaches.

Via BleepingComputer

25 Apr 2022

The crypto theft problem is getting worse and worse

Almost as much cryptocurrency has been stolen this year as in the entirety of 2021, new analysis suggests.

According to blockchain market analysts at Chainalysis, thieves and fraudsters stole $3.2 billion in various cryptocurrencies last year. But in the first four months of 2022, $2.9 billion worth of crypto has already been stolen, with roughly one major theft occurring every week.

The volume of crypto heists has not necessarily changed, but attacks are becoming more devastating, in part due to the rising popularity of Decentralized Finance (DeFi) projects, and the amount of money being poured into these projects.

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Targeting nascent projects

DeFi describes an ecosystem of financial applications that are built on the blockchain. They offer services similar to those available in traditional banks, but are underpinned by peer-to-peer systems. With DeFi, people can take out loans, or earn yield on their investments.

However, with many of these projects not yet fully tested and vetted, they are fast becoming a playground for cybercriminals and fraudsters. 

The latest attack hit Beanstalk, an algorithmic stablecoin protocol built on Ethereum and launched in August. The fraudster managed to siphon out $182 million worth of digital assets.

Incidents such as this one emphasize the importance of vetting and code audits. Even projects that have had their code audited by third parties can still end up being abused.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Max Galka, CEO of crypto forensics firm Elementus, said the hacker was following Beanstalk’s stated rules.

“Everything this guy did was consistent with the code,” Mr. Galka said.

However, the attacker managed to find a flaw in the code. With the help of a flash loan from a different DeFi service (a flash loan is similar to a “regular” loan, but the entire process happens almost instantaneously), he managed to buy enough of Beanstalk’s native governance token to earn absolute voting power. 

With that power, he voted to withdraw all of the funds found on the protocol, and after returning the flash loan, got away with the difference. Whether or not the affected customers will be reimbursed, remains to be seen.

If crooks aren't looking for flaws in code, they're then trying to scam people into giving away their passwords, secret keys, and other credentials, or installing keyloggers or other malware. By assuming the identities of a trusted third party, they often try to trick people into believing they need to urgently address the issue, in order not to lose their funds. 

Via Wall Street Journal

25 Apr 2022

File Explorer tabs in Windows 11 sound great, but where are they?

Microsoft held an event at the start of April, announcing a bunch of new features coming to Windows 11, including the ability to have tabs in File Explorer, but users are still waiting to give this new feature a try.

The company heralded the feature as one of the biggest updates to File Explorer in years, alongside a new 'home' view so you could see your recently used files and integration with OneDrive.

But while I've been able to use the feature with a third-party tool, it's still not appearing in both the Insider updates or as official releases of Windows 11. What's going on?

A feature lying in wait

I have a gaming PC with more hard drives and pinned folders than the usual user, mainly due to the number of games that I have installed on it. When I'm trying to copy files and folders between these hard drives, I usually need to have multiple File Explorer windows open at once.

It's also annoying, as my 32-inch monitor is instead showing multiple windows of folders, and there's moments where I need to open even more File Explorer windows.

This is why the tabbed feature has been so useful to me, thanks to the unofficial tool. Everything is managed in one window, just like a web browser, and I can use the unused space in my display for a YouTube video instead. But it's yet to officially arrive for everyone, and my other device running Windows 11 is still shacked to a File Explorer without tabs.

Microsoft's event made a big deal of the feature, and many users, myself included, are wondering where it is.

We've reached out to the company for clarification, but announcing a new feature with no release date is strange, even for Microsoft.

If you've not signed up to be a Windows Insider to help test early versions of Windows 11, you may have to wait until later this year for the upcoming 'Sun Valley 2' update instead. But even seeing the feature arrive in that update is full of uncertainty, as we're already seeing features announced and released every month that was expected to arrive in 'Sun Valley 2', such as the dark mode theme in Notepad.

We may be in the middle of a transition from the company in how updates are being announced and released, but with no official word as to when tabs in File Explorer are coming, many of us are in the dark.

While an unofficial tool has enabled it for me, it's something that other users won't want to try, so to have confirmation of when it'll be arriving at the very least, would be nice to see from Microsoft for the time being.

25 Apr 2022

AMD RX 6750 XT GPU leak looks disappointing at first glance

AMD’s Radeon RX 6750 XT is one of the rumored refreshed graphics cards the company is supposedly readying for the near future, and we’ve just spotted a leaked benchmark featuring the GPU, which is disappointing on the face of it – but with some clear caveats.

This spillage comes from Komachi, a well-known hardware leaker on Twitter, who spotted the RX 6750 XT being tested in GFXBench, as reported by VideoCardz.

The precise benchmark – and the only test run here, sadly – is ‘Aztec Ruins High Tier’ in which the RX 6750 XT purportedly hits 366.5 frames per second (fps), which is barely any faster than the existing 6700 XT that this GPU supersedes.

In fact, the 6700 XT is shown for comparison running at 362.2 fps, so the 6750 XT is only around 1.2% quicker in this particular test – not a huge difference by any means. Apply salt as ever at this point.

Analysis: Plenty of caution is required here

As always with an individual leak – aside from the given skepticism around how genuine it might be – we need to remember that this is a very limited picture of the potential abilities of a pre-release GPU. In this case, it’s a more obscure benchmark as well – not one of the commonly seen metrics used to gauge graphics card performance – and of course the 6750 XT is still in testing, anyway, so this won’t represent its full performance level.

The real-world gaming performance of the finished product will likely see the refreshed GPU distance itself to a greater extent from the 6700 XT, but then again, this leak suggests that maybe the difference won’t be all that much (mind you, we wouldn’t expect it to be a big gulf anyhow – this is just a refresh, after all).

Going by the grapevine, we’ve heard that the 6750 XT – and the other 6x50 XT refreshes, with three expected in total – will likely employ faster VRAM (juiced up to 18Gbps) compared to the 6700 XT, and AMD is supposedly looking to up clock speeds as well. Maybe any clock speed gains might be minimal, though, if this benchmark is any reliable hint of what’s to come (remember that the leak regarding considerably faster clocks was about the flagship replacement, the 6950 XT, so perhaps further down the range we won’t see such a jump).

All of this is still speculation, naturally, so we just have to sit and wait at this point, but we shouldn’t have to be patient for long to see the true specs of these rumored models. The theory is that the refreshed GPUs will land around mid-May, and a recent regulatory filing for the 6750 XT lends further weight to the idea that these products are coming sooner rather than later.

As indeed does the simple fact that AMD needs to get them out of the door pretty sharpish, because RDNA 3 graphics cards are coming later in 2022, so Team Red will need to leave enough distance between these refreshes and the next-generation GPUs, otherwise people are simply going to wait for the latter to arrive (RDNA 3 will be a huge step up, if the rumor mill is right).

Another noteworthy possibility is that with the arrival of the 6750 XT, we could see the 6700 XT getting discounted – and the same might be true of all these refreshes, of course. Indeed, prices are already falling and coming back to normal in the GPU world as it is, so this could be another downward pricing pressure for those looking to pick up an affordable AMD card; fingers crossed.

25 Apr 2022

Serious Java vulnerability lets hackers masquerade as anyone they please

Oracle has patched a nasty vulnerability in the Java framework, the severity of which cannot be overstated, security experts say.

Tracked as CVE-2022-21449, the flaw was found in the company’s Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) for Java 15 and newer. It allows threat actors to fake TSL certificates and signatures, two-factor authentication codes, authorization credentials and the like. 

As explained by ArsTechnica, ECDSA is an algorithm that digitally authenticates messages. As it generates keys, it’s often used in standards such as FIDO’s two-factor authentication, the Security Assertion Markup Language, OpenID, and JSON. 

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Forging SSL certificates and handshakes

The vulnerability was first discovered by Neil Madden of ForgeRock, who compared the exploit to the blank identity card from sci-fi series Doctor Who. In the series, the person looking at the ID card sees whatever the holder wants them to see, despite the fact that the card is blank.

“It turns out that some recent releases of Java were vulnerable to a similar kind of trick, in the implementation of widely-used ECDSA signatures,” Madden explained. 

“If you are running one of the vulnerable versions then an attacker can easily forge some types of SSL certificates and handshakes (allowing interception and modification of communications), signed JWTs, SAML assertions or OIDC id tokens, and even WebAuthn authentication messages. All using the digital equivalent of a blank piece of paper.”

The flaw has received an official severity score of 7.5/10, but Madden disagrees strongly with the assessment.

“It’s hard to overstate the severity of this bug. If you are using ECDSA signatures for any of these security mechanisms, then an attacker can trivially and completely bypass them if your server is running any Java 15, 16, 17, or 18 version before the April 2022 Critical Patch Update (CPU). For context, almost all WebAuthn/FIDO devices in the real world (including Yubikeys use ECDSA signatures and many OIDC providers use ECDSA-signed JWTs," he said.

Allegedly, only Java versions 15 and newer are affected, although Oracle also listed versions 7,8, and 11, as vulnerable. Still, all customers are urged to update their endpoints to the newest version.

Via ArsTechnica

23 Apr 2022

Microsoft is still trying desperately to get you to use Bing

If you haven’t used Bing lately, an upcoming update to Microsoft Edge will bring the software giant’s search engine front and center in a brand new Sidebar menu.

According to Windows Latest, Edge’s new Sidebar menu has begun rolling out to users in the browser’s Canary channel and in addition to Bing, it also allows you to use a calculator, read emails in Outlook, check out MSN browser games and more without leaving the current page you’re on.

While you can send emails, use a calculator, convert a variety of units and even test your internet speed in Edge’s Sidebar menu, it’s worth noting that you can not play games in it as they will open in a new tab. This is also the case with Microsoft Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Vivaldi users will be instantly familiar with Edge’s new Sidebar menu as it functions in a similar way to the browser’s web panel. Both are quite useful when you need to do a quick task but don’t want to open a new tab or a separate window.

New Sidebar menu

Besides all of the other new features in Edge’s Sidebar menu, Microsoft has also added another option that allows you to add your favorite sites so that you can perform contextual actions without interrupting your workflow.

As the Sidebar is not yet generally available, many sites aren’t optimized to work in its smaller screen space. This will likely change though once more Edge users begin using this feature.

For those that aren’t interested in using Edge’s Sidebar, you can disable it by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+/. Likewise, you can use this same keyboard shortcut to enable the Sidebar.

If you want to try out Edge’s Sidebar for yourself, you’ll need to be running Edge Canary and from here, you can find a new ‘Sidebar’ option in the browser’s menu that allows you to launch it.

Via Window's Latest

23 Apr 2022

Calling all bookworms: Amazon is giving away 10 Kindle ebooks for World Book Day

UNESCO's World Book Day in 2022 falls on April 23 (except in the UK, where we like to be different, as it falls in early March), and if you own the Amazon Kindle or any of the other Kindle models, or simply subscribe to Prime, you're in for a treat.

That's because Amazon is offering 10 free ebooks to celebrate the occasion, which anyone with a Kindle – or a Prime account – can download for free. So if you own one of the best Kindles, you've getting even more bang for your buck. 

The offering lasts until April 27, and covers books from a range of authors and genres – we'll list them all below. The aim is to promote literature from all over the world.

To get the books, simply head to Amazon's Read The World page to add them to your Amazon account, then download them to your ereader. You don't need a Kindle to make the most of this deal, as you can read them in a web browser or on the Kindle smartphone app, but we'd always recommend buying a Kindle if you want to read on the go.

What are the free books?

  • The Puma Years by Laura Coleman (Travel Memoir, Bolivia)

"In this rapturous memoir, writer and activist Laura Coleman shares the story of her liberating journey in the Amazon jungle, where she fell in love with a magnificent cat who changed her life." Check out the full listing here.

  • The Ardent Swarm by Yamen Manai (Literary Fiction, Tunisia)

"From an award-winning Tunisian author comes a stirring allegory about a country in the aftermath of revolution and the power of a single quest." Check out the full listing here.

  • North To Paradise by Ousman Umar (Memoir, Ghana)

"The inspiring true story of one man’s treacherous boyhood journey from a rural village in Ghana to the streets of Barcelona—and the path that led him hom" Check out the full listing here.

  • Where The Desert Meets The Sea by Werner Sonne (Historical Fiction, Israel)

"An illuminating and heart-stirring historical novel set in post-WWII Palestine, where the boundaries of love and friendship are challenged by the intractable conflicts of war." Check out the full listing here.

  • An Eye For An Eye by Carol Wyer (Thriller, England)

"A killer running rings around the police. A detective spiralling out of control." Check out the full listing here.

  • The Other Man by Farhad J. Dadyburjor (Book Club Fiction, India)

"A heartwarming and transporting romantic comedy about finding happy ever after on your own terms." Check out the full listing here.

  • The Easy Life In Kamusari by Shion Miura (Contemporary Fiction, Japan)

"From Shion Miura, the award-winning author of The Great Passage, comes a rapturous novel where the contemporary and the traditional meet amid the splendor of Japan’s mountain way of life." Check out the full listing here

  • Mother Dear by Nova Lee Maier (Psychological Thriller, Netherlands)

"There’s only one thing worse than doing the unthinkable: what you’re willing to do to hide it." Check out the full listing here.

  • To The Sky Kingdom by Tang Qi (Fantasy, China)

The listing for To The Sky Kingdoms doesn't provide a short description, but you can check out the full listing here.

  • The Caiman by María Eugenia Manrique, Ramón París (Children's Book, Venezuela)

"The unforgettable story of a man and his alligator." Check out the full listing here

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

(Image credit: Future)

A different crop of free books

If you own an Amazon Kindle, you're likely no stranger to free books - not only are there various subscription services like Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited, but the Kindle Store has loads of free novels on it, and it's also easy to send a PDF to your Kindle for all the free classics online.

But Amazon's Read The World offering for World Book Day is a little different, as the texts cover a broader range of genres than we normally see from the heavily-genre-fiction-and-romance fare that's normally offered for nothing.

More importantly, this literature spans the whole world, so you can read from authors from Ghana, China or India, as well as other places. Again, we don't normally see this kind of diversity too much from the Kindle store.

So World Book Day will be great news for Kindle owners or Prime subscribers who like to experience the cultures of other countries... which is part of the point of it, really.

23 Apr 2022

Why AMD could be Mercedes F1's most important partner this season

When it comes to Formula 1, as the old saying goes, speed is everything.

In what is proving to be an eye-opening season of transition and excitement, having the edge over your rivals has never been more important, as a new set of rules and regulations has shaken up the grid.

Having taken the last eight constructor world championships, Mercedes F1, home to seven-time drivers champion Lewis Hamilton, has struggled hugely so far this season, trailing far behind Ferrari and Red Bull.

EPYC speeds

However, the team knows it can still turn to one of the leading computing firms to help give it an extra level, having revealed more on its extended partnership with AMD.

The semiconductor company has provided its second-generation EPYC processors to help boost the team's aerodynamic testing, a vital part of developing a potentially race-winning car.

“We are proud to partner with the reigning Constructors’ Champions, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, operating at the cutting edge of racing and technology,” said, Dan McNamara, SVP & GM, Server Business Unit, AMD.

“For F1 teams, having the most effective computational analysis of aerodynamics can mean the difference between winning and losing a race. With AMD EPYC processors, the Mercedes-AMG F1 team can iterate on vehicle design faster and more efficiently than their previous system.”

amd epyc server

(Image credit: AMD)

In a blog post expanding on the news, AMD noted how Mercedes F1 has been able to achieve a 20% performance improvement for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) workloads that were used to model and test aerodynamic flow of their F1 car by using its EPYC processors.

With gigabytes of data resulting from wind tunnel tests and modelling runs, aerodynamics have never been more valuable for a Formula 1 team, especially now the sport's ruling body, the FIA, has brought in strict rules governing how much testing can be done in an attempt to level the playing field between rich and poor teams.

This includes a budget cap of $140 million on computational resources spending, which includes the money spent on servers - with this amount set to fall to just $135 million in 2023. Around 1,800 new geometry simulations are allowed across an eight-week testing period, so wringing out every piece of information is vital.

Merecedes F1 /AMD 2022 formula one car

(Image credit: AMD / Merecedes F1)

Having signed a three-year deal to use the second-generation EPYC hardware, Mercedes is now hoping for an uptick in fortunes on the track as Hamilton and team-mate (and fellow Brit) George Russell look to boost results.

“AMD EPYC processors offer us a platform that delivers aerodynamic performance day after day at the highest possible level while meeting our goal of faster turnaround time for design iteration,” said Simon Williams, Head of Aero Development Software at Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1.

“Incredibly, we gained a 20 percent performance improvement over our previous system which has cut our CFD workload time in half. This is a big step compared to the past one or two percent gains seen with previous systems.”

23 Apr 2022

Week in Review: Try telling Netflix that sharing is caring

 Hi! I’m back! I had a lovely two weeks off, thanks, but it’s nice to be back talking back to you wonderful readers.

But it turns out that I’ve left at a time when a lot has been happening, and prepping for this newsletter has been a great chance to get back up to speed with it all and read some thoroughly interesting stories.

Mostly, if you share your Netflix password with anyone, you might want to give them a call soon and ask for a regular donation…

Netflix wants its fair share


(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Does your father use your Netflix account, meaning you get constant emails about a new login? Does your son still watch Netflix at college and stop you from bingeing Squid Games at the exact moment you managed to carve out 45 minutes in your busy life?

If that’s the case, get ready to be even more frustrated: it’s going to cost you more to experience that annoyance in the future, as Netflix seeks to monetize password sharing.

The reason is simple: Netflix has lost 200,000 paying subscribers since the start of the year, and that decline is going to increase rapidly, according to estimates. So the platform is “taking action” to stop things like excessive password sharing, charging users for the privilege of sharing (that charge is currently $2.99 for a trial in places including Chile and Peru).

I was going to go into a rant about how this isn’t the cause of the issue, that it’s the price hikes, the increased competition, the lack of quality content… but then I read Axel Metz’s piece, and he’s done it all far more eloquently than I ever could, and he’s spoken to experts about it to. You should probably just read that…

Samsung fans are seeing red over new S22 Ultra shade

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

One of the quirks of being a phones journalist over the years has been the moment when a brand launches a new color variant of a recently-launched phone; it often provides a moment of simple joy in contrast to the hours spent talking about specs and materials. 

The iPhone 12 in purple made people happy. The HTC U12 in Flame Red was one of the most beautiful phones I ever saw. So when Samsung said the S22 Ultra was coming in red, our Phones Editor Tom Bedford predicted that it would be beautiful, and opined as such.

How wrong he was. It turns out that Samsung thinks ‘red’ really means ‘a sort of burned coral with a reddish hue’, and many readers have got in contact with us to say how disappointed they are.

Why not just make a lovely red phone Samsung? That’s what people want, clearly, so stop playing around with confected colors and make a proper red variant.

Beauty is ear deep

the bang & olufsen beoplay ex true wireless earbuds in gold

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

I've been pondering which earbuds to get next, as my trusty and super-cheap Enacfire buds from Amazon are starting to irritate me just a little too much.

I could be swayed by Bang and Olufsen's new buds, the Beoplay EX, as they look a little AirPods Pro-like in their design, but not quite as Apple-y (I'm still burned from the abuse I got on Twitter when I showed off the original AirPods for the first time).

The thing that will ultimately sway me is not the audio quality, which will likely be excellent, but more whether they'll be any good for sports. I'm currently re-reviewing the Jabra Elite Active 75t, which are much cheaper than the AirPods, so I'm looking forward to getting my ears around the Beoplay EX.

And they'd better be good – $399 is a lot to pay for a pair of earbuds.

Ghostbusters game leads Meta's new VR charge

Ghostbusters VR

(Image credit: Future)

Our team was all over the Meta (formerly Oculus) Quest launch this week, with a whole raft of games making their debut at the event.

While sadly – and annoyingly – we didn’t see a new headset get announced (it’s long overdue) the games that appeared look pretty good, and show that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is still investing heavily in this area.

The Ghostbusters game in particular looks pretty stellar – it’s almost making me want to go out and buy a dedicated headset, until I remember that I get to play on my PS4 for about 20 minutes every month, so it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

But for those of you who do have the time, these games are well worth checking out – and we’ve got all the trailers lined up nicely for you too.

Don't do this to me, Garmin

Garmin Forerunner 945 running watch

(Image credit: Future)

I’ve known deep down that Garmin was about to launch a new running watch in the shape of the Forerunner 955, and this leak makes it almost certain. Cat Ellis has done a great job of writing up said leak, with loads of information about what Garmin is planning, and a mystery device in there too.

However, this line has upset me: “With improvements in battery tech, more efficient components, and solar charging, the Forerunner 955 could give performance more similar to the 47mm Garmin Fenix 7 Solar, which runs for up to 22 days in smartwatch mode, and 73 hours in GPS mode.”

The issue, dear reader, is that I’ve just bought the Fenix 7 Solar (and it’s brilliant – it has an actual torch on it and I love it) because I thought “yes, it’s expensive, but I’ll use it everyday. Sure, it’s a bit bulky but that’ll be fine’”.

So the notion that all the good stuff on this watch will be coming to a slimmer, cheaper, more running-focused watch doesn’t make me happy. I’m just hoping the Forerunner 955 doesn’t have a torch – then all will be well.

Congrats to the appy couple

iOS 15 Apps for wedding banner

(Image credit: TechRadar)

I’ll be honest – I’ve included this story mostly because I wanted to celebrate the fact our software writer Daryl Baxter got married this week, and he wrote a tremendously sweet piece about the five apps he used to plan the wedding.

I won’t lie: as someone who’s also planning a wedding, my stomach turns at the thought of sharing a to-do list app with my partner. 

I can see myself doing more stuff in the app than actual stuff, such as speaking to the venue and begging them to send over the menu choices and telling me where to send the deposit to and making a choice on where the tables will be stored and what if people want to just come for the evening and where is the marquee now and… okay, I need to breathe.

But I did find some nice ideas in this piece around budgeting and planning – so if you’ve got impending nuptials, give it a click.

How can we only now be discovering new body parts?

The human lungs

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

This is yet another moment where science blows my mind. How, in 2022, can we only just be discovering a part of our lungs that we didn’t know existed?

Okay, calling it a new part of the body in the headline above is a bit of a stretch – it’s not like they found a spare finger in the lungs or anything – but reading deeper, I’m just amazed at the human body’s ability to regenerate itself.

Essentially, scientists have discovered that we have respiratory airway secretory (RAS) cells, which are like stem cells in that they’re ‘blank’. They can then spring into life and be used to repair damaged cells, and understanding them better could help with the development of treatments for smoking- and pollution-related diseases.

Check out the full article over on LiveScience – it’s a fascinating read – and marvel anew at the way our bodies work.

This is from the editor

Gareth Beavis

It’s so nice to take some time off and see what comes out of the team when I’m away. I read Matt Hanson’s round up last week and really enjoyed it – I think we need to hear more from him in the future, so we may put him on the roster more regularly.

Remember, if you enjoyed this read and haven’t yet signed up for the newsletter, (which delivers it to your inbox before this article goes live - exclusive stuff that will make you feel special) you can do so here and make your life immeasurably better (and spread the word while you’re at it).

And if you want to let me know your thoughts on this week’s missive, or want to share your experiences with tech, or just want to express how much you’ve missed me (or didn’t want me back) then you can email me, remembering to include 'NEWSLETTER' in the subject line – I do read every email, and I’ll share the best ones here.

Have a great weekend! My top tip for this week is to go outside and take one photo of something brilliant – it’s a great way to develop an appreciation of wherever you are or whoever you’re with.

23 Apr 2022

New Google Play Store policy cracks down on call-recording apps

Starting May 11, Google will begin rolling out a policy change to its Play Store that will prevent third-party apps from using the Accessibility API to record calls and some new consumer protections.

This is the start of a year-long policy change for the Play Store that will involve changes to real-money games and news apps to better protect people. Despite Google's stated good intentions, people online have already started to take issue with the company's changes.

API crackdown

The Accessibility API is a set of protocols that developers can integrate into their apps so people with disabilities can use them. Google points out apps like screen readers for people with visual impairments or voice features for “...people with motor impairments” as proper usage.

According to Google, some developers have taken advantage of this API to bypass Android privacy controls to allow remote call recording or change a device’s settings without user consent.

Alongside the API changes, Google will be adding a Families Ads Program to ensure advertisements on apps are age-appropriate and expanding its Misleading Claims section.

These changes were revealed on April 6 and developers have a period of 30 days to implement these changes or have their app removed from the Play Store.

Later in the year, there will be a crackdown on gambling apps that offer physical prizes, and the requirement that news apps must provide information on their owner and reveal article sources.

Developer critique

An app developer on the Android subreddit has a problem with the API change and even claims that it will “ …kill call recording apps once and for all..”

The developer of ACR Call Recorder states the change will not be good for the consumer as it will cause people to seek out call-recording services in less reputable places. The developer worries that users will download apps from untrustworthy sources and potentially expose themselves to malware.

The developer is also critical of Google’s latest webinar video on the policy change. The video presently reportedly states that third-party phone apps have access to call audio, but the developer states this isn’t true. Only the native phone app on Android phones has access.

That said, Android is an open-source OS, and it will probably only be a matter of time until these developers find a workaround for the latest Google policies.

23 Apr 2022

The first Intel Arc-powered mobile workstation is here

Dell recently overhauled its Precision and Latitude laptop lines with the latest Intel processors but it now appears that the Austin-based PC maker will be the first hardware vendor to ship a mobile workstation with one of the chipmaker’s new Arch Alchemist GPUs.

When the company first unveiled the Precision 5470, customers had the option to configure the device with either integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics or a Nvidia RTX A1000 GPU. However, according to a listing on Dell’s Indian website, customers will now also be able to outfit the Precision 5470 with Intel’s new Arc Alchemist A370M Pro mobile GPU

The Dell Precision 5470 is an entry-level workstation which is designed to provide stability, longevity and excellent after-sales support for business users that need powerful computing performance in a smaller package. In fact, the Precision 5470 is not only the world’s most powerful mobile workstation but also the smallest and thinnest in the world.

Due to all of this power under the hood, Dell’s engineers had to develop a new thermal management system that fits within the confines of the system without sacrificing memory or Thunderbolt ports. To help cool the Precision 5470 even further, the PC maker also added separate cooling systems for both its CPU and GPU based on a render from its site.

Intel Arc Alchemist A370M Pro

At this time, the specs of Intel’s new Arc Alchemist A370M Pro graphics processor are not entirely clear. However, based on its model number, the company’s first mobile GPU will ship with 128 execution units which is equivalent to 1,024 stream processors just like its Arc Alchemist A370M GPU intended for consumers.

Professional-grade and consumer-grade GPUs are a bit different despite using the same silicon. This is because professional-grade GPUs often leverage additional GPU resources that are not used by games since they are typically disabled on consumer-grade GPUs. Another big difference is the fact that professional-grade GPUs are designed for maximum stability and longevity which is why many of them are clocked lower than their consumer counterparts.

The main difference though is that professional GPUs are designed specifically for professional programs and carry certifications from developers regarding their performance when using these types of applications.

Although Intel and Dell have yet to release more details on the Arch Alchemist A370M Pro GPU, the PC maker tests its workstations to ensure that the frequently used high-performance applications can run smoothly all day.

While users in the US can only choose between integrated Intel graphics or a discrete GPU from Nvidia, Indian customers can now configure and order the Precision 5470 with Intel’s first discrete GPU for mobile. We'll have to wait and see as to whether or not this option is extended to potential customers in other countries.

Via Tom's Hardware

23 Apr 2022

Apple could bring ultra-fast 2nm silicon to Macs and iPhones as early as 2025


Apple looks set to introduce 2nm chips in its flagship iPhone and Mac products as early as 2025, according to the grapevine, making it one of the first companies with plans to do so.

The first 2nm chip prototype was produced by IBM just last year, so the process is nowhere near ready for mass production. According to DigiTimes Asia, semiconductor giant TSMC indicated that its 2nm node won’t be ready for general production until 2025. 

Apple and Intel will be the first customers in line for this new process: For its part, Apple is looking forward to replacing the 5nm chips currently used in its iPhone and Mac with the new 2nm processor.

Before it can get there, TSMC is still ramping up its 3nm FInFET process for the latter half of 2022, with Apple being a major customer for the new 3nm chips. 

There have been conflicting rumors about whether TSMC’s 3nm production process was behind schedule or not, so it’s unclear how any potential delays might affect the company’s timetable for the 2nm chips; 2025 is a pretty far away, after all, so anything can happen.

Analysis: beyond 2nm lies...what exactly?

As 2nm processors near the consumer market, the question of what will follow nears as well. At 2nm, you're really talking about transistors that are barely bigger than a string of atoms, and it is becoming physically impossible to make them much smaller.

It's a problem that we've known about for more than a decade now: the "end of Moore's Law", named for legendary Intel chief Gordon Moore who famously quasi-predicted that computer transistor density would double roughly every two years. That has been the case for the past six decades, but the microprocessor industry has encountered major headwinds now that we're into the single-digit nanometer scale.

Beyond that, we're looking a picometer, or a thousandth of a nanometer, about 100 times smaller than an individual silicon atom. Where the industry goes for new innovation and progress on the semiconductor front is unclear, but it definitely isn't there.

22 Apr 2022

Can't get a Ryzen 7 5800X3D? The Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition has you covered

You can now get the new AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D processor with your new Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R14 gaming PC, bringing AMD 3D V-Cache to the brand's flagship gaming PC. 

The Aurora Ryzen Edition can be outfitted with the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which AMD calls the “world’s fastest gaming CPU,” and it's no idle claim. In out AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D review, we found that the new processor punched way above its weight class in terms of gaming performance, easily going toe-to-toe with Intel's best processors

Alienware also offers an advanced liquid cooling option which, according to the company, offers up to 42% improvement in thermal resistance. Though there’s no word on how this affects operating temperatures, but we didn't see much in the way of overheating with the 5800X3D – at least nothing like we saw during our Intel Core i9-12900K and Core-i5 12600K review .

Alienware is also releasing a new refresh of its 15-inch powerhouse of a laptop, the Alienware m15 R7, which can be configured with an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti. 

An update to the 17-inch Alienware m17 is on the way later this year as well, according to PCGamesN. The m17 made our best gaming laptops of 2022, so we are definitely looking to see what the refresh has in store once it's released. 

For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, there’s also the Dell G15. However, it can still be outfitted with an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti.

The Alienware Aurora Ryzen R14 with Ryzen 7 5800X3D is available now for $2,949 / £2,297 / AU$4,070, while the Alienware m15 R7 starts at $1,500 / £1,169 / AU$2,070, and the Dell G15 at $900 / £701 / AU$1,242.

22 Apr 2022

Are your Steam Deck fans too loud? iFixit is working on an upgrade

After a groundswell of complaints from customers and reviewers alike, it looks like there might be a fix coming for the ridiculously loud fans on the Steam Deck, courtesy of iFixit.

Since its launch in late February, some Steam Deck owners have complained about the high-pitched whirring of the handheld's fans, with some finding it especially bothersome like our colleagues over at PC Gamer – though our own Matt Hanson wasn't especially bothered by the noise.

See more

The difficulty seems to be availability of the 50mm x 10mm 5V fan, which might have some inconsistent performance since there aren't a whole lot of those in supply chains, and Valve has been looking at different fans to address the issue.

Fortunately, iFixit is on the case. The online self-repair clearinghouse has partnered with Valve to provide support for fixing and modding the Steam Deck -- and in response to a user request on Twitter, iFixit confirmed that it is looking to sell quieter replacement fans for the Steam Deck.

There's no word yet on if and when such replacement fans would become available, but hopefully it won't be too much longer.

Analysis: another win for right-to-repair

Right-to-repair has been in the news lately, driven both by legislation and advocacy on behalf of consumers, but also because companies like Apple and Google are softening previously rigid stances on the matter.

The question of who owns a product once it's purchased should be straightforward, but it's really not. Due to the increasing amount of proprietary technology in everything from cars to iPhones, many manufacturers lock customers out of the products they've purchased. 

Companies argue that due to the deeply intertwined nature of so many of these components, tinkering with a product's innards raise more concern than merely a voided warranty; it could pose serious safety issues for customers and those around them.

Consumer advocates have pushed back, however, pointing to the very old legal principle that once you purchase something, no one should be allowed to tell you what you can and can't do with it, so long as you are not breaking any laws.

Many of today's engineers first got into engineering by disassembling and reassembling existing products, and so right-to-repair has been seen as a crucial way for someone's engineering education to begin and progress. Take that away, and what happens to future of the engineering profession itself?

Fortunately, common sense seems to be making headway in this space, and Valve especially should be commended for leading the way with the Steam Deck.

22 Apr 2022

This cute little SD card will double the storage of your MacBook Pro

Replacing the hard drive or SSD in your laptop can be a daunting task and this is even more true on a MacBook which is why many users turn to external hard drives or cloud storage services instead.

With the release of the MacBook Pro 2021 though, Apple decided to bring back the SD card slot so that creative professionals could easily download photos and videos from their DSLR cameras. Even if you’re not a photographer though, you can still leverage the SD card slot in the new MacBook Pro to easily expand the storage capacity of your Mac.

This is the idea behind Transcend’s latest SD card which was exclusively designed for the MacBook Pro 2021 and allows users to add up to 1TB of additional storage to their laptops at a fraction of what it would cost to do so through Apple.

Transcend JetDrive Lite 330

The Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 is available in several different configurations depending on your storage needs and MacBook Pro users can add either 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or even 1TB of storage to their device in just a few seconds.

The SD card itself is built using high-quality NAND flash and it delivers read speeds of up 95 Mbps and write speeds of up to 75Mbps. According to a press release from Transcend, the JetDrive Lite 330 is manufactured using chip-on-board technology and the SD card is resistant to water, dust and shock to provide extra protection for the data stored on it.

Transcend also provides a free data recovery tool called RecoveRx which allows users to bring back their deleted files. Due to the high capacity of the JetDrive Lite 330, the SD card is well suited for both Time Machine backups and large iTunes libraries.

In addition to the MacBook Pro 2021, the JetDrive Lite 330 also supports the MacBook Pro 13 from late 2012 to early 2015. However, Transcend makes other JetDrive Lite expansion cards to support other MacBook models.

Starting at just $37 for the 128GB model and going all the way up to $250 for the 1TB model, the Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 provides an affordable way to add storage space to your existing MacBook without having to purchase a new device.


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