Intel

Intel's ME May Be Massively Infringing on Minix3's Free Software License (ipwatchdog.com) 244

Software engineer (and IP Watchdog contributor) Fredrik Ohrstrom (a.k.a. Slashdot reader anjara) writes: Almost all Free Software licenses (BSD, MIT, GPL...) require some sort of legal notice (legal attribution) given to the recipient of the software, both when the software is distributed in source and in binary forms. The legal notice usually contains the copyright holder's name and the license text. This means that it's not possible to hide and keep secret the existence of Free Software that you have stuck into your product that you distribute. If you do so, then you are not complying with the Free Software license and you are committing a copyright infringement!

This is exactly what Intel seems to have done with the Intel ME. The Minix3 operating system license requires a legal notice, but so far it seems like Intel has not given the necessary legal notices. (Probably because they want to keep the inside of the ME secret.) Thus not only is Minix3 the most installed OS on our recent x86 CPUs -- but it might also the most pirated OS on our recent x86 CPUs!

Intel

Dell Begins Offering Laptops With Intel's 'Management Engine' Disabled (liliputing.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing.com Linux computer vendor System76 announced this week that it will roll out a firmware update to disable Intel Management Engine on laptops sold in the past few years. Purism will also disable Intel Management Engine on computers it sells moving forward. Those two computer companies are pretty small players in the multi-billion dollar PC industry. But it turns out one of the world's largest PC companies is also offering customers the option of buying a computer with Intel Management Engine disabled.

At least three Dell computers can be configured with an "Intel vPro -- ME Inoperable, Custom Order" option, although you'll have to pay a little extra for those configurations... While Intel doesn't officially provide an option to disable its Management Engine, independent security researchers have discovered methods for doing that and we're starting to see PC makers make use of those methods.

The option appears to be available on most of Dell's Latitude laptops (from the 12- to 15-inch screens), including the 7480, 5480, and 5580 and the Latitude 14 5000 Series (as well as several "Rugged" and "Rugged Extreme" models).

Dell is charging anywhere from $20.92 to $40 to disable Intel's Management Engine.
Iphone

Every iPhone X Is Not Created Equal (pcmag.com) 74

According to a PC Magazine report that uses data from Cellular Insights, the Qualcomm-powered iPhone X has better LTE performance than the Intel-powered model. From the report: There are three iPhone X models sold globally. Using lab equipment, Cellular Insights tested two of them: the Qualcomm-powered A1865, sold by Sprint, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular and in Australia, China, and India; and the Intel-powered A1901, sold by most other global carriers including AT&T and T-Mobile. (The third model, A1902, is only sold in Japan.) Here in the U.S., we anticipate that the SIM-free model sold directly by Apple will be the A1865, as that's the model that supports all four U.S. carriers. For this test, Cellular Insights looked at performance on LTE Band 4, which is used by every major U.S. carrier except Sprint, as well as in Canada and parts of Latin America. Cellular Insights attenuated an LTE signal from a strong -85dBm until the modems showed no performance. While both modems started out with 195Mbps of download throughput on a 20MHz carrier, the Qualcomm difference appeared quickly, as the Intel modem dropped to 169Mbps at -87dBm. The Qualcomm modem took an additional -6dBm of attenuation to get to that speed. Most consumers will feel the difference in very weak signal conditions, where every dBm of signal matters, so we zoomed in on that in the chart below. At very weak signal strength, below -120dBm, the Qualcomm modem got speeds on average 67 percent faster than the Intel modem. The Intel modem finally died at -129dBm and the Qualcomm modem died at -130dBm, so we didn't find a lot of difference in when the modems finally gave out.
Intel

System76 Will Disable Intel Management Engine On Its Linux Laptops (liliputing.com) 148

System76 is rolling out a firmware update for its recent laptops that will disable the Intel Management Engine altogether. The decision comes after a major security vulnerability was discovered that would allow an attacker with local access to execute arbitrary code. Liliputing reports: What's noteworthy in the System76 announcement is that the PC maker isn't just planning to disable Intel ME in computers that ship from now on. The company will send out an update that disables it on existing computers with 6th, 7th, or 8th-gen Intel Core processors. System76 also notes that Intel ME "provides no functionality for System76 laptop customers and is safe to disable." Right now the firmware update will only be available for computers running Ubuntu 16.04 or later or a related operating system with the System76 driver. But the company says it's working on developing a command line tool that should work on laptops running other GNU/Linux-based operating systems. System76 says it will also release an update for its desktop computers... but on those machines the update will patch the security vulnerability rather than disabling Intel ME altogether.
Android

The Pixel 2's Dormant 'Visual Core' Chip Gets Activated In Latest Android Developer Preview (techcrunch.com) 32

The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both feature a custom Intel "Visual Core" co-processor, which is meant to improve speed and battery life when shooting photos with Google's HDR+ technology. The chip has been hanging out in the phone not really doing much of anything -- until now. TechCrunch reports of a new developer preview of Android 8.1 due out today that puts the chip to use. "The component is expected to further improve the handsets' cameras, which were already scoring good marks, production issues aside." From the report: According to the company, Pixel Visual Core has eight image processing unit (IPU) cores and 512 arithmetic logic units. Using machine learning, the company says it's able to speed things up by 5x, with one tenth of the energy. Access to the chip, combined with the Android Camera API means third-party photo apps will be able to take advantage of the system's speedy HDR+. Sounds swell, right? Of course, this is still just an early preview, only available to people who sign up for Google's Beta program. That means, among other things, dealing with potential bugs of an early build. Google wouldn't give us any more specific information with regards to when the feature will be unlocked for the public, but it's expected to arrive along with the 8.1 public beta in December.
Intel

Intel Core i9 Mobile And 9th Gen Coffee Lake Processors Detailed In AIDA64 Update (hothardware.com) 49

Paul Lilly, writing for HotHardware: Looking at the release notes for the latest AIDA64 system diagnostics and benchmarking utility, there are several unannounced Intel processors on tap, including a mobile Core i9 processor and what appears to be a Coffee Lake refresh, due out sometime in 2018. Starting with mobile, it looks like Intel will be making an aggressive play in the laptop space with several new laptop chips, including at least one Core i9 processor with an unlocked multiplier. That is the Core i9-8950HK, a 6-core CPU with Hyper Threading support, 12MB of L3 cache, and a 45W TDP. Sitting below that are a handful of other mobile products, all based on Intel's Coffee Lake-H architecture. Two of them are Core i7 parts -- Core i7-8850H and Core i7-8750H, both of which are 6-core/12-thread processors with 12MB of L3 cache and a 45W TDP, same as the Core i9-8950H, but at presumably different clockspeeds and without an unlocked multiplier. The other two are the Core i5-8400H (6-core/6-thread, 9MB L3 cache, 45W TDP) and Core i3-8300H (4-core/4-thread, 8MB L3 cache, 45W TDP).
Intel

Clear Linux Beats CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu in (Enterprise) Benchmark Tests (phoronix.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: Recently completed Linux distro benchmarks by Phoronix show Intel's Clear Linux is the most powerful on x86 hardware. A six-way, enterprise-focused Linux distro comparison show Clear Linux being the fastest with a Core i9 and Xeon systems, easily beating CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu in a majority of the tests.

When doing an 11-way Linux distro boot test they also found Clear Linux easily booted the fastest followed by the Clear-inspired Solus distribution. Clear Linux does work on AMD hardware and works on Intel CPUs back to Sandy Bridge but leverages its speed from optimized compiler settings, specially built libraries capable of AVX instructions on supported systems, a specially tuned kernel configuration, and other optimizations/patches.

Debian 9.2 and Fedora 27 "ended up being dropped from this article due to data overload," the article concludes, "and those distributions really not offering anything really different in terms of the performance."
AMD

First AMD Ryzen Mobile Laptop Tested Shows Strong Zen-Vega Performance (hothardware.com) 85

MojoKid writes: AMD Ryzen Mobile processors are arriving now in retail laptops from the likes of HP, Lenovo and Acer. With the first CPUs to hit the market, AMD took quad-core Ryzen and coupled it with 8 or 10-core Vega GPUs on a single piece of silicon in an effort to deliver a combination of strong Ryzen CPU performance along with significantly better integrated graphics performance over Intel's current 8th Gen Kaby Lake laptop chips. AMD Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U chips have 4MB of shared L3 cache each, but differ with respect to top-end CPU boost clock speeds, number of integrated Radeon Vega Compute Units (CUs), and the GPU's top-end clocks. Ryzen 7 2700U is more powerful with 10 Radeon Vega CUs, while Ryzen 5 2500U sports 8. Ryzen 7 2700U also boosts to 3.8GHz, while Ryzen 5 2500U tops out at 3.6GHz. In the benchmarks, Ryzen Mobile looks strong, competing well with Intel quad-core 8th Gen laptop CPUs, while offering north of 60 percent better performance in graphics and gaming. Battery life is still a question mark, however, as some of the very first models to hit the market from HP have inefficient displays and hard drives instead of SSDs. As more premium configurations hit the market in the next few weeks, hopefully we'll get a better picture of Ryzen Mobile battery life in more optimized laptop builds.
Security

Intel: We've Found Severe Bugs in Secretive Management Engine, Affecting Millions (zdnet.com) 207

Liam Tung, writing for ZDNet: Thanks to an investigation by third-party researchers into Intel's hidden firmware in certain chips, Intel decided to audit its firmware and on Monday confirmed it had found 11 severe bugs that affect millions of computers and servers. The flaws affect Management Engine (ME), Trusted Execution Engine (TXE), and Server Platform Services (SPS). Intel discovered the bugs after Maxim Goryachy and Mark Ermolov from security firm Positive Technologies found a critical vulnerability in the ME firmware that Intel now says would allow an attacker with local access to execute arbitrary code. The researchers in August published details about a secret avenue that the US government can use to disable ME, which is not available to the public. Intel ME has been a source of concern for security-minded users, in part because only Intel can inspect the firmware, yet many researchers suspected the powerful subsystem had bugs that were ripe for abuse by attackers.
iMac

iMac Pro Will Have An A10 Fusion Coprocessor For 'Hey, Siri' Support and More Secure Booting, Says Report (theverge.com) 164

According to Apple firmware gurus Steven Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo, the upcoming iMac Pro will feature an A10 Fusion coprocessor to enable two interesting new features. "The first is the ability for the iMac Pro to feature always-on 'Hey, Siri' voice command support, similar to what's currently available on more recent iPhone devices," reports The Verge. "[T]he bigger implication of the A10 Fusion is for a less user-facing function, with Apple likely to use the coprocessor to enable SecureBoot on the iMac Pro." From the report: In more practical terms, it means that Apple will be using the A10 Fusion chip to handle the initial boot process and confirm that software checks out, before passing things off to the regular x86 Intel processor in your Mac. It's not something that will likely change how you use your computer too much, like the addition of "Hey, Siri" support will, but it's a move toward Apple experimenting with an increased level of control over its software going forward.
Intel

Intel Planning To End Legacy BIOS Support By 2020, Report Says (phoronix.com) 122

Michael Larabel, writing for Phoronix: Intel is planning to end "legacy BIOS" support in their new platforms by 2020 in requiring UEFI Class 3 or higher. Making rounds this weekend is a slide deck from the recent UEFI Plugfest. Brian Richardson of Intel talked about the "last mile" barriers to removing legacy BIOS support from systems. By 2020, they will be supporting no less than UEFI Class 3, which means only UEFI support and no more legacy BIOS or CSM compatibility support mode. But that's not going to force on UEFI Secure Boot unconditionally: Secure Boot enabled is considered UEFI Class 3+. Intel hasn't removed legacy BIOS / CSM support yet due to many customers' software packages still relying upon legacy BIOS, among other reasons. Removing the legacy BIOS support will mitigate some security risks, needs less validation by vendors, allows for supporting more modern technologies, etc.
Bug

Researchers Run Unsigned Code on Intel ME By Exploiting USB Ports (thenextweb.com) 171

Slashdot user bongey writes: A pair of security researchers in Russia are claiming to have compromised the Intel Management Engine just using one of the computer's USB ports. The researchers gained access to a fully functional JTAG connection to Intel CSME via USB DCI. The claim is different from previous USB DCI JTAG examples from earlier this year. Full JTAG access to the ME would allow making permanent hidden changes to the machine.
"Getting into and hijacking the Management Engine means you can take full control of a box," reports the Register, "underneath and out of sight of whatever OS, hypervisor or antivirus is installed."

They add that "This powerful God-mode technology is barely documented," while The Next Web points out that USB ports are "a common attack vector."
Google

Google Working To Remove MINIX-Based ME From Intel Platforms (tomshardware.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: Intel's Management Engine (ME) technology is built into almost all modern Intel CPUs. At the Embedded Linux Conference, a Google engineer named Ronald Minnich revealed that the ME is actually running its own entire MINIX OS and that Google is working on removing it. Due to MINIX's presence on every Intel system, the barebones Unix-like OS is the most widely deployed operating system in the world. Intel's ME technology is a hardware-level system within Intel CPUs that consists of closed-source firmware running on a dedicated microprocessor. There isn't much public knowledge of the workings of the ME, especially in its current state. It's not even clear where the hardware is physically located anymore.

What's concerning Google is the complexity of the ME. Public interest in the subject piqued earlier this year when a vulnerability was discovered in Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT), but that's just a software that runs on ME--ME is actually an entire OS. Minnich's presentation touched on his team's discovery that the OS in question is a closed version of the open-source MINIX OS. The real focus, though, is what's in it and the consequences. According the Minnich, that list includes web server capabilities, a file system, drivers for disk and USB access, and, possibly, some hardware DRM-related capabilities. It's not known if all this code is explicitly included for current or future ME capabilities, or if it's because Intel simply saw more potential value in keeping rather than removing it.

Businesses

Qualcomm Eyes Intel With Centriq 2400 Arm Server Chip (eweek.com) 23

Qualcomm is now challenging rival Intel in the rapidly changing data center market. From a report: The company is now selling its long-awaited Centriq 2400 Arm-based server processor that is aimed at the fast-growing cloud market and that Qualcomm officials say beats Intel in such crucial areas as power efficiency and cost. Officials from Arm and its manufacturing partners have for several years talked about pushing the Arm architecture into the data center as an alternative to Intel, and some manufacturers like Cavium and Applied Micro in recent years have rolled out systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) based on the 64-bit Armv8-A design. However, Qualcomm represents the most significant Arm chip maker in terms of scale and resources to challenge Intel, which holds more than 90 percent of the global server chip market. Qualcomm's Centriq chips offer up to 48 single-threaded cores running up to 2.6GHz and are manufactured on Samsung's 10-nanometer FinFET process. The processors sport a bidirectional segmented ring bus with as much as 250G bps of aggregate bandwidth to avoid performance bottlenecks, 512KB of shared L2 cache for every two cores and 60MB of unified L3 cache. There also are six channels of DDR4 memory and support for up to 768GB of total DRAM with 32 PCIe Gen 3 lanes and six PCIe controllers. They also support Arm's TrustZone security technology and hypervisors for virtualization.
Intel

Intel Recruits AMD RTG Exec Raja Koduri To Head New Visual Computing Group (hothardware.com) 58

MojoKid writes: Intel just announced that former AMD Radeon Technologies Group SVP, Raja Koduri, would be joining its team to head up a newly formed Core and Visual Computing Group, and as a general manager of a new initiative to drive edge and client visual computing solutions. With Koduri's help, Intel plans to unify and expand its IP across multiple segments including core computing, graphics, media, imaging and machine learning capabilities for the client and data center segments, artificial intelligence, and emerging opportunities. Intel also explicitly stated that it would also expand its strategy to develop and deliver high-end, discrete graphics solutions. This announcement also comes just after Intel revealed it would be employing AMD's Vega GPU architecture in a new mobile processor that will drive high-end graphics performance into smaller, slimmer, and sleeker mobile form factors. With AMD essentially spinning the Radeon Technologies Group into its own entity, Intel now leveraging AMD graphics technology, and a top-level executive like Koduri responsible for said graphics tech switching teams, we have to wonder how the relationship between Intel and AMD's RTG with evolve.
AMD

Raja Koduri, AMD's Radeon Tech Group Leader, Resigns (anandtech.com) 38

Ryan Smith, writing for AnandTech: On the day following what's perhaps one of the greatest (and oddest) product design wins for AMD's Radeon Technologies Group, a second bit of surprising news is coming out of AMD. Raja Koduri, the Senior VP and Chief Architect of the group, who has been its leader since the RTG was formed two years ago, has announced that he is resigning from the company, effective tomorrow. Word of Raja's resignation originally broke via an internal memo penned by Raja and acquired by Hexus. And while AMD will not confirm the validity of the memo, the company is confirming that Raja has decided to leave the company.
Intel

MINIX: Intel's Hidden In-chip Operating System (zdnet.com) 271

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, writing for ZDNet: Matthew Garrett, the well-known Linux and security developer who works for Google, explained recently that, "Intel chipsets for some years have included a Management Engine [ME], a small microprocessor that runs independently of the main CPU and operating system. Various pieces of software run on the ME, ranging from code to handle media DRM to an implementation of a TPM. AMT [Active Management Technology] is another piece of software running on the ME." [...] At a presentation at Embedded Linux Conference Europe, Ronald Minnich, a Google software engineer reported that systems using Intel chips that have AMT, are running MINIX. So, what's it doing in Intel chips? A lot. These processors are running a closed-source variation of the open-source MINIX 3. We don't know exactly what version or how it's been modified since we don't have the source code. In addition, thanks to Minnich and his fellow researchers' work, MINIX is running on three separate x86 cores on modern chips. There, it's running: TCP/IP networking stacks (4 and 6), file systems, drivers (disk, net, USB, mouse), web servers. MINIX also has access to your passwords. It can also reimage your computer's firmware even if it's powered off. Let me repeat that. If your computer is "off" but still plugged in, MINIX can still potentially change your computer's fundamental settings. And, for even more fun, it "can implement self-modifying code that can persist across power cycles." So, if an exploit happens here, even if you unplug your server in one last desperate attempt to save it, the attack will still be there waiting for you when you plug it back in. How? MINIX can do all this because it runs at a fundamentally lower level. [...] According to Minnich, "there are big giant holes that people can drive exploits through." He continued, "Are you scared yet? If you're not scared yet, maybe I didn't explain it very well, because I sure am scared." Also read: Andrew S. Tanenbaum's (a professor of Computer Science at Vrije Universiteit) open letter to Intel.
Intel

Arch-rivals Intel and AMD Team Up on PC Chips To Battle Nvidia (pcworld.com) 169

Intel and AMD, arch-rivals for decades, are teaming up to thwart a common competitor, Nvidia. On Monday, the two companies said they are co-designing an Intel Core microprocessor with a custom AMD Radeon graphics core inside the processor package. The chip is intended for laptops that are thin and lightweight but powerful enough to run high-end videogames, the companies said. From a report: Executives from both AMD and Intel told PCWorld that the combined AMD-Intel chip will be an "evolution" of Intel's 8th-generation, H-series Core chips, with the ability to power-manage the entire module to preserve battery life. It's scheduled to ship as early as the first quarter of 2018. Though both companies helped engineer the new chip, this is Intel's project -- Intel first approached AMD, both companies confirmed. AMD, for its part, is treating the Radeon core as a single, semi-custom design, in the same vein as the chips it supplies to consoles like the Microsoft Xbox One X and Sony Playstation 4. Some specifics, though, remain undisclosed: Intel refers to it as a single product, though it seems possible that it could eventually be offered at a range of clock speeds. [...] Shaking hands on this partnership represents a rare moment of harmony in an often bitter rivalry that began when AMD reverse-engineered the Intel 8080 microchip in 1975.
Businesses

Broadcom Explores Buying Qualcomm (bloomberg.com) 69

phalse phace writes: Bloomberg news is reporting that Broadcom may be planning to make an offer to buy Qualcomm. From the report: "Broadcom Ltd. is considering a bid of more than $100 billion for Qualcomm Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the biggest-ever takeover of a chipmaker. Broadcom is speaking to advisers about the potential deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. The offer of about $70 a share would include cash and stock and is likely to be made in the coming days, the people said." If the deal goes through, Broadcom would become "the world's third largest chipmaker behind Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. and give it a huge swath of the supply chain of vital phone components such as Wi-Fi and cellular modem chips. The two companies are already among the top ten providers of chips ranked by revenue in an industry that's consolidating rapidly."
Intel

Qualcomm Sues Apple For Contract Breach (reuters.com) 37

Qualcomm has sued Apple, again, this time alleging that it violated a software license contract to benefit rival chipmaker Intel for making broadband modems, the latest salvo in a longstanding dispute between the two companies. From a report: Qualcomm alleged in a lawsuit filed in the California state court in San Diego on Wednesday that Apple used its commercial leverage to demand unprecedented access to the chipmaker's highly confidential software, including source code. Apple began to use Intel's broadband modem chips in the iPhone 7, which it launched last year.

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