OCC TECH NEWS
January 19, 2015
Facebook is working on implementing the ability to transcribe Facebook Messenger voice messages to text, similar to the way Google Voice transcribes voicemail. Users will be able to see a preview of their voice messages without having to listen to them, which could be convenient if they don't have time or aren't able to listen to the message. David Marcus of Facebook stated, "Our plan is to test this feature at a tiny scale for now and we're looking forward to seeing what you think of it." I wasn't even aware that Messenger had the ability to transmit voice messages and don't really see myself using this feature as it matures and becomes widely available.
Source: The Verge
One of the latest goals in display technology has been 3D images, so that viewers can get a deeper sense of what they are seeing. The ultimate goal many are working toward is a 3D display that can achieve this without requiring the viewer to where special glasses. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology and TriLite Technologies have recently made a prototype display capable of just that.
To create a 3D image, different images need to be sent to both of our eyes at the same time, as the differences give us the sense of depth. Normally this is achieved with polarized light and glass that have different polarizations for both eyes. This new technology instead directly sends different images to our eyes using a sophisticated laser system. The laser is aimed at a moveable mirror, which directs the light across the field of vision, and by modulating the intensity of the laser fast enough, our two eyes can see two different images. This also allows for the display to show multiple, 3D images as one walks around it, like with a real object, and if used in a billboard, could show people in different places completely different images.
The prototype display the researchers built only consists of 15 3D-Pixels, or Trixels, but the researchers say that scaling the technology up is not a problem. In fact they expect to have a second, larger prototype completed in the middle of the year, and a commercial launch in 2016.
Source: Vienna University of Technology
January 17, 2015
According to reports, a 32-year-old Taiwanese man has died inside an Internet café located in Kaohsiung City after gaming for three days straight. The man was found motionless and slumped over in his chair and was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An employee of the café noted that the man was a regular customer and would often game for days on end, where he would also sleep in his chair when he felt tired. The report that detailed the death of the Taiwanese man revealed that he suffered cardiac failure while playing “combat computer games,” but failed to describe the time of his death or any additional details.
This particular case comes just weeks after a 38-year-old man was found dead in an Internet café in New Taipei City, following a video gaming binge that lasted five days straight. In both cases, police noted that other patrons appeared careless about the deaths and even continued to play games within areas that were cordoned off for evidence collecting.
January 16, 2015
Facebook has announced that it plans to make a number of its deep learning software tools available to all. Deep learning falls under artificial intelligence and more specifically is a "sub-category of what is called machine learning, using vast artificial brains called neural nets to improve things like speech recognition, computer vision, and natural language processing." The software will be available as modules through the open source framework Torch. Facebook researcher Soumith Chintala described the code stating that it represents "fastest open-source implementations out there." This could provide a significant boost to researchers that depend on AI for their work, or it could be the next step toward the realization of Skynet.
Source: Fast Company
Electricity and magnetism are central to the operation of many computers, but they have their own advantages and disadvantages. One way to potentially overcome the issues of both is to use multiferroic materials, which have both ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties and could lead to low-power, nonvolatile memory devices. The catch is that these materials are very difficult to integrate into computer chips, but researchers at North Carolina State University have made a pair of helpful advancements.
One of the multiferroic materials used consists of barium titanate (BTO), a ferroelectric material, being layered with lanthanum strontium magnese oxide (LSMO), a ferromagnetic material. This pairing cannot be integrated into silicon chips though, because materials would actually diffuse into the silicon. The researchers found that they could remove the LSMO though, by using a laser to create oxygen vacancy-related defects in BTO, giving it the necessary ferromagnetic properties. The researchers then found that if a crystal of titanium nitride (TiN) is grown on the silicon, and a crystal of magnesium oxide (MgO) grown on top of that, they would act as buffer layers to the multiferroic material, preventing the diffusion.
The researchers have used this work to create prototype memory devices with integrated multiferroic materials, which they are now testing. Once that is done they will be looking for industry partners to bring this work to manufacturing.
Source: North Carolina State University
The end of the week is here, with some items to help you get to the weekend. We have a review of the Phanteks Enthoo Mini XL case, a relatively small case that can have plenty of gear packed inside. There is a look at the Reeven Justice RC-1204 CPU cooler, which may be the new way you keep your processor from overheating. If you're always on the go, perhaps the HIS Multi-View USB Portable Docking Station is for you, as it hooks up to a laptop and provides a multitude of extra ports. Lastly there is a podcast wrapping up the latest news and reviews from the week.
Phanteks Enthoo Mini XL @ Benchmark Reviews
Reeven Justice RC-1204 @ Frostytech
HIS Multi-View USB Portable Docking Station @ Madshrimps
Podcast #332 @ PC Perspective
Although specifications for the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 were just recently confirmed, performance figures for the card have already been leaked by PCEVA, a Chinese PC community. The GeForce GTX 960 was installed in a system that contained a Core i7-4770K running at 4.50GHz, and the card appears to be factory overclocked, if the recently revealed specifications are correct. Taking this information into account, the card was able to score P9960 and X3321 in the performance and extreme presets of 3DMark 11, respectively. On 3DMark Extreme, the GeForce GTX 960 managed to score 3,438 points, and on 3DMark Ultra, the card scored 1,087 points.
While the upcoming card from NVIDIA does seem to struggle at higher resolutions, it is worth noting that these 3DMark numbers are quite early and that drivers for the GeForce GTX 960 will undoubtedly improve over time.
In many ways the future of computing will rely on materials science, as new materials will be necessary to achieve the desired increases in power and efficiency. Nanowires are one example of this but they come with a problem of how they connect to an electrode. Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, however, have found a solution to this that also opens up new possibilities.
Normally nanowires and their electrical contacts are made separately and then connected. What the researchers have done is find a way to grow both the semiconducting nanowires and the metal contacts together. This causes the transition between them to be as perfect as you can get, with the atoms themselves lining up in both materials. It also turns out that when brought to low temperatures, the interface will become superconducting, which could prove useful in future electronics.
Besides the possible improvements to performance, the perfect transition can also be used to more precisely study its electrical properties. The researchers believe these nanowires could one day lead to superconducting electronics, but already they have built a chip with billions of identical nanowire hybrids.
Source: Niels Bohr Institute
Google has released an update for its Maps application, bringing it to version 9.3. The latest update ushers in the ability for Maps users to share directions with others, a feature that can be found in the three-dot overflow menu that appears when searching for or tapping on a location. The task of sharing directions can be facilitated over a variety of different methods, as the feature makes use of the sharing options present within the Android mobile operating system. Users can even choose to include current traffic, satellite imagery, or terrain with the directions that they share with others.
The latest Google Maps update is being rolled out to Android users via Google Play.
Logitech has publically announced that an open API is now available for its Harmony platform, which allows users to combine and control lights, locks, thermostats, blinds, music, movies, TV, and more to create customized home activities. According to Logitech, its Harmony products are already connected to more than 270,000 devices from manufacturers such as Apple, Honeywell, LG, Lutron, Nest, Philips, Roku, Samsung, and Sony. By making the Harmony API available to developers of other platforms and devices, Logitech in ensuring that users of Harmony devices will successfully be able to utilize it to control even more aspects of their home. Mark Spates, the manager of the Harmony platform for Logitech, notes that "By opening our platform to developers, we’re giving developers the ability to create complete smart home experiences."
January 15, 2015
CompuLabs has announced a new line of mini PCs, the Fitlet, that gives users their choice of a dual or quad core 64-bit AMD SoC. The systems can run either Windows or Linux and will be available in three models, the Fitlet-B, Fitlet-i, and Fitlet-X. The Fitlet line is the successor to the Fit-PC2 and improves in performance and size, taking up 30% less space. The Fitlet-B has a dual-core Micro-6200T that runs at 1.4GHz, Radeon R2 graphics, and up to 8GB of DDR3. The Fitlet-i upgrades to a Micro-6400T that runs at 1.6GHz and offers an additional Ethernet port and mini-PCIe support. The Fitlet-X removes that second Ethernet port and replaces it with the CompuLabs Function And Connectivity Extension T-Card modular expansion system, allowing users to customize their input and output ports as needed. The Fitlet line will be available for order starting next month with a price of $129 for the Fitlet-B.
Source: PC Gamer
The Google Glass program is ready to "graduate" from the Google X idea incubator to its own stand-alone division within Google. The new division will report to Tony Fadell, the man in charge of the Nest program and "father of the iPod." As part of the new division, it is very possible that we could see the rumored Intel powered version of the device. The Google Glass Explorer Program is being shut down and sales of the current version of Glass will end on January 19.
Source: Ars Technica
Last month Rice University revealed a way to make graphene very easily with a laser, and speculated that it could be used to build supercapacitors. Now they have actually built the supercapacitors that are stackable, which is important for potential mass production.
Supercapacitors are devices that possess some of the better qualities of batteries and normal capacitors. Like batteries they have great energy storage, and like normal capacitors, the can be quickly charged and discharged. Normally graphene would make for poor supercapacitors because it conducts electricity so easily that a charge could not build up. The laser-induced graphene (LIG) however is filled with imperfections that can hold onto charges. To create these new LIG supercapacitors, the researchers start by creating the graphene on one side of the polymer film used, and making more on the opposite side. These pieces are then vertically stacked, with solid electrolytes between the layers, creating multiple microsupercapacitors.
When tested, these supercapacitors survived thousands of charge/discharge cycles without any loss of capacitance, and even endured 8000 bending cycles without degradation. Thanks to the ease of making LIG and the simple design of these supercapacitors, we could see this technology being mass produced with roll-to-roll methods someday.
Source: Rice University
The week is drawing to a close, but not before we have some reviews for you to go over. There is a look at the ECS LIVA X Mini PC, which is the newest version of the tiny computer that features some beefed up internals for even better performance. We also have the In Win iEAR headphone hanger that lets you store your headphones or headset on any flat surface. If you need a way to watch your driving, or those of others around you, then perhaps the PAPAGO! GoSafe 272 Dashcam is the one for you. Wrapping up today's items is the BAPCo TabletMark v3 benchmark, which allows users to see just how their new tablet stacks up to the competition.
ECS LIVA X Mini PC @ PC Perspective
In Win iEAR Headphone Hanger @ LanOC Reviews
PAPAGO! GoSafe 272 Dashcam GS272-US @ Benchmark Reviews
BAPCo TabletMark v3 Benchmark Presentation @ Madshrimps
Cree, a multinational manufacturer of semiconductor light-emitting diode materials and devices, has introduced a line of connected LED light bulbs. The bulbs, which offer 815 lumens at a color temperature of 2700K, can be turned off, on, and dimmed from a smartphone or tablet and any ZigBee controller. Due to their intriguing price of $14.97 each, Cree is hoping that consumers purchase the newly revealed connected LED light bulbs instead of installing physical switches or dimmers into their homes.
The connected LED light bulbs from Cree will first be available through the Home Depot website in the near future, and at a later time will be available at physical Home Depot locations.
Rumors surrounding the specifications of the GeForce GTX 960 have been circulating ever since last November, with NVIDIA also rumored to unveil the card at CES earlier this month. Thanks to the leaking of key presentation slides from the NVIDIA press-deck, the specifications of the GeForce GTX 960 have been revealed. The upcoming card from NVIDIA features the company’s 28 nm GM206 silicon, packing 1,024 CUDA cores, 64 TMUs, a 128-bit wide GDDR5 memory interface, and possibly 32 ROPs. The GeForce GTX 960 boasts a core clock speed of 1127MHz with a GPU boost clock of 1178MHz, a TDP rating of just 120W, and memory at 7GHz. NVIDIA is touting a lossless texture compression technology that will bring the effective bandwidth of the card to 9.3GHz, despite the somewhat narrow bus. The GeForce GTX 960, which draws power from a single 6-pin PCIe power connector, features two dual-link DVI ports, one HDMI 2.0 port, and one DisplayPort 1.2 port.
According to NVIDIA, the GeForce GTX 960 will launch on January 22, 2015.
G.SKILL, the leading high performance memory designer and manufacturer, has released two extremely high end Ripjaws 4 memory kits. The kits, which are made from hand-picked IC and the company’s highly-selective binning process, are additions to the Ripjaws 4 series that was released last August. The first high performance kit features a frequency of 3200MHz, CL timing of 15-15-15-35, and a capacity configuration of 4GBx4. The second kit includes the same voltage and capacity configuration, but offers a frequency of 3400MHz and a CL timing of 16-16-16-36. The new Ripjaws 4 kits from G.SKILL also come with Turbulence III memory fans, which help to ensure stable performance thanks to increased cooling.
Source: Press Release
So many of the technologies around us rely on batteries in one way or another, which is why so much work is being done to improve the technology. There are several avenues being investigated currently, but many have one issue or another holding them back. One example would be electrodes that contain vanadium pentoxide, but researchers at ETH Zurich have recently found a way around the problem.
The reason researchers are looking at vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) is because it can hold three lithium ions at a time, which is three times more than modern electrodes do. The problem is that when it absorbs these ions, the material swells enough that when the ion leaves, the material can fail. What the researchers did to get around this problem was add lithium-borate (LiBO2) to the mix, heat it to 900 ºC and rapidly cool it, forming a glass. While the normal crystal structure of V2O5 lacks stability when absorbing lithium ions, the disordered structure of the glass is more resilient.
When tested the new electrode performed well for about 30 charge/discharge cycles, but that increased to over 100 cycles when it was coated in reduced graphite oxide (RGO), to enhance its properties. One of these RGO coated electrodes allowed a battery to reach performance numbers that were one-and-a-half times better than modern batteries.
Source: ETH Zurich
January 14, 2015
The Total War series from Creative Assembly has placed gamers in various historical time periods for more than a decade in one of my favorite strategy game series ever. It appears that the series will soon be branching out into the fantasy world of Warhammer created by Games Workshop, and the game will be "announced imminently." The series was hinted at in an upcoming Total War artbook that a fan gained access to and then posted their findings online. While the game is expected to be announced soon, it likely won't be released for some time as Creative Assembly is currently working on Total War: Attila.
Source: PC Gamer
COUGAR has announced that the 200M mouse and 200K keyboard will now be offered at partner sites in the UK in addition to a wide range of currently available COUGAR products. Participating retailers include Ebuyer, CCL, and Aria PC Technology. The 200M uses a 2000 DPI optical sensor that is adjustable down to 800 DPI for fine tuning your mousing experience. The mouse is available in both orange and black. The 200K keyboard uses a scissor switch mechanism for the keys and implements anti-ghosting functionality for when the need to use several keys arises.
Source: Press Release
Since graphene was discovered, researchers have been working on applications for it and on ways to replicate its extraordinary abilities. At the University of Exeter, researchers found in 2012 that putting a layer of ferric chloride (FeCl3) between two layers of graphene resulted in the best known transparent conductor. Now they have found that GraphExeter, as they have named the conductive, flexible, and transparent material, is also highly stable.
No matter how amazing a material's properties are, if it cannot survive certain conditions, it is not going to be useful in certain environments. Graphene, though strong and flexible, does have some weaknesses here, but apparently GraphExeter does not. When the researchers tested it, they found it could endure a relative humidity of 100% for 25 days at room temperature, or up to 150 ºC in air or 620 ºC in vacuum.
This survivability would be very useful in smart windows and solar panels, which have to survive a range of extreme conditions, and replace indium tin oxide as a transparent conductor. It could also be put to use inside nuclear power plants and have applications in space.
Source: University of Exeter
The middle of the week is here, with several new items for you to check out. There is a review of the Phanteks Enthoo Mini XL case, which offers a high level of customizability for nearly any cooling setup you could want to include. We also have the Corsair Carbide 330R Titanium case, with its brushed aluminum front panel and sound absorbing material to get you a quiet computer. The Reeven Okeanos RC-1402 CPU cooler gets tested to see how well it can keep your system from overheating. Lastly we have a review of the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 smartphone, which offers a 6" screen that may give other phablets a run for their money.
Phanteks Enthoo Mini XL @ ThinkComputers
Corsair Carbide 330R Titanium @ PC Perspective
Reeven Okeanos RC-1402 @ Frostytech
Huawei Ascend Mate 7 @ TechSpot
Firefox Hello, the first global communications system built directly into a browser, has just been updated to make chatting by video easier than ever before. In order to video chat someone with Firefox Hello, users simply need to click the Hello icon located in the menu bar or customization panel, click on the 'Start a conversation' button, copy the generated link, and share it with someone that they want to communicate with. Each generated URL is completely unique and can be created without the need to set up a user account or give any personal information away. Conversations can even be saved for future use, and for individuals who want to connect to someone directly without sharing a link, parties just need to have a Firefox Account and be online at the same time.
Firefox Hello continues to evolve into a comprehensive tool for communicating over the Internet, thanks to TokBox technology as well as continued development from Mozilla and partner Telefónica.
Source: The Mozilla Blog
In order to one day have quantum computers we have to develop a variety of advanced and precise technologies, like photon optical chips containing single photon detectors. While such chips have been made, they are not very good at actually catching the single photons, in part because very few of the detectors on the chip will be any good. Researchers at MIT have found a fairly clever way to improve the numbers and make the detectors up to 100 times more accurate.
Typically the single-photon detectors are built directly on the silicon optical chip. This new method however allows the chip and detectors to be built separately and combined, so the best manufacturing methods can be used for the different components. The method starts with a film of silicon nitride, which is flexible, and then niobium nitride, a superconductor, is deposited onto the film, with gold electrodes at the ends. Now a droplet of polydimethylsiloxane is put on the film, and a tungsten probe pressed into it. Very quickly, the probe is pulled up, taking the polydimethylsiloxane and film with it. Now the film, with the photon detector on it, can be attached to a silicon chip.
Previous arrays of single-photon detectors would only register 0.2% of single photons sent to them, and even those deposited onto a chip individually have capped at 2%. The researchers' new chip was able to detect 20% of the photons though, and while it is still far from the 90% needed for a quantum circuit, it is a big step toward that goal.
January 13, 2015
Google launched a domain registration service on an invite-only basis last June, and has now made the service available to all in the United States. For just $12 per year you can use the Google service as an alternative to other services such as GoDaddy. Domains can be registered for up to 10 years or renewed on a yearly basis. As part of the registration users will also have access to Google Apps such as Drive, Sites, and e-mail with support for up to 100 e-mail aliases. The service is still in beta and features will likely be added as the service becomes more mature. As an additional option, users can reserve "premium" domains for fees up to $110 per year.
Source: Computer World
G.SKILL memory has once again taken the crown for the highest overclock of DDR4 memory. The overclock was obtained in conjunction with an ASUS X99 Rampage V Extreme motherboard, Intel i7-5960X CPU, and liquid nitrogen cooling. The memory was overclocked to a frequency of 4255MHz at CL18-18-18 timings.
Source: Press Release
Grand Theft Auto V may have already received its rerelease on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but PC gamers have been waiting patiently for their chance. At first we were told GTA V would arrive on January 27 for the PC, but now things are a little different. Rockstar announced Grand Theft Auto V for the PC will arrive on March 24 so it can undergo more testing and polishing. Don't grab the pitchforks just yet, as that extra time should prove beneficial. Plus, Rockstar does have a habit of pushing release dates back, so some of us were probably expecting the PC release to be delayed once again. The company has made a peace offering, of sorts, as not only do we have six new screenshots of the PC version, we also have the system specifications so we know what it takes to run GTA V. So, without further ado:
OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit, Windows 8 64 Bit, Windows 7 64 Bit Service Pack 1, Windows Vista 64 Bit Service Pack 2* (*NVIDIA video card recommended if running Vista OS)
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q6600 @ 2.40GHz (4 CPUs) / AMD Phenom 9850 Quad-Core Processor (4 CPUs) @ 2.5GHz
Video Card: NVIDIA 9800 GT 1GB / AMD HD 4870 1GB (DX 10, 10.1, 11)
Sound Card: 100% DirectX 10 compatible
HDD Space: 65GB
OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit, Windows 8 64 Bit, Windows 7 64 Bit Service Pack 1
Processor: Intel Core i5 3470 @ 3.2GHZ (4 CPUs) / AMD X8 FX-8350 @ 4GHZ (8 CPUs)
Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 660 2GB / AMD HD7870 2GB
Sound Card: 100% DirectX 10 compatible
HDD Space: 65GB
All in all, the minimum requirements don't look too bad, provided you're running a quad-core CPU. The recommended specifications aren't too abnormal either, although some gamers may be planning an upgrade if GTA V is in their future. And then we get to the hard drive size, which comes in at a staggering 65GB. GTA V on PC does support 4K resolutions so maybe there are a lot more higher-quality textures involved, but either way, I hope you have the space. NVIDIA 3D Vision is supported as well, plus gamers can enjoy Los Santos and Blaine County on a triple monitor setup and first-person mode.
Grand Theft Auto V arrives on March 24 for the PC. It includes GTA Online for up to 30 players and the new Online Heists mode, which comes to the PS4 and XBO before long. PC versions also get the new Rockstar Editor, which allows for easy editing and uploading of gameplay videos to the Social Club and YouTube.
Source: Rockstar NewsWire
How well do you know your friends? You may think you know them well, but it turns out computers can more accurately predict a person's personality than the people close to them. That is the finding from a recent study at the University of Cambridge that looked at Facebook Likes for these predictions.
To perform the study, the researchers had a sample of 86,220 volunteers on Facebook complete a 100 item personality questionnaire, and provide access to their Likes. The survey was to measure five psychological traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These volunteers were then given the ability to invite friends or family to judge their psychological traits using a shorter version of the test. This resulted in a sample of 17,622 people judged by one person and 14,410 judged by two. For a coworker, the computer just needed 10 Likes to be more accurate, while a friend or roommate took 70, family member took 150, and it took 300 Likes for the computer to beat a spouse. Considering the average Facebook user has 227 Likes, computers could soon know us better than the people around us, at least in some ways.
The researchers believe that part of the reason the computer was so successful is because it is able to consider more information at once than a human, and is always ruled by logic. However, they also point out that humans still have the advantage when it comes to those without digital footprints or traits that rely on subtle cognition.
Source: University of Cambridge
A new day is here, with a few new items for you to check out. There is a review of the MSI 970 Gaming motherboard, which looks to offer stellar performance without breaking the bank on the AMD AM3+ socket. We also have a look at the COUGAR 600K mechanical keyboard and the 600M gaming mouse, so if you're in the market for either one, there's one article covering both. Wrapping things up for today is the Thermaltake Toughpower DPS G 750W power supply, which comes with a software package to monitor everything from temperatures and voltages to efficiency and more.
MSI 970 Gaming AM3+ @ Benchmark Reviews
Cougar 600K Mechanical Keyboard & 600M Gaming Mouse @ TechSpot
Thermaltake Toughpower DPS G 750W @ LanOC Reviews
As a part of GRIDTuesday, NVIDIA has added LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 to its GRID library. The video game is based on the last three Harry Potter books, which were the basis for the final four films, and walks gamers through iconic locations from the Harry Potter universe such as Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and the Hogwarts School. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 also includes over 80 playable characters and 24 different story events. As a part of the NVIDIA GRID gaming service, owners of SHIELD Tab and SHIELD portables can play LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 for free until June 30, 2015.
Source: Press Release