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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 doing various other bits and bobs.

Roll up, roll up to the Malware Museum! Run classic DOS viruses in your web browser

The Internet Archive has opened a new collection dubbed the Malware Museum that lets you run old DOS-era viruses in your web browser. There are 78 samples to play with, all uploaded earlier today and collated by Mikko Hypponen and Jason Scott. The cheesy old code is executed in your browser using a JavaScript version of …
Chris Williams, 05 Feb 2016

Winning Underhand C Contest code silently tricks nuke inspectors

The winner of an annual competition to write the best innocent-looking but actually malicious C code has been announced – and it involves hoodwinking nuclear weapons inspectors. Hypothetically, of course. On Wednesday, the Underhand C Contest named Linus Åkesson the champion of its 2015 fixture. His prize: $1,000 (£685). …
Chris Williams, 04 Feb 2016

How a power blip briefly broke GitHub's boxes and tripped it offline

Exactly how a momentary power failure managed to trigger a two-hour GitHub outage has been revealed in full today. The popular and widely used source-code-hosting service fell off the internet last Wednesday, and soon after blamed the downtime on a "brief power disruption at our primary data center" that "caused a cascading …
Chris Williams, 04 Feb 2016

US taxmen borked in computer cockup riddle

A computer system breakdown at the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has knocked web-based tax tools offline and held up processing of people's returns. All US citizens, and tax residents in America, must file their annual tax forms by Monday, April 18 for this year. However, right now, the IRS is unable to accept many returns …
Chris Williams, 04 Feb 2016

Google licks its lips at sight of Qualcomm's 64-bit server ARM chips

Google is reportedly about to give a conditional thumbs up to Qualcomm's 64-bit ARM chips for servers. San Diego-headquartered Qualy showed off prototype 24-core ARMv8 processors in October. At the time, Qualcomm's Anand Chandrasekher said the chips will try to balance "performance, acceptable power-compute density, and cost …
Chris Williams, 03 Feb 2016

When customers try to be programmers: 'I want this CHANGED TO A ZERO ASAP'

Line Break Welcome to the first proper installment of Line Break, the weekly column in which Reg readers share truly horrifying code they've seen in the wild. We started you off last week with a pilot episode involving some close encounters of the absurd kind – and we've had fantastic responses from Vulture fans, which we'll roll out …
Chris Williams, 03 Feb 2016
The MSI includes an extender for the power connector

Little warning: Deleting the wrong files may brick your Linux PC

Here's a friendly warning from El Reg: don't wipe the wrong directory from your Linux system, or you may end up bricking the computer. This has happened to people, we're told. The directory in question is /sys/firmware/efi/efivars which is a special filesystem that presents the configuration settings for the computer's …
Chris Williams, 02 Feb 2016

You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors

Line break Shellshock. Heartbleed. That CCTV storage firmware with a hardcoded password. We've all seen some really bad code. Maybe that's just me. Given that many of our sysadmin readers have poured in tales of fixing impossibly broken servers for our On-Call series, we know our software-wrangling readers have faced similar battles …
Chris Williams, 28 Jan 2016

We've all suffered hangovers, but Qualcomm's right now is something epic

Qualcomm makes running a top-tier semiconductor business look like hard work. The Snapdragon system-on-chips it designs are used all over the place in smartphones, smart TVs, cars, gadgets, you name it. This should be easy street for Qualy, and yet it's slipping over in the winter ice. Let's go over the numbers first. On …
Chris Williams, 28 Jan 2016

GitHub falls offline, devs worldwide declare today a snow day

Updated Popular and widely used source-code hosting service GitHub is, for the moment, no longer a widely used source-code hosting service. It has fallen offline. Since 1632 PT (0032 UTC, 1132 AEDT), the website has been down. Right now, the San Francisco-headquartered upstart reports: "We're investigating a significant network …
Chris Williams, 28 Jan 2016

'Unikernels will send us back to the DOS era' – DTrace guru Bryan Cantrill speaks out

Some heralded Docker's acquisition of UK-based Unikernel Systems last week as the golden dawn of a post-container era. Others showed healthy skepticism. One person firmly in the latter camp is Bryan Cantrill, who typed up a long blog post on why he believes unikernels are "unfit" for production. Cantrill is chief technology …
Chris Williams, 27 Jan 2016

Axe to fall on staff at IBM's Global Technology Services 'this Friday'

IBM is planning to lay off workers in its Global Technology Services (GTS) wing this coming Friday, according to insiders. Global Technology Services, which builds networking infrastructure and provides high-availability systems among other things, is part of the IT titan's Global Services division, which employs about 190,000 …
Chris Williams, 26 Jan 2016

NASA, Dept of Defense, Commerce etc probed over use of backdoored Juniper kit

A bunch of US government departments and agencies – from the military to NASA – are being grilled over their use of backdoored Juniper firewalls. The House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform fired off letters to top officials over the weekend, demanding to know if any of the dodgy NetScreen …
Chris Williams, 26 Jan 2016
Road closed

dotCloud dotGone: Ex-Docker PaaS passes away amid bankruptcy

Platform-as-a-service upstart dotCloud will shut down next month after its parent Cloud Control filed for bankruptcy. Just a few hours ago, an email was sent to dotCloud users warning them that the service will end on February 29, along with a link to instructions on how to migrate their data. For those wondering if the …
Chris Williams, 22 Jan 2016

Oracle blurts Google's Android secrets in court: You made $22bn using Java, punk

An Oracle lawyer has blurted out in court how much money Google has made from Android – figures that the web giant has fiercely fought to keep secret. And those numbers are: US$31bn in revenue, and US$22bn in profit, since 2008, when Android was launched. This money comes from Google's cut from sales made via the Google Play …
Chris Williams, 21 Jan 2016

Docker bags unikernel gurus – now you can be just like Linus Torvalds

Analysis Linux container biz Docker has bought Unikernel Systems, a startup in Cambridge, UK, that's doing interesting things with roll-your-own operating systems. Rather than build an application on top of an OS, with the unikernel approach, you build your own tiny operating system customized for your application. It's quite a coup …
Chris Williams, 21 Jan 2016
Sony Xperia Go rugged Android smartphone

Inside Intel's CPU-level multi-factor auth (and why we've got deja vu)

Analysis Intel has baked multi-factor authentication defenses into its sixth-generation Core processors. On Tuesday, the California chip giant sprung this news on the world, revealing what it seemed to be saying was a really big secret: all this time, the sixth-gen Core family, launched in September, has had brand-spanking new multi- …
Chris Williams, 20 Jan 2016
AMD bloodbath

Is that light at the end of AMD's dark tunnel, or God sparking up a cig?

Analysis AMD claims there is light at the end of its tunnel, but the beleaguered chip maker is having a hard time pointing it out. The Intel rival's share price was down 6.15 per cent to US$1.83 in after-hours trading on Tuesday; investors quickly moved after AMD published the financial figures for its final quarter of 2015, and for …
Chris Williams, 20 Jan 2016

Trustwave failed to spot casino hackers right under its nose – lawsuit

IT security biz Trustwave is being sued by a Las Vegas casino operator for allegedly bungling a hacking investigation. Trustwave denies any wrongdoing. The outcome of the lawsuit could have staggering consequences for infosec outfits hired to analyze and cleanup computer network intrusions, in terms of potential liabilities …
Chris Williams, 16 Jan 2016

Dialog box shut: Now Microchip is set to gobble up Atmel

Microcontroller gurus Atmel look set to be acquired by Microchip – and not by the UK's Dialog Semiconductor. Atmel, a $3.3bn business based in San Jose, California, designs and makes simple and low-power AVR, ARM and 8051-compatible chips for all sorts of electronic gadgets and gizmos. It is probably best known to people as …
Chris Williams, 15 Jan 2016

Huffing and puffing Intel needs new diet of chips if it's to stay in shape

My web browser ate my homework. I spent nearly two hours typing an analysis article on Intel's latest financial figures into our intranet thing when the browser tab unexpectedly refreshed and I lost everything. Hadn't saved. Moron. So let me start again and get to the point: the nosedive in sales of personal computers around …
Chris Williams, 14 Jan 2016

AMD's 64-bit ARM server chip Seattle finally flies the coop ... but where will it call home?

AMD is at last officially shipping its 64-bit ARM-based server chip, the Opteron A1100 aka Seattle. This wee beastie packs a load of networking and storage interfaces, and is seemingly eyeing up hyper-converged boxes in data centers. We've gone into plenty of detail on the processor in the past, but to recap: it's a quad or …
Chris Williams, 14 Jan 2016

No escape: Microsoft injects 'Get Windows 10' nagware into biz PCs

Microsoft's relentless campaign to push Windows 10 onto every PC on the planet knows no bounds: now business desktops will be nagged to upgrade. When Redmond started quietly installing Windows 10 on computers via Windows Update, it was aimed at getting home users off Windows 7 and 8. If you were using Windows Pro or Enterprise …
Chris Williams, 14 Jan 2016

Whatever Android-ChromeOS mashup looks like, it's gotta be better looking than this

Screenshots If you've ever wondered what Android would look like as a desktop PC OS, then try this for size: Remix OS from China. It's a very rough-around-the-edges build of Android-x86 – an ongoing port of Google's open-source OS from ARM gadgets to x86 PCs – with some closed-source stuff to create a multitasking desktop with moving …
Chris Williams, 13 Jan 2016

Your boss yells 'build a secure IoT gadget' and you don't know where to start. Take a look at this

A 101 introduction to designing secure Internet-of-Things devices and similar systems has been published today by the MIPS-cheerleading Prpl Foundation. The illustrated guidebook is not tied to the aforementioned processor architecture: it can be understood by anyone dabbling in ARM, x86 and MIPS-based embedded engineering. …
Chris Williams, 07 Jan 2016
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon drafts blueprints for its own home router, IoT gateway ARM chips

Amazon is readying its own ARM-compatible processors to power home routers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and network-attached storage boxes. The Alpine system-on-chips were designed by Annapurna Labs, a fabless biz founded in 2011. It is based in San Jose, California, and Israel, and was bought by Amazon in early 2015 for about $350m. The …
Chris Williams, 06 Jan 2016

Qualcomm, Nvidia are driving us nuts – with silicon-brains-for-cars

Qualcomm and Nvidia have attempted to wow the world with new electronics aimed at making driving a bit less of a chore. San Diego-based Qualy has spread the word of its Snapdragon 820A – essentially the forthcoming Snapdrgaon 820 high-end smartphone system-on-chip tweaked to spruce up dashboards and back-of-headrest screens. …
Chris Williams, 06 Jan 2016

AMD to nibble the ankles of Nvidia this summer with 14nm FinFET GPUs

AMD says it will ship graphics chips using its next-generation "Polaris" architecture from mid-2016. Crucially, these processors will use 14nm FinFETs, which means they should have better performance-per-watt figures than today's 28nm GPUs. Let's be clear: today's announcement is timed to catch the hype building around the CES …
Chris Williams, 04 Jan 2016
Steam engine

Cache-astrophic: Why Valve's Steam store spewed players' private profiles to strangers

PC gaming biz Valve has explained why its Steam software store blurted people's personal details to strangers on Christmas Day. As reported in these pages, some gamers logging into the website on December 25 were in fact greeted by profile pages belonging to others. Those pages included home addresses, email addresses, details …
Chris Williams, 30 Dec 2015

Apple coughs up $350m – 2.3 days of annual profit – to make Italy's taxmen go away

Apple will fork out $350m (318 million euros) to make up for five years of missing tax payments in Italy. It emerged today the iPhone goliath has agreed to cough up the cash, which covers corporation tax owed from 2008 to 2013. California-based Apple had funneled profits from its Italian operation through its offices in …
Chris Williams, 30 Dec 2015

Debian Linux founder Ian Murdock dead at 42

Debian GNU/Linux founder Ian Murdock has died. He was 42. Murdock is best known for launching the open-source distro in 1993. Just last month, he joined the technology startup Docker in San Francisco. Debian guru ... Ian Murdock On Monday afternoon, he posted a string of distressing and erratic tweets, revealing he had …
Chris Williams, 30 Dec 2015

Upset Microsoft stashes hard drive encryption keys in OneDrive cloud?

Water cooler El Reg, some friends of mine have been showing me blog posts about Microsoft keeping secret copies of all our encryption keys. What's going on? Since Windows 8, Microsoft has built drive encryption into its operating system, so none of this should really be a shock. And this encryption feature shouldn't be confused with …
Chris Williams, 30 Dec 2015
Good riddance to bad Java

Google brews a fresh pot of Oracle's OpenJDK Java for future Android

Google is lining up OpenJDK – an open-source implementation of the Java platform – for future Android builds. Up until now, the mobile operating system has used a Java class library derived from the Apache Harmony project. Harmony was developed from 2005 by the Apache Software Foundation as a free implementation of Java, with …
Chris Williams, 30 Dec 2015
CeBIT 2013 VIP Showfloor Tour - Senator Hon Scott Ludlam023 by https://www.flickr.com/photos/cebitaus/ cc2.0 attribution https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

iiNet struggles through five-day outage to get thousands back online

Engineers at ISP iiNet are still battling to restore connectivity to subscribers left for days without internet access in Western Australia. The telco – gobbled up by TPG this year for AU$1.56bn – reckons the trouble started on December 27, but some folks say they dropped offline on Christmas Day. According to the ISP's …
Chris Williams, 30 Dec 2015

Google probes AVG Chrome widget after 9m users exposed by bugs

Google has banned AVG from automatically installing its Web TuneUp Chrome extension – after the widget wrecked the online security of nine million people. Tavis Ormandy, a Google Project Zero researcher who has been auditing antivirus software, found the extension was riddled with vulnerabilities. Web TuneUp is installed with …
Chris Williams, 29 Dec 2015

Chat messages in Skype for Windows are bang out of order – so here's how to 'fix' it for now

If you're using Skype on a Windows desktop and your messages are appearing out of order, there's a solution: downgrade to an earlier version. You're not alone in seeing some newer chat messages appear above older ones, which makes following conversations a little tricky: people have been complaining about it over the Christmas …
Chris Williams, 29 Dec 2015

Patch now! Flash-exploitin' PC-hijackin' attack spotted in the wild by Huawei bods

Adobe has issued new versions of Flash to patch a load of security flaws – one of which is being exploited in the wild. Curiously, that particular vulnerability (CVE-2015-8651) was reported to the Photoshop giant by Kai Wang and Hunter Gao of Huawei's IT security department. Could the Chinese tech goliath have caught …
Chris Williams, 28 Dec 2015
Half-Life

Gaming souk Steam spews credit card, personal info in Xmas Day security meltdown

Updated Video game marketplace Steam is leaking people's personal information – including their payment details and billing addresses – to strangers. Gamers browsing the online store have found themselves logged into other people's accounts, revealing strangers' profile settings and other sensitive details, such as addresses, PayPal …
Chris Williams, 25 Dec 2015

No, drone owners – all our base are belong to US, thunders military

After unwrapping your new drone on Christmas Day, do us a massive solid and don't fly it near our bases, the US military seems to be saying. Apparently, in the past 12 months, there have been 35 cases of personal quadcopters flying too close to government aircraft and airfields, plus about 1,000 complaints of small drones …
Chris Williams, 24 Dec 2015

Hey, Santa – duck! Space shaft buzzes Earth on Christmas Eve

Pics Unfortunate-looking Asteroid 2003 SD220 will shoot past Earth on Christmas Eve, say scientists tracking the mysterious speeding rock. The cosmic boulder is described as "highly elongated," and at least 3,600 feet (1,100 metres) in length. It was picked up this week by a 230-foot (70-metre) NASA antenna in Goldstone, California …
Chris Williams, 24 Dec 2015

The week before Xmas ... not a creature was stirring – except Nutanix finally filing for its IPO

Some big news in the hyper-converged storage world today amid the pre-Christmas lull. How can we say this? Nutanix? Noo-tanix? Nutan-icks? Either way, the hyper-converged storage upstart has finally filed the necessary paperwork to get its stock-market debut underway. The San Jose-based biz today gave US financial watchdog …
Chris Williams, 23 Dec 2015
More flaws found in Java

Oracle ordered to admit on its website that it lost the plot on Java security

Oracle bungled the security updates of its Java SE software so badly it must publish a groveling letter prominently on its website for the next two years. After gobbling up Java along with Sun in 2010, Oracle's software updates for Java SE would only affect the latest version installed. If you had multiple versions of Java SE …
Chris Williams, 22 Dec 2015

Lenov-lol, a load of Tosh, and what the Dell? More bad holes found in PC makers' bloatware

In brief Lenovo laptops and PCs can be hijacked by visiting a malicious website – and Dell and Toshiba machines suffer vulnerabilities, too, we're told. If you're running the Lenovo Solution Center bundled with Lenovo gear, and you browse by an evil webpage, scripts on that page can run code with full system privileges on your computer …
Chris Williams, 05 Dec 2015
Asus Z-170 Deluxe motherboard

Alert after Intel Skylake chips, mobo sockets 'warp under coolers'

In brief Beware if you're fitting third-party coolers to your Intel Skylake processors: it's reported that the chips and their sockets can be damaged by the weight of the heat sinks. Apparently, the Skylake parts have a thinner substrate than their Broadwell predecessors, and are more likely to bend and break when heavy-duty coolers …
Chris Williams, 04 Dec 2015

Microsoft encrypts explanation of borked Windows 10 encryption

We know Microsoft can be pretty secretive about its spyware-as-a-service Windows 10, but Redmond has now taken its furtiveness to a whole new level. You may or may not know that its disk encryption tool Bitlocker has suddenly stopped working in the latest version of its operating system for a number of people. Bitlocker …
Chris Williams, 04 Dec 2015

Free HTTPS certs for all – Let's Encrypt opens doors to world+dog

How-to The Let's Encrypt project has opened to the public, allowing anyone to obtain free TLS certificates and set up HTTPS websites in a few simple steps. It's a major leap forward in encrypting the world's web traffic, keeping people's information and browser histories out of the hands of eavesdroppers and and other miscreants. …
Chris Williams, 03 Dec 2015

Meet ARM1, grandfather of today's mobe, tablet CPUs – watch it crunch code live in a browser

Pics Chip geeks have produced an interactive blueprint of the ARM1 – the granddaddy of the processor cores powering billions of gadgets today, from Apple iPhones to Raspberry Pis, cameras, routers and Android tablets. The peeps behind the fascinating blog visual6502.org normally reverse-engineer chips by pulling the silicon out of …
Chris Williams, 28 Nov 2015

Court: Swedish ISPs can't be forced to block Sweden's Pirate Bay

In brief ISPs in Sweden cannot be forced to block access to the Pirate Bay – the Swedish search engine used worldwide for pirating software, movies and music. The District Court of Stockholm ruled on Friday that Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget cannot be pressured by copyright holders into preventing subscribers from accessing the infamous …
Chris Williams, 28 Nov 2015

Final countdown – NSA says it really will end blanket phone spying on US citizens this Sunday

Come Sunday, the NSA will end its ferocious dragnet surveillance of American citizens' phones, the White House insists. From 2359 Eastern Time (0459 GMT) on November 29, the super-spy agency must jump through some extra hoops to access US folks' telephone records. Although this information does not include the content of …
Chris Williams, 27 Nov 2015
Audi TT

VW's Audi suspends two engineers in air pollution cheatware probe

In brief Volkswagen-owned Audi has suspended two engineers after it emerged the luxury brand's diesel engines had emissions test cheatware installed. In early November, the US government's environmental watchdog accused VW of adding the standards-evading software to its three-litre V6 engines, which have been used in flash Audi and …
Chris Williams, 27 Nov 2015