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31.01.2018 23:40

If you’ve noticed any unexpected reboots or PC instability as a result of the recent Spectre patches, there’s a solution: Microsoft has issued an emergency Windows patch that rolls back the recent Spectre mitigations.

Confused? It’s a bit complicated. After the intial Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilites were disclosed, both Intel and Microsoft hustled out patches to mitigate the problem. Unfortunately, Intel’s latest microcode updates—and the BIOS updates from PC makers based upon them—were themselves buggy, causing instability, reboots, and data loss in some PCs.

Microsoft’s latest patch (KB4078130) allows people with affected systems to download the patch via the Microsoft Update Catalog, which disables the mitigations for the “Spectre variant 2.”

Note that the patch notes specifically state that you should run this patch “if you are running an impacted device” (emphasis ours). In other words, if your system is working normally, don’t bother downloading this patch. This is what Microsoft calls an “out of band” patch, and it doesn’t appear that it will be made available via Windows Update, either.

Why should you consider it? Intel has warned previously that the faulty patch can sometimes cause data loss and corruption, and Microsoft is saying the same: “Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption,” the patch notes state.

There’s another wrinkle, though. As part of the patch, Microsoft is allowing users to edit the Windows registry to toggle the mitigations on or off. (Instructions are here.) It’s possible to toggle Microsoft’s patch off, and then, when Intel solves its own patching problem, re-enable it. That scenario is actually what Microsoft recommends—again, only if you’ve noticed system instability and want to take action against it.

Toggling the mitigations on and off is also a feature of the latest InSpectre utility.

What should you do? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But we can tell you what we’re doing: if a PC is working as expected, we’re leaving it patched and in place. If you’re backing up your data (to the cloud or an external drive) chances are your most crucial data will be saved in case your system goes down unexpectedly. Obviously, install Microsoft’s emergency Windows patch if you’re running into system issues. There’s no perfect solution—if you’re more paranoid than we are, feel free to deploy the patch even if your PC hasn’t hiccuped.

Good luck, and be sure to check out PCWorld’s guide on how to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre. Operating system updates are just one part of it.

As Bleeping Computer noted, system makers such as Dell and HP also advise rolling back their own BIOS patches to an earlier version, which they’re redeployed. It’s all horrendously confusing for consumers and IT organizations alike. Fortunately, at least, there haven’t been any public cases of these vulnerabilities being exploited, Microsoft says.

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22.01.2018 23:48

Streaming is a technology used to deliver content to computers and mobile devices over the internet. Streaming transmits data – usually audio and video, but increasingly other kinds as well – as a continuous flow, which allows the recipients to begin to watch or listen almost immediately.

The Two Kinds of Downloads

There are two ways to download content over the internet:

  1. Progressive downloads
  2. Streaming

Streaming is the quickest way to access internet-based content, but it's not the only way. Progressive download is another option that was used for years before streaming was possible. In order to understand what streaming is, where you use it, and why it's so helpful, you need to understand these two options.

The key differences between progressive download and streaming are when you can start using the content and what happens to the content after you're done with it.

Progressive downloads are the traditional kind of download that anyone who's used the internet is familiar with. When you download an app or game or buy music from the iTunes Store, you need to download the entire thing before you can use it. That's a progressive download. 

Streaming is different. Streaming allows you to start using the content before the entire file is downloaded. Take music: When you stream a song from Apple Music or Spotify, you can click play and start listening almost immediately.

You don't have to wait for the song to download before the music starts. This is one of the major advantages of streaming. It delivers data to you as you need it.

The other major difference between streaming and downloads is what happens to the data after you use it. For downloads, the data is permanently stored on your device until you delete it.

For streams, the data is automatically deleted after you use it. A song you stream from Spotify isn't saved to your computer (unless you save it for offline listening, which is a download).

Requirements for Streaming Content

Streaming requires a relatively fast internet connection – just how fast depends on the type of media you are streaming. A speed of 2 megabits per second or more is necessary for streaming standard definition video without skips or buffering delays. HD and 4K content requires higher speeds for flawless delivery: at least 5Mbps for HD content and 9Mbps for 4K content.

Live Streaming

Live streaming is the same as the streaming discussed above, it's specifically used for internet content delivered in real time as it happens. Live streaming is popular with live television shows and special one-time events.

Streaming Games and Apps

Streaming has traditionally been used to deliver audio and video, but Apple has recently implemented technology that allows streaming to work with games and apps too.

This technique, called on-demand resources, allows games and apps to include a core set of features and functions when the user first downloads them and then to stream new content as the user needs it.

For example, a game might include its first four levels in the initial download and then automatically download levels five and six when you start playing level four.

This approach is useful because it means downloads are quicker and use less data, which is especially important if you have a data limit on your phone plan. It also means that apps take up less space on the device they're installed on.

Problems With Streaming

Because streaming delivers data as you need it, slow or interrupted internet connections can cause problems. For example, if you have streamed only the first 30 seconds of a song and your internet connection drops bfore any more of the song has streamed to your device, the song stops playing.

The most common streaming error that crops up has to do with buffering. The buffer is a program's temporary memory for streamed content. The buffer is always filling up with the content you need next. For example, if you watch a movie, the buffer stores the next few minutes of video while you're watching the current content. If your internet connection is slow, the buffer won't fill up quickly enough, and the stream either stops or the quality of the audio or video is reduced to compensate.

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09.01.2018 23:59

Apple Inc. said all Mac computers and iOS devices, like iPhones and iPads, are affected by chip security flaws unearthed this week, but the company stressed there are no known exploits impacting users.

The Cupertino, California-based company said recent software updates for iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, Mac desktops and laptops, and the Apple TV set-top-box mitigate one of the vulnerabilities known as Meltdown. The Apple Watch, which runs a derivative of the iPhone’s operating system is not affected, according to the company.

Despite concern that fixes may slow down devices, Apple said its steps to address the Meltdown issue haven’t dented performance. The company will release an update to its Safari web browser in coming days to defend against another form of the security flaw known as Spectre. These steps could slow the speed of the browser by less than 2.5 percent, Apple said in a statement posted on its website.

Apple shares rose less than 1 percent to $173.56 in early trading Friday in New York.

Intel Corp. on Wednesday confirmed a report stating that its semiconductors contain a vulnerability based around a chip-processing technique called speculative execution. Intel said its chips, which power Macs and devices from other manufacturers, contain the flaw as well as processors based on ARM Holdings architecture, which is used in iOS devices and Android smartphones.

In December, Apple came under fire for iPhone software changes that reduced the performance of some older models of its smartphone. Alongside an apology and an explanation that a software change was implemented to balance out the effect of aging batteries, the company reduced the cost of replacing the power units from $79 to $29 through the end of 2018.

Security experts have said highly regulated sectors of industry, such as government offices and public health institutions, are most at risk of compromise as a result of the chip security vulnerability.

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03.01.2018 00:29

Don’t let your portable PC run out of power. Follow these tips and you’ll get a lot more battery life out of your Windows 10 machine.

Battery life is always a crucial part of any PC, whether it’s old or brand new.

We’ve already explained some techniques to preserve power on Windows 7 but what about Microsoft’s latest addition Windows 10? Thankfully if you’re using the new operating system, there are a number of simple tips that will help you save on power so you can continue using your PC that little bit longer. Watch the video below to see some of the tips in action and follow our guide for more details.

Tip 1: Turn off wi-fi and Bluetooth

Windows 10’s new Action Center makes it easier to switch off connectivity options such as wi-fi and Bluetooth which can drain battery life.

If you don’t need or Bluetooth on all the time, go to the Action Center by clicking the small square icon near the time in the bottom right, and click on Bluetooth to deactivate them so that they’re no longer lit. Older machines may not have Bluetooth, in which case you won’t see that option.

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Wi-fi is usually used a lot of the time, but if you don’t need to be online for a while (perhaps if you’re writing a letter using a word processor) you can always click the Wi-fi icon to turn it off, which will save some battery as well.

Alternatively, if you want to switch all connectivity options off for a certain period of time, click Airplane mode and it’ll cut off all connections for you. When you want them back, simply click Airplane mode again.

Tip 2: Turn on Battery Saver

For laptops that aren’t plugged in to a power source, Windows 10’s new Battery Saver is a great way to preserve some of your machine’s juice.

Battery Saver does what its name suggests by reducing screen brightness, stopping push notifications and preventing apps from running in in the background.

Battery Saver is automatically set to kick in whenever your battery falls below 20%, but you can switch it on at any time (if mains power is not connected) from the Action Center.

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You can also set Battery Saver to start automatically a bit earlier or later too, by going into the settings menu. Simply search for ‘Battery’ in Cortana and select Change battery saver settings at the bottom.

From here you can adjust the point at which Battery Saver will kick in by moving the scrolling bar.

Tip 3: Turn the sound down

Your PC’s speakers use up a decent amount of power, so turning them down even a little bit could help save some of your battery’s life.

Headphones also use less battery than speakers, so if you can opt for a pair instead, all the better.

Tip 4: Turn screen brightness down

The brightness of your screen is another big battery sucker. You can turn it down a notch or two by searching for ‘Brightness’ in Cortana and clicking on Display settings.

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Under ‘Adjust brightness level’, move the scrolling bar down – but make sure it’s still bright enough to use.

Tip 5: Adjust power and sleep settings

Leaving your PC idle is a waste of battery, so make sure you’ve got the best screen and sleep options set-up.

Search ‘Power’ in Cortana and select Power & sleep settings.

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Here, you can adjust how long your PC should wait before the screen dims or goes into sleep mode. Select a suitable time that you’re comfortable with from each drop down box.

Tip 6: Unplug any peripherals you’re not using

Got a USB stick plugged in all day but not using it? Remove it! Even if you’re not actively using it yourself, your PC will still be powering it.

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27.12.2017 23:47

Sometimes offers for desktop and laptop computers seem to be priced too low to be real. In the description of these products you might find the term refurbished. Both manufacturers and retailers may be offering these systems below what a normal PC costs, but what is a refurbished product and are they safe to buy?

Refurbished computers typically fall into one of two categories. The first type have failed a quality control check during manufacturing.

Rather than simply disposing of these systems, the manufacturer will rebuild it to pass quality control but sell it at a discounted price. The other type is a rebuilt system from a customer return likely due to a component failure.

Now the refurbishment of the product may be done by the manufacturer or a third party. Manufacturers rebuild the system using the same parts used in the new PCs. A third party that rebuilds the machine may use alternate parts to get it up and running. These alternate parts may change the system from its original design. This makes it important that the consumer read the specifications of the refurbished system and compare them to the standard specs for the product.

Another type of product that consumers will find discounted is an open box product. These differ from a refurbished product as it has not been rebuilt. It is simply a product that was returned by a customer but it has not been tested.

Consumers should be very careful when purchasing any open box products.

Costs

Cost is the primary reason people purchase refurbished desktops and laptops. They are often priced below the average computer system currently sold. Of course the amount of discount is only really relevant if you happen to be looking at the same exact product.

Most refurbished PCs available will typically be older products that are being compared to the original suggested retail prices for the product when it was first released. As a result, the deals may not always be the best.

When pricing a refurbished computer, it is important to note if the system is still available for sale new. If it is, this makes the price comparison very easy to determine. PCs such as this generally can be found for modest discounts of between 10 and 25% off the retail prices. As long as they have similar warranties to the new products these can be an excellent way to get a system for below retail.

The problem comes from older systems that are no longer sold. Consumers are often tricked into paying for a system that looks like a good deal but is not. This is where the specifications become extremely important. With those in hand, try to find a comparable brand new system. If one is available, then the same cost analysis of 10 to 25% still holds. If a comparable system is not available, then look for an equally priced new system and see what you get. Often times consumers in this case will find that for the same price they can get a better, newer laptop or desktop.

Warranties

The key to any refurbished computer system is the warranty. These are products that typically were returned or rejected due to a defect. While that defect may have been corrected and no further problems may develop you want to make sure that some coverage is included for potential faults. The problem is that warranties are typically modified for refurbished products.

First and foremost, the warranty should be a manufacturer one. If the warranty is not provided by the manufacturer it should raise a red flag for consumers. A manufacturer warranty will guarantee that the system will be repaired to the original specifications with manufacturer parts or certified replacements can be used with the system.

Third party warranties can cause major problems as replacements parts may not be guaranteed and it may take longer for the system to be repaired.

The next thing to look at is the length of the warranty. It should provide the same length as if it was purchased new. If the manufacturer is not offering the same coverage consumers should once again beware. The lower cost of the system may be the result of them not offering to support the product.

Finally, be wary of extended warranties. If an optional warranty is offered for purchase with the system, it should be a manufacturer extended warranty and not one through a third party. Also be wary of the cost for extended warranties. If the cost of the extended warranties makes the system cost more than buying it new, avoid the purchase.

Return Policies

As with any product, you may get the refurbished computer and find that it does not meet your needs or has issues. Because of the nature of refurbished systems, you want to be very careful of the return and exchange policies offered by the seller. Most retailers tend to have more restrictive policies regarding refurbished machines and they may be sold as it which means you have no recourse for returning the product. Because of this, always read them carefully before making a purchase. Manufacturer refurbs often have been options than third party sellers.

Conclusions

Refurbished laptops and desktops are one way consumers can find a good deal, but they have to be much more informed before the purchase.

The key is to ask several key questions to know if it is really a good and safe deal:

  • Is it sold by the manufacturer or a retailer?
  • What is the price relative to the same PC new?
  • Is the system comparable to an equivalent priced new PC?
  • What type of warranty comes with the PC?
  • Who will handle warranty work?
  • Is there the option for a return?

If all of these can be answered satisfactorily, then consumers can generally feel secure in the purchase of a refurbished PC.

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20.12.2017 23:42

Do you want to learn how to type fast in the most efficient way? Follow these instructions, and you will be on your way to type fast on a keyboard.

1.Changing your keyboard

If you are going for speed, choosing the standard keyboard layout is out of the question. You must remember where are the buttons on keyboard. If you are a beginner at typing try to write your name or something you are familiar with your school name or your address etc. To learn more about the layouts. Notice that you don't have to buy a new keyboard, just change a setting on your computer.

2.Improving your speed

Before you type, warm up your fingers by making fists with both your hands. Open them slowly, and bend your fingers back until they can't physically go further without external help. Repeat this five times and you'll be typing faster than you did before. Try not to look at the keyboard when typing. Challenge yourself at all times until you can type without looking at all, and get the typing accurate.

3.Use websites that allow you to practice touch typing

Practice at the various levels until you are using the fastest typing levels. Use timed typing tests that require you to beat the clock to finish a paragraph.

4.Find a touch typing tutor and learn to type

There are tons of free alternatives that should fit most people fine. Don't move the keys around. This will only slow down your learning. To speed up your learning, try to practice with text that makes sense, and not the usual repetitive sequences of characters - these do not really work.

5.When you are ready to take a shot at beating the world record, and choose a test, preferably with a three minute duration to get a more accurate result.

To motivate yourself, make notes of your results before, during and after your training to see the increase in speed. Choose different tests, so that you don't end up memorizing a text.

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