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  1. Slim laptops and convertibles might be making the much of the running, but even desktop PC is seeing increasing demand right now. The continued need for many of us to work, study and be entertained while at home is leading to increased demand for PCs. The PC market has been in long-term decline, largely thanks to the rise of the smartphone and other devices that make the PC less attractive to many, particularly consumers, who have been upgrading much less often. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has lead to a huge increase in home working which, has in turn created big demand for business laptops, plus consumer devices for watching video and playing games while at home. According to research by IDC, shipments of traditional PCs – made up of desktops, notebooks, and workstations – in EMEA will total 82.1 million in 2020, a 12.7% year-on-year increase. The tech analyst said that demand will continue to be strong throughout 2020 and into the first half of 2021. The Western European commercial market is expected to return to growth (up 7.1% year-on-year) in the fourth quarter of this year as lockdowns and restrictions accelerate the transition toward mobility, further skewing the product mix in favour of notebooks. The Western European consumer market could grown 28.0% year-on-year in the same period, its third consecutive quarter of substantial growth. "The second wave of the pandemic, allied with businesses still shifting to an indefinite remote working environment, will continue to erode demand for stationary devices," said Liam Hall, senior research analyst, IDC Western Europe Personal Computing. The ongoing rollout of laptops across education – as schools and colleges wrestle with remote learning – is also likely to boost sales. Image: IDC While longer term sales of desktops is likely to contract further (they only account for 20% of the market now) in the short term desktops sales will actually see something of a boost, thanks to demand from gamers for powerful machines. For price-sensitive consumers, desktops also provide the best specification-to-cost ratio, IDC noted. "Notebooks will remain the preferred form factor and will continue to experience exceptional growth driven by the need to equip every household member with a device for remote learning, as well as entertainment, during the ongoing lockdown periods," it said. Longer term there is little prospect for growth – IDC predicts sales will be significantly lower again by 2024, with traditional desktops and notebooks bearing the brunt of the decline. Source
  2. Drivers will be provided by your PC or card maker, although some support apps will be published on the Microsoft Store, too. Intel has published its first Modern Windows Driver for several of its modern integrated GPUs, representing a new way for graphics drivers to be pushed to your PC—and something to keep an eye on until the new driver infrastructure settles in. Modern Windows Drivers, also known as Universal Windows Drivers, are a new feature of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update that takes advantage of the UWP infrastructure within Windows 10. As Microsoft explains it, a Modern Windows Driver is a “single driver package that runs across multiple different device types, from embedded systems to tablets and desktop PCs.” The first Intel driver to take advantage of this is labeled UWD Microsoft doesn’t intend for you to do anything different to obtain the new Modern drivers. If you own a prebuilt PC, the PC maker will continue to be the first place you should check for updated drivers, according to an Intel FAQ. That’s because the universal driver includes a base driver, plus optional component packages and an optional hardware support app. The latter two are written by the system builder or OEM, while the former is written by the GPU maker itself. (AMD and Nvidia are expected to transition to Modern drivers, too.) With regards to Intel, you’ll be able to download them via Intel’s DownloadCenter and via Intel’s Driver and Support Assistant, or IDSA. Drivers may also be pushed by Windows 10’s Windows Update, while the support apps will be (or should be) published to the Microsoft Store app. What you need to be careful about Intel began publishing its first Modern Windows Drivers on November 28. The following chipsets are supported: Intel UHD Graphics 620/630 (formerly codenamed Coffee Lake) Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 (formerly codenamed Coffee Lake) Intel UHD Graphics 600/605 (formerly codenamed Gemini Lake) Intel HD Graphics 620/630 (formerly codenamed Kaby Lake) Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640/650 (formerly codenamed Kaby Lake) Intel HD Graphics 610/615 (formerly codenamed Gemini Lake) Intel HD Graphics 500/505 (formerly codenamed Apollo Lake) Intel HD Graphics 510/515/520/530 (formerly codenamed Skylake) Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 (formerly codenamed Skylake) Intel Iris Graphics 540 (formerly codenamed Skylake) Here’s the catch. According to Intel, you can only use the executable installer provided by Intel or your PC maker. If you use the “INF/Have disk installation” or any other method of installing drivers, Intel warns that that could cause “minor to catastrophic issues or system instability.” That’s because it bypasses Intel’s own installation method. In addition, there’s very little leeway to roll back from a Modern Windows Driver to a legacy driver. It’s a “complex process that can result in system instability,” Intel writes. ‘We don’t recommend it.” If you absolutely must, contact Intel’s support. In other words, the Modern Windows Driver/Universal Windows Driver transition is a one-way street, and let's hope you don't have any issues with the new drivers. We've asked Intel some additional questions about the transition, and we'll update this story when we hear back. What this means to you: If you don’t have the Windows 10 October 2018 Update yet, there’s really nothing to do—you can manually request the October 2018 Update from Windows, but the rollout is proceeding slowly. (Microsoft hasn’t provided the update to the Microsoft Surface Book 2 I’m writing this on.) It’s not exactly clear whether Intel will provide this driver in a “legacy” format, either. That’s kind of important, given that the new driver provides some updates to Fallout 4, Far Cry 5, and other top games, according to Neowin. Source
  3. Red Dead Redemption 2, a game about rootin’ and tootin’, finally has a PC release date. In an announcement this morning, developer Rockstar revealed that the mega-huge cowboy game will come to PCs on November 5th. Until now, players could only experience the story of gritty outlaw Arthur Morgan on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, leaving PC players in a lurch. Red Dead Dead Redemption 2, if you didn’t know, is a prequel to 2010's Red Dead Redemption. It released last year to critical acclaim. Its focus on high-fidelity detail—including horse testicles that grow and shrink depending on the heat—caught the attention of reviewers and players alike, although reports of intense crunch to achieve these details broke before the game’s release. Red Dead Redemption 2 will first be available through the Rockstar Games Launcher, and also available for pre-order on the Epic Games Store and Humble Store. The Steam version will be available for purchase in December. The PC port will also be a launch title for Google Stadia. Rockstar has sometimes taken more time to release PC ports of their games. 2013's Grand Theft Auto V didn’t get a PC release for almost two years, to the dismay of some players eager for improved performance and player-created mods. Red Dead Redemption 2 comes slightly more than a year after release, and will include access to Red Dead Online. That game will receive additional bounty hunts and weapons as part of the PC release. I expect sales of funny hats and spurs to to skyrocket in response to this news. Source
  4. want a little 5G with your wi-fi 6? — MediaTek and Intel team up to bring 5G networking to laptops and PCs MediaTek and Intel aim to bring 5G communications to a laptop near you. Enlarge / The new partnership will be Mediatek's first venture out of the ARM world and into x86. MediaTek In April of this year, Intel cancelled its 5G-modem building plans. This week, it's announcing that they're back on the table—but this time, with system-on-chip vendor MediaTek building the hardware. The partnership has Intel setting the 5G specifications, MediaTek developing the modem to match, and Intel optimizing and validating it afterwards. Intel will also lend its marketing and integration muscle to convince OEMs to use the new hardware and help them make sure it works well in final products. This also means Intel will be writing operating-system-level drivers for the modems. The partnership looks like a sensible one for both parties: Intel has been struggling to get its own 10nm hardware out the door on time, so getting this hardware design task off its plate may relieve some pressure there, while still keeping the company in an emerging market. MediaTek, on the other hand, can definitely benefit from Intel's software development expertise and deep integration with OEM vendors in the PC space. Specifically, the companies will be adapting MediaTek's existing Helio M70 5G modem for use in PC hardware. The M70 modem is already being built into MediaTek's Dimensity family of ARM System-on-Chip (SoC) designs; the new partnership gives MediaTek a whole new platform to market to and gives Intel a foot back into the door in 5G. It also may represent a way for Intel to push back against ARM-based Windows hardware like Samsung's Galaxy Book S, built on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx platform. The Helios M70 is a 5G FR1 modem only—meaning sub-6GHz communication, which shares RF characteristics (and, in a broad sense, most performance characteristics) with existing 4G technology. 5G FR2, which operates in the millimeter-wave spectrum, is where the most jaw-dropping performance improvements come from—but it's also where the most operational problems come from, since it requires a very clear line of sight from transmitter to receiver. The Intel/MediaTek collaboration is a long-term project, and we expect to see the resulting hardware shipping some time in 2021. Source: MediaTek and Intel team up to bring 5G networking to laptops and PCs
  5. By Paul Thurrott Acer today announced new PCs and Chromebooks aimed at consumers, education, business, gaming, and creative professionals at its [email protected] event in New York. I hope to look at some of these devices in more detail in the future, and I will be speaking with some Acer executives later today as well as I’m at the event. But for now, here’s a quick rundown of what Acer has announced. Chromebooks for business. Acer announced two Chromebooks aimed at businesses, the Acer Chromebook 715 and Acer Chromebook 714, which are 15.6- and 14-inch premium laptops. (And appear to be very similar to the Acer Chromebook Spin convertible laptop that I reviewed in late 2018.) Both are all-aluminum designs that are based on 8th-generation Intel Core processors and feature Full HD displays and up to 12 hours of battery life. Both can be configured with 8 or 16 GB of RAM and 32, 64, or 128 GB of eMMC storage. Prices start at $500 for each, with availability in June. Aspire notebooks for consumers. Acer’s Aspire 3, 5, and 7 are being updated with up to 8th-generation Core i7 processors, dedicated graphics, and up to 16 GB of RAM. Prices start at $350 (Aspire 3), $380 (Aspire 5), and $1000 (Aspire 7), with availability beginning in June. Spin 3 convertible notebook for professionals. Acer’s new Spin 3 is a convertible notebook that’s powered by up to 8th-generation Intel Core processors, 1 TB of storage, and a 14-inch Full HD IPS touch display. It comes with a rechargeable Acer Active Pen and provides up to 12 hours of battery life and will ship in June at $500 and up. TravelMate P6 notebooks for businesses. This ultra-thin (0.6-inch), ultra-light (2.4 pound) business-class notebook provides both LTE and NFC connectivity, up to 20 hours of battery life, a premium magnesium-aluminum alloy chassis, and a 180-degree display hinge. It’s powered by up to 8th-generation Intel Core processors, up to 24 GB of RAM, up to NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics, and up to 1 TB of SSD storage. There are 14- and 15.6-inch variants, which will ship in July and start at $1150. Predator Helios gaming laptops. Acer has updated its Predator Helio 300 gaming laptop with a new design and has introduced a new model, the Helios 700. Both are powered by 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processors, up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, and up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM. The Helios 700 is particularly bad-ass with a unique HyperDrift keyboard that slides forward, allowing increased airflow directly through the top of the notebook. The Helios 300 will ship in June for $1200 and up while the Helio 700 bows in July for $2700 and up. Predator Orion gaming PC and display. Acer debuted a new Predator Orion 5000 desktop gaming PC with 9th-generation lntel Core i9-9900K processors, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 GPUs, Dragon 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, and an all-in-one CPU liquid cooler. There’s also a stunning 43-inch Predator CG437K P gaming display with an ultra-HD (3240 x 2160) resolution and 144 Hz refresh rate. The desktop ships in August for $1200 and up, while the display ships in September for $1300. ConceptD. This was perhaps the most interesting announcement: Acer is leveraging its success with gaming and premium PCs to launch a new brand, ConceptD, and a new lineup of ConceptD portable and desktop PCs, displays, and peripherals. Among the offerings is the ConceptD 900 high-performance desktop with dual Intel Xeon Gold 6148 processors and NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000 graphics and the ConceptD 500 high-end desktop PC with 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9-9900K processors and up to NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 GPUs. “The ConceptD product portfolio was conceived to give creators the tools to focus on the creative process and make beautiful things,” Acer CEO Jerry Kao said. “As the foundation of a full line of creator products, we’ve designed PCs with high-performance processors and graphics that can handle extreme workloads, and put them inside quiet, minimalist designs to inspire creators to unleash their creativity.” The target here, of course, is Apple, though Acer, like other premium PC makers, can offer a much more diverse and powerful range of offerings thanks to capabilities in the Windows PC ecosystem that are unavailable on Mac. Pricing for ConceptD products is, of course, high: The ConceptD 900, for example, starts at an astonishing $20,000, though the portable PCs are much less expensive, in the $1700 to $2300 range. The ConceptD product line begins shipping in May, though some don’t ship until later in the year. Source
  6. If you want to secure the data on your computer, one of the most important steps you can take is encrypting its hard drive. That way, if your laptop gets lost or stolen—or someone can get to it when you're not around—everything remains protected and inaccessible. But researchers at the security firm F-Secure have uncovered an attack that uses a decade-old technique, which defenders thought they had stymied, to expose those encryption keys, allowing a hacker to decrypt your data. Worst of all, it works on almost any computer. To get the keys, the attack uses a well-known approach called a "cold boot," in which a hacker shuts down a computer improperly—say, by pulling the plug on it—restarts it, and then uses a tool like malicious code on a USB drive to quickly grab data that was stored in the computer's memory before the power outage. Operating systems and chipmakers added mitigations against cold boot attacks 10 years ago, but the F-Secure researchers found a way to bring them back from the dead. In Recent Memory Cold boot mitigations in modern computers make the attack a bit more involved than it was 10 years ago, but a reliable way to decrypt lost or stolen computers would be extremely valuable for a motivated attacker—or one with a lot of curiosity and free time. "If you get a few moments alone with the machine, the attack is a very reliable way to extract secrets from the memory," says Olle Segerdahl, principal security consultant at F-Secure. "We tested it on a number of different makes and models and found that the attack is effective and reliable. It's a bit invasive because it involves unscrewing the case and connecting some wires, but it's pretty quick and very doable for a knowledgable hacker. It's not super technically challenging." Segerdahl notes that the findings have particular implications for corporations and other institutions that manage a large number of computers, and could have their whole network compromised off of one lost or stolen laptop. To carry out the attack, the F-Secure researchers first sought a way to defeat the the industry-standard cold boot mitigation. The protection works by creating a simple check between an operating system and a computer's firmware, the fundamental code that coordinates hardware and software for things like initiating booting. The operating system sets a sort of flag or marker indicating that it has secret data stored in its memory, and when the computer boots up, its firmware checks for the flag. If the computer shuts down normally, the operating system wipes the data and the flag with it. But if the firmware detects the flag during the boot process, it takes over the responsibility of wiping the memory before anything else can happen. Looking at this arrangement, the researchers realized a problem. If they physically opened a computer and directly connected to the chip that runs the firmware and the flag, they could interact with it and clear the flag. This would make the computer think it shut down correctly and that the operating system wiped the memory, because the flag was gone, when actually potentially sensitive data was still there. So the researchers designed a relatively simple microcontroller and program that can connect to the chip the firmware is on and manipulate the flag. From there, an attacker could move ahead with a standard cold boot attack. Though any number of things could be stored in memory when a computer is idle, Segerdahl notes that an attacker can be sure the device's decryption keys will be among them if she is staring down a computer's login screen, which is waiting to check any inputs against the correct ones. Cold Case Because of the threat posed by this type of attack, Segerdahl says that institutions should keep careful track of all their devices so they can take action if one is reported lost or stolen. No matter how big an organization is, IT managers need to be able to revoke VPN credentials, Wi-Fi certificates, and other authenticators that let devices access the full network to minimize the fallout if a missing device is compromised. Another potential protection involves setting computers to automatically shut down when idle rather than going to sleep and then using a disk encryption tool—like Microsoft's BitLocker—to require an extra PIN when a computer turns on, before the operating system actually boots. This way there's nothing in memory yet to steal. If you're worried about leaving your computer unsupervised, tools that monitor for physical interactions with a device—like the Haven mobile app and Do Not Disturb Mac application—can help notify you about unwanted physical access to a device. Intrusions like the cold boot technique are often called "evil maid" attacks. The researchers notified Microsoft, Apple, and Intel about their findings. Microsoft has released updated guidance on using BitLocker to manage the problem. “This technique requires physical access. To protect sensitive info, at a minimum, we recommend using a device with a discreet Trusted Platform Module (TPM), disabling sleep/hibernation and configuring bitlocker with a Personal Identification Number,” Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft said. Segerdahl says, though, that he doesn't see a quick way to fix the larger issue. Operating system tweaks and firmware updates could make the flag-check process more resilient, but since attackers are already accessing and manipulating the firmware as part of the attack, they could simply downgrade updated firmware back to a vulnerable version. As a result, Segerdahl says, long term mitigations require physical design changes that make it harder for an attacker to manipulate the flag check. Apple has already created one such solution through its T2 chip in new iMacs. The scheme separates certain crucial processes on a dedicated, secure chip away from the main processors that run general firmware and the operating system. Segerdahl says that though the renewed cold boot attack works on most Macs, the T2 chip does successfully defeat it. An Apple spokesperson also suggested that users could set a firmware password to prevent unauthorized access, and that the company is exploring how to protect Macs that don't have a T2. Intel declined to comment on the record. "This is only fixable through hardware updates," says Kenn White, director of the Open Crypto Audit Project, who did not participate in the research. "Physical access is a constant cat and mouse game. The good news for most people is that 99.9 percent of thieves would just sell a device to someone who would reinstall the OS and delete your data." For institutions with valuable data or individuals carrying sensitive information, though, the risk will continue to exist on most computers for years to come. Source
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