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Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"   I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".  
Robert F. Kennedy

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Punish My PC!

Have you cobbled together a system that you are going to use for something critical / important?
Have you just built The World's Most Beastly System?
Do you have a system that MUST run, 24/7, come Hell or High Water?

Or, maybe, you just want to see if your system has The Right Stuff.

What you need is a PC Benchmark Program.

There are a lot of benchmarks out there - and if you don't believe me just go to any well stocked magazine rack somewhere and snoop three or four PC magazines.  You will find as many benchmarks as there are editors - each claiming that THEIR benchmark is the sine-qua-non of benchmarks.

Each of these benchmarks exists to target a particular aspect of your computer - be it raw processing power, graphics rendering and speed, the motherboard, or whatever.

But, just maybe, all you need to know is if Your Machine Can Hack It.

Here are two interesting little beasties - and I mean little as these utilities have a very small footprint.  And I also mean BEASTIES, as these will torture your system to the point where it will confess to setting the Reichstag fire, if not plotting the downfall of Rome itself.

The first is PRIME95 - specifically designed to try and find Mersenne prime numbers.  Specifically it seeks to find Very Large Mersenne prime numbers.  As in 12 million decimal-places - or more.

So, why should you care, and how is this going to help?

First - should you decide to join the fine folks at GIMPS, and should you be so extremely lucky as to actually FIND one of the beasties, (since the dawn of mathematics, only 47 have been found so far), there is not only glory to be had, there are also CA$H PRIZE$.  As in moola, Benjamins, coin, or just plain cash money.  (This is also a great way to flesh out a Mathematics dissertation.)

NB:  It should be noted that there is also a poster for sale there at the GIMPS site, about the size of a 4x8 piece of plywood, that contains every last digit of this immense number in Living Color.  Likewise it should be noted that they sell - as a companion product to the poster - a high-power Jeweler's Loupe so that you can actually SEE the digits!  (They are indeed that tiny.)

Secondly - even TRYING to find one of those "little" twelve-bazillion decimal-place beasties requires all the computing power your poor little PC has to muster.

Not only does your CPU take a beating - every single core of it - but each and every FPU, (Floating Point Math Unit - built into each CPU core), gets the workout of it's life.  The result is usually a CPU chip that gets hot enough to smell.  Not to mention you will get to hear your processor's heat-sink fan wind up to its maximum speed for the first time in history.

While making your CPU cry "Uncle!" by beating it senseless, working with twelve-bazillion-digit numbers requires a LOT of data-shuffling back and forth into RAM.  Ergo, your main memory gets the beating of it's life too.  Not to mention your motherboard's Memory Management Unit, northbridge chip, southbridge chip, sandybridge, windy-bridge, suspension-bridge, and any other kind of bridge chip you may have.

The result of putting your machine on the Rack is this:  If there is anything in your system that's not up to snuff - or is even considering the vaguely distant possibility of departing from the Straight And Narrow Path - this will flush the partridges out of the bush in short order.

The next fine fellow in the Spanish Inquisition isn't even a torture test.  It's just a cute little utility that stands around, thermometer in one hand and digital voltmeter in the other, telling you how loudly your PC is cursing you.

It's called HW Monitor, and the fine folks at CPUID, (who also make the excellent CPU-Z program), provide it free of charge.

It provides a nice window showing all your system voltages, fan speeds, MoBo and CPU temperatures, etc.  Running this with Prime95 is a good idea.  This way you will know if the smell coming from your PC is just hot aluminum, or the smell of melting silicon as your $700 CPU breathes it's last.

The bottom line is this - if you have a PC, Mac, Linux box, or whatever you need to test - these are a couple of free tools you can download to do it.

What say ye?

Jim (JR)

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