London terror: Theresa May calls to regulate web further

A call by Prime Minister Theresa May to regulate tech firms in the wake of the London attacks has been criticised.

She said areas of the internet used by terrorists must be shut down.

“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed,” she said. “Yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies… provide.”

Open Rights Group said more regulation could push “these vile networks into even darker corners of the web”.

“The internet and companies like Facebook are not the cause of hate and violence, but tools that can be abused,” the digital rights group said, while condemning Saturday’s attack on the London Bridge area.

Tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, which owns encryption messaging service WhatsApp have faced calls for greater regulation to prevent terrorist recruitment and planning.

On Sunday morning Home Secretary Amber Rudd told ITV that an international agreement was needed for social media companies to do more to stop radicalisation on their platforms.

“One is to make sure they do more to take down the material that is radicalising people. And secondly, to help work with us to limit the amount of end-to-end encryption that otherwise terrorists can sue to plot their devices”.

Facebook said it did not allow groups or people that engage in terrorist activity or posts that support terrorism.

“Using a combination of technology and human review, we work aggressively to remove terrorist content from our platform as soon as we become aware of it – and if we become aware of an emergency involving imminent harm to someone’s safety, we notify law enforcement. “

Google, the owner of YouTube, has not commented so far.


Analysis: Joe Lynam, BBC business correspondent

Calling for technology companies to “do more” has become one of the first responses by politicians after terror attacks in their country. Theresa May’s comments on that subject were not new – although the tone was. She has already proposed a levy on internet firms as well as sanctions on firms for failing to remove illegal content, in the Conservative party manifesto published three weeks ago.

Given that 400 hours of videos are uploaded onto Youtube every minute and that there are 2 billion active Facebook users, clamping down on sites which encourage or promote terror needs a lot of automatic detection using software as well as the human eye and judgement.

Technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook are all part of an international panel designed to weed out and prevent terror being advocated worldwide.

That involves digitally fingerprinting violent images and videos as well as sharing a global database of users who may be extremist.

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MSI, Acer Get Smart About Mechanical Laptop Keyboards

The slew of new thin and light gaming notebooks from the likes of Acer, Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI had much in common with one another, but only Acer and MSI saw fit to include mechanical keyboards on their models–or should we say “model,” because the companies have one each with the switches on board.

For whatever reason, OEMs often get skittish about sharing who manufactures the switches on their mechanical keyboards, and such was the case with MSI and Acer. MSI advertised only that its GT75VR had a “SteelSeries RGB mechanical keyboard”; Acer said even less about the switches on its Triton 700.

Solving the MSI mystery was easy. When we visited the company’s Computex booth, we just plucked off a cap and had a look. We found what we expected: low-profile Kailh switches.

These are most likely the switches we wrote about last year, but there’s an outside chance that it’s the newer version that Kaihua was showing off at this year’s show. 

Also note that the spacebar is a little chunky, and the stabilizers underneath are Cherry (or at least Cherry-style).

Determining the switches on the Acer Triton 700 proved a tougher nut to crack, and actually, that particular nut remains intact. We were asked to please not remove any keycaps from the Triton 700, and the reps were standing right there, so we obliged. Short of a visual confirmation, we could tell that the switches are clicky, which leads us to suspect that they’re the same Kailh switches as on the GT75VR.

Acer Triton 700 (with no keycaps removed...bummer)Acer Triton 700 (with no keycaps removed…bummer)

They could also be low-profile Blue switches from TTC, but we don’t believe those have made it into circulation all that much yet–almost certainly not in enough time to get sucked into the product development cycle of a gaming laptop that’s just coming to market.

Regardless which switches populate the Triton 700, though, what we’re seeing with MSI and Acer is that both are showing product maturity. This is opposed to, for example, the MSI GT83VR Titan SLI that sports full size Cherry MX Speed switches, and the beastly Acer Predator 21X that has Cherry MX RGB Brown switches. Those are both fine switches, but because they were so thick and were stacked onto already thick chassis, they made the laptops almost a novelty.

Chunky and clunkyChunky and clunky

Suddenly, though, they have thin and light laptop designs and low-profile switches to match. It’s frankly somewhat amazing to see the jump from one generation to the next–the laptops got thinner and so did the switches, which means that now, you can enjoy the benefits of mechanical keyboards without sacrificing laptop thinness.

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Asus H110M-A M.2 Motherboard Review

Every so often, after a few motherboard reviews in a given sub-category, forum members will wonder in the comments about the lack of Asus subjects in the review mix. The company has chosen not to submit review samples in the motherboard category. From time to time then, we’ll actually buy a board to review. Today, we’re taking a look at an inexpensive mainstream Asus board to answer some community requests.

As the review unfolds, we think it will have generated a useful data point or two. Might Asus begin submitting boards? I believe I’ve been fair, so we shall see.

Specifications

Feature-wise, the H110M-A M.2 looks very similar to a similarly-priced competitor, but there are some differences. Most notably, today’s sample offers no diagnostic display or LEDs. Not shown on the table, it does offer an LED-illuminated border along the audio area. Unlike the cheapest competitor, this board also offers a M.2 slot, at PCI2.0 x4 speed. It has the fewest power phases of any of them, however.

Features

In the box, you get the board, I/O plate, a pair of SATA cables, screw for the M.2, driver CD, and a rather thin 5-1/2”x8-1/4” manual. It is thin, because English is the only language offered. The type is not too tiny, and may be needed, because although there is silk-screening on the board (e.g. for the front panel connectors), my older eyes struggled to make it out, and I did not find the speaker polarity clearly marked.

As mentioned above, there is no diagnostic display or LEDs.

The codec is the ALC887, an upper-mainstream part, with 90dB S/N on the input, and 97dB S/N on the output. In conjunction with the front panel’s speaker port, it does support 7.1 sound. Asus claims separate layers for the audio, and Japanese capacitors for higher quality; the speakers on my test bench are not up to determining any real difference. Intel’s I219-V is the gigabit LAN controller.

The board layout has a couple of differences from what we’re used to seeing, but nothing dramatic. Beginning on the left rear and going counter-clockwise, the audio section is bordered with an LED strip that can be steady, off, or breathing. The front panel audio is on the left edge. In front of that are the COM1 and SPDIF headers, then a 2×3-pin block set back from the edge that is not labeled nor identified in the manual.

The USB 2.0 header is next, followed by the USB 3.0 header. Behind that is the CLRTC header, with no jumper block. Next are three of the four SATA 6Gb/s ports. And finally, in the front corner are the front panel and speaker headers; the former is silk-screened.

It’s over a third of the way along the front before the last (actually SATA6G_1) SATA port appears. The ATX power connector is to its right. There is nothing else along the front, and the only two features on the right are the CPU_FAN header in (approximately) the middle, and the 4-pin CPU power cable set back a little from the edge. There is sufficient finger space between it and the rear panel connectors.

The M.2 slot is between the CPU and the PCIe 3.0×16 slot. This slot has a “whale-tail” slot lever, which we like, but the two RAM slots in front of the CPU only have latches on the right side. A double-width graphics card will overlap the battery, which isn’t a big deal, but it also overlaps one of the PCIe 2.0×1 slots, making it useless. If you have a double-slot card, and a PCIe wireless LAN adapter, and a tuner card or FAX modem, this isn’t the board for you. The CHA_FAN header is at about 11:00 o’clock from the CPU socket.

Despite the sparse 3+1 power phases, the QVL for this board includes 91W CPUs, including the i7-7700K; be aware that a BIOS update may be needed for Kaby Lake.

MORE: Best Motherboards

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MORE: All Motherboard Content

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CBT Nuggets Ubuntu Linux course

CBT Nuggets is an online learning platform hosting dozens of training courses from big players like Cisco. The website claims the organisation started selling short IT training DVDs on eBay and that has snowballed into the international training portal which the site is today. 

Payment of a monthly fee (around $84 per person – that’s about £65) gives you access to all available courses. Registration is simple, provided you have a valid credit card. There’s also a 7-day free trial before your card is billed.

There are nine Linux-specific courses on the platform. This review focuses on the Ubuntu Linux course, available as a series of video lectures (nicknamed ‘nuggets’) delivered by instructor Shawn Power, which details how to install, administer and maintain your own Ubuntu Server. The CBT website mentions that Power is an associate editor of the digital magazine Linux Journal, so it’s clear he’s well-qualified to teach this subject.

There are no prerequisites for doing the course, although if you’re entirely unfamiliar with Linux, you’re probably best off doing the Linux Essentials course which can also be accessed on the CBT platform.

This is important as in order to get started you need a ‘virtualisation environment’ which supports PXE booting, such as a machine running via the program VirtualBox, as well as the ISO images for Ubuntu, which can be downloaded from Canonical. 

Assuming you’re comfortable with the basics of setting up your own virtual machine and have an Ubuntu ISO image, you can get started by watching the 20 training videos that make up the Ubuntu course.

CBT Nuggets has gone to some lengths to make this a painless process for you, as instead of watching videos on your computer, you can download a mobile app to an Android, Apple or Amazon device and watch them there. The app, like the website, can keep track of which videos you’ve already played.

The website also allows you to record notes in a special tab as you watch each video, and every clip comes with a video transcript, which you can copy into the notes tab and annotate to your heart’s content. Some of the videos also have a quiz section to allow you to check what you’ve learned so far. 

Although Ubuntu has become most famous (and popular) for being a desktop distribution, the instructor takes some time to explain the advantages of Ubuntu Server at the start of the course, such as the benefits of employing an LTS (Long Term Support) distro. This section also details the lifecycle of Ubuntu and distinguishes it from Debian, the distro on which it’s based. 

The setup process covered in the training course is for Ubuntu 13.04 LTS, which is no longer supported. However, as you’ll be interacting with the server via SSH, the videos do not seem to be dated.

The next sections focus on hard drives, installation and setup. The hard drives topic in particular is an excellent guide for would-be server administrators, as it explains the differences between partition types. The install process advises using the cross-platform utility UNetbootin to install the minimal Ubuntu ISO, which is only around 40MB in size. This means it only takes a few minutes to create the installation USB drive. The installation guide also shows how to configure a virtual machine to boot from an Ubuntu ISO image.

The initial setup section also explains the difference between the official Ubuntu repositories and those managed by third-parties. This is essential knowledge for anyone creating their own server. This section also briefly mentions the handy ‘screen’ tool which allows you to run multiple programs at once.

The networking section details various interfaces, as well as Udev, Upstart and managing the firewall. The following videos then allow you to consolidate what you’ve learned so far and learn about specific types of setups such as DNS, databases and mail servers. 

There’s also a detailed ‘security’ video on how to harden your new server. This includes using AppArmor which is installed by default in Ubuntu, and determines exactly what data can be accessed by each program.

The course continues by explaining the differences between virtualisation, clouds and containers. This includes a quick demonstration on how to set up a private container in Ubuntu, which is incredibly simple to do.

The final two videos very sensibly focus on how to use recovery tools as well as where to go should you need further help. This includes a brief rundown on IRC which is the preferred chat protocol for savvy Linux users.

Final verdict

This Ubuntu course is laid out logically and provides an excellent grounding in setting up your own server. If you’re looking for reams of code to copy and paste, you may be disappointed as the instructor prefers simply to narrate his videos as he takes the steps in question. Nevertheless, the amount of material covered is huge, so it’s small wonder he doesn’t go into much detail.

As this course is already a few years old, it’s possible that with the further passage of time, the content may become outdated – you should definitely use your most recent LTS version of Ubuntu Server rather than the version seen in the course.

The instructor has a wonderful flair for making boring concepts entertaining. On one occasion he uses his video lecture tool to draw a picture of a puppy as he launches into a detailed diatribe on software repositories. He also freely acknowledges his ‘nerdiness’ as he explains how he hosts his own copy of Ubuntu ISOs.

If you are able and willing to pay the subscription fee for CBT Nuggets, as mentioned, there are also further training courses you can make use of for Linux and indeed other platforms.

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Kaihua Mechanical Laptop Switches Get Thinner, Company Tries Out Scissor Design

A year ago, we found that Kaihua had developed a line of low-profile mechanical switches that were designed for laptops. This year at Computex, the switch maker significantly expanded those offerings to include three more separate low-profile switch series.

We don’t have exact specs on any of the new switches at this time because that information wasn’t available at Kaihua’s Computex booth, and the catalog the company had to hand out includes only the 1350 series that we saw last year. An online search yielded nothing useful.

There’s a new iteration on that same 1350 design (model series 1232). The primary difference, we were told, is that the new version is a bit shallower. We actually wonder if the 1232 will simply replace the 1350 in this next cycle. In any case, one of these–most likely the 1350–populates the MSI GT75VR gaming laptop.

Running With Scissors

Further, both are similar in structure and design to regular desktop switches; for the most part, it’s just that every component has been made thinner. However, with a new series, the 1425, Kaihua tried something different and pulled off a clever trick. The 1425 is basically a mechanical scissor switch. Each switch has scissor arms, but there’s also a mechanical switch at the core. The kicker? The whole assembly is 90 degrees from where you’d expect it; so instead of the plunger and spring moving up and down vertically, it appears they move horizontally.

There are two benefits to this design. First, it enabled Kaihua to push the size of the switch assembly down to 4.2mm (not including the 1mm-or-so thick cap), which will fit slightly better into a laptop or super-slim keyboard than its other notebook switches. Second, the scissor design is one with which users and laptop OEMs alike are already comfortable, which may make them an easier sell.

Let There Be Light

Kaihua has a third new type of laptop switch (the 1442 series), but the company didn’t have any samples on the show floor. In fact, the only reason we know of it now is because we spotted a graphic of it up on the wall–Kaihua reps hadn’t even brought it up in our conversation.

This switch also uses the scissor design, but instead of the sideways spring mechanism of the 1425, it’s vertically oriented. It offers through-stem lighting, which means that this particular switch would deliver superior backlighting.

Representatives would not state one way or another if they’re close to sealing deals with any peripherals or laptop makers to use any of these new switches, but they certainly have their eye on the MacBook. (The below is just a render.)

From what we saw at Computex this week, the mechanical laptop switch game is escalating, and Kaihua is taking it to a whole new level.

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Calyos Case Based On Phase Change Gets Improvements, Shipments Late Summer

Calyos is getting closer to shipping its NSG-SO PC case later this summer, or so we were told during Computex in Taipei this week. Although this case will come with a high price tag, it’s certainly intriguing because of its use of phase change cooling, an old-school technique with a couple of new tricks.

The chassis is essentially a heat sink, with phase change cooling for the CPU and GPU. The cooler uses a capillary pump to send a few grams of pentafluoropropane through the loop. It becomes vapor from the heat source, and once it passes through the radiator it returns to its liquid form and back to the pump. There are no mechanical or moving parts and no fans, and even the PSU (coming from Seasonic) is fanless. The system also deploys a rigid aluminum foam to help dissipate heat.  

NSG-S0 weighs approximately 22 kg, which includes the chassis, cooling, and the tempered glass. Its dimensions are 537 x 495 x 276mm.

Our French colleagues tested a prototype of this case back in September 2016 with some impressive cooling numbers. At the time the prototype could handle about 400W of waste heat performance, which was enough accommodate a Core i7-5820K and a GTX 1080 graphics card. The company claims that it can now handle 450W, giving it the range to accommodate a GTX 1080Ti graphics card. The company also claims that with ample space for fans, the case will also support more advanced overclocking.

Calyos is working with Watermod on the manufacturing aspect of NSG-SO, and the companies are working on things like cable management, support for two graphics cards in SLI, and the ability to make a closed chassis.

If the prototype performance is any indicator, the NSG-SO is pretty compelling. Tom’s Hardware France explored temperatures in a series of benchmarks, including Unigine Valley, an OCCT CPU test at a slight overclock, and much more. The CPU temperatures maintained impressive temperatures — typically in the mid-50s (degrees Celsius) — while the GPU was usually in the mid-to-upper 60s (degrees Celsius). Only in our knee-bucking CPU test did we see the processor reach 85°C. In that test, the GPU reached 83°C. 

Orders will first go out to Kickstarter backers (who paid starting at roughly $550), and future new orders will cost around $675.

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Asus X399 ROG Zenith Extreme ThreadRipper Motherboard Debuts At Computex

Asus’ booth had the third and final X399 ThreadRipper motherboard we found at Computex 2017. The ROG Zenith Extreme features a bit more room between the DIMM slots and the massive 4,094-pin TR4 LGA socket, but like the other X399 motherboards we found at the show, it’s still uncomfortably close to the PCIe slots for air coolers. Noctua has a new heatsink mounting mechanism that allows you to slide the body of the heatsink away from the PCIe slots, and we expect other vendors will follow suit. 

#PLACEHOLDER_#3

The Asus Zenith Extreme has eight DDR4 DIMM slots that support ThreadRipper’s quad-channel memory controller, so feel free to stuff up to 128GB of memory into the awaiting slots. ThreadRipper also brings 64 lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity to bear, and Asus carved the PCIe allocation into two x16 and two x8 slots. Intel’s I211-AT steps in for onboard networking and Supreme-FX provides the audio.

Asus didn’t skimp on connectivity, either. The Zenith Extreme has one U.2 slot of limited utility (why does everyone insist upon this when there is only one outdated U.2 SSD on the market?). The board also features six SATA 6Gb/s ports and one M.2 2280 slot. That seems like a paltry helping of M.2, but the company has a trick up its sleeve: It also offers the DIMM.2 card, which slips into a stunted PCIe slot and houses up to two M.2 22110 SSDs. It’s a novel way to expand storage connectivity, but we’re not sure if the device has built-in heatsinks for the SSDs. The ROG Aereion 10G Ethernet card provides an additional boost for networking, provided you can find a consumer-centric 10 GbE router/switch. Power flows through two eight-pin EPS12V headers, and we spot eight chokes that imply an eight-phase power delivery system. We also see a four-pin Molex on the edge of the board for additional PCIe power.

Like the other X399 boards at the show, we aren’t aware of the ROG Zenith Extreme’s release date or pricing.

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