Graphics

NVIDIA To Launch Graphics Cards Specifically Designed For Digital Currency Mining (cnbc.com) 77

Digital currency mining is in high demand, causing GPU prices to skyrocket. Nvidia is planning to capitalize on this trend by releasing graphics cards specifically designed for cryptocurrency. From a product listing on ASUS' website: "ASUS Mining P106 is designed for coin mining with high-efficiency components -- delivering maximum hash-rate production at minimum cost. ASUS Mining P106 enhances the megahash rate by up to 36% compared cards in the same segment that are not tailored for mining. The new card is also engineered to be seriously durable, enabling 24/7 operation for uninterrupted coin production." The ASUS Mining P106 uses an Nvidia chip, according to the specifications page on the website. CNBC reports: Nvidia, AMD and ASUS have not officially announced the digital currency mining cards, according to their website press pages. It is not certain when the cards will be available for sale. Nvidia is likely making the cards designed for this use so that the surging digital currency demand doesn't affect its ability to serve the lucrative PC gaming market.
Intel

New HyperThreading Flaw Affects Intel 6th And 7th Generation Skylake and Kaby Lake-Based Processors (hothardware.com) 130

MojoKid writes: A new flaw has been discovered that impacts Intel 6th and 7th Generation Skylake and Kaby Lake-based processors that support HyperThreading. The issue affects all OS types and is detailed by Intel errata documentation and points out that under complex micro-architectural conditions, short loops of less than 64 instructions that use AH, BH, CH or DH registers, as well as their corresponding wider register (e.g. RAX, EAX or AX for AH), may cause unpredictable system behavior, including crashes and potential data loss. The OCaml toolchain community first began investigating processors with these malfunctions back in January and found reports stemming back to at least the first half of 2016.

The OCaml team was able pinpoint the issue to Skylake's HyperThreading implementation and notified Intel. While Intel reportedly did not respond directly, it has issued some microcode fixes since then. That's not the end of the story, however, as the microcode fixes need to be implemented into BIOS/UEFI updates as well and it is not clear at this time if all major vendors have included these changes in their latest revisions.

Intel

AMD Looks To 'Crush' Intel's Xeon With New Epyc Server Chips (extremetech.com) 135

AMD has unveiled the first generation of Epyc, its new range of server processors built around its Zen architecture. Processors will range from the Epyc 7251 -- an eight-core, 16-thread chip running at 2.1 to 2.9GHz in a 120W power envelope -- up to the Epyc 7601: a 32-core, 64-thread monster running at 2.2 to 3.2GHz, with a 180W design power. From a report: These chips are built on the same fundamental architecture as the company's Ryzen CPU cores, and they're aimed at the incredibly powerful data center market. AMD's 32-core / 64-thread Epyc CPUs combine four eight-core dies, each connected to the other via the company's Infinity Fabric. According to AMD, this approach is significantly cheaper than trying to pack 32 cores into a single monolithic die -- that approach would leave the company potentially throwing away huge amounts of silicon during its production ramp. The Infinity Fabric is deliberately over-provisioned to minimize any problems with non-NUMA aware software, according to Anandtech. Each 32-core Epyc CPU will support eight memory channels and two DIMMs per channel, for a total maximum memory capacity of 2TB per socket, or 4TB of RAM in a two-socket system. Each CPU will also offer 128 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 support -- enough to connect up to six GPUs at x16 each with room left over for I/O support. That's in a one-socket system, mind you. In a two-socket system, the total number of available PCI Express 3.0 lanes is unchanged, at 128 (64 PCIe 3.0 lanes are used to handle CPU -- CPU communication). Anandtech has a longer writeup with more details on the CPUs power efficiency and TDP scaling. Further reading: ZDNet, press release.
AMD

Six Companies Awarded $258 Million From US Government To Build Exascale Supercomputers (digitaltrends.com) 40

The U.S. Department of Energy will be investing $258 million to help six leading technology firms -- AMD, Cray Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia -- research and build exascale supercomputers. Digital Trends reports: The funding will be allocated to them over the course of a three-year period, with each company providing 40 percent of the overall project cost, contributing to an overall investment of $430 million in the project. "Continued U.S. leadership in high performance computing is essential to our security, prosperity, and economic competitiveness as a nation," U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said. "These awards will enable leading U.S. technology firms to marshal their formidable skills, expertise, and resources in the global race for the next stage in supercomputing -- exascale-capable systems." The funding will finance research and development in three key areas; hardware technology, software technology, and application development. There are hopes that one of the companies involved in the initiative will be able to deliver an exascale-capable supercomputer by 2021.
AMD

GPU and Motherboard OEMs Readying Components Optimized For Cryptocurrency Mining (hothardware.com) 77

MojoKid writes: With the popularity of upstart cryptocurrencies like Ethereum on the rise and the value of well-established currencies like Bitcoin steadily increasing, there is new-found interest in cryptocurrency mining. As such, there is another run on AMD and NVIDIA GPUs, which is driving up prices. In an effort to prevent the same kind of GPU shortages that happened in the past, reports have surfaced claiming that AMD and NVIDIA are both readying stripped-down graphics cards, specifically targeting cryptocurrency miners. At Computex, ASRock also announced a new motherboard targeted at cryptocurrency miners, the ASRock H110 Pro BTC+. The ASRock H110 Pro BTC+ is packing 13 PCI Express slots -- twelve x1 slots and one x16 slot -- to accommodate as many graphics cards. ASRock didn't specify pricing or when the H110 Pro BTC+ will be available, however. And the reports that AMD and NVIDIA graphics card for mining will be made available sometime at the end of the June are as yet unconfirmed.
Intel

Intel's Massive 18-core Core i9 Chip Starts a Bloody Battle For Enthusiast PCs (pcworld.com) 324

With Core i9, the Intel vs. AMD battle rages anew. Announced Tuesday at Computex in Taipei, Intel's answer to AMD's 16-core, 32-thread Threadripper is an 18-core, 36-thread monster microprocessor of its own, tailor-made for elite PC enthusiasts. From a report: The Core i9 Extreme Edition i9-7980XE, what Intel calls the first teraflop desktop PC processor ever, will be priced at (gulp!) $1,999 when it ships later this year. In a slightly lower tier will be the meat of the Core i9 family: Core i9 X-series chips in 16-core, 14-core, 12-core, and 10-core versions, with prices climbing from $999 to $1,699. All of these new Skylake-based parts will offer improvements over their older Broadwell-E counterparts: 15 percent faster in single-threaded apps and 10 percent faster in multithreaded tasks, Intel says. If these Core i9 X-series chips -- code-named "Basin Falls" -- are too rich for your blood, Intel also introduced three new Core i7 X-series chips, priced from $339 to $599, and a $242 quad-core Core i5. All of the new chips are due "in the coming weeks," Intel said. Most of the Core i9 chips will incorporate what Intel calls an updated Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, a feature where the chip identifies not just one, but two cores as the "best" cores, and makes them available to be dynamically overclocked to higher speeds when needed. Detailed story at AnandTech and HotHardware.
AMD

AMD Unveils 'EPYC' Server CPUs, Ryzen Mobile, Threadripper CPU and Radeon Vega Frontier Edition GPU (hothardware.com) 76

MojoKid writes: Today, at its financial analyst day, AMD lifted the veil on a number of new products based on the company's Zen CPU architecture and next generation Vega GPU architecture. AMD CEO Lisa Su lifted a very large server chip in the air that the company now has branded EPYC. AMD is going for the jugular when it comes to comparisons with Intel's Xeon family, providing up to 128 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, which Su says "allows you to connect more GPUs directly to the CPU than any other solution in the industry." EPYC currently scales to 32 cores/64 threads per socket and supports up to 8-channel DDR4 memory (16 DIMMs per CPU, up to 4TB total memory support). AMD also confirmed the previously rumored Threadripper CPU, a 16-core/32-thread beast of a chip for the enthusiast desktop PC space. AMD's Raja Koduri, Senior Vice President and Chief Architect for Radeon Technologies Group, also unveiled Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, a workstation and pro graphics card targeted at VR content creation, visualization and machine learning. Radeon Vega Frontier Edition offers 13 TFLOPS of FP32 throughput, 25 TFLOPS of FP16 performance and is powered by 64 computer units and 16GB of HMB2 memory for about 480GB/sec of memory bandwidth. The cards are expected to ship in June but there was no word just yet on when consumer versions of Vega will hit. Finally, AMD also shared info on Ryzen Mobile, which will incorporate both the Zen CPU architecture and an integrated Vega GPU core. Compared to AMD's 7th generation APUs, AMD claims Ryzen Mobile will up CPU performance by 50 percent while offering 40 percent better graphics performance. AMD also claimed those gains will not come at the expense of battery life, with a 50 percent reduction in power consumption, which reportedly will pave the way for faster, longer lasting premium notebooks and 2-in-1 devices.
Businesses

Intel's Itanium CPUs, Once a Play For 64-bit Servers And Desktops, Are Dead (arstechnica.com) 138

Reader WheezyJoe writes: Four new 9700-series Itanium CPUs will be the last and final Itaniums Intel will ship. For those who might have forgotten, Itanium and its IA-64 architecture was intended to be Intel's successor to 32-bit i386 architecture back in the early 2000's. Developed in conjunction with HP, IA-64 used a new architecture developed at HP that, while capable as a server platform, was not backward-compatible with i386 and required emulation to run i386-compiled software. With the release of AMD's Opteron in 2003 featuring their alternative, fully backward-compatible X86-64 architecture, interest in Itanium fell, and Intel eventually adopted AMD's technology for its own chips and X86-64 is now dominant today. In spite of this, Itanium continued to be made and sold for the server market, supported in part by an agreement with HP. With that deal expiring this year, these new Itaniums will be Intel's last.
Businesses

Startup Offers A Chip Based On The Open Source RISC-V Architecture (computerworld.com.au) 73

angry tapir shared this news from Computerworld: An open-source chip project is out to break the dominance of proprietary chips offered by Intel, AMD, and ARM... A startup called SiFive is the first to make a business out of the [open source] RISC-V architecture. The company is also the first to convert the RISC-V instruction set architecture into actual silicon. The company on Thursday announced it has created two new chip designs that can be licensed... but the company will not charge royalties. That makes it attractive alternative compared to chip designs from ARM and Imagination Technologies, which charge licensing fees and royalties.
One of RISC-V's inventors co-founded the company, and he says that support is growing -- pointing out that there's already a fork of Linux for RISC-V.
AMD

AMD and Nvidia Silicon Manufacturing Secrets Allegedly Stolen, Sold To China (pcgamesn.com) 103

According to a report on DigiTimes, a former TSMC engineer has been accused of stealing the secrets of their 28nm manufacturing process and taking them across the Taiwan Straits to Chinese rival, HLMC. "The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) produce the chips for the great and the good of the PC hardware market, specifically Nvidia and latterly AMD," reports PCGamesN. From the report: The report claims the former engineer, known only as Hsu, has been accused of taking details and materials relating to TSMC's 28nm manufacturing process and handing them over to Shanghai Huali Microelectronics (HLMC) after being offered a job there. The engineer was arrested before he even had a chance to start his new job on mainland China. This isn't the first reported instance of potentially shady dealings involving HLMC. DigiTimes previously reported that the Chinese foundry had headhunted a team of up to 50 research and development engineers from Taiwan's first semiconductor company, United Microelectronics (UMC), to help them get their 28nm production process up to speed. DigiTimes also alleges that some Chinese memory manufacturers have been doing the same thing, headhunting Taiwanese talent to get their own fabs off the ground, and that Micron are taking legal action against some of their Taiwan partners for allegedly nicking their tech and handing it over to China-based RAM companies.
Open Source

Linux Kernel 4.11 Officially Released (softpedia.com) 55

prisoninmate quotes Softpedia: Linux kernel 4.11 has been in development for the past two months, since very early March, when the first Release Candidate arrived for public testing. Eight RCs later, we're now able to download and compile the final release of Linux 4.11 on our favorite GNU/Linux distributions and enjoy its new features. Prominent ones include scalable swapping for SSDs, a brand new perf ftrace tool, support for OPAL drives, support for the SMC-R (Shared Memory Communications-RDMA) protocol, journalling support for MD RAID5, all new statx() system call to replace stat(2), and persistent scrollback buffers for VGA consoles... The Linux 4.11 kernel also introduces initial support for Intel Gemini Lake chips, which is an Atom-based, low-cost computer processor family developed using Intel's 14-nanometer technology, and better power management for AMD Radeon GPUs when the AMDGPU open-source graphics driver is used.
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.

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