Welcome to No Limit Sound Productions

Company Founded

Our services include Sound Engineering, Audio Post-Production, System Upgrades and Equipment Consulting.
Our mission is to provide excellent quality and service to our customers. We do customized service.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Windows XP Service Pack

PC Notes

Technique : PC Notes

Just as musicians become acustomed to PCI cards, a replacement has already appeared on the horizon, in addition to the first service pack for Windows XP.

Martin Walker

Modern PCs make it possible to connect extra peripherals using a variety of different interfaces, such as USB and PCI, and, as you may already know, these work in very different ways. The Universal Serial Buss, as its name suggests, moves data about in one long stream, whereas the current Peripheral Component Interconnect buss moves data in parallel chunks, operating at 33MHz and transferring 32 bits of data at a time. However, with processor and memory speeds increasing all the time, it becomes impractical to improve PCI performance by simply adding more bits since this complicates circuit board design, so another solution is needed.

Take The PCI Express

Intel have recently backed a proposal for a next-generation PCI buss, which aims to become the new standard for the next 10 years. Originally referred to as '3GIO' (third-generation Input Output), the standard has now been dubbed PCI Express and is a serial connection that uses very high-speed connections called 'lanes', which are essentially two wire links that offer a 2.5GB/s bandwidth. Extra lanes can be added later if more bandwidth is required, but this initial specification will provide transfer rates of about 200MB/s, with faster rates already on the planning board.

A glimpse of the future? This is a prototype chassis showing what a PCI Express-equipped PC could look like, with four rear-mounted expansion slots.

Fast transfer speeds aren't the only benefit of this new PCI standard, because the lanes will also operate at a very low voltage, reducing interference and power problems, and PCI Express will support both hot-plugging and hot-swapping. Perhaps most importantly for musicians, there's further good news in that time-sensitive audio and video data can be guaranteed delivery via low-latency connections within the computer with devices interfacing via PCI Express. However, this new PCI standard will remain like the existing PCI buss in the way it identifies devices on power-up, the way they're addressed in the system, and the way data is sent and received.

It's expected that PCI Express will start to appear in desktop and notebook PCs at the beginning of 2004, initially to transfer graphics data instead of the current AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) interface. And when PCI Express slots start to appear as expansion slots in their own right, they'll share the motherboard with PCI slots supporting the existing standard for some time, so it will be a number of years before the existing PCI standard is phased out completely. This is, of course, exactly what happened when PCI took over from ISA some years ago, and long-term PC users will remember that PCI and ISA slots coexisted for some time. However, unlike both ISA and PCI cards, with PCI Express there's no need for huge edge connectors so devices will have the potential to become considerably smaller.

Windows XP SP1

There's some more interesting news for the legions of musicians now running Microsoft's Windows XP this month, with the release of the Service Pack 1. If you visit www.microsoft.com/WindowsXP/pro/downloads/servicepacks/sp1/default.asp you can read the list of 'fixes' and improvements, and each has a link to its own Knowledge Base article to provide further information. Some provide wider compatibility with new hardware and other applications, some address reliability and security issues, and there are several new features, including support for USB 2.0 devices and a new version of Windows Messenger.

SP1 also incorporates various changes as a result of Microsoft's brush with the US Department of Justice, including the ability to choose your default web browser, media player, and email software. These are accessed via a new button in the 'Add or Remove programs' page, which has Microsoft Windows, Non-Microsoft, and Custom options. However, until third-party developers start supporting these new options, this won't really be of much use right now as the only applications appearing will be those from Microsoft.

As always, it's tricky at this early stage to say categorically whether or not users should take the plunge, just in case some unexpected conflicts or other issues emerge. However, Windows XP SP1 does contain a removal feature so you can restore your PC to its previous state if needed, which is a welcome addition in my opinion, although I'd personally prefer to rely on a hard disk image in case anything went wrong, since this absolutely guarantees that you return to an identical machine.

If you have a fast Internet link, you'll probably find it easiest to download the 30MB Express Install, which is designed for those with a single computer, as it detects your system components and only installs those updates that 'are necessary for your system'. For those with multiple PCs, there's a Network Installation download that includes all the Service Pack files, but this is a mammoth 134MB (about 5.5 hours with a 64k connection). If you don't fancy long downloads, you can also order an update CD-ROM from Microsoft for the nominal charge of $9.95, although I suspect the majority of musicians may wait until SP1 finds its way onto a PC magazine's cover disc. As a footnote, it's worth noting that the same file can be used to update Windows XP Home, Professional and the 64-bit edition.

Installing Updates The Easy Way

Here's a suggestion for software developers: when you release a downloadable update, please include the name of the product and the version number in the file name. If you regularly download updates for all the different products installed on your computer, finding a folder a few months down the line that's full of setup.exe (or similarly named) files doesn't give any clue to what application or plug-in each installer is for unless you run them. But if you're thinking that you only need to run updates once and forget about them, what about if you run multiple partitions, your PC ever needs reformatting, or you want to start afresh on a new machine? You'll need all those updates again...

Another way for developers to make our lives easier would be to ensure that every application CD has its version number clearly printed on it, or, if this isn't feasible due to multiple applications being stored on the same CD-ROM, the release or pressing date would certainly help. When installing a new soundcard, for example, I've often found it easier to ignore the CD altogether and go straight to the manufacturer's web site to download the most recent driver version. This also tends to be a better option than installing from the CD-ROM and updating to a more recent driver version later on, which may involve tedious uninstalls, and sometimes even delving into the Registry to delete certain entries by hand.

Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 1 is a free download, offering many fixes, improvements and, perhaps most notably, support for USB 2.

While I'm on the subject of updates, it would also help if developers made it clear what versions of an application can be updated using a particular update file, preferably in a couple of sentences of text printed near the download link. When you're reinstalling an application or plug-in from scratch, some require the initial version to be installed from the original CD-ROM, followed the most recent update, while others require the original, an interim update and the most recent update. A growing number of developers these days are providing the full, updated application in the download, and in this case only require the original CD to be inserted as a check during the update procedure. If the update method employed could be made more obvious, it would certainly make the whole process quicker and easier, in addition to making for cleaner installations with the minimum of redundant files.

Many developers also have a separately downloadable 'read me' file for their updates, containing details of any bug fixes or new features, which can prove invaluable. On various occasions, I've simply not bothered to download a huge update file when it becomes apparent that the fixes don't affect my way of working — but you don't get this option if the 'read me' is embedded within the main download file. When another update appears that it does make sense for you to download, we're back to my previous point — without something to the effect that 'this file can be used to update all versions from 4.0 onwards', you're left wondering whether to play catch-up or just download the latest file.

To save you the tedium of having to download all your updates again after a hard drive disaster, it does make sense to back them up onto CD-R, but don't attempt to run an update file from there if you expect an original CD-ROM check. Despite inserting the original protected CD-ROM when requested so that it could be checked, and then inserting the CD-R containing the update again, another 'original check' was subsequently made that didn't give me the option to replace the update disc the original CD-ROM, and the entire install fell at the final fence. I ended up having to uninstall the entire application and start from scratch, this time after copying the update file onto my hard drive, which of course made the process much faster as well.  
Published in SOS November 2002

No comments:

Post a Comment