OCC TECH NEWS
August 1, 2014
August has arrived, and so has another weekend. To welcome it, we have some items for you to check out today, including a look at the ECZ Z97 Machine motherboard. It is a mainstream board that offers some higher end features, like improved audio and an M.2 slot for SSDs. There's also a review on the Cooler Master N600, which is the top product in the N Series lineup and offers enthusiast-level parts at an entry-level price. Ending things for today is a look at twenty of the worst PC setups seen over the last month, as well as a new podcast looking back at the biggest news and reviews from the past week.
ECS Z97 Machine @ Madshrimps
Cooler Master N600 @ Benchmark Reviews
20 of the Worst PC Setups - July 2014 @ ThinkComputers
Podcast #311 @ PC Perspective
In 2001 an idea was published that under quantum mechanics, particles could behave like the Cheshire Cat and have their properties separated from the particle, like the grin being found off of the cat from Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. Researchers at Chapman University and the Vienna University of Technology have finally demonstrated this phenomenon experimentally using neutrons.
Neutrons are subatomic particles lacking an electronic charge, but possessing a spin, so they are affected by magnetic fields. For some time researchers have been using neutron interferometers to measure quantum mechanics by splitting a beam of neutrons and recombining them. As the neutrons enter a superposition, they will take both paths until a measurement forces a decision. For this experiment the two beams were filtered so that the top beam consisted only of neutrons with spins parallel to the beam, with those in the bottom beam having antiparallel spins. (Returning to the Cheshire Cat, the cats in the top beam are all grinning and those in the bottom are all frowning.) When the beams recombine, the resulting beam contains neutrons of both spin directions, but only those with a parallel spin are counted, therefore they must have taken the top path. (Only grins are being counted, so the only cats being counted travelled the top path.)
To separate the properties from the particles, the researchers bring in a magnetic field to disrupt the spins a little. When applied to the top beam, nothing actually happens, but when applied to the bottom beam, they will actually interfere with the measurement. As only the spin parallel neutrons are being counted and only the spin antiparallel neutrons are being affected, there should be no interference. Unless, that is, the spins of the neutrons in the top beam are actually taking the bottom path, and being affected by the magnetic field such that there is interference when the beams recombine. (Some of the grins must be separated from their cats to take the bottom path, because the count of grins changes when applying the field to the bottom path, despite there being no grinning cats on the bottom path.)
What is any of this good for? Besides adding another cat to quantum mechanics experiments, it could also be used to create high precision experiments that are less susceptible to external perturbations.
Source: Chapman University
July 31, 2014
Back in March, developer Grinding Gear Games released the first major update for its free-to-play action-RPG Path of Exile: a mini-expansion called Sacrifice of the Vaal. At the time, Grinding Gear said it planned on releasing mini-expansions every four months. Today, Grinding Gear announced the second expansion, entitled Path of Exile: Forsaken Masters. By the time it's released, it'll be a little over five months, but try not to hold that against 'em – the amount of content being added for free is just insane. While Forsaken Masters adds a lot, as with Sacrifice of the Vaal, there's a main theme the expansion revolves around:
Some say that Dominus exiled the dregs of Oriath to the shores of Wraeclast. No, he exiled anyone who was going to give him trouble, who was going to cause ripples in his progressive theocracy.
Seven men and women, masters in their fields, stood against Dominus' tyranny. Some with words, others with steel. Seven masters forsaken, sent to die in a corrupted land. Seven masters who lived, learned, and now thrive in Wraeclast. Seven Forsaken Masters who can train you... if you choose to help them.
As you roam the lands of Wraeclast, you may come across one of those Forsaken Masters. Each master has his or her own unique missions with eight levels of reputation, opening up more options as you progress. Two of the seven Masters have been revealed thus far: Armourmaster Haku needs you to cleanse an ancestral area and recover a lost Karui spirit; Master Assassin Vorici will train you in the art of assassination. "Each Master has its own specialised crafting options, a different Hideout tileset and tiers of Hideout decorations to unlock." What's this about a Hideout?
After you've earned a Master's trust, you may unlock a Hideout (which you can personalize and decorate) that can offer daily missions and advanced crafting options – the latter being possible by the new Crafting Benches located in your Hideouts. Crafting Benches allow you to craft new mods onto an item, though only one is allowed at a time, meaning if you craft a new mod, it'll replace the existing one. Crafted mods appear in a brighter blue text on an item to make it clear which would be replaced. Each Master also sells "Magic items with a specific, new, build-defining mod" that can be used as-is or crafted further, and the expansion also introduces 16 new Unique Items. In addition, there are three new skill gems (Tornado Shot, Herald of Ice, and Herald of Ash), a new support gem (Generosity), and an overhaul of many of the game's Curses, along with some new ones, such as Poacher's Mark.
Of course no Path of Exile expansion would be complete without new Challenge Leagues. The two new leagues (Rampage and Beyond) contain eight difficult challenges, and completing five will reward you with an exclusive microtransaction effect, while completing all eight will reward you with an additional, different, exclusive microtransaction effect. The first 50 players to complete all the challenges will receive a Rampage/Beyond t-shirt. Details for Rampage, the standard Challenge League, will be unveiled on August 8. Details for Beyond, the hardcore Challenge League, will be unveiled on August 15.
As if all this wasn't enough, existing content is being revamped as well. Many of the existing boss fights "have been made more intense and surprising" and more lore has been added throughout Wraeclast. In addition, the Passive Skill Tree is being redesigned, "mostly focusing on the Witch, Shadow and outer Ranger areas." Tutorials, a new Quest Tracker, and even a PvP Spectator Mode are all being added as well. Did I mention all this is free? And in case you're one of those free-to-play skeptics, I strongly advise you to give Path of Exile a go, especially if you're an action-RPG fan. Path of Exile is free-to-play done right. Path of Exile isn't pay-to-win, it's pay-to-glow.
Source: Official Site
Announced back in February, action-RPG Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms entered Steam Early Access back in June, marking the return of the Heretic Kingdoms series after nearly ten years. The game has been well received, but it became apparent to publisher bitComposer and developer Games Farm that additional development time was needed to include everything fans wanted to see. As a result, the decision was made to split the game into two books, with the first book arriving this November and the second one scheduled for February 2015. Peter Nagy, Head of Development at Games Farm, explained the decision:
It was clear to us from the start that Shadows had the potential to be a great game. But at the beginning of development, we realized that Shadows was going to surpass even our expectations and would be the biggest and most ambitious project we’ve ever worked on to date. The hugely positive feedback from the players and the great previews of the Early Access build did the rest.
However, the increased scope of the game has also increased development requirements. We had to ask ourselves a difficult question and make a decision: How can we meet the fans expectations without taking away the features and the content that make the game so unique?
So we made the following decision: to leave Shadows as it is and at the same time meet the high expectations of our fans. We’ll split Shadows into two large segments/stories and call them ‘Books’.
To show our gratitude to the players who have supported us during the Early Access phase and who continue to support us, we have also decided to give them free access to the predecessor of Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms - Kult: Heretic Kingdoms as soon as the Steam port is ready.
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms will remain in Early Access with the reduced price of $27.99 granting immediate access, and providing both Book I: Devourer of Souls and Book II: Age of Demons as they become available, in addition to the predecessor Kult: Heretic Kingdoms when its Steam port is released. If everything goes well, "further books to expand the Heretic Kingdoms universe are planned." Early Access has had some bad apples, but Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is certainly an Early Access success story.
Source: Press Release
Mitro, a password storage and security startup that offers an Internet browser extension password manager, has been acquired by Twitter. According to the team at Mitro, the company will transition to Twitter’s location team in New York, where it will focus primarily on geo-related development projects. Although the company has been acquired, Mitro will remain as its own service and will not be integrated directly into Twitter.
Along with the acquisition, Mitro revealed that the server and client code that comprises it password manager is now being made open source. Mitro hopes that by transitioning into a community project, which will receive direct advice and support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the password manager will become more sustainable while continuing to grow its user base.
ASUSTOR, a leading provider of network attached storage solutions, has just announced compatibility for five new Western Digital hard drives. The new drives that ASUSTOR NAS devices support include three Western Digital Red Pro drives and two high capacity Western Digital Red drives. More specifically, the Red Pro models that are now supported include the WD4001FFSX, WD3001FFSX, and WD2001FFSX, while the Red models that are verified as being compatible are the WD60EFRX and WD50EFRX. ASUSTOR NAS owners have an even larger selection of hard drives to choose from thanks to this announcement.
All ASUSTOR NAS devices, which feature Intel Atom dual-core processors and the ASUSTOR Data Master operating system, support the five latest Western Digital hard drives.
Source: Press Release
Last week, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) decided to reveal the mysterious wraith in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and boy is it a doozy. Today, WBIE released a new trailer simply entitled "The Wraith", which explores the wraith's powers in the game. If you passed on the last trailer to avoid spoiling the reveal, you'll be happy to know that this trailer does not state the wraith's name (though I advise you to avoid reading the YouTube description text).
As this new trailer shows, the Wraith's main power allows you to "dominate" an enemy and learn its strengths and weaknesses. You can then use this newfound knowledge to your advantage, steering clear of the strengths while exploiting the weaknesses. For example, learning that a creature is "Invulnerable to Stealth" and thus "cannot be damaged by Stealth Takedowns" will prevent a rather embarrassing failed attempt. Meanwhile, learning that a creature has a "Fear of Ghûls" and thus "becomes terrified at the sight of Ghûls" allows you to call forth Ghûls to cause your enemy to retreat. It's a rather interesting component that fits quite nicely with the game's Nemesis System.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is releasing on September 30 in North America and October 3 in Europe for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Source: Press Release
Gamescom is the biggest gaming convention in the world, which is probably why publisher Deep Silver isn't playing around (no pun intended). Deep Silver announced today that its public booth will feature a whopping six playable games across "more than 150 gaming stations for PC and consoles." The centerpiece of its line-up will be open world, action-RPG Dead Island 2, which will be playable for for the first time. I know a lot of fans will be looking forward to the inevitable gameplay trailer to be released after the excellent E3 CGI trailer whet our appetites last month:
Joining Dead Island 2 is first-person shooter Metro Redux, RPG Risen 3: Titan Lords, arcade hack 'n' slash Sacred 3, zombie MOBA Dead Island Epidemic, and strategy game Emergency 5. Sadly, it seems the cel-shaded, third-person shooter Escape Dead Island will not be playable despite a planned Fall 2014 release. Gamescom takes place August 13-17 in Cologne, Germany. If you're attending and would like to play the aforementioned games, the Deep Silver public booth will be in Hall 9.1., B011/C010.
Source: Press Release
ADATA has announced a new set of unbuffered DDR4 U-DIMM memory running at 2133MHz at 1.2V. The DDR4 memory offers power savings up to 20% when compared to DDR3. The memory is compatible with the latest Intel-E Haswell platform at transfer bandwidth up to 17GB/s, offering improved transfer efficiency over previous generations.
Source: Press Release
The Lian-Li PC-V2130 is a full tower brushed aluminum case that builds on the design of the PC-V2120. The case is large enough to house motherboards up to the HPTX form factor in size and includes 11 hard drive bays. An additional four hard drives can be installed using a removable bracket and a modular 5.25" bay gives flexibility to include large drives as desired. A single 240/280mm radiator can be installed in the removable top panel with an additional two 280mm radiators able to be installed in the front and bottom with two grommeted holes to allow for tubing to pass through the panel. The case is available in silver, black, or black with a window. The windowless versions will retail for $499 MSRP while the windowed model will cost $569.
Source: Press Release
Superconductivity is a phenomenon that could drastically change the world, when we can finally get it to occur at room temperatures. Currently the only materials capable of conducting electricity without resistance must be chilled to very low temperatures to do so. Researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Cornell University, and Brookhaven National Laboratory have recently made a discovery about a fundamental aspect of superconductivity that could one day help raise the critical temperature.
Superconductivity is achieved when electrons couple with each other to form Cooper pairs. These pairs are able to travel without resistance, but exactly what keeps them together is not known. By using a technique called quasi-particle spectroscopy on a superconductor made of cerium, cobalt, and indium, the researchers were able to make key measurements of the pairs. What they found was that the bond between the electrons is highly directional, so in some directions they are bound to each other, and in other directions they are not. According to the researchers, this implies it is magnetism that holds the pairs together, as it too is highly directional, which agrees with a thirty-year-old hypothesis about Cooper pairs.
Through this understanding of Cooper pairs, it may be possible to remove some of the complexity of superconductivity and enable the critical temperature to be tuned upward.
Source: University of Illinois, Chicago
Balance is a goal many wish to achieve, and that is not limited to people. Many physical systems try to achieve balance or equilibrium, but many also must exist in a state of non-equilibrium to function. Such non-equilibrium systems are not well understood in part because of the limitations on creating them, but researchers at Northwestern University have found a new way to do so.
A system at equilibrium has no potential and no energy, as any change in one direction is met by a change in the other. A non-equilibrium system is constantly changing though, as energy is continually being added. Examples of such systems include the Earth's plate tectonics, airplanes, and even the human body. Theoretically, the constant adding of energy will allow structures to be formed within a non-equilibrium system, and the Northwestern researchers found a way to test this. They made a mixture of pH-responsive particles, which will change their electric charges when pH levels are altered. This oscillation provides the energy input needed to form the non-equilibrium structures predicted.
As you may be able to guess, non-equilibrium structures are impossible to create under equilibrium conditions. This discovery could enable these structures to be designed by scientists, by tuning the oscillations adding the necessary energy.
Source: Northwestern University
The final day of July is here, and with it comes a nice selection of reviews for you to check out. There is a look at the AMD A10-7800 Kaveri APU, a slight update to the series that comes in 45 and 65W TDP varieties, and packs in an R7 GPU. We also have the NZXT H440 mid-tower case for those valuing silent computing. To keep everything powered up for the long run, there's a review on the SeaSonic X-Series XM2-1250 power supply. Logitech's new G402 Hyperion Fury gaming mouse, dubbed the "world's fastest," gets put to the test to see if that claim is justified. Finishing things up today is a look at the GAMDIAS Hephaestus GHS2000 headset, which features 7.1 surround, built-in cooling, and various other features.
AMD A10-7800 Kaveri APU @ TechSpot
NZXT H440 @ ThinkComputers
SeaSonic X-Series XM2-1250 @ PC Perspective
Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury Gaming Mouse @ PC Perspective
GAMDIAS Hephaestus GHS2000 Headset @ Benchmark Reviews
July 30, 2014
Logitech has announced the G402 Hyperion Fury Ultra-Fast FPS gaming mouse, a mouse that it claims is the world's fastest. Logitech accomplished this with a combination of the Fusion Engine sensor that is capable of tracking 500 inches per second and Logitech Delta Zero sensor technology to provide "unrivaled accuracy." The Fusion Engine is powered by a 32-bit ARM processor and solves the problem of being able to physically move the mouse faster than the sensors can track the movement. Users can customize the DPI of the mouse with four settings from 240 to 4000 DPI. General manager of gaming at Logitech Ehtisham Rabbani said, "The Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury is the fastest gaming mouse, bar none, and the best mouse for high-speed FPS gameplay. Its lightweight design, combined with the precision and capability of the Fusion Engine, lets you make fast, furious swipes and dominate the battlefield, proving once again that Science Wins!" The G402 will be available starting in August at an MSRP of $59.99.
Source: Press Release
The latest case offering from Thermaltake is the Core V1, a tiny case designed for motherboards up to the ITX form factor in size. The case is divided into two chambers, the upper for "cooling performance and efficiency" and the lower for the power supply and cable management. A wide range of cooling is supported including liquid cooling systems, both custom and all-in-one units. Interchangeable side panels give users the ability to customize their case for cooling or aesthetics. The Core V1 has enough space to accommodate video cards up to 260mm in length, CPU coolers up to 140mm in height, and four storage devices.
Source: Press Release
For about as long as I can remember, I have worn glasses that have corrected my vision very well. Not everyone is so lucky though, with some people actually requiring glasses or contact lenses to view displays. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have recently developed a display technology that could help these people by shifting the vision correcting to the display.
Vision correcting displays have been developed by many groups over the years by using multilayer displays and light field displays. These do not always correct the images perfectly though or can produce a sharp but low contrast image. What the Berkeley researchers have created is a light field display that takes advantage of pre-filtering to create a sharp image, without sacrificing contrast. Basically the image of the basic display is manipulated mathematically so that a pinhole screen on top of it will work with the user's eyes to produce a sharp image. The key to this work is that mathematical pre-filtering. To anyone other than that user though, the image will look quite bad.
By adding eye-tracking technology to this system, the researchers hope to address the issue of head positioning, so that no matter how the user looks at the screen, the image will be sharp. Already though they know their method can be applied to help with a variety of complex visual problems.
Source: University of California, Berkeley
Although EA Access was announced and made available to a limited number of Xbox One owners yesterday, Electronic Arts failed to reveal any relationship between the new program and the PlayStation 4. Apparently Sony is to blame for this, as a company spokesperson revealed today that Sony does not see EA Access as a valuable option for PlayStation 4 owners. According to Sony, PlayStation Plus memberships are up more than 200 percent since the initial release of the PlayStation 4, and the subscription model offers more value to gamers with PlayStation 4 consoles than EA Access does.
Due to this revelation, it seems fairly certain that EA Access will not be coming to the PlayStation 4 anytime soon.
Source: Game Informer
FinalWire, a Hungary-based software development company, has just released version 4.60 of AIDA64, a popular PC diagnostic utility that provides detailed information about hardware and software of individual or networked computers. The main focal point of the latest version is enhanced support for LCD and VFD screens, including alphanumeric, monochrome, and color panels. Some of the other enhancements found in AIDA64 4.60 include SMTP SSL support, OpenGL ES 3.1 support, improved handling of XSL files, and revamped Direct3D Compute Shader devices enumeration. Support and details have also been added for various solid state drives and graphics processing units.
Source: Press Release
Earlier today, Deep Silver and Koch Media announced that it had acquired the Homefront IP from Crytek less than a week after Crytek revealed it was going through a "transitional phase." Crytek has now released a statement that confirms the acquisition, as well as addresses the rest of the changes taking place at the company. First off, Crytek says that in accordance with English law, the Homefront team from Crytek's Nottingham studio will be transferring over to Koch Media's newly formed Deep Silver Dambuster Studios to continue their work on Homefront: The Revolution; though the deal still has to be finalized.
The other major change is that development of HUNT: Horrors of the Gilded Age will be moving from Crytek USA in Austin to Crytek Frankfurt, the company's headquarters. However, Crytek will retain a smaller presence in Austin, "with several staff members maintaining the CRYENGINE support team to assist North American licensees." Those that are not part of the support team are invited to apply for new positions at Crytek in Germany. Crytek's studios in Budapest, Istanbul, Kiev, and Sofia will be untouched, but "a closer collaboration between Crytek's studios in Shanghai and Seoul is under review."
Crytek founder and CEO, Cevat Yerli, said: "As we look to cement Crytek's future, this strategic deal with Koch Media would allow us to continue with our ambitious goals to become an online publisher. With Warface, Arena of Fate and HUNT, we believe we have the perfect portfolio and teams to make that happen. We would like to thank all our staff – past and present – in both Nottingham and Austin for their contributions to the company, and we wish all the very best to anyone who may no longer be under the Crytek banner moving forward."
Source: Official Site
Remember last week when Crytek said it wasn't in financial trouble and was simply going through a "transitional phase" from being a development studio to an "Online-Publisher"? Well now things just got a whole lot more interesting. Publisher Deep Silver and parent company Koch Media announced today that it has acquired the Homefront IP from Crytek, and that development of Homefront: The Revolution has been moved to a new studio, Deep Silver Dambuster Studios. Crytek had acquired the Homefront IP in January 2013 for over $500,000 during the THQ auction, after Crytek UK had already been working on Homefront: The Revolution before THQ went belly-up. In June, Crytek announced that the game was being co-published with Deep Silver, but apparently that falls solely on Deep Silver's shoulders now.
According to Deep Silver, Dambuster Studios is a new studio formed specifically to take over development of Homefront: The Revolution, and is located in Nottingham, UK, the same city where Crytek UK is located. It is unclear whether any Crytek UK employees are moving over to Dambuster Studios, but I doubt the locale is a mere coincidence. Deep Silver Dambuster Studios is the third development studio within the Koch Media Group, joining Deep Silver Volition (Saints Row) and Deep Silver Fishlabs (Galaxy on Fire). "We are thrilled to see another great IP joining the Deep Silver universe," says Koch Media CEO Dr. Klemens Kundratitz. "We strongly believe in the potential of Homefront: The Revolution and trust in the new team to continue the path we have been walking in the last years."
Homefront: The Revolution is being developed for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, and is expected to arrive sometime in 2015. It is unclear whether this news will affect the time table.
Source: Press Release
Batteries are a big deal today as without them we could not have cellphones, laptops, and many other advanced pieces of technologies. While batteries have enabled these technologies, they also limit them by needing to be recharged for continued use. Researchers at Stanford University have recently made a discovery that could lead to batteries with substantially greater lifespans than what you can find today.
Lithium-ion batteries are very popular today because they are rechargeable and can store a great deal of energy. Within each of these batteries is an electrolyte, containing lithium ions, an anode and a cathode, likely made of graphite of silicon. While those materials work well for the anode, researchers have known for some time that lithium would make a better anode, but lithium poses two challenges. One is that as a lithium anode would absorb lithium ions from the electrolyte, the anode would swell to such a size that it would fracture, which could lead to a short circuit as lithium ions escape from the fractures, forming dendrites. The other is that lithium is so reactive that it would use up the electrolyte and shorten the battery's lifespan. To solve both these issues, the Stanford researchers developed domes of carbon to surround the lithium anode, forming a nanosphere. As the nanospheres are flexible, they will survive the swelling but block dendrites from forming, and because they are not chemically reactive, the lithium ions will not chemically react with the anode.
Potentially a lithium anode battery could enable phones to have double or triple their current lifespan, or drop the cost of electric vehicles by requiring fewer batteries to achieve a three hundred mile range. Currently though, the cycling efficiency of the battery is not high enough for commercial use yet, but you can believe many are working to get it there.
Source: Stanford University
With release roughly three months away, Activision published the official Campaign Story Trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare yesterday, showing a world in chaos and a corrupt military corporation called Atlas taking advantage of the situation and abusing its power. At the helm of that corporation is none other than Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey.
Alongside the trailer release, Activision has announced three collector's editions for the game: Atlas Pro Edition, Atlas Limited Edition, and Atlas Digital Pro Edition. All three versions include the Atlas Gorge bonus multiplayer map and Atlas Digital Content Pack, which includes the following Atlas Corporation-themed content: two weapons (Bal-27 AE Assault Rifle and Atlas 45 AE Pistol), Atlas Exoskeleton, Atlas Helmet, Atlas Player Card, five bonus Supply Drops, and a single player Exoskeleton Upgrade Token. The Atlas Pro Edition and Atlas Limited Edition also come with: a Welcome to Atlas: Advanced Soldier Manual, which includes concept artwork alongside historical and tactical information; a Collectible SteelBook "featuring premium in-game artwork"; and a digital copy of the Official Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Soundtrack. What separates the two editions is that the Atlas Pro Edition includes the CoD:AW Season Pass, which will include four action-packed DLC Map Packs. The Atlas Digital Pro Edition also includes the Season Pass, alongside the aforementioned digital content.
The Atlas Limited Edition has a suggested retail price (SRP) of $79.99, the Atlas Digital Pro Edition has an SRP of $99.99, and the Atlas Pro Edition has an SRP of $119.99. For comparison, the Standard Edition has an SRP of $59.99. The Standard Edition, Atlas Limited Edition, and Atlas Pro Edition are currently available for pre-order, while the Atlas Digital Pro Edition will be available for pre-order at an undisclosed later date.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is launching on November 4 for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, with those versions being developed by Sledgehammer Games. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions are being developed by High Moon Studios, but it is still unclear if those will be arriving on that same day. Activision has announced that there will be a worldwide reveal of Advanced Warfare's multiplayer on August 11.
Source: Press Release
Natural gas and its components are valuable resources, but are tricky to work with because they are gases. Refining and converting the hydrocarbons into liquid fuels can be done, making storage and transport easier, but the processes involved require high pressures and temperatures. Researchers at Berkeley Lab and many other institutions have recently developed a proof-of-principle catalyst that drops the requirements, and could improve access to these liquid fuels.
Natural gas is comprised of many hydrocarbons, including methane and ethane, the latter of which can be converted into ethanol. That conversion process is expensive due to the 200-300 ºC temperature requirement, so the researchers have been working on a catalyst to ease the process. What they have developed is a metal-organic-framework (MOF) with iron attached, forming Fe-MOF-74. The structure of MOFs is like a cage, which enables them to act as a filter for other molecules, and have a large amount of surface area to absorb gases and liquids. The iron atoms inside the cages act as a catalyst for producing ethanol from ethane, reducing the temperature requirement to just 75 ºC.
With such a reduction in temperature, this discovery could drastically reduce the cost of converting natural gas into liquid fuels. Those fuels, which are generally clean burning, can then be stored and distributed more easily.
Source: Berkeley Lab
July 29, 2014
Ubisoft released a new Assassin's Creed Unity trailer today that introduces us to a young noblewoman name Elise, "determined to secure her place in the Templar dynasty amidst the chaos of the French Revolution." The trailer shows protagonist Arno Dorian racing over the rooftops and through crowds to prevent the beheading of Elise, who is apparently a central character to the game's story.
Elise will also star in the next Assassin's Creed novel by Oliver Bowden, told from her point of view and creatively titled Assassin's Creed Unity. If you still can't get enough of Elise, Ubicollectibles has designed an "Elise: The Fiery Templar" figurine, which can be assembled into a diorama with the "Arno: The Fearless Assassin" figurine.
Assassin's Creed Unity will release on October 28, 2014, for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The "Elise: The Fiery Templar" figurine will be released on October 14, while the novel will be available in November.
Source: Press Release and Facebook
Biostar has announced a series of new mini ITX motherboards with CPUs already installed, otherwise known as System on a Chip. The new boards have offerings for both Intel Bay Trail and AMD Kabini architectures with multiple options for each. A budget system will use either an Intel J1800 or AMD E-2100 in combination with a fanless design. A quad core Intel J1900 or AMD E4-5000 is a great choice for an HTPC with full 1080p playback and an HDMI connector. Other applications envisioned by Biostar include digital signage, thin clients, and kiosks.
Source: Press Release
Magnets have quite a number of uses, from entertaining and educating students to storing data. Magnetism itself is the result of the magnetic moments, or spins of particles in a material aligning. Researchers at MIT have recently found a phenomenon to do with magnons that can be used to cool magnets, remotely by a magnetic field.
Magnons are quasiparticles representing the collective spins of particles within a magnet. These quasiparticles are able to move through a magnetic when exposed to a magnetic field gradient. What the MIT researchers realized is that when the magnons move, they take heat with them, cooling part of the magnet. From this idea they built a theoretical model based on the Boltzmann transport equation, which has to do with electron transport in thermoelectrics, and plugged in numbers found in previous research papers. The results suggest that though small, the effect does create a cooling effect from a moderate magnetic field gradient.
Currently this work is purely theoretical, so we cannot expect to be cooling our electronics with it any time soon. It will likely first find a use in cryogenic systems, as the effect is more pronounced at low temperatures.
Back in January, the indie studio Two Tribes, best known for the Toki Tori series, announced that the company was being rebooted. In short, Toki Tori 2+ took way longer to develop than expected and never achieved the sales the company needed to stay afloat. Parent company Two Tribes Publishing remained intact, but the development studio shut down and a new, smaller one was created. At the time, we were told that a "much smaller team" was working on the company's next game, " a 2D side scrolling shooter, which will be re-using the existing Toki Tori 2+ engine," thus decreasing development time. Today, Two Tribes finally unveiled what that new project is: RIVE.
RIVE is "the metal wrecking, robot hacking shooter" – a 2D shooter/platformer where "players learn to alter the behavior of their robotic enemies by collecting and uploading hacks." And it's all being created by a "base team of just three people." Check out the Announcement Trailer:
RIVE will be coming to PC via Steam and "all current consoles." No release date has been stated, but the game will be playable at Gamescom next month.
Source: Press Release
Electronic Arts has just announced EA Access, a new offering to gamers that provides access to plenty of EA games as well as special perks. The new program, which is available immediately in beta form for a limited number of Xbox One players, is a subscription-based model that is specifically tailored to Xbox One owners. In the beta state four games are available, including FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4; more games are scheduled to be added in the near future. Besides unlimited and instant access to EA titles, subscribers to EA Access receive special benefits that include 10% off purchases of EA digital content for Xbox One offered through the Xbox Games Store, 10% off membership services such as Battlefield 4 Premium, and trials of new EA games up to five days before their respective release date.
EA Access currently costs $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year. The service can be purchased through Xbox Live as soon as it is out of beta, and GameStop will even carry EA Access membership cards in local retail stores for those looking to purchase a subscription at a physical location.
Source: EA News
CNBC and FOX NOW have just been added to the Apple TV lineup as of this morning, providing owners of the device with even more entertainment and news. CNBC supports live broadcasts as well as previously aired content, though an active television subscription to providers such as AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, DISH, or Verizon is needed. Video clips are available through the CNBC channel, however, for those without a television subscription. FOX NOW on the other hand provides access to popular shows such as American Idol, Glee, Family Guy, and The Following. FOX NOW even features full episodes of returning FOX series the day after they air, dependent on individual television provider subscriptions.
Chemical sensors are very valuable tools for many situations, including protecting against bombs at airports and other public areas. Sometimes the sensors are expensive, manmade devices, requiring well-trained users, and other times trained dogs are used. Researchers at Tel Aviv University though have developed a new sensor that is cheap and easy to operate, while being significantly better than the alternatives.
The device the researchers built is a tiny chip with clusters of transistors on it. These transistors have been designed so that when a single molecule contacts them, it binds to them and affects their conductance. This change makes it possible to detect and even identify the molecule caught from the air, all in real-time. The chip is so sensitive to the molecules that it can detect some in concentrations approaching parts-per-quadrillion, which is orders of magnitude better than other chemical sensors, and even dogs noses.
Thus far the prototype sensor has been tested against commercial blasting and military explosives, as well as some improvised explosive materials. By being faster, cheaper, and giving users the ability to identify detected chemicals, this sensor could go a long way to keeping people safe.
Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University