Mayday! Mayday! Titanic-themed editor's note dead ahead, Cap'n! I don't know if we'll be able to avoid her!" Crash! That's right, Constant Readerfull steam ahead with the Titanic metaphors!|
We had to elbow a lot of people out of a lifeboat to get to the Microsoft-sponsored Meltdown 98 conference in Bellevue, WA, in early February. No, it wasn't a summit addressing the effects of North Atlantic icebergs on the shipping industry. For Microsoft's ISV and IHV partners, Meltdown 98 was an intense series of days spent testing and debugging DirectX-based software and hardware. Think of it as a massive porting dry docksoftware is tested on the latest hardware before release to ensure that everything is seaworthy with Windows 95 and Windows NT. Meltdown also provided the opportunity to schmooze with the DirectX developers (the captain's table, if you will).
The information was massive and unavoidable. All the areas of DirectX 6.0 were covered, including Direct3D IM, Direct3D RM, DirectDraw, DirectInput, DirectMusic, DirectPlay, and DirectSound. Beta 1 of DirectX 6.0 is scheduled to be shipped with Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2, which should also include a Windows 9x developer release. Three conference tracks were offered at Meltdownaudio, graphics, and performance tuning.
The audio track emphasized DirectMusic. We heard from several Microsoft developers and program managers, none of whom played "Nearer My God to Thee." Mark Burton's presentation covered the IDirectMusic interfaces. We witnessed how to create and initialize DirectMusic objects including the loader, performance, and port objects. Performance channels (PChannels), which map to port/channel groups, and the MIDI channel (MChannel) were also covered.
Direct3D, texturing, DirectDraw and the Reference Rasterizer were covered in half of the graphics track. Nicholas Wilt, a Direct3D technical lead, dove into the icy waters of Direct3D. He discussed the geometry pipeline, which offers significantly better performance than DirectX 5.0. Next, Mike Toelle and Jim Blinn took us into the bowels of the Reference Rasterizer.
In the second half of the graphics track, Danny Miller, an SDE on the ICCD Multimedia team, talked about DirectShow, the DirectX media component that was formerly ActiveMovie. Available starting with DirectX 5.1, DirectShow lets you easily incorporate video clips into your apps and provides better performance than the 16-bit flotsam and jetsam of MCI video.
Those interested in the hardware aspects of DirectX were not relegated to steerage. Jay Borseth, an SDE on the Windows Hardware Platforms team, gave a presentation on WDM Video Capturing. Jay encouraged us to float new WDM Capture minidrivers for entertainment PCs.
In the performance tuning track, software evangelist Phil Taylor went on deck with Direct3D optimization. His talk came complete with a host of real world suggestions and code snippets. Besides generously referencing our beloved publication, Phil also covered useful tools and how to optimize the build process to create shipshape games.
Check out http://www.microsoft.com/hwdev/meltdown.htm for the full poop on the February Meltdown. The next support Meltdown is tentatively slated to dock in July. If you are interested in participating, please send up a flare to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, keep a sharp watch for more DirectX coverage in MSJ.