DirectStorage Shows Just Minor Load-Speed Improvements In Real-World PC Demo

Andrew Cunningham writes via Ars Technica: Microsoft’s DirectStorage API promises to speed up game-load times, both on the Xbox Series X/S and on Windows PCs (where Microsoft recently exited its developer-preview phase). One of the first games to demonstrate the benefits of DirectStorage on the PC is Square Enix’s Forspoken, which was shown off by Luminous Productions technical director Teppei Ono at GDC this week. As reported by The Verge, Ono said that, with a fast NVMe SSD and DirectStorage support, some scenes in Forspoken could load in as little as one second. That is certainly a monstrous jump from the days of waiting for a PlayStation 2 to load giant open-world maps from a DVD.

As a demonstration of DirectStorage, though, Forspoken’s numbers are a mixed bag. On one hand, the examples Ono showcased clearly demonstrate DirectStorage loading scenes more quickly on the same hardware, compared to the legacy Win32 API — from 2.6 seconds to 2.2 seconds in one scene, and from 2.4 seconds to 1.9 seconds in another. Forspoken demonstrated performance improvements on older SATA-based SSDs as well, despite being marketed as a feature that will primarily benefit NVMe drives — dropping from 5.0 to 4.6 seconds in one scene, and from 4.1 to 3.4 seconds in another. Speed improvements for SATA SSDs have been limited for the better part of a decade now because the SATA interface itself (rather than the SSD controller or NAND flash chips) has been holding them back. So eking out any kind of measurable improvement for those drives is noteworthy.

On the other hand, Ono’s demo showed that game load time wasn’t improving as dramatically as the raw I/O speeds would suggest. On an NVMe SSD, I/O speeds increased from 2,862MB/s using Win32 to 4,829MB/s using DirectStorage — nearly a 70 percent increase. But the load time for the scene decreased from 2.1 to 1.9 seconds. That’s a decrease that wouldn’t be noticeable even if you were trying to notice it. The Forspoken demo ultimately showed that the speed of the storage you’re using still has a lot more to do with how quickly your games load than DirectStorage does. One scene that took 24.6 seconds to load using DirectStorage on an HDD took just 4.6 seconds to load on a SATA SSD and 2.2 seconds to load on an NVMe SSD. That’s a much larger gap than the one between Win32 and DirectStorage running on the same hardware.

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Apple’s New Studio Display Has 64GB of Onboard Storage

New submitter Dru Nemeton shares a report from 9to5Mac: Apple’s new Studio Display officially hit the market on Friday, and we continue to learn new tidbits about what exactly’s inside the machine. While Apple touted that the Studio Display is powered by an A13 Bionic inside, we’ve since learned that the Studio Display also features 64GB of onboard storage, because who knows why… […] as first spotted by Khaos Tian on Twitter, the Studio Display also apparently features 64GB of onboard storage. Yes, 64GB: double the storage in the entry-level Apple TV 4K and the same amount of storage in the entry-level iPad Air 5. Also worth noting: the Apple TV 4K is powered by the A12 Bionic chip, so the Studio Display has it beat on that front as well. Apple hasnâ(TM)t offered any explanation for why the Studio Display features 64GB of onboard storage. It appears that less than 2GB of that storage is actually being used as of right now.

One unexciting possibility is that the A13 Bionic chip used inside the Studio Display is literally the exact same A13 Bionic chip that was first shipped in the iPhone 11. As you might remember, the iPhone 11 came with 64GB of storage in its entry-level configuration, meaning Apple likely produced millions of A13 Bionic chips with 64GB of onboard storage. What do you think? Will Apple ever tap into the A13 Bionic chip and 64GB storage inside the Studio Display for something more interesting?

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Ask Slashdot: Is It Time To Replace File Systems?

DidgetMaster writes: Hard drive costs now hover around $20 per terabyte (TB). Drives bigger than 20TB are now available. Fast SSDs are more expensive, but the average user can now afford these in TB capacities as well. Yet, we are still using antiquated file systems that were designed decades ago when the biggest drives were much less than a single gigabyte (GB). Their oversized file records and slow directory traversal search algorithms make finding files on volumes that can hold more than 100 million files a nightmare. Rather than flexible tagging systems that could make searches quick and easy, they have things like “extended attributes” that are painfully slow to search on. Indexing services can be built on top of them, but these are not an integral part of the file system so they can be bypassed and become out of sync with the file system itself.

It is time to replace file systems with something better. A local object store that can effectively manage hundreds of millions of files and find things in seconds based on file type and/or tags attached is possible. File systems are usually free and come with your operating system, so there seems to be little incentive for someone to build a new system from scratch, but just like we needed the internet to come along and change everything we need a better data storage manager.
See Didgets for an example of what is possible.
In a Substack article, Didgets developer Andy Lawrence argues his system solves many of the problems associated with the antiquated file systems still in use today. “With Didgets, each record is only 64 bytes which means a table with 200 million records is less than 13GB total, which is much more manageable,” writes Lawrence. Didgets also has “a small field in its metadata record that tells whether the file is a photo or a document or a video or some other type,” helping to dramatically speed up searches.

Do you think it’s time to replace file systems with an alternative system, such as Didgets? Why or why not?

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Ask Slashdot: How Many Files Are on Your Computer?

With some time on their hands, long-time Slashdot reader shanen began exploring the question: How many files does my Windows 10 computer have?

But then they realized “It would also be interesting to compare the weirdness on other OSes…”

Here are the two data points in front of me:

(1) Using the right click on properties for all of the top-level folders on the drive (including the so-called hidden folders), it quickly determined that there are a few hundred thousand files in those folders (and a few hundred thousand subfolders). That’s already ridiculous, but the expected par these days. The largest project I have on the machine only has about 3,000 files, and that one goes back many years… (My largest database only has about 5,000 records, but it’s just a few files.)

(2) However, I also decided to take a look with Microsoft’s malicious software removal tool and got a completely different answer. For twisted grins, I had invoked the full scan. It’s still running a day later and has already passed 10 million files. Really? The progress bar indicates about 80% finished? WTF?

Obviously there is some kind of disagreement about the nature of “file” here. I could only think of one crazy explanation, but my router answered “No, the computer is not checking all of the files on the Internet.” So I’ve already asked the specific question in three-letter form, but the broader question is about the explosive, perhaps even cancerous, “population growth” of files these days.

Maybe we can all solve this mystery together. So use the comments to share your own answers and insights.

How many files are on your computer?

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