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Christmas Special: The PC Technology of 2011

Welcome to the TechPowerUp 2011 PC technology Christmas special. We hope that you will enjoy reading it while tucking into your turkey, Christmas presents and a little too much wine... In this article, we go through the technology of 2011 that has had the most significance, the most impact and was generally the most talked about. It's not necessarily the best tech of 2011 which is the most significant though, since lemons can be just as significant as the ground-breakers in how they fail to deliver - and the backlash that goes with it.

January: Intel Sandy Bridge i5 & i7

Released on January 9th, the new Intel Core i5 & i7 processors were based on Intel's second generation Core architecture built on a 32 nm production process (HEXUS review). They included an IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) physically on the same piece of silicon along with HyperThreading. These new dual and quad core processors soundly beat all previous generations of Intel processors in terms of processing performance, heat, power use, features and left AMD in the dust. Therefore, Intel badly needed some competition from AMD and unless you have been living under a rock, you will know how that turned out in October with the launch of Bulldozer. Sandy Bridge was a sound win and is generally considered to be the only architecture worth considering at this point. The i5-2500K is currently at the sweet spot of price/performance. It comes at a stock speed of 3.3 GHz, but typically overclocks to an amazing 4.5 - 5 GHz with a decent air cooler and without too much difficulty in getting there. Models in the budget i3 range were released at various times later. See this Wikipedia article for details.

Windows 8 Secure Boot Feature: Not So Secure?

We have brought you the potential perils of the upcoming UEFI Forum-implemented - - Windows 8 secure boot feature here, here and here. However, it appears that it may not be so 'secure' after all, since there appears to be a surefire way to circumvent it, at least for the moment, while it's in development.

Softpedia has scored an exclusive interview with security researcher Peter Kleissner, who has created various Windows (XP, Server 2003 etc) "bootkits", which allow OS infection at the highest privilege level, giving unrestricted access to the whole of the PC. His latest one, called Stoned Lite, shows how the Windows 8 secure boot process, still in development, can be subverted, as it stands. He is planning to release details of how the code works at the upcoming International Malware Conference (MalCon) - - that will take place in India on November 25th. It appears that the real vulnerability exists in the legacy BIOS boot procedure, not in Microsoft's implementation of secure boot, as Kleissner said:
The problem with the legacy startup is that no one verifies the MBR, which makes it the vulnerable point. With UEFI and secure boot, all the boot applications and drivers have to be signed (otherwise they won’t be loaded). You can compare it to TPM, although Arie van der Hoeven from Microsoft announced that the secure boot feature is mandatory for OEMs who want to be UEFI certified. It is a good message that security is not an option.
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