Archive for August 2018

In a shady move, Intel has added some small print to the latest license agreement on its updated CPU microcode. After the last debacle with microcode patches designed to mitigate Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, which - depending on your use case - led to severe drops in performance, Intel is now trying to keep you from publishing benchmarks. The new license post-update contains the following lines:

You will not, and will not allow any third party to
*Snip*
(v) publish or provide any Software benchmark or comparison test results.

You can read this as “And if our firmware patches fuck up your CPU performance even more then you are not allowed to talk about it while we still claim in advertisements that our CPUs are blazingly fast.”

Luckily, Debian GNU/Linux is not having it and has decided not to publish microcode updates till the license issue is taken care of. Here is the corresponding bug tracker entry where new updates to the issue might also appear. One thing to take away from this is that apparently Intel wants to be able to tell you what kind of things you are allowed to use your CPU for. Luckily, with the recently launched Ryzen 2 lineup and the new Threadripper 2 CPUs that are due for release this month, AMD is already a great alternative, even for gaming. In light of Intels license fuckups this decision has just been made even simpler.

Update: Intel is now backpedaling and changing its license once again. The Streisand effect got to them first though and now the news is out. Having to disable hyperthreading in order for the fix to work is bound to have a huge performance impact and Intels foolish try to suppress their customers certainly did not help their credibility. Once again: AMD Threadripper, here I come :)

BMW E60 Defective Trunk Repair

Wed, Aug 15, 2018

A bit of an unusual topic for this blog but maybe this will save someone a lot of time, headaches and quite possibly money. My VFL 2003 BMW 5-series (E60) came down with some trunk lid troubles the other day. The trunk lid would not open either by remote or by pressing the button above the license plate. When opened with the key, it would not close anymore. The locking mechanism just would not engage and the lid would flip back open.

After messing with the lid for a while it suddenly locked again and so I left it like this for a few days pondering what to do. After all, leaving the car standing around with an open trunk lid was not exactly what I had in mind. A friend of mine came up with the idea of a wire defect, quite possibly in the connection from the trunk lid to the car body, due to the constant bending over the years when opening and closing the lid.

The E60 does not have a purely mechanical trunk lock anymore, instead it is actuated by servo motors when receiving an electronic signal. Armed with some tools, a soldering iron, some shrink tube and the hope that it actually is a broken wire and not something really expensive, like a defective servo, I went to work.

BMW E60 Repair Image

As you can see in the picture above it was not just one broken wire but two and several others were pretty much on the brink of failure. On the plus side, the repair took about half an hour and I only used some pliers, a screwdriver, wirecutters, a soldering iron, some shrink tube, electrically insulating tape, and some wire clips.

The wire harness for the trunk lid electronics and the opening mechanism runs behind the trunk lid cover to the passenger (right) side of the car and through a connecting tube which is attached to a hinge in the trunk. The harness is held inside the tube by a rubber plug with a slit in it which can be pulled out. Then it is just a matter of unravelling the mess of sticky tape (why is this tape always exactly as sticky on the outside as it is on the inside?) and inspecting the wires at the bending point.

A new wire harness would have set me back several hundred EUR and since the wires from the trunk are woven into the main harness of the car this would have been a nasty thing to replace. I am sure a garage would take another couple hundred EUR from you just for the time this would take. Appart from 30 minutes of my time this repair did not cost me anything. If you count the repair parts that I used, maybe 2 EUR. ^^

Lenovo Joins LVFS

Tue, Aug 7, 2018

Great news for a change! Lenovo has joined the Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS). But wait, I hear you say, why should I care? Well, the LVFS is what makes firmware upgrades possible natively under Linux. In a nutshell this means in the not so distant future, it will be possible to update the UEFI bios of your Lenovo laptop natively via your local Linux installation. Awesomesauce!

Lenovo has been my goto laptop brand for years now. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. The hardware used in Lenovo laptops usually is well-supported by Linux. And why would you burden a nice piece of hardware with spyware crap like Windows?
  2. Lenovo publishes hardware maintenance manuals for their devices where you can read up on how to disassemble your laptop without breaking stuff to repair certain components yourself. Especially handy once you are out of warranty.

So now my favourite hardware manufacturer and my favourite OS move even closer together. This translates to very cool beans!

Snake oil vendor Avast has pulled v5.45 of its CCleaner suite over privacy controversy. Apparently the latest update made some “minor” changes which resulted in a bit of an outcry. Active monitoring - which translates to yes please send information about me and my system to your servers - could no longer be switched off. Also you could no longer shut down CCleaner anymore. You had to kill the process as there was no way to exit the software normally. Free users got another special treat as sharing your data with 3rd parties could no longer be disabled and was mandatory.

According to ungleich.ch, Mozilla is planning to introduce a new method for resolving DNS queries that could actually end up negatively impacting your privacy.

Dubbed Trusted Recursive Resolver (TRR) this new resolving method actually results in Firefox ignoring your DNS server and instead uses Cloudflares DNS servers instead. This is awesome, especially because Cloudflare is a company from the US and they then know which sites you connect to. Essentially this would mean that one company has all the information on all users of Firefox.

This is utterly stupid. Collecting data in one place makes Cloudflare a prime target for surveillance and it also stores your connection metadata in the US. Essentially they are adding a single point of failure for the whole Firefox ecosystem.

Thankfully, ungleich.ch offers some advice:

  • enter about:config in the address bar
  • search for network.trr
  • set network.trr.mode = 5 to completely disable this feature

The other modes for network.trr.mode are described in usejournal.com.

Apparently Mozilla wants to set the new resolver feature as a default beginning with the September patch. Be sure to check your settings again then. Oh and why the fuck does Mozilla insist on fucking up Firefox?

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