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Data Storage

Intel Launches Optane Memory That Makes Standard Hard Drives Perform Like SSDs (hothardware.com) 144

MojoKid writes: Intel has officially launched its Optane Memory line of Solid State Drives today, lifting embargo on performance benchmark results as well. Optane Memory is designed to accelerate the storage subsystem on compatible machines, to improve transfer speeds, and reduce latency. It is among the first products to leverage 3D XPoint memory technology that was co-developed by Intel and Micron, offering many of the same properties as NAND flash memory, but with higher endurance and certain performance characteristics that are similar to DRAM. The SSD can be paired to the boot drive in a system, regardless of the capacity or drive type, though Optane Memory will most commonly be linked to slower hard drives. Optane Memory is used as a high-speed repository, as usage patterns on the hard drive are monitored and the most frequently accessed bits of data are copied from the boot drive to the Optane SSD. Since the SSD is used as a cache, it is not presented to the end-user as a separate volume and works transparently in the background. Paired with an inexpensive SATA hard drive, general system performance is more in line with an NVMe SSD. In benchmark testing, Intel Optane Memory delivers a dramatic lift in overall system performance. Boot times, application load time, file searches, and overall system responsiveness are improved significantly. Setting up Intel Optane Memory is also quick and easy with "set it and forget it" type of solution. Optane Memory modules will hit retail this week in 16GB and 32GB capacities, at $44 and $77, respectively.
Transportation

Grand Theft Auto V Is Being Used To Help Teach Self-Driving Cars (bloomberg.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren't enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix... Last year, scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs developed a way to pull visual information from Grand Theft Auto V. Now some researchers are deriving algorithms from GTAV software that's been tweaked for use in the burgeoning self-driving sector. The latest in the franchise from publisher Rockstar Games Inc. is just about as good as reality, with 262 types of vehicles, more than 1,000 different unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions and countless bridges, traffic signals, tunnels and intersections...

The idea isn't that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," said Alain Kornhauser, a Princeton University professor of operations research and financial engineering who advises the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team.

Government

President Trump Misses 90-Day Deadline To Appoint a Cybersecurity Team After Alleged Russian Hacking (politico.com) 342

From a report: President-elect Donald Trump was very clear: "I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office," he said in January, after getting a U.S. intelligence assessment of Russian interference in last year's elections and promising to address cybersecurity. Thursday, Trump hits his 90-day mark. There is no team, there is no plan, and there is no clear answer from the White House on who would even be working on what. It's the latest deadline Trump's set and missed -- from the press conference he said his wife would hold last fall to answer questions about her original immigration process to the plan to defeat ISIS that he'd said would come within his first 30 days in office. Since his inauguration, Trump's issued a few tweets and promises to get to the bottom of Russian hacking -- and accusations of surveillance of Americans, himself included, by the Obama administration.
Communications

Microsoft's Skype Is Most Used Messaging Service For Cyber Criminals, Study Finds (securityledger.com) 57

chicksdaddy quotes a report from The Security Ledger: Cyber criminals lurk in the dark recesses of the internet, striking at random and then disappearing into the virtual ether. But when they want to talk shop with their colleagues, they turn to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and its Skype communications tools, according to an analysis by the firm Flashpoint. Mentions of different platforms were used as a proxy for gauging interest in and use of these messaging services. Flashpoint analysts looked, especially, for invitations to continue conversation outside of cyber criminal marketplaces, like references to ICQ accounts or other platforms. The survey results show that, out of a population of around 80 instant messenger platforms and protocols, a short list of just five platforms accounts for between 80% and 90% of all mentions within the cyber underground. Of those, Microsoft's Skype was the chat king. It ranked among the top five platforms across all language groups. That, despite the platform's lack of end-to-end encryption or forward secrecy features and evidence, courtesy of NSA hacker Edward Snowden, that U.S. spies may have snooped on Skype video calls in recent years, The Security Ledger reports. The conclusion: while security is a priority amongst thieves, it isn't the sole concern that cyber criminals and their associates have. In fact, sophisticated hacking communities like those in Russia to continue to rely on legacy platforms like ICQ when provably more secure alternatives exist. The reason? Business. "These cyber criminals have a lot of different options that they're juggling and a lot of factors that weigh on their options," said Leroy Terrelonge III, the Director of Middle East and Africa Research at Flashpoint. "We might suspect that cyber criminals use the most secure means of communication all the time, that's not what our research showed."
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.
Intel

Intel Discontinues the Intel Developer Forum; IDF17 Cancelled (anandtech.com) 36

From a report on AnandTech: In a bit of breaking news this morning, it appears that Intel has decided to cancel their Intel Developer Forum tradeshow going forward, including this summer's expected IDF17. The company says, "Intel has evolved its event portfolio and decided to retire the IDF program moving forward. Thank you for nearly 20 great years with the Intel Developer Forum! Intel has a number of resources available on intel.com, including a Resource and Design Center with documentation, software, and tools for designers, engineers, and developers. As always, our customers, partners, and developers should reach out to their Intel representative with questions." Previously, Intel had stated that there would not be an IDF in China this year. However an IDF was still expected in the US, albeit with a "new format."
AMD

G.SKILL Hits 4500MHz With All-New Trident Z DDR4-4333MHz 16GB Memory Kit (betanews.com) 72

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: G.SKILL is a respected RAM maker, and the company is constantly pushing the envelope. Today, it announced a new DDR4-4333MHz 16GB Memory Kit (2x8GB) -- the first ever. While that alone is very cool, the company is bragging about what it accomplished with it -- an overclock that hit 4500MHz using an Intel Core i5-7600K processor paired with an ASUS ROG Maximus IX Apex motherboard. Pricing and availability for this kit is unknown at this time. With that said, it will probably be quite expensive. What we do know, however, its that the insane overclock to 4500MHz is for real. This was achieved using timings of CL19-19-19-39 in dual channel, which resulted in read/write of 55/65GB/s and copy speed of 52GB/s.
Microsoft

New Processors Are Now Blocked From Receiving Updates On Old Windows (arstechnica.com) 238

halfEvilTech writes: Last year, Microsoft announced they were planning on blocking OS updates on newer Intel CPU's, namely the 7th Generation Kaby Lake processors. Ars Technica reports: "Now, the answer appears to be 'this month.' Users of new processors running old versions of Windows are reporting that their updates are being blocked. The block means that systems using these processors are no longer receiving security updates." While Windows 7 has already ended mainstream support, the same can't be said for Windows 8.1 which is still on mainstream support until January of next year.
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."
Businesses

Qualcomm Says Apple Broke Contract, Hindered Performance of Its Chipsets (arstechnica.com) 92

Qualcomm has filed a 139-page rebuttal of a lawsuit lodged by Apple in January in which the US chipmaker counterclaimed that the iPhone giant was "misrepresenting facts and making false statements." From a report on ArsTechnica: It alleged that Apple had "breached" and "mischaracterized" deals it had in place with Qualcomm and accused the Tim Cook-run firm of interfering with the chipmaker's "long-standing agreements" with iPhone and iPad manufacturers, such as Foxconn. In a statement, Qualcomm said, "Apple effectively chose to limit the performance of the Qualcomm-based iPhones by not taking advantage of the full potential speed of which Qualcomm's modems are capable. Apple's actions were intended to prevent consumers from realizing that iPhones containing Qualcomm chipsets performed far better than iPhones containing chipsets supplied by Intel."
Microsoft

Microsoft's Surface Pro 5 Said To Move To Intel Kaby Lake Processors (techcrunch.com) 29

Windows watcher Paul Thurrott has revealed the first credible details about Microsoft's Surface Pro 5. TechCrunch reports: The Surface Pro 5 will have the same power connector currently used on the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, which is a long, thin magnetic jack. The upcoming device will also use Intel's Kaby Lake processors, and it makes perfect sense that the company would want to jump to the latest and greatest chips in its new generation hardware. Other details, including price, the use of USB-C, and basically anything regarding size and hardware design aren't yet known, though Thurrott reports the changes to the Pro 5 won't be a "dramatic" departure from the existing generation.
Businesses

Why More Tech Companies Are Hiring People Without Degrees (fastcompany.com) 329

An anonymous reader writes: According to a recent article on Fast Company, tech companies are looking to hire people without degrees. From the report: "For years, the tech pipeline has been fed mostly from the same elite universities. This has created a feedback loop of talent and a largely homogenous workplace. As a result, tech continues to stumble when it comes to diversity. The technology industry is now trying to figure out a way to attack its cultural and demographic homogeneity issues. One simple initiative is to begin to recruit talent from people outside of its preferred networks. One way is to extend their recruiting efforts to people who don't have four-year degrees. The technology industry is now trying to figure out a way to attack its cultural and demographic homogeneity issues. One simple initiative is to begin to recruit talent from people outside of its preferred networks. One way is to extend their recruiting efforts to people who don't have four-year degrees. IBM's head of talent organization, Sam Ladah, calls this sort of initiative a focus on 'new-collar jobs.' The idea, he says, is to look toward different applicant pools to find new talent. 'We consider them based on their skills,' he says, and don't take into account their educational background. This includes applicants who didn't get a four-year degree but have proven their technical knowledge in other ways. Some have technical certifications, and others have enrolled in other skills programs. 'We've been very successful in hiring from [coding] bootcamps,' says Ladah. Intel has also been looking to find talent from other educational avenues. One program gave people either enrolled in or recently graduated from community colleges internships with the company. Similarly, the company has been trying to get a foothold in high schools by funding initiatives to boost computer science curricula for both the Oakland Unified School District and an Arizona-based high-school oriented program called Next Generation of Native American Coders. Intel, for example, invests in the program CODE 2040, which aims to build pathways for underrepresented minority youth to enter the technology space. Likewise, GitHub has partnered with coding-focused enrichment programs like Operation Code, Hackbright, and Code Tenderloin."
Google

Google's Custom Machine Learning Chips Are 15-30x Faster Than GPUs and CPUs (pcworld.com) 91

Four years ago, Google was faced with a conundrum: if all its users hit its voice recognition services for three minutes a day, the company would need to double the number of data centers just to handle all of the requests to the machine learning system powering those services, reads a PCWorld article, which talks about how Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), a chip that is designed to accelerate the inference stage of deep neural networks came into being. The article shares an update: Google published a paper on Wednesday laying out the performance gains the company saw over comparable CPUs and GPUs, both in terms of raw power and the performance per watt of power consumed. A TPU was on average 15 to 30 times faster at the machine learning inference tasks tested than a comparable server-class Intel Haswell CPU or Nvidia K80 GPU. Importantly, the performance per watt of the TPU was 25 to 80 times better than what Google found with the CPU and GPU.
Intel

Why Intel Insists Rumors Of The Demise Of Moore's Law Are Greatly Exaggerated (fastcompany.com) 106

From an article on FastCompany: Intel hasn't lost its zeal for big leaps in computing, even as it changes the way it introduces new chips, and branches beyond the PC processor into other areas like computer vision and the internet of things. "Number one, too many people have been writing about the end of Moore's law, and we have to correct that misimpression," Mark Bohr, Intel's technology and manufacturing group senior fellow and director of process architecture and integration, says in an interview. "And number two, Intel has developed some pretty compelling technologies ... that not only prove that Moore's law is still alive, but that it's going to continue to provide the best benefits of density, cost performance, and power." But while Moore's law soldiers on, it's no longer associated with the types of performance gains Intel was making 10 to 20 years ago. The practical benefits of Moore's law are not what they used to be. [...] For each new generation of microprocessor, Intel used to adhere to a two-step cycle, called the "tick-tock." The "tick" is where Moore's law takes effect, using a new manufacturing process to shrink the size of each transistor and pack more of them onto a chip. The subsequent "tock" introduces a new microarchitecture, which yields further performance improvements by optimizing how the chip carries out instructions. Intel would typically go through this cycle once every two years. But in recent years, shrinking the size of transistors has become more challenging, and in 2016, Intel made a major change. The latest 14 nm process added a third "optimization" step after the architectural change, with modest performance improvements and new features such as 4K HDR video support. And in January, Intel said it would add a fourth optimization step, stretching the cycle out even further. The move to a 10 nm process won't happen until the second half of 2017, three years after the last "tick," and Intel expects the new four-step process to repeat itself. This "hyper scaling" allows computing power to continue to increase while needing fewer changes in the manufacturing process. If you divide the number of transistors in Intel's current tick by the surface area of two common logic cells, the rate of improvement still equals out to more than double every two years, keeping Moore's law on track. "Yes, they've taken longer, but we've taken bigger steps," Bohr said during his three-hour presentation.
Biotech

Y Combinator-Funded Startup To Do Quantum Computing -- Only Better (bizjournals.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: A "spaceshot" company that emerged from Y Combinator three summers ago and is targeting a revolutionary change in the way computers work has landed $64 million to help it in the race against much bigger tech giants. Rigetti Computing, which operates out of Berkeley and Fremont, is tackling quantum computing and going up against research being done by the likes of IBM, Intel, Microsoft and others... Rigetti is building a cloud quantum computing platform for artificial intelligence and computational chemistry. It recently opened up private beta testing of 'Forest', its API for quantum computing in the cloud. It integrates directly with existing cloud infrastructure and treats the quantum computer as an accelerator.
"The potential to make a positive impact on humanity is enormous," said Chad Rigetti, the startup's founder and CEO -- who declined to say whether the company is actually earning any revenue yet.
Data Storage

Next-Generation DDR5 RAM Will Double the Speed of DDR4 In 2018 (arstechnica.com) 77

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: You may have just upgraded your computer to use DDR4 recently or you may still be using DDR3, but in either case, nothing stays new forever. JEDEC, the organization in charge of defining new standards for computer memory, says that it will be demoing the next-generation DDR5 standard in June of this year and finalizing the standard sometime in 2018. DDR5 promises double the memory bandwidth and density of DDR4, and JEDEC says it will also be more power-efficient, though the organization didn't release any specific numbers or targets. Like DDR4 back when it was announced, it will still be several years before any of us have DDR5 RAM in our systems. That's partly because the memory controllers in processors and SoCs need to be updated to support DDR5, and these chips normally take two or three years to design from start to finish. DDR4 RAM was finalized in 2012, but it didn't begin to go mainstream until 2015 when consumer processors from Intel and others added support for it. DDR5 has no relation to GDDR5, a separate decade-old memory standard used for graphics cards and game consoles.
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.
Data Storage

With Optane Memory, Intel Claims To Make Hard Drives Faster Than SSDs (pcworld.com) 109

SSDs are generally faster than hard drives. However, they are also usually more expensive. Intel wants to change that with its new Optane Memory lineup, which it claims is faster and better performing than SSDs while not requiring customers to break their banks. From a report on PCWorld: Announced Monday morning, these first consumer Optane-based devices will be available April 24 in two M.2 trims: A 16GB model for $44 and a 32GB Optane Memory device for $77. Both are rated for crazy-fast read speeds of 1.2GBps and writes of 280MBps. [...] When the price of a 128GB SATA SSD is roughly $50 to $60 today, you may rightly wonder why Optane Memory would be worth the bother. Intel says most consumers just don't want to give up the capacity for their photos and videos. PC configurations with a hard drive and an SSD, while standard for higher-end PC users, isn't popular for the newbies. Think of the times you've had friends or family fill up the boot drive with cat pictures, but the secondary drive is nearly empty. Intel Optane Memory would give that mainstream user the same or better performance as an SSD, with the capacity advantage of the 1TB or 2TB drive they're used to. Intel claims Optane Memory performance is as good or better than an SSD's, offering better latency by magnitudes and the ability to peak at much lower queue depths.
Encryption

After 20 Years, OpenSSL Will Change To Apache License 2.0, Seeks Past Contributors (openssl.org) 110

After nearly 20 years and 31,000 commits, OpenSSL wants to change to Apache License v2.0. They're now tracking down all 400 contributors to sign new license agreements, a process expected to take several months. Slashdot reader rich_salz shares links to OpenSSL's official announcement (and their agreement-collecting web site). "This re-licensing activity will make OpenSSL, already the world's most widely-used FOSS encryption software, more convenient to incorporate in the widest possible range of free and open source software," said Mishi Choudhary, Legal Director of Software Freedom Law Center and counsel to OpenSSL. "OpenSSL's team has carefully prepared for this re-licensing, and their process will be an outstanding example of 'how to do it right.'"
Click through for some comments on the significance of this move from the Linux Foundation, Intel, and Oracle.
China

Microsoft Delivers Secure China-Only Cut of Windows 10 (theregister.co.uk) 98

Earlier this week, CEO of Microsoft Greater China, Alain Crozier, told China Daily that the company is ready to roll out a version of Windows 10 with extra security features demanded by China's government. "We have already developed the first version of the Windows 10 government secure system. It has been tested by three large enterprise customers," Crozier said. The Register reports: China used Edward Snowden's revelations to question whether western technology products could compromise its security. Policy responses included source code reviews for foreign vendors and requiring Chinese buyers to shop from an approved list of products. Microsoft, IBM and Intel all refused to submit source code for inspection, but Redmond and Big Blue have found other ways to get their code into China. IBM's route is a partnership with Dalian Wanda to bring its cloud behind the Great Firewall. Microsoft last year revealed its intention to build a version of Windows 10 for Chinese government users in partnership with state-owned company China Electronics Technology Group Corp. There's no reason to believe Crozier's remarks are incorrect, because Microsoft has a massive incentive to deliver a version of Windows 10 that China's government will accept. To understand why, consider that China's military has over two million active service personnel, the nation's railways employ similar numbers and Microsoft's partner China Electronics Technology Group Corp has more than 140,000 people on its books. Not all of those are going to need Windows, but plenty will.

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