I’ve written before about the non-intuitive nature of visual effects in recent versions of Windows, where offloading the desktop rendering duties to the graphics card can result in considerable performance improvements. While this is true for nearly any modern PC, including those with ‘integrated’ graphics cards, there are still steps one may take to enhance performance. Continue reading
If you’re looking for a new PC, you can ask any geek and they’ll tell you to build clean. Their reason is simple: the manufacturer’s cripple their own products before they ever send it to you. Even if you buy direct, original equipment manufacturers make money by pre-installing trials, games, bundles, even spyware on to their computers. Resellers from BestBuy to Walmart are even worse. Make no mistake: you’re being sold out before you even buy. Continue reading
Has your computer ever re-drawn the screen slowly? Or has a lagging program ever turned black or duplicated itself like this:
You can alleviate these slow-downs and even prevent GDI driver-mode related crashes by using Windows Aero, available in Windows Home Premium and higher editions.
You can tell if Aero is on by looking at the top of almost any window. If the window controls (known as caption buttons) are touching the edge, you’re using Aero. It’s a subtle indicator, but it’s there:
The Aero design also has translucent effects, like real glass (yes, window glass, we get it). In addition to a faster and more reliable computer, Aero also provides benefits such as live previews in your Taskbar.
To enable Aero, simply right-click your desktop background, choose Personalize, and then click any theme in the Aero section.
So why does it work? I thought the fancy graphics made the computer run slower?
Most modern computers have a separate processor entirely dedicated to graphics processing. Unless you’re playing a graphics intensive video game, this processor is normally sitting unused while your core processor (CPU) does all the work. That means your main CPU is busy trying to calculate everything going on and draw the graphic updates to the screen.
If you move a window across the screen, the system asks the program underneath to show itself. If there’s a lag or the system is busy, you see black space until the program can redraw itself. There’s many opportunities for bottlenecks here, which can be very slow if the program was paged to disk. Without Aero, the entire system falls back to this 1980s technology, developed prior to the advent of dedicated graphics systems.
Did you know this old graphics processing technology is also responsible for the vast majority of all “blue screen” crashes over the entire past decade?
But with Aero, this graphic stuff is stored in your video memory and processed by the graphics processor unit (GPU). Your main CPU is free to do the real computing. You essentially just doubled your computing power.
- Due to the significant power of GPU processors, Microsoft research has been collaborating with Nvidia on high-performance computing. Expect to see even more performance in the near future thanks to the wedding of GPU and CPU’s.
Why not give Aero a try today?
Why do I love Windows 7? Today, because it lets me multitask like never before. Right now, I have no less than 16 applications running. One of those is a virtual PC of Windows 2000 that I use to connect to my workplace (they use a legacy VPN system). So really, I’m running two full operating systems and dozens of applications… But you’d never know because the computer is as zippy as ever. I can minimize, switch, resize, move, compute, and fully use each application without any delay, lag, or even visual glitching that was so common in Windows XP.
This laptop came with Vista, Windows 7′s younger sibling. Even though Vista began the revolution, it never felt as quick as Windows 7 does today on the same hardware, Here’s just a few things I have running right now (click for larger images)
- Windows Live Writer (to write this blog post)
- Windows Live Messenger
- Another IM client for social network chatting
- Sticky notes
- Windows Live Mail (personal email)
- Microsoft Office Outlook 2010 Beta for Exchange mail
- Google Chrome, with 7 tabs across two windows
- Windows Virtual PC running Windows 2000
- World of Warcraft
- Microsoft Office Word 2010 Beta
- Widows Task Manager (just to see how taxed my system is right now… which is very little)
In the background I also have many services running, including Microsoft Security Essentials, PlayOn, Windows Live Sync, and Live Mesh.
Why is it so easy to multitask now? To be honest, I never thought my over 3-year old laptop was capable of this. In Vista, I wouldn’t dare. Perhaps it was always capable technically and I owe it to the new Taskbar, which really hides the number of tasks and lets me “just do” instead of worrying and micromanaging my computer when I see a crowded array of dozens of running tasks. It manages itself, I just use it.
- Update Feb 12, 2012: Windows 8 continues this trend of lowering the walls between running and stopped tasks. Either way, the experience will be the same, and the app will stop itself when you switch away from it (like most smartphones).
Even with the graphics intensive games running, I can use Windows Flip 3D and browse my programs in a rolodex view, and still maintain 50 frames per second in Warcraft. Simply stunning.
Right now my processor is at 59% and I have 88 tasks running. I’m sure my battery wouldn’t hold out long under this load, but while docked, this is amazing.