Thursday, December 28, 2006

More than 4Gb Windows and XP x64

Finally there are memory modules and kits that allow you to get past the 4Gb barrier.

In newegg you find G. Skill DDR2-800 dual channel (128 bits) 4Gb memory kit (2x2), allowing you to install up to 8Gb. Sad that the product is CAS-6, rather slow taking into account that newest DDR2 -800 modules come CAS-4. -- UPDATE (JAN - 25) There are CAS-5 modules available, Geil and GSkill brands, also in newegg.

What would you do with a computer with more than 4Gb of RAM?

I was so attentive to when the 2Gb memories were going to hit the market because I do "megatasking" routinely having so many virtual machines running simultaneously, and inside them I do everything from transcoding video to web serving.

But if you are currently a content Windows user at more usual RAM capacities, then more than 4Gb won't give you much extra satisfaction.

No windows version of 32 bits can really make use of all of that RAM memory without incurring in nasty compromises, thus you must use a 64 bit Windows. But then the problem is that none of the 64 bit variants (there are only XP x64, 2003 x64 and Vista x64) are compelling operating systems.

I am writing from XP x64 Professional and 2003 x64 is very similar thus my experience applies to both:

XP was always assumed to be a 32 bit O.S. by everybody from hardware manufacturers to software developers (including malware crackers), and being Windows what it is, tolerated harmful practices that hardened the task of updating the O.S. without breaking compatibility with multitude of devices and applications.

Nevertheless, Microsoft did a good job wrapping up the 32 bit API in WoW (Windows over Windows) to allow AMD64 long mode of operation while offering compatibility for old applications. Thanks to this design success, it is possible to make use of the benefits of AMD64 to compensate for the other defficiencies of XP x64, but users must be aware of the trade-offs involved and personally, I am moving away from it because I don't find enough compensation.

In summary, AMD64 long mode allows Windows compatibility for applications but not for drivers and doesn't allow hybrid 32/64 applications/dlls.

Although the 64 bit interfaces in Windows are good, the applications world was already too set up in the 32 bit ways to make the change and that forces users to stick to the 32 bits. Then, in XP x64 there is the constant fight between the old applications and the enhanced features:

You have Internet Explorer as an uncontaminated (comparatively) 64 bit application, but not even Windows Update would use it, Windows Update sticks to the dreadful 32 bits version. Why? because the ActiveX controls on which Windows Update is dependant assume 32 bits. The same thing with all the nice features that you can put to an Internet Explorer.

Mozilla/Firefox? The Mozilla foundation hasn't even bothered to port to 64 bits. Cygwin? the same.

Java? I had a horrible experience trying to make the programs I wanted to use 64 bits Java because most of the applications, being 32 bits, assumed it and interfaced through DLLs that were incompatible. In general, it became a mess of which Java Runtime was going to get executed for real.

Development? Visual C++ Express 2005 supports x64 only through multiple workarounds.

Since x64 also requires special drivers that are uneconomical for device manufacturers to provide, the hardware support for x64 leaves too much to be desired.

Since it is difficult "right off the bat" to develop for x64, it is lagging behind.

Since it is lagging behind it is unpopular among the enthusiasts/power users who want to be on the edge. Since it doesn't have the support of that important market segment, then it is uneconomical to support it, closing the vicious cycle.

I lost enthusiasm about XP x64 because the harware and software support for XP x64 hasn't really improved from the times when I started to use it; what you get are undertested, old, unsupported drivers and applications; the community of users, although much better in knowledge per person than other communities is so small that in no way we compensate for our tiny numbers, there isn't much mutual help. And to top that off, my appreciation, after one year of usage, is that the community has been shrinking because its constituency of early adopters (such as myself, to a degree) who expected XP x64 to migrate toward mainstream have been continually dissapointed and have seen that it was passed over by Vista.

Then, there is Vista x64, which like any Vista version is a completely unacceptable Operating Systems for many reasons, most prominently being a TOTALITARIAN Operating System that the owner (actually licensee) doesn't control and in which Microsoft may decide regardless of the computer owner what the computer should or shouldn't do, for instance, to not play HD video or to deactivate a device because it is not complying to Microsoft's orders (again, regardless of the owner/licensee); that the O.S. consumes resources like crazy to purposedly obstruct the user to do things that potentially may collide with the interests of Microsoft, or in the best of cases to provide him/her with irrelevant graphics. There will be posts detailing how Vista is unacceptable.

In conclusion, the large memory modules which could make one of the most important advantages of XP x64 (and AMD64) to shine, came to the market so late that made them a moot point.


Superkikim said...

That was a long time ago. But still true. I'm using Vista x64 right now. My main issue with vista today is bad network throughput. But globally, also the lack of driver support. Almost all applications are 32bits. The only reason why I use x64 it's because of my 8GB RAM I bought ! What a mistake. I'll go back down to 4GB, and I will install Windows XP ... Back to old way ...

Eddie said...

I don't think it is a mistake to have 8 Gb.

It is not important that most of the applications are 32 bits, they simply won't use the extended capabilities of the processor, that's all.

But yes, Vista sucks, and Vista x64 is as bad as XP x64 regarding drivers. Still, the x64 drivers have the potential to become much better than any 32 bits over time