Monday, June 01, 2009

More geekery

Three years and a week after I said "by the time the database software is optimised for Mac-Intel, Alberich will be ready to retire," I have bought his replacement: a new Mac Mini named Maimonides (because it's my thirteenth computer. Consider that a challenge, he said and grinned evilly.)

It's a wonderful machine: absolutely silent, even quieter than Alberich, and under real-world conditions it is at least twice as fast. I compiled the database on Alberich and Maimonides as a test:

                     Alberich    Maimonides
Syntax check 10 4 seconds
Compile 50 19
Generate application 46 29
Total 106 52 seconds

(I bought the "larger" version of the Mac Mini this time, because it had a significantly better graphics card than the "smaller" one, and increased the memory to 4 gigabytes.)

The betterness of this becomes clear in a computationally and graphically intensive environment, for example in Second Life. Alberich would struggle to get frame rates of 2 to 6 images a second (imagine a jerky old newsreel film), with his little fan blowing its heart out all the while, even though I had turned the resolution and image quality down as far as they would go (no anti-aliasing, no shading, no shadows, no reflections, no texture mapping, no sky details, no water details, nada y nada y pues nada as Hemingway once said).

I set up SL on Maimonides using the same conditions as on Alberich, and went to a site where I would usually get 6 fps. Maimonides got 32 frames per second! I couldn't believe it, that is better than cinema quality. I could see my avatar moving smoothly in real-time as I pressed the arrow keys. That got me curious to see what else might be possible, so I turned up the resolution and turned on all those filters and shaders and whatnots — and still got around 16 fps. Second Life is so beautiful! Who knew?

I have to admit it wasn't all joy. Setting up Maimonides was an unexpected and unnecessary pain in the arse. I can't put it better than Tim Bray, who also struggled mightily and in vain: In the old days, I would have been happily running on the new machine by now, cheerily blogging about my shiny new Mac. As it is, it looks to me like Apple, not to put too fine a point on it, removed a killer feature from a flagship product. This doesn’t feel like a good idea. I will write about this at length another time.

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Blogger Zhoen said...

Mac is getting middle aged, and is not as cool nor cutting edge anymore. Still beats the competition for general friendliness, but it grunts and creaks a bit.

June 2, 2009 at 12:55:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Bruce Oksol said...

I have to chuckle. Every time I use my Mac, I marvel that despite how old it is, it is still waaaayyyy better than anything else out there. Even the new stuff.

I am impressed how fast I can move around the net and multi-task.

The applications all seem to work together.

And esthetically -- nothing else even comes close.

I think I've had about 13 Apples, also.

June 2, 2009 at 1:02:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Dale said...


June 2, 2009 at 3:10:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Does this mean the database is optimised?

June 3, 2009 at 6:25:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Anonymous Seraphine said...

chee. maybe my next computer should be a mac. i'm not unhappy with my current computer, it's only 6 months old, and it plays SL fairly well, magnificantly well compared to my old computer (4 years old but upgraded).

June 3, 2009 at 10:25:00 p.m. GMT+2  

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