Dell is selling our favorite budget gaming laptop for $800 right now

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming

Bargains are in a bit of a lull before the holidays arrive, but there are still a few decent deals out there. Right now, Dell is offering a 15-inch gaming laptopwith a Core i5 Kaby Lake processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card for $800, and IPS screen.

That last detail—the IPS screen—makes this price particularly appealing, given our experience with the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming earlier this year. Back at launch, we loved its performance but were disappointed with its washed-out TN display. Dell eventually ended up offering a $50 upgrade to an IPS display during the ordering process, but now it’s a standard feature.

Even despite the TN display, this laptop had so much value for its price that it’s held the spot of “Best budget gaming laptop” in our list of best laptopssince its launch. This particular configuration is one step up from the base model, with a solid-state drive and a GTX 1050 Ti (instead of GTX 1050) for graphics. Compared to the standard 1050, the Ti version doubles the amount of graphics RAM to 4GB and bumps up the CUDA cores from 640 to 768.

For performance, you can expect to hit between 40 to 50 frames per second in most modern games set at max graphical settings—or about 60 fps if you’re willing to drop down to High. We also got surprisingly long battery life during regular tasks, like video playback. (Though to be fair, that was on the TN panel, so it’s possible the IPS screen could suck more energy.) Not shabby at all for $800.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

CCleaner hacked with malware: What you need to know

malware cybersecurity skull crossbone

It seems that CCleaner, one of PCWorld’s recommendations for the best free software for new PCs, might not have been keeping your PC so clean after all. In an in-depth probe of the popular optimization and scrubbing software, Cisco Talos has discovered a malicious bit of code injected by hackers that could have affected more than 2 million users who downloaded the most recent update.

Editor’s note: This article was first published on September 18, 2017, but was updated on Sept. 21 with details about the malware targeting specific technology companies for industrial espionage.

On Sept. 13, Cisco Talos found that the official download of the free versions of CCleaner 5.33 and CCleaner Cloud 1.07.3191 also contained “a malicious payload that featured a Domain Generation Algorithm as well as hardcoded Command and Control functionality.” What that means is that a hacker infiltrated Avast Piriform’s official build somewhere in the development process build to plant malware designed to steal users’ data.

Cisco Talos suspects that the attacker “compromised a portion of (CCleaner’s) development or build environment and leveraged that access to insert malware into the CCleaner build that was released and hosted by the organization.” As such, customers’ personal information was not at risk.

In a blog post by vice president of products Paul Yung, he states that the company identified the attack on Sept. 12 and had taken the appropriate action even before Cisco Talos notified them of their discovery. Yung says the attack was limited to CCleaner and CCleaner Cloud on 32-bit Windows systems—fortunately, most modern PCs will likely be running the 64-bit version.

Yung assures customers that the threat has been resolved and the “rogue server” has been taken down. He also says Piriform has shut down the hackers’ access to other servers. Additionally, the company is moving all users to the latest version of the software, which is already available on the company’s website (though the release notes only mention “minor big fixes.”)

Most reassuringly, Yung states that Avast was seemingly able to disarm the threat before it was able to do any harm. The intent of the attack is unclear at this time, though Avast says the code was able to collect information about the local system.

target domains ccleaner

Cisco Talos

Update: On September 21, Avastrevealed that the malware was designed to deliver a second-stage payload to infected computers in specific organizations, and at least 20 machines across eight companies contacted the command and control server. “Given that the logs were only collected for little over three days, the actual number of computers that received the 2nd stage payload was likely at least in the order of hundreds,” Avast says.

Cisco Talos also studied the malware’s command server and reports that it was attempting to infiltrate PCs in technology organizations, including Intel, Samsung, HTC, VMWare, Cisco itself, and others. You can see the full list at right. Cisco Talos suspects the attackers planned to use the malware to conduct industrial espionage.

What to do about CCleaner malware

Personal users can download CCleaner 5.34 from Avast’s website if they haven’t already done so. Previous releases are also still available on the company’s website, but the infected version has been removed from the company’s servers. You’ll also want to perform an antivirus scan on your computer. If you’re affected, Cisco Talos recommends using a backup to restore your PC to a state prior to August 15, 2017, which is when the hacked version was released.

The impact on you at home: While personal users within the target area shouldn’t see any impact from this attempted attack, it’s still a scary notion. While Avast got in front of the issue and resolved it without incident, smaller companies might not be able to react so quickly. For example, earlier this year, it was found that a breach at Ukranian software company MeDoc was responsible for the NotPetya ransomware. Ransomware is becoming a troubling trend, and if hackers are able to infect infect update servers they can spread malware to as many machines as possible.

The Xbox One is getting the Xbox 1’s Duke controller (and Windows 10 too)

Xbox Logo (Original)

It’s one of the last oddities of gaming: The “Duke” controller. I first saw one in an FYE store, probably in December of 2001. There was one of those demo stations that used to be in every electronics store, this one an original Xbox—brand-new at the time—running Munch’s Oddyssee. I stepped right up, eager to play, and tried to wrap my very-normal-sized-person-hands around this enormous saucer-sized controller.

That was the Duke, the original gamepad for the original Xbox. And now it’s back. Seamus Blackley, who helped pitch and design the original Xbox, has apparently partnered with Hyperkin to bring the Duke to the Xbox One and Windows 10.

Here’s what it currently looks like:


Seamus Blackley

Yup, definitely the Duke, even down to that original Xbox logo. There are a few changes, though. For one, that logo is actually an embedded display. Why? I don’t know. If it’s just to play back the Xbox start-up animation that seems excessive, but then again, the Duke is all about excess.

The Back and Start buttons will also be renamed to the Xbox One’s uh…”Squares” and “Lines” buttons.

Most important: You can’t see them in the image above, but there are apparently bumpers on each shoulder. Both the Duke and the Xbox S controller that replaced it were single-trigger gamepads, with the awkwardly placed “Black” and “White” buttons taking the place of the dual shoulder buttons of the PlayStation’s DualShock. It was awful, and we can all agree that dual shoulders was the far superior design. The Black and White buttons are still here for nostalgia I guess, but you should be able to safely ignore them.

Anyway, it’s coming. Blackley tweeted out the above photo because the new Duke is officially Microsoft-approved and due to hit stores later this year for an as-yet-unknown number of dollars. What price can you put on nostalgia, anyhow?

This Stanford-Tested Baby Monitor Uses Computer Vision To Keep Baby Safe

Computer vision technology has benefited greatly from the leaps in neural network processing capabilities, and more and more, vision tech is mimicking automated human vision. But would you trust your baby’s health to a camera?

Sivakumar Nattamai, CEO and co founder of Cocoon Cam, believes that you should, and he has the research to prove it. Nattamai, along with his co-founder Pavan Kumar, created a computer vision-based baby monitor that not only lets parents see and hear their baby sleeping, but analyzes the baby’s chest movements so they can always be sure that baby is safe and sound.

Nattamai was proud to tell me that Cocoon Cam is the only non-invasive, hospital tested baby monitor on the market, and as a new parent myself, I wanted to hear more. I caught up with Nattamai recently to find out more about how computer vision works with his monitors.

How did Cocoon Cam come about?

It came about when my daughter was just a newborn. Before kids, my wife and I used to come home and relax and have a coffee together to talk about our day. Once  Leena, my daughter, was born, our minds just wouldn’t let us relax. We could only think about whether she was okay while she was sleeping. The mind of a parent is only concerned with whether the baby is okay, and the only way to know is to buy a baby monitor. So I went and bought the best baby monitor out there, that has both audio and video. But all you get to see on the monitor is this sleeping baby that is lying very still, that’s it. It doesn’t really tell you if she’s okay or not, just that she’s there.

In my engineering mind, I started thinking, “There must be a better way to do this.” I started prototyping different wearable devices like your watch, starting with something that you can attach to your baby’s ear which gives you the heart rate. But obviously, wires hanging from your baby who is two weeks old is not the best thing to do! So, I started experimenting with different non-contact based measurements. I tried radar, and then I tried sonar; they worked great but do you really want to shine radar or sonar rays at your baby all night long?

After a lot of experimentation, I found that the best solution that worked was computer vision, that is, computer analysis of video looking at your baby. People already have video cameras, so I figured that was the best way since the only thing the camera emits is infrared for night vision. It uses heat to see when there is no light, and then we analyze the video. We were actually able to extract respiration information from the video feed, and from that, we can tell that the baby is okay. And the most important thing is that it doesn’t require any type of wearable device, or anything attached to the baby’s clothing or bedding. That’s how this all started.

How are you able to do that in real time?

Just as with all IP cameras, the feed is near-real-time. The time between video being captured to the analytics being displayed to your phone is minimal, at under five seconds.

Cocoon Cam is an IP camera which streams the video to the cloud and your smart phone. This is just like the security cameras used for home security monitoring. But we also built a cloud platform that is monitoring the video stream in a secure manner, so we can run the computer vision algorithms in the cloud and provide you with analytics and graphs sent directly to your phone.

It’s a cloud-based AI system that monitors your baby and uses a video camera as its interface?

Exactly. The camera is the sensor and the interface to you is your mobile phone or your iPad. We support both iOS and Android devices.

How have you been able to do this and other people haven’t?

That’s a question that everybody asks me! The field of computer vision is still emerging, and it’s not well known, first of all. We also developed the software slowly over a period of years, and I had a great way to test videos, since I had my daughter and could just take videos every day, which was crucial as we were in the early stages of experimenting to find what worked. My co-founder, Pavan Kumar, has experience specifically in computer vision. When we combined both my experience and his experience in computer vision, we were able to make something that uses computer vision to extract the baby’s breathing, and make a hardware that is affordable to the mass market. More recently, we’ve been very fortunate to have built a world-class team of computer vision experts, including several with PhD’s and masters degrees in this highly specialized field.

There are a lot of competitors in baby video market, so why you didn’t you just build some software that runs on Nest, for example?

Actually, that’s a great question. Nothing that we’ve done locks us into the hardware that we are currently using. We chose this hardware to launch with because of affordability, as I mentioned before, and also because it’s the lightest-weight camera system available for baby monitoring — which is a safety feature. But the most unique consideration that really sets our system apart is security. We initially got started testing with regular cameras that were available in Best Buy. The problem with most cameras, though, is that the setup to get the video past the firewalls in your house and your router to our servers require you to open up the ports in your router, which makes the video stream insecure.

Since it’s your baby, and your home, we wanted to make sure that security was an important aspect of the product we ultimately shipped to customers. That’s why we started to work directly with a camera manufacturer on custom software that helps us securely transmit the video from your device to our cloud servers. With that comes ease of setup with security; instead of messing with your router, you just use your phone and set up the camera and everything works.

Is this a stage one product? What is the future of this technology?

The future of Cocoon Cam extends far beyond monitoring breathing.  For example, other monitor companies advertise that they offer cry detection, but how do you actually detect the difference between a cry and other noise? With our approach using big data, now we have a system that can sense and process both video and audio and sense real crying — cry detection that really works.

Also, now that we have reliable respiration information, there are a lot of other interesting things we can do. For our breathing graph technology to work properly, the baby has to be extremely still. When the baby is still and breathing regularly, you know that the baby is actually sleeping. Because of this, we can then produce metrics on how long they are sleeping and their sleep quality. We can accurately say your baby slept at this time and woke at this time; for example, yesterday when I left my son in the crib and he was crying for a few minutes, and then all of a sudden I heard nothing. What do you do at that point as a parent? With our algorithm, you know that the baby is okay, because you can sense breathing and you know that he’s actually sleeping now.

The other thing that we are working hard on now is the question, how does a parent consume the data that they receive from the technology? That’s going to be a big factor. When you start actually analyzing all this data, how do you help parents gain insights from it that improve their lives, and make it user friendly? From the beginning, we’ve been an engineering-led company, but this year we are starting to focus more on design in both software and hardware, to make the world’s best baby monitoring system.

With the tracking of the breathing, obviously, parents are relying on that for safety information. What are your concerns about risk?

No device is perfect, and it’s important to note that Cocoon Cam is not FDA-approved and is not a medical device. But to help continually validate and improve our product, we are involved in IRB-approved testing at Stanford’s Neonatal intensive care unit and at UCSD. We’ve done enough testing now to know that we are accurate to within five breaths per minute when compared to the hospital’s own breathing monitors that require contact with the newborn’s sensitive skin. Results like that are how we feel comfortable, and I can sleep at night, shipping this product to people saying, this works. I rely on it every day with my daughter and now with my son. Cocoon Cam has given my family that extra peace of mind, and our mission as a company is to do the same for families everywhere.