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Ch-ch-ch-Chia! HDD sales soar to record levels as latest crypto craze sweeps Europe

Knock-on effect for NAS and SSD devices too


The Chia cryptocurrency craze is fuelling record sales growth in Europe among distributors of hard disk drives (HDD), according to calendar Q2 shipment data from venerable number cruncher Context.

Stats for the three months show sales to end users, via distributors and resellers, went up by 141 per cent year-on-year to 454,512 – the biggest quarter in the regional channel ever, said Context.

Nearline HDDs – the highest capacity drives – led the pack. Sales of the 18TB model swelled to 84,726, up 125 per cent from the prior quarter. 16TB drives, the second most favoured spec, grew to 51,515 units. Other HDD categories also continue to be highly prized thanks to Chia.

"The tremendous Chia-driven demand for storage capacity has turned the European market on its head, with buyers rushing to snap up HDDs," said Gurvan Meyer, business enterprise analyst at Context.

"Although it's having a knock-on effect for SSDs and NAS segments, it's headline HDDs that are really driving this spike. As long as there's money to be made in mining Chia coins, we can't see these trends changing much."

BitTorrent protocol author Bram Cohen founded the Chia network in 2017, and the currency launched in May 2021. It is considered to be greener than Bitcoin in that it uses relatively less power.

As Reg readers know, Chia differs from traditional crypto-coins in that it relies on proof of space rather than proof of work, as detailed by our sister publication Blocks & Files.

"So, rather than using computing power in a race, it's using a lottery system. This is not only greener (in terms of passive power consumption) than proof of work but also more accessible. The barrier to entry is lower as almost anyone in the world might have unused storage space on their computer – perhaps even their phone – that could be used," Context's Meyer said.

Storage vendors such as Seagate and Western Digital have been caught out by this trend, Context told us in April.

In its Q4 earnings call in June, Seagate CEO Dave Mosley said the market for storage-centric blockchain, including those used for decentralised storage applications with Chia cryptocurrency had "garnered significant interest."

"We saw meaningful increase in HDD demand due in part to the initial buildout of the Chia net space which is comprised of both new and repurposed HDDs... This incremental demand served to tighten HDD supply dynamics and [provide] an increase in the robust demand environment."

Economies opening up and continued demand from cloud providers expanding their infrastructure played a role in in HDD demand too.

"While the future growth outlook in this space remains unclear, we are excited by the potential applications associated with innovations and decentralised file storage," said Mosley.

Desktop network attached storage (NAS) device sales in Europe jumped 73.5 per cent in Q2 to 642,267 – the second highest on record, Context said. SSD sales flew too, particularly in the NVMe Gen 4 segment, with the 1TB category up more than 11 times compared to a year ago to 74,771 and the 2TB category that came in at 27,066. ®

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Apple, Google yank opposition voting strategy app from Russian software stores

Oh, sorry, we thought you wanted us to obey the law?! – Silicon Valley

A tactical-voting app built by allies of Vladimir Putin’s jailed political opponent Alexei Navalny is now unavailable in Russian Apple and Google app stores following threats of fines from the Kremlin.

According to state-owned news agency TASS, Russian lawmaker Andrei Klimov told reporters on Thursday that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office sent statutory notices to Google and Apple ordering a takedown of the Navalny app on the grounds it was collecting personal data of Russian citizens and sought to interfere in the nation's elections. Refusal to do so would result in penalties.

“The app particularly deliberately and illegally spreads election campaign materials in the interests of some candidates vying for positions in elective agencies or against the interests of such," Klimov said.

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Google extends right-to-be-forgotten to app permissions on older Android devices

Software unused after a few months will lose access to sensitive features unless exempted

In December, Google plans to have app runtime permissions expire on older versions of Android for apps that haven't been opened for several months, extending the availability of a privacy protection feature introduced in Android 11.

"In Android 11, we introduced the permission auto-reset feature," explained Google software engineers Peter Visontay and Bessie Jiang in a blog post on Friday. "This feature helps protect user privacy by automatically resetting an app’s runtime permissions – which are permissions that display a prompt to the user when requested – if the app isn’t used for a few months."

That behavior is the default in Android 11 and in Android 12, expected in a few weeks. Come December, it will become the default in older versions of Android that rely on Google Play services, specifically Android 6 (API level 23) through Android 10 (API level 29).

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Yes, of course there's now malware for Windows Subsystem for Linux

Once dismissed proof-of-concept attack on Microsoft OS through WSL detected in the wild

Linux binaries have been found trying to take over Windows systems in what appears to be the first publicly identified malware to utilize Microsoft's Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to install unwelcome payloads.

On Thursday, Black Lotus Labs, the threat research group at networking biz Lumen Technologies, said it had spotted several malicious Python files compiled in the Linux binary format ELF (Executable and Linkable Format) for Debian Linux.

"These files acted as loaders running a payload that was either embedded within the sample or retrieved from a remote server and was then injected into a running process using Windows API calls," Black Lotus Labs said in a blog post.

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Microsoft: VM requirements for running Windows 11 are the same as physical PCs – except we won't check them

Schrödinger's OS

Microsoft emitted a fresh build of Windows 11 last night and piled on the woe for customers hoping that virtual machines might be their way out of the hardware compatibility hole.

Despite Microsoft's efforts to distract users by showing off its updates to the Photos app (now rolling out to users in the Windows Insider Dev Channel), the alarming warning that "this build includes a change that aligns the enforcement of the Windows 11 system requirements on Virtual Machines (VMs) to be the same as it is for physical PCs" was the main news for many testers.

Microsoft's own minimum hardware requirements document (at the time of writing) states [PDF]: "Windows 11 does not apply the hardware-compliance check for virtualized instances either during setup or upgrade."

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Microsoft doles out Office Long Term Servicing Channel for cloud refuseniks

Redmond doesn't do things by half – unless it's Long Term Support

Microsoft has grudgingly admitted that not everyone will want to ascend to its cloud with the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) version of its Office cash cow.

Earlier this year, the Windows behemoth announced that it was axing the length of support. No longer would customers enjoy decade-long delight. Instead, support would last for just five years, in line with Windows.

The release of this perpetual version is for commercial and government customers. The consumer version, Office 2021, will turn up on 5 October and likely be drowned out by users realising their PCs won't run Microsoft's latest version of Windows because OEMs want the gravy train to keep rolling of more stringent hardware requirements aimed at improving the user experience.

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Sir Clive Sinclair: Personal computing pioneer missed out on being Britain's Steve Jobs

Lifelong cost focus was his namesake company's corporate downfall

Obituary Sir Clive Sinclair, the visionary pioneer of computing for the British masses and creator of the legendary ZX Spectrum, has died at the age of 81. His legacy is the British tech scene as we know it today.

Born in leafy Richmond, Surrey, at the height of the Battle of Britain in July 1940, he came to epitomise the early era of British computing through his company Sinclair Research Ltd and its iconic Spectrum product line.

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Punchy Biden-lookalike grandad goes viral for fighting boxing gadget

'If you don't get your timing right you get whacked round the back of the head' admits scrappy octogenarian

An 80-year-old Lancashire grandfather has gone viral on TikTok and Instagram in a video featuring him squaring off with a sparring aid for boxers.

The video (see here) of Bob "Bruiser" Smith of Bamber Bridge near Preston ducking and diving around the Sparbar sparring device has received over 90 million views across the two social media sites.

The pugilistic pensioner – who was a fighter in his youth but banned from the ring by his father at the age of 14 out of concern for his safety – is treating his unexpected global fame with refreshing indifference.

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Something phishy: Tech recruiters jabbed by fake COVID-19 Passport scam

Tells clients it is tackling the issue

An IT recruitment agency says a "phishing scam" is behind a fake email sent to its customers with details on how to apply for a "Coronavirus Digital Passport."

The email – sent to applicants and clients of Concept Resourcing, based in Dudley, England, on 14 September and seen by The Reg – claimed users could "Get your Digital Coronavirus Passports (HPS) today" and showed recipients a big juicy link where they could do so.

The link was not a genuine NHS website and appears to have been deleted shortly after.

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How long till some drunkard puts a foot through one of BT's 'iconic, digital smart city communication hubs'?

Phonebox upgrade dishes out internet and more in Kensington and Chelsea

BT was joined by local dignitaries including the Mayor of Kensington to cut the silk sash on its 21st-century phone box that gives people access to free Gigabit Wi-Fi, rapid mobile phone charging, and free calls if needed.

The BT Street Hub 2.0 unit is now up and running in Notting Hill Gate with others due to be unveiled in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea shortly.

The pods are also plastered with advertising, with BT trumpeting that it's giving small businesses the chance to snap up £7.5m of free street advertising space as part of its launch promo.

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Snowflake doubters voice reservations over data warehouse's attempt to break into financial services

On-prem systems hold advantages in terms of known costs, say insiders

Cloud-based data warehouse darling Snowflake has launched its latest venture into financial services, while Teradata, something of a stalwart in data warehousing for banks and insurers, is attempting to broaden its appeal with machine learning implementations.

Though the world has been focused on Snowflake's stratospheric rise – it went from $1.5bn value in 2018 to $120bn shortly after its IPO last year – it may struggle to make inroads into the lucrative financial services markets, according to insiders and industry experts.

The so-called cloud-native data warehouse biz launched what it calls the Financial Services Data Cloud this week, accompanied by the claim that 57 per cent of Fortune 500 firms in the sector are on its platform. It is described as an industry-tailored platform that brings together Snowflake technology with "partner-delivered solutions" and "industry-critical datasets."

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Consultants' eyes light up as UK.gov dangles £4bn over 6 years for 'large-scale digital transformation programmes'

Phrase is catnip for software market

UK government has tempted the ravenous software and consultancy supply market with £4bn in the name of "large-scale digital transformation programmes."

At a time when the government has been forced to increase National Insurance tax to fund much-needed social care, the Cabinet Office's Crown Commercial Services has deemed it the opportune moment to start a multibillion-pound conversation with suppliers via a "prior information notice" for Digital Specialists and Programmes.

Following the logic previewed in the tender's title, the procurement is set to be split into two lots: one for "Digital Programmes" and another for "Digital Specialists."

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