Intel Archive

Intel, Microsoft to use GPU to scan memory for malware

The company is announcing two specific TDT features. The first is "Advanced Memory Scanning." In an effort to evade file-based anti-virus software, certain kinds of malware refrain from writing anything to disk. This can have downsides for the malware - it can't persistently infect a machine and, instead, has to reinfect the machine each time it is rebooted - but makes it harder to spot and analyze. To counter this, anti-malware software can scan system memory to look for anything untoward. This, however, comes at a performance cost, with Intel claiming it can cause processor loads of as much as 20 percent.

This is where Advanced Memory Scanning comes into effect: instead of using the CPU to scan through memory for any telltale malware signatures, the task is offloaded to the integrated GPU. In typical desktop applications, the GPU sits there only lightly loaded, with abundant unused processing capacity. Intel says that moving the memory scanning to the GPU cuts the processor load to about two percent.

Intel bumps up mobile chips to 6 cores

Intel first launched its 8th-generation branding last year. In the mobile space, we had the U-series Kaby Lake-R: four-core, eight-thread chips running in a 15W power envelope. On the desktop, we had Coffee Lake: six-core, 12-thread chips. In both cases, the processor lineup was limited: six different chips for the desktop, four for mobile.

Those mobile processors were joined earlier this year by Kaby Lake-G: four-core, eight-thread processors with a discrete AMD GPU on the same package as the processor.

Today, Intel has vastly expanded the 8th generation lineup, with 11 new mobile chips and nine new desktop processors, along with new 300-series chipsets.

Intel's naming scheme is a bit of a mess, isn't it? At this point I really have no idea what is what without consulting charts and tables. Can all the bright minds at Intel really not devise a more sensible naming scheme?

Random throwback: Intel selling XScale to Marvell

XScale is a microarchitecture for central processing units initially designed by Intel implementing the ARM architecture (version 5) instruction set. XScale comprises several distinct families: IXP, IXC, IOP, PXA and CE (see more below), with some later models designed as SoCs. Intel sold the PXA family to Marvell Technology Group in June 2006. Marvell then extended the brand to include processors with other microarchitectures, like ARM's Cortex.

With the smartphone and tablet revolution dominated by ARM, with Windows and Apple moving to ARM, we can probably say that, with the magical superpower of hindsight, Intel selling its XScale business to Marvell will probably go down as one of the biggest blunders in technology history.

The entire computing world is slowly moving to ARM - first smartphones, then tablets, now laptops, soon surely servers and desktops - leaving Intel (and AMD, for that matter) in a terrible position.

Intel made smart glasses that look normal

The most important parts of Intel’s new Vaunt smart glasses are the pieces that were left out.

There is no camera to creep people out, no button to push, no gesture area to swipe, no glowing LCD screen, no weird arm floating in front of the lens, no speaker, and no microphone (for now).

From the outside, the Vaunt glasses look just like eyeglasses. When you’re wearing them, you see a stream of information on what looks like a screen - but it’s actually being projected onto your retina.

This looks amazing. I'm not entirely sure if I, personally, have any use for this, but such basic, simple, handsfree information could be invaluable to, for instance, construction workers, farmers, police officers, or other people who do hard, dangerous work with their hands.

Intel claims other chips also affected by design flaw

Update: Google's Project Zero disclosed details about the vulnerability a week ahead of schedule due to growing concerns, and they indeed confirm AMD and ARM processors are also affected:

The Project Zero researcher, Jann Horn, demonstrated that malicious actors could take advantage of speculative execution to read system memory that should have been inaccessible. For example, an unauthorized party may read sensitive information in the system’s memory such as passwords, encryption keys, or sensitive information open in applications. Testing also showed that an attack running on one virtual machine was able to access the physical memory of the host machine, and through that, gain read-access to the memory of a different virtual machine on the same host.

These vulnerabilities affect many CPUs, including those from AMD, ARM, and Intel, as well as the devices and operating systems running them.

Intel just published a PR statement about the processor flaw, and in it, it basically throws AMD and ARM under the bus. According to Intel, reports that only its own processors are affected are inaccurate, namedropping specifically AMD and ARM just to make it very clear who we're talking about here. From the statement:

Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a "bug" or a "flaw" and are unique to Intel products are incorrect. Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices - with many different vendors' processors and operating systems - are susceptible to these exploits.

Intel is committed to product and customer security and is working closely with many other technology companies, including AMD, ARM Holdings and several operating system vendors, to develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively. Intel has begun providing software and firmware updates to mitigate these exploits. Contrary to some reports, any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time.

More to surely come.

Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign

A fundamental design flaw in Intel's processor chips has forced a significant redesign of the Linux and Windows kernels to defang the chip-level security bug.

Programmers are scrambling to overhaul the open-source Linux kernel's virtual memory system. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to publicly introduce the necessary changes to its Windows operating system in an upcoming Patch Tuesday: these changes were seeded to beta testers running fast-ring Windows Insider builds in November and December.

Crucially, these updates to both Linux and Windows will incur a performance hit on Intel products. The effects are still being benchmarked, however we're looking at a ballpark figure of five to 30 per cent slow down, depending on the task and the processor model. More recent Intel chips have features - such as PCID - to reduce the performance hit.

That's one hell of a bug.

Intel plans to end legacy BIOS support by 2020

Computer users of a certain age will remember BIOS as ubiquitous firmware that came loaded on PCs. It was the thing you saw briefly before your operating system loaded, and you could dig into the settings to change your computer's boot order, enable or disable some features, and more.

Most modern PCs ship with UEFI instead. But most also still have a "legacy BIOS" mode that allows you to use software or hardware that might not be fully compatible with UEFI.

In a few years that might not be an option anymore: Intel has announced plans to end support for legacy BIOS compatibility by 2020.

This most certainly affects many older operating systems - especially older hobby and alternative operating systems that were never updated with UEFI support.

Intel, AMD co-develop new processor with Intel CPU and AMD GPU

Well, this is the kind of news you don't hear every day: Intel and AMD are teaming up to develop a processor that combines an Intel CPU with an AMD GPU. From Intel's press release:

The new product, which will be part of our 8th Gen Intel Core family, brings together our high-performing Intel Core H-series processor, second generation High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2) and a custom-to-Intel third-party discrete graphics chip from AMD's Radeon Technologies Group* - all in a single processor package.

It’s a prime example of hardware and software innovations intersecting to create something amazing that fills a unique market gap. Helping to deliver on our vision for this new class of product, we worked with the team at AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group. In close collaboration, we designed a new semi-custom graphics chip, which means this is also a great example of how we can compete and work together, ultimately delivering innovation that is good for consumers.

This is the first partnership between these two sworn rivals in several decades, and that alone makes it quite notable. I didn't really know whether to put this in the Intel or AMD category, but I chose Intel because it appears above AMD in our list (which isn't alphabetical because reasons).

Purism Librem laptops disable Intel’s Management Engine

Only a few weeks after the news that security researchers had managed to completely disable the Intel Management Engine, Purism has announced it's disabling the IME on all of its available Librem laptops.

Purism's Librem Laptops, running coreboot, are now available with the Intel Management Engine completely and verifiably disabled.

The Management Engine (ME), part of Intel AMT, is a separate CPU that can run and control a computer even when powered off. The ME has been the bane of the security market since 2008 on all Intel based CPUs, with publicly released exploits against it, is now disabled by default on all Purism Librem laptops.

Disabling the Management Engine is no easy task, and it has taken security researchers years to find a way to properly and verifiably disable it. Purism, because it runs coreboot and maintains its own BIOS firmware update process has been able to release and ship coreboot that disables the Management Engine from running, directly halting the ME CPU without the ability of recovery.

Great move.

Disabling the Intel Management Engine

The Intel Management Engine ('IME' or 'ME') is an out-of-band co-processor integrated in all post-2006 Intel-CPU-based PCs. It has full network and memory access and runs proprietary, signed, closed-source software at ring -2, independently of the BIOS, main CPU and platform operating system - a fact which many regard as an unacceptable security risk (particularly given that at least one remotely exploitable security hole has already been reported).

In this mini-guide, I'll run through the process of disabling the IME on your target PC.

Apparently, the IME co-processor runs... MINIX 3. That is incredibly fascinating. This means every post-2006 Intel PC runs MINIX.

AnandTech’s Intel Skylake-X Review

This review comes in two big meaty chunks to sink your teeth into. The first part is discussing the new Skylake-X processors, from silicon to design and covering some of the microarchitecture features, such as AVX-512-F support and cache structure. As mentioned, Skylake-X has some significantly different functionality to the Skylake-S core, which has an impact on how software should be written to take advantage of the new features.

The second part is our testing and results. We were lucky enough to source all three Skylake-X processors for this review, and have been running some regression testing of the older processors on our new 2017 testing suite. There have been some hiccups along the way though, and we'll point them out as we go.

An extra morsel to run after is our IPC testing. We spend some time to run tests on Skylake-S and Skylake-X to see which benchmarks benefit from the new microarchitecture design, and if it really does mean anything to consumers at this stage.

As always, AnandTech delivers the goods when it comes to CPU reviews.

Intel aggressively reminds everyone it owns all the x86 patents

You'd expect with Microsoft adding x86 emulation to its upcoming ARM-based windows 10 PCs all the possible licensing issues would be sorted. As ubiquitous as x86 is, it's easy to forget it's still a patent minefield guarded by Intel. And surprise, surprise, with the chipmaker under pressure from AMD and ARM, it felt the need to make that very, very clear. Dangling at the end of a celebratory PR blog post about 40 years of x86, Intel writes:

However, there have been reports that some companies may try to emulate Intel's proprietary x86 ISA without Intel's authorization. Emulation is not a new technology, and Transmeta was notably the last company to claim to have produced a compatible x86 processor using emulation ("code morphing") techniques. Intel enforced patents relating to SIMD instruction set enhancements against Transmeta's x86 implementation even though it used emulation. In any event, Transmeta was not commercially successful, and it exited the microprocessor business 10 years ago.

Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition, and we are confident that Intel's microprocessors, which have been specifically optimized to implement Intel's x86 ISA for almost four decades, will deliver amazing experiences, consistency across applications, and a full breadth of consumer offerings, full manageability and IT integration for the enterprise. However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights. Strong intellectual property protections make it possible for Intel to continue to invest the enormous resources required to advance Intel's dynamic x86 ISA, and Intel will maintain its vigilance to protect its innovations and investments.

I'm assuming Microsoft has all this stuff licensed nice and proper, but it's interesting that Intel felt the need to emphasize this as strongly as they do here. Which companies is Intel referring to here? Maybe Apple?

Intel announces new processors, chipset

Lots of news from Intel today - the company announced a new line of processors and accompanying motherboard chipset. I have to admit I find Intel's product and platform names completely and utterly confusing, but from what I gather, the company announced new high-end i7 and i5 processors, as well as even higher-end, high-core counts i7s and a new line, the i9. The X299 chipset brings it all together.

I was keeping an eye on these new processors as I just ordered all the parts for my brand new computer, but I had already decided not to wait for these since I prefer not to jump onto new processors and chipsets right away (which is why I didn't opt for Ryzen either). Looking at the replacement for the processor I eventually settled on - the 7700K - I'm pretty sure I made the right call, since the speed bump seems minor (100Mhz), while TDP goes up relatively considerably.

The high core count processors are - much like the Ryzen 7 1800X - incredibly alluring in a "I want all the cores" kind of way, but for the most part, few workloads actually benefit from more cores in processors. Aside from workstation-oriented workloads I personally do not engage in, it really seems like processors are running ahead of the software they run.

Still, with Ryzen and now Intel's new parts, there's a ton of choice out there if you're building a new computer.

Intel’s Skylake “Scalable Processor” is a new approach to Xeon

Last month, Intel's new naming scheme for its Xeon processors leaked. Instead of E3, E5, and E7 branding, the chips would be given metallic names, from Bronze at the bottom-end through Silver and Gold to Platinum at the top. Today, the company made this new branding official as part of a larger shake-up of its Xeon platform.

The next generation of Xeons, due to arrive this summer, will make up what Intel calls the "Xeon Scalable Processor Family." This explains the change in core naming that is accompanying the new branding; the SP suffix is replacing the E, EP, and EX suffixes used in previous-generation Xeons.

Intel will start building ARM-based smartphone chips

Intel has entered into a new licensing agreement with competitor ARM to produce ARM-based chips in Intel factories. The deal, announced today at the Intel Developer Forum, is a strategic move from the Santa Clara, CA company to offer its large-scale custom chip manufacturing facilities, which include 10-nanometer production lines, to third-parties, including those using its rival's technology.

I have a ton of Intel ARM devices already. Perhaps Intel could call these new chips "XScale". Just thought that up. I'm kind of proud of it.

Intel abandons smartphone processor market

After missing the early days of the smartphone revolution, Intel spent in excess of $10 billion over the last three years in an effort to get a foothold in mobile devices.

Now, having gained little ground in phones and with the tablet market shrinking, Intel is essentially throwing in the towel. The company quietly confirmed last week that it has axed several chips from its roadmap, including all of the smartphone processors in its current plans.

This isn't the first time Intel tried to go mobile. It actually had quite a successful line of mobile ARM processors: XScale. These were ARM5 processors that powered a ton of devices, and I think most of us know it from Windows PocketPC devices (and later Palm OS devices). Intel eventually sold XScale to Marvell, because the company wanted to focus on its desktop/laptop and server processors, in 2006 - right before the big mobile revolution happened.

I can't help but wonder if that turned out to be a really dumb move.

SVG mask artwork for the 4004

If you look too closely, the old proof set artwork is pretty ugly, certainly nothing we could use if we wanted to build a larger museum exhibit, say 3x4 feet, or import the mask artwork into a PCB layout package to build a giant, working circuit board. The old artwork just wasn't going to cut it. So McNerney took a pair of high-resolution photomicrographs (kindly donated by reverse engineer extraordinaire, Christopher Tarnovski), and set out to trace every wire, transistor, resistor, and capacitor using Adobe Illustrator. Just hours before the 44th anniversary, he finished tracing the first, complete draft of the mask set artwork. The next step is to verify it against the schematics and try it out in simulation.

Amazing work.

The Itanium processor

The Itanium may not have been much of a commercial success, but it is interesting as a processor architecture because it is different from anything else commonly seen today. It's like learning a foreign language: It gives you an insight into how others view the world.

The next two weeks will be devoted to an introduction to the Itanium processor architecture, as employed by Win32.

There's part one, two, and three - with more to come.

The Clear Linux Project

The Clear Linux Project for Intel Architecture is a project that is building a Linux OS distribution for various cloud use cases. The goal of Clear Linux OS is to showcase the best of Intel Architecture technology, from low-level kernel features to more complex items that span across the entire operating system stack.

Don't dismiss it - Intel is doing a lot of interesting under-the-hood stuff with this one.

‘Dell is back with an ultra-thin tablet – with Intel inside’

AndroidCentral reviews some Dell Android tablet, and concludes:

There's a lot to like in the Dell Venue 8 7840 tablet. The name is not one of those things. The display, however, most definitely is. Resolution quirks aside, Dell's got a gorgeous panel in this tablet. And the Intel Atom processor seems like it's pushing everything just as you'd expect a high-spec'd tablet to do. Battery life is pretty much on par with what we'd expect. And while on-board storage is close to shameful, Dell makes up for it with allowing for a massive amount of removable storage.

I'm not interested in the tablet itself, but in its processor. I find it remarkable that Intel has reached a point where it can power mobile devices with comparable performance and battery life... But with x86-64, not ARM. Intel isn't new to mobile, of course - I have countless Xscale-powered PDAs - but that was ARM, not x86(-64).

We're reaching a point where we have a standard architecture running from small phones all the way up to supercomputers. Remarkable.