OCC TECH NEWS
July 21, 2014
Federal authorities, including the United States Secret Service, are investing a possible payment card breach at United States based Goodwill retail stores, according to Goodwill Industries International. Lauren Lawson-Zilai, Goodwill’s director of public relations, noted that the company was notified about the possible breach last Friday. If a breach is discovered following the completion of the ongoing investigation, Goodwill revealed that it will take appropriate and prompt action in remedying the situation. In the meantime, Goodwill wants customers to know that their data is being properly safeguarded and that the security of payment information is its top priority.
Free-to-play business models may be on the rise, but subscription-based models are still holding strong thanks largely to that $1 billion juggernaut called World of Warcraft. It also helps that even subscription-based MMOs are making a killing with microtransactions. So despite the MMO subscription market shrinking year-over-year since 2010, part of the decline has been offset by microtransactions, nearly doubling from 14% to 27% in the past five years. In fact, though the market has shrunk from 30.6 million monthly active subscribers to 23.4 million, the average revenue per user has actually risen. The user base may be lower, but the ones that remain are loyal and willing to spend.
World of Warcraft unsurprisingly tops the 2013 list with 36% of the market, raking in worldwide revenues of $1.041 billion. What may be surprising to some is that the next four contenders all earned more than $100 million in 2013: 1998's Lineage captured 9% of the market and earned $253 million; TERA: Online captured 8% of the market and earned $236 million; Star Wars: The Old Republic captured 6% and earned $165 million; and Lord of the Rings Online captured 4% of the market and earned $104 million. Not too shabby at all. In total, subscription-based MMOs earned $2.882 billion in worldwide revenues in 2013.
It'll be interesting to see how 2014 plays out with two big new entries in the subscription market, Bethesda's Elder Scrolls Online and NCsoft's Wildstar. Elder Scrolls Online boasts a subscriber base of 772,374 as of June, likely helped by its multi-platform release. Meanwhile, NCsoft not only has Lineage under its publishing arm, but it also has three other MMOs in the 2013 Top Ten (Aion, Blade and Soul, and Lineage II) – so there are certainly big expectations for Wildstar as well. While free-to-play is certainly on the rise, it doesn't seem like subscription-models are going away any time soon, even if some are merely optional.
Source: SuperData Research via GamesIndustry International
be quiet!, a manufacturer of power supplies and cooling solutions, has decided to join other manufacturers and enter the market of computer chassis. The company has just revealed pictures of its latest product that will enable this business decision, the Silent Base 800. The Silent Base 800 computer tower is comprised of premium components, focusing on silent and cool operation while featuring plenty of cable management and water cooling slots.
The be quiet! Silent Base 800 will be offered only in black and will be officially released in October of this year. While the case only comes in one color, three different accenting colors including black, silver, and orange will be available.
Source: Press Release
Kingston will be adding its largest capacity solid state drive to date to the SSDNow V300 series with the V310, a 1TB drive. The drive is powered by a Phison 3108 controller capable of read and write speeds up to 450MB/s. The Kingston Value series is a great SSD for users looking to migrate from traditional drives without breaking the bank, and the large 1TB capacity provides a drive large enough for most users. SSD Business Manager Ariel Perez said, "Since 2009, our V ‘Value’ series solid-state drives have delivered the best price to performance ratio as possible to enable consumers on a budget or entry-level users to experience the benefits of SSD technology. Our new V310 continues that along with providing the biggest capacity ever in a Kingston SSD."
Source: Press Release
Verizon has announced that it is upgrading the upload speeds of all current and future customers to match download speeds. Current plans had much higher download than upload speeds. Verizon has also increased the speed of the entry level package to 25/25 Mbps, an increase from the current entry level 15/5 Mbps plans. The service starts at $64.99, but unfortunately users currently at the 15/5 level won't be upgraded to the 25/25 level. The new symmetrical speed tiers could give Verizon a boost compared to cable companies, "which generally offers slower download speeds than fiber along with even lower upload speeds," but doesn't offer much of an improvement compared to other fiber services such as Google Fiber.
Source: Ars Technica
Taking place in Cologne, Germany, Gamescom is the biggest gaming convention in the world – yes, bigger than E3. As such, it's no suprise that Germany-based manufacturer ROCCAT likes to go all out for the event. This year is no different, with ROCCAT "bringing an entire gaming city" called ROCC-City. Aside from a cosplay competition, daily raffles twin ROCCAT products, and allowing attendees to face off against professional gamers, the highlight of ROCC-City is two new products ROCCAT are calling "Future Ready".
The first is a new gaming mouse that apparently allows you to alter the actual button layouts. According to ROCCAT's René Korte, "We asked the questions, 'What would it be like if you could do more than change a button assignment? What if you could physically change the button itself? What if you could make your own buttons from scratch?' We had to find out, and what we discovered upon creating this was a mouse that can be fully adjusted to any gaming genre fluidly." Color me intrigued.
The second product is a new keyboard with full smartphone integration. According to René, "Smartphones do so much these days. They're a second-screen experience for many gamers in a variety of ways, but we wanted to offer more than the next step in integrating smartphone and keyboard. We wanted to take the next ten steps. A keyboard designed not only to integrate your phone fully into the gaming realm, but one that takes the standard functionality of a phone, communication, and seamlessly weaves it into your gaming experience. Taking calls, texting, everything. Why can’t you have it all? We plan on giving that to the world, and showing you what that looks like at Gamescom."
These two new products mark the beginning of a new philosophy at ROCCAT – creating peripherals that adapt to the future of gaming experiences and the user's gaming needs. ROCCAT hopes that its new products can remain a part of a gamer's arsenal for many years, even as needs change over time. Gamescom 2014 takes place from August 13 - 17, and if you plan to attend, be sure to head on over to ROCC-City in Hall 8, Booth A10.
Source: Press Release
July 19, 2014
Microsoft has revealed that the latest Xbox One update, which will be available to early access individuals next week and all other Xbox One owners next month, will bring enhanced features to the gaming console. One of the major features that the August Xbox One update will provide is support for 3D Blu-ray functionality. Some of the social and mobile improvements coming to the Xbox One include activity feed improvements, an expanded friends area on the home screen, and information on when friends were last seen online. The latest update will also usher in support for mobile purchases, a low battery pop-up notification for controllers, the ability to disable notifications during videos, and OneGuide for Brazil, Mexico, Austria and Ireland.
Source: Xbox Wire
July 18, 2014
Google has just pushed an update for its Maps application for Android, bringing Google Maps to version 8.2. One of the major features of this latest version is the availability of elevation information for biking routes, allowing users to choose various paths based on elevation differences. Google has also incorporated new voice actions, such as estimated arrival time and when to make an upcoming turn. Users can even ask Google Maps questions involving these new voice actions during navigation mode. Another feature available in version 8.2 of Google Maps is My Places, which is accessible from the navigation menu and provides search history, saved places, and offline maps.
While Google has officially released version 8.2 of Google Maps, it will more than likely take a few days before most users have access to it since it is being rolled out in a staggered format.
Dell is following in the footsteps of other major companies, such as DISH and TigerDirect, by announcing that it is now accepting Bitcoin as a valid form of payment through its online marketplace Transactions between customers and Dell that involve Bitcoin are made possible by a partnership with Coinbase, an international digital wallet that allows users to buy, use, and accept Bitcoin. Consumer and small business shoppers will be able to use Bitcoins on the Dell website within the next two weeks, according to Laura Thomas, the Chief Blogger for Direct2Dell.com
An Alienware promotion has also been revealed along with the Bitcoin acceptance announcement, where consumers can save 10 percent off of a new Alienware system purchase. The savings for this promotion are capped at $150, however.
If you're able to make you way to San Diego Comic Con, July 24-27, you can partake in a one of a kind experience. With the help of Ubisoft's Chief Parkour Officer Michael "Frosti" Zernow and Tempest Freerunning, Ubisoft is setting up a special parkour course entitled the Assassin's Creed Experience, allowing anyone to experience what it's like to be their favorite Assassin's Creed characters, minus the assassinating – because that's illegal. If you watch the video or take a look at the mockup below, you'll see that the course is being designed to emulate the obstacles and parkour maneuvers present in the Assassin's Creed games. And yes, that includes the most iconic move of them all, a 25-foot Leap of Faith!
If this all sounds like a bit much for a layperson to handle, there will be professionals from Tempest Freerunning (including Zernow) to provide tips and advice. Completing the course (or maybe just attempting it?) will reward you with an exclusive t-shirt. Bonus points if you complete it in Assassin's Creed cosplay?
So how long after it opens before someone gets injured? I'm guessing a waiver will need to be signed.
Assassin's Creed Unity will release on October 28, 2014, for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Do you want to win a mysterious new NVIDIA product launching on July 22? Well, you're going to have to work for it! Today, NVIDIA launched an interactive tweet-based text adventure entitled Ultimate Quest: Journey to the Far Side of Possible by internationally renowned interactive fiction author Emily Short and featuring illustrations by Silvio Aebischer (Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, Iron Man 2). According to NVIDIA, "The challenges are surprising, the images are beautifully-crafted and this is a unique foray into a forward-thinking world of social gameplay."
Ultimate Quest takes place over the course of five days, July 18-22. Each day, a new episode will unfold and you'll have to participate every day in order to win. "New pieces of the story reveal new ways to interact with the game, including on social media, and solving a variety of unusual and perplexing problems brings the story forward." If you progress through all five days and you're the first person to beat the game on that fifth day, you'll win NVIDIA's new, unannounced product launching that very same day. A new video card? A new SHIELD? A new tablet? Whatever it is, I'm sure you'll want it, so get to work now at the official site!
"There will be a variety of social activity tagged with #UltimateQuest on Twitter, with @NVIDIAGeForce driving the conversation. If you get stuck anywhere along the way, go to @Ultimate_Qs and see what kind of tips you can dig up."
Source: Press Release
Amazon has now confirmed what has been rumored for some time, and previewed earlier this week, a subscription service is now available for the popular Kindle e-Reader. The Kindle Unlimited service will cost $9.99 per month, with a 30 day trial included, and will give users access to more than 600,000 titles including such popular titles as "The Hunger Games" and "Flash Boys." A number of large publishers including HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster are currently absent from the offerings, but Amazon is also including its selection of audiobooks with the service. Kindle Senior VP Russ Grandinetti described the service saying it is, "by far the most cost-effective way to enjoy audiobooks and e-books together."
Source: NY Times
Announced all the way back in January, with its first trailer in February, Styx: Master of Shadows finally has its own official site. But more importantly, the debut of the official site brings with it a brand new Summer Trailer, which explains a little bit of the story while showing us some more gameplay. After watching the new trailer, be sure to go back and watch the E3 Gameplay Video from last month, which shows nearly fifteen minutes of unedited gameplay.
Styx: Master of Shadows is planned for release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One this September.
Source: Press Release
Most every time you visit a website, a host of servers somewhere have to run the right operations to gather the data you need, and then send it to you. As some websites use large data centers, with the servers working for you spread out, the latency between the servers can impact performance. Currently decentralized communication protocols are used to manage communication in a data center, but researchers at MIT have recently designed a new, centralized system that can offer better performance.
Decentralized protocols enable each node in a network to send and receive information without instruction. Provided the routers transmitting the information do not get overwhelmed, this approach can work well, but in some data centers they are being overwhelmed, causing large queues to form, leading to congestion. One would not expect a solution to come from sending requests to a central arbiter server, which takes 40 microseconds, but the MIT, Fastpass system not only reduces the congestion, but does so by a very significant amount. The Fastpass system takes advantage of parallel programming to divide the work of scheduling communication across multiple cores. The first core looks at the pending requests, schedules one for a slot, and then passes to the next core all of the requests involving either the source or destination node of the schedule request.
The researchers found that by using this approach, the Fastpass system is able to handle a network transmitting at 2.2 terabits per second, with just eight cores. In experiments to be presented in August, the researchers will show that Fastpass cut the average queue length in a Facebook data center by 99.6%, and the average latency from 3.56 microseconds to 0.23 microseconds.
July 17, 2014
Amazon's Prime Instant Video service has been available for some time on various devices, including game consoles, smart televisions, tablets, and more. However, the service has not been available on any Android device since its initial offering to Prime subscribers. That is finally set to change as Russell Morris, marketing director at Amazon Instant Video, has revealed that a Prime Instant Video application is set to be released for Android soon. The upcoming release of an Android application will make Prime Instant Video available to even more users than ever, allowing it to compete better with Netflix.
While Amazon Prime Instant video is coming to Android devices soon, it is unknown if it will be available for both tablets and smartphones.
Source: PC Advisor
Tt eSPORTS has just released its latest computer peripheral, the VENTUS gaming mouse. The VENTUS laser gaming mouse is ambidextrous and is suited for users who have a palm or claw grip. Plenty of technology is provided by Tt eSPORTS as well, with the VENTUS featuring an AVAGO 5700 DPI laser sensor and OMRON switches. Seven programmable buttons, with storage of up to five profiles, provide a total of 35 programmable macros. Aesthetically, the VENTUS gaming mouse features a honeycomb design with red LEDs within the left click, mouse wheel, and the palm rest.
The Tt eSPORTS VENTUS will be globally available in August of this year, and will carry an MSRP of $39.99.
Source: Press Release
Over the past few months, you may have come across various renders and prototypes of the two iPhone 6 models Apple has in the works. Renders and prototypes are great and all, but we here at OCC prefer the real thing. We have acquired the first images of an actual 4.7-inch iPhone 6, which you can find unaltered below. Aside from the thinner profile and rounded edges, it's pretty much what you'd expect from an iPhone. For obvious reasons, I cannot divulge our source, but what I will say is that it's from a case manufacturer and thus why said source had access to one.
Source: OCC Exclusive
Cooler Master has announced a pair of new keyboards and a new mouse. The Devastator is an existing keyboard and mouse combo that is getting a red LED edition. The mouse has on-the-fly DPI adjustments and a full featured keyboard with multimedia keys. The QuickFire Rapid-i is a mechanical keyboard that is now available with Cherry MX Blue switches in addition to the current Cherry MX Brown option. The keyboard uses a 32-bit ARM processor to control ActivLife lighting effects in a tenkeyless form factor.
Source: Press Release
Phanteks has announced the latest addition to the Enthoo line of cases, the Enthoo Luxe. The case has a brushed aluminum exterior to provide an aesthetically pleasing look that is resistant to fingerprints and other blemishes. LED lighting is included on the front and top to add to the ambiance. The interior of the case includes a power supply cover to minimize the amount of visible wires. The Luxe has built-in watercooling compatibility with pump and reservoir brackets. Enthoo representative Boon Tuoh Khor said, "We tried to implement all the rich features from the Primo into a smaller case and position it in a lower price segment. Features such as being very versatile, having a spacious and clean interior and of course making it very easy to build water-cooling systems is what the Enthoo Series is all about."
Source: Press Release
According to Moore's Law, the number of transistors that can fit on a microprocessor will double roughly every two years. While it has been holding true for some time now, the technology has rapidly been approaching a barrier that could bring everything to a halt. One part of the barrier has been the photoresist used to etch circuitry onto silicon, but now a partnership between Berkeley Lab and Intel has found what could be its replacement.
To create the small and intricate circuitry in computer chips, manufacturers start with a wafer of silicon and coat it with a photoresist. Using a UV light source, an image of the circuitry is burned onto the photoresist, changing its properties where the light hits. A solvent is then used to wash away the unwanted photoresist, enabling selective deposition to build the circuitry up. The photoresist currently used was first developed to work with deep UV light, which has wavelengths between 248 and 193 nm, but manufacturers want to transition to using extreme UV, which can reach down to 13.5 nm for its wavelength. Due to the complexity of the photoresist compound, many have avoided developing a replacement as the risk could be so great.
A new photoresist is going to be needed to reach the smaller sizes chip makers want though, and some work has been done to that end. The Berkeley researchers decided to combine two promising photoresists and were surprised to find the mixture actually keeps the properties of its parts. One photoresist had great stability, but took long exposure times to achieve it, while the other was highly sensitive, but less mechanically stable. More work needs to be done to optimize the mixture, but the researchers believe it could reach manufacturing lines by 2017.
Source: Berkeley Lab
Last month, Deep Silver released a CGI short entitled "Trophy" that took a humorous look at the competitive aspect of action-RPG Sacred 3. Today, the publisher released a new CGI trailer entitled "Fighter", which once again showcases that competition thrives even during co-op.
Sacred 3 will release on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on August 1 in Europe and August 5 in the United States. Pre-ordering provides you with a fifth playable character, dark assassin Kython the Malakhim, along with the Underworld Story DLC consisting of four new missions, the Z4ngr13f Weapon Spirit, an artbook, and the soundtrack. You can also enjoy four new screenshots, attached below.
Source: Press Release
Many interesting scientific discoveries have come from unexpected sources. Last year it was discovered at MIT that when water droplets leap from a superhydrophobic material, they can gain an electrical charge. Now MIT researchers have found a way to use this phenomenon to produce useable electricity.
Superhydrophobic materials are characterized by the fact that water hates to touch them, which has made them interesting for use in condensers. Water will still condense onto the hydrophobic material, and by leaping off of it, frees up space for more water to condense. When the researchers found that these leaping droplets will be charged, they added oppositely charged plates to condensers, to improve efficiency. By making the plate superhydrophilic instead, and connecting it to the superhydrophobic plate, the MIT researchers found they had created an electrical circuit.
So far tests have only produced 15 picowatts of power per square centimeter, but the researchers believe the device could be easily tuned to 1 microwatt per square centimeter, which is comparable to other devices that harvest ambient energy. While that is not much power, the remote systems that would be powered by this technology, do not necessarily need much.
There is a nice little selection of items for today covering whether you need a new place to house your computer or some accessories for it. We have a review on the SilverStone Raven 5 case, which is the newest iteration of the popular (and unique) series that the company says has almost no wasted interior space. There is also a look at the Shuttle Barebone DS81, with support for Intel Haswell processors up to a 65W TDP for the ultimate in portable power. If all you need is a better way to control your computer, then the GAMDIAS HERMES Essential GKB2000 could be the one for you, as it offers Cherry MX switches and onboard memory to keep you going longer. For those with an audio requirement, perhaps the Creative SB Inferno gaming headset will help you get more into your games.
SilverStone Raven 5 (RV05) @ TechSpot
Shuttle Barebone DS81 @ Madshrimps
GAMDIAS HERMES Essential GKB2000 Mechanical Keyboard @ Benchmark Reviews
SB Inferno Gaming Headset @ LanOC Reviews
July 16, 2014
Although Bing has featured Bitcoin currency conversion since last February, Google has just revealed that it is now providing the same feature to its users. In an update to Google Search, users can now enter search queries that relate to Bitcoin, with results from the search engine containing relevant conversion information along with visual charts of historic prices. Google Search can even support complex queries relating to Bitcoin currency conversion. The new Bitcoin price calculator from Google is also available on mobile devices, with users able to use their voice to input valid currency conversions.
The announcement comes roughly one month after Coinbase and Google Finance partnered to launch a Bitcoin price tracker.
Amazon is working on a new service called Kindle Unlimited that will give users unlimited access to ebooks and audiobooks for $9.99 per month. The test pages were pulled down today but listed more than 600,000 titles prior to the takedown. The new service from Amazon would join a market that has limited competition where it could see a great deal of traction due to the popularity of the Kindle. The test pages didn't list any books from the big-5 book publishers, which are currently available on competitors Scribd and Oyster.
Corsair has announced the availability of the Flash Voyager GTX USB 3.0 flash drives, the fastest to date from the company. The new drive is available in capacities of 128GB and 256GB with read and write speeds up to 450MB/s and 350MB/s, respectively. The Voyager GTX has the internals of a SSD with USB Attached SCSI, S.M.A.R.T monitoring, and TRIM support. It is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and works out of the box with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. The 128GB model will retail for $119.99 and the 256GB model has an MSRP of $239.99.
Source: Press Release
The ability to controllably route information is fundamental to electronic computers, and is similarly necessary for future quantum computers. Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have recently created the world's first photonic router, capable of routing photons based on photonic signals.
The router works by switching the state of an atom caught in a trap. In one state, the atom will allow photons coming from the right to pass on, but will reflect photons coming from the left. When it reflects a photon though, its state will flip and now photons from the left will pass on while photons from the right are reflected, and trigger another switch. The photons from the right and left are coming from optical fibers, which have been coupled to ultra-high quality, miniature optical resonators.
As photons are capable of carrying quantum information and relatively protected from interactions that would destroy the information, this system could prove invaluable for quantum computers. Next the researchers want to work on other kinds of devices, such as quantum memory or logic gates, and see if they too can be made to function only with photons.
Source: Weizmann Institute of Science
For any website with video content, views are critical for not only sharing the content but generating ad revenue. Obviously the videos must be interesting, but so too must their thumbnails, to encourage people to click and watch. Neon Labs, a Carnegie Mellon University startup company has recently signed an agreement with IGN Entertainment, so the startup's thumbnail-selection software can find the best images.
Researchers from many institutions have found that our preferences can be influenced by visual perception, without our knowing. The Neon Labs software applies this knowledge to scan a video stream for the thumbnail that will encourage the most engagement. In some cases the algorithms can lead to 100% more engagement over the images humans may select. For IGN though, the clickability increased by 30%, on average, which is still impressive. It also took over the significant amount of work required to select thumbnails, making it a "huge win" for the company.
Source: Carnegie Mellon University
July 15, 2014
Google has just announced that it has recently appointed Alan Mulally, a veteran corporate executive of the automotive and aviation industries, to its Board of Directors. The specific role that Mulally will play for Google will be as a member of Google’s Audit Committee, where he looks forward to assisting Google in its mission to enhance the lives of people around the world. The Chief Executive Officer of Google, Larry Page, noted that he is pleased that Mulally is joining Google and that he will bring robust business and leadership experience to the technology giant.
Mulally has had quite a career, serving as Executive Vice President of the Boeing Company and President and Chief Executive Officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Inc. from March 2001 to September 2006, as well as being the President and Chief Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company from September 2006 to June 2014. It will certainly be interesting to see what he can do for Google as the company continues to advance as a global technology leader.
Source: News from Google