Archive for November, 2010

Flexible screens for E-readers on the way

Posted November 30, 2010 By David Kolle

Flexible screens as thin as a piece of paper may be available for e-readers by early next year thanks to a project from Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and licensee AU Optronics, one of the world’s largest LCD screen makers.

ITRI developed a manufacturing process for the thin displays and AU is in the process of converting an old factory to mass produce them, according to John Chen, general director of the Display Technology Center at ITRI.

AU Oprtonics confirmed the joint research project with ITRI but declined further comment.

“The beauty of this technology is you use today’s production technology,” he said, adding that there’s no need to invest billions of dollars in a new factory, which would increase the price of the technology and any end-products it finally went into.

The partnership could lead to thin, flexible displays that could be added to mobile phones for a instant, pull-out screen to wearable screens on clothes or larger rolled up screens that serve the daily news at breakfast every day.

The current project is to make e-reader screens aimed at schools. The idea is that the flexible screens are more resistant to breaking, since they bend, and would make better e-readers for young children. The downside of the idea is that a new touchscreen function for the paper-thin screens is not quite ready, though it is also already being licensed by ITRI to another company that specializes in touchscreen technology.

The other point of the project is to move to brilliant color screens such as AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) in the future from the monochrome flexible screens that will be made for e-readers. Converting the AU factory to produce the thin, flexible screens is a project that will eventually lead to AMOLED and other kinds of paper-thin screens.

Coming up with a way to manufacture the thin screens was particularly tricky, said Chen.

The flexible screens are so thin, around 30 microns, that they have to be bonded to a piece of glass during the production process so they don’t curl up, Chen said. Problems cropped up when they tried to lift the flexible screen off the glass at the end of the process because heat used in production caused the screens to bond to the glass, so they usually ripped. ITRI tried and failed 63 times to figure out a way to lift the finished screen from the piece of glass before a night out watching a cook led them to the result.

The cook used oil to lift thin Taiwanese crepe from a hot pan, fully intact. ITRI came up with a similar way to add a not-too-sticky material between the flexible display and the glass that enabled them to lift the flexible screen off the glass without a problem.

ITRI calls the process FlexUPD, flexible universal panel for displays.

Currently, ITRI has developed paper-thin, flexible color AMOLED screens and the touchscreen film for displays 10-inches and smaller, according to Kung Chen-pang [CQ], project manager for the thin touchscreens. ITRI calls the touchscreen technology, Flexible Touch-sensing AMOLED film.

He did not say when the AMOLED screens might be available, but said ITRI has already licensed the technology to a private company in Taiwan. ITRI is a government sponsored research institute and its inventions are licensed globally, but first offer is usually given to Taiwanese companies.

“We don’t do an exclusive license,” said Chen, noting that AU will face competition. He said companies from other countries will also be able to obtain licenses, and noted that one South Korean company had already gained a license, though he declined to say whether it was Samsung Electronics or LG Display.

The price of the new generation of thin, flexible displays is unknown so far.

Chen said that “volume will drive the price down,” and that device makers will like the screens because they actually use less material since they’re thinner, are less expensive, preserve natural resources and more.

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Social media increasing stress levels

Posted November 29, 2010 By David Kolle

Social media is causing people to become increasingly anxious as users feel pressured to be constantly connected, a new survey says.

According to the Cenovis Chill Pill Survey, 63 per cent of respondents feel social media is contributing to stress levels.

About a third (37 per cent) of these people feel under pressure to be in constant contact, and 35 per cent say there is an expectation to respond quickly to messages.

Thirteen per cent of stressed users say they feel pressure to be witty in writing status updates on Facebook.

La Trobe University law student Nikkita Venville says she can relate to the survey’s findings.

“There’s a bit of pressure to have a unique status that people will laugh at and press the `like’ button,” the 24-year-old said.

Ms Venville said she felt “out of loop” if she did not check or respond to messages on Facebook regularly.

“You always have to know what’s going on,” she said.

“Even when you’re out you think, ‘I wonder what’s on Facebook’, and it’s the first thing I have to check.”

The survey also found that women feel more stressed than men, with 69 per cent saying they felt pressure to be interesting in their status updates, as opposed to only 39 per cent of men.

Ms Venville said that she was spending so much time on Facebook that she asked her sister to change her password so she could study for her exams.

“I did feel like a bit of my social life had (gone) because I couldn’t keep in contact with the people I usually kept in contact with – and I didn’t know what was going on,” she said.

“People were saying haven’t you got my Facebook message instead of calling me up to invite me (to parties).”

Ms Venville finally broke her Facebook sabbatical by hacking into her profile through her mum’s account.

“It was my birthday, and I wanted to know what people wrote on my wall,” she explained.

The survey was conducted by Galaxy research on behalf of sanofi-aventis Consumer Healthcare, interviewing 420 Australians over 18 years of age.

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Opera 11 beta rolled out with ‘tab stacks’and more

Posted November 29, 2010 By David Kolle

Opera teased a major new version of its desktop browser last month, and now the first Opera 11 beta is available sporting 11 new features.

Image representing Opera Software as depicted ...

Opera Web Browser

One of the most notable additions in the Opera 11 beta is a new “tab stacking” system that provides an elegant way to organize multiple tabs within a browser window. Simply drag one tab over another, and a “stack” is created which you can use to store dozens of tabs in a minimal amount of space. An expand/collapse icon appears next to stacked tabs, making it easy to quickly view the contents of a stack, or you can simply hover your mouse over a stack to view its tabs Exposé style.

Also new in Opera 11 is support for extensions, which add functionality to Opera much like Firefox, Chrome, and Safari enjoy. Opera has also integrated Google’s new search predictions into its browser. When using Opera’s search field or its address bar search options, Google search predictions should appear immediately.

Opera 11 beta also features a more fine-tuned browser engine with enhanced HTML5 support, making for faster page loads and Web applications that run more smoothly. A new “plug-ins only on demand” option makes it so that plug-ins, like Flash content, will only load when clicked on–a great way to boost your browsing speed if your computer struggles while juggling lots of plug-ins.

You can download the Opera 11 beta for free and view the full list of what’s new atOpera’s Website. Current Opera users are advised to backup their Opera filesbefore installing–this is a beta release, after all.

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Diaspora open-source social network goes live

Posted November 29, 2010 By David Kolle
Diaspora Founders

Diaspora Founders

“Every week, we’ll invite more people,” stated the developers behind the project, in a blog item posted Tuesday announcing the alpha release of the service. “By taking these baby steps, we’ll be able to quickly identify performance problems and iterate on features as quickly as possible.”

Such a cautious rollout may be necessary, given how fresh the code is. In September, when the first version of the working code behind the service was posted, it was promptly criticized for being riddled with security errors.

While Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg may not be worried about Diaspora quite yet, the service is one of a growing number of efforts to build out open-source-based social-networking software and services. Others include Identica, a Twitter-like messaging service built on open-source software, and the Free Software Foundation‘s GNU Social.

Four New York University students came up with the idea of Diaspora earlier this year, and quickly raised US$200,000 from investors in the project. In interviews, they have stated their collective goal was to develop open-source software for social networking as an alternative to commercial alternatives such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

“When you give up that data, you’re giving it up forever,” said co-developer Max Salzberg, in an interview with The New York Times. “The value [sites such as Facebook] give us is negligible in the scale of what they are doing, and what we are giving up is all of our privacy.”

The students’ plan with Diaspora is to allow participants to retain ownership of all the material they use on the site, and retain full control over how that information is shared. It will also allow users to divide their social connections into individual groups, called Aspects, and control which groups see which material, according to the website.

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