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Can a 21.5-inch iMac beat the latest-and-greatest M1 model in performance? Kinda • The Register

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The benchmarks don’t lie. Apple Silicon is fast. The M1 processor outperforms Intel’s competing i5 and i7 chips in virtually every metric you would care to mention, from CPU performance to graphics rendering. With that in mind, one may ask why anyone would want to buy an x86 Mac.

But as YouTuber Luke Miani recently showed, if you value your time cheaply, it’s possible to make an old 21.5 inch iMac competitive with the latest-and-greatest wafer-thin M1 goodness. If you are a bit selective with the benchmarks, that is.

Youtube Video

The hero of this tale is Apple’s previous entry-level iMac. Released in 2019, this came (specs here) with a glacier-slow quad-core i3-8100 chip, paired with just 8GB of DDR4 RAM. It was not fast, but given its positioning as a tool for less-demanding home and education users, that wasn’t much of a problem. Miani said he acquired this for $750 — or two-thirds of the cost of a new M1 powered machine.

It was unambiguously outclassed by the M1 iMac, except for one thing: upgradability. Touting a socketed CPU, Miani was able to remove the sluggish i3-8100, replacing it with an octa-core Core i9-9900. This added $350 to the original purchase price.

Apple never actually offered the 21.5-inch iMac with an i9 chip. Those were saved for the larger 27-inch variant, as well as the ill-fated iMac Pro. According to EveryMac, a reliable compendium of Apple’s computing wares, the entry-level machine topped out with an i7-8700.

Rounding it off, Miani boosted the RAM from 8GB to 32GB, adding a further $150 to the cost. In total, the project cost $1,200 — just $50 short from the base M1 iMac with a seven-core GPU, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of internal storage.

Installing these upgrades proved to be a bit of a chore. As is the case with all iMacs released after 2006, the main avenue of ingress is through the display. Disassembly was further complicated by some awkwardly-located cables, which proved challenging to remove. This was necessary to replace the CPU, and, unlike previous models, switch out the RAM, which was contained within a metal cage affixed to the logic board.

So, was it worth it?

That largely depends on your perspective.

Are you particularly fussed about graphics performance? In that case, no. The stock M1 iMac utterly crushed the ageing AMD Radeon Pro 555X GPU found in 2019’s 21.5-inch variant. It simply wasn’t a fair fight.

When using the Geekbench 5 Compute benchmark, which tests how the internal GPU copes with running games, image processing, and video editing, the 21.5-inch model scored 15,789 against the M1’s nearly 20,000.

But it shone when running CPU-driven tasks. When pitched against the CPU-heavy Cinebench R15 test, the custom 21-inch iMac beat the M1 by almost a third. Rendering a project in open source 3D creation suite Blender took half the time (although this likely wasn’t a fair test, given the absence of a native Apple Silicon build.) The M1 won on multi-core performance, but only just, with 100 points separating the two.

For the vast majority of users, the M1 iMac should be enough. And, of course, there is no guarantee that you will end up spending less. Apple, for instance, sells the same machine used in this video for a cool £1,059.99 refurbished. You can probably spend less on eBay, but that entails a level of risk that some might not be comfortable with.

Additionally, the long-term health of the Intel Mac is still very much uncertain. After it switched to x86, Apple only bothered to release one more system update for the PowerPC platform (namely: Mac OS X Snow Leopard). Developer support swiftly tapered off, particularly when it came to things like web browsers.

Still, if you already own one of these machines, Miani’s experiment shows it’s possible to squeeze extra performance beyond its original configuration. The 21.5-inch iMac also comes with a decent selection of ports, including USB-A and ethernet, making it slightly more practical.

This isn’t Miani’s first foray into iMac modification. As noted by this publication, he previously created one of the world’s first custom M1 iMacs by shoving the innards of a Mac Mini into a broken 2011 27-inch iMac. ®

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Google becomes latest tech firm to delay reopening as Delta variant spreads | Google

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Google has backtracked on plans to welcome most workers back to its sprawling campus in September, becoming the latest Silicon Valley company to delay reopening amid a surge in Covid cases.

The company announced Wednesday it is postponing a return to the office until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone who returns in person to be vaccinated.

The decision sees Google join Apple and Netflix in postponing calling employees back to the office due to concerns about the highly transmissible Delta variant, which now accounts for more than 80% of new cases in the US. Twitter also halted reopening plans and closed offices last week due to the Delta variant.

In an email to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning 18 October instead of its previous target date of 1 September.

Google’s delay also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.

“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai wrote. This marks the third time Google has pushed back the date for fully reopening its offices.

Pichai said that once offices are fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated. The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, and other US offices, before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates.

Facebook announced a similar policy on Wednesday, saying it will make vaccines mandatory for US employees who work in offices. Apple is reportedly also considering requiring vaccines.

“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” said Dr Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. “It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”

Because children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible to be vaccinated, parents can bring the virus home to them from the office if they are around unvaccinated colleagues, Wen said.

The delays from these companies could influence other major employers to take similar precautions, given that the technology industry has been at the forefront of the shift to remote work triggered by the spread of Covid-19.

Even before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020, Google, Apple and many other prominent tech firms had been telling their employees to work from home. Many others in the tech industry have decided to let employees do their jobs from remote locations permanently.

Google’s decision to require employees working in the office to be vaccinated comes on the heels of similar moves affecting hundreds of thousands government workers in California and New York as part of stepped-up measures to fight the delta variant. Joe Biden is expected to announce a mandate that all federal government workers be vaccinated.

The rapid rise in cases during the past month has prompted more public health officials to urge stricter measures to help overcome vaccine skepticism and misinformation.

While other major technology companies may follow suit now that Google and Facebook have taken stands on vaccines, employers in other industries still may be reluctant, predicted Brian Kropp, chief of research for the research firm Gartner. Less than 10% of employers have said they intend to require all employees to be vaccinated, based on periodic surveys by Gartner.

“Google is seen as being such a different kind of company that I think it’s going to take one or two more big employers to do something similar in terms of becoming a game changer,” Kropp said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Privacy proves elusive in Google’s Privacy Sandbox • The Register

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Google’s effort to build a “Privacy Sandbox” – a set of technologies for delivering personalized ads online without the tracking problems presented by cookie-based advertising – continues to struggle with its promise of privacy.

The Privacy Sandbox consists of a set of web technology proposals with bird-themed names intended to aim interest-based ads at groups rather than individuals.

Much of this ad-related data processing is intended to occur within the browsers of internet users, to keep personal information from being spirited away to remote servers where it might be misused.

So, simply put, the aim is to ensure decisions made on which ads you’ll see, based on your interests, take place in your browser rather than in some backend systems processing your data.

Google launched the initiative in 2019 after competing browser makers began blocking third-party cookies – the traditional way to deliver targeted ads and track internet users – and government regulators around the globe began tightening privacy rules.

The ad biz initially hoped that it would be able to develop a replacement for cookie-based ad targeting by the end of 2021.

But after last month concluding the trial of its flawed FLoC – Federated Learning of Cohorts – to send the spec back for further refinement and pushing back its timeline for replacing third-party cookies with Privacy Sandbox specs, Google now acknowledges that its purportedly privacy-protective remarketing proposal FLEDGE – First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment – also needs a tweak to prevent the technology from being used to track people online.

On Wednesday, John Mooring, senior software engineer at Microsoft, opened an issue in the GitHub repository for Turtledove (now known as FLEDGE) to describe a conceptual attack that would allow someone to craft code on webpages to use FLEDGE to track people across different websites.

That runs contrary to its very purpose. FLEDGE is supposed to enable remarketing – for example, a web store using a visitor’s interest in a book to present an ad for that book on a third-party website – without tracking the visitor through a personal identifier.

Michael Kleber, the Google mathematician overseeing the construction of Privacy Sandbox specs, acknowledged that the sample code could be abused to create an identifier in situations where there’s no ad competition.

“This is indeed the natural fingerprinting concern associated with the one-bit leak, which FLEDGE will need to protect against in some way,” he said, suggesting technical interventions and abuse detection as possible paths to resolve the privacy leak. “We certainly need some approach to this problem before the removal of third-party cookies in Chrome.”

In an email to The Register, Dr Lukasz Olejnik, independent privacy researcher and consultant, emphasized the need to ensure that the Privacy Sandbox does not leak from the outset.

It will all be futile if the candidates for replacements are not having an adequate privacy level on their own

“Among the goals of Privacy Sandbox is to make advertising more civilized, specifically privacy-proofed,” said Olejnik. “To achieve this overarching goal, plenty of changes must be introduced. But it will all be futile if the candidates for replacements are not having an adequate privacy level on their own. This is why the APIs would need to be really well designed, and specifications crystal-clear, considering broad privacy threat models.”

The problem as Olejnik sees it is that the privacy characteristics of the technology being proposed are not yet well understood. And given the timeline for this technology and revenue that depends on it – the global digital ad spend this year is expected to reach $455bn – he argues data privacy leaks need to be identified in advance so they can be adequately dealt with.

“This particular risk – the so-called one-bit leak issue – has been known since 2020,” Olejnik said. “I expect that a solution to this problem will be found in the fusion of API design (i.e. Turtledove and Fenced Frames), implementation level, and the auditing manner – active search for potential misuses.

“But this particular issue indeed looks serious – a new and claimed privacy-friendly solution should not be introduced while being aware of such a design issue. In this sense, it’s a show-stopper, but one that is hopefully possible to duly address in time.” ®

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Government plans €10m in funding for green and digital business projects

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The Government and Enterprise Ireland are providing two funds to regional Irish businesses in a bid to help them transition to a greener, digital economy.

The Government has today (29 July ) announced it will provide €10m in funding through Enterprise Ireland to projects supporting digitalisation and the transition to a green economy.

The Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme, worth €9.5m, will provide grant funding to regional and community-based projects focused on helping enterprises to adapt to the changing economic landscape due to Covid-19 and Brexit.

Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland said: “The Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme is aimed at supporting regional development and the regional business eco-system, helping to create and sustain jobs in the regions impacted by Covid-19.”

Grants of up to €1.8m or 80pc of project cost are available to businesses. The projects should aim to address the impact of Covid-19 and improve the capability and competitiveness of regional enterprises.

The call for the Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme will close on 8 September 2021. The successful projects will be announced in October and all funding will be provided to the successful applicants before the end of the year.

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A separate funding scheme, the €500,000 Feasibility Study fund, will provide financial support to early-stage regional enterprise development projects.

Launching the funding schemes, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy TD said the funds would “help stimulate transformational regional projects to support enterprises embrace the opportunities of digitalisation, the green economy as well as navigate the changed landscape arising from Covid-19.”

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD commented at the launch that the funds would help “build Covid-19 and Brexit resilience and enable applicants to support enterprises and SMEs to respond to recent economic and market challenges which also includes the transition to a low carbon economy, digital transformation and smart specialisation.”

The Feasibility Fund is open to new projects, with grants available of up to €50,000 or 50pc of project cost and will allow promoters to test their project concept and deliver virtual or site-based solutions to their target audience.

Applications for the Feasibility Fund close on 1st October 2021.

For more information and details on how to apply for the funds, see here and here.

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