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Monday, 14-Dec-2009 02:32 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Can the 'silver bullet' of printing revolutionize electronics?

(CNN) -- Scientists are claiming to have found the "silver bullet" that will enable the cheap, easy printing of electronic components and transform the way we use computers.

Researchers at Xerox say that a new silver ink technology will allow them to add computer power to a wide range of plastics and fabrics, and pave the way for a remarkable range of new products.

"This is not a replacement for silicon -- it will expand and open up the opportunity for new devices and electronic applications where silicon electronics is too expensive, too heavy or too complex to use," Paul Smith, laboratory manager for printable electronics research at Xerox Research Center Canada, told CNN.

"For example, large screens could become so lightweight and robust that they could be easily transported and would be much more affordable. [We could see] PDA's becoming more light, thin and affordable... wearable electronics and displays and low-cost RFID applications such as automatic check-out at your grocer or large signage in retail outlets that are easily updated by the minute if necessary.

"You can image a little display on your prescription bottle that will warn you if you've taken your medicine already or remind you of the correct dosage.

"Or how about large scale image displays that will allow you to watch the Super Bowl life size?

"Perhaps hospital gowns where a display is in the fabric that provides up-to-the-second vital stats for the patient -- easily seen by the nurse at a glance. These will all be much more affordable and able to be manufactured using printable electronics."

Because of this remarkable potential, printed electronics is one of the fastest growing tech industries in the world. The number of wheat pearl companies involved is doubling every 18 months, according to the organizers of the Printed Electronics USA conference, who say the emerging market could be worth $300 billion.

"By many independent accounts, printed electronics will become larger than the silicon integrated circuit (IC)industry in 20 years," Raghu Das, CEO of IDTech X, the company organizing the Printed Electronics USA conference, told CNN.

"Unlike silicon IC manufacture, printed electronics manufacture will be much more diversely spread because of the ease to manufacture the devices using much cheaper equipment and materials.

"Massive new markets will be created because so many new things are possible... Investors/manufacturers should be looking at the space now to capitalize on the sectors opportunity."

However, until the Xerox development was announced, managing to get both the silver ink/semi-conductors correct was a problem that many companies were fiercely competing to be the first to solve.

"This could be a big breakthrough in terms of 'completing the puzzle' -- the silver ink is one more piece that makes the whole system blister pearl come together and overcome barriers to implementation," professor David Harrison, a world-renowned expert on the subject at Brunel University, told CNN.

"However... there are many other competing commercial printed silver inks, and it is difficult to see... exactly what the Xerox innovation is."

Inventor Saul Griffiths also remains skeptical.

"People have been working on this forever, and I can't really tell what's fluff and what's reality about this... silver low temp inks were common place in 2000, so Xerox's claim seems odd," he told CNN.

But the Xerox scientists are adamant they have found the "silver bullet" -- and interested parties can take a look for themselves.

"The Xerox innovation is that this silver ink has been developed to melt at a very low temperature, which allows it to be able to be printed on a wide range of substrates including flexible plastics. This is also something that is unique to the Xerox materials," said Smith.

"[This] semi-conductive ink... is a significant breakthrough -- but also the fact that all three materials were developed to work together to create the circuit (the conductor, semi-conductor and the dielectric) can all be printed using a fairly standard ink-jet printer without the need for clean-room environments is also unique.

"To manufacturers it is important because they don't need to use billion dollar fabrication facilities to print these plastic-based electronic components.

"The materials announced are actually printed using fairly standard ink jet printers."

However, those imagining the availability of 'printable electronics' using ink-jet printers will lead to a rise in bedroom engineering might be disappointed.

"We don't expect this technology will enable a 'Do-it-Yourself' printable electronics industry," said Smith.

"The actual design of electronic components is complex. While these materials will make the manufacturer of these circuits less costly and easier to do -- the application developers will still have some work to do to enable these new and novel applications."

However, low cost does mean big implications for emerging economies

"Developing nations will have an opportunity to be a pearl strand player in the manufacture of this new technology because the manufacture of these components will no longer require billion dollar investments," said Smith.

"They would be able to perhaps set up lower cost plastic electronics fabrication plants that will enable them to gain revenue from becoming developers of plastic electronic devices."

However the tech is employed the potential is enormous.

"Printed electronics will be very cool for lots of novel applications and new product design form factors," says Griffiths.

"My concern is that it will make even cheaper quite toxic and energy intensive products that we'll put into everything, and we'll compound the challenge of 'technology trash'... It'll be a mixture of good and kitsch and environmentally bad outcomes."



Monday, 14-Dec-2009 02:28 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Social media brings bullying to light

(CNN) -- Her choppy blue-and-blond hair hiding the fear in her eyes, a 15-year-old voiced her dislike for a hip-hop music group and got punched in the face by a classmate. The whole thing was caught on tape and social media helped police in their investigation.

A crowd of six to 10 classmates were following the self-described emo girl and her boyfriend home from school in Newark, Ohio, on an autumn day in September. Some kids were taping it and others were egging on the assailant, who was on the school wrestling team. It all started because Alexis Xanders doesn't like Insane Clown Posse.

One of the students who recorded the incident contacted Xanders on MySpace and sent her the video two months later. The teen says she wanted something done, so she uploaded the video to YouTube and CNN iReport last week.

While only six to 10 people witnessed the alleged assault, the video has received more than 1,000 views on CNN iReport to date.

A local newspaper reporter saw the video and alerted the local police department, says Newark Police Sgt. Scott Snow. A police report was filed on September 24, and authorities are now investigating the other kids in the video who were goading the suspect.

The 15-year-old suspect, who CNN is not naming because she is a minor, was charged as a juvenile Tuesday with individual counts of assault, menacing and unlawful restraint, Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt said. He also pearl strand confirmed they are looking into charging other people from the video for inciting the fight.

The same day as the bullying incident, Chicago, Illinois, honors student Derrion Albert was beaten to death. The incident was captured on video and shared online. Three teens pleaded not guilty and were set to appear at a hearing on Wednesday.

These examples of bullying are not isolated incidents. Cameras are very accessible these days and social networking has made it easy to post videos for anyone to see.

Dr. Patricia Walton Agatston, a counselor with the Cobb Prevention/Intervention Center in Marietta, Georgia, is co-author of "Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age." She says posting videos online allows for bullies to be more visible to authorities.

Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, says tracking bullying arrests and charges that arise from videos posted online is no easy task. "There's no source of that kind of blister pearl data. Nobody's in a position to track that," she said.

When Xanders posted the video to CNN iReport, she wanted something to happen, but she didn't expect to see a detective at her door the next day.

"Someone did see it and sent it to a detective. I didn't think anything would actually happen with all of this because it happens all the time," the high school freshman told CNN. The mother of the teen suspect could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Xanders says the suspect hasn't liked her since fifth grade, when the harassment allegedly started. "I don't really know why. She just never liked me," she said.

"They would wait for me everyday after school. ... I didn't go to school the day before. They were in a big huge group, waiting and stuff. Once all of my friends were walking, we'd have five or six people, but that day it was only me and [my boyfriend], she did something."

Officer David Bardsley and the school principal held a peer mediation session between the two girls a couple of days before the assault.

The suspect said, "They were talking crap about me," according to Bardsley. But, after a 20-minute conversation, the girls assured him everything had been smoothed over.

Whenever the school becomes aware of bullying, it gets Bardsley involved immediately. He's been the officer on the grounds of Newark High School for nine years. He stands behind the peer mediation process at the school, which has 1,700 to 1,800 students enrolled.

"I would say that more than 90 percent would be wholesale pearl jewelry an accurate success rate," he said. "Most of the kids say that when we rationalize with them, they realize that they're being silly."

Doug Ute, the superintendent of Newark City Schools, confirmed Wednesday that the suspect agreed not to attend the school's homecoming celebrations.

Since charges were filed, the high school has barred her from participating on the school wrestling team. The suspect is no longer a student, as she withdrew from the school, Ute said.

"Anytime there's bullying or harassment, it's an unfortunate incident and we discourage that type of behavior with our students," he said.

Xanders, who dyes her hair frequently and rocks out to alternative and scream-o music, uploaded the video to iReport and says she told her parents about it afterward. Tanya Xanders, her mother, said she didn't mind, especially if the video might help bring attention to bullying.

In the video, Xanders did not push back or return a punch. "She's not a fighter... that's what she's all about," her father, Chad Bartlett, told CNN.

Xanders says that while she stood back from fighting, she'd tell other kids who are being bullied to fight back in another way.

"Tell somebody and do something about it," she said. "Don't just sit there and take it. You can use your words and not your hands."


Monday, 14-Dec-2009 02:26 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Windows 7 complaints begin

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Microsoft launched Windows 7 in late October to much fanfare. But, just like with previous Windows upgrades, complaints about bugs have already started rolling in.

A whopping 31% of clients have reported problems with upgrading to Windows 7, according to a recent survey of more than 100,000 customers conducted by consumer helpdesk firm iYogi.

"Most of the problems that customers have with Windows 7 have to do with installation, or application and data migration," said Vishal Dhar, co-founder of iYogi. "These are all fixable problems, but they're annoyances and they're time consuming."

One common gripe, experienced by 9% of installers, is that the half-hour to an hour-long upgrade process gets to the "62% completed" point and then freezes. It's a problem that Microsoft is aware of, and can be fixed by rebooting the turquoise necklace computer, going into advanced settings, and typing in a code that instructs the computer to ignore plug-ins.

However, issues didn't stop with the upgrade process. Many users still experienced glitches even after successfully installing Windows 7 on their machines.

Most common among those complaints was that basic "applet" programs, like Mail, Movie Maker and Photo Gallery, were missing. That's because Windows 7 deletes those programs and makes users download them from the Windows Live Essential Web site. IYogi said 26% of their customers were confused about that extra step.

Others had problems getting their computers to work properly: Eight percent said their DVD drives couldn't be found and pearl jewelry Chian 2% couldn't sync their iPhones with Windows 7.

One in seven users also complained that the sleek new "Aero" theme doesn't work. The Aero theme enables users to see through a window to view the desktop or other programs that are open behind it. According to iYogi, most of the 14% of users that have problems with Aero don't have the graphics capabilities on their PCs to handle the program.
PC sales spike with Windows 7 debut

Other common complaints included an inability to view file extensions, too many "mini-dumps" (memory images saved on the computer when it crashes), problems with the "Aero snap" feature, changes to custom icons and problems with the new taskbar.

Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500), which debuted Windows 7 on Oct. 22, did not return requests for comment.

Smoother sailing once it's debugged. Once the bugs from upgrading have been worked out, users have had a relatively hassle-free experience. And those who bought a new computer with Windows 7 preloaded have seen the fewest issues.
0:00 /06:09Why Ballmer loves Windows 7

"Customers who finally get it up and running love Windows 7," said Dhar. "We haven't had a lot of people calling for usability issues, because it's a much more intuitive interface than Windows XP."

That's not to say that Windows 7 is perfect.

According to Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, one of the biggest annoyances with the new operating system is that the "ribbon menus" at the top of programs have been redesigned and must be relearned. In previous Windows versions, the menus remained very consistent (File, Edit, View, Insert, etc.), but in Windows 7, they can be wildly different from application to application.

"It took me a long while to figure out how to print," said Kerravala. "Microsoft tried to improve the user interface, but there's a tin cup pearl necklace learning curve because it's inconsistent."

Microsoft also did away with many favorite applications like Windows Movie Maker, which is particularly surprising given the propensity of cell phone videos and Flip video camera movies.
Geek Squad rivals: Bring 'em on

But all of the gripes about Windows 7 pale in comparison to the angry complaints about Microsoft's previous Windows iteration, Windows Vista. That version was an outright disaster after it was released in 2007. Vista was plagued by bugs, software incompatibilities, sluggishness and annoying security alerts. The episode nearly destroyed the tech giant's reputation with consumers.

"While there are a few bugs, I haven't seen or heard of any show-stoppers," said Laura DiDio, principal analyst at ITIC. "In fact, just the opposite. Some Vista users can't wait to upgrade. So far, this has been a home run for Microsoft."


Monday, 14-Dec-2009 02:23 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Why Google's glad to dance to Vevo's tune

(CNET) -- Eric Schmidt's presence at a swanky music industry gathering was an illustration of how far digital technology has come and the power it has amassed.

A decade ago, the film studios and top record companies dismissed Northern Californians as a bunch of bearded dweebs who liked electronics. Five years ago, with illegal-file sharing spinning out of control, the entertainment industry looked on techies with fear and loathing, invaders to be repelled before they made off with the treasure.

It wasn't that long ago that some in Hollywood considered Google a "rogue company."

Pfft. That's all in the past. On Tuesday, at a launch party for music-video site Vevo, the Google CEO was an honored guest.

Schmidt was seated front and center in an area reserved for music industry titans and major recording stars. He rubbed elbows with singers Shania Twain and Sheryl Crow. He chatted up record producer and label exec Jimmy Iovine.

He sat and visited with Doug Morris, CEO and chairman of Universal Music Group, the largest of the four top recording companies, as well as the chiefs of Sony Music Group and EMI.

And why shouldn't they show him some respect? Not only is he at the helm of the most successful advertising company in the world and operating YouTube, the Web's No. 1 video site, but Schmidt is also helping to get pearl strand wholesale Vevo off the ground.

Instead of trying to stand in the way of a music-video site that is in many ways breaking away from YouTube, Google is providing the service with technological expertise and allowing it to continue to market to YouTube's massive following.

What's that? Google booked $21 billion in pearl jewelry Chian revenue in 2008. How can a company like that be satisfied to play rhythm guitar in someone else's band?

At the Vevo party, Schmidt said Google couldn't be happier with the situation.

This is what he's done for over a year now, held out his hand to big newspapers, film studios, TV networks, and book publishers.

By taking a backup role in Vevo, Google sends a message that the rogue image is garbage and the company is prepared to go a long way -- even give up decision-making power -- to help partners grow their businesses. No threat here.

In many entertainment circles, that message may resonate, especially the ones where the digital revolution has laid waste. Some of the celebs at the Vevo launch were only too happy to tell Schmidt and everyone else how badly recorded music has suffered.

"We've come here to mourn the death of an old cash cow that was the music industry," U2's Bono told the audience during his speech.

"Let's hope Vevo can help salvage something that used to be amazing," said singer Mariah Carey.

If you're anti-copyright and this makes you long for the days when Google and YouTube used to wave the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the faces of Viacom, NBC Universal, and others that demanded YouTube remove unauthorized film and TV clips from its site, well, it's time to move on.

For more than a year, YouTube's strategy has been to tin cup pearl necklace strike partnerships with the top studios, record companies, and TV networks.

YouTube has content deals with MGM Studios, Sony Pictures, Lionsgate, CBS (parent company of CNET), and all four of the major recording companies.

What probably drove Google to take a softer stance was competition. There might have been a period a couple of years ago when Google could have easily morphed into a video-on-demand service, offering feature films and TV shows and been all things Web video. But it played hardball and NBC and News Corp. successfully came up with a YouTube alternative: Hulu.

The competition between the companies to obtain premium films and shows has been fierce. After pursuing a deal to get full-length content from Disney, Google saw Disney sign with Hulu. That was a bitter blow. Google isn't used to losing.

At the same time, Netflix has jumped into the fray. The Web's top video-rental service has deals with makers of set-top boxes that enable customers to watch streaming Internet video on their TV sets. Apple has a slice of this market as well.

Meanwhile, Hulu could have tried to woo the music labels away from YouTube. Hulu could try to capitalize on any lingering distrust of Google at the labels.

Conspicuously missing from Vevo's launch party was Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman. A feud between Warner and YouTube led to Warner's content being pulled from the video site for nine months before the companies made up. But Warner has so far declined to join Vevo.

In addition, EMI recently a music-licensing deal with Hulu. EMI clips will appear on both Hulu and YouTube.

In his speech introducing Vevo, Universal Music's Morris was generous in his praise of Schmidt and Google. But the former songwriter also raised questions about who he was referring to when he said things such as "the best thing about Vevo is that it's our platform" and "no more middlemen" and "we can experiment with anything and everything we want. We don't have to ask anyone's permission anymore."


Monday, 14-Dec-2009 02:15 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Are Internet firms afraid of the Middle East?

Paris, France (CNN) -- The Middle East represents a vast, largely untapped market for Internet businesses across an audience tailor-made for maximizing online revenues, according to industry experts -- so what's holding everyone back?

The sector's failure to capitalize on what, on paper at least, appears to be a perfect match for Internet start-ups hoping to exploit a vast international market with a single product, came under scrutiny this week at a major global Web conference in Paris.

In what is hoped to become a regular session at the annual LeWeb event, leading Internet entrepreneurs involved in the Arabic-speaking world shone new light on what is, outside of the region, a little understood, yet enormous slice of the World Wide Web.

The panel, including Rabea Ataya, of job site Bayt.com, Habib Haddad of Arabic search engine Yamli, and Joi Ito, Dubai-based CEO of copyright licence company Creative Commons, said ignorance and misconceptions appear to be holding back many would-be investors.

But, although they say the region represents a massively overlooked opportunity, even with Dubai reeling from debt crisis caused by recent overspending, they warned that failure to fully understand it at grassroots level could still leave companies out of pocket.

"It is a completely different universe," admitted Japanese-born Ito, who confessed he was ill-prepared when making his first ventures into the region. "I realized it is not that easy, I couldn't just email people and expect things to happen in the same way."

"It was something I realized I would never understand unless I lived there. Having moved there I realized how interesting it is."

Haddad, whose company created tools for writing Arabic on an English keyboard and for searching Arabic sites phonetically to bypass regional language variations, said his company was taken by surprise by the success of its products, until it realized the profile of its users.

"The interesting thing about this market is that we have 400 million speakers and it's the fifth largest spoken language out there, so its a huge market -- all united by the Arab language," he said, contrasting it with the language and wholesale pearl jewelry culture-divided European market.

"It's a huge opportunity. I think we're at a tipping point, 60 million online users, 200 million mobile users -- the numbers are amazing."

Ataya added: "We have one of the fastest-growing youngest populations in the world -- in addition to that we have the highest proportion of migrant labor in the world, and that exists in an area which has historically had limitations on movement of people."

Although some international investors appear to be waking up to the opportunities -- particularly following the wake-up call that was Yahoo's acquisition of Arab portal Maktoob in August 2009 -- the entrepreneurs pointed to almost comical misunderstandings that appear to holding some back.

"A strategic investor once visited us and we were talking about the United Arab Emirates," said Ataya. "His perception of the U.A.E. was like the United States of America -- he actually believed that the U.A.E stretched from Morocco to to Kuwait."

Ito also pointed out to prejudices held by many in the West that Arab nations did not hold up to scrutiny when it came to human rights and the equality of women, claims all three candidates insisted failed to take into account the complexities of the cultures involved.

Still, they agreed there were barriers to investment, not least the individualized nature of each major Middle Eastern city's legal systems that mean though Internet products could appeal to a pan-Arab audience, implementing them profitably across the region could prove tricky.

Says Rabea, the Arab market presents itself as an almost direct contrast to the European Union, which economically and legally unites countries despite diverse languages.

"Pretty much every city state that you're in, there are a different set of legal and economic frameworks with which it operates," he said, adding that the rewards outweighed the headaches of dealing with these.

"If you are able to go and set up shop in those various Middle Eastern countries and deal with the various legal and economic frameworks, then you really have an almost an insurmountable advantage."

He added: "Beyond the language and for the most part the religious commonality, there is very little that ties the region together, but there is an affinity of culture and people believe they are somehow connected and language helps pearl earrings with that, and that makes a difference if you are trying to tackle this huge region.

But you really have to get down to the nitty
freshwater pearl gritty of every little area."

While Habib pointed out that advertising revenues were still relatively slim compared to other markets such as the United States, Ito expressed confidence in the region's ability to sell itself to a wider audience.

"When I wasn't in the Middle East it didn't show up on my map, now I'm there I can't understand why more people aren't marketing actively in the Middle East," he added.


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