Dan's Data letters #138Publication date: 11-Jan-2005.
Last modified 10-Sep-2014.
This news release about an 8ms LCD screen appears to be a month old, but this is the first time I have seen it. I am only passing this on as info.
There are at least two other 8ms monitors out now. Shuttle's just announced an 8ms version of their XP17 screen, too, and no doubt plenty more are popping up even as I speak, given that it's CES time and all.
The bandwidth of a single DVI channel (as opposed to the dual DVI used by some really big flat screens) is 165 million pixels per second, which would suggest that you could pump 125 frames per second to 1280 by 1024 screens like these. But once you take overheads like inter-frame blanking into account, you only get a ceiling of 85Hz for this resolution. That isn't enough for really pathologically enthusiastic gamers, but most of us are OK with it, and 8ms monitors ought to be able to really and truly give you 85 clear frames per second without trouble.
As I've explained in past reviews (like the one of the great-in-its-day SyncMaster 172T), the LCD timing spec tells you how long a subpixel takes to go from fully on to off to fully on again, but smaller brightness changes take longer than this full cycle, which is why a white mouse pointer moving around on a grey background on an LCD screen blurs more than the same pointer moving on a black background.
Panel manufacturers have been pushing the subpixels faster and faster by doing things like deliberately telling them to overshoot the desired brightness then cutting the signal when they get to the point they're really meant to achieve, and by all accounts 8ms monitors really have finally banished all blur. 16ms was close, and is plenty good enough for most users; 8ms is good enough for everyone.
Dan, I recently purchased (I don't know where) a smallish mouse pad that stuck to the table and then you could pull it off and stick it to your laptop for storage. I think it was a 3M product with the water swirl design. I gave it away and can not find another one. I've tried the Internet and all the big office supply store chains. It seemed like the packaging said something about it being especially good for tiny mouses and laptops, etc. Can you help me locate this item? I would greatly appreciate it as I have a tiny mouse and travel for work.
It sounds like one of 3M's Precise Mousing Surfaces - a little floppy rubbery item with a textured surface, right?
The (unfortunately acronymed) PMS was the first "special mousemat"; it came out before today's all-surface optical mouses had been invented, and its textured surface kept optomechanical mouse balls much cleaner than the various cloth pads and bare desks that most people had been using until then. Some people still swear by the PMS, but most geeks have moved on to hard textured plastic mats, or weirder products made out of glass or metal, because the PMS is easily damaged and has high friction compared with plastic mats.
Aaaaanyway: Yes, you can still buy them, from quite a few places in the USA, and if you're not picky about the colour you can get 'em quite cheaply too - though beware the really cheap places, which may sting you a stupid amount for shipping.
Several months ago, I bought an M-Audio Transit USB sound device (calling it a card seems somehow inappropriate). I had wanted a way of transmitting digital audio straight to my receiver so that my receiver could do the audio decoding rather than the sound card doing it.
Right now, I have one of those little Shuttle machines to watch DVDs, Xvids and all other A/V formats that Windows can handle. It comes with its own optical-out, but should I want a different machine to perform in that duty, I would have to get a different sound card. The Transit was meant to be that sound card.
When I tested with normal stereo audio, it sounded as good as anything else I've heard. But when I attempted to do Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS pass-through (i.e. where the audio information is passed directly to the receiver untouched), the audio stuttered. A lot. Anyone who can hear audio should be able to hear it.
I am not certain of its cause, but I believe that it couldn't handle the bandwidth required for DD5.1. Though now that I'm thinking about it, DD5.1 requires LESS bandwidth than normal 44.1kHz stereo PCM. Anyways, I bring this all up because you mentioned in your letters #137 that you hadn't actually heard a digital audio jitter problem, and I believe I've found a testable example for you.
This shouldn't have anything to do with jitter, though; that's clocking errors, from which this device should not particularly suffer. Severe jitter causes a signal to break up into noise, not stutter, anyway (and good enough reclocking can bring the signal right back).
According to its manual, the Transit's a USB 1.1 device, which means it's got less than a megabyte per second of data bandwidth available to it - but that should still be plenty for audio. DVD AC-3 bit rates top out at 448 kilobits per second; even full rate DTS is only 1.4 megabits per second.
(Cinematic DTS, by the way, uses exactly the same 1,411,200 data bits per second as uncompressed CD audio; DVD DTS is usually 768 kilobits per second.)
So perhaps you've got a bandwidth bottleneck somewhere else. Something else on the USB bus taking up a bunch of bandwidth would explain it (a keyboard or mouse wouldn't); so would something poorly sharing an IRQ with the USB controller; so would unduly characterful USB drivers.
You seem to get threatened with lawsuits on a regular basis. Although you seem more than capable of facepalming all the charlatans who attempt to represent, do these threats ever worry you at all? Has anybody ever taken formal legal action against you and if so, what happened?
I don't get threatened that regularly; I've got a while to go before I can put up a page like this.
I was a bit worried at first about this sort of thing, but that was before I learned the very good rule of thumb that says that the faster someone is to threaten you with a lawsuit, the less likely they are to follow through. And, indeed, no actual lawyers' letters have ever turned up.
Hair-trigger legal threats are pretty much diagnostic of Internet kookery; if you really want to sue someone, you're actually likely to harm your case if you threaten them first, especially if you haven't made any good-faith attempts to solve the problem without recourse to the courtroom before you send those threats. A good rule for anybody in a legal-action situation, on either side of the fence, is to communicate only through your legal representative; making legal threats yourself is a clear sign that you have not actually ever consulted with a real lawyer, and are not likely ever to do so.
(I've now written a longer piece about what it means, and what to do, if you receive an actual legal "nastygram".)
Kooks can still cause pain by directing their threats at your employer, school, Web site hosting service or whatever, thus getting you in trouble by proxy. Many such organisations don't care about the substance of the threats, but just want them to go away, and feel no particular urge to spend time defending you from whatever wacko has a bee in his or her bonnet over you.
As far as actual real lawsuits go, though, the fast-threat crowd can only dream of achieving a 1% follow-through rate.
I've been reading all your letters and info for many many years now and have enjoyed every bit of it. But I've run into a problem that good ol' Google doesn't seem to be able to help. I'm kinda hoping that you and your minions might be able to help where the world's best search engine hasn't. My girlfriend has recently become a convert to Mannatech and well, all things "Glyconutrient". As I have been reading your stuff for a while, I remembered that you have had some interesting things to say about such things.
Now she's a complete convert. I've tried pointing her to various sites that to me have proof that Mannatech is a fraud. How do I convince her?
If, by "convert", you mean she just buys the stuff and thinks it's good for her, then she either reached this conclusion rationally or irrationally. If irrationally, then you're unlikely to be able to reason her out of it (you can't reason someone out of something they didn't reason themselves into...) by pointing to the lack of scientific support for the basic Mannatech claim. That being, that there's something in Mannatech products that your body can't make from food, or that your body won't make as a matter of course if you eat a normal (even a not-very-healthy) diet, and that whatever that something is, it's good for you.
Someone who just believed their friend the Mannatech distributor when he or she said that there's lots of scientific support may well change their minds when they notice that the "supporting studies" are either old hilariously discredited stuff, or irrelevant studies that say yes, various sugars are important to health, without saying that there's any point at all to eating them (since they'll just be digested and turned into glucose along with the rest of your carbohydrate intake). It should also be pointed out that in the USA, among other countries, makers of "dietary supplements" are pretty much free from government efficacy and safety regulation.
Mannatech have done a couple of little studies with positive results, but, y'know, when studies are done by people on the company payroll and nobody anywhere else in the world has repeated the results, that's not exactly a glowing recommendation for the product. Which, of course, Mannatech had been selling for years and years before they got around to doing this work. Apparently they previously figured out that it worked by means of mental telepathy.
Mannatech is also a Multi-Level Marketing operation. This does not mean it's a scam, but various MLM companies oversell their programs considerably, creating lots of "distributors" who're desperately trying to make back the money they sank into their stock of products and expensive "training materials", and who frequently end up telling all sorts of lies, even to their friends, as a result. Here's a perfect example.
An MLM can be a scam for its distributors and still sell valid products, of course - though this does invite questions as to why a perfectly good product has to be sold in a fraudulent way. Still, the above only really applies if your girlfriend is considering getting into the Mannatech business. Since it's hard to buy MLM-marketed products without getting frequent invitations to become a distributor, though, it's worth bearing in mind.
I was amazed by the wood knobs from letters #136. I was astounded when I read about the wood block from letters #137. But then I made the mistake of looking further around on the Referenceaudiomods.com site and I found this.
Now honestly, I didn't make it past the first paragraph. But I do know something about the passive sonar systems on the US Navy's fleet of "atomic" submarines. And while the rest of the page might be completely true, the entire first paragraph is a total fabrication. If Bybee really wanted to do something about lowering the noise floor on sonar systems, perhaps he could come up with a device to stop whales trying to fornicate the boat?
Todd (who, yes, has a navy.mil e-mail address)
I've used Bybee Technologies (or, uh, "Technolgies"...) as funny-link fodder before - feel free to play hunt-the-link here and here. They've got the usual hi-fi voodoo symptoms, like a $US550 power cable being the cheapest wire they sell (and it's just a little extension lead, not even a whole cable), but their particular schtick is, indeed, "Quantum Purification". They seem to have expunged all specific mention of the US Navy from their site, and only say "Quantum Purifiers were originally developed for military applications, many of which are still highly classified" - which would, no doubt, explain why Todd and every other member of the world's military who's allowed to send e-mail has never heard about them. But the old text survives on Reference Audio Mods, and various other places.
I propose a new rule: Any consumer product whose manufacturers claim it works because of quantum physics is likely to be a fraud.
Various consumer products do work because of direct application of quantum effects, of course; LEDs are a simple example. Heck, mirrors work because of quantum interactions; that's why light reflected off water is polarised.
But the word "quantum" never appears anywhere on the sales brochures of LED flashlights or bathroom mirrors, unless it's part of that brilliant term "quantum leap". People with marketing degrees usually think that means "huge leap", when it actually means "smallest leap that is physically possible".
(I know language is defined by usage, so if most people agree a quantum leap is a very big one, then that's what the term now means. But when usage completely reverses the original meaning of a term - like using "literally" to mean "figuratively" when that's not what your readers will interpret it as - it damages the language. Not only will past uses of a "redefined" term now be prone to misunderstanding, but such terms are taken out of play even for modern use. To avoid misunderstandings when you use a redefined term, you need to explicitly or by context make clear which meaning you intend, and doing that is cumbersome enough that you might as well just use some other, un-damaged, term instead.)
Thought you'd like this. Does it get any more blatant?
Possibly. It's open to discussion whether a magic disc-treating chip (which wears out rather quickly, so you have to buy more!) is more or less outrageous than a "tweeter" that is alleged to operate in the microwave band.
This outfit sells a selection of the usual voodoo cables and so on, but their principal product would appear to be that time-honoured audio snake oil standard, Expensive Vibration Isolating Things To Put Under Components That Absolutely Don't Actually Care Whether They're Sitting On Ten Tons Of Granite Or On A Bouncy Castle.
These devices are, of course, well reviewed.
Not quite up to John Titor standard
Is there such a thing as "non-volatile integrated quantum-optical RAM"? I found a Web site claiming gigantic amounts of storage stored in what looks to be an optical jewel of some sort. Their sites are Atom Chip and Compu-Technics, and they are supposedly at CES 2005.
Their Web sites are very poorly made, using what looks like pictures taken with a webcam or a very cheap digital camera, yet they boast 128MB/square millimeter on a 20 micron slab, accessible at 0.6ns, which is Really Fast, considering light goes about 30 cm in 1ns through air. Can you please look into the validity of these claims and said technology?
Is there such a technology? Uh, no.
The sites in question do, indeed, display numerous imperfections as evidence of their handcrafted nature. I don't know exactly what kind of joke/art project/product of mental illness they are, but they certainly don't rise to the status of an actual scam. This incredible breakthrough technology has, unaccountably, failed to attract any attention at all in the more than two years they've been promoting it, or in the six years since the mad scientist responsible patented what looks like the process allegedly involved.
This thread, which mentions the simply outstanding video clip you can download here, pretty much sums it up. The discussion is not unlike that one might expect if a bunch of automotive engineers found themselves unexpectedly discussing the feasibility of time-travelling DeLoreans.
Far be it from me, of course, to badmouth a technology so great it's won what looks exactly like an Academy Award for "The complete innovation activity". That is, I think, the most hilarious of the various awards the Compu-Technics technologies have received either because they paid for them (there are "award mills", just like "diploma mills", that've served the quack and kook communities for about as long as there've been quacks and kooks; you pays your money, you gets your certificate/medal/trophy), or because they turned up at some obscure trade show or convention and their wild claims were believed.
Remember: You name it, someone'll believe it.