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Emulation (Games)

Microsoft and Qualcomm Collaborate To Bring Windows 10, x86 Emulation To Snapdragon Processors (anandtech.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: Today at Microsoft's WinHEC event in Shenzhen, China, the company announced that it's working with Qualcomm to bring the full Windows 10 experience to future devices powered by Snapdragon processors. These new Snapdragon-powered devices should support all things Microsoft, including Microsoft Office, Windows Hello, Windows Pen, and the Edge browser, alongside third-party Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps and, most interestingly, x86 (32-bit) Win32 apps. They should even be able to play Crysis 2. This announcement fits nicely with Microsoft's "Windows Everywhere" doctrine and should come as no surprise. It's not even the first time we've seen Windows running on ARM processors. Microsoft's failed Windows RT operating system was a modified version of Windows 8 that targeted the ARMv7-A 32-bit architecture. It grew from Microsoft's MinWin effort to make Windows more modular by reorganizing the operating system and cleaning up API dependencies. The major change with today's announcement over Windows RT and UWP is that x86 apps will be able to run on Qualcomm's ARM-based SoCs, along with support for all of the peripherals that are already supported with Windows 10. This alone is a huge change from Windows RT, which would only work with a small subset of peripherals. Microsoft is also focusing on having these devices always connected through cellular, which is something that is not available for many PCs at the moment. Support will be available for eSIM to avoid having to find room in a cramped design to accommodate a physical SIM, and Microsoft is going so far as to call these "cellular PCs" meaning they are expecting broad support for this class of computer, rather than the handful available now with cellular connectivity. The ability to run x86 Win32 apps on ARM will come through emulation, and to demonstrate the performance Microsoft has released a video of an ARM PC running Photoshop.
Windows

Microsoft's x86 on ARM64 Emulation: A Windows 10 Redstone 3 Fall 2017 Feature (zdnet.com) 123

Mary Jo Foley, reporting for ZDNet:Since January 2016 (and maybe before), there's been talk that Microsoft was working on bringing x86 emulation to ARM processors. Sources of mine are now saying that this capability is coming to Windows 10, though not until "Redstone 3" in the Fall of 2017. Here's why this matters: Microsoft officials continue to claim that Continuum -- the capability that will allow Windows 10 Mobile devices to connect to external displays and keyboards -- is going to be a key for the company, its partners and its customers. There's been one very big limitation to Continuum so far, however: It only allows users to run Universal Windows Platform (UWP), and not full-fledged x86 apps. What if an ARM64-based device could run x86 apps via emulation, the same way that the WOW (Windows on Windows) emulator allowed 32-bit apps to run on 64-bit Windows? That would make Windows 10 Mobile, which as of now, continues to support ARM only, and Continuum a lot more interesting, especially to business users who need certain Win32/line-of-business apps.
Intel

Why Linus Torvalds Prefers x86 Over ARM (pcworld.com) 150

Linus Torvalds answered a question about his favorite chip architecture at the Linaro Connect conference. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes PCWorld: People are too fixated with the instruction set and the CPU core, Torvalds said. But ultimately "what matters is all the infrastructure around the instruction set, and x86 has all that infrastructure... at a lot of different levels. It's open in a way that no other architecture is... Being compatible just wasn't as big of a deal for the ARM ecosystem as it has been traditionally for the x86 ecosystem... I've been personally pretty disappointed with ARM as a hardware platform, not as an instruction set, though I've had my issues there, too. As a hardware platform, it is still not very pleasant to deal with."
You can watch the whole half-hour conversation on YouTube. My favorite part is where Linus candidly acknowledges that "sometimes my grumpiness makes more news than my being nice... 99% of the time I'm a very happy manager, and I mentally pat people on the head all the time. That maybe then highlights the times when things don't work so well a bit more."
Open Source

Linus Torvalds Officially Announces the Release of Linux Kernel 4.8 (softpedia.com) 95

Slashdot reader prisoninmate brings news from Softpedia: Today, Linus Torvalds proudly announced the release and availability for download of the Linux 4.8 kernel branch, which is now the latest stable and most advanced one. Linux kernel 4.8 has been in development for the past two months, during which it received no less than eight Release Candidate testing versions that early adopters were able to compile and install on their GNU/Linux operating system to test various hardware components or simply report bugs...

A lot of things have been fixed since last week's RC8 milestone, among which we can mention lots of updated drivers, in particular for GPU, networking, and Non-Volatile Dual In-line Memory Module (NVDIMM), a bunch of improvements to the ARM, MIPS, SPARC, and x86 hardware architectures, updates to the networking stack, as well as to a few filesystem, and some minor changes to cgroup and vm.

The kernel now supports the Raspberry Pi 3 SoC as well as the Microsoft Surface 3 touchscreen.
Hardware

SolidRun x86 Braswell MicroSoM Runs Linux and Full Windows 10, Destroys Raspberry Pi (betanews.com) 205

BetaNews has a report today about a company called SolidRun, which has announced an Intel Braswell-based MicroSoM. Unlike the ARM-powered Raspberry Pi, this is x86 compatible, meaning it can run full Windows 10. Plus, if you install a Linux distro, there will be far more packages available, such as Google Chrome, which is not available for Pi. Heck, it can probably serve as a secondary desktop, Brian with the site writes. From the report: At 53mm by 40mm, these new MicroSoMs provide unheard of design flexibility while also eliminating the headache of having to design complicated power-delivery subsystems thanks to its single power input rail design. SolidRun's Braswell MicroSoM also offers flexibility in RAM options, ranging from 1GB to 8GB configurations, and offers on-board support of eMMC storage up to 128GB. Its robust design and unsurpassed HD Edge surveillance, event detection, and statistical data-extraction capabilities makes it the platform of choice for mission-critical applications requiring guaranteed reliability," says Solidrun.It starts at $117, the website has more details on specifications.
Android

Run Android 6.0 Marshmallow on Your PC With Android-x86 6.0 (softpedia.com) 90

This week saw the first stable release of Android-x86 6.0 (marshmallow-x86) -- and a new version of Remix OS for PC, a PC-optimized version of Android. Slashdot reader prisoninmate quotes Softpedia: Android-x86 6.0 has been in the works since early this year, and it received a total of two RC (Release Candidate) builds during its entire development cycle, one in June and another in August. After joining the Remix OS team, Chih-Wei Huang now has all the reasons to update and improve its Android-x86 system for the latest Android releases. Therefore, as you might have guessed already, Android-x86 6.0 is the first stable version of the project to be based on Google's Linux kernel-based Android 6.0 Marshmallow mobile operating system, and includes the most recent AOSP (Android Open Source Project) security updates too.

Under the hood, Android-x86 6.0 is using the long-term supported Linux 4.4.20 kernel with an updated graphics stack based on Mesa 12.0.2 3D Graphics Library, and offers support for Samsung's F2FS file system for SSD drives, better Wi-Fi support after resume and suspend, and initial HDMI audio support.

IBM

IBM Launches New Linux, Power8, OpenPower Systems (zdnet.com) 61

An anonymous reader writes:IBM on Thursday rolled out its latest Power8 processor, which is designed to move data faster, and new servers with OpenPower features. For IBM, the OpenPower Foundation community is critical for its Power8 processor. A bevy of companies are in OpenPower, a group that aims to be a counterweight to x86-based servers. With the new systems, IBM is hoping to target more artificial intelligence, analytics, and deep learning workloads. The systems will be lumped into the Power Systems LC family of Linux servers. Big Blue's Power S822LC for High Performance Computing server is the headliner of the group, with the Power8 processor with Nvidia's Tesla P100 Pascal GPUs. The system also has Nvidia's NVLink processor that allows for high-speed bidirectional interconnects. IBM said the combination of IBM and Nvidia technology allows data to flow five times faster than an x86-based system.
Microsoft

Why Intel Kaby Lake and AMD Zen Will Only Be Optimized On Windows 10 (hothardware.com) 276

MojoKid writes: There was quite a stir caused recently when it was determined that Microsoft would only be fully supporting Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's Zen next-generation processor microarchitectures with Windows 10. It's easy to dismiss the decision as pure marketing move, but there's more to consider and a distinction to be made between support and compatibility. The decision means future updates and optimizations that take advantage of the latest architectural enhancements in these new processors won't be made for older OS versions. Both of these microarchitectures have new features that require significant updates to Windows 10 to optimally function. Kaby Lake has updates to Intel's Speed Shift technology that make it possible to change power states more quickly than Skylake, for example. Then there's Intel's Turbo Boost 3.0, which is only baked natively into Windows 10 Redstone 1. For an operating system to optimally support AMD's Zen-based processors, major updates are likely necessary as well. Zen has fine-grained clock gating with multi-level regions throughout the chip, in addition to newer Simultaneous Multi-Threading technology for AMD chips. To properly leverage the tech in Zen, Microsoft will likely have to make updates to the Windows kernel and system scheduler, which is more involved than a driver update. Of course, older versions of Windows and alternative operating systems will still install and run on Kaby Lake and Zen. They are x86 processors, after all.
Operating Systems

Pokemon-Themed Umbreon Rootkit Targets Linux Systems On ARM and x86 (pcworld.com) 96

New submitter Kinwolf writes: Security researchers have identified a new family of Linux rootkits that, despite running from user mode, can be hard to detect and remove. Called Umbreon, after a Pokemon character that hides in the darkness, the rootkit has been in development since early 2015 and is now being sold on the underground markets. [It targets Linux-based systems on the x86, x86-64 and ARM architectures, including many embedded devices such as routers.] According to malware researchers from antivirus firm Trend Micro, Umbreon is a so-called ring 3 rootkit, meaning that it runs from user mode and doesn't need kernel privileges. Despite this apparent limitation, it is quite capable of hiding itself and persisting on the system. The reports adds: "The rootkit uses a trick to hijack the standard C library (libc) functions without actually installing any kernel objects. Umbreon hijacks these functions and forces other Linux executables to use its own libc-like library. This puts the rootkit in a man-in-the-middle position, capable of modifying system calls made by other programs and altering their output. The rootkit also creates a hidden Linux account that can be accessed via any authentication method supported by Linux, including SSH (Secure Shell). This account does not appear in files like /etc/passwd because the rootkit can modify the output of such files when read, the Trend Micro researchers said in a blog post. Umbreon also has a backdoor component called Espereon, named after another Pokemon character, that can establish a reverse shell to an attacker's machine when a TCP packet with special field values are received on the monitored Ethernet interface of an affected device."
Operating Systems

Linux Kernel 4.6 Has Reached End of Life, Users Urged To Move To Linux 4.7.1 67

Reader prisoninmate writes: Immediately after announcing the availability of the first point release for the Linux 4.7 kernel series, Greg Kroah-Hartman also informed the community about the launch of Linux kernel 4.6.7, which is the seventh maintenance update for the Linux 4.6 stable kernel branch, but it also looks like it's the last one for the series, which has now officially reached end of life. Therefore, if you're using a GNU/Linux operating system powered by a kernel from the Linux 4.6 branch, you are urged to move to Linux kernel 4.7 as soon as possible by installing the brand new Linux kernel 4.7.1 build.
Security

New Cache Attack Can Monitor Keystrokes On Android Phones (onthewire.io) 36

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from OnTheWire: : Researchers from an Austrian university have developed techniques that allow them to perform cache attacks on non-rooted Android phones that can monitor the keystrokes, screen taps, and even observe code execution inside the ARM processor's TrustZone secure execution environment. The attacks the team developed are complex and rely on a number of individual building blocks. The techniques are similar to some used against Intel x86 processor-based systems, but the team from Graz University of Technology in Austria shows that they can be used on ARM-based systems, such as Android phones, as well.

"Based on our techniques, we demonstrate covert channels that outperform state-of-the-art covert channels on Android by several orders of magnitude. Moreover, we present attacks to monitor tap and swipe events as well as keystrokes, and even derive the lengths of words entered on the touchscreen," the researchers wrote in their paper, which was presented at the USENIX Security Symposium this week.

It's a proof-of-concept attack. But interestingly, another recently-discovered Android vulnerability also required the user to install a malicious app -- and then allowed attackers to take full control of the device.
Intel

Is the 'Secret' Chip In Intel CPUs Really That Dangerous? (networkworld.com) 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

Intel x86s Hide Another CPU That Can Take Over Your Machine -- You Can't Audit it (boingboing.net) 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.
E3

AMD Announces Radeon RX 470, RX 460 Graphics Cards (gamespot.com) 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.
Bug

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 kernel.org 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

Debian Dropping Support For Older CPUs (distrowatch.com) 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".
AMD

A New AMD Licensing Deal Could Create More x86 Rivals For Intel (pcworld.com) 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.
OS X

BorgBackup 1.0.0 Released (github.com) 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 (hackaday.com) 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.

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