OCC TECH NEWS
March 30, 2014
The TwisterPressure is the latest case fan design from Enermax, using a "high-pressure blade design which enhances the cooling performance and is the optimal choice for CPU coolers and any applications with dense grills." Blade angle and shape were designed specifically to create the high airflow, forcing air into the center of the fan rather than dispersing it outward. The fan also includes the patented Adjustable Peak Speed Pulse Width Modulation design that allows users to select from a range of fan RPM to be regulated within to customize the level of noise coming from the fan. The TwisterPressure is also "one of the few world-leading fans that can run at 85 degrees Celsius consistently." The TwisterPressure will have an MSRP of $14.99 and will be available in April.
Source: Press Release
March 29, 2014
Earlier in the week, I mentioned that an official release date for Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation would be announced at EGX Rezzed. Well, EGX kicked off yesterday and we have indeed been given a release date: October 7, 2014. No new information or media have been released, but you can watch the original Announcement Trailer, along with a "Creating The Alien" Dev Diary, and the recently released "Behind the Terror" video.
Alien: Isolation is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Source: Official Site
March 28, 2014
Last month, I told you about The Dash, a sweet pair of all-in-one wireless in-ear headphones developed by Bragi, that combines traditional headphones with fitness tracking and smartphone communication. At the time of that initial post, the Kickstarter campaign was approaching $1.7 million with over 8,000 backers. Now, with just one weekend remaining, The Dash is just shy of $3.2 million with over 15,000 backers!
While surpassing the $3 million mark is quite the accomplishment considering its initial goal of $260,000, Bragi is hoping for one last surge to achieve its $3,333,333 stretch goal. Probably not coincidentally, said goal unlocks three separate additions for all backers at the $179, $199, $239, and $499 pledge levels: the option to receive The White Dash or The Black Dash, four Kickstarter-exclusive colored sleeves in addition to the standard white or black, and The Leash for more adventurous backers, which connects The Dash ear pieces to a cord and clip.
The Dash Kickstarter campaign ends on Monday, March 31, 2014, at 9:59 AM EDT, so you have approximately 64 hours remaining if you want to grab yourself one and help achieve the new stretch goal. If The Dash is a bit out of your budget, there's also a contest on the Bragi Facebook page to win one of ten.
Source: Kickstarter  &  & 
Two weeks ago, Focus Home Interactive announced that the fantasy RPG Bound by Flame, from French indie developer Spiders, will be released on May 9, 2014. Along with the announcement, the publisher promised that a video dedicated to the combat system would be arriving soon. Sticking to its promise, Bound by Flame's first combat demo has been released, featuring entirely in-game footage. The video shows off three separate battles: two-handed sword versus Skeletons, dual-wield daggers versus Swamp Beast, and dual-wield daggers versus Bone Golem. But don't let the melee weapon focus fool you – there is plenty of pyromancy magic as well. While the UI clearly shows Xbox controls, the footage was likely captured on PC, with the player simply using an Xbox 360 controller.
Bound by Flame will be launching May 9, 2014, on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Source: Press Release
Last month, it was announced that Roll7's skateboarding game OlliOlli would be coming to PC, while the studio would announce a brand new game at EGX Rezzed. With EGX kicking off today, publisher Devolver Digital has unveiled Roll7's game as Not A Hero, a 2¼D cover-based shooter. No, that is not a typo – Not A Hero uses the proprietary ISO-Slant™ technology "that allows game developers to reach that sweet spot between 2D and 2½D perspectives with minimal effort." Instead of summarizing the game, I think it's best I just provide you with the exact description from the press release:
When an anthropomorphic rabbit/mayoral candidate from the future named BunnyLord needs a murderous loner to clean up the city during the election, Steve heroically offers up his dubious skills with a gun and lack of self-preservation instinct to this mysterious stranger from beyond. Now Steve must clear five districts of crime and recruit new heroes for his cause by sliding, diving, ducking, and taking cover through hundreds of full-throttle shootouts across the city.
So, uh, yeah. Featuring a quick snap cover system, Not A Hero "has absolutely no qualms with handing you your own ass the minute you peek out from cover." There are multiple "Not Heroes" to choose from, each with their own distinct gameplay style and abilities, including both ranged and melee. Roll7 is also promising "dynamic missions," wherein you can be in the middle of a primary or secondary objective and suddenly an unexpected "mid-level event" occurs, putting a damper in your plans.
Not A Hero will be arriving on Steam (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and next-gen consoles in Fall 2014. A playable alpha is on the show floor at EGX Rezzed these next three days, and will also be available at PAX East, April 11-13.
Source: Press Release and Official Site
It's the end of the week, and nearly the end of March, which means we have plenty of items for you to check out before the weekend kicks off. We have a rather unique case from In Win, called the tou, which may look like it's mirrored on the outside, but turn your PC on and the mirror becomes transparent. For those needing some power, there's a review on the Raidmax RX-1000AE 1000W power supply with its 80 Plus Gold certification and semi-modular design. We also have a look at the Cyberpower Zeus Mini PC that features a slim tower and powerful components to deliver a solid system for those wanting to downsize the tower. There are a couple of different items for the mobile crowd, such as a battery pack from Pivos and how to turn off Photo Stream on iOS devices, as well as some other items to check out below.
In Win tou @ TechSpot
Raidmax RX-1000AE 1000W @ ThinkComputers
Pivos MANA 5200mAh Battery Pack @ Bjorn3D
How to Turn off Photo Stream in iOS to Save Storage Space @ ThinkComputers
PAPAGO! P3 Dashcam @ Benchmark Reviews
Cyberpower Zeus Mini @ Bjorn3D
Announcing TechSpot 3.0 @ TechSpot
For some time now, manufacturers have been turning out multi-core processors, which offer improved performance without having to increase clock speed. Taking advantage of that performance with parallel programming is difficult though, especially as you try to optimize the execution of commands. Researchers at MIT however have found that one optimization method may be better than is generally thought, which could make parallel programming easier.
Parallel programming requires a programmer to properly split tasks between computational cores, and the longer it takes to complete any one of those tasks impacts how quickly the program can be run. Lock-free algorithms promise the programmer that at least one core will complete its task within a certain amount of time, and while that is helpful, its worst case scenario wastes potential. This is why many are working with wait-free algorithms that guarantee all cores finish a task within a fixed time, but these are much more difficult to develop. The MIT researchers have found that while the worst case for lock-free is not very good, on average it is much better than that and even rivals wait-free algorithms. They discovered this by using a random chip scheduler that assign resources to any task based on a probability, instead of priority.
This result suggests that programmers could save themselves some time by coding with lock-free algorithms, as the performance difference between them and wait-free algorithms need not be that great. However, as lock-free algorithms still have a bad worst case scenario, a programmer should still consider what the application for the code is.
Last month, Worms developer Team17 announced that it would be developing its first new IP in over a decade. At the time, all we were given was a name (Flockers) and logo. Today, at EGX Rezzed, Team17 has officially unveiled what the game is about: "a twisted blend of Lemmings' inspired gameplay and Tim Burton style macabre, all topped off with a dose of that classic Worms humour!"
If you've ever played a Worms game, I'm sure you're familiar with the multitude of sheep-based weaponry. Well, those sheep have had enough. "Escaping the tyrannical Worms, the flock must dodge their way past all manner of lethal machinery and traps as they negotiate their path through the confinement of the Worms weapons factory and onwards to pastures green." As you can see from the teaser trailer below, the Worms humor is certainly intact, but be sure to check out the screenshots below to get a taste for the actual gameplay.
Flockers will be coming to PC via Steam Early Access in Q2 2014, and will be playable over the next three days at EGX Rezzed in Birmingham, UK.
Source: Press Release
March 27, 2014
A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new encryption scheme, named Mylar, with the intent of combating the NSA and the PRISM surveillance program. Mylar "allows devs to build web applications which are protected from attackers, even if they have access to the server that stores the software." Mylar works in conjunction with Meteor, a web service building tool, to encrypt data using your password before it is even sent to a server. The researchers claim that Mylar requires minimal code modification of the target application and imposes minimal overhead and latency. The researchers will present their findings at the NSDI conference next week.
Source: The Register
Amazon is reported to be developing a new streaming service, separate from the current offering for Amazon Prime users. The service will offer original and licensed content as well as music videos. As part of the service Amazon also plans to include ad-supported videos, which could give the company revenues up to $1 billion, though this falls short of the $5.6 billion in ad revenue produced by YouTube. The company could use data collected about the shopping habits of consumers to create targeted ads. As an example, "it could sell Adidas shoes to Run-D.M.C.'s "My Adidas" music video fans." To further help the new streaming service, Amazon is holding a media event in New York City next week where the company is expected to announce a device similar to the Google Chromecast or Roku.
Source: Wall Street Journal
There's some good news today for Halo fans that didn't want to upgrade to Windows 8 – Halo: Spartan Assault has appeared on Steam with the operating system requirement listed at "Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1." Launching on April 4, 2014, it will take full advantage of Steam, with Steam Achievements, Steam Leaderboards, Steam Cloud, and Steam Trading Cards. This marks the first time a Halo game has arrived on Steam.
Ubisoft's Watch Dogs is one of the most highly anticipated titles of the year, but there was a little bit of some backlash after the "Story Trailer" seemed to take a step back in the graphics department. Creative director Jonathan Morin took to Twitter to explain that said trailer showed off the PS4 version, while the PC version looked much better on the highest settings. My guess is that today's trailer, entitled "Welcome To Chicago", was created with the PC version, because it looks incredible – as do the screenshots. The trailer provides a great introduction to the game and provides some all new footage:
In addition to the new trailer, Ubisoft answered some burning questions about the game. Watch Dogs contains six different districts of Chicago, each with its own look and vibe, and the game features an unscripted, real-time day and night cycle, and a dynamic weather system. The number of NPCs that you'll come across in any given location depends on said location and time of day – with downtown Chicago during mid-day being much more busy than a suburb at night. And in case you were worried you'd run into a bunch of NPC clones, Ubisoft says "there are over 3000 character kits and an almost infinite amount of unique profiler possibilities." There are also over 100 different hacks in the game, and yes, every NPC can be hacked; though which hacks are available depends on their profile. In addition to that, there are over 75 different vehicles in the game, each with their own realistic physics.
Watch Dogs is launching May 27, 2014, on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360, with the Wii U version coming at an undetermined later date.
Source: UbiBlog and All Games Beta
The Earth is filled with an almost unimaginable variety of organisms, from majestic elephants and whales, to slime molds. With the proper ingenuity, we can put these organisms and their special abilities to use in unexpected ways. As reported by Elsevier, researchers have successfully built logic circuits with slime mold networks.
Physarum polycephalum typically inhabits dark and damp areas, and when it is in its plasmodium state, the slime mold will stretch a network of tubes across its environment. These tubes are meant to bring nutrients into the mold, but they also allow it to respond to environmental conditions and release spores. By placing nutrients to attract and salt to repel the tubes, the researchers were able to control the structure of the network as it grew. They then gave the mold dyes, which they have previously shown it could absorb and transport, which contained magnetic nanoparticles and fluorescent beads, creating a biological lab-on-a-chip device.
By increasing the size of the network it should be possible to have the slime mold network perform the complex Boolean operations, and already XOR and NOR have been demonstrated. While it is unlikely we will see slime-based computers in the future, this could help merge materials science, computer science, and biology.
The Last of Us has surely been in the news somewhat recently, with the game dominating the 17th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards and winning Game of the Year at the 14th Annual GDC Awards. The game is making headlines yet again, with a Sony spokesperson leaking information within a multiplayer gaming session with CNN Turk that the PlayStation 4 will see The Last of Us. According to the spokesperson, the game will launch sometime this summer on the PlayStation 4 and will include the single player DLC known as Left Behind. The PlayStation 4 version of The Last of Us will be available in digital and physical form and will also feature better graphics and include additional single and multiplayer content.
Source: Engadget and IGN
Let's face it – for most people, there can never be enough Nazi-killing. World War II games are simply a part of gaming that will never go away. Enter Enemy Front, the upcoming CryEngine 3-powered first-person shooter from CI Games (formerly City Interactive). Players control Robert Hawkins, an American war correspondent who teams up with Nazi resistance fighters in war-torn Europe. CI Games promises open-ended levels that allow for a myriad of approaches: shoot, snipe, sneak, or sabotage; it's all up to you. The new gameplay trailer released today shows off each of these methods, including the destructible environments:
Enemy Front is coming to PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on June 10, 2014.
Source: Press Release
Ever since its official announcement earlier in the month, the Batman: Arkham Knight information has come trickling in (such as the most recent behind-the-scenes look at the music). All of said information has been from Game Informer, and even the leaked screenshots were simply screen-grabs of images in the print issue of the magazine. But today, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) has released six all new, never-before-seen screenshots, along with one piece of artwork. So even if you're a Game Informer subscriber, you'll certainly want to check out the images below – especially since we finally get some highly detailed looks at the Arkham Knight himself. In fact, he looks so badass, I hope he's an unlockable skin for Batman because I so want to play as him!
Batman: Arkham Knight is set to release later this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Source: Press Release
Many people are looking forward to the day that quantum communication can be used to securely share information with another party. While that may sound great, there is a limitation to many of the current approaches, as only two parties can communicate with each other securely. Researchers at the University of Waterloo however have successfully entangled three particles, and this research could one day allow additional parties to be networked together.
Quantum entanglement involves having the properties of multiple particles so strongly coupled that measuring one can inform you about the state of the others. This is true no matter how separated the particles are. Typically only two particles are entangled, but by putting three photons in a Greenberger-Horne-Zeilinger (GHZ) state, all three particles were coupled and entangled. At this point the researchers placed one photon in a long optical fiber while the other two were sent to two trailers, 700 m away. This is far enough that the researchers were able to rule out that any information was being shared between the particles, when taking their measurements.
Previous work with quantum communication always focused on connecting pairs of particles, but with this we can start thinking in terms of multiple particles and a network of parties. Multipartite protocols will have to be developed to take advantage of such networks, but it will be interesting to see what is ultimately made possible.
Source: University of Waterloo
Introduced in September of last year with an MSRP of $59.99, the Wireless Keyboard Adapter for the Microsoft Surface tablet provided the ability to connect Surface Type and Touch covers to monitors. Although only available for a short amount of time, the product has officially been discontinued according to a Microsoft spokesperson. Microsoft revealed that the device would cease to be available to consumers through its store for a number of factors, though the company did not reveal specifics in regards to what factors caused the discontinuation.
At this point in time, the Wireless Keyboard Adapter for Microsoft Surface tablets is unavailable for purchase and will not be returning to stock within the foreseeable future.
Reports indicate that a 52 year old man who worked for a partner company of Samsung died in Seoul, South Korea, due to carbon dioxide poisoning. Local police and fire authorities stated that the fire extinguishing system located within the Samsung plant malfunctioned and falsely detected a fire, releasing carbon dioxide into the building. Isolated within his work environment, the man died of suffocation due to a lack of oxygen. This death brings forth safety concerns about the Samsung plant located in South Korea after similar accidents have recently occurred.
Source: Yonhap News Agency
In a recent patent licensing deal between Dell Incorporated and Microsoft Corporation, the former will pay the latter sales royalties on devices that are powered by Google Android or Chrome software. Additionally, intellectual property will be licensed between both companies in regards to the specific Google software, including Chromebooks. This agreement is nothing new within the Google operating system and software spectrum, as companies such as HTC, LG, and Samsung have already reached an agreement with Microsoft to pay royalties in the same fashion for Android handsets. Dell has done the same in order to satisfy Microsoft, since the Redmond based company believes that certain Android devices infringe on its patents.
March 26, 2014
Cheating in online games is going to happen no matter what companies try to do to counter it, but Respawn Entertainment has decided to take an interesting approach in Titanfall. Since the launch of Titanfall on PC, Respawn has been collecting data via the FairFight, which is the same anti-cheat software used in other Electronic Arts games, like Battlefield 4. This past Friday, Respawn decided to flip the switch, so to speak, and has now started banning cheaters – but not in the conventional sense.
If/when you are banned, "*FairFight: Cheat detected" will be displayed in red text on your Private Lobby screen (see the image below). While in other games that would typically mean you cannot play the game on official servers, that's not the case with Titanfall. Instead, Respawn will still let you play...with other cheaters. Respawn is calling it "the Wimbledon of aimbot contests" and hopes that "the aimbot cheat you paid for really is the best, or these all-cheater matches could be frustrating for you."
If a banned member happens to create a party with non-cheater friends, everyone in said party will be treated as banned for that play session, forcing everyone to play in the cheaters-only servers. However, if you're one of the non-cheaters, once you leave the party, you'll join back up with the non-cheaters and, most importantly, you won't be penalized for playing with a cheater – it only matters if you're the one doing the cheating.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. I'm sure as hell not going to cheat to find out, but I wonder if there will start to be Twitch streams and YouTube videos of cheaters-only matches, or if people will be too embarrassed.
Source: Official Site
FinalWire has updated the AIDA64 benchmark software to version 4.30, offering a number of improvements over the previous release, version 4.0. Some of the highlights of the new version include a new OpenCL GPGPU benchmark suite, CUDA 6.0 support, optimized benchmarks for a number of newer Intel and AMD platforms, and support for Windows 8.1 Update 1. With the new GPGPU suite users will be able to measure performance of the SHA-1 hash algorithm, which can then be compared to results obtained from CPUs. The software will be available at multiple pricing tiers for the AIDA64 Business, Network Audit, Engineer, and Extreme editions.
MSI has announced a pair of new ultra-slim gaming laptops, the GS60 Ghost and GS70 Stealth. Both will be available in 15" and 17" models and were designed with serious gaming on the go in mind. Built around a fourth generation Intel Core i7 CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M/870M graphics, the GS series offers desktop level performance in a small, mobile package. The GPUs boast graphics improvement of up to 50% over previous generation graphics and give the ability to power external 4K displays in addition to the 1080p laptop screen. The laptops will also offer several further customization options with RAM starting at 12GB, a 128GB SSD, and a mechanical hard drive starting at 750GB. MSI Pan America CEO Andy Tung said, "The GS60 Ghost and GS70 Stealth answers portable gaming prayers by packing smoking speeds and deadly graphics into featherlike notebooks." Both laptops are available immediately and start at an MSRP of $1,699.99.
Source: Press Release
As technology gets smaller and smaller, new possibilities open up and new challenges arise. Among these challenges is how to build technology with almost unbelievably small components. Researchers at MIT have found an answer to that, which could lead to some very interesting applications as well.
Working with nanoscale materials is difficult when you are as large as a human, but it is not so hard for bacteria. E. coli is a well understood bacterium that researchers have been experimenting with for some time now, and the MIT researchers have found a way to use its ability to produce biofilms to build useful structures. By manipulating the peptides on the fibers in the biofilm, it is possible to have them pick up non-living materials, including gold nanoparticles, which could form gold nanowires within the biofilm. The researchers also manipulated programmed the bacteria to be able to respond to signals from others, so multiple bacteria could work together to build a specific structure.
This research was inspired by natural examples of living and non-living materials being combined, such as bones. It could lead to new means of building materials from the bottom up as well as useful applications like scaffolds for tissue engineering.
A couple weeks ago, Creative Assembly released a Developer Diary video for Alien: Isolation about creating the alien. As you're probably aware by now, Alien: Isolation is being called a true survival horror experience, unlike a previous Aliens game I'll leave unnamed. PlayStation Blog sat down with Creative Lead Alistair Hope for a video interview entitled "Behind the Terror". The video discusses the design elements of the game, such as the non-scripted nature, and how it's equally important to be terrified when the alien's location is not known.
In addition to the video, PlayStation Blog conducted a Q&A with Alistair, which you can read at the source below. Alistair touches upon everything from the inspiration for the game, to the support Creative Assembly has received from FOX, to the importance of immersion and an authentic 1970s look and feel. Of course, it all boils down to that singular, unkillable alien – and Alistair describes it rather bluntly: "It is death, and if you don't give it the respect it demands, you will not survive."
Alien: Isolation will be arriving on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 later this year. An official release date will be announced at EGX Rezzed, which takes place March 28 - 30 in Birmingham, UK. In addition to the release date announcement, Alien: Isolation will be playable at EGX on "60 demo pods" for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Source: PlayStation Blog and Official Site
We are all familiar with resistance in our daily lives, as it causes our computers to heat up and smartphones to be warm to the touch after extended use. This may change in the future though, if room-temperature superconductors are ever created. Researchers at the University of Waterloo, Harvard University, and Perimeter Institute have recently developed a theory that could be one of the last obstacles to creating those materials.
Superconductors are materials that can conduct electricity without resistance, but their use has been hampered by their necessity to be kept cold. In some cases cold means just above absolute zero. As a material cools to its critical temperature, and just before it becomes a superconductor, it enters what is called the pseudogap phase. Understanding this phase has been a challenge to many physicists, and now the researchers have a theory to explain it. During this base in at least one copper-based superconductor, the material oscillates from one quantum state to another, and this disruption to electrical charges destabilizes superconductivity.
With this understanding of what precedes superconductivity, researchers may be able to one day design a material to superconduct at room temperature. Such a material would revolutionize the world with superior power-grids, faster electronics, and better storage systems.
Source: University of Waterloo
With its highly anticipated Wolfenstein: The New Order set to release in less than two months, Bethesda has announced a limited edition collection of goodies for the select few. Limited to 5,000 individually numbered editions, the Wolfenstein: The New Order Panzerhund Edition comes in a vintage footlocker-style box that measures approximately 20" x 10.5" x 8.5". Inside the box is a classified folder containing eleven classified documents, a hand-painted, 8" articulated Panzerhund statue made of high quality vinyl material (PVC and ABS), and a velvet-lined tray containing an exclusive Steelbook and a separate book containing fourteen full-color weathered-looking postcards of the game's alternate history. Beneath the tray reveals compartments housing a set of three high-quality, embroidered patches, and a box of custom molded replica dog tags.
All those goodies can be had for the price of $100, but one thing you won't be receiving with it is the actual game. Bethesda says it is doing it this way to ensure it can ship these boxes worldwide without having to wait on the game; though the estimated ship date is still May 20, 2014, like the game. On the bright side, it means fans can buy this Panzerhund Edition regardless of the platform they choose for the actual game – just keep in mind that the full price of this plus the game will set you back roughly $160.
Source: Press Release and Bethesda Store
Earlier in the month, Perfect World Entertainment announced its newest free-to-play MMORPG, the martial arts-inspired Swordsman, based off the popular wuxia novels by Louis Cha. Today, Perfect World released a new trailer entitled "Introducing the World of Swordsman", which shows actual gameplay. The screenshots below are from the trailer, also provided by Perfect World.
Swordsman is currently in Closed Beta, which you can register for at www.playswordsman.com.
Source: Press Release
There are some truly extraordinary materials out there with fantastic properties. Naturally we are interested in using these materials and properties in technology, and we may be a step closer to realizing that with one of them. Topological insulators have very curious conducting characteristics, and researchers led by those at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee have found a way to control these properties, in one material.
For most materials if they are able to conduct electricity, all of the material is able to, and if it resists currents, all of it resists currents. Topological insulators however behave as electrical insulators within their volume, while their surfaces are conductive. This causes some interesting quantum mechanical effects that lead to interesting behaviors, such as protecting the flow of electrons from defects and preserving their spin. Such properties could have very powerful applications, but controlling topological insulators have thus far proven impossible with external fields, until now. The researchers have found that bismuth selenide can have its properties tuned by applying stress to it, as strain along its grain boundaries affects how electrons flow on it.
By compressing the grain boundaries, the researchers can disrupt the states of the electrons flowing on the surface, creating a kind of switch. Potentially this could evolve in the future to create spintronics, which store, process, and transmit information with the spin of electrons, instead of their charge, like modern electronics.