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.