Demand For Supercomputers Increases

The market for supercomputers is increasing, and it doesn’t look its going to slow down given applications to tackle complex scientific questions and help with research, national security, image rendering, pharmaceuticals and even for commercial purposes.

There was a super computer recently installed in Illinois and Texas in a space equivalent of a basketball court which is used to research and calculate climate change, earthquake prediction and even for the medical field.

The prices of super computers start from around $500,000. Cray, Inc. a Seattle-based super computer company published the report that their profit went up 11 times as they’ve achieve $161.2 Million mark, the company is enjoying 78% of increased revenue, which amounts to $421 Million.

Super Computers are usually used for conducting many computer simulation, emphasizing on theoretical research, simulating physical experiments and an even in-depth research about any scientific phenomena. Usually they are funded by U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Yet the United States isn’t the only reason why this hike in demand of Super Computers is present. Research institutions in European and Asian country have stepped up to assemble and use larger and faster supercomputers for national security and for nations’ economy. Private companies that make pharmaceuticals, auto makers and even companies in the field of energy have increased their purchase and consumption of the processing power that only a supercomputer can offer.

There are many companies that have been using x86 based supercomputers with specialized chips made by few companies, mostly for rendering video games.

The project director Oak Ridge National Laboratory who oversees the $100 Million “Titan” supercomputer said,”We have a lot of architectures. We have more diversity today than we’ve had in a very long time.”

Source: WSJ Online

Tomb Raider PC Review

It’s taken me longer than I would have liked to complete this game, but after a few late nights and a few important jobs swept under the carpet, I did it, I finally completed Tomb Raider!

Hailing from the talented minds of Crystal Dynamics, although when I say talented I do know that the studio has had some rather off pace titles over the years, yet they are the people who made games such as Legacy of Kain – Soul Reaver, so we do know that they are capable of creating something special from time to time.

There is no point in hiding behind the truth however, the Tomb Raider franchise has been stinking of rot for a good few years now, and while there may have been one or two half good games in there, or at least enough to please the loyal fans, I think the games have gone down hill since the early PlayStation 2 days. What the franchise needed was some new blood and a complete reboot in the backside! Fortunately, that is exactly what Crystal Dynamics have done, throwing us right back to a time of a 21yr old, much less experienced in the art of exploring, and scared Lara Croft.

I don’t want to dive right in and ruin the story, surely half of the fun of a single player game is discovering that part your selves! But what I can say is that the game starts with you suffering a ship wreck, separated from your friends and co-workers and basically stranded on an island full of mystery, treasure and cultist nut jobs… so a lot like LOST then!

This is where the most interesting dynamic of this game comes into play, survival. Where games such as Uncharted, or of course many of the Tomb Raider games prior to this one were action adventure titles, this is simply a survival adventure game. There is a bigger emphasis on life being fragile, and while sure, you can still take a bullet to the belly and be ok a few moments later if you don’t take another one, you’re certainly easier to kill than is normally the pace for a modern game.

Gun fights are shaky and brutal, Lara is not some gun wielding ninja and your equipment isn’t that great to start with either. Shaky hands, scrambling for cover, minimal health and some well coordinated enemies, that will communicate with each other to circle around you, use fire to burn you out of cover and destroy your environment, or use shields to charge up on you, all of which adds up to some pretty chaotic but entertaining fights.

The AI isn’t the best in the world, but its certainly better than most any adventure game and the dialogue between enemies feels a little better than just triggered scripts, especially as they react to their environment dynamically as they try to find you and pursue you.

Gun battles, fire and other weapons are one thing, its what happens when Lara runs into the wrong end of them that gets me, “she dies” would be one way of putting it. However, Crystal Dynamics have put a lot of effort into the death scene animations of Tomb Raider and its easy for the first few to catch you off guard and make your eyes go wide. I can see some sadists jumping off every edge, getting killed in every quick time event and more just to see what happens. Unless you want to see her impaled through the throat, crushes, burned, strangled or maybe even worse, I would keep her alive! As grim as it all sounds, it plays really well on the survival adventure aspect I was talking about, and it shows how the character is more fragile and prone to death, of course that illusion is ruined by the fact real life doesn’t have save points / checkpoints.

The PC edition of this game certainly has a few benefits over the console counterparts, and while sure, they also look fantastic they’re a far cry from what this game engine can do on a high end gaming PC. Most famously for this game is TressFX, a fancy physics based hair simulation that gives Lara a more realistic head of hear, doesn’t sound like much does it? Well your half right, it does look fantastic, and it is better than the more rigid hair model, but her hair does have a complete and utter seizure from time to time that can ruin the effect. Also if you own a Nvidia card, good luck getting the TressFX setting to work as intended, this is an AMD trick that Nvidia hasn’t quite emulated yet, even if they say they’ve patched it, I beg to differ.

All the major features are here FXAA, SSAO, AO, High Precision, Tesselation, AF and high resolution support. Should you have the system to enable them all to maximum the game world really comes to life in terms of detail that put it with the best looking games on the market today. Unfortunately not everyone has an SLI capable gaming rig, equipped with powerful i5 CPU’s and Crystal Dynamics have been good at creating a versatile engine that allows for good gaming performance as the cost of graphical fidelity on lower end systems, a humble Core2Duo is enough in some cases.

The main story will take you around 9 hours to complete but if you bolt right through the game, your only getting half of the experience that the game offers. Through out the game you will find items like books, GPS beacons and wall markings that lead you off the beaten track, into caves, tunnels and more in the search for rare artifacts and some interesting level based puzzles. It’s a great way of getting some extra play time and fortunately its a sideline that’s entertaining to complete. It’s also important to find items such as food, ammo and salvage, the most important however is salvage. Using this salvage you can upgrade your guns, axe, bow and any other weapons you pick up on your travels. While the game starts with a shaky handed Lara and a clapped out old bow, salvage will see you with the precision of a skilled hitman and the moves to match in the latter half of the game.

Overall its a solid gaming experience, on one had you have the classic exploration that made tomb raider famous, as you figure out the best way to climb a set of obstacles to trigger a door or event to progress to the next section. Add to that the high action gun fights that made games such as Uncharted popular. Throw in the survival aspects and plenty of scenarios that put the life of a 21 yr old, inexperienced adventurer on the line constantly and you’ve got your self a game that can keep you on the edge of your seat more than once throughout its story.

I’ll admit, the story is a bit dull for my liking but it does help push the action and exploration along and its the gameplay that really matters here. The only issue I have with the game is that its caught what I call “Uncharted Disease” and where the developers at Naughty Dog have some of the best camera work in a gaming, a trend to try emulated that in recent years has caused a widespread case feeling like your game character is being followed by a very drunk camera man, does it really need to wobble that much Crystal Dynamics?!

If you love the original Tomb Raider series, you’re going to really enjoy this new adventure. The same is true for those who hated the original Tomb Raiders as this brings the game into the modern age, loosing all the old issues with the poor ledge grabbing mechanics and actually making the series enjoyable once again, just don’t bother with the tacked on multiplayer and you’ll be fine.

I’m still awarding the game our Gamers Choice award and even though it has some little niggles like the camera and poor multiplayer, the core gaming experience is by far one of the best of the last the last 12 months. If you’re not playing the new Tomb Raider, you’re missing out on a great game.



Eon Alter Set To Bring Tabletop To iOS

We have all been there, no matter if we are nerds or just the old school style of gamers where we have enjoyed, not the world we are in, but the one we can create in our minds. Tabletop was one of those things that was only really limited by what the mind could create. Sadly, as the computer world has grown, very few games offer such a wide social aspect that used to come with three or more people chilling around a table and then just “letting the dice roll”. There have been several attempts at making games that people feel they could become part of the world within, most of these were thrown under the title of “RPG” or “MMORPG” but none of them really came close, in my opinion, to what a tabletop game was all about.

With the introduction of the likes of iPhones and iPads, it seems that Apple would be interested to capture another gaming aspect that has since yet escaped them, who do they have to thank for this possible conquest? Eon Altar. What is this many of you cry! Well, I shall not tell you until you have a look at this gem of an introduction.


Eon Altar is about five months in the development line and it looks sweet already! This might be the thing that will encourage me to actually go for an iPhone, even if I feel like I’m following a trend. The game itself is very close to a typical RPG with a set of styles and the like, but I can see coming from a vast amount of modding, expansions and holy heck was that a walking tiger?! But anyways, I digress. I personally find the game to be very promising and the fact that it is almost a local LAN party right there on your phone it seems to me that this would show the way towards something beautiful. I’ll keep you posted! That is for sure!

SourceEon Alter

Sprint And Softbank Won’t Use Huawei After Their Upcoming Merger

Huawei maybe getting another blow from their United States market (or what’s left of it) as both the mobile carrier companies, Spring Nextel Corp. and Softbank Corp. told to U.S. lawmakers that they will not use equipments made by the Chinese based tech company Huawei Technologies after they merge.

Both the companies have been concerned about the potential electronic spy issue and decided not to use the Chinese manufacturer’s hardware. The U.S. agency is currently reviewing a merger worth $20Billion for national security, but Representative Mike Roger told Bloomberg via email that he expects the companies to make the same assurances before the deal is approved.

Rogers added,”I have met with Softbank and Sprint regarding this merger and was assured they would not integrate Huawei in to the Sprint network and would take mitigation efforts to replace Huawei equipment in the Clearwire network.”

Clearwire uses certain equipments from Huawei whereas the internal core network is powered by vendors such as Cisco. The company’s chief technical office John Saw assured that the Clearwire will be reducing Huawei’s presence in its high-speed wireless service network.

Huawei doesn’t have any knowledge about the national security report, but a U.S. spokesman said,”“If government approval of the transaction is somehow contingent on an agreement to restrict purchase of equipment from any vendor based on the flag of heritage, then it is a sad day for free and open global trade and it does nothing to secure the network. Everyone is global and every company faces the same cyber challenges.”

Even though Huawei’s name is only mentioned by the companies, ZTE would be facing the same scenario. Softbank is a Japanese based telecom company which happen to buy base band units and wireless systems from Huawei and ZTE.

It has been reported here that the U.S. government has introduced provisions to stop government agencies to use electronic equipment made by Chinese companies.

Source: Bloomberg 

New Discovery Shows The Possibility Of Making Biological Computers

Researchers at Standford University have been using genetic material to make biological transistors, allowing them to get one stop closer to making biological computers possible. The biological transistor, also called a “transcriptor” will enable researchers to embed different program functions into living sells. Using these transcriptors, the research team were able to create “logic gates” which have the ability to give a true-or-false response to any biochemical questions embedded in that cell.

Logic gates based on transcriptors will allow scientists to easily identify cells and even store information. Scientists could also instruct the cell to either stop or start reproducing by communicating the genetic information with another cell which will influence the behaviour of the group of cells.

The transcriptor is the third and final component required by the researchers to make biological computers which can operate within single living cells. They operate in the same way a computer operates  e.g. storing, transmitting and handling calculation and other processing operations.

Scientists and doctors can use this to perform name tests, as Jerome Bonnet said that the possibilities of this approach are as limitless as electronics themselves. He added,””You could test whether a given cell had been exposed to any number of external stimuli — the presence of glucose and caffeine, for instance”.

Jerome Bonnet, a post-doctoral scholar in bioengineering said who is also the lead author in the research paper said,”Biological computers can be used to study and reprogram living systems, monitor environments and improve cellular therapeutics.”

It was only last year when Drew Endy was able to made the other 2 components required to make a biological computer.

Source: Palo Alto Online

3D Printers To Be Affordable By 2016

3D printers have captured the imagination of the technologically minded with an almost limitless realm of possibilities. The only thing that is currently stopping them from taking off is the fact they cost so much to acquire both at a personal level and a business level.  Although consumers are unlikely to be able to afford printers for the rest of this decade, small and medium sized businesses can expect them to be affordable with the price of an enterprise class 3D printer dropping below $2000 by 2016.

“3D printing is a technology accelerating to mainstream adoption,” said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner. “It is a technology of great interest to the general media, with demonstrations on science shows, on gadget websites and in other areas. We see 3D printing as a tool for empowerment, already enabling life-changing parts and products to be built in struggling countries, helping rebuild crisis-hit areas and leading to the democratization of manufacturing.”

3D printers so far have managed to print footwear, clothing and even guns. Software projects like 3Doodlerwhich recently smashed through its KickStarter funding target, look set to make 3D printing more accessible to everyone. The internet is already brimming with 3D printable models, the only thing holding development back is the 3D printers themselves. The only thing holding back mainstream adoption, once general affordability arrives, is that most consumers will lack the CAD expertise to create 3D models for their own use.

What are you thoughts on 3D printing? Will you get one once it is affordable? Did you back 3Doodler on Kickstarter? Do you think 3D printing is good or bad? Let us know your thoughts


Microsoft To Launch Surface Mini 7-Inch Tablet by June

Microsoft hasn’t said much about the prospect of a smaller version of the Surface table although market analysts say it is definitely coming. Microsoft is expected to release a 7″ or 8″ Surface Mini tablet, which will be running either the Windows 8 OS or the upcoming Windows Blue OS.

No release date has been rumoured just yet, but an analyst has stated that we could expect the device in June when the company announces the first beta of Windows Blue. The evidence for the 7 or 8 inch version comes with the fact Microsoft has been altering Windows 8 and Windows Blue to support 1024 by 768 resolution devices. This is expected to be the resolution of the new mini tablet from Microsoft.

Microsoft has already confirmed it is looking to expand its Surface product range but is yet to give a clear indication that the Surface Mini is how it intends to do this. In launching a Surface Mini Microsoft would face stiff competition from other small and popular tablets on the market right now like the Google and ASUS Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini. If Microsoft’s Surface Mini is going to succeed, the value for money has to be there and the choice of an operating system has to be viable and right.

Would you consider buying a 7 or 8 inch Microsoft tablet, what might convince you to buy one or what specifications or requirements would you have for it? Let us know your thoughts.


Amazon Acquires Social Reading Website Goodreads

Amazon have recently announced that they have signed a business deal to acquire the social reading site “Goodreads”. Goodreads is a website which helps people find a new book to read based on what books and genres they have read in the past, it is a typical “you may also like..” style algorithm. Amazon did not discuss the terms of the acquisition but the deal will be sealed in Q2 of this year.

Currently, Goodreads has 16 million members and 230 million titles in the site’s database. The site has hosted 30000 book clubs and in the past 90 days those 16 million members have been adding “I want to read” books to their virtual shelves at a rate of four per second. All this looks impressive for Amazon as they look to start shifting more books and ebooks. The majority of the focus will likely be on ebooks as Amazon looks to generate money from its Kindle range.

Goodreads founder Otis Chandler has commented on his excitement about the deal for three reasons. Firstly, Goodreads can introduce more readers to their community with the growth opportunity from Amazon. Secondly, members of Goodreads wanted an ebook service which is something Amazon can easily deliver. Finally, Otis believes Amazon will help the company to grow rapidly. He stresses they will remain unique, independent and that the Goodreads team will not being going anywhere – suggesting that Goodreads have no been fully bought out.

This news has probably sent chills down the spines (get the book pun…) of major book publishers as Amazon continues to exercise a stronger grip over books and ebooks. What do you think of Amazon’s latest acquisition?


Evercool Venti (HPQ 12025) CPU Cooler Review

While our CPU cooler reviews of late have mainly be concerned with high performance heatsinks, it is still important for us to remember that it is the budget offerings which sell the most and get used the most. That said, today we have a $30 heatsink courtesy of Evercool and it is their brand new Venti (HPQ 12025) CPU cooler. We already brought you the news of this product back in December last year, and promised we would have a review for you. Today, we duly deliver on that promise.

On the face of things a $30 heatsink may not be particularly exciting but I think seeing how much performance you can get for such a low cost heatsink is actually pretty exciting – especially when you have cheaper heatsinks punching amongst much more expensive heavy-weights. Let’s hope that Evercool’s Venti can do exactly that today as we put it through the heat eTeknix heat treatment.

For those of you who are interested the outline of the specifications can be found in the below table. If you’re looking for extra information then read the above product page or news article, both have a lot of extra information you may find enriching to know before seeing the performance figures.

The Evercool Venti comes attractively packaged in a cardboard box pointing out all the key features and with a large product image. Inside we find the product is packed very well with hard plastic.

HTC One Gets Worst Possible Repairability Score From iFixit

iFixit are a company that take modern consumer gadgets such as mobile phones and tablets, then attempt to disassemble them and put them back together. They are experts in their field and in doing these “fixability” tests they are able to determine how easily a consumer might be able to repair a broken or damaged consumer gadget. The latest device to receive the iFixit treatment is the new HTC One. However, it isn’t good news for HTC users as the One phone scored the lowest possible one out of ten.

The handset was difficult to repair right from the outset with even the job of opening the phone’s casing being nearly impossible without damaging it. Opening was possible in the end but resulted in permanent damage to the bezel surrounding the screen. The teardown found the battery buried beneath the motherboard and adhered to the midframe making the “simple” task of replacing the battery not-so-simple. Delicate copper shielding covering many components also makes accessing other components tricky and potentially damaging.

However, there is a silver lining to the whole story which is that iFixit said it was one of the most durable phones they have tested. Improved durability should mean less breakages and ultimately no need to actually take the device apart and repair it. Despite criticisms of repairability the HTC One is still regarded as one of the best Android handsets on the market, being the most advanced Android Smartphone up until Samsung recently released the Galaxy S4.

You can read the full iFixit teardown here.


EA Discounts Its Android, iOS and Windows Phone Games

If you happen to be into playing mobile games on your Android, iOS or Windows Phone devices then you’ll be pleased to know that Electronic Arts has announced a tonne of discounts. In its 4th annual sweet deals sale EA has discounted many titles by up to 90% or offered them totally free.

Android users can benefit from Real Racing 3, World Series of Poker and Theme Park all for free. The Sims FreePlay has 80% off all in game purchases, NBA JAM is 80% off, Plants vs Zombies is 65% off and Monopoly is 65% off. All these can be downloaded via the Google Play Store.

The list for iOS is much more extensive so we won’t list them all. You can find them all here. Free iOS games include Real Racing 3, Madden NFL 13 Social, World Series of Poker and Monopoly Hotels. My favourite pick is Battlefield Bad Company 2 which is 90% off iPad and 65% off iPhone.

On the Windows Phone the deals are much less exciting with offers being for 30% and 40% off only. Plants vs Zombies, Bejeweled LIVE and Need For Speed Hot Pursuit are all 40% off, Mirror’s Edge, Battleship, Monopoly, Tetris and Contre Jour are all 33% off and the Sims 3 is 30% off.

If you are interested in getting any of these deals then be sure to follow this link. Even if you don’t play mobile games that often the free ones could definitely be worth a go before the deal expires. If you are a Windows Phone user then apologies that you appear to have been short changed by EA!


Texas Courts Tells Patent Troll That They Cannot Patent Simple Math

A patent troll, Uniloc, who has a long history of suing tech firms has sued Hosting company, Rackspace. Uniloc claims Rackspace allegedly violated their patent by selling Linux-based server systems, but the judge rubbished that claim by dismissing the case, saying that it basically describes a simple math operation.

Uniloc filed against Rackspace during June 2012 in a Texas based district court, saying that Rackspace has violated their patent by using, selling and/or importing servers that run Linux Kernels that used for processing floating points required to work with Rackspace hosting business.

Uniloc filed for a patent in 1995 and then being approved in 1999. The patent #5,490,216 states that the invention is a “method and apparatus for handling overflow and underflow in processing floating-point numbers.” but Chief Judge in the district court saying that this concept doesn’t deserve patent protection as the invention involves nothing more than using the round numbers before an arithmetic computation.

Judge Leonard Davis said that Uniloc’s first claim which is a formula to solve mathematical problems is nothing more than a mere improvement of a mathematical formula, even when tied to computing.

Uniloc once sued Microsoft for $388 Million of which the district court judge overturned the verdict. But Microsoft finally settled the case with Uniloc last year for an undisclosed amount. Currently, Uniloc filed 12 new cases on March 21st with Eastern District of Texas against companies like Activision Blizzard, EA, Aspyr media, Digital river, McAfee, Sony, Symantec, Sage Software, SolarWinds, Pervasive Software and WildPackets.

Source: Ars Technica

AZiO Levetron Mech5 Mechanical Keyboard Review

AZiO Corp is a new brand to us at eTeknix, so we’re honoured today to be reviewing their flagship gaming keyboard, the Levetron Mech5. AZiO Corp is primarily and American brand, although we do occasionally see some of their products over here in the UK – and should expect to see them more often soon. This is the first time I’ve had my hands on one of their products to review, so I will make sure I pay close attention to the build quality and performance. The keyboard itself is known for its modular form, with nearly every aspect being customisable. The Mech5 features slightly more features and a tweaked design over the other keyboard in the range – the Mech4, which also has a different colour scheme, yet the same modular characteristics.  Before I dive into the review, lets take a quick look at what the Levetron will present us with feature-wise:

  • Highly Modular Design – Move the macro keys to where you can reach them. Numeric Keypad and Macro Keypad modules are removable and can be positioned on either side of the keyboard
  • 16 Dedicated Macro Keys – Programmable macro keys can be used as an in game shortcut, a specific keyboard character, or a whole key sequence using the keyboard software.
  • Cherry Black Mechanical Switches – The Cherry Black mechanical switch is widely believed to provide the best gaming experience. Featuring a linear design ideal for rapid pressing of keys and the right stiffness to help prevent accidental key presses.
  • Built-in Volume Knob – Perfect for audio control of your speakers or headset device.

You get all of this for approximately $109.99 so it’ fits in the middle of the mechanical keyboard market. Now I’ll take a look at this curious sounding keyboard, to see what its all about, though you should note, that since it is an American keyboard, it will have the US layout.

The Mech5 comes in a fairly large box, which is no doubt down to the modular parts. Straight away you can see the keyboard in all its glory on the front of the box so you know exactly what to expect. The design of the keyboard is almost grungy with a dark colour scheme and exposed metal. The left side of the front displays various features of what to expect with the Mech5.

On the reverse side of the box there is a more detailed breakdown of the various features and an explanation of the modular design. The right side also contains various translations of the features, in 8 different languages.

When you first open the box and remove the contents, it’s almost slightly overwhelming due to the different parts for the keyboard. The box contains the keyboard itself, which is an 80% design (Tenkeyless TLK), the additional numbered, the top macro buttons and the quick start guide and driver CD.


The whole point of this keyboard is that it can be fully customised to suit the user, so subsequently AZiO has made the Numpad modular along side the macro keys you’ll see shortly. AZiO have also included an additional calculator button, which is a nice touch as it is used often in our office. The Numpad can be attached on either side of the keyboard, which I’ll show you how in the image below:

On each side of the Mech5 there are “wings” which slide up to reveal a USB connector. The Numpad has the matching port on each side of it, so this simply slots into place and the wing lowers, locking it into place. For the purpose of this review, I used it primarily on the right side as it felt odd having it on the left.

The top row macro keys are also of a modular design, so you can decide if you wish to use them or not. The macro keys simply attach to the keyboard by a rail system – not dissimilar to that on a gun. There is a small cable around the back of the buttons which connects to a USB port on the back of the keyboard. This can then slide left and right along the top and can be flipped up to gain access to the function keys. In the top right corner there are two buttons, one that turns the win key on and off – useful when gaming, and A/B button that enables you to switch between two sets of macro keys that line the left edge of the keyboard.

In this image you can see the macro keys in the upright position. On the underside of it you can see a small retractable rest that when opened, rests between the function keys and the number keys – to give it a bit of support. To the right of the keyboard you have a nice, smooth volume knob that is great for controlling the audio levels on the fly.

Other than the top macro buttons, the Mech5 features a full compliment of Cherry MX Black switches, which AZiO describe as the best for gaming due to their stiff, linear movement.

AZiO has gone all out with the customisations you can do to the Mech5 by providing additional keycaps. These red caps replace the WASD keycaps. They are slightly lower than the surrounding caps, making it easier to relocate your hand on those crucial keys when gaming.

Fully assembled, you are presented with a beast of a keyboard. The whole design reeks of a mechanical, industrial machine with its chunky futuristic design. The hexagonal bolts are just a little bit of extra details, which really add to the overall design of the board. You can also see the macro keys down the left side of the keyboard we mentioned earlier. Despite the modular design, the wrist rest is attached to the board, which is an issue for some.

Setup and Software

The Mech5 is reasonably simple to setup, granted it is a modular keyboard so will take a bit longer to snap everything into place, but once settled, it’s easy to do over and over again. The cable is around 6ft long with two gold plated connectors at the end to provide the keyboard with additional power. Straight off the bat you can use the keyboard when connected to the PC, but you won’t be able to map the additional macro keys.

Once the drivers and software are installed from the CD provided, you are greeted with this screen. It is relatively simple compared to other keyboard programs we have seen, but I see this as a good thing. On this screen you can select the keys you want and assign them macros.

First off you have to create the macro you want, so then once it is saved into the software, you can bind it to a key.

When a key is selected, you are given the options in the image above. There are various things you can get the keys to do, from opening programs, running a macro or even quickly typing a string of characters. All of that can be done in the screen above. For the purpose of this review I set the top macro keys to media keys. It is as simple as pressing a record button, carrying out a sequence of actions, then saving the macro.

So that is it when it comes to setting the keyboard up and using the software. Now it’s time to put it to the test.

Gaming Performance

I’ve been playing a lot of Battlefield 3 when I can (surprise surprise) alongside a bit of Diablo 3 when I’m taking it easy. The Mech5 was great for the FPS as the Cherry Black switches were nice to push and required enough force so you knew when the key had activated. Where the keyboard really shone was in Diablo 3 as the macro keys were perfect to assign to casting spells and issuing commands. The ability to have the top macro keys set as media keys also allowed me to control my music whilst I was playing, great for those awesome kill streaks and capturing the flag in BF3: End Game. The one little issue I have with the keyboard is the strip of macro keys down the left side of the keyboard as I kept pressing the bottom key instead of the left Ctrl key – a small, but annoying issue I’ve had with all the keyboards which have macro keys in that position. Overall the Mech5 provided a great experience for gaming and in some cases actually improved my performance.

General Use

I do a lot of typing on my PC, whether it’s for eTeknix or when coding/designing websites so as you can imaging, typing quickly became a chore on the Cherry Black switches due to the larger amount of force required. This rapidly introduced strain into my fingers making it very uncomfortable during long typing sessions, like when reviewing. What I did like however, was the fact I could map so many keys to do different things. This was particularly useful in programs like Photoshop as I could use the “A” macro keys for things like selecting the vector tool, and then use the “B” macro keys for opening programs. The top macro keys were also well suited to acting as media keys and the volume knob was a great convenience, so much so, I actually miss it on keyboards that don’t have it.

Final thoughts

I think the Levetron Mech5 is a great keyboard for gamers, its got loads of useful features packed into it’s futuristic chassis and the fact that it is modular and almost fully customisable is a great aspect to have. Whilst some may find the keyboard bulky, even with the Numpad detached and the design off putting, when it is actually put to use, it is almost flawless. AZiO really has put a lot of thought into redesigning the Mech4 to create this monster of a keyboard, with little things like an added calculator button adding to a great experience. The overall quality is pretty decent as we often see with mechanical keyboards, so it’s quite capable of lasting longer than the components in your computer.

The keyboard isn’t all amazing however, as you may notice in the previous paragraph I did mention that it was a great keyboard for gamers, as it is not so great when it comes to typing. The Cherry Blacks are a good choice if you don’t press that many keys – like when gaming, but when it comes to typing the additional force required to get the switches to actuate, really puts strain on your fingers, resulting in an overall painful experience. As I also mentioned in the previous paragraph, some may find the design a little too chunky and the style of it too busy. Personally, I quite like the industrial look to it and I love the attention to detail AZiO have put into it, however some could see it as tacky and too busy. Another annoyance I had with the keyboard is the lower left macro key position, as I always have with keyboards with a similar positioning of the macro keys. However, this is more down to preference.

Overall AZiO has made a great first impression on me, from the modular design that allowed me to customise how I wanted the keyboard layout to be, to all the great features packed inside. Sure it may be like Marmite so some, but thanks to the innovate design (something we don’t often see with keyboards) it should really stand out for anyone looking for a decent gaming keyboard that also won’t break the bank. As the AZiO has used Cherry Black switches, I won’t be recommending this keyboard to anyone who does a fair amount of typing, but anyone who loves gaming and wants a keyboard that looks the part, then look no further. To sum it up, the AZiO Levetron Mech5 is decent, high quality keyboard with an innovative, customisable design and a full complement of features, making it perfect for gamers, but due to the characteristics of the switch type, it’s not so good for the heavy typists. For all these reasons, I’m happy to award the AZiO Levetron Mech5 with the:

NYPD Issued More Strict Rules For Use Of Social Media By Police Officers

The New York Police Department issued a set of strict guidelines for its police officers to follow, where they will require to change some details in their personal profiles in Facebook, Twitter and other social networking websites. As soon as the news spread, the police officers made several changes, such as removing references of the specific department they’re working for.

Certain few confusions amongst the officers, such as the case of an officer with his background in the military, who replaced his twitter profile of him wearing his patrol uniform to a picture of himself wearing an Army uniform, another wasn’t sure if he can use the word “Detective” as his job description.

The other regulations were clear: Not to post pictures of the crime scenes, witness statements and other non-public information that is obtained by a police offer, engaging with witnesses victims or defense lawyers which also include not to be friends or follow them on social media sites.

This isn’t the first time police officers been faced with certain guidelines where they have to change the information that they post via social media, but such an order was not expected, as said by Roy Richter of Captains Endowment Association.

The Fire Department is also currently drafting its own social media policy. The Detroit Police department had issued a set of guidelines in 2011 after a police officer posted pictures of a man wielding a machete on facebook. The Albuquerque Police Department barred its policemen from identifying themselves via social media.

Violation of these orders would result in actions such as dismissal from the force.

One and a half years ago, police officers posted many insulting comments on facebook about the West Indian American Day Parade where more than a dozen policemen were disciplined.

Source: New York Times

OUYA Consoles On Their Way To Initial Kickstarter Backers

The OUYA console took the world of gaming by storm and it generated its required funding very quickly, in the end it generated $8,583,769 with its $950,000 target being smashed in under a day. The OUYA project managed 63,416 backers in total and now OUYA are beginning to ship the first wave of consoles to all those who backed them on Kickstarter. The first wave commenced a couple of days ago and it is expected that 3 weeks will be needed to fulfill all the orders from Kickstarter.

OUYA has said that the console already has over 100 games, 104 to be precise, ready to play straight away. Some of these are totally free and others offer free trials but big name games include Final Fantasy III, Beast Boxing Turbo and Stalagflight. There is one catch to accessing the free games, that you need to enter credit/debit card information first. This has angered a lot of people and if we see enough of a backlash then OUYA might be forced to revise this policy. One user commented:

“Honestly, I really don’t see why you think the credit/debit card information needs to be added before one even downloads a game? How does that ensure it any better than allowing users to download the free games and then adding the information when I want to buy something”

According to OUYA 8000 developers have created accounts for the new console and we should be seeing new games “every day”. Consumers that get their new consoles will be greeted by some updates so an internet connection is necessary for the updates and to access games from the store. Only time will tell on how successful the OUYA console really is.

Have you pre-ordered an OUYA console? Are you excited about receiving it in the next few weeks? Are you unhappy about having to enter your payment information just to access free games? Let us know your thoughts.


Unreal Engine 4 Demo Leaks From GDC

This impressive tech demo is something Epic Games have been showing developers and the press, all week at the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco. Everyone was wondering whether or not this would be a game or not, but Epic’s Mark Rein has revealed that it is not. Which I don’t think is that surprising, after you consider the exits they recently had and the new minority stock owner Tencent Holdings doesn’t really make games. It’ll be interesting to see what their plans are after Fortnite gets released. The speculation is they will exclusively be working on their Unreal Engine, which makes total sense. So many games currently use the 3rd iteration of their massively popular engine, that there’s plenty of money to be made with the upcoming 4th Unreal Engine.

All we know so far on the presentation is that nothing was drawn, everything was rendered, even the long distance stuff. The demo was running on a single, unmodified Nvidia GTX 680, a cool fact indeed. One has to wonder how much further they could have pushed it with superior hardware. Not only that, but I’m really looking forward to the advancements they can push out while the next-generation chugs along. The first Gears of War looked amazing (and still does considering how long ago that was), but what the current Unreal Engine 3 is capable of doing now is leaps and bounds ahead of that.

In more news regarding the engine, they have gone on record stating that it will not be on the Wii U. In total honesty though, I don’t think anyone was expecting that, as the Wii U is only a slight step above current generation consoles. You can mark this news up as, no d’uh.


Windows Blue Preview Arriving This Summer

A ScreenShot from the reportedly leaked Windows Blue development build

After Windows Blue was reportedly leaked a few days ago, now comes the news that Microsoft will have a preview version of Windows Blue available by the summer. The latest reports suggest that Microsoft began working on a “milestone preview” version of Windows Blue earlier this month, which was possibly what the leaked version was.

Microsoft plan to make the preview version of the new Blue operating system available at a conference in June where developers and enthusiasts can gain access to it. Many are stating that the final product will not arrive as Windows Blue but right now there are no informed rumours or speculation to suggest otherwise. More general rumours include the fact that the Start Bar may be re-added to Windows Blue due to the fact its removal in Windows 8 caused a lot of controversy and is probably part of the reason why sales of the new OS were weaker than expected.

Microsoft’s Build Conference is conducted on June the 26th in San Francisco. Do you think Windows Blue is arriving too early? Does this suggest that Windows 8 has failed in a similar way to Vista? Will Windows Blue be the next worthy successor to Windows 7? Let us know your thoughts.


EK announce Water Blocks for De-Lidded Ivy Bridge CPUs

The Ivy Bridge saga with removing the lid, a.k.a. the IHS (Integrated Heat Sink), stuck around for quite a long time. People debated the benefits of changing out the stock Intel thermal paste and using (or not using) the lid when it comes to cooling. If you didn’t get to see our exclusive Ivy Bridge “myth busting” article about what happens when you keep the lid/IHS but change the thermal paste, then please see here. The idea behind removing the lid is that with the IHS gone there are less layers between the CPU die and the cooling apparatus so cooling will be more efficient. However, in practice this hasn’t always worked because mounting systems do not go tight enough to clamp down directly onto the die. Removing the IHS leaves an extra 5-8mm of thickness where the IHS would of otherwise sat.

Leading on from that last problem, EK have devised a solution. Their solution is to redesign their mounting system, for the EK Supremacy blocks, so that it accounts for the fact the IHS/lid isn’t there. This mounting system which EK are calling PreciseMount Add-on Naked Ivy is a world first and no one has tried to do this before – probably because of how niche the market actually is. The idea behind it is that you can use your i5 3570K or i7 3770K with a custom water cooling loop and get more performance out of it by cooling the CPU die directly. The precise mount add-on kit is only compatible with existing EK Supremacy water blocks for LGA 1155 and is made of the usual high  quality nickel-plated brass.

All of this does come with a user warning though because removing the IHS/lid from Ivy Bridge CPUs is a very risky process and voids your warranty. For those who are interested in doing so the article we did has a page of guidance but it is still not easy. As EK state this is an expert process and something that is only to be done with the true knowledge and know-how. All that said it is still fantastic to see EK catering for such a niche market in devising this new mounting system specifically for de-lidded Ivy Bridge CPUs. It would of been nice to see some other companies offer a similar thing but for now EK are the only ones doing it – hats off to them.

What do you think of this offering from EK? Would you consider buying one? Would you considering de-lidding your Ivy Bridge CPU? Have you already done so and did you get any interesting results? Let us know your thoughts.

Source: EK PR

Apple Drop Samsung As Their iPad Mini Display Manufacturer

Apple and Samsung’s various feuds have been far from private and have mostly been played out in the public arena. Their latest disagreement comes with Apple phasing out their business relations with Samsung. As you may or may not know currently Samsung still produce a lot of displays and processors for Apple products but this is slowly changing as Apple is picking new business partners to work with and cancelling contracts with Samsung. The latest cancellation comes with displays for the current iPad Mini and future next-generation iPad Mini.

As of the next generation of the iPad Mini, Apple will use the Taiwanese-based firm Innolux and China’s Century Display to product all their touch panels for the iPad mini. Considering how well the iPad Minis are selling this is potentially a big loss for Samsung.

Apple is looking to shift their business away from Samsung on the current iPad Mini by using the likes of LG Display, Sharp, Japan Display and AU Optronics for displays. It will be interesting to see how Samsung deals with this loss of business but at the same time it will be nice to see a wide range of smaller companies getting the opportunity to gain some business that can help them thrive and innovate and drive the display market forward.

What are your thoughts on this latest development between Samsung and Apple? Who do you think will lose out more, Samsung or Apple? Let us know your thoughts.


Foxconn Will Build Google Glass In The U.S.A

Google Glass, the highly sought after augmented reality glasses, are set to enter into production in the next few weeks. While that in itself is exciting enough news, there is also good news for the USA as Google will be manufacturing the Google Glass products on American soil, or on Californian soil to be more precise.

A recent report by the Financial Times suggests that the final assembly will be taking place at a facility in Santa Clara, California. The production contract for Google Glass has been signed with Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., or Foxconn as we all know them. Most of the components for the Google Glass will be sourced from overseas but that crucial final assembly is on U.S soil.

Despite American production potentially costing more there are still advantages in doing so for Google. Having production so “close-to-home” means that Google engineers can keep a much closer eye on production and ensure that everything goes to plan. It will also be easier for them to revise designs if modifications are needed after the first batch is produced. Earlier this week 8000 people received an invitation to purchase an early model of the Google Glass, called the Explorer Edition, for $1500. Everyone else will have to wait until the end of the year and Google says they will be paying less than what early adopters paid but how much less is still unknown.

Are you excited about the arrival of Google Glass? Are you happy that Google are supporting the American economy? Would you rather Google produced it for cheaper elsewhere and were able to reduce the price as a result? Let us know your thoughts.


Noctua NF-S12A FLX, ULN and PWM Case Fan Reviews

Noctua’s premium range of fans is vast and we have looked at many of their fans, you can see our reviews below. They produce fans that cater for cases, heatsinks and radiators in a variety of sizes and speeds to suit almost every need. Most importantly though is that they all live up to the same high quality standards, feature silent operation, an extensive bundle and long warranties with excellent customer service.

Noctua NF-F12 Review

Noctua NF-A14 ULN Review

Noctua NF-A14 FLX Review

Noctua NF-A15 PWM Review

Today we have with us a set of three different fan types from Noctua’s case fan series, the NF-S12A fans. They come in three different variants, the ULN, FLX and PWM. We have all three to test and without any further ado let us get straight into having a look at the products.

Specifications can be seen here:

Noctua NF-S12A ULN

Noctua NF-S12A FLX

Noctua NF-S12A PWM

Below you can see the packaging of all three Noctua NF-S12A fans. The packaging points out the key features of each fan and you can compare these to see what makes them different from each other.

Intel Haswell Ultrabooks to Start at $599

At the Intel Solution Summit (ISS) which took place last week Intel told the world that we should expect to see Ultrabooks based on their fourth generation of core processors soon. The fourth generation of core processors are the Haswell micro-architecture. However, we already knew that because the release of Haswell is expected to be around June so that means Haswell releases are around 2 months away. The really juicy information from Intel was that these Haswell based Ultrabooks will start from just $599, a price significantly lower than we are used to seeing from the Ultrabook market segment of products.

Intel’s Kirk Skaugen, Senior Vice President and GM of Intel’s PC Client Group, told the audience at ISS that we will see new parts arriving at cheaper price points and with more compelling features. While this kind of rhetoric isn’t anything out of the ordinary what we are hoping it will mean is that Haswell parts will be more affordable at every performance range and “extra features” will be included with more models than previously done. Touch screen support, faster SSDs, higher resolution displays, voice recognition and facial recognition are all expected to be common-place features from the new range of Ultrabooks.

Skaugen went as far as to say that early Ultrabook designs were “just a retrofit of what was already on the market”. The key point in Skaugen’s talk was that Haswell will bring extended battery life and you will be able to leave your battery pack at home. Such a bold statement would suggest we can expect to see 10+ hours of battery life on most Ultrabook models if Intel’s partners do as they are expected to.

Would you buy a Ultrabook at $599? Are all these new features good inclusions? Or are Intel just playing catch-up? Will $599 Ultrabooks be able to sway consumers away from similarly priced tablets? Let us know what you think.


Lenovo To buy NEC’s Mobile Phone Unit For Global Smartphone Expansion?

A report indicated that Japanese based tech firm NEC Corp maybe in talks with Lenovo. The Japanese based company is currently having tough times with its mobile phone unit and decided to sell it. This information is confirmed by a source who is familiar with the discussions among the companies to Reuters. The Chinese based company Lenovo which is currently the worlds’ #2 maker of PCs is looking forward to its expansion in the smartphone business throughout the world.

NEC said that after years of losses, the company has decided to sell the assets of their mobile phone unit. The company is also currently negotiating with even domestic buyers. NEC recently said in a statement through Tokyo stock Exchange on Friday,”Amid the rapidly changing market we are considering a number of ways to bolster the competitiveness of our mobile phone business, but nothing has been decided.”
It was during October 2012 where NEC made a cut from 5 Million units to 4.3 Million mobile phones.

Currently as of now, the worldwide smartphone market is dominated by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Apple, Inc., followed by Sony, Chinese based companies Huawei Technology Co. and ZTE CROP which is currently in #3 in the global smartphone market.

NEC currently is hopeful that it will be able to log a full year operational profile of $1.1 Billion in the fiscal year, but it has made plans to cut down 10,000 jobs. NEC is also planning to sell its mobile services separately, which is estimated for $850 Million. 

Lenovo didn’t make comments about the meetings yet.

Source: Reuters

3 Scuba Divers Arrested For Cutting The Underwater Internet Cables In Alexandria, Egypt

Recently 3 scuba divers who were found trying to disconnect the SEA-ME-WE- 4 set of underwater internet cable that belongs to a telecom service provider in Egypt that feeds the connection to the region, were arrested by the Egypt Coast Guard.

According to Military spokesperson Ahmed Mohammed Ali, the 3 scuba drivers were trying to sabotage the underwater internet cable located roughly 820 yards from Alexandria, they had been somewhat successful to do damage as the internet speed reported by the region’s end users decreased tremendously. The underwater line use submarine cables which are nothing more than 3 inches thick, containing optic fiber cables which can transfer data up to 10Tb/s, so long as you don’t cut them to pieces.

While it isn’t clear yet if it was sabotage related, there was also another case where cable operator “Seacom” reported that many lines between Africa, few countries in Asia, Europe and Middle East were affected, therefore creating problems as it affected more than 75% traffic between the Middle East, Europe and Unites States. Seacom did say that they were able to restore the services, but after few hours they have reported that another connected had been cut off. Investigation is currently going on as the motive of the men is not clear, so is the extent of the damage being done so far.

It is also reported that the internet connection cable damage disrupted the internet links to India as reported by Indian based ISP VSNL . The Internet Service provider’s association of India also said that India lost up to 50-to-60% bandwidth. The ministry said that it will take several days to return to full capacity.

Source: Techspot

Razer Adds Steam Integration to Edge Gaming Tablet

Razer’s Edge gaming tablet took the tablet market by storm offering people the ability to play Desktop PC-class games in a small and powerful form factor. Featuring a low power Ivy Bridge Mobile dual core CPU with four threads and an Nvidia GT 640M LE Kepler Mobile GPU the Edge gaming tablet is capable of running most games at a medium to high preset on its native 1366 by 768 IPS 10.1″ display. As with most Razer products the price for such an innovative market-leading solution is high, starting at $999 for the base model and $1299.99 for the Pro model.

Being a Windows 8 based tablet the innovation is in being able to play Windows games that you would otherwise play on your desktop PC. Consequently, Razer’s latest edit for the Razer Edge tablet is bringing native Steam integration to every tablet so playing your games is as easy as logging straight into your Steam account, downloading your games and then playing them.

“Razer has one mission in mind: to innovate for PC gamers worldwide,” says Min-Liang Tan , co-founder, Razer CEO and creative director. “Providing users with access to Steam will enable Razer Edge users to play their favorite games with greater ease than ever before.”

“The Razer Edge has more than enough power to play the latest and greatest Steam titles and it is completely built with PC gamers in mind,” says Greg Coomer , product designer at Valve. “The tablet is a great way to experience everything Steam has to offer, including Big Picture mode.”

What do you think of being able to play all your Steam games on a 10″ gaming tablet? Would you consider buying one now Steam support is easily available? Have you already bought one? What do you think of it? Let us know your thoughts.

Source: Razer PR

Royal Society Invites Game Developers to Summer Science Exhibition

The Royal Society is looking for experienced games development studios to take part in a new initiative that will turn some of the research on show at its annual Summer Science Exhibition into video games. The Royal Society will host a 12 hour game jam on 24th May that will see developers work with the scientists behind exhibits to produce five exciting new games.

Unity Technologies will support the Royal Society in creating fun interpretations of the science that will be on show at this year’s Exhibition. Of the 23 exhibits taking part this year, 5 will be selected to take part in the game jam. The Royal Society is partnering with indie game distribution portal, IndieCity, to share the games produced at the jam.

The game jam will take place at the Royal Society in London. Five development teams of up to 4 developers will be partnered with the selected exhibitors for an all-day game jamathon from 10am – 10pm. Each development team will receive £2,000 to further develop their games after the game jam so that they are ready to be played at the Summer Science Exhibition which runs from 1st – 7th July. The games will be available free online and at the exhibition itself so that the public can cast votes for their favourite game. The team that receives the most votes will receive an additional £2,000 to further develop the games once the Exhibition closes.

Professor Peter Sadler, chair of the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition selecting committee, said “The Summer Science Exhibition is one of the highlights of the Royal Society’s year. It provides a unique opportunity for members of the public to interact with scientists and ask them questions about their work. We’re very excited to be introducing a new element to the Exhibition this year in the form of the Games Jam. An increasing number of exhibitors have used games as a way of communicating their science over the last few years and we’re hoping that by giving some of them an opportunity to be part of the Games Jam it will bring state-of-the-art creativity and innovation to their video games and some fantastic news ways of bringing their cutting-edge research to life for our visitors. I’m really looking forward to playing with what’s created on the day!”

The Royal Society invites the UK’s talented games development sector to join it in communicating the fun and fascination of science. Interested developers can find out more about the competition and how to apply from the Royal Society’s website at .The event’s Twitter hashtag is #RSgamejam

Steam Weekend Deal – 29/3/13

Steam has gained quite a reputation for amazing gaming deals, and that trend seems set to continue with this latest batch of titles that are set to empty your wallet. Interestingly it seems they are feeding off the recent(ish) news about GTA V and are offering Grand Theft Auto IV & Episodes From Liberty City at a very low price of only £7.49.

If you are stuck for something to do this weekend, your ideal solution could be right there, what is more fun than out running the police or just getting your arrest rating up while driving around in a tank? Personally that is my kind of Sunday night.

What if you don’t feel like blowing up stuff in such a “Well, this is silly” kind of way? It seems that they’re offering you a chance to get into the cloak and daggers way of killing people with the most recent Hitman: Absolution. With a huge 75% off, it is at the small time price of £4.99. Now when you get a game for less than a fiver you must question it, but I feel that there is little to regret in buying a game that has been only on the shelves for less than six months and is now offered at a pretty decent price for what you are getting.

Believe me, you are getting enough for your money if not double! That game offers a lot of re-play ability and can be perfect for that weekend of boredom with the family around for Easter. Also, if you are a Planetside 2 player, you will notice that the fast expanding First Person MMO is now doing a Double Station Cash Weekend and that will last until Sunday 11:30PM  PDT, which is 7:30am for those in the UK on Monday Morning. All in all, it seems that Easter is looking up!