Dux Computer Newsletter
September 5, 2001; Vol. 1, No. 10
IN THIS NEWSLETTER
Recent News and Commentary
Around the Internet
Recent Web Site Articles, Etc.
Introduction. Except for some leaf watchers,
Summer and the tourist season here in Maine, U.S.A. are pretty much over and
the locals will have the State (and lower lobster, etc. prices) back for another
Fall and long Winter. Time to buy some more firewood for the wood stove
in the "play pen" (my office/shop). Three chords keep it fairly warm,
except first thing in the morning, all winter. My computers, etc. survived
the fine soot from the stove last Winter.
Speaking of long Winters. it
looks like they may be getting shorter and the warmer seasons may be getting
longer and greener. The cherry tree my son bought me for Father's
Day four or five years ago is doing just fine; although, it is not supposed
to survive the winters we get (were getting) here in Climate
Zone 5. Maybe, he'll buy me a palm tree if this keeps up?
Recent News and Commentary. Dell is not longer
the number one PC manufacturer. Hewlett-Packard just announced
that it is buying Compaq with a $25 Billion stock deal. That makes
the new HP the number two computer system business with an annual revenue
of $87.4 billion, slightly behind IBM's $90 Billion. 15,000 HP and
Compaq employees will lose their jobs. According to preliminary
IDC figures for Q2 2001, the new HP will have about 20% of the worldwide
PC market and Dell will be number two with over 11% of the market. IBM
ranks number three with 7.4%. Notice that all three of them combined
still represent less than 40% of the total worldwide market. There
are still many Mom 'n Pop shops cranking-out custom computers; although,
their numbers around here and listings in the yellow pages have decreased
remarkably over the last year.
It remains to be seen if the synergism of the two behemoths
will be able to stop Dell from eroding away more of their combined market share. It
seems rather obvious that the time required to implement the merger, the difficulties
of managing the new HP through the transition, and the turmoil resulting from
laying-off workers and combining product lines and sources will make it nearly
impossible to do so while maintaining the present combined market share. Dell
is more efficient and, I think, more focused on the PC part of its business.
My how the Pentium 4, Double Data Rate (DDR) memory motherboard
chipset picture has changed since the last
Newsletter. VIA may not have the market to itself very long after
all. On august 27th Acer Labs (Ali) unveiled
their ALADDiN-P4 DDR Pentium 4 Motherboard Chipset, said it will
start volume shipments in October, and, despite costs for a license from Intel
for the P4 bus, has priced the chipset at $31 to undercut VIA's P4X266
chipset, which was announced at
$34, and the SiS SiS645/SiS961
P4, DDR333 chipset, which is priced at $35, all in OEM (Original Equipment
Manufacturer-a company that makes computers, etc.) quantities. The VIA
and Ali chipset supports both Single Data Rate (e.g., PC133 memory) and DDR266
memory. The SiS chipset has the distinction of supporting DDR333, DDR266,
and PC133 memory modules.
Meanwhile, it appears from several sources that Intel is
already shipping a DDR version of it's i845 "Brookdale" chipset to motherboard
manufacturers, but is stating that motherboard shipments will not take place
until the beginning of 2002-probably the first week of January right after
it's contractual arrangement with Rambus regarding
DDR memory and the P4 expires.
In addition to the emergence of P4 motherboards with DDR
memory, many DDR motherboards are already shipping in quantity for the Athlon
processor. These trends, plus a near price parity of DDR memory with
PC133 memory and very low memory prices in general, leaves little doubt that
DDR memory will be the next memory standard for mainstream PCs, and the shift
will happen quite fast.
To add more fuel to DDR momentum, Micron
is demonstrating a development system with DDR333 memory at the VIA
Tech Forum in Taipei, Taiwan and other locations and Nanya
is shipping DDR333 memory modules. DDR333 memory and the
new P4 chipsets should do well performance-wise as compared to P4/RamBus
combinations and cost less when ramped-up. There are some rumors(!)
that nVIDIA may be developing/making a P4/RamBus(?) motherboard chipset.
VIA announced an
upgrade to their KT266 DDR Athlon motherboard chipset, the KT266A, a couple
of days ago. I just skimmed the press release when it first appeared,
thinking it was a rather insignificant event, a minor tweak of the chipset. Then,
benchmarks and reviews started popping-up all over the Internet. Apparently, "tightened
timings and deeper queues" in the KT266A Northbridge chip do in fact ".increase
memory and system bus performance." The benchmarks I have seen show that
it is noticeably faster than with the competing SiS735
chipset and it may also be even faster than the forthcoming nVIDIA
nFORCE chipset, with its dual-independent, 64-bit memory controllers, for
which many hardware enthusiasts are eagerly waiting. Also, the KT266A
chipset is pin-compatible with the KT266 chipset and can be plugged-to existing
KT266 motherboard designs without modification. Apparently this news
may start to put a damper on sales of the economically priced and popular ECS
K7S5A motherboard with the SiS735 chipset, as gamers, etc. again start
waiting for the next latest and greatest toy. And wait and wait.
There was considerable activity at the Intel
Developer Forum last week, enough to fill several newsletters. One
of the more significant events was the release
of the final Serial ATA disk drive specification and a demonstration
of a serial ATA hard disk drive by Seagate. I have looked over the
spec and found it very well put together. To put it in a nutshell,
the ATA Serial standard is a simplified packet switching network between
a motherboard or computer backplane and a disk drive. It employs balanced
voltage (differential) amplifiers and four wires/two pairs (transmission
line) to connect transmitters to receivers in a manner similar
to the 100BASE-TX Ethernet. The pins in the spec are labeled TX+,
TX-, RX+, and RX- just like they are in the twisted-pair Ethernet. There
is no specification for a standard ATA Serial cable (just electrical requirements
it must meet), but each pair of wires will probably be parallel and shielded
(there is a cable construction example in the spec.). There is a separate
power cable. Here
is a good drawing of the connectors and cable. Here's
a photo. Here are some brief highlights of this recent technology:
- Scalable performance. Three stages over ten years. Starts
at 1.5 Gigabits per second, then 3 Gbps, and ultimately 6 Gbps (six times
faster than the current ATA/100 standard). These numbers are right
in the spec.
- 100% software compatible with current operating systems
and does not require any new drivers/changes to existing operating systems.
- Primarily for inside-the-box drive connections. Maximum
cable length is 1 meter. No cameras/scanners/printers.
- Supports all ATA and ATAPI devices, including CDs, DVDs,
devices, high capacity removable devices, zip drives, and CD-RWs.
- Drives can be attached by cable or plugged directly into
- More reliable connectors with smaller plugs and a lower
- Plugs are blind mated (can plug them in blindfolded without
making an error).
- No drive jumpers or terminators, one drive per cable,
Plug 'n Play (Prey?).
- Drives can be hot plugged-installed with the computer
- Smaller cables (thin, flexible) that are simple to route
and install. The data cable has 4 conductors.
- Smaller cables will allow much better case ventilation
- Less complex trace runs on motherboards; will permit
- ATA Serial interface to be incorporated into the motherboard
- Favorable (low) voltages and efficient power delivery.
- Power management and power consumption suitable for mobile
- Light protocol minimizes overhead latencies.
- Asynchronous only (no isochronous requirements).
- No peer-peer transfer support (to/from host only).
- Provides support for 1st party DMA access to the host
Serial ATA drives and motherboards should begin to appear
in 2002. Motherboards will probably include old ATA and serial interfaces
for a while to accommodate older drives. Serial ATA should be cost-competitive
with equivalent parallel ATA solution at introduction.
the news section our web site for more news..
Tech Tips. If you know a Microsoft
Knowledge Base article number and you are located in the United States,
you can view an article anytime, by entering the number in your Microsoft
Internet Explorer or MSN
Explorer Address box like this:
mskb <article #> (for
example: mskb 123456).
I see this problem repeatedly in our Forums. Does
the order of the colors of the wires in a straight-thru twisted-pair network
cable matter as long as both ends of the cable are wired the same? Yes
and no. You can use either standard color code, or invent you own, if
desired. I use the 568A color code and it is the "preferred standard." The
colors do not matter, but the choice of wires does. Simply making both
ends the same is not sufficient. The Ethernet interface uses four of
the eight pins in an RJ-45 plug. Each end of an Ethernet cable connects
to a transmitter and a receiver. A transmitter uses two pins and a receiver
uses two pins. The two pins (TX+ and TX-) on the transmitter have to be connected
to the corresponding pins (R+ and R-) of the receiver at the other end by wires
in the SAME twisted pair and vice versa. A transmitter is not connected
to a receiver by one wire from one pair and a second wire from a DIFFERENT
pair. As the pins that are used, 1, 2, 3, and 6, are not sequential,
one cannot simply match ends in a convenient manner and properly connect a
transmitter to a receiver with wires from the SAME twisted pair. If this
description seems a bit complicated or fuzzy, pictures can be found at http://duxcw.com/digest/Howto/network/cable/cable5.htm.
Around the Internet. VIA KT266A motherboard chipset
benchmarks: AnandTech, VIAHardware, and Xbit.
ATA FAQs. Dell:
Serial ATA Interface shows pictures of computers with the old, flat drive
cables and the new Serial ATA cables installed. More
ATA Serial stuff at Molex.
For troubleshooting old computers and new disk drives. Overcoming
the 8.4-GByte Hard Disk Drive Barrier.
A bit of nostalgia: The
original Dux Computer Works web site as it was in 1996. 75 MHz
Pentium computer with 8 MBytes for $1,212.
One-way Cable Goes Two-way. Our cable Internet and TV provider upgrades
our connection to the Internet. What a difference!
to troubleshoot a monitor that occasionally goes blank (black, no cursor)
or will not always come on.
to Test Twisted-Pair Ethernet Cables.
Disclaimer, and Trademark Information Copyright © 1997-2001
Larry F. Byard. All rights reserved. Except as stated below,
this material or parts thereof may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed by any means whatsoever
without explicit, written permission from the author.
You may circulate copies of the Dux Computer Newsletter
by MANUALLY forwarding it, providing you forward the issue in its entirety,
no fee is involved, and you forward no more than three issues to any one individual. You
may not attach advertising or otherwise modify the text of the newsletter.