TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Books
Volume Number:10
Issue Number:10
Column Tag:Book Reviews

Scanlin on Books

By Mike Scanlin, Mountain View, CA

POWER and PowerPC

By Weiss and Smith

Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Inc. 1994.

ISBN 1-55860-279-8.

408 pages (hardback).

If you are working on learning PowerPC assembly language, and you want a good, solid technical information that gives you both a base to start with and a reference to return to once you’ve started going, POWER and PowerPC delivers both. It is a very complete look at the POWER and PowerPC architectures and contains information that would be of interest to anyone who really wants to delve into PowerPC 601 programming.

The book covers three main areas: (1) the POWER architecture, (2) the first two POWER implementations, the POWER1 and POWER2, used by IBM in the RS/6000, and (3) the PowerPC architecture and PowerPC 601 implementation. There are other areas which are interesting but which probably aren’t as important to most Macintosh programmers, including: A comparison of the POWER and PowerPC architectures, a comparison of the PowerPC 601 and DEC Alpha 21064, and the IEEE 754 Floating-Point standard.

The best part of this book, in my Mac-centric opinion, are Chapters 7-9, which describe the 601 in detail. It starts off with a discussion of the instruction formats and goes on to show how some of the less-obvious instructions work (like rotate with mask). It then goes on to explain the 601’s pipelines, branch processing and caches. Within each of these discussions the examples are clearly illustrated with sample code fragments. You’ll be able to see where and why pipeline stalls occur (and what you can do to avoid them in some cases), how to optimize your branches and exactly how the combined instruction and data cache works. Understanding these issues is a key part of being able to optimize for the 601 when you need to (in addition to helping you identify why certain code fragments run slower than you would expect).

This book is not a tutorial on how to program in PowerPC assembly language. It is, however, one of those rare technical books that is a pleasure to read for all the right reasons: the examples are clear, the examples are worth studying, the authors know their stuff and, it’s presented in a neatly typeset and illustrated manner. I would recommend it to self-motivated people who want to start learning PowerPC assembly language programming or to anyone working in a high-level language who wants to know more about their underlying processor.

Zen of Code Optimization

By Michael Abrash

The Coriolis Group, Inc. 1994.

ISBN 1-883577-03-9.

449 pages (soft cover, w/disk).

The guru who so many years ago brought us The Zen of Assembly Language has returned. He has now released a new and improved version of the ideas and examples contained in that sacred volume. And he has added new tricks for the latest Intel processors, the 486 and the Pentium.

Now, you are probably asking yourself “Why would I care about a bunch of optimization tricks on Intel processors when I’m a Mac fanatic?” The answer is because there is something for everyone in this book. Even if you ignore all of the Intel assembly code he presents (there is no 68K code at all) you can’t help but be impressed with the methodology he used to determine the optimal instructions as well as the clear (and often times humorous) explanations of the finer points of assembly language programming. Mr. Abrash has a Zen-like understanding of the Intel processors and the environments they live in. He is also a gifted writer who can make an otherwise dry topic come to life. Even though I have personally vowed never to write Intel assembly code, I thoroughly enjoyed both his former Zen book and this latest one.

The author sums up the book’s essence rather well, “This book is the diary of a personal passion, my quest for ways to write the fastest possible software for IBM-compatible computers in C, C++, and assembly language. ... it is a journal of my exploration of the flexible mind in action (with, to be sure, a generous leavening of potent low-level optimization tricks).” This book is the summary of years of effort studying the subtle behavior of Intel processors. And most of it is presented in easy-to-read, story-like prose that is both fun to read and very educational.

The book starts off by giving us the Zen Timer; a little piece of code used throughout that gives you the most precise timings possible of your Intel code fragments. After all, you have to be able to measure your code accurately to know if your latest change really improved things or not.

The next couple of chapters teach you various low-level things you need to know to really optimize for the Intel processors, such as: the prefetch queue cycle-eater, dynamic RAM refresh cycle-eater, and the display adapter cycle-eater. The interaction of these cycle-eaters leads to some surprising results (like you can’t trust the instruction times in the Intel manuals).

Once the basics are understood (and the reader has accepted “assume nothing; time everything”) the book proceeds to apply that knowledge to some real-world problems. In particular, the Boyer-Moore string searching algorithm is studied and optimized. There are many examples of peephole optimizations (like fast multiplication by 5 or 9 with the LEA instruction). There are examples given on how to manipulate common data structures efficiently, such as linked lists.

The last few chapters are devoted to the Pentium. In addition to showing you how many of the 386 and 486 tricks (taught in earlier chapters) will break on the Pentium, there is an in-depth discussion of the Pentium and it’s U-pipe and V-pipe and how to keep them both full most of the time. Sadly, like the 68K family, it is not possible to simultaneously optimize for all members of the Intel family.

As an optimizing assembly language programmer, I found it refreshing to find someone who is both a true master at assembly language programming and at the same time capable of making all the right trade-offs when coding in mixed C and assembly. I would recommend Zen of Code Optimization as a 10 on a scale of 10 if you are working on any Intel processor and I would give it an 8 out of 10 for anyone working on the Macintosh who is interested in writing high performance code.

JPEG: Still Image Data Compression Standard

By Pennebaker and Mitchell

Van Nostrand Reinhold. 1993.

ISBN 0-442-01272-1.

638 pages (hardback).

Ever wonder how those color painting programs manage to store 10MB of pixels in a 1MB file? Well, most of them use JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) image compression. If you’ve ever wanted to know how it works, or implement it yourself, then JPEG: Still Image Data Compression Standard is the book for you.

Written by two members of the JPEG standard committee, this book gives many of the hows and whys of JPEG that are not in the official JPEG specification (which is given in an appendix). There is a good chance that this book will tell you more than you really want to know about JPEG. It contains a LOT of information.

The book is written for everyone, from non-technical people to programmers to mathematicians. But don’t let the inclusion of some non-technical info dissuade you - there is more technical and mathematical info here than you probably care to read. Each section is marked with one of three “technical difficulty” symbols: one for non-technical readers, one for people with intermediate technical skills and one for people with advanced technical skills who are either going to implement a JPEG engine or else just like hard math problems.

The beginning of the book goes over some basic imaging concepts for the uninitiated (such as low-pass filters and the difference between luminance and chrominance). It then introduces you to the Discrete Cosine Transform (DCT) that is the heart of JPEG. This discussion is very complete and certainly makes it clear how both one dimensional and two dimensional DCTs work (with good illustrations and examples). It also explains some of the ‘blocking’ effects you sometimes see with JPEG images.

After the DCT, the book goes on to explain the various JPEG modes of operation (sequential, progressive, lossless and hierarchical) and the syntax of the JPEG data stream. If you’ve read the spec and not been clear on any of those things then this book’s discussion of them will clear them up for you (it certainly did for me).

Once you’ve run your image data through the DCT and quantized it, the last step of JPEG is to entropy encode the quantized values. JPEG allows two methods of entropy encoding: Huffman or arithmetic. The book spends ample time on both methods (several chapters, in fact, including one on probability estimation) and, depending on how much you like math, you’ll come away either really confused or really understanding how it works. (The explanations are clear, but it’s difficult material.)

The last part of the book gives comparisons of performance for the different kinds of JPEG compression, a list of JPEG applications and vendors, a history of JPEG, possible future directions of JPEG and a discussion of non-JPEG compression standards (JBIG, MPEG, fax).

This book is as complete as you could possibly want on the subject of JPEG image compression. It is a must-read for JPEG implementors and recommended reading for those people who like to understand how common algorithms work or who want to know more about imaging algorithms in general.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Backup and Sync 3.46 - File backup and s...
Backup and Sync (was Google Drive) is a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a... Read more
iClock 5.5 - Customizable menu bar clock...
iClock replaces the old Apple's default menu bar clock with more features, customization and increases your productivity. Features: Have your Apple or Google calendar instantly available from the... Read more
Garmin Express 6.18.0.0 - Manage your Ga...
Garmin Express is your essential tool for managing your Garmin devices. Update maps, golf courses and device software. You can even register your device. Update maps Update software Register your... Read more
MarsEdit 4.3.5 - Quick and convenient bl...
MarsEdit is a blog editor for OS X that makes editing your blog like writing email, with spell-checking, drafts, multiple windows, and even AppleScript support. It works with with most blog services... Read more
Xcode 11.0 - Integrated development envi...
Xcode includes everything developers need to create great applications for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Xcode provides developers a unified workflow for user interface design, coding, testing... Read more
DaisyDisk 4.8 - $9.99
DaisyDisk allows you to visualize your disk usage and free up disk space by quickly finding and deleting big unused files. The program scans your disk and displays its content as a sector diagram... Read more
VMware Fusion 11.5.0 - Run Windows apps...
VMware Fusion and Fusion Pro - virtualization software for running Windows, Linux, and other systems on a Mac without rebooting. The latest version includes full support for Windows 10, macOS Mojave... Read more
Apple Configurator 2.10 - Configure and...
Apple Configurator makes it easy to deploy iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV devices in your school or business. Use Apple Configurator to quickly configure large numbers of devices connected to... Read more
Spotify 1.1.15.448. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
MenuMeters 1.9.8 - CPU, memory, disk, an...
MenuMeters is a set of CPU, memory, disk, and network monitoring tools for Mac OS X. Although there are numerous other programs which do the same thing, none had quite the feature set I was looking... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Marvel Strike Force is adding Agent Coul...
Marvel Strike Force, the popular squad-based RPG, is set to receive a bunch of new content over the next few weeks. [Read more] | Read more »
Lots of premium games are going free (so...
You may have seen over the past couple weeks a that a bunch of premium games have suddenly become free. This isn’t a mistake, nor is it some last hurrah before Apple Arcade hits, and it’s important to know that these games aren’t actually becoming... | Read more »
Yoozoo Games launches Saint Seiya Awaken...
If you’re into your anime, you’ve probably seen or heard of Saint Seiya. Based on a shonen manga by Masami Kurumada, the series was massively popular in the 1980s – especially in its native Japan. Since then, it’s grown into a franchise of all... | Read more »
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special...
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special Delivery is a terrifying new nightmare from developer Illumix. Last week, FNAF fans were sent into a frenzy by a short teaser for what we now know to be Special Delivery. Those in the comments were quick to... | Read more »
Rush Rally 3's new live events are...
Last week, Rush Rally 3 got updated with live events, and it’s one of the best things to happen to racing games on mobile. Prior to this update, the game already had multiplayer, but live events are more convenient in the sense that it’s somewhat... | Read more »
Why your free-to-play racer sucks
It’s been this way for a while now, but playing Hot Wheels Infinite Loop really highlights a big issue with free-to-play mobile racing games: They suck. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying going for realism, cart racing, or arcade nonsense, they’re... | Read more »
Steam Link Spotlight - The Banner Saga 3
Steam Link Spotlight is a new feature where we take a look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry talked about Terry Cavanaugh’s incredible Dicey Dungeons. Read about how it’s a great mobile experience... | Read more »
Combo Quest (Games)
Combo Quest 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Combo Quest is an epic, time tap role-playing adventure. In this unique masterpiece, you are a knight on a heroic quest to retrieve... | Read more »
Hero Emblems (Games)
Hero Emblems 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** 25% OFF for a limited time to celebrate the release ** ** Note for iPhone 6 user: If it doesn't run fullscreen on your device... | Read more »
Puzzle Blitz (Games)
Puzzle Blitz 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Puzzle Blitz is a frantic puzzle solving race against the clock! Solve as many puzzles as you can, before time runs out! You have... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

11″ WiFi iPad Pros on sale today for up to $2...
Amazon has new 2018 Apple 11″ WiFi iPad Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $200 off Apple’s MSRP. These are the same iPad Pros sold by Apple in its retail and online stores. Be sure to select... Read more
Select 12″ iPad Pros on sale for $200 off App...
Amazon has select 2018 Apple 12″ iPad Pros in stock today and on sale for $200 off Apple’s MSRP. These are the same iPad Pros sold by Apple in its retail and online stores. Be sure to select Amazon... Read more
Get one of Apple’s new 2019 iPhone 11 models...
Boost Mobile is offering the new 2019 Apple iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max for $100 off MSRP. Their discount reduces the cost of an iPhone 11 to $599 for the 64GB models, $899 for the 64GB... Read more
13″ 1.4GHz Silver MacBook Pros on sale for $1...
B&H Photo has new 2019 13″ 1.4GHz 4-Core Touch Bar Silver MacBook Pros on sale for $100 off Apple’s MSRP. Overnight shipping is free to many addresses in the US. These are the same MacBook Pros... Read more
4-core and 6-core 2018 Mac minis available at...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2018 Mac minis available on their online store for $120-$170 off the cost of new models. Each mini comes with a new outer case plus a standard Apple one-year warranty... Read more
$250 prepaid Visa card with any Apple iPhone,...
Xfinity Mobile will include a free $250 prepaid Visa card with the purchase of any new iPhone, new line activation, and transfer of phone number to Xfinity Mobile. Offer is valid through October 27,... Read more
Sprint is offering the 64GB Apple iPhone 11 P...
Sprint has the new 64GB iPhone 11 Pro available for $12.50 per month for new customers with an eligible trade-in in of iPhone 7 or newer. That’s down from their standard monthly lease of $41.67. The... Read more
Final week: Apple’s 2019 Back to School Promo...
Purchase a new Mac using Apple’s Education discount, and take up to $400 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution with a .edu email address qualify for the discount... Read more
Save $30 on Apple’s AirPods at these reseller...
Amazon is offering discounts on new 2019 Apple AirPods ranging up to $30 off MSRP as part of their Labor Day sale. Shipping is free: – AirPods with Charging Case: $144.95 $15 off MSRP – AirPods with... Read more
Preorder your Apple Watch Series 5 today at A...
Amazon has Apple Watch Series 5 GPS models available for preorder and on sale today for $15 off Apple’s MSRP. Shipping is free and starts on September 20th: – 40mm Apple Watch Series 5 GPS: $384.99 $... Read more

Jobs Board

Systems Analyst ( *Apple* & Android) (Jo...
Systems Analyst ( Apple & Android) (Job ID: 572513) + 11751 Meadowville Ln, Chester, VA 23836, USA + Full-time Company Description Computer Consultants International, Read more
*Apple* Mobile App Developer - eiWorkflow So...
…eiWorkflow Solutions, LLC is currently looking for a consultant for the following role. Apple Mobile App Developer Tasks the role will be performing: ? Mobile App Read more
Essbase Developer - *Apple* - Theorem, LLC...
Job Summary Apple is seeking an experienced, detail-minded Essbase developer to join our worldwide business development and strategy team. If you are someone who Read more
Student Employment (Blue *Apple* Cafe) Spri...
Student Employment (Blue Apple Cafe) Spring 2019 Penn State University Campus/Location: Penn State Brandywine Campus City: Media, PA Date Announced: 12/20/2018 Date Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**732093BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 001441-Beaumont-Store **Job Description:** The Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.