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What, for a Paleo computer, can be done to get performance out of an Itronix GD8000?

MOTIVATION: PALEO BACKGROUND (skip if you're busy)

In the Paleo "diet", the basic premise is that Homo sapiens sapiens works better under conditions that more closely mirror what we are adapted to. That includes:

  • Avoiding carbs, a dietary hack that carries nasty consequences.
  • Eating meat, plenty of vegetables and fruit, and some e.g. eggs.
  • Getting exercise with the stress laid on strength, not aerobics.
  • Waking up naturally to light, perhaps from a light alarm clock, not groggily getting up to a loud noise at o-dark-thirty.
  • Getting a healthy amount of sunlight. Sunburn may be a bad thing, but at least on the "out of Africa" theory, the reason some of us are light-skinned, instead of everybody being black, is an Ice Age adaptation to people who migrated to a frozen-over Europe with a Mediterranean having temperatures on par with today's Arctic or Antarctic, with people covered by heavy insulating clothes to compensate for the frosty temperature, who were getting much less sunlight than humans needed.

Arguably, if you are going to be spending discretionary time at your computer outside of the office, and the weather is appropriate, Paleo is a reason to prefer to go outside for that time.

(I'm not sure if you've tried a regular laptop outside, but it can be painful to read. With my laptop, set on maximum brightness, the screen is so dark in sunlight that text is illegible unless you use accessibility features like magnifying a browser window.)


This last item is most to the point here in that one thing that would be less wrong would be to spend one's discretionary computer time using rugged devices, meaning computers / tablets / handhelds where a major design consideration is working in rough outdoor environment with screens that are legible in sunlight (I have a maxed-out Itronix GD8000; it's a bit of an old beast, but it costs much less than $1000 for a computer that cost over $4000 new and not maxed-out), but rugged computers tend to have deliberately chosen low-ish clock speeds, in this case 1.87 GHz dual core, because power draw and heat vary quadratically with clock speed, but this reduced clock speed, if I understand correctly, is almost half an Alienware advertised clock speed, and my use case should not be CPU bound.

There were some compromises made in the GD8000. It's a clunky beast, and the display is an admittedly unimpressive 1024x768. (The resolution is not great, but it's 1024x768 pixels of "looks wonderful in the sun," like it was specifically designed for outdoors viewing. Contrast a MacBook Pro, where even on the brightest setting, the display is illegibly dark and the computer is prone to overheating, as is an iPad.) There is, as I understand, a compromise in a lack of dedicated video memory, and the graphics card, if it has one, is nothing to write home about. (Note that the computer gives a gorgeous rendering of Marine Aquarium 3; I can't tell a difference between MacBook Pro and GD8000 in rendering Marine Aquarium 3 and that's definitely the most graphics-intensive program I've run on it.) Some decisions give added benefit; I got a bit of a lemon as far as secondhand battery goes, but it's supposed to have 8 hour battery life on some settings, expandable to 12 hours if you put an additional battery in the optical bay. Hard drive speeds are terrible; I recall them being somewhat of 1/4 the range considered normal, and on that score I simply have not had hard drive speeds that caused trouble. (SSD replacement is available, although for my computer that's a 256G replacement for a 1.5T drive as shipped.)


I was involved in trying to get a working environment to establish a successor website to demo.pragmatometer.com, which in this case meant a box with Windows 10 installed as the host OS, VMware Player, and a fresh and updated installation of Linux Mint as the guest OS. As my (maxed-out) box has 8G RAM, I allocated 4G to Mint and left 4G for Windows. I was trying to run Chrome, run a non-resource-intensive continuous integration script for ReactJS's JSX, and edit files with Vim in terminal windows. The successor script, like demo.pragmatometer.com (cut to the chase and view JSX), is intended to take a very light touch to the CPU. ReactJS is intended for user interface work including games, and is intended to be performant by default, but it is intended for basic PIM and a 486 should be overpowered as far as demands that have been placed on the processor. The app handles calendaring, todo, and scratchpad, none of which should be demanding.


Once I had gotten everything installed and in place, I got to work and slowly acknowledged to myself how much my wonderful development environment was bogging. It bogged enough to shift me from expecting to do open source software development on the back porch, to staying inside on my Mac. I was trying to make minor changes to my JSX source for a Django application, and I was overlooking multi-second delays when swapping windows, as well as getting Vim to register keystrokes, and it consistently seemed a really long time to get webpages to load (served by the Django development server). Even taking into account that the hard drive is very slow, I don't see why you should need 5+ seconds to alt-tab.

Now if the issue is virtualization, I may be able to get a little closer to Windows by running Cygwin; I also don't know if there are some VMware Player vs. Workstation issues. But there were long stretches of my attempted migration from a MacBook Pro to a GD8000 where performance was easily an order of magnitude less than it should be; I would normally consider a possibility that it was constantly swapping, but there was no particularly great hard drive noise, the things I was doing shouldn't have been demanding on any resources, and certain old things I remember for swapping weren't there. On a Debian machine years back, when I crossed the threshold into swapping, and switched into a workspace that placed me in swapping territory, the appearing or disappearing window was slowly painted or unpainted regarding the background, stripe by stripe, appearing or disappearing. This was as slow as swapping, but any effect was sudden after its delay. This included swapping between windows, getting a new browser window to load, getting a response from the editor in terms of a terminal window, and so on.


What, in software or hardware, can I do so that my GD8000 will exhibit normal performance behavior in response to development activity that should not be particularly demanding? Is there some sort of software tune-up I should be making? Should I swap guest and host? Are there ways to ask Windows 10 and Linux Mint 17.2 to be thriftier? Should I try something I haven't thought of yet? I'm sure something would improve in my performance if I shelled out $1000 for a 256G SSD, but that's on a financial back burner.

Thanks for any help,