Intel scares me

Submitted by luxian on Fri, 01/05/2018 - 12:22

In the last couple of month few things surfaced the news about Intel that made me worry. This is a list of things that made me wanna shout "WTF, Intel?"

Let me start with the security issues. There is an extended article available on Ars Technica that describes this: What’s behind the Intel design flaw forcing numerous patches? Short version of it is that the CPUs provide a functionality that helps Operating Systems to optimize memory management. Apparently that function is broken inside the CPU and can be used to leak protected memory information. To fix it we must get rid of the optimizations we used until now (at least partly). Good news is that Google says CPU patches cause ‘negligible impact on performance’ with new technique. It's so widespread that it affects Windows, Linux and even Apple's OS X. Other non-Intel CPUs might also be affected.

Another news that raises questions about Intel is that their chipset runs a mini-operating system (MINIX) which apparently has a lot of features that bring no clear benefit to the end user. Google said it wants to remove it from their servers. I don't have a link to the original article on this matter, but google returns a lot of results on this matter. You can start with these:

And if you got this far you are probably questioning Intel's business ethic, so let me add something else to the mix. Did you know that Intel's compiler was caught slowing down programs on non-Intel CPUs even though those CPUs have the instructions needed to use the same optimizations as Intel counterparts? You can read about this in "Intel's "cripple AMD" function". What you should take out of this is that you should never trust benchmarks that are not compiled using open-source compilers since everything else might be biased to favour Intel CPUs.

The fact that "Intel's CEO reportedly sold shares after the company already knew about massive security flaws" also doesn't make things better.

Update 2017-01-10:

The Verge also wrote about this in "Intel needs to come clean about Meltdown and Spectre".

Update 2019-05-16:

New vulnerability found: New speculative execution bug leaks data from Intel chips’ internal buffers (MDS).

And of course Intel played as expected: Intel tried to bribe dutch university to suppress knowledge of MDS vulnerability.

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