Mainly Tech projects on Python and Electronic Design Automation.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ain't Vista crap!

I went off to see the folks this weekend, one of which had a shiny new
Philips branded deskside PC that runs Vista. Being the member of the
family who is "in computers", I was asked to set up a few things for
them: (remove the login password; make frequently used tools easier to
find ...).

Now this was my first taste of Vista Premium and I was disappointed -
not with the display, that was a lovely 22 inch wide-screen LCD monitor
- It was the speed of the machine, or lack of it.

I should explain that I sit in front of a 1.8Gig Athlon based 17" HP
laptop at home, 1 Gig of ram, Windows XP, and Virgin broadband (cable,
4Megs). My machine is ~2 years old. The machine I was using with Vista
had 3 Gigs of Ram, and was a quad core Intel jobbie at 2.2Gigs. That is
three times the memory and four cores, each of which is faster than
mine. I expected Vista's response to be instant and it was not.

Some of the problems were to do with the broadband connection of the
Vista machine, which was Sky TV's broadband  deal (the one
that comes free with the TV subscription to try and combat Virgins
offerings),  there was a noticeable delay before pages started
to download; but a lot was to do with the machine itself:

  • Why did I have to wait for microsoft works wordprocessor to
    fire up?

  • Why did it take so long to boot-up from cold?

  • It just did not feel style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">snappy!

I don't know if the recent Vista upgrade was installed, but this is a
very recent machine on very respectable hardware. Instead of being
green with envy I was shocked at how much of the hardware was wasted by
Vista (and to some extent Sky broadband).

(I should explain that the Vista machine is more than enough for what it will be used for and
my folks will be happy with it.)

This has got me worried. Multi-core is the solution for soaking up all
those extra trannies that Moore's law gives us over time, but Microsoft
Vista does not show the benefit.

Thinking about my next PC purchase, I have a family of two adults and
three children. If I were to buy a quad core laptop that I sat in front
of, I would want more than broadband traffic to go through my ethernet
cable. I would want it to be a transparent compute resource for several
thin-ish clients, maybe something like the Eee PC so the kids could
have a laptop they could use for school, but at home dock them to
 19" LCD screens and proper keyboards and Mice but more
importantly, they could use one of my quad cores transparently for
their compute intensive "Make a Video about Oxbow lakes" school assignments.
My normal TV's should have  just enough smarts to also act as
a (native), web browser and thin client, they could add the
functionality to my cable box. I want to be able to switch to BBC
Iplayer on the TV as well as any of the normal Cable TV offerings; or
select the news from, without buying a separate media-centre PC - I have four speedy cores just sitting in another room waiting to be shared!

Hopefully My future quad core machine would be better used if it was
packaged as a compute resource for the rest of my household items to

- Paddy.

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