Living Close to the Bleeding Edge...

A short while ago, I decided that it was time to update my desktop system. I'd been using it less and less, having bought myself a Toshiba M205 Tablet PC in January... but then, we finished shooting The Good Samaritan, and it was time to edit it.

At which point, I discovered to my absolute horror that my 1.4GHz Athlon system just wouldn't cut it - because it didn't support the SSE2 instructions necessary to run the newest versions of Adobe Premiere - which also were the only versions which supported the 24P DV footage we were capturing using Miah Hundley's Panasonic camera.

(Miah, by the way, is really cool. I sincerely think that he's going to go very very far in his movie making career - certainly, if I were a betting man and the choices were me or him making it in Hollywood, I'd bet on him first)

Of course, because I still want to edit this film, I decided that... well... screw it. It's time to use those high credit card limits for what they're intended and upgrade the systems. At the same time, I went ahead and bought the full version of Adobe Premiere Video Collection Pro. Very cool - comes with Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Encore DVD, Audition and After Effects Pro. Basically, everything I'll ever need until I start shooting on actual real celluloid film and end up needing to Avid systems to do the editing.

To have a system to run it on, it was time to update my hardware. I already had 2x80Gb drives, a 40Gb drive, DVD+R burner, DVD reader, 2x512mb sticks of PC2100 RAM, and a firewire editor card. At the very least, I'd need a Pentium 4, so I went out to Fry's and went on a spending spree.

I walked out with a Pentium 4 3.2GHz CPU, a P4C800 Asus motherboard, 2x512Mb ultra low latency DDR Ram sticks, and two 250Gb 7200RPM Western Digital hard drives. (They ended up in a spanning RAID array for high speed access, so now I have over 1/2 a terabyte of space on my machine. This figure is mindblowing.... and I'd never have dreamed of having so much just a couple of years ago).

Well, the system was a little unstable. I've gotten about 3/4 of the editing done so far, but kept running into crashes, glitches, hangs and bluescreens. So I decided to start playing with this system to find out what was going wrong.

Ends up that it's a memory stick. What's amusing is that memory sticks have heatsinks on them now, they're being run so fast and hard. Only one of them is having a problem - the other is fine.

I remember when memory was really really stable. Chips which didn't function correctly used to be pretty rare. And these days, features are getting so small on memory chips that you're pretty damn lucky not to get memory corruption just from normal everyday background radiation which flies around all the time - and there's nothing you can do about it.

I think the next memory I buy will be error-correcting. We're riding very close to the edge, it seems. Expect things to be... flaky for a while. Unless we can figure out a new way of handling memory, that is. Maybe integrate it with the CPUs on a massively multi-layer 3D cpu die. Might even be lower power too.

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

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