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Will The U.S. ITC Really Investigate Apple

August 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The International Trade Commission has announced that it will launch an investigation into Apple following allegations from Qualcomm that its devices violate six of its patents.

The move, arguably procedural, means that the ITC will formally investigate Qualcomm’s complaint, rather than dismiss it outright.

“The US International Trade Commission has voted to institute an investigation of certain mobile electronic devices and radio frequency and processing components thereof,” the ITC said.

“The products at issue in the investigation are mobile electronic devices – such as the iPhone 7, and specific components for such

Qualcomm’s complaint alleges that iPhones, which are made in China, should not be allowed to be brought into the United States if they infringe on its patents, and if the chipmaker has its way, the ITC would ban imports and sales of Apple’s handsets.

At the heart of the matter is Apple’s use of cellular baseband processors made by Intel, with Qualcomm arguing that iPhones Intel’s 4G wireless chips are effectively using six Qualcomm patents “unfairly” and “unlawfully”.

Unsurprisingly, Qualcomm said it is “pleased” with the ITC’s decision to investigate Apple.

“Qualcomm is pleased with the ITC’s decision to investigate Apple’s unfair trade practices and the unauthorized importation of products using Qualcomm’s patents,” said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm.

“We look forward to the ITC’s expeditious investigation of Apple’s ongoing infringement of our intellectual property and the accelerated relief that the Commission can provide.'”

Apple, when asked for comment, pointed to this prior statement from June: “Qualcomm’s illegal business practices are harming Apple and the entire industry.

“They supply us with a single connectivity component, but for years have been demanding a percentage of the total cost of our products – effectively taxing Apple’s innovation.”

Last month, Intel filed its own statement with the ITC, claiming that Qualcomm’s request for the regulatory agency to intervene was “a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm’s only remaining rival.”


Is AMD’s Ryzen A Good Fit For Linux

August 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD has admitted that it has reports of segmentation faults from its Linux Ryzen customers.

Apparently when it fires off too many compilation processes, the machine suffers from what AMD calls a “performance marginality problem”.

It appears to only be affecting some Ryzen customers and only those on Linux. It is not an issue with Threadripper and Epyc processors are unaffected.

The numbers are so small that they will be dealing with the problem on a customer-by-customer basis, and its future consumer products will see better Linux testing/validation. It is calling for Ryzen customers believed to be affected by the problem to give AMD Customer Care a bell.

The Ryzen segmentation faults on Linux occur with many, parallel compilation workloads. These are not the workloads most Linux users will be firing off on a frequent basis unless intentionally running scripts like ryzen-test/kill-ryzen.

Generally, Ryzen Linux boxes have been working out when they are not operating under torture. AMD’s analysis has also found that these Ryzen segmentation faults aren’t isolated to a particular motherboard vendor.


Microsoft’s Surface Tablets Not So Reliable, Says Consumer Reports

August 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The breakage rate for Microsoft Corp’s Surface devices significantly outpaces that of other manufacturers’ laptops and tablets, Consumer Reports said, adding that it was removing its “recommended” designation for Surface products.

The non-profit publication surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found that an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices would be presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership,” according to a study published on Thursday.

“If you are very concerned about how long your products are going to last, it might be better for you to go with a brand that has a higher predicted reliability,” Jerry Beilinson, electronics editor at the consumer goods testing publication, said in an interview.

Microsoft disputed the study, saying the company’s return and support rates differ significantly from the Consumer Reports study.

“We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation,” the company said in a statement.

According to the Consumer Reports survey responses, the Microsoft devices were found to freeze, unexpectedly shut down or have issues with their touchscreens, Beilinson said.

Altogether, the reliability issues made Microsoft a statistical outlier compared with other brands. Apple Inc had the most reliable devices, Beilinson said.

Microsoft entered the hardware market with its first Surface tablet in 2012. Since then, the company has released a series of new Surface tablets and laptops, including the well-reviewed Surface Pro, which launched in May.

The Surface devices serve as a face for the company and exemplify how Microsoft’s manufacturing partners can build hardware around the Windows 10 operating system. However, Surface is a small part of Microsoft’s overall revenue, and Surface revenue has declined year-over-year for the past two quarters.

Are Tougher Security Standards For IoT Forthcoming

August 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

US Senators are planning to introduce draft legislation next week that would require makers of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to ensure that their products are patchable and conform to industry standards for security.

The legislation is a bi-partisan effort led by Democratic Party senators Mark Warner and Ron Wyden, and Republicans Steve Daines and Cory Gardner.

Although relatively modest in scope, the legislation represents a first step to requiring device makers to start taking responsibility for the security of products connected to the internet. “We’re trying to take the lightest touch possible,” Warner told Reuters.

He added that the legislation was intended to remedy an “obvious market failure” that has left device manufacturers with little incentive to build with security in mind.

It echoes thinking from security specialists such as Bruce Schneier, who have suggested that sensible, rather than heavy-handed legislation is required to push device makers to improve the security of their products.

In November last year, following the Mirai malware attacks that compromised chronically insecure internet-connected CCTV systems, Schneier wrote: “The technical reason these devices are insecure is complicated, but there is a market failure at work…

“The teams building these devices don’t have the security expertise we’ve come to expect from the major computer and smartphone manufacturers, simply because the market won’t stand for the additional costs that would require.

“These devices don’t get security updates like our more expensive computers, and many don’t even have a way to be patched. And, unlike our computers and phones, they stay around for years and decades… Like pollution, the only solution is to regulate,” wrote Schneier.

The draft legislation was put together with help from IT specialists from the Atlantic Council and Harvard University. It would also expand protection for security researchers to hack equipment with the purpose of finding vulnerabilities.


Google’s Chrome Exploring Strengthen Of Ad-blocking In Browser

August 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has included a built-in ad blocker to earlier version of Chrome, signaling that it will assume responsibility for barring some online ads in the polished product as early as October.

The ad blocker appeared in some users’ copies of the “Canary” build of Chrome last week; Canary is the name Google gives to the preliminary version of the browser, one that is updated nightly and precedes the three-step release process of “Dev,” “Beta” and finally “Stable” code.

Chrome’s ad blocker was present only in Windows’ Canary build; it was AWOL from the macOS edition.

Reports of Google’s ad-blocking plans first surfaced in April, shortly after the Coalition for Better Ads announced a set of online ad types that users in the U.S. and Europe said were the most annoying and disruptive. Google was a founding member of the coalition. Two months ago, Google confirmed that it would introduce ad blocking to Chrome, saying then that the target timetable was next year.

“We plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018,” Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, a product management executive, wrote in the Google post.

On the desktop, Chrome will block pop-up advertisements; ads that automatically begin playing both video and audio; “prestitial” ads accompanied by a countdown clock that appear before content is shown; and what the coalition dubbed “large sticky ads,” those that account for more than 30% of the screen space and which remain in place no matter how much the user scrolls.

Those and other types of ads will also be blocked by Chrome on Android- and iOS-powered mobile devices.

Ads will be blocked by site, not by individual advertisement. In other words, Google will craft a list of websites it contends “tend to show intrusive ads,” and then block the ad categories that violate the coalition’s “standards.” A stray “bad” ad displayed by a site not on the list, however, will not be blocked.

While Google has pegged 2018 as the launch of the baked-in ad blocker, the tool may debut sooner. The current Canary of Chrome is version 62, which according to the release schedule, will release in final form as the Stable build on Oct. 17 for personal computers, Oct. 24 for mobile.

Did AMD Delay Its Vega GPU For Volume

August 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

It appears that AMD has previously delayed the launch of its Vega GPU in order to have good volumes at launch.

According to HardOCP’s interview with AMD’s Senior Director of Global Marketing and Public Relations at RTG, Chris Hook, AMD has intentionally delayed the Vega launch in order to make sure that it  launchea with good volume. The recent popularity in cryptocurrency mining has affected AMD significantly and it was almost impossible to find some graphics cards, like the RX 580 or RX 570. Although there are still no precise details on Vega’s cryptocurrency performance and hash rate, a significant volume will certainly be swallowed by miners. 

The recent popularity in cryptocurrency mining has affected AMD significantly and it was almost impossible to find some graphics cards, like the RX 580 or RX 570. Although there is still no precise details on Vega’s cryptocurrency performance and hash rate it is safe to assume that at least some will go to that part of the market but, hopefully, previous decision to delay the launch of the Vega will also leave plenty of graphics cards for gamers as well.

With the launch of Vega, AMD has taken certain precautions in order to make sure that plenty of graphics cards will be reserved for gamers, like the newly introduced AMD Radeon Packs, which offer a bundle set of discount vouchers for motherboards, CPUs, monitors and game packs as well as apparently a healthy supply which should make sure that gamers will be able to buy shiny new Vega graphics cards from day one.

While there are still no performance numbers for the upcoming Vega graphics cards, AMD should have no trouble in selling its Vega stock, especially if the hash rate is right for miners.


Apple Watch Cellular Edition Coming This Year

August 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Like most smartwatches, the Apple Watch must be connected to a mobile phone to use most apps.

But according to a new Bloomberg report, that could change by the end of the year.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that Apple is planning a new version of the Apple Watch, one with its own LTE cellular data connection, by the end of 2017. Gurman has a solid track record for Apple leaks.

The report isn’t completely clear about which cellular carriers would offer the Watch, though Apple is reportedly already in talks with carriers in the US and Europe, and some sources explicitly named AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile as planning to sell it in the US.

It’s also not clear if all new Apple Watch devices would have LTE, or only some of them. Apple sells Wi-Fi-only versions of its iPad, charging a premium for cellular models. One of Bloomberg’s sources says Intel is supplying the LTE modem for the new Apple Watch.

Apple didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

AMD’s Threadripper 1950X Hits 5.2 GHz

August 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

During its Capsaicin event at the Siggraph 2017 show, AMD brought a well-known overclocker Alva Jonathan, who managed to push the new Threadripper 1950X up to almost 5.2GHz on LN2. 

It appears that the AMD Ryzen Threadripper will be quite popular among overclockers, at least judging from the score that Alva managed to get at the Capsaicin event at Siggraph 2017.

Now known under his Lucky_Noob call-sign, Alva managed to hit 5,187MHz and get a Cinebench R15 score of 4122 points. This is also currently a new world record for a 16-core CPU. 

Since Alva had to use a rather low memory speed of 2133MHz in order to get a better CPU core overclocking, we are quite sure that there will be even higher overclocking records in the near future. 

Of course, these scores and frequencies are only reserved for those with a lot of LN2 but at least shows that there is a lot of overclocking potential in AMD’s Threadripper HEDT CPUs.


Amazon Halts Sales Of Blu Phones Over Privacy Concerns

August 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon has halted sales of budget phone maker Blu devices.

The online retailing giant told CNET that it was suspending sales of phones from Blu, known for making ultra-cheap Android handsets, due to a “potential security issue.”

The move comes after security firm Kryptowire demonstrated last week how software in Blu’s phones collected data and sent it to servers in China without alerting people. Blu defended the software, created by a Chinese company called Shanghai Adups Technology, and denied any wrongdoing. A company spokeswoman said at the time it “has several policies in place which take customer privacy and security seriously.” She added there had been no breaches.

Blu said it was in a process of review to reinstate the phones at Amazon.

The issue of privacy and how data is collected is a hot topic thanks to a year’s worth of reports about Russian hacking and its intrusion into the 2016 presidential race, as well as news in the last few months about ransomware attacks that hijack people’s computers, to be unlocked (if you’re lucky) for a fee.

Amazon, for one, wasn’t taking any chances.

“Because security and privacy of our customers is of the utmost importance, all BLU phone models have been made unavailable for purchase on until the issue is resolved,” Amazon said in a statement.

Amazon directed customers to contact Blu’s customer support.

Blu may not be a household name like Apple or Samsung, but the company found success selling phones at a fraction of the price of an iPhone. The Blu R1 HD sold for $60, compared with the starting price of $650 for Apple’s flagship phone.

Blu was one of the key participants in Amazon’s “Prime Exclusive Phones” program, which offered steep discounts on phones to its members in exchange for ads on their lockscreen. Blu is no longer listed on the page.

Blu cited Krytopwire executive Tom Karygiannis as saying the company didn’t do anything wrong, although Karygiannis later told CNET that he didn’t authorize Blu to make a public statement on his behalf. He confirmed that he spoke to Amazon to give the retailer data on his findings.

Battlefield 1 Still Going Strong

August 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Electronic Arts has released a few new snippets about its best-selling first-person shooter Battlefield 1.

The game has now engaged more than 21 players, hitting this milestone at the end of June. The updated figure comes from the publisher’s most recent quarterly financial report, spotted by GameSpot, and means Battlefield 1 has gained 2m new players over the past three months.

EA hopes to transform Battlefield 1 into a “content-rich live service”, giving it a longer tail than previous AAA shooters. Its efforts to achieve this have so far entailed two hefty expansion packs, the second of which – In The Name of the Tsar – is due for release in September.

Additional content is also teased in the financials, expected to be revealed at Gamescom later this month.

CEO Andrew Wilson described the new offering as “the richest Battlefield 1 experience yet”, adding that it will include “the all-out warfare, epic multiplayer battles and War Stories campaign that have defined the game, plus new maps, deeper progression, and additional fan-favorite game modes, all in a single package.”

It’s a safe bet this is either a third expansion, a Game of the Year edition or perhaps both, but means there could be a fresh retail release on the horizon to further grow Battlefield 1’s player base.

Electronic Arts has another first-person shooter heading to shelves before Christmas in the form of Star Wars Battlefront 2. Drawing on feedback from the previous game, and further pushing towards a service model, the publisher has decided to drop the Season Pass and make all additional content free.

Russia Bans VPNs

August 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Russia has decided to follow in China’s footsteps by being the latest country to declare war on VPNs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation that prohibits the use of virtual private networks and anonymizers, Reuters reported Sunday. The new law is intended to prevent access to websites banned by the Russian government.

The law has already been approved by the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, and will go into effect November 1, Reuters reported.

The move comes as Russian neighbor China continues its crackdown on VPNs, which allow web users to evade government blocks on news sites and social networking tools. On Saturday, Apple said it would remove VPN apps from its China App Store.

Other countries that have blocked use of VPNs in the past include Iran and Iraq.


Will Apple Drop Samsung

July 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The iPhone 8 is expected to be the iPhone with an OLED display and that will be using Samsung’s finest.

But a report mill suggests that the inner circle of the Apple cult is worried about being dependant on Samsung and wants to create its own OLED panels.

ET News  -South Korea – reports the company has already acquired some chemical vapour deposition (CVD) machines that’ll play a role in OLED production.

Apple will need a major supply of OLED panels and it will have a year to do it.

Digitimes claims that Apple’s move will “break the dominant position” held by Canon Kokki in the CVD machinery market.

Canon Kokki supplies its machines to Samsung and LG, the only significant current OLED makers, but Apple got its machines from Sunic System.


eBay Developing Shopping By Picture App

July 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

In the near future eBay will allow consumers to shop on its app by snapping pictures.

The e-commerce company announced that it is developing two new image recognition tools for its mobile app. They’ll only be available in the US and are set for release this fall, with a desktop version arriving later.

The first feature, simply called Image Search, will let you take a photo of a pair of sneakers or a handbag (or an existing photo in your phone’s library) and use it to search eBay to find similar listings. The other, called Find It On eBay, lets you tap images on any online site and “share” to eBay to get a list of similar-looking items.

“We want to make the entire internet shoppable by the image,” Mohan Patt, eBay vice president of buyer experience, said.

The new features might be used on the street or in a store when an item of clothing or piece of furniture catches your eye and you want to see if something like it is available on eBay, hopefully for less. The features also show eBay is now one step closer to a concept offered by CEO Devin Wenig earlier this year, in which people can take pictures of stuff they want to sell and eBay automatically fills titles, descriptions, listing information and even prices.

The new tools could also help eBay catch up to Amazon, which has been offering image-recognition tech in its mobile app for several years. eBay last year bought up three AI-focused companies in hopes of rolling out features like these, so customers should expect more in the future.

Demoing the new features, Patt used a picture he snapped in a magazine of knee-high black boots, fed it to eBay and immediately retrieved more than 500 live listings of the same kind of boots. The intent wasn’t to get the identical item, but provide a range of similar looks and prices for customers, he added.

eBay said it will store images shared with the company and corresponding search results to evaluate the relevance of the results and provide users with their past searches.

The tools will be available across categories on eBay, but the company will develop its AI models most on soft goods like clothes and furniture that often don’t include a bar code. (You can already search by bar code using eBay, Amazon and Walmart’s apps.)

When the new tools launch, Image Search will be available on both Android and iOS and Find It On eBay on Android, but an iOS version is expected later.

Is Intel Accusing Qualcomm Of Being A Monopoly

July 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has buddied-up with Apple in its legal fight against Qualcomm and has slammed the firm for abusing its position in the industry. 

Intel, no stranger to an abuse of chip monopoly, claims it’s the only remaining competitor for Qualcomm in the mobile market, and by suing Apple, Qualcomm is trying to deliberately squeeze Intel from the baseband modem market.

“Qualcomm did not initiate this investigation to stop the alleged infringement of its patent rights; rather, its complaint is a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm’s only remaining rival,” Intel said in a statement.

“This twisted use of the Commission’s process is just the latest in a long line of anticompetitive strategies that Qualcomm has used to quash incipient and potential competitors and avoid competition on the merits.”

Intel goes on to argue that fulfilling Qualcomm’s request “would cause significant harm to the public interest,” arguing that a victory for the company would “severely damage competitive conditions in the United States economy by reinforcing Qualcomm’s hold on the premium LTE modem merchant market.”

The statement, filed with the US International Trade Commission (ITC, comes in response to Qualcomm’s complaint alleging patent infringement by certain Apple devices, in which it asked the ITC to ban the import of Intel-powered iPhones. 

This ain’t Intel’s only problem with Qualcomm. The chipmaker also argues that Qualcomm has engaged in other monopolistic and anti-competitive practices. These practices include forcing manufacturers to pay “exorbitant” royalties for every device they sell even if they don’t contain Qualcomm technology, and offering Apple lower licensing fees for using its chips exclusively.

“These arrangements foreclosed rivals like Intel from competing for Apple’s vital business,” Intel said. 

Earlier this year, Intel kicked off at Qualcomm over its partnership with Microsoft to bring ARM-based Windows PCs to market this year, threatening that emulation doesn’t mean that copyright battles are off the table. 

“There have been reports that some companies may try to emulate Intel’s proprietary x86 ISA without Intel’s authorization,” Intel’s chief lawyer Stephen Rodgers and Director of Intel Labs Richard A. Uhlig said:

“We do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel’s intellectual property rights.” 


Is AMD Having A Rough Time Moving To 7nm Processors

July 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s CTO Mark Papermaster has said that the planned shift to 7nm semiconductor nodes is is one of the toughest process moves in several generations.

Speaking to the EE Times, Papermaster said that, while AMD planned to run its second and third generation Zen architecture x86 microprocessors on 7nm, it would likely be a ‘long node’, like the 28nm process, “and when you have a long node it lets the design team focus on micro-architecture and systems solutions”, rather than simply redesigning standard ‘blocks’.

In addition to new CAD tools and architectural changes, AMD has found that it requires changes in the way that transistors are connected and deeper partnerships with foundries. “In 7nm, it requires even deeper cooperation [because] we have quad patterning on certain critical levels [where] you need almost perfect communications between the design teams,” Papermaster said.

“In 7nm, it requires even deeper cooperation [because] we have quad patterning on certain critical levels [where] you need almost perfect communications between the design teams,” Papermaster said.

Papermaster continued that foundries would likely introduce ‘extreme ultraviolet lithography’ from 2019 to reduce the need for quad patterning. This “could bring a substantial reduction in total masks and thus lower costs and shorten cycle time for new designs,” he said.

Both designers and foundries are exploring ways to both shift to 7nm, while cutting costs, he continued. AMD and Nvidia, for example, are exploring “2.5-D chip stacks”, a technique that “connects processors and memory stacks side-by-side on fast silicon interposers”, according to EE Times, which notes that it’s still an expensive technique.

It adds: “Apple and others are combining mobile application processors with memory in wafer-level ‘fan-out packages’. The so-called ‘2.1-D technology’ is not yet suitable for more powerful desktop and server processors, but versions could be ready in two or three years”. That’s according to Papermaster.

He also claimed that semiconductor designers and manufacturer were achieving new density advantages at each node, and accruing cost advantages as those nodes matured, “but mask costs are going up and chip frequencies are not going up, so how we put solutions together is critical to sustaining the pace of development,” he said.

Papermaster called on software developers to start making better use of the multiple cores and parallel threads on offer in order for users to gain the full benefits of current and future microprocessors – because clock speeds are not going to be increasing by much, regardless of process.

In order to compete effectively against both Intel and Nvidia, AMD has taken a more modular approach in order for circuits to be reused across CPU, GPU and semi-custom designs, said Papermaster. “We couldn’t just throw hundreds of designers at a problem,” he said.

The manufacturing gap between AMD – and its principal foundry partner Globalfoundries – is also being fast reduced, helping to slash the performance gap between AMD (and others) and Intel. AMD also uses TSMC to manufacture its graphics microprocessors.


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