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Gulag, SMP markets shiver at Coppermine Stutterbug

Emission critical markets might stop to think twice

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OK, maybe only one to two per cent of Coppermines might have the latest erratum which forced Dell to temporarily stop shipping some machines last week. Last week, Intel said it would not recall the affected chips because of the erratum, which is No.50, instead saying it would fix the problem in the next stepping. The bug, which has already been dubbed Stutterbug, means that machines have to be switched on twice. But while a consumer may find it slightly tiresome to have to switch on a machine twice, those designing embedded systems (the so-called 'gulag') that use the processor may stop twice to think. Intel has a wide range of customers designing single board computers (SBCs), in applications ranging from telecomms switches to...err...missiles. One reader pointed out that it is pretty hard to switch on a system embedded in a missile twice once the thing has left the ground. There could also be a problem for symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems. In such systems, there may be either two or four CPUs, and if one (or more) CPUs were affected by Stutterbug, the BIOS (basic input output system) which controls the system could well suffer a nasty turn. Further, as an ex-Intel employee pointed out to us at the weekend, if the company knows that only two per cent of the output has the Stutterbug, it must know what the problem is, and, if so, it is rather surprising it has not yet told the world. Unconfirmed reports said that Dell had started shipping its Optiplex systems again at the end of last week, but is still suffering from a dearth of Coppermine parts. ®

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