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February 10, 2009

Building a Modern 64-bit Operating System

Filed under: Software — cangione @ 6:55 pm

I recently upgraded the memory in one of my home workstations to 4 gigs. I've always wondered what it would be like to run a 64-bit OS on this AMD64 system and decided to refresh the entire machine to take full advantage of the memory upgrade. I decided to go with the latest 64-bit Ubuntu Linux distribution codenamed Intrepid Ibex (8.10) as my base OS. As I put this upgraded machine through its paces, I'm a bit amazed at what the machine is now capable of.

Because of the development, conversion and simulation work that I do, I tend to demand a lot from my computers. My workstation runs at least one virtual operating system in VMware server as well as the work I do on the host OS. There are times when the virtual OS and the host OS are really crunching away that things slow to a crawl.....that's being kind. The computer is essentially unusable for day to day activities like e-mail and web browsing.

I intentionally tried to crush the machine I upgraded by running VMware server with two Windows virtual machines that had CPU intensive tasks. While that was going on I did normal things like surfing with Firefox, writing an e-mail and remote connecting to other systems. I didn't see any lag or slowdown from the UI. Everything is very smooth and I've become a believer!

I admit that 64-bit operating systems may not be practical for simple desktop use at this point. Not all applications run on 64-bit systems, but you can run 32 bit virtual operating systems within a 64 bit host system.

If you think today's computers are fast, wait until they have a 64-bit OS! It isn't about megahertz anymore -- it's about actually doubling the amount of data a CPU can crunch per clock cycle. I've concluded that a 64-bit chip and a 64-bit OS does have the power to dramatically improve the performance of your more demanding applications. It revolutionizes what a single workstation can do.

Happy Crunching!

-Charles Angione

I've listed a couple of solutions to some hassles I ran into in my setup:

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