Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Retesting the 2990WX

Earlier today, NVIDIA released version 399.24 of their GeForce drivers for Windows, citing Game Ready support for some newly released games including Shadow of the Tomb Raider, The Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout Beta, and Assetto Corsa Competizione early access. 

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While this in and of itself is a normal event, we shortly started to get some tips from readers about an interesting bug fix found in NVIDIA's release notes for this specific driver revision.

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Specifically addressing performance differences between 16-core/32-thread processors and 32-core/64-thread processors, this patched issue immediately rang true of our experiences benchmarking the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX back in August, where we saw some games resulting in frames rates around 50% slower than the 16-core Threadripper 2950X. 

This particular patch note lead us to update out Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX test platform to this latest NVIDIA driver release and see if there were any noticeable changes in performance.

The full testbed configuration is listed below:

Test System Setup
CPU

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX

Motherboard ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme - BIOS 1304
Memory

16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3200

Operating at DDR4-2933

Storage Corsair Neutron XTi 480 SSD
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
Graphics Drivers NVIDIA 398.26 and 399.24
Power Supply Corsair RM1000x
Operating System Windows 10 Pro x64 RS4 (17134.165)

Included at the end of this article are the full results from our entire suite of game benchmarks from our CPU testbed, but first, let's take a look at some of the games that provided particularly bad issues with the 2990WX previously.

The interesting data points for this testing are the 2990WX scores across both the driver revision we tested across every CPU, 398.26, as well as the results from the 1/4 core compatibility mode, and the Ryzen Threadripper 2950X. From the wording of the patch notes, we would expect gaming performance between the 16-core 2950X and the 32-core 2990WX to be very similar.

Grand Theft Auto V

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GTA V was previously one of the worst offenders in our original 2990WX testing, with the frame rate almost halving compared to the 2950X.

However, with the newest GeForce driver update, we see this gap shrinking to around a 20% difference.

Continue reading our revised look at Threadripper 2990WX gaming performance!!

Of Intel, Foreshadow, horses and barn doors

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2018 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: Foreshadow, Intel, hyperthreading, L1TF, spectre, security, patch

In a move which should not come as a shock to anyone, Intel removed the wording which was revealed yesterday along with their Foreshadow patch for desktop CPUs prohibiting publishing comparative performance results.   The reason Intel would rather you didn't post performance comparisons, pre and post patch, is that along with the microcode update HyperThreading needs to be disabled which has a noticeable effect on any multi-threaded application.  Debian were of great help with this, refusing to deply the microcode patch with the gag order in place. 

Red Hat foreshadowed what you will see with their results from the server chip patches, The Register notes as being "from a +30 per cent gain, to -50 per cent loss and beyond. Most HT testing, however, showed losses in the 0-30 per cent range."

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"Intel has backtracked on the license for its latest microcode update that mitigates security vulnerabilities in its processors – after the previous wording outlawed public benchmarking of the chips."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Register

About time Intel thought of ME!

Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2018 - 02:53 PM |
Tagged: security, patch, intel management engine, Intel, IME

A bit before Christmas last year, Intel provided sysadmins with a lovely present, vulnerabilities in the on chip Intel Management Engine which you could not even tell if they had been used to breach your systems.  Intel have now publicly released four advisories pertaining to the IME, so that interested parties can investigate for themselves.  These were already released to system builders and patches released, after a quite a long delay.  This is better late than never ... assuming you are not running anything older than a fourth generation Core processor. 

The Register has links to the advisories if you are interested in a little light reading.

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"Now that Intel's advisory is public, it's clear that Chipzilla has known the particulars for some time, and has been privately working with computer manufacturers to push fixes ahead of disclosure. For example, Lenovo emitted firmware fixes in April, and Dell no later than June."

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Source: The Register

The cure worse than the disease; get your new patches or enjoy a total meltdown

Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2018 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: meltdown, microsoft, security, patch, Windows 7, server 2008 r2

Wasn't it hilarious when Microsoft released a patch for the Meltdown flaw that made things even worse by allowing write access to kernel memory as well as read access?  Well, if you haven't the patch which fixes the patch in place you won't be laughing so hard today.  The Register has seen proof of concept code which makes use of this flaw to elevate a DOS shell window to NT AUTHORITY\System from a user without admin privileges.  Get yourself patched up, especially that Server 2008 instance!

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"If you're not up-to-date with your Intel CPU Meltdown patches for Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2, get busy with that, because exploit code for Microsoft's own-goal flaw is available."

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Source: The Register

Intel Responds to Reboot Issues with Meltdown and Spectre Updates

Subject: Processors | January 18, 2018 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: update, spectre, security, restart, reboot, processor, patch, meltdown, Intel, cpu

The news will apparently get worse before it gets any better for Intel, as the company updated their security recommendations for the Spectre/Meltdown patches for affected CPUs to address post-patch system restart issues. Specifically, Intel notes that issues may be introduced in some configurations with the current patches, though the company does not recommend discontinued use of such updates:

" Intel recommends that these partners, at their discretion, continue development and release of updates with existing microcode to provide protection against these exploits, understanding that the current versions may introduce issues such as reboot in some configurations".

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Image credit: HotHardware

The recommendation section of the security bulletin, updated yesterday (January 17, 2018), is reproduced below:

  • Intel has made significant progress in our investigation into the customer reboot sightings that we confirmed publicly last week
  • Intel has reproduced these issues internally and has developed a test method that allows us to do so in a predictable manner
  • Initial sightings were reported on Broadwell and Haswell based platforms in some configurations. During due diligence we determined that similar behavior occurs on other products including Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake based platforms in some configurations
  • We are working toward root cause
  • While our root cause analysis continues, we will start making beta microcode updates available to OEMs, Cloud service providers, system manufacturers and Software vendors next week for internal evaluation purposes
  • In all cases, the existing and any new beta microcode updates continue to provide protection against the exploit (CVE-2017-5715) also known as “Spectre Variant 2”
  • Variants 1 (Spectre) and Variant 3 (Meltdown) continue to be mitigated through system software changes from operating system and virtual machine vendors
  • As we gather feedback from our customers we will continue to provide updates that improve upon performance and usability

Intel recommendations to OEMs, Cloud service providers, system manufacturers and software vendors

  • Intel recommends that these partners maintain availability of existing microcode updates already released to end users. Intel does not recommend pulling back any updates already made available to end users
  • NEW - Intel recommends that these partners, at their discretion, continue development and release of updates with existing microcode to provide protection against these exploits, understanding that the current versions may introduce issues such as reboot in some configurations
  • NEW - We further recommend that OEMs, Cloud service providers, system manufacturers and software vendors begin evaluation of Intel beta microcode update releases in anticipation of definitive root cause and subsequent production releases suitable for end users

Intel recommendations to end users

  • Following good security practices that protect against malware in general will also help protect against possible exploitation until updates can be applied
  • For PCs and Data Center infrastructure, Intel recommends that patches be applied as soon as they are available from your system manufacturer, and software vendors
  • For data center infrastructure, Intel additionally recommends that IT administrators evaluate potential impacts from the reboot issue and make decisions based on the security profile of the infrastructure

Intel has worked with operating system vendors, equipment manufacturers, and other ecosystem partners to develop software updates that can help protect systems from these methods. End users and systems administrators should check with their operating system vendors and apply any available updates as soon as practical.

The full list of affected processors from Intel's security bulletin follows:

  • Intel® Core™ i3 processor (45nm and 32nm)
  • Intel® Core™ i5 processor (45nm and 32nm)
  • Intel® Core™ i7 processor (45nm and 32nm)
  • Intel® Core™ M processor family (45nm and 32nm)
  • 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 4th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 5th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 6th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 7th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 8th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • Intel® Core™ X-series Processor Family for Intel® X99 platforms
  • Intel® Core™ X-series Processor Family for Intel® X299 platforms
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 3400 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 3600 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 5500 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 5600 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 6500 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 7500 series
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v2 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v3 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v4 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v5 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v6 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 v2 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 v3 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 v4 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v2 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v3 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v4 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor Scalable Family
  • Intel® Xeon Phi™ Processor 3200, 5200, 7200 Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor C Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor E Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor A Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor x3 Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor Z Series
  • Intel® Celeron® Processor J Series
  • Intel® Celeron® Processor N Series
  • Intel® Pentium® Processor J Series
  • Intel® Pentium® Processor N Series

We await further updates and developments from Intel, system integrators, and motherboard partners.

Source: Intel

About that AV registry key needed for Meltdown and Spectre patches

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2018 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: meltdown, spectre, security, antivirus, patch

If you are curious about the details behind the registry key that your Antivirus program needs to create in order to receive Windows Updates, The Register describes its purpose here.  In essence, modern AV programs regularly access the kernel to look for suspicious activity and become quite upset when they are not allowed to access it after the patch places the kernel in isolation, upset enough to continually crash your computer.  Ensuring your AV software has updated itself to ensure that this does not occur before allowed the Windows patch to install is a good thing, however there is a serious problem with the way Microsoft decided to deal with the situation.  Until that key is present, you will not be able to install any new security patches; something which should be changed ASAP as it could help spread other infections simply because you had the temerity not to use Windows Defender.

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"Microsoft's workaround to protect Windows computers from the Intel processor security flaw dubbed Meltdown has revealed the rootkit-like nature of modern security tools."

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Source: The Register

Meltdown's Impact on Storage Performance - Really an Issue?

Subject: Storage | January 5, 2018 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: RS4, RS3, patch, meltdown, KB4056892, cpu, 960 EVO, 900P, 850 EVO

While the Meltdown announcements and patches were in full swing, I was busily testing a round of storage devices to evaluate the potential negative impact of the Meltdown patch. Much of the testing we've seen has come in the form of Linux benchmarks, and today we saw a few come out on the Windows side of things. Most of the published data to date shows a ~20% performance hit to small random accesses, but I've noted that the majority of reviewers seem to be focusing on the Samsung 950/960 series SSDs. Sure these are popular devices, but when evaluating changes to a storage subsystem, it's unwise to just stick with a single type of product.

Test conditions were as follows:

  • ASUS Prime Z270-A + 7700K
    • C-States disabled,  no overclock.
    • ASUS MCE disabled, all other clock settings = AUTO.
  • SSDs:
    • Intel Optane 900P 480GB (Intel NVMe driver)
    • Samsung 960 EVO 500GB (Samsung NVMe driver)
    • Samsung 850 EVO 500GB (Intel RST driver)
  • Conditioning:
    • NTFS partition.
    • 16GB test file. Sequential conditioning.
    • Remainder of SSD sequentially filled to capacity.

The first results come from a clean Windows Redstone 3 install compared to a clean Windows 10 Redstone 4 (build 17063), which is a fast ring build including the Meltdown patch:

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The 960 EVO comes in at that same 20% drop seen elsewhere, but check out the 850 EVO's nearly 10% *increase* in performance. The 900P pushes this further, showing an over 15% *increase*. You would figure that a patch that adds latency to API calls would have a noticeable impact on a storage device offering extremely low latencies, but that did not end up being the case in practice.

Since the 960 EVO looked like an outlier here, I also re-tested it using the Microsoft Inbox NVMe driver, as well as by connecting it via the chipset (which uses the Intel RST driver). A similar drop in performance was seen in all configurations.

The second set of results was obtained later, taking our clean RS3 install and updating it to current, which at the time included the Microsoft roll-up 01-2018 package (KB4056892):

KASLR-IRQ2-.png

Note that the results are similar, though Optane did not see as much of a boost here. It is likely that some specific optimizations have been included in RS4 that are more beneficial to lower latency storage devices.

As a final data point, here's what our tests look like with software polling implemented:

KASLR-POLL2.png

The above test results are using an application method that effectively bypasses the typical interrupt requests associated with file transfers. Note that the differences are significantly reduced once IRQs are removed from the picture. Also note that kernel API calls are still taking place here.

Well there you have it. Some gain and some lose. Given that a far lower latency device (900P) sees zero performance hit (actually gaining speed), I suspect that whatever penalty associated with Meltdown could be easily optimized out via updates to the Windows Inbox and Samsung NVMe drivers.

It's a good day to be on an AMD kernel

Subject: General Tech | January 3, 2018 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: security, patch, kernel, Intel

Intel is having a lousy day after revealing a fundamental flaw in their architecture design; one not shared by AMD chips.  It turns out that many common programs are able to read the protected memory sections of the chips kernel, something commonly known as a very bad thing.  The flaw exists in both Linux and Windows and is serious enough that a patch has been released, which you should install.

However initial reports show the patch has a negative effect on performance, with a worst case scenario showing quite a performance delta.  The thing to keep in mind is that we do not have many data points yet, more testing needs to be done to determine exactly how much performance degradation will be experienced.  We will conduct our own testing here, with a focus on storage which could see the most degradation, especially the newly released Intel Optane.  You can also expect that Amazon, Azure and other hosting companies will be releasing information on the effect this has on their systems, which will give us a good overall view of what this patch will do.

The easiest way to ensure you are not going to experience this issue is to pick up a Ryzen or Threadripper, of course.  The Inquirer offers more insight here.

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"A fundamental design flaw in Intel's processor chips has forced a significant redesign of the Linux and Windows kernels to defang the chip-level security bug."

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Source: The Register

Multi-monitor gaming troubles? It might not be your driver

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2017 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: patch, oops, microsoft

If you game on multiple monitors and have noticed problems recently, with screens rendering with off clipping or not a timely manner you may want to look to Microsoft.  It seems that KB3213986 which was released yesterday, may well be to blame.  As there are no serious security updates contained in this particular patch you can feel safe uninstalling it, unless you really need two keyboards and a fingerprint touchscreen attached to your system.  Cheers to The Guru of 3D for posting this first.

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"Users may experience delayed or clipped screens while running 3D rendering apps (such as games) on systems with more than one monitor."

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Source: Guru of 3D

Assassin's Creed Unity: Now with Slightly Less Terrible Performance!

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2014 - 04:10 PM |
Tagged: patch, gpu performance, assassin's creed, assasins creed unity

The latest patch (version 1.4.0) for Assassin's Creed Unity was released on Friday, and the folks at HardOCP have posted a review with their perfomance findings today.

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Spoiler alert: the performance numbers are better, but not by a lot. To quote the article's conclusion:

"Thanks to the recent patch 1.4.0 it is a little "less terrible," but it is still not very good. This game is poorly optimized, if at all, and performs worse than it should on the latest generation of video cards. Even with SLI you cannot maximize the graphics settings at 1440p with TXAA, one of the added NVIDIA features in the game. This is sad."

The post for Patch 4 on Steam lists these improvements:

  • Performance & Stability: Frame rate drops, game crashes, lost progression
  • Gameplay: Navigation, lock picking chests
  • Online: Connectivity, matchmaking, companion app

The tested patch (which weighs in at 5.4GB) is the fourth one released in December, as Ubisoft attempts to mitigate some of the issues with a game that has only disappointed since launch. While overall improvements seen by the team at [H] were slight, the review does concede that patch "helped performance and image quality" and that "using the latest NVIDIA beta drivers...also helped performance in this game". However to fully enjoy the Assassin's Creed Unity experience they do recommend "a cold beer, or two".

Source: HARDOCP