Monday, August 11, 2014

My Specs for Berry's Meme

Well, let's face it, I was overdue for a blog entry, and computer specs are integral to everything I do here and elsewhere - how I run the software I use to make stuff and Second Life where I make believe the stuff I make is real stuff. 

First off gotta say that although I don't regularly do Strawberry Singh's memes, I often think that when they are fact finding missions, they perform a valuable public service. This one I decided I'd follow through with so that there would be at least one person on a pretty good but by no means great computer who can nevertheless report great performance and experiences in SL.

My Facts & Specs Follow

1. Share any of your computer specs (video card, memory, etc..) 

CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-3770 CPU @ 3.40GHz (3410.06 MHz)
Memory: 16333 MB
OS Version: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1 (Build 7601)
Graphics Card Vendor: NVIDIA Corporation

Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 650/PCIe/SSE2

^ It's about a year old, it was also a custom build. I was pretty strapped for cash, so I kept the graphics card from my then burned to the ground computer, but I made sure that I put in a big old power supply in case I get rich suddenly and can go get top top toppest nvidia card. 

The extra RAM was the biggest improvement factor for me. I only had 2 gigs before this upgrade, and like you could rarely run more than SL and maybe a couple web pages at a time. Now I almost always have Photoshop and Blender open while I am in Second Life with no problems.

Other stuffs: We have some in common - Windows 7, Photoshop CC, Wacom Intuos also the small one, yes, yes and yes!
Blender 2.71, ZBrush4R6 are frequently tag teamed with SL and I use 2 browsers Opera as main and Chrome for some things, both of which usually have multiple tabs open. 

My monitor is at least 6 years old now and has survived 2 different computers and a few random system upgrades. it's an HP w2408 and I have never seen a monitor I thought looked better. It's wide enough to have 2 programs open side by side, meaning that so far I have not felt the need to have an extra monitor... but some day.

2. Which viewer do you use most often? 

The default LL viewer is the only one I ever use per se, but I do take other viewers out for test drives to see whether things look different and if so in what way. Also, students and help seekers are frequently on other viewers, so I like to have the answers to where the buttons or menus are for them. And about once every year, I download and try every single not V1 style viewer just for fun.

3. What is your FPS when you have your graphics on ultra? 

I never actually use the slider, instead I select the stuff I want high or low individually. For instance, I might keep draw distance low, rarely turn shadows on, but would not last a second without Advanced Lighting. 

Anyway, using the slider and the Ultra setting, my FPS was 30 while running through the woods, and a bit higher when I stopped. Maybe that doesn't sound so high, but experience-wise I felt no lag whatsoever. 

With my usual Preference settings that look like this:

I can run through the woods or rip up The Cornfield (speaking of experience!) and my FPS is in the 50-70 range. So I think the shadows are actually what makes the difference. But as I said, the big difference in FPS number does not translate to any real noticeable difference in felt performance or the experience of lag for me. I hope people are not letting the quantifiable overshadow the qualifiable by convincing themselves that a high FPS means they are not lagged and a drop in FPS means they are lagged, or that place is laggy or whatever.

4. How often does Second Life crash for you? Is it usually just a viewer crash or your whole system crashes? What are you usually doing at the moment of the crash? 

Really I almost never crash. But the times I do, it is often because I have too many chat windows open in a crowd of people. So even though I almost never crash, I do sometimes if teaching a largish class.

I also sometimes crash when I am all alone on my platform because I have too many chat windows open and in particular if I have too many text fields open and waiting for entries. For example I will be yapping away in 2-3 groups, 1-3 private IMs, typing in search in inventory and editing/renaming an object, when blammo  I get disconnected. Really, on those occasions, I think the viewer is trying to do me a favor. 

I have only crashed to blue screen a couple times. It was in the past and while on the Firestorm viewer. I think it had to do with the fact that my graphics card was not well served by having vertex buffer objects on. At any rate, it scared me, and worse, once it left me with a video card showing as uninstalled in the system hardware list. 

5. Do you know of any tips or tricks in the settings that would improve performance?

Well, much depends on which part(s) of the performance matters to the person. Draw distance down is my first line of defense and after that if I have a lag spike or whatever I turn off avatars (Ctrl Alt Shift 4.. or corner 4 as I call it). No avatars to render equals huge reduction in lag. But I know a lot of people think avatars, their own included are the most important part of the scene, so maybe that's not the best cure for them. 

I have been noticing more and more lately that keeping my chat windows down to a dull roar also helps with textures staying in focus, which have been a bit of a plague for me for a few months.

I'm not sure if inventory size affects performance or crashing, though I have long suspected it might. The people I find I say WB to the most often seem to have mega inventories 100K-ish in common. Me I keep a quite modest 20K inventory and I have everything sorted inside system folders generally, which someone told me made losing stuff less likely. If we could rename system folders, and I wish we could, my "Photo Album" could be renamed My Filing System.  

Ok, that's enough about that. Thanks for the inspiration Berry. 

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