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Chris Williams

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Chris is The Register's US bureau chief based in San Francisco, California. He spends his days hunting for news, writing headlines, editing articles, penning the occasional feature, managing his team, and various other bits and bobs. His PGP public key can be found here on Keybase over HTTPS. Fingerprint: 1FD3 81D9 6344 FC49 9C5F FBC1 0EC6 E70E 3EB7 9D2E

Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is today stepping down from the Windows giant's board of directors – just six months after he was succeeded by incoming chief exec Satya Nadella. Ballmer announced his retirement in August last year, but remained at the helm until Nadella took over in February. Shy-and-retiring Ballmer also …
Chris Williams, 19 Aug 2014

AMD's first 64-bit ARM cores star in ... Heatless in Seattle*

AMD today sheds more light on its "Seattle" 64-bit ARM architecture processor at the Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, California. Take one glance at this new Opteron A1100-series system-on-chip, and you'll realize it's aimed squarely at servers rather than the traditional ARM scene of handheld gadgets and embedded computing – …
Chris Williams, 11 Aug 2014
Gardiner's frog

IBM boffins stuff 16 million-neuron chips into binary 'frog' brain

IBM researchers developing chips that mimic mortal brains say they've built a 4,096-core processor that simulates a million neurons. The SyNAPSE silicon, fabricated by Samsung using a 28nm process, has 5.4 billion CMOS transistor gates, consumes 70mW of power, and uses a processor architecture completely unlike today's CPUs. …
Chris Williams, 07 Aug 2014

New iGasm: Apple to unveil not one but TWO iPhone 6 models on 9 Sept

Apple will, we're told, hold a "big media event" on Tuesday, September 9, which is expected to be the day the long-awaited iPhone 6 is officially revealed. El Reg's invite to the bash appears to have been lost in the post; instead we learned word of the launch party from the Wall Street Journal and others. Bloomberg reckons …
Chris Williams, 06 Aug 2014

What the FLOCK? Addictive 'Flappy Bird' is back – and it's coming for your family

Infuriating yet stupidly popular crapp Flappy Bird has officially returned, it appears – and it's now a multi-player game called Flappy Birds Family. It's available for free for Amazon's set-top box, the Android-based Fire TV. According to its app store listing, the software was built by Dotgears Studio, aka Flappy Bird creator …
Chris Williams, 01 Aug 2014

Will GCHQ furtle this El Reg readers' poll? Team Snowden suggests: Yes

UK eavesdropping nerve center GCHQ has developed tools to manipulate online polls, ramp up page views for articles, and obtain private photos on Facebook. That's according to Glenn Greenwald's latest trawling of documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The surveillance agency can also, we're told, arrange calls between two selected …
Chris Williams, 14 Jul 2014
Sarcasm detector Simpsons

Ukrainian teen created in lab passes Turing Test – famous nutty prof

Some software has supposedly passed the Turing Test – a controversial benchmark of artificial intelligence – by fooling a handful of humans into thinking it's a talkative 13-year-old Ukrainian lad. Cyborg prof Kevin Warwick argues this is the first time a machine has ever passed the famous test. We're told the successful chat- …
Chris Williams, 09 Jun 2014

OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts

Robin Seggelmann, the man who accidentally introduced the password-leaking Heartbleed bug into OpenSSL, says not enough people are scrutinizing the crucial cryptographic library. The Heartbleed flaw, which was revealed on Monday and sent shockwaves through the IT world all week, allows attackers to reach across the internet and …
Chris Williams, 11 Apr 2014

Anatomy of OpenSSL's Heartbleed: Just four bytes trigger horror bug

The password-leaking OpenSSL bug dubbed Heartbleed is so bad, switching off the internet for a while sounds like a good plan. A tiny flaw in the widely used encryption library allows anyone to trivially and secretly dip into vulnerable systems, from your bank's HTTPS server to your private VPN, to steal passwords, login cookies …
Chris Williams, 09 Apr 2014
Angry woman on mobile

It's not you, it's EE: UK mobile network goes titsup, blames gremlins

Brits on the UK cell network EE are reporting dodgy connections, delayed text messages and other problems tonight. Some users are unable to make calls even though they have a full signal strength showing on their mobiles. According to handy uptime monitoring website downdetector.co.uk, most of the complaints are coming in from …
Chris Williams, 19 Mar 2014

Update your Mac NOW: Apple fixes OS X 'goto fail' SSL spying vuln

Apple has released OS X 10.9.2 which, you'll be delighted to know, improves the "accuracy" of the unread message count in Mail, and fixes the autofill feature in Safari among other little tweaks. It also just so happens to snap shut a gaping security vulnerability that potentially allowed hackers to hijack users' bank accounts …
Chris Williams, 25 Feb 2014
Apple product placement

Apple Safari, Mail and more hit by SSL spying bug on OS X, fix 'soon'

Apple has admitted a bug in Mac OS X 10.9.1 allows hackers to intercept and decrypt SSL-encrypted network connections – and has promised to release a fix "very soon." Sensitive information, such as bank card numbers and account passwords, sent over HTTPS, IMAPS and other SSL-protected channels from vulnerable Mac computers could …
Chris Williams, 23 Feb 2014

Update your iThings NOW: Apple splats scary SSL snooping bug in iOS

Apple has updated its mobile operating system iOS to patch a bug that blows apart the integrity of encrypted connections. Versions 7.0.6 and 6.1.6, available now for download, fixes a vulnerability that could allow "an attacker with a privileged network position" to "capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS," …
Chris Williams, 21 Feb 2014
Google_skull

Gmail falls offline, rest of Google struggles on: NO! Not error code 93!

Netizens complained today that Google's social network Plus was knackered and the webmail service Gmail fell completely offline. In a painful twist of fate, the systems went down just as Google's crack site-reliability team was preparing for a live question'n'answer session on Reddit. And it came after strangers' email addresses …
Chris Williams, 24 Jan 2014

Cicada 3301: The web's toughest and most creepy crypto-puzzle is BACK

The internet is full of daft things. Animated cat GIFs, stupid headlines, NSA spies, etc. But the online world isn't just fields of mindless dreck. For instance, you could always take a crack at the web's toughest crypto-puzzle: the ever-baffling Cicada 3301. Appearing each year since 2012, these strange series of challenges …
Chris Williams, 11 Jan 2014
Antares on the launch pad Wallops Flight Facility. Pic: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus resupply truck blasts off to the Space Station

Private space biz Orbital Sciences Corporation has successfully launched its Cygnus space truck to resupply the International Space Station. The craft blasted off at 1307 EST (1007 PST, 1807 GMT), from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, US. Minutes later Cygnus separated from its rocket as it reached orbit, and opened …
Chris Williams, 09 Jan 2014
Delia Derbyshire behind the custom built 20-channel mixing desk

Yes, the BBC still uses FTP. And yes, a Russian crook hacked the server

A BBC FTP server ftp.bbc.co.uk was compromised by a Russian hacker and access to it touted online, say computer security researchers. The miscreant behind the attack on the internet-facing file store tried to sell access to the infiltrated system to other crims on Christmas Day, we're told. Hold Security – which this year has …
Chris Williams, 30 Dec 2013

Snowden leak journo leaks next leak: NSA, GCHQ dying to snoop on your gadgets mid-flight

Top-secret documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have been plastered across our screens and front-pages for months by Glenn Greenwald and his team. And on Friday the journalist couldn't help but leak a few details about a forthcoming wave of fresh revelations regarding the US and UK governments' mass surveillance …
Chris Williams, 27 Dec 2013

Just what they've always wanted! ISS 'naut duo unwrap new space fridge

Astronauts have completed a SEVEN-HOUR spacewalk to fit what looks a giant fridge, but we're assured is a vital cooling system, to the International Space Station. The work concludes a two-stage operation to fix the platform's life support: its cooling equipment started acting up this month, prompting NASA to order a series of …
Chris Williams, 24 Dec 2013

Snowden to warn Brits on Xmas telly: Your children will NEVER have privacy

Celebrity whistleblower Edward Snowden will hit Britain's TV screens tomorrow to warn families: "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all." The ex-NSA sysadmin – temporarily exiled in Russia after leaking documents about the US and the UK's massive internet surveillance operations – will give this …
Chris Williams, 24 Dec 2013
Santa Claus on his laptop

Sky broadband goes TITSUP ALL DAY, thwarts Brits' Xmas web shopping

BSkyB's broadband internet and phone service Sky Talk have been down for at least a day in London – and may not be fixed any time soon. Brits say they have been unable to get online following a cock-up affecting an exchange in Blighty's capital. According to the entertainment giant's network status page: Broadband outage In …
Chris Williams, 11 Dec 2013
An instagrammed photo of teenagers, credit Shutterstock

GAH: Now it's INSTAGRAM and Windows Phone 8

Image-flinging billion-dollar upstart Instagram has agreed to port its photo-bothering app to Microsoft's Windows Phone 8. Yesterday, Redmond chairman Bill Gates choked back tears at a shareholder meeting. We assumed he was weeping over the retirement of shy CEO Steve Ballmer. Perhaps instead it was tears of joy that his company …
Chris Williams, 20 Nov 2013

Barclays Online OFFLINE: UK bank site, mobile app go titsup for the evening

Barclays' online banking service in the UK appears to have fallen over on Monday evening, leaving fuming customers unable to access their accounts. Punters are complaining they cannot log into the website, nor use the bank's multiplatform mobile app. Right now, the site greets visitors with the message: "5 - Sorry - Barclays …
Chris Williams, 18 Nov 2013
bug on keyboard

Anatomy of a killer bug: How just 5 characters can murder iPhone, Mac apps

There has been much sniggering into sleeves after wags found they could upset iOS 6 iPhones and iPads, and Macs running OS X 10.8, by sending a simple rogue text message or email. A bug is triggered when the CoreText component in vulnerable Apple operating systems tries to render on screen a particular sequence of Unicode …
Chris Williams, 04 Sep 2013

Four ways the Guardian could have protected Snowden – by THE NSA

The Guardian's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger fears journalists – and, by extension, everyone – will be reduced to using pen and paper to avoid prying American and British spooks online. And his reporters must fly around the world to hold face-to-face meetings with sources ("Not good for the environment, but increasingly the …
Chris Williams, 22 Aug 2013

Chrome, Firefox blab your passwords in a just few clicks: Shrug, wary or kill?

Web browsers Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox can reveal the logged-in user's saved website passwords in a few clicks. There now rages a debate over whether this is an alarming security flaw or a common feature. Picture this: you've been asked to fix a friend's PC because it's stopped printing pages properly, or you saunter …
Chris Williams, 08 Aug 2013

Can't agree on a coding style? Maybe the NEW YORK TIMES can help

For decades, dour broadsheet the New York Times and its style guide have presided over the world of posh writing: its English usage manual serves as both a bible for upmarket writers and a blunt instrument with which to beat sensationalist tabloid hacks such as your humble correspondent. Now the Grey Lady has turned her hand …
Chris Williams, 06 Aug 2013

Official SCIENCE*: HIGH HEELS make you SEXY (Ladies)

However uncomfortable, overly expensive and impractical killer heels may be, think again before ditching them for your next night out: new science has proved high-heeled shoes definitely make women look sexy. In the same year CERN boffins found the Higgs Boson in a gigantic underground particle accelerator, an academic study …
Chris Williams, 01 Jan 2013
Apple CEO Tim Cook, 2012

Apple supremo Tim Cook's pay packet SLASHED 99% in 2012

Apple boss Tim Cook took a 99 per cent pay cut in 2012 - the year his firm's maps crapp confused iPhone fanbois and rival Android dominated the mobile market. The chief executive took home a paltry $4.17m in salary and a non-equity bonus, according to paperwork just filed with US financial regulator the SEC, down from the $378m …
Chris Williams, 28 Dec 2012

ARM knees semi groins with 2 billion chip feat

Two billion processors designed by ARM shipped in the first quarter of 2012, banking the UK chip biz forecast-busting profits for Q2. While the rest of the semiconductor industry apparently suffered a 4 per cent slump year-on-year in shipments, the Cambridge-based company said it enjoyed a 9 per cent rise - marking the highest …
Chris Williams, 25 Jul 2012
Broken CD with wrench

ARM's ultra-low-power fridge-puter chips: Just what the CIA ordered

Prototypes of a new tiny, ultra low-power ARM-licensed processor will be demonstrated at an engineering conference in California next week. The chips are so small and energy efficient that they're aimed at wirelessly hooking up kitchen appliances, light bulbs and 'leccy meters to your network. And to the CIA. Will this lead to …
Chris Williams, 19 Mar 2012

How a tiny leap-day miscalculation trashed Microsoft Azure

As soon as Microsoft's cloudy platform Azure crashed to Earth, and stayed there for eight hours, on 29 February, every developer who has ever had to handle dates immediately figured it was a leap-day bug. Now the software biz behemoth has put its hands up and admitted in a detailed dissection of the blunder how a calendar glitch …
Chris Williams, 12 Mar 2012

World's Raspberry Pi supply jammed in factory blunder

Shipments of the long-awaited and heavily fought over Raspberry Pi boards could be delayed thanks to a manufacturing cock-up. The assembly lines churning out the first 10,000 units used the wrong kind of RJ45 networking jack, according to the team behind the $35 Linux computer, and the parts will need to be replaced before they …
Chris Williams, 08 Mar 2012

Powerful, wallet-sized Raspberry Pi computer sells out in SECONDS

The first batch of 10,000 ARM-powered Raspberry Pi computers went on sale at 6am GMT on Wednesday - and sold out within minutes. According to distributor Premier Farnell, there were at least 600 orders, visits or pre-orders every SECOND, producing a 300 per cent hike in web traffic. The electronic component sales site was …
Chris Williams, 29 Feb 2012

Boffins dig up prehistoric popcorn in Peru

Mankind was scoffing prehistoric popcorn 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, reckons a top archaeologist. Before anyone along the arid north coast of Peru bothered crafting ceramic art or making cooking pots, let alone building cinemas and other attractions in which the crunchy snack is often wolfed down by modern Man, …
Chris Williams, 19 Jan 2012

Pollution-gobbling molecules in global warming SMACKDOWN

Elusive pollution-busting molecules are scrubbing our planet's atmosphere at a much faster rate than first imagined, according to gas-bothering boffins. Reactions by the cleaning agents, known as Criegee intermediates, are also emitting a by-product that forms solar radiation-reflecting clouds that could help cool Earth and …
Chris Williams, 16 Jan 2012
Raspberry Pi Owners' Workshop Manual

That Brit-built £22 computer: Yours for just £1,900 or more

The British-designed credit card-sized RaspberryPi computer, eagerly awaited due to its £22 price tag, can be yours this week for a mere £1,900 or more. The tiny GNU/Linux ARM-powered machine, which is priced less than a textbook, is due to go on general sale by the first half of February, several weeks later than expected …
Chris Williams, 03 Jan 2012
Titan and Dione

Explicit pics of glorious rounded globes snapped in festive Saturnalia

While most of us were hanging up gaudy decorations on Christmas trees, or knocking over festive ornaments in festive befuddlement, space boffins were busy processing photos of our solar system's own gigantic baubles. NASA's Cassini probe has been busy snapping images of Saturn and its moons, highlighting the scale and beauty of …
Chris Williams, 31 Dec 2011

Stephen Hawking seeks geek to maintain his unique wheelchair

Could you repair and tweak superstar physicist Stephen Hawking's robot voice box and gadget-laden wheelchair? If you reckon yes, then the celebrated author and cosmologist wants to hear from you. He has a technical assistant job going, with a modest graduate salary, and it involves maintaining the electronic systems that allow …
Chris Williams, 30 Dec 2011
RaspberryPi Alpha board

Psst, kid... Wanna learn how to hack?

Despite all the excitement and expectation encompassing the RaspberryPi, the most remarkable thing about this low-power credit card-sized computer is its price tag: little more than £20 for a fully functional system capable of, among many things, 1080p video playback and hardware-accelerated graphics. The British-designed Pi is …
Chris Williams, 28 Nov 2011