Software

Ask Slashdot: Could Linux Ever Become Fully Compatible With Windows and Mac Software? 348

dryriver writes: Linux has been around for a long time now. A lot of work has gone into it; it has evolved nicely and it dominates in the server space. Computer literate people with some tech skills also like to use it as their desktop OS. It's free and open source. It's not vendor-locked, full of crapware or tied to any walled garden. It's fast and efficient. But most "everyday computer users" or "casual computer buyers" still feel they have to choose either a Windows PC or an Apple device as the platform they will do their computing on. This binary choice exists largely because of very specific commercial list of programs and games available for these OSs that is not available for Linux.

Here is the question: Could Linux ever be made to become fully compatible with all Windows and Mac software? What I mean is a Linux distro that lets you successfully install/run/play just about anything significant that says "for Windows 10" or "for OSX" under Linux, without any sort of configuring or crazy emulation orgies being needed? Macs and PCs run on the exact same Intel/AMD/Nvidia hardware as Linux. Same mobos, same CPUs and GPUs, same RAM and storage devices. Could Linux ever be made to behave sufficiently like those two OSs so that a computer buyer could "go Linux" without any negative consequences like not being able to run essential Windows/Mac software at all? Or is Linux being able to behave like Windows and OSX simply not technically doable because Windows and OSX are just too damn complex to mimic successfully?
Businesses

To Combat Shortage, Nvidia Asks Retailers To Limit Graphics Card Orders (pcmag.com) 212

An anonymous reader writes: If you're a PC builder -- or your aging desktop system is in dire need of some modern upgrades -- you've probably wondered why it's impossible to get a graphics card lately. You can thank the outrageous interest in cryptocurrency for all of this. Since graphics cards mine cryptocurrency much faster than CPUs, an eager community of get-rich-quick enthusiasts are scooping up graphics cards as fast as they can get them. While there isn't much major manufacturers AMD and Nvidia can do about the overwhelming demand for GPUs, Nvidia is at least trying to let retailers know that they should be holding their stock for the company's core audience: gamers, not miners. "For NVIDIA, gamers come first. All activities related to our GeForce product line are targeted at our main audience. To ensure that GeForce gamers continue to have good GeForce graphics card availability in the current situation, we recommend that our trading partners make the appropriate arrangements to meet gamers' needs as usual," reads a translated statement Nvidia's Boris Bohles. Nvidia is suggesting that retailers limit graphics card orders to just two per person, but that's just an idea -- one Nvidia can't actually enforce beyond restricting sales on its website, which it's currently doing. Further reading: It's a terrible time to buy a graphics card.
Wine

Wine 3.0 Released (softpedia.com) 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.
Microsoft

Microsoft Resumes Meltdown and Spectre Updates for AMD Devices (bleepingcomputer.com) 49

Microsoft has resumed the rollout of security updates for AMD devices. The updates patch the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. From a report: Microsoft released these patches on January 3, but the company stopped the rollout for AMD-based computers on January 9 after users reported crashes that plunged PCs into unbootable states. After working on smoothing out the problems with AMD, Microsoft announced today it would resume the rollout of five (out of nine) security updates.
AMD

AMD Is Releasing Spectre Firmware Updates To Fix CPU Vulnerabilities (theverge.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: AMD's initial response to the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws made it clear "there is a near zero risk to AMD processors." That zero risk doesn't mean zero impact, as we're starting to discover today. "We have defined additional steps through a combination of processor microcode updates and OS patches that we will make available to AMD customers and partners to further mitigate the threat," says Mark Papermaster, AMD's chief technology officer. AMD is making firmware updates available for Ryzen and EPYC owners this week, and the company is planning to update older processors "over the coming weeks." Like Intel, these firmware updates will be provided to PC makers, and it will be up to suppliers to ensure customers receive these. AMD isn't saying whether there will be any performance impacts from applying these firmware updates, nor whether servers using EPYC processors will be greatly impacted or not. AMD is also revealing that its Radeon GPU architecture isn't impacted by Meltdown or Spectre, simply because those GPUs "do not use speculative execution and thus are not susceptible to these threats." AMD says it plans to issue further statements as it continues to develop security updates for its processors.
Microsoft

Microsoft Pauses Rollout of Spectre and Meltdown Patches To AMD Systems (betanews.com) 100

Microsoft is suspending patches to guard against Meltdown and Spectre security threats for computers running AMD chipsets after complaints by AMD customers that the software updates froze their machines. From a report: The company is blaming AMD's failure to comply with "the documentation previously provided to Microsoft to develop the Windows operating system mitigations to protect against the chipset vulnerabilities known as Spectre and Meltdown." There's no word on when the patches will be fixed, but Microsoft says that it is working with AMD to address the problem.
AMD

Intel Launches 8th Gen Core Series CPUs With Integrated AMD Radeon Graphics (hothardware.com) 123

MojoKid writes: At CES 2018, Intel unveiled more details of its 8th generation Intel Core processors with integrated AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics. Like cats and dogs living together, the mashup of an Intel processor with an AMD GPU is made possible by an Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB), which provides a high-speed data interconnect between the processor, GPU and 4GB of second-generation High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM2). Intel is delivering 8th generation H-Series Core processors in 65W TDP (laptops) and 100W TDP (desktops) SKUs that will take up 50 percent less PCB real estate, versus traditional discrete configs. Both the mobile and desktop variants of the processors will be available in Core i5 or Core i7 configurations, with 4 cores and 8 threads, up to 8MB of cache and 4GB of HBM2. The 65W mobile processors can boost up to 4.1GHz, while the Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU has base/boost clocks of 931MHz and 1011MHz, respectively. The AMD GPU has 20 compute units and memory bandwidth checks in at 179GB/s. Desktop processors ratchet the maximum boost slightly to 4.2GHz, while the base/boost clocks of the Radeon RX Vega M GH GPU jump to 1063MHz and 1190MHz, respectively. Desktop GPUs are also upgraded with 24 CUs and 204GB/s of memory bandwidth. Intel says that its 8th generation Core i7 with Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics is up to 1.4x faster than a Core i7-8550U with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU in a notebook system. System announcements from Dell and HP are forthcoming, with availability in the first half of this year. Intel has also launched a new NUC small form factor gaming mini PC based on the technology as well.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Meltdown and Spectre Patch Is Bricking Some AMD PCs (betanews.com) 299

Mark Wilson writes: As if the Meltdown and Spectre bug affecting millions of processors was not bad enough, the patches designed to mitigate the problems are introducing issues of their own. Perhaps the most well-known effect is a much-publicized performance hit, but some users are reporting that Microsoft's emergency patch is bricking their computers. We've already seen compatibility issues with some antivirus tools, and now some AMD users are reporting that the KB4056892 patch is rendering their computer unusable. A further issue -- error 0x800f0845 -- means that it is not possible to perform a rollback.
AMD

AMD Unveils 2nd Gen Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs, 7nm Vega Mobile GPUs At CES (hothardware.com) 97

MojoKid writes: AMD is unveiled a number of upcoming chip products for the new year at CES 2018, including updated next-generation Ryzen and Threadripper desktop processors covering every market segment from mobile to HEDT, and an array of Vega-based graphics products. AMD will be releasing a pair of Ryzen 3-branded mobile APUs for mainstream notebooks. The quad-core / quad-thread Ryzen 3 2300U has base and boost clocks of 2.0GHz and 3.4GHz, respectively, while the dual-core / quad-thread Ryzen 3 2200U clocks-in at 2.5GHz and 3.4GHz, base and boost. Desktop Ryzen APUs, codenamed Raven Ridge, are inbound for the AM4 platform as well. Launching on February 12 are the upcoming Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G. The Ryzen 5 chip is a quad-core / eight-thread machine with an on-die, 11 CU Vega graphics core, priced at $169. The Ryzen 3 2200G is a quad-core / quad-thread chip with and 8 CU Vega-based graphics engine for only $99. CPU core frequencies on the Ryzen 5 2400G range from 3.6GHz -- 3.9GHz (base / boost) and the Ryzen 3 2400G clocks-in at 3.5GHz -- 3.7GHz. 2nd-generation Ryzen desktop processors are on the way as well and will be manufactured using an advanced 12nm+ lithography process, leveraging the Zen+ architecture, which is fundamentally unchanged from current Zen-based processors, save for a few tweaks and fixes that improve cache and memory speeds and latency. 2nd-Generation Ryzen processors are NOT based on the Zen 2 architecture. AMD also mentioned that these new processors will be used in a new line-up of 2nd-Generation Threadripper processors. Finally, the company disclosed two new Vega-based GPUs, a Vega Mobile part with a svelte 1.7mm Z-height and second Vega-based chip, which will be manufactured at 7nm that specifically targets machine learning applications. The low-profile Vega Mobile GPU will find its ways into ultra-thin notebooks and mobile workstations, but speeds and feeds weren't disclosed. AMD also announced that it will be supporting variable refresh rate over HDMI 2.1 in the future as well.
Bug

After Intel ME, Researchers Find Security Bug In AMD's SPS Secret Chip-on-Chip (bleepingcomputer.com) 76

An anonymous reader writes: AMD has fixed, but not yet released BIOS/UEFI/firmware updates for the general public for a security flaw affecting the AMD Secure Processor. This component, formerly known as AMD PSP (Platform Security Processor), is a chip-on-chip security system, similar to Intel's much-hated Management Engine (ME). Just like Intel ME, the AMD Secure Processor is an integrated coprocessor that sits next to the real AMD64 x86 CPU cores and runs a separate operating system tasked with handling various security-related operations.

The security bug is a buffer overflow that allows code execution inside the AMD SPS TPM, the component that stores critical system data such as passwords, certificates, and encryption keys, in a secure environment and outside of the more easily accessible AMD cores. Intel fixed a similar flaw last year in the Intel ME.

Intel

Can We Replace Intel x86 With an Open Source Chip? (zdnet.com) 359

An anonymous reader quotes, Jason Perlow, the senior technology editor at ZDNet: Perhaps the Meltdown and Spectre bugs are the impetus for making long-overdue changes to the core DNA of the semiconductor industry and how chip architectures are designed... Linux (and other related FOSS tech that forms the overall stack) is now a mainstream operating system that forms the basis of public cloud infrastructure and the foundational software technology in mobile and Internet of Things (IoT)... We need to develop a modern equivalent of an OpenSPARC that any processor foundry can build upon without licensing of IP, in order to drive down the costs of building microprocessors at immense scale for the cloud, for mobile and the IoT. It makes the $200 smartphone as well as hyperscale datacenter lifecycle management that much more viable and cost-effective.

Just as Linux and open source transformed how we view operating systems and application software, we need the equivalent for microprocessors in order to move out of the private datacenter rife with these legacy issues and into the green field of the cloud... The fact that we have these software technologies that now enable us to easily abstract from the chip hardware enables us to correct and improve the chips through community efforts as needs arise... We need to stop thinking about microprocessor systems' architectures as these licensed things that are developed in secrecy by mega-companies like Intel or AMD or even ARM... The reality is that we now need to create something new, free from any legacy entities and baggage that has been driving the industry and dragging it down the past 40 years. Just as was done with Linux.

The bigger question is which chip should take its place. "I don't see ARM donating its IP to this effort, and I think OpenSPARC may not be it either. Perhaps IBM OpenPOWER? It would certainly be a nice gesture of Big Blue to open their specification up further without any additional licensing, and it would help to maintain and establish the company's relevancy in the cloud going forward.

"RISC-V, which is being developed by UC Berkeley, is completely Open Source."
Intel

How a Researcher Hacked His Own Computer and Found One of the Worst CPU Bugs Ever Found (reuters.com) 138

Reuters tells the story of how Daniel Gruss, a 31-year-old information security researcher and post-doctoral fellow at Austria's Graz Technical University, hacked his own computer and exposed a flaw in most of the Intel chips made in the past two decades. Prior to his discovery, Gruss and his colleagues Moritz Lipp and Michael Schwarz had thought such an attack on the processor's "kernel" memory, which is meant to be inaccessible to users, was only theoretically possible. From the report: "When I saw my private website addresses from Firefox being dumped by the tool I wrote, I was really shocked," Gruss told Reuters in an email interview, describing how he had unlocked personal data that should be secured. Gruss, Lipp and Schwarz, working from their homes on a weekend in early December, messaged each other furiously to verify the result. "We sat for hours in disbelief until we eliminated any possibility that this result was wrong," said Gruss, whose mind kept racing even after powering down his computer, so he barely caught a wink of sleep.

Gruss and his colleagues had just confirmed the existence of what he regards as "one of the worst CPU bugs ever found." The flaw, now named Meltdown, was revealed on Wednesday and affects most processors manufactured by Intel since 1995. Separately, a second defect called Spectre has been found that also exposes core memory in most computers and mobile devices running on chips made by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and ARM Holdings, a unit of Japan's Softbank.

Microsoft

Microsoft Issues Rare Out-of-Band Emergency Windows Update For Processor Security Bugs (theverge.com) 129

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is issuing a rare out-of-band security update to supported versions of Windows today (Wednesday). The software update is part of a number of fixes that will protect against a newly-discovered processor bug in Intel, AMD, and ARM chipsets. Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans tell The Verge that the company will issue a Windows update that will be automatically applied to Windows 10 machines at 5PM ET / 2PM PT today. The update will also be available for older and supported versions of Windows today, but systems running operating systems like Windows 7 or Windows 8 won't automatically be updated through Windows Update until next Tuesday. Windows 10 will be automatically updated today.
Google

Google's Project Zero Team Discovered Critical CPU Flaw Last Year (techcrunch.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In a blog post published minutes ago, Google's Security team announced what they have done to protect Google Cloud customers against the chip vulnerability announced earlier today. They also indicated their Project Zero team discovered this vulnerability last year (although they weren't specific with the timing). The company stated that it informed the chip makers of the issue, which is caused by a process known as "speculative execution." This is an advanced technique that enables the chip to essentially guess what instructions might logically be coming next to speed up execution. Unfortunately, that capability is vulnerable to malicious actors who could access critical information stored in memory, including encryption keys and passwords. According to Google, this affects all chip makers, including those from AMD, ARM and Intel (although AMD has denied they are vulnerable). In a blog post, Intel denied the vulnerability was confined to their chips, as had been reported by some outlets. The Google Security team wrote that they began taking steps to protect Google services from the flaw as soon as they learned about it.
Hardware

NVIDIA Titan V Benchmarks Show Volta GPU Compute, Mining and Gaming Strength (hothardware.com) 51

MojoKid shares a report from Hot Hardware: Although NVIDIA officially unveiled its Volta-based GV100 GPU a few months ago, the NVIDIA TITAN V featuring the GV100 began shipping just this past week. The card targets a very specific audience and is designed for professional and academic deep learning applications, which partly explains its lofty $3,000 price tag. Unlike NVIDIA's previous-gen consumer flagship, the TITAN Xp, the TITAN V is not designed for gamers. However, since it features NVIDIA's latest GPU architecture, it potentially foreshadows next-year's consumer-targeted GeForce cards that could possibly be based on Volta. The massive 21.1 billion transistor GV100 GPU powering the TITAN V has a base clock of 1,200MHz and a boost clock of 1,455MHz. The card has 12GB of HBM2 memory on-board that is linked to the GPU via a 3072-bit interface, offering up 652.8 GB/s of peak bandwidth, which is about 100GB/s more than a TITAN Xp. Other features of the GV100 include 5,120 single-precision CUDA cores, 2,560 double-precision FP64 cores, and 630 Tensor cores. Although the card is not designed for gamers, the fact remains that the TITAN V significantly outpaces every other graphics card in a variety of games with the highest image quality settings. In GPU compute workloads, the TITAN V is much more dominant and can offer many times the performance of a high-end NVIDIA TITAN Xp or AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. Finally, when it comes to Ethereum mining, NVIDIA's Titan V is far and away the fastest GPU on the planet currently.
AMD

AMD Is Open-Sourcing Their Official Vulkan Linux Driver (phoronix.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: While many of you have likely heard of the "RADV" open-source Vulkan driver, it's been a community-written driver up to this point in the absence of AMD's official, cross-platform Vulkan driver being open-source. That's now changed with AMD now open-sourcing their official Vulkan driver. The code drop is imminent and they are encouraging the use of it for quick support of new AMD hardware, access to the Radeon GPU Profiler, easy integration of AMD Vulkan extensions, and enabling third-party extensions. For now at least it does provide better Vulkan performance than RADV but the RADV developers have indicated they plan to continue development of their Mesa-based Vulkan driver.
AI

Elon Musk Says Tesla Is Building Dedicated Chips For Autopilot (theregister.co.uk) 32

Elon Musk says Tesla is developing its own chip to run the Autopilot system in future vehicles from the firm. The news was revealed at a Tesla party that took place at the intelligence conference NIPS. Attendees at the party told The Register that Musk said, "I wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips." From the report: Musk offered no details of his company's plans, but did tell the party that "Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world." "Jim" is Jim Keller, a well-known chip engineer who was lead architect on a range of silicon at AMD and Apple and joined Tesla in 2016. Keller later joined Musk on a panel discussing AI at the Tesla Party alongside Andrej Karpathy, Tesla's Director of AI and chaired by Shivon Zilis, a partner and founding member at Bloomberg Beta, a VC firm. Musk is well known for his optimism about driverless cars and pessimism about whether AI can operate safely. At the party he voiced a belief that "about half of new cars built ten years from now will be autonomous." He added his opinion that artificial general intelligence (AGI) will arrive in about seven or eight years.
AMD

AMD Quietly Made Some Radeon RX 560 Graphics Cards Worse (pcworld.com) 40

Brad Chacos: When the Radeon RX 560 launched in April it was the only RX 500-series card with a meaningful under-the-hood tech boost compared to the RX 400-series. The graphics processor in the older RX 460 cards packed 14 compute units and 896 stream processors; the upgraded Radeon RX 560 bumped that to 16 CUs and 1,024 SPs. Now, some -- but not all -- of the Radeon RX 560s you'll find online have specs that match the older 460 cards, and sometimes run at lower clock speeds to boot. AMD's Radeon RX 560 page was also quietly altered to include the new configurations at some point, Heise.de discovered. The last snapshot of the page by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine occurred on July 7 and only lists the full-fat 16 CU version of the card, so the introduction of the nerfed 896 SP model likely occurred some time after that. Sifting through all of the available Radeon RX 560s on Newegg this morning reveals a fairly even split between the two configurations, all of which are being sold under the same RX 560 name. In a statement, AMD acknowledged the existence of 14 Compute Unit (896 stream processors) and 16 Compute Unit (1024 stream processor) versions of the Radeon RX 560. "We introduced the 14CU version this summer to provide AIBs and the market with more RX 500 series options. It's come to our attention that on certain AIB and etail websites there's no clear delineation between the two variants. We're taking immediate steps to remedy this: we're working with all AIB and channel partners to make sure the product descriptions and names clarify the CU count, so that gamers and consumers know exactly what they're buying. We apologize for the confusion this may have caused."
Intel

Clear Linux Beats CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu in (Enterprise) Benchmark Tests (phoronix.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: Recently completed Linux distro benchmarks by Phoronix show Intel's Clear Linux is the most powerful on x86 hardware. A six-way, enterprise-focused Linux distro comparison show Clear Linux being the fastest with a Core i9 and Xeon systems, easily beating CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu in a majority of the tests.

When doing an 11-way Linux distro boot test they also found Clear Linux easily booted the fastest followed by the Clear-inspired Solus distribution. Clear Linux does work on AMD hardware and works on Intel CPUs back to Sandy Bridge but leverages its speed from optimized compiler settings, specially built libraries capable of AVX instructions on supported systems, a specially tuned kernel configuration, and other optimizations/patches.

Debian 9.2 and Fedora 27 "ended up being dropped from this article due to data overload," the article concludes, "and those distributions really not offering anything really different in terms of the performance."
AMD

First AMD Ryzen Mobile Laptop Tested Shows Strong Zen-Vega Performance (hothardware.com) 85

MojoKid writes: AMD Ryzen Mobile processors are arriving now in retail laptops from the likes of HP, Lenovo and Acer. With the first CPUs to hit the market, AMD took quad-core Ryzen and coupled it with 8 or 10-core Vega GPUs on a single piece of silicon in an effort to deliver a combination of strong Ryzen CPU performance along with significantly better integrated graphics performance over Intel's current 8th Gen Kaby Lake laptop chips. AMD Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U chips have 4MB of shared L3 cache each, but differ with respect to top-end CPU boost clock speeds, number of integrated Radeon Vega Compute Units (CUs), and the GPU's top-end clocks. Ryzen 7 2700U is more powerful with 10 Radeon Vega CUs, while Ryzen 5 2500U sports 8. Ryzen 7 2700U also boosts to 3.8GHz, while Ryzen 5 2500U tops out at 3.6GHz. In the benchmarks, Ryzen Mobile looks strong, competing well with Intel quad-core 8th Gen laptop CPUs, while offering north of 60 percent better performance in graphics and gaming. Battery life is still a question mark, however, as some of the very first models to hit the market from HP have inefficient displays and hard drives instead of SSDs. As more premium configurations hit the market in the next few weeks, hopefully we'll get a better picture of Ryzen Mobile battery life in more optimized laptop builds.

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