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Slashback: Dataplay, XviD, PPC 183

Slashback's updates tonight (read on below) have more on Dataplay, background on the PowerPC that Apple and IBM have been brewing, the return (triumphant?) of XviD, Neal Stephenson's next opus, and more.

Pins and needles, pawns and bishops. s20451 writes "It looked grim earlier in the week, but following a fifth game meltdown by Kramnik and a brilliant game 6 by Fritz, the computer has tied the match 3-3. Betting on the computer in game 6 would have brought you a 7-1 return! I'll be on the phone to Vegas."

The new, new, new economy has room for camels. SwiftOne writes "According to their website, The Perl Journal has gotten enough subscriptions to begin online release (the planning of which was previously covered, along with the concerns about not reaching their goal. The first (next) issue is expected in early November."

Maybe it was the 15th-mover disadvantage. melt writes "Dataplay, the Boulder-based manufacturer of quarter-sized recordable discs and drives, finally called it quits on Friday, October 11, 2002. The remaining 120 employees (who have been on furlough for the past few weeks) have been let go and the company has closed shop. They are looking for a buyer for the remaining pieces. Full story at the Rocky Mtn News web site."

Zoom in until you see little canyons ... Twirlip of the Mists writes "IBM's chief scientist for their iSeries family of servers (a.k.a. the AS/400 family) has an article on describing the somewhat confusing history of the POWER4 microprocessor. In light of recent speculation about a possible relationship between IBM and Apple, this article is of particular interest. It clears up-- at least partially-- some of the complex, incestuous relationships between the PowerPC architecture, the PowerPC processor family, and the POWER4 processor. As an added bonus, there's some talk about the upcoming POWER5 and POWER6 processors near the end. The key phrase (and disclaimer): 'expected to appear in 2004.'"

Shame on Sigma. Gruturo writes "After almost 3 months the XviD project and website have reopened, though Sigma Designs has not complied yet with all their requests (they still carry their copyright on many modified sources). In these last 2 1/2 months the project still went underway, although unofficially:
B-frames are practically ready, motion estimation algorithms have been improved, work started for Qpel implementation."

Please stop teasing us. If you liked Cryptonomicon, you've probably been impatiently watching the announcements of when the next Stephenson book would appear. wka writes "Previous false starts notwithstanding, Amazon says Neal Stephenson's new novel Quicksilver will be published in January."

And next week, building box-girder bridges. scubacuda writes "Lawmeme has released Part III to their Law School in a Nutshell series (Part I and Part II were previously featured on /.)"

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashback: Dataplay, XviD, PPC

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why? Isn't nickel-sized SD storage small enough with large enough capacity?
  • by Bobulusman ( 467474 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:06PM (#4457839)
    but I find these two quotes very funny in reference to a computer:

    The computer's 30th move guaranteed it a lasting advantage. After the game, Kramnik called the move "not very human."

    "Fritz with the queens on is a different animal. It's a monster," Hodgson exclaimed.

  • by Wee ( 17189 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:07PM (#4457842)
    This is great news... mostly. I was really hoping to have a copy for my trip to London in late November, but I guess it was not to be. I figured as much a while back, but held out small hope.

    Anyone have any good recommendations on geek books suitable for 26+ hours of flying (and a few couple-hour jetlag-induced insomic sessions)? Besides the Slashdot book review section, I mean. Novels and such...


    • Knuth! (Score:5, Funny)

      by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:16PM (#4457911) Homepage

      How about the 3 volume 'Art Of Computer Programming' [] by Knuth.

      Not quite a novel, but meaty enough to give you loads of info, or technical enough to send you to sleep (depending on your mood at the time)... or if you still need sleep, you could try hitting your head with the books, I know how the engine noise and people can just keep you completely wired during a flight.

      Enjoy your flight.

    • by DeadMeat (TM) ( 233768 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:24PM (#4457958) Homepage
      Gravity's Rainbow [] by Thomas Pynchon is a terrific read. It will definitely last you more than 26 hours (it's over 700 pages long and incredibly dense -- it's been aptly referred to as the postmodern Ulysses) and (without giving too much of the plot away) deals with some "geek" stuff like rockets and calculus.

      It's also an excellent book in its own right -- it won the National Book Award in 1974, and it would have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize had the board not considered it obscene and overriden the judges' decision.

      • by Jay Carlson ( 28733 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @10:31PM (#4458702)
        it would have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize had the board not considered it obscene

        It is obscene; that judgement is correct.

        But it is also divine.

        In fact, you can pick an arbitrary pair of opposite, highly charged adjectives, and both will likely be a fair description of Gravity's Rainbow. So as well as being tedious and boring, it is also challenging and endlessly fascinating. Not to mention deadly serious and deadly humorous. I can't think of a novel that has more influenced my worldview than this one.

        A-and how can you say no to a book that has lame calculus humor in grafitti, or a bunch of drunk Army engineers chasing the protagonist, singing limericks about Doing It with the German V2 rocket hardware?

        There was a young fellow named Hector,

        Who was fond of a launcher-erector.
        But the squishes and pops
        Of acute pressure drops
        Wrecked Hector's hydraulic connector
        (Hints for the first-time reader of GR: you don't have to understand it the first time through. Hell, you can just skim it. It's still funny and interesting. Also, gin helps a lot.)
    • May i suggest Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door 2003: The Travel Skills Handbook for Independent Travelers [] His guide books have tons of interesting info on Europe that most people would never think about.
    • GEB! (Score:4, Informative)

      by illsorted ( 12593 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:46PM (#4458057)
      I can't pass up an opportunity to plug, "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid". I found it in the philosophy section of my local bookstore a month ago and have been devouring it ever since.

      Here's an Amazon Link []
      • Ah, yes, that's the book where Hofsteader devotes 20% of the content to an exposition of Goedel's incompleteness theorem that, even for a layperson's book, manages to be simultaneously belabored and simplistic. 10% of the content muses about Bach's music in an even more simplistic manner. Occasionally, he mentions Escher or includes a picture just for the hell of it. The rest of the book is devoted to sheer intellectural wankery, devoted to just how goddamned clever Hofsteader considered himself to be:

        "I know, I'll write a piece about a recording that fails to resolve, and my essay will also fail to resolve!"

        "I know, I'll write a vignette that mentions acrostics, and it will itself be an acrostic!"

        "I know, I'll write an essay about a mirror fugue, and the essay will itself read the same forwards and backwards!"

        "I know, I'll write an chapter about recursion, and that chapter will itself be recursive!"

        Gah. That little trick got old after its first use.

    • Anyone have any good recommendations on geek books suitable for 26+ hours of flying

      26+ hours? Are you coming from Oz or New Zealand? ;-)

      I'd suggest-- as you might guess from my nickname-- two of Vernor Vinge's novels: A Fire Upon the Deep [] and A Deepness in the Sky []. The two are technically a novel and its prequel, but they're really only linked thematically. And they're both outstanding works of science fiction with particular appeal to computer geeks. Both are available in paperback, but they're long enough by far to keep you occupied while you're en route.

      Eighteen months ago, my official org-charted job title was "Programmer-at-Arms," inspired by Deepness. These are two really cool books.
      • 26+ hours? Are you coming from Oz or New Zealand? ;-)

        It's 13 hours each way, and I'll be damned if I'll pay money to fly books all the way to Europe only to sit about reading them while there. Except for those odd in-between hours that first night/morning, I plan on looking at things which are part of a scenic view, not imagining them.

        I'd suggest-- as you might guess from my nickname-- two of Vernor Vinge's novels: A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky.

        Way cool. I'll definitely check them out. Thanks for the suggestions!


        • It's 13 hours each way....

          Earlier this year I got roped into a last-minute business trip from to Sydney. (I live in the US.) Thing is-- and I know this makes me sound like a nerd-- I was just getting started on the fourth Harry Potter book, and I was really digging it. So, yeah, I lugged a giant hardcover book from the US to Australia-- about 24 hours from door to door, because I don't live in Los Angeles-- and back.

          Was it worth it? Shit, yeah. The in-flight movies were terrible. I've blocked most of 'em out, but I remember turning off "Zoolander." I actually chose to sit there and stare at the back of the seat in front of me rather than watch that steaming pile of crap. If I hadn't had my book, I would have gone quietly nuts.

          Come on, teleportation.
          • Was it worth it? Shit, yeah. The in-flight movies were terrible.

            The last time I flew to England it was on Virgin, and I didn't have a book, laptop, palm pilot, anything. Bad idea. You're dead right: the movies were absolutely horrible. I actually found myself playing Nintendo (think Super Mario-era Nintendo) during the flight the movies were so bad. Hell, there were little kids who wouldn't even play it. But it was better than the movies. I don't even remember what was playing and I don't think I want to see "Undercover Brother" this time, either. Which is why I asked for book recommendations. I honestly thought that Quicksilver would be out in time and hadn't even though about what to get.

            Come on, teleportation.

            The world is an incredibly small place now; I shudder to think what teleportation will do to it. I remember in the early 80's my older brother went to England and we were beside ourselves because he brought back Dr Who stuff, books (I wanted a British dictionary), records (vinyl, kids: Two Tone stuff, The Clash, The Damned, Buzzcocks, etc, etc) and creepers/Doc Martens because we couldn't get them anywhere in Phoenix. We had to make roadtrips to LA for the music and such and even then we didn't get everything we wanted (although we usually got some things we didn't). Remember "imports"? Man, that was the shit when the copy you ordered came in like 19 weeks later. I still have a blue vinyl Captain Sensible Birthday EP a guy carried back in a suitcase for me. Got a red vinyl copy of Strawberries, signed Madness LPs, some Police B-sides, and a bunch of other junk I have to rip someday, too. But now you can get it all off the Net. Or at Sam Goody. There's about four corporations who own everything, and it's the same stuff no matter where you go.

            It used to mean going to England or France or Pakistan or where ever meant that you were going to some place that was different than where you were form. You got and tasted and smelled stuff you couldn't get back home. The most popular restaurant I saw when I was last in London was TGI Fridays and the most popular beer was Budweiser. You could hardly get away from Budweiser. One barkeep was telling me that he ran out of it weekly. The Virgin Megastore there had everything I can get here. I did wind up buying a driving game, though. It was right-hand drive. Now, going there is almost like going to Seattle, except everyone sounds funny. I'l have to remember to stay in th epubs and on the back streets.

            Once teleportation hits, the world really will be flat.


            • Hm, it seems like you just went to the wrong places... really, Budweiser is dogs piss, I fing it amazing that people here in Britain drink it.

              Without getting into specialist ales, you should try some bitter like Directors, or Youngs Ordinary. If you have to go for a lager, the most consistently quality is good old Stella, affectionately known as Wifebeater due to its sometimes excessive behaviour altering side effects. Caffreys is good for an almost hangover free 10 to 14 pint pub crawl (may take additional training).

              And really, calling TGIs a restaurant is pushing it, eh?
              • Hm, it seems like you just went to the wrong places... really, Budweiser is dogs piss, I fing it amazing that people here in Britain drink it.

                I find it amazing people anywhere drink it. I know a joke which applies here:

                Q: Why is drinking Budweiser like having sex in a canoe?
                A: Because it's fscking close to water.

                Thank you, thank you. I'm here all week...

                Without getting into specialist ales, you should try some bitter like Directors, or Youngs Ordinary. If you have to go for a lager, the most consistently quality is good old Stella, affectionately known as Wifebeater due to its sometimes excessive behaviour altering side effects. Caffreys is good for an almost hangover free 10 to 14 pint pub crawl (may take additional training).

                I'll give the bitters a go, for certain. And I hadn't noticed the altering effects of Stella. But I'm normally fairly even tempered even in the face of the worst alcoholic adversity. If you're ever in the US, try King Cobra (or any other "beer" which comes in a 40 ounce bottle) if you want a sample of American riot beer.

                I really appreciate the pub crawl advice. We're planning on doing a Soho [] crawl. I'll defintely keep the Caffreys advice in mind (as long as I'm able to, at least).

                And really, calling TGIs a restaurant is pushing it, eh?

                Yeah, that's certainly giving it something it shouldn't have. I just didn't know the word for "pretentious meat market-ish place which serves awful food and is filled with idiotic, cologne-drenched beeper salesmen either yelling at some inane sporting event on a loud TV or trying to tag the nearest waitress".


    • What geek doesn't like the math, science, logic, and illogic in Alice []?
  • Going, and gone. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ( 555899 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:07PM (#4457844)
    Dataplay, the Boulder-based manufacturer of quarter-sized recordable discs and drives, finally called it quits on Friday

    Well, can't say I'm surprised. While there are a VERY few uses for drives this small, the demand is pretty dang small. For what I'm sure is much less, you can get much more storage at a resonable size. So while the technology is very, very cool... it realy doesn't have enough people to support it. (Unless it was made by a big manufacturer like IBM that also did many other things...)
    • I don't think I'd heard of these before today, but I had been aware of Iomega's weird "click" disks or whatever they'd called them- they were pretty small too, and held about 50MB or so. I was interested in those, but IIRC you could only get them for PCMCIA, and I don't have a laptop.

      For the sake of us outside the US, just how big is a quarter, anyway?

    • Re:Going, and gone. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jovlinger ( 55075 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @09:17PM (#4458249) Homepage
      actually, 500MB removable and cheap storage would be great.

      mp3 players, digital cameras, digital books... all of these want small, cheap, media in the 500MB range.

      It just wouldn't fly for prerecorded music. (And not only because of their crappy DRM scheme) Music media is dead. I predict that CDs will be the last major music media. SACD and DVD-Audio may have a breif blossom, but for the most part, the current generation of adults are happy with CDs, and the current adolescent generation will wonder why people care about the physical media when you transfer files from your mp3 server to your ipod.

      Unfortunately, prerecorded music was exactly the niche Dataplay aimed at.

      I was going to say that this would be a perfect match for the 10MP cameras coming out, but I expect those to eat batteries nearly as fast as they eat RAM so they'll be be used mostly in a tethered environment.
      • This format was dead from the get-go, even if they had wised up and just tried for a raw storage format instead of the dark path of consumer annoyance.

        CompactFlash and SD cards hold hostage the storage range from 64Mb to 1GB. There was no way another format was going to come in to unseat them, even one somwhat cheaper.

        What is needed is something with about a 100gb storage space in the size of a CF card or smaller, for future digital cameras. That would be enough of a lead to unseat CF and SD, and provide enough room for cheap video cameras as well.
        • 100GB? That's enough data to store an hour of uncompressed 640x480 24-bit RGB 30fps video, seven hours of DV format compressed NTSC video, or 11 hours of 19.2mbit/s MPEG-2 compressed HDTV. That's a freaking LOT of storage to put in a compact flash card. Who's going to take 20000 uncompressed 1.92 megapixel images, or 2000 19.2 megapixel images, and then expect to fit that much data on a CF sized card? It would have to be some kind of 3D optical medium, because I don't think transistors could be made dense enough to store 100GB in that space reliably.

          • It seems like a lot of storage now, but SD and CF cards will grow as well - by the time some new format really becomes viable SD and CF might be approaching 10GB ranges. So 100GB is just about the leap a new technology would need to convince a consumer to drop his 5gb CF card. Perhaps I'm underestimating CF or SD technology though, I was surprized how fast CF reached 1GB.

            As for what will need it, I'm not totally sure what it will be but I know the need will be there. Along the lines the other poster mentioend, it might be HDTV video. Perhaps it's 3D video with four different perspectives encoded. Perhaps it's 50 megapixel images with more depth and dynamic range than film (which is the use I'd have for it). I'm not sure but I do know that even now the 1GB cards are looking small when you are dumping TIFF images instead of JPG from your camera.

            Right now I take between 15 to 20 40-exposure rolls of film during a trip. The film is a little bulky but not as annoying and expensive as whatever digital solution gives me that number of pictures at film resolution. Although I can bring a laptop (and possibly a spare HD) with me, I think it would be a lot nicer to just bring a camera and one or two cards with me.
  • Who wants to start the random speculation as to what this one will be about? Or does someone know? I'm a bit curious, personally...
  • Sigma (Score:5, Interesting)

    by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:09PM (#4457855) Homepage

    Shame on Sigma

    More like shame on me for buying the damn card, what a piece of crap that is... my friend in the DV industry told me his department tested the card and the conclusion was (apart from being crap) that they had really skimped on the hardware acceleration/decoder processor (just so it could do the bare minimum)... looks like they skimped on the 'development' (read. stolen) of the DivX (cough, XVid) implementation and the complete joke they called a 'player'.

    The other thing was I had to look when buying it, 'cos NewEgg didn't sell it... only Sigma themselves and CDW sold it (the latter where I got it from). Hmm, NewEgg rules... I must learn to trust my instincts now and think twice to the thought 'Why aren't NewEgg selling it?'. DOH, DOH and thrice DOH! (Shame on me).

    • No doubt. I bought the realmagic xcard on preorder (I think twice about such things now), and I can't get a fresh install of Windows 2000 to run any version of the drivers except the ones that come on the CD. The drivers that come on the CD don't play divx (yes, divx4) movies. So, I use the card for playing DVD only.

      Sigma's tech support gave me a cookie cutter response which did not help me in my situation.

      And now they're violating the GPL? Last card I buy from them.

  • by qortra ( 591818 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:10PM (#4457861)
    As cool as quarter size media might be, I'm not entirely sure that is the way the market should go. 3-inch media seem to be a better bet (certainly as far as compatibility goes) and would be far less likely to get lost or get eaten by babies and pets. When I think of the ideal medium, I think of something that can fit into my shirt pocket, but not so small that it get lost in my hair.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:17PM (#4457919)
      When I think of the ideal medium, I think of something that can fit into my shirt pocket, but not so small that it get lost in my hair.

      If you routinely get quarter-sized objects lost in your hair, maybe it's time to pay a visit to the barbershop. Or at least invest in a comb...

    • Ahem. I belive 3-inch media are called Minidisks. They are very cool and portable. Unfortunatly SONY shot themselves in the foot when if came to introducing the MD-Data disk.

      They came out roughly the same time as Zip's did. Zips were 100mb disks were $25, the drives were $299 and included a scsi card. In contrast MD-Data disks 120mb were $50, the drives wer $800+ and did not come with scsi cards, and were frequently UW SCSI only.

      SONY marketed them towards the professional music and broadcast industries almost exclusivly and never made it accessible to the average computer user.
      • I was thinking thinner and perhaps with more storage capacity than a zip disk. Pretty much 3-inch DVDs are my ideal media; if only there was a standard for lossless audio on 3-inch DVDs.....
        • if only there was a standard for lossless audio on 3-inch DVDs.....

          Can MLP be run at 44 kHz 16-bit stereo? If so, use the DV/DA standard. If not, use DVD-Video with blank video and PCM audio.

          Now just wait for the 3-inch DVD-R blanks to come out.

    • You can right now go and buy 2.3GB 3.5" magneto-optical media and the drives they work with. Their dimensions are very similar to that of 3.5" floppies, but look much cooler.

      On the downside, complete lack of mass marketing means that they're still expensive.

      Have a look at Fujitsu's magneto-optical products [] for more info (it's in Japanese.)

      I would love to see these take off and replace floppy drives. MO has a long reputation of speed, stability and robustness. Certainly they are an order of magnitude faster and more reliable than Zip disks, not to mention storing over two gigabytes per disk.

    • Ever heard of Compact Flash? Small is great. The prices are finally comming down to earth.

      These folks missed the boat. Not even IBM can make a go of microdrives, that's why they sold the division. I want one of those 1G models. If these folks can make a compact flash drive that fits their disks, that would be cool. They have a big race to beat falling compact flash prices.

      • Unless IBM (or whoever owns the division that makes microdrives, I'm not sure they were part of the consumer drive division that was sold off) can make some serious capacity upgrades the microdrive is dead. CF Type 1 solid state disks that have faster transfer speeds and MUCH lower power consumption are now up to 1GB capacities and are generally as cheap or cheaper then the microdrives. I recently purchased a 512MB CF card for less than the cost of a 340MB microdrive from the same vendor.
  • by DRnetman86 ( 617230 ) <> on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:10PM (#4457863) Homepage
    While most of Dataplay's technology was quite interresting, it's built in DRM may have been it's downfall. They had to initially market to the early adopters (much of the /. set) who are opposed to DRM. Once a technology has been adopted, it would be easier to accept the DRM due to the fact that a majority of the people who owned it wouldn't object.
  • by smartin ( 942 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:10PM (#4457866)
    Then this guy who says he communicated with the publisher and they indicated []that it would be coming out in three parts starting next July, must be telling a story:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Return triumphant of XviD?

    Talk like Yoda, Timothy is beginning. =P
  • Check out this spew from their senior vice president of business development:
    "It was a terrible experience," he said. "Here's this format that everyone believed in. Yeah, the economy is in the pits and it will be hard to find another job, but with that much effort put into a format that the consumer needs, that was the real disappointment."

    Oseth also said that he believes the technology won't go away.

    "I think because it's the right answer for the consumer, there will be a company looking to pick up the pieces of DataPlay."

    I guess you can admire their audacity, in declaring that consumers "need" their freedom-disabling chunks of plastic...

    I, however, will just laugh. If, indeed, "everyone" at this company believed in this format, I'm glad to see them tank. There was some sick shit going on there; here's hoping someone incompetent buys them up and kills their wonderful "technology".

  • by WittyName ( 615844 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:18PM (#4457923)
    Some interesting quotes:

    Instead of using a sequence of instructions to perform a common function, the operating system will use a single instruction that causes the entire function to be performed by the POWER5 microprocessor hardware. Examples of these common functions include TCP/IP processing, communications message-passing operations, and virtual memory subsystem operations, to name a few. The interfaces to all of these silicon accelerators will be open so that other operating systems, for example Linux, can take advantage of them.


    When POWER6 arrives in 2006, it is expected to extend the Fast Path idea to even higher-level software such as DB2 and WebSphere processing. Again, all of the silicon accelerator interfaces will be open, so other software developers wil be able to take advantage of the improved performance.

    Bill Gates once said that when a given bit of functionality is sufficiently standardized, it should be part of the OS.
    No we will make it part of the CPU.
    • Everything old is new again.

      It's kind of ironic that something starting out as a RISCish processor is going back to the older mainframe & VAX architectures where single intructions execute what would be lines of code in a high level language.

      Not that it would hurt any to have an op that does TCP checksumming in silicon.
      • by WittyName ( 615844 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:55PM (#4458095)
        Everything old is new again.

        Indeed. After contemplating my original post, and your response, I am now thinking App specific stuff in the CPU is BAD.

        Back in the good old days Crays had Front End Processors which did all the IO for them. This concept is being resurrected (somewhat) by intelligent NIC's and caching disk controllers.

        It would seem counterproductive to me to do TCP checksumming in the cpu. Why not just put some more smarts in the NIC, with some embedded ram, and just make the API stream based. IE Heres a web page, send it, and worry about all the ACK's, etc, for me. Doing all that memory accessing in the CPU would thrash the cache a lot, no? Especially with gigabit getting more common on motherboards (BTW Tyan has a new dual athlon with gigabit, and U320). Not to mention 10G ethernet coming soon. And then there is encryption! We are going to need a dedicated CPU to handle that, or you will not get much work done on your app!

        Oh, and you could use n-2 gen chip fabs for these, since they would be smaller cheapers chips with regard to modern cpu's..
        • TCP in the CPU!? what crack are these guys smoking? The correct thing to do would be to include hardware in the NIC to accelerate TCP/IP stuff.

          • TCP on the NIC -

            Not at all. The problem is that sure it looks good today, but commodity cpus increase in performance much faster than any other kind of processor. So, today putting the network stack in the NIC might look good, but 6 months from now it won't be so good and 1 year from now it will be a bottle-neck.

            The industry has been swapping back-and-forth between smart I/O peripherals and dumb ones for at least 20 years now, each time they get to ~100% dumb I/O somebody decides that it would be a good idea to re-invent the past and go for a smart I/O controller, other companies follow suit we get a surge of smart I/O and after a couple of years people start to realize what a drag all these 1-2 year old I/O controllers are on modern systems and they swing back to dumb ones - rinse, lather, repeat.

            Also, in the specific case of network stacks there are some smart asm tricks that will do most of grunt work (i.e. checksumming) in the cpu for the same cost as the data-copy itself. So, unless you do dma directly to the user buffers, the hardest part of the network stack is basically free.
            • commodity cpus increase in performance much faster than any other kind of processor

              Have you been watching the 3D scene? In a fairly short time, we've gone from Voodoo and TNT cards to shader-based Radeon and GeForce cards. For some applications, custom procssors are just what the doctor ordered.
    • But you have to question it. While it may seem cool to do things like factor polynomials with one instruction, or do TCP packet header filling, how useful is this?

      Because you need much more die space for decoding of instructions, it becomes harder to ramp CISC up to higher clock speeds. That's why RISC was introduced.

      Now, unless you've been asleep for 12 years, you know that modern x86 CPUs are a combination: CISC instruction set (and benefits thereof) with a fast-path decoder for most commonly used instructions, with a slower conversion for more complex/less used x86 instructions, all of which are crunched through a RISC core which has more registers and other bits to aid parallel pipelining of instructions. So far this has proven to be really great. Transmeta's even taking it a step further by introducing codemorphing, which lets the entire CPU just be a JIT x86 environment running on a VLIW core.

      Why are they going this way? It doesn't really seem to make sense compared to the traditional trends in computer processor design.
    • And we cycle back to CISC machines again...

      I recall the Burroughs B6500/6700/etc machines (late 1960s original design) had a linked-list-lookup instruction (which among other things was used in memory allocation), also some instructions for doing edits on strings. The VAX of course had instructions for calculating polynomials and do cyclic redundancy checks.

      So now we get opcodes to do 'send TCP/IP packet' and such? Cool, I'm all for moving functionality to hardware if it's standardized and if it speeds things up. (Which is why we all like real modems over winmodems, right?)

      Writing compilers for that stuff gets interesting, though.
    • This is not a new concept.
      IBM have a long history of building super-CISC processors.
      The S/38 - AS/400 was one good example. The CPU had instructions like 'Create Database'.
      But appearances deceive. Such instructions are implemented in software / microcode.
      And they are designed to form part of the noose that keeps customers roped in.
      It is difficult to write portable software when you have this kind of dirty separation between hardware, OS, and application.
      The hint that Websphere and DB2 might use such functions should give room for pause.
      Moving OS functions into the CPU is unnecessary, designed to kill portability, and create lock-in.
  • Computer comeback! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by $carab ( 464226 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:19PM (#4457928) Journal
    Wow....judging from the earlier games it seemed like Kramniks methodical defense with black (whatever happened to the much vaunted "Berlin Wall"?)and vigorous attack with white were going to yield a lossless set for the world champion. But now with a 3-3 set and Fritz going 2.5 - .5 in the last 3 matches, it seems that the computer has "turned the tide"...

    IMO, this is only because of Fritz being allowed to make changes to itself to edit its openings. Previous matches were usually charachterized by the games falling into a predictable queen sacrifice. But it looks like by changing the openings around, Fritz is preventing Kramnik from forcing the game into a defensive draw.

    Also, The last 2 games have been charachterized by risky Kramnik moves that might be very beneficial against humans, but Fritz is able to play essentially perfect defense. To me, it seems like Kramnik has thrown out his very defensive strategy that gave him a 2 game lead in favor of a more attacking strategy.

    5 bucks on Fritz.
    • sacrifice? (Score:3, Informative)

      by srichman ( 231122 )
      Previous matches were usually charachterized by the games falling into a predictable queen sacrifice.
      I think you mean "predictable queen trade."
  • by kpost ( 594219 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:43PM (#4458044)
    Keep in mind that Amazon has been saying January, 2003 ever since they stopped saying January, 2002 and this was updated AFTER the date that Amazon originally claimed that it would come out. In my experience, Amazon generally is accurate about release dates, but I don't trust them on this one.
  • by epeus ( 84683 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:56PM (#4458103) Homepage Journal
    Why not read a short story [] or two []

    His Saddam Hussein Germ Warfare [] novel is inexplicably out of print.
  • Okay:

    Dataplay, the Boulder-based manufacturer of quarter-sized recordable discs and drives...

    Does this mean the discs are 25% of the diameter of a regular compact disc? Does it mean they are 25% of the area of a compact disc? Does this mean they are the size of a US 25 cent coin?

    Even the Dataplay web site acts coy about the actual size, saying things like: "DataPlay is a miniature media that can be used to play, record and store anything digital." (from the FAQ)

    Does anyone know how big these actually are (or were)?
  • by phr2 ( 545169 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @09:16PM (#4458244)
    Deep Blue creator Feng-Hsiung Hsu had an interesting chat session [] on ICC (Internet Chess Club) that got posted to usenet (linked above). He says the same thing a lot of others have said, that Deep Fritz is nowhere near the strength of Deep Blue. Highlights:
    • Deep Blue was effectively a 10 TeraOp/sec machine. (Since Deep Fritz runs on eight x86 boxes at 4000 mips each at most, DF's hardware is at least 300 times slower than DB's).
    • Deep Blue was built with 0.6 micron CMOS and evaluated 200M nodes/sec with 480 parallel chips. A new version built from 0.13 micron CMOS could evaluate 1 billion nodes/sec. A parallel version could evaluate a trillion nodes/sec.
    • Deep Fritz's promoters are guilty of false advertising when they claim their program beat Deep Blue in 1995. They could not have beaten Deep Blue in 1995 because Deep Blue did not exist in 1995. The machine they beat was Deep Thought II, a forerunner of Deep Blue with much less chess knowledge, 100 times less raw hardware speed, and 1000 times less effective speed.
    • Hsu says he could write a program today that would kick the stuffing out of Deep Fritz, "even in a simul". I presume that he means using Deep Blue-type parallel hardware so it could massively out-search a pure-software implementation like Deep Fritz. With that type of hardware, he's probably right. With pure software, I'd have to ask him to prove it.
    • Hsu has a book out about the Deep Blue-Kasparov match, "Behind Deep Blue" []. It's written for popular audiences and is not very technical, apparently. (I've ordered a copy but hadn't heard of it til seeing the chat transcript).
    • The IBM Deep Blue 2 hardware is being donated to the Smithsonian Institution. It's kinda sorta possible that it could be made operational again some day.
    Anyway, a bunch of folks on the computer chess newsgroup think Kramnik threw at least one game deliberately just in order to keep the match score from being completely lopsided. That's a pretty serious accusation, but it would explain some things. The loss in the 5th game was a beginner's blunder and Kramnik wasn't particularly in time pressure.

    Either way, I don't think this match has anything like the quality of the Kasparov-DB2 match.

    • Hardware speed isn't everything. Why else would programs running on the exact same hardware show such great variation in ability? Fritz might not be able to evaluate as many positions per second as Deep Blue, but it evaluates them better. Kramnik and Kasparov are fairly evenly matched. Fritz seems fairly well matched with Kramnik, and Deep Blue with Kasparov. It doesn't exactly take an advanced degree in math or logic to figure out the transitive relationships and conclude that Fritz and Deep Blue are a lot closer in strength than the raw hardware numbers would indicate.

      Hsu says he could write a program today that would kick the stuffing out of Deep Fritz

      So why doesn't he? Talk is cheap. Despite all of its raw hardware speed, Deep Blue would not have beaten Kasparov had it not been for Joel Benjamin spoon-feeding it tips on how to beat one specific player. Kramnik, Anand, or any of a half-dozen other top grandmasters would have kicked its ass because it was not tuned to their styles. Fritz, by contrast, is not so reliant on tuning and would probably do better in a tournament setting against multiple top-level opponents. When Hsu can write a program that's even IM level, without having a GM hold his hand, his claim will have some credibility.

      • 1) The Deep Blue project shut down after winning the 2nd Kasparov match because Kasparov got to be too big a pain to deal with. The DB team was up for a rematch but it didn't happen. So IBM stopped funding the project and the implementers went on to other things. If "talk is cheap" then perhaps you'dlike to fund the project instead of IBM. If not, well, why won't you put your money where your mouth is?

        2) Deep Thought was playing at IM level (maybe even GM level) long before Benjamin got involved. And there's no reason at all, none, zip, zero, to think that Deep Fritz is doing a better evaluation at each node than DB did. Quite the opposite. Fritz has to evaluate each node by running some series of Pentium instructions and it has to carefully balance cycles-per-node against available cycles. Adding more terms slows the evaluation down and limits search depth. Deep Blue used a hardware evaluator and if they wanted more evaluation terms they just added more hardware, keeping the nodes/sec constant (within reason).

        3) Deep Thought (and maybe the early Deep Blue) played on ICC as "scratchy" for a long time and creamed many GM's and IM's. I don't remember whether it was DT or Hitech that beat GM Bent Larsen in a tournament game, but DT was certainly stronger than Hitech. DT/DB also played a number of "training" games against GM's and apparently did extremely well. GM Robert Byrne lost a two-game match in Hsu's lab, for example, which he wrote about in the NYT.

        4) There's no question that GM involvement (not just from Benjamin, but also Dlugy and others) helped Deep Blue. Similarly, the Fritz developers are also getting plenty of GM assistance. What kind of stupid snipe is that, expecting Hsu (who cheerfully admits not being a good chessplayer) to not have strong players helping him? He's entitled to the same kind of help that the Fritz developers get. Plus don't forget, he has the Deep Blue code to work from (he acquired the rights to it when he left IBM).

        5) You are deluded if you think preparing against a specific player makes a big difference in performance against that player. It makes a small difference. Opponents (including DB vs Kasparov) prepare against each other because when they're almost evenly matched, they must gain and use any advantage they can, even small ones. However, when they're not evenly matched to start with, preparation doesn't help. That's why Kasparov regularly crushes strong masters in simuls even though they've prepared against him and he's never heard of them. If you think a weak player can beat a strong one by preparing against the strong player, try preparing against Kasparov (or any other GM) yourself sometime, issue a challenge with enough cash behind it to make it worth the GM's while, and see how well you do.

  • a Beowulf cluster of Neal Stephensons using power PC 6 processors from IBMac playing chess against those guys who write the Perl Journal......sorry, I thought I had the funny but I guess someone else has it. -Nasty
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @09:18PM (#4458259)
    Aw, man, just another story about Power PC chips... When will we start seeing stories about particle projection cannons?!?
  • by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @10:18PM (#4458635)
    But I really wanted to rebuy all my music and have added DRM.

    Don't you wish someone would dream up and create a music player, maybe with a little tiny hard drive in it, something like 20 gigs say, and have a nice big screen and make it light and small? Oh, and add a great user interface and a simple wheel to make it work very easy. And sync it with a desktop. And let me put whatever songs I want on it without having to help pay for Valenti's new pool lining.

    If only...

  • XviD community (Score:4, Informative)

    by tangent3 ( 449222 ) on Wednesday October 16, 2002 @12:30AM (#4459360)
    Although the main XviD site was taken down for 3 months, the community has still been going strong, testing and debugging the codec. You might want to check them out at their forum []
  • by FrankDrebin ( 238464 ) on Wednesday October 16, 2002 @01:19AM (#4459556) Homepage

    For those of you wondering where the 'box girder bridge' reference originates...

    "How To Do It"

    The cast:
    John Cleese
    Graham Chapman
    Eric Idle

    The sketch:
    (Cut to a sign saying 'How to do it'. Music. Pull out to reveal a 'Blue Peter' type set. Sitting casually on the edge of a dais an three presenters in sweaters - Noel, Jackie and Alan - plus a large bloodhound.)

    Alan: Hello.
    Noel: Hello.
    Alan: Well, last week we showed you how to become a gynaecologist. And this week on 'How to do it' we're going to show you how to play the flute, how to split an atom, how to construct a box girder bridge, how to irrigate the Sahara Desert and make vast new areas of land cultivatable, but first, here's Jackie to tell you all how to rid the world of all known diseases.
    Jackie: Hello, Alan.
    Alan: Hello, Jackie.
    Jackie: Well, first of all become a doctor and discover a marvellous cure for something, and then, when the medical profession really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right so there'll never be any diseases ever again.
    Alan: Thanks, Jackie. Great idea. How to play the flute. (picking up a flute) Well here we are. You blow there and you move your fingers up and down here.
    Noel: Great, great, Alan. Well, next week we'Ll be showing you how black and white people can live together in peace and harmony, and Alan will be over in Moscow showing us how to reconcile the Russians and the Chinese. So, until next week, cheerio.
    Alan: Bye.
    Jackie: Bye.
    (Children's music.)
  • Where Dataplay does (did?) have a cooler formfactor, it was only 500mb and write once.

    Phillips now has a bluelaser system, working prototype, the size of a two euro coin which holds one gig of data :) And it's rewriteable! No DRM either :)
  • by Powercntrl ( 458442 ) on Wednesday October 16, 2002 @06:49AM (#4460415)
    I've just recently started encoding all my DivX movies with XviD and found the quality to be greatly superior to the old DIV3 (DivX 3.11, the hacked MS codec). While "P2P-style" 700MB single-CD rips still seem to be a bit heavy on the artifacts with movies longer than 100 minutes, I've found it to be much more tolerable than DIV3 was. If you'd like to try out the XviD codec but you've already ripped (err... backed up) all you DVDs, I hear Don Pablos (it's a mexican resturant... but if you live near one you probably already know that) is giving away free Blockbuster Movie rental certificates with the purchase of certain meals. Yum.

    As for DataPlay... People are pretty happy with compact discs as they stand now. I've never heard any of my friends or their friends or anyone I've met in real life ever tell me they had complaints about the audio quality of CDs. Mostly, people seem to think CDs are just too expensive and a few agree they're too easily scratched. I don't know what kind of crack the inventor of these DataPlay discs was on, but "smaller" is not a good primary selling point. For me, I want as much music available as possible at my fingertips and it was a hard drive based player that provided that. Shame DataPlay wasn't into those, the name would have worked. ;)

I've got a bad feeling about this.