OCC TECH NEWS
October 6, 2014
Disney Interactive has decided to embrace the #1 gaming platform in the world, adding 21 games to Steam earlier today. The games include: Disney Alice in Wonderland, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Disney Fairies: Tinker Bell's Adventure, Disney G-Force, Disney Planes, Disney Princess: My Fairytail Adventure, Disney Tangled, Disney The Princess and the Frog, Disney TRON: Evolution, Disney Universe, Disney's Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree Animated Storybook, Disney-Pixar Brave: The Video Game, Disney-Pixar Cars 2: The Video Game, Disney-Pixar Cars Toon: Mater's Tall Tales, Disney-Pixar Toy Story 3: The Video Game, Disney-Pixar Toy Story Mania!, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Pure, Split/Second, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
During the first week (until October 12), all games have a 10% discount as part of the Disney Launch Sale. There are also five packs available that allow you to enjoy further discounts: Disney Extreme Racing Pack, Disney Toy Story, Planes, and Cars Pack, Disney Other-Worldly Adventure Pack, Disney Princess and Fairy Pack, and Disney Mega Pack.
One of the most highly anticipated survival horror games of the year officially went live on Steam earlier today. Yes, the PC version of Alien: Isolation has launched a day early, possibly influenced by the generally high critical acclaim the game has already received, with the PC version unsurprisingly receiving the highest praise. Console gamers will have to wait until tomorrow though, which was the original release date. But in the meantime, everyone can enjoy the official Launch Trailer:
Source: Press Release
Back in August, during its Gamescom livestream, Konami revealed that Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain would be coming to Steam. Today, Konami announced that the PC version of Ground Zeroes will be arriving via Steam on December 18. Best of all, the PC version features an increase in the number of simultaneous light sources, an increase in the number of models that can be displayed on-screen, increased shadow resolution, and 4K support.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes acts as a prologue to the much more extensive Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which is still awaiting a release date.
Source: Press Release
Originally scheduled to arrive November 11, Ubisoft has announced that its upcoming MMO-CarPG The Crew will now be arriving December 2 instead. Planned for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360, the delay is apparently because of community feedback. After two closed betas on PC and one technical beta on the new-gen consoles, the development teams at Ivory Tower and Ubisoft Reflections are "scrutinizing all of the player feedback [to] ensure that The Crew delivers the seamless open-world experience that meets everyone's high expectations."
According to a UbiBlog post today, substantial updates have already been made to the game, including an option to fully remove the HUD, a "massive re-creation of the United States," fine-tuning the collisions, new visual effects, difficulty and AI adjustments, and improved voice chat.
Source: Press Release and UbiBlog
We have already seen a narrated co-op Heist mission and an official "Co-Op Gameplay Trailer" for Assassin's Creed Unity, but when four-player co-op is one of the major selling points of this new-gen iteration, of course Ubisoft isn't going to stop there. The publisher has now posted a new video and blog entry entitled "Inside the Brotherhood", which delve a bit further into the co-op activities and assassin customization.
Assassin's Creed Unity will release on November 11 in North America and November 13 in EMEA territories for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A Season Pass is also available with eight hours of additional content, including Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, a unique 2.5D reimagining of the franchise.
A recent update to the Battle.net launcher from Blizzard further hints at the possibility of Warcraft 3 finding its way onto the service. The first hints at a possible re-release were given at Blizzcon last year during a World of Warcraft panel. During the panel it was revealed that Blizzard had a team of several people that were "working on a side project," and that "We're fans of Warcraft 1, Warcraft 2, Warcraft 3, and we'd love to replay those games for sure." The latest hint is a bit more subtle and comes with the addition of backgrounds and icons for Warcraft 3 to the launcher. Blizzcon will be taking place this year on November 7 and as someone who never got the chance to play the game when it first came out, this is something I will be sure to watch closely.
Source: PC Gamer
Graphene seems to be a gift that just keeps on giving as researchers continue to find new ways to use it. Now those at MIT have found a very simple way to turn graphene paper into a stretchable electrode.
The wonder material is an atom-thick sheet of carbon that has many amazing properties due to this 2D structure, but in this case, multiple layers of graphene are combined to form a paper. This paper has been looked at before for use as electrodes in a supercapacitor, thanks to its high surface area to mass ratio, but not quite like this. The MIT researchers attached the paper to a polymer they had stretched out in two directions. They then released the polymer in one direction, and then the other. The first release caused the graphene paper to form parallel pleats, while the second crumpled it into chaotic folds. If the paper is stretched out again, the folds just smooth themselves out.
The researchers created a prototype supercapacitor with this material by placing an insulating hydrogel between two sheets, and as the hydrogel is also stretchable, the supercapacitor itself can survive being flexed and pulled. The crumpled graphene paper could also be used as electrodes in flexible batteries or in stretchable sensors.
Bing has just announced that it has added the ability to view song lyrics directly within search results. When a user searches for lyrics to their favorite song, Bing will now show full lyrics on the mainline search results page, eliminating the need to sift through website links and third-party sites. According to Bing, the search engine will also provide users with artist, album, and other song related information alongside the main search results in a summarized, snapshot form.
Bing currently supports over half a million songs, but revealed that it will support more songs in the coming weeks.
When quantum mechanics was first being developed and scientists were first discovering the math that rules it, many interesting predictions were made. Some of these predictions have since proven true, but one has been particularly stubborn. The Majorana fermion is a particle that exists as its own antiparticle and finally, researchers at Princeton University and the University of Texas-Austin have proven its existence.
As the name suggests, antimatter is the opposite of normal matter, and when they collide, they will annihilate each other. The Majorana fermion is an exception to that rule, and was first described in 1937. This particle actually possesses properties of both normal and antimatter, making it neutral and keeping its interaction with its environment weak. In 2001 it was outlined how a Majorana fermion could be used as a qubit in quantum computers, which would benefit greatly from the weak interactions, and a new way to find it using a superconducting wire and a strong magnetic field.
The Princeton researchers constructed their superconducting wire out of iron atoms, aligned on a crystal of pure lead, and cooled it to just one degree above absolute zero. With a scanning-tunneling microscope, the researchers were able to image electrical signals at the tips of the wire, suggesting the presence of Majorana fermions, but only by imaging the rest of the wire, and showing the signals were only at the ends, the researchers were able to directly demonstrate they had created the elusive particle. Ironically the researchers also discovered that producing these particles is easier than they expected, provided the magnetism and superconductivity are present. Based on this, and their already simple setup, the researchers predict many more materials could be used to produce these particles, which could prove invaluable in the creation of quantum computers.
Source: Princeton University
Samsung has announced that plans to construct a new chip plant in South Korea. The fabrication plant will be located in Pyeongtaek, which is 47 miles south of Seoul, and will cost the electronics giant roughly $14.7 billion. Although construction on the new plant is set to begin sometime next year, the facility, which will make either logic or memory chips, will not open until 2017. Samsung noted that 150,000 jobs will be created thanks to the newly announced chip manufacturing plant, which happens to be about a third of the population of Pyeongtaek.
The iPhone 6, which set a pre-order sales record for Apple after the technology company unveiled it early last month, has been sought after by millions of consumers across the world since its announcement. A Verizon customer located in Beverly Hills, California, seems to be the luckiest of all who ordered the iPhone 6, as they have received a prototype of the smartphone. Apparently the 64GB iPhone 6 prototype does not feature a model number or any FCC marks, features a red Lightning port, and is stuck in developer mode. With such a rare find, the Verizon customer placed the iPhone 6 prototype onto eBay four days ago with a starting bid of $999. Amazingly, the prototype version of the iPhone 6 currently has a bid amount of $86,100, and with the auction set to last another three days, that amount is sure to climb even higher.
Source: eBay and TweakTown
While the possibility of quantum computers can grab headlines, there are more quantum technologies than that, and some can even be used today. Quantum encryption leverages quantum mechanics to transmit information securely using photons, but creating these photons is a little tricky. Doing so requires the generation of entangled photon pairs, which normally have the polarization of the original light source, but now researchers have developed a device to create cross-polarized pairs, as reported by The Optical Society's.
Normally cross-polarized photon pairs would be created using a classical mechanics process, which is a problem for quantum technologies, as quantum phenomena would be destroyed. Specifically, the entanglement between the photons would be undone. This new device gets around that by using a micro-ring resonator that exploits energy conservation. This suppresses the classical effects involved and actually amplifies the quantum processes.
Thanks to the small size of the device, under one square millimeter in area, we could see the generation of cross-polarized, entangled photon pairs be integrated into modern computer chips. The device can already be fabricated with processes compatible with those that make computer chips.
Source: The Optical Society
A new week is upon us, with plenty of items for you to look over to get it started. There is a review on the Gigabyte AMD Radeon R9 285 WindForce OC video card, which offers a factory overclock and custom cooler to help keep things from getting too hot during an intense gaming session. There is also a look at the SilverStone Fortress FT05, a rather small case that features a unique design. We also have the Y50 Touch from Lenovo, which is a gaming laptop that may be a solid choice for those on a budget. ROCCAT's TALK FX feature gets looked at to see what it brings to the table when you are using multiple ROCCAT device. Finally the ICYCube MB561U3S-4S 4 Bay External HDD Enclosure from ICY DOCK is reviewed to see if it can be the basis for your new NAS.
Gigabyte AMD Radeon R9 285 WindForce OC @ Madshrimps
SilverStone Fortress FT05 @ TechSpot
ICY DOCK ICYCube MB561U3S-4S 4 Bay External HDD Enclosure @ ThinkComputers
Lenovo Y50 Touch Gaming Notebook @ PC Perspective
ROCCAT TALK FX Overview @ Benchmark Reviews
October 5, 2014
Tower defense, action strategy hybrid Toy Soldiers: War Chest was announced back in August, with promises of grandeur. While we were told there will be four armies at launch, only two were actually revealed: Kaiser's WWI-era German forces and Starbright's Star Power army. Sadly, those two armies are still the only ones we know about, but Ubisoft has posted two gameplay videos narrated by Producer Josh Mast, which delve a littler deeper into the game. The first video, entitled "Hero Focus", discusses hero customization. The second video, entitled "Army Focus", discusses the various units and turrets at your disposal.
Toy Soldiers: War Chest is scheduled to arrive early 2015 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
October 4, 2014
Back in August, Ubisoft announced Might & Magic Heroes VII and revealed The Shadow Council, allowing anyone with a free Uplay account to join and affect the game's development via votes, developer chats, and more. With the Haven, Academy, Stronghold, and Necropolis factions set in stone, the remaining two launch factions would be determined via Shadow Council voting. The first vote was between the elven Sylvan and the dwarven Fortress, and with and decisive victory, Sylvan won the fifth faction spot last month.
Beginning this past Thursday, the sixth and final faction is now up for vote, allowing fans to choose between the Dark Elves of the Dungeon faction or the Demons of the Inferno faction. The Dark Elves come from the underground nation of Ygg-Chall and are a mysterious bunch whose motives are unknown. The Demons, on the other hand, know only one motive: chaos. Forged by Urgash and having escaped the mystical prison of Sheogh, these demons "would burn the world to a cinder just to watch it burn." You can read all about the Dungeon and Inferno factions at the first link below and cast your vote for which you'd like to see as the sixth faction. As of the time of this writing, Dungeon is winning by a fairly significant margin, proving once again that fantasy fans love anything elven.
In addition to the faction vote, Shadow Council members can vote on which Ivan figurine should be included in the Heroes VII Collector Edition. Ivan, Duke of Griffin, is the main character of the game and wields a sword known as the Griffin's Resolve. Fans can choose between two distinct poses: the Strategist or the Warrior. The final design will be made into a highly detailed figurine measuring 9.8 inches in height. The Strategist is currently dominating the vote.
Might & Magic Heroes VII is coming exclusively to PC sometime in 2015.
Source: Official Site  and 
If you want to invade another player's game as a deadly zombie in Techland's first-person, open-world survival horror game Dying Light, you're going to have to pre-order (or presumably purchase it as DLC post-release). Pre-ordering the game gives you free access to the Be The Zombie DLC, which allows you to play as the Night Hunter and invade other games. The Night Hunter features a unique set of moves and abilities, which can be upgraded using experience points. While you need to own the DLC to play as the Night Hunter, all players regardless of DLC ownership can be invaded when playing online.
Dying Light will launch January 27 in the Americas, January 28 in Australia and New Zealand, and January 30 in Europe and Asia; priced at $49.99 for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, and $59.99 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Source: Press Release
October 3, 2014
Far Cry 4's Kyrat is a dangerous place, so to help you out, arms dealer and former warlord Longinus is there to sell you all sorts of weaponry. Or you can just throw some bait and have the wildlife do your fighting for you.
Far Cry 4 is set to release on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on November 18.
Source: Press Release
Infiltration RPG Styx: Master of Shadows launches is just a few days, and there has already been several gameplay trailers for our viewing pleasure. Back in the beginning of September, Focus Home Interactive released one such trailer called "Assassin's Green", which illustrated various assassination methods titular protagonist Styx can employ in the game. Now Focus Home has followed up with "Assassin's Green 2", showing new methods like poisoning guards or blinding them with a clone.
Styx: Master of Shadows will arrive on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 7 with a very reasonable price tag of $29.99/€29.99/£24.99. Pre-purchasing the game on Steam provides a 20% discount, and the offer is actually good until October 13, meaning you could actually wait for reviews if you're on the fence! Kudos to Focus Home for offering a week one discount instead of just a pure pre-order discount!
Source: Press Release
Beats Music, which was recently taken over by Apple, may be cheaper in the future than rival music subscription services like Rhapsody and Spotify. According to individuals who have knowledge of company plans, Apple is currently coordinating with major music labels to establish new rights and features for Beats Music. These agreements would pave the way for labels to receive more money for streaming tracks than they currently do, which would in turn allow Apple to reduce the cost of Beats Music. While Beats Music currently costs customers $10 a month, the discussions that Apple is having with labels could allow the service to drop below this price, thereby undercutting other music subscription services.
Source: CNET and Re/code
Google recently released a new version of Google Play Newsstand that featured an updated user interface, and it looks like the technology giant is now doing the same with its social networking application, Google+. The latest update to Google+ for Android brings the much welcomed material design to the masses, which in the social networking application translates into a flatter design, polished menus, a simpler layout for photos, and a revised post button. Additional features contained within the update include the ability to cast a slideshow of links, photos, and videos shared to a user’s stream directly to a television, editing capabilities of Auto Awesome Movies on select devices, various bug fixes, and performance improvements.
The latest version of Google+ can be downloaded from the Google Play Store immediately.
If you're a fan of TNT's hit sci-fi, post-apocalyptic television series Falling Skies and of XCOM's tactical gameplay, you're in luck: turn-based, tactical strategy RPG Falling Skies: The Game has launched for Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. The game takes place between the events of the show's third and fourth seasons, starting with the 2nd Mass stumbling upon the wreckage of an ambushed convoy and meeting a survivor "who claims he can create a destructive weaspon that will aid in the human resistance against the Espheni invaders."
Falling Skies: The Game features squad-based tactical combat with a non-linear campaign, characters from the show, map randomization, dynamic AI, and squad member customization. Yep, it's pretty much XCOM: Enemy Unknown with a Falling Skies coat of paint, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Source: Press Release and Steam
VLC media player, an open source application that plays all multimedia file formats from files, streams, and discs, has officially been released for Windows 8.1. The application has been available for quite some time for Windows 8, but the new version brings an enhanced design that makes using the program much easier through the Metro user interface. VLC media player users who use the Windows 8.1 version of the application will now notice a navigation menu on the left, which contains a search bar, a home tab, a videos tab, and a music tab. The new interface is quite simple and focuses purely on function, as navigation options are limited overall.
VLC for Windows 8.1 is available immediately for downloaded from the Windows Store.
When using computers and mobile devices, most people probably do not realize just how much is involved with making sure the data they send and receive is accurate. Behind every transmission, especially wireless ones, error-correcting code (ECC) is employed to prevent errors, but current algorithms are not exactly ideal. Researchers at and from MIT will soon be presenting work on a new interactive coding scheme that could solve the problems.
Classical ECC has worked well for years and has the useful property that it works better as the size of a transmission increases. The algorithms are not well suited for shorter transmissions though, such as those used with distributed computing. For these transmissions a new system is needed and for twenty years researchers have been working on interactive code schemes that should do the trick. Like ECC, interactive code is evaluated on how much noise it can tolerate, the maximum transmission rate, and how long the encoding and decoding processes take. The MIT researchers' work is the first that is optimal in all three criteria.
Traditionally ECC works by adding extra bits to the transmission that describe the message, to reveal errors in the message, and then by going back and forth between the message and extra bits, the correct message can be discovered. This new system cuts that process short by building lists of what the message might be, and then exchanging them. As a device will always know what its message said, it is possible for the two devices to determine what the optimal decoding approach is. This way the scheme can tolerate a quarter of the data being altered and its processing time is linearly related to the length of the message. Now work still needs to be done to further optimize the scheme, but this is still a great step towards a new error correction system.
Even though Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor launched on Tuesday, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) has decided to release a brand new trailer for the game. Entitled "Forge Your Nemesis", the video provides an interesting look at the innovative Nemesis System.
In addition, beginning today and going until Sunday, October 5 at 1PM EST, "players can build their legend by taking down an exclusive Legion of Sauron's forces this weekend through the Test of Power Challenge Mode." And of course there will be a Challenge Leaderboard to see where you rank among your fellow gamers.
Source: Press Release
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) has continued the trend of announcing one new Mortal Kombat X character each month since the game's official announcement. After initially unveiling Scorpion, Sub-Zero, D'Vorah, Ferra and Torr, Cassie Cage, and Kotal Kahn, there was Raiden in July, Kano in August, Goro in September, and now October's reveal: Quan Chi. The reveal is accompanied by a gameplay trailer, showing off his three variations, his inter-dimensional X-Ray move, and a glimpse at his Fatality.
In order of their appearance in the video, Quan Chi's three variations are: Sorcerer, specializing in spell circles; Warlock, specializing in dark portals; and Summoner, featuring a demonic minion.
Mortal Kombat X will be coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on April 14, 2015.
Source: Press Release
Heart attacks are pretty serious and something very hard to recover from, in part because heart cells do not multiply and there are few cardiac muscle stem cells to repair the damage. Cardiac patches have been created to replace damaged cells, but because of how they are made, these patches can cause their own health problems. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have recently developed a new hybrid patch that could address those problems.
Traditionally the patches are made by growing cardiac tissue on a collagen scaffold from pig hearts. One of the problems with this approach is the potential for antigens that will trigger an immune response, causing the patient's body to attack the patch. To get around this the researchers instead harvest fatty tissue from the patient's stomach, as the body will not attack its own cells. This left an issue with connectivity, as the cells in the patch must respond to the electrical signals of the heart, and engineered patches do not immediately form the necessary connections. The solution the researchers tried was to deposit gold nanoparticles onto the cardiac tissue, providing the needed conductivity.
So far the nonimmunogenic hybrid patch has shown itself to transfer electrical signals faster and more efficiently than scaffolds without the gold nanoparticles, when tested in animals. The next step for the technology is to test it in larger animals, and eventually perform clinical trials.
Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University
The secretive hardware group at Google, known as Google X, is reportedly working on large scale displays. The screens are being designed with modularity in mind, using a number of "smaller screens that plug together like Legos to create a seamless image." The concept of using several monitors to create a larger display isn't an entirely new one, but the lack of noticeable borders between monitors could set the Google design apart from competitors. This type of configuration is often used in applications such as "stadium jumbotrons, digital billboards, and video walls," and it remains to be seen who or what the target of the Google X project would be.
Source: Ars Technica
It is almost amusing how much we rely on lithium ion batteries, despite knowing quite little about their operation. Given the extreme nature of the inside of a battery though, perhaps that is not altogether surprising. Still some researchers do find ways to looking inside, such as those at Michigan Technological University who have uncovered what happens when ions enter the anode.
As part of how batteries operate, lithium ions will move from one side to the other, entering and exiting the electrodes as is appropriate. That movement is not exactly simple or easy though, which is something the Michigan researchers want to change. With transmission electron microscopy, the researchers were able to observe atomic shuffling, as they call it, when lithium enters an anode. The structure of the electrode has to change to receive the lithium ion, expanding and contracting to form a sandwich structure.
Obviously this explains how the ions move through the electrodes, but it also explains why anodes made of a layered material fail. The stress and phase transitions involved are too great for the material to survive over repeated charge/discharge cycles.
Source: Michigan Technological University
Friday is upon us at last, which means there are some items to help close out the week. We have an early look at the EVGA Hydro Copper GTX 980 water block and, if this preview is anything to go by, the new Maxwell GPU is going to be kept quite cool. There's also a review on the SteelSeries Sibera RAW Prism, an entry-level gaming headset for those on a tight budget. If you're looking for some help in your games, then perhaps the Cougar 700M gaming mouse can help you get those few more kills to move up the leaderboard. Wrapping up things for the week is a podcast covering the latest news and reviews.
EVGA Hydro Copper GTX 980M Water Block Early Performance Testing @ PC Perspective
Cougar 700M Gaming Mouse @ Benchmark Reviews
SteelSeries Sibera RAW Prism @ LanOC Reviews
Podcast #320 @ PC Perspective
October 2, 2014
NVIDIA recently held the GAME24 event, a 24 hour global celebration of PC gaming. The entire event was broadcast live with more than 1.3 million viewers from over 120 countries watching the events that included tech talks, a 24 hour modding competition, and a Dota 2 tournament. NVIDIA also used the event to unveil its next graphics architecture, known as Maxwell, along with the GeForce GTX 980 and 970.