Another handy function that comes with the Multimedia Center 7.7's configuration page is PCCheck. Once the MMC 7.7 gets installed, PCCheck can be executed, performing a full system compatibility check to verify if any adverse conditions exist that would impede multimedia performance. With one click, a series of tests are run to see that critical components and settings are in place, insuring optimal multimedia performance. If any adverse conditions exist, PCCheck lists them in a results screen with a recommended course of action for remedying the problem.
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Remote Wonder 1.2:
The first time we got the chance to check out ATi's Remote Wonder was when we reviewed the All-In-Wonder 8500DV back in December. The Remote Wonder is a remote control which uses (RF) Radio-Frequency to communicate with a transmitter connected to a USB port on a computer. Once installed, the remote control not only runs all of the ATi Multimedia Center Software, it can be used to control the pointer in place of a mouse. Let me be clear, you won't want to throw out your mouse altogether, but the remote does work very well when viewing the TV-out in another room. Since it uses Radio-Frequency, there is no need for a clear line of sight for the remote to function, making it an extremely useful and versatile tool.
Seeing the potential usefulness of the Remote Wonder, ATi has begun to increase its features, creating plug-ins that are customized for specific applications. For example, with the new version 1.2 software, a plug-in is included for both WinAmp and Microsoft PowerPoint. With the implementation of ATi's new open source SDK called "AMMO" (Application Manipulation Modular Objects), OEMs and developers can create custom plug-ins designed for their own specific applications. This should be particularly useful for the mobile user who often runs presentation software with an over head projector. How many times have we seen someone try to run a presentation on their laptop, connected to an overhead projector, and soon we see the presenter squinting to see their laptop keyboard? Now, with the Remote Wonder, that same person can easily control their system while concentrating on their presentation. As the Remote Wonder matures, I'm sure we'll find a number of new uses for it.
HydraVision is ATi's proprietary desktop management software that let's a user create a number of virtual desktops, as well as configure a multi-monitor setup. The goal is to help the user be more productive by managing several desktops on either one monitor or multiple monitors. The entire package is comprised of three components to help achieve this: Desktop Manager, Hot Keys and Multi-Desk. The software has also been maximized to implement visual enhancements, exclusive to Windows 2000 and XP, such as Transparent Windows and Menus, Window Fade-in Effects and Window Shadow Effects. The HydraVision software is powerful and it's features are plenty. Thankfully, ATi has included a thorough User's Guide to explain all of HydraVision's capabilities.
What Really Makes The Radeon Tick...
One of the most significant changes to take place with the Catalyst software is improved Direct3D, OpenGL, and Options pages in the driver control panel. The primary goal of the new interface is to provide easy access to the driver's features through clean, consistent control panels that help make the process more understandable. For starters, both the Direct3D and OpenGL pages have the same look, making it less intimidating for the novice user when transitioning between the two screens. With previous versions, the two screens looked completely different and often mixed settings between the two. For example, with previous drivers, the settings for SmoothVision and Anisotropic Filtering were found on the Direct3D page, yet once you entered the settings page, you'd find both Direct3D and OpenGL tabs available.
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Now, if a user wants to make adjustments to either component, all they need to do is select the respective tab and everything is readily accessible on one page. ATi has also created a separate tab for Compatibility Settings, making certain options available in case a game is not working correctly with the new drivers. I personally welcome the new and improved design and suspect a lot of other Radeon users will appreciate it all the same.
Fortunately, the Direct3D and OpenGL screens aren't the only pages to get a face-lift. Next we take a quick look at the Options and Monitors screens and see what they have to offer.