OCC TECH NEWS
January 28, 2015
Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon that many are interested in putting to work in our computers and networks, but doing so is easier said than done. One of the sources of difficulty is lack of a means to create entangled particles on a computer chip. That may soon be changing though, thanks to a paper recently published in The Optical Society's Optica journal.
To create entangled pairs of photons, the photons must have the ability to interact with each other, and normally that requires special photonic crystals. High powered lasers may also be necessary to feed photons into the crystals. Neither of these requirements are ideal when trying to bring entanglement into computers. The best solution would be something you could build directly onto silicon chips, and that is what the paper describes. The researchers made their discovery by starting with ring resonators, a structure already built on chips for telecommunications that are used to hold and emit photons. The researchers found a way to couple a laser beam with the resonator and create a system perfect for photons to become entangled.
The ring resonators come in at just about 20 micrometers, which is much smaller than the millimeter-scale entangled photon emitters, and require far less power to operate. An entangled photon emitter that can be built into silicon chips could help bring about quantum networks and quantum computers cheaply and efficiently.
Source: The Optical Society
Facebook has officially released a stripped down version of its mobile application for Android devices. Known as Facebook Lite, the new version is compatible with devices running Android 2.2 and up and focuses on delivering Facebook connectivity without crippling battery life, network data usage, or local device storage. The application is incredibly small, as it requires less than 1MB to install, and is even engineered to work on 2G mobile networks that feature limited network connectivity. Despite its incredibly small footprint when compared to the regular Facebook mobile application, Facebook Lite successfully allows users to post status updates with photos, comment on people’s posts, message friends, partake in group conversations, and receive notifications.
Facebook Lite is currently only available in parts of Africa and Asia and can be installed via the Google Play Store. The application is likely related to the Internet.org project undertaken by Facebook and other technology companies, which aims to provide free access to Facebook and other basic Internet services in developing countries.
January 27, 2015
Recently some concerns have appeared over the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 and its 4GB of memory, namely that it wasn't using all of it. If a game needed to use all 4GB of memory, some people were not seeing the level of performance expected with the GTX 970. According to the specifications released when the GTX 970 launched, it has the same number of ROPs and L2 cache as the GTX 980. Unfortunately, that was never the case, as NVIDIA has now stated the GTX 970 has one fewer ROP and thus one fewer L2 cache to access. So the GTX 970 actually has seven ROPs and 1.75MB of L2 cache to play with, but still the same 1664 CUDA cores and 104 texture units.
So, NVIDIA has now established the ROPs and L2 cache is a little less than initially thought, and attributes that to a snafu between the engineering and PR teams. But what does that mean for the performance and total memory space? Well the GTX 970 may only have seven ROPs, but that 32-bit memory controller segment remains. In a way to counter that, NVIDIA made 3.5GB of memory available to seven memory controllers and their L2 cache, with 0.5GB to that final memory controller without its L2 cache. Many games would only need to access 3.5GB of memory, so there would not be an issue. However, if all 4GB needs to be accessed, then that final 0.5GB segment works at 1/7th the speed of the rest (yet still four times faster than system memory and PCI Express bus can handle). It may sound alarming, but that is only a 4-6% drop in real-world performance, according to NVIDIA's tests. The 224GB/s memory bandwidth, however, is no longer entirely accurate, as it is only met when all 4GB is used and not when it's just the 3.5GB section.
The miscommunication at launch between engineering, PR, and reviewers did result in places labeling the GTX 970 with an incorrect ROP/L2 count is unfortunate, and yes it did take four months for clarification from NVIDIA. However, the GTX 970 still can't technically be called a 3.5GB card, because it does actually have 4GB on it. Just maybe it should be broken down to 3.5GB with a 0.5GB cache. There are still eight memory controllers after all, and the GTX 970 runs on a 256-bit bus. If NVIDIA was still on Kepler and not Maxwell, we'd have a card with a 192-bit bus and only 3GB of memory. As it is, we get a card that didn't need to be hampered in that way, just one that wasn't entirely accurate in what it could do.
All in all, what we have with the GTX 970 is exactly what we should have. When games are accessing 3.5GB of memory or less, the performance is precisely how it should be in any review you can find on OCC or its affiliates. When all 4GB needs to be accessed, there is a small drop in performance, but it should not cause you or anyone else to abandon their GTX 970s for a 980 or equivalent card. NVIDIA made a mistake, has addressed the issue, and is making the consumer aware of what exactly they are getting. Should it have happened sooner? Yes, but we still have an incredibly powerful card that does exactly what it was always meant to. Just not always with accurate specifications. What that means to consumers on the whole remains to be seen, but I imagine any potential backlash (if any) won't be severe.
Source: PC Perspective
YouTube has finally completed a transition that it first announced was happening four years ago, the transition from Flash to HTML5 as the primary method of displaying videos. YouTube worked with the web community to overcome a number of issues that were impeding the transition. Adaptive bitrate streaming was implemented using MediaSource Extensions that have allowed for reduced buffering up to 80%. The acquisition of On2 Technologies gave YouTube access to the VP9 codec which "reduces YouTube's (massive) bandwidth by 35 percent on average," and loads videos up to 80% faster. Encrypted Media Extensions add support for DRM where necessary.
Source: Ars Technica
Off-road racing game MX vs ATV Reflex is the latest game to be added to the NVIDIA GRID Gaming Service as part of GRID Tuesday, bringing the total number of games available through the service to 35. Gamers with a compatible SHIELD device will be able to take their favorite two and four wheeled vehicles for a spin until June 30, 2015. The game features a total of 17 tracks and advanced game physics that allow for "Real-time Terrain Deformation so the vehicles literally carve into the earth creating ruts, berms, braking bumps and acceleration bumps, just as they actually do in real life. These ever-changing ruts, berms and bumps are dynamic and force a new racing line every lap."
Source: Press Release
Kevlar is a well-known polymer that has long been used in bulletproof fabrics, and thanks to researchers at the University of Michigan it may soon be protecting batteries. In this case though, it will not be protecting against bullets but electrical shorts.
As part of the normal operation of batteries, ions flow from one electrode to the other, which is fine unless the ions start building structures known as dendrites. These structures look like fern planets, grow off of one electrode, and if they reach the other, will cause a short, damaging the battery and potentially starting a fire. To prevent the dendrites from forming, a membrane is wrapped around the electrodes, but most membranes have a pore size a few hundred nanometers in size, while dendrite tips can be 20 nm to 50 nm. What the Michigan researchers have found though is that Kevlar fibers can be layered on top of each other to form a membrane with pores just 15nm to 20 nm wide; small enough to block the dendrites.
Along with being good for blocking dendrites, the Kevlar sheets are also very thin, which could allow batteries to be made smaller. The researchers have founded a company, Elegus Technologies, to bring this work to market, and they expect mass production to begin in the final quarter of 2016.
Source: University of Michigan
A new day is here, with plenty of items to help you out if the weather isn't that great. There is a look at the Thermaltake Core V21 case, with its microATX styling and ability to rearrange the motherboard orientation. We also have the Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler, the new big daddy in the company's product line to keep your system from overheating. If you want an option that is a little smaller, then perhaps the be quiet! Pure Rock CPU cooler is the one for you. The Sugercube Bluetooth speaker from Antec Mobile Products gets reviewed to see how well it will suit your phone. A rather interesting smart home kit from littleBits gets tested to see if it can bring the Internet of Things to your "dumb" gadgets. Lastly an article covering a recent memory issue with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 explains exactly what the deal is.
Thermaltake Core V21 @ Benchmark Reviews
Noctua NH-D15 @ Madshrimps
be quiet! Pure Rock @ Frostytech
Antec Mobile Products Sugarcube Bluetooth Speaker @ ThinkComputers
Internet of Things for DIY folks: littleBits Smart Home Kit @ TechSpot
NVIDIA Discloses Full Memory Structure and Limitations of GTX 970 @ PC Perspective
Chances are that if you have a flat screen display of some kind, indium tin oxide (ITO) is part of it. That is because ITO is highly conductive and transparent, but it is also expensive so many have been search for alternatives. One contender is silver nanowires, but its mechanical properties must be better known first. To that end though, researchers at Northwestern University have made an interesting discovery.
Along with being conductive and transparent, silver nanowires embedded in a polymer would likely also be flexible. Just because they are flexible though, does not mean they will not be fatigued by stress and eventually fail. To test the material the researchers used cyclic loading, which changes the stress on the material, and observed any changes using an electron microscope. What the researchers found is that some of the permanent deformation to the nanowires actually recovered, meaning it has some self-healing capability.
This finding is critically important for determining if and how silver nanowires may be used in the future. The next step is to see how well the nanowires survive being flexed millions of times, and how the self-healing behaves under those circumstances.
Source: Northwestern University
According to Italo Vignoli, a spokesman at the Document Foundation, a full-featured version of the free office suite LibreOffice is coming to Android. The announcement comes just one week after the release of LibreOffice Viewer for Android, which allows mobile users to view Microsoft Office, Google Docs, and Open Document Format files on their smartphones and tablets. LibreOffice for Android is already under development and beta versions are expected to be released in the coming months, with the first beta hopefully being launched by March. The Document Foundation is hoping that massive amounts of feedback will be provided by users of early builds of LibreOffice for Android, in order to improve the overall quality of the software.
Despite the ongoing development of LibreOffice for Android, it is unknown at this time when the office suite will become generally available and launch as a stable version.
AT&T has officially laid out an agreement to acquire Nextel Mexico from its parent company Nill Holdings, which is located in Reston, Virginia, for $1.9 billion. The deal will provide AT&T with 3 million customers, spectrum licenses, network facilities, and retail stores from Nill Holdings, who filed for bankruptcy in the United States last September. According to AT&T, the acquisition of Nextel Mexico will allow the company to offer more competitive services and faster mobile broadband speeds to customers throughout Mexico. The deal will also allow the telecommunication services leader to combine Nextel Mexico with Iusacell, another Mexican mobile provider that was acquired in November by AT&T for $2.5 billion.
As long as the acquisition is approved by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and regulatory approvals in Mexico, Nextel Mexico will fall under AT&T around the middle of this year.
While it has been known for some time that Battlefield Hardline will focus more on being a cops-and-robbers title, it has been unknown what game modes and maps Electronic Arts will include with the game. The company has just officially confirmed both, with Battlefield Hardline being just months away from its March 17, 2015 release. The game modes that players will be able to enjoy include Conquest, Team Deathmatch, Heist, Blood Money, Rescue, Crosshair, and Hotwire. While some of these game modes are true Battlefield staples, others are more geared towards the new theme that Battlefield Hardline represents. For example, Rescue simulates a hostage situation and Hotwire focuses on players stealing cars while cops attempt to capture them. Maps for the game include Downtown, Bank Job, The Block, Dust Bowl, Hollywood Heights, Derailed, Riptide, Everglades, and Growhouse.
January 26, 2015
Gearbox held a Borderlands panel at the PAX South event over the weekend and announced the next DLC for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, The Lady Hammerlock Pack, which will be available on Tuesday. Players will gain access to Aurelia, sister to Sir Hammerlock, and her own skill tree. A future DLC was also announced that will put players into the mind of Claptrap, the robot that has appeared in all Borderlands games. CEO Randy Pitchford also took to Twitter to announce that the company wants to "meet great artists, designers, coders, producers and other developers to help with next Borderlands!" Pitchford clarified the upcoming game at the panel stating, "The fact is, we're not working on a new Borderlands game, but we want to... There's literally nothing to tell, but we're ready to start."
Source: Polygon and Computer and Video Games
HighPoint has announced its latest adapter to take advantage of the high speed Thunderbolt 2 interface, the RocketStor 6324U. It provides a four port USB 3.0 hub that provides an independent 5 Gb/s USB 3.0 controller for each port. The 6324U is capable of vastly expanding the capabilities of any system and allows users to "add PCIe expansion capability, multi-bay drive docks, I/O adapters and Hardware RAID storage to any Thunderbolt™ capable platform." An included 90W external power supply also provides the ability to simultaneously charge four USB devices. The RocketStor 6324U will be available this month at an MSRP of $349.
Source: Press Release
According to Adrian Ludwig, the Chief of Security for Android at Google, the company has no plans to patch a WebView vulnerability that affects the default Web browser found in Android 4.3 and older. According to Ludwig, the number of devices running affected Android versions are shrinking every day as users upgrade or get new devices. Unfortunately, about 60 percent of all Android users are still utilizing Android 4.3 and older, according to Android usage numbers provided by Google, meaning that over half of all Android users remain vulnerable.
With Google leaving the WebView issue unpatched, Ludwig has recommended that Android users begin to utilize browsers that are unaffected by the vulnerability and that are updated from the Google Play Store, such as Google Chrome and Firefox. Despite the change in browsers, an application may still make use of the WebView API, and as a result, can still pose a risk to smartphones running Android 4.3 and older.
Just about anything that can be done, can be done multiple ways, which begs the question of what the best way is. Depending on what is being done, the answer may be very difficult to find. Thanks to researchers at MIT, we now have a much better understanding of one way to find the answer.
To start optimizing a problem, a cost function describing it must be generated. Depending on the function's complexity though, finding the minimum can be very difficult, so a common practice is to work with a similar but simpler function. Once that function is solved for, some complexity is added back and the previous solution used to find the new one. While this method works, it has not been theoretically described and knowing what simpler function to start with is difficult. What the MIT researchers have done is developed an algorithm that finds the simpler function. It works by making a convex approximation of the original function using Gaussian smoothing. This smoothing creates a new function where each value is actually the weighted average of values from the original cost function, and the weighting follows a normal curve. By shrinking the normal curve, the smooth function approaches the original function until it exactly matches.
This approach removes the guesswork that would otherwise be involved, making the optimization process more straightforward.
It was reported last November that Walmart was expected to sell their own streaming stick, known as Vudu Spark. According to the retail giant, the Vudu Spark is now available to purchase at select Walmart locations and through the company website for $24.95. The device connects to a television via HDMI, comes with a dedicated remote, and is powered via USB, though no power brick is included with the device. The Vudu Stick also supports 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, video resolutions up to 1080p, and 7.1 surround sound. Unfortunately, the device only supports Vudu and does not allow other applications or services to be installed, according to the included user manual.
Although the Vudu Spark is certainly catered towards individuals who religiously utilize Vudu, Walmart is hoping that the device will sell well with its aggressive pricing as well as the $25 Vudu credit that customers of the device are eligible to receive.
Ubisoft has banned gamers from being able to play several video game titles, such as Assassin’s Creed Unity and Far Cry 4, due to issues surrounding legitimate license keys purchased from third-party platforms. The keys were purchased by a wealth of gamers from platforms such as G2A.com and Kinguin, which purchase keys in regions where they are somewhat inexpensive and sell them in locations where the keys are worth more. Although the keys are genuine, gamers are receiving an error that notifies them at the key or activate code has been banned when attempting to activate their game.
Ubisoft has yet to respond directly to gamers, who have taken their complaints to the official Ubisoft forums, but did manage to publically tweet that affected customers should contact the seller of the key for a solution.
The final week of January is upon us, with a couple of items to kick it off. We have a review of the Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666 16GB memory kit, which offers blazing speeds for anyone using a DDR4-ready platform. It also has an all-black color scheme, from the PCB to the heatspreaders, to fit easily into any system. Our other item for the day is the Thecus N4560 4-Bay NAS, and it may be the perfect start for those wanting a home server.
Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666 16GB Memory Kit @ ThinkComputers
Thecus N4560 4-Bay NAS @ LanOC Reviews
The ability to control phenomena is important for many current technologies, and certainly many future ones. For example, controlling the emission of photons is necessary for future telecommunication devices and photonics. Researchers at the Institute of Photonic Sciences, MIT, and more have recently demonstrated control of photon emission and plasmon creation using just electrical voltages.
For their work, the researchers began with photon emitters made of erbium that were placed on a graphene sheet. The carrier density or Fermi energy of that sheet is electrically controlled. Normally erbium ions are used in optical amplifiers and can emit light at 1.5 micrometers, which is useful for telecommunications as there is little energy loss at that wavelength. Energy was fed into the erbium, causing electrons in the graphene sheet to become excited. As the Fermi energy of the sheet was increased by applying a voltage, the erbium ions started emitting photons or plasmons. Plasmons are a combination of photons and electrons with great potential in telecommunications, and researchers have long been looking for a way to create them in graphene, at near-infrared frequencies.
This control of emissions could be used to improve current communication technologies, as well as sensors and displays, but could also be put to use in new devices. It could even be used for data storage and to make active plasmonic networks.
Source: The Institute of Photonic Sciences
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