NO EXECUTE!

(c) 2008 by Darek Mihocka, founder, Emulators.com.

updated April 1 2008


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Delayed Wave of Shipments Emerge

Happy April Fool's Day! With apologies to Def Leppard, I'm not not f-f-f-fooling here. I am quite excited today as my latest tweaks to the current Bochs sources have pushed the speed up to 93 MIPS (millions of instructions per second) simulated and Windows XP now booting in about 85 seconds. But that's for discussion another time. It has been a busy week of product announcements and releases so let's get to it...

The Very Very Very Delayed YouTube Release of the Gemulator Demo Video!

VMware may have made virtual machines mainstream in 2007, but I was out there with product years before VMware even existed. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I managed to find an old demo video that my friend Danny and I recorded back in 1992 to promote (what was then) the upcoming product launch of Gemulator. My VHS copy of the tape was playing back very well, but fortunately we found one more tape, the master tape archived on superior Betamax! I am pleased to announce that after painstaking video capture from that master Betamax tape this past week by Danny, the entire 27-minute video is now available on YouTube in three 9-minute segments (below). This video is not an April Fool's joke, it is the actual promotional video we shot in my apartment in the spring of 1992 on my Gateway 2000 486/33 computer with Windows 3.1 running Atari ST software on Gemulator. About 200 copies of this video were mailed out and handed out to dealers and Atari users during 1992, and thanks to that one good Betamax copy that has survived for 16 years it is now up on on the web for you to enjoy!

OLPC XO Shipments Completed

I can say that just days ago my second OLPC XO laptop arrived in the mail, and have confirmation that other people's New Year's Eve orders are also arriving now 90 days after the fact. With the recent announcement of Intel's low-power "Atom" chip, the small form factor notebook market continues to heat up.

AMD Announces Release of Fixed Phenom (or so they say)

It would also appear that AMD is now shipping the "fixed" versions of the AMD Phenom microprocessor (the one based on the "Barcelona" technology). As you recall, late last year AMD had to admit that a bug in the hardware TLB memory management caused the chip to unstable when running virtualization software and some operating systems. Although local computer stores here in Seattle have for example been advertising the AMD Phenom 9700 model (the 2.4 GHz version of the chip), when I try to go buy them I am told that they haven't arrive. Based on the latest press releases and this page on AnandTech (http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=3272) it appears that the ill-fated models 9500 9600 and 9700 are now replaced by the "fixed" models 9550 9650 and 9750. I was hoping to have the 9750 in my hands by today in order to write a comparison between it and my recent Core 2 Quad system, but no luck yet. As soon as I have it in my hands and put together another PC I'll do a quad-core vs. quad-core review. Crossing my fingers that this isn't another false product launch from AMD and that maybe I'll be able to report on it in 2 weeks?

Best Buy Delivers, Twice!

Third piece of shipment news, as I was doing the rounds this weekend looking for that AMD Phenom, I stopped in at Best Buy in Bellevue and found two great surprises. First, they actually had the Nintento Wii in stock. Yay, now I finally suck at the Wii as well as Xbox and Playstation!

I really went in to Best Buy to check to see when they expected to receive stock of those 28-inch $600 LCD monitors with HDMI inputs that I mentioned a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised to find that they just got received two of them. Just in time, as the Playstation 3 is being bumped from the living room TV now due to the Wii.

The monitor in question actually comes in two models. The model that I had seen at Best Buy in California last month is the old $599 model which is being phased out. The new model, the Hannspree HF289H at $579, adds a second HDMI input, as well as having standard VGA and component video inputs and built-in speakers. This is essentially an HD television minus the TV tuner. Also surprising, the monitor comes with a DVI-to-HDMI cable, making it ready to connect to just about any PC out of the box.

Ports on the back of the Hanspree HF289H.

How do they do it?!?!? I have to say I am amazed at how the price of displays just keeps dropping. Most 50-inch plasma displays are now flirting with the $1000 USD price point. 20-inch and 24-inch LCD computer monitors have dropped below $500 recently, but now the 28-inch display for only $100 more, with cables, with HDMI and component input is pretty sweet. Best Buy's web site is even wrong - it claims the monitor to be 1920x1080 but does actually natively display (and I have confirmed this with Windows) a 1920x1200 resolution. This is NOT one of those crappy megapixel (1280x768) flat screen TV displays, this is a full 2-megapixel computer monitor. I don't know this Hannspree brand but right now they've got a pretty sweet monitor. My only complaint is that the monitor has one stuck pixel near the top edge of the screen. Of the couple dozen LCD monitors I've gone through over the years I haven't seen stuck pixels out of the box in a long time, so hopefully this is not indicative of the quality control of this brand as I was hoping to pick up a few more of these displays.

Windows 2008 rendering two different browser windows to a 20-inch ViewSonic and the new 28-inch Hannspree via the DVI-to-HDMI cable. The monitor on the left is displaying 1600x1200, the right is 1920x1200. Not much higher resolution but certainly much larger pixels.

Sony Playstation 3 outputting via HDMI-HDMI cable. Aw geez, another mondo PS3 system update.

Speaking of Playstation 3, in response to my last posting about building Bochs and asking if anyone has built it on Playstation 3, I heard from a colleague that he has successfully built and run Bochs on the Playstation 3 using Fedora 7 as the host operating system. I will try punting Yellow Dog Linux and installing the latest Fedora PPC release to reproduce this.

Optimizing Windows Vista Service Pack 1... in 10 Seconds!

Finally, Microsoft is finally rolling out Vista Service Pack 1. So as you all start getting pinged for that mondo download, let me give you my quick and simple tips to making Vista SP1 perform better. First...

Kill SuperFetch! Probably the one thing you can do to have most impact on your Vista system is to turn off the "Superfetch" service. From your Command Prompt window, type these commands:

    C:\>ver

    Microsoft Windows [Version 6.0.6001]

    C:\>net stop sysmain
    The Superfetch service is stopping.
    The Superfetch service was stopped successfully.

The ver command is simply to make sure that are in fact running Service Pack 1. Original Vista will show up as version 6.0.6000 instead of 6.0.6001.

The net stop sysmain command tells Windows to turn off Superfetch. If you get a System error 5 you need to open Command Prompt as the Administrator, by right clicking on the Command Prompt icon and selecting "Run as administrator".

Why kill Superfetch? Simple - for the same reason you've been turning off System Restore since it showed up in Windows Millennium - because it causes disk churn , eats CPU cycles, and wastes power. Superfetch is intended to intelligently pre-load files from the hard disk that Windows thinks you might need. The problem is, that works if what you do on your computer is exactly the same thing every time. I don't.

In fact, what I have been noticing in Vista SP1, and even since Vista RTM, is that any time the computer goes idle there is a furious burst of hard disk activity. I run a program, I exit that program, hard disk goes crazy. What I finally realized is happening is that Superfetch attempts to keep every single byte of RAM loaded with something at all time. The downside of this is as I noticed is as a Windows program is running, and it allocates then frees memory as Windows programs tend to do, each time memory is freed Superfetch kicks in and starts fetching SOMETHING. The effect is that it actually steals cycles and disk bandwidth from the program you are running, not to mention it's killer on a laptop battery. In my opinion, Superfetch DOES NOT WORK. Turn it off.

Secondly, depending on how much RAM your PC has, either turn on or turn off ReadyBoost. My recommendation is that if you have over 1 gigabyte (or about 1000 megabytes) of physical RAM in your PC, you do not need ReadyBoost. In that case, turn it off with this command:

    C:\>net stop emdmgmt
    The ReadyBoost service is stopping.
    The ReadyBoost service was stopped successfully.

If you do not have that much RAM, say you have only a gigabyte or even 512 megabytes, the best think you can do is plug in a USB flash thumbdrive of at least 512MB and enable ReadyBoost with this command:

    C:\>net start emdmgmt
    The ReadyBoost service is starting.
    The ReadyBoost service was started successfully.

"emgmgmt" by the way stands of External Memory Device Management, another one of those very sexy names only Microsoft could have come up with. I have successfully used ReadyBoost on both my Sony VAIO notebook computers to run Vista in only 512 megabytes of RAM, and used a Sony MemoryStick using the built-in MemoryStick slot so as to avoid a protruding thumbdrive. The performance impact was stunning; literally the difference between the machines being too slugging to be usable to not feeling that much worse than Windows XP.

For regular desktop PCs and laptops with only USB ports, the brand of USB thumbdrive that has worked best for me is Lexar, particularly the 512MB and 1GB Lexar FireFly (http://www.lexar.com/jumpdrive/jd_firefly.html) which can picked up at Fry's for about $20 these days. They are relatively small and so do not stick out far from the side of a notebook. If you have a desktop PC that needs a ReadyBoost, I prefer to use the larger capacity (and large sized) Sandisk Cruzer Titanium thumbdrive (http://www.sandisk.com/) which offer slightly faster throughput. Remember, the whole impact of ReadyBoost rests on the premise that a USB solid state drive can act as a faster Windows swapfile than a normally fragmented hard disk can. You want a thumbdrive that delivers at least about 5 megabytes-per-second of write throughput on a notebook, or 10 megabytes-per-second on a desktop system.

Once you have experimented with turning off these services, you need to tell Windows to leave them off. Otherwise the next time you reboot your PC the SuperFetch will be right back on. So, use the SC "Service Control" command, to set the startup setting of these services to disabled, as follows:

    C:\>sc config wsearch start= disabled
    [SC] ChangeServiceConfig SUCCESS

    C:\>sc config sysmain start= disabled
    [SC] ChangeServiceConfig SUCCESS

    C:\>sc config emdmgmt start= disabled
    [SC] ChangeServiceConfig SUCCESS

Also, having now tested Vista-to-Vista large files copies, I have confirmed that Vista Service Pack 1 does resolve the "black hole router" bug (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314825) which was causing Vista RTM to hang in the middle of large files downloads or file copies. In fact my home network now has a combination of Windows XP, Windows Vista SP1, Linux, and Mac OS X machines routed through a series of Netgear, Airport Express, and Airport Extreme routers and switches and the machine-to-machine file copy throughput is fantastic.


Please keep those angry comments and topic ideas coming by emailing me at darekm@emulators.com or simply click on one of the voting links below to send your comments.
 

Darek, awesome, this is better than waiting for PS3 System Update to download!
 
Darek, your postings are worse than watching Obama become the next unelected president!

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