OCC TECH NEWS
January 25, 2015
Back when THQ had its Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction, Gearbox Software picked up the rights to the Homeworld franchise and fully intended on releasing updated versions of the classic RTS games. Now, right around two years after getting the franchise, Gearbox is delivering on its promise with Homeworld Remastered Collection. Both Homeworld 1 and Homeworld 2 are included in the Collection, with improved visuals, enhanced audio, and high-res textures and models along for the ride. Some of Homeworld's original creators helped out on remixing the games, with even the original audio files getting a tune-up. Both Homeworld 1 Remastered and Homeworld 2 Remastered offer support for HD, UHD, and 4K resolutions, and all the cinematics have been improved to support the new resolutions and textures. Mod tools are included, too, so gamers can work on getting more content into Homeworld (and maybe some of the older mods ported in). If you want the original games, both Homeworld 1 Classic and Homeworld 2 Classic come with the Collection.
Homeworld Remastered Collection arrives on PC on February 25, with a pre-order now available on Steam for $27.49 (regularly $34.99). The Homeworld Remastered Steam Multiplayer Beta is another part of the Collection, as it allows for up to eight gamers to pit races from either Homeworld game against each other.
Source: Gearbox Software
January 23, 2015
According to Newton, objects will not accelerate unless an unbalanced force is applied to them. While that is still true, researchers at MIT and Israel's Technion have found a way to trick Newton, and the conservation of momentum. What they discovered is a way to cause an electron to accelerate on its own, almost to the speed of light.
The researchers theorize that this effect can be caused with specially engineered phase masks, like those for creating holograms but at a much finer scale. Any electron that is self-accelerated this way, would look like it were accelerated by some external force, even though none is being applied. The reason this does not violate any laws of physics is because the electron is accelerating and expanding at the same time. The tail of the electron's wave packet expands backwards so that the total momentum is still preserved.
As the researchers dug into their theory more they also found that the self-acceleration can cause time dilation, like that described by relativity. This could be especially useful by allowing a way for short-lived particle to exist a little longer, making it easier to study them.
Microsoft has announced that it will acquire Revolution Analytics, a company known for its distribution and support of the R programming language. R was "specifically designed for statistical computing and predictive analytics" and it will be used by Microsoft to "offer cloud services and on premise applications for its customers to undertake big data-style analysis." As big data and cloud computing continue to gain in popularity and usefulness, R is in a prime position to help those industries succeed. Microsoft corporate VP of machine learning Joseph Sirosh described the motivation for the acquisition stating, "As their volumes of data continually grow, organizations of all kinds around the world—financial, manufacturing, health care, retail, research—need powerful analytical models to make data-driven decisions. This acquisition is part of our effort to address these customer needs."
Source: PC World
It is the end of another week, and we have some items for you to check out before the weekend begins. There is another review of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 video card, with the ASUS GeForce GTX 960 Strix getting put to the test. We also have a guide describing how you can install the Windows 10 Technical Preview from a flash drive, which may come in useful considering the full release will be free for the first year. There is also a case mod that is extremely unique, as it is a custom-built rig featuring MSI's Dragon design. Finishing off for the day is a podcast looking back at the latest news and reviews from the past week.
ASUS GeForce GTX 960 Strix @ Benchmark Reviews
Install Windows 10 Preview from a Flash Drive @ Bjorn3D
Case Mod Friday: Red Dragon @ ThinkComputers
Podcast #333 @ PC Perspective
Wormholes have been a popular topic in science and science fiction for decades and could potentially allow for relatively easy travel across the Universe. While they have been theorized though, no one has found one yet, but one has been suggested. Researchers at the International School for Advanced Studies have theorized that our home galaxy, the Milky Way, may actually be a gigantic wormhole.
To arrive at this idea, the researchers combined equations from General Relativity with a highly detailed dark matter map of the galaxy. Based on the observed dark matter distribution, the Milky Way might not only contain a worm hole but have one spanning its full size. It could even be navigable, if the researchers' calculations are correct.
To test if the hypothesis is true, one will have to very carefully compare the Milky Way with another galaxy, which is something we are not yet capable of. Besides that hypothesis though, this work could also lead to new interpretations of what dark matter is.
Source: International School of Advanced Studies via EurekAlert!
January 22, 2015
Kim Dotcom, the man famous for his involvement in the cloud file storage service Mega Upload, has announced plans to release a secure video chat program called MEGAchat. MEGAchat joins the new MEGA file upload service with a focus on security that offers end-to-end encryption, allowing information to get from its source to its destination without being seen by unwanted parties. The software operates entirely in a web browser, removing the need to download and install any additional software. MEGAchat will only support video chat at first, but plans are in place to add text chat and video conferencing.
Source: Slash Gear
Metamaterials are likely among the most important, recent scientific discoveries as they are able to defy Nature and give us properties that cannot be found in any natural material. A lot of the research into metamaterials has concerned optics, and especially the possibility of creating invisibility cloaks, but this is not the only application. Another potential use is to enhance light sources, and recently researchers at City College of New York have done this.
Previous efforts to enhance light emission with a metamaterial have been problematic because the light did not want to leave them. For this work the researchers put a light emitting nanocrystal on top of a metamaterial with hyperbolic dispersion. This would enhance the light emission, and then the researchers figured out how to efficiently extract the photons from the system by embedding quantum dots in the material.
Potentially this discovery could lead to ultrafast LEDs, nanoscale lasers, and efficient single photon sources.
Source: City College of New York
NVIDIA is introducing a new member of its Maxwell family of video cards today with the GeForce GTX 960. It is aimed at what could be the ideal price/performance ratio, and considering it comes in right around $200, NVIDIA may have a winner on its hands. The GM206 cards feature DirectX 12 support, 128 CUDA cores, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, a 128-bit bus, and a core clock speed of 1126MHz. NVIDIA is letting its board partners release non-reference models today too, so you can find not only the stock NVIDIA version but overclocked ones right away. We have plenty of reviews covering both editions, so hit them all up below to see just what the GeForce GTX 960 is capable of!
NVIDIA, MSI, EVGA GTX 960 @ OCC
GeForce GTX 960 @ TechSpot
GeForce GTX 960 SLI @ TechSpot
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 @ PC Perspective
ASUS GTX 960 Strix @ LanOC Reviews
ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! Edition @ Bjorn3D
A new day is upon us, with just a couple of items for you to check out. There is a review of the Logitech G402 gaming mouse, the Hyperion Fury. This mouse is aimed at the FPS gamer and features several design elements that should make them quite happy, like the ability to track no matter how fast you move it. Our other item for the day is the LUXA2 Aluminum MFi Lighting USB Charge / Sync Cable, which is a heavy duty Lightning to USB cable for Apple devices.
Logitech G402 @ LanOC Reviews
LUXA2 Aluminum MFi Lighting USB Charge / Sync Cable @ ThinkComputers
Plex, the popular personal media management hub that was made available on the PlayStation 3 and 4 last December for users located in Europe and Asia, is now available to United States residents. While the latest announcement for Plex for PlayStation did not go into detail on which restrictions still plague the application, it can be assumed that Plex for PlayStation still only supports video from a user’s library and also requires a Plex Pass subscription, which costs $5 per month. Support for music, photos, and Plex channel functionality is scheduled to come at a later time for Plex for PlayStation, but with Plex now covering users across the globe that utilize the PlayStation and Xbox, on both the latest and previous generations, the service is likely to grow its user base fairly quickly in the near future.
ASUSTOR, a leading innovator and provider of network storage solutions, has announced that it is now offering after-sales maintenance service throughout Russia, thanks to its parent company ASUS and ASK-2 LLC. ASUS customers within Russia have already enjoyed the benefit of professional and timely support, and with ASUSTOR making use of the 200 officially authorized service center locations throughout the country that ASK-2 LLC runs, ASUSTOR customers will enjoy the same quality customer service. Cindy Wu, the Sales Manager at ASUSTOR, stated that "Joining ASUS’s network of service centers allows us to provide our Russian users with the highest standard of after-sales service and support, strengthening the market’s confidence in ASUSTOR NAS products."
Source: Press Release
It was reported last November that DirectX 12, which provides improved performance thanks to improved CPU utilization, lower-level access, and more, may not come to Windows 7. Microsoft has just confirmed that claim, which was originally made by Richard Huddy, the Chief Gaming Scientist at AMD, by announcing that DirectX 12 will be exclusive to Windows 10. This is not the first time that Microsoft has made its DirectX API exclusive to a certain version of Windows, with DirectX 10 being exclusive to Windows Vista. For gamers who wish to access and benefit from the performance improvements that DirectX 12 will bring to the table, Windows 10 is going to be a required upgrade. Fortunately, Microsoft is offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8.1 users, as long as the upgrade takes place within the first year of the release of the operating system.
For some, keyboards are just an input device, but for others they are a work of modern technology with advanced switches, layouts, and software driving them. As impressive as your keyboard may be though, researchers have created one that is probably some notches above. This new keyboard, as reported in the journal ACS Nano has the ability to identify users, providing extra protection against direct access of a computer by an unauthorized user.
The smart keyboard identifies users by recognizing the pressure we apply to keys as well as the speed with which type. With such a profile, even if someone inputs the character password, the keyboard can still prevent successful access. The keyboard is even able to power itself or a small device from the energy of each key press. It is also dirt resistant as its surface coating repels dirt and grime.
Source: American Chemical Society
January 21, 2015
Amazon has signed a 13 year Power Purchase Agreement with a wind farm being built in Benton County Indiana, allowing the farm to be built and giving Amazon a large source of renewable energy. The 150MW farm is expected to be operational by January 2016 and puts Amazon one step closer to achieving its promise of powering Amazon Web Services facilities entirely with renewable energy. With this new wind farm Amazon joins other major players such as Google and Apple in powering data centers with renewable energy.
Source: Datacenter Dynamics
Acer has announced a pair of new Chromebooks targeted at students and designed for use in the classroom. The C740 features an 11.6" screen and the C910 uses a 15.6" screen. Both Chromebooks are able to withstand force up to 132 pounds, have reinforced hinges, and can handle falls from up to 18" high, making them a perfect choice for users that are prone to dropping things. The laptops can be configured with either Celeron or i3 processors, 2GB or 4GB of RAM, and start at a resolution of 1366x768. Both models will be available starting next month.
Organic semiconductors have been a focus of a lot of interest for some time now, as they have the potential to very cheaply replace silicon-based devices, and introduce new properties. While they have that potential, it is difficult to tap it because of uneven performance issues. These issues have been known about for some time, but finally we may know what causes them, thanks to researchers at Berkeley Lab.
Inside of organic semiconductor films are nanocrystals that form domains. Researchers have realized the performance issues come from the domain interfaces, but the exact reason why has eluded them. This is in part because the domains are so much smaller than the diffraction limit that few observation methods would work. The Berkeley researchers solved that problem by adapting transient absorption (TA) microscopy to work with the samples of TIPS pentacene they had. This method uses femtosecond laser pulses to excite transient energy states, and then measures the changes in the absorption spectra. The researchers modified their system to create focal volumes a thousand times smaller than normal TA microscopes achieve, and made it possible to use different light polarizations, to isolate signals from adjacent domains.
What the researchers found was that the problem comes from the smaller domains between larger ones. These smaller domains can have random orientations that prevent charge carriers from moving efficiently. Armed with this knowledge and an ability to measure and predict performance, it should be possible to optimize the systems for manufacturing organic semiconductors.
Source: Berkeley Lab
Right before 2014 ended, a rumor appeared that Windows 10 will have a new browser in addition to Internet Explorer. Well, it is no longer a rumor now, as Microsoft has officially revealed Project Spartan as Windows 10's new browser. Project Spartan is simply the browser's codename, but it already is shaping up to be the exact opposite of Internet Explorer. The new browser is quick, doesn't take up a lot of resources, and is secure; all upgrades over IE. Microsoft built Project Spartan with a new rendering engine (presumably Trident) and not WebKit, like what Chrome and Firefox use, so getting things to work in it may take a little bit of work.
Luckily, the new rendering engine means a lot more features can be added to it, like snapping, which lets you freeze a web page to add comments or notes to send to a friend/coworker. Web pages can also be reorganized to be more reader-friendly and resemble a book, much like what Apple's Safari browser can do. Project Spartan also features built-in Adobe Reader support for PDFs, so no more separate downloads of a PDF viewer. One other built-in feature is Cortana, Microsoft's voice-search tool that will be even more similar to Google Now with its predictions.
Windows 10 PCs will get Project Spartan first (another reason to catch that free upgrade during its first year), with Windows Phone 10 devices getting it later on. Internet Explorer is still going to exist for compatibility reasons, but for all intents and purposes, it won't be of much use to anyone otherwise. Expect more news on Project Spartan as we get closer to Windows 10's arrival, and exactly what Microsoft is going to call it.
Microsoft is kicking off its Windows 10 event today in grand fashion, as the company announced the new OS will be a free upgrade for a year to any device running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1. For one year after Windows 10 arrives, users can upgrade to it for no cost at all, which is rather generous of the folks in Redmond. Exactly how the upgrade will be handled isn't known considering the wide-range of hardware Windows 7 is on, but presumably a hardware check to ensure compatibility will be part of it. At any rate, a free upgrade to Windows 10 certainly should not be missed, especially since it already sounds like a simpler way to get the new OS instead of dealing with a multitude of versions.
Once the first year passes, upgrading to Windows 10 will set you back some money, although an exact price is not known at this time.
Source: The Verge
In a move that may surprise no one, Bethesda Softworks has announced The Elder Scrolls Online is dropping its subscription and getting a new name: The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. The MMO set in the popular Elder Scrolls universe has been beset with rumors of the switch for a while now, as the six-month subscription disappeared last month and EB Games in Australia stopped carrying the game in its retail stores. Now we have official word, and starting in March, gamers can journey to Tamriel for no charge. All previously-released content and updates, like the new Champion and Justice systems, will be available to free players, with new content being available for purchase.
Gamers can also purchase ESO Plus memberships, which come in 30, 90, and 180-day blocks. ESO Plus grants access to future DLC that contain new areas and quests, along with more items and rewards. If your ESO Plus membership runs out you no longer can go to the new areas, but you do get to keep any items and rewards obtained. Memberships also grant access to crowns, the MMO's new in-game currency, and assorted character progression bonuses, along with pets and mounts. Current TESO subscriptions that carry into March will roll into the ESO Plus memberships, while anyone with a canceled subscription can jump back in with 500 free crowns.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited arrives on March 17 for the PC and Mac, while PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers can jump in on June 9.
Source: Elder Scrolls Online
We have come to the middle of the week, with several items along for the ride. There is a review of the Corsair Vengeance K70 RGB mechanical gaming keyboard, which features Cherry MX Red switches and the RGB key for custom backlighting in any number of colors. Staying on the mechanical gaming keyboard front, we have the Tt eSPORTS Poseidon ZX, a tenkeyless design with backlighting. If you just need a way to better hear your games, then perhaps the Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset with its 7.1 channel virtual surround sound is for you. Finishing off today's items is a rather interesting video highlighting the thermal conductivity difference between solid copper and a heat pipe.
Corsair Vengeance K70 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard @ Madshrimps
Tt eSPORTS Poseidon ZX Mechanical Gaming Keyboard @ ThinkComputers
Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset @ Benchmark Reviews
Neat Video of Thermal Conductivity in Action @ Frostytech
Hydrophobic materials have been of interest for quite some time, and so has ways of making arbitrary materials super-hydrophobic. Researchers at the University of Rochester have achieved the latter, to a point, by finding a way to make metals super-hydrophobic using lasers. This discovery could have many applications, including improved water collection, ice protection, rust prevention, and even improved sanitation.
One common way to make a material super-hydrophobic is to apply a coating to it of something that already is. While this can work in some situations, the coating may wear out in time and even fall off, making it less than ideal. What the Rochester researchers have done is used a femtosecond laser to etch a pattern of nanoscale and microscale structures onto a metal's surface. These structures are what prevent water from sticking to the surface. When tested, water drops actually bounced off of the metal. While the water may not stick to the surface, it does still impact it, which gives the metal some self-cleaning capabilities as dust and dirt will be pulled off by the water.
Now the researchers are working to see if they can adapt this method to materials other than metals. They are also working to speed up the patterning process, as it currently takes an hour to cover a square inch, which is too slow to keep the metals cheap and accessible to everyone.
Source: University of Rochester
January 20, 2015
Overstock is planning to release a video-on-demand and streaming service later this year to compete with established players like Netflix and Amazon. The VOD service will boast around 30,000 titles and will be available about halfway through this year with the streaming service following shortly thereafter. Overstock is working with a third party to create original content, hoping to leverage "working with studios for over a decade." CEO Patrick Byrne described the service stating, "We think this makes perfect sense for us to get into this business. We have a deep understanding of our customers [and] know what they're looking for."
Source: PC Magazine
Thermaltake has announced a new wireless stereo speaker, the GroovyA, to be released under the LUXA2 brand. The speaker is made from aluminum and can be used in both indoor and outdoor settings. A 2200mAh rechargeable battery is built-in and provides up to 15 hours of playtime, and is able to charge in just five hours. The speaker can be connected to your device using Bluetooth and has 7W of audio output. A built-in microphone and speakerphone also grants users the ability to use it to answer phone calls.
Source: Press Release
Lasers are amazing pieces of technology that are in many of our devices, and used in the manufacture of many more. Naturally many future technologies will rely on them, but before some of them can be realized, certain issues must be overcome. Researchers at Yale University may have found a solution to the problem of speckle by using a new kind of laser.
With their brightness, lasers are ideal for many imaging technologies, such as microscopes, holography, and photolithography, but they can also corrupt the images they are being used to create. This corruption comes from speckle, which is a grainy pattern caused by the high spatial coherence of the light. In some situations LEDs can be used, as they have lower speckle, but they are also far less bright, making them a poor fit for high-speed imaging. What the Yale researchers developed exhibits the best of both technologies and is based on a chaotic cavity laser. Random and chaotic lasers normally have no known applications, but the researchers decided to work with other disciplines to see if there are any problems they could solve.
Typical lasers have a speckle contrast of 50%, but it needs to be less than 4% for full-field imaging. The new semiconductor laser comes in at just 3%, which makes it perfect for future imaging technologies that need speckle-free and bright light sources.
Source: Yale University
A new day has arrived, with several new items in tow for you to check out. We have a review of the Corsair Graphite Series 380T case, with its unique design and bright colors to set your mini-ITX build apart from the rest. There is also the Corsair CS850M power supply, which is a semi-modular 850W unit that is 80PLUS Gold certified. For those needing a lot of storage on the go, the Samsung Portable SSD T1 500GB model may be the one for you. Finishing off for the day is the Alienware 13 + Graphics Amplifier, which is the company's new 13" laptop that comes with an external PSU and video card for desktop-level gaming power.
Corsair Graphite Series 380T @ LanOC Reviews
Corsair CS850M 850W @ ThinkComputers
Samsung Portable SSD T1 500GB @ PC Perspective
Alienware 13 + Graphics Amplifier @ TechSpot
I do not know how many electrons are currently coursing through my computer and monitor as I type this, but I expect it to be a lot, because that is how many it takes. The idea then that anything could be powered by a single electron seems a little crazy, because normally you need so much more. As it turns out though, it is possible for a single electron to power some systems, as researchers at Princeton University discovered, when working on how to put double quantum dots to use.
Quantum dots are semiconductor nanocrystals that are sometimes referred to as designer atoms or molecules, because their properties can be so well tuned. Double quantum dots are just two of them joined together, and they may see use as qubits in quantum computers, but first we need them to communicate with each other. To achieve this, the researchers made the dots into lasers, so that the photons they emitted could bounce off of mirrors, creating a coherent beam, and entangle each other. The laser works by having electrons, one at a time, tunnel through the quantum dots, and drop in energy as they do so, releasing a photon in the process. The reason the electrons are going one at a time is because the quantum dots can only hold one at a time.
Unlike traditional lasers, the frequency of light emitted can be tuned here, by controlling the energy levels the electrons jump between. This work could lead to new light sources in the future, and potentially more as it shows a way to control the movement of even a single electron.
Source: Princeton University
January 19, 2015
Leaked screenshots give us the first look at the upcoming NVIDIA GM200 GPU, the newest based on the Maxwell architecture. The card is built on the PG600 board and uses 24 Hynix H5GQ4H24MFR memory modules, giving the card a 12GB frame buffer clocked at 7GHz. It is expected to use the GM200-400 variant with 3072 CUDA cores, and it is believed that the card will be formally introduced next month.
A new week is upon us, with several new items to help you get it started. There is a review of the ASUS Rampage V Extreme, which is a high-end ROG motherboard for the Intel Haswell-E processors. We also have the be quiet! Pure Rock CPU cooler for those who do not want the biggest heat sinks, but still need to keep their processor from overheating. Cougar's 700K gaming keyboard, a mechanical switch model with some extra macro keys for you to use. Finishing off today's items is an article comparing five different generations of AMD Radeon graphics cards.
ASUS Rampage V Extreme @ PC Perspective
5 generations of Radeon graphics compared @ TechSpot
be quiet! Pure Rock @ ThinkComputers
Cougar 700K Gaming Keyboard @ LanOC Reviews
Facebook is working on implementing the ability to transcribe Facebook Messenger voice messages to text, similar to the way Google Voice transcribes voicemail. Users will be able to see a preview of their voice messages without having to listen to them, which could be convenient if they don't have time or aren't able to listen to the message. David Marcus of Facebook stated, "Our plan is to test this feature at a tiny scale for now and we're looking forward to seeing what you think of it." I wasn't even aware that Messenger had the ability to transmit voice messages and don't really see myself using this feature as it matures and becomes widely available.
Source: The Verge
One of the latest goals in display technology has been 3D images, so that viewers can get a deeper sense of what they are seeing. The ultimate goal many are working toward is a 3D display that can achieve this without requiring the viewer to where special glasses. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology and TriLite Technologies have recently made a prototype display capable of just that.
To create a 3D image, different images need to be sent to both of our eyes at the same time, as the differences give us the sense of depth. Normally this is achieved with polarized light and glass that have different polarizations for both eyes. This new technology instead directly sends different images to our eyes using a sophisticated laser system. The laser is aimed at a moveable mirror, which directs the light across the field of vision, and by modulating the intensity of the laser fast enough, our two eyes can see two different images. This also allows for the display to show multiple, 3D images as one walks around it, like with a real object, and if used in a billboard, could show people in different places completely different images.
The prototype display the researchers built only consists of 15 3D-Pixels, or Trixels, but the researchers say that scaling the technology up is not a problem. In fact they expect to have a second, larger prototype completed in the middle of the year, and a commercial launch in 2016.
Source: Vienna University of Technology