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'Real People' Don't Need End-To-End Encryption In Their Messaging Apps, UK Home Secretary Says
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 12:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's what'-happening department:
UK home secretary Amber Rudd has called on messaging apps like WhatsApp to ditch end-to-end encryption, arguing that it aids terrorists. From a report: The major technology companies must step up their fight against extremism or face new laws, the home secretary has told the BBC. Amber Rudd said technology companies were not doing enough to beat "the enemy" on the internet. Encryption tools used by messaging apps had become a "problem," she added. Ms Rudd is meeting with representatives from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and others at a counter-terrorism forum in San Francisco. Tuesday's summit is the first gathering of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an organisation set up by the major companies in the wake of recent terror attacks. In a joint statement, the companies taking part said they were co-operating to "substantially disrupt terrorists' ability to use the internet in furthering their causes, while also respecting human rights." In an op-ed, she wrote Tuesday: Real people often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security ... Who uses WhatsApp because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family? Companies are constantly making trade-offs between security and 'usability,' and it is here where our experts believe opportunities may lie.

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Mozilla Launches Experimental Voice Search, File-Sharing and Note-Taking Tools For Firefox
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 12:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's browser-features department:
Firefox has just launched three new Test Pilot experiments that bring voice search, built-in note taking and a tool for sending large files to the browser. From a report: While the new voice search, which currently works on the Google, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo homepages, and note-taking features are browser plugins, the new Send tool is web-based and allows anybody -- no matter which browser they use -- to send files up to 1GB in size. It encrypts the file as it is uploaded and gives you a link you can share with your friends and co-workers. Files are automatically deleted after one download or after one day. That's not exactly the most novel concept (and Mozilla has often been criticized for diverting its attention from its core competencies), but the built-in encryption and the open-source nature of the tool do make up for that.

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Seed Funding Slows in Silicon Valley
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-tussle department:
The bloom is off seed funding, the business of providing money to brand-new startups, as investors take a more measured approach to financing emerging U.S. technology companies. From a report: Seed-stage financing has been sliding for the last two years, with the number of transactions down about 40 percent since the peak in mid-2015, data show. Dollar investments in fledgling companies have also declined, although less dramatically, dropping more than 24 percent over the same period. The slowdown comes despite an explosion of interest by wealthy individuals and foreign investors looking to park money in the next big thing. And it has potentially big implications for Silicon Valley. Early-stage funding is the lifeblood of a technology ecosystem built on risk-taking. Denied critical resources in infancy, companies can't hope to scale quickly enough to unseat incumbent industries and grow into the next Uber Technologies Inc or Airbnb. "The reason why startups are disrupting companies in the 21st Century is not because they are smarter. It's because they have capital to do so," said Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur, startup mentor and adjunct professor at Stanford University. [...] The zeal that prevailed just two years ago has faded. Seed and angel investors completed about 900 deals in the second quarter, down from roughly 1,100 deals in the second quarter of 2016 and close to 1,500 deals during that time period in 2015, according to a report released last month by Seattle-based PitchBook Inc, which supplies venture capital data. The dollar amount provided by seed and angel investors was $1.65 billion in the second quarter. That's just shy of the $1.75 billion for the same time period of 2016 and down significantly from 2015, which saw $2.19 billion invested into fledgling startups.

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Microsoft Targets Google and Apple in Schools With 'Surface Plus' Hardware Subscription Program
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's education-space department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is launching a new subscription program for buying Surface computers and tablets in much the same way that many people now purchase smartphones, with no-interest financing for two years and the ability to upgrade to a new device before the term is up. Announced this morning at the launch of back-to-school season, the initiative is part of a broader push by Microsoft to gain new momentum in U.S. schools, where Google Chromebooks have taken the lead vs. Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft's new subscription program, called Surface Plus, will be available starting later today through the Microsoft Store in person and online. Microsoft's Surface Laptop, Surface Pro, Surface Book and Surface Studio are all options under the program. The program lets participants upgrade to a new machine after 18 months when they return their existing hardware in good condition. In addition to Surface Plus for students and consumers, Microsoft is offering a variation called Surface Plus for Business with the option to buy multiple machines under a single agreement, and the ability to finance a 55-inch Surface Hub as part of the agreement. The business version of the program also includes upgrade rights, with the timing of the upgrade depending on the length of the agreement. The fine print: an interest rate of 19.99% kicks in after 24 months.

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Bitcoin Splits in Two Amid Feud
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 09:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department:
Bitcoin is dividing in two. Disagreements about how to operate the cryptocurrency have led to a new strand called Bitcoin Cash, which is breaking off from the bitcoin system. From a report: Bitcoin Cash launches Tuesday in what is known as a "hard fork" from bitcoin, a virtual currency based on peer-to-peer transactions without any central authority or bank behind it. The new offshoot is a response to the increasing popularity of bitcoin, which is struggling to deal with massive numbers of transactions with its underpinning technology. The main bitcoin currency is adopting a system called Segwit2x that moves transactions out of the current blockchain, while bitcoin Cash will use bigger blocks within the blockchain. Bitcoin holders are set to receive the same amount of bitcoin cash as they have in bitcoin if the exchanges and wallets they use support the new coin, another report added. Exchanges including Kraken and ViaBTC have said they'll support both, while others like Coinbase and Poloniex have said they won't, citing uncertainty that bitcoin cash will have lasting market value.

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US Senators To Introduce Bill To Secure 'Internet of Things'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 09:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tightening-things department:
Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Tuesday plans to introduce legislation seeking to address vulnerabilities in computing devices embedded in everyday objects -- known in the tech industry as the "internet of things" -- which experts have long warned poses a threat to global cyber security. The new bill would require vendors that provide internet-connected equipment to the U.S. government to ensure their products are patchable and conform to industry security standards. It would also prohibit vendors from supplying devices that have unchangeable passwords or possess known security vulnerabilities. Republicans Cory Gardner and Steve Daines and Democrats Mark Warner and Ron Wyden are sponsoring the legislation, which was drafted with input from technology experts at the Atlantic Council and Harvard University. A Senate aide who helped write the bill said that companion legislation in the House was expected soon.

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Google Chrome Starts Testing a Built-in Ad Blocker on Windows, Android
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 08:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's cleaning-the-web department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Earlier this year, Google was rumored to be working on a built-in ad blocker for its Chrome browser. The new ad blocker inside Chrome won't block every ad you see on the web -- instead, it'll only block ads that are considered intrusive and go against the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads. Google has started testing the new built-in ad blocker for Chrome today on the desktop and Android devices. The latest canary release for Google Chrome includes a new option under Chrome's Settings where you can enable the new ad blocker inside Chrome. Users can enable the new feature by going to the Content options inside Chrome's settings page (chrome://settings/content/ads). The built-in ad blocker should automatically block ads that are considered "intrusive." But Google Chrome also lets you strictly block ads on certain sites, and you can also choose to allow ads on certain sites if you'd like.

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White House Officials Tricked By Email Prankster
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 08:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-is-hard department:
Jake Tapper, reporting for CNN: A self-described "email prankster" in the UK fooled a number of White House officials into thinking he was other officials, including an episode where he convinced the White House official tasked with cyber security that he was Jared Kushner and received that official's private email address unsolicited. "Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soiree towards the end of August," the fake Jared Kushner on an Outlook account wrote to the official White House email account of Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. "It would be great if you could make it, I promise food of at least comparible (sic) quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening." Bossert wrote back: "Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can't refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is" (redacted). Bossert did not respond to CNN's request for comment; the email prankster said he was surprised Bossert responded given his expertise. The emails were shared with CNN by the email prankster. White House officials acknowledged the incidents and said they were taking the matter seriously. "We take all cyber related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN.

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NVIDIA Announces Quadro And TITAN xP External GPU Solutions, OptiX 5.0 SDK
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 07:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's market-heating-up department:
Brandon Hill, writing for HotHardware: AMD isn't the only hardware company making waves this week at SIGGRAPH 2017. NVIDIA is looking to bolster its position in the professional graphics arena with a few new breakthroughs. The first of which is the addition of two new external graphics solutions that are targeted at professional artists and designers who primarily work with notebooks. NVIDIA is making it possible for these professionals to use either Pascal-based TITAN xP or Quadro graphics cards within an external GPU (eGPU) enclosure. NVIDIA will be partnering with a number of hardware partners including Bizon, Magma, and Sonnet, who will make compatible solutions available in September. NVIDIA is also playing up two of its strengths in artifice intelligence (AI) by launching the OptiX 5.0 SDK. With version 5.0, the OptiX is gaining ray tracing support to help speed up processing with regards to visual designs. This new release also adds GPU-accelerated motion blur along with AI-enhanced denoising capabilities.

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Amazon Suspends Sales of Blu Android Phones Due To Privacy Concerns
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 07:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-worries department:
CNET reports: Amazon just put budget phone maker Blu in the penalty box. The online retailing giant told CNET that it was suspending sales of phones from Blu, known for making ultra-cheap Android handsets, due to a "potential security issue." The move comes after security firm Kryptowire demonstrated last week how software in Blu's phones collected data and sent it to servers in China without alerting people. Blu defended the software, created by a Chinese company called Shanghai Adups Technology, and denied any wrongdoing. A company spokeswoman said at the time it "has several policies in place which take customer privacy and security seriously." She added there had been no breaches. Blu said it was in a process of review to reinstate the phones at Amazon.

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Privacy Watchdog Asks FTC To Look Into Google's Offline Shopping Tracker
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 05:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's online-to-offline department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A privacy advocacy group has filed a formal legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to begin an investigation "into Google's in-store tracking algorithm to determine whether it adequately protects the privacy of millions of American consumers." In the Monday filing, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said it is concerned with Google's new Store Sales Management program, which debuted in May. The system allows the company to extend its online tracking capabilities into the physical world. The idea is to combine credit card and other financial data acquired from data brokers to create a singular profile as a way to illustrate to companies what goods and services are being searched for online, which result in actual in-person sales. Because the algorithm that Google uses is secret, EPIC says, there is no way to determine how well Google's claimed anonymization feature -- to mask names, credit card numbers, location, and other potentially private data -- actually works. While Google has been cagey about exactly how it does this, the company has previously revealed that the technique is based on CryptDB.

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Is the iPhone 'Years' Ahead of Android In Photography?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 01 '17 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-DSLR-era department:
Former Google senior vice president of Social, Vic Gundotra, said that Android phones are years behind the iPhone when it comes to photography. In a Facebook post, Gundotra said: "The end of the DSLR for most people has already arrived. I left my professional camera at home and took these shots at dinner with my iPhone 7 using computational photography (portrait mode as Apple calls it). Hard not to call these results (in a restaurant, taken on a mobile phone with no flash) stunning. Great job Apple." 9to5Mac reports: In response to a comment suggesting that the Samsung S8 camera was even better, Business Insider spotted that Gundotra disagreed. He said that not only was Apple way ahead of Samsung, but Android was to blame. From Gundotra's Facebook post: "I would never use an Android phone for photos! Here is the problem: It's Android. Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung gallery or Google Photos? It's because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera) they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API. That can take YEARS. Also the greatest innovation isn't even happening at the hardware level -- it's happening at the computational photography level. (Google was crushing this 5 years ago -- they had had 'auto awesome' that used AI techniques to automatically remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add vignetting, etc... but recently Google has fallen back). Apple doesn't have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it. Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don't mind being a few years behind, buy an Android."

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HP Patents 'Reminder Messages'
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's stupid-patent-of-the-month department:
Daniel Nazer reports via the Electronic Frontier Foundation: On July 25, 2017, the Patent Office issued a patent to HP on reminder messages. Someone needs to remind the Patent Office to look at the real world before issuing patents. United States Patent No. 9,715,680 (the '680 patent) is titled "Reminder messages." While the patent application does suggest some minor tweaks to standard automated reminders, none of these supposed additions deserve patent protection. Although this claim uses some obscure language (like "non-transitory computer-readable storage medium" and "article data"), it describes a quite mundane process. The "article data" is simply additional information associated with an event. For example, "buy a cake" might be included with a birthday reminder. The patent also requires that this extra information be input via a "scanning operation" (e.g. scanning a QR code). The '680 patent comes from an application filed in July 2012. It is supposed to represent a non-obvious advance on technology that existed before that date. Of course, reminder messages were standard many years before the application was filed. And just a few minutes of research reveals that QR codes were already used to encode information for reminder messages. The Patent Office reviewed HP's application for years without ever considering any real-world products. Indeed, the examiner considered only patents and patent applications.

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The US Is Becoming a Hot Spot For Outsourcing
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hot-spot department:
New submitter cdreimer shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) about how companies are now outsourcing in the United States, hiring from Michigan instead of Mumbai. From the report: For years, American companies have been saving money by "offshoring" jobs -- hiring people in India and other distant cubicle farms. Today, some of those jobs are being outsourced again -- in the United States. Nexient, a software outsourcing company, reflects the evolving geography of technology work. It holds daily video meetings with one of its clients, Bill.com, where team members stand up and say into the camera what they accomplished yesterday for Bill.com, and what they plan to do tomorrow. The difference is, they are phoning in from Michigan, not Mumbai. "It's the first time we've been happy outsourcing," said Rene Lacerte, the chief executive of Bill.com, a bill payment-and-collection service based in Palo Alto, Calif. Nexient is a domestic outsourcer, a flourishing niche in the tech world as some American companies pull back from the idea of hiring programmers a world away. Salaries have risen in places like South Asia, making outsourcing there less of a bargain. In addition, as brands pour energy and money into their websites and mobile apps, more of them are deciding that there is value in having developers in the same time zone, or at least on the same continent.

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Iranians Use 'Cute Photographer' Profile To Hack Targets In Middle East
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's operating-lonely-guy department:
chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Hackers working on behalf of the government of Iran are using alluring social media profiles featuring a young, English photographer to entice and then compromise the systems of high value targets in the oil and gas industry, according to a report by Dell Secureworks. In a report released on Thursday, Secureworks' Counter Threat Unit (CTU) said that it observed an extensive phishing campaign beginning in January and February 2017 that used a polished social media profile of a young, English woman using the name "Mia Ash" to conduct highly targeted spear-phishing and social engineering attacks against employees of Middle Eastern and North Africa firms in industries like telecommunications, government, defense, oil and financial services. The attacks are the work of an advanced persistent threat group dubbed COBALT GYPSY or "Oil Rig" that has been linked to other sophisticated attacks. The attacks, which spread across platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as email, were highly successful. In some cases, the attacks lasted months -- and long after the compromise of the employee -- with the targets engaged in a flirtation with a woman they believed was a young, attractive female photographer. The Mia Ash persona is a fake identity based loosely on a real person -- a Romanian photographer and student who has posted her work prolifically online. According to a report by Security Ledger, the persona was created specifically with the goal of performing reconnaissance on and establishing relationships with employees of targeted organizations. Victims were targeted with the PupyRAT Trojan, an open source, cross-platform remote access trojan (RAT) used to take control of a victim's system and harvest credentials like logins and passwords from victims, and lured with malware-laden documents such as "photography surveys" (really?). One target was even instructed to make sure to open the document from work because it will "work better," Secureworks said.

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With 200 Million Daily Users, Giphy Will Soon Test Sponsored GIFs
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-about-time department:
Giphy, the four-year-old search engine for GIFs with 200 million daily active users, will soon start testing sponsored GIFs within messaging experiences. "This means that users who search for GIFs may be served a sponsored GIF within the messaging tab," reports TechCrunch. From the report: There are some obvious use-cases here: A search for "Monday" or "morning" might turn up a Starbucks GIF. But there is also an opportunity for brands, especially movies and TV shows (which makes up a huge portion of Giphy's content), to work their existing content into people's messages. Structurally, this isn't too different from what Google does with search terms. If you search for "Walmart," you'll more than likely see a sponsored listing for both Walmart and Target. With Giphy, however, searches are rarely for specific brands but rather based around certain actions, reactions or emotions. With the forthcoming sponsored messaging product, a search for "Wooo" might turn up a GIF of someone pouring Jose Cuervo shots. A search for "cheers" might show folks clinking two Budweiser beer bottles together.

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Microsoft's Windows Phone Keyboard For the iPhone Is Dead
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's dead-as-a-doornail department:
Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard for the iPhone had one unique feature when it launched more than a year ago: a one-handed mode that could be used with either your left or right thumb. Now, according to a support note spotted by Windows Central, it appears Microsoft is consolidating and removing the keyboard from the App Store, encouraging users to download SwiftKey instead. The Verge reports: Microsoft has tested out a number of iOS keyboards, and it now appears the company is focusing solely on SwiftKey after acquiring the app last year. We haven't seen any major additions to SwitftKey since Microsoft acquired it, apart from a separate Swiftmoji emoji predictor in July last year. Microsoft's SwiftKey keyboard now competes against the likes of Google's Gboard keyboard and various other iOS and Android keyboards. Have you been using Word Flow on your iPhone? If so, what has your experience been with the application? Do you plan on switching to Gboard or another third-party keyboard now that Word Flow is no longer supported?

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BrickerBot Dev Claims Cyber-Attack That Affected Over 60,000 Indian Modems
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's taking-responsibility department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: "The author of the BrickerBot malware has claimed a cyber-attack that affected several Indian states and has caused over 60,000 modems and routers to lose Internet connectivity," reports Bleeping Computer. "The incident affected modems and routers belonging to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), two Indian state-owned telecommunications service providers." The BrickerBot malware infected modems that used default passwords and modems that the two ISPs left exposed via the TR069 management interface to connections from anywhere on the Internet. BrickerBot is a malware strain that affects Linux-based IoT and networking devices. Unlike other malware that hoards devices into botnets for DDoS attacks and other purposes, BrickerBot "bricks" the equipment by rewriting its flash storage with random data. In most cases this bricking effect can be reversed, but in some cases this is permanent. BSNL and MTNL had worked to fix problems but efforts were delayed after a BSNL workforce strike. The BrickerBot author also raised the alarm about similar exposed devices on the network of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL). In April, the BrickerBot author claimed he bricked over 2 million devices.

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Bluetooth Battery Level Indicators May Soon Be Coming To Android
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-late-than-never department:
The folks over at XDA Developers are reporting that Android may be getting a new feature that could help users identify how much battery life is remaining in their Bluetooth wireless headphones. The feature for "[retrieving] battery level information of [a] remote device" was discovered in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Android and Me reports: This hasn't made it to final release just yet, but when it does, it will make it easy for users to quickly ascertain how much battery life is remaining in the Bluetooth headphones that are connected to their device. It doesn't just mean support for Bluetooth headphones, either, as Bluetooth speakers and other accessories that run on battery power will be supported, too. Unfortunately there's no telling on when this feature will see the light of day for the public. There's no set timeframe between a feature that's part of the AOSP and rolling out in a final, public release of the mobile operating system. Some manufacturers have already built support for this feature into their phones, including OnePlus, Samsung, and LG. So while it might not be a completely brand new feature on Android, it would still be good for the Android platform as a whole to support the feature in the stock build.

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AMD Unveils Radeon RX Vega Series Consumer Graphics Cards Starting At $399
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '17 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-shiny department:
MojoKid writes: AMD has officially lifted the veil on its new Radeon RX consumer graphics line-up, featuring the company's next-generation Vega GPU architecture. Initially, there are four cards in the Radeon RX Vega line-up, the standard air-cooled Radeon RX Vega 64, a Radeon RX Vega 64 Limited Edition with stylized metal fan shroud, the liquid-cooled Radeon RX Vega 64 Liquid, and the lower-cost Radeon RX Vega 56. At the heart of all Radeon RX Vega series cards is the Vega 10 GPU which is comprised of roughly 12.5 billion transistors and is manufactured using a 14nm FinFET LPP process. Vega 10 can reliably reach the 1.7GHz range, whereas AMD's previous gen Fiji hovered around 1GHz. The base GPU clock speed of the air-cooled Vega 64 is 1,247MHz with a boost clock of 1,546MHz. There is 8GB of HBM2 memory on-board that offers up peak bandwidth of 484GB/s. All told, the Radeon RX Vega 64 is capable of 25.3 TFLOPs (half-precision) of compute performance. The Radeon RX Vega 64 Liquid-Cooled Edition has the same GPU configuration, but with higher base and boost clocks -- 1,406MHz and 1,677MHz, respectively. The lower cost Radeon RX Vega 56 features the same Vega 10 GPU, but 8 of its CUs have been disabled and its clocks are somewhat lower. Although AMD touts a number of efficiency improvements, the Vega RX series requires some serious power. Vega 56 board power is in the 210 Watt range, while the top-end liquid-cooled card hits 345 Watts. AMD claims top-end Vega cards will be competitive with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080 series of cards. AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics cards are expected to ship on August 14th.

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