Recent Russian “Meteor” Shock Waves Circled The World…Twice

The recent Russian meteor that struck back on February 15th earlier this year in Russia’s Chelyabinks region apparently produced a shock wave which was able to circle the entire world two times. These findings published in the recent issue of the Scientific Journal of Geophysical Research Letters, available here, suggest that the shock wave was equivalent to 460 kilotons of TNT exploding in one go.

“For the first time since the establishment of the IMS infrasound network, multiple arrivals involving waves that traveled twice round the globe have been clearly identified…This extraordinary event is, together with the 1908 Tunguska fireball, among the most energetic events ever instrumentally recorded”

The blast which was believed to be caused by a meteor still has no such supporting evidence yet – thought researched Victor Kvasnytsya claimed to have analysed rock fragments left behind by the meteor. Sceptics are already claiming it was the testing of some secret government weapon that went wrong and that government’s are using the “meteor threat” to control the minds of the masses. Either way, whatever the truth behind the matter, the shock waves it created are among some of the biggest on record and the blast packed the energy 3-5 megatons of TNT – impressive stuff.

Image credits unknown

Journey: Collector’s Edition PlayStation 3 Review

Ever since I first got my hands on the demo for Journey I simply couldn’t wait to purchase the full game, but as is often the case with these things I didn’t have the money at the time or release, other games were still being worked through and before long it was becoming a forgotten dream, lucky for me then that the wonderful people at Thatgamecompany (that is the actual name of the developer) sought to release a collector’s edition that would not only rekindle my interest in purchasing the game, but also greatly reward me for doing so.

Journey has been with us for a little over a year now and it’s already gone on to win many awards for its unique gameplay experiences, but the real standout feature of the Collector’s Edition is that it’s more of a boxset to Thatgamecompany’s work than it is to just Journey. The disc comes bundled with all kinds of bonuses aside from the obvious full game of Journey.

Included with the release are the award winning Flower, a game where you play as a gust of wind, controlled via the six-axis as you breeze around opening flowers, cutting a line through blades of grass and generally enjoying some of the most relaxing and beautiful digital experiences currently available, is it a game? I’m not even sure, is it great to play, oh yes! It’s even been pointed to many times when people bring up the topic of “can games be art”.

The we have flOw in which you also take the six axis to control a small organism in a body of water, float around, mind your own business, or “eat” other organisms by swimming into them, causing you to evolve into bigger and more fantastic looking things that vary in shape and size dependant on the organisms you eat. There is no objective, there are no levels, just the experience and it’s one that can easily take up hours of your time in single player, or as a co-op experience.

Yet in infomercial fashion “but that’s not all!” and you’ll even find three exclusive mini-games that are essentially smaller indie titles and they only seek to add to the value of the disc, even if they’re not the main attraction. There is a big bundle of concept art, sound tracks, PlayStation 3 themes, avatars and even a 30 minute documentary on the making of Journey, all in all, this is how a Collector’s Edition should be, full to the brim of content you would want to collect.

Journey is a fantastic gaming experience, it’s the most “game like” of the set and while there is no real purpose to it, you can’t help but get drawn into the magic of its environment. You take on the role of a small being, stood atop a sand dune with a light at the top of a mountain in the far off distance, your goal is to simply get to that light.

The game literally is about the journey and the adventures that come about from doing so, there is basically no tutorial and everything is done through discovery and intuition and in many ways that feels a lot better than having a voice over, or arrow, everything is suggested and you instinctively get a feel for how to control the game world.

Sliding down sand dunes, using the only two controls at your disposal beyond movement with the analogue stick, jump and sing to release what look like magic carpet creatures from traps, which help you ascend obstacles and make your way through the world.

The game also tells a story of your struggle through some cryptic but eventually revealing cutscenes that depict your struggle through each of the games sections, it’s all a little strange but also incredibly interesting to watch unfold before you. All in all the experience took me a few hours, but there is definitely a desire to go back and do it again and again, because you never know what you might find.

If I sound like I’m being vague with this game, I can’t help it, it’s a strange beast to describe and it’s more bordering on an experience rather than something definable like an FPS or RPG. One thing is for certain, the game is a feast on the eyes and the graphics are simply incredible, the sound and musical scores are fantastic and only get better when you’re running it through a surround sound system.

There are even some online elements to the game, now and then you may come across another player wandering the sands, you can help each other if you wish by singing at each other to recharge your jump ability, but there is nothing stopping you from going solo, interestingly it’s just as likely that you might not see anyone on your travels, it’s all just a little bit random in that respect.

All in all this is a game you really need to try your hand at, there is a demo on the PSN that is begging your attention and it will give you more than enough reason to splash out on the Collector’s Edition. But overall the best thing I find about this game is that a quick Google will find you a retail copy, brand new for just £15.00 and for six great games and a load of bonus content, this has to be one of the best gaming bargains I’ve seen in a long time.

Alienware Says Next-Gen Consoles’ “PC-Like” Design Shows PC Supremacy

In an interview with PCGamesN Alienware’s general manager Frank Azor stated that the new generation of consoles are merely looking to imitate the PC platform.

“A lot of the innovations and things that are proven on the PC are making their ways onto consoles…The consoles are looking more and more like PCs every day.”

He believes that the new next-generation consoles are just standard desktop PCs with an AMD CPU, AMD GPU and desktop hard drive. Furthermore Azor says the console’s choice to enhance the digital downloaded side of things is further proof that the PC platform reigns supreme as it has been doing that for many years.

Additionally, he states that the Xbox One’s decision to try and integrate “other media” like the TV is something that the PC has been doing for over 10 years and is just an example of the new generation of consoles importing features from the PC. Finally he believes the PC is even winning on the game front with leading games like League of Legends and World of Tanks being the most widely played games in the video game industry and being PC-exclusives.

If you believe Frank Azor’s claim then there has never been a better time to become a PC Gamer. Though whether you should do that with Alienware is another matter.

Image courtesy of PCMag.com

Americans Worried About Account Hacks, But Can’t Be Bothered With Extra Security

According to a new report, by Harris Interactive on behalf of Imperium, 79% of Americans have stated that they are worried about their accounts, for various online services, being hacked/compromised yet 75% of them say they have never used two factor authentication and 27% of them say they just cannot be bothered to do it because it is inconvenient.

The report revealed some interesting things such as:

  • 79% of respondents were worried about their emails being hacked
  • 71% of respondents were worried about their bank account being compromised
  • 55% of respondents were worried about their social media being hacked
  • 75% of respondents had never used two factor authentication
  • 27% of respondents said they didn’t use it because it was inconvenient or they didn’t want to disclose their phone number
  • 39% of respondents blamed hacks on websites for a lack of security features
  • 37% of respondents blamed hacks on weak passwords
  • 37% of respondents had been victims of a phishing attack
  • 26% of respondents had their accounts for an online service compromised
  • 20% of respondents had their social media credentials stolen
  • 5% of respondents stated that a loss or stolen phone led to unwanted disclosure of information

So the message from this survey is clear, Americans are aware of the risks, and many of them have fallen victim to hacks but no one really wants to take responsibility for it. It is surely much easier to blame the websites/companies involved than it is to take some initiative and used a strong password or enable two factor authentication in your account settings.

Image courtesy of Imperium

Microsoft Says PS4 Hardware Specs Irrelevant, Xbox One Better Optimised

While it is well-documented that the PlayStation 4 has “better hardware” in terms of more graphics cores on the same AMD GPU and faster memory bandwidth between all the system components, Microsoft executive Albert Penello told the Official Xbox Magazine that actually none of that really matters.

The reason why none of it matters isn’t because Microsoft are just choosing to dismiss it but because he says that Sony created its entire next-generation consoles using standard retail components whereas Microsoft opted for a custom designed platform that is apparently tweaked and tuned for maximum performance.

“The problem is that Sony decided to go out and publish a bunch of numbers, which are in some ways meaningless. Because this isn’t like 1990, when it was 16-bit versus 32-bit….As a matter of fact, they actually go out and they talk about how proud they are about their off-the-shelf parts. Our guys’ll say, we touched every single component in the box and everything there is tweaked for optimum performance.” said Albert Penello.

Despite this he says that the hardware argument is “pointless” and “it’s not going to matter” because ultimately gamers will differentiate by the games. Not to mention the fact there isn’t really any benchmark for determining the performance of the two next-generation consoles currently because neither is finished.

What do you think about the hardware argument? Is it pointless or does it matter?

Image courtesy of PCMag.com

Systena Unveil Tizen-Linux Powered Full HD Tablet

The Tizen operating system is essentially a WebKit runtime running on top of the open source Linux Kernel and it was developed with some key players like Intel, Samsung and the Linux Foundation. The Source Developer Kit (SDK) of Tizen 2.0, the latest incarnation, is entirely licensed to Samsung so despite the open-source nature of Tizen 1 the newly released Tizen 2 “Magnolia” is proprietary. Yet we are now seeing the first tablet on the market running this Tizen OS courtesy of Japanese company Systena according to a report by NotebookCheck.com. If we ignore Android tablets for a second this is probably one of very few Linux powered tablets in existence.

The hardware of this Tizen powered tablet is impressive as it boasts a 10.1 inch 1920 by 1200 WUXGA display, a quad core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, 32GB of storage, N WiFi,  dual cameras and a microSD card slot for storage expansion. As we’ve mention the device runs the Tizen 2.0 “Magnolia” operating system but is expected to get Tizen 2.1 when that is released for general usage.

While the tablet market is currently crowded out by Android and iOS, and Windows based operating systems to a much lesser extent, we could see Tizen take off if it is successful. Furthmermore with Ubuntu currently being worked on for tablets and smartphones and Mozilla developing their FireFox OS as a rival to Android it could be an exciting new year for fresh tablet innovations.

Image courtesy of Systena

Xbox Live Ultimate Game Sale Starts July

Microsoft has confirmed that it is going to be starting a new Xbox Live Ultimate game sale over on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The sale will slash the prices of many big name titles like BioShock Infinite, Max Payne 3, Tomb Raider and more.

With a whole host of discounts expected on a wide list of games from July 1st Microsoft is looking to get Xbox 360 users used to buying digital games online. The Xbox Live Marketplace already saw an ultimate sale earlier on at the start of 2013 and so this will be the second.

The included games in the promotion are:

  • Assassin’s Creed 3
  •  Bioshock Infinite
  •  Borderlands 2
  •  Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway
  •  Bulletstorm
  •  Command and Conquer Red Alert 3
  •  Crysis
  •  Crysis 3
  •  Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga
  •  Dragon Age Origins
  •  Far Cry 3
  •  Far Cry Instincts Predator
  •  Forza Horizon
  •  Gears of War: Judgement
  •  Hasbro Family Game Night 3
  •  Hitman Absolution
  •  Kinect Sports 2
  •  Left 4 Dead 2
  •  Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes
  •  Lego Lord of the Rings
  •  Mass Effect
  •  Max Payne 3
  •  Metal Gear Rising: Revengence
  •  Monopoly Streets
  •  Perfect Dark Zero
  •  Prey
  •  Rockstar Table Tennis
  •  The Orange Box
  •  Tomb Raider
  •  The Witcher 2
  •  WWE 13 GonD
  •  XCOM: Enemy Unknown

There are no specific details yet on what games will get what discounts but you only have to wait until July 1st to find out. You should also expect daily specials too so if you’ve got an Xbox 360 and still play it, it could be worth checking the Xbox Live Marketplace everyday in July.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

Compulab Reveal MintBox 2

Compulab have revealed their second incarnation of the MintBox according to FanlessTech. The MintBox 2 will run Linux Mint out of the box and comes equipped with passively cooled Intel Core i5 processors. The previous generation ran AMD E-Series Zacate APUs so this is a dramatic improvement on the CPU front – up to four times more CPU performance is promised.  There will probably be the provision of dual core hyper threaded Core i5 mobile processors, most likely based on the Ivy Bridge Mobile chips but possibly Haswell.

Apparently the MintBox 2 is going to ship with at least 4GB of dual channel memory though you will undoubtedly be able to add more if you so wish as mobile Core i5 processors can take a lot more than 4GB. The DDR3 is probably provided by SODIMM to keep the size down. There is a 500GB mechanical hard drive for storage, likely to be 2.5 inch form factor, and the device uses a pair of Gigabit ethernet connectors. With dimensions of 190 by 160 by 40mm this device is really small. Linux Mint 15 Olivia is expected to come pre-installed and maybe in a 64 bit variety depending on RAM allocation. Pricing starts from USD$599 and will arrive within the next month or

Image courtesy of Compulab

BitFenix Unveil New Ronin PC Case

We first got a glimpse of BitFenix’s new Ronic PC Case back at Computex and now BitFenix have finally gotten around to releasing this new case to the consumer market. The Ronin is an mid-tower case by BitFenix and it will come in black only for the time being. There is support for up to ATX motherboards but also micro-ATX and mini-ITX. BitFenix have constructed this case out of plastic and steel and it measures in at 270 by 560 by 530mm.

The case has been decked out for a fair amount of cooling with support for 1 bottom 120mm fan, 2 top 120/140mm fans, 1 rear 120mm fan and 2 front 120mm fans. Of those only single front and rear 120mm fans are included. With seven PCI brackets you’ve got support for up to 3 way SLI/CFX depending on your motherboard configuration. There are 3 external front 5.25″ bays and six 3.5″ internal drive bays in two cages of three which are both removable using BitFenix’s “FlexCage” feature. 2.5 inch drive support is provided in the 3.5 inch drive bays.

BitFenix claim 240mm radiator support at the top which is great for users of AIOs like the Corsair H100(i). Graphics cards up to 420mm are supported with a hard drive cage removed. Other than that the design is very simple and traditionally clean in BitFenix fashion. Expect availability from mid July and pricing will be announced nearer the launch.

Images courtesy of BitFenix

 

SilverStone AR02 CPU Cooler Review

SilverStone released their Argon series of CPU coolers about three months ago and this launch comprised of the AR01AR02 and AR03. We have actually already reviewed the SilverStone AR01 and you can see our review here. Today we are taking a look at what you might call the AR02’s younger sibling as this is essentially an identical CPU cooler except shrunken down quite a lot. Unlike its bigger sibling it features three 6mm not 8mm heat pipes, a 92mm fan not a 120mm fan and a much smaller heatsink. You can see the full specifications below.

Being so low cost and compact this CPU cooler is really aimed at budget users with space constraints and would be perfect for micro-ATX and HTPC cases that only support small CPU coolers. With quite significant down-sizing versus the AR01 we are expecting the performance to drop off a bit but the AR01 was an epic performing CPU cooler as our results showed and so we are still expecting results from this AR02 to be strong.

AMD And Razer To Co-Sponsor League of Legends Cup At Multiplay i49

AMD has joined Razer as co-sponsor of the Multiplay Insomnia 49 (i49) League of Legends (LoL) tournament. Additional financial consideration from AMD added to Razer´s contribution brings the total LoL tournament purse to £10,000 – the largest prize pool currently promised at i49.

As with the previous Razer League of Legends Cup, there will be an online pre-qualifier for the UK, with a live final taking place at the Curry´s PC World Gaming Bunker on Saturday, 10th August, 2013. Teams will battle for their share of high-end Razer gaming peripherals at the live final, as well as free entry to i49 and a place on the League of Legends TUP area using high-end AMD machines.

This year´s bigger prize pool at the i49 LoL contest is expected to attract significantly more interest from outside of the UK than before. To accommodate broader participation, in addition to the UK live rounds, an online-only EU-wide tournament for non-UK teams is planned. The top three teams from the online contest will win entry to i49 and a place on the Razer League of Legends stand, where they will play on tournament-grade machines supplied by AMD.

“We are very pleased to have AMD join us in sponsoring League of Legends tournament at i49,“ said Darren Roberts, Razer sales manager UK. ”We know so many of the players and teams are already huge Razer fans, and AMD is enabling some of the fastest gaming machines in the world, so it made sense to partner-up and bring the players the best peripherals on the best PCs. We are thrilled with how the tournament has grown in such a short space of time and we look forward to bringing an amazing event to i49.”

“AMD has always been committed to delivering the very best to gamers, be it through sheer speed, wealth of features or affordable pricing. By joining with Razer for League of Legends, AMD is supplying the very best technology right where it´s needed, giving players an ultra-smooth experience without breaking the bank or the fusebox,“ said Iain Bristow, AMD Northern European Marketing Manager.

Multiplay CEO Craig Fletcher said: “Multiplay are thrilled to announce Razer and AMD as the headline sponsors for the League of Legends tournament at Insomnia 49 this summer. The tournament is hugely popular attracting teams from all over Europe and with the turn-up-and-play area it means they don´t have to bring their PC´s with them – Razer and AMD have got it covered! With a £10,000 prize pot and loads of prizes up for grabs before the event, I´d encourage teams to register and enter as soon as possible so they don´t miss out.”

Thank you Razer for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of eTeknix @ Insomnia i48.

StopWatching.Us Now Has 520,000 Backers, Still Rising Fast

Just under two weeks ago we told you that StopWatching.Us, the organisation created by Mozilla and others against U.S government surveillance, had achieved 100,000 backers in a relatively short space of time. Now the organisation has racked up 520,000 backers at the time of writing with that number expected to continue rising fast as word of mouth spreads the campaign.

The organisation is aimed at putting pressure on Congress to hold the NSA accountable and make it more transparent. The ultimate goal is to reign in the NSA’s powers and make sure that they only act within the constitution and the law.

So far a staggering 1 million emails were sent on behalf of participants to senators and other representatives while people have spent over 15,000 minutes on the phone to politicians over the issue too. It remains to be seen whether the Obama administration and Congress will act upon the ever increasing pressure of their people. As the movement grows in popularity, and bare in mind this is just one movement of many against the NSA and PRISM, the government will be faced with no other option other than to start listening to its people.

Image courtesy of StopWatching.Us

Nokia EOS 41MP Smartphone WIll Arrive As Lumia 1020

We have already heard rumours about Nokia preparing a 41 megapixel smartphone and now it seems we have a few more details about the rest of the smartphone. Firstly the “Nokia EOS” 41 megapixel smartphone is actually now expected to come to market as the Lumia 1020 according to reports. Furthermore it is expected that Nokia will host a press event for the new smartphone called Zoom Reinvented and this will be hosted on July the 11th.

In addition Nokia has just been filing for new patents that could be an indication of new features and capabilities to come for the device. Nokia just filed for the “Nokia Zoom” patent and WMPoweruser suggest that Nokia Zoom could be a trademark relating to a lossless zoom capability for the new Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone.

Nokia’s new zoom trademark covers “Mobile phones, smart phones, tablets; accessories and replacement parts for mobile phones, smart phones and tablets” and so we might even see a Nokia tablet with a high end camera such as the rumoured Nokia Lumia X.

Image courtesy of Markify

Green Man Gaming Launches Unique UK Trade-in Service

Green Man Gaming is one of the world’s fastest growing online games retailers and today they are launching a brand new Trade-in service in the UK for Xbox 360 and PS3 games, allowing customers to trade their games in against anything on GMG, including a PS4 or Xbox One pre-order.

Having rolled out a PC Digital trade-in service at launch in 2010 and acquired the Playfire social network of core gamers in July 2012, GMG is following up on this by giving UK gamers a new, fresher way to cash in the value of their games. Customers simply trade-in their games for GMG Credit to use against their next purchase – but unlike other services, they can choose to use this credit instantly and buy anything on the Green Man Gaming site immediately before they even send their games off – no waiting around for weeks on end. Games can be traded-in against PC Digital games, consoles games and peripherals or a Next Gen console itself.

Also launching on GMG in the UK is a range of Pre-owned games – giving gamers more ways to save by having the same games at even lower prices… Well I guess they have to do something with all the traded in titles right?

“Today we are delighted to announce the launch of our UK Trade-in and Pre-owned services,” said Paul Sulyok, Founder and CEO of Green Man Gaming. “The Xbox One and PS4 announcements at E3 showed how passionately people feel about being able to unlock the investment they’ve made in their games and we feel GMG’s unique platform allows our customers to do just that and benefit immediately.” Sulyok went on to add, “We live in an age where games and hardware have become so advanced that they are more expensive and less attainable in today’s tough economic conditions. Reducing this barrier by allowing gamers to use the value of their current games against their Next Gen purchase can only be good for the industry. Now you can buy a game from us, track your gameplay free on our Playfire service and then trade it in for your next new gaming adventure straight away. As GMG only focus on the core gaming audience, we feel we are in a great position to help them make this transition to the Next Generation.”

Martin Baxter, EVP of Trading at GMG, also added, “Our customers tell us they want choice and immediacy. Offering trade-in, immediate GMG Credit and a used games catalogue helps us deliver on this.” Baxter added, “To mark this UK launch GMG will also be adding an additional £2 trade-in bonus to every game traded-in during the first 2 weeks – and this can be used immediately against anything on the GMG website, including a pre-order of the much anticipated PS4 or Xbox One.”

These Green Man Gaming services are rolling out in the UK first and more information on the offer is available at www.greenmangaming.com/tradein-offer.

Thank you GMG for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of GMG.

SilverStone Tundra TD02 240mm AIO Liquid CPU Cooler Review

The build up to SilverStone’s Tundra series of All-In-One closed loop liquid CPU coolers has been a very exciting one for me. While quite a few of news sites falsely reported that the Tundra is based on a collaboration between SilverStone and Asetek/CoolIT, the Tundra series is unique because it is entirely in-house. That means SilverStone designed everything themselves from the ground up. The model we have here today is the flagship Tundra TD02, the 240mm radiator based version, and this unit (like the TD04) uses an aluminium unibody and has some rather unique aesthetics. Aluminium and alloy is are the materials of choice throughout the majority of the product’s construction making it both high quality and unique looking.

Furthermore, the pump head is fully aluminium too and uses a more durable screw-less design as well as integrated mounting brackets to make installation a lot easier. What is also interesting is the radiator which uses a unique patented design. It is certainly like no other radiator I have ever seen before and the main advantage is extra surface area though they’ve also equipped a very thick 45mm wide radiator which is nearly double thickness. Below you can see the SilverStone Tundra TD02 radiator design and then below that you can see a “traditional” radiator fin design.

So straight away before we’ve even delved into testing we can see the Tundra TD02 is very unique in its design, construction and styling. Below you can see the full specifications of the Tundra TD02 but now let us proceed onto the rest of the review.

Ubisoft Give You The Chance To Get Your Face In Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Ubisoft has just announced their latest promotional tool for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and it’s going to give fans of the series a chance to get their faces in the game and become part of the history that surrounds the game and it’s fans.

137 lucky fans will be immortalised in an Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag 18th century style oil-painting, depicting an intense and epic Naval Battle on the high seas. Brought to life by the masters at Beaux-Arts school in Paris, the 2.3 x 4.5 meter painting will be displayed online and in the Musée de la Marine gallery in France, from November 4 to December 3.

To becoming part of Assassin’s Creed history, simply send images of yourself expressing as much emotion and passion as you can muster. Share your entry via social media, watch the artwork progress over time, and ‘like’ your favourite faces. Members of The Watch, the premium service for the Assassin’s Creed community, will have early access to the competition.

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag tells the story of Edward Kenway, a young British man with a thirst for danger and adventure, who falls from privateering for the Royal Navy into piracy as the war between the major Empires comes to an end. Edward is a fierce pirate and seasoned fighter who soon finds himself embroiled in the ancient war between Assassins and Templars. Set at the dawn of the 18th Century, the game features some of the most infamous pirates in history, such as Blackbeard and Charles Vane, and takes players on a journey throughout the West Indies during a turbulent and violent period of time later to become known as the Golden Age of Pirates.

For more information, visit assassinscreed.com/defyhistory.

 

Secret NSA Program Collected All American Email MetaData

We already know that of the stolen NSA documents that Edward Snowden acquired, most remain unreleased from public view. However, they are slowly being released into the public domain and the latest release from The Guardian suggests that the Obama administration allowed a program to run that collected and stored all metadata on email sent by any American for a period of two years from 2009 to 2011.

By MetaData the data collection program refers to who the senders were, who the recipients were and other attached information like IP addresses and so forth. Of course the contents of every email were not stored and you could imagine that would require a serious amount of hard drive space to capture. The leak says that the program was ended in 2011 but there are apparently indications that there is a new more efficient method that replaced it designed to do exactly the same thing.

This email metadata collection program was started under George W. Bush as part of the “War on Terror” but after the jurisdiction of the data collection program expired in 2004 the NSA continually found ways to get new jurisdiction to carry on with the data collection. While they aren’t able to spy on the contents of your emails this is still yet another huge privacy breach and another example of the USA trampling on the freedoms of its people whilst keeping it all a secret. I wouldn’t be surprised if the GCHQ was doing the same to its citizens in the UK. I am sure more details will emerge soon.

Image courtesy of the EFF

U.S Army Censoring Soldiers Access To News In Wake Of PRISM Scandal

As if the NSA and PRISM spying on its own citizens wasn’t enough now The Next Web reveals that the U.S army has been censoring what information its soldiers received. Apparently the U.S army is blocking access to coverage of the PRISM/NSA scandal on the Guardian, RT.com and other reputable news sites – so much for free speech and free press. And if you thought that was bad enough then it isn’t just internet coverage that is being blocked, apparently other media is being restricted as well such as what TV channels are shown, what radio stations are broadcasted and what Printed Press the soldiers are allowed to read.

A spokesperson for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command of the U.S army said that:

“We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security, however there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information”

We’ve now seen spying in the form of PRISM, lying and deception as the NSA boss says he knows nothing about WikiLeaks and censorship as the U.S military blocks what soldiers are entitled to read. You just wonder how long the American government can continue with its hypocritical actions before people start to hit back.

Image courtesy of The People’s Cube

Ecuador And Venezuela Unite Against The USA

While the USA is increasing pressure on foreign countries to hand Edward Snowden over to them for criminal trials the rest of the world is standing defiant. Ecuador took their stand against the USA recently by flat-out rejecting a deal for customs privileges with the USA in return for handing over Edward Snowden once he arrives in Ecuador where he is believed to be seeking political asylum.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has backed the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and stated that

“You can count on us, President Correa, in everything you may need” according to Itar-Tass.

Furthermore the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa stated yesterday that

“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values to allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests” according to El Telegrafo.

And as if that wasn’t rubbing defiance in the face of the USA enough the Latin American presidential duo went as far as to offer yearly funding for human rights training in the USA just to drive their point home that they will not be handing Edward Snowden over any time soon.

This is certainly materialising into one of the biggest changes of the world’s geopolitical power in many years and it is great to see that internet freedom is driving it all.

Image courtesy of Nicolas Maduro

Tt eSPORTS Debut VOLOS Gaming Mouse and CRONOS Gaming Headset

Tt eSPORTS have just come to market with a duo of new gaming peripherals. Firstly they have released the new VOLOS gaming mouse which targets MOBA/MMORPG gamers. This mouse uses three side buttons on the right side, two on the bnack leftr and four on the front left in additional to the top buttons. This gives you 14 keys to program and you can use the provided software to create up to 10 profiles for a total of 140 different macros. Tt eSPORTS have also provided a function lock switch to disable macros against accidental presses. Tt eSPORTS claim the colourful design makes it easier to determine which button you want to press, though to me it just looks like an Xbox controller rip-off. There are customisable weights and LED lighting with the usual 16.8  million colour options for the LEDs. You can customise the LEDs on the left click, scroll wheel, DPI indicator and dragon logo. Expect a price tag of USD$69.99.

Next up is the CRONOS gaming headset which will be made available in black or white and comes with LED lighting on the ear cups. The headset comes with cables that allow it to be used on both PC and on mobile handsets. There is a LYCRA head-pad design for comfort and the microphone is both “bendable” and “pivotable”. A USB connection is provided and the cable is going to be fully braided. The suggested retail price is USD$59.99 and availability is from mid July for the black CRONOS and August for the white CRONOS.#

Images courtesy of Tt eSPORTS

Gigabyte Updates Flagship 990FXA-UD7 Motherboard To Rev 3.0

AMD motherboard haven’t really seen much change over the past couple of years and since the release of Bulldozer back in October 2011 we haven’t seen any new chipsets for the AM3(+) socket. Due to this fact motherboard vendors have mainly been opting for either BIOS updates to keep these motherboards supporting new technology or revision updates occasionally to bring the motherboards up-to-date. Gigabyte is the latest vendor to do this by upgrading its 990FXA-UD7 motherboard to revision 3.0. This was probably a move done to ensure that Gigabyte have the latest and most up to date flagship AM3(+) motherboard on the market in time for the new FX-9000 series processors AMD released recently.

Gigabyte skipped revision 2.0 and went straight to 3.0 and quite a lot has changed as a result. We find an update to Ultra Durable 4 and a 10 phase CPU VRM, slightly reinforced over the older version to allow for FX-9000 overclocking. The CPU VRM features driver MOSFETs and a rather large heatsink to cool everything. This heatsink is connected to the chipset via a heat pipe too. The memory support is up to 64GB of 2000MHz+ memory and expansion slots include four PCI Express 2.0 X16 slots with the following electrical configs x16/NC/x16/NC or x16/NC/x8/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8.

Additionally there are two more full sized PCI Express 2.0 slots, wired to 4X, connected to the Southbridge and there is a legacy PCI. Storage is provided by six SATA III 6Gbps ports from the Southbridge and two more SATA III 6Gbps ports from a Marvell 88SE9172. USB 3.0 is provided by two Etron EJ168 controllers for two USB 3.0 via the rear plane and two via a header.

The rest of the connectivity and features are nothing out of the ordinary:

  • 8 Channel HD audio
  • Optical and Coaxial SPDIF
  • ALC 889 Codec
  • Gigabit Ethernet – Realtek 8111F
  • FireWire
  • PS/2 combo port
  • Multiple USB 2.0
  • AMI UEFI BIOS – Gigabyte Dual UEFI Tech

The expected price is $200~ and we should see availability soon.

Image(s) courtesy of Gigabyte

 

ASRock Demonstrate Overclocking On H87 And B85

The belief that only the highest end chipset motherboards can overclocked has be common place. In fact during Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge Core series Intel processor generations all the low end chipsets did not support overclocking. However, ASRock show that something has changed with Haswell and they are demonstrating overclocking of K Series CPUs on H87 and B85 Haswell chipsets. As far as I am aware ASRock are the only motherboard vendor who offer overclocking of K Series CPUs on H87 and B85 motherboards and this is a pretty cool development in my opinion.

ASRock’s Fatal1ty H87 motherboard is the first to allow for such Haswell overclocking using ASRock’s “Non-Z OC” feature which is placed within their UEFI BIOS. If you already have a Fatal1ty H87 Performance motherboard then ASRock are providing a new BIOS update with the Non-Z OC feature. I am certainly hoping that more motherboard vendors take this feature on and offer overclocking because if it can hit mainstream H87 and B85 motherboards then we could easily see budget Intel gaming systems become more affordable as you can pick up B85 and H87 motherboards for around 30% cheaper than the cheapest Z87 motherboards. Of course if it only comes with the Fatal1ty H87 motherboard then it is a kind-of pointless feature and this motherboard is a lot more expensive than many Z87 motherboards.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLrk5WAA0Y8[/youtube]

Image(s) courtesy of ASRock

Western Digital Sentinel DX4000 16TB RAID5 4-Bay NAS Review

Up to now we’ve been looking at network storage servers that come with no drives and are produced by a company other than a drive manufacturer. Western Digital are one of the best hard drive manufacturers our there in the market and their recent changes to their product line-up has not only made choosing the right drive for the job easier, but also a lot clearer. When it comes to network storage, WD has three types of drive that are geared for the job, Red, SE and RE. Red drives are still aimed for the home/SOHO user, whilst their enterprise SE and RE drives are optimised for the constant punishment that they will encounter 24×7.

Setting drives aside, WD has now come out with their own NAS solution, optimised for their own drives, in an all-in-one easy to use solution and so we get the Sentinel DX4000. The Sentinel is a first in a line of self designed NAS solutions that can be purchased with drives pre-installed in a variety of capacities, varying from a modest 2TB, right up to a whopping 16TB. Unlike other NAS solutions on the market, one of the main features that sets this system apart from the rest is the use of Windows Storage Server 2008 and a auto configuration process during the initial set-up that automatically builds the drives into a RAID5 array – the preferred choice for NAS solutions as this gives the best data security and will ensure no data is lost, should one drive fail during operation.

With this unit designed specifically for the SMB environment the use of WSS 2008 should allow for seamless integration through active directory and domain configuration and also for those that are at home with Windows, should make maintaining the system a bit more intuitive. With RAID automatically configured based on the number of drives installed, set-up should be easier as mentioned and knowing how well trusted and reliable Western Digital’s drives are in the NAS markets with multiple lines of drives targeted at this environment, there is good hope that the system has a lot to give.

All NAS’ come with a selection of cables to get you connected and running, this one being no exception. Alongside the user manual, the first thing we note are the two external power inverters, which as we will see on the next page, aid towards a more compact build of the main unit itself. Do note that on all other SKUs apart from the 16TB option, the DX4000 will only come with a single power adaptor, but as a top of the line model, the 16TB option includes both adaptors to allow for redundant power supply feeds. Also included are two sets of power cables for the UK and European markets and a single CAT5e cable. There is also a visible lack of screws that we traditionally see, but this is due to the tool free installation that the DX4000 adopts.

Direct X 11.2 Will Be Xbox One And Windows 8.1 Exclusive

Microsoft has just announced at the Build Developers Conference in San Francisco  that the next version of Direct X, which will be called Direct X 11.2, is going to be an Xbox One and Windows 8.1 exclusive according to Softpedia. Microsoft elaborate on all the technical details within the video below but the main feature of this new Direct X update is that it has something called “tiled resources” which allows for improved textures within video games. Given that the Xbox One is going to pack a serious amount of RAM these extra textures can of course be supported on new generation consoles.

Furthermore, in a similar tactic to Windows Vista, Microsoft is making Direct X 11.2 available only on Windows 8.1 – another tactic to try and get Windows 7 users to upgrade to their latest operating systems. Microsoft didn’t disclose when we can expect to see the new technology implemented but presumably game developers will get or already have access to this new tool and will begin developing games with it in time for the Xbox One release in November later on this year.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EswYdzsHKMc[/youtube]

Image courtesy of Nethope.org

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Arriving On July 1st In The UK

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Mini was only made official a few weeks ago and now we have some pricing and availability details available for the UK. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini will be available in the UK from July the 1st at a contract-free price tag of £420 which is roughly €495. At this price we can also expect to see the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini available on contract for around £30 or €35 a month, maybe a bit less if you are able to snap up a good deal.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini has a 960 by 540 pixel Super Amoled 4.3 inch touch screen display, it features a dual core 1.7GHz Krait Snapdragon 400 Krait CPU, an Adreno 305 GPU, 1.5-2GB of RAM, 3G and 4G LTE support, micro SD card expansion up to 64GB, WiFi, optional dual-SIM,  Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, 8MP rear camera (has autofocus, panorama, etc) and a front facing 1.9MP camera.

More detailed specifications of the new Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini can be seen here over at GSMArena.

If you are in the UK and interested in buying this new Samsung smartphone then you can see it here at Phones4U.co.uk where they also have more pictures and some specifications.

Image courtesy of Phones4U

Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B Low Profile CPU Cooler Review

Scythe’s Big Shuriken series has been the CPU cooler of choice for a lot of system builders who are opting for small form factor systems or HTPCs and need a low profile yet high performance CPU cooler. Scythe’s original Big Shuriken was incredibly popular and so Scythe responded with the Big Shuriken 2 which adds another heat pipe and support for the X79 LGA 2011 platform. Today we are taking a look at this new Big Shuriken 2 from Scythe and seeing how it stacks up against other low profile CPU coolers. Measuring in at just 58mm high the main selling point of the Big Shuriken 2 is its height but Scythe are also looking to push the performance side of things with five 6mm heatpipes.

For those who are interested we’ve got some detailed specifications for you to see below but without any further ado let us proceed with the rest of the review.

Windows 8.1 Preview Released And Available

Right on schedule Microsoft have released their Windows 8.1 Preview. Straight away we will tell you that it can be downloaded here from the Microsoft website because most people are probably interested in checking this new OS update out from Microsoft. Given the Windows 8.1 Preview was announced at the Build Developers Conference it is not surprising that Microsoft very much focused on what’s new for developers and what they stand to gain from this new operating system. Microsoft stated that the key new features/updates of Windows 8.1 were:

  • Redesigned Windows Store. The Windows Store has been completely redesigned in Windows 8.1 to reach engaged customers and connect them more effectively and quickly to the apps they want. This includes increased merchandising opportunities for apps and better discoverability based on an individual’s preferences, as well as new search controls from Bing in the user interface. App listings have a new layout with refined navigation and more related content.
  • More monetization opportunities. Windows 8.1 delivers new opportunities for developers to build and monetize apps and engage users. Leblond introduced Windows Store gift cards, an easy way for consumers to purchase apps, books, games and content. Customers will be able to load their Microsoft Account with stored value in their local currency and make purchases online from the Windows Store. For developers in China, the Windows Store will support Alipay, meaning local developers will have new options to generate additional revenue.
  • Leading experiences. Windows 8.1 offers developers a canvas to present and develop compelling app designs. Windows 8.1 apps can work together to share data, share the screen and deliver richer customer experiences across a range of devices, including new 8-inch-and-below form factors.

Furthermore Microsoft were trying to sell the new key features and tools available to developers on the platform:

  • Bing as a platform. The new Bing platform builds upon the large investments Microsoft has made in the core technologies behind Bing.com to be embedded as intelligent services into Microsoft devices, Microsoft services and third-party apps that people use every day. In addition to providing the Search experience in Windows 8.1, Windows Phone, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Office, Bing Developer Services are now available that enable third-party developers to leverage Bing technology to create amazing experiences in their own services and Windows and Windows Phone applications. More information is available here.
  • Releases of Visual Studio 2013 Preview and .NET 4.5.1 Preview. Timed to the next wave of Windows, Visual Studio 2013 offers the ideal toolset for building rich modern applications that run on Windows 8.1. With a range of new features, Visual Studio 2013 makes it easier and faster for developers to create applications and services using modern lifecycle practices that span mobile devices and the cloud. Microsoft also announced a preview of .NET 4.5.1, enabling developers to build next-generation applications for devices and services while innovating their existing core business applications. Visual Studio 2013 and .NET 4.5.1 previews are now available for download here. More on Visual Studio can be found here.
  • Windows Phone developer opportunity. Microsoft today announced that shipments of Windows Phone grew six times faster than the rest of the smartphone market over the past year. Sprint also announced plans to add Windows Phone 8 to its 4G LTE network this summer with the HTC 8XT and the Samsung ATIV S Neo. With the release of Windows Phone 8, customers are now downloading more than 200 million apps per month and generating more than twice the daily app revenue. To help give developers the best return on their investments, the next release of Windows Phone will be designed to run the same apps that developers are building today and support the same familiar tools and skills. For a limited time, developers can register with Windows Phone Dev Center for only $19.

While the first release of the Windows 8.1 Preview is very much developer and business orientated it is still worth a good look if you are considering an upgrade from your current OS. Once again the Windows 8.1 Preview can be downloaded here so give it a try and let us know what you think. For a quick run-down on all the new features I recommend this article as it is definitely worth a read.

Image courtesy of Lifehacker.com