OCC TECH NEWS
December 15, 2014
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has noted that the social network is actively looking at options that would allow users to sympathize with a post that someone makes, such as when a sad event occurs. According to Zuckerberg, "Giving people the power to do that in more ways with more emotions would be powerful, but we need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad and demeaning the posts that people are putting out there." The news come from a public question and answer session in Menlo Park, where Zuckerberg expressed the ability to vote on a post, labeling it good or bad, simply is not socially valuable and does not help Facebook users share the important events that occur in their lives. It was also noted within the event that Facebook has long considered adding a "Dislike" button for its users, but has ultimately decided to simply keep the "Like" button for now due to the reasons aforementioned.
Source: USA Today
Sometimes when humans talk to each other, we miss a word or two, but that is okay because we can often still interpret the meaning. Computers however lack that ability, so a single bit being off can destroy the meaning of a message. Researchers at MIT however, have developed a theory that could protect against just that.
Part of the reason human communication can miss some words is because we are good at figuring out the minimum amount of information required for meaningful communication, given the context. For computers this would be compression, and it can be achieved with the sender and receiver sharing a codebook, in which possible messages are assigned a unique code. While the complete code is needed to be certain of what the message is, there is a minimum number of symbols needed to accurately guess at the complete message, using probabilities. This new theory allows for the sender and receiver to still communicate even if they disagree on these probabilities, and even if their codebooks are slightly different.
With this theory, it may be possible to devise new communication protocols that are more flexible and reliable than modern ones.
December 14, 2014
Last month, NeocoreGames added Cooperative Mode to the Steam Early Access version of its tower-defense, action-RPG hybrid Deathtrap. Now the studio is releasing a series of videos focusing on various features in the game, and it decided to start with one of the cornerstones: Traps.
Deathtrap is available via Steam Early Access for $19.99. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions will come at a later, undisclosed date.
Source: Press Release
Flying Wild Hog's kid-friendly, side-scrolling platformer JUJU has arrived on PC (via Steam), PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. But just because it's bright, colorful, and filled with likeable cartoon characters, don't go thinking it's just for kids. If the studio's previous games, Hard Reset and Shadow Warrior, are any indication, be prepared for some challenging puzzles and combat. JUJU is a game for adults that just happens to be great to play alongside a child. Of course no release would be complete without a launch trailer, and Flying Wild Hog has graced us with two: Water World and Candy World.
JUJU is priced $19.99 for PC and $14.99 for consoles, with a 10% discount on Steam, dropping the price to $17.99. There's also a Deluxe Edition on Steam priced at $26.99 after the 10% discount, which includes the base game, digital artbook, and original soundtrack in 320kbps CBR MP3 and FLAC formats.
Source: Press Release
First-person puzzler The Talos Principle has arrived on Steam with a 10% discount available until December 18, dropping the price to $35.99 from $39.99. While developer Croteam is best known for the over-the-top first-person shooter series Serious Sam, it seems the studio hit it out of the park with The Talos Principle, garnering strong praise from critics and gamers alike. Of course, no release would be complete without an Official Launch Trailer:
A free companion mini-game called Sigils of Elohim is also available on Steam, iOS, and Android, allowing players to unlock items for The Talos Principle.
Source: Press Release
December 12, 2014
Many people would tell you that a distraction makes it harder to study, as your attention is split. While that makes sense, it is only half the story as one must also recall what is learned. Researchers at Brown University decided to investigate how distractions influence learning and recalling, and an interesting discovery.
For their study, the researchers had 48 volunteers reach for targets on a computer screen, while the virtual world would bend by 45º. Some of the volunteers were also asked to count symbols as they move across the screen, while others were told to just ignore them. When asked to demonstrate the reaching skills they learned, some were also asked to count the symbols again. This experiment found that the group that never experienced the symbols recalled the task the best, as did those that experienced the highest number of symbols at both the learning and recalling stages. Those who experienced any other combination, such as seeing the symbols at one stage but not the other, did worse. A second study with 50 subjects indicated that the distractions do not need to be identical, but just to the same degree.
More work is now being done to better understand how attention can influence learning, but already some applications are being predicted. The researchers believe rehabilitation techniques could benefit from this, as patients learning to walk will one day be walking in areas full of distractions.
Source: Brown University
It is the end of the week, with a few items to help you start the weekend off right. There is a review of the AORUS Thunder M7 MMO gaming mouse, which features sixteen programmable buttons, an 8200DPI laser sensor, and Omron switches for durable performance. We also have a look at the E-CEROS Revolution 2, with its 2048x1536 IPS, 9.7" touchscreen. Wrapping up this week is a case mod that takes an Xbox 360 case and turns it into a full-fledged gaming PC, without any gear sticking out.
AORUS Thunder M7 MMO Gaming Mouse @ Benchmark Reviews
E-CEROS Revolution 2 @ Madshrimps
Case Mod Friday: Ex-Box PC @ ThinkComputers
Last September, Microsoft held an incredibly limited attendance event at which it pulled the wraps off Windows 10, its latest operating system that is currently under development. The event was mainly focused on business applications and experiences, though many interesting features were revealed to the technology industry during the unveiling. Microsoft has announced that a second event for Windows 10 is coming soon, which will focus more on the consumer experience, according to an individual familiar with the plans of the company. The event, titled "Windows 10: The next chapter," will take place on January 21, 2015 and will be held in Redmond, Washington.
According to Internet Retailer, Apple is the second largest online retailer in the United States. As such, it only makes sense that Apple has just announced that it is now accepting PayPal through its online retail store, which is good news for customers, since previously the company only accepted PayPal payments through its application and content stores. Apple is even promoting the ability to pay for an item in equal monthly installments over a maximum of 18 months with no interest, through a program known as PayPal Credit. The availability of paying with PayPal through Apple’s online store is being offered to residents of the United States and the United Kingdom.
Size does matter for many technologies, and fairly often, smaller is better, especially when you can do more with it. One example of this would be computers, which have gone from filling floors of buildings to fitting in our pockets, and in the future we may have particle accelerators sitting on desks, instead of spanning miles underground. One of those compact particle accelerators has now set a new record at Berkeley Lab by pushing electrons up to 4.25 giga-electron volts, over just nine centimeters.
The record-setting device is a laser-plasma accelerator, which works by having the laser cut a channel through the plasma, for the electrons to travel, and waves to carry the electrons to tremendous energy levels. The laser in this case was the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator, or BELLA, which is a new petawatt laser that is among the most powerful in the world. It also has impressive pointing stability as the researchers were able to aim the laser pulse onto a 500 micrometer hole from 14 meters away. Traditional accelerators, like the LHC, use electric fields to accelerate particles, and that one in particular has a limit of 100 mega-electron volts per meter, before the metal breaks down.
The researchers plan to continue refining their approach and computer models to achieve 10 giga-electron volts, which will in part require tuning the density of the plasma. Compact accelerators could have an amazing impact on science by at least reducing the need for 17-mile long accelerators, like the LHC.
Source: Berkeley Lab
Microsoft has just launched a special offering, in which music listeners with Microsoft accounts can access and download 100 full albums for free. The lineup of music albums available to Microsoft users includes a variety of popular choices, such as Watch the Throne by Kanye West and Jay-Z, Unapologetic by Rhianna, Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi, The Fame and The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga, Exodus and Catch a Fire by Bob Marley, 2Pac’s Greatest Hits, and much more. All of the albums currently available, which are actually DRM-free, can be accessed through the Microsoft’s Music Deals app which will redirect users to the Xbox Music app for downloading. The 100 free albums are available through December 18, 2014, and Microsoft is even offering 80 percent off numerous holiday albums and many of the top albums of 2014 as a part of the special.
December 11, 2014
We first brought you rumors of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 and its potential 4GB of GDDR5 last month. The latest rumblings have NVIDIA revealing the card at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in January. In addition to a confirmation of the amount of memory that will be on the card, it was also revealed that it will use the GM206 GPU core. The card is expected to have a 944MHz core clock and a 6GHz memory clock.
Source: WCCF Tech
COUGAR has announced its latest entry into the gaming keyboard market with the 500K. The keyboard uses traditional membrane switches rather than the increasingly popular mechanical switches. The 500K incorporates all of the gaming features of the mechanical 700K and is also capable of real N-Key Rollover. Users will have access to six fully customizable G-keys, dedicated keys for macro recording, configuration profile switching, backlight control, and a palm rest.
Source: Press Release
Skin is an amazing organ in part because of the sense of touch it gives us, allowing us to feel pressure and movement. Artificial skin has been developed to give prosthetics pressure sensitivity, but they lack the ability to detect the direction the pressure is being applied. As reported in ACS Nano, researchers have created an artificial skin with a new design to it that enables it to sense the direction of stress.
To give the artificial skin this ability, the researchers looked to human skin, whereas others have considered microstructures found in beetles and dragonflies. This new focus led them to develop a structure of tiny domes that interlock and deform in response to forces, and even when air is blown across it. Location, direction, and intensity were all sensed by the new skin, which is information that we naturally use to know how to best grip an object.
The natural applications for the artificial skin are prosthetics, rehabilitation devices, and robots. Anywhere it would be useful to have a sense of touch that does not already, could potentially benefit from this.
Source: American Chemical Society
Microsoft has announced that through a partnership with BitPay, the world’s leading bitcoin payment processor that currently supports more than 50,000 businesses, its users can now trade-in bitcoin at market value in order to pay for content. According to Eric Lockard, corporate vice president of Universal Store at Microsoft, "For us, this is about giving people options and helping them do more on their devices and in the cloud." Microsoft users who successfully convert bitcoins to their country and region's currency can choose to purchase content such as applications, games, and videos from the company’s Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox platforms. Unfortunately, bitcoin cannot be used as a direct payment method at this time, but Microsoft has noted that it could be a possibility in the future as integration continues. Additionally, Microsoft has enforced a cap on the amount of bitcoin that can be exchanged per day, which currently sits at $1,000, with a $5,000 maximum in place for each account registered by a given individual.
Source: Microsoft Blog
Dovetail Games, the multi award-winning developer and publisher of the Train Simulator series and Dovetail Games Fishing, has revealed that it will launch Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition on December 18, 2014. The game is being made available thanks to a global licensing deal between Dovetail Games and Microsoft that was announced earlier this year. Upon release, Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition will offer gamers the ability to operate over twenty aircrafts, including commercial and fighter jets as well as single-engine private planes and helicopters. Gamers will also have the ability to play through more than 80 missions, including search and rescue challenges, test pilot scenarios, races, and more.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition, which features updated multiplayer functionality, Windows 8.1 support, and over 24,000 airports, will be available for Windows via Steam on December 18, 2014. While pricing has not been revealed, Dovetail Games insists that Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition will launch with a spectacular introductory price, with add-ons being available to purchase sometime next year.
The end of the week is nearly upon us, but not before there are a couple of items for you to check out. We have a review on the ASUS Crossblade Ranger motherboard, which brings the ROG experience to the AMD AM2+ platform. Our other item for the day is the Thermaltake Toughpower DPS G 850W power supply, with its 80 PLUS Gold certification and ability to plug into the motherboard via USB to monitor various information.
ASUS Crossblade Ranger @ PC Perspective
Thermaltake Toughpower DPS G 850W @ ThinkComputers
For a long time, lasers as destructive weapons have been confined to science fiction, but that is changing as the technology has great offensive and defensive potential. Researchers at the Office of Naval Research and their partners have been working on the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) for some time now, and have recently tested it on a deployed ship in the Persian Gulf.
For the tests, LaWS was deployed on the USS Ponce, where sailors worked with it for several months, reporting that it operated flawlessly, even in adverse weather conditions. The system is operated by a video-game like controller and has a range of capabilities, from non-lethal dazzling, to lethal destruction. It was tested against targets mounted on small, moving boats and even shot down a Scan Eagle UAV, and passed the tests as it locked on and destroyed targets with "near-instantaneous lethality."
Besides the impressive capabilities of LaWS, there are other benefits to laser weapons, including lower costs and improved safety. Being electrical in nature, laser weapons do not need any potentially dangerous propellant and can be fired for less than a dollar per shot, compared to missiles that can cost millions.
Source: Office of Naval Research
Thanks to a new chart released by Jon Peddie Research, a technically oriented marketing, research, and management consulting firm in the graphics industry, it is clear that AMD is progressively losing market share to NVIDIA. While AMD has been able to gain some market share on a quarterly basis, NVIDIA has been slowly pulling away from its primary rival over the last four years. Just in the third quarter of this year, for example, NVIDIA successfully controlled 70 percent of the discrete GPU market by unit shipments. Financially, NVIDIA is now spending more on research and development every year than AMD is, and with the company forcing AMD to cut its prices due to its latest graphics cards, it seems that the market share gap will only widen further in the foreseeable future.
Source: The Motley Fool
December 10, 2014
Google has announced that My Maps, the service that lets you create your own maps using Google Maps, will be the latest product to be integrated into Google Drive. The integration will take place over the next week and will give users the ability to create, organize, search, and share their maps just as they would any other Google document. My Maps is receiving an additional update with the ability to add more layers and points of interest. I have been using My Maps for a while now to track all of the restaurants I have visited around the country and it will be interesting to see how this new integration may improve the service.
Source: Tech Crunch
Apacer has launched a pair of SATA3 solid state drives targeting industrial applications. The drives are extremely small, with the SFD18SH-M built to the JEDEC MO-297 standard and the H1-M built to the MO-300 standard. The drives were designed with reliability in extreme conditions in mind and "have passed market challenges, thus standing firm in the IoT, autotronics, medical electronics, and communication component markets and winning customer recognition for their outstanding quality and performance." Both drives range in capacity from 16GB to 256GB and were built with improved ECC.
Source: Press Release
Piston engines are quite common in the world, in part because these are what power most cars and other machines. One alternative design is the Wankel engine, which is a simpler and smaller design, rotating a rounded triangle in an oval chamber, that has its own advantages and disadvantages. An MIT startup called LiquidPiston has created a new engine design that can be even smaller, but is also more efficient and solves some of the Wankel's problems.
The differences between the two engines are apparent immediately as the X Mini by LiquidPiston actually uses a rotating oval in a rounded triangle chamber. This allows it to use the high-efficiency hybrid cycle (HEHC) that increases combustion efficiency by maintaining a constant volume during combustion and uses overexpansion. Keeping a constant volume ensures all of the fuel is burned, which is a problem for Wankel engines, and increases the expansion pressure. Overexpansion means that the gases are allowed to expand until the pressure is gone; extending the time spent pulling out the energy.
At 10,000 RPM, the 70-cubic-centimeter, four pound engine puts out 3.5 horsepower, as it is now, but in the future a three pound version could potentially put out five horsepower at 15,000 RPM. The researchers envision the engine being used to replace small piston engines, like those in chainsaws and lawnmowers, but could be scaled for use in significantly lighter generators and for military applications.
The middle of the week is here, and we have some items for you to check out. There is a review on the AMD FX-9590 CPU, which is the new flagship model in the company's line. We also have the OCZ ARC 100 240GB SSD to see how this cost-effective drive stacks up to the competition. The Edifier Tick Tock Bluetooth alarm clock gets tested to see if it can be the new way to wake you up in the morning. Our final item is a guide on how to build the ultimate Plex media server.
AMD FX-9590 @ Benchmark Reviews
OCZ ARC 100 240GB SSD @ ThinkComputers
Edifier Tick Tock Bluetooth @ Madshrimps
Building & Configuring the Ultimate Plex Media Server @ PC Perspective
Silicon is approaching the end of its reign as the dominant semiconductor for technology as we approach sizes the material just cannot support. Other semiconductors however, can go smaller, and the work by researchers at Purdue University has improved one material's chances. Germanium was used to create the world's first transistor and now it may become the basis for future circuits.
On the Periodic Table, germanium is directly beneath silicon, which means the two materials share many properties, including being semiconductors. Germanium as a higher electron and hole mobility though, which makes it a better candidate for ultra-fast circuits. Previously it had only been made into P-type transistors, but N-type transistors are also needed for CMOS devices.
By doping germanium, and etching away the top later, the Purdue researchers have found a way to create N-type transistors from germanium, opening up the possibility of germanium CMOS circuits. Already they have created an inverter from germanium, and it is the best-performing non-silicon inverter to date.
Source: Purdue University
Qualcomm, the world's largest maker of computer chips for mobile devices, has announced that it is laying off approximately 600 employees in order to focus more directly on specific projects and programs. A company spokesperson revealed that fewer than 300 employees would be cut out of California, while a similar number of employees will be laid off internationally. Qualcomm failed to identify how many full-time or part-time employees would be cut, but did note that some employees will be moved to other areas of the company while others will receive severance and transition packages.
The announcement to layoff roughly 600 Qualcomm employees comes at a time of regulatory investigations into business practices employed by the company, as well as a reduced fiscal outlook for 2015.
The YouTube application featured on Apple TV has finally received an update, bringing many of the same features that have been available on YouTube’s mobile apps, its website, and on other streaming platforms, to the Apple multimedia device. The latest update includes an improved design that incorporates crisp video thumbnails and tools for easy discovery, which together provide a streamlined user experience. Thanks to the latest update, YouTube users who access the service through Apple TV will also notice new features to include personalized recommendations based on videos previous watched, predictive search, and the ability to subscribe to specific YouTube channels.
Amazon has just flipped the switch on 4K streaming, allowing users of Amazon Instant Video to view several movies and television shows in Ultra HD. The current lineup offered in 4K by Amazon includes Alpha House, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Funny Girl, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, Hitch, Orphan Black, Philadelphia, and Transparent. Amazon has also revealed that more 4K content is coming to users soon, as the company will offer Mozart in the Jungle, Bosch, Hand of God, The After, and Red Oak, along with pilot episodes of seven more potential series, later this year and next year. Amazon Prime members can access content in Ultra HD at no additional charge, which represent quite a value since Netflix currently requires a $12 per month family plan to access 4K content.
Although Amazon has plans to support additional devices and televisions in the future, entertainment enthusiasts wanting to view 4K content through the Amazon Instant Video application at this time must own a 4K Smart TV from Samsung, Sony, or LG.
December 9, 2014
Isometric puzzle platforming action game Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris has officially arrived on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Of course no release would be complete without an official Launch Trailer, and Square Enix even took it a bit further with a handful of launch screenshots.
You can pick up the game, Season Pass, and/or a 4-pack on Steam.
Source: Press Release
Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has revealed that its zombie survival MMO H1Z1 will be hitting Steam Early Access on January 15, 2015. While the game is planned as a free-to-play title, gaining Early Access will cost you. Basic entry will be priced at $19.99, while a more expensive choice (pricing TBD) will also be available with access to specialized game servers. At launch, the game will feature roughly 64k square kilometers, with more land added over time. As always, be wary of purchasing any Early Access game, as you're purchasing an unfinished product. You can check out SOE President John Smedley's community post for more details.
Source: Press Release
As part of GRID Tuesday this week, NVIDIA is adding a pair of indie games to its cloud based gaming service. In Stacking "you will explore a vintage world inhabited by living Russian stacking dolls as you jump into more than 100 unique dolls and use their special abilities to solve a wide variety of challenges." PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate "is a fun game in the tower defense genre by Q-Games with 47 levels, 24 challenges and plenty unlockable content." I haven't played PixelJunk but found Stacking to be quite fun. The games will be free for owners of the SHIELD tablet and portable devices until June 30, 2015.
Source: Press Release