Author: Staff Writer

Doom over for PC industry says Intel

Chipzilla is telling the world+dog that the worst is over for the personal computer industry.

Intel forecast third-quarter revenue above Wall Street’s expectations.

Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith told Reuters that PC sales had stabilised and he expects shrinking demand from consumers in China and other developing countries to rebound, just as it recently has in the United States.

Of course the tame Apple Press claims that it is all to do with how Apple created a mobile revolution with the launch of its keyboardless netbook in 2010. There was talk of a “mobile revolution” which tied with the downturn of the worst PC sales in years.

While many believed that the fall in PCs was because of the increase in mobiles, some of us thought that the two were a parallel development. PC sales fell because of company retrenchment during an economic downturn, while consumer sales went up as punters searched for the latest shiny thing. PC sales have risen as companies are forced to upgrade their dying machines. PCs are cheaper and attempts to bring in BYOD policies for mobile gadgets proved pretty useless.

Intel now expects the market’s recovery to help it grow its full-year revenue about 5 percent, slightly higher than prior expectations.

Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich told analysts on a conference call that improved demand from companies replacing old PCs would last at least through the end of 2014.

Intel increased its share buyback program by $20 billion. It wants to buy $4 billion of stock in the current quarter, thinking tht there will be more interest in “two in one” devices with detachable keyboards and screens.

Intel said in a statement it expects third-quarter revenue of $14.4 billion, plus or minus $500 million. Analysts had expected $14 billion on average.

Revenue from Intel’s PC group rose 6 percent in the quarter while its data centre group, a big contributor to gross margins, had revenue jump 19 percent.

Chipzilla’s profits have been made without much interesting in its mobile offerings. Intel said its mobile and communications group’s revenue fell 83 percent to $51 million and had an operating loss of $1.12 billion.

Intel’s second-quarter revenue was $13.8 billion, compared with $12.8 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Chipzilla posted second-quarter net income of $2.8 billion, compared with $2.0 billion at the same time last year. 

Intel’s eight core plans revealed

While Intel is about to release some of the first processors based on its Haswell-E specifications, it is starting to look like they will not be the eight core fiestas expected.

Of the three Haswell-E Core i7 CPUs expected, only one of them, the Core i7-5960X, will actually come with 8 cores, and that is the one which will cost an arm and a leg to buy.

The Core i7-5960X and the other two, the i7-5930K and i7-5820K, will contain only six cores.

Dubbed the Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition, the flagship CPU of the first Haswell-E lineup and will have two more cores and four more threads than the company’s current Ivy Bridge-E based Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition processor.

Built around the 22nm Haswell architecture, this new 8-core CPU will head to the deep-pocketed gaming community.

The Core i7-5960X will be clocked at a 3.0GHz base, with a 3.3GHz boost frequency. It will also include support for the latest DDR4 2133MHz memory, and 20MB of L3 cache as well. In addition, its power rating will be 140 watts TDP, or only 10 more watts than the 6-core i7-4960X.

The new DDR4 memory controller resides on the processor and the RAM is directly connected to the CPU. The DDR4 modules themselves use only 1.2 volts of power, compared to DDR3’s 1.65/1.5 volts.

The two other Haswell-E Core i-7 chips are 6-core, 12-thread processors. Aside from clock speeds, their specifications are primarily the same. The i7-5930K runs at 3.5GHz, about a 3.9-4.0GHz boost, but it is nearly half the price. The i7-5820K, will run at a 3.3GHz base, with a 3.6-3.8GHz clock boost. It will list for around $300. Both will support a 15MB L3 Cache.

So the question is what is it about eight cores that make shelling out that sort of money cost effective? At that price Intel has priced the 8-core i7-5690X out of mainstream machines.

All three processors will be compatible with Intel’s upcoming x99 chipset and motherboards. We expect them out during the fourth quarter.

It is possible however that next year will be the year of the less-expensive, 6-core CPU. 

Supremes force you to decrypt

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has decided that if a court orders you to decrypt a file you must do so, even if you will end up incriminating yourself.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial ruled that a criminal defendant could be compelled to decrypt the contents of his laptops.

The case centres on a lawyer who was arrested in 2009 for allegedly participating in a mortgage fraud scheme.

Leon Gelfgatt admitted to Massachusetts state police that he had done work with a company called Baylor Holdings and that he encrypted his communications and the hard drives of all of his computers.He refused to decrypt the drives.

The court considered the question of whether the act of entering the password to decrypt the contents of a computer was an act of self-incrimination, thereby violating Gelfgatt’s Fifth Amendment rights.

However the court decided that simply knowing the password did not imply that Gelfgatt created the documents on the encrypted machines. Nor did it imply that Gelfgatt had sole control of them at all times.

The MJSC’s ruling is a blow for privacy advocates and others who have asserted the right to refuse to decrypt digital devices. 

Security industry runs aground

The IT security industry is unable to cope with cybercrime and needs to come up with a better way of protecting customers.

Eugene Spafford, a computer security expert and professor of computer science at Purdue University, said that the security industry is just adding layers of defensive technologies to protect systems.

However it can’t deal with the most substantial, underlying problems that sustain a sprawling cybercrime syndicate.

Talking at the FIRST security conference in Boston, Spafford said that software makers continue to churn out products riddled with vulnerabilities, creating an incessant patching cycle for IT administrators that siphons resources from more critical areas.

He said that the problem was so bad that today businesses are rushing to invest in many of the latest security technologies designed to detect infections without any ability to efficiently fix them.

Instead of building secure systems, they are getting further and further away from solid construction by putting layer upon layer on top of these systems.

Spafford said things had moved to vendors pushing things out rather than get things right the first time.

Poorly coded software combined with growing network complexity has increased the attack surface at many organisations and it is taking its toll financially, said Spafford.

Spafford who is famous for analysing the Morris worm, one of the earliest threats to the internet, said that there are 220 million known malware families or instances of known malware and it is increasing by 52 million a month.

Threat detection hasn’t improved much and malware remains on systems for months and often isn’t uncovered until after criminals pilfer systems containing intellectual property and other sensitive data.

Security vendors produce inadequate security platforms designed to protect software riddled with holes, Spafford said.

Coppers were inadequately equipped and stymied by criminal gangs in countries where bribery earns them protection from the government, Spafford said.

He called for an investment in computer programming education and a move by software manufacturers to embed software security concepts early into the development process. 

Intel buys software for sports

There were more signs that the fashion bag maker Intel is pressing ahead with its internet of fangs project.

According to Reuters, Intel has written a cheque to a New Zealand company producing software for use in sports and exercise sectors.

The investment comes from Chipzilla’s investment arm, Intel Capital, which has bought into the privately owned Performance Lab.

The Kiwi firm writes software for real-time exercise management and virtual coaching. It fits in nicely to Intel’s plans to stick its chips into sports clothing and other exercise gear.

Sudheer Kuppam, Intel Capital Asia Pacific managing director said that the sports, fitness, health and wellness sectors are fuelling strong global demand for smart gadgets.

Performance Lab’s products gather and analyse data from a person playing sport or exercising, and send the results to coaches or participants through mobile devices for management of training programmes. 

EU watchdog about to bite Philips, Samsung and Infineon

EU watchdogs are about to bite the rump of Philips, Samsung and Infineon for fixing prices of chips used in mobile SIM cards.

The three were subjected to dawn raids in October 2008 and the European Union charged them last year with taking part in a cartel.

SIM chips are used in passports, bank cards, identity cards and television systems and the technology has been universally adopted.

The companies may be fined in late July or possibly September but a decision has already been made, according to tremors in the force at Brussels.

So far there has been no official comment from either the commission, Philips, Infineon or Samsung. Philips said last year that the EU charges covered the period 2003 to 2004 and involved its semiconductor business which it has since sold.

Renesas was apparently given a “Get out of Jail Free Card” by the Commission because it grassed up the others. Renesas has not publically admitted its role in the affair and was unaware that the other companies would be fined.

As Intel found out to its cost, companies that breach EU rules can be fined up to 10 percent of their global turnover. Dutch company Philips’s 2013 turnover was $31.72 billion.

Talks between the EU and the three companies broke down last year.

The chipmakers had initially sought to settle the case, which means admitting guilt in return for a 10 percent cut in the fines. 

Drones can’t deliver packages

The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled out the use of drones to deliver packages.

Drones were being tested by Amazon to deliver books and packages, but it turns out that the scheme might never get off the ground.

An FAA document is apparently seeking public comment on its policy on drones, or what the agency calls “model aircraft”.

Since 2007 the FAA has said that the commercial operation of drones is illegal.

A federal judge ruled in March that the FAA failed to call for public input before adopting the rules.

That decision is in the process of being appealed, but in the meantime the FAA is calling for public input wit the idea of looking at the commercial application of small drones later this year, with potential new rules in place perhaps by the end of 2015.

The FAA named Amazon’s December proposal as an example of what is barred under regulations that allow the use of drones for hobby and recreational purposes.

Amazon hopes the agency will change its mind, but is not holding its breath. 

Haswell-E headed to the shops in September

The dark satanic rumour mill has manufactured a hell on earth rumour that Intel’s Haswell-E will be in the shops by September.

The new chip will arrive with Intel’s X99 chipset and DDR4 memory and will be pricy, but at least you have all summer to save up your pennies for it and take another paper round.

The Haswell-E processor is a next-generation platform and could be in the shops by September 14, 2014 this could coincide with an announcement at Intel’s upcoming IDF 14 in San Francisco. IDF runs September 9-11.

According to a leaked document was posted by VR-Zone’s  Chinese language site at least three Core i7 chips based on Haswell-E will debut on September 14, along with Intel’s upcoming X99 chipset.

The three Core i7 parts mentioned include the Core i7 5960X (8-core, 20MB L3 cache, 3GHz-3.5GHz), Core i7 5930K (6-core, 15MB L3 cache, 3.5GHz-3.7GHz), and the Core i7 5820K (6-core, 15MB cache, 3.3GHz-3.6GHz). All three reportedly carry a TDP of 140W and support Hyper-Threading. 

Multicore chips need to be mini-internets

Li-Shiuan Peh, the Singapore Research Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, said that in the future massively multicore chips will need to resemble little Internets.

Peh told the International Symposium on Computer Architecture that each core will need an associated router, and data travels between cores in packets of fixed size.

This week Peh’s group unveiled a 36-core chip that features just such a “network-on-chip” to make his point.

This chip fixes the cache coherence problems that have stuffed up previous attempts to design networks-on-chip. Until now ensuring that cores’ locally stored copies of globally accessible data remain up to date has been a problem.

Most chip cores are connected by a bus and when two cores need to communicate, they’re granted exclusive access to the bus.

But that approach won’t work as the core count mounts as cores spend all their time waiting for the bus and when one finally shows up several arrive at the same time.

Bhavya Daya, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, and first author on the new paper said that in a network-on-chip, each core is connected only to those immediately adjacent to it.

This means that it is possible to reach the neighbouring chip really quickly and have multiple paths to your destination. So if you’re going way across, rather than having one congested path, you could have multiple ones.

But the bus system makes it easier to maintain cache coherence. Every core on a chip has its own cache, a local, high-speed memory bank in which it stores frequently used data. As it performs computations, it updates the data in its cache, and every so often, it undertakes the relatively time-consuming chore of shipping the data back to main memory.

To fix the problems of another core needing the data before it’s been shipped, chips use a protocol called “snoopy,” because it involves snooping on other cores’ communications.

But in a network-on-chip, data is flying everywhere, and packets will frequently arrive at different cores in different sequences. The implicit ordering that the snoopy protocol relies on breaks down.

Daya, Peh, and their colleagues solve this problem by equipping their chips with a second network.

Groups of declarations reach the routers associated with the cores at discrete intervals — intervals corresponding to the time it takes to pass from one end of the shadow network to another. Each router can thus tabulate exactly how many requests were issued during which interval, and by which other cores. The requests themselves may still take a while to arrive, but their recipients know that they’ve been issued.

After testing the prototype chips to ensure that they’re operational, Daya intends to load them with a version of the Linux operating system, modified to run on 36 cores, and evaluate the performance of real applications, to determine the accuracy of the group’s theoretical projections.

At that point, she plans to release the blueprints for the chip, written in the hardware description language Verilog, as open-source code.