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Microsoft poaches Apple chip expert for custom silicon

Cupertino loses second chip guru


Apple's having a problem retaining top chip personnel, with the latest defection being CPU architect Mike Filippo going to Microsoft.

As chief compute architect at Microsoft, Filippo will design server chips for the software giant, according to media reports. Earlier this month Jeff Wilcox, Apple's Arm-based M1 CPU lead, also jumped ship back to his old employers at Intel.

Filippo, an expert in ARM architecture, worked with Apple from May 2019 until December last year, according to his LinkedIn page. He joined a year prior to Apple's announcement in June 2020 that it was transitioning to PC chips based on ARM architecture.

Microsoft already is developing custom chips, but the addition of Filippo points to the company heading in the direction of ARM architecture for servers in its data centers. The company this week posted a job opening for an ARM CPU designer in the group responsible for Azure hardware and Xbox products.

Prior to Apple, Filippo was responsible for the development of the Neoverse V1, ARM's server CPU, which has been used in Amazon's Graviton server chips.

Cloud companies with mega data centers are developing custom silicon for servers, in addition to offerings with industry standard x86 chips and GPUs. Google has developed custom AI chips to offer analytics and predictive servers through its cloud offerings.

Companies poaching chip experts has been common practice for decades, with Google and Amazon among those joining the fray to win over scarce design talent.

A bunch of Apple executives, including Gerard Williams - the chief architect of the iPad and iPhone's silicon - quit the company to find Nuvia, which was then acquired by Qualcomm for the talent. Mark Papermaster made the rounds of IBM, Apple, and Cisco, before becoming CTO at AMD, where he hired ex-Apple employees such as Jim Keller to create the Zen architecture. ®

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SCC bags £91m deal after contract to support HMRC system initially set at £85m

Take a hike

SCC, a UK-based tech services and reselling dynasty, has won a five-year contract extension with UK tax collector HMRC worth £91m for IT software and services.

According to a contract award notice from December last year, the five-year extension to a relationship that began in 2016 would be awarded for £85m. Perhaps SCC did some last-minute negotiations. We've invited Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to explain the valuation.

The award, apparently made without competition, is set to see SCC provide software licences and support services in partnership with IBM to keep the Declaration Management Service (DMS) system up and running.

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Mike Lynch loses US extradition delay bid: Flight across the Atlantic looks closer than ever

Autonomy founder set for criminal trial on multiple counts of fraud over sale of biz to HPE

Former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch has lost a bid to delay his extradition to the US after a High Court judge ruled there was no reason to impose a months-long delay on the case.

Mr Justice Swift dismissed Lynch's application for judicial review this morning, saying the entrepreneur failed to successfully argue that Home Secretary Priti Patel should have until March to decide whether or not Lynch ought to be extradited.

"In November [District Judge Snow] was being asked, for a second time, to allow a significant extension to the required period," said Mr Justice Swift in a written judgment handed down today. "It was hardly surprising that on that occasion he wanted to understand why the Secretary of State thought she needed to consider the contents of the judgment in the Chancery proceedings in order to decide whether specialty was a barrier to extradition."

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OpenShell has been working on a classic replacement for Windows 11's Start menu

It's still early days, though

There is a very preliminary FOSS Start menu replacement for Windows 11 – but it's not quite there yet.

Windows 11 is an interesting release, given that Microsoft once said there wouldn't be any more versions. One might be forgiven for thinking that to reverse that major decision, it would have to be something pretty epochal… but it isn't. It is a bit prettier and does polish off some of the rough edges of Windows 10, but it's mostly a facelift. In one way, it's a functional downgrade as there's a big loss in the customisability of the Taskbar and Start menu, which are the centres of Windows' UI.

Help is coming, though, in the form of OpenShell. OpenShell is the continuing development of the old Classic Shell for Windows 8. Its developers have been discussing the impact of the new Windows, and a new build has snuck out that will install and run.

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It's more than 20 years since Steps topped the charts. It could be less than that for STEP's first fusion energy

Anyone fancy a spherical tokamak in their backyard?

Fancy a fusion power plant in your back yard? The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is looking for comments from five locations shortlisted as potential hosts for its Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme.

The five sites were whittled down from an initial 15 and community forums between 26 January and 10 February will be in: Ardeer, North Ayrshire; Moorside, Cumbria; Goole, East Yorkshire; West Burton, Nottinghamshire; and Severn Edge, Gloucestershire.

The announcement follows the 100,000th pulse of the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion energy experiment and is a pointer to the next, er, STEP in taking fusion power from the experimental stage and into commercial usage.

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Infosec big dogs break out the bubbly over UK government's latest cyber strategy emission

See that? That's a promise of fat contracts, that is

Big industry players have praised the latest cybersecurity strategy emitted by the British government, rubbing their hands with glee at its promises of lucrative public contracts for the rest of the 2020s.

The snappily titled Government Cyber Security Strategy, wheeled out yesterday, will set UK domestic cybersecurity strategy for the next eight years. It is a separate document from the National Cyber Strategy.

"The UK's legitimacy and authority as a cyber power is however dependent upon its domestic cyber resilience, the cornerstone of which is government and the public sector organisations that deliver the functions and services which maintain and promote the UK's economy and society," said the strategy, authored by the Cabinet Office.

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Microsoft revenue up by a fifth as world shuffles through the pandemic into the metaverse

Cloud the top earner as usual but Redmond is doubling down on gaming

The blockbuster quarters just keep on rolling for Microsoft after its latest set of financials surpassed analysts' forecasts, thanks to a thriving cloud and PC market in the pandemic-driven new digital age.

For Q2 ended 31 December of Microsoft's fiscal 2022, total revenue jumped 20 per cent year-on-year to $51.7bn, higher than both Refinitive's prediction of $50.9bn and FactSet's analyst poll of $50.7bn.

Operating profit jumped 24 per cent to $22.2bn, and the bottom line was $18.8bn, up 21 per cent. Factset forecasted $17.5bn.

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Head of Big Tech Expertise? Believe it or not, it's a UK.gov vacancy for a Whitehall job

What happened to loosening stranglehold of major tech firms on the public sector?

UK government is on the hunt for an expert to help shape relations with the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google, a role that includes a remit to "fulfil partnership opportunities" with the megacorps and "deliver against their needs and demands."

The Head of Big Tech Expertise role is based within the Digital and Tech Policy Directorate of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) - the “heart of the Government’s strategic policy-making and industry engagement on all things relating to tech and digital”.

"Are you interested in the way Big Tech shapes other UK economy and society? Do you want to work with the most powerful technology companies in the world (sic)," the job ad asks.

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IR35 is the biggest threat to the contractor working model, survey finds

Brexit, COVID-19 and tax rises all eclipsed by the omnipresent rule change, study of contractors finds

The majority of contractors see the IR35 changes to the way employment status is judged as the biggest threat to their business in 2022, according to recent research.

A survey of more than 1,200 contractors by IR35 insurance provider Qdos shows that 61 per cent see the rule changes as the "biggest threat" to the contracting business model, which is said to be worth more than £300bn annually to the economy, according to the IPSE, the contractors, consultants and interims association.

Qdos found this was more than 10 times the number of contractors most concerned about the impact of coronavirus (6 per cent) or Brexit (6 per cent). Incoming dividend tax increases (18 per cent) were earmarked as the second biggest threat, although only a third of folk surveyed were concerned about those changes.

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Infosec chap: I found a way to hijack your web accounts, turn on your webcam from Safari – and Apple gave me $100k

Now you see a harmless PNG. Now it's a malicious payload. Look into my eyes

A security bod scored a $100,500 bug bounty from Apple after discovering a vulnerability in Safari on macOS that could have been exploited by a malicious website to potentially access victims' logged-in online accounts – and even their webcams.

Ryan Pickren, last seen on The Register after scooping $75k from Cupertino's coffers for finding an earlier webcam-snooping flaw, said the universal cross-site scripting (UXSS) bug in Safari could have been abused by a webpage to hijack a web account the user is logged into, which would be bad. It was also possible to activate the webcam.

Pickren told El Reg the flaw granted "full access to every website you've visited in Safari, meaning that if you're visiting my evil website on one tab, and then your other tab, you have Twitter open, I can jump into that tab and do everything you can from that screen. So it does allow me to fully perform an account takeover on every website you visited in Safari."

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Google dumps interest-based ad system for another interest-based ad system

For FLoC's sake, people

Google has given up on Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), a categorization system for serving interest-based ads, and replaced it with Topics, a categorization system for serving interest-based ads.

Caught between the push to do something about cookie-based tracking and the counter-revolution to get regulators to keep third-party cookies alive, the Chocolate Factory has proposed a revision of its ill-fated FLoC plan.

"With Topics, your browser determines a handful of topics, like 'Fitness' or 'Travel & Transportation,' that represent your top interests for that week based on your browsing history," explained Vinay Goel, product director for Google's Privacy Sandbox, in a blog post on Tuesday.

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Watchdog clears 90 per cent of US commercial aircraft to land in low visibility at nation's 5G C-band airports

Don't start celebrating just yet if you own a Boeing 747-8, 747-8F, 777

Nine out of ten of America's commercial aircraft can land in low visibility using radio altimeters at US airports that have nearby 5G C-band masts, the country's aviation watchdog said this week.

There is some concern that signals at the top of the 5G C-band, namely 3.98GHz, could bleed into the 4.2-4.4GHz band used by airliners' radio altimeters, which are quite handy when visibility is poor. The presence of 5G-C masts could thus affect the ability of aircraft to land safely in sub-optimal weather, it's been claimed.

AT&T and Verizon this month agreed to partially stall the roll out of 5G-C masts in the US – deploying the tech away from airports – while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) looked into matter. Specifically, the watchdog has been checking the radio altimeters on commercial aircraft to see if the equipment works as expected within range of 5G-C communications.

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