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Here’s What You Need to Know About Meltdown and Spectre CPU Flaws

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A fundamental design flaw in Intel’s processor chips has forced a significant redesign of the Linux and Windows kernels to defang the chip-level security bug. Programmers are scrambling to overhaul the open-source Linux kernel’s virtual memory system. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to publicly introduce the necessary changes to its Windows operating system in an upcoming Patch Tuesday: these changes were seeded to beta testers running fast-ring Windows Insider builds in November and December.

Crucially, these updates to both Linux and Windows will incur a performance hit on Intel products. The effects are still being benchmarked, however we’re looking at a ballpark figure of five to 30 per cent slow down, depending on the task and the processor model. More recent Intel chips have features – such as PCID – to reduce the performance hit. Your mileage may vary.

Similar operating systems, such as Apple’s 64-bit macOS, will also need to be updated – the flaw is in the Intel x86-64 hardware, and it appears a microcode update can’t address it. It has to be fixed in software at the OS level, or go buy a new processor without the design blunder.

Details of the vulnerability within Intel’s silicon are under wraps: an embargo on the specifics is due to lift early this month, perhaps in time for Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday next week. Indeed, patches for the Linux kernel are available for all to see but comments in the source code have been redacted to obfuscate the issue. However, some details of the flaw have surfaced, and so this is what we know.

In 2017, Google’s Project Zero team in collaboration with researchers at a number of different universities identified an absolutely massive problem with speculative execution, one of the techniques employed in modern microprocessors as a way of improving performance. Essentially, when a processor uses speculative execution, instead of performing tasks strictly sequentially, it predicts which calculations it might need to do subsequently. It then solves them in advance and in parallel fashion.

The result is that the CPU wastes some cycles performing unnecessary calculations, but performs chains of commands much faster than if it waited to process them one after the other. However, there’s a serious flaw in the way modern processors are hardcoded to use speculative execution—they don’t check permissions correctly and leak information about speculative commands that don’t end up being run.

As a result, user programs can possibly steal glimpses at protected parts of the kernel memory. That’s memory dedicated to the most essential core components of an operating system and their interactions with system hardware, and it’s supposed to be isolated from user processes at all times to prevent such glimpses from happening. Everything from passwords to stored files could be compromised as a result.

According to a release by the Graz University of Technology, the researchers have identified three potential attack methods, Meltdown and two closely-related vulnerabilities collectively named Spectre. Meltdown breaks the most fundamental isolation between user applications and the operating system. This attack allows a program to access the memory, and thus also the secrets, of other programs and the operating system.

Spectre breaks the isolation between different applications. It allows an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets. In fact, the safety checks of said best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre.

There’s no way to truly fix Meltdown or Spectre on the hardware level. It can’t be fixed with a microcode update. But researchers can rewrite OSes and other platforms to work around the error by severing kernel memory entirely from user processes with a method called Kernel Page Table Isolation. Since this is a hardware bug, everything running on affected processors is vulnerable including every major OS (Windows, Linux, and macOS), some mobile devices, and cloud computing providers.

Companies are rushing to patch platforms. Per Axios, Microsoft has already patched Windows 10 and will release patches for Windows 7 and 8, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is already mostly secured, AMD is still investigating, and ARM is still working on how to address the issue. Apple did not respond to Axios’ request for comment, though security researcher Alex Ionescu tweeted it already released an initial fix for its desktop-based macOS in December 2017’s 10.13.2.

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Acer Launches New Predator BiFrost and Nitro Series Graphics Cards

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Acer announced the Predator BiFrost AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC and a trio of Nitro graphic cards powered by the latest AMD Radeon RX 7000 series GPUs, including the new AMD Radeon RX 7600 XT GPUs. The new graphics cards empower users to experience immersive gaming experiences when playing the latest AAA titles with up to 16GB memory and next-gen technologies.

Boasting 60 unified AMD RDNA 3 compute units and paired with Predator FrostBlade 3.0 fans, the Predator BiFrost AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT graphics card offers seamless performance in 1440p and 4K gameplay. The Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC graphics card comes loaded with 16 GB of GDDR6 memory and up to 624 Gbps memory bandwidth, while the Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7700 XT OC graphics card offers 12 GB of GDDR6 memory and up to 432 Gbps memory bandwidth.

To achieve smooth and fast performance, the Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7600 XT OC graphics card features 16 GB of GDDR6 memory while doubling down on cooling with Nitro FrostBlade ringed fans, a dual-ball bearing system, three heat dissipation vents, and offering a reinforced copper base to efficiently absorb heat and help increase the device’s lifespan. The meticulously engineered cooling system delivers the overclocking power gamers need to push the graphics card to its limits.

Acer’s latest desktop graphics cards push the boundaries of gaming and creative workflows. Leveraging the AMD RDNA 3 architecture, players can harness the power of advanced AI technology and raytracing accelerators to enable fluid resolution and high-refresh-rate gaming in the most competitive titles. Professionals and hobbyists can also edit, visualize, and create with no restraints with support for accelerated rendering applications. In addition, the new graphics cards include the new AMD encode/decode media engine for a more dynamic range of colours and enhancements when playing or streaming, and support the DirectX 12 Ultimate API to unleash immersive and lifelike visuals.

Predator BiFrost AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC graphics card
The Predator BiFrost AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC graphics card fuses the prowess of the AMD RDNA 3 chiplet design and Acer’s latest technology advancements. Gamers can expect major leaps in performance and efficiency with PCIe 4.0 and dual PCIe 8-PIN connectors. With a massive 16 GB GDDR6 memory and 624 Gbps bandwidth, the Predator BiFrost AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC graphics card delivers lightning-fast processing and visual fidelity in every frame, plus clock speeds that reach up to a 2,254 MHz game clock and up to 2,565 MHz boost clock for smooth responsiveness.

Crafted with precision, the Predator BiFrost AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC graphics card houses a robust cooling system with triple Predator FrostBlade 3.0 fans, a distinct ringed design, and wave-patterned blade texture to enhance airflow, paired with an efficient vapour chamber to optimize heat dispersion. DIY gamers will appreciate the sleek design measuring 281.9 x 117.9 x 61.4 mm and occupying 3 slots, making it a great fit for a wide range of gaming rigs. For added versatility, connectivity options include an HDMI 2.1 port and three DisplayPort 2.1 ports for easy device integration. Finally, the Predator BiFrost Utility App lets gamers oversee the device’s performance and calibrate fan velocities and graphics parameters to their desired settings.

Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC and Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7700 XT OC graphics cards
The Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC and Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7700 XT OC graphics cards are primed to present the latest games in their full visual splendour. They blend redesigned AMD RDNA 3 compute units with unified raytracing and AI accelerators to take gamers on a mesmerizing journey in 1440p and 4K gaming. The Nitro Radeon RX 7700 graphics card’s game clock speed scales up to an impressive 2,276 MHz and the boost clock reaches up to an astounding 2,599 MHz. The Nitro Radeon RX 7800 graphic card’s game clock goes up to 2254 MHz while its boost clock reaches up to 2565 MHz to support graphic-intensive games and tasks.

The new Acer Nitro graphic cards feature a new encode/decode media engine for high-definition encoding capabilities. Whether it is exploring gaming realms, streaming videos, or creating designs, users can experience ultra-enhanced multimedia, elevated colour spectrums, and dynamic enhancements with full AV1 encode/decode support.

Users don’t need to worry about overheating as the Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC and Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7700 XT OC graphics cards feature dual Nitro FrostBlade ringed fans to improve airflow and dispel heat from the heatsink and away from the GPUs. Their dual-ball bearing systems serve to decrease noise, withstand high temperatures, and help minimize the fans’ wear and tear. The advanced cooling system lies beneath its thoughtfully designed exterior, with dimensions of 279 x 129.62 x 50.42 mm and 2.5-slot designs so gamers can maximize space without compromising performance. For added flexibility, the graphics cards come with one HDMI 2.1 port and three DisplayPort 2.1 ports.

Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7600 XT OC graphics card
The Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7600 XT OC graphics card incorporates cutting-edge features for reliable performance. Gamers get a competitive edge and impressive responsiveness with 16 GB of GDDR6 memory and a staggering 288 Gbps bandwidth, along with game clock speeds of up to 2,539 MHz and a 2,810 MHz boost clock.

To maintain its superb performance, the advanced cooling technology features dual Nitro FrostBlade ringed fans engineered to maximize both high airflow and pressure and effectively dissipate heat from the GPU. The dual-ball bearing system can withstand high temperatures and minimise friction on the fan bearings, while three dissipation holes ensure effective cooling of the device’s vital components. To ensure optimal performance, the Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7600 XT OC graphics card’s cooler is reinforced with a copper base to efficiently absorb heat and dispel it through oxygen-free heat pipes. The capacitors on its PCB board are designed with durability as the priority, boasting a lifespan of 2.5 times longer than that of a regular capacitor. The device is further reinforced with an aluminium backplate and metal anti-bending strip that also supports the device’s temperature control.

Compact yet powerful, the Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7600 XT OC graphics card’s dimensions measure 268 x 111.2 x 40.1 mm, and a 2.5-slot form factor, a suitable choice for space-conscious DIY gamers. It is also equipped with an array of vital connectivity ports, including one HDMI 2.1 and three DisplayPort 2.1 ports. With a digital maximum resolution of 7680 x 4320 and the ability to support simultaneous display of 4 monitors, users can indulge in stunning visuals across multiple screens for an enveloping gaming experience.

The Predator BiFrost AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC graphics card will be available in EMEA in Q1, starting at $599. The Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT OC graphics card will be available in EMEA in Q1, starting at $579. The Acer Nitro AMD Radeon RX 7700 XT OC graphics card will be available in EMEA in Q1, starting at $519.

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CORSAIR Intros A115 High-Performance CPU Air Cooler

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CORSAIR has unveiled the A115 High-Performance Tower CPU Air Cooler. This new addition to their cooling solutions is designed to manage the intense heat produced by the most recent Intel and AMD processors. The A115 stands out as CORSAIR’s most potent and efficient air cooler to date, boasting user-friendly features that simplify the installation and adjustment process.

The core of the A115 features six 6mm heat pipes paired with a high-efficiency copper cold plate, designed to accommodate CPUs with thermal design power (TDP) up to 270W. The cold plate’s slightly convex design enhances contact with the CPU, ensuring optimal thermal transfer and stability. The heat is then dispersed through 90 nickel-plated cooling fins, offering an extensive surface area of 1.69m² for efficient heat dissipation.

The A115 includes two CORSAIR AF140 ELITE Fans, equipped with AirGuide technology and anti-vortex vanes for focused airflow. These fans operate at a maximum of 1,600 RPM and maintain a quiet 33.9 dBA noise level, thanks to their fluid dynamic bearings. The cooler also features the streamlined Slide-and-Lock fan mount system from CORSAIR, which allows for tool-free, adjustable mounting height to accommodate various DRAM sizes, facilitating easy memory module replacement.

For a reliable installation on high-performance CPUs, the A115 incorporates the CORSAIR HoldFast 2.0 Retention System, compatible with the latest Intel LGA 1700 and AMD AM5/AM4 sockets. With CORSAIR’s high-quality XTM70 thermal paste pre-applied, the cooler is prepared for immediate installation, ensuring efficient heat transfer straight out of the box.

“Our customers have been clamouring for a new CORSAIR air cooler, and we’ve heard them loud and clear,” said Aaron Neal, Director of DIY Product Marketing at CORSAIR. “We knew we needed to make our mark with the A115, so we continued refining our design until we were satisfied that we could deliver a best-in-class air cooling solution to our enthusiast customers. The result speaks for itself.”

The A115 comes with the assurance of a five-year warranty.

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NVIDIA Launches GeForce RTX 40 SUPER Series

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This week at CES 2024, NVIDIA unveiled the GeForce RTX 40 SUPER Series family of GPUs, including the GeForce RTX 4080 SUPER, GeForce RTX 4070 Ti SUPER, and GeForce RTX 4070 SUPER. These GPUs supercharge the latest games and serve as the foundation of AI-powered PCs.

This latest generation of NVIDIA Ada Lovelace architecture-based GPUs delivers up to 52 shader TFLOPS, 121 RT TFLOPS, and 836 AI TOPS, supercharging gaming and content creation, and providing the power to develop new entertainment worlds and experiences. The GeForce RTX 4070 SUPER is priced from $599.

PC gamers seek the highest visual quality, and AI-powered NVIDIA Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) Super Resolution, Frame Generation, and Ray Reconstruction, combined with ray tracing, offer stunning game worlds. These features are just a click away in titles such as Diablo IV, Pax Dei, and Horizon Forbidden West. With DLSS, seven out of eight pixels can be AI-generated, accelerating full ray tracing by up to 4x with improved image quality.

“For everyone from gaming enthusiasts to creative professionals, GeForce RTX SUPER GPUs are simply awesome upgrades,” said Matt Wuebbling, vice president of global GeForce marketing at NVIDIA. “GeForce RTX SUPER cards support over 500 RTX games and applications and will have users prepared for the wave of generative AI apps coming to PC.”

AI-Powered Advancement in PC Computing The new GeForce RTX SUPER GPUs are the ultimate solution for experiencing AI on PCs. Specialized AI Tensor Cores deliver up to 836 AI TOPS, providing transformative capabilities for AI in gaming, content creation, and everyday productivity. The comprehensive software stack built on top of RTX GPUs further accelerates AI.

NVIDIA TensorRT, a software for high-performance deep learning inference, includes a deep learning inference optimizer and runtime that delivers low latency and high throughput for inference applications. TensorRT-LLM for Windows, an open-source library, enhances inference performance for the latest large language models. In AI workloads, the GeForce RTX 4080 SUPER generates video over 1.5x faster and images over 1.7x faster than the RTX 3080 Ti.

For games, AI-powered DLSS offers enhanced in-game immersion. Meanwhile, generative AI applications like Adobe Photoshop leverage Tensor Cores to accelerate productivity and maintain creative workflows. For improved productivity, NVIDIA Broadcast can eliminate background noise and provide seamless virtual backgrounds.

The GeForce RTX 4080 SUPER The GeForce RTX 4080 SUPER drives fully ray-traced games in 4K resolution. Delivering performance 1.4x faster than the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti without DLSS Frame Generation, the RTX 4080 SUPER offers blistering performance with traditional rasterization. With 836 AI TOPS, DLSS Frame Generation provides an additional performance boost, making the RTX 4080 SUPER twice as fast as the RTX 3080 Ti. The RTX 4080 SUPER, featuring more cores and faster memory for a performance advantage, will be available starting Jan. 31 from $999.

The GeForce RTX 4070 Ti SUPER The RTX 4070 Ti SUPER is the perfect GPU for maximizing games at extremely high frame rates at 1440p, and up to 4K. Compared to the RTX 4070 Ti, it has more cores, an expanded frame buffer to 16GB, and a 256-bit memory bus, providing a significant memory bandwidth increase to 672 GB/sec. It is 1.6x faster than an RTX 3070 Ti and 2.5x with DLSS 3. The GeForce RTX 4070 Ti SUPER will be available starting Jan. 24 at $799.

The GeForce RTX 4070 SUPER The RTX 4070 SUPER, with 20% more cores than the RTX 4070, is faster than an RTX 3090 at a fraction of the power. With DLSS 3, its lead extends to 1.5x faster. It will be available starting Jan. 17 at $599.

For the GeForce RTX 4080 SUPER and 4070 SUPER, an NVIDIA Founders Edition Design will be available directly from NVIDIA.com and select retailers. Custom boards, including stock-clocked and factory-overclocked models for all GeForce RTX 40 SUPER Series GPUs, will be available from top add-in card providers such as ASUS, Colorful, Gainward, GALAX, GIGABYTE, INNO3D, KFA2, MSI, Palit, PNY, and ZOTAC.

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