Entries Tagged 'Computers' ↓
December 23rd, 2011 — Computers, Music
Its pretty cool that Cakewalks AVX optimization work was featured in this review of AMD’s bulldozer from Tom’s Hardware. For those unfamiliar with Tom’s Hardware, the site is the holy grail of hardware reviews and benchmarks. Their depth of knowledge and coverage of the state of the art in computer hardware is unparalleled.
A few months ago I was contacted by Chris Angelini, the Editor in chief at Tom’s Hardware. He had come across a white paper that I co authored with Intel, featuring the AVX optimization’s in SONAR X1, and was very interested in knowing more about our experiences with AVX in relation to Bulldozer vs Intel’s SandyBrige.
Since we didn’t have access to the the newer AMD systems with this chipset, I sent Chris a copy of SONAR X1 so that he could run some comparative studies himself. I also sent him a small bench-marking application that we had developed in-house to use as a test harness for the AVX optimized bits of code covered in the white paper. Using this app he was able to objectively test the performance of the AVX instruction set on the AMD and Intel platforms using code from SONAR X1. You can read the results of his tests in the links below.
Working with Chris on this, I was really blown away with his depth of knowledge and the exhaustive level of testing they do with this stuff at Tom’s Hardware. Its great seeing our software being used to validate performance in a mainstream CPU benchmark review like this!
review referencing Cakewalk AVX tests
full 24 page review
Intel/Cakewalk AVX Whitepaper
August 17th, 2011 — Computers
This article has some nice tips for utilizing multi-monitors in Windows 7 .
I especially like the Shift-Windows-Left/rigt-Arrow combo for moving windows across desktops. This is invaluable when remoting into a multi-monitor PC from one which doesn’t have multiple monitors.
July 16th, 2011 — Computers, General
I have to say after using G+ for a few days I am really digging what they did here. I have hated Facebook from day one due to its awful privacy issues, spam and buggy user interface.
While there are a few rough spots its quite remarkable how well the service works. And I really dig the object orientedness of the circles paragigm for managing visibility of posts. It takes a little getting used to, but once you understand the concept behind it its very intuitive and natural. Kudos to Google and I hope people move to G+ from FB. I can see myself using it for a lot more than just casual posts - its very scalable.
My google plus feed can be accessed directly through plus.noelborthwick.com.
July 14th, 2011 — Computers, Music
Utilizing Intel® AVX with Cakewalk SONAR X1
This is a whitepaper which I co-authored with Intel engineer Rajshree Chabukswar, highlighting the advantages of optimizing for the Intel AVX chipset, with a focus on digital audio processing in a modern DAW like SONAR X1.
We’re excited with our synergetic relationship with Intel, which allows us to take advantage of their bleeding edge technology in ways that directly beneft our users, allowing them to squeeze the most power out of their systems. While the paper is technical and requires an understanding of some low level programming, it also offers insight into the nuts and bolts of whats involved in optimizations for Intel CPU architectures in a modern DAW.
The paper features a real world case study of SONAR X1 code that was optimized in to take advantage of the benefits of the 256 bit AVX instruction set. If you have an Intel CPU from the Sandy Bridge processor family, it supports AVX and SONAR X1 will take advantage of it.
(While AVX is an Intel instruction set, it has also been adopted by AMD will be available in their upcoming Bulldozer processors. )
Code which is optimized for AVX vectorization capabilities can work with 256-bit vectors, allowing working on 8 32-bit floating point values per iteration. In other words, this is twice the data throughput of earlier SSE instruction set! While this doesn’t necessarily translate to twice as fast, it is a huge step up in performance in many cases as the white paper illustrates.
The first step in any optimization task is what is referred to as “hotspot analysis”. In this phase you identify the bottlenecks in the code or that would benefit most from AVX optimization. We did analysis running through stress test projects and workflows that showed some classic hotspots. Once these were identified, the code was AVX optimized using the new AVX intrinsics available in Visual Studio 2010.
Click below to read the paper or download the PDF from Intel’s site:
Utilizing Intel® AVX with Cakewalk SONAR X1
[ Additional credits to Keith Albright and Bob Currie from Cakewalk, for hotspot analysis, development, and troubleshooting ]
August 12th, 2010 — Computers, Music
OK that sounds like an oxymoron. A crash, good? Thats crazy talk!
Well maybe not quite that crazy – read on to find out why…
Why would anyone actually want their app to crash you may ask? To answer that question lets cover some background about why applications crash on Windows (or any OS).
An application crashes when it performs an unexpected operation or encounters what is called an “exception condition”. Exceptions include unwanted operations like writing to invalid memory locations, divide by zero errors, page faults, etc. Programs can end up with exceptions like this for a variety of reasons:
- bugs in the progam code
- bugs in loaded DLL’s which share the same memory and address space as the host application. You frequently encounter dll’s via plug-in’s in applications (eg. loading a VST in an audio application or a imaging plug-in in Photoshop)
- bugs in the operating system
Normally when an error like this occurs, Windows will display the familiar error message “This Program Has Performed an Illegal Operation and Will Be Shut Down” and the program will close. Some applications like SONAR handle such errors more gracefully and will even try and intercept these exception and attempt to allow the user to save their work before exiting the program. Additionally on Windows you can choose to save what is called a Minidump containing “post mortem” debugging info that is very useful to developers to find out why the program crashed.
How to make your application crash gracefully on 64-bit Windows
Recently we began noticing a pattern where we were receiving Minidump’s from crashes on from 64 bit Windows systems X64 where the dumps contained useless or apparently invalid information about the crash. This made it very hard for us to diagnose such issues. I was even able to reproduce this by writing a simple test application that forced a crash. In one case I found that the crash was reported in a completely different location and in another the application behaved as if the exception didn’t occur!
The scenario above is is actually very bad from both a users and the developers point of view, since when damage is done to a running application the best scenario is to actually shut it down or risk data corruption or worse damage. So you really WANT your app to crash when something like this happens. I logged a bug with Microsoft about this issue using a test application. I recently heard back from their developer support about this issue. It turns out to be an interesting problem that Microsoft is aware of and have issued a hotfix for.
Here is a link to a Microsoft blog post describing this problem in gory detail if you want to read more about it.
And here is the link to the hotfix if you want it now. This hotfix will also be rolled into Windows 7 SP1. I hope that this is not required in the final version but currently the fix requires you to set a value in the registry to enable it.
December 28th, 2009 — Computers, Gear
I tend to upgrade hardware infrequently but when I do I typically go for the best of breed so that I can get the maximum life out of my system. Having recently finished a project and suffered the pain of an underpowered system it was finally time for a big upgrade…
My new DAW for my studio which runs SONAR 8.5 was built using an Intel Core I7 950 with Windows 7 Professional X64. The system was build completely from off the shelf components all available at Newegg and was relatively inexpensive. (It helped that I bought most of the components the day after thanksgiving <g>)
For a CPU, I chose an Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield, 3.06GHz processor. The Core I7 is truly a breakthrough in processing power and a great choice for a DAW because of its blistering speed. I passed on the Extreme Edition since I didn’t think it was a good value for the price differential. At Cakewalk, we worked closely with Intel on evaluation versions of the Core I7, optimizing and streamlining SONAR to work better with this chip, so this made it an obvious choice for me. During testing this processor broke all our benchmarks I will post some results once I run our internal benchmark on my rig.
For the operating system Windows 7 X64 was a no brainer choice. During the SONAR 8.5 cycle we tested SONAR with beta and RC versions of Windows 7 and addressed all known compatibility issues. We also found that the kernel enhancements in Win7 to be complimentary to a lot of the optimizations we did in SONAR itself. I chose the Professional SKU because I wanted some of the extra’s like the XP compatibility mode and remote desktop host. More Windows 7 resources and some articles I contributed to can be found here and in this Create Digital Music article.
Installing the 64 bit version was also an easy choice since I wanted 6GB of RAM. There are also other benefits to a 64 bit OS even if you are primarily running 32 bit applications as outlined in this blog post.
Anyway here are the parts from my original newegg order:
PSU CORSAIR|CMPSU-620HX RT
CASE ANTEC|SONATA ELITE BK RT
MB MSI X58M 1366 RT
VGA EVGA 01G-P3-N945-LR 9400GT 1G R
CPU INTEL|CORE I7 950 3.06G 45N R
MEM 2Gx3|CRUC BL3KIT25664TB1337 R
HD 1.5T|WD 32M SATA2 WD15EADS %
DVD BURNER LITE-ON | IHAS424-98 R
WIRELESS ADAPTER LINKSYS|WMP600N R
I’m running this with two dual 22″ monitors – Acer’s that I had from my last setup.
Disk: The Western Digital hard disks is not especially a great choice for disk streaming performance, but I couldn’t resist the price of less than 90 bucks for 1.5 terabyte! So far the disk throughput has been fine for my needs though it has a Win7 performance rank of 4.5.
OS: Windows 7 Professional X64
Audio interface: MOTU 828 MK2
I was a bit apprehensive after reading some install problems from users on the SONAR forums. However I loaded the latest MOTU 828 64-bit drivers without too much trouble at all. I found that I had to explicitly run the setup program as administrator or it wouldn’t install properly :-/ Once installed, the driver itself works great and I can dial down the buffer size all the way down to the minimum size and it plays back flawlessly. And my motherboard has a Via chipset for Firewire too which MOTU doesn’t recommend – go figure!
The OS install went without a single hitch and picked up all the devices – but I went and installed native drivers for all the devices later since some were more recent than Windows update.
Do NOT buy the WMP600N WIFI adapter until Linksys fix their X64 drivers. They suck big time and. I returned the unit since the drivers performance were unusable with WIFI. This after the product is listed as being Win7 logo compliant! Instead I went with a wired solution which rocks. I’m using an old WRT54G converted into a wireless bridge using the opensource DD-WRT firmware. It takes some tweaking and requires you to be a bit brave with your router but its pretty well supported on that site. I now connected via standard ethernet to the machine which works great and I get 10MBPS internet speeds with it which is all I need. In general be wary of 64 bit WIFI drivers – they are notoriously bad.
I can categorically say that the SONAR/Core I7/Windows 7 combination is a match made in heaven for DAW users! I easily have way more bandwidth than I would ever need for the next several years on this rig. On my largest projects which would previously max out the CPU or drop out (an older dual CPU Windows 2003 based machine), I am now able to run at 128 sample buffers with a MOTU 828 MK2, at 24bit/96KHz with under 20% CPU utilization in SONAR!
We finally have reached a time when 64-bit computing, low latency performance and low cost components are a reality. It’s a great time for DAW users!
December 10th, 2009 — Computers
With 64 bit computers becoming mainstream (its hard to find a machine thats not 64 bit capable these days) the question being asked more often is “Should I install a 64 bit operating system or a 32 bit operating system?” While the advantages of a 64 bit OS might be more obvious for those running native 64 bit software, or those who have a need for more than 2GB of memory, its a bit more murky as to whether regular 32 bit applications will also perform well on a 64 bit OS.
A 64 bit capable processor has an increased number of registers, as well as an improved floating point unit (FPU) design with double the number of FPU registers. 64 bit operating systems can take advantages of the expanded register set available to a 64 bit processor. The advantages to this are fewer memory accesses for data that can be stored in registers, leading to faster execution of computationally intensive processes. You can read more about this from this Cakewalk X64 white paper from several years ago.
Here is an interesting benchmark showing that 64 bit windows can perform better even with the same hardware and software. Some of the benchmarks are relevant to digital audio processing as well and so apply to DAW users.
Windows Vista Benchmark: 64-Bit Faster Than 32-Bit
A Closer Look at 32-Bit vs. 64-Bit Windows
November 27th, 2009 — Computers, Music
New Cakewalk SONAR ad in magazines and on our website
October 26th, 2009 — Computers, Music
Here are some links to various articles on Windows 7 that I have contributed to.
Cakewalk Windows 7 Resources
Our official Windows 7 resources page
Obsessive Windows 7 Under-the-Hood Guide for Music; Can You Finally Dump XP?
This is an interview I did for Peter Kirn from Create Digital Music
How Windows 7 Will Affect Your Music Production
Similar material to the Create Digital Music interview
Windows 7 Improvements to Help Audio Recording
CNET blogger Matt Rosoff, posted his thoughts on how Windows 7 will make the art of audio production on PC easier. Quotes my blog post.
Windows 7: Should You Upgrade Your Music PC?
Music Radar’s Ben Rogerson takes a look at Windows 7 to determine whether or not it’s a sound investment for people using their PCs primarily for music creation. Also some quotes from my Win7 posts.
The most out of Windows 7 and optimizing Windows for music
Another article from Peter Kirn from Create Digital Music that I contributed to
October 26th, 2009 — Computers, Music
Cakewalk has been in partnership with Intel for more than a decade now. Here are some latest links on our engineering collaboration with them to make music production even more efficient on a PC.