Budget for Hardware

I’ve just read this blog post that deals about the benefit of having the right hardware to work for developers. Quite often having or not having an SSD is not the real problem, because developers works with machine with low ram and slow disks and this is especially true for people working with laptop, that often uses 5.400 standard RPM disks.

It is difficult to understand how much minutes or hours per day a developer can save moving from an average speed hardware to a top speed hardware and without these numbers it is difficult to justify the expense of buying top speed hardware. On the opposite, if it is difficult to demonstrate the gain in productivity with fast hardware, it is quite simpler to demonstrate the lack of productivity with crappy hardware.

Developers are strange kind of workers, quite often they like their work and working with crappy hardware will make a developer sad and frustrated. I’ve seen people that must wait for minutes to do a Subversion updates and minutes to fully rebuild a solution just because they have 5.400 RPM disks and 2 GB of RAM. The first bad effect of having crappy hardware is creating frustration in developers and a frustrated employee usually is less productive.

If the developer should wait for 2 minutes to build the solution, he will tend to utilize that time to do other stuff, because watching compiler output for 2 minutes is not a viable option ;); but 2 minutes is not enough time to do anything useful, then the programmer will do something “not useful” like: facebook, twitter, or else. Usually it will end with the compiler finished working and the developer still occupied answering to twitter.

Another problem is losing the “context”, if you need to wait a long time waiting for your tool of choice to compile and test your modification you loose your stream of thought. This is especially true if you are fixing complex bug, or you are doing a complex task, if you spend long time waiting for the result, your mind start to thinking to other stuff and you lose your focus.

When you are used to crappy hardware, you start thinking that the company will never spend money even for useful tools, so you start to lose time reinventing the weel or doing work in the wrong way.

My suggestion is, if you are not convinced that you developer will really need Top Speed Hardware, please convince yourself that they need at least Average Speed Hardware, because the lack of productivity of a developer with low performing hardware is terrific.

But in the end I can confirm also that the gain of speed of having a top speed machine is worth the price and I strongly encourage to buy fast SSD for every developer and machine with at leash 8 GB of RAM and an i5 or i7 CPU, this will make your developers more productive and usually happier and not frustrated.

Gian Maria.

Extract the maximum from your Hardware

I used to be a hardware enthusiast in the past, I start overclocking PC in the old day of 486, and I loved to tweak my system to squeeze out the most I can. After lots of years are passed, I have no time to follow overclocking forum, and I do not want to risk system stability to have a little increase in performance.

In the last post I show the benchmark for all of my disks units, and after the benchmark I got a suggestion of running the Intel Solid State Drive Toolbox to verify that my settings makes my ssd disk operates at maximum speed.

It tells me to disable Superfetch/Prefetch o_O


After telling the toolbox to change all settings for optimum performance I pass from this score


To this one


I ran the test several times, and the result are consistent, actually I have a good improvement in sequential and 512k tests.

The old days when tweaking your hardware requires a good knowledge of what you are doing are gone :) in these days you can simply fire a tool, asking him to do optimization for you, and you got better performance for almost free.

Gian Maria

Benchmarking your disks

I love Fast Hard Disks and in the last month I bought an SSD and a replacement 2TB disk for my Virtual Machine disk that failed last week. Today I wanted to do a little benchmark on all the disks that are inside my machine to verify the differencies between the various units.

These are the results from my Intel-X25 M disk


These ones are for RAID-0 of two WD Velociraptor 10K RPM (150 GB each)


These ones are for my single WD Caviar Green EARX 2TB 7200 RPM


What conclusion I had from this simple test? The SSD completely outperform all other configuration in 4K and 4k QD32. The Big Surprise was the Caviar Green, a really inexpensive disk (64€ for 2T of space) can compare with 2 Velociraptor on RAID-0, and in 512k test it is actually faster. This will makes me to entire reconsider the expense of buying a 10K RPM unit right now, because it seems to me that new 7200 RPM disks are cheaper and faster :)

Gian Maria.

The good part of having a lot of RAM

I’ve learned in the past a precious rule about hardware: try to imagine how you will use your pc in at least one or two years period before thinking to buy some piece of hardware.

I remember a lot of years ago, when I bought a pc with a 1.6 GB Hard Disk, a size that was really big for these period, when standard pc had 512 MB Hard Disk or less. I remember a couple of friends of mine told me “why you spent money on such a big Hard Disk, it is really too big, you will never need such a big space”. After one year, I ran in those machine a partition of Windows 95, one for DOS, a stable partition with Linux Slackware distribution and a fourth partition to experiment the new distribution of linux that we downloaded from the university. I’ve plenty of space while my friends strived themselves to keep everything inside 512 MB.

Today I installed a virtual machine to experiment TFS 11 and saw that during installation of SharePoint foundation there is a warning telling me that 10GB RAM is suggested for best experience, so I go to VM setting, and gave 12 GB of RAM to the VM. :)


Actually there is no need to have 12 GB to experiment with TFS11, a 4 GB machine will be enough to create a test environment, but having 16 GB of ram and an SSD on my machine permits me to play with a superfast test TFS 11 machine.

And I rethink to a couple of friends of mine, that 4 month ago told me that spending money on 16 GB of ram is not so useful, because 8 GB is surely enough for any usage :).

Now I’m moving toward a QNAP External HD case, and probably for Christmas another SSD (A Vertex 3) :P, I love hardware.


My new Workstation is arrived

After a couple of years of upgrades, my old workstation reached a limit and another upgrade would not make me benefit so much, so I decided that is time to move to an entire new workstation. As usual  I started to look around to decide what to buy to avoid spending big money, while having a good increase of performances.

Here is what I bought after some month of ranting against Intel, because bug in chipset of Sandy Bridge based processor motherboard had delayed my new system of 3 month.

First of all the CPU: since I do not want to waste money, I consulted the CpuBenchmark chart


Figure 1:  CPU benchmark chart

As you can see the newest i7-2600 Sandy Bridge processor has a really high score (8.854), while maintaining a really low price, compared to more powerful CPU, and this make simple the choice of the CPU.

Then I have to choose the motherboard, and the decision was between an H67 or P67 chipset based motherboard. The choice was a P8P67 motherboard for two distinct reason. The H67 chipset is optimal if you want to use the Video card included in the CPU core (yes, the i7-2600 cpu has a video card in the core :P) but this is not acceptable for me, because I have three monitors, so I need a motherboard that supports two video cards.                     

The other factor is the lack of support for high speed ram on H67 based motherboard. Basically my reseller can find for me a 16 GB of 1.6GHz RAM  (Corsair vengeance) at a very low price (basically a little more than the 1.333 version), so I decided to opt for a P67 based motherboard that will support 1.6 Ghz ram. For amount of ram I moved from 8 to 16 GB, because I work a lot with virtual machine and I found myself swapping heavily even with 8 gb of ram.


This is the core of the machine, then I bought a Intel X-25M 120 GB SSD disk, while keeping a raid of Two 150GB velociraptor (10k disks with 32 mb of cache) stolen from my old system. (the two velociraptor disks are the only part that I recycled from the old system to the new one).

The perceived responsiveness of the system is really improved. I know that since I’ve reinstalled a clean system, this is an unfair comparison with the old computer, but installing Visual Studio 2010 from an Iso image took 5 minutes and 4 seconds (runtime of .NET 4.0 included). I also notice that most of the improvement comes from the SSD disk, that is really fast compared to a standard one, here is my windows 7 experience index.


I’m really satisfied of this new box.