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Open Source

Linux Kernel 4.7 Officially Released (iu.edu) 60

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The Linux 4.7 kernel made its official debut today with Linus Torvalds announcing, "after a slight delay due to my travels, I'm back, and 4.7 is out. Despite it being two weeks since rc7, the final patch wasn't all that big, and much of it is trivial one- and few-liners." Linux 4.7 ships with open-source AMD Polaris (RX 480) support, Intel Kabylake graphics improvements, new ARM platform/board support, Xbox One Elite Controller support, and a variety of other new features.
Slashdot reader prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: The biggest new features of Linux kernel 4.7 are support for the recently announced Radeon RX 480 GPUs (Graphic Processing Units) from AMD, which, of course, has been implemented directly into the AMDGPU video driver, a brand-new security module, called LoadPin, that makes sure the modules loaded by the kernel all originate from the same file system, and support for generating virtual USB Device Controllers in USB/IP. Furthermore, Linux kernel 4.7 is the first one to ensure the production-ready status of the sync_file fencing mechanism used in the Android mobile operating system, allow Berkeley Packet Filter (BPF) programs to attach to tracepoints, as well as to introduce the long-anticipated "schedutil" frequency governor to the cpufreq dynamic frequency scaling subsystem, which promises to be faster and more accurate than existing ones.
Linus's announcement includes the shortlog, calling this release "fairly calm," though "There's a couple of network drivers that got a bit more loving."
Businesses

SoftBank To Buy British Chip Designer ARM For $32 Billion (cnet.com) 153

SoftBank has agreed to acquire British chip designer ARM Holdings for $32 billion in cash. The purchase will give Japan's multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation a slice of virtually every mobile computing gadget on the planet and future connected devices in the home. ARM, unlike Intel, doesn't manufacture chips, but licenses the design for it. ARM customers shipped roughly 15 billion products with ARM chips inside in 2015. This also marks the first large-scale, cross-border transaction in Britain since it voted to exit the European Union last month. "I have admired this company for over ten years," SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son told reporters at a press conference in London on Monday. "This is an endorsement into the view of the future of the U.K."

ARM assumes the tentpole position in chips for mobile devices. It was one of the first companies to aggressively focus on mobile devices while other semiconductor companies were ramping up their efforts on desktops. SoftBank, which is based in Tokyo has become one of the most acquisitive companies in the recent years. It heavily invests in technology, media, and telecommunications companies. ARM could provide an additional boost to SoftBank's mobile strategy. SoftBank, for instance, also owns about 83 percent of the American wireless operator Sprint.
Hermann Hauser, one of ARM's founders, said, "ARM is the proudest achievement of my life. The proposed sale to SoftBank is a sad day for me and for technology in Britain." BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones asked, "Question -- if ARM goes, what's left as a worldbeating UK-owned tech player?"
Facebook

Google, Tesla, and Facebook Attract 'Hordes of Tech Tourists' To Their Headquarters (siliconvalley.com) 80

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "We just came from Oracle, then we go to HP, Google; we're going to do Tesla, Intel, eBay and Yahoo. And Apple, I forgot Apple..." says one San Francisco resident, describing a tour he's providing for his friend from Tokyo. In fact, Silicon Valley's iconic tech companies have discovered tourists are now dropping in on their headquarters. "It was nice to walk between the buildings, take some pictures and see the employees enjoy their lunch break," wrote one visitor to Google's campus, before complaining that Google hadn't also provided them with bathroom access. "We got told not to use the Google bikes as they are for employees only, which was a bit of a shame," another visitor complained.

"Hundreds of people a day visit the Facebook sign and Google's Android sculpture garden in Mountain View," reports the Bay Area Newsgroup, "with many stopping at other tech giants as well, snapping photos and shooting video..." In fact, Tesla, Apple, Facebook, and Google have all now installed stores where tourists can purchase branded merchandise. (Google sells figurines of their Android mascot for $15). "What you're seeing are people on a pilgrimage..." said Stanford communications professor Fred Turner. "Folks are looking for a physical place behind the kind of dematerialized experience that they have online."

Intel has its own museum, and the Los Altos garage where Steve Jobs started Apple has even been designated a historic site. Are there any other historic tech sites that should be preserved to inspire future generations of tourists?
Operating Systems

How (And Why) FreeDOS Keeps DOS Alive (computerworld.com.au) 211

FreeDOS was originally created in response to Microsoft's announcement that after Windows 95, DOS would no longer be developed as a standalone operating system, according to a new interview about how (and why) Jim Hall keeps FreeDOS alive. For its newest version, Hall originally imagined "what 'DOS' would be like in 2015 or 2016 if Microsoft hadn't stopped working on MS-DOS in favor of Windows" -- before he decided there's just no such thing as "modern DOS". An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: No major changes are planned in the next version. "The next version of FreeDOS won't be multitasking, it won't be 32-bit, it won't run on ARM," Hall said. "FreeDOS is still intended for Intel and Intel-compatible computers. You should still be able to run FreeDOS on your old 486 or old Pentium PC to play classic DOS games, run legacy business programs, and support embedded development."
By day, Hall is the CIO for a county in Minnesota, and he's also a member of the board of directors for GNOME (and contributes to other open source projects) -- but he still remembers using DOS's built-in BASIC system to write simple computer programs. "Many of us older computer nerds probably used DOS very early, on our first home computer..." he tells ComputerWorld. Even without John Romero's new Doom level, "The popularity of DOS games and DOS shareware applications probably contributes in a big way to FreeDOS's continued success." I'd be curious how many Slashdot readers have some fond memories about downloading DOS shareware applications.
Android

Intel ChromeBooks Can Now Run Wine and Steam (codeweavers.com) 45

"With Google Play and Android app support hitting Chromebooks, it's now possible to run Windows applications/games on Chromebooks via CrossOver For Android," reports Phoronix. Slashdot reader grungy writes: The first Intel ChromeBooks have access to the Play Store now, and the Android version of Wine apparently runs on them... Pictures show the Steam client running, and a clip of a D3D game. Of course, the Play Store is only available on the ChromeOS developer channel so far, but that should change later this year.
CrossOver for Android also hasn't been officially released, but Thursday CodeWeavers' president blogged excitedly that "we are staring at a Leprechaun riding on the back of a Unicorn while taking a picture of a UFO. We are running CrossOver through Android on a ChromeBook running a Windows based game launched from the Steam client. THIS HAS NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE...EVER!!!"
Communications

White House Pledges $400M To Back Speedier 5G Wireless Networks (fortune.com) 86

The Obama Administration has announced a new funding initiative to ensure the United States maintains its leadership in the mobile technology space. For this, it will spend over $400 million on large-scale test platforms led by National Science Foundation with an aim to develop and advance wireless technology to 5G and beyond. Fortune reports: To be sure, the private sector has also been getting smarter and better organized for 5G this year and the new Obama effort will be conducted in conjunction with a bevy of technology and telecommunications partners. All four major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon Communications, Sprint, and T-Mobile, are participating. Tech companies on board include Intel, Juniper Networks, Qualcomm, and Nokia. Notably, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are missing from the list. "These super-fast, ultra-low latency, high-capacity networks will enable breakthrough applications for consumers, smart cities, and the Internet of Things that cannot even be imagined today," the White House said in a statement. The report adds: The transition to the next generation standard for wireless networks, so-called 5G, has so far been fraught with confusion, complications, and even some contradictions. But in a few years, when 5G gear sending data at up to 100 times the speed of current networks is commonplace, people may remember July 2016 as a major turning point. The private sector has offered mixed messages about when 5G will be available for regular people and just what it will be used for. Without many standards yet agreed upon, some predicted 5G would be ready starting next year, but others said not until 2020 or later. Some wanted to use it to speed up smartphone connections, while others said it was better suited to improve home and business Internet connections or to collect data from smart devices in the "Internet of Things."
Open Source

Mesa 12.0 Released With OpenGL 4.3 Support, Intel Vulkan and More (phoronix.com) 24

An anonymous reader writes: Mesa3D developers have announced the release of Mesa 12.0. Mesa 12 notably adds open-source OpenGL 4.3 drivers for Intel, Radeon, and NVIDIA on Linux, and it also integrates the previously open-sourced Intel Vulkan graphics API driver. From the Phoronix analysis, "Mesa 12.0 is easily one of the biggest updates to this important open-source user-space OpenGL driver stack in quite some time and will offer much better support and features especially for Intel, Radeon, and NVIDIA open-source Linux desktop users/gamers." You can download Mesa 3D Graphics Library 12.0.0 here.
Microsoft

Microsoft Targets The iMac With New All-In-One Surface PCs, Reports Say (networkworld.com) 140

New submitter Miche67 writes: Two reports say Microsoft is working on an all-in-one (AIO) PC under the Surface brand. If that's true, it would put it in competition with HP and Dell, which have their own AIO lines, as well as put it in competition with Apple's iMac. Network World reports: "Both DigiTimes and Windows Central picked up on the story, each citing their own sources. DigiTimes, a Taiwan-based publication with connections to the PC industry over there (but also a very mixed record of accuracy) said the new devices would come in the third quarter of this year. Windows Central, which is a little better when it comes to rumors, said it did not have a solid release date." Business Insider was able to find a patent filing by Microsoft for a desktop PC that supports the rumored AIO design. "The device is evidently targeting a 'modern and elegant' design and is meant to be something akin to a premium appliance or furniture," Windows Central wrote. Intel's release date of the new Kaby Lake line of processors around Q3 of this year complicates things. While Kaby Lake is said to be more mobile-friendly with less power consumption and heat, they would make for a good choice for an AIO machine. However, it would be pushing it for Microsoft to release its AIO machines in the same quarter that Kaby Lake is due. On a semi-related note, a programmer at Building 88 recently confirmed that Microsoft will release Surface 5 devices next year powered by Kaby Lake processors. He posted pictures of four device holders marked "2017" on his Twitter account.
Programming

MIT's Swarm Chip Architecture Boosts Multi-Core CPUs, Offering Up To 18x Faster Processing (gizmag.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmag: MIT's new Swarm chip could help unleash the power of parallel processing for up to 75-fold speedups, while requiring programmers to write a fraction of the code that is usually necessary for programs to take full advantage of their hardware. Swarm is a 64-core chip developed by Prof. Daniel Sanchez and his team that includes specialized circuitry for both executing and prioritizing tasks in a simple and efficient manner. Neowin reports: "For example, when using multiple cores to process a task, one core might need to access a piece of data that's being used by another core. Developers usually need to write code to avoid these types of conflict, and direct how each part of the task should be processed and split up between the processor's cores. This almost never gets done with normal consumer software, hence the reason why Crysis isn't running better on your new 10-core Intel. Meanwhile, when such optimization does get done, mainly for industrial, scientific and research computers, it takes a lot of effort on the developer's side and efficiency gains may sometimes still be minimal." Swarm is able to take care of all of this, mostly through its hardware architecture and customizable profiles that can be written by developers in a fraction of the time needed for regular multi-core silicon. The 64-core version of Swarm came out on top after MIT researchers tested it out against some highly-optimized parallel processing algorithms, offering three to 18 times faster processing. The most impressive result was when Swarm achieved results 75 times better than the regular chips, because that particular algorithm had failed to be parallelized on classic multi-core processors. There's no indication as to when this technology will be available for consumer devices.
Security

Lenovo Scrambling To Get a Fix For BIOS Vulnerability (theregister.co.uk) 59

Richard Chirgwin, reporting for The Register: Lenovo, and possibly other PC vendors, are exposed to a UEFI bug that can be exploited to disable firmware write-protection. If the claims made by Dmytro Oleksiuk at Github are correct, an attacker can "disable flash write protection and infect platform firmware, disable Secure Boot, [and] bypass Virtual Secure Mode (Credential Guard, etc.) on Windows 10 Enterprise." The reason Oleksiuk believes other vendors are also vulnerable is that the buggy code is inherited from Intel. He writes that the SystemSmmRuntimeRt was copied from Intel reference code. Lenovo complains in its advisory that it tried to make contact with Oleksiuk before he published the vulnerability. The company says the vulnerable System Management Mode software came from an upstream BIOS vendor -- making it likely that other vendors getting BIOS software from the same outlet will also be vulnerable. There's also a hint that Lenovo agrees with a speculation by Oleksiuk, that the code may be an intentional backdoor: "Lenovo is engaging all of its IBVs as well as Intel to identify or rule out any additional instances of the vulnerability's presence in the BIOS provided to Lenovo by other IBVs, as well as the original purpose of the vulnerable code."
Oracle

Oracle Ordered To Pay $3B Damages To HP (bbc.com) 47

Oracle has been ordered to pay HP $3 billion in damages by a California jury over HP's claim that Oracle reneged on a deal to support HP computer servers running on Itanium chips from Intel. Oracle said it will appeal. BBC reports:The court battle over the contract was settled in 2012 but the damages HPE was due have only now been agreed. HP was split into two in 2015 with HPE taking over the running of its servers and services business. In court, HPE argued that although the 2012 legal judgement meant Oracle had resumed making software for the powerful chips, its business had suffered harm. It argued that Oracle took the decision in 2011 to stop supporting Itanium in a bid to get customers to move to hardware made by Sun -- a hardware firm owned by Oracle. Oracle said that its decision in 2011 was driven by a realisation that Itanium was coming to the end of its life. It also argued that the contract it signed never obliged it to keep producing software in perpetuity. Intel stopped making Itanium chips in late 2012 and many companies that used servers built around them have now moved to more powerful processors.
Intel

BMW, Intel, Mobileye Partner On Self-Driving Cars, 'Turning Point For Automotive Industry': Reports (bloomberg.com) 59

BMW, Intel, and Mobileye NV are working to develop autonomous-car technology, reports Bloomberg, citing multiple sources. Senior executives from each company will hold an event on Friday to discuss the driverless-vehicle initiative, the report adds. From the article:Jerusalem-based Mobileye has been an early leader in providing cameras, software and other components that allow vehicles to see the world around them. BMW has been a client of Mobileye, along with General Motors Co. and Tesla Motors Inc. As automakers and their suppliers race to create systems to replace human drivers, most companies are betting on some form of artificial intelligence, which requires powerful processing.Reuters, citing one source, reports the same thing. The announcement will be a "turning point for the automotive industry," Amnon Shashua, the chairman and co-founder of Mobileye.
Transportation

Rolls-Royce Eyes Autonomous Ships, Expects Remote-Controlled Cargo Ships By 2020 (pcmag.com) 147

An anonymous reader writes from a report via PC Magazine: Speaking at a recent symposium in Amsterdam, Rolls-Royce vice president of innovation for marine, Oskar Levander, said, "The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist." In partnership with the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA) project, Rolls-Royce, DNV GL, Inmarsat, Deltamarin, NAPA, Brighthouse Intelligence, Finferries, and ESL Shipping are leading the $7 million effort. Unmanned ships could save money, weight, and space, making way for more cargo and improving reliability and productivity, the AAWA said in a recent white paper. "The increased level of safety onboard will be provided by additional systems," Rolls-Royce said on its website. "Our future solutions will reduce need for human-machine interaction by automating selected tasks and processes, whilst keeping the human at the center of critical decision making and onboard expertise." Initial testing of sensor arrays in a range of operating and climatic conditions is already underway in Finland. Phase II of the project will continue through the end of 2017. Rolls-Royce plans to launch the first remote-controlled cargo ships by 2020, with autonomous boats in the water within the next two decades. Rolls-Royce was in the news last week when they unveiled their first driverless vehicle called The Vision Next 100.
Google

HP Adds a Touchscreen To Its 11-inch Chromebook Lineup 18

An anonymous reader shares a report by The Verge:HP today announced the Chromebook 11 G5, the first of the company's Chrome OS laptops in the 11-inch range to include a touchscreen display. The new Chromebook starts at $189 and will go on sale through HP's channel partners in July. It will be more widely available in stores this October. The base model of the Chromebook 11 G5 has a 11.6-inch screen with a sub-HD display (there will be an option for an HD IPS touchscreen panel with Gorilla Glass), weighs 2.51 pounds, and comes with a 1.6gHz Intel Celeron N3060 -- a somewhat common processor for low- to mid-range Chromebooks. HP claims it will be powerful enough to handle video calls and playback, and that it "speeds through spreadsheets," which is the most amazingly modest goal I can imagine for a Chromebook. Of course that limited performance, coupled with Chrome OS's limited feature set, gives the Chromebook 11 G5 up to 11 solid hours of battery life, according to HP.
Graphics

'Linux vs Windows' Challenge: Phoronix Tests Popular Games (phoronix.com) 141

An anonymous reader writes: Michael Larabel at Phoronix has combined their new results from intensive Linux/Windows performance testing for popular games on Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA graphics cards, and at different resolutions. "This makes it easy to see the Linux vs. Windows performance overall or for games where the Linux ports are simply rubbish and performing like crap compared to the native Windows game." The games tested included Xonotic, Tomb Raider, Grid Autosport, Dota 2, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, F1 2015, and Company of Heroes 2 -- and the results were surprising.

Xonotic v0.8 outperformed Windows with a NVIDIA card, but "The poor Xonotic performance on Linux with the Intel driver was one of the biggest surprises from yesterday's article. It's not anything we've seen with the other drivers." And while testing on the Source 2 engine revealed that Valve's Dota 2 "is a quality Linux port," most of the other results were disappointing -- regardless of the graphics card and driver. "Tomb Raider on Linux performs much worse than the Windows build regardless of your driver/graphics card... Shadow of Mordor's relative Linux performance is more decent than many other Linux games albeit still isn't running at the same speeds as the Windows games..."

The article concludes with a note of optimism. "Hopefully in due time with the next generation of games making use of Vulkan...we'll see better performance relative to Windows." Have Slashdot readers seen any performance issues while playing games on Linux?
China

China Builds World's Fastest Supercomputer Without U.S. Chips (computerworld.com) 247

Reader dcblogs writes: China on Monday revealed its latest supercomputer, a monolithic system with 10.65 million compute cores built entirely with Chinese microprocessors. This follows a U.S. government decision last year to deny China access to Intel's fastest microprocessors. There is no U.S.-made system that comes close to the performance of China's new system, the Sunway TaihuLight. Its theoretical peak performance is 124.5 petaflops (Linpack is 93 petaflops), according to the latest biannual release today of the world's Top500 supercomputers. It has been long known that China was developing a 100-plus petaflop system, and it was believed that China would turn to U.S. chip technology to reach this performance level. But just over a year ago, in a surprising move, the U.S. banned Intel from supplying Xeon chips to four of China's top supercomputing research centers. The U.S. initiated this ban because China, it claimed, was using its Tianhe-2 system for nuclear explosive testing activities. The U.S. stopped live nuclear testing in 1992 and now relies on computer simulations. Critics in China suspected the U.S. was acting to slow that nation's supercomputing development efforts. There has been nothing secretive about China's intentions. Researchers and analysts have been warning all along that U.S. exascale (an exascale is 1,000 petaflops) development, supercomputing's next big milestone, was lagging.
Intel

Is the 'Secret' Chip In Intel CPUs Really That Dangerous? (networkworld.com) 245

New submitter Miche67 writes: A recent Boing Boing blog post by Damien Zammit is stirring up fears, claiming Intel's x86 processors have a secret control mechanism that no one can audit or examine. And because of that, he says it could expose systems to undetectable rootkit attacks that cannot be killed.
Blogger Andy Patrizio, after talking with an Intel spokesperson, says the developer's argument has holes and he doesn't think Zammit will persuade Intel to replace the system with a free, open source option.

So, what we have is an open source crusader scaring the daylights out of people on a giant what-if scenario that even he admits couldn't happen in our lifetimes.

An Intel spokesperson told the publication: While the Intel Management Engine is proprietary and Intel does not share the source code, it is very secure. Intel has a defined set of policies and procedures, managed by a dedicated team, to actively monitor and respond to vulnerabilities identified in released products. In the case of the Intel Management Engine, there are mechanisms in place to address vulnerabilities should the need arise.


Intel

Intel x86s Hide Another CPU That Can Take Over Your Machine -- You Can't Audit it (boingboing.net) 368

A report on BoingBoing, authored by Damien Zammit, claims that recent Intel x86 processors have a secret and power control mechanism implemented into them that runs on a separate chip that nobody is allowed to audit or examine. From the report: When these are eventually compromised, they'll expose all affected systems to nearly unkillable, undetectable rootkit attacks. Further explaining the matter, the author claims that a system with a mainboard and Intel x86 CPU comes with Intel Management Engine (ME), a subsystem composed of a special 32-bit ARC microprocessor that's physically located inside the chipset. It is an "extra general purpose computer." The problem resides in the way this "extra-computer" works. It runs completely out-of-band with the main x86 CPU "meaning that it can function totally independently even when your main CPU is in a low power state like S3 (suspend)." On some chipsets, the firmware running on the ME implements a system called Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT). This is entirely transparent to the operating system, which means that this extra computer can do its job regardless of which operating system is installed and running on the main CPU. From the report: The purpose of AMT is to provide a way to manage computers remotely (this is similar to an older system called "Intelligent Platform Management Interface" or IPMI, but more powerful). To achieve this task, the ME is capable of accessing any memory region without the main x86 CPU knowing about the existence of these accesses. It also runs a TCP/IP server on your network interface and packets entering and leaving your machine on certain ports bypass any firewall running on your system. Update: 06/15 18:54 GMT by M :A reader points out that this "extra computer" could be there to enable low-power functionalities such as quick boot and quality testing.

Editor's note: The summary is written with inputs from an anonymous reader, who also shared the story. We've been unable to verify the claims made by the author.
Graphics

Alienware Launches Laptop With QHD OLED Display After 20 Years of Business (hothardware.com) 82

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: Dell's Alienware 13 gaming notebook has been popular among gamers and power users that want a little more horsepower in a relatively light 4.5 pound 13-inch machine. However, over the past couple of years, Alienware hasn't changed-up the design much -- until today that is. [In celebration of its 20th anniversary], the company is officially making the OLED display equipped Alienware 13 available today, which they debuted back in January at CES. Initial testing and review impressions show that, as expected, the OLED display sure is gorgeous. The OLED display of the Alienware 13 is also representative of a full revamp (except for the skins), including a 6th generation Intel Skylake Core series processor and an NVMe Solid State Drive. The real kicker, however, is that Alienware's 13.3-inch QHD (2560X1440) OLED display offers great saturation and contrast with an extremely crisp 1ms pixel response time that delivers beautiful image quality, whether working in content creation, or in fast-moving action while gaming. Viewing angles with the display are also superior to high-end IPS panels including Dell's own XPS 15 with its near bezel-less Infinity Edge panel. At E3 2016, AMD announced the Radeon RX 470 and RX 460, which will join the RX 480 in the company's Polaris family.
E3

AMD Announces Radeon RX 470, RX 460 Graphics Cards (gamespot.com) 48

An anonymous reader writes from a report via GameSpot: At E3 2016, AMD has announced the Radeon RX 470 and RX 460. They will join the RX 480 in the company's Polaris family. Both GPUs will be VR-capable, whereas the RX 480 is made for 1440p gaming. AMD says the RX 470 will focus on delivering a "refined, power-efficient HD gaming" experience, and that the RX 460 will offer a "cool and efficient solution for the ultimate e-sports gaming experience." The RX 480 will be priced starting at $200 for the 4GB variant, with the other two cards most likely priced lower. The company did also announce that the chips are extremely thin, offering a very low Z-height, and will fit into thin and light gaming notebooks. They support a wide variety of features that include DX12, HDR, HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and H.265 encoding/decoding. AMD claims the RX 480 card outperforms $500 graphics cards in VR. The RX 470 and RX 460 have yet to have official release dates. However, the RX 480 is scheduled to launch on June 29. In April, AMD announced a plan to license the design of its top-of-the-line server processor to a newly formed Chinese company, creating a brand-new rival for Intel.

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