Dec 22, 2003

Pentium Pro-blems Redux

I took some of the suggestions from my last thread to heart and modified my system's RAM, video card, and operating system. After a grand total of $700 and the last week of my time she's fighting a little harder than last round. The current specs are as follows:

  • 2x Pentium Pro 266 MHz/1 MB L2
  • 66 MHz bus
  • 1,024 MB 5v 60ns non-ECC EDO RAM
  • 100 GB 7200 RPM EIDE hard drive
  • ATi Radeon 9200 Pro PCI
  • FreeBSD 5.1

The FreeBSD 5.1 kernel was compiled with support for both of my CPUs and optimizations for the Pro specifically and its cache. I am running KDE 3.1 and can't complain about the speed at all — it's much greater than Windows XP ever was. I have been in touch with a FreeBSD hacker who ensured my decision to move to this operating system instead of Linux was the way to go. The SMP and virtual memory subsystems in the FreeBSD kernel are much more efficient than either Windows or Linux. FreeBSD cost me nothing to install and only took a little time to compile the proper kernel.

The four 256 MB chips cost $410 after tax and shipping/handling. Considering the RAM alone, performance is not what I would call a 2x increase over the 512 MB, but overall it did augment my system. The output below from a FreeBSD utility called top illustrates this. One thing I want to try is ECC RAM. It's 72-bit vs. non-ECC RAM which is 64-bit, and I think that switching my gigabyte of non-ECC RAM for ECC chips will give me more memory bandwidth and ergo the performance I was expecting in installing another 512 MB.

Processes: 48 total, 4 running, 44 sleeping... 126 threads Load Avg: 2.26, 1.69, 1.30 CPU usage: 43.2% user, 56.8% sys, 0.0% idle SharedLibs: num = 117, resident = 52.8M code, 2.45M data, 7.87M LinkEdit MemRegions: num = 5359, resident = 109M + 9.91M private, 84.0M shared PhysMem: 260M wired, 390M active, 287M inactive, 937M used, 87M free VM: 2.38G + 82.5M 71607(0) pageins, 5190(0) pageouts

Redraws are faster and I now have a vast array of bit-depths and monitor resolutions with my new Radeon 9200. I also went out and bought a 21" CRT monitor so I could enjoy a larger desktop without going blind. Though the 9200 has done little to affect overall system performance, I appreciate what it does for my graphics. In the very least any games for FreeBSD will fly 4x faster than before: The 9200 has 128 MB RAM where my Rage only had 32 MB. I'm happy with this addition to my system especially since I got a $20 rebate off of the $200 I paid for it.

Aside from these tweaks my system remains the same. I can not boost the bus clock above 66 MHz. My 100 GB hard drive, due to BIOS limitations, is partitioned into several 16 GB slices. (I wonder if anyone knows of any BIOS hacks to overcome this limitation.) I believe I may finally be pushing the limits of my system's hardware and am looking at ways to optimize my operating system. Supposedly FreeBSD 5.2 is in beta now, and I've heard good things about something called QNX. Here's to any more suggestions to eek all of the power out of my dual Pentium Pro system.

Dec 9, 2003

Pentium Pro-blems

Hi, I have a pet project most of you will find interesting, and I've run into a block that some of you can help me with. First, here's the specs on my system:

  • Two Pentium Pro, 200 MHz/1 MB cache oc'ed to 266 MHz
  • 512 MB 5v 168-pin 60ns EDO RAM
  • 100 GB 7200 RPM IDE hard drive
  • 32 MB ATi Radeon PCI video card
  • Windows XP Pro Service Pack 1

I get about the same performance as I would with dual 300 MHz Pentium II chips if you disregard the bus speed differences, and I have been very happy with this system so far. One thing I would like to do, however, that I think will improve system performance is to upgrade to 1 GB RAM. I notice some serious redraw problems and a lot of swapping going on, and my CPU use is always at at least 15%, and simple tasks like moving windows and editing HTML spike it to 70%. Real intensive stuff drives the CPUs to 100% max for longer than I feel it should. Kernel time is a significant proportion of this.

The IBM docs on this machine say it can be upgraded only to 512 MB, using 128 MB chips, but I have found RAM that matches the physical and eletrical specs to a T save for that they are 256 MB chips.

Does anyone have any experience with this? The motherboard is from an IBM PC 365.

Thank you.

Nov 24, 2003

Power Mac G5³

Recently, many in the Mac community have been discussing the possibility of a G5-based Cube design, similar to Apple's Power Mac G4 Cube. I don't think this will happen, as the thing that killed the original G4 Cube, and that would damn the G5 cube to the same fate eventually, is the lack of market for the thing. Yes, I would like to have one, but being a Mac geek is not a characteristic most Mac users share. Let me explain the lack of market for the Cube and why it's destined to fail.

Nov 21, 2003

Mojopocalypse Now

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Oct 31, 2003

Welcome to the Machine

Hello. I would like to discuss a neat little command line utility included in Mac OS X that doesn't get enough attention in my humble opinion. Living in /usr/bin/, this simple Open Source tool is something that I just can not live without. What is this wondrous textual utility that I'm talking about? It's none other than machine!

Included since 1991 with the 4.4BSD platform, machine gives you the processor name that your system is based on. I don't know if it works for Intel or any other architectures since when I opened up the binary in TextEdit.app and couldn't find any processor name strings. Here's an incomplete list of machine output that I do know of to help illustrate what I mean:

  • ppc603
  • ppc604
  • ppc620
  • ppc750
  • ppc970

The cleverest aspect of machine is bringing up its manual page. I wonder who was clever enough to invent this little pun, but it makes me LOL every time I do it. Sometimes I do it just to laugh, even if I don't want to learn about machine at the moment. In case you can't guess, here is the command to bring up the manual:

man machine

omfg rorlolf

I have been accessing this program since OpenStep 4.2, then in Rhapsody DR2 and continue to use it today under Mac OS X v10.3. Kudos to NeXT and now Apple for including this Wunderwerkzeug for almost 10 years. It sure makes my Power Mac a joy to use. Check it out!

Oct 24, 2003

QNX Doesn't Scale!

Hi, I've been using QNX for the last few weeks on my 1 GHz Penium III system, and I'm quite baffled by the performance — or lack thereof — that I've been seeing.

I downloaded the QNX 6.2.1 ISO, burnt a CD, and installed onto my hard drive. This was after erasing an old Windows 2000/Linux dual-boot install. Things went smoothly, and I was easily able to connect to the Internet for updates to various packages. I was really impressed at this point.

After a couple days of playing with it, however, I was boggled at how much like Windows the system acted. Here I was with a 1 GHz processor (the minimum required is 600 MHz) and 1 gigabyte of RAM and Photon, the GUI, was lagging. If I have a few programs open and an MP3 playing in the background, I can watch widgets redraw. Tweaking some options helped a little, but this is not in line with what I have read about QNX performance.

Isn't this supposed to be a hard realtime operating system that runs on medical devices meant to save peoples' lives? How is it that it runs on 33 MHz processors with 128k of RAM in an IV drip yet skips MP3s on a system 100x beefier in every way imagineable? Do they release a different version for free that doesn't try for realtime performance or what?

After less than a full month I've grown dissatisfied with something I'd hoped I could replace my Windows and Linux installs with for leisure and hobbyist purposes. My main system is a dual 3 GHz Pentium4 box with 4 gigs of RAM, but that's a DV workstation and I can't use it just to see how QNX scales with more robust hardware and a dual processor configuration. Something tells me it might not, though.

Can anyone offer me any insights? I realize that this is a free operating system and that I have little room to bitch, but I want to make sure there's nothing I'm missing before I discount QNX altogether and go back to Windows or Linux, which while performing slugglishly are more familiar to me.

Thank you.

Oct 23, 2003

iBook G4 Lacks Velocity Engine?

It appears that Apple's new iBook G4 lacks a Velocity Engine, and may not be using what we've known as a G4 processor at all. The iBook G4 tech specs fail to mention the Velocity Engine at all in stark contrast to all of Apple's other G4-class products. This comes to the chagrin of many users who expect a G4-labeled system, using what Apple calls a G4 processor, to include AltiVec technology.

Oct 7, 2003

Sovereign Semiconductor

In the best decision out of Motorola in years — now that Chris Galvin has resigned — the Motorola Semiconductor Product Sector will be spun off into its own independent corporation. After years of mismanagement and dwindling mindshare, setting SPS free could spark the rebirth of the sleepy chipzilla, but sadly for Apple and Mac users the move has come too late to benefit Macintosh.

Sep 20, 2003

Motorola Semi's Failure to Innovate

Motorola struggling isn't news to anyone who watches Apple, nor is it news to anyone else with a vested interested in Motorola's semiconductor branch. But it's not like the company is beleagured. It's not like it takes Motorola's last gasping breath to release a new G4. The problem with Motorola's struggle is Motorola's attitude toward innovation.

Aug 5, 2003

Forbidden Apple Fact in Plain View

Windows 95 AKA “Chicago” stole button look and feel from NeXT. Years later, NeXT made Mac OS X for Apple Computer, Inc. who used the same button look and feel until Strategy: OS X was realized. Therefore Mac OS “X” Rhapsody 10.3b is related in the codebase to Windows XP “NT 5.1” Server 2003 at the actual graphics system level. PowerPC is the strategy to merge Wintel and Mac platforms into an androgynous user interface and application binary interface: Hybridization of “Power” Macintosh and “PC” begin! AGP, PCI, RAM, and IDE are evidence of such cross-pollination of Microsoft, NeXT, and Apple technologies in coalescence. Apple has in turn recoded fast user switching from the XP beta 2003 Server for use on PowerPC platforms, another bridge in the cross platform amalgamation of Windows/OS “X.” Linux is the extra source code expunged by Apple/Microsoft/NeXT engineers to the masses under open sources. PowerPC exists. Say hello to iHub.

Jul 8, 2003

What's the Best Way to Unhook a Fish?

Dear Trollaxor:

Hi, I am new to fishing and I'm not skilled in removing the hooks after a catch. Sometimes the hooks go very deep and I don't know how to remove them at all. How do I handle this? Thanks!

Dear Gentle Sir:

Unhooking a fish can be a great challenge. Fish swallow food by opening their mouths quickly, creating a vacuum that sucks water, and whatever else they are after, into their stomach. This often buries the hook deep within their digestive track. You have two courses of action in unhooking a fish.

  1. Cut the line, leaving the hook embedded in the fish. The hook will eventually disintegrate, probably before it causes infection in the fish. This is your only option if the line snaps at any point. Most game fish are hearty beasts and likely won't even notice a piece of barbed metal embedded in their throat.

  2. Step on the fish's head and back and yank as hard as possible. You will slice the fish open laterally as the hook slides inside its gullet. Keep tugging, as there is plenty for it to latch onto in there. If you used a weaker hook, it may straighten out, easing circumstances considerably for both you and the fish. Otherwise, don't give up. With enough force, the hook will rip its way out of the fish, leaving it unhooked to return to the water. (This is called "catch-and-release" philosophy.)

Happy angling!

Jul 7, 2003

What's the Best Bait for Catfish?

Dear Trollaxor:

Hi, I'm interested in catching large catfish, I live in the Great Lakes region and wonder what kind of bait is best for catching the real monsters. Can you make any recommendations?

Dear Gentle Sir:

Like you, I have sought after the large, ancient cats that swim silently in the black, murky depths of our nation's beautiful Great Lakes. After spending years using liver, cheeseballs, nightcrawlers, mealworms, chicken heads, and fox urine, I can suggest a bait superior to all of these to aid in catching giant monster catfish. I have produced some record specimens using my home-grown technique and I now pass my secret on to you:

Kittens.

Yes sir, that's right. Baby cats. I find it most effective to use 1-5 day old kittens. They won't survive away from their mother at this point in their development anyway, so why not hook them on a weighted line and sink then to the bottom of Lake Superior in hopes of catching that 2-meter beast you dream of in your sleep?

I find that soaking the kitty in blood before hooking works best. Other scents to use are fox urine, hydrated bloodmeal (a blood substitute), rotted chicken liver, curdled milk, or rotten eggs. They can be doused in the scent material but keeping them flailing around in a cooler of the liquid around an hour before hooking them yields the best results. Don't fill the cooler up too high, however, or you'll drown the kitten. We need live bait so that the little kitty's struggles will attract our quarry.

Another trick I've found to make your kitten bait last longer is to take a plastic bag and a rubber band, placing the bag over the kitten's head. Use the rubber band to seal the bag around its neck. This simple trick increases the time the kitten lives after being hooked, weighted, and cast. Typically a kitten will drown before three or four minutes. Using a bag, I've reeled in live kittens after over 30 minutes crawling around blindly at the bottom of a lake! If you're lucky and your prey doesn't inhale the kitten entirely, you can release the bag and let the kitten have a breather before recasting him in. You get at least four times the mileage bagging your kittens' heads!

I hope you enjoy this technique. It will give you an edge up on competitions and will yield fantastic results. How ironic would it be to land the monster of your dreams using the animal it was named after for bait!

Happy angling!

Jun 25, 2003

The PowerPC G5 Bits Drought

According to Apple, the G5 is the fastest desktop computer in the world, as well as the first 64-bit desktop system. Something doesn't sit right with me though. Aside from the nigh-universal ranting about skewed benchmarks that has been circulating recently, there's another aspect the Power Mac G5 not many have touched upon.

Mac OS X is a 32-bit operating system and since the PowerPC 970 is a 64-bit chip, Mac OS X will effectively be running at 800, 900, and 1,000 MHz in the new Power Macs and not 1.6, 1.8, and 2.0 GHz as Apple claims. Let's stick to the specs and look a little deeper into this problem.

Mac OS X v10.0 debuted in March 2001. By October, Mac OS X v10.1 optimized the code in the operating system for G3 and G4 chips — until this point, a lot of the components in the operating system still had optimizations for PowerPC 603 and 604 models. Apple continued this trend with Mac OS X v10.2 by removing support the 60x family. Try installing Jaguar on a G2 system — it just can't happen. But by doing so, they were finally able to push the system to its limits with Velocity Engine tweaks.

With the PowerPC 970, however, Apple is in a different pickle.

One just can't scale an operating system to 64-bits on a whim. In two months the G5 systems will ship to consumers with an operating system that will halve the clock since it can't use half the bits of the chip it will run on! There will be a gap of four months between the 64-bit G5 ships and the 64-bit-friendly Mac OS X v10.3 arrives. Tell me, Mac users, what are we going to do in the meantime? This is worse than when Apple downgraded the speed on their Power Mac G4 systems while keeping the prices the same.

Your new Power Mac G5 will only run at half its clockspeed!

I wouldn't pay $3,000 for year 2000 performance. Apple better have something marvelous up their sleeve during what I like to call this four-month bits drought we're all facing. Otherwise, I'll be planting my foot firmly in their ass, and so should you.

Panther: Half the Beast

One thing a lot of folks haven't pointed out—probably because of this benchmark hullabaloo—is that Apple is leaving us with our hands tied. We'll be seeing our Power Mac G5 systems a lot sooner than we'll be seeing Mac OS 10.3. Problem? Only Panther will be 64-bit enabled.

Jaguar will receive an update in the form of 10.2.7 that will allow it to run and boot on G5 systems, but not take full advantage of its 64-bit address space. This means that we'll still be able to only see 4GB of RAM, even if there's more installed in our G5. No big deal, right? Apple will give G5 owners a break on Panther, after three months of using the G5 chip in 32-bit mode, and allow them to upgrade cheaply or for free.

Or so we thought.

Having talked to a few of the Apple techs at WWDC, I am not so sure that Panther will be fully 64-bit enabled until some time after 2004 comes. From what I was told, Panther will have bare-bones 64-bit optimizations. We'll see our 8 gigs of RAM, we'll have addressing space out the wazoo. But it won't be until 10.3.1 at least that the file system and utilities have been recompiled and updated.

Obviously, I can't back this up with a hard source, since this was a conversation held informally on the floor at the conference, but from what I heard and was told, I'd take a while to think about throwing my credit card down and ordering one of these new bad boys. There's no loss in waiting until the operating system can utilize the new muscle at least.

Jun 1, 2003

Where's Rusty?

There's been a lot of talk on Kuro5hin recently regarding Emperor Rusty and several nagging issues with the site and the fact that he got paid in excess of $35,000 to run the site, by its users, who haven't seen more than a handful of pissant bug fixes since then. A lot of real work needs done.

On the other hand, we have heard of a lot about other activities Der Foster has been involved in lately. It's time we looked at how Rusty has been budgeting his time and think about how our money is being spent.

Things Rusty has been up to:

Are the needs of the site and its users being met? With $35,000 of cold hard cash in hand and the above goals realized, Rusty has yet to take care of the following issues that Kuro5hin users have been vocal about for some time. Here's where the real cost/benefit ratio analysis needs to come in.

Pending tasks at Kuro5hin.org:

  • actually releasing a real whole-number version of Scoop
  • making Scoop work with Apache 2, which has been released for over a year!
  • purchasing a dedicated database server, alleviating Kuro5hin's nagging speed problems
  • posting site news, so people know where all of their hard-earned BLING-BLING is going to
  • fixing searches-- how can I run vanity searches on Kuro5hin when they always time out?
  • documentation: it's been, what, four years and we still don't have any?
  • PLP/PWP: why have these annoying bugs been given to the users-- paying users-- to deal with!?

Kuro5hin users, together we can bring this issue to a head and collect the information regarding our monies and Rusty's whereabouts. There are a few simple actions we can all take that, en masse, will achieve our shared goals. I urge you to take the following steps this very minute!!!

  1. email Rusty with your complaints!
  2. threaten not to renew or purchase a subscription to Kuro5hin, ever!
  3. flail and wave your arms everywhere while shouting!
  4. use lots of text decoration tags and styles!

Just a thought.

Thank you.

Apr 12, 2003

Why Run Linux on a Mac?

I don't understand why anyone would bother running Linux on a Mac. For $99 you can purchase Mac OS X and get real live tech support for problems that (probably won't) pop up. There's a lot of technical reasons you should run Mac OS instead of Linux.

Here are some of them.

Feb 14, 2003

A Leap Ahead for Apple

Never before in the history of computing has the consumer had so much power and convenience available to him. What only ten years ago was viewed as a super-computing application is now freely offered to anyone with the hardware to support it — genetic sequencing, video editing, 3D graphics, explosion reproduction. It is in this climate that we must ask ourselves what the next step will be, and where we will allow it to take us.

In 1996, SGI (formerly Silicon Graphics, Inc.) swapped out their home-grown operating system and processor — IRIX and MIPS, respectively — for commodity components Linux and IA32. Today, SGI is in the doghouse and fares little better than any other PC vendor. Into the gap left by SGI came Apple, who in 1996 themselves purchased what is arguably the most advanced UNIX in existance: OPENSTEP, aka Mac OS X.

Now with QuickTime 6.1 and Quartz Extreme, is there anything that can stop Apple's juggernaut-like race to be king of the high-end server market? Only lack of hardware to run their crown jewels on. The Mac is so good at what it does, Apple is pressing Motorola and IBM for PowerPC chips that can meet the exhaustive demands of new high-end customers. The best of both breeds, Apple offers scalable, high-end UNIX to the Fortune 500 clientele as well as ease of use and simplicity to its private consumers. With things going so well, Apple seems to be on an unstoppable rise.