OCC TECH NEWS
October 10, 2014
Version 14.9 of the AMD Catalyst Software Suite was released to the masses on September 29. Due to issues that have been found since its release, AMD has just pushed an update to the Catalyst driver, known as version 14.9.1 beta. The latest beta driver resolves some general issues such as the Catalyst Control Center intermittently crashing with error popup messages, the driver installation randomly crashing or hanging, and an intermittent black screen or BSOD on reboot after driver installation. Catalyst 14.9.1 beta also fixes random hangs or BSOD when enabling or disabling quad Crossfire, intermittent hangs when launching Sniper Elite 3 with quad Crossfire, and random hangs or BSOD when launching Battlefield 4 in quad Crossfire.
AMD Catalyst 14.9.1 Beta is available for immediate download in both 32-bit and 64-bit form.
One of the curious facts physics has given us is that there are only four fundamental forces in the Universe. The gravitational force, electromagnetic force, weak nuclear force, and strong nuclear force are all that exist, with everything we may experience being the results of these. Both gravity and the electromagnetic force are pretty well understood, while the nuclear forces are trickier to grasp. A new discovery by researchers at the University of Warwick however, may change that with regards to the strong force.
While gravity dominates on the large scale and electromagnetism covers how molecules interact with each other, as well as how electrons bind to nuclei, the strong nuclear force explains how quarks in protons and neutron stay together. It is so strong that it contributes more to the mass of a proton than the quarks that comprise it. The math behind the force are very complicated though and not well understood, in part because it is difficult to test predictions with experiments. That may change though thanks to the discovery of Ds3*(2860)-, which contains a charm quark and has a spin of 3. Charm quarks are heavier than the up and down quarks in protons and neutrons, making them easier to run calculations for. Having spin 3 is useful as a way to easily identify the particle.
The hope is that it will be possible to use Ds3*(2860)- as a benchmark for testing theories concerning the strong nuclear force. The particle was discovered from data from the LHC, and now there is hope that other new particles will be discovered that could help explain the weak nuclear force. Eventually such work may even provide answers for why there is more matter than antimatter.
Source: University of Warwick
Symantec Corporation has officially confirmed that it will soon split into two public companies. The announcement comes after its Board of Directors unanimously approved to split Symantec into two independently traded companies. The first company, which will focus on information management, will consist of services such as archiving, backup and recovery, eDiscovery, information availability, and storage management. The second company, which will set its sights on security, will consist of a unified security platform that takes information from Symantec products and Norton endpoints to provide users with threat mitigation and recovery. The security business will include services such as consumer and enterprise endpoint security, data loss prevention, encryption, hosted and managed security, mobile protection, SSL certificates, user authentication, web security, and more.
According to Symantec, "Creating two standalone businesses will allow each entity to maximize its respective growth opportunities and drive greater shareholder value." Michael A. Brown, Symantec president and chief executive officer, also noted that "Taking this decisive step will enable each business to maximize its potential. Both businesses will have substantial operational and financial scale to thrive."
The weekend is nearly upon us at long last, but before it arrives we have some items for you to check out. There is a review on the MSI X99S MPOWER motherboard, which is an entry-level product for those wanting to make the jump to Haswell-E. We also have a look at the HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo 4GB video card, with features like a custom cooler, factory overclock, and custom PCB to help get your gaming to the next level. For the users looking for a new smartphone, the Elephone G3 gets reviewed to see what it brings with its $50 price tag. Finishing off the week is a look at the rise, fall, and reboot of Microsoft, as well as a new podcast.
MSI X99S MPOWER @ ThinkComputers
HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo 4GB @ Madshrimps
Elephone G3 @ Madshrimps
The Corneryplay: Microsoft's rise, fall, and reboot @ TechSpot
Podcast #321 @ PC Perspective
In what seems like a trend for Google, after the company released updated versions of Google+ and Google Play Newsstand that brought enhanced user interfaces to the applications, the company has released version 5.0.31 of the Play Store. The latest update incorporates a brand new icon for the Play Store, new icons when selecting widgets to add to the home screen, and new notification icons, which all are based on the company’s material design. Google Play Store 5.0.31 also places the “What’s New” section closer to the top of the main application screen, allowing users to easily see what changes and fixes are included within the last update of any application.
Source: Android Police
October 9, 2014
Dow Jones has reported that Amazon plans to open its first brick-and-mortar store this holiday season. The store is said to open on 34th Street in Manhattan, right across the street from the Empire State Building. The Amazon store will reportedly be experimental, functioning as a small warehouse that will hold limited inventory for same-day deliveries in New York, where customers can order an item online and then retrieve it from the store on the same day. The store may also showcase some of Amazon’s bestselling devices, such as the Kindle, Fire phone, and Fire TV.
While Dow Jones has released this information to the public, an Amazon spokesperson stated that "We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan." A person familiar with the project revealed that Amazon has been looking into several cities around the United States to place a store of its own, however.
Snapchat, a photo messaging application that allows users to send photos and videos to friends that are deleted after a set time limit, will soon introduce advertisements to its users. Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snapchat, noted within a discussion with Katie Couric and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg that advertisements will be making their way to the messaging application soon. According to Spiegel, "We’re cutting through the new technology around ads to the core of it, which is telling a story." The advertisements that will make their way to Snapchat will be found within the Stories section of the application, not within its messaging service.
Source: Vanity Fair
ECS has released a new motherboard under its L337 Gaming branding, the Z97I-DRONE. The board uses the Intel Z97 Express chipset on a mini ITX form factor motherboard. The board has two DDR3 channels that support up to 16GB, one PCIe x16 slot, and one M.2 slot for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Also included is the interesting "Low-to-Full USB Speed" technology that delivers "optimized 8-time faster keyboard and mouse report rate from 125Hz to 1000Hz."
Source: Press Release
Sustainable nuclear fusion has been a target for researchers for decades, as it could potentially provide immense power from seawater and have produce little waste. Now there are many different groups working on different reactor designs and technologies across the planet, all with the goals stability and efficiency. Researchers at the University of Washington have designed a new reactor concept that could achieve both goals.
Critical to all fusion reactor designs is a mechanism that uses magnetic fields to control the superheated plasma fuel. While some designs call for superconductors to produce these fields, this design instead passes an electrical current through the plasma. The result is a dramatic reduction in size, required materials, and thereby cost. The researchers predict that a fusion power plant using this kind of reactor could provide a gigawatt of power and cost $2.7 billion. A similarly powerful coal plant costs approximately $2.8 billion, so the fusion plant would be in direct economic competition.
So far the prototype has demonstrated its ability to sustain the plasma efficiently. The final design, which will be ten times larger and more powerful, is still years into the future.
Source: University of Washington
Bethesda Softworks has published a new trailer and blog post for its survival horror The Evil Within, which provide yet another in-depth look at the gruesome, creepy game. While a lot is shown in the video, the highlight is clearly The Keeper. The Keeper wields a hammer and the harvested brains of its victims, able to kill Sebastian with a single blow, while he withstands death.
The Evil Within will be available for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on October 14. Pre-ordering nets you "The Fighting Chance Pack", which includes five in-game items: medical kit, double barrel shotgun, incendiary agony bolt, poison agony bolt, and green gel. A Season Pass is also available, which will contain three content packs featuring new characters and stories.
Source: Press Release and Bethesda Blog
Lasers are a technology many television shows, movies, books, and games like to use in possible and impossible ways. Among the possible ways is using a laser system to scan a room or object, to create a 3D map of it, potentially for forensic use. Now researchers at NIST have developed a new mapping system that offers great accuracy, range, and speed
Laser detection and ranging (LADAR) is not a new technology as it bounces lasers off of objects, and analyzes the reflected light to determine distance. What is novel about the NIST system is its use of a frequency comb, which is able to precisely measure different frequencies of light. Here it is used to constantly calibrate the laser as it sweeps through a range of frequencies, increasing the system's accuracy and speed. It is actually able to resolve distances to within 10 micrometers, in half a millisecond, from as far away as 10.5 meters. In just 8.5 minutes, a 3D image of one million pixels can be generated.
The system is roughly the size of a desktop, but it should be possible to shrink it down to a chip-scale device. No doubt that will be useful for mapping crime scenes, but it could also find use with precision machining and assembly.
The week is drawing to a close, and we have a few items to help make the time go by. There is a review on the ASUS Maximus VII Formula Z97 motherboard, which features many new features and enhancements for those needing a top-of-the-line motherboard. For those wanting to build a new computer and not have it take up a lot of room, we have a look at the AZZA Z Mini-ITX cas. Finishing off today's items is the Kogan Agora 4G smartphone; a budget model that doesn't skimp on the features.
ASUS Maximus VII Formula Z97 @ PC Perspective
AZZA Z Mini-ITX @ ThinkComputers
Kogan Agora 4G Budget Smartphone @ TechSpot
Sprint has confirmed that it will shut down its WiMax network on November 6, 2015. The wireless giant first introduced its WiMax network in 2008 in an effort to provide a mobile data network that would be faster than the 3G networks offered by itself and other national carriers. Although the network for WiMax was built and operated by Clearwire, which Sprint acquired in 2013 thanks to the Softbank takeover, LTE soon surpassed the Sprint data network and became the standard technology for 4G. Sprint has recognized this for some time, as both it and Clearwire revealed in 2010 that it would conform to the LTE standard, thereby leaving WiMax behind. Today, Sprint focuses all of its energy on its Spark network, an enhanced 4G LTE service that is currently available in 29 cities.
TRENDnet, a leading global networking hardware brand, has just announced availability of two new high performance outdoor full HD Power over Ethernet network cameras, the TV-IP342PI and TV-IP343PI. Both TRENDnet cameras feature an outdoor IP66 weather rating, a MircoSD card slot that supports up to 32 GB of on-board storage, Power over Ethernet, programmable motion detection recording and email alerts, ONVIF compliancy, IPv6 support, and full 1080p HD resolution. While both the TV-IP342PI and TV-IP343PI support 30FPS video as well, they differ in that the former is a dome network camera that features manual 3x optical zoom and night vision up to 50 feet, compared to the latter which is a standard network camera that features manual 3.5x optical zoom and night vision up to 82 feet.
The TRENDnet TV-IP342PI and TV-IP343PI come with a three year limited warranty and are available immediately from online and retail partners with an MSRP of $554.99.
Source: Press Release
October 8, 2014
Tripwire Interactive announced Killing Floor 2 back in May, promising more guns, more perks, more skills, more guns, a higher level cap, and enhanced gore. The latter is a major emphasis, with Tripwire creating the most complicated gore system in gaming called MEAT (Massive Evisceration and Trauma). We've seen a lot of great screenshots, but now we finally get the first look at some actual gameplay thanks to a new Dev Diary video, entitled "The Gore Part 1".
Killing Floor 2 has no ETA, but will be making its way to Steam Early Access eventually.
Source: IGN via Facebook
Back in July, Games Farm and bitComposer decided it would be best to release action-RPG Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms in two parts: Book I: Devourer of Souls and Book II: Age of Demons. In advance of Book I's November 13 release, Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms received a massive Early Access update yesterday. The update includes the following features and changes:
- Introduction of prologue and tutorial
- New playable character - Carissa Cantrecht
- New abilities and effects
- Improved, challenging combat
- Configurable controls
- Improved menus and user interface
- New recipes and a menu book for crafting added
- Enemies now respawn on most maps
- RPG system has been balanced
- Additional graphical effects
- Improved performance
- Numerous bug fixes and improvements
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is currently available at the reduced price of $27.99, granting immediate access to the Early Access version, and providing both Books when they become available, along with the port of predecessor Kult: Heretic Kingdoms when its released on Steam.
Source: Press Release
Lisa Su, who has been within AMD since 2012 and is currently acting as the chief operating officer, has been named the new CEO of the company, immediately replacing Rory Read. Read, who joined AMD in 2011, which is just one year before Su starting working for the technology giant, has stepped down as chief executive officer and board member. AMD is currently negotiating a transition and separation agreement with Read, who will stay at the company for the remainder of the year to work as an adviser during the transition. According to Bruce Claflin, AMD's chairman, "Leadership succession planning has been a joint effort between Rory and the board and we felt that Lisa's expertise and proven leadership in the global semiconductor industry make this an ideal time for her to lead the company."
While October 31 would have been the logical release date choice, Midnight City and Double Fine Productions decided they didn't want to make Costume Quest fans wait any longer than necessary. So yes, Costume Quest 2 is now available, with new costumes, new abilities, and an updated and streamlined battle system.
Costume Quest 2 can be purchased on Steam for $14.99, with support for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Source: Press Release
Google Play Movies has been updated to version 3.3, which incorporates the usual bug fixes but also introduces support for pre-ordering. Google Play users can now find select films through the desktop website or the mobile platform that are available for pre-order and select whether to purchase the films in standard or high definition. Films that are pre-ordered through Google Play Movies will be added to the user's library and will be available to stream on the day that they are released. The following movies are the only titles currently available for pre-order through Google Play Movies: 22 Jump Street, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Gone Girl, Guardians of the Galaxy, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Into the Storm, Jersey Boys, Lucy, Maleficent, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Sex Tape, Tammy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Equalizer, and The Maze Runner.
Google has implemented a number of features, "specifically focused on improving identity, manageability, virtualization, performance and pricing," for the Chromebook that it believes will help to make the devices more appealing for business use cases. Single sign-on has been implemented with support for all major identity and credentials providers as well as multiple sign-in to allow for easy switching between personal and work accounts. Improved certificate management adds support for 802.1X EAP-TLS wireless and improved control for IT admins. Google has worked with Citrix and VMWare to help improve virtualization options and Citrix has already released a Citrix Receiver version optimized for Chromebooks. All of this and more will be available to customers at a cost of $50 per device per year.
Google has enlisted the help of 10 year old camel Raffia and a guide to create a Street View representation of the Liwa Desert. The 100 kilometer desert is located to the south west of the city of Abu Dhabi and marks the first location to be mapped with the assistance of an animal. A spokeswoman for Google described the motivation behind the decision stating that the company "used a camel for authenticity, using the desert’s ancient mode of transport."
Chances are, most people are familiar with medical ultrasounds that use sound waves to peer into a patient, without doing any harm to the body. Ultrasounds are also used to image metal structures, in an effort to find cracks that could cause critical failures. The technology has been limited to just large problems for some time though, but researchers at the University of Bristol have finally developed a nonlinear technique that is much more sensitive.
Acoustic nonlinearity is an old idea, but no imaging method has been developed before now. It works by looking at the differences between acoustic fields generated from parallel elements in an ultrasonic array, as they are fired sequentially. The results are sound waves that are more sensitive to changes in the material, including microstructure changes, before they develop into macroscopic problems.
By catching cracks before they begin, it will be easier to predict the life of a structure, which could lead to thinner and lighter structures, including future aircraft. As the technique works with modern inspection equipment, it could be quickly adopted and put to use for its many applications.
Source: University of Bristol
Some days, things just do not seem to go right and put you in a bad mood. When this happens, what do you do? According to researchers at the Ohio State University, many of us will look at social media profiles of those in worse situations than us.
The social networks many people use online are very special in that people are able to manage their use of them, whereas offline you do not always have a choice of who you encounter. Normally people look for positive news, but the researchers decided to investigate if this changes when the user is in a bad mood. To put their subjects in a bad mood, the researchers gave 168 college students a test on facial emotion recognition and randomly reported their performance as terrible or excellent. Now primed with a positive or negative mood, the participants were asked to review a new social networking site. On the site were eight profiles that had very similar, mundane postings, with the only real differences being with the profile rankings of career success and attractiveness. Those rankings were either very low or very high.
Everybody still focused on the profile of the more successful and attractive people, but those participants in a bad mood spent significantly more time looking at the other profiles. The researchers believe this shows that when we are in a bad mood, we will try to manage it by seeking out people in worse situations for a self-esteem boost, as we compare ourselves to them.
Source: Ohio State University
The middle of the week has arrived, and with it comes some items for your viewing pleasure. We have a look at a couple of Intel X99 motherboards, with both the EVGA X99 Classified and MSI X99S XPOWER AC being put to the test. Both motherboards are at the upper end of the spectrum, and both should allow for some big overclocking potential. There are also some storage options to look at today, as the OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB PCIe SSD gets reviewed. For those desiring more storage, the QNAP TS-451 Turbo NAS Server may be the solution, as it offers four bays and a low cost to appeal to most people. Wrapping things up for today is another look at the history of the computer, covering the rise of Intel.
EVGA X99 Classified @ Bjorn3D
MSI X99S XPOWER AC @ Bjorn3D
OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB PCI-E Solid State Drive @ ThinkComputers
QNAP TS-451 Turbo NAS Server @ Benchmark Reviews
History of the Personal Computer, Part 4 @ TechSpot
October 7, 2014
After a few looks at multiplayer, Ubisoft has published a new Assassin's Creed Unity Story Trailer, providing a deeper look at the game's backstory. And let's face it – most Assassin's Creed fans likely care more about the single-player story than multiplayer. So without further ado, watch the video to learn more about Unity, Arno, Elise, and the French Revolution:
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.
Source: Press Release and UbiBlog
Back in July, Toki Tori developer Two Tribes unveiled RIVE, "the metal wrecking, robot hacking shooter." While the studio has been demoing the game at various trade shows, it's been rather silent publicly until now. Earlier today, Two Tribes released the first official gameplay trailer for its 2D shooter:
RIVE is scheduled to arrive Q1 2015 for PC (Windows, Mac, and Linux) via Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U.
Source: Press Release
Google Voice has finally received the long awaited support for Multimedia Message Service, MMS. The upgrade was officially revealed by senior software engineer Alex Wiesen who said that Google has worked with "nearly 100 different North American carriers to enable this feature — including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Bell Canada, Rogers, Telus, and many more," to bring the service to their networks. Unfortunately for a large number of users, including myself, Verizon still refuses to support the service. Users were previously given a link to the message that was sent if supported by their carrier, or weren't notified of the message at all.
Source: Ars Technica
Something many people are likely not aware of is the amount of fraud and cherry-picking in the sciences, including life sciences. This comes in part from a great pressure to publish, being overwhelmed by data, and from the people creating the hypothesis also being the ones to test it. To combat these issues, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University suggest using massive online labs that use video games to essentially crowd source the work.
Online labs have been used before as some of the researchers involved with this work recently reported the success of their own lab, EteRNA. Some 150,000 participants all registered to help develop and test hypotheses, and process the results of the experiments. With so many people involved, many sets of eyes are on every detail, so any mistake will likely be caught, and biases will be removed as those testing a hypothesis are not necessarily those who developed it. This also makes otherwise overwhelming amounts of data manageable as many thousands of people will look at the data, instead of the handful in a lab. It also keeps the entire process open and transparent.
The researchers making this suggestion do note two challenges that have to be overcome for this approach to work. One is the cost to create a massive online lab, which is still within the budge of the usual life science grant, but more importantly the view that video games do not align with serious or rigorous research.
Source: Carnegie Mellon University
Mushkin has announced the latest addition to its popular Chronos SSD line, the Chronos G2. The drives boast maximum transfer speeds of 555MB/s and up to 90,000 Input/Output Operations Per Second. The drives will be available in capacities ranging from 60GB to 480GB, providing for a wide range of applications. Director of Global Marketing Nicolas Villalobos described the new drive saying, "A reincarnation of the legendary Chronos, the Chronos G2 Series was born to stand out from the crowd. Its competition-surpassing value give Mushkin’s Value SSD an oversized attitude."
Source: Press Release
Privacy is a great concern for a great many people, and it is can also be tricky to achieve with how much technology today relies on sharing data. Such sharing opens up the possibility of data being illegitimately accessed without the consent or even the knowledge of the user. Researchers at the University College London, Stanford Engineering, Google, Chalmers, and Mozilla Research however, have recently created a new privacy system that might just be able to keep our data private, without breaking web applications.
The new system is call Confinement with Origin Web Labels (COWL) and works by confining data to only the party it was originally shared with. So, with COWL if a web app requests information from a website, it will receive that information, but will be prevented from sending it anywhere else. This way the site sharing the data maintains control, even after its transmission. This is in contrast to Same Origin Policy, which prevents programs from reading data from other websites and thus prevents mashup applications, or Cross-Origin Resource Sharing, which can easily be made to expose information.
Prototypes of COWL have already been tested for Chrome and Firefox and showed no perceptible impact on page-loading. For those interested in using COWL, it will be made freely available on the 15th of this month at http://cowl.ws/.
Source: University College London