Apple’s T2 security chip blocks some third-party Mac repairs

Apple’s hardware event at the end of October announced several new products to the world and many of them contained Apple’s new T2 Security Chip. This chip brings extra features to Apple products, particularly in the area of security, but also makes life harder for any Apple third-party repair services.

The T2 chip acts as a co-processor which performs a number of functions including providing the foundation for the new encrypted storage and secure boot capabilities. The secure boot feature is where problems will occur as the chip will check the device when it boots up to ensure the hardware or software has not been tampered with.

If this more restricted approach to repairs has you debating your next choice of laptop, have a look at our best laptops guide.

This chip could see ‘unofficial’ repairs as tampering and so may cause issues with the device, such as not allowing it to boot or use certain functions. Sceptics are claiming that Apple is attempting to take away market share from third-party repair services with this move, as these T2 chips ensure that repairs involving certain components such as the logic board and Touch ID Sensor, can only be done by Apple approved technicians.

These reports initially came out of MacRumors and Motherboard which both reportedly got their hands on an internal document. Apple has long had reputation for making it more difficult for DIY enthusiasts and third-party repair services to access the inner workings of its products due to their sealed nature.

According to the document where this information is detailed, the display assembly, logic board, top case and Touch ID board for the MacBook Pro and the logic board and flash storage on the iMac Pro are the areas where access to the AST 2 System Configuration suite will be required. This is only supplied to Apple Stores and other certified sources.


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HP Offering $330 off Pavilion 15z 15.6″ Touchscreen Laptop Right Now ($370)

You don’t have to wait for Black Friday. Deals have started to drop early, but you have to know where to look. HP has activated a whopping $330 discount on its Pavilion 15z 15.6″ Touchscreen Laptop, which puts it at just $369.99 with Free Shipping, but the deal ends Wednesday 11/14. This laptop comes with Windows 10 Home 64, the AMD Ryzen™ 3 processor, AMD Radeon™ Vega 3 Graphics, 8 GB memory, 1 TB HDD storage, and a 15.6″ diagonal HD touch display. See the full spec, customize, and/or buy it here while the deal is active.

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Intel Core i9-9980XE

While the components world has been in a fervor over which is the best mainstream octa-core processor, Intel and AMD have been waging a quieter war in the high-end desktop space (HEDT). It’s been a tight race as Intel Skylake X took the lead over AMD Ryzen Threadripper. Then, along came Threadripper 2nd Generation and now Basin Falls Refresh.

The 18-core, 32-thread Intel Core i9-9980XE retakes the performance crown from the 32-core, 64-thread AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX. However, Team Blue’s lead over its crimson rival is the slimmest we’ve seen in years, and with a marginal at best price reduction on its flagship processor, you may want to consider more affordable HEDT CPU options.

Intel Core i9-9980XE review

Price and availability

This new 9th Generation Intel Core X-series Core i9-9980XE CPU comes with a nose-bleed inducing price of $1,979 (about £1,520, AU$2,800) that’s, unfortunately, typical of Team Blue’s HEDT lineup. That said, this 18-core processor is technically a touch less expensive than the $1,999 (£1,999, AU$2,729) Core i9-7980XE that preceded it in September 2017.

AMD, on the other hand, has made a habit of releasing chips that are noticeably more affordable than their predecessors. The $899 (£849, AU$1,369) Threadripper 2950X is one prime example that undercut the $999 (£999, AU$1,439) Threadripper 1950X that came before it.

AMD has also introduced two premium workstation-grade processors with the 24-core Threadripper 2970X and 32-core Threadripper 2990WX that are also both cheaper at $1,299 (£1,189, AU$2,039) and $1,719 (£1,629, AU$2,679), respectively.

Features and chipset

One of the main reasons Intel’s processors are often more expensive is that Core X-series processors are built with mesh architecture as opposed to AMD Threadripper’s ring architecture. 

The two different types of architecture work exactly as they sound. All the cores found in a Basin Falls Refresh processor are melded together and given equal access to system memory. Meanwhile, AMD Threadripper relies on core-complexes usually comprised of eight CPU cores connected together in a series. This ring architecture forces core-complexes to communicate to each other first before getting access to each other’s memory.

This distinct difference in architecture means AMD’s HEDT CPUs will almost always (until it’s engineered out) have some degree of latency over Intel’s Core X-series processors. Unfortunately, all of Intel’s focus on performance also invariably leads to higher-priced processors.

Speaking of architecture, the Core i9-9980XE and all other Basin Falls Refresh processors are built upon yet another refinement of Intel’s 14nm+ process.

While we’d usually joke about this being the fifth iteration of Intel’s 14nm process now, the Intel Core i9-9980XE features an astonishing 900MHz increase in base clock speed over the Core i9-7980XE.

This should, in turn, lead to higher overclocks as we’ve seen on the Intel Core i7-8086K. The Core i9-9980XE’s overclocking capabilities should be further bolstered by the new soldered heat spreader, which helped lower overall temperatures on Coffee Lake Refresh processors.

Unfortunately, overclocking an Intel processor is still a pain to deal with. Although Intel has an Extreme Tuning Utility, it pales in comparison to AMD’s full-featured Ryzen Master software. 

At least users might be happy to know that Intel isn’t changing out the chipset again. Should they chose to upgrade, Skylake X-series users can simply place this, and any new Basin Falls Refresh chip, into a X299 motherboard they already own.

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Test system specs

GPU: Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti (11GB GDDR5X VRAM)
RAM: 32GB Vengeance LED DDR4 (3,200MHz)
Motherboard: ROG Strix X299-XE Gaming
Power Supply: Corsiar HX Series HX1000
Storage: 512GB Samsung 960 Pro M.2 SSD (NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4)
Cooling: Corsair Hydro Series H100i v2
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv
Operating system: Windows 10

Performance

After completing our full range of tests we can confidently say that the Intel Core i9-9980XE is the new undisputed performance king in the HEDT processor arena – even if only just so. 

Intel‘s new 18-core processor merely manages to top its predecessor, and all three of its AMD Threadrippers rivals, in a majority of benchmarks. Technically, that makes the Core i9-9980XE the best performing HEDT processor on the market, but a close look at a few of the performance numbers only shows a small increase. For example, the speed increase is negligible enough for Skylake X CPU owners to consider skip upgrading.

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Intel’s own mainstream Core i9-9900K CPU is the Core i9-9980XE’s closest challenger, but ultimately this HEDT chip is the one to get for extreme multi-core workloads. Not to mention, the X299 platform gives way to quad-channel memory support and 28 more PCIe lanes.

Gaming tests show the Intel Core i9-9980XE can help relieve the performance bottleneck on graphics cards. However, this super-charged CPU surprisingly doesn’t have much of an effect on CPU-intensive games like Total War: Warhammer II.

Unfortunately, our system monitoring tools (HWMonitor and HWinfo) couldn’t correctly measure the Intel Core i9-9980XE power usage, so we can’t say much about how efficient the processor. However, our temperature data shows it runs cooler than AMD’s HEDT CPUs and Intel’s older Skylake X-series.

Intel Core i9-9980XE review

Verdict

At the end of the day, the Core i9-9980XE is the undisputed champion of the HEDT processor world that puts Intel on top again. However, you should take a long, hard look at whether the best performance is worth paying $1,979 (about £1,520, AU$2,800) for.

Although the Skylake X-based Core i9-7980XE and AMD’s Threadripper 2nd Generation trail behind in performance, they tail closely to Intel’s new 18-core chip and can be at much lower prices. If you want ultimate performance and you’ve got the money to spend, the intel Core i9-9980XE might be the best choice for you.

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‘Ugly’ mistake sends Google data to China

Google data for search and cloud services went astray for more than an hour on Monday thanks to an “ugly” mistake by an African ISP.

The data was sent the wrong way when MainOne Cable, in Nigeria, updated address books for key network hardware.

The update saw it claim to be the best way to reach millions of Google net addresses.

The mistake spread to other networks and led to Google traffic travelling via China and Russia.

New routes

In a tweet, MainOne said the mistake had been made during a “planned network upgrade”.

It added: “The error was corrected within 74 minutes and processes put in place to avoid reoccurrence.”

All the different networks that make up the internet constantly swap information about the best way to reach other parts of the global system.

Mistakes on one network can mean traffic is re-routed the wrong way.

Google said it had spotted the error and blamed it on “incorrect routing” of data.

A spokesman for the search giant told technology news website Ars Technica that all traffic sent the wrong way was encrypted, which should “limit” any damage caused by it being misdirected.

Later on Monday web company Cloudflare was hit by a second MainOne Cable mistake that also saw much of its traffic re-routed.

In a statement, Matthew Prince, chief executive of Cloudflare, said the mistake had probably been made as a result of a network meeting in Nigeria in early November.

Typically, he told Ars Technica, the meetings prompt ISPs to set up more data-sharing agreements with each other.

The mistake that re-routed data had been made while a new data-sharing link had been being created, he said.

“This was a big, ugly screw-up,” he said. “Intentional route leaks we’ve seen to do things like steal crypto-currency are typically far more targeted.”

Mr Prince’s explanation defused earlier claims that the re-routing had been an attempt to steal data.

Ameet Naik from net security company Thousand Eyes had characterised the incident to The Register as “grand theft internet” and said it was “unlikely” to be accidental.

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Livedrive

Livedrive is a London based platform, originally launched back in 2008. It’s another company bought by J2 Global, who also owns other SaaS businesses SugarSync, KeepItSafe and LiveVault.

With so many competitors inside and outside its own sphere, how can Livedrive hope to offer something unique and distinctive?

Features

On first impressions, there isn’t much radical about the Livedrive solution, as it uses the same desktop client replicating to cloud storage model that most of them use.

Both the PC and Mac have client tools, although the PC is exclusively Windows with no Linux support currently available.

There are Apple iOS and Google Android apps, and these do secure photos, but not any settings or application data.

Any media backed up from a phone or tablet appears in the Briefcase folder, and therefore requires that functionality in the chosen plan to work.

The big selling point is that there isn’t any specific storage amount allocated to backing up a system, although limits are set on general offline storage that Livedrive branded ‘Briefcase’.

That functionality comes exclusively with the Pro Suite, and as part of that subscription, there is 5,000GB of Briefcase storage add-on.

Alternatively, you can choose to not have an unlimited backup plan and just Briefcase functionality, if that suits your needs.

The reason that we’re mentioning these plans so early in this review is that they directly impact on the Livedrive dashboard client tool. Depending on the plan you have it has backup and Briefcase options or one of those two.

This tool was probably the best aspect of Livedrive, as was easy to use and understand.

Interface

Interface

Livedrive Dashboard is the main tool that most users will access for backing up,  restoring, and to monitor the overall status of the system.

You can flip easily between the two modes, Backup and Briefcase, and configure each to use the available bandwidth smartly.

Oddly, Backup isn’t live, being on a one hour cycle by default, but you can click ‘Back up now’ if you want to make sure that a file is duplicated to storage before shutting down the computer.

The versioning of files is supported, although you won’t actually see the previous editions until you go to restore it.

An interesting feature of Dashboard is that it can initiate a backup of other systems that have Livedrive installed on the same account and physical network.

Overall, the Dashboard is a decent tool that’s only major weakness is that is rather small on a high-resolution display, and it can’t be resized to make working with long folder or file lists any easier.

Less restricted in size is the web interface, where you can see all the systems that are secured and what files are backed up or in Briefcase. 

Security

Security

Where other services are offering end-to-end encryption or private keys, Livedrive hasn’t gone down that road. The backup files are AES-256 bit encrypted on the Livedrive servers, but you must explicitly set that files in the Briefcase folder are, as they’re not by default.

The keys are held only by Livedrive, so that doesn’t protect them from the company being hacked or a disgruntled employee.

A long trip through the terms and conditions also threw up some indicators that Livedrive employees are empowered to look at what is being stored, and even delete things considered to be in breach of copyright, without notification or reference.

Also, we couldn’t find a statement that metadata relating to the service is encrypted, though it may be so. But if it isn’t, given all the wonderful uses found for your personal data outlined in the Privacy Policy, that would be a major concern.

In short, if you want enhanced security then pick another service, like Spideroak, because privacy and security do not appear to be high on the Livedrive agenda.

Pricing

Pricing

When you offer a 14-day free deal to try the system out, what you don’t normally expect is that the next step in the process to demand a card number. That’s the way that Livedrive rolls, and cancelling requires you ring customer services, even after filling out a form requesting cancellation. 

The excuse given for demanding payment information on a ‘free’ trial is that the information is needed to activate your account and ensure your files remain protected. That makes no sense to us, as surely all data gets the same protection irrespective of its payment status?

If you are willing to give up this information on the basis that you trust a company that you’ve never dealt with previously, you have a selection of plans on offer.

For the personal customer, Livedrive offers three levels of service that starts at $6.47 (£5) a month for the Backup tier on a single computer, PC or Apple Mac, with unlimited storage. 

Alternatively, you can use the Briefcase service exclusively with 2TB of capacity and sync specific files and folders for $12.93 (£10) per month, or you can combine the two in the Pro Suite and also get five machines covered and 5TB of Briefcase storage for $19.40 (£15) a month.

For a family or small business, the Pro Suite option seems a good deal for keeping machines and files secure from failure or theft.

It also offers business-specific packages. Business Express is a three uses solution with 2TB of cloud storage for $38.80 (£30) per month, and Business Standard is a ten user facility with 10TB of cloud storage for $129.35 (£100) per month. Business Standard can be tailored to have more users and more cloud storage at an additional cost, should the business want to expand use.

Final verdict

One drawback of Livedrive is that the servers are UK based. This isn’t ideal for potential customers outside Europe, as they’re data will have a long journey in both directions.

Another is that the demand for payment details from the outset, and there isn’t any private encryption key option.

The message here is a mixed one, and it makes us wonder if Livedrive is aware what the likes of Backblaze, Google and Microsoft are doing, and how it differs from what Livedrive is offering?

We also found it disconcerting that Livedrive has scheduled downtime on its service for maintenance, taking the system out of operation for 4 hours and 30 minutes during normal UK working hours.

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OpenShot 2.4.3

OpenShot is a free video editing app for Windows, Mac or Linux, which is a major advantage to entice any budding, but cash-strapped editor.

The interface is pretty basic but offers everything you need from the standpoint of a video editing app. You can switch between the Simple and Advanced views depending on how much information you need to see on screen at any one time. On top of this, you can customise the interface to suit your needs.

For instance not only can you resize each section with respect to the others (increase the size of the preview pane and the project and timeline sections shrink to accommodate for instance). You can move panes around to other parts of the interface and those that are already there, resize themselves automatically to make room for it. You can also turn different panels into floating windows. 

You can’t however place those windows anywhere you wish on the screen as if they hover too close to another part of the interface, OpenShot will want to dock that floating window back into the main one at that location. Should you close a floating window, it doesn’t reappear into the main interface – in order to see it again you need to select either the Simple or Advanced view again, thereby voiding all your other customisations.

You can import a variety of file formats from audio files, still photos and multiple types of video codecs, including 4K, and have access to an impressive number of transitions and 14 effects. OpenShot cannot open AVCHD files however, which is the default format of most modern camcorders. Your timeline, where you’ll be building your edit, comes with five tracks by default, but it’s a synch to add more should you need them.

Unlike some other video editing apps, you can add any kind of media to those layers: you can place an audio track next to a video track on the same layer for instance, or an audio clip above a video clip, OpenShot doesn’t mind. Being used to a more segregated approach, this feels a little messy, but could be of use to some editors.

Advanced view

With Advanced View, Transitions, Effects and Properties are at your fingertips.

Titles and effects

Titles are added via a floating window: you choose the one you wish to use from a list, type in your text in the required fields, change the font and colour to your liking, and OpenShot will then convert that template into a still image and place it in your Media pane. While it’s in there, it’s still editable, should you wish to make alterations, but that option is lost once you add it to the Timeline. To change it, you’d have to delete it from there, edit the one in the Media pane and add it to your project once again.

Templates and titles

The titles are basic, but fully editable.

You can add animated titles, and OpenShot offers you a long list of templates, but those can only be accessed if you have the free open-sourced Blender app installed on your computer.

Keyframe animation works pretty well – it’s all done via the Properties pane where most of the values on display are keyframable. It’s frustrating though that the scale option is split between the X and Y axis, meaning that you need to change two values in order to resize a clip over time (those values aren’t locked together, which is only advantageous should you wish to create stretch effects).

Transform on screen

You can transform your clip straight from the Preview pane, but it’s not as intuitive as it could be.

Interface and workflow

It is possible to manipulate a clip directly from the main Preview window by selecting it and choosing Transform from its contextual menu. However here again you cannot constrain its proportions (even by holding down the shift key which is a convention adopted by numerous other apps). It does however make it much easier to move and animate a clip around the screen rather than having to fiddle with its properties values.

OpenShot has a series of customisable keyboard shortcuts for most of what you’d need to do while editing a video. Sadly though, the most important ones used to navigate around your work didn’t function on the machine we tested it on. 

We could start and stop playback with the spacebar, but moving one frame at a time was not responding, nor was OpenShot’s implementation of the JKL functionality (J to rewind, K to stop, L to fast forward). This made it incredibly hard to work on an edit, forcing us to rely on the mouse for navigation which is much less efficient, especially if you need to be frame accurate.

Split clips

The way your set a clip’s In and Out point feels unnecessarily convoluted.

One major aspect of video editing is being able to choose the right part of your footage to add onto your edit. In OpenShot, you can preview your clip by right-clicking it and choosing “Preview”, but you can’t set In and Out points. There is a “Split” option in that contextual menu from which you can also preview your footage, and set Start and End markers (making the other option superfluous in our humble opinion). Those instruct OpenShot as to which part of the footage you would like to use. This creates a new clip in your Media pane which is a trimmed version of the original (it is highly advisable to give this clip a new name as there is no obvious way to distinguish it from the original, especially if your start frames are similar). 

You can add that trimmed clip to your timeline, and are also able to extend your clip beyond those Start and End markers from there. It seems unnecessarily convoluted though, as most other video editors allow you to preview a clip, set in and out points to add to a project without creating another virtual clip to add to your list of available Media.

The biggest bugbear though is how sluggish the app gets when applying effects. Even transitions slow that particular section down to a crawl making previewing footage in real time pretty much useless. OpenShot can also be pretty unstable, crashing merely by adding an effect to a clip. It does have an autosave feature, but it doesn’t save your work nearly as often as would be useful: it claims to save your project every three minutes but that is not what we experienced ourselves.

Final Verdict

Overall, OpenShot shows potential and it is being regularly updated. But there are still many features lacking, non-functioning existing features make for a frustrating experience, and adding any effect to a project slows any playback to a useless crawl. Sadly it is still too unstable to recommend it.

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Intel 905P NVMe SSD review: Blazing random access and amazing endurance (for a hefty price)

Intel’s Optane SSD 905P is a follow-on to the Intel Optane SSD 900P we reviewed earlier this year. If you read that review, you already know about the ridiculously long claimed lifespan of Intel’s Optane memory. I’m talking petabytes written rather than terabytes regular NAND SSDs claim.

The 905P is also faster than the 900P and beats the pants off of any single M.2 PCIe/NVMe drive in threaded and small file performance. The downside? It’s really, really expensive. 

Design and specs

Before I get to the specs, more on that price. The 960GB PCIe 3.0, x4 add-in card version of the 905P that I tested has a list price of a cool $1,300. The 1TB Samsung 970 Pro, a most worthy drive in its own right, costs less than $400. 

There are other versions of the 905P, namely a lower-capacity 480GB (available on AmazonRemove non-product link) and a higher-capacity 1.5GB (list price $2,200), though I couldn’t find the latter online. All three capacities are also available (or will be) in a 2.5-inch form factor with a U.2 interface (formerly known as SFF-8639) with an adapter cable that runs to your m.2 slot. Also announced is a M.2/22110 (22 mm wide, 110 mm long) 380 GB version of the drive that won’t be available until November 2018. 

The 905P uses Intel’s Optane non-volatile memory on board, which in turn uses the NVMe protocol for passing data back and forth with your computer. There’s not a lot we can tell you about Optane, other than it uses the company’s 3D XPoint technology. Intel is mum as to the technical details.

As the 2.5-inch and M.2 Optane drives we’ve tested so far are fast readers, but mediocre (for NVMe) writers, we assume that Intel is using some sort of RAID or other trickery to increase the 905P’s write performance. We tested only the 960GB version, and the performance of the smaller capacities might not be as fast.

There’s a large, finned, black heat sink covering the entire board, as well as blue LED lighting. The drive carries a 5-year warranty, however, that’s voided if used in a “multi-user, multi-CPU, data center environment.” Okay.

intel optane ssd 905 series 4 Intel

This is the rather unusual 2.5-inch version of the 905P. It fits in a regular drive bay, but attaches to an M.2/PCIe port,

Intel has thoughtfully come up with a new way to describe longevity in saying that the 905P is good for 10 full drive writes a day. If that’s 10 writes per day for the five years of the warranty, you’re talking about an endurance rating of around 1.75 PBW or PetaBytes Written, or 1,750 TBW (TeraBytes Written), which has been the normal metric the last few years. 1.75 PBW is probably more data than most users will write in their lifetime. Okay, users that are already adults, anyway…