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.

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