Dan's Data letters #121Publication date: 11 August 2004.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Do you feel that headphones do justice to the surround sound experience that Doom 3 offers? I refer you to the AnandTech sound guide, where the reviewer states that surround sound is a virtual requirement to play (in terms of not getting your head knocked off by a lone grunt that you didn't see behind you).
I have a half decent set of headphones (top of the range Plantronics), and am quite satisfied with their performance and comfort, but the reviewer does note that: "With our two channel audio (either speakers or headphones) we can hear left and right, but determining front and back positioning without surround just didn't work as well as we needed it to." My understanding of headphones is that it should be a better (or at least acceptable) way to experience surround sound, compared to a full 5.1 speaker system.
I ask all this because I don't have the money to fork out for a new video card (current one a little old), Doom 3 and a new 5.1 speaker package. I am quite satisfied with my 2.1 speakers and don't really have anywhere to place rear speakers except in the middle of my living room, and that would just get annoying.
Doom 3 supports exactly one flavour of positional audio - 5.1 channel surround, which only works if you've got an appropriate speaker set hooked up and you've told Windows about it in the appropriate Control Panel box. The speaker set doesn't have to be full 5.1 channel - a 4.1 channel system (with no centre front speaker), or a four channel system (with no subwoofer) will work, for instance - but Windows has to think it's 5.1 channel. Fewer speakers will, of course, mean a less impressive surround experience.
Doom 3 has no support at all for positional audio over headphones, two channel speakers or anything else, and as far as multi-speaker surround goes, it doesn't matter what sound card you have, either. Any positional audio hardware on the card will be doing nothing at all. So yes, "front and back positioning" won't work at all with headphones, as the AnandTech reviewer may by now have figured out, unless you've got a surround setup that can tell Windows it's a 5.1 channel speaker system, but mix those 5.1 channels into headphone output. A reader tells me that his Sound Blaster Audigy works OK with headphones using the "virtual surround" feature.
Those weird multi-driver headphones that look like a 5 channel speaker system to the computer would probably work fine, too, and of course a 7.1 channel or larger rig could run in 5.1 channel mode and work fine as well.
Future Doom 3 engine games are meant to support EAX, and it's not inconceivable that EAX support could be included in a patch for Doom 3 itself at some point, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Id Software have never had much enthusiasm for 3D audio. Quake 3 is the only game they've ever made (not counting games made by other companies based on Id engines) that had full positional audio support, and it was removed in one of the patches!
The story behind the EAX-for-Doom-3 thing is that Creative have a software patent on a graphics shadowing technique (nothing to do with sound) which is used by major gaming-coder-pantheon-member John Carmack in Doom 3. The technique is actually commonly known as "Carmack's Reverse", but it belongeth unto Creative.
This sounds Very Dodgy, of course, but Creative's patent is, apparently, actually about as kosher as software patents get. Yes, a couple of Creative coders came up with the Reverse by themselves, and didn't just rip it off from Carmack. It's named after Carmack because he was the first one to publicise the technique.
Maybe Creative sprung a "submarine" patent on Id late in the piece to "blackmail" them into the EAX deal for future licensees, as various excitable message board posters say, and maybe they didn't; Carmack himself takes a very dim view of software patents in general. As well he might, since he would, if he squirted out a patent for every vaguely patentable coding concept he came up with, probably need to add a floor onto the Id offices and fill it with clerks to handle his output, even if he continued to spend most of his time making rocket ships.
Anyway, Id's never really given two hoots about positional audio, so we should count ourselves lucky that Doom 3 even has the 5.1 option. Personally, I'm playing with headphones in plain stereo (because I'm using a BitHead, which has no headphone surround feature), and just Dealing With It.
Here's a story, with links to others, about the patent brouhaha.
You can just plug a US-made desk lamp right into an Australian socket, providing you put in an Australian globe, right? We're not talking about a neon or halogen light, just a regular one.
Yes, this'll work, provided the plug fits. US two-prong plugs can generally be bent with pliers to fit Australian sockets. This is horrendously against local electrical regulations, of course, but you'll be fine (legally) unless you're selling the things, and fine (safety-wise) as long as the lamp's a normal double-insulated unit, which it certainly ought to be.
Also note that US lamps are unlikely to have an Australian-standard bayonet fitting for the globe; you'll need to get an Edison screw bulb. They're not too hard to find locally, but most Edison screw lamps in Australia are rear-reflector lamps - floodlights, heat lamps and so on.
They charged me for new memory AND RAM. I don't understand. Also, they charged me for a new processor. I never received my old memory back. (A different type.) Should I be pissed? They said my old motherboard got overheated by a Communist plot that mysteriously injects mega-dust into my house.
Uh... there were separate items on the bill for memory, and RAM? Memory is RAM.
(Technically, the hard drive can be described as "memory" as well, but generally only in those old Computers For Beginners books that weren't much use even when they were new.)
If one of the items was a few bucks for memory installation then that's no big deal, of course - but since that would have taken them about 20 seconds, it shouldn't have cost much. All of that stuff should just be one labour charge at the end of the invoice.
Yes, I think you should be annoyed. It is not very likely that mere dust in the case could have killed the CPU (if it jammed the heat sink fan then the computer would probably have just become disgustingly flaky until the fan and heat sink were cleaned or replaced), and dust shouldn't have done anything to the RAM, or the motherboard in general.
Your old Athlon would work fine on the A7N266-VM. The new motherboard needs DDR RAM, though, and so the upgrade would require new RAM modules to replace the SDR PC133 memory on your old board. It's hard to find new SDR-RAM motherboards these days, so this sort of thing is common enough. They should still have cleared it with you, though, and yes, you should have got your old hardware back, unless they cleared that with you as well.
I have a Diamond Multimedia Monster Sound MX300 PCI sound card. I cannot get a driver from Diamond, or anywhere else; I have tried numerous tech sites. It's like they never existed.
Diamond, indeed, no longer really exist, though their brand does. Likewise Aureal, who made the Vortex 2 (AU8830) chipset on that card, have gone. Their intellectual property got eaten up by Creative in the same way that Nvidia ate 3dfx - in other words, it's pretty much vanished without trace. The companies that bought the IP may have used a bit of it for something (more true of Nvidia than of Creative), but they pretty much just didn't want anybody else to have it.
The vortexofsound.com site that provided driver downloads long after Aureal's demise finally dropped off the peg a while ago, but you can still find the old Vortex 2 reference drivers in various places. There must be some working links on that page.
The card will only work as a plain stereo device on modern Windows flavours (2000, XP); you won't ever get positional audio out of it unless you're running good old Win98 (or maybe WinME). No NT-series-Windows drivers for Aureal positional audio have ever been made. This is a shame, as A3D is widely recognised as sounding better than Creative's EAX. EAX is rather more capable now than it was then, and is apparently easier to code for too, but ignoring all of the environmental-effect stuff, I think its core positional audio algorithm remains inferior to what Aureal were doing five years ago.
I'm going to take apart some of my old hard drives to get at the magnets inside. I managed to disassemble one without any Torx tools, but it was such a painful process that I've decided to buy a Torx set before I start on the next one. Any chance you could recommend a good set, or give me some hints as to what to look out for and what to avoid? I'm considering the AK2100 or AK2192 listed on this page. Think they'd be any good?
Oh yeah, one last thing. What exactly is a "socket set"? I can understand wanting to own a set of screwdriver bits, but why would you want a set of sockets?
Because modern hard drives never have screws down holes, you can, as you say, get away with a set of quarter-inch hex socket Torx bits for one of the several flavours of screwdriver that use these things. Neither of the sets you suggest include an actual driver; the basic very cheap Chinese-made T-bar magnetic-end drivers, available from electronics and hardware stores the world over, are fine. They're strong, the T-bar lets you apply lots of torque with little effort, and you can twiddle the shaft of the driver to run loose screws in and out.
You can also use quarter-inch bits in any three-jaw-chuck drill, but doing so for the disassembly of hard drives is kinda silly.
You don't need to buy a big set of bits to get Torx; there are smaller, cheaper ones that give you Torx, star, square, security this and that, et cetera. See the end of this page for what I'm talking about.
There are also dedicated sets of one-piece Torx drivers, which you can get from any decent electronics store. Again, the basic Chinese ones are cheap and pretty good. You can get more unusual driver sizes that way - some little tiny hard drive screws may be too small for common hex bits. A bit set that includes both Torx and star bits should fit pretty much any drive screw except the very smallest.
"Sockets" are, basically, nut drivers - things that fit over the outside of hex-headed fasteners. A socket set is a basic tool in any automotive workshop; it'll include a long-armed ratchet driver for high-torque work, probably a screwdriver-type driver as well for low-torque stuff, and a bunch of different sockets that fit onto one or both drivers and let you drive nuts and bolts of all sizes. The sockets themselves have square drive sockets in a few fractional inch sizes, so you can use one company's socket with another company's ratchet driver.
Once again, the cheap sets are Chinese, and they'll be tough enough for very occasional home and emergency use; brands from English-speaking countries (plus Japan, and Germany, and Switzerland for the really rich customers) may cost a lot more but should be suitable for proper commercial use. Even a small socket set will let you drive everything from sub-quarter-inch heads up to spark plugs and beyond. You can drive wheel nuts with a quality socket set, too; a cheap socket will probably shear off. But the car probably has a tyre iron bouncing around in the boot (USAnian translation: trunk) anyway, unless you left it stuck in the skull of some guy with a hook for a hand or something.
If you've got a car with storage compartments in the boot, it's a good idea to buy a cheap and nasty socket set, and a cheap and nasty multimeter, and a cheap and nasty Leatherman-rip-off multi-tool, and a cheap and nasty Photon Micro-Light rip-off key-ring LED flashlight, and stow them all in there. The total price shouldn't exceed $US25, which means that collection of stuff may pay for itself about 20 times over on one dark, rainy, cold, miserable night. And, for that price, you won't particularly care if you turn out to be lucky enough that it doesn't.
My husband and I have been using Harmonic products for years and have recommended them to others. One guy who always got headaches working at his computer was skeptical until he tried one of our personal discs around his neck and did some work on our computer. He ordered a disc for himself immediately. We gave one to a bloke we knew who drove a van with the battery under the floor below the driver's seat. He used to get headaches on long journeys. He was skeptical too. Finally his wife insisted he try it. He went on a 3-hour journey headache-free and has been wearing it ever since. As for us, one New Year's Day we went to the beach with friends. We are fair-skinned; they are not. However, they ended up with severe sunburn. We, wearing our discs, did get slightly pink, but felt no pain and next morning the redness had faded. The same thing happened when we went to Machu Picchu. We walked all over the place for several hours. That night in the hotel room, I said to my husband that I thought I had got a little burnt, as my face seemed redder than usual. His was not even red at all. Next day we saw some others who had been in our party and they were all very pink-faced indeed; by that time neither of us showed any sign of sunburn. Before I started wearing the Harmonic disc, I had to be very careful in the sun as I burnt so easily, so it has been a great benefit to me.
Before we bought our Harmonic Products, we went to see a neighbour of ours whom we knew had installed some on her property. She showed us the mark on her macadamia trees, showing growth rate before and after installing the equipment. MUCH faster afterwards; also she said she had very few insect pests on her trees thereafter. She had a light tower, which was claimed to be effective for a 30k radius. Perhaps this explains why my pot plants started looking so much healthier after we moved into her neighbourhood than they had in our previous home.
The stuff works. I don't know how or why, but it does.
Oh yes, and I nearly forgot - we took a large disc with us on our overseas trip (round the world in 3 months) and placed it in the airport lockers above our seats, and under our beds in places we stayed, positioned according to Noel's instructions. We're the only people we know who made such a trip with NO jet lag at any time.
I was considering writing Rosemary a lengthy reply concerning how we can determine what's so and what isn't without relying entirely upon our frequently fallible perceptions of the world, and the extraordinary number of people in the world who devoutly believe an amazing panoply of things which, by virtue of their numerous mutual contradictions, cannot all be true unless we're all carrying around our own very personal set of universal laws with us - in which case the very concept of reason itself breaks down and leaves us trapped in a state of impenetrable solipsistic uncertainty - and what precautions she may have taken to ascertain that she and the people she talks about have not made analogous mistakes to those made by, for instance, people who beat other people to death because they fear the other people are sorcerors who have stolen their penises.
And, of course, there's the tired but true comment that if Rosemary, or Harmonic Products, or any number of other techno-snake-oil claimants, could prove just one of those mystic claims - in this case, the anti-sunburn one would be easy - then you could collect one million US dollars.
And all of this is assuming, of course, that Rosemary's not just someone who sells Harmonic gear and wants to talk it up.
However, upon reviewing Rosemary's qualifications, it became clear to me that she's far too enlightened for anything I say to make the slightest impact.
(A reader has now pointed out to me that since the above qualifications include mention of ordainment in the Correllian Nativist Church, it's not out of the question that Rosemary might not in fact be of this world.)