Intel

Intel Replaces its Buggy Fix for Skylake PCs (zdnet.com) 57

Intel has released new microcode to address the stability and reboot issues on systems after installing its initial mitigations for Variant 2 of the Meltdown and Spectre attacks. From a report: The stability issues caused by Intel's microcode updates resulted in Lenovo, HP, and Dell halting their deployment of BIOS updates last month as Intel worked to resolve the problems. Intel initially said unexpected reboots were only seen on Broadwell and Haswell chips, but later admitted newer Skylake architecture chips were also affected. Microsoft also said it had also seen Intel's updates cause data loss or corruption in some cases.
Intel

Microsoft Issues Windows Out-of-Band Update That Disables Spectre Mitigations (bleepingcomputer.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Microsoft has issued on Saturday an emergency out-of-band Windows update that disables patches for the Spectre Variant 2 bug (CVE-2017-5715). The update -- KB4078130 -- targets Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8.1, all versions of Windows 10, and all supported Windows Server distributions. Microsoft shipped mitigations for the Meltdown and Spectre bugs on January 3. The company said it decided to disable mitigations for the Spectre Variant 2 bug after Intel publicly admitted that the microcode updates it developed for this bug caused "higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior" that led to "data loss or corruption."

HP, Dell, and Red Hat took previous steps during the past week.

"We are also offering a new option -- available for advanced users on impacted devices -- to manually disable and enable the mitigation against Spectre Variant 2 (CVE 2017-5715) independently via registry setting changes..." Microsoft writes.

"We recommend Windows customers, when appropriate, reenable the mitigation against CVE-2017-5715 when Intel reports that this unpredictable system behavior has been resolved for your device. "
HP

Dell and HP Advise All Their Customers To Not Install Spectre BIOS Updates (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: The Spectre and Meltdown mess continues with Dell now recommending their customers to not install the BIOS updates that are supposed to resolve the Spectre (Variant 2) vulnerabilities. These updates have been causing numerous problems for users including performance issues, boot issues, reboot issues, and general system stability. Due to this, Dell EMC has updated its knowledgebase article with a statement advising customers to not install the BIOS update and to potentially rollback to the previous BIOS if their computers are exhibiting "unpredictable system behavior". ZDNet reports that HP too has issued a similar advisory. The computer manufacturer pulled its softpaqs BIOS updates with Intel's patches from its website, and said it would be releasing a BIOS update with a previous version of Intel's microcode on Thursday.
Network

Lenovo Discovers and Removes Backdoor In Networking Switches (bleepingcomputer.com) 42

An anonymous reader writes: Lenovo engineers have discovered a backdoor in the firmware of RackSwitch and BladeCenter networking switches. The company released firmware updates last week. The Chinese company said it found the backdoor after an internal security audit of firmware for products added to its portfolio following the acquisitions of other companies. Lenovo says the backdoor affects only RackSwitch and BladeCenter switches running ENOS (Enterprise Network Operating System).

The backdoor was added to ENOS in 2004 when ENOS was maintained by Nortel's Blade Server Switch Business Unit (BSSBU). Lenovo claims Nortel appears to have authorized the addition of the backdoor "at the request of a BSSBU OEM customer." In a security advisory regarding this issue, Lenovo refers to the backdoor under the name of "HP backdoor." The backdoor code appears to have remained in the firmware even after Nortel spun BSSBU off in 2006 as BLADE Network Technologies (BNT). The backdoor also remained in the code even after IBM acquired BNT in 2010. Lenovo bought IBM's BNT portfolio in 2014.

Businesses

PC Market Still Showing Few Signs of Life (axios.com) 218

An anonymous reader writes: It was another rough quarter for the global PC market, as fourth quarter unit sales dropped 2%, according to preliminary results from Gartner. In the U.S. things were even bleaker, with sales down 8%. HP was the only big name maker to post a sales increase in the U.S. and globally. It also passed Lenovo to grab the top spot globally and increased its lead in the U.S. over Dell. Apple saw Mac sales globally up 1.4%, but in the U.S. sales were down 1.6%. Dell gained less than 1% globally but fell more than 12% in the U.S. Lenovo sales dipped slightly globally, but its market share increased slightly, to 22% of the worldwide market.
Windows

Microsoft Announces First Mobile Carriers To Support Always Connected PCs (zdnet.com) 109

An anonymous reader shares a report: The push behind the Always Connected PC vision has been ramping up in recent weeks, with manufacturers like HP, ASUS, and Lenovo all joining the fray with their own LTE PCs based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform. Now, Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced the first batch of mobile operators that will actively support Always Connected PCs around the world. These initial carriers will help to bring "easy and affordable connectivity plans to consumers on advanced LTE wireless networks," Microsoft and Qualcomm said in a press release. Throughout the first half of 2018 and beyond, the companies say, mobile operators in China, Italy, the UK, and the U.S. will officially support Always Connected PCs. Here's a look at the carriers you can expect to roll out support in each region: China -- China Telecom, Italy -- TIM (Telecom Italia), U.K. -- EE, U.S. -- Sprint, Verizon. In addition to supporting connected PCs on their LTE networks, you can expect each operator to stock Always Connected PCs in their retail store, Qualcomm and Microsoft say.
AMD

Intel Launches 8th Gen Core Series CPUs With Integrated AMD Radeon Graphics (hothardware.com) 123

MojoKid writes: At CES 2018, Intel unveiled more details of its 8th generation Intel Core processors with integrated AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics. Like cats and dogs living together, the mashup of an Intel processor with an AMD GPU is made possible by an Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB), which provides a high-speed data interconnect between the processor, GPU and 4GB of second-generation High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM2). Intel is delivering 8th generation H-Series Core processors in 65W TDP (laptops) and 100W TDP (desktops) SKUs that will take up 50 percent less PCB real estate, versus traditional discrete configs. Both the mobile and desktop variants of the processors will be available in Core i5 or Core i7 configurations, with 4 cores and 8 threads, up to 8MB of cache and 4GB of HBM2. The 65W mobile processors can boost up to 4.1GHz, while the Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU has base/boost clocks of 931MHz and 1011MHz, respectively. The AMD GPU has 20 compute units and memory bandwidth checks in at 179GB/s. Desktop processors ratchet the maximum boost slightly to 4.2GHz, while the base/boost clocks of the Radeon RX Vega M GH GPU jump to 1063MHz and 1190MHz, respectively. Desktop GPUs are also upgraded with 24 CUs and 204GB/s of memory bandwidth. Intel says that its 8th generation Core i7 with Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics is up to 1.4x faster than a Core i7-8550U with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU in a notebook system. System announcements from Dell and HP are forthcoming, with availability in the first half of this year. Intel has also launched a new NUC small form factor gaming mini PC based on the technology as well.
AI

Alexa is Coming To Windows 10 PCs From HP, ASUS and Others (engadget.com) 99

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon's Alexa recently arrived on headphones and even toilets, but it's about to become much more ubiquitous by hitting Windows 10 PCs later this year. HP, ASUS and Acer have revealed that the voice assistant is coming to various models, including ASUS's ZenBook and VivoBook lineup, the HP Pavilion Wave, and select Acer Spin, Swift, Switch and Aspire notebooks. Amazon will release a special Alexa app in the spring, and laptop builders are tapping Intel's Smart Sound tech to make sure that the app can pick up your voice when you're not right next to your PC. "Hands-free access to Alexa on PCs can be helpful to customers in many ways, like making it simple to interact with your smart home, get news or weather, set timers, and more," Amazon Alexa VP Steve Rabuchin said in a statement.
HP

HP Recalls 50,000 Lithium-Ion Laptop Batteries Over Fire Risk (consumerreports.org) 41

HP announced this week that it is recalling the lithium-ion batteries in more than 50,000 laptops because of the danger of fire in cases of battery malfunction. From a report: "These batteries have the potential to overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard to customers," the company said in a statement. "For this reason, it is extremely important to check whether your battery is affected." The recall affects the battery, not the entire computer. Consumers should run HP's Validation Utility software to determine if their battery has been recalled. If the battery needs to be replaced, they should then install an update that will put the device in Battery Safe Mode, which will discharge the battery and prevent it from being charged until it's replaced. This update will allow consumers to continue using the computers safely with AC power while they wait for a new battery. The recall affects batteries sold with, or as accessories for, the following models: HP Probook 640 G2, HP ProBook 640 G3, HP ProBook 645 G2, HP ProBook 645 G3, HP ProBook 650 G2, HP ProBook 650 G3, HP ProBook 655 G2, HP ProBook 655 G3, HP ZBook 17 G3, HP ZBook 17 G4, HP ZBook Studio G3, HP x360 310 G2, HP Pavilion x360, HP ENVY m6, and HP 11 Notebook PC.
Facebook

How Facebook's Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda (bloomberg.com) 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Under fire for Facebook Inc.'s role as a platform for political propaganda, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has punched back, saying his mission is above partisanship. "We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas," Zuckerberg wrote in September after President Donald Trump accused Facebook of bias. Zuckerberg's social network is a politically agnostic tool for its more than 2 billion users, he has said. But Facebook, it turns out, is no bystander in global politics. What he hasn't said is that his company actively works with political parties and leaders including those who use the platform to stifle opposition -- sometimes with the aid of "troll armies" that spread misinformation and extremist ideologies.

The initiative is run by a little-known Facebook global government and politics team that's neutral in that it works with nearly anyone seeking or securing power. The unit is led from Washington by Katie Harbath, a former Republican digital strategist who worked on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign. Since Facebook hired Harbath three years later, her team has traveled the globe helping political clients use the company's powerful digital tools. In some of the world's biggest democracies -- from India and Brazil to Germany and the U.K. -- the unit's employees have become de facto campaign workers. And once a candidate is elected, the company in some instances goes on to train government employees or provide technical assistance for live streams at official state events.

Printer

Ask Slashdot: Do You Print Too Little? 216

shanen writes: How many of you don't print much these days? What is the best solution to only printing a few pages every once in a while? Here are some dimensions of the problem...

Inexpensive printers: The cost of new printers is quite low, but how long can the printer sit there without printing before it dies? Lexmark and HP used to offer an expensive solution with integrated ink cartridges that also included new print heads, but... Should I just buy a cheap Canon or Epson and plan to throw it away in a couple of years, probably after printing less than a 100 pages?

Printing services: They're mostly focused on photos, but there are companies where you can take your data for printing. My main concerns here are actually with the costs and the tweaks. Each print is expensive because you are covering their overhead way beyond the cost of the printing itself. Also, most of the time my first print or three isn't exactly what I want. It rarely comes out perfectly on paper the first time.

Social printing: For example, are any of you sharing one printer with your neighbors via Wi-Fi? Do you just sneak a bit of personal printing onto a printer at your office? Do you travel across town to borrow your brother-in-law's printer?
HP

HP Laptops Found To Have Hidden Keylogger (bbc.com) 116

Hidden software that can record every letter typed on a computer keyboard has been discovered pre-installed on hundreds of HP laptop models, BBC reported on Monday citing the findings of a security researcher. From the report: Security researcher Michael Myng found the keylogging code in software drivers preinstalled on HP laptops to make the keyboard work. HP said more than 460 models of laptop were affected by the "potential security vulnerability." It has issued a software patch for its customers to remove the keylogger. The issue affects laptops in the EliteBook, ProBook, Pavilion and Envy ranges, among others. HP has issued a full list of affected devices, dating back to 2012. Mr Myng discovered the keylogger while inspecting Synaptics Touchpad software, to figure out how to control the keyboard backlight on an HP laptop. He said the keylogger was disabled by default, but an attacker with access to the computer could have enabled it to record what a user was typing. According to HP, it was originally built into the Synaptics software to help debug errors. It acknowledged that could lead to "loss of confidentiality" but it said neither Synaptics nor HP had access to customer data as a result of the flaw.
Android

Qualcomm Announces Latest Snapdragon 845 Processor (9to5google.com) 38

The processor to power the next generation of Android flagship smartphones has been announced today. Qualcomm unveiled the new Snapdragon 845 processor at the 2017 Snapdragon Tech Summit, where Microsoft announced it was working with its PC partners to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm's ARM processors. While more technical details of the chip will be announced tomorrow, we do know that the Snapdragon 845 processor is based on a 10nm processor and will feature the latest X20 LTE modem for gigabit connectivity speeds. Generally speaking, the new processor will bring improved performance, better power efficiency, and improved image processing.
Microsoft

Microsoft Debuts Windows 10 on ARM; Asus and HP Unveil Laptops With 20-Hour Battery Life, Gigabit LTE (zdnet.com) 139

Mary Jo Zoley, writing for ZDNet: A year ago, Microsoft announced it was working with its PC partners to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm's ARM processors. The resulting machines, part of the "Always Connected PC" ecosystem, would start rolling out before the end of calendar 2017, officials said. Today, December 5, Microsoft provided a progress report on Windows on ARM at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit. Microsoft and PC makers Asus and HP showed off new PCs running Windows 10 on Snapdragon 835 at the event. Asus' NovoGo will begin shipping at least in quantities before year-end, I've heard. Models with 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage will be available starting at $599, and 8GB/256 GB storage model at $799, Asus officials said today. Asus is claiming 22 hours of continuous video playback and 30 days of standby. HP's Envy x2 -- like most of the ARM-based Always Connected Windows 10 devices -- won't be available until Spring of 2018. Users can get up to 20 hours of active use and 700 hours of "Connected Modern Standby." Pricing is not yet available.
HP

HP Quietly Installs System-Slowing Spyware On Its PCs, Users Say (computerworld.com) 127

It hasn't been long since Lenovo settled a massive $3.5 million fine for preinstalling adware on laptops without users' consent, and it appears HP is on to the same route already. According to numerous reports gathered by news outlet Computer World, the brand is deploying a telemetry client on customer computers without asking permission. The software, called "HP Touchpoint Analytics Service", appears to replace the self-managed HP Touchpoint Manager solution. To make matter worse, the suite seems to be slowing down PCs, users say. From the report: Dubbed "HP Touchpoint Analytics Service," HP says it "harvests telemetry information that is used by HP Touchpoint's analytical services." Apparently, it's HP Touchpoint Analytics Client version 4.0.2.1435. There are dozens of reports of this new, ahem, service scattered all over the internet. According to Gunter Born, reports of the infection go all the way back to Nov. 15, when poster MML on BleepingComputer said: "After the latest batch of Windows updates, about a half hour after installing the last, I noticed that this had been installed on my computer because it showed up in the notes of my Kaspersky, and that it opened the Windows Dump File verifier and ran a disk check and battery test." According to Gartner, HP was the largest PC vendor in the quarter that ended in September this year.
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.
Businesses

HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman To Step Down (reuters.com) 101

Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Meg Whitman is stepping down as chief executive officer. Reuters reports: Whitman engineered the biggest breakup in corporate history during her 6 year tenure at the helm, creating HPE and PC-and-printer business HP Inc from parent Hewlett Packard Co in 2015. Whitman will be succeeded by the company's president, Antonio Neri, who takes over from Feb. 1. "Now is the right time for Antonio and a new generation of leaders to take the reins of HPE," Whitman said in a statement. Whitman, who will continue as a board member, had been steering the company towards areas such as networking, storage and technology services.
ISS

The International Space Station Is Getting Its First Printer Upgrade in 17 Years (mashable.com) 174

Lance Ulanoff, writing for Mashable: Somewhere, 254 miles above us, an astronaut is probably printing something. Ever since the International Space Station (ISS) welcomed its first residents in November of 2000, there have been printers on board. Astronauts use them to print out critical mission information, emergency evacuation procedures and, sometimes, photos from home. According to NASA, they print roughly 1,000 pages a month on two printers; one is installed on the U.S. side of the ISS, the other in the Russian segment. ISS residents do all this on 20-year-old technology. "When the printer was new, it was like 2000-era tech and we had 2000-era laptop computers. Everything worked pretty good," recalled NASA Astronaut Don Pettit, who brought the first printer up to the ISS. But "the printer's been problematic for the last five or six years," said Pettit who's spent a total of one year on the station. It's not that the Space Station has been orbiting with the same printer since Justin Timberlake was still N'Sync. NASA had dozens of this printer and, as one failed, they'd send up another identical model. But now it's time for something truly new. In 2018, NASA will send two brand new, specialized printers up to the station. However, figuring out the right kind of printer to send was a lot more complicated than you'd probably expect. NASA has turned to HP for its IT supply and needs. The agency requires the following things in its printer: print and handle paper management in zero gravity, handle ink waste during printing, be flame retardant, and be power efficient. HP, Mashable reports, has recommended the HP Envy 5600, its all-in-one (printer, scanner, copier, fax) device that retails for $129.99. The model has been modified, according to the report.
HP

Hewlett-Packard Historical Archive Destroyed In California Fires (pressdemocrat.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes the Press Democrat: When deadly flames incinerated hundreds of homes in Santa Rosa's Fountaingrove neighborhood earlier this month, they also destroyed irreplaceable papers and correspondence held nearby and once belonging to the founders of Silicon Valley's first technology company, Hewlett-Packard. The Tubbs fire consumed the collected archives of William Hewlett and David Packard, the tech pioneers who in 1938 formed an electronics company in a Palo Alto garage with $538 in cash. More than 100 boxes of the two men's writings, correspondence, speeches and other items were contained in one of two modular buildings that burned to the ground at the Fountaingrove headquarters of Keysight Technologies. Keysight, the world's largest electronics measurement company, traces its roots to HP and acquired the archives in 2014 when its business was split from Agilent Technologies -- itself an HP spinoff.

The Hewlett and Packard collections had been appraised in 2005 at nearly $2 million and were part of a wider company archive valued at $3.3 million. However, those acquainted with the archives and the pioneering company's impact on the technology world said the losses can't be represented by a dollar figure... Karen Lewis, the former HP staff archivist who first assembled the collections, called it irresponsible to put them in a building without proper protection. Both Hewlett-Packard and Agilent earlier had housed the archives within special vaults inside permanent facilities, complete with foam fire retardant and other safeguards, she said. "This could easily have been prevented, and it's a huge loss," Lewis said.

Lewis has described the collection as "the history of Silicon Valley ... This is the history of the electronics industry." Keysight Technologies spokesman Jeff Weber said the company "is saddened by the loss of documents that remind us of our visionary founders, rich history and lineage to the original Silicon Valley startup."

23 Californians were killed in the fires, which also destroyed 6,800 homes, and Weber says Keysight had taken "appropriate and responsible" steps to protect the archive, but "the most destructive firestorm in state history prevented efforts to protect portions of the collection."

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