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Is AMD’s Gemini Card Coming Next Month?

December 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Word on the street is that AMD’s next dual-GPU graphics card, codenamed Gemini, will be released next month.

Apparently code-named after the zodiac sign not the mass murderer, or the girls from the Shining. Gemini features two fully unlocked twin Fiji graphics chips.

It was initially revealed in June when AMD’s new 300-series and Fury line-up was pressed on the great unwashed, but we have not seen or heard much about it since.

AMD has done well with its dual GPU R9 295X2 which had a closed loop water cooler. It is pretty likely that the Fury X2/Gemini will do the same sort of thing.

A DICE developer tweeted that he received a pre-release GPU, though the liquid cooling loop was broken on arrival.  This would seem to mean that the Loop cooling system was part of Gemini. DICE and AMD worked closely on Battlefield and Battlefront. DICE developers were also amongst the first to receive Fury cards so it is pretty likely he was talking about a Gemini card.



AMD Appears To Be Pushing It’s Boltzmann Plan

November 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Troubled chipmaker AMD is putting a lot of its limited investment money into the “Boltzmann Initiative” which is uses heterogeneous system architecture ability to harness both CPU and AMD GPU for compute efficiency through software.

VR-World says that stage one results are finished and where shown off this week at SC15. This included a Heterogeneous Compute Compiler (HCC); a headless Linux driver and HSA runtime infrastructure for cluster-class, High Performance Computing (HPC); and the Heterogeneous-compute Interface for Portability (HIP) tool for porting CUDA-based applications to C++ programming.

AMD hopes the tools will drive application performance from machine learning to molecular dynamics, and from oil and gas to visual effects and computer-generated imaging.

Jim Belak, co-lead of the US Department of Energy’s Exascale Co-design Center in Extreme Materials and senior computational materials scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said that AMD’s Heterogeneous-compute Interface for Portability enables performance portability for the HPC community.

“The ability to take code that was written for one architecture and transfer it to another architecture without a negative impact on performance is extremely powerful. The work AMD is doing to produce a high-performance compiler that sits below high-level programming models enables researchers to concentrate on solving problems and publishing groundbreaking research rather than worrying about hardware-specific optimizations.”

The new AMD Boltzmann Initiative suite includes an HCC compiler for C++ development, greatly expanding the field of programmers who can leverage HSA.

The new HCC C++ compiler is a key tool in enabling developers to easily and efficiently apply the hardware resources in heterogeneous systems. The compiler offers more simplified development via single source execution, with both the CPU and GPU code in the same file.

The compiler automates the placement code that executes on both processing elements for maximum execution efficiency.



Dyreza Trojan Appears To Be Targeting Windows 10

November 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

An infectious banking trojan has been updated so that it supports financial mayhem on the freshly baked Windows 10 operating system and supporting Microsoft Edge browser.

Microsoft reckons that Windows 10 is installed on over 100 million machines, and this suggests prime picking for people who deploy banking trojans, not to mention the fact that most people will still be getting used to the software and its services and features.

The newest edition to the Windows 10 spectrum is a variant of the Zeus banking malware known as Dyreza. It is related to Dyre, a threat that we reported on earlier this year.

The warning at the time was that as many as one in 20 online banking users could be exposed to the threat, and things look as bad this time around. Heimdal Security said in a blog post that the malware has been strengthened in scale and capability.

“The info-stealer malware now includes support for Windows 10. This new variant can also hook to Microsoft Edge to collect data and then send it to malicious servers,” said the post.

“Moreover, the new Dyreza variant kills a series of processes linked to endpoint security software in order to make its infiltration in the system faster and more effective.”

The threat already has a footprint, and the people behind it have increased it. Heimdal said that, once Dyreza is done with your bank account, it will move you into position on a botnet. The firm estimates that this botnet is currently 80,000-strong.

“By adding support for Windows 10, the Dyreza malware creators have cleared their way to growing the number of infected PCs in their botnet. This financial trojan doesn’t only drain the infected computers of valuable data, it binds them into botnets,” said Heimdal.



Will Microsoft Debut A Lumia Business Phone Next Year?

November 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft surprised the world when its new phone range failed to contain anything to interest business users – now it seems it is prepared to remedy that.

Microsoft promised that its Lumia range would cover the low end, business and enthusiast segments but while the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 650 should cover the low-end segment as well nothing has turned up for business users.

This was odd, given that business users want phones that play nice with their networks, something that Redmond should do much better than Google or Apple.

Microsoft’s CFO Amy Hood told the UBS Global Technology Conference that business versions of the Lumia were coming. She said:

“We launched a Lumia 950 and a 950 XL. They’re premium products, at the premium end of the market, made for Windows fans. And we’ll have a business phone, as well.”

There were no details, but we have been hearing rumours of a Surface phone being sighted on benchmarks. It was thought that his would be a Microsoft flagship, but with the launch of the Lumia 950/950 XL, it is possible that this Surface phone could be aimed at the business user. The word Surface matches nicely with Microsoft’s Surface Pro branding.




Samsung Debuts 10nm FinFET S-RAM

November 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung appears to have stolen a march on Intel and TSMC by coming up with a 10-nano FinFET processed S-RAM

According to Electronic Times Intel and TSMC’s products are still being processed at 14-nano and 16-nano so Samsung’s 10-nano S-RAM, will open the way for a generation of Giga-Smartphones. S-RAM is faster than D-RAM and is used for CPU’s cache memory.

It means that Samsung’s 10-nano technology will be mass-produced on full-scale in early 2017. The theory is that 10-nano AP will combine Gigabyte modem chips into one faster chip.

Samsung is showing its plans to the ISSCC. They will have a 128 Megabyte (MB) capacity and a cell area of 0.040 µm2. This compares to the 14-nano S-RAM (0.064 µm2) that Samsung Electronics introduced in the past, its cell area is reduced by 37.5 per cent.

In an ISSCC scientific paper, Samsung said that it built a large-scale fast cache memory in the smallest area. An AP for a smartphone with S-RAM, can minimize Die’s area and improve its performance.

All this means that Samsung Electronics has surpassed Taiwan’s TSMC and developed the next-generation system semiconductor.

Intel postponed its schedule for developing next-generation 10-nano system semiconductor from 2016 to 2017 due to increase of production costs. Samsung Electronics is targeting end of next for commercialising 10-nano processing.

Samsung Electronics has also developed 14-nano flat-surface NAND-Flash, and this is also first ever in industries. Toshiba, Micron and others have announced that after they finish developing 15 to 16-nanos, they are giving up on flat-surface NAND-Flash.

It had been thought that 14-nano NAND-Flash, which reduces area of Floating Gate by about 12.5% compared to 16-nano, will greatly contribute to Samsung Electronics in reducing production cost of NAND by reducing Silicon Die’s area.



Facebook Testing Work Chat App For Businesses

November 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it was developing a work-focused version of its social networking tools to try and convert its consumer success into a new stream of revenue from businesses.

On Friday, the company continued that push by quietly launching its new Work Chat app for Android, which lets users message workmates using an interface that’s almost identical to Facebook Messenger. Users can send messages to individuals or groups of co-workers, and include cute stickers to punctuate their point.

Work Chat also lets users place voice calls to colleagues in their network. As with Messenger, those calls use Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection rather than the telephone network, but it should connect coworkers without requiring them to use a shared telephone directory or make international calls.

The app is available for download on the Google Play Store, but people can only log into it if they have a Facebook at Work account. The only way to have one of those is to work for a company that Facebook has allowed into the private testing of its new enterprise-focused tools. According to an article from TechCrunch, 300 companies are testing the enterprise social network, and the company plans to launch it officially by the beginning of next year.

Facebook at Work will be a major entry by the social networking company into the crowded space of business collaboration. It’s going head-to-head with established players like Microsoft’s Yammer and upstarts like Slack.



Is The Steam OS Really Good?

November 19, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Benchmarks for Valve’s Steam machines are out and it does not look like the Linux powered OS is stacking up well against Windows.

According to Ars Technica the SteamOS gaming comes with a significant performance hit on a number of benchmarks.

The OS was put through Geekbench 3 which has a Linux version. The magazine used some mid-to-late-2014 releases that had SteamOS ports suitable for tests including Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Metro: Last Light Redux.

Both were intensive 3D games with built-in benchmarking tools and a variety of quality sliders to play with (including six handy presets in Shadow of Mordor’s case).

On SteamOS both games had a sizable frame rate hit. We are talking about 21- to 58-percent fewer frames per second, depending on the graphical settings. On our hardware running Shadow of Mordor at Ultra settings and HD resolution, the OS change alone was the difference between a playable 34.5 fps average on Windows and a 14.6 fps mess on SteamOS.

You would think that Valve’s own games wouldn’t have this problem, but Portal, Team Fortress 2, and DOTA 2 all took massive frame rate dips on SteamOS compared to their Windows counterparts.

Left 4 Dead 2 showed comparable performance between the two operating systems but nothing like what Steam thought it would have a couple of years ago.



SentinelOne Introduces Feature For Ransomware Victims

November 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

SentinelOne has announced a new feature for its endpoint detection products that can restore files encrypted by cybercriminals, a common type of attack known as ransomware.

The “rollback” feature will be available in the 1.6 versions of its Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP) and the Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) products at no charge, said Dal Gemmell, director of product management.

SentinelOne is among several vendors that are trying to displace traditional antivirus vendors with products that detect malware using deep analysis rather than signature-based detection.

The company’s products use a lightweight agent on endpoints such as laptops and desktops, which looks at the core of the operating system — the kernel — as well the the user space, trying to spot changes that might be linked to malware.

The rollback feature leverages built-in capabilities in Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS X. Both operating systems take snapshots of files on a computer. In Windows, it’s known as Volume Shadow Copy Service and on OS X asjournaling.

The technologies are used for restoring systems. The snapshots of the files are kept in a secure area and wouldn’t be affected by ransomware if it infected a machine. Gemmell said. SentinelOne is also adding some anti-tampering defenses to make sure the snapshots aren’t affected.

SentinelOne monitors the files that have been changed on an endpoint, and if someone becomes infected by ransomware, can roll back the changes.

“There are a number of different ransomwares that we’ve tested it out on,” Gemmell said.



Will AMD Bring Two New GPUs To Market In 2016?

November 18, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMDs’ head graphics guy, Raja Koduri promised that AMD will have two new GPUs out next year.

Koduri was talking to Forbes about how AMD needed to get some new architectural designs and create brand new GPUs into the shops.

He added that this is something that AMD has been pretty pants about lately.

He promised two brand new GPUs in 2016, which are hopefully going to both be 14nm/16nm FinFET from GlobalFoundries or TSMC and will help make Advanced Micro Devices more power and die size competitive.

AMD’s GPU architectures have gotten rather elderly, he said.

AMD also wants to increase its share in professional graphics. Apparently this is so low that any competition it brings Nvidia could significantly help their market share in this high margin business. The company has hired

Sean Burke to help drive this forward. Sean was a president at Flex and Nortek and a senior executive at Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Dell. For those who came in late he was the father of Dell’s Dimension and Compaq’s Prolinea.

Koduri’s cunning plan is to capture consumer and professional graphics will be by providing fully immersive experiences that range from education and medicine to gaming and virtual reality with plenty of overlap in between.

He is also interested in expanding into “instinctive computing” applications which involve medicine, factory automation, automotive and security. These are computing applications that are more natural to the environment and less obvious to the user and should come as natural user experiences.

Koduri has three make attack plans. The first is to gain discrete GPU market share in 2016 and 2017 as well as win the next generation of consoles, which will be 4K. Ironically the AMD chips in the consoles on the market at the moment can handle 4K but they don’t.

Koduri wants console makers will continue to stick with Radeon IP for their next generation consoles and give Advanced Micro Devices an even bigger advantage in the gaming space.

DirectX 12 in the latest shipping version of Windows does seem to give Radeon GPUs a significant performance uplift against Nvidia, he said.



Tim Cook Says No To iOS Powered Laptops

November 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Apple CEO Tim Cook has again shot down the idea of following in the footsteps of rival Microsoft to develop a notebook that runs his company’s mobile operating system, iOS.

“We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad,” Cook told The Irish Independent, Ireland’s largest daily newspaper, in aninterview published Sunday. “Putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

But take Cook’s comments with a grain — or more — of salt. “These are tactical communications, nothing about what they might do, or what they potentially will do,” noted Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, in a Monday interview.

Cook, who has been on a swing through Europe to meet with Irish officials about an expansion of Apple’s facility in the country, and in the U.K. to trumpet the iPad Pro, which went on sale last week, again took time to take a swipe at the competition.

“What that would wind up doing,” Cook said, referring to a notebook-slash-tablet analogous to Microsoft’s new Surface Book, “is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants.”

In earlier interviews while in Europe, Cook had previously bashed the Surface Book, a 2-in-1 with an integrated keyboard and detachable screen that reverts to a tablet when held separately. “It’s trying to be a tablet and a notebook and it really succeeds at being neither. It’s sort of deluded,” Cook said of the Surface Book.

Cook’s stance is not new: The CEO has repeatedly said Apple had no interest in 2-in-1 devices, at one point calling tablets with keyboards akin to a Frankenstein mashup of toaster and refrigerator. That, of course, was long before Apple decided to join the market with the 12.9-in. iPad Pro and its optional Smart Keyboard.



Russia’s Search Giant Yandex Wants EU To Investigate Google’s Android

November 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Russia’s dominant search site Yandex said it has asked the European Commission to investigate Google’s practices in relation to its Android mobile operating system in the European Union.

The new complaint could strengthen the case against Google, possibly giving enough ammunition to EU antitrust regulators to eventually charge the company with anti-competitive business practices, on top of accusations related to its Google Shopping service.

The formal request was filed in April 2015 and largely mirrors the Russian company’s claims against the U.S. company in a Russian anti-monopoly case that Yandex won.

Russia’s competition watchdog ruled in September that Google had broken the law by requiring pre-installation of its search application on mobile devices running on its Android operating system.

“We think that the Russian finding of abuse of dominance is instructive, and is a conclusion that can readily be adopted in other jurisdictions, including the EU,” Yandex said.

Yandex is one of the few companies to publicly complain about Android.

It joins U.S. tech firm Disconnect, Portuguese app store Aptoide, and lobbying group FairSearch whose members include Microsoft, Expedia, TripAdvisor and French price comparison site Twenga.

Yandex, which rivals Google in Turkey as well as Russia and several other former Soviet republics, said its business development in Europe would depend, among other factors, on the outcome of the European Commission’s investigation.

“We hope the European Commission … offers their help in restoring fair competition and ensuring equal opportunity to pre-install mobile applications on Android-based devices not only for Google, but also for other developers,” it said.

Yandex is ahead of Google in Russia with a search market share of around 60 percent, but it has been slow expanding abroad – a position it flagged when selling shares in a $1.3 billion initial public offering on Nasdaq in 2011.



GPU Shipments Appear To Be On The Rise

November 17, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Beancounters at JPR have been adding up the numbers and dividing by their shoe size and worked out that GPU shipments are up for both Nvidia and AMD.

Over the last few months both have been busy with new releases. Nvidia has its GeForce GTX 950 and GTX 980 Ti, while AMD put its first HBM-powered cards in the Radeon R9 Fury X, Fury and the super-small R9 Nano into the shops.

According to JPR, overall GPU shipments are up quarter-over-quarter – with AMD’s overall GPU shipments up 15.8 per cent. But before AMD fanboys get all excited by a surprise return to form from AMD, JPR said that that NVIDIA “had an exceptionally strong quarter”. Nvidia saw an uptick of 21.3 per cent.

The PC market as a whole increased by 7.5 per cent quarter-over-quarter but decreased 9 per cent year-over-year. Nivida’s discrete GPU shipments were up 26.3 per cent according to JPR, while AMD’s discrete GPUs spiked by 33 per cent.

AMD’s mobile GPU shipments for notebooks increased by 17 per cent, while NVIDIA had 14 per cent.



Microsoft Launches Office Insider, New Preview Program

November 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has launched a new preview program for consumers who subscribe to Office 365 that will give them an advance preview of new features slated to be added to the subscription service in the next one to three weeks.

Office Insider was opened to subscribers of Office 365 Home, Personal and University — the third is a four-year deal available only to college students — who are running Office 2016 on a Windows device. Office 365 subscribers who instead work with Office 2016 on a Mac are excluded for now, although Microsoft said they would be added in the “coming months.”

Like the already-established Windows Insider, Office Insider will serve as a feedback source for Microsoft’s developers.

Differences abound, however: Office Insider is accessible only to consumers and students with an Office 365 rent-not-own subscription — not to the general population as is Windows Insider — and more importantly, will preview new features just weeks, not months, away from landing on the production track. For example, the tools Microsoft touted as now available only to Insiders — including a pair of features for PowerPoint, and new “Send As” options for Word and PowerPoint — are slated to ship this month.

Windows Insider typically previews changes to Windows 10 that are as much as six to nine months away from reaching everyone in the next upgrade.

“The features are typically only 1-3 weeks out from general release and just need a bit of fine-tuning before becoming more widely available,” a company spokeswoman said in an email reply to questions.

Microsoft has committed to shipping monthly upgrades to Office 365 customers, something the company reiterated today. “Every month, the Office engineering team ships updates across the Office apps (mobile, desktop and Office Online), to include new functionality,” the spokeswoman added.

Subscribers to the eligible Office 365 SKUs (stock-keeping units) may join Office Insider by downloading the preview edition of Office 2016 from a new section of their Office 365 account dashboard, dubbed “Additional Install Options.”




Will The xCodeGhost Malware Wreak Havoc On IOS Devices

November 13, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A security firm has released a list of ongoing and incoming threats that cover a range of things from Apple’s iOS to the Internet of Things (IoT).

In its third report this year, Quick Heal warns that Apple users in particular better brace themselves for impact as more and more malware writers who’ve earned their stripes targeting Android users turn their attention to iOS.

“As the number of iPhone owners rises across the world, iOS has become a new potential target for Android malware authors and hackers. It is expected that Android malware will soon be altered to attack iOS users as well, and jailbroken iOS devices will be the first wave of targets for these attacks,” explained the firm (PDF).

“Recently, the ‘XcodeGhost’ malware was found on the Apple App Store and this is just the beginning of such attacks.”

In a section on wearables, Quick Heal predicts hackers will increasingly target fitness trackers, something that other security researchers have already warned about.

A lot of space in the report is reserved for Android-flavoured threats, and users are offered advice on protecting themselves such as if there is an option to use a password over a touch sign-in, then you ought to take it.

“A group of researchers have discovered a serious security flaw in the Android Lollipop version running on devices right now. This flaw allows attackers to bypass the lockscreen of an Android smartphone by using a massive password and thereby exposing the homescreen,” it explains.

“The attack essentially works by opening the in-built camera application and afflicts people using a password to protect their Android device and lock their screen.”

The most significant Android threat is a rascal called Android.Airpush.G, which claims 30 percent of the bug pool and is the kind of adware thing that makes you want to take a hammer to your phone screen. The second most prominent issue is Android.Reaper.A, which can haul in a large data harvest when in place.

Quick Heal is not the only security company in town, and a post on the Symantec website also seems set to put the fear into the Apple user community. That post, read it here – if you dare, says that the Mabouia ransomware is capable of causing a problem for Mac and PC users alike.

Fortunately, Mabouia is a proof-of-concept attack that a researcher shared with both Apple and Symantec. Symantec says that the PoC effort achieves at least one first.

“Mabouia is the first case of file-based crypto ransomware for OS X, albeit a proof-of-concept. Macs have nevertheless already been targeted by ransomware in the form of browser-based threats,” it explained.

“For example, in 2013, researchers at Malwarebytes discovered browser-based ransomware that targeted Safari for Mac users through a malicious website. The website directed Windows users to a drive-by download, while Mac users were served JavaScript that caused Safari to display persistent pop-ups informing the user their browser had been “locked” by the FBI for viewing illegal content.”



Google Open Sources TensorFlow

November 13, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Google has announced the open-sourcing of its machine learning engine TensorFlow.

Despite sounding like a sanitary product, TensorFlow is in fact behind some of Google’s biggest recent advances, such as the improvements in speech recognition that have allowed Google Now to expand.

Originally developed by the Google Brain team, as a successor to its preview machine learning platform DistBelief, it has been an internal tool up to now, but as the website explains: “TensorFlow is not complete; it is intended to be built upon, improved, and extended.

“We have made an initial release of the source code, and are currently moving our internal development efforts over to use a public repository for the day-to-day changes made by our team at Google.

“We hope to build an active open source community that drives the future of this library, both by providing feedback and by actively contributing to the source code.”

Everything you need is included, from the source code itself, development kits, Apache 2.0 licenced examples, tutorials, and sample use cases.

Earlier this year, a Tensorflow project made the news when Google’s Deepdream showed us what computer’s dream about. It turns out that when you show them Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, they dream about some quite terrifying stuff that takes it to a whole other level.

The Google Research blog explains: “Today we’re proud to announce the open source release of TensorFlow – our second-generation machine learning system, specifically designed to correct these shortcomings.

“TensorFlow is general, flexible, portable, easy-to-use, and completely open source. We added all this while improving upon DistBelief’s speed, scalability, and production readiness – in fact, on some benchmarks, TensorFlow is twice as fast as DistBelief.”

It’s now available in version 2.0, for absolutely no beans whatsoever.