Intel expands its affordable processor range with Pentium Silver CPUs

Intel expands its affordable processor range with Pentium Silver CPUs

Intel has revealed new Pentium Silver processors and budget-friendly Intel Celeron chips.

As the first CPUs based on the firm’s ‘Gemini Lake’ architecture (following up on existing ‘Apollo Lake’ offerings) these are new cheap and power-efficient processors for desktop PCs and laptops. 

On the desktop side, the chip maker has introduced the Intel Pentium Silver J5005 and Intel Celeron J4105 and J4005.

The Pentium Silver J5005 is a quad-core (four-thread) CPU with a clock speed of up to 2.8GHz, with Intel UHD Graphics 605 (integrated graphics) with a graphics clock speed of 800MHz.

Incidentally, Pentium Silver means that the chip is based on the Atom architecture, a lower-cost (and lower-power) alternative to the main Core series of Intel processors. 

A few months ago Intel introduced Pentium Gold, which was based on the company’s last generation Kaby Lake offerings. In short, Silver processors aren’t as good as Gold in the performance stakes, but that’s reflecting in the savings and lower prices.

The Intel Celeron J4105 is also a quad-core (four-thread) processor with a clock speed of up to 2.5GHz, and Intel UHD Graphics 600 (with a graphics clock speed of 750MHz).

The Celeron J4005 brings up the rear as a dual-core (two-thread) CPU with a clock speed of up to 2.7GHz and Intel UHD Graphics 600 (clocked at 700MHz).

Mobile wonders

Moving onto the mobile processors aimed at laptops, the Pentium Silver N5000 is a quad-core (four-thread) CPU with a clock speed of up to 2.7GHz, again with Intel UHD Graphics 605 (clocked at 750MHz).

And the Intel Celeron N4100 and N4000 mirror their desktop counterparts, with just slightly slower clock speeds (up to 2.4GHz and 2.6GHz respectively) and with marginally slower integrated graphics (clocked at 700MHz and 650MHz respectively).

Furthermore, the chips offer Gigabit Wi-Fi and will be good for a claimed 10 hours of HD video playback on a notebook with a 35WHr battery.

Intel further noted that Pentium Silver delivers 58% faster productivity performance (based on SYSmark benchmarking) compared to a PC with a four-year-old Pentium processor.

Intel says that we can expect to see notebooks packing these new chips go on sale in the first quarter of next year.


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HP laptops have once again been hit by a hidden keylogger

HP laptops have once again been hit by a hidden keylogger

HP laptops have been blighted by another keylogger (following the discovery of one in the firm’s notebooks earlier this year), with the issue affecting almost 500 devices – and it could even affect other manufacturers’ portables.

A keylogger is capable of stealthily recording everything the user types on the keyboard (like logins and passwords), so this is clearly a major problem. Security researcher Michael Myng made the discovery, with the security flaw nestled deep in the Synaptics Touchpad driver.

The keylogger is turned off by default, but can be enabled by modifying a registry value. Apparently it was put in there as part of debugging functionality, but should (obviously) have been stripped out for the production driver.

HP acted quickly to patch the problem, and listed the affected laptops, which number around 460 models. They include HP Envy, Omen, Pavilion, Spectre, Stream, EliteBook, ProBook, ZBook models and more. Check here for the full list, and the relevant updated driver you should download and install to cure the problem.

More notebooks affected?

HP noted: “A potential security vulnerability has been identified with certain versions of Synaptics touchpad drivers that impacts all Synaptics OEM partners. A party would need administrative privileges in order to take advantage of the vulnerability. Neither Synaptics nor HP has access to customer data as a result of this issue.”

As observed, this issue could affect other manufacturers’ laptops which have the same Synaptics Touchpad driver, if they haven’t already been patched. So if you have a Synaptics touchpad on a non-HP laptop, it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for any news of an issue (and indeed a fix if that’s the case).

It’s really not been a good year for HP given that the firm was also hit by a keylogger buried in a Conexant audio driver back in May. And at the end of last month, there was the whole fracas about alleged spyware installed on HP laptops in the form of the firm’s own Touchpoint Analytics service.

Via: BBC


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Banking apps (and one VPN) hit by worrying security flaw

Banking apps (and one VPN) hit by worrying security flaw

Security researchers have found that some major UK and US banks had vulnerabilities in their mobile apps which potentially allowed malicious parties to steal login credentials, although these holes have apparently now been patched.

Researchers from the computer science department of the University of Birmingham in the UK found that banks including HSBC – and also a VPN provider, TunnelBear – had flaws in their iOS and Android apps which allowed for so-called ‘man in the middle’ attacks to take place.

The issue pertained to the way that the apps conduct ‘certificate pinning’, which allows the software to specify a certain certificate that is trusted for a given server. The vulnerability was in the implementation of certificate pinning and verification used when creating a TLS connection, Threatpost explains.

The result being that it was possible to spoof said certificate and therefore pull off a ‘man in the middle’ attack, in which the malicious party can then obtain the victim’s login details.

Critical compromises

This is obviously particularly critical when it comes to online banking, and the affected apps included a whole range of HSBC apps (including the basic HSBC app, and HSBC Business app), along with Bank of America Health, Meezan Bank, and Smile Bank.

It’s also worrying that a VPN provider could have a hole in its software, too, considering Virtual Private Networks are all about making the internet a more secure and private place for users.

According to the report, all the banks have fixed the relevant vulnerabilities in their apps, but it just goes to show you that even software which really should be ultra-secure can still have holes in it.

While TunnelBear isn’t mentioned, presumably the provider has implemented a fix as well, you would hope.

The researchers concluded: “Clearly, the abundance of pinning implementation options available to developers has played a role in causing these flaws to be made. Platform providers can make this less of an issue by providing standardised implementations with clear documentation. To this end, Google have introduced Network Security Configuration in the Android 7.0 SDK.

“If app developers make use of these standard implementations, instead of rolling out their own or using 3rd party libraries, these errors will be much less likely to occur.”


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AMD’s next-gen Ryzen processors could arrive in just a couple of months

AMD’s next-gen Ryzen processors could arrive in just a couple of months

AMD will push out Ryzen 2 processors (‘Pinnacle Ridge’) built on a 12nm process as early as February next year, if the CPU grapevine has got it right.

According to, Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 2000 series processors will arrive complete with a bump to clock speeds, as well as more overclocking potential. As mentioned, these will be 12nm as opposed to the existing Ryzen products which use a 14nm process.

The second-gen Ryzen 7 CPUs will be the first to arrive in late February according to the tech site, followed by the mid-range Ryzen 5 and budget Ryzen 3 which will pitch up in March.

These chips will offer better power efficiency, and on the performance front, core counts will allegedly remain the same, but clock frequencies should be boosted by 200-300MHz or thereabouts across the board, asserts. The processors will also apparently support faster DDR4 memory frequencies.

Compatible chips

It’s also worth noting that the chips will be compatible with existing (AM4) motherboards, so if you want to upgrade from an original Ryzen processor, you’ll be able to do so, with only a BIOS update required for the motherboard. However, there will apparently be new motherboards (sporting extra features) launching with these fresh CPUs for those who want them.

There aren’t any further details on the second-gen desktop processors at this point. Note that there’s also a story doing the rounds about new AMD processors with a Ryzen 7 sequel offering 12-cores and boosting up to 5.1GHz, but this is an entirely different rumor which has been proved to be false and based on a fake slide.

As for the mobile versions of Ryzen 2 processors, these should emerge in April, and second-generation Ryzen Pro CPUs are expected to arrive in May 2018.

Meanwhile, as we heard at the end of last month, speculation has it that Intel’s next mainstream Core i7 CPU (out next year) will boast 8-cores (with 16-threads) in order to keep pace with Ryzen’s multi-core skills.


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Windows 10 could introduce smart tricks for ‘always connected’ laptops

Windows 10 could introduce smart tricks for ‘always connected’ laptops

The next major update for Windows 10 (likely to emerge next spring) may well yield better power management functionality – and therefore boosted battery life for notebooks. On top of that, it’s expected to enable seamless set-up of a mobile data plan on a laptop that boosts cellular connectivity.

The latter will obviously be a boon when it comes to the ‘always connected’ Qualcomm-powered notebooks (powered by Snapdragon 835 chips with integrated LTE) which were unveiled earlier this week.

As ZDNet reports, all this comes from slides revealed at the recent WinHEC workshop in Taipei. Some LTE-toting notebooks already come with bundled SIM cards (or options for them), but the idea with the next version of Windows 10 will be to introduce a full ‘consumer eSIM’ capability. (An eSIM is an embedded SIM card, built into the device so you don’t have to mess around swapping fiddly little bits of plastic as per the traditional SIM model).

What that means is you’ll be able to seamlessly hook up your Windows 10 tablet or laptop with a data plan from your mobile carrier, with the ability to grab an eSIM profile straight from the cloud. As ZDNet clarifies, you won’t need any in-store activation to use this functionality, and it sounds like it’ll be a truly no-fuss procedure.

It’s certainly a neat idea, although there will be caveats, such as it only being available in certain geographical markets, and it will also be dependent on mobile carriers as well.

On the business front, an enterprise eSIM will also be piloted, allowing companies to purchase bundled-together subscriptions for multiple staff members, utilizing device management capabilities for easy deployment across the workforce.

Power to the people

As we mentioned at the outset, the other interesting development unearthed pertains to power management, and a considerable boost is expected on this front in the next big update for Windows 10.

Specifically, Microsoft said that it was working closely with Intel (note that there will be ‘always connected’ PCs built around Intel chips as well as Qualcomm) to push forward with driving the ‘accelerated readiness’ of Modern Standby devices.

Any power-efficiency improvements will obviously be very welcome for all notebooks in terms of extending battery life. Qualcomm-powered ‘always connected’ laptops are already set to offer a claimed battery life of up to 20 hours when these devices launch in the spring of next year, possibly to coincide with 2018’s first big Windows 10 update.

Apparently both Microsoft and Intel are also keen to get Modern Standby going on desktop PCs and not just laptops, with a ‘Wake-on Remote Desktop’ feature planned for jolting your machine into action in order to use it from a remote location.

Just a few months ago, Microsoft was pushing to boost battery longevity for portables with Windows 10. So, this news that said laptops should last even longer should come as music to users’ ears.


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Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box debate could escalate to new laws

Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box debate could escalate to new laws

You’ve doubtless noticed all the recent controversy over loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2, and US politician Chris Lee (D) has launched another attack on loot crates and ‘pay-to-win’ games in a YouTube video (following a previous pop at them and Battlefront 2 at the end of last month).

In the video clip, Lee (a State representative for Hawaii) discusses how legislation should be crafted and aimed against what he describes as ‘predatory game mechanics.’

The central thrust of Lee’s measures is to ban the sale of video games that contain ‘gambling mechanisms’ to anyone who is under the age of 21.

The regulations being proposed here would mean that it would be fine to sell a sword in a game for $200 – an example used in the video. What wouldn’t be OK is to sell a percentage chance to win that sword.

The distinction is that if you’re buying something that you know what you’re getting, then it’s a transaction. If you’re buying a chance at potentially getting something, then it’s ‘gambling’, and therefore shouldn’t involve under-21s.

The rules would apply across all games and platforms, as Lee sees it, whether sold at retail or by online stores, such as Steam.

Milking the players?

Lee enters shakier territory (himself admitting this is ‘third-hand’ or anecdotal information) when he further discusses game publishers potentially lowering the odds of getting much-sought-after items of loot in order to effectively milk the player base, as it were.

Lee states: “Once the [game] algorithm identifies a player who’s likely to keep spending money to buy that one ‘unicorn thing’ that they’re after … then they lower the odds and then you keep spending more. It’s absolutely unethical and unfair.”

He ends with urging folks who support his cause to write to their elected officials (local and otherwise), providing a template letter of grievances concerning the ills of predatory gaming practices for convenient complaining.

Chris Lee keeps the vibe very casual throughout the video – even sitting on a chair backwards at one point (is that really a good example for youngsters in terms of desk and seating ergonomics, huh?) – but the points made here, and the campaign therein, could have serious repercussions for the world of gaming.

Unsurprisingly, no matter the initial intentions, when the worlds of politics and gaming collide, people tend to get very nervous about the end outcome, with the usual fears along the lines of sledgehammers-being-used-to-swat-flies.

Perhaps this is a space that only needs to be watched for now, but watched carefully.

Via PC Gamer


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IBM’s new chip promises blazing performance for AI

IBM’s new chip promises blazing performance for AI

IBM has pushed out a new Power chip, or as the company puts it, the ‘next generation in accelerated computing’ has arrived.

The Power9 processor is built to cope with intensive AI and machine learning workloads, utilizing Nvidia NVLink and PCIe Gen4 for 5.6x faster data throughput compared to PCIe Gen3, along with OpenCAPI technology. IBM claims a quadruple bandwidth improvement compared to its predecessor, Power8.

IBM has also built a server around the new chip, with the IBM Power Systems AC922 offering AI processing speeds of up to 300 petaflops. The company also notes that it’s capable of boosting deep learning framework performance by up to a factor of 3.8x compared to x86 solutions.

As TechCrunch reports, Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, commented on the chip: “IBM’s Power9 is literally the Swiss Army knife of ML [machine learning] acceleration as it supports an astronomical amount of IO and bandwidth, 10X of anything that’s out there today.”

Reaching the Summit

IBM’s new chips are also being used in new supercomputers at the Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge national laboratories in the US – known as ‘Sierra’ and ‘Summit’ respectively – which should be up and running early next year.

Summit will apparently provide an individual application performance which is five to 10 times faster than Titan, Oak Ridge’s older supercomputer, and Sierra will provide a boost of four to six times compared to its predecessor Sequoia.


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Buyer beware: there are now two variants of AMD’s Radeon RX 560 graphics card

Buyer beware: there are now two variants of AMD’s Radeon RX 560 graphics card

AMD has made a change to its Radeon RX 560 graphics card, with the introduction of a new variant of this model, but there’s an issue: both versions still carry the exact same model name.

In other words, there is now a Radeon RX 560 GPU with 1,024 stream processors (16 compute units) – the original model – and a new slightly cut-down variant with 896 stream processors (14 compute units).

As Tom’s Hardware reports, AMD issued a statement to clarify this: “There are [now] two variants of AMD Radeon RX 560. End users will definitely need to double check specs on variants. Typically the RX 560 14cu [compute units] version will sell lower than 16cu version, [and the] 14cu version will have lower power consumption. This allows our GPU partners to offer differentiation between different SKUs for different power and pricing segments.”

Jumble of jargon

For the non-tech-savvy, graphic card specs can be a somewhat confusing jumble of jargon and numbers at the best of times, so introducing different versions of video boards with different specs under the same model name will only add to the confusion.

Clearly, though, the onus is on the retailer and the buyer here. The vendor has to make it clear in the product description which version of the RX 560 that it’s selling, and if that doesn’t happen – or isn’t made clear enough – the buyer must check what version they’re getting by reading the description carefully (or checking over the actual spec details).

The other potential issue here is that folks may be looking at old reviews and benchmarks of the RX 560 and think they’re getting a certain level of power, which won’t be fully realized by the new spin on the card, if that’s the one they happen to buy.

It certainly isn’t an ideal situation, and one that could be easily avoided by AMD changing the model name of the lesser spec very slightly (i.e. just sticking an extra letter on) as has been done in the past.

When the original RX 560 was launched back in April, AMD made it clear that the card was aimed at the esports crowd, and getting 60 frames per second at Full HD resolution on the likes of Overwatch.


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HP and Asus unleash first Snapdragon 835 laptops with 20-hour battery life

HP and Asus unleash first Snapdragon 835 laptops with 20-hour battery life

Over at the Snapdragon Technology Summit in Hawaii, Qualcomm has revealed the full details on the much-talked-about (see here, and here) Windows 10 laptops driven by Snapdragon 835 chips, and laid out the specs of the first machines from HP and Asus.

These so-called ‘always connected’ PCs have an integrated LTE radio integrated in the Snapdragon 835, meaning you’re not reliant on having to hunt for Wi-Fi when you’re out and about. Plus this built-in connectivity will give users up to Gigabit LTE speeds on any Qualcomm-powered device. 

The power-efficiency of the Snapdragon 835 also means superb battery life – we are talking a claimed 20 hours of longevity. The use of Qualcomm’s chip also means these notebooks can run cool and are fan-less, and can therefore be thinner and lighter.

HP’s Snapdragon 835-driven ‘mobile PC’, the other moniker Qualcomm has been bandying around for these devices, is a new take on the firm’s Envy x2 detachable. It boasts a 12.3-inch WUXGA+ display (with Corning Gorilla Glass 4), 8GB of system memory and 256GB of storage.

The tablet portion of the device weighs a touch less than 700g, and is only 6.9mm thick, certainly fulfilling those promises in the portability category.

There’s an integrated Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, as well as a built-in stand which can be adjusted between 110 and 150-degrees. The keyboard is backlit and you also get a Windows Ink certified pen. HP also claims up to 20 hours of battery life.

As for the operating system, HP’s Envy x2 comes with Windows 10 S installed, with a ‘one-time option’ to switch to Windows 10 Pro. These devices all run Microsoft’s desktop operating system natively, as we’ve previously discussed. And as you’ve doubtless noticed, the Envy bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain other Microsoft product.

Super NovaGo?

The Asus NovaGo was also revealed, a ZenBook-ish affair built around the Snapdragon 835. This is a traditional laptop with a 13.3-inch Full HD touchscreen, again with stylus support, and the same 8GB/256GB of system memory and storage.

The NovaGo weighs in at 1.39kg and is 14.9mm thick, and in terms of connectivity offers a pair of USB 3.1 (Gen 1 Type-A) ports, an HDMI connector, and a microSD card slot. We didn’t get the battery life estimation for this model, but presumably it’s up there with Qualcomm’s (and HP’s) claimed 20-hour longevity.

Like the HP convertible, this Asus laptop will also come running Windows 10 S by default with the option of an one-time, free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

The NovaGo starts at $599 (about £445, AU$787) for the variant loaded with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage and works up to $799 (about £595, AU$1,050) for a model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

Unfortunately, no pricing has yet been revealed for the Envy x2, so we’re still waiting on that. As for availability, we haven’t heard on the Asus machine, but HP says that the Envy will be out in the spring of 2018.


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Windows 7 updates stop working as Microsoft takes its eye off the ball

Windows 7 updates stop working as Microsoft takes its eye off the ball

Some Windows 7 users have found that Windows Update has fallen over on their systems, meaning that they can’t receive any security patches or other OS updates.

So what’s happening here? Apparently, patches fail to download and affected users simply receive an error message when running Windows Update on their PCs. They are informed that an ‘unknown error’ has been encountered (helpfully) while checking for new updates, with the error code ‘80248015’.

It’s not clear how many folks have been hit with this particular gremlin, but seemingly it’s a fair few. According to some users on the lengthy Microsoft support forum thread regarding this issue (and also some tech sites, such as Ghacks), the root of the problem is an expired Windows file (in the AuthCabs directory) which went out of date on December 3.

Needless to say, Microsoft shouldn’t have let that happen, but the date-related aspect means that there is an easy fudge to get around the problem: simply wind your system date back to before December 3. Windows 7 will then see the file as valid again, and the update process will work happily.

That said, the latest posts (in the last few hours) on the aforementioned Microsoft forum claim that the problem has been resolved by the software giant, with the expired file getting refreshed when checking for updates, and the process now working successfully.

There’s been no official announcement or acknowledgement from Microsoft yet, though, so your mileage could vary – but we’d certainly hope that a fix would have been quickly implemented.

If you’ve been having problems with Windows Update on your Windows 7 PC, we’d suggest you run it again now, and keep your fingers crossed that the error has indeed disappeared.

Windows pain

This certainly seems like an odd thing for Microsoft to have missed, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the company is taking its eye off the ball where its older (but still officially supported) operating systems are concerned.

Not only have we had this Windows 7 glitch, but a few months back, Windows 8 was also hit by a nasty bug which prevented some users from logging onto their PC with a Microsoft account.

All of which could make for a good argument to upgrade to Windows 10. And indeed the OS conspiracy theorists out there are (naturally) convinced that Microsoft is purposely letting things slip with Windows 7/8, in order to cajole folks into upgrading to its newest platform.

While clearly that isn’t the case, these incidents do demonstrate a worrying lack of attention to detail from Microsoft. Let’s not forget that Windows 7 is still the most-used desktop operating system out there.

Via: Neowin


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