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HDR: Gaming’s future

Firefox vs Opera

at the heart of technology December 2005 Volume 3 Issue 1 Rs 150

www.chip-india.com

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Spanning every hardware category tested, we bring you the industry’s finest tech gear 36

FEATURE

Dual GPU graphics The first dual-processor 86 graphics card tested
WORKSHOP

50 Processors in test
From laptops to desktops, they go through the wringer

85

The Internet Mafia
A peek into the Indian animation industry

110

Feel threatened on the Internet? Save yourself now!

Large-screen movies Set up a projector and 138 redefine home cinema
Also available in Bangladesh Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, U A E

Making of Hanuman

124

Handheld, meet mobile: PalmOne Treo 650

LG.indd 1

11/25/2005 9:20:02 PM

EDITORIAL

7

Looking Back, Looking Ahead
wo years down, 24 issues under the belt. So much has changed since our first cover story on the affordable PC. Technology trends have waxed and waned, people have come and gone, but there’s one thing that has proved to be the lifeblood of our magazine. Passion. Talking about passion, it’s the driving force of innovation. And innovation is one thing that’s been in abundant supply during this year. From radically new designs in processor fabrication to brighter and cheaper TFT monitors to ridiculously affordable PCs, we’re seeing large strides on the technology landscape. After speaking with several companies and culling the views of our team, I’ve identified some of the leading trends this year: Simplicity: Take any new gadget—the catchword now is simplicity. We’re not just talking about ease of use, but about the very technologies and features that go into these products. With the mind-numbing success of the iPod, it appears that manufacturers everywhere are taking a page out of Apple’s books and are re-thinking how they fabricate their products. From the ultra-easy user interface of today’s cell phones to the one-click usage mantra followed by everything from Wi-Fi gear to backup devices, companies are beginning to realize that it isn’t geeks who buy their products—it’s their cousins, uncles, aunts and parents. Mobile computing: Today, every cellular provider from Tata Indicom to Reliance to Hutch have Internet access capabilities on their networks. This year also saw the advent of EDGE and enhanced CDMA 1xRTT services that promise faster connection speeds. Be it checking your email, checking movie timings or starting MMS scandals, end users are finding newer ways to use communication technology. VoIP: This year saw many telephony subscribers kissing their STD and ISD phone calls goodbye. Once the mainstay of corporate networks, voice over IP services have reached people’s homes and have brought them that much closer with cheap phone calls through their Internet connection. And now that TRAI has officially legalized Net telephony, finding a calling card from your local ISP is a snap. These announcements aren’t without their loopholes though—with restrictions like download caps and a sub-global standard of 256 Kbps broadband speed, we have a long way to go. The digital home: The home PC is no longer about mailing and web surfing. Consumers are now more discerning in their choice of computers as they discover newer applications around it. Home theater, gaming and shared Internet access are few of the areas where people expect their PC to deliver. This has reflected in manufacturers integrating everything from multi-channel audio, native DVD decoding, reasonably capable integrated graphics and even hardware firewalls into their hardware. Increasingly, the desktop PC is becoming the hub of your digital life. These are indeed exciting times. And as we bring another year to a close, we’ve created an anniversary package that we’re certain you’ll like. So go ahead, dig in. Have a super Christmas and until next year, cheers!

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Companies are beginning to realize that it isn’t geeks who buy their products, it’s their cousins, uncles, aunts and parents

| Marco Angelo D’Souza marco.dsouza@chip-india.com
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

Contents DECEMBER 2005
130 Home

BREW

85 32

AMD vs Intel:
50 CPUs Tested

India Calling
NEWSWIRE 96 Dual Duel
Pairing of two GPU cards will help to notch graphics capabilities to a new level and enhance performance

22 Coming of Age
Hardeep Singh Gill and his dynamic team at Pumpkin Studios shares the making of his recent music video for children, done in 3D Max

122 Battle of the Underdogs
New contenders to IE—Firefox and Mozilla are vying for your attention!

100 It’s all getting Real!
More on the kind of technologies that make games tick

124 Toon Tails
The making of the movie Hanuman

32 India Calling
With the bandwidth problem ironed out, VoIP should rule the voice market in a big way

128 BeATS All
Clarinox Technologies, in association with TCS, has revealed a revolutionary new audio tour, with Bluetooth, known as BeATS

APPLICATIONS 104 Software Center
We vouch for graphics applications this time. Check out lots more...

COVER STORY 36 Best Products of the Year
A roundup of the year’s best products tested at the Test Center

130 Home BREW
Applications like 3D games, wallpapers, etc are being developed by Indians, thanks to the BREW platform

110 The Internet Mafia
Defend yourself from the evil powers of the world beyond what you see, they are lurking to seize confidential information and finally control you!

HARDWARE 64 Top Gear
An excellent mix of products again—from the slick iPod MP3 player with video to many others

HANDS ON 138 The Big Picture!
Find out how adding a projector simply changes the way you view popular movies at home

116 OpenOffice.org 2: More
Features, Still Free
Presenting the spanking new Open Office version, with more features

85 AMD vs Intel: 50 CPUs Tested
A gruelling test of the processors by the reigning rivals in the industry. Know which suits you best

141 Time to build your PC
We tell you how to flesh out your PC from the ground-up level

94 The Memory Effect
Here we dissect memory jargon that gets simply baffling as newer technologies spring

144 Getting the most out
of your iPod
36
Tips and little known tricks that teach you to get the utmost out of your wonder gadget—the iPod
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

128 BeATS All

116

OpenOffice.org:
More features, still free 94 The

Memory Effect

148 Backing up Data
Discover how you can make your mobile the one-stop-shop for all your data storage needs

166 Age of Empires 3
With an amazing range of stunning visual effects and cutting edge graphics, find out whether it was worth the wait for the latest in the series of the Age of Empires

| Products Tested
Hardware
Apple iPod ATI X1800 XT palmOne Treo 650 Asus S5200A Kores KP-19 ASRock K8NF4G-SATA2 Logitech G5 Laser Mouse MSI RX1300TD Pro LaCie Silverscreen 80 GB Samsung SGH-D600 Canon Pixma iP4200 Gigabyte W431 UD Samsung YH-J70 Asus PM17-TU Gainward Ultra 1960 XP iRiver N10 SnaZio Net DVD Cinema HD Sony MRW620 Xerox DocuMate 510 MSI Mega Player 515 Lite
...64

UNWIND 158 What’s in a Genre?
Know more about the different kinds of game genres

168 FIFA Manager 2006
Be the one to call the shots as you play manager and lead the club of your dreams to final glory

160 F.E.A.R.
An eagerly awaited shooter game, the hype created by F.E.A.R. was so ethereal that we couldn’t wait to share the experience with you

170 Online Malls
Get a lowdown on the best shopping malls in the country, on the Net of course

162 Dungeon Siege 2
As addictive as its prequel, Dungeon Siege 2 demonstrates a promising gaming experience

172 The Cool Dudes are here!
Find out more about your favorite in the world of games

164 Quake 4
A mind-blowing FPS experience for all you gaming freaks out there!

Regulars
Town Square Letters Technology Landscape Dr. CHIP 16 18 84 134 150 160 184

pamOne Treo
(Smart phone)

Tips and Tricks Game Reviews Last Word

…67

104
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

Disk Contents
DECEMBER 2005 | VOLUME 3 | ISSUE 1

Mobile Phone
Xingtone Ringtone Maker

Linux
amaroK Player

TwistedBrush

Multimedia
JetAudio Basic 6.2.4 QuickTime 7 VLC Media Player

Developer
C++ Server Pages

Red Hot
CADopia v6 Standard

Must Haves
Adobe Reader 7.0.5 CutePDF Writer

Utilities
EasyOffice Trial NetSetMan Photo2DVD Studio Security Toolkit

Internet
iMesh 6.0 Opera 8.5

iPod Tools

Game Demos
Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Game Addons
TheSims 2 Nightlife Patch Battlefield 2 1.02 Patch Mods- Half-Life 2 Deathmatch- Instagib Source

Game Trailers
Prince Of Persia 3

Movie Trailers
Blood Rayne The Chronicles of Narnia

$)*1 $%

$)*1 %7%
Game Demos:
X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse, Dungeon Siege 2 , Fahrenheit, Starship Troopers, King Kong, Cold War, FIFA Manager 2006

Game Trailers:
Need for Speed Most Wanted Exclusive, ATI Demo Toy Shop Exclusive

Movie Trailers:
Wolf Creek First Descent

Game Addons:
Fear Fansite Kit

Quick Quote
DECEMBER 2005 | VOLUME 3 | ISSUE 1

Like its name, IC CHIP is about computing intelligently. It explains technology in a simple, executable manner
Rohit Verma Marketing Manager, AMD

GENERAL MANAGER - PUBLISHING

Krishna Tewari
EDITOR

Chennai O K Gurumurthy Phone: (044) 28295050-54 Fax: (044) 28295060 gurumurthy@infomediaindia.com Hyderabad Vasudevan Iyer Phone: (040)55622211 Fax: (040) 23393488 Kolkata A. K. Roy Phone: (033) 2468637, 2468638 Fax: (033) 2462964 New Delhi Pranav Saran pranav.saran@infomediaindia.com (D) (011) 55303287 401-409, Prakashdeep Building, 7 Tolstoy Marg, New Delhi – 110 001. Phone: (011)55303278,79,80,82 Fax: (011)23327884
CIRCULATION

Marco Angelo D’Souza
ASSOCIATE FEATURES EDITOR

Carol D’Costa
SENIOR COPY EDITOR

Sharmistha Dey
WRITERS

Ashutosh Desai Jamshed Avari
TEST CENTER

Soham Raninga Anand Tuliani
MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR

Anup Pillai
DESIGN

Atul Bandekar Vishwanath Vanjire, Pramod Jadhav, Dinesh Desai Rushikesh Masurkar, Manoj Tandel, Umesh Dahiwalkar
PHOTO EDITOR

National Circulation Manager Kumar Mohanani (kumar.mohanani@infomediaindia.com)
CHIP INTERNATIONAL

Editorial Management International Ludwig Blaha, Poccistrabe 11,80336 Munchen Editorial Consultant International Wolfgang Su, Poccistrabe 11,80336 Munchen CHIP is also published in the following countries China Czech Republic Germany Greece Hungary Indonesia Italy Malaysia Netherlands Poland Romania Russia Singapore Thailand Turkey Ukraine
Infomedia India Ltd. does not take the responsibility for returning unsolicited material sent without due postal stamps for return postage. No part of this magazine can be reproduced without the prior written permission of the publisher. Infomedia India Ltd. reserves the right to use the information published herein in any manner whatsoever. Copyright 2004 INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP For all international subscription enquiries, contact the subscription department, Intelligent Computing CHIP (subscription@chip-india.com). Intelligent Computing CHIP is printed by A. S. Vadiwala and published by K. V. Rao on behalf of Infomedia India Ltd. and printed at Infomedia India Ltd, Plot No.3, Sector 7, Off SionPanvel Road, Nerul, Navi Mumbai – 400 706 and published at Infomedia India Ltd., `A’ Wing, Ruby House, 2nd Floor, J.K. Sawant Marg, Dadar(W). Mumbai - 400 028. INDIA is an internationally protected trademark owned by Vogel Burda Communication GmbH Cover Design: Pramod Jadhav Cover Photography: Shirish Karale Cover Model: Sangeeta Singh

Shirish Karale
MULTIMEDIA & WEB

Hemant Charya
SPECIAL PROJECTS ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Brian Pereira
ASSISTANT EDITOR

Harikrishnan Menon
WRITERS

Nikhil Rastogi, Gagan Gupta
HEAD MARKETING

Ganesh Lakshmanan
EDITORIAL OFFICE

Intelligent Computing Chip, Infomedia India Ltd. `A’ Wing, Ruby House, 2nd Floor, J.K. Sawant Marg, Dadar(W). Mumbai - 400 028. INDIA Phone: (91 22) 24232323, Fax: (91 22) 2430 2707 E-mail: comment@chip-india.com
BUSINESS OFFICES

Mumbai (Head Office) Martin Wilson, mwilson@infomediaindia.com Sagar Salunkhe Infomedia India Ltd. `A’ Wing, Ruby House, 2nd Floor, J.K. Sawant Marg, Dadar(W). Mumbai - 400 028. INDIA Phone: (91 22) 24232323, Fax: (91 22) 24302707 E-mail: tbwbom@chip-india.com Bangalore Mohammed Asif mohammed.asif@infomediaindia.com 12th Floor, ‘C’ Wing, Mittal Tower No.6, M.G.Road, Bangalore – 560 001. Phone: (080)559 7282,83,84 Fax: (080)559 7285

www.chip-india.com
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

16

TOWN SQUARE

Town Square
s we sit here on the verge of our second anniversary issue, we look back and see a sea of readers who’ve made this magazine and web site what it is. To all of you—a big thank you! With over 17,000 registered users on our site, we’re growing from strength to strength and are looking forward to create more compelling online content. While we’ve received a plethora of suggestions and great ideas on what we can and should be doing to enhance the functionality, interface and features of our web site, we’re still in the process of gearing up for this refreshed look. I know that sounds noncommittal, but we’re going to be unveiling our new site only after we’re sure that it’s stable and well thought out. Meanwhile, all our resident web site geeks are ploughing ahead with really cool inputs on our favorite subject—Tips and Tricks. This month, our web site has seen a huge array of suggestions from our readers on system optimization tips and application usability tricks. Among the most salient of them, we found the suggestion from our user {MAX} to be pretty neat. Using this trick, you can quickly launch any program directly from Start | Run and type out its name. He explains how this is done my making smart use of the path variable. All you need to do is to first create a list of shortcuts to your favorite programs and place then in a directory on your hard disk. Then simply add this directory name to the list of your Path variable in Windows XP. Do this by going to System properties | Advanced | Environment Variables and editing the ‘Path’ system variable. After adding your folder containing the shortcuts to this path listing, you can quickly launch any of these programs from the Start | Run box. Go ahead, try it out! I’ve started using it and now wonder how I could’ve lived without it. Another really interesting tip was one posted by ‘Cool Surfer’ with a list of undocumented and hidden Windows XP system programs that allow for some great functionality. He listed the hidden software, the Private Character Editor (eudcedit.

A

exe) for creating special characters and using them as you would normal fonts, the IExpress Wizard for creating self-extracting and self-installing files (iexpress.exe), the Microsoft Synchronization Manager (mobsync.exe) that helps you manage your web content better and synchronize it for offline browsing, Windows for Workgroups Chat (winchat.exe) that allows for simple text based chatting over a Windows network. You can launch any of these programs by typing in the program name in Start | Run. This is just a partial list mentioned here—he’s highlighted plenty of other in this useful listing. Good stuff! For all of you who’ve wondered where to find the support phone number of a hardware company or a company contact detail for a purchase enquiry, ‘insanity_incarrnate’ has been kind enough to post a pretty comprehensive list of contact details for hardware vendors and companies in India, including names, phone numbers, email IDs and occasional cell phone numbers of relevant folks from the industry. We’ve also been getting a fair amount of feedback regarding the issue reaching late in certain areas. Do let us know directly about any issues you face (you can write either to me or to subscription@chip-india.com) and we will make it a point to look into these little speed breakers in the distribution, deliver or courier chain! I’ve also seen a few posts regarding the prizes being sent out for our Monster PC contest. We’ve already dispatched some of the prizes to our winners and are in the process of sending out the rest. Also, as I mentioned the last time, we still don’t have any response from three of our prize winners—msq123, videhjj and manohar who’ve won the Samsung SyncMaster 730MP TFT TV, the Antec lighting systems and the Cooler Master Hyper 48 processor heatsink respectively. So if you’re out there, this is your last chance to get in touch with us and lay claim to your prizes. Cheers and wishing you a very happy Christmas, and a fabulous new year! ■ | Marco D’Souza
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

18

LETTERS

Letters
Dear CHIP, You must have come across recent advertisements about the 10K PCs. These machines never fascinated me as they were very outdated with older Athlon 1600+ processors and SDRAM memory. However, the recent ad on the Sahara PC caught my eye. When I come to the specifications later, you’ll understand why I got interested. Even if you were to assemble this machine using individual parts, it would cost about Rs 16,000. I know this because I regularly assemble machines. So you can imagine why I was surprised when Sahara was offering it for only Rs 10,000 (plus taxes). I immediately rushed to the nearest dealer in New Bombay but was disappointed when he (and upon subsequent checking, most of the other dealers in the area) stated that the machines were out of stock. Later, one dealer in Vashi agreed to sell it to me for Rs 13,500 excluding the cost of installation. I was obviously shocked at this discrepancy in price. I then called Sahara’s helpline number and the person I spoke to mentioned that they had already distributed the machines to vendors. I asked him how much I would need to pay including taxes and his quote was Rs 12,000. He gave me the distributor’s name in Vashi. This distributor then directed me to another dealer a short distance away. To my surprise, when I reached there, I was told the machines were out of stock. I was now almost sure that there was something fishy. On enquiry, I found out that even though Sahara had rightfully dispatched their computers, there was a dealer-distributor nexus by way of which they would turn down consumers saying the pieces were out of stock so that they could later sell at a higher price, as it was a time limited offer. However, I managed to get the computer from the dealer, after much begging, for Rs 12,500. It’s sad because I found out that some of these guys have actually managed to sell these computers for upto Rs 16,000 per piece. I think it’s just not fair that we consumers are misled by such offers. Why don’t these companies directly sell their computers to end-users? At least, that way, we will be saved from the bother of dealing with the likes of these corrupt dealers-distributors. Here are the specifications of this computer: MSI Intel 845 GV motherboard, Celeron D 2.13 GHz processor, 128 MB DDR 333 Samsung RAM, 40 GB 5400 rpm Samsung hard disk, 52x CDROM, 15-inch Samsung monitor, keyboard, optical mouse, speakers and a good quality cabinet and an excellent power supply. Given these specifications, it’s obvious that these corrupt dealers are making a pretty big margin when they charge so much more for each of these 10K PCs. The question is whether there really is a 10K PC… From the Town Square (samtam786) While the intent of the Rs 10,000 PC is good, it’s indeed a sad thing that some dealers and distributors stoop to levels where they try to squeeze an extra buck from schemes like this, which aim at making the ‘PC-in-every-home’ a reality. It’s important that we as consumers are vigilant toward such acts and resist the temptation of succumbing to their demands. By bringing these issues and instances out into the open, it’s in our collective interest that appropriate action is taken against the perpetrators and that the 10,000-rupee PC does, in fact, become a reality for consumers in our country. Team CHIP Dear CHIP, I am a regular reader of your magazine. I buy it from the newsstand every month and have been doing it ever since the first issue was launched. Your magazine is exceptionally good. Your choice of articles, the style of writing is simply superb. However, on the CD and DVD front I have been quite disappointed. I find that you have been repeating the same software month after month. There’s hardly any fun stuff, no wallpapers, and no desktop themes. Also, you don’t give any type of tutorials, e-books and things like whitepapers. I suggest you include some tutorials on Unix in your magazine. Also, it would be great if you could include some interesting deals like a free optical mouse or 50-CD pack with your subscriptions, especially with your 1-year subscription. I think this would be better than offering a rebate on the price, as is being done currently. With regards to your web site, let me say it’s pretty good and it features some very interesting and knowledgeable questions under the Know-How section. No complaints here!
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Umesh Dahiwalkar

20

LETTERS

Letters
But once again, please revamp your CDs and DVDs with more compelling content each month. Regards Ritesh Dear Ritesh, We have been receiving a range of suggestions and opinions with regards to what we carry on our cover disks. Starting with this month, we have included a wide range of very interesting applications, game and movie trailers, demos and freeware for you to choose from. Add to it, we have also included some exclusive content on the CD from companies like Electronic Arts and ATI—trust us, you will not find these anywhere but here! We do plan to include other offerings like tutorials and increased Linux content (we already have a full version Linux distribution on this month’s cover CDs). We have some interesting things lined up for you in the coming months on the CD and DVD front— exclusive content, game demos, pre-release tools and applications—look out for them, we’re sure you’ll like them! And yes, do keep the suggestions coming in. Team CHIP Dear Marco, In your Last Word, CHIP, November issue, you misquoted Thomas Alva Edison. The actual quote should have been “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. Perhaps a search on Google to confirm your memory would have been better before getting it in the Last Word. Ashish Dear Ashish, You got me there. I realized that was a mistake on my part—I have no idea how it got past me. Looks like I didn’t perspire enough while researching for that quote in my article! Cheers! Marco Dear CHIP, Congratulations for completing two years of publication. Even though I’ve not formally subscribed to CHIP, I purchased all 24 issues and have thoroughly enjoyed reading them. But I have one complaint. It’s a pain locating a particular bit of information with the growing number of issues. The CHIP CD SEEK tool was of immense help but you have stopped updating it after June ’05. I’ve checked the recent online version, and would like that application on my hard disk. I implore you to update it and also publish an index of articles, software and hardware reviews, product advertisements and, especially, Tips & Tricks and Dr. CHIP solutions (preferably in a searchable format by way of a software application, or alternatively in print). Also, please allot more print space to basic Linux tutorials on currently popular programming software, with examples of utilities available. I’m particularly interested in learning to write scripts for Linux and Windows XP environments. I’d also like to read about preliminary fundamentals on networking and LAN-specific technologies that are specifically aimed at end-users and nonadministrators. Regards, Deepak Hello Deepak, We’re glad you like reading our issues. Based on the feedback we have been receiving, we decided to move the CHIP CD Seek tool to the web site as an online application. The collective reason we received was that while it was an immensely popular tool, it was one that users needed to utilize once in a while during the course of the month. Therefore, we decided that an online avatar would be more applicable as it’s live updated and it’s is in one fixed place that readers can find at. We are looking at including a listing of our previously published articles, software and hardware reviews. We also take your point of including the Tips & Tricks and Dr. CHIP sections in a searchable format. We have begun working out the process of doing so and will be incorporating these into our magazine and cover disks in the coming issues. Your request for preliminary articles on computing technologies is a good one and we’re looking at including several such articles across different computing verticals each month. To start off, we have already published entry-level articles on understanding networking fundamentals (the infographic in our September 2005 issue). In fact, we decided to include these visual articles on basic computing fundamentals in response to such requests for having more articles aimed at readers interested in learning about computing concepts. Team CHIP
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

22

Coming of Age
Indian animation studios and creative houses are being recognized for their work and the future seems to be bright

O

Newswire

ne such enterprising entrant in this field, Hardeep Singh Gill and his team at Pumpkin Studios has produced a 3D animation music video especially targeted at children and movie buffs, from the movie Mr Natwarlal—“Mere Paas Aao Mere Dosto”. Gill maintains that the animation industry holds immense potential in the Indian market and witnessing it growing in leaps and bounds, he wanted to hitch onto the bandwagon to create an impact in the initial stages. He claims that in the recent past most animation were seen mostly in English songs or productions done for foreign companies. Gill chanced upon the idea of creating an animation video in 3D that has never been touched upon in the past. To make the subject matter relevant and bring in a mass appeal, Gill decided on a popular Hindi song enacted on screen by Amitabh Bachchan. Gill, Director at Pumpkin Studios, along with his team of students in his animation learning center, directed and brought forth this production. Using 3DXmax, Photoshop and After Effects for compositing in addition to VfX, the team at Pumpkin Studios created the video and sent a master copy to

the team at Discreet (AutoDesk), for feedback. According to Gill, Raman Madan at Discreet appreciated the work done by Pumpkin Studio and has agreed to provide technical support needed for doing further production in the future. Agreed India has a long way to go to measure up to the quality levels of Philippine, Korean or Taiwan studios, but the fact that the fledgling Indian animation companies have embarked on a promising positive note is indication enough that domestic studios are finally being recognized for original content. According to the NASSCOM Animation 2005 report, the competitive advantage, and the delivery of good international standards of animation by studios in India have encouraged foreign production houses to look towards India as the future destination to outsource their assignments. Presently, there are massive efforts roped in to bring Indian animation on to the global scenario. ASIFA-India, a branch of the international ASIFA Animation association, is helping to establish Indian animation abroad. As of now, there are 75 members representing over a dozen various studios and their collective effort is trying to make an impact. More organizations are on their way of being formed in an attempt to make a global statement. Gill believes the future of animation in India is brilliant. Currently, there are a number of factors going for the fledgling industry and

| Step-by-Step Approach
Ideation and Concept of the song “Mere Pass Aao Mere Dosto”. Sketching and detailing the look and feel of the characters. Modeling each character that resembles the previously drawn sketches in 3Ds Max. Texturing of characters using Photoshop. Creating and arranging the background. To begin with, the basic layout and then modeling flowers and trees surrounding the characters. Lighting. Initially, the characters were placed against the background and lighting was added to the scene. Through this effect, necessary editing was done to the texture of the characters and the background. Matte paintings were made using Photoshop. The matte effect was created especially for the sky and to create depth for the woodland surrounding the characters. Animation and morphing. The characters were animated using character studio (which is a plug-in, although inbuilt in Max 7) Rendering. Each scene in the video was rendered with shadows and lights in the TGA format. These composite TGAs, in the end, were aligned using AfterEffects. Finally, editing for the song was done using Premiere.

Pramod Jadhav Pramod Jadhav INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | NOVEMBER 2005

if tapped in the right manner, it can be a force to reckon with, especially when pitched against international standards. The only hitch is to be able to manage the show effectively in order to make a global impact, as the world is now focused on India. Most major international studios in the US such as Disney, Sony, Warner Bros, DreamWorks, etc are looking very closely at how the scene in India is panning out and the kind of work being produced in the country. Gill states since this is the future of entertainment, specific audiences need to be entertained in a certain manner suited to their likes. The feather in the cap was that Gill had a storyline that demanded animation and the results are amazing. Creating one of India’s first 3D music videos for popular consumption has been a quite a challenging task for Hardeep Gill. Good 3D modeling is difficult, but it’s a skill much in demand. Learning to think through the modeling process—learning that special discipline for building objects in abstract space—is at the root of becoming a successful 3D artist. Gill claims that it took the team around four to five months only to research through a concept and subsequently followed the hard work and labor to give the song its final shape. Pumpkin Studio is a learning center in Rajouri Garden, in New Delhi. It was formed in 2002, and was initially a franchisee of MAAC but later it decided to break away and create its own brand niche in the industry. It has, in the past, done commendable work in the field of animation. Its work has received accolades and awards. Recently, it participated in the 24 FPS Animation Awards 2004-05, and won the ‘Best Animated Film’ award for the year, which was presented by MEL. Gill has also traveled to the US in a bid to make his efforts known to stalwarts in the industry, and to popularize Indian animation abroad. He claims, “We are now in a process to implement the latest techniques in animation at Pumpkin Studio to do even better jobs this year. This would also include live projects for animation studios in the US, in future.” 3D technology is sweeping through architecture and product design. Realistic 3D animation as a learning or demonstrative tool is taking off in corporate presentations and courtroom demonstrations, and on educational CDs. The range of possibilities for this new medium has barely begun to be explored and it would not be long before 3D graphics and animation become ubiquitous. So, 3D graphics represents a most realistic career move. Furthermore, the Animation World Network is also looking to strengthen ties in India as a production base for its animation and feature films, and is planning to tap the country’s commercial ability, including that in radio, animation and TV broadcasting and content. According Andy Bird, Walt Disney Company’s COO, Disney’s priority would be investing in radio, music and film industry. Pumpkin Studios, says Gill, is now looking forward to bagging projects from abroad and creating animations based on ideas that cater to the needs of Indian audience. He says, “I have come up with Pumpkin Academy of Digital Arts where students are trained at a professional level by professional trainers. At the Academy, our expertise and the techniques and skills necessary for becoming a quality performer in animation and visual effects industry today, is imparted.” ■ | Carol D’ Costa
NOVEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

24

NEWSWIRE

Twist and Shout

KITTY kitty, bang bang!

I

f you are one of those who love a good dance move while listening to your music, then what better experience to twirl around without the hassle of clumsy headphones and wires strangling your neck. Instead of managing unwieldy wires, SigmaTel, a developer of mixedsignal multimedia semiconductors, is helping portable music player maker FunTwist to do away with wired headphones. Funtwist’s new D-Chord 800 combines two of the hottest trends today: Bluetooth and portable MP3 players.

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FunTwist D-Chord 800 digital audio player

While the FunTwist D-Chord 800 digital audio player promises high-quality music performance in multiple formats, it operates wirelessly via a Bluetooth link that switches to phone mode when it detects an incoming call. Supporting MP3, WMA and WAV formats as well as EQ modes, ID3 tag display, synchronous lyrics and Microsoft’s Digital Rights Management (DRM) system, one of the keys to the FunTwist’s D-Chord 800’s performance is the use of SigmaTel’s STMP3510 portable, digital audio System on Chip (SoC) solution. It’s quite a refreshing idea—an MP3 player with wireless headphones that a user can switch from listening to music to a phone mode to answer cell phone calls, all this via a bluetooth link—using the digital audio SoC solution. The proponents at SigmaTel are deliberately looking at challenging conventional logic and seem kicked on designing products that would take into account user experiences. Apart from wireless headphones, SigmaTel’s portable audio SoC solutions also provide audio playback for MP3 players, language learners, and jukeboxes.

nother step in the field of wearable computers, KITTY TECH looks as though you type ‘letters’ by holding your fingers and thumbs together in different permutations to achieve the sentence you are trying to type in. An acronym for ‘Keyboard Independent Touch Typing Technology,’ KITTY TECH is a fingermounted keyboard that uses touch-typing as the method of data entry and uses spiraling, printed-electric-circuit wires to obtain results. Designed by the University of California, Irvine, the mission is to provide an ultraportable ’silent’ data-input device for wearable computing systems promising wide consumer acceptance due to zero learning curve for those well versed in touch typing. Combining the idea of a finger-mounted chording device (such as the “Twiddler” by HandKey Corp), and touch-typing (such as the Virtual Keyboard by Senseboard or the Scurry by Samsung), the device targets the portable computing market, and in particular, wearable computing systems. According to Dr Mehring from the University of California, Irvine, the new device tries to give glove-based or fingermounted systems a new shot at the portable input device market by taking advantage of the existing skills of potential users. One particular design uses printedcircuit electrical wires on thin flexible spiral-shaped substrate strips winding around each finger of the hand and providing electrical contacts on thumbs and fingertips and/or alongside each finger to generate all the characters found on a traditional keyboard, using traditional touch-typing skills. Plans for commercialization and licensing are underway.

The university claims that production costs would be low since discrete signals are generated by the opening and closure of electric circuits totally analogous to existing keyboard technology. In addition, the ultra-portable device does not have the drawbacks of other systems, for example, the “Virtual Keyboard” by Senseboard (http://www.senseboard.com/), the

“Lightglove” (http://www.lightglove.com/) or the “Scurry” by Samsung (http://www. samsung.com/), which also use touchtyping for alphabetic character input but which are based on continuous signal processing, and which require the user to preserve a certain reference position with their hands in the course of touch-typing. Of late, increasing advances and efforts have been made and put in the design of portable computing and in particular, the design of pocket PCs (e.g. http://wearables. stanford.edu/main.html) and eye-glass displays (e.g. http://www.microopticalcorp. com/, http://www.machinebrain.com/, http://www.handykey.com/, http:// wearables.blu.org/hardwear.html, http:// boole.stanford.edu/thumbcode/cat).

Game Reviews: Quake4 Fear Feature: Mafia on the Internet Workshop: How to assemble your own PC (Poster)

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INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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Xbox and a 360 view
ith 18 games in its kitty, the next-generation Xbox 360 console seems to have emerged a killer. As can be perceived, the games represent a big improvement in this generation console compared with Microsoft’s debut Xbox, which had very limited initial support from independent game makers, and in addition more than 200 original Xbox games will be compatible with the new 360 console, according to Microsoft. While Sony’s PlayStation 3 is still six months to a year away, Microsoft seems content to rule the roost till then. The real gamble, however, would be the strategy employed by Microsoft. In the last round, they came late with arguably the best hardware, while Sony held firmly on to first place. Now, Microsoft is arriving first, but may not have indisputably superior hardware. If the result doesn’t change, they’ll no longer be able to blame Sony’s dominance on first-mover

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advantage in the PlayStation 2 era. After years of planning and billions of dollars at risk, industry veterans predict that demand from the most avid game enthusiasts alone will be enough to make the console a top seller this holiday season. But nobody is sure whether Microsoft will succeed with casual gamers who may prefer the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Nintendo Revolution coming next year. The unpredictable factor would be whether consumers are really going to come out in the holidays for the Xbox 360 or just wait for Sony next year. Circa four years Microsoft had to contend with Sony’s immense popularity as Playstation 2s sold about 90 million, as compared to 22 million Xboxes and Nintendo’s sale of 20 million GameCubes. Through all the cumulative losses incurred by Microsoft,

the Redmond giant is hoping to gain on Sony and make money this time by finding new ways to generate income beyond selling games. Apart from that, Microsoft hopes that the timing will help it gain ground on competitions by the recent launch, which is certainly way ahead of the next generation machines from Sony and Nintendo. Finally, whether consumers appreciate the subtleties will determine how well the consoles sell. Only due to the limitations on the PS2’s hardware has the Xbox been able to climb the charts, it isn’t due to a vast number of stellar games. Since there is no hard disk on the PS2, developers haven’t been able to use it as a buffer, users can’t store music and/or save games (which force them to buy a memory card, they already lost me at that point), and their own software can’t be updated. No question, Xbox wins. Most gamers seem ecstatic to see what things the 360 hold, and with the knowledge that Microsoft has put forth their best effort and a no holds barred approach, it seems like nothing could stop them.

Wi-Fi huh?

Tackling a new type of cyber crime

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o you thought Wi-Fi meant Wireless Fidelity? Spells Nada you well informed soul. The truth is that the term does not mean a thing, and has no expanded version. Incidentally, the Wi-Fi Consortium has claimed that the term does not stand for anything and is not an acronym that needs to be spelled out. Wi-Fi is a pun, based on the contraction, “Hi-Fi,” which stands for “High fidelity.” So if Wi-Fi *means* “wireless fidelity” then it means precisely nothing, because “wireless fidelity” is a nonsense phrase whose only meaning comes from the fact that you get a pun on “Hi-Fi” when you shorten it. It’s rumoured that ‘Wireless Fidelity’ was created when the Wi-FI consortium and the Wi-Fi Alliance began to be criticized by writers whose editors demanded that all word forms need to specified, and thus came up the incredibly lame ‘Wireless Fidelity’.

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hile the Asian School of Cyber Laws (Pune) cries hoarse about the dangers of SMS spoofing, there are sites that now guide pranksters and on a serious note, terrorists, to spoof messages using a web-based software to send a message from another person’s cell without even touching his or her mobile. Experiments conducted by the school in SMS spoofing at the national and international level showed that spoof SMS messages could be successfully sent to the desired person and it can make the entire episode appear as if it came from someone completely uninvolved. Frankly, there is not much

that can be done about it, as no cellular service provider can say whether the message was a spoofed one or not. While the scope for misuse of SMS spoofing is enormous, it can also be used in a positive manner. SMS spoofing can be used as an effective tool to investigate, and law enforcing agencies can nab terrorists and narcotic dealers. So what would you do if you happen to be an ‘unfortunate’ victim? Perhaps the best way to deal with it would be to remain alert and call up the other person when in doubt whether he or she has really sent you the SMS in question.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Dinesh Desai

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Gates humbly admits he needs to ‘serve’

ICANN rule the Internet
ust another ploy to grab power! And this time around it’s the Internet being eyed, the creative, fast-evolving sum of millions of computer users. Governments are waking up to the fact that the Internet is a powerful tool that can change society and commerce in profound ways. Common misconception states that the US runs it and controls the system. Nobody does. The closest anyone comes is the non-profit ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), headquartered in coastal California. But the best kept joke is the desperate measures employed by the US on getting its control over the virtual property. The Internet has fundamentally changed. A little over a decade ago, it was US-centric and entirely non-commercial. Today, its scope is truly international, and its economic importance is enormous and growing. So it’s no surprise that countries ranging from China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US are wary of the kind of power it gives ‘netizens’. They want a chance to control the Internet, the greatest contribution to commerce and free expression the world

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n a latest memo (that was leaked out) to top lieutenants in his organization, Bill Gates outlined the need for a service model in the face of impending competition and cautioned his team to brace up to the challenge. “This coming ‘services wave’ will be very disruptive,” Gates claims and outlines the need to act quickly, swiftly and with the right mission. In September, Microsoft announced that it was reorganizing itself into three units; it recently announced the products called Windows Live and Office Live, aimed at the direction of moving forward. Windows Live combines many of Microsoft’s existing MSN services into an advertising-supported product for consumers, while Office Live is a set of services, some free and some paid, aimed at small businesses. So the need to move towards Internetbased software is clear, and looms large over the Redmond Giant. Gates compares the push toward such services, which range from online business software offerings to free web-based email, to the changes he saw nearly a decade ago. This, perhaps, boosted him to pen the memo, called “The Internet Tidal Wave” that suggests a massive shift toward Internetbased technology. And Gates seems obviously concerned about growing faced criticism in Microsoft’s model. The current model still relies heavily on delivering software in traditional packaging which stands a high risk of growing antiquated. He also points to the fact that although Microsoft’s Office is ubiquitous, it is Adobe’s PDF file that has emerged as the key means of sending formatted documents on the Web. Microsoft is proposing its own rival to PDF known as Metro, with Windows Vista, its new operating system that is due next year. The memo states that despite the threats, “the opportunity for us to lead is very clear”. This marks the third time that Gates has rallied his company in the face of challenges from a new type of computing.

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has seen in many years. It’s no surprise then issues such as spamming, child pornography, human rights, individual rights, intellectual property and abuses of democratic rights are largely ignored. Joining the fray is none other than the United Nations. In what is but yet another power grab attempt, the body is seeking to control the Internet as part of the agenda discussed at the World Summit on the International Society in Tunisia, last month. ICANN dishes out Internet suffixes such as the familiar .com, country suffixes such as .in, and newer suffixes such as .tv, .biz or .eu. It authorizes changes to the “root zone file”, which matches those domains with numerical addresses. The US Commerce Department has ultimate control of the root zone file, and Washington made it clear recently that it intends to maintain that role. So what’s coming next? Another war to free the Internet? To be honest, true control over the web will be an impossibly large and diverse task, and maintaining any broad control over its content would be daunting rather out of the question.

Dinesh Desai

Will the real Mociologist please stand up?

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ust as the term ‘blog’ was unheard of till a while back, mociology is a brand new hippy term slated to catch up anytime soon. Mociology is a made-up word with seemingly no use and is honestly a snazzy buzzword for the “stuff happening with mobile communications”. Joe Trippi, the man whose groundbreaking use of Internet-based campaigning propelled Howard Dean from obscurity to early front-runner, has presented his theory of Mociology stating, “Mociology refers to how mobile and wireless technology have changed the way we do things: downloading music on to a mobile phone, for example, or getting the football scores texted through on a

Saturday afternoon.” Trippi is also the author of The Revolution will not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything. Examples of Mociology: Paying for concert tickets by phone; viewing movie trailers and TV previews on mobile phones; downloading music tracks on mobile phones; viewing sports clips; paying credit cards dues through mobile phones, etc. Blogging and mociology, Trippi is convinced, will revolutionize politics. He claims that mobile technology and blogging technology, will give people the ability to connect with one another from the bottom up.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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Flak for anti-piracy

Tag your picture with Riya

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o one informed Sony that piracy discouragement in certain authoritarian ways could cause computers to become vulnerable. The anti-piracy technology, propounded by Sony would works only on Windows computers, thus preventing copies of the CD and preventing it to work on iPods. Sony’s spirited effort to stop illegal CD copying actually helped open a backdoor into infected machines and tried to download more malicious code from the Net to further compromise an infected machine. Thanks to Sony’s XCP technology, those opening and running the program attached had their computer infected with the Stinx-E trojan. The virus is also known as Breplibot and Ryknos. It was discovered that the Sony XCP copy protection system was a so-called “root-kit” that hid itself deep inside the Windows operating system. And customers who remove the software are unable to listen to the music CD on their computer. Rootkits, while not intrinsically malicious, are viewed with deep suspicion by many in the software development community. They are difficult to find and remove without specific instructions, and attempts to modify the way they act can even damage the normal functioning of a computer. Researchers described Sony’s technology as “spyware”. Sony has of course rejected the description of spyware. But as far as Sony is concerned, the controversy is much ado about nothing, while anti-virus and security software companies are continuing to unearth Trojan Horse programs and a worm that takes advantage of machines running XCP by using names on malicious files. It’s amazing what corporations think they can get away with, and then the whole escapade comes tumbling down around them. Why would consumers, who don’t purchase Sony buy one of these CDs when iTunes offers iPod downloadability, sharing amongst multiple computers and CD burning? Even though Sony’s decision to recall affected CDs came up promptly, digital rights management technology that respects the rights of consumers is yet to form a momentum.

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sing state-of-the-art face-recognition technology, Riya, a Redwood City start-up, has introduced a facial recognition technology that can automatically recognize who is in a picture and tag it with their names. Munjal Shah, CEO and founder, initiated Riya.com after he realized he had no name to the thousands of digital photos all labeled DSC0009.jpgs. As a team of dedicated face recognition researchers and engineers, Shah and team believed it was time for a new type of photo search that uses technology to look inside and automatically tag photos. Over 30 years of research has gone into the study of Computer Vision, but

it is still a field largely in its infancy. The largest contributing factor to this slow advancement is that the process that extracts 3D information from 2D images is much more complex than computer graphics. In addition to the overall complexity, the lack of consumer application of the process slows down progress of development. Face recognition has been heavily studied within the field of Computer Vision over the past decade. The difficulties of face recognition lie in the inherent variation of facial characteristics and the environment of image acquisition. Face and text recognition are just part of the overall scope that Riya wishes to achieve in their vision of mastering photo search online. According to Shah, the service’s contextbased approach looks at 50 variables: Hair, eye color, shirt color, height, sex and so on. Till the time that Riya is acknowledged, it may license the technology and build a business around ad revenue. It’s currently free! (www.riya.com)

Shiny steel storage
here are flash drives and there are hard drives... It was only a matter of time before someone decided to combine the minuteness of flash with the capacity of hard drives. And here we have a very Zippo looking hard drive with a stainless look finish from US Modular. Known as the Monstor Drive, this shiny looking palm-sized gadget is slim and compact, but large enough to hold tens of thousands of data files, music, pictures and more on the go. So if you like your drive aesthetically enhanced with that burnished glazed look all gleaming in silver, you know just what to buy. Not just content with presenting the steel aspect, US Modular will offer the Monstor Mini Hard Drive in capacities of 2, 4, and 6 GBs. The product is slated to start shipping

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early this month. The 2 GB model begins at $99 and will go up depending on what size. It’s powered by USB 2.0, spins at 4200 rpms and can transfer upwards of 99.6 Mbit/s. Nick Pavzant , CEO of US Modular, claims that his company is known for coming to market with cool high-tech products and this new look definitely shows just how well US Modular does that. We couldn’t agree less!

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Vishwanath Vanjire

India Calling
With the bandwidth problem ironed out, VoIP should rule the voice market in a big way
n recent times, the global technology industry has been abuzz over a new development that combines conventional telecommunications services with the Internet, called VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Even though it has been around for some time, VoIP has been popularized at this time due to the success of Skype, a technology firm created by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis—better known to most of us for having created that other (notorious, rather than popular with the industry and market regulators at least) p2p file-sharing software—Kazaa! Skype was recently picked up by Ebay for US$ 2.6 billion with Google, Microsoft and Amazon.com also thought to have been in the running. According to Skype (www.skype.com), their software has been downloaded some 206 million times!

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VoIP and Skype
The platform that Skype uses for its services is its own software developed by Zennstrom and Friis, named Skype. The Skype program is a lot like your everyday IM (Instant Messenger) software, except that it comes with the added advantage of being able to make calls to other

computers with the software, or to other phones. VoIP is a technology that deals with the transfer of voice as data packages over broadband Internet connections, negating the need for a physical phone connection and those massive bills that come with it. Skype charges US$ 0.017 per minute for the most popular locations dialed. With all places you would practically ever call you would pay less than US$ 0.200. To put that into perspective, it’s effectively less than a rupee paid per minute for a call to the popular destinations, or at most Rs 5 for nearly all the remaining ones. In addition to that basic feature, Skype takes its software further, providing encryption on all voice chats (it allows you to conference also) and encrypted Instant Messaging as well. A maximum of 48 users are allowed in a single conversation. Skype also happens to work across the Windows, Mac OS, Linux and Pocket PC platforms.

Messenger 7.5 with Voice, Yahoo with its Yahoo! Messenger 7 with Voice, Google’s own GoogleTalk with Voice; and the oldest of the lot, Apple’s iChat AV. This surge in development of voicebased features into IM software and full fledged VoIP applications is purely demonstrative of the potential providers see in this technology. Most importantly, it is the demographics that this technology brings into play—Skype is said to have appealed the 55+ age group, who prefer the use of voice over the Internet, as it also finds favor with business, providing a cheap and secure mode of communication.

Forms of VoIP
There are three basic sections into which you could distinctly split up applications using VoIP technology. The first is a software like Skype, whose primary purpose is to make voice calls over your Internet connection (for example, your cable Internet) to another person’s computer, or to a person’s phone line. The second is IM software like that already mentioned above that allows you to use voice in co-ordination with or in place of
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Competition
One alternate manifestation of VoIP is in the recently released voice-enabled versions of your regular instant messaging software. Microsoft with its MSN

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text while instant-messaging people. The third is a rumored rather than a factual application of VoIP. We all know about the success of Google’s successful advertising model— advertisements that you see when using Google services are arranged as per the content of the page you are viewing; and Google gets paid every time you click on one of those ad links. What if then, you could follow a link, which directed you to a customer service executive at the end of a VoIP network, giving you instant feedback on any queries you might have about the advertisement or product in question. In fact, the rumor circulating is that one of the reasons why Ebay bought Skype was to introduce this very feature into its online marketplace. Imagine being able to talk to the vendor about that iPod you so want or that DVD player you set your eyes on before placing a bid; being sure about the quality of the product and so on. Hearing someone give you assurance is possibly more comforting than an impersonal feedback form.

those costs are so drastically reduced in comparison to your normal ISD rates. In India itself, there are quite a few established VoIP portals, Net4India’s Phonewala.com VoIP portal, is seemingly the most popular of the lot; though established players in the conventional telecom sector like VSNL and BSNL, are supposed to have similar offerings. Development of the indigenous services, especially in the case of calling cards, will help push the agenda for VoIP in the long run, as it’s simple to use. And as is the case with most Indians, they

With enough bandwidth released, Internet cable and ADSL operators could provide add-on options for customers
would prefer to have it simple. Besides, it comes without the need for access to a computer. Software like Skype, will for a while at least, be used only by a minority of Internet users in India as bandwidth is not high enough. At least, it’s still not quite high enough to engage in serious voice conversations or conferences. Which brings us to yet another possibility for VoIP services. With enough bandwidth released, Internet cable and ADSL operators could themselves provide low-cost VoIP services as add-on options for their customers which would be an added source of revenue for operators themselves. And however small it may be, it doesn’t cost much to set up the service in most countries. Besides, it would be a cheaper alternative to calling places abroad. The legality and existing market regulations would of course have to be considered, but it’s still an interesting enough possibility to pursue.

Advantages of VoIP
VoIP is something between dirt-cheap and free if you already have the hardware and services in place to do the job, and it is already marking the death of conventional telecommunications companies as we know them... Because VoIP is effectively limited only by the technology of software rather than hardware and telecommunications development, you must remember that we’re taking either broadband as the standard over which we’re using VoIP software or conventional phone lines for phone-to-phone or computer-to-phone VoIP. Now each of these technologies and their quality of communication are limited by the capabilities of the software/ firmware on the VoIP enabled devices. There are a lot of those cheap calling cards that you can buy online. Remember seeing those banners on web sites: “Call the US for ***”? Yes, most of them are VoIP-based services, which should explain how

What’s the catch?
So you’re nearly sold on VoIP but you’re still convinced that there’s got to be a

catch. Well, yes, there are a few as it is usually in most cases. Firstly, VoIP requires computers or VoIP-enabled phones, all of which usually rely on electricity. Therefore, in the event of power-cuts, these phones will be rendered pretty much useless. Secondly, unlike conventional telephony, where there is a constant stream of data over single-use voice (telephone) lines; you get constant connectivity with no signal loss. VoIP, however, operates by breaking down voice into data packets that are sent as a stream from one node to the other. So in the case of high network usage, some data packets get lost, and thus cause notable loss of voice. That’s why using a VoIP service over your dial-up connection rarely works as you would ideally want it to. It’s just not capable of moving fast enough to give you great bandwidth and also ensure minimal data loss. Finally, (and this has only been a problem heard of abroad, as of now) emergency services, the American 911, for example cannot track distress calls made over VoIP. And this is because VoIP is Internet-based and does not require a physical address. And this is very obviously another concern with VoIP. The whole idea of technology is its ability to back you up when you need it the most and VoIP has not yet developed to that level where it can address this. So is it the end of conventional telecom operators? No, not yet. And what about being a headache to the regulatory bodies? Yes, possibly. But history has taught us many times over that resistance is futile when it comes to halting the march of technology. But once broadband starts to truly take hold in the Indian market, though the conventional operators will have to learn to adapt, as their original revenue models become less and less relevant to the market scenario, VoIP will move from fringe technology to industry standard. The voice revolution is underway. So watch out—it would be wise not to ignore it. ■ | Aditya Anup Kumar

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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BEST Products of 2005

Spanning every hardware category tested, we bring you the industry’s finest tech gear

Coverstory

BEST PRODUCTS OF THE YEAR

| COVERSTORY

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hen a new technology breaks ground, it generally finds its way into the hands of the ‘early adopters’ who are on the cutting edge of trends. While these few select fortunate get to experience new-generation technology firsthand, it’s generally out of the reach of most end users. Being where we are, we are fortunate enough to be at the receiving end of a seemingly endless array of truly innovative products from a diverse range of categories. With our economy on an upswing, it’s no surprise that we saw some of the most exciting hardware in the world reach our shores (and our Test Center) quicker that we would ever have imagined a few years ago. Be it new-generation processors, monster graphics cards, cutting edge mobile phones or slick laptops, they’re all available in our market almost simultaneous to their international launches. In fact, several technology companies now launch their products here concurrently with worldwide releases. This is a very encouraging trend that we hope will not abate. In conducting our comparison and standalone tests this year, we’ve had to reinvent our test procedures (and ourselves) several times to adequately measure performance levels of today’s hardware. Suffice to say that the strides in today’s computing standards are no longer liner, but exponential. This led us to using newer tools of product evaluation and re-thinking the factors that make a product a highperformance one. Very often, this led us through interesting debates—how exactly is product performance measured? Is it by empirical standards and measurement norms? Or is it simply about the effect it has on end-applications and people’s lives? In answering these questions, we came up with some interesting solutions to evaluate products, some of which prompted us to deviate from the conventional cut-anddry test approach. In distilling these new procedures, we formulated an approach that incorporated synthetic tests along with a blend of real world applications that presented actual usage scenarios to the product under scrutiny. After using this approach with virtually every hardware

product we tested, we found we had a winning combination here. And from this is born our Best Performance award. In this roundup of the best products our Test Center has seen during the year, we laud the ones that made it to the top of the stack in each of their categories, in the performance segment. Obviously, since this is a collation of the best products and technologies tested, we have disregarded our other product evaluation metrics like features, value for money, etc. This award is about pure performance. In every category, we’ve awarded the best product along with two runners-up. You will note that we have not included software applications in this listing and this was a conscientious decision we made. Over the past year, while we have seen brilliant work being done in the application development field, we have also noted a large degree of consolidation within software product categories. With several high-profile takeovers like Adobe-Macromedia and Autodesk-Alias, we’ve seen a tangible drop in the number of product evaluation options within software categories. And very often, the separation between the market leading application in a particular category far outstrips all others, leaving little or no competition. Also, software product evaluation is a tricky beast in itself—more often than not, it’s very difficult to determine performance metrics within applications as software evaluation is not as cut-and-dry as hardware testing. This is because, in the overwhelming majority of the cases, there are no measurable scores. As a result of this, what might be construed as good performance to one software user might not necessarily be the case with another user. Therefore, our software evaluation is conducted solely by viewing the efficacy of a particular software package to a given usage application. In this scenario, the Best Performance award in software obviously becomes irrelevant. So join us as we take you through the best of the country’s tech products this year. And to all those companies responsible for the technology, our heartiest congratulations!

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COVERSTORY

| BEST PRODUCTS OF THE YEAR

Handhelds

O2 XDA IIi
There are two types of handheld devices—ones that provide basic portable computing functions and ones that pack in every imaginable technology and connectivity option that would make you feel like you never moved away from your desktop! The O2 XDA IIi falls in the second category. Armed with a processor clocking 520 MHz, 128 MB of RAM, a 1.3-inch screen with over 65,000 colors, integrated 11 Mbps Wi-Fi, a tri-band GSM/GPRS phone and a 1.3-megapixel camera. You couldn’t be left wanting for much more, could you? But what’s most interesting is the interface and the capability of this device on the software front. Running Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Pocket PC, you have full compatibility with your office documents along with support for multimedia files such as MP3 and WAV audio, along with AVI video. Its integrated memory can be notched up, thanks to the SD card expansion slot. Why it came out on top was because of its excellent design, with easy access to the record button for dictaphone applications and the intuitive touch screen functionality. Truly a computing road warrior, this is a formidable weapon to add to your arsenal. Reviewed in September 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

First runner up

Palm Treo 650
Is it a phone? Or is it a PDA? The Palm Treo 650 does a great job of marrying both worlds. Its crisp and sharp 320x320 transreflective color screen is impressive, with an excellent text and graphics display. Unlike other phones, this one features an immediately apparent QWERTY keyboard for added functionality and efficiency for text input. It also features Bluetooth. It features 32 MB of internal memory, utilized well by the Palm OS, providing a smooth usage experience. Also, its primary storage is implemented in NAND Flash memory (which doesn’t require power to hold its contents compared to RAM) and can therefore keep your data safe even if the batteries are completely depleted. Powered by a 312 MHz Intel PXA270 processor, it’s capable of playing back MP3 audio and video files as well, making for a handy portable multimedia platform. And yes, it also features an VGA camera. Packing in plenty of punch in its reasonably small size, this device is a complete GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone with quad band functionality, making it possible to use it across the world and access the Internet at broadband speeds. Reviewed this month, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Second runner up

Palm Tungsten C
Call this a Palm handheld on steroids. Based upon the Palm OS, this device puts all possible computing power in the very palm of your hands. Running a commendable 400 MHz Intel PXA255 processor, it integrates a total of 64 MB of memory and features a QWERTY keyboard as well. It also integrates 802.11b 11 Mbps Wi-Fi connectivity, making it the ideal companion for those long hours of waiting in an airport or for geting some productive work in your hotel room while you’re traveling. Best of all, its Wi-Fi connectivity is effortless as it automatically detects wireless networks within range and steps you through configuring it. Its 320x320 transreflective color screen is crisp and is large enough to read text and view graphics comfortably. Expansion is possible through an integrated xD memory slot, allowing you to turbo charge its storage capability for holding additional applications and multimedia files. The device is a dream for connectivity as it also features Bluetooth support for easy transfer of files between the device and your laptop or among other such devices. For those looking for a powerful handheld that grants plenty of connectivity options, the Palm Tungsten C is the way to go. Reviewed in January 2005, Comparison Tests.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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COVERSTORY

| BEST PRODUCTS OF THE YEAR

Cellphones

Nokia 9500
The Nokia 9500 clearly is the best phone that we reviewed this year. With a huge widescreen color display and expandable memory, the 9500 can be used for movies, MP3 and gaming. It supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing seamless connectivity with other devices and networks. This triband phone has all the features you can ask for from a phone. You can surf the web and enjoy the 11Mbps connectivity for checking your mails or keeping in touch with your contacts. Supporting MPEG-4 playback, the phone ensures that there is never a dull moment, letting you watch your favorite movies on the wide screen, while you are on the move. Typing long emails on a cellphone might sound insane but the 9500 makes it look so easy with its full QWERTY keyboard. Transferring data to the phone is very quick, thanks to the USB 2.0 support; you can transfer large amounts of data to the phone in a few seconds. With almost every second phone offering imaging, the 9500 does not miss out on that. You can click images using the built-in 0.3 MP CMOS sensor! All this is packaged in a sturdy and well designed unit that signifies class and perfection. Reviewed in January 2005, Comparison Tests.

First runner up

Sony W800i
Looking for a musicphone? The W800i has to be your first choice. In fact, the W800i is one of the best multimedia phones available today. What makes the W800i so appealing is the overall package that consists of a mammoth 512 MB of memorystick Pro and high-quality ear buds. Features include Bluetooth, infrared and USB connectivity. On the music front, the W800i offers music management software, preset equalizers and MP3, as well as AAC support. Sound quality is unmatched compared to the other phones; in fact, it comes very close to the well known MP3 players in the market. Adding presets and applying your own equalizer settings ensure that you are able to fine tune the sound as per your preference and music genre. Sporting a 2 MP sensor and a brilliant lens that uses autofocus for capturing images, the W800i clicks real nice pictures for a camera phone. All these features are well supported by the compact foot print and unnoticeable weight. The W800i is an excellent example of optimum combination of multimedia and communication, keeping the size and design factor in focus. Reviewed in October 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Second runner up

Samsung D600
The D600 comes very close to the W800i in terms of multimedia functionality. The D600 does not come with any memory card by default but offers 90 MB of inbuilt memory and card slot for expanding memory. This slider phone has one of the best color screens compared to that of all other cellphones in the market. With a builtin media player, the D600 supports MP3, AAC playback and allows MPEG-4 video recording and playback as well. Support for viewing of MS office and Adobe PDF files adds a fair deal of smart phone functionality without being too bulky. The D600 brings some very fresh and interesting features to the table by providing video-out functions and direct print feature, which allow the user to make use of all the features of the phone without a PC. Imaging is also at par with the best, offering 2 MP camera and a video capture support. The video is captured in MPEG-4 format and looks great on the high resolution color screen. The best part of the D600 is its ability to integrate so many features in a compact package, with the addition of a very attractive design. The D600 marginally loses out to the W800i with its cramped and tricky 5-way navigation key and an inferior camera. Reviewed in December 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.
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Optical Drives

Sony DRU-810A
So you’ve got tens of GBs of MPEG-4 movies and your hard disk is fast filling up, is it? Well then it’s high time you move them off your computer and store them in one of today’s ultra-affordable blank DVD media. However, getting all of those files transferred would take ages, wouldn’t it? Not if you used this DVD writer drive. Blazing through every speed trap we could set for it, this dual layer DVD writer can write at 8x speeds onto compatible blank disks with capacities of up to 8.5 GB per 12cm disk! How’s that for storage space? It can even write at these speeds on standard DVD-RW disks (though the media should, once again, support these speeds). The package also contains a good set of DVD burning tools like Nero Vision Express, which allows for advanced video capture, DVD authoring and video editing capabilities—just what you need to add a touch of pizzazz to your home videos and captured wedding movies! It doesn’t end there—you also get Nero ShowTime for playing back your favorite DVDs, Nero Recode2 for creating backups of your DVD movies, and Nero Backup for saving your hard disk’s contents onto blank DVDs for backup. All in all, our highest performer this year, with an exciting software bundle. Reviewed in September 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

First runner up

Gigabyte GO-W1616C
New to the markets when this drive first entered our Test Center, this 16x DVD Writer really did surprise us with its enthusiastic performance, backed up by a good set of features. For one, it’s a dual layer capable DVD writer, which makes it ready for today’s high capacity blank DVD media. Additionally, this drive’s shorter than most of the other standard-sized drives that have passed through our tests. This makes it especially useful for applications where you’d benefit from the saved space such as small form factor PCs and low-profile desktop computers where interior cabinet room would be at a premium. Unlike the winner in this category, it only does 4x write speeds for dual layer, but still posted good scores in our tests. With this drive, we wrote a standard 4.7 GB single layer DVD+R disk in a shade over six and a half minutes! Yes, it would certainly make slight work of your DivX movie collection alright! The drive also bundles software like Nero Express 6 for writing various types of DVDs and PowerDVD for DVD movie playback. With excellent performance and a relatively smaller form factor, this little drive delivers on performance. Reviewed in February 2005, Comparison Tests.

Second runner up

Liteon SOHW-1653S
In this day and age, DVD writers seem to be ruling the roost, right? True, but on the Combo drive front (DVD playback, CD write) this drive from Liteon proved to be the fastest optical drive we had ever tested in the file read tests. That’s right—when it came to reading from DVDs or CDs, there was nothing we could find that was faster than this nicely-priced drive. One can get a sense of this when it copied a completely filled 700 MB CD to the hard disk in about 2 minutes and 34 seconds flat, and when it wrote a 700 MB blank CD in about the same time! Not everyone would want to go in for a DVD writer drive. For those folks, this drive is ideally suited to applications where you would simple want blazing read performance. This makes it especially suited to office applications that include installation of like large applications and operating system installations across several computers—these would highly benefit from this drive’s blazing read speeds. It would also be suited to applications for gamers or photo artists who would want to launch applications and files directly off a written CD or who would want to transfer files to a blank CD. Reviewed in February 2005, Comparison Tests.
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Motherboards

Gigabyte GA-81955X
Its main feature is the new 955X Northbridge from Intel. Intel’s 955X chipset supports dual core processors and higher FSB speeds. In addition, it has support for SATA 2 and more USB ports. Feature-wise, this chipset is a huge leap and it excels in performance too. The placement of the individual parts such as CPU socket, DIMM slots, and so on, is excellent, with ample breathing space. Power management is boosted with the Dual Power System 2 slot, located near the CPU socket; the eight-phase power circuit system ensures consistent and adequate power supply to the board and the devices attached to the board. The board offers tons of features and tweaks for overclockers; with precise FSB tweaks and latency options you can really push the CPU to its limits, extracting peak performance from the processor. Using a Radeon X850, we took the board through out gaming tests. The board blasted through the gaming tests clocking at 79 FPS in Doom 3 (at a resolution of 1024x768 and at high quality settings). The board is by far the best combination of power, features, overclocking and stability and hence deserves the top spot! Reviewed in June 2005, Hardware Standalone Tests.

First runner up

Foxconn 955X7AA
This relatively new entrant in the local market impressed us with extreme performance and extensive features. The board is based around the 955X chipset from Intel and supports Intel’s dual core processors on socket 775 platform, while also supporting all the normal processors based on the socket 775 architecture. Feature-wise, this board comes loaded with SATA ports, PCI E slots, support for up to 8 GB of DDR2 memory, overclocking options. The newer SATA 2 interface is also supported, which allows the user to extract a whopping 300 Mbps transfer rate when paired with a SATA 2 hard drive. The board also incorporates SATA RAID, allowing you to set up SATA RAID in multiple modes (1, 0, 0+1, 5 and also Matrix RAID). The build quality is excellent and a comprehensive package makes it a very sweet deal. The layout of components and expansion slots is perfect, allowing lot of room inside the cabinet and not obstructing any of the key components. On the benchmarks, the Foxcomm 955X7AA performed equally well across the board. Be it synthetic benchmarks or real world, the performance is right on the mark! Reviewed in July 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Second runner up

Gigabyte GA-8i945G Pro
Though the Intel 955X platform is the latest of the lot, the slightly older 945 platform is still the mainstream platform, most widely used today. The GA-8i945G Pro is a clear winner in the 945G segment. The board offers everything that you can ask for in USB 2.0 ports—optical and coaxial outs, RJ45 port and a VGA port. The board comes loaded with dual BIOS, four SATA 2 ports, a PCIE slot and USB plus IEEE1394b headers. The chipset sports Intel’s Matrix storage technology, which allows RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 to be created. The 945G sports Intel GMA 950 display, high performance Intel audio chipset for superior sound. With all the essentials onboard and provisions for upgrading graphics, this is a great match for both regular home users as well as power users. Supporting dual channel DDR 2 memory with a maximum capacity of 4 GB, the board provides a lot of headroom for future memory upgrades. Supporting the newer Pentium-D dual core processors, the 945G board also allows for upgradeability in the future. All in all, the GA-8i945G Pro is an excellent product which does justice to the platform. Reviewed in October 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.
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MSI K8N Diamond
The MSI K8N Diamond is undoubtedly our favorite motherboard in the entire segment. It faced stiff competition from some of the best brands in the industry, offering remarkable boards in the socket 939 category. The K8N Diamond is based on Nvidia’s nForce4 SLI chipset. It supports all the socket 939 processors including the top-of-the line FX series as well as the AMD 939 based dual core processors. Leading the features department by a long way the K8N Diamond offers Gb Ethernet support, 10 USB 2.0 connectors, three FireWire ports, six SATA connectors and an eight-channel audio solution provided by Creative Soundblaster. MSI betters the offer by giving voltage regulators and smart cooling system that uses heat pipes to cool the chipset. The biggest advantage of the Diamond series board is the tweaking and overclocking options, Allowing some fine tunning, the K8N Diamond lets you extract maximum performance from the processor as well as the memory by letting you tighten the memory latencies while pushing the processor speed higher. The extreme performance and rich feature set is backed by a good package with tons of accessories and utilities for performance users. Reviewed in March 2005, Comparisons Tests.

AMD Motherboards

A8N SLI Deluxe
The A8N SLI Deluxe narrowly lost to the K8N Diamond but the overall performance and feature set of the board almost matches the K8N Diamond motherboard. Based on the nForce4 SLI chipset, the board supports all the socket 939 based processors, be it the dual cores or the FX series. The CPU and memory performance of the board is excellent, and there aren’t any major compatibility issues as well. The layout is simple and well thought out, ensuring enough space for the SLI setup. The board layout permits almost all the giant CPU coolers, facilatating overclocking of the highly potent 939 chips. Some unique features like auto SLI switching through BIOS and special adjustments for CPU and memory FSB helped us to overclock an FX 53 to an FX 55 level. Another very unique and noteworthy feature offered by the A8N-SLI board is the unique automatic overclocking mode where the board itself overclocks the system without the user needing to change the value manually. Supporting eight USB 2.0 ports, gigabit LAN, FireWire and optical out the A8N-SLI offers comprehensive connectivity and peripherals support. Reviewed in February 2005, Hardware Standalone Tests.

First runner up

ECS KN1 Extreme
The ECS KN1 Extreme is a Socket 939based board which runs on the Nvidia nForce4 Ultra chipset. It has an extremely impressive range of features: it supports up to six IDE drives, six SATA drives (with support for RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 0+1). Add to that, it has 10 USB 2.0 ports and two FireWire ports. The board has a PCI Express slot, dual LAN, six-channel AC 97 sound on board, and a dual BIOS solution that not only stores two images of the BIOS on the same chip, but also keeps two separate chips to store the two BIOS images. The performance of this board is stellar as well. It scored a scorching 5423/5267 in the SiSoft Sandra 2005 memory bandwidth
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Second runner up
benchmarks. We ran a Doom 3 time demo on it with low quality settings and everything turned off—the KN1 gave us 2-3 FPS more than other nForce4 boards we tested in our roundups. The bundled overclocking software also gave us great results. All in all, the ECS KN1 Extreme is a special board with an amazing feature set, solid design and great performance, a perfect match for any enthusiast or gamer. If only it had SLI support and slightly better build quality, it could have come very close to the MSI and ASUS boards! Reviewed in September 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.
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Digital Cameras

Canon PowerShot S2 IS
Digital cameras are not all about megapixels and the Canon PowerShot S2 IS simply reiterates the fact. The S2 IS has a 5-MP CCD sensor, which might not be the highest in terms of pixel count but it’s more than sufficient for 8x6-inch prints and should suffice for most home users and budding photography enthusiasts. The image quality is excellent with natural color reproduction and accurate color saturation. The S2 IS offers 12x optical zoom, the highest level of optical zoom offered by digital cameras. What’s more, there’s the image stabilization feature which compensates for the hand shake that blurs the image when used at maximum optical zoom. Though video recording is generally not the forte of digital cameras, the S2 IS bends the rules, allowing high quality video recording at 640x480, with sound giving a smooth 25 FPS. The build quality and ergonomics are well taken care of, giving a solid feel. The cam offers a good mix of automatic preset modes and manual controls, making it suitable for both the point-and-shoot purpose as well as for manual control that advanced users would demand. The cam has the SD card slot and uses 4AA batteries. Reviewed in October 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

First runner up

Canon PowerShot S70
The Powershot S70 won the best performance award in our digital camera comparison tests. Offering a mammoth 7.1MP CCD that allows A4 size prints, this camera lets you choose between RAW and JPEG format. Feature wise, the camera offers high resolution, plenty of manual settings, various focusing options, white balancing presets and metering modes like Matrix, Centre-weighted, etc. The camera provides all the different shooting modes too. There’s a macro mode that allows you to get within 4 cm of the subject. This camera is powered by a Li-ion battery which is quite a relief, as AA batteries suck dry before you know it. What’s also of importance is that it can support both CF I and II standards. The S70 scored well in the CCD color tests. It was able to accurately reproduce real life colors. This camera also scored the highest in the resolution test. That is, it captured small details much better than any of the other cameras. The Canon S70 is also one of the sleekest and best looking cameras around. The streamlined chunk of metal comes in a dark, marine blue with a matt finish. Reviewed in April 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Second runner up

Canon Digital IXUS 50
The IXUS 50 surprised us with its image quality, feature set and speed. It delivered the best results in the ultra compact category. With 5.3 megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom, the IXUS 50 is a highly capable digital camera. With the zippy DIGIC processor and 9-point AiAF focus system, the camera provides incredible accuracy in varied shooting conditions. Ideal for point-and-shoot users, the cam offers tons of preset modes, ensuring you waste minimal time configuring the camera and capture those magic moments instantly. The camera does not restrict you though; it offers some manual controls as well for experimenting with light conditions and exposure levels. We were particularly amazed with the start-up times and zippy menus. The controls and settings menu are very user friendly and takes very little time to master; thus it’s ideal for first time users. Powered on Li-ion battery, the IXUS has excellent battery life and is charged by the supplied charger. Last but certainly not the least, the IXUS is one of the most sturdy and good looking ultra compact cameras around. The all metal body with brushed metal finish lends a classy look also provides a snug fit. Reviewed in September 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.
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Multifunctional devices

Canon Pixma MP780
Clearly one of the fastest growing segments in computer peripherals, multifunctional devices certainly came into their own this year. With the ability to unify your printing, scanning, faxing and copying needs, it’s almost like these devices are now a necessity in home or office applications. Add to that, they have a far lower footprint than each of these peripheral devices individually, and they also cost much lesser than all the individual devices put together. We found the Canon Pixma MP780 to be the Lord of these devices. The sheer speed with which it handled text and image printouts set new standards of performance in its category. With the ability to churn out a page of text every 4.5 seconds and with an input paper tray capacity of 300 sheets, this device is able to handle the most strenuous of workloads in a small or medium business without breaking into a sweat! Even the image quality of this device is excellent with its 1200 dpi native printing and scanning resolutions. The device also boasts compliance with the PictBridge standard, allowing for it to be connected directly to a digital camera where images can be transferred and printed without the need of a computer in between. Reviewed in May 2005, Comparison Tests.

First runner up

Lexmark X215
Appealing to the office systems administrators out there, this laser printerbased multifunction device offers printing, scanning, copying and faxing capabilities. With a plethora of printing and scanning controls and modes, this machine is ideally suited for continuous use in strenuous applications. With a sheet feed tray of 250 sheets, it would be a while before it were to run out of paper. Thoughtfully, the device also has a legacy parallel port in addition to its USB port, to allow it to connect to older machines if required. It also has the facility through which an Ethernet adapter can be attached to it for more effortless and efficient network printing in workgroup scenarios. Owing to its speedy laser printing engine, it speeds to text printouts at the rate of a sheet, every 4.6 seconds or so—very quick indeed. Also, being laser based, the running costs of this device is markedly lower than that of an inkjet printer with similar specifications. And with its specification of 600 dpi monochrome printing, the device is ideally suited to demanding text applications that involve a bit of graphics, where color is not too important. Reviewed in July 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Second runner up

Epson Stylus CX4500
This little device came very close to bagging top honors in its category during the time of testing. Featuring printing, scanning and copying functionality, this multifunctional device boasts of a printing engine, with a native resolution of 1440 dpi in monochrome and color, and an optical scanning resolution of 600 dpi—pretty impressive by any standards. Also, traditional to Epson’s fixed head technology, this device uses ink tanks—four in all. These individual CMYK ink tanks and the higher native printing resolution resulted in visibly sharper and more vivid colors, especially in the photo printing tests. To facilitate easier scanning, the lid is detachable, making it possible to effortlessly scan large books, etc. Another rather unique addition is the presence of several flash card readers including Compact Flash, Smart Media, Memory Stick, MMC and xD card formats. Therefore, no matter what digital camera you have, chances are that it could be read directly in this machine. There is also a multi-line 7-segment display (though a color display would have been much better). However, when it comes to scanning and printing performance, this is one device that will deliver on the performance front. Reviewed in May 2005, Comparison Tests.
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Laptops

Toshiba M40
When it comes to having as much horsepower on the road as you’re used to on your desktop, the Toshiba M40 has the specs to meet the most demanding of applications head on. Besides looking drop-dead gorgeous with its 1280x800 widescreen display, it is powered by an Intel Pentium M 740 processor, clocking at 1.7 GHz. For tackling demanding graphics and productivity applications, the 512 MB of DDR 2 400 memory and the generous 60 GB hard disk offer plenty of room to compute. And if you have a penchant for gaming, the integrated Nvidia GeForce Go 6600 is one of the most powerful integrated graphics subsystems, providing for a thrilling experience for even newer, graphically demanding games like Doom 3 and the like. The system is also based upon the new ‘Sonoma’ 915-based mobile chipset that runs at 533 MHz, offering very good performance and room for growth. Completing the package is a DVD writer drive, integrated flash memory readers (SD, MMC, Memory Stick Pro and xD), Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and of course, 802.11g-based 54 Mbps wireless LAN. With such specifications, it’s without much effort that this machine lends an inferiority complex to most workstations! Reviewed in June 2005, Comparison Tests.

First runner up

Acer TravelMate 4601 WLMi
Just because a laptop is a desktop replacement doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to look like one. The Acer TravelMate 4601 WLMi with its slick profile and feature-packed specifications proved to be a commendable machine in our tests, for the demanding user looking for the best in computing power while on the road. Powered by a 1.6 GHz Pentium M processor, it also has 256 MB of DDR 333 RAM and a generous 60 GB hard disk drive, making it a good platform for running demanding applications without sacrificing on functionality and system response. Connectivity wise, this machine offers 54 Mbps 802.11g Wireless LAN, Bluetooth functionality along with the mandatory wired Ethernet connectivity. There’s support for both WPA and CCX security on the wireless front—both offering better protection compared to the plain vanilla WEP Wi-Fi security standard. The integrated ATI X600-based graphics subsystem, providing great gaming performance is the icing on the cake. Be it high-end gaming or high-end 3D authoring, this notebook has the power to handle such applications. Reviewed in July 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Second runner up

Toshiba Tecra S2
Very few products get the price performance ratio correctly. Fewer still manager to put out a best-of-class product at a reasonable price! The Toshiba Tecra S2 integrates plenty of bang for the buck, considering that it is packed to the gills with powerful system components and appealing features. Powered by a new generation Pentium M 730 processor clocking 1.6 GHz and carrying 256 MB of DDR2 400 RAM, this machine means business. It also has a 40 GB hard disk spinning at 5400 rpm (faster than most other notebook hard disks that spin at 4200 rpm), and integrated PCI Express graphics. On the connectivity front, it boasts of Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11g wireless LAN, Firewire, and of course USB. If you’re an avid digital photographer, you’ll appreciate the integrated SD, MMC, Memory Stick Pro, xD and Smart Media card interfaces. With all of this power, we found it highly suited to productivity applications with the occasional bout of gaming thrown in. Best of all, it doesn’t weigh in too much more than most conventional laptops, making it ideally suited to a life on the road where the extra grams quickly tell on your fatigue levels! Reviewed in June 2005, Comparison Tests.
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Apple iPod
Right since the launch of the first generation, the iPod till date is the world’s best and the most loved MP3 player. It’s one of the first hard drive-based MP3 player offering a mammoth storage space which can hold an entire music library of more than 12,000 songs which can keep you grooving to your favorite tunes for months together. With its patented ‘Click Wheel’ design, it’s the most user-friendly player which you can find. Even though many have a touchpad for navigation, they don’t feel as comfortable. It’s after the iPod that many manufacturers are now coming out with ‘white colored’ MP3 players. While the fifth generation of iPod manages to fit all the previous generation’s features in a smaller form factor, it sports a bigger screen and video playback support in H.264 750-Kbps format. Even though video playback is not its first priority, what’s amazing is how Apple manages to pack so much in so much in little space and then add further more in still lesser space! If you’re a serious music lover, then you owe yourself an iPod. Even though it is priced high, it’s guaranteed that you will get the best performance and features for the price you pay. Reviewed in December 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

MP3 players (Hard disk)

Sony NW-HD3
Sony is known for making players with excellent build quality and ergonomics. Protected by a metal shell, no other MP3 player feels like a sturdy metal block as the Sony NW-HD3 Network Walkman does. A good feature in all portable music players by Sony is that they are bundled with excellent earphones, which deliver crisp sound and deep bass without cutting off any frequencies. We found the earphones bundled with this player unmatched till date. Its built-in 20 GB hard disc can hold the equivalent of 13,000 tracks. With a hard disk-based player, it’s highly desirable to have good ergonomics to navigate if you want to locate your favorite song from thousands and also a good battery life. The Sony NW-HD3 excels in both respects. With 30 hours of uninterrupted playtime from a single battery charge, it emerged a clear winner during our MP3 player round up. A distinct feature is implementation of the G-Sensor technology which protects the player’s hard disk from impact by landing the head during physical impact while operating, thus protecting your valuable music or data. A must-have if you want a stylish, sturdiest and the best MP3 player. Reviewed in July 2005, Comparison Tests.

First runner up

Samsung YH-J70
When hard drive based MP3 players first came into existence they could only play music and offered other features like a few games, equalizer presets and music management. But today, manufacturers have managed to fit in more than 10 other useful features to make the player more versatile. Samsung has managed to do this very well with its newly launched MP3 player, the YH-J70. Other than playing music, it has many added features. It boasts of an FM tuner, voice and FM recorder, video playback and five games, including the highly-addictive Tetris and Othello to keep you busy for hours after you switch it on.
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Second runner up
While most hard drive based MP3 players have a battery life of 15 hours on an average, the YH-J70 offers 25 hours battery life despite being feature loaded and having a color LCD display. An important feature which most hard disk based players lack is direct file transfer to the player’s drive without using any software. Samsung cleverly manages to fill up this gap with this player. Finally, the most interesting feature in this player is the USB host function using which you can directly copy or view content stored on USB devices like digital cameras. Reviewed in December 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

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MP3 players (Flash)

iRiver IFP-795
Solid state MP3 players are best devices to carry around 50 to 100 songs in your pocket. Having no moving parts like hard disk-based players, they are quite sturdy and have plenty of features packed into a small form factor. When it comes to best sound quality along with hordes of features, the iRiver IFP-79x series is miles ahead of all other solid state players. The iRiver IFP-795 can store around 140 songs on its 512 MB flash memory. There’s also support for USB 2.0 which helps in transferring songs and data to the player quickly without wasting time. FM, voice recorder, equalizer presets and firmware upgradability are seen in most of the existing players—the IFP-795 doesn’t miss out on any of these features, plus it has a lot more other features, which makes it the best player around. With line-in support and direct encoding, this player can directly encode recorded contents into MP3 format upto 320 kbps. Since solid state players don’t take much power, they offer the best battery life. On a single AA alkaline cell, this dynamite sound stick can pump out music for 40 hours at a go! Fully loaded with accessories like carrying case, neck strap and arm band, it’s simply the best you can buy. Reviewed in October 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

First runner up

iRiver N10
The iRiver N10 is not just an MP3 player but also a fashion accessory, which can be worn around the neck as a pendant. While most solid state players are meant to be lugged around in the pocket, the iRiver has innovatively designed this one as a pendant. The necklace is made up for by the necklace-type earphones. This weighs only 24 gms but its so powerful that it can blow your ears! The secret behind the light weight is the built-in lithium polymer cell. And for the cell to give out a good 11-hour playtime, the player sports an attractive OLED display seen in many players, which have a built-in battery. OLED displays look great, but the reason for which they are used is to conserve battery life. Looking at the N10, it’s almost impossible to believe that it has 256 MB of inbuilt memory and a voice recorder. And to top this, it also has equalizer presets, play and repeat modes. Due to its compact size, Line-in and FM are absent from the feature list, but who knows what the future holds. For fashion conscious people and geek music lovers, the N10 is a perfect choice! Reviewed in December 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Second runner up

Samsung YP-C1
If playtime is what you are looking for in an MP3 player, the Samsung YP-C1 will keep you more than satisfied. Running on a single AA alkaline battery, this one can deliver 42 hours of music playback—just 6 hours less than 2 full days at a stretch! Leaving aside direct encoding and linein functions, this solid state MP3 player, which is as big as a cigarette lighter, packs all features that all players of this category must possess. It supports MP3, WMA, ASF and OGG formats and sports FM tuner, and voice recorder. We found two very interesting features in this player. The player emphasizes on good sound quality. It has 9 equalizer presets to enhance sound quality with support for SRS WOW and TruBass 3D. Also to make music-listening more fun, it integrates the lyrics viewer. Very few MP3 players have this interesting feature of displaying lyrics of the song line by line. To make the player display lyrics, you have to do the job of feeding lyrics and timing it into each song. The YP-C1 also has good ergonomics for its size. The 5-way joystick and tree format file view ease navigation. Bundled with excellent earphones and a carry case, the Samsung YP-C1 simply rocks! Reviewed in July 2005, Comparison Tests.
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Speakers (Stereo)

Altec Lansing MX5021
Best speakers are not only about big sound and high wattage. Most importantly, it’s the quality of sound that matters the most. The Altec Lansing MX5021 is a 2.1 stereo speaker system that not only sounds great but also looks great with a polished black finish. If you think that only loud and thundering speakers are the best, the MX5021 proves you wrong. With a total output of 90W RMS, it delivers precise and well-balanced sound—THX certification proves this point. Even if you crank it up to full volume, it will be very hard to point out flaws in output. In most cases, the speakers distort at full volume. You then have to play around with the knobs on the speakers. These speakers clearly highlight the advancement in acoustics. The construction of the body, type and number of drivers, the quality of the amplifier, angle at which the drivers are fixed—everything has to be the best for the speaker to be the best. The MX5021 has met with all these standards to be the best amongst the rest. With a cleverly designed control pod, controlling the speakers can’t get easier. You can easily control the volume and tweak the bass and treble depending on your taste of sound. The line-in feature allows you to play music from Walkman, etc. Reviewed in August 2005, Comparison Tests.

First runner up

Bose Companion 3
Bose is a pioneer in manufacturing high-end speaker systems. Other than manufacturing professional speaker systems for home theater setups, Bose also makes multimedia speakers. The Bose Companion 3 is a 2.1-channel stereo speaker system which will fool you by its size. Even though each satellite speaker is merely as small as the mouse, they are flawless. Be it classical, rock, hiphop or electronic music, you will be taken away by the warm sound these speakers can reproduce. Looking at the brand name, you can’t doubt the build quality. The speakers look gorgeous and have a design completely different from the rest. Most subwoofers have a round bass port. But the subwoofer belonging to this sound system sports a bass port in form of a vertical slit behind. Also the control pod which bundles with the Companion 3 is quite innovative. It looks like a silver puck with a black ring around it. The ring is the volume control and the top of the pod is touch sensitive and is meant to mute/unmute the speakers with a light tap. This little monster is power-packed and flawless but it demands a heavy price. Reviewed in August 2005, Comparison Tests.

Second runner up

Creative Megaworks 250D
Today, 2.1 speakers with an output of up to 100 watts RMS are quite common. But the creative Megaworks 250D boasts of a floorshaking output of 300 watts—higher than the output of some of the multi-channel speakers. Apart from being the most power speaker in the 2.1 category-speakers that we tested, it was also one of the first multimedia speaker systems to be THX certified. It’s been almost two years since the launch of the Megaworks 250D, but it still remains undefeated in power till today. The secret behind its power is the type of drivers it uses. The subwoofer has a 150watts driver and each satellite has a 75watts driver, which makes up for a total of 300 watts. On an average, the total output of a 2.1 channel speaker system is around 40 watts. Here, a single satellite of the 250D delivers almost twice the output of the entire speaker system. So you can imagine how powerful the 250D is! With such a high output, these speakers are perfectly suited for people who like to watch movies and play music at a hair-raising volume. So if you are looking for the most powerful THX-certified 2.1 channel speaker system, grab the high-priced Creative Megaworks 250D. It’s powerful enough to shake your neighborhood! Reviewed in August 2005, Comparison Tests.
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Logitech Z5500
Until Logitech launched the Z5500 speakers, home theater speakers remained unchallenged by speakers meant for a PC. The Logitech Z5500 is a 5.1 speaker system which can pound out 500 watts of raw power to shake your entire living room! The technology behind making these speakers the best is the same that is used in many high-end home theater speaker systems. Since the Z5500 conforms to Dolby Digital DTS and THX standards, you can’t doubt the quality of sound it offers. A 10inch sub-woofer, titanium microdrivers in satellites and a good sound processor in the control pod is what helps it deliver accurate, balanced and natural sound. So far it is the only multi-channel PC speaker to feature a control pod with inputs for SPDIF, optical and RCA and a LCD display. But to do justice to the speakers, you will also need to use a good multi-channel soundcard. Whether you are a music lover, movie buff or a hardcore gamer—after listening to this, you won’t like any other speakers. If you don’t want to spend much on a professional home theater system, go ahead and buy the Logitech Z5500. You won’t regret! It can easily complement professional home theater speakers at half the price! Reviewed in August 2005, Comparison Tests.

Speakers (Multi-channel)

Creative Megaworks 550
If you like your hair being moved by hard bass, Creative Megaworks 550 can do it for you! These speakers are THX certified and deliver monstrous power of 500 watts. Even though all the speakers in this system have a single driver, they are capable of delivering crystal clear mids and very sharp highs. Since this sound system deliver very deep bass, it’s very well suited for gaming. If you play FPS games on these speakers, the firing of guns and explosions will blow you away. With surround sound, tracing enemies and blowing them into pieces is a piece of cake. And if you play a scary game like F.E.A.R. on this, don’t play with lights off, or else you’ll fall off your chair with fright! Even action movies sound great with earth shattering effects delivered by these speakers. To control the volume and channels easily, a control pod is included in the package. At the time of launch, the Megaworks 550 was the most powerful speaker system meant for the PC but today it has been overtaken by its rivals. One of the reasons is the bass which drifts at high volume. But still… it stands as one of the best speakers in the multi-channel category. Reviewed in August 2005, Comparison Tests.

First runner up

Creative Gigaworks S750
7.1 channel speakers add two more speakers to the 5.1 channel setup for a better sound experience. It lets you immerse into a more realistic gaming or a movie experience with added effects given out by the speakers placed at the sides. Creative Gigaworks S750 is one such speaker which is THX-certified and it thumps out a bestial power of 700 watts. The efficiency of the woofer to deliver bass in a big area depends on its design and power. Its woofer can deliver a whopping output of 210 Watts RMS and is powered three times as much as its satellites. With this calculation and placement of the bass port at the base of the sub-woofer, it can
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

Second runner up
deliver uniform sound all over the room. The subwoofer is elevated by foot stands. So be sure you place it on a carpet to prevent it from travelling when the bass kicks. For 8-channel audio setup, a compatible soundcard is also required to drive the speakers efficiently. Today, with most motherboards having onboard 8-channel audio support, you won’t have to ponder over buying a separate sound card Before buying the Gigaworks S750, make sure you have a big room and big money! It costs as much as a PC! Reviewed in August 2005, Comparison Tests.

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Hard Disk Drives

Western Digital WD740GD
When it comes to hard drives, size does matter! But not with the Western Digital WD740GD! It has only 74 GB of storage space. What western digital has concentrated on here is speed. So what makes this hard drive the fastest one in the world? Simple! Two 2.5-inch platters of 37 GB each and a powerful but silent 10,000 RPM motor to spin them at a blazing speed. And the result? Raw power! Most hard drives use 3.5 inch platters and a 7200 rpm motor, but this drive uses 2.5 inch platters with lesser storage capacity and a 10,000 rpm motor. This innovation makes this drive a clear winner! Apart from storage space, what’s also important is the performance of the drive which affects the overall performance of the PC. The WD740GD is so fast that it even defeats the best SATA 2 drives NCQ, even though it is a SATA-150 drive without NCQ. Since this drive generates a lot of heat due to high motor speed, its body has a ribbed design to dissipate heat. A RAID 0 array out of four such drives can push out a phenomenal speed of around 200 MB/s. Mindblowing! Isn’t it? But keep one thing in mind before buying this drive—for the same price you can get a hard drive with 30 times the capacity! Reviewed in September 2005, Comparison Tests.

First runner up

Hitachi HDS725050KLA360
The Hitachi HDS725050KLA360 is the biggest and the fastest hard drive you can go in for a desktop computer. Five platters of 100 GB each read by 10 heads is the maximum that a hard drive can hold for a desktop computer. Tough job for the hard drive to manage 10 heads at a time, but still this drive is one of the fastest and silent drives. This is due to SATA II support coupled with a 16 MB buffer size and support for native command queuing (NCQ). It delivers high performance without being a burden on the CPU. Older hard drives used to have a spindle speed of 5,400 rpm and feature one or two platters. It’s amazing how this drive manages to fit five platters in the same space with a spindle speed of 7,200 rpm. This drive makes excellent use of the SATA II technology capable of delivering speeds upto 300 MB/s. Imagine setting up a RAID 0 array of four such drives. You would have a mammoth storage space of 2 terabytes spinning on 20 platters! Enough to store 2,000 DivX movies or 570,000 MP3s! You’d take years to fill up the entire space. But expand your budget. Reviewed in September 2005, Comparison Tests.

Second runner up

Seagate ST3400832AS
It’s possible to design hard drives with monstrous storage capacity primarily because much more can be served on the same platter than before! At present most hard drives manage to crunch 100 GB per platter. But Seagate has taken this limit an inch ahead and has successfully managed to squeeze in additional 33.3 MB on a single 3.5 inch platter. Considering an entire hard drive, 33.3 MB may seem to be hardly anything, in terms of capacity. But it can reduce the number of platters in a big drive. The ST3400832AS is a 400 GB drive with only three platters instead of four. With fewer platters and heads, it has good read/ write speeds while maintaining low CPU utilization. Being a SATA drive, it outperformed some of the SATA II drives in performance tests. This drive also uses NCQ to increase SATA performance. At present for the price of this drive, you can get a good 500 GB SATA II drive with NCQ. But as the technology matures, prices in future will definitely see a sharp drop. Using the 133 GB platters, it will be possible to design drives more than 500 GB for the desktop in future. Don’t be surprised to see 650 GB drives with only five platters in future. Reviewed in September 2005, Comparison Tests.
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ASUS PM17TU
The PM17TU is truly all about performance. This 17-inch screen is the best in terms of image quality, color reproduction and contrast rations. It’s ground breaking in terms of technology, offering the fastest response time ever on a 17-inch LCD screen. The sharp text and ultra fast response times is suitable for gaming, for work, or for use at home. The sleek look, glare-type screen and unmatched build quality make it stand out from the rest in its category. Its performance on color gradients and image details is comparable to high quality displays from the professional range of LCD screens. The PM17TU also proves a point in terms of how fast the LCD technology has matured to eliminate some of the key issues of response times, color reproduction and image quality. Apart from the generic limitations of view angles, the PM17TU has upped the level of LCD panels and also raised our expectations to a new level. At the beginning of the year, the key factor was to manufacture an LCD monitor that’s affordable; now we enter the second phase where the focus has shifted on LCDs that are not only affordable but also of the highest quality. Reviewed in December 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

TFT Monitor

Viewsonic VX924
A 19-inch LCD is still a luxury in India. Not many brands are entering the 19-inch segment with performance products. Viewsonic took the initiative and offered a 19-inch LCD that simply blew everything else out of the water. Gaming on a 19-inch LCD is bliss but if the response times are long, the ghosting spoils the fun completely. The VX924 takes the reponse time out of the equation by offering a blazing fast LCD with 4 ms response time and brilliant lifelike color reproduction and contrast ratios. With wider view angles, the VX924 has added flexibility by not restricting you to enjoy movies on the large screen. With the right mix of brightness levels and contrast ratios, the VX924 is able to deliver the most natural color tones ever seen in a 19-inch LCD monitor. The quality standards are maintained throughout with a sturdy frame and excellent construction. Unlike many other manufacturers offering average quality ultra sleek frames, Viewsonic stuck to the basics by using highest quality materials. The placement of buttons and the OSD interface are kept very simple, ensuring quick access and maximum functionality. Reviewed in October 2005, Hardware Standalone Tests.

First runner up

IBM ThinkVision L150
The L150 clearly out scored all the 15-inch LCD monitors in our comparison tests. It scored high on color reproduction, performing at par with the best 19-inch and 17-inch LCDs. Our most common complaint with all the 15-inch LCD monitors was build quality. None of the 15inch LCD monitors could match the build quality of the L150. Colors were vibrant and color gradation was spot on. Supporting comfortable viewing angles, the L150 is also one of the best looking LCD monitors that we ever came across. The thin frame and all-black smooth finish lend a very classy look to it without being flashy. The understated elegance
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

Second runner up
combined with flawless performance outscored all the other 15-inch LCDs in the comparison. The simple OSD with intuitive menus and easily accessible buttons make the L150 one of the most user-friendly LCD monitors. The surprisingly high response time is the only factor that has kept the L150 away from the gamers. The ThinkVision L150 might be one of the most expensive 15-inch LCD monitors around but the premium is justified if you are looking for peak performance and unmatched styling. Reviewed in October 2005, Comparison Tests.

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CRT Monitor

ViewSonic P97f+ SB
If you’re searching for the best CRT monitor, your search ends here! The ViewSonic P97f+ is the best 19-inch monitor we have tested. Most CRT monitors available use a shadow mask picture tube. But for extrafine picture quality, the P97f+ utilizes an aperture grille picture tube. As the cost involved in such a picture tube is high, most CRT monitor manufacturers stay away from this technology. This monitor is an ace when it comes to maximum resolution and refresh rate. Being a 19-inch monitor, this one offers a resolution of 2048x1536, common with 21-inch monitors. And the 1600x1200 resolution which most 19-inch monitors support at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, this one handles it at a flicker-free 85 Hz. Aimed at professionals, this monitor is flawless in all respects except for minor convergence errors at corners which is a characteristic of any picture tube. But if you are a perfectionist, you can use the convergence correction option in the menu to rectify convergence errors. Only high-end monitors have an option of correcting convergence errors in the menu. With extreme base stability and superb build quality, the P97f+ is worth considering if you are serious about ultra-high performance. Reviewed in November 2005, Comparison Tests.

First runner up

Samsung 997DF
If you think 19-inch CRT monitors occupy too much space on the desktop, you’re wrong! With advanced and a mature fabrication process, manufacturers have successfully managed to squeeze in a 19-inch picture tube in the same space occupied by a 17-inch tube. Samsung SyncMaster 997DF is one such monitor. It measures almost as much as a 17-inch monitor and it’s also one of the best 19-inch CRT monitors having a shadow mask type picture tube with a full flat screen. It also offers maximum viewing area and the best dot pitch in its category for sharp display. A little more extra viewing area has been squeezed out by intelligently placing the menu buttons on the side of the screen. Feature wise, the 997DF is very similar to other monitors. But what makes it one of the best is its justice to performance. Samsung has tried its best to make this monitor deliver best performance. With excellent chrominance and luminance, it’s a perfect choice for both professionals as well as home users. High screen stability, tight dot pitch and perfect focus make it well suited to watching movies or working on imaging applications. Reviewed in November 2005, Comparison Tests.

Second runner up

Philips 105G7
Fifteen-inch CRT monitors are gradually being phased out and replaced by 17-inch monitors. Now, just by spending an extra Rs 1,000, you can get a 17-inch monitor for better viewing pleasure. However, if you want to save space or go in for a lowbudget PC, a 15-inch CRT monitor is the least what you can consider. Out of the five monitors that we tested in this category, we found the Philips 105G7 the best. It takes over other monitors in both features and performance. Maximum resolution supported by a 15-inch monitor is 1024x768. But at this resolution, the monitor can handle the refresh rate at only 60 Hz. At the highest setting, your eyes will get strained if you sit for long hours before the monitor. But with the 105G7 which can handle a resolution of 1024x768 with great ease at 85 Hz, you won’t complain about eyes turning red or watering even if you work for long hours. Other than features and performance, build quality, ergonomics and warranty, and support are also important. Excellent build quality, intuitive menus, robust warranty and support with service centres all over the country are some of the things that make this monitor stand out from the rest. Reviewed in November 2005, Comparison Tests.
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Graphics Cards

Asus N7800GT Dual
Unlike many other product categories where the battle for supremacy is a close one, in case of the N7800GT dual, the decision was very straightforward. Starting with performance, the N7800GT dual is not only the highest performing video card that we ever tested but also the fastest video card in the country. Keeping performance aside, the N7800GT Dual is also special in terms of innovation and technology. Pairing dual GPUs on a single card using the existing SLI technology is truly a commendable achievement. The dual GPUs functioned seamlessly and performed at par with two Geforce 7800GT GPUs in the traditional SLI setup. The innovation does not stop here, Asus knew that a card of this stature will need all the power in the world and even the most handsome power supply units will struggle to supply the juice. They simply changed the rules by giving an option to power the card separately using an external power supply unit which directly draws power from the power socket, taking the PC PSU out of the equation. Kudos to Asus for releasing the most powerful and innovative video card of 2005. Reviewed in December 2005, Hardware Feature.

First runner up

ATI X1800XT 512MB
The ATI camp very recently broke the silence by releasing the much-awaited R520, which is placed right at the top against the 7800GTX from Nvidia. With eight shader units less than the 7800GTX, the X1800XT is technically inferior to the 7800GTX but performed at par if not better than the 7800GTX. With improved shader rendering techniques and smarter memory management, the X1800XT manages to deliver the goods optimally. The R520 core is built on a 90 nm fabrication process, which also allows ATI to bump the core speed above the 600 MHz mark, the highest achieved GPU core speed till date. Coming to memory, the X1800XT is blessed with 512 MB of memory giving it a distinct edge in texture heavy applications; the 512 MB of memory is clocked at an insane 1.5 GHz, clearly 300 MHz higher than the 7800GTX at stock speeds. As always, ATI also advances in the Anti Aliasing department with their new “Adaptive Anti Aliasing”, a refined way for balancing between super sampling and multi-sampling that improves image quality while maintaining good frame rates. Reviewed in December 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Second runner up

Asus Extreme N7800GTX TOP
For a long time this card was at the top of the charts, being the fastest 7800GTX that ever visited our Test Center. The arrival of 7800GT Dual and X1800XT did change the balance lately but it does not take any credit away from the 7800GTX extreme version, which is a beast of a card. Equipped with 256 MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 1.35GHz, the card comes with the NV Silencer5 as the default cooler. The core is also on steroids at 486 MHz. The 12 percent jump in core and memory yields a decent boost in most of the benchmarks. Scoring 8522 points in 3DMark 2005 was truly remarkable, and the performance got better with newer driver versions. The card could easily crunch 50 FPS at higher settings on F.E.A.R. and Doom 3, some of the most intensive PC games today. The build quality and software bundle compliment the performance. Asus bundles its very own overclocking and monitoring utility that keeps a check on the temperatures. With the latest full version games and DVD player software, the buyer has no reason to complain against the card except for the massive size and heavy power requirements—a common issue with all the ultra high-end cards today. Reviewed in October 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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Buffalo TeraStation
Think about storing about 1,428 CDs or 210 full-length DVD movies. That’s how much one terabyte is! Constructed using four 250 GB hard disks, this little box is the perfect answer to a storage-hungry network of users or in applications like audio and video production where the data creation rates can quickly outstrip even the largest of hard disks and servers. The most appealing factor about this device is its connectivity. By simply plugging it into a node on the network and configuring the device, it acts as the huge storage subsystem that everyone can use as he would any other network drive. With the ability to be configured in a variety of methods including spanning, four separate drives, mirroring and RAID 5 with allows for fault tolerance for added data integrity in sensitive applications, it can address a wide range of applications. It also boasts of excellent data transfer speeds owing to its gigabit network interface. Equally impressive is the client application software that provides an intuitive, yet powerful solution to personal data backups. To top it all, every one of these functions are controlled via a handy web interface that can be accessed from anywhere on your network. Reviewed in September 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

External Storage

Maxtor OneTouch II
If you thought an external hard disk drive was a delicate little device, the Maxtor OneTouch II will certainly change that perception. Constructed using a solid metal casing, it contains a 200 GB drive connected to your host computer via a USB 2.0 interface. The basic premise around this device is simplicity, with intuitive usage. Controlled by the large ‘One Touch’ button, it’s supported by an excellent software bundle that allows for plenty of control and options for backing up your individual files or even your entire hard disk. The software also creates restore points from where the user can recover from unfortunate events like system crashes and the like. With a file copy rate of about 1 GB per minute, you won’t need to wait too long to back up your files. Additionally, you can also use this device as a conventional external storage device where you needn’t invoke the backup software to copy files to the drive. Using this method, we found the file copy speeds were even quicker. In this day and age of mammoth MP3 collections and ever-growing personal DivX libraries, this is indeed a great device to help keep your data off your computer and safe. Reviewed in November 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

First runner up

Western Digital Passport
When it comes to having plenty of storage in the palm of your hands, this 80 GB Western Digital Passport packs in quite a wallop for something so small. Created using a 2.5-inch hard disk drive (the kinds that are used in laptops), it’s enclosed in a USB 2.0-capable casing that provides very good transfer speeds for copying data. Like other external storage drives, this one is driverless and can be directly connected to your computer— detection is a snap in Windows XP. Since it shows up as a standard Windows drive, transferring files is as easy as dragging and dropping to the drive’s icon. Another salient feature with this
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

Second runner up
external storage drive is the fact that its hard disk spins at 5,400 rpm, which is significantly quicker than the conventional 4,200 rpm drive speeds of most 2.5-inch hard disks. This definitely translates into greater speeds as was evidenced by its ability to copy a CD worth of data, in a little under 50 seconds! With very good ergonomics, a pocketable form factor and foolproof simplicity of operation, this drive is the ideal companion for professionals in the graphics and video field where file sizes are large and data transfer needs are apparent. Reviewed in June 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

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Processors

AMD Athlon FX 57
A study of the trends in processor technology lends valuable insight into the overall state of the industry within a year. This year, we saw the launch of a set of blazing processors in the enthusiast category. Among them, the one that grabbed the crown is AMD’s Athlon FX 57. When considering its architecture, everything about this processor speaks speed. Although it clocks at ‘only’ 2.8 GHz, the presence of an integrated 128-bit memory controller, the generous 1 MB of L2 cache and the proven might of the 14.4 GB/sec bandwidth of the Hyper Transport bus link between the processor and the rest of the system make for a winning combination. You don’t need to go in for a new motherboard for this processor as it’s based upon the standard 939-pin interface—now commonplace among AMD-based boards. And if you think that this powerhouse of a processor eats up insane amounts of power, think again—it consumes a manageable 104 watts of power, enabling it to be used with even a standard, large-fan copper heatsinks instead of having to use other exotic cooling systems. Throw what we could at it, it delivered on every gaming, productivity and multimedia application. Reviewed in August 2005, Standalone Hardware Tests.

Runner up

AMD Athlon X2
Perhaps the most significant advancement in desktop processing technology this year has been the advent of the dual core processor. With chip manufacturers having the ability to shoehorn two cores onto a single wafer of silicon, the applicationbased implications are manifold. At the top of the dual core stack, we found the AMD Athlon X2 sported some intelligent technologies that pushed it ahead of the others in its class and emerge a winner in relevant desktop applications. The move to 90 nanometer fabrication was one of the most compelling reasons why this dual core processor was possible. Add to it, this processor connects its two cores on a very integral level within the processor, resulting in blazing high transfer rates between the two cores. And with each core carrying 1 MB of L2 cache each, there’s plenty of power for demanding applications. This was aptly seen in the processor’s performance in multitasking scenarios where several applications were running together—a very common mode of use with most users. The Athlon X2 translates into real world gains without having to wait for compatible applications. Reviewed in August 2005, Hardware Feature.

Mobile Processors

Intel Dothan
When it comes to mobile processing, there’s only one name that stands out—Intel’s Centrino platform. Into its next generation, this processor, now called the Dothan, broke records on several counts. We consider this mobile processor top-of-the-class for its sheer innovation and design. Powerful for demanding applications, it also delivers excellent scores on battery life in the laptops it’s used in. Christened the Pentium M 735, the processor we reviewed sported a 1.7 GHz clock speed with the highest-end range going up to over 2 GHz. Fabricated using a 90 nanometer architecture, this processor shoehorns 2 MB of L2 cache into its core—even its desktop counterparts have less! Even though AMD’s Turion processor offers support for 64-bit extensions, it doesn’t match up to the new Dothan processor on processing power or power consumption. Special mention needs to be made about the formidable Sonoma platform which, with its 533 MHz system bus speed, lets the Dothan processor really stretch its legs, all of this without significantly affecting power consumption levels of the notebook it’s used in. The Dothan CPU has set a new standards for high performance computing on the road. Reviewed in June 2005, Comparison Tests.
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Vishwanath Vanjire

Top Gear
I
n celebration of two years of our Test Center’s existence, this month we’ve beefed up our hardware test section and have brought you some of the most bleeding-edge products. With 20 products reviewed, we have plenty of first looks including the ultra-hip iRiver N10 MP3 player, the spanking new iPod now with video support, a fantastic little external hard disk that stores all your movies and outputs it directly to your high-definition TV directly! On the gaming front, we have the recently unveiled X1800 XT graphics card from ATI. If you’re looking for tighter control in your FPS fragfests, check out our review of the new Logitech G5 Laser mouse. The Palm Treo 650 smart phone is chock full of capabilities and features. But does it successfully cut it as a cellular phone and handheld device? Read on to find out. We also bring you a fantastic TFT monitor that pretty much re-wrote our performance references after blazing through our tests. Convergence is the name of the game these days and we saw it in a new device that marries DVD movie playback along with DivX and even high definition video playback. Check these products out—be it coolness, high performance or both, you’ll find them all here!

Hardware

| The Ratings Explained
The products in the individual and comparison tests share exactly the same test procedures. Each product in Top Gear is rated on a scale of 5 for different key parameters: Performance, Build Quality, Features, Ergonomics and Warranty. These vary according to the characteristics of the hardware. For instance, ergonomics (ease of use) is not important in a graphics card and therefore, it will not be evaluated for this. A product’s Overall Rating is calculated by assigning weightages to each evaluation parameter—the more important a parameter, the higher is the weightage allotted to it. In addition, there is a Value for Money rating, which is calculated from the performance and the features of the product, in relation to the price. High performance and lots of features at a low price translates into a better Value for Money rating. This rating is calculated using current prices. Note: The prices mentioned here do not include taxes. Hence, they will vary according to the taxes applicable in the city or state where you buy the product from.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

TESTED

| HARDWARE

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Pod-ified video

A

s the name indicates, the single biggest enhancement with this Fifth Generation iPod is its all-new ability to play back video, in addition to songs and images. This has resulted in its designers providing a larger 2.5-inch 320x240 pixel color screen which boasts of sharp resolution and vivid colors. Customary to any Apple product, form, function and sheer design play an overwhelming part in it. Solid and absolutely seamless, the device’s black face and chrome backing look gorgeous. Now in its 5th generation, this iPod is slightly thinner than its predecessor. Also, the scroll wheel is designed smaller than the last iPod. Like its predecessors, this iPod is meant to unify your music-listening experience between your desktop computer and portable live. Therefore, every aspect of iTunes like the song playlists, the ratings, and track information are replicated within the iPod after you synchronize them. We first started by installing the software from the bundled CD and plugging the unit into the USB port (there’s no Firewire support in this generation of iPod, by the way). About 10 seconds later, Windows XP recognized it and it immediately showed up as an additional folder in the iTunes layout. The first time around, you are prompted to choose how you want to transfer songs to the unit—you can either have it synchronize all the songs in your iTunes library, choose specific playlists, or simply manage file synchronization manually where you can select and transfer the songs of your choice. However, with 30 GB of storage space, most would opt to transfer their entire library of songs to the iPod at the very outset. The time taken for this initial transfer depends upon your song collection—we logged impressive transfer speeds where it copied at the rate of about 80 seconds per GB, thanks to the USB 2.0 interface. We did, however notice that the iTunes application needed to be in the foreground or these transfer speeds would decrease due to Window XP’s scheduling of processor time. The iPod’s configuration panel in iTunes lets you decide the method of transferring images, videos, podcasts, contacts and calendar entries from Outlook or Outlook

Express to the iPod. Like its predecessor, the iPod Photo, this version lets you view your digital image from your computer or digital camera. The iPod can also be used as a USB storage device as it shows up in the Explorer folder listing. However, songs, image and videos copied to it cannot be played on the devices unless they are specifically transferred through the iTunes interface. You can only play back MP3 or AAC tracks on your iPod, therefore all other formats are converted before transferring. This is anyway done by the iTunes application when you add files to its library. However, we found that transferring videos to the iPod was quite cumbersome. The manual states that you need to simply transfer your videos using iTunes after you have connected your iPod to your PC. The problems start from there on—I tried transferring a QuickTime movie trailer and it promptly threw up an error stating it wasn’t able to play the format. Then I was directed to a resource of Apple’s web site informing how to go about transferring video to your iPod. Only then did I realize that you can only transfer videos that are expressly bought off the iTunes Music Store (which cannot be accessed from India) or you need to convert your existing videos using a tool like QuickTime 7 Pro (which was $29.99 at the time of checking). So as it stands, you will not be able to transfer any video to your iPod if you’re not ready to go out and buy a third-party application. That was a bit of a killjoy. However, after converting the files to a compatible H.264 or MPEG-4 video format using a tool like Total Video Converter, the videos transferred and played back smoothly and with sharp resolution. More than being too functional, the video capability on the new iPod comes across as an added feature. We still suggest you buy it for its excellent music playing and organizing capability while expecting to occasionally use it for video. Its minor annoyances notwithstanding, we highly recommend this classic digital music player. For: Classic iPod interface and music synchronization, fast transfer speeds. Against: Long-winded video transfer process, lack of bundled accessories.

MP3 Player

Apple iPod
Specifications: Capacity: 30 GB, Screen: 2.5-inch
color LCD with backlight, Dock connector, stereo minijack, Interface: USB 2.0, Audio formats: AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC, MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3 and 4), Apple Lossless, WAV, AIFF, Video formats: H.264 video up to 768 Kbps, 320 x 240, 30 frames per sec, Baseline Profile up to Level 1.3 with AAC-LC up to 160 Kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats, MPEG-4 video: up to 2.5 mbps, 480 x 480, 30 frames per sec., Simple Profile with AAC-LC up to 160 Kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats

Price Contact Phone E-mail

Rs 22,100
Apple Computer International Pvt Ltd

1600-4254683 indiainfo@asia.apple.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

66

HARDWARE

| TESTED

R520 Unleashed!
Graphics Card

ATI R520
Specifications: X1800XT GPU, 512 MB RAM, Dual
DVI, video-out. Direc-x 9 and SHADER MODEL 3.0 support

A

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 29,000 Werner Fernandes 98212 36784
wernerf@pinkandwhiteconsulting.com

www.ati.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Performance Features Warranty

The card has some serious cooling with a huge copper slab sitting on the GPU as well as the memory chips

TI is back in the game with the release of the R520 which challenges the Geforce 7800GTX head on. With the release of the X1800XT, ATI also brings in its ideology of quantity versus quality. With their 16 pipe card challenging the 24 pipe cards, ATI claims that their 16 pipe cards are more capable. The reason is these cards are more efficient in the way they utilize the available power and bandwidth as compared to what competition offers. Based on “Dynamic Flow control Acceleration”, ATI uses a new technique called “Ultra-Threading” where each thread can perform up to six different shader instructions on 4 pixels, per clock cycle. This ensures that the GPU is utilized optimally. Along with this, ATI has also widened the internal memory bandwidth by introducing 512 Bit Ring Bus memory controller which is a smarter way of utilizing the memory bus. With the new architecture, ATI has also improved the memory interface in terms of the way it operates.

Benchmarking
Let’s get on with the benchmarks and find out whether the refined and intelligent X1800XT scores over the 7800GTX. We used the Athlon FX 53 processor with 2 GB of RAM to ensure the cards received enough juice to perform at peak levels.

X1800 XT
3DMark 2003 3DMark 2005 Fear 1024x960 (AVG FPS) 16xAF 4xAA Doom 3 1600x1200 @4x AA 8xAF Far Cry 1600X1200 @4xAA 8xAF 16971 9186 58

7800GTX
16591 8322 62

43.9

51.8

103.2

90.7

Scores leveled!
The ATI X1800XT is a really fast card with a lot of brute power to challenge the 7800GTX. Going by the benchmarks, none of the cards have a clear lead over the other. The X1800XT scored above the 7800GTX in 3D Marks and Far Cry while the 7800GTX enjoys a tiny lead over the X1800XT in Doom 3 and F.E.A.R. Overall, the 512 MB memory of the X1800XT does come into the picture at high resolutions while the added pixel shaders make a difference when rendering shader intensive scenes in F.E.A.R. where there is a lot of activity happening with extensive use of particle effects, bump mapping and soft shadows. We expect the performance of the X1800XT to improve with the upcoming driver versions. ATI is known to fine tune their drivers extracting extra performance from their high-end cards. What’s interesting is the fact that ATI has succeeded in rolling out a very efficient and intelligent solution that matches the performance of the 7800GTX, which is technically more powerful on paper. With the 512 MB version of the 7800GTX announced, things should get even more interesting in the coming months. For: Extreme performance, 512 MB memory, intelligent AA mode. Against: Availability, driver support.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Driver optimzations—Adaptive Anti-Aliasing
With the X1800XT, ATI throws in another feature called Adaptive Anti-Aliasing, which promises to improve image quality and also deliver better performance with AA enabled. Adaptive Anti-Aliasing works by identifying areas of the scene being rendered, which cannot take advatage of the regular multisampling AA. In these sections of the image, Adative AA applies Super Sampling AA technique.

Specifications
Core/Architecture Manufacturing Process Pixel Pipelines Verte Shaders Clockspeed(Mhz) Memory Clockspeed(Mhz) Memory Size (MB)

X1800 XT
RV520 90nm 16 8 625 1500 512

7800GTX
G 70 110nm 24 8 430 1200 256

The dual slot design clearly takes away one slot and is one of the largest video cards released by ATI

The 7800GTX looks more capable with the extra pixel shader units while the X1800XT goes over the top with core frequency and memory frequencies.

TESTED

| HARDWARE

67

Smart, very smart!
alm’s Treo 650 has undoubtedly been the most talked about smart phone ever since it launched in India. The reasons are quite obvious—a popular PDA platform coupled with quad band GSM phone is available to all the corporate guys who want to be ‘with it’. The Treo 650 is powered by an Intel PXA processor running at 312 MHz. Just think about it—a smart phone running at speeds almost at par with a Pentium II 333 MHz processor! Obviously, one cannot compare the performance because both have been made to function at completely different levels. The smart phone can hold data up to 23 MB and also supports memory expansion via a slot that supports SD/MMC cards. The handheld is installed with the Palm OS v5.24 (nothing very different, here). The reason for this is, a full blown QWERTY keyboard has been provided for the user. The keyboard fits nicely below a directional button, phone and PalmOS shortcut buttons. The 320x320 pixel screen is transreflective and has an excellent quality display. The unlabelled volume buttons and a mysterious ‘side button’ adorn the left side of the phone. No, the ‘side button’ (as it’s mentioned in the manual) does not activate the VGA camera. It does not seem to do anything important—not even in the Zap! game. However, later I found that if kept pressed for two seconds, it opens Real Player. The manual does not mention anything about how one can reconfigure the shortcut. The smart phone also has a manual mute button near the infrared port —a truly smart feature. The Treo 650 comes packaged with a USB interface cable, charger and a wired handsfree unit. One would have hoped that after coughing up a handsome amount, an SD card would have also been included. A first time user will first try to play MP3s on the Treo, which it will not unless it finds a memory card with the songs on it. The battery lasts for at least three days with regular usage.

P

The Interface
The interface is the same since it uses Palm v5.24. For a Palm user it will be like walking in the same garden all over again—the only difference here is that the hardware
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

specifications are better. New users will take some time getting used to the menu structure and probably get confused with the Graffiti shortcuts in them. Graffiti is not provided since there is no ‘silk screen’ on the phone (like in the Tungsten/Zire handhelds), and it has been replaced with the mini keyboard. This keypad is going to be a bit of a bother for large fingers. Other than that, there is really no problem in using it. However, new users will need to breeze through the manual to get to know how to use some of the special keys. One can sync to PC and synchronize all your contacts, memos, documents, Outlook mail (viewable in Palms’ Versa mail). Syncing is fairly simple if you use the USB cable. Using infrared or Bluetooth will take a little more time to set up on your machine as well as on the phone. The Palm desktop tool on the PC is simple to work with and each section (media, contacts, etc) can be configured to sync in a particular manner. Contacts can only be deleted one at a time on the phone. The only way to delete multiple contacts is by deleting the backup from the PC and configuring the sync to overwrite the handheld’s list. The other method would be a full reset. Video clips are handled by Palm’s standard player, Kinoma, while audio is taken care of by the Busker player. The Treo 650 is a device that slowly grows on you. After being completely addicted to a Windows interface (be it your computer or a Pocket PC), this is a refreshing change. It has a zippy interface, it’s not bulky at all (place a Nokia 6600 over it—they are a fit) and can be prepped up with loads of productive applications. For:Not bulky despite the presence of a fully functional keyboard. Excellent reception. The speaker mode is pretty good too. Very good battery life. Against:The manual could have been a little more informative. You need to read the user guide after installing the software on the computer. Poor VGA camera. Wi-Fi connectivity is not integrated.

Smart phone

palmOne Treo 650
Specifications: Dimensions: 113 x 59 x 23 mm, Weight:
178 g, Palm OS v5.4, 65K color touch screen, 320 x 320 pixels screen resolution, Quad band GSM Phone

Price Contact Phone E-mail

Rs 29,990 Cenzer Industries Ltd 022-39452289 (Toll Free) Boon-Liang.Lim@palm.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

68

HARDWARE

| TESTED

Power performer
Laptop

Asus S5200A
Specifications: Processor: Intel Pentium M 740 1.73
GHz, Chipset: Intel 915G, HDD: 60 GB, Screen: 12.1inch, external combo drive, memory card reader, RF optical mouse, carry bag and case.

Good things come in small ‘and light’ packages. The Asus S5200 clearly proves this theory. This laptop is a power performer, weighing as little as 1.32 kgs. It is one of the lightest notebooks we’ve seen.

Features
The S5200A is based on Intel’s Sonoma technology. It uses the ultra-low voltage Pentium M 740 processor which provides a 1.73 Ghz clock-speed and 2 MB L2 cache on the Intel 915G chipset for great mobile performance. Coupled with 512 MB DDR2 memory and a 60 GB hard drive, it guarantees blazing speed and oodles of storage space to store your data. It’s a challenge for notebook manufacturers to keep the weight of the notebook to a minimum. But Asus does this with great ease by using a 12.1-inch antireflective TFT display and a small chassis, thus making the S5200A an ultra-portable notebook. This translates into a crammed keyboard making it difficult to type if you have big hands and fat fingers. Another factor contributing to the light weight is the absence of an optical drive. Instead, an external DVD combo drive is bundled with the notebook which plugs in to the USB 2.0 port on the left, which has an additional power supply next to it. The second USB port is placed on the right side. Apart from the built-in modem and 10/100 LAN, the Internet can also be accessed in a hotspot using 802.11 b/g WiFi connectivity. A SD/MMC/MS card reader, PCMCIA slot and IEEE 1394 port rounds off the features. Not a single thing is missing from the accessories bundled with the notebook. Even a small thing such as a soft cloth for cleaning the display has been included in the package. If you aren’t comfortable using the touchpad, the RF optical mouse will relieve you. Finally, you have two options to carry the notebook. You can either use the carry bag or the notebook case if you don’t like moving around with bags.

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 85,000 Asustek Computer Inc 022-56490048 info_india@asus.com.tw www.asus.com.tw

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

compromised to make the S5200A light. In fact, the chassis is stronger than that of other laptops as it’s made of carbon fiber alloy which makes it more durable. Even the quality of hinge and the keyboard is quite good. After you press the release lock, the screen opens gently and remains firm in the set position. The keyboard is a bit difficult to use, but it is of good quality, with a nice tactile feel as you type. The only part which appeared flimsy is the screen frame. If you use the notebook during a bumpy ride, the slight wobbling of the display can be quite distracting. We pay a lot of importance to ergonomics when it comes to all products, these days. Taking this factor into consideration, Asus has placed all the ports on the sides of the laptop for easy access. The rear panel only has a D-Sub port if you want to use a separate display, for example, a projector for making presentations. To ease your hands while you are typing, the space bar and the touch pad are properly centered.

Performance
For an ultra-portable notebook, the performance of the S5200A is respectable. In SiSoft Sandra 2005, the CPU scored 7418 Dhrystones and 2409 Whetstones. The 4200 rpm hard drive is a bottleneck which could have been easily solved by a 5400 rpm drive. The sequential write speed was 21 MB/s and read speed was 17 MB/s. The performance of the optical drive was dismal. The random read speed was merely 1074 KB/s and the sequential read speed was 1174 KB/s. All this translated into a score of 3097 marks in PC Mark 2004 —notably good overall! If you want a light, compact and a powerful notebook, the Asus S5200A is the way to go. It’s an excellent solution for people who are constantly on the move! For: Light, RF optical mouse, card reader, good ergonomics. Against: Slow optical drive, battery life of only two hours.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Build quality and ergonomics
The quality of the chassis hasn’t been

70

HARDWARE

| TESTED

Visual treat
TFT Monitor

Kores KP-19
Specifications: Screen size: 19-inch, response time:
16 ms, contrast ratio: 700:1, pixel pitch: 0.294 mm, video input: D-sub, brightness: 250 cd/m2

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 20,990 Kores India Ltd 022-24964636 kino@kores-india.com www.kores-india.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

here’s nothing as gorgeous as a slick TFT display on your desktop. The Kores KP-19 is one such device with a dainty 19-inch screen enclosed in a thin 1-inch silver frame, resting on a silver pedestal. The sides and rear are black to make up for a stylish dualtone design. The base of the frame includes speakers. The monitor features good ergonomics to make it comfortable for the user to alter display settings. The menu buttons are well-spaced and placed at the bottom of the screen with functions clearly described. The menu includes all the controls to fine tune brightness, contrast and color temperature. A separate auto-position button is also present. Operating the swivel is also effortless. The only thing which deserves improvement is the quality of the hinge— the monitor is quite unstable.

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Like most standard 19-inch TFTs, the KP19 also has a response of 16 ms and a 0.294 mm pixel pitch. But what distinguishes it from others is a contrast ratio of 700:1. Coupled with a brightness of 250 cd/m2 watching movies, images or playing games on this monitor is an amazing experience. Even though ghosting is barely visible, it goes unnoticed in most of the fast-paced games and videos. A viewing angle of 170 degrees allows your family to join in the fun. As long as you don’t care for DVI input or wall-mountability, the Kores KP-19 is a good deal on a strict budget. For: Very good contrast ratio, good aesthetics, built-in speakers. Against: No DVI input, hinge quality below average.

Money saver
Motherboard

ASRock K8NF4G-SATA2
Specifications: Form factor: Micro ATX, Chipset:
Nvidia NForce 410 with GeForce 6100 IGP, socket-754, SATA-II support, PCIE slot, 2 PCI slots, 8-channel audio, 8 USB Ports, 10/100 Ethernet

A

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 3,300 Abacus Peripherals 022-56923941 enquiry@abacusperipherals.com www.asrock.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

SRock has been quick in implementing Nvidia’s new nForce 400 series chipset on their new motherboard. ASRock’s latest motherboard, called the K8NF4G-SATAII, combines NForce 410 Southbridge with GeForce 6100 IGP for superior performance with a good basic IGP. The board is designed to accept AMD socket-754 processors and supports a maximum memory of 2 GB for superior performance. The rear panel looks common with PS/2 ports, a parallel port, 4 USB ports and a 10/100 Ethernet port. But what’s additional here are 8-channel audio jacks and VGA output. If need arises, 4 more USB ports can be added by using the USB headers provided. To further step up the performance, you can also set up RAID using the 2 SATA-II connectors. The only problem is that the north bridge heat sink comes in the way while fitting the CPU fan as it is placed too close to the CPU socket. We tested the board with AMD Athlon64 3000+ processor and 512 MB

Corsair DDR400 memory. The rig scored 3,321 marks in PC Mark 2004. Even though Nvidia has added Pixel Shader 3.0 support to the new IGP, users will only be able to play lightweight games. A score of 1,168 in 3D Mark 2003 by dedicating a maximum of 128 MB to display certainly won’t please gamers. But no need to worry as the board has a PCIE slot for adding a separate graphics card to pump up the graphics performance. One thing we didn’t like was stepping of the memory speed a level lower when we populated both the DIMM slots. As far as possible, stick to using a single memory module. The K8NF4G-SATAII is a good value-motherboard for non-gamers who don’t want to invest in a separate graphics card. For: IGP supports Pixel Shader 3.0, PCIE slot, 8-channel audio. Against: Northbridge heat sink is quite close to the CPU socket.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

TESTED

| HARDWARE

71

A gamer’s dream come true

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he G5 is very similar to the Logitech MX1000 mouse that uses laser sensor for superior accuracy. In case of G5, the sensitivity is bumped futher to 2000 dpi as compared to 1600dpi in the case of the MX1000. Fortunately, the G5 is a corded mouse, making it perfect for gaming. The G5 allows on-the-fly sensitivity switch, providing three sensitivity modes which can be adjusted using the button on the unit. What makes the G5 unique is the addition of weight cartridge which allows the user to configure the weight of the mouse. The idea being that every gamer prefers a particular weight specification as per his or her liking and the G5 lets you do that very effectively. The implementation is very smart, it allows you to distribute weight to the righ/left or front/back, achieving the perfect weight balance for gaming. Further customization

is added by “SetPoint” software utility that fine tunes the sensitivity and gives options for programming the side scroll functions. It allows automatic switching of sensitivity for particular games and applications, making full use of the powerful and versatile sensor implementation. It has to be said that the G5 is the best gaming mouse in the country and it does command a hefty price tag. The only possible improvement that we suggest is that perhaps Logitech can reduce the default weight by about 30 percent. Also, for the money commanded, it’s high time these expensive gaming mice come with a decent bundled mouse pad that is made specifically for the mouse. This will perhaps justify the price and also offer something more to the gamers. For: Extremely accurate, versatile device, powerful tweaking software provided. Against: A tad heavier, expensive.

Mouse

Logitech G5 Laser Mouse
Specifications: 2000 dpi laser sensor, adjustable
weights, DPI switch, USB connectivity

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 4,495 Logitech Electronic India Pvt Ltd 022-26571160 response@logitech.com www.logitech.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

Budget Card?

T

he RX1300TD is based on the new X1300Pro chipset by ATI. This budget chipset has a 4-pixel pipe and 2 vertex shader units. This budget PCI Express card comes with ShaderModel 3.0 support and 256 MB of 128-bit memory. Built on a 90 nm core, the card is clocked at 600 MHz while the 256 MB DDR 2 memory is clocked at 800 MHz. The card comes with DVI, VGA and TV-Out. The card uses Infineon memory chip and the GPU is cooled by a large copper cooler. The overall build quality is very good; there are no cut corners. Starting with 3DMark 2003, the card scored an impressive 6056 points at default settings, better than a Geforce 6600 non-GT, which scored 5021 points. The card scored 2817 points in 3DMark 2005, defeating the 6600 non-GT, which scored 2100 points. Moving on to games, the card clocked 42 FPS in Doom 3 at high settings@1024x768 as opposed to a 6600,

which scored 43 FPS. We benchmarked the card on the latest and most intensive FPS shooter—F.E.A.R. Keeping the resolution at 1024x768, we tweaked the light, shadow and texture details to medium, while keeping everything else at “high”. We disabled soft shadows and AA and cranked the AF settings to 4x. The card clocked at an average frame rate of 39 FPS, which was just above the acceptable frame rate. With lesser pixel shader units and higher core clocks, this card can be used for the latest games as long as you don’t crank the resolution above the 1024x768 mark and are fine with playing the games at medium settings, without any AA applied. Ideally, the card should be priced at par with a 6600 non-GT. For: Good performance for a budget card, ShaderModel 3.0 support, 256 MB DDR2 memory. Against: Only 4 pixel shader units, slightly over priced.

Graphics Card

MSI RX1300TD Pro 256 MB
Specifications: ATI X1300 PRO chipset, 256MB of
DDR2 memory, DVI and VGA out, TV-out support, PCI Express solution

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 7,000 Micro-Star International (M.S.I.) 011-51758808 info@msi-india.com www.msi-india.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

72

HARDWARE

| TESTED

Served on a spindle!
Multimedia Hard Drive

LaCie Silverscreen 80 GB
Specifications: 80 GB, Hi-Speed USB, plays (MPEG-1,
2 and 4, MP3, Wav, WMA, AC3 and JPG), IR remote, 5.1 channel audio, 1920x1080i compatible

H

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 15,000 Neoteric Infomatique Pvt Ltd 022-39828600 taral@neoteric.co.in www.lacie.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

ow about carrying 80 movies on a player that can fit in your pocket? If you think it’s impossible, check out LaCie SilverScreen. It’s an external hard drive but apart from just storing files, it plays audio, video and pictures off its 2.5 inch platters directly on a TV screen. it’s a regular 2.5-inch hard drive packed in a transparent acrylic casing, which houses a chipset which can decode audio, video and images on the fly, and display the contents through video output. With a colossal 80 GB storage space, you can store 80 movies or 20,000 songs or 80,000 photos on the hard drive. To load the contents on the drive, connect it to any USB port with the cable provided and transfer media into appropriate folders on the drive. No need to worry about audio and video formats. The SilverScreen can play MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (AVI, VOB, ISO) and MPEG-4 (AVI, DivX,

XviD) videos. It even plays WAV, MP3, WMA, AC3 files and displays JPEG files up to eight megapixels! Filling up the entire drive won’t take long as you can transfer a gig in only 37 seconds. After transferring files, power the drive with the bundled 5-volt adapter and connect it to your TV with the included video cable and get ready for the show. Movie buffs will just love its 5.1 channel audio and 1920x1080i video support through its HDMI output. A sleek IR remote is included. We tried playing all sorts of video and audio files and they played seamlessly without skipping. The SilverScreen is an excellent solution if you don’t want to miss your favorite movies while traveling. But mind you, like the player the price too rocks! For:Plays everything, easy to use, portable, 5.1-channel audio support. Against: No on/off switch.

Feature-packed phone
Mobile Phone

Samsung SGH-D600
Specifications: Dimensions: 96 x 46.5 x 21.5 mm,
Weight 103 g, Phonebook 1000 x 12 fields, Messaging SMS, EMS, MMS, Email, Standard battery, Li-Ion 950 mAh Stand-by time upto 300 hours, Talk Time upto 7 hours

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 19,900 Samsung India Electronics Ltd 011-51511234 subrotah.b@samsung.com www.samsung.co.in

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

he Samsung D600 is the refined version of the popular D500, one of the best GSM phones released this year. It’s very similar to the D500 in terms of looks, design and overall functionality. It’s a mix of a lifestyle and business phone. In terms of features, the D600 upgrades itself to a 2 MP camera, a 256K color bigger color screen with high resolution, built-in stereo sound, transflash memory card support, improved Bluetooth functionality, USB connectivity with direct print support and a TVout function that lets you connect the phone to your TV for viewing images and video, without the need for a PC. The phone also comes with a media player that supports MP3, AAC playback and allows MPEG4 video recording as well as playback. Another very interesting feature is the inclusion of Picsel Viewer, an application that supports opening/ viewing of MS office files. Apart from these documents, it can also view Adobe

T

PDF files, thus allowing a fair amount of PDA functionality. You can’t edit the files but you can only view them—a fair deal considering the size of the phone. MP3 functionality is also well implemented with proper equalizer settings and a feature-rich media player with visualization support. Coming to the downsides, the keypad, especially, could look and feel better than what it does, the camera is good but it doesn’t perform as well as the K750i or the W800i, in terms of image quality. Also, the placement of camera has been shifted— from being concealed inside the slider, it has been pushed to the back, so it’s prone to scratches and dust entering the lens. Overall, the phone is zippy but the lack of EDGE support is surprising for a phone of this class. For:Feature packed, sleek design, excellent screen, versatile handset. Against: No EDGE, tricky navigation, camera could have been better.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

74

HARDWARE

| TESTED

Color Conscious
Printer

Canon Pixma iP4200
Specifications: Dimensions: 419 x 160 x 299 mm,
Weight: 6.7kg, USB 2.0 desktop printer, 5 color cartridges, 9600 x 2400 dpi print resolution, 150 sheet capacity, Windows and Macintosh support

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Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 10,995 Canon India Pvt Ltd 16003453366 info@canon.com www.canon.co.in

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

he Canon Pixma iP4200 comes with a bunch of very useful features. It can print on envelopes, transparencies as well as on postcard size photo paper. There are two paper trays—one manual feed and the other holds up to 150 sheets. It comes with five color cartridges (C, M, Y, K and Black). Cartridge installation is simple. After the driver installation and head alignment, the printer was put to test with our regular ten-page printout. This printout consisted of a lot of color text, box diagrams with text within them as well as white text within color filled boxes. All this was done at default settings (standard quality) in just over 4 minutes. And the quality was good. However, the printer stopped for a couple of seconds prior to finishing up the final prints. Another print run at the ‘Fast Print’ setting yielded a time of just 3 minutes.

The quality at this setting was of course a little grainy in the color-filled areas but the text was a solid black! In addition to this, an A4 page print of a high resolution photograph at standard settings, was completed in a blazing 51 seconds! At maximum quality settings, it took 2 minutes to produce a very good reproduction of the picture, with zero horizontal banding. The quality of the prints taken at both the settings was very good. It manages color contrast levels, gloss/shine effects, details and whites very well. Skin tones were not nearly as accurate, though they appeared a little weak in some areas, when compared to the original. For: Versatile in terms of functions. Perfect for printing office documents. Good quality photo prints. Against: The skin tones are not nearly as accurate as they should be.

Widescreen beauty
Laptop

Gigabyte W431 UD
Specifications: Processor: Intel Pentium M 740 1.73
GHz, Chipset: Intel 915G, HDD: 60 GB, display: 14.1-inch wide screen, DVD Writer, memory card reader, carry bag

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 53,499 Gigabyte Technology (India) Ltd. 91-22-26526696 sales@gigabyte.in www.gigabyte.in

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

he Gigabyte W431 UD has been created for budget conscious people. The W431 UD is a Sonoma-based notebook powered by Pentium M 740 processor, running at 1.73 GHz on Intel 915GM Express chipset. With 512 MB DDR2 memory and a massive 60 GB hard drive spinning at 5400 rpm, you won’t hunger for extra performance. This makes it an ideal solution for small and medium business professionals. The 14.1-inch widescreen display is stunning. The crisp 16:9 format is well suited for watching movies. Battery life of 228 minutes guarantees enough power to work for another hour even after watching a movie. Connecting multiple USB devices is also not a problem with 4 USB ports provided. The W431 UD doesn’t compromise on performance. In SiSoft Sandra 2005, the hard drive scored a drive index of 27 MB/s and the built-in DVD writer scored

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1,887 KB/s in sequential write test. Being a budget notebook, a score of 3,090 in PC Mark 04 is commendable. The good ergonomics makes user experience pleasurable. Gigabyte should have paid extra attention to the design and build quality of the chassis so as to hold the keyboard firmly. Also the touchpad should have been aligned with the keyboard rather than just placing it in the center of the base. Thin mouse buttons placed at the edge makes clicking difficult. For the price, the W31 UD is a very good package. But, if you aren’t familiar with Linux be prepared to push your budget a little higher to include a licensed copy of Windows XP. For: Good battery life, widescreen display, DVD writer, very good for its price. Against: Average build quality, Windows XP not bundled.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

TESTED

| HARDWARE

75

Entertainment on the go
et me just say the Samsung YH-J70 will make you drool. Packed in a glossy pearl white shell, this player offers 20 GB storage capacity, a crisp 1.8-inch backlit color LCD display, and 25 hours of battery life for non-stop entertainment. Weighing only 135 gms and measuring 62x99.8 x16.4 mm (WxHxD), the YH-J70 offers a lot more than playing MP3 and WMA files. It touts an FM tuner, support for viewing images, text files and videos. With the builtin recorder, you can record voice, FM broadcasts and line-in playback. Recorded content doesn’t take up much space on the player, thanks to direct encoding to MP3 upto 192 kbps on the fly. Also, if you want to pass your time playing games, there are five to choose from, including Othello and Tetris. You can view and copy images directly from digital cameras with the help of the USB host. With crisp sound and deep bass, the bundled earphones do justice to music of

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all genres. 20 equalizer presets including SRS Wow and 9 band user equalizer, will surely please audiophiles. Videos and images look crisp even though the screen is small, but folks watching with you will have a tough time due to the poor viewing angle. Since videos are supported only in SVI format, you’ll need to convert them before loading them on the player. The player interfaces with the PC through USB 2.0. With 5 MB/s transfer rate, transfer of songs, videos and images don’t take much time. It took a minute to transfer 300 MB of songs to the player. With intuitive controls and good ergonomics, you may not require the user manual to begin using the player. But before going out to buy it, keep in mind the hefty price tag it carries. For: Good ergonomics and build quality, USB host, excellent battery life. Against: Poor viewing angle.

MP3 Player

Samsung YH-J70
Specifications: 135 gms, 20 GB, USB 2.0, 1.8-inch
color LCD, text, FM and voice recording, games, USB Host

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 23,999 Samsung India Electronics Ltd 011-51511234 subrotah.b@samsung.com www.samsung.co.in

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

Performance king!

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he Asus PM17TU is a 17-inch LCD monitor with 3ms grey to grey response time, 600:1 contrast ratio and brightness is rated at 500cd/m2. Supporting a max resolution of 1280x1024, the 17-inch TFT carries a dot pitch of 0.264 mm. The all-black monitor has a shiny finish and houses tiny speakers rated at 2.5W each. The build quality and finish are excellent with well rounded edges and sturdy construction. Starting with the color reproduction and gradient tests, we took the PM17-TU through a string of tests including some intense frag sessions. The color reproduction and contrast is easily the best we came across in any LCD monitor till date. The text is ultra sharp, ensuring that whether it’s spread sheets or frag sessions, the image quality is right on target. There was absolutely no ghosting or trailing even when gaming at 80 FPS and above. The

LCD is perfect for viewing movies as long as you are right in front of the monitor. Even the slightest change in the viewing angle will bring in the yellow and blue tinge into play, affecting the movie experience substantially. The built-in speakers sound very tinny and distort easily, thus not being the best replacement for desktop speakers. Moving on to the OSD and controls, the LCD offers a lot of settings and preset configurations to achieve the desired image quality and fine tune it to perfection. The OSD control buttons are hidden behind the LCD, and the all-black color scheme makes them almost unreadable. All in all, the Asus PM17TU is the best 17-inch LCD in terms of response time, image quality and color reproduction and is highly recommended. For: Fantastic image quality, ultra low response time, accurate color reproduction, great built quality. Against: Expensive, strictly okay speakers.

TFT monitor

Asus PM17TU
Specifications: 17” screen size, 3ms response time,
600:1 contrast ratios. 0.264mm dot pitch, built-in speakers, DVI and D-Sub connectivity

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 19,500 Asustek Computer Inc. 022-56490048 info_india@asus.com.tw www.asus.com.tw

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

76

HARDWARE

| TESTED

Graphics Card

Almost perfect!
AGP might be on its way out of the market but it definitely has a chunk of audience looking for an AGP upgrade. The Gainward 6600GT 128 MB belongs to the renowned golden sample series, which are made using highest quality components. The card comes with a fairly large active cooler for the GPU but the RAM is left open without any cooling. Gainward has the special “GLH” (goes like hell) series for the 6600 chipset family and they reserve the maxed out cooling solution for the GLH series. Thus don’t mistake this card for a “GLH” card. This is a regular card and not GLH. The card offers TV-out and dual DVI connectors. The GPU is clocked at 500 MHz by default and the 128 MB GDDR3 memory is clocked at 900 MHz. Being a golden sample, the Gainward expert overclocking utility allows you to push the clocks slightly higher by default. From our experimentations, we arrived at 500/1100 as the best clocks for the card. The card scored an impressive 3569 in 3DMark 2005 and 8722 in 3DMark 2003 at default settings. Doom 3 at high settings@1024x768 with 4x AA and 8X AF dished out about 48-50 FPS, while F.E.A.R. gave an average frame count of 35FPS@ 1024x768 with shadows off and 8x AF no AA. We even tried the Half-Life Lost Coast demo and the card performed fine with 4XAF and 2XAA @ 1024x768 with HDR and max details and reflections. Bottomline, if you are looking for decent upgrade that allows you to play the latest games @1024x768 with all the eye candy cranked up, this card will do the trick for you as long as you don’t go all out on AA and AF! For: Excellent performance for price, superb build quality, decent OC for RAM. Against: Availability, No cooling for RAM.

Gainward Ultra 1960 XP
Specifications: Nvidia 6600GT GPU, 128 MB GDDR3
RAM, Dual DVI and TV-Out, AGP 8x/4x

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 8,950 Mediatech India 022-26361111 chip@mediatechindia.com www.mediatechindia.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

Musical pendant
MP3 Player

iRiver N10 256MB
Specifications: 22 gms, 256 MB, USB 1.1, OLED
Display, MP3/WMA/ASF/OGG, voice recording

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Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 8,499 ReignCom 011-51514326 support@iriverindia.com www.iriverindia.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

f you want to be different from the rest who have MP3 players, check out the stylish iRiver N10. It’s a funky pendant which hangs from a luxurious necklacetype headset. The face of the player has a mirror finish behind which lies a 4 bit OLED display (16 grayscales). The buttons are placed on the sides. Even though it’s as small as a cigarette lighter and weighs merely 22 grams, it packs in heaps of features. The N10 sports 256 MB flash memory and a built-in lithium-ion battery which keep you entertained for 12 hours. The built-in microphone lets you record voice. However, with the FM tuner absent, you’ll miss listening to your favorite radio programs. Before transferring songs to the device, detach the cap clipped to the top of the player. Then you have the option of either connecting it to the PC via a USB cable or a mini USB adapter included in the package. Songs can be transferred using the iRiver Music Manager. But to make things easier,

a UMS (USB Mass Storage) firmware available from iRiver’s web site will allow you to transfer songs directly. Transferring songs takes ages due to the USB 1.1 interface. Performance-wise, the player rocks! The sound quality is awesome and the high-quality earphones do justice to music of all genres. To enhance sound, there are EQ presets like rock, metal, classic, jazz, bass boost and a 5-band manual. The firmware drills down to finest details. There is a facility to start recording on voice detection and a timer to shut off/turn on the player at a desired time. Also there are all possible play modes with several options to repeat or shuffle songs. If you don’t like the pendant style, you can lug the player around in your pocket by fitting a replacement cap having a 3.5mm jack. For: Excellent earphones, good sound quality, light, OLED display. Against: No FM, USB 1.1, expensive.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

78

HARDWARE

| TESTED

Network DVD Player

All video in a box
his device from Singapore-based Snazio comes with the promise of playing back any video format from a wide range of sources. While it initially seemed iffy, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it did, in fact, deliver on this promise. While resembling a standard consumer DVD player, this unit plays back your conventional DVDs and MP3s as well as High Definition WMV files, DivX and XviD files along with a string of high definition content like 720p and 1080i video, which results in very sharp video. That’s not all, the ‘Net’ part of the unit’s name implies that it can also be connected to a wired or wireless network via its integrated 10/100 Ethernet or 802.11g-based Wi-Fi network connectivity respectively. To top it all, it doubles up as a set-top box where you can browse the Internet via its integrated web browser. All this is controlled by a

SnaZio Net DVD Cinema HD
Specifications: Video formats: DVD, MPEG-1 and 2,
MPEG-2 HD, DivX, DivX HD, WMV9, MPV9 HD, Audio formats: MPEG-1 layer 3, OGG Vobis, AC3, AAC, WMA9, DTS, Network: 802.11g (54 Mbps), 10/100 Ethernet

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Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 21,999 Computers Infinite 011- 51617109 mail@computersinfinite.net www.snazio.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

full-featured remote control that is used to change modes, access video configuration options and set up the wireless and wired network settings including the IP address, subnet mask, wireless configuration parameters, etc. The installation disk contains the client application which, after loading it on a computer, makes it the media server. It’s from here that the audio and video files can be served across the wireless or wired network to the player. The only downside with this player was the shoddy build quality—the drive tray insisted on getting stuck each time it was retracted. Also, it is extremely highly priced. However, if you need allencompassing access to your audio and video files, this box does deliver. For: Network access to audio and video files, high-definition support, several output audio and video formats. Against: Inferior build quality, expensive.

Memory card reader

All-in-one reader
he easiest way to expand the memory of portable devices like mobiles, digital cameras, is by adding a compatible memory card. It’s a time consuming task to connect the device to the PC to read the data on the memory card. The best solution to this is a card reader, which can read a host of formats. The Sony MRW620 is one such device., which can read eight kinds of media—Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, SmartMedia, CompactFlash, Microdrive, Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, and xD Picture card. The MRW620 is a card reader fitted into a sturdy 3.5-inch tray. It fits into the PC just like a floppy drive and connects internally to the motherboard’s on-board USB connector via a mini-USB cable. The front panel of the card has 4 slots each supporting 2 formats. To avoid confusion, the slots are labeled. The green LED at the center indicates read/write activity. On connecting the reader to the PC, Windows

Sony MRW620
Specifications: 3.5-inch drive, Hi-speed USB 2.0,
reads SM, xD, CF, Microdrive, SD, MMC, MS and MS Pro cards

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Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 540 Rashi Peripherals Pvt Ltd 022-28221013 navinderc@rptechindia.com www.rptechindia.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

XP detects it as a UMS device and shows 4 additional drives under My Computer. We tested the reader with 2 cards— Compact Flash and Memory Stick. Both performed well in synthetic and real world tests. The drive index for CF and MS were 1757 kB/s and 1150 kB/s respectively. It took 65 seconds to transfer 50 MB worth multiple files to the CF card and just 24 seconds to read. The Memory Stick took a minute to write and 31 seconds to read the same data. This translates into speedy transfer and sharing of digital images stored on the camera’s memory card. Even transfer of ring tones, wallpapers and themes to mobile phones is speedy as compared to the snail-paced Bluetooth connection. With an attractive price tag and a year’s warranty, the MRW620 is a good replacement for the old 1.44 floppy drive. For: Reads 8 memory card formats, 3.5-inch drive, good access speed, well priced. Against: No complaints!
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Celebration Offer
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Pay Rs 3600 & get a MP3 Player 256MB worth Rs 2400 FREE

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A perfect tool for PC or Mac users Hi-Speed USB 2.0

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Fill this coupon and mail it with your Cheque/DD to: CHIP, Subscription Department, TBW Publishing & Media Pvt Ltd, C/o Infomedia India Limited, ‘A’ Wing, 2nd Floor, Ruby House, J. K. Sawant Marg, Dadar(W). Mumbai - 400 028. INDIA You can also fax your Credit Card orders to (022) 2430 2707 or e-mail us at subscription@chip-india.com. Please allow one month for your subscription to commence and 4-6 weeks for delivery of the gift. Cancellation of subscription will not be entertained.This offer is valid only in India. International subscription charges - US$ 84 or Rs. 3750 (12 Issues) The subscriber hereby authorizes TBW Publishing & Media Pvt Ltd, to use the information contained herein for maintaining their database as well as for any other purpose that TBWPML may deem fit. The signatory hereby authorizes TBWPML to print the information in all or any of the future issues at TBWPML as may deem fit.

At the heart of technology

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80

HARDWARE

| TESTED

Scanner

Automatic feeder

Xerox DocuMate 510 Scanner
Specifications: Dimensions: 190.5 x 304.8 x 444.5
mm, Weight: 4.9kg, USB 2.0 interface, Automatic Document Feeder, 600x1200dpi optical resolution, 24-bit depth, 50 sheet holding capacity

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Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 32,500 Xerox India Limited 124-2561930 YS.Bisht@xerox.com www.xeroxscanners.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

irst things first—the Xerox DocuMate 510 is not meant for the average end user. It’s aimed mainly at the small and medium segment. It’s a slightly toned down version of the DocuMate 520, and instead of the buttons (as in 520), the 510 only has indicator lights to let the you what it’s up to. Initial set up will require the manual as you need to attach the document feeder tray and connect the flatbed to the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) via a D-sub cable. After hooking up all the extra plastic to the scanner, it’s the same ol’ driver and software installation routine. Software like ScanSoft TextBridge Pro 9 OCR and PaperPort 9 Pro Office is installed along with the drivers. The software allows for many different options to work with—you can set the document to be scanned to be opened in

Acrobat Reader (if you save it as a PDF) or in a picture viewer (if you save it as an image in a format of your choice). There is an extra tray that appears while you use the PaperPort application, which can be docked along the sides of the desktop. You can either use the ADF or the flatbed to scan your documents. All scans are done with a single pass of the xenon lamp and it took almost 4 minutes to scan ten sheets of paper (containing a mix of text, tables and images) via the ADF. The motor that pulls the paper in is efficient and quiet. The scan quality is pretty good. For: The ‘descreen’ option, which allows you to copy newspapers/magazines and tone down the dots and pixels visible after a scan. Against: No driver support for the Mac OS. Expensive.

MP3 Player

MSI Mega Player 515 Lite
Specifications: 48 gms, 256MB, USB 2.0, OLED
Display, MP3/WMA/Wav, FM and voice recording

Music in a ‘flash’

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Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 4,700 Micro-Star International (M.S.I.) 011-51758808 info@msi-india.com www.msi-india.com

RATINGS
Build Quality Ergonomics Performance Features Warranty Overall Rating Value for money

little bigger than a matchbox and weighing only 48 gms, the MSI Mega Player 515 Lite is a flash-based MP3 player. It can store songs worth 5 CDs on its 256 MB built-in memory and supports MP3, WMA and WAV formats. It boasts of an FM tuner, and a microphone. Recorded files are stored in the WAV format. The built-in lithiumpolymer cell makes the player light. The player’s 14-hours playback time is attributed to its bright 4-line OLED display. Next to the display lies a 5-way joystick and play and FM buttons for easy access. The joystick has a good tactile feel and it makes controlling the volume and changing tracks easy even when the player is in your pocket while you’re on the move. To prevent accidental button and joystick presses, use the lock switch placed on the side, next to the record button. To transfer songs to the player, connect it to the PC’s USB port with a mini USB

adapter or a USB cable bundled with the player. The computer detects it as a universal mass storage device and you can transfer songs and other files directly to the player’s memory without using any software. Transferring songs doesn’t take time, thanks to USB 2.0 support. Performance wise, the player has good sound quality and an equalizer with four presets (rock, pop, jazz, classical). But its necklace-type earphones reproduce poor lows—so jazz and hip-hop lovers stay away! The player has a startup logo and screensaver, which can be customized through the bundled software. There’s one problem though. The menu doesn’t exit with a single button press— you have to navigate to the Exit icon in the menu, using the joystick. For: Good ergonomics, OLED display. Against: Average earphones, no one-click menu exit.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY FEATURE

| HARDWARE

75 81

It’s the time to Disk-O!
J
ust when everyone started replacing their aging CD-ROM drives with cutting-edge combo drives (DVD ROM and CD Writer), we hear that the next generation of DVDs will be here, next year. There’ll be two competing formats: Blu-ray and HD DVD. Sounds like another war on formats in the offing. If the two rival camps can’t come together, here’s my prediction of what will eventually happen. For those who haven’t been following developments, let me fill you in with the details. Others can skip the next four paragraphs and get straight to the predictions. More technology advancements are leading to a High Definition (HD) era, where richer digital graphics and sound take us still closer to reality. This will directly affect gaming, home entertainment (music and movies), and other multimedia applications. With developments of this kind on the anvil, there’ll be a need for storage space that far surpasses the capacity of today’s DVDs (typically 4.7 GB or dual layer 8.5 GB). Naturally, all the technology players are in the final stages of adopting a successor to DVD. Three industries—the entertainment companies, the consumer electronics players, and the computer manufacturers—have spent the past few months adopting either format. The HD DVD format offers 15 GB and 30 GB (dual layer) capacities. The HD DVD consortium is headed by Toshiba. It includes consumer electronics giants Sanyo, and NEC. This camp also includes entertainment giants HBO, New Line Cinema, and Universal Studios Home Entertainment. From the computer industry we have long-time allies Intel and Microsoft. Blu-ray disks (expected in mid-2006) offer more capacity: 25 GB and 50 GB (dual layer). And Blu-ray has a stronger following in all three industries. The consortium is headed by Sony and supported by a long list of consumer electronics companies: Philips, Panasonic, Sharp, Pioneer, and LG Electronics. From the computer industry there’s Dell, HP, and Apple. Entertainment companies in favor of this format are MGM, Warner Brothers Entertainment, Paramount Home Entertainment, Vivendi Universal, Walt Disney, and Twentieth Century Fox. Gaming specialists—Electronic Arts and Vivendi Universal Games have also opted for Blu-ray. Remember the VHS vs Betamax home video format wars of the 1980s? Eventually, VHS became the universal home video standard, while Betamax settled into the professional video realm. Something similar is expected for next generation DVDs. It looks like the Blu-ray format will eventually prevail over HD DVD. But HD DVD will still be around, thanks to the marketing juggernaut of Microsoft and Intel. So my take on this is co-existence. The Blu-ray format with its mammoth 25 GB or 50 GB capacities will undoubtedly be the format of choice for the entertainment industry. Movies and (console) games will be distributed on Blu-ray disks. Companies like Warner and Paramount, who earlier supported HD DVD, recently crossed over to the Blu-ray camp. So all the consumer electronics companies will build and sell Blu-ray players, rendering our DVD players obsolete within three years (maybe a bit longer for India). The Blu-ray initiative is headed by Sony, so naturally you are going to see it in the PlayStation 3 (expected next year). Microsoft’s Xbox 360 will have launched in North America by the time you read this. The second generation Xbox will have a dual layer DVD drive. But the third generation Xbox will have HD DVD, unless Microsoft adopts Blu-ray. I think the computer industry will support both formats. Future optical disk drives in computers will have both Blu-ray and HD DVD (either as a dual format drive or two discrete drives). Consumers will play it safe and wait till the dust settles. Then the choice will depend on the applications. Movie fans and the PlayStation tribe will choose Blu-ray. Computer users who need multimedia applications or just a backup solution, will opt for HD DVD. And what about me? Oh, I’ll just hold on to my recently acquired DVD player and combo drive, unless they are releasing movies like Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and old Star Trek episodes on Blu-ray—with some trivia thrown in for good measure! ■ The writer has been covering personal technology issues for the past twelve years

| Brian Pereira brian.pereira@chip-india.com

The Blu-ray format with its mammoth 25 GB or 50 GB capacities will undoubtedly be the format of choice for the entertainment industry

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

84

HARDWARE

| TECHNOLOGY LANDSCAPE

Case craft

A guide to buying the right case to suit your needs

Regular
Brands: VIP, Zebronics, IBall, Blues India Price: Rs 1,200 – Rs 1,800
ith a tight budget in hand, it’s crucial that you buy the right case. Depending on the type of the motherboard you may opt for a mid-tower or a minitower case. Mini-tower cases are good space savers for a small workspace. Next, see the specifications of the PSU which comes with the cabinet. At least a 350 W power supply is a must. If you have multiple optical and hard disk drives, make sure the case has enough drive bays to accommodate them. With components inside the case generating heat, good ventilation is a very crucial factor. Good internal space, case fans and vents play a major role in driving off heat and maintaining a good circulation within. Finally, the life of the case depends on its build quality. Good metal gauge and finish not only result in good looks but also render extra durability. Rounded edges within the case won’t cut your fingers while you’re tinkering with hardware.

Gaming
Brands: Zebronics, Antec, Asus Price: Rs 3,000 – 10,000

Professional
Brands: CoolerMaster, Antec Price: Rs 7,000 and above

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f you’re a gamer, no other case will please you other than a fancy gaming case. You may go out with a high budget and buy the fanciest gaming case. But before you buy one, pay attention to other important details instead of only falling for looks. Since gaming PCs have a powerful processor and a high-end gaming card, it’s essential that the PSU provides enough juice to power the components. A PSU rated 400 W or above is highly recommended. Also with the graphics card and the processor dissipating huge amount of heat, a 120 mm rear fan and a front fan will guarantee good air flow. A side fan will help in driving away heat dissipated by the graphics card. Coming to looks, there are plenty of attractive cases which are loaded with all sorts of fancy accessories like transparent side panels, LED fans, bubble lights and front LED panels. If you like carrying your gaming rig to LAN Parties, a super-light case with a handle and carrying strap is advisable.

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or people who are serious about quality and performance, the best option would be to settle for a professional PC case provided you’re ready to spend. But they are worth the buck because they last for years. Such cases are robust having a good metal gauge and an excellent finish without any sharp edges both within and outside. The interior of the case is spacious and unobstructed for good air circulation. Front and rear case fans are also present in most professional cases for proper ventilation. Some even have fans on side-entry panel or on top. To make it user-friendly, most of these cases boast of tool-free operation. The drives and cards are held by a screw-less retention system. For convenience, the ergonomic front panel has provision for front audio, USB and FireWire. If the case doesn’t come with a PSU, be sure that you buy at least 500 W power supply to complement the cabinet. | Anand Tuliani

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Vishwanath Vanjire

85

APPLICATIONS

| FEATURE

FEATURE

| HARDWARE

85

AMD vs Intel: 50 CPUs Tested
Performance Value in Points
83 77 74 75 72 71 70 67 66 71 69 69 69 66 68 63 62 66 65 62 61 66 64 61 60 59 58 62 61 55 57 61 58 55 54 50 50 50 56 51 52 51 52 50 51 45 45 49 47 44

R a nk

Processor
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 Intel Pentium 840 EE Intel Pentium 4 670 Intel Pentium 4 570 J AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 AMD Athlon 64 4000+ 1) AMD Athlon 64 3800+ Intel Pentium 4 3,73 EE Intel Pentium 4 3,46 EE Intel Pentium D 840 Intel Pentium 4 660 AMD Athlon 64 4000+ 2) Intel Pentium 4 560 J Intel Pentium 4 3,2 AMD Athlon 64 3500+ 3) Intel Pentium D 820 Intel Pentium 4 550 AMD Athlon 64 3700+ AMD Athlon 64 3400+ Intel Pentium 4 650 Intel Pentium 4 3,4 'E' AMD Athlon 64 3500+ 4) Intel Pentium 4 3,0 AMD Athlon 64 3200+ 5) AMD Athlon 64 3200+ 3) Intel Pentium 4 540 J Intel Pentium 4 3,2 'E' AMD Sempron 3300+ AMD Athlon 64 3200+ 4) Intel Pentium 4 640 Intel Pentium 4 3,0 'E' AMD Athlon 64 3000+ 5) AMD Athlon 64 3000+ 3) AMD Sempron 3100+ 6) AMD Sempron 3100+ 7) AMD Sempron 3000+ Intel Pentium 4 520 J Intel Pentium 4 2,8 AMD Athlon 64 3000+ 4) AMD Athlon 64 2800+ Intel Celeron D 351 Intel Celeron D 345 Intel Celeron D 345 J AMD Sempron 2800+ AMD Sempron 2600+ Intel Celeron D 341 Intel Celeron D 335 J Intel Celeron D 325

Performance Value in Watts* (Idle System/ Load)
105 105 118 155 170 160 130 105 90 165 130 140 165 100 160 95 90 135 125 105 89 170 130 100 95 89 90 160 130 80 100 165 130 90 90 80 85 79 155 85 100 89 115 100 110 80 77 115 115 90 220 215 220 345 310 310 250 195 180 315 280 325 300 235 300 220 175 285 260 185 189 300 285 190 210 192 170 300 270 160 185 290 260 190 165 157 175 160 280 180 185 184 230 205 215 154 156 220 220 185

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Intel’s mobile notebook processor, the Pentium M, is also being used in desktop PCs these days

Intel

AMD

The performance value is determined based on values from three disciplines— Applications, Games and Rendering. The bar to the right shows the power usage.
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP 1) San Diego-Core 2)Clawhammer-Core 3)Venice-Core 4)Winchester-Core 5)Newcastle-Core 6)Palermo-Core 7)Paris-Core *shorter is better

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We put all current processors of archrivals Intel and AMD through a tough test and we guarantee that you will find one that suits you
n the past not everything was better, but many things were easier. You could simply buy processors according to the hertz they ran at. Today clock frequencies are an obsolete buying criteria. What’s more important today are innovative features. So to avoid getting home the wrong processor, you need to understand technical terms such as Dual Core, 64-Bit, Cool’n’Quiet or Enhanced SpeedStep (ESS) and Non-Executable-Bit. The same goes for the nomenclature of each CPU. Are you looking for a Sempron or Celeron? Or is it an Athlon X2 or an FX? Or is it better to stick to a Pentium 4 or D? The D symbol for the new Intel CPUs with two processor cores, for example, adds to the confusion further, because it doesn’t stand for Dual-Core but for Desktop. Cryptic model numbers like those used by Intel and AMD don’t help to provide answers either, since both manufacturers, according to official price lists, offer about 50 CPUs, excluding notebook and server processors.

I

Processor and Socket

Processor Type: Athlon 64 Desktop Model Number: FX57 Socket: Socket 939 Core-Voltage: 1,35 to 1,4 Volt Case Temperature: Varies L2-Cache: 1 MB CPU Model: 27, Rev E4, 90nm AMD’s Desktop Processor Family encompasses its high-end CPU, the Athlon 64 FX, its double core processor the Athlon X2, the Athlon 64 and its budget model called Sempron. The model ranking is shown by the number in the name, such as 4000+, which also indicates its performance in relation to other models. Even the double digit numbers in the FX series indicate the higher, the better. It’s clear how the product families differ technically. Dual-Channel-Support, for example, used to be an exclusive feature for FX Models and Athlon 64 CPUs with Cool ’n’ Quiet. Now both product families offer this feature. The exact specifications can be found using the engraved OPN number on the CPU at www.oc-inside. de in the workshop, for example, and of course directly from AMD at www. amdcompare.com/us-en/desktop/ .

Processor Type: Pentium D Product Family: Dual Core sSpec-Number: SL88R Clock Speed: 3,2 L2-Cache: 2 MB FSB: 800 MHz VRC: Notw Voltage Intel CPUs stopped carrying their clock speed in their name for about a year now. Instead, the three digit numbers describe its product family, CPU Frequency, FSB clock speed as well as the size of its L2 Cache. Take the example of the Pentium D 840—the 8xx series describes it to be from the Dual Core Family, whereas the 6xx refer to Hyperthreading Pentium 4 CPUs with 2 MB L2 Cache. The 5xx series has only 1 MB L2 Cache and the Celeron Desktops are now known as the 3xx. The high-end processors from Intel have the added Extreme Edition description. The most important specifications of Intel processors are stamped on it. Further specifications can be found by keying in the spec number on the web site at http:// processorfinder.intel.com/scipts/default. asp.

Best CPU
We here at CHIP not only unravel processor descriptions for you but also tell you which CPU suits your needs best. And in order to do that we have tested 50 of the latest processors on their performance and energy usage. So who won the race for the fastest CPU? Find out whether it’s Intel or AMD from our test table. As not every user needs the calculating power of a high-end-CPU, we decided to create four demand profiles in our shopping advisory. The high-performance workstation, the home PC with a balanced price-performance value, a quiet living room unit and a fast gaming rig are our four categories. Later in the article, you can find our recommendations as to which CPU suits which platform. In the following section, we first explain the technology behind Dual Core, 64-Bit and power saving mechanisms for Intel and AMD CPUs.

1

2

3

4

Processor Sockets: AMD and Intel offer their current desktop processors for two different sockets. AMD’s newer Athlon X2, Athlon-64 and FX CPUs fit on socket 939 (1), current Sempron and Athlon 64 models of the first generation are suited for socket 754 (2). Intel’s Dual Core CPU, current Pentium 4 and Extreme Edition Products find a fit on socket 775 (3). Older Pentium 4 CPUs as well as a few Celeron models can fit on to socket 478 (4).

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| Finally the first 64-Bit Software is here
Finally there is a 64-Bit version of Microsoft’s OS Windows XP with matching drivers and native 64-Bit Software following slowly. The first application for professionals is available and it is a 3D rendering application by the name of Cinema 4D. It profits from the larger memory capacity that Windows x64 can address now. It even uses the CPU’s 64-Bit register and commands effectively. To get a taste of this performance increase we tested Maxons Cinema 4D with the corresponding Benchmark Cinebench 2003. It detected a 30 percent increase in performance with the 64Bit application on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 over its 32-Bit counterpart. The Intel system, using a Pentium 4 650, was 20 percent faster. 64-Bit applications are still rare but many are already in Beta stages, such as the burning software Nero or Firefox. In the gaming arena only Far Cry has picked up on this new technology. A patch is available at http://amd64andfarcry. gamedaemons.net . Most 32-Bit applications can still run under Windows XP x64, except for applications that work closely with hardware components like virus scanners or defragmenter tools. Symantec Antivirus Corporate Edition V10.0 and Avast 4.5 are antivirus programs that are available in 64-Bit formats. Windows XP x64 is currently available as a system builder version for around 120 US dollars without free telephone support through Microsoft. If you purchased a copy of Windows XP Professional between the dates of 31 March 2003 and 31 July 2005 you can exchange your copy for a very small mail order price. Contact Microsoft at http://microsoft.
working with a word processor, at the same time you have a virus scanner running in the background. Intel’s Hyperthreading is comparable to this, except that it uses two virtual (instead of two physical) processors. The principle for double core is the same for AMD and Intel, but both have different approaches. Intel currently connects two separate cores (“Die”) into a single piece of semiconductor wafer. This gives you two independent Pentium CPUs with their own L2 Cache, joined together during packaging. AMD, on the other hand, fuses both cores in the die inseparably. Using a Hypertransport Protocol they are then able to communicate directly with each other and with any other components connected to the north bridge. Another special protocol ensures efficient management of the L2 Cache.

productorder.com/clientx64/default. aspx . You will, however, void the license for your 32-Bit version, which is why you need to make sure you have necessary drivers for the 64-Bit copy. Another way to switch would be to buy a brand new PC with 64-Bit OS installed, like one from Dell

Test Result
64-Bit Benchmarks
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ 446
Cinebench 2003 64-Bit

342
Cinebench 2003 32-Bit

Intel Pentium 4 670 408
Cinebench 2003 64-Bit

334
Cinebench 2003 32-Bit

Data in points

Up to 30 percent more performance for 3D renderings with 64-Bit

New Techniques
Two Cores: Dual Core technology is the latest innovation that AMD and Intel have upgraded their processors with. Two processor cores on one CPU manage to achieve a higher level of performance. Even though the individual cores calculate at the same speed as other models with the same clock, the processor divides task in two for both cores to work on simultaneously. This is called “multithreading”. Optimized programs create threads that can be worked on in parallel, allowing for a performance gain of 70 percent. With software which is not programmed for multithreading, the performance increase will become noticeable when you are using multiple programs at the same time. A practical example here is when you are

The integrated memory controller also allows direct access to data in the RAM. AMD’s architecture proved to have higher performance in our test. But Intel is already planning to build their next DualCore CPU out of a single die. 64-Bit: Another significant development is the implementation of 64-Bit technology. AMD has been providing the hardware for the last two years with its Athlon 64 CPUs, and has been waiting ever since for support of the Windows XP operating system for desktop environments. It was only when Intel began producing is 6xx Series (also offering a 64-Bit CPU) that things started moving. Microsoft’s 64-Bit version of Windows XP, available in stores, runs both systems, because Intel’s Extended Memory 64 Technique (EM64T) equals that of AMD in terms of software.

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Intel Pentium M | Mobile Processors in Desktop PCs
Intel’s Pentium M notebook processor distinguishes itself from its bigger brothers with commendably low energy consumption. Intel has been fighting with increasing heat propagation on its desktop processors, with the continuous push for higher clock speeds. Even the new 6xx-Series desktops with the SpeedStepping energy saving features have not effectively stopped the massive energy loss. Their notebook CPUs, on the other hand, have enjoyed a thought through energy saving feature and an efficient processor architecture with little loss of energy, which is very important to maintain longer running battery loads. One might ask now, whether it is possible to use a notebook CPU on a desktop to have a much quieter PC? and Intel Celeron M CPUs as 3xx. Only Pentium M and Celeron M models from the 7xx and 3xx series are currently available as out-of-the-box versions. This gives you a choice of around 20 processors with a price ranging between 70 and 650 US dollars. There are significantly less mainboards for socket 793 M to choose from. Barely two platforms are currently available, both from Aopen. The older model i855GMEm-LFS made its debut last autumn as the first mainboard for mobile PCs. Its successor, the i915 GMM-HFS, distinguished itself by having been fitted with Intel’s new Sonoma chipset 915GM that includes support for PCI Express and the faster 533 Mhz FSB processors for models with 855 GME chipsets. MSI announced that it would be the next manufacturer to bring out a mainboard for socket 479 M this summer. Already available in the market is an adapter-plate from Asus that allows the use of socket 479 M processors on Asus mainboards with socket 478, with adapted BIOS. The disadvantage of this construction is that the Enhanced SpeedStep energy saving
its Sempron 3000+ CPU. The built-in Cool’n’Quiet mechanism turns down the clock speed when it detects less load. The surface remains cooler and the system quieter. Intel fitted its 6xx Series with similar but less efficient technology called Enhanced SpeedStep.

function does not work. But you are still saving 80 watts compared to common Pentium 4 processors.

Good, but not Affordable
A practical test with an Intel Pentium M 770 2,13 GHz shows that mobile platforms can equal the performance of a current standard desktop PC (3,0-GHz processor). The amount of energy used is however significantly less. The mobile system with integrated graphics barely used 61 watts in idle state and only 78 watts with load. Desktop systems with Intel Pentium 4 often require double the energy. The Intel energy saving mechanism and the activated air circulation allow for an almost inaudible PC. The disadvantages are in the price. A high performing CPU will cost at least 675 US dollars and the mainboard will cost around 250 US dollars. You could build a system performing similarly with quiet AMD processors for half the price.
Pentium D 840 Extreme Edition by 5 percent in Cinebench and by a whopping 15 percent in PCMark04. This is where AMD’s multi-processor technology shows its strengths. Professional users tend to strain their PC with multiple processes and programs running simultaneously. These tasks (also called threads) are in this case divided between the two processor cores, instead of having to be worked one after the other, like on single core CPUs. Software that can manage multiple threads at a time already exist. Rendering programs such as 3D Studio Max and Maxons Cinema 4D, which were some of the first applications available in the 64-Bit version, are such examples. A high-end PC needs a suitable mainboard to work with. Nvidia’s nForce 4 Ultra-based board is good. If two graphic cards are required, the the nForce 4 SLI chipset would be a good choice.

More Processors, Less Mainboards
Intel offers a great pallet of products even in the notebook segment. They have named their mobile processors similar to their desktop counterparts. Intel Pentium M CPU is known as the 7xx, the mobile Intel Pentium 4 processors as 5xx
The 64-Bit technology expands the 32-Bit architecture with additional functions, to allow 32-Bit software to remain functional. The 64-Bit register and commands, for example, speed up the handling of numbers that need more than 32 bits of memory. This becomes useful with scientific programs that use long-integer and double floating point formats. With 64-Bit addresses, there is also an increase of accessible memory. Theoretically, 64-Bit supports 16 Exabytes worth of memory; practically speaking, it remains at up to 1 terabyte. With a 32-Bit address line, it maxes out at 4 gigabytes. The practical advantages of 64-Bit technology are documented in the following pages. Save Energy: For quiet PCs it’s very important that the processor uses as little energy as possible. With current high-end CPUs the area of a one-cent piece loses as much energy as a 100-Watt bulb. The difficult process of cooling the PC with fans ends up making it very noisy. AMD attempts to cure this problem with

Recommendations
Our Test winner is not necessarily the ideal solution for everyone. For standard PCs, it’s too expensive, and because of the cooling required it’s too noisy for the living room solution. CHIP tells you here which processor is ideal for the professional PC, gaming PC, which one is the ideal work PC and the living room PC.

Workstations: Power for Professionals
The fastest processor in our test is perfect for professional users. AMD’s number one CPU, the Athlon X2 4800+, provides high performance results with application benchmarks and 3D renderings. It managed to beat Intel’s flagship—the

The Gaming Rig: Optimized Performance
Frames are all that count in gaming—the
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System tools like Crystal CPUID and CPU-Z allow you to get a complete overview of what your processor is, what it’s capable of and the present state it’s in

programs simultaneously. The optimal base in this segment for AMD CPUs would be Nvidia’s nForce 4 Ultra Chip, which amongst other things, offers a built-in Firewall. Performance motherboards for Intel processors should be fitted with Intel’s latest chipset 945P, or if you are looking for integrated graphics then the 945G is a good choice. If you are using your PC only as a typewriter then there are budget solutions for you here. AMD’s Sempron 2600+ and Intel’s Celeron D 325 are true price-breakers at around 70 US dollars, but are relatively slow. For video-encoding tasks, for example, these CPUs take three times longer than some of the ones mentioned earlier.

Living Room PC: Not the Fastest but Quiet
more the better. In order to prevent the CPU from slowing the graphics down, a powerful processor is needed. In terms of performance (specifically for 3D games), AMD leads the pack with its Athlon FX-57. With 86 frames in Unreal Tournament, it leads by 30 frames (53 percent) over Intel’s high-end model Pentium Extreme Edition 840. And it doesn’t just convince us with processing power, but a PC that bases itself on the FX-57 uses 120 watt less energy than a similarly configured Intel system. This also means that even in the hottest duels, this PC should remain comfortably quiet. Dual Core and Hyperthreading are not of much importance in this segment, as most gamers won’t usually run anything more taxing than 3D games on their computers. The ideal platform for AMD’s FX-57 is Nvidia’s nForce 4 SLI chipset. Two SLI-connected graphic cards will provide a phenomenal amount of 3D power. Whether ATI’s new counter design CrossFire will be any faster remains to be seen. For a high-end gaming rig you will need to make sure you have enough money in the bank. Just the CPU alone will cost you around 1,000 US dollars. DVB-T and HDTV have accelerated the much anticipated development of PC technology moving from the work room to the living room. The only deterrent so far has been the noise levels of normal PCs. The right choice of CPU can help remove this nuisance. Most of the flagship processors are oversized anyways for simple tasks such as recording and playing videos and MP3s. Lower clock speeds require less work and therefore offer a quieter system. An AMD Sempron 3000+ with the Cool’n’Quiet energy saving mechanism is a better choice than an Intel Pentium 4. Not even the new 6xx Series with Enhanced Speed-Stepping can keep up with AMD’s finely tuned energy saving technique. A motherboard with the Nvidia nForce 4 chipset (without Ultra or SLI) as well as a passive cooled graphics card based on either ATI’s Radeon X300SE or Nvidia’s GeForce 6200 TC would do well for a home theater setup. ■ | Gui Jue Fok

Home PC: Successful All-rounder
Surf the Net, change typefaces, edit holiday photos and maybe play a game in between. The technology to do all this can require a lot of money, which is why it’s important to get the right value for your money. Recommendable current sockets for general use are AMD’s Athlon 64 3500+ and Intel’s Pentium D 820 at an average price of US$ 270. Processors with slightly more power are considerably more expensive. AMD’s 64-Bit CPU scored points with good gaming performance and low energy consumption, which is important for a quiet PC. Intel’s Dual Core candidate has its advantages with multithreading and multitasking standard applications, and is therefore interesting for users who often work with multiple

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Results
AMD and Intel were in a fierce head-to- head race for the lead when it came to creating a dual core processor. Intel won the race when it recently unveiled its first dual core model for the desktop before AMD. But in terms of performance AMD is certainly the winner. The X2 processors take first and second place with the flagship FX-57 coming in at third. The high performance value and the low energy consumption make for a powerful and quiet PC. Professionals should equip their workstations with our winning model. AMD’s Dual Core CPU (1st place) is not only at the the top in rendering performance with 32-Bit but will even provide you with an extra 30 percent power with 64-Bit. For the serious gamer, AMD’s Athlon 64 FX-57 (3rd Place) should be the best choice. It performed at an impressive 35 percent higher rate than Intel’s Pentium 840 EE, which allows this CPU to meet even the highest current requirements. Home-PC users looking to surf the Net, change typefaces and play MP3 music won’t have to spend all that much money. AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (17) as well as Intel’s Pentium D 820 (18) are available for about 270 US dollars. Even though both AMD and Intel still offer sockets of older models at a cheaper price, the older mainboards don’t offer support features such as PCI Express. The most affordable PC is the Living Room Unit. Our Price-Value winner from AMD, the Sempron 3000+ (38) is already available at 91 US dollars and offers enough power for all applications surrounding your TV and Hi-Fi. And thanks to Cool’n’Quiet mechanism, it will be more or less inaudible.

SpecScan 1
Ma nu fac tur er pti on

Workstation: AMD Athlon X2 4800+

3

Gaming Rig: AMD Athlon FX-57

Current Processors
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 AMD AMD AMD Intel Intel Intel AMD AMD AMD Intel Intel Intel Intel AMD Intel Intel AMD Intel Intel AMD AMD Intel Intel AMD Intel AMD AMD Intel Intel AMD AMD Intel Intel AMD AMD AMD AMD AMD Intel Intel AMD AMD Intel Intel Intel AMD AMD Intel Intel Intel Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (Toledo) Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (Toledo) Athlon 64 FX-57 (SanDiego) Pentium D 840 EE (Smithfield) Pentium 4 670 (Prescott 2M) Pentium 4 570 J (Prescott) Athlon 64 FX-55 (Clawhammer) Athlon 64 4000+ (SanDiego) Athlon 64 3800+ (Venice) Pentium 4 3,73 EE (Prescott 2M) Pentium 4 3,46 EE (Gallatin) Pentium D 840 (Smithfield) Pentium 4 660 (Prescott 2M) Athlon 64 4000+ (Clawhammer) Pentium 4 560 J (Prescott) Pentium 4 3,2 (Northwood) Athlon 64 3500+ (Venice) Pentium D 820 (Smithfield) Pentium 4 550 (Prescott) Athlon 64 3700+ (SanDiego) Athlon 64 3400+ (Newcastle) Pentium 4 650 (Prescott 2M) Pentium 4 3,4 'E' (Prescott) Athlon 64 3500+ (Winchester) Pentium 4 3,0 (Northwood) Athlon 64 3200+ (Newcastle) Athlon 64 3200+ (Venice) Pentium 4 540 J (Prescott) Pentium 4 3,2 'E' (Prescott) Sempron 3300+ (Palermo) Athlon 64 3200+ (Winchester) Pentium 4 640 (Prescott 2M) Pentium 4 3,0 'E' (Prescott) Athlon 64 3000+ (Newcastle) Athlon 64 3000+ (Venice) Sempron 3100+ (Palermo) Sempron 3100+ (Paris) Sempron 3000+ (Palermo) Pentium 4 520 J (Prescott) Pentium 4 2,8 (Northwood) Athlon 64 3000+ (Winchester) Athlon 64 2800+ (Newcastle) Celeron D 351 (Prescott) Celeron D 345 (Prescott) Celeron D 345 J (Prescott) Sempron 2800+ (Palermo) Sempron 2600+ (Palermo) Celeron D 341 (Prescott) Celeron D 335 J (Prescott) Celeron D 325 (Prescott) 902 537 1,031 999 605 637 827 375 329 999 999 530 401 375 417 210 223 241 278 272 170 273 278 223 180 194 194 218 218 126 194 218 178 149 149 106 106 91 163 178 149 122 117 103 103 78 64 89 79 69 94 88 84 82 79 79 79 79 79 78 78 77 76 76 75 75 75 74 74 74 74 73 73 73 72 72 72 70 70 69 69 68 67 67 67 65 64 64 64 64 64 64 62 62 61 60 60 59 57 57 58 63 33 29 27 36 31 49 61 23 25 36 32 42 47 91 72 63 58 49 100 38 68 61 80 95 80 56 62 91 69 40 58 89 79 92 94 100 47 50 65 77 36 66 51 82 88 31 47 63 100 90 87 89 90 89 82 78 78 88 83 89 85 76 84 76 71 85 80 72 69 81 78 71 71 65 67 77 75 62 64 74 70 61 60 56 56 56 67 60 58 56 66 64 64 50 50 61 59 56 93 90 100 79 87 85 96 94 91 87 87 75 85 93 83 80 88 73 81 90 86 82 80 88 77 84 85 79 76 79 84 79 75 82 81 73 75 73 73 71 81 78 68 66 66 68 69 65 63 59 100 92 75 96 75 76 69 65 65 74 73 77 71 63 71 67 59 71 67 59 62 67 67 58 63 61 54 63 63 53 53 61 59 52 49 48 47 47 56 47 47 47 49 46 47 42 42 45 42 39 72 73 68 47 48 49 61 77 86 48 57 51 49 71 50 76 87 56 61 79 85 49 57 80 78 84 89 50 58 97 81 50 60 84 90 98 90 97 53 89 81 86 67 77 71 99 100 69 69 85 6.698 6.153 5.294 5.818 5.837 5.823 4.960 4.611 4.578 5.737 5.250 6.361 5.558 4.567 5.548 4.865 4.166 5.818 5.276 4.201 4.370 5.240 5.136 4.228 4.569 4.010 3.877 4.955 4.866 3.666 3.826 4.650 4.543 3.656 3.471 3.331 3.327 3.312 4.331 3.488 3.415 3.317 4.257 4.010 4.062 2.909 2.979 3.917 3.745 3.410 56 61 67 55 58 57 73 77 77 58 64 62 61 78 62 69 81 61 64 81 83 64 63 83 74 89 89 68 67 90 90 67 72 95 97 102 103 103 78 90 99 104 80 84 83 114 114 86 90 96 342/ 641 312/ 586 394/ 394 284/ 612 334/ 403 336/ 404 367/ 367 340/ 340 341/ 341 328/ 395 352/ 418 283/ 528 317/ 382 340/ 340 318/ 382 323/ 382 310/ 310 250/ 466 300/ 361 310/ 310 330/ 330 299/ 361 299/ 357 313/ 313 301/ 359 334/ 334 284/ 284 282/ 340 282/ 336 279/ 279 282/ 282 265/ 318 264/ 315 280/ 280 256/ 256 251/ 251 251/ 251 251/ 251 248/ 298 283/ 283 253/ 253 251/ 251 256/ 256 242/ 242 249/ 249 221/ 221 223/ 223 238/ 238 221/ 221 208/ 208

| This is how chip tests
Performance Intake Application Performance

44 45 46 47 48 49 50

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• = yes

– = no

25 % Rendering Performance

25 % Gaming Performance

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Glossary

17 Home PC: AMD Athlon 64 3500+
Un rea l To urn am ent Pe rfo 20 04 rm an ( fp I dl ce s) e/L I nt oa ake d( Sy Wa ste tt) m So cke t Sp eed (

18 Home PC:DIntel Pentium 820
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38 Living Room PC: AMD Sempron 3000+
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64-Bit: The current 32-Bit standard is slowly being replaced by 64-Bit technology. The corresponding CPUs are capable of working through 8 bytes (64Bit) within a cycle. This allows the CPU to calculate larger numbers in a much faster time. Dual-Channel: This refers to the connection between the main memory and the CPU. Two memory channels are communicating parallel with the CPU allowing for double the bandwidth. Dual-Core: One CPU that consists of two physical main processors is referred to as Dual-Core. This allows for two threads to be calculated simultaneously. Production Process: A development in production technology allows more transistors to be placed on the same sized space. The size indicator, 90nm for example, refers to the structure width of the CPU. FSB/Swystembus: The Front Side Bus connects the CPU with the chipset and through it to all other components. AMD’s Systembus runs with double and Intel with four times the bandwidth of the FSB. Hyperthreading: This refers to the doubling of the CPU control-logic. Even with two virtual processors it’s possible to calculate two parallel threads. L1-/L2-/L3-Cache: Refers to the fast memory buffer of the processor for data, commands and results. The rule here is, the bigger the better. Stepping: Different Steppings refer to small improvements in the production technology of the processor. Energy Saving Mechanism: Clockspeed and Power intake of CPU are decreased here. AMD’s technology is called Cool’n’Quiet. Intel’s version is referred to as Enhanced SpeedStep (ESS). Non-Executable-Bit: By separating memory into a data and a programming segment, it prevents the execution of damaging codes, such as viruses in the data.

75 71 86 56 66 64 80 76 72 66 67 50 63 75 61 59 68 50 58 72 66 60 59 67 56 63 63 56 54 56 63 57 53 60 58 49 52 49 50 50 58 55 45 44 43 45 45 42 41 38

105/ 220 105/ 215 118/ 220 155/ 345 170/ 310 160/ 310 130/ 250 105/ 195 90/ 180 165/ 315 130/ 280 140/ 325 165/ 300 100/ 235 160/ 300 95/ 220 90/ 175 135/ 285 125/ 260 105/ 185 89/ 189 170/ 300 130/ 285 100/ 190 95/ 210 89/ 192 90/ 170 160/ 300 130/ 270 80/ 160 100/ 185 165/ 290 130/ 260 90/ 190 90/ 165 80/ 157 85/ 175 79/ 160 155/ 280 85/ 180 100/ 185 89/ 184 115/ 230 100/ 205 110/ 215 80/ 154 77/ 156 115/ 220 115/ 220 90/ 185

939 939 939 775 775 775 939 939 939 775 775 775 775 939 775 478 939 775 775 939 754 775 478 939 478 754 939 775 478 754 939 775 478 754 939 754 754 754 775 478 939 754 775 478 775 754 754 775 775 478

2.400 2.200 2.800 3.200 3.800 3.800 2.600 2.400 2.400 3.733 3.467 3.200 3.600 2.400 3.600 3.200 2.200 2.800 3.400 2.200 2.400 3.400 3.400 2.200 3.000 2.200 2.000 3.200 3.200 2.000 2.000 3.200 3.000 2.000 1.800 1.800 1.800 1.800 2.800 2.800 1.800 1.800 3.200 3.066 3.067 1.600 1.600 2.934 2.800 2.533

2x 1.024 2x 1.024 1.024 2x 1.024 2.048 1.024 1.024 1.024 512 2.048 512/2.048 2x 1.024 2.048 1.024 1.024 512 512 2x 1.024 1.024 1.024 512 2.048 1.024 512 512 512 512 1.024 1.024 256 512 2.048 1.024 512 512 256 256 128 1.024 512 512 512 256 256 256 256 128 256 256 256

400 400 400 800 800 800 400 400 400 1.066 1.066 800 800 400 800 800 400 800 800 400 400 800 800 400 800 400 400 800 800 400 400 800 800 400 400 400 400 400 800 533 400 400 533 533 533 400 400 533 533 533

90 90 90 90 90 90 130 90 90 90 130 90 90 130 90 130 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 130 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 130 90 90 130 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90

•/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/– •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/ – •/•/ – •/•/ – •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/• •/•/•

•/• •/• – /– •/• •/• •/• – /• •/• – /• – / – – /– •/• – /– •/• – /– •/• – /• – /• – /• – /– •/ – •/• – /• •/• – /– •/• – /• – /– – /• – /– – /– •/• •/ – •/• – /• – / – – /– •/• – /– •/• – /• •/• – /• – / – – /– •/• – /• – /– – /– •/• – /– •/• – /• – / – – /• – / – – / – – /• – /– •/• – /• •/• – /• – / – – /– •/• – /– •/• – / – – /•
– /– – /– –/ – /– –/

•/ – •/ –

Du al C

C lo ck

L2

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Cool'n'Quiet Cool'n'Quiet Cool'n'Quiet ESS ESS

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50


Cool'n'Quiet Cool'n'Quiet Cool'n'Quiet

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ESS ESS Cool'n'Quiet

– –
Cool'n'Quiet ESS


Cool'n'Quiet Cool'n'Quiet ESS


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Cool'n'Quiet Cool'n'Quiet ESS


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– /– – /–

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The memory effect
Is low latency memory worth the hype? Let’s find out
bout a year back, buying memory (RAM) for your computer was a lot simpler. You needed to know whether your PC takes SD, DDR or DDR-II memory and find out the max frequency supported by your motherboard, whether it’s DDR 266, 333 or 400. Now if you happen to go to a well informed seller and ask for memory he will in all probability dish out the regular memory and then some exorbitantly priced low latency chips. He will suggest you go for the low latency memory if you have the budget for it, vouching the speed of the low latency to be significantly better than the regular memory. These high-speed low latency memories have made their way into the market, targeting the enthusiasts and power users who demand peak performance. About 90 percent users opt for the regular memory modules, which are priced well while 10 percent go for the low latency chips selling for almost double the price. These chips are better for sure, but by what margin and whether they warrant the price is the question. Let us first learn about the latencies and how they influence the system performance and then get on with the benchmarks, comparing three variants

Vishwanath Vanjire

A

of DDR 400 memory with varied latencies on an array of synthetic and real-time benchmarks.

and when data within the row can be requested. This only happens when data is not on the active row. tRP: tRP is the time for RAS Precharge. It’s the time required in memory cycles to clear out the active row out of the cache, before a new row can be requested. In other words, it’s the time taken for the memory to stop accessing one row and start accessing another. tRAS: tRAS refers to the minimum time that a row must remain active before a new row can be activated in each memory bank. A new row cannot be opened until the minimum amount of time has passed. If there is more than one bank on memory, this will help the performance of the tRAS. If there is only one active bank, then the need to change rows is guaranteed, and if there is more than one bank with memory, then there is only half the chance that there will be a need to change rows. In turn, the tRAS will only come into effect half the time. The tRP and tRAS together are often referred to as the Row Cycle time, because they happen together. One also needs to remember that as
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

What’s memory latency?
Latency is the period between stimulation and response. Memory latency is the delay caused by the memory to react towards a particular command. The delay in memory access is the latency of that memory and it’s measured at various stages of memory access. Typically, memory timings on the module are specified as 2-2-2-5 where the string of timings correspond to the CAStRCD-tRP-tRAS. It might sound complicated but it’s not all that complex if we learn about it and get a low down on how it works. CAS: CAS stands for Column Address Strobe. This is the number of memory cycles that pass between the time a column is requested from the active page and the time the data is ready to send across the bus. This number is usually 2, 2.5, and 3 for DDR memory. tRCD: RAS to CAS Delay is referred to as tRCD. This is the delay in memory cycles between the time a row is activated

FEATURE

| HARDWARE

95

SiSoft Sandra Scores
4868
Memory Bandwidth Int ALU

SiSoft Sandra Scores
Cache and memory

3D Mark 2003 Scores
1024x768 default settings
0

4964 6045

6292 6437 6996
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000

6292 6437 6996
5000 10000 15000 20000

4923 6003
0

1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000

TwinMOS DDR400 2.5-4-4-8 Corsair XMS DDR400 2.5-3-3-6 Corsair Expert DDR 400 2-2-2-5

Float FPU

4866

TwinMOS DDR400 2.5-4-4-8 Corsair XMS DDR400 2.5-3-3-6 Corsair Expert DDR 400 2-2-2-5

TwinMOS DDR400 2.5-4-4-8 Corsair XMS DDR400 2.5-3-3-6 Corsair Expert DDR 400 2-2-2-5

1024x768 default settings

the data rate (FSB) goes higher, the latency also increases. Thus latencies for a 512 MB stick of DDR 333 or DDR 400 MHz are lower than for DDR-II 533 or DDR-II 600. Since the bandwidth is higher, the time taken for access and reaction is also more than in case of lower bandwidth memory.

Time for the benchmarks
To find out the real world impact of low latency memory chips, we chose 1 GB (512 MB x2) of DDR 400 memory with varied memory timings. The table below lists the specifications of the memory modules used for the comparison. We benchmarked them using a mix of synthetic and real world benchmarks on a top-of-the-line machine, ensuring there are no bottlenecks involved.

The truth is here
Now are these low latency memory modules really worth the dough? The answer is both a “yes” and a “no”. The performance difference in synthetic benchmarks is substantial while real world impact is very marginal. Overall, in synthetic benchmarks, the performance benefit is
Processor Motherboard Chipset drivers Hard drives Audio Graphics OS Memory size, type Brand and Model CAS latency (CL) RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) RAS precharge (tRP) Cycle time (tRAS) Command rate

almost as big as 30 percent while in real time benchmarks the difference is anywhere between 5-10 percent, and may be even lower in some cases. These low latency memory modules are primarily targeted at demanding gamers who thrive on that additonal 4-5 FPS in the latest games. For an average user with a regular system configuration, low latency memory makes little sense. Instead of spending twice the money on low latency memory, he can rather invest that money in either buying a better processor, additional RAM or a powerful video card. These upgrades will yield him significant performance boosts in almost all the applications. On the other side, if you have the national reserve at your disposal and want to go all out in buying a beast of a machine, the 10 percent performance boost will certainly count. If you want nothing but the best, the extreme memory modules will pump that extra FPS as long as you have top-ofthe-line processor, motherboard and video card that does justice to the memory modules. ■ | Soham Raninga

3D Mark 2005 Scores
8227 8393 8452
0 2000 4000 6000 8000
10000

TwinMOS DDR400 2.5-4-4-8 Corsair XMS DDR400 2.5-3-3-6 Corsair Expert DDR 400 2-2-2-5

Doom 3 FPS
High -1024x768-8xAA
0

53 54.3 58.2
10 20 30 40 50 60

TwinMOS DDR400 2.5-4-4-8 Corsair XMS DDR400 2.5-3-3-6 Corsair Expert DDR 400 2-2-2-5

AMD Athlon 64 FX-53@2.4GHz ASUS A8N SLI-Deluxe nForce-4 (6.70) 4 x Western Digital Raptor 74GB in Raid 0 nForce4/ALC850 NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX with ForceWare 81.85 drivers Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 and Dx 9.0c 1GB(512MBx2) DDR 400 in Dual Channel Corsair Expert Corsair-XMS-3200LL TwinMOS 2 2.5 2.5 2 3 4 2 3 4 5 6 8 1T 1T 2T

Opening a 571 MB in Photoshop
30.6
Time in seconds
0

30.1 28.7
5 10 15 20 25 30 35

TwinMOS DDR400 2.5-4-4-8 Corsair XMS DDR400 2.5-3-3-6 Corsair Expert DDR 400 2-2-2-5

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

96

HARDWARE

| FEATURE

Dual Duel
Graphics capabilities are expected to notch to a new level with a smarter way of pairing two GPUs
ual Core processors are all set to invade our computer systems and soon you might just find dual GPU video cards following them in a couple of years. The SLI and CrossFire technologies released recently have made pairing of two video cards possible, thus boosting the graphics capabilities to a new level. While SLI and CrossFire have gone mainstream, ultimately looking to replace the single video card system, a smarter and more efficient way of pairing two GPUs is around the corner. A Dual GPU-based video card is basically a single video card that houses two separate GPUs each having its own dedicated video RAM and are combined together using SLI technology that enables multi-GPU rendering. Multi-GPU video cards have surfaced in the past but the available technology and implementation at the given time was not perfect, thus failing to make a mark on the industry. A lot has changed since then. With motherboards supporting higher bandwidth, processors being smarter with efficient memory management and dual core architecture, the case for Dual GPU video cards is a lot stronger. In the last six months, we have seen three products which offered dual GPU solutions. The Gigabyte 3D1,

D

the ASUS 6800GT Dual and finally, the latest N7800GT Dual from Asus. All of the mentioned cards use the SLI technology from Nvidia to pair the two GPUs on one card. The N7800GT Dual combines two Nvidia 7800GT GPUs on a single card. On paper, the N7800GT Dual video card is by far the most powerful video card for the PC platform. The obvious question to be answered is whether the dual 7800GT card equals the performance of two separate 7800GT video cards in SLI mode. Let’s find out….

The Card
The N7800GT DUAL is a monster of a card, easily the biggest and most intimidating video card that ever visited our Test Center. It measures about 250 mm in width and 145 mm in height. Being almost as wide as the motherboard itself, the card will not fit into all the cases, the case will have to be towards the bigger side to accommodate the card comfortably. Weighing almost a kg, the card simply owns any other video card in terms of its massive frame. Coming to the technical specifications, the card houses two Nvidia 7800GT GPUs each clocked at 430 MHz core clock and having 256 MB of 256-bit DDR3 memory per GPU, making it 512 MB of total effective memory. The memory is clocked at 1.2 GHz. The card offers dual DVI and dual VGA outputs along with a TV output, which supports HDTV. The core is clocked at 30 MHz above the reference core and the memory is clocked at 200 MHz above the reference clock speeds of 1 GHz.

Din

e sh

Des

ai

Design, cooling and power
Though the card essentially looks like a bigger version of a top-of-the-line video card, its architecture is obviously different. The 7800GT GPUs are placed two inches away from each other and are surrounded by eight single sided RAM chips per GPU.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

The beast of a card is almost as wide as the motherboard and takes two slots

FEATURE

| HARDWARE

97

The single aluminum slab is cooled by a large fan

A closer look at the 7800GT GPU after wiping off all the thermal compound a video output dongle that supports HDTV, and an Asus SLI switch chip for the Intel-based SLI boards from Asus which will require the special chip for SLI operation with a single card. The software bundle includes the usual mix of some applications, special driver CDs and game titles like Project Snowblind. The Asus web site does promise a copy of Call of Duty 2 bundled free with the card, which makes the package even more exciting. On the support side, the card is supported by almost all the Nforce 4 SLI boards from well known manufacturers like ASUS, Gigabyte, DFI and MSI. For the Intel-based SLI platform, there are some issues with the SLI switch used by the motherboards. ASUS has confirmed support for the card on their Intel-based SLI motherboards. For the rest of the brands it all depends on the implementation of the SLI switch which controls the bandwidth of PCI Express (x8 lanes or x16 lanes). Installation was mostly trouble free with Windows XP recognizing the two cores as separate video adaptors and the driver package installing the drivers. You do not need any special drivers to get the card running, the regular NVIDIA drivers package does all the installation

Dual GPUs sitting next to each other with Samsung chips around them The card uses Samsung RAM chips rated at 1.6 ns which translates to 1.2 GHz. The card is cooled by a massive aluminum heatsink with a large fan at the center of it. The single piece cooling system cools the RAM chips as well, using thermal pads to dissipate heat. The use of a single large fan ensures adequate cooling without too much noise, since the fan need not rotate at very high speeds. Coming to the most interesting part of the design and implementation, the N7800GT Dual has a very innovative approach to power management. It gives you an option of using an external power adaptor to power the card separately. You don’t need a meaty PSU to power this monster. There are two very distinct advantages to this system. Firstly, you save some money on the PSU and secondly, the external power supply option is safer and consistent, ensuring more stability to the card. In case you already own a mother of PSU, you do have an option of powering the card normally and not using the external adaptor which is a part of the default package. Overall, an external power adaptor drawing power straight out of the socket makes a lot of sense in such cases where the cards are power hungry.

Package, installation and compatibility
The N7800GT Dual comes with a decent accessories package that comprises two DVI-to-VGA adaptors, a power adaptor,
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

The card can be juiced externally, providing huge relief to the system PSU

The default external power adaptor looks very similar to a notebook power adaptor

98

HARDWARE

| FEATURE 3DMark 2005(points)
11554 11798
Default 1024x768 Default 1024x768

just like it would in case of a normal SLI setup. We experienced a minor issue in the initial stages where the drivers for the second GPU would not install, and the operating system reporting the second GPU as a “7800GTX” instead of a 7800GT. Thankfully, the problem was solved when we reinstalled the drivers. Once done, we simply chose the SLI option in the drivers control panel and rebooted the machine with the dual GPUs running in SLI mode.

3DMark 2003(points)
26839
Default 1024x768

7623 1600x1200 4XAA 8xAF 7511 1600x1200 4XAA 8xAF
0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 0

25996

Default 1024x768

5000

10000 15000 20000 25000 30000

Reference 7800GT SLI

AsusN7800GT Dual

Reference 7800GT SLI

AsusN7800GT Dual

Test setup
We compared the N7800GT Dual with two Nvidia reference 7800GTs with 256 MB memory each running in SLI mode on the same test rig. Specifications of the test rig

Processor Motherboard Memory Hard Drive Operating System Drivers

Athlon 64 FX-53 Asus A8NSLI Deluxe 2 x 512 MB Corsair 3200XL 4 x Raptor 74GB in Raid 0 configuration Windows XP Professional SP2 NVIDIA Forceware version 81.85

Performance analysis
The N7800GT Dual is almost at par with the two 7800GTs in SLI mode. This essentially means that the integration of two GPUs on a single card is done at near optimal levels where each of the GPUs along with the 256 MB of dedicated memory is performing just like it would in case of an SLI setup. Thus there is no loss of performance or compatibility issues associated with this dual GPU card which indicates the fact that technology and technique of optimally integrating two powerful GPUs is here. Also on paper, the performance makes the N7800GT Dual the fastest single PCI Express card on the planet (at stock speeds). Another very important point made by this card is the possibility of using an external dedicated power supply adaptor to power the card. The solution is very practical, effective and well implemented.

able to push the core to 450 MHz while the memory could not be bumped above the stock speed of 1.2 GHz. With enough juice pumped into the card through external power supply, we did expect the card to go slightly higher on core especially when 7800GT chips are known to touch the 480 mark easily. The failure to push the memory higher can be blamed on the average cooling of the aluminum heatsink which does not cool as well as it would in the case of copper heatsinks. The successful implementation of Dual GPU platform by ASUS widens the scope for implementation of SLI technology. With newer motherboards like the A8NSLI 32 supporting two dedicated x16 PCI Express lanes being released in the market, one should not be surprised if a quad GPU system is made possible in the near future. Meanwhile, if any of you are planning to equip your PC with this cutting edge video card, the N7800GT Dual can be bought for around Rs 54,000. The card is more about technology, innovation and performance rather than giving you bang for the buck. The way we look at it, the N7800GT Dual is an excellent attempt by Asus to introduce a unique product in the market. The product might not top the sales figures but it certainly will top the innovation charts. Being a limited edition card, this one will have to be ordered from the company directly. ■ | Soham Raninga

Far Cry (AVG FPS)(8xAA 16xAF)
84.2 88.1 91.7 94.9
0 20

River Demo@1280x1024 River Demo@1280x1024

Pier Demo@1280x1024 Pier Demo@1280x1024
40 60 80 100

Reference 7800GT SLI

AsusN7800GT Dual

Doom 3 (AVG FPS)
83.5 79.9
Ultra 8xAA@1024x768 Ultra 8xAA@1024x768

62.7 High 4xAA@1600x1200 59.8 High 4xAA@1600x1200
0 20 40 60 80 100

Reference 7800GT SLI

AsusN7800GT Dual

Fear (AVG FPS)
73.1
1280x960 4xAA 16xAF

RATINGS

4.5 / 5
0

For: Excellent performance, good software package, excellent build quality, innovative power solution. Against: Limited overclocking, requires a large case, very expensive.

77.4

1280x960 4xAA 16xAF

Overclocking
We tried to overclock the card and were

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Reference 7800GT SLI

AsusN7800GT Dual

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

It’s all getting Real!
W
hen it comes to PC gaming, the focus has always been on how to make it more real. The final destination for PC game developers is to reach a level where games almost look and behave like everything in real life, delivering cinematic gaming experience. The good news is that the hardware and technology required to achieve this level of realism is almost here, waiting to be utilized and embedded optimally into games. When Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 were released last year, they upped the bar by using dynamic lighting, bump mapping and reflections, which made them visually stunning. A lot has changed since then, with newer and more powerful GPUs being released, offering added features and capabilities, game developers have a lot more room to play around. The next wave of PC games is expected to take you a step or two closer to the real world. What makes the realism possible? Read on to find out. of the morning sunlight blazing through a glass window. The moment you open the window, the sunlight blinds you for a second because your eyes cannot adjust to the extreme brightness and contrast levels. Eventually, your vision adjusts to the light conditions allowing better visibility. HDR attempts to create similar realism in games by allowing values that are way beyond the normal range. What makes it special is the fact that the extreme values whether too dark or bright do not sacrifice the detail levels; the detail levels and realism is further enhanced by the use of reflections which are equally bright and absolutely life-like. HDR makes use of “Radiosity” which is a way of rendering a scene, using only visible light sources. Thus if you are inside a cave with light falling from a narrow gap, the luminosity inside the cave will be rendered using only the available light source as it happens in real life.

Pramod Jadhav

Gaming is fun, but it’s even more fun when games look, behave and feel like the real thing. Let’s probe into the technologies that make this possible
obviously need to own a HL2 copy in order to download the Lost Coast demo.

What’s that Bloom?
The “Bloom” effect which has been used more frequently than HDR is a step down version of the latter. You can even call it a step behind HDR. Bloom is an effect that’s given to simulate the shine and glow that is normally experienced around the light sources. This is obtained by blurring the edges of the light source, which is very similar to the overexposed night shot of a super highway. Bloom is many a times mistaken as HDR, the reality being bloom is much simpler and easier to implement as compared to HDR. The latest release of the Age of Empires makes extensive use of the bloom effect. Need for Speed: Most Wanted also utilizes bloom effect and the game simply looks spectacular with sun beaming down the tracks and staring in your face, almost blinding your vision for a few seconds.

Experience HDR HDR
High Dynamic Range (HDR) in gaming is a technology that attempts to emulate real life lighting in games. Dynamic Range is the normal range of lighting while High Dynamic Range extends the overall range, giving brightness and contrast values that are higher than the normal dynamic range. In simpler terms, HDR allows you to make the objects brighter by allowing them to use the full brightness capabilities of the monitor and not just the brightness level at which they have been shot or rendered with. To simplify it further, let’s take an example HDR was first implemented by Crytek in Far Cry as part of their 1.3 Patch update that made use of Shader Model 3.0 to render HDR. The Lost Coast demo by Valve is specially released to showcase the implementation of HDR in the Half-Life 2 engine. The upcoming game UnReal 3 is expected to make maximum use of HDR. The UnReal 3 game engine has been labeled the next generation game engine, which will up the ante for FPS gaming. If you can’t wait to get a hands-on experience of HDR, we suggest you download the Lost Coast demo via steam account; you

Soft Shadows, Volumetric Lighting, Smoke Effects...
Things are not just getting real on the light side, the dark side also has a lot in store. The best example would be the scary First Person Shooter game, F.E.A.R. Using the Shader Model 3.0 features, F.E.A.R. delivers some of the most realistic shadows in any PC game. The Soft Shadows look much more real than the ones in Doom 3 that was too harsh and artificial. Soft shadows will play a bigger role in FPS games, which involve spooky environments and close
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

FEATURE

| HARDWARE

101

The glow on the building is very intense at first glance; your eyes adjust to the lighting eventually being able to capture more details, emulating a real-life scenario

quarter combat. Smoke effects in games have been very ordinary, with clear outlines which define the scope of smoke effect in a given scene. If you played Call of Duty 2 demo, you will notice a drastic change in the way smoke is rendered—it’s more dense and real, ensuring almost zero visibility amidst it, just like it happens in real life. With such realistic smoke, lighting and shadows, games are no doubt looking more and more life-like, blurring the lines between the real and the unreal. In the true sense, it’s going to take a long time for games to merge into reality and become truly cinematic. But, the latest breed of games announces the coming of the technology that will make it possible.

HDR On

HDR Off

With HDR enabled, the blurred effect of light passing through the stained glass makes it look very real, the lighting and details on the weapon also change accordingly

It’s gonna make you spend for sure...
All that eye candy, realism and cinematic effects are quite demanding on the computer. These new games can literally make a top-of-the-line computer crawl when played at maxed settings and ultra high resolutions. If you are looking forward to play the Lost Coast demo or games like F.E.A.R., Call of Duty and NFS:NW with all the fabulous effects, you will need a minimum of Geforce 6600GT and above, along with 1 GB of system memory and a 2.8 GHz or higher processor to extract 4050 frames per second. Mind you, these are the minimum requirements. Lost Coast and F.E.A.R barely managed 35 FPS on a 6600GT SLI set up at 1600x1200 with 4X AA and 8X AF! Before you assume that these latest games are out of your budget, you might want to keep an eye on the prices for the 6600GT and X800GT cards in the market. They are falling by the minute! ■ | Soham Raninga

HDR On

HDR Off

NFS: Most Wanted generously uses the ‘bloom effect’, creating realistic environments with spectacular lighting. The reflection of light on the roads looks very real

HDR On

HDR Off

Looking straight into the sun will blind you for a few seconds; the glare is evident throughout the scene. HDR implementation expands the scope of realism to a new level
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

102

HARDWARE

| FEATURE

1
The Self-Test Routine
When you press the power switch on, your computer’s power supply is checked. This is necessary so that the components/adapters on the motherboard get sufficient juice to function properly. Once it is confirmed that the power supply is delivering the right current and voltage levels, the processor is sent a “Power Good” signal.

Hard or Soft Boot?
The system BIOS checks to see if it was a ‘cold boot’ or a ‘warm boot’. (When you press the power button on your PC to switch it on, it is known as a cold/hard boot. When the computer is restarted with the restart button or via the operating system due to an error, it is known as a warm/soft boot.) If it was a ‘hard boot’ then the complete Power On Self Test will follow; else the memory test portion is skipped.

The System BIOS
The processor does nothing up until it gets the Power Good signal. As soon it gets the green signal, it starts initializing operations. It basically runs the commands in the memory addresses stored in the BIOS (Basic Input/ Output System) code. The BIOS memory contains instructions (code) that will help it to boot the system. (BIOS code can be updated by ‘flashing’ it with the new version. The motherboard manufacturer usually makes this available.) The first few instructions in the BIOS code perform a test of the hardware functionality before going ahead with the boot process. Keep in mind that there is still no display on the monitor. So if you hear beeps at this stage then you will know that the BIOS code has encountered a hardware problem (for example, missing RAM modules). Now the system BIOS checks to see if there are any adapters (video card, SCSI cards) present with their own BIOS. Their BIOS code also needs to be executed in order for them to be initialized.

The Windows 2000/XP Boot Process
The Final Log-in Screen

6

As the kernel finishes loading, the Session Manager is called to perform its duties. The Sessions Manager (SMSS.exe) makes sure the user interface is loaded, which includes all the log-in processes. The win32k.sys file loads the graphics subsystem completely and loads the services that have been configured to run at startup. The log-in screen appears after the services and network has been initialized. This log-in process is handled by winlogon.exe and LSASS.exe; the Local Security Authority file. A successful boot is saved as the ‘Last Good Configuration’, which is used if you press F8 during the boot process in case of any startup issues.

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

FEATURE

| HARDWARE

103

The P.O.S.T
The Power On Self Test is basically what you see displayed on the monitor (the procedure followed by the Energy Save logo). The BIOS identification is displayed (BIOS manufacturer, version and date) and then RAM, the video card and its memory are also tested. Now the BIOS code reads the CMOS information. The Complimentary MetalOxide Semiconductor (CMOS) stores the motherboard information with the help of a small Lithium-ion battery. The CMOS contains settings such as Boot Device Priority, RAID configuration, processor settings, etc. This is to aid the BIOS continuing with the boot process. For example, if RAID has been disabled from here itself, it is not initialized. The boot priority is most important. The BIOS gets this information from the CMOS and looks to pass the control over to the first boot device.

3
The First Boot Device
If the first boot device is the hard drive then the BIOS loads the Master Boot Record, which resides on the first sector of the hard drive, into a particular memory location. This is where the MBR is validated before control passes to it. The Master Boot Record consists of a partition table and partition boot loader. The former contains hard drive geometry information including the existing partitions. The partition boot loader knows which partition is active.

The Active Partition
The partition boot loader locates the active partition and reads its first sector where the ‘Boot Record’ is situated. From the Boot Record the loader gets to know the partition’s details as well as where the operating system files are located.

2
The power supply fan whirs to life, lights blink, your monitor switches on and soon you have the Windows log-in screen. How? Read on to find out what went on all the while…

The Operating System

4

5
NTOSKRNL.EXE
This is the file that starts to load after the hardware profile is chosen. This is the operating system kernel file. The kernel loads and the NT loader file (NTLDR) gets the ‘HAL.dll’ file to initialize and create a ‘layer’ between the hardware and the kernel. (The hardware does not interact with the OS kernel directly.) The HAL.dll file also loads interrupt controllers, memory managers, input/ output services and process managers. NTLDR now loads all the device drivers that are configured to do so at boot up. Each of these load the respective system drivers in a particular sequence.

The file that is responsible for loading Windows 2000/XP is NTLDR. This process includes switching the processor from “real mode” to “protected mode” and turning memory paging on also loads other partitions that it supports. It also reads the boot.ini file on the active partition. If there is another Windows operating system installed on the hard drive, its location will be mentioned in the boot.ini file. A menu will appear on the monitor asking the user to choose the operating system he would like to load. Assuming there are no options, NTLDR will continue loading operating system files from the boot partition. One of the files is “ntdetect. com”. This file is used to detect system hardware and maintains a list of this in the Registry. This is where your ‘hardware profiles’ come into the picture. If you set any hardware profiles, then once again a choice will be presented to the user.

| Ashutosh Desai

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

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APPLICATIONS

| TESTED

Pramod Jadhav

Applications

his month, graphics applications are the way to go. Starting with the latest version of 3DS MAX, check out some really cool capabilities of the latest version of this formidable 3D animation and modeling package. We’ve also reviewed an affordable alternative to AutoCAD which has great compatibility with AutoCAD’s file systems and features. CADopia 6 Professional might just be the applications you’re looking for to serve your engineering drawing needs. On the fun side, check out the latest version of Microsoft Picture It! Photo Premium, which lets you import, optimize, print and share your favorite digital photos with the world. VoIP is the flavor of the Internet these days and our review of Skype highlights the most salient features of this application,

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Software Center
which lets you talk to friends and family around the world, with nothing more than your computer, a mic and your Internet connection. On the subject of the Internet, these days you can never be too careful about the myriad of threats in the form of virus attacks, Trojans, malicious emails and spam. Norton Internet Security 2006 is a unified package that does a good job of helping you battle these threats. Check out its review and find out if it hits the sweet spot with you. Have you ever heard of an office suite that bundles a truckload of cool tools and applications besides the conventional document, spreadsheet, database and presentation capabilities, while costing less than most others in the market today? Check out EasyOffice Premium 9 and find out.

| The Ratings Explained
The parameters used for evaluating software are assigned a graphical rating out of a scale of 5. These parameters include performance, features and ease of use. The overall rating shown in the reviews is based on all these factors. In addition, there is a value for money rating for each application. This rating is obtained by stacking the features and the utility of the application against its price. In the case of freeware and shareware tools that are available for download from the Internet, we replace the price with the download size (and therefore the time taken to download the application) for arriving at the value for money rating.

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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| APPLICATIONS

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The magic of 3D MAX

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lot has been happening with Autodesk in the recent past. Beginning with their landmark acquisition of Alias, it was obvious that they had plenty of plans afoot. But it’s their flagship 3D modeling and animation product that we’re most interested in right now—3DS MAX, now into version 8. Known for its comprehensive approach to 3D modeling and animation, each revision of this application has brought about new refinement and capabilities to the table. This new version provides a pretty comprehensive package to those especially in the fields of character animation and fashion designing. Installing the application was straightforward enough where we were given the option to install optional components including Autodesk Backburner 3.0, MAXScript references, additional architectural materials like texture maps, etc. First up, a feature that we’ve heard every designer shouting praises is a new capability, called Pelt Mapping. Most designer rue the task of ‘unwrapping’ a model for the purpose of texture mapping, especially for complex objects such as 3D alien characters or other complex organic meshes. Pelt Mapping is a brilliant solution to this, as it allows you to quickly create seams around your mesh, apply it to a feature called the ‘stretcher’ and with a single click of a button, it unwraps your model correctly. Talking about mapping, this version brings the ability to unwrap an object using cylindrical, spherical as well as planar mapping, versus only planar mapping in its predecessor. Helping this entire process is smart point-to-point seam selector. All you need to do is select any two points on a mesh and this tool automatically

determines the shortest possible path between them to create the seam—a boon for selecting seams in complex meshes. A function called ‘pinch and slide’ allows you to add more geometry between faces, and let you add detail in areas of your mesh, for example the wrist joint where the skin is bound to fold. Now that the hair, fur and cloth functionality are integrated into the package itself, it allows for some powerful modeling techniques with realistic modeling capabilities. With hair, for example, you can set the color, density, have it react to environmental effects like wind and gravity and you can even style it by ‘combing’ it! However, we did come across the occasional instability while working with the hair plug-in where it refused to apply a combed effect. On the animation front, you now have the ability to save animations in XML formats and transpose them to other object, even though they aren’t hierarchically similar—a fantastic way to transpose movements to non-similar 3D characters. 3DS MAX 8 now supports the full DirectX 9.0c specification, allowing you to access pixel and vertex shaders as well—a boon for game developers or 3D artists wanting to incorporate slick graphical effects into their creations. 3DS MAX 8 sports plenty of smaller, yet effective inclusions to ease the life of a 3D artist. Add to that, some add-ons that used to be plug-ins are now standard fare in this version, making it a winning package. For: Thoughtful enhancements like the Pelt Mapping capability, pinch and slide polygonal modeling, inclusion of the hair, fur and cloth tools. Against: Some plug-ins are occasionally unstable.

3D Modelling and Animation Program

3DS MAX 8
Specifications: Intel Pentium III or AMD processor
at 500 MHz or higher (dual Intel Xeon or dual AMD Athlon or Opteron 32-bit system recommended), 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended), 500 MB swap space (2 GB recommended), graphics card supporting 1024x768x16-bit color with 64 MB RAM (OpenGL and Direct3D hardware acceleration supported; 3D graphics accelerator 1280x1024x32bit color with 256 MB RAM recommended), Windows compliant pointing device, DVD-ROM drive, Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2 (recommended), Windows XP Home Edition SP2, or Windows 2000 SP4, DirectX® 9.0c (required), OpenGL (optional)

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 1,60,400 Autodesk Media & Entertainment 022-56952000 selina.pinheiro@autodesk.com www.autodesk.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating Value for money

1. The cloth plug-in makes for interesting fabric effects

4. MAX’s character animation is as strong as ever
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

3. The Pelt Mapping tool redefines model unwrapping for texture mapping

2. Become a hair styler with the ability to model hair in hundreds of combinations

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Save your PC
PC Security

Norton Internet Security 2006
Specifications: Windows XP Home/Professional,
300 MHz or higher processor, 256 MB of RAM, 325 MB of hard disk space, DVD or CD drive, Internet connectivity

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 2,899 Ingram Micro India 022-55960442 shreekant.c@ingrammicro.co.in www.norton.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating Value for money

n this day of ever-increasing web-based threats and takeover attempts on your computer, a good defense is the best offense. In its latest version, NIS 2006 bundles a group of applications that collectively work to shield your computer against the most common Internet threats including virus attacks, spyware infections, malware, browser hijacking, etc. Installing it was fairly straightforward, with the customary activation required at the end. After using its LiveUpdate functionality to pull down the latest virus definitions and engine updates from Norton’s web site, it was up and running. NIS 2006 looks a lot like its predecessor where it features a unified interface from where you can monitor status levels and access features of the program. It consist of four discrete areas—Norton Protection Center, Norton Internet Security, Norton Anti-virus and Norton Anti-spam. The first grants a bird’s eye view of your system’s readiness against Internet threats. The

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remaining are indicative and deal with the appropriate protection systems. In your path to locking down your system, you’re bound to encounter a myriad of pop-ups asking for Firewall confirmations and a wide assortment of messages informing you how ill-protected your system is, with suggestions on how to go about plugging its security holes. Though you’ll get used to these, they do get a tad bothersome. With 12 months of free updates to the application, there’s little doubt that this is one of the most robust and comprehensive applications against software threats. Though it perceptibly slows down the system after installation and especially while scanning for spyware after the first installation, NIS 2006 is recommended for home and office users alike. For:Comprehensive protection against Internet threats, effective live updates. Against: Perceptibly slows down the system, occasional instability while dealing with spyware.

The budget suite
Office Suite

EasyOffice Premium 9.0
Specifications: Microsoft Windows XP Home/
Professional with SP2, 200 MB free hard disk space, 400 MHz Pentium (or equivalent) processor, 64 MB RAM

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Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 995 (single user) Aladdin Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. 022- 56936795 aladdin@vsnl.com www.e-press.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating Value for money

Find it on CHIP

CD

ith its boggling array of tiny, though very useful applications bundled along with the primary office application programs, EasyOffice Premium 9.0 is like a budget restaurant with a huge menu—you might not use all of its features, but they’re there if you need them. True to any office suite, EasyOffice contains EasyWord, EasySpreadsheet, EasyPresenation, and EasyDatabase—the names say it all. But this is just the beginning—the entire application consists of 46 more tools including a contact manager, calendar, mail client, backup tool, backup, spell checker etc. It doesn’t end here: you’ll also find tools such as a barcode generator, PDF creation client, encryption tool, ZIP tool, drawing tool, diagram tool, IM program, translator and even a VoIP application—truly a full house. When it comes to functionality,

we found no problems when working with previously created MS Office files, provided they were simple and without the inclusion of macros and special formatting options—for example, Excel-created macros disappeared when the files containing them were opened in EasySpreadsheet. Interestingly, each of the office applications features an ‘Easy’ mode of operation that invokes large, descriptive icons making it ideal for first-time users. Clearly, this suite is aimed at the budget user who is looking for a comprehensive office suite of tools for a home or office, where they would work of standard office files. On that premise, EasyOffice Premium 9.0 delivers overwhelmingly. For: Light on the system, a huge array of extra tools and applications, very affordable. Against: Unable to use MS Office created files with special features like macros, rather plain design.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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| APPLICATIONS

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Feature-rich drawing tool

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f you’re an engineer who needs a scaleddown alternative to AutoCAD for your 2D and basic 3D drafting needs, CADopia 6 is a good choice. With it, you can create complex mechanical, architectural, and electrical engineering drawings. Besides having all of the required functions of a drafting and engineering tool such as polylines, engineering symbol libraries, dimensioning tools, etc, it sports a range of additional features like raster and vector drawing overlays, the Multiple Document Interface (MDI) that enables you to work on more than one document simultaneously, a fully customizable user interface, etc. However what would most appeal to users is its high degree of compatibility with AutoCAD and many other engineering drawing programs. It allows users to work with any AutoCAD file ranging from version 2.5 through 2000 with no data or feature

loss. Additionally, it is also compatible with AutoCAD’s command set, scripts, menu files as well as AutoLISP—a boon for users who would want to share data across other engineering drawing packages. In its Professional version, CADopia 6 has enhanced functionality over its Standard version, with support for ACIS solid modeling, creating macros using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), raster image creation capabilities and photorealistic rendering. For added portability, it even allows you to export your drawings to a PDF file. If you’re looking for an affordable solution, this application is the one to go for. For: Relatively affordable, strong compatibility with other drawing applications, export to PDF functionality. Against: You might miss some of the more exotic features found in higher-end applications of its kind.

CAD Software

CADopia 6 Professional Edition
Specifications: Microsoft Windows 2000 / Windows
XP, Intel Pentium processor, 256 MB of RAM (recommended), 150 MB of free hard-disk space for installation.

Price Contact Phone E-mail Website

Rs 22,700 plus taxes CADopia (India) Private Limited 033-23570020 jiten@cadopia.com www.cadopia.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating Value for money

Find it on CHIP

CD

Talk for free!

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kype is a little piece of software that lets you talk over the Internet to anyone, anywhere for free. It uses the peerto-peer technology for enabling you to talk and chat with your friends. The installation is simple and quick. Once the installation is over, new users will have to register themselves after which they can make free, easy and high quality audio calls to your friends anywhere in the world. You can quickly call people on your contact list by using the green button on the interface. It also gives you the ability to make conference calls with up to four people. Additionally, you can send files to your friends with its file transfer capability. The interface is similar to any other chat application, so first time users won’t be confused when trying to talk or chat with

friends. However, it does lack a few basic functionalities. For example, there isn’t an ‘Away’ option which lets others know that you are not at your computer. Also, if you are trying to use Skype from your workplace then it’s better to configure Skype with proper port addresses so that you are connected without any hassles, otherwise, you might have issues while connecting. From your friends’ list you come to know which of your Skype friends are online and if they are ready to talk or chat. Skype works across multiple operating system platforms and still gives the same great voice quality. And now you can forget about about those international phone bills! For:Easy to use,good audio quality, free. Against: The ‘Away’ status indication feature is absent.

VoIP Application

Skype 1.4.0.84
Specifications: Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP, 400
MHz or higher processor, 128 MB RAM, 15 MB of free hard drive space, Sound Card, speakers and microphone, Internet Connection which could either be a dial-up (minimum 33.6 Kbps modem) or any broadband (cable, DSL, etc.)

Price Website

Free www.skype.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating

Find it on CHIP

CD

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

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APPLICATIONS

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Play all with one
Media Player

JetAudio Basic 6.2.4
Specifications: Pentium 200 MHz upwards, 128 MB
of RAM, 40 MB of free hard disk space, OS: Win 98/Me/2000/XP.

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Price Website

Free www.jetaudio.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating

Find it on CHIP

CD

ne glance is all it takes to determine that JetAudio Basic is similar to other media players available today. However, after thorough inspection you’ll find an array of functionality that you won’t normally find in other applications of its kind. The installation is quick. During the process, you are asked which types of files you would like to associate with JetAudio where it supports several formats including Windows Video, Audio CDs, MP3, WMA, etc. All of them are pre-selected by default; if you wish to play only certain files with JetAudio then you can do so during the installation process. The interface is simple but elegant. Even first time users will find it easy to use this. It has a modern design that resembles a graphic equalizer. Tabs are present right on

the interface itself for CD ripping to format conversions. Also, you can configure you playlist to have a mixture of various genres of music. If you want to change the way it sounds, you can immediately modify the settings of the equalizer by simply clicking the appropriate equalizer buttons provided on the interface for every genre. This program allows you to convert files among 10 formats. The built-in cross-fader, reverb and wide-sound modes add a new dimension to this application. It also has a timer and an alarm. However, you’ll see several features that are locked out from use—you will need to purchase the full version of the application to be able to use these. For: Ease of Use, Wide-sound modes, built-in cross fader. Against: For some of the features you have to buy the Jetaudio Plus.

Write PDF documents with ease
PDF Writer

CutePDF Writer 2.5
Specifications: Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 and higher,
Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher

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Price Website

Free www.cutepdf.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating

Find it on CHIP

CD

utePDF Writer is a neat little application that allows you to create high quality PDF files. The installation file is very small but for it to work, you will need to download another free plug-in called the GhostscriptConverter, which is about 5 MB. CutePDF Writer is a free version of the commercial PDF creation software. It installs itself as a ‘printer subsystem’ on your computer. With this, any application that is capable of printing can use the PDF creation functionality of this application, including your office applications, web browsers or email clients. Just click on the setup file and install the GhostscriptConverter application and you are ready to create PDF documents. In order to fully utilize the functionality of CutePDF Writer, simply follow the simple instructions provided in the included Readme file. Unlike most other PDF

creation tools that leave behind annoying watermarks and intrusive logos in your printed documents, this one doesn’t. However, being a free version, it does not allow access to some of its features. For additional features, you will have to purchase CutePDF Writer 3.1. This software is a good free alternative for Adobe Distiller. However, if you are converting web pages to PDF documents the quality of the PDF document is noticeably poorer than that of other documents. Therefore, this tool is recommended if you need to create non-critical PDF files for distribution and archiving. For: Simple to use, easy to follow instructions, creates average quality PDF documents for Windows applications. Against: Very few features included in this free version. For additional functionality, you have to purchase the full version, CutePDF writer 3.1.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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| APPLICATIONS

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Secure data with encryption
n this age of easily compromised data security, backing up your data only is not enough—encrypting is a better option. Security Toolkit is a software that grants you various options for file encryption, file deletion and spam removal, inspite of its diminutive installation file size. After a quick installation, when you run the application you are presented with a large list of options to encrypt your files. It allows you to remove spam and traces of deleted files from your hard drive. Another feature allows you to encrypt individual files for sending over the Internet. The significant features of this software is that it supports a host of encryption standards so that you can choose a balance between ruggedness of encryption and the encrypting speed—a useful feature if your application requires plenty of files to be encrypted at one go. It

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supports industry-standard AES encryption, 3DES, BlowFish and TwoFish algorithms along with US DoD, Guttmann, ASCI/33 and other secure deletion methods. If all this is new to you then don’t worry because the application has a section that even explains these different standards, making it easy for first time users to decide on which encryption system to use. Another neat feature is its ability to test a password you enter, and then suggest appropriate changes to reduce the likelihood of it being guessed or cracked. For:Easy to use, all options are provided in a single menu itself, support for several industry-standard encryption and file deletion standards. Against: The absence of offline help requires you to be connected to the Internet.

Encryption Tool

Security Toolkit 0.6
Specifications: Windows NT4, 2000, XP, Pentium 2 266
MHz with 32 MB of RAM

Price Website

Free www.qdsecurity.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating

Find it on CHIP

CD

The perfect picture

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f you need a software that helps you import images from your digital camera, remove blemishes from the image, and then share them with the rest of the world, Microsoft Picture It! Photo Premium is a good bet. Microsoft Picture It! Photo Premium provides the most powerful photo editing tools that will help even a novice use the application easily. The user interface is easy to understand and navigate through. Once the installation is complete you are taken through a tour that will help you get a feel of the software. From the startup window you can open a photo or an image file on your disk or you can import it from a digital camera or a scanner. Selecting the ‘create a project’ option will give you a wide array of design options like creating albums, awards certificates, greeting cards, ecards, etc. For all these, you have pre-defined templates
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

that make it simple to get work quickly done. If you are stuck in any of the wizards, it is possible to return to the startup window and browse through instructional videos that help you understand the concepts and functionality. For correcting flaws in your photos or just enhancing them, the touchup lets you quickly correct shadows, control the brightness and contrast in your images. Another feature is the ability to fix the ‘red eye’ problem, but we found that this works better for close-up images compared to those where the target area is small. There are a host of other options to help raise the quality of your pictures. You can even print and share your refurbished images. For: Easy to use interfaces, a wide of array of built-in templates, allows you to share your edited images, etc. Against: Expensive.

Photo Editor

Microsoft Picture It! Photo
Specifications: Multimedia PC with Pentium 500 MHz
or higher processor; Windows 98, 2000, XP; 64 MB of RAM for Windows 98, ME or 2000, 128 MB of RAM for Windows XP, 200 MB of free hard disk space, Internet Explorer 6.0; Quad Speed CD-ROM Drive or higher; Super VGA monitor, 1 MB of Video RAM, Microsoft Mouse or any other compatible pointing device.

Price Contact Phone E-mail

Rs 1,495 Microware Computer Services 022-28729725 sales@mwcdrom.com

RATINGS
Ease of use Features Performance Overall Rating Value for money

110

APPLICATIONS

| FEATURE

Dddddddddd

Fraud, blackmail, terror are the traditional methods of the mafia and for all we know the victims have to pay hard. CHIP tells you how this organized crime works online, and what you can do to protect yourself against it

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o you know what your PC does after work? The reason you need to check out your PC is because there’s a new danger proliferating on the Internet. The mob bosses of the present don’t need to depend on thugs anymore to do the dirty work. In today’s world, they can get access to an army of zombie PCs which can be remote controlled over the Net. On command, this army will shut down web sites, send massive amounts of spam, or steal money from the pockets of unsuspecting customers through fake bank sites. And the owners of these “zombies” won’t even notice it. Anybody surfing the Internet without current security updates may, within minutes, become an unwitting mafia stooge. Security specialists from Cipher Trust recorded that on an average, 172,000 IP addresses are captured daily, with the number constantly rising. Spyware, hijackers and worms are not just for script kiddies anymore. If you think

that the authors of worms and trojans are out for some kind of (dubious) glory, you’re wrong. That only happens in Hollywood flicks; today, it’s all about the money. The objectives are blackmail and fraud. Behind it are not the teenage hobby-hackers but organized crime syndicates that hire these kids for a few bucks.

Strong Arm Tactics on the Internet
Blackmail is more common than you may think. Here’s an example with reference to a Dutch online casino. A group of hackers gave them an ultimatum: The casino had to either pay 100,000 Euros a month, or the server would not be accessible to them anymore. And to prove that they weren’t kidding, the blackmailers demonstrated their power. For hours, several thousand PCs sent meaningless data packages to the server, which made normal operation impossible. The felons are still unknown, and the casino had no choice but to pay.

The hackers used a bot network to shut down the server. It’s an army of manipulated computers which are controlled simultaneously using a central command hub from which any type of order can be given. The command, in this case, ordered a ‘Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)’. In a similar case, it was possible to trace and find the hacker. It was a teenager in Sweden, who was, however, only responsible for the technical aspects. The instruction came from middle men in Germany and England, who again received orders from somewhere in Russia. The trail dissapears here though, and so far nothing has been done about it. The people responsible for following up are either overloaded with work, as many security experts believe, or they are themselves under the control of the Internet Mafia.

How Hackers rent out Bot Networks
In the case of the Dutch online casino, the
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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police suspect that the hacker himself was a member of the mafia group. Another spectacular case in the US shows that the use of bot networks isn’t just a mafia method. “Operation Cyberslam” was the name of an international FBI operation last year against an online vendor. The owner of the shop (which supplied satellite accessories) was having problems selling his merchandise. The reason for this was that he was behind his competitors on the Google ranking scheme. So he decided to remove the six sites above his, by attacking them with a DDoS. He simply rented out the bot network required to perform the attack. To find out more about this case, you can go to: www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/ websnare.pdf. In comparison to the damage worth two million dollars done to the competition, renting the bot-network was relatively cheap at about 5 cents per computer. And according to anti-virus experts, these prices are dropping rapidly. There’s an enormous pressure on the price in this “market”, thanks to fairly stiff competition. The question remains though, how do you hire such a hacker? Georg Wicherski, a bot-net hunter of the now famous Honeypot Project, told us that recruitment is often done simply by word of mouth. Concrete agreements are then done anonymously via the internet. This way, the hacker is able to avoid house calls by any investigators. You pay online as well, over a more or less anonymous banking service. Insiders tell us that Western Union Transfer and eGold are especially popular.

| How Hackers Control Your PC
Once your PC is infected by a bot, it turns into a zombie. It will automatically establish contact with the hacker, perhaps using an IRC chat session, and accept any commands given.

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The hacker has just released his order to infect other PCs. Here you can see how the captured computer uploads a Trojan horse to his new victim.

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The bot network is made up of many thousands of computers that receive orders through a chat-channel.

Spam, Phishing and DDoS
Bot networks are not just useful for Denial-of-Service attacks. Networks of remote controlled zombie PCs have developed into all-round tools for criminals. And they continue to grow and become more powerful. It’s a big issue in most security circles these days. One of the most widely used functions for bot networks is also the distribution of spam. Nowadays electronic ad-mail is not sent through hacked email servers anymore, but likely through “grandma’s” computer. But that’s not all: just like the crawlers used by large search-engines, bots also trawl through the net for e-mail addresses, to which the spam is sent. One especially deceiving variant of spam is phishing mail. It doesn’t try to sell anything to the recipients, rather it attempts to solicit sensitive information from them. The hacker, for example, prepares a newsletter that very closely resembles that of a bank. In the letter, he then claims, under fishy circumstances, that there has been a security problem with the bank’s web site. He even offers a link to an online form which supposedly lies within the secure web site of the bank. All of this is fake of course, and created by the hacker himself. The tricks that hackers apply to outsmart security measures of web browsers and mail clients are becoming more sophisticated by the day.
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

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The affected computers are continuously on the prowl for more victims. Here the hacker is giving instructions to search. Active bots will provide short status reports. Before the bot is able to upload the Trojan to its victim, it needs to break into the system. This usually happens with an Exploit.

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| FEATURE | How Hackers Control Your PC

The fake form then asks for data from the victims that normal banks would never request by email. Account numbers, PINs and one or more TANs (transaction numbers used in online banking). If the recipients disclose this information, they will soon lose some money. Gunter Maeser, manager of network investigations at the LKA Bayern, tells us that typically about 2,000 to 7,000 Euros are stolen through such phishing robberies. It’s difficult to take action against the creators of these online forms. Theoretically, you can only do something when there is clear evidence for damage having been done. Otherwise, the matter is only considered to be a preparatory measure to a punishable act, at least in most places. Phishing is not only becoming an increasingly sophisticated operation, but it’s also becoming more widespread. Last month, the Anti-Phishing Working Group estimated that over 5,000 phishing sites appeared in that month only. Various estimates have postulated that phishing scams have cost unwary Internet banking users up to two billion US dollars. For more information on how to recognize phishing mail, check out the insert box on the next page. Spam, phishing and DDoS are not the only things that criminals use bot nets for. The standard operation usually includes typical spyware functions such as sniffing also. For this, the hacker installs a bot module that transforms the computer into a listening post. The PC then sends a copy of all data, such as passwords and usernames, that have passed through the network back to the hacker. This allows the hackers to not only collect data from the infected PC, but also from all the other computers connected to it. It’s a real and serious problem, especially for large company networks. Keylogger extensions are also popular tools. These are able to record keyboard input, and can easily catch passwords that are not stored on the computer but are sent encrypted through the network. Even circulating a variety of malware (such as worms and viruses) is a more common use for bot networks. A good

Despite tough laws, most spam and phishing attacks are from the US example here is the Witty Worm, which attacked firewall software from ISS, one of the world’s largest security companies, early last year. Anti-virus experts suspect that Witty began loading inside of a bot network, which caused the rapid spread of the worm. This isn’t an isolated case though. It is possible to use bot-networks for some very complex fraud, for example, to take advantage of Google’s AdSense. Remote controlled PCs can call upon ads, and generate profit from Google. The same principle can easily be applied to manipulate online surveys or games.

Banks are the most common bait for phishing attacks. Citi Bank is targeted frequently to install spyware that can be very difficult to remove. Just like spyware, the bots attempt to dig themselves deep into the system. First, a small program is smuggled on to the victim’s computer. This so-called trickler is nothing more than a small helper tool that downloads the damaging routines from the Internet later. This is similar to the update function found in anti-virus software. Next, the trickler installs a communication module. As soon as this module is activated, it will be the first contact the computer makes with the hacker. In almost all cases, this happens through a hacked chat server using IRC. Even though the hackers could have written their own chat protocol (which would be safer and harder to find), IRC is easy to use and well documented. Once connected, the bot software will be on standby for further instructions

How Hackers take over your PC
It only takes a few old school hacker methods to recruit a bot army. Almost all members of a bot network are infected simply because they haven’t bothered to update their OS or to install things like anti-virus and firewall software. The hacker will always look for an entry point into your PC first. He will search for security leaks in the network, like the Sasser worm did. Here, a security leak in the “Local Security Authority Subsystem Service”, allowed entry through Port 445 into a Windows operated computer. The hacker could also creep through specially manipulated web pages into your system. Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) are the magic words here. BHOs are plug-ins for Internet Explorer that have been causing trouble for a long time. They are often used

Source Code on the Net: The code for the Super-Worm Agobot/Phatbot still circulates within file sharing networks

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

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from the hacker. He can now simply write his instructions into the chat channel, and several thousand computers will execute the command simultaneously. Typical commands are: Execute DDoS-Attack, Send Spam, Collect Passwords and Scan Network. Especially malicious is an order to update the bot software. This allows hackers to upload new versions before antivirus programs can update their signature files. This is why it’s very difficult to detect the bots.

Internet Crime—a Global Problem
A single bot-network can consist of a thousand computers that are spread all around the globe. That’s why it is so difficult to switch these networks off. Even when a security company discovers a large amount of infected machines, or even a node point like a chat server, it tries to break apart the network. But in most cases it fails because of basic every day things such as differences in time zones or language barriers. An expert at a security conference told us of a curious case: While analyzing a bot he discovered a hacked server, on which a phishing site made by a hacker was installed. The computer, however, was in an Indian university. A first call there failed, because the expert spoke English and was referred to the Institute for English Studies. He then decided to go to the Indian restaurant around the corner, where he managed to convince a waiter to call the university using his mobile. He then explained the problem to the professor in charge. Other approaches in the fight against bots have failed because of technical difficulties. For example, it’s more or less impossible to filter attacks from the Net before they can reach their victims. Blocking the IP address of the sender also prevents normal users from accessing the site. Most IP addresses used by senders are from Internet providers which assign dynamic IPs. And because these addresses are given off in short intervals to different computers, a bot net IP can quickly turn into the address of a harmless user. There are also successful approaches, such as the honeypot method, for example. By delibereately setting up vulnerable computers, experts try to trap as many automated attacks as possible. The seemingly neglected computer gets infected with malware from a bot network. The experts behind the honeypot then scan the communication, and can receive a valuable amount of information about the procedures and techniques used by the bot network. The honey-pot project (www. honeynet.org) has already listed seven bot variants in its white paper, under the subject bot networks. “Agobot” is a bot network that seems

| Defending Attacks
How to defend yourself against bot networks
If you are concerned about your security after being affected by a bot, then it’s likely that you have probably already lost your passwords or account data. This is how you can be sure: Operating System: Use the automatic update service in Windows. Your OS should always be up to date. Otherwise, even a firewall and virus scanner won’t help you because they can be bypassed. Browser and Email Client: Keep your Internet software up to date. Switching to an alternative browser can lower the risk of infection, but that still doesn’t make it impossible. Increasingly, more security leaks are appearing in Firefox, making it a target for hackers. Firewall: Even though a desktop firewall doesn’t provide complete protection, you should have one installed. Windows XP offers an integrated firewall. As a free alternative, we recommend Sygate Personal Firewall, Zonelabs Zone Alarm or something similar.

How to Counter Bot Networks
Because a virus scanner alone would be powerless, new methods have to be developed. A new approach is multi-level protection—besides a self-learning virus scanner with heuristic scanning, a firewall and an anti-spyware detector are activated. The heuristics, with which virus patterns are detected, are important since the bots continuously change their appearance. Firewall software lets you monitor and detect unusual network traffic. The anti-spyware protects the browser from dangerous plug-ins. But protecting against infections alone is not enough, since the problem in most cases is not with computers that have good security. The trouble is with owners of neglected PCs, it is a problem which won’t be solved too soon. There are currently no legal rulings on this topic. Anybody who doesn’t regularly update his system endangers other users, but under current laws is not considered to be negligent.

How to safely disinfect
If your PC is already infected, it will be difficult to fully clean it. If you are not planning on reformatting and reinstalling Windows completely (which is really the only safe method), you can try removing the infection using conventional methods. You can try antivirus software for example, Kapersky, and anti-spyware tools like Spybot Search and Destroy. Just make sure you are not connected to the Internet as long as it isn’t safe until all components of the infection have been removed. Updates for your anti-virus and anti- spyware tools should be downloaded from another computer and then transferred, via a USB drive, for example.

Worms like Sasser regularly crash Windows-based computers because of faulty code
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especially professional. Equipped with numerous modules and a smart protection against virus hunters, this bot has already spread itself in over 500 versions. Without the help of honeypots, no virus lab would be able to update its signatures against bot software.

| How to protect yourself against phishing
Phishing mails are becoming far more sophisticated, but they still have visible weaknesses. If you keep your eyes open you will easily spot these fake emails and web sites.
Ignore ALL emails from your bank Neither banks nor any other serious company will ask you for your account data via email. If you can remember this tip, you can safely ignore the next one.

Super Weapons of the Future
There is still a fair bit of debate about how to approach the problem in future. Microsoft has been propagating different techniques for a while now, which are effective but they are not without side effects. The keyword here is Sender ID. Spam and phishing are prevented by the receiving server checking every sending server. If the sending server address does not belong to the address pool, which the domain provider has defined as a legit email server, the mail will be flagged as unsafe. Of course, this does not protect from spam that has been sent from a hacked, but legit email server. Since Microsoft has registered the patent for this technology, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETG) has not agreed on the sender ID method becoming a standard. But to make this technology work, Microsoft has decided to do it on their own—Microsoft’s own Hotmail and MSN services will label mail that doesn’t comply with sender ID criteria as spam. Microsoft’s upcoming Internet Explorer 7 release also sports a new feature. It’s called the Microsoft Phishing Filter, and as the name suggests, it’s designed to be able to give an indication of whether or not the user of the browser is being “phished”. The software, which is also available as an add-on to the MSN Search Toolbar, uses a combination of database recognition and heuristic comparison to provide the user with a warning or an indication as to whether or not the Microsoft Phishing Filter thinks the site is safe, questionable, or a known phishing site. Microsoft has also been preparing another attack against all sorts of malware, through development of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM). Despite resistance by users, Windows Vista will use a TPM module protecting an area of the virtual memory, where only certified applications can

Never give away PIN/TAN numbers or personal information Your bank will never ask you to re-verify information online. Web sites that ask for sensitive data are to be suspected.

Check for spelling mistakes Many phishing emails currently come from Eastern Europe. Obvious indicators are incorrect grammar, spelling mistakes, missing letters and Cyrillic symbols.

Continuation next page k

Internet Explorer 7 now comes with Microsoft’s new Phishing Filter
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Verify Sender Addresses If you are not sure about the sender, verify the actual sender address. In Outlook, simply right click on an email and select “Options”. In the Internet header section you’re provided with information about the origins of the mail. A clear indication of a phishing email is “Received: from unknown (HELO localhost) (127.0.0.1)”. This indicates that the sender and the mailserver are on the same computer. This shouldn’t happen usually.

Infections can download multiple elements allowing logging, remote connections and monitoring be loaded. This, for example, would include home banking applications and critical system services like network card drivers. Bot net software would not be able to access this area, since it wouldn’t have the appropriate certificate. Even if there is malware present in the unsecured area, it won’t be able to record keyboard input or spy on passwords, PINs and TANs.

What Chance does the Mafia have?
Spammers are constantly blacklisted and need to create email accounts wherever possible. Google lets them do precisely that. How this works is fairly simple. A lot of folks use ArgoSoft Mail server. There is a vulnerability in this mail server that allows anybody to do what they want in a domain that uses this software. Despite the best efforts of security experts and companies, in the end the responsibility still lies with individual users. They need to update their operating systems regularly, maintain current virus signatures and use a firewall. A global solution, like a type of Interpol for the Internet, is unlikely to come to life any time soon. Until all the different governing bodies can decide on standards and technologies, the Internet Mafia will continue unabated. And even when there are unified security standards, until all homes have swapped their unsafe computers for safe ones, all those old, neglected machines will still pose a threat to other users, no matter how well they’ve protected themselves. ■ | Poh Tun Kai

Encryption If the web site to which the email is linked is not SSL encrypted, it’s probably a phishing site. Nobody would expect you to send banking correspondence without encryption.

Check for HTTPS Certificate If the web site is SSL encrypted, but the certificate invalid, then it’s possibly a phishing site. Your browser recognizes such certificates automatically. By reading the warning note, you will get a better understanding of this.

Be careful with differing URLs

Links
www.honeynet.org/papers/bots: Technical detail about bot networks and honeypots. www.antispywarecoalition.org: Current news und statistics about spyware. www.antiphishing.org: The big anti-phishing initiative on the Net. baylka@t-online.de: Hints on phishing sites and other Internet crimes can be sent to the LKA Bayern.

If the address of the web site in the email differs from the site that the link has connected you to, it’s just a cheap trick. An invisible GIF image with a different link address can even fool experienced users.

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Pramod Jadhav

OpenOffice.org 2: More features, still free
OpenOffice.org, in its new avatar, proves yet again that good software need not come with a price tag
n the realm of free office suites, OpenOffice.org has, over the years, carved a niche for itself on multiple platforms and in various languages, and for users who refuse to pay Microsoft the prohibitive charges for the pleasure of using their MS Office series. Not only has OpenOffice.org been compatible with MS Office, but with version 2 also comes better interoperability and stability, and finally the option to count words in a selection. OpenOffice.org 2 comes in Windows, Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD and Mac OSX (X11) flavors, and in over three dozen languages (including Hindi and Bengali). As to where to download it from—if you remember the name of the application, you’ll know where! The more troublesome part is that it’s a 75 MB download (Windows version without Java runtime environment)—quite beyond the capability of even the most robust of

I

dial-up connections. In that case, you’ll have to take your chances with a good download manager. The most significant addition to OpenOffice.org 2 is a database program, Base. Earlier versions had Adabas bundled along with it, but installing and using it was no mean task for novices. In all, OpenOffice. org 2 comes with: 1. Writer: Word processor 2. Calc: Spreadsheet 3. Draw: Drawing tool 4. Impress: Presentation tool 5. Base: Database application 6. Math: For mathematical formulas

What’s new in it?
OpenOffice.org 2 has been in beta for ages now, and those who have been using that will not find the changeover so drastic. The interoperability with MS Office is certainly better, and there is a slightly improved

interface, with a multi-pane view, floating toolbars and native desktop, giving it a similar look and feel on any platform. But the single most useful change to pinpoint in this version is its ability to do selective word counts. Whereas earlier, counting words was hidden away in a rather awkward and non-intuitive location (File-->Properties), it’s now under the Tools menu. The other major change is that OpenOffice.org uses an open XML mode as the default file format—called the OpenDocument format. Made by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), this is an open source file format for saving and exchanging editable office documents. This standard is publicly available, allowing unrestricted implementation by any developer. In simple words, OpenDocument provides an alternative, open format to proprietary file-saving ones (including the
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.doc, .xls and .ppt formats), which does not “lock” users to a particular software vendor. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the older OpenOffice.org, MS Office, RTF and other formats no longer exist. Improved compatibility between proprietary office suites has been added, including support for Corel WordPerfect. In fact, a

WordPerfect word filter developed by the open source community has been included in OpenOffice.org 2. In addition to other improvements in the various components of OpenOffice. org, version 2 now has better PDF support. PDFs (exporting to PDF had been present since version 1.1) can now include you need to go through the File menu. Select Export or Export as PDF. Through this you may also convert only part of the document if required. (You can also select File-->Send-->Document as PDF attachment for the same results. Only, in this case, OpenOffice.org will open your default mail application and attach the newly created PDF for you.) STEP 3. First, you will be asked for the filename and location. That done, the PDF Options dialog box will pop up, where you can choose your range, image compression and other options. You can tell OpenOffice.org whether to export the

hyperlinks, and the compression levels of embedded images can be defined by the user. Now there is also support for nested tables and digital signatures. Creating, editing and using XForms, the Web forms standard defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C.org), is also much easier now. entire document, only the selected portion or specific page numbers. Under the images options, you can instruct the application to make a lossless compression of the graphics in your document. However, if file size is an issue, the compression size and quality are all in your hands. Either go for a percentage reduction in the image quality or reduce the resolution. Finally, there are the general options where you may or may not include notes or create a tagged PDF. The format for exporting forms (if any) in your document can also be set from here. Now hit Export and sit back.

How to make a PDF using OpenOffice.org:
STEP 1. Making a PDF in any of the OpenOffice.org modules is simple. First, create and format your document. Make sure the graphics are exactly where you want them and if there are any hyperlinks, do check their accuracy. STEP 2. The simplest way of converting to a PDF is to use the red and white icon on the toolbar. This will just ask you for the filename and location and export the entire document as PDF with default compressions. For greater control over the conversion,

1 Any OpenOffice.org document can be
converted to a PDF format easily

2 To export to PDF, use the toolbar icon
for a quick conversion or go through the File menu for more options

3 PDF-making now comes with image
compression options and selecting page range, among other things

Even though OpenOffice.org 2 saves in the OpenDocument file formats by default, this can be changed easily from the Tools-->Options menu’s Load/save options. Saves can be set to the earlier OpenOffice/StarOffice formats or even MS Office formats by default! It’s interesting to note that both the OpenDocument as well as the previous OpenOffice.org or StarOffice XML-based formats make much lighter files. A 700-page document with hyperlinks and embedded images weighed 435 KB in the native formats, but a whopping 4.5 MB as MS Word 97/2000/XP!

OpenOffice.org Writer
The most used module in OpenOffice. org is without doubt the word processor, Writer. A powerful and intuitive application for making simple documents, desktop publishing, as well as making HMTL pages, the new interface makes it a lot less challenging for newbies. Advanced users will find tools like indexing, bookmarking, footnoting, inserting references and
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keywords, inserting chapters, hyperlinking and so on easily accessible. In fact, inserting headers and footers, tables, scripts, images, linking spreadsheets and databases, and more are painless tasks than in the case of MS Office. Another useful OpenOffice.org feature is the word completion tool. While not new to version 2, it deserves a mention by itself. Word completion can be turned on or off

via Tools-->Options, and the list of words can be amended. What this feature does is it tries to guess what you are trying to type based on previously used words. For instance, as I write this, the word “OpenOffice.org” has been automatically added to the word completion list. As soon as I type “O-p -e” the rest of the word pops up in a shaded grey area. I press Enter and the word is accepted without my having

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for trigonometric functions as well as constants. Similarly, graphics can be inserted in the text as well, including drawings, photographs, clipart, multimedia and what is known as Font Work, which is similar to Microsoft Word Art. The graphics and sound gallery can be accessed through the Gallery icon on the tooblar, and has things like rules, bullets, backgrounds and sounds. OpenOffice.org now also has what is called CustomShapes, which are compatible with Microsoft AutoShapes. Templates your language preference and then click on the button to allow OpenOffice.org to connect to the Web and look for fonts (or dictionaries). Remember to allow it permission to bypass your firewall, if any. The application will then retrieve lists of fonts (web fonts, postscript fonts and miscellaneous) or dictionaries (spelling, hyphenation and thesaurus), from which you can make your selection and even preview if required. (Alternatively, you may have already downloaded fonts/ and wizards for making letters, faxes, presentations and web pages are present under File-->Wizards. Though on-the-fly spell checking is present, a grammar check is not. While it’s seen as a minus point by some, others find a grammar check in a word processor a hindrance. OpenOffice.org already comes with default dictionaries and thesaurus of the language of your download, but additional language packs and thesauruses can be downloaded and added. The same is true for fonts. dictionaries from the OpenOffice.org site. The Wizard will install these for you; you need to select the off-line option in that case.) STEP 3. The Font OOo (or Dic OOo) Wizard will then tell you the size of the download and ask for permission to go ahead. Allow it and sit back to wait. Once downloaded, the fonts/dictionaries will install on their own. You need to restart the application (and the OpenOffice.org Quickstarter in the system tray, if present) to see the good work.

to type the rest of the letters. If that is not the word I want, I just ignore it and go on typing. For beginners this is a very annoying tool, but once you get used to it, it can help you generate documents very fast, and is very useful if you are making technical documentation with tricky terminology. The Table menu in the main toolbar in Writer provides table-making options. Pressing F2 while inside a table brings up the formula bar from where formulas for mathematical or statistical options can be inserted. There is also support

Adding additional dictionaries and fonts in OpenOffice.org 2
STEP 1. Installing additional dictionaries and/or thesauruses as well as getting new fonts for OpenOffice.org 2 is totally idiot proof. Instead of asking the user to tinker in the innards of the application, this can be achieved by using File-->Wizards-->Install new fonts from the web (or Install new dictionaries). STEP 2. This will open up Font OOo (for fonts) or Dic OOo (for dictionaries). Select

1 OpenOffice.org comes with its own
fonts and dictionaries installer

2

Font OOo gives you a list of available fonts and also lets you see previews

3 OpenOffice.org automatically
downloads and installs the fonts that you select

OpenOffice.org Calc
OpenOffice.org’s spreadsheet application, Calc, has also got some improvements in the new version. The major one is that it now has 65,536 rows, doubling from the 1.1.x version. This has apparently taken care of certain interoperability issues with MS Excel. Calc can be used as a spreadsheet as well as a database application. Data manipulation, including presentation and what-if scenarios can be computed. Charting options are also present. Data can be imported or exported between Calc

and other applications. Each Calc cell can be called to reference data from external sources as well, such as the Internet, local network or another document. Like any other spreadsheet, Calc can perform simple and advanced, as well as customized, calculations and data organization, whether using just numbers, predefined formulae, or date and time. Predefined function lists in Calc include conversion of values or units, calculating the value of a Roman numeral, logging the system time, and many other financial, mathematical, logical, statistical, array and

other functions. User-defined functions can also be added. Formatting cells and data is not much different from earlier versions, or from MS Excel, for that matter. OpenOffice.org Calc includes a tool called the DataPilot, which creates interactive tables that may be used to review and analyze data. The DataPilot is accessed via the Data-->DataPilot menu. Data may be used from within the chart or from an external source. The tool allows figures to be rearranged and summarized in numerous different views.
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Making a simple chart in Calc
STEP 1. Select the data series you want to chart. Holding down the Ctrl key selects multiple rows or columns. Then click on the Chart icon on the Standard toolbar. This is the icon that looks like a small pie chart. (Alternatively, you could use the menu bar: Insert-->Chart.) STEP 2. If the AutoFormat Chart dialog box has not already been activated, click once on the spreadsheet to tell the application that you want to invoke it. The first step to creating your chart will be to fill in the data range in your worksheet or worksheets that you want charted. If the data series has already been selected (as in Step 1), this should be automatically filled in. STEP 3. Now comes the choice of what kind of chart you want. This will depend

on the type of data in your worksheets. Do remember to let Calc know if the data series are in columns or rows or you will have a very strange looking, not to mention misleading, chart! If you want a preview of what your chart will look like with the

1

Select the data series that you want charted

text elements inserted, check the Show text elements in the preview box. This does not affect the final output. Click next and choose a variant of the chart type you selected if required. Click next again. STEP 4. This is where you need to fill in a title for your chart and also for the x and y axes (and a z-axis, if any). Decide if you need a legend. Click Create and your chart is ready. At the moment, though, it’s rather ugly to look at and the chances are it’s not in the position you wanted. Double click on the chart so that a grey border appears. This will have invoked the Format menu for charts in the main toolbar. Or simply right click on the chart to bring up formatting options for the text as well as other elements of the chart. Drag it to where you want it placed when you are done.

2 Making a chart is a rather easy task
thanks to the AutoFormat Chart dialog box

3 There is a selection of chart types and
variants available in Calc

4 The final product can be formatted
and placed according to requirements

OpenOffice.org Impress
Impress is the presentation tool included in OpenOffice.org 2. Microsoft PowerPoint users have traditionally had a lot to complain about in Impress, especially given the rather thin array of themes and templates. However, OpenOffice.org 2 finds Impress a much improved application, with a number of new slide transitions

included, though PowerPoint still beats it in the matter of themes. That said, Impress is a robust presentation creator—it lets you make professional slide shows, use animations, slide transitions and multimedia, include charts, graphics and other objects. Impress is compatible with Microsoft PowerPoint and lets you import and

modify presentations from it. Vector graphics tools in OpenOffice.org Draw are accessible in Impress. Animated GIFs, and 2D and 3D objects can be inserted in slides. Data from text and HTML documents can be imported into Impress, and the look and feel of the slides can be totally customized. Impress also has tools to create web pages and handouts from presentations.

OpenOffice.org Draw
IDraw is generally accepted as the most useless part of OpenOffice.org, but it’s a pretty handy drawing and graphics manipulation tool in its own right. It lets the user create drawings that can be inserted in other OpenOffice.org documents or exported to popular formats like JPEG, BMP, PNG or GIF. Draw can create vector graphics as well as 3D objects. It can also be used to create
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organizational chart or other technical diagrams. It comes with a Gallery that has animations, sounds and other images that can be inserted into the drawings. Charts, tables and other items created in various other OpenOffice.org programs can also be inserted into Draw.

OpenOffice.org Math
Math is a formula editor and not a calculator, as its name might indicate. It

comes with a selection of mathematical operators, functions and formatting options to create formulas. An exhaustive reference list enumerating the operators, functions, symbols and so on in Math is present. Most of these can be inserted directly into formulas from the icons in the floating Selection window. The formulas created or edited in Math can be used in spreadsheets, or, in the case of simple ones, in text documents.

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also connect to external relational databases, like MySQL, Oracle, dBase, Adabas, another spreadsheet, MS Outlook or Thunderbird address books, a plain text or CSV file. Alternatively, a new database can be created in scratch from File-->New-->Database. Data from any source can be registered in Base. Registering a database means OpenOffice.org is told where it’s situated and how it’s organized. This enables the database to be accessible through the View-->Data Source menu item in any OpenOffice.org text or spreadsheet application (handy when doing a mail merge). Queries, reports and forms are available in Base, along with Wizards to create them, though these need a functional Java runtime environment.

OpenOffice.org Base
A database management system has been sorely missed by many OpenOffice. org users in the past, and the new version redresses the omission, much to the relief of all those who had grappled with Adabas in the previous avatar. OpenOffice.org Base allows you to store and access data in different formats. It can

Customizing the look and feel of OpenOffice.org 2
STEP 1. Understandably, users who are new to OpenOffice.org will be alarmed at the thought of tinkering with the user interface of the application, but this is fairly simple. To edit a toolbar in a particular program, open a document (new or existing one). For instance, to modify toolbars in Writer, use a text document, a spreadsheet for Calc, and so on. Toolbars can be moved around by dragging. Move

the cursor over to the left of the toolbar till it becomes a crosshair. Now drag that particular toolbar away and keep it floating or place it at the sides of the bottom. STEP 2. Use the drop-down arrow at the edge of any toolbar and select Customize toolbar to bring up the relevant dialog box. Or use Tools-->Customize. This has four tabs: Menus, Keyboards, Toolbars and Events. From the Menu tab, items can be moved around, renamed or even deleted. You may even add a new menu or menu item.

Similarly, the use of the keyboard can be customized to run a particular macro or to reassign various keyboard commands (such as in case of the function keys). Similarly, toolbars can be customized, and events have macros assigned to them as well. STEP 3. To change the way icons appear on toolbars, use Tools-->Options-->View. This has options to decide icon size and scaling in the interface, show or hide inactive menu items, show or hide icons in menus, mouse options, 3D view and more.

1 The toolbars can be dragged from their
default position to the other sides or left floating

2 The entire menu structure can be
renamed or edited through Tools->Customize

3 For further modifications to the user
interface, Tools-->Options provides more

Postscript
Without doubt, OpenOffice.org 2 is a much improved and slicker application than its predecessors. It still takes a bit of time to start but that is something that can be overcome by making Quickstarter load, while booting into Windows. Its price tag—the lack of it, that is—makes OpenOffice.org a runaway winner when it comes to choosing an office productivity suite for homes or small offices. However, a few niggles and compatibility issues with Microsoft Office still remain, which may make larger organizations hesitant to change over. That said, this scenario is slowly changing, with more and more corporates

System requirements for OpenOffice.org 2 (Windows version):
Windows 98/ME/2000 (SP2 or higher)/XP/2003 128 MB RAM 200 MB available disk space 800x600 or higher resolution with at least 256 colors Java Runtime Environment 1.4.0_02 / 1.4.1_01 or newer
conducive to the idea of using open source, non-proprietary software. The price you pay for not paying a price is the lack of official support from the makers of OpenOffice.org—Sun Microsystems. In that case, you may want to try StarOffice (newly released version 8), the paid version based on OpenOffice.org. It’s still a fraction of the cost of MS Office. However, OpenOffice.org comes with its own support base—that of a vast and everincreasing open source community online. At the end of the day, though, unless your needs are extremely specific—or you have pots of money—there can’t be a good reason to ignore OpenOffice.org any longer. ■ | Payal Dhar
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Battle of the Underdogs
You aren’t only leaving yourself open to malicious attacks and security breaches if you’re still using Internet Explorer, but you’re also missing out on a whole bunch of innovations that dramatically improve your online experience

W

hen they want to browse the web, most people don’t think twice before double clicking the familiar, blue E icon on their Windows desktops. Microsoft Internet Explorer has been right there on our desktops since the launch of Windows 95 over a decade ago, and it’s this fact that has allowed it to capture a huge majority of the browser market. Even in light of all its weaknesses, people continue to use IE mainly because they’re familiar with it, and because they’ve never bothered to download and install anything else. It’s only when people see the other browsers that are available that they realize what they’ve been missing. Feature wise, IE is the weakest, most basic browser available. Just as in the case of Windows’ other built-in applications such as Paint and Notepad—they are there—so if you ever need you can fall back on them, but you’d much rather use programs like Photoshop and Word to get things done right. Opera and Firefox are the two main competitors of IE today, and their respective user bases have been expanding steadily over the last year or so. Opera has been around for years, but hasn’t had much publicity and enjoys only a small (though rabidly loyal) fan following. Firefox, on the other hand, burst onto the scene just last year with a big bang and has notched up over a hundred million downloads since then. So, what are the differences between the two, and how do they stack up against each other?

Download and Install
Firefox 1.0.7’s installer weighs in at 4.7 MB, while Opera 8.5’s is lighter at 3.6 MB. This is all the more remarkable because Opera includes an email client, RSS reader and IRC client in the base install, whereas Firefox requires additional components to be downloaded later. Installation for both is simple and straightforward—the wizards ask only for the target folder to be specified and whether or not to place icons on the desktop, Start menu and Quicklaunch toolbar. Result: Firefox 0, Opera 1

Look and Feel
Opera, by default, opens in a very clean, minimalist window. The tab bar is right on top, and each tab has its own toolbar, which includes only the most basic navigation controls. Other features aren’t immediately visible, so the interface is less cluttered and less daunting to new users. Of course, you can customize the toolbar layout if you want, and choose exactly which buttons should be made visible by default and where. Everything in Opera, from the buttons to the tabs, is shaded and pleasantly colored. Visual effects and alpha blending are generously used to enhance the interface’s
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Opera’s spartan toolbar vs Firefox’s more conventional layout
visual appeal. Firefox is more utilitarian in approach, with the navigation buttons and address bar in a single toolbar and tabs below. Customization is possible here too, though there aren’t as many options to play around with. Both browsers support skinning and there are plenty of skins available for download online. Where Opera truly shines is in its handling of web pages. Tabs are implemented far better in Opera, which is not surprising since Opera developed the concept of tabbed browsing years ago in the first place. Each tab is an individual window inside the main “workspace” of the program. Tabs can be tiled, cascaded, minimized and resized within the Opera window. You can drag and drop to re-order tabs on the tab bar (a feature to be implemented in Firefox 1.5), and make the bar itself larger to accommodate more tabs. A group of tabs can be saved as a session and loaded collectively whenever you want. Result: Firefox 0, Opera 2

Opera’s preferences panel offers hundreds of options, but Firefox also allows users to download and install extensions
offer hundreds of extensions. Most of these are made by users themselves, and range from the trivial to truly useful and innovative. Google offers a version of its toolbar for Firefox as well. While a number of Firefox extensions are designed to mimic the functions that Opera has built in, others add things like Winamp controls, advertisement blocking and integration with various web sites and online services. Both browsers have search fields next to their address bars and both let you add search engines other than the predefined ones. Opera even lets you search directly from the address bar using keywords for each search engine. Result: Firefox 2, Opera 4

Usage and Features
This is where Opera runs into problems. For security reasons, the developers have chosen to omit support for Microsoft ActiveX and VBScript, so a few pages won’t load at all. In addition, support for CSS is spotty, meaning that some sites will appear garbled, some will have irritating errors like pictures covering text and others won’t open at all (though this is partly because web designers don’t often check their sites on all browsers). Sites like Gmail.com which use dynamic XML don’t always work
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perfectly. Microsoft, in fact, is known to have deliberately served web pages with incorrect code to visitors using Opera so that it looks even worse. Firefox isn’t known to suffer from any of these issues and supports ActiveX as a plugin even though it’s a security risk. It also supports cool tools like the rich text editors used by web mail and blog sites. This is something Opera still lacks. Navigating is astonishingly easy in Opera, thanks to mouse gestures and keyboard support. Use the keyboard’s arrow keys while holding [Shift] down to zip around, or perform dozens of actions such as going back and forward and switching between tabs with just a flick of the wrist. Mouse gestures make browsing painless, and are so intuitive you’ll find yourself automatically trying to use them in other programs as well! Plugins for Firefox let you do the same thing, but it’s just one of the cool things Opera offers right off the bat. Here’s where Opera also needs to get some credit for its integrated email and IRC clients. You can also save any bit of selected text from a web page as a Note, which can be accessed through the Notes panel. The Wand lets you define words such as your name and email address which it uses to autocomplete forms online, so you can choose not to have it remember usernames and passwords you’ve typed in, and still save some typing. Result: Firefox 1, Opera 3

Resource Utilization
Firefox uses about 30 MB of RAM and an equal amount of virtual memory with about fifteen tabs open, whereas Opera consumes up to 70 MB RAM and well over a 100 MB of virtual memory under the same load, and leaving it open for long periods of time seems to increase its hunger even more. Result: Firefox 3, Opera 4

Verdict
Opera is the clear winner here in terms of features and the overall user experience, whereas Firefox may be just right for newbies and those who aren’t interested in bells and whistles but want a solid, reliable browser. I recommend you try both—they are free—and then you can figure out which one best suits you. ■ | Jamshed Avari

Customizability
Widely touted as the “most customizable browser on the planet”, Firefox does indeed

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Toon Tails
Hanuman, the first of-its-kind homegrown 90minute animation movie, seems to have given the much needed impetus to Indian animation, with its enagaing storyline and just as engrossing graphics
roduced by Sahara One Motion Pictures and Percept Picture Company, in association with Silvertoons, the country’s full-length animation film struck the right audience as the story of the popular mythological hero, Hanuman, was eagerly lapped up by discerning audiences. According to V G Samant, director of Silvertoons, it took 250 artists, seven years to develop the 200,000 individual images in Hanuman, animation software from US Animation and ToonBoons, and lots of patience. The indigenously developed 2D animated feature was directed with painstaking efforts, spread across a period of two years and backed by a vast creative team of cell animation artists. Samant, incidentally, also heads a school of animation in Mumbai and is keen to impart the knowledge to thriving artists interested in a career in Indian animation. Although the de facto time taken for the production of Hanuman was 26 months, the entire project has seen a life of seven years. Samant admits since it was a personal endeavor and a project close to his heart, it was difficult to find time between hectic schedules and client deadlines. During spare time he dedicated his energy and time to reading Hindu scriptures for a better understanding of the character and accordingly briefed his team to carry on the work, as and when time permitted them to do

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so. Bringing two-dimensional, sketched artwork to life required Samant to “illustrate” concepts as weight and balance, force and flexibility, action and reaction. It also called for a touch of magic: to entrance the spectator, to make sure that the viewer is watching a slide show of drawn pictures with emotions. Bringing “life” to an animation is as much a matter of drawing credible motions that adhere to the laws of nature, as an illusory feat. A veteran in animation, Samant headed the animation division at Films Division where he had made over 120 animated short films. He has won several national and international awards and he knows better than most what it means to have the audience glued to their seats. Sahara One Motion Pictures and Percept Picture Company incidentally spent around Rs 2, 50, 00,000 for the production and an additional Rs 1, 50, 00,000 for marketing the movie. Sixty artists were involved in this feature of which around 40 were digital artists all trained by Samant. A total of 200,000 drawings have been used in the movie which has 2,870 scenes. The ensemble consists of 40 characters with more than 20 colors being used for each character. The movie has 1,750 backgrounds painted with 22 artists on the team. In 2D animation, as in Hanuman, centimeters and inches were used to specify distances and lengths. Historically, 2D drawn is the oldest form of animation and it also has the most stages in its production. There are four main stages in animation production: Pre production Production Post production Distribution

PRE-PRODUCTIO PRE-PRODUCTION
Pre-production sometimes occurs over a very long time with relatively little expense incurred.

Idea/concept: Every production starts with a concept, whether it’s a scribbled note on the back of an envelope or a conversation in a pub. Treatment: Treatment usually indicates a
broader proposal. It is a gist of the idea in much detail, without having to include dialogue or any detailed scene breakdowns.

Script: The script is the detailed description
of the film. It is quite similar to the scripts used for live action productions.

Storyboard: In animation it is absolutely
vital—as a means of communication for everyone engaged on a project—to storyboard. Storyboards are broken down into sequences, scenes and or shots. Each scene or shot consists of one or more frames containing drawings which display how the shot will be staged. Under each drawing is a box in which any dialogue is written, together with sound effects and music, along with anything else that will make it clear what is going on. The
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storyboard’s function is to act as a reference for everyone involved in the film process and to make everything as clear as possible. There may be changes involved in framing and order of shots as the production progresses, hence it is not a confirmed process.

Design: Obviously, all elements in animation need to be
designed and this part of the process often happens at the same time as, or even before the script is developed. The storyboard work cannot be properly done until dialogue and designs are both well advanced.

bar-sheets, a tedious and slow process. These days one takes the automation further by getting software to work out which lip movement drawings are needed from pre-defined libraries and placing them automatically into the ‘dopesheets’. The animator needs only a word breakdown instead of complete lip sync.

Voice recording: Mostly, today, dialogue is recorded on a digital format such as hard disk or DAT. Most music is added to a film after animation has been completed. The exception to this is when animation must synchronize to music, (for example a character dances), and in which case the music will be recorded first. Animatic/Leica: Directors film the storyboard together
with extra frames as a sort of slideshow presentation of what the final film will look like. It may have a few camera moves, but for the most part it will be a succession of static images. This is usually without the music and sound effects. It is cut to the same length as the final film, hence it’s a useful guide to the overall pacing.

Layouts: A layout is a full-sized drawing that shows the visual workings of a shot. If a character is walking from one side of the screen to another, for example, it is normal to draw the first and last poses of the character. The background is indicated roughly so that the relationship in scale between characters and background elements is clear. Another important role of the layout is to indicate the precise framing of the camera. It should convey practically all the visual information of a shot apart from its colors. Backgrounds: Traditionally, backgrounds were painted on stretched paper, (so they wouldn’t curl), using waterbased inks or paints and sometimes oil pastels. Often airbrush work was also used. Key frames: Animators indicate how many frames of

PRODUCTION
Track breakdown: Once the dialogue tracks have been
edited to the correct length, they are “broken down”— each word is analyzed so that the animator can animate a character’s lip movements and acting. Until a few years ago, this entailed copying the sound on to magnetic film. An editor would then spend many hours running this film over a tape-head examining the dialogue syllable by syllable and writing the broken down words on to

each drawing are to be shot by writing dope sheets which indicate camera moves and optical. Animators produce key poses and indicate how many in-between drawings should be created and how they should be timed between the keys.

In-betweens: The assistant animator displays the
drawings done in between.

Line testing: The animation is usually tested before being
colored. Often animators will use their own line test camera to refine it until it is ready for the director to look at.

Clean up: If the animation has only been drawn “loosely”
(rough), it is necessary to employ artists to clean up the drawings. Drawings are given the classic very tight but flowing line.

Ink and paint (and checking): Once the coloring is done
on sheets of acetate, it is followed by an additional stage called checking. The checker goes through every frame of the animators’ dope sheets and places all painted cells on to a peg bar over the backgrounds. In other words, it’s a dummy run of shooting the final artwork but without committing to film.

Pramod Jadhav

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of “data points” that transmit data through a variety of wired or wireless technology and cameras situated around the performance area. Using the data collected during the performance, computers can be used to construct relatively life-like animated imagery, either in real time (immediately) or through post production methods. Two trends in the animation industry are likely to have a profound influence on its future: a significant increase in production and exhibition opportunities, and the growing importance of new technologies. Indeed, computer animation is now so heavily used that the entertainment and advertising industries need all the able bodies they can get. In a bid to popularize the genre, the monkey god was selected to play the superhero because of his local and foreign appeal. Creators said they wanted to draw on homegrown influences for the animated hero. With rave reviews garnered from across the world following the success of Hanuman, Indian animation production has found a foothold in creating its own niche. With Silvertoons’ success in creating the film based on a character in Indian folklore and mythology, Indian companies have a sure chance of wooing foreign audience. With a lot of talent and technological competence, success in this genre is yet to be seen. ■ | Carol D’Costa

Camera/Compositing: The colored artwork is “filmed”, usually over background artwork. This part of the process can also be called compositing. It used to involve shooting artwork frame by frame. However, these days the entire compositing and shooting processes is virtual and carried out in software. Output: The resulting imagery is output to either film
or video. It may alternatively be output to some digital storage medium such as DVD ROM so that the final transfer to video or film can be done at another facility, usually a post-production house.

POST PRODUCTION
Editing, dubbing, mixing, music, etc: A post-production facility (also called a post-production house) is normally engaged in editing and compositing. Most postproduction houses are also equipped with ‘tele-cine’, 3D computer animation capabilities and sound dubbing, and the ability to accurately tweak and alter the color balance and appearance of the film. Essentially, a post production facility’s job is to bring all the sound and picture elements together so that they can be recorded as one finished entity ready for publishing. Distribution: Distribution is the means through which the
product is delivered to its viewers, be it through cinema, Internet, DVD, TV, etc. In traditional 2D drawn animation, color is added by someone dipping a brush into a paint pot and painting on the backs of sheets of acetate. In 2D animation, with digital ink and paint, the colors are painted by clicking on areas to be filled and some of the work can be automated. In 2D cut-out animation, the colors are those of the paper being cut out. In computer 2D computer programs like Flash, the colors are chosen from the available palette on the computer screen. In 3D model animation, the colors are determined by the colors of the materials being used plus any lighting and/or post-production effects. In 3D cgi the colors are ascribed to individual areas of models and are also determined by other factors such as lighting and maps. Studios employ an extensive range of technologies in the creation of computer animation. Many studios take widely available off-the-shelf software programs and make proprietary (studio-owned) modifications to enhance the capabilities of the programs. Some digital animation, particularly that which is created for games or for special effects in live-action films, use a technology called motion capture. Motion capture entails the use of live performers who wear suits containing a number

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E-business regulation
Notes on compliance issues in the ‘borderless economy’

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he issue of regulation is replete with unanswered e-business issues that desperately need to be clarified as companies operate electronically across the globe. New business arrangements with industry-wrenching impact can take effect in months, not years. This rapid change means that regulatory issues must be addressed soon to avoid overly “reactive” responses that can be counterproductive.

| Rodney D Ryder rodney@preconcept.com least complex liability issues. Like their traditional media counterparts, web site owners in India enjoy the significant legal protections available to publishers. Licensed content: Many web sites license content rather than creating their own. An audit therefore may also include review of the licensing agreements to ensure that the owner of the web site has the rights to distribute, alter, republish or otherwise use the licensed content. In addition, the audit should review all representations and warranties for the content and any appropriate indemnifications by the licensor. Third party content: As interactivity becomes a primary draw for bringing back Internet users, more sites are including chat, message boards, e-commerce. As a result, much of the content in these areas is created by users of the site and cannot be reviewed or edited by the web site owner. Linking and framing: The practice of linking to or framing other web sites raises liability issues unique to the Internet. A web site owner may be found liable for contributory infringement or vicarious liability for knowingly linking to another site that contains copyright infringing material or otherwise engages in infringing activity. Specific components of a web site are worth particular attention. Disclaimers and terms of service: The disclaimers and terms of service are important in establishing the relationship

Companies, industry vigilance and audits
Companies must remain vigilant both to protect their business interests and ensure that they can proceed securely in uncharted territory. While some maintain it’s unrealistic to have no restriction whatsoever on e-business, yet others shudder at the burden various bureaucracies might place upon the Internet. Most are hopeful that industry, driven by market forces, will ultimately regulate itself. If that fails, a wide range of regulators can be expected to step in forcefully. The issues include: International trade and tariffs, data security; encryption; infrastructure and access; intellectual property rights; liability: choice of law and jurisdiction; content; competition law; self-regulation; privacy.

The first steps
A web site audit begins with a survey of the site—identifying the types of content and services provided on the site, the types of terms of service or legal disclaimers needed, the intellectual property rights, and the potential hot spots that are likely to give rise to liability. Depending upon the company, web sites fulfil different and often multiple functions. The breadth of an audit depends at large on the complexity of the site.

Content and control
Original content: Web site content, which is entirely or mostly generated by the owner of the web site often presents the
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between the web site owner and its users. Generally, the comprehensiveness of a user agreement is determined by balancing the potential exposure created by site content and activities against the potentially intimidating impression a long agreement will make on the user. Message boards and chat: Many web sites now provide areas for users to interact with both the web site owner and other users. These areas take the form of message boards (where users can post a message that can be read and responded to by other users) and chat rooms (where users can send each other messages, or chat in real time). An audit should include a review of how the owner responds to such demands and set up a policy for when, if ever, it’s appropriate to either remove a post or provide information about the author. User information: The privacy and security of personal information on the Internet has become an increasing concern. A web site audit should include review of the site’s policies for disclosing user information and, in particular, policies for responding to subpoenas for user information. Finally, an audit should include a review of the site’s privacy policy. In general, the policy should provide notice to users about the types of information collected, how such information is used and to whom it is disclosed. The legal audit provides some guidance for web site owners by identifying areas of potential liability before litigation arises. In addition, further content liability counselling can be done to place the web site owner in the best possible legal position—by posting proper disclaimers, establishing sensible complaint policies, etc—should a legal demand be made. ■ Rodney D Ryder heads Preconcept (www. preconcept.com), a service law firm with cutting edge specialization in Intellectual Property, Media and Technology Law rodney@preconcept.com

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BeATS All
Experts who are into formulating new designs are experimenting with ideas that will help people experience quality life in an otherwise mundane scenario. One such interesting development is BeATS. Know more...

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Dinesh Desai

ireless has been growing in leaps and bounds ever since it was first introduced, thanks to the ever propelling efforts by enthused proponents. With the advent of Bluetooth we are witness to radically developing phenomena in everyday life. It’s become a daily affair to hear of developments that’s helping to simplify life in the real world. There are amazing new inventions and frankly most of them are just as refreshing as innovative. Take for example the Audio Tour System developed by Clarinox Technologies (Australia) in tandem with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in India. The system is based upon a progressive new technology that helps enrich user experience, especially that of visitors and viewers in cultural venues. And more so whether the visitor is a child or an adult, a novice or an expert, is English or nonEnglish speaking, the audio system can be enjoyed by all. The term may sound obscure and many would perceive it as gawky, but in reality it promises a simple means of wireless connection eliminating the mess of cables and wires as well as the labor to adjust angles for light beams during infrared transmission. Formulated and built jointly by Melbourne-based Clarinox and Indian software giant Tata Consultancy Services, BeATS (Bluetooth enabled audio tour system) has been configured to combine the best features of broadcast and CD/tape tours while eliminating their disadvantages, keeping into account the hassles of cords and wires. Visitors can choose their own path through the exhibit; free of the restrictions imposed by a linear audio recording, and each section of commentary always starts at the beginning for every user. Bluetooth is used to link the user device to access points spread around the premises, and to carry the streaming MP3 audio. The sound quality is high, and the system can accommodate multiple languages. From the venue operator’s perspective, advantages include centralized storage of audio for ease of management and updating by its own staff, and the system can yield information about the routes taken by people and how long they spend at each point. In the entire process, TCS handled the software for user registration, central server, file dispatch to access points and statistics generation and reporting, while Clarinox addressed the Bluetooth hardware and software for the exhibit device transceiver and the user Bluetooth device. Mukund Govindrajan, software engineer at Clarinox Technologies, is gung-ho about BeATS. While showcasing the product during the Bangalore.it.in exhibtion, he seemed confident of BeATS’ success. BeATS is based upon wireless technology and is radio frequency based, in the 2.4 GHz unlicensed band, which means that the venue, be it an exhibition venue or a museum does not have to obtain a
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| Streaming Profile Architecture over Bluetooth
Streaming Server Application
MP3 Encoder Codec Stream Handler

| How BeATS works
Exhibit 1 Exhibit 2 BeATS Point LAN Connection User BeATS device

Streaming Client Application
Codec Stream Handler MP3 Encoder

Application Programming Interface (API)
Stream handle

Application Programming Interface (API)
Stream handle

Registration Terminal

SEID Signalling Administration (Signalling Data)
Stream Manager

SEID
Stream Manager

Signalling Administration (Signalling Data)

Bluetooth Connection Exhibit 3 Central Server

Media Packets

Reporting packets

L2CAP

L2CAP

A visitor walks into the museum, registers preferred language and level of detail (adult, child, expert) at the User Registration Terminal. This information is sent and stored in the Central Server. As he walks around the exhibition he is automatically detected when he gets close to an exhibit and has the appropriate audio for that location streamed to him. A second person comes along a little later and he too receives the appropriate audio based on his preferences from the beginning of the audio track… same for person 3, 4, 5, etc.

license to run the system. The technology features include small size, low cost, and low power consumption. As with all things new, the use of Bluetooth is not without challenges. Limitations range from restrained bandwidth, high degree of error rates, and the time-varying nature of the radio link. Bluetooth has the potential to redefine the way we perceive and experience connectivity. However, with limited penetration and availability, Bluetooth won’t start to gain serious momentum until a few kinks are worked out. Some have even gone so far as to say that Bluetooth has already failed. Either way, there also needs to be a drop in price before Bluetooth chips can be affordably embedded in every device, thus establishing recognizable value through scale and technology penetration. Bluetooth has a good future ahead because it meets a basic need of connectivity in close proximity. And as can be seen all over the world, people are moving towards a future in which computing will be ubiquitous, woven

seamlessly into the fabric of everyday life. BeATS is currently operational at an Australian Museum in Melbourne that is offering its visitors the opportunity to hear tours via Bluetooth. Apart from offering visitors the opportunity to take advantage of the tours through streaming MP3 audio services, BeATS also allows them to access relevant commentary tailored to a specific tour. Museum staff are also benefiting from the system, as it offers a new method for audio storage and updating. It also yields information about the routes taken by people and how long they spend at each point. Trish Messiter, CEO and key initiator at Clarinox, is of the opinion that with the use of Bluetooth and taking into account the design of the user, the production of the device can be made small, inexpensive and operable for many hours without recharge. Bluetooth components, now in their third generation, have overcome questions of interference with Wi-Fi radios, and have become widely adopted in Japan and Asia. The Bluetooth 1.2 specification provides

further provisions for removing interference and improving the user interface. However, Bluetooth has also become intrinsically tied to the cellphone, finding success in three markets—as a connection to hands-free wireless headsets, tying together a PC or PDA to a cellphone, and as a means of connecting your cellphone to an automobile. With the growing success of Bluetooth, we are likely to see more manufacturers building in their best capabilities into a single device, and then tying them all together with Bluetooth. Companies are also examining ways to “beam” business cards and other data via Bluetooth, while handset makers are adopting Bluetooth. The challenge would then be to improve the interoperability of Bluetooth devices. Based on demand for interoperability and testing initiative of Bluetooth-enabled products, Stockholm’s Ericsson Technology Licensing has formed an independent laboratory designed to facilitate interoperability studies on an application level with end-user products. ■ | Carol D’Costa

| Features of the BeATS System:
Allows visitors to wander freely while the audio tour adjusts to their demands. Allows the visitor to choose the language and level of information that suits them on that day. For example, information that is tailormade for school excursions or visiting world experts. Provides consistent, high quality sound. Is based on innovative technology that sets a new standard in audio tour systems. Eliminates the problem of listening to the end of the information
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first. Audio stream starts at the beginning for every visitor. Stores the audio information on a central computer so that changes and updates are easily made and these changes immediately become available. No need to contact supplier of system to make changes to the system. Gather statistics on how visitors move around and where they spend their time.

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Pramod Jadhav

HOME BREW
3D games, ring tones, wallpapers and online pujas—all of these applications are being created by Indian developers with the help of Qualcomm’s BREW platform

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e have all been witness to the growing popularity of cellular phones, based on the CDMA standard, over the years. A company decided that CDMA was the way to go and put its money into the standard, developed it and constantly improved upon it. The end result is for all to see—it’s the most prominent standard in the US, has gained a lot of ground in Asia and has also entered the European market (which has remained predominantly GSM). The company I’m referring to here is Qualcomm—a wireless telecommunications company that is into hardcore research and development. You must have heard of the email client Eudora—well, they are the ones behind its design and distribution. Just like GSM, CDMA phones are also classified into ‘generations’ (2G, 2.5G, 3G, etc) which adhere to a particular standard. For example, a 2.5G-3G CDMA phone uses the CDMA2000 standard and a similar generation GSM phone will support GPRS and/or EDGE. Development of these standards and their inclusion in new handsets have

made it possible for developers to up their offerings too. A common question that many ask today with regard to GSM phones is, “Does your phone have JAVA support?” This platform (known as Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition) was accepted by GSM phones, and applications were developed based on this standard. J2ME strived to keep a standard formula on which developers could build applications. This is good since it meant that a tool downloaded for one phone should work on another too. Unfortunately, this did not always hold true because of the diversity of hand phones. Sticking to the standard means all the service providers will appear to offer the same services. This led service providers to deviate a bit from the basic standard (called the Mobile Independent Device Profile)—they customized it so that they could be noticed by the user. This required a reasonable amount of recoding. This recoding was done so that users could get more out of their subscriptions with easier and cheaper downloads. This is one such platform that is tailored for the phones that adhere to

the GSM standard. Qualcomm introduced an application development platform called BREW, meant specifically for CDMA-based mobile phones. This platform, which stands for Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless, is widely considered to be a big competitor to the J2ME model. BREW tries to keep things simple, functional and more importantly, profitable to everyone, including the end user. Since CDMA service providers like TATA Indicom and Reliance have been very successful in building a strong subscription base in India, it is natural for them to have decided to go the BREW way. They are offering a range of services for end users to download and enjoy. These applications have been developed to suit Indian tastes and who knows it better than people from the sub-continent itself. Indian companies are responsible for all the games, wallpapers, ring tones and fun applications that have been created using the BREW platform. These guys have been into CDMA mobile application development for service providers in many countries
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| The BREW Model

across the globe. BREW does not require developers to know the intricacies of the phone they are developing an application for, especially the hardware. It’s like a layer that only requires a developer to know C/C++ to create an application. A mid-end (2G) CDMA phone is equipped to handle applications created on this platform.

Productivity and Spirituality
Remoba Technologies is one such company that has created productivity applications aimed at the corporate user. They have teamed up with TATA Indicom to provide ‘Mobile Office Suite’ tools like iPhonebook, iDatebook and iPhonebackup. These tools allow you to securely sync with Outlook, Lotus Notes, Palm-based applications and wirelessly take a backup of contacts onto their servers. This can be retrieved in case you change your phone or lose your contacts. These features will work easily on phones in the mid-range segment too. For all of you who don’t really care about productivity and all other worldly issues, the spiritual applications created by Astute Systems Technology will energize that aura of yours. Astute proudly states that their prayer applications, like the Daily Prayer series on TATA Indicom phones, are very popular. There are prayers for almost every person like Lakshmi Puja and even Sikh prayers for the spiritually thirsty. The
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Saarathi: Lambent’s Travel Guide application for all those of you who don’t want to get lost service does not sound terribly expensive either—you pay just Rs 30 for a monthly subscription. Any additional downloads like ring tones or wallpapers are charged individually (rates vary, depending on the service provider, from as little as Rs 7 to as much as Rs 50). Astute has developed another popular application—the BSE Portfolio Tracker. It allows you to manage your stock’s portfolios and keep a track of the stock exchange at any time of the day.

Let the games begin
These applications are popular and

practical. However, there are other developers who have also struck gold by creating fun applications like games and interactive content. Coruscant Tec offers video content as well as mobile blogging. Now you can blog even while you are on the move with the help of their AirBlog tool. Coruscant Tec has also been able to provide comic strips and animation videos for download, courtesy Mr Anant Pai—the man behind Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. Cricket is the national pastime but few have the time or the space to play the game daily. Nazara Technologies has obtained a license to provide Sachin Tendulkar’s wallpapers and some games like Sachin Tendulkar’s Fielding Challenge, Sachin Tendulkar’s Tap-o-thon, where you play as him and your scores can be saved on servers for everyone to see. Nazara also has games in which you play as Bret Lee (if you are an Aussie fan). They even have Archie Comics games and wallpapers developed on the BREW platform. Lambent Technologies is another developer that has produced games like Cricket and Carrom that are available for download on the TATA Indicom network. Popular arcade games like Space Fighter and all-time board game Ludo have also been created by them. Lambent is also in the process of developing a Friend Finder and Saarathi—a navigation and travel guide.

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applications like the ones mentioned earlier, most of the developers said they have to keep in mind the constraints an older CDMA phone puts on the product they are working on. The reason is applications such as 3D games, a memory intensive tool, screen size or even better audio quality require new hardware. Right now there are a large number of low to mid-range phones in the market and high-end models should be introduced at a faster rate. Phone performance will differ with the hardware they are built on. Developers like Lambent feel stringent debugging should be done and an ‘elaborate documentation’ of issues should be published regularly on the Qualcomm site. Another issue that developers have to deal with is that even though they might have some really good applications (inventory, location services, etc) the service provider might not want it because it caters to a niche user base (according to the provider). Resolving issues such as this or service providers waking up to realizing the potential in niche tools, might make the platform even more attractive to prospective operators and developers. As long as the platform remains flexible, the end user will continue to benefit from the services that are offered over the air. have a better experience with over-the-air downloads. Developers can download the BREW SDK (Software Development Kit), a C++ debugger and an Emulator. You need to know neither any new languages nor do you even need to be a mobile hardware whiz. (Another interesting thing to note is that BREW can support certain Java applications too.)

Indiagames—a name very familiar to all gaming enthusiasts—has its hands full with licenses to produce mobile content for characters like Phantom, Garfield, Mask, Mummy and Predator. They are into highend 3D game development too. As of now, they are working on a third person adventure game called Ashoka and a Bruce Lee game called Iron Fist 3D. Quite frankly, the list can go on. There are so many other developers like PhoneyTunes.com (mobile blogging, image editing), Incore Technologies (developed a morphing tool called iFotoFX) that are already offering their services on phones available in the market today. They are all into developing quality content for overseas mobile service providers too.

Gaming Phones
Phones are going the PC way. Mobile phones are getting more advanced and they require hardware that can support 3D environments and deliver good audio. Phones are also being designed keeping this in mind. Qualcomm has used the ARM architecture (used widely in embedded applications) to create CDMA mobile phone chipsets known as Mobile Station Modems. These chipsets used in 3G phones make it possible for high-end applications to run on mobile handsets. Chipsets have also been made to work on GSM phones.

Enter the Dragon: Indiagames’ Bruce Lee - Iron Fist 3D These applications are easily accessible from a CDMA phone that supports the BREW platform (medium range phones also support this function but are limited in terms of memory capacity and graphics support). All you need to do is send an SMS to the service provider with the application’s code. A session is created and you can download and install the tool on to the phone. Another way would be to access the ‘R World’ shop or Tata Mobile Shop to choose a particular service from the CDMA phone’s menu. Depending on your service, you will be billed accordingly.

Do you need to know about BREW?
If you are a developer by profession, you need to know about it. But if you are an end user, you don’t need to know what is allowing you to shop for your favorite sportstar’s wallpapers or letting you blog while you wait at the station for your train. If you are still interested in knowing more about BREW, you can take a look at the infographic shown on page 131. It basically illustrates the path a mobile application takes—right from the developer to the operator (service provider) and then finally to you (the user). The billing is taken care of by the service providers with the help of the BREW Distribution System (BDS), which is a data services and billing environment. It allows service providers to customize their software catalog and enables you to The Slingshot: A clamshell phone designed to double up as a gaming device The Slingshot is Qualcomm’s prototype phone that uses the MSM 6550 chipset, which also has a TV-out function! Among the phones available in the market today, the LG VX9800 is one such, which sports the same chipset and is capable of playing 3D games. If you think there aren’t enough games to go around for such phones, think again. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3D is already available for 3G phones and EA has announced that they will release its NFS series for the mobile platform. Looks like we might have to devote some extra time to mobile game reviews. ■ | Ashutosh Desai
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Perfection through Evolution
Even though BREW’s open platform has created avenues for developers, phone manufacturers and operators to provide quality service to end users, the process is not without its chinks. While creating

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IPC$ Error
Q> I have two computers at home. One has Windows 98 and the other Windows XP Professional. Recently I configured them with IP addresses and connected them with a LAN cable too (cross over type) so that I can share folders. But I have run into a problem. I can access the Windows 98 machine from XP but I cannot do the same the other way round. If I try accessing the XP computer from network neighborhood then I get a dialog box showing my machine and a folder “IPC$” along with an empty password field. I have not set any password and any other password I enter seems to be incorrect. All I get in the end is an error that it is inaccessible. Why is this happening? What can I do to rectify this problem? -Anjan When one tries to access an XP or a Windows 2000/NT machine from a Windows 98 computer it happens. This is because even though the NTbased machine has shared folders and its permissions have been given to “Everybody”, it does not apply to nonNT based machines. You must have a Username and Password created on your Windows 98 machine. You need to configure the same account details on

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the Windows 2000/XP machine so as to gain access to it. In Windows XP, create a new user with the same name used on your Windows 98 machine. Click on Start | Control Panel | User Accounts. Then, click on “Create a new account”. Set the same password as the one created on the Windows 98 machine. Now when you log in from the Win98 computer, you will still get the “IPC$” field but enter the password you normally use to log in to your machine. If you did not log in to the Windows 98 machine in the beginning then you might get an error again. Make sure you log in first. If you still get some error, you will need to make some changes in the Windows XP Group Policy Editor. You will find this in the Administrative Tools in Control Panel. Navigate to Security Options under Computer Configuration | Windows Settings | Security Settings | Local Policies | Security Options. Looks for “Account: Limit local account use of blank passwords…” it is Enabled by default. Disable it. You can also create a new user by using the Computer Management window by clicking on Start | Run and type “compmgmt.msc” and click on Ok. Select Users under System Tools | Local Users and Groups. Right click in the Users panel and select ‘New User’. Enter the user name and password. Uncheck “User must change

| How to Read the Code
All code lines and commands are written in the following manner: netsh•int•ip•reset•tcpreset.txt where the • symbol denotes a space. Hence, the above code line should be typed as netsh<space>int<space>ip<space >reset<space>tcpreset<dot>txt

Use Computer Management console to create a new user corresponding to the one created on the Windows 98 computer
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password…” and check the box against “User cannot change password”. Click on create and close.

Can’t Uninstall DirectX
Q> Recently, I bought The SIMS 2 pack and began installing it. In the midst of the installation, I encountered a message that stated that I needed the latest DirectX9 drivers and asked me to install them. I did so thinking that maybe my drivers were not up to date. I installed the latest drivers – DirectX 9c. After completing all of this, I tried playing the game. Instead of loading the game, my machine showed a direct3d error. I could not understand how to uninstall the DirectX drivers, so I just reinstalled them again. This did not help. Now I would like to know how I can solve this problem. -Kishore The game is not playing correctly not because of incorrect or corrupt DirectX drivers. There is a probability that it might not be playing because of older video drivers. When was the last time you updated your video card drivers? You should first try and install the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s web site or just load the ATI or Nvidia drivers provided on their web sites. There can also be a probability that your anti virus was enabled when you ran the installation. At times DirectX does not install correctly because of the presence of active anti-virus. If you want to remove the DirectX9 drivers and revert back to your older version then you can use software like “Directx Eradicator 2.0” from http://www.majorgeeks. com/download509.html. You can also edit the Registry to bring

the version back to the older one. Click on Start | Run and type “regedit”. Click on Ok. In the Registry Editor navigate to the following key, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\ Microsoft\DirectX Delete DirectX and restart the machine. The older version will be reinstalled. (Rather than resorting to this, uninstall with the Eradicator) Disable your anti-virus software. Try updating the video drivers for your graphics card and reinstall the DirectX drivers. Click on Start | Run and type “dxdiag” and click Ok. This will bring up the DirectX Diagnostic Tool. On the last line under System Information in the System tab, you will find the DirectX version.

Run and type “cmd” and click Ok. The command prompt window will open. At the prompt type the following command, net config server / autodisconnect:time_before_ autodisconnect ‘Time before disconnect’ is the time after which the computer will disconnect the session if the connection has been idle for that much amount of time. The number you enter in place of that line will be interpreted in minutes. Press Enter and you should get a message “The command was executed successfully.” The number of connections made to XP will remain but the disconnection of idle sessions should somewhat relieve the problem.

Connection Limit
Q> I work in a small data entry office where we have to access a particular computer constantly for reference and data backups. Every once in a while, one of us will get an error, while trying to login to that computer. The error says that, “No more connections can be made to this remote computer at this time because there are already as many connections as the computer can accept.” I have no clue what that means and hence do not know what to do. Can you help me out? -Roy The main computer that you use regularly can accept a certain number of connections (or login sessions) at a time. It is quite certain from this error you are geting that it’s being accessed to the maximum limit that it can cater to. If your main computer is running on Windows XP Professional, then the maximum number of computers that can connect to it simultaneously is 10. These inbound connections continue to exist as long as a user is continually accessing the remote computer. However, if there is a period of inactivity then by default the remote computer will ‘disconnect’ or relinquish this session. This is referred to as a timeout and can also be configured. You can set the time you want the session to time out by manually executing a command on the system. Click on Start |

Stack Overflow
Q> I have been trying to install some software on my computer and after that I started getting a weird error that says, “Terminating thread due to stack overflow problem. A vxd consumed too much stack space. Increase setting of MinSPs in System.ini or remove recently installed vxds.” What stack space? What do I do to get rid of this message? Does this have anything to do with the software I installed? I have Windows 98 installed on my computer. -Gurpreet Gurpreet, you have not mentioned what software you installed. Was this an application or were they device drivers? If they were device drivers, then you should

Delete the DirectX key from the registry as a last option if your DirectX installation was incorrect. Restart the computer after doing this.
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| DR. CHIP CHIP-INDIA KNOW HOW | (www.chip-india.com/knowhow)
IBM.exe error
I get an error saying “System cannot find D:\programfiles\microsoft\shared\ webfolders\ibm00001.exe. It gives me the option to click “Ok”. I think it is a virus or Trojan or something like that. And my icons take years to load! How can I correct this? adware, spyware, malware, Trojans with Spybot Search & Destroy (http://www. safer-networking.org/en/download/), Adaware from Lavasoft (http://www. lavasoftusa.com) and Microsoft AntiSpy (http://www.microsoft.com/ athome/security/spyware/software/d efault.mspx). Make sure you also install the latest updates for all these utilities. Don’t depend on a single application only. Install all three of them and use them all to find and remove unneeded items from your computer.. If the problem still persists then install the software called “Hijack This” http://www.merijn.org/index. from html. This will check for any browser hijack attempt by other software and will also show which fi les are running in the background without your knowledge. If you can pinpoint the problem yourself then you can delete the offending fi le and folder on your own. You can then also delete its registry entry from the registry. You can also post your ‘Hijack This’ log fi le here so that it can be checked by other members and give a possible solution to your problem. There is also the option of posting your Hijack This log fi le online http://www.hijackthis.de/index. at php#anl and analyze it online. You can get a possible solution from there. To protect your computer from hackers and crackers, use a good firewall software on the computer—especially Zone Alarm Pro (available at http://www.zonelabs. com) or Sygate Personal Firewall Pro (available at http://www.sygate.com), with the latest updates installed. Do not forget to install Windows XP SP2 on your computer if this has not been done already. You can get it from earlier issues of CHIP CD. Also, use alternate web browsers like Opera (http://www.opera.com) or Mozilla FireFox (http://www.mozilla. org) instead of Internet Explorer to browse the Internet. This is because most of the adwares, malwares, Trojans, spyware software target IE. You can also get them from the earlier issues of CHIP CD. - Prachanda

Add the minimum stack pages value in the system.ini file in Windows 98 try uninstalling them from the Device Manager (right click the device and select Remove). Restart and check to see if you get the error again. The stack pages are memory pages that Windows keeps for device drivers and an additional amount is also reserved in case of any problems. This allows it to prevent the computer to crashing. Unfortunately, when this very reserve amount is used up, the system flashes this sort of an error. This can occur because of a driver that is trying to use more than what is usually assigned in the stacks. This is what Windows calls an “overflow”. Reinstalling the drivers might not be of any use. You can, instead, increase the stack size by manually entering a number in the System.ini file. If your error also states a line like “There are currently X SPs allocated” where X is the number of Stack Pages already created by the operating system, then make a note of it. You will need to manually assign a number greater than the one mentioned in the error message. Click on Start | Run and type “sysedit” and click on Ok. The System Configuration Editor

pranavashok
Yes, you are right, this file is created by the Trojan Win32.Anserin.C. It steals login and password details. It also runs a SOCKS proxy on the affected machine. It uses this proxy setup to update itself. It usually gets downloaded by variants of the Win32. Niresna worm. Use the following method to detect and remove all types of adwares, spyware, malware, Trojans, dialers, worms and viruses from your computer. Start the computer in Safe Mode by pressing F8 when it is booting. Select the Safe Mode from the Advanced Startup Options. At the desktop click on Start | Run and type “msconfig”. Click on Ok and disable all the startup files except your anti-virus and Firewall (if any). Now open the Registry Editor by clicking on Start | Run and then type “regedit”. Click on OK and navigate to this key: HKEY_Local_Machine\Software\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Run Here you will see all the startup files that will be loaded on every boot. Delete the path and filename which seem suspicious. Also check the path where the file is linked to and delete that file. Also search for this file in other locations by going to Start | Search. Then find all the instances of this file in the Registry by going to Edit | Find and type the name of the filename (or key). Delete all instances of this file. Now, run a full scan on your computer with Norton Anti Virus (http://www. symantec.com) or AVG (http://www. grisoft.com) with the latest virus definitions installed on your computer. Then, check your computer for any

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will open up. Click on the System.ini window and look for the [386Enh] section. Under this section type “MinSPs=4” (without quotes). If the error already stated ‘4’ then use 8 (or 12). Save the file from the File menu and exit this System Configuration Editor. You can even search for the system.ini file, open in it notepad and make the changes. Restart your computer.

Need a hand with your PC travails? Log on to www.chip-india.com/ knowhow and post your query. Voila! You’re on your way to a glitch-free future.

Info | For Accurate Diagnosis…
Looking for keys with really long names is difficult. Be extra careful while searching for them in the Registry Editor. will need to create it under ‘Instance’. Select ‘Instance’, click on Edit | New | Key. Type the key name, {083863F1-70DE-11d0-BD4000A0C911CE86} Press Enter. Now, click on Edit | New | String Value. Type ‘CLSID’ and press Enter. Click on Edit | Modify and type, {083863F1-70DE-11d0-BD4000A0C911CE86} Click Ok. Click on Edit | New | String Value and type “FriendlyName”. Press Enter. Now click on Edit | Modify and type “DirectShow Filters” and click OK. Once again click on Edit | New | DWORD Value. Type “Merit”, click Ok. Click on Edit | Modify and type “600000” and click Ok. Close the Registry Editor and restart the computer.

Cannot Play Video
Q> I have some videos saved on my computer. They are in different formats. Some are in WMV, while some are in the MPEG format. None of these files play on my computer. Windows Media Player refuses to play these files. I keep getting the error “Cannot play back the video stream”. I have reinstalled Windows Media Player assuming it to be a problem with the player itself. I also have the latest codecs installed (K-Lite), so there really should not be any issue with that either. Why is Media Player being so stubborn? -Akhilesh If these files are not damaged/ infected/corrupted to begin with then there could be a problem with the media player files. Please check the video files using another video player or on another computer. There is also another thing you can do to check if it’s the media player that’s causing the problem. You will need to check a registry key and confirm its value. If it is different you will need to change it. Click on Start | Run, type “regedit’ and click on Ok. The Registry Editor will open. Navigate to the following key, HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ CLSID\{DA4E3DA0-D07D11d0-BD50- 00A0C911CE86}\ Instance\{083863F1-70DE-11d0-BD4000A0C911CE86} Reconfirm what you find here since the key is long and one can very easily make a mistake. If you have the key “{083863F170DE-11d0-BD40-00A0C911CE86}” under ‘Instance’ then check to see if the right pane in the Registry Editor has items called ‘FriendlyName’ with a value “DirectShow Filters” and ‘Merit’ with a value “00600000”. If the values are different make sure they are changed to these. If the key itself does not exist then you
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

1. Mention system specifications. 2. Mention new hardware or software installed recently. 3. Note the error message, including the action or event that triggers the error. For instance, the error message comes up only during startup or shutdown, or when starting a particular application and so on. 4. Mention any changes you’ve made just before you started getting the error. For instance, have you deleted some files recently or uninstalled some application?
because it can only support HTTP 1.0 protocol. Firefox uses the version 1.1. This can be changed by editing the Firefox config setting. Open the Firefox browser and type “about:config” in the address bar and press Enter. Scroll through the list of settings that appear of type in “network.http.proxy. version” into the “Filter” toolbar. It will display a default value of “1.1”. Double click on it and a dialog box will appear, with the value “1.1”. Change this to “1”, click on Ok and make sure this change is reflected in the list. Close the browser and restart it. Now you will be able to access the website you had issues with. ■

Firefox Proxy Version
Q> I use two computers at home. One of the computers is connected directly to my Internet connection. The other computer accesses the Internet through the first one with the help of a small utility called AnalogX Proxy. I use the Firefox browser. Now the strange problem is that whenever it tries to access some particular sites, it automatically gets redirected to Google. It is indeed a strange occurrence. I can go to other websites fine but the problem occurs only in the case of some web sites. I connected this computer to the Internet connection directly and it worked fine with AnalogX off. I know it’s Analog that’s causing the problem but I don’t know how to solve it. -Nikhil There is a very simple solution to this query of yours. You are right in stating that AnalogX Proxy is the cause of the problem. You are experiencing this problem

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Dddddddddd

Umesh Dahiwalkar

The Big Picture!
If you want to drink in the visual splendor of the Lord of the Rings or feel the adrenalin rush with 2 Fast 2 Furious, you need to think big. REALLY BIG! We show you how to add a projector to your home theater mix and redefine your movie-watching experience forever
ntil not too long ago, the very thought of having a projector at home was ridiculous. But times have changed and technology moving the way it has, home theater projectors of today are smaller, more affordable and higher in image performance than ever before. Starting from about Rs 50,000, their footprint is about as big as this magazine and most weigh in at under 2 kgs. Team this up with the fact that most of them are easily capable of generating a 200-inch screen when installed in an average room, there’s no other display option that gives you as much screen size for the buck. However, a projector is a different display beast altogether—it cannot be installed in quite the same manner as you would a television. Plenty of factors need to be taken into account before you have a high-performance home projection system that rivals your neighborhood cinema. While stepping through each of these, we’ll debunk a few fallacies, clear

U

a couple of doubts and fill you in on the fundamentals of installing a home theater projector.

a lower-brightness projector with a longer lamp life, resulting in lower running costs.

Projector type Pre-preps
While in the market for a projector, you’re bound to come across a significant amount of jargons and fundamentals. Along the way, you will have plenty of questions you’ll need answers to. Since half the job is done by asking the right questions, let’s do that first. Several technologies are used in projectors today. Let’s step through each of these: DLP (Digital Light Processing) is the de facto standard in high performance portable projectors. Pioneered by a company called Texas Instruments, this technology uses micro-mirrors mounted on a special chip. Each of these mirrors corresponds to a single pixel in the final image. The image is generated by training a high-intensity light on this chip and then controlling the rotation of each of these mirrors which causes the intensity of light reflected by these mirrors to be varied. When this mirror action is synchronized with a translucent red-green-blue color wheel that rotates in front of the chip, the screen colors are generated by each of these pixels. A lens system is then used to magnify the size of the image for projection onto a screen. DLP projectors
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Your room
Since projectors create the image by reflecting it off a surface (the projection screen), ambient light plays a very important role in the final perceived image. So, it’s important to make sure your room is adequately darkened, even in the middle of the afternoon. To do this, you have to use thick drapes and seal cracks in doors which might let in external light. This done, you will have more control on the final image of your projector and you can also go in for

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have the advantage of small size, good color reproduction and contrast, with a very short warm-up time. There are two types of DLP projectors available—single chip and three-chip. Since the latter uses three separate DLP chips for each of the primary colors, they exhibit higher quality images compared to the former, but are more expensive. The second type is LCD projectors. These generally contain three glass LCD panels, one for each of the primary colors. As light passes through each of these panels, the “Venetian blind” effect of LCD is used to modulate the amount of light passing through each of the pixels. This matrix of pixels creates the eventual image. LCD projectors available today are relatively more affordable compared to DLP and feature good enough quality for home theater applications if you’re not the kind to demand the highest quality. The last type is CRT projectors. These are not generally used in home theater applications owing to their large size, high cost and demanding ambient conditions. These find applications in places like auditoriums where the lighting is controlled and their positions are fixed.

projector built with the intent of displaying presentations and static images can also be used to watch movies. However, you might not necessarily get the best possible experience. In such a case, you would obviously need a home theater projector. However, since the prices of home theater projectors are higher than that of multimedia projectors, you might need to arrive at a tradeoff. Therefore, choose a projector that is built for home theater if you have the budget, otherwise go in for a multimedia projector with specifications that allow for acceptable home theater performance. For the best experience, look out for a projector that has a chip with a native aspect ration of 16:9 as this conforms to widescreen format of DVD movies. We’ll get into the other specifications later.

More questions…
There are several other points you’ll need to consider during the installation process. Let’s quickly run through them. Screen: There are several options for choosing where you want to project the projector’s image—a dedicated screen, a bedsheet or even a blank wall! It’s recommended to go in for a dedicated screen as these help deliver a crisp and bright picture. You need to consider a term called screen gain—this refers to the

Projector: Multimedia or home theater?
In much the same way as a family car can be used to transport luggage, a

amount of perpendicular light the screen reflects—therefore the higher the gain, the brighter the viewing area for an audience sitting in front of the screen. The most frequently-chosen type is a ‘unity gain’ screen, which delivers a uniform brightness image for as wide an area in the viewing zone. Mounting options: Depending on your room’s space constraints, projectors can either be mounted on the ceiling, wall or on a table top. Select your projector appropriately. Lamp life: A high-intensity lamp is a very important component of a projector. Select one that features as long a lamp life as possible, otherwise your running costs will be high with the lamp unit having to be changed. Resolution: For optimal home theater performance, go in for a projector that features a resolution of at least 1024 x 768. Also, for the best picture quality, provide the video signal using component input, DVI or D-Sub, as opposed to S-Video or Composite (see box below). Contrast and brightness: Assuming you will use your projector in a darkened room, go in for a projector with a brightness specification of at least 1000 lumens and a contrast ratio of at least 2000:1. These are specifications ideal for home theater applications.

| All those ports
1 DVI: The Digital Video Interface is a high quality digital connectivity option that is built to specifically support digital display devices like TFT monitors or projectors. 2 Component: In this connectivity method, the video signal fed into the display device consists of three separate inputs—one for each of the color channels. This results in very good color reproduction and high resolutions for DVD and HDTV video. 3 1 2 4 5 Composite Video: This video signal is delivered through a single cable through which the video signals are mixed, hence the name. Doing so results in a lower quality display. Therefore, stay away from this connection method. 3 VGA: The de facto standard for PCs today, VGA provides video signals to a variety of analog video display units like projectors, CRT monitors, etc. 4 S-Video: Super Video is a standard that carries the brightness (or luma) signal in one cable and a combination of the color (or chroma) signals in the other cable. This standard offers better video quality compared to composite video but lower compared to component video.

VGA pass-through: Some projectors offer the capability to mirror your video signal to another VGA device like a monitor or another projector.
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Setting up
With the theory behind us, it is now time to get our hands dirty! With your projector in place, all you need to do is to set it up at the correct location, connect the relevant ports and optimize it for the best video display. Easier done than said!

STEP 1. Place the projector
To generate the right type of image of the correct size, it is critical that you place your projector at the correct location in front of the projection screen. As mentioned earlier, you can hang your projector from the ceiling, place it on a shelf on the wall or set it atop a table in the centre of the room. Before finalizing on any of these options, take into account how you plan to use it in the long run: if you want to move it from room to room, it should be easily accessible, so the tabletop option would serve best, if you’re setting up a dedicated home theater in a particular room, the projector needn’t be moveable so you could opt for the ceiling mounting option. You get the idea.

Since you would need a fairly long male-female VGA cable for connecting your graphics card all the way to your projector across the room, you can either procure one from the market or do what we did—build one yourself (see Tips & Tricks, November 2005). Optionally, you can also use a VGA-to-component video cable for connecting your graphics card to the appropriate port on the projector. Next, connect the power cable.

STEP 4. Adjust image clarity and size
With a stable display, you’re now ready to adjust the size and position of the image. First, use the adjustable screws on the rear bottom edge of the projector to compensate for unevenness in the surface you’ve place the projector on. Adjust it until the image is perfectly rectangular and make sure it lies smugly within the projection screen area. Also use the device’s manual focus and zoom controls along with the screen adjustment tools like parallelogram and trapezoidal correction to create an acceptable image. When you’re through, the image should appear sharp and geometrically correct.

STEP 3. Video driver settings
You’re now ready to switch on your projector. However, before you do, you need to configure your graphics card to output the signal through the relevant port. Open the Display Properties from the Control Panel. Click on the ‘Settings’ tab and you will see a picture of two monitors. The first is your primary display (your CRT) and the second is your projector. Right click on the second display and select ‘Attached’. You can now select the appropriate resolution—make sure that it doesn’t exceed the specified resolution of the projector. For best results, set this to the native resolution of the projector, which is the highest resolution it comfortably supports. Finally, select the option to extend the desktop onto the second display. Now power up the projector and wait for a few seconds as it generates an image—you should now see your computer’s desktop.

STEP 5. Optimize the image
You’re nearly there—all you now need to do is to tweak your projector’s image for that perfect display. First, make sure that your room is completely dark (as it would be while watching a movie). Next up, adjust your brightness, contrast and color levels to provide a vivid and natural image. We described how to do this in our November issue’s cover story (page 39), where we used a THX-certified DVD and ran the THX calibration tool for optimizing your video display for the best picture quality. So go ahead and grab a copy of a movie like Ice Age from your local DVD library and run this tool from the disk. Once you’re through with this, microwave a bag of popcorn, sit back and immerse yourself in movie heaven! ■ | Marco D’Souza

STEP 2. Connect the cables
Armed with the information on connectivity options, it is now time to connect your projector to your video playback device. Since we are computing aficionados, we assume your projector is being connected to your computer (though you could just as easily connect it to a standalone DVD player). The most convenient, and reasonably good quality option, is connecting it to the VGA output of your computer’s graphics card. You would need to make sure that your graphics card has two video output ports—most graphics cards have a VGA port and a DVI port, or two DVI ports. If you plan to use the DVI port, you’ll need a DVI-to-VGA converter so that you can connect the VGA cable.

1 Place the projector on a table top or in
any location that doesn’t obstruct the beam

2 Depending upon the output you
choose, plug in the video feed and power cord

3 To view a display, you’ll need to
explicitly enable the second output from your video driver
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2 With new font and icons, you won’t
accidentally switch your iPod with someone else’s

3 A specialized Linux adds more functionality to the iPod such as the Sound Recorder
copy the modified firmware into the iPod. If the iPod Updater says that you have the latest iPod version, close the software and run ‘iHack’ in the iPod Wizard. This tool will change the file system in the iPod and fool the Updater into thinking that you still have the older version. Make sure your iPod appears under ‘My Computer’. In ‘iHack’, click on the appropriate button. For example ‘3G’ for a Third Generation iPod, choose iPod drive, then confirm it by clicking ‘OK’. Now you will be able to transfer the modified firmware to the iPod. If you need to undo all the changes made, run ‘iHack’ again and choose the original Updater.

1.1.5: 2.2.3: 3.2.5: 5.4.1:

First and Second Generation iPod Third Generation iPod iPod Mini iPod Photo

4.3.0.2: Fourth Generation iPod

Confirm by clicking ‘Load’. Proceed to find the original picture and fonts under ‘Pictures’ and ‘Font’. To replace all the pictures with a readily available theme, in the ‘Pictures’ menu click on ‘Load all’ and check on the folder which contains the required theme. Confirm this by clicking ‘OK’. You can also replace the picture displayed by using the ‘Load Bitmap’ command. iPodWizard automatically changes the picture to suit a certain grey-like gradient quality. The image size, however, needs to be resized manually. Change Font: To change the font of your iPod, click ‘Fonts’ and choose the main font in the ‘Index’ menu.
iPod First & Second Generation Fourth Generation Third Generation iPod Photo iPod Mini Main font 15 28 13 24 31

3 Adding New Functions
Besides playing MP3 music tracks, the iPod does not offer much functionality. Using a Linux installation, you can give new capabilities to an iPod. For example, playing various mini-games, adding support for new music formats, or turning it into a picture-viewer, and your music files and configurations will remain untouched after installation. The Third Generation iPod can even be used as a voice recorder—basically by using the headphone as a microphone. There is a lot of information out there on functions which you can add to the iPod. You can start by going to www. ipodlinux. org/Manual. If you have a First or Second Generation iPod, make sure you are using software version 1.4 before installing Linux. If you don’t, the iPodLinux will not work as intended. Copying Linux: Enter Disk mode on the

iPod and extract the Linux Installer from the CHIP Tools CD. Run ‘ipod-linux-installer. exe’, leave the default options and follow the wizards. After completion, restart your iPod and reset it. Running Linux: By default, iPod boots up with the Operating System provided by Apple. To run iPodLinux, after resetting press the ‘Back’ button. Adjust the contrast level under ‘Settings’ and save the settings by choosing ‘Save Settings’. If you need to revert back to the Apple Operating System, choose ‘Absolutely’ in the ‘Reboot iPod’ window. The Fourth Generation iPod and the iPod Mini and Photo are still not officially supported by developers. However in tests conducted by CHIP, the installation met with no problems. After setup finishes, you only need to copy the ‘start’ file and ‘Podzilla’ from the installation folder to the main iPod directory (if it isn’t already there). Then proceed to do a reset. Restoring the original version: The moment the setup process starts, the program already has made a backup copy based on the iPod’s original data, which is kept in the same folder to run the setup. If you wish to do away with the Linux in the iPod, turn on the iPod in Disk mode and run the installer on the PC with the ‘-r’ parameter (without the quotes). The backup copy will be downloaded to the iPod. If a problem is encountered, you can still revert to the newer iPod version by using the ‘Restore’ function in the iPod Updater. Take note that using Updater will also erase all data and music tracks from the iPod.

4 Inserting Bookmarks in Music Tracks
The iPod supports the bookmark function for audio books. The player can start off from the last place you stopped or jump straight to the chapter you like. This function can be added to every AAC file—ideal for recording long Internet radio shows. Firstly, in Windows Explorer, open the folder with the AAC file. Click ‘Tools | Folder Options | View’ and remove the checkmark in front of ‘Hide extensions of known file types’. Right click the file and choose ‘Rename’. Change the file extension from

If a theme has its own font (in BMP and IFM file formats), load it by choosing the ‘Load Bitmap’ option. If you are using a font from a PC, click on ‘Make Font’ and choose a font in the following window and click ‘OK’. By selecting ‘Write’ the original firmware will be patched to activate the changes to the font and bitmap mentioned. Copying changes: Run the Updater to
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| WORKSHOP | iPod Top-Tools
With the top-tools provided in the CHIP CD, unleash the true potential of the iPod and iTunes.
SharePod 1.8.1: 1. Copy the iPod dataase to another PC, share your iPod in a LAN. iPodLibrary 1.2b: Copy an audio-book in either LIT, PDF, HTML, and TXT formats as notes in your iPod. iPodWizard 1.07: Replace fonts and graphics used in the iPod’s OS. iPodLinux-Installer 1.2.1: Install specialized Linux with many additional functions for the iPod. Palm2iPod 1.1: Synchronize the address book and calendar from a Palm-PDA. iStory Creator 4.0 Beta: Create stories, riddles and interactive games in TEXT format for the iPod. iPod Agent 1.0.1: Transfer email, agenda, to do, contact list and notes from Outlook to the iPod (Shareware). Pod Player 1.3.5: Play and copy music directly from the iPod while connected to a PC. MarkAble 1.0.9: Convert MP3, WAV and CD audio formats to audio books compatible with the iPod (Shareware). MarksMan 0.4.3: Backup, edit and add bookmarks in iPod’s audio books.

4 With MarksMan you can add bookmarks in audio-book files
‘AAC’ to ‘M4B’. Load this file using iTunes and synchronize the iPod. The ‘M4B’ file will appear under ‘Audiobooks’ on the player. To add in more bookmarks, open the file using the free tool, MarksMan and click ‘Add’. Insert the time wanted and type in a name—such as a song title—and save the bookmark by clicking ‘OK’.

5 GoogleGet fetches news and weather
forecasts from the Internet and sends them to your iPod as notes your iPod and want to know whether it has been damaged or not. You don’t need an expert, because the iPod has a diagnostic tool which can check the internal hard disk and make repairs if necessary. To run the diagnostic tool, you need to first reset the unit. As the Apple logo appears, you will require some nifty handwork. At the same time, press the ‘Back’, ‘Forward’, ‘Menu’, and ‘Select’ buttons until the diagnostic tool appears. The entire diagnostic process takes about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the iPod’s memory. You can stop the scan process by pressing the ‘Select’ button for about 3 seconds. This will give you an icon:

5 Reading Current News on the iPod
The iPod not only plays music, it also has a good note-recording function. GoogleGet loads current news from Google in your preferred language and also the weather forecast. GoogleGet also formats the received information as an iPod note and transfers it to the iPod. In order to run GoogleGet you need two VisualBasic system files which can be downloaded from http://googleget. markwheeler.net. Copy them to the ‘C:\Windows\System32’ folder. When run for the first time, GoogleGet will display a configuration menu. Choose ‘Detect at Startup’ for the ‘iPod Drive Letter’ and set a folder for notes under an appropriate file name such as ‘News’. Under the ‘News Options’ pick the language preferred and click ‘Find your Local ICAO Code’ under ‘Weather Options’. Find the nearest city displayed on the web site and fill in the ICAO code into GoogleGet under ‘Weather Location.’ Then proceed to connect the iPod to PC, make an Internet connection and run GoogleGet. Confirm that the transfer is finished. In order that this tool works properly, the iPod must be in the hard disk mode.

CD with a 3 mark: No errors were found. CD with a 5 mark: Stopped by user. CD with a ! mark: The scan has failed, will try again after restart or reset. Sad iPod : The restoration has failed, time to send your iPod to the professionals. CD with a à mark: Error detected, but has been corrected. Time to restore it, using the iPod Updater. ■ | A S Pratisto

GoogleGet 1.3.2: Download Google news and weather forecasts straight from the web to the iPod. iArt 3: Download album-covers for iTunes from various sources on the Internet. iRemote 1.9b: Create skins for iTunes and hotkeys for iTunes commands. ml_ipod 1.20: This WinAmp plug-in copies songs and playlists to the iPod without iTunes. iPodder 2.0: Finds, subscribes and downloads podcasts automatically. k-pod 0.96: Download e-mail from a POP or IMAP account, and read them on your iPod. euPOD Pro 1.6: This helps to disable the volume limitation (100 decibels) on the iPod Eropa. EphPod 2.75: iTunes replacement which can synchronize Outlook contact data and find song duplicates.

ATTENTION:
By running System-Restore, all your songs and playlists will be erased.

6 Repairing the iPod Hard Disk
God forbid it, but you may accidentally drop

INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Backing up data
This workshop tells you how to transfer, sync and edit data on your phone via your PC
lmost all new cell phones offer at least one way to connect it to a PC. It all started with data cables that used to connect the phone to a PC via serial or USB ports, which though fast and stable, is cumbersome with the clutter of wires. Later, IR let you communicate with a PC wirelessly as long the phone supported IR and the PC was equipped with an IR port. This was convenient but had its own share of issues like line of sight, range and data rate. Today, Bluetooth connectivity is the most powerful way of connecting the two devices. And, our workshop deals exactly with that. Besides Bluetooth functionality in your PC, you will also need an application, which will help the phone and PC communicate with each other. Various cell phone manufacturers have their own proprietary software applications that come bundled with the cell phone. For this workshop we selected the Nokia 6600. This workshop will step you through the process of transferring, syncing and editing data on your phone via your PC using ‘Nokia PC suite’ starting right from configuring the Bluetooth connection on your PC.

A

Connect the Bluetooth dongle
Before you start off, Bluetooth support will have to be added to your PC. For this you require a Bluetooth dongle which will enable your PC and cell phone to exchange data. If you have a laptop which has built-in Bluetooth support, you don’t need a dongle. You can then skip to the next step. Plug in the Bluetooth dongle into any USB port of the PC. It fits like a USB flash drive. As soon as it is plugged in, Windows will automatically detect it and install the necessary drivers in most cases. If it prompts you for manual installation of drivers, use the driver CD bundled with the dongle. To verify installation you can check ‘Device Manger’ under ‘Control Panel | System | Hardware’. The device will be listed under ‘Bluetooth’. After setting up the dongle, Bluetooth icon will appear in the system tray.

and make sure the phone’s visibility is set to ‘shown to all’ failing which the PC won’t detect your phone. Double click the Bluetooth icon in the system tray to bring up the ‘Bluetooth devices’ dialog box. Click the ‘Add’ button, check the ‘My device is set up and ready to be found’ checkbox and click ‘Next’. Windows will search for Bluetooth devices and list your phone. Click your phone’s name and click ‘next’. Select ‘Let me use my own passkey’ and type a single digit number in the passkey

Pair up the phone with the PC
The phone will have to be paired up with the PC to enable communication. Activate Bluetooth on your cell phone field. After you click ‘next’ the phone will prompt you to enter a ‘Passcode’. Key in the passkey you entered, in the passkey field. Windows will exchange passkeys and pair up with your cell phone. Click the ‘Finish’ button to complete the setup.

Configuring Nokia PC Suite
Install Nokia PC Suite which comes bundled with the phone on a CD. Launch it after installation from ‘Start menu | programs | PC Suite for Nokia’ After launching, you’ll see another icon (mRouter) in the system tray. Right click on it and select ‘connect to a Bluetooth device’. After it finishes searching for Bluetooth devices, select your phone and click the OK button. PC Suite will request ‘connect to your cell phone’. Choose ‘Yes’ on your phone to allow. A connection properties dialog box will now pop up. Now it’s a tricky situation. You need to select the port which allows

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incoming and outgoing connections from the list. To find out the ports, double click the Bluetooth icon in the system tray and select the ‘COM Ports’ tab. The port numbers will be listed. Now select the required port numbers in the connection properties dialog box. Another request will pop up on the cell phone. Accept it. After a few seconds, the mRouter icon will turn colored. After mRouter is activated, PC Suite will prompt to enter the phone name. Enter any name and click OK to begin using PC Suite.

Backup/Restore
If you have a huge list of contacts, messages and calendar data, it’s a must to backup your data. The backup/restore utility in PC Suite backs up all the data on the phone such as calendar data, contacts, messages, images, settings, etc on the PC. It starts backing up data on the phone as well in the memory card as soon as you click the backup button. It takes around 15 minutes to complete the operation, depending on the amount of data. Data backed up can be viewed in the generated log file in the backup folder. Be sure you back up your ringtones, operator logos and java applications manually as PC Suite doesn’t include these while backing up phone data. Data backed up can be restored by clicking the restore button. You can select the data and the target memory (phone/memory card) to be restored. So it is possible to restore only contacts on the phone memory if that is your choice from what has been backed up.

on the phone with the PC. Information can be exchanged with Lotus Notes, Lotus Organizer, Microsoft Outlook and Windows address book. After clicking the Synchronize button in the application bar, choose what you want to synchronize—calendar or contacts or both. Then click the Sync Now button and let PC Suite create default task for these areas so that you won’t have to go through the wizard again. From the list of software available, choose the one which you use to manage your calendar and contacts and click OK. Now click the ‘Change’ button to choose the synchronization direction and the details which you wish to synchronize. You may wish to synchronize phone numbers only leaving other details like work and web details. Or you may not want the PC to alter the information on the phone or vice versa. There is also an option to synchronize the details in an external address book file if you haven’t created a default profile. Synchronization will start once you click the OK button. After it’s complete you can view the details in the log file generated.

Transferring files
The File Transfer utility in PC Suite helps you to transfer files from PC to phone and vice versa. It also allows viewing, deleting or renaming files on the phone memory or on the memory card. This makes it a child’s play to transfer ring tones, images, videos and other files to the phone. Clicking the File Transfer button brings up a tree view of files and folders on the PC and the phone in a horizontal split window. The interface looks similar to Windows Explorer. To transfer files, you just need to drag the files from source to destination. There are special folders on the phone and memory card meant specifically for images, sounds and videos to manage your files efficiently. You can even carry other files like Word documents, PDF files and other files by transferring them the ‘other files’ folder. This can be very useful say if you wish to carry your files from home to your office. This workshop is applicable to all Symbian Series 60 based Nokia phones. Nokia PC Suite may differ from phone to phone but the basics as explained here remain the same. ■ | Anand Tuliani

4

Synchronizing contacts and calendar
With the synchronize feature, you can synchronize the contacts and calendar

5
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| TIPS & TRICKS

Tricks Tips&
DECEMBER 2005
WINDOWS
1 2 3 4 5 Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Displaying icons in Quick Launch Bar Disabling Scandisk Make the clock display date and day of the week Time in 24-hour format Save power easily

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APPLICATIONS
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Cropping images Visualization plug-in as a desktop overlay Generating an HTML playlist

IrfanView Winamp Winamp

Tip of the month
Shutting down your system during an application crash
I have always found that when an application crashes in Windows XP and I give the shutdown command, Windows XP always prompts for an input before shutting down. How can I shut down directly without approving the stopping of the non-responsive application? By altering the registry slightly, Windows XP can be set to close crashed applications automatically. So when the user gives the shutdown command during an application crash, the PC will shut down automically without waiting for input from the user. To allow Windows XP to close non-responsive applications automatically upon shutdown: Go to Start>Run and type in REGEDIT and navigate to ‘HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop’ Highlight the value ‘AutoEndTaks’ and change the value to ‘1’. XP will now close all applications that have hung without user input during the shutdown process.

INTERNET & COMMUNICATION
9 10 11 12 Web Browser Email Client Instant Messenger Instant Messenger Enhancing the Opera experience Tweaking ‘The Bat‘ Hidden emoticons! Disabling components in MSN Messenger

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13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Headphone Cable iPod Shuffle PC Microphone Smart Phones Mobile Phones Optical Drive Modems Installation Video Printer Extend the cord length of speakers Update your iPod Shuffle Reduce microphone sensitivity Prevent smart phone crashes Extend battery life Making use of the headphone jack Get rid of dialup noise Install hardware manually Decrease hardware acceleration Print many pages in reverse order

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Windows 1 | Windows XP

Displaying icons in Quick Launch Bar

I added a few shortcuts in the Quick Launch Bar. But instead of showing the icons, it shows a ‘>>’ continuation button which needs to be clicked to bring up the remainder icons. How do I extend the Quick Launch Bar to display all the icons? The Quick Launch Bar can display a maximum of three icons by default. When you add further shortcuts, a ‘>>’ button is displayed which brings up the icons when clicked. The Quick Launch Bar can be extended in the following way. Right click the taskbar and uncheck the option ‘Lock the Taskbar’. You’ll now notice that the toolbar can be extended by dragging its border. Drag the edge to extend the toolbar so that it displays all the icons. After you’re satisfied, right click the taskbar and check the ‘Lock the Taskbar’ option. Done!

“AutoChkTimeOut” and set it according to the value data below. Value Name: AutoChkTimeOut. Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value). Value Data: Time in Seconds or 0 to disable (default = 10). Exit your registry, you may need to restart or log out of Windows for the change to take effect.

3 | Windows XP

Make the clock display date and day of the week

How do I make the clock in the system tray display date and day of the week in addition to time? By default, the clock in the system tray displays only time. But if you want it to display date and day of the week too, follow these steps. Right click the taskbar and uncheck the option ‘Lock the Taskbar’ so that it can be resized or moved around. Bring the mouse pointer to the top edge of the taskbar so that the mouse arrow changes to a double-headed arrow. Now click and drag the taskbar to extend it upwards. Extending it once will make the clock display the day of the week. Extending it further will make the clock display the date. Also, in the case of a bigger taskbar, you can have an uncluttered one when too many Windows are opened simultaneously.

is a 12-hour format, which shows the time followed by AM or PM. However, if you want the 24-hour or military format, here is a quick way to do it. Go to Control Panel and select ‘Regional and Language Options’. Click the ‘Customize...’ button and then click the ‘Time’ tab in the dialog box. Change the ‘Time format’ field to ‘HH: mm:ss’. ‘HH’ displays the time in the 24hour format and ‘h’ displays time in the 12-hour format. You can further change the time format by referring to the Time format notation.

5 | Windows XP

Save power easily

When away from my computer, or during times when I forget to switch it off, how do I ensure saving of power? The advanced power management system in Windows XP offers some smart and useful power-saving features. You can automate Windows XP to switch off the monitor if there is no activity for a long time. Follow the steps to learn how you can instruct Windows XP to power down if there is no activity for a specific period. Go to “Start | Control Panel | Performance and Maintenance | Power Options”. Alternatively, right-click on the desktop, click on “Properties” and then select the “Screen Saver” tab. Click on the “Power” button under the “Monitor power” section at the bottom.

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The Quick Launch Bar doesn’t extend by default when you add shortcuts to it

2 | Windows XP

Disabling Scandisk

I would like to disable Scandisk when Windows XP starts up. Is there a quick and easy way out? When Windows is not shut down correctly, it will perform an AutoCheck using CHKDSK on the next restart. AutoCheck is executed after a short time delay. AutoCheck can be disabled or delayed by tweaking a few Registry settings. Run ‘Regedit’ from ‘Start Menu|Run...’ Go to ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE|SYSTE M|CurrentControlSet|Control|Session Manager’. Create a new DWORD value, or modify the existing value, called
DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

3 Clicking and dragging the taskbar
upwards make the clock display the day and extending it further shows the date

4 | Windows XP

Time in 24-hour format

How can I make the clock display time in 24 hours or military format? The default time format in Windows

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It hardly takes a few seconds if you are quick at using the mouse! your friends. You can even catalog your entire song collection by generating an HTML playlist of all the songs on your hard disk. To generate an HTML playlist, first generate a playlist of desired songs. In the playlist window, click the ‘Misc’ button at the base of the window. Click *’Misc opts’ and select ‘Generate HTML playlist. The HTML playlist will get displayed instantly in the default browser showing the number of tracks and the duration of the playlist as well as each song in the list. There’s also an option to save the playlist.

7 | Winamp

Visualization plug-in as a desktop overlay

Nullsoft’s Advanced Visualization Studio plug-in looks great both in windowed and full screen mode. But it would be great if there is a way to make it a desktop overlay. Is it possible? Advanced Visualization has around 100 great-looking presets, which are a great treat to the eyes. Full screen and windowed mode are most commonly used. But you can also make it a desktop overlay by changing a few settings in the ‘Winamp AVS Editor’. After executing the plug-in in windowed mode, right click in the plug-in window and select ‘AVS Editor’ to open ‘Winamp AVS Editor’. Select the ‘settings’ menu and choose ‘Display’. From the options under the ‘Overlay mode’, check ‘Overlay mode’ and ‘Set to desktop color’.

5 Time can be displayed in various
formats Click on “Power Schemes” and go to “Settings for Home/Office Desk power scheme”. You can instruct the operating system to turn your monitor off after a specified period of inactivity. Select the period of inactivity from the dropdown list.

APPLICATIONS 6 | IrfanView

Cropping images

What’s the fastest way to crop an image? By ‘fastest’ I mean cropping in a few seconds! The fastest way to crop an image is using the ‘Crop selection’ function in IrfanView. If you don’t have IrfanView (image viewer), it can be downloaded for free from www.irfanview.com. To crop an image, open it in IrfanView. Select the area you want to crop by dragging a box around it and then press Ctrl+Y to crop the selection.

8 It’s possible to generate HTML playlists
in Winamp to share it with others

INTERNET AND COMMUNICATION
9 | Web Browser
Enhancing the Opera experience

7 The AVS editor can be used to control
the mode and quality of the plug-in Close the ‘AVS Editor’ and return to Winamp with the AVS plug-in active. Now play a song and minimize all the windows and watch the desktop. The plug-in acts like a Windows wallpaper!

8 | Winamp

Generating an HTML playlist

Can I convert my Winamp playlist to HTML format? Please tell me how to do it By converting playlists to HTML format, you can share your song list with

I’ve always been a fan of the Opera web browser. Are there any ways I can supercharge my browsing experience using keyboard shortcuts and undocumented secrets in my favorite browser? There are several functionality enhancements to the new free Opera web browser, which can supercharge your web browsing experience. Let’s step through the most useful of them: Surfing full screen: For those of you who use lower resolutions, you might want to use the full screen functionality of Opera to display as much of your web pages as possible. Once you enter the full screen mode by hitting F11, there are several other keyboard shortcuts that you can use to show and hide various aspects of the
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| TIPS & TRICKS
can be changed. You will need to edit the ‘opera6.ini’ file in Opera’s program directory. Under the [User Prefs] section add the value “Gesture Threshold=10” (without the quotes). The number in this setting specifies the number of pixels over which a mouse movement will be recognized as a gesture. In this case, a mouse gesture will be registered if you move the mouse pointer greater than 10 pixels. Caching secure web pages: It’s usually not possible to save secure web pages to your hard disk for later viewing. However, Opera can let you do that with a little tweak. You will need to open the ‘opera6.ini’ file found in Opera’s program directory. Navigate to the [Disk Cache] section and add the line “Cache HTTPS=1” to it. That’s it—from now on you will be able to save secure web pages along with your conventional web sites! However, be aware that this is a potential security risk as you could wind up storing sensitive web-based information on your hard disk. So use it with caution. messages are especially important, where you would want to display only their messages and hide all others. The Bat lets you do this easily. Simply hold down the ATL key while clicking on the name of the sender in your folder listing in the ‘From’ column. You’ll find messages from only that user displayed. To return back to the original view with all messages displayed, go to View | Display and select ‘All messages’ or simply hit the ‘+’ key while pressing the ‘Ctrl’ key. Voilà, your views are back to normal!

screen and to navigate through your web pages. To show or hide the menu bar, hit Ctrl-F8. Pressing F4 will display the pane and to display the scroll bar, hit Ctrl-F7. When it comes to navigating in full screen mode, use the Shift-Z and the Shift-X key combinations for moving backward and forward through your pages respectively. Another cool capability is the ability to recover a window you might have accidentally closed while in full screen mode—simply hit Ctrl-Z and Opera will recover the web page you mistakenly closed. Spell checking in Opera: Even though Opera does not come with a spell checker of its own, you can install a free tool like Aspell, which lends spell-checking capabilities to your Opera mail. In fact, it also works in other fields such as blog or forum postings. All you need to do is download the program from http://aspell. net/win32. After installing, you’ll see the ‘Check spelling’ command in your emails. Sensitivity for your mouse gestures: As you might know, mouse gestures give you the capability to control your browsing experience by moving your mouse in pre-defined motions. However, you might find that the sensitivity is sometimes too high (or low) for your liking. This would especially be noticed if you are using a laptop touchpad as your pointing device. The good news is that this sensitivity

11 | Instant Messenger

Hidden emoticons!

I frequently use emoticons in MSN Messenger. Are there any hidden, undocumented emoticons that you can tell me about? There are, in fact, a few hidden emoticons in MSN Messenger. Type in the following to try them out: (ci): Cigarette (%): Handcuffs (xx): XBox (yn): Fingers crossed Go ahead and use them—your friends will be surprised!

10 | Email Client

Tweaking ‘The Bat’

I’ve been using ‘The Bat’ as my email client for a long time. Are there any cool tips that you can tell me about to extend the functionality of this program? There are several tweaks to ‘The Bat’ that can let you exert plenty of control over the way it functions and unlock special features in this email client. Let’s run through some of them: Printing page number in your emails: This is an especially useful function if your mails are lengthy and you need to keep track of the page numbers in their printed versions. Here’s how you do it: Click on Message | Print setup from the menu bar. Ensure that the ‘Print page numbers’ is selected. You can now also tweak the exact location and the alignment of your page numbers with regards to where you want them to appear in your final printout. That’s it! Display only selected messages: You might have some contacts whose

12 | Instant Messenger

Disabling components in MSN Messenger

I don’t particularly like the advertisements that appear in MSN Messenger and there are several extraneous features that I’d like to disable. Is there any way I can do this? There are several hacks through which you can disable components in MSN Messenger or change the way it behaves and looks. However, the better way to do so is to install one of the MSN Messenger patches. Since these patches are written for specific versions of MSN Messenger, make sure you are using the correct one for your particular version.
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There is, for example, the Mess Patch, which you can download from www. mess.be. After installing this patch, you will be able to install custom games in Messenger, remove the ‘BETA’ tag, disable nudges, enable multi-line nicknames and remove several components such as the MSN Search bar, the banner advertisement, the MSN Today button, etc. Go ahead and try it out—you’ll soon get used to the less cluttered interface!

HARDWARE 13 | Headphone Cable

Extend the cable length of speakers

I like listening to music on the PC wearing headphones. But since my headphone cable is not long enough, it gets stretched when I connect it to the PC. Is there a way I can extend the cord length so that I can wear my headphones comfortably, at least up to three feet away from the PC? You need to extend the length of the stereo cable. To do this, go to any electrical store and get a stereo audio extension cable. It’s a stereo cable in which one end has a 3.5 mm stereo pin and the other end, a 3.5 mm jack. Connect the cable to your soundcard and your headphones to the cable’s 3.5 mm jack. A six-feet cable should give you enough freedom. This cable is very useful when your cabinet is placed on the floor. You can connect the cable to your soundcard and leave the cable’s 3.5 mm jack on your table for instant use with headphones or speakers.

important data. To update or restore the iPod shuffle with the latest software: Download the latest iPod Update from http://www.apple.com/ipod/download. The update contains the latest software for all models of iPod. Double click the software install file and follow the onscreen instructions to install the iPod Shuffle Update. Open the “iPod Updater”, click the “Start” button, go to “All Programs”, and then point to “iPod”. Click the name of the most recent iPod Updater. After the iPod Software Updater has opened, connect the iPod Shuffle to your computer. Follow the onscreen instructions to update or restore the iPod Shuffle software. If the iPod Updater cannot detect the iPod Shuffle connected to your computer, turn the iPod Shuffle off and then on again. In case you want to restore the iPod Shuffle software but you don’t have an Internet connection, use the iPod Updater application that was installed on your computer when you installed the software from the iPod CD.

15 The slider should ideally be at 30 to 40
percent Lower the volume of the microphone and check for background noise. Stop at a level where the background noise fades out completely.

16 | Smart Phones

Preventing smart phone crashes

How should I prevent crashes on my smart phone? What is the problem that leads to such frequent crashes? In case your smart phone or PDA crashes or reboots after you launch applications or after accessing some feature, the problem is most likely associated with the software loaded on the phone. As with PCs, smartphones and PDAs also have operating systems, hence reboots and system crashes is evident from time to time. The best way to detect and repair these issues is to find out the application that is causing the problem. Detect the

15 | PC Microphone

Reduce microphone sensitivity

What can I do to do away with the background noise when I am engaged in a conversation on the Internet? Many of us suffer from the issue of the microphone being too noisy and sensitive, which results in a lot of disturbance during voice conversations on the Internet. The most common problem with microphones is extreme sensitivity, which makes them capture all the background noise. Thus the recipient not only hears your voice but also the background noise. To eliminate background noise, simply adjust the sensitivity of the microphone, as detailed below. Go to “Start | Control Panel | Sounds and Audio Devices”. Choose the Voice tab. Under the “Voice Recording” option, click on “Volume”.

14 | iPod Shuffle

Update your iPod Shuffle

How do I update my iPod Shuffle software? If you need to update or restore your iPod Shuffle software, there are two ways to do it: Download and install the latest iPod Update software, or restore your software using the iPod Updater application that came on your iPod CD. Warning: The restore process cannot be undone. All your songs and files will be deleted. Always make a backup of your
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| TIPS & TRICKS
other applications supported by the service provider, you can shut down the applications as long as you don’t need them. It pays to pare your phone down to its bare minimum functions—of making and receiving calls, and exchanging text messages. In case you want to create a specific profile for the battery-conserving mode, include all the above settings at one go by saving the specific settings as a custom profile. Next time you feel that your battery might run out, or you require some extra mileage, simply apply the power saving profile. Locate your optical drive under “DVD/ CD-ROM Drives” and double click on it. Go to Properties and under the “Digital CD Playback”, deselect the option “Enable digital audio for this CD-ROM Drive” Restart your machine, and you should be able to use the headphone jack with the optical drive.

exact action after which the operating system crashes or reboots, and unload or stop the application from loading in the background. If this solves the issue, you might need to check for the latest update of the application or patches that might be released to fix all known issues. To detect issues with memory, try to unload or uninstall some of the applications. If the unit works fine after this, the problem is most likely due to the shortage of memory resources. Try to upgrade the memory by using a memory card; this will also provide more storage space and help prevent crashes and reboots.

19 | Modems

Get rid of dialup noise

Every time I connect to the Internet, the modem makes a lot of noise. What do I need to do to get rid of this noise? If you connect to the Internet via a dialup connection and use an external modem to do so, this tip will help you get rid of the noise that the modem makes while connecting to the Internet. Usually, the default volume level of the modem speaker is set to maximum. This causes the modem to make loud sounds while establishing and connecting with the dialup server. You can disable or reduce the sound by following these steps: Go to “Start” and open “Control Panel”. Click on “Network and Internet Connections”. On the left side of the page, click on the “Phone and Modem” option and then on the “Modems” tab. Highlight your modem and click on the “Properties” button. Drag the Speaker volume to the level you want. Click on the “OK” button and close the “Network and Internet Connections” window.

17 | Mobile Phones

Extend battery life

18 | Optical Drive

Making use of the headphone jack

I often come across a situation where the battery is very low and I can’t charge the phone because the charger isn’t around. I want to know if it is possible to get some extra battery life and make the phone last a bit longer before it fails? There are simple and effective tweaks that reduce the load on the battery, allowing you a little extra battery life to make that important call without your mobile shutting down. For starters, you can conserve power by turning off the screensaver and the wallpaper. Secondly, you should ensure that the vibration alert is off, as this uses a lot of power. Set the ring tone to basic beeps and avoid long, polyphonic ring tones. If you use some mapping service or

How do I use the headphone jack in the optical drive? Almost every optical drive comes with a headphone jack, but it’s seldom used. In fact, many of us can’t use it even if we wish to, because we fail to get any output from the headphone jack. The reason is that almost all optical drives today can handle digital music directly, instead of relying on the audio cable that goes to the soundcard.

18 Disabling digital audio will activate the
headphone jack on CD-ROM If you’re using Windows XP, chances are that the digital music playback feature is enabled by default. Optical drives can’t play digital and analog music simultaneously, so if you want analog output from the headphone jack, you will have to disable digital music and switch to analog audio. To do this, just follow these instructions: Go to “Start | My Computer | Properties | Hardware | Device manager”.

20 | Installation

Install hardware manually

What do I do when the operating system can’t identify the hardware? Although new operating systems like Windows XP comes with a comprehensive driver management system, which detects any new hardware as soon as it’s installed and proceeds with the driver installation immediately, there are times when the hardware is not identified. In such cases, you will need to manually install the drivers
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and configure the new hardware. The “Add Hardware” feature in the Control Panel is specifically provided to handle the job of adding new hardware manually. Here’s how you can learn to use this feature. Go to “Start | Control panel | Add Hardware”. Double click on the “Add hardware” button to automatically launch the “Add hardware wizard”. Click on the “next” button to proceed with the hardware installation. The Wizard will first try and detect the new hardware by itself; if it cannot find any new hardware, it will first verify whether you have already connected the hardware to the computer. Select the first option (“Yes, I have already connected the hardware”) and click on “Next”. The next screen will ask you to select the hardware device that you are attempting to install or update. From the given list, select the connected hardware device type and if the particular device is not listed, click on the option “Add a new hardware device” given as the last option in the list of devices. The next screen will give you an option to either scan the computer for the particular hardware device that you specified or manually install the new device type. Select the options “Install the hardware that I manually select from a list” and click on “Next”. Now select the hardware type that you are trying to install, and click on “Next”. The wizard then provides you with the list of manufacturers and model numbers it has in the Windows XP driver database. Select the exact model number from the manufacturer and click on “Next” to install the drivers. There might be a case where the wizard does not have a particular device driver in its database. In such cases, you will have to download the drivers from the respective web site and choose the “have disk” option to install the downloaded drivers.

22 | Printer

Print many pages in reverse order

I have a lot of pages to print and I want to save paper at the same time. Is it possible to print on both sides of the sheet? Please can you tell me if there’s a quick and easy way to do this without much sweat? First you will need to set the Printer Options to print in reverse order. Click on ‘File | Print in Word’. The ‘Print’ dialog box opens up. Click on ‘Options’ and select the option ‘Reverse print order’. Click ‘OK’. Now you need to print all the odd pages first and then the even. For this, click on the dropdown list ‘Print’ and select ‘Odd Pages’ first. Click ‘OK’ and let the printing begin. The printout will have the last odd page number at the bottom. All you have to do is take these papers and flip them over, such that the last odd number page is on top now. Keeping the head of this odd page facing you, place the bunch in the paper tray once again (not the manual feed tray). It is advisable to take a test printout with one page to confirm with your printer, instead of wasting a whole set of papers. Now, fire a print once again (note that the reverse order is still on), this time choosing ‘Even Pages’. The printer takes the last odd page and prints the last even page on it. This goes on and in the end you will have the first page on top—no need to reshuffle. And it’s ready to be bound. ■

20 Manually select the hardware that you
wish to install could be the reason? Your problem seems to indicate that your hardware is either not compatible or not configured properly. This is due to video acceleration problems, which tend to affect activities like surfing and working with documents, one of the most common being problems with scrolling and other visual effects. However, there are many ways to detect and solve such problems. The first step is to decrease hardware acceleration, and disable other hardwarerelated features that might cause issues. Follow these steps: Go to “Start | Control panel | Display”. Go to the “Settings” tab and select “Advanced”. Inside the “Advanced” menu select the “Troubleshooting” tab. You can make changes to the hardware acceleration settings by dragging the slider from “Full” to “None”. By default, the acceleration is set to “Full”. Depending on the severity of the problem, you can decrease the hardware acceleration Just below the hardware acceleration slider, you can see the “Enable write combining” option. Write combining improves video performance by speeding up the display of information to your screen. However, increased speed can cause screen corruption, so if you experience problems with your display, clear the check box. Once done with the changes, click on “Apply” and restart the system to apply the new settings. Note: This tip primarily applies to Windows XP Operating System

21 | Video

Decrease hardware acceleration

I have been facing problems while playing games and even while surfing, etc. What
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What’s in a Genre?
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Action, adventure... there are genres galore. It’s easy to pick the game once you know its genre
he wise men say that as industry develops, RPG will not just ask you to pick up weapons its terminology soon overtakes its and wage war against evil but will also demand technology. Well, that certainly seems to that you determine the skills you wish to specialize in, and the kind of be the case in gaming. A decade or so ago, there were not too many games in the market person you wish to be. This is (in the Indian market, at least) and one generally done by allotting did not have to worry about genres points to different or acronyms like FPS, RPG and attributes. The best RPGs RTS. Today, things are different. allow you to play the The gaming industry is making game as good and bad more money than Hollywood and characters. Most RPGs suddenly a game is more than just are based in medieval busting evil or building a good city. worlds with magic spells There are genres galore and more and categories are being created every day. strange Lovely locales with a puzzle lurking out there —an adventure game it must be! Here’s a look at some. creatures

The big ones: Major categories
Action: The name really says it all. The
action category comprises games that for the most part, depend on the gamer’s speed and reflexes. These are generally games that revolve around shooting, jumping and racing. The accent is generally on timing things perfectly. And there are enemies, weapons, and regrettably, gore galore. Examples: Half-Life, Painkiller, Doom, Far Cry, Prince of Persia, Quake. Sim City 4 is a classic example of a strategy game or a city building game for that matter

to go around. Conversations play a major role in determining your progress in these games. Examples: Diablo, Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale.

Simulations: Nicknamed “sims” (not to be
confused with the game of the same name), these provide gamers with an opportunity to participate in virtual versions of different activities. Most games in this category involve sport and aircraft flying. For instance, FIFA 2006 is a football simulation while Flight Simulator is a flying sim. These games are targeted at followers of sport and other activities, and involve intense research on the part of the developers to ensure the game recreates the real experience as closely as possible. Examples: FIFA football series, the Tony Hawk series, Microsoft’s Flight Simulator.

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Vishwanath Vanjire

Adventure: Nicknamed “roamers” by many gamers, games under this category essentially involve moving around and discovering, and interpreting clues. There generally is more than a decent element of mystery involved and lots of puzzles to solve as well. Adventure games are often based in spectacular worlds and serve up great graphics and sound. Examples: Myst, The Longest Journey, Escape from Monkey Island. Role playing games

Perhaps the most “intellectual’ of all gaming genres, role playing games literally ask gamers to define the character that they play. A classic

Strategy: These are ones for those with a managerial bent of mind. The games inevitably revolve around utilising resources in the best possible manner to achieve an objective such as raising an army to conquer the enemy. Most of the time

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have at some stage belonged to the “top down” category.

And still more genres!
Let’s round off matters by casting a glance at some genres that are well-known even though they are in most cases covered by the ones mentioned earlier:

games allow you to build living creatures and then take decisions that affect their lives. Black and White and Singles are other games that can be slotted in this category.

City building: If the game involves construction and maintenance, slot it into this genre. Prominent members include Sim City, Caesar and Pharaoh.

Real time strategy: If “shooter” is
Monsters running at you as you scramble for your weapon? That’s an action game all right. Doom 3 in this case these games revolve around building kingdoms or outmaneuvering the enemy. Many gamers tend to describe these games as “spreadsheets with graphics” because your success depends on how you utilise the information and assets that you possess. Examples: Age of Empires, The Sims, Civilization, Caesar, Sim City, Warcraft, Shogun: The Art of War. irretrievably linked to first person, then “strategy” has of late become linked with “real time”. The RTS genre covers those games which allow you to go on playing without having to wait for your opponent (in most cases, the computer) to make a move. Most strategy games such as Age of Empires and Sim City come under this genre.

Genres by perspective
A few other classifications such as the ones below are based quite literally on how you see the game:

First person shooters: These games allow you to see the environment through the eyes Fancy goggles that let you see in the night are of the character you play—in first a staple feature of most stealth-based games person perspective, so to speak. As most games in this category involve a great deal of shooting, the term chucking a spell back at you or simply “shooter” has been added to “first person” running away. This genre is slowly fading to come up with the most popular gaming away, notwithstanding the success of Sid genre in the world today. If the game Mieir’s Civilization series. involves your looking down the barrel of Stealth: The popularity of Thief and Splinter your own weapon, it’s an FPS. Cell has led to a surge in games where the Top down: These days, almost every objective is to avoid rather than slaughter game worth its salt comes in the enemy. And even if you do come across glorious 3D, allowing you to some opposition, it’s preferable to render it revolve the “camera” to view unconscious rather than kill it. High quality the game from virtually any sound and lighting effects are the hallmarks perspective. However, prior to of these games in the stealth genre. After 2000, most games were twoall, they are mostly about lurking in the dimensional and presented shadows without making a sound. gamers with a view from God playing: This genre has evolved the top—so the name, “top almost entirely due to the overwhelming down”. Be it the Age of Empires popularity of The Sims series. God playing or Warcraft, most games

Turn based: Called “action and reaction games”, turn-based games are like chess. You make a move and then wait for your opponent’s move before proceeding. So when you cast a spell at your enemy, you can’t cast another until the enemy has had a go at something—either

EA’s FIFA football series is a great example of simulation

Squad based: A number of games such as Rainbow Six and Rainbow Spear involve the gamer undertaking a mission along with a number of “virtual’ colleagues. These games called squad-based games although actionoriented, involve teamwork and planning.

Do genres matter?
The list above is by no means comprehensive. Die-hard gamers will point out that it contains no reference to management games, horror games and adult-themed games, not to mention hand-to-hand combat games. However, it’s good enough to keep you up to speed. Ironically, even as new gaming genres continue to emerge, PC games seem to be moving away from the restrictions of genres. In fact, the best games contain components from different genres. For instance, the Tomb Raider series contains elements of action and adventure. Still, it makes sense to know gaming genres. It gives you a better understanding of the gaming industry. And note the respect you are given when you say you need some RPGs the next time you go to your local gaming store! ■ | Nimish Dubey

d and create Try playing The Sims!

One of the most anticipated first person shooter games of 2005 is here. You have been through the promos and videos which created a lot of hype and suspense around the game. Now it’s time for the real thing!

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ll those who played the F.E.A.R. demo already know what the game engine is capable of. It was one of the most slick and intensive demos released this year, which not only gave a sneak peek into the game but also into the kind of hardware needed to play it. F.E.A.R. is a scary FPS. The dark environments, weird sounds of babies crying in the background and random sightings of a little girl running around in a pool of blood give you the creeps. But soon you begin to get so comfortable with them that you almost tend to ignore the ghosts. You have more important things to worry about, like the clones that can’t wait to put a bullet though your head. Being a member of F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon), a US government task force established in 2002, your

mission is to find and neutralize Paxton Fetal, a destructive commando controlling an army of clones. The plot is very generic and you face waves of soldiers stopping you from completing your mission. As far as the plot and gameplay go, F.E.A.R. is just another FPS with a very clichéd storyline. But what strikes the game apart from the others is its outstanding game engine, best of the class special effects, engaging combat and nifty AI. The particle effects combined with extensive bump mapping and heavy shader usage easily makes F.E.A.R. one of the best looking FPS games of the year. The combat is very intensive with bullets whizzing around, and the damage on the walls though exaggerated, adds to the intensity. Use of

A scary game heavily relies on sound and FEAR scores very well at it. The chilling ambient sound in the background with ghostly voices add to the atmosphere. The game emphasizes on details—the texturing on the walls, weapons, models and sound are all handled with a lot of attention. Bad news for gamers with strapped budgets—this game is a complete system hog, the updates do help to resolve some performance issues but still the game is very demanding on your system. If you want to play the game with all the eye candy notched up to max with 4X AA and 16X AF, you will need the very latest hardware to play it. All in all, if you are an FPS gamer, F.E.A.R. is highly recommended. For the rest it’s well worth trying as long as your machines can handle it. ■ | Soham Raninga

Pramod Jadhav

RATINGS

8/10
For: Excellent effects, engaging combat, tight AI Against: Lacks variety, Resource hungry

soft shadows, volumetric lighting and slow motion effects together make the game one of the most visually appealing games of the year. The “slowmo” mode is greatly inspired by the Matrix movie series and looks as spectacular as it did in the movie. It’s also a key element of the game, giving you the extra time to take down the enemy with precise head shots! Game physics are also well implemented, the weapon drag and ragdoll physics are realistic and not too exaggerated. A shot in the arm or leg will never get the enemy down—they will limp thier way to safety and fight back immediately. The overall A.I. is pretty tight, the clones will seldom come charging at you, they will regroup, strategize and creep on you very skillfully. The only real hole in the AI is exposed when you realize that the communication amongst the clones is loud enought to expose their tactics, allowing you to escape the grenades and sudden ambush attacks. The environments are mostly enclosed and most of the gameplay takes place inside factories, buildings and research facilities. After a while the close quarter combat in a very similar environment becomes monotonous. The game lacks variety in terms of environments and gameplay and that keeps it at a fair distance from FPS gods like Half-Life 2.

Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games Developer: Monolith Productions System: Windows 2000/XP, DirectX 9.0c, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz equivalent, 1 GB RAM, 128 MB DirectX 9.0 compliant video card with hardware T&L and pixel shader support, 3 GB free hard drive space for installation, 16-bit DirectX 9.0 compliant soundcard, broadband connection for multiplayer games

Simple game play, amazing ambience, and an addictive gaming experience—that’s Dungeon Siege 2 for you
he original Dungeon Siege was a game marked by stunning graphics, easy game play and dollops of action. It represented an ambitious attempt to marry the simple, action-oriented gameplay of the Diablo series to the party-based combat approach of roleplaying game (RPG) classics like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. The debate is still on as to whether it succeeded. The game’s supporters wax eloquent about its visual beauty and effortless gameplay, while its detractors sneered at its wafer-thin plot and the lack of control over character development (the essence of an RPG). Some of the criticism must have struck a chord with the game’s developers because Dungeon Siege 2 seems to make a conscious effort to address some of these shortcomings. It also adds a few new touches as it takes gamers back to the mythical land of Aranna, which (surprise, surprise!) has been threatened by the revival of an ancient evil. Of course, before you can get on with kicking some evil butt, you need to install the game. And therein lies one of your sterner tests. In keeping with the latest fashion of spreading games across as many CD-ROMs as possible, Dungeon Siege 2 comes on four CDs. Installation, therefore, is a trifle tedious—you can nip out and have a cup of tea while waiting for the game to install. On the brighter side, the game will run on most PCs, even those without graphics cards. The game, like its predecessor, is an actionpacked romp through spectacular locales. You play the role of a mercenary (choose from four species, two genders, and a variety of appearances and apparel) fighting for Prince Valdis. Although you succeed in your initial mission, you are betrayed and one of your close friend is murdered. You wake up in prison and have to not only fight your way to freedom, but

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also avenge your friend’s death. And while you are at it, there’s also the little matter of tackling the ancient evil. Predictably, this involves all sorts of travel and endless battles with hordes of enemies. It’s the presentation of this rather routine story that takes your breath away. The waterfalls, the forests, the underground tunnels, and even the dungeons are sketched out in exquisite detail. The voice acting is pretty good, the music brilliant, and the sound quality —from the creaking of machinery to the clash of weapons—is excellent. Beneath the style lies a fair bit of substance— you have more control over the development of your characters and can allot points to different skills, which are linked in a skill structure that bears more than a passing resemblance to Diablo 2. There are more conversations, and you can interact with a number of characters as you go about your missions. You can also now take pets along on your adventures. Maintaining them is easy—you feed those weapons and as they grow up, they more than hold their own in battle. There are a few new weapons and spells and you can also add a new dimension to weapons by enchanting them (again, shades of Diablo 2). The game has three difficulty levels, with the more difficult ones becoming available only after you complete the preceding level. Game play remains as simple as ever, although you now need to right click (rather than left click) on the enemy to attack. The game is party-based so you will have to keep an eye not
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The make-up room! You can tweak your hero’s appearance, gender and species, amongst other things

The game looks absolutely gorgeous except for some rather shabby cut scenes!

You have greater control over your characters and can allot points to different skills and spells

just on yourself but on your followers as well. And yes, you can still get pack mules to carry your booty, which happens to be plentiful. So plentiful that you will seldom need to buy any weapons, spells or armor from shops during your travels. With all this, you would think Dungeon Siege 2 is an RPG classic. Unfortunately, it’s undone by its shortcomings. The game saving system is appalling. You can save only one game per character created. What’s more, if you save and exit the game, you cannot restart it from where you left off. Instead, you will be plonked at a certain location near the beginning of the mission and will have to make your way to where you had saved the game. A small mercy is that the baddies you had massacred previously will not have respawned. And while the addition of conversations is welcome, they seldom contribute to the plot. Unlike Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic where your responses actually help form your character and can even twist the tale around, any chit-chat in Dungeon Siege 2 is unlikely to affect what you do (which, in most cases, is go out and fight). The battles themselves are basically point and click exercises against numerous but weak enemies.

With details of enemies, details of your party, a map, items, potions and notices about entries in your journal, the screen seems a tad cluttered at times Screens often get crowded with way too much information (details of your party, information about the enemy, a map, potions, etc), hampering your progress, especially in the heat of battle. And while most of the game is utterly gorgeous, some of the cut scenes are of remarkably poor quality—a far cry from the stunning cinematics served up by Diablo 2. But in spite of all this, Dungeon Siege 2 remains an extremely addictive experience. Once you start playing it, you are likely to be so mesmerized by its

ambience and simple gameplay that you won’t notice the hours tick away. So it is a pity that a daft pricing policy has ensured that the game will be accessible only to those with deep pockets. At Rs 1,999, Dungeon Siege 2 is priced way above other popular games like HalfLife 2, Sims 2 or Far Cry. And that might just keep it off most shopping lists this Christmas. ■ | Nimish Dubey

RATINGS

6.5 / 10

For: Terrific graphics, great sound, simple game play, greater character control than in the original, reasonable system requirements. Against: Grossly overpriced, poor game saving system, weak enemies.

Price: 1,999 Publisher : Microsoft Game Studios Developer: Gas Powered Games Phone: 9899457751 E-mail: v-ruchga@microsoft.com System: Windows XP SP 1 or newer, 1.0 GHz equivalent or higher processor, 256 MB of system RAM, 4 GB available hard disk space, Quad speed or faster CD-ROM drive, ATI Radeon series 7000 or better/NvidiaGeforce series/Intel Extreme Graphics 82845, 82865, 82915

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If you haven’t taken a crack at the next version of ID Software’s masterpiece, you’re missing some serious FPS lovin’!
hen dealing with a game that has transgressed cult status to something much larger, it’s difficult to know what to expect in a subsequent version. As I was installing Quake 4, I recounted the countless blissful, yet adrenalin charged hours I spent on the original Quake II and Quake III Arena. Quake 4 is a continuation of the story that made Quake II famous (you can’t really count Quake III as this was purely a multiplayer game that had no single player storyline to talk of). However, these games forever redefined the First Person Shooter genre and continually pushed the envelope of graphical excellence in computer gaming. With the kind of legacy it left behind, Quake 4 would need to have some pretty interesting offerings under its belt if it were to impress me. And I’m betting this is exactly the same feeling shared by the millions of Quake fans around the world. With the game finally installed, I launched it and held my breath. As I started out with the single player game, I was apprehensive as to how well this would stack up to the rest of the formidable competition from the likes of F.E.A.R., Call of Duty 2 and, of course, Half-Life 2. I’m happy to say that Quake 4 was not disappointing. Powered by and upgraded version of the visually splendid (albeit dark and foreboding) Doom 3 engine, Quake 4 looks fantastic. Starting with the environments, each is richly detailed and is replete with realistic bump maps, hundreds of moving elements, particle effects like steam and fire and shiny metallic and synthetic surfaces. Although Doom 3 was a tad monotonous with its claustrophobic metallic corridors, Quake 4 does have a fair number of outdoor maps, roomy indoors along with its own cramped metallic corridors! Then there are the monsters. Since you play the part of the protagonist Matthew Kane and are conveniently thrust into the midst of the

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Top: The sheer detail in the game’s character modeling is stunning Middle: You’ll encounter a horde of mutant monsters with pretty things like cybernetically implanted weapons. Sweet! Bottom: The Strogg boasts slick character animation— if you’re willing to sacrifice yourself, you can stand around and ogle at them!
Pramod Jadhav

most dangerous missions on the alien Strogg planet, you are bound to come across a happy variety of mutant life forms, none of whom are very friendly. If you’ve played Doom 3, you’ll see a resemblance in these monsters with their ultra-detailed anatomy, fluid motion and each with their own growls, moves, strengths and vulnerabilities. They do exhibit a certain amount of AI when you see some of them going through with what looks like a little scripted jig as they advance toward you while dodging your attacks. But these are minor, forgivable shortcomings. They exhibit excellent rag doll physics and this is evident in the way they react to being blasted with a shot gun at point blank range or while falling down a metallic staircase. Visual ecstacy! Talking about blasting, we come to one of the highest points in the game—the weaponry. If you’re the kind that fired the Quake II nailgun at walls and got a high purely on the sound effects and the sheer power trip it gave you, be prepared to re-live the splendor all over again. The weapon implementation in Quake 4 is awesome. Each gun sounds meaty and powerful and has just the right amount of recoil and response to make it look like you’ve actually used them! You’ll see all of the old favorites like the Hyperblaster, the shotgun, machine gun, nail gun, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, rail gun and the lightning gun. You obviously don’t get them all at the outset—you pick them up (or are handed them) along the way. Another interesting inclusion is the ability to upgrade each of these weapons as you progress through the game. A nice touch which definitely adds to the power trip! As you progress through the single player game, you are required to meet with a range of marines from different squads where you are given instructions and missions ranging from escorting medics to injured squad-mates
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all the way to disabling alien weapon installations. This requires you to often fight along with other AI squad members on missions. However, there are also several stretches within the game where you are pretty much on your own while trudging through an array and dark and inhospitable spaces. There is a generous amount of talking during the game with your squad members and leaders giving you missions and hints on achieving them. We are told that these voice-overs are actually performed by legitimate Hollywood actors. We didn’t recognize any though! Quake 4 has also added the ability to take charge of a range of vehicles and larger weapons, lending a bit of arcade game play—very appealing if you’re so inclined. The game is also sprinkled with a generous amount of scripted cut scenes and mild shock sequences (you see a dead body being dragged around a corner by something, just as you enter a room), all of which definitely add to the overall thrill. Also be warned that there is plenty of blood, gore and human entrails splattered throughout the game—so unless you’re a specialist in anatomy or are tough enough to stomach it, be prepared for the bloodbath. There’s a very interesting sequence midway through the game where you get captured by the Strogg forces and are ‘Stroggified’, meaning that you become part Strogg and part human—a cyborg of sorts. But seeing as you now have heightened reflexes and strength along with the cool capabilities like the ability to read alien script, this is not really a bad thing. And you always thought the Strogg were bad! With a surprisingly good mix of weapon implementation, game play, maps, interactivity and variation, the single player mode of Quake 4 comes together well. Perhaps the maps and environments are not as diverse as what you would find in Half-Life 2, but it does hold out well with the nostalgic,

yet upgraded weapon implementation and the stunning power of the Doom 3 engine. But then, it also has multiplayer gaming. This is the component that made Quake III Arena the success it was, with its fast-paced network gaming. Quake 4 does a pretty good job of this. There are several multiplayer maps, including remakes of classics like ‘The Longest Yard” (Q3DM17) from Quake III and “The Edge” (Q2DM1) from Quake II, along with a host of engaging deathmatch and CTF maps. However, since this version of Quake is way more demanding than its predecessor on system resources, you’ll need some pretty serious system firepower to run a multiplayer Quake 4 match at playable frame rates with all the graphical bells and whistles enabled. However, armed with the right hardware, the mutiplayer game play captures all the flavor of the original Quake III Arena. The only problem is that it doesn’t do much more than that. While we were expecting evolved modes of game play with greater multiplayer variation, we were disappointed to see that the developers cloned the exact Quake III Arena experience and clothed it with their new graphical engine. All said and done, Quake 4 delivers on the gaming and graphical front. The single player is engaging and will have you glued to your seat with its attention to graphical detail, awesome sound effects and the craftily scripted and environmentally varied storyline. While the multiplayer gaming is not a quantum leap from its predecessor, it does provide adrenalin-inducing LAN gaming, provided you have the computing power to allow Quake 4’s graphics engine to stretch its legs to its full visual splendor. ■ | Marco D’Souza

RATINGS

7.5 / 10

For: Drool-inspiring graphics engine, engaging single player mode, excellent weapon implementation, varied environments Against: No significant enhancements in multiplayer gaming, heavy on the system

Besides the mandatory dank corridors, there are plenty of outdoor battle scenarios as well

Price: 1,299 Publisher : Activision Distributor: Placebo CD-ROM Club Developer: Raven Software Fax: 022-56237766 E-mail: placeboclub@rediffmail.com System: English version of Windows 2000/XP, Pentium 4 2.0 GHz or Athlon XP 2000+ Processor, 512 MB RAM, 8x speed CD-ROM drive, 2.8 GB uncompressed hard-drive space, 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible 16-bit sound card, 3D Hardware Accelerator Card with 64 MB video memory compatible with DirectX 9.0c

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

Are you ready to be a ruler?

A

fter almost six years, the Age of Empires is back in full glory with a major face lift. Unlike the Age of Empires 2, which featured a sunny, colorful and a lifelike world rendered by a 2D graphics engine, the Age of Empires 3 features a more lifelike world rendered by a cutting-edge 3D graphics engine to please your eyes. It doesn’t redefine real-time strategy gameplay, but there are plenty of new elements and strategic variations to make it even more challenging and interesting.

Eye candy galore!
The Age of Empires 3 utilizes Pixel Shader 3.0 to render soft shadows, HDR lighting, bloom and real time shadows so that you dont hunger for eye candy. Ensemble Studios has taken great pains to craft this beautiful game which is truly a piece of art coupled with the best technology. Foot prints of warriors, reflection of mighty warships in sparkling water, bright flame of fire, bright skies, dense forests—not a single detail is missing. The music is equally impressive. Done in full orchestra, it clearly highlights the beauty of the landscapes and fury of the warriors. Blast an enemy structure with a canon ball and you’ll see pieces of it flying in macabre arcs along with plenty of smoke and fire. All this is possible because of real physics built into the game engine.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Pramod Jadhav

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Ships shatter into pieces when they’re attacked by firing canons

Units get into a formation while attacking buildings

It’s great fun watching warriors fighting in the battlefield

Game play
Like any other RTS game, the primary objective is to devastate your opponent. You start with a Town Center and a few Settlers who gather resources (food, wood and gold). You have to cleverly use resources to expand your empire by building barracks, docks, artillery foundry, marketplace, trading posts, guard towers, etc. Building these structures gives you facilities to train infantry, cavalry, artillery and fleets of ships which then have to be cleverly micro-managed and instructed to devastate your opponent’s empire. In comparison to AOE II, swordsmen and trebuchets are replaced by musketeers and canons. Also added are ships which can train infantry. This makes it easy to train units across the ocean in addition to transporting them. Infantry can now be trained in groups of five rather than training one unit at a time as in Age II. Since AOE III simulates colonization, you can request shipments from your Home City for your town. You gain shipments by earning experience by collecting resources and killing units. Finally, apart from the realtime play, a “Home City” representing world power can be created, which supplies your colony. As you gain experience you can customize it by upgrading structures, adding people and choosing new abilities. There’s a good variety of missions in the single-player campaign mode with difficulty settings for each mission. In the skirmish mode, you can customize maps and battle it out against the computer. The Multiplayer mode allows you to fight against human opponents on a network. You can chat with other players, send instant messages and form or join a clan.

Finally...
AOE III does seem surprisingly rough around the edges in some respects. It’s quite frustrating when the effects go off for a few seconds while you’re in the middle of a battle. However, the version 1.01 patch fixes this bug. Also when you charge your units into a combat, you’ll have to micro-manage healers so that they don’t join in. However, these minor glitches don’t affect the core game. If you have never played a real-time strategy game, this is the place to start. And if you are a fan of the genre, don’t miss this awesome game. With highly addictive game play and levels lasting for a few minutes to a few days, you will surely be busy with it for months together. ■ | Anand Tuliani
Price: Rs 999 Publisher: EA Games Distributor: Gamemasti Phone: (022) 23881443 E-mail: sales@gamemasti.com XP/ 2000/Me/98, The SIMS 2, CPU: 1 GHz or more, 256 MB RAM, DirectX 9 compatible video card, soundcard, HDD with 1.5 GB space System: Windows

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

It’s every football fan’s dream to have a say in the running of his favorite football club. EA FIFA Manager 06 lets us live that dream
ootball fans have one thing in common— they all think they know better! Better than the manager, the coach, the club director. Therefore, it isn’t hard to rationalize the success of games like Championship Manager and Total Club Manager. In keeping with tradition, EA has come up with the new annual avatar of the Total Club Manager series—rechristened FIFA Manager 06. This time, though, along with the name change is a streamlined interface and a whole new 3D match engine. Sports strategy games are difficult to slot into the usual genres as they usually require a canny understanding of the ins and outs of the sport concerned. Which makes FIFA Manager 06 not a gamer’s game, but a football lover’s game.

F

Playing the job market
The game comes on three CDs and once you sit through the installation process, you can get under way immediately, which is, depending on your inclinations, to take your club to greater glory or lead the way to rack and ruin. Oh, and it might be a good idea to keep your coat ready—for you may be sacked if you fail to live up to the expectations of the board, the fans or the press! This is a good time to remember that football management is not just about winning cups and competitions. Sometimes the most difficult job is just to avoid relegation. The game offers four basic

modes of play. In Club Manager, you can choose your club and get stuck into it right away. Similarly for Club and Country Manager, where you have to juggle the two jobs. In both these you may play with sacking on or off, depending on how much pressure you can handle. The other two options are slightly more challenging. In Play Career, you will be made three random offers from clubs. You may accept, reject or negotiate. But don’t hang around waiting for Manchester United to offer you a contract. It’s more likely to be some club you never even knew existed, and your job will probably be avoiding the relegation run-around. If negotiations fail, you start the season jobless till more offers come along. The final option is to Found a Club and start off in the lowest league of the country of your choice. Before you start playing, you need to select the countries and leagues that will remain playable in your game. Then enter your personal details. Call yourself Arsene Wenger if you wish, or Sven Goran Eriksson, or even J K Rowling! In fact, you could add a custom portrait to make it more authentic. Finally, you will need to fine-tune your detailed job profile—decide on footballing or administrative tasks that you will perform. These can also be tinkered with later in the game, so don’t worry too much. Now, with the main formalities over, it’s time to choose your club or haggle with the board.

Let the bootroom battles begin!
You are welcomed to your new job via what is called the Home Page, where various people communicate with you through email. A new addition is the Football World in-game web site, which provides you with the latest happenings in your league and the rest of the fooballing world. The various aspects of your job are accessible through tabs on top of the screen: Team, Club, Marketing/PR and Facilities.
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Vishwanath Vanjire

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All communications to you are directed via email in the News Center section of the home page. Keep a close eye on this!

Control freak or laid-back delegator? You decide and palm off whatever you can’t handle to your backroom staff

If the figures and balance sheets get you excited, take on the financial management of the club

FIFA Manager is not just about selecting line-ups and deciding tactics. It is about managing a football club in its entirety. It seems exciting at first to have a say in everything—from overlooking youth development, to stadium building, merchandising, designing the team kits, advertising and ad boards, to setting training schedules... and much, much more. But as the season progresses—heck, as the week progresses—it gets a bit much and you might have to delegate. You feel here that a tutorial would have helped, especially given the rather spartan manual. If you want, you need not have a single thing to directly do with a football match, and treat FIFA Manager like a business simulation. Hand over all matters related to footballing to your backroom staff—from dealing with players right from scouting juniors to selecting the first playing eleven, to deciding tactics during games, and negotiating transfers and contracts. Meanwhile, you may choose to look after only the financial aspects—pore over balance sheets, decide budgets and so on. Day by day, you, as manager, are expected to keep an overall eye on things. A Proceed button on the top right of the screen tells the game to get a move on. Your players are taken through their training schedules, and life generally goes on in the footballing universe. Any time during the week—when there isn’t a match on—you may pause or stop the progress to change the way things are being run (or to put a spanner in the works, depending upon your grand plan). Early in

the season is a good time to keep an eye on the transfer market. You have nothing to do with the actual playing of football—unless you have done something daft to unsettle the players so they play really badly, or are playing a totally loony formation (fancy John Terry as your main striker?). You can only make sure your players are ready and your tactics are sound. There are three options when it comes to matches. Instant results where the computer calculates the result and gives you an update at halftime, leaving you with a choice to make substitutions, change tactics, etc. Text mode is decidedly more involved, and you can yell instructions form the sidelines and make a sub any time you like. Nope, no Stuart Pearce-like antics are allowed (more’s the pity!), nor have I come across an option to hurl a shoe! But I did get a chance to tell my players after a particularly bad first half: “Shall I go and have a kickabout myself while you lot do your hair?” Finally comes the 3D match engine. While it looks good, it adds little to a game of this sort. Not only does it drive the system requirements sky high, it seems to be a cheap tactic by EA to palm off its FIFA Football action footage. The My Career option at the bottom of the screen accesses your personal options,

from where you can talk to the board for a contract extension or invoke the release clause, etc. There is also a personal trophy room, but you will need to clock many hours of game play before it sheds its bare look.

Glitches
The most annoying aspect of the game is the loud music that comes packaged with it. Fortunately, you can turn it off or replace it with your own MP3s—though why one would want music while managing a football club is beyond me. Another problem is the frequent crashes the game has (especially while running the 3D match). It did so randomly on a 512 MB machine and even on a 1 GB machine with a 128 MB graphics card, so clearly it has nothing to do with system requirements! This makes the default three-week autosave period too long. You either need to change that or manually save often, lest you find your hard-fought Cup comeback has been lost and you have to do it all over again! All said and done, the scope of in Football Manager 06 is mindblowing. While the Championship Manager series seem to rule the football management genre, they are yet to be visible in this part of the world. Hence, there is scant competition, making this one a winner. Overall, this is a football lover’s paradise. This is our chance to prove ourselves better than the Arsene Wengers and Alex Fergusons of the world. And if it gets too much, you can always click on Retire! ■ | Payal Dhar
E-mail: gamemasti@vsnl.net System: Windows

RATINGS

7.5 / 10

For: Gives a complete picture of how a football club is run; amazing scope Against: Annoying music, frequent crashes; 3D match is resource-heavy

Price: 1,999 Publisher : Electronic Arts Distributor: Gayatri Impex Pvt Ltd Phone: (022) 23881443 98SE/2000/ME/XP, 1Ghz processor, 256 MB RAM, 1.5 GB HDD, 8x optical drive, 32 MB video card.

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

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Online malls
Shopping on the Net is fun these days with a mélange of stores and products

W

e Indians as a race use the touch and feel approach when it comes to shopping. Try convincing your sister to do her wedding shopping on the Net. She will blow her lid if you ask her to wear something that was bought without taking an actual look at it. In spite of that approach, online shopping has really taken off in India. Doing a shootout of this kind was difficult. So I chose the most popular and the niche sites. I’ve put them in two categories—the superstores and the specialty stores. Let’s take a look.

SUPERSTORES
www.shopping.indiatimes.com www.sifymall.com www.shopping.rediff.com First up are the superstores—shopping sites of large portals that also do news, movie listings, weather and sports. They sell everything right from nose hair trimmers to lawn mowers. You will not have any problem finding your gift here no matter how bizarre it is. I am clubbing them together as they have similar web pages. All the three have the same look and feel with a column on the left that lists all the stores. You have got apparel, books, electronics, jewelry, toys, music, DVDs, the works. The middle of the page has the colorful boxes with taglines like “four-megapixel branded camcorder for Rs 1,417”. On the right is a column with special stores like Nike and Ray Ban. Prices are usually decent to downright ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean ridiculously low. And you wonder if they are showing you something and will ship you something else. If you are a regular to the Planet M at your nearest mall, do take a look at its electronic counterpart on Indiatimes (www.planetm.co.in). Archie’s Online (www.archiesonline. com) is also an Indiatimes partner store. No winner among the three here—each one is as good as the other. www.fabmall.com Yet another superstore but with limited stores, Fabmall’s popularity has waned over the years. It’s not quite as exhaustive as its big cousins, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes it up in quality. Check out the leather and handicrafts stores for some really cool deals. www.myvalueshop.com For incredible deals, log on to My Value Shop. The biggest drawback is that it’s only available for HDFC Bank Net Banking customers. But for the prices they have, it’s worth opening an account with HDFC Bank. Its USP: prices.

SPECIALTY STORES
www.firstandsecond.com If you are the literary kind and love to read and gift books, then Firstandsecond is the site for you. India’s answer to the original Amazon, F&S says, “If it’s in print, it’s with us”. With over three million titles in every possible genre, it has sections for kids, managers, cooks and students also. The discount store features bestsellers at 80 percent off the printed price. They even have a dial-a-book service for ordering on the phone. www.fernsnpetals.com Want to get a huge basket of flowers delivered to you wife at the stroke of midnight on her birthday? Use Fernsnpetals’ midnight delivery service. Yes, they actually do that. It’s a specialty store for flowers. Choose from chocolaty love (flowers with an ecstatic chocolate cake) at Rs 600 or a room full of flowers at Rs 3,499. From basic garden roses to exotic orchids, they have it all. FNP has 38 retail outlets in major cities and they take orders for weddings also. www.craftsbridge.com Craftsbridge’s specialty is handicrafts. If you are looking for handmade bags with sequins and glasswork, you will find them here. They have a huge selection of ethnic apparel including kurtas for him and her, exotic jewelry, Madhubani and Tanjore paintings and decoratives for the house. Created to promote sustainable income for the economically challenged artisans, Craftsbridge is the true artistry of India.

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How to Shop Online
Online shopping is quite similar to shopping at your nearest supermarket but with the ease of staying at home. With most sites, it’s as simple as typing and clicking the next button. Let’s take a look at how to go about it after you’re at your favorite online store.

STEP 0: Register
Registering with the site is a mandatory requirement for most sites. It’s a one-time process that captures information like your billing and delivery address, and communication information necessary for any transaction. Some sites even ask your preferences and family information

of products and reviews posted by others who have bought them. Once you have made up your mind on the item(s) you want to buy, select by clicking on an “Add to Shopping cart” button. This could be just below the item or you may have to tick a box for multiple items and then click a similar button at the bottom of the page.

or demand draft options. Remember they will ship the product only when the money is in their bank. There’s also the direct online bank transfer method where you can transfer directly from your banking account, provided you have the service activated at your bank. Last, but not the least, there’s COD or cash-on delivery. Pay when you get

0 Fill in all details accurately while
registering to create customized homepages for your choice of stores. Fill in all details accurately.

2 Take your time to choose the items.
Images and reviews can be referred to

5 You can make payments through VISA,
Mastercard, American Express it. But don’t to use this option with your girlfriend. She won’t be too pleased if she has to pay for the Valentine’s Day gift.

Step 3: Order
After you have selected, place the order. Go to the “Shopping Cart” page to do a final check on the items. After all, you could change your mind about the ghastly pink pullover. The shopping cart will show you the final bill at the bottom.

STEP 1: Browse
Once you log in with your registered ID and password, you will be directed to the main page that lists the stores. Portals like Indiatimes and Rediff have anywhere between 20 to 50 different stores across multiple categories. Go to the specific store if you know what you want to buy. If you can’t find what you are looking for, just use the “Search” option. All sites have it somewhere or the other and it’s generally quite powerful. If you still can’t find it, some sites have a “Wish List” feature. It registers your request and sends you a mail when the item is available with them.

STEP 6: Confirm
You will now reach the final confirmation page. This is your last check for items, delivery address, payment method and the amount you will spend. If everything looks hunky-dory, just click the “Proceed” button. Be patient here as based on your payment option the site will do the necessary credit card validation or redirect you to your bank’s web site for the transaction.

STEP 4: Delivery Options
Check your delivery address—if you are getting it for yourself or put the address of the person you want to ship it to. Some sites even get it gift-wrapped for a nominal fee. If the site charges for delivery, it will be added here.

STEP 7: Track STEP 5: Payment Options
Several payment options are available with most sites. Credit cards are the easiest but make sure that the site is Verisign certified for security. You can use VISA, Mastercard or American Express. Then there are cheque That’s it. All you have to do now is wait for the courier guy. Some sites let you track your shipment online by linking to their courier company. Great pill for the impatient! | Raunak Roy

STEP 2: Choose
Generally sites are quite elaborate about product details. There are multiple images

Sam Fish

The cool dudes are here!
Up, close and personal with the coolest heroes in the gaming world
n gaming, it seems you need curves or scales to get noticed. If that sounds a trifle hard to believe, then just scan your mind for the most popular characters in gaming—it’s a fair chance that most of the names that will pop up will either be female (in all probability, the top heavy Lara Croft or the sleek Kate Fisher) or villainous (Diablo, the aliens in Half-Life and Doom, etc). But heroes? Well, some might recall Gordon Freeman and a few others might invoke Sam Fisher. But all in all, the cupboard of popular memory seems rather bare when it comes to the darker sex. Which is all a bit of a pity, really, because computer games have had more than their fair share of knights in shining armour. Let’s meet five of the coolest heroes in the history of computer gaming.

The do-it-a hero with rather dry sense of humor— that’s Sam Fisher for you

I

Sam Fisher
He looks a bit like George Clooney, dresses like a frogman and is one of the best stealth artistes around. Among the recent gaming heroes, there are not too many who can match the popularity of Sam Fisher. A member of Third Echelon, an elite anti-terrorist organization, Sam made an immediate impact on the gaming world with Splinter Cell (2002). Generally sent on solo missions into enemy territory with nothing but a few weapons, the odd gadget and a live audio connection to Echelon headquarters, Fisher is a one-man spying force. He can scale walls, slide across ropes, knock out security cameras, hack computers. But he is no Superman, just a good professional doing his job. And doing it without losing his sense of (rather dry) humour. Games: Splinter Cell, Splinter Cell: Pandora In fact, many people play Splinter Cell just to hear Fisher’s comments. Tomorrow, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. It’s a measure of his popularity that when word leaked Best Lines: out that the next game in the series would highlight Anna: The Maria Narcissa. his ‘negative side’ (robbing banks, Sam Fisher: Sounds like your setting me up for shooting civilians are evidently on the another blind date. Anna: The Maria Narcissa is a boat. menu), the developers were flooded Sam Fisher: So was the last girl you set me with emails asking them to change up with. the plot. Max Payne As you can see, this dude is damn good with pistols or with any other weapon for that matter

Ky

A o

Max Payne
He looks like a Hollywood hero of the Sixties and speaks like something out of a Raymond Chandler novel. A police officer who was embittered by the brutal murder of his young wife and child, Max exploded into the gaming world in 2001. He was in many ways an urban cowboy—cynical, anti-establishment, lonely, and yes, damn good with a pair of pistols (or any other While deciding which heroes would weapon that happened to be around). The original Max Payne game saw him take out an entire be in the running, the following drugs cartel by himself, battling his way through dozens of well-armed enemies. And yet, at the parameters were taken into end of it all, no matter what he did, he could not escape the ghosts of his past. He returned a consideration: few years later in The Fall of Max Payne, this time pursuing not just criminals but also a They should have done something a love interest—the lovely Mona Sax. But little changed—the cynicism remained and so lot more substantial than just shoot, did the overwhelming sense of melancholy that accompanied the man. bomb and jump. We chose characters Perhaps no gaming hero has spoken as Games: Max Payne, Max Payne 2: The Fall of who speak their mind and add to the many profound dialogues as Payne. It seems Max Payne. game’s ambience. In short, people he can’t utter a sentence without evoking Best lines: with personality, and not just a lot of a similie or a philosophical observation. The genius of the hole: No matter how cool weapons and ugly enemies. Sorry, A killing machine with a philosophical much time you spend climbing out, you Gordon Freeman and Serious Sam. You outlook to life (and death)—that’s Max can still fall back down in an instant. guys don’t make the cut. Payne for you.

| Selection criteria

Vishwanath Vanjire INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

Sam Fisher
FEATURE

he do-it-all ero with a dry sense humor— at’s Sam for you

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Garrett
Seldom seen and almost never heard, he steals from the rich. And gives the proceeds to himself. Nope, Garrett does not seem to be your standard gaming hero who rides out against all odds and takes on the forces of evil and disorder. When Thief: The Dark Project was released in 1998, many felt that the game would fail because it relied more on stealth than on confrontation. The game was one long creeping assignment in which the objective was to avoid and rob, rather than slaughter the enemy. However, it was Guybrush Threepwood a rousing commercial and critical success. And one of the reasons for this was its main character, Garrett. A person of indeterminate age, Garrett lives in what seems to be Medieval England. He starts out as a pickpocket, but Guybrush proves is spotted by the Seekers, who recognize potential and train him to be it indeed that a Thief (notice the capital letter—this is no ordinary housebreaking it doesn’t take Games: Thief: The Dark Project, Thief 2: the muscles to make thug, but a skilled professional in his own right). Unfortunately, Metal Age, Thief 3: Deadly Shadows. an impression! his profession not only puts him onto a collision course with the Best lines: Going legit is more trouble than it’s worth.... authorities, but also with different political sects. Needless to say, he handles them with aplomb, leaving them with lighter purses and heavier hearts.

ne

Guybrush Threepwood
Perhaps the coolest hero of them all, Guybrush Threepwood will never make you gasp in wonder. But boy, he sure can send you into gales of laughter. He made his debut in The Secret of Monkey Island as a youngster who wanted to be a pirate. But he is a lousy sailor, is a bit of a coward and is useless with weapons. But what he does have in abundance is cheeky wit. The Monkey Island series of games is arguably the funniest in gaming history and Threepwood is at the heart of it, blundering into trouble and then blundering out of it with equal élan. His encounters with the pirate Le Chuck, his utterly hilarious courtship of Elaine and his ability to wage insult-based duels have had the gaming world in splits for years Games: The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenver, The Curse of now. No matter what the situation, Threepwood Monkey Island, Escape from Monkey Island. inevitably has a daft solution at hand. It’s another matter that the solution Best Lines: comes with its own share of trouble—Threepwood turned Elaine into a gold Ahh, the middle finger... the most statue when he gave her an engagement ring (of course, he did not know it communicative of fingers. was cursed!). He proves that you don’t need weapons to be a hero.

an e d

Kyle Katarn Although one of the most successful heroes ever, Katarn doesn’t like to be seen as one

Kyle Katarn
He belongs to the Star Wars environment, is buddies with Luke Skywalker, can use the Force and, heck, is more than handy with a lightsabre. What’s more, he has featured in four full-fledged games and an expansion pack over a period of almost eight years, making him one of gaming’s most successful and enduring heroes. Kyle Katarn made his debut in Star Wars: Dark Forces, but it was the game’s sequel Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 (better known as Jedi Knight) that made him a cult figure. A member of the Imperial forces, They should have appeared Katarn gets bitterly disillusioned when he discovers that his father has been murdered. Armed in more than one game. with the Force and his father’s lightsabre, Katarn avenges his father’s death, but refuses to A single game does not a become a Jedi, preferring to do it alone with his friend Jan Ors. Like all gaming heroes, Kyle too cool hero make. has a penchant for attracting trouble, so it’s hardly surprising that he finds himself in the thick of action time and again, more often than not kicking some serious Dark Side butt. When last To make matters easier, seen, he was teaching at the Jedi Academy. Games: Star Wars: Dark Forces, Jedi Knight: Dark only heroes who have His ability to wield his wit as niftily as his Forces 2, Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith: Jedi appeared on PC games lightsabre has resulted in some spectacular Knight: Jedi Outcast, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. were considered. There repartees. He does not like to be seen as a Best lines: are simply not enough hero (“Don’t call me ‘master’, call me Kyle,’ Never trust a bartender with bad grammar. consoles in India. he instructs his students in Jedi Academy), but is one nevertheless. ■ I Nimish Dubey

DECEMBER 2005 | INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP

Classifieds

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180

Classifieds
TO BOOK SPACE HERE CONTACT
Mumbai Martin Wilson Phone: (022) 56666869 Bangalore Mohammed Asif Phone: (080) 5597282/83/84 New Delhi Pranav Saran Phone: (011) 55303287/79/80/82 Hyderabad Vasudevan Iyer Phone: (040) 23392226 Chennai O. K. Gurumurthy Phone: (044) 28295050/54 Kolkata A. K. Roy Phone: (033) 2468637/2468638 Pune Yogita Vaidya / S. Naidu Phone: (020) 56031234

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LAST WORD

The Last Word
Hyderabad calling
Amidst the confusion that usually surrounds me post edit meetings I was asked to travel to Hyderabad for a day. Not knowing what it was all about at that point of time I happily agreed to go. I am not completely sure if I accepted the invite just because I was getting to go to the city that is the birthplace of a tennis star (somehow the Charminar is not the landmark that comes to my mind when I think about the city anymore. Damn the media!). Maybe it was the opportunity to be out of office and not being answerable to my superiors for a day—reason why I don’t have ‘roaming’ activated. The itinerary involved attending the workshop on Microsoft’s latest offering—Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006. I assumed it would be a press event where a bunch of suits (predictably marketing and brand management teams) would wax eloquently about how their product would completely change the way business is done in organizations and then finish off with a grand finale of a myriad graphs and succeed in numbing our brains forever. Sarcastic thoughts (and my general dislike for the suits) apart, I went about completing whatever work I could before the trip and patiently waited ‘for further details’. The day before the journey, I was briefed about my flight timing, was mailed a list of the speakers going to be present and got an SMS containing the address—in case I missed the pickup at the Hyderabad airport, in Begumpet. The last thing I wanted to hear was, “in case you miss the pickup”. I had an early morning flight from Mumbai, so a pickup was arranged. But the car would pick me up 2 hours before the flight time—at 5.45 am! me and I was on my way to visit Microsoft at high-tech Hyderabad. Phew! I decided to introduce myself to the journalists at the Hyderabad airport itself as I needed some shut eye before the workshop. Thankfully, it was an aisle seat with extra leg room—courtesy the Emergency Exit. A steward came forward shortly before take off and instructed a middle-aged gentleman (a seat away from mine) on how to use the emergency exit. “Sir, once you get the order from flight personnel or the captain, pull this handle like this and let go immediately since the exit will snap open…” But the steward’s words snapped a nerve in the man. “This is too much to understand”, he shrieked. “How can I remember all of this?” The steward politely directed him to the manual in front and things were normal again. Guess, in case of an eventuality, the gentleman would start reading the manual once the warning bells rang. I was in good hands (who was I kidding!).

Paradise lost…and found
Everything went like clockwork once I reached the airport—met my fellow journos, got the pickup, verified the address SMS’d to us and off we were. Our chauffeur was always on the phone with someone he called “Aantey” (Aunty). I almost laughed out loud when he said, “Kya Aantey. Kaleech ice cream kheelaya naa..” We reached the Microsoft office and realized we were at the wrong venue. A ‘shuttle’ was arranged for us and we set out for Microsoft’s India Development Center—the largest Microsoft Dev Center outside the US. It’s a 171,000 sq meter plot land packed with lawns, quaint walkways, a tennis court, basketball court, billiard tables on each level (the building I was in)... I was in corporate heaven! Microsoft might have issues with Open Source but they sure have none with open spaces! We were introduced to the team leads and hard core developers who took us through some truly interesting and intensive sessions. They even did their level best to dumb it down for us folks. Mucho Gracias! I set out early in the morning thinking I might be caught snoring in a large hall meant for press briefings. Instead, there were just five journalists against eight hard core veteran Microsoft developers! Compared to my journey to Hyderabad, the return was uneventful—the excitement of visiting the city having faded. But I still can’t get that accent out of my head, “Kyaa Aantey…” | | Ashutosh Desai
INTELLIGENT COMPUTING CHIP | DECEMBER 2005

At the crack of dawn
Two other journalists were going to be on the same flight to Hyderabad. The thought that they would also have to wake up at an insane hour made the pain more bearable. The car arrived a little after 6 am and we set off for the domestic airport. My flight tickets had been booked online, so all I had was a print out. Never had I flown with e-tickets and here I was, a technology writer, getting worked up about online ticketing. While my practical half consoled my plebian half, we reached the airport and I had no choice but to give the e-tickets a shot at the check-in counter. My boarding pass was handed to

2005

Rs 150

Best Products of 2005 | 50 Processors in Test | Dual GPU Graphics

12

RNI Registration No. MAHENG/2003/12687

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