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Apple Desktops Discussion of Apple's desktop machines including Mac Pro, iMac, Power Mac, and mini

Why aren't computers really "faster"?


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Head_Unit

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pigoo3 View Post
2gig of ram is the max for that computer. If you need more speed...upgrading to a faster computer is the answer.

- Nick
The above was an answer to another thread. But it made me really think, because I frankly kinda reject that answer in many ways.

For common tasks, I don't feel computers have gotten ANY faster at all over the last 10+ years. This is true for Mac OR PC. Yes, I can have many more applications open at once. Yes, browsers can run web pages with active content. But most tasks still are far from instantaneous:
- Open any Office application. Heck, any application at all. Does it pop right open? Heck no!!!
- Open a new document inside an open application. Yawn. Wait.
- Play something in iTunes. Try to filter your large library, or try to rename information on a number of files.
- Boot the machine.
- Print.
For many people these are the most common tasks, and they still take basically as long as when there was only DOS. OK, a bit of exaggeration, but not much.

WHY?

Umpteen-fold increases in processor speed and memory have yielded...what, exactly?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Head_Unit View Post
The above was an answer to another thread. But it made me really think, because I frankly kinda reject that answer in many ways.

For common tasks, I don't feel computers have gotten ANY faster at all over the last 10+ years. This is true for Mac OR PC. Yes, I can have many more applications open at once. Yes, browsers can run web pages with active content. But most tasks still are far from instantaneous:
- Open any Office application. Heck, any application at all. Does it pop right open? Heck no!!!
- Open a new document inside an open application. Yawn. Wait.
- Play something in iTunes. Try to filter your large library, or try to rename information on a number of files.
- Boot the machine.
- Print.
For many people these are the most common tasks, and they still take basically as long as when there was only DOS. OK, a bit of exaggeration, but not much.

WHY?

Umpteen-fold increases in processor speed and memory have yielded...what, exactly?
Computers have gotten a lotttt faster.
My Mom bought me a Walmart special for my first laptop. 400 mhz processor, 80 gb hard drive, 256kb RAM, etc. It literally took 7 minutes to boot and be usable. Computers now take 30 seconds - 1 minute to boot and be usable.

What most consumers don't understand is your hard drive is the bottleneck of your system (90% of the time). A slow hard drive leads to: Slow app opening (what you posted), slow boot times (what you posted), filtering a large iTunes library (what you posted).

Computers have goten a lot faster but the average Joe doesn't understand that the HD is probably the best way to increase the speed of your computer. Why don't you upgrade to a 7200 RPM drive or even a SSD if you want speed? If you want to be proactive about it, look up the speed of your hard drive and do something about it. It's not a difficult replace. Computers ship with cheapy 5400 RPM drives, 90% of the time. If you didn't know this, you should do some research yourself and figure out how to speed up your system. Seeing as your computer is always accessing your hard drive, you speed the hard drive up, you speed your system up.

Technology moves so fast that it is always improving. This being said, disposable parts of your computer are easier to get and replace (for that reason, upgradability). If you want a computer that you can always be upgrading and whatnot, buy a nice Windows desktop. You can upgrade the CPU, GPU, RAM, HD, Optical Drive, everything.

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Doug b

 
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If I'm understanding correctly, what Head-Unit appears to be saying and I'll partially agree with, is that while processors RAM and HD's HAVE gotten faster, they've all done so in order to compensate and keep up with the same TYPE of applications which one would think should be coded to not need the massive amounts of power they take in order to run in the first place.

This is almost analogous to running a blazing fast Linux OS with hardware from yesteryear and that can even compete with the most modern of set ups. The problem I guess, is that even though hardware continues to evolve and get faster/better, it seems that the software it is supporting is not maturing from a perspective which would lighten the load for said hardware. I'm not a software engineer, so of course I can't say any of this with certainty or authority, but I understand where the OP is coming from.

I always feel as if with each new iteration of most popular software on both MS and Mac platforms, the code just keeps getting sloppier, more bulky and in less of a position to let the hardware it's running on, really shine. Though I'll admit that Apple have their acts together a heck'ov a lot better than MS in this respect. I mostly saw this when I first switched to Linux, where it seems that those programs which are labeled as being "solid" or "polished" required virtually no horsepower to run, and could wipe the floor with competing products on both the hardware and software side.

The reasons for this can get mighty political, so I guess I'll end it on that note. So, was I totally off in my assessment of your ideas Head-Unit?

Doug
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Yes, hardware has gotten faster and yes, software has gotten more complex (and people manage much more content with their computers now) so you don't see the blazing speeds you're expecting. All I suggest as evidence that computers have gotten much faster is take that library or rename that large batch on a P3 450Mhz machine with 128 MB RAM. So yes, you don't see your computer do everything as fast as a rocket ship but your computer (and all machines) are doing so much more than they used to do.

It's a bit of an odd game - software developers have more to play with so they push the limits of the hardware and because of this, hardware developers have to push harder to make faster equipment and then the circle starts over.

One last thought - a web browser (had to pick something) opens at least twice as fast on my machine compared to an older one running an older version. I remember the waits for IE6 to open on an older Windows box - I never wait that long for a modern browser on my machine. So in some case, hardware improvement can out pace those of software developers.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Head_Unit View Post
The above was an answer to another thread. But it made me really think, because I frankly kinda reject that answer in many ways.

For common tasks, I don't feel computers have gotten ANY faster at all over the last 10+ years. This is true for Mac OR PC.
Reject away as much as you want...but you still will be wrong!

What experience base do you have for making this statement? Your signature says you have a 1.8ghz G5 iMac. That's a 5-6 year-old computer...you must be insane to think that computers haven't gotten faster over the last 5-6 years.

I happen to have TWO 1.8ghz G5 iMacs (as well as a LARGE collection of other Macintosh computers)...including a MacBook, a MacBook Pro, and a Mac Pro desktop. I've got to tell you...Macintosh computers HAVE gotten faster since the 1.8ghz G5 iMac you have.

All you have to do is read a good comprehensive benchmarking article comparing Mac models over the last 5 years or so...and you will clearly see that computers have gotten faster AND much more capable of doing MUCH more complex tasks.

For example:

Mac Benchmarks

As you can see in this benchmarking list using the "Geekbench" benchmarking program:

- your 1.8ghz G5 iMac has a score of 1000
- a new 27" iMac gets a score of 9000
- a new MacBook Pro gets a score of almost 6000
- and the fastest Mac Pro has a score of 21,500

And graphics score of new Mac's are "thru the roof" compared to a G5 iMac.

Like I said...reject away...but you would be very very wrong!

- Nick

- Computer slow, too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
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pigoo3

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug b View Post
If I'm understanding correctly, what Head-Unit appears to be saying and I'll partially agree with, is that while processors RAM and HD's HAVE gotten faster, they've all done so in order to compensate and keep up with the same TYPE of applications which one would think should be coded to not need the massive amounts of power they take in order to run in the first place.
I definitely understand & agree with what you're saying. If 2010 computers were running (or could run) applications from say 5 years ago...you bet that they would SCREAM!!!

This comparison is just like taking a 933mhz Powermac G4 (which can natively boot into OS 9)...and running OS 9 apps. The OS 9 apps. absolutely SCREAM on that 933mhz Powermac G4...remembering that those same OS 9 apps were developed when a 200mhz Mac computer was top of the line back in the mid-late 1990's.

But overall...software programs have gotten more sophisticated, complex, and capable of doing many more things than apps. from 2005. So todays computers are faster & MUCH more capable of doing more complex tasks & running much more complex & capable applications.

- Nick

- Computer slow, too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
- Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
- Apple Battery Info. Battery
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s2odin

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug b View Post
If I'm understanding correctly, what Head-Unit appears to be saying and I'll partially agree with, is that while processors RAM and HD's HAVE gotten faster, they've all done so in order to compensate and keep up with the same TYPE of applications which one would think should be coded to not need the massive amounts of power they take in order to run in the first place.
They don't need massive amounts of energy. They need a capable hard drive....

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Doug b

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pigoo3 View Post
I definitely understand & agree with what you're saying. If 2010 computers were running (or could run) applications from say 5 years ago...you bet that they would SCREAM!!!

This comparison is just like taking a 933mhz Powermac G4 (which can natively boot into OS 9)...and running OS 9 apps. The OS 9 apps. absolutely SCREAM on that 933mhz Powermac G4...remembering that those same OS 9 apps were developed when a 200mhz Mac computer was top of the line back in the mid-late 1990's.



- Nick
Hey... A boy can dream, can't he ?

And that's why I said I only partially agreed with the OP. Seeing where he was coming from, his assertions were correct, but his data and theories were not. Double edged sword dealie.

Doug
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Quote:
Originally Posted by s2odin View Post
They don't need massive amounts of energy. They need a capable hard drive....
Ok, mabye "massive" was a bit of an exaggeration.. but still, the physics and fundamental math of it all, requires power/energy. Some HD's are more efficient at doing their jobs, due to materials, design, cooperation with firmware/software etc.. so what I said is not totally out of left field IMO.

Doug
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Originally Posted by Doug b View Post
Hey... A boy can dream, can't he ?

And that's why I said I only partially agreed with the OP. Seeing where he was coming from, his assertions were correct, but his data and theories were not. Double edged sword dealie.

Doug
Yes (to some degree) if a person is happy using a 2005 computer & running 2005 applications...then this setup would probably be ok from a speed perspective. The one area where this setup doesn't work is with internet browsing. Internet content continues to evolve...so this is where an older OS, older hardware, and older browsers may not be optimal.

But then taking this discussion one step further. You could take a 10 year-old 350mhz iMac running OS 9 and running 10 year-old versions of applications (MS Office, Photoshop, old games, etc.)...and say that setup is pretty snappy too. But not everyone would be satisfied using a 10 year-old computer running 10 year-old apps.

- Nick

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- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
- Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
- Apple Battery Info. Battery
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Software and code will always expand in size and inefficiency to fill the space provided by a system. Want to speed up software? Give a developer a slow workstation with few resources. The resultant code will be written efficiently. Want slow code? Give a developer massive CPU and RAM to code with. The art of coding today is a bit less sophisticated than it has been previously. I see so many libraries loaded into memory to do simple tasks, and so many child processes involved with the trivial. Often times, applications are coded in ways that work, but really are not optimized for the task. Look at how everything became Java-based a few years back. Much of the things that are done with Java today, are complete overkill and require tons of resources and overhead to do something as simple as copying a file in a browser. A Java desktop calculator? Really? People seem to go nuts with modularity to the point of bloating simple applications. Blah, blah, blah... end of rant.

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Sonicjet

 
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This thread makes a good point, power on a windows 7 laptop with a c2d and 4gb of ram, you are looking at a 1 min boot time, power on a eMac G4, you are looking at a 40 sec boot time. Software wise we really have gone backwards, MS office 2007 is some of the worst software I have ever used,then you have the ribbon , everything is out of place, Ms can't code for a million bucks. Also, why on earth is the Snow Leopard disk a DL DVD? thats 8gb, the Windows 7 dis is only 4.7 GB...
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I think this problem has several issues that creates the problem. First off most of what Head_Unit has asked for can be solved by upgrading the hard drive to a faster one. A person can get the fastest computer on earth but with a slow hard drive they will still experience the same problems. A computer is only as fast as its slowest part and most average computer users don't realize this so they buy the fastest CPU and think that's all it takes. Part of the reason why the new MacBook Air seems so fast is because it comes with an SSD hard drive even though its processor is slower than a MacBook Pro.

The other problem as vansmith pointed out is that software developers are making use of the faster computers so software nowadays are more demanding than they were in the past. This means that noticeable performance levels out because as computers get faster software gets more demanding proportionally. As mentioned by others if we used older software on newer machines then we will see the speed difference. For example I could play an older game at the highest settings but it would hardly be a challenge for a recent computer.

Part of the blame comes down to us the consumers because most people won't upgrade and buy new software if all they did was make it more efficient and faster. People seem to want fancy new features as a reason to upgrade. With every new fancy feature, it means the software becomes more demanding and bloated. For example TextEdit is a very simple word processor but many people want the fancy features of Microsoft Office or Open Office. TextEdit can easily be run on a computer that's a decade old and still feel reasonably fast but you can't say the same with a recent version of Office (either brand).

In a way it's like how some rich billionaires don't feel rich because if they are buying million dollar houses, expensive cars, $200 toilet paper, etc then they won't feel as rich compared to if their expenses were the same as the average working Joe. It's the same with computers. If you use demanding or inefficient software then your computer won't feel as fast as it use to. This is part of the reason why people are forced to upgrade because the new software they installed just seems so slow on their current machines or the new minimum requirements are more than their current computers.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XJ-linux View Post
Want to speed up software? Give a developer a slow workstation with few resources. The resultant code will be written efficiently. Want slow code? Give a developer massive CPU and RAM to code with.
That's a good point and relates to what I have said. When developers have the luxury of more computer performance resources they make use of it with either new demanding features or as you mentioned they get lazy and sloppy with the coding because they are working on a machine that is so fast it hides the slowdowns their sloppy coding creates.

I have always thought it was a good idea for software developers to have an old computer around to test their coding on.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XJ-linux View Post
Software and code will always expand in size and inefficiency to fill the space provided by a system. Want to speed up software? Give a developer a slow workstation with few resources. The resultant code will be written efficiently. Want slow code? Give a developer massive CPU and RAM to code with. The art of coding today is a bit less sophisticated than it has been previously. I see so many libraries loaded into memory to do simple tasks, and so many child processes involved with the trivial. Often times, applications are coded in ways that work, but really are not optimized for the task.
Because developers often have priorities that don't even register on end users' radar. Like time-to-market and maintainability.

Coding everything from scratch in assembly can get you some nice, fast code...that ends up coming out three years late, breaks whenever the OS API is updated, and requires you to channel Alan Turing's ghost to debug.
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