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Security

User-Made Patch Lets Owners of Next-Gen CPUs Install Updates On Windows 7 & 8.1 (bleepingcomputer.com) 218

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: GitHub user Zeffy has created a patch that removes a limitation that Microsoft imposed on users of 7th generation processors, a limit that prevents users from receiving Windows updates if they still use Windows 7 and 8.1. This limitation was delivered through Windows Update KB4012218 (March 2017 Patch Tuesday) and has made many owners of Intel Kaby Lake and AMD Bristol Ridge CPUs very angry last week, as they weren't able to install any Windows updates. Microsoft's move was controversial, but the company did its due diligence, and warned customers of its intention since January 2016, giving users enough time to update to Windows 10, move to a new OS, or downgrade their CPU, if they needed to remain on Windows 7 or 8.1 for various reasons. When the April 2017 Patch Tuesday came around last week, GitHub user Zeffy finally had the chance to test four batch scripts he created in March, after the release of KB4012218. His scripts worked as intended by patching Windows DLL files, skipping the CPU version check, and delivering updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 computers running 7th generation CPUs.
AMD

AMD Launches Higher Performance Radeon RX 580 and RX 570 Polaris Graphics Cards (hothardware.com) 93

Reader MojoKid writes: In preparation for the impending launch of AMD's next-generation Vega GPU architecture, which will eventually reside at the top of the company's graphics product stack, the company unveiled a refresh of its mainstream graphics card line-up with more-powerful Polaris-based GPUs. The new AMD Radeon RX 580 and RX 570 are built around AMD's Polaris 20 GPU, which is an updated revision of Polaris 10. The Radeon RX 580 features 36 Compute Units, with a total of 2,304 shader processors and boost / base GPU clocks of 1340MHz and 1257MHz, respectively, along with 8GB of GDDR5 over a 256-bit interface. The Radeon RX 580 offers up a total of 6.17 TFLOPs of compute performance with up to 256GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. Though based on the same chip, the Radeon RX 570 has only 32 active CUs and 2048 shader processors. Boost and base reference clocks are 1244MHz and 1168MHz, respectively with 4GB of GDDR5 memory also connected over a 256-bit interface. At reference clocks, the peak compute performance of the Radeon RX 570 is 5.1TFLOPs with 224GB/s of memory bandwidth. In the benchmarks, the AMD Radeon RX 580 clearly outpaced AMD's previous gen Radeon RX 480, and was faster than an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Founder's Edition card more often than not. It was more evenly matched with factory-overclocked OEM GeForce GTX 1060 cards, however. Expected retail price points are around $245 and $175 for 8GB Radeon RX 580 and 4GB RX 570s cards, though more affordable options will also be available.
Microsoft

Developer Publishes Patch To Enable Windows 7 and 8.1 Updates On New Hardware (zdnet.com) 50

Earlier this month, Microsoft locked Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs running on select Intel and AMD processors from receiving future security updates. Now, a developer has found a workaround. From a report on ZDNet: The new patch, from a developer using the name 'Zeffy' on GitHub, may help people caught by Microsoft's update policy for PCs running older versions of Windows on hardware with Intel's seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors and AMD's recently released Bristol Ridge Ryzen chips. [...] Zeffy's patch promises to get around this situation, which stems from non-security updates released in March that added a function to detect the hardware's CPU generation. The developer notes that Microsoft's March 16 rollup updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 contained one particularly offensive changelog entry. As reported by Ghacks at the time, the two preview updates stated: "Enabled detection of processor generation and hardware support when PC tries to scan or download updates through Windows Update."
Microsoft

Xbox Project Scorpio's Full Specs Revealed (eurogamer.net) 135

Microsoft unveiled last year that it will be launching a super-specced Xbox One variant -- codenamed Project Scorpio -- soon. Now the company has shared what those hardware modules look like. According to a report on Eurogamer, which visited Microsoft campus at the company's invitation, the specs of Project Scorpio are:

1. Project Scorpio has 12GB of DDR5 RAM, clocked at 6.8GHz with 326 GB/s bandwidth.
2. Scorpio will be powered by eight CPU cores. It's a custom design sporting 2.3GHz, with a 4MB L2 cache.
3. Project Scorpio will feature an internal PSU (245W) and a compact design, leveraging the advanced cooling techniques pioneered by Microsoft's leading industrial design team.
4. Project Scorpio will achieve six-teraflops of GPU power using a customized design, with 1.172 GHz, 40 compute units, leveraging features from AMD's Polaris architecture.
5. Scorpio will retain the Xbox One S 4K UHD Blu-ray drive.
6. Scorpio will have both HDMI-in and out, 3x USB 3.0, a SPDIF digital audio port, an IR receiver/blaster, and will support Kinect with a USB adapter.

From the report: We saw a Forza Motorsport demo running on the machine at native 4K and Xbox One equivalent settings, and it hit 60 frames per second with a substantial performance overhead -- suggesting Scorpio will hit its native 4K target across a range of content, with power to spare to spend on other visual improvements. And while 4K is the target, Microsoft is paying attention to 1080p users, promising that all modes will be available to them.
AMD

AMD Ryzen Game Patch Optimizations Show Significant Gains On Zen Architecture (hothardware.com) 121

MojoKid writes: AMD got the attention of PC performance enthusiasts everywhere with the recent launch of its Ryzen 7 series processors. The trio of 8-core chips competitively take on Intel's Core i7 series at the high-end of its product stack. However, with the extra attention AMD garnered, came significant scrutiny as well. With any entirely new platform architecture, there are bound to be a few performance anomalies -- as was the case with the now infamous lower performance "1080p gaming" situation with Ryzen. In a recent status update, AMD noted they were already working with developers to help implement "simple changes" that can help a game engine's understanding of the AMD Zen core topology that would likely provide an additional performance uplift with Ryzen. Today, we have some early proof-positive of that, as Oxide Games, in concert with AMD, released a patch for its game title Ashes Of The Singularity. Ashes has been a "poster child" game engine of sorts for AMD Radeon graphics over the years (especially with respect to DX12) and it was one that ironically showed some of the worst variations in Ryzen CPU performance versus Intel. With this new patch that is now public for the game, however, AMD claims to have regained significant ground in benchmark results at all resolutions. In the 1080p benchmarks with powerful GPUs, a Ryzen 7 1800X shows an approximate 20% performance improvement with the latest version of the Ashes, closing the gap significantly versus Intel. This appears to be at least an early sign that AMD can indeed work with game and other app developers to tune for the Ryzen architecture and wring out additional performance.
Technology

AMD Confirms It's Issuing a Fix To Stop New Ryzen Processors From Crashing Desktops (digitaltrends.com) 113

AMD says the company has been able to figure out why FMA3 code is causing system hangs on PCs using a new Ryzen desktop processor. From a report: Although AMD didn't provide a detailed report on the problem's root cause, the company said that BIOS changes will be distributed to motherboard manufacturers to resolve the issue. Customers are encouraged to keep an eye on their motherboard vendor's website for an update. "We are aware of select instances where FMA code can result in a system hang," the company said. "We have identified the root cause." AMD released three Ryzen-branded desktop processors at the beginning of March that plug into motherboards based on AMD's new AM4 socket. The trio of processors include the Ryzen 7 1800X, the Ryzen 7 1700X, and the Ryzen 7 1700. However, all three reportedly cause a hard system lock when running certain FMA3 workloads. The problem was replicated across all three processors and a variety of motherboards.
Patents

Maryland Legislator Wants To Keep State University Patents Away From Trolls (eff.org) 52

The EFF's "Reclaim Invention" campaign provided the template for a patent troll-fighting bill recently introduced in the Maryland legislature to guide public universities. An anonymous reader writes: The bill would "void any agreement by the university to license or transfer a patent to a patent assertion entity (or patent troll)," according to the EFF, requiring universities to manage their patent portfolios in the public interest. James Love, the director of the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International, argues this would prevent assigning patents to "organizations who are just suing people for infringement," which is especially important for publicly-funded colleges. "You don't want public sector patents to be used in a way that's a weapon against the public." Yarden Katz, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet amd Society, says the Maryland legislation would "set an example for other states by adopting a framework for academic research that puts public interests front and center."
The EFF has created a web page where you can encourage your own legislators to pass similar bills, and to urge universities to pledge "not to knowingly license or sell the rights of inventions, research, or innovation...to patent assertion entities, or patent trolls."
AMD

Microsoft Locks Ryzen, Kaby Lake Users Out of Updates On Windows 7, 8.1 (kitguru.net) 419

Artem Tashkinov writes: In a move that will shock a lot of people, someone at Microsoft decided to deny Windows 7/8.1 updates to the users of the following CPU architectures: Intel seventh (7th)-generation processors (Kaby Lake); AMD "Bristol Ridge" (Zen/Ryzen); Qualcomm "8996." It's impossible to find any justification for this decision to halt support for the x86 architectures listed above because you can perfectly run MS-DOS on them. Perhaps, Microsoft has decided that the process of foisting Windows 10 isn't running at full steam, so the company created this purely artificial limitation. I expect it to be cancelled soon after a wide backlash from corporate customers. KitGuru notes that users may encounter the following error message when they attempt to update their OS: "Your PC uses a processor that isn't supported on this version of Windows." The only resolution is to upgrade to Windows 10.
AMD

AMD Announces Ryzen 5 Processors With 4 and 6-Core Chips Starting At $169 (hothardware.com) 173

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: Today, AMD unveiled additional details with respect to the entire Ryzen 5 processor line-up. Unlike the Ryzen 7 series, which consists entirely of 8-core/16-thread processors, the Ryzen 5 family has two tiers consisting of 6-core/12-thread and 4-core/8-thread processors. The entry-level part is the Ryzen 5 1400, a 4-core/8-thread CPU with base and turbo clocks of 3.2GHz and 3.4GHz, respectively. The Ryzen 5 1500X has the same quad-core configuration, but with base and turbo clocks of 3.5GHz and 3.7GHz, and also has support for an extended XFR frequency range of up to 3.9GHz. The Ryzen 5 1600 is a 6-core/12-thread processor, with 3.2GHz base and 3.6GHz boost clocks. And at the top of the stack is the Ryzen 5 1600X -- which has a similar 6-core configuration -- but cranks things up even further to 3.6GHz/4.0GHz. With XFR, the absolute maximum frequency for all of the Ryzen 5 processors will be somewhat higher, but AMD hasn't disclosed specifics for all parts. AMD's Ryzen 5 processor line-up will work with the very same AM4 platform as the higher-end Ryzen 7. Ryzen 5 series processors will be launching officially on April 11, with prices starting at $169 for the Ryzen 5 1400. An additional $20 will get you a Ryzen 5 1500X, while the 6-core Ryzen 5 1600 and 1600X will sell for $219 and $249, respectively.
AMD

Message For AMD: Open PSP Will Improve Security, Hinder Intel 52

futuristicrabbit writes: AMD has faced calls from Edward Snowden, Libreboot and the Reddit community to release the source code to the AMD Secure Processor (PSP), a network-capable co-processor which some believe has the capacity to act as a backdoor. Opening the PSP would not only have security benefits, but would provide AMD with a competitive advantage against rival chipmaker Intel. Lisa Su, the CEO of AMD, is reportedly seriously considering the change, and the community is working hard to make sure she makes the right decision. In an AMD AMA post via Reddit, user 1n5aN1aC provided several arguments for why the company should release the PSP source code to the Coreboot / Libreboot project (or publicly). The arguments center around security, economic incentives, advertising, brand perception, and mindshare. AMD replied: "Thanks for the inquiry. Currently we do not have plans to release source code but you make a good argument for reasons to do so. We will evaluate and find a way to work with security vendors and the community to everyone's benefit." The product manager for AMD, AMD_james, continued in response to a follow-up comment that claims AMD is "not considering it all but only want to appease the potential buyers." AMD_james replied: "Thanks for the feedback. Please believe me that this has CEO level attention and AMD is investigating the steps and resources necessary to support this. It is not the work of a minute, so please bear with us as we define what we can do." What are your arguments for (or against) the idea of AMD releasing the source code to the AMD Secure Processor?
Graphics

NVIDIA Lifts Veil On GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Performance Reviews, Which Show Faster Speeds Than Titan X (hothardware.com) 51

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA is officially launching its most powerful gaming graphics card today, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. It was announced last week at the Game Developers Conference and pre-orders began shortly thereafter. However, the cards will begin shipping today and NVIDIA has lifted the veil on performance reviews. Though its memory complement and a few blocks within the GPU are reduced versus NVIDIA's previous top-end card, the Titan X, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti makes up for its shortcomings with a combination of refinement and the brute force of higher memory clocks, based on new and improved Micron GDDR5X memory, faster core clocks and an improved cooler. For gamers, the good news is, the 1080 Ti retails for $699, versus $1200 for the Titan X, and it is in fact faster, for the most part. Throughout a battery of game tests and benchmarks, regardless of the resolution or settings used, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performed on par with or slightly faster than the NVIDIA Titan X and roughly 30-35% better than the standard GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition. Versus AMD's current flagship GPU, the Radeon R9 Fury X, there is no competition; the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti was nearly 2x faster than the Fury X in some cases.
AMD

AMD Offers Full Details and Performance of Zen-Based Naples Server Platform (hothardware.com) 138

MojoKid writes: AMD lifted the veil this morning on architecture details and performance expectations of its next generation Zen-based server platform, codenamed Naples. Naples is an up to 32-core, 64-thread variant of Zen, targeted at enterprise and data center applications. The processors will feature eight-channel DDR4 memory controllers (with up to 16 DIMMs attached per CPU), with support for up to 4TB of memory and 128 lanes of on-chip PCI Express connectivity. In a 2P (dual processor/dual socket) configuration, Naples offers up to 64 physical cores (128 threads), access to 32 DIMM slots, and aggregate 16 memory channels. Versus a 2P Intel Xeon E5-2699A V4 based server, the 2P Naples setup ends up with double the memory channels, a higher total memory capacity, more cores (20 more physical cores, 40 more threads), and 48 more available PCI Express lanes. AMD's performance comparisons at its tech day event pit a 2P Naples server with 512GB of DDR4 RAM up against a 2P Intel Xeon E4-2699A V4 configuration with 384GB of RAM. The Naples system had a higher memory capacity and that memory was clocked much higher too -- 2400MHz versus 1866MHz. The Naples system has more cores, and with SMT on, can ultimately process more threads as a result. The AMD Naples system also has double the memory channels, further improving peak memory bandwidth. In its demos, AMD used a seismic analysis workload, which involved multiple iterations of 3D wave equations. According to AMD, the test taxes the entire system, including CPU cores, memory and I/O. In this demo, the AMD server system completed equations roughly 2.5x faster than the dual-socket Intel Xeon server. Expected price points weren't given, but Naples processors and servers should be available in Q2 this year.
AMD

AMD Ryzen 7 Series Processor Reviews Go Live, Zen Looks Strong Vs Intel (hothardware.com) 175

MojoKid writes: AMD has finally lifted the veil on independent reviews of its new Ryzen series of desktop processors that bring the company's CPU architecture back more on competitive footing versus its rival, Intel's Core series. The initial family of Ryzen processors consists of three 8-core chips, the Ryzen 7 1800X at 3.6GHz with boost to 4.1GHz, the Ryzen 7 1700X at 3.4Ghz with boost to 3.8GHz, and the Ryzen 7 1700 at 3GHz with boost to 3.7GHz. Each has support for 2 threads per core, for a total of 16 threads with 16MB of L3 cache on-board, 512K of L2 and TDPs that range from 65 watts for the Ryzen 7 1700 at the low-end, on up to 95 watts for the 1700X and 1800X. In comparison to AMD's long-standing A-series APUs and FX-series processors, the new architecture is significantly more efficient and performant than any of AMD's previous desktop processor offerings. AMD designed the Zen microarchitecture at the heart of Ryzen with performance, throughput, and efficiency in mind. Initially, AMD had reported a 40% target for IPC (instructions per clock) improvement with Zen but actually realized about a 52% lift in overall performance. In the general compute workloads, rendering, and clock-for-clock comparisons, the Ryzen 7 1800X either outperformed or gives Intel's much more expensive Core i7-6900K a run for its money. The lower clock speeds of the Ryzen 7 1700X and 1700 obviously resulted in performance a notch behind the flagship 1800X, but those processors also performed quite well. Ryzen was especially strong in heavily threaded workloads like 3D rendering and Ray Tracing, but even in less strenuous tests like PCMark, the Ryzen 7 series competed favorably. It's not all good news, though. With some older code, audio encoding, lower-res gaming, and platform level tests, Ryzen trailed Intel -- sometimes by a wide margin. There's obviously still optimization work that needs to be done -- from both AMD and software developers.
Intel

Intel Reacts To AMD Ryzen Apparently Cutting Prices On Core i7 And i5 Processors (hothardware.com) 224

Less than a week after AMD announced the first line up of Ryzen processors, Intel is apparently fighting back by dropping the price of several of its processors. Rob Williams, writing for HotHardware: So, what we're seeing now are a bunch of Intel processors dropping in price, perhaps as a bit of a preemptive strike against AMD's chips shipping later this week -- though admittedly it's still a bit too early to tell. Over at Amazon, the prices have been slower to fall, but we'd highly recommend that you keep an eye on the following pages, if you are looking for a good deal this week. So far, at Micro Center we've seen the beefy six-core Intel Core i7-6850K (3.60GHz) drop from $700 to $550, and the i7-6800K (3.40GHz) drop down to $360, from $500. Also, some mid-range chips are receiving price cuts as well. Those include the i7-6700K, a 4.0GHz chip dropping from $400 to $260, and the i7-6600K, a 3.50GHz quad-core part dropping from $270 to $180. Even Intel's latest and greatest Kaby Lake-based i7-7700K has experienced a drop, from $380 to $299, with places like Amazon and NewEgg retailing for $349.
AMD

Samsung's First Exynos 9 Chip is Faster, Uses Less Power, and Supports Gigabit LTE 39

Samsung is taking a big step forward on both processing and LTE speeds with its next mobile system on a chip. From a report on The Verge: The chip, called the Exynos 9 Series 8895, is supposed to perform 27 percent faster than its predecessor and consume 40 percent less power. It's also Samsung's first to support gigabit LTE, offering much faster speeds on networks that support it. The big gains come from Samsung shifting over to a 10nm process for this chip series, allowing it to make a more efficient processor. That means Samsung is following right behind Qualcomm on the move from a 14nm process to a 10nm process. Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon SoC, the 835, also uses a 10nm process and supposed includes speed improvements and a 25 percent power reduction. The Exynos 8895 has an octa-core processor, and its GPU is supposed to include graphics improvements for 4K VR and gaming. Samsung says the processor supports video recording at 120FPS 4K and cameras with a resolution up to 28MP.
AMD

AMD Launches Ryzen, Claims To Beat Intel's Core i7 Offering At Half the Price (hothardware.com) 281

Reader MojoKid writes: AMD CEO, Dr. Lisu Su took to the stage at AMD's Ryzen tech day yesterday and opened the event with official speeds, feeds, pricing, and benchmark scores for the company's upcoming Ryzen series processors. AMD's goal with Ryzen, which is based on its Zen microarchitecture, was a 40% IPC (instructions per clock) uplift. As it turns out, AMD was actually able to increase IPC by approximately 52% with the final shipping product, sometimes more depending on workload type. Dr. Su also showed the first die shot of an 8-core Ryzen processor, disclosing that it consists of approximately 4.8 billion transistors. AMD's flagship Ryzen 7 1800X 8-core/16 thread CPU will have a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, a boost clock of 4.0GHz, and a 95 watt TDP. AMD claims the Ryzen 7 1800X will be the fastest 8-core desktop processor on the market when it arrives. The next member of the line-up is the Ryzen 7 1700X with a base clock of 3.4GHz and a boost clock of 3.8GHz, also with 8 cores and a 95 watt TDP. Finally, the Ryzen 7 1700 – sans X – is also an 8-core / 16-thread CPU, but it has lower 3.0GHz base and 3.7GHz boost clocks, along with a lower 65 watt TDP. AMD took the opportunity to demo the Ryzen 7 1800X and it was approximately 9% faster than the Core i7-6900K running Cinebench R15's multi-threaded test, at about half the cost. And in another comparison, Dr. Su put the 8-core 7 1700 up against the quad-core Core i7-7700K, converting a 4K 60 FPS video down to 1080P and the Ryzen CPU outpaces the Core i7 by 10 full seconds. Pricing for the three initial Ryzen 7 series processors will undercut competing Intel processors significantly. AMD's Ryzen 7 1800X will arrive at $499, Ryzen 7 1700X at $399, and Ryzen 7 1700 at $329. Based on current street prices, Ryzen will be between 20% — 50% lower priced but AMD is claiming performance that's better than Intel at those price points.
Java

JavaScript Attack Breaks ASLR On 22 CPU Architectures (bleepingcomputer.com) 157

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Five researchers from the Vrije University in the Netherlands have put together an attack that can be carried out via JavaScript code and break ASLR protection on at least 22 microprocessor architectures from vendors such as Intel, AMD, ARM, Allwinner, Nvidia, and others. The attack, christened ASLRCache, or AnC, focuses on the memory management unit (MMU), a lesser known component of many CPU architectures, which is tasked with improving performance for cache management operations. What researchers discovered was that this component shares some of its cache with untrusted applications, including browsers. This meant that researchers could send malicious JavaScript that specifically targeted this shared memory space and attempted to read its content. In layman's terms, this means an AnC attack can break ASLR and allow the attacker to read portions of the computer's memory, which he could then use to launch more complex exploits and escalate access to the entire OS. Researchers have published two papers [1, 2] detailing the AnC attack, along with two videos[1, 2] showing the attack in action.
AMD

AMD Set To Launch Ryzen Before March 3rd (anandtech.com) 91

An anonymous reader shares an AnandTech report: Thanks to some sleuthing from various readers, AMD has accidentally let the cat out of the bag with regards to the official Ryzen launch date. While they haven't specifically given an exact date, the talk to be given by AMD at the annual Game Developer Conference (GDC) says the following: "Join AMD Game Engineering team members for an introduction to the recently-launched AMD Ryzen CPU followed by advanced optimization topics." The GDC event runs from February 27th to March 3rd, and currently the AMD talk is not on the exact schedule yet, so it could appear any day during the event (so be wary if anyone says Feb 27th). At this time AMD has not disclosed an exact date either, but it would be an interesting time to announce the new set of Ryzen CPUs right in the middle of both GDC and Mobile World Congress which is also during that week. It would mean that Ryzen news may end up being buried under other GDC and smartphone announcements.
AMD

AMD Announces X300 and X370 AM4 Motherboards For Ryzen, All CPUs Unlocked (hothardware.com) 71

MojoKid writes: AMD has a lot riding on Ryzen, its new generation CPU architecture that is supposed to return the chip designer to a competitive position versus Intel in the high-end desktop X86 processor market. Late last week, at CES 2017, AMD has lined up over a dozen high-performance AM4 motherboards from five hardware partners, including ASRock, ASUS, Biostar, Gigabyte, and MSI. All AM4 motherboards are built around one of two desktop chipsets for Ryzen, the AMD X370 or X300. Motherboards based on the X370 chipset are intended for power users and gamers. These boards bring more robust overclocking controls and support for dual graphics cards, along with more I/O connectivity and dual-channel DDR4 memory support. The X300 is AMD's chipset for mini-ITX motherboards for small form factor (SFF) system platforms. The X300 also supports dual-channel DDR4 memory, PCIe 3.0, M.2 SATA devices, NVMe, and USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 1. Finally, AMD representatives on hand at CES also reported that all Ryzen processors will be multiplier unlocked, hopefully for some rather flexible overclocking options. There will also be several processors in the family, with varying core counts depending on SKU, at launch.

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