Chipsets of the Doomed

One of my main mistakes in the original specification was the 3DFX Voodoo 3500TV. My previous Pentium system had eventually grown the PCI Voodoo 3000, which was quite an eye-opener after the second-generation Apocalypse accelerator card I'd been running, and the lure of integrated TV and video capture on top of the V3 chipset, replacing the trusty old Win/TV with a single-board solution, meant that the 3500 seemed too good to resist. Unfortunately, 3DFX's Win2K PAL TV and capture drivers were still barely fit to beta-test by the time the company was snapped up by NVidia, and that was the end of that. However, ATI's "All-In-Wonder" Radeon had just launched, with a similar range of functions sitting on an almost state-of-the-art graphics processor, and was even harder to resist. The Radeon was a better buy, definitely - drivers are still far from perfect when compared to the card's performance under Win9x, but it's still quick by most standards and very useable overall - and at least there's a reasonable hope for improvement in upcoming releases. It overclocks beautifully, too, running at the Radeon DDR's 183Mhz core and memory without a glitch - and is likely to have the potential for some further increase when I upgrade my CPUs.

The other decision that still makes me grit my teeth is the Nakamichi MJ6.16 CD changer. I've been a fan of the idea of changers for a decade or more, wanting the freedom of having the operating system and MS Office CDs permanently mounted, plus the current favourite audio CDs, and still have a slot of two for cover disks or whatever. There are disadvantages, partly the fairly low performance of most changers by contemporary standards, and partly their annoying habit of stalling the operating system for thirty seconds by suddenly cycling through all loaded CDs just when it's least convenient. However, the former is tolerable and the latter can usually be managed by making compromises elsewhere, and so I've persisted and have tried a fair handful of the internal varieties in my previous PCs - none of them have been as satisfactory as I'd hoped, though, and the Nakamichi drive is no exception. I'm told that it works well under Win9x and passably under NT, but Win2K refuses to see more than one of the five "drives". Nakamichi's contracted-out tech support were of little use, and an MS TechNet hack for switching disk by manually calling the RSM subsystem from a command-line just plain doesn't work on this drive… and one year later, in an annoying re-run of my experience with 3DFX, they're pulling out of the PC hardware market to concentrate on their mainstay car audio products. I'm determined not to give up, though, and one day my prince will come - if, probably, around the time when I have sufficient hard disk storage not to need it.

Another frequent source of annoyance has been the Creative SoundBlaster Live! card - although billed at launch as massively upgradeable and future proof, they've still managed to find reasons to abandon it completely with the launch of the current Audigy range. Many users have no problems at all with the Live! Cards, and the hardware spec is still good by today's standards, but the hardware is extremely intolerant of ACPI IRQ sharing, and the drivers are extremely unhappy in a multi-processor environment. Needless to say, both bugs have hit me fairly hard, giving symptoms of crackling, distorted and interrupted sound with MP3 playback and game soundtracks. I still live in hope of a driver update that will fix the SMP issues, but the smart money now seems to be against this and I will doubtless investigate one of the unofficial hacks at some point.


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