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Intel Prepares Seamless Updating of Firmware Without a Need for Reboot

Intel has been working on a technology that will improve the lives of all users that have an Intel-based processor in their system. According to the recent round of patches for the Linux kernel, Intel's engineers have been working on a feature called Intel Seamless Update, which promises to bring updating of system firmware without a need to reboot. First of all, it is important to note that firmware upgrades have been stuck at requiring reboot in order to apply patches. This has caused many systems to be down and to slow down the infrastructure by a wide margin, as these updates can last up to several minutes, where the system is rebooting and can not be used.

Intel has presented an idea of creating a technology that will update system firmware, such as UEFI, in the run time. That means that the system will be able to apply firmware patches, without ever needing a reboot, minimizing downtime. This is especially valuable for customers with very high service level agreements (SLAs) around downtime, meaning that almost 100% uptime (not possible to be 100% generally speaking) is required for these systems. An example of this would be medical server infrastructure, which has to constantly be available for access. Using this technology, systems such as these could update their firmware and be online non-stop, without maybe ever needing to reboot. The said feature is supposed to arrive in time for the launch alongside Intel "Sapphire Rapids" Xeon processors.

GIGABYTE AORUS Gen4 7000s SSD Unlocks PS5 Extensions

GIGABYTE TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd, a leading manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards, announces today that its AORUS Gen4 7000s SSD is fully compliant with PS5 M.2 storage expansion. With the read speed of 7000 MB/s and maximum storage capacity of 2 TB far beyond specification requirements, it allows users to enjoy the best gaming experience.

Enhanced by the latest generation PCIe 4.0 controller with advanced 3D-TLC NAND Flash, The AORUS Gen4 7000s SSD boosts more performance than previous generation PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD. It equips big aluminium thermal interface in different sizes and double side thermal pad with Nanocarbon coating for improved heat dissipation. In response to the latest announcement from Sony for the compatibility of M.2 SSD storage extensions on PS5, GIGABYTE engineers has further verified the original structure and performance of AORUS Gen4 7000s SSD to be the perfect choice of M.2 storage expansion for PS5. In addition, the read speed of up to 7000 MB/s ensures users with optimized data accessing and smoother gaming experience.

Acer Offers Increased Laptop GPU Performance Using Firmware Update

Total Graphics Power, or TGP, is a way of constraining the power of a GPU to a certain level, so it can adjust to the use case. In laptops and other mobile systems, TGP can be dynamically adjusted using technologies such as NVIDIA Dynamic Boost and AMD Smart Shift, which bring unused CPU power envelope to the GPU and allowing it to boost to much higher frequencies. By boosting to higher frequencies, the total power output of GPU increased, and the cooling system of a laptop can only handle a limited amount of heat. That is why these technologies from AMD and NVIDIA allow the CPU to reduce its heat output and offer the GPU more room for boosting and power output.

Acer has today announced that the company will offer a simple firmware update for their Nitro 5, Helios 300, Triton 300, and Triton 300 SE gaming laptops, which is going to boost the TGP of NVIDIA graphics card present in these systems anywhere from 5-30 Watts. There is a nicely compiled list available on the ComputerBase website that highlights the exact power increase for a specific model. If you happen to own one of these models, you can download the latest firmware update from Acer's website here.

Western Digital Readies WD Black SN850 Firmware Update Restoring AMD X570 Performance

Western Digital is reportedly preparing a firmware update for its WD Black SN850 M.2 NVMe SSD that restores the drive's write performance levels on PCs based on the AMD X570 platform. This problem is localized to X570, specifically to when the drive is installed on an M.2 NVMe slot that is wired to the X570 chipset. Drives that are installed on the slot that's directly wired to the Ryzen processor perform as expected (Ryzen 3000 "Matisse" and Ryzen 5000 "Vermeer").

The drive performs as intended on AMD B550, as well as Intel platforms that support PCIe Gen 4, as the only Gen 4-capable M.2 slots are the ones directly wired to the processor. Western Digital localized the problem to certain X570 motherboards that have their PCIe maximum payload size (MPS) value set at 128 bytes. This dictates the maximum transaction layer packet (TLP) that goes through the PCIe controller, and a low MPS value cripples performance. The firmware update by Western Digital possibly works around this limitation. The company is expected to release the firmware update by 12 July, 2021.

Sabrent Releases Firmware Update for Rocket 4 Plus, Fixes Performance Issues

Sabrent today released a firmware update for its Rocket 4 Plus M.2 NVMe SSD. The new version 1.2 firmware addresses several caching and performance issues with initial batches of the drive that shipped with the version 1.1 firmware. The latest batches should come with version 1.2 firmware pre-installed. The update is released as a click-to-run drive firmware updater that works from Windows. The company recommends those with version 1.1 firmware to update their drives. Usual precautions, such as a data backup, as well as power backup during the firmware update, are recommended.

DOWNLOAD: Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus version 1.2 Firmware Update

NVM Express Announces NVMe 2.0 Specification

NVM Express, Inc. today announced the release of the NVM Express (NVMe ) 2.0 family of specifications. The restructured NVMe 2.0 specifications allow for faster and simpler development of NVMe solutions to support the increasingly diverse NVMe device environment, now including Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). The extensibility of the specifications encourages the development of independent command sets like Zoned Namespaces (ZNS) and Key Value (KV) while enabling support for the various underlying transport protocols common to NVMe and NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF ) technologies.

"NVMe technology is the leading interface for SSDs, with overall worldwide enterprise SSD capacity expected to grow at a 43% compound annual growth rate into 2024," said Jeff Janukowicz, research vice president, IDC. "NVMe architecture is designed for future SSD development and form factors, as we enter a new era in hyperscale and enterprise computing that drives digital transformation."

Intel Introduces new Security Technologies for 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable Platform, Code-named "Ice Lake"

Intel today unveiled the suite of new security features for the upcoming 3rd generation Intel Xeon Scalable platform, code-named "Ice Lake." Intel is doubling down on its Security First Pledge, bringing its pioneering and proven Intel Software Guard Extension (Intel SGX) to the full spectrum of Ice Lake platforms, along with new features that include Intel Total Memory Encryption (Intel TME), Intel Platform Firmware Resilience (Intel PFR) and new cryptographic accelerators to strengthen the platform and improve the overall confidentiality and integrity of data.

Data is a critical asset both in terms of the business value it may yield and the personal information that must be protected, so cybersecurity is a top concern. The security features in Ice Lake enable Intel's customers to develop solutions that help improve their security posture and reduce risks related to privacy and compliance, such as regulated data in financial services and healthcare.

Logitech Releases Firmware Revision Unlocking 25,600 DPI on Select Mice

Logitech has released a firmware update that unlocks a bonkers 25,600 DPI resolution on select mice from its lineup. The company is leveraging its HERO in-house developed sensor to demonstrate its capabilities, achieving a "sub-micron level sensitivity" as a testament to its hardware prowess. Granted, Logitech knows users will be hard-pressed to actually gain anything from this DPI resolution compared to, say, the 16,000 DPI that is more common amongst high-end mouse solutions. More than anything, this serves as a sort of "achievement unlocked" for the company.

The 25,600 DPI do mean that the mouse doesn't need any external corrections on its way to 98% tracking accuracy though - no mouse smoothing or acceleration is required. Users who have chosen to partner with Logitech and acquired a G903 Hero, G502 Lightspeed, Pro Wireless, G703 Hero, G604, G502 Hero, G403 Hero, or a Pro mouse all can have this latest firmware installed, which will increase the selectable DPI settings in Logitech's G Hub. Just use the hub to download and install the new firmware revision and you should be all set to go.

New "Oculus Jedi" Controllers Leak in Oculus Quest Firmware Update

In a recent driver update for the Oculus Quest references to the upcoming "Oculus Jedi" controllers were discovered by Gerald McAlister. The "Oculus Jedi" controllers are expected to complement the next-generation "Del Mar" standalone VR headset. In an analysis of the drivers UploadVR discovered several key changes in the new design.

When the new "Oculus Jedi" drivers are compared to the existing Oculus Touch controller firmware it is revealed that new controllers will retain the original inputs and layout of the Touch controllers with a thumbstick, index trigger, grip trigger, A/X button, B/Y button, and a system/menu button. The Jedi controller may receive a tracking update with faster controller polling and a new ICM-426-series TDK chip. The updated IMU should greatly reduce noise and improve resolution of tracking to allow more precise positioning of the controller. Other improvements may include updated an updated haptics driver and analog finger sensing like what is found on the Valve Index.

HP Enterprise SSD Firmware Bug Causes them to Fail at 32,768 Hours of Use, Fix Released

HP issued a warning to its customers that some of its SAS SSDs come with a bug that causes them to fail at exactly 32,768 hours of use. For an always-on or high-uptime server, this translates to 3 years, 270 days and 8 hours of usage. The affected models of SSDs are shipped in many of HP's flagship server and storage products, spanning its HPE ProLiant, Synergy, Apollo, JBOD D3xxx, D6xxx, D8xxx, MSA, StoreVirtual 4335 and StoreVirtual 3200 product-lines.

HP has released an SSD firmware update that fixes this bug and cannot stress the importance of deploying the update enough. This is because once a drive hits the 32,768-hour literal deadline and breaks down, both the drive and the data on it become unrecoverable. There is no other mitigation to this bug than the firmware update. HP released easy to use online firmware update tools that let admins update firmware of their drivers from within their OS. The online firmware update tools support Linux, Windows, and VMWare. Below is a list of affected drives. Get the appropriate firmware update from this page.

AMD Ryzen CPUs to Get Plenty of Microcode Improvements

According to Planet 3DNow, owners of AMD's Ryzen CPUs will receive a new microcode update said to feature many performance fixes and improvements that bring additional features. Dubbed AGESA 1.0.0.4, the new microcode improvement should bring over 100 new features that don't just include bug fixes, but also additional features.

Leaked by MSI's "Insider Show" YouTube series host Eric Van Beurden, he revealed that new microcode will arrive next month after getting tested by motherboard manufacturers for stability and compatibility with existing models of motherboards. Unfortunately, Van Beurden didn't reveal anything specific about what features will be present with the new AGESA microcode update, however we can expect to see plenty of new additions, and possibly higher CPU performance that further firmware optimizations bring.

Intel Releases ModernFW as Open Source, minimal Firmware Replacement

Today Intel announced ModernFW - an experimental approach to building a minimum viable platform firmware for machines such as cloud server platforms. The reason for this software is that, while traditional PC Firmware has evolved over time and retained its backward compatibility, it has become very big and often inefficient.

So to meet the requirements of new platforms that need to be built quickly and adapted easily, Intel decided to offer a new software package that will help with that. The new firmware package targets x86_64 from ISA standpoint and Linux kernel based OSes.

First Crucial MX500 Firmware Update Released

Crucial has released the first new firmware for their smash-hit MX500 Series SSD, which is among the fastest and most affordable drives on the market (our reviews: 500 GB, 1 TB, 1 TB M.2).

The Crucial website lists the following improvements in the changelog:
  • Improved ready time from DEVSLP low-power state.
  • Improved TRIM and Wear Leveling performance.
  • Improved SATA error handing.
  • Improved compatibility with some TCG Opal 2.0 third-party encryption utilities (this change does not affect MS BitLocker).

Updated Firmware Available for 6th, 7th and 8th Generation Intel Core Processors

Intel today shared in a blog post that they are deploying microcode solutions that have been developed and validated over the last several weeks. These updates aim to patch security vulnerabilities recently found in Intel processors, and will be distributed, mostly, via OEM firmware updates - users who want to have their system hardened against Spectre and Meltdown exploits will have to ensure that their system manufacturer of choice makes these microcode updates available. If they don't do it in a timely fashion, users have no choice but to be vocal about that issue - Intel has now done its part in this matter.

This is the second wave of Intel's patches to mitigate the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, after the first, hasty patch sent users on towards unstable, crashing systems and the inevitable update rollback. Security had already been reinstated, of sorts, for Intel's Skylake processors, but left users of any other affected Intel CPU family out in the cold. Here's hoping this is the one update that actually sticks after thorough testing and validation.

DARPA Believes the Future of Security to be in Additional Processing Hardware

DARPA seems to be taking to heart engineer and cyber-security experts' opinions that hardware-based security would be the best security. The Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), which has appeared in every other sci-fi war movie, has started its System Security Integrated through Hardware and Firmware (SSITH) program, with an initial kick worth $3.6 million to the University of Michigan. The objective? To develop "unhackable" systems, with hardware-based security solutions that become impervious to most software exploits.

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) of the University of Michigan Professor Todd Austin, lead researcher on the project, says his team's approach, currently code-named Morpheus, achieves hack-proof hardware by "changing the internal codes once a second". Austin likens Morpheus' defenses to requiring a would-be attacker to solve a new Rubik's Cube every second to crack the chip's security. In this way, the architecture should provide the maximum possible protection against intrusions, including hacks that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities, or those that cybersecurity experts have yet to discover. Morpheus thereby provides a future-proof solution, Austin said. "This race against ever more clever cyberintruders is never going to end if we keep designing our systems around gullible hardware that can be fooled in countless ways by software," SSITH program manager Linton Salmon of the Agency's Microsystems Technology Office.

Latest Samsung 960 Pro Firmware Update Causes Application Freezes, Instability

Users of Samsung's 960 Pro SSD's that have updated to the latest firmware version (3B6QCXP7) have been reporting far, wide, and through a variety of outlets, the existence of problems that lead to application instability and OS freezes lasting for several seconds before the system resumes normal functions. Apparently, there's no hard-crashing involved as of yet, though the issue seems to be widespread enough that it's generating discussion in Samsung's forums, our own, and some other tech publication's. It seems the 960 Pro is getting stuck with 100% activity reports in the task manager with read and write speeds of 0. At the same time, some users are reporting performance degradation by sometimes up to 1,400 MB/s in read speeds when benchmarking the drives, which also doesn't bode well for the firmware's pedigree.

The issue has been replicated by users running Perfect Disk while running SSD Optimization modes. A Samsung representative in the Forums seems to be on top of the issue, asking users for information on their systems and configuration before escalating the situation and reporting, though so far, it seems that the problem is being dismissed as being not widespread enough to be considered a cause for alarm. Samsung''s 960 Pro firmware can't be rolled back by users to a previous version, though, so take this post as a heads-up and maybe wait for a newer firmware revision, just to play it safe. A statement from Samsung follows after the break.

Logitech Improves G203 Prodigy Mouse Sensor Precision with Firmware Update

Logitech has released an updated firmware that brings much more than the usual updates we see: it actually improves rated specs of their already released G203 Prodigy mouse. Case in point: Logitech's Chris Pate said that "We learned a lot of lessons in designing the new HERO sensor found in our latest Logitech G603 Lightspeed Wireless Gaming Mouse that could also be applied to the Logitech G203 Prodigy Gaming Mouse." Whether this was achieved through simple overclocking of some of the mice's internals, or simply some unused hardware capabilities that weren't reachable for some reason, it's unclear; what's clear is that the improvements are massive.

Sensor precision for Logitech's 6203 Prodigy has been increased by 33%, from a maximum 6000 DPI (adjustable from 200 DPI) to a maximum 8000 DPI. Maximum mouse speed and acceleration of have also been increased, from 200 IPS to 300 IPS and from 25G to 35G, respectively. Other Logitech G203 features include 1000 Hz USB report rate, programmable buttons with in-mouse storage of settings, and RGB lighting on the "G" logo. The G203's pricing was already reasonable with its base specs and the $39.99 in the U.S. €44.99 in the E.U., but with this update, the value is further increased. The firmware update in question can be downloaded via the latest Logitech Gaming software.

Been There, Done That: HP New Firmware Update Locks Non-Original Ink Cartridges

HP has gone and done it once again: they've re-issued a firmware update that locks printing for users who make use of non-original HP ink cartridges. This move by the company isn't new; in September 2016, they did just that, through a seemingly dormant "time bomb" implemented in new printers' firmware that stopped their operation should a non-original ink cartridge be detected. Businesses who were looking to save some money on expendables that are usually more expensive than liquid gold and who had started using non-original ink cartridges for their printers saw their activities on hold - and that likely costed them more than original cartridges ever would.

Later on, in October 2016, and facing considerable backlash due to its actions, HP reversed the built-in firmware lock with a software update that forced users to look up the appropriate software manually on HP's website and then install it on their printers. Original cartridge authentication is done through an original HP security chip, which is checked against security systems embedded on the printer so as to confirm the cartridge's authenticity. The company itself admitted that "A cloned product with an original HP security chip will work," and that "HP's dynamic security recognizes refilled and remanufactured supplies that contain the original HP security chip." HP apologized, at the time, for what it called "miscommunication" on their part. Their apology, however, has been thrown at the weeds by now; we here at TPU did say that users should "(...) remain wary of any eventual future update that might break non-original cartridge compatibility - again."

Jailbreaking American Tractors with Ukrainian Firmware

Tractors are some of the most beloved and benign pieces of automotive technology, and some of the very first applications of the internal combustion engine, after cars. Tinkering with the classic free-breathing (natural aspiration) engines of old tractors is something arguably every mechanical engineer has ever done. Over the ages however, tractors and other farm equipment have gotten increasingly complex. The engines became smaller (and hence more fuel-efficient), and technologies such as turbochargers and electronic fuel injection shored power and torque back up to the levels of larger free-breathing engines. Running the engine is now handled by a small embedded computer called the ECU (engine control unit). Likewise, running the various ancillaries on farming equipment such as harvesters have been governed by electronics. The more there's electronics, the less there is that a spanner can fix, and that has become a big problem in America.

Some popular farm equipment manufacturers such as John Deere have taken greed cleverly disguised as "quality assurance" to the same levels as the Apple iPhone. On the iPhone, you can't just install third-party software that hasn't been vetted by Apple and distributed through the App Store. Free software activists have criticized this for stiffing innovation, because Apple's software doesn't give users unrestricted access to the hardware that they've paid for. John Deere and some of its competitors are in the same league. They've outfitted their tractors and farm equipment with electronics that make it practically impossible to perform "unauthorized" repair. If your crop is up for harvest and your harvester is throwing a fit, you have no option but to take it back to a John Deere service center, or other repair shops "authorized" by the company. If you've replaced a part yourself, a guy with a laptop has to come over to your farm, and "activate" that part. American farmers aren't taking kindly to this, and help is coming from the most unlikely of places.

HP Firmware Update Reverses Non-Original Ink Lock

With the cost of original printer ink sometimes being more expensive than equivalent amounts of rare metals - just consider that the average $35 ink cartridge holds between 10 to 20 milliliters of liquid - it isn't uncommon for users to resort to non-original alternatives, which sometimes cost less than half of their counterparts.

After last September's rollout of a firmware update that effectively impeded the use of non-original ink cartridges on their Officejet line of printers - to considerable user outcry - HP has now issued another firmware update which effectively reverses the previously imposed lock. Ironically, while the firmware update that imposed the lock was automatically installed on user's systems, the same isn't the case with this reversal, with users having to download and install the appropriate firmware by themselves.

In a blog post entitled "Dedicated to the best printing experience", the company goes on to say that it reserves itself the right to use security features which "protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working."

GIGABYTE Offers Thunderbolt 3 Support on Select Boards with a Firmware Update

GIGABYTE announced that it's enabling 40 Gb/s Thunderbolt 3 support on select boards that have 20 Gb/s Thunderbolt 2 support, with a mere firmware update. It turns out that the Thunderbolt controllers on the company's Z170X-Gaming G1, Z170X-Gaming GT, and Z170X-Gaming 7 motherboards physically support Thunderbolt 3, but due to a lack of certification, its support was withheld, and bandwidth limited to 20 Gb/s.

What's more, these boards support the Thunderbolt protocol over USB 3.1 type-C, at lowered bandwidth, besides its traditional Thunderbolt/mini-DisplayPort connector at rated bandwidth. This should help with the new generation of Thunderbolt daisy-chaining docks that support USB type-C connections. To get the latest firmware, all you need to do is update your board's BIOS to the latest one on GIGABYTE's website.

ADATA Launches IHSS312 Industrial Half-Slim SSD

ADATA Technology, a leading manufacturer of high-performance DRAM modules and NAND Flash application products, today launches the IHSS312, a high-performance SATA III 6Gbps 22-pin half-slim SSD of MO-297 form factor, which is available in 8/16/32/64/128/256GB capacities to meet the varying needs of IPC embedded systems, healthcare, medical devices, kiosk/POS and factory automation.

Utilizing high-speed MLC NAND flash, ADATA's IHSS312 provides excellent performance and reliability with a sequential read/write speed up to 500/125MB per second and MTBF of up to 1 million hours. Thanks to its industrial-grade operable temperature range of -40°C to +85°C, the IHSSS312 is ideal for harsh environments requiring long-term operation.

NSA Hides Spying Backdoors into Hard Drive Firmware

Russian cyber-security company Kaspersky Labs exposed a breakthrough U.S. spying program, which taps into one of the most widely proliferated PC components - hard drives. With the last 5 years seeing the number of hard drive manufacturing nations reduce from three (Korean Samsung, Japanese Hitachi and Toshiba, and American Seagate and WD) to one (American Seagate or WD), swallowing-up or partnering with Japanese and Korean businesses as US-based subsidiaries or spin-offs such as HGST, a shadow of suspicion has been cast on Seagate and WD.

According to Kaspersky, American cyber-surveillance agency, the NSA, is taking advantage of the centralization of hard-drive manufacturing to the US, by making WD and Seagate embed its spying back-doors straight into the hard-drive firmware, which lets the agency directly access raw data, agnostic of partition method (low-level format), file-system (high-level format), operating system, or even user access-level. Kaspersky says it found PCs in 30 countries with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria.

QNAP Releases QTS 4.1.1 Firmware Featuring Full NAS Encryption

QNAP Systems, Inc. today announced the availability of QTS 4.1.1, the new Turbo NAS firmware that features full NAS encryption by volume-based technology to greatly ensure data security in response to increasing cloud security challenges. As the fear of private data being leaked over the Internet is now a prime security concern, the protection provided by Network Attached Storage (NAS) has received great attention, especially for confidential business files and private photos/videos that require high security. However, the shared-folder-level encryption found in traditional NAS does not allow users to encrypt photos, music and videos stored in default shared folders, and therefore can lead to data being easily accessible if the NAS is stolen.

"QTS 4.1.1 ensures the security of data by including full volume encryption that can encrypt photos, music, videos, and documents in every shared folder of the Turbo NAS," said Willy Kuo, product manager of QNAP, adding "QNAP strives to develop the most secure and convenient storage solution and by providing full volume encryption, we can ensure total data security. We strongly recommend that our users use full volume encryption to ensure that their data is completely protected."

ADATA Technology Releases SSD Firmware Update

ADATA Technology, a leading manufacturer of high-performance DRAM modules and NAND Flash application products, has released a firmware update for the company's solid state drives equipped with LSI SandForce 2200 series controllers. This update is applicable to SSD models SX910/SX900/SP900/SP800/S511/S510/S396. The new firmware optimizes TRIM completion behavior and SATA stability, and improves disk recovery in instances of unsafe or improper shutdown. Purchasers who wish to update their SSD firmware should go to this page, select the corresponding SSD product, and then download the compressed Firmware 5.2.5 file and extract it. Then locate the executable file ADATA_SF_FieldUpdater and run it as administrator.
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