ASRock's X299 OC Formula Targets Professional Overclockers

Asrock’s latest motherboard offering is designed specifically for overclockers. The company proudly claimed that the X299 OC Formula was “BORN TO BREAK THE LIMITS” (in all caps).

According to a press release from the company, this motherboard was designed for overclocking by professional overclocker, Nick Shih:

Unlike other motherboards that are designed by engineers who don’t have adequate experience in extreme overclocking or have never participated in an OC event, X299 OC Formula is the only motherboard in the market that is designed by a genuine overclocker, Nick Shih, who is hands down one of the most talented overclockers alive. ASRock is confident to say that X299 OC Formula is ideally focused on overclocking exclusively, without any other useless features, designs or gimmicks.

This motherboard supports Intel’s Core X-Series LGA 2066 processors and is equipped with four DIMM slots with quad-channel memory support up to 4,600+ OC. The steel-reinforced PCI-E slots support four-way SLI or CrossFire graphics card configurations as well as 7.1 channel HD audio with gold audio jacks. This motherboard also features an eight-layer PCB with 2oz of pure copper, a 13-power-phase design, dual Intel Ethernet ports, and a BIOS flashback button.

Overclocking features include a built-in LN2 switch that disables the CPU’s thermal protection and a bank of four DIP switches that allow you to disable individual PCIe slots. Additionally, Asrock has included a “retry” button that forces your system to reboot with the same BIOS settings and a “BFG button” that forces the system to boot with default settings but retains your previous BIOS settings if you hold the button down during the power cycle.  

The Asrock X299 OC Formula is outfitted with an additional external base clock generator that supports PCIe frequency overclocking. This, according to the company, provides a wider range of frequencies and allows for higher, more stable overclocking. Its “Super Alloy” features consist of Nichicon 12k black capacitors, aluminum alloy heatsinks, and premium 60Hz power chokes.

Last, but not least, this motherboard is equipped with customizable RGB lighting and a number of lighting effects, all controlled by Asrock’s RGB LED utility.

We reached out to the company for information on pricing and availability.

Asrock X299 OC Formula
Chipset Intel X299
Size ATX
Memory 4 x DDR4 up to 4,600 (OC)
Multi-GPU 4x SLI, CrossFireX
PCI-E Slots 5 x PCI Express 3.0 x16
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x4 Slot (PCIE6: x4 mode)
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 Slot
M.2 2
SATA 6 x SATA 6Gbps
LAN Dual Intel GbE LAN
Audio Realtek ALC1220 codec
High Definition Audio
USB 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s)  
1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s)
8 x USB 3.0 Ports

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Pimax Developing Advanced Accessories For Upcoming 8K VR HMD

Pimax released a video that shows off several accessories that the company is developing for its upcoming 8K VR HMD, including eye tracking modules, an inside-out tracking module, and even a scent module.

Pimax is a company that isn’t afraid to experiment with the limits of VR technology. At CES this year, Pimax revealed a prototype of a VR HMD that boasts 8K resolution and an ultra-wide 200-degree wraparound configuration. The 8K headset isn’t available yet, but Pimax is still adding to the package. Earlier this week, Pimax quietly posted a video to its YouTube channel that demonstrates several add-on accessories that the company is experimenting with.

Pimax 8K Accessories

Despite the exceptionally high 8K resolution, the refresh rate of the dual 4K displays is limited to 60Hz. What the Pimax 8K lacks in refresh rate, it makes up in the 200-degree field of view (FOV), which puts it right next to the StarVR HMD’s 210-degree FOV. The Pimax 8K headset also features dual tracking technologies. The company created a tracking system for the headset and its wand controllers; it also licensed Valve’s SteamVR tracking technology, which allows the headset to work with SteamVR base stations and accessories.

Just in case the base specifications weren’t enough to catch your attention, take a look at the modular accessories that Pimax is cooking up for the headset: There’s a module that adds inside-out tracking to the headset, which you can bolt to the bottom of the HMD. The inside-out tracking module brings hand tracking and depth awareness, and the tracking module could also open a potential path for Windows Mixed Reality support.

Pimax also demonstrated a modular eye tracking unit that mounts around the outside of the lenses. It’s hard to tell from the video, but the eye tracking units look like they could be the aGlass eye tracking modules from 7invensun.

Pimax is even going after a market segment that isn’t really being taken seriously: scent. We’ve encountered scent simulation devices on only two other occasions. Last summer at Gamescom, one of our writers sacrificed his nostrils to the South Park gods to try the Nosulus Rift; and in January, a pornography website called CamSoda released a product called the OhRoma, which is meant to enhance the experience with pleasant scents. There’s no telling what Pimax has in mind for its scent module.

Pimax also showed off a variety of fitment and comfort accessories that are comparable to accessories that you can get for the HTC Vive, including an adjustable rigid head strap with integrated headphones, adapters to mount corrective lenses inside the HMD, and a pair of fans to reduce perspiration.

Pimax even has a wireless module in the works that would eliminate the tether cable that keeps the headset connected to the host PC. The company has not released any details about the wireless adapter other than showing that it exists. We’re unsure which wireless protocol would support streaming an 8K feed.

Pimax hasn’t revealed when the Pimax 8K would be available for purchase, but the company is promoting an upcoming Kickstarter campaign for the headset. It’s unclear if Pimax intends to bring the modular accessories to market alongside the headset, at a later date, or at all.

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'Dolphin' attacks fool Amazon, Google voice assistants

Voice-controlled assistants by Amazon, Apple and Google could be hijacked by ultrasonic audio commands that humans cannot hear, research suggests.

Two teams said the assistants responded to commands broadcast at high frequencies that can be heard by dolphins but are inaudible to humans.

They were able to make smartphones dial phone numbers and visit rogue websites.

Google told the BBC it was investigating the claims presented in the research.

Many smartphones feature a voice-controlled assistant that can be set up to constantly listen for a “wake word”.

Google’s assistant starts taking orders when a person says “ok Google”, while Apple’s responds to “hey Siri” and Amazon’s to “Alexa”.

Researchers in China set up a loudspeaker to broadcast voice commands that had been shifted into ultrasonic frequencies.

They said they were able to activate the voice-controlled assistant on a range of Apple and Android devices and smart home speakers from several feet away.

A US team was also able to activate the Amazon Echo smart speaker in the same way.

The US researchers said the attack worked because the target microphone processed the audio and interpreted it as human speech.

“After processing this ultrasound, the microphone’s recording… is quite similar to the normal voice,” they said.

The Chinese researchers suggested an attacker could embed hidden ultrasonic commands in online videos, or broadcast them in public while near a victim.

In tests they were able to make calls, visit websites, take photographs and activate a phone’s airplane mode.

However, the attack would not work on systems that had been trained to respond to only one person’s voice, which Google offers on its assistant.

Apple’s Siri requires a smartphone to be unlocked by the user before allowing any sensitive activity such as visiting a website.

Apple and Google both allow their “wake words” to be switched off so the assistants cannot be activated without permission.

“Although the devices are not designed to handle ultrasound, if you put something just outside the range of human hearing, the assistant can still receive it so it’s certainly possible,” said Dr Steven Murdoch, a cyber-security researcher at University College London.

“Whether it’s realistic is another question. At the moment there’s not a great deal of harm that could be caused by the attack. Smart speakers are designed not to do harmful things.

“I would expect the smart speaker vendors will be able to do something about it and ignore the higher frequencies.”

The Chinese team said smart speakers could use microphones designed to filter out sounds above 20 kilohertz to prevent the attack.

A Google spokesman said: “We take user privacy and security very seriously at Google, and we’re reviewing the claims made.”

Amazon said in a statement: “We take privacy and security very seriously at Amazon and are reviewing the paper issued by the researchers.”

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'Bastard's Wound' Expansion For 'Tyranny' Available Now

Last November, Obsidian Entertainment released a new isometric role-playing game called Tyranny. For the past ten months, fans roamed through the region of Tiers in search of new adventures. Now, a new expansion called “Bastard’s Wound” is available, and it adds another location full of content.

As a Fatebinder, your job is to enforce the laws set by the evil Kyros, who rules the land. In the expansion, you travel to a new region called Bastard’s Wound, which is home to refugees who escaped the terrible war that brought Kyros to power. Just like in the main game, you can choose to be a merciful Fatebinder or a harsh enforcer towards the refugees. Your actions will change the attitudes of the people you encounter and, more importantly, the overall ending.

In addition to the new region, “Bastard’s Wound” also includes new challenges, random events, and artifacts for you to discover. You’ll also encounter new quests for three of your companions—Verse, Barik, and Lantry—which will let you earn their loyalty. However, you can also make matters worse with these quests, as your actions can make them hostile towards you.

Even if you don’t get the expansion, there’s still some new content coming by way of a free update, which includes voiceover lines during combat and in conversations. In addition, the ending was also altered so that more dialog options are available (SPOILER ALERT) for those who choose to side with Kyros. Additional cinematic scenes and game slides were also added to account for new endings based on your actions throughout the journey. The update also included multiple fixes as well, which you can read in full on the game’s Steam page.

The expansion is available as a standalone purchase for $15, but you can get it along with the base game on Paradox’s website for a little over $34. On Steam, it will cost you a bit more for the bundle, which is priced at $54.

Name Tyranny
Type Role-playing, Fantasy
Developer Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher Paradox Interactive
Platforms Windows, Mac, Linux
Where To Buy
Release Date November 10, 2016

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How to use Cartoon HD to watch TV shows and movies

With the likes of on-demand video providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others becoming more popular, it was only a matter of time before there was a ‘less than reputable’ equivalent.

There are a number of these kinds of websites online, but one that seems to be causing excitement is Cartoon HD as it provides users with an experience akin to Netflix. Here, we show you how to use Cartoon HD and all its features.

Cartoon HD: A Warning

Before we go any further, we should probably establish what Cartoon HD is.

Essentially, Cartoon HD is the Netflix of copyright-protected content streaming, offering free access to a wide range of TV shows and movies – even those that are in the box office at the moment. Tech Advisor doesn’t advocate or encourage piracy. You should use Cartoon HD and our advice only to access content for which you have the legal rights. 

How to use Cartoon HD

Cartoon HD offers a well-designed website offering a similar interface to that of Netflix, allowing easy access to a variety of genres of film and TV. The familiar layout makes it easy for users to navigate the first time around, but there are a few hidden features that help you get the most out of the website.

Make an account and log in

The first thing you’ll want to do upon accessing the Cartoon HD website is make an account. It’s not mandatory to create an account if you only want to browse, but you’ll need to sign up if you want to access any of the content. The good news is that the sign-up process is fairly simple and the providers won’t spam you with annoying emails.

To make an account, simply click “Join” in the top right-hand corner and fill out the relevant fields. Signing up to the site brings extra benefits like being able to add your favourite movies and TV shows to a watch list for easy access, which is what we’ll show you next.

Search by keyword or genre

So now you’ve signed up to Cartoon HD, the next step is to hunt down your favourite TV shows and movies – but how can you do that?

It’s fairly simple actually but depends on the device you’re using. If you’re on a PC or Mac, simply click the “Movies” and “TV Shows” categories at the top of the page to reveal the collection. From here, you can filter them by genre, and keyword.

If you’re on a mobile/tablet, tap the three lines in the top left-hand corner.

You can sort the movie/TV show results by either popularity, IMDB rating or all-time most watched, which may help you find new TV shows and movies to binge on. Tap on the icon to flip it to quickly reveal a blurb and IMDB rating.

You also have the option of tapping the Search icon in the top right-hand corner if you already know the name of the TV show or movie you want to watch.

Add TV shows and movies to your watch list

Great! You’ve found a TV show that you like or a movie that you want to watch, but not right now. You have two options – you can try and remember the show/movie or you can add it to your watchlist, providing you with a shortcut to the movie on the home page of the website.

Again, this depends on the device you’re using but if you’re on a PC/Mac you can hover your mouse over the icon to flip it, then click “Add to Watch List”. Alternatively, you can open the show/movie page itself and tap the “Add to Watch List” button at the top of the listing.

There’s also a “Seen it” button that you can use to remind yourself that you’ve already seen the show/movie, handy for serial binge watchers.

Play movies or TV shows, and how to change source

Okay, so you’ve made an account, created yourself an amazing watch list full of the best TV shows and movies available at the moment and the time has come to actually watch them. How? It differs slightly between TV shows and movies – let’s start with TV shows.

Simply tap on the icon of the TV show you want to watch to bring up the listing page, then click on the title of the name of the episode to watch. If it’s available online, you’ll be presented with a small icon with a play button – click that to open the player.

With movies, it’s a lot simpler. Simply locate the movie that you want to watch, tap it to open the listing page full of reviews, trailers, and an IMDB rating, then simply tap the Play button at the top of the page.

Once the player opens, you can change the source from the drop-down menu on the right-hand side. Some players may not be compatible with some devices (especially iOS devices) so it’s best to experiment with the offerings to find the right provider for you.

And that’s it! You’re now a fully-fledged member of the Cartoon HD family, ready to catch up on the latest TV shows and movies.

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Acer's Predator Helios 300 laptop launches in Australia

Packed with overclockable GTX GeForce graphics.

Acer’s been on the PC gaming bandwagon for years with its Predator range, and with gaming driving PC sales like no other segment, it’s safe to assume the company won’t stop soon. And here’s the proof – the new Predator Helios 300 gaming laptop.

The Helios 300 comes in a couple of varieties. You can choose between a 15.6in or 17.3in Full HD IPS display, and either a 7th Gen Core i7 or i3 processor. The choices don’t stop there, as graphics are handled via either a GTX 1060 or GTX 1050 Ti. There’s up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM, which can be expanded to 32GB, SSD and HDD storage.

A dual-fan system keeps the Helios 300 cool, and you can access nearly every bit of hardware via compartment doors beneath the chassis, for easy upgrades. Connectivity is via USB 3.1 Type-C, USB 3.0, two USB 2 ports, and HDMI 2.0, as well as Gigabit ethernet and 2×2 802.1ac Wi-Fi.

Acer’s PredatorSense (*groan*) provides real time system information and overclocking, all from one interface.

The 15.6in display Predator Helios 300 starts at $2299, while the 17.3in flavour starts at $2999, and both will be available in the fourth quarter of 2017.

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Facebook Ties Political Ad Spending To Russian Groups

Could someone use Facebook ads to influence an election? It seems that someone at least tried to do so with the 2016 presidential election, because the company revealed that roughly 470 accounts suspected to be of Russian origin spent $100,000 on ads from June 2015 to May 2017.

Facebook said many of the ads in question didn’t specifically mention the presidential election, and instead “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum” ranging from “LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.” Roughly 25% of these ads were geo-targeted, which means the accounts were pushing these issues to specific groups of people in the U.S.

Those figures are just for the ads Facebook has confidently attributed to Russian groups. The company said it found another $50,000 spent on around 2,200 ads that might be politically motivated. (Though it’s worth noting this analysis is less concrete because Facebook used broader parameters in its search.) All told, that means up to $150,000 was spent over the course of two years in an attempt to influence Facebook users.

It makes sense for someone hoping to influence an election to buy Facebook ads. The service is nigh ubiquitous, and it’s become a primary source of news and discourse for many people. Disguising malicious ads targeted at specific people could sway anyone who’s on the fence about a particular issue—and potentially lead them to support whichever candidate aligns with their new perspective.

Part of the reason why this could be so effective can be traced back to Facebook’s ad platform. Advertisers have all the tools they need to show something to people based on their location, interests, and countless other factors. This makes for a good business—marketers love nothing if not targeted ads—but it also means the system is ripe for abuse. The company’s financial motivations can have serious political ramifications.

Here’s the silver lining: Facebook said it’s upping its efforts to identify these inauthentic accounts and Pages. The company said:

Along with these actions, we are exploring several new improvements to our systems for keeping inauthentic accounts and activity off our platform. For example, we are looking at how we can apply the techniques we developed for detecting fake accounts to better detect inauthentic Pages and the ads they may run. We are also experimenting with changes to help us more efficiently detect and stop inauthentic accounts at the time they are being created.

Those efforts are possible because Facebook has oodles of data (uh, that’s the technical term, we swear) and the machine learning chops to properly use it. The company made that clear when it announced in August that it was fighting malicious ad “cloaking,” which makes harmful ads seem like they’re legitimate, with AI. Other efforts, such as identifying “fake news” or hiding spam links, will also help the company fight campaigns like this.

Not that Facebook is alone in this fight. “We have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues,” the company said, “and we will continue to work with them as necessary.” In the meantime, if you see a promoted link or ad for a hot button political issue, just remember that it’s being shown to you for a reason. Somebody wants to sway public opinion, and Facebook offers the perfect platform to do just that.

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