NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2005
What’s New
by William Grizzell, Phoeniz PC Users Group, Arizona

Future Computer Monitors from HP Research
HP Labs in Bristol, England, has been working on developing a high-resolution, paperlike display technology using plastic instead of glass for applications such as electronic books, magazines and posters, as well as a whole new range of products that might be made possible, such as electronic whiteboards. HP researchers showed off a prototype using the new display technology at the National Gallery in London, saying it was the first step in breaking out of the 1,000-by-1,000-pixel display barrier through which computer users see much of the electronic world.

While the LCD prototype was small -- just 1.18 in. by 1.57 in. -- it could display 125 colors and featured a "bistable" passive matrix, meaning that the researchers could build displays with as many pixels as they desired. The fingernail-thin prototype displayed clear images from the National Gallery famous collection, and researchers were confident that they could scale the technology to much larger displays. More developed plans for using the display technology are expected in about three years after more work has been done, the researchers said.

"We think this is a substantial milestone for large, low-cost, quality displays," said Huw Robson, manager of the digital media department and HP Labs. Once the displays are scaled to 16.9 in. by 22.8 in., researchers expect them to be about five times cheaper than today's glass LCD displays. "We've done cost modeling to suggest that this kind of savings is reasonable," said Adrian Geisow, manager of displays research at HP Labs.

The source of the researchers' enthusiasm is not just the size and potential cost of the displays, but that they have created a whole new process for making them that employs a print-like process on plastic. The manufacturing process is much more simple and affordable than making a glass LCD using photolithography, which requires a process much like film developing on a substrate to achieve a pattern for displaying images. What's more, the technology allows for 200 or more pixels per inch, giving images a resolution normally confined to paper. That's why the technology is suited for art and text, the researchers said.

While commercial plans for the technology are several years away, the research fits squarely with HP's strength in the printing market.

Google Desktop Search
Do you have trouble finding a file on your computer hidden in that endless haystack of a hard drive?

Google Desktop Search is a small, free download, yet it’s fast, reliable and slickly integrated with the company’s Internet search engine. You download a 400-kilobyte file, install it and wait for it to index your hard drive.

Indexing happens only when the PC is idle for more than 30 seconds, so there is no noticeable impact on performance.

Searches are extremely fast --- often a fraction of a second. And, it doesn’t just search file names but also content in files including Microsoft Office, simple text files, Outlook e-mail and AOL instant messages.

Sound good? Well, there is a small hitch. It only indexes the primary “C” drive and it does not index the entire drive. If you have drives ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’, ‘I’, and ‘J’ like I do, it won’t see them --- back to the Microsoft search utility and trying to remember where we saved all those files and under what name. Download the program at: http://desktop.google.com

New Laptop Hard Drives
Western Digital and Seagate have introduced higher-performance, power-thrifty 2.5-inch hard drives for laptops. The Western Digital hard drive line will be known as Scorpio and will have capacities of 40GB, 60Gb and 80GB. The drive has a rated average seek time of 12 milliseconds and comes with a 2 Mb buffer (an upgrade to 8Mb is optional). Like competing high-performance models from Hitachi and Seagate, the Scorpio drives will spin their platters at 5,400 rpm. High-speed spinning presents special problems in laptops with heat buildup, power use and sound volume. Western Digital has teamed its SoftSeek algorithms, which quiet the clicking typical during hard drive seek, with its WhisperDrive technology, which includes fluid dynamic bearings and a specially dampened top cover.

They also claim that heat won’t be a problem because their Scorpio drives have run cooler in tests than the competing 4,200-rpm and 5,400-rpm models they have compared to.

AMD Releases Athlon 64 FX-55 CPU
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has released a new CPU that will take over the top of AMD’s performance lineup. The Athlon 64 FX-55 runs at 2.6GHz and matches up against Intel’s Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor. For this chip, AMD added 512Kb cache memory to the Athlon 64 4000+ for a total of 1Mb of Level 2 cache. The Athlon 64 4000+ runs at 2.4GHz and is slightly cheaper. AMD increased the thermal envelope of the processor to enable those speed increases. The Athlon 64 4000+ has a maximum thermal rating of 104 watts, an increase of 15 watts from 89 watts for the 3800+ processor. During maximum operating conditions, it will be hot.

NetGear is Designing a Broadband Modem
NetGear Inc, is designing a broadband modem to use with a long-range wireless data service called Flash-OFDM that is currently in trial tests by Nextel Communications, T-Mobile and Vodafone. The hardware from NetGear would interconnect Flash-OFDM, which was developed by startup Flarion Technologies Inc., with personal computers and networks using Ethernet or Wi-Fi technology. Flash-OFDM, which stands for Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, has other attributes beyond speed. It was designed to work well in moving cars and trains while requiring less spectrum than some wireless technologies. The Nextel Flash-OFDM service, priced between $35 and $75 per month, is offered with minimum download speeds ranging from 750 kilobits per second to 1.5 megabits per second with occasional bursts up to 3 mbps. Uploads range from 200 kbps to 375 kbps with bursts of 750 kbps. This is faster than EV-DO, which Sprint Corp. is deploying. Verizon, a joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone, is promising EV-DO downloads of 300-to-500 kbps.

Florida Man Pays Spam Fine
A Florida man and his company must pay a $25,000 fine to settle a spam case filed against him by the Massachusetts attorney general. The man from Weston, Fla, and his business, DC Enterprises, agreed to pay the fine and to stop sending thousands of unsolicited e-mails. He apparently sent thousands of commercial e-mails from a business address in Newton, MA., where the company had no physical presence. The commercial e-mail offered “pre-approved mortgage rates even with bad credit” and gave the consumers no way for them to opt out of getting future e-mails.

New BTX Design for PCs
Many new computers will be based on the BTX chassis design, championed by Intel Corp. to replace the current ATX models. BTX, standing for Balanced Technology Extended, puts the hottest components such as the processor, chip sets and graphics controllers, in the center of the chassis where they are cooled by a front-to-back airflow. Air is pushed through the chassis by a larger fan in the front that moves more slowly and is quieter than current fans. In addition, the enhanced airflow means that some of the component-dedicated smaller fans used in ATX designs aren’t needed, further reducing noise and power consumption.

William Grizzell is President of Memory Etc. Inc., a wholesale computer components store and custom computer builder. Web-site address is http://www.memoryetc.com

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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