Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 25 February 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--Web Crossing Updates Community Server
--ARM, Superscape Develop Interactive Mobile 3D Product --Qualcomm Announces BREW Wireless Gaming Platform --MainConcept Releases MPEG SDK
--Firms to Develop Pocket Multimedia Platform
IN THE INFOGROOVE
--Email Magician Update Exports to Filemaker
--Realviz Updates ImageModeler, Releases Bundle --Paraform Updates 3D Software
--Nvidia Updates Quadro Workstation Graphics Line
--SCM Offers Consumer DVD Authoring System
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--O'Reilly Publishes SVG Book
--O'Reilly Updates "System Performance Tuning"
--Compaq Licenses Viewpoint Rich Media Content Tech
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Sierra Announces Development of Hobbit Game for GameCube --Xbox Hits Stores in Japan
--Pixar/Monsters Inc. Event Tonight in S.F.
Web Crossing Updates Community Server
Built on a scalable Internet/intranet server, Web Crossing features threaded or linear discussions, integrated newsgroups and mailing lists, full email services, secure communications, personal calendar, real-time chat and live event functionality, all extensible with Web-application-programming capabilities. Add-on modules are currently available for three areas: Team Crossing for groupware and intranets; Support Crossing for support organizations; and Campus Crossing for online training and education.
Other new features:
* New email rules let end-users filter incoming messages, use a "permitted correspondents" list to block unwanted senders, and reject messages.
* A new Auto Responder in v4.1 allows a customized auto-response while on vacation. Email notification of discussion activity is now available in HTML or plain-text.
* For administrators, v4.1 includes new URL redirection support and new URL filename shortcuts, allowing users to serve multi-domain Web Crossing installations without additional Web servers.
* Sysops can now automatically check user-subscription changes immediately after making them.
* Spell checking is now automatically used with the moderated word checking feature, improving the accuracy of automatic moderation.
* Search is faster with a smaller search index, and now supports Boolean expressions and exact phrases.
* User-interface enhancements include a new Logout button, which expires current cookies or certificates, plus the ability for hosts to move or delete multiple messages at once, and to manage end-user subscription lists.
ARM, Superscape Develop Interactive Mobile 3D Product
ARM, a provider of embedded RISC processor solutions, and Superscape plc, an interactive 3D specialist, have developed a 3D software rendering engine for mobile phones, a key element of their new interactive 3D applications platform, Swerve. ARM has completed the code optimization of the first preview release of the Superscape Swerve Client Lite, the Swerve entry-level product for handset manufacturers.
The Swerve Client range will be licensed and marketed by ARM to manufacturers of mobile phones and chip sets starting in Q2 2002. In addition to the engine itself, a package of content creation tools and services will also be available from Superscape.
Swerve enables the delivery of apps on mobile phones including 3D games, user interfaces and messaging. Using Swerve, providers of Java technology and C++ applications can enhance the look and feel of existing services or enable the creation of entirely new applications. The Swerve 3D applications platform comprises three components: 3D rendering engine, development tools, content creation services.
Swerve Client, embedded into the software environment of the mobile phone, provides the platform on which services can be launched, requiring users to buy new handsets. Swerve Client will be available as part of a Java technology (J2ME compliant) or as a native C++ solution. Swerve can deliver 3D experiences in as little as 20 Kbytes of RAM.
Based on Discreet 3ds max, Swerve Author enables the creation of interactive 3D objects, scenes and complete applications from scratch or using pre-existing assets. It also incorporates a range of behavior prototyping, emulation and production tools.
Qualcomm Announces BREW Wireless Gaming Platform
NuvoStudios, Inc., a developer and distributor of wireless entertainment products, last week launched six gaming titles developed for Qualcomm Incorporated's Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) applications platform. These titles are targeted at a mass-market audience and include commonplace games such as BlackJack and Tic Tac Toe.
The first six games from NuvoStudios will be: BlackJack; Speed BlackJack, where players attempt to make five hands of 21 before the clock runs out; Tic Tac Toe; Link 'Em, like Tic Tac Toe but players connect four in a row; Brain Check, a game of memory; and Removi, a puzzle game. In addition to these six mass-market products, NuvoStudios has contributed to the creation of 10 games, all developed for the BREW platform, for publishers including Mattel, Inc. and JAMDAT.
Qualcomm's BREW platform is a thin, standardized execution environment that resides in handsets. Native BREW applications are written in C/C++. While the BREW platform supports programming in other languages, such as Java and XML, C/C++ is used as the primary language by significantly more developers worldwide than any other language, according to International Data Corp.
BREW is designed to offer developers, OEMs and carriers a complete, end-to-end solution for wireless applications development, device configuration, application distribution, and billing and payment.
The complete BREW solution includes the BREW Software Development Kit (SDK) for developers, the BREW applications platform and porting tools for device manufacturers, and the BREW Distribution System (BDS) that enables developers and their carrier customers to get applications to market and coordinates the billing and payment processes for them. Carriers' BREW-based services will enable consumers to customize their handsets by downloading applications over the air from a carrier's application download server.
MainConcept Releases MPEG SDK
Germany-based MainConcept, a provider of multimedia technologies, last week released its MPEG SDK. The new software development kit includes optimized codecs that enable developers to implement a variety of MPEG capabilities.
The codecs are said to offer real-time capture from DV or analog sources, fast transcoding, real-time decoding, and high quality. The Windows SDK lets developers deploy the codecs in a variety of applications. The code is designed for easy portability to other platforms and devices such as PDAs and set-top boxes. Potential applications include video software, medical imaging, and simulations.
Firms to Develop Pocket Multimedia Platform
STMicroelectronics, a provider of System-on-Chip (SoC) solutions for digital consumer applications, and Imagination Technologies, a provider of human-interface intellectual property (IP), have signed a letter of intent for the co-development of a mobile multimedia entertainment platform.
The STMicroelectronics Pocket Multimedia (PMM) platform targets handheld entertainment applications such as audio and video playback and 3D gaming with stringent power consumption requirements. By using this platform, OEMs will be able to design IP-based devices for battery-powered applications.
PMM is integrating a SuperH, Inc low-power RISC core with Imagination Technologies' PowerVR MBX 3D/2D and video acceleration mobile graphics technology along with a rich set of IP from STMicroelectronics, such as connectivity, video and display, storage and security and related software.
The PowerVR MBX, implemented in 0.13-micron process, will feature 3D, 2D and video-graphics processing (up to 4 million triangles/second at 120MHz) in a small area (around 6mm2 of silicon in an SoC solution), with low power consumption (less than 60mW at a clock speed of 50MHz). It maintains all of PowerVR's features and capabilities, which will allow content migration from PC and console platforms to mobile and handheld entertainment devices.
IN THE INFOGROOVE
Email Magician Update Exports to Filemaker
A new version 1.4 update to Email Magician, a utility for Eudora Mac from YAV Interactive Media, adds options to export Eudora mailboxes to FileMaker Pro. The add-on can strip HTML tags during the process if desired.
Depending upon mailbox size and computer speed, Email Magician will export between 20 and 80 messages per second, assigning the header elements and message body to appropriate fields.
The new version also institutes an upgrading process that lets users download small updater files for future upgrades, rather than having to re-download the entire 2.5 MB package.
This follows on the heels of the version 1.3 upgrade, which added a Spammer Address Collection option and four new types of spam filters. These include filters for known spammers, spam domains, and characteristic forms of spammer addresses. These new spammer address filters supplement the nearly 200 existing subject-based spam filters included with Email Magician.
Besides automatically creating filters, mailboxes, and address book entries for Eudora, Email Magician automates tasks related to archiving mailboxes and messages, and optimizing the Eudora folder.
The program includes an intelligent Urgent Filter note-pad, which lets the user jot down phrases and email addresses that tell Email Magician to override existing filters and, for example, gather all "to do" items into a single mailbox for quick disposition.
Realviz Updates ImageModeler, Releases Bundle
France-based Realviz, a developer of image-processing software, last week released ImageModeler 3, software for the creation of 3D models from photographs. Models can be exported to commercial 3D animation packages, and posted to the Internet. The user loads multiple digital still images of an object or scene, and with several steps ImageModeler extracts 3D data to build photo-real models, including textures derived from the original photographs.
Version 3 features a workflow-driven interface, plus a new calibration engine for faster and more accurate scene reconstruction. Supported export formats include Maya, Softimage, 3ds max, Lightwave, Shockwave, Wavefront (obj), DXF & STL.
Additional new features in version 3 include: * measurement tools for accurate site surveying and scene reconstruction * modeling tools for the re-creation of complex geometry (includes: extrude, path extrude, bevel, split polygon, mirror merge and snap) * automatic texturing from photographs
* world-space tool for the interactive definition of the coordinate system * unwrap texture feature for the creation of a single texture per object, or per group of polygons
* interactive transparency control for easier comparison to original photographs
* RZML format for easier data exchange with other Realviz applications
Also, new from Realviz is SFX Studio, a production bundle comprising the company's four apps:
* MatchMover 2 Professional: Automatic 3D tracking of image sequences, manual editing options available for greater control over track data.
* ImageModeler: see above
* Stitcher: Create high resolution spherical, cubic, and cylindrical maps for backdrops, reflection maps and global illumination maps.
* ReTimer: Speed up, slow down or create variable speed clips from standard-speed filmed sequences.
Paraform Updates 3D Software
Paraform, a developer of digital content creation software, last week introduced Paraform 3.0, the newest release of its Digital Form Development software.
Originally developed to link all the steps in a production workflow and to bridge the gaps between industrial design, CAD/CAM, and quality-assurance processes, Paraform comes with modeling and editing tools that transform point-cloud data to polygonal files or polygonal files to NURBS (non-uniform rational b-spline) surfaces. The core functionality focuses on free-form geometry and patented mechanisms that automatically adjust design geometrics based on intelligent inferences.
The new version is said to provide increased automation, scalability, and color-management capabilities. Together, these new functions are designed to let designers use Paraform in a highly automated mode. When more domain expertise and insight is required, user intervention can be employed for complex, customized objects requiring precise inputs and refinements during the design process.
Optimized for large datasets, Paraform 3.0 features automatic surfacing and sectioning, global shape deformers, surface and space curve-based deformers, full color support, solids and inspection enhancements and a variety of interoperability improvements.
Automatic sectioning and surfacing, with improved automated curve generation: * Curves can now be based on precisely created section curves at numerically or visually specified planes, sections swept along guide curves and automatically over the entire model.
* All curves, whether on the mesh or in free-space, can be automatically intersected and patches or surfaces can be automatically created, while still offering precise user control.
* Curves can be edited directly on the surface with Paraform's patented surface curve formulation and comprehensive editing tools -- all editing is associative with mesh edits.
Associative points, polygons, curves, surfaces and solids: * mesh boundary editing and inverse templates that allow users to edit meshes with arbitrary space curves
* global shape deformers that enable flexible and precise global deformations of polygon meshes with up to C2 continuity * color support throughout editing and surfacing
Texture mapping and mesh editing features include large-surface management and user-defined areas, plus support for texture maps on exported polygons as well as NURBS. Patch UVs can be automatically aligned and textures can be stitched during export to ensure convenient management of large models.
Mesh-editing operations such as hole filling, mesh refinement and other functions automatically interpolate mesh color. Interactive painting tools are also available to add or repair color data.
Nvidia Updates Quadro Workstation Graphics Line
Coming in March from Nvidia Corporation is the Quadro4 family of professional graphics solutions.
Quadro 4 XGL GPUs support advanced shader operations and are designed to accelerate OpenGL and DirectX professional applications by implementing workstation-specific functionality, such as hardware overlay planes, hardware-accelerated antialiased points and lines, and advanced memory management. The Quadro4 XGL product series consists of: * Quadro4 900 XGL -- high-end card
* Quadro4 700 and 750 XGL -- programmable graphics pipeline, aggressive price * Quadro4 500 and 550 XGL -- balance of price and performance, targeted for midrange MCAD and DCC applications
The NVS line adds multidisplay capability, and consists of: * Quadro4 200NVS -- support for dual analog and/or digital displays * Quadro4 400NVS -- two GPUs, supports up to four analog or digital displays
SCM Offers Consumer DVD Authoring System
Coming in March from SCM Microsystems, Inc. is DVD Complete Deluxe ($99), the newest addition to SCM's Dazzle line of digital-media solutions. The authoring and burning software program is said to let consumers to turn video footage into DVD movies in five steps.
* automatically convert video footage into MPEG-2 video * choose a graphic theme from a number of supplied templates and have backgrounds, selection buttons, inserts and disc labels all automatically updated with the same theme
* print DVD labels, dust jackets and jewel case inserts * add start-up overtures, interactive menus, background audio and scrolling credits
* add features such as scripts, bloopers, out-takes and director's cuts
The software can output video to VCD, cDVD and DVD for playback on DVD players and CD or DVD drives on personal computers. It supports Windows 98 SE, 2000, ME and XP operating systems.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
O'Reilly Publishes SVG Book
How can you create a high-res image that scales perfectly on any monitor, PDA, or cell phone? Or build a Web page with graphics that update automatically if the content is changed? With Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), the new XML-based graphics standard from the World Wide Web Consortium, all manner of such "intelligent" graphics are possible.
According to J. David Eisenberg, author of the new O'Reilly book "SVG Essentials," "SVG is becoming the format of choice for exchanging vector data because it's open, transportable, and cross-platform. With SVG, Web and XML developers can create Web documents that are small, quick-loading, and interactive. Plus, because it's an XML application, you can use all the XML tools on your files."
"It's easy to create XSLT stylesheets that take source XML data and create SVG," notes Eisenberg. "For example, you can take an XML data source that lists weather data, run it through an XSLT stylesheet and produce a series of USA Today-like weather diagrams. You can take the same data, run it through a different stylesheet, and create a bar graph of daily temperatures. These easily built tools add a lot of power above and beyond the normal 'drawing program' features."
"SVG Essentials" takes the reader through the ins and outs of SVG, beginning with basics needed to create simple line drawings and then moving through more complicated features like filters, transformations, and integration with Java, Perl, and XSLT. The book explains the concepts underlying SVG, and covers such applications as: * creating Web graphics that automatically update * generating graphs and charts from information stored in a wide variety of sources
* creating diagrams that users can explore by zooming in and panning around * exchanging detailed drawings, from architectural plans to CAD layouts to project management diagrams
* managing graphics that support multiple languages or translations * creating complex animation
The book also delves into the markup at the foundation of SVG, providing a solid base for creating custom tools. It includes appendices that explain key technical tools like XML, matrix math, and scripting, along with a reference to the SVG vocabulary.
An article by the author, "An SVG Histogram" can be found at: http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2002/02/07/svghist.html
Chapter 3, "Basic Shapes," is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/svgess/chapter/ch03.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/svgess/
O'Reilly Updates "System Performance Tuning"
Tackling the subject of system performance actually depends on an understanding of two distinct areas, explains Gian-Paolo Musumeci, coauthor with Mike Loukides of the new edition of "System Performance Tuning" (O'Reilly, US $39.95). These are performance tuning, which Musumeci describes as "the art of increasing performance for a specific application set, also known as 'squeezing blood from a stone'" and capacity planning, or "deciding what hardware to purchase to fulfill a given role, also known as 'fortune telling.'"
"The desire to go faster appears to be integral to human nature," says Musumeci. "In light of the present economic contraction, there's a need to go faster while spending less, making sure that we extract the most out of what we have."
Adds Loukides, "Even though computers have gotten much, much faster in the past decade, it's a mistake to think that performance isn't a problem. CPU speeds are faster by a factor of fifty of more, but memory speeds and disk speeds haven't increased by the same amount. So, while we have incredibly fast CPUs, they tend to spend most of their time waiting for data rather than doing productive work."
The book takes a holistic approach to system performance. The authors suggest that system performance tuning is very much about the underlying hardware and how it is abstracted. Truly understanding the behavior of the system, they claim, involves a detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the machine. The book focuses on Solaris and Linux systems, with expanded coverage of the I/O and networking subsystems, and new material covering disk arrays, microprocessors, and code tuning. Other topics include workflow characterization and management, benchmarks, CPU architecture and performance, and optimizing use of memory.
Chapter 4, "Memory," is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/spt2/chapter/ch04.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bios, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/spt2/
Compaq Licenses Viewpoint Rich Media Content Tech
A new technology-licensing agreement between Viewpoint Corporation and Compaq Computer Corporation grants the latter a license to use the Viewpoint Media Player throughout its network of corporate Web sites including the following capabilities: photo-realistic 3D, 2D ZoomView, Macromedia Flash-compatible vector graphics animation, object movies, panoramas and digital audio and video.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Sierra Announces Development of Hobbit Game for GameCube
Vivendi-owned Sierra Entertainment, which recently changed its name from Sierra On-Line, is developing of "The Hobbit," a videogame based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The game is due to be released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube.
"The Hobbit," developed by Austin, Texas-based Inevitable Entertainment, is a third-person action/adventure game set in the world of Middle Earth. In the game, players take the persona of Bilbo Baggins, an unassuming hobbit who has been unwittingly thrust into an epic adventure.
Also, coming this September for the PC from Sierra is SWAT: Urban Justice, 4th in the series. The game, said to reward players for saving lives and protecting the innocent, delivers 16 missions set in realistic Los Angeles locations that can be played in mission, career, and multiplayer modes. New weapons, characters, and gear, including the ability to pick up and use an opponent's radio, will also be included.
SWAT: Urban Justice includes community-building tools used to create customized versions of SWAT. Embedded mission and campaign editors let players create new single missions and careers, and then populate them with SWAT officers, suspects, and hostages.
Xbox Hits Stores in Japan
Three months after the North American debut, Microsoft launched its Xbox video game system in Japan last week. The product is on sale at Japanese retail outlets along with 12 titles:
* JSRF - Jet Set Radio Future (from Sega) is a street-skating action-adventure game with the visual style of Japanese manga comics.
* Genma Onimusha (from Capcom) is a new interpretation of the war-survival action series.
* Silent Hill 2: Saigo no Uta (from Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo) is a horror adventure game.
* Double-S.T.E.A.L. (from Bunkasha) is a car action game modeled after the car stunt scenes of Hong Kong cinema.
* Air Force Delta II (from Konami) is a 3D shooting game that incorporates air battles using real-world fighter planes.
* Hyper Sports 2002 Winter (from Konami) re-creates 10 sporting events.
* ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding 2002 (from Konami).
* Nobunaga's Ambition: Chronicles of Chaos (from Koei Corp.) is a historical simulation game.
* Nezmix (from Microsoft) is a comical adventure in which players take on the role of a mouse that must recruit and lead a team of its fellow mice to defend their town against a band of enemy invaders.
* Tenku: Freestyle Snowboarding (from Microsoft) is a snowboarding game that focuses on freestyle riding.
* Project Gotham Racing: World Street Racer (from Microsoft) features a Kudos System in which players earn rewards not only for being first at the finish line, but also for displaying skill, style and daring while driving.
* Dead Or Alive 3 (from Tecmo) is the third title in Tecmo's tournament fighting action game series.
Pixar/Monsters Inc. Event Tonight in S.F.
A winter showcase event, The Making of "Monsters, Inc.", is presented tonight, February 25, by the San Francisco ACM SIGGRAPH Professional Chapter and is open to the public.
Event: 6:30pm - 10pm, Academy of Art College Theater, Post & Mason (491 Post), San Francisco, CA
6:30 to 7:30 PM -- Social Hour (Eat, drink and talk...) 7:30 to 9:00 PM -- Presentation by Pixar with speakers Harley Jessup, Ewan Johnson, John Kahrs, and Guido Quaroni
9:00 to 9:30 PM -- Q&A Session
RSVP via Acteva: http://www.acteva.com/go/sfsiggraph
Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.
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