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Developers told not to panic over new Intel Core 2 Duo steppings

OpenBSD founder Theo de Raadt publicly denounced Intel’s Core 2 processors on the OpenBSD mailing list. Raadt cited 38 pages of processor errata from Intel’s published CPU specifications (PDF).

“These processors are buggy as hell, and some of these bugs don’t just cause development/debugging problems, but will *ASSUREDLY* be exploitable from userland code," Raadt said. "Some of these are things that cannot be fixed in running code, and some are things that every operating system will do until about mid-2008, because that is how the MMU has always been managed on all generations of Intel/AMD/whoeverelse hardware."

Linux coordinator and former Transmeta employee Linus Torvalds, thought otherwise and considers these bugs “totally insignificant.”

Processor errata is nothing new, Torvalds said. Commodity CPUs such as chips based on the Intel Core 2 architecture have a considerably lower bug rate than proprietary boutique CPUs.

“Yeah, x86 errata get more attention," said Torvalds. "But those things are pretty damn well tested. Better than most.”

The errata document specifically mentions the Core 2 Duo E4000, E6000, and X6800 series processors. None of the errata are nearly as insidious or widespread as more infamous problems, like the original Pentium floating-point bug, although some can lead to buffer overflow exploits, claims de Raalt. All of the current errata have patches in the works or can be — and have been — worked around by developers.

In a statement from Intel Global Communications, Nick Knuppfer writes:

“Months ago, we addressed a processor issue by providing a BIOS update for our customers that in no way affects system performance. We publicly documented this as an erratum in April. All processors from all companies have errata, and Intel has a well-known errata communication process to inform our customers and the public. Keep in mind the probability of encountering this issue is extremely low."

“Specification Updates for the affected processors are available at All errata are thoroughly investigated for issues and vulnerabilities, should they have any we fix them, usually through a microcode update.”

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shoot the messenger
By stolennomenclature on 7/2/2007 7:35:58 PM , Rating: 2
Its interesting how often people who express views that could be damaging to commercial interests, and perhaps reduce profits, are labelled as "difficult", "abusive", "abrasive" or just plain "nuts".

Its an oft used tactic. If you can't discredit the opinion, discredit the person voicing the opinion.

I tend to have the opposite view. I rarely ever believe anything from industry spokespeople. You cannot trust someone who stands to make money from proving a point of view. They are obviously biased. Its like believing a companies adverts. Yeah sure this washing powder washes whiter than all the others. Silly me for thinking otherwise.

Torvalds always tends to lean towards a pro industry point of view as can be seen recently with the GPL3 debate. De Raadt seems to have a more realistic view of what is actually going on.

As to Toravlds argument regarding the number of bugs in other companies CPU's, this is not a very satisfying argument. Pointing out that other companies products are even worse than Intels does not make Intels products any better. Comparisons should be made UP to a standard, not DOWN to one. An ideal processor would have no bugs, and this is the standard to which companies should aspire, and to which they should be compared.

RE: shoot the messenger
By rADo2 on 7/3/2007 11:50:14 AM , Rating: 2
Truth is there are bugs and microcode updates for any CPU.

This is Intel errata:

And this AMD errata:

Both have a lot of bugs. Intel solves them via microcode update, but what AMD is doing?!

RE: shoot the messenger
By rADo2 on 7/3/2007 12:13:22 PM , Rating: 2
Btw, Windows users should install this:

RE: shoot the messenger
By TomCorelis on 7/3/2007 3:05:52 PM , Rating: 2
But that's the point of his argument: Intel chips are the best example. I think it's more a case of the idealist vs. the realist. de Raadt's ideas are nice, in theory, but are more likely unreasonable things to expect.

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