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Comdex

The PC Display has Left the Building 338

Makarand writes "A new class of PC displays, called Smart Displays, that will use Wi-Fi to effectively decouple themselves from the PC will be unveiled next week at Comdex. Special software from Microsoft ( code-named 'Mira') will be at the heart of these displays allowing them to communicate with any PC running Windows XP within Wi-Fi range ( typically several hundred feet ). The surface of a Smart Display will be touch sensitive allowing you to interact using a finger or a stylus."
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The PC Display has Left the Building

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  • Sweet (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:07PM (#4690972)
    Now I can look at everyone else's porn as well as my own!
    • Aside from porn... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Slashdotess ( 605550 ) <gchurch AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:23PM (#4691068)
      This does bring up some interesting security issues, will the wifi network be encrypted in any way?
    • All joking aside (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ACNiel ( 604673 )
      What is the name of that method of evesdropping on a user by intercepting the radiation from the monitor?

      This brings a whole new meaning to evesdropping using the video output.

      And even if the output is encrypted, somthing tells me that there would either be one master key, or some sort of escrow system that we have no control over. It seems like this technology would be great for the feds, and maybe a silent part of MS's agreement with the DOJ.

      "We will market this technology, making it so pervasisve as to be the prefered method. Once everyone is using it, you can evesdrop on anyone, since we will give you the master key. In return, you slap our wrists on this other thing."
  • by Mr_Icon ( 124425 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:10PM (#4690986) Homepage

    I interact with my Windows XP using a finger all the time.

  • Oh, joy! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:10PM (#4690987)
    Because when I think "security" I automatically think "Microsoft" and "802.11b."

    If sure these will just FLY off the shelves, so people can ensure that the script kiddie next door will be able to watch in realtime as you type up your post to alt.members.nambla-- before you even hit the "Submit" button!
  • by Nevermine ( 565876 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:11PM (#4690992)
    Think of the potential harm you can do by sniffing these networks.. Everything concerning patients in hospitals is classified information isn't it?
    • This is a trivial problem to solve. With a Windows 2k network, you can flip on IPSEC in about 20 seconds, and all communications between your servers and workstations will be encrypted on the packet level, with nothing but the packet header exposed.

      On top of that throw in application level encryption, database level encryption, and maybe an additional layer protocol like VPN and you have a wireless network with lots of security. Ohh, and thats not even counting WEP and whatnot.
      • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:33PM (#4691110)
        But if it's going to have to be secured as it travels through the air waves, then when it gets to the remote screen it's going to have to be decrypted, meaning the monitor will have to have enough processing power to decode the encrypted message. That really starts to turn it into a "Tablet PC" instead of a "Smart Display".
        • Ohh for sure. I'd bet this "smart display" in fact has something like a SmartARM processor in it, just like a PocketPC. If it runs Windows CE, i'd say thats a safe bet. But RDP and whatnot is a pretty useful protocol. If MS got their stuff together I bet they could support IPSEC + WEP, which would do a nice job of protecting the data.
        • That really starts to turn it into a "Tablet PC" instead of a "Smart Display".

          Not really. A smart display would probably only require symmetric encryption to be secure. According to my crypto prof, you can pick up high-speed 3-DES silicon for cents on the dollar. Toss in one of those spiffy 300mhz PICs and your work is done.
          This would not make the monitor into anything approaching a PC, unless you also consider, eg. your car stereo to be a 'dashboard PC' and your calculator wristwatch to be a 'wrist PC'. (Although the latter case might be fun to assert around fine arts majors...)

      • Ok, not to mention the fact that I'm sure they will use some sort of proprietary packet formatting (this is Microsoft we're talking about people) that only the display (or a really clever OSS developer) will be able to decypher. That alone is secure.
      • Maybe so, but none of these options apply, really. What counts here is WEP and RDP encryption. Both are not really known for their "quality". Now, considering that - in true MS fashion - the target user for this machine isn't likely to know a whole lot off stuff about security, and add to that the fact that *I* for would not be so much interested in *real time* access to the datastream between terminal and processor, but would settle for capturing a few hours worth of the datastream and then taking my own good time in decrypting it, and looking for any goodies I could find (CC numbers, bank account numbers, good porn, etc) those measures don't go far enough, IMO.
  • Think of the bandwidth situation:

    The average LCD screen is 1024x768x4(bytes)x60hz = 188,743,680 bytes per second of transfer over a wireless connection.

    I have no idea what kind of wireless system can transfer data like that, so there would definitely be a loss in picture quality somewhere.

    It's a neat idea, but without a real connection, data cannot travel that fast, and there's probably proprietary software behind it that would make it a WXP monitor ONLY, for whatever method it uses.
    • No... Imagine having a VNC terminal running on your LCD screen (complete with RAM and processor)-- no need for inputs, disk, etc. And another terminal running 'locally'. So now, not a whole lot of bandwidth is required to show images, and you in effect have a "wireless" screen.

      It seems we can do an open source solution quite quickly...

      • Why not embed Linux and the XFree86 XServer on this wireless PC( I mean innovative display system ) and have xdm running on the beige box under the desk?

        Wow, a remote display! How revolutionary!

        If you want a taste of this then get a Sharp Zaurus, a WiFi card and install the XServer on it. You don't have the realestate of a 1028x768 display but the idea is the same.

        Boy, this Microsoft thing is pure genius. NOT.

        LoB
        • Why not embed Linux and the XFree86 XServer on this wireless PC( I mean innovative display system ) and have xdm running on the beige box under the desk?

          Wow, a remote display! How revolutionary!


          Then where are all the Linux displays that work this way?

          If you want a taste of this then get a Sharp Zaurus, a WiFi card and install the XServer on it. You don't have the realestate of a 1028x768 [sic] display but the idea is the same.

          So you're saying it's not the same. And even at 1024x768, I wonder how X would compare to Microsoft RDP? (Which I've used over a fairly slow connection with AWESOME results.)

          Boy, this Microsoft thing is pure genius. NOT.

          It doesn't need to be pure genious. It just needs to work well and be marketed correctly. I think Microsoft might be able to do that?
    • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gma i l . c om> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:15PM (#4691025)
      No.

      These devices sound like essentailly Remote Desktop (RDP) clients running a modified form Windows CE.

      In that case hte bandwidth required is about 20 kbps, not the masive amount you predict.

      I dont think this is too revolutionary, but maybe it is what you describe (though, the article is no help since it gives sparse details).
      • My monitor can show me full-motion video... can this thing? If it can't, then it's not a full replacement for my desktop monitor like the article claims it world be.

        Yes, you can make sprites out of Windows icons and the such, but that still doesn't work when you have an .mpg file playing.
        • My monitor can show me full-motion video... can this thing? If it can't, then it's not a full replacement for my desktop monitor like the article claims it world be.

          Yeah, thats the test. Various vendors have add-ons for exisitng technology that can in fact stream full speed video to thin clients. Basically I think they work with a seperate data stream which is decoded by the client and overlayed. It would not be out of the question for MS to take an intercept all DirectX pixels, put it into a seperate stream, and send it to the client with overlay instructions (while the rest of the screen uses normal low-bandwidth usuage stuff).

          This is speculation, the article provides nothing but sparse non-tech details.
      • That's about what I was thinking, myself... Which leads me to believe that MS is doing this because with these monitors, they get tithed for TWO copies of the Windows OS rather than just one for every PC sold. ;-)
    • by pergamon ( 4359 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:15PM (#4691028) Homepage
      This is exactly what I was thinking. I could see this working for relatively static screens like you'd have with web browsing or typical business apps, but I can't imagine this working well for games or watching videos...
    • It will only be crap if you're playing UT on it. With normal desktop use very few pixels from one cycle to the next, and there is pretty good image desktop image compression technology already in existance with Remote Desktop. I assume the system also is able to handle the desktop image separately from the rest of the screen. The bandwidth you calculated is an absolute maximum, and really isn't very meaningful.
    • These are obviously not receiving video but instead are a thin client to a Windows XP computer. They use mira. They allow you to interact w/ the on-screen environment. They are not transmiting the data as video.

      Honestly this is something I've wanted for a while as a way to put my DVD Player (computer) in a hidden, out of the way place and allow it to be controlled from a screen sitting at the couch. But at the price listed in the article, (1k-1.25k for first generation Viewsonics), the screen will be worth signifigantly more than the computer.

      I'd also like to know if a standard monitor connected to the computer is needed to boot the computer. I'd assume that unless your boot process enters Windows XP w/o interaction that you need another monitor/periferal set to boot.

      Finally, Can these be used with linux? If they are running Mira or windows CE for portable displays or whatever you call it it sounds like there is a small amount of internal memory to store the OS. Could these be converted into a linux thin client?

    • Just as programs such as PC Anywhere don't need to transmit every single pixel of the screen for every frame, here too you can simply transmit the parts of the screen that need updating (ie, parts that have changed since the previous frame). Windows already does this internally (partial screen redraws), so it shouldn't be too hard to implement. Most of the time, you'll only need to update a small area around the cursor. If you don't have a cursor, and instead use a finger or pen, you don't even need to update that.

      Of course, you probably won't get brilliant performance in action games, but I doubt any action game fanatic would use a touchscreen (or even an LCD) anyway.

      Oh, and you can transmit a lot more than that using wireless, but using partial updates you will probably never need to.

      RMN
      ~~~
  • Encryption? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theduck ( 101668 ) <theduck@@@newsguy...com> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:12PM (#4691000)
    So now some war driver is going to be able to intercept the communications between my touchscreen monitor and PC? I think I'll pass.
  • Hmmmm. This is actually kinda cool and innovative which surprises me as it came from the company whose only true innovations that I am aware of are Clippy and Bob. Does anyone here know if this technology was home grown, or did Microsoft purchase this as well?

    • Re:Innovation? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 )
      Stick a diskless client into a box with an LCD screen, hook it up over a wireless network, and "Holy Cow! Look at the latest innovation from Microsoft!"

      I mean, really, it's not even an innovation by Microsoft terms, they've simply crippled a tablet PC. They're making a big deal over this "Mira" thing, when it is really just the next generation of what X Windows was fifteen years ago.

      This kind of thing will fail for the same reason Sun's "network computer" failed. Why waste your money on a castrated client when you can get a real computer almost as cheap?
      • MW's definition of "innovate" (italics added):

        1 : to introduce as or as if new
        2 archaic : to effect a change in
        intransitive senses : to make changes : do something in a new way

      • Part of innovation is knowing when to release the product. 15 years ago, it wasn't really feasable.

        There are *some* benefits. One, data has to be stored in a centralised location. Two... umm.. Okay, there is only one benefit I can think of.

        The price will drop I am sure. MS has no probs loosing cashish on the xbox so I am sure they will have no probs in dropping the price of this a bit as well.
    • Innovation???? (Score:2, Informative)

      by VON-MAN ( 621853 )
      Come on! It is nothing more than VNC over Wi-Fi! One calls this "embrace and extend" and this time VNC is the victim.
  • Absolutely no mention of security... They must be using the great built in features of Wi-Fi...

    Also, wouldn't this make things a little TOO easy. Before, someone could easily comprimise your network, they still had to work to hit anything else, now you are giving them access directly to your desktop.

    • Also... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eddy ( 18759 )

      Other questions: Does it require the OS to be up to be used (basically, must I plug in a real monitor to fiddle with the BIOS?) and will these be the "Windows Modems" of monitors?

      I don't think these are for me.

  • problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:13PM (#4691010) Homepage
    You have a couple of problems with touch screens and standard applications.


    1. The resolution of a touch screen is reduced because fingers (or stylus) are much fatter than mouse pointers.
    2. It takes some adjustment to use since with some technologies you can't leave your finger lightly touching the screen, as with a keyboard or mouse.


    I like touch, but recognize the limitations involved as I have worked on touch drivers in the past.

  • Scratches (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MagPulse ( 316 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:14PM (#4691018)
    I'm curious, does writing on a screen ever make scratches, even after years of heavy use?

    Also the model mentioned is $1300 for a 15" next year, while you can pick up a $700 Samsung 19" LCD at Best Buy today.
  • Somebody check my math here, but an 800x600 resultion display with 24 bit color depth needs 11,520,000 bits to be described uncompressed. Yeah, I know there's all sorts of compression than can be applied, but this is going to need something along the lines 40X compression effectiveness in order to fit into an 802.11b signal, or about 10X if you want to use 802.11a. Mira had better be very good at shrinking the bandwidth down.

    How many of these things can work within the same office building at once before the Wi-Fi bandwidth gets saturated and ends up jamming the other wireless networking functionality as well?
    • You can easily send representations of screen actions over a 56k dial up line (latency sucks, but hey, its analog).

      Look into remote X, VNC, RDP, ICA. This isn't a huge deal, I dont think. It sounds like they repackaged some exisitng stuff and made a dedicated light wireless viewer for RDP based on Windows CE.
      • Yes, but those solutions bog down whenever you put something hard to compress on the screen, such as if you open up an image-filled webpage in a web browser on the remote computer. That's not a big issue for the remote control packages, because you can just open up such web pages on the local computer instead. But here, there is no local computer, everything has to go through the same small pipe. Yes, I can see some uses for this, but I don't think it's going to be able to do everything a wired monitor can do.
        • Probably cant do everything. Thats a good point. But in fact the latest protocols do pretty well even with images and hi-color stuff. RDP 5.1 (in XP, .NET Server), ICA 6, and whatnot get pretty close to being seemless. On a lan, I often forget i am working remotely and not on my local machine. The only thing is the slight latency that is around. ICA6 has some magic that eliminates this. Its pretty cool.
    • Try reading the posts above; other people have made the same mistake. Most of the screen doesn't change between frames, therefore it doesn't need to be updated. You only need to transmit parts of the screen that have changed, and even then, the display is probably able to handle some high-level commands, so it doesn't need to receive actual pixel data for most of the updates.

      RMN
      ~~~
  • by bpb213 ( 561569 ) <bpbyrne@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:15PM (#4691026)
    Now for a limited time, you can buy a product to sniff both X10 networks and users porn^H^H^H^Hdesktops!

    Only $199.99 for this amazing device!!!

    (note, not garenteed to break ssh tunnels)
  • by ejaw5 ( 570071 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:16PM (#4691033)
    The surface of a Smart Display will be touch sensitive allowing you to interact using a finger or a stylus

    Now I can actually finger a user using a real finger.
  • by styxlord ( 9897 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:17PM (#4691041)
    Basicly Microsoft has just invented "the terminal". I already do this with my iBook. Its pretty creepy running XP remotely in full screen. Its unlikely that anyone will be able to play games with it.
  • think thin (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It is a thin client folks. Get over it.
    Like Citrix without the keyboard/mouse.

    I'm sure the protocol will be similar to vpn or pptp.
  • I dunno, all this wireless stuff reminds me too much of the paperless office were were all going to be living in by 2000. I think I have something on that buried in one of these piles here somewhere... Now we're supposed to have monitors in every room. If you need to look up how to make a Long Island Ice Tea and can't remember the recipe from the walk from the computer to the kitchen, you aren't smart enough to use one of these things. Plus, any good /.er should have all the food and bar implements within easy reach of the computer anyway.

    I decided against a wireless LAN for my home/office because I just couldn't justify the cost when if I really want to use my laptop in bed I can use a 20-meter cable anywhere in my apartment at a fraction of the cost.
    • I decided against a wireless LAN for my home/office because I just couldn't justify the cost when if I really want to use my laptop in bed I can use a 20-meter cable anywhere in my apartment at a fraction of the cost.

      Well, best of luck with that. I'm sure the day when someone trips over your cord and yanks your laptop off a table will justify the cost, until then, have fun fighting with a 20-meter cable. :)
  • What's the BFD? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tuxlove ( 316502 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:22PM (#4691066)
    My Linux laptop has been decoupled from my workstation for about the last decade thanks to X11. And now that WiFi has been around for years, it is completely decoupled. This silly announcement about Windows makes me laugh. Does this mean they've finally "invented" a network windowing protocol? Thanks Microsoft, what would we do without you?
    • Re:What's the BFD? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vrmlknight ( 309019 )
      they have had a network windowing protocol since winNT4.0 the RDC protocol will run circles around x windows and any thing it has try using your cell phone (19.4 kbps) to remotely connect to a server and it works usably granted opening an ssh connection would work better but you can set that up on a win32 box as well.
    • Please point me to where I can buy an integrated, cheap, thin, LCD, battery-powered X-terminal with WiFi.

      The news here isn't the idea of a remote terminal (which Windows has also had for years), it's the form factor.

  • This is great! I wonder if it's powered using RFC 3251 [x42.com] (Electricity over IP)??
  • The surface of a Smart Display will be touch sensitive allowing you to interact using a finger or a stylus.
    To boldly go where no porn-flick has gone before!
  • by rob-fu ( 564277 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:31PM (#4691100)
    ...by the FBI. This article [refuseandresist.org] is a bit dated and it probably was on /. over a year ago, but it highlights the fact monitor images can be intercepted by a third party. Such devices work by reconstructing what's on your screen onto another machine from electromagnet emanations coming from the monitor.

    The wi-fi monitors will just make it that much easier for people/govt. agencies to check up on you. Better get used to the idea that someone could be watching the same pr0n you're watching (perhaps you could wrap tinfoil around your house/apartment, but that probably wouldn't do anything either).
    • Yeah, but CRT interception is one of those things that works in the lab, but is hard to sort out in reality. Trying to sort the monitor in front of me from the TV 10 feet away from me from the TV in the living room from all of the other EMF sources that the neighbors might have on right now isn't as easy as they'd like it to be.
  • What i really want (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bpb213 ( 561569 ) <bpbyrne@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:33PM (#4691107)
    Instead of buying some proprietary solution:
    Why not use a large lcd screen, a compact flash (or similar) HD, 128mb or so ram, and a small processor, and a PXE (network) boot over the 802.11 connection?
    (essentially a large screen, minimal hardware, networked tablet PC)

    That way the corporation can run whatever software it wants.

    As people have pointed out though, its going to be hard to display movies or games on these (or videoconfrencing for that matter)
  • by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:33PM (#4691113) Homepage
    Makarand writes:
    The surface of a Smart Display will be touch sensitive allowing you to interact using a finger or a stylus."

    This sounds suspiciously like my girlfriend...
  • Remote 3D (Score:3, Interesting)

    by user32.ExitWindowsEx ( 250475 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:34PM (#4691117)
    Given the way Remote Desktop currently works, remote 3D (or any app that writes directly to a framebuffer such as PowerDVD or most TV tuner software) won't be possible. (I know - I've tried TVs, DVDs, and 3D games over RDP with no luck.)

    Remote Desktop doesn't read from the framebuffer. It switches the primary display to a virtualized video card and monitor with capabilities set by the client system (resolution, bit depth, etc.).

    You can check this. Fire up a RDP session into an XP Pro box and open the display control panel. The video adapter listed won't be the physical video card you've got on the system.

    Hopefully I'll turn out to be wrong about Mira devices (and Microsoft will have drivers reading from the card itself, making 3D and DVD possible), but with their past record, I'm probably right.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:36PM (#4691126) Homepage Journal
    This sounds like something that Bill Gates thought up. It's like the Tablet PC: a solution in search of a problem.

    Always remember that in the absence of other people's good ideas to steal, Microsoft attempts to "innovate." The result is usually crappy ideas that come from none other than Gates himself (the Tablet PC has been his pet project for a long time).

    What's the point? Wireless displays? Why bother, when you can build an entire wireless computer in a form factor that isn't any larger than this wireless display? And of course you can simply remote your applications, using HTTP or X11, or even RDP if you really insist on staying in the Winworld. Sorry, I don't see any usefulness here.
    • I think Bill Gates wants to extend the paperless office idea from Xerox. If they can eliminate paper then Microsoft will be the gatekeeper of not only pc data but all corporate data. I can imagine if a bussiness does not like the terms of the newest licensing scheme microsoft can just lock out all corporate data via pallidium.

      It also gives Microsoft more leverage in technologies like pda's and cellphones. To retrieve the latest memo from you boss, your pda or cellphone will need windows. Plain and simple. This is Microsofts plan for creating demand.

    • What's the point? Wireless displays? Why bother, when you can build an entire wireless computer in a form factor that isn't any larger than this wireless display?

      Cheaper, lighter, thinner, longer battery life.

      The only people who don't see something like this as useful are people who can't imagine having a thin, light tablet lying around the living room ready for instant web access.

      • It's just the Game of Slashdot. If Microsoft comes out with something you have to make up as many reasons as you can think of why it will fail, and why it's not innovative.

        Of course, like the TabletPC, if a company announces a crappy Linux-based ripoff of this idea next week everybody will be suddenly interested in the possibilites.

        I use my subnotebook on WiFi all the time now, and the keyboard usually just gets in the way. It seems to me that Mira would excellent as a 2nd monitor that I could just grab and carry around without having to power up my laptop, log in, and listen to the hard drive + occasional fan. The fact that it preserves my desktop session is another advantage over my laptop.

        I suspect these devices will quickly drop well below even the lowest-end laptops in price because they're much simpler devices. The LCD display and battery probably make up the bulk of the cost.

  • since this is most likely just an embedded windows+RDP client...

    how long till someone can get this new display hardware, install linux+X+rdesktop ( http://www.rdesktop.org ) and undercut microsoft in the market?

  • Advantages? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bpb213 ( 561569 ) <bpbyrne@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:37PM (#4691134)
    What advantages does a remote screen have over a notebook? (or tablet?)

    I guess it would deter employee theft, because it wouldnt work outside the network.

    But does it really make financial sense to buy something for inter building work, and then have to buy even more stuff so that employees can work outside the building (ie trips).

    Or do they envision this thing to replace desktop PC's with wireless screens and massive centralized servers? (and what would the cost benifit be? it costs $500 to buy a full desktop PC, vs $1k for the wireless display, and then $50k for a server)
  • by qslack ( 239825 ) <(moc.xobop) (ta) (kcalsq)> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:37PM (#4691136) Homepage Journal
    I don't believe it one bit. They purport to be able to send "video" through the air? Over long distances? Sorry, but for now I think we're stuck with cable television and cabled monitors. I just don't see how receiving pictures from thin air would work.

    But think of the possibilities if it did! We could turn on a TV anywhere and receive the latest news and watch our favorite shows. We would no longer be restricted by wires. Imagine that, wireless TV!
  • It took me years to get a PC on my desk instead of a "dumb terminal." Now that there are Smart Displays, the ones everybody already has will become "dumb displays." Sigh.
  • by pointym5 ( 128908 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:48PM (#4691192)
    Guess what you can do with a proprietary digital interface connecting your monitor to your trusted computing platform? That's right! You can add in more Digital "Rights" enforcement mechanisms! Remember that the ultimate goal is total secure control over all the electronics between the media and the glowing phosphor in the screen and the vibrating elements in your speakers.
  • The Future (Score:3, Funny)

    by Lemmeoutada Collecti ( 588075 ) <obereonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:51PM (#4691204) Homepage Journal
    I can see the next logical step in this...

    1) Create Tablet PC with built in 802.11b
    2) Create Wireless Display for 802.11b
    3) ???
    4) Take over the world
    5) Profit becomes irrelevant
  • by A non moose cow ( 610391 ) <slashdot@rilo.org> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:52PM (#4691209) Journal
    Ok, so I take a seat in the campus computer lab. They have just installed these marvels of market coersion wireless screens.

    1. Instead of comfortably resting my hand over the mouse I have to do John Madden calesthenics to move things around on the screen "Boom!"
    2. I don't really know if the screen I'm looking at is actually showing me the image from the computer where I am sitting.
    3. I discover that it doesn't really matter that I am not looking at "my" computer, as long as nobody else sees the one I am using... until I try to use the keyboard.
    4. It's all OK because although I'm not using my computer, I have a wireless keyboard, and it happens to be typing on the computer whose image I'm seeing.
    5. I notice while I'm using this computer, that there is a lot of personalized stuff, and in fact I am using the computer of my accounting professor from his office on the floor below. I sneekily email his next test to myself.
    6. Feeling smug about the test, I finish typing my report, print it, and reset my station, inadvertently destroying the work of a really cute girl on the other side of the lab.
    7. While waiting at the printer for an unusually long time, I realize that my report with my name on it has just been printed on my accounting professors personal laserjet... in his office.
    8. Feeling less smug about the test, I wonder to myself... When did computers start to suck so bad?

    I hate this idea
  • Embedded VNC! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:59PM (#4691245) Homepage
    Sounds like they thought of embedding a VNC client with an 802.11 card into an LCD display. It's a nifty idea, really; the concept of decoupling the user interface from devices is interesting. For example, assuming VNC was the standard remote display protocol, imagine the following scenario:

    1. The display (LCD monitor with a VNC client) broadcasts discovery beacons

    2. Devices in range respond. Your stereo, fridge, computer, laptop, handheld, watch, all equipped with VNC servers, announce themselves.

    3. The LCD monitor shows a list of discovered devices. You pick one to interact with, say the stereo.

    4. The user interface designed by the manufacturer of the stereo pops up on the LCD monitor.

    Now repeat the above with a similarly capable TV, or head-mounted display. Very cool. (Security is not really a problem, all this can be end-to-end encrypted and authenticated).

    Admittedly, the mechanism is conceptually similar to HTML-based user interfaces. Howeveer, the difference is that the VNC-based system is less restricted in what the servers can display; with HTML, the servers are restricted to using browsers and the kind of interaction they induce. Also, the HTML system, due to requiring a browser, is more heavy-weight.

  • My first thought, when reading this article, was "What about non-Windows users?" Then, after reading the comments, "Why is no one bringing up non-Windows users?"

    But then, after a moment, I thought this-- would Linux/other "geek" OS users want to use a WiFi monitor, with all the inherent security concerns (not necessarily actual exploitable threats, but the scary POSSIBILITY of such a threat) involved?
  • by Kr3m3Puff ( 413047 ) <me@kREDHATitsonkelly.com minus distro> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @02:04PM (#4691280) Homepage Journal
    Didn't Viewsonic already do this? Slashdot Article [slashdot.org]

    Basically an RDP session to the dekstop. Cool for certain applications, and could easily be applied to a X-Windows session too...
  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @02:05PM (#4691289)
    Now, I know that virtually nobody on Slashdot has a job, or for the most part, even graduated from high school yet, but this *does* have real world applications. Since this was picked up by ABC news, every story they do is gonna revolve around fat ass home users on their couches. BUT, this thing does have a very practical use.

    I'd like to get a few for my store. I have PC's up front, all networked, running my POS systems. I don't really have room for them, and the wires networking them to the back room are a pain. This will be a perfect solution. I can get rid of the PC's in the front, I don't need to worry about employees tripping over wires, and I even have the touchscreen feature that I need.

    My guess is that MS had this in mind when developing this, but you can't exactly explain that to ABC News, which caters to people with an average IQ equal to that of a doorknob.
  • by BSDevil ( 301159 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @02:08PM (#4691304) Journal
    Now (knowing this crowd) I know I'm going to get flamed for this, but I'll put it out: I want on of these. Not a wishy-washy TabletPC, but a "SmartDisplay."

    As opposed to trying to find all the negatives about it (although I do agree on the security and bandwidth points), think of what you could do with one of these. Put it by your bedside table and read the newspaper/your email from the comfort of bed on Sunday morning. Watch a movie from your hammock in the backyard in the summer. Imagine a six-hundred student lecture with one of these terminal in each seat - interactivity that wouldn't suck.

    Collaborative work in a design-office setting. Wanna get the guy across the room's opinion on what you did? Bring the screen over to him. Or pretty much any application that needs acces to huge amounts of visual information - categroized bad on where it is either on the monitor wall or on the Mira. And lastly, you know you want to be like Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies, working off one of these and a two-story video wall.

    I was actually considering rolling one my own of these things for my dorm (so I could use my computer from bed and across the hall) - two WiFi cards, a laptop, and VNC. Then I remembered that I didn't have the cash for an AP and the the battery life on the laptop blew.

    Oh well, I'll wait until these things get cheaper. And would your opinion on this whole thing be different if the words "MS" and "Bill Gates" had nothgin to do with it - what about a <fav distro>-based SmartDisplay?
  • No DVD (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mhocker ( 607466 )
    I read on The Register that Mira will not support DVD viewing, apparently as a result of MPAA restrictions. Apparently retargeting the display is the equivalent of copying the DVD in the MPAA's opinion. If true, this is a ridiculous limitation.
  • I know this is probably redundant but the only real use for this is DRM control. How better to handle DRM than not allowing the video stream to the monitor.
  • Just think... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rainer3 ( 517427 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @02:29PM (#4691422)
    If this device could also act like a Pronto [philips.com] and you could also control your stereo, tv, dvd, etc. When (if) they get zero-config networking into electronics. A device such as this would be all you would need to control all your devices around the house. I was really hoping Apple would have come out with something like this. Their digital hub strategy would work much better with a product such as this. Security issues aside, with added features and capabilities, such a device would be great in a digital/wireless home.
  • by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @03:23PM (#4691720) Homepage
    Never mind what happens when you try to run dozens of such machines in an office environment (especially in an office building with lots of small individual tenants who won't want to coordinate bandwidth use)... You're taking up valuable radio spectrum just to avoid using a 9' cable? That's ludicrous.
  • Old idea, new name (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @03:51PM (#4691880)
    "Smart Display" is the 21st century market-speak version of what used to be called the "dumb terminal". Mind you, it's not a bad idea, but it's neither new nor earthshaking.

    Microsoft: Yesterday's technology, tomorrow!
  • by painehope ( 580569 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @04:34PM (#4692077)
    if other posters are correct, it's been done already, by other companies.
    and, I could do it myself. Just slap a WiFi card into my laptop, connect to an Xserver on another machine, and BAM! a remote display. Yes, it requires a second machine, but what geek doesn't have one or more machines? This basically sounds like one step removed from that scenario, kind of like VNC on a thin display over WiFi. All just some minor hardware tweaks. Not earth-shattering news.
    and, more importantly, it will be implemented by Microsoft, w/ their not-so-glorious security record. which means that I could probably buy one of these things, spend a day or two tweaking it and googling, and be able to walk into any corporate building and get a display/login on someone's machine. And since this kind of toy will probably only be used by managment, I'll be able to get all kinds of nifty stuff ( because they undoubtably knocked out their security so they could do this or that nifty shiny feature )...information warfare...
  • by Splork ( 13498 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @04:47PM (#4692147) Homepage
    MS wants this because it would require an XP license on each computer as well as a WinCE license on each "mira" device while not working with any other type of system.

    Just say no and run TightVNC on a cheap webpad under your favorite free OS.
  • by The Dobber ( 576407 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @05:24PM (#4692364)
    We will have a device without a monitor communicating with another device, which has a monitor.

    Woot !!

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