Is it me, or are we seeing a lot more disclosures for big, scary vulnerabilities that affect your system's core components? Just a week or so ago, Microsoft and Google announced more issues - Rogue System Register Read and Speculative Store Bypass - which are fancy-sounding variants of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities that have dominated the tech news cycles this year.
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Intel has announced that another flaw in their processor architecture has been identified. Dubbed "Variant 4", the Speculative Store Bypass may allow unauthorised disclosure of information by allowing memory to be read without appropriate permissions. The flaw was reported to Intel by researchers from Google's Project Zero and the Microsoft Security Response Center.
Can you remember the last time you cleaned your desktop PC? I don't mean wiping some guacamole off the the side of the case during a burrito binge. I'm talking about going in there and really getting all the accumulated dust out of your expensive parts (and fans). Spring cleaning your system isn't hard to do, but it's critical to your system's longevity -- and helps your computer look a lot less gross.
This week, news of massive security vulnerabilities afflicting every modern model of Intel processor went public, even as developers for practically every major platform frantically rushed to roll out fixes. Much more information has now become available about Meltdown and Spectre, a group of attack methods malicious parties could use to break into some of the most sensitive inner workings of any device using the affected CPUs.
When I first started using PCs regularly, back in the early 1990s, systems using Intel processors were priced at a premium. So that meant my first couple of Windows PCs (we had a Commodore 128 at home before that) ran a Cyrix processor - a 486DLC if memory serves. But through most of the 1990s Intel ruled the roost. Their "Intel Inside" campaign was one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time. But the world has moved on and we are on the cusp of a new processor era.
PC hardware from a few years ago? Relics of another era. How about a decade old? You might as well be talking about fossilised remains. Yet, people still happily run gear such as Intel's venerable Q6600, one of the company's more overclockable quad-core chips, under the belief that it's "good enough". The benchmarks, however, tell a very different story.
Shopping for an Intel processor is no joke. There are enough that it can be confusing to buy the right one for your needs, whether you're gaming, working, doing video editing, need something you can overclock, and so on. Luckily this video and spreadsheet -- from Linus of LinusTechTips fame -- breaks it all down nicely.
Kaby Lake, Intel's latest processor family, wasn't supposed to exist. Earlier this year Intel announced the end of its well-known tick-tock release schedule, whereby it trots out a new processor every September. The tick is the shrinking and improvements of the current microarchitecture, while the tock is a whole new architecture. Instead last year's "tock", Skylake, was going to hang around a while, with no new "tick" in sight.
Building your own computer can be fun, and it's easier now than ever. Still, there can be some spine-tingling moments when assembling a system, and attaching a CPU fan can be one of them. The last thing you want is your expensive new processor to wind up with bent pins, but if you do, here's how to fix it.
Windows only: If you're curious whether your processor will support XP Mode in Windows 7 or not, SecurAble is a simple freeware application you can use to find out.
Windows Vista tip: The Hackosis blog points out that Windows Vista uses only one CPU to boot itself by default, regardless of whatever dual- or quad-core hardware you're using. Enabling multi-core boot might save you a bit of time, and the fix is pretty simple. Run msconfig from the Start Search box (or after hitting Win+R), then head to the "Boot" tab, check "Number of processors," and change the drop-down box to fit your processor. I haven't tested this myself, but given how long it takes Vista to gear up to running speed on my dual-core box, it probably couldn't hurt, either. Let us know if you see any gains in the comments. Quick Way to Boost Vista Boot Time
Windows only: Freeware system tray application Process Lasso monitors your running processes for CPU hogs and reins them in before they take over and freeze up your computer. Like previously mentioned Process Tamer, Process Lasso does this by lowering the priority of those processes on a runaway train to freeze-ville. Unlike Tamer, Process Lasso also offers a tonne of user customisation, so you can set default priorities by process or other rules for how Process Lasso deals with CPU hogs, like "Make firefox.exe run only on CPU #1 each time its launched."