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.
Milky Way photo via Shutterstock

Astroboffins discover that half of the Milky Way's matter comes from other galaxies

Up to half the atoms in the stars, planets, moons – and even in us – could come from distant galaxies beyond the Milky Way, according to a new study. Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, co-author of the paper to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University in …
Chris Williams, 27 Jul 2017

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 …
Chris Williams, 08 Jul 2017

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 …
Chris Williams, 05 May 2017

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 …
Chris Williams, 01 May 2017

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 …
Chris Williams, 09 Mar 2017

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 …
Chris Williams, 08 Mar 2017

'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 …
Chris Williams, 08 Dec 2016

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 …
Chris Williams, 07 Dec 2016

Broadcom quietly dismantles its 'Vulcan' ARM server chip project

Broadcom is shutting down efforts to develop its own server-class 64-bit ARM system-on-chip, multiple sources within the semiconductor industry have told The Register. It appears the secretive project, codenamed Vulcan, did not survive Broadcom's acquisition by Avago and is gradually being wound down. Engineering resources …
Chris Williams, 07 Dec 2016

Sony kills off secret backdoor in 80 internet-connected CCTV models

Sony has killed off what, charitably, looks like a debug backdoor in 80 of its web-connected surveillance cameras that can be exploited to hijack the devices. The hardcoded logins can be potentially used by malware, such as variants of the Mirai bot and its ilk, to automatically and silently commandeer swathes of Sony-built …
Chris Williams, 06 Dec 2016

Why your gigabit broadband lags like hell – blame Intel's chipset

Intel's Puma 6 chipset, used in gigabit broadband modems around the world, suffers from latency jitter so bad it ruins online gaming and other real-time connections. The semiconductor giant is preparing a firmware update to correct spikes of lag and bouts of packet loss that repeatedly flare up in home internet hubs in America …
Chris Williams, 03 Dec 2016

Passengers ride free on SF Muni subway after ransomware infects network, demands $73k

Updated Hard-drive-scrambling ransomware infected hundreds of computers at San Francisco's public transit agency on Friday and demanded 100 bitcoins to unlock data, The Register has learned. Ticket machines were shut down and passengers were allowed to ride the Muni light-rail system for free on Saturday – a busy post-Thanksgiving …
Chris Williams, 27 Nov 2016

San Francisco's sinking luxury Millennium Tower: Tilt spotted FROM SPACE

San Francisco's $350m leaning Millennium Tower is continuing to sink into the ground, European satellites orbiting Earth have confirmed. The 58-story landmark, at 301 Mission Street, is one of the tallest structures in the tech-playground city, overlooking the bay and the metropolis's startup land. The swanky skyscraper, an …
Chris Williams, 25 Nov 2016

Twitter bans own CEO Jack Dorsey from Twitter

Twitter today briefly suspended the Twitter account of Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey. For a moment, we all thought the big boss had been unceremoniously booted out of the troubled biz or had fallen foul of his own anti-abuse complaints system. But it was probably a bug or something mundane like that. Twits surfing over …
Chris Williams, 23 Nov 2016
Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego

Qualcomm makes China pay

Qualcomm has had quite a boffo quarter to round off a pretty sound year. The California-based mobile processor and cellular modem designer says it now has nine of the top 10 Chinese handset manufacturers paying it royalties in one form or another on its wireless technologies. (Qualcomm has had a colorful history with Chinese …
Chris Williams, 03 Nov 2016
polygonal canary

ARM draws new Mali GPUs

ARM has drawn up a couple of new Mali GPUs – the V61 and the G51 – for next-generation chips in smartphones and other handhelds. The Mali-V61's unique selling point, we're told, is its ability to efficiently handle live streams of 4K video, which is useful if you're broadcasting from your cellphone to the internet. It can do …
Chris Williams, 31 Oct 2016

ARM: Hold my beer, we'll install patches for your crappy IoT gear for you

ARM TechCon Processor designer ARM will squirt security fixes directly into internet-connected gadgets to hopefully keep them defended from hackers. Manufacturers of Internet-of-Things gizmos and other embedded products have complained that updating gear in the field is too much hard work. That means devices are rarely patched when …
Chris Williams, 25 Oct 2016

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