OCC TECH NEWS
November 19, 2013
It's that time again, when new video games require new video drivers. NVIDIA is on top of things for anyone picking up Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and/or Need for Speed Rivals, not to mention any other games recently released, with the new GeForce 331.82 WHQL driver. This new driver is the Game Ready one for ACIV and NFSR, as well as boosts up to 19% in other games compared to the 327.23 WHQL drivers. There's also some huge improvements for anyone gaming at 4K, as there's as much as a 50% framerate boost in the likes of Battlefield 4, Crysis 3, and Metro: Last Light. GeForce Experience gets bumped up to 1.7.1 with the 331.82 drivers, which removes the CPU restrictions on ShadowPlay. So now anyone with a GTX 600/700 Series GPU can record their gameplay with a minimal performance impact (if any).
If you're already running GeForce Experience, feel free to start the download when prompted. Otherwise, you can grab the GeForce 331.82 WHQL drivers from GeForce.com, as well as check out the full release notes.
For most people, if they were to hold a piece of metal and a crystal in their hands, they would think the two materials have nothing in common. That would not be completely true as they are both crystals, meaning the molecules within them have a regular structure. When a material does not have such a regular structure, they are considered a glass, and metallic glasses are very interesting for many applications. One problem with them though is their brittleness, but researchers at Berkeley Lab and Caltech have found something that may help change that.
Thanks to their irregular molecular structures, metallic glasses can be stronger than their crystal counterparts, malleable as plastics, while also conducting electricity and resisting corrosion. With properties like those, it is not surprising that many industries are trying to use them. In bulk though, the glasses are brittle, so composite glasses, which can be less brittle, are used instead, but the researchers have found one kind of bulk glass that is as fatigue resistant as those composites. It turns out that palladium-based bulk metallic glasses have a unique staircase-like crack pattern within them. This pattern protects against large cracks by limiting the opening and closing of the any cracks.
If this pattern can be replicated in other metallic glasses, we may see pure, bulk metallic glasses being used for a variety of devices in the future. Such devices could include smartphones, biomedical implants, and more electronic devices.
Source: Berkeley Lab
Canonical had initially planned to replace the X window system with its own Mir window system in the upcoming 14.04 Long Term Support version of its Ubuntu OS, but it now appears that the change will be pushed to a later release. The announcement came at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, and it was stressed that the problem isn't with Mir itself but rather with the XMir compatibility layer that allows applications written for X to work with Mir. The fact that version 14.04 is an LTS release certainly didn't help the chances of a buggy piece of software making it in to the OS release as LTS releases are supported for five years and are generally considered to be more stable and reliable. While Mir won't be enabled by default, it will still be available in the Ubuntu repositories for users that wish to try it out at their own risk. CEO Mark Shuttleworth commented on the decision saying, "On the desktop, this will be sort of the crowning release of the Unity 7 code base. We've been working on that code pretty consistently since round about 10.04, and so we've had four very good years of continuous improvement. We can reasonably expect 14.04 to be a really fast, slick, stable, and reliable release on the desktop. That's the commitment we want to make to anyone who is deploying large volumes of Ubuntu in any large-scale environment."
Source: Ars Technica
NVIDIA and IBM have announced an upcoming partnership at the Supercomputing 2013 conference to enhance the software used by IBM to power the worlds most powerful computers. IBM also plans to utilize the powerful GPUs in data center applications in a move that "marks the first time that GPU accelerator technology will move beyond the realm of supercomputing and into the heart of enterprise-scale data centers." The companies also plan to collaborate on the hardware side, not content to let software have all the fun. IBM Power8 CPUs will be integrated with NVIDIA Tesla GPUs to allow the two devices to better work together to solve complex computing problems. VP of Accelerated Computing at NVIDIA Ian Buck said, "It will also provide existing supercomputing and high performance computing customers with new choices and technologies to build powerful, energy-efficient systems that drive innovation and scientific discovery."
One classic physics experiment I have seen multiple times is to quickly submerge one's hand in molten lead. Normally molten lead would immediately burn your flesh, but thanks some water and the Leidenfrost effect, a barrier protects your hand from the heat. Sometimes you actually do not want such a barrier, such as when trying to cool a reactor, and researchers at MIT have found a way to potentially dial back the effect.
In the molten-lead example, the person first dips their hand in water and then quickly dips it in the molten lead. When the lead touches the water, it causes the water film to evaporate, creating a vapor barrier to block the heat from reaching your skin (if done correctly), giving you a brief window to withdraw your undamaged digits. In a reactor the same thing happens when water is sprayed onto it, causing some of the water to bounce off of the vapor barrier, and not carry away any heat. What the researchers have found is that if you put a pattern of microscale posts with nanoparticles attached to them that vapor barrier will not form until a much higher temperature.
While reactors and steam generators are two obvious applications for this research, it could also find use in fuel-inject engines and potentially electronics. It depends on if a spray cooling system could be made to fit inside an electronic device.
AMD's new R9 series of video cards keep seeing more models released, and today we have two different ones for you to check out. There's the MSI R9 270X Gaming card to check out, which features the Twin Frozr cooler to keep things from getting too hot while gaming. We also have the Gigabyte R9 280X OC Edition, which has the company's own custom cooler, the Windforce 3X, and a nice factory overclock. For something a little different, there's another review on the Tt eSPORTS CRONOS gaming headset to see if it can help you get a little closer to all the latest games. Wrapping things up today is a review on the new Apple iPad Air.
MSI R9 270X Gaming @ LanOC Reviews
Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X OC Edition @ ThinkComputers
Tt eSPORTS CRONOS Gaming Headset @ Neoseeker
Apple iPad Air @ TechSpot
November 18, 2013
HighPoint has developed a new RAID solution based on SAS and SATA hard drives that it hopes will "revolutionize DAS applications." The RocketRAID 2720C2 6Gb/s SAS/SATA Cross-Sync RAID Solution allows users to combine 16 hard drives connected to two 2720C2 cards into a single RAID array. The RAID array is created across dual PCIe x8 slots and allows for transfer speeds up to 4GB/s. Speed of that magnitude is suitable for the most demanding data needs, including "HD media projects, video streaming devices, and A/V post production workstations." The RocketRAID 2720C2 is available this month at an MSRP of $400.
Source: Press Release
We are all fairly familiar with binary systems, such as power switches going between on and off, and data being stored as zeroes and ones. In some systems though, where quantum mechanics is the dominant form of physics, multiple mutually exclusive traits can coexist, and this is called a superposition. Superpositions, like many quantum states, are fragile though, which makes constructing a quantum computer difficult, but researchers at the University of Oxford have recently developed a qubit that survived for 39 minutes at room temperature.
The well-known Schrodinger's Cat thought experiment was originally developed to demonstrate how fragile a state can be, by showing that measuring a system can affect it. This is very true with quantum states where even a little bit of energy can cause them to collapse into classical states. Such fragility makes it very difficult to create a quantum computer that operates at temperatures much warmer than absolute zero, but the Oxford researchers were able to create a qubit at 4 K (four degrees above absolute zero) and then raise its temperature to room temperature. At 298 K (room temperature), the qubit remained in its superposition for 39 minutes, which shatters the previous record of roughly two seconds.
Such a robust qubit could greatly impact efforts to build quantum computers as it seems to have no noise. Of course there is a catch though. The qubits the researchers made consisted of phosphorus atoms doped into silicon with other elements, and all ten billion phosphorus atoms were given the same quantum state. A quantum computer will need more diversity of quantum states to be very useful.
Source: University of Oxford
November 17, 2013
It is being reported that Samsung plans to release a smartphone with a screen that wraps around the sides of the device, offering increased screen space for users. The extra screen space will give the ability to read messages from an angle and also serve as a "one-up" in the constant battle between manufacturers to innovate. The wrap around screen builds on the Youm technology first introduced at CES last year. It is unclear whether Samsung will create a new line of products to add this screen to or if it will simply be added to an existing line such as the Note.
November 15, 2013
Intel has announced a new program to broaden the reach of the ultra high speed interconnect technology known as Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is already included with all new Apple Mac computers and Intel is hoping to increase the number of PC users that have access to the technology. It plans to accomplish this with the new "Thunderbolt Ready" program, which will provide for an extremely easy upgrade. Users will receive a PCIe card and cables to connect the card to an available general purpose input/output, GPIO, header on their motherboard and an empty DisplayPort connector on their motherboard or a video card. The first expansion card and motherboard to participate in the program are from ASUS with its ThunderboltEX II and Z87 Pro motherboard. More companies are expected to release solutions in 2014. Corporate VP and General Manager of Motherboard and Desktop Systems Business Unit at ASUS Joe Hsieh said, "ASUS ThunderboltEX II is the first expansion card certified by Intel as a Thunderbolt 2 upgrade solution — and it gives users a simple, fast and flexible option to upgrade their existing hardware whenever they want."
A classic technology in many works of fiction is a tool to render a user invisible, and is often described as a cloak. When scientists actually learned how to make an object invisible with metamaterials though, 'cloak' would hardly describe the large devices. Researchers at the University of Toronto however have created a thin cloak that operates in a different way than the previous cloaks.
The first invisibility cloaks used metamaterials to cause light to bend in unnatural ways. As this requires special structures to achieve, the devices were somewhat large, and had to completely cover the object to work. This new cloak however uses a layer of antennas covering the object, which is considerably thinner. The antennas create an electromagnetic field that cancels out any light reflected off of the object. As it is only when light reflects off of an object that it can be seen, this renders the object invisible.
Currently the device has only been demonstrated with radio waves, but as the technology matures it should be able to work with light in other parts of the spectrum, including visible light. While the ability to make a target invisible would have an obvious military value, this cloaking technology could also be applied to remove obstacles that would otherwise block wireless signals.
Source: University of Toronto
Another week has come to a close, and we have just a couple items for you to check out. We have a review on the NVIDIA SHIELD, the company's portable Android-powered gaming device that can do double duty as a PC game streamer. See how it handles everything in the review below. There's also a new podcast from the PC Perspective team that covers a little bit of everything that went on during the week.
NVIDIA SHIELD @ Neoseeker
Podcast #277 @ PC Perspective
November 14, 2013
Ever wanted to build your own electrical circuit, but cannot afford the lithographic technology typically used to fabricate them? Thanks to the efforts of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Tokyo, and Microsoft Research, you may be able to print your circuits for only about $300.
By modifying a commercially available inkjet printer, the researchers were able to print working circuits in just sixty seconds. The circuitry was made from silver nanoparticle ink, which took advantage of recent work in how metal particles chemically bond to avoid thermal bonding. Such thermal bonds could actually damage the circuitry, and would at least add time to the process. As important as the ink though was the medium it was printed onto. The researchers found that resin-coated paper, PET film, and glossy photo paper worked well, and that canvas or magnetic sheets did not.
To prove this approach to printing circuits work, the researchers connected a capacitive ribbon with embedded circuits to a drinking glass. This formed a sensor that could measure how much water was in the glass.
Source: Georgia Institute of Technology
The Three Spirits update is the latest major update coming to the popular free to play MOBA from Valve, Dota 2. The three Spirits referred to are Storm, Earth, and Ember, with Earth and Ember being new heroes and Storm Spirit receiving a svelte cosmetic change. In addition to the two new heroes, a number of gameplay and other changes have been added. A lane picker utility was added to the hero selection screen, tournament replays will now be available spoiler free, penalties for players in low priority have been changed, among other changes. Several changes have been made to the item system and game economy with the ability to craft items into different items and items now able to accept gems to change their properties. Perhaps most importantly, Valve has given us Diretide, a return of the Halloween game mode from last year where teams fight each other and then join forces against the mighty Roshan.
G.Skill has announced the addition of 2133MHz memory to its line of DDR3 Ripjaws SO-DIMM memory modules. The modules operate at 1.35V and are targeted at laptop users, specifically those users with Intel Haswell based systems. The new memory will be available in a 4x2GB configuration and operates at Cas Latency 11. The new Ripjaws are plug and play with all current systems and won't require any modifications to the BIOS of your system to operate at full speed.
Source: Press Release
Carbon is an important element for modern life, and not just because of its necessity for biochemistry. The element is also found in many materials and devices we use daily, in one form or another. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, Peking University, and the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics have recently discovered a new, theoretical, three-dimensional form of carbon with the special property of being a conductor at standard temperature and pressure (STP).
The saying may be 'diamonds are forever,' but the chemistry is the opposite as graphite is actually the most stable form of carbon at STP. This means that diamonds, graphene, fullerenes, and nanotubes, if left alone at room temperature and pressure, will eventually decay into graphite. As graphite is a rather poor electrical conductor, researchers have been looking for another crystalline structure of carbon that is stable at STP, but is a good conductor, and it appears the researchers have found one, in theory.
This new form of carbon is comprised of tetrahedrons that interlock to form hexagons, and these hexagons give it its electrical conductivity, like they do in graphene. Being theoretical and early in development though, it may be some time before this carbon allotrope is synthesized, but when it is, it could have applications as a lightweight metal or low-resistance conductor.
Source: Virginia Commonwealth University
November 13, 2013
Kingston has announced a new secure flash drive, the DataTraveler Vault Privacy 3.0, targeted at users that want to secure their data in the event of a lost drive. The drive features hardware based encryption using a 256-bit AES encryption scheme with the XTS block cipher mode. Also included with the drive is DataTraveler Vault Privacy 3.0 Anti-Virus software with the option to purchase a drive with ClevX DriveSecurity from ESET as an alternative. The newest DataTraveler is the first USB 3.0 drive available with hardware encryption. The drive requires a complex password and will automatically lock after 10 failed intrusion attempts. Secure USB business manager Andrew Ewing said, "With the latest DTVP 3.0 security features and optional anti-malware protection by ESET coupled with best practices, organizations can better safeguard confidential data. Kingston has also helped enterprises future proof their investment by implementing fast USB 3.0 speeds and designing controllers which allow NAND to be interchanged without requalification and certification of security features." The drive will be available in capacities of 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB.
Source: Press Release
Organic Light Emitting Diodes, or OLEDs, are a light-generating technology many people and companies are interested in for use in displays on phones, cameras, and even some televisions. They potentially offer cheap displays that are still bright and vibrant, but still have issues. One of these issues researchers at the University of Bonn, Regensburg University, the University of Utah, and MIT have managed to solve, and it should lead to a bright future.
In general, LEDs, organic or otherwise, generate light when a negative electron meets a positive hole, and energy is released as a photon. The problem is that it is not as simple as that, due to quantum mechanical effects. Specifically, if the spins of the two charge holders are the same, they will not collide and release energy as a photon, but instead create unwanted heat. Traditionally this was addressed by adding certain metals, such as platinum or iridium, which are both rare and expensive. What the researchers have found though is a new OLED design that allows it to hold energy long enough for the spins to flip naturally.
By removing the need for the noble metals, this research could significantly decrease the cost of OLED displays. Also, because more energy will be converted to light than heat, the resulting displays should be brighter and more efficient.
Source: University of Bonn
This past Wednesday AMD launched the budget-oriented R9 graphics card called the R9 270. The card is the little brother of the R9 270X, and thus costs slightly less at $179 as opposed the R9 270X's $199+ price tag. The price difference shows in the specifications as well. The graphics card contains 1,280 stream processors and has a core clock of 925 MHz, which allows the card to perform 2.37 TFLOPS. The card is also equipped with 2 GDDR5 memory clocked at up to 1.4 GHz with a memory bandwidth of 179.2 GB/s.
These specifications are sufficient for playing most of today's popular games, such as Crysis 3, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider etc. According to AMD's own testing, the card pushes out 30 frames per second on a 1080p monitor with graphics settings set to "ultra quality", 4x multisampling and anti-aliasing enabled.
The cooler used is also different from the rest of the R9 series with a center mounted fan. Whether this will affect the cooling performance much, considering the lower power consumption (150 W), has yet to be seen. However, the big manufacturers of graphics cards have already announced that they will ship the R9 270, so we might soon see the R9 270 equipped with aftermarket coolers, so heat will not be a problem.
Right now there is a good chance a great deal of radiation is passing through each of us, from wireless routers and cell phone towers. Sadly, there is a good chance that much of that energy passing through us is going to be lost. Researchers at Duke University though have a new device to hopefully harvest that energy, and put it to use.
While most people will associate the photoelectric effect with solar panels that capture visible light, it applies to the larger electromagnetic spectrum, including the microwaves used for wireless communication. Using metamaterials, which have optical properties impossible to find in Nature, the researchers were able to build a device to capture and convert wasted wireless energy into a direct current. When tested the device was able to reach an impressive 37% efficiency and produced 7.3 V of energy.
An important aspect of the device's design is that it can be easily extended to capture more energy. It should also be possible to modify it to fit within cell phones and other devices, in order to wirelessly charge them when an outlet is not available.
Source: Duke University
It's the middle of the week, and we have just a couple items for you to check out today. The Gigabyte Force M7 Thor laser gaming mouse may have a budget-friendly price, but it packs a wealth of features you don't normally find at its price point. Plus it has a pretty snazzy look to it to set it apart from the crowd. Our other product is for the storage crowd, as the Western Digital My Cloud EX4 gets put to the test. This external solution can house four 3.5" drives to make it an effective NAS unit, while offering a ton of connectivity options and other aspects to make it so much more.
Western Digital My Cloud EX4 - Personal Cloud Goes Big @ PC Perspective
Gigabyte Force M7 Thor Laser Gaming Mouse @ Benchmark Reviews
November 12, 2013
Apple creates all of its own CPU and GPU designs for its mobile devices using technologies licensed from ARM Holdings and Imagination Technologies Group, but depends on other companies to fabricate the chips. Samsung has long been the go to partner, but it has been increasing the price of the contracts, causing Apple to start looking elsewhere. Taiwan Semiconductor was rumored to receive a portion of the A7 System-on-a-Chip contracts for the newest iPhone, but that never came to fruition. The latest company rumored to be involved is now GlobalFoundries, a fabrication company that spun off of AMD. The chips would be fabricated at the nearly complete Malta, NY facility which is anticipated to have the capability to manufacture 60,000 wafers per month. A conservative estimate of yield would give Apple roughly 32 million chips per month from the new facility.
Source: Daily Tech
Never underestimate the power of the seas, especially as you dive beneath the surface. There you can find currents with more power than multiple nuclear power plants can produce. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have been working on underwater kites that could potentially tap into those currents, similar to how wind turbines tap into the wind.
The researchers have recently received a $300,000 grant from NSF to develop systems to harness the power of tidal flows. Previously the researchers had researched low-cost kites for harnessing wind power (a project also funded by the NSF, along with the EPA) and now they are looking to adapt their models for use underwater. Using those models they will determine the best design for the kites, as well as the optimal placement of the turbines that will actually generate the electricity.
This is not the first endeavor to capture the power of tidal flows, but many of the previous attempts relied on stationary turbines. The mobility of the envisioned kite system however, could increase energy output significantly, while also being smaller and cheaper to use.
Source: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
We have some interesting items for you to go over, especially if you're a fan of video cards and APUs. AMD recently revealed more information on its Kaveri line of APUs, which will use four Steamroller cores and effectively doubles up on everything from its predecessors. There's also a look at a more tradtitional product in the form of the HIS R7 260X iPower IceQ X2 video card, which is a more mid-range option in AMD's new video card product stack. On the green side we have the Gigabyte GTX 780 Ti OC and GTX 780 GHz Edition video cards, with each sporting custom coolers and factory overclocks. We finish off today's items with a review on the NVIDIA Tegra Note 7 tablet, with EVGA behind the marketing and support.
AMD Spills more Kaveri Beans: AMD APU13 @ PC Perspective
HIS R7 260X iPower IceQ X2 2GB GDDR5 @ Madshrimps
Gigabyte GTX 780 Ti OC & GTX 780 GHz Edition @ TechSpot
EVGA NVIDIA Tegra Note 7 - $199 Tegra 4 Tablet @ PC Perspective