OCC TECH NEWS
October 28, 2014
Cooler Master, a leading creator, innovator, and manufacturer of desktop components and accessories, has officially released a new keyboard and mouse combo known as Octane. The latest product from Cooler Master similar to the Devastator combo, but incorporates more robust features, multiple lighting colors, and profiles, allowing it to stand out amongst the competition. The Octane supports seven different color options with pulsating and full backlighting modes, and the colors of the keyboard and mouse can even be changed independently of each other.
The keyboard itself features 19-key anti-ghosting technology, adjustable repeat rates, dedicated media control keys, a dedicated backlight switching key, and a Windows key that can be toggled on and off during gaming sessions. The mouse comes with an AVAGO 3050 optical sensor, features four DPI levels ranging from 500 DPI to 3500 DPI, and is capable of handling up to 10 million clicks in its lifetime.
The Octane mouse and keyboard combo from Cooler Master features an MSRP of $59.99 and will be available to purchase in the coming days as vendors across the United States receive the product.
Source: Press Release
Some discoveries bring out a lot of skeptics and demand more and more evidence before being accepted. One example of this would be if the microbe Geobacter produces nanowires capable of transmitting electrons like a metallic wire. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where the original discovery of the nanowires was made, have now provided the most significant evidence of these biological nanowires.
Microbial nanowires are very small filaments of protein some bacteria grow in order to connect with each other, sharing energy and information. Typically proteins carry electrons by having them make discrete jumps, unlike in metals where electrons are delocalized from the molecules, and can freely move. The electrons in Geobacter's filaments are delocalized though and now the Massachusetts researchers have shown this by capturing the movement of electrons with electrostatic force microscopy. This technique allows for the flow of electric charges to be imaged, and showed them travelling just as was predicted.
Beyond verifying the past research, this study could open up some interesting applications, such as using the microbes to convert waste materials into methane gas. They could also be used as environmental sensors and even biological computers, with the filaments matching the conductivity of carbon nanotubes.
Source: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Thermaltake, a leader in computer chassis, thermal solutions, and power supply units, has officially released a new mid-tower chassis, the Core V41. This latest addition follows the release of other Core series cases by Thermaltake, which include the Core V1, V31, V51, and V71. The Core V41 includes many of the same features found in the other Core series cases, such as curved a metal mesh appearance, outstanding cooling performance, compatibility for various air and liquid cooling systems, and tool-free and modular drive bays. The Core V41 supports the latest ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini-ITX motherboards as well as all high-end GPU cards, and also includes a side window that allows owners to display their system’s component. Tt LCS Certification is also applied to the Thermaltake Core V41, which means that it has been verified by the company to be compatible with extreme liquid cooling configurations.
Source: Press Release
Anyone with a smartphone has likely experienced its battery dying at an inopportune moment. Of course many things will drain the battery, but one in particular is the power amplifier, which is necessary for transmitting radio signals. Researchers at MIT formed a startup company, Eta Devices, to produce a chip to regulate the voltage of the amplifier, drastically reducing the power used.
To make sure the radio is always ready to send a signal, the power amplifier tends to be at maximum voltage all of the time. Naturally that cuts into battery life and, because half of that power may be lost as heat, it influences phones in a number of other ways too. The Eta Devices chip however, acts like a gearbox to step down the voltage, when full power is not needed. Base stations could also benefit from this new chip, raising efficiency to 70%, from an optimistic 45%. That could save a large carrier $100 million each year.
As Eta Devices is already working with manufacturers, we may see its technology deployed by the end of next year in base stations and smartphones. While some manufacturers are working on similar systems to increase efficiency, the Eta Devices technology is unique in its ability to work with the high frequencies of new communication standards, like LTE Advanced and 802.11ac.
A new day has arrived, and with it come a few reviews for you to check out. We have a look at the Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV case, a minimalistic design that certainly doesn't skimp on the features or functionality. We also have a review on the SilverStone Fortress FT05 case, which is another minimalistic case with plenty of features and refinements. Wrapping things up for today is the ECS LIVA Mini PC, a small, portable, and affordable option for those who do not need a large computer.
Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV @ ThinkComputers
SilverStone Fortress FT05 @ Benchmark Reviews
ECS LIVA Windows Based Mini PC @ PC Perspective
Amazon has revealed that it has officially acquired Rooftop Media, an online comedy service comprised of 10 employees that specializes in producing comedy content for the Web. The acquisition of the comedy service will help Amazon in its goal to create revenue from other streams outside of ecommerce. Amazon wishes to compete directly with Netflix and other online digital media services, and by taking over Rooftop Media which has partners that include Apple, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, and Yahoo, the online retail giant has a better chance of doing so. While financial details regarding the acquisition were not announced by either company, it has been revealed that content by Rooftop Media will be integrated into Audible, an audiobooks service owned by Amazon.
Bing has revealed that in all English markets, it now supports the use of emoji characters within search inquires. This means that users of Bing can now use emoji, which are small pictures that are used to express emotions or ideas, in their searches to find relevant information. Users can also search Bing with an emoji to figure out exactly what the small picture means if they are unsure, and can combine emoji with text for even more powerful searches. According to Nick Roberts, the Senior Program Manager for Bing Relevance and Intent, return results from Bing are based on the semantic meaning of the emoji, and the support for emoji itself was added due to its use by billions across the world.
Source: Bing Blog
In order to better serve Alienware laptop owners who tend to be at a desk during gaming sessions, Dell has announced the Alienware Graphics Amplifier. This device itself supports nearly any desktop GPU up to 375 watts, features four powered USB ports, and connects to a compatible Alienware laptop through a proprietary PCI-Express-based cable. By connecting the Alienware Graphics Amplifier to a compatible Alienware laptop, gamers can utilize the power of various GPUs currently on the market, which allows for improved performance. Unfortunately, the new Alienware 13 is the only laptop that supports the PCI-Express-based cable that the Alienware Graphics Amplifier uses, but according to a Dell spokesperson, future models will feature the same connection.
The latest Alienware accessory is available to preorder immediately for $299 and is expected to ship sometime next month.
October 27, 2014
Sega's tactical RPG Valkyria Chronicles is shedding its PlayStation 3 exclusivity. While a release date and details are still forthcoming, Sega has confirmed via Twitter that the game is indeed coming to PC:
Valkyria Chronicles released on PlayStation 3 in 2008 to fairly high critical acclaim. The game is set in Europa during the early years of World War II and combines RPG elements with turn-based tactical battles and the ability to directly control unit attacks in third-person.
Source: Twitter via IGN
Circle 5 Studios and Pub Games have announced that Primal Carnage: Extinction will be launching for PC via Steam next month, with a PlayStation 4 version arriving early next year. Extinction is a class-based online multiplayer shooter pitting humans against dinosaurs. The game features twelve diverse maps with two gamemodes at launch: Team Deathmatch and Get to the Chopper. There are nine unique dinosaur classes to choose from and five unique human classes, with Steam Economy Support that will allow players to collect, trade, and sell a variety of cosmetic items through the Steam Marketplace. In addition, the studios have a six-month development plan to provide post-launch content, which will include: new weapons adding variety to gameplay; new skins for both human classes and dinosaurs; new cosmetics and customization options for players; new environments for play; and new gamemodes pitting humans vs dinosaurs.
Primal Carnage: Extinction will arrive on PC via Steam next month, with a Beta beginning on November 10. All players who purchase the game on Steam by the end of November will receive beta access along with a "Volcano" Spinosaurus skin. The game is scheduled to arrive Q1 2015 for PlayStation 4, but no exact date has been stated.
Source: Press Release and Official Site
Roughly two weeks ago, Ubisoft released a "Customization Trailer" for its upcoming MMO-CarPG The Crew, but it didn't really show that much. Now the publisher has released a new video entitled "Customization Nation", which delves into the game's car customization a bit further.
The Crew is set to arrive on December 2 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
Source: Press Release and UbiBlog
The computer industry is rapidly approaching the limits of current technology as it races to make smaller and faster components. One of these limits has to do with how dense you can make the features on a chip. There is a potential way to push back this limit using polymers, and two techniques recently developed at NIST should help that happen.
Block copolymers are a type of materials that are actually two or more polymers, connected together. These materials have some interesting properties, such as the ability to self-organize into specific patterns. Testing this ability is challenging though, as the equipment and processes is both time consuming and expensive. This is still true with what the NIST researchers have developed, but this new work still has value. Specifically the researchers have produced two studies that describe how to use soft X-rays to measure the average shape of a block copolymer structure and how to use transmission electron microscope tomography to image defects within a film. Combined you can find problems in the patterns you are trying to work with.
While these processes do not offer a way to detect defects on the factory floor, they can be used for refining computer models, which can be tested rapidly and cheaply by the industry. Using block copolymer patterns, it should be possible to reach smaller feature sizes in computer chips than current technology, but only if the patterns they layout can be trusted. Those models are what will one day identify if the pattern will have flaws or not.
The ECS LIVA has surely been used in a variety of applications since its announcement earlier this year, thanks to its extremely small size, low power consumption, and overall value. ECS has now revealed that its Windows-based mini PC comes preloaded with Windows 8.1 with Bing. This version of Microsoft’s latest operating system is essentially the same as Windows 8.1, but comes with Internet Explorer and Bing Smart Search enabled by default, enabling users to find things across the Internet, applications, and the PC itself. On the ECS LIVA mini PC, Windows 8.1 with Bing delivers more benefits and overall convenience to its users.
Source: Press Release
We all make mistakes and can really only hope that these mistakes are either caught, or of little consequence. That is not always the case though with some errors having great impacts on results. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have created a plugin for Microsoft Excel for finding potential errors in spreadsheets that could dramatically affect the final result.
CheckCell uses data analysis and program analysis to examine a spreadsheet and identify cells that either stand out as suspicious or could have a great impact. The latter is especially useful as sometimes the importance of a cell is not immediately apparent. By following how the data can affect the result, CheckCell will flag the entry to let the user know it should be verified.
The CheckCell plugin is freely available to everyone now, after being released at the Object-Oriented Programming Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA) conference. You can find it here: www.checkcell.org.
Source: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Amazon has officially launched the Fire TV Stick, a smaller and more inexpensive version of the Fire TV set-top box that was released earlier this year. The latest device from Amazon competes directly with Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick, offering improved functionality for a similar price. Like its competition, the Fire TV Stick plugs directly into an HDMI slot in order to stream movies and music, but the device differs greatly from its competition with its internal hardware. The Fire TV Stick features a dual-core processor that is 50 percent more powerful than Chromecast, twice the amount of RAM as Chromecast, and 32 times the storage than the Roku Streaming Stick. All of these enticing hardware features allow users of the Fire TV Stick to download and play games from the Amazon app store.
The Fire TV Stick from Amazon, which comes with a 1-year limited warranty, will be released on November 19, 2014. The device is available immediately to pre-order for $39, and Amazon Prime members can purchase the Fire TV Stick for just $19 for the next two days only.
CVS has shut down NFC functionality of its payment terminals entirely, following a similar decision made by pharmacy chain RiteAid just a few days ago. According to Twitter and the MacRumors forums, CVS sent an email to its stores notifying them that NFC support is to be turned off, which affects systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet. This action has likely been taken due to the company’s participation in Merchant Customer Exchange, a retailer group that is currently developing its own mobile payments system known as CurrentC.
While CVS and RiteAid no longer support Apple Pay and Google Wallet, competitor Walgreens has fully embraced Apple Pay since its launch.
Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere today and in almost everything. If you need a rechargeable energy storage system with high capacity, those are what many turn to. As great as these batteries are though, more and more applications are demanding more, and thanks to researchers at Berkeley Lab, a possible replacement has gotten an important boost.
Lithium ions have a single positive charge and an obvious way to improve energy density would be to use an ion with a greater charge, like magnesium, which can have two positive charges. If it were as simple as just substituting lithium for magnesium, we would already have magnesium-ion batteries. One of the challenges facing magnesium-ion batteries has been that often, when magnesium is in a solid, it is surrounded by six neighbors. In a battery these neighbors would come from the electrolyte, and would inhibit the ion from entering an electrode. According to the Berkeley researchers' new computer model though, the problem is less severe than many thought, as only four neighbors would come in. That may not sound like that big a change, but it will make entering the electrode and delivering energy much easier.
The researchers do have an explanation for why some studies have shown the six neighbors from the electrolyte gathering around the ions. They suggest that if the electrolyte concentration is too high that it could cause the ions to take on the six neighbors like in a solid, at the electrode interface. By keeping the concentrations low enough, this would be avoided.
Source: Berkeley Lab
Microsoft has revealed that beginning on November 2, 2014, a special, limited-time promotional offer will slash $50 off any Xbox One console, which includes special edition bundles. Yusuf Mehdi, the Head of Xbox Business Strategy and Marketing at Microsoft, stated that "Fans don’t have to wait for Black Friday this year to enjoy great savings on Xbox One. We’re offering our best price yet, with unprecedented choices and value, so more people can play on Xbox One this holiday." Several exclusive bundles that will be available to receive $50 off include Xbox One Assassin’s Creed Bundle, the Xbox One Special Edition Sunset Overdrive Bundle, and the Xbox One Limited Edition Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Bundle.
This promotional offer, which ends on January 3, 2015, will be available at most major national retailers in the United States, including Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Microsoft Stores, Target, Toys 'R Us, and Walmart.
The long awaited Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth is finally here, and with its availability, AMD has revealed that the video game title features support for the company’s Mantle graphics API. Mantle is a low-overhead graphics API that boosts gaming performance thanks to increased efficiency of multicore CPUs and streamlined game code execution. The announcement to support Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth with this unique API is aimed at AMD Radeon graphics customers, who will experience higher frame rates and smoother overall gameplay thanks to the technology. Matt Skynner, the Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Product and Platform Solutions Business Unit at AMD, stated that "As gamers settle in for a marathon session of Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, we're proud that the potent combination of Mantle and the award-winning Graphics Core Next architecture effortlessly enable the definitive experience."
October 25, 2014
If you've yet to see someone using an Amazon Fire Phone, you're not alone. Even after Amazon slashed the price to $0.99 with a two-year contract less than two months after launch, sales have not been good. Now, with Amazon revealing its third quarter results, we have learned just how big of a failure the Fire Phone has been. Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the quarter, recording a $170 million charge, "primarily related to Fire phone inventory valuation and supplier commitment costs." According to CFO Thomas Szkutak, Amazon currently has $83 million worth of unsold Fire phones sitting in inventory. Ouch!
With the recent releases of Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 – three phones from the two biggest smartphone players – it doesn't look like it'll get better for Amazon's Fire Phone anytime soon.
More than two years after its initial launch, MMORPG TERA is getting its first expansion, entitled Fate of Arun. TERA has received several updates over the years, as expected for an MMO, but Fate of Arun is by far the biggest update yet and certainly worthy of the "expansion" classification. Fate of Arun increases the level cap to 65, adds in the lands of Northern Arun with a brand-new storyline, and brings new quests, zones, dungeons, skills, gear, and a new PvP battleground.
TERA is available to download and play for free via the official site and will be coming to Steam later this year. There is no North American release date for Fate of Arun just yet, but it will also be free for everyone.
Source: Press Release
Sundar Pichai, who has been at Google since 2004 and took on overseeing Google Apps in 2012 and Android in 2013, has been promoted by Larry Page, Google’s CEO, to oversee some of the company’s most important products and services. Pichai will now have direct oversight on a plethora of core offerings by Google, which include advertisements, Android, Chrome, Docs, Gmail, Google+, maps, search, and research. Page implemented the promotion for Pichai due to his desire to offload some of his own management duties, allowing him to focus more heavily on overall business strategies for the technology giant as it continues to expand. Despite the shift in management Pichai still falls under Page, who remains the top product guru at Google.
Revolv, a company that prides itself on its self-titled smart hub that helps actively manage smart homes through a smartphone application, has been officially acquired by Nest. Revolv noted on its website shortly after the acquisition that "Together, we’re going to create some amazing products and continue to unify the connected home as part of the Works with Nest program." Financial details regarding the acquisition were not released by either company, but sales of the Revolv smart hub have been halted by Nest due to the takeover. While new customers are not be able to purchase the smart hub from Revolv, existing customers will be provided with continued service and customer support. The device’s one-year warranty will still be honored as well, and data gathered from the smart hub will continue to follow the privacy statement by Revolv, staying separate from Google.
Source: PCWorld and Revolv
October 24, 2014
Depending on your age, you may remember the Micro Machines series of racing video games based on the toy line of miniature vehicles of the same name. Today, developer Codemasters announced that its returning to its miniature racing titles of the 1990s with Toybox Turbos. "Toybox Turbos features 35 vehicles to collect and customise, ranging from sports cars and dragsters to emergency vehicles, taxis, ice cream vans, construction vehicles, milk float, moon buggies and more! Each can be raced in six super-charged game modes; players sprint for the line in Classic Races, set their best time in Time Trial, pass as many turbocharged toys as possible in Overtake, avoid getting wiped out by the tide in Escape, beat the clock in Countdown and take down bosses in Elimination mode. To gain the advantage, gamers can collect and use a range of power-ups spread liberally around each circuit, including, but not limited to, machine guns, mines, electronic pulses and, of course, giant hammers!"
The game contains 18 circuits inspired by childhood locations filled with obstacles and short-cuts. Best of all, not only is there four-player local and online multiplayer, but you can also mix and match the two. Toybox Turbos is coming to Windows PC via Steam, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on November 11 for $14.99 / £11.99 / €14.99.
Source: Press Release
Ubisoft has revealed the PC specs for Assassin's Creed Unity and they're fairly beefy. At a minimum, you'll need an Intel Core i5-2500K @ 3.3 GHz or AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz or AMD Phenom II x4 940 @ 3.0 GHz, 6GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 or AMD Radeon HD 7970 (2 GB VRAM). Recommended specs are an Intel Core i7-3770 @ 3.4 GHz or AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz or better, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 or AMD Radeon R9 290X (3 GB VRAM). No matter what your specs, the game only supports 64-bit versions of Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8/8.1, and you'll need 50GB of hard drive space.
Along with the PC specs, Ubisoft released a new video that delves into the immersive, open-world gameplay. Narrated by Creative Director Alex Amancio, the video shows off Paris and the various side quests Unity provides.
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  & 
Two weeks ago, Ubisoft released the first in a series of Far Cry 4 videos that introduces us to the various regions of Kyrat. While that first video focused on the Lowlands, the second video focuses on the Midlands and Himalayas. The Midlands are home to lush forests, exotic animals, and Kyrat's drug trade. The region is under the control of Dr. Noore Najjar, Vice Lord of Kyrat, who not only supervises the aforementioned drug trade, but also manages the brutal Shanath Arena, where gladiators face off against wolves and tigers to the death.
While the Midlands are certainly a dangerous place, they're nothing compared to the "wicked windswept peaks" of the Himalayas. Not only must you deal with the Royal Army's elite, ravenous wolves and show leopards, and frequent avalanches, but it's also home to the Sky Prison, a craggy gulag carved into the side of a mountain. The prison's warden is Yuma, a former triad gangster and commander of the Elite Royal Guard.
Far Cry 4 is set to release on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on November 18. A Season Pass is also available, featuring a co-op escape from the aforementioned prison.
Source: Press Release and UbiBlog
As promised, CD Projekt RED debuted the opening cinematic for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt earlier today during the Golden Joystick Awards. Entitled "The Trail", it shows protagonist Geralt of Rivia and his mentor Vesemir pursuing Geralt's long lost love, a powerful sorceress named Yennefer of Vengerberg. The trailer is both beautiful and gruesome.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 24, 2015.
Source: Press Release
As though holograms were not cool enough already, now quantum holograms may have a potential use for storing quantum information. As published in the European Physical Journal's EPJD, researchers at St. Petersburg State University have successfully retrieved information from a quantum hologram.
Holograms are a well understood means for storing optical information but have not been used before to store quantum information. Normally they store information using light intensity, but for a quantum hologram the medium that holds the information has to be able to store a quantum superposition. Superposition is a quantum phenomenon whereby quantum objects can exist in mutually exclusive states at the same time. To actually write the information onto the medium, the researchers had to be able to shape the control field in both space and time. The control field is the reference light used to write and later read information from a hologram medium.
Eventually the researchers would like to see quantum holograms used to store quantum signals but also to transform their quantum states. This ability would be useful for quantum communication and computation.
Source: European Physical Journal
Thermaltake has announced the addition of a pair of mid tower cases to its lineup, the Versa H34 and H35, designed "specifically designed for gamers and home-computer builders." The cases feature a transparent side window, dust filters, and stress-free cable management. Up to two 5.25" drives can be installed along with three 3.5" or 2.5" drives in modular bays, with an additional two spaces for 2.5" drives behind the motherboard tray. Two 120mm fans are included with the case and the case has enough mount points to support eight 120mm or 140mm fans.
Source: Press Release