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Is the 'Secret' Chip In Intel CPUs Really That Dangerous? ( 245

New submitter Miche67 writes: A recent Boing Boing blog post by Damien Zammit is stirring up fears, claiming Intel's x86 processors have a secret control mechanism that no one can audit or examine. And because of that, he says it could expose systems to undetectable rootkit attacks that cannot be killed.
Blogger Andy Patrizio, after talking with an Intel spokesperson, says the developer's argument has holes and he doesn't think Zammit will persuade Intel to replace the system with a free, open source option.

So, what we have is an open source crusader scaring the daylights out of people on a giant what-if scenario that even he admits couldn't happen in our lifetimes.

An Intel spokesperson told the publication: While the Intel Management Engine is proprietary and Intel does not share the source code, it is very secure. Intel has a defined set of policies and procedures, managed by a dedicated team, to actively monitor and respond to vulnerabilities identified in released products. In the case of the Intel Management Engine, there are mechanisms in place to address vulnerabilities should the need arise.


Intel x86s Hide Another CPU That Can Take Over Your Machine -- You Can't Audit it ( 368

A report on BoingBoing, authored by Damien Zammit, claims that recent Intel x86 processors have a secret and power control mechanism implemented into them that runs on a separate chip that nobody is allowed to audit or examine. From the report: When these are eventually compromised, they'll expose all affected systems to nearly unkillable, undetectable rootkit attacks. Further explaining the matter, the author claims that a system with a mainboard and Intel x86 CPU comes with Intel Management Engine (ME), a subsystem composed of a special 32-bit ARC microprocessor that's physically located inside the chipset. It is an "extra general purpose computer." The problem resides in the way this "extra-computer" works. It runs completely out-of-band with the main x86 CPU "meaning that it can function totally independently even when your main CPU is in a low power state like S3 (suspend)." On some chipsets, the firmware running on the ME implements a system called Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT). This is entirely transparent to the operating system, which means that this extra computer can do its job regardless of which operating system is installed and running on the main CPU. From the report: The purpose of AMT is to provide a way to manage computers remotely (this is similar to an older system called "Intelligent Platform Management Interface" or IPMI, but more powerful). To achieve this task, the ME is capable of accessing any memory region without the main x86 CPU knowing about the existence of these accesses. It also runs a TCP/IP server on your network interface and packets entering and leaving your machine on certain ports bypass any firewall running on your system. Update: 06/15 18:54 GMT by M :A reader points out that this "extra computer" could be there to enable low-power functionalities such as quick boot and quality testing.

Editor's note: The summary is written with inputs from an anonymous reader, who also shared the story. We've been unable to verify the claims made by the author.

AMD Announces Radeon RX 470, RX 460 Graphics Cards ( 48

An anonymous reader writes from a report via GameSpot: At E3 2016, AMD has announced the Radeon RX 470 and RX 460. They will join the RX 480 in the company's Polaris family. Both GPUs will be VR-capable, whereas the RX 480 is made for 1440p gaming. AMD says the RX 470 will focus on delivering a "refined, power-efficient HD gaming" experience, and that the RX 460 will offer a "cool and efficient solution for the ultimate e-sports gaming experience." The RX 480 will be priced starting at $200 for the 4GB variant, with the other two cards most likely priced lower. The company did also announce that the chips are extremely thin, offering a very low Z-height, and will fit into thin and light gaming notebooks. They support a wide variety of features that include DX12, HDR, HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and H.265 encoding/decoding. AMD claims the RX 480 card outperforms $500 graphics cards in VR. The RX 470 and RX 460 have yet to have official release dates. However, the RX 480 is scheduled to launch on June 29. In April, AMD announced a plan to license the design of its top-of-the-line server processor to a newly formed Chinese company, creating a brand-new rival for Intel.

Linux Kernel 4.6.1 Released; Some Users Report Boot Issue 161

Marius Nestor, reporting for Softpedia (condensed): Linux kernel 4.6.1 is already here, only two weeks after the official launch of the Linux 4.6 kernel series. For those not in the loop, Linux 4.6 branch is the latest and most advanced kernel branch available right now for GNU/Linux operating systems, but it looks like its adoption is a little slow at the moment. "I'm announcing the release of the 4.6.1 kernel. All users of the 4.6 kernel series must upgrade," says Greg Kroah-Hartman. "The updated 4.6.y git tree can be browsed at the normal git web browser."
Some users are apparently facing boot failure issue on the latest version. An anonymous tipster tells Slashdot: Several folks on the web have reported a regression in the latest Linux kernels, starting with 4.6.1 and including the 4.7 beta that prevents booting and drops to busybox, at least the one supplied by the Ubuntu PPA. The boot sequence ends with "address family not supported by protocol: error getting socket" and then, "error initializing udev control socket" (screenshot here).

Debian Dropping Support For Older CPUs ( 319

An anonymous reader shares DistroWatch's report that the Debian distribution will soon be dropping support for older, 32-bit processors.
The Debian project supports a wide range of hardware architectures, including 32-bit x86 CPUs. Changes are happening in Debian's development branches which will make older versions of the 32-bit architecture obsolete. Ben Hutchings provides the details:

"Last year it was decided to increase the minimum CPU features for the i386 architecture to 686-class in the Stretch release cycle. This means dropping support for 586-class and hybrid 586/686 processors. (Support for 486-class processors was dropped, somewhat accidentally, in Squeeze.) This was implemented in the Linux kernel packages starting with Linux 4.3, which was uploaded to Unstable in December last year. In case you missed that change, GCC for i386 has recently been changed to target 686-class processors and is generating code that will crash on other processors. Any such systems still running Testing or Unstable will need to be switched to run Stable (Jessie)."
Hutching's announcement includes a list of processors which will no longer be supported after Debian "Jessie".

A New AMD Licensing Deal Could Create More x86 Rivals For Intel ( 110

angry tapir quotes a report from PCWorld: AMD has announced a plan to license the design of its top-of-the-line server processor to a newly formed Chinese company, creating a brand-new rival for Intel. AMD is licensing its x86 processor and system-on-chip technology to a company called THATIC (Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Co. Ltd.), a joint venture between AMD and a consortium of public and private Chinese companies. AMD is providing all the technology needed for THATIC to make a server chip, including the CPUs, interconnects and controllers. THATIC will be able to make variants of the x86 chips for different types of servers. AMD is much smaller than Intel, and licensing offers it an easy way to expand the installed base of AMD technology. The resource-strapped company will also generate licensing revenue in the process, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

BorgBackup 1.0.0 Released ( 64

An anonymous reader writes: After almost a year of development, bug fixing and cleanup, BorgBackup 1.0.0 has been released. BorgBackup is a fork of the Attic-Backup project — a deduplicating, compressing, encrypting and authenticating backup program for Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X and other unixoid operating systems (Windows may also work using CygWin, but that is rather experimental/unsupported). It works on 32bit as well as on 64bit platforms, x86/x64 and ARM CPUs (maybe as well on others, but these are the tested ones). For Linux, FreeBSD and Mac OS X, there are single-file binaries which can be just copied onto a system and contain everything needed (Python, libraries, BorgBackup itself). Of course, it can be also installed from source. BorgBackup is FOSS (BSD License) and implemented in Python 3 (91%), speed critical parts are in C or Cython (9%).
Emulation (Games)

Variable Instruction Computing: What Is Old Is New Again ( 52

szczys writes: Higher performance, lower power. One of the challenges with hitting both of those benchmarks is the need to adhere to established instruction sets like x86. One interesting development is the use of Variable Instruction Sets at the silicon level. The basic concept of translating established instructions to something more efficient for the specific architecture isn't new; this is what yielded the first low-power x86 processors at the beginning of the century. But those relied on the translation at the software level. A company called Soft Machine is paving the way for variable instructions in hardware. Think of it as an emulator for ARM, x86, and other architectures that is running on silicon for fast execution while sipping very little power.

CERN Engineer Details AMD Zen Processor Confirming 32 Core Implementation, SMT ( 135

MojoKid writes: AMD is long overdue for a major architecture update, though one is coming later this year. Featuring the codename "Zen," AMD's already provided a few details, such as that it will be built using a 14nm FinFET process. In time, AMD will reveal all there is to know about Zen, but we now have a few additional details to share thanks to a computer engineer at CERN. CERN engineer Liviu Valsan recently gave a presentation on technology and market trends for the data center. At around 2 minutes into the discussion, he brought up AMD's Zen architecture with a slide that contained some previously undisclosed details. One of the more interesting revelations was that upcoming x86 processors based on Zen will feature up to 32 physical cores. To achieve a 32-core design, Valsan says AMD will use two 16-core CPUs on a single die with a next-generation interconnect. It has also been previously reported that Zen will offer up to a 40 percent improvement in IPC compared to its current processors as well as symmetric multithreading or SMT akin to Intel HyperThreading. In a 32-core implementation this would result in 64 logical threads of processing.

Linux Kernel Patch Hints At At 32-Core Support For AMD Zen Chips 136

New submitter Iamthecheese points to an article which says that a patch published on the Linux Kernel Mailing List indicates that AMD's forthcoming Zen processors will have as many as 32 cores per socket, but notes that while the article's headline says "Confirms," "the article text doesn't bear that out." Still, he writes, There are hints of such from last year. A leaked patch for the 14 nanometer AMD Zeppelin (Family 17h, Model 00h) reveals support for up to 32 cores. Another blog says pretty much the same thing. We recently discussed an announced 4+8 core AMD chip, but nothing like this.
Operating Systems

GNU Hurd Begins Supporting Sound, Still Working On 64-bit & USB Support ( 312

An anonymous reader writes: GNU developer Samuel Thibault presented at this weekend's FOSDEM conference about the current state of GNU Hurd. He shared that over the past year they've started working on experimental sound support as their big new feature. They also have x86 64-bit support to the point that the kernel can boot, but not much beyond that stage yet. USB and other functionality remains a work-in-progress. Those curious about this GNU kernel project can find more details via the presentation media.
Hardware Hacking

Atom-Based JaguarBoard To Take On Raspberry Pi ( 120

MojoKid writes: The tiny single-board PC movement that's leading the Internet of Things (IoT) market is largely dominated by ARM-based processors, and for good reason — they're cheap, low power and capable. However, what if you prefer to work with the x86 architecture? JaguarBoard looks strikingly similar to Raspberry Pi, which is arguably the most popular single-board mini PC. But unlike Raspberry Pi, JaguarBoard allows users to develop for x86, courtesy of its Intel Atom Z3735G (Bay Trail) foundation. The chip is a quad-core part clocked at 1.33GHz to 1.83GHz with 2MB of L2 cache, offering a fair amount of horsepower for IoT applications. In addition to an Atom processor, JaguarBoard also boasts 1GB of DDR3L memory, 16GB of eMMC storage, three USB 2.0 ports, 10/100M LAN port, HDMI 1.4 output, SDIO 3.0 socket, two COM ports, four GPIO pins, and audio ports. It's an interesting device that you could use strictly as a mini PC for general purpose computing, as an embedded system, a learning or research tool, or for whatever DIY projects you can conjure up. It's not the only hobbyist-appropriate x86 board, but those specs are pretty good for $45.

Benefits of a Homebrew Router ( 247

An anonymous reader writes: Jim Salter has posted an article explaining why it can be a good idea to build your own router, and how he put his together. Quoting: "In the consumer world, routers mostly have itty-bitty little MIPS CPUs under the hood without a whole lot of RAM (to put it mildly). These routers largely differentiate themselves from one another based on the interface: How shiny is it? ... I wanted to go a different route. A lot of interesting and reasonably inexpensive little x86-64 fanless machines have started showing up on the market lately. The trick for building a router is finding one with multiple NICs." Once assembled, the homebrew router blows away even high-end SOHO routers for throughput and performance. "Given that nobody's offering any Internet connections over 200mbps in my area yet, that makes my inner crypto nerd dance with glee. I could literally encrypt every single byte of my Internet traffic, in either direction, without a performance penalty." Of course, it won't do wireless, but you can get separate wireless access points to handle that.
GNU is Not Unix

Remix OS in Violation of GPL and Apache Licenses ( 180

An anonymous reader writes: You may have heard recently of the Remix OS, a fork of Android that targets desktop computing. The operating system, which was created by former Google employees and features a traditional desktop layout in addition to the ability to run Android apps, was previewed on Ars Technica a few weeks ago, but it was not actually released for end-users to download until earlier this week. Now that Remix OS has been released, The Linux Homefront Project is reporting that the Android-based operating system, for which source code is not readily available, violates both the GPL and the Apache License. The RemixOS installer includes a "Remix OS USB Tool" that is really a re-branded copy of popular disk imaging tool UNetbootin, which falls under the GPL. Additionally, browsing through the install image files reveals that the operating system is based on the Apache Licensed Android-x86 project. From the article: "Output is absolutely clear – no differences! No authors, no changed files, no trademarks, just copy-paste development." Is this a blatant disregard for the GPL and Apache licenses by an optimistic startup, or were the authors too eager to release that they forgot to provide access to the repo?

AMD Unveils 64-Bit ARM-Based Opteron A1100 System On Chip With Integrated 10GbE ( 98

MojoKid writes: AMD is adding a new family of Opterons to its enterprise processor line-up today called the Opteron A1100 series. Unlike AMD's previous enterprise offerings, however, these new additions are packing ARM-based processor cores, not the X86 cores AMD has been producing for years. The Opteron A1100 series is designed for a variety of use cases and applications, including networking, storage, dense and power-efficient web serving, and 64-bit ARM software development. The new family was formerly codenamed "Seattle" and it represents the first 64-bit ARM Cortex-A57-based platform from AMD. AMD Opteron A1100 Series chips will pack up to eight 64-bit ARM Cortex-A57 cores with up to 4MB of shared Level 2 and 8MB of shared Level 3 cache. They offer two 64-bit DDR3/DDR4 memory channels supporting speeds up to 1866 MHz with ECC and capacities up to 128GB, dual integrated 10Gb Ethernet network connections, 8-lanes of PCI-Express Gen 3 connectivity, and 14 SATA III ports. AMD is shipping to a number of software and hardware partners now with development systems already available.

Intel's Clear Linux Distribution Offers Fast Out-Of-The-Box Performance ( 137

An anonymous reader writes: In a 10-way Linux distribution battle including OpenSUSE, Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and others, one of the fastest out-of-the-box performers was a surprising contender: Intel's Clear Linux Project that's still in its infancy. Clear Linux ships in an optimized form for delivering best performance on x86 hardware with enabling many compiler optimizations by default, highly-tuned software bundles, function multi-versioning for the most performant code functions based upon CPU, AutoFDO for automated feedback-direct optimizations and other performance-driven features. Clear Linux is a rolling-release-inspired distribution that issues new versions a few times a day and is up to version 5700.

64 Hacker Friendly Single Board Computers ( 86

An anonymous reader writes: This year, we've seen some incredible price/performance breakthroughs in low-cost single board computers. LinuxGizmos has put together a compilation of 64 low-cost, hacker friendly SBCs that are all available in models that cost less than $200, with many well below $100, including Shenzhen Xunlong's $15 quad-core Orange Pi PC, Next Thing's $9 to $24 Chip, and the $5-and-up Raspberry Pi Zero. Processors range from low-end 32-bit single core ARM chips, to 64-bit ARM, x86, and MIPS parts, and with clock rates from 300MHz to 2GHz. This year even saw the arrival of low-cost SBCs based on octa-core processors, such as the $88 Banana Pi M3.

Juniper's Backdoor Password Disclosed, Likely Added In Late 2013 ( 107

itwbennett writes: In a blog post on Rapid7's community portal Sunday, HD Moore posted some notes on the Juniper ScreenOS incident, notably that his team discovered the backdoor password that enables the Telnet and SSH bypass. Quoting: "Although most folks are more familiar with x86 than ARM, the ARM binaries are significantly easier to compare due to minimal changes in the compiler output. ... Once the binary is loaded, it helps to identify and tag common functions. Searching for the text "strcmp" finds a static string that is referenced in the sub_ED7D94 function. Looking at the strings output, we can see some interesting string references, including auth_admin_ssh_special and auth_admin_internal. ... The argument to the strcmp call is <<< %s(un='%s') = %u, which is the backdoor password, and was presumably chosen so that it would be mistaken for one of the many other debug format strings in the code. This password allows an attacker to bypass authentication through SSH and Telnet, as long as they know a valid username. If you want to test this issue by hand, telnet or ssh to a Netscreen device, specify a valid username, and the backdoor password. If the device is vulnerable, you should receive an interactive shell with the highest privileges."

NVIDIA Jetson TX1 Performance Shines For GPU Computing ( 22

An anonymous reader writes: Following last week's announcement of the Jetson TX1 development board, NVIDIA is now allowing independent reports of performance for their $599 USD 64-bit ARM development board. Linux results published by Phoronix show very strong performance for the Jetson TX1 when looking at the Cortex-A57 speed relative to the Tegra K1 and older Tegra SoCs along with other ARM hardware like Calxeda and Raspberry Pi. The Jetson TX1 was generally multiple times faster than ARM hardware a few years old. The graphics performance was twice as fast as the year-old Jetson TK1 thanks to the Maxwell GPU. Compared to x86 hardware, in CPU-bound tasks the performance is comparable to an AMD Sempron/Phenom except when utilizing GPGPU computing where it's then faster than Intel Skylake and Xeon processors. The Jetson TX1 had a peak power consumption of 16 Watts and an average power use of under 10 Watts.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Open-Source Doom 3 Advances With EAX Audio, 64-bit ARM/x86 Support ( 37

An anonymous reader writes: Dhewm3, one of the leading implementations of the Doom 3 engine built off the open-source id Tech 4 engine, has released a new version of the GPL-licensed engine that takes Doom 3 far beyond where it was left off by id Software. The newest code has full SDL support, OpenAL + OpenAL EFX for audio, 64-bit x86/ARM support, better support for widescreen resolutions, and CMake build system support on Linux/Windows/OSX/FreeBSD. This new open-source code can be downloaded from Dhewm3 on GitHub but continues to depend upon the retail Doom 3 game assets.

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