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Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] Good laptop for GR/USRP

From: Marcus Leech
Subject: Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] Good laptop for GR/USRP
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 23:40:24 +0100
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20070301)

Bahn William L Civ USAFA/DFCS wrote:
We will (hopefully) be purchasing some new laptops specifically for use
with the USRP and wanted to get any recommendations on particularly good
machines to purchase or, failing that, what specs to focus on.

This is my present thinking - please correct any misconceptions I have:

1) Dual core is probably a very good way to go, especially since our
applications are going to involve a signal processing thread and a
control thread.
I just started using a Pentium D 940-based dual-core system for my radio astronomy work. I'm happy with it, but it's not a laptop. Eventually, Gnu Radio will support multi-threading for processing blocks that are particularly expensive, I think, which will be much more useful on multi-core CPUs. Currently I think only the signal processing and Gui chains are in different
 threads, but that's a start...

2) We want to get as much processor speed as we can get.
Laptops usually lag desktops in raw clock rate. You want something with a manly cache. My Celeron D machine at 2.95Ghz was unable to keep up with 8Mhz radio astronomy processing, but my dual-core Pentium D 940 with 2M cache per core machine is easily able to
 keep up with 8Mhz radio astronomy work without any USRP overruns.
3) Memory probably isn't a huge concern. We will probably be getting 1GB
of ram.
Double that and you'll likely be happier. The virtual size of Gnu Radio applications is
 quite large, and the working set size is also surprising.
4) In order to capture long data sequences, it would be nice to have a
speedy throughput to the hard drive. What is a good solution here - as
in what is a reasonable set up that is considerably faster than the
run-of-the-mill hard drive and controller? (When all is said and done,
we'll live with what we get, this isn't super important to us).
Disks I can't comment on. Laptop drives tend to be slower than their desktop
5) What processors should I consider and/or avoid? My understanding is
that GR leverages the advanced floating point capabilities of modern
processors, but I have no idea which ones are particularly good or
particularly bad.
Avoid small-cache processors. But if you're going dual-core, you'll be getting something
 with much more cache than the 256K in the Celeron D.
6) How much does the video card affect things? Does it affect non-GUI
applications very much (as in, does GR use the processing capabilities
of today's video cards in any significant way for non-video

Thanks a lot!
Gnu Radio doesn't (yet) leverage the computing capabilities of the graphics card. Garden-variety
 graphics cards are just fine--that's what I use for radio astronomy stuff.

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