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The Interview - Page 3

AFR: Anthony Frausto-Robledo, Founder & Editor, Architosh

SF: Sean Flaherty, CTO, Nemetschek, North America

SF: We take advantage of it through Apple's OpenGL [implementation] and the QuickTime media layer. Elsewhere it doesn't offer that much [for VectorWorks]. It does do image processing very quickly.

AltiVec primarily speeds two major type of operations: bit array manipulation and single-precision floating point. Bit array manipulation forms the basis for all image processing techniques. For our purposes, this primarily affects rendering since that is the primary area in the product where we alter large image maps. [As in the rendered frames for QuickTime animation fly-throughs, etc.] Apple has accelerated their OpenGL implementation to take advantage of these instructions so the fast, interactive rendering mode in VectorWorks 9 will essentially be tuned for the AltiVec instruction set.

Single-precision floating point uses 32-bit numbers for calculations, whereas most of the industry is based around 64-bit floating-point values (called double-precision). As VectorWorks shifts to a floating-point database, it will perform all geometry manipulation in double-precision numbers so AltiVec will get us nothing for CAD operations. Possibly, redraw could be accelerated since the accuracy is not needed there, but that is a fairly large task forcing us to significantly change our imaging architecture.

AFR: What about multiprocessor support in VectorWorks? Any of that for the next version?

SF: No.

AFR: Why not?

SF: Multiprocessing is a big shift. Using 'threads' in an application is a real heavy weight change. It would take a couple of man years of work to get a real benefit. Also, threads slow you down on single processor machines. At some point we will move to multiprocessing because chips will eventually max out in speed and machines will move to multiprocessors.

AFR: So you have no support of multiprocessing other than Apple's own OpenGL or QuickTime media layers?

SF: Yes, that's correct.

AFR: OK. Let me summarize a bit. Apple has brought two key advances to the Mac platform recently: The G4 processor's AltiVec instruction set (for vector-based processing) and multiprocessor G4 Power Macs. VectorWorks will take advantage of these benefits primarily through Apple's implementations of this technology at the API level—most notably with 3D rendering due to the AltiVec-enabled OpenGL APIs and the QuickTime media layers. [For those interested in more technical discussion regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the G4 processor with AltiVec read our G4 processor article. Sean has comments in it as well.]

AFR: Let's talk about some of the more compelling new features of Mac OS X. In particular, let's talk about Quartz, Apple's new imaging technology.

SF: Quartz is certainly one of the more interesting features of OS X. PDF is pretty heavy for drawing to the screen, but with the speed of processors these days.... It really solves the device independence problem.

The Mac was the first to introduce the concept of having redrawing to the printer to be the same thing as redrawing to he screen. Quartz is really going to take us back again to the early Mac days. This holds tremendous promise to the end user. Quartz could be a revolution that puts the Mac way ahead again. This will be a clear advantage to the Macintosh if Apple succeeds with Quartz.

Windows has never achieved the device independence level that the Mac has. I have to admit that when I first heard of Quartz, I was dubious that they could achieve the speed and screen response that users demand.

AFR: Clearly this is a distinct difference, if not an advantage, for the Macintosh with OS X.

SF: Yes, it's going to be a bit harder for OS X and Apple because they need to be different than Windows and Quartz is one way they can succeed at that.

AFR: So in Mac OS X do print files of VectorWorks get sent as pure PDF files to Postscript printers?






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