This is set to be the year of small and twos in the world of IT.
Let me explain.
Apple is due to start using Intel PC processors, so - in an act of either reciprocity or straight design piracy - the PC world has instigated a Mac mini-alike initiative. PC people have been building equally mini PCs for some years now. You can still buy the 205 x 156 x 61mm Saint Song Latte P4 at www. ldlc. fr/fiche/ PB00019224. html. One of a group of tiny computers made by Saint Song, it makes Apple look a bit second time around. It does, of course, also demonstrate that hot visual design sells. And sells so well that the design has already been cloned (with PC electronics inside) by Taiwan motherboard manufacturer AOpen, sold here at quite a hefty price by Evesham and awarded ho-hum reviews.
Following this clone is a small trail of fairly visually impaired PC component manufacturers about to produce quite expensive, very small PCs, including AJP with its 225 x 170 x 40mm, dual-core GE2. And the unfortunately named STD will be bringing out the 168 x 103 x 53mm A9 Home, aka the AdvantageSix.
What is significant about computer size is that the designing of office spaces may have to change yet again following last year's mass conversion to flat screens. But it needs to be pointed out that none of the above manufacturers, including Apple, tells you about the lumpy power-supply brick and mare's nest of cabling that enable them to make the basic tiny machine you see in the ads function in real life. Just add them up: power, LAN, printer, keyboard, mouse, plus any other USB peripherals you may have connected, all sticking out of the back of your tiny computer, looking rather like an octopus.
At the same time, projectors - the mainstay for architects doing PowerPoint presentations - have also gone dramatically mini. This is a consequence of using those very bright lightemitting diodes instead of £350-plus projector bulbs. NEC says it is about to issue one of these mini-projectors sized at 280 x 123 x 85mm, Mitsubishi has what it describes as a palm-sized pocket projector and Samsung will be selling its tiny DLP Pocket Imager alongside ones from Texas Instruments, Epson and Toshiba. Prices are around $800 (£460). But when you translate that number into pounds sterling remember to allow the poor old retailers to make their meagre 100 per cent transatlantic mark up.
'Two' is for dual-core processors, Internet2 and two standards for the next generation of DVD drives. The latter is a rerun of the old Betamax v VHS scenario. This time it is postDVD formats HD DVD and Blue-Ray, each being supported by heavy-duty companies. Disks of the former will hold up to 30GB, the latter 50GB. Although these anticipate the introduction of high-definition TV - which requires a lot more information - they are nevertheless no more than digital storage media - albeit of considerable size. They will be of interest in architects' offices where CAD drawings are inherently big and 3D models are even bigger. The technical differences should not detain us long because holographic disks are already on the near horizon. They may actually mark the end of spinning disk mechanisms, because the HVD (holographic versatile disk) Alliance is researching holographic flash cards and cartridges. And their capacity?
Around 200GB for starters. But not yet.
Dual processing and dual-core processors are claimed to represent a quantum leap in computing power. Chip maker Intel claims that, by the end of the year, most desktops, mobiles and servers will ship with dual-core processors. Dual processing, which is current technology, involves two matched CPU chips on a motherboard, and dual core is where you have two processors on a single CPU chip. Jackal-like, software houses are demanding that their licensees start paying per processor and per core rather than per computer. Surely not with CAD software, where installing either paired processors or a dual-core chip has the effect of making the software perform like it never has before - sometimes.
Pero Maticevic of Fletcher Priest reckons that having dual processors means not much difference for day-to-day CAD tasks, running a bit faster in regenerating Photoshop, and, only when you are working continuously on a big model, do they mean running twice as fast. He says one useful tip is to install ordinary 64-bit processors. You do this even when the applications are still 32 bit (as most of them are), because 64-bit CPUs allow you to install a massive 16GB of memory. In CAD, memory size can be far more signi'cant for speedy working than processor speed.
Internet2 is actually a non-profit consortium of more than 200 US research organisations, 70 corporations and 40 government agencies, all linked together by the Abilene network, a very high-speed backbone. Check out www. internet2. edu.
Surprisingly, it is not a response to the current spam-riddled internet jungle. It was started back in 1996 as a US academic network. There has, of course, been some speculation about it turning into an internet alternative, but probably for activities like remote surgery and operations where speed and bandwidth are all-important. But it is unlikely to be a replacement for the current internet, because it is difficult to see how the spammers and purveyors of bonking buxom blondes might be any better controlled than they are on the web we know and sometimes love.
Already, university students on Internet2 are being hunted down and law-suited by Hollywood anti-file-sharing vigilantes.
Confusingly, Internet2 (aka Web2.0) is also used to describe the notion, and it is so far a pretty vague notion, of a smarter, more interactive (and, necessarily, faster) future computer world. The tendency will be for computer and internet to converge - to the extent that some applications will be designed to exist only on the web, with which local computers merge for the duration of the task. Internet2 will be more easily searched, it will involve downloading codes which define information rather than downloading pages representing information. It will involve its users much more in the style of, say, Wikipedia, Amazon, Flickr, and blogs. It will involve RSS information feeds. In short, and maybe long, it will be about the internet morphing into a kind of collective consciousness. Worryingly, in this vision there is nothing about stopping spam.