Friday, 22 July 2011

Why your computer is slow and the Network congested

A couple of colleagues, who I shall not name, were having this discussion with me just the other day.  They like most in the industry are bonafide engineers with a number of years of experience building mission critical systems for fortune 500 companies.

The reality of it is that disk fragmentation, large caches of internet files on disk, drivers, programs, overburdened registry hives are common causes for computers to slow down.  However my esteemed colleagues assured me this was not the case.

The real cause for computers to slow down is electricity. It’s the reason why wiring wears out as well and needs to be changed in old houses.

Electricity as we know is a stream of electrons, and metal is not especially brilliant at conducting it. Some of this is lost to resistance and heat, which means the electrons are escaping. This in turn leads to metal loss, due to the atoms being destabilized by the loss of the electrons.

This is why your wonderful 64 bit Core i7 processor becomes a 63 bit processor over time.  Or maybe just a 63.75 bit processor.  This has the effect of causing the instructions on the computer to run slower, especially if they are 64 bit. It is like a car, as my esteemed colleagues assured me, over time the engine loses compression due to wear and tear. Similarly the chip loses bits and thus power. However this loss is uneven, and as information flows over the network, the dislodged bits and bytes come stuck at random places.

On the networks these bits are like pieces of gravel, and once a lot of them come to reside in a particular location they have the same effect as gravel on the roads. If they accumulate into bytes, then they act like boulders. Typically in bends on the wire or in the antennas of the wireless routers.  The packets of data don’t see the accumulated bytes, and thus crash into each other since the protocol is not designed to account for these. Just as you don’t expect speed bumps on the highway.  Hence the network traffic gets congested.

The problem as I am assured by the gentlemen with a Master’s degree in Computing is quite simple. We just have to design our systems with 63 bit architecture rather than 64 bit architecture. That way we will underuse the available capacity, and will have outsmarted the ravages of electricity.

And on that note I need to reboot my brain. A null pointer exception has occurred.

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