Tech News

Hot Chips 2018: Microsoft Azure Sphere Live Blog (5:30pm PT, 12:30am UTC)

August 20, 2018 — by Anandtech.com0


08:18PM EDT – For the security section of Hot Chips, the first talk is from Microsoft on their Azure Sphere, which is an end-to-end solution for securing microcontroller powered devices with the cloud.

08:19PM EDT – We’re starting early

08:19PM EDT – Azure Sphere is about microcontrollers

08:20PM EDT – MCUs are used everywhere

08:20PM EDT – Don’t require massive processing – most are not even 32-bit devices

08:20PM EDT – low cost, older fabs

08:20PM EDT – Those old fabs now offer a wide variety of performance and connectivity and on-chip memory

08:21PM EDT – 9b connected devices shipped in 2017

08:21PM EDT – Large attack surface

08:22PM EDT – Only required 100k devices with Mirai to cripple services

08:22PM EDT – Azure sphere requires a sphere classified MCU

08:23PM EDT – Uses MS OS on the MCU for security

08:24PM EDT – Hardware has to participate in security

08:24PM EDT – each device has to have a unique ID

08:24PM EDT – no one security measure is bulletproof

08:24PM EDT – ensure one feature doesn’t reveal all the secrets

08:24PM EDT – security code has to be small and contained and protected

08:25PM EDT – compartments for code

08:25PM EDT – managing the code space

08:25PM EDT – certificates for security

08:25PM EDT – Azure Sphere MCUs don’t use passwords

08:25PM EDT – people don’t change root passwords

08:25PM EDT – generate device specific certificates for cloud service authentification

08:25PM EDT – means of failure reporting

08:25PM EDT – also needs to be updateable

08:26PM EDT – no point having devices that can’t be updated

08:26PM EDT – Need to do it securely

08:26PM EDT – Need to ensure older softeware can’t run

08:27PM EDT – Most MCUs that exist are low cost, scalar. For Azure Sphere, need processor with an MMU

08:27PM EDT – Needed to isolate processes

08:28PM EDT – First Azure Sphere MCU is 40nm process from Mediatek, 300m SRAM transistors (most of them)

08:28PM EDT – SiP, two flash die in package

08:28PM EDT – low cost plastic package

08:28PM EDT – single 3.3V supply – all other voltages handled on chip

08:29PM EDT – 5 main processing systems on chip

08:29PM EDT – Microsoft Pluton security core

08:29PM EDT – Cortex M4F for IO

08:30PM EDT – WiFi up to 802.11n, dual band

08:30PM EDT – 1T/1R

08:30PM EDT – Uses N9 32-bit RISC core

08:30PM EDT – Chip wasn’t targeted at a particular system, so a fairly standard chip with collection of IO

08:31PM EDT – Plenty of flexibility

08:31PM EDT – Analog sampler

08:31PM EDT – I2C, SPI, UART, GPIO, PWM outputs, external interrupts

08:32PM EDT – OS runs on Cortex A7 at 500 MHz

08:32PM EDT – Neon/FPU present

08:32PM EDT – 4MB system memory

08:32PM EDT – OS runs almost completely in memory

08:32PM EDT – Pluton is the security subsystem

08:33PM EDT – 200 MHz M4 processor, uses ROM for initialization

08:33PM EDT – ROM does cert validation of security code

08:33PM EDT – Runs all code local out of coupled 128kB

08:33PM EDT – Dedicated e-fuse macro

08:34PM EDT – stored in a fashion where hardware can use them but software can’t read them

08:34PM EDT – Stores security state in e-fuse

08:34PM EDT – rollback protection fuses so older software doesn’t run

08:34PM EDT – Pluton is Microsoft IP

08:35PM EDT – Has all control features for keys and fuse bits

08:35PM EDT – Private/public chip key pair generated on chip

08:35PM EDT – SHA and AES engines

08:36PM EDT – List of features (not all of features)

08:37PM EDT – Every unit in the device has a firewall

08:37PM EDT – Can isolate every device to its own memory region

08:37PM EDT – Configuration bits are sticky – can be set on boot and can’t be edited except at boot if required

08:39PM EDT – Internal OS based on Linux

08:40PM EDT – Time for Q&A

08:41PM EDT – Q: Any plans to open source the Pluton core? A: Software will be open source, hardware will be royalty based

08:42PM EDT – Q: Who owns the root key in a distributed product? A: Depends what you mean. for the OS, Microsoft. For the application it’s the manufacturer.

08:42PM EDT – Q: No way for the user to restrict silent updates? A: Not in the plans today, aside from disconnecting the device.

08:44PM EDT – Q: How you plan to provision these devices? Instrastructure? A: That infrastructure exists today. Provisioning such as certificates happens as a co-op process between IC manufacturer and Microsoft. It works with the cloud as it is manufactured. It’s unique to the chip, based on the public key.

08:46PM EDT – Q: In the history, companies with new MCU architectures tend to have trouble. What’s MS’ background? A: We didn’t do any new instruction sets. The processors are made by Arm and Andes N9. There’s no new extensions here.

08:48PM EDT – Q: Can you disclose any physical adjustments made to protect side channel attacks? A: We can’t talk much about what’s done in hardware. Can say that we do restrict the keys, and side channels go after that – the hardware means attacks don’t have the same opportunity to attack crypto engines to extract those keys.

08:49PM EDT – Q: The PSU is on chip. Are there multiple power domains? A: Yes, portions of the design can be shut down as needed. Revalidation occurs on power cycles, not power down of separate domains

08:51PM EDT – Q: Infrastructure is built around IP from Arm and Andes. Are you agnostic – are you happy to work with RISC-V etc? A: We’re not completely committed to cores, that was just used with Mediatek based on experience. We will look into support, depending on our team

08:51PM EDT – Q: What’s the power consumption of that Mediatek chip? A: We focused this chip on wall-connected devices, not battery, but it does have a super low power mode of 7 micro-watts. Normal power can be as high of 600 mW. Without Wi-Fi it’s about 200mW.

08:52PM EDT – That’s a wrap. Next talk is on Google Titan.

Tech News

Lyft's personal subscription locks in the cost of your favorite trip

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Lyft

Lyft has been trying out an All-Access subscription that lets you ride on a frequent basis for one flat fee, but it’s overkill for many people. What if you mainly tend to take one route every time? There’s now an option for you — Lyft has unveiled a Personal Plan that locks in your fare for a favorite route as long as it would normally cost $25 or less. If you sometimes need a ride to work or the gym, you won’t have to worry about Prime Time spikes (aka surge pricing) making it inordinately expensive.

The feature is available across the US starting today, and there’s no long-term commitment. You can invoke the Personal Plan only for busy months, in other words. The monthly rate varies — we saw an example of $8 per month, that’s not necessarily what you’ll pay.

This is only really a bargain if you’re a creature of habit who makes several trips to the same place each and every month, but can’t use a carpooling option like Lyft Line. It’s still more affordable than the $200 or more that some Lyft customers were seeing in the All-Access test, though. And it certainly makes sense for the company — this could give it a steadier source of income from passengers who might otherwise skip rides or look to alternative transportation options.

Tech News

iHeartRadio adds Spotify-like personalized playlists

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


iHeartRadio announced today that it’s adding a new playlist for users to stream — a weekly updated selection of tunes based on what you listen to. Your Weekly Mixtape will be refreshed every Monday and will include 30 to 75 songs chosen for you based on the stations and artists you listen to and the tracks you give a thumbs up. It sounds an awful lot like Spotify’s Discover Weekly, even down to the day it’s released. But iHeartRadio’s chief product officer, Chris Williams, told CNET that there is a difference between the two.

Whereas Spotify’s weekly playlist is more about finding users new music they might enjoy, Williams notes, he says that iHeartRadio’s curated playlist is about giving users a selection of songs they know and love. “We want to make sure they’re getting a playlist they can sing along to,” he said. However, the company says the playlist will also include both new releases and trending music a user might like.

Earlier this year, iHeartRadio opened up its activity-, era- and genre-based playlists to all users. And it’s not the only streaming service to offer a Discover Weekly-like playlist. Pandora announced its version in March while Apple Music has a handful of personalized playlists for users to choose from as well. Spotify’s personalized lists also include its Daily Mixes, Your Time Capsule and Your Summer Rewind.

iHeartRadio’s Your Weekly Mixtape is rolling out to all users, paid and free, now. You can find yours through the “For You” tab on the iHeartRadio website or the “Your Library” section of the iOS and Android apps.

Tech News

Some Dropbox users are getting an extra 1TB for free

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Thomas White / Reuters

Dropbox Professional and Business Standard users have more storage to play with starting today, as the company is bumping up the capacity on each plan by 1TB. Professional users now have double the space with 2TB, and Business Standard teams will share 3TB between their members.

It’s a useful increase for those who use Dropbox on a more-than-casual basis, especially if they have large video files to share. New users will have the increased storage capacity when they sign up, while existing users will get the upgrade over the next few weeks. The Professional plan costs $20/month (or $199/year), with more features than the $10/month Plus plan, while Business Standard runs $12.50/user/month with a minimum of three people per team.

However, Plus users are not getting an increase on their 1TB limit at the minute, despite more aggressive pricing from Google, which announced the One program in May. Google is offering 2TB for $10/month, including family sharing with private storage for up to six members.

Tech News

'True Detective' director's Netflix show 'Maniac' arrives September 21st

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


Netflix isn’t quite done unveiling star-studded movies and shows. The online media giant has confirmed that Maniac, the series from True Detective season 1 director Cory Fukunaga, will premiere on September 21st. The dark comedy (based on a Norwegian series) stars Emma Stone and Jonah Hill as strangers united by a strange trial for a drug treatment that will supposedly cure any mental illness or anguish. Needless to say, it doesn’t work out as expected — it’d be a short series if it did.

Justin Theroux and Sally Field round out the main cast.

The teaser below says precious little beyond highlighting the naive optimism of Dr. Mantleray (Theroux), who believes “the mind can be solved.” Stone and Hill don’t even speak, and Field is nowhere to be seen. Nonetheless, it’s easy to be curious based on this brief viewing. It suggests that Fukunaga is taking advantage of his creative freedom on Netflix (not to mention a hefty casting budget) to create a stand-out production. And it’s just as well — Netflix’s existing slate hasn’t been drawing in as many new subscribers as expected. An attention-grabbing show like Maniac might be what it needs to maintain buzz as the summer draws to a close.

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Tech News

Netflix launches 'Riverdale's' Sabrina spin-off on October 26th

July 29, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


If you’re so hooked on Riverdale that one show isn’t enough of a fix, you’re in luck. Netflix has announced that its spin-off show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will debut on October 26th — just before Halloween, and conveniently two weeks after Riverdale‘s season 3 premiere. There’s no footage to show yet, but Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper on Mad Men) is playing the titular role, with creatives from Riverdale (including showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa) giving the show a familiar feel.

As the name implies, this is the polar opposite of the ’90s series. Here, Sabrina is grappling with her half-witch nature as she deals with both supernatural threats and the realities of her everyday life. You likely won’t see crossover moments thanks to network complexities (Riverdale is a CW show, Sabrina is Netflix-only), but this might scratch the itch if you’ve wanted to visit the darkest corner of the reinterpreted Archie Comics universe.

Tech News

Netflix won't premiere 'Stranger Things' season 3 until summer 2019

July 29, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


You’d better soak in that nostalgic Stranger Things season 3 teaser, as that’s likely all you’re getting for a while. Netflix programming exec Cindy Holland has revealed that the third installment of the Duffer brothers’ show is launching sometime in summer 2019. That’s a considerably longer wait than the 15 months between the first two seasons — you’re looking at a minimum of 18 months after season 2. There may be a good reason for the lengthier wait, though.

Both the Duffers and executive producer Shawn Levy know the “stakes are high,” according to Holland, and want to provide “bigger and better” material than in the second run. She added that there would be more special effects than before. While Holland didn’t directly acknowledge th mixed reactions to the second season, there’s little doubt that Netflix wants to attract people who weren’t completely enthralled in 2017.

It’s doubtful Netflix is too worried about Stranger Things‘ extra development time when it has roughly 700 originals lined up for 2018, including the likes of Disenchantment and Narcos: Mexico. With that said, it can only afford to wait so long — its shows haven’t been attracting as many new viewers as it might have liked in recent months, and more Stranger Things could be crucial to keeping the company’s growth on track.

Tech News

Amazon may have another smartphone in the works (update: no)

July 29, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Amazon’s Fire Phone was a disaster by most accounts, but that might not stop Bezos and crew from giving handsets another try. In a speech at the Television Critics Association press tour (where Amazon has been very busy), studio head Jennifer Salke said she has the prototype of a future Amazon phone that would reportedly have a better interface for Prime Video. Salke didn’t delve into specifics, to no one’s surprise, but she claimed it was “much more intuitive” and that you could even see it in her office. Just let us know when you’re ready to give a product demo, Jennifer.

The executive didn’t know when the device would ship. Don’t get your hopes up for an imminent launch, then. You might not want to treat this as definitive proof that a new phone is coming, either. As powerful as Salke is, she’s an entertainment exec with little involvement in Amazon’s hardware strategy. We’ve asked Amazon if it can comment.

If there’s a handset on the way, it’s likely to reflect more than a few lessons learned in the past four years. The Fire Phone’s camera-based 3D effects and object detection amounted to little more than gimmicks, and its interface was focused more on selling Amazon products than helping users. Combine that with the high price, mediocre performance and one-carrier exclusivity and there was little reason to buy one unless you were a diehard Amazon fan. Hopefully, any new device would focus more on practical features and competitive hardware.

It’s not farfetched to envision Amazon getting back into the smartphone business, though. Prime Video would be just one of the potential hooks — a smartphone could be the key to putting Alexa in your pocket. You can already buy third-party phones with Alexa, but this could integrate the voice assistant on a deeper level. Not that Amazon would have an easy time of it. If this device ran on Amazon’s in-house Android variant, you could forget about YouTube, other Google apps and much of what’s in the Play Store. Amazon would either have to use a Google-approved Android variant with relatively little customization (such as what you see on Prime Exclusive phones) or accept that its phone came with significant software limitations.

Update: We’ve since learned that Salke was referring to the Prime Video app, not a phone. If you’ve been hoping for a Fire Phone revival, you’ll have to keep waiting.

Tech News

'Mad Men' creator's Amazon series 'The Romanoffs' debuts October 12th

July 29, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


Need proof that Amazon is increasingly focused on blockbuster shows? Here’s Exhibit A. Amazon has announced that The Romanoffs, the anthology series from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, will premiere on October 12th… and it’ll have a star-studded cast, to put it mildly. New actor additions include Mad Men alumni Cara Buono and Jay R. Ferguson alongside familiar names like ER‘s Noah Wyle and Office Space‘s Ron Livingston, and that’s on top of an existing sea of stars. Amazon had already lined up Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks and John Slattery as well as Aaron Eckhart, Diane Lane, Amanda Peet and Paul Reiser, among others.

Despite the name, this isn’t a period piece. Instead, it’s a collection of eight stories about modern-era people who believe they’re descendants of the last Russian royal family. The teaser trailer below doesn’t reveal anything (it’s mainly a reminder of Amazon’s huge casting budget), but it’s safe to say that there will be doubts about the lineage of central characters.

The Romanoffs will come relatively soon after Amazon’s other giant series for the second half of the year, Jack Ryan, and epitomizes the company’s recent take-no-chances approach to Prime Video series. It wants shows that are virtually guaranteed to get international buzz and critical acclaim, and it doesn’t get much bigger than staging a Mad Men reunion with more famous names thrown in for good measure. Whether or not this strategy pays off is another story — Amazon has certainly had success, but it’s still relatively new to investing so heavily in lavish productions.

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Tech News

Amazon stops asking viewers to vote on Prime Video pilots

July 28, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


Amazon has been relatively unique among streaming giants in not only requesting pilots, but putting them up for a vote by the viewers. Unfortunately, you’ll have to kiss that democratic process goodbye. The company’s Jennifer Salke has announced that Prime Video pilot voting has been “set aside for now.” Instead, it’ll use both its own internal testing and “some user data” to make the call on whether a show goes forward. It’s not that Amazon doesn’t trust your feedback — rather, it’s that not convinced the pilots themselves are necessary.

The firm’s Albert Chang has pointed out that sticking to the concept of a conventional TV pilot led to shows “taking way too long” to reach audiences. Take a show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as an example: its pilot premiered in March 2017, but you didn’t see the full first season until November that year. Productions like Maisel, The Man in the High Castle and Mozart in the Jungle may have all won critical acclaim, but they might have appeared sooner (and thus helped Amazon’s bottom line) if Amazon had skipped the pilot process and just ordered the shows that had the most promise. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is an example of a show that jumped straight to full production.

As unfortunate as it might be to lose your say on Amazon’s lineup, it’s easy to understand why Bezos’ outfit would pursue this strategy. Rivals like Netflix don’t typically commission pilots, helping them release shows that much sooner. This could help Prime Video keep pace and reduce the chances that a competitor’s show will steal the limelight.