iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






IDF 2002 Fall: San Jose, September 9 - 12.
Illustrated Commentary, Part 2

By Alexander Medvedev (unclesam@ixbt.com)

It's still warm in San Jose. Today is mournful day for the whole America and the most part of the rest of the world - it's 9/11, a year since the act of terrorism in NY. The keynote devoted to servers was preceded by a minute of silence. But it was later. And now let me come back to 9/10 to tell your about the showcase where the visitors could touch and discuss the latest solutions of Intel and its partners. 

Near the entrance we noticed new solutions related with the future form-factor of mainboards - the wide-range 3GIO serial system bus, which is going to replace the PCI in the relatively near future, and boards based on it: 

The boards of this form-factor and 3GIO chipsets will approximately start coming onto the market in two years. Look how small the basic connectors are - it's become possible thanks to the serial high-speed bus with several channels (4 channels at least, and 8, 16 or 32 depending on a version of the bus). A wide connector with the maximum number of  channels is meant for a graphics card. Have a look at the template of the card: 

And here it's installed into the motherboard's prototype: 

External connectors will get the following look: 

Here we have a 6-channel sound, a DVI connector as a standard solution, 6 USB 2.0 connectors for all kinds of peripherals including a keyboard and a mouse, a network connector and a video-out (composite and S-Video). The IEE1394 is perhaps not in favor, though nobody forbids creating boards with a different set of connectors. 

A great deal of solutions were using the Serial ATA, including the prototypes of the second version: 

Below is a sample made up of six different Serial ATA discs (from different vendors) and two controllers (based on different chips) working without any troubles: 

Two forums were dealing with tests and certification of the Serial ATA and USB 2.0 devices which have arrived here in large quantities - most of them are admitted to be compatible - both technologies seem to rapidly spin up. 

They also demonstrated a chip that provided hardware storage of a private key for a cryptographic digital user's signature and generation of unique certificates: 

Such identification means will successfully be used in wireless networks, remote operations of banks and in other tasks. 

And this is an external USB fingerprint scanner: 

The InfiniBand (point-to-point high-speed connection with low latency, optimal for interconnection of servers, storage arrays and components of server clusters) and various solutions on the Itanium 2 reign in the server sphere: 

(the blue light is not an essential part of this processor). 

The Intel's Russian research lab from Sarov has demonstrated an interesting emotion capture technology. It captures positions of eyes and a mouth and their gradations (open or closed etc.) on an image of a speaking person coming in the real time mode from the camera. Then these data are used for animation of an arbitrary 3D model. I must say the quality of recognition is top notch and requires no preliminary adjustment, though I think that turning of the head to the right and left seems a little unnatural and only in a narrow range. This solution will definitely find its way in the sphere of 3D animation of both real and non-real time modes: 

I have some knowledge in sound & image encoding, transfer and recognition, and I was very surprised that the young man demonstrating the program kept saying the same thing to all remarks concerning weak points of the algorithm and their possible causes: "no, you are wrong, it's entirely different there". Perhaps, it could be so in some cases, but why to ignore such obvious things? However, he must have denied the obvious facts to keep in secret their know-how... 

I have also noticed a company here that developed a software 3D graphics library for widespread platforms of PDA and smartphones - Symbian (it's used in communicators and smartphones of Nokia): 

Stinger (Microsoft's baby): 

and already popular Pocket PCs: 

This is a normal interactive 3D model which at the 200MHz iPaq (400MHz models are also available now) worked at 10-20 fps including semitransparent fire particles. They showed several such games with a graphics level identical to what we could see on 386-486 PCs with MechWarior, TestDrive, TFX versions unsupporting accelerators. According to the creators, the library is optimized on a low level for certain processors and will soon be shipped to the PalmOS 5. It's interesting that exactly at this IDF Intel proclaimed the Wireless MMX technology for its future XScale processors which is actually a redesigned version of integer instructions from MMX/SSE2. The library will certainly benefit from such SIMD extension on PDA - the graphics will increase several times. Well, it would be great to see reincarnation of old games I played 8 years ago in my pocket. 

By the way, it's the first time I touched a Pocket PC which is smaller than my Palm m515 in all dimensions(!). This model will soon appear on the shelves and will apparently wallop the Palm platform. However, it has a 230 MHz processor under the hood instead of 400 MHz, only 32 MB, is able to work only with MMC/SD memory cards and lacks for a wireless interface, contrary to its elder siblings. Still, it bests the Palm OS 4 devices as far as a screen size, resolution and multimedia capabilities are concerned: 

Oh, yes - it's packed in a metallic case. 

And this unusual pc-ephone has both the CDMA track and a screen of a very high resolution (the precise information was unknown even for the guys at the booth, but I think it's not less than 640 pixels in width!). 

Such screen will let us work comfortably with desktop applications running on a PC through a Terminal Server. 

And this is a reference platform for the new Windows version with handwriting recognition which was already mentioned earlier: 

It's no that smooth with handwritten text recognition - the Transcriber engine developed by Paragraf does cope with its duties but the outcome is not always satisfactory. The rumor has it that the Silicon Valley has one more similar engine named Caligraph under development. This engine of handwritten text recognition wasn't demonstrated anywhere so far but I had a talk to people which carried out its QA, and they said it outperformed the Transcriber. Well, probably in several years we will get reliable and undemanding recognition tools. 

And below is how Panasonic sees a separated PC - a small main system unit communicates with a tablet without any cables: 

A lot of attention was paid (both by Intel and other companies) to radio receivers and radio transmitters "on the chip" which don't require any active or passive additional components: 

This chip is a normal TV and FM tuner. 

Such tuner is going to be used first in XScale based PDAs as an external CF card or as an integrated option. Well, it's quite a rational proposal - $5 over the price for a TV and radio tuner in your Pocket PC. 

And this is the Banias platform and its temperature mode: 

The fan on the processor doesn't rotate, the system works at a typical average load. The screen shows that a warm cup of water heated up by a special support is the hottest object here. The die of the chipset comes the second, and the heatsink of the Banias is as warm as the other components of the board. It's just a little warmer than my hand, i.e. it must be 38-40 degrees. 

The next booth demonstrates Intel's solution in the sphere of joined operation of the Bluetooth and 802.11b. Both standards take the same frequency range at about 2.4GHz. They are truly compatible, without any losses in bandwidth for both. 

The tubes here are waveguides that emulate a real data transfer environment and are used to eliminate external factors such as the air filled up with waves at this hi-tech forum: 

[ To be continued ]


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