Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Standby Feature

From the WSJ:

Created to help the world's couch potatoes turn the tube on and off without having to make the arduous 2-meter journey to the TV set, the standby feature has spread to virtually every appliance in the home and office. Microwave ovens, cellphone chargers, DVD players, computer monitors and printers all silently consume power when they aren't in use.

The cumulative result is huge. A study by the European Commission found that Europeans waste €7 billion ($9 billion) a year paying for appliances in standby mode, which account for about 10% of total energy use. The drain can be higher. A study by the University of California, Berkeley, found that such snoozing machines consume as much as 26% of electricity used in gadget-stuffed homes in California.

Machines on standby are responsible for about 1% of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Governments have tried advertising campaigns to coax their citizens into unplugging cellphone chargers and turning off their TV sets at night, to little effect. Many new devices, such as Nintendo's Wii game console, lack an off switch. Users must unplug the devices to stop them from consuming power.

Monday, March 31, 2008

LCD Monitors Green Friendly

Here's a report from Crave Asia:

Taiwan-based AU Optronics is planning a new generation of widescreen LCD monitors designed to combine the best of media and computing functions.

The new line has video-tuned 1,920 x 1,080 resolution ideal for full-HD playback, as well as a thinner and power-saving design. Its 24-inch panel is just 14 millimeters thick, compared with conventional 35-millimeter offerings, while consuming up to 50 percent less power--enhancements were brought about by reducing florescent backlighting units. The company says this does not come at the expense of screen brightness and contrast.

According to its press release on Fareastgizmos, these 16:9 aspect ratio panels were developed to meet growing demand for the convergence of computer monitors and personal entertainment. The full lineup will include screen sizes from 15 to 32 inches.

Stressing Out Your Body With Bad Computer Monitor Placement

The Detroit News says that Ford Motor Co. is taking special efforts to put computer monitors and consoles in just the right place.

Not as much strain, stress and irritation that way.

Everyone else in the room sees a man wearing an elaborate headpiece and a harness studded with reflective balls moving inside a metal rig that vaguely resembles the outline of a car. Infrared cameras track his movements and feed the images into a powerful computer system. The computer monitors the position of every body part and displays how much stress each movement is putting on every joint and vertebrae.

It is the same technology that Hollywood used to make Gollum come to life in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Ford is using it to study the way workers assemble cars and trucks on the line and identify potential ergonomic problems while the vehicle is still being designed.

The cutting-edge approach to vehicle design has drastically reduced the amount of time it takes to design a new vehicle, cut development costs and helped Ford improve quality. And other automakers, including arch-rival Toyota Motor Corp., are taking notice. So is the Pentagon.

"Ford has been on the leading edge in using this technology to reduce injuries and reduce its product development costs," said Matt Reed, director of the Human Motion Simulation Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

The same motion-capture technology that is used to animate movies and video games is tapped by Ford to model the way workers move on the assembly line and design processes that are less stressful on their bodies.

"We can design out problems," ergonomics specialist Allison Stephens said. "You can then optimize the human so that they can do it car after car without fatigue or injury."

Ford uses related technology to simulate every part of the assembly process. It has digitized every one of its assembly plants in North America and developed sophisticated virtual workers -- Jack and Jill -- to labor in them. These "avatars" are more than just graphical representations of human beings; they model every muscle and bone and are subject to the same limitations as flesh-and-blood employees.

Before a prototype of a new car or truck is built, Ford assembles the entire product development team, including engineers from parts suppliers, in its virtual manufacturing facility and puts the vehicle together in cyberspace.

Dan Hettel, the engineer who overseas the lab, said things have evolved a lot since he first came to Ford 22 years ago.

TVs, Computer Monitors Blending Together

G4 reports that Macrovision says that only 5% of video downloaders ever watch their new content on a television and that only 10% even have a desire to do so. The study surveyed 2,254 adults in the US last December and…wait! 2,254 people? Can this really be a representative sample? Seems a little low.

Common sense indicates that because of annoying DRM and a gap in technical knowledge (let's face it, the average Joe doesn't even know how to take a download and get it to his TV,) hardly anyone does this and people aren't losing sleep over it. Display technology between TVs and computer monitors is starting to all bleed into one industry, so apart from the quality of the initial download, there shouldn't be a measurable difference in the picture or sound.

Alright, informal poll time: Have you ever downloaded something and watched it on your TV? Maybe we can get 2,254 answers, too.

How To Make Your Office Green

The Sierra Club wants to remind you to turn your computer monitors off...and to shower with your spouse etc...
According to the Sierra Club, businesses waste $1 billion worth of electricity a year. To help lower this figure, remember to turn your computer off and unplug it from the power strip before clocking out for the day. However, you may need to check with your IT department first to ensure your computer doesn't need to run on backups or other maintenance.

During the day, while you're still working, set your computer to sleep mode so your desktop will automatically take short breaks. This will cut energy use by 70 percent, something screen savers can't do.

If you are in charge of buying office equipment for your company, look into every-saving computer monitors and printers and ensure that old equipment is properly recycled.

print more economically

When printing out documents, print on both sides of the paper and use the back sides of old print outs. Also, avoid color printing when possible.

If you have the authority or can make suggestions, offer up chlorine-free paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content and switch to a lighter stock of paper or paper made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton or kenaf.

recycle, recycle, recycle

Place bins in conveniently located areas around the building and clearly mark what can be placed in the bins, such as fax paper, junk mail, old cell phones and PDAs. Also, make it a policy to purchase office supplies and furniture made from recycled materials.

eco-friendly travel

When traveling for business, look for alternative means of transportation such as the train, bus or subway. If you must rent a car, then look into rental agencies that offer hybrids or other high-mileage vehicles.

By the same token, when making your daily commute, carpool, bike, use mass transit or telecommute when possible.

use safe cleaning products

Just like at home, you can use nontoxic cleaning products at your office, desk or cubicle. If you have to, bring your own from home. Also, adding a plant or two on your desk will not only add some atmosphere, but will also absorb indoor pollution.

lights out

Help conserve electricity by turning off the lights in your office whenever you leave for over fifteen minutes. During certain times of the day, you might even be able to get away with only using natural light. Open the blinds and let the sunshine in!

You can also utilize energy saving light bulbs and timers or motion sensors that will automatically shut off when they're not needed.

Computer Monitors To Blame For Fewer Visits To National Parks

Jeff Osgood writes for the Salt Lake City Tribune that fewer people are venturing outside into nature.
Why? What's going on? What's the scoop? Well, the quality of virtual images is now so good, people aren't struggling as hard for the real thing (in many different areas of life).
I know that after I got back from two days at Yosemite in May of 2007, I checked out a bunch of books and videos on Yosemite and relived my experience vicariously through them.
According to a Nature Conservancy study, the number of visitors to state and national parks is declining, and fewer people are hunting, fishing or camping.
The study's authors, Oliver Pergams of the University of Illinois-Chicago and Patricia Zaradic of the Environmental Leadership Program, say the culprits are high oil prices and a newly coined word, "videophilia," which translates to a love of electronic media, namely the Internet, television and movies.
The two researchers say that high gas prices and the siren's call of the computer and television can account for 97.5 percent of the decline in visits to national parks.
Apparently, any yearning to visit a wild place or national park can be assuaged by watching a steady stream of television shows - especially now that entire networks devote themselves to wildlife and outdoor recreation.
Why go searching the Rocky Mountains for the sight of a bighorn sheep, marmot or a pika when you can tune into an episode of Animal Planet's "Meerkat Manor" to get your critter fix? There's even something for the homebound survivalist: Discovery Channel's "Survivor Man" and "Man vs. Wild" offer dueling treks into the perilous wild.
Take a peek at any computer screen saver or desktop image, and you'll likely find a serene waterfall, a reclining cougar or an Ansel Adams photograph of a snowcapped mountain range.
Forget mountaineering: Web sites offer 24-hour, live streaming images of Everest Base Camp. And for animal voyeurs, there's everything from Yellowstone wolf cams to manatee cams.
When millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett's plane went missing in September 2007, friends and family decided to employ the public in the search. Web-surfers could pull up satellite images of the Nevada-California wilderness search area, scan the terrain for wreckage of Fossett's plane and report any findings via e-mail.
Reportedly, thousands enjoyed the thrill of the hunt while basking in the warm glow of their computer monitors. It combined getting "out" in nature with a good cause.
Safety is key, since wild places can be scary. Hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, volcanoes, earthquakes and avalanches rage out of the television set from all over the world, and a week doesn't go by without a hapless hiker going missing or some man-eating predator out marauding.
This live-video, flashy-graphic, full-color manipulation must be convincing, as more and more of us conclude that we'd be better off staying home. The manipulation is more subtle but no less pervasive in the print media, too.
A typical story about the search for Fossett describes the Nevada mountains as "desolate" and "jagged," the landscape "savage" and "inhospitable." Over time, the media construct a reality for us that's so dangerous we'd best leave these places alone.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Becoming More Productive With Bigger Computer Monitors

Here's another study that confirms common sense.

CNET reports:
Attention, employers: buying larger computer monitors for your workers might help them get more work done.

That's according to a study done by researchers at the University of Utah. They tested how long it took people to edit documents and copy spreadsheet information over an 8-hour period, meant to represent a typical work day. Three different setups were used: a computer with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor, and one with two 20-inch monitors. (Note: The study was commissioned by NEC, which produces monitors, but the lead researcher said it didn't matter what type of monitor was used.)

Those assigned to work on the 24-inch monitor worked 52 percent faster than those using the 18-inch screens, and those using the dual 20-inch monitors worked 44 percent faster than those using the 18-inch. But don't think throwing a 36-inch flat screen in front of your employees will get them moving at double speed. The study also found that using anything larger than 24 inches caused a dip in productivity. The study was conducted from July to December of last year and had 96 participants.

Overall, researchers found that using a larger computer monitor at work could save 2.5 hours per day. However, that's assuming employees are working 8 hours continuously, and not, say, taking a lunch break, or checking Facebook, or reading Digg.

Testing Wide Monitors

From a report on three new monitors.

The line between the TV and your computer is blurring.

These days the display sitting in the study is likely to be called upon to screen games, movies, photos and computer content from the web - so it makes sense to own a monitor that will connect to a computer as well as AV gear such as Blu-ray players (r.i.p. HD DVD), games consoles and high-definition personal video recorders.

Of course, you can get a computer to do all those AV jobs, but not everyone wants to go down that path.

Many flat-panel LCD and plasma televisions feature an analog D-Sub input for connecting to a computer, but few have the digital DVI input required to get the sharpest pictures from your computer.

Alternatively, there are a handful of DVI computer monitors that also feature the gamut of AV inputs such as HDMI, component, composite and S-video.

Such monitors usually don't have built-in TV tuners but those we've seen only have analog TV tuners that will be useless in a few years anyway with the move to digital-only television broadcasts. Finding a monitor with all these inputs is a challenge - we rounded up two while the third, the ViewSonic, doesn't have a DVI input but snuck in because it comes with a DVI-to-HDMI cable.

The BenQ doesn't have built-in speakers, which could be a deal breaker for some people, but you could always buy some good desktop speakers to sit alongside it. None of the monitors come with a remote control, but that's no big loss as long as the connected devices come with remotes.

As well as having HDMI inputs, the monitors are all HDCP (High- bandwidth Digital Content Protection) compliant - meaning they will play nicely with the copyright protection used by Blu-ray players.

They also play nicely with Macs and PCs, plus they all have Picture in Picture so you can open a smaller window in the corner to watch two sources at once.

Remember the ViewSonic doesn't have a DVI input, so it's not the best choice if you want to have a computer and Blu-ray player hooked up at the same time using DVI and HDMI respectively.

Assuming a monitor has all the inputs you need, the next thing to think about is size and resol-ution.

As with televisions, bigger is not always better. If you're going to be mostly sitting at a desk using it as a computer monitor, be wary of going for the mammoth 28-inch ViewSonic - you don't want to be constantly turning your head to see the entire screen.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Computer Monitors

From the USA Today:

ClickStart: My First Computer

(From LeapFrog,, $49.99, for ages 3 to 6, plugs into TV)

Why it's hot: It creates a computer learning environment for young kids using only a TV.

Young children can learn how to use a computer mouse and keyboard without their sticky fingers ever messing up the family computer. By plugging the "ClickStart" into your TV's A/V ports, the TV turns into a computer monitor. The system comes with its own keyboard/mouse device for kids to use to play the five educational activities.

Buzzworthy?: Yes. The system works well, it's easy to set up and the games are fun. Two of the games even offer two levels of difficulty and the software keeps track of up to three children and saves their work. Plus, add-on software is available for $13.99 each.

But this is a game that creates more "screen time" for preschoolers, something the American Academy of Pediatrics advises should be monitored. They recommend that children over age 2 have no more than one to two hours a day in front of screens, including TV and computer monitors.

On Gadget Overload and Feeling Powerless

From the New York Times:

When my 10-year-old daughter walked through the front door after receiving her first cellphone a couple of weeks ago, my house rebelled. It had quietly endured the abuse of many holiday seasons in a gadget-loving family. Over the years, the house had become filled with obsolete modems, MP3 players and computer monitors as big as dorm refrigerators.

Every drawer, every shelf and every closet was bursting with electronics.

Now, Clementine unboxed her phone and started looking for somewhere to store her transformer thing. But when she opened the junk drawer in the kitchen, long-forgotten power cords attached to other mysterious transformer things sprang out in great looping tangles.

And when I checked for space in the hall closet, cardboard boxes and instruction manuals rained down from a shelf. And I knew it was no coincidence when a dead iPod tripped me on the basement stairs.

As I rubbed my bruised shin, I murmured softly, so only the house could hear, “O.K., you win.”

My New Year’s resolution was to clear out the electronic junk.

A Laptop Reborn

From Portfolio:

It’s that time of year again—out with the old and in with the new cell phones, MP3 players, laptops, and TVs that were nicely wrapped and placed in the holiday gift pile.

Now that the new gadgets have been sufficiently warmed up, it’s time to figure out what to do with the old ones. And technology and electronics companies want consumers to think twice before tossing them to the curb along with the crumpled wrapping paper. If they can’t be donated for reuse, then it’s time to find a way to recycle them.

In many ways, electronics recycling is still a problem with no easy solution. Recycling is a costly process, which is why most companies haven’t made the effort easy for consumers. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that unwanted electronics amounted to approximately 1.9 million to 2.2 million tons in 2005. Of that total, about 1.5 million to 1.9 million tons were primarily discarded in landfills and only 345,000 to 379,000 tons were recycled.

Dell Announces Stylish New LCD Monitors Ahead of CES

From PCWorld:

The annual Consumer Electronics Show may not kick off until January 7, but Dell today officially announced two new (and long rumored) wide-screen computer monitors that it plans to showcase at the event. Most eye-catching is the stylish 22-inch Crystal display: It boasts an innovative design and gained favorable attention when first unveiled as a concept product at last year's CES.

Like other models on PC World'sTop 5 22-inch wide-screen monitors chart, the pricey but-ever-so sleek $1199 Dell Crystal (pictured at left) has a native resolution of 1680 by 1050. More uniquely, it features capacitive touch controls, and a panel encased in 4mm ultraclear tempered glass (with integrated speakers) that sits on a chrome-plated zinc alloy stand for a floating screen effect. The Crystal lacks height or swivel maneuverability, but tilt adjustments can be made.

Further specifications include a 2 millisecond response time (grey to grey), 2000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and--through Dell's TrueColor technology--the stated ability to provide 98 percent color gamut of theNTSC color space.

The monitor also has an integrated 2-megapixel Web cam that's capable of capturing video at 30 frames per second (fps) in 640-by-480 resolution, but just 10fps at 1600 by 1200 resolution. The Web cam also has a microphone.

IP Telephony

LifeSize (News - Alert) maintains that its mission is to deliver on the promise of video: face to face communication that feels as natural as being in someone's office. Using an existing broadband network, LifeSize high definition video systems provide a full telepresence experience at a price that is affordable and accessible to everyone who needs to communicate with colleagues across town or across the globe.
I caught up with LifeSize CTO Casey King who shared with me his thoughts about high definition video conferencing, LifeSize’s place in that industry, and what attendees can expect to hear during the two sessions King is participating in at the upcomingITEXPO ( News - Alert).
RT: What trends are you noticing in the communications market?
CK: Video and IP are converging faster than predicted. Video is simply moving everywhere, and video is how we will communicate in the future. High definition screens are becoming ubiquitous for TVs and computer monitors, and LifeSize is leading the transition from standard definition videoconferencing to accessible, high definition telepresence. And it is all happening over existing shared IP data networks, many of which were recently upgraded to handleVoIP .

Dell 3008WFP-HC, 30 Inches of Widescreen Swank

From Gizmodo:

Dell has gone monitor-crazy lately, and adding to yesterday's rollout of its gorgeous Dell Crystal monitor, now the company's updated its 30-inch display line, and this one's called the Dell UltraSharp 3008WFP-HC. We've had one in-house here for the past month, beholding its huge expanse and basking in its 2560x1600 resolution. The main events with this display are its clean new design that looks rather plain from the front but shiny and especially luxurious from the back, and its ability to connect up to DisplayPort, the new standard for computer monitors that will make things a lot easier for such high-resolution displays.

Check out the gallery and you'll see the 3008WFP's brushed aluminum housing. The base is piano black, shiny glass that supports the cantilever arm. That's a nice architectural touch, but you lose the ability to raise and lower the height of the monitor.

When we first hooked up and plugged in this display, we were shocked at how bright it was, using a conventional fluorescent backlight (we had hoped for LEDs, but no) to pump out a quoted 3000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and brightness that was so brilliant, we had to back it off a bit.

U.S. to require agencies to buy green PCs, monitors

From ComputerWorld:

January 06, 2008 (Computerworld) -- The U.S. government plans to require federal agencies to buy PCs and computer monitors that are energy efficient and include reduced levels of toxic chemicals -- a requirement that likely will affect corporate users as well because of the government's massive buying power.

The Department of Defense, NASA and the General Services Administration jointly detailed an interim rule on the new purchasing requirements in a notice published in the Federal Register on Dec. 26, and they are accepting comments on the proposal through Feb. 25. The new rule formalizes the use within the government of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, which some agencies and private-sector companies have already adopted.

EPEAT is a three-tiered rating system developed by the Green Electronics Council in Portland, Ore. Under EPEAT, qualifying desktop systems, laptops and monitors are awarded gold, silver and bronze ratings based on how well they meet 51 environmental criteria, such as ease of disassembly and the lack of paints or coatings that aren't compatible with recycling or reuse.

CES Report

David Pogue writes:

PARROT DF7700 DIGITAL PICTURE FRAME. Digital picture frames — essentially tiny computer monitors — are perennial favorites among gift-givers, but loading photos onto them is a perennial headache for the technologically challenged. This model, however, has its own cellular phone number; the point is that you can send pictures from your cameraphone directly to its 7-inch screen from anywhere in the world.

The upside is that now the burden of supplying photos falls on you, the technically proficient (and generous) gift giver. The downside is the monthly cellular fee — a first for a picture frame. (Price and release date to be determined).

PANASONIC DVD-LS86. This one may be the biggest magic trick of the show. It’s a portable 8.5-inch DVD player that can play movies for — are you ready for this? — 13 hours on a battery charge. That’s long enough for six or seven standard movies, or once through “Transformers.”

And yet this player doesn’t look like a military field case. Apart from a slightly thicker hinge, it’s no bulkier than any player. How did they do that? ($200, available now).

Same Old Electronics Show, With Some Intriguing New Ideas

From the NY Times:

C.E.S. 2008 offered few big announcements that got everybody buzzing. Part of the reason may be that some of the most interesting players — the cellphone makers, the camera makers and Apple — have their own trade shows in the next month or two.

In any case, this week’s show looked and felt pretty much the same as always: hundreds of big flat-screen TVs, glass display cases gleaming with shiny cellphones and a whole building filled with car tech.

In fact, it would probably take you at least half an hour to realize that you were not attending C.E.S. 2007. (One giveaway: last year, Panasonic claimed that its 103-inch plasma set was the world’s largest TV. This year, Panasonic took that honor with its 150-inch model.)

Still, if you wandered around and asked enough questions, you might have learned that a number of great ideas wait in 2008’s wings. In order to spare you the $350-a-night hotel bills and 25 miles of walking, here’s a summary of some of the most interesting developments-in-waiting that I had the chance to play with.

Ergotron Computer Monitors

From the press release:

Strained for space? The world's first universal, height-adjustable Neo-Flex™ All-In-One Stand bundles virtually any size CPU, notebook or gaming counsel and flat panel monitor into one extremely small and portable footprint, offering ergonomic flexibility. A built-in storage area conveniently stows a standard keyboard and mouse. The sturdy low-profile rear handle adds portability -- a complete computer system can be deployed quickly, or locked up at day's end for added security. That makes it ideally suited for school computer and science labs, hotel lobbies and other space-constrained high traffic areas where several people need access to computing capability.

The world's first height-adjustable Neo-Flex Combo Lift Stand combines desktop computing productivity with laptop portability by placing a notebook's screen side-by-side with an independent monitor. This innovative approach provides dual screen efficiencies, eliminating the need to toggle between applications and documents. The practical design provides easy connection and removal of the notebook to accommodate busy schedules -- users just undock the notebook and go.

The Neo-Flex Combo Lift Stand makes working at home a joy for mobile workers: tandem height adjustment enables quick positioning of both the LCD and notebook screen, providing maximum ergonomic comfort and promoting workspace wellness.

The Neo-Flex Widescreen Lift Stand provides the world's first portrait/landscape rotation of today's popular 16:9 displays, making it the perfect desktop accessory for film editors, graphic designers and photographers. It enhances the functionality of high-end, hi-def widescreens, providing smooth, ergonomic positioning with its effortless height adjustment, integrated tilt and pan, and portrait-to-landscape viewing capability.

Last, but not least, is the world's first dual monitor stand priced below $150. The Neo-Flex Dual Display Lift Stand supports two monitors with a combined weight of up to 34 pounds, enabling easy positioning of two LCDs for maximum ergonomic comfort. Eliminate the need to toggle between applications and documents--a must-have accessory for high-intensity customer care call centers.

The exceptional design of each new Neo-Flex Stand stylishly incorporates five inches (13 cm) of display height adjustability, allowing precise adjustment to achieve individual viewing comfort. "Our beautiful, multi-functional Neo-Flex Stands address the diverse needs of computer users around the globe," said Jane Payfer, Vice President of Marketing for Ergotron. "Each offers a unique blend of functionality, enhancing workplace efficiencies and wellness."