Saturday, October 23, 2004

Intel plans to stop Pentium 4 line at 3.8 GHz!

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I got some bad news for people wanting to buy a Pentium 4 at a monstrous 4 GHz because that’s not going to happen this year. P4s have been out since 2001 and it’s nearing 2005 so Intel will start Pentium 5s at 4 GHz. I Think Pentium 4s have been out longer than Pentium 3s or Pentium 2s. The highest MHz you can buy is 3.8 GHz. Intel feels that it can not have a market for 4 GHz and they are right, of course. I only have 3.2 GHz in my computer. It’s still great and very reliable although it’s a Dell PC. Dells suck, I know, but it was free so I had to take it. Actually, the motherboard, keyboard are made by Dell, everything else is made from 3rd party including ATI (video card), Western Digital (hd) , Creative Labs (soundcard) , Artic (DVD-RW), Samsung (DVD/RW). The mouse is from Logitech. I seriously doubt my keyboard will stop working tomorrow or a year from now.

I’m thinking that Pentium 5 will be 64-bit with a much higher clock speed than Athlon 64. Athlon 64 currently can outperform Pentium 4 in operation cycles. Intel says that it’s developing dual cores on a single dye with state-of-the-art technology making manufacturing costs of the “Pentium 5” less costly. Come on everyone – even though it’s not officially announced – there will be a Pentium 5 announcement soon.

Okay now for the interesting part that hurts us all. Intel has technology that stays secret like magnetic ram which are more technically advance than Pentium 4s and 64-bit Xeon CPUs. Intel is developing stuff in their labs that will come out in 2015 as quote “state-of-the-art” in consumer terms. I know - it’s scaring me too. The point is…they are using our money on their cheap technology. Instead of releasing a 10 GHz Xeon processor that will surely blow everything on the market, Intel decides to release 100 MHz every month which is pitiful. The silly part is about it is we pay big bucks for their fast processor and they know I can’t do anything about their strategy waiting until 2008 until they release a 10 GHz processor. They have a 64-bit 10 GHz processor prototype in the final stages and will not mass produce it. It’s not crazy – it’s the truth. That ensures the company will continue to grow. Doesn’t that make you sick? It makes me sick!

I was talking to a former British citizen at Toyriffic. He looks about my age and he’s married – which was a little odd. I came there with the agenda of buying either King of Fighters or Marvel vs. Capcom 2. MvC2 is 50 bucks! Last time I was there it was only $20. The King of Fighters ’99 Evolution for Dreamcast was $70! So I ended up buying the Playstation version which was only 11 dollars. I believe the difference between the two is the Playstation version ran at 30 fps, and the Dreamcast version ran at 60 fps. So when I got home, I put it in the tray and play. It comes with 32 players to play and the music was 80s rock. I have Fatal Fury - Dance of the Wolves for DC, and that was a prequel to the King of Fighters. It plays a lot like King of Fighters ’99 Evolution I can now see. King of Fighters still has that old-school look too it. (mostly a art style done in the mid-90s still used in the 2000s)

I spend Thursday night reading The King of Fighters history after I learned that the Neo Geo CD by SNK was the first CD-format console running at 1x. Playstation had a 4x cd-rom in it – a major improvement. What Neo Geo had that Playstation didn’t in the early days was Metal Slug and all the King of Fighter games from ’94 up to 2001 plus all the Fatal Fury games. All three games made their way to Playstation largely to do to it’s the most popular console ever in the history of man kind. For some strange reason, Neo Geo CD is more popular now state-side than it ever was in 1994. One day SNK will release a full anthology of all King of Fighters. Expect SNK will soon re-release all the King of Fighters in the states before the PS3 comes out. They’ve already did KOF’94and KOF 2000/2001 two years ago. If you count Dreamcast’s KOF ’99, that makes 4 games that made it state-side. According to the British retailer back at Toyriffic, KOF ’97 was the best of the series because it featured the best game play and graphics. The graphics supported the engine of the KOF ’94.

The only other 2D fighters are Viewiful Joe, Guilty Gear, King of Fighters and the occasional Street Fighter.

New games to add to vg list:

1.) King of Fighters ’99 Evolution
2.) Sly
3.) Gradius V

After the game store I spent time playing UT2004. I got at the masterful skill level without ranking at the bottom of the chart. It wasn’t pitiful to say the least. The game still has its really high points. If you’ve been to my IGN page, you’ve would have seen that I rated UT2004 a 9.9/10 because it’s perfect on nearly all levels, and the only thing not perfect is the pc specs it needs to run the game. I have 3 computers that can run it though. Shooting is good way to get the stress off me.

I am going either tomorrow or next week to pick up copies of Guilty Gear X or Guilty Gear X2. I know I can get Guilty Gear Isuka at Shopko, but 50 dollars is a steep price to pay for a 2D fighter even though it looks excellent for a 2D fighter. The guy at the game store said the newest one in the series is a pretty fun game. Sammy makes Guilty Gear and is the same guys who bought out SEGA of JAPAN, SEGA OF AMERICA, SEGA of Europe. That’s one reason why Sega stopped making DCs in 2001. Also the piracy has been apparent that the GD-ROMS could be copied. I learned today that GD-ROMS were available for the PC for a short time period thus DC games could be backup to disc images and presto you’ve gotten yourself a illegal DC game. Chankast makes Dreamcast emulation possible on the PC. In 1999, there were rumors that Xbox was supposed to be backwards compatible with Dreamcast discs, but the rumors were misinterpreted, and Sega was developing games for Xbox.

I feel very aggravated see there are some 3 very high anticipated games coming out on October 25th including Grand Thief Auto San Andreas, re-release of Fatal Frame 2 (the prequel is extremely hard to find now), and Dead or Alive Ultimate. Out of the 3, Fatal Frame will be sold in the least copies. Grand Thief Auto and DoA will sell by the millions so there will always be a used copy available. DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball clearly has a graphics engine that makes every other engine outdated. I suspect the price to be reduced to 20 dollars within February 2005 – March 2005 time period. Anyways, DOA Ultimate looks awesome and will probably be playing the same way as DOA 3 back in 2001. DOA: Ultimate combines Xbox versions of Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore and allows all the characters of both games to be played in all the stages first appearing in those games. In fact, I own DOA 2 for Dreamcast, and it’s one of the best Dreamcast games that came out in my opinion. The second best 3D fighter that came out for the system at least – next to Soul Caliber. Lots of propaganda like bouncing boobies, female fighters showing more skin than usual, and realistic body movement. Those standard intros and extros by each DOA fighter either victory poses or defeat both of which are great additions.

Other news is I finally played a game I bought last year, Shenmue 2. Shenmue is mostly RPG at it’s roots, but also has Virtua Fighter moves built into it. Your weapons are your body unlike swords, axes, mauls, polearms, or magic in dungeons and dragons RPGs the USA is known for. It looked great, played great, but somehow I got Shenmue’s back pack stolen within the first 30 minutes. The thieves took it from Shenmue, and I really didn’t have time to look for them, didn’t know where to start. Some of you may not remember Shenmue 2 on Dreamcast, but it was one of Dreamcast’s exceptional titles. Shenmue 2’s version of Hong Kong is absolutely huge, and those guys could have been anywhere – that was when I turned my Xbox off.

I remember when the PC RPG universe exploded after Diablo 2 came out. Before 2000, there were few RPGs to buy, now there are 2 new releases every month. No doubt I’m getting Half-life 2 a few days after the launch date, November 16th.

Here are some reviews I like and recommend:

IGN's Review of Full Specrium Warrior
IGN's Review of Guilty Gear X2
IGN's Review of Guilty Gear X
IGN's Review of Guilty Gear Isuka

Here is the entire Xbox 2 outline I found from another website, I found it irresistible to post it on here so here it is

Xenon Hardware Overview

By Pete Isensee, Development Lead, Xbox Advanced Technology Group

This documentation is an early release of the final documentation, which may be changed substantially prior to final commercial release, and is confidential and proprietary information of MS Corporation. It is disclosed pursuant to a nondisclosure agreement between the recipient and MS.

“Xenon” is the code name for the successor to the Xbox® game console from MS. Xenon is expected to launch in 2005. This white paper is designed to provide a brief overview of the primary hardware features of the console from a game developer’s standpoint.
In some cases, sizes, speeds, and other details of the Xenon console have not been finalized. Values not yet finalized are identified with a “+” sign, indicating that the numbers may be larger than indicated here. At the time of this writing, the final console is many months from entering production. Based on our experience with Xbox, it’s likely that some of this information will change slightly for the final console.

For additional information on various hardware components, see the other relevant white papers.

Hardware Goals
Xenon was designed with the following goals in mind:

•Focus on innovation in silicon, particularly features that game developers need. Although all Xenon hardware components are technologically advanced, the hardware engineering effort has concentrated on digital performance in the CPU and GPU.

•Maximize general purpose processing performance rather than fixed-function hardware. This focus on general purpose processing puts the power into the Xenon software libraries and tools. Rather than being hamstrung by particular hardware designs, software libraries can support the latest and most efficient techniques.

•Eliminate the performance issues of the past. On Xbox, the primary bottlenecks were memory and CPU bandwidth. Xenon does not have these limitations.

Basic Hardware Specifications

Xenon is powered by a 3.5+ GHz IBM PowerPC processor and a 500+ MHz ATI graphics processor. Xenon has 256+ MB of unified memory. Xenon runs a custom operating system based on MS® Windows NT®, similar to the Xbox operating system. The graphics interface is a superset of MS® Direct3D® version 9.0.


The Xenon CPU is a custom processor based on PowerPC technology. The CPU includes three independent processors (cores) on a single die. Each core runs at 3.5+ GHz. The Xenon CPU can issue two instructions per clock cycle per core. At peak performance, Xenon can issue 21 billion instructions per second.

The Xenon CPU was designed by IBM in close consultation with the Xbox team, leading to a number of revolutionary additions, including a dot product instruction for extremely fast vector math and custom security features built directly into the silicon to prevent piracy and hacking.

Each core has two symmetric hardware threads (SMT), for a total of six hardware threads available to games. Not only does the Xenon CPU include the standard set of PowerPC integer and floating-point registers (one set per hardware thread), the Xenon CPU also includes 128 vector (VMX) registers per hardware thread. This astounding number of registers can drastically improve the speed of common mathematical operations.

Each of the three cores includes a 32-KB L1 instruction cache and a 32-KB L1 data cache. The three cores share a 1-MB L2 cache. The L2 cache can be locked down in segments to improve performance. The L2 cache also has the very unusual feature of being directly readable from the GPU, which allows the GPU to consume geometry and texture data from L2 and main memory simultaneously.
Xenon CPU instructions are exposed to games through compiler intrinsics, allowing developers to access the power of the chip using C language notation.

The Xenon GPU is a custom 500+ MHz graphics processor from ATI. The shader core has 48 Arithmetic Logic Units (ALUs) that can execute 64 simultaneous threads on groups of 64 vertices or pixels. ALUs are automatically and dynamically assigned to either pixel or vertex processing depending on load. The ALUs can each perform one vector and one scalar operation per clock cycle, for a total of 96 shader operations per clock cycle. Texture loads can be done in parallel to ALU operations. At peak performance, the GPU can issue 48 billion shader operations per second.

The GPU has a peak pixel fill rate of 4+ gigapixels/sec (16 gigasamples/sec with 4× antialiasing). The peak vertex rate is 500+ million vertices/sec. The peak triangle rate is 500+ million triangles/sec. The interesting point about all of these values is that they’re not just theoretical—they are attainable with nontrivial shaders.

Xenon is designed for high-definition output. Included directly on the GPU die is 10+ MB of fast embedded dynamic RAM (EDRAM). A 720p frame buffer fits very nicely here. Larger frame buffers are also possible because of hardware-accelerated partitioning and predicated rendering that has little cost other than additional vertex processing. Along with the extremely fast EDRAM, the GPU also includes hardware instructions for alpha blending, z-test, and antialiasing.

The Xenon graphics architecture is a unique design that implements a superset of Direct3D version 9.0. It includes a number of important extensions, including additional compressed texture formats and a flexible tessellation engine. Xenon not only supports high-level shading language (HLSL) model 3.0 for vertex and pixel shaders but also includes advanced shader features well beyond model 3.0. For instance, shaders use 32-bit IEEE floating-point math throughout. Vertex shaders can fetch from textures, and pixel shaders can fetch from vertex streams. Xenon shaders also have the unique ability to directly access main memory, allowing techniques that have never before been possible.

As with Xbox, Xenon will support precompiled push buffers (“command buffers” in Xenon terminology), but to a much greater extent than the Xbox console does. The Xbox team is exposing and documenting the command buffer format so that games are able to harness the GPU much more effectively.

In addition to an extremely powerful GPU, Xenon also includes a very high-quality resize filter. This filter allows consumers to choose whatever output mode they desire. Xenon automatically scales the game’s output buffer to the consumer-chosen resolution.

Memory and Bandwidth
Xenon has 256+ MB of unified memory, equally accessible to both the GPU and CPU. The main memory controller resides on the GPU (the same as in the Xbox architecture). It has 22.4+ GB/sec aggregate bandwidth to RAM, distributed between reads and writes. Aggregate means that the bandwidth may be used for all reading or all writing or any combination of the two. Translated into game performance, the GPU can consume a 512×512×32-bpp texture in only 47 microseconds.

The front side bus (FSB) bandwidth peak is 10.8 GB/sec for reads and 10.8 GB/sec for writes, over 20 times faster than for Xbox. Note that the 22.4+ GB/sec main memory bandwidth is shared between the CPU and GPU. If, for example, the CPU is using 2 GB/sec for reading and 1 GB/sec for writing on the FSB, the GPU has 19.4+ GB/sec available for accessing RAM.

Eight pixels (where each pixel is color plus z = 8 bytes) can be sent to the EDRAM every GPU clock cycle, for an EDRAM write bandwidth of 32 GB/sec. Each of these pixels can be expanded through multisampling to 4 samples, for up to 32 multisampled pixel samples per clock cycle. With alpha blending, z-test, and z-write enabled, this is equivalent to having 256 GB/sec of effective bandwidth! The important thing is that frame buffer bandwidth will never slow down the Xenon GPU.

The Xenon CPU is a superb processor for audio, particularly with its massive mathematical horsepower and vector register set. The Xenon CPU can process and encode hundreds of audio channels with sophisticated per-voice and global effects, all while using a fraction of the power of a single CPU core.

The Xenon system south bridge also contains a key hardware component for audio—XMA decompression. XMA is the native Xenon compressed audio format, based on the WMA Pro architecture. XMA provides sound quality higher than ADPCM at even better compression ratios, typically 6:1–12:1. The south bridge contains a full silicon implementation of the XMA decompression algorithm, including support for multichannel XMA sources. XMA is processed by the south bridge into standard PCM format in RAM. All other sound processing (sample rate conversion, filtering, effects, mixing, and multispeaker encoding) happens on the Xenon CPU.

The lowest-level Xenon audio software layer is XAudio, a new API designed for optimal digital signal processing. The Xbox Audio Creation Tool (XACT) API from Xbox is also supported, along with new features such as conditional events, improved parameter control, and a more flexible 3D audio model.

As with Xbox, Xenon is designed to be a multiplayer console. It has built-in networking support including an Ethernet 10/100-BaseT port. It supports up to four controllers. From an audio/video standpoint, Xenon will support all the same formats as Xbox, including multiple high-definition formats up through 1080i, plus VGA output.

In order to provide greater flexibility and support a wider variety of attached devices, the Xenon console includes standard USB 2.0 ports. This feature allows the console to potentially host storage devices, cameras, microphones, and other devices.

The Xenon console is designed around a larger world view of storage than Xbox was. Games will have access to a variety of storage devices, including connected devices (memory units, USB storage) and remote devices (networked PCs, Xbox Live™). At the time of this writing, the decision to include a built-in hard disk in every Xenon console has not been made. If a hard disk is not included in every console, it will certainly be available as an integrated add-on component.

Xenon supports up to two attached memory units (MUs). MUs are connected directly to the console, not to controllers as on Xbox. The initial size of the MUs is 64 MB, although larger MUs may be available in the future. MU throughput is expected to be around 8 MB/sec for reads and 1 MB/sec for writes.

The Xenon game disc drive is a 12× DVD, with an expected outer edge throughput of 16+ MB/sec. Latency is expected to be in the neighborhood of 100 ms. The media format will be similar to Xbox, with approximately 6 GB of usable space on the disk. As on Xbox, media will be stored on a single side in two 3 GB layers.

Industrial Design
The Xenon industrial design process is well under way, but the final look of the box has not been determined. The Xenon console will be smaller than the Xbox console.
The standard Xenon controller will have a look and feel similar to the Xbox controller. The primary changes are the removal of the Black and White buttons and the addition of shoulder buttons. The triggers, thumbsticks, D-pad, and primary buttons are essentially unchanged. The controller will support vibration.

Xenon Development Kit
The Xenon development environment follows the same model as for Xbox. Game development occurs on the PC. The resulting executable image is loaded by the Xenon development kit and remotely debugged on the PC. MS® Visual Studio® version 7.1 continues as the development environment for Xenon.

The Xenon compiler is based on a custom PowerPC back end and the latest MS® Visual C++® front end. The back end uses technology developed at MS for Windows NT on PowerPC. The Xenon software group includes a dedicated team of compiler engineers updating the compiler to support Xenon-specific CPU extensions. This team is also heavily focused on optimization work.

The Xenon development kit will include accurate DVD emulation technology to allow developers to very precisely gauge the effects of the retail console disc drive.

Miscellaneous Xenon Hardware Notes

Some additional notes:
•Xenon is a big-endian system. Both the CPU and GPU process memory in big-endian mode. Games ported from little-endian systems such as the Xbox or PC need to account for this in their game asset pipeline.

•Tapping into the power of the CPU is a daunting task. Writing multithreaded game engines is not trivial. Xenon system software is designed to take advantage of this processing power wherever possible. The Xbox Advanced Technology Group (ATG) is also exploring a variety of techniques for offloading graphics work to the CPU.

•People often ask if Xenon can be backward compatible with Xbox. Although the architecture of the two consoles is quite different, Xenon has the processing power to emulate Xbox. Whether Xenon will be backward compatible involves a variety of factors, not the least of which is the massive development and testing effort required to allow Xbox games run on Xenon.

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