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Nvidia: Using cheap GeForce, Titan GPUs in servers? Haha, nope!

Nice try, but no, you're gonna have to cough up for these expensive data center chips


Nvidia has banned the use of its GeForce and Titan gaming graphics cards in data centers – forcing organizations to fork out for more expensive gear, like its latest Tesla V100 chips.

The chip-design giant updated its GeForce and Titan software licensing in the past few days, adding a new clause that reads: “No Datacenter Deployment. The SOFTWARE is not licensed for datacenter deployment, except that blockchain processing in a datacenter is permitted.”

In other words, if you wanted to bung a bunch of GeForce GPUs into a server box and use them to accelerate math-heavy software – such as machine learning, simulations and analytics – then, well, you can't without breaking your licensing agreement with Nvidia. Unless you're doing trendy blockchain stuff.

A copy of the license in the Google cache, dated December 31, 2017, shows no mention of the data center ban. Open the page today, and, oh look, data center use is verboten.

To be precise, the controversial end-user license agreement (EULA) terms cover the drivers for Nvidia's GeForce GTX and Titan graphics cards. However, without Nvidia's proprietary drivers, you can't unlock the full potential of the hardware, so Nv has you over a barrel.

It's not just a blow for people building their own servers and data centers, it's a blow for any computer manufacturer – such as HPE or Dell – that hoped to flog GPU-accelerated servers, using GTX or Titan hardware, much cheaper than Nvidia charges for, say, its expensive DGX family of GPU-accelerated servers. A DGX-1 with Tesla V100 chips costs about $150,000 from Nvidia. A GeForce or Titan-powered box would cost much less albeit with much less processing power.

The high-end GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards – aimed at gamers rather than deep-learning data scientists – uses Nv's Pascal architecture, and only costs $699 (~£514) a pop. Meanwhile, the latest Tesla V100 card that's flogged to data centers costs over $9,000 (~£6,620).

In terms of 64-bit double-precision floating-point math calculations, the V100 utterly smokes the 1080 Ti: about 7 TFLOPS from the V100 to 0.355 TFLOPS from its GeForce cousin. The V100 similarly smashes the video gaming part on 32-bit single and 16-bit half-precision floating-point math. The top-end GeForce Titan Xp is similarly dominated by the V100.

However, one senior techie who supports an academic medical research facility and alerted us to the licensing change, said boffins don't necessarily need Tesla powerhouses, and that gamer-grade graphics processors can be good enough, depending on the kind of work being performed and the budget available.

“This could potentially have a huge impact in research institutes that use the lower-cost GPUs to process data," they told us.

"Much of this data does not actually need to double-point precision of the Tesla cards. This is a shocking sneaky way to suddenly introduce limitations to their product. Most places would be happy to acknowledge that using a consumer product in a server may invalidate the warranty, but to limit in such a way that it would leave researchers open to possible legal threats is frankly disgusting."

A spokesperson for Nvidia told The Register that the licensing tweak was to stop the “misuse” of GeForce and Titan chips in “demanding, large-scale enterprise environments.” In other words, Nv doesn't think gaming cards are a good fit for hot, crowded, demanded and well-funded server warehouses. The spokesperson said:

GeForce and TITAN GPUs were never designed for data center deployments with the complex hardware, software, and thermal requirements for 24x7 operation, where there are often multi-stack racks. To clarify this, we recently added a provision to our GeForce-specific EULA to discourage potential misuse of our GeForce and TITAN products in demanding, large-scale enterprise environments.

NVIDIA addresses these unique mechanical, physical, management, functional, reliability, and availability needs of servers with our Tesla products, which include a three-year warranty covering data center workloads, NVIDIA enterprise support, guaranteed continuity of supply and extended SKU life expectancy for data center components. This has been communicated to the market since the Tesla products were first released.

Will Nvidia sic its legal dogs on those who break the license by installing gaming-grade graphics processors in data centers? Nvidia claimed it does not plan to ban non-commercial uses and research.

“We recognize that researchers often adapt GeForce and TITAN products for non-commercial uses or their other research uses that do not operate at data center scale. NVIDIA does not intend to prohibit such uses,” a spokesperson for the California chip architects said.

We asked Nvidia to clarify what it defined as a data center, and the spokesperson admitted that “there are many different types of data centers.”

“In contrast to PCs and small-scale LANs used for company and academic research projects, data centers typically are larger-scale deployments, often in multi-server racks, that provide access to always-on GPUs to many users,” the rep added.

At the moment, it sounds as though rule-breakers will get a stern talking to if Nvidia discovers them flouting its license, and be asked to get out their checkbooks – or else.

"Whenever an actual or proposed use of our drivers that is contrary to the EULA is brought to our attention, NVIDIA takes steps to work with the user to understand the reasons for each unlicensed use, and works to evaluate how we can best meet the user’s needs without compromising our standards for hardware and software performance and reliability," the spokesperson said.

"Whenever any user would like to use a GeForce or TITAN driver in a manner that may be unlicensed, they should contact NVIDIA enterprise sales to discuss the use and potential options. We expect that, working together with our user base on a case-by-case basis, we will be able to resolve any customer concerns." ®

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Space tourists splash down in Atlantic Ocean after three days in orbit

Some sightseeing, music, gambling, chatting to folks back home – just like a regular roadtrip

The space tourist crew who spent three days orbiting Earth in a SpaceX Dragon capsule has returned to our planet in one piece.

The gang, dubbed Inspiration4, splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast just after 1900 EST (2300 UTC) on Saturday. They were checked over by doctors and flown by helicopter to land.

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Apple, Google yank opposition voting strategy app from Russian software stores

Oh, sorry, we thought you wanted us to obey the law?! – Silicon Valley

A tactical-voting app built by allies of Vladimir Putin’s jailed political opponent Alexei Navalny is now unavailable in Russian Apple and Google app stores following threats of fines from the Kremlin.

According to state-owned news agency TASS, Russian lawmaker Andrei Klimov told reporters on Thursday that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office sent statutory notices to Google and Apple ordering a takedown of the Navalny app on the grounds it was collecting personal data of Russian citizens and sought to interfere in the nation's elections. Refusal to do so would result in penalties.

“The app particularly deliberately and illegally spreads election campaign materials in the interests of some candidates vying for positions in elective agencies or against the interests of such," Klimov said.

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Google extends right-to-be-forgotten to app permissions on older Android devices

Software unused after a few months will lose access to sensitive features unless exempted

In December, Google plans to have app runtime permissions expire on older versions of Android for apps that haven't been opened for several months, extending the availability of a privacy protection feature introduced in Android 11.

"In Android 11, we introduced the permission auto-reset feature," explained Google software engineers Peter Visontay and Bessie Jiang in a blog post on Friday. "This feature helps protect user privacy by automatically resetting an app’s runtime permissions – which are permissions that display a prompt to the user when requested – if the app isn’t used for a few months."

That behavior is the default in Android 11 and in Android 12, expected in a few weeks. Come December, it will become the default in older versions of Android that rely on Google Play services, specifically Android 6 (API level 23) through Android 10 (API level 29).

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Yes, of course there's now malware for Windows Subsystem for Linux

Once dismissed proof-of-concept attack on Microsoft OS through WSL detected in the wild

Linux binaries have been found trying to take over Windows systems in what appears to be the first publicly identified malware to utilize Microsoft's Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to install unwelcome payloads.

On Thursday, Black Lotus Labs, the threat research group at networking biz Lumen Technologies, said it had spotted several malicious Python files compiled in the Linux binary format ELF (Executable and Linkable Format) for Debian Linux.

"These files acted as loaders running a payload that was either embedded within the sample or retrieved from a remote server and was then injected into a running process using Windows API calls," Black Lotus Labs said in a blog post.

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Microsoft does and doesn't require VMs to meet hardware requirements for Windows 11

Either way, it's bad news for VirtualBox – it's stopped working

Microsoft emitted a fresh build of Windows 11 last night, and piled on the woe for some customers hoping that virtual machines might be their way out of the hardware compatibility hole.

Despite Microsoft's efforts to distract users by showing off its updates to the Photos app – now rolling out to users in the Windows Insider Dev Channel – the alarming warning that "this build includes a change that aligns the enforcement of the Windows 11 system requirements on Virtual Machines (VMs) to be the same as it is for physical PCs" was the main news for many testers.

Microsoft also said Hyper-V VMs of Windows 11 need to be Generation 2 VMs, and virtual machines running on virtualization and emulation products from other vendors, such as VMware and Oracle, "will continue to work as long as the hardware requirements are met."

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Microsoft doles out Office Long Term Servicing Channel for cloud refuseniks

Redmond doesn't do things by half – unless it's Long Term Support

Microsoft has grudgingly admitted that not everyone will want to ascend to its cloud with the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) version of its Office cash cow.

Earlier this year, the Windows behemoth announced that it was axing the length of support. No longer would customers enjoy decade-long delight. Instead, support would last for just five years, in line with Windows.

The release of this perpetual version is for commercial and government customers. The consumer version, Office 2021, will turn up on 5 October and likely be drowned out by users realising their PCs won't run Microsoft's latest version of Windows because OEMs want the gravy train to keep rolling of more stringent hardware requirements aimed at improving the user experience.

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Sir Clive Sinclair: Personal computing pioneer missed out on being Britain's Steve Jobs

Lifelong cost focus was his namesake company's corporate downfall

Obituary Sir Clive Sinclair, the visionary pioneer of computing for the British masses and creator of the legendary ZX Spectrum, has died at the age of 81. His legacy is the British tech scene as we know it today.

Born in leafy Richmond, Surrey, at the height of the Battle of Britain in July 1940, he came to epitomise the early era of British computing through his company Sinclair Research Ltd and its iconic Spectrum product line.

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Punchy Biden-lookalike grandad goes viral for fighting boxing gadget

'If you don't get your timing right you get whacked round the back of the head' admits scrappy octogenarian

An 80-year-old Lancashire grandfather has gone viral on TikTok and Instagram in a video featuring him squaring off with a sparring aid for boxers.

The video (see here) of Bob "Bruiser" Smith of Bamber Bridge near Preston ducking and diving around the Sparbar sparring device has received over 90 million views across the two social media sites.

The pugilistic pensioner – who was a fighter in his youth but banned from the ring by his father at the age of 14 out of concern for his safety – is treating his unexpected global fame with refreshing indifference.

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Something phishy: Tech recruiters jabbed by fake COVID-19 Passport scam

Tells clients it is tackling the issue

An IT recruitment agency says a "phishing scam" is behind a fake email sent to its customers with details on how to apply for a "Coronavirus Digital Passport."

The email – sent to applicants and clients of Concept Resourcing, based in Dudley, England, on 14 September and seen by The Reg – claimed users could "Get your Digital Coronavirus Passports (HPS) today" and showed recipients a big juicy link where they could do so.

The link was not a genuine NHS website and appears to have been deleted shortly after.

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How long till some drunkard puts a foot through one of BT's 'iconic, digital smart city communication hubs'?

Phonebox upgrade dishes out internet and more in Kensington and Chelsea

BT was joined by local dignitaries including the Mayor of Kensington to cut the silk sash on its 21st-century phone box that gives people access to free Gigabit Wi-Fi, rapid mobile phone charging, and free calls if needed.

The BT Street Hub 2.0 unit is now up and running in Notting Hill Gate with others due to be unveiled in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea shortly.

The pods are also plastered with advertising, with BT trumpeting that it's giving small businesses the chance to snap up £7.5m of free street advertising space as part of its launch promo.

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Snowflake doubters voice reservations over data warehouse's attempt to break into financial services

On-prem systems hold advantages in terms of known costs, say insiders

Cloud-based data warehouse darling Snowflake has launched its latest venture into financial services, while Teradata, something of a stalwart in data warehousing for banks and insurers, is attempting to broaden its appeal with machine learning implementations.

Though the world has been focused on Snowflake's stratospheric rise – it went from $1.5bn value in 2018 to $120bn shortly after its IPO last year – it may struggle to make inroads into the lucrative financial services markets, according to insiders and industry experts.

The so-called cloud-native data warehouse biz launched what it calls the Financial Services Data Cloud this week, accompanied by the claim that 57 per cent of Fortune 500 firms in the sector are on its platform. It is described as an industry-tailored platform that brings together Snowflake technology with "partner-delivered solutions" and "industry-critical datasets."

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