Some Asus PC owners running Windows 7 are being treated to an unpleasant surprise as their machines stop booting properly. Instead of booting into Windows 7, users have been running into a “Secure Boot Violation” error message, claiming that the system found “unauthorized changes on the firmware, operating system, or UEFI drivers.” As Infoworld reports, the problem stems from Microsoft’s Secure Boot mechanism, which is designed to prevent malware attacks and recently became enabled by default on Asus motherboards. Windows 7 does not support this feature, and for some reason a recent patch (KB 3133977) created a conflict that prevents the operating system from loading. Both Asus and Microsoft had several weeks to address the problem, as the update was only optional from March 15 to April 12. A small number of users indeed ran into boot problems during that time period, yet neither Microsoft nor Asus had a fix in place when KB 3133977 became a “Recommended” update in April. (Adding insult to injury, Microsoft’s support page on KB 3133977 informs Asus users that they can avoid this whole issue by upgrading to Windows 10, which supports the Secure Boot feature.)For users who are now locked out of their PCs, Asus has issued instructions on how to disable Secure Boot through their computers’ UEFI BIOS Utility. This should allow the system to boot normally—without having to upgrade to Windows 10.Why this matters: It’s unclear how many users have been affected by this snafu, but not being able to boot into Windows is a serious problem. Users may not be comfortable wading into BIOS settings, or even know where to start with the error message Asus is producing. Unfortunately the vastness of the Windows ecosystem means this kind of disregard for older PCs and operating systems can run with the territory.
Can DNA become the future of digital storage? Microsoft is betting on it
A more interesting challenge comes when we pit machines against evolution in an area she has been optimizing for a long time, such as data storage and retrieval. This may seem like an odd genre to think of in evolutionary terms; we’ve never seen any other creature trying to store and retrieve data in quite the systematic way we do with computers. But a parallel process takes place in nature every second of the day: DNA storage and replication. It’s breathtakingly effective, and far beyond what we have conceived by mechanical means — and now Microsoft wants in on the action.Microsoft announced a partnership with the San Francisco-based Twist Bioscience, which will provide the long oligonucleotides used for synthetic DNA storage. As part of the deal, Microsoft will purchase 10 million strands of such DNA, in what augurs to be the first phase of their DNA storage ambitions. With its HealthVault platform, Microsoft has good reason to think they will require an enormous amount of storage space — medical data is one of largest and fastest growing fronts in the data tsunami.A few exploratory facts about DNA helps shed light on its magnificence as a storage medium. Consider the error rate of DNA polyermerase, the enzyme responsible for copying strands of DNA in the replisome. For every 10 billion basepairs copied, it makes an average of a single mistake — and that in the very “noisy” conditions that is a human body, exposed to a myriad of biological threats like polluted water, viruses, and McDonald’s take out.Not only is DNA remarkably effective at retrieving and copying data, it’s extremely efficient in scale. It’s estimated that a diploid cell in the human contains about 1.5 gigabytes of information, which it can store and retrieve with frightening accuracy. At 1.5GB per cell, the cells in your hand could provide a storage medium bigger than the largest mechanical hard drive in existence. And it’s easy to see why this should be the case. Storing and retrieving genetic information is fundamental to evolution, and it’s had a long time to perfect the process, much longer than we have been making hard drives. As a result, it’s understandable Microsoft is betting on DNA becoming the ultimate storage solution.
In a poetic twist, some of the storage problems for which DNA is offered as a solution stem from the decoding of genomes themselves. The size of such genetic data silos has skyrocketed thanks to the diminishing cost of sequencing equipment. DNA being used to store decoded DNA — round and round we go, the proverbial snake eating its tail.