01:22 | Right to Repair Drive & GN Component Poster
This is a special one. We're doing a donation to the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Fight to Repair based on sales of our new posters. You can learn about this one in the video above. The posters are on the store.
06:29 | Rumor: AMD Threadripper 5000 CPUs
We’ve been able to independently verify that “Chagall” is in the works by AMD, which is rumored to be the upcoming Threadripper line on Zen 3 CPUs. We haven’t been able to independently verify any additional details beyond that, but website “MoePC” claims that Chagall will expand the GMI2 interface to 18GT/s from 16GT/s and will otherwise maintain the same core counts and channels. The MoePC report also claims a doubling of L3 cache.
The name is correct and we’ve also heard Zen 3 rumors from our contacts, but we don’t have anything beyond that. This is still in rumor status. Rumored release dates land this as launching in the next few months.
Additional sources: GN
07:38 | 3800 PlayStations Rescued from Crypto Mine
Errata/correction: The PlayStation 4 mining operation in Ukraine was actually for in-game currency items, which is even crazier to believe than the original story. It's the dystopian future authors could have never written. Original story continues below.
A viewer alerted us to this story: Ukrainian police recently busted an illegal crypto mining operation located in a warehouse. There weren’t any well-researched English language reports on this, so we did some extra research and digging around to fully understand the story and detail it in English.
The warehouse housed 3800 PlayStation 4 consoles, shown in these shots from the Security Service of Ukraine. The consoles are shown stabilized by a makeshift support and sat atop another support to provide slight spacing from the plywood bed of the shelves. The PlayStations remained in the chassis, likely not worth the time to extract despite the improved thermals. We’d imagine this is one of the least efficient ways to mine crypto and this didn’t make any sense to us, so we went to the Ukrainian news sources for more detail.
The mining operation was located in Vinnytsia. In addition to the PS4s, the crypto mining operation also had 500 GPUs assigned to 50 CPUs.
As for the crime, from what we could gather from Google translating multiple Ukrainian news sources, it appears to be “illegal extraction of large amounts of electricity.” Maybe that’d explain the inefficient use of PS4s -- if the power is illegally traded or stolen, the efficiency stops mattering. We’re truly in the Cyberpunk dystopian era when power is traded illegally for mining.
The SSU stated that this farm was the “largest underground crypto-farm” that it has yet found, underground being the non-literal version.
The mining operation was housed in an abandoned warehouse from the Public Joint Stock Company known as “Vinnitsaoblenergo,” which is part of an energy company in Ukraine.
The police allege that attackers were illegally siphoning electricity from the JSC grid and employed methods to mask electricity usage. As for the damages, police claim it was 5 to 7 million UAH (Ukrayinsʹka hryvnya, or about $183K to $256K USD per month. That’s a lot of electricity theft. The police report alleged that electricity theft this high could result in power outages in entire neighborhoods of Vinnytsia.
Ukrainian Criminal Code 188-1 seems to be the charge, or theft of water, electricity, and heat through unauthorized use.
The SSU implies that JSC power company officials may have been involved in this, which would turn into more of a corruption case. The case has been handed off to the Prosecutor General’s Office.
11:15 | Rotated Socket AMD Ryzen Motherboard
This one is a small story, but it follows-up on our reporting from a few weeks ago. We previously published a piece detailing the EVGA X570 Dark motherboard with an exclusive interview with KINGPIN of EVGA. Since then KINGPIN has shared a photo of the backside of its X570S DARK motherboard, simply stating, “the red pill.”
The backside of the board shows the rotated socket that we previously confirmed, sporting standard AMD mounting hole spacing but rotated. This moves the VRM to be primarily between the I/O and the first PCIe slot, with the area north of the socket saved for RAM slots. You can see 2x 8-pin EPS12V connectors and the 24-pin all along the right side of the board, probably at 90-degree angles. The board also runs 2x 16 PCIe Gen 4 slots, as made evident by the electrical wiring at the bottom of the board. These are at 4-slot spacing to support SLI RTX 3090s, which are forced to use a 4-slot NVLink bridge, annoyingly.
That’s most of what we know for now. Release is still targeted sometime in quarter 3 for both this board and the FTW-equivalent.
12:45 | Nintendo Announces OLED Switch Model
At long last, Nintendo finally announced an updated Switch model, though it’s not the heavily rumored “Switch Pro” many have been hoping for. Rather, the updated Switch’s main attraction is a 7” OLED display. Other improvements over the base model include 64GB of internal storage, a wider kickstand, a dock that has a wired LAN port, and what Nintendo is calling “enhanced audio.” If you use your Switch docked, there’s not much of a change.
All in all, modest upgrades with an equally modest price tag of $350 -- a $50 increase over the base Nintendo Switch model. The new Switch OLED model (or whatever Nintendo is going to call it) will be available on October 8th, 2021, the same day Nintendo’s Metroid Dread releases, which you can be sure isn’t a coincidence.
Of course, the new Switch wasn’t exactly well received in certain circles on the internet, as it’s devoid of any potent hardware upgrades. The elusive Switch Pro has been said to feature an updated SoC, 4K resolution support (while docked, of course), and improved battery life. And if that’s the Nintendo Switch announcement you’ve been waiting for, then you’ll surely be disappointed.
That said, this type of mid-generation iterative upgrade tracks for Nintendo. This is the same company that released the 2DS, 3DS XL, DSi, DSi XL, etc. More importantly, Nintendo is likely biding its time while we all navigate a global semiconductor shortage. Nintendo is somewhat notorious for not subsidizing hardware, unlike Sony and Microsoft, both of which eat a loss on consoles and recoup the profits on first-party software and subscriptions.
If a Switch Pro truly exists, it’s most likely been taken off the table for the time being. That might be for supply reasons.
14:48 | Arm CEO: “Arm NVIDIA Deal Is Good for Everyone”
If you’re not sold on why the Nvidia-Arm deal is good for everyone, then current let Arm CEO Simon Segars tell you why it is -- other than the payout he’ll get.
In a blog post, Segars starts off by addressing AI, and echoes much of what Nvidia has said in recent years, in that we are entering the age of AI, and that AI will be “the most important technology for the next 50 years.” Segars notes that under SoftBank ownership, Arm has been able to enter emerging markets such as 5G and cloud computing, but that isn’t enough.
Segars said: “NVIDIA is the perfect complement to Arm. Combining our expertise with NVIDIA’s AI leadership will give Arm’s UK-based engineers access to technology and resources that Arm alone would not have. NVIDIA’s considerable investment in both the UK and Arm will expand our roadmap of research and development and allow us to invest in and grow our UK-based talent. Our engineers will be able to adapt and enhance NVIDIA’s AI technologies for our customers, create new UK-origin intellectual property and grow Arm’s influence in the technology sector.”
Segars then moves to addressing the chatter around the possibility of anti-competitive behavior, the possibility of an IPO, and concerns over Arm possibly moving away from the UK. Unsurprisingly, Segars maintains that a combined Arm and Nvidia is a better path forward for Arm, as opposed to an IPO. Segars points out that Arm considered an IPO back in 2016, when SoftBank acquired the chip designer. Similar to Arm’s situation in 2016, Segars cites the level of investment required as a primary concern.
Segars also objects to the idea that Nvidia will lure Arm away from the UK, or otherwise siphon UK investments.
“Arm will remain headquartered in the UK and we will be able to increase our investment in UK-based talent. The UK is already recognized as one of the leaders of AI research and academia; together with NVIDIA we have the ambition to evolve the UK into the centre of the AI world,” according to Segars.
On the idea of Arm’s neutral licensing model being threatened, Segars claims this is a non-issue. “This is an economic and commercial necessity for Arm’s business, and simple common sense.”
For any percentage of $40B, everything becomes common sense.
Arm and Nvidia will likely continue to extol the benefits of this acquisition, but we’re not sure that will go very far in swaying the detractors -- or the regulators across the globe. We’d be more interested in hearing from the supposed Arm licensees that support the buyout rather than the CEOs who support it.
18:13 | Arctic Liquid Freezers Get More Updates
Arctic cooling recently reached-out to inform us of the launch of its new Liquid Freezer II 360 RGB & A-RGB coolers, which build upon the existing platform that we’ve extensively reviewed -- and which we gave an overall positive review -- by adding LEDs. Corsair, assuredly, is now paying attention. Maybe that’ll be the next company to dig $40B out of its couch cushions to acquire an innovator.
The coolers are priced at about $150, with the A-RGB variant costing a few dollars more. The pump block and housing is mostly the same as before.
19:32 | US Government Preparing To Issue Executive Order on Right To Repair
The right to repair movement could get a big shot in the arm, as the current administration is reportedly set to draft an executive order targeting repair monopolies. The executive order would be the first of its kind for the right to repair initiative (in the US, anyway), and would direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to draw-up new rules and regulations regarding consumer repair laws.
According to reports, the FTC will be responsible for the scope and shape of such an order, but the order is expected to include language that will address mobile phone manufacturers and defense contractors as key areas to regulate. Moreover, the order is also expected to place a large emphasis on the agriculture industry, one that has faced extensive restrictions on how farm equipment is repaired, and endless lobbying against right to repair from companies like John Deere.
Most recently, the New York Senate voted to pass electronics right to repair legislation, marking the first time any legislative body in America has done so, and also marking a significant win for the right to repair.
21:09 | Newegg Paywalls Ability to Pay It with New Paid Service
Newegg launched its PC Builder Tool in beta last year, in what seemed to be its own spin on a PCPartPicker-like tool. Much like PCPartPicker’s System Builder, Newegg’s PC Builder Tool presents compatible (mostly) parts and SKUs depending on what other components the user has selected.
Newegg’s build-to-order services will cost a flat $99, and will be handled through Newegg’s newly minted ENIAC -- itself a direct reference to the first programmable computer that debuted in 1946. The cost seems fair enough, assuming competent assembly, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with these types of services. That said, there’s some troubling language in some of Newegg’s documentation.
Namely, this part:
“Products considered in-demand or a ‘hot item’ product with limited supply can only be purchased with PC Builder Assembly Service or you cannot go through the checkout process. Hot items will not be the same throughout the day, this depends on the market.”
This weasel-y wording suggests that, should certain products become hard to get (re: GPUs), they’ll be walled off behind Newegg’s build-to-order services. This means Newegg will prioritize its BTO customers, where it will not only sell the “hot item” (at a likely inflated price tag), but also collect a $99 fee to assemble the rest of the build with it. We’d argue it’s not a very consumer friendly policy, just like the useless Newegg Shuffles and forced product bundles that Newegg is also known for. Then again, Newegg’s stock was the latest meme stock, so nothing makes sense anymore.
22:53 | Microsoft Working Its Own AI-Based Upscaling Technology
Microsoft is looking to develop its own AI-based resolution upscaling technology, similar to AMD’s recently announced FidelityFX Super Resolution and Nvidia’s DLSS. The news comes by way of a pair of job postings from Microsoft, where the company made it clear it’s looking for software engineers to work with its DirectX/DirectML APIs, both of which are designed for Windows and Xbox.
According to the job postings, Microsoft is seeking both a Senior Software Engineer and Principal Software Engineer for Graphics. Both positions mention the use of AI or machine learning and working with graphics, but one description stands out a bit.
“Xbox is leveraging machine learning to make traditional rendering algorithms more efficient and to provide better alternatives. The Xbox graphics team is seeking an engineer who will implement machine learning algorithms in graphics software to delight millions of gamers. Work closely with partners to develop software for future machine learning hardware. Make a big impact in computer graphics and gaming.”
These postings come not long after AMD trotted-out its own FidelityFX Super Resolution tech, and not long after Microsoft confirmed that it would be working with AMD to bring it to the Xbox Series X|S consoles. Judging by these postings, it’s probably safe to assume any Microsoft alternative to AMD or Nvidia’s technology is in the early stages.
23:55 | Microsoft Struggling To Tackle Critical “PrintNightmare” Flaw
Also in Microsoft news is a new critical flaw, dubbed PrintNightmare. This particular bug, as you may have guessed by the name, affects the print spooler in Windows. The bug was discovered by security research outfit Sangfor, who inadvertently also published a proof of concept online. While that proof of concept was taken down, it quickly made its way across the internet.
PrintNightmare is a serious remote code execution vulnerability, and Microsoft warns that attackers could leverage the vulnerability to take control of a machine.
Microsoft described the exploit as: “a remote code execution vulnerability exists when the Windows Print Spooler service improperly performs privileged file operations. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.” The flaw is being tracked as CVE-2021-34527.
The flaw is serious enough that Microsoft has moved quickly to issue out of band patches in an attempt to address it, even rolling out patches for Windows 7, but it’s struggled to fully mitigate the issue. According to The Register, security researchers have already confirmed workarounds for the patches issued thus far.
The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has even weighed in on the issue, advising users “to disable the Windows Print spooler service in Domain Controllers and systems that do not print. Additionally, administrators should employ the following best practice from Microsoft’s how-to guides.”
Editorial: Eric Hamilton
Host, Additional Reporting: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick, Andrew Coleman