12th > December > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Tell Sandra we love her

Review Does your Windows based PC ever break down, not seem to work properly or doesn't deliver the performance you think you're paying for? No, of course it doesn't. However, if you're the one in 100 million who this does happen to, you may just need a diagnostic tool to figure out what's gone wrong. On the other hand, you might also be interested in tuning the performance of your PC, finding out how fast your CPU, hard drives and networks run, and discovering the date of your latest drivers. SiSoft Sandra claims to provide all of these capabilities and more. The software, which is available in both a shareware version and a fully fledged Professional version, includes a number of modules designed to supply information, benchmarking, listing and testing/diagnostic for your Win95/Win98 based PC. The only difference between the shareware version and the professional version is that the former has some of the modules disabled. Here, we're taking a quick look at the Professional version. Information Modules There's a total of 30 different functions covered here, including system summary; info about your BIOS, CPU, chipset and mainboard; the operating system you're using; how many and what type of drives you have; details held in your CMOS; networking data; sound cards; PCI & AGP buses; font data and a lots more. For example, the network information module will show what machines you're attached to, as well as giving you data about the connection speed and driver information. The mainboard module shows me that I'm running on the Intel BX chipset, demonstrates the AGP rate, and even gives me some performance tips for improving its performance. Benchmarking Module Ah, benchmarketing. How many dollars have been lost or won on graphs showing how one machine, one CPU or a chipset performs against others? There is a total of six benchmarking modules in Sandra, covering CPU, CPU multimedia, the drives you have in your machine, the speed of your CD-ROM, your memory and your network. The machine used for this review is a 500MHz Pentium III on a Seattle II BX mobo. Sandra's display shows both the CPU Dhrystone and FPU Whetstone benchmarks, and compares the speed of your machine to other typical configurations, including processors from Intel, AMD, and IDT. There's also some additional information -- the CPU in this machine, for example, appears to be an Intel Pentium III 499MHz chip. The multimedia CPU test compares performance of Screaming Sindy instructions against competition such as 3DNow! Damn. An AMD processor appears to be faster than this Pentium III chip. The memory benchmark shows how the complete subsystem including CPU, cache, DRAM, &c compares to other systems, as well as giving more or less arcane details about the memory processes in a machine. The drive module is an eye opener, especially when you've got a mixture of old and new HDDs in a machine, like I have. It just goes to show what a difference a brand new, superfast hard drive can make to your clunky Win98 system. Listing Module Care about what's contained in your CONFIG.SYS, or MSDOS.SYS settings in Win95/98? Many people feel they don't want to at all, but nevertheless have to get down to this gruesome level of nitty-gritty at some stage or another. These listing modules in Sandra show the contents of those pesky little files that you wish you never had to consider, and also let you copy and paste them into a text editor for printing out or tweaking. There's also a useful module in this category which shows you environment variables, such as paths you may have to directories, where your \TEMP directory is and the like. Testing/Diagnostic Module This set of eight individual modules includes settings for hardware IRQs, a CMOS dump and check, the settings of your IO port, the DMA channels you're using, memory range settings, and the plug and play enumerator. If you've got add-in cards from previous PCs, these modules can be very useful for sorting out conflicts between them and "plug-and-pray" modules, for example. The plug-and-pray enumerator will give you the IRQ channel, the IO range and other information about drivers being used with specific devices which go far beyond the rather basic tools you get out of Microsoft. Summary In addition to the above, Sandra also includes three wizards -- a WebUpdate wizard which once you're connected to the Web will allow you to download Sandra patches; a Performance Tune Up wizard which will execute all active modules and give you good advice on how to improve the performance of your machine; and a Report wizard which lets you select the modules you want information on, and then produces a document you can print out or browse at leisure. We like Sandra, we really do. She gets four Vultures out of five. For more information, and to download the Standard (shareware) version of the software, check out the software's Web page which you can find here. There's an upgrade soon which will cover the Athlon and Copperminogate processors. ®
The Register breaking news

Buy a Coppermine for Christmas – if you can

Thank goodness we've got a Pentium III with processor serial number intacta (PSNI), otherwise we'd never have been able to visit the Intel WebOutfitter site and see what systems Chipzilla is recommending for the holiday season. Over at WebOutfitter, Intel says you can get information on Pentium III processors you can buy from a broad range of PC customers in the USA and Canada. Some of them, for instance, you can even buy online. Let's start with the letter A, and the Acer site. Here, Intel points us to Pentium III systems using the 100MHz front side bus ("for increased speed") and at clock speeds of up to 600MHz. We'll skip now to Hewlett Packard, which is expected tomorrow to introduce DDR (double data rate) systems using Coppermine processors. Intel's site points us eventually to the Kayak workstation range, which you can find here. HP Kayak workstations in their older form are now obsolete ("out of production") but the XU systems HP is advertising goes up to -- 600MHz Pentium IIIs with 100MHz front side buses. The Gateway page pointed at by Intel is most interesting. This page advertises Intel Pentium IIIs at up to 700MHz, showing that it has stocks of Copperminogate processors, using SDRAM. Onto Dell now. The Great Satan of Hardware is offering a 733MHz Coppermine system with 133MHz front side bus here. This will cost you $3,078.00, a damn sight cheaper than the $103,000 Dell was selling a workstation with a 600MHz processor for last Friday. And, blow us down, you can also buy the system with 128MB of PC700 RDRAM at 356MHz if you're prepared to wait an estimated 30 days. (Is this the Gregorian calendar Christmas we're working with, Ed.) What about The Big Q? The page Intel points to, here, has Deskpros and Presarios for sale, with a Deskpro EN using the BX chipset at clock speeds of up to 733MHz using the i810e chipset. The Presarios 5716 uses a Pentium III at speeds of up to 450MHz, but don't forget Q is also selling Athlon systems too. Big Blue's Intel pointer lands here, where you can buy machines using Pentium III 600s, using the 100MHz system bus in the IBM PC 300 series. Alternatively, you can buy an Aptiva, described as ideal for "avid PC users", using 450MHz and 500MHz Pentium IIIs. Toshiba America, whose pointed Intel page is here, offers Equium 7100 desktops with Pentium III Coppermine 700s, as part of its range. Lastly, but nevertheless not leastly, go to the Everex site Intel points to, and you'll see that the Formosa subsidiary, which is the subject of Chipzillalitigation because it's somehow connected with Via Technologies, is offering machines using Pentium II/III processors up to 500MHz. So there's obviously no shortage of Coppermine processors or of systems offering RIMMs from Rambus Ink in the run up to Yule. ®