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A 64-bit app in the real world

A 64-bit app in the real world

Supplied by AMD

There are big expectations of 64-bit processing. AMD have invested a tremendous amount of resources into their 64-bit future. There is discussion, rumor and banter that this new technology will alleviate some of the bottlenecks. Many hope but some are still waiting for a definitive answer to the 64-bit question. Is it for us and is it better? Here is a real world application…giving real world results.

AMD have introduced the PC consumer to 64-bit processors. AMD have brought to the consumer level marketplace an affordable 32-bit/64-bit product. These processors pull double duty where users can enjoy the benefits of improved technology (processing power and speed) with current 32-bit operating systems and applications safe in the knowledge that their 64-bit capable processor provides a bit of insurance against the future when 64-bit becomes mainstream.

The problem is there isn’t a mainstream release of a 64-bit OS and a plethora of applications to use with it. Microsoft released an evaluation version operating system early in 2004 and an updated version in the summer. The evaluation 64-bit OS will support 32-bit applications but the lack of “true” 64-bit applications leaves many desiring comprehensible and believable answers to the “64-bit and me” question.

The broad strokes of 64-bit computing paint the ability of the processor to address more RAM. The technological improvements along with the abilty to work with larger single chunks of data have some saying that 64-bit computing is to do more but not necessarily to do it faster. Remember that software engineers will load more onto a system as hardware becomes more powerful. Think of it like getting a bigger truck…then someone comes along and makes you tow a bigger boat.

What could a 64-bit desktop be like?

That’s a very hard question to answer. It’s the same as asking what an automobile of the future will be. Could it fly or will it run on water or will it be made obsolete by transporter beams?

64-bit processors for the consumer desktop change the question from “what could be done with a 64-bit environment?” to “what will I do with a 64-bit environment?” The question is the same whether it is asked of an R&D person, hardware manufacturer or software designer/programmer. 64-bit is just one ingredient in the soup that is PC technology.

Add a dash of improvement in processor speed and a heaping tablespoon of bandwidth. Mix with 8 cups of memory.

64-bit will be one catalyst towards improvements on the PC desktop. What will a 64-bit desktop of the future be like? It’s not clear. What COULD a 64-bit desktop be like? Just ask the question and there will be many answers.

A 64-bit application in the real world

Articles written in the first releases of AMD’s 64-bit capable processors had very little to work with for benchmarking purposes. Measurements, such as Linux Kernel compiles, have little connection with the typical PC consumer. After all, who sits around on a daily basis after sending email wondering how to compile their kernel faster? Many readers had to take other people’s words at face value then take a leap of faith to believe that 64-bits would be better.

The “proof is in the pudding”. It may not be the whole bowl but…here’s another spoonful.

Smoky City Design came to AMD with a 64-bit version of their application Panorama Factory. The program creates high-quality panoramas in an automated fashion from a set of overlapping digital images. It transforms (warps) the images in order to join them seamlessly into panoramas up to 360 degrees.

In layman’s terms Panorama Factory can take those digital vacation shots where you stood at that viewpoint and took a picture…turned a bit…took another…turned a bit…and so on. It will then stitch them together into one big photograph. It does more than that but that’s basically it.


Now here’s where things go whoops and in this case “whoops” is a good thing to demonstrate the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit processors. An application addresses memory. It holds data in RAM or virtual memory while it “thinks” about what it needs to do with it and then…does it. A computer works with chunks of data but sometimes there isn’t a large enough available chunk. The problem isn’t memory or lack thereof but the limit of how much memory can be utilized at a single moment by the processor.

It’s like trying to look at four outside walls of a house. From ground level only two sides can be seen at any given angle. The other two sides are there but you just can’t see them. Now don’t get cheeky by saying “What if it’s a glass house?” In other words the required memory may be available but the processor just cannot see beyond a certain maximum limit at a given time. Some say this is around 1 GB while others say 2 GB.

How it affects you and I

There are certain applications that may require addressing larger chunks of memory during a calculation. Digital cameras are becoming capable of capturing images in higher and higher resolutions. A 3000 x 4500 pixel PNG digital picture example weighed in at 42.9 MB. Once loaded into Photoshop the SAVE FOR WEB command was used resulting in Photoshop producing an out of memory error in a system with dual processors and 2 GB of RAM. The photo could still have effects applied to it or resized but a limitation of 32-bit addressing is revealed.

Panorama Factory can and often will manipulate 2 or more images at a given time in the process of stitching them together. Eventually the size of the picture will exceed the upper limit of memory that a 32-bit processor can cope with. It will be out of memory.


Adding more system RAM will not solve the problem. Again the problem isn’t if the system has 1, 2 or 4 GB of RAM but how big a block of RAM the processor can address in one single chunk. If the processor needs to address more than 1 GB (or 2 GB) of memory in a single chunk…..


The solution

64-bit processors of course. 64-bit processors can address larger chunks of memory thus removing the bottleneck of large memory requirements. However, it would be safer to say that AMD’s 64-bit raises the bar rather than absolutely solving the problem. If someone raises the bar then there will be someone who will try to reach it.

Proving the point

There are still very few 64-bit applications in the mainstream market. There isn’t a 64-bit version of Microsoft Office as of yet nor are there many 64-bit versions of popular games and other applications.

Smoky City Design brought the 64-bit version of Panorama Factory to AMD to showcase the advantages of a 64-bit application in a 64-bit environment versus the same application in 32-bit mode in a 32-bit environment.

The benchmark stitches 4 images together.


The program imported the images, selected the proper camera lens from its database, automatically fine tuned the image, selected the proper panorama type and created it and finally gave an option to save the final composite image.






So the collection of four images…




It’s an impressive program for this day and age of banging off hundreds of digital vacation pictures. Many will now be able to create one photograph instead of showing 5, 10 or 20 images of the same scene piece by piece.

The point of the 32-bit and 64-bit versions was to show performance gains of 64-bit over 32-bit. It was also to show how 32-bit addressing falls short; to the point of failure.

The test system

  • AMD Athlon 64 3800+ Processor (32-bit mode Socket 939)
  • Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 motherboard
  • ATI 9800 PRO 256 MB Video Card (BIOS AGP aperture set to 256)
  • 2 x 512 MB Corsair PC3200LL TwinX DDR RAM
  • LG 8x DVD +/- RW
  • 80 GB Seagate Hard Drive
  • Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Optical Mouse
  • Retail boxed heatsink
  • AMK SX1000 modded PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Enermax 465 Watt FC PSU

The Operating Systems

  • Windows XP Professional 32-bit Service Pack 1 all critical updates
  • Windows XP 64-Bit build 1069

Note: No other drivers were installed in either operating system. Reasoning explained in conclusion.

32-bit versus 64-bit: memory addressing

The Panorama Factory program attempted to stitch together 21 photos that are 3000 x 4500 pixels each. In 32-bit mode the attempt failed simply because the processor could not address enough memory to accomplish the task. There was enough system RAM and virtual memory but the program simply tried to do too much at once thus…


The task completed in 64-bit mode due to the ability to address significantly more memory.

Now the sky is not falling and there’s no need to question the capabilities of that brand new, state-of-the-art PC. The Panorama Factory demo simply demonstrates how a 64-bit processor can address more memory at a given time thus have greater ability to complete tasks that require larger chunks of memory simultaneously. A 32-bit processor can do quite a lot quite fast but it does so by dealing with the task in smaller pieces.

32-bit versus 64-bit: application speed

Panorama Factory has the ability to record the time taken to perform each function via a built in timer. It also calculates a master score called Wizard.


The numbers show a 25% speed increase of the application in the 64-bit environment. (Wizard total comparison).

Wizard 142.922 108.437
Stitch 102.969 76.344
Read 60.737 72.266
Crop 23.720 20.937
Warp 15.501 12.437
Resample 1.796 1.358
Decimate 7.830 7.850
Align 14.795 9.993
Final Align 3.438 2.047
Fine Tune 23.656 17.531
Render 0.251 0.201
Render Blend 16.265 5.689
Refine Focal Length 0.328 0.203
Refine Barrel Correction 0.000 0.000
Refine Falloff Correction 0.000 0.000
Enhance 14.593 7.063
Improve Quality 0.000 0.000
Write 29.452 18.157

Conclusions and things that go bork

The benchmarks were executed on the bare operating systems. 64-bit drivers are still in beta and not without problems. The clean install of build 1069 of the Windows XP 64-bit evaluation OS produced the predictably better results. The introduction of the nVIDIA NForce3 4.34a 64-bit chipset drivers threw the benchmark into a tailspin producing consistently poor results. The 64-bit road will be good to walk down but it’s still under construction; nVIDIA left a few potholes.

Panorama Factory demonstrates the advantages in speed and ability of an application requiring large memory chunks in a 64-bit environment versus a 32-bit environment.

64-bit computing will bring about speed increases to a number of applications. It’s just how much and with what application is yet to be fully realized. The other exciting promise is the ability to address more memory. Bigger chunks of data could mean better games or increasingly sophisticated multimedia tools.

The lesson has been taught and class is dismissed. 64-bit means big bites of big data. It’s do more and do more right now. Because of the increase in addressable memory a program that requires larger chunks of memory to complete a task is faster in the 64-bit world; AMD’s world.

Our thanks to AMD for
their support of this and many other sites.


  1. Shorty
    Shorty At last... a 64-Bit application !

    Nice article mate :thumbsup:
  2. Unregistered Simple software answer to this problem:

    Use a smart format like a tiled jpeg2000 or tiff format that allows image tiling and multiresolution storage. Who really needs to load a whole 10kx10k image in ram when your display device can only do 2kx2kmax!

    Of course I'm all for 64bit, I'm sure ultra resolution display devices themselves will start to become more commoditized and force it, amongst lots and lots of other things. 64bit allows programmers to be lazy and code brute force like they like to do.
  3. keto
    keto Stop it, John. ;D
  4. csimon
    csimon 75% of my graduates do composite imagery of large scale land photos taken via satellite at the highest resolutions available. Each map contains various numbers of photos but the numbers are usually very large. This is a very time consuming process but a 64 bit app would help tremendously!
    The output plot must be as accurate as possible and able to be measured ...and postscript plotting is out of the question.

    John ...is that you John? ;D
  5. MediaMan
    MediaMan Actually...if you want to get sticky about it. It's 40-bit registers.
  6. Gargoyle
    csimon wrote:
    75% of my graduates do composite imagery of large scale land photos taken via satellite at the highest resolutions available. Each map contains various numbers of photos but the numbers are usually very large. This is a very time consuming process but a 64 bit app would help tremendously!
    The output plot must be as accurate as possible and able to be measured ...and postscript plotting is out of the question.

    64-bit would definitely come in handy for that kind of application. Unfortunately, ESRI hasn't made public any kind of plans for making use of 64-bit, not even for Itanium. Maybe one of their competitors will steal some market share away and they'll get on the ball :D.

    Remotely sensed imagery, once uncompressed, is a huge RAM hog. I once tried to load up all the orthophotos for the state of Maine. Big mistake. There went the 1 GB of system RAM and a few more gigs of virtual memory. It didn't crash the program when I used up past what the processor could address, but it only showed the first 2gb or so of images. :(
  7. Unregistered What about Apple 64bit OS and Photoshops add in that allows for 64bit?
  8. MediaMan
    MediaMan Athlon 64 vs. Apple G5 Systems: Not Even Close

    Source: PC World.

    Sorry Mac. Yes, my staff use MACS becasue it is the graphic artist's preference...but not necessarily the fastest.
  9. Gargoyle
    Gargoyle So 5 months later, I finally try out the program. I was sold after about five minutes of the trial. It works great. Incredibly easy to use. I've been taking photos on hikes in NM and CO, and a single picture just can't do justice to the views out here.

    Thanks for letting me know about the program, MediaMan! :thumbsup:
  10. MediaMan

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