Workflow Experiment: Changes

So, I ended up having quite a few problems with the original setup that weren’t expected.  I am going to have to fundamentally change the way that I look at how I do work, and what exactly is needed while I am doing said work.

Here’s a fairly short explanation.

RAM

I couldn’t help it.  I ended up getting 8GB of DDR2 RAM, which maxes out my motherboard.  Just the thought of having that much RAM makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

This leads me to the next problem:

Operating Systems

After deciding that I wanted to max out the RAM on my motherboard, I had to change operating systems to a fully 64-bit selection, so that I could utilize that large amount of RAM.

With 32-bit operating systems, there is a limit to the amount of RAM that can possibly be accessed by the core system, which is 3.5GB.  I had already maxed it out according to that limit, but of course I had to take things further.

So, I had to switch to 64-bit OS in order to truly harness the power of this beast with 8GB of RAM.

Switching to 64-bit Ubuntu is absolutely no issue.  Installation went great, and the results were back within 30 minutes of putting in the livecd:

Awesome.

Awesome.

So, what about Windows?  Well after doing some searching about Windows XP 64-bit Edition, I’ve come to find out that it’s sort of a bastard child in the Windows line.  XP was not originally intended for 64-bit platforms, so I would end up having some issues.  On top of that, Adobe CS4 doesn’t support all features on XP 64-bit, which would leave me with a crippled Photoshop CS4 Extended.

So, I’ve made the decision to use Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit.  I won’t be able to install it just yet, as it’s still in transit as we speak.  But I have high hopes for this to drastically improve my gaming performance with 64-bit vs. 32-bit as well as 8GB vs. 3.5GB of RAM.

Hardware

The RAID controller that I was planning on using to host the 4 250GB hard drives turns out to not work with an Ubuntu LiveCD.  On top of this, I was unable to boot to a specific drive once I had an operating system installed, using just the BIOS boot disk menu.

So, instead of 4 drives of 250GB in size, I thought to use 4 250GB partitions on a 1TB drive for my installs.  This turned out to not even matter, as you will find out later.

VirtualBox

As I began settling into my new 64-bit Ubuntu install, I installed VirtualBox and allotted the full 3.5GB of RAM (once again, the max for 32-bit operating systems), and installed Windows XP.

A funny thing happened: Windows XP runs better in VirtualBox than it ever did on the bare metal.

That’s a pretty weird thought, but perhaps there’s some magic in that old XP install.  So, from henceforth, I’m not going to worry about performance as it pertains to gaming vs. everything else workflow, as now I have a fully functional Windows XP install inside Ubuntu, allowing me to run my CS4 applications at native speeds, as well as allowing me to do all of my web development from inside Ubuntu side by side.

With this new model in place, I will have just 2 installs for this experiment:

  • 500GB Ubuntu 64-bit install (for everything else)
  • 500GB Windows Vista 64-bit install (for gaming)

This is absolutely ideal.  I in fact have 4 operating system installs on this computer:

  • 80GB IDE Drive
    • Ubuntu 32-bit
  • 80GB SATA Drive
    • Windows XP 32-bit
  • 1TB SATA Drive
    • Ubuntu 64-bit
    • Windows Vista 64-bit

It might sound a bit complicated, and in truth, the setup process is and will be (when Vista is finally installed), but it simplifies things drastically in relationship to benchmarking.

GRUB

Because there will be three different MBRs with these operating systems, and my BIOS boot disk menu isn’t very sophisticated, I am going to have to go with GRUB in order to control my startup menu.

This can be interesting, but I’ve set it up to the point where I now have a choice between Windows XP, Ubuntu (32-bit) and Ubuntu (64-bit).  Now I just have to make sure I back up my GRUB settings before I install Vista, which is bound to completely screw things up.

Conclusion

Even though the setup has changed drastically, at least I will be able to get some metrics out of gaming on a Windows XP 32-bit installation with 3.5GB of RAM, and the same hardware under Windows Vista 64-bit with 8GB of RAM.

I look forward to doing the benchmarks using a brand new install of Vista strictly for gaming, and I hope to be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Stay tuned for updates, as I should be getting Vista any day now…