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Big Computing - part 1 of 1 2

by Mike McNamee Published 01/11/2006

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The computing story continues to unfold. Societies' member, Martin Taylor was impressed with the data we published when we built Big Computer 3 (BC3 - 16GB RAM, 2x Quad-Core processors and all the toys to match). So much so that he had Dell build him one as well. He noticed it was slower than his old machine, not the outcome he was seeking! As part of fathoming out what was going on he shared his files with us and we completed the identical task.

This was a real-world one, consisting of making contact sheets from 278 JPEG files, 3x4 up, onto a 10x8 sheet, at 180 ppi, 23 sheets in total. Typical of the proofs that many people like to present to a couple when starting to select images for their album.

The timings are tabled above. After a short amount of time Martin lost faith in the Dell box, sent it back and joined the increasing throngs who have migrated to Mac. He purchased a Mac Pro with a similar specification (16GB RAM, 2xQuad Core processors). The results are startling. His time to complete the task has been reduced from 10 minutes (using XP 64-bit and CS3) to 1m10s using the Mac and CS4. The root cause seems to be the Windows operating systems. Vista and XP-64-bit are slow and pound for pound the Mac is 10x quicker using a 32-bit operating system (progress or what?).


The announcement of Windows 7 this week has done little to allay fears. Think about it, Vista is truly awful but they have retained the core structure and brought the release date forward in an attempt to staunch the haemorrhaging. The likelihood is that the rushed launch will deliver an even less finished product. They claim that because they are retaining the core structure that anything that works in Vista will continue to do so in Windows 7 - wrong philosophy grasshopper! The problem with Vista is not the things that do work, but the things that don't. Vista is a dog, it has always been a dog and now it seems it is about to deliver a mongrel puppy and a premature one at that.

Casting about for a suitable metaphor to rant about, we came up with the following. Microsoft is like a child with a learning disorder and significant behavioural problems to boot. This child has now grown to be larger and physically stronger than its parents and sits in the corner all day, refusing to go to school and generally causing mayhem and disruption. Meantime the Mac is like the pretty younger sister, all new shoes and handbag shopping - a pretty little thing with a string of admiring suitors, she is actually quite smart under the flashing eyelashes, but is expensive to run with her stylist tastes. Linux is the talented younger sister.

She is not yet pretty, but looks like she might be. She is definitely the smartest child of the family but because she is young and small she has to shout a lot to be heard. Meanwhile the parents (that's us) are quietly tearing our hair out to keep the home together and praying for the day when they all shove off to uni and start earning some money!

End of rant.


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1st Published 01/11/2006
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