OCC TECH NEWS
August 21, 2014
As we use our mobile devices more and more, the importance of securing them becomes greater and greater. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have recently discovered a security flaw in the Android OS with almost a perfect success rate, and almost all popular operating systems may share the vulnerability.
The vulnerability has to do with the shared-memory side channel, which contains shared memory statistics about processes and can be accessed without permissions. From this information, it is possible to infer what an app is doing, such as logging in or receiving information for a purchase. On its own, this vulnerability is not serious, but the researchers found it could be used to time an attack that exploits a feature of many modern GUIs, which is why more than just Android may be at risk. The feature is to allow the screen to be preempted, such as to show an alarm. In this case though, what comes up is a false version of the expected window. By timing the attack with the shared memory data, the user will fail to notice the switch.
The researchers tested the attack on seven apps and here are their success rates (higher is worse): Gmail at 92%, H&R Block at 92%, Newegg at 86%, WebMD at 85%, CHASE Bank at 83%, Hotels.com at 83%, and Amazon at 48% success rate. The reason Amazon has the lower success rate is because it is harder to infer the state of the app, as it can transition between almost any activity.
Source: University of California, Riverside
Acer has just announced the Chromebox CXI series, which consists of the CXI-2GKM and CXI-4GKM. Since the Chromebox CXI line is quite compact and is VESA mountable, the company believes that it is best suited for a variety of markets, including education, small to medium businesses, and budget-conscious shoppers. Specification wise, the CXI-2GKM comes with Google’s Chrome OS, an Intel Celeron 2957U processor, 2GB of DDR3-1600, a 16GB solid state drive, an SD card reader, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GbE LAN, four USB 3.0 ports, and DisplayPort and HDMI outputs. The CXI-4GKM includes the exact same specifications, but increases the RAM to 4GB.
The Acer CXI-2GKM and CXI-4GKM will be available for purchase next month and are set to go on sale for $180 and $220, respectively.
One of three The Witcher games currently in development, The Witcher Battle Arena is CD Projekt RED's first foray into the free mobile gaming market. Today, the studio released the Debut Gameplay Trailer, and while it doesn't show much of the actual MOBA mechanics, it does introduce us to several characters: Letho, Philippa, Operator, Eithne, Iorveth, Saskia, Golem, and Zoltan. We also get a glimpse of the UI, including a mini-map in the top-right corner that is quite different than your typical MOBA map.
The Witcher Battle Arena is scheduled to launch later this year on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. But if MOBAs and/or mobile gaming aren't your things, there's always The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to look forward to.
Source: Press Release
Lasers are a cool technology, but as science fiction and some science fact tells us, the beams themselves are not cool and can be used to heat and melt objects. As some other science facts also tell us though, lasers can be used to cool objects by exploiting or great control over the properties of the beam. Researchers at the Australian National University have recently used this control to cool the tip of an atomic force microscope, making it much more accurate.
Atomic force microscopes (AFMs) are among the more advanced measurement devices we have and operate by moving a cantilever with a very sharp tip over a sample. At its point, the tip can be just nanometers wide and is very sensitive to forces, such as a surface pushing against it, but also forces between molecules. It is so sensitive though that heat will cause vibrations that introduce noise to the measurements. The Australian researchers decided to tackle that noise by aiming a laser at the probe. By precisely tuning the laser, the vibrations of the probe can be cancelled out, cooling the probe to -265 ºC. This increases the sensitivity enough to detect the weight a large virus.
As the laser beam's effect overwhelms the probe, the AFM cannot be run when the laser is turned on, restricting the researchers to make measurements in millisecond long heating and cooling cycles. With additional study and data processing though, we may one day see the same sensitivity achieved without a cooling laser, thanks to our understanding of the cooling effect.
Source: Australian National University
UPS has revealed that computer systems located at UPS Store retail outlets have suffered a breach, which may have resulted in the exposure of names, postal and e-mail addresses, and payment-card data. Malware was the cause of the computer breach, as it was found at 51 UPS Store locations spanning 24 states. Although it is not currently known just how many customers may have been affected by the computer breach, the company has narrowed down the risk of information loss to UPS Store customers who used a credit or debit card at affected locations from January 20, 2014, through August 11, 2014.
Chelsea Lee, a UPS Store spokeswoman, revealed that one year of identity protection and credit monitoring programs are being offered at no charge to customers who may have been affected.
BitFenix is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its Prodigy M by releasing the stylish and compact chassis in four new colors, which include atomic orange, cobalt blue, fire red, and vivid green. The BitFenix Prodigy M Color incorporates all of the same features as the Prodigy M, but allows owners to light up their décor with a selection of popular and vibrant colors. In addition to the release of the Prodigy M Color, BitFenix has launched the Prodigy M Window Side Panel Accessory which features a large acrylic window that allows hardware to be easily displayed. The Prodigy M Window Side Panel Accessory is compatible with original Prodigy M, which comes in artic white and midnight black, as well as the newly released Prodigy M Color.
With the launch of the Prodigy M Color and the Prodigy M Window Side Panel Accessory, BitFenix is showing its customers that it truly listens to feedback provided by its user base.
Source: Press Release
IGN was fortunate enough to get a first look at Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain's multiplayer during a new 22-minute gameplay demo from Gamescom. The video not only shows multiplayer for the first time, but also shows off several other features of the game, including: horse poop, open-world exploration, day/night cycles, adaptive AI, and some new stealth options. If you want to skip to the multiplayer portion, it begins around the 16:50 mark.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is coming to PC via Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlaySation 3, and Xbox 360. Release date is still unknown.
According to the results of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) 2014 survey, Valve is the most desirable company to work for in the games industry. Over 2,200 developers were asked the simple question, "What developer/publisher would you most like to work for?" Even with "my own company" being a valid choice, the majority of those asked would rather work for Valve than for themselves. Valve is famous in the industry for its loose structure, with no true bosses or direct oversight. Employees get to work on what they want when they want, and obviously other developers desire that freedom and openness. Or maybe they just want to meet Gabe.
Here are the top ten most desirable developer or publisher employers, according to the IGDA study:
- Valve (Half-Life, Steam, Portal)
- My own company
- Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Skylanders)
- BioWare (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Star Wars: The Old Republic)
- Ubisoft (Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Just Dance)
- Current employer
- Nintendo (Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong)
- Naughty Dog (The Last of Us, Jak & Daxter, Uncharted)
- Double Fine (Brutal Legend, Psychonauts, Broken Age)
- Bethesda Game Studios (Fallout, The Elder Scrolls)
In many cases, electricity is generated by driving turbines with one fluid or another, such as steam or water. What can really set power plants apart is what puts the energy into the fluid that the turbines extract. One new method may use salt for that purpose, and researchers at MIT have found that such a system is not as simple as believed.
If you have two fluids with different solute concentrations separated by a semi-permeable membrane, such as having saltwater on one side and fresh water on the other, the fluids will move to try to equalize the concentrations on both sides of the membrane. The motion of the fluids is called osmosis, and pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) is a process some have been investigating for producing electricity. The idea would be to put pressurized salt water on one side of a membrane and fresh water on the other, and use the movement of the fresh water through the membrane to turn a turbine. What the MIT researchers have discovered is that the efficiency of a PRO system is more complicated than previously thought. According to their new model, the optimal membrane size is not the maximum membrane size, as a membrane half the area could produce 95% of the maximum output power.
Potentially PRO systems could be used to power desalination plants and water treatment plants, by putting saltwater or brine on one side of the membrane, and fresh or waste water on the other. To completely power some treatment plants may require some of the largest membranes in the world, but new configurations are being developed to fit the millions of square meters in relatively small packages.
Another week is drawing to a close, but before it does we have some items for you to check out. There is a review on the Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming GT motherboard that is filled to the brim with features any gamer would love, like the ability to have four video cards installed at once, a Killer E2200 NIC, and AMP-UP audio technology. We also have a look at the Crucial MX100 256GB SSD, which uses 16nm MLC NAND flash from Micron and an attractive price to set it apart from the rest. Finishing off today's items is a look at Chromebooks and how price is the only weapon they have against Windows laptops.
Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming GT @ ThinkComputers
Crucial MX100 256GB SSD @ Madshrimps
Price is the Only Weapon Chromebooks Have Against Windows @ TechSpot
August 20, 2014
Path of Exile's second expansion, Forsaken Masters, is now live, and it brings with it a ton of new features and changes; way too much to list here. Thankfully, developer Grinding Gear Games posted the (extremely lengthy) Patch Notes on the official site.
If you're running a Windows PC, go check out Path of Exile on Steam.
Source: Official Site
California-based studio The Behemoth has released a teaser trailer for its next game, codenamed Game 4. As you may have guessed from the name, it will be the studio's fourth major release following Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers, and BattleBlock Theater; all of which have been very well received. The Behemoth "schemed up a bunch of concepts" shortly before the release of BattleBlock Theater and then picked the strongest one and fleshed out a prototype. Today, The Behemoth released a Game 4 Debut Teaser, stating that the game is a genre it has never covered before. The hexagonal title screen leads me to believe it may be a turn-based strategy game of sorts?
A demo of Game 4 will be playable at PAX Prime (Booth 3003) from August 29 thru September 1. Platforms weren't specified, but if the studio's previous two games are any indication, it'll likely be a timed-exclusive on Xbox One followed by a PC release.
Source: The Behemoth Blog
Diablo announced its Memory Channel Storage (MCS) technology last year, a technology that uses memory slots on a motherboard rather than PCIe connections to attach solid state drives. The result was a "massive reduction in latencies, 3 to 5 microseconds compared to 25 to 28 microseconds for PCIe SSDs." The company has worked with SanDisk to integrate this technology into the ULLtraDIMM SSD line and with IBM as the eXFlash option for X series enterprise servers. The original Carbon 1 technology used the DDR3 interface while the new Carbon 2 will take advantage of DDR4 and also adds NanoCommit software which "further blurs the line between high-speed server memory and the company's flash-based MCS modules."
ECS is currently holding a media event at the Aloft Hotel Silicon Valley to showcase its newest product offerings to "top North American media partners and local customers in California." The event is titled LIVE, LIVA, LEAD, L337 and references several ECS product lines. Among the devices being shown are the previously announced 64GB LIVA mini PC in black and white, which will be released sometime this month. ECS will also show a pair of motherboards, the Z97I-DRONE of the L337 Gaming line and the Z97-PK. The company is also planning the reveal the details of the Design Your Own LIVA competition that will start next month and award the winner a prize of $1000.
Source: Press Release
Apple TV owners will now be able to access NFL Now, which provides fans access to the largest digital library of NFL video anywhere, thanks to the National Football League launching it today for the media device. The on-demand football service provides access to game highlights, original content from NFL Media and 32 NFL clubs, live press conferences, and media from the NFL Films vault. Additionally, NFL Now delivers a truly unique experience, as it introduces viewers to a video stream based on favorite NFL teams, players, and NFL.com Fantasy rosters and viewing preferences. While some of these features are indeed free, a paid subscription to NFL Now Plus, which costs $1.99 per month and provides a much more immersive experience, is needed for others.
Source: NFL Communications
It was recently reported that Community Health Systems suffered a data breach, resulting in the loss of patient names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers, and Social Security numbers of 4.5 million individuals. Security experts at the time noted that malware was used to attack systems, and while that still seems to be true, it looks like the major security flaw known as Heartbleed is partially to blame for allowing Chinese hackers to circumvent security measures. According to David Kennedy, the founder of TrustedSec LLC, hackers were able to make use of the Heartbleed flaw in order to steal usernames and passwords, which then gave them access to private communications channels within Community Health Systems. Although Kennedy is not involved with the ongoing investigation in any way, he has noted that the information linking Heartbleed to the stolen data comes from three people close to the matter.
If Heartbleed is in fact connected to the data breach that Community Health Systems recently suffered, it will be the first known breach of a company by use of the vulnerability.
Though we may not think about it much, we are all aware of Earth's magnetic field. The most obvious use of it is to orient compasses, but it has other uses too, as it is used for probing in geology and archaeology. Thanks to researchers at Berkeley Lab, it may soon also find use for analyzing chemical compositions of fluids, without removing them from their native environments.
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) is a phenomenon that can be used to determine the materials in some sample, and possibly its most common use is medicine's MRI machines. It works by measuring how atoms behave when the angle of their spins are manipulated. Normally strong and uniform magnetic fields are used, but these are not always available. What is always available on Earth though is the planet's magnetic field. Attempts have been made before to use the Earth's magnetic field for NMR, but failed because the field is so weak and the equipment was not very sensitive. The Berkeley researchers have discovered that it appears to be possible now, by using highly sensitive optical magnetometers and by looking at how the spins of molecules relax and diffuse.
Potentially this technique could be used to characterize the contents of solids underground, such as in oil wells, and actually measure hydrocarbons and water within rock, as well as inspecting the curing process of polymers and cement. The researchers next want to increase the depth their method can reach inside of a material, possibly piercing a meter or more, instead of the inches possible with current technologies.
Source: Berkeley Lab
Spire, a global supplier of cooling solutions, power supplies, enclosures, and mobile accessories for personal, gaming, and networked systems, has just introduced the PowerCube 501 and 502. While these two mini-ITX enclosures are the smallest within the company’s lineup, they provide stylish and innovative designs along with an attractive price. The PowerCube 501 and 502 are made of lightweight durable steel, feature a built-in 300W SFX power supply, and are compatible with ITX motherboards as well as slim DVD drives. Both cases can be placed vertically or horizontally, making them even more suitable for a variety of home an office applications.
The Spire PowerCube 501 and 502 come with a two-year warranty and feature an MSRP of $73.95. Currently, the cases are only available from Spire Shenzhen, China, though European distribution is set to commence at the end of August.
Source: Press Release
ASUSTOR, a leading innovator and provider of network storage solutions, has announced that it has extended the warranty period for all ASUSTOR NAS products from two years to three years. The new three-year warranty includes all 6, 3, and 2 series devices that are purchased new, as well as ASUSTOR products that are already owned by customers, with the extended warranty period applied to their product from the original date of purchase. The Sales Director at ASUSTOR, Allen Yen, stated that "Providing first-class service to our customers has always been a top priority for us here at ASUSTOR." By implementing the additional warranty period, ASUSTOR is ensuring that its mission of delivering and supporting high-quality products continues.
Source: Press Release
Many modern solar cells are made of materials like silicon and are expensive to produce. In the future though, new photovoltaics based on polymers could replace them by being cheaper and more resilient. Finding the right polymers is tricky though, but researchers at the University of Tsukuba and Nation Institute for Materials Science have found a way to speed up the search, as published by the American Institute of Physics.
Materials science can be an exhaustive field as the materials would be to be produced for testing, and only then could it be determined if the materials is of much use. By better understanding the behaviors of a material, it is easier to predict its properties and thereby speed up the process. This is what the Japanese researchers have accomplished for candidates for organic photovoltaics by combining two kinds of photo-induced spectroscopy. The two processes important for these materials are their charge formation and charge transport efficiencies, and it is believed that the charge formation efficiency is complicated and actually dependent on a thermal activation process. What the researchers discovered is that the temperature actually does not matter, as samples demonstrated the same efficiency at 80 K and 300 K.
This discovery indicates that the charge formation efficiency for organic photovoltaics is only quantum mechanical, which actually makes it simpler than expected. The result is that it should also be easier to quickly screen materials by this property, and in turn speed up searches for new organic photovoltaic materials.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is coming along quite nicely. Creator Edmund McMillen has released a new gameplay video that shows its rather unique two-player local co-op. The video shows Edmund playing with a friend named Danielle in one of twenty challenge modes, entitled "Head Trauma", which features high speed, low damage, randomly circling tears. We also get a glimpse of a new boss named "Dingle".
Warning: Contains Foul Language
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is coming to PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita, but still has no official release date. Edmund classifies this video as beta, though it certainly looks very polished.
Source: Edmund McMillen via PC Gamer
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) has released a new trailer for LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham that explains Braniac's nefarious plan. But the real star of the trailer is a hilarious Joker!
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is expected to arrive this Fall for PC (Windows and Mac), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, with a slightly smaller version coming to PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, and iOS. I've gone ahead and attached the twenty screenshots released during Gamescom for your viewing pleasure, along with a piece of Braniac artwork.
Source: Press Release
More and more, fiber optic cables are being installed for carrying information across networks and across the Internet, because they are great speed and capacity. Many would like to see fiber optics enter our computers as well, but shrinking the cables has been proving difficult. Researchers at the University of Alberta though, have managed to create nano-optical cables that could enter our computer chips.
Presently copper wires are used within computer chips as interconnects, because the metal does a decent job. Optical fibers could do better, but their diameter has been limited to the micrometer range, which is too large. By turning to metamaterials however, the Alberta researchers were able to go an order of magnitude smaller, without losing data, slowing the signal, or creating heat. As you can no doubt guess, bringing fiber optics into chips would also bring significantly greater speeds and efficiencies than what we see now.
Source: University of Alberta
The middle of the week is here, and with it comes some reviews to check out, including a couple of cases. First up is the Cooler Master HAF Stacker 935 mod-tower, a modular case system that can be built from any of three separate cases. It provides for the ultimate in building potential, as it can be made of various configurations to fit exactly what you need. Our other case is the Phanteks Enthoo Luxe full tower, which is designed to be user and mod friendly thanks to its construction that uses screws instead of rivets. It also has a ten color ambient lighting controller, removable hard drive cages, massive cooling potential, and plenty more you'll have to see in the review. Today's final item is the Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury gaming mouse, the fastest mouse around that should really set you apart from the rest while gaming.
CM HAF Stacker 935 Mod-Tower: Part 1 @ PC Perspective
Phanteks Enthoo Luxe @ Benchmark Reviews
Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury @ TechSpot
August 19, 2014
It's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and it's 35 minutes of actual gameplay. Do I need to say more? Okay, fine, I'll say a little more; as if you didn't already hit Play. The gameplay video is the one that was shown at Gamescom last week. According to CD Projekt RED, a whopping 15,000 fans came to its booth to watch the demo, with a lucky 12,000 walking away with a t-shirt.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 24, 2015.
Source: Press Release and Official Site
Dark fairy tale platformer Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries arrived on Kickstarter at the beginning of the month and is already nearly 75% funded with fifteen days to go. The game was playable at Gamescom last week, and today developer GRIN posted some stats about the event, along with a new video featuring some first impressions. 10,000 flyers were handed out, 5,000 posters were given away, 1,780 gamers played the demo, and 36 lucky backers were greeted and rewarded with an undisclosed "special present."
Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is planned for a Q1 2015 release on PC with Closed Beta to begin next month. If you'd like to support the project, the minimum Kickstarter pledge is $15, which grants you the full game upon release along with the Toy Soldier Editor; Steam key or DRM-free via GOG.com. Closed Beta access starts at $50 and up, while Alpha access starts at $100 and up. The Kickstarter campaign ends Thursday, September 4, 2014, at 5:55PM EDT.
Source: Kickstarter Update
The latest motherboard from manufacturer ECS is the Z97-PK and it is based on the Intel Z97 Express chipset. ECS describes the board as the "unmatched motherboard" for use with the Intel 20th anniversary Pentium processors that were announced at Computex 2014. Referring specifically to the G3258 processor, which features an unlocked multiplier, ECS has overclocked the chip to 4.7GHz using the new motherboard which it claims is "much higher than similar products from other motherboard manufactures."
Source: Press Release
Alien: Isolation puts you in control of Amanda Ripley, searching for answers about what happened to her mother, Ellen Ripley, the protagonist in the original Alien movie. There's really not much to say about this Official Gamescom CGI Trailer entitled "Improvise" other than, it's totally badass:
Alien: Isolation is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on October 7.
Source: Creative Assembly
One of the biggest challenges with quantum computers is finding a way to store quantum information for extended periods of time. There are many different approaches being studied right now for preserving the information, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Now researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have combined two of these techniques and managed to extend the stability of the information.
One of the techniques being developed encodes the quantum information onto nitrogen atoms inside of diamonds, which protects them from external forces. Another technique encodes information onto photons trapped in a resonator. The researchers have combined these two concepts by using a microwave resonator to encode information onto multiple nitrogen atoms. This actually keeps the quantum information coherent for longer than it would normally by causing all of the nitrogen atoms to be coupled with the resonator. This mass coupling prevents the atoms from losing coherence, keeping the quantum information accessible for longer.
By opening the door to hybrid quantum technologies this way, it is hard to predict what new technologies may be created in the future. Of course quantum computers will see a benefit, but the potential of this research could be greater than longer memory storage.
Source: Vienna University of Technology
If you're a PC gamer, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that the majority of PC game sales in 2013 were digital. What may be a bit surprising is that digital made up a whopping 92% of all game sales globally. And apparently that number is expected to increase in the years to come. The numbers come from analyst DFC Intelligence, which told us back in January that PC gaming was on the rise, and then reported in April that the PC games market actually surpassed the console games market in terms of revenues.
I think it's safe to say that the prominence of digital distribution in the PC games market attributed to that, no doubt helped by insane sales and bundles. There's also the rise of free-to-play games ripe with alluring microtransactions, which consoles are still slow to adopt. Of course it also doesn't hurt that a large majority of PC games do not even get retail releases these days; and for those that do, the majority of them still require you to redeem a Steam/Origin/Uplay key, rendering the disc pretty useless. If it wasn't for Collector's Editions filled with physical goodies, digital sales would likely be even higher.
So have you ditched the discs and gone all-digital?
Source: PCR via PC Gamer