Musings tagged as intel

In a shady move, Intel has added some small print to the latest license agreement on its updated CPU microcode. After the last debacle with microcode patches designed to mitigate Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, which - depending on your use case - led to severe drops in performance, Intel is now trying to keep you from publishing benchmarks. The new license post-update contains the following lines:

You will not, and will not allow any third party to
(v) publish or provide any Software benchmark or comparison test results.

You can read this as “And if our firmware patches fuck up your CPU performance even more then you are not allowed to talk about it while we still claim in advertisements that our CPUs are blazingly fast.”

Luckily, Debian GNU/Linux is not having it and has decided not to publish microcode updates till the license issue is taken care of. Here is the corresponding bug tracker entry where new updates to the issue might also appear. One thing to take away from this is that apparently Intel wants to be able to tell you what kind of things you are allowed to use your CPU for. Luckily, with the recently launched Ryzen 2 lineup and the new Threadripper 2 CPUs that are due for release this month, AMD is already a great alternative, even for gaming. In light of Intels license fuckups this decision has just been made even simpler.

Update: Intel is now backpedaling and changing its license once again. The Streisand effect got to them first though and now the news is out. Having to disable hyperthreading in order for the fix to work is bound to have a huge performance impact and Intels foolish try to suppress their customers certainly did not help their credibility. Once again: AMD Threadripper, here I come :)

More Intel CPU Flaws Surface

Thu, Jun 14, 2018

While the latest CPU iteration of Intel still is affected by Meltdown, another vulnerability was discovered in their CPUs. It is also based on speculative execution and apparently allows floating point registers to be leaked from another process. Dubbed Lazy FP state restore this bug of course affects all systems based on Intel processors which are vulnerable. Linux and the latest flavours of BSD are already fixed or immune anyway. Windows Server 2008 however is still vulnerable.

The German computer magazine c’t has published an article (english version) in which it claims to have exclusive information regarding eight new security holes in Intel processors.

Dubbed “Spectre Next Generation”, or Spectre-NG for short, these flaws apparently are more severe and more easily exploited than the previously known variants. At the moment they refrain from posting technical details to give Intel a head start but apparently one of the imposed deadlines runs out on May 7th.

With Spectre-NG you can attack the host system from a virtual machine or other VMs running on the same host, making these bugs extremely destructive to cloud and shared hosting providers.

It will be interesting to see how things unfold. Together with the recently released updated Ryzen CPU line from AMD, which seems to perform quite well so far, this might be even more reason to consider a switch to AMD. Provided they are not affected by Spectre-NG.