OCC TECH NEWS
February 27, 2015
The prospect of materials being able to carry electrical currents without resistance has been of great interest to people for a long time now, but achieving it has proven very difficult. Superconductivity is a somewhat fragile state, as many things can disrupt it, so we need to find ways to either remove these disruptions, or control them. Researchers at John Hopkins University have done the latter by trapping electron vortices.
Electron vortices occur in superconductors when they are exposed to magnetic fields, and they can disrupt the resistance-free supercurrents as they move around. Along the edge of the superconductor, the vortices will be pinned in place, but in the bulk of a material it is much harder to stop them from moving. The researchers' solution to the problem was to make an aluminum nanowire, as it is mostly edges. This caused the vortices to become trapped on the edge and form a single row, which the supercurrent was able to avoid.
Besides demonstrating a way to stop these vortices from interfering, this research could also prove useful in other ways. Some day we could see the vortices used to transmit information, like how electrical charges are used today.
Source: John Hopkins University
It is the end of the week and very nearly the end of the month, and we have a couple of items for you to check out to welcome in the weekend. There is a look at 20 of the worst PC setups seen during the month of February, with some that may leave you scratching your head at how it all somehow doesn't fall down during anything more than checking email. We also have a new podcast covering the latest news and reviews from the past week.
20 of the Worst PC Setups - February 2015 @ ThinkComputers
Podcast #338 @ PC Perspective
I am starting to wonder if graphene is more amazing or ridiculous as its number of applications continues to increase. Researchers at the University of Manchester have discovered that graphene oxide could be used to treat cancer. More specifically it can target cancer stem cells and prevent them from forming tumor-spheres.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are exactly what they sound like; cancer cells that can differentiate into other cancers and are what causes cancer to spread. They also have to do with cancer recurring after treatment. Graphene oxide has been investigated for use in biomedicine before, because it is able to enter or attach to cell surfaces, but this is the first time it has been shown to work as an anti-cancer drug on its own. It appears it attaches to the surfaces of the CSCs and blocks the pathways used to form tumor-spheres. The researchers also observed it triggering the differentiation of the CSCs into non-cancer stem cells. The tests were done with six different cancer types (breast, pancreatic, lung, brain, ovarian, and prostate) and it was effective against all of them, suggesting it could work with a larger number of cancers, and perhaps even all of them.
Normally CSCs are unaffected by radiation and chemotherapies, which kill bulk cancer cells, so a means to target them directly is very important. Of course a lot of work will have to be done before graphene oxide flakes could be used for treating cancer, but this is still a very significant discovery.
Source: University of Manchester
Social media services like Twitter are taking the safety of its users very seriously. Facebook is doing the same, as it has just announced updated tools that are able provide a wealth of resources, advice, and support to people who may be struggling with suicide. The updated tools come after the company partnered with a variety of mental health organizations such as Forefront, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Save.org, as well as people who have dealt with self-injury or suicide thoughts. Users of Facebook who see a direct threat of suicide are being urged to contact their local emergency services immediately, of course, but the social networking service is touting that it has teams that work every hour of every day to review any report that comes in. The team is able to send resources to those in distress, and Facebook now allows users who flagged the self-harm post to call or message their distressed friend in order to let them know that they care.
The updated tools are expected to roll out to Facebook users located in the United States in the coming months, and the social networking service remains committed to improving its tools for users located outside of the United States.
Last December, Twitter revealed a variety of product updates that were aimed directly at user safety and protection. Now, the social networking website has announced a slew of additional improvements that go even further to protect its users. According to Tina Bhatnagar, the Vice President of User Services at Twitter, the website has made it even easier to report behaviors such as impersonation, self-harm, and the sharing of confidential and private information. Besides these improved user safety features, it has also been revealed that Twitter has overhauled how it handles abuse reported by users. The company claims that it now reviews five times the amount of user reports than it previously did, with its support team that focuses on handling these issues now triple in size.
Source: Twitter Blog
Fractal Design, which brings consumers products that feature Scandinavian design and quality, has just introduced its Venturi series fans. The latest performance fan series from Fractal Design comes in two different configurations, high flow and high pressure, which are both available in 120mm and 140mm fan sizes. Both versions of the Venturi series fans offer true FDB-bearings, aerodynamically shaped thin stator struts that are angled perpendicular to the blades, a "trip wire" on the rear side of the blades, a powerful and reliable motor, and vibration-dampening corners. The high flow and high pressure versions differ in that the former is equipped with a counter-balancing magnet in the hub and comes with a low-speed adapter, while the latter is equipped with a counter-pull magnet and comes with a PWM signal splitter wire.
February 26, 2015
Many people want to see a future filled with superconductors, because these materials are capable of transmitting electricity without resistance. One of the reasons why we are not currently using them much is that they require being cooled to very low temperatures; some near absolute zero. Researchers at the University of Southern California however have recently discovered a potentially new class of superconductors based on superatoms.
Superatoms are homogenous clusters of normal atoms, so even though they consist of many atoms, they will act as one, though a rather large one. This made the researchers wonder if some phenomena, such as Cooper pairs, could by exhibited by the superatoms. Cooper pairs are pairs of electrons that form in superconductors and help achieve that superconductivity. To test this hypothesis the research built superatoms containing 37, 44, 66, and 68 atoms of aluminum and then shot lasers of increasing energy at them. Normally laser pulses of higher energy will cause more electrons to be ejected, but at certain energy levels the electrons resisted.
One explanation for this resistance is that the electrons had formed Cooper pairs, which is supported by fewer electrons being knocked at as the temperature dropped, with the critical point around 100 K. While that is still a pretty cold temperature, it is only the beginning so with more work, the researchers think they may be able to create superatoms with higher superconducting critical points.
Source: University of Southern California
Google Flights is the latest tool from the Internet giant, taking aim at companies in the travel space and offering some interesting features. Google will highlight the cheapest flight on each day and will also offer an easy comparison across months of the year to find what season is best for travel. Flights will show users the flight prices given a time, origin, and destination, but also gives users the ability to specify a time and origin and receive suggestions on where to go. According to Google, more than half of all travelers "don’t know where they’re going to travel when they sit down to plan." Users can search by regions rather than specific cities with queries like "Flights to Europe" or "Flights to Mexico." Flights will also offer a best flights metric that factors in price along with convenience, such as direct flights rather than layovers, for users that don't necessarily need the cheapest flight.
Apple has sent out invitations to an event being held March 9 in San Francisco, where the company is expected to finally reveal its newest device, the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch will be the first new product developed under the watch of CEO Tim Cook, a move that will help Apple branch out into new market segments. The invitation simply says "Spring forward," a reference to the occurrence of Daylight Savings Time the previous day. Cook had previously announced that the Watch will begin shipping in April at prices starting at $349 for the basic version.
In a vote that passed by the narrowest of margins, 3-2, the FCC has approved net neutrality rules to ensure an open Internet. The passing of net neutrality effectively guarantees no single corporation will control access to the Internet, and basically means no ISP, even cellular carriers, can throttle or block traffic. So if you want to watch Netflix yet are on Comcast, Comcast cannot throttle your speed because you aren't using the Xfinity App to watch a TV show or movie. The FCC has reclassified fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service, meaning it falls under the same Title II regulations as phone and cable companies (namely, it treats them as public utilities). FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "the Internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression," and ISPs should not be the ones making the rules for it. Now it looks like free and open Internet will be available for everyone, and that should be a very good thing.
The net neutrality rules ban throttling or blocking Internet traffic, ban paid prioritization, and require ISPs to disclose network management practices. ISPs cannot throttle or block access to any legal content, apps, services, or non-harmful devices, and cannot pay to force traffic to favored devices/services over others. Exceptions for heart monitoring and VoIP services that do not use "public Internet" are in place, as well as for "reasonable network management." Some other Title II requirements include provisions to investigate consumer complaints, privacy rules, and protections for people with disabilities. Content providers and network operators that connect to an ISP can tell the FCC about any unjust or unreasonable interconnection rates and policies. ISPs will also have access to utility poles and other infrastructure to make it easier to enter new areas.
One thing the net neutrality rules do not impose is unbundling, where ISPs would have to provide Internet access by itself. It means competition does not see a boost, but it does mean current ISPs should not be able to harm others in the area that compete against its services.
Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon may sue the FCC to prevent the new net neutrality rules from taking place, but when Verizon won its lawsuit back in 2010, it effectively opened the door for stricter rules. Wheeler believes the FCC is in a stronger position now than it was in 2010 thanks to the Title II classification, with net neutrality equally applied to both fixed and mobile broadband. Time will tell if that helps weaken or even curtail any lawsuits, but it may. Republicans lost the FCC vote (the two dissenting votes were by Republican chairmen) and may vote to eliminate the FCC's Title II classification, so we'll see where that leads. Some ISPs both big and small oppose the ruling, as to be expected, but others are in favor of it. Even cellular companies like Sprint and T-Mobile are in favor of net neutrality, along with the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
The full net neutrality order is not yet available on the FCC website, as it needs to provide the Republicans' dissents in the order. It should be up before too long, however.
Sources: Ars Technica and NPR
We are almost to the end of February, but there are some items for you to check out before that happens. There is a review of the Gigabyte GTX 960 video card to see if it should be the one to get for a budget a build. We also have the ASUS STRIX GTX 750 Ti, which packs a lot of power in a quiet video card. For those wanting a unique computer case for their new build, perhaps the Raijintek Metis Classic is the one for you. Finishing off today's items is the Divoom Voombox Outdoor Rugged Bluetooth Speaker, which can survive water and dust while still pumping out your music.
Gigabyte GTX 960 @ LanOC Reviews
ASUS STRIX GTX 750 Ti @ PC Perspective
Raijintek Metis Classic @ Benchmark Reviews
Divoom Voombox Outdoor Rugged Bluetooth Speaker @ ThinkComputers
Tesoro, a manufacturer of high-tech gaming products, has officially announced the Gungnir Black optical gaming mouse. The Gungnir Black, which is named after the spear Odin used in Norse mythology, offers gamers with a wealth of premium features such as full color programmable LED illumination, fully independent and programmable buttons, and a 3500 DPI optical sensor. Tesoro has also incorporated Omron Switch technology and smooth Teflon feet into the Gungnir Black, which together provide gamers with enhanced precision and tactile feedback. Gamers can utilize the latest Tesoro UI to adjust the DPI, record macros, set profiles, and change the illumination color of the mouse.
The Tesoro Gungnir Black features an MSRP of $29 and is set to be available to purchase in North America sometime next month.
For decades we have known about high temperature superconductors, but despite our time with them, we know little about how they work. With such understanding it may be possible to design new superconductors that work at room temperature. There is a model that may provide the explanation, and finally researchers at Rice University with an international team have taken an important step in testing the model.
The Hubbard model was developed in the 1960s to describe the magnetic and conduction properties of electrons in transition metals and their oxides. It is actually a simple model, but it becomes exponentially more difficult to process as more electrons are involved, which is why even supercomputers have been unable to test it. The solution the Rice researchers developed is to physically model the materials in question. Instead of working with electrons moving between sites in a lattice, the researchers placed ultracold atoms in an optical lattice and watched the movement of ions in the lattice. They observed antiferromagnetic order, just as the Hubbard model predicts, and by using the Quantum Monte Carlo method, the results of the experiment were confirmed to match the Hubbard model.
Even though it was not superconductivity that was observed, this is an important step towards that goal as most parent materials of high temperature superconductors are antiferromagnetic. By developing new measurement methods and finding ways to chill the atoms even more, the researchers hope to be able to model the electron pair correlations that result in superconductivity.
Source: Rice University
BitFenix, a company that is focused on combining superior design with the latest advances in technology, has just unveiled the AEGIS computer chassis. This latest performance mATX case from BitFenix includes a wealth of premium features, such as multiple dust filters, three modular and tool-free storage cages, a built-in fan controller, an aesthetically appealing power supply cover, a rubber padded pump bracket, and a reservoir bracket. The AEGIS is truly made to support as much cooling as possible, as owners can install up to eight 120mm fans or five 140mm fans, dual 280 radiators, and even a dual 360 setup as long as slim radiators are utilized. BitFenix has also included a 2.8-inch ICON color display that allows the AEGIS to display custom logos on the front of the case.
The BitFenix AEGIS is available in black, white, red, blue, and yellow.
Source: Press Release
Thermaltake, a leader in computer chassis, thermal solutions, and power supply units, has just introduced a new radiator fan series that offers optimal performance and aesthetic appeal. The new product line, known as the Riing 12 and 14 LED radiator fan series, offers a concentrated compression blade design which allows that outer section of the fan to pressurize and compress the air. Thermaltake has also incorporated a wind blocker frame, which helps to direct airflow towards the middle section of the blade. A hydraulic bearing that self-lubricates itself ensures low operating noise and increased lifespan, and the in-mold injection anti-vibration rubber pads increase fan stability. The new Riing 12 and 14 LED radiator fan series also includes a patented LED ring that maintains brightness and color uniformity.
The Riing 12 and 14 LED radiator fan series from Thermaltake comes in red, blue, green, and white, and is slated to be available to purchase in the coming days from Newegg.
Source: Press Release
February 25, 2015
Previously, users of Google Play Music were able to upload 20,000 songs to the company’s servers for free, allowing them to easily listen to the stored songs on the go. Google has announced that it has more than doubled its free offering, with Play Music now allowing users to store up to 50,000 songs on the cloud. Play Music users who upload their music library to the cloud are able to stream or download their songs to their Android or Apple phone, tablet, or desktop computer. Google is offering quite a bargain when compared to other services like Amazon, which only allows 250 songs to be uploaded for free and 250,000 songs to be uploaded for $24.99 per year, as well as Apple, which lets customers store 25,000 songs in the cloud for $24.99 per year.
The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game genre is riding a large wave of popularity on the backs of games like League of Legends and Dota 2, with more games popping up to capitalize on the popularity. The Warhammer 40K universe is the next franchise to throw its hat into this arena with the recently announced Warhammer 40000: Dark Nexus Arena, developed by Whitebox Interactive. Dark Nexus Arena joins other recently announced games including Warhammer 40K: Regicide and a rumored offering from Creative Assembly based on the Total War series. The game will feature four players on each side with players able to choose from Space Marines, Orks, Tau, Dark Eldar, and others. The game has an expected release sometime in 2016 and the beta will be available at the PAX East expo next week.
Source: MCV UK
The next iteration of AMD A-Series Accelerated Processing Units (APU) is codenamed "Carrizo" and targets the low-power system market. The APU is built on the x86 architecture using a 28 nm manufacturing process and will be "optimized for both power and area efficiency." AMD has optimized how voltage is used by the chip resulting in power savings of up to 10% for the GPU and 19% for the CPU. AMD has also included adaptive voltage and frequency scaling (AVFS) which will "enable each individual APU to adapt to its particular silicon characteristics, platform behavior, and operating environment." AVFS technology can contribute to power savings of up to 30%. AMD Corporate Fellow Sam Naffziger described the benefits of Carrizo stating, "As a part of our continued focus on building great products, the advanced power and performance optimizations we have designed into our upcoming Carrizo APU will deliver the largest generational performance-per-watt gain ever for a mainstream AMD APU."
The world would be a very different place if not for batteries; especially modern lithium-ion batteries. These batteries seem to be approaching their limits though, unless new technologies and materials are developed. One thing holding back some new designs has been the formation of dendrites, but researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have found a solution to that.
Dendrites are small structures that can form in batteries and lead to reduce capacities, short circuits, and even fires. If a material for a battery's anode reacts with the electrolyte to produce dendrites, it does not matter how much better that anode would be, because the battery will fail sooner. What the PNNL researchers have been investigating is new electrolytes that prevent dendrites from forming. In this area some others of have had success with electrolyte with high salt concentrations, so that is where the researchers started. They built a circular test cell with their new electrolyte and a lithium anode. Lithium anodes can hold ten times the energy of conventional graphite anodes, but easily form dendrites. In the test cell though, instead of dendrites forming, a thin layer of lithium nodules formed, which did not short-circuit the battery.
After 1000 cycles, the test cell still held 98.4% of its original energy at 4 milliAmps per square centimeter. With such high efficiency the researchers suspect it may be possible to do away with the anode in batteries using this electrolyte, and use a current collector, but more work needs to be done to determine that.
Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
The middle of the week is here, and if you need a new headset, you are most certainly in luck. There is a review of the Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset, with its USB adapter to bring you 7.1 surround sound. It can also plug in via a 3.5mm connection, so regardless of your preferred connection type, Kingston has you covered. We also have a roundup of six different under $100 gaming headsets, with models from Logitech, Kingston, Razer, Polk, Tesoro, and Gigabyte competing to find which is worthy of your cash.
Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset @ ThinkComputers
Roundup: 6-Way, Sub-$100 Gaming Headset Battle @ TechSpot
The traditional electronics we use every day are approaching their limits, so researchers have been working on a variety of replacements, including spintronics. Instead of relying on the charge of electrons, spintronics uses the spin of the fundamental particles, which can off several performance benefits. One of the challenges still to overcome though is finding a suitable material to make spintronics out of, but researchers at the University of Michigan have created one that could do the trick.
The ideal semiconductor for spintronics could have a number of its properties precisely tuned, including magnetism and conductivity. These characteristics can be tuned already by adding atoms to the crystal lattice, but typically this happens evenly across the whole semiconductor, and spintronics would want them to vary. To hopefully solve this problem, the researchers have developed a new material without a symmetrical crystal structure. That means the holes for accepting the doping atoms vary in size across the material, allowing for new arrangements and combinations.
The semiconductor is made of iron, bismuth, and selenium and while it has great potential, it will be a bit longer before it can be tested. So far the researchers have only made it in powder form, but next they plan on making it into the thin films that would actually be used in a spintronic device.
Source: University of Michigan
LUXA2, a division of Thermaltake and a leader in providing power, audio, and holder solutions, has just announced the launch of the TX-P2 wireless charging power bank, the successor to the highly successful TX-P1. The TX-P2, which comes packed with a 10,000mAh lithium-polymer battery cell, allows consumers to charge their devices wirelessly, thanks to Qi compatibility, as well as through a standard wire, thanks to a 5V2.1A USB output port. For consumers that own a variety of devices that can be charged both ways, the TX-P2 supports simultaneous wired and wireless charging. The TX-P2 from LUXA2 is also able to charge tablet devices and features six LED power charging indicators, a power switch, and a stretchable band to secure mobile devices when charging on the go.
The LUXA2 TX-P2 10,000mAh wireless charging power bank features an MSRP of $79.99 and is available to purchase immediately.
Source: Press Release
Silentium PC, a brand established in Warsaw, Poland that offers computer enthusiasts with high-quality silent PC cases, power supplies and cooling solutions, has officially announced the Vero M1 600W modular power supply. The latest power supply from Silentium PC offers 80 PLUS efficiency, a single +12V rail design, most common electrical protection circuits, and a 120mm cooling fan. The Vero M1 600W modular power supply comes with just two fixed cables, which includes a 24-pin ATX and a 4+4 pin EPS. Modular cables include a 6+2 pin PCIe, a 6-pin PCIe, six SATA power, three Molex, and one Berg.
Pricing and availability of the Vero M1 600W modular power supply has not yet been released by Silentium PC.
February 24, 2015
Valve is planning to show a trio of new hardware products at the 2015 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next month. Valve will show off the Steam Machines, the final version of the Steam Controller, and a virtual reality system called SteamVR. The Steam Machines are Valve's take on a gaming console, powered by SteamOS. The Steam Controller was first unveiled in September 2013 with the final release pushed back to this year to improve on the design based on user feedback. The SteamVR device is still clouded in mystery with not much known about other than Valve is "actively seeking VR content creators."
Source: JBG News
After the recent news that Samsung was acquiring LoopPay in an effort to better compete with Apple Pay, Google is revealing its own plans to compete with its rival. Google plans to integrate the Google Wallet payment service into phones from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile by the end of the year. Users currently need to install the software on their own, while Apple Pay comes pre-installed on new iPhones. Google is further planning to improve the service through the acquisition of mobile payment technology and patents from Softcard.
It is hard to say how many lenses you may have encountered in your life, but I know some I have come across have been quite large and thick. That may change in the future though, as many are looking to nanotechnology and metamaterials to create flat lenses. Now researchers at Harvard University have developed the first flat lens that can work with multiple frequencies of light at the same time.
Flat lenses have been built before, but they normally only focus one color of light, while others are diffracted at different angles. The Harvard researchers' new device however uses silicon antennas on a glass substrate to bend multiple colors of light at the same angle. Other designs would bend different frequencies at different angles, but this one compensates for that. So far the researchers have built two prototype achromatic metasurfaces, as they are calling the lenses, which are able to work with three different colors. One of the lenses deflects the three colors at the same angle, while the second instead focuses all three to the same point. Simulations suggest the design could be adapted to work with many more wavelengths than just three.
Flat lenses like these could be used in a variety of optical devices, including microscopes, telescopes, and even computers. Anywhere that the bulk of traditional lenses can pose a problem, this research could be applied.
Source: Harvard University
A little over a month ago, Rockstar announced a small delay for Grand Theft Auto V on the PC, with its release date bumped from January 27 to March 24. At the time it said more polishing was needed, and most of us were probably expecting at least some kind of a delay. Now, it looks like Rockstar needs even more polishing, as Grand Theft Auto V for the PC is arriving on April 14. The developer says that extra time is needed to not only ensure GTA V is the best possible on PC, but that both Online Heists and GTA Online can launch without issue on day one. It is nice to have Rockstar devote that extra time to try and guarantee the PC version of GTA V is the best yet, but hopefully this is the last time the game is delayed. As a small peace offering, any pre-orders of GTA V will receive an additional $200,000 for GTA Online.
Grand Theft Auto V for the PC launches on April 14, but don't be too awfully surprised if we hear of another delay before then. Online Heists are coming to the PS4 and Xbox One on March 10, so those gamers will get to experience the new mode nearly a full month before PC. You can check out screenshots from these heists below.
Source: Rockstar News Wire
A new day is here, with some new items for you to check out and explore. We have a review of the Cougar 500K gaming keyboard, which offers similar features to the company's top-of-the-line keyboard, but uses mebrane keys instead of mechanical. There is also a look at the Xiaomi Mi4 64GB smartphone to see how this Snapdragon 801-powered device stacks up to the competition. Finishing off for the day is a review of the Griffin Twenty Digital Audio Amplifier, which provides 20 watts of power per channel and a Bluetooth connection.
Cougar 500K Gaming Keyboard @ Benchmark Reviews
Xiaomi Mi4 64GB @ Madshrimps
Griffin Twenty Digital Audio Amplifier @ ThinkComputers
There are many applications for 3D printing, and not least among them are medical uses such as specialized scaffolds that direct and promote cell growth. Researchers at the University of Sheffield have recently printed a nerve guidance conduit (NGC) which is able to guide nerve ends to repair naturally. This could have an enormous impact on future treatments for various traumatic injuries.
Normally repairing nerve damage involves surgery that sutures or grafts endings together, which tends to produce imperfect results. The use of an NGC however can improve results, as its framework of tubes guide nerve ends to toward each other for natural repairs. Some are already used in surgery, but they are limited in design and materials, which naturally restricts the injuries they can be used to treat. By using Computer Aided Design (CAD) and a form of 3D printing (laser direct writing) the Sheffield researchers are able to craft NGCs for any kind of nerve damage, and even tailor designs for specific patients.
The researchers have tested their NGCs using a novel mouse model and shown that they were able demonstrate a repair over an injury gap of 3 mm in just three weeks. With more work the printed NGCs could be made to repair larger injuries, and be made from biodegradable materials.
Source: University of Sheffield
PNY has just released its latest flash drive offering, the HP x778w. This flash drive offers a unique design approach to mobile storage as the product resembles partially melted ice cream that is layered with sprinkles. Despite its fun and cute styling, the HP x778w is made up of durable rubber and manages to offer decent read and write speeds of 90MB/sec and 30MB/sec, respectively, thanks to USB 3.0 support. Users can even utilize the built-in strap hole design that the HP x778w offers, allowing the portable flash drive to be attached to a wallet, purse, backpack, and more.
The HP x778w is available in sizes ranging from 8GB to 64GB, is compatible with virtually all desktops and laptops, and comes with a 2-year warranty from the data of purchase.