Microsoft Is Now Selling a Surface Laptop With An Intel Core m3 Processor For $799 ( 108

Microsoft has begun offering a lower specced Surface laptop running Windows 10 S and an Intel Core m3 processor. It's priced at $799, compared to the standard model's $999 price, and is only available in the platinum color configuration. Windows Central reports: The Intel Core m3 spec is paired with 4GB of RAM and 128GB Storage. This is definitely not a high-end model of the Surface Laptop, but it's still a premium one, with the same Alcantara fabric and high-quality display found on other Surface Laptop SKUs. Microsoft offers an Intel Core m3 model of the Surface Pro priced at $799 also, however that SKU doesn't come bundled with a keyboard or pen. At least with the Surface Laptop, you're getting a keyboard and trackpad in the box, so perhaps the Intel Core m3 Laptop is going to be the better choice for many. If you're looking for a straight laptop by Microsoft, that is. Some other specs include a 2256 x 1504 resolution display, Intel HD graphics 615, 720p webcam with Windows Hello face-authentication, Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio Premium, one full-size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, headphone jack and Surface Connect port. The device measures in a 12.13 inches x 8.79 inches x 0.57 inches and weighs 2.76 pounds.

Big Backing For 'Universal Stylus' Campaign ( 87

Google has backed an effort to standardise touch-screen styluses so they can be used on many devices. From a report: The Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) was launched, in 2015, to encourage companies to produce styluses that work on rivals' products Dell, Intel, Lenovo, LG and graphics tablet-maker Wacom have all backed the project. However, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung have not. One expert suggested the big brands would keep their proprietary pens. Styluses designed to work with modern touch-screen devices and graphics tablets usually contain sensors to detect pressure, movement and orientation of the pen.

Samsung Surpasses Intel To Become the World's Largest Chipmaker ( 87

Samsung Electronics just knocked Intel off its perch as the world's biggest chipmaker by revenue, a spot the U.S. company has held since 1992. From a report: On Tuesday, Samsung reported 2017 chip sales of $69 billion, blowing past Intel's $63 billion from last year. The switch underlines how Samsung has transformed itself from a maker of cheap televisions into a pervasive supplier of key components in smartphones and other modern computing devices. It's also a testament to the growth of memory chips, Samsung's main market.

Intel, whose processors are the heart of about 90 percent of the world's computers, didn't have a bad year. Sales grew 6 percent. Success in computers is no longer enough, though. Memory chips, a market Intel only recently got back into, are now crucial parts of smartphones, which easily outsell PCs these days. Memory chips are also finding their way into a range of new devices such as cars. One of the ironies of Samsungâ(TM)s success in memory is that itâ(TM)s a business Intel created in the 1960s.

Desktops (Apple)

Apple Could Use ARM Coprocessors for Three Updated Mac Models ( 119

According to a Bloomberg report, Apple could be working on three new Mac models for this year. From a report: All three of them could feature an ARM coprocessor to improve security. Apple isn't switching to ARM chipsets altogether. There will still be an Intel CPU in every Mac, but with a second ARM processor. Currently, the MacBook Pro features a T1 chip while the iMac Pro features a T2 chip. On the MacBook Pro, the ARM coprocessor handles the Touch ID sensor and the Touch Bar. This way, your fingerprint is never stored on your laptop's SSD drive -- it remains on the T1 secure enclave. The Intel CPU only gets a positive response when a fingerprint is validated. The iMac Pro goes one step further and uses the T2 to replace many discrete controllers. The T2 controls your stereo speakers, your internal microphone, the fans, the camera and internal storage.

Intel Told Chinese Firms of Meltdown Flaws Before the US Government ( 134

According to The Wall Street Journal, Intel initially told a handful of customers about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, including Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and Lenovo, before the U.S. government. As a result, the Chinese government could have theoretically exploited the holes to intercept data before patches were available. Engadget reports: An Intel spokesman wouldn't detail who the company had informed, but said that the company couldn't notify everyone (including U.S. officials) in time because Meltdown and Spectre had been revealed early. Lenovo said the information was protected by a non-disclosure agreement. Alibaba has suggested that any accusations of sharing info with the Chinese government was "speculative and baseless," but this doesn't rule out officials intercepting details without Alibaba's knowledge. There's no immediate evidence to suggest that China has taken advantage of the flaws, but that's not the point -- it's that the U.S. government could have helped coordinate disclosures to ensure that enough companies had fixes in place.
Open Source

Linus Finally Releases Linux 4.15 Kernel, Blames Intel For Delay ( 55

An anonymous reader writes: Linus Torvalds has released Linux 4.15 following the lengthy development cycle due to the Spectre v2 and Meltdown CPU vulnerability mitigation work. This update comes with many kernel improvements including RISC-V architecture support, AMDGPU Display Code support, Intel Coffee Lake graphics support, and many other improvements.
"This obviously was not a pleasant release cycle, with the whole meltdown/spectre thing coming in in the middle of the cycle and not really gelling with our normal release cycle," Linus writes. "The extra two weeks were obviously mainly due to that whole timing issue... [T]he news cycle notwithstanding, the bulk of the 4.15 work is all the regular plodding 'boring' stuff. And I mean that in the best possible way. It may not be glamorous and get the headlines, but it's the bread and butter of kernel development, and is in many ways the really important stuff.

"Go forth and play with it, things actually look pretty good despite everything. And obviously this also means that the merge window for 4.16 is open... Hopefully we'll have a _normal_ and entirely boring release cycle for 4.16. Because boring really is good."

Microsoft Issues Windows Out-of-Band Update That Disables Spectre Mitigations ( 90

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Microsoft has issued on Saturday an emergency out-of-band Windows update that disables patches for the Spectre Variant 2 bug (CVE-2017-5715). The update -- KB4078130 -- targets Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8.1, all versions of Windows 10, and all supported Windows Server distributions. Microsoft shipped mitigations for the Meltdown and Spectre bugs on January 3. The company said it decided to disable mitigations for the Spectre Variant 2 bug after Intel publicly admitted that the microcode updates it developed for this bug caused "higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior" that led to "data loss or corruption."

HP, Dell, and Red Hat took previous steps during the past week.

"We are also offering a new option -- available for advanced users on impacted devices -- to manually disable and enable the mitigation against Spectre Variant 2 (CVE 2017-5715) independently via registry setting changes..." Microsoft writes.

"We recommend Windows customers, when appropriate, reenable the mitigation against CVE-2017-5715 when Intel reports that this unpredictable system behavior has been resolved for your device. "

Dutch Intelligence Agents Watched Russia Hack the DNC ( 358

Long-time Slashdot readers Agilulf, Sara Chan, and wiredmikey -- plus an anonymous reader -- all submitted the same story. Agilulf writes: Dutch hackers from AIVD (their intelligence agency) infiltrated Russian hackers, had access to their CCTV system, and followed them for more than a year, watched their attack on the DNC, provided the proof to the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind those hacks and the stolen emails, and were disappointed with the response from the U.S.
The Dutch agents also watched Russian agents breach a non-classified network at the U.S. State Department in 2014, where the Russians then sent a phishing email to the White House, successfully stole login credentials, and then accessed email from embassies and diplomats.

"Three American intelligence services state with 'high confidence' that the Kremlin was behind the attack on the Democratic Party," according to the article, which adds that that certainty "is derived from the AIVD hackers having had access to the office-like space in the center of Moscow for years."

Intel Plans To Release Chips That Have Built-in Meltdown and Spectre Protections Later This Year ( 154

Intel plans to release chips that have built-in protections against the Spectre and Meltdown attacks later this year, company CEO Brian Krzanich said during company's quarterly earnings call this week. From a report: The company has "assigned some of our very best minds" to work on addressing the vulnerability that's exploited by those attacks, Krzanich said on a conference call following Intel's quarterly earnings announcement. That will result in "silicon-based" changes to the company's future chips, he said. "We've been working around clock" to address the vulnerability and attacks, Krzanich said. But, he added, "we're acutely aware we have more to do."

Dell and HP Advise All Their Customers To Not Install Spectre BIOS Updates ( 88

An anonymous reader writes: The Spectre and Meltdown mess continues with Dell now recommending their customers to not install the BIOS updates that are supposed to resolve the Spectre (Variant 2) vulnerabilities. These updates have been causing numerous problems for users including performance issues, boot issues, reboot issues, and general system stability. Due to this, Dell EMC has updated its knowledgebase article with a statement advising customers to not install the BIOS update and to potentially rollback to the previous BIOS if their computers are exhibiting "unpredictable system behavior". ZDNet reports that HP too has issued a similar advisory. The computer manufacturer pulled its softpaqs BIOS updates with Intel's patches from its website, and said it would be releasing a BIOS update with a previous version of Intel's microcode on Thursday.

Apple Might Discontinue the MacBook Air ( 155

An anonymous reader shares a report: Just in time for its tenth anniversary, Apple might finally be killing the MacBook Air, according to a new report from Digitimes. If this is true, it'd be the first axing of a laptop line from Apple since the iBook and Powerbook were axed back in 2006. It would also be about damn time. Apple quietly killed the 11-inch MacBook Air back in 2016, but the larger 13-inch version has lingered on, getting a mild processor refresh last year that still left the laptop using a 5th generation Intel processor. That's three generations behind the processors currently found in the MacBook Air's competition, and it is the primary reason the laptop was excluded from our piece looking at the best laptop to be had for under $1000.
Operating Systems

Linux 4.15 Becomes Slowest Release Since 2011 ( 68

An anonymous reader shares a report: Linus Torvalds has decided that Linux 4.15 needs a ninth release candidate, making it the first kernel release to need that much work since 2011. Torvalds flagged up the possibility of an extra release candidate last week, with the caveat that "it obviously requires this upcoming week to not come with any huge surprises" after "all the Meltdown and Spectre hoopla" made his job rather more complicated in recent weeks. Fast-forward another week and Torvalds has announced "I really really wanted to just release 4.15 today, but things haven't calmed down enough for me to feel comfy about it."

Intel Urges OEMs and End Users To Stop Deploying Spectre Patch As It May 'Introduce Higher Than Expected Reboots' ( 155

Intel executive vice president Neil Shenoy said on Monday that the chip-maker has identified the source of some of the recent problems, so it is now recommended that users skip the available patches. From the blog post: We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior.

Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 S Laptops Starting at $189 and New Office 365 Tools for Students ( 107

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft today unveiled new Windows 10 S devices from Lenovo and JP, starting at $189, aimed at the education market. The company also announced new Office 365 learning tools for students. The news mirrors Microsoft's firstline workers push in September, which saw new Windows 10 S devices starting at $275. The company is now simply doing the same as part of its latest EDU push, and it's not mincing words when it comes to explaining its target audience: "schools who don't want to compromise on Chromebooks."

Microsoft unveiled four new Windows 10 devices that are all supposed to offer more than Chrome OS. Two are standard laptops: the Lenovo 100e powered by Intel Celeron Apollo Lake for $189 and JP's Classmate Leap T303 with Windows Hello for $199. The other two are 2-in-1s: the Lenovo 300e convertible with pen support for $279 and the Trigono V401 with pen and touch for $299. All four are spill resistant, ruggedized for students, and promise long battery life to avoid having wires all over the classroom.


Linus Torvalds Calls Intel Patches 'Complete and Utter Garbage' ( 507

An anonymous reader writes: On the Linux Kernel Mailing List, Linus Torvalds ended up responding to a long-time kernel developer (and former Intel engineer) who'd been describing a new microcode feature addressing Indirect Branch Restricted Speculation "where a future CPU will advertise 'I am able to be not broken' and then you have to set the IBRS bit once at boot time to *ask* it not to be broken."

Linus calls it "very much part of the whole 'this is complete garbage' issue. The whole IBRS_ALL feature to me very clearly says 'Intel is not serious about this, we'll have a ugly hack that will be so expensive that we don't want to enable it by default, because that would look bad in benchmarks'. So instead they try to push the garbage down to us. And they are doing it entirely wrong, even from a technical standpoint. I'm sure there is some lawyer there who says 'we'll have to go through motions to protect against a lawsuit'. But legal reasons do not make for good technology, or good patches that I should apply."

Later Linus says forcefully that these "complete and utter garbage" patches are being pushed by someone "for unclear reasons" -- and adds another criticism. The whole point of having cpuid and flags from the microarchitecture is that we can use those to make decisions. But since we already know that the IBRS overhead is huge on existing hardware, all those hardware capability bits are just complete and utter garbage. Nobody sane will use them, since the cost is too damn high. So you end up having to look at "which CPU stepping is this" anyway. I think we need something better than this garbage.

Can A New Open Photo File Format Replace JPEGs? ( 271

Got lossless compression? An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Google, Mozilla and others in a group called the Alliance for Open Media are working on a rival photo technology. In testing so far, the images are 15 percent smaller than Apple's HEIC photo format, said Tim Terriberry, a Mozilla principal research engineer working on the project. But smaller sizes are just the beginning... it's got a strong list of allies, an affinity for web publishing and modern features that could make it the best contender yet for overcoming JPEG's 1990s-era shortcomings... JPEG isn't just limited by needlessly large file sizes. It's also weak when it comes to supporting a wider range of bright and dark tones, a broader spectrum of colors, and graphic elements like text and logos...

The HEIC's new rival is from the Alliance for Open Media, a group whose top priority is a video compression technology called AV1 that's free of patent licensing requirements. It's got heavy hitters on board, including top browser makers Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and the most recent new member, Apple -- though Apple's plans haven't been made public. And it's got major streaming-video companies, too: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Facebook, videoconferencing powerhouse Intel and Google's YouTube. And with the support of chip designers Intel, Nvidia and Arm, AV1 should get the hardware acceleration that's crucial to making video easy on our laptop and phone batteries.

To use Apple's HEIC, "makers of software, processors and phones must jump through a lot of hoops to license patents," which CNET predicts "means HEIC will have trouble succeeding on the web: patent barriers are antithetical to the web's open nature."
Red Hat Software

Red Hat Reverts Spectre Patches to Address Boot Issues ( 78

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Red Hat is releasing updates for reverting previous patches for the Spectre vulnerability (Variant 2, aka CVE-2017-5715) after customers complained that some systems were failing to boot. "Red Hat is no longer providing microcode to address Spectre, variant 2, due to instabilities introduced that are causing customer systems to not boot," the company said yesterday. "The latest microcode_ctl and linux-firmware packages are reverting these unstable microprocessor firmware changes to versions that were known to be stable and well tested, released prior to the Spectre/Meltdown embargo lift date on Jan 3rd," Red Had added.

Instead, Red Hat is recommending that each customer contact their OEM hardware provider and inquire about mitigations for CVE-2017-5715 on a per-system basis. Besides Red Hat Enterprise Linux, other RHEL-based distros like CentOS and Scientific Linux are also expected to be affected by Red Hat's decision to revert previous Spectre Variant 2 updates, so these users will also have to contact CPU/OEM vendors.

At least one site "characterized the move as Red Hat washing its hands of the responsibility to provide customers with firmware patches," writes Data Center Knowledge, arguing instead that Red Hat "isn't actually involved in writing the firmware updates. It passes the microcode created by chipmakers to its users 'as a customer convenience.'" "What I would have said if they'd asked us ahead of time is that microcode is something that CPU vendors develop," Jon Masters, chief ARM architect at Red Hat, told Data Center Knowledge in a phone interview Thursday. "It's actually an encrypted, signed binary image, so we don't have the capability, even if we wanted to produce microcode. It's a binary blob that we cannot generate. The only people who can actually generate that are the CPU vendors."

Wine 3.0 Released ( 153

prisoninmate shares a report from Softpedia: The Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator) project has been updated today to version 3.0, a major release that ends 2017 in style for the open-source compatibility layer capable of running Windows apps and games on Linux-based and UNIX-like operating systems. Almost a year in the works, Wine 3.0 comes with amazing new features like an Android driver that lets users run Windows apps and games on Android-powered machines, Direct3D 11 support enabled by default for AMD Radeon and Intel GPUs, AES encryption support on macOS, Progman DDE support, and a task scheduler. In addition, Wine 3.0 introduces the ability to export registry entries with the reg.exe tool, adds various enhancements to the relay debugging and OLE data cache, as well as an extra layer of event support in MSHTML, Microsoft's proprietary HTML layout engine for the Windows version of the Internet Explorer web browser. You can read the full list of features and download Wine 3.0 from WineHQ's website.

Intel Says Newer Chips Also Hit by Unwanted Reboots After Patch ( 115

Intel says the unexpected reboots triggered by patching older chips affected by Meltdown and Spectre are happening to its newer chips, too. From a report: Intel confirmed in an update late Wednesday that not only are its older Broadwell and Haswell chips tripping up on the firmware patches, but newer CPUs through to the latest Kaby Lake chips are too. The firmware updates do protect Intel chips against potential Spectre attacks, but machines with Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake architecture processors are rebooting more frequently once the firmware has been updated, Intel said. Intel has also updated its original Meltdown-Spectre advisory with a new warning about the stability issues and recommends OEMs and cloud providers test its beta silicon microcode updates before final release. These beta releases, which mitigate the Spectre Variant 2 CVE-2017-5715 attack on CPU speculative execution, will be available next week.

Intel Unveils 'Breakthrough' 49 Qubit Quantum Computer ( 204

Long-time Slashdot reader cold fjord writes: Extremetech reports, "At CES 2018 this week, Intel's CEO Brian Krzanich declared the company's new 49-qubit quantum computer represented a step towards "quantum supremacy." A 49 qubit system is a major advance for Intel, which just demonstrated a 17-qubit system two months ago. Intel's working with the Netherlands-based Qutech on this project, and expanding the number of qubits is key to creating quantum computers that can deliver real-world results... "Qubits are tremendously fragile," Intel wrote in October. "Any noise or unintended observation of them can cause data loss. This fragility requires them to operate at about 20 millikelvin -- 250 times colder than deep space." This is also why we won't be seeing quantum computers in anyone's house at any point."
Krzanich also thanked the industry for "coming together" to address the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. "The collaboration among so many companies to address this industry-wide issue across several different processor architectures has been truly remarkable."

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