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EST. SEPTEMBER 8th, 1997
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    Random Poll: Just how big is big momma?

    a) Big momma is so big, she can get group insurance rates.
    b) Big momma is so big, she gets clothes in three sizes: extra large, jumbo and oh-my-god-it's-coming-towards-us!
    c) Big momma is so big, when she gets on the scale it says 'to be continued.'
    d) Actually, big momma is so big, when she gets on the scale it says 'One at a time, please!'
    e) Hey... uh - the movie is about 'Big Momma' not 'Yo Mama'. Get your head out of the toilet.

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    DCN finds DVD @ LinuxWorld Conference & Exposition

    by Sean Kelly (DCN)

    If one could sum up the most attractive elements of an exposition such as the LinuxWorld Conference in two words, they might be: FREE STUFF!

    A technologist in a starving jungle of predatorial marketers, on entering the lobby to the San Jose, California Convention Center, I silently vowed not to be consumed by the nearly overpowering desire to be the first convention attendee who obtains at least one of every free goodie available. Completely against my will and all my efforts, I ended up with flashing lights, various types of media containing assorted applications and development platforms, even clothing articles. I swear, all I wanted was some literature and a few technical contacts, and I feel like a sheltered tourist returning from his first trip to Jamaica!

    If you're wondering just what the heck the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo is all about, to give it a frame of reference, take Comdex, subtract all non-Linux groups, and divide by fifty. Then you'll have a pretty good picture of what the second floor of the San Jose Convention Center looked like. The downstairs registration area looked not unlike an airport terminal and was well organized. Visitors were allowed to register themselves over the Internet on a set of 30-40 networked PC terminals all set up in the registration area. Mag-strip ID cards were printed on demand, and from there various company represenatives needed only swipe your ID card through their reader to log your registration info so that they could contact you in the future.

    So began my adventure through the red and purple carpeted splendor of LED's, server racks, and futuristic-looking presentation booths with all sorts of imaginable methods of attracting the eye of the casual wanderer. As I prowled the scene, I kept my eye peeled for hot and emerging technologies. There was a pneumatic powered flight simulator which reacted to the user's actions on the yoke. Hmmm.. interesting, but not terribly impressive - old tech, been done for 30 years. Moving on, I found something of slightly greater interest - embedded Linux systems. Special builds of the Linux O/S with highly cuztomized input/output interfaces allowing the system to boot up right out of a Flash microchip (no disk drive!) and operate the systems of a device such as a PDA, palmtop.. anything you could imagine. This could very well be the next very big step in the world of RTOS (Real Time Operating Systems) which operate on everything from cellular phones to small-footprint desktop PC's, not only because of the power and flexibility of linux, but particularly since Linux is a freely available, "Open Source" - the price is right.

    This very premise is attracting the attention of big players in varied technology industries, but staying true to my cause, I sought further for something which might tantalize our DVD technology fans. And I'm pleased to report that I found it. The one, very cool thing which could make a significant impact on the DVD community. It's called "Indrema", and it may very well have put itself into a position to make Microsoft Corporation's fantasies of the "X-Box" ever taking a significant foothold in the console gaming market become a thing of the past.

    Indrema, like many companies, envisions an x86-based architecture system with an embedded Linux O/S, and is faced with going head-to-head against Microsoft in direct competition for the lead stake in the x86-based console gaming market. Unlike Microsoft, however, Indrema has several advantages in entering the market, not the least of which is retaining an enthusiastic audience. Microsoft has years of distasteful marketing practices and a pending Supreme Court controversey to overcome in coaxing new customers to embrace their product. Indrema has a fresh start, beginning with an open source architecture and is well-geared for future expansion providing developer support to new and already-established software houses - the list of intriguing, positive advantages goes on.

    Okay, so I guess by now you're dying for some details. While no official specification on the machine has yet been released, in speaking with Indrema's Director of Operations Eric Rutter, this is what I picked up on: the initial model L600 will carry 64MB SDRAM, a 600Mhz x86-based microprocessor and an 8-50GB hard drive (capacity optional). The unit will have a DVD reader and will use TV connections as its standard output device provided by a dedicated MPEG-2 and AC3 decoder. DVD digital audio output is provided by an optical connection. It will support composite and s-video as well as component and FireWire (IEEE 1394) HDTV output. For games, as it stands, the unit is to carry some form of stereo, perhaps Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and a "simulated surround effect". Future Indrema products are slated to receive discreet, four-channel Dolby Digital connectivity which will add to the surround sound experience in games which support the OpenAL 3D positional audio API.

    But wait, there's more. The Indrema L600 is touted to be a full-featured DVD playback unit (details of which have yet to be announced). According to Rutter, the machine will also provide the ability to capture and re-play audio/video similar to services provided by the likes of Replay TV. And as if that wasn't enough, the thing comes with a 56K modem which will allow connection to any standard ISP connection, and in no time you would be cruising the Net on your big screen TV. Okay, so let's re-cap: DVD Player, Console Game unit, Web Browser, TV Replay device and MP3/CDA jukebox: projected price of the entry-level system - USD $299.00 - not bad if you ask me, and right on par to be just the sort of pain in the neck that the X-Box will have to try and fend off with every ounce of strength it can muster.

    There are many more features to boast about the Indrema entertainment unit, and we will be providing additional coverage on this machine in the near future and make announcements as they become available.

    Now of key concern to video game addicts everywhere when considering next generation console systems is, "yeah, but what kind of games are there going to be?" Eric Rutter's response was quite encouraging - they already have several big-name software companies porting titles for the machine, for which they project approximately 30 titles available at the time of the L600 product launch. That's a good start, but what's the next step? Well of course in this situation you would normally want to encourage more and more big boys to join the game development scene for your console, but that's not all Indrema has going for them. Welcome to the wonderous world of Open Source. Making its development platform publicly available (let alone the fact that it is an x86-based architecture which just about any 14 year-old kid can get their hands on these days) in essence points out the simple fact that nearly anyone will be able to write software for Indrema!

    This is a very exciting notion for me. With a background in graphics, multimedia and game programming, I've had considerable interest in the demo and competition group "scenes". For those who are not familiar with these types of groups, in essence they are groups of programmers with similar interests in honing their development skills and practice out-doing one another in competetive efforts in graphic and audio special effects in the form of video demonstrations, games, and small applications. You might be surprised to learn how many of the programmers and developers on games such as Quake and Unreal actually originated in such demo and competition groups. At any rate, what the Indrema represents in this respect is simply this - now these developers who are not necessarily professionals, but are extremely talented and are eager to show off their skills, can begin producing software which highlights both their own abilities as well as those of the machine. Not only will you find interesting things to watch and interact with from such groups, you may very well begin seeing full-fledged game development from otherwise completely unknown sotware developers. The reason that this is attractive to them is because the Indrema would offer maximum exposure to their group (thereby creating excellent portfolio material for anyone interested in building career references) since Indrema will permit owners who do not necessarily have a high-end desktop PC to interact with the developers' work on their home theater systems. And all this attractiveness at minimal expense: zilch. Development cost is extremely important when you're an amateur programmer aspiring for a hefty target development platform. With Indrema, only 300 bucks will get these people not only a complete entertainment system, but a ready-to-roll test-bed which they can use to test and run their applications that they develop on their PC, then simply burn to a CDR and move over to the Indrema machine. The development possibilities are endless. With such an attractive target for not only high-profile game software producers, but also for smaller, unknown entities we could very well be on our way to an Internet populated with assorted downloadable titles for the Indrema series of machines.

    The future is bright indeed for Indrema, and for the DVD community.

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