Multi-core processors — Why aren’t they faster?

Multi-core processors are the industry’s answer to the continuing struggle to make processors faster. These CPUs have 2, 4, or 8 CPUs on 1 chip. Software doesn’t necessarily use multiple cores at once, making them not as fast as they could be. Software developers must learn new skills to make use of the multi-core processors.

Most programs cannot execute themselves over 2 processors, much less 4 or 8. The problem lies with the design of the application. Most designers decide to make use of only 1 processor from the get go. Designing an app to run on 1 or more processors is an engineering feat!

Programs that can run on multiple processors are called multi-threaded, meaning that they allow for multiple threads of execution. This type of software hits home on a multi-core machine. However, many times it requires a lot of extra work.

Servers started the multi-core trend, so almost all server software is multi-threaded. Desktop multi-cores are really just getting started. Some analysts expect to have many-core processors, which will have 8 or more processors on a single chip, by 2010. Keep an eye out for a multi-threaded programming tutorial on this site soon.

5 Free Ways to Speed Up Your Computer

There are many ways to make your computer faster. Many approaches requires money, but that leaves plenty of ways to speed up your computer without spending a dime. I’ll go over 5 ways right here, right now.

1. Uninstall Norton!

Norton Anti-virus and Internet Security clows down your computer a lot. Instead, use AVG free edition. It uses far less resources, thus your computer runs faster. My sister-in-law turned me onto this anti virus a few years ago and I recommend it for anyone.

When you uninstall Norton, make sure to remove the various programs in a specific order. First, you should uninstall the anti-virus and internet security. After a reboot, uninstall LiveUpdate and reboot again. Now, simply go to download.com and search for “avg free” and download & install. Note: ignore the sponsors.

2. Kill the programs in your systray, by the clock.

If you have more than 2 or 3 icons in the systray, this will help immensely. Run the program “msconfig” from Start->Run… This will bring up the system configuration. We’re only interested in what is in the Startup tab.
Uncheck everything under the startup tab, then put a check for your anti virus. If you have AVG, those programs will have ‘avg’ in their name. Click OK and reboot. Your computer should run at least 10%, up to 75%, faster now.

3. Set your browser’s home page.

Does your browser, Internet Explorer or Firefox, take forever to load? Part of the problem might be your home page. If your home page is big and lengthy, the process of downloading and rendering the page could add upwards of 15 seconds to your browser’s load time.

You have several options available. One is to set your browser’s home page to something that is relatively quick to load, like Google.com. Another option is to set it to use a blank page.

4. Change the performance options.

This is something most people don’t know exists. If you’re fine with XP looking like Windows 98, this fix is for you. Sorry Vista users, I have not used Vista, so I don’t know how to do this with Vista. If someone figures it out, please leave a comment.

To make this change, right click on ‘My Computer’ and click on properties. Under the ‘Advanced’ tab, click on ‘Settings’ under ‘Performance’. In the window that pops up, choose ‘Adjust for best performance’ then click OK. You computer will stop responding for up to 10 seconds and will come back a lot quicker. Do a reboot to finish this fix.

5. Sort out your Start Menu.

Do you have multiple columns in your Programs menu from the Start button? If so, that could be slowing down your computer every time you open that menu. Sorting the menu down to 1 column can save you time two fold. You programs will be organized and easier to find and you computer will load and render the menu much faster.

This sorting can be somewhat complicated, mainly because Windows gives each user their own Programs folder and a centralized Programs folder for all users. Each user will see the blending of the centralized and personalized Programs folder. If there is only 1 login for the computer or each user should have access to all the programs installed, you can just put everything in the centralized location (2 Steps). If this isn’t the case, you’ll have to figure out which programs are needed by which user and which programs are needed by all the users(3 Steps).

Step 1: Consolidate the Programs menu

To sort the menu, right click on the Start button and click on Explore. This brings up your Programs menu folder. To copy everything to the central location, double click on programs, select all the folders & files, and cut. Now on the left pane with all the folders, click the plus next to ‘All Users’ then the plus next to ‘Start Menu’. Click on the Programs folder under that. Now paste.

Step 2: Sort the menu

Now that everything is in the central location, create a folder called “Internet”. You can find the individual programs and drag them into this new folder or you can drag folders into this folder. Just repeat this process until you are happy with your start menu.

Step 3: Personalize the start menu

This step is only required if you want to limit the programs available to certain users. Each user, or login, to the computer has a folder under ‘Documents and Settings’. Under each user’s folder, there is a Start Menu folder. If you want user x, and no one else, to have quick access to a certain program just cut and paste that program from the central, ‘All Users’, into that user’s start menu. If you want user x and user y to have access, just copy and paste instead.

Now that your computer is running faster, you’ll probably be more productive, if you don’t just play games that is. As always, if you have any questions, please leave a comment.

Calculating your computer’s actual speed

There’s a huge misconception about computers: The processor’s speed is the speed of the computer. The truth is all the components inside, and outside, the case figures into the overall speed of the computer. This includes the processor (CPU), RAM, hard drive, DVD/CD drive, the motherboard, USB ports, USB devices, the video card, and even the software. We’ll go into each of these in detail to figure out the real speed.

The CPU does play a major role, but can be limited by other components. The main point of interest is having a dual core or quad core processor. Dual core processors are like having two CPUs, but programs don’t run twice as fast. These CPUs are rated to run 70% faster. Be on the lookout for an explanation tomorrow.

RAM, or memory, is the second most important speed factor. The amount depends on what you are doing, no more than 1GB for normal use. RAM has a speed also, and that plays a critical role. Make sure to check the speed when you buy a new computer, because manufacturer’s will use slower RAM, because it’s a few cents cheaper.

Next up is the hard drive and DVD/CD drive. First off, you’ve got RPMs. Most hard drives spin at 7200 RPMs, which is fine. DVD/CD drives calculate speed by a multiplier of a base speed. The interface is also important. IDE, the old standard, transmits data at 133 MB/s. The new standard, SATA, transmits at 375 MB/s. There is a dramatic difference here, but not all motherboards support SATA, so double check.

The motherboard plays a small role because it can limit the interfaces of the CPU, RAM, drives, USB ports, and video card. USB ports, and devices, should be 2.0, not 1.1 or 1.0. SATA support is a plus, but not a must. The video card interface is critical if you are into gaming. PCI Express(PCI-E) is the latest standard here. nVidia has taken this interface a step further with SLI, which requires 2 PCI-E 16x ports.

Video cards are important for gaming, but not much else. The interface, PCI-E or AGP or PCI, plays a large role. Modern video cards have a processor(GPU) and RAM that runs at a particular speed. SLI takes this to the extreme by using 2 PCI-E nVidia video cards. Each draws half of the screen, making it render at close to double the rate.

Keep these things in mind when buying or upgrading your computer.