October 20, 2019 - Episode 540 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Google has given up its Daydream, Blizzard is giving up their loyalty, and tech companies may no longer give up your data.

Overclocking Your Computing Device - Episode 207 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch talks about how and why to overclock your computing device. So, what is overclocking? It is the process of changing the operating parameters of a component to increase its performance. While the main CPU is the most common to overclock, you can also overclock your graphics card, or GPU, and your RAM.

While not long ago the process of overclocking was difficult enough that only computer aficionados got involved, today it can be as easy as changing a setting in a text file or your system BIOS. It does require that your hardware be overclockable, better known as unlocked. For an Intel processor, just make sure that the model number ends in a K. Modern AMD processors are all unlocked, as are Raspberry Pi processors.

Why might you want to overclock your components, though? For some, it can just be a fun challenge. Some people take it to extremes. There are competitions and professional overclockers who can use liquid nitrogen to pull out every drop of performance. But, for normal computer users, overclocking could potentially add some life to older hardware. Maybe your PC is getting a little slow, you've done a full reset, but it's just not quite enough. By overclocking your processor, you might be able to bring that device back to life.

Many people wonder why overclocking is needed. Why not just run the component at its full potential out of the box? Because every device is unique, manufacturers cannot predict the maximum potential of each component. So, rather than trying to tune each processor or stick of RAM individually, the manufacturers find the least common denominator and tune for that. That does, however, leave some headroom that you can take advantage of. Overclocking can also affect the overall lifespan of your components.

Is phone-based VR finally dead? Google and Samsung think so.

At the resurgence of virtual reality in this decade, many companies saw using your phone and its screen as the basis for VR systems as the best solution. Samsung and Oculus built the Gear VR platform. Google created the Cardboard and then the Daydream platforms. A variety of other companies, including Monster, got into the game. All of these used your phone as the center of the VR experience, rather than creating dedicated VR hardware.

The problem with this approach is that consumers seemed unwilling to care. Outside of educational venues or corporate demos, I never saw a Google Daydream in the wild. Samsung was so desperate to make the platform work, they gave Gear VR headsets away with a Galaxy S8 purchase, and owners didn't request their free hardware. In response, Samsung didn't even make the 10 series, the Galaxy S10 and the Note 10, compatible with their Gear VR headsets.

Following suit, Google announced this week that the Google Daydream View hardware had taken the eternal nap. The dumb headset, as it were, was launched in 2016 and featured VR lenses and nothing more. Visually, it was probably the best recognized of the headset hardware, as it featured the strange grey fabric on the outside. However, being recognizable does not make you successful.

With this move, the era of dumb headsets and phone-based VR is all but dead. Sure, the existing hardware is still out there, both from Samsung and Google, but with no new hardware development, there is little chance that developers will put any effort into supporting these systems. So, during any software overhaul, you can expect Daydream and Gear VR support to be dropped. Hulu, as part of their UI overhaul last month, already dropped support for Daydream, beating Google to the punch.

So, with that, the failed experiment has completed. If you want to use VR going forward, you will need to use dedicated VR hardware. Fortunately, we have standalone platforms like Oculus Go, which will allow you to use VR without a computer, just like Daydream and Gear VR did.

September 29, 2019 - Episode 539 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Apple's phones can be broken, Microsoft's streaming can be tested, and Google's news results can't be previewed.

Science Experiments in Tech - Episode 206 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses a pair of interesting science experiments that have been conducted by Tom's Hardware over the past few weeks. The first involves the publication's favorite tech gadgets: the Raspberry Pi. The site has done a lot of projects using the board, but this one was unique. Rather than building something with it, they waterproofed it and used it completely submerged underwater. The result is accomplished by dipping the board into a bath of a chemical called CorrosionX. This chemical is incredibly toxic and should be used with care.

From a usefulness perspective, this project probably doesn't rank high for most consumers. However, there are some real-world applications. Raspberry Pi boards are used in a lot of robotic applications, and robots can get themselves into potentially damaging situations, completely outside of their control. Even if the case is already waterproof, adding this process on top of the case can protect the board in the event the case is damaged. Think of a product like a Roomba where the electronics could be protected from moisture even if the body is damaged.

The second experiment, which will be published this week, involved AMD, Intel, and pancakes. It's common knowledge that a computer CPU gets hot, and the chips have been used to cook before, but Tom's Hardware decided to test which manufacturer cooks better. They used comparable processors, one from Intel and one from AMD, and removed their processor fans. Adding thermal compound to a skillet, they placed it over the processor and ran a test to kick the processor to 100%. While both have similar operating temperatures, the Intel processor continued to run through the heat while the AMD Threadripper turned off for protection.

Again, the usefulness of the test is probably pretty low, but it is an interesting experiment. From a results perspective, it's important to know that an Intel processor will continue to run without proper heat dissipation. If you're building a computer and need it to keep running in extreme heat, potentially to the detriment of the hardware, Intel would be a good choice. If you're looking for a system with a strong self-preservation instinct, AMD might be the better choice.

Coinbask makes investing in cryptocurrencies easier and safer (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

It's hard to believe that it's been a decade since the original whitepaper describing Bitcoin was first released. In the last ten years, the technology has grown from a concept to a global household name. However, the adoption of cryptocurrency technology in the mainstream has been somewhere between slow and non-existent. While there are many reasons why this is the case, the two primary issues involve ease of use and breadth of choices. Coinbask is working to address both of these issues.

First, there are a lot of coins available on the market. How do you choose which ones to buy? If you want to buy a variety to diversify your portfolio, how do you do it and how do you manage the whole collection? That is the point of the basket aspect of Coinbask. By purchasing a tokenized basket of currency, you get the ability to invest in a collection of coins. A more diverse portfolio can mean you can absorb the loss of a volatile coin's price fluctuation.

Second, interacting with cryptocurrency isn't easy. Each platform can require a separate wallet, making the management of a diverse portfolio difficult. With Coinbask, you only need a single wallet to buy and sell a basket. Plus, the process of buying and selling is peer-to-peer, meaning you don't have to wait for hours or days for a transaction to complete. It also means that the process is more secure because you don't have to move your coins from a private wallet to a public wallet, through an exchange to sell, only to be reversed on the other side.

Coinbask is currently in early access and the company is looking for testers. If you want more information on the platform, or want to sign up for early access, head over to the website.

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BinoViz is building technology to expand the reach of human vision (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

Vision is a tricky thing. We usually think of it as a constant, where everyone sees the same thing the same way. However, the reality of vision is that many people see things differently. One of the biggest differences is caused by color blindness, which causes people to not be able to distinguish between two colors. Red-green color blindness alone is present in 1 in 12 males. Despite this high percentage of the problem, we still use color as a primary part of daily life. BinoViz is building technology to help people who see colors differently differentiate colors.

The company has developed the first Binocular Video Tone Mapping (BVTM) framework, which takes advantage of the way the brain fuses paired images into a single visual. By using this technology, which is similar to how movies produce a modern 3D visual, they can extend the range of color that is perceivable. For those with color issues, it can produce a different contrast to the colors that are presented, allowing them to determine the difference between red and green, or blue and green, and the colors produced by combining them with others. For those who see colors normally, it does not negatively impact the visual.

The company is starting with the entertainment industry, as it affords the most opportunity to apply color technology. Nowhere else do we see as many varying colors in such a short period, and nowhere does color have such a huge impact. Think of the movie Avatar, which revolves around blue people on a green planet. For someone who cannot distinguish blue from green, the movie didn't get exciting until everything caught fire, introducing red. But, by introducing a new level of contrast, even these people can enjoy the film.

To learn more about BinoViz, check out their website.

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A new iPhone jailbreak is unpatchable on all affected devices

It is not unusual for companies to discover software vulnerabilities. The thing that makes software great is that it can be patched if an issue is discovered so that the issue can be mitigated. However, a hardware-level vulnerability is far less common and even harder to repair. This is the situation that Apple has found itself in, as a hardware-level vulnerability has been discovered and actively exploited in a wide range of iPhones.

Devices sporting the Apple A5 through A11 processors, meaning the iPhone 4S through the iPhone X and a variety of iPads, are vulnerable to this issue, dubbed checkm8. The issue involves the devices' bootloader, which is the mobile equivalent of a desktop computer's BIOS. Unlike a BIOS, an Apple bootloader is not able to be updated, which means that the exploit is permanent and unfixable. This means that it exists in the wild on these devices forever.

The issue was reported and exploited by Twitter user axi0mX, along with an open-source project to take advantage of the exploit. While the majority of the issues are simply going to annoy Apple, some of them are legitimate problems. On the casual side, iPhones are now able to run operating systems other than Apple's iOS, including Android. Through this new feature, d potentially breathe new life into older devices. For example, the iPhone 4S maxes out at iOS 9, but the hardware could potentially support far newer Android builds especially Android Go.

On the negative side, however, is the potential for security issues. With access to the bootloader, it is possible that some personal data on the device could be vulnerable. Of course, this means that the hacker would require physical access to the device, but it is still possible. The need to have access to the device could potentially reignite a mostly dead market of stolen phones.

EMOTAI is using biofeedback to improve competitive videogaming (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

Over the past few years, the technology behind brain tracking has gotten better. As the tech has improved, the usage has gone from toys and gimmicks to real-world problem-solving. We have seen drones controlled by thoughts and we've seen dream and mood analysis technology come to market. Now, the technology is being applied to videogame performance by tracking response during gameplay, thanks to EMOTAI.

This team of biomedical engineers came together to use biofeedback to analyze and improve performance for professional and semi-pro competitive gamers. Using a headband with 5 sensors and screen scraping on the videogame, the company can determine the gamer's mental state during each phase of gameplay. By combining this data with artificial intelligence, the system is also able to make determinations to help improve your state during those situations.

The prototype that Carolina Amorim, the CEO of EMOTAI, brought with her is similar to the hardware that will come to market next year, with one major difference. Heart rate is being moved from an ear clip to the forehead so that the device does not add any additional issues to your gameplay. With an ear clip, it could get in the way of headphones, which are essential to competitive gameplay.

While the technology is currently being applied to videogames, the company is aware that it could be adapted to other areas as well. Some of the industries that have been interested in their technology have been professional sports and racing. Bringing the tech to new industries would require a new set of AI training, but it is on the roadmap for the future.

If you are interested in getting your hands on the EMOTAI headband, they will be offering a preorder opportunity with hardware set to launch in 2020. To get more information or to sign up for notifications about the preorder process, head over to their website.

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Assister is making software assistants easier and safer for all (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

For software developers today, if they want to integrate an assistant into their products, they either have to rely on a third-party service, integrate with a general-purpose solution like Siri or Cortana, or limit themselves to the low value add features like FAQs and basic questions. But most developers want more capability - they want the strength of a full-featured system, with the nuance of their software. That is where Assister comes into play.

This system is designed to help software developers implement a natural language assistant into their products without having to spend the incredible amount of time and resources to build the technology themselves. What that means is that they can allow their users to ask questions or, more interestingly, pose complex challenges, in the same way they would ask another person. Imagine if your bank allowed you to ask the app, "How much money have I spent on tacos this month?" instead of looking at a list and filtering by transaction type. Or how about being able to ask Facebook messenger, "When was the last time I talked with Michele?" rather than trying to find her on your conversation list. All of this and more is possible through Assister.

Most importantly, this technology can live within the company's platform. This means that there is no need to transfer data between systems. If the bank were to integrate that question into Siri, it would require them to give Apple the answer to the question to display on your screen. By keeping everything housed within the platform, developers no longer have to share critical information with third parties, protecting your privacy and theirs.

For more information about Assister, or to get a demo of the platform, check out the company's website.

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