News Archive for: Friday, Feb. 10th, 2006 (later posted items first)
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Feedback on Experimental Graphics Tweak (M2Faster) in WoW v1.9.3
" Mike, you may have already covered this but Blizzard is evaluating new code for improving frame rates in high density areas of the game. The description is found at WoW Mac forum post on Experimental graphics change in 1.9.3.

I have tried it on both a 20" 1.8GHz iMac with 1GB RAM and GeForce 5200 64 MB and on a dual 2.7GHz PowerMac with 2GB RAM and ATI XT800 256MB card.

In both cases the frame rates were noticeably higher in IronForge by about 3-5 FPS from rates obtained without the code. I have found no compatibility issues yet.
-Matthew M "

Here's a copy of Blizzard's post:

" There is some code that shipped in 1.9.3 that doesn't yet have a UI attached to it, and is of an experimental nature. You can play with this if it interests you, but be warned that it has not yet been fully QA'd here yet.
The new code employs a change in drawing strategy for scenes where there are lots of player characters; the technical summary of the change is "take some steps to avoid re-programming the vertex shader hardware too frequently during the processing of a single frame". As such the change has no effect on machines without vertex shader capability, or on machines that have Vertex Animation Shader turned off.

In tests internally, in the most crowded times of Ironforge, we would see frame rate benefits anywhere from zero to 30%, depending on which OS, CPU, and GPU brand were in use, and on the contents of the scene. One GPU brand responds somewhat more dramatically than others in our tests.

So, the variable we put in is called M2Faster, and you can turn it on by editing your config.wtf file, and just adding this one line at the end of it:

    SET M2Faster "1"

and then re-launch WoW. To turn it off just remove the line from the file, or edit the line to set it to "0" instead. As shipped in 1.9.3 it is not turned on, it defaults to "0".
( M2 is an internal nickname for the modeling/animation system that is used by WoW. )

Again, you may see no change at all in outdoors scenes, or uncrowded interiors, or even in crowded interiors if you have a fast CPU: this is meant to lighten the CPU and driver burden on machines with lower end processors but vertex-shader capable GPU's.

It's not the kind of thing that will magically triple your frame rate, but it did make things perceptibly and measurably smoother on some combinations of CPU&GPU in our developer testing.

There is some chance that you will see some things drawn slightly differently, and we have made every effort to minimize such impact, to the point where we don't see any glaring issues here any more. But if you do, we would like to hear about it or see screenshots:
wowmacteam123@blizzard.com "

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Review of Firmtek 4-Port SerialATA PCI-X Controller
" AMUG has posted a review of the FirmTek SeriTek/1eVE4 Four Port External Serial ATA PCI-X Host Adapter. The article discusses the advantage of 64-bit host adapters, boot capability, dialog box connection feedback, some enclosures options, performance and compatibility issues.
Regards, Michael Bean
AMUG"
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Mac owner reports on VGA to Component Video (HDTV) converters
(Updated again with reader replies - see below)
A reader with a G4 tower asked if I knew of anything that had tried the GrandTec "Hi-Wire" VGA to component (Y.Pb.Pr) converter to connect a Mac to an HDTV.
If you have tried it (or a similar converter), let me know.
Here's the first reader replies:

" This is a common question in the media center PC world. The most respected converter is the Audio Authority 9A60. I've used it and had very good results. You'll need software on your computer to set the output timing characteristics (mode line). I think DisplayConfigX (http://voodoofx.all.de/displayconfigx/-Mike) will do this.

(I asked if he'd used it with a Mac (another reader below mentioned he's using that same model with a PC)-Mike)
I have used it with both a Mac and a PC. It will be somewhat difficult to configure the timings, but thats true of any component output. And he may not be happy with the amount of the screen that gets overscanned by his TV. My TV cuts off at least 50 pixels on each side of 720p output (1280x720).
-Keith C. "

Another reader mentioned a model from Key Digital:

" Hi Mike, John from Tweek Digital here. The only way to go for VGA to Component for HDTV resolutions is from Key Digital. It is kind of pricey ($200ish) but well worth it.
KDVTCA3
Caution, only buy from authorized dealers. They are very firm on not repairing a grey market purchase.
Cheers, John "

Another reader mentioned using the Key Digital converter:

" Mike, I used the Key Digital unit mentioned. I got it on ebay (by winning an auction) for about half of retail. I have a rather long run (9ft ) of GE component cable (probably not the best), so I get a little ghosting. Otherwise it works fine. It is however important to set a TV compatible mode using displayConfigX. The releases since a little after tiger came out support interlaced modes. I've tried it with 1080i, 720p, 480p, and 480i.

BTW, a direct HDMI connection is superior. That is how I have my dual G5 connected to HDTV. (There is of course a DVI-HDMI converter involved for the HDMI hookup.) But there is still the problem of the overlay video not being synched to the hardware raster (the desktop is synched, not the overlay), so one gets noticeable "judder" on pans and fast motion from the beating interference. That's true no matter how you hook it up, HDMI or component or s-video. The only direct video driven output I know of is VLC player through the Pinnacle DC-30 PCI card's s-video with drivers from www.alfanet.it/squared5. But the DC-30 is not compatible with PCI-X. The only other alternative to solve the judder problem would be a media server box like the ROKU HD1000(HDTV) or EyeHome(not HDTV but still component). I wish someone would come up with a video card for PCI-X or a firewire-to-video adapter that can be driven directly by video playback software like Quicktime or VLC, not overlayed.

Actually, two way firewire capture boxes with s-video could serve that purpose in theory, but you have to drive it from a compatible firewire-export environment like iMovie, and everything would have to be converted to DV. So that isn't really practical.
Thanks. - Paul "

" I tried a unit with similar specs (resolution limits) (as the GrandTec "Hi-Wire") and was unable to get it to work in my Sawtooth G4 HTPC with a ATI 9200 AGP card in any resolution other than 480p with a phillips CRT HDTV. I've used an Audio Authority 9A60 on a PC with windows xp and powerstrip to get 1080i resolution in the past; I have no experience with it on a macintosh computer though.
-John K."

"I'm not sure how much this will help any of your readers, but I finally got the resolution set on my Mac so that it displays correctly on my Japanese Sony HDTV.

Currently I'm using an old B&W G3 as my home server. It's got all my music & photos stored on it, along with my personal website and file shares. I upgraded the video card from the stock card the PCI version of the ATI 9200 (128MB video memory). My TV doesn't have DVI or HDMI inputs, but it does have component inputs (separate R G B) so I had to use some sort of converter to get the video to the TV. I plan on replacing the B&W with one of the new Mac mini's soon.

Here's my current setup:
G3 B&W 450MHz Server
ATI 9200 PCI 128MB VRAM
Audio Authority 9A60 VGA to Component video adapter
Sony KD-32HD800 (Japan Model) (720p & 1080i)
(closest US Model = KD-34XBR2)

I ran a VGA cable from the computer to the Audio Authority 9A60 converter. Then I ran an component cable to the TV

I used SwitchResX Control Panel to adjust the resolutions built into Mac OS X. It took about 30 reboots to finally get the correct resolution and placement on the screen!

I've attached a screen shot of my resolution settings. For some reason, I cant get the TV to accept 720p resolutions (too much overscan), so I had to reduce the resolution a little. It still looks great though!
Best regards, Fred U."

As mentioned previously, DisplayConfig X is another popular utility with readers for resolution/mode tweaking (especially with TVs used as monitors). It (along with switchres) has been linked in the FAQ's Monitors/Displays section for years now.

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Report on USB 2.0 and Firewire PCMCIA cards w/OS X Tiger
(in reply to a reader request in Tuesday's news)

"I am using a TiPB G4 400 Mhz, a Pismo G3 500 Mhz. Both running 10.4.x (to be specific, 10.4.3 and 10.4.2 respectively).

In short, I've no problem using the USB 2.0 PCMCIA card (made by unixtar.com.tw). I'm not using a USB wireless adapter. I'm looking for an affordable pcmcia solution. (The FAQ's networking section has some past reports on these - including some Broadcom based cards with native support - but vendors sometimes change chipsets...-Mike)

I've a newerTech firewire card too. These 2 cards have no issues with sleep or deep sleep. Just a note though, I can't use the Firewire2Go card in OS 9 as I don't have any OS 9 drivers. More importantly, the Firewire2Go card actually indicates "Windows" (thank God that it works w/o any drivers in OS X!).
-Ian B."

I sent Ian a note that OWC has a mirror of Newer Tech software that has the Firewire2Go card's "Enabler" software for OS 9 users. (I remembered I'd linked to that mirror in the FAQ's CPU upgrades section back in 2001, after the original Newer Tech company closed.)

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More Reports on World of Warcraft 1.9.3 update
I've added a couple more reports from PowerPC Mac users with the WoW 1.9.3 update to the Mac WoW Performance page. (Like most 1.9.3 feedback, they didn't see any problems with the update although a couple users did.)
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Other Net News/Misc. Software Updates
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Rate Your CPU Upgrade Reports Database Updated
The Rate Your CPU Upgrade database has been updated with 2 new reports (entries later today are added the next newsday morning). Total to date: 10,184. Here's a summary of the reports added (search by brand/mac model for full reports - latest reports always shown first):

  • Giga Designs G4 Dual 1.8GHz (7447A) in (Quicksilver) G4/AGP (rated 1)
  • PowerLogix G4 Dual 1GHz (7455) in (Sawtooth) G4/AGP (rated 9)

    (Full reviews of G4 and G3 upgrades compared to stock CPUs, including real world apps/game tests, install info, etc. are linked at the CPU upgrades page. OC/CPU module articles are on the Systems page.)

(Warning - Overclocking may not be reliable and could lead to hardware failure or corrupted data.) You can find the full reports by searching the database selecting the indicated Mac model and upgrade card brand/type. If you've upgraded the CPU on your Mac, please post an entry in the database. Search the database for entries from most every upgradable Mac model *before* you buy. (Searchable by mac model/upgrade brand).

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Recent Reviews and Articles:
Listing/links to recent articles and reviews you may have missed.
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