Critical Section

Windows 7: paging that works

Monday,  05/17/10  10:02 PM

Hi!  Yes, it is time for a


You all know, I am not the biggest fan of Windows.   (*cough*)   Over the years I have criticized Microsoft for focusing on the wrong stuff, adding all sorts of bells and whistles which aren’t even properly part of an operating system and adding cruft and overhead while neglecting core facilities like memory management and networking.   So hold on to your hats because here comes a compliment.  

Windows 7 finally has paging that works.   And that is a breakthrough.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been assembling extremely large images for Jacopo Annese, a researcher at UCSD’s Brain Observatory.   You may know him as the leader of the team which sectioned H.M.’s brain.  The assembly process consists of compressing large tiles together into columns, and then compressing columns together into the final image.   It takes about eight hours to complete one image; the files are about 2.5GB in size after 40:1 compression with JPEG2000.

So here’s the thing: I’ve been able to do this in the background on my laptop while doing all sorts of other stuff; sending email and surfing the web, editing various documents, blogging, making and presenting powerpoints, working in Excel, even coding in Visual Studio.   The compression processes just run in the background, sucking a ton of storage and grabbing CPU cycles when they are available, and paging when necessary.  I can put my laptop to sleep, Zzzz…, then wake it up, and everything resumes; under Win 7 it all “just works”.   I don’t have to worry about the background processes dying or stalling, and more importantly don’t have to worry about their impact on my foreground work.   Finally in 2010 we have a version of Windows that works the way a computer ought to, instead of falling off a performance cliff as soon as physical memory is exhausted.

I know, I know; precelebration is the root of all failure.   I’m now probably five minutes away from a blue screen.   Still I thought it was worthy of mention… if you’re not on Win 7 yet, think about upgrading; you’ll like it.


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