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Displays Hardware Hacking Build

Pixel Qi Introduces a DIY Kit 74 74

jones_supa writes "Pixel Qi has just revealed their DIY kit for netbooks, planned to be out near the end of Q2 — sounds like June. This makes it possible to retrofit a screen to one fully readable in direct sunlight. In her blog, Mary Lou Jepsen says: 'It’s only slightly more difficult than changing a lightbulb: it’s basically 6 screws, pulling off a bezel, unconnecting the old screen and plugging this one in. That’s it. It’s a 5 minute operation.' She also talks about the 'laptop hospital,' a service depot started by kids in Africa."
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Pixel Qi Introduces a DIY Kit

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  • "Unconnecting"? (Score:-1, Redundant)

    by dannycim (442761) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:20PM (#31394884)

    I dunno, I'm not sure I'd trust any sort of electronic hacking procedure from anyone who's a bit shaky on the grammar of the procedure terms themselves.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disconnect [reference.com]

  • by gehrehmee (16338) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:20PM (#31394888) Homepage

    Slashdotted before a first-post. That's unfortunate.

  • ignoramus (Score:3, Funny)

    by martas (1439879) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:21PM (#31394898)
    i thought their stuff was only black&white? won't you need some pretty severe UI changes to get something useful out of a netbook like that?
  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:24PM (#31394916) Homepage

    No thanks, but I'll wait for when it can be done as a replacement for TN screens of larger sizes (14", 15", (17"?)) and proves to be better at quality than *-IPS panels.

    Netbooks might be a proof-of-concept, but notebooks of larger sizes and higher quality would be a better application.

    • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:42PM (#31395076)

      This isn't a generic LCD display - that's not their market.

      The big deals with the Pixel Qi display is that:

      - It's totally usable in full sunlight
      - It's full color and fast (OK for video)
      - It has a reflective e-ink mode
      - It's low power

      It's really geared towards:

      1) eBook readers that want color and video support
      2) Laptops/netbooks intended to be used outside (which tends to mean smaller form factor)

      They use the same production line as traditional LCDs though (there's lots of articles / videos on them if you Google), so they'll certainly be able to produce larger sizes if they want to.

    • I'll wait for when it can be done as a replacement for TN screens of larger sizes (14", 15", (17"?))

      With you on this - mostly because I don't have a netbook.

      and proves to be better at quality than *-IPS panels.

      What? You want to replace a TN-quality display with something that's better than the best on the market? And that's stand-alone display market - there are NO laptops on the market today, that has an IPS-display. There aren't even any that have MVA/PVA displays. Why the hell not settle for replacing it with something that's better than TN-quality?

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    Please contact the server administrator, admin@yahoo-inc.com and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

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    Please check the URL for proper spelling and capitalization. If you're having trouble locating a destination on Yahoo!, try visiting the Yahoo! home page or look through a list of Yahoo!'s online services. Also, you may find what you're looking for if you try searching below.

  • A similar link (Score:2, Informative)

    by lazycam (1007621) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:28PM (#31394944)
    A quick google search turned up the same story: http://www.buzzbox.com/news/2010-03-07/Pixel_Qi:Q2/ [buzzbox.com]
  • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:28PM (#31394956) Homepage

    Yeah. To change a lightbulb you have to change five screws and a bezel. What's one more screw?

    • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:00PM (#31395222)

      Not much apparently. If a five year old girl can do it, maybe you can too?! ;-)

      Just a quick note to say the DIY kits from our distributor will be available towards the end of Q2. We will be announcing with them prior to distrbution. Thanks for your patience.

      One of the reasons I'm personally committed to doing this goes back to my One Laptop per Child experience and girls in a poor rural part of Nigeria who helped us test the early beta-laptop builds. In their school they had slanted desks bolted to benches with 4-5 kids per desk/bench combo. When any kid fidgeted or bumped all the laptops would fall on the concrete floors. The laptops were designed to be rugged and didn't break usually, but in this early build one of the cables to the touchpad/keyboard was 1mm too short and could become "unseated". This meant the keyboard and the touchpad would no longer work unless something was done.

      Luckily: An 11 year old girl decided to open a laptop hospital. Unfortunately the boys really missed out here, because in this part of Nigeria "everyone knows" only girls work at hospitals, she eventually recruited girls as young as 5 to help out in the hospital. This group of girls armed with screwdrivers starting taking apart the laptops and reseating the cables. Sometimes they'd change out a screen, or a speaker. They learned about the hardware of their laptops. They got to see what was inside. They got better and better at fixing things by learning as they went.

      Ministers of Education had a tough time believing that these girls could fix the hardware, so they would visit - to see it with their own eyes - and start thinking differently about maintenance of hardware. We kept preaching that ownership was the best way to assure maintenance.

      Yet, most people are scared to change their laptop screen. It's only slightly more difficult than changing a lightbuld: it's basically 6 screws, pulling off a bezel, unconnecting the old screen and plugging this one in. That's it. It's a 5 minute operation.

      • The OLPC must be built substantially different from every laptop that I've worked on (Acer Aspire One, Almost every recent Dell, Thinkpad, HP, or Toshiba). Almost all of them have the LVDS connector on the motherboard and fed through the hinge, requiring disassembling the base to some degree to get the cable out, then about 6 screws to open the bezel, then several more to get the screen module out, then several more to get the frame off the screen. I suppose you could re-use the LVDS cable to avoid opening the base, but it's usually fragile.
      • Yet, most people are scared to change their laptop screen. It's only slightly more difficult than changing a lightbuld: it's basically 6 screws, pulling off a bezel, unconnecting the old screen and plugging this one in. That's it. It's a 5 minute operation.

        Most people are scared to change their laptop screen because its so easy to break the bezek, which has strange little hooks and may be glued on at points so that it cracks and breaks.

        I've taken apart laptops and I think they do things just to make us break it. Frankly I'm surprised my current thinkpad has the audio jacks on a daughter board that can be replaced (although you have to take apart the whole base part of the laptop to get it off.

      • by RMH101 (636144) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:39AM (#31399220)
        I'm sure changing the screen on an OLPC is nice and easy. Problem is, TFA states you should do this to your netbook. For every laptop I've changed a screen on, it's been a fairly complex operation with significant risk of breaking something - levering off the bezel without snapping anything, taking the keyboard and rest of the top plastics off to get at the video connector on the motherboard, threading the resulting ribbon cable back through the hinge, and removing the screen from the lid. It's non trivial. Unless it turns out most common Netbooks are constructed otherwise, I can't see this being all that easy. Also, the ribbon connector to the motherboard isn't a standard, it varies and so again, unless all netbooks use the same interface (and I guess given the majority are Intel/Atom chipset this is more likely) I don't think one screen would fit all.
        I'd do it to my own if I owned a netbook (they should do one with a touchscreen built in!) but I wouldn't recommend someone not used to dismantling laptops tried it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:52AM (#31397718)
      At my house the dining room light needs 4 screws and a glass cover removed to change the 2 bulbs in it.
  • by ultor (216766) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:40PM (#31395058) Homepage

    What about the problem of dust getting inside while changing the screen? Few people have the clean-rooms necessary to get factory-quality results. Sure, it'll take five minutes to change the screen, but it'll take three more hours of repeatedly taking the bezel off, spraying it with a can of air, and putting it back on to remove the inevitable particles getting in.

    • by shogun (657) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:01PM (#31395230)

      A modern laptop screen is a sealed unit which you would replace entirely - open the bevel pull out the screen, put the new one in, close the bevel. The front of the screen is exposed to the outside anyway so it would be exactly the same as dust getting onto it in normal use.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:03PM (#31395244)

      i guess you've never changed an lcd panel. dust is not an issue. the only conceivable place it could be is on the face of the screen... which you can see, touch, and clean whether the bezel is in place or not.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:10PM (#31395290)

        Dust will be an issue with this. You must get into the layers of the LCD for some units. Not every laptop has the same filter layers so some people will fine them selfs getting into the heart of the package. ANY dust in the filter layers will show 100%. It's a real bitch to do if you have cats or a dusty warehouse. The layers tend to have some static to them so love to pull in dust and hair.

    • Re:Dust? (Score:2, Informative)

      by ^_^x (178540) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:31PM (#31395450)

      All of the laptop screens I've disassembled have included the LCD panel, lighting tube, backlight reflector and diffusor assembly in one main assembly, so it may just be a matter of opening the case around the screen, popping a couple of cables off and swapping it.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:40PM (#31395062) Homepage Journal
    Now we can begin our own "How many netbook owners does it takes to change a lightbulb" jokes.
  • by cfriedt (1189527) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:41PM (#31395070)
    I think Yahoo has actually been slashdotted :o
  • Poor Africa (Score:0, Offtopic)

    by tjstork (137384) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (ykswordnab.ddot)> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:41PM (#31395072) Homepage Journal

    Africa is in a terrible catch 22 situation. In order to have a stable economy, of any kind, they must have respect for law. In order to get that, they have to have a stable economy with sufficient wealth so that people can settle down and have a rule of law. One hopes that netbooks for Africa would help, but, I am not optimistic.

    • Re:Poor Africa (Score:-1, Offtopic)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:52PM (#31395158)
      Kill the children, save the food,
      They're nothing but a bunch of black jig-a-boos,
      Save your money, let 'em die,
      So we can snort dope and get fuckin' high.
      Kill the children, save the food,
      There is no future for a jigaboo,
      We should execute them and use Africa for a zoo,
      Send your money to Tom Metzger for some jigaboo stew.
  • I haven't seen any tests on this. I don't doubt it'll match a regular TN screen in all ways, but how do they compare to the better IPS, MVA, PVA technologies?

    From what I understood about the PixelQI displays, they should be as easy to make as regular displays, so it ought to be possible to get them in high colour and viewing angle versions as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:53PM (#31395168)

    I think the website is down. Here is a cache version:
    http://74.125.93.132/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fpixelqi.com%2Fblog1%2F2010%2F03%2F07%2Fdiy-pixel-qi-kits%2F&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=

  • by joh (27088) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:57PM (#31395210)

    Seriously, their technology must be something all display manufacturers are after. So why have they to offer something like that which will be only of interest for geeks?

    As far as I know there is nothing amiss with this displays. They are great, cheap, easy to produce and offer nothing but advantages. There's no reason they shouldn't be able to sell this technology to everyone building netbooks or notebooks or desktop displays. But there's not a *single* device you can buy with this display. What's going on here?

    • by icegreentea (974342) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:03PM (#31395756)
      A whole bunch of Pixel Qi running devices were demoed at CES this year. We'll probably never see half of them again, but the rest are all presumably coming out sometime. This shit is friggin NEW. Hasn't really been time to integrate into most laptop lines yet. My bet is that the high-end laptops will start offering this as an option soon enough.

      And there are a few downsides. I'm assuming that they are still more expensive than a plain LCD screen. But from what I can remember from the CES videos, there's a distinct yellowish tint to the display (in color/video mode). It was very much as if it was all printed on newsprint. Now, nothing wrong with that for what the screen does, but I cannot see manufacturers pushing out a yellow tinted display across all their lines. There would be... backlash.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:29PM (#31396002)
      Honestly, I suspect that it's because they're not finding the interest they were expecting from the major netbook/device manufacturers. They've had to resort to selling directly to the enduser. This is something you generally want to avoid when you're in the position they're in. We'll have to see how it all pans out, though.
    • by mellon (7048) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:57AM (#31397970) Homepage

      They don't *have* to sell the stuff to geeks. The reason that they are such heroes is that despite not having to sell the stuff to us, they've decided to do so anyway, even though we will no doubt be a major pain in their collective asses. Because they think that laptops shouldn't be black boxes.

  • by kimvette (919543) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:00PM (#31395226) Homepage Journal

    Why notebooks in general don't come with transflective screen options is beyond me. It's an old and proven technology used on most PDAs and many smartphones now and the color gamut is actually pretty decent; perhaps not enough for color matching but excellent for gaming, movies, and the like (not to mention basic word processing, coding, etc. tasks). They are perfectly readable in all lighting conditions including direct sunlight, with full color reproduction. It is true that contrast and color gamut do suffer in direct sunlight but what does that matter, when you are looking at a screen that is incredible when backlight in normal viewing conditions, and very usable in sunlight?

    I've seen only a couple of notebooks with that option over the years. I'd like to see some new higher-end notebooks with transflective screens.

    • This isn't an ordinary transflective screen.

      On a transflective screen, external light goes through the color filters twice, as they're in front of everything. On this, the color filters are between the backlight and the actual liquid crystal setup. Therefore, with the backlight off (or with ambient light that overwhelms the backlight,) the contrast is equivalent to a (quite excellent) monochrome display - but it IS a monochrome display at that point.

  • by blackest_k (761565) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:04PM (#31395246) Homepage Journal

    If you could manage to mount the new screen to the outside of the netbook with a touch screen mod and switch the connections between the internal and external screen. It might be able to create a netbook/tablet. I know i'd find that useful.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h dot.org> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:22PM (#31395366)

    This group of girls armed with screwdrivers starting taking apart the laptops and reseating the cables. Sometimes they'd change out a screen, or a speaker. They learned about the hardware of their laptops. They got to see what was inside. They got better and better at fixing things by learning as they went.

    5-11 years old. Not told by anything to do so but in their own interest. Sorry, but that’s humanity at its finest.
    If I learned one thing about our abilities, it’s to simply assume you can do it. I see so many people who say and think that they can’t do this and can’t do that.
    We all are incredibly intelligent. Everyone can fix electronics. Everyone can write software. Everyone can learn quantum physics!
    It’s just a matter of allowing oneself to assume that one is able to do it. And then do it.
    That one rule, worked for me my whole life. :)

    Ministers of Education had a tough time believing that these girls could fix the hardware, so they would visit - to see it with their own eyes - and start thinking differently about maintenance of hardware.

    And here we see that exact mindset of “we can’t”. Just as most people here would assume a 5 year old girl couldn’t fix a computer. Let alone one from a 3rd world rural area.
    Turns out that’s bullshit! :)

    Man, if everyone could just see the tiny box of social conditioned pointless rules that he is caught in... “You can’t do that! Only rich good looking men get girls! Obey! Buy, buy, consume and buy! You are ugly! There is another side, that is against you! Believe! You must do this, and must not do that! ... ”

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:37PM (#31396102)

      I used to believe everyone can learn quantum physics. That is what I literally said to people.

      Then I started tutoring at a community college, and got hit with a big reality bat.

      For a lot of these older people, they have an incredibly difficult time remembering to do the same thing to both sides of an equation. And don't even get me started on them figuring out how to manipulate negative numbers for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. *shudder*

      The best they can do is try to memorize lists of rules and apply them. Developing an intuition for things is way beyond them now. Not only that, but they never learned how to think for themselves, so they will never teach themselves anything, ever. Which means they require constant hand-holding through every class. Their strategy is essentially to attempt to memorize how to do every possible problem that could be on the exams, instead of just learning the concepts and applying them dynamically.

      Sure, maybe if they spent their whole lives using their brain properly, maybe they could learn this stuff now. But I seriously think that their brains just can't handle learning things much at all anymore. They let their minds atrophy and the best they can hope for is holding off dementia.

      If you think you can teach them quantum physics, have at it. I'm not stopping you.

      The lesson I got from it is that if you want to know how to do stuff, keep your brain active your whole life, and learn things as you go. Your brain can and will, in a way, forget how to learn things, if you don't exercise it regularly.

      And this isn't even accounting for the people who have had physical trauma causing brain damage. I've tried to help people like that, one person who actually got real migraines after thinking for over a half hour. On the one hand, I applaud them, because they are trying their best to do what they can to make the best of the situation. On the other hand, it is just sad watching them, because they are never, ever going to do it, without some kind of specialized therapy.

      • by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:28PM (#31396948) Homepage

        A dirty secret that most educators know is there are people that can manipulate abstract symbols and those that cannot. If you confront someone that cannot do this with a problem that requires it, no matter how hard they try to do it, they aren't going to be able to.

        This does not appear to be learned skill but something the brain is either capable of or not.

        This used to be pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It became more important around the beginning of the 20th century, but was a pretty simple division - if you didn't have the ability you got a job in a factory or became a plumber or something like that. If you could, you could be a mathemetician. Engineering disciplines were sort of on the line, but probably require the ability.

        I don't think it has anywhere near as much to do with age or training. But if someone does not possess the ability, trying to "make them" is futile and frustrating.

      • Well, they are old. That something different. Your learning rate naturally falls with the age. Give them some drugs that raise the learning rate again, and see it do wonders. ^^ You know: The good stuff. ;)

        Also for many people, it’s a really long walk from where they are to being able to think freely.
        I know because I know how deep in the delusions I was. I was extremely introverted and always though I were the loser. Well, since I redefined what I am, I’m literally getting random strangers in the club nearly hugging me and wanna be friends. Even the boss and the DJ. It’s weird, and I totally don’t know how to handle it yet. ^^ But good to know that whoever you think you are inside: You can change everything of it. Declare it, and so be it!
        Just one thing: You might get into trouble with old friends assuming you are still the same and pushing you into that role again.
        I sometimes make fun by pushing people outside their roles. Like being the actual boss and your boss being the one coming to me to beg. ^^

        I think young age and motivation are key.
        Motivation as in: Finding the best possible balance between too easy and too hard. To drag you in the flow.
        Then season with a bit of structural thinking (like memorizing things as differences of base patterns and grouping things in graphs) to be able to put more than 7-10 things in your head at the same time. ...and out you get a genuine genius. (There is no such thing as talent or people born as geniuses, according to a well done study I read. Instead what they found is, that the only ingredients are what I just described.)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:24AM (#31397858)
        In tutoring math I've noticed that some people need a different approach, a new angle... another way to look at a problem and they can be taught. But I'm talking about high school football jocks that everyone thought were illiterate morons. Though, I wasn't their English tutor, so maybe they are illiterate.
      • by islisis (589694) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @09:57AM (#31425452) Homepage

        I have never wanted to mark anything "troll" more than this in my life.
        If you can't see how propogating the goals of an educational system which filters its customers through provacation rather than observational is the very trap leading teachers like yourself to fall into that mindset then you'll be shunning the place honesty in communication forever after. The only reason to believe it is true is in order categorise your own self, after which the only honest point you have to make is that you have refused to consider any more about yourself being grouped in "another" or "the other" category.

        Education is a dialogue not something you can make up on slashdot. No one has to believe the assumption you refer to, which is the only way to complete the internal logic of anecdotes like you make. Why make it an agenda? I'm guessing you have no idea who's agenda a divisive educational system serves in the end. If students are the paying customers, they should not be made to work for the providers. Categories should not be invented for them just to imagine some meaning to the statistics. No matter how it looks, you are not teaching them how to communicate with you, how to speak the same language you know. If you feel it is impractical to take the time to listen for language with which they can express their goals then that is all one needs to believe, and no more.

        And then you should admire the fact you can judge so many of your personal human relations in the same manner, at which point that the teacher-customer view of looking at things break down. You simply cannot overlay a vast predictive mapping of wider social trajectories into the tiny space which immediately separates your personal outlook on life. Only a mindset described in your account secures the fate of learners who lend themselves to approximating their goals with words dictated by agendas of society. If you truly feel that you have known a student to some degree then don't use it to their disadvantage. You are only encouraging someone to someday use the very words you just spoke to your own disadvantage, once they are through analysing your brain structure.

    • by originalhack (142366) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:11AM (#31397532)
      Nobody ever thought to tell them they couldn't succeed at that.... so they just did it!

      Bravo!
  • by Khith (608295) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:04PM (#31396796)

    Okay, so when will people be able to buy these things for their own netbooks, and how much will they cost?

    Will the screens be compatible in all netbooks? (I know there is a resolution standard but unsure if there is a standard panel size.)

    How would you switch between the 3 screen modes? You'd need a dedicated switch that your netbook doesn't have, or a special driver (hopefully there would be a Linux version) to select your mode.

    I'd love to have one of these screens to replace the glossy display in my current netbook. It's completely unusable in direct sunlight. Hell, I'd love to see this kind of tech eventually be offered as an option in ALL laptop screens.

    • by edittard (805475) on Monday March 08, 2010 @09:50AM (#31400014)

      Will the screens be compatible in all netbooks? (I know there is a resolution standard but unsure if there is a standard panel size.)

      It's not 100% clear but it looks to me like the article is actually about the OLPC, given that 1) the word "Netbook" appears nowhere in the article and 2) the involvement of Mary Lou Jepsen.

      Another non-story/crappy headline.

  • Sign me up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davide marney (231845) * <davide.marney@Nospam.netmedia.org> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:22PM (#31396908) Journal

    I purchased four XO-1s when they originally came out a couple years ago. I gave away two, boxed one for posterity, and am still using one for browsing (Opera) and note-taking (Zim) when I'm at conferences. I still get heads-turns and kids inching over to take a look over my shoulder everywhere I go.

    The XO-1 has an early version of the Pixel Qi screen, and it is extremely functional. I'm still amazed every time I'm reading an ebook on the subway, and walk from the deep darkness of the subway tunnel into blinding, direct sunlight, and the XO-1 display is still completely readable.

    The XO-1's processor, however, is quite slow, and that becomes a pain in the neck for browsing. A decently-performing netbook doesn't cost very much these days, but the screens are a disappointment. I'm really looking forward to snagging a Pixel Qi DIY kit, buying a cheap netbook, and fixing up my ride.

    Bring it, Mary Lou!

  • It takes more than this display to make a machine as power-friendly as the XO. XO's wifi is provided by an external module with its own power management, and its processor is less power-hungry than any x86 on the market today. I still know of no one producing a product today based on the Marvell meshing AP in the XO, though if I am lucky enough to be wrong, I'd certainly like to know who is doing it. The processor situation will rectify itself shortly, and anyway, the XO is slow. I don't think I'm alone in wishing for an OMAP4-based Linux netbook.

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