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Linux Kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman who helped develop the original driver described what went wrong in a post on his Google+ profile:Who would have thought that just randomly poking memory of a laptop would brick it. Long ago Samsung told me that it was just fine to be doing this, and that there would not be any problems (I based the samsung-laptop driver on code that Samsung themselves gave me.)It may take several weeks for the changes to work into the distribution trees of the affected OSes so it’s recommended that users should always use the UEFI firmware’s Compatibility Support Module (CSM), which emulates a BIOS mode, when booting on affected laptops.It’s believed the fault may be linked to the Samsung’s UEFI firmware and its interaction with the kernel’s Samsung laptop driver and efivars module. The module’s source is here. Linux users accidentally bricked their new Samsung laptops by booting their favourite open-source OS on the shiny computers.A kernel driver crashes on Sammy machines when users start up from an Ubuntu 12 USB key – although other distributions may be at risk – giving them the dreaded black screen of no activity whatsoever. After the operating system froze, users held down the power button to force the laptops to power off.

In some unfortunate cases, when the computers are switched on again the firmware – stored in a chip soldered to the computer’s circuit board – refuses to start the laptop, effectively ruining the product.Outraged Penguinistas reported the cock-up on the Ubuntu bug tracker, naming various models of the South Korean giant’s laptops, including the 300E5C, NP700Z5C, NP700Z7C and 530U3C series. One bloke complained he had destroyed two motherboards investigating the fault.It is understood the „critical“ bug is linked to the Samsung hardware driver* and the machine’s Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) – but it is unconnected to the controversial UEFI Secure Boot mechanism used to run Microsoft’s Windows 8 and other cryptographically signed operating systems.“Yeesh. I hate UEFI – this should clearly be impossible with correctly written firmware,“ one bug reporter wrote.Another said: „If something does not work for you the way it should, your motherboard may be permanently damaged and your laptop may get bricked. For this reason, this bug should have been flagged nuclear rather than critical.“

Senior Ubuntu developer Steve Langasek confirmed that the distro’s maker Canonical spoke to Samsung’s engineers, but the electronics giant did not set a date for rolling out a fix. Langasek said in December that Sammy feared the bug is triggered by a kernel driver that also causes issues on Samsung systems when booted in EFI mode. It doesn’t appear to matter whether Secure Boot is enabled or disabled.Langasek advised users to install Ubuntu from the latest live image that forces machines to boot using the old-fashioned PC BIOS interface rather than UEFI. This process involves using the Compatibility Support Module in Linux and the machine firmware.Intel developer Matt Fleming is also working on the bug and has posted two different fixes, including just disabling the driver when booting from UEFI. Almost 17,000 votes were cast by Reg readers when we asked you all to name the best – and the worst – tech products of 2012.We asked you to tell us which kit you though most warranted a Reg Hardware Award from shortlists in a variety of categories: laptop, tablet, e-reader, home entertainment device and smartphone, but we also asked you to pick your favourite technology retailer, media service provider and mobile service provider.

We know you like your games, so we asked you to choose the best game of 2012 and to select the classic title you think most worthy of a place in our Antique Codeshow Hall of Fame.Finally, giving you the rein, we asked you to name the best technology product of 2012 – and the choose the worst, to receive our decidedly uncoveted Rusty Dodo Award.How did the voting go? In most cases, the winner in each category was clear, garnering two or three times as many votes as its nearest rival. There were exceptions: in the Media Service Provider of the Year vote, Netflix was ahead of Freeview HD by a relatively small margin, not much between the top three e-readers, but only a handful of points separated the major Mobile Service Providers. Likewise, Half-Life scored almost as many votes as Lemmings in the Antique Code Show Hall of Fame voting, but the small blue suicide squads just clinched the award. Maybe next year, Half-life fans?And now for Product of the Year. We got some interesting, possibly sanity questioning suggestions, most notably „the Olympics opening ceremony“, though there is a certain logic to it. Less so „fish fingers“ and „Jaffa Cakes“ – both tasty items but not what we were really after. El Reg’s Editor was particularly tickled by the suggestion „Lewis Page Bullshit Generator v2“ – as was the girlfriend of the (chap?) who voted for „my partner’s rampant rabbit“.

There were lots of votes for various Apple items and an assortment of Samsung-branded kit appeared on the list, but after totting up the numbers and adding in extra ones for folk who mis-spelled the names, we can announced that the Reg Hardware Product of the Year 2012 is the:The votes for the Rusty Dodo Award comprised pretty much the same products that appeared in the Product of the Year list – though we notice the latter did not include Windows 8, which did make the list of products you think are a bit duff. Again, pretty much every recent Samsung tech toy garnered at least one vote, but again by totting up all the suggestions and variations on a theme, the Rusty Dodo Award 2012 goes to:Feature An unheard-of decline in PC sales figures since launch, a grumbling press and a user base that struggles without a touchscreen: Windows 8 is easy to take a swipe at. Yet BT announced in November last year it was deploying 5,900 Win 8 Panasonic Toughbooks for its „last mile“ Openreach division – the engineers who walk the line from telephone exchange up to customer’s premises.

Kevin Norton, BT Openreach director of transformation oversaw this procurement – “one of the biggest investments we’ve made to date” – and gave us the inside story on the various options, trials and tests it went through. With many of its field devices needing to run legacy apps, just how were the BT engineers getting on with Redmond’s touchy tech?“It has been a big adjustment for them. The vast majority of the people put on to these machines have actually moved from Windows XP direct to Windows 8. It’s been quite a fundamental shift for them in terms of the OS they’re using,” says NortonNo doubt all users of Windows 8 would identify with that and many have found it painful, but the Panasonic Toughbook CF-C1 is a convertible laptop that can be used as a traditional clamshell laptop or have its touchscreen reconfigured to function as a tablet. For most, the touchscreen option is essential to navigate Windows 8 and the Openreach engineers get the best of both worlds. Even so, Norton remarks that most still use the device in clamshell mode, “because there’s an adjustment period until they get used to a new way of working and operating it in a slate form”.

Apparently, many take advantage of the stylus for tablet work which has other uses too for signature capture – a new capability these Toughbooks allow.When monitoring the rollout, Openreach noticed an impact on results and compensating factors too. As Norton explains:“It’s fair to say we see a slight dip in their productivity output in the first month after they’ve got the machine whilst they get used to the new form factor and the OS. But we soon see that recaptured through the improved performance of the device versus what they had before, and some of the new capabilities.”Indeed, new capabilities are part of the driving force behind the adoption of touchscreen technology at Openreach. This BT division has made a sizeable investment in iPhones – around 3,600 now and another 3,000 due by April – and has seen how well the convenience of this platform works in the field: from photographing and reporting damage on-site to swift processing of parking fines. Moreover, frames engineers would previously work off a laptop in the exchange to follow jumpering details – going to and fro from laptop to frame – now they just carry an iPhone.“So we’ve built a very well laid-out app that details their frame’s jumpering tasks – a neatly formatted note with all the routing details that they need to carry out,” Norton enthuses.

“We’ve seen some really good productivity gains and although the screen is small on the iPhone, when we target it at the right part of the business process, it has been shown to deliver a benefit for us – and some of those capabilities we’re also porting onto the new laptops.”Software development has been a significant aspect of the Toughbook deployment as it has provided the opportunity to remove Windows XP from the Openreach estate, along with the worst performing and oldest laptops. One of the reasons Windows XP had remained active in the field was to support the TaskForce field client, a legacy application (with its roots dating back to the 1990s) that plays an essential role in job management. Unsurprisingly Norton’s team had to make some changes to run it on Windows 8 – an ongoing process of refinement TaskForce needs with each OS uplift.“This deployment has allowed us to slim down the number of versions of TaskForce that we maintain. So now we’re down to a Vista version and one that works on Win 8 within Openreach. Which is great for us, we’ve managed to remove the XP client from the business – good for support and ongoing costs.”

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