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Brad Fitzpatrick

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Slow computer [Jun. 28th, 2005|09:12 pm]
Brad Fitzpatrick

I occasionally notice that my computer is old:
papag:~ $ cat /proc/cpuinfo 
processor       : 0
vendor_id       : GenuineIntel
cpu family      : 6
model           : 8
model name      : Pentium III (Coppermine)
stepping        : 6
cpu MHz         : 798.287
cache size      : 256 KB

And only 750 MB of memory.

But you can't beat absolutely silent, ya know? Once you go silent, no computer works for me anymore.

I really need to use one of the other (much faster, much louder) machines in my house, since I've given up on "silent computing" systems which never are.

I think the answer is:
-- USB keyboard and mouse (done)
-- USB extender over Cat5
-- DVI over fiber or something
-- audio.... maybe my USB audio DA converter would work? not sure the bandwidth on those USB over Cat5 things, but should work considering how piss-slow regular USB is.

[User Picture]From: mart
2005-06-29 08:20 am (UTC)

You would really hate being in my house. In my bedroom I have two PC's, including one whose PSU fan is starting to go and so occasionally makes loud grinding noises. Under the stairs are two computers which aren't that noisy but still contribute a little to background hum alongside the fridge and so forth. In the living room the XBox makes its own little hard disk hum and click noises. I don't really notice it unless I start thinking about it, though. The noise is “just there”, even when I'm sleeping. I guess if I had used a silent PC for a while I would notice more, but given that I've been using noisy computers everywhere all my life it doesn't present a great problem for me.

I did think of running long wires to somewhere else in the house before, but found that you can't really extend PS/2 and VGA very much. I've already got rid of VGA mostly (I use the DVI and VGA inputs on my fancy new monitor as a ghetto video switcher) but I still use a really heavy, old keyboard with an AT type plug on it and don't really want to add yet another adapter to it to make it plug in to USB, assuming that would even work at all.

I think I'd probably be tempted to go for a hybrid approach: run X on the silent machine, and run stuff like video playback and other things which hammer the X server locally. Run everything else remotely and connect it to the local X server. I suppose it depends on what's causing your perception of slowness: on my old PC (a Pentium 2) it was mostly computational slowness that got me, so I'd just run any heavy computational stuff on my server under the stairs which is of similar spec to your silent PC there. Of course, if it's primarily UI slowness that's getting to you, running X apps remotely probably isn't going to help. Mixing and matching like that will probably get to be a pain in the ass anyway: how do you arrange for your app launchers to run some things on a remote host and others locally? Maybe that's something XDMCP can help with; I've never really played with it.

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[User Picture]From: edm
2005-06-29 09:13 am (UTC)
AFAIK the DIN-5 <-> Mini-Din-6 (PC to PS/2 keyboard) adapters are just physical connector adapters, and the keyboards (at least from the AT/286 ones onward) are electrically and logically compatible. The PS/2 <-> USB keyboard adapters are a USB HID device on one side, and a PS/2 keyboard on the other side, and I believe convert the PS/2 serial events (keyboards are slow, sync, serial) into USB HID events on the USB bus (and presumably vice versa).

So to the best of my knowledge the PC keyboard -> adapter -> PS/2 -> adapter -> USB chain should work just fine. One day I'll have to find out; I've been using a AT keyboard since I owned a 286, and it's getting moderately common to find "legacy free" PCs these days with no PC or PS/2 keyboard ports.

For the "hybrid" approach you mention (some apps remote, some local) you might want to look at LTSP (http://www.ltsp.org/) -- I believe they've got some wrappers for the "run displayed remotely" and "run remotely displayed on that console" situations. (They also found that video playback, etc, i best done locally on the relevant machine.)

Finally a dedicated network link between the compute server and the (X) display server definitely helps with latency issues on running X applications remotely from the display. Especially -- these days -- if it were a gigabit connection. But it's still be noticable with all the badly written, latency sensitive applications. (That said, Firefox is much better run remotely than, eg, Netscape 4, ever was.)

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