OCC TECH NEWS
January 30, 2015
Thanks to its use in pop culture, many people are likely aware of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which puts a limit on how precisely the momentum and position of an object can be measured. This is not the only uncertainty principle though as it has been suggested that energy and time may have a similar relationship. Now researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have confirmed this relationship.
According to Heisenberg, the product of the uncertainties of momentum and position cannot be less than Planck's constant, so there is an amount of graininess to space. What the Berkeley researchers have done is derived a similar relationship between the variance of an energy state, and the lifetime of that state, where their product again cannot be less than Planck's constant. This principle was first mathematically examined in 1945, but only for one kind of experiment, yet it has still been considered a part of quantum mechanics for some time. Now that it has been rigorously proven, it can be applied to all experiments and observations that involve time.
Among the applications of this research is setting the clock speed of quantum computers. As these computers will rely on quantum energy states changing over time, it is necessary to know the minimal amount of time it will take to successfully distinguish the change.
Source: University of California, Berkeley
Bloomberg is reporting that a source has revealed that Microsoft is in talks with Cyanogen to create a "version of the Android mobile-operating system that’s more friendly to Microsoft services." As part of the arrangement, Microsoft would invest in the startup and enter into a commercial partnership. Cyanogen is known for creating a version of the Android OS that gives users the ability to customize the OS to their liking, and this experience would be great if Microsoft is hoping to expand its offerings on Android. Representatives from both companies declined to comment on the speculation.
Apple has just released an update to its iTunes application, bringing the popular music platform to version 12.1. The latest update, which is the first major update to be released for iTunes since version 12 was released last fall alongside OS X Yosemite, ushers in a Notifications Center and various bug fixes. The new Notifications Center shows users what is currently playing on iTunes or iTunes Radio and also lets them skip ahead, star tracks, and even purchase songs. Version 12.1 of iTunes also includes performance improvements when syncing an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to the music software.
According to Viacom, the parent company of Nickelodeon, the children’s entertainment giant will soon follow HBO and offer its own video-on-demand subscription service sometime next month. Amazon and Netflix have long offered content aimed directly at children, and with the popular growth of services that both companies offer to consumers, it is no wonder why Nickelodeon is planning to debut its own offering. More details about the subscription service are expected to be revealed to advertisers sometime next month in an upfront meeting, but Philippe Dauman, the Viacom Chief Executive, has already stated that the service will be very attractive to parents and children alike. Dauman also noted that the new Nickelodeon service will be aimed at consumers who use mobile devices throughout their day, a move that should help the company achieve success in its mission to offer its own subscription service.
The end of the week is here, and very nearly the end of January, and we have some items for you to check out before either happens. There is a review of the Cougar 600K mechanical keyboard, which uses Cherry MX Blue switches and some unique features to set it apart from others. We also have a look at the new Dying Light game, with it being benchmarked across a multidue of setups to see what performs best. Since it is nearly the end of the month, we have a look back at 20 of the worst PC setups from January. Rounding out today's items is a podcast covering the latest news and reviews from the past week.
Cougar 600K Mechanical Keyboard @ Benchmark Reviews
Dying Light Benchmarked: Graphics & CPU Performance @ TechSpot
20 of the Worst PC Setups - January 2015 @ ThinkComputers
Podcast #334 @ PC Perspective
Though 3D printing is what most people think of when considering additive manufacturing, it is not the only method out there (juts perhaps the most popular). Another method is called Cold Spray and it has some distinct advantages over 3D printing, but it also has some major disadvantages. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin though have been awarded €500,000 by ESA (European Space Agency) to improve the method and hopefully overcome the issues.
Typically 3D printing involves building a structure layer-by-layer by extruding a material from a nozzle, and often that material is a plastic of some sort. Cold Spray however works with powders of various materials and accelerates them to supersonic speeds. These materials can be metals, composites, or polymers and can be used to build coatings and some simple geometrical components currently, and all without needing heat. It can do that about a thousand times faster than other additive manufacturing technologies, but it is also more expensive and less efficient than those methods. Bringing down costs is one of the Trinity researchers' goals.
Potentially the technology could be used for space missions, hence ESA's support, but there are also terrestrial uses, such as applying special coatings to domestic vehicles. It is hard to guess the wealth of uses that may be found for Cold Spray, if the researchers do succeed with all of their goals.
Source: Trinity College Dublin
At a recent preview event for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that was held by developer CD Projekt RED, gaming publications and online reporters had the ability to test the highly anticipated game on three platforms, including PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. According to details by GameStar, a German video game magazine, the PC version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt simply looked the best when compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions. The PC version was capable of running on "high" settings and offered sharper textures than the console versions it was compared against. GameStar also stated that while Wild Hunt was able to run at 1080p and 30 frames per second on the PlayStation 4, it suffered from textures that were less sharp and detailed than the PC version. However, the PlayStation 4 fared well when compared to the Xbox One, which was only capable of running the latest build of at 900p. GameStar rated the PC as the best platform to experience the latest Witcher title on, with the PlayStation 4 beating out the Xbox One.
While CD Projekt RED is attempting to make changes to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that allows the Xbox One to run the game at 1080p, the company cannot confirm that this change will take place before the game’s launch on May 19.
January 29, 2015
The United States Federal Communications Commission has revised its definition of broadband, bumping it from 4Mbps down 1Mbps up to 25Mbps down 3Mbps up. The FCC stated that the old numbers were "dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way." Along with the new definition, the 2015 Broadband Progress Report found that 55 million Americans don't have access to advanced broadband. The report was summarized by the FCC stating, "While significant progress in broadband deployment has been made...these advances are not occurring broadly enough or quickly enough."
Source: PC Magazine
Multiple upcoming LEGO games have been announced by Warner Bros. Interactive and TT Games. Two games will tie into upcoming moves Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron. LEGO Jurassic World was first teased during the credits of LEGO Batman 3 and will take gamers through the stories of the first three Jurassic Park movies in addition to the upcoming movie. It has an expected release of June and will be available on all major consoles. LEGO Marvel's Avengers also has a June release date and will be based on the two Avengers movies. LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin and LEGO Batman: Beyond Gotham will be heading to the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita on March 24 and this summer, respectively. TT Games Managing Director Tom Stone talked about the games stating, "This year will be the biggest yet for Lego video games with these incredible titles and several firsts for the series. TT Games are crafting humorous Lego adventures, based on new stories and characters across some of the most well-known and iconic worlds."
For decades now we have relied on electronics, and while they have served us well, the time is approaching that we replace them with something else. One of these potential replacements is spintronics, which relies on the spin of electrons to store information, but it may be getting some new competition soon. Researchers at Berkeley Lab have made an important discovery that could give valleytronics the boost it needs to challenge spintronics and bring us closer to a quantum future.
Valleytronics is similar to spintronics in that it uses a quantum value to encode information, but the value has a different source. It comes from electrons moving through a 2D semiconductor as a wave with two energy valleys. These valleys can be described by their momentum and quantum valley number. What the Berkeley researchers have discovered is a way to generate a pseudo-magnetic field for controlling the valley excitons, using the optical Stark effect. Manipulating these excitons is hard to do with real magnetic fields, even when using superconducting magnets. The optical Stark effect creates the powerful pseudo-magnetic field with laser pulses.
Both spintronics and valleytronics offer significant improvements in data processing speeds over modern electronics, so it will be interesting to see which may be adopted in the future. Either one though will likely open the way to quantum computers.
Source: Berkeley Lab
It was reported yesterday that NVIDIA publically acknowledged a problem that involves how the 4GB of VRAM featured on the GeForce GTX 970 is divided, which causes performance drops when 3.5GB of VRAM is utilized. AMD has decided to take advantage of this news by not only releasing a media document that states “4GB means 4GB,” but also by slashing the price of the Radeon R9 290X. AMD has told its add-in board partners to lower the price of the R9 290X to as low as $299, making the graphics card highly competitive against the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970. AMD is also emphasizing to consumers that along with the 4GB of onboard VRAM that the R9 290X boasts, the card offers a 512-bit wide memory interface.
Microsoft has officially launched its Office suite for Android tablets, which allows tablet owners to utilize Word, PowerPoint, and Excel on their mobile devices. The news comes just weeks after Microsoft announced the expansion of the Office for Android tablet preview program and months after Microsoft brought office to additional mobile devices. The latest version of the Office suite for Android tablets supports retrieval of documents from OneDrive and Dropbox accounts, a variety of customizable templates, and synchronization with OneDrive. Office for Android is compatible with 7-inch tablets and larger that run Android KitKat 4.4, but unfortunately requires a monthly subscription of at least $7 per month after the one-month free trial expires.
A new day is here, with plenty of items for you to check out. There is a review of the Primochill Wet Bench test case, which is an open-air model that may be ideal for those doing a lot of motherboard and/or video card testing. We have the Noctua NH-U9S CPU cooler that delivers Noctua performance in a fairly small heat sink for those without a lot of extra space. If you want to boost your audio, perhaps the Sound Blaster E5 digital audio converter is for you. To continue with audio, there is the Kingston HyperX Cloud 2 headset, which is a premium gaming headset without that premium price. We have a rather unique PC, as the CyberPowerPC SYBER GAMING VAPOR A bills itself as a gaming console PC ideal for the living room. Apple's new iPad Air 2 gets reviewed to see what all it brings to the tablet world. Finishing off for the day is a look at the Samsung 840 EVO performance restoring firmware and how it has held up over the last several months.
Primochill Wet Bench Test Bench Case @ PC Perspective
Noctua NH-U9S @ ThinkComputers
Sound Blaster E5 @ LanOC Reviews
Kingston HyperX Cloud 2 Headset @ Bjorn3D
CyberPowerPC SYBER GAMING VAPOR A @ Bjorn3D
Apple iPad Air 2 16GB @ Madshrimps
Samsung 840 EVO Performance Restoring Firmware Only Partially Effective @ PC Perspective
Light is central to many technologies we rely on today, but it is likely to become even more important in the future. Before that can happen though, we must find new ways to manipulate light into doing what we want it to do. Researchers at the University of Illinois have recently succeeded in demonstrating Brillouin Scattering Induced Transparency (BSIT), which is a major step toward that level of control.
Normally you would expect light travelling through a fiber to continue on through it, but it can be made to leave the fiber by placing a microresonator next to it. What BSIT does is allow you to remove that opacity, and the researchers were able to trigger it by firing a laser at the microresonator. This second laser causes mechanical vibrations, which can be tuned to do more than just allow light to pass or not. The resonator can also cause light's group velocity to increase or decrease. This 'slow' light is useful for optical buffer applications, such as storing quantum information.
Another part of this discovery that is particularly important is that BSIT is non-reciprocal, meaning that this system was only allowing through from one direction, while it would still block light coming from the other. Current non-reciprocal devices are more complicated and are unsuited for use in optical chips, but this could actually be built into chips using current foundry processes.
Source: University of Illinois
HyperX, the high-performance product division of Kingston Technology, has announced that its Predator DDR4 memory has been overclocked to 4351MHz, thereby setting a world record. The frequency of 4351MHz is the highest frequency achieved among all DDR4 memory across the globe, showing that HyperX memory is truly performance driven. The overclock was set by "Toppc" of MSI, who utilized a single 4GB HyperX Predator 3333MHz DDR4 module on the impressive MSI X99S XPOWER AC motherboard.
Along with boasting the highest frequency among all DDR4 memory, HyperX Predator DDR4 memory successfully achieved 10 out of the top 20 memory clock records across the world, according to HWBOT. HyperX DDR4 memory also has the top scores in two other benchmarks recognized by HWBOT, MaxxMEM, and MaxxMEM Read Bandwidth, respectively.
Source: Press Release
January 28, 2015
With the recent launch of the GeForce GTX 970, users were reporting a drop in performance with their cards. NVIDIA has come out and acknowledged that the problem is related to the way the 4GB of VRAM is divided, causing a performance drop when reaching 3.5GB of VRAM used. NVIDIA employee PeterS took to the NVIDIA forums to tell users that a driver update is in the works that will address the performance issues, stating that the driver will "tune what's allocated where in memory to further improve performance." He went on to add that users who no longer want their cards should "return it and get a refund or exchange. If you have any problems getting that done, let me know and I'll do my best to help." The driver won't be able to give users access to the full 4GB of VRAM, but should increase performance when using large amounts of memory.
Source: PC Gamer
Tt eSPORTS, the leading expert in professional e-Sports gaming peripherals, has revealed the new COMMANDER Gaming Gear Combo. The new keyboard and mouse combination from Tt eSPORTS offers stellar features at an amazing price point, making it an excellent choice for a wealth of gamers. The included keyboard offers metal-looking edges, adjustable blue LED backlighting, repeat rate options, multimedia keys, shortcut keys, and a function key. The COMMANDER gaming keyboard also features the ability to switch WASD keys to the arrow keys as well as the ability to disable the Windows key entirely. The mouse that is included with the COMMANDER Gaming Gear Combo boasts on-the-fly sensitivity up to 2400 DPI, OMRON switches that feature a lifecycle of 5 million clicks, comfortable palm grips, lighted side panels, and an illuminated dragon logo.
The new COMMANDER Gaming Gear Combo from Tt eSPORTS features an MSRP of $29.99.
Source: Press Release
It was reported just two days ago that Ubisoft, without warning, banned legitimate license keys that were purchased by gamers from third-party websites such as G2A and Kinguin. Due to this, G2A has released an official statement concerning the actions taken by Ubisoft, revealing that not only is it not responsible for the banning of the keys, but that it will offer full refunds or replacement game keys to affected customers, as long as they are G2A Shield customers. For individuals did not utilize G2A Shield when purchasing their affected game key, the company has revealed that as long investigated merchants are in fact responsible for the withdrawal of the code, compensation will be provided.
At this time, G2A is the only key reselling service to make an official statement concerning the banning of legitimate license keys by Ubisoft.
For as long as humanity has had the idea that other planets exist in the Universe, we have been wondering if they may also support life. Today that curiosity is manifested in various missions to search out these planets, such as NASA's Kepler mission. Now researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Birmingham have discovered a very old star with at least five Earth-sized planets orbiting it.
Kepler-444 is the name of the star that is smaller than our Sun, but considerably older. It is actually among the first generation of stars in the Milky Way at 11.2 billion years old. The five planets observed orbiting it are between the sizes of Mercury and Venus and likely do not support any life due to how closely they orbit the star. The system is just some 117 light years away.
While the discovery of Earth-sized planets is always interesting, it is the age of this system that makes the discovery particularly important. It shows that planets have been forming for most of the galaxy's and Universe's life, and is not something requiring a more modern galactic environment.
Source: Iowa State University
The middle of the week is here, with several items to help you get over the hump. We have a review of the Shuttle Barebone XH97V, which is a new member of the company's Slim-PC series that supports a wealth of gear and Intel Haswell processors thanks to the H97 chipset. We also have a look at the Samsung T1 Portable SSD, a smaller version of the EVO 850 line that plugs in via USB 3.0. For those needing to keep their CPU cool, the Reeven Ouranos RC-1401 gets reviewed to see what it is capable of. Wrapping things up is the Cougar 600M gaming mouse, with its unique shape and ANDS-9800 laser sensor to give more control to your games.
Reeven Ouranos RC-1401 @ Frostytech
Samsung T1 Portable SSD @ TechSpot
Shuttle Barebone XH97V @ Madshrimps
Cougar 600M Gaming Mouse @ ThinkComputers
Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon that many are interested in putting to work in our computers and networks, but doing so is easier said than done. One of the sources of difficulty is lack of a means to create entangled particles on a computer chip. That may soon be changing though, thanks to a paper recently published in The Optical Society's Optica journal.
To create entangled pairs of photons, the photons must have the ability to interact with each other, and normally that requires special photonic crystals. High powered lasers may also be necessary to feed photons into the crystals. Neither of these requirements are ideal when trying to bring entanglement into computers. The best solution would be something you could build directly onto silicon chips, and that is what the paper describes. The researchers made their discovery by starting with ring resonators, a structure already built on chips for telecommunications that are used to hold and emit photons. The researchers found a way to couple a laser beam with the resonator and create a system perfect for photons to become entangled.
The ring resonators come in at just about 20 micrometers, which is much smaller than the millimeter-scale entangled photon emitters, and require far less power to operate. An entangled photon emitter that can be built into silicon chips could help bring about quantum networks and quantum computers cheaply and efficiently.
Source: The Optical Society
Facebook has officially released a stripped down version of its mobile application for Android devices. Known as Facebook Lite, the new version is compatible with devices running Android 2.2 and up and focuses on delivering Facebook connectivity without crippling battery life, network data usage, or local device storage. The application is incredibly small, as it requires less than 1MB to install, and is even engineered to work on 2G mobile networks that feature limited network connectivity. Despite its incredibly small footprint when compared to the regular Facebook mobile application, Facebook Lite successfully allows users to post status updates with photos, comment on people’s posts, message friends, partake in group conversations, and receive notifications.
Facebook Lite is currently only available in parts of Africa and Asia and can be installed via the Google Play Store. The application is likely related to the Internet.org project undertaken by Facebook and other technology companies, which aims to provide free access to Facebook and other basic Internet services in developing countries.
January 27, 2015
Recently some concerns have appeared over the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 and its 4GB of memory, namely that it wasn't using all of it. If a game needed to use all 4GB of memory, some people were not seeing the level of performance expected with the GTX 970. According to the specifications released when the GTX 970 launched, it has the same number of ROPs and L2 cache as the GTX 980. Unfortunately, that was never the case, as NVIDIA has now stated the GTX 970 has one fewer ROP and thus one fewer L2 cache to access. So the GTX 970 actually has seven ROPs and 1.75MB of L2 cache to play with, but still the same 1664 CUDA cores and 104 texture units.
So, NVIDIA has now established the ROPs and L2 cache is a little less than initially thought, and attributes that to a snafu between the engineering and PR teams. But what does that mean for the performance and total memory space? Well the GTX 970 may only have seven ROPs, but that 32-bit memory controller segment remains. In a way to counter that, NVIDIA made 3.5GB of memory available to seven memory controllers and their L2 cache, with 0.5GB to that final memory controller without its L2 cache. Many games would only need to access 3.5GB of memory, so there would not be an issue. However, if all 4GB needs to be accessed, then that final 0.5GB segment works at 1/7th the speed of the rest (yet still four times faster than system memory and PCI Express bus can handle). It may sound alarming, but that is only a 4-6% drop in real-world performance, according to NVIDIA's tests. The 224GB/s memory bandwidth, however, is no longer entirely accurate, as it is only met when all 4GB is used and not when it's just the 3.5GB section.
The miscommunication at launch between engineering, PR, and reviewers did result in places labeling the GTX 970 with an incorrect ROP/L2 count is unfortunate, and yes it did take four months for clarification from NVIDIA. However, the GTX 970 still can't technically be called a 3.5GB card, because it does actually have 4GB on it. Just maybe it should be broken down to 3.5GB with a 0.5GB cache. There are still eight memory controllers after all, and the GTX 970 runs on a 256-bit bus. If NVIDIA was still on Kepler and not Maxwell, we'd have a card with a 192-bit bus and only 3GB of memory. As it is, we get a card that didn't need to be hampered in that way, just one that wasn't entirely accurate in what it could do.
All in all, what we have with the GTX 970 is exactly what we should have. When games are accessing 3.5GB of memory or less, the performance is precisely how it should be in any review you can find on OCC or its affiliates. When all 4GB needs to be accessed, there is a small drop in performance, but it should not cause you or anyone else to abandon their GTX 970s for a 980 or equivalent card. NVIDIA made a mistake, has addressed the issue, and is making the consumer aware of what exactly they are getting. Should it have happened sooner? Yes, but we still have an incredibly powerful card that does exactly what it was always meant to. Just not always with accurate specifications. What that means to consumers on the whole remains to be seen, but I imagine any potential backlash (if any) won't be severe.
Source: PC Perspective
YouTube has finally completed a transition that it first announced was happening four years ago, the transition from Flash to HTML5 as the primary method of displaying videos. YouTube worked with the web community to overcome a number of issues that were impeding the transition. Adaptive bitrate streaming was implemented using MediaSource Extensions that have allowed for reduced buffering up to 80%. The acquisition of On2 Technologies gave YouTube access to the VP9 codec which "reduces YouTube's (massive) bandwidth by 35 percent on average," and loads videos up to 80% faster. Encrypted Media Extensions add support for DRM where necessary.
Source: Ars Technica
Off-road racing game MX vs ATV Reflex is the latest game to be added to the NVIDIA GRID Gaming Service as part of GRID Tuesday, bringing the total number of games available through the service to 35. Gamers with a compatible SHIELD device will be able to take their favorite two and four wheeled vehicles for a spin until June 30, 2015. The game features a total of 17 tracks and advanced game physics that allow for "Real-time Terrain Deformation so the vehicles literally carve into the earth creating ruts, berms, braking bumps and acceleration bumps, just as they actually do in real life. These ever-changing ruts, berms and bumps are dynamic and force a new racing line every lap."
Source: Press Release
Kevlar is a well-known polymer that has long been used in bulletproof fabrics, and thanks to researchers at the University of Michigan it may soon be protecting batteries. In this case though, it will not be protecting against bullets but electrical shorts.
As part of the normal operation of batteries, ions flow from one electrode to the other, which is fine unless the ions start building structures known as dendrites. These structures look like fern planets, grow off of one electrode, and if they reach the other, will cause a short, damaging the battery and potentially starting a fire. To prevent the dendrites from forming, a membrane is wrapped around the electrodes, but most membranes have a pore size a few hundred nanometers in size, while dendrite tips can be 20 nm to 50 nm. What the Michigan researchers have found though is that Kevlar fibers can be layered on top of each other to form a membrane with pores just 15nm to 20 nm wide; small enough to block the dendrites.
Along with being good for blocking dendrites, the Kevlar sheets are also very thin, which could allow batteries to be made smaller. The researchers have founded a company, Elegus Technologies, to bring this work to market, and they expect mass production to begin in the final quarter of 2016.
Source: University of Michigan
A new day is here, with plenty of items to help you out if the weather isn't that great. There is a look at the Thermaltake Core V21 case, with its microATX styling and ability to rearrange the motherboard orientation. We also have the Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler, the new big daddy in the company's product line to keep your system from overheating. If you want an option that is a little smaller, then perhaps the be quiet! Pure Rock CPU cooler is the one for you. The Sugercube Bluetooth speaker from Antec Mobile Products gets reviewed to see how well it will suit your phone. A rather interesting smart home kit from littleBits gets tested to see if it can bring the Internet of Things to your "dumb" gadgets. Lastly an article covering a recent memory issue with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 explains exactly what the deal is.
Thermaltake Core V21 @ Benchmark Reviews
Noctua NH-D15 @ Madshrimps
be quiet! Pure Rock @ Frostytech
Antec Mobile Products Sugarcube Bluetooth Speaker @ ThinkComputers
Internet of Things for DIY folks: littleBits Smart Home Kit @ TechSpot
NVIDIA Discloses Full Memory Structure and Limitations of GTX 970 @ PC Perspective