Chris Williams

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Chris is The Register's US bureau chief based in San Francisco, California. He writes about semiconductor chips and software engineering. You can look him up online at diodesign.co.uk, get his public PGP key at Keybase.io or find him on Twitter.

Intel drags Xeon Phi Knights Hill chips out back... two shots heard

Updated Intel has scrapped Knights Hill, an upcoming addition to its high-end many-core Xeon Phi chip family, and will go back to the drawing board for its microarchitecture. We heard at the end of last month that the Xeon Phi gang was, in the words of one well-placed semiconductor industry source, "not long for this world," which we …

Qualcomm is shipping next chip it'll perhaps get sued for: ARM server processor Centriq 2400

Putting aside its legal battles and lawsuits for a few hours, Qualcomm today said is it shipping the Centriq 2400 – its ARM-based server-grade processor, and the world's first 10nm data-center CPU. "This chip is now shipping for revenue," said Anand Chandrasekher, the boss of Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies, adding that the …

AMD, Intel hate Nvidia so much they're building a laptop chip to spite it

Analysis Arch-rivals AMD and Intel have put aside their animosity toward each other, and united against a common foe: Nvidia. On Monday the pair revealed they are working on a chip family that will combine an Intel Core x86 processor, a customized AMD Radeon GPU, and HBM2 – high-bandwidth memory – all in one package. The silicon will, …
Super-villain Dr Evil puts finger to lip in scheming manner, asks for one million dollars. Pic: New Line Cinema

'Qualcomm, we will buy you... for... one HUNDRED... BILLION DOLLARS' – Broadcom

Broadcom is channeling Dr Evil of Austin Powers fame, and considering blowing more than $100bn to buy Qualcomm, it was claimed on Friday. Apparently, Broadcom is planning to offer within the next few days about $70 a share in cash and stocks to acquire California-based Qualy. Right now, Qualcomm's shares stand at $62.71 apiece …
Miele

IoT pushes Arm over the Edge: Mbed Cloud offers to grab gadget gateways

TechCon Kicking off its TechCon engineering conference today in Silicon Valley, Arm announced a couple of things: Internet-of-Things gateway wrangling code, and some security measures to potentially prevent secrets leaking electrically from chips. First, the Brit processor designer's gadget-controlling Mbed Cloud is getting a suite of …
Chris Williams, 24 Oct 2017

Arm isn't saying IoT firmware sucks but it's writing a free secure BIOS for device makers

TechCon Arm hopes to release open-source code early next year that will help secure Internet-of-Things devices – by encrypting their communications and installing over-the-air security fixes. The firmware will be a reference implementation of what processor core designer Arm calls its Platform Security Architecture, details of which …
Chris Williams, 23 Oct 2017

Equifax's malvertising scare, Chromebook TPM RSA key panic, Cuban embassy sonic weapon heard at last – and more

Roundup We almost wanted to feel sorry for Equifax, were it not for the fact that the credit biz takes to IT security like a duck to an acid bath. After a brutal few weeks under the spotlight, on Wednesday night it suffered another hacking scare. When's it going to end? Visitors to one of Equifax's customer support webpages couldn't …
Chris Williams, 13 Oct 2017
Microsoft Azure

Codename Brainwave: Microsoft reveals tricks and tips for whipping cloud FPGAs into shape

Hot Chips Microsoft today teased chip designers with Brainwave, its cloud-hosted pool of FPGAs designed to perform AI stuff in real time. The Windows giant has previously spoken of bunging FPGAs in its Azure cloud. It's been using the programmable logic gate arrays in its data centers for a few years now. The chips are typically used …
Chris Williams, 22 Aug 2017

Qualcomm moved its Snapdragon designers to its ARM server chip. We peek at the results

Hot Chips Qualcomm moved engineers from its flagship Snapdragon chips, used in millions of smartphones and tablets, to its fledgling data center processor family Centriq. This shift in focus, from building the brains of handheld devices to concentrating on servers, will be apparent on Tuesday evening, when the internal design of Centriq …
Chris Williams, 20 Aug 2017
Oracle and Sun logo

Oracle's systems boss bails amid deafening silence over Solaris fate

Oracle has revealed that John Fowler, a Sun veteran who stayed to serve as Oracle's executive veep for systems, has left the company. An SEC filing [PDF] dated July 27, 2017 says “John F Fowler resigned his position as Executive Vice President, Systems effective as of August 2, 2017.” No reason is offered for Fowler's …

Intel bolts bonus gubbins onto Skylake cores, bungs dozens into Purley Xeon chips

Deep dive Intel has taken its Skylake cores, attached some extra cache and vector processing stuff, throw in various other bits and pieces, and packaged them up as Xeon CPUs codenamed Purley. In an attempt to simplify its server chip family, Chipzilla has decided to rebrand the components as Xeon Scalable Processors, assigning each a …
Chris Williams, 12 Jul 2017

Talk about a hit and run: AA finally comes clean on security breakdown

UK car insurance and driving school giant The AA has at last admitted it accidentally spilled its customers' personal information all over the web. In an astonishing U-turn, the motoring biz confessed on Friday that people's names, postal addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses were exposed to the internet – and, in some …

Heaps of Windows 10 internal builds, private source code leak online

Exclusive A massive trove of Microsoft's internal Windows operating system builds and chunks of its core source code have leaked online. The data – some 32TB of official and non-public installation images and software blueprints that compress down to 8TB – were uploaded to betaarchive.com, the latest load of files provided just earlier …
Chris Williams, 23 Jun 2017

In the Epyc center: More Zen server CPU specs, prices sneak out of AMD

Updated Here it is: the official lineup of AMD's Epyc processors, which will go toe to toe with Intel's Xeons that utterly dominate the data center world. Epyc. That's not a typo. AMD's desktop and laptop chips are called Ryzen, and its server-class family is called Epyc. Welcome to the new AyyyyyyyMD. Both Ryzen and Epyc are built …
Chris Williams, 20 Jun 2017
HP Apollo supercomputer

Uncle Sam bungs rich tech giants quarter of a billion bucks for exascale super R&D

The US government has dangled $258m in funding in front of six American tech giants to encourage the development of exascale supercomputer systems. Uncle Sam wants at least one exascale machine powered up on American soil by 2021, and in production by 2022. A second system should also be arriving around that time, ideally. By …
Chris Williams, 15 Jun 2017

How to remote hijack computers using Intel's insecure chips: Just use an empty login string

Code dive You can remotely commandeer and control computers that use vulnerable Intel chipsets by sending them empty authentication strings. You read that right. When you're expected to send a password hash, you send zero bytes. Nothing. Nada. And you'll be rewarded with powerful low-level access to a vulnerable box's hardware from …

Red alert! Intel patches remote execution hole that's been hidden in chips since 2010

Updated For the past seven years, millions of Intel chips have harbored a security flaw that can be potentially exploited to remotely control and infect systems with spyware. Specifically, the bug is in Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT), Standard Manageability (ISM) and Small Business Technology (SBT) firmware versions 6 to …

Docker emits LinuxKit: You can probably guess what it does

Docker will today release LinuxKit, an open-source toolbox for building fine-tuned Linux-based operating systems that run in containers. No, it's not replacing Alpine. Docker uses the minimalist Alpine Linux distribution as the foundation of its official container images, and will continue to do so in future, we're told. …
Chris Williams, 18 Apr 2017

Airplane bomb fears spark America's laptop, tablet carry-on ban

Updated Fears of terrorists smuggling bombs disguised as laptops onto airplanes has triggered a fresh crackdown on carry-on luggage. From today, passengers are banned from flying into the US from specific overseas airports if their carry-on luggage contains any devices larger than a mobile phone. The clampdown – introduced by American …

ARM's big.LITTLE now big.LITTLE.fat.SKINNY: CPU designer makes room for accelerators

ARM is today touting a new way of organizing processor chips – one that will squeeze accelerators designed for AI and such tasks into phones, PCs, cars, and so on. This layout, dubbed DynamIQ, builds on the Brit processor designer's big.LITTLE architecture that's been around since 2011. Big.LITTLE works by hooking a set of …
Chris Williams, 21 Mar 2017

Microsoft: Can't wait for ARM to power MOST of our cloud data centers! Take that, Intel! Ha! Ha!

Pic Microsoft today signaled more than half of its cloud data center capacity is set to be powered by 64-bit ARM servers. In a briefing to techies at this year's OCP Summit in Silicon Valley, top Azure engineer Leendert van Doorn flashed up the above slide: it lays out Redmond's desire, over the next few years, to see the majority …

Windows Server ported to Qualcomm's ARM server chip. Repeat, Windows Server ported to ARM server chip

Microsoft has ported its Windows Server operating system to the Qualcomm Centriq – a 64-bit ARM-compatible server-grade system-on-chip. In a move that will pile further pressure on Intel – which dominates the data center market but is already unnerved by AMD's Naples server processor – Qualcomm and Microsoft will today show …

'First ever' SHA-1 hash collision calculated. All it took were five clever brains... and 6,610 years of processor time

Google researchers and academics have today demonstrated it is possible – following years of number crunching – to produce two different documents that have the same SHA-1 hash signature. This proves what we've long suspected: that SHA-1 is weak and can't be trusted. This is bad news because the SHA-1 hashing algorithm is used …
Microsoft flagship store, New York

Qualcomm, Microsoft plot ARM Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 PCs, tablets, phones

First, it fired shots at Intel's data center margins. Now Qualcomm is gunning for its rival's notebook processor cash cow. Qualcomm and Microsoft are hooking up to port full-fat Windows 10 to smartphones, tablets, PCs and virtual reality goggles powered by Qualcomm's 64-bit ARMv8-compatible Snapdragon system-on-chips. These …

What can we use to hit Intel between the eyes, thinks Qualcomm – a 10nm ARM server chip

Qualcomm says it has started shipping to customers samples of the Centriq 2400, its 10nm 64-bit ARMv8-A general-purpose server-grade system-on-chip. The mobile chip designer, based in San Diego, California, has recruited engineers from AMD, Intel and Broadcom, as well as tapped its internal pool of techies, to work on the …

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