OCC TECH NEWS
August 21, 2014
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
Although Flappy Bird was taken down from the App Store and Google Play earlier this year by its creator Dong Nguyen, the game was supposedly going to make a comeback this month. Apparently, a new game that shares the mechanics of Flappy Bird is going to be released by Nguyen instead. The new game, known as Swing Copters, is a vertical scrolling title in which players must navigate a small character with a propeller attached to its head through gates and swinging hammers. Players attempt to avoid obstacles by tapping on the screen in order to change the direction of the character as it flies.
Swing Copters looks just as difficult as Flappy Bird was, and with it being available on August 21, 2014, gamers will soon be able to see if they can beat the high scores of others. The game will be free and ad-supported, though the ability to remove advertisements will be available as an in-game purchase for 99 cents.
Source: Touch Arcade
The first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Crytek co-founder Avni Yerli realizes that the studio's reputation has likely been damaged in light of its recent troubles, which culminated in the company selling the Homefront IP to Koch Media. Yerli told MCV that the transition to an online company took longer and cost more than originally anticipated, but that the studio is now confident it can move forward with a solid foundation laid out. "[F]or Crytek it is about focusing on our core competency, which is making really high quality games. When we deliver those games we will hopefully be back on track, and people will see Crytek in the way that it deserves to be seen."
Of course, saying and doing are two completely different things. Crytek has two or three new games on the docket (that we know of), depending on your definition of "new": Arena of Fate, HUNT: Horrors of the Gilded Age, and the PC version of Ryse: Son of Rome. Of those, I think HUNT is clearly the most promising of the bunch, providing a unique premise and setting. On the flip side, Arena of Fate is "yet another MOBA" and Ryse is a port of a game that got rather mixed reviews. Time will tell how things play out for Crytek.
Razer, a world leader in connected devices and software for gamers, has teamed up with Counter Logic Gaming, a longtime eSports partner and premier North American organization, to launch the ultimate gaming keyboard. The keyboard, known as the Counter Logic Gaming Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth, is the companion to the limited edition Counter Logic Gaming DeathAdder mouse released last year. Razer has implemented a two-tone black and white body with illuminated keys that correspond to Counter Logic Gaming‘s white coloring, matching the styling of the aforementioned mouse. Only the best technology and features have been included with its latest gaming keyboard, as it includes 10 key roll-over anti-ghosting, fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording, audio-out and mic-in jacks, USB pass–through, and a braided fiber cable. The Counter Logic Gaming Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth even incorporates Razer’s latest mechanical switches that have a projected lifespan of up to 60 million keystrokes, thanks to gold plated contact points and an ultra-precise manufacturing technique.
The Counter Logic Gaming Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth is available immediately for purchase and costs $149.99.
Source: Press Release
Unless you are exceptionally careful about what information is on the Internet, there is a good chance you have been presented with a recommendation based on your online activities. Of course we all know that services and websites collect information from emails, video views, and product views, but how exactly do they generate the recommendations? That is what researchers at Columbia University want to know, and so they have developed XRay to provide greater transparency on the Internet.
Approaching the problem of how our information is used is tricky, because much of the Internet operates like a black box. Without the ability to view the processes involved in generating the recommendations, XRay has to rely on black-box correlations between inputs and outputs. At first the researchers worked with theoretical results, which were encouraging, but only theoretical, so they soon started running experiments on Gmail, Amazon, and YouTube and refining the design. Eventually XRay achieved complete success with each experiment, matching theoretical predictions in complex cases, which suggests it can scale up well.
Though the current system has only been run on Gmail, Amazon, and YouTube, it should be service-agnostic, so any site that tracks you could be studied with XRay. Thus far it has revealed that it is possible to target sensitive topics and that there does appear to be abuse of the recommendation systems. You can see examples results at XRay's website: XRay: Transparency for the Web.
Source: Columbia University
A new day has begun, with plenty of items for you to check out on this Tuesday. We have a review on the Corsair Carbide Spec 01 case, a highly affordable case that still packs in plenty of features for gamers on a tight budget. If you are instead looking for a way to keep your CPU cool, then perhaps the Cooler Master Nepton 280L all-in-one liquid cooler can get the job done. For storage needs, there's the Angelbird SSD wrk 512GB using a Silicon Motion 2246EN controller instead of the more common SandForce controller. Speaking of storage, we have a review on the Thecus N2310 Soho/Home NAS Server, which is a two-bay model perfect for starting your home server. Lastly the ROCCAT Ryos MK Pro mechanical keyboard gets put to the test to see if it should be your next purchase.
Corsair Carbide Spec 01 Gaming Case @ Madshrimps
Cooler Master Nepton 280L AIO Liquid CPU Cooler @ ThinkComputers
Angelbird SSD wrk 512GB @ PC Perspective
Thecus N2310 Soho/Home NAS Server @ Madshrimps
ROCCAT Ryos MK Pro Mechanical Keyboard @ Benchmark Reviews
Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter backers that pledged $110 or more during its nearly $4 million campaign will now be able to join the Backer Beta. The Backer Beta is only available through Steam, but does not affect your redemption choice for the final product, so feel free to grab it even if you want DRM-free at launch. As of now, it's only available for Windows, but Mac and Linux versions should be arriving in the coming weeks. The first release of the Backer Beta, which went live yesterday, is the build that was shown off during Gamescom.
What's quite unique about this Backer Beta is that there is no "direct connection to the critical path/main story of Pillars of Eternity"; it truly is all about testing and gathering feedback. This should be welcome news to any backer who was wary of having the story spoiled for them during these early stages. The Backer Beta includes the village of Dyrford and its surrounding wilderness and dungeon environments. Players can choose between four difficulties (Easy, Normal, Hard, or Path of the Damned) and optional modes (Expert and Trial or Iron), and have access to all character races and subraces, all classes, and all starting cultures and backgrounds when creating their character. Aside from exploration, conversing with NPCs, and loot-grabbing, players will also be able to experiment with crafting and enchanting, hiring adventurers, and camping.
Obsidian has posted a lengthy list of areas in which the team would love feedback to be focused on: classes, races, attributes, equipment, crafting and enchanting, conversations and quests, combat, and the user interface. I advise anyone who plans on playing the Backer Beta to read what questions specifically Obsidian would like to see addressed for each topic; and it'll probably help to read the list of "Known Issues" as well. If you pledged $110 or more, simply go to your Account Profile Products page to generate your Steam key. If you're not a backer, you have until August 22 to pledge before crowdfunding ends, at which point you'll no longer have access at the reduced pre-launch price.
Pillars of Eternity is scheduled for full launch Winter 2014, assuming there are no speed bumps along the way.
Source: Kickstarter Update
Corsair, a worldwide leader in high-performance PC hardware components, has just announced the Commander Mini. The new product by Corsair is a control unit that allows users to connect and control multiple lights, fans, and other Corsair devices with an intuitive software interface. The Corsair Commander Mini incorporates a plethora of ports for plugging devices into, including six fan control connectors, four Corsair Link Digital ports, four temperature probe inputs, and a port for connecting Corsair Link LED lighting strips. Corsair Link Dashboard software allows users to precisely monitor their systems, as it is able to make efficient use of all of the included interfaces, providing information on coolant temperature, ambient temperature at multiple points, the speed of case fans, and the speed of fans integrated into compatible system components. Thanks to the Commander Mini, users can then take this information and use the software to manage fan speeds individually, set up customized cooling profiles, or program fans to respond to changes in ambient or component temperature.
The Corsair Commander Mini carries an MSRP of $59.99, comes with a two-year warranty, and is available immediately from the Corsair website.
Source: Press Release
Lead has quite a history as the soft metal once saw many uses, such as water pipes to additives for gasoline and paint, but is now restricted to just a few, due to its potential health hazards. That is also why we see so many recycling programs specifically for lead, to keep it from getting somewhere it should not, and to reduce the amount that needs to be acquired. Now researchers at MIT have devised another recycling program that could see lead repurposed for use in solar cells.
Perovskites are a family of compounds that share similar structures, and organolead halide perovskite is being looked at for use as solar cells. Some of these cells have already exceeded 19% efficiency, which makes them almost competitive with the silicon-based solar cells you can find today. The catch is the use of lead, especially as the solar cells would require more lead to be mined. The MIT researchers however have developed a process to take the lead from car batteries and use it for solar cells. As the lead compound would actually be a thin film, they predict that the lead of a single car battery would be enough to make enough solar panels to power 30 homes.
Along with providing another reason to recycle car batteries, this could also help bring the cost of solar cells down. The process is low temperature and requires fewer steps than conventional solar cells to produce, making it potentially easier to scale up cheaply.