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HW News - WD Drives Deleting Data, GPU Prices Dropping, Windows 11 TPM Requirements

Posted on June 27, 2021

This week, we have news regarding Intel and SiFive’s budding partnership, as SiFive and Intel jointly announced a new RISC-V IP. The announced IP and development partnership will also extend to Intel’s IFS business as well, as Intel continues to curate offerings for its catalogue, in addition to its x86 offerings.

Also in Intel news is another significant restructuring of the company, as Intel is creating new business units to better address the markets it's competing in, as well as adding new leaders for these business units. Elsewhere, there’s news on the Arm-Nvidia deal, AMD ending driver support for some products, the major Windows 11 announcement, and more.

At GN, we took a deep dive into AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution and Intel’s Iris Xe DG1 video card.

01:00 | GN Mouse Mat Restock

This is more for the video (embedded), but just a quick note: We've restocked our Wireframe mouse mats and they're shipping now! Find them here: https://store.gamersnexus.net/products/gn-wireframe-mouse-mat

03:11 | RTX 3060 LHR Supply Bolstered

Chinese language outlet IT Zhi Jia reported that, according to Bo2ban3tang2 forums, the RTX 3060 LHR GPUs will see a resurgence in supply, with a specific focus on filling internet cafes at the outset. Supply will also move to the retail markets, although IT Zhi Jia’s report indicates that the focus is on gaming cafes.

Notably, IT Zhi Jia also claimed that the original RTX 3060 GA106-300 has already been discontinued in favor of the new GA106-302, following NVIDIA’s colossal mistake when it released self-hacked drivers for the 3060’s mining limitations previously. GA106-302 has in-silicon mitigation for mining speeds on Ethereum.

Source: https://www.ithome.com/0/558/685.htm

05:04 | Western Digital Warns Users of Data Deletion

Western Digital is urging customers to disconnect any MyDrive devices from the internet, citing an incident brought to light on its forums where MyBookLive devices could be factory reset and cleared. One of the early posts noted that the device simply had all its data wiped overnight, with another later posting an update log indicating a factory reset.

It is possible to recover data, and some of these users may be able to do their own file recovery on simple files, but the real struggle comes later in the thread: Some of the user reports indicate having used encryption, and further, were doing so with cloud features disabled. Some drive configurations may have no hope for restoring data.

WD posted a statement that stated, “we do not have any indications of a beach or compromise of Western Digital cloud services or systems.” The company also stated that, conversely, “we have determined that some My Book Live devices have been compromised by a threat actor. In some cases, this compromise has led to a factory reset that appears to erase all data on the device. [...] At this time, we are recommending that customers disconnect their My Book Lived devices from the internet to protect their data on the device.”

If you are affected by this and did not have your drive encrypted, there may be a good chance at recovery. The first step is to immediately stop writing data to the drive: All the data is still there, but the pointers have been erased. If you write new data, it may overwrite (fully delete) the old data. Seek a data recovery specialist immediately before using the device further.

Source: https://community.wd.com/t/help-all-data-in-mybook-live-gone-and-owner-password-unknown/268111

Source: https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/wd-my-book-nas-devices-are-being-remotely-wiped-clean-worldwide/

Source: https://www.westerndigital.com/support/productsecurity/wdc-21008-recommended-security-measures-wd-mybooklive-wd-mybookliveduo

07:42 | SiFive Creates P550 Core, Intel to License IP

SiFive has formally announced the most potent RISC-V core to date, its P550 core. SiFive claims the P550 will be the fastest RISC-V core on the market, and that it’s comparable to texisting proprietary solutions in the application processor space. That last point is important, if RISC-V, an open ISA, is going to challenge Arm. In fact, regarding Arm, SiFive points out that its P550 can scale up to four core complex configurations that use a similar amount of area as a single Arm Cortex-A75, while also alleging a significant performance per area advantage. 

SiFive also announced the P270, and along with the P550, these core designs make up SiFive’s Performance family. Notably, these new RISC-V cores are the first to support 64-bit operating systems, including Linux. This is a big leap forward, as RISC-V chips have more typically been found in smaller and more simple chips, such as microcontrollers.

Intel and SiFive have also announced that Intel will be licensing SiFive’s new IP, and Intel will be developing its own platform around RISC-V known as Horse Creek. Furthermore, it seems that Intel will also be offering SiFive IP through Intel’s IFS, though to what extent, we’re not sure. We don’t know much about Horse Creek, other than it will be based on Intel’s 7nm, and will be combined with Intel’s DDR and PCIe IP. Intel is expecting RISC-V-based silicon by 2022. 

Source: https://www.sifive.com/press/sifive-performance-p550-core-sets-new-standard-as-highest


09:54 | Qualcomm Ready to Invest in Arm if Nvidia Deal Fails

As Nvidia’s takeover of Arm continues to slither its way through global regulatory bodies, Qualcomm has made it clear it’s prepared to invest in Arm should the deal fall through. Qualcomm is just one of many notable companies standing in opposition to the $40B Nvidia-Arm deal, joining other companies like Microsoft and Google, who equally oppose the deal.  

Qualcomm, for its part, claims it will invest in a stake should Arm’s buyout by Nvidia get blocked. What Qualcomm seems to be proposing is a consortium of owners and investors, which is what many in the industry thought would’ve been the best outcome given Softbank’s desire to offload Arm.

“If Arm has an independent future, I think you will find there is a lot of interest from a lot of the companies within the ecosystem, including Qualcomm, to invest in Arm. If it moves out of SoftBank and it goes into a process of becoming a publicly-traded company, [with] a consortium of companies that invest, including many of its customers, I think those are great possibilities,” said future Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon.

Amon also claims that other companies “feel the same way,” presumably in reference to being willing to invest in Arm in an effort to maintain its independence and keep Nvidia -- or any other single owner -- from acting in a domineering, gatekeeping fashion. Nvidia has repeatedly claimed that this will not be the case, and it will not interfere with Arm’s neutrality or impartial nature in dealing with licensees.

Interestingly enough, Nvidia also claims that an IPO is not enough for Arm to reach its full potential. From Nvidia’s vantage point, Arm needs access to new technology (Nvidia’s) and new markets (also Nvidia’s) to realize the full reach of Arm’s ecosystem. Additionally, in an interview with Patrick Moorehead, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang also commented on the “fallacy of independence.”

“Some equate independence with goodness, but Simon [Arm CEO] and I recognize independence is not the same as strength or vibrancy in the ecosystem. Customers want a strong Arm that can go into these wonderful new markets … they want independence with strength,” Huang said.    

Original source: The Telegraph (paywalled)

Secondary Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/14/qualcomm-offers-to-invest-in-arm-as-regulators-threaten-nvidia-deal.html

Jensen Source: https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2021/06/17/nvidia-arm-ceos-vision/ 

12:58 | AMD Moves Several APUs and GPUs to Legacy Status

AMD noted in a blog post that it is moving several products into legacy status, severing them from future driver support. The affected products will enter legacy status as of AMD’s Adrenaline 21.6.1 release, with AMD noting that their final supported driver version will be Radeon Software Adrenalin 21.5.2.

The list is fairly long, but AMD is effectively killing support for all of its pre-Ryzen APUs and any GPUs older than the RX 400-series. It’s the GPUs here that really kind of stings, as this encompasses everything from the AMD Radeon HD 7700 through the HD 8900-series, the R9 200-series, the R9 300-series, and the R9 Fury and Nano series. It isn’t a good time to be shopping for a new GPU, hence the sting.

Much of this hardware was rolled out between 2011 and 2015, and is based on AMD’s older Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture, which of course has been outshined by the RDNA and CDNA architectures.  AMD is also sunsetting a handful of low-power mobile APUs, as well as its older M-series of graphics that were aimed at mobile. AMD is also officially done with driver support for Windows 7, meaning that going forward, only 64-bit versions of Windows 10 will be supported. 

Source: https://community.amd.com/t5/blogs/product-and-os-support-update-for-radeon-software-adrenalin-21-6/ba-p/477423

14:58 | China’s Crackdown on Crypto Relating to GPU Prices

China has been on a mission to crackdown on cryptocurrency within the country, and as reported by the South China Morning Post, it seems that GPU prices are coming down as a result -- which wouldn’t be surprising. China has been a destination for mining farms, thanks in part to the country’s attractive utility prices. Recently, China has clamped down on mining operations significantly, forcing several outfits to cease operations altogether. This is in addition to China’s government outright banning crypto mining in several provinces of the country, including Sichuan. Mining operations have been packing up and moving to neighboring Kazakhstan to re-establish warehouses under new jurisdiction.

The South China Morning Post is reporting that certain graphics cards have come down in price by as much as two-thirds on some of China’s e-commerce platforms. Moreover, Tom’s Hardware notes that GPU prices have seen anywhere from a 5% to 33% reduction in price, according to their GPU pricing index.

There have also been reports of falling GPU prices in Europe, thanks to dwindling demand from miners.      

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/china-clampdown-crypto-mining-gpu-prices-plunging



16:26 | Intel Announces More Internal Restructuring, New Business Units

Following CRN’s massive report on Intel reshuffling the deck and creating new business groups, it seems Intel isn’t quite done. Intel announced that it’s making several leadership changes, as well as adding new business units. It’s also restructuring the Data Platform Group (DPG) around these changes. Most notably, Navin Shenoy, who has been serving as Intel’s executive vice president and general manager of the Data Platforms Group, will be leaving the company on July 6. 

Intel’s Raja Koduri and Sandra Rivera will both move to new roles within the company, and Nick McKeown and Greg Lavender will join Intel in new roles. In the announcement, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger noted that Koduri, Rivera, McKeown, and Lavender will be “at the forefront of some of our most essential work.” And indeed that seems to be true, as all of these executives will be heading up new business units for Intel and will be reporting directly to Gelsinger. 

Intel will be carving up its Data Platform Group (DPG) into two separate units: Datacenter and AI, and a new Network and Edge Group. Sandra Rivera will head up Datacenter and AI as executive vice president and general manager, and Nick McKeown will serve as senior vice president and general manager for the Network and Edge Group. 

With these changes, Intel is also creating two new business units: The Software and Advanced Technology Group, and the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group. These two groups will highlight Intel’s continued focus on software stacks, as well as high performance computing and graphics. 

Raja Koduri will continue to lead Intel’s ever growing foray into high performance graphics, but will now do so under the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group banner. Greg Lavender will serve as chief technology officer (CTO) and senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Software and Advanced Technology Group. 

As previously mentioned, Navin Shenoy will be leaving Intel, ending a 26-year tenure with the company. Intel notes that Shenoy will assist in the transition before departing on July 6.  

Source: https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/newsroom/news/intel-makes-changes-strengthen-execution-innovation-critical-business-areas.html#gs.3zyn76

18:20 | Windows 11 TPM Requirements & Updates

After weeks of speculation and a massive leak, Microsoft has officially taken the wraps off of Windows 11. The biggest changes to the new version of Windows comes in the form of a new UI, performance enhancements, and a completely overhauled Windows store. Microsoft also stated that for the first time, Android apps will come to Windows, via Amazon’s App Store. 

Among the UI changes are the new Start menu and button, which are both centered on the taskbar by default. Overall, the new UI seems to resemble much of what Windows 10X looked like, and Microsoft has previously stated that while Windows 10X wouldn’t come to market, the best parts of it would live on in mainstream Windows versions. Also, it seems live tiles are dead. 

Microsoft also showed off a new feature called SnapGroups, which is a way to store and collect apps and let users bring them up together. Snap Layouts will work in tandem with this feature, and make sure that apps are always launched on the correct screen, or on the correct part of the screen. 

Windows 11 will also improve virtual desktops and make toggling between them easier, as well as mentioning users could have different desktops for different use cases. Windows 11 will also have Microsoft Teams baked in, as Skype becomes increasingly irrelevant. Windows 11 continue Microsoft’s renewed focus on gaming, with support for DirectX 12 Ultimate, DirectStorage (as found on the Xbox Series X|S), and Auto HDR. Windows 11 will also feature a new Xbox app that supports Xbox Game Pass and xCloud game streaming.

The new Microsoft Store will allow third party apps and support for Android apps through Amazon’s App Store. Moreover, developers will be permitted to monetize their apps how they see fit, with Microsoft not taking a cut of the revenue through in-app transactions. However, as confirmed by The Verge, this doesn’t apply to games. However, Microsoft is adjusting its revenue split for PC games, going to an 88/12 split (from the previous 70/30). 

Microsoft has also expressed interest in allowing the Microsoft Store to connect to other stores, such as Steam or Epic Games, in a similar way that it will connect to Amazon’ App Store for android apps.

While Windows doesn’t have a release date, it’s expected later this fall as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users. However, there are some serious caveats. First, users will need a Microsoft account and internet connection to set up Windows 11 Home. Secondly, the minimum requirements for Windows 11 are a bit baffling. Windows 11 will only support 8th-gen and newer Intel CPUs, and AMD Ryzen 2000 and newer CPUs. 

Windows 11 will also require a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) and UEFI Secure Boot, which is the first time Microsoft will require this for consumers using Windows. UEFI Secure Boot and TPM has been more of an OEM thing in the past. Users can use Microsoft’s PC Health App to see if their system is compatible with Windows 11, but many are finding that their systems are failing the check.  

A Trusted Platform Module is a secure microcontroller that manages cryptographic keys. TPMs can be used to store smart card or biometric data, for instance, and are used as a platform integrity check. Microsoft moving to requiring TPMs has already caused a run on add-on TPM cards and will relegate otherwise perfectly good hardware to the e-waste bin.

Source: https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2021/06/24/introducing-windows-11/

23:14 | MSI Quietly Trots-Out CMP 50X Miner Card

MSI has silently launched its first mining graphics card, the MSI CMP 50HX Miner. The card is of course part of Nvidia’s CMP line of mining cards, meant to sway crypto miners away from mainstream graphics cards -- or, more realistically, made to reduce resale value of cards that’ll hurt first-party sales later. The 50HX is the second highest performing SKU among the CMP line with a hash rate of 45 MH/s, coming in behind the 90HX at 86MH/s.

MSI’s CMP 50HX Miner uses 3,584 CUDA cores, 10GB of 14 Gbps GDDR6, and offers a base/boost clock of 1350 MHz / 1545 MHz. The CMP 50HX Miner also uses MSI’s recognizable Aero-branded cooling solution, and comes equipped with a backplate. In its product page, MSI notes a custom PCB and hints at a more capable VRM solution, but stops short of providing any real details. 

Pricing and availability aren’t known at this time, and MSI is the second AIB partner we’ve seen actually list a CMP card, following Gigabyte.    

Source: https://www.msi.com/Graphics-Card/MSI-NVIDIA-CMP-50HX-MINER/Overview

24:41 | 3DMark Adds New CPU Profile Benchmark Tests Aimed at Overclocking

UL Benchmarks is rolling out new dedicated CPU benchmarks to the 3DMark software. The new CPU benchmarks are part of a new 3DMark CPU Profile feature, which is intended to show how CPU performance scales and changes across multiple threads and cores. UL Benchmark is billing this new feature as one for gamers and overclockers, and it’s not hard to see why. 

In total, there will be six new tests, each of which will stress a different number of threads. UL Benchmarks states that the first test will target all available threads, while the subsequent tests will target 16 threads, 8 threads, 4 threads, 2 threads, and then end with a single-threaded test. The 3DMark CPU Profile then compares a user’s score with other scores relevant to the CPU model tested. 

According to UL Benchmarks:

  • The Max-threads score represents the full performance potential of your CPU when using all available threads. The practical use cases for this score lie outside of gaming in extremely heavy, multithreading workloads such as movie-quality rendering, simulations, and scientific analysis. 
  • Computationally intensive tasks such as digital content creation and 3D rendering benefit from more threads, but the 16-threads score is less relevant for estimating practical gaming performance. 
  • Modern DirectX 12 games make better use of multithreaded performance beyond 4 cores. The gaming performance of a CPU usually correlates most closely with the 8-threads score. This score also has a high correlation with the 3DMark Time Spy CPU score. 
  • Older games developed for DirectX 9 are often bottlenecked by the CPU on modern gaming PCs. The frame rates of popular esports titles, such as DotA 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, usually correlate most closely with the 2-threads and 4-threads scores. 
  • The 1-thread score is a fundamental measure of the processor's performance. For games and real-world use cases, however, the multithreaded scores are usually a better indicator of practical performance.

Source: https://benchmarks.ul.com/news/new-cpu-benchmarks-for-gamers-and-overclockers

25:42 | Semiconductor Shortage Paves Way for Counterfeits 

It seems amidst all the other problems that the global semiconductor shortage is creating, it’s also creating an environment where counterfeit products can thrive. The air seems to be thick with warning over unsavory companies or individuals targeting manufacturing lines on the fringes of being shut down as a result of lack of silicon. The automotive industry has already felt the sting of stalled out assembly lines acutely, as many cars can’t be built without the respective automotive silicon.

Steve Calabria of Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA) spoke with ZDNet, where he explained the current climate of the market is becoming ripe for counterfeits, and that will certainly have an impact on the end consumer devices that these fake chips land in.

"I think we are on the cusp of a major problem here. The worldwide shortages have opened the door for criminals to exploit the electronic component marketplace, and I'm seeing early signs this has already started to happen," Calabria said to ZDNet. "We're seeing companies that have never been rated by any other company in the industry showing significant quantities of parts that are in shortage. But what sounds too good to be true is too good to be true."

Furthermore, Diganta Das, who’s a researcher with the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE), also spoke to ZDNet on the matter. "If next week, you need to get 5,000 parts or your line will shut down, you will be in a situation of distress purchase and you will put your guard down. You won't keep to your rules of verifying the vendor or going through test processes. This is likely to become a big problem,” Das said to ZDNet.

In both cases, both Das and Calabria have stated that it’s early right now, so visibility into the problem is limited. That said, they both expect that to change once companies start figuring out they’ve been sold fake chips and have to deal with the resulting fallout. This is also a problem that is likely to affect smaller companies more -- companies that aren’t tech giants that deal with chipmakers and foundries directly.      

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/the-global-chip-shortage-is-creating-a-new-problem-more-fake-components-as-fraudsters-cash-in/


26:47 | ASRock Expects GPU Supply To Improve in Q2’2021

ASRock is reportedly projecting an increase in sales and profit for the second quarter of the year, according to Digitimes. This is in spite of widespread silicon and component shortages, such as substrates. ASRock recently reported net profits of $17.88M for the first quarter of 2021, which marks ASRock’s most profitable quarter in history.

ASRock claims that AMD supply is expected to be better in the second quarter, as AMD’s capacity adjustments it's been talking about should start paying dividends. ASRock also notes that it expects the substrate shortage to improve, and the waning demand from China’s cryptocurrency market could also have a positive effect on GPU pricing. 

Digitimes notes that while other parts of ASRock’s business are booming, it’s currently struggling with motherboard sales. This is at least in part to tight supply of both Intel and AMD CPUs, although we also expect that retailer bundling has played its part. We recently reported on how component bundles are leading to a decrease in motherboard sales, as the used market becomes increasingly flooded with new motherboards that users were forced to buy with graphics cards.

ASRock expects graphics cards sales to account for 20% of its revenue during Q2’ 2021, while motherboards will make up 50%. ASRock doesn’t expect motherboard sales to fully rebound until Q4’ 2021, however.     

Source: https://www.digitimes.com/news/a20210616PD208.html

Editorial: Eric Hamilton
Host, Additional Writing: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick