OCC TECH NEWS
April 21, 2014
Being able to securely connect two surfaces is fairly important in many situations, and in many other situations it is equally important to be able to disconnect the surfaces. Instead of using nails, screws, or chemical adhesives, scientists have been working to mimic the feet of geckos, which can naturally adhere to a wide variety of surfaces. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have already developed such an adhesive device, but by returning to the gecko for inspiration, have recently made it better.
For a long time biologists did not know how it was that geckos could grip as many surfaces as they can, including very smooth surfaces such as glass. Eventually it was confirmed that microscopic hairs on gecko toes exploit van der Waals forces to hold it to a surface. This force is a relatively weak bond between two adjacent molecules, but because of the number of hairs, it is enough to bear the weight of a gecko. Already the researchers mimicked these hairs with their Geckskin reusable adhesive device, but to improvement they are mimicking the gecko's skin-tendon-bone system.
This natural system allows the feet of geckos to conform to a surface, making maximum use of the hairs. By adding soft elastomers and ultra-stiff fabrics, the researchers have recreated the foot's ability to conform, while maintaining the stiffness required to stay pressed against the surface. When tested, one of the new Geckskin versions actually surpassed a gecko's ability to adhere to a surface.
Source: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Kingston is adding a pair of drives to its SSDNow line of drives with the mSATA form factor. Drives will now be available with capacities of 240GB and 480GB with read and write speeds up to 550MB/s and 520MB/s, respectively. Previously this line was limited to a maximum capacity of 120GB. The drives are controlled by the LSI SandForce 2241 controller and support Intel Smart Response Technology, TRIM, and S.M.A.R.T. drive monitoring. The mSATA drives have a standard PCB only design with no case and are targeted at small form factor systems including notebooks, tablets, and Ultrabooks.
Source: Press Release
G.SKILL has announced its latest memory kit, the F3-2133C11Q-32GRSL, available as four 8GB sticks. The 32GB DDR3L SO-DIMM memory set operates at 2133MHz with timings of 11-11-11-31. Marketing Director at MSI Sam Chern proclaimed his excitement about the set, saying "This time, G.SKILL’s F3-2133C11Q-32GRSL DDR3L memory kit clearly raises the bar for high performance gaming laptops and proves to be unbelievably stable on the MSI GT70 2OC gaming laptop, one of the best performance gaming laptops from MSI."
Source: Press Release
Although ASUS and Google have been good friends in regards to their partnership involving the first two generations of the Nexus 7, Google may be looking elsewhere for its new tablet. According to sources within the supply chain, Google is considering a partnership with HTC for its new Nexus 8 tablet that is rumored to be released during the third quarter of this year. The change in partners for Google is due to the technology giant considering a new design for the Nexus 8, along with ASUS not being as aggressive with the next generation Nexus tablet due to partnership restrictions put in place by Google.
According to the sources, Google approached HTC prior to its cooperation with ASUS in order to push the Nexus 7, but was denied partnership due to HTC attempting at the time to build its smartphone business.
Samsung services, to include the Samsung website and Smart Hub service, were unavailable to users on Sunday due to a fire that broke out at a Samsung facility in South Korea. According to a Samsung SDS blog, the fire was the result of a power supply failure in which one person was injured in the blaze attributed to debris. The fire occurred at a subsidiary of Samsung Group, which provides consulting, outsourcing, and software services. Samsung SDS is transferring data services that were affected to other facilities and in the meantime is working with authorities to investigate the incident.
Samsung Electronics noted that the company did indeed detect and experience a brief service disruption that lasted roughly four and a half hours.
Sometimes when you put two things together you can get something greater than the sum of its parts, because of how the two pieces interact. In materials science the interface of two materials can actually have completely different properties from those of the component materials. Curiously though these properties can be significantly different than theory predicts, but researchers at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron have finally found out why that may be.
For this research, the researchers examined strontium titanate and lanthanum aluminate, which are insulators on their own, but the interface between them is conductive. This comes from the materials affecting each other when in close proximity, actually causing some rearrangement. The problem is that it is only a tenth as conductive as it should be, according to Maxwell's theory. By using the DORIS III synchrotron radiation source, the DESY researchers used ultraviolet light to find why this is. It turns out the problem has been that only a tenth of the expected electrons actually came to the interface to form a conductive layer. How many come depends on the number of unit cells within the crystal lattice of the lanthanum aluminate, which means that by altering the structure of the material, the conductance can also be controlled.
Though the research was only done with a specific pairing of materials, it could be applied to any interface between different materials. Eventually that could give us a way to produce and control special properties for use in solar panels, hard drives, superconductors, and more.
Source: Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron
It is the start of another week, and we have a couple of items to help kick it off. We have a review on the In Win 901 case, which is a Mini-ITX case that is a rather unique and stlyish mix of aluminum and tempered glass. It all works together to make a stunning case, and hopefully one that keeps the components just as cool. Our other item for the day is a look at the Thermaltake POSEIDON mechanical keyboard, with its LED backlighting and Cherry MX Brown switches. It does have an atractive price point, so be sure to check out the review to see how it all comes together.
In Win 901 @ LanOC Reviews
Thermaltake POSEIDON Mechanical Keyboard @ Benchmark Reviews
April 20, 2014
Creative Assembly has released a new developer diary for its upcoming survival horror game, Alien: Isolation, after four previous videos: "Origins", "Creating The Alien", "Behind the Terror", and "The Sound Of Alien: Isolation". Entitled "Lo-fi Sci-fi", the new video discusses what went into creating the retro-futuristic look of the game and keeping it faithful to the original film. Creative Lead Al Hope explains how Ridley Scott's Alien had a very "grounded view of the future." There were no holograms and touchscreens like you find in many sci-fi films, just chunky, analog, push-button technology equipped with CRTs rather than LCDs.
As the video explains, Creative Assembly studied Ron Cobb's concept art for the original film to get a feeling for the process, which allowed the studio to expand upon the universe while remaining faithful to the original source. In addition, the designers stood by a simple rule – everything put into the game had to be able to be built back on the original set in 1979. To further drive home the "lo-fi" feel, gameplay footage was recorded on VHS, distorted, and then put back into the game.
Alien: Isolation is coming October 7, 2014, to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Source: Official Site
This Thursday, 2K and Turtle Rock will be releasing an "interactive, multi-channel trailer" wherein you can select the perspective you want to watch of a full 4v1 match in Evolve. For a game where each player has a unique role, it's a great way for viewers to get taste of how the game plays as each of the four unveiled hunters, and of course the Goliath. In addition to seeing how a full match of Evolve plays out from different perspectives, there will also be commentary from Dota broadcaster Aaron "Ayesee" Chambers and Turtle Rock's Chris Ashton.
April 18, 2014
LinkedIn has reached a milestone of its own today, announcing that it now has 300 million members across the globe. Of these users more than half are located outside of the United States, which shows the global presence that LinkedIn currently has. As the service continues to grow, it is focusing heavily on the mobile market. Each day, LinkedIn says that it processes 15 million profile views and 1.45 million job views through mobile alone. Later this year the company is projecting to reach another important milestone, where more than 50 percent of all global traffic will come from mobile devices.
Although LinkedIn is celebrating its member landmark, it has a long way to go in its efforts to connect the global workforce, which is comprised of roughly 3.3 billion people.
Source: Official LinkedIn Blog
Facebook just recently announced its Nearby Friends feature, allowing users of the social networking service to find friends that are located around them. At this point in time, location data that will be collected from the feature will not be used for advertising, but it has been confirmed by a Facebook spokesperson that it will be in the future. The information may be used in the future to deliver advertisements for nearby brick and mortar stores to users. However, Facebook has not confirmed exactly how the location data will be utilized when it uses it for marketing purposes down the line.
Luckily, Facebook is stating that the information it collects based on location data gathered from Nearby Friends can be deleted by users. One the data is deleted from the user interface, the company notes that it then begins permanently deleting it from its own systems, eliminating the possibility of the data being used by advertisers.
Computer technology has changed rapidly over the past decades, and while current hardware may not much resemble its predecessors, it is still using some of the same systems. Those systems may still work, but they were designed for a very different situation, and now what enabled performance in the past may be hindering it now. As reported by the National Science Foundation, the paging system for mapping data in memory is one such legacy system, and changing it could have large impacts on large tech companies.
Paging algorithms were created to allow programs to be addressed in memory in a noncontiguous way. When you have a limited amount of memory this is very valuable, but as RAM has increased in size, it has become less important. Its ability to address data and processes now adds complexity to computers that is not always necessary, and that takes up some resources. For a personal computer, those lost resources may not be enough to be noticed, but for large companies running server banks, the nanoseconds lost could be worth millions of dollars.
The researchers have already developed a new system that is more selective, so it will only use paging when needed. This could potentially return not only those nanoseconds but could also allow for increased performance for virtual memory and GPUs.
Source: National Science Foundation
An "Easy Unlock" feature has been discovered for the Chrome OS that would allow users to login to their Chromebooks simply by having a registered phone nearby. The feature is currently found on the Chrome OS dev channel and has no functionality other than a graphical interface. Users will be able to find their phone and register with the OS to ease the login process. As an owner of a Chromebook I am very intrigued by this feature and would definitely like to see it included at some point in the future.
Source: Android Police
Google is extending a try-on program to select potential customers for its Google Glass devices. Users that wish to test the glasses before spending $1,500 to own a pair can receive a try-on kit that includes Google Glass devices in multiple colors with the caveat that the devices are non-functional. The kit is purely to evaluate how the glasses will look and feel. Google will place a $50 hold on your credit card that will be returned when the units are returned within 10 days.
Source: 9 to 5 Google
It's not often that a four-year-old game gets new DLC, but that's exactly the case with the music-fueled arcade shooter Beat Hazard. Beat Hazard already had endless replayability thanks to a plethora of modes and each song providing a different experience, but the new Shadow Operations Unit DLC takes it even further. Not only does the DLC add nine new ships, each with different firing patterns and abilities, but it also adds the ability to import your own designs! Simply import any .png file for the ship art and then use the in-game editor to craft your ship, even setting up "Shadow Missions" to challenge friends. Using Steam Workshop, you can upload your creation for others to use or download new ships that others have uploaded.
Even if you don't feel like creating your own or downloading other creations, the nine new ships offer a slew of new gameplay styles to try out. Detailed in the images below, the nine ships are Razorburn, Dragon Fire, Speedy, Star Runner, Mosquito, Juggernaut, The Collector, Slick, and Death Blossom. Aside from each one playing differently, they also each have three Shadow Missions to complete and their own separate leaderboards.
Beat Hazard: Shadow Operations Unit has already released on Steam with a special promotional 10% discount through April 24, making it just $4.49 instead of the usual $4.99. The Beat Hazard Mega Bundle, which contains the base game, Ultra DLC, iTunes & m4a file support, and the new Special Operations Unit DLC is currently a Daily Deal, going for $8.49 (50% Off). If you have any interest in twin-stick shooters, I highly recommend you pick it up.
Source: Press Release and Steam
We have arrived at the end of another week, complete with several items for you to check out before the weekend hits in full. There's a review on the AMD A10-7850K Kaveri APU, which sees if it could be the new king when it comes to integrated graphics. We also have a look at the BitFenix Comrade mid-tower case to see how the company's budget entry fares. Kingston's DataTraveler microDuo gets put to the test on both PCs and mobile devices, thanks to its full sized and micro USB ports. Lastly we have a look at some of the best laptops around for productivity, since there are times when it's good to get work done instead of gaming.
AMD A10-7850K Kaveri @ LanOC Reviews
BitFenix Comrade Mid-Tower @ Benchmark Reviews
Kingston DataTraveler microDuo USB Drive @ ThinkComputers
Best Laptops for Productivity @ ThinkComputers
Last week, publisher Focus Home Interactive released a combat trailer for Spiders' fantasy RPG Bound by Flame, which explained that the game's protagonist is a mercenary possessed by a Flame Demon with access to three skill trees: Warrior, Ranger, and Pyromancer. What it didn't explain was that you can customize said hero right from the start, choosing the "gender (which will affect some of the dialog, particularly with companions and potential romances), facial features, ethnicity and hairstyles." In addition, as touched upon in the aforementioned trailer, you'll also be able to find and craft armor to further change your appearance throughout the game, even down to minute details like shoulder pads and knee pads.
Lastly, the choices you make during the game can affect your appearance as well, particularly whether you accept or reject your Flame Demon's influence. Perform heroic actions, rejecting the inner demon, and you'll maintain some humanity. Allow yourself to be consumed by the demon's will and you'll become increasingly demonic and less human. The screenshots below show that these changes can be quite drastic.
Bound by Flame will be launching May 9, 2014, on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Source: Press Release
For untold eons, humanity has wondered if we are alone in the Universe. Though we have not yet found alien life, we have been looking for places it may reside. Recently researchers from multiple institutions have found the first Earth-sized planet within the habitable zone of its sun.
The habitable zone covers the range of orbits about a star where the temperature is not too cold to freeze water into ice, or boil it off. Naturally our interest in the habitable zones come from the reliance life on Earth has on liquid water and an assumption that other life in the Universe also requires it. The host star for this planet is Kepler-186, the planet is named Kepler-186f, and both are located 500 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. The star is actually an M1-type dwarf star, which makes it cooler than the Sun, and is over five hundred thousand times dimmer than the stars we can see with the naked eye. It also has other planets in its orbit, these are much closer to it though and therefore much hotter.
Finding the planet required putting multiple observatories to work, including the Kepler spacecraft and the two terrestrial telescopes, Gemini North and Keck II. Kepler detected the planet by measuring the small dip in brightness it causes as it transits in front of the star. As many objects could cause such dimming, the other telescopes were employed to closely examine the system within 400 million miles of the star, to ensure that only a planet in the habitable zone could be the cause. Combining the data with calculations gives the researchers 99.98% confidence in this conclusion.
Source: Gemini Observatory
April 17, 2014
The OpenSSL security flaw known as Heartbleed has been one of the most influential web security issues in recent history. The flaw may now affect the Tor network, the popular secure networking service, thereby reducing its total operating capacity. Nodes that are affected by Heartbleed could cause a compromise within Tor, allowing an attacker to view information that relates directly to Tor. One of the initial developers of Tor, Roger Dingledine, has suggested that the nodes that are affected by Heartbleed be kicked off of the secure network. If this suggestion is implemented, Tor would lose roughly 12 percent of its exit and guard capacity.
As of now, no action has been taken to remove the Tor nodes that are affected by Heartbleed.
Source: the Guardian
Facebook has announced a new feature that is coming to mobile devices for users of the social networking service. The new feature, titled Nearby Friends, allows Facebook users to see when friends are physically near them, allowing individuals to meet up for conversation or events. Nearby Friends can provide a precise location between Facebook users, making it easy to locate others that are close by. While the feature itself must be enabled by both parties in order for it to work properly, Facebook users can set which friends are able to see if they are nearby. The feature is optional and can be turned on and off at any time however.
Nearby Friends will be available for Android and iOS users located in the United States within the coming weeks.
Source: Facebook Newsroom
The latest version of the popular Linux distro Ubuntu, 14.04 LTS, is available as of today. The long term support version known as Trusty Tahr will be supported by Canonical for five years and features a number of improvements. Among the included features are the use of Linux Kernel 3.13, LibreOffice 4.2.3, and an improved interface for the Unity UI. Canonical CEO Jane Silber added "the 14.04 LTS release offers a solid, intuitive experience which is easy to manage. It is a viable and affordable alternative for those organisations considering a switch from Microsoft, and specifically those replacing XP or Windows 7 as they come to the end of life".
Source: Beta News
Ars Technica has published some research it did into the habits of Steam users in a report called Steam Gauge. Ars collected public data to analyze the playing and purchasing habits and some of the findings should be of no surprise to anyone that has experienced a Steam sale. The study found that 37% of games owned on Steam have never been loaded, remaining unplayed and in the users backlog. I would estimate that I personally have at least 100 games that I have yet to play, all the result of Steam sales and Humble Bundles. The data was compiled using some PHP/MySQL coding, an Amazon EC2 server, and public Steam profiles. The top two most owned games were the free to play Valve titles Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 with 25.93 million and 20.30 million users, respectively. For more on the study follow the link below.
Source: Ars Technica
Bulk metallic glasses are curious materials that can possess great strength while being very durable and can take on shapes typical metals cannot. Finding metallic glasses is a long process though as it involves creating and testing each one. Researchers at Yale University however have combined two techniques that can dramatically speed up this process from one material a day to almost 3000.
Bulk metallic glasses are special alloys, often made of three or more elements that have been heated and cooled in such a way as to cause their molecular structures to be disordered. This results in the material having special properties that can be very valuable. Only being able to find one a day though limits their potential though, but with parallel blow forming and combinatorial sputtering, that should change. Parallel blow forming is a process that creates bubbles in alloys, which can be used to measure pliability while combinatorial sputtering though is a way to produce thousands of alloys all at once. Together the researchers are able test thousands of alloys at once, immensely speeding up the process.
With traditional methods, it is estimated that testing all 20 million possible bulk metallic glasses would take 4000 years, but with this method the work could be completed in just four. Those metallic glasses already discovered are used in sporting goods like watches and golf clubs, but metallic glasses could have applications in biomedical technologies, such as implants, as well as consumer electronics.
Source: Yale University
This past weekend, the EU Facebook page for TECMO KOEI Games casually posed the question, "How many of you are a PC gamer here? #TKfamily". Of course this lead to hundreds of fans asking for everything from Ninja Gaiden to Dead or Alive to Dynasty Warriors to be brought to PC. It now seems that KOEI wasn't simply posing a question, but rather teasing a future announcement. Today, KOEI announced that Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition will be coming to Steam next month, with US and EU regions specified.
The Complete Edition, which includes the original version and the Xtreme Legends expansion, is currently available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. While there's no PC trailer (yet?), you can watch the PlayStation Launch Trailer courtesy of GameSpot:
Source: TECMO KOEI America
Deep Silver and Piranha Bytes have released a teaser trailer for the upcoming RPG Risen 3: Titan Lords. While it's purely cinematic, it does show a much darker and gritty theme than Risen 2, which should be welcome to those somewhat disappointed with that game's pirate theme.
Risen 3: Titan Lords is set to release in August 2014 for Windows PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Source: Official Site
Last week, Cyanide Studios posted a developer blog entry discussing Styx: Master of Shadows' titular protagonist. Today, publisher Focus Home Interactive released four new screenshots from the game, highlighting some stealth and climbing abilities of our goblin anti-hero. In the first screenshot, we see Styx hiding around a corner waiting to strike a large troll. The second screenshot shows him scaling high above a crowd after presumably dispatching an enemy. Taking a cue from other stealth games like Splinter Cell, Styx can carry lifeless bodies away to hide them where they won't be seen, as shown in the third screenshot. And the fourth screenshot – well, I'm not sure what to make of that. Maybe Styx has a gentler side, or maybe that cute little chick is about to be his next meal.
Styx: Master of Shadows is currently in development for PC with an expected release date of this year.
Source: Press Release
An immense amount of energy pours onto the surface of the Earth from the Sun every day, so naturally we are trying to find ways to harness it. In the future it may be that our windows will be converting some of that energy into electricity. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have recently developed a special quantum dot that addresses one issue preventing those windows from becoming a reality.
Quantum dots are nanoscale semiconductor crystals that can be tuned to have specific optical properties. By adding them to glass a luminescent solar concentrator (LSC) can be created, as the dots will absorb some of the light that passes through the window and then re-emit it as a different color. This light will then travel through the glass until it reaches a solar panel at the edge, which converts it into electricity. One of the issues with such an LSC is that the quantum dots will absorb some of the light they emit, which causes some energy to be lost. The LANL researchers addressed this by creating quantum dots with separated components for absorption and emission. This allows it to emit a color of light that the dots will not absorb.
When tested the LSC the researchers built demonstrated almost no energy loss due to re-absorption. It also achieved a good harvesting efficiency of 10% of photons that could be absorbed, without compromising the sample's transparency.
Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory
April just keeps moving right along, and luckily we have several reviews to keep up with it. There's a look at the SilverStone Raven Z RVZ01 mini-ITX case, which could be the perfect stealth case for a fully equipped gaming PC. We have a couple different CPU coolers to check out too, like the Noctua NH-U12S and the Raijintek Pallas. Both are on the smaller side of air coolers, although the Raijintek certainly qualifies as low profile. Finally the Kingwin KF-252-BK internal hard drive hot swap rack gets put to the test, which could be an inexpensive means to adding some hot swap drives to your system.
SilverStone Raven Z RVZ01 Mini-ITX @ TechSpot
Noctua NH-U12S @ LanOC Reviews
Raijintek Pallas Low Profile @ Frostytech
Kingwin KF-252-BK Internal Hard Drive Hot Swap Rack @ Tweaknews
April 16, 2014
Terminal Reality, the studio behind the action hack-and-slash series BloodRayne, shut down in December of last year, but it appears the franchise isn't dead. Arc System Works, the developer and publisher most famous for the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series, issued a press release and launched a teaser site that seems to indicate it's developing and/or publishing a new BloodRayne game with the acronym BRCS.
The site contains a black and red image of what is clearly Rayne, though taking on quite a different look than in previous games. The necklace, ribbons flowing from her hair, and the sword all point to it definitely being her though, which you can see in the image I ripped from the site below. The site also contains the following two lines:
She who fights with monsters might take care lest she thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
A full reveal is planned for next Wednesday, April 23. It is unclear whether original publisher Majesco Games is involved with this new entry, or if the company sold the rights to Arc System Works.
Source: Press Release and Teaser Site
In February, Sony revealed that it had sold 5.3 million PlayStation 4 video game consoles worldwide. Just last month, Sony yet again reported PlayStation 4 sales numbers, noting that it had sold six million on a global scale. Now, Sony has announced that since the next-generation console's launch it has sold a total of seven million PlayStation 4 game consoles worldwide as of April 6, 2014. Sony also revealed that software sales for the PlayStation 4 were impressive, with 20.5 million copies being sold through the PlayStation Store and retail locations around the world.
Source: PlayStation Blog