Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

[H]ard News

Thursday January 18, 2018

Microsoft Resumes Meltdown & Spectre Updates for AMD Devices

A report from BleepingComputer states that Microsoft is resuming the rollout of security updates for AMD devices to patch the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. Microsoft had halted the rollout for AMD-based machines on January 9th, after their patch left users with PCs that were crashing, and left in an unbootable state.

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Good to see they are working in it, but releasing something that causes a machine to become unbootable is really unacceptable. The article also mentions that out of the 9 updates Microsoft is releasing, 4 of them are still paused for unspecified reasons. Hopefully the fixes will keep coming swiftly.

The Meltdown flaw does not affect AMD devices, but these updates include an OS-level patch for the Spectre flaw. An additional CPU microcode (firmware) update is also needed to fully patch the Spectre bug. AMD said it was working on firmware updates it hoped to have ready by the end of the current month.

Discussion

Skylake-X Direct Die Frame Cooling Frame

This device certainly harkens back to the days of using frames on our fragile AMD Thunderbird CPUs, before Integrated Heat Spreaders IHS) were a thing. As you might know, overclocking and cooling even the "lesser" Skylake-X CPUs is not a walk in the park. So this Direct Die Frame would likely be a great thing when it comes to cooling one of these extremely hot CPUs.

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The der8auer Skylake-X Direct Die Frame at a Glance: Allows the CPU to be operated and cooled without a heatspreader - Secure mounting for maximum cooling performance - Compatible with current Socket 2066 motherboards - Manufactured in high-grade black anodized aluminium

Discussion

New Power Generation and Propulsion System for Satellites

Researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Universidad Politأ©cnica de Madrid have designed and patented a new propellantless system for satellites that allows generation of electric power and on-board thrust. Via electromagnetism, the tether can generate power passively as the altitude of the satellite lowers. Conversely, if there is available power for on-board use, the tether can be used to produce a thrust force that increases the altitude of the orbit.

I can't even pretend to understand the science behind this, but the potential is amazing. The article and video also goes on to say that this technology can help eliminate space debris, which in my reading a few years ago is a massive problem. Very cool stuff.

The system is based on what is known as a low-work-function tether, a thin, km-size aluminum tape of a few centimeters width with enhanced electron emission properties on receiving sunlight and heat. The tape, which is rolled up in a reel during the launch, is deployed once in orbit.

Discussion

YouTube is Cracking Down On "Tide Pod Challenge" Videos

YouTube has released a statement in response to people posting videos of themselves eating laundry detergent. In an article from FastCompany, YouTube states:

"YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm. We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies."

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I guess Darwin has been foiled again! The article also states that the content is being removed only after being flagged by users. In addition to YouTube and P&G, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a statement stating "A meme should not become a family tragedy. Don't eat poison."

In an earlier statement of its own, P&G said it was working with "leading social media sites" to encourage the removal of videos that violate their polices.

Discussion

Life Saving Drone in Australia Saving Lives

Australia has recently giving some of its lifeguards the ability to deploy and fly a drone to folks that might be in distress on some of its beaches. Two kids got caught up in some nasty swells and the lifeguard was able to fly the drone out to them and drop in some flotation devices. Very cool and everyone is still alive. The kids then swam back out to have the lifeguards do it again. (Not really.) These drones are also being used as shark spotters as well.

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In what is believed to be a world-first drone surf rescue, two boys on Thursday got caught in three-metre (10-foot) swells while swimming off Lennox Head in New South Wales, near the border with Queensland. Beachgoers onshore raised the alarm to the lifeguards who then alerted the drone pilot, and the aerial lifesaver was deployed in moments. "I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes," lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Discussion

No Google Face Matching in Illinois and Texas

You likely saw all the hubbub last week over folks matching their faces to past historical artworks using the Google Arts & Culture app. This seemed sort of neat so I downloaded to give it a try. I very soon came to the conclusion that I am much more stupid than I previously realized as after about 30 minutes of trying to even find the feature in the application, I gave up. Seems as though I was not alone...in not finding the feature, not just being stupid.

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Google confirmed to CNN Tech that the face-matching tool is not available in Illinois and Texas. The company declined to comment on why.

However, experts believe the issue stems from laws in Illinois and Texas that put restrictions on how companies can use biometric data such as facial scans and fingerprints. In 2008, Illinois passed a law that requires companies to let users know when biometric identifiers are collected and how they will be used. It's also necessary to obtain consent from users before collecting and storing that data. In 2009, Texas passed a similar law.

Discussion

Samsung GDDR6 in Production

10nm GDDR6 is now in production by Samsung. These ICs will be 16Gb density which is twice what we saw with 20nm GDDR5. Per-pin data increases to 18Gbps which doubles the 8Gbps rate we see with GDDR5. Wow! This represents a huge increase and depending on where GDDR6 falls out on pricing (double yield for Samsung too), this could certainly hold HBM2 at bay a lot longer, but I guess good for Samsung since it builds both technologies. Interestingly, which Samsung is calling this a "10-nanometer class process technology," its does mention this in the notes: "10nm-class denotes a process technology node somewhere between 10 and 19 nanometers." Thanks Blah Blah.

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Samsung Electronics, the world leader in advanced memory technology, today announced that it has started mass production of the industry’s first 16-gigabit (Gb) Graphics Double Data Rate 6 (GDDR6) memory for use in advanced graphics processing for gaming devices and graphics cards as well as automotive, network and artificial intelligence systems.

Discussion

Intel Random Restart Bug & Data Center Performance After Patches

Back on January 11, Intel started seeing reports of random system reboots after applying Meltdown and Spectre patches on Intel Broadwell and Haswell CPUs. Seems as if this was not an isolated occurrence and this has now been verified with other Intel partners. And this looks to be hammering a larger base of CPUs than first reported. Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake processors are also affected. Microcode is in the works to address this and being worked on now.

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We have now issued firmware updates for 90 percent of Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years, but we have more work to do. As I noted in my blog post last week, while the firmware updates are effective at mitigating exposure to the security issues, customers have reported more frequent reboots on firmware updated systems.

As part of this, we have determined that similar behavior occurs on other products in some configurations, including Ivy Bridge-, Sandy Bridge-, Skylake-, and Kaby Lake-based platforms. We have reproduced these issues internally and are making progress toward identifying the root cause. In parallel, we will be providing beta microcode to vendors for validation by next week.

Intel has also followed up its initial desktop performance metrics with benchmarks for data center. All looks well except for data IO, which of course is no concern to data centers. /s

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As usual, take these with a grain of salt, and hopefully you admins have some pre-patch metrics to use for comparison on your own systems.

The benchmark results reported above may need to be revised as additional testing is conducted. The results depend on the

specific platform configurations and workloads utilized in the testing, and may not be applicable to any particular user’s

components, computer system or workloads. The results are not necessarily representative of other benchmarks and other

benchmark results may show greater or lesser impact from mitigations.

Discussion

Wednesday January 17, 2018

Now That's a Crypto Crash

Cryptocurrency bitconnect took a nosedive with prices falling 97% today. The fall came after BitConnect said it’s closing its lending and exchange platform after receiving cease and desist letters from Texas and North Carolina. The coin had a nearly $3 billion market cap, and traded as high as $322 on Tuesday, dropping to $6.09, according to CoinMarketCap.com data.

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Bad week for miners out there with nearly all major cryptocurrencies down between 20-40% in the last week. Hopefully that means good news for gamers who need a new video card, but the chances of that happening soon are slim.

BitConnect also said "continuous bad press has made community members uneasy and created a lack of confidence." In addition, several denial of service attacks on BitConnect ‘s platform "have created more panic inside the community," the company said.

Discussion

Nintendo Switch LABO

Cageymaru sent this over to me to have a look at, and quite frankly I am not sure what to think about Nintendo's LABO "DIY kits" for its new Switch gaming handheld. So I looked it a little more, then I saw that these cardboard bits and pieces start at $70. OK, I know what to think about it now, but I do not think I should write that here.

Launching April 20, 2018 - Starting at $69.99MSRP

Also worth mention is this quote from some dude that writes about Nintendo.

They could put out a piece of cardboard and say that it’ll play Mario and they’ll buy it."

Discussion

UEFI BIOS Updates For Spectre

With the Spectre vulnerability exposed, Intel is rushing out new microcode, and motherboard manufacturers are working hard to get BIOS updates released. The news today about InSpectre got us thinking, have there been any BIOS updates for our machines, and will there be? It looks like X99 is as far back as Intel is willing to go with microcode updates.

ASUS has a page you can find here to see if your motherboard has an updated BIOS. Unfortunately only 2 X99 boards appear like they will be getting any love.

GIGABYTE has a similar page here, unfortunately it does not look like they are going back to X99 at this time, but Gigabyte did tell us several X99 boards are in testing now, and the page will be updated when it becomes available for download.

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MSI's page is available here. So far they have only released updates for Z370, but there is a list of motherboards that will be getting the update.

ASRock doesn't have a dedicated page that we could find, but its support site shows many new BIOS updates have been released in the last week, with presumably more coming soon. (Update: UEFI/BIOS patch microsite for AsRock.)

Discussion

First Hybrid Intel-AMD Chip Benchmarks Show Vega M Obliterating Intel UHD and MX 150 Graphics

HotHardware has gotten to run some benchmarks on the first Intel-AMD hybrid chip with the Dell XPS 15 convertible. The XPS 15 2-In-1 tested was configured with a Core i7-8705G processor (3.1GHz base, 4.1GHz boost), the Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics engine with 4GB of HBM2, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and an ultra-fast NVMe SSD.

Running at 1920x1080 resolution, the XPS 15 2-in-1 was able to maintain an average frame rate of nearly 35 frames per second with High image quality settings dialed in, 29.69 on Very High in the video. Intel's HD 620U could only manage 8 FPS on medium settings, and could not run the game on high as it would run out of frame buffer memory. An 8th generation Core processor paired with an NVIDIA MX 150 GPU was able to put up an average frame rate of around 23 frames per second in the same benchmark at High IQ settings.

It's been almost a year since we first heard the rumors of Intel getting Radeon graphics, and the result seems to be quite impressive. I'm really looking forward to when these get fully into the hands of reviewers so we can see how Intell plus Radeon stacks up not only in performance, but in battery life etc. Thanks to cageymaru for the story.

Needless to say, graphics performance definitely looks promising for these new 8th generation Intel Core processors with AMD graphics. We don't know how long this AMD partnership will last, but the bitter rivals should be commended for likely hitting it out of the park on the first try here.

Discussion

Statistical Analysis of pr0n Viewership During a Nuclear Crisis

Four days ago Hawaiians were shaken to their core when a false warning of an inbound ballistic missile was announced. Fortunately the fine people at PornHub were there to console everyone after the announcement came out that it was a false alarm.

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PronHub has the best posts when it comes to data. The plumet in traffic upon hearing your impending doom isn't surprising. What is surprising is the massive uptick in traffic after the notification that it was a false alarm. I guess a sigh of relief wasn't adequate.

Based on real-time, per-minute pageviews, and compared to levels on the previous two Saturdays, our statisticians found a precipitous drop in traffic at 8:07am immediately after the warning was sent out. By 8:23am, traffic was a massive -77% below that of a typical Saturday. As residents were notified around 8:45 that the initial warning was sent in error, traffic began to return to normal and Hawaiians collectively breathed a sigh of relief. Those seeking further relief, headed back to Pornhub where pageviews surged +48% above typical levels at 9:01am.

Discussion

New Tool Detects If Your PC Is Vulnerable To Meltdown And Spectre

Gibson Research has released a new tool called InSpectre to detect if your PC is vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre. The tiny 122 KB program runs in place and checks identifiers as well as Microsoft updates to be sure you are protected from these flaws.

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Very cool little piece of software. Running it on my machine told me that Windows was updated to protect against Meltdown, but I was still vulnerable to Spectre. Hopefully MSI comes out with a BIOS update for me shortly. Gibson Research also notes DO NOT download the tool from any 3rd party websites, as it could be malicious.

Protection from these two significant vulnerabilities requires updates to every system's hardware its BIOS which reloads updated processor firmware and its operating system to use the new processor features. To further complicate matters, newer processors contain features to minimize the performance impact of these important security improvements. But older processors, lacking these newer features, will be significantly burdened and system performance will suffer under some workloads. This InSpectre utility was designed to clarify every system's current situation so that appropriate measures can be taken to update the system's hardware and software for maximum security and performance.

Discussion

New Xbox Elite Controller Leaks

A series of images posted on Chinese site Baidu reveal what is said to be a new version of the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. According to the leaker, is said to have a 3-profile switch, as well as Bluetooth with support for Windows 10, USB-C, and three-level Hair-Trigger locks. The images also show what appears to be an adjustable tension mechanism for the thumbsticks. Microsoft filed a patent in December with an adjustable lock design for the thumbsticks, and the images match it exactly.

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Looks great to me. I don't know if it would be possible given the new features, but I would love it if they made it a bit less expensive. I'm still using a 360 controller on my PC for racing and such, as I just can't bring myself to spend $140 on the current elite.

A source familiar with Microsoft's Xbox plans has confirmed to The Verge that the Reddit image of the controller is genuine, but it's not clear exactly when or if Microsoft plans to introduce this new controller. Microsoft is also testing this controller design alongside a new case that will charge it on the go.

Discussion

Google IT Support Professional Certificate

Google has started an educational program in order to help people train for jobs in IT support. The gist is that if you take the course, which costs $50 a month on Coursera, in eight to twelve months you can earn the certificate that carries weight with some of Google's partners such as BOA, Walmart, Sprint, and GE.

Today, we’re launching the Google IT Support Professional Certificate hosted on Coursera—a first-of-its-kind online program to prepare people for roles in IT support. With no previous experience required, beginning learners can become entry-level job ready in eight to 12 months. This program is part of Grow with Google, our initiative to help people get the skills they need to find a job.

Discussion

Google To Construct Three Undersea Cables In 2019

Google has announced that they will be commissioning three new subsea cables in 2019. Curie, a private cable connecting Chile to Los Angeles; Havfrue, a consortium cable connecting the U.S. to Denmark and Ireland; and the Hong Kong-Guam Cable system (HK-G), a consortium cable interconnecting major subsea communication hubs in Asia.

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Pretty massive investment. The blog post states that Google has spent $30 billion in the last 3 years improving their infrastructure, and that their network delivers 25% of worldwide internet traffic, crazy. So why did they scrap plans to expand Google Fiber again?

These new investments expand our existing cloud network. The Google network has over 100 points of presence (map) and over 7,500 edge caching nodes (map). This investment means faster and more reliable connectivity for all our users.

Discussion

Apple to Invest $350B in US over 5 Years & Pay $38B in Repatriation Taxes

Apple is bringing a huge amount of its capital back into the USA and paying federal taxes on that money. It is looking to boost its domestic image with over $350B in American manufacturing over the next 5 years. Apple is also suggesting that 20,000 new jobs will open at new campus that will be dedicated to its AppleCare services.

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For years the company infamously refused to repatriate billions in overseas cash unless it was granted a tax "holiday," but the company is presumably going ahead because of lower corporate tax rates advanced by the Republican Party and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Discussion

Remember the NotPetya Cyberattack?

Remember all the Petya / NotPetya cyberattack craziness going around last June? You will never guess who was behind that. RUSSIA! RUSSIA! RUSSIA! No really. At least that is what the Washington Post is telling us. Below is a breakdown and analysis of Petya in action. Thanks cageymaru.

The GRU military spy agency created NotPetya, the CIA concluded with "high confidence" in November, according to classified reports cited by U.S. intelligence officials. The CIA has attributed to Russian military hackers a cyberattack that crippled computers in Ukraine last year, an effort to disrupt that country’s financial system amid its ongoing war with separatists loyal to the Kremlin.

Discussion

New "Text Bomb" Can Crash Or Hang Messages And Safari In iOS And macOS

Apple Insider is reporting that a new malicious link can cause Messages and Safari to crash or hang in iOS and macOS. The website seems to exploit a bug or a non-optimized rendering process for OpenGraph page titles by creating an excessively long tag. When Messages attempts to render a preview of the link, the app then crashes or hangs - and occasionally takes the operating system with it.

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This isn't the first time this has happened, in 2015 a link could crash Chrome, and in 2016 a link couldl crash iPhones. With the amount of code flying around the internet it's honesty surprising this doesn't happen more often. Hopefully Apple gets a fix out quickly.

Messages gets top billing, but our testing also found Safari and Chrome on macOS to be somewhat vulnerable. Even Chrome's developer tools were not immune. Since this exploit relies on automatic link previews, typical security advice - don't click on random links - doesn't apply. Until Apple releases a fix, users will simply have to hope their friends are nice people.

Discussion

Hawaii Emergency Management Password Found In Press Photo

After a false alert about an inbound missile, Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency has said a worker clicked the wrong item in a drop-down menu and sent it, and that its system was not hacked. But Hawaii News Now is reporting an AP photo from July has resurfaced, showing the agency's operations officer in front of monitors, attached to one of them is a Post-it note with a password on it.

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Just.... wow. I'm nearly at a loss for words on how big of a screw up this is. And from the response of the spokesman sounds like this was a shared password, therefore no way to link it to a specific careless employee.

Richard Rapoza, emergency management agency spokesman, confirmed that the password is authentic and was actually used for an "internal application." He said he didn't believe that application is any longer in use, but declined to say what application the password was for. "It wasn't for any major piece of software," he said, while also acknowledging that it's not a good idea to have a password in plain sight, especially with news cameras around.

Discussion

YouTube Announces Stricter Criteria For Monetization And Partnerships

YouTube has announced today that moving forward it wi be tougher to get a partnership and run ads on videos. Previously, channels had to reach 10,000 total views to be eligible for the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). Starting today, new channels will need to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months to be eligible for ads. We will begin enforcing these new requirements for existing channels in YPP beginning February 20th, 2018.

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I'm not sure what problem this solves. I don't see how the spread of content and channels that YouTube doesn't want on their service will be decreased by removing the ability for them to run ads. The article links to their support page to to for a list of what they determine "advertiser-friendly" content.

It’s been clear over the last few months that we need the right requirements and better signals to identify the channels that have earned the right to run ads. Instead of basing acceptance purely on views, we want to take channel size, audience engagement, and creator behavior into consideration to determine eligibility for ads.

Discussion

Tuesday January 16, 2018

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO HSF on Sale

Cooler Master's Hyper 212 Evo has been the go-to low cost CPU air cooler for quite a while. No it is not the best, but it is far from the most expensive while doing a good job cooling. I wanted to add this cooler to our new HSF/AIO testing platform and went to buy one at Newegg and noticed quie a sale going on. The Hyper 212 Evo is on sale for the next week at $29.99, but has a healthy $10MIR attached to it as well for the next week, bringing the full cost down to $19.99. This model is socket AM4 compatible as well. Just thought I would pass that along. I gots mine. You gots yourn?

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Unmatched performance for the value, these are the tenants that guided Cooler Master engineers when designing the Hyper 212 EVO. Patented Continuous Direct Contact (CDC) technology ensures that the heat pipes are free of barriers while drawing heat away from the processor. A PWM fan ensures that fan speed can be intelligently controlled to ensure that it only speeds up when more cooling is necessary.

Discussion

Today Is The Last Day To Upgrade To Windows 10 Free

Unless Microsoft decides to extend the deadline again, today is the last day to upgrade to Windows 10 for free using the assistive technologies loophole. January 9th Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 8.1, and moving it to "extended support" meaning it will get only security updates for the next 5 years. Essentially, Windows 8.1 is dead.

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While I agree from a telemetry standpoint, Windows 10 is pretty terrible. That said, on an Operating System standpoint, I've found Windows 10 quite good. I upgraded my main PC to it the first day of the upgrade to start testing it, then after a bout a month I moved all my machines onto it without a problem. I just wish they'd start doing some sales in the Windows store, I want Forza!

Can we say for certain whether January 16 is the absolute, drop-dead, pinky-swear, final cutoff for the assistive upgrade? No, we can’t. It’s possible that Microsoft really wants users to upgrade to Windows 10 and is using the loophole as an perpetually extensible back door of sorts to allow upgrades. It’s also possible that Microsoft’s moment of mercy will end soon.

Discussion


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