13 June 2021

Win XP still ticking

Scientific researchers have many reasons for keeping aged computing hardware alive, as Anna Nowogrodzki reports: lack of funds to upgrade, stability and durability, and even—sometimes—performance.
For [neuroscientist Bjoern] Brembs, older PCs offer another crucial feature that was lost when Microsoft replaced its text-based operating system, MS-DOS, with Windows. MS-DOS “handles data as they come in with no buffering delays”, says Brembs, who exploits this feature for his fruit-fly flight simulator. “In Windows, so many things are constantly happening in the background,” Brembs says. You might want to take measurements at intervals of precisely 50 milliseconds, but the operating system might be able to manage only an average of 50 ms, with intervals ranging from 20 to 80 ms, depending on what else it has to do. “For flies,” says Brembs, “such massive delays are perceivable.”

17 March 2021

16 March 2021