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Facebook buys Oculus VR for $2bn

Facebook buys Oculus VR for $2bn

The virtual reality headset has earned a great deal of interest from developers and both Oculus VR and Facebook want to bring it to a much larger audience.


Social networking giant Facebook has bought virtual reality pioneer Oculus VR for for $2bn.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that the company’s general direction with regards to gaming will remain unchanged by the acquisition but that he sees the virtual reality platform as a future method of global communication.

Oculus will operate independently within Facebook to meet its goals with regards to immersive gaming with Facebook only chipping in to throw its weight behind striking deals with more developers and publishers.

‘Oculus’s mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences,’ said Zuckerberg. ’After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court-side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face, just by putting on goggles in your home.’

Facebook intends to bring the virtual and augmented reality offered by the Oculus Rift into the lives of billions of people.

’Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together,’ added Zuckerberg.

In the last 18 months, the Oculus team has taken more than 75,000 orders for development kits and interest from developers has been high. In a statement from the Oculus VR team, they assure everyone that the Facebook and Oculus teams are very much on the same page with regards to the future and potential for the virtual reality platform.

In reaction to the news that Facebook had acquired Oculus VR, Minecraft developer Markus ‘Notch’ Persson and Oculus VR investor called a halt to plans to bring the open-world cube-rearranging game to the Oculus Rift, citing his uncertainty over Facebook’s motives and their historic instability as a platform as reasons.

’I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition,’[i] said Persson on his blog. [i]’I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook.’

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Microsoft warns of Word zero-day vulnerability

Microsoft warns of Word zero-day vulnerability

Microsoft Word’s handling of rich-text files (RTFs) has been found to have a serious code execution flaw which is under active attack, with no true patch yet available.


Microsoft has warned customers of an as-yet unpatched zero-day vulnerability in its Microsoft Word and Outlook packages, which is under active attack to take control of targeted systems.

The flaw, described in Security Advisory 2953095, relates to how both Word and Outlook deal with rich-text format (RTF) content. Typically safe from the malware and viruses that have plagued the company’s own .DOC format, ne’er-do-wells have discovered a means of embedded executable code within an RTF which is then run under the privilege level of the currently logged-in user when the file is opened in Word or automatically loaded in the preview pane of Outlook.

That latter functionality is what gives real cause for concern: because Outlook versions since 2007 automatically parse RTF content and display it in-line within the preview pane, users can be exploited simply by opening an email – bypassing the usual need for the user to manually open the attached file. This does, however, only work if the system is configured to use Microsoft Word as the email viewer.

At this time, we are aware of limited, targeted attacks directed at Microsoft Word 2010,‘ Microsoft’s Dustin Childs has confirmed in a statement to users. ‘We continue to work on a securityupdate to address this issue. We are monitoring the threat landscape very closely and will continue to take appropriate action to help protect our global customers.

Although the targeted attacks currently concentrate on Word 2010, Microsoft has confirmed that the flaw exists in Word 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2013 RT, Word Viewer, the Office Compatibility Pack, Office for Mac 2011, the Word Automation Services plugin for SharePoint Server 2010 and 2013, and Office Web Apps 2010 and 2013. The chances of anyone in an office environment not having one or more of the above installed, then, are slim – making this a serious issue.

Currently, there is no patch available. To keep users protected while a more permanent fix is developed, Microsoft has released a Fix It which disables the loading of RTF content into Microsoft Word – closing the hole, but also making it impossible to work with the cross-platform document standard until the flaw is fixed properly.

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Interview: London Evening Standard

Leto has made his entrance tonight in a black hooded coat, wielding a baseball bat; more LA drugs dealer than the politically engaged figure in an oversized bow tie he cut at the Oscars. With suitable drama, he throws off the jacket to expose the full glory of his rock Jesus look — shades, man-leggings, tunic skirt, sleeveless T-shirt — whereupon he unleashes his power-vocals on to his fans for two adrenaline-fuelled hours: jumping, grinding, sprinting and simultaneously flirting with what feels like every single member of the crowd. ‘I don’t dive into the mosh pit any more,’ he whispers to me on a break. ‘It’s the fastest way to lose your penis. And I’m proud to say mine is still intact.’

The show is part full-on rock extravaganza, part interactive Leto comedy routine. ‘Hey you,’ he cries into his mic. ‘Great mullet, man. That’s my next haircut. Business at the front. Party at the back.’ This culminates with a stage invasion and a mass selfie, his second of the week: the 42-year-old in a huddle of ecstatic Scandi teens.

It is curious, to some, that Hollywood’s man of the moment would disappear off in the vital afterglow of his Best Supporting Actor win to revel so intimately with the global masses. But then Leto doesn’t follow protocol. Six years before his return to film as Rayon, an HIV-positive, pre-operative transwoman in Dallas Buyers Club, he walked away from Hollywood to tour with his band despite consistent critical acclaim for his gritty, transformative roles. Leto has eschewed the blockbuster juggernaut to success in favour of the slow train, via occasional, challenging roles in the likes of Requiem for a DreamFight Cluband Panic Room. Plus, he has other commitments. He is not only a method actor and singer-songwriter, but a video and documentary producer-director, photographer, painter, businessman and activist. ‘I just follow my gut — as Andy Warhol said, “Labels are for cans not people,” ’ he tells me after the gig.

All this makes Leto a very busy man. After partying all night at the Oscars (‘It was pretty f***ing fantastic to see all those Hollywood dreamers letting loose with such abandon. I looked over and my mother was dancing with Madonna’), and taking a hangover hike to Malibu, he flew to Paris for meetings, the Miu Miu fashion show and more fun: his close friend the photographer Terry Richardson was in town and shot him for this magazine before Leto attended an obscure music awards in Finland, his every word and move pounced on by the global media.

Finally, at 1am, I am whisked past a line of deflated-looking groupies into his dressing room. They eye me up along the corridor, turning a pale shade of green.

‘I’m starting to come down off the week-long pink-cloud high now,’ he tells me, dishing me up some of his tomato soup and a vegetable curry (he is vegan). I can confirm that there is no beer backstage. And I’m a little disappointed that he’s come down from jacked-up flirting mode. Tonight Leto is more business at the front, party at the back.

We start sensible: he doesn’t seem the type, I say, to care about Hollywood accolades. ‘I don’t.’ He slumps down on a black leather sofa. ‘But I would never say, “I don’t give a shit about the Oscars,” because it’s not the whole truth. It’s not about the shiny, naked golden man, or the pat on the back, it’s about being able to stand on a world stage for two minutes in front of a billion people and say something that is meaningful, important to you.’ Leto name-checked his older brother, best friend and bandmate 44-year-old Shannon, his single mum, AIDS victims, outsiders in general, and those fighting for their dreams in Venezuela and Ukraine. ‘I could have really taken the piss. But I didn’t want to wing it with this one. I prepared. I wanted to keep it classy.’ By contrast, at the Independent Spirit Awards, he poked fun at the rumours that constantly trail him: by reputation he is a legendary lothario, recently linked with Lupita Nyong’o, Miley Cyrus and his ex-girlfriend Scarlett Johansson. He thanked ‘all the women I’ve been with, and all the women who think they’ve been with me’ as well as his ‘future ex-wife Lupita’. He tweeted selfies of the pair together in Paris, presumably to cause a stir. It has since been confirmed that they are not, in fact, dating.

At the Golden Globes he shared with Hollywood’s finest that he had waxed his entire body to play Rayon, but stopped short of a Brazilian and had not used prosthetics. What did he do with his male appendage, I ask now — strap it back? ‘A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. But, let’s just say, there are times when you’re not as prepared as you’d like to be…’ he answers cryptically, raising an eyebrow.

Leto seems to flit between composed, pale blue-eyed earnestness and cheeky provocation. ‘I thought about dragging up for the Oscars, going as Rayon, because I knew that she would have loved to be there,’ he says. ‘It’s so much work for girls to get ready. I was brought up by my mum, so I always had an appreciation of women. But now I have more respect for the process. It’s a lot, what women have to do to themselves. But in the end, when you put that final dash of lipstick on and your look all comes together, it really is a glorious reward.’

His sassy, fragile and very human portrayal of Rayon — ‘a hot mess’, as he calls her — and his thoughtful acceptance speech made Leto the true hero of Oscars night. The industry seems to have fallen for a man who, by playing the basic principles of hard-to-get, cannot be fully seduced by it. Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Oprah Winfrey all approached him with open arms on the night, Stevie Nicks gave him the necklace he is now wearing, Al Pacino has since ‘reached out’ — they are due to meet for coffee — and there have been several calls from the White House. ‘There are some exciting proposals. But I don’t know how much more I’m allowed to say. I probably need to clear it with the CIA first.’ Leto is a vociferous Obama supporter and raised funds for the 2008 re-election campaign. He has protested against California’s Proposition 8, which aimed to overturn same-sex marriage, and raised money for Haitian Relief as well as human rights and environmental charities.

I wonder if he is considering another career, in politics. ‘My mum was a teenager when she had us; she used food stamps to feed us, she got helped by social services to go back to school and train as a nurse to try to give her kids some stability. So if I can help or be of service in any way…’ he says. ‘But you know what? I’m too impatient. I’d probably swear in a speech. As George Clooney says, “I’ve f***ed too many chicks and done too many drugs to be in politics.” ’

It’s hard to reconcile Leto the wild front man with the committed method actor who performs extreme feats of self-remoulding in order to morph into his dark, outsider roles. The road to this is more lonely and torturous. During filming for Dallas Buyers Club, Leto only ever appeared on set as Rayon, not ‘meeting’ his co-star Matthew McConaughey or the other actors until after they had wrapped. He even donned lipstick and a pink fluffy jumper and flirted his arse off for his first Skype meeting with director Jean-Marc Vallée. ‘Maybe if I was making romantic comedies, there’d be more immediate silliness, more hanging out in each other’s trailers,’ he tells me. ‘I’ve never really had the kind of joy I experience with the band on set, but then I’m not really looking for that.’

Leto likens his process to ‘being a sculptor’. He lost two stone, lived rough on the streets and abstained from sex with his then girlfriend Cameron Diaz to become the drug-addicted Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream in 2000. He force-fed himself into obesity, putting on five stone to accurately portray John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27 in 2007, for which he eventually suffered gout and was temporarily confined to a wheelchair (take that, Shia LaBeouf). In Mr Nobody, he underwent six hours of make-up to play a decrepit 118-year-old. Like his character Angel Face in Fight Club, who is happily freed from the prison of handsomeness when he is beaten to a pulp and permanently disfigured, Leto appears to make an effort to mask the pretty-boy looks for which, in 1994, he was cast in teen series My So-Called Life. But there is more to this, I say, something self-destructive…

‘All my roles are masochistic or… sadistic.’ His eyes flash with naughtiness. ‘Is that going to be your headline? “Jared Leto: masochist or sadist? You decide.” ’ The sexual edges of this theme can be found in his music. The SM-themed video for ‘Hurricane’, which he directed in 2007, was censored by MTV, and in ‘End of All Days’, on his new album Love Lust Faith + Dreams, he sings: ‘I punish you with pleasure, I pleasure you with pain…’

‘I have very strong self-control. There is something very seductive about it,’ he admits when we discuss his crash, three-stone weight loss for Rayon, during which the slight actor virtually stopped eating. (He used to go to the supermarket just to stare at the food.) ‘I got to understand the mentality of an eating disorder. There are the highs of losing more weight; there’s a rush of endorphins associated with that control. When you have made a severe commitment to losing weight, there is a lot of shame and guilt around eating again. I really suffered that, it’s not a nice feeling…’ But Leto found solace in self-exploration. ‘The process can be very monk-like — there is a history of people who have fasted to achieve enlightenment. There is something in that, getting to know who you are. It changed me.’

I ask him if it was easier to get into the feminine headspace because he was so close to his mum growing up. Was there already a dash of oestrogen in him? ‘Oestrogen?’ He laughs, a little offended. ‘I guess you haven’t heard all the rumours… No, I became a detective, I met with transgendered people, I asked questions: “What was it like to tell your parents?” “What’s it like to be judged?” ’ He experienced this when he first dragged-up and went into Whole Foods. ‘You don’t have to desire the surgery to have your penis cut off, but you do have to understand it. We all have issues with our identity, or know what it’s like not to belong.’

Leto grew up an outsider. His father left after he was born, and Leto never saw him again. (He committed suicide when Leto was eight.) Leto’s teenage mother and the boys eventually fled Louisiana, where they lived with her Cajun parents in a one-bedroom house, to join the hippie movement. They lived in communes, mixed with artists and musicians, and moved around a lot — from Wyoming to Virginia, Colorado, Alaska, Brazil and Haiti — constantly having to make new friends and reinvent themselves. It’s hard to pin Leto down on all of this. He prefers to keep an air of apocryphal mystique. At one point, when we talk about his forefathers, he says that most of his family ‘were probably all in prison’.

Leto grew up wanting to be either a drugs dealer or an artist. At 16, he dropped out of school, before returning to another in Washington. The Leto boys were wild and unruly; they dabbled with drugs, broke into offices and warehouses to steal booze and motorbikes: ‘Other kids went to summer camp; we stole your car.’ Leto steered himself out of the nosedive when he got into college in Philadelphia to study art, and later on to a film course at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The creative focus was his salvation. Meanwhile, Shannon descended further into drug addiction, car-jacking and trouble with the police — the kind of downward spiral that Leto brutally documents in Requiem for a Dream.

But when he moved to LA to pursue a career in music (he says acting was merely a day job to pay the rent), Shannon joined him and they formed the band in 1998. ‘Music saved his life. It was either that or prison. It saved both of us really. Shannon started drumming on pots and pans from an early age; I played a broken, second-hand piano.’

Life on the road with his brother is, after all, what Leto grew up with; it satisfies his constant need for adventure, newness, change. (Thirty Seconds to Mars recently set a Guinness World Record for the most tour dates, 309, on one album cycle.)

Now in his forties, Leto still looks and acts at least a decade younger. There are no plans to stop touring now that, after years of graft, the band has achieved global recognition: Love Lust Faith + Dreams has sold ten million copies and their shows are mainly sold out. ‘We don’t give a shit about our ages. We’re not worrying about that. There are no rules,’ he tells me. And what if he met some girl he wanted to settle down with? ‘Then she’d better have a passport… look at the Rolling Stones, they just keep on going. Maybe me and my brother will be shaking it up there in our sixties. Who knows? Or maybe I’ll just walk away.’

He is even more freewheeling about his future film plans. He’d like to direct a long-form narrative, he says. He has already won multiple MTV awards for Thirty Seconds to Mars’ videos, and a People’s Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival for his 2012 documentary Artifact. This charted the creation of the band’s album This is War and their battle in 2008 with their record label EMI, which sued them for $30 million following a dispute over royalties when, after a tour and successful album, the band found themselves millions of dollars in debt. (The case was eventually dropped.)

For now, however, Leto’s eye is set firmly on his tour schedule. His devotion to his band is almost religious. Next up is Russia, followed by Ukraine. ‘I read that they censored my speech in Russia. They cut what I said about Ukraine. But I’m fully intending to sing ‘This is War’ there.’ Leto usually accompanies the song’s lyrics ‘To fight, to fight, to fight!’ with rampant flag-waving and air fist-pumping. ‘Shit could go down. We’ve already heard some things on the ground that are concerning. Through the band, we are really engaged with young voices all over the world through our social network feeds. I’ve learned so much travelling the world these past six years, it’s changed me. It’s made me a better actor…’

More than anything, Leto is fighting exhaustion now. His eyes are glassy, like marbles, and slowly starting to shut. He only has a few hours to pack and get on a flight to Belarus. He reverts to his humble Academy Awards speech mode, and thanks me for the interview. ‘I’m sorry but I really need to crash,’ he croaks gently.

It looks like Jared Leto’s Oscars week has officially come to an end.

Article source: http://jaredleto.com/thisiswhoireallyam/2014/03/20/interview-london-evening-standard/

Scuba diving trumps surfing on Saturn’s Titan moon

These would be considered rough waters on Titan.


(Credit:
NASA/Steven Hobbs)

There was a lot of hubbub this week among space geeks about the first spotting of waves on the freaky methane lakes that cover much of Titan, perhaps the most Earth-like spot outside of the real deal in our solar system. But it’s still waaay premature to pack up your space wetsuit and start nagging NASA or Elon Musk to hitch a ride beyond the asteroid belt.

Saturn’s spooky moon has a planet-like atmosphere and liquid covering much of its surface, making it one of the most likely nearby places to harbor (probably very weird) alien life. But while Titan shares a number of Earth-like characteristics such as its craggy peaks, running rivers, and even thunderstorms, it doesn’t appear to have strong enough winds to whip up methane waves on its large lakes.

At least, we haven’t been able to see them during the time we’ve been looking closer with the Cassini spacecraft, which has been cruising around above Saturn and Titan for years now. But as we learned last year, things could be shifting on Titan as the longer seasonal cycle on the moon is finally bringing summer to its lake-filled northern half for the first time since we’ve been watching closely.

Some astronomers think winds and surf season could be in full effect by 2017, so there was plenty of excitement earlier this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference outside of Dallas where researchers discussed measurements of Titan’s surface that seem to hint at the presence of waves, according to Nature.

At least that’s the way the headlines put it this week.

Read further on, however, and the story is that the images taken by Cassini between 2012 and 2013 showed something abnormal on the surface of Punga Mare that could be waves or more accurately, ripples, given that the disturbances were calculated to be no more than a few centimeters high.

“Titan may be beginning to stir,” Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told the conference. “Oceanography is no longer just an Earth science.”

If the stirrings continue to increase, we could get to witness some very interesting activity on Titan, hopefully before Cassini is scheduled to hurl itself into Saturn’s atmosphere in 2017.

In the meantime, however, Titan still has the smoothest sailing in the solar system. The latest radar measurements, published earlier this month online in Geophysical Research Letters, find that Titan’s second-largest lake, Ligeia Mare, “possesses a mirror-like smoothness.”

“If you could look out on this sea, it would be really still. It would just be a totally glassy surface,” Howard Zebker, professor of geophysics and electrical engineering at Stanford, said in a release.

Zebker also suggests that the lack of motion in Titan’s ocean could be due to something else, like a more viscous topping on the lake surface.

“For example, on Earth, if you put oil on top of a sea, you suppress a lot of small waves,” he said.

His team’s research also determined the depth of Ligeia Mare, which it found to be nearly 500 feet deep in at least one spot.

So maybe it makes more sense to plan a scuba diving vacation on Titan than a surfing excursion. Either way, you can get a feel for the exotic locale in this modeled fly-over:

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Kaffe qif qiya! Finally, a course to help kids learn Dothraki

Completely appropriate for children, the Muzzy Dothraki language program will have your kids running their own khalasar in no time!


(Credit:
Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET)

Hey kids! Have you ever wanted to learn how to say “I will dance in your blood?” in the Dothraki language made popular on “Game of Thrones”? Parents, do you want to arm your kids with vital language skills in a world that’s increasingly being taken over by strange terms like “Valyrian steel,” and “mother of dragons?” If so, video-spoof-making team Nacho Punch has got just the thing for you.

Their latest YouTube parody takes a 1990s commercial for a video set that teaches kids to learn a foreign language by following along with the slightly creepy character “Muzzy,” and melds it with the fantasy world of “Game of Thrones.”

“With this unique language course,” the video says, “humans, giants and even bastards can learn a second language with incredible ease.” The course isn’t just for wannabe Dothraki speakers either. It also offers lessons in Valyrian, Hodor and White Walker.

The cost for the set of “four delightful videos” is a deal too: just three petrified dragon eggs, or 20 gold pieces a month for six months.

Even though the video is a spoof, such a language-learning set for Dothraki isn’t really that crazy. The language actually exists. It was created by David Peterson, who won a contest sponsored by the Language Creation Society to invent the vocabulary and grammar for the HBO show. It has more than 3,000 words and a Web site that tells you all you’d ever really want to know about speaking the language.

The Muzzy/Dothraki mashup is just one of the latest in a long line of Nacho Punch short animations like “Star Wars: The Lost 1980s Anime,” humorous series like “Robin Banks and the Bank Roberts,” and spoof videos like “Hipsters Love Beer,” which went viral after it was released in January, according to the Nacho Punch peeps.

So act soon to reserve a Dothraki Muzzy language course for your kids, because you never know when they’ll need to talk their way out a tricky situation with a nomadic horde at school. And Qafak qov kaffe qif qiya fini kaf faqqies fakaya! (That means, “The trembling questioner crushed the bleeding boar that squished a kicking corn bunting,” but I’m still learning, so give me a break.)

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Unreal Engine 4 subscription model announced by Epic

Unreal Engine 4 subscription model announced by Epic

Epic Games announced the engine’s subscription model during its GDC press conference.


Epic Games has released its Unreal Engine 4 on a subscription bases for developers.

Previously only available to be licensed for millions of dollars, the popular engine will be accessible for $19 a month with a flat 5% royalty fee payable on any game sales on products powered by the engine.

The subscription will grant access to the full C++ source code which will be downloadable from GitHub and developers will be able to create games for PC, Mac, iOS and Android systems. Console support has not been included in the initial release but may come later depending on the deals Epic can strike with Microsoft and Sony.

The move aims to bring Unreal Engine to a much wider audience whereas before it was only viable to the largest triple-A developers and publishers.

‘We’re rethinking our whole business in how we make Unreal Engine available to individuals and to teams,’ said Epic Games co-founder and chief executive Tim Sweeney talking at GDC. ‘This is a bold new step for Epic, but we think it’s an appropriate one given the new size of the games industry. It’s grown into a very open one, where absolutely anyone can develop a game and ship it.’

Developers are not required to sign up for any fixed term for the subscription and are welcome to drop in and out. A cancelled subscription will mean developers can still access the development tools but just won’t receive any of the updates from Epic.

Epic warns that Unreal Engine 4 requires a significantly powerful desktop computer, and is also still rough round the edges. Anyone expecting a more polished product is asked to ‘check back in 6 months’.

Check out the Unreal Engine 4 in action below.

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Akasa Tesla H Review

Akasa Tesla H Review

Manufacturer: Akasa
UK price (as reviewed): £56.26 (inc VAT) or £72 including power adaptor
US price (as reviewed): N/A
Preferred Partner Price: £56.26 (inc VAT)

Mini computing is certainly in Intel’s sights at the moment with it continuing to push its Next Unit of Computing embedded motherboards. Now in their fourth generation, the latest models are far more potent than those in the first generation (you can see here our review of the Haswell Core i5-based D54250WYB). They also now sport plenty of USB 3.0 connectivity plus SATA ports, so the scope to use a NUC as an HTPC, low-power PC or server is as strong as ever.

As we saw with the Tranquil PC Abel H2-5 NUC PC, it’s also entirely possible to house these diminutive boards in fanless cases too. The Abel H2-5 was a solid lump of aluminium, and while it was attractive, cooling-wise it’s surface area was actually fairly small, although it did just about keep pace with the temperatures, even in an enclosed space.

We’ve looked at several of Akasa’s fanless cases over the last 12 months or so, and they include both mini-ITX and NUC variants. The Tesla H is it’s latest model that is designed specifically for the D54250WYB and D34010WYB NUC motherboards. It’s a little longer than the Tranquil PC Abel H2-5 at 240mm but is just 48mm high and includes a much more elaborate array of heatsinks.

Akasa Tesla H Review
It’s extremely well-machined and feels very solid. The sides and top are riddled with small heatsinks to increase the surface area – there’s considerably more on offer here than the Abel H2-5 too.

Akasa Tesla H Review Akasa Tesla H Review
Akasa is gradually ramping up the external features of these fanless cases and there’s now a headphone jack in addition to two USB 3.0 ports and an IR port. Additional bits that could really make the difference here for the HTPC fraternity are things like a slimline optical bay – with a SATA port now included on the NUC, there’s plenty of possibilities here too.

Akasa Tesla H Review
The underside is fairly featureless as it’s a fanless case so there’s no need for dust filters. However, there are four VESA mount ports so you can secure the case to compatible monitors – highly useful for street-side businesses and offices where tower PCs or even net tops can get in the way. The rear of the case sports three antenna holes for WiFi modules plus a Kensington lock and two serial port openings as well as the standard D54250WYB board ports such as mini HDMI and Ethernet.

Akasa Tesla H Review Akasa Tesla H Review
As we saw with the Abel H2-5, some measures are being taken to deal with overheating mSATA SSDs. Akasa’s method isn’t quite as elegant but it will do the job courtesy of large thermal pads that connect the SSD to the base of the case, with the motherboard being mounted with the CPU attached to the heatsink-clad roof.

Akasa Tesla H Review Akasa Tesla H Review
The motherboard is screwed into place using standoffs, with a long strip running down the inside to make direct contact with the CPU. It’s a very easy installation, just requiring the use of thermal paste and four screws. Cables include a headphone jack to connect the on-board sound to the external minijack, power and LED connectors as per normal for a case, plus two USB 3.0 male connectors to use two of the board’s USB 3.0 ports for the front panel.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 240 x 150 x 48 (W x D x H)
  • Material Aluminium
  • Available colours Black
  • Weight 1.2kg
  • Front panel 2 x USB 3, Power, headphone minijack
  • Drive bays 2 x 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) Intel NUC D54250WYB or D34010WYB
  • Cooling passive radiator (CPU)
  • Extras VESA mounting holes, thermal paste, 120W external power adaptor (more expensive model)

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Crytek to add AMD Mantle support to CryEngine

Crytek to add AMD Mantle support to CryEngine

Upcoming game Star Citizen is based on CryEngine 4.


AMD has announced it has partnered with Crytek to add Mantle support to the game developer’s game engine, CryEngine.

CryEngine is used both in Crytek’s own games like Crysis as well as in several third party titles such as the recently released Ryse: Son of Rome and the highly anticipated upcoming space exploration game, Star Citizen. With support at the engine level the performance enhancements of Mantle should be very easy to integrate into these games.

Although originally billed as a boon for owners of AMD graphics cards, Mantle has proved largely to be an advantage on the CPU side, easing situations where a system is CPU bottlenecked. Nonetheless performance enhancements can also be found for high-end systems running both powerful CPUs and GPUs, with games such as Battlefield 4 and Thief seeing around 5-10fps improvements with Mantle enhancements.

Announcing the deal, Ritche Corpus, director of ISV gaming and alliances, AMD said, “AMD is delighted to bring Mantle support to the enormous audience of gamers and game developers reached by Crytek’s CRYENGINE.”

“Together, AMD and Crytek are forging a path for the graphics industry that better utilises gamers’ advanced AMD GPUs through ‘closer-to-the-metal’ API design, ” he continued.

Crytek’s Founder, CEO President, Cevat Yerli, also added that “Crytek prides itself on enabling CRYENGINE with the latest and most impressive rendering capabilities. By integrating AMD’s new Mantle API, CRYENGINE will gain a dimension of ‘lower level’ hardware access that enables extraordinary efficiency, performance and hardware control.”

There is no word yet on when the integration will be completed so it could still be some way off.

AMD Evolved adds three new partners

In other AMD news, the company has announced it is working with three new partners in its Gaming Evolved developer relations program. These are Rebellion Development (sniper Elite III), Square Enix (Murdered: Soul Suspect) and Xaviant (Lichdom).

Each of the companies has made a slightly different commitment to the program with Rebellion Development signing up to use AMD Mantle in its’ upcoming game Sniper Elite III, Square Enix outlining no specific commitments and Xaviant lining up to use AMD’s TressFX and TrueAudio technologies.

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I backed ‘Veronica Mars,’ but DRM is hobbling my reward

Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars, ready to snark her way back into your heart.


(Credit:
Veronica Mars)

When I heard the “Veronica Mars” movie was up on Kickstarter, I ran over to the crowdfunding site and elatedly flung my $35 pledge at the project. Along with 91,584 other people, I helped raise $5.7 million to fund the film. This past Friday, it was officially released into theaters. My town of Albuquerque, N.M., however, was not on the theater list. But, never fear, my pledge included a digital copy of the film.

My official Kickstarter email arrived, with a link to a Digital Ultraviolet version of the film, accessed through the Flixter streaming video service. Cool. So, I went through the sign-up, got a Flixster and Digital Ultraviolet account, and settled in to watch it stream. It started to load. Then, it stopped.

I got this message, like a stab in my crowdfunding heart: “Your screen configuration does not support protected playback.” Huh? I went to the FAQ for explanation and discovered my dual-monitor desktop setup violates Flixster’s DRM restrictions. I wonder if Flixster thinks dual monitors are a gateway to pirating activities.

If I had ever tried to use Flixster before, I would have been aware of this ban on dual monitors, but I had to meet the ugly truth while in a “Veronica Mars” fever of fan fervor, which quickly slapped a big cold damper on my excitement. There are ways around the issue. I ended up downloading the Flixster app to my computer and running the movie from there. I could have switched to my laptop. Really, I just wanted the convenience of streaming my reward right then and there.

I’m not the only person who tripped over a Flixster-shaped “Veronica Mars” stumbling block. Other backers have reported issues with Flixster working with Roku boxes, along with a lack of Flixster support for
Apple TV. The result was a number of upset comments on the Kickstarter update page. Backer Sarah Zaslow wrote, “I am beyond angry that I had to use Flixster to get my digital download.”

There is a bit of a happy ending to all this. An official Kickstarter backer update arrived with an explanation and a way around the whole Flixster thing. First, the explanation: “In the end, Flixster was the best option for getting the digital movie reward out to all of you, worldwide, at the same time.”

Now, the options: “We understand that some of you prefer other platforms or services for watching digital content. If you contact our Customer Support team, they can help.” If you complain and share your technical issues with Warner Bros. customer support, you get the option to buy the movie on a service of your choice and get a refund for the purchase price.

After all this, am I down on “Veronica Mars?” No. The project has done so much right, I’m not going to torpedo the whole thing just because of the ill-advised method of doling out the digital copies. We didn’t get a “too bad, tough luck” answer to complaints, we got a work-around. It’s not ideal, but it gets you the movie on your terms.

The larger issue here is the ongoing weirdness with DRM efforts. Flixster’s DRM prevented me, a legitimate backer, from streaming the movie in my browser. If you head over to the Pirate Bay, you’ll see “Veronica Mars” sitting near the top of the current Top-100 movies list. Annoying me and plenty of other people with overzealous DRM hasn’t done anything to prevent the spread of the movie through illicit means. It won’t keep me from backing other Kickstarter films, but I hope future projects will have the faith to offer a DRM-free download.

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Evidence of the Big Bang found in a cosmic ‘double rainbow’

It might not look like much, but this is the evidence of where we came from.


(Credit:
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

While you were thinking about where you’ll be spending St. Patrick’s Day on Monday night, the hard-working folks at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics were sharing the first direct evidence of a concept first put forward by Albert Einstein almost a century ago that helps explain where we — and everything else in the universe — come from.

If your list of to-dos and projects doesn’t suddenly seem a little less impressive by comparsion, then congratulations! You’re a narcissist.

If you want to cut right to it, scientists have spotted the remnants of the until-now-theorized massive, mind-melting exponential expansion of the universe that occurred in the one trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. This evidence comes in the form of gravitational waves that Einstein predicted back in 1916 as part of his theory of general relativity.

These waves, also often described as “ripples in space-time,” were detected using a specialized instrument located at the South Pole called BICEP 2 that basically stares into the vast nothingness of space and measures the polarization of the faint background radiation believed to be left over from the Big Bang.

“Our team hunted for a special type of polarization called ‘B-modes,’ which represents a twisting or ‘curl’ pattern in the polarized orientations of the ancient light,” co-leader Jamie Bock of the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Lab said in a release.

To think of it another way, imagine being able to spot and measure the subtle difference between the two arcs of the most crazy full-on double rainbow ever, which just happens to be left over from the super-intense thunderstorm that created the universe.

If you’re still thinking this isn’t a big deal, consider that there’s already plenty of chatter about a Nobel Prize for what’s just been announced. And, of far greater existential importance, consider where these gravitational waves come from. If they were generated by an event during which the entire universe suddenly burst forth from a point that was smaller than an atom, that means the waves we now have evidence for not only originate from the beginning of space and time, but also from a moment in which quantum mechanics (the branch of physics that describes how things work at a sub-atomic scale) and general relativity (which deals with the universe at a much larger scale) must have been working together at the same scale.

In other words, further study of gravitational waves could help resolve the conflicts between relativity and quantum physics you may have heard other physics geeks talk about — it’s sometimes described as a “theory of everything.”

At a press conference on Monday, researchers from the team involved in the discovery also pointed to the potential for further research into gravitational waves and the intense cosmic inflation that occurred after the Big Bang to create a “new regime of physics” that could provide new insight into “what is possible at extremely high energies.”

“This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar,” said co-leader Clem Pryke of the University of Minnesota.

There is, of course, the possibility that this research doesn’t hold up under the heightened scrutiny it’s bound to face in the coming weeks and months, but for the moment, everyone involved seems pretty confident. For a quick visual primer on the discovery, check out the video below.

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