Serial ATA II “by end of the year”

This article states:

Speedier data transfers between disk drives and computers are in the pipeline, a standards-development group says.
The Serial ATA II Working Group, which is charged with improving the Serial ATA communication standard for hard drives, said Thursday it is on track to deliver a specification to double the interface's data-transfer rate to 3 gigabits per second (gbps) soon.
“We anticipate it will be out by the end of the year,” said Knut Grimsrud, chairman of the working group. The announcement was made in addition to new specifications unveiled by the group this week.
Serial ATA, or SATA, is a relatively new high-speed interface standard for disk drives. Its development reflects a broader trend toward using serial connections in PCs, as they promise to cut down on wiring and so help shrink the overall size of machines.
Thanks to its higher-end features, SATA is encroaching on the SCSI hard-drive standard that prevails in servers today. But the SCSI group is working on a major overhaul of its own, called Serial Attached SCSI (SAS).
The new milestones announced by the working group include an upgraded specification for port multipliers and a specification for port selectors. The first allows port multipliers, which allow multiple hard drives to be connected to one computer, to notify the host computer if a SATA drive has been plugged into, or unplugged from, a port. The specification should lead to a reduction in cabling and improved airflow in storage devices with SATA technology, according to the working group.
The port-selector specification aims to let two different host computers connect to the same drive, in order to create a redundant path to the drive. The redundancy feature should allow continued access to data if one of the two computers fails, according to Grimsrud, who is also an Intel engineer.
The Serial ATA II Working Group is part of the Serial ATA Working Group.

How to Benchmark Halo

This is from the article at,3973,1354066,00.asp, which may or may not still be there for a long time (thus this post) You'll want to make sure you have patched Halo to the latest version before running any tests. The shipping version and 1.01 patch contained a bug where the code to track memory usage was being called upon every frame. This seriously impacted performance during benchmarks, and with the bug fixed (in patch 1.02) benchmark scores are a lot higher. This fix only affects benchmarks scores; it has no effect on performance during normal play.
To benchmark Halo, all you have to do is add a few command line options to the shortcut. The basic benchmark is run by adding “–timedemo” to the end of it, which will look something like:
"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Halo\halo.exe" -timedemo Launching the shortcut like this will run the game with all the settings chosen from within the game and dump out some info to a text file called timedemo.txt. If you run multiple demos, the new tests get appended to the bottom of this file.
But you won't want to simply run the test this way. First, make sure you launch the game normally and go to the video menu. By default, Halo on the PC has a frame limiter that prevents it from ever running more the 30 frames per second. This is to help smooth out the extreme performance highs and lows. Make sure to change this to “NO VSYNC” to collect uninhibited performance data.

There are several other command line parameters that are useful for benchmarking Halo, which let you force resolutions, code paths, and so on:

Command Function
-useff force fixed-function pipeline
-use11 force pixel shaders 1.1
-use14 force pixel shaders 1.4
-use20 force pixel shaders 2.0
-nosound disable sound
-vidmode width,height force a specific video resolution
(such as: -vidmode 1024,768)

If you want to see just how ugly Halo can look, try out that fixed function pipeline option. Ouch! On GeForce FX cards, moving from pixel shader version 2.0 to 1.4 results in a really nice speed boost—with a further boost when you move down to PS1.1. ATI cards, which run far better with PS2.0, get less of a speed gain.
What graphical effects do you sacrifice by moving to a lower code path? When downgraded to PS1.4, the surfaces can no longer be both bump-mapped and mirrored. Some of the video effects are done in two rendering passes as well. Dropping further down to PS1.1, you lose self-illumination on many models, animated lightmaps, and per-pixel fog calculations. In practice, the overall visual difference between PS1.1 and 2.0 isn't huge, so dropping down to a lower pixel shader path is a perfectly viable optimization if you need more performance (and probably a better trade-off than playing at a low resolution). Even if you have a DX9-class card, some of the game's effects only require PS1.1.
Though not really useful for benchmarking, pressing Ctrl-F12 while playing the game brings up a handy frame-rate counter. This gives you an idea of which other performance settings (audio tweaks the like) help you the most during those intense firefights.

PowerPC 980

There's a story on AppleInsider about the IBM PowerPC 980, which is very interesting. Particularly is the mention of a 980 being 40% faster than the sames-peed G5. Together with a starting speed of around 3 GHz and a faster bus (probably keeping with Apple's 1/2 the CPU speed, so 1.5 GHz), this should make for a pretty fast machine.
I found particularly interesting the mention of a “crossbar switch” in the CPU. The first time I heard of that was in very high-end SGI machines back in the early 1990's. I have no idea what it is, but it just kind of startled me when I saw it. I guess everything ends up in on the desktop at some point..
Btw, there is another article over on Mac Rumors with a bit more info on the 980

Alternative players of various formats

Ran across an interesting page that has links to all sorts of “alternative players”, along the lines of Video Lan Client.
Just in case the site goes away (don't you hate it when that happens?), here are the links:
K-Lite Codec Pack
This codec pack contains everything you need to be able to playback the most popular audio and video formats.
QuickTime Alternative
With this package you will be able to play QuickTime movies without having to install the offical QuickTime player.
Real Alternative
Real Alternative will allow you to play RealMedia files. This way you can play RealMedia files without having to install RealPlayer/RealOne Player.
VideoLAN [alt]
This is an excellent movie player. It has it's own plugins for playing different movie formats, so it doesn't need any codecs to be installed. It works great for previewing partially downloaded files too.
TMPGenc Plus [mirror]
This program can convert AVI files into (S)VCD (MPEG1/MPEG2). It will only take a few hours to convert a whole movie.
GSpot Codec Information Appliance
Note: This tool is already included with the K-Lite Codec Pack.
This program can tell you which audio and video codecs are used by a video file.
Avi Preview
Note: This tool is already included with the K-Lite Codec Pack.
This great tool can be used to preview your partial movie downloads, even while they are downloading.

How to benchmark Halo


Go here.

Ctrl-F12 ingame to display framerate counter.

I did not see much of a difference between Pixel Shader 1.x and 2.0

My Results
For further information, please visit the timedemo FAQ at:
Date / Time: 10/19/2003 1:53:03 AM (45077062ms)
3120MHz, 1024MB, 128M ATI Radeon 9800 PRO (DeviceID=0x4e48) Driver= Shader=2.0
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Halo\halo.exe -timedemo (Version=
Total Time=63.39s
Average frame rate=74.15fps
Below 5fps= 4% (time) 0% (frames) (2.676s spent in 4 frames)
Below 10fps= 4% (time) 0% (frames)
Below 15fps= 4% (time) 0% (frames)
Below 20fps= 5% (time) 0% (frames)
Below 25fps= 5% (time) 0% (frames)
Below 30fps= 5% (time) 0% (frames)
Below 40fps= 8% (time) 2% (frames)
Below 50fps= 27% (time) 13% (frames)
Below 60fps= 45% (time) 26% (frames)

Sound Options

Hardware Acceleration= Yes
Sound Quality= High
Environmental Sound= EAX
Sound Variety= High

Video Options

Resolution= 800 x 600
Refresh rate= 85 Hz
Framerate throttle= No Vsync
Specular= Yes
Shadows= Yes
Decals= Yes
Particles= Off
Texture Quality= High


In anticipation of the iTunes for Windows launch I brought my iPod into work (W2K systems). After installing iTunes on the PeeCee I connected my iPod via my USB 2.0 cable. The system recognized the iPod but iTunes said I would have to install the iPod software before it would deal with the iPod. I don't know if MacDrive5 had anything to do with that. After I unplugged the iPod I noticed that the Apple logo was the only thing on its display and the HD was spinning. WTF!!!! It would not boot! Bloody Hell! Damn PC!!!

I had thought it odd that early that day I saw that my main menu had reverted back to the default. I began to think that something bad had begun earlier and that what I was seeing now was just a continuation. I connected it to a Mac in our design department and after a number of attempts to get it to sleep I was successful.

To make a long story short, I had to format the Pod via disk utility and then restore it via the iPod utility. I now have the 2.1 software on the Pod and it is behaving itself. I wonder if my Jaguar (10.2.8) install on the Pod had anything to do with it.

I must say that I am amazed at how easy it is to get all of my music back on the Pod. Very cool.

Having learned no lessons from this I am now going to install a newer version of Mac OS X onto my Pod. :-)

(FYI – I call my iPod “Pod” cause I am too lazy to type the “i”)