Digit Magazine - October 2001 Issue

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Digit Magazine - October 2001 Issue Powered By Docstoc
					■   editorial

                               Trading Freedom for Safety

                               W            ithout doubt the most significant ‘event’ over the last month was the
                               attack by terrorists on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Their belief is
                               that execution of the act was made possible by the use of encrypted communi-
                               cation technology.
                                  Quite predictably, the initial reaction seems to be that similar events can be
                               avoided in the future by monitoring all communications with the help of back-
                               doors in all encryption software. There is a new legislation being suggested in the
                               US that will allow law enforcement agencies to do just this.
                                  This serves no real purpose because even though the US has disallowed the
                               export of powerful encryption schemes, people outside have access to far more
                               powerful and unknown encryption schemes. The new Bill that seeks support to
                               add backdoors to encryption software will be limited to software developed only
                               in the US. Any individual who wants to communicate in secret will not use a
       “Government agencies    back-doored encryption scheme controlled by the US government when he can
       are taking advantage    choose from several 1024-bit encryption schemes that aren’t in the control of the
                               US government.
       of insecurity being        Government agencies in most developed countries are used to being in
       felt in the US to       control of the flow of technology to people. However, due to the presence of a
                               new economic structure which fuelled research and development in areas that
       introduce legislation   were beyond the direct control of the government, this is no longer a reality. The
       that will allow         power to choose what technology reaches people has now passed on into the
                               hands of people in different parts of the world.
       monitoring of              This is something that the security agencies aren’t particularly comfortable
       communication”          with.
                                  Privacy activists insist that government agencies are taking advantage of the
                               insecurity being felt by people in the US to introduce legislation that will allow
                               them to monitor all communication. This would be accomplished by installing
                               software called Carnivore on the ISPs’ servers, which would allow the moni-
                               toring of all kinds of communication, including personal e-mail. This is of
                               concern not only to US citizens, but also to anyone who is using a US-based
                               e-mail service.
                                  It remains to be seen whether the legislation will be effective in preventing the
                               occurrence of similar incidences in the future. However, this would eventually
                               result in less freedom and violates the right to privacy that each of us feels we are
                               entitled to on the Internet.
                                  Is this a price worth paying?

                               Karan Manral
                               Assistant Editor
CgNTENTS                                O     C     T     O         B   E       R                 2     0    0   1

                                  EDITORIAL                    3
                                  CONTENTS                     6
                                  COLOPHON                    10
                                  PULSE                       15
                                  When the games were put on
                                  Indian cyber cops
                                  The all new Radeon
                                  Intel and VIA face off
                                  Hypethesis: Quantum
                                  Quicktake: Amit Bhatia, VP &                                                    142
                                                                                                                  Browsers tested
                                  GM Free Markets, India
                                  Whois?: Alexey Pajitnov
                                  Tomorrow’s Technology:                    DROOLMAAL                            SELECT
                                  Recycling using ADSM                      The heavenly bodies in               SMART BUYER
                                                                            hardware                    32       Think smart, buy smart 92
                                  DIALOG                      22
Products                                                                    WIDEANGLE                            TEST DRIVE
reviewed                          CONNECT                                   The PC under your car’s              33 Branded PCs            122
33 BRANDED PCS                    SPOTLIGHT                   24            hood                    36           5 Image editing
10 BROWSERS                       The sound of music: Chris                                                      software                  136
Internet Explorer 6, K-Meleon     George and                                NETRETURNS                           10 Browsers               142
0.4, Mozilla 0.9.3, MSN                           Playing DJ with online
Explorer, NeoPlanet 5.2,
NetCaptor 6.5, Netscape 4.78,
                                                                            music mixers                40       REPORT CARD
Netscape 6.1, Opera 5.12, Web     FACE-OFF                                                                       Radar: Tested products    148
Hunter Power browser 5            Is your mobile a health                   FIRSTHAND                            Reviews: The latest
5 IMAGE EDITING SOFTWARE          threat?                     26            What you need to know                books on review           152
Adobe Photoshop 6.01, GIMP                                                  while upgrading your                 Undercover: Agent 001
1.2, JASC Paint Shop Pro 7,
Micrografx Picture Publisher 9,
                                  TECHNOLOGY NEXT                           computer              44             scoping for the best
QFX 7                             Standing tall, standing strong:                                                in PC cabinets            153
                                  Supercomputers              28            PASSPORT                             A-List                    154
                                                                            Saying it like it is with
                                                                            technical writing           48       DIGIT DIARY               157
                                                                                                                 BACKBYTE                  158
                                                                            Step-by-step guide to
                                                                            building your PC            52

                                                                            Customising your
                                                                            Palm’s interface with
                                                                            application launchers       58

                                                                            Solutions to your PC’s
                                                                            ailments                    62

                                        92                                  TIPS & TRICKS
                                        Buy smart: the best hard-
                                        ware to suit your needs
                                                                            Getting up close and personal
                                                                            with Office XP           67          52
                                                                                                                 Build your own PC

6                                                                                                                                    October 2001
Enjoy eBooks and

                                                                                                               Smart Buyers’

Check out cool


Computers in
                                                                                                       33 Branded PCs and 10
cars                                                                                                   Web browsers tested

                                                                                                 Software on CD
                                     ON THE CD
                                                                                                 Microsoft Visual Basic
                               decompiler and disassembler       Voodoo and Glide mode           Control Creation Edition 5.0
Mindware                       for Java and full-featured Java   games and a lot more            (Demo)
RESOLVE                                                          POLYVIEW 3.61                   GRAPHICS
TROUBLESHOOTING                GRAPHICS                          A graphics utility with fea-    ImagePro 2K1 v1.0
More FAQs on Linux             IMAGE CONVERTER PLUS 5.2          tures such as image acquisi-    (Shareware), PolyView 3.61
                               A set of tools with four          tion from TWAIN scanners,       (Shareware)
WORKSHOP                       mutually integrated programs
Hands-on: Get to know your     for viewing, processing and                                       HOME
PCs back panel in this video   printing graphic files                                            Recipe Calc 4.0 (Freeware),
workshop                                                                                         Express NewsPictures 1.1
                                                                                                 (Shareware), eCollector 2.3
E-PAPERS                                                                                         (Demo)
Working with PDFs and
eBooks                                                                                           IN MAGAZINE
                                                                                                 Gimp 1.2 for Windows
SOFTWARE                                                                                         (Freeware), K-Meleon v0.4
DEVELOPERS                                                       creation and playback of ani-   (Freeware), NeoPlanet v5.2
CRIMSON EDITOR 3.21                                              mated GIFs and a number of      (Adware), Netscape
A professional source editor                                     filtering options               Communicator 4.78
for Windows with powerful      HYPERSNAP DX 4.10.02                                              (Freeware), NetCaptor Beta 9
features for HTML, C/C++,      This screen capture tool for      HOME                            v6.5.0 (Freeware), Opera
Java, Matlab, LaTex            Windows can capture screens       PAPERQUOTE’01                   Bundled with JRE 1.3 v5.12
                               from desktop programs,            Add some inspirational          (Freeware)
DJ JAVA DECOMPILER    DVD players,                      quotes of your choice to your
A Win 95/98/NT/ME/2000         DirectX/Direct3D, 3dfx            wallpaper with this software             Contd on page 8…

■   contents

            …Contd from page 7   AUDIOGRABBER 1.80 BUILD 4        UPDATES                              ARENA
INTERNET                         Make high quality copies of      NERO BURNING ROM             GAMES
CuteFTP (32-bit) (Demo),         your favourite music from        This application lets you write      ALIENS VS PREDATORS 2
ePrompter(SR7) (Freeware),       CDs by the digital method        to both CD-R and CD-RWs              Get into the boots of an alien,
Limewire (Freeware),                                              and supports on-the-fly disc         a predator or a marine and
MailScan for Mail Servers                                         recording and overburning            play until only one of you
(Generic) (Demo), Webkall                                                                              emerges victorious
Internet Phone (32-bit)
(Freeware)                                                                                             ZELDA CLASSIC
                                                                                                       This game allows you to
OFFICE                                                                                                 develop new quests, new ene-
AllNetic Working Time                                                                                  mies, items and challenges
Tracker(Freeware), Account
Pro (32-bit) 7.69h
(Shareware), The Retail          PCS HOMETRACK
Solution (Demo), The Little      This application lets you
Economist (Shareware)            track a complete inventory of    UTILITIES
                                 your possessions                 SYSTEM ANALYSER 5.21
RESOURCES                                                         Get extensive information
Cacheman 5.0 (Shareware),        INTERNET                         about your PC such as BIOS,          SURGE
Global DivX Player 1.9.0         AI ROBOFORM V 3.9.82             memory, CD-ROM, IEEE                 Groove to the tunes of Alien
(Freeware), Pop-up Stopper       This free utility adds form-     1284 (parallel port), SCSI           Abducty, DJ-MARTZ, M-Rax
(Shareware), WinRAR              filler hot buttons to Internet                                        and feast your eyes on the
(Shareware), Windows             Explorer 4 or Netscape 6 and     SISOFT SANDRA 2001 TE (5.8.11)       latest trailers
Media Player 7.1 (Freeware),     automatically fills up forms     A set of system diagnostic
Winzip (Evaluation)                                               and benchmarking tools that          CONNECT
                                 IN MAGAZINE                      help you keep your computer          SITEMAP
UPDATES                          MICROSOFT IE V6.0                running at peak performance          Get into the cramming mode
GoZilla Free (Freeware), ICQ     This version of IE sports                                             with
2000b 4.65 build #3281           enhanced features such as an     IN PRINT
(Freeware), NeoTrace             integrated advanced search       TEST DRIVE                           INDIA SITES
Express (Freeware), Microsoft    bar and an image tool bar        Reviews of tested products           New Indian sites and ISP news
Patch for Code Red Virus
(Freeware), Windows 2000         NETSCAPE 6.1                     PRICEWATCH                           BOOKMARKS
Compatibility Updates            This latest update includes      PC component prices                  Archie, Tintin and Garfield in
(Freeware)                       features such as quick launch,                                        the world of online comics
                                 integrated download              POINTERS
UTILITIES                        manager, improved e-mail         AND FILE
AX-Icons 4.5 (Shareware),        management and much more         OPERATIONS
Quintessential Player 3.22                                        IN C Complete, free course from
(Freeware), Trillian 0.6351      OFFICE                           Tutorial for
(Freeware)                       MESSAGEASAP (SE) 4.2.1           end-users
                                 Upload your fax and voice
Playware                         messages to your e-mail          MINDMATTERS
ARENA                            accounts and even check your     EBOOKS
Sheep, Dog n’ Wolf Demo          messages by the phone or Net     Black Beauty, Martin Luther          NEWSLETTERS
(Puzzle/adventure), Rally                                         King Jr. and more eBooks             Tantalise your brain cells with
Championship Xtreme                                                                                    these scientific newsletters
(Racing), Counter-Strike                                          WHITEPAPERS
(Action), Aliens vs Predator 2                                    Whitepapers on clustering            DROOLMAAL
(Action), Bejeweled (a.k.a.                                                                            If looks could kill, this page
Diamond Mine) (Puzzle),                                           TIPS &                Sponsored by   would burn!
LightWeight Ninja Demo                                            TRICKS
(Side scroller), Bowling                                          Tips and Tricks
Mania (Arcade), Zelda                                             database
Classic (Arcade)
                                 REDBOX ORGANISER 4.0             Playware
GALLERY                          A multifeatured PIM that also
Wallpapers, Screensavers,        comes with a Web publishing      GALLERY
Skins and Themes                 wizard for exporting data in     Wallpapers, themes and
                                 HTML format                      Winamp skins

8                                                                                                                         October 2001
■   service~ colophon

      VOLUME 1, ISSUE 6
                                            ◆ How to contact us                                                       ◆ Advertisers index
Chairman and Publisher Jasu Shah
Associate Publisher and
Editor Maulik Jasubhai                      EDITORIAL                             and e-mail of the developer.
Assistant Editor Karan Manral                                                                                         CLIENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .PAGE
                                            Products for Test/Review
                                            Send a complete working copy          CUSTOMER/ SUBSCRIPTION              Apple . . . . . . . . . . . .Back Cover
Writers Anil Patrick R., Vidyaramanan S.,   of the product (not a ‘trial’ or      SERVICES                            BPL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111
Sriram Sharma, Avina Lobo, Prashant         ‘demo’ version) to the Digit          E-mail: Any queries or problems
                                            Test Centre. Only products that       regarding Digit Interactive, sub-   Cannon . . . .Inside Back Cover
Features Editor Sveta Basraon
Copy Editors Anshul Chauhan,                are currently available in the        scriptions or other problems        Cdac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .129
Julian Vongeyer, Roopa Sukumaran            Indian market will be consid-         can be mailed to Aalaap Ghag, Sunil
                                                                                                                      Discreet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
                                            ered. The products must have
Srinivasan                                                                                                            Elnova . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .66
                                            the complete name of the man-         Post: If sent by post, please
Consultant G.V. Sreekumar                   ufacturer or developer, details                                           Gigabyte . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97
Art Director Marshall Mascarenhas           regarding the name of the                Pager: 9623-987273 at Mumbai
Visualisers V. Jeevanand, Shyam             model and its type and the end-              Pager: 9624-329229 at        HP . . . . .Inside Front Cover,109
Shirsekar                                                                           Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore
Senior Designer Shivasankaran C. Pillai,
                                            user price. Product brochure                                              Imation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18,19
Graphics Solomon Lewis, Jaya Shetty         and a complete specification          mark ‘Customer Service’. In
                                                                                                                      Intel . . . . . . . . . . . . .11,12,13,14
Digital Imaging Artist Neeta Wadiker        sheet must be included, along         case of subscription problems,
Photographers Ashesh Shah, Rahul            with the name of a person to be       please mention the subscription     Karma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59
Sharma, Mexi Xavier
Illustrator Mahesh Benkar, Ram              contacted for information.            particulars.                        Kobian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .115
Contributing Illustrator Farzana
Cooper                                      DIGIT INTERACTIVE                     MARKETING SERVICES                  KSDL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41
Test Centre
                                            Contact Vaibhav Kapoor, Con-          IT companies whose products         Microboards . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57
Head Marco D’Souza
Deputy Head Hatim Kantawalla                tent Co-ordinator, Multimedia         have been declared winners in a
                                                                                                                      Microsoft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Reviewers Dipayan Choudhury, Aliasgar       ( for                               Digit Test
Pardawala, Menlyn Noronha, Yatish           inclusion of software on Digit                             can use the    Neoteric . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .95
Suvarna, Mitul Mehta
                                            Interactive. A write-up detailing                          Digit Test     Rashi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
Co-ordinator Gautami V. Chalke
Multimedia                                  the features of the software,                              Centre logo.
Co-ordinator V. Ravi Shankar                complete loading instructions                              They must      Samsung . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4,5
Designer Kabir Malkani, Jo-Ann              and a letter certifying that the                           address
Rodricks,Priyamvada K.K.
                                                                                                                      Sap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125,127
Programmers Liu Ai Chin
                                                            product is origi-                          their
                                                            nal must accom-       requests for licences, reprints     Sony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99
Content Vaibhav Kapoor
Digital Video Bimal Unnikrishnan                               pany the soft-     and bulk orders of Digit to         Sparr . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .119
Production                                                      ware. The soft-   Navin Sahni (navin_sahni
General Manager Shivshankar                                                                                           Trend Micro . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55
Hiremath                                    ware must also have the com-, at our Nerul
Managers Harish Suvarna, Shiv               plete address, telephone number       office in Navi Mumbai.              Unistall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63
Hiremath, Niten Terse, R. Ganesh
                                                                                                                      Zenith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Assistant Manager Shailesh Iyer
Co-ordinator Sriram Iyer
Circulation and Logistics
                                            ◆ Sales & Marketing Offices
Head–Circulation & Logistics
Akhilesh Singh
                                            HEAD OFFICE                           MUMBAI
                                            Navi Mumbai                           Rupesh Sreedharan
Distribution & Logistics
                                            Sandip Maiti                          Ad Sales Manager
Nicholas Kiro, Arup Ghosh,
                                            Vice President                        Bhavesh Thakore
Sandeep Rane                                Sales & Client Marketing              Clayton Brace
Marketing                                   Navin Sahni                           Phone: +91 22 6591849-50, 6591651
Brand Manager Louis D’Mello                 Client Marketing                      Fax: +91 22 6591592
Marketing Communication Mithun Roy,         Rakesh Rana
Aarti Prabhu, Ranvijay Singh                                                      SECUNDERABAD
                                            Ad Sales Support                      Venu
International Marketing                                                                                                 HEAD OFFICE:
                                            NEW DELHI                             Phone: + 91 40 6329190/6329181
Jasmine Taraporevalla                                                                                                   EDITORIAL, MARKETING AND
                                            Vijay Adhikari                        CHENNAI
Audience Development                                                                                                    CUSTOMER SERVICE
                                            Regional Manager                      Sahayaraj Prabhu
Head Sarang Dash                            Koshy Thomas                                                                Plot No D-222/2,
Manager Mou Maiti                                                                 Phone: +91 44 8235186-89              TTC Industrial Area, MIDC, Shirvane,
                                            Ad Sales Manager                      Fax: +91 44 8230731
Amit Dhume, Abhyuday Mukhopadhyay,          Arvind Prabhakar                                                            Nerul, Navi Mumbai 400 706
Nabjeet Ganguli, Ghazala Siddiqui           Rahul Bhardwaj                        PUNE                                  Phone: 022-7629191/9200
Customer Service Namita Shetty,             Phone: +91 11 6445320-25              Sanjay Nepali                         Fax: 022-7615225, 7629223/24
Reema Sadarangani, Jasneet Kaur,            Fax: +91 11 6445321                   Phone: +91 20 4482059, 4494572        Printed and published by Jasu R. Shah on
Roshan Jeypaul, Ronny Joseph                                                      Tele-Fax: +91 20 4482059
                                            BANGALORE                                                                   behalf of Jasubhai Digital Media Pvt Ltd, 26
                                            S. Saikumar                           CALCUTTA                              Maker Chambers VI, 2nd Floor, Nariman
Cover Photograph: Colston Julian,           Ad Sales Manager                      Jayanta Bhattacharya                  Point, Mumbai 400 021, India.
assisted by Bajirao Pawar                   Raghu Pillai                          Phone: +91 33 2822183, 2827842,       Editor: Maulik Jasubhai
Model: Khalid Siddiqui                      Kiran Karri                           2828016
                                                                                                                        Printed at Tata Infomedia Limited,
                                            Phone: +91 80 5325670/88, 2899287     Fax: +91 33 2827673
                                                                                                                        Prabhadevi, Mumbai 400 025
                                            Tele-Fax: +91 80 5098717

10                                                                                                                                                October 2001
                             NEWS PULSE                                                                               DIGIT OCTOBER 2001

hypethesis                          Games delayed due to WTC attacks                                           India’s first cyber-
  Quantum Teleportation
  ▲ What is it?                     The terrorist attacks on Amer-                                             crime police station
  Teleportation is defined as the   ica that destroyed the World
  process of transferring an        Trade Center in New York have                                              India’s first exclusive Cyber
  object or a person from one       caused consternation amongst                                               Crime Police Station (CCPS)
  place to another through          the game development com-                                                  has been launched to deal
  mass-energy-mass conver-          munity. Many publishers                                                    with problems like computer
  sion. The original object or      have decided to either                                                     hacking, data damage and
  person will be scanned for all    delay or put off the release                                               Internet fraud. The station,
  details and the data will be      of some of their upcoming                                                  which would only cover the
  sent to the destination where     titles indefinitely.                                                       state of Karnataka, was
  the object or the person is to        Electronic       Arts   is                                             launched on September 15. It
  be recreated. At the destina-     redesigning packs for its                                                  would deal with crimes which
  tion the object will be recre-    Command & Conquer series                                                   were covered under the Infor-
  ated not with the actual          that featured the New York sky-                                            mation Technology Act that
  material but with atoms of a      line. Activision has announced               and Metal Gear ver-           was brought into effect last
  similar material.                 a delay in the release of a new      sion. Microsoft also intends to       year.
                                    Spider-Man title. Ubisoft and        remove the World Trade Cen-

                                                                                                                                            Illustrations: Farzana Cooper
  ▲ What's special about the        Konami have indefinitely post-       ter from scenes in Flight Simu-
  project?                          poned upcoming Rogue Spear           lator 2002.
  Scientists have found a way to
  scan a part of the information
  of the object to be teleported,   HP-COMPAQ
  while carrying the remaining
  unscanned information to
  pass through another object.
                                    Merger or Submerger?
  Then the latter object through    Analysts have nothing positive       ing Compaq Computer, the No.
  which the unscanned infor-        to say about this merger, which      2 PC maker, in a stock-swap deal         Karnataka, like sev-
  mation is passed through is       has been likened to a shotgun        valued at $25 billion. The merg-      eral other states had set up a
  manoeuvered into exactly the      wedding, a survival merger, and      er is the biggest deal among PC       special cell in 1999 with
  same state as the first object    a desperate move.                    makers since Compaq bought            advice from experts from
  was in before it was scanned.         Investors do not like the idea   Digital for $9.6 billion in 1998.     leading      Bangalore-based
  Teleportation takes place and     at all, and the stocks of the two    Both companies have suffered          software firms. This cell has
  not replication; this is what     personal computer makers have        due to the tech slowdown with         now been given the status of
  the scientists claim on the       plummeted since the deal was         plummeting profits and job            a police station and aims to
  basis of EPR. Thus, it helps      announced on September 3.            cuts. They both have also suf-        take quick decisive action on
  you retain your privacy.              For those who cued in late,      fered dearly trying to duel Dell      solving cybercrimes.
                                    Hewlett-Packard will be acquir-      in the direct market.
  ▲ Where can you get it?
                                    Chat on Yahoo! Messenger with SMS
  SNAPSHOT                         Have you ever wished that you            You can log into your Yahoo!      usability
  10 Million                       could use your Internet messag-       Messenger account by typing          could do
  Networked homes in the           ing service via your cell phone?      your username and password           with some
  US by 2003                       The popularity of Internet mes-       and sending it via an SMS mes-       improve-
                                   saging and SMS messaging on           sage to 8242 (in Mumbai). You        ments. This
  The number of people
                                   cell phones has led Yahoo! India      will get an SMS message con-         service       is
  around the world having
                                   and Orange to come together           firming your status. Almost all      already available
  Internet access by 2002
                                   and offer mobile phone users          messenger functionality will be      to all Orange and
  90 million                       the ability to use the Yahoo!         available on the cell phone,         Hutichison affiliates sans sign
Source: Messenger service via SMS.            which is really neat, although the   ups or registration of any kind.

◆ Microsoft XP trial version released in a fully functional Corporate Edition ◆ Sony unveils new robo-pups to play with Aibo◆

 ■   pulse

 HomeStation: The XBox Alternative                                            Redalert
 There’s a new alternative for           home entertainment hub                W32.Nimda.A@mm            
 XBox on the anvil, if unofficial        pulling in content from the           Mail@admin all                      urity/bulletin/ms00-078.asp
 sources are to be believed.             Internet, DVD and TV. The             Known as ‘Nimda’, which spells
 Some sources have claimed               box is also said to incorporate       admin backwards, this mass          W32.Magistr.39921@mm
 that Microsoft is putting the           the ability to record regular         mailing      worm has been          Lethal weapon
 finishing touches on its next           TV programming.                       spreading like wildfire across      A     variant     of    W32.Mag-
 home entertainment product:                 Initially similar functional-     the Internet.                       istr.24876@mm, it overwrites
 a more multimedia, less                 ity was planned for the XBox,             W32.Nimda.A@mm is a new         Ntldr.exe and on all
 games-oriented alternative to           but it looks like Microsoft may       worm that uses several different    drives with code that causes it
 XBox.                                   have decided to incorporate           methods to spread and infects       to store garbage data in the first
    This XBox alternative/suc-           them into a second machine.           systems running Microsoft Win-      sector of the first IDE hard drive.
 cessor, will be based on                The company is said to be             dows 95, 98, Me, NT and 2000.       The virus/worm uses e-mail
 nVidia’s nForce chipset and             waiting for a much wider              The worm can come to you via        addresses from the Windows
 Intel’s Pentium 4 processor.            availability of broadband con-        e-mail, or through an open net-     and Eudora Address Book files,
 Tentatively dubbed the Home-            nections before releasing the         work share. It also attempts to     Outlook Express Sent Items
 Station, it would serve as a            new system.                           copy itself to vulnerable           folder, and Netscape Sent Items
                                                                               Microsoft IIS web servers and       files. The payload is lethal—it
                                                                               infects both local and shared       overwrites hard drives, erases
 quicktake                                                                     network files. The fact that        CMOS, flashes the BIOS. The
                                                                               Nimda attacks using a combi-        e-mail comes with randomly
                                                                               nation of methods and affects       generated text and randomly
  Can FreeMarkets save you money?                                              both PCs and servers makes it       named infected executables or
                                                                               pretty unique. You can avoid        document files. To remove this
  ▲ What’s FreeMarkets?               date, we have delivered over             being infected by disabling Java    worm, use an updated antivirus
  FreeMarkets is the leading glob- $4 billion in cost savings to               script on your machine and          software and delete all files that
  al sourcing market and provider our customers.                               avoiding opening any unfamil-       are detected as W32.Mag-
  of e-sourcing soft-                                 Our customers            iar e-mails.                        istr.39921@mm. If necessary,
  ware and service                               save 5-25 per cent                Microsoft has made a patch      restore       any       W32.Mag-
  solutions. Through                             on purchase con-              available for IE 5.xx users which   istr.39921@mm infected files
  its unique combi-                              tracts while typically        can be downloaded from              from a clean backup.
  nation of Web-                                 achieving an ROI of
  based      software,                           500 per cent in the
  supply       market                            first year itself! This is
  information, market
  operations       and        Amit Bhatia
                                                 facilitated by our
                                                 five-step       Market-
                                                                                     All new Radeon checks in
  sourcing services,            VP & GM          Making         process,      ATI, one of the leading graph-        the Radeon 7500 and the
  FreeMarkets      has      FreeMarkets India    which is designed to         ics card manufacturers in the         Radeon 8500 cards will make
  helped customers                               help you identify,                  world has introduced           use of the new Microsoft
  around the world source more        execute and realise real and                                                  DirectX 8.1 API. New technol-
  than $21 billion in goods and       tangible cost-savings.                                                        ogy that has been incorporated
  services in more than 185 dif-                                                                                                 includes     TRU-
  ferent supply verticals. FreeMar- ▲ What is your USP?                                                                          FORM, which is a
  kets works with over 120 of the FreeMarkets’ USP remains its                                                                   rendering technol-
  world’s largest buyers from its ability to offer a ‘high ROI’ in a                                                             ogy that will gen-
  17 offices in 13 countries and short period of time without the                                                                erate smoother,
  over 14,000 suppliers from 70 pain of implementing long-ges-                                                                   more natural 3D
  countries have actively partici-    tation technology solutions.                                                               images.
  pated in the marketplace.                                                                                                         Encouraged by
                                      ▲ What about the Indian market?                                                            the    reasonable
  ▲ How will a user benefit from 1,500 Indian suppliers are reg-                                                                 success of the
  FreeMarkets?                        istered with us and active in our                                                          original Radeon,
  FreeMarkets delivers cost sav- global sourcing market, and we                                                                  ATI is aiming the
  ings to its customers (buyers) have delivered over $4 billion in                   two new products that          new Radeon cards directly
  who e-source with us. Till cost savings to our customers.                          use its second-genera-         at nVidia’s top-of-the-line
                                                                              tion Radeon processor. Both           GeForce 3 based cards.                ➜

◆ Quake IV in development ◆ Sircam virus still a serious threat ◆ Studies show computer gamers have under-developed brains ◆

 16                                                                                                                                      October 2001
                      ■   pulse

                                                                                                 DivX goes                        Intel vs VIA
                              ack doors should be placed in all                                 mainstream                    The processor giant Intel is
                      “B      encryption products as a matter of
                                   national security”
                                                                         Here's a leash I
                                                                         want you to wear,    A small alternative film dis-
                                                                                                                              suing VIA, and claiming that
                                                                                                                              VIA’s P4X266 and P4M266
                                     Senator Judd Gregg, making a        and it won't         tributor     called    Strand   chipsets infringe on Intel
                                     proposal, by which the US govern-   hurt...not too       Releasing has become the        patents. The suit, which was
                                     ment would have a back door to      much.                first commercial partner for    filed after a long verbal duel, has
                                     encryption programs with a court                         DivX Networks. They have        resulted in VIA filing a counter-
                                     order.                                                   licensed the DivX Open          suit against Intel, claiming that
                                                                                              Video System to use its         the Pentuim 4 and 845 chipsets
                                                                                              video-compression format        infringe on VIA patents.
                                                                                              for providing customers             The debate is centered pri-
                                                                                              with secure DivX down-          marily on a cross-licensing
                                                                         Which is a           loads.                          agreement between Intel and
                                            imply put, Windows                                    Consumers will now be       S3 Graphics regarding access
                                     “S     XP is the best operat-
                                     ing system Microsoft has ever
                                                                         distinction as
                                                                         worthy as the
                                                                         smartest kid in
                                                                                              able to rent films directly
                                                                                              from the Strand Releasing
                                                                                                                              to P4 technology. VIA, which
                                                                                                                              acquired S3, feels that those
                                     built”                              the mental           Web site. However, the file     agreements are still valid. Intel,
                                                                         institution.         will remain accessible only     of course, disagrees with this
                                     Bill Gates, when the gold master                         for five days.                  interpretation.
                                     CD for XP was finalised.                                     DivX Networks released a
                                                                                              new version of its DivX
                                                                                              codec just a month ago. The     thermometer
                                                                                              new codec was built from
                                                                                              scratch, unlike earlier ver-        Hot
                                  ore people will be using mobile                             sions, which were based on a                RAM:
                      “M          phones than fixed phones
                                     throughout the world”               Mobility
                                                                                              Microsoft implementation of
                                                                                                                                          Both DDR and
                                                                                                                                          SDRAM prices
                                                                         increases,               Though there are other                  plunge to basement
                                     Kurt Hellstroem,                    stability drops.     dominant players like Real-                 bargain rates
                                     Ericsson president                                       Networks and Microsoft                      Infosys
                                                                                              around, Hollywood studios                   Tops the ranking
                                                                                              continue to look out for bet-               for ‘IT's best
                                                                                              ter technology solutions.                   employer’ accord-
                                                                                                                                          ing to a Dataquest-
                                                                                                                                          IDC India survey
                                                          Online Advertising Revenue Trends                                               Cold
                                                                                                                                          Intel Pentium III
                                                 Asia still at the bottom-rung, U.S. remains at top                                       to die
                                                                                                                                          The Pentium III will
                                                                                                                                          be effectively phased
                                                                                                                                          out of the desktop
                                                                                                                                          market by the end of
                                                                                                                                          the year.
                                                                                                                                          Nintendo’s new
                                                                                                                                          console receives a


        ◆ Yahoo! puts squeeze on GeoCities users ◆ Three Recordable DVD standards go head-to-head ◆ HDTV Network debuts

                      20                                                                                                                          October 2001
    metrics                                                                                 Realplayer to go Mobile
       38°C (100 Farenheit)

                                                                                  Texas Instruments has decid-         set manufacturers to send
                                                                                  ed to incorporate RealPlayer         news and entertainment con-
       Intel Pentium III 1000                                                     Mobile, a wireless version of        tent on RealPlayer’s mobile
                                                                                  the popular digital media soft-      digital media player. The
                                                                                  ware for the PC, into its chips      software will be optimised
       AMD Athlon 1400                                                            for wireless devices. This           for TI’s OMAP architecture,
                                                                                  would allow manufacturers to         which boasts of high-

       370°C (698 Farenheit)                                                      offer streaming media play-          performance at low power

                                                                                  back on mobile devices like          usage. Support for RealPlayer
       The temperature of the processor after the Heatsink                        cell phones and handhelds.           Mobile is expected to be
       and CPU fan is removed from the processor.                                     This would allow wireless        available in the first quarter
                                                                                  service operators and hand-          of 2002.
     Source: Tom's Hardware Guide

     Stirring up a Mindstorm                                                                                            Who is?
                                                                                                                        Alexey Pajitnov
    Lego’s successful Mindstorm               stop people from ‘customising’      ensure that their patents are         ▲ Who is he?
    digital toys have stirred up a lot        their toys, it will take steps to   not exploited.                        He is famous for inventing
    of debate recently. The compa-                                                                                      one of the the most addictive
    ny, which is famous for its                                                                                         games of the century, Tetris,
    educational toys, found that                                                                                        which set a record of sorts by
    some ingenious Mindstorms’s                                                                                         selling 50 million licensed
    users went and modified some                                                                                        copies.
    of the proprietary code. This                                                                                           Inspired to become a
    was then posted on the Inter-                                                                                       mathematician in order to
    net, and people have begun                                                                                          enjoy the puzzles, he also
    writing their own software for                                                                                      developed a game called
    the robots. There is even a com-                                                                                    Genetic Engineering prior to
    pletely new operating system                                                                                        Tetris. He says that the idea
    called LegOS written for the                                                                                        and the balance of mechan-
    toy. It seems likely that while                                                                                     ics is the secret behind the
    Lego might not do anything to                                                                                       success of any game.
                                                                                                                        ▲ Why   is Tetris popular?
                                                                                                                        At the time it was launched, it
    tomorrowstechnology                                                                                                 did not have much real com-
                                                                                                                        petition. Besides this, the

                               Gizmos' graveyard                                                                        gameplay really appealed to
                                                                                                                        a wide group of people that
                                                                                                                        found that it required a com-
      Most gadgets that die are uncer-        materials to make discarded         heated to the preset temperature.     bination of speed of thought
      emoniously dumped in landfills.         mobile phones or computers          Later, products can be designed       and the ability to match pat-
      The European Comission wants            pop apart on request. Their com-    from scratch with ADSM in mind.       terns in the blocks.
      manufacturers of everything from        ponents—circuit boards, screens,       Manufacturers are bound to             Hence Tetris was pre-
      TVs and computers to mobile             switches and the like—will sort     take advantage of the consumer        scribed by doctors for kids
      phones to take back and recycle         themselves into separate piles.     appeal afforded by these prod-        over 12 years to develop their
      up to 90 per cent of their prod-            They are pinning their hopes    ucts. Fancy a phone that is dis-      thinking ability.
      ucts by 2006.                           on a technique called active dis-   creet and businesslike all week,      ▲ Where   to look for more?
          Recycling is especially difficult   assembly using smart materials      but becomes jazzy and bright for      To learn more about Tetris
      with small intricate devices            (ADSM). It relies on the unusual    the weekend? Just pop it under        and for stories related to the
      where dismantling is often diffi-       properties of shape memory          the grill for a few seconds. Then     game, logon to
      cult or impossible. A team of           alloys (SMAs) and shape memo-       on Sunday night, another quick        or just ener the word
      researchers at Brunel University        ry polymers (SMPs). The new fas-    blast could sober it up, ready for    ‘Tetris’ in any on of the
      have devised a way to use smart         teners will pop out when they are   work on Monday morning.               popular search engines.

◆ ’Bin Laden’ tops ‘Pamela’ in Internet search keywords◆ China spots ‘Code Blue’ worm ◆ NEC, Sony see promise in fuel cells ◆

 ■   pulse~ dialog

    goes the e
POP ,                        ptember issu
                                         e was not up
                                                                                                                                       Sher Khan
Dear Karan      ee’ in the Se                 Fr
                               ‘Born to be
               n the article                                                        service                              This is a poem sent in by one of our readers
In my opinio                                                
                                                       stead of the
    the mark.                         .in service in                                                                                that we just had to share
 to                  the                                                  was lack-
       Why review                 today prefer
                                                                    mail service
                  ers in India                         g a POP3 e-
  which most
                us                    nefits of usin             e unaware of
                      ion of the be              ost people ar                  space, is fea-
                                                                                                                                   Arz karta hoon…
        The explanat              hing that m                      easly 2 MB
                  view, somet            otmail, in sp
                                                        ite of a m
                                                                            B of space is
                                                                                          very                               Jo sadiyaon se hota aaya hai,
   ing in your re            ded that H                         k that 2 M
              have conclu                        overall. I thin                                                                Woh repeat kar doonga,
         You                     mail service                          ing.
                                                        es are provid lection of the best
                 d the best e-           other servic
    ture-rich an           red to what                        d in your se                                          Tu naa mili to tujhe Shift Delete kar doonga.
                   mpa                                 applie
     miserly as co                     is little logic
                        I think there                                                                                  Ladkiyaan sunder hain aur lonely hain
          In the end,
                    e provider.                                                                                        Problem hai ki bus voh Read Only hain
      e-mail servic
      NIKHIL PA                                                                                                      Shayad mere pyar ko taste karna bhool gaye
       Via e- mail                                                                                                  Dil ko aisa Cut kiya ke Paste karna bhool gaye
                                                                                                                 Woh samajhte hain dil tod diya to hum Dead hain,
    Dear Nikhil,
                                                                                                               Woh nahin jaante ki is dil main aur kitne Thread hain
    Let me try and answer your queries one at a time...                                                     Tumhare samne hain itne Sample, kabhi hamein bhi Pick karo,
        We believe that speed and reliability are the greatest concerns for                                      Hamare pyar ke Icon pe kabhi to Double-click karo
    most people using free e-mail services, especially in India. This is why                                  Roz subha hum karte hai itne pyar se unhe good morning,
    we decided to review and, both of which                                                 Woh humhe ghoor kar dekhte hain jaise,
    by virtue of their location, are more reliable and faster for users in                                                       0 error but 5 warning.
        While we did consider the availability of POP3 access we found                                      PIYUSH BISANI
    that there were several other feature parameters that deserved greater                                  via e-mail
    importance when we were considering an overall rating.
        As far as the maximum mailbox capacity is concerned, keep in
    mind that while account sizes do vary, most services have placed a
    limitation on the maximum attachment size or e-mail size, which
    reduces the flexibility that a larger mailbow—whether it is 6 MB or
    20 MB in size—should offer you.
        This story was a broad-based review that objectively evaluated the
    e-mail services over 40-odd parameters and tells you which site offers
    the best overall feature set.

         Poll and pus
          Dear Digit,h
         I tried to ch
                        eck out the
         www.thinkdig                   results of yo
              Howev                    ur ‘Best E-m
        ice, and receiv                 er, while I am                 ail Service’ po
                       ed a confirmat                   able to vote fo                  ll at
       longer displays                  ion that my vo                 r my favourite
                         the result. I w                te has been re                  serv-
                                         as especially                 gistered, the sit
                                                        excited to see                  e no
                                           article in the              the results afte
                                                          Times of India                r an
                                                                          claimed to ha
                                                     gathered 49                          ve
                                                                   .56 per cent
                                                             votes.                of the
                                                                  Via e-mail

                                                                                            Dear Sushubh,
                                                                                            The poll that you mention was conducted by us to get an indication of the
                                                                                            opinion of our readers. We decided to discontinue the poll when we found
                                                                                            that due to the relatively smaller number of voters this was being used by cer-
                                                                                            tain people to make their site seem more popular than is true. If you are
                                                                                            interested in getting a real picture of users opinion of e-mail sites, I would
                                                                                            suggest that you keep an eye on the Popular Choice polls which begin on
                                                     Illustrations: Mahesh Benkar
                                                                                            October 1, 2001 and are a part of of the Digit Web Awards 2001.

  22                                                                                                                                                                      October 2001
             A matter o
                       f choice
                                                                                                                                                          Go f Ups
             Dear Karan
            I have been
                            a reader of                                                                                                              ■ Lokesh Bhama points out
            you commen                   your magaz
                             d VSNL’s step             ine from its
           use while se                      of denying              first issue on                                                                  that the images and descrip-
                           nding mail.                      subscribers’             wards. In yo
                                        While I do no                     basic rights             ur editorial                                      tions of the Fuji Instax and
           not feel anyo                                t like spam                      of freedom             in the Septem
                           ne has the ri                              and am at th                    to choose w              ber 2001 issu         the Sony DCR-PC9 Mini DV
                I run a smal              ght to take                                e receiving                     hich e-mail                e,
                               l company               away from                                  end of a lot                   identity they       recorder were exchanged.
          e-mail addr                       with its own             me my free                                 of junk mail
                        ess. I use m                         Web site an           dom to choo                                myself, I still
         torial, I wou                ultiple ISPs                        d have conf             se my e-mai                                 do
                        ld be stuck.                and if they                          igured my e-           l address.                           ■ In the Monitor comparison
        doesn’t mak                    Having to us              were to star                          mail client to
                        e sense beca                  e the reply               t this practic                          display my                   test published in the Septem-
                                        use it would                addresses of               e as you ha                          Web site
        use the e-m                                                                 the ISP whi            ve recomm                                 ber issue, the Scoreboard on
                       ail address                     confuse my                                ch lets me co           ended in yo
             I am surprise           of my choice                     clients. I do                              nnect on a           ur edi-        page 114 lists the incorrect
                             d that you ar          from a payi                     n’t see why                               particular da
       dom and no                          e thinking so          ng customer                     anyone shou                                 y
                      t stifle it.                          conser vativ          like me.                        ld take away                       e-mail contact for Samsung
                                                                         ely and are                                            the right to
                                                                                      forgetting th                                                  Electronics India. The correct
      ANAND P                                                                                       at Internet is
                     RAKASH                                                                                         there to prom                    e-mail address is market-
      Via e-mail                                                                                                                  ote free -

                                                                                                                                                     Notice any goof-ups? Write

Dear Anand,                                                                  this might seem unfair at this point of time, this is some-
I can understand your point about how this move from                         thing that Internet service users have to reconcile them-
VSNL is going to affect the way you conduct your busi-                       selves to all over the world, mostly because of
ness. I also agree that you need to have the right to choose                 the inability of ISPs to handle the amount of spam
your own e-mail address.                                                     generated.
    However, I think that it is necessary to understand                           You mention that I am being conservative when I say                    Short Bytes
that while you, as a responsible individual, might be tak-                   that all ISPs should consider such measures. I beg to dif-
ing steps to ensure that you direct your messages to peo-                    fer. Sit back for a minute and think of the Internet as a                      C_ _ P _ _ _R
ple willing to receive them, a majority of marketers today                   shared resource that is depleted in a significant manner                We received a lot of responses to
                                                                                                                                                     Udit Madan’s letter in the Septem-
have no such compunctions. Which raises the question                         by spam. You will see that there are really only two alter-
                                                                                                                                                     ber issue of Short Bytes requesting
of whether individuals have the right or freedom to                          natives open to us. Either we let the existing system
                                                                                                                                                     the full form for the word COM-
choose what kind of messages they receive.                                   remain because change is too difficult, or take the other               PUTER.
    Another point to be considered is whether VSNL will                      more difficult course due to the benefits it could bring us                 While we had some interesting
offer you a service that will allow you to send mail via                     in the long run.                                                        suggestions like ‘Condemnable
their server using your Web site address, at a price. While                                                                                          Operator of Machine Peripherals
                                                                                                                                                     Using Tardy Electronic Resources’,
                                                                                                                                                     many of you came up with this one:
                                                                                                                                                     ‘Commonly Operated Machine Pur-
                                                                                                                                                     posely Used for Training Education
                                                                                                                                                     & Research’.
Monin,tor it rig
                                                                                                                                                     Via e-mail
                                                                             of Digit
                                                            ember issue
Dear Ka                                    ied in the Sept                       ken                                                                 If you have suggestions on how to
                 compa   rison test carr                       re has been ta
The monitor                                      t enough ca                                                                                         make Digit better, come partici-
                   rs in it. W   e find that no               azine.
had some erro                               bles in the mag                       itch                                                               pate in the reader survey at
                           data for the ta                        s in the dot-p
        compiling the                             inconsistencie                                                                           
                       rison ta   ble there are               have lis  ted the hori-
      In the compa                           me cases you                        com-                                                                vey/betterdigit
                             oducts. In so                      itch, which is
 listed  for different pr                        agonal dot-p
                    h and in     others the di             gimmick th    at is used by
  zontal dot-pitc                           ers. This is a            about the pe
                           for your read            readers minds
         y misleading
                      to caus    e confusion in
   manufacturers                                                                     ore-    Dear Umang,
                           products.                               esent in the Sc
         ance of their                             e errors are pr                                                                                       Send your letters marked
                            to po  int out that th             itch for   the Samsung        The error you refer to, which was due to an
         We would like                        incorrect dot-p                       . This                                                                ‘Readers Letters’ to the
                            4 and list the                         ld read as 0.28           oversight at our end, is regretted.
    boar  d on page 11                             dot-pitch shou                                                                                               Digit office:
                       r. The ac   tual diagonal                                                 As you have mentioned, the dot-pitch                         D-222/2, MIDC,
     15-inch monito                            ge 115.                               azine
                             repeated on pa                         ading IT mag             should be measured diagonally and this
     mist  ake has been                             errors in a le                                                                                         TTC Industrial Estate,
                              ning  to find such                                             has been kept in mind by us while evaluat-                  Om Sagar Building, Nerul,
           It is dishearte
                                                                                             ing the monitors.                                             Navi Mumbai 400 706
      like  Digit.                                                                                                                                       Phone: 022-7629191/9200;
       UMANG                                                                                     The inconsistencies were a result of
                                             dustries                                                                                                        Fax: 022-7629224
                          ics & Allied In
       Roop Electron                                                                         human error, in spite of our best efforts.                           E-mail:
                                                                                             We shall ensure that greater care is taken      
                                                                                             in the future.

■   connect~ spotlight

                         Music, by George!
                         Meet India’s music man, Chris George, of the EasyBuyMusic fame. This
                         young CEO, who believes a lot in the potential of online music in India,
                         dares to win
                         VIDYARAMANAN S.                                      nesses and soon decided to carve out a career in
                               hat would optimism be if it walked on          the music industry.

                         W     two legs? The answer, at least in the music
                               industry in India, would be Chris George.
                               He’s the CEO of EasyBuyMusic. The man
                         who walked down the dotcom graveyard after
                         the recent crash and built an entire portal for
                                                                                  He had started an event management and
                                                                              promotion company called Danzig Corp. dur-
                                                                              ing his college days in India. His company han-
                                                                              dled some events like the Bryan Adams concert
                                                                              and the Lakme Maximum Rampwalk. There-
                         music aficionados in India.                          after, George, along with Shantanu Roy Ghosh,
                            At a time when hundreds of dotcom ventures        a childhood friend and partner at Danzig Corp.,
                         with flailing arms and drenched enthusiasm           came up with the concept of getting music
                         were shutting shop, George stepped into the          across to music lovers whenever they want it,
                         music market with guts and determination. And        from wherever they want it.
                         working on his unfailing belief that “Who dares          The concept was sold to Times Music and it
                         wins!” he took charge of his online music store,     saw musical light in the form of ‘Dial M for
                                               Music’, a successful exercise. It later evolved into
                                                                              a new business model executed via EasyBuyMu-
                                                                              sic, now India’s largest online music store.
                                                                                  Now, when he talks about the competition in
                                                    “A buyer will             the music market, he grins and says “music is
                                                                              always easy to sell”. And continues: “The band is
                                                    buy music if              always the brand. A buyer will buy music if it’s
                                                                              good and not bother with the record label. Con-
                                                    it’s good and             sumers want a general purpose aggregator.”
                                                                                  A buyer who buys music cassettes and CDs
                                                    not bother                from a certain place, EasyBuyMusic for instance,
                                                                              will come to the same familiar place to buy and
                                                    with the                  download music when digital download gains
                                                                              momentum. This is how George believes the
                                                    record label”             firm will sustain itself in the long run.
                                                                                  EasyBuyMusic has developed one of the best
                                                                              of the supply chain management (SCM)
                                                                              methodologies driving its e-commerce engine,
Chris George, CEO,                                                            which other companies like Rediff have imple-
EasyBuyMusic                 George completed his B.Sc in India before        mented too. Many firms have the technology but
                         heading to the New York University to earn an        not the right distribution platform and George
                         MBA. He became an understudy to the head of          aims to provide assistance to such companies to
                         the Department of Business and Entrepreneur-         help them fare better in the online market.
                         ial Studies of the university and even set up the        Although the Internet is currently only one of
                         Young Business Entrepreneurs Society. For            the channels through which revenue is being
                         inspiration, he doesn’t look further than the Vir-   generated, the rest of the revenue accrues
                         gin CEO Richard Branson who he thinks is the         through orders placed via phone calls on their
                         perfect amalgamation of fun and work.                toll free number.
                             George started his career with Sprint PCS            George also believes that buying over the
                         and later moved to Bell Atlantic where he suc-       Web will soon increase, leading to greater sales
                         cessfully handled its value-added services divi-     and success for EasyBuyMusic. And though
                         sion. When his father hinted at his returning to     India is a difficult market, it is not an impossi-
                         India, George readily agreed. Mumbai had a           ble one to capture—he has faith that will
                         promising market and where he felt he could          sustain.
                         gainfully employ his knowledge and experience.           For how long, the market and his determina-
                         He honed his skills handling his family busi-        tion will tell.

24                                                                                                                  October 2001
■   connect~ face-off

                                                            Bheja Fry!
                Cell phones cause cancer: urban myth or scientific truth? Sriram Sharma and
              Dipayan Choudhary speak with a radiologist and an industry representative about
                               hazards that come with owning a cell phone

     paper published in the            radiation. A mobile phone in                cratchy reports and uncon-     by mobile phones have lead to

A    Science Journal Differenti-
     ation says that repeated
     exposure to mobile phone
radiation leads to the continu-
ous manufacture of heat shock
                                       the US operates between 850
                                       MHz to 1,900 MHz. At that
                                       range the radiation produced is
                                       in the form of radio frequencies,
                                       the same as in a microwave. Just
                                                                               S   firmed studies have led to a
                                                                                   belief among consumers
                                                                                   that radiation from mobile
                                                                               phones causes cancer. But sci-
                                                                               entists at the National Cancer
                                                                                                                  it being mandatory for all cell
                                                                                                                  phone manufacturers to put
                                                                                                                  radiation ratings on all mobile
                                                                                                                  phones sold in the US. This has
                                                                                                                  been prompted by strict
proteins within cells. Heat            as a microwave heats food by            Institute (NCI) have concluded     requirements from the regula-
shock proteins are always pres-        means of radiation, with repeat-        after a study they conducted       tory authorities and I think that
ent in cells at a low level, but are   ed usage of a cell phone, your          that people who use cell phones    it is only a matter of time that
                                       cells too get heated.                   are not at any greater risk to
J. M. Modhe                                However, researchers in the         cancer than non-cell phone          Rajiv Sethi
Consultant Radiologist,                US and the UK say there is no           users. This study was conducted     Marketing Manager,
Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai                                                                                           Samsung Telecom

                                       “Electromagnetic                        “Maybe, five years
                                       radiation is present                    to 10 years down
                                       everywhere, and                         the line, we might
                                       environmental and                       see a report that
                                       genetic factors also                    undeniably
                                       cause cancer. It is                     establishes that
                                       difficult to point out                  mobile phones are
                                       the culprit“                            safe or otherwise“
                                       What do you think? Come, speak your mind at
manufactured in larger num-            direct link. The average inci-          to find a link between cell        such requirements are put in
bers when the cells are under          dence of brain cancer is six            phone usage and brain disease      place for the Indian market.
stress because of heat or other        among a hundred thousand                and involved having over 800          The question still remains
environmental factors. If pro-         people. Unless there is evidence        test subjects answering ques-      “Is answering a call going kill
duced too often or for too long,       that the incidence is higher            tions regarding their cell phone   me?” I don’t see a clear answer
they are known to cause cancer.        than that, no link between can-         usage patterns. The questions      to that coming up in the near
This paper is the only evidence        cer and cell phones can be              included number of minutes         future. Maybe, five years to 10
that heat shock proteins are           drawn. With electromagnetic             used and the model of the          years down the line, we might
produced because of electro-           radiation present in the atmos-         phone they operated. The           see a report that undeniably
magnetic devices.                      phere and many genetic factors          results found no correlation       establishes that mobile phones
    Although, the FDA in the           also being responsible for caus-        between increased chances of       are safe or otherwise. Until then
US has not reported any defi-          ing cancer, it is difficult to point    developing Glioma, the most        I would recommend that you
nite link between cancer and           out the culprit.                        common form of brain cancer        use a ‘hands free kit’. All you
cell phones, US laws govern               Technology should not                found in adults, and the usage     need to do is use a cell phone
that the amount of radio               cause paranoia, but it should           of a mobile phone. The study is    equipped with nothing more
frequency signals emitted by           not cause carelessness either.          due to be published in the New     sophisticated than an earpiece
cell phones be printed on all          The risks involved are low as           England Journal of Medicine.       that will allow you to take calls
phone packages. All mobile             compared to the benefits of this            The increasing concern         without the antenna being
phones emit electromagnetic            device.                                 about radiation being emitted      positioned near your head.

 www.y aho o.c                                                     Catch ‘em live on Yahoo!
                                                                              Rajiv Sethi October 18 at 4.p.m.

26                                                                                                                                      October 2001
■    connect~ t e c h n o l o g y n e x t                                                                                 Imaging: Ashwin Boricha

                                                                                                                                    PU TER
                                                                                                                    O         M
                                                                                                              P ERC
                                                                           A SU
                                                                      R IN
                                                             ’S S
                                                      W H AT

                                             upercomputers have come a long way since         three-dimensional packaging and an instruction
We have all heard of
supercomputers. But
do you know where
they are used and how
                                        S    they first came on the scene. Their ability to
                                             perform a large number of complex calcula-
                                             tions at speeds that were hitherto unheard
                                        of have found them several uses. Supercomput-
                                        ers are now being used in fields like economics,
                                                                                              set that was later referred to as RISC (Reduced
                                                                                              Instruction Set Computer). Cray realised that
                                                                                              merely improving clock speed would not
                                                                                              improve computation speed in any way. He
                                                                                              anticipated the need for parallelism in compu-
                                        biology, astrophysics, Artificial Intelligence and    tation and came up with the CDC 8600 which
they compute, and                       many others. They have played a crucial role in       had four processors, all sharing the same mem-
what the latest                         the advancement of knowledge and the quality          ory. Since developing necessary software at the
                                        of life. But where did it all begin?                  time was no simple matter, Cray suggested that
developments are in                                                                           vector capabilities be built on uniprocessors,
the world of quantum                    It all began with Cray                                which would improve the performance greatly.
                                        Way back in 1960, after starting his Control Data     Cray Research, a division of CDC, came up with
thought?                                Corp. (CDC), Seymour Cray began designing a           Cray-1, Cray-2, Cray-3 and Cray-4.
                                        system that was to be the first supercomputer,            Cray-3 and Cray-4 worked at clock speeds of
                                        the CDC 6600. This was also the first to employ       500 MHz and 1GHz—all this in 1994 when no

28                                                                                                                                October 2001
one had produced a machine capable of a speed           software which can carry out effective data man-
of even 200 MHz. All these systems were step-           agement within this network.                             Vector Processing
ping stones for further development in the                 Grid computing is an entirely new concept. A
supercomputer arena.                                    grid computer is defined as a whole spectrum of          A vector, in computer terms,
                                                        clustered and distributed data processing tech-          comprises the starting
What’s the difference?                                  niques that allow many machines to be ganged up          address in the memory,
Supercomputers do not differ from desktop PCs           together to solve complex computational prob-            along with the length
in processing power, storage capacity and memo-         lems. Its principle lies in utilising the idle time of   through which the vector
ry alone. It’s the architectural and algorithmic        computers connected to the Internet. SETI@home           data runs and the length of
change, which defines a supercomputer. There is         (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), for         each element in the array,
a difference in the manner in which a desktop           instance, is a project, which lets you donate CPU        called stride. Machines with
computer and a supercomputer process data—              cycles to search for extra terrestrial life. The idea    vector processing capabili-
supercomputers carry out large amounts of par-          here is to harness the idle time of computers con-       ties read the entire vector or
allel and vector data processing. These machines        nected to the Internet and use them to perform           the array into the memory
are built on multi-processor architectures with         complex arithmetic, which would otherwise                and perform operations on
unified memory of a high order wherein compu-           require large parallel processing supercomputers         them in a single cycle and
tations take place in terms of megaflops, teraflops     costing millions of dollars. On an average, a desk-      write them back to the
or petaflops. They work on special algorithms           top PC uses 80 per cent of the CPU power and             memory also in just a cycle.
programmed into their hardware and usually              time and rest of the time it remains idle.                   Basically vector process-
work with more than 10-15 processors with                  United Devices is an initiative that saw its          ing is a SIMD (Single
memory architecture comparable to a desktop             birth from the SETI@home project, which is               Instruction Multiple Data)
PC’s processing power. The parallel processing of       being considered as the largest and most suc-            parallel processing tech-
information allows these computers to analyse           cessful distributed computing project in history.        nique. A scalar technique
and do complex arithmetic and mathematical cal-         United Devices helps organisations all over the          would require that one
culations and predic-                                                              world carry out their         instruction at a time for
tions. Hence, they are                                                             projects on virtual           each data be operated on.
employed in areas such as                                                          supercomputers created        Vector instructions take one
weather prediction, DNA                                                            with the power of all the     or more vector registers (a
computations, Artificial                                                           connected computers.          place where the computer
Intelligence, molecular                                                                                          stores the data it operates
modelling of drugs, space                                                        A Super-network                 on) as operands and per-
research, statistical analy-                                                     Although the idea of cre-       form the same operation on
sis and more.                                                                    ating supercomputing            each related element to pro-
    The supercomputer                                                            power from PCs connect-         vide the resultant vector.
can either be a single                                                           ed to the Internet is cer-      Many scalar instructions
computer or a network of                                                         tainly good, certain            clubbed together effectively
nodes or a grid. These                                                           operations (especially in       form a single vector instruc-
computers mainly rely on Atmospheric pressure variation is pointed with a red research) do require the           tion. Here, the same instruc-
the parallel and vector circle. Simulated with 22 supercomputers                 networking of true super-       tion is carried out on all the
processing techniques                                                            computers—those with            vector elements. You can
that are employed in the making of these              parallel and vector processing capabilities. The           execute independent vector
machines. The algorithms that are used to paral-      applications that run on these grids need more             instructions in parallel to
lel process data could either be hardwired or it      bandwidth than that offered by a local area net-           quicken computation and to
could just be the software which makes effective      work or the Internet. More importantly, these sys-         decrease the turn around
use of the hardware and taps the power of a super-    tems handle extremely sensitive information,               time for a job. This method
computer’s processors and their unified memory.       which require more robust security. Researchers            of processing is effectively
                                                      and programmers worldwide have collaborated on             used in supercomputers to
The network and the grid story                        a project that answers these supercomputing                make them work simultane-
To form a supercomputer, many smaller com-            needs. The project, code named Globus, is an open          ously on an array of data at
puters can be networked together to work in uni-      source initiative for grid computing and is focused        a faster rate.
son on a single process and can be controlled by      at major corporations that can use grid comput-

■   connect~ t e c h n o l o g y n e x t

                                                                                             hours. This is where supercomputing power can
                            Quantum Computing                                                be utilised. Britain’s biggest supercomputer at the
                                                                                             Institute of Computational Cosmology is being
    Noting the rate at which the number of       unlike a normal silicon-based comput-       used to verify the big bang theory. It analyses
    transistors on a chip is increasing, by      er, it’s believed that these computers      trends and existing data and draws a picture of
    2030 we will be in a position wherein        would be a billion times faster than        the evolution of the universe. The heavy mathe-
    circuits on the microprocessor will be       conventional computers. A 30-qubit          matical and astrophysical calculations are per-
    measured on an atomic scale. The next        quantum computer can achieve                formed by a cluster of 128 Ultra SparcIII
    step will then be to program atoms and       speeds equivalent to 10 teraflops (tril-    processors with a storage capacity of 112 giga-
    molecules to do large, high-speed com-       lions of operations per second). Com-       bytes and 7 terabytes of RAM.
    putations—this is quantum computing.         pare that to supercomputers that are            Areas such as medicine and other biological
         Still at the level of research, quan-   still in the teraflop range.                information systems also need the power of a
    tum computers are believed to boost               IBM’s Almaden research centre          supercomputer. DNA analysis, for example,
    computation powers to speeds billions        claims to have created the world’s          would require an unimaginably large number of
    of times faster than any silicon-based       fastest quantum computer operating at       computations, but supercomputers can ease the
    computer. When introduced into daily         a speed of 5 qubit. The order-finding       task. IBM is working on a five-year project to
    life, quantum computers will fuel the        problem used in cryptography involves       develop a massive parallel-processing computer
    growth of technological advancements         many functions and the quantum com-         that can aid in the study of bio-molecular phe-
    to greater heights. They work on qubits      puter developed by Almaden solved the       nomena such as protein folding. The project
    (quantum bits) which could be in             functions in a single step—any other        called Blue-Gene aims to study bio-molecular
    either 0s or 1s. Qubits represent atoms      computer will require repeated cycles to    phenomena and to develop and understand
    and molecules working in unison as           solve it. Quantum computing being still     novel ideas. A petaflop power computer (1015
    processor and memory. Since a quan-          at a stage of research, it would take       floating-point operations per second), with
    tum computer can have multiple states        many years to come into production.         something like 50 times the computing power
                                                                                             of all supercomputers in the world today, can
                                                                                             only be realised through massive parallelism and
                                                                   ing to solve organisa-    this is what Blue-Gene tries to achieve. The proj-
                                                                   tional IT issues. IBM     ect has actually evolved from Deep Blue, the
                                                                   is developing the sys-    computer which won a chess match against Gary
                                                                   tems software for         Kasparov, the world chess champion in 1997. At
                                                                   Globus and the proj-      the heart of Deep Blue’s ability to play chess is its
                                                                   ect is called eLiza.      evaluation function. This is an algorithm that
                                                                   This project will serve   measures the ‘goodness’ of a given chess posi-
                                                                   as the backbone of        tion. Deep Blue uses ‘live’ software that can actu-
                                                                   grid computers and        ally generate up to 200,000,000 positions per
                                                                   the aim is to provide     second while searching for the optimum move.
Simulated airflow over an airplane                                 as many self-manage-      The ASCI White is a cluster of 512 RS/6000 IBM
wing shows the transition from           ment technologies as possible which computers       machines, which has a computing power that’s
smooth, or laminar, flow (dark           need to know when they are on a grid.               1,000 times more powerful than the Deep
areas at left) to turbulence (rip-                                                           Thought. This supercomputer has an architec-
pled areas at right)                     More power                                          ture that boasts of 160 trillion bytes of storage
                                         The need for faster computation is strongly felt    and a computing power of 12.68 teraflops. The
                                         in critical areas of research and development.      machine can handle Web transactions of every
                                         Researchers need machines that can crunch           single person in this world in just a minute!
                                         numbers, formulae and equations that require            Simulating fluid-flow on a computer involves
                                         billions of steps of analysis, predictions, deci-   the computer solving a series of equations, which
                                         sion-making, formulation, and so on.                are used to compute the pressure and velocity of
                                             Where exactly are supercomputers employed?      fluid flowing around a body at any point in space,
                                         Formulating astrophysical theories requires         near the body. Application of supercomputers to
                                         analysis of formulae and equations which, in a      these equations gave rise to the field of compu-
                                         normal course, would involve decades of human       tational fluid dynamics. These equations require

30                                                                                                                                  October 2001
                                     Catalytic Simulation                                                                 What’s parallel pro-
                                                                                                                          cessing all about?
                                                                                                                          While speaking of super-
                                                                                                                          computers, we frequently
                                                                                                                          talk about parallel process-
                                                                                                                          ing. So what’s parallel pro-
                                                                                                                          cessing anyway? To put it
                                                                                                                          simply, it’s processing more
                                                                                                                          than one datum at a time.
                                                                                                                          When we have multiple
                                                                                                                          processors in hand, we like
                                                                                                                          the data to be shared
                                                                                                                          between all the processors
                                                                                                                          to quicken the speed of
                                                                                                                          computation. But they have
                                                                                                                          to talk to each other with
                                                                                                                          the datum that each one of
                                                                                                                          them possesses. Hence they
  The image above (left) shows the enzyme malate dehydrogenase with reactants for catalytic process in place. The         talk to a common mediator
  position where these reactants are bound is specifically tailored in shape and affinity to enormously accelerate this   called the memory. This
  specific reaction and to be inert to other processes. The image on right is the M2 proton channel of the influenza      essentially describes the
  virus. This ion channel plays an essential role in causing infection and is the site of attack of a class of channel-   parallel computation
  blocking flu drugs. All these are supercomputer simulations of the analysis done in the biomolecular segment
                                                                                                                          process, in which a comput-
                                                                                                                          er handles more than one
formulation and excessive processing, in terms                processing power to the system. What really                 instruction per second and
of human hours. Before the advent of super-                   makes this $17 million, 273-processor super-                performs computation at
computers wind tunnels were the only way of                   computer different from most other supercom-                extremely high speeds.
testing the aerodynamics of new aircraft designs.             puters is its powerful Linux architecture.
Even today there are certain limitations to simu-
lations done on supercomputers, and resorting                 Where is supercomputing headed?
to wind tunnels to verify the design for a new                Silicon-based chips are reaching their limits of
aeroplane seems a more appropriate option. But                miniaturisation and speed. But chips could get
in due course powerful supercomputers will be                 smaller and faster still. We have better material
able to overcome the existing obstacles.                      inside the human body, which can act as the raw   
    Weather prediction is another area where                  material for building a powerful supercomput-               For information on Deep
supercomputers are employed since the analy-                  er. DNA has the capability to process and store             Thought and Deep Blue
ses here require massive calculations and pre-                data way beyond the capabilities of today’s       
diction schemes, which the machine does by                    fastest supercomputers. The biochip is in its               t/projects/quantum/intro
performing millions of operations in a second.                infancy right now, but that is where the future of          For more information on
Using computer predictions you can draw con-                  supercomputing lies. Raw materials required to              different aspects of quan-
clusions about the pressure that might build up               manufacture bio-computers will never get                    tum computation
in a particular area, the possibility of rainfall or          depleted as long as living organisms exist on     
storms. Forecasters and weather scientists use                earth. Besides, unlike the raw materials that go            For the latest advancement
computers that can crank through about 10 mil-                into the production of today’s computers, these             on Grid computing
lion calculations per second. Jet, one of the                 are not toxic. We can hope that with the com-     
fastest supercomputers used for weather predic-               putational power and storage facilities that                cope
tion, can perform 300 million calculations per                DNA-based computers will bring with them, we                Learn more about parallel
second which would rise up to 5 trillion calcu-               can continue on our quest for a better life and             and vector processing
lations per second as engineers try to add more               for solutions for the mysteries of the universe.

■   connect~ droolmaal

                 SET YOUR
  ON ‘EM
     Another month, another selection of objects that leave you
     breathless. You can dream and drool over a stylish digital
     camera or a beauty of a mobile phone or any of the other
                   maal that we have brought you


                          Terapin Mine                                                                           Jam-It
                            Mine, not yours!                                                                     Palm music is snug music
                              Terapin’s Mine is a powerful handheld that functions as your personal              Jam-It is a “revolutionary digital sound lab”
                                data storage device. It is Internet enabled and is capable of playing mul-       that is a snug fit in your palm. You can carry it
                                 tiple roles—as a digital audio player and recorder, a digital photo             around to record songs or sounds and then
                                   album, a data-bank and data back-up. Not surprising considering the           play it back right away or download it to your
                                     fact that it has dedicated about 10 GB of storage space for your            computer and use it with your Jam-It mixer
                                       personal files. Mine has a back-lit LCD panel for display and data        software, which lets you warp or add effects
                                         transfer is simple since your PC detects Mine as an external            to sounds. It also lets you play your songs at
                                           hard disk. All you need to do is simply drag-and-drop your            any pitch using its pitch correction technique.
                                            files where you want them. And keep jealous friends at bay.          You can even e-mail your sound creations to
                                     Web site:                                      Web site:

         Nokia Musicplayer HDR-1               ➜
         Phony music
         Nokia does not simply connect people; it also connects you to
         music. Check out its digital musical player that includes FM
         radio and a hands-free headset with voice dialling. Although a
         phone accessory, it is self-powered by AAA batteries and can
         be used independently of a Nokia phone. You can stash away
         an hour’s worth of AAC and MP3 music files.
         Web site:

32                                                                                                                                           October 2001
    Secret agent
    Keep an eye on your home and office no matter where you are. Cye is a per-
       sonal robot that unlike conventional robots can be controlled by means
                 of a graphic user interface on any PC. You can program it to do
                        a variety of tasks such as cleaning the house, carrying
                          food, and so on. Besides the usual robot functions, this
                           nifty creation has a digital camera attached to it that
                                 lets you spy on what’s happening at a location
                                     it’s placed at while you are away. You can
                                        even control this spy remotely by visiting
                                         the Web site and entering your user
                                         name and password.
                                      Web site:

           CellVic PDA
            It’s a beauty
        Feast your eyes on an exciting new
      PDA from CellVic. It can be used as an
      organiser, what with an elephantine

      memory capable of storing more than
      10,000 addresses, thousands of hand-
                                                          Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom Digital Camera
      written memos and predefined sched-                 For eye-popping pics, click
      ules for 10 years. A PC link cable to               Another digital marvel from Fuji FinePix. Equipped with a smooth
      connect to your computer with soft-                 metallic body, a 6x aspherical zoom, and Super CCD technology,
      ware for comprehensive data backup                  it churns out images with astonishing clarity at 6.0 million pixels.
      and synchronisation with your PC are                This camera has an F2.8 Super EBC Fujinon 6x optical zoom lens
      some of its attractions.                            and a 13-step aperture. It also has a convenient USB port for
                                                          quick file transfers.
      Web site:
      ucts/cellvici.html                                  Web site:

                                                                                             Display unit: Shows you
■   connect~ wide angle                                                                      what’s happening

                                                                             ECU: Main brain of the car–
                                                                             controls the engine and sub

                          ONE FOR
Automation, precision
and better driving
computing power
tucked away under         ANIL PATRICK R.                                          a car was simply a machine that transports you
the hood, cars get              deadly combination of beauty and brains.           between two different points. Factors such as
sleeker, faster and
smarter                   A     Who says that’s difficult to find? Look close-
                                ly and you’ll probably find it in your own
                                garage. We are talking about modern-day
                          cars, the sleek road machines that use computing
                          technology to control various functions and pro-
                                                                                   comfort, safety and emission levels were not too
                                                                                   high on the list of priorities of car manufactur-
                                                                                   ers then. This changed with the passage of time.
                                                                                   Manufacturers realised that there was a lot more
                                                                                   to making a car than just churning out a
                          vide you with a smoother, safer ride.                    machine that could transport you. And with
                              Older cars such as the Ambassador or the Fiat        developments in computing technology, com-
                          of the 1960s and 70s were built with the view that       puters came to be explored as a means of

36                                                                                                                     October 2001
                                                                                                                          Imaging: Ashwin Boricha

          Power distribution
          box module
                                                                           Electronic door control unit:
                                                                           Control door operation from

                                                                                                             Transmission controller: Get
                                                                                                             the maximum power and
                                                                                                             control from here

                                                                                                                Central locking sys-
                                                                                                                tem: It helps secure
                                                                                                                your car

                                                                                                                ABS module: Saves you
                                                                                                                from skidding off course
                        Window control units:
                        Control your car’s win-
                        dows from here

controlling various functions in a car. They are
now used to control factors such as emission,
                                                          tion). You can also check the car’s health using
                                                          the instrument panel on the dashboard—com-
power, fuel consumption, safety, communica-               puters again. The Lancer also makes use of com-
tion, security, and navigation. (See box, ‘A Mind         puters to handle goodies such as power windows,
of its own’, to get a better perspective of the differ-   remote door mirrors, fuel and boot lid controls,
ent types of ‘car computers’). Consider the Mit-          central locking, and so on.
subishi Lancer. A head turner, this hunk of a car
                                                                                                             The best eBooks for your reading
has an intelligence to match. The Lancer has sev-
                                                                                                             pleasure. Check out
eral computers, one of the main ones being the            The Electronic Control Unit (ECU) controlling
one that controls MPFI (Multi Point Fuel Injec-           the engine is usually the most powerful comput-    Mindware

■   connect~ wide angle

Chip in the Fast Lane                                                   A Mind of its own
Nowadays, embedded sys-            A single computer unit consists of several sen-       analog form. This conversion from analog to
tems are widely used as car        sors connected to it. These sensors measure           digital form is done using devices called input
computers. Embedded sys-           various parameters and send the values to the         conditioners. These input conditioners consist of
tems usually consist of a          computer. The computer makes decisions and            analog to digital (A/D) converters and ampli-
microprocessor along with          necessary action is taken using devices called        fiers to amplify the signal.
ROM (Read Only Memory)             actuators. Actuators convert electrical signals           All the computers are interconnected using
as a single unit. The instruc-     from the computer to mechanical actions. For          internal wiring.
tions stored in ROM are            example, if the window has to be opened, then             There are two types of systems used in car
used to perform the specific       the actuator does the mechanical actions for          computers—open loop and closed loop systems.
operations of an embedded          that. When you press the window button a sig-         Both of them are quite similar, the only differ-
system. For example, a             nal is sent to the computer controlling it. The       ence being that in the closed loop system a
computer designed for              latter generates a signal, which is usually ampli-    feedback control sensor is used. In such an
engine control will be             fied and passed on to the motor, which con-           arrangement, the control unit gets to know
specifically designed with         verts the electrical signal into motion by            whether the input it provided to the system has
instructions in its memory

                                                                                                                                         Infographics: Jaya Shetty
to that end.
     Embedded systems are
preferred over all the other
options because they can
deal with large amounts of
data from several sensors
simultaneously. And they
respond very quickly to data
inputs. Consider what this
means. The risk of brakes
failing to work is consider-
ably reduced if you use
embedded systems.
Besides, they are compact
and cheap and can with-
stand the extreme condi-
tions in a car. Another
major advantage of using
embedded systems is that
they can be networked eas-
ily—all the computers con-
trolling various processes
can be connected using             opening the window. The motor acts as the             been applied correctly. If the output is not the
internal wiring to act as a        actuator here.                                        desired one, then the controller can take correc-
single system.                         There are two types of car computers—ana-         tive action. Closed loop systems are the most
     Moving on to use of net-      log and digital. Nowadays, digital controllers are    commonly used car computer configurations
worked systems, there are          preferred because of their higher levels of accu-     today as they have the advantage of monitoring
individual computer mod-           racy. However, many signals in cars are in the        the engine in a better fashion.
ules for various functions
such as engine control,
safety, climate control, secu-   er of all used in a car as it has to handle a load of   applications. For this, the speeds at which these
rity, entertainment and so       inputs from sensors situated in almost every sec-       ECUs operate are more than enough.
on. All these modules when       tion of the engine. When we say powerful com-               How exactly does an ECU work? In an engine
networked together let you       puters, we are not talking about 1.4 GHz P4s or         (when you consider the mechanical aspect of it),
have single point control        Athlons. Some of the most powerful computers            there are sensors for sensing parameters such as
over all of them and their       used to control engines are most likely to be 32-       throttle position, spark timing, transmission
co-ordinated operation           bit processors running at approximately 40              shift mode, vehicle speed, load, and so on. Other
helps optimise the car’s         MHz. However, unlike the conventional PCs we            sensors commonly used in engines include sen-
operation to higher levels of    use, a processor used in these car computers do         sors for oil pressure and temperature, and those
perfection.                      not have to deal with processing frills such as         for fuel and coolant temperatures. All these sen-
                                 wallpapers or a dozen different applications run-       sors are connected to the main ECU, which col-
                                 ning at the same time. All it has to do is carry out    lects the data and takes decisions regarding their
                                 the instructions required to control a particular       optimum settings. Most cars that use the fuel

38                                                                                                                             October 2001
injection mechanism make use of computers                   is that it helps correct driving errors such as
these days. The optimal fuel injection levels for           excessive acceleration or taking corners at dan-       Cruising to Safety
all possible conditions that a car can come across          gerously high speeds. In many cases ESP makes
are programmed into these ECUs.                             use of Antilock Brake Systems (ABS) too (see           ABS (Antilock Brake Sys-
    Now, if you are wondering what the big deal             box, ‘Cruising to Safety’ for an insight into ABS).    tems) is a feature that has
is all about, here it is. Remember all those cold           An ESP monitors and compares the direction of          been around for a long
mornings when you struggled with getting your               vehicle travel with the driver’s actions. These        time. The main advantage of
car started? You turned the key—zilch, nothing              actions take place around 25 times per second.         this system is that it pre-
happened! This is because it is difficult to get fuel       The ESP sensors recognise any signs of instabil-       vents the wheels from lock-
to burn in cold conditions. In old cars, which do           ity, understeer or oversteer as soon as it happens.    ing while you are braking. If
not make use of ECUs for engine management,                 It then proceeds to stabilise the vehicle using        the wheels lock, the car
it takes a while before you can coax the engine to          braking on each individual wheel along with a          could go into an uncontrol-
start. But, if your car makes use of an ECU, the            bit of engine management.                              lable skid resulting in a
computer is fed with the temperature of the                     If you are understeering a car that is without     crash. Cars having ABS have
engine coolant and it detects that the igniting             ESP, it loses traction and begins to slide. But if     optimum vehicle stability.
spark needs to be on for a longer time. The ECU             your car is equipped with an ESP system, the lat-      Braking distance is also less-
then generates the required sparking sequence.              ter immediately detects this—brakes are applied        er in a car with ABS as com-
That done, the engine starts up faster than it              to the inner rear wheel and engine power is            pared to one that is without
would have on a car                                                                    reduced as well. This       it. Needless to say, this is a
without an ECU for                                                                     helps ensure that your      boon in a country like India,
engine management.                                                                     vehicle does not go into    where road conditions can
    Computers are also                                                                 an uncontrollable skid.     be quite awful.
used in emission con-                                                                      If you are oversteer-        A typical ABS arrange-
trol and better fuel                                                                   ing, the rear wheels lose   ment consists of sensors
consumption. In fact, it                                                               their grip and begin to     located in all four wheels
was the problem of                                                                     skid. The ESP then          and an ABS ECU (Electronic
emissions rather than                                                                  applies brakes to the       Control Unit). These sensors
improved performance                                                                   outer front wheel,          send the status of a wheel
that first led to the                                                                  which helps to bring        that is slowing down too
introduction of com-                                                                   the vehicle back into       fast to the ECU. The ABS
puters for engine con-                                                                 control.                    ECU checks the status and
trol and management.                                                                                               then reduces the air pres-
Sensor inputs of                                                                       There’s more to come        sure of the brake to that
parameters such as           The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) at work when
                                                                                       The uses we have just       wheel which means the
oxygen, engine tem-          you oversteer your car (first image) and also when        seen are not all. Besides   braking on that wheel is
perature, air pressure,      you understeer (second image)                             the purely utilitarian      released. This ensures that
air temperature, and                                                                   functions that car com-     the wheel does not lock up
throttle position are                                                                  puters serve, they can      and does not go into a skid.
continuously analysed by the computer. This                 and are used for many other applications. Even         Almost all ABSs have facili-
analysis helps it control fuel injectors, spark             the CD player or radio in your car makes use of        ties for self-checking when
plugs and idling speed to get the best perform-             a computer, usually the simplest kind. This com-       the car starts to move. If the
ance and low levels of emission. Some cars even             puter controls functions such as remembering           system is not working prop-
incorporate computers that regulate the octane              the CD sequence if you have a CD changer, or           erly, the ABS is switched off
content in fuel. This is very useful in a country           remembering the preset stations of the radio.          and the conventional brak-
like India where fuel adulteration is not uncom-                The security system of your car (if it’s the       ing system comes into
mon.                                                        key-less type) is also controlled by nothing less      effect.
    So what do you say about a car like Honda               than a computer. But that’s not all. There are sev-         Computing technology
City? Cute, huh? But this compact car has a                 eral models of cars these days that come with          also helps in cruise control,
brainy ECU to control its engine valves. The City           self-levelling suspensions. If you are using such      which keeps you at a safe
makes use of VTEC (Variable Timing and                      a model, you’ll find that your car adjusts its sus-    distance from the vehicle in
Engine Control) technology for optimum                      pension settings to suit the kind of road on           front of you. These systems
engine performance and better fuel efficiency.              which it’s travelling. Once again, it’s computers      make use of radar units to
At various engine speeds, this ECU modifies                 connected to sensors which are behind these            keep track of the distance
valve operation for the best possible perform-              suspensions. If several people use your car, you       and relative speed of any
ance and programmed fuel injection makes sure               can set and save mirror and seat adjustments to        vehicle in your car’s path.
that fuel is used in the best possible manner.              suit each individual user—all by the means of a        The distance and speed val-
                                                            computer. As people demand more from their             ues are then used by the
Cars with ESP?                                              cars, the use of computers in cars is going to         computer to control the
No, we are not talking about extrasensory per-              increase. All this to make driving a safe and          throttle and brakes.
ception here. ESP in ‘car talk’ stands for Elec-            pleasant experience even for those who consid-
tronic Stability Program. The advantage of ESP              er driving a chore.

■   connect~ netreturn

             Virtual Jammi
                                                                                                              Imaging: Ashwin Boricha

                         AVINA LOBO                                           to end and heard by a usually passive audience.
Make your browser            ou’re at a disco, grooving to some awesome       But online, it’s the audience or users that have
a turntable as you
mix, scratch, loop
and jam your way
                         Y   remixes, wondering what it would be like to
                             create some cool music yourself. Wish you
                             hadn’t ditched music lessons in school for
                         cricket? Well, you can put that thought to rest,
                         because you don’t really need to know much
                                                                              the ability to modify and control their musical
                                                                              experience, as in computer games or certain Web
                                                                                  Creating music using an interactive media
                                                                              such as the Internet is a fledgling art form. But
to becoming              about music or spend a bomb on players and           this doesn’t stop online music from becoming
a virtual DJ             mixers to get started with mixing tracks and         truly interactive, thanks to applications such as
                         jamming online.                                      Shockwave and Flash. Web pages with Shock-
                                                                              wave plugins let you play around with music
                         Musical and interactive                              online, not just listen to it. You can do this with
                         The Internet has shaken up the music industry        just your mouse, keyboard and at least a 56K
                         in almost every conceivable way—from the             Internet connection.
                         composition of music to its distribution. MP3s           The applications designed to let you mix
                         are now an integral part of our lives and we don’t   music online range from simple ‘sound toys’ that
                         need to take stock of the millions of people log-    let you play around with a few sounds, save and
                         ging onto Audiogalaxy to realise this.               e-mail your mix to sophisticated mixers with
                             Whether you’re a musician, composer or just      plenty of controls and tweaks that let you mix a
                         a music enthusiast, the Web has a lot to offer       large number of tracks simultaneously, upload
                         you—information on composers and instru-             your own files, add sound effects and broadcast
                         ments, online interactive tutorials, free music      your work.
                         files and music notation software. There’s an
                         entire range of software that can turn your PC       Sound toys
                         into a synthesizer, enabling you to compose          If you’re new to mixing music online then you
                         music from your keyboard in almost any form          should check out these cool sound toys to get a
                         using almost any musical instrument.                 taste of what its like to make music (or a lot of
                             The Web is also changing the way music can       noise) on your browser.
                         be rendered. Traditionally, music is a linear art        Surf over to, a well-
                         form performed by musicians from beginning           designed sound toy that lets you play a variety of        ➜

40                                                                                                                   October 2001
■   connect~ netreturn

                                  music types using the keys on your computer’s             at the ‘Mixmaker’. You’ll have to download a plu-
Music from Scratch                keyboard. The site has five different genres of           gin from Beatnik ( for the Mix-
                                  music you can choose, from techno to jazz. Just           maker to work. Mixes created here can also be
If you really want to get         hit a few keys to create a sound or a rhythm,             recorded and sent by e-mail.
down to the basics, right to      accompanied by animated graphics.                             SSEYO, a company that develops music cre-
creating your own tunes               Each section tells you what keys to hit for           ation tools for desktops, handhelds and the Web,
from scratch, then you            orchestra loops, drum or guitar solos along with          has three versions of an online music mixer
should head to www.neu-           useful tips and key combinations to help you cre-         called FreeMixer, powered by the popular Koan and try out      ate your unique mix. While the Graphic Piano              Internet audio engine and Flash. Of these three
their e-guitar Robocaster. It’s   lets you mix rhythms and tracks, you can’t save           versions of FreeMixer, one makes MP3s
a cross between an e-guitar       what you’ve created. A version of the Graphic             (
and an e-piano and you can        Piano is also available at the Beatles Web site           er1.html), one is a general MIDI mixer
use your mouse to play            (, where you       ( freemixer/gm1/freemix-
notes on the piano key-           can create your own ‘Love me do’ animation.               er1.html), and the last is an XG MIDI mixer
board or drag your mouse              The Nike site at                (
over the guitar string to         play/mix_it.jsp?cityid=4 is similar to the Graphic        er1.html).
pluck notes on the e-             Piano but it also lets you record and mail your               FreeMixer allows you to create original pieces
recorder’s virtual guitar.        mixes to your friends.                                    of music that can be constructed from tiny MP3
    The Robocaster e-                 If you’re still new to the ‘ebony and ivory’ of       samples, typically around 2 kb to 20 kb in size—
                                  the piano, then here’s where you can get up close,        rather like musical building blocks. Aside from
                                  online:   using it for free, you can even put FreeMixer on
                                  ano.htm loads a small Java electronic piano onto          your own Web site. It also has an option that lets
                                  your screen, which you can play by clicking on            you publish your mix online.
                                  the black and white keys with your mouse, to the              Some of the best online mixers can be found
                                  accompaniment of drumbeats. You can listen to             at The site has four extreme-
                                  a few demo tunes and also record your own.                ly good online mixers: the Db-7x7 that only plays
                                                                                            the SS7x7 interactive music format, the 7x7 Stu-
                                  Hey, Mr DJ…                                               dio that has more tweaking options, the 7x7
recorder has an internal vol-     Want your own version of Britney’s ‘Oops! I did           Probemix that you can add on to your Web page
ume regulator that’s              it again’, in just a few minutes? You can remix           and the Db-707 Synth, an online 3D synthesizer
independent of your PC’s          popular singles released by a selected number of          keyboard.
volume control. You can           artists at Head to the Cre-         First time users can start with the basic Db-
also use the controls on the      ate and Send section of the site to try your hand         7x7 mixer, which is the easiest to use. This mixer
recorder to create electric
guitar distortion effects or
create sound freaks. You can
use the ‘scaler’ to customise
                                                                     A Studio in Cyberspace
your piano keys. Just enter         Efforts at getting musicians located anywhere           and not with Windows 2000 or XP.
the notes to get the key-           in the world to collaborate and work online                 Once installed, you need to launch both
board of your choice. You           don’t just end at mixing music and jamming              Logic Rocket and Rocket Control to connect to
can record your composition         over the Net. Rocket Network (www.rocketnet-            the studio. You can use Logic Rocket to create,
and save your masterpieces, a company that develops software             record and post audio and MIDI tracks to every-
on the Neuralsemantics              and services to facilitate professional audio col-      one in the studio, while Rocket Control lets you
server.                             laboration over the Internet has teamed up              locate users, navigate between studios online
    The e-recorder runs             with Harmony Central and EMagic to launch an            and chat with users within studios through a
smoothly, loads in no time          online recording studio, the only one of its kind       Web interface.
(even if you have a slow            on the Net.                                                 Use the Web interface to browse through
connection), and is fairly              With the online studio, Rocket Network              public studios or ‘studio centres’ such as Emagic
easy to use. However, you           hopes to create a virtual workplace with power-         Pro or the studio centre. You
need a basic knowledge of           ful communication capabilities, which is cost-          have a choice of about seven studio centres,
music notations to be able          effective and a convenient complement to                which you can join on a per session basis.
to use it effectively. But if       traditional studios.                                        You can download the project that’s being
you are really interested in            To access the online studio, you need a PC          worked on in a particular studio, use the audio
picking up the basics of            or a Mac with an audio and/or MIDI interface            software to create tracks, contribute your track
reading musical notes,              and a Net connection. You also need to down-            to the project and share it with other users in
check out                           load the Logic Rocket and Rocket control, soft-         the studio.       ware that will enable you to use the studio                 You can join any of the public studios for
sp. This site has a good step-      online. The software is available for free at           free but if you want a private studio and want
by-step tutorial too.      However, Logic          to work with selected users and save sessions,
                                    Control will work only with Windows 95 or 98            you’ll need to pay to use it.

42                                                                                                                                  October 2001
has a library of about 49 songs that you can
remix. Just load a song into the mixer from the                                                             Strike a Taal on your
song selector and you’re ready to start. You can
use your mouse as well as your keyboard to mix
tracks. The controls on the mixer let you mix,                                                              There are several sites for
mute or un-mute different elements of the song                                                              information on Indian
such as drums, keyboard or guitar or adjust and                                                             music, but you can’t really
fade volume.                                                                                                compose or remix Indian
    The Db-7x7 allows you to record and save                                                                music online. However,
your personal mix, but it doesn’t record and save                                                           there is software available
the music. When saving your mix, the Db-7x7                                                                 that you can download and
records only your slider movements and button                                                               use to compose and mix
pushes, and saves that information to a file                                                                Indian music.
(identifiable by the .dbm extension). You can         Jamming live with Livejam 797                   ,
share your mix only with other Db-7x7 users,                                                                which specialises in devel-
which means that you wouldn’t be able to play it          You can use Livejam 797 (       oping Indian music soft-
on Winamp or other Media players. This is done        ers/livejam/jamming.asp) to jam with your friends     ware, has two packages,
to ensure that your mix is legal and you do not       online. All it needs is a shockwave plugin for        SwarShala and TaalTrax.
infringe any copyrights. You can either e-mail        Director 7 and a high-bandwidth connection.               SwarShala is an Indian
your mix or save it to the Web site’s server for      You’ll have to ensure that ports 1626 and 1627        music sequencer that covers
later use. While the Db-7x7 is great to start out     are open for TCP/IP so that you can connect to        both the melodic and rhyth-
with, if you need a mixer that packs more punch       the Livejam server. Once you connect to the serv-     mic aspects of Indian
you should graduate to the other mixers, of           er, pick a style of music and a jam partner to get    music—raag and taal. The
which 7x7 Studio has the most control options.        going. You can use Livejam to chat and keep           software, which runs on
    Mixman’s eMix ( is         track of other online jammers.                        Windows 95/98/Me/2000
another popular online interactive remixer pow-           You can check out another experiment with         or Windows NT, comes
ered by the Beatnik player. Mixman has a good         remote jamming at This remote   packaged with five RaagWiz-
audio library with good quality tracks that you       jamming software enables up to 12 users spread        ard and TaalWizard bases
can remix legally. To get started with eMix, just     over the Internet to collaboratively upload and       and associated sound sam-
click on a song from the library. You can listen to   manipulate one MP3-stream in real-time.               ples. Each base features a
artist’s remix or use the eMix to blend different     Manipulated sounds are processed on the serv-         specific instrument and con-
elements of the songs to your satisfaction.           er and streamed immediately. The interface,           tains different musical
    The basic eMix program lets you mix single        however, isn’t too great and you would definite-      sequences.
tracks. Mixman also has software such as the Stu-     ly need a high-bandwidth connection to be able            You can use SwarShala
dio DL and a combination of software and audio        to jam online using this client.                      to create ragas or even add
hardware that lets you upload your own music                                                                Indian music sequences and
files and mix a large number of tracks together.      The last note                                         beats to create fusion
You can also use the Mixman audio software to         While many companies are just beginning to            music. It can also be used
play live with other musicians.                       make innovative use of applications and the Net       to create Wave and MIDI
                                                      to make music more interactive, there is a            files. TaalTrax enables you to
Just jamming                                          tremendous scope for developing tools that let        create realistic tracks of
There are a handful of sites that let musicians       users produce a wide range of music with almost       almost eight Indian instru-
and DJs jam online no matter where they’re            no limit to the number of tracks they can mix         ments.
located. Budding musicians can also use the Web       online, add sound effects or voiceovers to mixes.         TaalMala (you can get it
as a channel to promote their music and make              What’s needed to help this area grow is for       at is a
the Net their stage.                                  standards in audio technology to emerge where         Windows-based Tabla
                                                      everyone can easily compose, mix and transfer         accompaniment software
                                                      music in formats which are compatible with the        for music enthusiasts and
                                                      popular systems in the market today.                  professionals, which can be
                                                          And of course, on the Web it’s all about band-    used to construct and play
                                                      width, which is a limiting factor to the growth of    almost any Taal on your key-
                                                      online jamming. On a global-scale network,            board.
                                                      round-trip-delay times are too large and too              You can download and
                                                      variable for real interaction. Currently the focus    try out the demo versions of
                                                      is on creating applications that don’t take ages to   SwarShala, Taaltrax and
                                                      download, but they do compromise a bit on the         TaalMala but you would
                                                      audio quality.                                        have to register the soft-
                                                          It’s difficult to predict what form interactive   ware and obtain the license
                                                      music will take in the future. But for now you        in order to use its complete
                                                      can grab your mouse and keyboard and get ready        features.
Record, save and share your music mix using Db-7x7    to rock!

■   connect~ firsthand


Soup up your old         ANIL PATRICK R.                                       The right time?
                              oes your PC move like it’s on the last lap of    The answer to this question is yes. At this point
faithful and get it
running as good as
a spanking new
                         D    a marathon? Wheezing and puffing like an
                              overweight 60-year-old even while running
                              the lightest of applications? Has installing
                         those sought-after packages become a real pain
                         because of the regular stream of ‘insufficient sys-
                                                                               of time, hardware prices are at an all time low.
                                                                               For those of you looking to upgrade, this is the
                                                                               time to get hold of all the goodies you need, or
                                                                               at least most of them.
                                                                                   Consider the fact that today you can buy a
                         tem resource’ messages? Well, fear not, for an        bomb of a PC for about Rs 35,000. This would
                         upgrade should make life easier. But before we        be a PC with a 1.4 GHz Pentium 4 processor, 40
                         head down that path, let’s take a look at certain     GB hard disk, 128 MB RDRAM and so on, which
                         issues that you need to keep in mind.                 was priced over Rs 50,000 a couple of months

44                                                                                                                 October 2001
                                                                                   Illustration: Mahesh Benkar

                                                                                                                 Is a new PC better?
                                                                                                                      Ah, the all-important
                                                                                                                 question! What you need to
                                                                                                                 consider here first are the
                                                                                                                 kinds of applications you
                                                                                                                 use. If you use your system
                                                                                                                 simply for working in Word
                                                                                                                 or spreadsheets, you don’t
                                                                                                                 really need an upgrade as
                                                                                                                 your present configuration
                                                                                                                 ought to be enough.
                                                                                                                      However, you would
                                                                                                                 need an upgrade, or a
                                                                                                                 brand new PC, if you want
                                                                                                                 to run the latest applica-
                                                                                                                 tions. Recent applications
                                                                                                                 like Photoshop 6 demand
                                                                                                                 greater system resources. So
                                                                                                                 first decide on the applica-
                                                                                                                 tions you want to run, and
                                                                                                                 then come down to the
                                                                                                                      If your present PC config-
                                                                                                                 uration is anything lesser
                                                                                                                 than a Pentium II 233 MHz,
                                                                                                                 don’t bother upgrading. It is
                                                                                                                 cheaper and easier to get a
                                                                                                                 new PC. The reason is that
                                                                                                                 most of the components
                                                                                                                 like EDO RAM needed for
                                                                                                                 upgrading these systems are
                                                                                                                 hard to find in the market.
                                                                                                                 And even if you do find
                                                                                                                 components, they are likely
                                                                                                                 to be second-hand and
                                                                                                                 overly priced. Systems
                                                                                                                 below the P-II 233 MHz
                                                                                                                 mark cannot be upgraded
                                                                                                                 beyond a certain level, thus
                                                                                                                 limiting the potential for
                                                                                                                 one more upgrade in the
                                                                                                                      In this case also, the
                                                                                                                 minimum configuration
                                                                                                                 worth upgrading depends
                                                                                                                 on the applications you run.
                                                                                                                 For example, Pratik Shah, a
                                                                                                                 Mumbai-based graphics
back. Consider it the upside of the industry being       We’ll consider the configurations which call            designer, recommends a
down. But this doesn’t mean that you have to go      for a completely new PC further on in the arti-             P-III 550 with 128 MB RAM
out and buy a PC. The idea is that wth a few         cle. Now let’s see why it sometimes makes sense             and a 15-inch monitor as
upgrades you can make your PC as healthy as          to boost your existing machine than go in for the           the minimum configuration
ever, as good as any new PC.                         latest PC.                                                  worth upgrading—from a
    However, if your PC’s configuration is way           In the current market situation, it may be bet-         designer’s point of view, of
too old or your applications demand more             ter to wait and watch as there is a lot of ambigu-          course.
power than can ever be achieved from upgrades,       ity as far as the different platforms for processors
then you would have no choice but to buy a new       are concerned. It seems almost every other
one. Take a look at the side bar: Is a new PC bet-   day some major chip manufacturer comes up
ter? before you make a decision.                     with a new chip architecture that requires a

■   connect~ firsthand

                                   motherboard with a different interface. Until the       RAM module from the market, check whether
Golden Upgrade                     day chip manufacturers decide to settle on a rea-       your motherboard has empty slots for it. In addi-
                                   sonable standard where an upgrade over a wide           tion to this, check the maximum memory capac-
Rules                              range of speeds is possible over time, this is going    ity module a slot can take, especially in the case
This may be hard to believe        to be a difficult choice to make.                       of old motherboards.”
but it’s true. The first rule of       What should prove more lucrative is the var-            It’s possible to use PC133 SDRAM with older
upgrading is to keep the           ied choice available in the hardware market             PC100/66 compatible motherboards as these
amount of upgrading as less        today. Take, for instance, the example of moth-         memory modules are backward compatible.
as possible. Let’s say that        erboards. A couple of years back, you could             Installing additional RAM is cheap, easy, and
you need faster perform-           choose from only two levels—an entry-level              does wonders to your system’s performance.
ance from your PC. An              motherboard with the most basic features to a
increase in RAM ought to do        lesser-known brand or a big brand with all the          More space, please
the trick. For example, if         advanced features. But now, buyers have an              We all need space in life. Since you are upgrad-
your present memory is 64          exhaustive array to choose from and finding the         ing, you might as well give your PC some extra
MB, an increase to 128 MB          right features at the price is not a problem.           storage space by putting in a new hard disk. After
or 256 MB should do won-               The same kind of variety is available for           all, you need to put those MP3s and videos
ders to the way your PC            several hardware component categories. It is            somewhere.
runs applications.                 more or less up to you to make use of this                  A hard disk upgrade would be in order if
    The second rule is to          choice offered in the market and turbo-charge           you’ve been getting a lot of ‘out of disk space’
ensure that the stuff you          your PC.                                                messages. But before you step out to buy a new
buy is compatible with your                                                                hard disk, Paul suggests you try out these small
present PC. Make sure you          Cram RAM                                                techniques to see if you really need it.
get the manuals with the           If your PC seems a bit of a laggard lately and              First, run the Disk Cleanup utility available
components while buying            keeps popping messages that the system is dan-          in Windows to clean all the temporary files that
them.                              gerously low on virtual memory, then you need           clog your hard disk. The next step is to unin-
    Third rule of upgrading is     to upgrade your RAM. RAM is one of the easi-            stall all extra programs you don’t need. Then
to buy stuff which you can         est and cheapest components to upgrade, and             check if you’re using the ancient FAT16 file sys-
upgrade later on. But since        this is not just because the prices seem to be          tem. You can do this by right-clicking on the
not all of us have the cash        dropping every day.                                     drive and reading the information in the Prop-
for a new PC every two                 Today, a 128 MB SDRAM module would cost             erties tab. If you’re using Windows 98, convert
years, we might have to            you around Rs 850 and chances are the prices            the file system into FAT32, which is more effi-
spend a little extra here.         would go down even further. Installing addi-            cient in space usage by using the Drive Con-
    The fourth rule may            tional RAM is as easy as this: just slide in the        version Wizard available in Accessories>System
sound like a contradiction to                                                                                               tools>Drive Convert-
what’s mentioned earlier:                                                                                                   er. In case you
don’t ever let the perform-                                                                                                use or plan to
ance of a single software                                                                                                  use     Windows
application determine how                                               “B  efore you get a RAM module                     NT/ 2000/XP,
efficient your upgrade has                                             from the market, check whether                      you might want
been. While upgrading, look                                            your motherboard has empty                          to switch to
for an overall improvement                                                                                                 NTFS (NT File
in performance rather than
                                                                       slots for it. Also check the                        System). Con-
the performance of each                                                maximum memory capacity                             verting FAT16 to
individual application.                                                module a slot can take”                             these advanced
    And last but not the                                               Paul Vincent                                        file      systems
least, you should have a                                               Software engineer, SRA Systems, Chennai             ought to give you
general idea of the latest                                                                                                 more free disk
hardware prices as well as                                                                                                 space than plain
know enough about hard-                                                                                                    old FAT16. This
ware so as to not be fooled        RAM module and boot your PC. The memory                 should take care of your storage needs in case
by the sugar-coated tongues        check at bootup will show the enhanced memo-            you don’t store heavy files like MP3s and
of dealers and vendors.            ry details. Pratik Shah, a professional graphics        movies.
Many hardware sellers are          designer from Mumbai who recently upgraded                  But if that doesn’t work and you still need to
in the habit of making you         his PC’s RAM says, “I upgraded the RAM on my            fit more data, then you need a new hard disk.
buy things that you don’t          PC from 128 MB to 256 MB and installed a CD-            This would be the case if your hard disk is just 2.1
really need. Being fore-           RW drive. The entire process barely took 15 to 20       to 4.3 GB in size. Remember that you can club
warned is being armed.             minutes”.                                               your old and new hard disks together.
                                       We asked Paul Vincent, a software engineer              There are some terms that you need to be
                                   with SRA Systems, Chennai and an old hand at            aware of when going in for a new hard disk drive
                                   upgrading, about what to look out for when              (HDD). After size, which is the most important
                                   adding more RAM. His advice: “Before you get a          and measured in Gigabytes (GB), you also need

46                                                                                                                               October 2001
to pay attention to rotations per minute (rpm),       Processor-motherboard combo
which tells you how fast the hard disk is rotating.   In many cases upgrading to the latest processor     Watch out for this
The higher the rpm, the faster the data transfer      might not be feasible because it would involve
and the PC’s operating speed. Another thing you       purchasing a new motherboard. However, if you       As in the case with most
need to look for is the sustained transfer rate       use a 440BX/ZX based socket 370 motherboard         maintenance operations,
of the drive.                                                                                             upgrading a PC also involves
Measured        in                                                                                        taking some necessary safe-
Megabytes per                                                                                             ty measures.
second (MBps),                                                                                                If this is the first time
the higher the
number,        the
                                                        “I upgraded the RAM on my PC                      you are upgrading your PC,
                                                                                                          do not attempt to do it all
faster is the disk
                                                        from 128 MB to 256 MB and                         by yourself. Make sure you
operation.                                              installed a CD-RW drive. The                      have an experienced person
    T h o u g h                                         entire process took 15 to 20                      supervising while you do it.
most drives run                                         minutes”                                          Otherwise, the next best
at 5,400 rpm,                                           Pratik Shah                                       thing is to get the upgrades
some of the                                             Graphics designer                                 done by a hardware
faster and com-                                                                                           engineer.
monly available                                                                                               However, if you have
hard disks run                                                                                            decided on doing the
at 7,200 rpm,                                                                                             upgrade yourself, here’s
while there are others which run at 10,000 rpm        with 100 MHz FSB (Front Side Bus) support and       what you should watch
and higher. Some of the popular hard disks            can get your hands on a Pentium III 800 MHz         out for:
available in the market are 30 GB HDDs run-           processor, this is a good idea.                     ■ Make sure you get rid of
ning at 7,200 RPM and 40 GB HDDs running                  In most cases where you have an old             static charges by touching
at 5,400 rpm. These drives are available for less     500 MHz or lower processor, using a Slot 1 or       the bare (non-powder coat-
than Rs 7,000 and the prices are expected to          Slot A interface might not make as much sense       ed) surface of your metal
fall further.                                         as getting yourself a new PC. This is because a     cabinet.
                                                      motherboard upgrade coupled with the cost of        ■ Handle most of the card
Go for video                                          the processor would end up being pretty expen-      components such as RAM,
Next on the upgrade chart is the video card. If       sive anyway.                                        motherboard, soundcard,
you are one of those avid gamer types, then this                                                          etc by their edges. This will
is a part that you need to upgrade on a regular       Write and read more                                 ensure that the card does
basis. For lesser mortals, a video card upgrade       Another upgrade option you might want to            not get damaged due to
wouldn’t be that frequent.                            consider is replacing your low speed CD-ROM         static electrical charges built
    If your video card still has less than 8 MB of    drive with a model that is faster. Better still,    up in it.
video RAM, it’s definitely worth upgrading to a       you could go in for a CD-RW or DVD-ROM              ■ Done with the installs?
16 MB TNT card or higher. This should end up          drive, both of which are quite reasonably           Check that all the connec-
costing you around Rs 3,000 and will give you         priced nowadays.                                    tors and cards are in place.
significantly improved performance with newer            Getting hold of a faster CD-ROM drive is         There should be no loose
Operating Systems like the Windows XP.                worth it if you’re still working with an 8x CD-     contacts anywhere in the
    In a graphics card, the main features you         ROM drive or something of that order. And if        system.
should be looking out for are 3D acceleration         you’ve made CD writing your new hobby,                  Finally, switch on the PC.
and TV input/output. However, if you are not          replacing your old CD-ROM with a CD-RW is           If everything’s been done
an avid gamer with lots of money to spend,            a good idea for burning all those MP3s you’ve       right, you should hear a
upgrading to a video card in the higher spec-         been collecting.                                    short, single beep. If the sys-
trum would be pointless.                                 For movie buffs with access to DVDs, a           tem hangs, it could be due
                                                      DVD-ROM drive would be a nice option.               to incorrect motherboard
Size matters                                          However, you should be aware that while you         settings or loose cards.
You could probably consider upgrading your            could get one of these for as little as Rs 5,500,   Check these out thoroughly
monitor if you’re tired of the 14-inch screen.        you could face problems due to DVD region           and rectify the faults before
You can get a 17-inch monitor at a decent price       coding.                                             you go any further.
of Rs 12,000. The prices of bigger monitors like
19-inch and 21-inch have also come down. You          Get her grooving
should opt for them if you watch a lot of             And there you go! That’s all there is to upgrad-
movies and your budget permits it. Graphics           ing your PC. Giving your darling machine a
designers will obviously welcome a better             boost in its performance is always a good deed
reproduction of their art on these monitors. If       and all you need to do is ensure is that you
you’re lucky, you could also get a buyback deal       upgrade as per your performance requirements.
which would give you a decent value for your          Can’t wait to hear your machine start purring
existing monitor.                                     again, can you?

■   connect~ passport

              A write job for techies

                                                                                                                            Photograph: Mexy Xavier

What can be the                     ANIL PATRICK R.                                         wondered who makes these manuals and help
                                          o your skill sets lie in explaining how to best   files? All this is the work of the behind-the-scene
perfect job for a person
who loves technology,
and writing even more?
Clue: It’s not a rocket scientist
                                    D     utilise technology? Do spelling and gram-
                                          matical mistakes stare out at you from a
                                          page, begging to be corrected? Do your
                                    friends know you as the ‘communicator’? Do
                                    you have that special knack for everything tech-
                                                                                            wizard, better known as a technical writer.
                                                                                                The first question that comes to you might be
                                                                                            this: Is a technical writer the engineer who
                                                                                            designs the technology and one who knows
                                                                                            everything about it? The answer is no. A techni-
                                    nology, but still hate the routine that the job         cal writer is a specialist in documentation work
                                    involves? If your answers are mostly yes, then          and is highly skilled in all areas of document
                                    you should perhaps evaluate the option of               design and publication. He is not a geek and he
                                    becoming a technical writer.                            need not be an engineer. What he does best is
                                        The general opinion of writing as a means of        simplify and explain technology to the end users
                                    livelihood is that it simply doesn’t pay enough.        and target audiences.
                                    Well, it’s not so with technical writing. It pays,          At best, a technical writer can be defined as
                                    and it pays well. If you love technology and can        someone who teaches complex ideas to others
                                    express yourself well, this could be the next           using the written word. Sajitha Jayaprakash, a
                                    dream job you were waiting for.                         technical writer working with Fluent India, has
                                                                                            this perception: “A technical writer compiles
                                    What is technical writing?                              information of a technical nature and puts it in
                                    All of us are familiar with the information man-        a language and format that can be easily under-
                                    uals that come with appliances like TVs, com-           stood by the readers who are unfamiliar with
                                    puters, etc. Most of us use Help files in software      that technology”.
                                    programs such as Word or Windows. Ever                      The most imperative thing for any technical

48                                                                                                                                  October 2001
writer is to first understand the user whom he is
writing for. Usually, the manual is directed                    What do Technical Writers do?
towards a narrow and specific audience segment
                                                                                                                   Crossing over
which needs to know more about a product. It is             Some of the major types of documentation               Do you think your calling is
quite obvious from this that technical writing              done by technical writers are:                         technical writing rather than
needs to be clear, accurate, easily understand-             ■ User’s manuals                                       your current job? You might
able, and concise.                                          ■ Online systems like Web sites and help files         have a point there especially
   There are four stages you need to know before            ■ Multimedia development                               if you belong to one of the
your technical writing career can blossom.                  ■ Reference manuals                                    so-called ‘related fields’ of
                                                            ■ Documentation of product development                 technical writing. Some
Stage one: How to become one                                and design                                             of these fields are program-
So how does an aspiring individual with a tech-             These are just some of the job functions that          ming, teaching and
nical bent of mind and a good grasp over Eng-               a technical writer may have to handle.                 journalism.
lish language become a technical writer? What                                                                          Programmers generally
are the qualifications required? Factually speak-                                                                  make good technical writ-
ing, there is nothing like a fixed basic qualifica-        standing the latest technologies. A technical           ers. This is mainly due to the
tion for a technical writer. Although companies            background would be helpful in this context.            fact that their background
may ask for a degree in science or a post gradu-               “Successful writing on the job is not the           helps when it comes to
ate degree in English, what they are really look-          product of inspiration, nor is it merely the            understanding the technolo-
ing for is an ability to understand and interpret          spoken word converted to print. It is the               gy involved, especially in
                                                                                              result of know-      writing technical manuals
                                                                                              ing how to struc-    for software applications.
                                                                                              ture information     Furthermore, technical writ-
                                A  technical writer compiles                                  in words and in
                                                                                              visual      design
                                                                                                                   ers with a programming
                                                                                                                   background are able to get
                               information of a technical nature                              so that the          along better with other pro-
                               and puts it in a language and format                           writer achieves      grammers in SMEs. They
                               that can be easily understood by the                           the      intended    tend to view the program-
                                                                                              purpose,” speaks     mer-turned-technical-writer
                               readers who are unfamiliar with                                Sowmya out of        as a part of the same gang.
                               that technology                                                experience.              A teacher fits the techni-
                               Sajitha Jayaprakash                                                Good inter-      cal writer’s profile well too.
                               Technical writer, Fluent India                                 viewing       and    This profession has its own
                                                                                              interpersonal        unique advantages when
                                                                                              skills are attrib-   looked at from a technical
technology, and explain that in the best and               utes which will take you a long way in the tech-        writer’s point of view. First
fewest words possible.                                     nical writing field. These skills are necessary         of all, a teacher has the
    A potential technical writer needs just three          because you will be required to interact with a         advantage of being a good
things: fair amount of technical skills, an excel-         lot of employees from small and medium enter-           communicator with excel-
lent command over the language, and a wide-                prises (SMEs) such as programmers, engineers,           lent interpersonal skills.
ranging interest in technology. According to               managers, and the lot. It would be helpful if you       Secondly, he or she under-
Jayaprakash, the most important qualifications             have an awareness of logical development and            stands the subject well.
of a technical writer are a “sound knowledge of            assumptions, especially if you are planning to do       These two factors help a
language and the ability to grasp information”.            documentation of software.                              teacher a great deal while
    A good command over the English language                                                                       trying to get a job in
means knowledge of grammar, an impressive                  Stage two: What do they want?                           this field.
vocabulary, the ability to maintain verbal                 You need to have a good working knowledge of                Another breed of profes-
consistency, structure and style, and so on.               the tools used for technical writing such as word       sionals who can become
Of course, an abiding passion for reading                  processing, desktop publishing and online               good technical writers are
always helps.                                              authoring applications. When it comes to word           journalists. They have
    Sowmya N, another technical writer with                processors, there’s nothing better than Microsoft       already proven their writing
Polaris software, Chennai, feels that the back-            Word. You would also be required to know how            skills and versatility with the
ground is not important.“Whatever be the back-             to use tables, styles as well as the illustrations in   language. All they need is a
ground, the output can be tuned to the desired             Microsoft Word. One of the most commonly                technical bent of mind.
fit as long you are technically au fait and have           used desktop publishing tools for technical writ-
the willingness to admit ignorance where                   ing is Adobe FrameMaker. You need to have a
you lack”.                                                 good working knowledge of online authoring
    Technology is not bound by time. New tech-             applications for creating help systems. The most
nologies are emerging by the hour and the pas-             favoured online authoring applications are
sion for technology will determine the time a              eHelp’s RoboHelp and ForeFront’s ForeHelp.
technical writer spends in learning and under-             Knowing one of these applications well will

■   connect~ passport

                                  work towards your advantage. RoboHelp is more                   Stage four: The first job
Preparing your First              widely used than ForeHelp and is more in                        Let us be blunt and frank about this. The first
                                  demand. Knowledge of Microsoft FrontPage will                   technical writing job is difficult to get. This is
Resume                            also prove to be advantageous.                                  primarily due to the fact that many Indian com-
‘First impression is the last        Thinking of shifting already? Wait a second                  panies prefer people with experience. You need
impression’. This oft-repeat-     and take a look at the remaining points to get an               to prove that you can write, and that you under-
ed saying is very true when       idea of how to make a seamless career switch.                   stand technology, more than anything else.
a prospective employer                                                                                Savita, a technical writer at eVector solu-
opens your CV for the first       Stage three: The educational aspect                             tions, has some expert advice for those hunting
time. A well-written and          There are several universities abroad that offer                for their first jobs. “Watch out for job postings
well-formatted resume is          graduate and higher-level courses in technical                  in the site/newspapers. You can
leagues ahead of a poorly         writing. However, our country boasts of no such                 subscribe to the TWIN list by sending a mail to
formatted, badly written          universities or courses. Private institutions such     For the first job you
one. Make sure you present                                                                                          need to show your writing skills
yourself well.                                                                                                      as well as the ability to under-
     Know that your resume                                                                                          stand technology. The best way
is you. If it contains spelling                                                                                     is to send some samples of your
and grammar mistakes, it                                              S   uccessful technical                       writings. Most companies
automatically means you                                                writing is the result of                     have their own standard inter-
don’t know any better. After
                                                                       knowing how to                               view/test patterns which include
all, you are applying for a                                                                                         a test of English language, tech-
career in technical writing.                                           structure information in                     nical tests, and so on”.
Check and double-check                                                 words and in visual                              Remember: The lesser a com-
(and one more time, if pos-                                            design                                       pany has to spend on your train-
sible) before you send your                                            Sowmya N.                                    ing, the sooner it will hire you. If
applications anywhere.                                                 Technical writer, Polaris software,          you are language-savvy and
     Don’t ever be too wordy                                           Chennai                                      already know the various Word
or verbose in your presenta-                                                                                        processing tools, consider the job
tion of yourself. Vanity kills                                                                                      half done.
and your resume in not your                                                                                             Prospective employers often
autobiography. One of the         as Technowrites in Pune and Deldot systems in                   ask for a sample of your technical writing. If
basic qualities of a technical    Bangalore offer certified courses in technical                  you do not have a sample, make one. This will
writer is to be clear and         writing. Indian National Scientific Documenta-                  give you a good idea of what the job involves as
concise when expressing           tion Centre (INSDOC) in New Delhi also offers                   well as an insight into the various factors (and
something—apply this prin-        courses in documentation.                                       difficulties) involved in technical writing. “Try
ciple to perfection in your            What is the best way to learn more about your              to find a short, badly written manual and
CV. And please don’t overdo       job? Read more books! Utilise the Internet and                  re-write it. Then have the original and the re-
anything.                         visit forums where you can learn more from                      written manual as the proof to your abili-
     A word to people with        other’s experiences.                                            ties”—this is Sajitha’s suggestion. If you are
previous working experience                                                                       attempting this,take the original with you for
looking to switch over: Since                                                                     the interview so that the interviewer gets to see
you have experience, men-
tion the type of work you’ve
                                      Are you Hiding a Writer?                                    the difference.
                                                                                                      To know what the technical writing process
been doing. Also mention             Check list to find out if there is a technical               consists of, remember the acronym POWER,
previous experience with             writer hidden inside you:                                    which stands for Planning, Organising, Writ-
writing, if any, and the tools       ■ Can you reduce complex technology to sim-                  ing, Editing and Revising. Follow these five
and software you are famil-          ple logic for others to understand?                          steps diligently while working on your first
iar with, besides the num-           ■ Do you get overly affected by spelling mis-                written work to get a professional result. How
ber of years you’ve put in           takes and grammatical bloopers?                              soon you get a job would depend on how well
your previous jobs.                  ■ Can you scan a large, uninteresting product                you write.
                                     brochure in five minutes for the meaningful?                     You can also join an organisation as an intern.
                                     ■ Is having a discussion on technology your                  This will help you make contacts in the field and
                                     idea of a perfect evening?                                   gain valuable experiences at the same time. Usu-
                                     ■ Do you look for the Science and Technology                 ally, companies recruit interns who show apti-
                                     page of the newspaper before the headlines?                  tude in becoming good technical writers.
                                     If you’ve answered yes to at least three of                      It wouldn’t be wrong to presume that you are
                                     these questions, there is a budding technical                interested in a career in technical writing if
                                     writer inside you. Nurture him. And fix him a                you’ve read this far. Try this option. It gives you
                                     date with other technical writers in your                    a chance to write, to be creative and to do what
                                     colony.                                                      you love doing the most: bringing technology
                                                                                                  closer to the masses.

50                                                                                                                                       October 2001
■   r e s o l v e ~ wired
                                                                                                                    Photograph: Ashesh Shah

Tired of all the
                             As easy as pie
                             YATISH SUVARNA                                         and you’ll have to fix all the bugs yourself. Take
                                     ith prices of components fast falling in the   the plunge only if you are confident that you can
Here’s how you can
                             W       computer industry, this is certainly a good
                                     time to either upgrade your PC or buy a
                                     fully-loaded branded machine. But if the
                             textbook configurations offered don’t excite you,
                             and if tinkering with hardware is in your blood,
                                                                                    handle any hassles that crop up after you’ve built
                                                                                    your dream machine.

                                                                                    The nuts and bolts
                                                                                    You should possess a good understanding of the
piece together the           you could build one for yourself exactly the way       market, only then will you be able to acquire the
right components             you like it.                                           right components at the right prices. The mar-
                                 But before you bring out the screwdriver and       ket right now is vibrant with prices changing
and build a PC that          get elbow-deep into putting your dream                 almost every week. Therefore, to get a fair idea
suits your style             machine together, here are a few things that you       of a component’s price and reliability, check it
                             should consider.                                       out with different dealers. Don’t ever walk out
                                 If you buy a branded PC, you are shielded          and buy components on a whim. Spend a rea-
                             from some of the hassles and risks, at least for a     sonable amount of time doing some research on
                             year or so by the after sales service and repair       the products that you intend to buy.
                             support that companies provide. But if you pre-            You can buy components either from a retail-
                             fer the do-it-yourself way and problems crop up        er or from the grey market. If you decide to buy
Video workshop on            after you have assembled your machine, the only        from a retailer, chances are that the components
Know your PC’s Back Panel.   person you can bank on for troubleshooting is          will be priced higher than in smaller outlets or
Check out                    yourself. You will have to go around hunting to        in the grey market, because here you are pro-
Mindware                     find a replacement for the damaged component           vided with a warranty. Your next choice is that

52                                                                                                                        October 2001
cramped little shop that probably doesn’t even
have a name board outside. But shops like these                      How about an Assembled PC?
stock most of the hardware and the prices too
are often lower than those in the large retail         Some of you who are a little hesitant     ride by giving you, for instance, a
shops. The final, and probably the most popular        about building your own machine, and      skimpy 4 MB SiS card, which will not
place to buy your hardware, is the grey market.        not wanting to buy a branded PC           let you play high-end 3D games. Often
Here you will find every component you need at         either, often go in for an assembled      the one-year warranty on servicing and
prices that are at least 20 per cent lower than        one. There are several self-proclaimed    replacement of components is not
what is offered in retail outlets. But buy at your     assemblers who will build a PC on the     honoured promptly enough. You may
own risk, for the components will not have any         basis of the configuration you give       have to make a number of phone calls
warranty and the product might not come with           them. You can get your PC in a week’s     for weeks on end to get any sort of
any documentation. Choose this option only if          time and you will have to pay some        remedy to your problems. More impor-
you have enough knowledge of computer hard-            extra charge for assembling. Seems        tantly, the software that these assem-
ware or else you could end up with spurious or         good, doesn’t it? But consider this. If   blers provide are usually pirated—no
substandard components.                                you don’t have any knowledge on the       licensed ones here. So you could get
    When is the right time to buy? That depends        hardware front, there are chances that    caught for using pirated software while
on how long you can wait. On the processor front,      the assembler might take you for a        the assembler gives you the slip.
AMD is a great buy because it offers a perform-
ance that is very good at its price. However, Intel
is all set to change that. You can now purchase a     circuits, make sure that there is no direct contact
1.8 GHz P4 for Rs 12,000, whereas a 1.4 GHz           between the motherboard and the panel. Take
AMD Athlon processor (which is similar in per-        care to see that the washers have been properly
formance to the 1.8 GHz P4) is available for Rs       attached between the motherboard and the
9,500. After the change in prices the Intel proces-   metal panel.
sor seems a better buy because it can be over-        Connecting the processor: Now, connect the
clocked far more than the AMD without getting         processor to the motherboard. Processors cur-
overheated.                                           rently available come with a socket 370 interface
    You also have plenty of choices in mother-        (for the Pentium III and the Celeron),
boards—you can choose from among at least             a socket 423/478 interface (for the Pen-
five motherboard brands for every processor. As       tium 4), or a socket A interface (for the
for hard disks, 10 GB is nothing these days; you      Athlon/Duron).
can now have an entry-level hard drive with a             The socket interface is one of the
capacity of 20 GB priced as low as Rs 4,500. RAM      most common interfaces available
prices have fallen to an all time low of Rs 1,500     today. It is somewhat rectangular in
for 256 MB and everyone is cashing in on this by      shape and has a lever on its side, which
packing their system to the gills with truckloads     must be lifted to open it. Every proces-
of RAM.                                               sor has a small indication as to the man-
                                                      ner in which it is to be placed on the
Elbow grease                                          motherboard. On most processors, you
After you’ve got all your hardware together, pick     will find a marking on the corner in a Mounting the processor the motherboard
up a screwdriver set and get ready to set up your     particular shape and a complementary
brand new system.                                     mark on the motherboard socket. Insert the
Connecting the motherboard: Get rid of any            processor according to the mark and push the
static charges by touching the plain body of the      lever down. Do not force the processor into the
cabinet. Remove the back panel from the cabinet,      socket as this might damage the pins and render
and mount the motherboard onto it. See that it        the processor useless. You will sense some resist-
is correctly aligned with the panel. To avoid short   ance on the lever while closing it, but this is nor-
                                                      mal and once closed, it will hold the processor in
                                                      Attaching heat sink and fan (for sock-
                                                      et interface processors): You will have
                                                      to attach the heat sink and fan to the
                                                      processor to keep the processor’s tem-
                                                      perature under control. You need to
                                                      apply some thermal paste on the proces-
                                                      sor’s surface and some on the heat sink
                                                      too. Once this is done, gently place the
                                                      heat sink over the processor taking care
                                                      that there are no air bubbles between the
Remove the back panel from the cabinet and            processor and the heat sink because if
connect the motherboard to the panel                  the contact is poor, it might heat the Attach the heat sink to the processor

■   r e s o l v e ~ wired

                                                       processor. Push the clips pro-
                                                       vided on the heat sink into
                                                       place on the motherboard
                                                       until it gets locked. Double-
                                                       check this procedure because
                                                       if this is done wrong, you
                                                       might end up with a fried
                                                       Installing RAM: Align the
                                                       memory modules along the
Apply a thin film of thermal paste to the heat sink    slots provided on the moth-
                                                       erboard. The modules go in
                                     only one way so this is a simple step to execute.
                                     Press the modules until the side levers lock them.    Install the power supply. Connect the main power
                                                                                           cable to the motherboard

                                                                                           motherboard using the fine cables. Refer the
                                                                                           motherboard’s manual to ensure that the right
                                                                                           cable goes to the right pins on the motherboard.
                                                                                           Connecting the hard drive and the CD-ROM
                                                                                           drive: Place the hard drive in the space provid-
                                                                                           ed in the cabinet and firmly screw it to the side
                                                                                           panel. For the CD-ROM drive you will find an
                                                                                           opening in the front of the cabinet. Insert it

                                    Mounting the motherboard to the case: Now
                                    align the back panel to the side of the cabinet
                                    and screw the motherboard back onto the cabi-
                                    net. Don’t forget to keep your motherboard
                                    manual beside you so you can refer to it in case
                                    of any problems.
                                    Connecting power and data cables: Now con-
                                    nect all the drives, including the hard drive and
                                    floppy drives to the motherboard using the IDE
                                    cables. Connect the hard drive cable to the Pri-       through this open-
                                    mary IDE slot on the motherboard. The IDE slot         ing and tighten the
                                    is usually a long two-pin wide slot. You can con-      screws from the
                                    nect the CD drive and the other drives to the          sides.
                                    other cable. A similar smaller slot is available for   Connecting the Mount the hard drive;
                                    the floppy drive. Connect the main power cable,        data cables to the Inset: mount the CD-
                                    which runs from the SMPS to the motherboard.           drives: Now con- ROM drive
                                    While fixing up the power supply, make sure that       nect the data cables
                                    the motherboard has support for the AT or ATX          provided with the drives. The right way of doing
                                    power supply. Connect the proper cable to the          it is indicated in the screenshot.
                                    motherboard. Also remember to connect the
                                    cabinet buttons and the internal speakers to the

Mount the motherboard back
to the case

                                                                                           Make sure the conductor of the IDE cable which is
                                    Connect the hard drive cable to the primary            coloured red is adjacent to the power connector     ➜
                                    IDE slot

54                                                                                                                             October 2001
■   r e s o l v e ~ wired

                              The Right Connection
                                                                                               Pr Rating on AMD
                                                                    Monitor                        Processors
                                                                    power cable
                                                                                         AMD is going to market its newer desktop
                                                                                         series of processors using Pr ratings (Perfor-
                                                                     Main power          mance Ratings). This is being done because
     Keyboard and Mice                                               supply              clock frequency (measured in MHz) is no
     (PS2 ports)
                                                                                         longer considered an accurate measure of
                                                                                         CPU performance. Pr ratings use a system
                                                                                         wherein a standard set of configuration and
                                                                                         benchmarks are used to evaluate system per-
                                                                                         formance so as to get a real-world measure
                USB Port                                                                 of performance. For example, an AMD Athlon
                                                                                         1.33 GHz processor wil be badged as an
                                                                                         Athlon 1500+ processor. This indicates that
                                                                                         the Athlon 1500+ has a performance equiva-
                Serial Port
                                                                     Printer Port        lent to a Pentium 4 1.5 GHz processor.

                                                                                       The other cable goes to the power supply and
                                                                                       has a three-pin interface. Connect these cables
                                                                                       to their respective sockets. Next, connect the key-
        Audio In/Out                                             Game Port             board and mouse to the PS2 ports of the com-
        slot                                                                           puter. If you are using a USB input device, you
                                                                                       will have to connect it to the USB interface pro-
                                                                                       vided on the motherboard.

                                                     Attaching the display card        Setting up CMOS
                                                     and the soundcard: The dis-       Before doing this, check if all the components
                                                     play card you buy should be       are in place and there are no loose screws lying
                                                     a decent AGP accelerator of       in the system. Just before you power your
                                                     the TNT2 class. An AGP slot       machine, make sure that the DIP switches on
                                                     is usually a small brown-
                                                     coloured slot and an AGP
                                                     Pro slot is slightly longer.
                                                     Gently insert the AGP 3D
                                                     accelerator card in the slot
                                                     until it is firmly fixed to the
                                                     slot and fasten it with the
                                                     screws provided at the outer
                                                     end of the card. Do not try
                                                     to force it on or you may
                                                     damage your card.
Installing the soundcard into an empty PCI slot         Insert the soundcard to
                                                     an empty PCI slot. This is a
                                                     white slot. Insert the sound-     The first Boot
                                                     card and follow the same
                                                     procedure as you did for the      your system are configured properly to allow
                                                     3D accelerator card. So also      changing of settings through the CMOS itself.
                                                     for any kind of LAN or            Switch on your computer and check if the
                                                     modem cards that you              power LED lights up. Check if the processor fan
                                                     might be fixing on the            is spinning and listen to the number of beeps.
                                                     motherboard.                      These beeps will help you identify problems in
                                                     Connecting the monitor/           the system. Refer to the motherboard manual
                                                     keyboard/mouse: You will          for the number and duration of these beeps to
                                                     find two cables running           analyse the problem such as loose connections
                                                     from the monitor: one goes        and others. Next, make your floppy or CD-
                                                     to the display card, has a        ROM drive bootable so you can boot using
                                                     connector at the end and          your CD-ROM drive and start your operating
Installing the AGP card                              sports a 15-pin interface.        system setup.

56                                                                                                                           October 2001
■   resolve~ unwired
                                                                                                                       Imaging: Ram

     A pretty
     for sore eyes
                        ANIL PATRICK R.                                       with a single tap. It has the
Try some of these                oring’, ‘monotonous’, ‘ho-hum’…if these      drag-and-drop facility, which
trendy and useful
application launchers
and say bye-bye to
                        for you.
                                 are the words that come to your mind
                                 when asked to describe the look and feel
                                 of your PDA, then it’s time to take a look
                        at application launchers and what they can do
                                                                              lets you beam, categorise, delete,
                                                                              and perform other functions. In addition to this,
                                                                              SilverScreen also helps you brighten and adjust the
                                                                              grey settings or colour tones on your Palm.
                                                                                  A tap on the Silver icon in the main menu
everything old and          Each application launcher has its own set of      turns on the application launcher. Tapping on
long and dreary         goodies. But broadly speaking, all of them allow      the tab at the bottom-right of the screen brings
                        you access to applications you need with the help     up the pop-up Toolbox. The Toolbox has but-
                        of one-tap buttons or shortcuts. Besides, you get     tons for device information, category, beam and
                        added functionality and can modify the look and       trash bin. This is useful when you need to have
                        feel of your PDA completely using your own            all the information at your fingertips or need to
                        icons and themes.                                     beam something in a hurry. The battery icon on
                            So let’s see how you can talk to your PDA the     top, called the Battery Meter, gives you the power
                        way you want to and add more funky function-          status such as charge left, voltage, memory, and
                        ality to that cute thing nestled in your palm.        so on. But that’s not all. If you click on the arrow
                                                                              at the bottom-right of the screen, you get cate-
                        Silver your screen                                    gory tabs instead of the pop-up Toolbox. The
                        SilverScreen provides an easy-to-use, tabbed inter-   time tab at the top-left corner can be set to show
                        face where you can access almost all that you need    the date or day as well, while the curved arrow         ➜

58                                                                                                                  October 2001
■   resolve~ unwired

                                                               Themes from the SilverScreen
An application launcher can        Well, it’s a bit of a drag to see the same old look   .zip file for the PC and a .sit file for the Mac.
be thought of as a ‘shell’ for     everyday, isn’t it? So, before familiarity rouses     Unzip the file and extract it into a folder in your
the OS. Most of us have            contempt, spice up your relationship with new         PC. Get hold of the .pdb file and simply install it
seen the shell replacements        themes.                                               in your Palm using Palm Desktop. SilverScreen
that can be done on a Win-             Themes provide you with ways to replace           will automatically recognise all the installed
dows OS—the appearance             the application icons of the Palm with grey-          themes.
as well as the user interface      scale graphics of your choice. There are several          Go to Options and select Theme. Now the
of the OS can be changed           themes available from the Pocketsensei site           Theme box comes up as shown in the picture.
using these shell replace-         ( for free.                      Select from the list the theme you want dis-
ments. An application                  Setting up your own theme is pretty simple.       played, tap on OK and there you go. Your Palm
launcher for PDAs does the         First of all, download the theme you want into        has a new look altogether.
same thing.                        your PC. The file will be compressed—usually a            If you belong to the elite clan of those who
    A common feature avail-                                                                                    own a colour Palm, you are
able in most application                                                                                       going to enjoy themes the
launchers is the ability to                                                                                    most. Remember that colour
change your Palm theme.                                                                                        themes for colour PDAs
Most launchers offer addi-                                                                                     require that you install Chro-
tional downloadable                                                                                            macast from the Pocketsen-
themes. In addition to this,                                                                                   sei site. Of course, we don’t
some allow icon sets to be                                                                                     mean to say that people
downloaded so that you can                                                                                     without colour Palms won’t
choose the icon to be used                                                                                     enjoy it. The limitation here
for each application. This is                                                                                  is that you will have lesser
a neat feature since most                                                                                      options when it comes to
themes do not allow selec-                                                                                     extracting the full potential of
tive changing of icons.                                                                                        the themes. Not all the
    Drag-and-drop of appli-                                                                                    themes that you can get
cations—something the              Select the theme from the             Your new look Palm                    hold of may run on a mono-
Palm does not offer as a           theme box                                                                   chrome Palm.
standard feature—is avail-
able in almost all applica-
tion launchers. This feature     icon at the top-right shows recently accessed             applications is quite steep. Besides, the very fact
lets you simply drag-and-        applications.                                             that SilverScreen has so many features makes it
drop applications for beam-          The most attractive features are the pair of          a little difficult to manage, especially if you need
ing, deleting, information,      buttons on the tool bar called Hot Spots, which           only the basic features of an application launch-
and so on. Yet another very      can be configured to perform the job you want             er. But if you would like to try it out anyway, you
useful feature is the file       it to do through the shortest route possible. Con-        can obtain a trial version at
manager type of utility,         figuring Hot Spots is easy. You can either tap on
which helps you manage           it when configuring for the first time or use Sil-        A HandScape for your Palm
applications as you would        ver Prefs in the Options menu.                            HandScape is an application launcher which
on an OS such as Windows.            Select the options you want to give the Hot           consists of a Live Desktop and a file manager.
    In addition to these basic   Spots from the drop-down menu. There is                   Install it and make it the default launcher during
tools, application launchers                                      a Ticker feature         the easy installation process. The HandScape
have their own custom fea-                                        as well, which           interface looks similar to SilverScreen with its
tures such as automatic                                           you can enable           tabs and the Toolbox for dragging and dropping
access to frequently                                              using the Ticker         applications. But if you are looking forward to
accessed or bookmarked                                            choice in the            making some cosmetic changes to your PDA,
applications, shortcuts or                                        Options drop-            forget it. Unlike SilverScreen, HandScape does
buttons that can be config-                                       down menu. Sil-          not have themes or replaceable icons.
ured to run the applications                                      verScreen offers             Clicking on the icon at the top-right corner
you set it for and so on. Sil-                                    a lot of features,       lets you switch between the ordinary icon kind of
verScreen, Handscape,                                             but it has some          interface and a ‘Windows Explorer’ kind of file
GoBar, MegaL and PAL are                                          drawbacks when           manager. A neat feature here is the context
some popular application                                          it comes to              menu, which allows you to create new folders
launchers available for the                                       usability. The           and attach notes to specific folders. You can
Palm.                                                             learning curve           rename and delete folders just as you are used to
                                  Configuring SilverScreen        involved in order        doing while using a PC. Using the context menu
                                  preferences                    to master all the         is pretty simple too. Just hold down the stylus on

60                                                                                                                                 October 2001
the folder for which you need the context menu.        want to move away from GoBar as your default
This will display the context menu.                    launcher later, it can be done via Start > Settings >
    Besides the toolbar, HandScape’s file manag-       GoBar Preferences.
er offers you three different kinds of views—              To configure GoBar settings, go to Start > Set-
icons, list and detail views.                          tings > GoBar Preferences. Select all the features you
    Configuring HandScape is child’s play. Go to       want to be displayed as well as GoBar settings.
Options > Preferences in the drop-down menu and        Tap on OK and you are done.
                                   configure it. You       You can set up the background colour to
                                   can customise       your liking from Start > Settings > Setup Desktop. Here
                                   the view and lay-   you can set various desktop options such as
                                   out from this       icons per page, the folder to be opened at launch
                                   option.             and the background colour.
                                      HandScape is         Click on the background colour tabs to give
                                   a good applica-     you the palette from which you can select the             Setting up your GoBar Desktop
                                   tion launcher if    shade you want. Tap on the shade you want as
                                   you are seeking     the background. Tap on OK, again an OK at the
                                   better applica-     Setup desktop box and the whole new look is
                                   tion manage-        before you.
                                   ment from your          Apart from the familiar ‘Windows type’
                                   Palm.         The   interface that GoBar has, there is not much you  
                                   launcher is very    can do on it. But if you need something that is            Pick up SilverScreen, Chro-
                                   easy to use, even   user-friendly without many frills, then GoBar is           macast, themes and icons
Using context menus                for novices. But    just the application launcher for you.           
                                  if you want more         So what are you waiting for? Check out all             The site for all application
                                  goodies, you had     the application launchers available. There are a           launchers you’ll ever need
                                  better      select   whole lot of application launchers out there,    
                                  an application       which can do whatever you want them to—well,               Make your Palm do a fan-
                                  launcher like Sil-   almost! Go ahead and enliven your relationship             dango here
                                  verScreen.           with your PDA.

                                  GoBar, go!
                                  Missing the look
                                  and feel of your
                                  PC? Try out
                                  GoBar. This is an
                                  launcher that
                                  gives you the feel
Configuring HandScape             of OSs we are
                                  used to, such as
Windows, for Palm. GoBar too allows you to
drag-and-drop applications into folders, beam
data, delete, and so on.
    Installing GoBar is simple. Download the
.zip file, unzip it and install the GoBar251.prc
file into your Palm. Now tap on the GoBar icon,
                                  which comes up
                                  on the main
                                  menu to start
                                  GoBar. You will
                                  see a message
                                  asking you if
                                  you want to
                                  make GoBar the
                                  default launch-
                                  er. Tap on Yes
                                  and there you
                                  are—the GoBar
                                  interface       is
                                  ready to be
GoBar preference settings         used. If you

■    r e s o l v e ~ s.o.s.

        Troubleshooting                                Problems with print sharing over a P2P network, cannot play back DVD,
        Linux HOW-TOs, check out
        Mindware                                       having trouble loading accessories in Linux? We have solutions to these
                                                       and other problems
Hardware                                               Internet & Communication                           folders to your new Outlook Express
     Printing blues                                        Missing e-mails                                installation.
I have an HP DeskJet 670c printer at home. It          While upgrading my computer I replaced my             Repeat the same steps with Import >
has been working fine all these days. One day          Pentium processor with a Pentium III chip, and     Address Book for the folder X:\Windows\
there was low voltage and when I switched it           also changed my hard disk to a 40 GB model.        Application data\Microsoft\ Address
on, it didn’t work. So I switched it off immedi-       While I have been able to back up most of my       book\XXXX.WAB.
ately. Ever since then,whenever I try to print, I      data to the new drive, I cannot locate my e-mail      In case you do not have any new mes-
get an error saying ‘Incorrect Installation’ and       stored in Outlook Express. How can I retrieve      sages in your new Outlook Express, you
‘Your colour cartridge is not properly installed’.     the e-mails from my old hard disk?                 can also simply copy the files from your old
However, the colour cartridge is installed             Vikash                                             mail store to the new store location and
properly.                                              Via e-mail                                         Outlook Express will automatically read
    Also, when I open the top lid the cradle                                                              the messages.
comes to rest at the centre. But now after clos-
ing the lid it does not go back to its rest position                                                      Applications
at the right, instead the cradle stays in the cen-                                                            Unauthorised access
tre and the resume/error light continues to                                                               I have a Celeron-400 machine with 192 MB
flash.                                                                                                    RAM, VIA chipset and Windows 98SE installed.
    I have tried re-installing the cartridges,                                                            I have Office 2000 Premium. Recently I down-
reconnecting the printer cables, etc but noth-                                                            loaded the SR-1 pack from After
ing works.                                                                                                this, whenever I launch any Office application,
Fahd                                                                                                      the application stays open for a while and then
Via e-mail                                                                                                closes automatically. I have tried re-loading
                                                                                                          Office Premium, removed and freshly loaded
      You most probably have a problem                                                                    only Office 2000 Premium, but in vain. I am help-
with the installation of the printer car-                                                                 less. Please tell me how can I revive my Pack-
tridges. That’s the main reason why the ink                                                               age.
cartridge cradle doesn’t move back to its              You can import your old mails using the            S.K. Bhaumik
normal position. But first, try a printer              Import tool                                        Via e-mail
self-test without using the software driver.
For this, switch on the printer power sup-                                                                      You have most probably installed a
ply and hold down the Resume button for                      If you haven’t deleted the program           pirated copy of Microsoft Office that has
a few seconds. The self-test page should               files folder from your old hard drive and          the CD product key of GC6J3. This CD key
now print.                                             have it attached to the system, then follow        is not valid with the releases of SR-1/SR-
    If this doesn’t work then try re-                  this procedure:                                    1A and therefore halts your installation.
installing the cartridges. Specifically check              Locate where the e-mails have been             The solution would be to remove all traces
for whether you have removed the tape                  stored on your old hard disk. By default           of Office 2000 from your registry by unin-
over the ink nozzles on the colour car-                these should be in the Windows\Applica-            stalling the package or using a third-party
tridge, and that the colour cartridge is               tion Data\Identities\*** directory. If you         registry cleaner. Then reinstall Office 2000,
firmly locked in position. Make sure you               can run Outlook Express off your old hard          but don’t apply SR-1.
push down and align the arrow on the car-              disk, go to Tools > Options and click on the           Another reason that this problem may
tridge top with the three colour dots on top           Maintenance folder. Select Store folder and        occur is if the ProductID string value in the
of the cradle, and then push the arrow                 check out where the e-mails are stored.            HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Mic
towards the coloured dots till the cartridge               Start the newly installed Outlook              rosoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Unin-
locks into position.                                   Express on your new hard drive. From the           stall\{GUID} registry key, is present but the
    If the problem persists, the most like-            Files menu select Import > Messages.               value data is empty (i.e. it appears as “ “ in
ly cause is a mechanical fault due to                      Now browse to the directory in your old        the Data column).
erratic power voltage or low fluctuation               hard disk where the e-mail folders are                 Here, instead of {GUID} as shown in
and you might have to get your printer                 located and press OK. This will start to           the registry key, there should be a 32-bit
serviced.                                              import all your older mail messages and            character string that changes according to

62                                                                                                                                          October 2001
the version of Office 2000 that you have              for free. There is one DVD player that               TV Tuner card along with its running and cap-
installed. So, for your installation of Office        offers no play-time restrictions, namely,            ture software on Windows Me. I have recorded
2000 premium, the {GUID} would be                     VideoLAN (                         some TV clips using the software but the only
{00000409-78E1-11D2-B60F-                                                                                  format created by it is .avi. The AVI files take up
006097C998E7}. Using regedit, navigate to                                                                  a lot of disk space because of which I am not in
the registry key mentioned and check the                                                                   a position to transfer them to a CD. For example,
data value. If empty, add the value men-                                                                   there is a three-and-a-half minute song that is
tioned above.                                                                                              taking up almost 700 MB of space out of the
                                                                                                           total of 2 GB taken by these AVI files. Please
Applications                                                                                               suggest some software/utilities using which I
    No music                                                                                               can convert these files to MPEG or any other
I am using the Windows Me operating system.                                                                format and free up some space also.
Whenever I try to run Winamp, an error which                                                               Sarang Shahane
says ‘Winamp has caused an error in ker-                                                                   Via e-mail
nel32.dll. Winamp will close now’ appears and
I am unable to run the player. I uninstalled                                                                    As regards your first problem, you
Winamp and reinstalled it but the error persists.                                                          don’t have power management explicitly
Also, the MULTIIMEDIA AND MMSYS.CPL file              VideoLAN: a free software DVD player                 enabled in your BIOS or you disabled ATX
in the Control Panel is missing. Please suggest                                                            soft power off because of which your OS is
remedial measure.                                     Windows and Applications                             not able to soft power off. Windows Me
Sukumar                                                  Of improper shut downs and                        issues a call but doesn’t have a failure
Via e-mail                                            space savers                                         switch over to reboot if the call does not
                                                      I have a Pentium-III (550 MHz) with 64 MB RAM        work. Window 2000 does issue an alternate
      There are two possibilities here: It            on an 810 chipset-based motherboard. While           reboot call if the shutdown call fails.
could be because your sound card isn’t                booting, I get an option to select Windows Me           To test whether Power Management is
properly installed, or that some of your              or Windows 2000 (Professional). I am facing two      correctly installed, go to the control panel
system files are corrupt. To check whether            problems for over six months. I have tried all the   and double-click on Power options. Then
your sound card is installed properly, check          menu options available along with registry edit-     on the APM tab, click Enable Advanced
whether the device manager displays its               ing in both OSes to an extent, but I have failed     Power management support.
name without any exclamation marks                    to resolve them.                                        Regarding your second problem, install
against it. To check for the second possi-                 Problem 1: In both OS (Win Me and 2000P),       Virtual Dub ( and
bility, go to Control panel > Add/ Remove programs    when I use the Shut Down option from the Start       Divx 4.0 from and use the com-
> Windows Setup and from the Accessories              menu, both the OS perform an otherwise nor-          bination to compress your AVI files to a
selection box, deselect the entire multime-           mal shutdown by saving settings but do not dis-      compression far greater than MPEG.
dia category and click on Apply. Restart the          play the end mes-
machine and go to the same menu and res-              sage ‘It is now safe
elect the multimedia category. This will              to shutdown the
remove and reinstall the multimedia com-              computer’. In Me,
ponents, thereby repairing any corrupt or             the message gets
missing files.                                        displayed as a flick-
                                                      er for less than a
Applications                                          second before the
    No play, no fun
I have a 12x DVD drive on my machine (P-III 866
MHz processor, 20 GB HDD, 128 MB RAM). I
have Windows Me installed. I have one movie
                                                      screen goes blank
                                                      and I am able to
                                                      power off. In 2000P,
                                                      after saving the user
                                                                                             1/4 page
DVD and four DVD software, all trial versions.
When I run the DVD it plays back only for 5 min-
utes. If I delete this software I get the following
message, ‘You need DVD Decoder Software or
                                                      settings, the blue
                                                      screen is displayed
                                                      after which the sys-
                                                      tem restarts (instead
DVD Decoder hardware’. So how do I run the            of shutting down). At
DVD movie on my PC?                                   this point I normally
Nirav                                                 power off. I have
Via e-mail                                            checked the mscon-
                                                      fig.exe to check if
     Are you looking for a ‘free’ and ‘good’          the Fast Shutdown
DVD player? None exists! If you want a                option was selected
good DVD player, you’ll have to pay for it,           but this option was-
since the licensing fees that software com-           n’t there.
panies have to pay for CSS/Dolby/DTS will                  Problem 2: I have
mean that there is no way they can offer it           installed Pixelview

■    r e s o l v e ~ s.o.s.
                                                                                                           days, I formatted the C drive and reinstalled
Linux                                                  Windows                                             Windows. Now I want to regain the space allo-
     Loading accessories in Linux                          Misbehaving Accessories                         cated for Linux. But to my surprise, when I
I have a P-III 866 MHz machine containing 128          I have a P-II, 300 MHz machine with 128 MB          installed Partition Magic again, it could not run
MB RAM and a 40 GB hard disk. I have recent-           SDRAM, 4.2 GB HDD with no partition and Win         and an error message popped up saying it could
ly installed Linux 7.1 on my hard disk. It works       98 (4.10.1998) OS. Whenever I start MSPaint         not recognise the drive letters. Please help me
well in the Xwindows mode, but I am unable to          from Accessories it gives an error ‘mspaint.exe     regain my drive space back.
load my sound card, modem as well as other             is linked to the missing export mfc42.dll:6452      Bikash
accessories such as printer and scanner in it.         and a device attached to the system is not func-    Via e-mail
Can you help me load them? Also, please tell           tioning’. The same happens with the clipart in
me how I can view movies in Linux 7.1 Xwin-            any Office 2000 application; the error shown is          What you need to do here is to start
dows version.                                          ‘the artgalry.exe file is linked to the missing     FDISK in command prompt mode and
S.L. Chamaria                                          export mfc42.dll:6883’. Previously all the          delete any non-DOS partitions that are
Via e-mail                                             applications were working properly. Please          being used by Linux and then try re-run-
                                                       guide me.                                           ning Partition Magic. Once Partition
     To configure your sound card, start               Manan Bajoria                                       Magic starts up you can merge the empty
Setup and choose the sound card configu-               Via e-mail                                          space into one of your FAT32 partitions.
ration dialogue. Follow the onscreen help
and instructions to configure your sound                      This type of error occurs if the             Windows
card. For the modem you need to use one                Mfc42.dll file is damaged or is the incor-              Installing new fonts
of the diallers such as KPPP to configure              rect version. This particular Win 98 file is        I own a P-III, 850 MHz, 128 MB RAM operating
the serial port your modem is attached to              954,128 bytes in size, version 4.21.7325.           on Win 98 SE. My problem is that the ‘Install
and dial out to your ISP. To access the scan-          You can resolve this error by making a new          new font’ option in the file menu of the Fonts
ner you would need to install a package                copy of the Mfc42.dll file from your Win            folder is missing.Could you help me out?Amos
called SANE (Scanner Access Now Easy)                  98 CD into the Windows\System folder                Lalrema
for Linux that allows you to acquire images            using the System File Checker tool. Go to           Via e-mail
from most popular scanners. To configure               Start > Run, type sfc.exe in the Open box and
your printer, run Setup in X mode and                  then click OK.                                            The Fonts folder in your Windows
click on the printer configuration button,                                                                 machine seems to be corrupted. You will
choose to install a local printer, choose              Applications                                        have to use a third-party software to recti-
your printer and define the port it is con-                Unpartitioning hassles                          fy this error. You can simply use a free util-
nected to. The installation is then com-               I have Windows 98SE on my PC. I tried to install    ity, TweakUI, that will check the folder and
plete.                                                 Linux Red Hat 7.0 for dual booting. I used Par-     repair it for you.
    For watching DivX movies there is a                tition Magic 5.0 to create a separate partition
‘DivX Playa’ available for Linux that runs             for Linux. I allotted about 1 GB space from the     Internet & Communications
in Xwindows mode. For MPEG, AVI and                    D drive (I have five partitions on my hard disk).       Web mail in Outlook Express
other popular formats you can use ‘Aktion’.            The software created the partition. After a few     I am using Outlook Express, which usually

  Hardware                                             same configurations connected with an 8 port             Right-click your Network Neigh-
     Print sharing over P2P                            D-Link 10/100 switch. The OS is Windows 98          bourhood icon, select Properties and
  network                                              SE and the application software are Page-           make sure you have File and Print Shar-
  I am facing a problem on a peer to peer net-         maker, CorelDraw.                                   ing for Microsoft networks installed on
  work connection at my customer’s site. We            M. Srinivasa Raghavan                               the machine to which your printer is con-
  have been trying to solve this problem for the       Via e-mail                                          nected. Also make sure you enable Print
  past one week with no success.                                                                           Sharing in the File and Printer sharing
       We are able to connect with all the sys-                                                                   settings. Now check that your
  tems but are unable to share the printer with                                                                         client PCs have clients for
  all the systems. We are able to connect the                                                                               Microsoft       networks
  printer with the first, fifth and sixth system but                                                                           installed and are
  the second, third, fourth, seventh and eighth                                                                                  mapping         their
  systems are not shared with the network.                                                                                        printer driver to
  Kindly give us the solution for this peculiar                                                                                    the network port
  problem.                                                                                                                          instead of a local
       The machine configuration is as follows:                                                                                     port.Also, ensure
  Intel P4 1.4 GHz processor, 256 MB RDRAM,                                                                                         that you set up
  Mercury i850 chipset motherboard, 40 GB Sea-                                                                                     the protocols for
  gate HDD, 32 MB AGP graphics card, 10/100                                                                                        all the machines
  Dax NIC. There are eight systems with the                                                                                       properly.
                                                       Illustrations: Farzana Cooper

64                                                                                                                                           October 2001
  Windows                                              infected for two months, on odd days the
       Cranky mouse                                    desktop icons are repositioned such that
  I have a problem with my computer display. On        whenever you bring the mouse pointer
  the desktop, when I try to click on an icon with     close to an icon, the icon appears to ‘run
  the mouse, it moves away from the mouse              away’ from the mouse.
  pointer and I can’t select an icon easily. Is this       The solution to this problem is to
  because of a virus? How can I solve this prob-       install the latest updates to your anti-
  lem? I use Windows 95.                               virus software and clean it out. It is a fair-
  H.J. Patel                                           ly common virus and all major anti-virus
  Via e-mail                                           programs will be able to detect and
     Your computer is affected by the                  clean it.
  W32.Magistr.24876@mm virus. This                         You can also manually clean it. Go
  virus acts as an e-mail worm and is also             to Start and click Run. Type regedit
  network aware. It infects Windows                    and         navigate     to    the       key:
  Portable Executable (PE) files, with the             HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ Software\
  exception of .dll system files. The worm             Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Ru
  mails itself to addresses taken from the             n. In the right pane, delete the value
  Outlook/Outlook Express mail folders                 which references a file infected by
  (.dbx, .mbx), the sent items file from               W32.Magistr.23876@mm.
  Netscape and Windows address books                       Note: This virus contains bugs which
  (.wab) that are used by mail clients such            will corrupt some files while attempting
  as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Out-              to infect them as well as when the first
  look Express. The e-mail message may                 payload activates. These files cannot be
  have up to two attachments, with a ran-              repaired; they must be restored from
  domly generated subject line and message             backup. (These files may be detected as
  body. On computers that have been                    W32.Magistr.corrupt.)

supports working offline to check or send mails.       get the User Login screen though there are no       Autologon feature with the new user
We have a LAN, the server model is Windows             users. I have to press Cancel every time and it     name you have created and no password.
NT 4.0. Basically, I use Rediffmail, Yahoomail         is very annoying. Please tell me what to do to      Alternatively, you can disable the user
and I am unable to get these mail         avoid this.                                         logon in the Users and Passwords settings
sites. What is the problem and how do SMTP             Kaushik                                             in the control panel, although this is
and POP3 mail servers work? How do I config-           Via e-mail                                          not recommended in a networked
ure these servers?                                                                                         environment.
Via e-mail                                                                                                 Applications
                                                                                                               Copy right!
     You can configure to check your Hot-                                                                  I have a P-III, 700 MHz system with Windows
mail account through Outlook Express                                                                       Me. I have a CD-ROM drive and a CD writer. The
using http mail. For this, go to Tools >                                                                   problem occurs when I try to copy data onto a
Accounts and click on the Mail tab. Add a                                                                  CD. After 3 to 70 per cent of the data has been
new mail account and in the choice of type                                                                 written to the CD, the CD comes out and I get a
of account, select ‘http’. This will configure                                                             writing error about speed. I write at 4x speed. If
your Hotmail account. For your Yahoo                                                                       I write at 6x or 8x speed, the blank CD may get
account, similarly, you have to select POP3                                                                wasted. Please advice me on how to solve this
and give the POP3 server and SMTP serv-                                                                    problem.
er for Yahoo (find out what it is and key it           Insert your user name and password here             Sandip Mitra
in here). However, Rediffmail doesn’t sup-             to log on automatically                             Via e-mail
port POP3 or SMTP and therefore you
cannot check them offline.                                                                                      Do not perform an ‘on-the-fly’ copy
                                                            Just add another user by entering a            while replicating CDs. Make sure that you
Windows                                                user name but no password at the login              use ‘Create an image’ first on the hard drive
    Ghost user                                         screen. The next time you load Windows              and then copy it onto a CD. Also ensure
I have a P-III system with 128 MB RAM and              you can just press [Enter].                         that you have the right ASPI drivers
Windows Me. Every time I start my computer I              Now load TweakUI and enable the                  installed for your CD writer.

    DO YOU NEED HELP?                                   Send an SOS to
                                                        Or write in to DIGIT, D-222/2, Om Sagar Bldg, MIDC, Nerul-400 706

■   resolve~ t i p s & t r i c k s


                                                                                       LINUX ON YOUR DESKTOP

     tips                                    i                                         Changing the default desktop..............26
                                                                                       Changing your window manager

                                                    ck                                 from the terminal ....................................26
                                                                                       Changing your window manager in
                                                                                       Gnome or KDE ..........................................26
                                                                                       Box: KDE Keyboard Shortcuts ..........26
                                                                                       Handling your documents ....................27

                                                                                       Working with different browsers ........27
                                                                                       Selecting themes in Gnome ................27
                                                                                       Box: Choosing the Window
                                                                                       Using the KDE taskbar ............................28
                                                                                       Reading the manual pages in KDE .....28
                                                                                       Disabling KDE defaults for
                                                                                       non-KDE applications..............................28
                                                                                       Using the Windows shortcuts of your

Expert with Office XP
                                                                                       COMMAND LINE CONFIGURATION
                                                                                       Installing True Type fonts........................29
                                                                                       Adding font paths from X.......................29
                                                                                       Shutting down from a desktop
                                                                                       Killing an X session ..................................29
                                                                                       Optimising terminal emulators ............29
                                                                                       Copy-paste in terminal window...........29
Office XP offers you several additional functionalities over the previous              Sound and mouse configuration.........29
                                                                                       Some command line tools ....................30
    versions of Office. Here’s how you can work smart with Office XP                   NET ACCESS WITH LINUX
                                                                                       Changing font selections in
                                                                                       Customising Netscape’s toolbar ..........30
                                                                                       Opening Netscape Mail without the
                                                                                       Konqueror with a terminal ....................30
                                                                                       Configuring accounts in KMail..............30
                                                                                       Combating spam with KMail Bounce
                                                                                       Automatically checking e-mail..............31
                                                                                       Making Konqueror assume
                                                                                       Netscape’s role ..........................................31
                                                                                       Running Java applets in Konqueror....31
                                                                                       Download managers for X.....................31
                                                                                       Faster Web browsing ...............................31
                                                                                       MULTIMEDIA TIME
                                                                                       Ripping CDs to your hard disk..............32
                                                                                       Playing Ogg Vorbis files ..........................32
                                                                                       Converting MP3 files to Wav.................32
                                                                                       Creating a playlist of all MP3s ..............32
                                                                                       Playing DivX with xmms-I ......................32
                                                                                       Playing DivX in Linux-II ...........................32

                                                                                                 Tips & Tricks
                                                                                                 Compilation of tips
                                                                                                 Working with Linux, check out,
                                                         Illustration: Mahesh Benkar

     ■    resolve~ t i p s & t r i c k s
                                                      WORD XP
          The first thing you have is more options for correcting and formatting text. So let the words flow as
                          your fingers fly over the keyboard in tandem with thoughts and ideas
            Formatting with style                  have used in specific sections through-
     While typing long documents it is gen-        out the document.
     erally a good idea to stick to a certain
     type of format for sections within the              Count repetitive words
     document. Word XP has a feature for           At times you might want to count the
     styles and formatting on the task pane.       occurrence of a particular word in the
     You could use the existing style or add a     document. Word XP allows you to count
     new style to the task pane formatting list.   the occurrences easily. Press [Ctrl] + [F]
         If the task pane is not visible, enable
     it from the View menu. Choose Styles
     and Formatting from the task pane. This
     provides you with a rich list of format-
     ting styles. Select the text you want to                                                     Change colour of the error-signifying line
     apply the formatting to and click on the
     required format. You can add new, cus-                                                       again? Then change the colour! Word XP
     tomised formatting by clicking the New        Check on words repeated often                  has an easy registry tweak that can
     button. This is a good way to reduce                                                         change the colour of the error underlin-
     mouse clicks for reformatting text every      to open the Find dialog box and type the       ing, besides the grammatical errors
     now and then.                                 word for which the count is required.          signifier. Open the file
                                                   Enable the ‘Highlight all items’ check         from C:\Program Files\Microsoft
            Document-wide format changes           box. Now click ‘Find all’. Word XP shows       Office\Office10\Macros. Click the Reg-
     Word XP has options to make docu-             the count for the word you have typed in       istry Options button from the table.
     ment-wide changes to a particular for-        the Find box and also highlights all the       From the window that pops open,
     mat. Open the task pane and select Styles     occurrences of that word, so that              choose SpellingWavyUnderlineColour
34   and Formatting. Select any of the for-        changes, if any, can be made easily. This      and click on Choose Colour. A window
     mats you want to change, click on the         is a simple way to find repeated words         pops up from which you can select the
                                                   instantly.                                     colour you want the misspelled words to
                                                                                                  be underlined with. Click the Change
                                                         Back up Autocorrect entries              button. The next time you start Word, all
                                                   Suffering from OS-related problems? In         words wrongly spelt would be under-
                                                   the worst-case scenario, you might want        lined with the colour you have chosen.
                                                   to reinstall the OS or the application. In     To change the underlining colour for
                                                   such cases, all the entries you have made to   possible grammatical errors, click Gram-
                                                   your Autocorrect dictionary might be lost.     marWavyUnderlineColour. To change
                                                   Word XP allows you to back up your             the underlining colour for possible for-
                                                   Autocorrect entries. Open the file Sup-        matting errors, click FormatConsisten-
                                          from C:\Program Files\Microsoft       cyWavyUnderlineColour.
     Select text with similar formatting           Office\Office10\Macros. The file displays
                                                   three buttons. Click the AutoCorrect               Working your own way
     arrow that appears near that format and       Backup button. This gives you an option        Word has a default setting of Autocor-
     choose ‘Select all _ instance(s)’. This       to Backup, Restore or Cancel. Choose the       rect set to correct and capitalise words
     highlights all the text with that format,     appropriate action to either back up or        as and when you type. Word XP allows
     allows you to make modifications, and         restore Autocorrect entries.                   you to control the way Word changes the
     gives you the option to choose another                                                       words you type. When you place the
     format. This makes it easier, especially            Change colour code                       cursor on the word that has been auto-
     when you want to make document-wide           Tired of those old red underlines point-       matically changed, Word displays a
     changes for a particular style, which you     ing out your spelling mistakes again and       small blue box. (This option is one of

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     68                                                                                                                         October 2001
the features of smart tags in Word XP.)       [Shift] + [F10] to launch the smart             all over the document, press the [Ctrl]
When you point the mouse a thunder-           tag menu.                                       key. This will allow you to select all the
like symbol is shown, which when                                                              text of your choice at one go, even when
pointed to gives you the options of               Random selection                            it is non-contiguous.
undoing the changes made, stop making         With the earlier versions of Word you                Click the first word to be selected as
similar changes, or launch the Autocor-       were not allowed to select words that           you would do it normally. The next
rection settings. This way you can con-       were non-contiguous. With the latest            selection could be made by pressing the
trol the way your software changes the        version you can select words and text           [Ctrl] key to make random selections.
words you type. When the blue box             randomly in a document.                         This is highly useful when you want to
appears you could also press [Alt] +             While selecting text which is spread         reformat words.

                                             EXCEL XP
   Master Excel XP with its new features for refreshable queries, organising and repairing files. Make
        Excel your personal assistant with the new conversion and speech processing features
    Online updates                            pasted table. Click the smart tag and           average of selected cells, maximum or
You have copied some values from the          choose Create Refreshable Web Query. It         minimum value, and much more with
Web onto your Excel sheet for some            opens a pop-up window where you can             these new and powerful functions. Just
analysis. Your analysis has to stay current   select tables from the Web page, which          click on the arrow next to the Autosum
with the data on the Web site. Wouldn’t       would also update the data on the Excel         symbol for access to all the functions.
                                              sheet. Click the Import button to import
                                              all data immediately. You have a choice to          Stay organised
                                              automatically refresh the data or do it         We would generally like to organise data
                                              manually from the View > Tools bar > External   in a way that's easily accessible. This is
                                              data option.

Create refreshable queries for updates            Cross checking
                                              After you have entered a whole lot of
it be easier to have the software do the      data all by yourself, you might need to
updates for you time and again in the         recheck it. And rechecking the data with
background? Excel XP has the facility to      the onscreen version can be a pain. Don't
do so. Copy the table from the Web onto       panic. Excel XP has the facility to read
an Excel sheet. For example, choose           out data. Choose Speech from the tools
some data from Reuters or any other           menu and click on the Show Text to              Choose tab colours for sheets
financial portal. Paste it onto the Excel     Speech Toolbar option. On the Speech
sheet. A smart tag appears next to the        toolbar, click the Play button and the          why we use tools such as Excel and other
                                              reader starts reading the data row-wise,        spreadsheets. Excel XP has a new, helpful
                                              starting from row one. You can change           feature by which you can colour code
                                              the settings to read column-wise also by        sheets with related data in one colour.
                                              clicking the appropriate button on the          Right-click the sheet and select Tab
                                              Speech toolbar.                                 colour. When the colour window pops
                                                                                              up, choose the required colour and click
                                                  Easy access to new AutoSum                  OK. You could press [Ctrl], select all the
                                              The earlier version of Excel had all the
                                              Autosum features handy, but they were
                                              limited. Excel XP has the Autosum but-
                                              ton linked to a lengthier list of functions,
                                              which can be added to your worksheet
Select the tabel for updation                 in a jiffy. You can quickly calculate the       Changing tab colour by right-clicking tabs

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     related sheets and colour them together.                                                      numbers in those areas, which might be
     Alternately, you could choose the Tab                                                         needed in some critical calculations.
     colour by selecting Sheets from the For-                                                      Excel XP has the option of converting
     mat menu.                                                                                     text-formatted numbers into true num-
                                                                                                   bers. Use Excel’s error checking options
            Watch your values                                                                      button. You might notice that any cell
     Excel XP has an option that allows you to                                                     which has a number formatted as text
     add watches to cells. When you need val-                                                      will have a small green triangle on the left
     ues across the sheets within a workbook,                                                      top corner of the cell. Select the range of
     you might be required to shuttle to and fro     Tampered files can be repaired                cells that have numbers formatted as
     between the sheets. Watches come to the                                                       text. Click the error checking options
     rescue at such moments. Right-click a cell
     and click on Add watch. A watch window
     pops up in which all the cells that have a
     watch are displayed with their correspon-
     ding values. This window stays even when        Excel’s repair or extract option
     you shuttle between sheets. This way it
     reduces your shuttling between sheets to        drop-down list. This allows you to repair
     look for cell values that are required across   the file. Upon choosing the Open and
     the workbook.                                   Repair option, it gives you options to
                                                     Repair, Extract data or Cancel. Based on
            Repair them                              your requirement and condition, choose
     Excel XP does an automatic repair to            the appropriate action to be performed.       Option to change text to numbers
     corrupt files. It tries to open and repair         Note that Excel XP provides other
     the file simultaneously. On the other           options to repair files at different situa-   button (a smart tag), which appears next
     hand, Excel XP also has options for             tions.                                        to the selected range of cells. Choose the
     manual repair. Choose Open from the                                                           Convert to Number option from the
     File menu. Select the file to open from             Convert text to numerals                  menu that pops up to convert the
     the appropriate path and when clicking          You might want to format certain areas        numbers to true numbers. Now you can
36   the Open button, click the arrow next to        of the Excel sheet with text formatting.      use them for calculations across the
     it and choose Open and Repair from the          You might also accidentally have              workbook.

                                             POWERPOINT XP
                  PowerPoint has more power now. Here’s how you can add pizzazz to your presentations
            Compress pictures                        Picture. Click on the Compress Pictures       areas’ of the picture to make the presen-
     Presentation blues? You must have had           button, and choose ‘Delete the cropped        tation lighter. Just remember that if
     those when your presentation became                                                           you compress pictures by selecting
     too heavy with images. Now there’s a way                                                      Web/Screen, Print, or ‘Delete cropped
     to make your presentations light while                                                        areas of pictures’ from the Compress Pic-
     retaining all the images. Save the pictures                                                   tures dialog box, you won’t be able to
     that you have to insert as JPGs, GIFs, or                                                     restore images to their original resolu-
     in any other format which is lighter.                                                         tion or size.
     PowerPoint XP provides an option by
     which you can compress the embedded                                                                Add diagrams
     images. Click on the images you want                                                          PowerPoint XP offers a new Diagram
     compressed by holding down the [Ctrl]                                                         functionality, which makes it easier to
     key or by selecting them all. Choose the                                                      add organisational charts. Select Dia-
     Picture toolbar from View > Toolbars >          Crunch your presentations                     gram from the Insert menu from the

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     70                                                                                                                          October 2001
                                             Draw Custom path submenu. This pro-
                                             vides you with options to draw Straight           Add a button to the macro
                                             lines, Curves or Scribble paths. You can      You might be required to use a particu-
                            PowerPoint       choose any of these options and draw the      lar macro many times in a presentation
                            introduces a     path on the slide. The starting position      or across presentations. It will be easier
                            new menu         would be denoted by a green triangle and      for you to create the macro and place it
                            option to        the trailing edge by a red triangle. You      on the standard toolbar for instant
                            insert dia-      can also resize and move the path. In this    access. To do this, choose Customize
                            grams easily     manner, you can even create small car-        from the Tools menu. In the window that
                            into your        toon movies using PowerPoint XP.              pops up, choose the Commands tab and
                            presentation                                                   click on Macros from the Categories
                                                 The print preview option                  option. The right side of the window will
dialog box and choose the left-top corner    PowerPoint XP has finally added the           display all the macros available. Click
chart. You could right-click any of those    print preview facility. You can use this to   and drag the one you want to access and
boxes to add Subordinates, Co-workers        preview slides before printing. This          drop it on the toolbar when you see a
or Assistants to the existing charts. This   option was not present in the earlier         plus sign.
reduces work when you have to build          version.                                          Note that the plus sign should appear
organisational charts with PowerPoint                                                      while you move the macro to the tool
XP. You can also select Venn diagrams,          Creating alternative layouts in            bar. If you see a cross sign instead, it
Cycles, Radials, Pyramids, etc from the      Word                                          implies that the macro cannot be placed
Diagram listings.                            You now have the power to create alter-       in the area you want it to be.
                                             native layouts (for making handouts) in
    Customise animations                     Word, which are not available in Power-           Protecting presentations
You can now customise animations in          Point XP. You can do this by exporting        Earlier versions of PowerPoint had one
PowerPoint XP. Start off by selecting        the slide to Word through the Send To         major drawback: you could not protect
your own tract for the object to move on.    option. From the File menu choose the         the slides. And the only way you could
This could either be a straight line, a                                                    make them was through PowerPoint
curve, or a scribble. Right-click the text                                                 show files. Now PowerPoint XP gives
or the image for which the animation is                                                    you the additional option of protecting
to be set. The task pane opens and gives                                                   your slides by a password. Choose the
                                                                                           Options submenu from Tools and click
                                                                      PowerPoint           on the Security Tab in the window that
                                                                      allows you to        pops up. You can select either the Pass-
                                                                      export your pre-     word to Open or the Password to Mod-
                                                                      sentations to        ify option, or both. Clicking on the
                                                                      Word to make         Advanced button lets you choose the
                                                                      Word style lay-      encryption type, length, and so on. This
                                                                      outs                 way you can secure your presentations
                                                                                           from others.
                                             Send To option, click Microsoft Word
                                             and then select a layout option. For
                                             example, if you want to print three slides                                  Protect
                                             per page but do not want lines for audi-                                    your pre-
                                             ence notes, send the handout to Word,                                       sentations
Draw your own animation schemes              choose the Blank lines next to the slides                                   with the
                                             option, and delete the lines in Word.                                       new pass-
you a list of animations that can be         Choose any layout that suits your                                           word pro-
assigned to an object on the presenta-       requirement and export the slides to                                        tection
tion. To choose your own animation           Word. You can also make the necessary                                       option in
style, click on Add Effect and choose        additions and deletions to the handouts                                     Powerpoint
Motion paths. From this, choose the          in Word.                                                                    XP

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            Disabling features                    animation effects, multiple masters,        you to restrict this information from
     The term ‘disable features’ sounds           and even the password protection            being propagated to other users.
     strange, doesn't it? Why would anyone        option. The idea is to reduce problems         Choose the Security tab from the
     want to disable features? But there are      when you share presentations with           Options submenu in the Tools menu.
     times when it is imperative to disable       users who use earlier versions of           Check the ‘Remove personal informa-
     certain new features in PowerPoint XP.       PowerPoint.                                 tion from this file on save’ check box.
     To do this, choose Options from the                                                      This does not save personal information
     Tools menu. Select the Edit tab if it's          Keep personal info under wraps          such as author, the company, or names
     not highlighted and click the section        Your presentation may have some per-        associated with tracked changes or com-
     called ‘Disable new features’. From here     sonal information, which you might not      ments, thus saving you from unwanted
     you have a choice of disabling new           want to divulge. PowerPoint XP allows       exposure.

                                                     OUTLOOK XP
                  With facilities to import data from Schedule+ and mail maintenance utilities, Outlook XP
                            makes life easier. Manage mails better with these new tips and tricks

            Be different, sign different
     The new Outlook XP provides for more
     individuality in e-mail. You can add dif-
     ferent signatures for Reply, Forwards and
     regular mails. The previous version of
     Outlook did not have this feature.
         To change your signature, go to the
     Tools menu, select Options and click on
     the Mail Format tab. Under signature,                                                    Choose the e-mail ID for the custom mail
     click the ‘Signature for new messages’
38   drop-down menu and click on the sig-                                                     button, a grey box appears. Drop the
     nature required. Repeat this for the                                                     mail message into that grey box. Now
     drop-down menu for replies and for-                                                      right-click the mail message added to the
     wards and click on the signature you                                                     button on the toolbar, type a name for
     want to use. Confirm by clicking OK and                                                  the mail (if required) and move to Assign
     you are done.                                                                            Hyperlink in the menu and click Open.
                                                                                              In the window that pops up, choose E-
            Custom mailer                         Renaming the new toolbar buttons            mail Addresses from the Link-to catego-
     If you are sending e-mail frequently,                                                    ry. Fill in the appropriate e-mail address
     you could automate the process of cre-       list, click on New Menu and drag it on to   and the subject line of the frequent mail-
     ating and addressing the message. Out-       the toolbar. On the toolbar, right-click    er and you’re ready to send mail.
     look XP allows you to add a custom           the New Menu button and in the Name
     toolbar button that lists the people to      box on the shortcut menu, type a name            Open, dismiss or snooze with one
     whom you send mails more often. All it       for the new toolbar button. (Do this        click
     needs is a single click on the Custom        when the Customize window is open,          Reminders are helpful when you have one
     toolbar button to send an immediate          otherwise you won’t be able to right-       too many things to occupy your time
     mail message.                                click and change the name of the button     with. You could act on more than one
         If you send out daily mailers with the   added). Now choose File from the Cat-       reminder at a time in Outlook XP. These
     same subject line, you can add that to       egories tab and click on Mail Message on    reminders are listed in the Reminders
     the mail on the auto mailer list. Choose     the right and drag it onto the newly cre-   window, which is accessible from the View
     Customize from the Tools menu. Click         ated button.                                menu. You can Open, Dismiss, or Snooze
     on the Commands tab in the categories            When you move the mouse over the        multiple reminders with a single click.

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     72                                                                                                                    October 2001
Select the first reminder and select any                 on your screen, they are simple and final-         Linking the subject
further reminders holding the [Ctrl] key.                ly all your Schedule+ data would be            The old Outlook recognises URLs as
                                                         imported.                                      hyperlinks in the message body. Out-
    A different way of loading                                                                          look XP, however, has gone one step fur-
Outlook                                                      Reclaiming attachments                     ther. It also recognises links in the
You have the option of changing the way                  Outlook XP has a special security feature      subject line and turns them into hyper-
Outlook XP loads while opening—you                       that prevents you from opening or sav-         links. Recipients who also run Outlook
can make a program run or open a spe-                    ing attachments of certain types such as       XP can click the link in the subject line
cific folder when it loads instead. This                 .exe, .bat, and even .hlp files. When you      and their default browser would open
can be done with command line options                    receive a prohibited file type as attach-      the link. This is very handy when you
issued with the shortcuts used to launch                 ment, Outlook XP tells you that you have       have to send just a link and not the
Outlook. To create a new shortcut for                    received an unsafe attachment and does         entire e-mail.
Outlook on desktop (for testing the var-                 not allow you to view the attachment.
ious options), right-click and open the                  Though not impossible, it is still difficult       Dual purpose software
shortcut and type a space after the path                 to reclaim the attachment rights. You          Outlook XP can be used as a dual-
in the Target text area.                                 could do it by making a minor change to        purpose software when you run out of
    These are the command line options                   the registry. From the Start menu, select      desktop space. You can use it either as an
you can use with Outlook shortcuts:                      Run, enter regedit, and press [Enter]. In      e-mail client or as a browser. Just type
    To open the My Documents folder                      the Registry Editor, navigate to               the URL of any site in the Address
when you start Outlook, the complete                     HKEY_CURRENT_USER\software\Mic                 area, which is just below the menu and
entry would be C:\Program Files\Microsoft                rosoft\Office10.0\Outlook\Security.            below the standard toolbar. You will
Office\Office10\Outlook.exe/select C:\My Docu-               Click anywhere in the right pane of        see the page loaded on the area to the
ments.                                                   the     Editor     and      then     select    right where mails are displayed. This
   To hide the Outlook bar you could                     Edit/New/String Value. Enter Level1Remove      serves two purposes and saves desktop
issue a command similar to C:\Program                    as the name of the string value, and press     space too.
Files\Microsoft Office\Office\Outlook.exe/select out-    [Enter]. Right-click the Level1Remove
look:/folder.                                            string, and in the Value Data field, enter         Mail mechanic
    To create an item with the specified                                                                Outlook XP gives you a new option to
file as an attachment you could issue a                                                                 maintain your mails. Go to the Tools
command such as C:\Program Files\Microsoft                                                              menu and choose the Mailbox Cleanup
Office\Office\Outlook.exe /select outlook:/a path/file                                                  option. It opens a window which gives
name.                                                                                                   you various options for mail mainte-
   There are more command line                                                                          nance. Click on the first button to see
options which you could refer to in Out-                                                                your mailbox size. The Find button
look’s Help file.                                        Choose file types for download                 allows you to find mails based on size.
                                                                                                        You can also archive messages and purge
     Import Schedule+ data                               a list of the file extensions (each separat-   deleted items can also be done with
Outlook XP does not allow you to use                     ed by a semicolon) for the formats you         this option.
Schedule+ anymore as your primary cal-                   want to unblock. Click OK. (For exam-
endar. Once Outlook XP is installed on                   ple, if you entered exe;hlp, you’d unblock
your computer, you can use the Import                    executable and help files.) Exit Registry
Export wizard to import Schedule+ data                   editor. Now you are done and have
on your Outlook mail client. All items                   reclaimed your attachments rights. It's
will be imported into the Calendar fold-                 okay to heave a sigh of relief now!
er. To import your Schedule+ data,                           Note: With viruses such as Melissa                                         Mail
choose Import Export from the File                       and I Love You, it is better that you leave                                    main-
menu. From the window that pops up,                      the default Outlook XP security level to                                       tainance
choose ‘Import from another program                      block unsafe attachments. That way you                                         with the
or file’ and click Next. In the list, click the          can have a worry-free e-mail client,                                           Mailbox
appropriate version of Schedule+ and                     which takes care of all unsafe and vul-                                        Cleanup
click Next again. Follow the instructions                nerable attachments.                                                           option

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                                                   ACCESS XP
                  Mount your data onto the Web with Access XP’s Web features. Undo or redo actions any
                             number of times and trim your databases with the new features
            Save to Web                             list shows up all the sample databases.         ADO. Converting Access 2000 or 2002
     With the previous versions of Access,          Click the one you wish to open.                 Database into Access 97 format would
     one had to create a new Data Access                                                            result in loss of information or some
     page to transfer reports and forms to              Undo and do again                           critical errors. Watch out for this when
     the Web. Access XP has simplified all          One more problem with the earlier ver-          you do the conversion.
     this. Now all you need to do is highlight      sions of Access was that one did not have
     an existing form or report in the data-        the facility to do multiple undoes and              Ease of use
     base window and port it to the Web. To         redoes in the design view. Access XP            Working on forms and reports is a breeze
     do this, highlight the form or report in       allows you to do so. Certain views, how-        with Access XP. Mentioned below are
     the database window and choose Save            ever, do not support multiple undoes            some shortcut keys that would make
     as from the File menu. Choose Data             and redoes.                                     work simpler and easier:
     Access Page in the list at the bottom of           These are database diagram design,          [Ctrl] + [Tab] To move to a subsection
     the dialog box which pops up. Click OK         view design, stored function design,            [F2] To switch between Edit mode (with
     to complete.                                   function design and trigger design. Data-       insertion point displayed) and Naviga-
         It is also possible to verify the report   base container view allows you to undo          tion mode
     or form to see if it’s suitable to be posted   only and not redo.                              [F4] To switch to the property sheet
     on the Web. Open the file you have just                                                        (Design view in forms and reports in
     created by double-clicking on it and your          Database conversion                         databases and Access projects)
     browser should open and display the            Access XP gives you the option of con-          [F5] To switch to Form view from Form
                                                    verting databases to different version          Design view
                                                    formats. It allows you to convert Access        [F6] To switch between the upper and
                                                    databases either from or to Access 97,          lower portions of a window (Design
                                                    2000 or 2002. To convert one format to          view of the Advanced Filter/Sort window
                                                    any other format, go to Tools > Database        only)
40                                                  Utilities and choose Convert Database.          [F7] To switch to the Code Builder from
                                                    Access XP lists you all the conversion          Form or Report Design view (Design
     Save for the Web directly from Access          schemes. Choose the one that you                view window or property sheet)
                                                    want.                                           [F8] Invokes the field list in a form,
     content. This is the simplest and the eas-          If the database is not open, Access will   report, or Data Access Page. If the field
     iest way to make sure your files are ready                                                     list is already open, it moves focus to field
     for posting on the Web.                                                                        list. After selection of a field from the
                                                                                                    list, you could just press [Enter] to insert
            Access sample databases                                                                 that field.
     Access XP has made life simpler for                                                            [Ctrl] + [Enter] or [Alt] + [D] To open
     database sampling. Unlike the previous                                                         the selected table, query, form, report,
     version, one need not open sample                                                              Data Access Page, macro, or module in
     databases from their default paths with        Convert older or newer databases to any         Design view
     Access XP. Simply choose Sample                required version with the new feature
     Databases from the Help menu and the                                                               Zooming in
                                                    prompt you to choose a database to              Access XP incorporates additional
                                                    convert as well as the filename in which        zooming powers of 500 and 1000 per
                                                    you can store. You can go ahead with            cent in the Zoom option in Print Pre-
                                                    either upward or downward conversion            view.
                                                    without worrying about compatibility               This might help you locate subtle
                                                    issues pertaining to versions.                  errors that might slip your eyes when in
     Choose sample database from Help                   Note: Access 97 does not support            lower zooming powers.

                                                      Ad will come

     74                                                                                                                            October 2001
                                                                                                                                 Imaging: Ram

■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s

     ur kind thrives on new stuff. Be it a new cell phone, that rad-       Here, we have put together a set of categories of some of the

O    ical DVD drive or those cool-looking speakers that you keep
     reading about on the Internet. There are people who, even
     though they might never really go out buy them, want to be
kept abreast of the best in technology. These buyers often know
about the newest out there, but there are so many choices the Indi-
                                                                       hottest new products and through this guide aim to demystify the
                                                                       jargon and technology that usually accompanies these products.
                                                                       With an explanation on the technology and the operation of these
                                                                       products, you will learn what makes these products tick and
                                                                       whether they are really all that they say they are.
an consumer is faced with right now, that one must make an                 The decision maker at the end of each category will help you
informed choice. That, coupled with the breakneck pace at which        identify what’s the newest in the market and eventually help you
technology is barreling ahead, the product or technology you           make a choice for your specific needs, applications and budget.
decide on adopting now may be passé within the next few months.        Also, you will know what parameters and specifications are most
Choices, choices…!                                                     important to you the next time you are faced with the quandary
    This Smart Buyer’s Guide will help you do just that. Buying the    of what hardware you want to buy.
right kind of hardware is all about understanding the products in          This guide is meant to be a detailed reference for learning about
a category and knowing what makes one different from another.          new technologies and products so that the next time you are head-
Whether it’s that new hard disk technology that you’re wondering       ing over to your hardware store to buy a new graphics card or are
about or the new processor that promises to double the perform-        figuring out what is the best upgrade for your computer, you can
ance of your games, the marketing voice will throw a whole lot of      be confident that you will know exactly what the sales person is
terms and jargon at the consumer. This might result in going in for    talking about when he throws terms like ATA/100 and Socket 423
a technology that might not always be of any practical use to your     at you!
particular application.

92                                                                                                                             October 2001
                                                                   ◆   CD/DVD ROM ◆

                                   Spinning the Disc
    ill just a few years ago Creative was the only brand in the CD-ROM drive market. The drives then

T   cost around Rs 4,000, but prices have fallen steadily since then. A 56x rated CD-ROM drive now
    costs between Rs 1,700 and Rs 2,500. CD-ROM drives from ASUS and Acer are amongst the best
    performing with data transfer speeds ranging anywhere between 2.5 MBps to 4.7 MBps for the
IDE models. SCSI CD-ROM drives, though available, are not something that most mainstream users
need to consider.
                                                                                                                         Also Remember…
                                                                                                                         ■ A notch or clasp in the drive
                                                                                                                         tray that holds the media in
                                                                                                                         place is a good idea if you
   In the case of DVD drives, there is a wide variation in prices and performance. Speeds range from                     are going to mount the drive
6x to 16x and the differences in transfer rates are very significant. The average cost of a DVD drive is                 vertically.
about Rs 5,500 for a 12x model. DVD drives are usually adopted by users who have easy access to DVD
movies.                                                                                                                  ■ Compatibility issues can
                                                                                                                         come up with some CD-ROM
                                                                                                                         drives which will create prob-
TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                                                                       lems when reading from certain
A CD-ROM drive consists of a laser that is mounted on                                                                    types of media such as CD-RW
an assembly that lets it align itself onto any part of the                                                               disks or other media that does
surface of the disc as it spins. This laser reads the data                                                               not conform to the Red Book
which is stored in the form of a pit (0) and land (1). Addi-                                                             standard.
tionally, there is a circuitry that performs the task of on-
the-flu error correction which helps prevent errors

                                                                                                     encountered when
                                                                                               reading scratched CDs.
                                                                                         DVD drives differ basically
                                                                       due to the fact that the information density of
                                                                       the media is much higher.

                                                                       SMART TIPS
                                                                       Speed: In CD-ROM drives 1x corresponds to a
                                                                       data transfer rate of 150 KBps.
                                                                       Therefore, a 52x CD-ROM drive has a theoreti-
                                                                       cal peak data transfer rate of
                                                                       56 x 150 KBps = 8.2 MBps

                                                                       Build quality: Some of the cheaper CD-ROM
                                                                       drives have very fragile loading and unloading
                                                                       trays. This tends to fail over a period
                                                                       of time. Look for a drive with sturdy

                      Basic functionality                          Entertainment enthusiast

  You need            To use the drive to install software, play   To watch high quality movies as well as have the
                      music and occasionally watch VCDs            regular CD-ROM functionality

  Look for            The fastest CD-ROM drive that you can        Look for a DVD-ROM that is rated at 12x or
                      afford                                       better

  Our pick            ASUS CDS500                                  ASUS E612

  Price range         Up to Rs 2,500                               Rs 5,000 and above

■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                               ◆   CD-RW Drives ◆

                                     Write Choices
                                         he reduction in cost of blank media has made CD-R and CD-RW writers an inexpensive stor-
Also Remember…
■ Types of media that can be
used are CD-R and CD-RW. The
advantage of the more expen-
                                     T   age option for PC enthusiasts. The 4x devices which would take around 20 minutes to burn a
                                         CD just a year ago have graduated to burning CDs in less than 5 minutes with the newer 24x
                                         units. Issues such as the buffer underrun problems associated with older drives have been solved
                                     in new writers. These drives are available in a number of different interfaces, of which IDE is the
                                     most popular due to lower overhead costs and easier installation. Other alternatives include SCSI,
sive CD-RW media is that it is       USB and Firewire.
reusable.                               The actual cost of the CD writers has come down due to increased competition between
                                     vendors and they range between Rs 6,000 for basic 8x units to Rs 20,000 for the blazingly fast
■ If you are planning to buy a       24x models.
writer that is faster than 8x then
you might find that your system
is incapable of feeding the          TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                       CD-R media which is freely available in the
writer with data at the required     CD-Writers are similar to                                                     market today is 16x.
rate. This is usually due to         regular CD-ROM drives
slower hard drives, low pro-         except that they let you                                                                  Interface: IDE is the least
cessing power and limited            burn the data on blank                                                                      expensive and most popu-
RAM.                                 media. The media has a                                                                      lar option. SCSI models
                                     compound layer which in                                                                     require an additional SCSI
■ Most manufacturers provide         the crystalline state allows                                                                card to be installed but
regular firmware upgrades on         the laser beam to pass through                                                              result in lower CPU utilisa-
their Web sites for their drives     and reflects it back from the metal                                                    tion and do not usually experi-
ensuring that they are capable       layer. When in the amorphous state it                                     ence buffer underrun problems. External
of using the latest types of         doesn’t allow reflection of light. This                        models tend to use the USB interface.
media and formats.                   describes the 1 and 0 states of information
                                     storage. The laser beam is powerful enough to melt            BURN proof technology: Most new CD-Writers incorpo-
■ 700 MB CD-Rs are now avail-        the dye of the media for writing but the intensity of         rate some form of BURN proof technology but the effec-
able at the same cost as the         beam needed for erasing information is somewhat               tiveness tends to vary. From our experience, the Plextor
regular 650 MB media.                lower.                                                        drives are particularly good in this respect.

                                     SMART TIPS                                                    Bundled software: Some CD authoring software is bun-
                                     Speed: The fastest recording speed currently available        dled with every drive. These could either be proprietary
                                     in the market is 24x whereas 10x is the fastest rewrite       or a third-party product. Adaptec’s EasyCD Creator and
                                     speed available. The media that supports these                Ahead Software’s Nero Burning ROM are the most pop-
                                     speeds, however, is not widely available. The fastest         ular of these.

                                                         Inexpensive data backup                            Speed demon              Portability

                                       You need           Speed is not an issue; you are     Speed is everything, and you      To regularly back up data
                                                          just looking for a cheap, reli-    have no intention of spending     from different PCs.
                                                          able backup solution               more than 5-6 minutes to burn
                                                                                             a CD.

                                       Look for           An 8x drive                        Preferably 16x or higher write    A compact, external drive
                                                                                             speeds, and a SCSI interface.     with a USB interface.

                                       Our pick           Samsung SW-208                     HP 9700i (16/10/40x), ACeR        Acer 6424
                                                                                             CRW 1610A (16/10/40X)

                                       Price range        Less than Rs 8,000                 Rs 8,000 to Rs 20,000             Rs 12,000 and above


94                                                                                                                                             October 2001
■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                              ◆   CRT Monitors ◆

                            Delightful Displays
                                        his is the bulkiest and costliest component of any PC. Since you don’t really go around changing
Also Remember…
■ Warranties from manufactur-
ers are usually valid for one
year. However, some manufac-
                                    T   your monitor every other month, it pays to make the right choice the first time around. There are
                                        basically two technologies being used in CRT displays today— the more widely used shadow mask
                                        technology and Sony’s proprietary Aperture Grille technology. The latter produces crisper and
                                    more realistic images.
                                       Monitors are usually bought by size with the 14- and 15-inch models being the most common.
turers such as Microtek and LG      17-inch models are seeing a massive growth in popularity, while 19- and 21-inch monitors are the pre-
offer a three- year warranty on     serve of graphic and design professionals.
their products.

■ Integrated speakers, USB          SMART TIPS                                                                                      Screen Geometry:
ports and a user friendly On        Viewable area: Monitor size (say 17-inch) is measured                                           Screen geometry
Screen Display are other fea-       diagonally. However, there is a maximum viewable                                                refers to the proper
tures that you might want to        area specification that you                                                                     display of shapes such
consider.                           need to pay closer                                                                              as circles, squares and
                                    attention to in CRT                                                                             polygons. The monitor
■ Models that come with ‘flat’      monitors. This would                                                                            should be capable of
picture tubes are generally         be in the region of                                                                             displaying images
more expensive.                     about 13.8 inch view-                                                                           without any geometric
                                    able for a 15-inch model and                                                                    distortion. In inferior
                                    close to about 16 inch viewable for                                                             monitors you will find
                                    most 17-inch                                                                                    that circles end up
                                    monitors.                                                                                       looking slightly ellipti-
                                                                                                                                    cal in shape.
                                    Dot pitch: Dot pitch plays an important role
                                    in the crispness of the image displayed on                                                    Video bandwidth: The high-
                                    the monitor. The smaller the diagonal dot                                                er the bandwidth of the monitor,
                                    pitch, the crisper the image. Diagonal dot                                         the greater the range of resolutions it
                                    pitch is more critical than horizontal dot                                     can support. Ideally, you should look for
                                    pitch. For instance, a horizontal dot pitch of                            support for 85 Hz at the resolution you normal-
                                    0.24 mm usually corresponds to a diagonal dot                   ly use, to avoid the flicker that will invariably take
                                    pitch of approximately 0.28 mm. Most 15-inch monitors         place at refresh rates of 60 Hz. This can add consider-
                                    come with 0.28 mm diagonal dot pitch, whereas for the         ably to reducing fatigue, especially for people that
                                    17-inch models it’s between                                   spend a major part of the day sitting in front of their
                                    0.24 mm to 0.28 mm.                                           computers.

                                                        Office productivity                 Home and Internet                 Graphics and design
                                      You need          A display that reproduces crisp     You are looking for display        A large display with a high
                                                        text for office applications        that fits into your overall        resolution support and
                                                                                            PC budget.                         excellent colour reproduc-

                                      Look for          15-inch monitors                    14--inch, 15-inch, or 17-inch      19-inch, or 21-inch moni-
                                                                                            monitors                           tors

                                      Our pick          ViewSonic E53                       ViewSonic PS775, Philips 107T      Samsung SyncMaster
                                                                                                                               955DF, LG StudioWorks
                                                                                                                               995e, LG StudioWorks 221U

                                      Price range       Up to Rs 8,000                      Up to Rs 12,000                    Rs 20,000 and above


96                                                                                                                                            October 2001
■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                           ◆   Digital Still Cameras ◆

                                    Trigger Happy
                                         s little as two years ago anyone buying a digital camera would have had to put down as much as
Also Remember…
■ Memory upgrade could be
available in the form of a Com-
pact Flash card, Smart Media
                                    A    Rs 50,000 for a VGA camera with just 2-4 MB of storage space. These early models were very inef-
                                         ficient in power usage and tended to need a replacement of batteries after every few shots. Other
                                         features such as zooming, which are common in regular cameras, were also missing. However,
                                    in the current market, most mainstream cameras give you mega-pixel resolution (more than 1 mil-
                                    lion pixels), better battery life and even optical zoom lenses, all for as little as Rs 25,000. While Kodak
or Sony's Memory Stick. Some        and Sony are the leading manufacturers, Models from Nikon, Olympus and Epson are also available.
cameras don't allow upgrading,
which is a severe limitation.
                                    TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT
■ Optical zooming is all that       Sensor type: Digital cameras (or film-
counts. Don't take the electron-    less cameras) use either a CCD or CMOS
ic zoom function too seriously.     sensor which captures light and con-
                                    verts it into electrical charge to capture
■ Floppies for storage aren't a     an image. CCD sensors lead to higher
great idea because they tend to     quality images. The size of a CCD sensor
be very unreliable, not to men-     is approximately 4.4x6.6 mm as against
tion the limited capacity.          the 24x36 mm size of the regular film.

■ Look for features such as         SMART TIPS
printing directly from the camera   Resolution: This is often expressed in
through a special cable, taking     megapixels. For example, 2.1 megapixels
sepia photographs, setting the      correspond to about 1600x1200 pixels.
shutter speed, selecting macro
modes, auto focus, etc. Some        Memory: Since cameras come with limited built-in               when you are using the LCD viewfinder. Some manufac-
cameras even let you capture        memory (between 8-16 MB), this becomes a limitation            turers ship their cameras with power adapters which is
short video clips.                  when you are taking photos at higher resolution set-           pretty useful when you are shooting indoors.
                                    tings. At 1600x1200 you’d be able to store just one or two
                                    images in the TIFF format.                                     Separate monochrome display: It makes sense to have
                                                                                                   a separate monochrome display for camera status
                                    Interface: Connection to the computer is via USB or par-       when you are trying to conserve your batteries by
                                    allel port. The USB interface is preferable due to greater     switching off the LCD screen.
                                    convenience and higher data rates.
                                                                                                   Viewfinder: Some cameras have a regular viewfinder in
                                    Power: You will need a set of rechargeable batteries           addition to the small LCD screen that also serves this
                                    because the consumption tends to be high, especially           purpose.

                                                         Casual user                         Photography enthusiast               Professional

                                     You need             To be able to take photos to       High-quality images which       Very high quality photo-
                                                          compile personal albums or         you intend to print.            graphs with onboard adjust-
                                                          publish to the Web                                                 ment for colour and contrast

                                                          Between 640x480 and                1280x1024 resolution with at    2048x2048 or higher with
                                     Look for             1024x768 resolution and 2 MB       least 2x optical zoom and       special lens options and a
                                                          memory; maybe one that dou-        8 MB storage                    minimum 16 MB memory
                                                          bles as a Web cam

                                     Our pick             Intel Pocket PC Camera             Sony DSC-PI, Canon              Nikon D1X (not available in
                                                                                             PowerShot A10, Kodak DC3200     India)

                                     Price range          Around Rs 10,000                   Up to Rs 60,000                 Not available


98                                                                                                                                           October 2001
■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                       ◆   External Storage Devices ◆

                                    Reserve Storage
                                        hether you need to back up important files or transport data from one computer to another, a
Also Remember…
■ Some newer digital cameras
in the market now provide sup-
port for varied media types
                                    W   wide array of external storage options are available to you. From a few megabytes of data to sev-
                                        eral gigabytes, you can be sure to find a unit that suits your storage requirements and, at the
                                        same time, remain budget-friendly.
                                      There are a number of mediums available that facilitate storage of data outside your
such as Iomega’s 40 MB Clik!
disc, miniature CDs and memo-
ry cards to store images. The       SMART TIPS                                                                               Iomega’s Zip drives, for exam-
same media can also be used         Capacity: This really depends on your                                                       ple, are quite popular. The
in PC-based drives for storage      application, or the quantities of                                                           other options are the newer,
and retrieval of conventional       data you need to back up.                                                                  Flash-memory based drives
data.                               There is no real need to                                                                that utilise the USB port on any
                                    go overboard on storage                                                            PC and make data portability even
■ Cost of consumables varies        capacity because prices                                                         simpler.
from Rs 350 (for 100 MB Zip         tend to get on the higher side
media) to Rs. 5,500 for the 2 GB    for both the media and the devices                                      Speed: Random access media such as hard
Jaz discs.                          themselves.                                                       drives, CD flavours and cartridges have the advantage
                                                                                                    of quick access to data stored on the media. If you have
                                    Durability: Media that is enclosed in a casing of               larger data backup requirements then go for a drive
                                    sorts will withstand the test of time better than               with higher speed to save time.
                                    exposed media. CD-ROM discs, which are the most
                                    popular means of data storage nowadays, are highly              Interface: There are a wide variety of interface that are
                                    susceptible to scratches, which means that they                 available, with options ranging from the parallel port to
                                    could be rendered unusable after a short period                 SCSI, USB and IEEE 1394 (or Firewire). While USB and
                                    of time.                                                        parallel port drives work on most PCs the SCSI and
                                                                                                    Firewire give you faster transfer speeds. However,
                                    Portability: If you share your data with others, it makes       you will require either an adapter or a special port to
                                    sense to consider options that are in widespread use.           use these.

                                                           Focus on cost-effectivenes                       Focus on capacity/speed
                                      You need             Basic portability to transfer small to medium   Large data storage capacity and you will go for
                                                           sized files.                                    the maximum capacity available. Speed
                                                                                                           becomes a top concern as well. Price is not a

                                      Look for             Devices with a low price point and a storage    A drive that can store approximately 1 to 2 GB
                                                           capacity of 40 to 250 MB of data. USB is a      of data on a single disc; SCSI or FireWire con-
                                                           better option.                                  nectivity.

                                      Our pick             Iomega Zip drive, Iomega Click!, Trekstore      Iomega Jaz drive, Castlewood ORB drives

                                      Price range          Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000                           Rs 17,000 to Rs 28,000

100                                                                                                                                            October 2001
                                                                   ◆   Game Controllers ◆

                                       Are you Game?
    here are three primary types of controllers—Wheels, Joysticks and Game pads—each of which

T   is best suited to certain game genres. A joystick is the ideal choice for flight simulators while
    game pads and wheels are better suited for driving games. Most first person action games, on
    the other hand, are still best played with a mouse and keyboard combination. Microsoft and Log-
itech might be the big boys but a lot of other smaller brands such as JS Equipments have solid reli-
able units too.
                                                                                                                        Also Remember…
                                                                                                                        ■ A long cable on your con-
                                                                                                                        troller allows you flexibility in
                                                                                                                        the placement of the device
                                                                                                                        and sufficient mobility for some
                                                                                                                        of the more engrossing games.
Ergonomics (and Weight): For any input                                                            Build quality:        ■ Left-handed users will find
device the most important factor is the feel.                                                      Make sure that       that most of the devices are
This is a combination of the weight, balance                                                       the controller       designed primarily for right-
and placement of the buttons. However, a                                                          does not have         handed gamers.
badly designed controller can cause discom-                                                       sharp edges. Joy-
fort and in some cases even tendonitis.                                                            sticks and wheels    ■ You can choose between dig-
                                                                                                     see a lot of       ital and analogue units of which
Buttons: Quality comes before quantity.                                                               rough handling    the digital controllers are easi-
Before getting overawed by the number of but-                                                          and need to be   er to calibrate and provide a
tons, check whether they feel right and that they                                                      particularly     more precise response.
are placed conveniently.                                                                                sturdy.

Configuration/Drivers:                                                                                 Fastening
While a lot of these                                                                                  mechanism:
devices will work with the                                                                   Both the steering
generic Windows drivers,                                                                     wheels and joysticks
device-specific drivers will                                                                  need to be fixed to a
allow you to calibrate,                                                                       stable base. Check that
configure and optimise                                                         the clamp/suction caps that will
controller performance.                                                        attach them to the table are sturdy.

Connector: While the most                                                    Force feedback: These controllers
common connectors use                                                        are much more expensive that then
the joystick port that is present in most soundcards         regular ones but add considerable realism to the
(even the onboard ones), USB-compatible devices are          game play in arcade, driving and flight simulation
becoming increasingly popular.                               games.

                     Steering wheels                   Joysticks                          Gamepads

  You need            Driving games                    Flight sims, arcade games         Sports, driving, arcade

  Look for            Sturdy gearshift lever, foot     Look for at least six config-     The most important criteria
                      pedals and a strong clamping     urable buttons, a POV hat and     is the comfort of the grip.
                      mechanism. Check for the         eight-way direction control.      Also make sure that you
                      comfort of the steering grip     Check for sturdy suction          have at least 8 buttons in
                      and easily accessible buttons    caps.                             addition to the D-Pad.

  Our pick            Logitech WingMan Formula         Microsoft SideWinder Force         Microsoft PnP Gamepad
                      Force                            Feedback 2.0 Logitech             (USB)
                      Microsoft SideWinder Steering    WingMan Extreme Digital 3D        JS Equipment

  Price range         Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,500             Rs 2,500 to Rs 7,500              Rs 600 to Rs 1,500

■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                                 ◆   Graphics Cards ◆

                                      Video Vanguard
                                             ith the demise of 3dfx and with Matrox deciding to concentrate on 2D solutions, ATi and nVidia
Also Remember…
■ All video cards use a VGA
output connector that allows
the signal to be displayed on a
                                      W      are the only high-end graphics card chip manufacturers remaining. Competition has surpris-
                                             ingly been not more in terms of technology but in terms of card manufacturers trying to outdo
                                             each other by trying to offer the best possible solution at a particular price point. Since ATi sells
                                      cards under its own brand name, the various card manufacturers primarily depend only on nVidia
                                      for their chipsets.
monitor. Some cards supply               Mainstream desktop display solutions starting from Rs 1,500 to Rs 36,000 are now available in the
and receive the video signal          market with a great number of manufacturers offering a wide variety of solutions in the low to mid
from television monitors, pro-        segments. This was not the case in earlier times as you had to choose between cheap, low-powered
jectors and video cameras             solutions or very expensive models. However, with an increase in competition, the choices available
through optional coaxial or           have now improved significantly.
S-video interfaces.

■ The feature connector exists        TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                    the monitor. This RAM is very similar to the one
on some cards and supports            The main aim of a graphics accelera-                                                       used as the main memory of
devices a TV tuner or a video         tor is to process the 2D/3D ele-                                                            your system, except that it is
capture board. A special con-         ments associated with the GUI                                                                faster and optimised for
nector is used to connect the         and applications such as a game or                                                         working with video and graphi-
video card to these additional        software. The execution of graphics                                                   cal information.
devices through a flat ribbon         involves the transfer of texture maps, image
cable.                                geometry, commands etc over to the accelerator for                            RAMDAC: The Random Access Memory
                                      processing.                                                               Digital to Analog Converter is that chip on the
■ Memory bandwidth refers to                                                                           graphics card which converts the digital information in
the rate at which data is trans-      SMART TIPS                                                       the frame buffer (video memory) into a signal that can
ferred between the graphics           Graphics processor: The core of a graphics card, this is         be displayed on your monitor. The RAMDAC on a graph-
processor and graphics memo-          the component that actually processes the video infor-           ics accelerator is specified by a frequency. The higher
ry. If you have a card that utilis-   mation that is sent to it. Some of the best graphics             the frequency of the RAMDAC, the greater are the reso-
es DDR SDRAM, operating at            processors in the market are the nVidia GeForce3, ATi            lutions and the refresh rates that can be supported by
an effective rate of 301 MHz          Radeon 8500 and the 3dfxVoodoo 5 6000.                           the card.
(say the GeForce DDR), you can
calculate its memory band-            Video RAM : Video RAM on the graphics card is used to            Interface: The best choice available today is the AGP
width as follows:                     store the extensive graphical information like textures          interface, which provides a very high-speed pathway
128-bit (16 bytes) x 301 MHz =        of the 3D objects. It is also used in the frame buffer, the      for moving large quantities of graphic and image data
16 x 301 = 4.81 GBps                  part that holds the final frame that is to be displayed on       between the graphics card and the rest of the system.
Compared to 460 MHz (for the
Geforce2 ULTRA), where
128-bit (16 bytes) x 460 MHz =                           Limited budget (support for
                                                                                               Should run most games, but      Top-notch performance in
16 x 460 = 7.36 GBps                                     decent refresh rates at low to
                                                                                               price is a consideration        2D/3D, price no bar!
Compared to 125 MHz (for the                             medium resolutions)
TNT2 M64), where                        You need          A card that will run at 32-bit        A card that will give you a    Maximum performance with all
64-bit (16 bytes) x 125 MHz =                             high colour at 1024x768 at 85 Hz      minimum of 30 fps in low to    the eye candy enabled and no
8 x 125 = 1 GBps                                          with support for the odd game         medium resolutions with a      compromise on either resolu-
     This clearly illustrates the                         at low resolutions                    little compromise in quality   tion or quality
difference that the memory
speed causes on the total               Look for          Cheaper or lower variants of          A card with at least 16 MB     A card with 32-64 MB RAM
memory bandwidth available.                               faster chips. At least a card         or more memory running at      running at 166 MHz (preferably
                                                          using the AGP interface with          100 MHz or higher              DDR); with deluxe features like
                                                          minimum 8 MB onboard RAM                                             VIVO and stereo glasses

                                        Our pick          Galaxy Riva TNT2 M64                  AOpen PA256 GeForce2 MX        ASUS AGP V7700 GeForce2
                                                                                                                               GTS, ASUS AGP V8200
                                                                                                                               GeForce3 Deluxe
                                        Price range       Up to Rs 2,500                        From Rs 2,500 to Rs 8,000      Rs 8,000 to Rs 36,000

104                                                                                                                                               October 2001
                                                             ◆   Hard Drive (IDE and SCSI) ◆

                                           Pick a Platter
    ome of the most dramatic decreases in prices of computer hardware have been that of hard disk

S   drives. You can now get an entry-level 20 GB IDE hard disk for as little as Rs 4,600, which is just
    25 paise per MB! The entry-level 5400 rpm drives deliver sequential read/write speeds of about
    25MBps which is sufficient for applications like word processors, Internet surfing, etc. These
drives are at least ATA/66 compliant (which implies a peak theoretical transfer rate of 66 MBps).
   The higher performance 7200 rpm IDE models are generally ATA/100 compliant and are ideally
                                                                                                                             Also Remember…
                                                                                                                             ■ Your drives performance will
                                                                                                                             see a major improvement (up to
suited to applications like audio and video processing. The prices for these drives begin from Rs 6,800                      25-30 per cent) if Direct Memo-
for a 20 GB unit. When it comes to sheer performance, however, SCSI still takes the honours with                             ry Access (DMA) is enabled in
Ultra160 SCSI—a standard that promises a theoretical transfer rate of 160MBps. However, this tech-                           your system.
nology comes at a price.
                                                                                                                             ■ If you are buying a SCSI
                                                                                                                             drive, you will need to buy an
SMART TIPS                                                                    Average seek time: This is the average         appropriate SCSI adapter
Capacity: For most users an                                                       time taken by the drive to access data     depending on the SCSI stan-
entry-level 20 GB drive                                                                which is stored on the drive. A       dard that the drive uses.
would be sufficient. Howev-                                                                time that is between 5.5 to
er, IDE drives of capacity up                                                                    10 seconds is accept-       ■ Most new drives incorporate
to 100 GB are available.                                                                         able for most main-         some form of noise reduction
SCSI models are available in                                                                     stream applications.        technology. This will impact
sizes ranging from 4.3 GB to 80 GB                                                                                           drive performance by about 5-7
depending on the drive rpm.                                                                        Data buffer (cache):      per cent but makes for much
                                                                                                This is the amount of        quieter operation.
Rotational speed : This refers to the spindle                                             onboard memory that the drive
rpm of the drive under consideration. Higher spin-                               possesses. It increases transfer speeds     ■ If you have an ATA/100 or a
dle speeds lead to faster read/write performance.                          when data is copied from one location in the      SCSI drive, make sure that you
These range from 5400 to 7200 rpm for IDE drives and              drive to another. This ranges from 512 KB in the 5400-     have the correct cables to con-
7200 to 15000 rpm for SCSI models.                               rpm drives to as much as 2 MB in the 7200-rpm               nect your hard disk to the sys-
                                                                 IDE models.                                                 tem. For example, an ATA/100
Sustained data transfer rates: This is a measure of the                                                                      hard disk drive will work if you
drive’s performance in terms of data transfer to and             Motherboard/IDE controller card: In order to tap the full   use a standard 40-pin, 40-con-
from the drive. This should be about 20-30 MBps for              potential of a hard drive, you need to make sure that       ductor cable. However, for it to
5400-rpm drives and 30-50 MBps for 7200-rpm                      your motherboard’s IDE controller supports the same         function as an ATA/100 drive,
drives.                                                          specification (ATA-66/100) interface.                       you will need a 40-pin 80-con-
                                                                                                                             ductor cable.

                                                       Performance-hungry home            Specialist high-bandwidth
                     General home use
                                                       and office applications            applications
  You need          A hard disk for general appli-     Larger amounts of dataI trans-      A hard disk that will support
                    cations such as word pro-          fer as you're running more          applications that demand the
                    cessing and Internet surfing       demanding applications like         highest in performance and
                                                       image editing and animation         reliability like video capture.

  Look for          20 GB minimum at 5400 rpm,         30 GB minimum at 7200 rpm,          Minimum 10000-rpm drive,
                    supporting ATA-66 transfer         supporting ATA-100 transfer         supporting Ultra2 SCSI or
                    rates. Go for the largest          rates. Go for the largest           better transfer rates. Choose
                    capacity that fits your            capacity that fits your budget      capacity according to your
                    budget                                                                 application.

  Our pick          Seagate U10 20GB                   Seagate Barrucudda ATA-             Seagate Cheetah SCSI
                                                       III/IV, IBM Deskstar 75GXP          Ultra160

  Price range       Up to Rs 6,500                     Up to Rs 10,000                     Rs 15,000 to Rs 40,000

■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                               ◆   Inkjet Printers ◆

                                A Coloured World
                                      nkjet printers have become really popular due to the fact that they provide users with the ability to
Also Remember…
■ Cartridge life is usually
expressed keeping in mind just
5 per cent of the page being
                                    I print in colour at a fraction of the cost of even basic monochrome laser printers. This popularity
                                      has been driven in large part by the fact that people with computers at home want the ability to
                                      print documents, greeting cards and photos from their personal albums.
                                       Hewlett-Packard, Epson and Canon are some of the heavyweights in this segment. HP and Canon
                                    use a thermal inkjet printing technology, while Epson uses its own piezoelectric printing process.
covered by ink. The practical          Prices for entry-level inkjet printers begin from about Rs 5,000 and go up to about Rs 50,000.
life of a cartridge will vary       Most users however will probably find a suitable printer for less than Rs 15,000.
according to type of printing
                                    TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                             cost of printing each colour page is higher
■ Cartridge cost is an impor-       Inkjets work by impinging charged ink                                          than comparable colour laser printers, the
tant consideration. You also        particles onto paper by using magne-                                           price of the printer itself is much lower.
need to consider the cost of        tised plates to direct the ink into the
exchanging a print head, which      required patterns. They are well suit-                                          Connections: Check to see that your
is almost half the cost of the      ed to producing both quality text and                                            computer has the right kind of port for
printer. The average lifecycle of   images. Several models are capable of                                           the printer you have selected. While
a print head is around 18           printing photo realistic images, though for                                    newer models have USB ports, the paral-
months for most users.              best results you need to use special paper.                          lel port models are also quite common. For net-
                                                                                                    works, a printer should be able connect directly to the
■ To judge print quality, take a    SMART TIPS                                                      network.
look at a few sample printouts      Resolution: This is measured in dots per inch, which is a
on plain paper before making a      rough measure of the image quality you can expect.              Paper and ink capacity: The cost of consumables for
decision.                           There are image-processing techniques, however, that            inkjet printers can be quite high and cartridges will
                                    can improve the output quality considerably. Edge               need regular replacement. Low-end printers use a sin-
■ Dpi ratings can be somewhat       enhancement and Print Image Matching are two such               gle colour cartridge that requires replacement whenev-
misleading.                         technologies.                                                   er any one of the three colours runs out. High-end
                                                                                                    printers use separate cartridges for each ink type.
■ Duplexing is the ability to       Speed: Print speed will vary according to the type of
print on both sides of a page. It   material that you are printing and the print mode that          Paper handling: Check that the printer can accommo-
is a useful paper saving feature    you have selected. Print speeds are usually inversely           date the paper sizes and volumes you plan to use.
but usually costs extra.            proportional to print quality.
                                                                                                    Memory: Printers come with a buffer (RAM), which is a
                                    Colour: Although low-end inkjets don’t offer great quali-       temporary store for information. A larger buffer allows
                                    ty, the high-end ones offer photo quality output when           storage of high-resolution documents or a larger num-
                                    printed at high resolution on glossy paper. Although the        ber of regular documents.

                                                                                                                             Photorealistic printing
                                                      Home use                         Intermediate (under Rs 15,000)
                                                                                                                             (under Rs 30,000)
                                      You need         Average output quality          Faster printing and are willing to     Something that can give you
                                                       and you are OK with slow        pay a little extra for larger paper    photorealistic printouts and
                                                       speeds. A low purchase          size options and higher print          are not willing to compromise
                                                       price is important              quality                                on quality

                                      Look for         An A4 printer with the          Faster print speeds and options        Printers with resolution in the
                                                       ability to print colour.        such as photo cartridges or larger     order of 1200x1200 dpi,
                                                       Resolution of 1440x720 dpi      paper sizes up to A3. These print-     2400x1200 dpi, or 2880x1440
                                                       would be sufficient             ers offer better print quality and     dpi. You might want the option
                                                                                       longer life per ink cartridge          of six-colour printing
                                      Our pick         Canon BJC 3000, Epson
                                                       Stylus Color 880                Lexmark Z52                            HP DeskJet 990Cxi
                                      Price range      Up to Rs 8,000                  Up to Rs 15,000                        Up to Rs. 30,000

106                                                                                                                                            October 2001
                                                                     ◆   Keyboards ◆

                               A Key to Comfort
    he market as of now is full of choices as far as keyboards are concerned. You can find a cheap, no-

T   frills keyboard that is sturdy and does the job at a rock bottom price of Rs 300. At the other end
    of the spectrum, you can also find a feature-rich keyboard loaded with shortcut keys and USB ports
    built in, which could cost you up to Rs 3,500.
   Samsung offers some of the sturdiest keyboards, though Acer keyboards are also a good choice if
you are looking for a value solution. If you want good looks along with a reasonable choice of fea-
                                                                                                                    Also Remember…
                                                                                                                    ■ Learning to type on any of
                                                                                                                    the ergonomic keyboards can
                                                                                                                    take a while and may not be
tures then you could go in for keyboards from Maple or Logitech.                                                    worth the effort unless you do a
   There are several types to choose from, including the normal 104-button PS/2 keyboards and the                   lot of typing.
newer cordless models that use radio waves or infrared rays to communicate.
                                                                                                                    ■ Not all keyboards come with
                                                                                                                    a palmrest but this provides the
TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                          connector. If you have a free USB port you could con-   user with some comfort while
Layout                                                      sider a more expensive USB compatible model.            typing for prolonged periods.
The QWERTY layout is the most popular one in business,                                                              They are now available even
but some people prefer the ergonomic models. The Nat-                                                               with some of the lowest priced
ural and split keyboards from Microsoft are exam-                                                                   models.
ples of these.
                                                                                                                    ■ While shortcut keys (custom
SMART TIPS                                                                                                          keys) can be useful for every-
Keyboard construction: This can be                                                                                  one, they are especially useful
critical in terms of reducing the                                                                                   for those who don’t have a clue
chance of stress-related injuries. The                                                                              about the regular Windows and
choices available include mechanical                                                                                Internet shortcut key combina-
keyboards, which are more responsive                                                                                tions.
but tend to be noisier and membrane key-
boards, which are quieter and more comfort-
able to type with.

Connectors: Most keyboards have switched to the
PS/2 connector format, but if you have an older PC you
might have a port which requires an old AT style

                    General use                     Heavy user                      Neat and tidy
  You need          To do small amounts of typ-     To do large volumes of typing    A neat keyboard. You just
                    ing and use your machine        tasks and you are a heavy        can't stand the mess caused
                    primarily for the Internet      user of the keyboard             by a tangle of cables

                    A standard 104-key keyboard     An ergonomically designed        Infrared or radio frequency
                    preferably with configurable    keyboard to avoid stress-        based cordless keyboards
  Look for          shortcut keys.                  related injuries

  Our pick          Samsung SDL1500                 Microsoft Natural Keyboard       Logitech Cordless Freedom

  Price range       Up to Rs 500                    Up to Rs 3,000                   Up to Rs 5,000

■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                                  ◆   Laser Printers ◆

                                               Laser Lites
                                           hile laser printers are still primarily used in office environments, they also find appeal where
Also Remember…
■ Cartridge life is usually
expressed keeping in mind just
5 per cent of the page being
                                     W     people are looking for fast, high-quality, economical and hassle-free printing. While colour
                                           laser printers are way out of the reach of most of us, an entry-level monochrome model is now
                                           pretty affordable.
                                        HP, Lexmark, Canon and Xerox are firmly established players in a segment that has seen new
                                     entrants such as Epson. Prices begin from about Rs 17,000 for a basic laser printer and go up to over
covered by ink. The practical        Rs 1,00,000 for a full-blown network printer.
life of a cartridge will vary
according to type of printing
done.                                TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                 Connections: Check that your computer has the right
                                     A laser printer uses a non-impact photo-                                    kind of port for the printer you have select-
■ Duplexing and ADF: This is         copier type technology. It uses a                                              ed. While newer models have USB ports,
the ability to print on both sides   laser beam to draw the docu-                                                    parallel port models are also quite
of a page. It is a useful paper      ment on a selenium-coated                                                        common. For networks, a printer
saving feature but usually costs     drum using electrical charges.                                                    should be able to connect directly to
slightly more, although some         The drum is then rolled in                                                              the network and support the
high-end laser printers include      toner (a dry powder-like ink).                                                              kind of protocols you use.
duplexing as a built-in feature.     The toner adheres to the
                                     charged image on the drum and                                                               Postscript: It is very important
                                     is transferred onto a piece of paper                                                    to have postscript support in a
                                     and fused to it with heat and pressure.                                            laser printer. This can considerably
                                     The final result is just like a regular plain                                decrease the time taken to print vector
                                     paper print.                                                     graphics—a decided advantage as laser printers are
                                                                                                      often used in pre-press set-ups and other such graph-
                                     SMART TIPS                                                       ics-intensive print processes to create colour separa-
                                     Resolution: The entry level resolution for laser printers        tion prints etc.
                                     nowadays is about 600x600 dpi. For high-end printers
                                     the resolution can be as high as 1200x1200 dpi. In laser         Paper and toner capacity: The cost of consumables can
                                     printers, a 600 dpi text printout can supersede an Inkjet        be quite high if you plan not to use refilled toner car-
                                     printer’s output at similar resolutions in terms of quality      tridges. As laser printers operate at considerably higher
                                     and sharpness, as there isn’t any smudging or spread-            speeds and handle heavy print loads, it is necessary to
                                     ing of ink.                                                      have larger paper trays/multiple paper trays as well as
                                                                                                      output bins. Check that the printer can accommodate
                                     Speed: Print speed will vary according to the type of            the paper sizes and volumes you plan to use.
                                     images and the print mode that you have selected.
                                     Laser printers offer speeds much higher than their               Memory: Printers come with a buffer (RAM), which is a
                                     Inkjet counterparts. Beginning at about 6 pages per              temporary store for information. A larger buffer allows
                                     minute (ppm), the speed can go as high as 45 ppm                 storage of high-resolution documents or a larger num-
                                     or more.                                                         ber of regular documents.

                                                         Medium volume printing                        Heavy-duty printing
                                       You need          Average output quality and are satisfied      Faster printing and are willing to pay extra for higher
                                                         with slow speeds as long as it is at a low    print quality
                                                         purchase price

                                       Look for          An A4 only printer with a resolution of       Faster print speeds and higer resolution (about
                                                         600X1200 dpi                                  1200x1200) and the ability to handle larger print loads

                                       Our pick          Minolta QMS PagePro 1100                      Lexmark Optra M412, HP LaserJet 1220se

                                       Price range       Up to Rs. 20,000                              Up to Rs. 50,000


108                                                                                                                                                October 2001
■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                               ◆   Motherboards ◆

                                    The Right Base
                                        he scenario in the motherboard market has radically changed over the past one year or so. It is a
Also Remember…
■ Look for onboard USB ports
and options for additional USB
                                    T   change similar to the Indian automobile market where Indian consumers, who had just a couple
                                        of choices earlier, could choose from a glut of cars available after liberalisation. There are now
                                        choices for every single type of consumer need, beginning from simple ‘Plain Jane’ motherboards
                                    to fully featured powerhouses for every single type of mainstream processor. However, keeping ahead
                                    of the technology curve for motherboards could mean investing thousands of rupees each year. There
                                    are ways in which you can avoid this constant upheaval of hardware and it begins by choosing the right
■ Check for the maximum CPU         technology and feature set. This alone can ensure that your PC is ready to tackle the next-generation
speed supported.                    hardware. You can now also find a lot of boards and brands offering platforms for the AMD
■ Onboard thermal and fan
speed monitoring (for servers
and power users).                   TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                               processors (Duron and Athlon) require
                                    The primary function of the mother-                                                   VIA KT133 chipset based mother-
■ Voltage and Bus speed             board is to be able to pro-                                                                 boards.
tweaking (for the overclockers).    vide a substrate upon
                                    which other components                                                                       Interface slots: These slots
■ ATX or BABY AT (ATX power         such as the processor and                                                                are used to connect add-on
supply has better power man-        RAM can reside. Since different                                                    cards such as a soundcard or a net-
agement features).                  types of components reside on the                                            work card to the computer. There are pri-
                                    motherboard, it also has to be capable                                 marily three types of slots found on today’s
■ Check for ACPI compliant          of coordinating the flow of information                           motherboards, that is ISA (fading away), PCI and AGP.
BIOS (for better power man-         between these various components and orches-                    PCI cards are the most common. The AGP interface is
agement).                           trate the transfer of data and information within the sys-      meant solely for high-speed graphics cards.
■ Number of IDE devices sup-                                                                        RAM slots: SDRAM is the most popular option although
ported. The higher the better.      SMART TIPS                                                      DDR-SDRAM is slowly making headway. Most boards
                                    Processor interface: This is the socket on the mother-          have at least two slots, but more expensive models have
■ Support for Ultra ATA-100,        board that is used to mount the processor on the board. If      four slots for RAM. The total amount of RAM that you can
ATA-66 IDE standards.               categorised according to processor interface, there are         install is also dependant on your motherboard chipset.
                                    generally five types of slots available: Socket 7, Socket
■ Check for the highest FSB         370, Socket A, Slot 1 and Slot A.                               BIOS: Every motherboard carries a special circuitry
(Front Side Bus) speed                                                                              called the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) that exists
supported.                          Chipset: Different chipsets are used to support functions       on a ROM chip. The ‘jumperless’ motherboards that are
                                    that are offered by the board, the RAM and, more impor-         the norm today, allow all parameters—ranging from the
■ Support for ECC (Error Cor-       tantly, the processor used in the system. For example,          processor core voltage and clock multiplier to the con-
rection Capability) RAM.            the Intel i815e chipset supports Pentium III (Copper-           figuration and control of the integrated peripherals—to
                                    mine) and Celeron processors up to 1 GHz. AMD                   be automatically detected and configured.
■ Integrated features such as
onboard soundcard and display
card (for SoHo users).                                   Bare necessities                  Amateur enthusiast                Performance seeker
                                      You need           Basic support for current         Flexibility and upgradeability    Maximum performance and
■ Look for features like Wake-                           processors and peripherals                                          overclockability
on-Modem-ring (integrated into
the BIOS) that allows the com-        Look for           Minimum 3 PCI slots with          Minimum five PCI slots, three     The latest chipset for your
puter to power on automatically                          integrated sound and video        RAM slots, an AGP 4x slot, in     processor and options for
for receiving faxes.                                     in the Micro-ATX format           the ATX format.                   easy over clocking

                                      Our pick           Mercury KOB815FST (Intel),        Soltek SL65ME (Intel), Soltek     ASUS CUSL2 (Intel), ASUS
                                                         DFI AM35EC (AMD)                  SL75KAV (AMD), AOpen AX4T         A7V133 (AMD), ASUS P4T
                                                                                           (Pentium 4)                       (Pentium 4)

                                      Price range        Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000              Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000              Rs 8,000 and above


110                                                                                                                                           October 2001
■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                                ◆   MP3 Players ◆

                                    Shades of Music
                                           hen they first entered the Indian market, these devices were exorbitantly priced, but this sce-
Also Remember…
■ Some devices come with
voice recording capability. This
                                    W      nario is changing. With the explosion in the number of such devices available abroad, a ripple
                                           effect is being seen here in the Indian markets, with prices dropping and greater variety avail-
                                       The most commonly available MP3 players are the solid-state devices with storage capacity begin-
                                    ning from 32 MB. There are two major Flash RAM standards in use today—Compact Flash and the
would allow you to use the          newer Smart Media. Since memory is the most expensive component of an MP3 player, it has a major
player as a dictaphone.             impact on the overall cost of the device. Popular brands in India include Creative and Diamond’s Rio.
                                    The prices range from Rs 8,000 to Rs 25,000.
■ Built-in FM tuner is a useful
feature on a long journey when
you have had your fill of the       TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                 format using a built-in Codec.
songs stored in the player’s        Most devices use Flash RAM (minimum 32
memory.                             MB) but some newer models can read                                              File transfer Interface: This is the
                                    MP3 CDs instead. A few products use a                                                   medium for the transfer of MP3
■ It is useful if the MP3 player    hard disk (6 GB for the Creative Juke-                                                        files between the player
can play back other file formats    box) as their primary storage medi-                                                                 and your PC. The
such as WMA.                        um. Flash memory, however,                                                                          most popular
                                    completely eliminates skip-                                                                         method is through a
■ Make sure that you have the       ping.                                                                                             serial cable, which
right port (parallel or USB) free                                                                                                   connects to your PC’s
on your PC.                         SMART TIPS                                                                                    parallel port. Newer
                                    LCD screen: A backlit dis-                                                                 devices use the hot-plug-
■ Encoding your own MP3s is         play that allows you to                                                                  gable USB interface, which
a very CPU-intensive task.          view track and status infor-                                                           allows faster file transfers.
Make sure that you have a rea-      mation is very useful. Most play-
sonably powerful processor (at      ers have single or two-line displays                                            Memory expansion: You can buy
least 400 MHz) on your PC. Oth-     but some (like the Lyra) feature a multi-line                                 add-on memory modules (Compact
erwise it would take you quite a    16-character by 6-line dot matrix display capable of                        Flash cards or by Flash RAM) depending
while to encode or transfer         displaying ASCII characters.                                              upon the standard supported by the
MP3s.                                                                                            device. Make sure that the player supports memory
                                    Control and menu navigation keys: Similar to regular CD      upgrades in case you decide you need it in the future.
                                    players, you have buttons for functions such as Play,
                                    Stop, Forward, Rewind, Search, Random, Programmable          Headphones: The headphones that come bundled with
                                    tracks, etc. Additional shortcut and navigation keys are     most MP3 players are usually of a low quality. If you are
                                    a welcome addition.                                          a connoisseur you should look around for better-quality
                                                                                                 headphones from brands like Sony, Sennheiser or Koss.
                                    Batteries: The digital signal processor forms the heart of   Here again, make sure that you actually try out the
                                    the MP3 player and performs the task of decoding, pro-       headphones with the device before you actually put
                                    cessing and converting the MP3 data into audible audio       down the money for it.

                                                       Easy listening                                     Music enthusiast
                                      You need         A player that lets you play MP3 tracks when        A player that you intend to live with and want
                                                       you are on the move.                               your entire music collection accessible.

                                      Look for         A player that uses Flash RAM and has at least      A player that uses either a hard-disk or CDs as
                                                       64MB of memory with the option to upgrade          the medium for storing music

                                      Our pick         Creative NOMAD Jukebox C, Philips eXpanium         Creative NOMAD Jukebox C, Philips eXpanium

                                      Price range      Up to Rs 15,000                                    Up to Rs 25,000

112                                                                                                                                         October 2001
                                                                           ◆   Notebooks ◆

                                                 Note Perfect
     otebooks come at a premium, but for anyone who needs to be mobile, it’s a premium that’s

N    worth paying. Laptops generally lag considerably behind desktop PCs in absolute performance
     and upgrades can be really expensive. Four manufacturers, namely Compaq, Toshiba, IBM, and
     Dell dominate the international laptop market. Most of the laptops however, are actually man-
ufactured in Taiwan.
                                                                                                                                   Also Remember…
                                                                                                                                   ■ Laptop upgrade cost a bomb,
                                                                                                                                   so make sure that you go for a
                                                                                                                                   system that will satisfy your
SMART TIPS                                                                                 swappable bay gives you greater         needs (without upgrades) for
Size/weight: The weight ranges from 1.5 kg to                                             flexibility.                             the next couple of years at
4 kg and it could be as small as 1 inch in thick-                                                                                  least.
ness. External power supplies and peripherals                                        Hard drive: Capacity ranges from 6
can add considerably to the weight.                                                 GB to 50 GB. Most users find 12-20 GB          ■ While all mobile processors
                                                                                    enough. You don’t save much by going           have some kind of built-in
Display: This will require a compromise if                                         for a smaller drive, and you pay a lot          power management technology
you decide on an ultra-                                                            more for the bigger drives.                     and several power saving
portable model. Most                                                                                                               options, battery life is always a
diplays now support                                                                Communication: Look for a built-in 56K          concern (especially due to the
1024x768 pixels and a 14-inch note-                                            modem with a RJ-45 connector for your phone         display).
book display may be larger than most 15-inch                      line. If you spend a lot of time on a network, you will also
desktop CRT units.                                                want a built-in Ethernet port. While IrDA is available on        ■ An additional battery pack, a
                                                                  many units, this has not really been a popular option.           video-out port, an external vol-
Processor: While the Crusoe, Duron and Athlon 4                                                                                    ume control and a graphical
mobile processors are available, Intel P-III and Celeron          Pointing device: You can choose between a pointing               battery life indicator are all very
processors are more popular.                                      stick (like IBMs Trackpoint), or a touch pad. Pointers           useful.
                                                                  are easier to control but can give you a sore finger
Battery: Realistically, the up time for most lithium ion bat-     especially if used for a long stretch of time.                   ■ If you go for a top-end sys-
tery powered models would be about three to four hours.                                                                            tem, you should be prepared to
                                                                  Ports: Most peripheral devices connect to a USB port;            pay a heavy premium. A better
Keyboard: If you are going to be doing a lot of typing, a         make sure you have at least two USB ports. You will              choice would be to try and
larger keyboard will add considerably to your comfort.            also need parallel (for printers), serial, and PS/2 (for         anticipate your requirements in
Having the eight cursor-control keys is very important.           keyboard/mice) ports.                                            the foreseeable future and look
                                                                                                                                   for a match for them.
Drives/bays: Makes sense to have all the drives (floppy,          Docking stations: This is useful if you are using your
DVD/CD ROM) built into the main casing. However, a hot-           notebook as a desktop replacement.                               ■ Most notebooks come with a
                                                                                                                                   one-year warranty on parts and
                                                                                                                                   labour, though options for two-
                  General                               Desktop replacement                  Ultraportable                         or three-year warranties are
                                                                                                                                   available at an extra cost.
  You need         A lightweight model but still       Something that gives you all          An ultra light notebook; some-
                                                                                                                                   Make sure a service centre
                   don’t want to sacrifice screen      the functionality of your exist-      thing with a bit more panache
                   and keyboard size                   ing desktop PC                                                              that stocks spares is easily
                                                                                                                                   accessible to you.
                   A model that has an extra bay       Something that weighs about           There are certain tradeoffs
                   that would hold a CD/DVD-           4 kg and has a 15-inch display        such as a somewhat cramped
  Look for         ROM, floppy drive, add-on           (1280x1024 SXGA). Most                keyboard and a smaller (and
                   battery or even a CD-RW             peripherals are accommodat-           maybe lower resolution) display.
                   drive. These generally will         ed within the laptop chassis          The connectivity options are
                   offer a 13/14-inch XGA display                                            usually limited and battery life is
                   and weigh less than 3 kg

  Our pick         Zenith 21A                          Niskibuki 1GHz                        ACI Profile III
                                                       IBM Thinkpad, A21M                    Compaq Presario 17XL361

  Price range      Up to 1,20,000                      Up to Rs 2,00,000                     Up to Rs 1,50,000

■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                    ◆   Personal Computers (Desktop) ◆

                                                 PC Mania
                                         desktop PC is an amalgamation of several components described in other sections of this guide.

Also Remember…
■ When deciding on a configu-
ration for your PC don’t just go
                                    A    This makes deciding which PC to buy a considerably more complicated task. Whether you are
                                         interested in buying a system being offered by a prominent brand or want to pick each and every
                                         component and have it put together with your local assembler, you need to know what exactly
                                    to look for.
                                        Anyone buying a PC today is pretty spoilt for choice. You have a wide range of pretty powerful sys-
ahead and start picking the         tems available in the market today. And the cost isn't too steep either. With recent price reductions
components. It makes sense to       you can now get a high-performance Pentium 4 or Athlon-based PC for less than Rs 45,000.
start with a list of what you
want to use the PC for and the
amount of money that you are        SMART TIPS
willing to spend.                   Monitor: Refer to the guide to CRT                                           Storage: Refer to the hard disk drive guide
                                    monitors on page 96.                                                                     on page 105 and external stor-
■ While most people seem to                                                                                                        age devices guide on
just want an Intel processor        Keyboard and mouse: Refer                                                                     page (XX)
inside, you should have a look      to the keyboard guide on
at AMD’s Duron and Athlon           page 107 and the pointing                                                                       Floppy and DVD/CD-ROM
procesors which deserve seri-       devices guide on page 117.                                                                     drives: Refer to the
ous consideration.                                                                                                                DVD/CD-ROM guide on
                                    Processor: Refer to the processor guide on                                                 page 100.
■ Microsoft’s Windows XP is         page 118.
due for launch in the near                                                                         Sound: Refer to the speakers guide on page 121.
future and will require systems     Motherboard: Refer to the motherboard guide on page
with higher hardware configu-       110.                                                           Cabinet: Refer to Agent 001's report on buying cabinets
rations than the current gener-                                                                    on page 153.
ation of operating systems.         Memory: Check for the type of RAM supported by your
Make sure you keep this in          motherboard. PC133 SDRAM is the best choice for new            Operating system: Today, for most people the choice is
mind if you are buying a PC         PCs. However, Pentium 4 systems require either the more        between Windows Me/98 and Windows 2000 that costs
today.                              expensive RDRAM, or in some cases DDR SDRAM.                   considerably more.

■ Most new motherboards
come with sound integrated
into them. However, if you are
considering buying a quality set
of speakers then it is worth                            Budget PC                      Midrange PC                              Performance
spending the extra money on a         You need          A low-cost PC for occasion-    A PC for running applications that       A PC with the best possible
good four-channel PCI sound                             al gaming, small-time office   are fairly graphics and processor        combination of performance
card.                                                   usage, Internet surfing, and   intensive such as entertainment          and features and are willing
                                                        perhaps a few processor-       and gaming and are ready to shell        to pay the premium this
                                                        intensive applications         out a little extra for the added per-    requires

                                      Look for          A Celeron/Duron-class          A better motherboard (815 chipset        At least a Pentium 4 1.4 GHz
                                                        processor rated at 600 to      instead of 810) with onboard TNT2        and above or AMD Athlon
                                                        900 MHz with a standard        or Savage Pro graphics card.             1.2 GHz with 256 MB of
                                                        5400-rpm 20-GB hard disk       Storage would generally be a 20-         RAM, 7200-rpm 40-GB hard
                                                        and integrated sound and       40 GB hard disk                          drive with a GeForce-class
                                                        multimedia                                                              graphics card

                                      Our pick          Nebula Qmax Triad              VisuaLan Lavish P4, VisuaLan             Dell Dimension 8100, Amdell
                                                                                       Lavish PIII                              Monster PC1400

                                      Price range       Up to Rs 35,000                Rs 35,000 to 50,000                      Rs 50,000 and above


114                                                                                                                                            October 2001
■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                        ◆   Personal Digital Assistants ◆

                           Handheld Harmony
                                           andheld PCs are moving towards becoming a commodity, just like mobile phones. In the past

Also Remember…
■ Opt for USB ports if you want
to transfer large amounts of
                                     H     few months, a bagful of handhelds have been introduced in India, ranging from the cheap and
                                           efficient Psion and Palm m100 models to the powerful and feature-rich Pocket PC devices such
                                           as the Cassiopeia and the Compaq iPaq. However, all PDAs aren’t made equal. Each represents a
                                     different mix of memory, speed, software, display, input devices, expansion slots and packaging and
                                     size, which makes some more suitable than others for a certain kind of work.
data between your handheld               As of now, Palm OS is the market leader with good manufacturer and developer support, but
and your PC.                         Pocket PC is fast gaining popularity too.

■ From wireless modems to a
digital music player, you can just   SMART TIPS                                                                         the information on the ROM.
add the accessory and get a          Operating System: The main choice
new functionality added. Hand-       is between the Palm OS and Win-                                                    Display/Touch screen: Go for a
spring’s springboard connector,      dows PocketPC. Each has its own                                                    backlit display for greater conven-
Palm’s Expansion Card Slot, and      strengths, Palm OS is simple and                                                   ience. Also check whether the
the iPaq’s Expansion Sleeves         fast, Windows Pocket PC is slick.                                                  screen is coated with a scratch-
are ways to upgrade your hand-       Other less popular options are Sym-                                                resistant skin. Colour is cool, if you
held to add functionality. How-      bian EPOC and Agenda Computing’s                                                   can afford it.
ever, the expansion modules are      VR3 Linux.
generally very costly.                                                                                                   Interface/Input devices: Most PDAs
                                     RAM: A common RAM (either Static                                                    come with a touch screen and a Sty-
■ Audio playback/recording           or Flash) is used for storage as well as                                            lus for navigation and text input.
offers low audio quality and is      to run applications. While 8 MB RAM is                                              Palm uses its proprietary Graffiti
really useful only as a dictation    sufficient for Palm models, it would leave                                        handwriting system that makes you
tool.                                a Pocket PC device gasping for breath.                                        learn the way a specific character needs
                                                                                                    to be written. You get used to it with a few hours of
■ Customisable shortcut keys         CPU: Palm devices use either 16 or 33 MHz DragonBall           experimentation. By default, PocketPC comes with a
offer you quick access to cer-       processors from Motorola. For the Pocket PC, there are         Graffiti-like handwriting recognition system, but a better
tain features. Make sure they        three popular CPU platforms, each with its own data            option is a program called Transcriber which is avail-
are sturdy and comfortable.          structures and application types. An application written       able for free from Microsoft’s Web site.
                                     for one CPU isn’t necessarily compatible for another,
■ Look for a memory expansion        unless re-compiled. The choices are between the                Batteries: Some of the low-end handhelds use regular
slot. The ability to upgrade the     Hitachi SH3, Motorola’s MIPS processors and the most           off-the-shelf alkaline batteries. Having replaceable bat-
memory can increase the lifes-       powerful Intel Strong ARM, which looks like becoming           teries allows you to switch batteries whenever you are
pan of your handheld. Openly         the default choice down the line.                              running low. If your handheld comes with rechargeable
accepted mobile memory stan-                                                                        batteries, it should offer at-least a day of usage time in
dards like MMC and Compact           ROM: The ROM stores the OS that runs on your hand-             regular conditions. Lithium ion / Lithium polymer have
Flash media are preferable to        held, and there is no separate BIOS/Boot loader in             the best battery life and the ability to recharge at any
proprietary memory expansion         handhelds. Only some devices will allow you to upgrade         point in time.
sleeves offered by the iPaq

■ Look for a PDA that fulfils                           Productivity only                                             Productivity + fun + flaunt value
your current needs, and pro-           You need        Basic productivity applications like address book,     Productivity features and audio/video play-
vides just enough expandability                        offline e-mail, expense tracking, scheduling and       back, as well as support for handheld gaming.
to last you for a year or two.                         calendar, notes, etc at the lowest price possible      It has to be slim, sleek and shiny

■ Upgradability is limited. You                        Long battery life, handy text input, basic synchro-    A high-powered processor and more RAM, a
                                       Look for        nisation features, audible alarms and a simple         colour screen, audio output/input, expand-
can’t replace the processor or
                                                       backlit monochrome display                             able memory
add more than certain types of
peripheral devices.                    Our pick        Palm m105, pSion Revo                                  Compaq iPaq, Cassiopeia EM500, Sony CLIE

                                       Price range     Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000                                 Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000

116                                                                                                                                              October 2001
                                                                  ◆   Pointing Devices ◆

                                                    Nice Mice
   n today’s GUI-dominated computing environment, a pointing device is a critical component of

I  every system. The most popular pointing device by far is the ubiquitous mouse, followed by track-
   balls, touch pads, stylus pens, etc. Mice and trackballs constitute the majority of pointing devices
   sold. For trackballs, the main difference is in the usage—here, the pointing device is stationary
while the users move the large ball mounted on the device.
    The biggest players originate from Taiwan and China and their success is based upon low prices.
                                                                                                                            Also Remember…
                                                                                                                            ■ Sampling frequency is a
                                                                                                                            specification that decides the
The price range for mice starts at about Rs 300 and goes up to Rs 3,000 for higher-end models from                          frequency with which the
Logitech and Microsoft. While the principle of operation of these devices is similar, the functionali-                      mouse is ‘polled’ for activity—
ty (number of buttons, control surfaces and accuracy) is what determines the eventual cost.                                 the more often it is polled, the
                                                                                                                            greater is the effective smooth-
                                                                                                                            ness of the mouse. While most
TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                                      Drivers: Some of the better         mice operate on a sampling fre-
Most mice use a roller-ball mechanism to track                                             mice or trackballs come          quency of 40 Hz, smooth mice
the horizontal and vertical movement of the                                                 with special functionality      would have a sampling fre-
mouse. Some mice use an optical motion                                                      built into their drivers. You   quency of 100 Hz.
tracking mechanism that uses a                                                              get special features like
beam of light reflected off the                                                             zooming and scrolling,          ■ Be sure to try out the device
mouse surface instead of the ball.                                                         which can make life a lot        before buying it as there are
                                                                                        simpler.                            some devices that are made
SMART TIPS                                                                                                                  only for right-handed users. A
Buttons: All mice today have at                                                  Communication: There are wired             left-handed user would find it
least two buttons, while some come                                             and unwired mice. The unwired mice           very uncomfortable when used
with either a third button or with a                                        use either an infrared sensor or radio fre-     for extended periods.
‘wheel’ which is very useful for                                         quency technology to communicate with the
scrolling through documents or                                         computer.
Web pages.
                                                             Interface: There are three interfaces available: serial
Resolution: This measures how precisely your pointing        port, PS/2 and USB port. Check that you have the right
device will move in response to a movement and is            ports on your computer before buying a pointing
measured in dots per inch (dpi). Average mice have dpi       device. Preferably, opt for a PS/2 or a USB device as
ratings of about 400 dpi while precision mice have dpi       these are easy to configure and support higher sam-
ratings all the way up to 4000 dpi.                          pling frequencies.

                                                                                        Specialised (gaming, profes -
                    Basic functionality             Precision work                      sional imaging)
  You need        A simple mouse for day-to-      A precision pointing device that      Good response times, preci-
                  day work with no special        is smooth and has decent fea-         sion and smoothness of
                  stress on precision             tures                                 movement

  Look for        A PS/2 or a serial mouse        A PS/2 or USB mouse with three        A high dpi rating, perhaps an
                  that features at least two      buttons and the ability for scroll-   optical mouse. Go in for a
                  buttons                         ing within applications               PS/2 or a USB mouse or

  Our pick         Logitech First Mouse           Logitech Universal Scroll             Microsoft Intellimouse Eye,
                                                  Mouse, Microsoft Mouse                Razor Boomslang

  Price range     Rs 350 to Rs 500                Rs 500 to Rs 1,000                    Rs 2,500 upwards

■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                                  ◆   Processors ◆

                                Speed of Thought
                                        ost and performance are the parameters that determine whether a processor fits into the ‘budg-

Also Remember…
■ If you are on a very tight
budget and only need basic
                                    C   et’ solution category or is an out and out ‘performance’ solution. AMD, the first to break the
                                        1 GHz clock-speed barrier, has recently stolen a march over Intel as far as pure performance goes.
                                        This holds true for both the budget and performance categories, where the Duron and the Athlon
                                    outperform their equivalent and in some cases even higher-speed Intel counterparts.
                                       The prices of mainstream 32-bit processors have fallen substantially and you can now buy an
office productivity, you should     Athlon 1.4 GHz processor for about Rs 9,500 giving you performance equivalent of a Pentium 4
go for the low-cost Cyrix MIII      1.8 GHz which retails at around Rs 12,500.
processor from VIA. This works
with any Socket 370 mother-
board.                              TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT                                                            Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU): This unit
                                    Everything that goes on inside a computer,                                      forms the core of the processor and
■ If you play a lot of games you    from copying a simple file to playing                                               performs the actual mathematical
need to look for a processor        an advanced computer game,                                                            processing on the data like addi-
that supports special instruc-      is composed of a stream of                                                              tion and subtraction. There are
tion sets like 3DNow! (Athlon)      binary data. The processor is a                                                            two ALUs, each of which han-
or SSE (Pentium III/4).             digital device that receives                                                                 dles two distinct types of
                                    information from software,                                                                     numeric data types: inte-
■ For high-end 3D design and        processes it in a predetermined                                                                 gers (whole numbers
CAD applications, you will          fashion and returns the results. For                                                            that do not include a
require a processor with the        this reason, the processor is divided,                                                   decimal) or floating-point num-
highest clock speed you can         physically and electronically, into specific                                 bers (numbers that involve decimals,
afford and the largest amount       regions that perform dedicated functions.                           such as 75.13).
of cache on board. This would            A specific fabrication process is used to
make the Pentium and Athlon         etch the die of a processor onto a silicon wafer. With         Branch Prediction Unit: This is a very special part of the
processors your best choice.        the P-III processors, a 0.18 micron process is used. This      processor that inspects the nature of the instructions in
                                    will soon move to a 0.13 micron process which will             the instruction cache and decides which of the ALUs is
                                    allow 57 million transistors on a P4 processor.                best suited for processing the data fastest. This branch-
                                                                                                   ing of the data is done to ensure that no ALU is idle
                                    Cache: There are two types of cache—data cache and             while the other is processing an instruction. This
                                    instruction cache. After information is received by the        streamlines the decoding process and increases the
                                    processor, it is sent to a small temporary storage region      efficiency of the processor.
                                    (known as Level 1 cache) 64 bits at a time. Most modern
                                    processors have 256 K of Level 2 cache at the core             Floating Point Unit (FPU): The Floating Point Unit is
                                    frequency of the processor itself, thus providing a            responsible for handling any mathematical operations
                                    fast data path.                                                involving decimal number.

                                                                                                                            Gaming and graphics profes-
                                                       General desktop use             Home entertainment
                                      You need          Decent performance in          Lag-free performance in all           Movies, music, gaming and
                                                        office productivity            graphic, multimedia, video orient-    complete home entertainment
                                                        applications                   ed applications                       with oodles of processing

                                      Look for          Any Celeron/Duron class        A Pentium III/Duron processor         An Athlon/Pentium 4 class
                                                        processor with speeds in       with speeds in excess of 900 MHz      processor with speeds in
                                                        excess of 700 MHz                                                    excess of 1.2 GHz

                                      Our pick          Duron 800, Celeron 733         Pentium III 1 GHz, Duron 900 and      Athlon 1.4 GHz, Pentium 4
                                                        and above                      above                                 1.8 GHz

                                      Price range       Up to Rs 5,000                 Up to Rs 8,000                        Rs 8,000 and above


118                                                                                                                                           October 2001
■   select~ s m a r t b u y e r s
                                                                   ◆   Scanners ◆

                                      A Quick Scan
                                        he scanner, which used to be a luxury not so long ago, is now well within the reach of most peo-
Also Remember…
■ Upgrading your RAM is prob-
ably a good idea if you are
going to be scanning high-
                                    T   ple. Prices have fallen partly due to competition between the numerous manufacturers and also
                                        due to the advancement of the technology used. This has put it high on the shopping lists for many
                                        home users, who basically use them to have fun, explore and maybe even compile their photo
                                    albums online. Today scanners begin at just about Rs 4,000 and offer pretty acceptable performance
                                    in terms of quality and speed. The presence of USB connectors on almost all new motherboards has
resolution images. This will        helped ease the pain of installing the scanner at the same time as increasing scanning speed due to
have a significant impact on        the higher data transfer rates it supports.
overall scanning performance.

■ Check for sRGB support. This      TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT
is a new standard that will         The main components in the scanner                                           Platform size: For most home users, A4
make Web images look even           consist of a light sensitive                                                            size scanners are sufficient.
better.                             diode, a light source, lens,                                                                     However, for profes-
                                    the stepper motor, which                                                                              sional uses a
■ Consider buying a trans-          moves the scan head and                                                                                 scanner with
parency adapter if your usage       the mirror on which the doc-                                                                             an A3 sized
is high enough. Automatic doc-      ument is placed. The light hits                                                                           platform is
ument feeders (ADFs) are a          the document and the image is                                                                             preferable.
boon to people with large text      reflected back to the diodes via mir-
scanning needs.                     rors. The image is then focused on the                                                                  Colour depth:
                                    CCD array, which converts the photon in to                                                            Though 36-bit is
■ To get good results with 35-      electron.                                                                                         preferable, you
mm slides or negatives, you                                                                                                      should go for a mini-
should look for a special scan-     SMART TIPS                                                                                mum of 24-bit colour depth.
ner that has been designed for      The light source: This is either a cold cathode fluores-
them.                               cent lamp (CCFL) or Xenon lamp. Xenon lamps give you          Connectors: If you have a free USB port in your system
                                    better performance.                                           then a USB scanner is the recommended choice. Paral-
■ Check that your printer is                                                                      lel port scanners have lower data transfer rates than
good enough to reproduce the        Resolution: The higher the resolution of the scanner, the     the USB models, whereas the SCSI models, which
high quality scans that the         sharper will be the image reproduced. Most low and            require a special adapter, give you the best perform-
scanner produces.                   mid-range scanners today have an optical (or hard-            ance.
                                    ware) resolution of 600x1200 pixels. Here the 600 refers
                                    to the number of CCDs or CIS (Contact Image Sensors)          OCR software: Most bundled OCR software offer basic
                                    that are arranged in a horizontal row and 1200 infers         functionality. For heavy text-based scanning you should
                                    that the stepper motor is capable of moving in steps of       look at third-party OCR packages such as ABBY
                                    1/1200th of an inch.                                          FineReader 5.0.

                                                       Basic use                       Intermediate use                  Professional use
                                      You need         Something that you will use     Something for more serious        A scanner with high resolution
                                                       occasionally use to scan        scanning, either for text docu-   and speeds because of large
                                                       home photos or something        ments or images                   volumes of scanning (say, pub-
                                                       from a book or magazine                                           lishing, legal, graphics)

                                      Look for         Any A4 scanner with USB         Any A4 scanner with USB sup-      A scanner with 1600x3200 dpi or
                                                       support and a minimum res-      port and a minimum resolution     better resolution, A3 platform size
                                                       olution of 600x1200 dpi         of 1200x2400 dpi or better        and preferably a SCSI interface

                                      Our pick         Acer ScanPrisa 640U,            HP ScanJet 5300C                  Epson 1640SU
                                                       UMAX Astra 2000p

                                      Price range      Rs 4,000 to Rs 10,000           Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000            Above Rs 18,000

120                                                                                                                                           October 2001
                                                                           ◆   Speakers ◆

                                     Sound Decisions
     C speakers have come a long way from being just one part of a ‘multimedia kit’. They have grad-

P    uated to full-blown kits of their own with support for Dolby Digital 5.1. Also, with a lot of inte-
     grated soundcard solutions now available, people have started spending more money on speakers.
     There is now a perceptible difference in the quality and the choices available, with more than 10
different manufacturers competing in each price segment. Also, a lot of users now prefer buying 2.1
or higher speaker setups because of the better sound quality.
                                                                                                                             Also Remember…
                                                                                                                             ■ The build quality should be
                                                                                                                             sturdy enough to sustain vibra-
                                                                                                                             tions and should not resonate.

SMART TIPS                                                               “sssshhh” sound over the main cymbal sound.         ■ Tone, treble, base and vol-
Power output: Most manufacturers list                                    Treble should sound like an integral part of the    ume controls should be easily
the PMPO output, but this is unreliable.                                 music, not a detached noise riding on top of it.    accessible, preferably on the
Try and find out the RMS rating of the                                                                                       front fascia of the system.
speakers instead. For general use,                                            Midrange: The Midrange starts roughly
even about 4W RMS per channel                                                 from 300 Hz and may stretch up to 2000 Hz.     ■ The placement of the speak-
would be sufficient.                                                                   Most of the musical energy is in      ers is key for quality sound
                                                                                            the midrange, particularly the   reproduction.
Multi-speaker sets: These use a                                                                important lower harmonics     a) Toe-in or angle-in the speak-
separate unit to reproduce the                                                                  of most instruments. This    ers so that they form a triangle
lower frequency band (20 to 300                                                                region contains most of the   with the listener.
Hz). This means that you will have                                                           musical energy. The sound       b) The speakers should be
two satellites and a subwoofer. There are other                                               of human voice, rustling of    placed at the same height as
4.1 and higher speaker sets which will require a special                                      leaves and the sounds of       the listener’s ears.
soundcard.                                                                                 other animals is also concen-     c) The subwoofer should be
                                                               trated in this band.                                          placed in a corner of the room.
Bass reflex: This is a speaker with a hole or slot in the
cabinet that allows sound inside the cabinet to emerge         Bass: Deep bass would probably be at 16 Hz—the
into the listening room. Bass reflex speakers have             lower the frequency, deeper the bass performance.
deeper bass extension than speakers with sealed cab-           The popular belief is that more the bass, the better the
inets.                                                         sound. Correct bass reproduction is essential for a sat-
                                                               isfying musical reproduction. Although reproducing the
Treble: Treble sounds range from frequencies of 2,500          sudden attack of bass is vital, equally important is the
Hz to 20,000 Hz. Too much of upper treble, say about           system’s ability to reproduce a fast decay, i.e. how a
10,000 Hz, would give that “ssssss” sound instead of the       note ends.

                                                                                           Gaming and graphics profes-
                   General desktop use            Home entertainment
  You need          A speaker for listening to    A decently powered speaker set.          Movies, music, gaming.
                    music occasionally. Audio     You listen to music all the time         Complete home entertainment
                    quality is not a big issue    and enjoy gaming to a certain            is what you want with loads
                    as long as it “sounds ok”     extent                                   of power

  Look for          Any amplified two-speaker     A speaker set with a subwoofer           Minimum 4.1/5.1, Dolby
                    set with bass/treble/tone     and a combined RMS rating of at          Digital decoder with a com-
                    controls on the fascia of     least 15 watts and higher. Also          bined RMS of over 30 watts
                    the set                       look out for a good 4.1 set if it fits
                                                  in your budget

  Our pick          Mercury SW480                 Creative PC Works 2.1                    Logitech Xtrusio DSR 100
                    Microtek Xplore Josh VX       Jetway Artis                             Creative Cambridge DTT2500
                    820                           Creative FPS 1000

  Price range       Up to Rs 1,000                From Rs 1,000 to Rs 8,000                Rs 8,000 and above

■   select ~ t e s t d r i v e

                                               IN TEST:

                                 Inside the
                                       Branded PCs lined up
                                       in a shootout that will
                                       tell you the optimal
                                       features combination
                                       to suite your needs

33 BRANDED PCs                                  TEST PROCESS . . . . . . .124
                                                THE BRANDED PCS . . .124
                                                Budget PCs
                                                Amdell Value PC 600, Dart

beigE box
                                                Pearl-Celeron, Minicomp
                                                iSystem Budget PC, Nebula
                                                Qmax Triad, Netkracker Pow-
                                                ered Celeron 633 MHz,
                                                Netkracker Powered Pentium
                                                III 866 MHz, PCS Oriion
                                                (Celeron 667), Visualan
                                                Celebrity, Vintron Elixir
                                                Celeron 1000, Wipro Voyager
                                                1100, Zenith P3 Multimedia
                                                PC Model 1
                                                Mid-range PCs
                                                Acer Power Sx series, Acer
                                                Veriton 3200, Amdell Power-
                                                house 1000, Amdell Work-
                                                horse PC 850, Compaq
                                                Presario 4000, Dart Emerald,
                                                Dart Marvel, Minicomp isys-
                                                tem Performance PC, PCS
                                                Iigen, PCS Oriion P4,
                                                Vintron Biz 123 4000, Vintron
                                                Biz 123 3000, Visualan Lavish
                                                – Pentium III 1 GHz, Visualan
                                                Lavish P4 – 1.4 GHz, Wipro
                                                Voyager 310, Wipro Voyager
                                                Flex, Zenith Multimedia PC
                                                Model 2
                                                Performance PCs0
                                                Amdell Monster PC 1400,
                                                Compaq Presario 5000, Dell
                                                Dimension 8100, HCL
                                                Beanstalk Omega, Zenith
                                                Multimedia PC Model 3
                                                Tweaks for your Brand
                                                New Machine . . . . . . . . .126
                                                Upgradability and
                                                Branded PCs . . . . . . . . . .127
                                                The iMac: Worth a Bite .128
                                                Operating System
                                                Requirements . . . . . . . . .128
                                                SCORE BOARD . . . . . . .130
                                                CONCLUSION . . . . . . . .132

                 Photograph: Mexy Xavier, Imaqging: Neeta Wadiker

■   select~ t e s t d r i v e

                                                    ASHU MEHROTRA                                with comprehensive warranties and have a
                                                            hether you’re looking for a PC that  national presence make the branded PC

                                                    W       can match the sweater you’re wear-
                                                            ing right now or one that comes
                                                            backed by a three-year warranty, the
                                                    choices available in the market today are
                                                    numerous. Those days when only large
                                                                                                 worth that extra 10-20 per cent in terms of
                                                                                                 price, as against your standard assembled
                                                                                                 white box.

                                                                                                 For a few rupees less
                                                    companies or people with relatives abroad    Looking for a PC with a set of compo-
                                                    bought branded PCs are long gone. We         nents that will allow you to get your pri-
                                                    now have a plethora of options in terms      mary applications accomplished, and
                                                    of computer manufacturers who have a         which also includes features such as mul-
                                                    nationwide presence and offer everything     timedia along with communication and
                                                    from comprehensive warranties, sales and     networking, and you have only a limited
                                                    service outlets, plenty of bundled (and      budget?
                                                    licensed!) software, and innovative              Well, with prices of components hav-
                                                    designs. More importantly, branded           ing come down by almost 30-40 per cent
                                                    machines offer users the assurance of        over the last year, it’s possible to get a
                                                    quality and service, no matter where they    machine with reasonable features for less
                                                    are or where they buy the PC from.           than Rs 35,000. For instance, a CD-ROM
                                                        In this shootout, we’ve brought togeth-  drive is available for as low as Rs 2,000 and
                                                    er the biggest computer manufacturers in     is a standard peripheral in most machines.
                                                    the country and evaluated them on a          Even the lowest priced PC that we received
                                                    number of grounds.
                                                    The branded PC
                                                    experience consists of
                                                    a lot more than just
                                                    pure performance.
                                                    The fact that they
More Info on                                        bundle a licensed
the test process and the products tested.           operating system and
Check out                                           other software, offer
Mindware                                            after sales services The top five scorers in Quake III among the Budget systems

                                                               TEST PROCESS
    For a PC to qualify for this comparison         vendors provide a combination of these          tests as compared to the synthetic bench-
    test, it had to have a licensed operating       two to give the best results possible within    marks.
    software and applications, warranties,          this price range. The third price category          Among the real-world tests, we ran
    offer a specific configuration with a partic-   (performance systems) reflects the needs        Photoshop 6.0 to test a computer’s
    ular model, and have nationwide service         of users who are purely interested in per-      processor, RAM and hard disk. We also
    and support.                                    formance and features, and sometimes,           used AudioActive v1.55 for encoding a
        Based on price, we classified the com-      simply the brand. Cost is not a criterion for   sample WAV file to an MP3. This test is a
    puters as sub-Rs 35,000 (for budget sys-        them. In their own words, “Give me the          very good indication of the real-world
    tems), Rs 35,001 to Rs 50,000 (for              best!” would sound pretty apt.                  power of the processor as audio encoding
    mid-range systems) and Rs 50,001 and                What’s most important in a branded          is highly processor-dependant. To evaluate
    above (for performance systems). These          system is the overall package that you get.     the graphics performance of the computer,
    price categorisations also correspond to        maximum weightage (50 per cent) was             we ran the Evolva Demo and Quake III
    the needs of different kinds of users. For      given to system configuration and the           Arena.
    instance, a budget PC would be preferred        overall package. We looked at parameters            Among the synthetic benchmarks were
    by price-conscious users who would like         such as licensed operating system and           Ziff-Davis Content Creation 2000, a test
    to have a set of components allowing            applications, system configuration, ship-       that uses office productivity suites and
    them to get their primary applications          ping and packaging, manuals/brochures           applications to evaluate a computer’s per-
    accomplished for as low a price as possi-       and system restore CDs, and countrywide         formance; the SiSoft Sandra 2001te, which
    ble. The mid-range systems would appeal         sales and support.                              is an application that runs low-level tests
    to a second set of users who are looking            We evaluated the performance of             on the various sub-systems of the comput-
    for a combination of performance and            these systems on various parameters,            er such as the hard disk, processor and
    price. Since these users are more technol-      using two classifications of tests: Real-       RAM; the 3DMark 2001, which is a gaming
    ogy oriented and the major applications         world and synthetic benchmarks. More            benchmark that evaluates the perform-
    are both graphics and processor intensive,      weightage was accorded to the real-world        ance of the graphics card.

124                                                                                                                                October 2001
for test had a CD-ROM drive. Also, with          quality. However, in
integration of critical and sometimes            terms of overall
expensive components such as sound and           scores, this computer
graphics cards as seen in the Intel 810 and      did well. Another PC
815-based motherboards, costs can be sig-        that gamers can con-
nificantly lowered.                              sider is the Zenith
    So if you need a low-cost PC for occa-       PC, which inciden-
sional gaming, small-time office usage,          tally was the only one
Internet surfing, and perhaps a few PC-          in this category to The top five scorers in Quake III among the Midrange systems
intensive applications such as Adobe Pho-        bundle a P-III 1 GHz
toshop, Corel Draw, 3D Max, etc, but             processor. It came in a close second in      ry in the ZDNet Content Creation test too.
would not need to work simultaneously            Quake with 35.8 and 19.9 fps, which means    Coming in a close second is the Netkrack-
with multiple applications (which means          it will run most games in medium to low      er P-III 933 MHz processor powered
less stress on the processor), a PC with a       resolutions.                                                        machine that post-
Celeron/Duron-class processor with a                 On      the                                                      ed a score of 27.9
clock speed ranging from 600 to 900 MHz          office produc-                                                        in the Content
with a standard 5,400-rpm 20-GB hard             tivity front,                                                         Creation bench-
disk and integrated sound and multimedia         where users                                                           mark. Another
should be suitable for your requirements.        would like a                                                         factor that went
    In this category, a PC more for enter-       good machine                                                         in favour of this
tainment rather than work would be one           for applications                                                     PC was that it had
like the Nebula Qmax Triad. With scores          and for others                                                      128 MB of PC 133
of 36.1 and 20 fps in Quake III, it is the       who keep a sec-                                                      MHz RAM allow-
highest in this category, but only by a slight   ond PC at home                                                         ing for greater
margin. However, it will disappoint users        for work, the Nebu-                                                     leeway     with
looking for a lot of additional software and     la Qmax Triad once                                                 memory-intensive
features as it comes loaded with just an         again proved to be the best                                         applications. The
operating system. Another point that went        option available. It scored a fair index of Dart Emerald: very      difference      was
against this system was the average build        28.1, which was the highest in this catego- fast in encoding audio  clearly visible as

                                                  1/2 page
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this PC was able to finish the test in an
excellent timing of 177 seconds. But with                 Tweaks for your Brand New Machine
Intel 810 chipset, any user interested in
graphics should opt out, as this chipset          When your brand new computer is deliv-         for applications that actually need it.
board does not provide an AGP slot, which         ered to you, it is in its most pristine con-
would be a problem if you want to                 dition and your applications load              Enable DMA
upgrade later.                                    blazingly fast and run really smooth.          This is a setting that enables your IDE
    For users who need PCs for data-inten-        However, as you use your computer, it          devices (like the hard disk and the
sive applications such as word processing,        tends to become progressively slower           CD/DVD drive) to operate in a special
spreadsheet or any database application,          and applications do not run as smoothly        mode that does not involve your comput-
the Vintron Elixir 1000 is one of the best        or as responsively as they used to.            er’s main processor when reading or writ-
machines available in the Budget category.             To counter this, there are a number of    ing to these devices. DMA (Direct
Carrying a 7200-rpm drive, it delivered           little tasks and housekeeping settings that    Memory Access) is a mode of data trans-
excellent scores in SiSoft’s drive bench-         you can run on your computer to ensure         fer where the IDE device itself coordi-
marking with 34 MBps and 37 MBps in               that it remains running as smoothly as         nates the flow of data between the hard
sequential write and read, respectively.          when you first booted it. Also, there are a    disk and the system. Therefore, your com-
This makes it quite suitable for users who        plethora of settings that you can run on       puter’s main processor is left to perform
need the PC for applications that fre-            your computer to push it a little extra and    more important tasks. This particular
quently use the hard disk subsystem. The          utilise all the power that is hidden inside,   tweak results in very big speed increases.
next best machine for these users is              making it a faster machine than it ever
undoubtedly the Wipro Voyager 1100,               was before.                                    Load the latest drivers
which gave decent scores of 30 MBps and                                                          Your new computer will most probably
32 MBps in sequential read and write,             Restrict your startup files                    come with a pre-installed operating sys-
respectively.                                     Go to the Startup folder in Windows and        tem or at least with the setup CDs that
    There were other PCs also that boasted        remove any applications that are unnec-        contain the drivers for the various hard-
of good configurations, but due to a mis-         essary during startup. This includes down-     ware in your system. You are likely to
match or inherent limitations in some of          load managers, the Office Start bar, Chat      have outdated drivers on your system and
the components, they lost out in the over-        clients, etc. These applications take up       while your system would be working cor-
all performance. To begin with, the Amdell        precious resources like memory and pro-        rectly, it would not be operating to its
Value 600 PC was the only one in this cat-        cessing power which are invoked when           fullest potential. Remember to load the
egory with an AMD Duron processor,                you start your PC. Therefore, launch them      latest drivers for your hardware, especially
which is almost as good as a P-III proces-        only when you need them and you’ll be          the video card, motherboard chipset and
sor of equivalent speed. Although this PC         freeing your computer’s processing power       soundcard.
had used a Seagate Barracuda ATA/100
drive, the speed of its hard disk subsystem
was bottlenecked due to the SiS 730 moth-       900 for 64 MB, and also the fact that most
erboard that is known for poor bandwidth        of the current applications available require
transfer rates on an IDE controller. It gave    128 MB or more memory to perform well.
very poor scores of 14 and 15 MBps in               Within this price range, if you have a
sequential read and write, respectively.        restricted budget, but would need room
Similarly, the graphics used were integrat-     for future upgradability, then expandabil-
ed onto the SiS 730 chipset and returned        ity should be a key in deciding which PC
very low scores of 24.1 fps and 6 fps in the    to buy. Once again Nebula Qmax Triad
normal and high quality modes of Quake          proved to be a very good choice. It had six
III, respectively.                              PCI slots on the board and also had a very
                                                              roomy cabinet. On the other        Wipro Voyager Flex: wrong selection of
                                                              hand, the Celeron-based            motherboard for the processor
                                                              PCS Oriion had good looks
                                                              and aesthetics but with an         options within a price range of Rs 35,001
                                                              i810-based motherboard             to Rs 50,000. This was visible in the PCs we
                                                              and a very small cabinet, you      received with combinations of better moth-
                                                              could do with a little more        erboards (815 chipset instead of 810) with
                                                              room for expansion.                onboard TNT2 or Savage Pro graphics card.
                                                                                                     Interestingly, once again this segment
The top five scorers in Quake III (Performance systems)          A little of both                was dominated by Intel processor-based
                                                             If you need a PC for running        PCs. Out of the 17 computers in this
   One pertinent observation here is that       applications that are fairly graphics and        category, there were 10 P-III machines, five
the majority of the PCs in the sub-             processor intensive as well as for entertain-    P4 systems and only two AMD Athlon-
Rs 35,000 category had just 64 MB of RAM.       ment and gaming and are ready to shell out       based computers. This indicates that a P4
This is peculiar, considering that the price    a little extra for a combination of perform-     based PC, which had entered the market
of RAM is hovering between Rs 800 to Rs         ance and features, you can get decent            six to eight months ago with a price tag of

126                                                                                                                               October 2001
Rs 80,000, is now within the reach of the
majority of buyers.                                             Upgradability and Branded PCs
     Storage in these PCs generally consist-
ed of a 20 GB hard disk while the Acer SX           There was a time when buying a branded       ascertain whether the new hardware is
series was the only one to feature a 10 GB          PC meant that your upgrade options           compatible with the interface in your sys-
drive, which is pathetic by today’s stan-           were very cumbersome, both in terms of       tem.
dards. Regarding optical storage, 13 out of         availability and cost. To a very large       ■ If you are confident of upgrading your
17 PCs had a CD-ROM drive while four                extent, this has been quelled since most     branded computer yourself, make sure
featured a DVD drive. Interestingly, here           of the systems use off-the-shelf compo-      that you only buy and use the hardware
the Dart Emerald included the fastest drive         nents and conform to standards. There-       that is compatible with your system. Oth-
available in India, the 16x DVD drive.              fore, components like the processor,         erwise, get in touch with the store from
     The VisuaLan Lavish P4 was the over-           memory, storage and video sub-system         where you purchased it and get it done
all winner in this category; considering the        can be easily upgraded. However, there       professionally.
overall choice of components and pricing,           are a few systems, especially those that     ■ Also remember that any attempt at
it is definitely one that takes the top hon-        sport unconventionally designed cabinets,    upgrading your branded PC by yourself
ours. Users looking for hard disk-intensive         where components like the motherboard        would void any warranty that you have
applications such as databases and profes-          conform to slightly different standards in   with the computer company. Attempt an
sional image editing will find this PC a            terms of the form factor. You would have     upgrade yourself only if you are willing to
worthy choice as it delivered very good             to approach the company for getting          forfeit this warranty and are conversant
results in SiSoft Sandra Drive benchmark            replacements or upgrades.                    with your computer’s hardware configura-
with a score of 38 MBps and 36 MBps in                  Watch out for this when upgrading        tion.
sequential read and write tests, respective-        your branded PC:                             ■ Do not try and forcibly connect an
ly. It also had the lowest average access time      ■ Find out the exact specifications of the   upgrade to your system as this may dam-
along with its sibling, the VisuaLan Lavish         hardware you are looking to upgrade and      age your computer.
PIII. For users looking for playable gam-
ing, in spite of featuring a Riva TNT2
graphics card, this system delivered scores       good for the casual gamer who is not look-     Oriion. This P4-based system used a TNT2
of 76.9 fps and 25.3 fps, respectively, in nor-   ing to push the graphical limits of his sys-   M64 graphics card and generated 76.5 and
mal and high resolution in Quake III—very         tem. Coming in a close second was the PCS      25.1 fps in normal and high settings,

                                                   1/2 page
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                                                   The iMac: Worth a Bite
    This iMac’s been around for three years         CD-RW drive. Just pop in a rewritable CD,       of SDRAM is capable of pumping out a
    and nobody has been able to re-create the       dump a few files, and walk to the horizon       maximum usable resolution of 1024x768
    magic Apple did to computer design. But         happily—no hassles with a non-existent          at 75 Hz on the built-in 15-inch monitor.
    even the best isn’t always the most com-        floppy drive, no extra money to be spent        On the base, you would see two tiny but
    plete. The iMac looked beautiful, offered a     in order to add another storage device.         crisp and powerful Harman Kardon speak-
    decent performance, included loads of                    Even the enormous 40 GB hard           ers, quiet similar to the two that came
    built-in goodies, but still lacked a                          drive is quite sufficient for     with the now discontinued PowerMac G4
    few basic things such as the                                   the multimedia-rich Mac          Cube.
    ability to transfer files to                                    world. This one includes            The model we received came with a
    your friend’s non-net-                                          two FireWire ports, two USB     600 MHz PowerPC G3 processor with
    worked PC without adding                                         ports, a 56K v.90 fax          128 MB of RAM expandable to 1 GB of
    any extra components such                                        modem and a RJ45               RAM. It came pre-bundled with Mac OS
    as an external CD Writer or                                       10/100 Ethernet port.         9.1, and OS-X, where OS 9.1 is prein-
    zip disk, and not to forget the                                               The built-in      stalled. Loads of other goodies such as
    beautiful but irritating round                                                 ATi RAGE 128     iMovie 2, iTunes, AppleWorks and quite a
    mouse. The new iMac fixes                                                        Ultra graph-   few games and utilities also came bun-
    all this.                                                                       ics accelera-   dled along with this.
         It comes with the Apple Pro optical                                    tor with 16 MB          Overall, a sturdy, all-in-one, useable
    mouse, similar to the one bundled with                                                          Mac that comes to Indian homes at
    the new G4 machines. Smooth! The best                                                           around twice the price it sells for in
    addition is the built-in slot loading 8x4x24              The iMac FlowerPower                  the US.

respectively, making it a worthy choice for        tions, the Amdell Workhorse 850 took                 Dart Emerald, Dart Marvel and Amdell
the casual gamer.                                  the cake with the highest sequential write       Workhorse 850 delivered a reasonable per-
    For users who are interested in good           speed of 39 MBps. Another point in its           formance in the ZD Content Creation test
quality sound, the Minicomp iSystem is             favour is its price at Rs 37,500. Other PCs      with scores of 33.1, 32.7 and 30.6 respec-
the ideal PC featuring a Lancer 4 point sur-       for these users are both the machines of         tively. These PCs offer a good price-per-
round soundcard and a DVD-ROM drive.               Visualan with scores of 38 MBps and the          formance combination.
This makes it quite suitable                       Vintron Biz 123 1000 with a score of                 Any PC with an Intel 815 chipset-
for home enter-                                    37 MBps.                                         based motherboard, 64 MB RAM and a
tainment. Another                                                            Users looking at a     Pentium III 700 and above processor
machine worthy of                                                         PC for office produc-     would generate a score in the range of 25
consideration by                                                                tivity and per-     to 30 in Content Creation. This score can
MP3 fans is the                                                                   formance will     be referred to as an above average score.
Amdell        Power-                                                               be satisfied     For the same configuration, if a machine
house 1000, featur-                                                                 with     the    generates a score below the average, then
ing the Athlon 1                                                                   Visualan         it is definitely not worth the investment,
GHz, which complet-                                                                Lavish     P4    especially if you plan to use it for office
ed audio ripping in 35                                                           with a score of    applications.
seconds flat, followed                                                         35.2 in Content          A majority of the PCs in this category
closely by Visualan Lavish                                                     Creation Win-        shipped with 15-inch monitors. For
P4 which took 36 seconds. If                                                 stone 2000. Visu-      those interested more in graphics-ori-
you encode a lot of MP3s,                          The Compaq Presario       alan Lavish PIII       ented applications, a 17-inch monitor
these systems are pretty good choices.             5000 comes with JBL       once again trailed     would definitely make a world of a dif-
    For users whose primary job                    Platinum speakers         it closely with a      ference. For these users, Amdell Power-
on a PC includes data-intensive applica-           and a Web cam             score of 34.4.         house 1000, Vintron Biz 123 4000 and
                                                                                                    Visualan Lavish P4 had 17-inch moni-
                                                                                                    tors. In fact, Zenith Multimedia PC
                                                                                                    model 1 and 2 had identical configura-
                                                                                                    tions, barring the monitor.
                                                                                                        As Internet and electronic communi-
                                                                                                    cation in the form of e-mail, chat and
                                                                                                    Internet Telephony has become one of the
                                                                                                    primary reasons why users buy a PC, all
                                                                                                    the PCs had fax modems, either internal
The top five scorers in the Content Creation        The top five scorers in the Content Creation    or external. This helps users get online as
test among the Budget systems                       test among the Midrange systems                 soon as they receive a PC.                    ➜
128                                                                                                                                October 2001
                   Manufacturer                Model                             Contact                         Phone               Fax             E-mail                        Price (Rs)

                   Intelisys                   Amdell Value PC 600               Intelisys India ltd             022-8527000/8000    022-8519723                  33,750

                   Dart Computers              Dart Pearl Celeron                Dart computers Pvt Ltd          07104-32565/32575   07104-32570       24,000

                   Minicomp Infotech Pvt Ltd   Minicomp iSystem Budget PC        Minicomp Infotech Pvt Ltd       022-829 1527        022- 8292048     23,900

                   NetKracker                  NetKracker Powered Celeron        Netkracker Ltd                  080-5219660/65      080-5219862   24,995

                   NetKracker                  NetKracker Powered Pentium        Netkracker Ltd                  080-5219660/65      080-5219862   29,995

                   Nebulla                     Qmax Triad Series                 Nebula Technologies Pvt Ltd     022-6347158 / 9     022-6347156         23,760
                   PCS                         PCS Orion (Celeron 667)           PCS Industries Ltd              022-8502465/2367    022-8520193         29,995

                   Visualan                    Celebrity                         VisuaLan Technologies           022-8202688         836 8514   26,500

                   Vintron                     Vintron Elixir Celeron 1000       Vintron Informatics Limited     011-6810815/16      011-6810382       27,820

                   Wipro                       Wipro Voyager 1100                Kaytek Systems                  022-8329640         022-821 5908            34,000

                   Zenith Computers            Zenith P3 Multimedia PC model 1   Zenith Computers                022-837 7300        022-8364859       35,000

                   Acer                        VERITON 3200                      Acer                            080-5219520         080 - 5219535       50,000

                   Acer                        Acer Power SX Series              Acer                            080-5219520         080 - 5219535       42,000

                   Intelisys                   Power House 1000                  Intelisys India ltd             022-8527000/8000    022-8519723                  45,500

                   Intelisys                   Workhorse 850                     Intelisys India ltd             022-8527000/8000    022-8519723                  37,500

                   Compaq India                Compaq Presario 4000              AVI Electronics                 022-6465522         022-6460347              39,990

                   Dart Computers              Dart emerald - P4                 Dart Computers Pvt Ltd          07104-32565/32575   07104-32570       50,000

                   Dart Computers              Dart Marvel                       Dart Computers Pvt Ltd          07104-32565/32575   07104-32570       42,000

                   Minicomp Infotech Pvt Ltd   Minicomp iSystem Performance PC   Minicomp Infotech Pvt Ltd       022-829 1527        022- 8292048     47,900

                   PCS Industries Ltd          PCS Oriion P4                     PCS Industries Ltd              022-8502465/2367    022-8520193         49,995

                   PCS Industries Ltd          PCS Oriion P4                     PCS Industries Ltd              022-8502465/2367    022-8520193         39,995

                   Vintron                     Vintron Elixir Biz 123 4000       Vintron Informatics Limited     011-6810815/16      011-6813082       47,580

                   Vintron                     Vintron Biz 123 3000              Vintron Informatics Limited     011-6810815/16      011-6810382       36,140

                   Visualan                    Lavish PIII                       Visualan Technologies Pvt Ltd   022-8202688         022-836 8514   36,900

                   Visualan                    Lavish P4                         Visualan Technologies Pvt Ltd   022-8202688         022-836 8514   48,900

                   Wipro                       Voyager 310                       Kaytek Systems                  022-8329640         022-821 5908            39,000

                   Wipro                       Wipro Voyager flex                Kaytek Systems                  022-8329640         022-821 5908            45,000

                   Zenith Computers            Zenith P3 Multimedia PC model 1   Zenith Computers                022-837 7300        022-8364859       38,500

                   Intelisys                   Amdell Monster PC 1400            Intelisys India ltd             022-8527000/8000    022-8519723                  68,750

                   Compaq India                Compaq Presario 4000              AVI Electronics                 022-6465522         022-6460347              59,677

                   Dell India                  Dell Dimension 8100               Dell India                      080-5586110         —               —                             98,134

                   HCL Infosystems             Beanstalk Omega                   HCL Infosystems                 914-4520977         914-555221      —                             52,990

                   Zenith Computers            Zenith P3 Multimedia PC model 3   Zenith Computers                022-837 7300        022-8364859       57,500
Specifications                                                                                                             Photoshop   Quake III   Quake III Audio         ZD Content Rating
                                                                                                                           filters     (Normal)    (High): fps encoding    Creation
                                                                                                                           (seconds)   (fps)                   (seconds)   index
Duron 600 MHz processor, 128 MB PC133 SDRAM, 20 GB ATA/100 hard disk, SiS 730 onboard graphics card, 52x CD-ROM            262.03      24.1        6           71          23.6       B-
drive, IDE interface, Ace 56K modem, integrated soundcard, 15-inch monitor
Celeron 800 MHz processor, 64 MB PC133 SDRAM, i810 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk, integrated           234.87      22.1        14.7       66           21.9       B
graphics card, 56x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, integrated soundcard, 56K modem, 15-inch Microtek monitor
Celeron 700 MHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, 810 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk, integrated graphics         284         21          14.7       77           21         B
card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 56K modem
Celeron 633 MHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, 810 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB hard disk, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE inter-       318         15.8        14.6       84           19.9       B-
face, onboard soundcard, 15-inch monitor
Pentium III 866 MHz processor, 128 MB SDRAM, 810 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB hard disk, integrated graphics card,     177         24.1        16.2       55           27.9       B
52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 15-inch monitor
Pentium III 933 MHz processor, 64 MB RAM, KOB 815 E FSX chipset based motherboard, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface         198.5       36.1        20         47           28.1       B
Celeron 667 MHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, i810 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB hard disk, onboard graphics card, 52x        273         21.3        14.7       80           20.3       B-
CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 56K modem, 15-inch monitor
Celeron 800 MHz processor, 64 MB PC133 SDRAM, 810 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk, onboard graph-        257.57      15.5        Failed     71           Failed     B-
ics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 15-inch monitor
Celeron 733 MHz processor, 64 MB PC133 SDRAM, i810 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk, onboard graph-       290.93      30.2        21.2       73           22.9       B
ics card, 52x CD-ROM, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 56K ESS internal modem, 15-inch monitor
Celeron 733 MHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, 20 GB hard disk, onboard graphics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, onboard soundcard,       242         24.4        17.1       71           22.3       B-
56K modem
Coppermine 1 GHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM/133, i815 chipset based motherboard, Fujitsu MPG3204AT 20 GB hard disk, inte-      184.7       35.8        19.9       47           25.5       B
grated graphics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 14-inch monitor
Pentium III 800 MHz processor, 128 MB SDRAM, i815 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB hard disk, onboard graphics card,       185.73      36.5        19.9       55           28.8       B+
48x CD-ROM drive, onboard soundcard, 56K modem
Pentium III 800 MHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, SiS 630 chipset based motherboard, 10 GB ATA/66 hard disk, integrated          242.33      26.6        12.3       60           Failed     B-
graphics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, integrated soundcard, 15-inch monitor
AMD Athlon 1 GHz processor, 256 MB RAM, ECS 266 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA 100 hard disk drive, SiS 730          150         35.1        7.8        35           29.4       B+
onboard graphics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 56K modem, 17-inch monitor
AMD Athlon 850 MHz processor, 128 MB PC133 SDRAM, KM-133 based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/100 hard disk drive, S3 Pro          175.2       26.3        7.8        40           30.6       B
Savage onboard graphics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, Ace internal 56K modem, 15-inch
Pentium III 900 MHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, 810 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk drive, integrated        212.33      27.5        18.2       51           27.6       B
graphics card, 48x CD-ROM drive, integrated soundcard, 56K modem, 15-inch monitor
Pentium 4 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB RDRAM, 40 GB hard disk drive, TNT2 M64 32 MB graphics card, 16x DVD drive, CMI         273         68          21.3       37           33.1       B
8738 soundcard, 56K modem
Pentium III 1GHz processor, 128 MB PC133 SDRAM, 815 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk drive, nVidia        150.37      67.6        21.3       44           32.7       B+
Riva TNT2 M64 32 MB graphics card, 56x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, integrated soundcard, 56K Dlink modem, 15-inch
Pentium 4 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB PC 800 RDRAM, i850GB chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk drive,          217         68.2        21.2       39           22.4       B
TNT2 Ultra 32 MB graphics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, Lancer soundcard, Motorola 56K modem, 15-inch monitor
Intel Pentium 4 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB PC 800 RDRAM, i850GB chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/100 Quantum            221.7       76.5        25.1       45           26.2       B+
Fireball LCT hard disk drive, TNT2 M64 32 MB graphics card, 10x DVD drive, IDE interface, integrated soundcard, 15-inch
Intel Pentium III 933 MHz processor, 64 MB PC133 SDRAM, i815 chipset based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/100 Fujitsu              206         36.3        19.9       51           26.3       B
MPG3204AT hard disk drive, integrated graphics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 15-inch monitor
Pentium 4 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB RDRAM, i850 based motherboard, 20 GB hard disk drive, S3 Savage 4 16 MB graphics       2203        31.4        13.4       43           15.5       B
card, 12x DVD drive, AC97 Audio Controller onboard soundcard, 56K modem, 17-inch monitor
Pentium III 866 MHz processor, 128 MB SDRAM, Intel 815 based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/100 hard disk drive, onboard           172.5       35.8        19.6       51           31.3       B+
graphics card and soundcard, 56K modem
Pentium III 1 GHz processor, 128 MB SDRAM, 40 GB ATA/100 hard disk drive, TNT 2 M64 graphics card, Sony 52x CD-ROM         149         32.6        21.3       44           34.4       B
drive, onboard soundcard
Pentium 4 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB RDRAM, i850GB chipset based motherboard, 40 GB ATA/100 hard disk drive, Riva TNT2      248         76.9        25.3       36           35.2       B
M64 graphics card, Sony 52x CD-ROM drive, onboard soundcard
Pentium III 866 MHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, 20 GB hard disk drive, Intel 810 chipset based motherboard onboard graphics    215         26.5        18.8       54           27.4       B
card, Sony CD-ROM drive (speed?), onboard soundcard
Pentium III 852 MHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, Intel 810 based motherboard, 20 GB hard disk drive, onboard graphics card,     207         27.3        18.3       53           27.1       B
52x CD-ROM drive, onboard soundcard, 56K modem
Coppermine 1 GHz processor, 64 MB PC133 SDRAM, i815 based motherboard, 20 GB Fujitsu MPG3204AT hard disk drive, inte-      186.2       36.7        19.9       48           25.7       B
grated graphics card, 52x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 15-inch monitor
AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB DDR RAM, KT266 based motherboard, 40 GB ATA/100 hard disk drive, Riva TNT2 64         104.93      77.1        25.3       24           41.2       B+
MB graphics card, 8x DVD drive, IDE interface, Creative Vibra 128 soundcard, Ace 56K modem, 17-inch monitor
Pentium III 1 GHz processor, 64 MB SDRAM, i810 based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk drive, integrated graphics        224.22      26.7        17.8       48           23.2       B+
card, 48x CD-ROM drive, IDE interface, integrated soundcard, 56K modem, 15-inch monitor
Pentium 4 1.5 GHz processor, 128 MB RDRAM, i850GB based motherboard, 40 GB ATA/100 hard disk drive, GeForce 3 64 MB        210.07      193.7       189        34           36.1       A-
DDR graphics card, 48x CD-ROM drive, 12x DVD drive, IDE interface, Turtle Beach Santacruz soundcard, 17-inch monitor
Pentium 4 1.4 GHz, 128 MB RDRAM, ASUS P4T-M, 40 GB ATA/100, GeForce 2MX 400 32 MB graphics card, 16x DVD Pioneer           219.36      47          23.3       35           32.4       B+
drive, IDE interface, Yamaha soundcard, 56K internal modem, 15-inch monitor
Pentium 4 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB PC800 RDRAM, i850GB based motherboard, 20 GB ATA/66 hard disk drive, TNT2 M64          223.5       Failed      Failed     38           31.5       B
graphics card, Creative 12x DVD drive, IDE interface, onboard soundcard, 15-inch monitor
■   select~ t e s t d r i v e

Give me all!                                    peripherals that could make any neigh-         configuration that most users might look
The third set of PCs tested were in the price   bour envious! This PC sported a duo-tone       for, but the graphics subsystem used was
category of Rs 50,001 and above. For a price    black and silver colour, making it stand       way under par and both the games test of
range such as this, you should expect high-     apart from its rivals not only in perform-     Quake III and Evolva failed. The only
performance systems. In fact, this range of     ance and price but also in looks. Also, this   bright spot in this PC was the Creative 12x
PCs would appeal to users who are purely        is the only PC that is completely config-      DVD. You could consider this system if
interested in the best in performance and       urable on the company’s Web site with a        you are looking at pure processor power,
features, and sometimes, simply the brand.      host of different hardware configura-          but it may not be the best choice available
Cost is not a criterion for them.               tions—at varying prices according to           in terms of overall value.
                                                components chosen, of course.
                                                    The second-best PC in this premium         CONCLUSION
                                                segment was the Amdell Monster PC 1400.        In this roundup of branded PCs, we’ve seen
                                                Housing the formidable Athlon 1.4 GHz          a very wide variation on a number of
                                                processor with 128 MB DDR RAM, it gave         grounds such as features available, plat-
                                                fantastic scores in Adobe Photoshop (in        forms, designs and performance. Each of
                                                fact, the best in this category) of 104.93     these three categories exhibited very close
                                                seconds that is nearly half compared to the    competition, especially in terms of features
                                                second best of Dell that took 210.07 sec-      versus prices. With the cost of hardware
Performance systems: scorers in the Con-        onds. This indicates that users requiring      spiralling downwards continually, even the
tent Creation test                              PC for data-intensive applications should      casual home user can now afford a giga-
                                                definitely give a fair chance to this PC.      hertz-based computer. Couple this with the
     These PCs are chosen by hardcore pro-      Although in Quake III it scored 77.1 fps       fast hard drives and graphics accelerators
fessionals who need maximum computing           and 25.3 fps, respectively, in normal and      and you have power in your living room,
power when it comes to demanding appli-         high settings, which from an avid gamer’s      power which was once within the reach of
cations as seen in video and audio pro-         point of view is definitely not enough,
cessing, graphics and animation. With the       casual gamers shouldn’t be complaining.
current configurations, the PCs that would      Furthermore, with the DVD and a creative
fit this category would require at least Pen-   Vibra 128 soundcard, it can double up as
tium 4 1.4 GHz and above or AMD Athlon          a good infotainment PC.
1.2 GHz with 256 MB of RAM, 7200-rpm                The HCL Beanstalk Omega is a also a
40-GB hard drive with a GeForce-class           good choice. Although it did not do very
graphics card. Along with this, these users     well in the test (Content Creation Win-
also would look at peripherals such as          stone 2000 generated only 32.4) it had
DVD or CD-RW drives.                            some good choice of components such as
     We received only five PCs in this cate-    the Pioneer 16x DVD, ASUS P4T-M
gory. With Pentium 4 as well as Athlon          motherboard and the Yamaha soundcard.
processor-based PCs easily available for        The only bottleneck was in the graphics
under Rs 50,000, it was the extra bundling      subsystem with a GeForce2 MX 400, which
of peripherals that made the difference in      generated 35.8 and 19.6 fps in Quake III,
this category. Intel once again dominated       respectively, for normal and high settings.    Nebula Qmax Triad: good performance at
in this segment and four out of five PCs            Zenith’s PC in this category had a base    an attractive price
were based on its processors (three were
P4s and one was a P-III).
     Dell, which is the new entrant in the                                       Decision Maker
comparison tests this year, dominated in
the tests involving the graphics processor,                                    Price                  Nebula Qmax Triad
primarily due to the fact that it came             Budget/Price
along with a GeForce3 having 64 MB                 Conscious Users
DDR RAM onboard. For gamers this is                                            Performance            Nebula Qmax Triad
the ultimate machine as the Quake III test
results would indicate—it delivered a                                          Price                  Visualan Lavish PIII
stunning 193.7 fps and 189 fps in normal           Home/ Internet
and high quality, respectively. Although           Users
audio encoding was not the fastest, it was                                     Performance            Visualan Lavish P4
still able to complete the encoding within
34 seconds, next only to Amdell’s score of
24 seconds. With an exotic choice of                                           Price                  Amdell PC 1400
components like 12x/8x/32x CD-RW and                Give Me All!
a NEC DVD-ROM drive, along with Tur-                                           Performance            Dell Dimension 8100
tle Beach Santacruz 5.1 soundcard, the
Dell Dimension 8100 boasted of a set of

132                                                                                                                          October 2001
only elite buyers and professionals.                    mented sales and service network across                 Performance category
    The winners in each of the three cate-              the country, this system is a good buy for              Finally, in the Rs 50,000+ category, there
gories we divided the computers into are as             the price-conscious user.                               were just five players. These systems repre-
follows:                                                                                                        sented the pinnacle in terms of the choice
                                                        Midrange category                                       of system components and performance.
Budget category                                         In this category, we saw a wide variety of                  The clear winner here was the Dell
For those who are concerned with getting                computers ranging from Intel to AMD                     Dimension 8100. What was special about
a decently configured computer to let                   processors. Here, the Best Performance                  this system was the exotic choice of com-
them get by with conventional applica-                  award went to the VisuaLan Lavish P4 with               ponents. Configured completely off their
tions used in the home and office, these                an overall score of 63.67. The good scores              Web site, this computer featured sys-
sub-Rs 35,000 machines proved to be wor-                could be attributed to the high                         tem components that are oth-
thy performers in office and other day-to-              quality of system compo-                                erwise not available in the
day applications.                                       nents such as the hard disk                             country, such as the sound-
    The winner in this category was the
Nebula Qmax Triad scoring a very
respectable 46.13 per cent in the overall
reckoning. Based upon a Coppermine 933
processor, this machine boasted of a very
good configuration, considering the price.
It also managed to bag the Best Value
award—it turned out to be very competi-
tively priced as it delivered best-of-class
performance compared to similarly priced
systems which performed
nearly 30 per cent lower.                                                                                       Dell Dimension 8100: the GeForce3 at work
Also, with a very well docu-
                                                        Visualan Lavish PIII: a good choice of                  card, graphics accelerator, etc. These high-
                                                        components                                              end components contributed to the
                                                                                                                brilliant performance of this machine.
                                                        and the processor. Of special mention here              Coupled with the excellent styling and
                                                        is the Dart Emerald P4, which came in just              build quality, this machine had little com-
                                                        a shade behind the VisuaLan Lavish P4.                  petition and is a great choice for the power
                                                            The Best Value award went to the Visu-              user looking for sturdy build quality and
                                                        aLan Lavish PIII. This computer was also                best-of-class performance.
                                                        very well configured with a 40 GB hard                     The Best Value honours went to the
                                                        disk and scored respectably across the var-             Amdell Monster PC1400. Based upon the
Visualan Lavish P4: lots of storage space               ious suites.                                            formidable 1.4 GHz Athlon and
                                                                                                                using the latest in mother-
                            Operating System Requirements                                                       board and memory architec-
                                                                                                                ture, this system was very
 When buying a branded system, you usually have the choice of which operating system
 you want installed on your computer. Before deciding on one, you should make sure that
 your computer’s configuration can support the operating system with the applications
 you’ll be using. Otherwise, you might load the latest operating system to discover that
 your computer does not have the power to run your applications.

Operating System             Minimum system requirements suggested by     Realistic minimum system
                             the company                                  requirements
Windows XP Professional      300 Mhz processor, 128 MB RAM, 1.5 GB hard   500 MHz processor, 256 MB RAM, 4
                             disk space, SVGA display (800x600), CD/DVD   GB hard disk space, XGA (1024x768),
                             drive                                        CD/DVD drive, Direct3D-capable
                                                                          video card
Windows Me                   Pentium 150, 32 MB RAM, 295 MB hard disk     P-II 300 MHz processor, 128 MB
                             space, VGA display                           RAM, 600 MB hard disk, VGA display    Amdell Monster PC 1400: excellent speed
Windows 98SE                 486DX/66 MHz or higher processor, 24 MB      200 MHz processor, 64 MB RAM, 540     for audio ripping
                             RAM, 315 MB hard disk space, VGA display     MB hard disk space, VGA display
Windows 2000 Professional    Pentium 133 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 650 MB hard      P-III 500 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 1 GB
                                                                                                                finely honed to performance. In spite of
                             disk space, VGA display                      hard disk space, XGA display          the TNT2 M64 graphics card, the machine
Windows 2000 Server          Pentium 133 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 1GB hard        P-III 500 MHz, 384 MB RAM, 2 GB       delivered top-notch performance but
                             disk space, VGA display                      hard disk space, XGA display          lacked the graphics horsepower. However,
Red Hat Linux                486DX/66 MHz or higher processor, 24 MB      P-II 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 500 MB       the rest of the system was very rich in spec-
                             RAM, 315 MB hard disk space, VGA display     hard disk, VGA display
                                                                                                                ifications with DVD, a good set of speak-
                                                                                                                ers and Ethernet capability.

■   select~ t e s t d r i v e
                                                                                                 Photograph: Mexy Xavier Imaging: Neeta Wadiker


               AN IMAGE TO DIE FOR
Want to put a glow on           MITUL MEHTA
                                     bike that looks more like a cheetah, a sepia
                                                                                     single window, changing colour tones, masking
                                                                                     images, and much more. Of late, software devel-
your friend’s head?
How about changing
the colour of his shirt ?
Welcome to the world
                                A    tinge to a recently shot picture…we’ve all
                                     seen such fine examples of designing finesse
                                     in print advertisements. Designer’s artistic
                                prowess aside, the real accolades belong to the
                                digital imagery software, which, with its extreme
                                                                                     opers are integrating Web animation features in
                                                                                     image editing software, a clear indication that
                                                                                     they want to include Web designers in their
                                                                                     client list.
                                                                                         We tested five image editing software:
                                ease of use, can make any novice feel like a         Adobe Photoshop 6.01, Gimp 1.2, Micrografx
of image editors                professional.                                        Picture Publisher 9, Paint Shop Pro 7 and
                                   If you’re eyeing the designing bandwagon          QFX 7.
                                you’ll find an entire range of image editing soft-       As a selection criteria, we chose software that
                                ware in the market. Some of these are targeted at    provided features such as layers, filters, photo
                                the amateur user who just crops images or            enhancing capabilities, support for common file
                                applies filter effects to photographs, while oth-    saving formats such as JPEG, TIFF, GIF, etc as
                                ers are targeted at professionals working with       these criteria set apart a professional image
                                multiple photographs at the same time in a           editing software from a basic one.

136                                                                                                                            October 2001
How easy is it really?
When you hear the name of any professional
                                                                                            TEST PROCESS
software, do you get the jitters and start thinking         We tested the software for the features      the work without having to minimise
that it would be impossible for you to work with            offered. In particular, we tested for        the photo editing software and open
such high-end software?                                     installation size and memory con-            a separate drawing software. To check
    Well, if this is the case, then relax. It is not so     sumption, ease of use and features.          how easy the software really was
difficult to learn such software really. One will           The last factor always forms an              while working, we tried importing a
need some sort of formal training and patience,             extremely important part of any soft-        JPEG photograph and working on it
of course, to get the hang of how the software              ware. Here, we considered the follow-        with various tools in the software. We
works and what you can actually achieve with it.            ing features: the facility to work with      checked whether the software
Mastering the art of digital imagery is not fun-            layers, the number of predefined set of      supported the common file formats
damentally as difficult as it is made out to be.            filters, masking, twain compatibility        such as TIFF, JPG, GIF, PSD, PNG, and
    In the test we discovered that QFX7 was the             (the functionality of directly picking up    so on.
most difficult software to work with. There is no           images from the scanner), the ability            Most users tend to get confused by
way a novice or even an experienced user can go             to convert images to high resolution,        the plethora of features provided in
ahead and work with this software in spite of the           the facility of adding gradients to your     professional software. Hence, while
fundamentals being the same.                                work, and the ability to change colour       evaluating this feature, we checked
                                                            channels from RGB to CMYK mode or            whether it explained the basic opera-
                                                            vice versa.                                  tions of the software and if it provided
                                                                 We also looked for drawing tools        in-depth examples that would be
                                                            that allow inclusion of diagrams in          helpful for novices.

QFX7 has an unintuitive Interface

    This software performs dual functions: it is
an image editor as well as a program for illustra-
tions. QFX7 has two modes, the ‘paint mode’ and
the ‘draw mode’, which the user has to constant-          Photoshop 6: an easy-to-use and intuitive interface
ly keep on juggling between if he has to edit the
image or draw any diagrams. And then comes                very bland and somewhat old when compared
the interface. The developers of this package             to the smooth and suave Photoshop icons and
seem to be completely insensitive to the princi-          toolbars.
ples of interface design. This software does pos-            To put it simply, nothing comes close to Pho-         More Info on
sess some reasonably good image editing                   toshop when it comes to the interface.
                                                                                                                   the test process and the
capabilities but looking at the interface, we doubt                                                                products tested.
if anybody would like to work with it. The ama-           Features                                                 Check out
teurish style of buttons and the skimpy toolbar           Layers: With the support of layers one can work
would put any serious digital artist off, not to          with multiple pictures on different layers in the
mention the confused amateur.                             same window. It is easy to hide the objects placed
    Adobe Photoshop’s interface, in contrast,             on every individual layer and if the software sup-      Contents
provides a floating toolbar with well-defined             ports blending capabilities, one can change the           TEST PROCESS . . . . . . . . .137
icons as well as a horizontal toolbar, which lists                             overall look of the picture          IMAGE EDITING . . . . . . . .137
extra functions of every tool. This puts the                                   by applying options such as          SOFTWARE
functionality of extra features at your fingertips,                            soft light, dissolve, multiply,      Adobe Photoshop 6.01
the way it should be.                                                          hard light, etc. Thus, with          Gimp 1.2
    The interfaces of Gimp and Paint Shop Pro                                  multiple layering, one can           Jasc Paint Shop Pro 7
will not appeal to the aesthetically inclined.                                 do wonders with the pho-             Micrografx Picture Publisher 9
Gimp, as it comes from the Linux world, looks                                  tographs.                            QFX 7
quite different from any other Windows pro-                                        QFX7 takes a beating             BOXES
gram. The menu rendering style, the pointer                                    again by providing layer             Colour Modes . . . . . . . . . .138
arrow twisted inverse and the floating toolbars                                support only in the draw             Effects Galore . . . . . . . . . .139
that just fall plop into the whole soup of an inter-                           mode and by not providing            SCOREBOARD . . . . . . . . . .140
face do not read ‘user friendly’ in any way.              The Layer Style in   any support where it is              CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . .140
    Paint Shop Pro’s toolbar and icons appear             Photoshop 6          needed the most—the

■   select~ t e s t d r i v e

paint mode. Micrografx does have image
layers but it functions quite differently                                             Colour Modes
when compared to Adobe Photoshop or
any other image editing software. It works          There are two popular types of colour             The first thing that one notices while
on the basis of objects, which means that           modes: RGB and CMYK. The RGB mode             converting an image from RGB to CMYK is
various images can be added as objects on           consists of three colour channels (red,       the colour loss and the increase in file
different layers and then arranged through          green and blue). This mode is called the      size. If that’s the case then why do people
buttons, but no blending modes are pro-             ‘additive colour mode’ as the red, blue       convert images to CMYK? That’s because
vided. One cannot hide them all—what                and green colours are mixed in different      to reproduce colour in print, you use inks
one can do is send the image of one layer           proportions and intensities to create         in different proportions. Here cyan,
behind or in front of another layer, or             white colour. This process can be more        magenta and yellow combine to absorb
merge all the layers to the base layer or the       clearly understood by taking the example      the entire colour and produce black. This
background layer.                                   of one’s monitor, which creates colour by     is the reason why they are known as ‘sub-
    In comparison to this, the functionali-         emitting light through red, blue and green    tractive colours’.
ty provided by Adobe Photoshop leaves               phosphors.                                        Since all inks contain certain kinds of
one stunned. Not only does it have multi-               Although every person works in RGB        impurities, the first three colours combine
ple layer support with blending and trans-          mode when working with images, the            to give a muddy colour which then has to
parency options, but one can also move the          final image is changed to CMYK mode           be combined with black (K) to generate
layers manually. In this version of Photo-          when it goes for printing, which consists     the true colour. Therefore, the digital artist
shop, one can see distinctly the effects            of four channels: cyan, magenta, yellow       will have to convert the image to CMYK
applied to the layers on the layers them-           and black.                                    before printing.
selves. And one can hide effects by a sim-
ple click. Multiple options for locking of
layers is also a first in this image editing      ate those jazzy effects. It provides the user   user and seeing to it that only those set of
software from the Adobe stable. Photo-            with just a handful of basic filters such as    filters are created which are actually used
shop also provides various features such as       glow, emboss, monochrome, etc.                  by them, and not bundle just any filters to
accessing filters by right-clicking on a layer,       Open Photoshop and your eyebrows            compete with other software on the basis
which simplifies every user’s work.               start to rise as the huge set of filters drop   of numbers.
    Paint Shop Pro provides almost the            down from the menu. From motion blur                Gimp, like Photoshop, also possesses a
same functionality as Photoshop but the           to lens flare and generating 3D effects, one    plethora of filters rendering various glass
irritating auto-roll feature of the layer                                                         effects, motion blur, bump map as well as
palette makes one wonder where the layers                                                         the widely used lightning effects. It offers
                               have disap-                                                        the user a wider range of options.
                               peared. If you                                                         Micrografx has a neat and a sizeable
                               plan to use                                                        amount of filters such as image warping
                               this,      make                                                    and red eye removal. It also has wizards to
                               sure that as                                                       create some additional effects such as 3D
                               soon as you                                                        puzzle piece, cool text, button maker, etc.
                               open the soft-                                                     In the filter menu, besides the general and
Paint Shop Pro has a           ware,        you                                                   texture effect, a host of other macro effects
very cramped layer style       disable this                                                       are provided.
                               option from        QFX7 provides just the basic set of filters     Drawing tools: We all agree that it’s pret-
the Preferences menu. The extremely small                                                         ty irritating to keep switching between two
view of the layer palette will make one go        can do it all with just this software, elimi-   programs constantly. At times it becomes
bonkers if one were to work with, say,            nating the need for buying and installing a     a problem when two professional pro-
more than 20 layers. The developers need          different set of plugins. Hats off to the       grams are running simultaneously as there
to pay more attention and improve this            developers of this software for paying close    is a high chance of running out of system
feature.                                          attention to the needs of the professional      resources. Thus, it would be considered
    Like Photoshop, Gimp provides the                                                             beneficial to the user if the image editing
user with functions such as blending                                                              software provided some elementary tools
options, merging of various layers and                                                            to enable one to draw in the software itself.
increasing or decreasing the transparency.                                                            Micrografx has a pencil tool which
Filters: Ever wondered how the sky colour                                                         acts as a free form tool allowing one to
changes dramatically, or how a bright sun                                                         draw the way one wants. Here, using the
appears conspicuously in a dark picture?                                                          same tool, one can outline the size from
Well, the credit goes to filters! Jasc Paint                                                      the extra options seen in the toolbar. It also
Shop Pro boasts a set of 75 filters that let                                                      provides various blending options in the
users create ripple effects or a lens flare and                                                   draw mode, which is strange because one
even remove scratches from a photograph.                                                          would expect to have this feature in the
    QFX7 again fails to provide the user an       Photshop 6 has quite a few built-in filters     image-editing mode.
extensive list of filters whereby he can cre-     and you can get more filters for free               Gimp, like Photoshop, provides the

138                                                                                                                                 October 2001
same sort of utilities to draw diagrams.         be edited onscreen directly instead of            or review to another person. Hence, with
    QFX7, for once, did not disappoint the       having to open another text-editing               the facility of adding notes and audio
user. By activating the draw mode one can                                                          annotations, one can record comments
draw free form diagrams with the pencil                                                            and send it across.
tool and unlike the paint mode, one can                                                                For drawing lines, circles and other
work on layers in the draw mode. It also                                                           such objects and text, vector support is
equips the user with different brush                                                               helpful for scaling the image or that par-
strokes and sizes and one can increase or                                          Wonders         ticular component of the image whenever
decrease the softness of the strokes.                                              achieved        the need arises.
    Jasc Paint Shop Pro’s tools are quite                                          through
similar to Photoshop—the pencil for free                                           the Liquify     Help!
hand drawing, a clone brush to clone                                               tool of         Help files will always be accessed, whether
objects, a paint brush, air brush, etc. And                                        Photo-          it is a novice at work, an intermediate user
work is just fine though it isn’t as cus-                                          shop 6          or a professional. The help files of QFX7
tomisable as Adobe Photoshop. An inter-                                                            are self explanatory though not as elabo-
esting feature here is the colourful picture     window, which is the norm in the other            rate as one would expect.
tube, which allows you to paint full colour      software.                                              Jasc Paint Shop Pro provides the user
random thumbnail images.                            Features such as adding notes or audio         with extremely detailed help such as
Image formats: Depending on the use that         annotations in an image editing software          explaining the basic fundamentals of
is to be made of the image, say print or
Web, you will need to choose a suitable
image format. This also has an impact on
the file size of the image. For example, if
one imports an image, does the appropri-
ate work and saves the image as a TIFF
(tagged information file format) file, then
this high-resolution image will cost a few
MBs of hard disk space.
    Proprietary file formats such as Adobe’s
PSD can offer quite a lot of added benefits                                                        Micrografx Publisher provides help through
in terms of saving the image in its original     In Photoshop 6, you can edit text on screen       visuals
and perfectly editable format, but it sure-
ly isn’t the optimal format for delivering       might appear strange but can be very use-         image editing and how to go about work-
files to other people, or for that matter,       ful when the same file is modified from           ing with each and every feature of the soft-
using the image on the Web.                      time to time. It’s nice to have the ability to    ware. This makes things easier as it
    While using proprietary formats, you         add active comments to an image, just like        supports context-sensitive help.
can save all the layers, vectors and text sep-   a word document, if it is sent for approval          Gimp also supports context-sensitive
arately and in its true editable form, and
re-use it as you wish. Adobe Photoshop,
Jasc Paint Shop Pro and QFX7 allow one to
save the image in various formats, includ-
                                                                                    Effects Galore
ing the most common ones like .jpg, .gif          “Oh God, how can one possibly do that?”               Here’s where you can get some popu-
and .psd. Gimp doesn’t support saving the         Now you will get the answer to that ques-         lar plugins:
image in .gif and .tiff format, whereas           tion and many more whenever you see a             Shareware
Micrografx only supports .ppf and .bmp            startling image with a fiery finish or water      Dream Suite from auto fx software
formats. However, it does allow one to            droplets suspended in air                                       (
export the image and apply JPEG and GIF           with some crazed-out                                                Eyecandy and Xenofex
compressions but it cannot save them in           effect.                                                         from Alien Skin (www.alien-
that format.                                          The answer lies in plug-                          
Additional features: Most of the soft-            ins. There are various plug-                                        KPT from Corel
ware had some additional features that            ins available for download                                      (
added a punch to the functionality.               (shareware as well as                                               Intellihance Pro, Mask
Adobe Photoshop 6.01 has a new feature            freeware) and users can                                         Pro and Photo Frame from
called ‘Liquify’, which allows you to do          install them in the same                              
some amazing things such as selecting a           directory where the image                                       Freeware
particular portion of the image and               editing software is. Some                                       Filter Factory Galleries from
bloating it, twirling it clockwise and anti-      popular plugins are KPT                               
clockwise, shifting pixels, and thawing           and Eyecandy, which are                                         web/wolf359/plugins.htm
and freezing it.                                  used by many people in                                              Media Spark Filters from
    The Type tool of Photoshop has                the industry.                     EyeCandy’s fire effect
improved dramatically. The text can now

■   select~ t e s t d r i v e

                     The Image Editing Software
                            Adobe Photshop 6.01     Gimp 1.2                 Jasc Paintshop Pro 7     Micrografx Picture         QFX 7
                                                                                                      Publisher 9
 Contact Details
                            Adobe Systems India     The Gimp Organisation    Jasc Software            Micrografx                 QFX Software
                            Pvt. Ltd
 Telephone                  0118-4532026            —                        011- 332 9199            —                          —
 Fax                        0118-4532010            —                        011- 614 2999            —                          —
 E-mail                  —                        —                        —                          —
 Web site                
 Price                      Rs 39,456               Freeware                 Rs 5,995                 Rs 3,317 approx ($69.95)   Rs 18,920 approx ($399)
 (i) Layers                 Yes                     Yes                      Yes                      Yes                        Only in Draw mode
 (ii) Filters               Yes                     Yes                      Yes                      Yes                        Yes
 (iii) Masking              Yes                     Yes                      Yes                      Yes                        Yes
 (iv) Support For Scanner   Yes                     Yes                      Yes                      Yes                        Yes
 (v) Support for CMYK       Yes                     No                       Yes                      Yes                        Yes
 Drawing tools              Yes                     Yes                      Yes                      Yes                        Yes
 Importing images from      Yes                     Yes                      Yes                      Yes                        Yes
 File saving formats sup-   JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PSD, etc Cannot save in TIFF and JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PSD, etc PPF and BMP only         JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PSD, etc
 ported                                               GIF formats
 Ratings                    A-                        B                       B+                        B                        B-

help but fails to provide sufficient infor-          CONCLUSION                                         but it loses out on stability, interface and
mation, as most of the help sections seem            In this software shootout, one can see that        support for CMYK. Micrografx Picture
to be under construction.                            each software reviewed offers easy-to-use          Publisher boasts some very cool filters but
    Micrografx provides a decent set of              features and tries extending its functional-       it does not have any blending modes for
help files and the developers have taken the         ities by bundling an animation package so          the layers and neither can it save in the
pain to explain many features through                as to not disappoint the Web community.            most commonly used file extension such
visual examples.                                         However, given the range of features           as JPEG, GIF, TIFF and PSD.
    Coming back to Adobe Photoshop, the              and the functionality offered, Adobe’s                 The only software that provides stiff
help files are really impressive with a lot of       Photoshop emerges the clear winner.                competition to Photoshop is JASC Paint
attention paid to detail. These files include        QFX7 seemed to be the worst software to            Shop Pro7. It stands second in our rat-
a portrayal of image editing fundamentals            deal with. It did provide some decent func-        ings as it provides all functionalities
along with descriptions of each and every            tionality but as far as the interface and          which a graphic professional would look
tool and feature in the software aided by            operations go, it is not                           for—colour correction capabilities,
illustrative examples.                               worth the money. Gimp                              photo enhancement, layers, filters, and so
                                                     does offer some com-                               on. And all this comes at an extremely
A price to pay                                       petition to Photoshop                              affordable price. However, it loses out
Does it make sense to buy expensive soft-                                                               owing to its poor interface, and because
ware if you’re not going to use the extra                                                               of the better ease of use and a couple of
features? Obviously not, so you, as the end                                                             additional features which Photoshop has
user, must identify the purpose you need                                                                recently added.
the software for, and then opt for the right                                                                Photoshop also provides more filters,
software. The reason is simple: profession-                                                             giving the user a wider choice to give fuller
al software doesn’t come cheap.                                                                         expression to his creativity. The action script
    The extremely functional Adobe Pho-                                                                 makes one’s job easier as one can record and
toshop 6 costs approximately Rs 39,456                                                                  play one’s actions. It also has a set of prede-
while the equally versatile Jasc Paint Shop                                                             fined actions, which the user can apply to
Pro7 costs Rs 5,995. So if you are not going                                                            his work by just a click. Some additional fea-
to use the full potency of Photoshop and                                                                tures such as adding notes or audio annota-
can compromise on certain functionali-                                                                  tion to images, text directly appearing on the
ties, then Paint Shop Pro should be a rea-                                                              user’s screen and the predefined warping of
sonably cheap and justifiable option.                                                                   text makes Photoshop stand apart from the
    QFX7 gives you a shock with a price tag                                                             rest of the image editing software.
of Rs 18,920 for something that is not so                                                                   At the end of the creative day, if one
fundamentally brilliant. Micrografx is                                                                  were to make a choice for that perfect dig-
available for approximately Rs 3,500,                Adobe Photshop 6: the most functional              ital imaging software, it would be nothing
providing a good solution for home users.            and versatile image editing software               but Photoshop.

140                                                                                                                                        October 2001
■   select~ t e s t d r i v e

                                                                                                             Illustration: Mahesh Benkar

There are browsers
                                Surf Wars
                                MITUL MEHTA and VARUN SINGH
                                       ars have been waged and casualties suf-
                                                                                     alternatives that promise to be as functional as, or
                                                                                     even better than, IE and Netscape.
and then there are
browsers. Let’s take
a look at who stands
head and shoulders
                                W      fered. Coffee vs Toffee, Mac vs PC, Win-
                                       dows vs Linux…these are some of the
                                       memorable ones. Here and now you shall
                                be witness to yet another battle royale—the bat-
                                tle between your favourite browsers.
                                                                                         With new competitors pouring into the arena,
                                                                                     the choice becomes more difficult. If you use the
                                                                                     Windows OS, you already have a browser, Inter-
                                                                                     net Explorer, a slow-moving beast with a past che-
                                                                                     quered by bugs and security loopholes. But if you
                                    Netscape used to be the king of browsers, but    seek change, all you have to do is resort to some
above the others                ever since Internet Explorer 3.0 was launched, it    quick surfing and avail of numerous options with
                                has been losing popularity and market share. This    better performance, more features and lighter
                                can be attributed to the aggressive push Microsoft   browsers with low memory usage.
                                has given its Internet Explorer by integrating it        Just a look at the list of browsers available can
                                fully into Windows and pre-bundling it as a          send you into a tizzy. has more
                                requirement for many other programs to work.         than a hundred browsers listed. There are a num-
                                This has helped speed up the development of          ber of theme-based browsers such as the Christ-
                                many other browsers, resulting in an onslaught of    mas Browser (with a Christmas theme for

142                                                                                                                            October 2001
                                                            TEST PROCESS
  We tested each browser on five fronts:         matically. We examined
  Features                                       the look and feel—the           The Weightages given to Different
  Here we looked for features such as the        aesthetics and accessibili-               Parameters
  functionality offered by the e-mail client     ty of the browsers. We
  bundled with the browser, facility for         also examined the tools
                                                                                ■ Features (e-mail client, offline
  offline browsing, whether there is an          that make it easier to find
                                                                                browsing, instant messenger,
  Instant Messenger and how well integrat-       and manage information
                                                                                HTML editor, high encryption,
  ed it is with the browser, whether it          and links on the Internet.
                                                                                plugin support, miscellaneous
  includes a bare bones, simple HTML edi-        Performance
                                                                                features) – 30 points
  tor, support for SSL (Secure Socket Layer)     We ran the Caffeine Mark
  and 128-bit encryption, plugins, and any       benchmark to check the
                                                                                ■ HTML Compatibility – 10
  additional features that enhance the           browser’s Java perform-
  usability or functionality of the browser.     ance. Another test we ran
  Size and usability                             was ZD’s iBench, which is      ■ Ease of Use (shortcuts and
  Here we checked for the amount of disk         a measure of the Web           auto-complete, look and feel,
  space a full install of a browser would take   page rendering speeds,         search and other tools) – 20
  up, and the total memory utilised by a sin-    cache retrieval speeds         points
  gle instance of the browser (a single win-     and refresh speeds of an
  dow and a single Web site open) while          Internet browser.              ■ Performance (Caffeine
  loading a standard HTML page. We also          Compatibility                  bench, iBench) – 20 points
  checked the load-up time (the time taken       We checked for the
  by the browser to launch after clicking on     browser’s ability to dis-
                                                                                ■ Size and usability (install
  the icon).                                     play Cascading Style
                                                                                size, memory usage, load-up
  Ease of use                                    Sheets (CSS), nested
                                                                                time) – 20 points
  We looked for features such as a shortcuts     tables, layers and other
  and the ability to complete a URL auto-        such HTML content.

Internet Explorer), browsers that use IE’s engine   communications and Internet tool for you.
to achieve HTML rendering etc, and offline          Among the browsers tested in this category, IE 6
browsers. Other browsers include those made to      and NeoPlanet were based on the Internet Explor-
serve the needs of specific users (such as children er engine, while Netscape 4.78, Netscape 6.1 and
or those who are visually impaired).                Mozilla 0.9.3 were based on the Netscape engine.
    We tested the browsers that were meant to
serve as a complete package in themselves, and      Speed and power
those that serve a specific purpose. The complete   Faster, simpler and more powerful browsing—
ones were those that had                                                    who wouldn’t like the
their own rendering                                                         idea? Most browsers now
engine (Mozilla, Opera,                                                     have the auto complete              More Info on
and Internet Explorer).                                                     feature, which makes for            the test process and the
The other browsers were                                                     smart browsing. You just            products tested, check out
those that enhanced the                                                     have to type in the name
browsing experience by                                                      of the Web site and leave
offering either ease of                                                     the rest to the browser.
use, multiple sites in one                                                      Different browsers
common window, a cus-                                                       have different shortcuts.        Contents
tomisable interface or                                                      If you are an Internet
were exceptionally light                                                    Explorer user, all you              TEST PROCESS . . . . . .143
browsers (K-Meleon, NeoPlanet 5.2 has a cool looking interface              have to do is to key in the         THE BROWSERS . . . . .143
MSN Explorer, NetCap-                                                       Web site’s URL, press               Internet communication
tor, NeoPlanet).                                    [Ctrl] and hit [Enter] (only if the Web site ends           suites and function-specific
                                                    in .com). Similarly, if you are a Netscape or a             browsers
The Internet Communication Suites                   Mozilla user, add the name followed by .com and             BOXES
These packages are more than just browsers—         hit Enter, and you reach your Web site. For Neo-            iBench Explained. . . . . 144
they include a host of other utilities such as an   Planet you can just type in the name and press              Power Surfing . . . . . . . 145
instant messenger, e-mail client, media player,     Enter and it automatically takes you to the site.           SCORE BOARD . . . . . . 146
download manager, etc. They are meant to serve          Both versions of Netscape, Mozilla and Neo-             CONCLUSION . . . . . . . 147
a more holistic purpose of acting as a one-point    Planet by default have a side tab bar, which

■   select~ t e s t d r i v e

                                                  tem startup time, it makes opening up a
                                                  browser window almost as fast as Internet
                                                  Explorer. Internet Explorer loads almost all         iBench Explained
                                                  of its files as soon as your Windows Explor-      To test a Web browser’s HTML render-
                                                  er loads during boot-up.                          ing and loading performance, we used
                                                                                                    ZD’s iBench benchmark HTML load-up
                                                  The goodies                                       test. We ran this test on a 100 Mbps
                                                  What better news for a cyber junkie than a        LAN connection with one server and
                                                  browser that comes with a host of utilities       one client, hence eliminating any other
                                                  such as instant messaging, an e-mail client       bottlenecks that could slow down the
                                                  and other goodies but at the same time            test. This test automatically loads up
                                                  doesn’t compromise on surfing speed?              over 120 HTML pages within a short
                                                      The new version of Internet Explorer          span of time. Even the slowest of the
                                                  not only loads up as fast as its previous ver-    browsers finished the test well within
                                                  sion, but also bundles a host of new fea-         110 seconds, which makes the average
                                                  tures, which were missing in the other            per page load-up time faster than one
Content filtering in IE 6                         browsers. One such feature, image resizing,       page a second. This figure is a lot faster
                                                  allows you to resize and fit a large image in     than what users would achieve on a
contains a host of other links on various         your browser window without having to             dial-up or a broadband Internet con-
topics. However, if you feel cheated by the       scroll down your page. An automatic               nection, which basically means that you
fact that their viewing space has been eaten      image bar pops up whenever you move               won’t be able to notice any difference
up, you can easily do away with the side tab      your mouse over an image, allowing you            in browsing speeds just by changing
bar by customising the interface.                 to save, print or e-mail the image with a         browsers when your connection is slow.
    Another feature that enhances a brows-        click rather than using the cumbersome            Hence, at the end of the day there
er’s usability is if a search engine is embed-    right-click menu.                                 would be virtually no difference
ded into the browser itself. All five browsers        In comparison to this, Netscape 6.1           between performances of two browsers
in this category allow you to choose your         comes with multiple profiles, which allows        if your bandwidth is much lower than
favourite search engine as a default and the      several people to use the same browser            the fast speed at which your browser
results are displayed within the browser          without having to share favourites and            can process information.
itself. For instance, NeoPlanet uses the          other details such as mails and cache. It is
Lycos search bot to search for relevant links     also the only browser that provides the
but there is little you can do to customise it.   option of remembering your passwords             Both versions of Netscape come with the
IE displays the result in the side bar by         and login names while preventing others          AOL instant messenger, while MSN mes-
using MSN by default, whereas Netscape            from misusing this data. Using its pass-         senger is bundled with Internet Explorer.
uses its own engine to per-          word manager program, you can choose             Mozilla allows you to connect to Chatzil-
form such searches. However, in both cases                                                                 la, a program for chatting on the
you can choose to use other engines such as                                                                IRC network. In Netscape, you can
Google or Yahoo!.                                                                                          see your buddy list right on the
    Browsers tend to occupy quite a bit of                                                                 screen in the side bar, so you don’t
your hard disk space, especially if they                                                                   have to launch the messenger, as in
bundle a lot of small utilities. Netscape and                                                              the case of MSN messenger. Both
Internet Explorer are space hoggers as they                                                                AOL and MSN messenger are at
come bundled with a lot of extras, where-                                                                  par in terms of functionality as
as Mozilla occupies just 20 MB of space.                                                                   they allow the exchange of files,
Though NeoPlanet takes only 9 MB to                                                                        voice chat, changing one’s status,
install, it requires Internet Explorer to be                                                               etc. The NeoPlanet browser fea-
already installed on your machine.                                                                         tures fully integrated instant mes-
    As far as the load-up time is                                                                          saging called Net Clubs, (you have
concerned,         NeoPlanet       was     the                                                             to register and login to make it
slowest of the lot, while Internet Explorer       Image resizing in IE6                                    functional) which gives you access
was the fastest. Netscape 6.1 surprised us                                                                 to bulletin boards, galleries and
by loading up quite fast; its previous ver-       whether or not to let other users see your       chat rooms.
sion had an extremely slow load-up time           password.                                        Screening for security: The Internet is a
and was also extremely resource hungry.              NeoPlanet (which also has the multiple        resource of information, not to mention
With this version Netscape seems to have          profiles option) and Internet Explorer also      the vast range of services that you can avail
ironed out this problem by using the same         provide the option for remembering your          from the Net for free. But for you to take
technology that Internet Explorer uses. The       password and login names, but you can-           full advantage of services such as online
quick load feature loads up some of the fre-      not prevent them from being viewed by            banking and shopping, you should choose
quently used Netscape files into the mem-         others.                                          a browser that supports high encryption
ory as soon as the machine starts. Although       Instant messaging: All five browsers in this     (128 bit) for security of online transac-
this adds around 3 to 6 seconds to your sys-      category incorporate an instant messenger.       tions. And if you have children, you’d also

144                                                                                                                               October 2001
want a browser that enables you to restrict
access to sites with questionable content.                                         Power Surfing
    All five browsers provided 128-bit
encryption. However, only Internet                  Does your Internet connection remind          options for changing the memory cache
Explorer and NeoPlanet had a feature that           you of travelling by a bullock cart? Well,    too, so you can choose for more memory
allows you to set different levels for block-       besides tweaking your connection              cache and lesser disk cache to improve
ing Web sites containing sex, nudity, vio-          settings, changing a few settings in          performance.
lence and profanity.                                your browser can also make it work            Turn off Multimedia Features: If you are
Mail client: An integrated e-mail client            faster.                                       just browsing for textual information, dis-
that allows you to download your e-mail             Increase your cache size: Whenever you        able the options for downloading images,
and read it offline adds to the functionali-        visit a Web site, the various elements of     sounds and animation.
ty of a browser. All five browsers in this cat-     the site are stored in the disk cache. If     Turn off Active X and Java: Most Web
egory came with an e-mail client with               you increase the cache size, more pages       sites today use ActiveX and Java, which
sufficient options such as maintaining              can be stored, thereby making it load         slow down the loading of Web pages and
your contacts and creating separate fold-           faster. However, if you have a fast broad-    also make your browser consume more
ers for the different types of mail you get.        band connection, more cache can actual-       memory. ActiveX and Java can even be
    Outlook Express, which comes bundled            ly slow down the rendering of a page,         security hazards.
with Internet Explorer, is known for its            since it takes more time to go through        Smart Browsing: You can surf while
simple looks and functionality but is vul-          the cache than to download from the           simultaneously reading information on
nerable to viruses that use Visual Basic            site. Also defragment your hard disk regu-    the Net by opening a new browser win-
scripting. The e-mail client in Netscape            larly. In Netscape 6 and Opera, you have      dow. This saves a lot of time.
(both versions) and Mozilla (which uses
the same e-mail client as Netscape) are
safer on this front as they do not                your browser supports it. Though                Java performance becomes critical. To test
support VB scripting.                             Netscape 4.78 and its previous versions         this, we ran Pen Dragon’s Caffeine Mark
    An interesting feature in NeoPlanet’s         had this feature, you could not read pages      3.0. This test measures the different fea-
e-mail client is the extremely friendly audio     offline by going to the history folder where    tures of the JVM (Java Virtual Machine)
notification when a new mail arrives.             all the Web pages visited are stored.           and returns a score that roughly corelates
    The older versions of Internet Explor-        Netscape 6.1, Mozilla, NeoPlanet and            with the number of Java instructions exe-
er had an HTML editor, which was capable          Internet Explorer allow you to do this.         cuted per second. In this test Mozilla failed
of some basic editing, but the newer ver-                                                         to even load the Java applet in spite of
sion fails to provide one. Both versions of                                                       downloading the Java plugin. NeoPlanet
Netscape include a basic HTML editor, the                                                         5.2 topped by logging a score of 18510.
‘Composer’ for HTML editing.                                                                      Both the Netscape browsers performed
Efficient downloads: Nothing can be                                                               quite poorly and Netscape 4.78 generated
more frustrating than having to start a                                                           the lowest score amongst all the browsers
download all over again because of dis-                                                           in this category.
ruptions in connection while download-
ing files over a dial-up. This is where                                                           Function-specific browsers
download managers come in. They can be                                                            In the second category of browsers we
easily downloaded from the Net, but if the        Elegant looking MSN Explorer                    included those that offered certain specif-
browser bundles one, it adds to the func-                                                         ic functions. For instance, NetCaptor,
tionality.                                        Performance                                     Opera and Webhunter Power allow you to
    Netscsape 4.78, Mozilla and Internet          To evaluate the performance of the              browse multiple Web sites in a single win-
Explorer do not seem have to understood           browsers we ran ZD’s iBench, which is a         dow, whereas MSN Explorer provides the
this problem of most users and are yet to         measure of the Web page rendering speeds,       facility of online storage and is also ideal
include this feature. Netscape 6.1 and Neo-       cache retrieval speeds and refresh speeds       for those who share their computers.
Planet 5.2 have done their homework well          of an Internet browser. In this test various
and have made sure they include this              sets of HTML pages were loaded in loops         Speed and power
almost mandatory feature.                         and we noted down the time taken.               If you were to go by looks, then MSN
    One feature in NeoPlanet that needs               Internet Explorer was the fastest in        Explorer beats just about every
special mention is the Modem Booster,             loading and rendering pages. Netscape 6.1       browser in this category. Its colourful
which lets you tweak your Internet con-           and Mozilla took twice as long as Internet      interface and minimal buttons make it
nection for maximum performance by                Explorer to load the pages and we couldn’t      stand apart from others. NetCaptor 6.5,
changing the MTU settings (a parameter            see the pages while the browsers loaded         which uses Internet Explorer’s engine, has
that optimises the bandwidth of the               and rendered them. Surprisingly, Neo-           an extremely simple interface with large
TCP/IP protocol).                                 Planet took the longest to complete the         buttons on the toolbar—it leaves a lot to be
Reducing the phone bills: Reading all             test, even though it uses Internet Explorer’s   desired as far as looks are concerned. K-
those textually dense pages on the Net            engine.                                         Meleon has the worst interface amongst
while online could be really expensive.               Since there are numerous Java-based         them all. But there’s more to browsers than
Instead, use the offline-browsing feature if      applications on the Internet, a browser’s       looks. Users of Opera, NetCaptor and

■    select~ t e s t d r i v e

                                                                    A Look at the Browsers
                                         The Internet Communication Suites                                                      Functional Browsers
                   Internet        Mozilla 0.9.3   NeoPlanet 5.2   Netscape        Netscape 6.1    K-Meleon 0.4   MSN              Netcaptor 6.5      Opera 5.12     Web Hunter
                   Explorer 6                                      4.78                                           Explorer                                           Power
                                                                                                                                                                     Browser 5
 Website           www.microso     www.mozil-      www.neo-        http://home.n   http://home.n   www.kmeleo     http://explor-   www.netcap-        www.opera.c    www.web-
                   dows/ie/                                                                                       ome.htm
 Installation      160 MB          19 MB           9 MB            40 MB           40 MB           8 MB           21 MB            1.5 MB             36 MB          4 MB
 Memory            14.6 MB         27.7 MB         23.5 MB         23 MB           28.9 MB         22 MB          25.3MB           16.0 MB            14.5 MB        21.8 MB
 License Type      Freeware        Freeware        Freeware        Freeware        Freeware        Freeware       Freeware         Shareware          Adware         Freeware
 iBench            53.74           136.46          153.37          111.16          141.68          147.34         54.35            56.6               67.14          54.77
 Scores *
 CaffieneMark      18484.3         Failed          18510           8240            9145.3          Failed         18314.3          18344.3            9388.3         18320
 Email Client      Yes             Yes             Yes             Yes             Yes             No             Yes (Hotmail     No                 Yes            No
 Instant           Yes             No              Yes             Yes             Yes             No             Yes              No                 Yes            No
 HTML Editor       No              Yes             No              Yes             Yes             No             No               No                 No             No
 Skinable          No              Yes             Yes             No              Yes             No             No               No                 Yes            No
 Rating            A-              A-              B+              A-              A               B              B+               A-                 A              B
    * Lower scores indicate better performance

MSN Explorer only have to key in the                          should be looking at. All three allow you                         Opera was the only browser in this cat-
name of the Web site while accessing                          to browse multiple sites in the very same                     egory that had its own light HTML render-
any site.                                                     window, similar to the multi-document                         ing engine. Though very fast and efficient,
    Considering that not many features are                    view of Adobe Photoshop or other such                         it renders Web pages in a slightly different
bundled with these browsers, they are real-                   applications that let you edit multiple doc-                  manner; they look a bit cramped when
ly small in size. NetCaptor is the lightest,                  uments in the same window.                                    compared to other browsers. It uses the Java
occupying just 1.5 MB hard disk space.                           NetCaptor also allows you to create a                      plugin from Sun to render the pages.
Opera and MSN Explorer occupy the most                        single bookmark for a group of sites (Cap-                        Web Hunter Power browser offered
hard disk space. Even though they require                     tor groups) that you frequently visit, and                    some curious features that had little prac-
Internet Explorer to be already installed in                  with a single click, load up that whole cat-                  tical use. For instance, the Spell Checker
your computer, MSN Explorer takes an                          egory simultaneously. The ability to group                    option wherein you can check spellings on
additional 21 MB of hard disk space                           similar sites, such as news sites or enter-                   the Web page you are viewing, or the facil-
whereas Opera takes 39 MB.                                    tainment sites or search engines, and open                    ity to add a 3D border to the browser win-
    Since these browsers have a compara-                      them together can help you to better                          dow, use flat scroll bars, etc. The Auto
tively small installation size, you would                     organise your online activities.                              Complete feature in this browser does not
obviously expect them to load quickly.                           As far those annoying automatic pop                        perform the usual task of completing login
And they don’t disappoint you on this                         up windows go, both Opera and NetCap-                         names and passwords. Instead, it refers to
front, with the exception of MSN Explor-                      tor save you the irritation by not display-                   a set of words already added in a list; in
er. Anything less than 128 MB of RAM is                       ing these windows.                                            case your word matches with one from the
not good enough for running this brows-                                                                                     dictionary, it is displayed for selection.
er as it loads up a lot of graphics, which                                                                                  Screening for security: Security is where
take up considerably more resources than                                                                                    most of these browsers were found lack-
Internet Explorer.                                                                                                          ing. Except for MSN Explorer and Opera,
                                                                                                                            none of the browsers provide you with
The goodies                                                                                                                 high encryption. NetCaptor and Web
If quick and efficient browsing is what you                                                                                 Hunter use Internet Explorer to open Web
are looking for, and you are tired of open-                                                                                 pages that support 128-bit encryption,
ing a new window for every Web page,                                                                                        whereas K-Meleon, which uses Netscape’s
then Opera 5.12, NetCaptor and Web                                                                                          Gecko engine, cannot open them at all.
Hunter Power browser are what you                             NetCaptor offers multiple browsing capability                     Nor do they include within themselves

146                                                                                                                                                                October 2001
the facility of blocking objectionable Web    CONCLUSION
sites, except for MSN Explorer, which         Among the Internet communications
allows you to create a Kid Passport where-    suites, had the competition been between
in access rights can be defined. NetCaptor    IE 6 and Netscape 6, IE would have
and Web Hunter Browser once again make        emerged the winner. However, with
use of Internet Explorer to provide you the   Netscape 6.1, woes of a crash-prone and
same, while K-Meleon again lags behind        slow browser have been effectively dealt
in this feature.                              with, which makes it the obvious winner in
                                              this category. Full of features, and extreme-
Performance                                   ly useable and customisable, Netscape 6.1
A majority of the browsers we tested in       can get even better if the absurd product       Netscape 6.1: a feature-rich browser
this category use Internet Explorer’s         activation procedures were eliminated. IE
engine. Hence, their performance was          still remains a good choice, but                    As far as function-specific browsers are
very similar to that of IE. This made         it’s not the best. You have to                  concerned, simple, small and functional
them the best performers in the HTML          have it because Windows                         were the rules for this category, and Opera
loading test. Opera was the second fastest    has it.                                         ruled the roost. Opera is the only ‘complete
in the iBench HTML loading test as it                                                         and homogenous’ browser in this catego-
rendered all the pages using its own                                                          ry, as it comes with its own HTML ren-
engine (the other browsers were based on                                                      dering engine. The multiple document
either the Netscape or the IE browser                                                         view has been the favourite of many, but
engine, which was the fastest). K-Meleon                                                      the interface still has room for improve-
took the maximum time to complete the                                                         ment. Nice bookmarks, customisability,
full test.                                                                                    the swiftness and the built-in download
    K-Meleon also failed to load Caffeine                                                     manager and pop-up box closer make it
Mark’s Java applet, making it impossible                                                      highly recommended for dial-up Internet
to test the Java performance of this brows-                                                   users. NetCaptor 6.5 is also highly func-
er. The Internet Explorer based browsers                                                      tional and something an IE user can easi-
such as NetCaptor and MSN Explorer                                                            ly migrate to, which makes it a great choice
fared quite well in this test as well.        Opera 5.12: a good choice for dial-up users     for everyday usage.

                        1/2 page H AD

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                                        ASUS P4T-M Motherboard, AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz Processor and
More Info on                            more, all tested and brought to you
the hardware products tested.
Check out

                                        Dazzle Hollywood DV- Bridge                                          verdict                    B +
All set to dazzle
                                                                                                      Dazzle Hollywood DV-Bridge
H    ollywood DV-Bridge lets you
     convert your analog videos to
DV format and vice-versa without
                                                                                                      Build Quality
                                                                                                      Value for Money
losing video quality. It can be con-
nected to a camcorder, a TV, or a
VCR to capture video onto your                                       SPECIFICATIONS:
                                                                                                     + Easy installation; Functional and easy-
computer. You also get Dazzle                                                                        to-use software bundled along
                                                                     Minimum Requirements:
                                                                                                     - Expensive
Main Actor video editing software                                    Pentium II 400 MHz proces-
                                                                                                     Price: Rs 26,000
                                                                     sor or higher, Windows 98
and MGI Video Wave 4 SE along                                                                        Contact: Futuristik Control Networks
                                                                     SE/ME/2000, 64 MB RAM,
with it.                                                                                             Phone: 080-2998902; Fax: 080-2998901
                                                                     800x600 pixel resolution,
                                                                     sound card, 1394 (FireWire)
                                                                                                     Web site:

Great performer, high price             Asus P-4T M Motherboard      Socket Type: Socket 473
                                                                                                            verdict                       B
                                                                     Features: 3 PCI Slots, 4 USB     ASUS P-4T M Motherboard
                                                                     ports, 1 AGP slot, RAM           Performance

A    Socket 473 micro ATX mother-
     board for hosting the P4, it has
a well-designed AGP interface that
                                                                     upgradable to 2 GB
                                                                     Benchmarks: SiSoft Sandra:
                                                                     drive index of 23361, 34
                                                                                                      Build Quality
                                                                                                      Value for Money
                                                                     MBps sequential read, 7
                                                                                                      Ease of use
allows for high bandwidth                                            MBps random read, 30             OVERALL
between the board and the graph-                                     MBps sequential write, 8
ics card. It includes an integrated                                  MBps random write               + Four USB ports
                                                                     Quake III Arena: 230 fps        + RAM upgradable to 2 GB
10/100 LAN card. With its stable                                     (normal), 190 fps (high         - High price
performance and a comparatively                                      quality)                        Price: Rs 12,500
small form factor, it packs a lot of                                 44.4 Winstone units in Con-     Contact: Rashi Peripherals
                                                                     tent Creation, 4299 in 3D       Phone: 022-8260258; Fax: 022- 8221012
punch for its size, the only deter-                                  Mark 200t, 76.37 seconds in     E-mail:
rent being its high price.                                           the Adobe Photoshop test        Web site:

                                        AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz Processor                                       verdict                 B
A formidable performer                                                                                AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz Processor

T   he Athlon 1.4 GHz uses the
    Thunderbird core and runs on
a 266 MHz system bus. It has an
                                                                     1.4 GHz core speed, 128 KB
                                                                     L1 Cache, 256 KB L2 Cache,
                                                                                                      Build Quality
                                                                                                      Value for Money
                                                                     0.18 micron fabrication          Features
effective heat sink and fan—the                                      process                          OVERALL
processor didn’t cross 55 degrees                                    Benchmarks:
during the test. It displayed an                                     3D Mark 2001: 4105; SiSoft      + Impressive real-world performance
                                                                     Sandra 2001 test drive          + Affordable
impressive performance and is a                                      index: 23590; Content Cre-      Price: Rs 9,500
good choice if you are looking for                                   ation: 42.6 Winstone units;     Contact: Zeta Technologies
a fast system at an affordable                                       video encoding: 67 seconds;     Phone: 022-4102288
                                                                     AudioActive encoding: 27        Fax: 022-4102277
price.                                                               seconds; Quake III Arena:       E-mail:
                                                                     185.7 fps (normal), 170.3 fps   Web site:
                                                                     (high quality)

148                                                                                                                            October 2001
                                                                                                          verdict                B +
Good looking and smooth                 Logitech Cordless
                                                                                                  Logitech Cordless Mouseman Optical
                                        Mouseman Optical                                          Performance
T   his innovatively designed
    mouse has four buttons and a
Web wheel, which can easily be
                                                                                                  Build Quality
                                                                                                  Value for Money
programmed. Running on two AA                                                                     Featues
batteries, it gives precise cursor                                                                OVERALL
control by providing a resolution                                 SPECIFICATIONS:
                                                                  Minimum Requirements: IBM      + Good looks; Very smooth to use
of 800 dpi. In Quake III, this                                                                   - Not suitable for a left-handed users
                                                                  compatible PC, Windows
mouse was extremely smooth to                                     98/Me/2000/NT, available       Price: Rs 4,990
work with. However, its ergonom-                                  USB/PS/2 port, CD-ROM          Contact: Rashi Peripherals
                                                                  drive, Macintosh System,       Phone: 022- 8260258; Fax: 022- 8221012
ics and contours make it suitable
                                                                  Macintosh OS 8.6 or later,     E-mail:
only for right-handed users.                                      CD-ROM drive                   Web site:

Expansive and stable                    ASUS A7M 266                                                    verdict                  B -
                                        Motherboard               SPECIFICATIONS:
                                                                                                  ASUS A7M Motherboard
T   his motherboard is based on
    the AMD 761 chipset with an
ATX form factor. It supports Athlon
                                                                  Socket Type: Socket A
                                                                  Features: 4 PCI slots, 4 USB
                                                                  ports, DDR RAM compatible
                                                                                                  Build Quality
                                                                                                  Value for Money
                                                                  Benchmarks:                     Features
and Duron processors ranging                                      3D Mark 2001: 4105; Quake
from 550 MHz to 1 GHz and                                         III: 185.7 fps (normal
above. With stable performance                                    mode), 170.3 fps (high qual-   + Four PCI slots
and plenty of expansion options,                                  ity mode); SiSoft Sandra       + DDR RAM upgradeable to 2 GB
                                                                  drive index: 23590, 34 MBps    - Expensive
this motherboard is a good choice                                 sequential read, 7 MBps        Price: Rs 12,900
where bandwidth-heavy applica-                                    random read, 29 MBps           Contact: Zeta Technologies
tions such as image editing and                                   sequential write, 9 MBps       Phone: 022-4102288; Fax: 022-4102277
                                                                  random write; Content Cre-     E-mail:
performance will be used.                                         ation: 42.6                    Web site:

Power processor                                                                                          verdict              B +
                                        Pentium 4 1.8 GHz Processor                               Pentium 4 1.8 GHz Processor

T   he P4 1.8 GHz processor is the
    fastest processor currently
available in India. It comes with                                 SPECIFICATIONS:
                                                                                                  Build Quality
                                                                                                  Value for Money
                                                                  Benchmarks: Content Cre-
the heat sink-fan combo, clips,                                   ation: 44.4; 3D Mark 2001:      OVERALL
holders and thermal conducting                                    4299; SiSoft HDD index:
                                                                  23361, 34 MBps sequential      + Very good performance in multimedia
paste. The performance was
                                                                  read, 7 MBps random read;      and gaming applications
above average in almost all the                                                                  - Motherboards for this processor are
                                                                  Audio encoding: 28 sec-
tests. With an impressive perform-                                onds; Video encoding: 57       still expensive
ance in multimedia applications                                   seconds; Photoshop: 76.37      Price: Rs 11,868
                                                                  seconds, Quake III Arena:      Contact: Intel Asia Electronics
such as audio and video encoding,                                                                Phone: 080-5550940; Fax: 080-5550943
                                                                  230 fps (normal mode) 190
this processor is a good choice for                               fps (high quality)             Web site:
power-consuming applications.

Hear and now                            Labtec Axis-302 Headphones                                       verdict             B -
                                                                                                  Labtec Axis-302 Headphones
T   his headset with microphone
    supports the NCAT-2 Noise
Cancellation Technology, suitable
                                                                                                  Build Quality
                                                                                                  Value for Money
for use in noisy environments. It’s                                                               Features
specifically built for usage in voice                                                             OVERALL
over IP applications. While playing                                                              + Long cord
music, the bass levels were rather                                                               + Performs better with a good soundcard
                                                                  SPECIFICATIONS:                - Uncomfortable
nasal, while the levels of treble                                 Frequency response: Head-      Price: Rs 1,350
and mid frequencies were over-                                    set 20 to 20,000 Hz, micro-    Contact: Rashi Peripherals
poweringly high. The sound was                                    phone 100 to 16,000 Hz         Phone: 022- 826025; Fax: 022- 8221012
                                                                  Mic bias voltage: 3.0 V DC;    E-mail:
slightly distorted during loud                                    output impendence: 680         Web site:
scenes in movies.                                                 ohms

149                                                                                                                                149
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                                         MGI Photo Suite III, NetIQ’s MP3 Check—all the latest software out there,
More Info on                             tested for you
the software products tested.
Check out

Sound of magix                           Magix Studio Deluxe V 2000                                             verdict                      B
                                                                                                         Magix Studio Deluxe V 2000
   his music production tool for                                                                         Ease of use
T  Wave files can handle up to 16
tracks and add filters such as
echo, delay, reverb and FFT, and a
                                                                                                         Value for money
plugin to import sound tracks. It                                           SPECIFICATIONS:              OVERALL
                                                                            Features: Can add extra
allows resampling, time stretching,                                         effects and enhance-        + Easy to use
pitch shifting, normalise, etc. It can                                      ments such as simulat-      - Can’t import MP3s
handle MIDI tracks, import files                                            ing bigger rooms, only      Price: Rs 850
                                                                            reverb and chorus           Contact: Microware Computer Services
with SNG, .MID and WAV file                                                 effects can be added to     Phone: 022-8729725
extensions and can also work with                                           MIDI tracks, supports       Fax: 022-8727446
AVI files.                                                                  drag-and-drop function-     E-mail:
                                                                            ality                       Web site:

Photo editing made easy                  MGI Photo Suite III (Family Edition)                                  verdict                      B
                                                                                                         MGI Photo Suite III (Family Edition)
                                                                                                         Ease of use
    sing this software, you can
U   organise and enhance your
photographs by adding some
                                                                                                         Value for money
spectacular effects. Apart from the                                                                      OVERALL
usual cropping and rotating of                                             SPECIFICATIONS:
                                                                                                        + Easy-to-use features and intuitive lay-
photographs, it has tools such as                                          Features: Preset warp
                                                                                                        out; Affordable
the clone tool, the predefined set                                         styles let you create
                                                                                                        - Limited functionality
                                                                           interesting effects to
of Filter effects, a basic set of                                                                       Price: Rs 900
                                                                           images, can add cool
drawing tools and others. It can                                                                        Contact: Microware Computer Services
                                                                           effects such as fog, snow,
                                                                                                        Phone: 022-8729725; Fax: 022-8727446
acquire images from a digital cam-                                         wind and others, and
                                                                           eliminate speckles from
era or scanner.                                                            scanned images
                                                                                                        Web site:

A view with coffee                       CoffeeCup Free Viewer                                                  verdict                      B
                                                                                                         CoffeeCup Free Viewer
  t supports viewing for 10 differ-                                                                      Ease of use
 Ient image formats. There are
 bare image editing features such
 as negative conversion of an
                                                                                                         Value for money
 image and enhancement of                                                                                OVERALL
 colours. You can e-mail an image,
 upload images to an FTP server on                                                                      + Integrated tools such as mail and FTP
 the Internet or network, or use                                           SPECIFICATIONS               client for sending images on the Internet
 e-mail zip to compress images to                                          Features: 10 image for-      - Cannot write to all image formats
                                                                           mats can be viewed, but      Price: Freeware
 be sent via e-mail.
                                                                           conversion is possible in    Web site:
                                                                           only five formats

150                                                                                                                                October 2001
Designerware                            Adobe InDesign 1.5       SPECIFICATIONS:                        verdict                  B +
                                                                 Features: Built-in trap-        Adobe InDesign 1.5
                                                                 ping; solid text wrap
    ffers tight control of embedded                                                              Ease of use
O   objects, nested text and graph-
ics frames. Customise your work
                                                                 options; standard Pen,
                                                                 Pencil, Smooth, Eraser,
                                                                 Free Transform; built-in
area with editable keyboard short-                               support for Adobe PDF           Value for Money
                                                                 files; ability to align text    OVERALL
cuts, dockable palettes, and so on.                              to any path and then
For long document compositions,                                  manipulate it; compre-         + Powerful page layout features and
use rich character and paragraph                                 hensive printing controls      integration with other Adobe products
                                                                 with support for built-in      - Expensive
styles for specifying or updating                                trapping and Adobe in-         Price: Rs 42,946
text styles across documents. It                                 RIP trapping; can convert      Contact: Adobe Systems India Pvt Ltd
supports a wide range of output                                  QuarkXPress 3.3-4.1 and        Phone: 0118-4531967; Fax: 0118-4532010
devices and formats.                                             PageMaker 6.5 docu-            E-mail:
                                                                 ments                          Web site:

Video enthusiasts ahoy!                 ULead Video Studio 4.0                                          verdict                  B +
                                                                                                 ULead Video Studio 4.0
   pen any video file and add a
O  wide variety of effects to it. You
can add titles or voice messages to
                                                                                                 Ease of use
the video, besides recording back-                                                               Value for Money
ground music from an audio CD                                                                    OVERALL
or an MP3 file. You can also send                                                               + Very powerful image editing features
the finished video as an e-mail, a                               SPECIFICATIONS:                + Highly intuitive interface
greeting card or set it as a Web                                 Features: Software CD          Price: Rs 2,250
                                                                 comes with DirectX,            Contact: Microware Computer Services
page.                                                            QuickTime, additional          Phone: 022-8729725
                                                                 videos, sounds and pic-        Fax: 022-8727446
                                                                 tures; wide range of           E-mail:
                                                                 project templates              Web site:

Music to your ears                      Thomson MP3Pro audio player                                    verdict               B +
                                                                 SPECIFICATIONS:                 Thomson MP3Pro audio player
                                                                 Download size: 2.5 MB           Ease of use
    his player has only the bare
T   bones features—the player, a
small encoder interface and a sim-
                                                                 Features: No audio
                                                                 equalisation; doesn’t let
                                                                 you rip audio directly off
                                                                 the CD and encode into          Value for Money
ple playlist manager. This software
                                                                 MP3Pro files, the 2.5 MB        OVERALL
lets you encode standard WAV                                     download lets you
files into 64 Kbps 44.1 KHz stereo                               encode standard WAV
MP3Pro audio files while still                                   files into 64 Kbps 44.1
                                                                                                + Free, backward compatible
                                                                 KHz stereo MP3Pro
maintaining CD-quality audio.                                                                   - No greater than 64 Kbps or batch
                                                                 audio files while still
Encoding at a higher bitrate                                                                    encoding
                                                                 maintaining CD-quality
                                                                                                Price: Freeware
requires that you buy a full retail                              audio; need to buy the
                                                                                                Web site:
                                                                 full retail version to
version of the software.
                                                                 encode at higher bitrate

Music resource finder                   NetIQ MP3Check                                                  verdict                  A -
                                                                                                 NetIQ MP3Check
    his software scans your net-
T   work’s shared resources to find
how much of it is used to store
                                                                                                 Ease of use
music files. You can choose to                                                                   Value for Money
scan only a certain                                                                              OVERALL
workgroup/domain, only selected
                                                                 SPECIFICATIONS:                + Scans in multiple threads and hidden
machines, or manually add the                                    Features: Scans many           shares, faster than other equivalent
whole of the network to the scan                                 computers simultaneous-        programs
list. It can even scan any hidden                                ly, scans even hidden          - Needs to be run a few times before a
                                                                 shares, can figure out         stable result is obtained
shares that exist on the network.
                                                                 how much of a network’s        Price: Freeware
                                                                 shared resources are           Web site:
                                                                 being used to store MP3s

■   select~ r e p o r t c a r d

                                      Beginning Linux Programming
                                                                                          For game reviews
                                                                                          check out,
The first step
                                                                                           On the Stands
T  his book addresses the oft
   pondered question, “What
development can I do in
                                                                                           Awesome Game
Linux?” The book expects you                                                               Learn how to develop your
to have knowledge of C and                                                                 own games using software
concentrates on development                                                                such as The Games Factory
using C. Advanced topics such                              Publisher: Shroff Publishers    and The Pie 3D Game
                                                           & Distributors                  Creation System, and a
as interprocess communica-                                 Contact: Shroff Publishers      lot more.
tions, device drivers and POSIX                            & Distributors                  Publisher: Charles River
have also been dealt with con-                             Phone: 022-2631572,
siderably well. Overall, a very                            2641488
                                                                                           Contact: Computer Book
                                                           Fax: 022-262 3551
good book to start off with if                             E-mail:            Shop
you are interested in system                               Price: Rs 575                   Phone: 022-2070989,
                                                           Rating:                         2076356
programming.                                                                               Fax: 022-262 3551
                                                                                           Price: Rs 2,487.51
Go with the experts!                  Maximum Security
                                                                                           Quick fixes
T  his book is aimed at system
   administrators and
managers who need protection
                                                                                           Windows 2000
                                                                                           This book has the answers to
                                                                                           any and every problem plaug-
from hackers for their comput-
                                                                                           ing Windows 2000. It covers
ers, networks and Web sites.                                                               topics such as setting up
The best feature of this book is                                                           a dual boot system,
that it is written by security pro-                        Publisher: Sams Publishing      restoring the registry
fessionals and experienced                                 Contact: Computer Book          from a backup, setting
                                                           Shop                            up SSL for security on a
hackers. The book delves into                                                              Web site and more.
                                                           Phone: 022-2070989,
various interesting topics such                            2076356                         Publisher: O’Reilly and
as Firewalls, password crack-                              Fax: 022-262 3551               associates
ers, platforms and security and                            E-mail: cbsbom@gias-            Contact: Shroff Publishers
                                                                 & Distributors
a whole lot more.                                          Price: Rs 2,489.50              Phone: 022-2631572, 2641488
                                                           Rating:                         Fax: 022-262 3551
                                                                                           Price: Rs 225

First base                            Comdex Computer Course Kit                           Windows Me
I f you are an absolute newbie
  to the world of computers
then this book should provide
                                                                                           This book guides you on top-
                                                                                           ics such as tweaking the
                                                                                           interface, working with
                                                                                           the registry, etc to get the
for a valuable introduction. The
                                                                                           best out of Win Me. Ideal
book calls for no previous                                                                 for intermediate and
knowledge of computers and                                 Publisher: Dream Tech
                                                                                           advanced users.
introduces you to the very                                                                 Publisher: O’Reilly and
                                                           Contact: IDG Books India
basics of computing, right from                                                            associates
                                                           Pvt Ltd
the components of a PC to                                                                  Contact: Shroff Publishers
                                                           Phone: 011-3260877,
                                                                                           & Distributors
working in Excel 2000. It                                  3270877
                                                                                           Phone: 022-2631572, 2641488
includes an audio/video                                    Fax: 011-3275895
                                                                                           Fax: 022-262 3551
software on an accompanying                      
CD, which further explains all                                                             Price: Rs 275
                                                           Price: Rs 199
                                                           Rating:                         Rating:
that you read in the book.

152                                                                                                       September 2001
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                                     Operation PC Cabinet
                                      Agent 001 is out on the field once again, this time on the trail of the
                                      usually neglected but all-important PC cabinet
                                           nother month, another operation. This time I      who came with specific models and power supply

                                     A     was hard on the trail of PC cabinets—much
                                           ignored, but something your system cannot do
                                           without. Some of you might drool over them,
                                             but most think it does not make a farthing
                                             of a difference. The primary criterion for
                                                                                                 Next, I shifted base to some shops in Andheri.
                                                                                             At one I asked for a cabinet with a power supply
                                                                                             that would support an AMD processor, which is
                                                                                             recommended to be fitted only with a 300-watt
                                             most computer buyers in India while select-     power supply. The dealer did not know of any such
                                            ing a cabinet is that it should not add to the   special power supply. All his cabinets were
                                            cost of the system in any significant manner.    equipped with a power supply of 235 watt. He
                                               Strangely enough, in India, PC cabinets       quickly added that he had not heard of any com-
Illustration: Mahesh Benkar             come equipped with power supply—Switch               plaints from customers in this regard.
                                     Mode Power Supply (SMPS). But although that’s               I moved on to a shop that sold only P4-based
                                     how the market offers them, manufacturers gen-          systems. P4 systems use cases with a different type
                                     erally ship them separately. So while buying a cab-     of power supply and are rather expensive, ranging
                                     inet if you feel it has an underpowered power           from Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,500, but this was more than
     There is a distinct             supply, you can get it changed.                         made up for by their build quality. The dealer told
                                         I set ‘Operation PC Cabinet’ into motion at         me that Mercury had some really inexpensive cab-
    move towards ATX                 Goregaon, at a large cabinet dealer’s showroom.         inets for Pentium 4 that complied with all the new
                                     According to him, cabinets from Mercury were            ATX regulations and retailed for under Rs 2,500.
       and Micro-ATX                 popular and cheap. You could buy a cabinet for the          My final destination for this mission was Lam-
                                     smaller Baby AT motherboards that uses the older        ington Road, Mumbai’s ‘Destination Hardware’. I
   cabinets, which can               power supply system for less than Rs 800. He            asked the dealer in one of the shops here whether
                                     added that lately there was a distinct move towards     he could find me a case with a 400-watt power
 be bought for as little             ATX and Micro-ATX cabinets, which could be              supply. I amazed to hear him say: “Pick any cabi-
                                     bought for as low as Rs 1,400. ATX cabinets are         net and we will fit it with a power supply that will
          as Rs 1,400                available in a variety of colours and shapes and        match your requirements”. According to him, Indi-
                                     depending on the power supply used, the cost can        an power supplies were nothing to scoff at and
                                     go as high as Rs 4,000. Most of his sales came from     supplied clean and pure voltages as compared to
                                     assemblers. On the rare occasions that users            some of the cheaper types coming in from Taiwan
                                     approached him directly, they argued over rela-         and elsewhere. He also recommended the KOB
                                     tively less important details like colour, and never    series of cabinets from Mercury, saying they were
                                     over power supply.                                      probably the best when it came to affordable cab-
                                         The most discerning buyers, he said, were peo-      inets, especially the KOB31. This model, with a
                                     ple building servers or other high-end computers        semi-transparent front facia (a first here) was sold
                                                                                             for about Rs 1,550. The fit and finish of the KOB
                                                                                             series, he claimed, was top quality and the power
                                                                                             supply too was rated at a decent 250 watt—suffi-
                              Pentium 4 Cabinets                                             cient for most computer systems.
                                                                                                 Another dealer offered me an irresistible
    Intel has changed the power supply        nets are superior in build quality             option—he could modify any cabinet of my
    ratings for the P4 motherboards. The      (curled edges) and the quality of the          choice. He had photographs of several modified
    power supply now needs to conform         power supply used. They also offer             cabinets—cabinets with gaping holes covered by
    to ATX 2.03 specifications. This means    more bays and sometimes even                   fibre glass shields, extra large fans and neon lights
    that most cheap cabinets using locally    knurled knobs instead of screws for            glowing inside, and so on. He said a modification
    manufactured power supplies will not      fastening the panels of the cabinet,           could cost a customer anywhere between Rs 2,000
    work with them. This also implies that    which makes it possible to access the          and Rs 3,000 extra, depending on his requirements.
    cabinets as well as power supplies for    insides of your system even if you do              Well, mission accomplished. My next call is to
    the P4 are now imported and also cost     not have a screwdriver handy. Cabinets         jazz up my boring old beige cabinet.
    almost double the amount that we          from IN-WIN have been particularly
                                                                                             Want to share insights and experiences in buying computer
    have been used to paying. These cabi-     popular for P4 systems, but are costly.        hardware and digital products?
                                                                                             Write in to

■   s e l e c t ~ a-list

                                       A listing of the best products in different hardware and software categories
                                            ho’s in, who’s out? The competition’s hot,            reviews. Based on these tests, the best products

                                       W    but only the winners get to this page—a list-
                                            ing of the best performing hardware and
                                       software that have been tested till date in differ-
                                                                                                  have been listed here (detailed reviews in Digit-
                                                                                                  Interactive Mindware). As different products get
                                                                                                  reviewed over the months, the top products
                                       ent categories.                                            might find themselves slipping out of the charts
                                          Every month, at the Digital Media Test &                and replaced by the latest entrants in the market.
                                       Research Centre, we carry out a series of com-             So, keep your ears sharp and eyes open and keep
                                       parison tests as well as individual product                yourself abreast of the latest cool products.

HARDWARE                               Graphics card                         + High quality sound                    Fax: 022-3828200
Monitors (14 & 15-inch)                ASUS V8200 GeForce3                   processing                              Price: Rs 17,700
Viewsonic E53                          Deluxe                                Contact: Compuage Infocom
                                       + Unsurpassed video quality and       Phone: 022-4913986                      CD drives
                                       speed                                 Fax: 022-4919069                        ASUS CD-S500
                                       – Needs a fast CPU to get maximum     Price: Rs 12,500                        + Good performance
                                       result                                                                        – Slightly inferior build quality
                                       Contact: Mnemonic Systems             Motherboards                            Contact: Rashi Peripherals
                                       Phone: 022-8010871                    ASUS P4T                                Phone: 022-8260258
                                       Fax: 022-8051761                      + Fits into any ATX cabinet             Fax: 022-8221012
+ OSD support                          Price: Rs. 34,450                     + Good feature list                     Price: Rs 2,900
+ No message signal if power cut off                                         Contact: Rashi Peripherals
Contact: Roop Technologies                                                   Phone: 022-8260258                      CD-RW drives
Phone: 022-6631921/2/3/4                                                     Fax: 022-8221012                        Plextor PX-W1610TA
Fax: 022-6103919                                                             Price: Rs 15,500                        + High write and rewrite speed
Price: Rs 7,750                                                                                                      Contact: Zeta Technologies
                                                                             Processors                              Phone: 022-4102277
Monitors (17-inch)                                                           Pentium 4 - 1.8 GHz                     Fax: 022-4102288
ViewSonic PS775                                                                                                      Price: Rs 13,950
+ Very good image quality              Speakers
+ Support for high resolution          Creative SoundWorks                                                           DVD drives
Contact: Roop Electronics              DTT2500                                                                       Aopen 1640 Pro DVD
Phone: 022-6175213                     + True Dolby Digital-compliant                                                + 16x DVD speeds; 512 KB cache
+ 110 MHz video bandwidth              sound                                                                         + Good build quality
+ Good build quality                   – Too clumsy stand for speakers                                               – Does not support DMA
Fax: 022-6103919                       Contact: Compuage Infocom                                                     Contact: Yogi Comp
Price: Rs 24,000                       Phone: 022-4913986                                                            Phone: 022-8806582
                                       Fax: 022-4919069                                                              Fax: 022-8806582
Monitors (19 & 21-inch)                Price: Rs 24,000                      + Excellent performance.                Price: Rs 5,950
Samsung 955DF                                                                + Good packaging
+ Good build quality                                                         Contact: Intel Asia Electronics India
+ Good colour results                                                        Pvt. Ltd.
– Screen clarity test fades out on                                           Phone: 080-5550940
                 corners                                                     Fax: 080-5550943
                 Contact: Samsung                                            Price: Rs 26,668
                 Electronics India
                 Information &                                               Hard disks (IDE)
                 Telecommunica-                                              IBM Deskstar 75GXP
                 tion Ltd.             Soundcards                            DTLA-307075 - 75GB
                 Phone: 011-           SoundBlaster Live!                    + 10,000 RPM; good data transfer        Laser Printers
            6322517/8/9                Platinum 5.1                          + 1 MB buffer                           Lexmark Optra M412
Fax: 011-6932607                       + Dolby Digital AC-3                  Contact: Wales Technologies             + Good print speeds
Price: Rs 31,650                       compliant                             Phone: 022-3828100                      – LCD management screen

154                                                                                                                                        October 2001
Contact: T.V.S. Electronics             Systems                             Contact: Rashi Peripherals       + Customisable interface
Phone: 044-2325506                      Phone: 022-5825965                  Phone: 022-8260258               Contact: G. T. Enterprises
Fax: 044-2327577                        Fax: 022-5379719                    Fax: 022-8190766                 Phone: 080-6606093
Price: Rs 42,000                        Price: Rs 1,19,000                  Price: Rs 7,750                  Fax: 080-6671407
                                                                                                             Price: Rs 3,000
Inkjet Printers                         External Storage Devices            Pointing devices
Epson Stylus Color 880                  IOMEGA 2GB Jaz                      Logitech Cordless Mouse -        Web authoring
+ Very quiet; good results              + Very good price per MB; hard-     man Wheel                        Macromedia
+ Print resolution of 2880 dpi          disk-class performance              + Good accuracy with features;   Dreamweaver4 ver.4.0
Contact: Epson India                    Contact: Neoteric Infomatique       resilient to dirt                + Extensive feature support
Phone: 022-8257286                      Phone: 022-4172600                  + Many extra function keys       + Integrates with other packages
Fax: 022-8267287                        Fax: 022-4163679                    Contact: Rashi Peripherals       - Intimidating for first time user
Price: Rs 18,200                        Price: Rs 17,000                    Phone: 022-8260258               Contact: Wipro Infotech Enterprise
                                                                            Fax: 022-8190766                 Phone: 080-8440011
PCs                                     Handhelds                           Price: Rs. 4,500                 Fax: 080-8440187
Dell Dimension 8100                     Compaq iPAQ H3630                                                    Price: Rs 14,250
+ nVidia Geforce3 at work               + Very feature packed               SOFTWARE
                                        + Powerful processor, multimedia    Operating systems (Windows)      Firewalls
                                        capable                             Windows 2000                     ZoneAlarm Pro 2.6
                                        Contact: RADZ Technologies          Professional                     + Good performance
                                        Phone: 022-3678293/3678297          + Very stable                    – No protection against ActiveX
                                        Fax: 022-3678193                    – Heavy on system requirements   controls
                                        Price: Rs 43,875                    Contact: Integrated Business     Contact:
                                                                            Solutions                        Price: Rs 2,000 (approx)
                                        MP3 players                         Phone: 022-8214701
+ Good built quality and well           Creative NOMAD 2MG                  Fax: 022-8328240                 Image Editing software
designed cabinet                        + Excellent build quality           Price: Rs 8,400                  Adobe Photoshop 6.01
Contact: Dell Computers                 + Supports WMA
Phone: 1600338044 Toll free             format and                          Office suites
Phone: 1600338046 Toll Free (Prod-      upgradeable                         Microsoft Office XP
uct Specific)                           firmware                            + Rich features
Price: Rs. 98,134/- (varies according   - Controls not easily               – Expensive
to configuration)                       accessible                          Contact: Microsoft (India)
                                        Contact: Compuage                   Phone: 011-6294600
Scanners                                Infocom                             Price: Rs 19,250
Epson Perfection 1640SU                 Phone: 022-4913986
+ Transparency unit included as         Fax: 022-4919069                    OCR Packages
standard accessory                      Price: Rs 21,500                    FineReader Pro 5.0
+ Fast image scanning                                                       + Quite accurate
– Too bulky (4.5 kgs)                   Digital cameras                     Contact: Vikmans Multimedia
Contact: Epson India                    Sony Cybershot DSC-P1               Phone: 011-6472325
Phone: 080-5321266                                                          Price: Rs 5,000
Fax: 080-5581799                                                                                             + Inclusion of vector shapes
Price: Rs 22,500                                                            Operating systems (Linux)        + Layers can be grouped and
                                                                            SuSE Linux 7.2                   coloured for easier identification of
Laptops                                                                     + Simple to install              images
Nishubuki 1 GHz                                                             + Many bundled applications      - Too resource hungry
+ Attractively priced                                                                                        Contact: Adobe Systems India
- Low end graphics card                 + Good features                                                      Phone: 0118-4532026
Contact: Nishubuki Computer             - Limited memory                                                     Fax: 0118-4532010
                                        Contact: Best International                                          Price: Rs. 39,456
                                        Phone: 022-2611050
                                        Fax: 022-2624795                                                     Voice recognition
                                        Email:                                              Dragon NaturallySpeaking
                                        Price: Rs 49,990                                                     v5.0 (Preferred Edition)
                                                                                                             + Impressive speech recognition
                                        Keyboards                                                            – High on system requirements
                                        Logitech Cordless Freedom                                            Contact: HCL Infosystems
                                        Navigator                                                            Phone: 011-4526518
                                        + Very comfortable                                                   Fax: 011-4526579
                                        + Extensive configuration options                                    Price: Rs 17,995

■   digit diary

This time the Digit
                                         Crash Course
                                          our to five comparison tests every month,               to lesser mortals, more technology, less English.

Diary takes you through
crashes—avoidable car
crashes and, thanks to
                                       F  which means on an average, testing some 60
                                          products, plus the standalone tests for new
                                          hardware and software products…and that’s
                                       only for Digit. On any given day, the Digital
                                       Media Research and Test Centre looks like a
                                                                                                      At the end of one such day, with the usual
                                                                                                  quota of benchmarking products and solving
                                                                                                  sundry technology-related problems for readers
                                                                                                  and colleagues alike, Hatim Kantawalla, our
                                                                                                  deputy head of the Test Centre, was driving back
Nimda, unavoidable PC                  hardware shack with gadgets and techies lined              home. Having spent the previous night in the
                                       up all over the place, talking in nothing else but         office to put the final touches on the Digit Smart
crashes                                gobbledegeek. At least that’s what it sounds like          Buyer’s guide, he was feeling somewhat less than
                                                                                                  his usual exuberant self.
                                                                                                      While waiting for a signal to turn green,
                                                                                                  Hatim was mulling over all the things that need-
                                                                                                  ed to be done the next day. Thus preoccupied, he
                                                                                                  momentarily relaxed his foot on the brake pedal.
                                                                                                  Disaster, which usually doesn’t need more than
                                                                                                  a minute to strike, promptly did.
                                                                                                      The car slid forward and clipped the rear of a
                                                                                                  Sumo in front. Ironically this was the office Sumo,
                                                                                                  which was loaded with people who travel from
                                                                                                  our office in Nerul to Bandra/Andheri every day.
                                                                                                      The champ at games, with reflexes honed by
                                                                                                  years of Quake, quickly applied the brakes and
                                                                                                  shifted into reverse. As luck would have it, he
                                                                                                  had an auto driver waiting behind him with
                                                                                                  other plans. The auto driver thought the signal
                                                                                                  had turned green and raced ahead. The result:
                                                                                                  the auto and the car collided too.
                                                               Illustration: Mahesh Benkar            Hatim, by now thoroughly confused, gave the
                                                                                                  all’s well sign to his concerned colleagues in the
                                                                                                                         Sumo, pulled over by the
                                                                                                                         kerb, and got out to exam-
                                         All in a day’s work                                                             ine the damage, if any.
                                                                                                                         While he was berating the
     You know the rest. In the books you have read         may be present on their machine.                              auto driver, he heard a com-
        How the British Regulars fired and fled,               Why? “Because it’s a virus…the Nimda virus”.              motion with several panic-
        How the farmers gave them ball for ball,               This was the first warning that most of us had            stricken voices calling out
      From behind each fence and farmyard wall,            about the outbreak of the Nimda virus. This was nat-          his name. He looked up and
         Chasing the redcoats down the lane,               urally followed by groans (and colourful curses) from         saw his car sliding forward,
       Then crossing the fields to emerge again,           a few people who had unwittingly opened these files.          heading straight for a tree!
        Under the trees at the turn of the road,           Then came ‘qualified advice’ from the quacks around           In a flash Hatim, thinking of
           And only pausing to fire and load.              which involved applying a bunch of patches and                what might happen to him
                                                           scrambling for the latest bunch of anti virus updates.        if he has one more accident,
 Some of you may be familiar with this poem by H. W.           Coinciding as it did with the closing of this issue,      got in the car and averted
 Longfellow. Well, we had an experience that made          the outbreak of the virus created its own set of com-         another minor disaster.
 this poem very relevant.                                  plications. Nimda spreads by infecting shared folders             The aftermath: A sheep-
     Issue closing time tends to get quite exciting at     over the network and since we frequently need to              ish deputy head of the Test
 Digit every month. But sometimes there is that little     share files, you can imagine the panic this                   Centre, avid follower of the
 ‘extra’. This time people were bustling about as          created.                                                      formula one racing circuits,
 usual, checking layouts, proofing the stories and so          But there’s an old saying that nothing can get            was subjected to doses of
 on, when the peace was disturbed by a sudden com-         Digsters down for long. A solution was found quickly,         sarcastic wit, much to the
 motion. It was Karan charging down the aisle shout-       guns reloaded, so to speak, and work was back to              glee of other test centre
 ing for everyone to not open any of the .eml files that   normal in no time at all.                                     geeks. No, he hasn’t given
                                                                                                                         up driving. Not yet.

■   backbyte

    Windows did                                Whatever grabs you
                                         We all have our favourites amongst the long list of glossies     RETRO
    it again!                            available on stands. The cover pages of most magazines
                                         shout out really loud about their wares, just to get the         History of browsers
    If you think we indulge in too       attention of the regular reader. But when it comes to            Life without Internet access? Difficult to imag-
    much Windows bashing, what           getting the attention of the hardcore technology and             ine, isn’t it? What started the ball rolling was
    can we say? Can we really help it?   hardware freaks, the tune seems to be quite different and         the NCSA Mosaic, the first browser, developed
    No other OS screws up as often!      keyed down.                                                       at the National Center for Supercomputing
    Here’s another example.                                                                                 Applications in the early 1990s. In 1993,
    Contributed by: MNA,                                                                                    Mosaic was the first graphical Web browser
    via e-mail                                                                                               that was offered free to the public. This soft-
                                                                                                             ware program, developed by Tim Berners-
                                                                                                              Lee, brought many businessmen, educators
                                                                                                              and the government to the Internet. Its
                                                                                                               easy-to-use, point-and-click interface helped
                                                                                                                popularise the Web, although few then
                                                                                                                could imagine the explosive growth that
    Inky woes
    Running out of printer ink can
                                                                                                                would soon occur.
                                                                                                                     An interesting aside: ‘Mesh’ and ‘MOI’
    leave you in a really high and                                                                               (Mine of Information) as well as ‘TIM’ (The
    dry situation. And this online                                                                               Information Mine)—these were some of the
    advertisement gets the point                                                                                  terms Berners-Lee considered before he
    home quite accurately!                                                                                        came up with the name ‘World Wide Web’.

                                                                                Taken from the Net

    Taken from the Net
                                         Readers Rants
    On vacation                                             Blue Wait                                         Look who’s talking!
    You know you need a break—           ‘The blue screen of death’ is a term that most computer        When you’re surfing and you don’t find a par-
    and especially so when you           users would be familiar with. For those of you who aren’t,     ticular page or link, you’d probably end up smiling and
    come across a message like this.     simply put, it                                                 say “Sho shweeeet!”
                                         means Windows is                                               rather than slam
                                         acting up. As scary                                            your fist and go
                                         as it is on your PC,                                           “Damn!” And why
                                         the last place you’d                                           is that? Well,
                                         want to see it pop                                             because of cute lit-
                                         up is when you’ve                                              tle tykes like this!
                                         been standing out-                                             These little guys
                                         side the airport for                                           add colour to those
      Contributed by: Rajath Chouta,     hours on end waiting to board that flight!                     otherwise dreary ‘page missing’ messages. Makes you want
      via e-mail                         Taken from the Net                                             to come across more such messages, doesn’t it?
                                                                                                        Contributed by: Vidyaramanan S.

Your chance to
BACKBYTE!                                                                           Time for funnies
Highlight the lighter side of            ‘A good way to take some time off                                                     support service. I wrote back to
computing. Mail your contributions       during a hard day’s work is to check                                                  thank them for a complete and con-
to Backbyte                              out where you’ll find                                                cise reply, and said how much I
Digit, Plot D-222/2,                     loads of computer funnies amongst                                                     appreciated it.
TTC Industrial Area, MIDC,               others. And here’s a sneak preview of                                                     The next day I had a response:
Shirvane, Nerul,                         what you could expect:                                                                “We are looking into the problem
Navi Mumbai 400 706                          “True Microsoft story: I once got an                                              and will contact you with a solution
or send e-mail to                        especially helpful reply to a question I                                              as soon as possible.”                    asked on Microsoft’s on-line tech                                                     Taken from the Net

158                                                                                                                                                October 2001

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Description: Digit Magazine - October 2001 Issue