OCC TECH NEWS
November 26, 2014
According to a recently released report by DisplaySearch, a leading provider of reliable information, highly insightful analysis, and industry events specifically focused on the display supply chain and display-related industries, shipments of 4K televisions have increased more than 500 percent last quarter. The increase brings the total shipments of 4K televisions to 6.4 million for 2014, with more than 3 million shipments occurring last quarter alone. The report by DisplaySearch notes that Samsung currently holds 36 percent of the global market for 4K televisions, while LG Electronics makes up 15 percent and Sony makes up 9 percent. As manufacturers continue to produce more 4K televisions, prices are expected to drop and drive consumer demand over the holidays, with fourth quarter shipments likely to surpass those of last quarter.
Anyone following the latest gaming news has likely seen a number of pieces about troubles with Ubisoft titles, especially Assassin's Creed Unity. In just under a week, The Crew, an MMO CaRPG, is going to be released, but this week Ubisoft put out a blog post concerning the upcoming reviews.
The post states that the media will not be given copies to review prior to the game's launch, and that no embargo will be in place. It may seem odd or a bad omen for the game that reviewers will not have early access to the finished product, but that is actually the point Ubisoft attempts to make. Being an MMO with a focus on social gaming, the post explains that the optimal experience is had when playing with "thousands and thousands and thousands" of players, and not just the press and the developers. Some features, like Faction Wars rely on having large numbers of players, but also the game was built to be a "living playground full of driving fans." Further it points out that the developers used the four closed betas the game, and the current open beta on xBox One and PS4, to gather feedback to improve the experience, so the beta experience also may not reflect the game's release form.
Now I would like to do a little editorializing here, as someone with review and pre-release game experience. I have played games and game content prior to release and have seen major features changed and removed very shortly before release. If indeed The Crew is undergoing significant changes leading up to its release, then it would be an easy argument to make that it is irresponsible to review a pre-release version. Some games also see significant changes after release, which is one of the reasons I do the Years-Later Reviews. It may not be the case that twelfth-hour changes to The Crew are that significant, but they might be. Only a comparison between pre-release and the release versions would reveal this, just as only a released MMO can have the number of players in it as a released MMO. The people at Ubisoft always want their games seen and played at their best, and have certainly made these decisions with that motivation. One may disagree with these decisions, but one should still appreciate the motives and reasons behind them, which is no doubt why the blog post was made.
SPEEDLINK, one of the leading brands in computer and video game accessories in Europe, has officially announced the KUDOS Z-9 gaming mouse. The latest gaming mouse by SPEEDLINK is tailored towards professional gamers, as it includes a precise laser sensor with configurable sensitivity levels from 50 to 8,200dpi, nine programmable buttons, and 64 colors for the profile illuminated indicator strip. The mouse is also fully customizable with the included KUDOS Z-9 configurator application, which allows gamers to easily change driver settings without having to open the actual driver software menu. The SPEEDLINK KUDOS Z-9 comes with flexible, sheathed 1.8m USB cable, a red illuminated scroll wheel, and a scroll wheel with 4-way support.
Electricity and magnetism are two fairly different phenomena and at times, technologies based on them compete with each other, as they both have advantages and disadvantages. Many are working to develop technologies that employ both though, to tap the advantages of both, without the disadvantages. Researchers at MIT have recently made a discovery that could enable just that in computer memory and likely more.
The researchers were working with a device that looks similar to a capacitor, in that it has two conductive layers separated by an insulating layer. In this device though, both conducting layers are magnetic, but one has a fixed magnetic orientation while the other can be switched between orientations. When the two layers have the same orientation, more electricity can get through the insulating layer than if the orientations were different. The switching is achieved by applying a voltage. What the researchers discovered is that if the insulating material is an oxide, the voltage is 100 times more powerful at altering the magnetic properties. This is because the oxygen ions in the insulating layer would move in response to the voltage.
This discovery could one day be used to create a nonvolatile magnetic memory system and already the researchers have achieved a switching rate of a megahertz. Of course it will have to be faster than that to compete with modern, electrical memory, but this discovery could also open doors to controlling other properties, such as reflectivity and thermal conductance.
When Sony initially launched the PlayStation Vita in the United States during February 2012, many consumers became early adopters of the handheld gaming device. Before the launch of the PlayStation Vita, and even afterwards, Sony pushed advertisements that promoted game changing features, such as cross platform gaming, multi-player gaming through a 3G network, and remote play. These features failed to work properly for most owners of the PlayStation Vita, and the Federal Trade Commission has taken notice. After the FTC filed charges against Sony for deceiving consumers with false advertising claims surrounding the game changing features of the PlayStation Vita, Sony has officially agreed to settle the dispute. Sony will provide either a $25 cash or credit refund, or a $50 merchandise voucher for select video games, and/or services, to customers who purchased the PlayStation Vita before June 1, 2012. Additionally, the company is barred from producing similar advertisements in the future that mislead consumers.
According to the settlement, Sony will email eligible PlayStation Vita owners about their refund opportunity after the settlement is finalized by the FTC.
November 25, 2014
Parrot has announced the final version of its latest remote controlled aircraft, the Bebop Drone. The Bebop is a quadricopter designed for consumers "interested in the sole pleasure of flying, capturing amazing images of landscapes or filming sport performances." An included 14 megapixel full HD camera allows for capturing high quality images in a 180° field of vision. Users can pilot the Bebop over Wi-Fi using a smartphone or tablet and the Parrot Skycontroller can be used with a Wi-Fi extender to provide greater flight range.
Source: Press Release
Some visions of the future have included complex devices that are implanted into human bodies, to treat illnesses and repair damaged cells. Scientists actually are working toward such devices, and while they will be complex, they may not be implants, in the traditional sense. Many have been developing biological circuits that use cells to perform operations, and now researchers at MIT have developed a device that could greatly advance the field.
For any circuit to be useful, it must be reliable so that the proper inputs result in the correct output. For electronics connected by solid wires, that is not too hard to achieve, but organelles within cells transmit information by chemical reactions, as they float around. This makes it much more likely that some part of a biological circuit will make a mistake, by interacting with a chemical it should not have, for the operation to succeed. To address this problem, the MIT researchers have developed a load driver, which behaves similar to those in electronic circuits, by acting as a buffer between the signals and the output, preventing delays in outputs.
With such a tool, many complex biological circuits may become possible, thanks to the increased reliability. Potential applications include circuits that will detect and destroy cancerous cells, but not healthy ones, and circuits that monitor glucose in a diabetic, and trigger insulin releases as needed.
In order to gain additional revenue, after its streaming video service failed to appeal to customers shortly after its launch, Redbox has announced that it is raising its prices for various rental media. Starting on December 2, Redbox DVD rentals will be 25 cents more expensive per day, and starting on the same day, Blu-ray disc rentals will also raise in price, costing customers an extra 50 cents per day. Video game rentals will increase in price too, costing customers $1 more per day. Luckily for gamers who rely on Redbox to play the newest titles, the price increase for video games will not go into effect until January.
It is worth noting that the price increases that Redbox will implement in the comings months represent the first time that the company has raised costs for its customers since 2011.
A new day is upon us, with plenty of reviews for you to check out. There is a look at the ASUS Rampage V Extreme motherboard, with its class-setting performance on the Intel X99 platform. We also have the Fractal Design Define R5 case, which offers a sleek exterior and a quiet interior so you don't have to hear your PC running. OCZ's ARC 100 240GB SSD gets put to the test to see how the move to Toshiba NAND holds up to the performance of its competitors. If you need a new laptop or tablet, you're in luck as both the Lenovo Y70 Touch laptop and Lenovo Tab A8 tablet get reviewed. Lastly the Silicon Power Armor Series A30 USB 3.0 2TB Portable HDD gets tested to see if it can be the solution to those needing some extra storage.
ASUS Rampage V Extreme @ Bjorn3D
Fractal Design Define R5 @ Benchmark Reviews
OCZ ARC 100 240GB SSD @ Bjorn3D
Silicon Power Armor Series A30 USB 3.0 2TB Portable HDD @ Madshrimps
Lenovo Y70 Touch Laptop @ TechSpot
Lenovo Tab A8 Tablet @ ThinkComputers
The International Telecommunication Union has just released the 2014 edition of the Measuring the Information Society Report. The latest report indicates the Internet now has 3 billion users, which is an increase of 6.6 percent globally, when compared to statistics released last year. Broken down, there was a 3.3 percent increase of Internet users in developed countries and an 8.7 percent increase in users located in developing countries. Even with the increase in Internet users worldwide, there still are 4.3 billion individuals around the world who do not have access to Internet services. Of these individuals, 90 percent happen to live in developing countries. In order to provide more individuals across the world with Internet connectivity, to the tune of 1.5 billion people over the next five years, the International Telecommunication Union plans to open up wireless spectrum that is currently assigned to broadcast television, which will hopefully lower Internet access costs.
The news comes just over six months after the United Nations News Center revealed that the Internet was nearing 3 billion users, and that the milestone would be reached by the end of this year
Chances are that if you regularly visit this site, you are technology literate and understand how to protect your computer(s). This is not the case for many people though, which can cause problems. Researchers at Brigham Young University decided to investigate this phenomenon and found an interesting correlation between behaviors and brains.
As many people know, the weakest link in computer security is the user. After all, modern operating systems employ techniques to secure themselves, but users clicking buttons they should not, can get around security protocols. To examine this, the researchers started by questioning a group of students about online security. Naturally every participant said they were concerned about it. After this they were asked to help test a computer algorithm, by identifying if pictures of Batman on a website were animated or photographed, using their own computers. As they worked on the pictures, pop ups would randomly appear, warning the user about malware on the site. The students ignored these warnings and after ignoring enough of them, were presented with a message containing laughing skulls, a countdown timer, and the words "Say goodbye to your computer." What were the students' responses? They included shutting down the computers, yanking out the cables, and screaming.
While the participants may not have lived up to their responses about online security, EEGs of their brains' risk responses did predict how they would react. This is an important discovery as it could help in the development of strategies to improve a user's behavior, thus strengthening the weak link in security.
Source: Brigham Young University
Patriot, an electronics company founded in 1985 that manufacturers a full range of memory module and flash memory products, has upgraded the maximum capacity of its LX Series SDXC and microSDXC cards. The highest available size for the LX Class 10 SDXC memory cards, which feature read speeds of up to 80MB/s and write speeds of up to 20MB/s, is now 256GB. The LX Series microsDXC flash card, which features read speeds of up to 70MB/s and write speeds of up to 20MB/s, is now available in a new 128GB option.
Both products feature Patriot’s 5 year warranty and award winning customer service, as well as an MSRP of $129.99. Interested consumers can purchase the latest additions to the Patriot LX Series of SDXC and microSDXC Cards at retailers such as Amazon, Fry’s Electronics, Newegg, and other select stores.
Source: Press Release
November 24, 2014
Valve has issued new rules and guidelines to developers that take part in the Early Access program for Steam, confirmed by several developers to Giantbomb. The first rule is that developers must clearly indicate that a game is Early Access when selling Steam keys through other means. Developers must also release on Steam at the same time as other platforms and must also charge the same price across platforms. The guidelines are more recommendations than concrete rules and include "don't launch in Early Access if you can't afford to develop with very few or no sales, make sure you set expectations properly everywhere you talk about your game, and don't launch in Early Access if you are done with development." Hopefully this new guidance from Valve will provide a better Early Access experience for developers and gamers.
A new exploit known as BadUSB targets the firmware of USB devices rather than simply placing malware on the device, making it extremely difficult or impossible to detect. The exploit was initially developed "to highlight the inherently flawed design of the USB specification," and the code was kept private, though it has now been made available. Flash drives aren't the only devices that can be compromised with USB hubs, webcams, and other storage mediums also potential targets. If there is a bright spot to garner from this news it is that researchers believe that only half of all USB devices are vulnerable, while the initial belief was that all devices were at risk.
Corsair has announced the availability of the Carbide 330R case in the Titanium Edition, bringing a "new attractive dark gunmetal anodized aluminum front panel and a convenient 3-speed fan controller" to the quiet mid-tower lineup. The case supports motherboards from Mini ITX up to Extended ATX and has built-in routing cutouts for cable management. Users can install four hard drives of either 2.5" or 3.5" sizes with tool-free installation. Up to five case fans can be installed as part of the Direct Airflow Path layout, which provides an "unobstructed path between the included 140mm fan and the CPU and GPU." The case is rounded out with included noise dampening material making it a "great choice for media rooms, bedrooms, dorm rooms, or any place where both silence and performance are essential."
Source: Press Release
In many places, security is of great importance, but it can also be a great hindrance by slowing people down as they go through checks. Naturally many want a security solution that will ease the slowdown, but without compromising any of the checks. One area of technology that may achieve that is terahertz devices, and now researchers at Northwestern University have created a tunable terahertz source that operates at room temperature.
Terahertz frequencies rest between the infrared and microwave sections of the spectrum and are of interest to many because they interact strongly with organic molecules, without damaging them. As many dangerous chemicals, like explosives, are considered organic, a terahertz device would be able to detect them at distance. One difficulty with these frequencies of light though is that they are hard to produce and can even require vacuum chambers and cryogenics, making sources expensive and unwieldy. By mixing nonlinear quantum cascade lasers though, the Northwestern researchers were able to create them in the range of 1 to 4.6 THz, at up to 1.9 mW of power. Using special waveguides they designed, they were able to tune the device between 2.6 THz and 4.2 THz at room temperature.
Of course this new source could have applications in security systems, by scanning for dangerous materials noninvasively, but it would likely also see use in medicine, as a means to probe beneath the skin for issues. The technology could even have applications for deep space imaging.
Source: Northwestern University
We have a lot to cover as we begin the final week of November, so let's dive right into it. There is a review on the ASUS Maximus VII Impact motherboard, which is a Mini-ITX board based on the Intel Z97 chipset. We also have the Biostar A68N-5000, which features a built-in AMD Fusion APU for those on a budget. If you need a case, then you're in luck, as the In Win D-Frame Mini, NZXT H440 Razer Edition, and Fractal Design Define R5 Silent all get put to the test. The Func MS-2 gaming mouse gets reviewed to see how the company's newest mouse performs. LUXA2's Groovy Duo Wireless Speaker is put through the ringer to see how it performs. Lastly we have a performance and graphics test of Dragon Age: Inquisition to check how various setups will handle BioWare's latest RPG.
ASUS Maximus VII Impact @ LanOC Reviews
Biostar A68N-5000 @ LanOC Reviews
In Win D-Frame Mini @ PC Perspective
NZXT H440 Razer Edition @ ThinkComputers
Fractal Design Define R5 SIlent @ PC Perspective
Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: CPU & Graphics Performance @ TechSpot
Func MS-2 Gaming Mouse @ Madshrimps
LUXA2 Groovy Duo Wireless Speaker @ Benchmark Reviews
Polarization is important for many technologies, including displays and cameras. For cameras polarized filters are used to eliminate glare and in displays they are used to control the light that ultimately reaches our eyes. In both cases though, the polarizers can take out 60% to 70% of the light, dimming the result, which is why researchers at the University of Utah have designed a new filter.
Sunlight and ambient light is unpolarized, which means the light oscillates in all directions. When a single polarizer is used, such as to only let horizontally polarized light through, half of the light will be either absorbed by the filter or reflected. For cameras this is a problem for low-light pictures and for displays it means more energy is needed to create a bright image. What the Utah researchers have designed addresses the problem by actually altering the polarization of the light coming in, so more of it will pass through.
So far the researchers have achieved 74% transmission, but their goal is to let all the light through. They expect it may be five to ten years before we see this technology enter the market.
Source: University of Utah
Battlefield Hardline, which is slated to launch on March 17, 2015, is more of a cops-and-robbers title that falls away from its military roots that the franchise is known for. According to Blake Jorgensen, the CFO at EA, the Battlefield title that will be released in 2016 is expected to be more of a military-style game, with more details to be released in the future. Jorgensen also noted that after seeing the game, the new Battlefield that will launch over a year after Battlefield Hardline is made available to the public is already shaping up to be both fun and new.
Although Full Disk Encryption, or FDE, has been available on Android devices since version 3.0, Android 5.0 Lollipop is the first Android version to enable the security feature by default on new devices. While this would normally be a welcomed decision on the grounds of improved security for mobile devices, it turns out that FDE is greatly hindering the performance of devices that it is enabled on. In a recent test performed by AnandTech, it was found that the Nexus 6 suffered massive performance loss when FDE was enabled. The results show that FDE reduced sequential read speeds by 80.7 percent, random read speeds by 62.9 percent, and random write speeds by 50.5 percent, when compared to a Nexus 6 that has FDE turned off.
With performance hindered so greatly due to FDE, many users are hoping that Google is able to come up with a solution in the near future. The good news is that devices that were upgraded to Android Lollipop do not feature FDE enabled by default, and the encryption feature can be turned off on devices that come with it enabled.
Although Valve has yet to officially announce its Steam Fall Sale for this year, it looks like it will be kicking off in just two days, according to a PayPal email that was sent to various PayPal members. The Steam Fall Sale is expected to begin on November 26 and last until December 1, allowing gamers to pick up various products for Windows, Mac, and Linux for incredibly low prices. Some of the best deals will likely take place on Black Friday, but no matter the day gamers have the opportunity to save on thousands of video game titles during the Steam Fall Sale. PayPal customers can even order Steam Wallet Codes through its online gift store in preparation for the sale.
November 23, 2014
In an interview with IGN, Turtle Rock Studios' Creative Director Phil Robb revealed that all DLC maps for Evolve will be free for all players. The reasoning is actually rather simple – Turtle Rock doesn't want to fracture its community. Robb explained that the studio "never want[s] anyone to get booted off a server because they haven't bought something." This reasoning trickles down to the planned monster and hunter DLC as well. Players who choose to not purchase those DLC packs will still be able to join games with those DLC monsters and hunters, they just won't be able to play as them.
Evolve is scheduled to arrive on February 10, 2015 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
While it didn't leave Steam Early Access until a week after originally scheduled, Book I of Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is now officially available as a complete product. The release version adds in Chapter III, along with two new playable characters: Wood Elemental and Thorn Wasp. Of course, now that the game is officially launched, we get to enjoy this new Release Trailer:
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is available for purchase on Steam with a 20% discount dropping the price down to $23.99 until November 27. Purchasing the game entitles you to Book II free of charge when it becomes available for release.
Source: Press Release and Steam
Originally scheduled to arrive Holiday 2014 for PC and Xbox One, the gorgeous 2.5D Metroidvania platformer Ori and the Blind Forest has been pushed back "to add a final layer of polish." The new release window for those two platforms is Early 2015. No mention of whether the Xbox 360 version is still planned for Early 2015, or even if it's still planned at all. The exact wording of Moon Studios' statement is that the studio will "be releasing Ori and the Blind Forest Early 2015 exclusively for Xbox One and PC."
Source: Official Site
Roughly a month ahead of its PC debut, the PC specs and details for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes have been unveiled. Unsurprisingly, the PC version will be the definitive version of the game, featuring a slew of graphical enhancements:
- 60 FPS frame rate
- Additional deferred lights per scene
- Additional shadows per scene
- Higher-resolution render targets
- Higher-resolution shadows
- Increased detail over distances
- NVIDIA SLI Multi-GPU support
- Options to adjust seven graphics features (Effects, Lighting, Screen Filtering, Shadows, Texture Filtering, Textures)
- Resolution support up to and including 3840x2160 (4K)
- Screen Space Reflections
While that's an impressive list on paper, it's equally impressive in action. NVIDIA has posted two exclusive screenshots along with a handy comparison tool, allowing you to directly compare the PC and PlayStation 4 versions. The first screenshot shows improved lighting, enhanced shadows, higher textures, and greater draw distance. The second screenshot highlights the Screen Space Reflections. As for what you'll need to actually run all this extra eye-candy, check out the official system requirements:
- OS: Windows Vista 64-Bit or later
- Processor: Core i5 Sandy Bridge 4 Core (4 Thread) 2.7GHz or above
- Memory: 4GB RAM or above
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 650 or above
- DirectX: Version 11 or above
- Processor: Core i5 Sandy Bridge 4 Core (4 Thread) 2.7GHz or above
- Memory: 8GB RAM or above
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 760 or above
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes will be arriving via Steam on December 18.
Free-to-play, third-person shooter Zombies Monsters Robots has been invaded by giant mechs. The "Steel Corps" update has added three classes of playable mechs (Light, Medium, and Heavy) alongside nine new maps. Each class includes two base models and two Limited Edition variants. Players can pilot the mechs in an all-new PvP mode creatively entitled Team Mech Match, but the nine new maps are also playable in PvE and other PvP modes.
Zombies Monsters Robots can be downloaded for free via Steam.
Source: Press Release
Samsung and NVIDIA haven't seen eye to eye on some things of late, with NVIDIA filing a patent lawsuit against both Samsung and Qualcomm over GPU licensing fees. Now Samsung is firing back with a lawsuit of its own, and this one is a little interesting. While NVIDIA wants to block Samsung Galaxy phones with its lawsuit, Samsung wants to block NVIDIA GPUs in the U.S. market. Both GeForce and Tegra products would be blocked, which would not only affect NVIDIA but any third-party company that ships its products. The exact reasoning for Samsung's desire to block the GPUs is not known at this time, but it's probably based on some technology that Samsung feels it is owed money for in order for NVIDIA to use it.
There is a long way to go before anything concrete comes of this lawsuit, so don't fret just yet. Hopefully NVIDIA and Samsung can come to some kind of an agreement for both cases, otherwise some of the most popular smartphones and GPUs won't be available in the U.S.
November 22, 2014
South Korea's SmileGate took the Internet by storm when it unveiled its isometric, hack-and-slash MMORPG Lost Ark last week, with its high production values, amazing skill effects, and a whopping 18 playable characters. While the eight-minute Debut Trailer was quite impressive, now we get a new 19-minute "G-star Trailer", showing off even more of the game and its characters. Sadly, the narration is in Korean, but it's still a visual treat to watch.
Lost Ark is expected to enter Closed Beta next year, but a Western release is still up in the air.
Source: Official Site
At its peak, World of Warcraft had a whopping 12 million subscribers, making it the most popular MMORPG in history. While Blizzard has still enjoyed great success with the game, its subscriber base has unsurprisingly declined over the years, dropping to a still respectable, roughly 7.5 million last year. But with the release of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, World of Warcraft has once again surpassed the 10-million mark as of November 13, the date of the launch. More than 3.3 million copies of the expansion were sold within the first 24 hours.
Blizzard qualifies active subscribers as the following:
World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet game room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees' territories are defined along the same rules.
Source: Press Release
This Tuesday saw a record-breaking event, and it happened right in the heart of Manhattan – a 24-million-pixel LED display longer than a football field and eight stories high lit up Times Square for the first time. The world's largest display debuted with an exhibition of digital art by Universal Everything Studio, but will the home of some Google advertising next week through the New Year. While the screen's advertising firm Clear Channel Outdoor wouldn't divulge details of the Google deal, the New York Times reports that "the rate for a four-week advertising blitz is $2.5 million."
The gigantic billboard hovers over the Marriott Marquis Hotel and was commissioned by the Vornado Realty Trust in 2012 "as part of a $140 million project to expand and redevelop the Marriott Marquis' retail space." The exact cost of the screen itself is unknown. The heart of Times Square where this billboard is located is passed by an average of 300,000 pedestrians every day and 115,000 drivers and passengers. According to Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins, "This is the one place on the planet where people seek out, take pictures of and then transmit advertisement."