OS/2 eZine - http://www.os2ezine.com
October 16, 2003
David T. Johnson has been an avid OS/2 user for 7 years beginning with Warp 3. He is a consulting engineer in Redmond, Washington specializing in designing and troubleshooting complex systems for wastewater pretreatment, hazardous waste treatment-by-generator, and air emissions control. He is married with three children. He started using OS/2 for its powerful multitasking capability and superb HPFS file system and has continued to use it both for its technical strengths and because it's fun.
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Does OS/2 Benefit from New Hardware?

Does OS/2 Benefit from New Hardware?

Computer hardware is undergoing rapid development and its capabilities increase every month. Video cards are becoming faster, CPUs continue to increase in speed, disk drives are larger and faster than ever, and system memory has become inexpensive enough that desktop systems usually have 512 Mb or more of memory installed. OS/2 users, however, often believe that they will not see real improvements in OS/2 performance with newer hardware due to a lack of specific driver updates for OS/2. Can this really be true? Sounds like an opportunity for some testing!

The Hardware

Last month, I described here a new Opteron 240 system that was built to run OS/2 and has hardware that is typical of what is currently being sold. It would be interesting to see if benchmark testing would show any improvement in the performance of OS/2 when running on the new Opteron new hardware compared with another Athlon XP 1700+ system containing typical two-year-old hardware. What makes a comparison of these two systems especially interesting is that both CPU's have an internal clock speed of 1.4 GHz so any differences in performance will be due to factors other than the clock speed of the CPU. Here is a summary of the two systems we'll use for our testing:

System 1
System 2
Opteron 240
Athlon XP 1700+
512MB dual-channel DDR 333 Mhz
256MB DDR 266 Mhz
Video Chipset
Nvidia FX5200 with 128MB
Matrox G450 with 32 MB
Disk Drive
West. Dig. WD1200JB 120 GB ATA/100
West. Dig. WD40BB 40 GB ATA/100
IDE Controller
Nvidia Nforce3
VIA® VT82C686B

To begin our tests, we need to find a benchmarking program that will run on OS/2. The venerable Sysbench 0.9.4g is widely available and provides a pretty good range of tests which evaluate several specific performance areas. Another handy OS/2 video benchmarking application is the Clear and Simple Software VidPerf benchmark which you can download and try on your system as a comparison. Finally, we'll time some real-world file transfers between volumes as a check on our benchmark results. So, let's begin!

Video performance is central the look-and-feel that we experience on our systems as users so let's start there. System 1 has an Asus 9520 video card with an Nvidia FX5200 chipset, 128mb of memory, and support for AGP 8x while System 2 has a Matrox G450 video card which supports AGP 1x, 2x, and 4x and has 32 mb of onboard video memory. Based on these hardware features, we would certainly expect the video performance of System 1 to be much better than System 2, so what does Sysbench tell us?
Sysbench Graphics (million pixels/second)
System 1
Sytstem 2
BitBlt S-> S copy
BitBlt M-> S copy
Filled Rectangle
Pattern Fill
Vertical Lines
Horizontal Lines
Diagonal Lines

Sysbench runs a series of graphics tests that show a clear winner here. System 1 is significantly faster in graphics performance on every test. Let's see what the Vidperf benchmark shows, though. Running Vidperf three times and averaging the results gives a result of 2.38 seconds.

Above is the image from the third test. Running Vidperf on System 2 gives a result of 7.63 seconds. It looks as though Vidperf supports the results that we saw on Sysbench and the video performance on System 1 smokes System 2 by a wide margin. System 1 is running the Scitech SNAP driver v2.2.2 while System 2 is running the Matrox drivers for OS/2 v2.58.144. Some of the credit for the video performance of System 1 must be given to Scitech for its SNAP driver package for OS/2. Scitech claims to be offering AGP8X support for OS/2 and, based on the results above, it looks like they are delivering on that. Here is the configuration screen for the SNAP drivers:
SNAP driver configuration screen

So, let's move on to file input/output operations. Both System 1 and System 2 are using ATA/100 IDE disk drives manufactured by Western Digital and both are running with the DANIS506.ADD IDE driver replace for IBM's IDE driver. What will we see in speed difference between the systems? Running Sysbench gives the following results.
Sysbench File and Disk Results
System 1
System 2
File I/O-marks, kilobytes/second
Avg. data access time, milliseconds
Cache/bus transfer rate, megabytes/second
Track 0 transfer rate forward, megabytes/second
Middle track rate forwards, megabytes/second
Last track rate backwards, megabytes/second
Average transfer rate, megabytes/second
Disk use CPU load, percent
64k sequential, cached, write, kilobytes/second
64k sequential, cached, read, kilobytes/second
64k random, cached, write, kilobytes/second
64k random, cached, read, kilobytes/second

As a check on these results, let's do a real-world test in which we copy 16 files, with a combined size of 47 megabytes, from one HPFS volume to another HPFS volume on the same disk drive. System 1 accomplishes this task in a speedy 5.15 seconds while System 2 requires 5.90 seconds to copy the same files, a 15 percent greater time. Based on the Sysbench results, System 2 is much slower on reads and somewhat slower on writes.

The general conclusion from this limited testing is that OS/2 appears to benefit much more than I would have expected from the hardware found in new systems, for graphics, file transfers, and disk operations.

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