Minor hardware improvements and plans

Pretty minor indeed: some obscure hardware parameters are now more impressive, but no noticeable changes to performance.  Well, you can’t put a price on bragging rights…

Someone suggested improving the RAM timings for my desktop machine. This came out of a comment on IRC that the new developer machines at work (Intel i7-2600, 160 SSD, 16 GB RAM) were excessively hi-spec, especially compared to my current work machine (Core2 Duo E8400, 80 GB HDD, 2 GB RAM). Unfortunately I’m not eligible for the new ones, so I’ll be waiting on sluggish menu opening and glacial window redrawing for the foreseeable future!

The timings previously were 9-9-9-27; now they’re 8-8-8-24.  There was much fruitless BIOS adjusting and rebooting, until I noticed that the BIOS has a high-level RAM timing option.  So I didn’t need to learn what any of those parameters mean after all!

No change to the Windows Experience Index scores. I did not expect the total score to change because it’s still pegged at the low, low value of 5.4 for the hard drive. (The other scores are in the respectable range of 7.5 to 7.8.)  I’m not sure it has made a real difference.  It’s possible fractals will be a little faster to compute now — some indications from the parallel mode benchmarks showed that it might not be using the cache effectively.  Having faster overall memory might diminish the cost of that (though changing the pixel order would diminish it further by improving the cache usage).

Is it time to upgrade to a solid state drive?

In all honesty, the strongest driver for doing so is improving artificial benchmarks like these. My current use of the machine would not benefit much. Games might load a few seconds sooner.

My hardware priorities remain:

  • A real monitor. At the time I was persuaded that “nah, everyone just gets a TV these days”. Ha! So I carried a 32″ LCD TV home on the bus. It makes for an amusing story but doesn’t actually make a good monitor. It’s good for games and movies but is discomforting for detailed work like programming.
  • Better CPU cooling. The machine doesn’t get worryingly hot (as long as I remember to vacuum) but it is still too noisy. I am hesitant about meddling with vital cooling. But I have at least inverted the CPU fan a few times — replacing it with a better one shouldn’t be too challenging! Liquid cooling on the other hand requires more deliberation.
  • Possibly something to aid backups. I have an external HDD for this. Ideally I would have at least two, which I would cycle through a remote location, always having at least one offsite. (I’m assuming that transferring data by network will continue to be impractical for my purposes.) It’s worth remembering that (in my experience) building-scale catastrophes are a common cause of data loss. And the last such incident occurred while I was in the process of a major data reorganisation and backup. All my backups were unluckily onsite at that time.

My limited means will hopefully allow me to address some of these in the next few months. (Perhaps as not-undeserved Christmas presents to myself!)

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