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0105.1 Hot Topics
0105.2 Story of the Issue
0105.1 Hot Topics
***SPEC Releases SPECmail2001 Benchmark
The Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC) has released SPECmail2001, a standardized benchmark that measures mail-server performance using a real-world workload. Initial SPECmail2001 performance results are available on the SPEC web site.
SPECmail2001 was developed by mail-server vendors and research organizations to enable performance evaluations for systems supporting the Post Office Protocol (POP3) and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). It is designed for Internet service providers (ISPs) and company IT departments that require performance data to support mail-server purchase decisions. It also allows mail-server and computer systems vendors to test and fine-tune products under development.
SPECmail2001 models the stress placed on a mail-server system from an ISP's consumer users. It simulates e-mail users' actions such as sending mail, checking for new mail, and retrieving messages. The benchmark profiles the typical mix of message sizes, connectivity bandwidth, origins of received and sent mail, and other factors that are critical to performance. Mail servers under test are required to store a certain number of mail messages and to meet quality-of-service criteria.
Results from SPECmail2001 are based on a "messages-per-minute" rating that indicates the load the mail server can sustain with a reasonable quality of service. A higher rating indicates a more powerful mail server. In addition to providing data for purchasing decisions, SPECmail2001 results can be used for capacity planning.
SPECmail2001 was designed and implemented by Compaq, Mirapoint, Openwave Systems and Sun Microsystems. Over the past two years, Netscape, Critical Path, SGI, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and the University of Pavia (Italy) also contributed to its development.
***FCC Rules on Digital Must-Carry
According to the EE Times, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has tentatively ruled that cable operators may not be forced to carry digital broadcasts on their systems until a local broadcaster returns its analog spectrum. At the same time, the agency said it would seek additional information on the issue before reaching a final decision.
The ruling falls short of settling the controversial digital "must carry" issue, which has divided broadcasters and cable operators since the launch of digital TV in the United States in the mid-1990s. The must-carry rule would have required cable operators to transmit programming digitally.
In the latest ruling, the FCC concluded that a digital must-carry requirement would unduly burden the First Amendment rights of cable operators.
New FCC chairman Michael Powell said the ruling provides the clarity that the cable and broadcast sectors have been anxiously awaiting. However, several FCC members dissented from all or part of the ruling, and industry groups said a host of outstanding legal and technical issues remain unresolved.
Broadcasters had been seeking an FCC order that required cable operators to carry both analog and digital programming over their systems. Cable operators countered that the "dual carriage" scheme would limit the capacity of their systems and that such a ruling would be an unconstitutional taking of their property.
After several years of delay, the FCC tentatively sided with cable operators while arguing that its must-carry decision, along with other measures such as ensuring the availability of set-top boxes, would help speed the transition to digital broadcasting.
The National Association of Broadcasters vowed to continue its effort to require cable operators to carry digital programming.
***Chip Gear Index Hits Lowest Point In Years
According to Semiconductor Business News, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) has released their December reading, stating that the book-to-bill ratio for North American-based suppliers of chip-production tools slipped to 1.03 from a revised reading of 1.12 in November. December's 1.03 reading is the book-to-bill's lowest reading since the semiconductor equipment industry recovered from its downturn two years ago. The last time SEMI's book-to-bill came in below parity was for December 1998. A reading of 1.03 means equipment suppliers booked $103 worth of new orders in December 2000 for every $100 in tool shipments.
Semiconductor equipment shipments declined 2.4 percent last month to $2.38 billion from $2.44 billion in November, based on a three-month moving average used by SEMI. December's billings were 49 percent higher than $1.6 billion in the same month a year ago.
New orders for tools dropped 10 percent to $2.46 billion in December from $2.72 billion in November, according to SEMI, which released its book-to-bill figures on Tuesday evening. Compared to a year ago, bookings were up 29 percent from $1.9 billion in December 1999, said the trade group.
As a consequence, during recent earnings reports, several wafer fab equipment suppliers have warned investors that delays in systems shipments would continue to push revenues lower in the first quarter of 2001.
0105.2 Story of the Issue
***NTT To Roll Out 36Mbps Indoor Wireless Broadband Service
According to the Nikkei English News, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone and group firm NTT East have announced that they will launch an indoor broadband network in fiscal 2001 enabling computers and other terminals to exchange wireless data transmissions at up to 36Mbps.
The broadband service will combine fiber-optic networks with wireless base stations installed in homes and offices to achieve transmission speeds well in excess of the 1Mbps used for the Bluetooth specification and the 11Mbps maximum for wireless local area networks.
Prior to the service's full-fledged debut, NTT and NTT East will begin six-month tests in March, concentrating them in Shibuya, Tokyo. During the trial period, wireless base stations will be set up in 20 households and 16 public spaces, such as hotels and university common areas. Content will be distributed to 400 terminals given to local workers, college students and others.
Forty-six firms, including Matsushita Electric Industrial and Sapporo Breweries, have agreed to cooperate in providing testing areas, technical support and content during the trials. Movie previews and cooking programs from commercial satellite broadcasts have already been prepared for distribution.
A classic good news bad news story. Good news is that the public space networking market is beginning. Japan, based on NTT's efforts, could well be ahead of the US and Europe as it was with the i-mode phone. What is of particular interest is the integration of home and public space networks. The bad news is that this is likely not an implementation which conforms to any existing standard - be it 802.11a or HiperLAN2
***ParallelGraphics gets Optimized for the Internet
ParallelGraphics, a provider of Web based 3D technologies, has released the Internet Model Optimizer, a next generation tool for optimizing 3D design models on the Web.
Internet Model Optimizer (IMO) is a tool that provides a way to optimize 3D models created with CAD/CAM/CAE, and other design systems, for use on the Internet. It optimizes the models by allowing the user to eliminate selected polygons while retaining the original visual quality and shape of the model. In this way the benefits of 3D models can be experienced and used with modems providing as little as 56K.
Using IMO in conjunction with ParallelGraphics Internet Scene Assembler (ISA) allows users to add a range of interactions and animations in the creation of dynamic 3D visualizations and online manuals - in both single and multi-user mode.
- Mathematical Optimization Algorithms that allow for a balance between the rendering speed and representation quality of 3D models.
- Customizable Optimization that allows users to choose between batch and manual optimization.
- Visual Support for all Operations so that users can prepare real-time presentations without having to program.
- Compatibility with most PC platforms
***Discreet Ships 3ds max 4
Discreet, a division of Autodesk, has announced that it has begun shipping 3ds max 4, the latest version of its 3D modeling, animation, and rendering program. 3ds max 4 delivers efficient and creative workflow for character animation, next-generation game development and visual effects production. 3ds max 4 is available now for a suggested retail price of US $3,495.
3ds max 4 delivers an extensible character animation architecture, game development tools, and rendering productivity with ActiveShade, Render Elements and support for Direct 3D technology. These advancements give animators a flexible and realistic working environment for rich media content creation-whether for motion picture special effects, 3D Web production, or next-generation game development for PC game titles or gaming consoles such as Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation 2 or Nintendo GAMECUBE.
The 3ds max SDK (software developers kit) and maxscript language expand in version 4, building upon Discreet's commitments to extensibility and open-source compliance. Building upon the SDK, and included in 3ds max 4, is the web studio cd set-an integrated set of Web developers tools from Cycore, Pulse, RichFX and Viewpoint-companies that make putting 3D content on the web easy. In addition, Discreet continues to deliver Macromedia Flash content creation with the Vecta 3D-MAX vector animation renderer from Ideaworks 3D. This limited promotional offering gives 3ds max artists the ability to create 3D effects for their Flash movies, complete with multi-level cartoon shading.
Discreet continues increases the synergy of 2D and 3D with integration between 3ds max and combustion, Discreet's unified 3D compositing and resolution independent paint software for the Macintosh and Windows NT desktop. A full- function demo version of combustion is now included within 3ds max, allowing animators to experience using combustion for manipulating assets in their 3D scene and manipulating 3D-rich data within combustion.
***Virtue3D Announces Two Patents for Delivery and Rendering Over the Web
Virtue3D, a provider of 3D delivery and rendering solutions has announced that the United States Patent Office has granted patents for algorithms that improve two of the company's 3D compression and rendering technologies.
Virtue3D's compression algorithm has been incorporated into its 3D tool set since mid-2000. The first patent, covering this compression algorithm is used in the Virtue3D Room Designer, is an application tailored for the furniture manufacturing and retailing industries that enables customized design of furniture items within a virtual environment.
The second patent, granted for an algorithm for a technology called "occlusion culling," is used to speed up the download and rendering of scenes in which the user interacts with various elements within the scene. These scenes - which can be rooms, buildings or entire cities and towns - allow the user to wander in a virtual world composed of 3D objects. Because the scenes are based on a vast number of shapes seen from a nearly infinite choice of viewpoints, the amount of data downloaded to create an entire immersive environment is huge and the graphics computational load makes it impractical to render the scene in an interactive frame rate.
Occlusion culling selects only the data required to render a specific scene, based on the position of the camera within that scene. Areas that are occluded do not need to be downloaded and are not sent to the graphics pipeline to be rendered. The effect of using occlusion culling is faster downloads and reduction of the load on the rendering process, yielding a higher frame-rate. The occlusion-culling algorithm developed by Virtue3D is unique in two respects:
The algorithm deals with both static and dynamic scenes - where parts of the scene may move and the resulting effect on occlusion is calculated on-line. As a result, even if elements in the room change continuously, the Virtue3D Player has continuous access to the information it needs to render the scene accurately in real-time.
The algorithm may be employed in either a server-less (viewer only) or server-based environment.
***TSMC and UMC Start Production of 0.13 Micron in 4Q
Taiwan Semiconductor Company (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) have announced the development of 0.13-micron process technology and plans to push this process technology in mass production in the fourth quarter of this year. These companies began competing against each other aggressively after the 0.18-micron process technology was developed.
TSMC will begin to use 0.15-micron design process technology this year while UMC will rely on 0.18-micron technology - making a bold move by skipping the 0.15 micron process and going directly to 0.13-micron processing. It is expected that, for the near term, TSMC will focus on 0.15-micron processing and UMC 0.18-micron.
It has been reported that many IC design houses plan to advance their design rules from the present 0.25-micron process and 0.18-micron process technologies to the 0.15-micron process. No matter if it is 0.25, 0.18, or 0.15-micron design rules, manufacturing equipment remains the same, with only changes are in process parameters.
***SiS to Construct 12-inch Wafer Fab
Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS) held ground-breaking ceremonies last month, December, 2000, for its first 12-inch wafer fab and R&D center in the Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park, in the southern part of Taiwan. Samuel Liu, president of SiS, said the company has raised the NT$50 billion in capital needed to construct the facilities.
SiS will construct two 12-inch wafer fabs and R&D facilities that accommodate 1,500 employees. The first fab will be completed in the last half of 2002. The company will start with 0.15-micron processing to produce core logic, graphics, and communications chipsets. Initial capacity has been set at 20,000 wafers a month. SiS will concentrate on system-on-a-chip and Internet appliances in these 12-inch facilities. SiS will be the third company to set up 12-inch wafer production facilities in the Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park.
***Acer Group to Produce 120,000 Units of DMD for TI
After an initial production of digital light processing projectors that reached 32,000 units last year, Acer Communications and Multimedia (ACM) has announced their forecast for this year - to produce 120,000 units of key components of digital micromirror devices (DMD)for Texas Instruments.
Texas Instruments, the inventor of the reflective DMD display panel, has created front-projectors before and plans to add one more DMD panel production line to meet the increasing demand from ACM.
In addition to the commercial front-projectors it is already producing, ACM will modify the low-cost compact front-projectors for household use and rear-projectors. From the engineering side, they will make use of the 0.55-inch DMD panel, to reduce the size and cost compared to the 0.7-inch DMD panel, a previous design. In addition to this low-cost projector, the company plans to develop large DLP projector models, by adding twin light sources to increase illumination or developing three-panel models, which provide vivid images and pictures.
***TSMC Denies AMD Rumor
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) denies any report made by the press that they are teaming up with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) or any multi-national companies in a joint venture of 12-inch foundry. A TSMC spokesman said the 12-inch fab already delivered its first 300mm customer wafers last December, which are attractive to the foreign companies. They are also trying to cooperate with local foundries for investments in 12-inch fabs. Further, the spokesman said there is no plan to jointly build a 12-inch fab with any of these companies while the company can build more foundries on their own.
On the other hand, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) reported that it is considering teaming with TSMC or United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) to build a 12-inch wafer plant that would cost US$ 4.0 billion. A TSMC official declined to comment on whether AMD had proposed the project. Executives at UMC do not have any knowledge of a negotiation between their company and AMD or between AMD and TSMC.
The processor plant, dubbed Fab 35, would be AMD's third after their plant in Austin, Texas, and in Dresden, Germany. The company plans to build this plant in order to meet high consumer demand for their Athlon CPU and to introduce new processors designed for notebook and servers in the future.
***Larscom Announces Optical Access Platform
Larscom has announced its entry into the optical networking market with the introduction of the Larscom 4800 -- an optical add/drop multiplexer that offers versatility in extending carrier-class backbones to the network's edge in a small footprint and at a reasonable cost. Aimed at network service providers and enterprises wanting to aggregate multiple services, such as voice, data and video, the Larscom 4800 provides high-capacity optical broadband access onto a SONET or SDH transport backbone.
The platform's self-configurable soft backplane makes it possible for it to automatically update its configuration as interface modules are added. Because the matrix is software-driven, the six interface slots on the Larscom 4800 can accept any of a variety of interface modules, which will support T1/E1, T3/E3, OC-3/STM-1 and OC-12/STM-4 traffic with planned support for OC-48/STM-16. The Larscom 4800 delivers all services transparently, including IP-oriented services and legacy TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) services.
The Larscom 4800 offers support for local access via an RS-232 connection and remote access via 10 Mbps Ethernet using telnet and/or SNMP. Additionally, it's low power consumption (less than 50 watts) and small footprint (3RU for a 19-inch rack) helps service providers and enterprises to meet their site installation budget requirements.
***XM Announces Satellite Radio Manufacturing Agreement With Visteon
XM Satellite Radio has announced that it has signed an agreement with Visteon Corporation to help bring audio entertainment to automotive customers. The combination of XM's digital radio service and Visteon's vehicle systems and multimedia expertise will provide consumers with the ability to listen to as many as 100 radio channels from coast-to-coast, covering such formats as music, news, talks, sports, entertainment and children's programming, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
***Cambridge Silicon Radio Secures Sony-led Funding for Bluetooth
According to Europe Intelligence Wire, bluetooth chip developer Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) has secured $50 million in a third round of funding led by Sony. Sony's share of the investment wasn't disclosed. The company is planning to use the funds to drive development of its single-chip bluetooth solution, and to fuel global expansion. CSR confirmed that it would be floating this year, with a Q2/early Q3 debut the most likely time.
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