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Issue No.02 - March/April (2009 vol.29)
pp: 88-c3
Published by the IEEE Computer Society
ABSTRACT
This article looks at new hardware and software products and tools related to computer graphics.
Software
See Mars with Google Earth 5.0
Google Earth 5.0 lets users explore the oceans, view images of Mars, and watch regions of the Earth change over time. The new features mark a significant upgrade to Google Earth, a program that provides access to the world's geographical information through digital maps, satellite imagery, and the company's search tools. Google Earth 5.0 was unveiled at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where former Vice President Al Gore, singer Jimmy Buffett, and others spoke about its capacity to educate the public about global warming, ocean acidification, and other planetary threats.
Also on tap for Google Earth 5.0 is historical imagery and a time slider that lets users view images from the past. The new version also adds a touring option. Users can create sharable narrated fly-through tours by clicking the Record button and navigating through their area of choice.
With NASA's help, clicking Mars on the toolbar takes users to a 3D map of the planet featuring high-resolution imagery, 3D terrain, and annotations showing landing sites.
For more information, visit www.earth.google.com.
Visual Bookmarks for Web Surfing
OrdinarySoft's Tidy Favorites Pro 3.72 is a Windows program for managing Internet bookmarks. Unlike bookmarks that let the user create pages of text Web links, Tidy Favorites provides an intuitive visual dashboard that, according to the company, makes it easier to find Web pages. Tidy Favorites can create thumbnail images of the sites the user wants to bookmark. Users can select any portion of the Web site for a thumbnail image, zoom in or out, resize the thumbnails, and drag and drop them where needed. The thumbnail images are continually refreshed, so when a Web site changes, the bookmark image changes. This lets users highlight news headlines, sports scores, stock information, photographs, and other data that changes throughout the week.


A screenshot showing Tidy Favorites' dashboard of Web link thumbnails.

A single click can open, copy, delete, or update any bookmark. The program works with popular Windows browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera. A search panel tool lets users perform Google, image, and Wiki searches. Users can also add or remove search buttons from the panel.
The software is customizable, letting users organize bookmarks using tabs and folders that reflect individual preferences. For example, important links can have larger thumbnails, making them easier to find. By applying different program skins, users can modify the look and feel of Tidy Favorites to meet their tastes. They can add any Web site to the Tidy Favorites stack area, where temporary bookmarks can be stored for later visits. It's also a holding area from which the user can later transfer important bookmarks to their proper place.
Using Tidy Favorites' portability option, users can store bookmarks and settings on a flash drive and use them on other Windows computers. Because all bookmarks are stored on the user's local drive, choices and preferences are safe and secure, says OrdinarySoft.
Tidy Favorites Pro 3.72 costs $19.99 for a single-user license. To download a free trial version of Tidy Favorites 3.72 and for more information, visit www.tidyfavorites.com.
Web Pages for Small Screens
Virtual Mechanics' SiteSpinner Pro version 2.91 is a Windows Web authoring tool designed to create Web pages optimized for iPhones, BlackBerrys, smartphones, PDAs, cell phones, and any mobile device or desktop computer. The company says that SiteSpinner Pro takes the need for programming skills out of creating Web pages that look good on all screens, large and small.
Virtual Mechanics partnered with Opera Software to integrate the Opera Web browser into SiteSpinner Pro. As a result, SiteSpinner 2.91 users can design and preview Web pages as they'll look using standard mobile-device resolutions. This lets users create a Web site for desktop and laptop devices and then design a separate layout for mobile devices, ensuring that content looks good on any mobile device, according to the company.
When creating the mobile version of a Web site, users can modify content that was designed for the standard desktop browser, or they can insert and edit completely different content. Then, they can preview layouts side-by-side at different desktop and mobile resolutions directly under the Preview tab.
Once separate desktop and mobile versions of the Web site have been created, SiteSpinner Pro can publish both layouts as a single file. Visitors to the site using a desktop or laptop see the standard Web site. Visitors to the site using an iPhone, Blackberry, or other mobile device see the mobile layout. SiteSpinner Pro can also create single desktop and mobile optimized pages, as well as content for specific mobile devices.
According to the company, the program's use of cascading stylesheets enables pixel-precision WYSIWYG design that lets users position text, graphics, rich media, and words exactly where they want them. SiteSpinner also lets users enhance the layout with relative sizing and positioning of objects. Graphics functions include image rotation, skewing, layering, and transparency.
SiteSpinner Pro includes features that let users build interactive animation, including an action editor, a behavior editor, and a key frame animator. It supports publishing to HTML, DHTML, or SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). SiteSpinner Pro requires a Pentium-class PC running Windows 98/Me/NT4/2000/XP/Vista. A single-user license costs $99.
For more information, visit www.virtualmechanics.com/products/spinnerpro.
Accessing CUDA
Nvidia's version 2.1 beta of its CUDA toolkit and SDK (software development kit) is the latest version of the C compiler and software development tools for accessing the massively parallel CUDA computer architecture of Nvidia GPUs. This version supports CUDA on RedHat Enterprise Linux 5.x (a separate download).
The CUDA Toolkit and SDK 2.1 beta supports VisualStudio 2008 on Windows XP and Vista and just-in-time compilation for applications that dynamically generate CUDA kernels. The company says it has added several new interoperability APIs for Direct3D 9 and Direct3D 10 that accelerate communication to DirectX applications and has improved OpenGL interoperability.
The product also supports using a GPU that is not driving a display on Vista, supports a beta of Linux Profiler 1.1 (a separate download), and supports recent releases of Linux including Fedora9, OpenSUSE 11, and Ubuntu 8.04.
For a free download of the product, visit www.nvidia.com/object/cuda_get.html. For more information, visit www.nvidia.com/cuda.
Hardware
3D Immersive Simulation
Organic Motion's LitePod, a 3D immersive simulation platform, is optimized for training and simulation education technology. With LitePod, trainees can interact directly with virtual environments, without body suits or tracking devices. According to the company, LitePod lets people interact, evaluate, and learn how to act and react in new immersive environments in a natural way.
The stand-alone systems can capture and digitize a subject's range of motion and can be upgraded to include hand and finger movements, facial movements, multiple subjects, and the positioning of props or inanimate objects. LitePod integrates with current 3D engines to display live motion in virtual environments. The real-time display lets multiple units be simultaneously connected.
A single-unit LitePod starts at $125,000. For more information, visit www.organicmotion.com.
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