Creepy ‘FruitFly’ Surveillance Malware Hits American Apple Macs


New surveillance malware hits Apple Macs, most in America. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple Mac malware outbreaks are rare. So when they happen, people pay attention.

Law enforcement agents are now investigating what appears to be a slice of malicious code that’s been hitting Mac users in recent weeks and appears to be purely for targeted surveillance, though it’s unclear whether it’s for perverse reasons, or if it’s government-related. Patrick Wardle, an ex-NSA analyst who now does research for cybersecurity firm Synack, says he saw around 400 infections, but there’s likely many more as he only had access to a handful of servers used to control the malware, dubbed FruitFly. “I likely only saw a limited percentage of the total number of victims,” Wardle said.

He was able to uncover FruitFly victims after registering one of the domains the attackers had planned to use as back up when the primary servers were offline. For whatever reason, the hackers didn’t own the domain.

From there, Wardle could see victim IP addresses, 90% of which were located in the U.S., he told Forbes. He was also able to see the name of victims’ Mac computers too, making it “really easy to pretty accurately say who is getting infected.” Most appeared to be individuals, though there were some at colleges too, he said. As soon as Wardle saw active infections, he handed what he found to law enforcement. He’ll present his findings at the Black Hat conference taking place later this week.

He believes surveillance was the primary purpose of FruitFly, which could spy on the webcam of the user and take screenshots. “This didn’t look like cybercrime type behaviour, there were no ads, no keyloggers, or ransomware,” he said. “Its features had looked like they were actions that would support interactivity: it had the ability to alert the attacker when users were active on the computer, it could simulate mouse clicks and keyboard events.”

Old Apple spy tool

It appears to be old malware too, said Wardle. Comments in the FruitFly code included references to updates for Mac OS X Yosemite, first released in 2014, indicating the spyware was running before that.

Outside of a lack of insight into the other servers, which could push the infections numbers up drastically, it’s also as yet unclear how FruitFly has infected Apple Macs. Apple had not responded to a request for comment.

FruitFly has been seen before too. MalwareBytes first detected it earlier this year apparently targeting biomedical research centers. “The only reason I can think of that this malware hasn’t been spotted before now is that it is being used in very tightly targeted attacks, limiting its exposure,” wrote MalwareBytes researcher Thomas Reed in January. “Although there is no evidence at this point linking this malware to a specific group, the fact that it’s been seen specifically at biomedical research institutions certainly seems like it could be the result of exactly that kind of espionage.”

But there’s no indication just what the motivations of the malware’s creators are. Looking at the code alone, it may be they’re simply trying to spy on random individuals through their webcams.

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Millions of IoT devices are vulnerable to widespread bug

Researchers find a flaw that could let hackers take over millions of security cameras and other connected devices.

BL: 1. FC Nuernberg - TSV 1860 Muenchen

Millions of connected devices, including security cameras, are affected by this bug.

TF-Images / Getty Images

Millions of net-connected devices around the world can be hacked due to a common flaw.

Researchers have found that security cameras using an open-source code called gSOAP could be easily hacked and that attackers can send commands remotely. This allowed the researchers at Senrio, a security firm focused on the internet of things, to take over a video feed, pause the recording and turn the camera off.

You can see the hack in action here:

Senrio was able to take full control of the hacked cameras, the company said. Researchers are naming the zero-day exploit “Devil’s Ivy,” because, like the plant, it’s hard to kill and it spreads quickly. 

The company said Tuesday that it discovered the vulnerability while researching Axis security cameras, one of the largest makers of connected cameras. Axis provides surveillance globally, including for every security camera at the Los Angeles airport.

IoT devices provide convenience for device owners because online connections bring new uses to old gadgets, but they are still iffy on security. On Tuesday, the FBI issued a warning for connected toys, citing concerns about hacks.

The flaw is found in 249 camera models for Axis and affects 34 other companies, Senrio said. Because the flaw is from an open-source code, it could be present on millions of other devices, the researchers said.

Genivia, the company behind gSOAP, said it’s had more than 1 million downloads, including from companies like IBM, Microsoft and Adobe Systems. Genivia has released a patch for this flaw. Axis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Surface Laptop review: Microsoft’s MacBook Air killer nails what students need

At a Glance

  • Microsoft Surface Laptop (Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB) – Burgundy

    PCWorld Rating

    $1,299.00 MSRP $1,299.00

    View

    on Amazon

Updated 07/18/2017: We’ve upgraded the Surface Laptop to Windows 10 Pro to run traditional benchmarks, and the results are…interesting. Click the Performance section in the TOC, or simply jump to this link, to see to all the numbers.

Our Surface Laptop review considers Microsoft’s new notebook in three ways: first, as a stylish ultrabook, designed to compete with Apple’s MacBook Air on college campuses. It’s also a showcase for Windows 10 S, limiting users to Windows Store apps but with an unexpected benefit to battery life. But if you want more flexibility, you can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro—and we’ve tested that, too.

After using the Surface Laptop as a Windows 10 S machine, I can say it does a great job of addressing exactly what college students need. More sophisticated users might want to look a bit further afield, though, or at least bail out of Windows 10 S early on. 

[ Further reading: Our picks for best PC laptops ]Microsoft Surface laptop

Dan Masaoka

The tinted aluminum exterior of the Surface Laptop gleams, especially with color options like burgundy.

Table of Contents

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An ultrabook with style

The Surface Laptop follows in the formidable footsteps of the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio—all category-defining products with prices to match. The Surface Laptop is a striking ultrabook with prices that are attainable, if not overly affordable. For now, the Surface Laptop ships in four configurations:

  • Intel Core i5/4GB RAM/128GB SSD: $999
  • Intel Core i5/8GB RAM/256GB SSD: $1,299
  • Intel Core i7/8GB RAM/256GB SSD: $1,599
  • Intel Core i7/16GB RAM/512GB SSD: $2,199

Microsoft also separately ships a Surface Arc Mouse, which is color-coordinated to match the Surface Laptop. The Surface Pen and Surface Dial will work with the Laptop, but they’re not required.

We reviewed the $1,299 model, which I’d consider to be the price/performance sweet spot, assuming a college student with generous parents. Though gamers want 16GB of RAM, 8GB is sufficient for web browsing and some basic apps, and 256GB of storage is finally becoming more of the norm.

Just as important as what’s inside is the Surface Laptop’s outside, which is dressed to kill MacBook Airs. Lifting the tinted aluminum veneer of the lid to reveal the softer Alcantara fabric of the keyboard tray beneath evokes the elegance of a jewelry box. Microsoft also streamlined the exterior by eliminating the volume control rocker switch and power button, moving them to the keyboard.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Mark Hachman

Microsoft offers four colors for the Surface Laptop, though they’re currently not available throughout the full product line.

The Surface Laptop is very thin, just 0.57 inches at most, compared to the MacBook Air’s 0.68-inch profile. At 12.13 x 8.79 inches, it’s also a little smaller than the MacBook Air. Grab the Surface Laptop by its keyboard, and its 2.76-pound weight (3.2 pounds with charger) will feel impressively light.

There’s one catch: The base $999 Core i5 model ships only in the silvery “platinum” color. The only configuration to offer the three other color options (graphite gold, burgundy, cobalt blue) is the model we tested. While Microsoft should eventually offer the additional colors across the entire product line, it hasn’t yet—a situation that’s sure to frustrate some consumers.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Dan Masaoka

“Thin and light” defines the Surface Laptop.

A surprising lack of ports

Thin ultrabooks have to give up something, and the Surface Laptop’s configuration is no different. Most of it is good: Our unit houses a 2.5GHz Core i5-7200U, part of the 7th-generation Kaby Lake family. Each of the Core i5 options includes an Intel HD 620 graphics core, while the Core i7 version includes the powerful (for integrated graphics, that is) Iris Plus 640 core which we tested on the new Surface Pro. For college papers and web browsing, an HD 620 core will be just fine.

One of the hallmarks of the Surface lineup is the display, and I enjoy Microsoft’s bright PixelSense 10-point touchscreens. The Surface Laptop’s 13.5-inch, 2256×1504 (201 ppi) version, aligned in Microsoft’s standard 3:2 ratio, lives up to the name. The IPS panel pumps out 365 lumens, enough even for outdoor use.

Some competing devices offer 4K displays. Keep in mind, though, that pushing more pixels requires more power, and one of the strengths of the Surface Laptop is its excellent battery life.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Mark Hachman

The sides of the Laptop chassis angle in, making inserting the Surface Laptop charger blade a bit awkward sometimes.

On the right side of the Laptop is Microsoft’s Surface connector, maintaining compatibility with older chargers as well as optional peripherals like the Surface Dock. The other ports—USB 3.0 Type A, miniDisplayPort, headphone—appear on the left side of the chassis.

There is no miniSD or other removable storage slot, recognition that photos and other files are more often stored online or on USB sticks. I can agree with that rationale, though the single USB-A port looks awfully lonely, and the lack of USB-C is the opposite of future-proofing.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Mark Hachman

Would an additional USB connector have killed you, Microsoft?

The Surface Laptop reclines about as far as the Surface Book, about 50 degrees or so off the horizontal. Unlike the Surface Book, however, there’s no accordion hinge. Instead, an barely-visible hinge smoothly moves the display back and forth. The screen tends to wobble a bit when inking or when the keyboard moves sharply.

The keyboard: Microsoft kept what works, mostly

You can sum up the Surface Laptop’s keyboard simply: Aside from one small modification, Microsoft bundled the Surface Pro’s backlit keyboard with the Surface Book’s touchpad. The space allocated to the keyboard on both devices is literally the same—4 x 10.75 inches—and the touchpad dimensions on both the Book and the Laptop are identical.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Surface Pen

Dan Masaoka

Though the Laptop doesn’t require the Surface Pen, it immediately wrote and “erased” digital ink, without any setup.

That said, the Surface Laptop’s typing experience falls slightly short of the Surface Book’s. I prefer the fluidity of the Surface Book’s keys. There’s also a bit of structural give in the Laptop’s keyboard that isn’t present on the Book. To test it, I placed a small screw between the R, T, F, and G keys. On the Laptop, I noticed a bit of bowing that wasn’t present on the Surface Book, which expresses itself as a slightly mushy feel that’s independent of the keys.

Microsoft Surface Laptop trackpad and keyboard

Dan Masaoka

Surface Book trackpad, meet the Surface Pro (2017) keyboard.

The Surface Laptop’s touchpad feels great, slightly oilier than the Book’s aluminum surface. Clicking and gestures worked as expected.

A pair of “omnisonic” speakers are buried beneath the keyboard. The volume reaches satisfactory levels, slightly vibrating the keys as you type upon them. Naturally, there’s not a lot of bass, and I’d recommend headphones.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Mark Hachman

I never powered off the Laptop by accident, but it’s still an odd place to put such an important button.

Windows 10 S: Lack of choice is frustrating

In a bid to make the Surface Laptop as manageable as Chromebooks powered by Google’s Chrome OS, Microsoft designed the Surface Laptop and other education-minded PCs around Windows 10 S, an optimized version of Windows 10. Windows 10 S restricts Surface Laptop users to apps found within the Windows Store, and adds a few manageability features found in Windows 10 Pro to help administrators keep tabs on the devices. (For a deeper dive into Windows 10 S, please see our Windows 10 S FAQ.)

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Dan Masaoka

Part of the way to identify a Windows 10 S machine is with this custom background image, seen here.

Windows 10 S provides an extra layer of security, Microsoft says, as well as quicker boot times than Windows 10 Pro. Holes have already been poked through these claims:  Windows 10 S was breached by a researcher using Word macros, which are only blocked if you have an Office 365 subscription. And in our tests, the Surface Laptop took 19 seconds to cold-boot to the desktop, compared to 18 seconds when we reconfigured it for Windows 10 Pro.

Our Surface Laptop did, however, come with device encryption enabled, helping protect files from unauthorized access. That’s a feature normally associated with Windows 10 Pro.

Restricting Windows 10 S users to the Windows Store understandably concerns some users. For one, you’re subject to the whims of Microsoft: As longtime users know, Microsoft’s Store has ranged from abysmal to where it is now, an adequate-to-decent experience. Unfortunately, not every app within the Store can be used by Windows 10 S, including some Win32 apps that Microsoft has begun publishing. If you do try to use a prohibited app, you’ll know it: A popup window will appear, with a link to the Windows 10 Pro upgrade at the bottom.

Windows 10 S app blocked

Mark Hachman

You can move apps around like any other file, but you simply can’t run them unless they’re Microsoft-approved.

Microsoft recently made its Office apps accessible through the Store in preview, and they worked smoothly, without any bugs that I could find. The Surface Laptop ships with a year’s subscription to Office 365 Personal, good for a single device like the Laptop.

The biggest app hurdle that Windows 10 S users will likely encounter, though, is something rather prosaic: their choice of browser. Because browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera aren’t found within the Store at the time of this review, you’ll be forced to use Edge. Exporting bookmarks from another browser and importing them into Edge is simply a pain—and forget about saved passwords. Worse, Edge Favorites I’d saved in a Windows 10 Pro machine refused to carry over to Windows 10 S. Windows 10 S also returns search results from Bing alone, though nothing prevents you from bookmarking Google.com.

Windows 10 S app store Office Preview

IDG

Many common apps aren’t in the Microsoft Store. Fortunately, Microsoft Office is one of the exceptions—but you’ll need to use the built-in “Get Office” app to find it.

That web-based approach works well for some apps that haven’t made it into the Store. I’ve never been a fan of using a dedicated Windows app for Twitter, for example, though I use Slack’s app. With Edge, I could put both services into a tab and snap them to a corner of my screen.

I was a little shocked to discover that apps I didn’t consider to be apps were also blocked, namely the Command Line. It doesn’t appear within Windows 10 S, and commands that would normally launch Command Line or PowerShell simply don’t work—or, if they do, a Command Line window will blink into existence and then “pop,” or crash.

windows 10 pro upgrade

Mark Hachman

Upgrading to Windows 10 Pro can be done via the Microsoft Store.

For those users who want a little more, Windows 10 S does provide an escape hatch: a built-in upgrade path to Windows 10 Pro. Until the end of the year, it’s a free upgrade.

In fact, we can report that the upgrade to Windows 10 Pro went flawlessly. From the “Switch to Windows 10 Pro” screen above, we simply clicked the button and away we went. Microsoft advises backing up all critical documents and files (a good idea in any case) though I didn’t notice any corrupted or missing files. After a “prepare to switch” screen, I simply had to wait through a single reboot. All told, the process took a bit less than five minutes—far less than the Creators Update installation process.

Windows 10 S performance: Stellar battery life redeems it

Because we couldn’t run many of our conventional benchmarks on Windows 10 S, we first selected browser-based tests that could stress the Surface Laptop. Then we upgraded the Laptop to Windows 10 Pro to run traditional benchmarks. We’ve left the older benchmarks at top for reference, and our standard benchmark charts follow.

We first compared the Surface Laptop to machines including the Surface Book and the recent Surface Pro. Recall that Microsoft also claims the Core i5 Surface Laptop is 50 percent faster than the Core i7 MacBook Air. We didn’t have a recent MacBook Air to test, so we compared it to the 15-inch MacBook Pro, as well as a Core m3-based MacBook. The Surface Laptop was slower than all of them, at least where these browser-based benchmarks were concerned.

Surface Laptop webxprt web benches

IDG

In the chart above, both Speedometer and Jetstream measure the responsiveness of Web applications, which is tied to the CPU’s processing power. WebXPRT asks the processor to perform more intensive tasks, such as photo enhancement and album organization.

Octane 2.0 (below), a Google benchmark, performs a suite of tests measuring how well a system performs Javascript.

octane 2.0 redo surface laptop

IDG

Just for fun, we also ran a built-in benchmark from Rise of the the Tomb Raider, an game that’s available via the Windows Store (below). Thirty frames per second is considered to be the minimum for gameplay. The Surface Laptop’s four fps is not remotely playable. We’ll dig into this more once we unlock the Laptop with Windows 10 Pro.

Surface Laptop rise of the tomb raider

IDG

One of the areas in which the Surface Laptop absolutely shines, however, is battery life (see below). Color us a little skeptical after Microsoft’s claims of 13.5 hours for the Surface Pro proved to be only 8 hours. We’re beginning to think that may have been the fault of the Iris Plus chip, because the battery inside the Surface Laptop with Intel’s HD 620 lasted a whopping 12 hours and 45 minutes, continually stressed as we looped a 4K video. That stamina is what students need as they go from classes to the library.

Surface Laptop battery life

IDG

At a Glance

  • Microsoft Surface Laptop (Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB) – Burgundy

    PCWorld Rating

    $1,299.00 MSRP $1,299.00

    View

    on Amazon

    Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is a reasonably-priced premium laptop whose excellent battery life and light weight outweigh any restrictions placed upon users by the Windows 10 S operating system.

    Pros
    • Fantastic battery life inside an ultrabook chassis
    • Reasonably priced, for a Surface
    • Free (for now) upgrade to Windows 10 Pro
    Cons
    • App restrictions can make Windows 10 S frustrating
    • Limited port selection
    • Other notebooks offer more advanced features, like USB-C
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How to Use Microsoft’s Free Office Online Software

If you don’t need the full might of Microsoft Office on the desktop, use the free online version instead.


How to Use Microsoft’s Free Office Online Software

Do you want to use Microsoft Office without paying for it? Try the free Office Online edition.

As the name indicates, Office Online is an online version of Microsoft’s popular software suite. Instead of installing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your computer, you tap into cloud-based varieties of the different programs; all you need is a web browser.

Instead of residing on your computer, files are saved to Microsoft OneDrive, the company’s cloud-based storage service. The only catch is that Office Online isn’t as feature-packed as the desktop edition. You’ll find all the basic editing commands but not much more. If that satisfies your needs, however, it’s an option worth trying.

Office Online includes four core programs – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. You can also tap into other apps, including Mail, People, and Calendar. Another application called Sway allows you to create interactive reports and presentations. Let’s go through the steps for accessing and using Office Online to create, edit, and share your documents.


First, you’ll need a Microsoft account. If you don’t already have one, set it up at Microsoft’s Account website. Then navigate to the Office Online website. Click on the icon for the application you wish to use, such as Word or Excel.

How to Use Microsoft's Free Office Online Software

The page asks if you want to log in with a Microsoft, work, or school account. Assuming you don’t have a work or school account, choose the option to sign in with a Microsoft account and enter your account username and password.

You’re then taken to a page where you can select a template to create your document or file. For example, Microsoft Word offers templates for resumes, cover letters, flyers, and calendars. If you don’t need a special template, just click on the one for New blank document.

How to Use Microsoft's Free Office Online Software

Word Online opens for you to start creating your document. In Word, you’ll find all the basic editing options via the toolbar. For example, you can set the font, point size, and other attributes of your text as well as apply certain styles. You can insert tables, pictures, page numbers, and headers and footers. You can adjust the page size, margins, and orientation. You can zoom in and out of your document. And you can run a spell check.

How to Use Microsoft's Free Office Online Software

Your document automatically saves as you work, so there’s no need to manually save it. Click on the File menu, and you can also save it with a different filename and download the file to your PC, either as a Word document or a PDF. From the File menu, you can also print your document and share it with other people by emailing them a link to it.

How to Use Microsoft's Free Office Online Software

To open a file you’re already created, click on the Open command and choose from recent documents, or click on the link to “More on OneDrive” to access all your online files.

How to Use Microsoft's Free Office Online Software

The online versions of Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote work similarly to Word in that they offer all the basic commands and features. To access another program in the online suite, click on the “List of Microsoft Services” button in the upper-left corner (it’s the one that contains nine small squares) and then select the application you wish to open. Since the programs and your files are all online, you can access them from any Windows computer.


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A massive botnet was tweeting you porn for months

Security researchers say the Siren botnet of almost 90,000 Twitter accounts was one of the largest spam campaigns on social media.

It was the social media equivalent of the Sirens who lured sailors to their doom in Greek mythology.

One after the other, accounts were popping up randomly on Twitter with posts like “Want vulgar, young man” and “Boys like you, my figure?” Every tweet had links to a seemingly innocent URL with a Google shortlink (starting with goo.gl), which would lead to a fake dating website, or a webcamming site or pornography.

This was the Siren spam botnet and it was almost 90,000 accounts strong.

Since February, security researchers at ZeroFOX had been tracking hundreds of thousands of bot accounts on Twitter, which were spamming the social network with links advertising adult content. They named the bot network after the Greek myth.

Every account featured a scantily clad woman as the avatar and descriptions and tweets that read like a bad Tinder profile. It’d be a combination of two phrases, an introduction like “I posted another naked photo” followed by a prompt like “go to the link.” As with the Sirens of Greek lore, the botnet’s call worked.

With 8.5 million tweets, the spam netted more than 30 million clicks, nearly four clicks per tweet, said Zack Allen, the threat operations manager at ZeroFOX, in an email.

Spam has been around since the dawn of the internet, but its spread to social media has been a recent development. Botnet attacks used to be confined to emails, with individual victims, but now it’s a free-for-all on social media. With 2 billion people on Facebook, spammers are seeing social networks as the next target.

Unlike with emails, when spam gets posted on Facebook or Twitter, it’s publicly available for everyone else to see, not just the recipient.

“I would say the pool is much easier in terms of accessing the feeds of other users,” Allen said. “Spam has been getting sent to our spam folders in email for years; the social nets are still figuring out how to make a proverbial ‘spam folder.'”

The Siren bots would work around anti-spam measures by disguising the URLs through some link laundering: First, the URL would get shortened through Twitter, giving the spammer a t.co link. That short link would then get redirected to a goo.gl URL and was able to bypass Twitter and Google’s anti-spam detection.

Allen said ZeroFOX has tracked many types of social network-based attacks, but never anything as widespread or successful as Siren. The security company believes the attacks are coming from Eastern Europe, because a large chunk of the bots noted its default language as Russian on Twitter.

On July 10, ZeroFOX told Twitter about the massive botnet and the social network’s security team removed all the spam accounts. Google’s security team also blacklisted all the URLs that used its link shortener as a disguise.

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

These scams can cost victims thousands of dollars. In the last six months of 2014, the FBI noted that romance scams on social media cost more than $82 million for victims.

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Windows 10 Build 16241 gives the best sneak peek yet at the Fall Creators Update

As Windows 10’s next big release date nears, the latest Insider Preview Build 16241 gives us a solid sneak peek at what the Fall Creators Update will look like. You’ll see a some significant new features, including Ubuntu support, update delivery options, and improved Task Manager visibility. But tellingly, Microsoft also opened its final “bug bash” challenge. That means the Windows 10 team is just about ready to button up the OS for its promised September debut.

Build 16241 also shows it’s serious because of the nature of its new features, emphasizing nuts-and-bolts improvements over new capabilities. For example, Windows 10 now offers a great deal more granularity into how Windows updates will be delivered, and how you can manage their bandwidth. Task Manager adds deeper insights into what’s going on with your GPU. Microsoft is also preparing for the launch of mixed-reality headsets with several updates to its MR capabilities.

Why this is important: Build 16241 marks the final lap in the race to the Fall Creators Update. Sure, it shows off some significant new features, but the simultaneous bug bash announcement signals that those will be the last additions. Remember, Microsoft has committed to a schedule of Windows upgrades in both March and September.That means the “shipping” version of the Fall Creators Update is just weeks away.

A greater degree of visibility within Windows

Massive Windows updates are part and parcel of owning a Windows machine. That doesn’t mean you have to like them, however. Part of the new Windows 10 Build 16241 includes what Microsoft calls Delivery Optimization Advanced Options, where you’ll be able to manage how much bandwidth Windows uses for updates. Typically, Windows tries to throttle itself so as not to not monopolize your connection. If you’re on a low-bandwidth pipe and watching Netflix, for example, the amount of Windows update data will slow to a crawl.

What Windows doesn’t know, however, is how much bandwidth is being used across your network, not only by other phones and PCs downloading information from the Internet, but also how much data is being sent from device to device. Now, you can manage that data.

insider bandwidth

Microsoft

Now you’ll have a greater degree of visibility into what Windows is consuming.

That’s important for two reasons: The first is just the impact on your own network performance. But for those who live in rural areas or have signed up for a broadband plan with a strict data cap, managing that flow of information can be vital. Remember that your PC can also be used as a local “node” to send updates around the neighborhood, though you can turn that off.

To show how much data Windows actually requires, Build 16241 includes the new Activity Monitor, which tracks data to and from your network, specific to Windows and its updates.

insider activity monitor

Microsoft

If you have a monthy data budget, this may end up being a handy screen.

If this level of visibility appeals to you, you’ll probably be happy to learn that Microsoft tweaked the GPU portion of Task Manager once again. Now, you can view the active GPU’s name and see which of its functions (including 3D, video decoding and video processing) are currently active. Microsoft also applied more descriptive labels to the tab processes used by Microsoft Edge, allowing you to see whether a particular Web page is slowing your system down, or a more generic service.

Prepping for mixed reality

Microsoft includes support for some fun in the latest build, too. Linux fans should be happy to know that the Bash shell now supports Ubuntu—an app that can be downloaded from the Windows Store.

Mixed reality build 2017

IDG / Mark Hachman

Microsoft’s latest Insider build includes several fixes to make mixed reality a true reality.

Microsoft has also begun hammering out bugs within its mixed-reality devices—which have yet to begin shipping. It’s unclear whether headsets like Acer’s mixed-reality devices, which were shown off at the Build conference in May, will be ready in time for the Fall Creators Update launch, but Microsoft is apparently working hard to support them. The latest build includes support for USB motion controllers (with wireless support pledged soon) as well as a host of other improvements, including speech commands and a better teleportation experience. (In MR, users “jump” from spot to spot using what Microsoft calls “teleportation.”

We expected Microsoft to take a somewhat conservative approach to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and so far it seems to be paying off. Assuming that the bug bash goes smoothly, that gives Microsoft about five weeks before September begins, and some wiggle room within that to ship the “final” version of the Fall Creators Update. Look for more of the pieces to fall into place over the coming weeks.

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AMD’s Ryzen 3 lineup brings competitive quad-core CPUs to the masses

Credit: AMD


  • amd ryzen 5 primary


AMD continued its quest to democratize multi-core computing on Thursday as it revealed hard details about Ryzen 3 processors with twice as many CPU cores as their Intel rivals.

Only a pair of Ryzen 3 chips will be available when the lineup launches on July 27. Both the Ryzen 3 1200 and the Ryzen 3 1300X rock four cores and four threads, meaning they have double the physical cores as Intel’s dual-core i3 chips, but lack the simultaneous multi-threading that allow AMD’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs to press their core count advantage even further. The Ryzen 3 1200 has a 3.1GHz base clock capable of boosting to 3.4GHz when needed, and the Ryzen 3 1300X hums along between 3.5GHz and 3.7GHz.

AMD didn’t reveal any fresh performance comparisons against Intel’s chips, but an earlier tease for the Ryzen Pro launch pit the quad-core Ryzen 3 1300X against Intel’s Core i3-7100 in a variety of tasks. AMD says the Ryzen chip outpunched Intel’s CPU in every task except the hotly contested Sysmark 2014—though you should always take vendor-supplied metrics with a big ol’ pinch of salt until they’re confirmed by independent testing.

ryzen 3 pro performance

AMD

Ryzen 3 vs Core i3, according to AMD. (Click to enlarge.)

Those Pro versions of the Ryzen 3 chips both feature 65-watt TDPs and 2MB L2/8MB L3 cache sizes. Expect the consumer versions to mirror that.

The only major question left? Pricing. AMD didn’t disclose how much the Ryzen 3 processors will cost when the chips release on July 27. They’re likely to be pretty damned affordable though, as the step-up Ryzen 5 series bottoms out at $169 for the 4-core, 8-thread Ryzen 5 1400, and the Core i3-7100 that AMD compared the Ryzen 3 1300X against retails for $117.

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