In The Belly Of The .NET Beast

ATI decided to take a different approach this time around. The Catalyst Control Center (CCC) is written as a client/server pair, and allows for much extensibility and customization. All the underlying work of communicating with the driver has been taken care of in the server, which also exposes hooks to adjust any of the settings that ATI allows to be changed.



In talking about the usefulness of this, ATI has stated that vendors will now be able to customize effectively and quickly the control center for their product. We will also probably see UI mods from industrious users who want to add or subtract functionality, as the programming interface is not being kept private.

There are a couple of downsides to going with .NET for a graphics driver user interface. First, the client and server are constantly running. Second, the .NET framework from Microsoft is required (available via Windows Update). These aren't major kinks, but they definitely are not desirable. Probably the most annoying issue that we ran into is that installing the .NET framework made it such that our main user account didn't auto-login anymore. This was easily fixed and not that big of a deal (and it's also Microsoft's problem).

The 60 or 70 extra megs of memory used and multiple extra processes running are not what resource snobs are going to want to see, but ATI provided us a FAQ that addresses multiple questions about resources. They state that the CCC will release any memory that it occupies if another process requests it. We don't have a good way of testing this right now, but we can say that we haven't observed any performance drop in games due to the new UI. Maybe we should run Winstone to see if it impacts normal usage models.

So now that we know a little bit about how the CCC was built, let's take a look at what it does.

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  • Reflex - Saturday, September 04, 2004 - link

    Honestly, the people who bitch about this are the ones who have no clue how to code anyways. They see bigger numbers and assume thats bad, rather than make any attempt to figure out how memory is managed these days and whether or not a large memory footprint is a real issue in a given situation.

    Learn about .NET and other programming tools and perhaps you'll be qualified to make statements about program sizes. As it stands now the mentality is that 'bigger memory footprint = bad' when the real question is how that memory is managed, not how much is used.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Saturday, September 04, 2004 - link

    Hear hear! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 04, 2004 - link

    With all this talk of programming and such, maybe some of the people should stop and think about things a little more. How much memory (in textures) does that little OpenGL application use? That could conceivably be a decent chunk of the size and RAM usage when the control panel is open. Depending on how the textures are stored (BMP or TAR vs. JPG), the 3D preview application could also be a decent chunk of the overall download.

    As far as programmers being "lazy", it has nothing to do with that. How did programmers get good results with 256K of RAM? Well, they scapped graphical interfaces and wrote in assembly code. We need to stop being such lazy people and driving around in cars and using microwaves! We should walk everywhere and cook over a campfire! Part of the reason we now see more intuitive UI design is because programmers have gone beyond assembly coding.

    Yes, assembly is still faster, but what would you rather have: Doom 3 in its current incarnation, or Doom 3 that runs twice as fast, with a release date some time around 2015? By 2010, computers will be fast enough that it wouldn't matter if you had the "slower" version of Doom 3 (or pick any other complex game). And if you can code a super-complex engine like Doom 3 and get it debugged and tested using pure assembly before 2015, why aren't you off "building a better mouse trap" instead of complaining about CCC? You could make good money if you have such l33t programming skillz!
    Reply
  • Reflex - Friday, September 03, 2004 - link

    The 70MB does NOT hurt performance in any way. It is seamlessly swapped out of physical memory as other programs need that space, and as a result there is zero performance hit. The complaints about sloppy coding are also rediculous. We do not know what is being done that takes that much memory, but my guess is that a lot of it is .NET overhead that you will have with any .NET application. Likely individual .NET apps will not take up that much space, however their is a certain amount that needs to be loaded before any .NET application can run.

    Regardless, if it causes zero performance hit in any other application, tell me why it should matter to anyone at all? Many of you are busy critiquing code that you cannot even see. Thats rediculous, I invite you to create something with similiar functionality using the tools they are using in less space and *then* you can go criticizing other's code...
    Reply
  • val - Friday, September 03, 2004 - link

    70 MB hurts any way. Far Cry and other games using full size of memory even if you have 1 GB on board. 70 MB is >7% of that size just for design of unused panel? Good developers are rare. Hope that nvidia will not go same way to catch teenager's eyes. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, September 03, 2004 - link

    We've looked into the .NET thing a little more and found that the extra memory usage is manage fairly well and doesn't impact system performance in our limited analysis. If people really want it, we can run a winstone with and without the ccc and report the numbers.

    The .NET framework does not come auto installed with SP1 or SP2. The computer we tested this on had SP2 installed and I had to go to windows update and specifically install the .NET framework.

    /"Just so you all know (including whoever wrote this review), the ATI skins can be disabled and the default system skin enabled."/

    The "system skin" option is poorly done as it does not color the tab panel in a proper fashion. Check display properties, check system properties. Tabs and their associated pages should be an offwhite that is slightly lighter than the manilla background of the window. This inconsistency distracted me enough to not recognize that it was actually not a skin.
    Reply
  • val - Friday, September 03, 2004 - link

    How surprising you havent seen performance drop due to memory usage with 2 GB onboard :-).
    Anyway memory will not be unloaded, it will maybe swapped, but its decreasing performance.
    Ati is moving from performance oriented to design oriented company. What will be next?
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, September 03, 2004 - link

    For everyone saying that "Oh, 60-70MB of RAM is nothing", or "Get broadband you losers", you're missing the point.

    Just because you can get away with coding sloppy doesn't mean you should. I call a program that uses this much resources (disk space and RAM) to do the task of driver control settings to be a bloated hog. Give me simple and straightforward over "Gee Whiz" any day. Go back two decades and think about all the things that good programmers accomplished in such small amounts of disk space and RAM, because they HAD to. Personally, I think that programmers should program like they still have to, rather than require a bunch of huge runtime libraries and resources. I don't want funky windows with animated cars in my driver control app...I want a clear interface with labeled buttons and a good help interface for knowing what this setting or that does.

    Reply
  • vailr - Friday, September 03, 2004 - link

    I was looking for ATI to include in CCC an option to disable the two ATI startup services ("ATI Smart" and "ATI Hotkey Poller"). Instead (after Start/Run/services.msc: disabling both ATI services), you then get a popup notice, that "Since ATI Smart is not running, any settings changed in CCC will not be kept".
    So, this new CCC looks to be much bloat and no benefit whatsoever.
    Reply
  • spartacvs - Friday, September 03, 2004 - link

    Well said ProviaFan,

    Personnally, I feel sorry for peoples who say comments like "get broadband you losers". It shows how some peoples can be ignorants. Specialy when you know their boradband is more probably paid by their mummy and daddy.
    Reply

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