TimeDX Help.


    The TimeDX millisecond timer test displays a screen similar to this:

    Displayed at the top of the dialog is the minimum timer resolution in milliseconds, this is the smallest interval that the Multi-Media Extensions report available, if this is not 1 DMDX's performance will be sub optimal. The High Performance Counter (HPC for short) is accurate to the displayed frequency. On modern processors it effectively yields a microsecond timer, if you have a system that provides a high performance timer that has a lower frequency it is possible that it's use may in fact be worse than DMDX version 1 can obtain when not using the HPC, as I've never seen nor heard of one I'm not going to write about it's implications.

    Click Start to start the Millisecond timer verification. Displayed next to "Millisecond Timer" is the high performance timer's converted value in milliseconds, to verify it's accuracy you will have to use a stop watch and run the test for a
long time. If "Automatic Update" has been unchecked clicking Refresh (which doesn't work so well if windows is smoothly animating it's windows) or Stop will update the list box with a track record of the latencies between millisecond callbacks, otherwise they will be updated once a second or so. On all machines tested so far these intervals are far from exactly 1.0ms, however the OS goes to extensive lengths to make sure there are 1000 of them in a second, so for most 1.1ms intervals there will be a similar number of 0.9ms intervals and so forth. There appear to be two classes of machines here, the good ones that have the majority of intervals in the 0.9, 1.0 and 1.1ms bracket and standard deviations of 0.30ms or less and the not so good machines that have most latencies in the 1.9 and 0.1ms bins with SDs over 0.70ms (all very old processors you're not likey to see these days). I have no clue as to what puts a given machine into a given class (the "Automatic Update" checkbox was an attempt to see if updating the results was the cause) but these days you're not likely to see a poorly performing machine.  Needless to say RTs measured on the good machines are going to be more accurate than the ones measured on the later machines -- see DMDX's Input section for advanced measurement of these latencies' affects. The Advanced Video and Millisecond Timer test gathers this same latency data, however the DirectX video system is active then as opposed to the windows display in this test and machines that perform relatively poorly with this test perform better there without the windows messaging overhead. By the time the retrace tracking thread is activated in the Vertical Retrace Sync Thread and you turn on the Millisecond test as well the results move back in the direction of this test, however they are still a bit better than indicated here, patently windows messaging involves a higher overhead.

    The Benchmark button determines how much overhead reading the HPC invokes by polling the high performance timer as many times as it can in a millisecond. The values on all systems I have tested so far are surprisingly low, around 200 times per millisecond, perfectly fast enough for DMDX's purposes but we're talking about machines that execute many, many, millions of instructions per second. Originally I thought this was largely because the high performance timer is a double precision floating point value (64 bit) and in order to read it as milliseconds it must be divided by a constant, but as the second part of the benchmark shows the arithmetic is no particular burden (typically 1/30th of the HPC read), the overhead must either be in reading the clock itself or the call to OS.

    There are two times I have seen the millisecond timer stuff not work, in TimeDX when this happens the list box of latencies does not update. One was when the Explorer had been open for a long while and a CD was in my CD Drive that Explorer does not like and it was caught in an infinite loop. Once it had been terminated with cntrl-alt-delete the millisecond timer started working again. This is not a weird as it sounds, the millisecond code is part of the multi-media stuff, the CD probably has an audio track and is therefore part of that subsystem.

    The other time is after TimeDX crashes and you run it again. Hopefully by the time you get the thing you won't be able to make it die, however the nature of the Universe being what it is someone will. Basically if the program does one of a number of verboten things it is summarily terminated by the operating system, which is fine, except that if the millisecond timer callback was being used it appears to get snarled on older operating systems. Running TimeDX until the latency list box updates will fix the problem, at most I have need to run TimeDX twice.

    NOTE: Users of laptops may need to pay closer attention to the use of the high performance timer. A Windows 2000 timer is derived from the RDTSC instruction available on Pentium 5 and higher CPUs, it's count is based upon CPU clock frequency, something that normally doesn't fluctuate -- however a laptop can switch it's CPU clock for it's low power standby, so some care needs to be taken to make sure the laptop isn't in any a low power state. If I had a laptop I could offer some advice, I don't so I can't.

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