Mon, 08 Aug 1994

What is new out there in the PC world?

By Zatni Arbi

JAKARTA (JP): Competition in the upper market display monitor industry is really tight, with new and good monitor products such as the ones from Nokia beginning to share the awards traditionally monopolized by Nanao and NEC. Competition in the lower end is not easy, either.

NEC, a maker of an award winning upper market display monitor, has just upgraded its budget SVGA 14" monitor. Its new MultiSync 2V, with a list price of US$355, is capable of a 70 Hz vertical refresh rate at the resolution of 1024 by 768. At 800 by 600, it is capable of displaying images with a 76 Hz vertical refresh rate, which is very easy on the eyes.

The new entry level monitor complies with the MPR-II elec tromagnetic radiation specifications. It also complies with the Display Power Management Signaling (DPMS) standard, as specified by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). This feature allows the monitor to power down itself to comply with the EPA's Energy Star specifications. Boy, isn't it interesting to see how many specifications and standards that new computer products must comply with today?

Not to be beaten by NEC, Sony is also launching its new 15" Trinitron monitor, called MultiScan 15sf. Like NEC 2V, Sony 15sf also incorporates digital controls. It is also both VESA DPMS and MPR-II compliant. But, unlike the 14" NEC, Sony's 15" maximum refresh rate at 1024 by 768 is 75 hz.

A new feature to be found in Sony 15sf is the Color Tempera ture control, which the company claims will ensure color accuracy in desktop publishing and graphics design applications. Well, interesting as this new feature may be, would you really consider using a 15" for any serious DTP job?

Movies on your PC

Do you know that, for a little bit more than the price of a video laser disc player, you can turn your 386 machine into a movie theater? Thanks to Sigma Designs, a Fremont-based company, you can now add ReelMagic MPEG Playback Controller and PC Multimedia Upgrade Kit to our PC. The kit will enable your PC to display full screen, TV-quality video and produce CD-quality audio from standard CD-ROM drives.

The product basically consists of two components, a 16-bit sound card (which is the standard for PC audio today) and an MPEG playback board. Using the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) compression method, ReelMagic can play back up to 74 minutes of full-motion video from a single CD-ROM at the rate of 30 frame per second (FPS) for NTSC, 24 FPS for PAL, or 25 FPS for films. If a movie runs longer than 74 minutes, it'll have to come in two CDs. The software even supports OLE 2.0.

I've had the chance to see ReelMagic in action, and it's amazing. The CDs containing full-featured films look just the same as the ones that contain my favorite Hetty Koes Endang's Kroncong songs. Undoubtedly, this will represent another moun tainous challenge to Indonesia's Film Censor Board (BSF), which has been under a lot of criticisms lately. How can they exercise controls over movies that are indistinguishable from an ordinary audio CD?

In fact, the CD-based software for ReelMagic is already available in Jakarta, with the price ranging from Rp 40,000 to Rp 200,000. Sounds like there will be another reason to get glued to our PC, doesn't it?


Two weeks ago I wrote about Version 6.21 of MS DOS, an upgrade that untraditionally gave you less that its predecessor as it no longer included the disk compression utility DoubleSpace. Micro soft has brought back a disk compression utility into the oldest operating system that we know in the PC world. I guess the people in Redmond understand how a disk compression utility is such a necessity, given such a large amount of disk space that today's applications require.

In addition to the disk compression utility, which is now called DriveSpace, MS DOS 6.22 also features better integration with Windows and better memory management. DoubleGuard and Scan Disk are still available to ensure the well being of your hard disk data. The upgrade price from Version 2.11 or later, through a U.S. software mail-order company, is $49. If you have Version 6.0 or later, the upgrade price is only $10.

The funny thing is, Microsoft decided not to call it version number 6.3 and used the weird sounding 6.22 instead. I guess we all can understand this, as IBM gave its latest upgrade of PC DOS version number 6.3. It's obvious that the war still continues, isn't it?

New from Corel

With such strong leadership in the PC based graphics world, it stands to reason that Corel should start marketing spin offs from its flagship CorelDRAW! graphics illustration package. A case in point is CorelFLOW, a program that enables you to create fancy flowcharts, diagrams, schematics, etc.

Like Visio, our favorite chart creator, CorelFLOW also supports drag and drop drawing, automatic shape connecting, and direct text and line editing. Like Visio, it also supports OLE 2.0 and has customizable, smart symbol libraries. And, oh, yes, it comes with a spellcheck, too.

Corel's habit of throwing in everything into the packages it sells is carried onto this one as well. For a suggested retail price of $99, CorelFLOW comes with 2,000 symbols, 1,000 clipart images, 1,000 Corel Photos on CD-ROM and 100 TrueType Fonts. Oh dear, how big should my hard disk be if software continues to come in large quantities like this?