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  Just what is DirectX?

Do I need DirectX?
If you play almost any game on a Windows98 or later machine, then you will more than likely be using or will require some component of DirectX. Fortunately, if applications require a certain version of DirectX then they will invariably come with the appropriate DirectX installer on the software CD, guaranteeing that you have the required version in order to run the application or play the game. But that's not everything. You can upgrade your version of DirectX even if you don??t actually need it. By doing so, you will implement the latest version of the API??s, which may contain bug fixes and optimizations for certain parts of many programs. This could, theoretically, give you better performance in your game of choice, a better quality of sound for your music or make streaming media play more smoothly. Also, by installing the latest version of DirectX, you may unlock a previously unused feature of your super-duper graphics card (Pixel shader 3.0 in Far-Cry for instance). But you may also need to get later drivers for your sound card, etc, in order to start using the new features to their full extent.

Now I want it, where do I get it?
Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me), Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP all have support for DirectX. However, the highest version of DirectX that Windows 95 can use is version 8.0a, which can be found here. For everyone else, you can go right up to the latest released version (9.0c), which you can download here. What about NT though? DirectX is also available for windows NT4.0 as part of Service pack 6. Although why you want to run this OS with multimedia applications is a bit of a mystery to me ;-)

After installation some drivers show up as not certified. What??s wrong?
Driver updates from hardware vendors have to be submitted to Microsoft where they undergo a series of tests before being certified (WHQL). However, sometimes the vendor may simultaneously release the updates to the general public and MS without waiting for certification. Such drivers may offer DirectX functionality but won??t be certified. So, before installing new drivers, you may want to check for DirectX compatibility in the vendor??s release notes.

How do I uninstall DirectX?
DirectX is a Windows system component and as with so many Windows system components (like MSN messenger), once it??s on your computer, you will have a very hard time getting it off again. So if it goes wrong or anything like that, you are a bit stuck. Thankfully there are some options. Later versions of windows OS have System Restore points. It is always a good idea to make a System Restore point when installing new drivers or other things like DirectX. Also, there is the DirectX diagnostic tool. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn??t tell you where it is when you install DirectX, no icon is placed in the control panel or in the start menu listings. To get to it, you have to find it (\windows\system32\dxdiag.exe). The diagnostic tool allows you to control various aspects of the DirectX API (turn them on, off, up, down, etc.) and it??s also handy to find out what version of DirectX you are currently running. There are also third-party DirectX "uninstallers" around, however trying to uninstall DirectX could trash your box.

What is to come in the future?
At the moment, the latest version of DirectX is version 9.0c. This version has added support for things like Shader Model 3.0, demonstrated here on HardOCP. Soon, more and more games will feature the various enhancements of 9.0c.

The next major release of DirectX will bring about even more changes. Microsoft is going to unify the graphical API's of DirectX under the new name of the Windows Graphics Foundation and Avalon, which is planned for release with the new Longhorn version of Windows. DirectX should still exist, but only in name and only for the remaining core components. This means that the next generation of Graphics cards will no longer say that they are DirectX compatible, but instead will be supporting WGF1.0 (or something similar to that). At this time, it is not known if any other portion of DirectX is going to splinter off to form it's own "club." Functions of your controllers and sound cards will still be under the control of the main set of DirectX API's, but Longhorn is still a way off yet and things may change between now and then.

Final Thoughts
While something like OpenGL and the now ancient Glide (3dfx) are graphics only API's, DirectX is a collection of functions that govern sound, video, network communications as well as the graphics. DirectX performs the vital function of interpreting the instructions from software into commands for your graphics and sound cards or allowing you to bind a key to the twenty fifth button on your mouse. Giving greater levels of compatibility between new hardware and old games (and also old hardware with new games). DirectX's chief advantage comes from providing all of these functions while remaining almost completely invisible to the end user.


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      Posted by: , September 21, 2004, 6:00 pm  

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