OCC TECH NEWS
August 22, 2014
Ubisoft has released a new Assassin's Creed Unity video entitled "Under the Hood with Arno's Actor", featuring Dan Jeanotte, the voice actor behind protagonist Arno Dorian. While not quite as exhilarating as the 11-minute uncut gameplay video published last week, it's still worth the watch for anyone looking forward to the game, as Dan provides some insight about Arno's background and what it was like to voice and mo-cap the assassin.
Assassin's Creed Unity will release on October 28, 2014, for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Glassdoor, the world's most transparent career community that allows people find jobs and companies to recruit top talent, has just released its latest ranking for company culture and values. The list, titled as "Top 25 Companies for Culture and Values," places Twitter at the top of its rankings, ahead of other companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple, all of which made the list as well. Twitter employees helped take the company to the top of Glassdoor's list by complimenting overall teamwork, rooftop meetings, friendliness between employees, and open dialog with executives. According to Glassdoor, company culture is actually one of the top five items that potential employees look at when seeking a new job, making Twitter’s latest ranking all the more important.
With how much energy comes to Earth as Sunlight, it is not surprising that we are working on ways to capture and harness it for our own uses. While some means for doing this do exist, we are still searching for better methods, such replicating Nature's photosynthesis, which is a rather efficient process. Researchers at Ruhr-University Bochum have recently succeeded in creating a semi-artificial leaf that could help bring about cheap and flexible solar cells in the future.
Semi-artificial leafs that use photosystem 1 (PS1) for absorbing light, instead of a semiconductor, have been worked on before, but PS1 has a special complicating factor. It possesses both hydrophilic and hydrophobic domains, which makes it difficult to keep immobile on electrodes. To solve the problem, the researchers created a hydrogel matric, which can have its own hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties shifted by adjusting pH levels.
The resulting semi-artificial leaf outperformed other semi-artificial bio-photoelectrodes, but also bested Nature with an electron transfer rate ten times greater. Though modern, semiconductor photovoltaics are still superior, that may change in the future, and for now the bio-photovoltaics may find use in micro-scale medical devices.
CyberPowerPC, a global manufacturer of custom gaming PCs, gaming laptops, and performance workstations, has just released the RAVEN X6. This latest gaming notebook from CyberPowerPC is both stylish and powerful, as it crams in plenty of up-to-date technology. Hardware wise, the RAVEN X6 includes a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS panel display, an Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M 4GB graphics card, 8GB of DDR3 memory, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive. Other features also present on the RAVEN X6 are an HD webcam, dual digital microphones, and a backlit keyboard. Ports for connecting additional peripherals and devices are plentiful as well, with two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and a 4-in-1 media card reader all present.
The RAVEN X6 is available immediately for purchase from the CyberPowerPC website for $1199, with customization options available.
Source: Press Release
ID-COOLING, which specializes in CPU coolers, VGA coolers, built-in cooling products for cases, computer case fans, server cooling products, and more, has officially released the T60-SFX mini gaming case. The new case by ID-COOLING features a compact design made from aluminum, allowing it to be moved around and placed quite easily. Despite its size, the T60-SFX is able to accommodate an SFX power supply, a mini-ITX motherboard, a tower CPU cooler with a height no greater than 124mm, and a dual-slot VGA card no longer than 260mm. The case can also fit one 3.5-inch hard drive as well as two 2.5-inch hard drives or solid state drives.
The T60-SFX by ID-COOLING carries an MSRP of $79.99.
Source: Press Release
The droughts that have been hitting the western US in recent years are having more of an effect than probably most people would expect. Beyond the water restrictions and some dying plant life, geological data suggests the droughts have caused the entire west coast to wise a little, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego.
Across the country there are networks of highly precise GPS stations, and those along the west coast have seen an apparent uplift in recent years. More specifically the uplift has coincided with the droughts the states in the area have been suffering. Analysis of the data indicates that some of California's mountains have risen 15 mm (over half an inch) with an average of 4 mm across the west.
Crunching the numbers reveals that approximately 240 gigatons of water, or 62 trillion gallons, would have to be missing to explain the vertical shift. This opens up a new use for GPS networks as a potential means to measure water stocks across the world.
Source: University of California, San Diego
We have reached the end of the week, but before it does, there are some items for you to check out. There is a review on the ROCCAT Kave XTD 5.1 digital headset, which has plenty of enhancements over the previous version, like a speaker pass-thru, Bluetooth connectivity so you can connect your phone, a retooled in-line remote, and plenty more. We also have a look at the ECS LIVA Mini PC kit, which has everything you need to build an incredibly small Windows computer. To end things today is a new podcast covering the latest news and reviews from the week.
ROCCAT Kave XTD 5.1 Digital Headset @ Benchmark Reviews
Hands On with the ECS LIVA Mini PC Kit @ ThinkComputers
Podcast #314 @ PC Perspective
August 21, 2014
Publisher Paradox Interactive is best known for its strategy games and today it has announced a new addition to its roster, Ancient Space. Ancient Space is a single-player, story-driven, real-time strategy game from developer CreativeForge Games, which "puts the player in command of a fleet conducting a scientific mission on the edge of the known universe, charting what lies beyond in 'The Black Zone'." CreativeForge promises a compelling story where your decisions will matter and impact the story. The game will feature thirteen ship types, multiple officers too choose from each with their own special abilities, and of course upgrades for both humans and ships.
Paradox has also announced that Ancient Space will feature quite the cast, including fan-favorite actors from science fiction television series and films: John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise, True Blood); Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica); Ron Glass (Firefly); Richard Gunn (Dark Angel); Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers, Star Trek: Nemesis); and Dwight Schultz (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager). If the names don't ring a bell, I attached their photos below, in order, along with some screenshots.
Ancient Space is planned to arrive exclusively for PC (Windows and Mac) via Steam this Fall.
Source: Press Release and Official Site
Sharkoon has announced that its latest case, the CA-I Mini-ITX, is immediately available. The case has dimensions of 213 x 225 x 259 mm, but uses a compartmental design to help maximize the amount of components that can fit inside. It is able to accommodate full size ATX power supplies, graphics cards up to 20.7 cm in length, and CPU coolers up to 10.5 cm in height. A 120 mm fan is installed in the top of the case with the option to install an additional 60 mm fan in the back. A single 3.5" and 2.5" drive can be installed, or a pair of 2.5" drives can be installed.
Source: Press Release
Tesoro has announced its latest gaming accessory, the Excalibur LED backlit mechanical keyboard. Users are given the option to choose from USB 6 N-Key Rollover or N-Key Rollover to allow for full anti-ghosting. The keyboard uses a 1000Hz polling rate and a game mode switch function to ensure that accidental key presses don't take you out of your game. The Excalibur is equipped with 512kB of onboard memory for storing five macro profiles that accommodate 300 macro keys each. There are four levels of LED backlighting with five levels of on-key LED illumination. The Excalibur will be available in mid September at an MSRP of $89.
Source: Press Release
Last month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed plans to unify Windows across all its platforms: Windows for PCs and tablets, Windows Phone, and Xbox One. That time may come sooner than anticipated. According to The Verge, Microsoft plans to unveil the next major version of Windows, codename "Threshold", at a preview event on September 30, with ZDNet reporting that multiple sources confirm a "technology preview" will be made available to the public in late September or early October.
Threshold, or Windows 9 if you prefer, will supposedly improve Windows' usability on non-touch devices, along with a slew of new features: "a new 'mini' Start Menu; windowed Metro-Style applications that can run on the Desktop; virtual desktops; and the elimination of the Charms bar that debuted as part of Windows 8. Cortana integration with Windows Threshold is looking like it could make it into the OS, as well." General consensus seems to indicate that Microsoft nails it every other major consumer iteration (Win98 good, WinME bad, WinXP good, Vista bad, Win7 good, Win8 bad); so based on that, Windows 9 should be superb!
Source: The Verge and ZDNet via PC Gamer
Polish indie developer The Astronauts has announced that its first title, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, will be arriving September 25 on PC. The studio was founded in August 2012 by the original founders of People Can Fly (Painkiller, Bulletstorm), who left that company when it was acquired by Epic Games. But The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is quite different from those aforementioned shooters; instead, it's a first-person murder mystery game.
Players take on the role of occult-minded detective Paul Prospero, who receives a disturbing letter from a young boy named Ethan Carter, and subsequently discovers he has vanished in the wake of a brutal murder. "Using both Paul’s supernatural skill of being able to communicate with the dead, and your own powers of observation, you will discover the mystery behind a trail of corpses, the roots of a dark ancient force lurking in Red Creek Valley, and the fate of a missing boy." The Astronauts say the game is less about puzzle-solving and more about exploration and discovery; the "focus is on atmosphere, mood, and the essential humanity of [the] characters." The game is non-linear with no hand-holding and zero-combat, so you're free to solve the mysteries at your own pace.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is currently available for pre-order on Steam and GOG.com for $19.99, with pre-order bonuses including the full original soundtrack (FLAC and MP3), four exclusive HD wallpapers in three resolutions, a digital map of Red Creek Valley, a "Making Of" PDF album, and a high resolution digital poster ready for print (PSD and TGA/JPG). Despite the nearly photorealistic graphics (thanks to photogrammetry technology), the game's specs are extremely low: Windows XP SP3 or higher, Intel Core 2 Duo or equivalent AMD, 4GB RAM, and a DirectX9c-compliant GPU with 512MB VRAM. No release date for the planned PlayStation 4 version has been announced.
Source: Press Release and Official Site
Those lucky enough to own Google Glass will soon see that contacts on the gadget are even easier to access than before. The update allows Glass owners to access all of the contacts on their phone, enabling 20 to be found by voice while the rest can be found with a simple swipe. Contacts can be messaged in a variety of ways as well, as options such as Hangouts, email, and SMS are now available upon tapping on a contact.
Android users will be able to see and use the improvements offered by the latest Google Glass update immediately, while iOS users will be able to do the same in about a week when the MyGlass app is updated.
As we use our mobile devices more and more, the importance of securing them becomes greater and greater. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have recently discovered a security flaw in the Android OS with almost a perfect success rate, and almost all popular operating systems may share the vulnerability.
The vulnerability has to do with the shared-memory side channel, which contains shared memory statistics about processes and can be accessed without permissions. From this information, it is possible to infer what an app is doing, such as logging in or receiving information for a purchase. On its own, this vulnerability is not serious, but the researchers found it could be used to time an attack that exploits a feature of many modern GUIs, which is why more than just Android may be at risk. The feature is to allow the screen to be preempted, such as to show an alarm. In this case though, what comes up is a false version of the expected window. By timing the attack with the shared memory data, the user will fail to notice the switch.
The researchers tested the attack on seven apps and here are their success rates (higher is worse): Gmail at 92%, H&R Block at 92%, Newegg at 86%, WebMD at 85%, CHASE Bank at 83%, Hotels.com at 83%, and Amazon at 48% success rate. The reason Amazon has the lower success rate is because it is harder to infer the state of the app, as it can transition between almost any activity.
Source: University of California, Riverside
Acer has just announced the Chromebox CXI series, which consists of the CXI-2GKM and CXI-4GKM. Since the Chromebox CXI line is quite compact and is VESA mountable, the company believes that it is best suited for a variety of markets, including education, small to medium businesses, and budget-conscious shoppers. Specification wise, the CXI-2GKM comes with Google’s Chrome OS, an Intel Celeron 2957U processor, 2GB of DDR3-1600, a 16GB solid state drive, an SD card reader, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GbE LAN, four USB 3.0 ports, and DisplayPort and HDMI outputs. The CXI-4GKM includes the exact same specifications, but increases the RAM to 4GB.
The Acer CXI-2GKM and CXI-4GKM will be available for purchase next month and are set to go on sale for $180 and $220, respectively.
One of three The Witcher games currently in development, The Witcher Battle Arena is CD Projekt RED's first foray into the free mobile gaming market. Today, the studio released the Debut Gameplay Trailer, and while it doesn't show much of the actual MOBA mechanics, it does introduce us to several characters: Letho, Philippa, Operator, Eithne, Iorveth, Saskia, Golem, and Zoltan. We also get a glimpse of the UI, including a mini-map in the top-right corner that is quite different than your typical MOBA map.
The Witcher Battle Arena is scheduled to launch later this year on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. But if MOBAs and/or mobile gaming aren't your things, there's always The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to look forward to.
Source: Press Release
Lasers are a cool technology, but as science fiction and some science fact tells us, the beams themselves are not cool and can be used to heat and melt objects. As some other science facts also tell us though, lasers can be used to cool objects by exploiting or great control over the properties of the beam. Researchers at the Australian National University have recently used this control to cool the tip of an atomic force microscope, making it much more accurate.
Atomic force microscopes (AFMs) are among the more advanced measurement devices we have and operate by moving a cantilever with a very sharp tip over a sample. At its point, the tip can be just nanometers wide and is very sensitive to forces, such as a surface pushing against it, but also forces between molecules. It is so sensitive though that heat will cause vibrations that introduce noise to the measurements. The Australian researchers decided to tackle that noise by aiming a laser at the probe. By precisely tuning the laser, the vibrations of the probe can be cancelled out, cooling the probe to -265 ºC. This increases the sensitivity enough to detect the weight a large virus.
As the laser beam's effect overwhelms the probe, the AFM cannot be run when the laser is turned on, restricting the researchers to make measurements in millisecond long heating and cooling cycles. With additional study and data processing though, we may one day see the same sensitivity achieved without a cooling laser, thanks to our understanding of the cooling effect.
Source: Australian National University
UPS has revealed that computer systems located at UPS Store retail outlets have suffered a breach, which may have resulted in the exposure of names, postal and e-mail addresses, and payment-card data. Malware was the cause of the computer breach, as it was found at 51 UPS Store locations spanning 24 states. Although it is not currently known just how many customers may have been affected by the computer breach, the company has narrowed down the risk of information loss to UPS Store customers who used a credit or debit card at affected locations from January 20, 2014, through August 11, 2014.
Chelsea Lee, a UPS Store spokeswoman, revealed that one year of identity protection and credit monitoring programs are being offered at no charge to customers who may have been affected.
BitFenix is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its Prodigy M by releasing the stylish and compact chassis in four new colors, which include atomic orange, cobalt blue, fire red, and vivid green. The BitFenix Prodigy M Color incorporates all of the same features as the Prodigy M, but allows owners to light up their décor with a selection of popular and vibrant colors. In addition to the release of the Prodigy M Color, BitFenix has launched the Prodigy M Window Side Panel Accessory which features a large acrylic window that allows hardware to be easily displayed. The Prodigy M Window Side Panel Accessory is compatible with original Prodigy M, which comes in artic white and midnight black, as well as the newly released Prodigy M Color.
With the launch of the Prodigy M Color and the Prodigy M Window Side Panel Accessory, BitFenix is showing its customers that it truly listens to feedback provided by its user base.
Source: Press Release
IGN was fortunate enough to get a first look at Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain's multiplayer during a new 22-minute gameplay demo from Gamescom. The video not only shows multiplayer for the first time, but also shows off several other features of the game, including: horse poop, open-world exploration, day/night cycles, adaptive AI, and some new stealth options. If you want to skip to the multiplayer portion, it begins around the 16:50 mark.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is coming to PC via Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlaySation 3, and Xbox 360. Release date is still unknown.
According to the results of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) 2014 survey, Valve is the most desirable company to work for in the games industry. Over 2,200 developers were asked the simple question, "What developer/publisher would you most like to work for?" Even with "my own company" being a valid choice, the majority of those asked would rather work for Valve than for themselves. Valve is famous in the industry for its loose structure, with no true bosses or direct oversight. Employees get to work on what they want when they want, and obviously other developers desire that freedom and openness. Or maybe they just want to meet Gabe.
Here are the top ten most desirable developer or publisher employers, according to the IGDA study:
- Valve (Half-Life, Steam, Portal)
- My own company
- Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Skylanders)
- BioWare (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Star Wars: The Old Republic)
- Ubisoft (Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Just Dance)
- Current employer
- Nintendo (Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong)
- Naughty Dog (The Last of Us, Jak & Daxter, Uncharted)
- Double Fine (Brutal Legend, Psychonauts, Broken Age)
- Bethesda Game Studios (Fallout, The Elder Scrolls)
In many cases, electricity is generated by driving turbines with one fluid or another, such as steam or water. What can really set power plants apart is what puts the energy into the fluid that the turbines extract. One new method may use salt for that purpose, and researchers at MIT have found that such a system is not as simple as believed.
If you have two fluids with different solute concentrations separated by a semi-permeable membrane, such as having saltwater on one side and fresh water on the other, the fluids will move to try to equalize the concentrations on both sides of the membrane. The motion of the fluids is called osmosis, and pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) is a process some have been investigating for producing electricity. The idea would be to put pressurized salt water on one side of a membrane and fresh water on the other, and use the movement of the fresh water through the membrane to turn a turbine. What the MIT researchers have discovered is that the efficiency of a PRO system is more complicated than previously thought. According to their new model, the optimal membrane size is not the maximum membrane size, as a membrane half the area could produce 95% of the maximum output power.
Potentially PRO systems could be used to power desalination plants and water treatment plants, by putting saltwater or brine on one side of the membrane, and fresh or waste water on the other. To completely power some treatment plants may require some of the largest membranes in the world, but new configurations are being developed to fit the millions of square meters in relatively small packages.
Another week is drawing to a close, but before it does we have some items for you to check out. There is a review on the Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming GT motherboard that is filled to the brim with features any gamer would love, like the ability to have four video cards installed at once, a Killer E2200 NIC, and AMP-UP audio technology. We also have a look at the Crucial MX100 256GB SSD, which uses 16nm MLC NAND flash from Micron and an attractive price to set it apart from the rest. Finishing off today's items is a look at Chromebooks and how price is the only weapon they have against Windows laptops.
Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming GT @ ThinkComputers
Crucial MX100 256GB SSD @ Madshrimps
Price is the Only Weapon Chromebooks Have Against Windows @ TechSpot
August 20, 2014
Path of Exile's second expansion, Forsaken Masters, is now live, and it brings with it a ton of new features and changes; way too much to list here. Thankfully, developer Grinding Gear Games posted the (extremely lengthy) Patch Notes on the official site.
If you're running a Windows PC, go check out Path of Exile on Steam.
Source: Official Site
California-based studio The Behemoth has released a teaser trailer for its next game, codenamed Game 4. As you may have guessed from the name, it will be the studio's fourth major release following Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers, and BattleBlock Theater; all of which have been very well received. The Behemoth "schemed up a bunch of concepts" shortly before the release of BattleBlock Theater and then picked the strongest one and fleshed out a prototype. Today, The Behemoth released a Game 4 Debut Teaser, stating that the game is a genre it has never covered before. The hexagonal title screen leads me to believe it may be a turn-based strategy game of sorts?
A demo of Game 4 will be playable at PAX Prime (Booth 3003) from August 29 thru September 1. Platforms weren't specified, but if the studio's previous two games are any indication, it'll likely be a timed-exclusive on Xbox One followed by a PC release.
Source: The Behemoth Blog
Diablo announced its Memory Channel Storage (MCS) technology last year, a technology that uses memory slots on a motherboard rather than PCIe connections to attach solid state drives. The result was a "massive reduction in latencies, 3 to 5 microseconds compared to 25 to 28 microseconds for PCIe SSDs." The company has worked with SanDisk to integrate this technology into the ULLtraDIMM SSD line and with IBM as the eXFlash option for X series enterprise servers. The original Carbon 1 technology used the DDR3 interface while the new Carbon 2 will take advantage of DDR4 and also adds NanoCommit software which "further blurs the line between high-speed server memory and the company's flash-based MCS modules."
ECS is currently holding a media event at the Aloft Hotel Silicon Valley to showcase its newest product offerings to "top North American media partners and local customers in California." The event is titled LIVE, LIVA, LEAD, L337 and references several ECS product lines. Among the devices being shown are the previously announced 64GB LIVA mini PC in black and white, which will be released sometime this month. ECS will also show a pair of motherboards, the Z97I-DRONE of the L337 Gaming line and the Z97-PK. The company is also planning the reveal the details of the Design Your Own LIVA competition that will start next month and award the winner a prize of $1000.
Source: Press Release
Apple TV owners will now be able to access NFL Now, which provides fans access to the largest digital library of NFL video anywhere, thanks to the National Football League launching it today for the media device. The on-demand football service provides access to game highlights, original content from NFL Media and 32 NFL clubs, live press conferences, and media from the NFL Films vault. Additionally, NFL Now delivers a truly unique experience, as it introduces viewers to a video stream based on favorite NFL teams, players, and NFL.com Fantasy rosters and viewing preferences. While some of these features are indeed free, a paid subscription to NFL Now Plus, which costs $1.99 per month and provides a much more immersive experience, is needed for others.
Source: NFL Communications
It was recently reported that Community Health Systems suffered a data breach, resulting in the loss of patient names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers, and Social Security numbers of 4.5 million individuals. Security experts at the time noted that malware was used to attack systems, and while that still seems to be true, it looks like the major security flaw known as Heartbleed is partially to blame for allowing Chinese hackers to circumvent security measures. According to David Kennedy, the founder of TrustedSec LLC, hackers were able to make use of the Heartbleed flaw in order to steal usernames and passwords, which then gave them access to private communications channels within Community Health Systems. Although Kennedy is not involved with the ongoing investigation in any way, he has noted that the information linking Heartbleed to the stolen data comes from three people close to the matter.
If Heartbleed is in fact connected to the data breach that Community Health Systems recently suffered, it will be the first known breach of a company by use of the vulnerability.
Though we may not think about it much, we are all aware of Earth's magnetic field. The most obvious use of it is to orient compasses, but it has other uses too, as it is used for probing in geology and archaeology. Thanks to researchers at Berkeley Lab, it may soon also find use for analyzing chemical compositions of fluids, without removing them from their native environments.
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) is a phenomenon that can be used to determine the materials in some sample, and possibly its most common use is medicine's MRI machines. It works by measuring how atoms behave when the angle of their spins are manipulated. Normally strong and uniform magnetic fields are used, but these are not always available. What is always available on Earth though is the planet's magnetic field. Attempts have been made before to use the Earth's magnetic field for NMR, but failed because the field is so weak and the equipment was not very sensitive. The Berkeley researchers have discovered that it appears to be possible now, by using highly sensitive optical magnetometers and by looking at how the spins of molecules relax and diffuse.
Potentially this technique could be used to characterize the contents of solids underground, such as in oil wells, and actually measure hydrocarbons and water within rock, as well as inspecting the curing process of polymers and cement. The researchers next want to increase the depth their method can reach inside of a material, possibly piercing a meter or more, instead of the inches possible with current technologies.
Source: Berkeley Lab