Do any of you bother to read the notice on TS when you join in? I'm not talking about the guys who are in there nightly. Just tonight I saw 2 or 3 join and leave in about the span of 30 minutes. Why are you in a clan if you don't want to game?
Russian cyber-security company Kaspersky Labs exposed a breakthrough U.S. spying program, which taps into one of the most widely proliferated PC components - hard drives. With the last 5 years seeing the number of hard drive manufacturing nations reduce from three (Korean Samsung, Japanese Hitachi and Toshiba, and American Seagate and WD) to one (American Seagate or WD), swallowing-up or partnering with Japanese and Korean businesses as US-based subsidiaries or spin-offs such as HGST, a shadow of suspicion has been cast on Seagate and WD.
According to Kaspersky, American cyber-surveillance agency, the NSA, is taking advantage of the centralization of hard-drive manufacturing to the US, by making WD and Seagate embed its spying back-doors straight into the hard-drive firmware, which lets the agency directly access raw data, agnostic of partition method (low-level format), file-system (high-level format), operating system, or even user access-level. Kaspersky says it found PCs in 30 countries with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria.
Kaspersky claims that the HDD firmware backdoors are already being used to spy on foreign governments, military organizations, telecom companies, banks, nuclear researchers, the media, and Islamic activities. Kaspersky declined to name the company which designed the malware, but said that it has close ties to the development of Stuxnet, the cyber-weapon used by NSA to destabilize Iran's uranium-enrichment facilities.
Kaspersky claims that the new backdoor is perfect in design. Each time you turn your PC on, the system BIOS loads the firmware of all hardware components onto the system memory, even before the OS is booted. This is when the malware activates, gaining access to critical OS components, probably including network access and file-system. This makes HDD firmware the second most valuable real-estate for hackers, after system BIOS.
Both WD and Seagate denied sharing the source-code of their HDD firmware with any government agency, and maintained that their HDD firmware is designed to prevent tampering or reverse-engineering. Former NSA operatives stated that it's fairly easy for the agency to obtain source-code of critical software. This includes asking directly and posing as a software developer. The government can seek source-code of hard drive firmware by simply telling a manufacturer that it needs to inspect the code to make sure it's clean, before it can buy PCs running their hard-drives.
What is, however, surprising is how "tampered" HDD firmware made it to mass-production. Seagate and WD have manufacturing facilities in countries like Thailand and China, located in high-security zones to prevent intellectual property theft or sabotage. We can't imagine tampered firmware making it to production drives without the companies' collaboration.
In what is a major fallout of the GeForce GTX 970 memory allocation controversy, leading retailers in the EU are reporting returns of perfectly functional GTX 970 cards citing "false advertising." Heise.de reports that NVIDIA is facing a fierce blowback from retailers and customers over incorrect specs. Heise comments that the specifications "cheating could mean the greatest damage to the reputation of the company's history."
Major German PC hardware retailer Caseking.de says that retailers don't have any explanation from NVIDIA to give to their customers. A similar sentiment is being expressed by the NVIDIA add-in card partners (AICs) we spoke to. Retailers and AIC partners are on their own, for now. One AIC partner rep told us that NVIDIA has no worldwide action plan, as of now, to deal with a potential flood of returns.
In absence of every other recourse, laws in most EU member states dictate that the retailers accept returns for a full refund, if they are not able to "repair" the defect, or exchange with another unit that works as advertised (which a retailer obviously can't, in this case). Retailers' options in the matter boil down to: 1. Taking back cards from whoever isn't happy with their GTX 970 and giving them a refund; 2. compensating with something of value (eg: game-coupons, in-game currency, etc.,) and 3. Springing up a surprise, such as exchanging GTX 970 cards purchased before a set date, with a GTX 980 (if that's your idea of a "repair."). This will come at the expense of a cascading lawsuit-chain (customers suing retailers, who in-turn sue AICs, and who in-turn sue NVIDIA).
NVIDIA, on the other hand, plans to issue a driver update that will "improve" the way the chip allocates resources, but there's no word on whether it re-enables disabled components that NVIDIA wasn't honest about, the first time around. They're counting on the issue to simply blow over, because at $329, there really isn't much you can complain about the GTX 970, given how it's positioned in comparison to the GTX 980.
In the thick of the GeForce GTX 970 memory controversy, last Thursday (29/01), TechPowerUp asked its readers on its front-page poll, if the developments of the week affected the way they looked at the card. The results are in, and our readers gave a big thumbs-up to the card, despite the controversy surrounding its specs.
In one week since the poll went up, and at the time of writing, 7,312 readers cast their votes. A majority of 61.4 percent (4,486 votes) says that the specs of the GTX 970 don't matter, as long as they're getting the kind of performance on tap, for its $329.99 price. A sizable minority of 21.2 percent (1,553 votes) are unhappy with NVIDIA, and said they won't buy the GTX 970, because NVIDIA lied about its specs. 9.3 percent had no plans to buy the GTX 970 to begin with. Interestingly, only 5.1 percent of the respondents are fence-sitters, and waiting for things to clear up. What's even more interesting is that the lowest number of respondents, at 3 percent (219 votes), said that they're returning their GTX 970 cards on grounds of false-marketing. The poll data can be accessed here.
In a response to a question on its Facebook page on whether AMD's next-generation Radeon 300 series comes out before GTA V PC launch (March), the company responded, stating that it's giving finishing touches to its new lineup. "We're still putting finishing touches to the 300 series, to make sure they live up to expectation," the reply from AMD's official Facebook handle stated. In its recent Q4-2014 and FY-2014 results investors' call, AMD CEO Lisa Su stated that her company will launch its next-generation GPU and CPU/APU products only in Q2-2015.
AMD's upcoming Radeon R9 380X and R9 380 graphics cards, with which it wants to immediately address the GTX 980 and GTX 970, will be based on a "new" silicon codenamed "Grenada." Built on the 28 nm silicon fab process, Grenada will be a refined variant of "Hawaii," much in the same way as "Curacao" was of "Pitcairn," in the previous generation.
The Grenada silicon will have the same specs as Hawaii - 2,816 GCN stream processors, 176 TMUs, 64 ROPs, and a 512-bit wide GDDR5 memory interface, holding 4 GB memory. Refinements in the silicon over Hawaii could allow AMD to increase clock speeds, to outperform the GTX 980 and GTX 970. We don't expect the chip to be any more energy efficient at its final clocks, than Hawaii. AMD's design focus appears to be performance. AMD could save itself the embarrassment of a loud reference design cooler, by throwing the chip up for quiet custom-design cooling solutions from AIB (add-in board) partners from day-one.
In other news, the "Tonga" silicon, which made its debut with the performance-segment Radeon R9 285, could form the foundation of Radeon R9 370 series, consisting of the R9 370X, and the R9 370. Tonga physically features 2,048 stream processors based on the more advanced GCN 1.3 architecture, 128 TMUs, 32 ROPs, and a 384-bit wide GDDR5 memory interface. Both the R9 370 and R9 370X could feature 3 GB of standard memory amount.
The only truly new silicon with the R9 300 series, is "Fiji." This chip will be designed to drive AMD's high-end single- and dual-GPU graphics cards, and will be built to compete with the GM200 silicon from NVIDIA, and the GeForce GTX TITAN-X it will debut with. This chip features 4,096 stream processors based on the GCN 1.3 architecture - double that of "Tonga," 256 TMUs, 128 ROPs, and a 1024-bit wide HBM memory interface, offering 640 GB/s of memory bandwidth. 4 GB could be the standard memory amount. The three cards AMD will carve out of this silicon, are the R9 390, the R9 390X, and the R9 390X2.
Intel's biggest enterprise CPU silicon based on its "Haswell" micro-architecture, the Haswell-EX, is a silicon monstrosity, according to its specs. Built in the 22 nm silicon fab processes, the top-spec variant of the chip physically features 18 cores, 36 logical CPUs enabled with HyperThreading, 45 MB of L3 cache, a DDR4 IMC, and TDP as high as 165W. Intel will use this chip to build its next-gen Xeon E7 v3 family, which includes 8-core, 10-core, 12-core, 14-core, 16-core, and 18-core models, with 2P-only, and 4P-capable variants spanning the E7-4000 and E7-8000 families. Clock speeds range between 1.90 GHz and 3.20 GHz.