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The Final Bottom Line

We have written thousands of "The Bottom Lines" over the last couple of decades, but this is truly the last one. What I wrote in my "Goodbye HardOCP - Hello Intel" statement is not a cruel April Fool's Day joke. Tomorrow is my first day working for Intel...promise. I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all you guys. The simple fact is that without YOU, there would not be 20 years of HardOCP history to sit around and reminisce about, but make no mistake it is the readers that made HardOCP what it is. We have long tried to gauge what you wanted to read about, and how you wanted that delivered, then we tried our best to fulfill that desire. During the last 20 years, there is no doubt that there were times that we stumbled along the way, but I always tried to learn from our shortcomings to make us better on the other side. And again, it was the readers that held our feet to the fire and made us get better at producing content that you wanted to read. The readers made HardOCP what it was. Many thanks to a long list of editors and hardware enthusiast that I have worked with here at HardOCP. While I am not going to list them all, Brent Justice, Paul Johnson, Dan Dobrowloski, and Cliff Murphy (our backend admin) have been with me the longest and truly made HardOCP better. Many thanks gentlemen! While HardOCP will no longer be publishing, the HardForum will still be going strong. I will still be part of that community and you will see me active there, so I will not be hard to find. You will also be seeing me all over the country very soon, hopefully close to your backyard, and if you get the chance, please swing by so we can talk Intel tech. If you want to keep tabs on what is going on with me, give my Twitter account a follow @KyleBennett. Ongoing Discussion
Posted by Kyle March 31, 2019 8:23 PM (CDT)

Signing out One Last Time

Today is the last day that I'll be doing the news on Hardocp and I just wanted to tell everyone that it was an honor to be allowed into your workplaces and homes through a few humbly written articles. I hope that my writings brought a little joy and happiness to my friends here; yes, I consider us all friends. I was taught by my parents to show love to others by sharing and I hope my articles entertained the Hardocp audience. The questions, answers, and lively debate that they generated certainly entertained me. Thank you @Kyle_Bennett and the [H]ardocp family for giving me a chance. Thank you, KG Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 6:32 PM (CDT)

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)

VRoamer Generates On-The-Fly VR Experiences While Walking Through Buildings

VRoamer is a new Microsoft Research project that generates VR worlds on-the-fly while users walk through unknown building environments. Players can wear their HMD and no longer have to rely on artificial locomotion techniques such as teleportation. They simply walk through their environment and the game is built around them. This is possible through the use of a wearable tech camera that scans the environment in front of the user and visualizes a playable virtual world. The system paints its virtual environment over real world objects such as doors. The system keeps the user safe from objects in the real world, even though those objects are hidden to the user. Transitions are done through corridors that are constructed to the available space in the user's environment. Players can open real doors to progress the game and the corridors may contain weapons, enemies, keys, etc. Objects that suddenly appear in a user's environment such as other people may become skeletons or traps.

In this paper, we present VRoamer, which enables users to walk unseen physical spaces for which VRoamer procedurally generates a virtual scene on-the-fly. Scaling to the size of office buildings, VRoamer extracts walkable areas and detects physical obstacles in real time using inside-out tracking, instantiates pre-authored virtual rooms if their sizes fit physically walkable areas or otherwise generates virtual corridors and doors that lead to undiscovered physical areas. The use of these virtual structures that connect pre-authored scenes on-the-fly allow VRoamer to (1) temporarily block users' passage, thus slowing them down while increasing VRoamer's insight into newly discovered physical areas, (2) prevent users from seeing changes beyond the current virtual scene, and (3) obfuscate the appearance of physical environments. VRoamer animates virtual objects to reflect dynamically discovered changes of the physical environment, such as people walking by or obstacles that become apparent only with closer proximity.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 4:47 PM (CDT)

The DHS Issues Medical Advisory for Medtronic Cardiac Devices

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a cybersecurity warning that documents vulnerabilities in the Medtronic Conexus Radio Frequency Telemetry Protocol. Medtronic makes cardio-defibrillators that are planted into a patient's chest and can be read and programmed by trained medical personnel. This allows the devices to communicate with home monitoring devices and Carelink programmers found at doctor's offices. These vulnerabilities require a low level of skill to exploit as the proprietary Conexus telemetry protocol utilized within this ecosystem does not implement authentication or authorization. An attacker can inject, replay, modify, and/or intercept data within the telemetry communication. This communication protocol provides the ability to read and write memory values to affected implanted cardiac devices; therefore, an attacker could exploit this communication protocol to change memory in the implanted cardiac device. Because the devices also lack encryption, attackers can listen to communications, including the transmission of sensitive data. Medtronics is working on developing updates to fix the vulnerabilities.

"It is possible with this attack to cause harm to a patient, either by erasing the firmware that is giving necessary therapy to the patient's heart, or by directly invoking shock related commands on the defibrillator," he said. "Since this protocol is unauthenticated, the ICD cannot discern if communications its receiving are coming from a trusted Medtronic device, or an attacker." A successful attacker could erase or reprogram the defibrillator's firmware, and run any command on the device.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 4:05 PM (CDT)

Microsoft Patent Describes a Persistence of Vision Augmented Reality Display

Microsoft has filed a patent for a new type of mixed-reality head-mounted display (HMD) called a Persistence of Vision Augmented Reality Display. The display uses movable screens to simulate a 360 degree field of view. These screens can rotate back and forth, spin around a user's head, or spin in front of the user's eyes. The device isn't guaranteed to ever see the light of day, but hopefully some of the ideas make it into other products.

Microsoft's patent FIG. 4A below illustrates a movement based display device with a movable member configured to rotate about a user's head; FIG. 4B illustrates a movement based display device with a movable member configured to reciprocate in front of user's eyes; FIG. 4C illustrates a movement based display device with movable members configured to spin in front of the user's eyes

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 22, 2019 3:17 PM (CDT)

Irdeto Launches Denuvo Anti Cheat

Denuvo's DRM software is extensively used throughout the AAA gaming industry, but it's also been the focus of several recent controversies. Some have accused it of degrading performance in the games that implement it, while others claim it barely puts a dent in the piracy of more popular titles. But at GDC 2019, Irdeto, the company behind Denuvo, officially launched an "Anti-Cheat solution to protect against cheating in video games and esports." They claim it combines game agnostic machine learning algorithms with "the latest hardware security features offered by Intel and AMD" for maximum effectiveness. All that sounds relatively hardware intensive to me, but Denuvo claims their technology has "no impact on the gameplay experience and its non-intrusive reporting methodology ensures the developer's workflow is never impacted." Denuvo didn't mention any specific customers in the press release or their product datasheets, but they did publish a cheesy video ahead of the launch, which you can see below:

Unlike other products, Denuvo Anti-Cheat operates on the binary, not the source code and integrates directly into the product build process. It also does not interfere with debuggers, instrumentation tools, or profilers and it does not require APIs or SDKs. This means fewer tools for the build engineers to manage and for developers to install.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 12:03 PM (CDT)

AMD Confirms Stadia Will Run on Intel CPUs

As one of the world's most pervasive cloud service providers, Google is in a better position to launch a successful game streaming platform than almost anyone. The hardware they choose to use for the launch of their "Stadia" streaming service will undoubtedly influence future game streaming efforts, hence AMD's stock price shot through the roof when Google announced they were using AMD GPUs. However, PCGamesN writer Dave James noticed that Google was conspicuously silent when it came to Stadia's CPUs. They were happy to share clock speeds, cache numbers and the fact that they're using "custom" x86 chips, but they refused to confirm the vendor of the platform's CPU. Eventually, AMD reached out and said that "the Stadia platform is using custom AMD Radeon datacentre GPUs, not AMD CPUs." Barring any surprise announcements from VIA, that more or less confirms that Stadia will run on some sort of Intel CPU platform, but just why Google refused to mention Chipzilla by name remains a mystery. The author suggested that Intel might not want to associate themself with what might be a "doomed" venture. Maybe Google plans to switch to EPYC CPUs or an unannounced Intel server platform sometime in the future, or maybe they just don't think it's particularly relevant. Whatever the reason may be, I also find the omission to be curious, and look forward to seeing what happens with Stadia's hardware in the future.

A switch to AMD's EPYC processors has been mooted as a potential future step for Stadia, and Google's Phil Harrison told us himself that "we're just talking about Gen 1 at the moment, but there will be iterations on that technology over time," so there is some potential for a changing of the processor guard either before or after launch. Whatever the truth of the matter is I still find it beyond strange that no-one involved is talking about the Intel CPUs being used for Google Stadia, even if they're not necessarily doing anything that special with regards the innovative streaming service. Certainly the multi-GPU features on offer with the Radeon graphics cards warranted mention, but just a note on the specs slide alone could have still done good things for Intel.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 11:20 AM (CDT)

PlayStation Introduces State of Play Broadcast

Last year, Sony dropped out of E3 for fairly nebulous reasons, and canceled their annual Playstation Experience event. The announcement left many wondering what Sony would replace the events with, and today, it seems that the company took some notes from their competition. Mirroring the periodic Nintendo Direct streams and Microsoft's Inside Xbox broadcasts, Sony will debut their "State of Play" broadcast on Monday, March 25, at 4:00 PM Central Time. Thanks to cageymaru for the tip.

State of Play will give you updates and announcements from the world of PlayStation. Our first episode will showcase upcoming PS4 and PS VR software, including new trailers, new game announcements and new gameplay footage. You can watch live on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook worldwide, and we'll be offering up the VOD edition shortly after the episode airs. And this is just the beginning! State of Play will return throughout the year with more updates and announcements. See you Monday!

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 10:38 AM (CDT)

PCIe SSDs Will Overtake SATA in 2019

A recent report from Digitimes claims that PCIe SSDs could finally overtake SATA SSD shipments in 2019. Unit prices for 512GB PCIe SSDs have supposedly fallen 11% sequentially, down to a price of $55 in Q1 2019, while SATA SSD prices only dropped 9%. The price gap between the different SSDs was around 30% in 2018, and according to the publication's market sources, that gap is only going to shrink as time goes on. Meanwhile, thanks to the rapidly falling prices of NAND flash memory chips, total SSD shipments are expected to rise dramatically. Digitimes expects shipments to increase "20-25%" in 2019, while a separate report claims that changes in enterprise market shipments could be even more dramatic. Relatively low prices for high performance drives with capacities of up to 16TB are apparently tempting many companies away from HDDs. Meanwhile, laptop makers are starting to ship lower-cost devices with SSDs by default, and according to PCPartPicker's latest charts, retail prices for standalone consumer drives have been dropping as well. Overall, it looks like 2019 will be a great year for anyone who's looking for more speedy storage, but the big flash manufacturer's efforts to slow production could stop the tumbling prices by 2020.

Falling average selling prices for consumer Gen 3.0x2 PCIe SSDs fitted in notebooks will accelerate the adoption of such SSDs by OEMs. This, coupled with demand for ever-higher storage capacity and speed to support cloud computing, 5G and autonomous driving applications, will further stimulate market demand for PCIe SSDs and inspire brand vendors to gear up production of such lucrative storage devices and related chips, the sources indicated. For instance, Taiwan-based IC designers Silicon Motion Technology, Phison Electronics, and Silicon Integrated Systems are racing to roll out enhanced version of PCI SSD controller chips, while major brand vendors such as Kingston Technology, Adata Technology, Transcend Information, Seagate and Micron have also listed PCIe SSDs as their mainstream product lines.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 10:17 AM (CDT)

Ransomware Encourages Victims to Subscribe to PewDiePie

PewDiePie's battle with Bollywood star T-Series has pushed some of his more enthusiastic fans to extremes. A group of hackers used printers to promote their favorite YouTuber last year, and more recently, they hacked their way into Smart TVs, Chromecasts, and Google Home devices. Now, recent reports claim that new strains of ransomware are encouraging users to subscribe to PewDiePie. The "PewDiePie ransomware" released last year didn't even bother to save encryption keys, which means whatever user data it targeted was gone for good, while a new strain that popped up this January runs in Java to make detection more difficult. However, instead of asking for a ransom, the later program simply offers a link to PewDiePie's subscription page. It claims that public keys will be released if PewDiePie hits 100 million subscribers before T-Series, while the user's data will never see the light of day again if T-Series hits that mark first. ZDNet says the software was "put together as a joke," but still managed to infect a few users, and that the code is now publicly available on GitHub. Thanks to AceGoober for the tip, and check out a demonstration of the ransomware below:

Both ransomware strains show the level of idiocy the competition for YouTube's top spot has reached. While T-Series fans have remained mostly quiet most of this time, a portion of PewDiePie's fans appears to have lost their minds and engaged in media stunts bordering on criminal behavior... The message itself has become a meme, and not in a good way.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 9:26 AM (CDT)

Nvidia Releases "Creator Ready" RTX Drivers

Earlier this week, Nvidia rolled out a set of "creator ready" drivers that are compatible with consumer GPUs, but optimized for professional applications. This level of support is typically reserved for drivers that only work with pricey Quadro GPUs, but Nvidia says they've conducted "exhaustive multi-app testing" in programs like Adobe Premiere and After Effects. Support for this driver goes all the way back to Pascal cards, and extends to Nvidia's more affordable offerings like the GTX 1050 and the more recent 1660. Perhaps even more interestingly, Nvidia claims they've worked with a number of software vendors to leverage the raytracing and machine-learning muscle their RTX cards offer. Autodesk Arnold and Unreal Engine 4, for example, now support RTX accelerated rendering, and Redcine-X Pro seemingly uses Turing's updated video processing block to decode 8K video without taxing the CPU. Meanwhile, Lightroom uses "an extensively trained convolutional neural network to provide state-of-the-art image enhancing for RAW photographs." While I haven't tested Lightroom's new features myself, in my experience, neural networks can perform small miracles when processing images. Nvidia also claims the new driver features significant performance improvements in Photoshop, Premiere, Blender Cycles, and Cinema 4D.

"Creators are constantly faced with tight deadlines and depend on having the latest hardware and creative tools to complete their projects on time, without compromising quality," said Eric Bourque, senior software development manager at Autodesk. "We're excited that NVIDIA is introducing a Creator Ready Driver program because it will bring Arnold users an even higher level of support, helping them bring their creative visions to life faster and more efficiently." The first Creator Ready Driver is now available from NVIDIA.com or GeForce Experience. From GeForce Experience, you can switch between Game Ready and Creator Ready Drivers at any time by clicking the menu (three vertical dots in the top right corner). Creator Ready Drivers are supported for Turing-based GeForce RTX, GTX and TITAN GPUs, Volta-based TITAN V, Pascal-based GeForce GTX and TITAN GPUs, and all modern Quadro GPUs.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 22, 2019 8:57 AM (CDT)