cybernaut 

Cool computers

Although liquid cooling systems are not new to computers, Apple is the first major company to offer it as a standard feature on an over-the-counter model.

The new Mac G5 comes equipped with a closed-loop cooling system that uses a water and propylene glycol mixture to bring the temperature down for the system’s new PowerPC 970FX chipsets, the top of the line currently made by IBM.

Typically you can only find liquid cooling systems in high-end and highly customized gaming computers, or in computers used for intensive commercial and scientific applications.

Only the top G5 comes with the liquid system, which is used to keep the temperature down for the computer’s dual 64-bit G5 2.5 Gigaherz processors that have a front-side bus that runs at 1.25 Gigaherz – currently the fastest in the industry. That’s a lot of computing power, which can generate a lot of heat.

What does it mean? According to a test by P2Pnet.net, applications like Adobe Photoshop run almost twice as fast on the top G5 than on the top Pentium 4 PC chips clocked at 3.4 Gigaherz. Logic Pro 6, a music editing program, played up to 138 more tracks, or four times more, than a comparable PC program with a 3.4 Gigaherz processor.

Final Cut Pro, a video editing program, can run eight simultaneous streams of 8-bit SD video, compared to a five streams on a dual 3.06 Gigaherz Xeon-based Avid workstation.

If you’re not into high-end print, music, animation or video production, these differences won’t matter all that much to the average user, but then again that’s not who the new Mac G5 was built for. The people out there who can use that kind of power, and who do heat up their system enough to do some damage to their hardware and hard drives, will definitely appreciate it.

Nintendo hints at gaming revolution

Nintendo, once the epoch of video game technology, has a point.

While the leading companies – Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo – struggle to beat one another to the market with next generation consoles that boast better graphics, connectivity and artificial intelligence, Nintendo pointed out that the home market really isn’t all that impressed.

For example, I really do think that the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise peaked with the second edition back in 2000 – the subsequent versions, while boasting better graphics and capability, are just not as much fun to play. Ditto goes with NHL 2001 by EA Sports; while the graphics are better on NHL 2003 and EA made the gameplay more realistic, I wouldn’t say the newer version is a better game in terms of playability.

Some of the best games I’ve played were on the original Sega and Playstation consoles, although their graphics are downright crude by today’s standards.

The truth is that better graphics don’t necessarily make for better games, and realism isn’t the most important factor to game fans.

Although he didn’t go into great detail about what Nintendo is planning to do about this issue, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata hinted that their next generation of console, which is code-named Revolution, will focus more on what gamers really want.

"What we need is not a next-generation machine but a next generation way of playing games," said Iwata.

As I said, he’s got a point. Overall game sales are declining in Japan and growth is slowing in the American market. Part of the reason is because gamers are waiting for the next generation consoles, which will start to hit shelves sometime in 2005. Part of the reason is that games are so immense that they can take months to get bored with.

Nintendo believes there’s even more to the story, and that it’s going to take more than enhanced graphics and sound to get game sales back on track.

Most consoles currently retail for slightly over their manufacturing cost, and in the case of the Microsoft Xbox the company loses money with every console that’s sold.

The reason for this is that the software is where the real money is – all you have to do is get enough of your hardware out there to create a big enough market for it. That’s why when game sales decline, game console companies are forced to sit up and take notice.

The 2004 Webby Awards

Usually at this time of year I would spend about six weeks going through all of the different Web sites nominated for Webby Awards from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which is a kind of Academy Awards for the Internet. This year I was too lazy, and slightly annoyed because the same Web sites keep cropping up year after year and I was getting tired of coming up with new ways to present them.

Still, I suggest you check out the list, which includes five nominees in 30 different categories as well as an overall people’s choice winner. Visit www.webbyawards.com and follow the links to the different sites in the categories that interest you.

There were a few on the list that you might find especially interesting and that I would recommend to anybody.

The first is Wikipedia at www.wikipedia.org, which is a kind of living, interactive and online encyclopedia that is constantly evolving, a site where people are invited to add entries on almost any topic you can imagine. Although some of the submissions are probably a little off, members are welcome to correct anything that’s wrong and add to anything that’s right. Some of the most knowledgeable people in the world, in every conceivable field, are Wikipedia contributors.

Another site I’m partial to is CBC Radio 3 at www.cbcradio3.com, which is probably the coolest music site you’ll ever stumble across with sample tracks and bios from obscure bands you probably never heard of but will want to follow around in a van after a few listens. Also at CBC, ZeD is another neat site to check out at http://zed.cbc.ca, with a massive collection of short films and animations from around the world.

A solid music site you might be interested in is Live365, which boasts that it is the largest Internet radio network on the Web. They’re probably right. Expand your horizons by tuning into one of their live stations.

Another site I visit frequently is How Stuff Works, at www.howstuffworks.com. If you ever have a question about how anything functions, from your muffler to your rice cooker to your mutual fund, this is the place to start.

The Weird category is also good for a look each year. This year the winner was a site called Car Stuck Girls at www.carstuckgirls.com, which apparently caters to a strange new (to me at least) fetish that’s all about beautiful girls who have somehow gotten their cars stuck in the mud.

Have fun.

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