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Comment Re:Linux. (Score 1) 399

I keep a Windows system around for minor software that needs it

AKA "games".

Other than games, the very important thing that keeps Windows on my personal system is TurboTax. Like pretty much any other US Taxpayer that has a tax situation too complex for form 1040-EZ and doesn't want to pay ~$150 for H&R Block or ~$300 for a certified CPA. I hired a CPA once and $50 per year TurboTax did a better job!

Before anyone says Wine, its a non-starter. TurboTax uses a bunch of .Net features that don't work 100% right on Wine like WPF. Unfortunately the Mac version is absolute garbage, so that route isn't viable either. It really sucks, but the easiest way to be a lawful US citizen is to have a Windows system.

Comment Its About Ecosystem Development! (Score 1) 81

The fact that Intel is offering to manufacture ARM cores for their custom foundry customers is not new. In fact, there are some Altera FPGAs with embedded ARM cores being manufactured by Intel already. The important thing about this deal is that ARM limited will now provide Hard IP for Intel's process technology.

To understand the importance of this, you have to understand a little more about silicon design and manufacturing than the average Slashdotter. Suppose you are some random fab-less chip designer that builds semi-customized ARM SoCs, a company like Rockchip or Mediatek for example. Generally the way you put together your new SoC is you buy a license for the ARM CPU design, then you buy a license for a GPU design from someone else, then you license a USB controller... so on and so forth, until you have all the building blocks necessary to make your new chip. Then you plug them all together, simulate, fab, validate, and ship.

Those blocks come in two different forms, Hard IP and Soft IP. Soft IP is basically a netlist... its a big text file that lists every transistor in the design and the interconnections between every transistor in the design. Usually soft IP vendors will give you the RTL, which is a more human readable language like Verilog which you compile in to a netlist. Hard IP on the other hard, is more like a vector graphics drawing or a stencil. Hard IP lists every transistor, its x/y coordinates on the silicon, and the exact shape and route of the copper wires. The problem with hard IP is every silicon manufacturer uses different shapes and sizes for their transistors and connecting wires (this is called the process design for the foundry), so a given hard IP design can only be built by the foundry it was designed for.

There is a program called a synthesizer that takes the netlist from the soft IP and generates the layout for the hard IP given a bunch of input parameters that describe the target foundry's process design, rather incredible really. The problem is not every design is "fully synthesizable" for example anything involving high speed I/O or analog (aka the "PHY" layers for modern busses: PCIe, USB, eMMC, Ethernet, SATA etc.) In any case, the pieces of the design that can not be synthesized need to be drawn by hand (aka human hands) using CAD software. For things like CPUs, usually there are some critical pieces that are drawn by hand, because a good human engineer can design a better, more efficient layout than the synthesizer can, at much greater expense of course. So depending on what percentage of your design is not synthesized, switching from one foundry to another can turn out to be a lot of work! This is the important thing here, ARM is providing ready to go hard IP for Intel foundry, just like they do with TSMC already, so the technical barrier for an ARM SoC designer to use Intel foundry is now lower... potentially comparable to TSMC.

Depending on the amount of engineers you have and how sophisticated they are, you might design some of those blocks yourself. Up to the point of companies like Apple and Qualcomm where even the ARM CPU design is a custom implementation and doesn't bear much resemblance to the reference design from ARM limited.

For Intel, using Intel foundry is a non-issue since they have an army of engineers that for the most part they design every IP block themselves anyway. For companies like Apple and Qualcomm that also have armies of engineers switching to Intel foundry is not a technical issue, its about business decisions for them. The big news is the smaller companies that don't have as many resources to do custom design now have Intel foundry as a viable option.

Comment Correlates With Stat Counter (Score 4, Interesting) 272

The data over at Stat Counter seems to agree:


Looks like MacOS and Linux share has remained roughly flat over the last year. Win8.1 use has declined 48.5% and Win7 by 23.1%. Hence Win10's adoption has been at the expense of Win8.1 and to a lesser extent Win7. Overall it seems Microsoft's free upgrade has largely been successful at retaining existing Windows users, but it hasn't won any converts from Apple, and it hasn't slowed down Android at all. They stopped the bleeding, but its not exactly the "threshold" that would return Windows to growth that Microsoft's upper management claimed it would be.

Comment Re: Stupid Software Design Decisions (Score 1) 212

I should have been more clear, every scan *job* not every file. I am very aware of the way Windows works and its horrible amount of overhead for creating a new process compared to UNIX.

This performance concern would need to be balanced against the added security of preventing a persistent malware infection of the scan engine process. Maybe replace the process every 1000 files scanned? This is what performance profiling is for.

From a software engineering standpoint, one should start out with the "best" design and ignore performance for the most part, and then after the initial implementation do performance profiling to see what you actually need to optimize. If you optimize up front, then you have no way of knowing if the optimizations you did in the initial design actually had any benefit.

Comment Re: Stupid Software Design Decisions (Score 2) 212

Since the whole point of it is security it really makes sense to have two copies of your scan engine installed, one in Ring 0 for early boot rootkit detection that scans every driver as it loads and only scans if the binary passes MSFT's driver signing checks first.

All of your scanning of code modules after the kernel is up should be forwarded to a sandboxed user mode service so that even if the scan engine is compromised the malicious code can't go anywhere. Not a bad idea to fire up a new process for every scan so the exploit will be short lived.

Its pretty clear that antivirus software isn't written this way. They run everything in high privileges.

Comment Stupid Software Design Decisions (Score 2) 212

Seriously why the hell does Antivirus software need to run its scan engine at Admin group privileges, and why is half of the scan engine running in Ring 0 kernel drivers?

Its amazing, my work laptop BSODs about once a day just because of some crappy driver included in the Antivirus software installed by IT.

Since it crashes that frequently just in normal operation it seems likely that there is at least 1 vulnerability in that driver which is exploitable from user mode.

Comment Re:The great thing about standards... (Score 1) 221

Would it have killed them to make it backwards compatible with the hardware that already exists?

Speaking from a purely technical standpoint, based on the way the eMMC and UFS standards are written that would be extremely difficult to achieve. The UFS standard actually uses a MIPI M-PHY design for the actual electrical conveyance of data across the copper data lines. The protocol layer of UFS is actually identical to NVMe and the OS storage drivers interact with the UFS device as if it were a NVMe SSD. By comparison, SD cards have their own proprietary bus format that is derived from MultiMediaCard, which was derived from the SPI bus protocol, which was derived from I2C. This is a completely different hardware and software stack from UFS.

Really what it comes down to is when the UFS specification was originally written it was intended to be an internal bus for giving smartphones faster internal flash. It was not intended to become and external card format that would compete with SD. If that was a consideration from the start, I'm sure JEDEC would have baked a good backwards compatibility story in to the standard. Now that the standard already exists UFS v2.0 needs to be backwards compatible with UFS v1.0, so it is too late to add SD bus compatibility since v1.0 already exists in the market and backwards compatibility with it must be maintained.

Maybe they could try to bake in some SD compatibility without breaking the ability of new cards to work with old UFS hosts after the fact... but given how orthogonal the two designs are that would likely add an unacceptable amount of complexity to the flash chip's controller (remember complexity == more transistors == more expensive controller and more power consumed.)

Comment Floppy Drives Are A Bad Comparison (Score 0) 771

There is a big difference between the floppy drive and the headphone jack. The floppy drive died out because a bunch of new, better in every way alternatives came out that made it no longer useful. The headphone jack is still quite useful.

If Apple wants to push technology forward and make a better headphone jack then why not do something that would actually improve audio quality like making the new connector support balanced headphone drive and get rid of the common ground? Combined with a quality pair of headphones that would really push audio fidelity forward.

Of course like everyone else here I expect this is probably just a money grab intended to sell a bunch of dongles and collect a ton of licensing fees on lighting connector headphones with zero actual improvement included.

Comment Boring (Score 3, Informative) 205

...contains 621 million transistors... Imagine how many mind-boggling things will become possible if this much processing power ultimately finds its way into new consumer technologies.

Let see... 1,000 very small compute cores... sounds a awful lot like your typical GP-GPU these days. Only reason the power consumption is so small is because it has < 1 billion transistors. Compare that to the 17 billion transistor nVidia pascal monster. Even the non-Iris graphics Skylake desktop CPU has ~1.7 billion, and over half of those are spent on the GPU.

Chances are even paltry Intel HD Graphics running an OpenCL program will have more FLOPS than this thing. Don't be fooled by the flashy headline, the laws of physics still apply.

Comment BSA = Software Industry Lobbyists (Score 4, Insightful) 55

I suspect that the $1 trillion number the BSA came up with is a generous estimation that gives excessive weight to all the secondary sectors that the software industry supports. Just because construction firms purchase a bunch of trucks doesn't mean that construction jobs get counted as part of "the auto industry's impact on GDP." The only thing that counts towards GDP is the revenue generated by the sales of those trucks (worker wages DO NOT count as part of GDP unless they are government workers), same principle should apply to the software industry.

Just a bunch of rhetoric to talk up Congress about why its so important that they pass a bunch of new IP laws to protect the US economy.

Comment Re:Alleged to be one of two new models (Score 2) 144

Your right, there is something amiss this time. This is the first time consoles are architecturally identical to a standard PC system. It is also the first time that none of the consoles attempted to push technology forward in any way (the chips in both consoles are nothing to write home about performance wise, even at the time of the console's launch.) At the same time, small form factor PCs like NUCs were getting popular. Combined with Steam, PC manufactures started building gaming systems that *directly* competed with consoles in the living room. All things considered, consoles are exposed to the PC refresh cycle much more than ever before. Neither Sony or MSFT were concerned since the game software developers just target the lowest common denominator anyway.

The big miscalculation that both manufactures made is two emerging disruptive technologies have shown up. First... VR. Second, neither manufacturer predicted how aggressively TV manufactures would rapidly push the price of 4K displays down. Both of these offer compelling experiences that current gen pedestrian hardware design choices are incapable of driving. So the current gen consoles are going to end up having a short life. Otherwise the market is going to shift to the PC and leave them in the dust.

Comment Re:Cheap natural gas and expensive regulations... (Score 1) 235

The problem is that the coal industry is leaving taxpayers with pension obligations and mine cleanup obligations.

In this case Peabody is essentially asking the court to take shares away from its current stockholders so that Peabody can then give those shares to their debtors as repayment for their debt. So in this case anyway, the current investors are the ones being f'd, not the US taxpayer.

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