Research in China

The New York Times werites about China becoming a hotbed for research:

In recent years hundreds of them have set up laboratories here, and Chinese officials claim the number is growing by 200 a year.

The labs vary in size and ambition, but as they multiply and expand they may help China grow from mostly a user and copier of advanced technologies developed elsewhere into a powerful incubator of its own, industry executives and experts say. And the shift may eventually reshape applied research, jobs and policies in the United States and other developed countries.

“The Chinese are going to become sources of innovation,” said Denis Fred Simon, a specialist in Chinese science and technology who is provost of the new graduate-level Levin Institute of the State University of New York. “They will find themselves enmeshed in global R.& D. more and more.”

But it is far from certain that China will reap the full rewards of this flowering. Planting and nurturing corporate labs is a delicate business, and in China they are buffeted by concerns about protecting patents, retaining and training researchers, and managing the distances – physical and cultural – between here and headquarters.

Hospitals Wire Patients to Net

WSJ writes:

A small but increasing number of U.S. hospitals from Philadelphia to Phoenix are wiring their patient rooms for high-speed Internet access and interactive television. Beyond entertaining patients and generating extra revenue, these digital networks allow hospitals to deliver personalized health information, conduct real-time satisfaction surveys and automate some patient requests.

It works much like the TVs found in many business hotels. Patients use a handheld remote or wireless keyboard to access the network through their hospital room’s TV. Using digital set-top boxes, the TVs are linked to the Internet and can interface with the hospital’s admissions records or, in some cases, clinical systems.

“A common problem in healthcare is patients feel isolated and they want information” about their condition, said Janet Burnham, senior vice president for planning at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, which recently wired 200 of its beds, including Mr. Rivera’s. The Internet access and ability to send electronic messages to hospital staff gives patients “more control of their own destiny.”

Most hospitals offering these digital services don’t charge patients when they use them for medical information, or to take surveys. Many charge fees to watch premium movies and to use e-mail or surf the Web. The fees generally range from $5 to $10 for 24 hours of unlimited use.

For hospitals, the technology may improve patient satisfaction, generate some additional revenue and keep nurses from having to deal with nonmedical tasks. For instance, patients could send an electronic message directly to maintenance personnel if their room is too cold or to the kitchen staff if their lunch is wrong.

Physicians and hospital officials that are testing the new technology say they are most interested in using the Web-enabled TVs to deliver personalized educational materials and monitor patient satisfaction in real-time.

Linux Desktop Migration

LinuxDevCenter has some tips, following a contest.”The Great Linux Desktop Migration Contest asked for entries in three categories: write an essay on the Benefits of Migrating to Linux; present an example of a Phased Migration Plan; and give us three Tips for Migrating.” A tip from the winner, David Scribner:

Before migrating any workstations over to GNU/Linux and the plethora of tools and utilities there, install cross-platform basic applications on the Windows workstations. These would include OpenOffice.org and Mozilla/FireFox at minimum and should be configured to replicate the users’ setup for Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer (templates, configuration [paths, to name one], import Favorites, and so on). Also, configure areas of advantage (for example, OpenOffice.org defaulting to open/save Microsoft Word/Excel documents, Mozilla blocking pop-ups, loading tabs in the background, Mozilla Mail versus Outlook Express or Outlook).

For those who utilize more advanced OS features, applications, or tools, there is very likely an alternative in the Linux platform. If this alternative also has a Windows version, introduce users to this package, highlighting the advantages and allowing the user to adjust to the differences (if any).

This will let them get acquainted with the new applications, tools, and utilities while still using the OS they are comfortable with and allows you to highlight the advantages of the new applications, answer questions, and so on. You can assign this period of adjustment to any necessary length of time, but anywhere from six to twelve weeks is usually sufficient.

Opera’s Better TV Browser

Forbes writes:

Opera Software announced a new version of its screen rendering technology that makes viewing Web pages on a normal television as sharp as viewing them on a traditional computer monitor.

The Oslo-based company which developed the No. 3 Internet browser said Web pages are designed to be displayed on high-resolution computer monitors, and that low resolution television screens can leave pages with a decidedly less than perfect image.

Opera said its TV Rendering, or TVR, program adjusts any Web page for a perfect display on any television screen of any size.

“TVR for the first time introduces users of broadband enabled set-top boxes or other iv related hardware, to the potential of full Internet browsing that is as true and content-rich as experienced with desktop computers,” the company said.

Opera said the software is aimed for use by manufacturers, not consumers.

Opera’s project partner, Equator Technologies, which supplies system-on-a-chip processors for networked video entertainment and communications, is ready to deliver to TVR with their StarFish, Tetra and Dolphin hardware platforms.

“The ability to combine TV broadcasting with Internet content opens up an almost unimaginable array of new great features for the old screen,” said John O’Donnell, Equator’s chief technological officer. “TVR makes it possible to comfortably surf the Web from the comfort of your sofa, removing the need for many to have a separate work-like computer at home.”

WSJ writes that as the pixels grow, the quality of TV displays will improve:

In the not-too-distant future, though, video displays will be so realistic that even the stone-cold sober may think that the beer can in the commercial is real. Researchers talk about the “20-20 display,” one that would be as acute as human vision, offering a perfect picture, under glass. (A conference on the topic is being held this week in Arlington, Va., sponsored by the U.S. Display Consortium.) Engineers predict that such a monitor could be ready, at least in a lab, in as little as five years.

It’s not as hard a job as you would think, says J. Norman Bardsley, the director of technology at the display consortium. Display makers simply need to keep making steady incremental progress on the same things they have been making progress on all along, especially screen resolution, range of colors and contrast.

In fact, Mr. Bardsley says, in some areas we are closer to this display holy grail than people realize. International Business Machines makes a 22-inch display with nine million pixels — or 10 times the number in a current high-definition TV set. It’s a specialized device for the engineering market, and it costs $6,000. That’s a lot of money, for sure, but it’s also a bargain compared with the $300,000 that the Lawrence Livermore Lab paid for the first model a few years back as an inducement to IBM to build the thing.

Mr. Bardsley says that for a 50-inch screen viewed from five feet away, nine million pixels are enough to fool the human eye. Any higher resolution would be overkill, he says, because the eye wouldn’t be able to discern the extra information.

But besides ultrahigh resolution, the perfect display would also need to have twice the possible range of colors that today’s sets have; contrast would need to be improved as well. And, of course, there would need to be a commensurate improvement in the cameras that take the pictures.

UltraWideBand

The New York Times writes:

Most of the cables snaking through home computers and entertainment centers are not so easily severed – they are essential for high-speed transfers of data from devices like camcorders, cameras, and MP3 players.

That is going to change, though, as electronic devices start to come equipped with a short-range, high-speed wireless radio technology known as ultrawideband. Long in use in military, security and radar applications, the technology is being adapted for consumer electronics because it offers rapid, cable-free transfer of large digital files.

Freescale Semiconductor is one of the companies that have developed semiconductor-based ultrawideband technology. A former subsidiary of Motorola, the company recently demonstrated its chips in a device that transmitted data wirelessly at 110 megabits per second at a range of 30 feet while using little power.

Martin Rofheart, director of ultrawideband operations for the company, said 110 megabits per second is about 100 times the speed of Bluetooth, and at least double the typical rate using the wireless networking standard known as Wi-Fi.

The marked increase in speed of ultrawideband opens the way to many cable-free applications, he said. In the future, for instance, people may stop at a convenience store kiosk and download a DVD onto their keychain computer storage device in only a few minutes.

“You will start seeing applications for living rooms and entertainment centers with our chips late this year and at the beginning of next year,” Dr. Rofheart said. Semiconductor-based ultrawideband transceivers from Freescale will provide 220 megabits per second by the end of the year, he said.

The Age of Consultative Content

[via Veer] EContentmag has an interesting view on the shift that’s starting to happen in publishing:

Publishing used to be a fairly top-down affair; seasoned and expert editors enlightening readers about what was new, hip, and necessary to know. Publications served a kind of authoritative role. A few snail mail letters to the editor trickled in, and every so often the marketing department would run a poll to find outin the most general termswhat readers wanted in their magazine. But the Internet and email have permanently transformed that familiar relationship between readers and editors, creating a two-way feedback loop that works persistently and in real time. As a result, readers become more demanding; they expect their content to be more responsive, perhaps even to serve them in more specific, personal ways than any editor would have imagined a decade ago. The Internet has changed the terms of the reader/editor relationship, and at the outer edge of this trend are content providers that are starting to profit from recasting themselves as consultants rather than authorities.

To wit: Conde Nast’s new shopping magazine for men, Cargo, which includes buyer’s guides, reviews, and shopping tips and strategies. While Cargo and its Web complement Cargomag.com were launched by savvy Web veterans who wanted the site to be an integral piece in the editorial mix, even editor-in-chief Ariel Foxman was surprised at the level and kind of involvement readers sought. “We get an incredible volume of emails,” he says, “and they are very specific, asking for story topics and following up stories with questions.” Readers want to know where they can buy that nose hair trimmer or find an obscure designer cologne. And the editors rise to the occasion by hunting down answers and either responding directly or incorporating the info into a section of the magazine called, appropriately, Search Engine. “It’s turned into something much larger than a service magazine,” says Foxman, “It’s turned into a really vibrant interactive community.”
“For a magazine like Cargo, which bills itself as a buying guide, it is great to have these specific questions,” says Melissa O’Neil, online editor of Cargomag.com. “We can react to what they are looking for.” I would go further. This is a content provider morphing into a consultative service for readers, a highly responsive, on-demand system in which editors satisfy readers’ tastes and needs in near-real time. In some cases, it involves using this voluminous feedback to determine article topics, but it could also mean hunting down information and resources for individual requests. In this consultative model, editors regard readers as the expertsexperts about their own information needs, which editors must satisfy.

TECH TALK: An Entrepreneur’s Growth Challenge: Partnerships

Along with People, we need Partnerships. We also need to make sure we don’t reinvent the wheel, and thus identify and source technology components that are already available. We need to be innovative, and not necessarily inventive.

One of the things I have learnt in my decade as an entrepreneur is that many times we (and I too have been guilty of this in the past) get enamoured by wanting to create things from scratch. It is much more fun. It is easy to find fault with that exists out there, and decree it as unfit for consumption (or recycling). It all makes for a good excuse for building the next new thing.

I faced a similar choice some years ago when I wanted to start a News site as part of the IndiaWorld family. One option was to subscribe to news feeds and hire an editorial team which will work 24×7 to make sure we did not miss out on any breaking news. This is what some of the competitors were doing. I decided that this is not a business I wanted us to be in. I chose the option provided by technology that of aggregation. It took a software programmer a few days to write a program that aggregated all the headlines from the various Indian and international news sites on a single page. Thus was born Samachar. Without the legacy of any editorial talent, we could showcase everything that was out there without any not-invented-here syndrome. Samachar was an instant success with Indians abroad and grew to be one of our most profitable portals with zero human involvement.

As we seek to build out the thin clients, the centralised grid and the various services, we need to first survey the world at large to see what is out there. It may not be perfect, but even if it is 70-80% good enough, it is a start on which we can build upon. The mantra is more along the lines of value-added aggregation. Many of the components exist, but they have not been put together the way we are seeking to. There is a mix of both open-source software and commercial solutions that are out there which we need to aggregate together. The right choices here can put us on a fast-track and shorten our time to reach the marketplace.

With an eye on partnerships, Atanu and I made a US trip in August to meet people and companies. Some of the meetings came about as a result of people writing in via my weblog. I also realised here that my diverse reading (forced upon by my need to blog daily) also helped in providing me with insights into different technology areas which could be useful to us over time. That’s part of the reason I exhort everyone I meet to blog it opens one up to ideas and contacts not otherwise possible through our other linear connection tools.

Tomorrow: Execution