Newsletter Archives

  • The “Intel Processor”


    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    For two decades, it’s been confusing to figure out what the name of an Intel processor or an Intel processor family meant.

    Now, Intel has thrown a real wrench into the works by announcing the “Intel Processor.”

    Funny — I thought that phrase referred to all Intel processors, not a family or a segment. I thought I could just write, “That PC has an Intel processor inside” and then wait for the inevitable question: “Which one?”

    No longer, apparently.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.39.0, 2022-09-26).

  • Will Intel be a dominant chip company going forward?


    Brian Livingston

    By Brian Livingston

    All the headlines seem to be bad for Intel lately — poor yields on bleeding-edge technologies, disappointed customers, lagging performance compared with competitors from around the world, and on and on.

    The truth of the matter is a bit more complicated.

    Most of the stories you’ve been reading in the mass media about Intel are telling only half the tale — if that.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.20.0, 2022-05-16).

  • What technology will run your life a few years from now?


    Brian Livingston

    By Brian Livingston

    “My interest is in the future, because I’m going to spend the rest of my life there,” said Charles Kettering, the head of research at General Motors from 1920 to 1947.

    I’m sure his statement is true. Time travel into the future isn’t science fiction — we all do it every day at the usual speed. But what kind of a future will it be, and can we head off the worst aspects of it?

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.15.0, 2022-04-11).
    This story also appears in our public Newsletter.

  • Opal: How I planned my new build


    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    I’ll say it again — it’s not the building, it’s the planning.

    A favorite saying about war plans is that they do not survive first contact with the enemy. A slight paraphrase is that a plan does not survive first contact with reality.

    Reality caused me to make a change in my build plan, which is the first thing I want to tell you about. Onyx may be dying.

    Read the full story in the AskWoody Plus Newsletter 18.33.0 (2021-08-30).

  • Opal: I’m building a new PC


    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    Hardware for the future. Windows made me do it.

    I wasn’t expecting to need a new computer just yet. My current PC is a bit long in the tooth, but I chose well when I built it and it has lasted six years, still providing the performance and capability I need on a daily basis. I have no urgent need for Windows 11.

    Except that I work for this newsletter.

    Read the full story in the AskWoody Plus Newsletter 18.29.0 (2021-08-02).

  • Update: Where does TPM live?

    WINDOWS 11

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    Trying to find out where Trusted Platform Module is implemented in Intel-based systems was harder than I thought. Intel finally, and helpfully, gave me some pointers.

    The problem is one of terminology.

    Read the full story in the AskWoody Plus Newsletter 18.28.0 (2021-07-26).

  • Nvidia is now worth more than Intel

    I saw that headline and couldn’t believe it.

    As of this writing, very early Friday morning, Nvidia lists at $420.36, for a total market capitalization (number of outstanding shares * share price) of $258.52 billion.

    Intel lists at $58.42, for a market cap of $247.35 billion.

    Absolutely phenomenal result of Nvidia’s branching into more-than-graphics.

  • Microsoft Patch Alert: August is much, much better than July

    There are still some well-known (even acknowledged) bugs, and the inanities performed in the name of Meltdown and Spectre continue to boggle my mind.

    And, of course, you can’t post any before-and-after performance statistics about the Intel microcode patches.

    Computerworld Woody on Windows.

    UPDATE: Intel has backed off its ridiculous (and likely unenforceable) gag order. See Paul Alcorn’s article on Tom’s Hardware.

  • Rumors of a new, updated Coffee Lake chipset for Win7

    It isn’t like you’ll be able to install and update Win7 on a fancy new power-mad PC. But it’s looking more and more like Intel and Microsoft may come to a cease-fire long enough to slip in a new, more powerful version of the old Coffee Lake processor.

    Interesting, if it comes to pass – specifically for those who would like to run new-ish hardware with a stable operating system.

    Computerworld Woody on Windows.

  • Intel releases more Meltdown/Spectre firmware fixes, while Microsoft unveils a new Surface Pro 3 firmware fix that doesn’t exist

    You’d have to be incredibly trusting — of both Microsoft and Intel — to manually install any Surface firmware patch at this point. Particularly when you realize that not one single Meltdown or Spectre-related exploit is in the wild. Not one.

    Computerworld Woody on Windows.

  • Intel says its new Spectre-busting Skylake firmware patch is ready

    Oh boy. I love the smell of fresh bricked PCs in the morning.

    Yesterday, Intel said it has released new firmware that — this time, really, for sure, honest — plugs the Meltdown/Spectre security hole. Says honcho Navin Shenoy:

    Earlier this week, we released production microcode updates for several Skylake-based platforms to our OEM customers and industry partners, and we expect to do the same for more platforms in the coming days.

    What he’s actually saying is something like, “Hey, we spent six months coming up with new firmware to fix Spectre, released it, and bricked a bunch of machines. We went back to the drawing board and, two weeks later, came up with new firmware that won’t brick your machines. Have at it.”

    According to the freshly updated Microcode Revision Guidance, Intel has released updates for Skylake U-, Y-, U23e-, H-, and S- chips.

    Shenoy goes on to say:

    Ultimately, these updates will be made available in most cases through OEM firmware updates. I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is for everyone to always keep their systems up-to-date. Research tells us there is frequently a substantial lag between when people receive updates and when they actually implement them. In today’s environment, that must change.

    To which I say:

    Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice… well, you know.

    Folks, you’d have to be absolutely batbox crazy to install these new BIOS/UEFI patches as they’re being rolled out. Give them time to break other peoples’ machines — or to prove their worth in open combat. I’m sure the folks who made the new firmware are quite competent and tested the living daylights out of everything. But they did that the last time, too.

    Again, I repeat, for emphasis, there is exactly NO known Meltdown or Spectre-based malware out in the wild.

  • Intel says STOP installing firmware updates

    In another stunning announcement, Intel now says that you should NOT install firmware updates. No specific word on Surface devices yet, but I bet the Jan. 10 updates are suspect, as well. Of course, if you have Automatic Update turned on, your Surface device is probably already updated.

    Computerworld Woody on Windows

    UPDATE: In response to an anonymous post here, I re-read the Intel announcement, and it isn’t clear (to me) if the halt has been called just for Broadwell and Haswell chips, or for all of Intel’s product line. Here’s what the official announcement says:

    Updated Jan. 22

    We have now identified the root cause of the reboot issue impacting Broadwell and Haswell platforms, and made good progress in developing a solution to address it. Based on this, we are updating our guidance for customers and partners:

    • We recommend that OEMs, Cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions on the below platforms, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior.
    • We also ask that our industry partners focus efforts on testing early versions of the updated solution for Broadwell and Haswell we started rolling out this weekend, so we can accelerate its release. We expect to share more details on timing later this week.
    • For those concerned about system stability while we finalize the updated solutions, we are also working with our OEM partners on the option to utilize a previous version of microcode that does not display these issues, but removes the Variant 2 (Spectre) mitigations. This would be delivered via a BIOS update, and would not impact mitigations for Variant 1 (Spectre) and Variant 3 (Meltdown).

    We believe it is important for OEMs and our customers to follow this guidance for all of the specified platforms listed below, as they may demonstrate higher than expected  reboots and unpredictable system behavior.  The progress we have made in identifying a root cause for Haswell and Broadwell will help us address issues on other platforms. Please be assured we are working quickly to address these issues.

    Then there’s a link to this list of Intel products, which includes Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake, Skylake, Broadwell, Haswell, Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge processors.

    Clear as mud.

    The spontaneous rebooting problem extends beyond Haswell and Broadwell. As Intel said on Jan. 17:

    we have determined that similar behavior occurs on other products in some configurations, including Ivy Bridge-, Sandy Bridge-, Skylake-, and Kaby Lake-based platforms.

    So it isn’t clear if the “Belay that order” order applies just to Haswell and Broadwell, or to Haswell, Broadwell, Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake and Kaby Lake as well.