Industry

UPDATE: We worked with Google's local Fiber team directly -- who responded quickly to this post -- and got Fiber installed and working. After a month of settling in, everything seems good now. We haven't had any additional issues with Google Fiber, and can now recommend the service over the competition (easily). As long as Google doesn't lose other customers in the system, like it did with us, we can strongly recommend the service.

Original Article: Google Fiber isn’t all that it’s cracked-up to be.

The company has routinely demonstrated impressive bouts of incompetence as we’ve tried to subscribe to the service, and today was the latest artistic expression of that ineptitude. Thus far, Google hasn’t been any better than the old TWC or AT&T ISPs, with regard to support, and has been significantly worse in installation and setup. Once fiber is setup, we hope that the speeds will account for the tremendous pain that Google and its contractors have been; we imagine it’ll all be worth it, as it’s still gigabit speeds, and it’s still going to help on our uploads – it’s just a matter of getting everything working.

For this, we’re ignoring that it took a few years for the crew to embed the lines in the roads. That’s expected, and not something we’re complaining about. This complaint is more about the post-payment service.

We signed-up for Google Fiber in August of 2017, or 4-5 months ago. Our first appointment for Google Fiber installation was scheduled for November 6, 2017. 73 days later, we still do not have Fiber installed. It is presently January 18, 2018. We have also been charged for the service, despite having no service. Our “free month” credit, bordering on a scam, has been consumed, and we’ve been billed for the second month of no service.

Adding a day to our CES 2018 trip meant that we were able to regroup with about half of the NA-based "YouTubers" and technical media outlets, allowing for a lot of discussion on content creation, quality of content, and products shown at the event. One of those meetings was with Luke Lafreniere, formerly of Linus Media Group and presently of Floatplane (under the same roof, technically), who joined us to "review" CES 2018. During this on-camera-only content, we covered major product launches at the show, best and worst products, improvement to the case industry, and lacking product elsewhere. We also venture into the topic of virtual reality gaming and its waning marketing, alongside discussion of blockchain branding attached to nearly every major vendor.

It's a fun, looser video, and allows us to decompress with other media. For our video audience -- and even those who prefer the articles -- we think this one will be enjoyable for all of you, if only for the candid approach to the PC industry in early 2018.

Intel Publishes Internal Test Data on Meltdown Patches

By Published January 16, 2018 at 11:53 pm

Intel has released its own internal testing of architectures dated from Skylake to Coffee Lake, using Windows 10 and Windows 7, in A/B testing between the Meltdown kernel patch. We’ve done some of our own testing (but need to do more), but not with the applications Intel has tested. As usual, exercise grain-of-salt-mining for first-party numbers, but it’s a starting point.

Intel claims that it’s found its CPUs largely retain 95-100% of their original performance (from pre-patch, with some worst-case scenarios showing 79% of original performance – Skylake in SYSMark 2014 SE Responsiveness, namely. On average, it would appear that Intel is retaining roughly 96% of its performance, based on its own internal, first-party data.

Here’s the full chart from the company:

There’s been a lot of talk of an “Intel bug” lately, to which we paid close attention upon the explosion of our Twitter, email, and YouTube accounts. The “bug” that has been discussed most commonly refers to a new attack vector that can break the bounding boxes of virtual environments, including virtual machines and virtual memory, that has been named “Meltdown.” This attack is known primarily to affect Intel at this time, with indeterminate effect on AMD and ARM. Another attack, “Spectre,” attacks through side channels in speculative execution and branch prediction, and is capable of fetching sensitive user information that is stored in physical memory. Both attacks are severe, and between the two of them, nearly every CPU on the market is affected in at least some capacity. The severity of the impact remains to be seen, and will be largely unveiled upon embargo lift, January 9th, at which time the companies will all be discussing solutions and shortcomings.

For this content piece, we’re focusing on coverage from a strict journalism and reporting perspective, as security and low-level processor exploits are far outside of our area of expertise. That said, a lot of you wanted to know our opinions or thoughts on the matter, so we decided to compile a report of research from around the web. Note that we are not providing opinion here, just facts, as we are not knowledgeable enough in the subject matter to hold strong opinions (well, outside of “this is bad”).

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is looking into the possibility of DRAM price-fixing between the major memory and Flash suppliers, with specific interest from the Pricing Supervision Department of said commission. An official from the regulatory body, Xu Xinyu of NDRC, stated the following: “We have noticed the price surge and will pay more attention to future problems that may be caused by ‘price fixing’ in the sector.”

This comes following recent reports that Samsung initiated plans to increase supply by 20%, which still failed to meet rising demand. The NDRC told the China Daily, a state-run media outlet, that the NDRC has paid attention to DRAM pricing and demand over the past 18 months, and that memory suppliers are now under the eye of the NDRC. There are only four major suppliers in the industry, and those include SK Hynix, Micron, Toshiba, and Samsung.

We need some clarity on this issue, it seems.

TLDR: Some AMD RX 560 graphics cards are selling with 2 CUs disabled, resulting in 896 streaming processors to the initially advertised 1024 (64 SPs per CU). Here’s the deal: That card already exists, and it’s called an RX 460; in fact, the first two lines of our initial RX 560 review explicitly states that the driving differentiator between the 460 and 560, aside from the boosted clocks, was a pre-enabled set of 2CUs. The AMD RX 460s could already be unlocked to have 16 CUs, and the RX 560 was a card that offered that stock, rather than forcing a VBIOS flash and driver signature.

The RX 560 with 2CUs disabled, then, is not a new graphics card. It is an RX 460. We keep getting requests to test the “new” RX 560 versus the “old” RX 560 with 1024 SPs. We already did: The RX 560 review contains numbers versus the RX 460, which is (literally) an RX 560 14CU card. It is a rebrand, and that’s likely an attempt to dump stock for EOY.

Jon Peddie Research reports that the AIB market is likely returning to normal seasonal trends, meaning the market will be flat or moderately down from Q4 2017 through Q1 2018.

In a typical year, the AIB market is flat/down in Q1, down in Q2, up in Q3, and flat/up in Q4. The most dramatic change is usually from Q2 to Q3, on average a 14.4% increase (over the past 10 years). Q3 2016 was roughly twice that average with more than 15 million AIBs shipped, 29.1% more than Q2 and a 21.5% increase year-over-year.

MSI has updated BIOS versions for their Intel 100, 200, and 300 series motherboards. They’re the latest of several manufacturers, including Gigabyte a week ago, to address security vulnerabilities in Intel’s TXE (Trusted Execution Engine). Intel says they have “provided system and motherboard manufacturers with the necessary firmware and software updates,” so it’s now up to those manufacturers to implement them. An Intel tool that detects whether systems are vulnerable is available here, as well as a list of vendors that have already released updates.

Owners of affected MSI motherboards should visit and find their model. BIOS and other downloads can be found under the “service” tab for each board. Instructions are similar for most other manufacturers.

How to Check If Your Intel CPU is Vulnerable to Attack

By Published November 22, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Intel has released a detection tool to determine whether the host system’s CPU is vulnerable to the security exploit defined in Intel’s Management Engine. The company launched a Management Engine “critical firmware update” (SA-00086, available here, alongside the tool) with a utility that checks 6th, 7th, and 8th Generation Core series CPUs – everything dating back to Skylake, basically – for vulnerabilities exposed through the integrated MINIX operating system. Intel’s version of the Minix OS, originally built for educational purposes by Andrew Tanenbaum, operates on Ring level -3 (negative, as in: you have no access) on the CPU, with the vulnerability present on all Skylake, Kaby Lake, and Coffee Lake PCHs.

Intel’s firmware update addresses the following CPU families, and should be installed immediately:

FCC Attempts to Peddle Warm Piss For Lemonade

By Published November 22, 2017 at 12:50 am

Imagine an internet where AT&T will happily cover the costs of your data for using certain apps—provided you’re already an AT&T mobile customer, of course. Imagine an internet where Verizon can deliberately slow down Netflix traffic. Imagine an internet where exceedingly wealthy companies can pay for better connections, at the expense of throttling the connections of those who don’t or can’t pay. Imagine AT&T, Timer Warner, and Comcast being able to advantage and prioritize their own content—such as HBO, NBC, and DirectTV Now—by making it stream faster, or by allowing it to not count towards data plans, or by slowing down competing YouTube options. An internet where today’s few and powerful ISPs are the gatekeepers, raising the barrier and cost of entry for new startups or potential ISPs. An internet where ISPs can control exactly how consumers view content—not based on choice or quality, like it should be—but rather because they have the keys to the internet.

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