December 2006


The format wars have begun , this time around the main contenders are blu-ray and HD  DVD , HD DVD has the backing of Microsoft and Toshiba among others , while Blu-Ray is being endorsed by the likes Sony and Poineer . To the average enthusiast the format itself means nothing , its what the format can deliver is what really matters .
There was once a time long(*100) ago when we used to see movies on VHS which used a Mylar tape running over a rotating head which itself ran at about 40 km/hr . How it works is a remarkable technological achievement and requires a few pages of information but the format in which the data is laid out is something like this

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Dont bother about the image quality as Microsoft paint does not offer me much of a choice , well the red line and the green line are the control track and the Audio track and the diagonal lines represent the individual video tracks . the head reads this information and relays the information to the Television
Next came the digital media revolution ie. the CD and the DVD , The data is stored in microscopic pits and to the laser these pits look like small bumps , these bumps reflect the laser onto a lens which reads it as a series of ones and zeroes , this digital signal is sent to a DAC which converts it into an analog Signal and sends it to the display

A HD DVD is very similar to this but the pits are much smaller and the tracks are also very close together , another important difference is that DVD’s use Mpeg-2 format and HD-DVD’s primarily use Mpeg-4 compression( other formats are also supported). On the Hardware side the HD DVD reader uses a Blue -violet laser at 405nm wavelength as compared to a DVD which uses a red laser at 650 nm wavelength

The result of this is that an HD-DVD can on a single layer hold 15GB of data as compared to the DVD’s 4.7 GB further , the player itself can read the data and relay it to the display about three times faster that a DVD reader , all this increased data capacity enables a HD -DVD to deliver the 1125 lines of pixels ( from top to bottom) required for the signal to be classified as HD.

A very detailed technical description and heaps of information about HD-DVD can be found at the HD DVD promotion Website, those interested can visit the site , alternatively if you have a ge force 7 series and above video card ,you can download the nvidia pure video codec and some HD content and see what HD has to offer for yourself

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TI OMAP3430

“wireless handheld communication Device” – sound familiar, commonly known as the cell phone for many is just a magical piece of hardware which can do just about anything , make phone calls , access e-mails ,take pictures , play games and the list goes on and on . well it just got better . TI’s OMAP 3 architecture and the first offering named the OMAP3430 promises to revolutionize mobile multimedia.

designed to deliver laptop like performance, 3430 is also the industry’s first applications processor to be designed using the 65nm manufacturing technique, has the highest clock speed and marks huge advancements over the company’s OMAP 2 series .
The chip is based aorund the ARM Cortex A8 processor and also inclutes an integrated 2D/3D graphics processor, TI estimates that one can expect up to 4X performance increase in multimedia applications which means better audio and video playback , better games and a smoother interface, the integrated graphics processor also enables multiple formats like Real video , windows media video and mpeg , mpeg-4 etc, it features an on chip camera image pipeline which removes the need for external circuitry i.e camera phones based on it won’t weigh a ton, camera sensors up to 12 Mega-pixels are supported by the chip, the 3430 also features extended output capabilities , it can connect directly to VGA and S-Video outputs without needing any external interface ,  it even has fully compliant HDD interfaces and USB2.0 interface and also  compliant with all the High level operating systems like Linux , Windows mobile and Symbian

a very high level architecture diagram is given below , more information can be found at the TI OMAP website

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Multicore – it is the most significant word in the CPU market today , Ever since Intel launched their Core2 Duo range of microprocessors , AMD’s competetive advantage has gone up in smoke , Intel’s processors seem better , cooler and deliver more bang for the buck , That probably explains the aggresive pricing by AMD to try and boost sales , Moreover Intel has already announced that quad core CPU’s will soon be joining the linup , for the uninitiated that means four cores on a single chip , Intel also has a large manufacturing advantage with thier 65nm fabrication process while until recently all AMD cpu’s were made on the 90nm fab process , this rules out a new quad core CPU from AMD anywhere until mid of 2007 becuase at 90nm a quad core chip will be just too big and would need an industrial strength cooling solution, it should be possible around mid 2007 when AMD announces thier new Microarchitecture

Till that day we have the AMD quad FX platform- two dual core AMD FX processors running on the same board , apparently AMD has also promised compatiability when the new quad core processors come out , which translates to 8 cores on a single board , jus thinking about is enough to give the most casual of enthusiasts goosebumps , the only board available at launch was the NVIDIA 680a which is quite surprising considering AMD’s recent aqqusition of ATI . check out this review of the quad FX platform and you ‘ll know what i am talking about

One more thing Quad FX has to offer is absolute eye candy .. just take a look at this rig (Yes those are two processor slots)

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A lot has been said about Vista and DirectX 10 over the last few months , and Microsoft has claimed that DX 10 is the future of computer graphics , in many ways this is quite true considering that DX 10 has been written anew right from scratch and addresses a lot of the problems that developers face while developing applications which use the DX9 API. The most substantial of these is lessening the object overhead,
what this means is that the API is using the CPU to achieve specific tasks before using the GPU for rendering ,this translates into the application calling the DX API which in turn calls the GPU drivers, thus every 3D application has a CPU overhead.. this is one of the main reasons for wanting a good processor when building a gaming rig.

Another remarkable improvement is the way vertex and pixel processing is handled by the GPU , the topic itself needs a lot of explanation and those interested can look at

http://www.nvidia.com/page/8800_tech_briefs.html

DX 10 includes a completely new shader model and two new HDR formats as well and has many features which lack in the DX9 API

The bottom line is that with DX10 computer graphics is going to change , it will be faster ,richer and more immersive and since DX10 will only be available with VISTA , like it or not- those interested in experiencing true next gen will have to go buy the OS .