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OpenSSL forked into LibreSSL

OpenSSL forked into LibreSSL

The Heartbleed vulnerability has shone a light on the OpenSSL project, and OpenBSD developers have discovered enough flaws in its code to justify the creation of a fixed fork dubbed LibreSSL.


The OpenBSD project has announced the inevitible outcome of its recent deep-dive into the OpenSSL source code: a full fork of the project, dubbed LibreSSL, to feature a significantly improved codebase.

The OpenSSL cryptographic library made unfortunate headlines earlier this month due to the Heartbleed vulnerability, a nasty bug caused by incautious coding that allowed an attacker to steal memory contents – including, but not limited to, usernames, passwords, and even the entire private key – from any server using the software. With an estimated two-thirds of all webservers using OpenSSL for encryption, that’s a significant target base – and the attack, before it became known to the public, left no trace on the host machine.

OpenSSL is an open source project, meaning anyone can download, examine and modify the source code that drives it. In theory, fans of the open methodology claim, this leads to improved code quality and security – the ‘many-eyes’ theory. In practice, it appears, when an open source project reaches a certain size, individual contributors can become the sole controller of particular sub-sections – with the result that their code goes unchecked by their peers.

OpenBSD is, as the name suggests, an open-source port of the BSD operating system. Designed for maximum security, the project was hit by the Heartbleed bug and vowed to examine the OpenSSL source code more closely in the future. The result has been the exposure of numerous terrifying kludges and bugs in the code – which, it must be remembered, still drives two-thirds of the web – in what has been dubbed the OpenSSL Valhalla Rampage. Having found everything from ‘temporary’ compatibility code reaching back more than a decade to a kludge which uses the server’s private key as entropy for the random number generator – potentially exposing the entire private key to any plug-in RNG used on the system, a major security hole – the OpenBSD researchers have reached a conclusion: OpenSSL can’t be trusted.

The result: LibreSSL, a fork of OpenSSL which benefits from the changes made by the OpenBSD project. Announced on a particularly spartan website – ‘donate now to stop the Comic Sans and Blink Tags,‘ its creators exhort visitors – the LibreSSL project will become the default cryptographic library for the OpenBSD 5.6 release. Initially, that will be the only supported operating ssytem; once the codebase has been cleaned of extant bugs and rewritten to improve maintainability and a source of funding secured, LibreSSL will be extended to additional operating systems.

Whether LibreSSL will improve security overall or simply divert resources that could be better used improving the cross-platform OpenSSL directly remains to be seen.

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Goat Simulator Review

Goat Simulator Review

Price: £6.99
Developer: Coffee Stain Games
Publisher: Coffee Stain Games
Platform: PC

Goat Simulator Review

Well, here we have it. The defining moment in gaming. The pinnacle of the form. For the play it was Hamlet, for the novel Ulysses, and for film Citizen Kane. Each took its own medium and elevated it to unrepeatable heights. Now we have our own unrivalled masterpiece, a classic that will be remembered even when the last human on Earth hunches over the dying embers of the final flame. “I was there,” this crooked old man, bent by time and torment, shall whisper to the ether. “I was there when Goat Simulator was released.”

Goat Simulator Review

That’s not a very good joke, I know. But neither is Goat Simulator. As comedy games go, it is the equivalent of daytime TV covering a popular Youtube video. What works perfectly well as thirty seconds of amusement is stretched into half an hour of awkwardly searching to spin it into something more, and ultimately falling back on repeatedly pointing out how funny the original joke was.

Handing you control of one standard-issue Capra Aegagrus Hircus, Goat Simulator plonks you in a small open-world with the simple aim of causing as much destruction as possible. Now even the most nihilistic of goats would usually struggle to do more than churn a farmer’s field into mud before getting its horns hopelessly tangled in a wire-fence. Fortunately for your cloven-hoofed avatar, everything in Goat Simulator’s world appears to be made out of papier-mâché and springs.

Goat Simulator Review

Head-butting a person in Goat Simulator will send them flying across the map like a comet, while doing the same to one of the many stationary vehicles dotted around the environment will cause an explosion that catapults anything nearby into a geostationary orbit, including the twisting, flopping ragdoll of your own goat-y self. In addition, your goat can lick things to attach them to his sticky tongue, things like basketballs, chunks of broken fence, other goats, and the wheels of a fast-moving articulated lorry.

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Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is receiving a spiritual successor in the form of sci-fi-themed Civilization: Beyond Earth, launching this year on Windows, OS X and Linux.


A spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s intergalactic classic Alpha Centauri has been officially announced, and it brings the promise of treats for PC gamers including support for AMD’s low-level Mantle application programming interface (API) and cross-platform gaming on Windows, OS X and Linux – the latter to include Valve’s SteamOS.

Released in 1999, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was a spin-off from the Civilization franchise, acting as a follow-on of sorts for anyone who had completed a space victory in the game. The player was given the task of colonising Chiron in the eponymous star system, and later the option of playing as one of two non-human races – previously limited to non-playable characters in the game.

The game was critically acclaimed, but a poor seller; following its release, the Civilization franchise would again return to historical rather than futuristic settings and never again venture beyond our solar system – until now. Firaxis has announced Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, the first space-based title to carry the official Civ branding – and a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri.

Announced at PAX East this weekend, the game promises to revamp the Civilization experience with a new web-like technology tree, a more open-ended progression system no longer tied to real-world history, and many of the developers who worked on the original Alpha Centauri. For PC gamers, the news gets better still with Firaxis announcing that the game will launch later this year on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms – the latter to include support for Valve’s SteamOS Linux distribution. The company has also promised support for AMD’s Mantle API at launch, giving hope that the game’s performance will be acceptable even on lower-end hardware.

If all that has whetted your appetite the company has offered a teaser trailer for the title, reproduced below.

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AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review

AMD Radeon R9 295X2 8GB Review

Manufacturer: AMD
UK price (as reviewed):
Approx. £1,050 – £1,100 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): MSRP $1,499 (ex Tax)

At launch, the R9 290X attracted criticism for running too hot and loud, although recent custom cooled cards have shown that it was as much to do with a poorly designed, cheap and inadequate stock cooler as much as it was to do with an inherently inefficient GPU. Even so, the idea of putting two of these toasty chips onto a single card would have seemed ludicrous to most. Recent rumours and teasers, however, began to indicate that AMD was planning exactly that. Today, we can reveal what AMD has been up to: meet the Radeon R9 295X2, appropriately codenamed Vesuvius.

*AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review **NDA 08/04 1PM** AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review *AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review **NDA 08/04 1PM** AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review
Click to enlarge
As you can see, it’s the first reference card to be water-cooled. It uses a sealed loop cooler from Asetek, with a similar design to that seen on the Asus Ares II. Like that card, it also comes in a padded flight case. Everything about it, from packaging to construction, is premium, which is no surprise – it’s launching at $1500, with our sources indicating that its price will approach the £1,100 mark this side of the Atlantic. It’s due to have retailer availability in the week of April 21st. Without doubt, at this price, it’s reserved for a lucky few, but as enthusiasts, we still jump at the chance to look at something as gloriously over the top as this.

We’ll start with the core hardware. Effectively, the R9 295X2 comprises two fully functional Hawaii GPUs with 44 Compute Units a piece and each with a full offering of 4GB GDDR5 (for the full lowdown on Hawaii see here). Of course, this means it will be marketed as having 5,632 cores and 8GB VRAM, but the correct way to think of it is 2 x 2,816 cores and 2 x 4GB VRAM, as the two GPUs are still functionally separate. Either way, it’s obvious that there is a serious amount of firepower here. These specs also makes this card the fastest single consumer graphics card in the world, though Nvidia’s GeForce GTX Titan Z is set to challenge that. As you’d expect, both TrueAudio and Mantle are fully supported.

Unusually for a dual GPU card, clock speeds aren’t any less than the single card variants – in fact, they’ve actually been given a marginal bump. The maximum GPU clock speed is 1,018MHz compared to 1,000MHz before, while the memory runs at the same 5GHz effective. AMD claims that this, along with improved cooling (which allows the GPUs to run at maximum frequency more often) and hard work from its driver team, means it will actually be faster than two stock speed R9 290X cards running in CrossFire. AMD also claims that the best scaling will be at 4K resolutions, and freely admits that this card is overkill for 1080p and even 1440p.

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Xbox boss Spencer: ‘wrong decisions’ were made

Xbox boss Spencer: 'wrong decisions' were made

Microsoft’s new Xbox division head Phil Spencer has admitted that ‘the wrong decisions’ were made prior to the launch of the Xbox One.


Microsoft’s Xbox division has a new head, former Microsoft Game Studios leader Phil Spencer, and he’s determined to get gamers back on-side following the competitively weaker launch of the Xbox One.

When Microsoft first showed off its next-generation console, many felt it had forgotten about its core demographic. Much fuss was made over the ability to watch TV through the console’s HDMI input, while concerns about its requirement for an always-on internet connection to play even offline single-player games were dismissed. The public spoke, and Microsoft was forced to dramatically alter its plans with the dropping of the always-on requirement and the decision that the bundled Kinect sensor platform could be left disconnected from the console with no ill-effect.

Now, Spencer is eager to convince gamers that under his auspice lessons will be learned. ‘There is a lot of learning that I did as a leader in the organisation,‘ he explained in a video interview with Microsoft’s Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb, ‘when I just heard how our message resonated with people and some of the decisions that we made, that I think were actually the wrong decisions, and we had to revisit those decisions.

Describing the anger that gamers showed towards Microsoft at that time as being personally hurtful, Spencer has vowed that the division won’t be making the same mistakes again. Calling the current sales of the Xbox One ‘great‘ – despite Sony’s PS4 considerably outselling its more expensive rival – Spencer described a future in which Xbox will be the key driver in Microsoft’s rebirth ‘as a consumer[-oriented] company.’

Missing from Spencer’s interview responses were any reference to the company’s plans for supporting PC gaming on its Windows platform. If you’re curious as to how the new Xbox boss comes across on camera, the interview is embedded below.

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Wolfenstein’s Doom beta bonus a next-gen exclusive

Wolfenstein's Doom beta bonus a next-gen exclusive

Those buying Wolfenstein: The New Order for access to the secretive Doom beta are advised that it won’t be available on the Xbox 360 or PS3.


Bethesda has warned gamers that the upcoming beta version of wholly-owned subsidiary id Software’s Doom reboot will be exclusively available on next-generation platforms, including PC.

While id Software itself has so far kept a lid on exactly what the reboot of its seminal Doom franchise, considered by many to have truly kicked off the first-person shooter craze as the follow-up to Wolfenstein 3D, Bethesda had previously announced that access to a closed beta would be a benefit of pre-ordering Wolfenstein: The New Order. With the game launching on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows, that was considered to be an open offer to users of all platforms; sadly, Bethesda has now clarified that isn’t the case.

While Wolfenstein: The New Order will be available on previous- and latest-generation consoles as well as Windows, the Doom beta will be exclusively available on latest-generation hardware: Windows PCs, the PS4 and the Xbox One. Those pre-ordering Wolfenstein: The New Order specifically for access to the Doom beta, then, should be aware that while Xbox 360 and PS3 orders will still receive beta codes, these will only be redeemable on their respective replacements: Xbox 360 gamers will need an Xbox One to redeem the code, while PS3 gamers will need a PS4.

For gamers with both consoles and an adequately-specced PC, the news that the beta codes won’t be redeemable cross-platform – you can’t pre-order Wolfenstein: The New Order on PS3 and use the code to gain access to the Windows beta – may be a blow, but could suggest great things in store for the Doom reboot. Following the poor critical reception of 2005′s Doom 3, id Software has concentrated on other projects; if Doom proves, like its beta, to be exclusively available on the very latest console and PC hardware, it could represent a return to form with the potential for impressive visuals and ground-breaking technology.

For now, though, this is all conjecture: neither Bethesda nor its id Software subsidiary have spoken publicly on what form the new Doom will take, nor whether its beta programme will open on the 20th of May when Wolfenstein: The New Order launches.

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Microsoft Build 2014 keynote: the highlights

Microsoft Build 2014 keynote: the highlights

Microsoft’s Build keynote this year included plenty of surprises, from universal apps that can run on Windows devices as well as the Xbox One to the impending return of the Start Menu.


Attendees at Microsoft’s annual Build summit last night were treated to a three-hour keynote speech in which the company announced some dramatic diversions from the norm – including free copies of Windows for phones and tablets, the return of the Start Menu, and Windows apps on the Xbox One.

It’s usual for Microsoft to queue up announcements for the Build event, which is the biggest in its calendar; it’s not usual, however, for it to have quite so many announcements to make as during its keynote session at last night’s opening. Some of the changes, in particular the release of free copies of Windows for mobile devices, will likely have a heavy impact on the future of the company – and it’s not hard to see new chief executive Satya Nadella, a man who has already bemoaned the company’s delayed entry into the mobile market, as the driving force behind much of what occurred last night.

Windows 8.1 Update 1
Microsoft announced the impending launch of Windows 8.1 Update 1, the first major overhaul for what was previously known as Windows Blue. Much of the changes are user experience oriented, rather than under-the-hood overhauls, and many will be welcomed by users: the Desktop and Modern UIs are to be more closely linked, with Modern UI apps being accessible in windowed form from the Desktop interface – allowing a mixing of old and new which was previously verboten.

The new update will also include faster access to the Windows Store – more on which later – by pre-pinning it to the taskbar, and the ability to power off or restart your PC, perform searches and access settings are now available on the main Start Screen instead of hidden off to the side. The update, Microsoft has confirmed, will launch on the 8th of April – the same date, coincidentally, that Windows XP enters official end of life (EOL) status.

The biggest change, however, will have to wait for a future update: the reintroduction of the Start Menu, the absence of which is many users’ biggest bugbear surrounding Windows 8 and newer. Based heavily on the Windows 7 Start Menu, the new version will integrated selected functionality – like Live Tiles – from the Start Screen in an attempt to create a hybrid that will appeal to all. No formal date has been offered for its availability, however.

Mobile Push
A large portion of the keynote was dedicated to Microsoft’s increasingly heavy push to mobile users, where is software is in a distinct minority. As well as new Windows Phone 8.1 devices from Nokia and Samsung, the company confirmed that the new release – a free upgrade to all Nokia Windows Phone 8 handsets – will include an Action Centre which appears to riff on the similar functionality available in Google’s rival Android platform.

The company also announced Cortana, its answer to the popularity of voice-activated assistants Google Now and Siri. Based on the artificial intelligence from the Halo series – which, as a major plot point, went crazy, so that’s an interesting marketing angle to take – Cortana will be a standard feature of Windows Phone 8.1.

Finally, Microsoft made what could possibly be the only announcement that could give it real impetus in the fight against Google: Windows will now be licensable at zero cost on all smartphones and tablet devices with a screen size of less than nine inches. Although Google’s basic Android OS is also free – and, in fact, largely open-source – the company has charged for access to the Google Play app store and other Google-specific functionality, while Microsoft’s impressive portfolio of patents has been used to ‘encourage’ Android licensees – including big names like Samsung – to pay Microsoft a fee for every handset shipped.

To put it bluntly: Microsoft’s free Windows for mobiles is cheaper than Google’s free Android – no mean feat.

Universal Apps
The final surprise of the event was confirmation of a long-held rumour that Microsoft’s Xbox One console will be able to run Windows applications. Using a new cross-platform runtime environment, Microsoft explained, developers will be able to build apps that can run on Windows, Windows RT, Windows Phone and Xbox One – and buyers can pay once to run the app on any of the aforementioned devices.

The move doesn’t exactly open up the Xbox ecosystem – apps available on the Xbox One will be even more heavily curated than those available on Windows Phone, with developers needing to seek Microsoft’s approval – but with promises that DirectX 12 will lead to similar cross-platform functionality for games, it’s hard to see it as bad news.

If the above summary isn’t enough for your appetite, the full keynote session featuring speakers David Treadwell, Joe Belfiore, Stephen Elop, Terry Myerson and new leader Satya Nadella is available for your three-hour viewing pleasure.

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Antoine Leblond leaves Microsoft

Antoine Leblond leaves Microsoft

Microsoft veteran Antoine Leblond is to leave the company after almost 25 years, an apparent victim of recent executive shake-ups.


Microsoft’s Antoine Leblond has told colleagues he is leaving the company as of today, after almost 25 years in the company’s Office and Windows divisions.

Leblond started his career at Microsoft working on the company’s best-selling Office productivity suite alongside Steven Sinofsky. When Sinofsky shifted across to head the Windows division, Leblond followed and become heavily involved in the development of the cloud storage portion of the company’s Windows 8 operating system as well as speaking publicly regarding its exclusive DirectX features.

When Sinofsky left the company in November 2012 following the poor reception of Windows 8, the future looked unclear for Leblond. When no expanded role was provided as part of Ballmer’s July 2013 shake-up, Leblond’s days looked numbered; a fact seemingly confirmed when incoming chief executive Satya Nadella announced his own reorganisation earlier this month, again with no mention of Leblond.

After almost 25 years, I’ve decided it’s time for me to go out and see what the non-Microsoft world has to offer,‘ claimed Leblond, in an email to colleagues obtained by Re/code. ‘Every single day I have had here has been amazing in its own way, and I will never look back on all of these years with anything but fondness, pride in what we’ve accomplished together, and a real appreciation for having been lucky enough to be part of so many awesome things. I am sad to leave all of you, but also incredibly excited for what comes next.

Today marks Leblond’s last day at Microsoft; the company has yet to issue an official statement regarding his departure.

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AMD unveils FirePro W9100 16GB GPU

AMD unveils FirePro W9100 16GB GPU

AMD’s FirePro W9100 offers a massive 16GB of GDDR5 memory, connected to a Hawaii GCN GPU offering up to five teraflops of single-precision compute power.


AMD has announced its latest workstation-oriented graphics board, the FirePro W9100, which packs an impressive 16GB of GDDR5 memory – nearly three times that of its predecessor the FirePro W9000.

The AMD FirePro W9100 is based around a 28nm implementation of the Graphics Core Next 1.1 ‘Hawaii’ architecture, an upgrade from the GCN 1.0 ‘Tahiti’ of its predecessor. Although full specifications aren’t due to be announced until early next month, the company has confirmed an increase from 2,048 stream processors to 2,816 and from 128 texture units to 176. The result: five teraflops of single-precision compute performance, or 2.67 teraflops of double-precision.

Now, to put that into perspective, Nvidia’s latest GeForce GTX Titan Z board offers eight teraflops of single-precision performance, but requires two GPUs in which to do it – and each GPU has access to only 6GB of the shared 12GB GDDR5 memory. The FirePro W9100, on the other hand, has only a single GPU which has the entire 16GB to itself – and, the company has confirmed, the boards will support stacking of up to four cards via CrossFire for systems that require higher performance.

The board, AMD explained during its press conference, is designed for those working on ultra-high resolution projects. As well as the increasingly popular UHD and 4K resolutions, the company has claimed to be seeing demand from markets looking to work with resolutions as high as 8K – which needs a significantly larger framebuffer than the company’s previous FirePro W9000 6GB could offer.

Official pricing for the FirePro W9100 has yet to be confirmed, but those interested in getting their hands on one – or four – can expect to dig deep: as professional products the FirePros demand a hefty pricetag, the FirePro W9000 launched in August 2012 at $4,000 and the W9100 should easily smash that figure when it formally launches on the 7th of April.

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Mozilla’s new CEO causes a stir

Mozilla's new CEO causes a stir

Mozilla’s Brendan Eich has been appointed chief executive, but his support for anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 has led to at least one developer boycotting the non-profit organisation.


The not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation, the group behind the development of open-source applications including the Firefox browser and its new HTML5-powered Firefox OS offshoot, has a new chief executive officer – and his appointment has ruffled a few feathers.

The Foundation announced late last night that chief technology officer Brendan Eich, a co-founder of the Mozilla Foundation, is to immediately take on the role of chief executive. The news comes amid a number of executive-level shake-ups, including the appointment of Li Gong as chief operating officer with a newly expanded reporting group. Jay Sullivan, the Foundation’s acting CEO up to this point, is to leave the Foundation altogether ‘to pursue new opportunities.’

I would first like to thank Jay Sullivan for his contributions to Mozilla and to the Web. He has been a passionate force at Mozilla whose leadership, especially during the last year, has been important to our success, in particular with Firefox OS,‘ Eich claimed upon taking on the mantle of CEO. ‘I am honoured to have the role of leading Mozilla, as we look forward to our audacious goals across all of our products and the project as a whole.

Although Eich has the support of the board, for some the appointment doesn’t sit well thanks to Eich’s political beliefs. Eich is reported to have donated $1,000 in support of the US Proposition 8, a proposed law which would have banned gay marriage outright. Although a droplet in the overall finances of the battle – the LA Times, in documenting Eich’s donation, shows $39 million having been donated overall in support of the ban compared to $44.1 million donated against – it’s enough for those who would have been severely affected by the ban to question his suitability for the leading role at a supposedly inclusive and meritocratic open source institution.

Rarebit, a start-up company founded by a married gay couple who had protested against Proposition 8, has become the first to announce a formal boycott of Mozilla under Eich’s rule. ‘Effective today, we’re removing Color Puzzle from the Firefox Marketplace and stopping work on all of our Firefox-related applications, notably the about-to-launch Firefox version of the popular Dictionary! app for iPhone and Android,‘ chief executive Hampton Catlin explained. ‘We will continue our boycott until Brendan Eich is completely removed from any day to day activities at Mozilla, which we believe is extremely unlikely after all he’s survived and the continued support he has received from Mozilla.

Neither Eich nor Mozilla have commented on Rarebit’s boycott, nor on Eich’s personal donation to the pro-Proposition 8 cause.

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