The advanced features that make ATI’s ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon 8500DV video board a required upgrade in some marketing, sales, training, public relations, and advertising departments also make it difficult to support. While the card offers users advanced graphics, video recording and editing capability, a means of monitoring and recording television and cable broadcasts, and a variety of video playback options, it requires careful tuning to work properly. Don’t expect Plug and Play to handle the Radeon 8500DV’s setup and installation routines smoothly; this card is entirely too complex.

Before you install and configure ATI’s graphics card in your organization, take a few moments to read up on all its capabilities. Having spent considerable time working with two generations of ATI’s Radeon boards, I recommend that you also review common troubleshooting issues and solutions before deploying the boards.

Radeon 8500DV capabilities
The Radeon 8500DV video board comes well stocked. The 3-D AGP card is powered by the Radeon 8500 graphics-processing unit (GPU) and carries 64 MB of double data rate memory on board. As a result, the card’s performance is impressive. ATI’s benchmark tests show the 8500DV’s 3-D rendering performance easily surpasses that of the first-generation ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon. Resolution display modes benefit from the new GPU, too. For example, while the old ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon supported high-resolution 3-D graphics up to 1920 x 1440 pixels, the 8500DV supports up to 2048 x 1536 pixels.

One glance at the 8500DV confirms that the board was built with versatility in mind. The card itself is loaded with four ports:

  • CATV input
  • DVI/VGA output
  • ATI input/output adapter port
  • DV camcorder input (IEEE1394/FireWire port)

As you can see, one of the ports is for a proprietary ATI input/output adapter. Connecting the adapter to the ATI card adds a plethora of connection options:

  • S-Video input and output
  • Computer (RCA) video input and output
  • Left and right channel audio inputs and outputs
  • Another DV camcorder input (IEEE1394/FireWire port)

ATI includes cables you can use to connect the 8500DV directly to a sound card as well. Excellent sound and a wide range of video input and output options are the end results of so many supported connections. The output options make the 8500DV a compelling corporate purchase. Combined with the curious ATI remote control, which enables remote use of a PC or laptop via RF signals, the ATI card can be a quite worthy peripheral in meeting and conference rooms. It supports dual displays, and can even be configured to display multiple video signals on a variety of screens and monitors, including high-definition televisions. ATI refers to this feature as Hydravision.

Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals will find the card’s ability to record television and cable broadcasts, such as news stories or commercials, useful. ATI’s Hot Words feature, enabled by software that’s bundled with the video board, makes it possible to seek special words in closed captions, thereby triggering the recording of programs and newscasts when those keywords are used.

ATI has also introduced an updated Multimedia Center 7.5 (shown in Figure A) with the 8500DV. While it looks more high-tech than the last interface, the functionality essentially remains unchanged. However, there is one significant improvement that I believe justifies the upgrade.

Figure A
ATI’s Multimedia Center 7.5 offers all the functionality of a VCR remote control, and more, in a high-tech skin.

ATI has added a Blended Window feature that professionals in time-sensitive industries may find particularly compelling. By running a cable television line to the ATI card, you can easily set a television program to run in real time as wallpaper or as a watermark. While the old ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon allowed you to make the television viewer your desktop wallpaper, anytime you opened a document, spreadsheet, or browser, those applications opened in front of the television broadcast, thereby blocking the view on your screen. The 8500DV lets you “blend” the view of the television broadcast behind your work, effectively making it a watermark in your document, spreadsheet, browser, or in any other window the user opens. It’s an incredible feature that you need to see to fully appreciate. News, insurance, finance, and even government-agency professionals will find the ability to track real-time news and financial broadcasts (without an additional monitor) quite beneficial. Making the most of the Radeon 8500DV’s features requires that a system be fairly potent, though.

System requirements
The good news is you can use the ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon 8500DV on systems possessing either a 2x or 4x AGP slot, 64 MB of system memory, and at least a Pentium II or AMD K6 processor. The bad news is that based on my experiences with the card, I wouldn’t recommend trying to edit video with anything less than a PIII 1-GHz system boasting 512 MB of RAM. However, the card’s other features should work well with even a PII-350 and 64 MB of RAM.

There’s more good news. ATI’s ALL-IN-WONDER card works with several OSs. Despite placing significant driver demands on a system, the Radeon 8500DV works with Windows 98/Me/2000/XP. While I was able to use the first ALL-IN-WONDER card’s basic features in Red Hat Linux 7.2, I couldn’t get the 8500DV’s to work at all. In fact, my Linux installation self-destructed when I tried letting Kudzu plug and play it. I couldn’t even get the system back up using a 256-color driver. I don’t recommend you use the card with Linux and wouldn’t expect ATI to support any platform other than Windows.

Common troubleshooting recommendations
Anytime hardware peripherals boast advanced capabilities, configuration issues are sure to follow. The ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon cards are no exception.

ATI has noted on its Web site several technical issues that commonly arise. I’ve reviewed some of the typical issues that occur and thought the following five deserved your attention:

  • Protection faults or system hangs after ATI enhanced drivers are installed
  • Slow WinXP 3-D performance on systems using 512 MB or more of RAM
  • FireWire connector issues
  • Failure of PCI devices to initialize after ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon 8500DV installation
  • Invalid Page Fault messages following installation

I’ll take a look at all of the potential errors, beginning with an issue I couldn’t find logged in any documentation or on the Web.

Stealth muting of the Line-In Play control
The most aggravating issue I’ve run into when installing the ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon cards, both the first-generation video board and the 8500DV, involved a stealth volume change that was being made without my knowledge. I’ve installed the card in systems running Windows 98, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Professional, and even Red Hat Linux 7.2. I’ve easily spent as much time installing and configuring the card on Windows 2000 Pro, though, than I have all of the other OSs combined.

After installing all of the ATI software programs, whenever I used the TV feature, the ATI Multimedia Center volume controls and mute button failed to work. Only after installing and uninstalling the software numerous times, updating my motherboard drivers, updating DirectX, and downloading all Microsoft compatibility updates did I accidentally stumble upon the true culprit. Sometime during the installation, Win2K Pro’s Play Control (accessed by double-clicking on the speaker icon in the System Tray) was muting the Line-In option. This was the cause of my problem, as the Line-In option is used to send the video card’s sound signal to the sound card. Of course, the Line-In option isn’t shown by default, and the Mute checkbox must be cleared, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
When using Windows 2000 Professional, ensure that the Line-In option isn’t muted when the Radeon 8500DV card is used in concert with Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live Value boards.

To solve this problem, you must double-click the speaker icon in the System Tray, which opens the Play Control menu. Click Options, and then click Advanced Controls. You will see the muted Line-In option appear. I was able to replicate this configuration error during several installs on a system that also featured a Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live Value soundboard. I did find I could eliminate the problem during setup if the Creative Labs sound card software was installed after the ATI card’s programs. But, once I updated the ATI software, the problem arose again. Ultimately, the solution is as simple as remembering to uncheck the Line-In’s Mute setting.

Protection error or system hangs following ATI enhanced driver installation
Should you experience system hangs during boot or even a few minutes after you’ve booted into Windows, or should Windows Protection Error messages arise following installation of ATI’s enhanced drivers, you may need to update your motherboard chipset drivers. I suffered intermittent system lockups for six weeks following the installation of the original ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon card. I was only able to eliminate those frustrating lockups by updating my motherboard’s drivers.

Other potential causes for protection errors and system hangs could be that the system BIOS needs updating. Keep in mind that some Windows operating systems (specifically Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0) don’t support AGP. So, you’ll experience all kinds of problems, including lockups, should you try to install either of those OSs when this video board is in use.

Slow 3-D performance in WinXP
ATI has identified an issue that affects WinXP users. If any of a variety of Radeon cards is used on a system running WinXP that has 512 MB or more of RAM, slow 3-D performance may result. ATI recommends obtaining the latest WinXP display driver. One other option is to ensure that the CMOS is set for an AGP Aperture size of 128 MB. How you configure your system’s CMOS will depend on its manufacturer. Check your motherboard documentation for details.

FireWire connector issues
ATI has enabled the IEEE1394 FireWire connectors on the 8500DV card and ATI adapter by default. Should you wish to free up resources or find that a system has trouble booting following installation of the  board, you should disable the FireWire connectivity.

Disabling the FireWire connectors requires that you open up the system and configure the jumpers marked “SW1.” You’ll find them located in the middle of the card. To disable the FireWire ports, Switches 1 and 2 should be set in the down, or off, position. If you later decide to return the FireWire connections to service, you only need flip Switch 1 on, or up.

PCI detection and initialization errors
Don’t think your PCI problems are solved because you’re using an AGP video board. Following the installation of the Radeon 8500DV video card, some systems may experience difficulty detecting and/or initializing PCI cards.

ATI recommends that you ensure that your BIOS is updated or that the BIOS’ PnP-aware OS option is enabled. ATI adds that you should disable all BIOS video-shadow and cache options and verify that IRQ assignments are set to Auto. As BIOS manufacturers use different menus and configurations, check your motherboard and BIOS documentation for specific instructions. One last tip ATI offers is to disable the FireWire connectors, as described above.

Invalid Page Faults
Don’t be surprised if DirectX causes problems for you. ATI’s cards make the most of DirectX, so it’s important that you keep systems with the 8500DV card updated.

Specifically, ATI warns that you may receive a Ddhelp Caused an Invalid Page Fault in Module Unknown error message following the installation of the graphics card or its software. Start troubleshooting the issue by making sure that all of the last video card’s graphics drivers are removed from the system.

Next, confirm that you’re using the latest version of DirectX. Call up the DirectX Diagnostic Tool to help you by typing DXDIAG.EXE at a command prompt. The DirectX Diagnostic Tool will open and list important DirectX facts, including the version installed on the system. Update DirectX from Microsoft if newer versions exist.

Other tips and advice
I’ve used two generations of ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon video boards. Their multimedia capabilities are impressive, but so are the support challenges that come with them. If you are deploying Radeon 8500DV cards in your organization, I highly recommend that you follow ATI’s urging and uninstall the previous video card’s software and drivers before placing the 8500DV card in the system. Don’t let Windows try and find the correct driver, either. Instead, install the video board’s drivers and software from the CD-ROMs ATI supplies.

I also recommend that you ensure a system has the latest BIOS and motherboard updates. Had I updated my motherboard chipset back in November when I was working with the first-generation ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon, I’d have saved many hours of troubleshooting and software reinstallation. Save yourself some time and take a few moments to install all available updates (including DirectX) before you treat your users to the benefits of ATI’s ALL-IN-WONDER Radeon cards.