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The Pit BLOG

February 2008

Dual Core Doldrums

I'm pretty manic about my laptops. It drives my wife nuts because I need to buy a new laptop every year. The reason is simple - technology. Or better put - Moore's Law. Each year technology evolves, making each new laptop more powerful , lighter, and with more storage and a brighter, higher resolution screen. Man, I love it.

Last year, in March 2007, I bought a new Gateway NX100X, which weighed in at an astonishing low 3 pounds. I was in love, plus it has an amazingly sharp 12" 1280 X 800 screen. The screen itself was worth the price. But now, close to one year later, I have one major reservation. This laptop is slow.

It all started when I began development of our new feature World Rank. It is an amazing feature exclusive to PC Pitstop OverDrive. Because we test so many PCs every month, we can compare the performance of your PC against all the PCs in the universe. Hence the name, World Rank. I encourage everyone to check it out in our beta test of PC Pitstop OverDrive. But there was one major bummer. My brand new PC was slow. I mean bottom 23%, slow. How can this be? The reason that I buy a new PC each year is that the new one is always faster than the old one.

World Rank
Gateway NX100X3/07Bottom 23%
Winbook X Series4/06Top 46%

The performance of my latest laptop has been disappointing.

What's the problem? It all boils down to one thing - dual core. At the time that I bought my machine, dual core CPU's were the rage. I bought a dual core 1.2 Ghz system, thinking that it would easily outrun my old clunky 1.6 Ghz single core system. Boy was I wrong!

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Here's an analogy. Here in the United States, my wife and I share one car, a BMW300i. It takes about 10 minutes to drive to the Walmart in that car. But let's say, we traded in our shiny blue BMW for two slower cars. In these cars, it now takes 20 minutes to drive to Walmart. Does it save us time? It depends. If at the same time, that my wife wants to drive to Walmart, I have to go to the dentist, yes it saves time. But the reality is that the times are rare when we both need the car, so it is a bad trade.

The same is true for computers. I had thought, dual core would be great. Windows would run on one core and I would do my work on the other. Wrong! The reality is that Windows needs little CPU power on a consistent basis. Furthermore, most people are like me. I do one thing at a time on my PC. The reason is that I am the bottle neck. It is not possible to write a blog, and debug a program at the same time. I work in a serial manner. Yes, there are the rare instances where I am downloading a big file and I continue to work, but overall my PC is slower.

Furthermore, a slow processor impacts more than computation intensive work. It impacts everything. Since the processor is the brains of your computer, it impacts the speed of every subsystem on my computer. Check out the world rankings on my latest two laptops. You will see that the graphics, disk, and memory are all slower because of the processor.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I want a fast laptop, and I will focus first on processor clock speed. Lesson for all PC Pitstop readers. When purchasing a computer, nothing defines the performance of a computer more than the processor clock speed. The only silver lining is that a year is almost up, so it's time to buy a new one.

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shogan191: Dual Core Doldrums (Tue, 04 Mar 2008 12:53:46 GMT)
Here's a link to the speed fan program you mentioned.
jamesposey: Dual Core Doldrums (Fri, 29 Feb 2008 15:38:01 GMT)
I use a software monitoring program called "SpeedFan 4.32". It allows you to monitor both CPU cores, the temps of each also the % of load on each along with many other usefull features. I run this now on all my machines. The s.m.a.r.t. read out on hard drive is invaluable to me included in this software. Map new drives, print readings and keep an eye on them for signs of falure. It will pre warn you of falure if used before your caught with pants down. Why all Machines do not come with this sort of software is beyound me, they all have the sensors today that can inform the user of running parameters.. On my LapTop I use one recomended by HP called "Note Book Hardware Controll". It also is most usefull. On both these programs they display Hard Drive temps as well as CPU temps in the tool bar so as to keep abreast of those condition while you work. Alarms setting and many features are adjustable to suit the individual using. My lap top was set at Factory to run as high as 180f on cpu, I have set now to 140f . Kind of like the gages on your car dash you know where things should be and when you see changes it can make aware to blow dust from cpu fan before you burn up a LapTop. Yes they all have some sort of fail safe cut off anymore but Im not running mine at 180 even if HP thinks thats ok. Thanks for the info on assigning cores to specific programs, I was unaware of that little jewl. As far as speed, for multi tasking as my wife does on this duel core I built for her, it is nice. Machine never freezes while waiting in line to process work. I find most mistakes home users make and I work on many computers for friends as favors is not enough memory and kids and games.. Its hard to convence some that children need a machine of their own untill they come knocking wondering if I can save 3 yrs of data they didnt bother to back up untill Jr killed machine. As you know dosent matter what is under the hood if the fuel tank (mem) holds half a gallon of bits. Your then restrained to hard drive speeds and a bunch of un needed ware on drive. 1 last Program to mention, DVD Idle Pro, I use this on my main machine which I do a fair amount of Video editing on and my LapTop. 1 of its coolest features is it uploads Video into ram way ahead of use, depending on ram space availible, then hard drive stops untill used up and needs to reload. It is a great battery saver on laptop sitting in airport or other location watching move on battery power. My next LapTop will be a duel core Pentium 1.8 with 2 gigs of Ram. I think some are bedazeled by that clock number to much. CPU will only process what is sent to it. I think Ram, FSB, Hard Drive Read speed, and Software, ect ect are the real speed eaters these days.
shogan191: Dual Core Doldrums (Fri, 29 Feb 2008 12:29:22 GMT)
I'm not sure manually balancing the load is necessary. Lets say you have two processes that each use 40% of a single cores potential. If your system has a dual core processor and it is running both processes on only one of the cores the load would be over 80% but less than 100%. For the sake of the argument lets say the other core was not helping at all. Would running both cores at 40% speed anything up? I don't think so. But I could certainly be wrong.
shogan191: Dual Core Doldrums (Fri, 29 Feb 2008 12:22:48 GMT)
Integrity Computers

The answer to your question is yes. You are giving the correct advice. A 2.4 dual core has two cores running at 2.4 each if performing work requiring two cores. If using only one of it's two cores it is running at 2.4.
Vulcan219: Dual Core Doldrums (Fri, 29 Feb 2008 07:49:21 GMT)
QUOTE(amt2100 @ 9:45am Thu Feb 28 2008) [snapback]1478557[/snapback]

How do you manually set the affinities?
(XP 32)


Okay there are a few ways to do this, but I will give the easiest way to do this.

First you can either right click on the task bar and click on the task manager, or crtl>alt>delete, to bring up the task manager, then when the task manager comes up you make sure the processes tab is open, then, right click on the process you want to set an affinity on, and on the list click the set affinity, if it isn't an internal system function, it will bring up a list of processors for affinity, if you have a dual core it should have 2 processors checked, meaning it is running things through both cores, you can choose which core to run that program through, and if you use another program you use a lot while the first one is running, then you can click on it and set it for the other core, this way they both run through the different cores seperately, that should speed up some of th multitasking, this works well on programs not yet designed to run with multicore processors, the newer programs that are out that are designed to run with multicore processors, will automatically sense what is running where and compensate for you automatically.

I gave this way to set the affinity as it is easiest for most to do, the other ways I know involve getting into windows, and if you don't know what you are doing in there it can make a mess of windows and cause more issues than it helps.

I hope this helps you on how to set the affinities on the programs, in the task manager they are processes of the programs you use, but are the same, you need to know what program the process is tied to. Usually the process has the same name as the program .exe, but not always, most times it will have something that does identify it to the program still, although some processes don't.

I hope this helps anyone that wants to see if it helpes them, if it doesn't then remember what the affinity was set for the process, and set it back to that setting. All I can say is it helps me on the programs I have that aren't made to run with multiprocessors. I hope it helps all others as well.
duanester: Dual Core Doldrums (Fri, 29 Feb 2008 02:52:29 GMT)
software is the reason, example : game makers are behind but currently working on games where code can be executed in parallel, split up into separate threads/ processes, alot of software cannot do this yet, the same for windows like xp.

hardware is way ahead as software seems to be creeping up slowly.

edit: in reply to integrity : dual cores @ 2.4 ghz are 2.4 per core, to my understanding quads are split up .
Integrity Computers: Dual Core Doldrums (Fri, 29 Feb 2008 02:38:27 GMT)
Okay so this may not apply to most laptops but the people that have been asking me about dual cores have had one answer from me. BUY a computer with 2 CPUs. If you do that you can have your cake and eat it too. Yes the cost is more than a single dual core but the dual core processors have not come up to the speed that 2 seperat CPUs can. Tell me if Im wrong but a 1.2 dual core CPU is not a 2.4 is it??? Is it 2.4 or two 600s?
If you take 2 seperate say maybe 2.4 processors dont you end up with the ability to multitask at 2.4 two times??? (in theory depending on board layout and ram and bus) XP and Vista are both designed to multi CPU so why would you not get a quality machine with more than one Moderate CPU and then have all the CPU power that you would need. Justa thinkin out loud.
amt2100: Dual Core Doldrums (Thu, 28 Feb 2008 14:45:55 GMT)
How do you manually set the affinities?
(XP 32)


QUOTE(Vulcan219 @ 8:06pm Wed Feb 27 2008) [snapback]1478318[/snapback]

By setting the affinities, you can setup your system to better multitask providing the programs you use together for the tasks you do at the same time use two different cores on the affinities.

Windows 32 bit, doesn't automatically setup affinities to work the multitasking, you have to do that manually, the 64 bit utilizes the affinity to a degree to work better, but on a lot of things you still have to setup the affinity manually.

duanester: Dual Core Doldrums (Thu, 28 Feb 2008 05:02:50 GMT)
everest displays the load per core.
pander1203: Dual Core Doldrums (Thu, 28 Feb 2008 04:47:35 GMT)
QUOTE(chengrob @ 7:16pm Wed Feb 27 2008) [snapback]1478321[/snapback]

I think the key is a concept called Load Balancing. That is Windows should be trying to evenly place the total load across both processors. That said, up to this point, either Windows is not doing a good job, or my work is not sufficient to balance. Either way, I really have not seen much benefit.

I'm interested in the load balancing concept. When my company did some research for the government, the question of load balancing came up for parallel processors. We looked at two to 64 parallel processors. We generally found that the long pole in the tent was just how you split up the load. It takes software to decide how to split the load, and of course, that detracts from the real work being done. It's really hard to split the load in roughly equal parts. You can put the OS in one processor, but the OS really doesn't put a load on the computer. The best way to do it is to write applications that are designed to run with multiple processors, and which could fork into separate processes, and then combine after executions are complete.

I just put a new desktop together with a Core 2 Duo processor. I was using a P5 2.4, and was trying to do video processing, which loaded the CPU down 100% when it was running. It was REALLY slow, so I was hoping for a lot of improvement. I got it. It's at least five times faster. Now I look at the XP performance monitor, but I don't know which processor it is displaying.
chengrob: Dual Core Doldrums (Thu, 28 Feb 2008 00:16:02 GMT)
I think the key is a concept called Load Balancing. That is Windows should be trying to evenly place the total load across both processors. That said, up to this point, either Windows is not doing a good job, or my work is not sufficient to balance. Either way, I really have not seen much benefit.
Vulcan219: Dual Core Doldrums (Thu, 28 Feb 2008 00:06:08 GMT)
I agree with Bruce on the Software and chip interfacing, while Linux works well with the new dual cores, Windows is clunky, but also works good with the dual cores if you use the Windows that takes advantage with the dual cores, the Windows 32 bit O/S doesn't utilize the dual core to its benefit, while the Windows O/S with 64 bit will utilize the dual cores better to its benefit, also I have found with both windows O/S, 32 bit and 64 bit versions, if you set the affinity of the programs used to one core or the other, you get faster and better results, if you have dual core with hyper threading it is better, or quad core, then you have two more affinities to be able to set.

By setting the affinities, you can setup your system to better multitask providing the programs you use together for the tasks you do at the same time use two different cores on the affinities.

Windows 32 bit, doesn't automatically setup affinities to work the multitasking, you have to do that manually, the 64 bit utilizes the affinity to a degree to work better, but on a lot of things you still have to setup the affinity manually.

At this time I am using Windows XP Pro 64 bit, and it works faster, than the 32 bit, I also went from a 3.0 single core chip to a 3.0 dual core, at first the dual core didn't seem faster than the single core , till I set the affinities, then I noticed the difference right away.
duanester: Dual Core Doldrums (Mon, 25 Feb 2008 14:40:11 GMT)
dock some points eh

i would have let bruce in the super pi competition, i doubt that he was coming in pushing volts and hand cranking ghz, vapochills and phase changers, running triple sli,

edit: just think about it
shogan191: Dual Core Doldrums (Mon, 25 Feb 2008 13:08:24 GMT)
Wdeyd, no, it would mean we're benchmarking the hardware since the hardware didn't change. If you change the hardware to get the best possible score on one OS than it would be benchmarking the OS.

Exactly the point Bruce. If you want to test for the fastest OS then the variables would be different from testing for the best hardware.

If I'm testing for the best video card then I can change all the variables except the video card.

Anyway, point being, We could work at getting a competition together that would allow Windows, that penguin thing, and the Mac Ox to all compete. Of course that would require the Penguin and Ox people to buy some hardware to win, possibly.
Bruce: Dual Core Doldrums (Mon, 25 Feb 2008 09:33:55 GMT)
QUOTE(wdeydwondrer @ 10:50pm Sun Feb 24 2008) [snapback]1477236[/snapback]

so sho, wouldn't that mean that in turn we are actually benchmarking the o/s if we use only the fastest o/s for the various benchmarks?

Why not use the best tool available for the job?

Would you choose to use a Toyota Prius in a NHRA drag race?

If you did choose a Toyota Prius, would it be fair for you to say everyone else has to go out and get a Toyota Prius or they can't even join the NHRA, and so they can't race?

Benchmarks are supposed to be a competition, much like a race.

wdeydwondrer: Dual Core Doldrums (Mon, 25 Feb 2008 03:50:37 GMT)
so sho, wouldn't that mean that in turn we are actually benchmarking the o/s if we use only the fastest o/s for the various benchmarks?
PORTHOS: Dual Core Doldrums (Mon, 25 Feb 2008 01:41:14 GMT)
QUOTE(Bruce @ 4:27am Sun Feb 24 2008) [snapback]1476853[/snapback]
Anyways now that I have successfully diverted Robs thread. I apologize but have a recommendation.

Do not include laptops in the rankings of all computers.

You should rank desktops/workstations in one category.

Portable/Laptops in another.

My guess would be if you did this you would get much more accurate results, as laptops don't compare well to desktops and a brand new laptop built yesterday would score low, because you are comparing it against computers with much higher specs and many of them over clocked.

If you were to break into two categories, your laptop would have faired much, much better and the results would have been much more meaningful.

The way it stands now, it is not representative of the intended use, and in my opinion you just can't compare laptops to Desktops the way your statistics are doing it.

I think i read that somewere before
shogan191: Dual Core Doldrums (Mon, 25 Feb 2008 01:08:12 GMT)
QUOTE(Bruce @ 3:43pm Sat Feb 23 2008) [snapback]1476587[/snapback]

Super PI, geekbench, are two that they are using that will run "natively" in Linux.

But it is irrelevant, because they will not allow you to use Linux in their competitions at all.

I'm talking about setting up a future competiton based from here. If I can come up with enough benchmarks I'll see what I can do.

I'm sure Linux kicks butt in SuperPi but that's just a single bench. I'll search around.

We normally just bench hardware, not the operating system. Overclockers tend to use whatever operating systems suits the bench the best.
duanester: Dual Core Doldrums (Sun, 24 Feb 2008 15:41:09 GMT)
wondering over all these overclockers now

the tests record hardware, then a comparison is made, if the system is oc'ed wouldn't that affect the stock machines score
wdeydwondrer: Dual Core Doldrums (Sun, 24 Feb 2008 12:03:55 GMT)
i second that idea. my brand new laptop is well below the half way mark, though it seems to be faster than my desktop, LOL
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