The world’s largest companies are grappling with increasingly widespread and sophisticated malware attacks, but an interesting new malware detection technique could help companies thwart these threats without needing any software.
A team of researchers at France’s Research Institute of Computer Science and Random Systems created an anti-malware system centered around a Raspberry Pi that scans devices for electromagnetic waves. As reported by Tom’s Hardware, the security device uses an oscilloscope (Picoscope 6407) and H-Field probe connected to a Raspberry Pi 2B to pick up abnormalities in specific electromagnetic waves emitted by computers that are under attack, a technique the researchers say is used to “obtain precise knowledge about malware type and identity.”
The detection system then relies on Convolution Neural Networks (CNN) to determine whether the data gathered indicates the presence of a threat. Using this technique, researchers claims they could record 100,000 measurement traces from IoT devices infected by genuine malware samples, and predicted three generic and one benign malware class with an accuracy as high as 99.82%.
Best of all, no software is needed and the device you’re scanning doesn’t need to be manipulated in any way. As such, bad actors won’t be successful with their attempts to conceal malicious code from malware detection software using obfuscation techniques.
“Our method does not require any modification on the target device. Thus, it can be deployed independently from the resources available without any overhead. Moreover, our approach has the advantage that it can hardly be detected and evaded by the malware authors,” researchers wrote in the paper.
Keep in mind that this system was made for research purposes, not to be released as a commercial product, though it may inspire security teams to look into novels way of using EM waves to detect malware. The research is currently in its early stages and the neural network will need to be further trained before it could have any practical uses.
For now, the system is a unique approach to secure devices by making it difficult for malware writers to hide their code, but the tech is nowhere near being available to the public.
And while this might sound promising as a low-cost method for detecting malware given the use of a Raspberry Pi, the other EM wave-scanning equipment costs several thousands of dollars. Despite its limitations, it’s encouraging to see research approach such an important issue from a unique angle—who knows, this simple setup could one day help prevent the next major breach.
Nuro already has a third driverless delivery vehicle on the way, and this model is focused as much on protecting others as it is hauling goods. The newly introduced version, simply called Nuro, includes a host of 360-degree sensors including cameras, LiDAR, radar and thermals, but also includes a giant external airbag to protect pedestrians. We still wouldn’t risk stepping in front of this machine (you’ll still hit the ground, after all), but this should reduce the chances of a serious injury.
The new vehicle also carries twice the cargo, and offers both temperature-controlled compartments and modular inserts to help shuttle a wider variety of goods. Nuro didn’t say when this latest self-driving vehicle would be ready, but the North American branch of China’s BYD will help produce units at a Nuro factory due to go online later in 2022. Kroger (an investor in Nuro) has already committed to using this latest hardware.
The upgrade might be necessary. Nuro already has deals and tests with major brands like 7-Eleven, CVS, FedEx and Kroger, but it’s facing stiffer competition from Walmart, Uber and automakers like Ford. The firm risks losing business if would-be customers either need larger payloads or are worried about liability in the event of a collision.
China’s “artificial sun” has set a new world record after superheating a loop of plasma to temperatures five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, state media reported.
The EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak) nuclear fusion reactor maintained a temperature of 158 million degrees Fahrenheit (70 million degrees Celsius) for 1,056 seconds, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The achievement brings scientists a small yet significant step closer to the creation of a source of near-unlimited clean energy.
The Chinese experimental nuclear fusion reactor smashed the previous record, set by France’s Tore Supra tokamak in 2003, where plasma in a coiling loop remained at similar temperatures for 390 seconds. EAST had previously set another record in May 2021 by running for 101 seconds at an unprecedented 216 million F (120 million C). The core of the actual sun, by contrast, reaches temperatures of around 27 million F (15 million C).
“The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor,” experiment leader Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.
Scientists have been trying to harness the power of nuclear fusion — the process by which stars burn — for more than 70 years. By fusing hydrogen atoms to make helium under extremely high pressures and temperatures, so-called main-sequence stars are able to convert matter into light and heat, generating enormous amounts of energy without producing greenhouse gases or long-lasting radioactive waste.
But replicating the conditions found inside the hearts of stars is no simple task. The most common design for fusion reactors, the tokamak, works by superheating plasma (one of the four states of matter, consisting of positive ions and negatively-charged free electrons) before trapping it inside a donut-shaped reactor chamber with powerful magnetic fields.
Keeping the turbulent and superheated coils of plasma in place long enough for nuclear fusion to happen, however, has been a painstaking process. Soviet scientist Natan Yavlinsky designed the first tokamak in 1958, but no one has ever managed to create an experimental reactor that is able to put out more energy than it takes in.
One of the main stumbling blocks has been how to handle a plasma that’s hot enough to fuse. Fusion reactors require very high temperatures — many times hotter than the sun — because they have to operate at much lower pressures than where fusion naturally takes place inside the cores of stars. Cooking plasma to temperatures hotter than the sun is the relatively easy part, but finding a way to corral it so that it doesn’t burn through the reactor walls (either with lasers or magnetic fields) without also ruining the fusion process is technically tricky.
EAST is expected to cost China more than $1 trillion by the time the experiment finishes running in June, and it is being used to test out technologies for an even bigger fusion project — the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) — that’s currently being built in Marseille, France.
Set to be the world’s largest nuclear reactor and the product of collaboration between 35 countries — including every state in the European Union, the U.K., China, India and the U.S. — ITER contains the world’s most powerful magnet, making it capable of producing a magnetic field 280,000 times as strong as the one around the Earth, Live Science previously reported. The fusion reactor is expected to come online in 2025, and it will provide scientists with even more insights into the practicalities of harnessing star power on Earth.
Not that long ago, quality PC gaming setups were confined to bulky desktop setups. Even early gaming laptops looked more like battle stations than sleek machines. Needless to say, the landscape has changed significantly in recent years, and now we’re even seeing an influx of handheld gaming PCs. Perhaps influenced by the enormous success of the Nintendo Switch as a hybrid console, more and more companies are attempting to garner an audience for portable, palm-sized gaming PCs. While most people are probably aware of the upcoming Steam Deck, there are others that hit the market before Valve’s handheld, including the impressive and surprisingly powerful Aya Neo.
Successfully crowdfunded via Indiegogo, the Aya Neo released last summer, but the studio behind it quickly began work on a redesign with better materials. The result is the Aya Neo 2021 and Aya Neo Pro, both of which released late last year. We got our hands on both models and have been testing them for about a month. With a premium build quality and tremendous performance for its size, the Aya Neo is a remarkable handheld PC. Though the Aya Neo is quite pricey–models range from $925 to north of $1,300–it can be thought of as an alternative to a mid-tier gaming laptop with the added bonus of being fully portable. It’s too early to say if the Aya Neo is better than the still-unreleased Steam Deck (which is significantly less expensive), but it’s an extremely solid piece of tech that is definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for this sort of gaming machine.
Note: Since performance is similar across both devices, the rest of this review applies to both models except when otherwise stated.
What’s in the shell?
The amount of power crammed inside of the Aya Neo’s relatively sleek shell is pretty astounding. The Aya Neo Pro is fitted with an AMD Ryzen 7 4800U processor (Ryzen 5 4500U in the base model) and integrated AMD Radeon Graphics. These are mid-tier mobile processors with low power consumption. The processor and integrated graphics are complemented by 16GB of DDR4X RAM–more than enough for modern PC games–and a 1TB NVMe SSD (the base model also comes in 512GB). The Aya Neo has a gorgeous 7-inch LCD IPS screen that displays at 1200 x 800 resolution with 215 pixels per inch.
Overall, the specs of the Aya Neo are similar to the Steam Deck, with the Aya Neo offering a better CPU (on paper) and the Steam Deck boasting a better GPU. As a direct comparison, the 512GB Aya Neo costs $275 more than the highest tier Steam Deck with the same amount of storage space.
That said, the Aya Neo can be used as more than just a gaming machine. While the Steam Deck will use a proprietary Linux-based OS, the Aya Neo is a Windows PC. That means you can connect it to a monitor, sync up or connect a keyboard and mouse, and use it as a machine for everyday productivity, too. Yes, most people who are buying a handheld gaming PC are using it primarily for gaming, but you can also use the Aya Neo for your other computing needs as well. It is true that you’ll be able to run other operating systems, including Windows, on the Steam Deck, but it’s too early to say how the Steam Deck will behave when not using its default OS.
A Switch-like design
The first time I saw the Aya Neo, I instantly thought of the Nintendo Switch. No, it doesn’t have detachable controllers, but it retains the general shape that was popularized by the Switch. The Aya Neo uses nearly identical low-profile thumbsticks and has the same offset layout, with the left thumbstick above the D-pad and the right stick below the face buttons. Thankfully, it has a conventional directional pad that feels great to use for old-school side-scrollers. Meanwhile, the face buttons (A/B/X/Y) are laid out like the Xbox controller, which makes a ton of sense considering the Aya Neo can essentially function as a portable Game Pass machine that is capable of offline play for supported games. The triggers have a nice ergonomic design which makes them feel like a natural resting spot for your index fingers. The shoulder buttons are a tad thicker than the ones on the Switch Joy-Cons.
As a PC, the Aya Neo also has a number of other menu and settings buttons. Four buttons are located on each side. The buttons on the left side are game-focused, including Start, Select, and a nifty button that pulls up the Xbox Game Bar. The buttons on the right are PC task-focused: Windows Home, Escape, Task Manager, and an on-screen keyboard prompt.
The Aya Neo also has three USB-C ports, which can be used for charging, connecting USB peripherals with the help of the included adapters, and accessing external storage devices. Stereo speakers that pack a surprising punch are located on the bottom of the handheld, but the 3.5mm headphone jack is on top next to the volume buttons. I’m in the camp that all headphone jacks should be on the bottom of handhelds, but it’s not really a problem here since the Aya Neo can connect to headphones via Bluetooth or 2.4Ghz adapters.
If you’re used to holding the Nintendo Switch, the Aya Neo–and other PC handhelds–will feel quite heavy at first. At roughly 650 grams (1.4 pounds), the Aya Neo is approximately 50% heavier than the recently released Nintendo Switch OLED. It’s also thicker, as you would expect, due to the need of proper ventilation through the backside and top fans. That said, at 10.4 x 4.17 x 0.79 inches, the Aya Neo is certainly compact when you consider the components inside. After dozens of hours of testing, I’ve never felt like the Aya Neo was straining or uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time.
Not only does it look great and feel good to play, the Aya Neo has an incredibly impressive build quality. Of course I can’t speak for the longevity of the internal components, but the buttons, sticks, D-pad, and shell have a premium feel to them. The hard plastic shell in particular is top-notch when it comes to design. I’ve never held a handheld gaming device that felt as sturdy and smooth as the Aya Neo. It may sound silly, but whereas most handhelds–including the Nintendo Switch–feel like toys (they are toys), the Aya Neo feels like a piece of high-end tech that’s meant for the office. The Aya Neo is available in white, black, or a retro-themed color scheme.
A truckload of tech and a fancy-looking design don’t matter if the performance doesn’t meet expectations, though. Thankfully, the Aya Neo was capable of handling a wide variety of games that I threw at it. It actually surprised me in some instances. With some tinkering in the settings, the Aya Neo ran Microsoft’s two biggest holiday exclusives, Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. In Forza’s case, I was able to average around 60fps with mostly medium settings. Meanwhile, Halo Infinite ran closer to 30fps, but it was still very playable.
Just like any PC, performance varied on a game-by-game basis, but many of the ones I tried were capable of running at 40-50fps or higher, including Doom Eternal, Psychonauts 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, The Forgotten City, and Call of Duty: Warzone. Older AAA games like Rage 2, The Witcher 3, Prey, and the Tomb Raider trilogy, among others, all ran great, too. A lot of these games defaulted to “high” settings, though getting the best combination of visual fidelity and frame rate required some adjustments to the settings. I wound up locking in at around 30-40fps to get the best visual performance possible for a lot of games.
Other games, such as the aforementioned Halo Infinite, ran at settings that I was personally fine with but might bother some enthusiast PC gamers. Hardware-intensive titles such as Control and Red Dead Redemption 2 were only capable of roughly 30fps with low settings. If you’re used to gaming on powerful rigs or modern consoles, the performance drop will be quite noticeable.
Despite the Aya Neo’s impressive performance for many games, I don’t really view it as a replacement for a PC rig, high-end gaming laptop, or modern console. While it gets the job done for a lot of AAA games, as future blockbuster releases continue to get more graphically intensive, what’s under the hood here won’t keep up. That’s not a knock on the Aya Neo, though, as I imagine the same will be true for the Steam Deck and other handheld gaming PCs. That said, you can also use the Aya Neo as a cloud streaming device with services like Xbox Cloud Gaming, Stadia, and GeForce Now. Xbox Cloud Gaming worked wonderfully on the Aya Neo.
Considering that the vast majority of indie games release on PC in addition to various consoles, the Aya Neo could be used as an indie and Game Pass machine. The options here are nearly endless, and with PC games often costing less and on sale more often, you can get a lot of bang for your buck. Not to mention the free games that the Epic Games Store gives out every week, Amazon Prime monthly free games, and the massive PC Game Pass library. Essentially, even if you aren’t an avid PC gamer, you can create a relatively huge library of games without spending a lot of money.
One of my main concerns with Aya Neo before I tried it was heat and fan noise. Surprisingly, it runs quietly, even when it’s obvious the fans are working overtime to cool down the system. The top of the console and center of the back panel do tend to get a tad hot (not to the point it hurts) when the fans are really running, but the Aya Neo’s premium shell does keep the spots where your hands naturally rest at a normal temperature.
Tiny PC woes
The practicality of the Aya Neo–and other handheld PCs–as a portable device is certainly debatable. The Aya Neo Pro is advertised to offer five to six hours of battery life. That’s a pretty decent figure as far as modern handheld gaming devices go, but while playing graphically intensive games I found that number to be cut in half. So if you do plan on taking the Aya Neo on the go, you’ll want to grab a suitable portable battery pack.
There’s also the Windows desktop problem. Windows for desktops wasn’t designed with handheld gaming machines in mind, and it really shows when navigating the operating system on a 7-inch touchscreen. Using the Aya Neo as a mobile Windows PC isn’t ideal without additional peripherals. While the touchscreen is responsive, messing around with tiny task bars and file options isn’t all that intuitive and can be a pain.
The manufacturer designed a proprietary program called Aya Space that collects your games and apps in a user-friendly style that makes it much easier to use the Aya Neo when swapping between games. Steam’s Big Picture mode is also great on the Aya Neo, so I wound up launching that every time when booting the handheld to give it a console UI feel.
Which model is right for you?
As mentioned, there are currently two different models of the Aya Neo available now: the 2021 and the Pro. The 2021 is available in 512GB or 1TB editions, while the Pro is available in only 1TB. I tested both versions for this review, and I found that the difference was negligible for gaming. The Pro is a tad faster when it comes to loading and navigation, but in-game performance was about the same. So you’d have to decide if the additional speed is worth the price bump. The 2021 model is probably the best value at this time considering that the most powerful version of the Aya Neo isn’t actually out yet.
The company just announced a fresh lineup dubbed Next. The Aya Neo Next has an AMD Ryzen 7 5800U processor, a Radeon Vega 8 GPU, and comes with up to 32GB of RAM. Multiple versions of the Next (standard, Advance, and Pro) will be available to order via crowdfunding starting in February. Prices will range between $1,265 and close to $1,500 for the top-tier model at launch.
So, if you’re interested in any model of the Aya Neo, I think the smart move is to either purchase the Aya Neo 2021 for the value or wait for one of the Next models if you’re looking for the best performance. After all, the Next’s base model is very close in price to the Pro.
Also, if you’re looking to up the Switch-like factor, you can grab an official Aya Neo dock to connect the handheld to your monitor or TV. We didn’t have the chance to test the dock for review, but you can simply use a USB-C to HDMI cable to play your games on a monitor or TV. I mostly used a monitor (with peripherals) when navigating the operating system, but I found performance to be solid for gaming on both my 1080p 60Hz monitor and 4K OLED TV.
Aya Neo 2021
Aya Neo Pro
Aya Neo Next
AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
AMD Ryzen 7 4800U
AMD Ryzen 7 5800U
Radeon Vega 6
Radeon Vega 6
Radeon Vega 8
Up to 32GB
512GB or 1TB
1TB or 2TB
1280 x 800
1280 x 800
1280 x 800
7-inch IPS touchscreen
7-inch IPS touchscreen
7-inch IPS touchscreen
10.4 x 4.17 x 0.79 inches
10.4 x 4.17 x 0.79 inches
Starting at $925
Staring at $1,215
Starting at $1,265
The bottom line
The Aya Neo is a well-designed handheld PC that offers solid performance and versatility thanks to its use of Windows. With a premium build quality, a gorgeous 7-inch IPS display, and great sticks/buttons, the Aya Neo is an excellent option for those who are interested in taking the plunge into handheld PC gaming. The ability to use it as a traditional PC with peripherals attached is a major bonus here. It’s definitely on the pricier side, especially when you compare it to the Steam Deck, but there’s no denying that it achieves what it set out to do.
Steven Petite tested the Aya Neo and Aya Neo Pro for upwards of 100 hours over the course of a month. Sample units were provided for the purpose of this review.
France has taken a unique step to remind people cars suck. In December, the country passed a law requiring the creators of car commercials to encourage viewers to try not driving a car—at least, whenever it’s possible.
The world is barreling towards what basically all scientists (and Adam McKay) are warning is a climate catastrophe if fossil fuel use isn’t ended. One of the best ways to do that is reducing reliance on personal, gas-powered vehicles. (To say nothing of the air pollution reduction and other benefits that would accrue with less driving.) But how to do that is a bit of a challenge. Indeed, while most folks are aware that driving cars is bad in a vague existential sense, it’s still fairly difficult to pry ourselves away from them—especially when so much of our media culture reinforces the idea that cars are cool and safe and good.
France’s law—passed in December—offers a small behavioral nudge. Advertisements must now include reference to travel alternatives, such as walking or biking, taking public transportation or, at the very least, carpooling.
Under the new law, commercials aired in the country will be obligated to include one of the following phrases in their ad copy: “For short journeys, walk or cycle,” “Think about carpooling,” and “On a daily basis, take public transport.” (In French, of course.) In some cases, the ads will also be required to sport the hashtag #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer, meaning “Move without pollution.”
The legislation, which applies not just to TV but also to print, web, and radio ads, mandates that the messages be presented in an “easily readable or audible manner” and that they be made “clearly distinguishable from the advertising message and from any other obligatory mention.” Companies that fail to meet such requirements will be subject to stiff fines—something in the neighborhood of €50,000 (roughly $72,100).
“Decarbonizing transport is not just switching to an electric motor. It also means using, when possible, public transport or cycling,” tweeted Barbara Pompili, France’s Minister of Ecological Transition, whose department is focused on advancing alternative energy solutions for the country.
That’s extremely true. Transportation is the biggest source of emissions in France (and the U.S. and many other developed countries for that matter). Personal vehicles are among the most carbon-intensive ways of getting around. Hopping a train or bus drastically reduces carbon intensity and overall emissions while walking and biking eliminate them entirely. Transition to no-carbon transit is absolutely vital for the world to have a shot at meeting its climate targets.
France’s law is somewhat equivalent to when the U.S. passed the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act of 1984, the likes of which forced tobacco companies to include specific Surgeon General’s warnings about cigarette-induced cancer, emphysema, and pregnancy complications on the sides of all their products. Here, like there, the message is pretty simple: Feel free to buy one of these but you’re slowly killing yourself (and the planet), you doofus.
Reminding the public to pursue modes of travel that don’t involve personal gas-powered vehicles is great. But it can’t all be on individuals to make that transition happen. France—or any other country for that matter—also needs to make no-carbon means of getting around accessible for all. The country banned short-haul flights where rail options are available last year, which good. But it was also just a few years ago that France faced a revolt over a gas tax that would’ve screwed rural folks who lacked the infrastructure to get around outside of their own vehicles. Telling people to hop on a bike is a great first step. Ensuring everyone can do that is has to be the next one.
The late David Bowie’s music is already immersive on many levels, but that’s now reflected in the mixes themselves. All of Bowie’s post-2000 studio albums (Heathen, Reality, The Next Day and Blackstar) plus a live album (A Reality Tour) have been remixed in Sony’s 360 Reality Audio for release on Amazon Music Unlimited, Deezer and Tidal on January 21st. You can also listen to four of the A Reality Tour songs today (January 6th) at 7PM Eastern through Sony Square and YouTube, and through the Artist Connection mobile app afterward.
Importantly, longtime Bowie producer Tony Visconti was responsible for the mixes. This is as close as you’ll get to a Bowie-approved mix in 2022, in other words, and it’s a fitting tribute for the rock legend’s imminent 75th birthday. You can use any headphones to listen in 360 Reality Audio, although Sony would clearly prefer you use its products.
This won’t satisfy fans who want 360-degree mixes of full classic albums like Hunky Dory or Low (really, the album with "Sound and Vision" didn’t get a rework?). You likewise won’t be thrilled if you prefer services like Apple Music or Spotify. Only a handful of Bowie songs have received the spatial audio treatment to date, though — this is still a treat for enthusiasts eager for some audio bliss.
After introducing a six-person self-driving box and a frickin’ ridable drone concept last year, GM’s latest luxury self-driving EV idea is much more grounded. The InnerSpace concept looks like a futuristic car from the outside—but inside, there’s a two-seat loveseat surrounded by one of the widest screens we’ve ever seen. There’s no steering wheel or pedals, of course. Instead, there’s a built-in ottoman and a compartment for slippers and a blanket. Where GM’s going, you won’t need any sort of manual control.
Even stepping into the car seems like something from science fiction: the doors pop out, while the large windshield/sunroof rises up. As usual, concepts like the InnerSpace are a way for car designers to flex their muscles and imagine what future vehicles could actually be like. While it certainly seems out of reach for most people, perhaps Cadillac’s more affluent clientele would be intrigued by owning a personal spaceship. At least it’s better for the environment than full-sized luxury SUVs.
“Electrification and autonomous driving will fundamentally change the role of vehicles and the experiences customers have with them,” Bryan Nesbitt, GM’s executive director of Global Advanced Design, said in a statement. “We’re exploring where that will go with these innovative concepts, envisioning mobility as an ally of wellness, giving customers the ultimate luxury, more personal time rather than taking it.”
As someone who hates the act of driving, but lives in a place where I can’t avoid it, it’ll be interesting to see how car makers turn these self-driving concept vehicles into a reality. And maybe after getting these wild designs through their systems, they’ll show us more concepts for self-driving family EVs.