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Vol. 1/No. 15
09/07/1998

virtual edge
You are visitor since 04/20/1998

Welcome to virtual edge! PREMIO's one-stop source for the latest news and info on bleeding edge computing technologies. This site will be updated on a semi-weekly basis. Missed an issue? Check out the virtual archive.

The latest news column on the right will be updated daily; these are links to the top stories founded on various industry-leading sites. The newest story is at the top.

feature What is PC98?
PC98 is a set of basic system requirements recommended by Intel and Microsoft. Unlike the USB or Firewire standard, the PC9x specification is really not an industry-wide standard, but since it's being pushed by both Intel and Microsoft (a.k.a. "Wintel"), it has become a very important guideline for PC makers large and small.

PC9x is focused on the rapid advancement of the PC platform as a whole. The PC platform covers the following systems: basic desktop, server, and workstation. In other words, any system that uses an Intel based processor and Microsoft written operating system is considered a PC platform.

Below is a table of the core requirements for a PC97 and PC98 system:

Component Basic PC97 Basic PC98
Processor 120MHz or equivalent 200MHz with MMX
L2 Cache Recommended 256K or more
Memory 16MB 32MB
Video 800x600x64K 800x600x64K
ISA PnP Compliant Slots OK; no devices
PCI PCI 2.1 compliant PCI 2.1 compliant
USB 1 port 1 port
Firewire Recommended Recommended
Device Bay N/A Recommended

Obviously, the transition from PC97 to PC98 requires more powerful hardware. The PC industry has been trying for a long time to eliminate the legacy ISA slot. It's strange that PC98 systems are allow to have ISA slots, but you can't use any ISA devices! And with the upcoming PC99, ISA slots will be completely gone.

From a technical perspective, the PC9x guideline is a benefit to the PC industry as a whole. Devising a new PC standard have always been an extremely difficult task; but with the backing of both Intel and Microsoft, PC vendors can either follow them, or get left behind. And that's the darker side of the PC9x guideline. Because in order to qualify for the Microsoft designed for Windows 9x/NT logo, a system must meet the PC9x guidelines. Some businesses are convinced that unless the PC they buy have the Windows 9x/NT logo, it's not a real PC system. In addition, the driving force behind the PC9x design is Microsoft and Intel, whose primary motive is to sell to the consumers their latest and fastest product.

Related links:

  • Microsoft PC98 System Design Guide
  • Microsoft PC99 System Design Guide
  • Microsoft Windows Hardware Quality Lab (WHQL)
  • Microsoft Logo Program

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  • multimedia Texture Mapping 101
    One of the most important concept in 3D graphics today is texture mapping (TM), which allows 3D programmers and artists to "map" a 2D bitmap image onto a 3D object (such as a cube, sphere, or cylinder).

    Now this may sound simple in theory, but, in reality, it's rather difficult to implement correctly without having to perform many complex mathematical functions. TM allows designers to graphically simulate the real world in a virtual environment. For example, a virtual baseball is a sphere composed of many smaller elements. Without TM, for programmers to create a simple (but realistic looking) 3D baseball, they would have to keep track of the hundreds, if not thousands, of elements, right down to the baseball's stitching.

    TM gives programmers an easier approach: create a solid sphere first, then texture map the 2D bitmap image of a baseball onto the sphere. The problem with this approach (known as single point-sampling) is, the final 3D image of the baseball will appear distorted. Because it is not possible to accurately map points from the 2D space to 3D space.

    There are currently three types of TM available in 3D hardware:

  • Bilinear filtering - The most common TM technique used today on most 3D cards. It does a decent job of translating 2D to 3D, but it also introduces the problem of depth aliasing. This problem occurs because 3D objects have something 2D objects do not: perspective. As a flat 2D texture image is mapped onto an 3D element, the region of the 3D object that appear farther away will be distorted.

  • Trilinear filtering - This method eliminates the depth aliasing problem by storing different texture maps for a specific 3D object. A higher detailed texture map would be used to render the portion of the 3D object that's seen up close. Lesser detailed textures would be used to render regions of the 3D object that's farther away from the viewer's perspective. Trilinear filtering also solves the problem of integrating the different texture maps onto a single object. This technique smooths the transition from one level of detail to another.

  • Anisotropic filtering - This is currently the most advanced form of TM, and it's only avaiable on the newer generation of 3D chipsets, such as the Matrox G200 and nVidia TNT. This method takes trilinear filtering one step farther. Trilinear filtering is good for 3D objects that are directly in front of the viewer. 3D objects that are oblique, or slanted, from the viewer's sight would be rendered slighty incorrectly. Anisotropic literally means non-uniform shape (an=non, iso=uniform, and tropic=shape). This TM method will allow game designers to smoothly map any 2D bitmap to a corresponding 3D virtual object.

    Related links:

  • S3 Trilinear Filtering FAQ
  • 3DXTC Anisotropic Filtering Overview (very technical!)

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  • hardware RAID Explained
    Unlike desktop systems which use IDE disk drives as their primary storage subsystem, servers usually utilize a SCSI storage subsystem coupled with an high-end RAID controller.

    A dedicated SCSI controller can lower processor utilization, which is critical in a server environment. And most servers require some sort of fault tolerance against hard drive crashes or failures.

    RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive (or Independent) Disks. The concept of RAID is simple: instead of having a single large capacity hard disk (which is expensive and prone to failure), gather a collection of smaller and inexpensive disks and call it a RAID array. For fault tolerance, split the data between the drives, instead of storing all the data on one physical drive. In addition, by splitting the data across different physical drives, I/O performance may be increased.

    There are different levels of RAID technology; the three most commonly used are:

  • RAID level 0 (striping) - Level 0 offers maximum disk I/O performance at the expense of fault tolerance. Data is stored (or striped) across the array of drives. This can greatly enhance I/O performance by reducing the latency time present in a single drive. The downside to level 0 is, if one drive fails, then all your data would be lost. Level 0 is ideal for a workstation system, which requires optimal I/O, but it's definitely not suitable in a server.

  • RAID level 1 (mirroring) - Offers excellent fault tolerance at the expense of cost. Level 1 requires two drives: a primary and the backup drive. The size of the backup drive must be at least the same size or greater than the primary drive. Any data that is written to the primary drive is also written to the backup drive. In effect, the backup drive merely sits there waiting for a potential crash on the primary drive.

  • RAID level 5 (striping with parity) - Most servers will use this RAID level. Level 5 is simliar to level 0, except, in addition to data, parity information is also striped across the RAID array drives. Parity information allows the other drives in the array to rebuild the information on the crashed drive. Level 5 offers the best of both world: it has excellent fault tolerance and performance.

    In addition to the various levels of RAID, there's two concepts in a RAID environment that can further simplify drive management. The first is known as drive hotswap. This allows the user to replace a crashed drive in a RAID array, without having to power the system down. The user takes the bad drive out of the drive bay, replace it with a new drive, and insert the drive bay back into the system. All the time while the server is up and running.

    The other concept is spare pooling for a RAID level 5 array. This allows the user to set up a number of spare drive(s). When a drive in the array crashes, the RAID controller will automatically take a drive from the spare pool and add it to the existing array.

    Related links:

  • RAID Advisory Board (RAB)
  • RAB Guide to Nonstop Data Access
  • Artecon FAQ on RAID

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  • humor Joke of the Week
    Let's Stump Technical Support
    (taken from Infowar)

    So you think you're computer-illiterate? Check out the following excerpts from a Wall Street Journal article by Jim Carlton.

    1. Compaq is considering changing the command "Press Any Key" to "Press Return Key" because of the flood of calls asking where the "Any" key is.

    2. AST technical support had a caller complaining that her mouse was hard to control with the dust cover on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.

    3. Another Compaq technician received a call from a man complaining that the system wouldn't read word processing files from his old diskettes. After trouble- shooting for magnets and heat failed to diagnose the problem, it was found that the customer labeled the diskettes then rolled them into the typewriter to type the labels.

    4. Another AST customer was asked to send a copy of her defective diskettes. A few days later a letter arrived from the customer along with Xeroxed copies of the floppies.

    5. A Dell technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and close the door. The customer asked the tech to hold on, and was heard putting the phone down, getting up and crossing the room to close the door to his room.

    6. Another Dell customer called to say he couldn't get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of trouble-shooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor screen and hitting the "send" key.

    7. Another Dell customer needed help setting up a new program, so a Dell tech suggested he go to the local Egghead. "Yeah, I got me a couple of friends," the customer replied. When told Egghead was a software store, the man said, "Oh, I thought you meant for me to find a couple of geeks."

    8. Yet another Dell customer called to complain that his keyboard no longer worked. He had cleaned it by filling up his tub with soap and water and soaking the keyboard for a day, then removing all the keys and washing them individually.

    9. A Dell technician received a call from a customer who was enraged because his computer had told him he was "bad and an invalid". The tech explained that the computer's "bad command" and "invalid" responses shouldn't be taken personally.

    10. An exasperated caller to Dell Computer Tech Support couldn't get her new Dell Computer to turn on. After ensuring the computer was plugged in, the technician asked her what happened when she pushed the power button. Her response, "I pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happens." The "foot pedal" turned out to be the computer's mouse.

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    On/Off

    In the tradition of the what's hot and what's not list, or Wired's Tired/Wired list...

    O F F O N
    GigaPOPs TeraPOPs
    NT 4.0 SP3 NT 4.0 SP4 beta
    NT 4.0 SP4 beta NT 5.0 beta 2
    Matrox G200 nVidia TNT
    Trilinear filtering Anisotropic filtering

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    next issue
    Do you have an idea or a topic you'd like to see in the upcoming issue of virtual edge? Just drop an email to calvin@premiopc.com.

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    links
    Visit these sites for your daily dose of high tech news.

  • C|Net
  • C|Net's Computers
  • Computerworld
  • Computer Reseller News
  • Infoworld
  • PC Week
  • PC Magazine
  • Upside
  • Wired
  • ZD Net

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  •  
    latest news
    PC Week - Microsoft Seeking Dismissal Again

    NEWS - Microsoft Trial Could be Delayed

    Infoworld - Microsoft Unveils Witness List

    Infoworld - Intel Mobile PII/300 an Overkill?

    CRN - Microsoft Case Delayed Two Weeks

    CNN - Symantec Spots First Java Virus

    Wired - Microsoft Sued Over Source Code

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    Copyright 1998 PREMIO Computer, Inc.