OCC TECH NEWS
October 29, 2014
The middle of the week has arrived, with plenty of reviews in tow for you to check out. We have a look at the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 G1 Gaming video card, which features an impressive factory overclock and a custom cooler to keep it all running long into the night. On the AMD side of things, there's the HIS Liquid-cooled R9 290X Hybrid IceQ, which makes use of a self-contained liquid cooler to keep the card cool. If it's your CPU that needs cooling, then perhaps the NZXT Kraken X41 Liquid CPU Cooler is the one for you. For some audio performance, there is a review on both the SteelSeries Siberia V3 headset and ROCCAT Kave XTD Stereo gaming headset. Lastly we have a look at the Pivos XIOS XS Entertainment Center, which runs a custom XBMC skin for all your media needs.
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 G1 Gaming @ ThinkComputers
HIS Liquid-Cooler R9 290X Hybrid IceQ @ TechSpot
NZXT Kraken X41 Liquid CPU Cooler @ ThinkComputers
SteelSeries Siberia V3 @ LanOC Reviews
ROCCAT Kave XTD Stereo Gaming Headset @ Benchmark Reviews
Pivos XIOS XS Entertainment Center @ Madshrimps
Lasers are pretty cool pieces of technology as they are able to produce coherent beams of photons. This had made them almost ubiquitous in many devices used every day. Thanks to researchers at Princeton University, they may also be getting a dramatic bump in power soon.
Lasers work by exciting electrons in a material, because when the electrons fall, they will emit a photon of a specific frequency. Not all of the lasing material is used in this process, which is something some researchers have been investigating. At first the research just found where the lasing first occurs, so that energy could be focused there to initiate photon emission sooner. The Princeton researchers looked past this first step though and found that some of the later patterns or modes of emission can be more efficient than the first. The reason for this is that the different modes will compete with each other for energy, but by directing the energy to the mode of interest, all of the energy can be used by it.
According to the researchers' model, by focusing on the more efficient, higher order modes, output efficiency could improve 100 to 10,000 fold. That would translate to high power lasers, typically requiring the power of a wall outlet, being run off of batteries.
Source: Princeton University
Razer, a cutting-edge company known for designing and manufacturing high-performance gaming hardware, software, and systems, has introduced a new sound bar and subwoofer combo that goes by the name Leviathan. The new audio product by Razer features 5.1 channel surround sound and an array of Dolby technologies, including Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Pro Logic II, all of which allow it to provide an immersive experience in any environment. The Leviathan features analog, optical, and Bluetooth v4.0 aptX connectivity options, and also comes with three preset equalizer modes that are tuned for gaming, music, and movies. Sound comes from two 2.5-inch full range drivers and two 0.74-inch tweeter drivers found within the sound bar, as well as one 5.25-inch full range driver found within the subwoofer.
The Razer Leviathan is available to preorder now for $199, with worldwide availability expected sometime next month.
Thermaltake, a leader in computer chassis, thermal solutions, and power supply units, has just released the TR2 Bronze series power supply unit that it announced at the beginning of this month. The latest power supply unit series from Thermaltake features high-quality components, 80 PLUS Bronze certification, a Japanese main capacitor, and a powerful +12V rail. The TR2 Bronze series PSU also features a large 120mm cooling fan with intelligent RPM control as well as elongated cables, which allow system builders to properly route cables to improve the appearance and thermal efficiency of their build.
The TR2 Bronze series PSU comes in 450W, 500W, and 600W configurations, which feature an MSRP of $49.99, $59.99, and $69.99, respectively. While marketed at users who desire an excellent balance between cost and performance, the TR2 Bronze series PSU from Thermaltake can accommodate builds of all types.
Source: Press Release
October 28, 2014
As the world goes crazy over the Ebola epidemic, one game developer is reaping the rewards. Ndemic Creations has apparently seen a 50% uptick in downloads for Plague Inc. over the past two weeks. From October 10-16, the game was downloaded approximately 430,000 times on iPhone and Android with approximately 4 million total players during that week. It also soared to the top of the charts in the UK and US.
Released in 2012, Plague Inc. sees players infecting a Patient Zero before attempting to kill off all of humanity. Interestingly – and some may say disturbingly – many players are actually naming their in-game disease Ebola, which can result in messages such as "Ebola has successfully eliminated all life on Earth."
An enhanced and expanded version, entitled Plague Inc: Evolved, is currently available on Steam Early Access and will eventually make its way to Xbox One.
Source: Daily Mail Online via GamesIndustry.biz
CI Games' third-person action-RPG Lords of the Fallen has officially launched and the early reviews have been very positive. Lords of the Fallen owes a lot of inspiration to the Souls franchise, including its high difficulty, but it differentiates itself enough to stand on its own. Of course, no game release is complete without a Launch Trailer:
Lords of the Fallen is available for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Last week, Ubisoft unveiled an experiential website for Far Cry 4 – though apparently it's not available in the US. Well the good news is that Ubisoft's "revolutionary new interactive trailer" for Assassin's Creed Unity is available in the US. Over several months, the Assassin's Creed community created and voted for over 200,000 assassins, with the top 1,400 hidden away in this new trailer. "At any moment in the trailer, the community can pause and zoom in on any Assassin, allowing them to spot their creations in action. A gigapan will also be released that features every single Assassin in the one image." The trailer also features fifteen secrets to be discovered, offering exclusive footage and content.
Assassin's Creed Unity will release on November 11 in North America and November 13 in EMEA territories for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A Season Pass is also available with eight hours of additional content, including Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, a unique 2.5D reimagining of the franchise.
Source: Press Release
Activision has released a new trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare that provides a sneak peek at the game's Season Pass. The Season Pass will contain four epic DLC packs (Havoc, Ascendance, Supremacy, and Reckoning), early access to bonus DLC weapons, and a new multiplayer map immediately at launch called Atlas Gorge. Atlas Gorge is a re-envisioning of the fan favorite Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare map, Pipeline.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is launching on November 4 for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Source: Press Release and Official Site
Developers of multi-platform games have had to make sacrifices trying to hold tight to eight-year-old technology. Thankfully, Techland has announced that it's ditching the last-gen consoles for its upcoming first-person, open-world survival horror game Dying Light. While you can probably assume the reasons behind the decision, Techland released an open letter to fans explaining the change:
As you probably know, we’re wrapping up the development of Dying Light, our biggest and most ambitious project to date. We spent the last three years making sure that all the features of our game add up to create a truly next-gen experience.
Much of this “next-gen feel” is tightly connected to the technological side of Dying Light. For instance, up to 200 000 objects can be displayed in the game at once. Add to this our use of realistic, physics-based lighting technology and you really start to push the next-gen systems to the limits. Features like these along with our core gameplay pillars – such as the player-empowering Natural Movement, threefold character development system, and vast open world – are all an inherent part of how Dying Light plays. However, combining all of these into one fluid experience is only possible on technologically advanced platforms.
Therefore, after thorough internal testing, we have come to the conclusion that we have no choice but to leave past-gen systems behind and release Dying Light exclusively on the next-gen consoles and PC. Put simply, older consoles just couldn’t run the game and stay true to the core vision of Dying Light at the same time.
To ensure you enjoy Dying Light as much as we would like you to, we chose to release it without any compromises on the three strongest systems available. Thanks to this, you’ll get the full and best experience regardless of the platform you play on.
We hope you understand the hard choice we’ve had to make. With the launch just around the corner, we can’t wait to show you Dying Light in the state it was meant to be. We’re looking forward to your reactions and impressions as we release the game in January 2015.
Dying Light will launch January 27 in the Americas, January 28 in Australia and New Zealand, and January 30 in Europe and Asia; priced $49.99 for PC and $59.99 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Pre-ordering allows you to "Be The Zombie".
Source: Press Release
Cooler Master, a leading creator, innovator, and manufacturer of desktop components and accessories, has officially released a new keyboard and mouse combo known as Octane. The latest product from Cooler Master similar to the Devastator combo, but incorporates more robust features, multiple lighting colors, and profiles, allowing it to stand out amongst the competition. The Octane supports seven different color options with pulsating and full backlighting modes, and the colors of the keyboard and mouse can even be changed independently of each other.
The keyboard itself features 19-key anti-ghosting technology, adjustable repeat rates, dedicated media control keys, a dedicated backlight switching key, and a Windows key that can be toggled on and off during gaming sessions. The mouse comes with an AVAGO 3050 optical sensor, features four DPI levels ranging from 500 DPI to 3500 DPI, and is capable of handling up to 10 million clicks in its lifetime.
The Octane mouse and keyboard combo from Cooler Master features an MSRP of $59.99 and will be available to purchase in the coming days as vendors across the United States receive the product.
Source: Press Release
Some discoveries bring out a lot of skeptics and demand more and more evidence before being accepted. One example of this would be if the microbe Geobacter produces nanowires capable of transmitting electrons like a metallic wire. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where the original discovery of the nanowires was made, have now provided the most significant evidence of these biological nanowires.
Microbial nanowires are very small filaments of protein some bacteria grow in order to connect with each other, sharing energy and information. Typically proteins carry electrons by having them make discrete jumps, unlike in metals where electrons are delocalized from the molecules, and can freely move. The electrons in Geobacter's filaments are delocalized though and now the Massachusetts researchers have shown this by capturing the movement of electrons with electrostatic force microscopy. This technique allows for the flow of electric charges to be imaged, and showed them travelling just as was predicted.
Beyond verifying the past research, this study could open up some interesting applications, such as using the microbes to convert waste materials into methane gas. They could also be used as environmental sensors and even biological computers, with the filaments matching the conductivity of carbon nanotubes.
Source: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Thermaltake, a leader in computer chassis, thermal solutions, and power supply units, has officially released a new mid-tower chassis, the Core V41. This latest addition follows the release of other Core series cases by Thermaltake, which include the Core V1, V31, V51, and V71. The Core V41 includes many of the same features found in the other Core series cases, such as curved a metal mesh appearance, outstanding cooling performance, compatibility for various air and liquid cooling systems, and tool-free and modular drive bays. The Core V41 supports the latest ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini-ITX motherboards as well as all high-end GPU cards, and also includes a side window that allows owners to display their system’s component. Tt LCS Certification is also applied to the Thermaltake Core V41, which means that it has been verified by the company to be compatible with extreme liquid cooling configurations.
Source: Press Release
Anyone with a smartphone has likely experienced its battery dying at an inopportune moment. Of course many things will drain the battery, but one in particular is the power amplifier, which is necessary for transmitting radio signals. Researchers at MIT formed a startup company, Eta Devices, to produce a chip to regulate the voltage of the amplifier, drastically reducing the power used.
To make sure the radio is always ready to send a signal, the power amplifier tends to be at maximum voltage all of the time. Naturally that cuts into battery life and, because half of that power may be lost as heat, it influences phones in a number of other ways too. The Eta Devices chip however, acts like a gearbox to step down the voltage, when full power is not needed. Base stations could also benefit from this new chip, raising efficiency to 70%, from an optimistic 45%. That could save a large carrier $100 million each year.
As Eta Devices is already working with manufacturers, we may see its technology deployed by the end of next year in base stations and smartphones. While some manufacturers are working on similar systems to increase efficiency, the Eta Devices technology is unique in its ability to work with the high frequencies of new communication standards, like LTE Advanced and 802.11ac.
A new day has arrived, and with it come a few reviews for you to check out. We have a look at the Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV case, a minimalistic design that certainly doesn't skimp on the features or functionality. We also have a review on the SilverStone Fortress FT05 case, which is another minimalistic case with plenty of features and refinements. Wrapping things up for today is the ECS LIVA Mini PC, a small, portable, and affordable option for those who do not need a large computer.
Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV @ ThinkComputers
SilverStone Fortress FT05 @ Benchmark Reviews
ECS LIVA Windows Based Mini PC @ PC Perspective
Amazon has revealed that it has officially acquired Rooftop Media, an online comedy service comprised of 10 employees that specializes in producing comedy content for the Web. The acquisition of the comedy service will help Amazon in its goal to create revenue from other streams outside of ecommerce. Amazon wishes to compete directly with Netflix and other online digital media services, and by taking over Rooftop Media which has partners that include Apple, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, and Yahoo, the online retail giant has a better chance of doing so. While financial details regarding the acquisition were not announced by either company, it has been revealed that content by Rooftop Media will be integrated into Audible, an audiobooks service owned by Amazon.
Bing has revealed that in all English markets, it now supports the use of emoji characters within search inquires. This means that users of Bing can now use emoji, which are small pictures that are used to express emotions or ideas, in their searches to find relevant information. Users can also search Bing with an emoji to figure out exactly what the small picture means if they are unsure, and can combine emoji with text for even more powerful searches. According to Nick Roberts, the Senior Program Manager for Bing Relevance and Intent, return results from Bing are based on the semantic meaning of the emoji, and the support for emoji itself was added due to its use by billions across the world.
Source: Bing Blog
In order to better serve Alienware laptop owners who tend to be at a desk during gaming sessions, Dell has announced the Alienware Graphics Amplifier. This device itself supports nearly any desktop GPU up to 375 watts, features four powered USB ports, and connects to a compatible Alienware laptop through a proprietary PCI-Express-based cable. By connecting the Alienware Graphics Amplifier to a compatible Alienware laptop, gamers can utilize the power of various GPUs currently on the market, which allows for improved performance. Unfortunately, the new Alienware 13 is the only laptop that supports the PCI-Express-based cable that the Alienware Graphics Amplifier uses, but according to a Dell spokesperson, future models will feature the same connection.
The latest Alienware accessory is available to preorder immediately for $299 and is expected to ship sometime next month.
October 27, 2014
Sega's tactical RPG Valkyria Chronicles is shedding its PlayStation 3 exclusivity. While a release date and details are still forthcoming, Sega has confirmed via Twitter that the game is indeed coming to PC:
Valkyria Chronicles released on PlayStation 3 in 2008 to fairly high critical acclaim. The game is set in Europa during the early years of World War II and combines RPG elements with turn-based tactical battles and the ability to directly control unit attacks in third-person.
Source: Twitter via IGN
Circle 5 Studios and Pub Games have announced that Primal Carnage: Extinction will be launching for PC via Steam next month, with a PlayStation 4 version arriving early next year. Extinction is a class-based online multiplayer shooter pitting humans against dinosaurs. The game features twelve diverse maps with two gamemodes at launch: Team Deathmatch and Get to the Chopper. There are nine unique dinosaur classes to choose from and five unique human classes, with Steam Economy Support that will allow players to collect, trade, and sell a variety of cosmetic items through the Steam Marketplace. In addition, the studios have a six-month development plan to provide post-launch content, which will include: new weapons adding variety to gameplay; new skins for both human classes and dinosaurs; new cosmetics and customization options for players; new environments for play; and new gamemodes pitting humans vs dinosaurs.
Primal Carnage: Extinction will arrive on PC via Steam next month, with a Beta beginning on November 10. All players who purchase the game on Steam by the end of November will receive beta access along with a "Volcano" Spinosaurus skin. The game is scheduled to arrive Q1 2015 for PlayStation 4, but no exact date has been stated.
Source: Press Release and Official Site
Roughly two weeks ago, Ubisoft released a "Customization Trailer" for its upcoming MMO-CarPG The Crew, but it didn't really show that much. Now the publisher has released a new video entitled "Customization Nation", which delves into the game's car customization a bit further.
The Crew is set to arrive on December 2 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
Source: Press Release and UbiBlog
The computer industry is rapidly approaching the limits of current technology as it races to make smaller and faster components. One of these limits has to do with how dense you can make the features on a chip. There is a potential way to push back this limit using polymers, and two techniques recently developed at NIST should help that happen.
Block copolymers are a type of materials that are actually two or more polymers, connected together. These materials have some interesting properties, such as the ability to self-organize into specific patterns. Testing this ability is challenging though, as the equipment and processes is both time consuming and expensive. This is still true with what the NIST researchers have developed, but this new work still has value. Specifically the researchers have produced two studies that describe how to use soft X-rays to measure the average shape of a block copolymer structure and how to use transmission electron microscope tomography to image defects within a film. Combined you can find problems in the patterns you are trying to work with.
While these processes do not offer a way to detect defects on the factory floor, they can be used for refining computer models, which can be tested rapidly and cheaply by the industry. Using block copolymer patterns, it should be possible to reach smaller feature sizes in computer chips than current technology, but only if the patterns they layout can be trusted. Those models are what will one day identify if the pattern will have flaws or not.
The ECS LIVA has surely been used in a variety of applications since its announcement earlier this year, thanks to its extremely small size, low power consumption, and overall value. ECS has now revealed that its Windows-based mini PC comes preloaded with Windows 8.1 with Bing. This version of Microsoft’s latest operating system is essentially the same as Windows 8.1, but comes with Internet Explorer and Bing Smart Search enabled by default, enabling users to find things across the Internet, applications, and the PC itself. On the ECS LIVA mini PC, Windows 8.1 with Bing delivers more benefits and overall convenience to its users.
Source: Press Release
We all make mistakes and can really only hope that these mistakes are either caught, or of little consequence. That is not always the case though with some errors having great impacts on results. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have created a plugin for Microsoft Excel for finding potential errors in spreadsheets that could dramatically affect the final result.
CheckCell uses data analysis and program analysis to examine a spreadsheet and identify cells that either stand out as suspicious or could have a great impact. The latter is especially useful as sometimes the importance of a cell is not immediately apparent. By following how the data can affect the result, CheckCell will flag the entry to let the user know it should be verified.
The CheckCell plugin is freely available to everyone now, after being released at the Object-Oriented Programming Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA) conference. You can find it here: www.checkcell.org.
Source: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Amazon has officially launched the Fire TV Stick, a smaller and more inexpensive version of the Fire TV set-top box that was released earlier this year. The latest device from Amazon competes directly with Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick, offering improved functionality for a similar price. Like its competition, the Fire TV Stick plugs directly into an HDMI slot in order to stream movies and music, but the device differs greatly from its competition with its internal hardware. The Fire TV Stick features a dual-core processor that is 50 percent more powerful than Chromecast, twice the amount of RAM as Chromecast, and 32 times the storage than the Roku Streaming Stick. All of these enticing hardware features allow users of the Fire TV Stick to download and play games from the Amazon app store.
The Fire TV Stick from Amazon, which comes with a 1-year limited warranty, will be released on November 19, 2014. The device is available immediately to pre-order for $39, and Amazon Prime members can purchase the Fire TV Stick for just $19 for the next two days only.
CVS has shut down NFC functionality of its payment terminals entirely, following a similar decision made by pharmacy chain RiteAid just a few days ago. According to Twitter and the MacRumors forums, CVS sent an email to its stores notifying them that NFC support is to be turned off, which affects systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet. This action has likely been taken due to the company’s participation in Merchant Customer Exchange, a retailer group that is currently developing its own mobile payments system known as CurrentC.
While CVS and RiteAid no longer support Apple Pay and Google Wallet, competitor Walgreens has fully embraced Apple Pay since its launch.
Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere today and in almost everything. If you need a rechargeable energy storage system with high capacity, those are what many turn to. As great as these batteries are though, more and more applications are demanding more, and thanks to researchers at Berkeley Lab, a possible replacement has gotten an important boost.
Lithium ions have a single positive charge and an obvious way to improve energy density would be to use an ion with a greater charge, like magnesium, which can have two positive charges. If it were as simple as just substituting lithium for magnesium, we would already have magnesium-ion batteries. One of the challenges facing magnesium-ion batteries has been that often, when magnesium is in a solid, it is surrounded by six neighbors. In a battery these neighbors would come from the electrolyte, and would inhibit the ion from entering an electrode. According to the Berkeley researchers' new computer model though, the problem is less severe than many thought, as only four neighbors would come in. That may not sound like that big a change, but it will make entering the electrode and delivering energy much easier.
The researchers do have an explanation for why some studies have shown the six neighbors from the electrolyte gathering around the ions. They suggest that if the electrolyte concentration is too high that it could cause the ions to take on the six neighbors like in a solid, at the electrode interface. By keeping the concentrations low enough, this would be avoided.
Source: Berkeley Lab
Microsoft has revealed that beginning on November 2, 2014, a special, limited-time promotional offer will slash $50 off any Xbox One console, which includes special edition bundles. Yusuf Mehdi, the Head of Xbox Business Strategy and Marketing at Microsoft, stated that "Fans don’t have to wait for Black Friday this year to enjoy great savings on Xbox One. We’re offering our best price yet, with unprecedented choices and value, so more people can play on Xbox One this holiday." Several exclusive bundles that will be available to receive $50 off include Xbox One Assassin’s Creed Bundle, the Xbox One Special Edition Sunset Overdrive Bundle, and the Xbox One Limited Edition Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Bundle.
This promotional offer, which ends on January 3, 2015, will be available at most major national retailers in the United States, including Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Microsoft Stores, Target, Toys 'R Us, and Walmart.
The long awaited Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth is finally here, and with its availability, AMD has revealed that the video game title features support for the company’s Mantle graphics API. Mantle is a low-overhead graphics API that boosts gaming performance thanks to increased efficiency of multicore CPUs and streamlined game code execution. The announcement to support Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth with this unique API is aimed at AMD Radeon graphics customers, who will experience higher frame rates and smoother overall gameplay thanks to the technology. Matt Skynner, the Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Product and Platform Solutions Business Unit at AMD, stated that "As gamers settle in for a marathon session of Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, we're proud that the potent combination of Mantle and the award-winning Graphics Core Next architecture effortlessly enable the definitive experience."
October 25, 2014
If you've yet to see someone using an Amazon Fire Phone, you're not alone. Even after Amazon slashed the price to $0.99 with a two-year contract less than two months after launch, sales have not been good. Now, with Amazon revealing its third quarter results, we have learned just how big of a failure the Fire Phone has been. Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the quarter, recording a $170 million charge, "primarily related to Fire phone inventory valuation and supplier commitment costs." According to CFO Thomas Szkutak, Amazon currently has $83 million worth of unsold Fire phones sitting in inventory. Ouch!
With the recent releases of Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 – three phones from the two biggest smartphone players – it doesn't look like it'll get better for Amazon's Fire Phone anytime soon.