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LG catches the rising curve of OLED

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It’s a decade since the future possibilities of OLED TV first became obvious, and now that future is here, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Around a decade ago, I witnessed a dazzling new future in the making. At the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in 2007, Sony unveiled the XEL-1, the world’s first TV using Organic Light Emiting Diodes, or OLED. The name is a clue to the technology: because it emits light, OLED doesn’t need a backlight, meaning it can be much thinner than LCD screens which depend on backlight. And, of course, it gives a new meaning to colour.

This display back then was all of 11″, and the price an eye-watering $2,500 – for a device the size of an iPad. But it was the sharpest image I’d ever seen on a screen, and I imagined a future where one would pay a similar price for an OLED screen three or four times the size.

That future is here and, for once, it is bigger and better than we could imagine back then.

There are a few differences, of course. For one, the machine in question is made by LG. For another, it’s curved. And you have to shop around to get it for as little as $2,500. But that, perhaps, has something to do with the fact that it is five times the size of that original 11” display.

LG took the initiative away from Sony some time ago. It became the first TV maker to mass produce large-screen OLED sets in 2014, following up with a second generation last year.

The LG EG9600 may not be the biggest of LG’s third generation of OLED TVs, but it has the most satisfying image quality of any TV I’ve yet tested. It

represents the current state of the TV art, with 4K, or ultra high-definition (UHD) resolution, delivering wonderfully dark blacks and the kind of whites that are usually only promised in washing powder ads.

The result is video quality that is frighteningly real, and almost embarassingly detailed. Sometimes you don’t really want to see every pockmark in a movie star’s face. But that discomfort is easily outweighed by the level of detail that suddenly becomes available. From cityscapes to crowd scenes at sports events, it seems as if new secrets of the world are being revealed.

As if the picture isn’t enough, the machine itself is also dazzling, with its combination of gently curved screen and absurdly thin panel – it’s no thicker than LG’s latest flagship smartphone, the G5, or most other cutting edge smartphones for that matter.

If it’s smartphone functionality one wants, then the EG9600 offers something close, the latest version of LG’s webOS proprietary smart TV operating system. Version 3.0 has an improved user interface and easier navigation, although using the remote control for cursor control remains a clunky exercise. It allows one to navigate through a band of large tabs, and choose from a range of online services, including common or garden web browsing or YouTube viewing. The menu can be personalised if one wishes.

Finally, the speakers were built by Harman/Kardon to complement the visuals. This makes for a rich, near-surround sound that goes some way to living up to LG’s statement that the machine is “geared to creating a state-of-the-art home theatre”.

The price remains the major drawback of the unit. You may be getting five times the screen for only a little more than the price of an 11” a decade ago, but that will still be out of reach for most. However, this equation points to the current high-end coming down rapidly in price, especially as 55” seems to hit a sweet spot between big picture and manageable size for the average room.

Just five years from now, this kind of TV will be the norm. Considering that most people only buy a new TV set every five to ten years, it means that the future for the typical viewer is arriving now.

Apparently, LG agrees.

“We want OLED to be the revolution of light that opens up the future we all want to live in”, said Antonio Dos Santos, national sales manager  at LG Electronics South Africa, at the launch of the new OLED range.

“Without backlight and other auxiliary layers, the OLED display is fundamentally less complicated compared to LCD, and in time less costly to manufacture. I have no doubt, given its advanced features and superior performance, that foldable, wearable, flexible and transparent, OLED is the display technology for the next generation.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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