31 October 1999 - Sunday

Hardware-One: Sound Blaster Live! Platinum - Wilfred
Ok, you've waited long for our review on the Sound Blaster Live! Platinum haven't you? Jeremy has written a tidy piece for your reading! The card is brimming with goodies to be discovered, and for the price you paid for the Live! a year ago, you get so much more! Wait! So will you splurge or just go for the standard Live! player? Find out here if the extras match your needs.

Historical Impact Of Y2K 23:52 pm - Wilfred
I know some of you don't quite give a damn about it, some have stockpiles fearing the imminent doom. Whatever the case, osOpinion has a refreshing read about the historical impact of the year 2000.

Your bank will face the code problems of Y2K with or without your financial backing, but they would prefer you kept your money in accounts.

Things certainly won't be the same after the turn of the century and people will begin questioning why we are spending nearly 600 billion dollars to avert such a simplistic logic error. When they find out that most of the bad code was written in the late 1980s (even though the problem was publicized then), what will they think of the Computer Science profession? Would you start to become skeptical of a profession that seems to get rich by fixing what it broke?

Wilfred Coughs 23:43 pm - Wilfred
Today is a bad day. Or rather, it has been a culmination of bad days. Not bad hair days, mind you! Started with my PC Works going ka-putt... then a few late appointments, a few miscommunication boo-boos, a lot of work unfinished and a lot of goals unaccomplished. Dammit.... what am I yelling out here? Hmm.. ok, sorrie dudes! I haven't spent much time updating today. Thanks to folks like Kan and Sniper for not buckling under the pressure. *claps*

Tweaking Quake3 on the GeForce 17:43 pm - Kan
nV News dropped us a line on their new article covering tweaking Quake3 on the GeForce.

It's no secret that Quake 3 is a beast.  The hardware necessary to run at high quality settings and high resolutions, like we've been doing with Quake 2 or Half-Life, are enormous.  Just check out a few GeForce 256 reviews running Quake 3 at 1024x768 using high quality settings (32-bit color) on the fastest AMD and Intel processors.  You'll notice that most of those systems are not able to reach 60 frames per second.  Based on that observation, getting a faster processor would not be as cost/performance effective as upgrading to a GeForce 256 to make Quake 3 run faster and look better.

Stereo 3D Glasses 17:39 pm - Kan
I guessed I missed this out. Anyway, our pals over at Speedy3D posted a review on those Stereo 3D Glasses which you can use to play your favorite FPS games with.

Ok, so this is at least how these glasses are theoretically designed or supposed to work on paper. You have 2 frames in your glasses, which are each supplied 60fps (per frame) for 120 fps total. This first allows for a flicker-free display in most situations as long as your monitor supports 120hz refresh rate in the desired resolution. Since we now have glasses that are flicker free we can finally cover the technology. The software that is provided by the company controls the following operations (at least that is how I understand it). The right frame is darkened for 60fps(1 second) while the left frame stays the same and vice versa for the left frame. The effect that these glasses are trying to create is a more realistic depth by contrasting the two frames darkness.

Stealth V3 Fighter Voodoo3 Cooler 16:45 pm - Kan
SharkyExtreme had a bite on the Tennmax Stealth V3 Fighter Voodoo3 Cooler. Here's what they felt about the taste:

The V3 Fighter comes in a rather non-descript white box and its diminutive size may initially surprise you. The heatsink is barely wider than the Voodoo3 chip itself and with its recessed fan, the unit's height is the same as a regular heatsink. The Stealth V3 Fighter is not a standard heat sink/fan combination like you find in your local PC bargain bin, but a unified design intended to be as compact as possible. The cooling fan is actually inside the heat sink and serves to make your V3 Fighter upgrade as unobtrusive as possible. If you've got a crowded PC case, the flush design will still let you use the PCI slot below the Voodoo3.

New BP6 Bios v1.21 16:42 pm - Kan
I spotted over at BP6.com that there is a new BP6 BIOS v1.21 available for download. I flashed it last evening and it did solve some 'cosmetic' bugs in the previous v1.20. Again, flash them at your own risk.

Silitek SK-7500 16:40 pm - Kan
TheTechZone bombed us a mail on their latest review on the Silitek SK-7500 Infrared wireless keyboard review. Ah, finally I can put the keyboard on my lap and sit further away from my 21" monitor. :)

The I-Point stick (it acts as a mouse pointer) is one feature any cordless keyboard should have, it takes almost no space and isn’t in the way while I was typing.  Like any other mouse alternative, the I-Point does take take time to get use to.  When holding the keyboard and using the I-Point, my hands tend to wrap around it very well (it was like I was holding a gamepad).  The I-Point does lack in one area….gaming, I tried it on Quake 3 and my hands keep jumping from the I-Point to the keys.

 

30 October 1999 - Saturday

Driver Review
19:45 pm - Kan
FiringSquad reviewed the driving game Driver (what else?). They didn't like it a lot and gave it a 2.5/5 stars rating. Anyway, here's an excerpt from the review:

For those of you who want to see this craziness from every possible vantage point, the game also includes a director feature - once you've finished with your game, you can go back and play through the carnage with full control over the camera. If you just want to see the action without spending a ton of time editing, there's also an auto-director feature to use.

i820 - The Story of One Failure 19:42 pm - Kan
Our pals over at iXBT-Hardware posted an interesting article titled i820 - The Story of One Failure. Wanna know about the gossip on i820? Check it out:

The plot of this story goes back to March 1990, when two university professors Mike Farmwald from Illinois and Mark Horowitz from Stanford founded Rambus company. For two years they had led the preparatory work and in March 1992 NEC, Fujitsu and Toshiba announced their licensing new Rambus DRAM technology. Another two years later in July 1994, the Japanese Nintendo expressed their desire to use this memory type in their playstation. In October 1995 Hitachi, LG Semicon, NEC, Oki Electric, Samsung and Toshiba revealed their intention to start mass manufacturing of Rambus DRAM for multimedia PCs in 1997.

Hired Guns 19:38 pm - Kan
3DRage posted a review about Psygnosis's Hired Guns, a first person shooter game. Pretty interesting, here's some juice:

As said before, the storyline of Hired Guns is much more complex and deep than your common first person shooter. The game is set in a futuristic cyberpunk world in the Luyten planetary system where three dominant corporations have enslaved colonists from Earth. The three corporations control virtually everything in this planetary system, even the atmosphere. Betelov, Grenworld and Tesseract, the three mega corporations, have tormented the people long enough, and Miles Kircher rallies three mercenaries to terminate the three corporation's domination over the system.

DRAM Prices May Be Heading South 10:28 am - Sniper
Start saving now! DRAM prices looks set to drop again soon. Hehe, I can start planning for my 256 MB system again.

Minamikawa said he expects DRAM contract prices to head south this month. Pricing should fall about 50 cents
in November and another 50 cents in December. The average selling price of 64-Mbit DRAM for the first
quarter of 2000 should be in the $8 to $8.50 range, he said. 

Aside from reductions in motherboard shipments, another problem that could drive DRAM prices down starting
next month is a reduction in corporate PC sales, which represent 70 percent of all PC sales, because of spending
freezes due to Y2K, said Saturo Oyama, a senior analyst with ABN Ambro Securities Japan Ltd

Toshiba Incur $1B Loss After User Lawsuit 09:47 am - Sniper
Toshiba got sloppy with their floppy drives and got sued by 2 owners of Toshiba notebooks alleging possible data loss.  

Two U.S. owners of Toshiba notebook PCs brought the class-action lawsuit earlier this year, alleging a condition in the micro-code for the floppy disk controller may cause data in a floppy disk to be lost or corrupted. 

Under the settlement, Toshiba will incorporate new
floppy disk controllers in PCs for sale in the United
States and provide eligible PC owners with coupons
ranging from $100 to $225. 

Supercomputing 09:23 am - Sniper
Two interesting articles from CNet regarding supercomputing.  The first article is on the current giant "Blue Pacific" and its successor.  

ASCI White will feature several improvements over Blue Pacific, including faster processors. Blue Pacific employs 5,856 PowerPC 604E chips, but the brains in ASCI White will consist of 8,192 Power3-II chips, a model that uses IBM's copper interconnect technology. Additionally, the PowerPC 604E is only a 32-bit chip, while the Power3-II is a 64-bit design, allowing the chip to more easily handle mathematical calculations requiring high precision.

The other article is about the possibility of using Linux to power a more powerful super computer.  I wish I had some processor space to run our RC5 on those babies.

By 2001, it's possible that the fastest supercomputer in the world will be powered by the Linux operating system. 

If Linux gets the job, it will be a key component in the effort to keep U.S. nuclear weapons working as designed, the main function of this new supercomputer. 

Soyo SY-6BA+IV  09:20 am - Kan
We have another review of the Soyo SY-6BA+IV motherboard today from TheTechZone. Here's what the guys said:

The Soyo SY-6BA+IV is PC-99 spec motherboard. All that really means is that its input/output connectors are color coded to match  PC-99 specs input/output devices. Hmmm, the last mouse I got didn't have a green plug.  It does look cool however and I guess there are people out there who gets the mouse and keyboard connectors backward sometimes.

Hercules Lives 09:00 am - Sniper
I open my mailbox today and got a note from Guillemot that they have acquired Hercules.  Looks like the herc will not die after all.

Guillemot is pleased to announce its acquisition of American manufacturer Hercules Computer Technology Inc. This purchase allows Guillemot Corporation to combine its 3D technological know-how with a first rate
brand, enabling the company to increase its rate of international development substantially. 

" Our objective in acquiring Hercules was to reinforce our products branding worldwide ", explains Claude Guillemot, President of Guillemot Corporation. " We intend to continue to build on Hercules' name for high performance graphic products ". 

3DCool Tornado ATX Casing 07:44 am - Kan
Looking for a casing? Check out Tweak3D review on the 3DCool Tornado ATX casing which comes with four 80mm fans and a total airflow of 172 CFM!

The Tornado's screwless design, removable hard drive mount, and sliding motherboard mounting tray made installation roomy and comfortable. 3DCool's 'smooth edges' claim also stands true. There hasn't been a time when I have not cut my finger or other body part on the edges of the case while roaming around inside. Although an entirely idiotic idea, I actually 'tried' with the Tornado, and all without a single scratch to any of my body parts. Overall, although the process requires the transferring of your entire configuration into a new case, I was able to do it all within thirty minutes- safely too!

InBusiness 8-Port 10/100 Switch 07:41 am - Kan
I guess I missed out this one. But AGN Hardware whipped up a review on the Intel InBusiness 8-Port 10/100 switch.

So you have managed to put together your own small LAN, with a collection of 6 computers of assorted types. The purpose of this LAN is of course for some intensive gaming with your friends. All of the computers are of course hooked up to an 8-port hub with 10/100 speed, so you get the speediest of interaction between your computers. Or do you? The reason for the shortcomings of your new LAN is because of the shortcomings of your Hub when compared to a switch. In order to give you a better idea of what the difference is, lets look closer at what a Switch has to offer that a Hub does not.

FA Premier League 2000 07:36 am - Kan
Yup, check out ActiveWin on FA Premier 2000 as well. Well, our guys also did a shot at the FA Premier League few weeks ago, so check it out here as well.

Managing your squad is quite an easy task, moving the players about to different positions is just a question of drag and drop, changing the way players play in terms of crossing the ball or doing through balls, the team formation, penalty takers etc can all be done from one page called Team Tactics. The difficulty level is quite high too which is in my view a good thing, but another bad point I noticed during the game was the amount of money certain clubs have available to spend on new players at the start of the season, it was yet again unrealistic, since when has Cambridge had £100,000 to spend on new players, let alone the 1.8 Million they are given in this game.

 

29 October 1999 - Friday

Soyo SY-6BA+IV
20:33 pm - Kan
Let's not forget that 3DHardware.net also posted a review on the Soyo SY-6BA+IV motherboard. Here's a lick from the review:

The only thing that separates the loose tuff in the SY-6BA+IV box from the loose stuff in it's predecessor's box is a single flat cable. With a slightly darker shade of gray and 40 more wires in it's flat body, the cable enables your hard disk drive to use the higher bandwidth that UDMA66 allows for. More on this later though. Apart from the above cable, the box holds the two standard cables (40-wire IDE cable and floppy cable), the usual Soyo installation CD and something that Soyo only recently started bundling with their boards, a software pack consisting about which you can read more in our SY-6BA+III review (the 'In the Box' section at the bottom of the first page).

FIC KA6110 20:30 pm - Kan
LostCircuits reviewed the new FIC KA6110 motherboard based on the Apollo Pro chipset and supports the new Coppermine processors.

The FIC KA-6110 is a high performance board geared towards the 133 MHz bus speed to achieve its full performance and that translates into "Coppermine". The BIOS is tweaked towards optimal performance, which causes the board to behave a little on the capricious side without being unstable per se. The overall performance is above average. The main argument brought forward against the KA-6110 is the lack of a manual override of the CPU settings in form of a jumper / dip switch to enable the 100 / 133 MHz clock. This omission is the main reason for failure of the current PPGA Celerons to boot on the KA-6110, with the caveat that this may depend on the slotket used. No problems are observed with the SEPP line of Celeron except that the 100 MHz clock cannot be accessed even by pin taping.

Kyrotech 900 Mhz Athlon 20:27 pm - Kan
SharkyExtreme posted their thoughts on the Kyrotech 900 Mhz Athlon! Woohoos! We are real close to breaking the Ghz barrier in a single processor now.

No one reading this article likely needs to be told that, as CPU speeds increase, more wattage and heat are produced which dramatically limit the maximum frequency that the CPU can maintain while retaining system-wide stability. After 14 months writing about overclocking CPUs, we doubt you need a refresher course from us on these basics.

But what if you had the ability to cool your CPU down to the -40 to - 44 degrees Celsius range, would that safely increase your CPU's ability to run at higher MHz levels?

BIOS Optimization Guide 20:23 pm - Kan
Adrian's Rojak Pot just dropped us a line on the revised BIOS Optimization Guide, bumping it up to version 5. 

I took a break from the new Speed Demonz article to update the BIOS Optimization Guide with the following new BIOS options :-

  • SDRAM RAS-to-CAS Delay
  • SDRAM Precharge Time
  • SDRAM Leadoff Command
  • UltraDMA 66 IDE Controller

Savage2000 Party Report 20:19 pm - Kan
The babes over at FiringSquad posted a Savage2000 Party Report. So, what the heck is the Savage2000 Party about?

Over a week ago we received an invitation to what can be described as an S3 Savage2000 benchmarking party. The "invitation invited members of the press to an "exclusive pre-comdex showing of S3's multimedia innovations."

Oh well, just another "look but don't touch" technology demonstration -or so we thought. While reading down the activities list, we found these two lines: "Run benchmarks on the new products" and "Booze and schmooze with the new S3/Diamond team." Woohoo! Benchmarks and an open bar! Drunken benchmarking anyone? It's time to visit S3 again.

Hmm, we can see from the benchmarks that the GeForce DDR is still the fastest card around. Apparently S3 is dropping the specs of the S2K by quite a lot, from the original 175 Mhz (700 Megatexels) core to 125 Mhz (500 Megatexels).

Aureal Vortex2 SQ2500 20:17 pm - Kan
Our sound guru pals over at 3Dsoundsurge posted a review on the Aureal Vortex2 SQ2500 soundcard.

What’s different is it includes what Aureal is referring to as a "new optimized Vortex2 chip", has a coaxial S/PDIF out instead of optical and a new expansion header. The specs  also mention an improved s/n ratio of 98 dB (vs the 95 dB listed for the SuperQuad). Taking a look at the SQ2500 board we see that following the AU8830 on the Vortex 2 chip is a new letter sequence of "B0" instead of the "A2" that is on all other Vortex 2 chips. This is how you know it's one of the new optimized Vortex 2 sound processors. The chip optimizations are significant enough that reflections are handled in a different manner than with the previous silicon which caused some problems for us when we did our preview but with the new 2.25 a3d drivers included with the shipping 2040 drivers it has not been a problem.

CNet Special :  Top 10 Subversive Hacks 14:28 pm - Sniper
Interested in the world of hacking? CNet has this special report on the top 10 subversive hacks of all time.

Hackers. You can't even use the word without ticking someone off. Upholders of the status quo hate that the existing state of affairs is being undermined by sociopathic cybervandals. Old-school hackers think of their work as exploratory and prefer to call people
who break into servers for mischief crackers.

But it's those mischief makers who get attention. Their hacks make the front pages of world newspapers and cause fear and hysteria. Among these types of hacks, there are gradations of severity. Some hacks pose a threat to national security; some hacks are merely an annoying form of political activism.

FIFA 2000 Review (PC) 12:46 pm - Wilfred
Woohoos! You bet this is the sequel I'm waiting for this season! EA Sports is not letting anyone else play this game better, have a look at The Sports Gaming Network's short review on the game!

Player controls are easier to perform. Headers, bicycle kicks, and others happen with only a click. It is difficult because of the added aggressiveness of the AI to get most of the lobs and corner kicks to your player in front of the goal. FIFA 2000 has a set play feature for free kicks, corner kicks, and throw-ins. This is a good idea, but need some improvements to be a full enhancement.

Goalie movements have some improvements; the goalie will snatch any passes close to him, such as passes from the outside of the box to the front of the net. Breakaways by your forward do not fully guarantee a goal either; the goalies have become much better one-on-one. Some of the bugs that plagued FIFA 98 and 99 still remain. Shots from the end line are still unable to be grabbed by the goalie causing the shots to bounce off him into the net. Some lobs that the goalie should be catching in mid-air are going over his head to that awaiting forward behind him.

Injuries to players have increased; many games we have played see two and three players getting injured during the match. This adds realism and can add frustration on your part. You can be playing an easy team and have the game won but you know ahead of time the next match you play is a tough one. A couple of slide tackles can have your star forwards injured leaving you with no offense for that tough next match. Who said life was fair?

Soyo SY-6BA+IV 12:34 pm - Wilfred
I don't find any of Soyo's boards in Singapore, but judging from the rave reviews they always receive, this is one manufacturer doing things right! Errm.. how about more catchy names for a change?

Where to start with the raves about this board? Firstly, its super stable, at all bus speeds save 155Mhz. Its fast, and posted the fastest ever BX board benchmark we've obtained - breaking the 34 point Winstone 99 barrier for the first time with a Pentium III/BX combination. The UltraDMA/66 controller works well, and due to the design (the BIOS "thinks" its a SCSI device!), it is bootable too. Nice job! The BIOS implementation is superb and is wonderful for overclockers, with no need to delve inside the case at any time.

Soyo have clearly taken a leaf out of Abit's book in the development of their latest boards - with L2 latency and UDMA/66 on BX, previously a Abit only feature - making a surprising but welcome appearance. Soyo seem to have deposed the old masters for now - their boards overclock just as well, but are faster, higher quality and more stable at higher bus speeds. This is praise indeed, and the SY-6BA+ IV is the best BX board we've seen to date.

After you've checked out BXBoard's Soyo mobo review, they also have another one on Shuttle's 56X CDROM drive.

Fuji Announces Rugged DS-260 Camera 12:27 pm - Wilfred
Of course I mean digital camera! Over at Digital Photography Review, they've html-ed the announcement of Fuji's latest ruggedized megapixel model for the outdoors. Most of all, it features a fast RISC processor for quicker snaps. Fuji is aggressive boy!

The DS-260 HD can handle most weekend warrior excursions with ease. Its protective shell resists impact damage while special seals and gaskets keep dust, debris and rainwater away from the camera's vital image-capture components. The aforementioned 1.5 million-pixel CCD has RGB filters for truer color reproduction while offering resolutions as high as 1280 x 1024. The 7.4-22mm range of the DS-260 HD's 3x optical zoom is equivalent to the 35-105mm range of a 35mm camera and, in addition to a new lens design tailored specifically to the camera's CCD, the DS-260 HD's lens coatings improve color quality by reducing the glare and reflections that can degrade an image.

Freelancer Preview 12:20 pm - Wilfred
You've seen the kickass FreeSpace 2. Now Digital Anvil will have you oogling at Freelancer come Q4 2000 (long time huh?!). Better start saving up NOT only for the box, but prepare for an upgrade of your PC as well (as did most Chris Robert Wing Commander series).

Digital Anvil's version of space incorporates a sense of scale and attention to detail that will most likely set a new standard for virtual worlds. At one point, we flew around and through an enormous research station that seemed about 100 times the size of our ship. We also flew through a gorgeous, purplish-gassy, lightening-strewn nebula that created a particularly eerie effect. And in a scene that illustrated the amount of detail being put into the game, we flew past a fully operational ore-mining unit. As we flew up close, we could see the ship doing its ore-crunching - the large pincer hands breaking off chunks of ore, which were then sucked into the craw of the ship.

Gigabyte GA-BX2000 12:16 pm - Wilfred
Some people swear by Gigabyte, maybe we have to find out why? Hardware Upgrade has a review for you. Where stability counts, Gigabyte is delivering.

GA-BX2000 is a Slot 1 motherboard specifically designed for users who take care of the performance which search for specific features (such as bus frequencies other than the specifications and Dual Bios), but who don’t want to renounce to the operating stability. This is the main feature of the GA-BX2000 motherboard, making it a better solution than other Slot 1 motherboards and a perfect solution for those situations where the operating stability is a must.

Temperature Increase = Coke Price Increase 10:47 am - Sniper
I better plan in advance and stock up my supply of coke next time.  Plans are underway at Coke to peg its vending machine prices to temperatures.

Coca-Cola Co is working on a vending machine that automatically increases the price of the soft drink when the temperature rises.

Intel Webcast Postmortem  10:47 am - Sniper
Just came back from viewing the Webcast, one significant point made during the Webcast is Intel's drive towards the new FC-PGA packaging. With yesterday's report from 2cpu regarding the possible end of SMP for the FC-PGA, is this the end of the road for cheap SMP from Intel?


Intel Future Plans In Webcast
09:15 am - Sniper
Intel is expected to make a webcast with its high ranking officials detailing its future plans today.  Details are here.

Diversity will likely be one of the major undercurrents of the two-hour teleconference which will be broadcast over the Internet. Last April, the company formally reorganized into four distinct, relatively autonomous business units as part of a plan to become the "building block" supplier of the Internet. The largest unit controls the development of all PC-centric products. 

IBM Makes Flexible Transistor 09:08 am - Sniper
According to CNet, the guys and gals over at IBM manage to develop a form of transistor that one day may lead to displays that can be rolled up. The transistor can even be sprayed onto plastic.  Chew on it. I'd say, check this out!

Their new transistors are made out of very thin layers of materials that can be laid down onto plastic. "You might be able to basically build devices on something that is flexible," Kagan said. 

Corsair 256MB PC133 Press Release 05:25 am - Kan
Corsair dropped us a line on the press release of their new Corsair 256MB PC133. *drool* Slapped 3 of these sticks into your PC and you will be literally flying in all the apps you can throw at it.

Most PC133 compliant motherboards are designed to support up to 768Mbytes of memory. The Corsair 256Mbyte PC133 module allows these motherboard to be fully populated with the maximum amount of allowable memory. Because the Corsair module is built with high density PC133 128Mbit DRAM components, the modules can remain ‘Unbuffered” and can be used together with 64Mbyte and 128Mbyte PC133 modules.  

Matrox G400 05:23 am - Kan
Active-Hardware sent note on their review on the Matrox G400 in which they covered topics like cooling, overclocking as well as using the new TurboGL drivers. Here's a summary:

In order to see if it was possible to noticeably lower the operating temperature of the G400, I worked it for a period of an hour for each test. The tests were conducted under Windows 98 and Quake 2, with the Demo2.dm2 demo running for an hour straight. All tests were performed with the casing closed. The RT2 thermal sensor supplied with the Abit BX6 revision 2.0 motherboard was used to measure temperature, with the aid of the Hardware Doctor program. The fans used were those previously mentioned.

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