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A Federal Judge's Decision Could End Patent Trolling
Posted by News Fetcher on January 08 '17 at 10:02 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's losing-more-than-a-case department:
"Forcing law firms to pay defendants' legal bills could undermine the business model of patent trolls," reports Computerworld. whoever57 writes: Patent trolls rely on the fact that they have no assets and, if they lose a case, they can fold the company that owned the patent and sued, thus avoiding paying any of the defendant's legal bills. However in a recent case, the judge told the winning defendant that it can claim its legal bills from the law firm. The decision is based on the plaintiff's law firm using a contract under which it would take a portion of any judgment, making it more than just counsel, but instead a partner with the plaintiff. This will likely result in law firms wanting to be paid up front, instead of offering a contingency-based fee.
The federal judge's decision "attacks the heart of the patent-troll system," according to the article, which adds that patent trolls are "the best evidence that pure evil exists."

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Huawei Snubs Google, Ships An Android Phone With Alexa
Posted by News Fetcher on January 08 '17 at 08:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-of-the-voice-assistants department:
Huawei announced its flagship handset will gives users access to Amazon's Alexa assistant in the U.S., suggesting a new worry for Google, according to Reuters. An anonymous reader writes:
"The adoption of Alexa by a prominent Android manufacturer indicates that Amazon may have opened up an early lead over Google as the companies race to present their digital assistants to as many people as possible, analysts said." Analyst Jan Dawson at Jackdaw Research even told Reuters that if Google's personal assistant lags in popularity when voice becomes the most popular interface, "thatâ(TM)s a huge loss for Google in terms of data gathering, training its AI, and ultimately the ability to drive advertising revenue."

Tension may have started when Google decided to debut Google Assistant on their own Pixel smartphones. "While Google has expressed an interest in bringing its assistant to other Android smartphones, the decision to debut the feature on its own hardware may have strained relations with manufacturers, Dawson said. 'It highlights just what a strategic mistake it can be for services companies to make their own hardware and give it preferential access to new services.'"

Nvidia announced this week at CES that they'd be using Google Assistant for their Shield TVs, while Whirlpool and Ford both announced Alexa-enabled products. But this article argues Google Assistant has one thing that Alexa doesn't have: a search engine.

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US Government Offers $25,000 Prize For Inventing A Way To Secure IoT Devices
Posted by News Fetcher on January 08 '17 at 08:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's government-hackathons department:
An anonymous reader writes:
America's Federal Trade Commission has announced a $25,000 prize for whoever creates the best tool for securing consumers' IoT devices. The so-called "IoT Home Inspector Challenge" asks participants to create something that will work on current, already-on-the-market IoT devices, with extra points also awarded for scalability ad easy of use.

"Contestants have the option of adding features, such as those that would address hard-coded, factory default, or easy-to-guess passwords," according to the official site, but "The tool would, at a minimum, help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software." The winning submission can't be just a policy (or legal) solution, and will be judged by a panel which includes two computer science professors and a vulnerability researcher from Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center.

Computerworld points out that "This isn't the first time the FTC has offered cash for software tools. In 2015, it awarded $10,500 to developers of an app that could block robocalls."

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New Study Finds 'Mediterranean' Diet Significantly Reduces Brain Shrinkage
Posted by News Fetcher on January 08 '17 at 07:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's food-for-thought department:
schwit1 writes that 562 elderly research subjects cut their brain shrinkage in half just by changing their diet. (Paywalled article here). The BBC reports:
A study of pensioners in Scotland found that those with a diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and olive oil had healthier brains than those with different eating habits. They suffered less brain shrinkage than those who regularly ate meat and dairy products. The study was carried out by University of Edinburgh researchers.... Scientists found that those who adhered most closely to the diet retained significantly greater brain volume after three years than those who did not... Lead researcher Dr Michelle Luciano said: "As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells, which can affect learning and memory. This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health."

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Is The C Programming Language Declining In Popularity?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 08 '17 at 04:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's compiling-statistics department:
An anonymous reader writes:
Java overtook C as the most popular language in mid-2015 on the TIOBE Programming Community index. But now over the last 13 months, they show C's popularity consistently dropping more and more. C's score had hovered between 15% and 20% for over 15 years but as 2016 ended, the language's popularity is now down to 8.7%. "There is no clear way back to the top," reports the site, asking what happened to C? "It is not a language that you think of while writing programs for popular fields such as mobile apps or websites, it is not evolving that much and there is no big company promoting the language."

But the Insights blog at Dice.com counters that TIOBE "has hammered on C for quite some time. Earlier this year, it again emphasized how C is 'hardly suitable for the booming fields of web and mobile app development.' That being said, job postings on Dice (as well as rankings compiled by other organizations) suggest there's still widespread demand for C, which can be used in everything from operating systems to data-intensive applications, and serves many programmers well as an intermediate language."

i-programmer suggests this could just be an artifact of the way TIOBE calculates language popularity (by totaling search engine queries). Noting that Assembly language rose into TIOBE's top 10 this year, their editor wrote, "Perhaps it is something to do with the poor state of assembly language documentation that spurs on increasingly desperate searches for more information." Maybe C programmers are just referring to their K&R book instead of searching for solutions online?

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Apple Could Finally Sell More Devices Than Microsoft In 2017
Posted by News Fetcher on January 08 '17 at 01:40 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's waning-of-windows department:
Gartner predicts Apple will ship more iOS and macOS devices in 2017 than Windows-powered devices "for the first time this century," and then increase their lead over the next two years. An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld:

Gartner predicted that iOS + macOS, unlike Windows, will recover in 2017. Apple's OSes will climb 8% to 268 million this year, add 3% in 2018 to reach 276 million, then increase another 3% in 2019, with that year's device shipment forecast at 285 million. Windows will dip this year, then stagnate for the following two years... The gap between Microsoft and Apple -- 12 million last year, with Microsoft atop -- will widen to 27 million by 2019, advantage Apple.

"The global devices market is stagnating," said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal in a statement Wednesday. Mobile phone shipments are growing only in emerging markets in the Asia and Pacific markets, Atwal added, and noted that "The PC market is just reaching the bottom of its decline." The PC industry's troubles have affected Microsoft most of all; Windows is almost entirely dependent on PC shipments, which have been stuck in a protracted slump. Future shipments were further hit when Microsoft walked away from the smartphone business last year.
The article also points out that even in 2016, Windows devices came in second, and "accounted for approximately 11.2% of the total devices, which overwhelmingly ran Google's Android."

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Google Boosts Python By Turning It Into Go
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 09:43 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's language-transpiling department:
An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld:
Grumpy, an experimental project from Google, transpiles Python code into Go, allowing Python programs to be compiled and run as static binaries using the Go toolchain... In a blog post announcing the open source release, Google stated the project stemmed from its efforts to speed up the Python-powered front end for YouTube. But Google hit an obstacle that's familiar to folks who've deployed Python in production: It's hard to get CPython -- the default Python interpreter written in C -- to scale efficiently. "We think Grumpy has the potential to scale more gracefully than CPython for many real world workloads," writes Google...

Because it doesn't support C extensions, Grumpy doesn't have CPython's Global Interpreter Lock, which is commonly cited as a roadblock to running Python concurrent workloads smoothly. Grumpy also uses Go's garbage collection mechanisms to manage memory under the hood, instead of CPython's. Grumpy creates close interoperation between Python and Go by allowing Go packages to be imported and used with the same syntax as Go modules.

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TV News Broadcast Accidentally Activates Alexa, Initiates Orders
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 06:52 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's always-listening department:
ShaunC writes: In San Diego, TV news anchor Jim Patton was covering a separate story about a child who accidentally ordered a doll house using her family's Echo. Commenting on the story, Patton said "I love the little girl, saying 'Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.'" Viewers across San Diego reported that in response to the news anchor's spoken words, their own Echo devices activated and tried to order doll houses from Amazon. Amazon says that anyone whose Echo inadvertently ordered a physical item can return it at no charge.
Meanwhile, Engadget reports that a team of Twitch streamers has convinced one Google Home device to answer questions from another, and they're livestreaming the surreal conversation.

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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Deal With A 'Gaslighting' Colleague?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 05:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's just-because-you're-paranoid department:
An anonymous reader writes:
What's the best unofficial way to deal with a gaslighting colleague? For those not familiar, I mean "bullies unscheduling things you've scheduled, misplacing files and other items that you are working on and co-workers micro-managing you and being particularly critical of what you do and keeping it under their surveillance. They are watching you too much, implying or blatantly saying that you are doing things wrong when, in fact, you are not...a competitive maneuver, a way of making you look bad so that they look good." I'd add poring over every source-code commit, and then criticizing it even if the criticism is contradictory to what he previously said.

The submission adds that "Raising things through the official channels is out of the question, as is confronting the colleague in question directly as he is considered something of a superstar engineer who has been in the company for decades and has much more influence than any ordinary engineer." So leave your best suggestions in the comments. How would you deal with a gaslighting colleague?

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Macbook Saves Man's Life During Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 04:10 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's backpack-took-a-bullet department:
A 37-year-old credits his MacBook Pro laptop with saving his life during a shooting at the baggage claim of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. An anonymous reader quotes WPLG Miami:
He placed it in his backpack, but didn't think of it when he felt an impact on his back during the shooting... When the bloodshed was over, he said he went to the men's restroom and saw a bullet hole on the laptop. He gave it to FBI agents. And he was in shock when they found a 9 mm bullet in his backpack. That was when he realized a gunman aimed to kill him, but the laptop took the bullet for him. "If I didn't have that backpack on, the bullet would have shot me between the shoulders," Frappier said.

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FBI Releases (Redacted) Documents About The San Bernardino iPhone Case
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 04:10 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's [redacted] department:
The FBI released 100 pages of documents about the unidentified vendor who unlocked the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter, but "censored critical details that would have shown how much the FBI paid, whom it hired and how it opened the phone." An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press:

The files make clear that the FBI signed a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor. The records also show that the FBI received at least three inquiries from companies interested in developing a product to unlock the phone, but none had the ability to come up with a solution fast enough for the FBI. The FBI also said in contracting documents that it did not solicit competing bids or proposals because it thought widely disclosing the bureau's needs could harm national security... The suit by the media organizations argued there was no legal basis to withhold the information and challenged the adequacy of the FBI's search for relevant records. It also said the public had a right to know whether the vendor has adequate security measures, is a proper recipient of government funds and will act only in the public interest. In refusing to provide the records, the FBI said the records had been compiled for law enforcement purposes and might interfere with ongoing enforcement proceedings, even though at the time the shooters were both dead and there were no indications others were involved.

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Bitcoin Was 2016's Best-Performing Currency
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 02:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's stable-currencies department:
The co-founder of Blockchain published an opinion piece in Newsweek today mocking predictions about the death of bitcoin, saying "each is more wrong than the last... Bitcoin was again declared the world's best performing currency in 2016 by Bloomberg. In fact, it's held that title every year since 2010, with the notable exception of 2014, when it was the worst." An anonymous reader writes:

Bitcoin president Nicolas Cary writes that bitcoin has become more stable than many of the world's top currencies, while the British pound "has dropped by more than 17% in a colossal collapse of confidence... In Africa, the Egyptian pound dropped 59% and the Nigerian naira fell 37%. In South America, the Argentine peso plummeted over 17% and the Venezuelan bolivar tumbled so far off a cliff it's difficult to measure -- even bricks of cash are worthless for everyday purchases there. Perhaps most dramatically of all, India, the world's second most populated country, introduced a stunning policy of demonetization declaring banknotes illegal overnight...

"During this time period, and partially in response to it, the price of bitcoin surged... Bitcoin also trounced the stock market from a performance perspective. Brand names like McDonald's, Home Depot and Disney grew at a paltry 1.6% or less; bitcoin outpaced them by over 70 times."
In 2009 one man in Norway bought $27 worth of bitcoin while writing a thesis on encryption, then forgot about them. Six years later, he discovered they were worth nearly $500,000.

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African Airline Reports Drone Collision With Passenger Jet
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 01:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's impacts-in-the-air department:
McGruber writes:

Airlive is reporting that a drone collided with a Boeing 737-700 as it was on approach to Tete, Mozambique airport on Thursday. The 737 landed safely, but the right-hand side of the nose dome and fuselage were badly damaged.

The plane was carrying 80 passengers and a crew of 6, according to the Aviation Herald, which has more pictures of the damaged nose dome. "The crew heard a loud bang," they report, adding that "no abnormal indications followed. The crew, suspecting a bird strike, continued the approach for a safe landing." But USA Today notes that "While pilots have reported hundreds of sightings of drones near planes, previous suspected collisions have been debunked."

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Chile's Goverment Announces Unexplainable 'UFO' Footage
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 12:02 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mysterious-fly-by department:
An anonymous reader quotes Yahoo News:The report from an alleged UFO sighting by the Chilean military over two years ago has just been declassified, leaving experts completely stumped. The Chilean government agency which investigates UFOs, the CEFAA, reports that a naval helicopter was carrying out a routine daylight coastal patrol in November 2014 when the camera operator noticed an unidentified flying object ahead...flying horizontally and at a steady speed similar to that of the helicopter. The mysterious object could be seen with the naked eye but couldn't be detected with the helicopter's radar, ground radar stations or air traffic controllers. Authorities ruled out that it was an aircraft as no craft had been authorized to fly in the area.

In 2014 the CIA admitted their tests of a high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance aircraft between 1954 and 1972 coincided with a spike in UFO reports. Could this be another new military aircraft that's getting its first tests?

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How A Massive India Call Center Swindled 15,000 Americans
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 10:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's we-need-a-'Do-Not-Swindle'-list department:
An FBI agent based in India says the country has now become a major hub for call-center fraud, blaming "a demographic bulge of computer-savvy, young, English-speaking job seekers; a vast call-center culture; super-efficient technology; and what can only be described as ingenuity." The Justice Depatment recently indicted one company for scamming "hundreds of millions of dollars" from over 15,000 victims, placing more than 1.8 million phone calls to Americans, and Slashdot reader retroworks brings an update:
The New York Times has an interesting blow-by-blow story on two India tech center employees who informed on their call center fraud operation, which targeted Americans (especially recent immigrants) with fraudulent IRS calls and other scams. [May be paywalled; free version here.] The building was surrounded by police, phone lines cut. Eventually 630 of the employees were released, and charges were brought against 70 managers and executives of the call center.

The operation filled a seven-story high-rise, and the Times reports that after the raid, "fraudulent IRS calls to Americans dropped 95% percent, according to the Better Business Bureau." But they add that one former employee believes the scams will continue. Within weeks of the raid, he'd been offered a nearly identical job: calling Americans and claiming that their computer was infected with a virus.

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Vast New Tomb Now Covers The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Site
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 10:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's set-in-stone department:
The final stage of the Chernobyl clean-up took over 20 years to build -- and will seal up the site for the next 100 years. Slashdot reader MrKaos writes:
30 years and seven months since the explosion...the project known as the 'Shelter Implementation Plan' has been rolled into place, sealing the crippled Chernobyl reactor. More than 10,000 people were involved in the project, which includes an advanced ventilation systems and remote controlled robotic cranes to dismantle the existing Soviet-built structure and reactor. This sarcophagus -- or New Safe Confinement -- is taller than the Statue of Liberty and larger than Wembley stadium.

Over one million people worked on the initial clean-up, the BBC reports, calling this new sarcophagus "the largest object people have ever moved," and its installation was apparently pretty surreal. "World leaders jostle with global executives and anonymous men dressed in full camouflage as platters of shrimp, foie gras and cheesecake are passed around by white-gloved staff...just 330 feet away from the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history."

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Linux.com Announces The Best Linux Distros for 2017
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 09:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Linux-lists department:
Friday Linux.com published their list of "what might well be the best Linux distributions to be found from the ever-expanding crop of possibilities... according to task." Here's their winners (as chosen by Jack Wallen), along with a short excerpt of his analysis.

Best distro for sysadmins : Parrot Linux. "Based on Debian and offers nearly every penetration testing tool you could possibly want. You will also find tools for cryptography, cloud, anonymity, digital forensics, programming, and even productivity." Best lightweight distribution: LXLE. "Manages to combine a perfect blend of small footprint with large productivity." Best desktop distribution: Elementary OS "I'm certain Elementary OS Loki will do the impossible and usurp Linux Mint from the coveted 'best desktop distribution' for 2017." Best Linux for IoT: Snappy Ubuntu Core "Can already be found in the likes of various hacker boards (such as the Raspberry Pi) as well as Erle-Copter drones, Dell Edge Gateways, Nextcloud Box, and LimeSDR." Best non-enterprise server distribution: CentOS. "Since 2004, CentOS has enjoyed a massive community-driven support system." Best enterprise server distribution: SUSE. "Don't be surprised if, by the end of 2017, SUSE further chips away at the current Red Hat market share."
Wallen also chose Gentoo for "Best distribution for those with something to prove," saying "This is for those who know Linux better than most and want a distribution built specifically to their needs... a source-based Linux distribution that starts out as a live instance and requires you to then build everything you need from source." And surprisingly, he didn't mention his own favorite Linux distro, Bodhi Linux, which he describes elsewhere as "a melding of Ubuntu and Enlightenment".

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Apple's Share of PC Users Drops To A Five-Year Low
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 09:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's falling-Apples department:
Windows 10 is installed on 24.5% of devices -- but that's only half the story. "Apple's Mac share of personal computers worldwide fell to a five-year low in December," reports Computerworld, adding that Linux and Windows "both benefited, with increases of around a half percentage point during 2016."
An anonymous reader quotes their report:
According to web analytics vendor Net Applications, Apple's desktop and notebook operating system -- formerly OS X, now macOS -- powered just 6.1% of all personal computers last month, down from 7% a year ago and a peak of 9.6% as recently as April 2016... The Mac's 6.1% user share in December was the lowest mark recorded by Net Applications since August 2011, more than five years ago... In October, the company reported sales of 4.9 million Macs for the September quarter, a 14% year-over-year decline and the fourth straight quarterly downturn. Apple's sales slide during the past 12 months has been steeper than for the personal computer industry as a whole, according to industry researchers from IDC and Gartner, a 180-degree shift from the prior 30 or so quarters, when the Mac's growth rate repeatedly beat the business average.
Apple's success through 2016 was "fueled by Microsoft's stumbles with Windows 8 and a race-to-the-bottom mentality among rival OEMs," according to the article, which also notes that the user share for Linux exceeded 2% in June, and reached 2.3% by November.

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Hackers Unlock NES Classic, Upload New Games Via USB Cable
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 06:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's drag-and-drop department:
Just because Nintendo doesn't officially let their tiny replica NES receive new games doesn't mean hackers won't find a way to add their own. This week, hackers in Japan and Russia figured out soft-mod solutions to adding new games to the NES Classic, meaning you don't need to grab a screwdriver or a soldering iron to mod your own console. Ars Technica reports: According to the whiz kids at Reddit's NESClassicMods community, the solution won't work until you've created a save file in Super Mario Bros' first slot. (Chances are, you've already done this just by playing the game, since creating game saves is so easy with this system.) Once you've done that, connect your NES Classic Edition to a computer via a micro-USB cable, then boot the NES in "FEL" mode. This is done by holding down the system's reset button while pushing down the power button from a powered-off state. While you're booting, you should also run a "sunxi-FEL" interface on your computer. (An open-source version of compatible "USBBoot" software can be found here.) The rest of the steps land firmly in "operate at your own risk" territory, as they require copying your NES Classic's internal data to your computer, then modifying and adding files via an application made by hackers. Doing so, by the way, includes the dubious step of supplying your own ROM files, which you may have either dumped from your own cartridges or downloaded from other Internet users. One tool linked from that Reddit community, however, comes with two open-source NES ROMs that are in the legal free-and-clear to upload to your hardware. Once you've added your own game files, which should also include custom JPGs that will appear in the NES Classic's "box art" GUI, you'll have to repack the hardware's kernel, then fully flash the hardware yourself. Do all of those steps correctly, and you'll see every single game you've added appear in the slick, default interface.

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AMD Declares Ryzen Will Be a Four-Year Architecture
Posted by News Fetcher on January 07 '17 at 03:32 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tick-tock-tock-tock department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ExtremeTech : Having spent over four years designing the architecture, the company plans to keep it around for at least that long. That's according to CTO Mark Papermaster, who was on-hand to discuss the chip. First things first -- AMD is promising a hard launch for Ryzen, without any paper launches, limited availability, or limited product introductions. When Zen debuts it'll debut in multiple (still unknown) configurations, not a single eight-core part. As PCWorld details, Papermaster also confirmed the four-year target and emphasized that it didn't mean AMD wouldn't iterate the core. "We're not going tick-tock," Papermaster said. "Zen is going to be tock, tock, tock." There are several ways to read this sentence. Tick-tock refers to Intel's previous practice of introducing new CPU architectures in one product cycle and new manufacturing nodes in the other. AMD has never strictly deployed an equivalent approach over multiple product cycles. I wouldn't necessarily conclude that Papermaster is saying AMD won't deploy Zen on new manufacturing nodes over time, but that AMD intends to implement an aggressive series of tweaks and improvements to the current core as time goes by. There's a significant lag between when a design tapes out and when it ships to consumers. This means AMD's CPU design team is almost certainly hard at work on Zen's successor already, even though Zen hasn't actually shipped yet. While I can't make any concrete predictions about how Zen will compete against specific products in Intel's lineup, the demos we've seen and the product information already available has convinced me that Ryzen will be at least a meaningful and significant improvement on AMD's overall power efficiency, performance, and performance-per-watt.

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