Author Archives: pappp

Hands-on with the Apple M1—a seriously fast x86 competitor [Updated]

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Oh, shit, now that there are independent numbers, looks like Apple wasn't cooking the results via thermal throttling the competition as much as I thought. That's a genuinely impressive part.
Apple's new octa-core ARM big/little CPU is putting its high performance x86 competition on notice.

Enlarge / Apple's new octa-core ARM big/little CPU is putting its high performance x86 competition on notice. (credit: Apple)

Original story 9:00am EST: There's a lot of understandable excitement around Apple's ARM-powered devices right now. And we've got traditional reviews of those devices and their ecosystems, for Apple fans and the Apple-curious. This is not one of those reviews—though reviews are coming imminently for some of the new Macs. Instead, we're going to take a closer look at the raw performance of the new M1 in comparison to more traditional x86 systems.

The M1's CPU is a 5nm octa-core big/little design, with four performance cores and four efficiency cores. The idea is that user-focused foreground tasks, which demand low latency, will be run on the performance cores—but less latency-sensitive background tasks can run slower and lower on the four less-powerful but less power-consumptive efficiency cores.

In addition to the eight CPU cores, the version of the M1 in the Mac mini has eight GPU cores, with a total of 128 Execution Units. Although it's extremely difficult to get accurate Apples-to-non-Apples benchmarks on this new architecture, I feel confident in saying that this truly is a world-leading design—you can get faster raw CPU performance, but only on power-is-no-object desktop or server CPUs. Similarly, you can beat the M1's GPU with high-end Nvidia or Radeon desktop cards—but only at a massive disparity in power, physical size, and heat.

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A history of Intel vs. AMD desktop performance, with CPU charts galore

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Wow. There are some choices in that chart people will argue with, but it's a great presentation. I've been comparing the current situation to that era in the 2000s when Netburst was failing and AMD hired the old Alpha folks resulting in the early Athlon 64 parts, but AMD actually pulled harder this time.
A tortoise and a hare are on a racetrack.

Enlarge / Spoiler: When it comes to performance over the years, Intel is the slow and steady tortoise to AMD's speedy-but-intermittent hare. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

The comment wars between Intel and AMD fans have been hot for the last few release cycles, with a lot of digital ink spilled about which company has—or has not—improved significantly over the years. There's been no shortage of opinions about the current raw performance of each company's fastest processors, either. We thought it would be interesting to dive into archived performance benchmarks of the fastest desktop/enthusiast CPUs for each company to get a good overview of how each has really done over the years—and perhaps to even see if there are patterns to be gleaned or to make some bets about the future.

Before we dive into charts, let's start out with some tables—that way, you can see which CPUs we're using as milestones for each year. While we're at it, there are a couple of irregularities in the data; we'll discuss those also and talk about the things that a simple chart won't show you.

Twenty years of enthusiast computing

Year Intel Model AMD Model Notes
2001 Pentium 4 2.0GHz (1c/1t) Athlon XP 1900+ (1c/1t)
2002 Pentium 4 2.8GHz (1c/2t) Athlon XP 2800+ (1c/1t) Intel introduces hyperthreading
2003 Pentium 4 Extreme 3.2GHz (1c/2t) Athlon XP 3200+ (1c/1t)
2004 Pentium 4 3.4GHz (1c/2t) Athlon 64 FX-55 (1c/1t)
2005 Pentium 4 3.8GHz (1c/2t) Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (2c/2t)
2006 Pentium Extreme 965 (2c/4t) Athlon 64 X2 5000+ (2c/2t) Intel takes the undisputed performance lead here—and keeps it for a decade straight.
2007 Core 2 Extreme QX6800 (4c/4t) Phenom X4 9600 (4c/4t) Intel and AMD both launch the first true quad-core desktop CPUs
2008 Core 2 Extreme X9650 (4c/4t) Phenom X4 9950 (4c/4t)
2009 Core i7-960 (4c/8t) Phenom II X4 965 (4c/4t)
2010 Core i7-980X (6c/12t) Phenom II X6 1100T (6c/6t) Intel and AMD both introduce hex-core desktop CPUs
2011 Core i7-990X (6c/12t) FX-8150 (8c/8t)
2012 Core i7-3770K (4c/8t) FX-8350 (8c/8t) Intel abandons hex-core desktop CPUs—but few miss them, due to large single-threaded gains
2013 Core i7-4770K (4c/8t) FX-9590 (8c/8t) AMD's underwhelming FX-9590 launches—and it's Team Red's last enthusiast CPU for four long years
2014 Core i7-4790K (4c/8t) FX-9590 (8c/8t) Intel's 5th generation Core dies stillborn. AMD releases low-power APUs, but no successor to FX-9590
2015 Core i7-6700K (4c/8t) FX-9590 (8c/8t)
2016 Core i7-7700K (4c/8t) FX-9590 (8c/8t) Strictly speaking, 2016 was an Intel whiff—Kaby Lake didn't actually launch until January 2017
2017 Core i7-8700K (6c/12t) Ryzen 7 1800X (8c/16t) Launch of AMD's Zen architecture, return of the Intel hex-core desktop CPU
2018 Core i9-9900K (8c/16t) Ryzen 7 2700X (8c/16t)
2019 Core i9-9900KS (8c/16t) Ryzen 9 3950X (16c/32t) AMD's Zen 2 architecture launches, Intel whiffs hard in the performance segment
2020 Core i9-10900K (10c/20t) Ryzen 9 5950X (16c/32t) AMD's Zen 3 finally crushes Intel's long-held single-threaded performance record

Although both Intel and AMD obviously launch a wide array of processors for different price points and target markets each year, we're limiting ourselves to the fastest desktop or "enthusiast" processor from each year. That means no server processors and no High-End Desktop (HEDT) processors either—so we won't be looking at either Threadrippers or the late model XE series Intel parts.

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Stadia: Why?

I got one of the free-with-YouTube-Premium Stadia Premiere kit + Pro trials just out of curiosity (since I’m waiting to cancel until Play Music actually stops working, and why say no to $100 of free toys), and after playing for it for an evening, while I’m very technically impressed … I’m completely baffled as to why anyone would pay for this thing, or especially “buy” individual games on it.

It is fast and surprisingly responsive, and the (insane) distributed “phone or computer + controller + Chomecast all talk to the internet and also to Bluetooth and manage to stay in sync” wizardry is an amazing technical achievement, as is the low-latency, reasonably low-artifact streaming.

…but the subscription/rental library is tiny, expensive, and non-portable. It sucks a massive amount of bandwidth (it seemed to be holding at about 20-25Mbit/s down during my AAA test). The fact that I need a minimum of three independent devices (since you can’t do most of the configuration or library management with the controller + Chromecast) to play on the TV is awkward, and the layers of account management and device syncing are pretty wonky for a single user, I can’t imagine dealing with it in a multi-user household.

I played a little bit of Celeste (as an input lag test; it was not half bad, though playing it on a controller is not my preference), a little bit of Hitman (To see how heavy duty graphical games would do), and a little The Gardens Between (hadn’t played it, in my Pro trial, looked neat) – and they worked, but nothing about the experience was particularly compelling.

The whole free-kit-for-Premium-subscribers thing feels like a desperate attempt to dump their hardware stock to build enough user base to recoup the back-end costs for another doomed Google product that will die as soon as the current back end ages out and the workforce moves on to career-advancing shiny new things – after Buzz, Reader, Plus, Play Music, the steady churn of ever-worse chat tools, and half a dozen other products that were useful enough to take all the air out of a market before being unceremoniously dumped Google has lost all credibility for paid rentals or ecosystem investment.

All the freebie premiere kits are going to be Goodwill gold in a couple years though – the controllers are decent (Not $70 decent, but decent) and seem to work as normal HID devices, and there are two nice USB power bricks with cables in there.

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Cutting Balsa Wood with Air (Oh, and a Laser)

Source: Hack a Day

Article note: Yeah! We hacked a couple cruddy air assist mechanisms for a diode laser engraver in the research lab I work in a couple summers ago, it's absolutely necessary for them to work well - heavy cuts just carbonize instead of cutting otherwise. The primary reason I haven't built myself a blower-based one is lack of time and energy. I prefer designs that shroud the lens of the laser to keep crud building up on it, like the CO2 lasers work, rather than side-mounts like the example.

[DIY3DTech] likes using his Ortur laser cutter for balsa wood and decided to add an air assist system to it. Some people told him it wasn’t worth the trouble, so in the video below, he compares the results of cutting both with and without the air assist.

The air assist helped clear the cut parts and reduced charring in the wood. The air system clears residue and fumes that can reduce the effectiveness of the laser. It can also reduce the risk of the workpiece catching on fire.

In addition, the video shows the results of cutting wood using different speeds and number of passes. So the holes marked 5/10, for example, are cut at 5mm/second and ten passes.

Although air assist might help if you are engraving, the real benefit, according to the video, is when you are trying to do cuts. However, removing the fumes is probably a good idea even when engraving.

The video doesn’t go into much detail about the air system, but there are links in the video description to pages that have more information about how to add something like this to your laser cutting setup. There’s also a more recent video specifically about how the air assist system works.

If you need more on laser cutter basics, we read a great post about it last year. Like 3D printers, it used to be fashionable to build your own cutter, but now it is cheap enough to buy one if you’d rather not mess with it.

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Obfuscating Complexity Considered Harmful

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Yesss. IMO, the major sin of the last two generations of computing folks was the belief that adding layers of abstraction was always free and beneficial. Leaky abstractions are often worse than none, because now you have complexity and opacity. A few weeks ago I was talking to some students about abstraction, and have a new example I'm using: Your abstracted interface is a 24.5lb smooth cube, 1ft on a side. The implementation is a 0.2kg hollow shell 30+/-1cm on a side, containing a loose 11kg ball. For some tasks, you can get away with the external interface, but for many not-even-very edge cases the tolerance, sloppy unit conversion, and non-uniform, shifting mass are going to cause problems. Layer this for 40 years where no one understands more than than two layers at once. Computing.
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The Reign of Terror That Sustains Belarus’s Leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko

Source: NYT > World

Article note: This is why we shouldn't (shouldn't have? It remains to be see if it's too late) tolerate the growth of security states.

Despite hundreds of thousands protesting against him for months, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has been able to cling to power thanks to an all-pervasive security system.

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UK employee spent over $250,000 on 80 iPhones, other purchases, audit finds

Source: -- Education

Article note: Oh damn it. Prepare for another wave of irritating and time-consuming bullshit every single time anyone on campus needs to buy anything, because a few jackasses fucked it up for everyone. Just like a couple years ago with the physics lab fraud case. Also, is a new deanlet of finance and administration going to cost more than the not quite $100,000 a year of fraud they uncovered?

A University of Kentucky employee spent $256,000 on the unauthorized purchase of more than 80 iPhones, other high-tech equipment, travel expenses and other personal items over the course of three … Click to Continue »

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Google Takes Down Repositories That Circumvent its Widevine DRM

Source: TorrentFreak

Article note: I've heard rumors that _all_ the Widevine levels are broken by 'serious' pirates at this point, so this shit is just theater to appease the media companies with their disproportionate influence, and harass users trying for compatibility and control of their systems. everything about DRM.

widevine logoWith more ways to stream online video than ever before, protecting video continues to be a key issue for copyright holders.

This is often achieved through Digital Rights Management, which is often referred to by the initials DRM. In a nutshell, DRM is an anti-piracy tool that dictates when and where digital content can be accessed.

Google is an important player in this area. The company owns the Widevine DRM technology which is used by many of the largest streaming services including Amazon, Netflix and Disney+. As such, keeping it secure is vital.

Widevine DRM

Widevine DRM comes in different levels. The L1 variant is the most secure, followed by L2 and L3. While the latter still protects content from being easily downloaded, it’s certainly not impossible to bypass, as pirates have repeatedly shown.

Despite its vulnerabilities, Google doesn’t want to make it too easy for the public at large. This became apparent a few hours ago when the company asked the developer platform GitHub to remove dozens of “Widevine L3 Decryptor” repositories.

The code, originally published by security researcher Tomer Hadad, is a proof-of-concept code Chrome extension that shows how easy it is to bypass the low-security DRM. Google was aware of this vulnerability and previously informed Krebs Security that it would address the issue.

Google Targets Widevine L3 Decryptor Code

One option would be to patch the security flaw but, for now, Google appears to be focusing on the takedown route. In a DMCA notice sent to GitHub, the company requests the immediate takedown of dozens of “Widevine L3 Decryptor” copies.

“The following git repository [sic] contain circumvention technology that enables users to illegally access video and audio works protected by copyright,” Google writes.

“This Chrome extension demonstrates how it’s possible to bypass Widevine DRM by hijacking calls to the browser’s Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) and decrypting all Widevine content keys transferred – effectively turning it into a clearkey DRM,” Google adds.

Google sees the code, which was explicitly published for educational purposes only, as a circumvention tool. As such, it allegedly violates section 1201 of the DMCA, an allegation that was also made against the youtube-dl code last month.


The takedown notice includes a long list of repositories that were all made unavailable by GitHub. This doesn’t cover the original code from Tomer Hadad, who already removed his version in late October, citing “legal reasons.”

Google views this vulnerability as a serious matter and the company says that it has also filed a Sensitive Data takedown request to prevent the Widevine’s ‘secret’ private key from being publicly shared.

Sensitive Data Request

“In addition to this request, we have filed a separate Sensitive Data takedown request of this file: /widevine-l3-decryptor as it contains the secret Widevine RSA private key, which was extracted from the Widevine CDM and can be used in other circumvention technologies.”

That last mention is interesting as private keys, which are simply a string of characters, are not seen as copyrighted or private content by everyone.

“If you distribute your key with the software, then whatever form it is in, I would not consider it “private” at all,” a commenter on Hacker News points out.

Googling the AACS Key

This ‘key controversy’ is reminiscent of an issue that was widely debated thirteen years ago. At the time, a hacker leaked the AACS cryptographic key “09 F9” online which prompted the MPAA and AACS LA to issue DMCA takedown requests to sites where it surfaced.

This escalated into a censorship debate when sites started removing articles that referenced the leak, triggering a massive backlash.

At the time, the controversial AACS key was still readily available through Google’s search engine. In that regard very little has changed. Despite Google’s sensitive data takedown request, the Widevine RSA key is easy to find through its own search engine.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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macOS Big Sur launch appears to cause temporary slowdown in even non-Big Sur Macs

Source: OSNews

Article note: For your regularly scheduled "Stallman was right," your computer, which you paid for and physically control, calls home to check if it's OK whenever you go to run a piece of software. And it fails closed.

Mac users today began experiencing unexpected issues that included apps taking minutes to launch, stuttering and non-responsiveness throughout macOS, and other problems. The issues seemed to begin close to the time when Apple began rolling out the new version of macOS, Big Sur—but it affected users of other versions of macOS, like Catalina and Mojave.

Other Apple services faced slowdowns, outages, and odd behavior, too, including Apple Pay, Messages, and even Apple TV devices.

It didn’t take long for some Mac users to note that trustd—a macOS process responsible for checking with Apple’s servers to confirm that an app is notarized—was attempting to contact a host named but failing repeatedly. This resulted in systemwide slowdowns as apps attempted to launch, among other things.

What a brave new world – some server goes down, and you can’t use your applications anymore.

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Future Histories of the Internet Syllabus

Source: loriemerson

Article note: Well that's cool. _Someone_ is teaching some computer history. I'd argue about a few choices, its a little aggressively feminist for my taste (chooses some secondary sources over primaries and less-prominent alternative period documents to fit the frame - and yet still doesn't do Dean's _Why the Net is not a Public Sphere_ which is to me the most important feminist critique of the Internet). Also, it looks like it glosses Usenet and the pre-internet ARPA sites which are, IMO, the most important and immediate precedent - and generally skips the pre-interent computing culture in favor of pre-interent communication culture, which arguably was largely subsumed by the former. Though I suppose that last point might make sense if the frame is _other_ networks rather than understanding the one we got.

Below is a syllabus for a sophomore-level class I hope to teach in Fall 2021. This class is a reflection of my ongoing work on a cluster projects I call “Other Networks“–attempts to uncover and document the technical specs and functionalities of pre-internet networks (particularly from the 1970s and early 1980s) as well as artistic experiments on these same networks.

“To propose an alternate history is to propose that history can be altered, to change directions, to inaugurate an alternate future.”

Sofia Samatar, “Toward a Planetary History of Afrofuturism”

General Class Description:
This class explores questions, fears, and ideas about technology and the future through literature about technology, literary technologies, and narratives about the future that move across periods, regions, and disciplines.  We’ll get acquainted with literary styles, genres, movements, technologies, and histories.  Our cultural and historical approach will illuminate how race, gender and sexuality, class, and nationality structure seemingly neutral research and development, usage, and innovation.  Ultimately, our goal is to see how we’re not simply passive consumers but active participants in reimagining the present and future of technology. This class also fulfills the diversity requirement by providing students with skills to understand gender, race, marginalization, and multiculturalism to the study of literature and technology.

Specific Class Description:
This iteration of the class begins by introducing students to foundational works from media studies to give them tools to analyze media as well as analyze art and literature that actively works with and against media ranging from the book to the digital computer; these foundational works also demonstrate a range of historical imaginings of the future of digital media in particular.

We will then use claims from this unit, such as Ted Nelson’s 1974 urgent invocation for us to “understand computers NOW,” to move us into the next cluster of readings that first teach students about what the contemporary internet is as well as where it is. Subsequently, drawing heavily from thinkers such as Shoshana Zuboff, Safiya Noble and Siva Vaidynathan, we will learn about the extent which large corporations intentionally blackbox and obfuscate how the internet and their deeply biased (and therefore harmful) algorithms work.

However, since we take seriously Sofia Samatar’s declaration that “To propose an alternate history is to propose that history can be altered, to change directions, to inaugurate an alternate future,” at this point in the class we will promptly move back to the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s to investigate what alternatives to the internet have existed–and still might exist–and how artists and writers experimented with these networks. We will look at mail art networks, lesbian newsletter networks, socialist and countercultural teletype machine networks, time-sharing networks, slow scan TV networks, videotex networks, and Bulletin Board Systems.

Finally, in case students are left with the sense that the only viable alternatives to the contemporary internet are dead networks from the past, we will end our class by a) learning about a range of contemporary feminist, anti-capitalist, and artistic alternative networks and b) learning how to build your own sneakernet and your own mesh network. In this way, we will deeply internalize Lizzie O’Shea’s moving statement that “The networked computer represents an exciting opportunity to reshape the world in an image of sustainable prosperity, shared collective wealth, democratized knowledge and respectful social relations. But such a world is only possible if we actively decide to build it.” We will, then, learn how to build this future world.

Course Requirements and Policies
In addition to a class presentation on a writer or theorist, you will be required to contribute to online discussion forums on our class blog, write a research paper, and produce a group project. Since our class is paperless, I don’t mind if you bring your laptop to class but of course this means I expect you to use it appropriately. I’m sure you’ve probably already found you learn better, concentrate better, and distract others around you less if you don’t use your laptop in class

You will also be required to contribute to class regularly. Participation begins with attendance.  Both absences and tardiness will affect this portion of your grade.  For this course, you are allowed three absences without penalty; these should be reserved for sickness, holidays, tiredness, laziness etc.  A fourth absence will result in the reduction of this portion of your grade by a full letter grade.  A fifth absence will result in the reduction of this portion of your grade by two full letter grades.  A sixth absence will result in the reduction of your final grade by one full letter grade. A seventh absence will result in the reduction of your final grade by two full letter grades.  Anything more than seven absences results in failing the class (given how much class material and learning you’ll have missed out on).Arrival in class more than 15 minutes after it begins will be considered an absence.  You are responsible for contacting me or a class member if you miss a class, and you are expected to be fully prepared for the next class session.

Your participation grade will also reflect the quality and thoughtfulness of your contribution in class, respect shown to class members, your attitude and role in small group exercises, and evidence of completion of reading assignments.  Please remember, then, that ALL in-class discussions and exercises assume (and depend upon) you reading the assigned material.  Review your syllabus frequently, and plan your workload accordingly.

Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

  • Two Online Discussion Forums: 15% (or 7.5% each)
  • Essay (7 pages): 25%
  • Individual Presentation: 20%
  • Final Group Creative Project: 25%
  • Participation: 15%

Weekly Schedule

UNIT 1: Foundations for Reading/Writing Technology
Week 1

  • Walter Benjamin, “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935)

Week 2

  • Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message” (1964)
  • Ted Nelson, excerpt from Computer Lib / Dream Machines (1974)

Week 3

  • Katherine Hayles, excerpt from Writing Machines (2002)

UNIT 2: Technology Today / The Internet: What, Where, Who
Week 4

  • Amy Wibowo, How Does the Internet (2015)

Week 5

  • Nicole Starosielski, excerpt from The Undersea Network (2015)

Week 6

  • Shoshana Zuboff, excerpt from The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (2018)

Week 7

  • Safiya Noble, excerpt from Algorithms of Oppression (2018)
  • Siva Vaidhynathan, excerpt from Antisocial Media (2018)

UNIT 3: Technology Past / From Mail Art to Bulletin Board Systems

Week 8

  • Mail art: Chuck Welch (ed.), excerpt from Eternal Network: A Mail Art Anthology (1995)
  • Simone Osthoff, “From Mail Art to Telepresence: Communication at a Distance in the Works of Paulo Bruscky and Eduardo Kac” (2016)
  • Electronic Museum of Mail Art

Week 9

  • Newsletters: Cait McKinney, “The Internet that Lesbians Built: Newsletter Networks” (2020)
  • Teletype Machines: Project Cybersyn (Eden Medina, excerpt from Cybernetic Revolutionaries) (1971-1973), Community Memory (1973-1975)

Week 10

Week 11

  • Videotex: Julie Malland and Kevin Driscoll, excerpt from MINITEL: Welcome to the Internet (2017)
  • Bulletin Board Systems: THE THING BBS Message Archive; Lori Emerson, “‘Did We Dream Enough?’ THE THING BBS as an Experiment in Social-Cyber Sculpture” (2020)

UNIT 4: Subversions Past and Present to Reimagine the Future
Week 12

  • Donna Haraway, “The Cyborg Manifesto” (1986)
  • VNS Matrix, “Cyberfeminist Manifesto” (1991)
  • Jaron Lanier, excerpt from Who Owns the Future? (2013)

Week 13

Week 14

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