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10. Musings: How DRM Hurts PC Gaming
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Comdex Fall 2000 - Day 2

Comments are heartily encouraged!

By Rob Baumstark

Event: Comdex Fall 2000
City: Las Vegas, NV
Date: Nov 13-17

If you haven't already, you can check out day 0 and day 1 of my Comdex experience.

Day 2:

Today had to be the most productive day so far, yet I expect to see even more tomorrow when I hope to get up on time for the first time this week. It was another day of wandering around the LVCC with no real target in mind; just looking for cool new products and chatting with the PR guys from all the companies we know and love. Got a bunch more pictures taken, and I'm transfering them over (along with the pics from days 0 and 1) as I type this. The day began with a quick check back at the 2CoolPC booth to see if Tom Luefkin happened to be there, which again he wasn't. Tom, I lost your contact info, if you read this before thursday around noon, please e-mail me. In case your wondering, Thursday is my last day at the show, my flight leaves Friday morning.

With Tom still not there I decided once again that I should get some content and started off by visiting the couple places I had seen yesterday that I wanted to investigate further now that I had some time. The first of these was the Olympus booth, where they had the cool TV-glasses things that I mentioned yesterday. I talked for a while with their PR woman, and it turns out that those glasses can't do almost everything I wanted them to do - anything involving a signal from a PC pretty much. Unfortunatly they require an NTSC video signal, and even then they have problems with the signal from computers (eg. if your card has video-out it still won't work properly, if at all). All the great uses I had thought up like not needing a monitor for LAN parties or having a nice big-screen for your laptop (or even using it to make an ultra-small laptop with no other screen) can't happen just yet. Apparently there's a similar product currently only available in Japan that can take a computer signal, but it's gonna be at least six months before it's available in North America. Unfortunatly I don't have software with me to make thumbnails, and I'm not gonna embed the full-size pics in the article, so you have to do with text links for the images. Perhaps when I get back home I'll fix this up for late-readers. Also, these images are directly out of my camera, no filters/compression applied, and they are rather large - I warned ya.

TV-glasses closeup.
Guy playing on a PS2 with the glasses.

Next major stops were the Palm and Handspring booths (I'll summarize short-stops later). Neither company had much new in terms of PDA's (nothing new specifically for Comdex, the newest as far as I know would have been the Visor Prism, which has been out for a month or two); so I spent my time looking up accessories and software, mostly dealing with wireless 'net access. On the Palm side they weren't really pushing accessories much, but had a lot of software on display, the only one I can remember worth mentioning is an add-on for MS Visual Basic that lets you develop PalmOS applications. This fills the gap for ease of development when compared to PocketPC devices, which already had VB support. Of course most Palm apps are written in C, but I can see this as becoming a popular way of writing Palm apps.

Over at Handspring they were pushing Springboard modules (things that fit in the Visor's expansion slot), which is really Handsprings advantage over just buying a Palm-palm. I saw at least five different wireless modems, two MP3 players, some flash memory addon's, the VisorPhone and a clone of it (the VisorPhone turns the Visor into a GSM cell-phone/GSM-based wireless modem, the clone did the same thing over CDMA), and some other things. I think I also saw the funniest thing here, which was a little set of buttons that covered the standard buttons on the bottom of the Visor (or any Palm probably), and converted it into a directional-pad type button and two other buttons for gaming. If you're confused, check out the pic.

The gaming buttons.
Wireless modem. - The one on the left is my Visor displaying our AvantGo channel, data is a bit older from when I sync'd in the morning. On the right is a Visor Prism with a wireless modem displaying the AvantGo channel page, but using the Eudora palm browser which cuts out the image at the top. Before you ask, we're just waiting on AvantGo now - that channel should be listed on their page real soon now.

After Handspring I wandered around and made a lot of quick stops that don't really have much content so I'll summarize them here. Hauppauge was showing off their TV-tuner cards. Not much new there, but they had an HDTV-decoder card playing, and the picture quality there was really nice. PC Power and Cooling had a bunch of PS's on display, as well as a few heatsinks, and a nice 24" case with a chrome front. Didn't take any pictures, but when I get back I'll see if I can't scan in a couple of the product sheets I picked up there. Intel's P4 pavilion was just a bunch of other companies grouped together showing off what software they had optimized for the P4. Saw a couple of cool games there that we'll be trying to get copies of to review - Sacrifice which will be available this Friday, and a cool looking game from Savage Entertainment that I can't remember the name of; it won't be out this year but damn it looked slick. Sony had a bunch of Aibo's on display, I kinda like my real dog. I didn't actually go inside their booth, but from outside I could see they were showing a bunch of memory-stick stuff, their new PalmOS-based PDA (can't remember name now, Clie or something like that), some laptops, ... regular Sony stuff. Made a quick stop at Franklin; they're making a new handheld device that seems to be generally designed for reading e-books, but also playes music and has limited general-PDA-type functionality. They're calling it the eBookMan

I went for a stroll down StartUp Lane, and came across a company making some really nice headphones. They were wireless infrared headphones, but they also sounded really good. Again, we're hoping to get a set to review for you, but just in case we can't, I took a pic of one of their guys wearing a pair.

wireless headphones.

Coming out of Startup City, I came across a company that I've never heard of before, but wish I had - Eupa. (Actually, the U should have 2 dots over it, but I don't know how to do that.) One side of their booth had a large selection of cases they make, ranging from MicroATX-size towers, right up to full-size towers. I'll try and scan in some spec-sheets for these cases when I get back, didn't take any pics again. They also had a little display for FlexATX-style cases. If you haven't seen this spec before, it's pretty cool to look at. These I did get some pics of, check them out below. The other side of their booth was motherboards. They have a pretty good variety, and (again) we're trying to get some of them to review. Their www page is over at if you want more information.

Some FlexATX cases.
More FlexATX cases.

Continueing my random walking around, I came across a bunch some nice-looking IDE-RAID products from a company called Arena. All their products were external drive arrays that supported hot-swapping the IDE drives, automatic data rebuilding, and a SCSI interface (or FibreChannel in one) to the computer its connected to. Running RAID5 using Maxtor 80GB disks you could build a 560GB fault-tolerant drive, which should be enough to store anyones MP3 collection, and his friends' for that matter. A few booths down ADC was showing some residential/small office networking equipment. Some nice cable-management panels, and wall outlet panels that integrated optical, RJ45, phone, coax, etc. all into a single faceplate. This stuff should be availble from their website in about a month. A little down from there a company called PLCom had put together a little network running at 10Mbps over power-lines. I'm not sure what kind of speeds HomePNA is at now (networking over the phone lines in your walls), but I think this is faster, and power-outlets are probably a lot more common on your walls than the phone-jacks are.

ALi was pushing their Athlon DDR-memory chipset. They had a bunch of systems running based on the IWill KA266. DDR memory samples from a bunch of places were strewn around their booth as well. They even had a couple DDR-SO-DIMM's on display, so I don't expect it'll be too long before we start seeing laptops with DDR memory. Of course, they also had a lot of boards in a display showing their other chipsets, but probably 3/4 of their booth was DDR-related and I didn't really pay much attention to their other stuff. If someone wants to know about ALi's P3 chipsets, e-mail me and I'll go back and check them out. Besides not having my thumnail-making software here, I also don't have anything to rotate these images - sorry; these I will fix when I get back, if someone else at GU doesn't before then.

Athlon system running on a IWill DDR board
IWill display (I'm too lazy to re-write it all).
More IWill display.
Apacer DDR memory module.
USB to IDE converter. This was sitting over in a corner of ALi's booth. Could be used to do some interesting things.

The DVD-RAM pavilion was full of promising-looking technology, but it was a collection of really small booths for companies making DVD-RAM products, so there was just a lot of brief overviews instead of a lot of information. If any of you don't know, this is DVD-Random Access Memory - a re-writable DVD technology that can store up to 9.4 GB on a disk (4.7 GB per side). Unfortunatly, as CD-RW was when it was first released (and still is), DVD-RAM disks can't be read by all older DVD players (standalone or DVD-ROM drives). Most new drives on the market however should be able to read the DVD-RAM disks, depending on who makes the drive (just as all the new CD-ROMs now can read CD-RW disks). I'm working on getting at least 1 DVD-RAM drive to review, hopefully we'll be able to compare a couple drives, and perhaps throw a CD-RW drive in there as well.

The final stop of the day was Acer. They didn't really have much there that I found interesting, but if any of you are interested in something they make, say so and I'll head back there for a bit again. They had pretty much everything on display - scanners, CD-ROM and CD-RW drives, DVD-ROM, flat-panel displays, CRT monitors, computer projectors, etc. I grabbed a whole pile of spec-sheets on all kinds of products, but thats about it for there. You also gotta realize that by this time I could barely stand-up anymore, and couldn't think about what I was doing at all. Walking around Comdex carrying a laptop, a large bag of papers, and a few other little things hanging off here and there (eg. camera) is hard work - my legs were shaking pretty bad by the time I finally got a cab back to the hotel.

Also..., here's the pics from the last couple days. Finally got them uploaded.
Couple guys at the Rio Sunday night
2CoolPC coolers on display.
Sony laptop at ATi's booth. There's a Crusoe CPU in that one too, but ATi was showing the graphics chip of course.
Odd looking WinCE based device. This thing was hooked up for wireless 'net access.
A springboard module. This one combines a GPS receiver and wireless internet into a single module.
My hotel room.

Comments are welcome !

All respective copyrights named or used in this article, and images, are copyright of their respective copyright owners. All opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the writer, and may or may not express the view of Glide Underground, Inc.

Glide Underground at Comdex 2000

Added:  Friday, November 17, 2000
Reviewer:  Rob Baumstark

Page: 3/3

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