HP’s Built-in Keystroke Logger

Many HP laptops have a built-in keylogger in their audio drivers according to computer security firm Modzero AG (via Ars’ Dan Goodin). Keyloggers record what you type, typically covertly, for the purposes of someone else getting access to that text data later on. In this case the researches did not find any malicious capability in the driver that uploads the recorded text to a remote location, but it is very easy to access the data coming out of the driver by anyone who has access to your computer.

It would make it very easy for a piece of malware on your computer to track what you type without jumping through extra steps.

That HP shipped this audio driver on their laptops to thousands or millions of customers since 2015 is very worrying.

You can test your HP laptop for this vulnerability by checking the list of affected models after the break or just delete these files if they’re installed on your computer:
C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log
C:\Windows\System32\MicTray64.exe
C:\Windows\System32\MicTray.exe

Continue reading “HP’s Built-in Keystroke Logger”

Windows 10 Something Went Wrong Edition

Microsoft just announced a new laptop Surface device, it’s $1000 and comes with an intentionally broken version of their Windows 10 operating system. Matt Weinberger:

The one thing to know is that the Surface Laptop is the poster child for Windows 10 S, a new version of the operating system that Microsoft says is more streamlined and secure — and offers better performance and battery life — than the standard Windows 10.

The trade-off for those perks is that Windows 10 S won’t let you install any software that’s not from the Windows Store app market, which means that, at the very least, you wouldn’t be able to install the Google Chrome web browser.

If you’re not down with that, Microsoft will let you switch any Windows 10 S computer, including the Surface Laptop, to the regular Windows 10 Pro for a one-time $49 fee — less if you’re on a tablet or something else with a smaller screen. But if you do that, Microsoft says, it can’t guarantee you’ll get the improved battery life and performance.

$50 to fix the operating system on a $1000 laptop! This loses all of the benefits of Microsoft’s touch-enabling of their operating system, and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone buy one of these devices.

There’s a comparison to be made here to the iPad, but I don’t think that works out. The iPad was always locked to an app store, this version of Windows 10 is more like Windows RT. RT was the version of Windows for ARM-processor based Surface devices that couldn’t run x86 applications. It was based on Windows 8, limited to apps from Microsoft’s app store, and a few custom applications they produced outside of it like Office RT.

Windows RT was shitcanned because nobody wanted that environment, so this is another attempt at the same thing but based on Windows 10.

Epic’s Tim Sweeney:

 

Twitter readers will know that about 6 months ago my Windows 10 user account became unable to access any Windows 10 functions that require a Microsoft account. That’s their app store, the Xbox app, and so on. I get this error whenever I try to log in to my Microsoft account on that Windows 10 user account:

That “Send feedback” link is the only other option besides cancelling out and giving up in the dialog that Windows gives you when your login fails. “Send feedback” takes you to the Windows 10 Feedback Hub app, which, wouldn’t you know it, requires a login:

Depending on how their bug reporting works in Windows, they’ll never see any user feedback about this issue because you can’t report it directly to them through the tools that you’re giving as a Windows 10 user. Can you imagine if a Surface laptop user had this same problem on Windows 10 S? They would be furious, they couldn’t get new applications from the Windows app store.

My story got worse.

I contacted Microsoft’s Windows support team over their text support chat to get assistance with the problem after spending a few hours looking into it. After going through a few different options to debug the problem their technical support agent offered to remotely access the computer and try to resolve the issue.

The agent accessed the computer and we went through a few troubleshooting steps and then asked me what the two-factor authentication on my Microsoft account was. After I explained it, he started using Google’s search engine to research two-factor auth in my web browser.

He loaded up a Google help page that explained how their two-factor authentication system works for users.

Support agents are supposed to research problems with their computers, not the one requesting support, and Google’s help pages aren’t going to be very useful for understanding Microsoft’s two-factor solution.

That’s all very strange, but it gets better. The Microsoft support agent then disabled two-factor authentication on my Microsoft account without asking if that was OK to do first.

It’s a reasonable step to figure out if the problem with the Microsoft account logging in to Windows 10‘s app store and other functionality is the extra step in two-factor authentication, but disabling the option on the Microsoft account puts that user at risk. Almost worse was that at no point did the Microsoft support agent remind me to re-enable two-factor auth.

Finally, the support agent gave up and gave me the only option of creating a new Windows 10 user account. That is not a good solution.

I know what I would think if I were reading this, “That’s not Microsoft support!” It certainly was. They called to apologize a few days after I contacted Microsoft through a different channel with a complaint about what happened.

Still can’t log in to my Microsoft account with that Windows 10 user account.

I’m fortunate enough to be technically literate and comfortable with downloading applications manually, but a Windows 10 S user whose computer has this bug is just left with a completely broken computer unless they make a new user account or pay the $50 ransom Microsoft is charging to get access to the rest of their computer’s functionality. Unless that ransom is payable through the Windows app store, in which case they’re shit out of luck.

 

Apple Releases Clips App

It’s the Ken Burns effect but for millennials. Joanna Stern has a guide to Clips on the WSJ:

Hang-gliding over the Swiss Alps, or just cleaning your dryer’s lint tray? Either way, the titans of tech want you to record a snippet of it. Then they want you to slap on some emojis and text. Then they want you to share it with the world.

Snapchat started it. Instagram copied it. Facebook really copied it. Even Microsoft’s doing it. And now… Apple. Available Thursday for the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s Clips app lets you shoot, edit and share mobile-friendly mini-movies. If you have iOS 10.3 (the latest version), you can download it from the App Store.

New Mac Pros Some Day

Gruber:

Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.

Sounds great, what’s the catch?

These next-gen Mac Pros and pro displays “will not ship this year”. (I hope that means “next year”, but all Apple said was “not this year”.)

Well, I guess at least “they’re working on it.” Is better than cancelling the Mac Pro and continuing to sell the 4 year old version at the same price.

iOS & macOS Updates

Today’s software updates from Apple are notable for a lot of reasons. macOS 10.12.4 gets Night Shift from iOS, I can now find my AirPods in the Find My iPhone app, there are the beginnings of a standard to control apps that nag you for reviews on iOS 10.3, Siri enhancements on watchOS 3.2, but the most important change is he first switch from HFS+ to APFS. APFS is Apple’s new file system for iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. It’ll be installed with the latest iOS update, and will come to macOS in the future.

File systems keep track of where your files are on a storage medium like a hard drive or SD card, and Apple has been using some variation of the same file system, HFS and HFS+, for the past thirty years.

APFS should be an improvement in performance and reliability because it is targeted towards modern computing devices that use flash memory instead of spinning disks, but it is going to be a little bit like pulling a table cloth out from under a plated dinner and table setting in order for the operating system to replace the file system on the devices during the update.

I made sure my iCloud backups were all up to date before starting the upgrade, you should too.

Workflow Acquired by Apple

Matthew Panzarino has the scoop:

Workflow the app is being acquired, along with the team of Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, Ayaka Nonaka and Nick Frey. In a somewhat uncommon move for Apple, the app will continue to be made available on the App Store and will be made free later today.

This is terrific news. Workflow is an automation app that helps you get real shit done on iOS. I’ve used it to do things like clipping headlines out of articles and preparing a link in the format I use to link to posts like this one. Or you could use it for a simpler task like tapping one button to send a text message to your significant other and let them know how long it’ll take you to get home.

Workflow can do all kinds of things, but it is the kind of thing that it’s great to see Apple embrace because it means they’re serious about improving the functionality of iOS for more than reading, watching, and playing. If folks who grow up with iOS ever want to hope of being productive on those devices instead of learning desktop computing, this is going to be a tremendous start.

The New iPad Cheap

Photo via Apple

If you want to buy an iPad today, which is the best one to get?

If you want to replace a laptop, there’s the 12.9″ iPad Pro, that’s the one that hasn’t been updated since 2015. It has really outdated cameras front and back. The 12.9″ also has the largest screen, but it is missing features like true tone and the wide color gamut from the 9.7″ iPad Pro.

If you want to go small, there’s the 4th generation iPad Mini. Like it’s giant brother, the Mini hasn’t been updated in two years and has an A8 chip in it. I’ve got the 2nd generation Mini with an A7, so I don’t feel like that A8 would be an upgrade. At least it’s extremely portable, perfect for reading a virtual book or getting a little bit more work done than on an iPhone.

Maybe you’re looking for something sized in-between 12.9″ Pro and the 7.9″ Mini. Well that choice just got more confusing, too. Apple introduced a new 9.7″ iPad today.

Neither an Air nor a Pro, this model is slightly thicker than the last Air model (that it replaces) and the 9.7″ Pro (that isn’t going away). It will also have a brand-new outdated processor when it ships with an A9 system-on-a-chip next week. That’s two-bumps older than the iPhone 7‘s processor, and one step better than the iPad Air 2. The iPad Pro’s both have A9x chips which are a step up.

The new iPad display is going to be a bit worse off than the iPad Pros and the iPad Air 2, as well. Still missing true tone and other features, it is at least a little bit brighter than the old Air 2.

What else? The Pro models are still the only ones with the smart connector for accessories like keyboards (so they don’t need to do a bluetooth pairing dance) and support for Apple’s stylus, the Pencil.

So what on earth could justify this half-step model of iPad?

The price.

The new iPad minus Air and minus Pro is now $329 for the 32GB 9.7 inch base-model. That’s $70 less than yesterday’s base model of iPad Air 2.

To get 128GB on the new iPad you have to go up to $429. Yesterday’s 128GB iPad Air 2 was $499.

It gets more expensive if you’re interested in cellular data connectivity. On the new iPad, it’s $459 for cellular data and 32GB of storage, or $559 for a 128GB cellular iPad.

The 4th generation Pad Mini was also updated today with more storage (128GB vs 32GB) for the same $399 price it had yesterday. Yesterday you could get a 32GB gen 2 Mini (the first one with a retina screen) for $269. That option is gone.

One thing this price shuffling does is open up Apple to possibly update the iPad Mini later this year or next and charge more for a truly updated version of it than the new 9.7 iPad. It used to be that the price scaled down with the size of the device, this feels like Apple is telling us that was a mistake and is changing to meet the demand people have for smaller iPads.

This is the most confusing time to buy an iPad unless you are reasonably price sensitive, in which case it is now the best time to buy an iPad.

Pre-orders go up on Friday with general availability next week.

Goodbye iPad Air, hello iPad Cheap.

Raspeberry Pi Has Outsold The Commodore 64

MagPi Magazine (no byline):

“The Commodore 64 had, until recently, the distinction of being the third most popular general purpose computing platform,” Eben Upton told a crowd at the fifth birthday party. “That’s what I’m here to celebrate,” he said, “we are now the third most popular general purpose computing platform after the Mac and PC.”

The Pi is a pretty fascinating machine, and while I don’t think that sales should be the measure of success, it is an impressive statement of the size of the hobbyist computer community.

The comments on this article are hilarious, vintage 8-bit computer fans fighting Pi fans to the death.

Don’t Fall For Offers From T-Mobile For Free or Discounted Phones

When the iPhone 7 was announced last year my phone carrier offered a deal where you could get one for free (for the 7 base model) or at an extreme discount (any upgraded models, or the plus).

They’re at it again with another promise to offer you an iPhone 7 for ‘free’ under a certain scenario. I can only recommend saying “no” to this garbage deal.

Since I got my discounted iPhone 7 Plus it has been a never-ending hassle to call T-Mobile because they’ve screwed something up every month. At first they screwed up the order of the phone, then they couldn’t find the phone I had traded in to them to get the discount, now they haven’t discounted the equipment installment plan. It’s what you’re typically billed for every month if you buy a phone through them. In this case it is supposed to be zeroed out every month. Many times they have promised to fix it, and that I should just wait one or two months, and nothing has changed.

Several times I have called them and been promised a callback, that has never happened.

I’m still billed, every month, for an equipment installment plan unless I leave T-Mobile.

Don’t fall for it. If you want an iPhone, buy it directly from Apple. If you use Android, buy your phone unlocked from anyone but your carrier. This is why I switched to the iPhone in the first place – the ability to stop dealing with carriers for anything but their service.

Steam Has Over 3000 Linux Games

Liam Dawe:

Steam has hit another milestone for Linux games. We now have over 3,000 Linux games to fill our time with. The exact count for me right now is 3,008!

An impressive number of games with Linux support. I wonder how many are native ports versus Windows pretendulation.

My search comes up with 3164 for Linux and 13433 total games on Steam.