Amazon has announced a pair of new cloud storage options targeted at different levels of storage needs. For $11.99 per year users will be able to store unlimited photos and 5GB of other data. A $59.99 per year option will provide unlimited storage of any files in the Cloud Drive. A three month trial is included in both plans to help evaluate its usefulness. Director of the Amazon Cloud Drive Josh Petersen described the move stating, "With the two new plans we are introducing today, customers don’t need to worry about storage space—they now have an affordable, secure solution to store unlimited amounts of photos, videos, movies, music, and files in one convenient place."
Chances are you have created a password somewhere on the Internet, and there is even a good chance that you were presented with a strength meter of some kind. These are a fairly common tool for encouraging users to create strong passwords by indicating how strong one may be, but just how strong are the meters? Not very, according to researchers at Concordia University, who tested meters for multiple systems, including Google, Yahoo!, Dropbox, Twitter, and Skype, as well as some password managers.
What the researchers found is significant inconsistencies across these services as some would declare a password strong while another would say it is weak. They also found inconsistencies with what was acceptable, as one service may demand multiple character sets be used (letters, numbers, and symbols) while others would be okay just letters. The researchers point out that such weaknesses and inconsistencies can confuse users and make it harder for them to develop actual, stronger passwords. One suggestion the researchers have is to use something at least similar to Dropbox's strength meter, which actually compares passwords against a dictionary and marks any commonly found word as weak, thereby prompting users to be a bit more creative.
The researchers did contact the various companies they tested about their study, but even a year later, significant changes have not been made. Still though, perhaps with this study it may be possible to develop better strength meters for the future.
Everyone loves to win prizes, regardless of the type of item up for grabs. Today we have an extremely nice item to win, as our sister site Neoseeker is giving away an ECS LIVA X Mini PC! The LIVA X Mini PC (read the OCC review here) is a snazzy little device that packs an Intel Bay Trail-M SoC, either 2GB or 4GB of DDR3L RAM, 32GB or 64GB of storage, Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI out, VGA out, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, Realtek HD Audio, and is small enough to mount behind a monitor or TV thanks to the VESA mounts. All of this is in something around the size of modern smartphones, which is quite impressive. The LIVA X can run Windows 7, 8.1, and even Linux, so all your OS needs should be met.
The contest runs from now until April 11 and does require Facebook, and is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. All you have to do is navigate over to the Neoseeker Facebook post, leave a comment explaining why you should win the LIVA X, and tag both Neoseeker and ECS USA in the comment. It is as simple as that!
There are just a couple of items to get to on this Thursday, but both should be of interest. We have a review on the OCZ Vector 180 SSD, with all three capacities getting put to the test. Whether you are thinking of getting the 240, 480, or 960GB model, all three are included in the review to see what kind of performance difference, if any, is there. The other item for the day is a preview of the new DirectX 12 test featured in the new 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test. This feature test is merely a preview of the next version of 3DMark that will likely debut alongside Windows 10, and allows for testing of DirectX 11, 12, and Mantle.
Since the release of the Mantle API, there has been growing interest in its 'close to the metal' design, and later this year we will see DirectX 12 release with a similar design. Part of what this design will achieve is reduced API overhead, which then allows for more drawcalls, which can bottleneck CPUs. To see just how great the impact this overhead can have, Futuremark has released the 3DMark API Overhead feature test for 3DMark. It is the first public application to use DirectX 12.
This new test works by making increasingly more drawcalls until the framerate drops below 30 FPS. As this test is specifically designed for testing API overhead, it should not be used to compare hardware. Also its graphics are relatively simple, using simple shaders and no lighting effects, to minimize GPU load.
It tests DirectX 11, Mantle, and the upcoming DirectX 12. It also requires using a 1.8 GHz dual-core processor, 4 GB of memory, 1 GB of video memory, and naturally the appropriate OS and a GPU capable of running the API.
EVGA has just unveiled the GeForce GTX 980 HYBRID, an all-in-one water cooling solution for the immensely popular NVIDIA GTX 980 graphics card. The EVGA GeForce GTX 980 HYBRID includes a copper base for maximum heat transfer, a built-in 120mm radiator and fan, a separate VRM and memory cooling solution, an intelligent wiring system, and sleeved tubing. One of the best aspects of the GeForce GTX 980 HYBRID is that the water cooling solution that makes up the product does not require any filling, custom tubing, or maintenance, making it a hassle-free product that can be enjoyed for years.
The latest product from EVGA will be available in the near future as a complete unit, featuring a GTX 980 and the water cooling solution, and as an upgrade kit, allowing current GTX 980 owners to improve their current cooling solution.
Slow motion cameras are able to capture quick occurring events that are normally not viewable by the naked eye, allowing viewers to actually see what occurs at high speeds. Gav and Dan over at The Slow Mo Guys have successfully utilized a slow motion camera to record how a CD breaks apart when spinning at 23,000RPM. Before the CD shatters into pieces, the CD actually warps due to the high rotation speed, which can be seen in the video below.
Back in January, Microsoft announced Windows 10 would have a new browser, codenamed Project Spartan, in addition to Internet Explorer. The new browser would be the standard browser, but IE would use the same rendering engine as Project Spartan and mostly survive for compatibility reasons. However, in the two months since something must have changed, as now Internet Explorer can be considered a legacy engine when Windows 10 arrives. Project Spartan will be the sole benefactor of the new rendering engine, with the Internet Explorer of Windows 10 basically going to be the exact same as we have in Windows 8.1. It makes sense, since a new browser and a new rendering engine shows just how committed Microsoft is to removing the stigma of Internet Explorer.
The exact role of the legacy browser is not known, such as it appearing in all versions of Windows 10 (possibly under the Accessories folder) or just the ones aimed at businesses. Whatever the case may be, Internet Explorer is soon to be no more. Microsoft is still looking for a proper name for Project Spartan, which should hopefully be known before long.
Google is reportedly working on a new service "that will allow Gmail users to more easily receive bills in their email inbox instead of their mailbox," and it "also is designed to let people pay their bills within Gmail, rather than having to go to a telecom or utility company’s website to complete a payment." The service is currently known as Pony Express and is expected to be made available in the fourth quarter of this year. Documents reviewed by Recode indicate that Google is likely "partnering with third-party vendors that print and mail out bills on behalf of service providers such as insurance companies, telecom companies and utilities." Users will be required to provide personal information such as mailing address and Social Security Number to verify their identity before enrolling in the service. After verification, users will be able to pay their bills directly from their inbox using linked credit/debit cards or bank accounts.
As part of the weekly GRID Tuesday event, NVIDIA has added The Vanishing of Ethan Carter to its online game service. The GRID library now stands at 43 games that can be played for free on SHIELD devices. Players are tasked with finding Ethan Carter, "a young boy with supernatural talents." In order to accomplish this task players step into the shoes of Paul Prospero, "a savvy detective with paranormal abilities that enable him to sense where important objects, or clues, are hidden and then recreate the timeline to someone’s murder, or abduction." Gamers will be able to use these powers in different ways to complete their task while finding some "dark secrets, and surprises" along the way.
For many organizations, security is of the utmost importance, so they employ tactics such as keeping Internet connected computers separated from those on an internal network. This is called air-gap security, as you keep an air-gap between the two machines. This strategy may not be as secure as some think though, as researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have developed a piece of malware to cross the gap.
A fact of modern life is that our electronics emit heat as they work, and because too much heat can cause damage, our computers contain sensors. The malware the researchers developed is able to encode digital information into thermal signals that can be detected by a nearby computer's sensors. They call it BitWhisper and it was able to form a bi-directional channel between two computers about 40 cm or 15 inches apart.
As you may have guessed, the system is not necessarily all that fast, but a rate of just eight signals an hour is enough to acquire passwords and secret keys. It is even possible to issue commands using BitWhisper, and no additional hardware or software is required.
We have arrived at the middle of the week, with some items along for the ride. There is a review of the ASUS X99-A motherboard, the company's entry-level offering for the Intel X99 line. We also have the Mushkin Chronos 480GB SSD, which is not the highest of the high-end and may offer good value for the speed and capacity. Moving on towards some power, there is a look at the EVGA SuperNOVA 550GS And 650GS power supplies, both of which are 80 Plus Gold and built by SeaSonic. Finishing off for the day is the new Dell XPS 13 laptop, featuring an Intel Broadwell-U processor and maybe the best combination of features in an Ultrabook.
Quantum dots are an interesting technology that could one day find various uses in our devices and be used in solar cells. Before that can happen though, we must find efficient ways to produce them with various properties. Researchers at Rice University have apparently achieved that for graphene oxide dots made from coal.
Quantum dots are semiconducting nanocrystals sometimes called artificial atoms or molecules. This is because they can have some of their properties very precisely tuned, including their optical and semiconducting properties. While large materials will react only with certain frequencies of light, depending on their electronic structure, quantum dots can have that structure tuned to work with any desired frequency. Producing them is so hard though that a kilogram would cost about $1 million. What the Rice researchers have found though brings that down to $100 a ton with two, single-step methods. One of them relies on ultrafiltration to sort the dots by size, a method already used for water filtration, and the other controls the temperature the oxidation process reducing the coal to dots occurs at. The temperature directly influences the size of the dots, which in turn controls the frequencies the dots interact with.
The graphene quantum dots the researchers were working with are photoluminescent, so they emit one color light when light shines on them, and those made from anthracite produced colors from green to orange-red. To produce blue light, the researchers found it easiest to work with bituminous coal. Besides their optical properties and applications, quantum dots could see use in chemical reactions, thanks to their reactive edges.
EVGA has officially announced the SuperNOVA GS Series power supply units, which provide consumers with the award-winning features of the new EVGA GS lineup at an extremely affordable price. The SuperNOVA GS Series PSUs are available in 550W and 650W versions and feature 80PLUS Gold certification, making them highly efficient. Both units from EVGA feature an LLC resonant circuit design, a high quality Teflon Nano-steel bearing fan, high-quality Japanese capacitors, and a single +12V rail that offers excellent power output, rail stability, and compatibility with the latest hardware. The EVGA SuperNOVA 650 GS and 550 GS power supplies, which are backed by a five-year warranty, also feature a fully modular design and are certified as NVIDIA SLI Ready.
Thanks to the recently released Catalyst 15.3 beta drivers, DeviceID information is now available for some of the next generation AMD GPUs that are set to hit the market in the somewhat near future. Unfortunately, most of them will be rebrands according to data that is currently available. Sources that compared information within the latest beta drivers with older AMD products found that DeviceIDs for the majority of the Radeon Rx 300 series match already released products. Some of the rebrands include the Radeon R9 370, which is based on Pitcairn; the Radeon R9 360, which is based on Bonaire; and the Radeon R5 310, which is based on Caicos. Mobility graphics cards that fall within the Radeon M300 series will also be based heavily on previously released products.
Amazon is planning to roll out software updates for the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices in the next few weeks. The key updates will give users access to expandable USB storage on the Fire TV and the ability to connect to Wi-Fi networks that require web authentication such as those found in hotels and universities. Amazon has also added support for wireless Bluetooth headphones as well as "new shortcuts, letting you quickly put your device to sleep or enable display mirroring by pressing and holding the Home button on your remote." VP of Amazon devices Peter Larsen described the move stating, "Customer response to Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick has been overwhelming — we've been working hard to build more of both as quickly as possible, and we're excited to be adding new features we think customers will love."
COUGAR has announced its latest gaming peripheral, the 300M mouse, targeted at the "mainstream pro-level gamer." Powered by an ADNS-3090 optical sensor, it is able to achieve 4000 DPI at a 1000Hz polling rate. It has seven programmable buttons with the capability to store three configurations with its on-board memory. COUGAR has included an app called UIX that allows users to view and edit their configurations in a simple to use interface. The 300M will be available next month at an MSRP of $39.99.
Since its discovery, graphene has been of great interest with its many amazing properties. One issue surrounding the material though has been the challenge to produce it. By a combination of accidental discoveries, researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found a new way to produce graphene that involves one step, and works at room temperature.
The story for the Caltech researchers starts in 2012 when they were trying to grow graphene in a way described in a paper. This method involved heating copper to act as a catalyst, but it was not until the copper was accidentally heated the copper foil for longer than intended that any graphene was made. Then it was realized that the method requires the surface of the copper must be free of copper oxide for it to work. To clean the oxide from the copper, the researchers turned to using hydrogen plasma where another accident led to graphene production. Graphene is a form of carbon, and the source of the carbon in the original method was methane. When working with the hydrogen plasma, methane was leaking from two valves into the area, allowing graphene to grow.
More conventional means of producing graphene involve temperatures as high as 1000 ºC and multiple steps, but this method works at room temperature and is a single step, which should allow it to scale up for large-scale applications. An analysis of the graphene also revealed it to be of very high quality because it does not suffer from heat-induced defects and the graphene grows in lines that form seamless sheets.
Yesterday, BioWare teased a new single player DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition, but did not really elaborate on what we can expect in the Jaws of Hakkon. It promised a trailer, and today we have it to see just what to expect from the DLC. The Jaws of Hakkon sees the Inquisitor and their allies in search of a dragon, the one the last Inquisitor faced 800 years ago. Unfortunately, an Avvar tribe calling itself the Jaws of Hakkon are in the area, and they do not look particularly friendly. The Avvar are trying to bring their god back to life, and it seems that god is Hakkon himself: a dragon. The Inquisitor must find out what fate met the last Inquisitor and face off against a dragon. Along the way there's an ancient Tevinter fortress to explore, legendary weapons and armor to find, and maybe gain the admiration and respect of the Avvar tribe.
Dragon Age: Inqusition - Jaws of Hakkon is available now on PC and Xbox One for $14.99. EA Access members get 10% off on Xbox One. PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 will receive it later, although no exact date was given.
The start of a new day is here, with new items for you to check out. A trio of SilverStone products is on the docket for today, starting with the Precision Series PS11 case. It is a mid-tower case for the entry-level enthusiast, so be sure to see if it delivers. We also have the SilverStone Kublai KL05B case, another mid-tower case, but one that may offer more options for the system builder, especially since it can accommodate a video card p to 16" in length. The final SilverStone model for today is the Tundra TD03-E all-in-one liquid cooler, which has two PWM fans paired with its radiator to help keep your CPU from overheating. Finishing off for the day is a look at the new Battlefield Hardline game to see what kind of a system you'll need to enjoy it at its fullest.
As we have developed the instruments to search for planets in other solar systems, we have noticed that there are very few planets like our own. Many are actually what we call super-Earths, which are bigger than Earth but smaller than the gas giant Neptune. Researchers at Caltech have a possible explanation for why our planet is as small as it is, and solves other mysteries too.
Our current understanding of how solar systems form describes a large disc around the star, filled with hydrogen, helium, and objects called planetesimals, which can collect together to form planets. According to the Grand Track scenario, Jupiter formed and was so massive it cleared out part of the disc, and was then being pulled into the Sun, along with the dust and gas in the disc. Saturn then formed and got pulled in towards the Sun as well, but at a faster rate, so it eventually caught up to Jupiter. At this point the two giant planets would achieve orbital resonance and that led to their orbits moving away from the Sun, but not before having disturbed the inner part of the disc. If the Solar System formed like others, and had super-Earths orbiting near the Sun, that disruption could have sent enough of those planetesimals into the super-Earths to cause them to crash into the Sun, destroying them. At this point, much of the gas and dust would have been removed from the inner disc, but if even just a tenth of the planetesimals had achieved circular orbits, there would have been enough mass for the inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars to form.
Along with explaining why there are no super-Earths here, like we see in other systems, this model also explains why measurements indicate Earth formed 100-200 million years after the Sun had and why there is so little hydrogen in our atmosphere. The hydrogen-filled disc was already gone by the time the second generation of planet formation began in the inner ring.
Logitech has officially unveiled the MX Master wireless mouse, which successfully encompasses the best of Logitech's industry-leading mouse innovations into an atheistically pleasing and amazingly comfortable design that is hand-crafted for control and speed. The latest Logitech mouse features the company’s Dark?eld Laser that offers superior tracking on virtually any surface, even on glass and high-gloss surfaces, as well as a rechargeable battery that not only lasts up to 40 days depending on usage, but can be recharged while the mouse is being actively used. The MX Master also offers a speed-adaptive scroll wheel that lets users auto-shift from click-to-click to hyper-fast scrolling, a unique thumbwheel for side-to-side scrolling and page switching, and support for pairing the mouse with up to three devices, allowing users to work on a desktop, laptop, or tablet.
The Logitech MX Master wireless mouse features an MSRP of $99.99 and is expected to be available to purchase sometime next month.
AIDA64, a popular PC diagnostic utility that provides detailed information about the hardware and software of individual or networked computers, has just been updated by developer FinalWire to version 5.20. This latest version provides numerous improvements, specifically when it comes to additional support for recently released hardware. Some of the improvements include 64-bit benchmarks optimized for AMD Carrizo APUs, AVX2 and FMA accelerated 64-bit benchmarks for Intel Broadwell CPUs, preliminary support for the AMD Nolan APU, support for the sensors of Thermaltake DPS-G power supplies, and support for the sensors of the AquaStream XT, MPS, PowerAdjust 2, and PowerAdjust 3 water-cooling parts. Version 5.20 of AIDA64 also includes GPU details for the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 and GeForce GTX TITAN X, CUDA 7.0 and OpenCL 2.1 support, SensorPanel and external LCD improvements, support for Odospace LCDs, 0.01 Celsius temperature measurement for select sensor items, and Corsair Neutron XT, Crucial BX100, Crucial MX200, and SanDisk Ultra II SSD support.
PowerColor has just announced the opening of its VIP Club"for serving more exclusive contents, contests, the latest updates, and free games to the PowerColor product’s owners and enthusiasts." As part of the opening, PowerColor is holding a giveaway for members of the club, no purchase necessary. The contest runs until April 23 with winners announced on April 27. Prizes include a Devil 13 Dual Core R9 290X for the Grand Prize, two TurboDuo R9 290 cards, a TurboDuo R9 280X card, Xbox gift cards, Patriot flash and solid state drives, a Patriot rechargeable battery, and two sets of Patriot Viper 3 memory.
Kingston has announced a new solid state drive under its HyperX brand. The Predator PCIe SSD "is the highest-end SSD with the fastest speeds in the HyperX lineup." The Predator takes advantage of the extremely high speeds of the PCIe 2.0 x4 interface to provide speeds that far exceed the capabilities of SATA based drives. A Marvell 88SS9293 controller provides read and write speeds up to 1400MB/s and 1000MB/s, respectively, in capacities of 240GB and 480GB. The Predator uses the M.2 form factor with a half-height, half-length adapter for motherboards that don't have the necessary socket.
Electronics have been serving us well for decades, but we are approaching its limits, unless we develop ways to push the envelope further. One possibility is to use light for transmitting data within computer chips, but this poses a challenge of how to effective control the light on such a small scale. Researchers at the Universities of Central Florida and Texas El Paso have found a solution using nanoscale lattices.
Light likes to travel in a straight line and while a fiber optic cable can make it turn without loss, these turns must be gradual. If the turn is too tight, the light will escape the cable. The lattice the researchers built though, which resembles a honeycomb, is able to turn light without any lose. The researchers made it out of plastic using direct laser writing, which is a nanoscale 3D printing technique.
While this research does represent a record for bending light beams, the researchers are now working to refine the lattice and double the record. As the researchers point out, chances are this technology will enter supercomputers before our favorite devices.
Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare's latest epic RPG, took players on a journey to save the world of Thedas from an ancient threat, and soon players will get to return to Thedas. A new DLC for DA:I is being teased, with the first official trailer set to arrive tomorrow. Titled Jaws of Hakkon, it is a single player DLC that will arrive first for the PC and Xbox One, with PlayStation 4 getting it later. Aside from it being a single player DLC, precious little is known at this time. It may continue the events after the ending of Inquisition, but it may also be set sometime during the campaign. The title, specifically the Hakkon part, may refer to a tribe of Avvar, since Hakkon Wintersbreath is one of the Avvar gods. We could be exploring some of the lesser known aspects of Thedas and the Avvar tribes, especially since one quest of DA:I does deal with Avvar.
Whatever the true nature is of the Jaws of Hakkon, be sure to check back tomorrow to see the trailer and learn when we can get our hands on this Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC (hopefully tomorrow, too).
Corsair has introduced a new addition to its memory lineup, and it is one that features a blazing speed. The Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 3400MHz 16GB (4x4GB) memory kits are performance-tuned to run at that speed and beyond on the new Gigabyte X99-SOC Champion motherboard. That motherboard was used to run this memory kit at 4365.6MHz under liquid nitrogen back on Friday, but you don't need LN2 for your day-to-day use. The Dominator Platinum RAM features an orange anodized heat spreader to match the color scheme on the Gigabyte board, and use DHX technology to run cooler, longer. The RAM can also be customized with "light pipes" for unique downwash lighting and works with Corsair Link for real-time temperature monitoring. Each Dominator Platinum DDR4 3400MHz kit features hand-picked ICs and tuned timing parameters to get the most possible performance out of them and the motherboard.
The Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 3400MHz 16GB memory kits are available now from Corsair's website for $999.99. Each one comes with a lifetime warranty.
A new week is here, which means plenty of items for you to look over. There is a review of the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980 AMP Omega Edition video card, with its custom cooler and factory overclock. A pair of Intel X99 motherboards get tested, with the Gigabyte X99-SOC Champion and ASUS X99 Deluxe both on the review bench. The SilverStone Fortress FT05 case combines the Raven and Fortress lines into one stylish model, but the review will tell if it's a winner. Plenty more gets reviewed and tested for today, with SSDs from Mushkin and Patriot, and even a 4TB hard drive from Toshiba. There's also a Kingston flash drive and a new smartphone from HTC, so be sure to hit up these and more below.
Securing communications is of great importance to many, so a system that is protected from intrusion by the laws of physics is highly desirable. Quantum cryptography is such a system and many are working on various ways to improve the methods of using it. Researchers at the University of Rochester have recently found that using twisted light can improve security even more.
So-called twisted light uses orbital angular momentum (OAM) to encode information, instead of polarization, a more common option. The researchers were able to show that by using OAM and angular position they could encode a seven dimensional, or letter alphabet with the photons. This alphabet is important for quantum key distribution (QKD), which is the start of quantum cryptography. To use QKD the users will encode the key with this alphabet onto the photons. Only if both the sender and receiver are measuring along the same dimension will they get the same key, and by comparing what was original sent and received, both parties can determine the key without publicly transmitting what it is. An eavesdropper would disrupt the transmission in a detectable way, thereby allowing the users to avoid interception.
Thus far the researchers have demonstrated their system working at 4 kHz with 93% accuracy, so the researchers still have some work to do before reaching the long term goal of a GHz rate. Besides the quantum cryptography applications, this new system also allows for each photon to carry 2.05 bits of information, but with more sophisticated equipment, the photons could hold 4.17 bits, and allow for an even more secure 25 letter alphabet.