Sunday, November 11, 2007

Exponents, ram, 64-bits...

Ok, I really should be doing something else but I'm going to take a moment to give my two cents on this topic:

In it Jeff Atwood ponders the move to 64-bits. Apparently he's a bit surprised at the speed at which the 32-bit addressing limit is becoming a problem. Actually I'm surprised it hasn't become a problem sooner.

I seem to remember, back in the old days, when I first started computing, machines came with 4 megs o ram. This was a mac, BTW. Macs were used quite allot for Photoshop and Photoshop demanded stupid amounts of RAM.. I mean you could have 32 or 64 megs of RAM and it still wouldn't be enough.. OMG!

The reason I mention this is because what an average PC user is running is very tiny compared to what people who actually use their machines for RAM intensive things use.

Currently I work on an image viewer program called InteleViewer. The thing is our image viewer likes RAM. I mean, we're viewing large images and we have to remain responsive while downloading the JPEG versions of several thousands images and decompressing them and witting them to disk... oh and did I mention we're using Java.

Yeah, yeah.. Believe me it is possible. What's crazy is we can do this with as little as 200 megs of RAM. It's not super speedy but it's usable.

At any rate, the doctors using our product like speed and will purchase anything to make it faster. Naturally, if they buy a workstation, one of the cheapest upgrades they can do is to buy more RAM. The more RAM then less hard drive swapping our viewer needs to do. Oh!. and if you want to view the stack of images in 3-D you better have enough RAM to fit the whole thing in RAM because we can't do much in the way of swapping when you can be looking at the stack of pixels from any angle.

RAM good. InteleViewer want more RAM!

We started to bump up against this RAM limit thing a while ago.. about the same time Apple was shifting to 64-bits. I can't remember what state we're in when it comes to the java virtual machine but the situation with window vis-a-vis 64 bits is shockingly ridiculous.

A 64-bit OS should not treated as some sort of pro feature. During a transition you want to minimize the pain. 64-bit OSes is a problem, a bug not a *&%$ feature upgrade.

Microsoft's attempt to split their 64-bit OS from their 32-bit OS has probably made the transition more difficult because with fewer 64-bit OSes floating around there's less incentive to make better, more mature drivers.

I'm an extremely gunshy when it comes upgrading so my tendency is to wait quite a long time because getting the new OS. I've only recently upgraded to XP from Windows 2000. I'm a bit cheesed that I'm not going to be able to run yesterday's OS with lots of memory because the transition only became really feasible recently.

At any rat, I'm going to stick with windows XP and 32-bit drivers for as long as I can. Not only does the old stuff tend to be more stable but it also runs faster and uses less of my system resources, which make everything else run faster too. From experience I've found that my idea of "speedy" and "stable" is a bit higher then the average bleeding edger...

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