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Hardware

Samsung Unveils Chromebook Plus V2 (betanews.com) 72

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: Samsung announces its latest such laptop -- the premium, yet affordable, Chromebook Plus (V2). This is a refresh of the first-gen "Plus" model. It can run Android apps and doubles as a convertible tablet, making it very versatile. Best of all, you won't have to wait long to get it -- it will go on sale very soon. "The Samsung Chromebook Plus (V2) puts productivity and entertainment at consumers' fingertips and at the tip of the built-in pen. At 2.91 pounds, its thin design makes it easy to slip into a bag and carry all day -- or use throughout the day with its extended battery life. Flipping its 12.2-inch FHD 1920x1080 resolution screen transforms it from notebook to tablet to sketchbook -- and back -- with two cameras for making it easier to stay connected with friends and sharing with the world. Plus, Chrome OS helps users get more done by providing access to millions of Android apps on Google Play," says Samsung. The Chromebook Plus, powered by Intel Celeron Processor 3965Y and 4GB of RAM, goes on sale later this month at $499.
Intel

Another Day, Another Intel CPU Security Hole: Lazy State (zdnet.com) 110

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, writing for ZDNet: The latest Intel revelation, Lazy FP state restore, can theoretically pull data from your programs, including encryption software, from your computer regardless of your operating system. Like its forebears, this is a speculative execution vulnerability. In an interview, Red Hat Computer Architect Jon Masters explained: "It affects Intel designs similar to variant 3-a of the previous stuff, but it's NOT Meltdown." Still, "it allows the floating point registers to be leaked from another process, but alas that means the same registers as used for crypto, etc." Lazy State does not affect AMD processors.

This vulnerability exists because modern CPUs include many registers (internal memory) that represent the state of each running application. Saving and restoring this state when switching from one application to another takes time. As a performance optimization, this may be done "lazily" (i.e., when needed) and that is where the problem hides. This vulnerability exploits "lazy state restore" by allowing an attacker to obtain information about the activity of other applications, including encryption operations.
Further reading: Twitter thread by security researcher Colin Percival, BleepingComputer, and HotHardware.
Windows

Laptops With 128GB of RAM Are Here (theverge.com) 361

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Brace yourself for laptops with 128GB of RAM because they're coming. Today, Lenovo announced its ThinkPad P52, which, along with that massive amount of memory, also features up to 6TB of storage, up to a 4K, 15.6-inch display, an eighth-gen Intel hexacore processor, and an Nvidia Quadro P3200 graphics card. The ThinkPad also includes two Thunderbolt three ports, HDMI 2.0, a mini DisplayPort, three USB Type-A ports, a headphone jack, and an Ethernet port. The company hasn't announced pricing yet, but it's likely going to try to compete with Dell's new 128GB-compatible workstation laptops. The Dell workstation laptops in question are the Precision 7730 and 7530, which are billed as "ready for VR" mobile workstations. According to TechRadar, "These again run with either 8th-gen Intel CPUs or Xeon processors, AMD Radeon WX or Nvidia Quadro graphics, and the potential to specify a whopping 128GB of 3200MHz system memory."
Intel

Intel Says Its First Discrete Graphics Chips Will Be Available in 2020 (marketwatch.com) 99

Ryan Shrout, reporting for MarketWatch: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich disclosed during an analyst event last week that it will have its first discrete graphics chips available in 2020. This will mark the beginning of the chip giant's journey toward a portfolio of high-performance graphics products for various markets including gaming, data center and artificial intelligence (AI). Some previous rumors suggested a launch at CES 2019 this coming January might be where Intel makes its graphics reveal, but that timeline was never adopted by the company. It would have been overly aggressive and in no way reasonable with the development process of a new silicon design. In November 2017 Intel brought on board Raja Koduri to lead the graphics and compute initiatives inside the company. Koduri was previously in charge of the graphics division at AMD helping to develop and grow the Radeon brand, and his departure to Intel was thought to have significant impact on the industry.
Intel

Intel: We 'Forgot' To Mention 28-Core, 5GHz CPU Demo Was Overclocked (tomshardware.com) 165

At Computex earlier this week, Intel showed off a 28-core processor running at 5GHz, implying that it would be a shipping chip with a 5.0GHz stock speed. Unfortunately, as Tom's Hardware reports, "it turns out that Intel overclocked the 28-core processor to such an extreme that it required a one-horsepower industrial water chiller." From the report: We met with the company last night, and while Intel didn't provide many details, a company representative explained to us that "in the excitement of the moment," the company merely "forgot" to tell the crowd that it had overclocked the system. Intel also said it isn't targeting the gaming crowd with the new chip. The presentation did take place in front of a crowd of roughly a hundred journalists and a few thousand others, not to mention a global livestream with untold numbers watching live, so perhaps nerves came into play. In the end, Intel claims the whole fiasco is merely the result of a flubbed recitation of pre-scripted lines, with the accidental omission of a single word: "Overclocked." Maybe that's the truth, but there's a lot of room for debate considering how convenient an omission this is.
Intel

'We've an Unexpected Manufacturing Advantage For the First Time Ever': Intel's Manufacturing Glitch Opens Door For AMD (theinformation.com) 136

Over at The Information (paywalled), reporter Aaron Tilley has a splendid interview of Forrest Norrod, a senior executive who joined AMD four years ago. Mr. Norrod describes the challenge AMD has faced over the years and how, for the first time ever, it sees a real shot at making a significant dent in the desktop market. From the report: Advanced Micro Devices' battle with chip giant Intel has often seemed like a gnat fighting an elephant, with AMD struggling in recent years to gain even a tenth of the market for the chips that power PCs and data center servers. Forrest Norrod, a senior executive who joined AMD four years ago, says the company suffered from "little brother syndrome" where it tried and failed to compete with Intel on lots of different chips. Now, though, AMD may have a shot at coming out with a faster, more powerful chip than Intel for the first time. Intel in April said it was delaying the release of a more advanced chip manufacturing process until sometime in 2019. AMD has its own new, advanced chip, which it will now be able to release earlier than Intel, potentially giving it an edge in the market for high-performance chips for PCs and data center computers.

It's a market opportunity worth around $50 billion. That's what Intel makes from selling chips for PCs and data center servers, and it dominates both markets. The data center market is particularly important because of the growth of new technologies like artificial intelligence-related applications, much of which is handled in the cloud. Companies that buy chips for data centers or PCs could gravitate to AMD chips as a result of Intel's delay. "I think we have a year lead now," said Mr. Norrod, who oversees AMD's data center business. AMD now has "an unexpected [manufacturing] advantage for the first time ever," he added.

Intel

Intel Hits 50 Years and Its CPUs Hit 5.0 GHz (venturebeat.com) 161

Intel will turn 50 next month, so to celebrate that, its CPUs are hitting 5.0 GHz for the first time, it said. At Computex event in Taiwan this week, the chipmaker announced the limited edition 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8086K processor, the first-ever CPU from the company with a 5.0GHz turbo frequency. From a report: Intel, of course, is the world's biggest chip maker, and its fortunes are wedded to the success of the personal computer. "As we transition to the data-centric era, the PC remains a critical facet of Intel's business, and it's an area where we believe there are still so many opportunities ahead," Bryant said. "Today, at Computex in Taipei, I shared our vision for the future of the PC and introduced a wide range of new technologies that will help us and the broader ecosystem make this future a reality. One that transforms the PC from a simple computer into a platform that can power every person's greatest contribution."
Intel

Intel Wants PCs To Be More Than Just 'Personal Computers' (engadget.com) 180

An anonymous reader shares a report "What people need from a PC, what they expect is really more diverse than ever," Intel's Client Computing head Gregory Bryant said in an interview. "We're going to embark on a journey to transform the PC from a personal computer to a personal contribution platform... The platform where people focus and can do their most meaningful work." Bryant says Intel will focus on five key areas to reframe its vision of PCs: Uncompromised performance (of course); improved connectivity with 5G on the horizon; a dramatic increase in battery life; developing more adaptable platforms that go beyond 2-in-1s and convertibles; and a push towards more intelligent machines with AI and machine learning integration. Admittedly, many of those points aren't exactly new for Intel, and they also fall in line with where the computing industry is going.
Cellphones

Arm Unveils Next-Gen 76-Series Mobile CPU, GPU Cores (hothardware.com) 54

MojoKid writes: Last week, Arm showed off its new Machine Learning Processor design, but today it has lifted the veil on its next-generation Cortex and Mali CPU, GPU, and VPU architectures, destined for 2019 smartphones and mobile devices. The Arm Cortex-A76 CPU, Mali-G76 GPU, and Mali-V76 VPU designs all step up performance and efficiency over previous generation designs, though there are architectural and layout changes and more advanced manufacturing processes.

Arm believes its A76 core, which can be clocked at 3GHz+ when produced on a 7nm process, can perform within 10 percent of an Intel Skylake core within the same thermal constraints, but at approximately half the footprint. The Mali-G76 improves density and energy efficiency by 30 percent over the previous generation G72, while providing a 2.7x uplift in machine learning workloads. And the Mali-V76 VPU improves on the recently announced V52 by adding support for 8K UltraHD content, among many other improvements.

Intel

Intel Launches Optane DIMMs Up To 512GB (anandtech.com) 54

Intel announced the availability of its long-awaited Optane DIMMs Wednesday, bringing 3D XPoint memory onto the DDR4 memory bus. From a report: The modules that have been known under the Apache Pass codename will be branded as Optane DC Persistent Memory, to contrast with Optane DC SSDs, and not to be confused with the consumer-oriented Optane Memory caching SSDs. The new Optane DC Persistent Memory modules will be initially available in three capacities: 128GB, 256GB and 512GB per module. This implies that they are probably still based on the same 128Gb 3D XPoint memory dies used in all other Optane products so far. The modules are pin-compatible with standard DDR4 DIMMs and will be supported by the next generation of Intel's Xeon server platforms.
Businesses

Intel Faces Age Discrimination Allegations Following Layoffs (engadget.com) 262

Intel is under investigation for potential age discrimination in its approach to layoffs initiated in 2016, according to a report. Engadget: The Wall Street Journal has learned that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating claims that Intel's large-scale layoffs discriminated against older employees. In a May 2016 round that cut 2,300 workers, for instance, the median age of those let go was 49 -- seven years older than those who remained. The EEOC hasn't decided whether or not it will file a class-action lawsuit against Intel, but the affected people will be free to pursue civil lawsuits if the regulator doesn't find enough evidence to pursue its own case. The EEOC isn't allowed to confirm or deny investigations. However, an Intel spokesperson categorically denied that age played a role.
Desktops (Apple)

Razer Slims Down Blade, Debuts MacOS-Compatible eGPU Enclosure (arstechnica.com) 40

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."

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