Beware strange USB drives, they can be killers

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2015 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: usb, flash drive

It is not easy to kill something via USB as the plugs deal with all sorts of devices that are off spec but it can be done.  If you short ground and power the plug disables itself, TVS diodes prevent static electricity from damaging anything and excessive RF is bled off by the inline filtering beads.  That didn't stop this Hack a Day reader from figuring out a way to make a killer USB drive with a inverting DC-DC converter and capacitor bank.  The drive uses the power provided by the USB port to charge the capacitors to -110VDC which then discharges that to the data pins, enough to overcome the protection on the port and it repeats until the USB port is no longer capable of delivering power.  Considering many USB ports are integrated onto your CPU at this point, this is not a very nice thing to do; we present this as a warning and do not recommend this or similar projects be undertaken by our readers.

usb-fryer1.jpg

"[Dark Purple] recently heard a story about how someone stole a flash drive from a passenger on the subway. The thief plugged the flash drive into his computer and discovered that instead of containing any valuable data, it completely fried his computer. The fake flash drive apparently contained circuitry designed to break whatever computer it was plugged into."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Waiting for a date with USB 3.1?

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: usb 3.1, Superspeed+, Superspeed Plus, asus, Z97-A/USB 3.1

Not too long ago Al and Ryan had a chance to play with a prototype USB 3.1 enclosure from ASUS and an add-in card with a controller from ASMedia.  The Tech Report also received the prototype USB 3.1 enclosure with two mSATA drives running in RAID-0 mode but they happened to have an ASUS Z97-A/USB 3.1 motherboard which has a built in port and ASMedia controller.  Their CrystalDiskMark results showed a ~75% boost in sequential read and write performance with 4K random write speeds also vastly increased.  That is not the highlight of their review however; ASUS provided a list of upcoming USB 3.1 releases from multiple vendors so you can now get an idea when you might want to upgrade to a board with USB 3.1 on it.

dock2.jpg

"Today, we're going to take our very first look at some USB 3.1 gear. Asus has supplied us with a drive enclosure and a matching motherboard, which will help us gauge the kinds of performance gains users can expect."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

More shiny zombies; Dying Light is brought to you by a similar engine to Dead Island

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: gaming, zombies, dying light, Chrome Engine 6

Dead Island used Chrome Engine 5 and Dying Light will use the sixth version of this engine which should give you an idea of the look and scope of this game.  As for performance, look no further than this article from [H]ard|OCP which details the performance of the game on NVIDIA cards ranging from the GTX 750 Ti to the GTX 980 as well as Radeons from R9-285 through the 290X.  This engine proved to love VRAM, at 4K the GTX 980 and R9 290X stuttered at points and the three 2GB cards showed the same problems at 1080p.  It would seem that even though the 970 never used more than 3.6GB of VRAM the card performed better than either of AMD's top offerings.  Pity about the lack of multiple GPU support.

1425883267pY1DNqXG9i_1_1.gif

"Dying Light is out on the PC and we are liking it. Today we evaluate performance on many video cards to find out what kind of gameplay experience to expect. We will also compare graphical settings and find out which ones are the most demanding and what level of video card you need for this game."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Hey Cortana, your father is 20 now! Hope you fare better than BOB

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, fail, bob

For those who have seen the interface in the YouTube video before; we apologize for the mess you just made on your floor but the younger generations should be reminded of what has come before.  Microsoft Bob was released 20 years ago yesterday and most of it died very shortly afterwards as Windows 95 did not need a replacement GUI for the File Manager, the only way to interface with your Windows machine previously.  The saddest part is that File Manager grew up to become Windows Explorer while what remained of Bob were only seen when you encountered a machine that did not have the Search Buddy turned off.  You may recognize that giant waste of CPU cycles, Rover, as that Search Buddy but he also stalked you throughout the Bob GUI, though back then he would roll over if you scratched him.  You can find Bob and Win3.1 on the net in seconds but The Register was also nice enough to link to an .OVA file so you can relive one of the more painful memories of both Microsoft users and executives.  Let's hope Cortana doesn't suffer as horrible a fate as her predecessor.

"Tuesday, 10 March 2015, is a day of infamy, for on that day in 1995 Microsoft gave the world Bob, the “social interface” for Windows 3.x and 95."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

It has been a rough quarter for the tech industry

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2015 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: Q1, gigabyte, earnings, msi, TSMC, amd, Intel, nvidia

There is quite a bit of news on how various component manufacturers have fared at the beginning of 2015 and not much of it is good.  Gigabyte has seen revenues drop almost 20% compared to this time last year and a significantly higher overall drop and while MSI is up almost 4% when compared to this quarter in 2014, February saw a drop of over 25% and over the total year a drop of nearly 8%.  TSMC has taken a hit of 28% over this month though it is showing around 33% growth over the past year thanks to its many contract wins over the past few months.  Transcend, Lite-On and panel maker HannStar all also reported losses over this time as did overseas notebook designers such as Wistron, Compal and Inventec.

Intel is doing well though perhaps not as profitably as they would like, and we know that NVIDIA had a great 2014 but not primarily because of growth in the market but by poaching from another company which has been struggling but not as much as previous years.  The PC industry is far from dead but 2014 was not a kind year.

ARROW-415137.jpg

"Gigabyte Technology has reported consolidated revenues of NT$3.216 billion (US$101.93million) for February 2015, representing a 39.31% drop on month and 26.75% drop on year.

The company has totaled NT$8.515 billion in year-to-date revenues, down 18.47% compared with the same time last year."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

The ROCCAT Tyon; this mouse is nubbed for your pleasure

Subject: General Tech | March 9, 2015 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: input, gaming mouse, tyon, roccat

Counting the different mouse wheel directions and the Easy-Shift button alternate pressing you can program up to 32 different buttons on the Roccat Tyon mouse.  As even the mouse wheel can be programmed to function completely differently between scrolling directions, this should count as long as your game supports it.  Not only do you get a ridiculous amount of customization, the nub you see on top of the mouse can function just like the throttle slider on your joystick, an interesting feature considering the number of space sims launching in the near future.  Hardware Asylum really like the mouse though they did dock points for not being usable by sinister types, check out the full review and the software suite right here.

tyon_left.jpg

"The Tyon has innovative buttons just where you expect them without becoming overwhelming. Maybe the best part is you don’t even notice them when you don’t want to use them."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Meet Intel's low powered Broadwell based Xeon D

Subject: General Tech | March 9, 2015 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: Xeon D, Intel, Broadwell, 14 nm trigate

Intel's new entry into the low powered server chip market will be called the Xeon D and will be 14-nm process with tri-gate transistors and a TDP ranging from ~25-45W.  The chip will use Broadwell cores with 64K of combined L1 cache and 256K of L2 per core as well as 1.5MB of a shared pool of 12MB of L3 cache, aka last level cache.  The chip itself will have 24 lanes of Gen3 PCIe as well as a pair of 10Gbps NICs and the I/O controller that shares space on the chip will add six SATA3 ports, another eight lanes of PCIe Gen2, and USB support.  The Tech Report only had frequencies for two chips, the 8 core Xeon D-1450 has a base clock of 2GHz, an all-core Turbo peak of 2.5GHz, and a single-core Turbo peak of 2.6GHz while the Xeon D-1520 hits 2.2GHz base frequency, 2.5GHz all-core Turbo, and a 2.6GHz single-core peak.  Check out more in the full review here.

block-diagram.jpg

"The Xeon D is Intel's pre-emptive strike against upcoming ARM-based competition in the server market. Built on 14-nm process tech and fortified with Broadwell cores, this single-node processor looks like the future of the Xeon lineup."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Windows 10 (Enterprise) Build 10031 Sighted

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 06:29 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft

WinBeta found a new screenshot of an internal Windows 10 build. They originated from the same group, Wzor, that leaked almost every other image from unreleased Windows 10 builds. The only real feature that is shown is a translucent start menu. To make the transition a little less jarring, you are able to partially see the content behind it.

microsoft-windows10-10031.jpg

Image Credit: WinBeta and Wzor.

This feature should be especially useful for the full-screen start menu, so that it looks like an overlay, rather than: “Your computer is doing something totally different now!” You can still see, if only a little bit, what you were doing. It should feel a lot more like the Steam Overlay rather than a full context switch.

The build is also not labeled Microsoft Confidential, so it might be on the branch that is designed for public release. We are due for a new build, so it should only be a matter of days before consumer previewers, and apparently enterprise ones too, get pushed forward... ... after about five-or-so reboots.

Source: WinBeta

Maybe GDC 15? Third-Party Unreal Engine 4 Forest Demo

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2015 - 06:08 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, gdc 15, GDC

I am not quite sure if the Game Developers Conference led to this video being released, or if it was just a coincidence. This is the sole work of Alexander Dracott, a visual effects, lighting, and shader artist who has been employed at Sucker Punch and Sony Online Entertainment. He works for a studio in Bellevue, Washington, USA doing VR demos, which sounds like Valve but is probably someone else entirely.

Unreal 4 Lighting Study: Forest Day from Alexander Dracott on Vimeo.

Basically, it is a forest scene that is rendered in Unreal Engine 4. It is convincing, despite a little macroblocking from Vimeo compression (or its source). Even the falling leaves cast appropriate shadows. Granted, he never mentions his computer's specifications, which could make a difference in how many features he could get away with enabling. Either way, the art would even be amazing in a non-realtime scene, let alone Unreal Engine 4.

ue4-thirdparty-forest-autumn.jpg

A couple of days later, he posted pictures of the same scene in an autumn time frame (same link). I guess that I should keep coming back to this thread, just in case it gets a Winter update or something. Awesome work!

Source: Polycount

GDC 15: Microsoft Announces Wireless Xbox Dongle for PC. Controller Refresh Rumored for E3?

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2015 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, microsoft, gdc 15, GDC, controller

During his keynote speech, Phil Spencer of Microsoft announced a wireless adapter for PC. It can apparently be used to connect any wireless Xbox One peripheral on Windows 10. If you watch the presentation, the statement occurred at about 36 minutes and 30 seconds in. It was just a brief acknowledgement of its existence this year.

Microsoft-Xbox_360_Wireless_Receiver.png

This is the Xbox 360 wireless accessory adapter. Image Credit: Wikipedia
Hopefully the new one will be a stick that pairs via software (vs. the cord and button).

A similar device existed for the Xbox 360, pictured above, and I used it heavily with controller-friendly games (until the adapter died abruptly). I was not a fan of the directional pad, of course, but the rest of the controller suited the games that I play without a mouse and keyboard. I also used the adapter with the Xbox 360 wireless headset, which was surprisingly good (especially at removing speaker noise).

On the same day, Neowin acquired a leak that claims the company is looking to create a new Xbox One controller. They expect that, if the project doesn't get killed internally, we will see the new controller at E3 2015 in June. The design is supposed to focus on first person shooters and driving titles, but nothing else is known about it. We'll see.