Microsoft made a big deal of supporting No eXecute technologies in its Data Execution Protection component of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. This makes use of new functionality on new processors for consumers, with an eye toward increasing protection from worms and viruses. But what help will YOU get from it? Our own Quantum Skyline reviews how NX works, and ponders what it means for you--and for Joe Sixpack.
The release of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP has brought to light new functionality that is available in new processors for consumers. Touted by Microsoft as a method of preventing viruses from spreading, the NX bit is now the must-have 'feel good' feature for marketing operating systems and processors. While Microsoft makes a lot of hype about supporting No eXecute technologies in its Data Execution Protection component of Service Pack 2, a lot of people were left saying: what does this do for me?
The answer to that is 'it depends', but for the most part, I think the answer is 'not much'.
Most desktops today do not have a chip that supports NX. Intel's implementation of NX, called Execute Disable (XD) Bit Functionality (http://www.intel.com/business/bss/infrastructure/security/xdbit.htm), only showed up in desktop chips in Q3 2004 and is supposed to work with the i915 chipsets. AMD's version showed up in the x86_64 supporting processors, leaving Athlon XP users behind. SPARC processors have had NX capability for a while, and operating system support to go with it. Transmeta did not have to do much to make its Efficeon chips support NX. Transmeta's code morphing software layer that translates x86 into its very long instruction word (VLIW) format needed a little modification. VIA plans on having NX in its Esther core, but no release date is available yet.
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