Author: Edward Berridge

AMD plans more powerful Hawaii GPU

The dark satanic rumour mill has been suggesting that AMD’s Hawaii GPU could be doing a lot more than it is.

This is because the GPU has shedloads of deactivated units which, if they were switched on, could make the chip go like the clappers. A die-shot of Hawaii graphics processing unit shows that the chip may feature as many as 3072 stream processors (48 CUs)

AMD sells the Radeon R9 290X which is configured to feature 2816 stream processors (SPs)/44 compute units (CUs), 176 texture mapping units (TMUs) and 64 raster operating units (ROPs) and the Radeon R9 290 sports 2560 SPs/40 CUs, 160 TMUs and 64 ROPs.

Overclocker 8Pack claimed that the Radeon R9 290X may not be the fastest Hawaii-based solution possible and that AMD could release something better.

Talking to the Overclockers.co.uk forums, 8pack said that the 290X was not full fat and something could be done about it.

A conservative estimate for what AMD might have on the table is a ten per cent improvement on the Hawaii-3072 gpu. But the boost may be higher or lower, depending on the clock-rates, wind speed and butterfly wings and jumping Chinese. 

Mystery surrounds Ubisoft game

When Ubisoft previewed its game Watch Dogs a couple of years ago the graphics were considered so super cool that everyone wanted it.

However when the game came out last month critics said that the open-world game didn’t live up to that original teaser.

According to Guru3D there are hidden files within the game which, if activated, improve the games graphics in the PC version. These include shaders, NPC density, camera angles and other elements which were cut out of the game. Mod creator TheWorse also claims that the files he’s unpacked improve the game’s performance, too:

He said that he was an obsessed person when it comes to graphics and is a fan of using sweetfx on every game and always makes his own pre-sets.

After the game was released he noticed that the graphics were not that good and there were stuttering problems so he went searching for fixes.

“I realised the engine was based on Dunia 2 so I tried to unpack the files which obviously did not work. He found the unpacker and started playing with it and after a long time of testing I ended up getting the E3 Bloom from 2012 working.

TheWorse said that after studying how bin hex worked and downloading many tools to convert files he could integrate and enable many effects.

The results give new life to arguments that Ubisoft stuck two fingers up at the PC market and nobbled Watch Dogs to make it viable as a release for both last-gen and new-gen consoles.

If you use TheWorse’s mod you get a damn fine looking game. 

UK spooks don’t need a warrant

GCHQ can snoop on British citizens’ use of Facebook and Google without an individual warrant because the firms are based overseas.

UK spy boss Charles Farr said that the services are classified as external communications and the spooks can hack into your account without needing a warrant.

The news came out as part of a continuing legal battle with campaign group Privacy International (PI).

Charles Farr, director general of the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism, told PI that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and web searches on Google, webmail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo, are classified as “external communications”, which means that they can be intercepted without the need for additional legal clearance.

If you have webmail or social networking accounts in the EU the government would need a search warrant signed by a minister and that can only be issued when there is suspicion of illegal activity.

However if your accounts or searches are on Google or your  posts on Facebook they are sending information overseas which can be collected under a broader warrant which does not need to be signed by a minister.

Farr said point out that data collected in this way “cannot be read, looked at or listened to” except in strictly limited circumstances.

Apparently there is a “significant distinction” between intercepting material and a person actually reading, looking at or listening it.

James Welch, legal director of human rights group Liberty, told the BBC that the security services consider that they’re entitled to read, listen and analyse all our communications on Facebook, Google and other US based platforms.

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International said the revelation showed that spy agencies operated under their own laws and cannot be considered accountable to parliament and to the public they serve when their actions are obfuscated through secret interpretations of Byzantine laws.

South Korea and EU hammer out 5G deal

South Korea and the European Union will work together to develop 5G wireless network technologies and to will come up with a global consensus on standards.

The two sides have apparently agreed on the need for a harmonised radio spectrum policy for ensuring global interoperability of 5G networks, as well as global technical standards,

They will also collaborate with the Third Generation Partnership Project, a group of telecommunications standards organisations, and with the International Telecommunication Union, which sets global policies for spectrum use.

By forming a joint research and development group, the EU and South Korea plan to cooperate on developing ICT services for the cloud and the Internet of Things, among other areas.

The move is to make sure that there is a globally agreed definition and standard for 5G networks in the future.

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, was in Seoul on Monday to sign the agreement.

Kroes said that the move would speed up and make sure that the EU wins the global race to create 5G.

Earlier this year, she set 2020 as the goal to roll out 5G networks across Europe.

Under the new agreement, the EU and South Korea aim to launch jointly funded research projects in 2016 or 2017.

South Korea wants core 5G wireless technologies ready in time for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and introduce the world’s first 5G network services by 2020.

This puts Samsung into the spotlight. It has successfully tested technologies it considers key to 5G last year. South Korea’s major carriers SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus are racing to become the first 5G network provider. 

Taxi drivers revolt against Uber

Taxi drivers sowed traffic chaos in Europe’s top cities on Wednesday by mounting one of the biggest protests ever against a smartphone app.

Uber summons rides at the touch of a button and it is apparently unpopular with licensed cabbies because it is a big company and competes against them. Although it is a high tech option, the cabbies feel that it breaks local taxi rules, violates licensing and safety regulations and its drivers fail to comply with local insurance rules.

Uber claims that it is all because the taxi industry has not faced competition for decades and was seeing competition from companies such as Uber which was bringing choice to customers.

Uber says its minicabs arrive in five minutes in central London and its fares are 30 to 50 percent cheaper than a black cab.

Hundreds of licensed black taxis snarled traffic in the streets around Trafalgar Square in central London, hooting their horns as they passed Downing Street, home of Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Houses of Parliament.

In Paris, taxis slowed traffic on major arteries into the city during the morning commute. Hundreds choked the main road to Berlin’s historic centre while commuters packed buses and trains, or just walked, to get to work in Madrid and Barcelona. 

Cybercrime numbers out

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) have been adding up numbers and have divided by their shoe size to come up with a cost for cybercrime worldwide.

As you might expect the numbers came out in their billions because they set a value on the esoteric costs of “damage to business from the theft of intellectual property.” As a result the final cost of hacking is $445 billion. However a slightly more reasonable figure is the estimated $160 billion loss to individuals from hacking.

The CSIS said cyber crime was a growth industry that damaged trade, competitiveness and innovation.

A conservative estimate would be $375 billion in losses, while the maximum could be as much as $575 billion, said the study.

The study was sponsored by security software company McAfee which has absolutely no interest in causing a panic about the cost of hacking. It said improved international collaboration was beginning to show results in reducing cybercrime, for example in the takedown last week of a crime ring that infected hundreds of thousands of computers known by the name of its master software, Gameover Zeus.

Jim Lewis of CSIS said in a statement that Cyber crime is a tax on innovation and slows the pace of global innovation by reducing the rate of return to innovators and investors. For developed countries, cyber crime has serious implications for employment.

The world’s biggest economies bore the brunt of the losses, the research found, with the toll on the United States, China, Japan and Germany reaching $200 billion a year in total.

Losses connected to personal information, such as stolen credit card data, was put at up to $150 billion.

About 40 million people in the United States, or 15 percent of the population, has had personal information stolen by hackers, it said, while high-profile breaches affected 54 million people in Turkey, 16 million in Germany and more than 20 million in China. 

Thailand’s junta turns to social notworking

As a sign that it does not really get the internet, Thailand’s military junta has decided to set up its own social networking site.

The military seized power in May and has not been particularly popular. This might have something to do with the fact that every time you call for elections, soldiers show up and arrest you.

It has been a lot harder for the military to shut its population up when they post on Facebook. So the Junta has decided to create a patriotic, easy-to-censor Facebook rival of its own design.

Dubbed “Thailand Social Network” the social notwork will be out in two months.

Then this site will have to compete with Facebook which has more than 24 million Thai users. That amounts to one third of the population.

Facebook also has more money and resources than the Junta. Facebook’s market capital is $162 billion while the annual output of Thailand’s capital Bangkok, an estimated $105 billion.

The junta is also not dumb enough to shut Facebook down. When it did that in May the ban only lasted for an hour. Thais were more upset about the Facebook closure than the junta’s late-night detainments or its shredding of the constitution. The army was so overwhelmed with complaints that it had to promise it will never totally block Facebook — just individual pages deemed subversive.

Humanity really has hit a low point when social networking is considered more important than human rights and a state constitution. Still not many people expect a military run Facebook to work very well. 

EU wants more robots

The European Commission has decided to make sure that the only way that European countries will do what they are told is if they are all run by robots.

The Commission has set up a scheme with 180 companies and research organisations called SPARC which it said will strengthen Europe’s position in the global robotics market.

SPARC will create over 240,000 jobs in Europe, and increase Europe’s share of the global market to 42 per cent.  To do this the Commission will invest €700 million and euRobotics €2.1 billion.

European Commission Vice President  Neelie Kroes said:  “Europe needs to be a producer and not merely a consumer of robots. Robots do much more than replace humans – they often do things humans can’t or won’t do and that improves everything from our quality of life to our safety. Integrating robots into European industry helps us create and keep jobs in Europe.”

President of euRobotics Bernd Liepert says: “SPARC will ensure the competitiveness of European robotics industries. Robot-based automation solutions are essential to overcome today’s most pressing societal challenges – from demographic change to mobility to sustainable production”.

Robotics enables companies to continue manufacturing in Europe, where they might otherwise move operations to lower-cost countries.

Patent troll faces extra damages

Patent trolls are finding life difficult in the US courts all of a sudden and might find themselves becoming an endangered species.

A few years ago, trolls were coming out from underneath their bridges armed with lawyers can demanding big licencing fees from companies who paid up rather than going to court.

All that came to an end when a couple of high profile tech companies decided that this was silly and started fighting back.

According to Ars Technica, FindTheBest counter sued a patent troll called Lumen View last year. Company CEO Kevin O’Connor made it personal, and pledged $1 million of his own money to fight the legal battle.

FindTheBest pursued the case and was kicked to death by the courts. The judge invalidated Lumen’s patent saying it was just computer-oriented “matchmaking.”

Now the judge overseeing the case has ruled that it’s Lumen View, not FindTheBest, that should have to pay the $200,000 in expenses. In a first-of-its-kind implementation of new fee-shifting rules mandated by the Supreme Court, US District Judge Denise Cote found that the Lumen View lawsuit was a “prototypical exceptional case.”

Judge Cote said that Lumen’s motivation in this litigation was to extract a nuisance settlement from FTB on the theory that FTB would rather pay an unjustified license fee than bear the costs of the threatened expensive litigation.

Lumen made threats of ‘full-scale litigation,’ ‘protracted discovery,’ and a settlement demand escalator should FTB file papers, were aimed at convincing FTB that a pay-off was the lesser injustice.

Recently the Supreme Court changed the test for fee-shifting precisely to deter behaviour such as Lumen’s, Cote found.

She said that Lumen didn’t do “any reasonable pre-suit investigation,” and filed a number of near-identical “boilerplate” complaints in a short time frame.

Lumen also attempted to get a “gag order” against FTB, to stop it from talking to the press about its case. It is not clear how much Lumen will have to pay.

It is good news for FindTheBest which recently lost an RICO anti-extortion lawsuit against Lumen View. In that case, also overseen by Cote, the judgewasn’t convinced that RICO could be used to fight bogus lawsuits, even ones as baseless as Lumen’s. 

Confusion hits the networking market

The enterprise networking market appears to be down the loo, and how badly depends on which analyst you ask for the numbers.

Beancounters at IDC says the first quarter value was $5.2 billion, while Dell‘Oro Group claims it was $5 billion. IDC said the market lost 12.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013 – down around $US730 million – while Dell’Oro said the market lost a billion compared to the previous quarter.

About the only thing the two could agree on was that that Layer 2 / 3 Ethernet was tanking because  pesky enterprises were shifting to WiFi because it is faster and more useful.

IDC said that there had been some large shipments in the data centre market which might have saved the likes of Cicso’s bacon. Network infrastructure VP Rohit Mehra was quoted as saying “10GbE and 40GbE switch ports for the datacentre and campus core remain the growth engine for this market, although we do expect the GbE market to hold its own with port shipments during the coming years.”

Dell’Oro  said that “data centre switching paused as Cisco’s Nexus 9000 product transition continued”.

IDC said   Cisco commands more than 60 percent share of the Layer 2/3 market – slightly down in the quarter – a 4.3 percent revenue decline has an impact on the whole business. Cisco’s service and enterprise router revenue dipped by 1.8 percent.

HP added 4.6 percent Ethernet switch revenue, while Juniper rose 53.4 percent for the same segment over the same period.

Dell’Oro  said that the “white box” switch market nicked market share and value from the name vendors.

However it was not all bad.  Dell’Oro said that future data centre business and the uncertain Chinese market, as offering hopeful signals or the future. IDC thinks that data centre business will keep the industry alive in the long term.