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Staring at the sun

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Mighty Yoshimi 25th January 2007, 11:27 Quote
Very true, quite glad it was pointed out that you won't see anything past 60 fps, due to the monitor refresh rate, bugs me when people are like i only get 60 fps i need an upgrade.

I am in no doubt it is a good card, but its easy to get hooked into the trap of thinking you need an upgrade when you don't really. I got SLi 7900gtx, because of the resolutions i would be running games like F.E.A.R at and Oblivion, overkill for some games, but adequate for others.

I understand that a 8800GTX approximates to SLi 7900GTX winning a majority of tests, but 8800GTX in SLi :| ...
g3n3tiX 25th January 2007, 11:32 Quote
Nice.
And the green background fits well.
But now ATi=AMD=green VS. Nvidia=green...
So the colours lose meaning !
BlueDemon 25th January 2007, 11:40 Quote
I guess that the point Brett is trying to get across is that we should look at the total cost of ownership (TCO) when buying/building a new system, not just at the performance and/or relative efficiency. I couldn't agree more.
When I received my energy bill at the end of 2005, I got quite a shock. It made me stop and think about the power my system consumes, and not just from a vague environmental point of view. It was costing me REAL money. So I decided to retire my power-hungry beast in favor of a low-power, single-disk system with a passively-cooled GPU. As a bonus, this smaller PC hardly generates any noise. I'm through with my personal space race ;)
Tim S 25th January 2007, 11:43 Quote
think about all of those machines churning away on Folding too... I stopped and my electricity bill was cut in half.
Mother-Goose 25th January 2007, 11:44 Quote
by contrast im just starting mine. but if you guys drop yours I will be allowed, its like me buying your carbon credits! Brilliant column though, it has made me stop and think. Luckily at the moment you do not need 8800GTX's in SLi, I think the GPU's need to follow the CPU's down the road of smaller nm sized cores, more power produced/less power consumed.
Mighty Yoshimi 25th January 2007, 11:44 Quote
I am in an ideal situation im in halls so the power bill is paid as a set amount although i'll be moving into a flat with my machine, and my friends machine and i did the math and calculated it'll cost 33 quid tops (a month) this being the highest cost. to run both machines, on in the morning off at night, with an average 50% system load.
BioSniper 25th January 2007, 11:52 Quote
This is a fantastic article and really highlights something that is affecting everyone. Admitidly though people generally have more disposable income these days and as such perhaps aren't worried about the cost.
What I would like to see though is the average cost of running low, medium, and high end rigs for a day to get a real visualisation of what it's really costing. Not to mention the fact that increased power draw will have an environmental impact (but I notice that was not mentioned in the article, perhaps becuase most people switch off and thing its a hippy crusade? :p ) and in the long term lower power will benifit everyone weather they want to admit it or not.

::edit:: Here's a random thought; Could this way of thinking possibly signal the return of mainframe style computing where you just have one power hungry beast to do all the hard work and something like a thin client to actually utilise for your self? I could see situations where this would be great for families with a couple of children. It would save having multiple expensive rigs.
It could help businesses to help reduce their "carbon footprint" if you wanted to look at it that way.
I know its an old method of doing stuff but would it actually be viable or have a place in todays market?

Sure it's not a sollution to a problem, just an interesting thought really ;)
DarkReaper 25th January 2007, 12:07 Quote
Maybe I should start a new thread about this, but if LCDs are all running at 60Hz when why do we need 100fps+ in games? And by my calculation a 60hz LCD changes every 16ms so what's the point of 6ms response times?

If this drags the whole thing off topic, sorry :)
Firehed 25th January 2007, 12:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkReaper
Maybe I should start a new thread about this, but if LCDs are all running at 60Hz when why do we need 100fps+ in games? And by my calculation a 60hz LCD changes every 16ms so what's the point of 6ms response times?

If this drags the whole thing off topic, sorry :)
What I've been saying since around day one. I've decided it's just an e-penis thing. A true 16ms panel is unable to ghost since it only displays a frame every 16.67ms.

I can't begin to imagine how much I've saved by having pretty much stopped PC gaming. Several hundred on cards, probably another hundred plus on waterblocks, countless hours, and some insane amount of power. My mom said that our power bill dropped almost in half after I moved out to college, although I think she was exaggerating quite a bit (seeing that I'd converted all of my lights to CF bulbs and had cut out another who-knows-how-much by effectively trading my overpowered desktop for a Macbook Pro).

Still, when I saw the first consumer-rated 1kW PSU, I knew things were getting nuts. I feel a little better in knowing that people always end up with one much higher-rated than they really need, but actual power draws of 500w or so are still completely insane. I mean, seriously, light up five 100w incandescent bulbs next to your computer chair and see if your skin doesn't start melting from the heat!
r4tch3t 25th January 2007, 12:25 Quote
The 6ms refers to Grey to Gray refresh (<-to give at least some meaning to it) the 16ms is black to white (I think anyway)
As for the energy efficiency, I totally agree, no more of this PPW stuff. I really hope that this generation (GeForce 8) gets a major power reduction as I will be buying a rig for Uni and I don't fancy having huge bills every month.
blackerthanblack 25th January 2007, 13:20 Quote
Great reading. Better energy usage is something I've wanted to have for a long time.

I can't see why the designers of these parts cannot make them much more efficient. Things like switching off parts of a chip that are not being used, downclocking when not being taxed should be fairly easy to include.

Most other thing that we use have gone the 'right' way over the past 20-50 years, so why can't pc's? Cars have more power, while being more economical (still not ideal I know), our homes have become warmer, but are using less energy to heat them. Ovens, kettles, hi-fi equipment all use less energy than years ago, but perform much better.
Juggernaut 25th January 2007, 13:46 Quote
Great article with a strong message ;)
Paradigm Shifter 25th January 2007, 14:50 Quote
Valid points. Good column.

Mankind has always advanced by looking at the sky and thinking, "I want to go there..." though. ;) Without that, we'd still be beating each over the head with clubs. :)
DarkReaper 25th January 2007, 14:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackerthanblack
Things like switching off parts of a chip that are not being used, downclocking when not being taxed should be fairly easy to include.
Switching off unused parts of a chip is not that simple, although HP's new nanogrid approach will apparently make it a piece of cake. Some motherboards do come with auto-clock features, too - primarily to OC under load but I imagine if you underclock the processor to begin with you might achieve a similar effect
Nexxo 25th January 2007, 15:17 Quote
Good article, which so eloquently puts into words much better what I have been thinking for a long time.

When I started thinking about designing Metaversa 02, I did get frustrated by the increasingly large, hot components coming onto the market. My idea of progress was to work towards something similar to a Mac Mini: compact, cool, powerful, sexy. Instead we get huge tower PCs with massive radiators to keep slab-like SLi cards and China syndrome-capable CPUs in check. Everything else elecronic gets smaller, lighter and more power-efficient with progress, so why not PCs? Personally, I just won't build anything exceeding the size of a midi-tower on principle alone, and I will not touch a 1000W PSU. PCs should not have to be that big or need that much juice. That way does not lie the future which we visualise being full of wearable and integrated smart devices.

I was looking at my Tablet PC yesterday. It is barely larger than its 12" screen, less than an inch thick, weighs 3 pounds and runs happily on its batteries for 8 hours at a stretch. Its (more or less passively cooled) Pentium M 1.5Ghz and integrated graphics will never make a gaming monster, and it is a bit slower compared to my dual Opteron 250, but not irritatingly so. But it is perfectly adequate for most office tasks and even some gaming. It has wireless everything, USB 2.0, Firewire, PCMCIA, SD slot, you name it.

I was thinking that hypothetically, you really do not need to make it much larger to put in a Pentium 6600 dual core and some decent graphics. You can get insanely large 3.5" HDDs now, so you'd only need two at most. It will not need that much more power, or that much more cooling to run such a setup. You could build a very decent, powerful Mini-PC that would give the Xbox 360 a run for its money, around the design principles that builds Tablets or laptops. So why don't we?

If you look at the performance car industry, you don't see people building Hummers --you see them building the Lotus Exige. Light, elegant, compact, powerful. But it has no insanely big engine, no huge radiators --just really good, effective and efficient design and engineering. Lotus has even built an electrical version that does 0-60 in about four seconds. Its engine is the size of a water melon.

Let's face it, a full-size tower with the latest SLi, four HDDs and Extreme Edition CPUs are just the equivalent of 4WD off-road vehicles being driven to the local supermarket. That is not a performance rig. A compact, well-balanced, really efficient computer, the PC equivalent of a Lotus Exige, is a performance rig.
Ringold 25th January 2007, 15:57 Quote
I guess I just dont follow.

Even though I have more computers operating now than ever before, my utility bill is about 1/3 lower than it used to be just a couple years ago. I bought a fancy-pants AC/heater controller that switches from AC to heat itself as the house temp moves through a set range, and turns itself off entirely a half hour before I leave and turns back on a half hour before I typically return home. That was huuuuge. I probably also more than offset all my computers running 24-7 F@H (which isn't a waste considering the 40+ medical research papers published with data gleaned from it) by converting all the bulbs I could (some just dont look good) to more energy efficient ones and then keeping as many off at all times as I could.

The only problem with massive consumption of any sort is that energy costs don't include the environmental cost of using that energy. Other then that, is there any moral or logical reason why someone shouldn't drive an M1A1 Abram's main battle tank to work every morning? If they have such a vehicle, they obviously earn enough income to afford it, and the economic benefit (jobs created) from building it helps everyone else. I think the solution isn't trying to fight the free market and battling consumer consumption. Doing so, in reality, is fighting economic growth, and sadly Europe stands as a clear example of it. The best thing I think a government could do is nail a tax on energy consumed (by level of emissions, making coal more heavily taxed, say, than natural gas) not from a renewable or nuclear source and that way encourage utility companys to slowly but surely fix the problem themselves.

Politicians over here in America don't have the spine to do that though. They'll try to do it indirectly by raising corporate taxes, and hoping the cost per barrel gets back up around $60 (where the free market/venture capitalists was pouring more money in to alternative energy and fuel research than the entire budget of most European governments).

Oh, and final aside: Apollo benefited the overall US economy more than it cost in taxes by a factor of 1.2 to 1.3 last I read.. That spin off tech hasn't just stayed in the US, either. Soviets or not, it justified itself on those grounds alone. On the other hand though, good enough analogy to video cards, because I don't see every facet of human life being impacted by video cards the way some of the spin-off tech from Apollo has, heheh.

Edit: Also worth mentioning along the lines of F@H: ClimatePrediction is probably the largest analysis of Earth's climate ever done and wouldn't be possible without DC. Einstein@Home will single handedly verify or utterly refute one of the fundamental assumptions made by Einstein's general relativity. SIMAP, a now completed project, built some sort of advanced protein database that makes it easier for researchers to.. do..protein stuff.. I agree, some are wastes of computer time (HashClash, RenderFarm, etc), but others allow people, through our charitable donation of idle computer time and energy costs, to conduct research that wouldn't of been possible without massive hard to acquire grants beforehand. That's what it is, too; charitable donation of computer resources. If that is waste or excess, then so is giving to Oxfam, the Red Cross or the sorts.
Nexxo 25th January 2007, 16:48 Quote
You make good points, and I don't think we should take the analogy with the space race too literally. However despite the undoubted benefits it has brought us, you have to sort of wonder why it takes wars (hot or cold) and international competition to get the very best out of us in terms of technological progress and achievement.

You can argue that if a person wants to drive a fuel-inefficient Hummer, and can afford to do so, to let him. After all, he is footing the bill. Although you also point out that in terms of environmental impact, we all are footing the bill... Of course energy tax may be a desincentive, and this sure seems to help in Europe where over 50% of the extreme fuel prices we pay is tax. Furthermore, people in the UK need to consider that utility prices have practically doubled over the last few years (that whole invasion of Iraq thing did so work out well, didn't it?) so regardless of your PC, you'd see your bills go up.

But the basic question is: is bigger and more power hungry always better? I don't think so. I see computer progress going in the wrong direction. We visualise a future of slim, transparent devices that are light, wearable, integrateable, and solar-rechargable. We talk about smart paper and wallpaper TV. We talk about head-up displays in our glasses, credit-card shaped PIMs, and earrings that whisper information in our ears, straight from the internet.

The reality however is that our clever and powerful computing increasingly comes in huge hot cases that consume enough electricity to make Dr. Frankenstein feel envious. Regardless of Moore's law and staggering increases in computing power, we are working towards room-sized toasters again. We are going forward to the past.

Perhaps the Japanese need to again show us how it is done, like they did with cars and audio-visual equipment. Smaller, faster, better, more economical.
careyd 25th January 2007, 17:08 Quote
Let me preface this remark with the following:
I am NOT against movement towards energy-efficient computing. I'm in favor of it, but I think we need to put the whole issue in perspective in light of the bit-tech audience. Read on.

I really don't think that high-performance PCs are the problem when it comes to energy consumption. I only think it's wasteful when high-energy PCs are sitting there running on a secretaries desk as she taps out memos in Word.

As an enthusiast community we need to look at ourselves from the outside and realize JUST HOW SMALL...TINY, in fact, that we are to the larger computing population. I have no problem with our machines drawing more power if we actually are utilizing it for direct benefit. That's not waste. It's only waste if such greater resources are never used to anyone's benefit. And yes, I'm including 'entertainment/gaming' as a benefit. If every performance-minded computing enthusiast switched to mid-range machines right now, today, I don't think anyone could detect the 'blip' in reduced energy consumption.

Look, from an environmental point of view, the simple fact is that the production of the motherboard and other components in a PC is what causes far and away the greatest negative environmental impact, not the power it consumes. Power generation, by comparison, is a much MUCH 'greener' process.

Having put the environmental impact negatives in perspective, I have one more point to make:

Question: Considering manufacturing processes, how much worse environmental impact occurs when manufacturing a 'performance' computer part than a 'moderate performance' part?

Answer: Virtually nil.
NemeSYS 25th January 2007, 18:01 Quote
I agree with what careyd said.

Assigning blame to high-performance PC parts for excessive energy consumption, if we look at how much energy is wasted on non-efficient light bulbs or vehicles, is IMO completely ridiculous. Environmentalism is cool, but not just for the sake of it. If you add to that the fact that the vast majority of personal computers run with integrated graphics, it becomes obvious that even if the 9800 GTX requires 5000W to run it in SLI, it won't make the slightest impact on the environment. That's if we look at it from a "green" perspective.

However, from a TCO point of view, I agree that we should consider energy consumption costs when we buy a CPU/GPU. But then again, you can build the most power-hungry beast of a PC possible, swap some light-bulbs with more energy efficient ones, and find your energy costs increasing only slightly, if at all. State of the art GPUs are somewhat excessive in their energy requirements, but not if you consider the huge number of transistors that they are made of. I really don't think that there is any similarity with the sorry NetBurst architecture. The only problem as far as I am concerned is the heat output, but it still can be fixed with a good cooler or WC. Buying the latest and greatest hasn't ever been for the faint of heart, anyway. (OK, don't take that very seriously).
ou7blaze 25th January 2007, 18:58 Quote
Do you guys honestly know how my trusty Radeon9800pro still compares to the newer cards these days, it's a joke isn't it :(

What is the Radeon9800pro equivalent to on nVidia's side a Geforce6600? (random guess)
EQC 25th January 2007, 19:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkReaper
Maybe I should start a new thread about this, but if LCDs are all running at 60Hz when why do we need 100fps+ in games? And by my calculation a 60hz LCD changes every 16ms so what's the point of 6ms response times?

If this drags the whole thing off topic, sorry :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Firehed
What I've been saying since around day one. I've decided it's just an e-penis thing. A true 16ms panel is unable to ghost since it only displays a frame every 16.67ms.

I was thinking the same thing a few weeks ago...then I realized the problem: If you have a 16.67ms response time, and a 60Hz refresh rate, then it's possible that your monitor NEVER displays the right picture -- the pixels will always be in "transition" between 2 frames...and by the time they get to displaying a frame, it's time to start the transition to the next frame.

Of course, if the "16ms" is black to white, and most transitions are grey-to-grey (ie: they'd happen faster), then most of the time things will look fine.

So, I'm thinking, for your eyes, maybe it's best if the pixels look right "most" of the time -- ie: during the 16.67ms each frame is displayed (@60Hz), you want your eyes to see the right image for at least 16.67/2 ms. So, if you've got an 8ms response time or better, you should be all good for sure in every situation.


Let me finish, though, by saying I've got a 3 year old dell Ultrasharp 1703...and I think it's quoted response time is 25ms, and I've never picked up on any ghosting. So, I might have "slow eyes" or something...or maybe I just don't deal much with fast moving images. But I'd imagine, then, that 16ms is pretty good for most people, and 8ms response times at 60Hz ought to be just about perfect. I'd like to see some "blind" tests on these guys who claim to need a 2ms response time....can they really tell the difference between an 8ms and a 1ms monitor?
David_Fitzy 25th January 2007, 19:52 Quote
For everything but the latest gaming and encoding a mid-range rig from 5 years ago will suffice (i know my rig is one). A bigger problem i think is computer stores irresponsibly selling the latest and greatest hardware to anyone who comes in saying "yeah I wanna do email n stuff"

I think the Wii makes a good point too. From what I understand it's no more powerful than the game cube but it's selling millions because all the games are designed to be fun. Nintendo are simply saying who needs photo-realism when you can just have fun. I say this because whenever I see a photo of people at a LAN party they all look bored staring into their photo-realistic games. In theory Switching a LAN party to a Wii party everyone would be enjoying themselves whilstst cutting the energy bill by something ridiculous.
Da Dego 25th January 2007, 20:44 Quote
I don't normally like to comment on my own columns, but some good points have been expressed here and I wanted to clarify something I don't think I made clear. I'm not of the mindset of doing this totally for "environmental" or "green" computing. If you notice, I didn't even use the words "carbon footprint" or "carbon" anything. I don't think I made a good enough expression of WHY I didn't, though.

My point is that "Bigger bigger bigger" is simply not sustainable. We're to the point of diminishing returns - not just for the environment, but for our pocketbooks and even just for the sake of computing. We ARE being wasteful. More chips, more heat...The fact that an 8800 GTX can go over 90C should tell you something. Energy that is wasted as heat cannot be used as processing power. Therefore, why not work on making something run cooler, and only somewhat more powerful?

As Nexxo mentioned, we're getting to the point where we're building HUGE computers and HUGE cooling systems...to get how much performance increase over a midrange part? And for what, a speed your monitor doesn't allow you to benefit from anyway? It's diminishing returns at its finest. Your extra 100 quid will get you 10% performance but 30% higher heat output (waste) while drawing down 40% more power (which costs more money).

A good example - Quad SLI. It doesn't matter how few enthusiasts actually use it - why did they waste so much research on developing something that has no tangible benefit? It's priced out of market, it is ungodly wasteful when it's in use (for the few who persist on buying it anyhow)...that effort could have been used to develop a better part that does something more than win a frame-rate count. So why did they do it? Because having that framerate count matters in marketing to you and I, because WE'RE focused on more more more.

My point is that there is a third route that hasn't been explored between something that puts out the heat of a thermonuclear reactor and a complete integrated solution - that of making the TCO of the higher-end be lower overall. Let the high end get cheaper, better, more efficient and we can even see some increase in games quality - older hardware won't be as expensive to upgrade, so people will do it more often.

Research in the current way of thinking is starting to now net us 10% return for 40% investment. Though I don't deny there are still some benefits to pushing the envelope, we could take the massive benefits we already have and start refining them to make more useful products now.
Clocked 25th January 2007, 20:58 Quote
Quite right David although i expect that could get rather messy cos theres always the random wierdo who would turn up with a full bladder...

I reckon if you're gonna do the whole energy efficiency thing you gotta apply it to everything you use or do. It's no good just doing half a job.
I find it really annoying that there was never any major push (I mean not getting global coverage in the news every night or day) for economy with energy or anything with an environmental impact until we started to see the effects of global warming.
Primarily this is the weather, since the floods, tsunami's, tornado's and hurricanes have hit, people are starting to wake up and the simple fact of the matter is that the damage is done. The climate has changed already and its going to be near impossible to get it back to the natural equilibrium. Look at the amount of forests that are chopped down (Remember kids - photosynthesis takes CO2 in and expels O2 amongst other things) and then people wonder why there are so many green house gases.... ultimately its gonna take a massive effort by everyone concerned to make any impact.

Also Gfx cards with faster frame rates than the output source what is the point? why did the Gfx companies even make this possible? surely the energy used in this would be better served rendering really nice shiny things for us to run around and play with?

My 2 pence anyway, any change is appreciated
Spaced_invader 25th January 2007, 21:19 Quote
and that monkey had better be trained to be a buttler..
I always wanted a monkey buttler...
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