Businesses

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants (bloomberg.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Organized labor doesn't rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn't most people's idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they've unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook. The workers aren't technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies' direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability. That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. "Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we're focused on the big guys," says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO's South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers. "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world," says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is "being opportunistic."
AMD

French Company Plans To Heat Homes, Offices With AMD Ryzen Pro Processors 181

At its Ryzen Pro event in New York City last month, AMD invited a French company called Qarnot to discuss how they're using Ryzen Pro processors to heat homes and offices for free. The company uses the Q.rad -- a heater that embeds three CPUs as a heat source -- to accomplish this feat. "We reuse the heat they generate to heat homes and offices for free," the company says in a blog post. "Q.rad is connected to the internet and receives in real time workloads from our in-house computing platform."

The idea is that anyone in the world can send heavy workloads over the cloud to a Q.rad and have it render the task and heat a person's home in the process. The two industries that are targeted by Qarnot include movies studios for 3D rendering and VFX, and banks for risk analysis. Qarnot is opting in for Ryzen Pro processors over Intel i7 processors due to the performance gain and heat output. According to Qarnot, they "saw a performance gain of 30-45% compared to the Intel i7." They also report that the Ryzen Pro is "producing the same heat as the equivalent Intel CPUs" they were using -- all while providing twice as many cores.

While it's neat to see a company convert what would otherwise be wasted heat into a useful asset that heats a person's home, it does raise some questions about the security and profitability of their business model. By using Ryzen Pro's processors, OS independent memory encryption is enabled to provide additional security layers to Qarnot's heaters. However, Q.rads are naturally still going to be physically unsecured as they can be in anyone's house.

Further reading: The Mac Observer, TechRepublic
Intel

Intel Cuts Cord On Its Current Cord-Cutting WiGig Products (zdnet.com) 30

An anonymous reader shares a ZDNet report, which also has some clarification from Intel: It looks like you can add WiGig wireless docking to Intel's dustbin (along with IoT products axed earlier this summer), as the company has discontinued existing products using the 802.11ad wireless standard, according to Anandtech. [Since publishing this report, we've received a statement from Intel clarifying its WiGig support: "We continue to offer current versions of our 802.11ad products, such as the Intel Tri-band Wireless AC 18265 and Gigabit Wireless 10101R antenna module. We remain committed to WiGig and think it has exciting potential for a number of applications, including enabling VR to become wireless, mesh networking and as part of Intel's leading products for 5G."] WiGig was developed several years ago with faster speeds than then-current Wi-Fi standards, but because it relied on the 60GHz channel, its high throughput could only travel over short distances. As a result, it eventually became marketed as a feature for wireless laptop docking stations, and while it received some support from enterprise laptop manufactures like Dell and Lenovo, the technology didn't make a big dent against standard wired laptop docks.
Google

Google Challenges Record EU Antitrust Fine in Court (reuters.com) 52

Google appealed on Monday against a record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.9 billion) EU antitrust fine, with its chances of success boosted by Intel's partial victory last week against another EU sanction. From a report: The world's most popular Internet search engine, a unit of the U.S. firm Alphabet, launched its appeal two months after it was fined by the European Commission for abusing its dominance in Europe by giving prominent placement in searches to its comparison shopping service and demoting rival offerings.
AI

America's Data-Swamped Spy Agencies Pin Their Hopes On AI (phys.org) 62

An anonymous reader quotes Phys.org: Swamped by too much raw intel data to sift through, US spy agencies are pinning their hopes on artificial intelligence to crunch billions of digital bits and understand events around the world. Dawn Meyerriecks, the Central Intelligence Agency's deputy director for technology development, said this week the CIA currently has 137 different AI projects, many of them with developers in Silicon Valley. These range from trying to predict significant future events, by finding correlations in data shifts and other evidence, to having computers tag objects or individuals in video that can draw the attention of intelligence analysts. Officials of other key spy agencies at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington this week, including military intelligence, also said they were seeking AI-based solutions for turning terabytes of digital data coming in daily into trustworthy intelligence that can be used for policy and battlefield action.
EU

Intel's $1.3 Billion Fine In Europe Requires Review, Court Says (nytimes.com) 72

cdreimer writes: According to a report in The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), the Court of Justice in the European Union has ordered the lower courts to revisit the $1.3 billion anti-trust fine levied against Intel in 2009, giving hope to Google and other American technology firms to avoid being fined for being dominant in the EU markets. From the report: "The highest court in the European Union ordered on Wednesday that a $1.3 billion antitrust fine doled out against Intel nearly a decade ago be revisited, a ruling that could give hope to Google and other American technology giants facing challenges to their dominance in the region. The decision to send the case back to a lower court for re-examination is a blow to regional competition regulators, whose oversight of digital services has been among the world's most aggressive. It could also embolden American technology companies, which have long complained that antitrust officials in Europe target them unfairly, to challenge rulings and investigations against them. The move by the Court of Justice of the European Union raises the prospect that the 1.06 billion euro fine on Intel in 2009, equivalent to $1.26 billion at current exchange rates, could be reduced or scrapped entirely. The penalty -- at the time the largest of its kind -- was upheld by European courts in 2014 and will most likely be the subject of legal battles for years to come. That record fine was overtaken by a 2.4 billion euro penalty against Google in June. The Silicon Valley giant was accused of using its dominant position in online search to give preferential treatment to its internet shopping service over those of its rivals."
Operating Systems

Linux Kernel 4.13 Officially Released (softpedia.com) 43

prisoninmate writes: As expected, the Linux 4.13 kernel series was made official this past weekend by none other than its creator, Linus Torvalds, which urges all Linux users to start migrating to this version as soon as possible. Work on Linux kernel 4.13 started in mid-July with the first Release Candidate (RC) milestone, which already gave us a glimpse of the new features coming to this major kernel branch. There are, of course, numerous improvements and support for new hardware through updated drivers and core components. Highlights of Linux kernel 4.13 include Intel's Cannon Lake and Coffee Lake CPUs, support for non-blocking buffered I/O operations to improve asynchronous I/O support, support for "lifetime hints" in the block layers and the virtual filesystem, AppArmor enhancements, and better power management. There's also AMD Raven Ridge support implemented in the AMDGPU graphics driver, which received numerous improvements, support for five-level page tables was added in the s390 architecture, and the structure randomization plugin was added as part of the build system.
Intel

Researchers Find a Way To Disable Intel ME Component Courtesy of the NSA (bleepingcomputer.com) 142

An anonymous reader writes:Researchers from Positive Technologies -- a provider of enterprise security solutions -- have found a way to disable the Intel Management Engine (ME), a much-hated component of Intel CPUs that many have called a secret backdoor, even if Intel advertised it as a "remote PC management" solution. People have been trying for years to find a way to disable the Intel ME component, but have failed all this time. This is because disabling Intel ME crashes computers, as Intel ME is responsible for the initialization, power management, and launch of the main Intel processor.

Positive Technologies experts revealed they discovered a hidden bit inside the firmware code, which when flipped (set to "1") will disable ME after ME has done its job and booted up the main processor. The bit is labelled "reserve_hap" and a nearby comment describes it as "High Assurance Platform (HAP) enable." High Assurance Platform (HAP) is an NSA program that describes a series of rules for running secure computing platforms. Researchers believe Intel has added the ME-disabling bit at the behest of the NSA, who needed a method of disabling ME as a security measure for computers running in highly sensitive environments.

The original submission linked to a comment with more resources on the "Intel CPU backdoor" controversy.
Portables (Apple)

'The MacBook Pro's One-Year-Old Signature Feature Touch Bar Has No Future, But Users Are Required To Pay a Premium For It' (chuqui.com) 284

Chuq Von Rospach, a former Apple employee and commentator, has criticized the MacBook-maker to force consumers to pay extra for the Touch Bar -- a signature feature of the last year's MacBook Pro lineup -- in order to have the highest-end MacBook Pro currently available. He writes: The current [MacBook Pro] line forces users to pay for the Touch Bar on the higher end devices whether they want it or not, and that's a cost users shouldn't need to pay for a niche technology without a future. So Apple needs to either roll the Touch Bar out to the entire line and convince us we want it, or roll it back and offer more laptop options without it. [...] So what's the future of the Touch Bar? I don't know. I'm not sure Apple does, either. I was fascinated that when Apple released the iMacs earlier this year not one word was mentioned about the Touch Bar or Touch ID and support for them via an updated keyboard or trackpad was nowhere to be found. I'm taking that as an indication that after the lackluster response to this with the laptop releases, they've gone back to the drawing board a bit before rolling it out further.
Security

Who's Responsible For IoT Security? (networkworld.com) 181

"It is much too easy to connect devices and industrial equipment to the internet," writes an anonymous Slashdot reader. But what's the solution -- and who's to blame for the abundance of insecure IoT devices? Network World examined the conclusions in a paper titled "The Internet of Hackable Things" [PDF]. The authors say the IoT security problem is not a technological one; it's cultural... "A security culture is nearly non-existent in our society... developers must be educated to adopt the best practices for securing their IoT devices within the particular application domain; the general public must be educated to take security seriously, too, which among other things will fix the problem of not changing default password."
The anonymous reader who submitted this story argued that "IoT product makers do not need a deeply skilled team because component makers have made it so easy to connect anything to the internet. Maybe the responsibility for strong security should rest with chip makers like Intel, Freescale and Qualcomm." Leave your own opinions in the comments. Who is ultimately responsible for IoT security?
Software

Software Is Eating the Auto Industry (strategyanalytics.com) 101

Roger Lanctot, writing for research firm Strategy Analytics: There are many more opportunities in cars today for things to go wrong as software takes over an ever-expanding array of functionality from the car stereo to enhanced safety systems and the vehicle powertrain. There are software bugs, updates, conflicts and, lately, cybersecurity vulnerabilities to worry about so it is perhaps no surprise that software is figuring in vehicle recalls. In the latest update of software-based recalls from CX3 Marketing, software-based recalls crept up higher again in 2016, surpassing 6M vehicles. It's a small portion of the overall total but it is growing -- especially as a proportion of the total. This expanding crisis in vehicle recalls is both good news and bad news for the automotive industry. The good news is that software recalls can often be corrected with over-the-air software updates. The bad news is that auto makers are in the very earliest stages of deploying software updating technology and, particularly in the U.S., they have yet to sort out conflicts with state-level dealer franchise laws that require warranty service work such as software updates be handled by dealers. The expanding role of software and the growing number of software-related recalls reflects an emerging battleground in the industry. The creation of software is expensive and labor intensive and also poses an ownership question. Starting approximately 10 years ago with BMW and Intel's mutual effort to bring Linux into cars on a larger scale via the GenIVI Alliance, auto makers have been seeking to segregated hardware from software in such a manner that hardware could conceivably be relegated to sourcing from contract manufacturers (like Flextronics) and software development costs could be reduced by sharing code. At the same time, car makers have sought to take ownership of the code written for their vehicles. Car enthusiasts have taken issue with the ownership question, asserting their right to modify vehicle software as they see fit. That particular struggle is yet to be resolved but has gained new life as more tinkerers experiment with home-grown self-driving car technology.
Government

The CIA Built a Fake Software Update System To Spy On Intel Partners (theverge.com) 110

Documents published by Wikileaks reveal a secret project to siphon out data through its technical liaison service, dating back to 2009. The Verge reports: The program, called ExpressLane, is designed to be deployed alongside a biometric collection system that the CIA provides to partner agencies. In theory, those partners are agreeing to provide the CIA with access to specific biometric data -- but on the off-chance those partners are holding out on them, ExpressLane gives the agency a way to take it without anyone knowing. ExpressLane masquerades as a software update, delivered in-person by CIA technicians -- but the documents make clear that the program itself will remain unchanged. Instead, the program siphons the system's data to a thumb drive, where agents can examine it to see if there's anything the partner system is holding back. If the partners refuse the phony update, there's a hidden kill-switch that lets agents shut down the entire system after a set period of time, requiring an in-person visit to restore the system.
Intel

Intel Launches 8th Generation Core CPUs (anandtech.com) 97

Reader joshtops writes: Today Intel is launching its new 8th Generation family of processors, starting with four CPUs for the 15W mobile family. There are two elements that make the launch of these 8th Gen processors different. First is that the 8th Gen is at a high enough level, running basically the same microarchitecture as the 7th Gen. But the key element is that, at the same price and power where a user would get a dual core i5-U or i7-U in their laptop, Intel will now be bumping those product lines up to quad-cores with hyperthreading. This gives a 100% gain in cores and 100% gain in threads. Obviously nothing is for free, so despite Intel stating that they've made minor tweaks to the microarchitecture and manufacturing to get better performing silicon, the base frequencies are down slightly. Turbo modes are still high, ensuring a similar user experience in most computing tasks. Memory support is similar -- DDR4 and LPDDR3 are supported, but not LPDDR4 -- although DDR4 moves up to DDR4-2400 from DDR4-2133. Another change from 7th Gen to 8th Gen will be in the graphics. Intel is upgrading the nomenclature of the integrated graphics from HD 620 to UHD 620, indicating that the silicon is suited for 4K playback and processing.
Businesses

After Losing Support, Trump's Business and Manufacturing Councils Are Shutting Down (theverge.com) 642

Over a dozen anonymous readers share a similar report: Two White House advisory councils that once included tech leaders like Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick have dissolved, after several members resigned over President Donald Trump's weak condemnation of white supremacists. A member of the Strategic and Policy Forum told CNBC that it wanted to make a "more significant impact" by disbanding the entire group: "It makes a central point that it's not going to go forward. It's done." Soon after, Trump took credit for shutting down both that group and a separate Manufacturing Council, "rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople." The councils' members came from a range of industries, including several major Silicon Valley companies. Besides Musk and Kalanick, executives from Intel, IBM, and Dell had joined. It's been controversial from the start -- Musk and Kalanick both left months ago -- but a major exodus started this week, after Trump issued a vague statement blaming "many sides" for violence at a white supremacist rally that left one woman dead. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned on Monday, saying that politics had "sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base." Axios has more details.
Intel

Intel Officially Reveals Post-8th Generation Core Architecture Code Name: Ice Lake, Built On 10nm+ (anandtech.com) 95

Intel has confirmed the existence of a new processor family called Ice Lake that will be made on Intel's 10nm+ process. The company published basic information on the Ice Lake architecture on their codename decoder. AnandTech reports: This is an unexpected development as the company has yet to formally detail (let alone launch) the first 10nm Core architecture -- Cannon Lake -- and it's rare these days for Intel to talk more than a generation ahead in CPU architectures. Equally as interesting is the fact that Intel is calling Ice Lake the successor to their upcoming 8th generation Coffee Lake processors, which codename bingo aside, throws some confusion on where the 14nm Coffee Lake and 10nm Cannon Lake will eventually stand. As a refresher, the last few generations of Core have been Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Broadwell, Haswell, Skylake, with Kaby Lake being the latest and was recently released at the top of the year. Kaby Lake is Intel's third Core product produced using a 14nm lithography process, specifically the second-generation '14 PLUS' (or 14+) version of Intel's 14nm process.

Working purely on lithographic nomenclature, Intel has three processes on 14nm: 14, 14+, and 14++. As shown to everyone at Intel's Technology Manufacturing Day a couple of months ago, these will be followed by a trio of 10nm processes: 10nm, 10nm+ (10+), and 10++. On the desktop, Core processors will go from 14 to 14+ to 14++, such that we move from Skylake to Kaby Lake to Coffee Lake. On the Laptop side, this goes from 14 to 14+ to 14++/10, such that we move from Skylake to Kaby Lake to Coffee Lake like the desktops, but also that at some time during the Coffee Lake generation, Cannon Lake will also be launched for laptops. The next node for both after this is 10+, which will be helmed by the Ice Lake architecture.

Intel

Intel CEO Exits President Trump's Manufacturing Council (axios.com) 263

Ina Fried, writing for Axios: Intel said Monday that CEO Brian Krzanich was leaving President Trump's American Manufacturing Council, the latest executive to distance himself from the president following the weekend's events in Virginia. In a blog post, Krzanich said that the decline in American manufacturing remains a serious issue, but said that "politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base. I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing," Krzanich said in a blog post. "Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base."
Microsoft

Microsoft Blamed Intel For Its Own Bad Surface Drivers (thurrott.com) 169

Paul Thurrott reveals a new internal Microsoft memo from corporate vice president Panos Panay which acknowledges "some quality issues" with their launch of Surface Book and Surface Pro 4. But an anonymous reader quotes a darker story from Thurrott.com: Multiple senior Microsoft officials told me at the time that the issues were all Intel's fault, and that the microprocessor giant had delivered its buggiest-ever product in the "Skylake" generation chipsets. Microsoft, first out of the gate with Skylake chips, thus got caught up by this unreliability, leading to a falling out with Intel... Since then, however, another trusted source at Microsoft has provided me with a different take on this story. Microsoft, I'm told, fabricated the story about Intel being at fault.

The real problem was Surface-specific custom drivers and settings that the Microsoft hardware team cooked up. The Skylake fiasco came to a head internally when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella met with Lenovo last year and asked the firm, then the world's biggest maker of PCs, how it was dealing with the Skylake reliability issues. Lenovo was confused. No one was having any issues, he was told. I assume this led to some interesting conversations between the members of the Microsoft senior leadership team. But the net result was that Microsoft had to push out some existing designs quickly to get ahead of the reliability issues.

The Surface Book ultimately had a 17% return rate after its late-2015 launch, while the Surface Pro 4's return rate was 16%. So though Microsoft later pushed to improve subsequent releases, Panay's memo claims that "These improvements were unfortunately not reflected in the results of this [Consumer Reports] survey." The memo also reiterates high customer-satisfaction metrics, which Thurrott says "supports the contention that I made two days ago... Customers who spend more on premium products tend to be more satisfied even when they are unreliable because they need to justify their own decision-making process."

"He also suggests that what Consumer Reports calls a 'failure' is perhaps overly-broad and that some incidents -- like a frozen screen or unresponsive touch -- are not 'failures' but are rather just minor incidents that are easily rectified by the user."
ISS

SpaceX Will Deliver The First Supercomputer To The ISS (hpe.com) 98

Slashdot reader #16,185, Esther Schindler writes: "By NASA's rules, not just any computer can go into space. Their components must be radiation hardened, especially the CPUs," reports HPE Insights. "Otherwise, they tend to fail due to the effects of ionizing radiation. The customized processors undergo years of design work and then more years of testing before they are certified for spaceflight." As a result, the ISS runs the station using two sets of three Command and Control Multiplexer DeMultiplexer computers whose processors are 20MHz Intel 80386SX CPUs, right out of 1988. "The traditional way to radiation-harden a spacecraft computer is to add redundancy to its circuits or by using insulating substrates instead of the usual semiconductor wafers on chips. That's expensive and time consuming. HPE scientists believe that simply slowing down a system in adverse conditions can avoid glitches and keep the computer running."

So, assuming the August 15 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch goes well, there will be a supercomputer headed into space -- using off-the-shelf hardware. Let's see if the idea pans out. "We may discover a set of parameters with which a supercomputer can successfully run for at least a year without errors," says Dr. Mark R. Fernandez, the mission's co-principal investigator for software and SGI's HPC technology officer. "Alternately, one or more components of the system will fail, in which case we will then do the typical failure analysis on Earth. That will let us learn what to change to make the systems more reliable in the future."

The article points out that the New Horizons spacecraft that just flew past Pluto has a 12MHz Mongoose-V CPU, based on the MIPS R3000 CPU. "You may remember its much faster ancestor: the chip that took you on adventures in the original Sony PlayStation, circa 1994."
Bug

Deserialization Issues Also Affect .NET, Not Just Java (bleepingcomputer.com) 187

"The .NET ecosystem is affected by a similar flaw that has wreaked havoc among Java apps and developers in 2016," reports BleepingComputer. An anonymous reader writes: The issue at hand is in how some .NET libraries deserialize JSON or XML data, doing it in a total unsecured way, but also how developers handle deserialization operations when working with libraries that offer optional secure systems to prevent deserialized data from accessing and running certain methods automatically. The issue is similar to a flaw known as Mad Gadget (or Java Apocalypse) that came to light in 2015 and 2016. The flaw rocked the Java ecosystem in 2016, as it affected the Java Commons Collection and 70 other Java libraries, and was even used to compromise PayPal's servers.

Organizations such as Apache, Oracle, Cisco, Red Hat, Jenkins, VMWare, IBM, Intel, Adobe, HP, and SolarWinds , all issued security patches to fix their products. The Java deserialization flaw was so dangerous that Google engineers banded together in their free time to repair open-source Java libraries and limit the flaw's reach, patching over 2,600 projects. Now a similar issue was discovered in .NET. This research has been presented at the Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences. On page 5 [of this PDF], researchers included reviews for all the .NET and Java apps they analyzed, pointing out which ones are safe and how developers should use them to avoid deserialization attacks when working with JSON data.

Data Storage

Intel Unveils One-Petabyte Storage Servers For Data Centers (theinquirer.net) 58

Slashdot reader #9,219 Guy Smiley shared this report on a new breed of high-density flash storage. The Inquirer reports: Intel has unveiled a brand new form factor for solid state disc drives (SSDs)... Intel Optane's new "ruler" format will allow up to a petabyte of storage on a single 1U server rack... By using 3D-NAND, the ruler crams in even more data and will provide more stability with less chance of catastrophic failure with data loss. The company has promised that the Ruler will have more bandwidth, input/output operations per second and lower latency than SAS... As part of the announcement, Intel also announced a range of "hard drive replacement" SSDs -- the S4500 and S4600 0 which are said to have the highest density 32-layer 3D NAND on the market, and are specifically aimed at data centres that want to move to solid state simply and if necessary, in stages.

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