Electronics Supplies Affected by Japanese Earthquake

Earlier this week Southern Japan was wracked by a number of powerful earthquakes which has affected the supply chains for a number of major electronics firms including Sony, Mitsubishi Electric and chip-maker Renesas which had factories in the area.

The Kumamoto prefecture on the isle of Kyushu was first struck on Thursday evening local time by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake, which triggered a number of aftershocks. Early on Saturday morning, the region was hit again by a more powerful quake measuring a magnitude of 7.3 and triggering warnings of a potential tsunami. It was reported by NHK Television that at least 4 people had been confirmed dead as a result of the Saturday quake, compounding with the 9 deaths and over 1000 injured by the quakes on Thursday.

As a result of the quakes, Sony put a halt to work at its Kumamoto factory, which produces the digital image sensors used in many devices including Apple’s iPhone. It is currently unclear how long the factory will be out of action or if it will be long enough to affect the availability of products that rely on the sensors. Renesas Electronics and Mitsubishi Electric also possess manufacturing plants in the region which have currently been suspended with the former making chips for the automotive industry and the latter power devices. Addition Mitsubishi Electric facilities in the nearby area have also ground to a halt, including an LCD parts facility and semiconductor plant.

The worst of the earthquakes have now passed for the region, as the Japan Meteorological Agency reported that Saturday’s quake was the main quake and Thursday’s was just a precursor. We can only hope that this natural disaster-torn part of Japan and its people will start to recover soon and the region can begin working to return to normal.

Researchers Develop Molecule-Sized Diode

A team of researchers form the US and Israel have developed the world’s smallest diode, the size of a single molecule. The scientists, from the University of Georgia in the US and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel, collaborated to create the nanoscopic electronic device, which may mark a further step in demolishing Moore’s Law.

“Creating and characterizing the world’s smallest diode is a significant milestone in the development of molecular electronic devices,” Dr. Yoni Dubi, a researcher in the BGU Department of Chemistry and Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, told Phys.org. “It gives us new insights into the electronic transport mechanism.”

The researchers used a single DNA molecule, made from 11 base pairs and supplemented with inserted coralyne, and connected it to an electric circuit that measured mere nanometres. When electricity was passed through the molecule, the current increased to 15x negative vs. positive voltages, which effectively describes a diode.

“In summary, we have constructed a molecular rectifier by intercalating specific, small molecules into designed DNA strands,” explains Prof. Xu.

The design has only been tested in a theoretical model so far, but the research seems promising. “The model allowed us to identify the source of the diode-like feature, which originates from breaking spatial symmetry inside the DNA molecule after coralyne is inserted,” Xu added.

Philips V800 Flip Phone Is in the Pipeline

Remember when the flip mobile phone design was all the rage? For some of you, this may seem an impossibility owing to the now ubiquitous smartphone look. Well, it looks as if Dutch Electronics Company Philips is set to release a new product by the name of the V800 flip phone to consumers.

Below is a summary of the key features along with a selection of images to convey this product.

  • The Phone Weighs 206g
  • The casing size is 8x60x19.1mm
  • It utilizes a Quad-core 1.5GHz processor
  • The Phone has two identical screens and a IPS LCD touch screen with a resolution of 1280×720
  • It is equipped with 13 Mega Pixel rear camera and 5 Mega Pixel front camera
  • The Phone runs on Android 5.1 system.

Below are images of this phone, as you can see, it looks noteworthy, the colours are atmospheric dark gray for the outer casing while the keyboard has a gold colour design which gives the phone a more luxurious feel.

There is no word as yet as to the pricing or release date, but it could be on the horizon when you consider it has passed through the TENAA (China’s wireless regulator). The phone may also have a limited appeal when you consider the flip phone design is now predominately sold within the Far Eastern market.

Image courtesy of wikimedia

CEX Now Offers 24 Month Warranty on Second Hand Goods

Purchasing any used electrical item from smartphones to CPUs involves a high degree of risk unless the product includes an original proof-of-purchase. As a result, when looking for expensive graphics cards on eBay or premium mechanical keyboards, you have to take into account the lack of consumer protection. It’s quite baffling that the selling price is usually so close to a new retail sample which often contains a 2-5 year warranty. Throughout Europe, new goods legally have to come with a 2-year warranty, but there’s some confusion if this applies to used items.

Thankfully, there are some retail stores in the UK which provide guarantees on pre-owned hardware. However, the duration varies quite dramatically and some chains do not disclosure this information in a clear way. Recently, CEX announced they will provide a 24 month warranty on all used items as standard. This is a fantastic scheme and offers piece of mind on used products. Personally, I would probably pay the extra compared to eBay to have that extra year of cover. This enhanced protection encourages consumers to spend money on higher ticket items such as a used Intel Core i7-4770K. The savings are impressive and the warranty period buying used is only reduced by one year in this particular case.

While I’ve not always had the best experience with CEX, I have to applaud this consumer-friendly move. Hopefully, this will force the company to enforce greatly improved testing, and make sure traded-in products meet the standards.

Do you care about the warranty period when buying components?

4K Television Shipments Predicted to Reach 40% in 2016

The consumer adoption of high-definition Televisions has taken a considerable amount of time but this isn’t surprising considering the fairly low quality footage on traditional broadcasts. Initially, people were told to upgrade to ‘HD Ready’ sets as a way of preparing for high-definition content. However, many of these users felt quite angry when ‘Full HD’ displays replaced the older 720p Televisions. The marketing was incredibly confusing and pretty misleading. While 1920×1080 TVs are the modern standard, broadcasts usually revolve around 720p video.

Intriguingly, a research paper conducted by IHS, predicts 4K TVs will account for 40% of sales in 2016. This is a massive change compared to 2014, and forecasts for the year-end of 2015. Ricky Park, Director of Large Display Research for IHS Technology argued:

“The increased supply of LCD TV panels has caused a downturn in panel prices, providing consumers with a cheaper selection of wide-screen TVs and whetting their appetite for even larger TVs with higher resolution”.

“The consumer requirement for higher resolution will also grow, as more 4K TV video content becomes available”.

4K Televisions are becoming more affordable, and consumers demand the best visual quality available. Additionally, it’s quite common for households to use sets in excess of 40 inches. This was unthinkable 5-10 years ago, when 28-32 inches seemed extremely large. As Televisions increase in size, so does the demand for a greater resolution as low pixel densities cause a sub-par viewing experience.

What is the screen size of your Television?

Bridging a Spinal Injury with Electronics Offers Hope to Paralysis

Science is a vital element to the exploration and development of a range of subjects and techniques, one such field is of course the medical profession, huge leaps and bounds have been made over the last decade or so. Now, Scientists at “Case Western Reserve University in Ohio have unveiled a technique that has enabled them to incorporate electronics with the aim of helping a paralysed man’s spinal injury, permitting him to use an implant in his brain to move his arm and hand”.

Robert Kirsch, who is a biomedical engineer at Case Western explained that this is the first timesignals collected in the brain have been conveyed directly to electrodes placed inside someone’s arm to restore movement”. The end goal is eventually to be in a position whereby a wireless system is introduced with the aim of transmitting brain signals through the air to electronics sewn into the limbs of paralysed people, thereby restoring the ability to carry out simple daily tasks.

It’s fascinating yet somewhat complicated but I will persist, the study results so far have indicated that the volunteers movements are still rough and as yet not as coordinated as an able-bodied person’s would be. But it’s remarkable to think that a person who is paralysed is able to control their own body and to stimulate muscles in a specific way to make them move.

Volunteers who have undertaken brain implant studies have previously attempted rudimentary tasks which have included moving a computer cursor.  This research had moved up a notch after a different Ohio man with partial arm paralysis received a brain implant and was able to mentally “open and close his hand”. This latest case is different as the current volunteer has a spinal injury that prevents him from moving or opening his arms at all.

So, in the words of Kryten, aka Robert Llewellyn, how did they do it? Now, this is the uber (not that one) complicated bit. It all started 9 months ago after surgeons implanted two bunches of silicon electrodes, called Utah arrays, into the volunteer’s motor cortex. (The Motor Cortex is the part of the brain where movements are planned) “Wires from each array then emerged from the skull through metal ports before connecting to computers that interpret the signals”.

To complete the bridge, doctors then inserted more than 16 fine wires into the volunteer’s right arm and hand. “Electrical impulses sent to those electrodes caused different muscles to contract, creating movement in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist, an approach known as functional electrical stimulation, or FES.

According to Robert Kirsch, the volunteer is able to accurately control a computer simulation of his wired-up arm using his brain signals, the challenging part is moving his real arm under brain control since it has been paralysed for so long and therefore the muscles have considerably weakened.

It’s certainly fascinating and opens up a vast array of possibilities for providing hope to paralysed individuals, the dream for scientists is to be able to offer a paralysed person the chance to undertake normal activities, I.e. walking around a room etc. Of course, this vision is as yet in the distant future, but every development provides a new possibility which in turn moves the technology and also understanding forward. We could be looking into a future whereby it is indeed possible to provide a workaround to Paralysis.

Argos Rolls out Smartphone and Tablet Trade-in Scheme

Argos, one of the UK’s latest retail chains, has launched a trade-in incentive to recycle unwanted electronics. The retailer plans to offer vouchers in exchange for tablets and smartphones. Each device will either be refurbished and resold or recycled to help protect the environment. Unlike existing schemes, Argos’ retail presence allows for a convenient, in-store quote without having to ship the item off to a company and wait 5-7 working days. However, I highly doubt Argos will be able to match successful second hand resellers like CEX who offer competitive prices versus the competition. Additionally, consumers can sell their unwanted items through a number of means including eBay, Gumtree, Facebook groups and local advertisements. Usually, even after fees, the eBay prices are significantly higher than any trade-in offer.

Companies are hoping to get the custom from people who feel uncomfortable on eBay or find it too time consuming. Perhaps, they don’t know how to photograph items or cannot answer technical details about an electrical product. Amy Whidburn, head of corporate responsibility at Argos, said:

“As a leading technology retailer we know that our customers are looking for solutions to responsibly dispose of unwanted gadgets when they replace or trade-up devices. Our new scheme in conjunction with Wrap offers them a safe way to do this, in a really convenient location on their local high street or retail park, with the added benefit of receiving a gift card in return immediately.” 

It’s an interesting move and I’m fascinated to see how generous Argos’ trade-in prices will be.

Have you ever traded-in an old or unwanted item?

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Rumor: Apple and Intelligent Energy Team Up to Bring Fuel Cells for Mobile Devices

Fuel cells have been the topic of discussion for many researchers in the past, working on theoretical inventions and all sorts of contraptions to figure out how to change the common battery and prolong the power output in order to keep mobile devices running for extended periods of time. Up until now, there have been only a handful of successful solutions, such as the sugar-powered battery, having most of them fail the practical tests.

Now it seems that fuel cell company, Intelligent Energy, has teaming up with ‘a major international electronics company’ to add fuel cell technology to the company’s mobile devices. Intelligent Energy is said to have revealed that it purchased patents for mobile fuel cell technology from Eveready, in association with the major electronics company in question which allegedly could not be identified in any finding.

“Intelligent Energy revealed upon floating that it bought a bundle of patents in tandem with a major ‘international electronics company’. It has kept the identity of its partner a closely guarded secret. But a source, who has knowledge of the partnership, confirmed that Apple is the big name working with the Loughborough-based firm.”

Though the partner company is not yet confirmed, the Daily Mail apparently received word from its sources, which points to Apple as being the secret company. This makes sense, since more and more mobile manufacturers out there are gaining ground on improved battery performance technology for their devices, the kind that is currently a threat to the ‘everlasting’ Apple devices. A partnership between the two companies might bring Apple a boost in battery life for both the MacBooks and iPhones/iPads, while also patenting (as always) the integrated technology for their own franchise.

Other links that point to Apple as being the mystery partner company is the fact that Intelligent Energy already has ties with Apple, having hired former Apple executive Joe O’Sullivan as its Chief Operating Officer in 2011. Other facts that strengthen the rumor can be found in Apple’s patents filed in 2010 and 2011, having the company describing the use of fuel cell technology in portable computing devices, as well as having its own corporate headquarters and data center from Maiden, North Carolina, running on large-scale fuel cells.

Thank you MacRumors for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of MacRumors

Electronics Company Belkin Pulls Plug on Professional Cycling Team Sponsorship

U.S. consumer electronics company Belkin has decided to pull the plug on its professional cycling sponsorship, announcing the decision in June.

Current team riders have given Belkin a deadline of August 1 to find a new sponsor, or they will begin to look at other teams for 2015 season contracts.  If a new sponsor isn’t found, team management will begin releasing riders to give them the opportunity to stay in the pro peloton.

When Belkin took over the team in June 2013, they signed a two-and-a-half year agreement – and while brand exposure increased in Europe – the California-based company said it wanted to focus on global initiatives.

Here is what the company said after the announcement:

“Belkin would like to thank and pay tribute to the cycling community for the warm welcome and the support that has been extended to our brand over the last 12 months.  Belkin will always have the highest of regards for the team and will actively support them throughout the remainder of the season in their search for a new sponsor.”

Thank you to CyclingNews for providing us with this information

Meanwhile, due to sponsor problems causing an even higher stress level, the team prepares for the Tour de France, which begins on Saturday in Leeds.

Image courtesy of Bianchi USA

Newegg Reportedly Heading To Europe, Including the UK, As Early As This March

If you’re living in the United States, Canada, China or Taiwan, then you should know or have even used Newegg to buy all sorts of electronic devices, including PC hardware. The online retailer of hardware and software was founded by Fred Chang, a Taiwanese immigrant, in 2001.

Since then, it had a substantial amount of requests from potential European customers, however with no indication of the services being available in the region anytime soon. However, things are about to change in the near future.

The online retailer has recently announced that it will be bringing its services to Europe, including the UK. Newegg has planned to start business with its potential customers as early as this March, however the retailer is said to start a ‘soft’ launch at first in order to test the waters before becoming more confident about its shipping and supply lines.

Newegg allegedly claims to have 25 million registered users and 8.5 million subscribers to its regular email bulletins, numbers that look set to grow if the company can find a way to stand amidst competition like Amazon, eBuyer and the British PC-specialist Scan.

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information

Affordable 4K Monitors From Asus & Lenovo Unveiled At CES 2014

Earlier in the week in my post regarding my thoughts on what’s going to be the talk of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show I made a guess that 4K was once again going to be high in the rankings as panels become more affordable and more developed over the last 12 months. Well it appears that my thoughts were right on the money and both Asus and Lenovo have stepped forward to give us a taster with their sub US $800 displays that pack the massive 4K resolution that it seems we are all desperate to get our hands on.

Over the last few months we have seen no end of 4K monitors available on the market, but truth be told they have been well out of the price range of many of us and so they were only but a reality for those with a deep pocket. The time has now come, however, where 4K panels have been condensed into a smaller frame, but remarkably the price has dropped considerably.

Starting off with the PB287Q from Asus, content creators can now stop saving up for the $3000 asking price of Asus’ larger 31.5″ panel that has been on the market for the last few months. Compared to its bigger brother, the PB287Q packs virtually the same feature set, with both DisplayPort 1.2 and MHL-capable HDMI ports on hand and the same jaw-dropping resolution of 3840 x 2160. The most important factor to consider though is the remarkable price of just US $799 which brings this monitor right into the price bracket of many high end content creators such as myself.

Like Asus, Lenovo are also breaking the mould with their own affordable 4K screen. The ThinkVision Pro2840m like the PB287Q is also a 28″ panel that packs the same 3840 x 2160 resolution, but it also features three USB 3.0 ports and dual 3W speakers for an extra premium over the Asus offering of around $1 – yes $1!.

Both monitors are scheduled to be available in the early to mid part of Q2 this year and I’ll make sure to head over to both vendors stands this week to get a closer look at what these screens have to offer.


CyberpowerPC Show Off The Fang Battle Box At CES 2014

CyberpowerPC are taking this years show by the horns and are giving us a whole heap of toys to look at and play around with. We’ve already seen their Steam Box offering but there is yet another system in their suite that has caught my eye. Tucked away to the side of the room is a system that looks somewhat like a took box or flight case, but with LEDs inside. This is the coveted Fang Battle Box.

Packed inside this mighty little box is a whole LAN gaming system with more than enough grunt to pwn those n00bs with ease. After going to many LAN events, it’s apparent that some people could do with a more robust system to carry from home to the gaming halls and this is exactly the design path that CyberpowerPC have gone down with the Battle Box.

Obviously with a system of this sort, having an easy way to transport it is paramount and on the top a chunky handle is provided – as one would expect with a flight case design and next to this we find two USB3.0 ports, power and reset buttons and the case latch to open the system up,

The underside of the case features some large rubber feet on one end of the system is a full arrray of I/O ports so as soon as you arrive at LAN, all you need to do is plug it in and play!

Opening the case up we find that this is more than just a LAN ready chassis, Alongside a GTX 780 Ti and a 4770k topped with a Corsair closed loop water cooling unit is a 120GB SSD paired with a 1TB mechanical drive, 16GB Dual-Channel memory, cooler master fans and a 500W power supply from Corsair.

The Fang Battle Box is due for release around now and I am certainly looking forward to getting this rather unique system in for review, after all it’s not everyday you see a system in a flight case available to buy off the shelf.


CES 2014 Live Gallery

With another year, comes another CES and as always, the eTeknix team will be at the heart of the event, getting you the latest coverage from the biggest and smallest manufacturers on the market from components to of course; consumer electronics. While this page will be constantly updated with photos of CES 2014 coverage, all CES based content articles will be found here.

This article will be split into pages for each manufacturer that we cover, and at the bottom of the page will be a handy navigation bar so that you can check out pictures of exactly what you want to see and yes of course that will include a page devoted to booth babes.

Stay tuned as we prepare for the first days of CES 2014 in the ever so dry desert that is Las Vegas.

Samsung Said To Unveil 105-inch Curved UHD TV At CES 2014

Samsung Electronics has announced that it would be unveiling the world’s first, largest and most curved 105-inch Curved UHD TV at the upcoming CES 2014, a global consumer electronics tradeshow in US city of Las Vegas.

The Samsung 105-inch Curved UHD TV adopts a new proprietary picture quality algorithm that delivers optimized color and greater feeling of depth. As the curved panel has been further upgraded and TV circuit technology has been added, the combination of the upgraded curved panel with a greater picture quality engine provides the ultimate immersive experience, a statement said.

“We are happy to unveil the 105-inch Curved UHD TV, the culmination of Samsung’s advancements, following the world’s first Curved UHD TV at IFA 2013,” said HS Kim, executive vice president of Visual Display Business, Samsung Electronics. “You will experience a true curved TV optimized for consumer viewing environments at CES 2014.”

The new UHD TV provides almost two times vivid images when viewed from the side and the best possible TV viewing experience from any angle, according to the statement.

Also, the 105 incher adopts ‘Quadmatic Picture Engine’ to deliver all content in UHD-level picture quality no matter what the source is. Samsung’s 105-inch Curved UHD TV features an 11 million pixels (5120×2160) screen resolution with a 21:9 aspect ratio.

Sony Mobius Paper, A Revolution In e-Ink Technology

Sony has announce a new product once again, and this one is kind of nifty. We have seen products like it, and it looks like a glorified eBook reader to me, but the technology they are using is amazing. You can only make a product so thin, and usually the thinner an electronic the easier it is to break it. Many of us have dropped our cell phones, and it usually has dire consequences, broken screens, or worse.

This new digital paper also called Mobius is an almost paper thin flexible display, unfortunately only available in gray scale. Digital Paper will be released in Japan later this year, it has not been released on if or when it will be released to other markets.

Featuring a 13.3-inch screen size this could easily replace paper textbooks which would be a plus for our environment. Digital Paper would allow you to write, edit, highlight, etc documents. Really an interesting piece of technology, I can’t wait to see what we will be able to do with it.

Do you prefer pen and paper, or would you use this E-Ink Digital Paper?

Main specifications of the prototype of the “digital paper” terminal

Display (1,200 × 1,600 dot) flexible electronic paper with 13.3-inch
16-level gray scale
Touch panel Electromagnetic induction type pen input corresponding touch panel
touch panel Clear (optical)
Built-in memory capacity About 4GB
Interface microSD memory card slot ※ 4 , micro USB port
Support file format (extension) Complies with specification PDF (. Pdf), the PDF 1.7
Wireless LAN IEEE 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz) compliant
Rechargeable battery Built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Rechargeable battery duration Up to 3 weeks (Wi-Fi feature off) ※ 5
Dimensions (height × depth width ×) 233 × 310 × 6.8mm ※ 3 (display unit 4.8mm)
(Including battery) Mass 358g

Source / Source

Researchers Discovered Stretchable Lithium-Ion Battery

A new stretchable type Lithium-Ion battery has been found which looks to be promising enough once the technology is practical and feasible enough to be used in our gadgets. The concept uses small dots that are capable of storing energy on the stretchable polymer. It’s also being indicated that these batteries can be used for wireless charging as well.

A report indicates that the prototype stretchable batteries as of now can only run through 20 charge per discharge cycle and that it still requires additional development efforts to perfect and make it feasible enough for mass production, but looking at the ideas that are brought forward itself, it looks to be very promising.

A number of stretchable electronics and its components have been on the rise, but having a stretchable power storage solution has been an issue and a latecomer in the stretchable electronics race.

There are many applications for such a stretchable product in day-to-day life. These can used on anything from health monitors to even roll-up displays. Wearable devices (just like Apple’s patent design) can benefit from this as well.

This is invented by a team in the University of Illinois at the Urbana-Campaign where they tested an initial prototype which was able to stretch up to 300% while powering an LED lamp.

Senior Author of this research John Rogers said,”Batteries are particularly challenging because, unlike electronics, it’s difficult to scale down their dimensions without significantly reducing performance. We have explored various methods, ranging from radio frequency energy harvesting to solar power.”

Prof. Rogers has been working with colleagues at NorthWestern University where they research on stretchable electronics made of different materials by using something that they call as “pop-up” architecture. This works by using tiny and wide-spaced circuit elements viz. embedded within the stretchable polymer and connected with wires where they pop up when the polymer is stretched.

There is also another where it involves stretching the polymer in which it has tiny solar cells embedded. This will make the cells become larger once it’s stretched. The best part is that this polymer will not taut even if its stretched 3 times more than its normal size.

Prof. Rogers explained,”The most important applications will be those that involve devices integrated with the outside of the body, on the skin, for health, wellness and performance monitoring.”