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Intel Upgrades Hardware

Intel To Offer CPU Upgrades Via Software 499

Posted by timothy
from the on-the-other-side-withholding-them-by-silence dept.
derGoldstein writes "Intel will again offer CPU upgrades through software. In the past, the upgrades gave you HyperThreading and more L3 cache. This time upgrades will actually increase CPU frequency: 'Intel Upgrade Service offers three different upgrades on second generation Core processors: Intel Core i3-2312M processor, Intel Core i3-2102 processor, and Intel Pentium G622 processor.' The page provides benchmarks of the 3 upgrade options."
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Intel To Offer CPU Upgrades Via Software

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  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by discord5 (798235) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @11:47AM (#37085880)

    Intel will again offer CPU upgrades through software. [snip] This time upgrades will actually increase CPU frequency

    Hurray, now we can buy crippled CPUs and unlock them later.

    It's like I'm being scammed at purchase, and scammed again at upgrade time.

    In before Intel sells 256 core CPUs but requires you to purchase an extra license for every 2 cores beyond the initial 2.

    • What about the DRM built-in the CPUs?? you know they have some horrible system in place to support this; otherwise, the upgrades will leak out on the internet and we will get them for free.... just think of the malware that could use such features.

    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @12:04PM (#37086050) Journal

      Hurray, now we can buy crippled CPUs and unlock them later.

      That's pretty much how CPUs have always been.
      Intel or AMD makes a wide array of processors, but mostly, you're just buying variations on the top processor for each model.
      The CPU gets tested and underperforming chips get tagged as low or mid range.
      After that, production quotas and demand get filled by software/hardware locking fully functional top end chips.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Yes, but they don't generally charge for an upgrade, and if you break it in the process of overclocking what they sold, they don't support it.

        This is a new low as they're selling you a chip, a chip that they're guaranteeing will work at the higher clockspeed, but won't unlock for you unless you pay more than they were charging for the chip. This sort of shit is why I try to avoid buying Intel products whenever I can.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by artor3 (1344997)

          So before, you got a massive discount off the top price for buying a crippled chip. Now, you get a massive discount off the top price for buying a crippled chip, and have the option to pay the difference to uncripple it at a later date.

          How exactly is this ripping you off? You get what you paid for, same as always, and now have the option to get more if you pay more.

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      The summary says they "offered upgrades" not that they are charging for it. And I was able to download the installer without being asked about anything. They seem to be providing a "patch", perhaps they found they could change stuff and make it work better.

      But sounds awesome that you think otherwise! Because you'll never try to get it thinking it's going to cost you money!
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by v1x (528604) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @12:26PM (#37086264) Homepage
        The software download itself is free, although upon running the tool, it brings up the following message on one of the dialog screens, "During the upgrade process, you will enter the PIN number from the upgrade card you purchased," which suggests that they are charging for it. Sadly, my computer is not upgradeable by this method.
        • by Idbar (1034346)
          Thanks! Since I don't have an i3, I didn't want to even try. But I see everyone ranting about it. I don't see pricing or anything anywhere.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr_Silver (213637) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @12:16PM (#37086182)

      It's like I'm being scammed at purchase, and scammed again at upgrade time.

      Out of interest, if you know that $200 will get you a certain set of specifications, you decide those are the specifications you want, you buy it on the expectation that you will get those specifications and when you put it into your computer you find that you do actually get those specifications ...

      ... why do you think you're being scammed at purchase?

      • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sjames (1099) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @03:13PM (#37087798) Homepage

        Because clearly, the better specs were so dirt cheap to produce that they were thrown in on speculation, but locked away. Then you get charged real money for something that literally costs the manufacturer nothing.

        Most people instinctively feel that to be wrong and often can't say exactly why (it may be part of the hard wired instinct that allows us to behave socially). The more rigorous answer is that in a healthy market, natural competition should have compelled the manufacturer to enable those features at the time of sale in order to be competitive at that price point.

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cgenman (325138) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @07:52PM (#37089852) Homepage

        Say that you buy a can with "12 oz" of soda inside. You open it up and drink it. Then you take a look at the can. The can actually holds 16oz. And the manufacturer actually made all 16oz of soda. But to sell a 12oz can, they put 4oz of the soda within a thick plastic resin, thus destroying it for all time. The bottom of your 12oz can is 4oz of wasted plastic graveyard devoted to market segmentation.

        They sold you 12 oz of soda, and you got 12 oz of soda. But they ALSO made an extra 4oz of soda. Since you didn't pay for that extra 4oz of soda, they destroyed it rather than letting you or someone else have it.

        And yes, that's how the chip industry works. That's also how the car, and certain other industries, works. From the business perspective, it is a way of segmenting your market and supporting tiered pricing options. From an end-consumer standpoint, the company lobotomized something they sold to them, because they aren't the overpaid elite. And whenever they're waiting for an install to complete, or a copy of Outlook to open, they know that bits of their lives are being wasted because a company artificially decided to make the processor in their machine suck 20% more.

        It makes perfect business and engineering sense. But that's not how people feel about it. The average person isn't buying a specs sheet. They're buying the fastest processor they can afford. And as it turns out, the processor they bought could be even faster, but some company stopped it for completely artificial reasons. People are going to be frustrated by that.

    • by l2718 (514756) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @01:09PM (#37086638)

      Hurray, now we can buy crippled CPUs and unlock them later.

      I think you don't understand what's going on. Intel is giving everyone more options. There's no way this can make you worse off. You probably don't realize that Intel doesn't make separate "1.8 GHz" and "2.0 GHz" chips. What they do is make many of the same chip, test each chip, and then set the clock frequency depending on how well each chip handles things. Now imagine many people would rather buy a 1.8GHz chip (it's cheaper and they don't need the extra speed), but the manufacturing process is good and makes mostly 2.0Ghz chips. Intel now has three choices:

      1. Keep things as they are. This makes 1.8GHz chips more expensive (supply is less than demand at the current price), and forces people to buy 2.0GHz chips they don't want.
      2. Lower prices on 2.0GHz chips. This will increase sales, but means giving up on the money of those people who really need (or think they need) the extra speed and are willing to pay for it.
      3. Take some chips that could run at 2.0GHz, mark them "1.8GHz" and sell them for a lower price.

      Under the last scenario Intel is happier (they got the money of the people who want cheaper parts and got to charge a premium from the people who want faster parts). The consumers are also happier (they got the processor speed they want at the price they want). Why should the people who wanted 1.8GHz speed care that the part they got could in theory run at 2.0GHz? that's not the speed they wanted in the first place.

  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @11:48AM (#37085892)

    With them making Sandy Bridge non overclockable unless you pay extra, this was very likely to happen

  • by laffer1 (701823) <luke@ f o o l i s h g a m es.com> on Sunday August 14, 2011 @11:50AM (#37085908) Homepage Journal

    According to the FAQ, if you replace your motherboard, the upgrade is no longer valid on the chip. It must store the information in the BIOS or at least use an identifier from the BIOS.

    It also says you must be running certain versions of Windows 7 to install the upgrade but does not mention if an upgraded system would work in Linux or BSD or any other OS after installation.

    I'm interested in a crack for this not to cheat intel out of money, but to activate it from BSD or Linux and to "fix" it myself if I have to swap out motherboards.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "According to the FAQ, if you replace your motherboard, the upgrade is no longer valid on the chip. It must store the information in the BIOS or at least use an identifier from the BIOS."

      Sounds like changing the SLIC to work with OEM Windows 7 install media. I'm sure solutions will pop up in various places...

      http://forums.mydigitallife.info/index.php [mydigitallife.info]

    • by Pseudonym Authority (1591027) <SammyKake@@@gmail...com> on Sunday August 14, 2011 @11:55AM (#37085958)
      I'm also interested in a crack, but only to cheat Intel out of money.
      • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @12:06PM (#37086072)

        I honestly don't even give a damn about the money, I am interested just because fuck Intel, fuck them in their stupid asses.

        I find I am becoming more and more militant when it comes to bogus moneymaking schemes these tech companies create by eliminating preexisting functionality and charging you extra to give it back to you. Either I'm getting old, or I've been following these trends too closely. Maybe it's time to take up sports fanaticism, or whittling?

        • by Sepodati (746220)

          You get EXACTLY what you pay for when buying a processor. You get $200 functionality for a $200 processor. Just because a $400 functionality processor came out of the chute, you expect them to give it to you for $200? Or maybe you'd be happier if only $400 models were available? Or if the company was required to actually produce completely separate dies for each version, thus making your $200 model more expensive?

          • I'd like it if a product's cost was tied to the cost of production plus a reasonable profit margin, you know, something tangible.

            By admitting that it costs them exactly the same to make the $200 processor as it does the $400 one (as it must, since they're serving up the exact same product in both cases), they're eliminating any justification for that price at all.

            You go ahead and pay whatever arbitrary price they see fit for a product if you want. Me, if I'm buying something, that is now mine, and I'll do

            • by Arlet (29997)

              By admitting that it costs them exactly the same to make the $200 processor as it does the $400 one (as it must, since they're serving up the exact same product in both cases)

              You only count the raw manufacturing cost of turning a lump of silicon in a working CPU.

              This is silly. Most of the cost will be in the design and testing efforts, which are probably higher for the $400 version than for the $200 version, even though the end result is the same piece of silicon.

              • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @01:37PM (#37086890)

                This is silly. Most of the cost will be in the design and testing efforts, which are probably higher for the $400 version than for the $200 version, even though the end result is the same piece of silicon.

                Why would production costs be more? It's the same thing, they're just "turning it down" as it were.

                It is physically the exact same processor. There is no extra research being done into how to cheapen it's production, because if there was, the production would be cheaper for the most expensive model, too. The $200 is the actual cost, and the higher prices are inflated because they can. There is absolutely no justification for it outside of "we want more money", and that's fine, but at the same time, I want more processor than I paid for. Guess we're at an impasse then; they lock a good processor down to make me spend more money on the same thing, I hack the functionality back in because there's no real reason it isn't there to begin with. I don't lose very much sleep for doing this; we've already been paying far too much under ridiculous artificial scarcity models as it is.

            • by amorsen (7485)

              You can't escape this though, otherwise they wouldn't do it. AMD does the same except without the software unlock. Price discrimination like this only works if competition is bad -- which it is, because there are only 2 manufacturers of PC chips right now (plus a few others with small slices of the market). Entering the x86 market is extremely expensive, so this sorry state of affairs is unlikely to change.

            • by Sepodati (746220)

              Assume it costs $10,000 to make 100 processors and there's a 90% yield due to naturally occurring failures. You can sell the chips for $300 given the current market.

              90% yield means 90 $100 processors sold for $300 = $18,000 profit

              90% yield of "junk" processors means 9 $100 processors sold for $200 = $900 profit from "junk" chips

              Total profit = $18,900 (potentially)

              Now, you realize you're not selling all of your $300 processors (consumers want the $200 model more). 30% of high-end chips (assume) are sitting o

      • But even if you buy Intel, install a cracked upgrade and don't pay them any money, you're STILL endorsing the practice by using their chips in the first place. If you really want to stick it to them, then you'll stop buying and supporting their products altogether.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      Virtually all instances of this program are tied to vendors you see commonly in Best Buy and the like. Mostly it is targeted at people who wouldn't dare overclock themselves or run non-Windows systems.

      I imagine that by virtue of installing Linux on any of the systems in question, or dabbling with various overclocking tools, you could trivially enable the "features" being sold here. It makes sense, especially if it's tied to the motherboard.

    • According to the FAQ, if you replace your motherboard, the upgrade is no longer valid on the chip. It must store the information in the BIOS or at least use an identifier from the BIOS.

      They're probably grabbing a unique identifier from the motherboard or BIOS/EFI and storing it in non-volitale RAM on the chip. When you run the 'upgrade' it probably just updates the bits for the clock multiplier. By storing a unique (and probably encrypted) value tied to the board it will make it harder for someone to figure come up with a crack.

      • by xMrFishx (1956084)

        make it harder for someone to figure come up with a crack.

        ...and like Sony found out, "impossible" does not in fact mean that.

        • by snemarch (1086057)
          This is a very small attack surface, though, and if it's protected with a per-CPU unique ID and asymmetric encryption it could very well be 'uncrackable' unless the private key is leaked.
      • by PPH (736903)

        it will make it harder for someone to figure come up with a crack.

        Oh boy! They've throw down the gauntlet.

        Game on!

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @11:52AM (#37085928) Journal

    I know I shouldn't be RTFA but I couldn't read it. Slashdotted already?

    I just wanted to know if these "upgrades" is done by changing the micro-codes. Or are there some FPGAs in the chips? Just curious, very obviously I'm not a chip designer!

    Also, does this mean that someone (who REALLY knows what they're doing), could upgrade a "cheap" chip into something more expensive? Or add new features/try new designs or instructions? Isn't there some "hardware" encoded security aspects to these chips that might become vulnerable (like DRM)?

    • From one of the above comments, it seems to be a BIOS flag or something similar

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      There is no article. The only link on the summary is a link to the upgrade page, where you can download an upgrade for Windows. I wasn't even asked anything, just downloaded the file. If you have one of the processors from the list, perhaps you can try it. I didn't see they were charging for it.

      To me, they probably found that these can run faster without blowing them and they are providing you with the option. Of course, I assume also, this will also increase the power consumption.
  • disgusting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @11:55AM (#37085954) Homepage Journal

    and Ford, they're going to sell you a car, and you can purchase an upgrade on your fuel economy, cooler air from the air conditioning, and enable the side-curtain airbags and heated seats too, for an additional fee, all as software upgrades.

    The issue here is the manufacturers are starting to realize just how much overhead they're spending making so many different models of products, and that it's cheaper to just manufacture one model, the best one, and then cripple it if you don't want to pay for the best.

    You could damage it (don't want the run-flat bladdered tires? they'll just shank the bladders with an ice pick near the end of the assembly line) or by disabling it via software. It's only natural to expect buyers to look for ways to re-enable disabled features. And we've seen so many times how manufacturers like to think they still somehow can tell you how you are and aren't allowed to use the product you purchased from them. (they want to sell it to you, but not really sell, as in, it's your property to do with as you please) God I hate that.

    I'm really quite surprised that by now we're not seeing manufacturers trying to license physical goods. So you buy a computer. But you didn't really buy it, you licensed the use and Dell still owns it and is just loaning it to you, and can legally tell you how you are and aren't allowed to use it. (or cancel your license for any reason at any time, and demand you return it)

    But closer to back on topic, so what's the going wager on whether they'll play the ever-popular DMCA card (for circumventing a protection device) if these get hacked back to top specs? I'm betting near 100%.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      And we've seen so many times how manufacturers like to think they still somehow can tell you how you are and aren't allowed to use the product you purchased from them. (they want to sell it to you, but not really sell, as in, it's your property to do with as you please) God I hate that.

      Oh, don't you dare criticize companies like that. You'll enrage some Apple fan!

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Hey this is an old video [youtube.com] but I'm pretty sure that if they are providing you with a mechanism to increase the frequency, is because they're confident you won't blow your processor.

      Again, let me know if you find what they "charge" for the offered upgrade.
    • by Sepodati (746220)

      The issue here is the manufacturers are starting to realize just how much overhead they're spending making so many different models of products, and that it's cheaper to just manufacture one model, the best one, and then cripple it if you don't want to pay for the best.

      What's the issue here? You think everyone should be forced to buy the top-end model because that's the only one manufacturers should make available? If you by a $20,000 car, you get $20,000 functionality. Just cause there's $50,000 functional

    • by Fjandr (66656)

      AT&T used to do that with telephones, and most cable companies still do it with set-top boxes used to decode digital cable signals (but not /really/, honest, you can buy a DVC from another company and use it. Maybe. If we let you.)

      There are laws in the USA that prevent many companies from requiring rental (what "licensing" a physical product actually is) of their own equipment in order to access services, but so far as I know none that prevent companies from renting products that are not actually tied t

    • I'm really quite surprised that by now we're not seeing manufacturers trying to license physical goods.

      I read about the same thing happening a long time ago with IBM's mainframes.

    • by Necroman (61604)

      Intel has been doing this for years, they just haven't monetized it until recently.

      Working for a company that built custom motherboards around intel chips, we had access to intel white and yellow manuals (I think there is red and black above that). The tech manuals explains various registers on the CPU and what they do. The better the manual, the more information you get about the CPU.

      It's fun to spend a couple weeks trying to figure out a CPU bug that you keep hitting while trying to boot. Then on a call

  • Evolving to FPGA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @11:56AM (#37085974) Homepage Journal

    Intel now sells [eetimes.com] Atom CPUs, with embedded FPGA [wikipedia.org]. Xilinx, the top FPGA maker, offers ARM CPUs with embedded FPGA [fpgajournal.com]. Both CPU lines run Linux now.

    FPGA is logic gates, the building blocks of CPUs (and other computing chips) that can be interconnected on demand to create different logic circuits - and therefore custom instructions. Logic implemented in FPGA on a CPU can be revised by over-the-network software upgrades. FPGA was typically used by chip designers to develop candidate designs to be burned into hardware, but has become cheap and fast enough to distribute as end-product "reconfigurable computing" devices.

    Imagine your multimedia codecs configured directly into logic circuits on the CPU. They'd be really fast, and lower power than moving data across the CPU/RAM/bus boundaries. Upgrades by SW, just like now. Load/unload them as circuits on demand rather than as instruction codes in banks of RAM. Bring the network wires to FPGA pins on the CPU, and the data can route to codec processors on the chip for parallel operation. Of course these features apply to any "media" data, including business data in streams or large datasets.

    Intel's move to SW upgrades of CPU microcode is creating the tech and business infrastructure for regular FPGA upgrades to these new hybrids. Soon enough the literally hardwired CPU logic might become the minority of the chip. Already FPGAs with embedded DSPs [wikipedia.org] are like that, so a chip that's mostly FPGA with just some ALU and CLU circuits already optimized to close to their theoretical performance (in speed or power) are foreseeable.

    • no, things aren't (Score:4, Insightful)

      by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @02:41PM (#37087522)

      FPGAs are too expensive and take too much power.

      FPGAs are very transistor-inefficient and thus are very expensive and power hungry. To give you an example, programming an ARM Cortex A8 into an FPGA requires a multi-thousand dollar FPGA and takes double or triple digits of Watts of power. While a regular ASIC one costs less than $20 and takes a Watt or so. Also the FPGA one runs at perhaps 50MHz and the ASIC one runs at 1GHz.

      Intel's reason for the FPGA is because they don't license their IP, the only way to integrate your logic with theirs without multiple chips is to use this. But that's a weak solution. With ARM you can license their IP and integrate it yourself in an ASIC, you'd be a fool to use an FPGA in a large-scale deployment, you're just throwing money away. In short-run deployments FPGAs make a ton of sense.

      Use of FPGAs with DSPs is more common, programmable analog/digital logic can be very useful, like Cypress' PSOC (8051 based though, not ARM). I believe most cable/DSL modems use DSPs.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        That's why Xilinx added a 500MHz FPGA tightly integrated as a bus peripheral of a multicore ARM-C9. The Zynq-7000 will cost somewhere between $20 and $50, depending on the model (and amount of FPGA).

        Both the Atom and Zynq FPGA versions are about to make FPGA as mass market (embedded, in cars and industrial control, then in multimedia workstations) as DSPs have become. Every PC has multiple DSPs, at least in soundcards and often in video systems and sometimes in network interfaces; hard drives often have the

  • When I got the new laptop it didn't seem as responsive as I thought it should be. Maybe I was right. They gave me a crippled CPU that I need to unlock the performance on? "Increasing the cache" sounds like a totally bogus upgrade btw. I'm going to be pretty pissed knowing that the full cache wasn't being used on the machine I bought.

  • by darkmeridian (119044) <william DOT chuang AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 14, 2011 @12:14PM (#37086168) Homepage

    I think I'm going to pick up their new Bulldozer when it comes out. Intel makes great processors but these shenanigans have got to stop.

    • Re:Go AMD! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by xigxag (167441) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @12:59PM (#37086552)

      I think I'm going to pick up their new Bulldozer when it comes out. Intel makes great processors but these shenanigans have got to stop.

      What shenanigans?

      Except for the CPUs at the very top of their respective product lines, ALL processors are crippled. Compared to the i7, the i3 is just a permanently gimped chip. But its wasteful, both from a manufacturing perspective and from a user perspective, to make physically different chips. It's more efficient to make the low end chip upgradable through software. Fewer physical chip lines result in lower manufacturing costs which can then be passed on to the consumer or shareholder. It also results in lower upgrade costs for the end user, who doesn't have to actually pay for the shipping, delivery, and installation of a new chip. So this is a win-win. Except for people who think all software should be free and therefore feel ripped off at having to pay for additional functionality. I mean, any piece of software, even say Photoshop or Crysis2, is just "unlocking" the capability that your computer already in principle possesses. Why should you have to pay for that, amirite?

  • If their price is good for either the standard, or for the upgraded version, I couldn't care less how it's done.

  • Quite sometime (Score:3, Informative)

    by PixetaledPikachu (1007305) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @12:32PM (#37086318)
    This has been going on for quite sometime in enterprise world, well sort of. Although not quite the same, Citrix's NetScaler box can be "upgraded" via license purchase. This usually increases throughput and the number of allowed SSL sessions. IBM also sells their P-series server in quite similar manner. They will ship the box with all sockets filled with processors, but only enable the ones that you purchase. If you require additional processors, you will have to pay IBM to enable more processor. In the end, you still get what your money worth. I never consider an overclockability as a feature, I treat it more like a bonus. And if Intel or AMD decides to stop giving bonus, that's fine for me
  • by taxman_10m (41083) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @12:39PM (#37086360)

    It seems they want to build in a revenue stream so I wonder if they will be rolling out additional upgrades. So you buy this upgrade now, but in 3 months there will be an additional upgrade to increase performance another 10%.

    It's like the DLC for games model. Buy the game. A few months later buy the DLC. A few months after that buy DLC #2, etc...

  • IBM's been doing this sort of thing with their mainframes, probably at least 20 years. You order a specified amount of hardware and they ship you more with most of it disabled. If you decide you want more, you give them a large briefcase full of cash and they turn some more on for you. It's actually cheaper than sending techs out, and easier than replacing your mainframe or disk array every few years. They can also do you temporary extra processing power in the lead-up to tax day or for year-end financial p

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