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Wasabi Linked To 'Substantial' Boost In Memory, Japanese Study Finds

Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan found that wasabi improves both short- and long-term memory. CBS News reports: Rui Nouchi, the study's lead researcher and an associate professor at the school's Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer, told CBS News the results, while based on a limited sample of subjects without preexisting health conditions, exceeded their expectations. "We knew from earlier animal studies that wasabi conferred health benefits," he said in an interview from his office in northeast Japan. "But what really surprised us was the dramatic change. The improvement was really substantial." The main active component of Japanese wasabi is a biochemical called 6-MSITC, a known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory known to exist in only trace amounts elsewhere throughout the plant kingdom, Nouchi said. The double-blind, randomized study involved 72 healthy subjects, aged 60 to 80. Half of them took 100 milligrams of wasabi extract at bedtime, with the rest receiving a placebo. After three months, the treated group registered "significant" boosts in two aspects of cognition, working (short-term) memory, and the longer-lasting episodic memory, based on standardized assessments for language skills, concentration and ability to carry out simple tasks. No improvement was seen in other areas of cognition, such as inhibitory control (the ability to stay focused), executive function or processing speed. Subjects who received the wasabi treatment saw their episodic memory scores jump an average of 18%, Nouchi said, and scored on average 14% higher than the placebo group overall. The researchers theorized that 6-MSITC reduces inflammation and oxidant levels in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory function, and boosts neural plasticity. Compared with the control group, the study said, subjects dosed with wasabi "showed improved verbal episodic memory performance as well as better performance in associating faces and names, which is often the major memory-related problem in older adults." But here's the rub: most of the "wasabi" you order at sushi restaurants is made of ordinary white horseradish, dyed green. "Genuine wasabi must be consumed fresh, with the stubbly rhizome, or stem of the plant, grated tableside just before eating," notes the report. "On the plus side, just a small dab offers the same benefits as the capsule supplements used in the Tohoku study, or 0.8 milligrams of 6-MSITC." The study has been published in the journal Nutrients.

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EU Mulls Expansion of Geo-Blocking 'Bans' To Video Streaming Platforms

One of the suggestions in a recent report (PDF) from the European Parliament's Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection is to expand geo-blocking restrictions to the audiovisual sector, including streaming platforms. This has spooked some stakeholders who warn that a ban on geo-blocking would put the entire industry at risk. TorrentFreak reports: The report recommends the EU Commission to launch a comprehensive review of the current geo-blocking regulation and have that completed by 2025. It also carries several suggestions for improvement and expansion of the current rules. "The data presented in the report suggest that the effects of such an [geo-blocking] extension would vary by type of content, depending on the level of consumer demand and on the availability of content across the EU," the report's summary reads. "As regards an extension to audio-visual content, it highlights potential benefits for consumers, notably in the availability of a wider choice of content across borders. The report also identifies the potential impact that such an extension of the scope would have on the overall dynamics of the audio-visual sector, but concludes that it needs to be further assessed." The proposals don't include the abolishment of all territorial licenses in the EU, and they're mindful of the potential impact on the industry. Nevertheless, some industry insiders are spooked; the Creativity Works! coalition (CW), for example, which counts the MPA, ACT, and the Premier League among its members. According to CW, geo-blocking technology is crucial to the creative and cultural industries in Europe. "Geo-blocking is one of the foundations for Europe's creative and cultural sectors, providing Europeans with the means to create, produce, showcase, publish, distribute and finance diverse, high-quality and affordable content," they write. Banning geo-blocking altogether would be a disaster that puts millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of euros in revenue at risk, CW warns. At the same time, it may result in more expensive subscriptions for many consumers. "Ending geo-blocking's exclusive territorial licensing would threaten 10,000 European cinemas, access to over 8,500 European VOD films and up to half of European film budgets," CW writes. "What's more, over 100 million European fans could pay more to view the same sports coverage, while major digital streaming platforms might be forced to introduce sharp hikes for consumers in many European countries." Understandably, the movie industry is concerned about legislation that upsets the status quo. However, the IMCO report doesn't recommend a wholesale ban on territorial licenses but aims to ensure that content is available in regions where it currently isn't. At this stage, nothing is set in stone, so proposals could change. However, the present recommendations appear to seek a balance between the interests of the entertainment industry and the public at large.

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Meta and Microsoft To Buy AMD's New AI Chip As Alternative To Nvidia's

Meta, OpenAI, and Microsoft said at an AMD investor event today that they will use AMD's newest AI chip, the Instinct MI300X, as an alternative to Nvidia's expensive graphic processors. "If AMD's latest high-end chip is good enough for the technology companies and cloud service providers building and serving AI models when it starts shipping early next year, it could lower costs for developing AI models and put competitive pressure on Nvidia's surging AI chip sales growth," reports CNBC. From the report: "All of the interest is in big iron and big GPUs for the cloud," AMD CEO Lisa Su said Wednesday. AMD says the MI300X is based on a new architecture, which often leads to significant performance gains. Its most distinctive feature is that it has 192GB of a cutting-edge, high-performance type of memory known as HBM3, which transfers data faster and can fit larger AI models. Su directly compared the MI300X and the systems built with it to Nvidia's main AI GPU, the H100. "What this performance does is it just directly translates into a better user experience," Su said. "When you ask a model something, you'd like it to come back faster, especially as responses get more complicated." The main question facing AMD is whether companies that have been building on Nvidia will invest the time and money to add another GPU supplier. "It takes work to adopt AMD," Su said. AMD on Wednesday told investors and partners that it had improved its software suite called ROCm to compete with Nvidia's industry standard CUDA software, addressing a key shortcoming that had been one of the primary reasons AI developers currently prefer Nvidia. Price will also be important. AMD didn't reveal pricing for the MI300X on Wednesday, but Nvidia's can cost around $40,000 for one chip, and Su told reporters that AMD's chip would have to cost less to purchase and operate than Nvidia's in order to persuade customers to buy it. On Wednesday, AMD said it had already signed up some of the companies most hungry for GPUs to use the chip. Meta and Microsoft were the two largest purchasers of Nvidia H100 GPUs in 2023, according to a recent report from research firm Omidia. Meta said it will use MI300X GPUs for AI inference workloads such as processing AI stickers, image editing, and operating its assistant. Microsoft's CTO, Kevin Scott, said the company would offer access to MI300X chips through its Azure web service. Oracle's cloud will also use the chips. OpenAI said it would support AMD GPUs in one of its software products, called Triton, which isn't a big large language model like GPT but is used in AI research to access chip features.

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Quantum Computer Sets Record For Largest Ever Number of 'Logical Quantum Bits'

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: Another quantum computing record has been broken. A team has built a quantum computer with the largest ever number of so-called logical qubits (quantum bits). Unlike standard qubits, logical qubits are better able to carry out computations unmarred by errors, making the new device a potentially important step towards practical quantum computing. How complicated of a calculation a quantum computer can complete depends on the number of qubits it contains. Recently, IBM and California-based Atom Computing unveiled devices with more than 1000 qubits, nearly tripling the size of previously largest quantum computers. But the existence of these devices has not led to an immediate and dramatic increase in computing capability, because larger quantum computers often also make more errors. To make a quantum computer that can correct its errors, researchers from the quantum computing start-up QuEra in Boston and several academics focused instead on increasing its number of logical qubits, which are groups of qubits that are connected to each other through quantum entanglement. In conventional computers, error-correction relies on keeping multiple redundant copies of information, but quantum information is fundamentally different and cannot be copied -- so researchers use entanglement to spread it across several qubits, which achieves a similar redundancy, says Dolev Bluvstein at Harvard University in Massachusetts who was part of the team. To make their quantum computer, the researchers started with several thousand rubidium atoms in an airless container. They then used forces from lasers and magnets to cool the atoms to temperatures close to absolute zero where their quantum properties are most prominent. Under these conditions, they could control the atoms' quantum states very precisely by again hitting them with lasers. Accordingly, they first created 280 qubits from the atoms and then went a step further by using another laser pulse to entangle groups of those – for instance 7 qubits at a time -- to make a logical qubit. By doing this, the researchers were able to make as many as 48 logical qubits at one time. This is more than 10 times the number of logical qubits that have ever been created before. "It's a big deal to have that many logical qubits. A very remarkable result for any quantum computing platform" says Mark Saffman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He says that the new quantum computer greatly benefits from being made of atoms that are controlled by light because this kind of control is very efficient. QuEra's computer makes its qubits interact and exchange information by moving them closer to each other inside the computer with optical "tweezers" made of laser beams. In contrast, chip-based quantum computers, like those made by IBM and Google, must use multiple wires to control each qubit. Bluvstein and his colleagues implemented several computer operations, codes and algorithms on the new computer to test the logical qubits' performance. He says that though these tests were more preliminary than the calculations that quantum computers will eventually perform, the team already found that using logical qubits led to fewer errors than seen in quantum computers using physical qubits. The research has been published in the journal Nature.

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Nearly Every Windows and Linux Device Vulnerable To New LogoFAIL Firmware Attack

"Researchers have identified a large number of bugs to do with the processing of images at boot time," writes longtime Slashdot reader jd. "This allows malicious code to be installed undetectably (since the image doesn't have to pass any validation checks) by appending it to the image. None of the current secure boot mechanisms are capable of blocking the attack." Ars Technica reports: LogoFAIL is a constellation of two dozen newly discovered vulnerabilities that have lurked for years, if not decades, in Unified Extensible Firmware Interfaces responsible for booting modern devices that run Windows or Linux. The vulnerabilities are the product of almost a year's worth of work by Binarly, a firm that helps customers identify and secure vulnerable firmware. The vulnerabilities are the subject of a coordinated mass disclosure released Wednesday. The participating companies comprise nearly the entirety of the x64 and ARM CPU ecosystem, starting with UEFI suppliers AMI, Insyde, and Phoenix (sometimes still called IBVs or independent BIOS vendors); device manufacturers such as Lenovo, Dell, and HP; and the makers of the CPUs that go inside the devices, usually Intel, AMD or designers of ARM CPUs. The researchers unveiled the attack on Wednesday at the Black Hat Security Conference in London. As its name suggests, LogoFAIL involves logos, specifically those of the hardware seller that are displayed on the device screen early in the boot process, while the UEFI is still running. Image parsers in UEFIs from all three major IBVs are riddled with roughly a dozen critical vulnerabilities that have gone unnoticed until now. By replacing the legitimate logo images with identical-looking ones that have been specially crafted to exploit these bugs, LogoFAIL makes it possible to execute malicious code at the most sensitive stage of the boot process, which is known as DXE, short for Driver Execution Environment. "Once arbitrary code execution is achieved during the DXE phase, it's game over for platform security," researchers from Binarly, the security firm that discovered the vulnerabilities, wrote in a whitepaper. "From this stage, we have full control over the memory and the disk of the target device, thus including the operating system that will be started." From there, LogoFAIL can deliver a second-stage payload that drops an executable onto the hard drive before the main OS has even started. The following video demonstrates a proof-of-concept exploit created by the researchers. The infected device -- a Gen 2 Lenovo ThinkCentre M70s running an 11th-Gen Intel Core with a UEFI released in June -- runs standard firmware defenses, including Secure Boot and Intel Boot Guard. LogoFAIL vulnerabilities are tracked under the following designations: CVE-2023-5058, CVE-2023-39538, CVE-2023-39539, and CVE-2023-40238. However, this list is currently incomplete. "A non-exhaustive list of companies releasing advisories includes AMI (PDF), Insyde, Phoenix, and Lenovo," reports Ars. "People who want to know if a specific device is vulnerable should check with the manufacturer." "The best way to prevent LogoFAIL attacks is to install the UEFI security updates that are being released as part of Wednesday's coordinated disclosure process. Those patches will be distributed by the manufacturer of the device or the motherboard running inside the device. It's also a good idea, when possible, to configure UEFIs to use multiple layers of defenses. Besides Secure Boot, this includes both Intel Boot Guard and, when available, Intel BIOS Guard. There are similar additional defenses available for devices running AMD or ARM CPUs."

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Veteran Editors Notepad++ and Geany Hit Milestone Versions

Liam Proven reports via The Register: One of the best FOSS text editors for Windows, Notepad++, is turning 20, while cross platform Geany just hit version 2.0 as it turns 18 years old. Notepad++'s version 8.6 is the twentieth anniversary release of one of the go-to FOSS text editors for Windows. [...] If you use an Arm-powered Windows machine, such as the ThinkPad X13S, there is now a native Arm64 version. It still supports x86-32 as well, and there are portable versions which work without being installed locally -- handy if you don't have admin rights. There is even a usefully recent version for Windows XP if you are still using that geriatric OS. This release adds multi-select, allowing you to manipulate multiple instances of the same text at once, which looks confusing but very powerful. It is a staple on all of the Reg FOSS desk's Windows partitions, thanks to its inclusion in the essential Windows post-install setup tool Ninite. Ninite will install -- and update -- a whole swath of FOSS and freeware tools for Windows, making setup of a new machine doable in just a couple of clicks. And if you keep the Ninite installer file around, you can re-run it later and it will update everything it installed first time around. Ninite does offer other programmers' editors, such as Eclipse and Microsoft Visual Studio Code -- but they are behemoths by comparison. VSCode is implemented as an Electron app, meaning that it's huge, embeds an entire copy of Chromium, and scoffs RAM like it's going out of fashion. Notepad++ is a native Win32 app, making it tiny and fast: the download is less than 5MB, one twentieth the size of VSCode. Sluggish, bloated editors are not just a problem on Windows. Gargantuan Electron apps are distressingly prevalent on Linux and macOS as well. This vulture is guilty of using some, and even recommending them -- because some of them can do things that nothing else can. That's not true in the case of plain text editors, though. You don't have to put up with apps that take a good fraction of a gigabyte for this. Geany is a good example. It straddles the line between a text editor and an IDE: it can manage multi-project files, automatically call out to compilers and suchlike, and parse their output to highlight errors. We last mentioned it nearly a decade ago but the project recently reached voting age -- at least for humans -- and after this milestone in maturity its developers called the latest release version 2.0. It has better support for dark mode, a new tree view in its sidebar, adds a bunch of new supported file types, and can detect if the user changes the type of a file and re-do its syntax highlighting to match.

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America's Most Exciting High Speed Rail Project Gets $3 Billion Grant From Feds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A high-speed train from the greater Los Angeles area to Las Vegas took a big step closer to reality thanks to a $3 billion federal grant from the Department of Transportation and Joe Biden's signature infrastructure law. The proposed line will be built by Brightline West, a private company owned by Fortress Investment Group. It promises to use all-electric high-speed trains that can travel up to 180 mph, which will half the travel time from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without even taking into account the terrible traffic during peak travel times. The one catch is the LA station will be in Rancho Cucamonga, about 45 miles from Union Station (it is, however, connected via Metrolink trains). The Las Vegas station is more centrally located close to the airport. [...] Brightline West may be the flashiest rail project in the U.S. at the moment, but it's hardly alone. The U.S. is experiencing a modest but real resurgence in rail expansion thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In addition to Brightline West, a Raleigh-to-Richmond rail corridor received a $1 billion grant to be fit for reliable passenger service, a major boon to a region with good bones for passenger service and high demand that has become neglected and dominated by freight rail. North Carolina is experiencing record passenger rail ridership thanks to more service between Raleigh and Charlotte, two metro areas that have experienced massive population booms in recent decades and desperately need better rail service. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act is also providing tens of billions of dollars in funding to upgrade Northeast Corridor infrastructure between Washington D.C. and Boston, the nation's busiest rail route. The other California High Speed rail route, the one that a state authority has been trying to build for decades that will only go from Bakersfield to Merced, also received $3 billion in federal funding.

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Remote Collaboration Fuses Fewer Breakthrough Ideas

Abstract of a paper:Theories of innovation emphasize the role of social networks and teams as facilitators of breakthrough discoveries. Around the world, scientists and inventors are more plentiful and interconnected today than ever before. However, although there are more people making discoveries, and more ideas that can be reconfigured in new ways, research suggests that new ideas are getting harder to find --contradicting recombinant growth theory. Here we shed light on this apparent puzzle. Analysing 20 million research articles and 4 million patent applications from across the globe over the past half-century, we begin by documenting the rise of remote collaboration across cities, underlining the growing interconnectedness of scientists and inventors globally. We further show that across all fields, periods and team sizes, researchers in these remote teams are consistently less likely to make breakthrough discoveries relative to their on-site counterparts. Creating a dataset that allows us to explore the division of labour in knowledge production within teams and across space, we find that among distributed team members, collaboration centres on late-stage, technical tasks involving more codified knowledge. Yet they are less likely to join forces in conceptual tasks -- such as conceiving new ideas and designing research -- when knowledge is tacit. We conclude that despite striking improvements in digital technology in recent years, remote teams are less likely to integrate the knowledge of their members to produce new, disruptive ideas.

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Apple Readies New iPads and M3 MacBook Air To Combat Sales Slump

Apple, seeking to reverse a decline in Mac and iPad sales, is preparing several new models and upgrades for early next year, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the situation. From a report: The effort includes updating the iPad Air, iPad Pro and MacBook Air, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the products haven't been announced. The new iPad Air will come in two sizes for the first time, and the Pro model will get OLED screens -- short for organic light-emitting diode. The MacBook Air, meanwhile, will feature the speedier M3 processor. The Mac and iPad account for 15% of Apple's revenue combined, and they've been particularly hard hit by a decline in consumer tech spending. The iPad slump has been compounded by a lack of new models. In fact, 2023 will be the first calendar year in the product's history when no new versions were released. There have been Mac releases in the past year, but that market faces a broader pullback for computers following a boom in pandemic spending.

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Millions of Coders Are Now Using AI Assistants. How Will That Change Software?

AI coding assistants are here to stay -- but just how big a difference they make is still unclear. From a report: Thomas Dohmke, GitHub's CEO: "You've got a lot of tabs open, you're planning a vacation, maybe you're reading the news. At last you copy the text you need and go back to your code, but it's 20 minutes later and you lost the flow." The key idea behind Copilot and other programs like it, sometimes called code assistants, is to put the information that programmers need right next to the code they are writing. The tool tracks the code and comments (descriptions or notes written in natural language) in the file that a programmer is working on, as well as other files that it links to or that have been edited in the same project, and sends all this text to the large language model behind Copilot as a prompt. (GitHub co-developed Copilot's model, called Codex, with OpenAI. It is a large language model fine-tuned on code.) Copilot then predicts what the programmer is trying to do and suggests code to do it. This round trip between code and Codex happens multiple times a second, the prompt updating as the programmer types. At any moment, the programmer can accept what Copilot suggests by hitting the tab key, or ignore it and carry on typing. The tab button seems to get hit a lot. A study of almost a million Copilot users published by GitHub and the consulting firm Keystone Strategy in June -- a year after the tool's general release -- found that programmers accepted on average around 30% of its suggestions, according to GitHub's user data. [...] Copilot has changed the basic skills of coding. As with ChatGPT or image makers like Stable Diffusion, the tool's output is often not exactly what's wanted -- but it can be close. "Maybe it's correct, maybe it's not -- but it's a good start," says Arghavan Moradi Dakhel, a researcher at Polytechnique Montreal in Canada who studies the use of machine-learning tools in software development. Programming becomes prompting: rather than coming up with code from scratch, the work involves tweaking half-formed code and nudging a large language model to produce something more on point.

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Legal Manga App User Banned After Taking 'Fraudulent Screenshots'

A user of a legal manga app operated by one of Japan's largest publishers claims they were locked out of the service after being accused of fraudulent activity. TorrentFreak: While using Shueisha's YanJan! app, the user's smartphone began vibrating before displaying a message that their account had been suspended. It was later confirmed that taking screenshots, even inadvertently, can lead to being banned.

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Twitch To Shut Down in Korea Over 'Prohibitively Expensive' Network Fees

Twitch, the popular video streaming service, plans to shut down its business in South Korea on February 27 after finding that operating in one of the world's largest esports markets is "prohibitively expensive." From a report: Twitch CEO Dan Clancy said the firm undertook a "significant effort" to reduce the network costs to operate in Korea, but ultimately the fees to operate in the East Asian nation was still 10 times more expensive than in most other countries. The ceasing of operations in Korea is a "unique situation," he wrote in a blog post. South Korea's expensive internet fees have led to legal fights -- streaming giant Netflix unsuccessfully sued a local broadband supplier last year to avoid paying usage charges, but Seoul's court ruled that Netflix must contribute to the network costs enabling its half-billion-dollar Korean business. Twitch attempted to lower its network costs by experimenting with a peer-to-peer model and then downgrading the streaming quality to 720p video resolution, Clancy said. While these efforts helped the firm lower its network costs, it wasn't enough.

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Earth on Verge of Five Catastrophic Climate Tipping Points, Scientists Warn

Many of the gravest threats to humanity are drawing closer, as carbon pollution heats the planet to ever more dangerous levels, scientists have warned. From a report: Five important natural thresholds already risk being crossed, according to the Global Tipping Points report, and three more may be reached in the 2030s if the world heats 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial temperatures. Triggering these planetary shifts will not cause temperatures to spiral out of control in the coming centuries but will unleash dangerous and sweeping damage to people and nature that cannot be undone. "Tipping points in the Earth system pose threats of a magnitude never faced by humanity," said Tim Lenton, from the University of Exeter's Global Systems Institute. "They can trigger devastating domino effects, including the loss of whole ecosystems and capacity to grow staple crops, with societal impacts including mass displacement, political instability and financial collapse." The tipping points at risk include the collapse of big ice sheets in Greenland and the West Antarctic, the widespread thawing of permafrost, the death of coral reefs in warm waters, and the collapse of one atmospheric current in the North Atlantic.

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Amazon Brags It 'Cultivated' California Mayor With Donations in Leaked Policy Document

Amazon said it has "cultivated" a Southern California city mayor by donating PPE to the city and taking him and his team on tours in a confidential company document leaked on Tuesday. From a report: The document, which is undated but refers to 2024 plans, also describes the company's intent to combat legislation that would harm its interests by courting non-profit groups in California. The company said "Warehouse Moratorium Legislation" in the state -- like AB 1000, which would prohibit companies from building large warehouses in residential and public areas -- "would be detrimental to Amazon's interests." The document, titled "Community Engagement Plan 2024," was shared in screenshots on X by Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a former California State Assembly member and AFL-CIO leader, who described it as an "interesting read about how [Amazon] plan[s] to use $$ to non-profits in communities of color to fight legislation that limits environmental affects of warehouses & labor organizing." The document states that Amazon is facing "significant reputational challenges in Southern California, where the company is perceived to build facilities in predominantly communities of color and poverty, negatively impacting their health." The document then names City of Perris Mayor Michael Vargas, who Amazon refers to as "Perris Mayor Marty Vargas" in an apparent typo, as an "influential elected leader that we have cultivated through PPE donations to support the region, touring him and his team, and ongoing engagement."

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Intel Calls AMD's Chips 'Snake Oil'

Aaron Klotz, reporting for Tom's Hardware: Intel recently published a new playbook titled "Core Truths" that put AMD under direct fire for utilizing its older Zen 2 CPU architecture in its latest Ryzen 7000 mobile series CPU product stack. Intel later removed the document, but we have the slides below. The playbook is designed to educate customers about AMD's product stack and even calls it "snake oil." Intel's playbook specifically talks about AMD's latest Ryzen 5 7520U, criticizing the fact it features AMD's Zen 2 architecture from 2019 even though it sports a Ryzen 7000 series model name. Further on in the playbook, the company accuses AMD of selling "half-truths" to unsuspecting customers, stressing that the future of younger kid's education needs the best CPU performance from the latest and greatest CPU technologies made today. To make its point clear, Intel used images in its playbook referencing "snake oil" and images of used car salesmen. The playbook also criticizes AMD's new naming scheme for its Ryzen 7000 series mobile products, quoting ArsTechnica: "As a consumer, you're still intended to see the number 7 and think, 'Oh, this is new.'" Intel also published CPU benchmark comparisons of the 7520U against its 13th Gen Core i5-1335U to back up its points. Unsurprisingly, the 1335U was substantially faster than the Zen 2 counterpart.

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