Desktops (Apple)

Razer Slims Down Blade, Debuts MacOS-Compatible eGPU Enclosure (arstechnica.com) 26

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today, Razer debuted big updates to its Razer Blade laptop, focusing on design and performance to usher the gaming notebook into 2018. While the new Blade still looks unmistakably "Razer," its design has changed dramatically for the better. Razer upped the screen size from 14 inches to 15.6 inches, reducing the surrounding bezels to just 4.9mm so that the device fits in with the other nearly bezel-less ultrabooks popular today. Razer is offering 1080p 60Hz or 144Hz panels, along with a 4K touchscreen option as well. The larger display panel makes the laptop slightly heavier than its predecessor, and it's a bit wider overall, too (4.7 pounds and 9.3 inches, respectively). However, the slimmer bezels, sharper edges, and aluminum unibody make the new Razer Blade look like a clear upgrade from the previous model.

Another new addition to the Razer lineup is the Core X, a Thunderbolt 3 external graphics enclosure with space for large, three-slot wide graphics cards. The Core X joins the Core V2 graphics enclosure as one of Razer's solutions for gamers who want to add desktop-like graphics power to their laptops -- and it's more affordable than the V2 as well. While it's a bit stockier than Razer's existing enclosure, the Core X has an aluminum body with open vents to properly handle heat, regardless of the task at hand. The Core X connects to a compatible notebook through one Thunderbolt 3 port, providing eGPU access and 100W of power thanks to its 650 ATX power supply. It's both cheaper and seemingly easier to use than the V2, but that comes with some compromises: the Core X doesn't have Chroma lighting, and it lacks USB and Ethernet ports.
Some other specs of the new Blade include a Intel Core i7-8750H processor, Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 with Max-Q graphics, up to 32GB of RAM, up to 2TB of PCIe-based SSD, and 80Whr battery. There are three USB-A 3.1 ports, one proprietary charging port, one Thunderbolt 3 port, a Mini DisplayPort, and an HDMI port.
Security

Google and Microsoft Disclose New CPU Flaw, and the Fix Can Slow Machines Down (theverge.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Microsoft and Google are jointly disclosing a new CPU security vulnerability that's similar to the Meltdown and Spectre flaws that were revealed earlier this year. Labelled Speculative Store Bypass (variant 4), the latest vulnerability is a similar exploit to Spectre and exploits speculative execution that modern CPUs use. Browsers like Safari, Edge, and Chrome were all patched for Meltdown earlier this year, and Intel says "these mitigations are also applicable to variant 4 and available for consumers to use today." However, unlike Meltdown (and more similar to Spectre) this new vulnerability will also include firmware updates for CPUs that could affect performance. Intel has already delivered microcode updates for Speculative Store Bypass in beta form to OEMs, and the company expects them to be more broadly available in the coming weeks. The firmware updates will set the Speculative Store Bypass protection to off-by-default, ensuring that most people won't see negative performance impacts.

"If enabled, we've observed a performance impact of approximately 2-8 percent based on overall scores for benchmarks like SYSmark 2014 SE and SPEC integer rate on client 1 and server 2 test systems," explains Leslie Culbertson, Intel's security chief. As a result, end users (and particularly system administrators) will have to pick between security or optimal performance. The choice, like previous variants of Spectre, will come down to individual systems and servers, and the fact that this new variant appears to be less of a risk than the CPU flaws that were discovered earlier this year.

Intel

New Spectre Attack Can Reveal Firmware Secrets (zdnet.com) 60

Yuriy Bulygin, the former head of Intel's advanced threat team, has published research showing that the Spectre CPU flaws can be used to break into the highly privileged CPU mode on Intel x86 systems known as System Management Mode (SMM). ZDNet reports: Bulygin, who has launched security firm Eclypsium, has modified Spectre variant 1 with kernel privileges to attack a host system's firmware and expose code in SMM, a secure portion of BIOS or UEFI firmware. SMM resides in SMRAM, a protected region of physical memory that should only be accessible by BIOS firmware and not the operating system kernel, hypervisors or security software. SMM handles especially disruptive interrupts and is accessible through the SMM runtime of the firmware, knows as System Management Interrupt (SMI) handlers.

"Because SMM generally has privileged access to physical memory, including memory isolated from operating systems, our research demonstrates that Spectre-based attacks can reveal other secrets in memory (eg, hypervisor, operating system, or application)," Bulygin explains. To expose code in SMM, Bulygin modified a publicly available proof-of-concept Spectre 1 exploit running with kernel-level privileges to bypass Intel's System Management Range Register (SMRR), a set or range registers that protect SMM memory. "These enhanced Spectre attacks allow an unprivileged attacker to read the contents of memory, including memory that should be protected by the range registers, such as SMM memory," he notes.

Windows

Rollout of Windows 10 April Update Halted For Devices With Intel and Toshiba SSDs (bleepingcomputer.com) 89

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Microsoft has halted the deployment of the Windows 10 April 2018 Update for computers using certain types of Intel and Toshiba solid state drives (SSDs). The Redmond-based OS maker took this decision following multiple user reports about the Windows 10 April 2018 Update not working properly on devices using: Intel SSD 600p Series, Intel SSD Pro 6000p Series, Toshiba XG4 Series, Toshiba XG5 Series, and Toshiba BG3 Series.

The Intel and Toshiba issues appear to be different. More specifically, Windows PCs using Intel SSDs would often crash and enter a UEFI screen after reboot, while users of Toshiba SSDs reported lower battery life and SSD drives becoming very hot.

Intel

Intel's First 10nm Cannon Lake CPU Sees the Light of Day (anandtech.com) 184

Artem Tashkinov writes: A Chinese retailer has started selling a laptop featuring Intel's first 10nm CPU the Intel Core i3 8121U. Intel promised to start producing 10nm CPUs in 2016 but the rollout has been postponed almost until the second half of 2018. It's worth noting that this CPU does not have integrated graphics enabled and features only two cores.

AnandTech opines: "This machine listed online means that we can confirm that Intel is indeed shipping 10nm components into the consumer market. Shipping a low-end dual core processor with disabled graphics doesn't inspire confidence, especially as it is labelled under the 8th gen designation, and not something new and shiny under the 9th gen -- although Intel did state in a recent earnings call that serious 10nm volume and revenue is now a 2019 target. These parts are, for better or worse, helping Intel generate some systems with the new technology. We've never before seen Intel commercially use low-end processors to introduce a new manufacturing process, although this might be the norm from now on."

AMD

AMD Integrates Ryzen PRO and Radeon Vega Graphics In Next-Gen APUs (zdnet.com) 76

The three biggest PC OEMs -- Dell, HP, and Lenovo -- are now offering AMD Ryzen PRO mobile and desktop accelerated processing units (APUs) with built-in Radeon Vega graphics in a variety of commercial systems. There are a total of seven new APUs -- three for the mobile space and four for the desktop. As AMD notes in its press release, the first desktops to ship with these latest chips include: the HP Elitedesk G4 and 285 Desktop, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M715, and the Dell Optiplex 5055. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes writes about what makes Ryzen PRO so appealing: Ryzen PRO has been built from the ground up to focus on three pillars -- power, security and reliability. Built-in security means integrated GuardMI technology, an AES 128-bit encryption engine, Windows 10 Enterprise Security support, and support for fTPM/TPM 2.0 Trusted Platform Module. One of the features of Ryzen PRO that AMD hopes will appeal to commercial users is the enterprise-grade reliability that the chips come backed with, everything from 18-moths of planned software availability, 24-months processor availability, a commercial-grade QA process, 36-moth warranty, and enterprise-class manageability.

There are no worries on the performance front either, with the Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics being the world's fastest processor currently available for ultrathin commercial notebooks, with the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 2700U offering up to 22 percent more productivity performance than Intel's 8th-generation Core i7-8550U in testing carried out by AMD. AMD has also designed the Ryzen PRO processors to be energy-efficient, enabling up to 16 hours of battery life in devices, or 10.5 hours of video playback. The Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics desktop processors are also no slouches, opening up a significant performance gap when compared to Intel Core i5 8400 and Core i3 8100 parts.
AMD also announced that it is sampling its second-generation Threadripper 2900X, 2920X and 2950X products. "For Threadripper Gen2 you can expect a refresh of the current line-up; an 8-core Threadripper 2900X, a 12-core Threadripper 2920X and of course a 16-core Threadripper 2950X," reports Guru3D.com. "AMD will apply the same Zen+ tweaks to the processors; including memory latency optimizations and higher clock speeds."

AMD has something for the datacenter enthusiasts out there too. Epyc, AMD's x86 server processor line based on the company's Zen microarchitecture, has a new promo video, claiming more performance, more security features, and more value than Intel Xeon. The company plans to market Epyc in an aggressive head-to-head format similar to how T-Mobile campaigns against Verizon and AT&T. Given Intel Xeon's 99% market share, they sort of have to...
Hardware

System76 Oryx Pro Linux Laptop is Now Thinner and Faster (betanews.com) 115

An anonymous reader shares a report: Last week, System76 started to share details about its refreshed Linux-powered Oryx Pro laptop. It would be thinner and more powerful, while adding twice the battery life of its predecessor. Unfortunately, we did not yet know exactly what the laptop looked like. Today, we finally have official images. The new Oryx Pro is quite breathtaking, as it is a true Pro machine -- with the USB Type-A, Ethernet, and HDMI ports you expect -- while being just 19mm thin. It has the horsepower that power-users need, thanks to its 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10-Series GPU.
Security

Multiple OS Vendors Release Security Patches After Misinterpreting Intel Docs (bleepingcomputer.com) 81

Almost all major OS vendors released security patches yesterday after a researcher discovered that some OS makers have misinterpreted an Intel CPU debug feature and left their systems open to attacks. From a report: The vulnerability is in how the OS vendors implemented a hardware debug mechanism for Intel x86-64 architectures -- and more specifically the MOV SS and POP SS instructions. "In certain circumstances after the use of certain Intel x86-64 architecture instructions, a debug exception pointing to data in a lower ring (for most operating systems, the kernel Ring 0 level) is made available to operating system components running in Ring 3," the CERT/CC team explained in an advisory published yesterday. Explained in layman's terms, "this may allow an attacker to utilize operating system APIs to gain access to sensitive memory information or control low-level operating system functions." Operating systems that mishandle this debug exception and had their systems open to attacks include Apple, Microsoft, FreeBSD, Red Hat, Ubuntu, SUSE Linux, and other Linux distros based on the Linux Kernel -- which is also affected.
Bug

Eight New Meltdown-Like Flaws Found (reuters.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Researchers have found eight new flaws in computer central processing units that resemble the Meltdown and Spectre bugs revealed in January, a German computing magazine reported on Thursday. The magazine, called c't, said it was aware of Intel Corp's plans to patch the flaws, adding that some chips designed by ARM Holdings, a unit of Japan's Softbank, might be affected, while work was continuing to establish whether Advanced Micro Devices chips were vulnerable... The magazine said Google Project Zero, one of the original collective that exposed Meltdown and Spectre in January, had found one of the flaws and that a 90-day embargo on going public with its findings would end on May 7...

"Considering what we have seen with Meltdown and Spectre, we should expect a long and painful cycle of updates, possibly even performance or stability issues," said Yuriy Bulygin, chief executive officer of hardware security firm Eclypsium and a former Intel security researcher. "Hopefully, Meltdown and Spectre led to improvements to the complicated process of patching hardware."

Neowin now reports that Intel "is expected to release microcode updates in two waves; one in May, and the other in August."
GNU is Not Unix

GCC 8.1 Compiler Introduces Initial C++20 Support (gnu.org) 90

"Are you tired of your existing compilers? Want fresh new language features and better optimizations?" asks an announcement on the GCC mailing list touting "a major release containing substantial new functionality not available in GCC 7.x or previous GCC releases."

An anonymous reader writes: GNU has released the GCC 8.1 compiler with initial support for the C++20 (C++2A) revision of C++ currently under development. This annual update to the GNU Compiler Collection also comes with many other new features/improvements including but not limited to new ARM CPU support, support for next-generation Intel CPUs, AMD HSA IL, and initial work on Fortran 2018 support.
Graphics

Nvidia Shuts Down Its GeForce Partner Program, Citing Misinformation (theregister.co.uk) 82

In a blog post on Friday, Nvidia announced it is "pulling the plug" on the GeForce Partner Program (GPP) due to the company's unwillingness to combat "rumors" and "mistruths" about the platform. The GPP has only been active for a couple of months. It was launched as a way for gamers to know exactly what they're buying when shopping for a new gaming PC. "With this program, partners would provide full transparency regarding the installed hardware and software in their products," reports Digital Trends. From the report: Shortly after the launch, unnamed sources from add-in card and desktop/laptop manufacturers came forward to reveal that the program will likely hurt consumer choice. Even more, they worried that some of the agreement language may actually be illegal while the program itself could disrupt the current business they have with AMD and Intel. They also revealed one major requirement: The resulting product sports the label "[gaming brand] Aligned Exclusively with GeForce." As an example, if Asus wanted to add its Republic of Gamers (RoG) line to Nvidia's program, it wouldn't be allowed to sell RoG products with AMD-based graphics. Of course, manufacturers can choose whether or not to join Nvidia's program, but membership supposedly had its "perks" including access to early technology, sales rebate programs, game bundling, and more.

According to Nvidia, all it asked of its partners was to "brand their products in a way that would be crystal clear." The company says it didn't want "substitute GPUs hidden behind a pile of techno-jargon." Specifications for desktops and laptops tend to list their graphics components and PC gamers are generally intelligent shoppers that don't need any clarification. Regardless, Nvidia is pulling the controversial program because the "rumors, conjecture, and mistruths go far beyond" the program's intent.

Businesses

'Biology Will Be the Next Big Computing Platform' (wired.com) 70

An anonymous reader writes: "Amazon, but for Crispr." It's a notion that may sound far-fetched -- but it's exactly what Synthego, a Silicon Valley biotech startup, wants to be. Synthego's first product let scientists order a custom Crispr kit and have it delivered within a week; in the next few weeks, the startup will add custom Crispr'd human cell lines to its on-demand offerings, which will help scientists working on potentially life-saving medicines. Crispr, as this WIRED guide explains, "is a new class of molecular tools that scientists can use to precisely target and cut any kind of genetic material." It's revolutionizing biology -- but neither of Synthego's founders is a biologist. Turns out, in the ever-expanding industry around genome engineering, that's hardly a disqualifier.

Across the country, companies are trying to snag a seat on the fast-moving Crispr train. There's Inscripta, which is gunning to be the Apple of gene-editing by building the biological equivalent of the personal computer. In theory, that hardware will make gene editing as easy as pushing a button. And then there's Twist Biosciences, which can print out a powerful Crispr guide (the tool that identifies the bits of genetic code a scientist is hoping to target) on a single semiconductor chip -- the Intel of genome engineering, if you will. As Megan Molteni writes, "all these analogies to the computing industry are more than just wordplay." Rather, they offer a language for understanding the complex world of Crispr. "Crispr is making biology more programmable than ever before," Molteni writes. "And the biotech execs staking their claims in Crispr's backend systems have read their Silicon Valley history. They're betting biology will be the next great computing platform, DNA will be the code that runs it, and Crispr will be the programming language."

China

China's Bungled Drone Display Breaks World Record (bbc.com) 67

Chinese company EHang has broken the Guinness World Record for the most drones flown simultaneously, despite them failing to coordinate for a light show. The company programmed a fleet of 1,374 drones to fly in set patterns, "but failed to spell out the date and the record-setting number of drones," reports the BBC. From the report: The South China Morning Post called the event an "epic fail." The record was previously held by U.S. technology company Intel, which flew 1,218 aircraft at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in February. Intel's show was pre-recorded before being aired during the opening ceremony, due to "possible freezing weather and strong winds." According to the South China Morning Post, EHang was paid 10.5 million yuan ($1.65 million) for the Labor Day performance in the north-western city of Xi'an. You can watch a video of the drone display here.
Intel

'Next Generation' Flaws Found on Computer Processors (reuters.com) 144

An anonymous reader shares a report: Researchers have found eight new flaws in computer central processing units that resemble the Meltdown and Spectre bugs revealed in January, a German computing magazine reported on Thursday. The magazine, called c't, said it was aware of Intel's plans to patch the flaws, adding that some chips designed by ARM Holdings, a unit of Japan's Softbank, might be affected, while work was continuing to establish whether Advanced Micro Devices chips were vulnerable. Meltdown and Spectre bugs could reveal the contents of a computer's central processing unit -- designed to be a secure inner sanctum -- either by bypassing hardware barriers or by tricking applications into giving up secret information.
Intel

Intel's 10nm Cannon Lake CPUs Won't Arrive in Mass Quantities Until 2019, Company Says (pcgamer.com) 116

Intel said this week that it is once again delaying the mass production of its 10-nanometer "Cannon Lake" chips. The company insists that it is already building the chips in low volumes, but said it "now expects 10-nanometer volume production to shift to 2019 [rather than the end of 2018]." From a report: Intel is on solid footing, in other words, though pesky challenges remain in manufacturing its next-generation 10nm parts. CEO Brian Krzanich acknowledged as much during an earnings call, attributing the delay to difficulties in getting 10nm yields to where they need to be. So rather than push to ship 10nm in volume this year, Intel is giving itself some additional time to sort things out.
Security

Ask Slashdot: Do We Need a New Word For Hacking? 196

goombah99 writes: Hacking and Hackers get a bum rap. Headline scream "Every Nitendo switch can be hacked." But that's good right? Just like farmers hacking their tractors or someone re-purposing a talking teddy bear. On the other hand, remote hacking a Intel processor backdoor or looting medical data base, that are also described as hacking, are ill-motivated. It seems like we need words with different connotations for hacking. One for things you should definitely do, like program an Arduino or teddy bear. One for things that are pernicious. And finally one for things that are disputably good/bad such as hacking DRM protected appliances you own. What viral sounds terms and their nuances would you suggest? Editor's note: We suggest reading this New Yorker piece "A Short History of 'Hack'", and watching this Defcon talk by veteran journalist Steven Levy on the creativeness and chutzpah of the early hackers.
Intel

Intel Is Giving Up On Its Smart Glasses (theverge.com) 41

Intel is planning to shut down the New Devices Group (NDG), and cease development on the Vaunt smart glasses project that was revealed earlier this year. The glasses are unique in that they use retinal projection to put a display in your eyeball. "There is no camera to creep people out, no button to push, no gesture area to swipe, no glowing LCD screen, no weird arm floating in front of the lens, no speaker, and no microphone," reports The Verge.

Intel issued a statement announcing the plans: "Intel is continuously working on new technologies and experiences. Not all of these develop into a product we choose to take to market. The Superlight [the codename for Vaunt] project is a great example where Intel developed truly differentiated, consumer augmented reality glasses. We are going to take a disciplined approach as we keep inventing and exploring new technologies, which will sometimes require tough choices when market dynamics don't support further investment." From the report: It was always unclear how precisely Intel intended to bring the Vaunt glasses to market, though sources indicated that Intel wanted to find a partner with retail expertise to partner with. Jerry Bautista, the lead for Vaunt, told me back in December that Intel was "working with key ecosystem hardware providers -- whether they're frames or lenses and things like that. Because we believe there's a whole channel to people who wear glasses that's already there." The story was first reported by The Information.
AMD

AMD 2nd Gen Ryzen Processors Launched and Benchmarked (hothardware.com) 106

MojoKid writes: AMD launched its 2nd Generation Ryzen processors today, based on a refined update to the company's Zen architecture, dubbed Zen+. The chips offer higher clocks, lower latencies, and a more intelligent Precision Boost 2 algorithm that improves performance, system responsiveness, and power efficiency characteristics. These new CPUs still leverage the existing AM4 infrastructure and are compatible with the same socket, chipsets, and motherboards as AMD's first-generation products, with a BIOS/UEFI update.

There are four processors arriving today, AMD's Ryzen 7 2700X, the Ryzen 7 2700, the Ryzen 5 2600X, and the Ryzen 5 2600. Ryzen 7 chips are still 8-core CPUs with 20MB of cache but now top out at 4.3GHz, while Ryzen 5 chips offer 6 cores with 19MB of cache and peak at 4.2GHz. AMD claims 2nd Gen Ryzen processors offer reductions in L1, L2, and L3 cache latencies of approximately 13%, 34%, and 16%, respectively. Memory latency is reportedly reduced by about 11% and all of those improvements result in an approximate 3% increase in IPC (instructions per clock). The processors now also have official support for faster DDR4-2933 memory as well. In the benchmarks, 2nd Gen Ryzen CPUs outpaced AMD's first gen chips across the board with better single and multithreaded performance, closing the gap even further versus Intel, often with better or similar performance at lower price points. AMD 2nd Gen Ryzen processors, and new X470 chipset motherboards that support them, are available starting today and the CPUs range from $199 to $299.

Businesses

One Laptop Per Child's $100 Laptop Was Going To Change the World -- Then it All Went Wrong (theverge.com) 271

Adi Robertson, reporting for The Verge: In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte's new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), dubbed "the green machine" or simply "the $100 laptop." And it was like nothing that Negroponte's audience -- at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe -- had ever seen. After UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered a glowing introduction, Negroponte explained exactly why. The $100 laptop would have all the features of an ordinary computer but require so little electricity that a child could power it with a hand crank.

[...] But OLPC's overwhelming focus on high-tech hardware worried some skeptics, including participants in the Tunis summit. One attendee said she'd rather have "clean water and real schools" than laptops, and another saw OLPC as an American marketing ploy. "Under the guise of non-profitability, hundreds of millions of these laptops will be flogged off to our governments," he complained. In the tech world, people were skeptical of the laptop's design, too. Intel chairman Craig Barrett scathingly dubbed OLPC's toy-like prototype "the $100 gadget," and Bill Gates hated the screen in particular. "Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text," he told reporters.

[...] After announcing "the $100 Laptop," OLPC had one job to do: make a laptop that cost $100. As the team developed the XO-1, they slowly realized that this wasn't going to happen. According to Bender, OLPC pushed the laptop's cost to a low of $130, but only by cutting so many corners that the laptop barely worked. Its price rose to around $180, and even then, the design had major tradeoffs. [...]

Operating Systems

Linux 4.17 Kernel Offers Better Intel Power-Savings While Dropping Old CPUs (phoronix.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: Linus Torvalds has released Linux 4.17-rc1. This kernel comes with a significant amount of new capabilities as outlined by the Linux 4.17 feature overview. Among the new features are AMDGPU WattMan support, Intel HDCP support, Vega 12 GPU enablement, NVIDIA Xavier SoC support, removal of obsolete CPU architectures, and even better support for the original Macintosh PowerBook 100 series. Phoronix testing has also revealed measurable power savings improvements and better power efficiency on Intel hardware. The kernel is expected to be stabilized by June.

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