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Micron Cuts DRAM and NAND Flash Output as ASP Falters

Micron has revealed plans to cut production of its DRAM and NAND flash products by 5% to combat its average selling price (ASP) falling by 20% in the quarter ended February 28, 2019. Oversupply in both sectors led to the sharp fall in pricing and was "worse-than-expected DRAM and NAND pricing." Micron DRAM revenues experienced a "decrease 30% sequentially and 28% from a year earlier to account for 64% of its total revenues in the second quarter of its fiscal 2019." Micron's NAND revenue slid "18% sequentially and 2% on year to account for 30% of company revenues in the fiscal second-quarter 2019. ASPs went down about 25% from the first quarter." Micron expects revenues to drop another 17% in fiscal Q3 2019. Micron bought back 21 million shares of its common stock. Thanks @workshop35 !

Looking into the fiscal third-quarter 2019, Micron expects revenues to register another sequential drop of about 17% to US$4.6-5 billion, with gross margin sliding to 37-40% from 50% in the prior quarter. "Micron continues to execute well across a range of product, operational and financial initiatives against the backdrop of a challenging market environment," said Micron president and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra. "These initiatives and our focus on high-value solutions, cost competitiveness and innovation will enable us to emerge even stronger as the market environment improves."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 5:16 PM (CDT)

Facebook Employees Had Access to Millions of User Passwords Stored in Plain Text

In a new blog post entitled "Keeping Passwords Secure" Facebook VP Engineering, Security and Privacy Pedro Canahuati explains how the social media giant accidentally stored Facebook user's passwords on internal data storage systems in plain text. Pedro explains how "these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them. We estimate that we will notify hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users." To keep your account safe, Facebook suggests changing your Facebook and Instagram passwords, pick strong passwords, use a password manager, and enable a security key or two-factor authentication. In recent months, Facebook has vowed to clean up its act as it has been accused of sharing user data, one click account takeover bugs, paying minors to harvest their data without parental consent, had its enterprise certificate revoked by Apple, access token hack, Cambridge Analytica, and many more fines and hacks. I would suggest picking a password so long and complex that Facebook employees would get tired from writing it down.

As part of a routine security review in January, we found that some user passwords were being stored in a readable format within our internal data storage systems. This caught our attention because our login systems are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable. We have fixed these issues and as a precaution we will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 21, 2019 1:17 PM (CDT)

Facebook Unveils the Oculus Rift S

At GDC, Facebook unveiled their next PC virtual reality headset. Among other things, the Oculus Rift S features a "higher pixel density" and "improved optics," but doesn't divulge many technical details. According to UploadVR, the new headset now uses a single 2560x1440 LCD instead of dual PenTile 2160x1200 OLED displays. And instead of requiring external sensors, the new Rift uses built-in cameras for tracking. It also features "enhanced" comfort, integrated audio, a better passthrough feature to keep you from bumping into walls, as well as compatibility with the same game library as the previous Rift, along with the same hardware requirements. Facebook says that the Rift S is launching in Spring 2019 for $399 USD.

Oculus Rift S is our most advanced PC-powered headset. Take on VR's best games with improved resolution and comfortable new design. No external sensors. No complicated set up. Just hands-on action and interaction. Step into the game and the future of PC VR. Coming Spring 2019.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 10:47 AM (CDT)

A "Server Misconfiguration" Was Behind the Facebook Outage

Facebook and Instagram were down for about 14 hours earlier this week, and earlier reports suggested that the underlying cause was a BGP routing issue. As time went on without an official explanation, many started to suspect that the outage was related to an attack on the platform. But yesterday, Facebook tweeted that the trouble was a "result of a server configuration change." There's still no mention of the incident in Facebook's official newsroom, and some news outlets are starting to criticize the timeliness of Facebook's response and explanation. One security analyst told the BBC that "Facebook's motto always used to be 'move fast and break things'. That's fine when you're an innovative start-up, but when billions of people are using your site every month it's not a good way to run the business."

Yesterday, as a result of a server configuration change, many people had trouble accessing our apps and services. We've now resolved the issues and our systems are recovering. We're very sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate everyone's patience.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 15, 2019 9:00 AM (CDT)

Facebook is Under Criminal Investigation for Data Sharing Practices

Facebook's news coverage hasn't been particularly positive over the past few months, but they had a particularly bad day yesterday. Following a widespread outage that lasted over 14 hours, and likely cost the company millions in advertising revenue, the New York Times released a report claiming that the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Facebook over their data sharing practices. According to their sources, two major handset manufacturers have already been subpoenaed. At this point, Facebook's public image seems to be in "it couldn't possibly get any worse" territory, hence their stock price barely budged in response to the incident and the story, and is still significantly up since to the beginning of March.

"It's already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Dept of Justice. As we've said, we're cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously. We've provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we'll continue to do so."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 14, 2019 10:00 AM (CDT)

Facebook Outage Caused by BGP Routing Error

NETSCOUT has released a statement to BleepingComputer that the Facebook and Instagram outages were caused by a BGP routing error.

"'At approximately 12:52PM EST on March 13th, 2019, it appears that an accidental BGP routing leak from a European ISP to a major transit ISP, which was then propagated onwards to some peers and/or downstreams of the transit ISP in question, resulted in perceptible disruption of access to some well-known Internet properties for a short interval. While not malicious in nature, such events can prove disruptive on a widespread basis. It is very important that all network operators implement BGP peering best current practices (BCPs), including prefix-lists, max-prefixes, 'peer-locking' via AS-PATH filters, RPKI Origin Validation (RFC6811), and other techniques incorporated into the industry Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) detailed at .' -Roland Dobbins, NETSCOUT Principal Engineer"

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 13, 2019 5:30 PM (CDT)

Facebook and Instagram Are down

Facebook and Instagram are reportedly down. This probably means that your personal information will have to wait until both services are back up before it is harvested (sarcasm.) Facebook acknowledged the connection troubles on Twitter since it couldn't announce it on its own social media platform. Maybe this is part of Mark Zuckerberg's plan to shift Facebook to a "privacy-focused" platform?

We're aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We're working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 13, 2019 2:31 PM (CDT)

Facebook Acquires Interconnect IP Provider Sonics

Hot on the heels of Nvidia's Mellanox acquisition, EE Times reports that Facebook has acquired Sonics, a Silicon Valley-based IP provider that specializes in on-chip networking and power management. The report initially came from sources claiming "key Sonics executive members are now working for Facebook," but Facebook contacted EE Times shortly after the article went live and confirmed the acquisition. They said "we're rapidly developing new VR and AR products and deepening our technology expertise in silicon is an important step for our 10-year roadmap. We're excited to welcome the remarkable Sonics team and technology to AR/VR at Facebook." However, what's particularly interesting is what Facebook could do with the newly acquired company outside of standalone AR/VR headsets. The publication asked the social media giant if they intended to use Sonic's IP for datacenter chips, and Facebook said "It's too early to rule out anything. But our initial focus will be VR and AR." While that's certainly far from a confirmation, it's not a denial either, and the technology I see on an archived version of Sonic's website and their YouTube Channel seemingly lends itself to high performance datacenter chips. In other words, this could be evidence that Facebook is following in the footsteps of Amazon, and working on their own datacenter hardware to reduce their reliance on 3rd parties.

"It would indicate to me that Facebook is indeed working on its own multicore, and probably heterogeneous, processor," Krewell said. Of course, that's what all the cool cloud players are apparently doing these days, he added. Mike Demler, senior analyst at the Linley Group, however, is the only one who suggested, "Yes, Facebook designs ASICs for its data centers, but they also may develop chips for Oculus VR headsets." Surprising to Krewell, though, is that Facebook bought the company rather than just licensing the technology. Linley has another theory. "If the Facebook team decided to use Sonics IP, and Sonics was running out of money, Facebook could have stepped in to ensure the continuity of its design project." He said this would be similar to what happened in the case of Intel's NetSpeed acquisition deal last year.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 13, 2019 12:51 PM (CDT)

Halo: The Master Chief Collection for PC Might Be Announced Next Week

Microsoft has teased that the next episode of its monthly live news broadcast, Inside Xbox, will feature some exciting information on Halo: The Master Chief Collection. While the show isn’t known for major announcements, some believe 343 Studios could finally announce the long-awaited PC port of the Halo compilation. Fueling rumors, insider Brad Sams published a video Tuesday confirming it was in development.

There's no guarantee that the PC port will be announced then, but recent reports have made it seem likely that the game is on its way. In a recent YouTube vid, Xbox expert Brad Sams claimed the game is definitely in development, that its release is fairly imminent, and that it's possible an unveiling will occur at E3 2019.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 09, 2019 9:25 AM (CST)

Intel Might Become the World's Top Chipmaker Again

Many still think of Intel as the top semiconductor manufacturer in the world, but the chip giant actually lost the crown to Samsung back in 2017. The gap only widened in 2018, but, thanks to the cliff DRAM and flash prices are falling off of right now, IC Insights thinks that Chipzilla could reclaim the top spot in 2019. In an update to their 500 page report on the IC industry, the research firm believes that Samsung's total chip sales could fall from $78.5 billion in 2018 to $63.1 billion in 2019, while Intel's ~$70 billion in chip sales should remain relatively flat year to year.

With both the DRAM and NAND flash markets forecast to show big declines this year, IC Insights expects greater than 20% sales declines for the other top-10 ranked memory suppliers (SK Hynix, Micron, and Toshiba/Toshiba Memory) in 2019 as well. Similar to Samsung, the steep sales declines expected for SK Hynix, Micron, and Toshiba in 2019 are likely to lower these companies' revenue back to, or even below, what they were in 2017. This year will likely prove once again that the infamous volatile IC industry cycles are still very much alive and well in the memory market. The March Update will also examine the latest capital spending budgets of the major semiconductor companies for this year. With the memory suppliers expected to encounter a very difficult year in 2019, large capital spending cutbacks from these producers are likely to drag down worldwide semiconductor industry capital spending by at least 14% this year.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 08, 2019 8:36 AM (CST)

DRAM Prices See Sharpest Decline Since 2011

If you're a regular at HardOCP, you've probably heard that memory prices are dropping like a rock. As we've reported before, a number of factors, including reduced smartphone demand, excess inventory, the Intel CPU shortage, and a stable "bit output" thanks to advancing lithography tech are quickly bringing down DDR4 prices, in spite of manufacturers' efforts to slow down production. However, DRAMeXchange reports that there was a "a most unusual, large down-correction in prices" last February. DRAM contracts are now monthly instead of quarterly deals, and DRAMeXchange revised their first quarter price drop projection to 30%. Looking farther ahead, the market research firm notes that suppliers are holding "around a whopping six weeks' worth of inventory (wafer banks included)," and that the Intel CPU shortage is expected to last until 3Q19, hence the down-corrections are expected to continue throughout the year.

Looking at the DRAM market one or two years into the future, the big trio aren't going to roll over in the competition for market shares any time soon. SK Hynix has recently announced that it will invest 120 trillion won (around US$107 billion ) to build four new wafer fabs as part of its strategy to improve its competitiveness. Micron, on the other hand, doubled down and commenced construction of an IC testing and packaging plant in Taiwan. At the same time, its subsidiary Micron Memory Taiwan ( formerly Rexchip) in Houli, Taichung, is considering building a new 12-inch DRAM wafer fab, which could finish construction as early as the end of next year, and massively contribute to production in 2021. As for the world's largest DRAM supplier Samsung, it is currently building a second fab at Pyeongtaek. "The rich stay rich" - such is the immutable trend of the DRAM market; furthermore, new competitors are aided by a wealth of resources and capital upon entering the market. Hence, if smaller DRAM suppliers don't find ways to catch up on production processes and scale, they may risk being marginalized in the near future.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 07, 2019 8:40 AM (CST)

The Verge Investigates the Life of a Facebook Moderator

Here at HardOCP, I think the sheer volume of garbage that makes its way into Facebook posts before moderators take it down is common knowledge. Facebook itself has the daunting task of trying moderate all that content, and according to a recent writeup from The Verge, they subcontract some of those moderation duties out to a company called Cognizant. While Cognizant employees allegedly have to sign a strict NDA, The Verge managed to interview a few of them, and what they found isn't pretty. The moderation work itself takes a serious mental toll on Cognizant's employees, who don't enjoy the same generous benefits Facebook employees tend to get, but their descriptions also open a window into Facebook's internal moderation policies. For example, some posts that would seemingly violate Facebook's internal guidelines aren't arbitrarily categorized as a "protected characteristic" by Facebook, and therefore have to stay up, while other similar posts get taken down. Facebook reportedly updates their guidelines every day, and conflicting sources of information make it difficult for moderators to do their job consistently while trying to hit Facebook's target "accuracy" score. While a tour of the moderation facility didn't paint it in a particularly bad light, assuming any of these interviews are true, the work Facebook's moderators do is even harder than it appears to be. Thanks to cageymaru for the tip.

The fourth source is perhaps the most problematic: Facebook’s own internal tools for distributing information. While official policy changes typically arrive every other Wednesday, incremental guidance about developing issues is distributed on a near-daily basis. Often, this guidance is posted to Workplace, the enterprise version of Facebook that the company introduced in 2016. Like Facebook itself, Workplace has an algorithmic News Feed that displays posts based on engagement. During a breaking news event, such as a mass shooting, managers will often post conflicting information about how to moderate individual pieces of content, which then appear out of chronological order on Workplace. Six current and former employees told me that they had made moderation mistakes based on seeing an outdated post at the top of their feed. At times, it feels as if Facebook’s own product is working against them. The irony is not lost on the moderators. "It happened all the time," says Diana, a former moderator. "It was horrible - one of the worst things I had to personally deal with, to do my job properly." During times of national tragedy, such as the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, managers would tell moderators to remove a video - and then, in a separate post a few hours later, to leave it up. The moderators would make a decision based on whichever post Workplace served up. "It was such a big mess," Diana says. "We're supposed to be up to par with our decision making, and it was messing up our numbers."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 26, 2019 11:38 AM (CST)