OCC TECH NEWS
November 24, 2014
A new exploit known as BadUSB targets the firmware of USB devices rather than simply placing malware on the device, making it extremely difficult or impossible to detect. The exploit was initially developed "to highlight the inherently flawed design of the USB specification," and the code was kept private, though it has now been made available. Flash drives aren't the only devices that can be compromised with USB hubs, webcams, and other storage mediums also potential targets. If there is a bright spot to garner from this news it is that researchers believe that only half of all USB devices are vulnerable, while the initial belief was that all devices were at risk.
Corsair has announced the availability of the Carbide 330R case in the Titanium Edition, bringing a "new attractive dark gunmetal anodized aluminum front panel and a convenient 3-speed fan controller" to the quiet mid-tower lineup. The case supports motherboards from Mini ITX up to Extended ATX and has built-in routing cutouts for cable management. Users can install four hard drives of either 2.5" or 3.5" sizes with tool-free installation. Up to five case fans can be installed as part of the Direct Airflow Path layout, which provides an "unobstructed path between the included 140mm fan and the CPU and GPU." The case is rounded out with included noise dampening material making it a "great choice for media rooms, bedrooms, dorm rooms, or any place where both silence and performance are essential."
Source: Press Release
In many places, security is of great importance, but it can also be a great hindrance by slowing people down as they go through checks. Naturally many want a security solution that will ease the slowdown, but without compromising any of the checks. One area of technology that may achieve that is terahertz devices, and now researchers at Northwestern University have created a tunable terahertz source that operates at room temperature.
Terahertz frequencies rest between the infrared and microwave sections of the spectrum and are of interest to many because they interact strongly with organic molecules, without damaging them. As many dangerous chemicals, like explosives, are considered organic, a terahertz device would be able to detect them at distance. One difficulty with these frequencies of light though is that they are hard to produce and can even require vacuum chambers and cryogenics, making sources expensive and unwieldy. By mixing nonlinear quantum cascade lasers though, the Northwestern researchers were able to create them in the range of 1 to 4.6 THz, at up to 1.9 mW of power. Using special waveguides they designed, they were able to tune the device between 2.6 THz and 4.2 THz at room temperature.
Of course this new source could have applications in security systems, by scanning for dangerous materials noninvasively, but it would likely also see use in medicine, as a means to probe beneath the skin for issues. The technology could even have applications for deep space imaging.
Source: Northwestern University
We have a lot to cover as we begin the final week of November, so let's dive right into it. There is a review on the ASUS Maximus VII Impact motherboard, which is a Mini-ITX board based on the Intel Z97 chipset. We also have the Biostar A68N-5000, which features a built-in AMD Fusion APU for those on a budget. If you need a case, then you're in luck, as the In Win D-Frame Mini, NZXT H440 Razer Edition, and Fractal Design Define R5 Silent all get put to the test. The Func MS-2 gaming mouse gets reviewed to see how the company's newest mouse performs. LUXA2's Groovy Duo Wireless Speaker is put through the ringer to see how it performs. Lastly we have a performance and graphics test of Dragon Age: Inquisition to check how various setups will handle BioWare's latest RPG.
ASUS Maximus VII Impact @ LanOC Reviews
Biostar A68N-5000 @ LanOC Reviews
In Win D-Frame Mini @ PC Perspective
NZXT H440 Razer Edition @ ThinkComputers
Fractal Design Define R5 SIlent @ PC Perspective
Dragon Age: Inquisition Benchmarked: CPU & Graphics Performance @ TechSpot
Func MS-2 Gaming Mouse @ Madshrimps
LUXA2 Groovy Duo Wireless Speaker @ Benchmark Reviews
Polarization is important for many technologies, including displays and cameras. For cameras polarized filters are used to eliminate glare and in displays they are used to control the light that ultimately reaches our eyes. In both cases though, the polarizers can take out 60% to 70% of the light, dimming the result, which is why researchers at the University of Utah have designed a new filter.
Sunlight and ambient light is unpolarized, which means the light oscillates in all directions. When a single polarizer is used, such as to only let horizontally polarized light through, half of the light will be either absorbed by the filter or reflected. For cameras this is a problem for low-light pictures and for displays it means more energy is needed to create a bright image. What the Utah researchers have designed addresses the problem by actually altering the polarization of the light coming in, so more of it will pass through.
So far the researchers have achieved 74% transmission, but their goal is to let all the light through. They expect it may be five to ten years before we see this technology enter the market.
Source: University of Utah
Battlefield Hardline, which is slated to launch on March 17, 2015, is more of a cops-and-robbers title that falls away from its military roots that the franchise is known for. According to Blake Jorgensen, the CFO at EA, the Battlefield title that will be released in 2016 is expected to be more of a military-style game, with more details to be released in the future. Jorgensen also noted that after seeing the game, the new Battlefield that will launch over a year after Battlefield Hardline is made available to the public is already shaping up to be both fun and new.
Although Full Disk Encryption, or FDE, has been available on Android devices since version 3.0, Android 5.0 Lollipop is the first Android version to enable the security feature by default on new devices. While this would normally be a welcomed decision on the grounds of improved security for mobile devices, it turns out that FDE is greatly hindering the performance of devices that it is enabled on. In a recent test performed by AnandTech, it was found that the Nexus 6 suffered massive performance loss when FDE was enabled. The results show that FDE reduced sequential read speeds by 80.7 percent, random read speeds by 62.9 percent, and random write speeds by 50.5 percent, when compared to a Nexus 6 that has FDE turned off.
With performance hindered so greatly due to FDE, many users are hoping that Google is able to come up with a solution in the near future. The good news is that devices that were upgraded to Android Lollipop do not feature FDE enabled by default, and the encryption feature can be turned off on devices that come with it enabled.
Although Valve has yet to officially announce its Steam Fall Sale for this year, it looks like it will be kicking off in just two days, according to a PayPal email that was sent to various PayPal members. The Steam Fall Sale is expected to begin on November 26 and last until December 1, allowing gamers to pick up various products for Windows, Mac, and Linux for incredibly low prices. Some of the best deals will likely take place on Black Friday, but no matter the day gamers have the opportunity to save on thousands of video game titles during the Steam Fall Sale. PayPal customers can even order Steam Wallet Codes through its online gift store in preparation for the sale.
November 23, 2014
In an interview with IGN, Turtle Rock Studios' Creative Director Phil Robb revealed that all DLC maps for Evolve will be free for all players. The reasoning is actually rather simple – Turtle Rock doesn't want to fracture its community. Robb explained that the studio "never want[s] anyone to get booted off a server because they haven't bought something." This reasoning trickles down to the planned monster and hunter DLC as well. Players who choose to not purchase those DLC packs will still be able to join games with those DLC monsters and hunters, they just won't be able to play as them.
Evolve is scheduled to arrive on February 10, 2015 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
While it didn't leave Steam Early Access until a week after originally scheduled, Book I of Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is now officially available as a complete product. The release version adds in Chapter III, along with two new playable characters: Wood Elemental and Thorn Wasp. Of course, now that the game is officially launched, we get to enjoy this new Release Trailer:
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is available for purchase on Steam with a 20% discount dropping the price down to $23.99 until November 27. Purchasing the game entitles you to Book II free of charge when it becomes available for release.
Source: Press Release and Steam
Originally scheduled to arrive Holiday 2014 for PC and Xbox One, the gorgeous 2.5D Metroidvania platformer Ori and the Blind Forest has been pushed back "to add a final layer of polish." The new release window for those two platforms is Early 2015. No mention of whether the Xbox 360 version is still planned for Early 2015, or even if it's still planned at all. The exact wording of Moon Studios' statement is that the studio will "be releasing Ori and the Blind Forest Early 2015 exclusively for Xbox One and PC."
Source: Official Site
Roughly a month ahead of its PC debut, the PC specs and details for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes have been unveiled. Unsurprisingly, the PC version will be the definitive version of the game, featuring a slew of graphical enhancements:
- 60 FPS frame rate
- Additional deferred lights per scene
- Additional shadows per scene
- Higher-resolution render targets
- Higher-resolution shadows
- Increased detail over distances
- NVIDIA SLI Multi-GPU support
- Options to adjust seven graphics features (Effects, Lighting, Screen Filtering, Shadows, Texture Filtering, Textures)
- Resolution support up to and including 3840x2160 (4K)
- Screen Space Reflections
While that's an impressive list on paper, it's equally impressive in action. NVIDIA has posted two exclusive screenshots along with a handy comparison tool, allowing you to directly compare the PC and PlayStation 4 versions. The first screenshot shows improved lighting, enhanced shadows, higher textures, and greater draw distance. The second screenshot highlights the Screen Space Reflections. As for what you'll need to actually run all this extra eye-candy, check out the official system requirements:
- OS: Windows Vista 64-Bit or later
- Processor: Core i5 Sandy Bridge 4 Core (4 Thread) 2.7GHz or above
- Memory: 4GB RAM or above
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 650 or above
- DirectX: Version 11 or above
- Processor: Core i5 Sandy Bridge 4 Core (4 Thread) 2.7GHz or above
- Memory: 8GB RAM or above
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 760 or above
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes will be arriving via Steam on December 18.
Free-to-play, third-person shooter Zombies Monsters Robots has been invaded by giant mechs. The "Steel Corps" update has added three classes of playable mechs (Light, Medium, and Heavy) alongside nine new maps. Each class includes two base models and two Limited Edition variants. Players can pilot the mechs in an all-new PvP mode creatively entitled Team Mech Match, but the nine new maps are also playable in PvE and other PvP modes.
Zombies Monsters Robots can be downloaded for free via Steam.
Source: Press Release
Samsung and NVIDIA haven't seen eye to eye on some things of late, with NVIDIA filing a patent lawsuit against both Samsung and Qualcomm over GPU licensing fees. Now Samsung is firing back with a lawsuit of its own, and this one is a little interesting. While NVIDIA wants to block Samsung Galaxy phones with its lawsuit, Samsung wants to block NVIDIA GPUs in the U.S. market. Both GeForce and Tegra products would be blocked, which would not only affect NVIDIA but any third-party company that ships its products. The exact reasoning for Samsung's desire to block the GPUs is not known at this time, but it's probably based on some technology that Samsung feels it is owed money for in order for NVIDIA to use it.
There is a long way to go before anything concrete comes of this lawsuit, so don't fret just yet. Hopefully NVIDIA and Samsung can come to some kind of an agreement for both cases, otherwise some of the most popular smartphones and GPUs won't be available in the U.S.
November 22, 2014
South Korea's SmileGate took the Internet by storm when it unveiled its isometric, hack-and-slash MMORPG Lost Ark last week, with its high production values, amazing skill effects, and a whopping 18 playable characters. While the eight-minute Debut Trailer was quite impressive, now we get a new 19-minute "G-star Trailer", showing off even more of the game and its characters. Sadly, the narration is in Korean, but it's still a visual treat to watch.
Lost Ark is expected to enter Closed Beta next year, but a Western release is still up in the air.
Source: Official Site
At its peak, World of Warcraft had a whopping 12 million subscribers, making it the most popular MMORPG in history. While Blizzard has still enjoyed great success with the game, its subscriber base has unsurprisingly declined over the years, dropping to a still respectable, roughly 7.5 million last year. But with the release of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, World of Warcraft has once again surpassed the 10-million mark as of November 13, the date of the launch. More than 3.3 million copies of the expansion were sold within the first 24 hours.
Blizzard qualifies active subscribers as the following:
World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet game room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees' territories are defined along the same rules.
Source: Press Release
This Tuesday saw a record-breaking event, and it happened right in the heart of Manhattan – a 24-million-pixel LED display longer than a football field and eight stories high lit up Times Square for the first time. The world's largest display debuted with an exhibition of digital art by Universal Everything Studio, but will the home of some Google advertising next week through the New Year. While the screen's advertising firm Clear Channel Outdoor wouldn't divulge details of the Google deal, the New York Times reports that "the rate for a four-week advertising blitz is $2.5 million."
The gigantic billboard hovers over the Marriott Marquis Hotel and was commissioned by the Vornado Realty Trust in 2012 "as part of a $140 million project to expand and redevelop the Marriott Marquis' retail space." The exact cost of the screen itself is unknown. The heart of Times Square where this billboard is located is passed by an average of 300,000 pedestrians every day and 115,000 drivers and passengers. According to Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins, "This is the one place on the planet where people seek out, take pictures of and then transmit advertisement."
November 21, 2014
Ubisoft has released another "101 Trailer", this time for its MMO-CarPG The Crew. The trailer is broken up into nine parts: Intro, World, Crew Up, Factions, Skills, Missions, Rewards, Customization, and Outro. You can skip around to whatever section you'd like, or just sit back and watch the full eight-minute video. While the whole video is certainly worth a watch, Factions is particularly interesting, as I don't recall Ubisoft touching upon that much in the past.
The Crew is set to arrive on December 2 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. An Open Beta will be available from November 25 to November 27 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Source: Press Release and UbiBlog
Far Cry 4 launched on Tuesday to fairly high critical acclaim. While the launch was accompanied by two trailers – a CGI Launch Trailer and a Story Trailer – Ubisoft has a new trailer for us to enjoy. This time around it's all about the Map Editor. "Using assets from the world of Far Cry 4, you’ll be able to add everything from vehicles to elephants to AI soldiers to weapons – even a golden effigy of Pagan Min."
Source: Press Release
Well now we know where those leaked Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series screenshots came from – it came from the Teaser Trailer. Check out the first official look at the six-part episodic game series based on HBO's mega-hit Game of Thrones:
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series is coming soon to PC (Windows & Mac), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and iOS.
Source: Press Release
With Black Friday approaching, there is a good chance many of us will be searching through sales for "amazing deals." What influences us to actually purchase one item or another is of interest to many, and researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Technische Universität have found that customer recommendations can play a significant role in the decision.
To do this study, the researchers looked at purchases for a toy and game mail order company for a nearly four week period. The test group was shown social network endorsements, such as 'Like' and '+1', while the control group was not. The result was a 13% increase in sales by the test group, which is a significant difference. The researchers also found that this impact is felt mostly with more hedonistic buying behavior, such as impulse buying, as opposed to targeted purchases. More investigation showed an increase in purchases of 18% when people shopped online during their free time, with an almost 26% increase in spending.
The researchers suggest that the customer recommendations may be triggering a kind of herd behavior amongst consumers. They also found that, like with targeted purchases, purchases made when consumers have little time to browse were not affected by recommendations that much.
Source: Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainx
Back in October, it was reported that Dish customers lost access seven channels due to a contract dispute with Turner Broadcasting. The channels that have been unavailable to Dish customers since the incident include Boomerang, Cartoon Network, CNN, CNN en Espanol, Headline News, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies. Today, Turner Broadcasting has announced that both companies have mutually decided to restore service of these channels, allowing subscribers of Dish Network to be able to watch their favorite television channels once more. Turner Broadcasting also revealed within its announcement that coverage of TBS and TNT has been extended due to the mutual agreement.
Source: Press Release
The end of the week is finally here, and we have a couple of items for you to consider today. There is a review on the be quiet! Silent Base 800 case, which is the company's first-ever case. It was designed to offer the best possible cooling experience while also providing quiet operation and plenty of interior space for whatever gear you want to include. Our other item is a podcast looking back at the latest news and reviews from the past week.
be quiet! Silent Base 800 @ TechSpot
Podcast #327 @ PC Perspective
They say one should not judge a book by its cover, but sometimes the cover is the most interesting part. Topological insulators (TIs) are a curious class of materials that conduct electricity on their surfaces, but not through their bulk. Researchers at Purdue University have recently found that they also possess another property that should prove useful in future applications of TIs.
Due to the different properties between a topological insulator's bulk and surface, electrons can have some odd behaviors. Among these is that electrons on the surface are always spin polarized, unlike in other materials where the spins can be random and cancel each other out. This is one of multiple special properties that could see TIs used for spintronics and quantum computers. What the Purdue researchers have found is that the electrical resistance of the material is not dependent on its thickness. This is not normally the case with other three-dimensional materials, but here it is. They also found that the conduction seemed to be topologically protected, which would help it maintain conductance as thickness decreases.
It is because of this protection and the ability to conduct electrons without disrupting their spin states that could allow TIs to be made into spintronic and quantum computers. Such computers would operate very differently from modern computers and potentially allow for much more complicated operations to be performed very quickly.
Source: Purdue University
Intel is teasing its upcoming Haswell-EX processor, which will feature a wealth of various features and technologies aimed directly at server environments. The Intel Xeon E7 v3 microprocessor, codenamed Haswell-EX, is set to offer up to 18 cores with the Hyper-Threading technology, 45MB of last-level cache, PCI Express 3.0 links, a quad-channel DDR4 memory controller, and more. The processor will be made using 22nm tri-gate technology and will feature 5.56 billion transistors, making it one of the most complex x86-based processors ever manufactured. New reliability, availability, and scalability capabilities are expected to be introduced thanks to the new Xeon E7 platform, making Xeon platforms as a whole more comparable with Itanium-based servers in terms of included features.
Intel is set to reveal technical details about its Xeon E7 v3 microprocessor at the 2015 IEEE international Solid-State Circuits Conference, which will take place in February, 2015.
Google is currently experimenting with a new service called Contributor, which provides websites with funding in a new way while also eliminating annoying advertisements for viewers. Google Contributor is partly a subscription service, as users have to pay $1 to $3 per month in order to get rid of advertisements on participating websites. That money is well spent, however, as Google Contributor promises to split up a portion of the funds with websites that are integrated with the service, allowing users to see a thank you message where an advertisement would normally be while websites continue to generate income. Even with advertisement blocking software installed, users can still support their favorite websites with Google Contributor for a small monthly fee, as long as the websites they visit are signed up for the service.
Interested website owners can apply for the program on the service’s website through a waitlist application, since Google Contributor is currently invitation only.
November 20, 2014
The United States Postal Service is the latest victim in a long line of companies to have suffered a data breach during this year. At this point in time, it is believed that approximately 100 servers and their workstations were compromised after a sophisticated adversary was able to gain access to the network used by the United States Postal Service. Data that was stolen includes names, dates of birth, social security numbers, addresses, dates of employment, and other information associated with more than 800,000 Postal Service employees. It is also believed that 2.9 million customer complaints were compromised in the attack, which include names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of those who filed the complaints. United States Postal Service cyber-security official, Randy Meskanic, stated that "At this time, we do not believe that Postal Service transactional revenue systems in Post Offices, as well as on usps.com where customers pay for services with credit and debit cards, were affected by this incident."
Employees of the Postal Service who have possibly been affected by the data breach are being provided with credit monitoring services.
Netflix, one of the largest video streaming subscription services currently available across the world, streamed a total of 19.5 million terabytes of video in the first quarter of this year. Broken down, this equates to 6.5 million terabytes of video per month, which certainly exceeds the 4 million terabytes of video streamed per month during the first quarter of 2013. Assuming that the same amount of data continues to be used for high-definition video streaming and that previous growth remains constant, Netflix will stream 27 million terabytes of video in the first quarter of 2015, which comes out to 9 terabytes if video per month. This amount will likely be larger however, as 4K content continues to make its way onto Netflix.
Source: Cord Cutters News
Enermax has announced a pair of all-in-one liquid cooling solutions as part of the LIQMAX II Series, the LIQMAX II 120S and LIQMAX II 240. The number in the product name indicates the size of the radiator, which will be cooled by one or two 2nd generation batwing fans with Adjustable Peak Speed RPM range setting. The cooling block uses patented Enermax Shunt Channel Technology which "boosts heat exchange efficiency by eliminating the boundary layers and increases the coolant exchange ratio." The LIQMAX II Series will be compatible with LGA1150, LGA2011, AM3+, and FM2+ CPU sockets.
Source: Press Release
OCZ has announced its latest line of solid state drives, the Saber 1000 Series, designed for "read-intensive applications targeting high-volume deployment hyperscale, web-hosting and distributed computing environments." The drives are built with 19nm NAND flash from Toshiba and will be available in capacities of 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB. Powered by the OCZ Barefoot 3 controller the Saber 1000 Series is capable of read and write speeds up to 550MB/s and 470MB/s, respectively. OCZ CTO Daryl Lang described the drives saying, "In designing the new Saber 1000 Series we listened to our customers to meet their growing needs for a server-class SSD that is optimized with the right balance of features, performance and cost. With the Saber 1000 Series, customers now have an ideal storage solution in which to build an all-flash datacenter, one that is able to efficiently process high volume enterprise and hyperscale workloads."
Source: Press Release