Windows 7 64-bit Best Programs and Utilities

When moving to Windows 7 64-bit, I took some convincing… what about compatibility? What of all the utilities I use – will they still work? What are the benefits?

Well, here’s the thing, if like me you have a half-decent video card, you may well find the funniest thing with your 4Gig of Ram Windows 7 32-bit all-singing computer… I usually seem to get around 2.6Gig of it!  My machines are all the same, no matter how much memory I put in – I never  get more than perhaps 3Gig of it – 32-bit software can only handle 4Gig at best and parts of that get stolen by the system and the video.

Does this matter? Well, it all depends what you want to do… in my case, run the odd VM, process the odd movie, do lots of image processing and some SQL work, maybe all at once… all of which can eat up the memory in no time.

So having taken the plunge and with 8Gig available, I fitted Windows 7 64-bit.

cpu usageQuite gratifying to see the available memory limits disappear as you see in the image to the right. Despite running defrag and other utilities while writing this blog entry, I’m using up a mere 2.1Gig leaving nearly 6Gig free.  I use VMware a lot and I’ve just upgraded to VMWare Workstation 7. There’s a reason for this.

One of the packages I wanted to run for testing was Microsoft SQL Server and no matter how I tried, I could not get this to install under Windows 7 64-bit… so I took the easy route, running Windows 7 32-bit as a VM – and I have to say it runs well given 2Gig to play with.

Of course, SQL COULD have been the start of a series of programs that would make me wish I’d not gone 64-bit – thankfully not.

Here’s a list of programs I’ve installed and which work a treat. These are my favourites anyway but it’s important to note that these ARE working under Windows 7 64-bit without any hassles – clearly they also work under the 32-bit version and unless noted, on Windows XP (I really didn’t bother much with Vista as it rapidly became apparent that it was not going to be a nice operating system). All the software below is free unless otherwise noted.

RocketDock:  Why use this when Windows 7 has a launch bar? Because said bar rapidly fills up and ends up on 2 lines – not nice. I’m running a 2-screen operation here and RocketDock works just fine on the second screen!

Camtasia Studio 6: (not free) I use this to record screen motion and the mic – works no problem at all over 2 screens (even straddling screens!) – with audio.

Google Earth: Runs no problem at all – I could not imagine NOT having this superb tool on my computers.

Gimp 2: As an alternative to Photoshop it’s not quite there yet, but Gimp 2 is free and that counts for a lot – so I fit this to all of my machines. It works well under Windows 7 both 64-bit and 32 bit.

Inkscape: If you’re looking to handle vectors, then perhaps Gimp is not for you. I use Inkscape for logos and similar vector-type drawing – again out of the box this runs a treat on 64-bit.

Radiosure: Am I going mad? What’s wrong with VLC? Nothing – but Radiosure is ideal for playing back Internet radio – AND it has a built-in recording function. Straight out of the box this excellent free Internet radio player performs.

PSPAD Editor: As far as free text editors go I thought I had it licked with Notepad++ but only recently stumbled upon this little number. PSPAD is – well, just nice. It handles all kinds of programming languages as well as general use – and I simply can’t think why I’d ever want to use Notepad (or Notepad++ again).

Magix Movie Edit Pro 15 Plus: (not free, but cheap) – One of the big drivers for moving to 64-bit was to get more space for running VMs and making movies etc. I’ve tried most of the PC movie programs and stuck with Ulead MediaStudio Pro for the longest time, however Ulead stopped supporting this and some other products and now I see they’ve been bought out – so they’re dead for my money. Some time ago I stumbled across this winner of a program and I’ve been dying to see how it performs given plenty of memory. Well, I’m glad to say, WONDERFULLY. Ideal for editing video, the program does just about everything in real time on a fast 64 bit PC.

Auslogics Disk Defragmenter:  Why this as against for example Defraggler? Well, for starters the latter seems to only want to defrag one disk at a time. Auslogics defragmenter handles multiple drives at once and can be scheduled. What can I say, it just works.

VLC Media Player: Not much to say really, VLC just gets better and better, playing all kinds of media from Apple MOV files to raw DVD video… on my little Dell laptop it was the ONLY media player that would run full-screen, full-speed without some kind of issues – it’s a fast, simple but powerful media player, blows MS Media player out of the water. Checkout the format and de-interlacing controls.

FastStone Image Viewer: As it says – FAST. This remains my all time favourite image viewer (and you can do some image correcting as well).

Other stuff that also works includes the Microsoft Office suite, GotoMeeting, Google Chrome, Firefox, VMWare Workstation, Windows Live Writer (used to pen this blog), DropBox, Balsamiq Mockups…

Am I glad I moved to Windows 7 64-bit? Most definitely yes.

Merry Christmas

 

Peter Scargill

SQL v MYSQL

I thought I’d write a little piece comparing SQL and MYSQL. Such comparison are rarely THAT useful – mine is of a single user, on a single user machine, it missed out more than it tells you – however, you might find it interesting non-the-less.

For some testing I’m doing, I just happen to have a couple of million logs records containing details of an email, the email addresses and their sent status along with delivery dates etc.

These originated on an MS SQL server, indeed there were a lot more than 2 million but I stripped all but the latest 2 million for the purposes of testing.  I was rather concerned about the time SQL was taking to do some searches and decided to start from scratch.. ie no indexes etc then see how much improvement I got from the indexes.

It occurred to me that now’s as good a time as any to do a comparison between the latest SQL (2008) and the latest MYSQL (5).

I figured all I’d have to do was copy my SQL table to an Excel file (Export) out of SQL – doddle… well, NO.

You’d think “sorry, you can’t do that” would be sufficient. Instead I received the most muddled error message from MS SQL… it seems that even today, MS can’t manage to put humane error messages up. I’ll not replicate the lot here but suffice it to say I could not understand a word of it.

Instead I had to resort to the very 20th century tactic of exporting 2 million records via a comma-delimited file !!! I have to say it took SQL less than a minute to generate this and it worked perfectly – but for heaven’s sake MS – Excel is your OWN PRODUCT!!!

Well, that experience was bad enough, importing into MYSQL was even WORSE – it took SEVERAL HOURS to import the 2m records into MYSQL.

Anyway, enough of the babble. 1 machine – 4G ram, fast hard drives…. no indexes initially – MS SQL 2008 running on Windows 7, MYSQL running in an XAMPP setup on the same machine. Judge for yourself the results.

 

SELECT count(id) FROM psEmailLog where idnumber=’1198999′

SQL 3 seconds

MYSQL 2 seconds

SELECT count(id) FROM psemaillog where opened=”

SQL 1 second

MYSQL 1 second

SELECT count(id) FROM psEmailLog where emailaddress like ‘peter%’

SQL 3 seconds

MYSQL 2 seconds

And now for something slightly more complex – this is where it gets interesting…

SELECT count(id) FROM psemaillog where emailaddress like ‘%peter%’ and emailaddress not like ‘%x%’

SQL 37  seconds

MYSQL 3 seconds

SELECT count(id) FROM psEmailLog where emailaddress like ‘%.co.uk’ and sent> ‘2009/10/01/’

SQL Failed – due to an out of range value, no useful help.

MYSQL 3 seconds

SELECT count(id) FROM psEmailLog where emailaddress like ‘%.co.uk’ or emailaddress like ‘%.com’

SQL 55 seconds

MYSQL  3.4 seconds

SELECT count(id) FROM psemaillog where emailaddress like ‘%aol%’ and returnedstat=-1

SQL 38 seconds

MYSQL 3 seconds

Ok, I know what you’re going to say…. not a fair competition, what happens when we have 100 users on at once (as has happened), what happens when you introduce indexes… well, I thought of that.

Adding an index to MS SSQL on the EMAILADDRESS took 28 seconds

Adding an index to MYSQL on the EMAILADDRESS took a wopping 132 seconds – one down for MYSQL but then how often do you do THAT.

But let’s see what difference they make (after giving time for any background tasks to take place).

SELECT count(id) FROM psEmailLog where emailaddress like ‘%@%’ and emailaddress like ‘%.co.uk’

SQL  68 seconds

MSSQL 13 seconds

Of course this does not tell you how the systems would compare under load or with many simultaneous users… but there you are – that’s my experience so far.