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  #1  
Old May 25th, 2006, 07:52 PM
mburke911 mburke911 is offline
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Default Computers: integral to photography

Hello,
I thought it was a bit sad that nothing had been posted here yet. Especially since computers have become so integral to photography. So I thought I would be the first.

I am a computer person. Literally. I manage a Bioinformatics sequencing analysis project. In my day job I work on projects similar to the Human Genome Project. We assemble and annotate various organism's DNA. I have built a server room with a vast computational resource. Before working for the university I currently work for I was a consultant doing IT and Bioinformatics infrastructure configuration and implementations.

I like computers, ok mostly, and I like powerful computers. There is nothing that makes me smile more than pushing a computer to the max of it's capabilities. To watch the CPU meter peg and stay that way for a good long time. It validates my reasons for investing so much money in a high end machine. I upgrade often and try to pick machines that will facilitate being around awhile.

In my opinion dual cpu's are the way to go for anyone using Photoshop. Now a days I am looking at the dual processor dual core machines. That means four cpu cores all working on stuff at once. I have worked on older machines with four cpu's (even eight) and they have their place in the server arena. But until recently there was not enough desktop software that could make use of multiple cpu's / cores to make the cost worth it. The operating system can now manage much of this for applications that donít handle it on their own.

Multiple cores means better multi-threaded application handling. What does that mean? It means that when the software developers write the software they plan for the ability to separate specific software tasks into different process threads. What it really means for the user is that if you have more CPU cores and a software package can make use of them the performance goes way up. For example, Photoshop can use several CPUís at once. Each CPU you add gives you a performance boost when you use the software. It also means that if your using other software at the same time everything works well at the same time.

Ultimately, there are many ways to configure the hardware to maximize the performance, especially for photography and video processing. There are also things that can be tweaked in the operating system to add performance. Some tweaks are more dramatic than others but ultimately they have a compounding affect. Ultimately resulting in better performance and a better user experience. Let's be honest no one likes to wait for an operation to complete.

Some will disagree with what I suggest. Please keep in mind that there are many different ways to put components / software together to get good performance. There are some things that I just wonít do. I donít, EVER, over-clock. There are reasons that CPUís are marked at certain speeds. Itís because the manufacturers test the CPUís and found that at a certain speed they become unstable. An unstable CPU is a good way to loose what your working on. Some will say you can minimize the stability issues by doing X, Y and or Z. I donít and wonít do any of those things. Stability and reliability is important to me and my customers. I would think that your data is more valuable and the added speed you could get by pushing your CPUís beyond their intended performance levels. I know mine is to me.

Ok well I could go on an on about computers. As it is this post became more than I intended when I started writing. I hope to contribute my experience and my personal opinions to this forum often. Hopefully some will gain something useful from what I have learned over the years.


Best,

Mark Burke
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  #2  
Old May 26th, 2006, 12:43 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Appreciated as I hit thec sack.

May your DNA strands oscillate, melt and remate, bases stacking, enzymes marching, inspecting, deleting, inserting, repairing, melting, annealing, vibrating.

Otherwise, we, life, are still, finished, defined and dead!

Asher
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  #3  
Old May 30th, 2006, 06:53 PM
GIsrael GIsrael is offline
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I agree - I am just building a dual core amd machine and I think PS will really fly, and hopefully C1 will as well.

But I might try to overclock just a little... :)
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  #4  
Old May 30th, 2006, 09:05 PM
Josh Liechty Josh Liechty is offline
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Dual processors are indeed wonderful for Photoshop. My dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4400+ system has performance that is certainly more than enough for the 10MP RAW files and 4000DPI 35mm film scans that I work with.

At the current time, quad core may be a bit of a luxury - I was told that Photoshop is predominantly two-threaded, though I would much rather be corrected on that, because I don't want that to be true. Regardless, it is important not to neglect the memory in search of the best processor. I regard 2GB of RAM to be a reasonable amount for a Photoshop workstation, although if you don't mind adventure, using 4GB of RAM with Windows XP x64 (required to take advantage of all of it) can be purely delightful. While Photoshop can't use more than around 2.7GB itself, the operating system will use the left over RAM for caching disk input and output, resulting in a very smooth and responsive system even under heavy multitasking.
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  #5  
Old May 31st, 2006, 06:17 PM
Jason Anderson Jason Anderson is offline
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Are you hiring? LOL (Actually only half joking there...they say informal networking is allegedly how half the jobs are had in this world!) :D
__________________
Jason Anderson
EOS 350D, kit, 70-300 Tamron and a sack to carry it
Regional affiliation: www.scphotogs.com
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  #6  
Old June 3rd, 2006, 09:44 AM
Will_Perlis Will_Perlis is offline
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"...there are many ways to configure the hardware to maximize the performance, especially for photography and video processing."

Right. What drives me nuts is waiting for filters such as Smart Sharpen and Focus Magic to do their thing. What's the best way to speed those up?

I'm not having problems with disk access, I don't have to convert thousands of RAWs after a wedding, for example. It appears to be an issue of pure computational power.
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  #7  
Old June 4th, 2006, 10:17 PM
Sean DeMerchant Sean DeMerchant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will_Perlis
"...there are many ways to configure the hardware to maximize the performance, especially for photography and video processing."

Right. What drives me nuts is waiting for filters such as Smart Sharpen and Focus Magic to do their thing. What's the best way to speed those up?

I'm not having problems with disk access, I don't have to convert thousands of RAWs after a wedding, for example. It appears to be an issue of pure computational power.
You already have the main answer, a faster CPU. Albeit, there are several additional factors.

1) Adequate memory. Your system should have at minimum 1 GB and preferably a minimum of 2 GB for running CS2. Having 3 GB of memory under XP, or 4 GB+ in OS X or XP 64 may help.

As an aside, you may not be able to access memory between 3 and 4 GB on XP as device drivers use those addresses. The more devices you have, the less of that RAM you will be able to use. Some motherboards will remap RAM above 3 GB to show as above 4 GB to the OS. This last item mixed with the 3 GB boot.ini switch may fix this (I have not tested this).

If you have a lot of RAM PS can use the OS'es disk caching rather than its Scratch Disk mechanism which may improve performance.

2) Ensure you do not allocate too high of a percentage of memory to PS. The default value of 55% (XP) is a good value. Too much and you can slow down the OS which can slow down PS in turn. You need to ensure there is available RAM for filters to use or that can slow them down.

3) If you have allocated adequate but not too much RAM to PS, if you have a large amount of RAM, and you have a large amount of L2 cache on your CPU core/s (at least 512 KB if not more) then you should exlore using the bigger tiles plugin which will improve overall performance while perhaps decreasing preview speed.

http://www.adobe.com/support/techdocs/331372.html

Please be aware that the tile size used by PS with this plugin enabled will be function of the amount of RAM allocated to PS. If you make the tile size larger than you L2 cache then you will end up going to main memory and likely run even slower. To quote:
You can activate the Bigger Tiles plug-in to increase the tile size. If you assign 261 MB to 1 GB of RAM to the Memory & Image Cache preference in Photoshop, the tile size increases to 260 KB. Likewise, if you assign more than 1 GB RAM, the tile size increases to 1 MB. Activating the plug-in reduces the overall amount of time Photoshop takes to process an image, especially on computers with more than 1 GB of RAM.

- http://www.adobe.com/support/techdocs/331372.html
Hence, if you enable the bigger tiles plugin, then you should allocate less than 1 GB of RAM to PS if you have a 512 KB L2 cache. If you have a 2 MB L2 cache then allocation more than 1 GB to PS may be advantageous.

A negative effect can occur here if you have many brushes installed as each brush can take between 2 and 8 times as much RAM causing massive initial scratch disk usage by PS which can slow you down.

There is also an Adjusted Refresh plugin that reduces tile size to 64 KB which may be of use with small L2 cache sizes like 128 KB found in many budget CPUs. Please note, IIRC AMD budget CPUs have exclusive L1 and L2 caches netting 160 KB (32 KB L1 data +128 KB L2) of cache for data plus 32 KB L1 instruction cache making CS2 default 132 KB tile size okay.

You can read this info from Adobe at:

http://www.adobe.com/support/techdocs/320005.html

4) Watch the Scratch Disk and Efficiency values at the bottom of the image window in PS. This will let you know if you are losing efficiency to writing to disk.

Using 4 or more drives in a RAID 0 array as your scratch disk may improve worst case performance massively.

5) On XP your can go Start->Run->perfmon.msc and run the performance monitor and run extensive profiling to see what is slowing you down to eke out the last gasp of performance or find insidious sources of lost performance.

6) On XP you should reboot occasionally as system performance goes downhill fast if elements of the core OS get swapped to disk.

7) Reduce your scratch disk usage. Load less Brushes and Layer Styles by default. Reduce the number of history states you retain.

8) Ensure Bridge is not bogging down your system in the background.

9) Reduce the number of cache levels PS uses. This will reduce memory usage and slow down screen refreshes but may boost performance if you lack RAM.

10) Go the History palette, use the right pointing triangle/arrow in a circle, bring up the History Options dialog, and ensure that Automatically Create First Snapshot is turned off to reduce initial scratch disk usage. Note, this is more likely to speed up batches and could break some Actions.

11)
I am sure there is more, especially OS X specific tips. Sadly, have not used OS X enough to help there and perfmon.msc will get you more details than you may want on XP/2000.

12) Use your head as some of these techniques may reduce Scratch Disk usage at the cost of reducing human efficiency and that can be far more expensive in terms of time than a few milliseconds here or there.

13) Measure it. Create a complex Action reminiscent of your average work and time how long it takes to run on a series of 10 images. Run this 3 or 4 times as the first time will be slower as PS loads things into memory from disk.

This final item also ties back to items 4) and 5).

Anyway, these are accurate to the best of my knowledge. Please feel free to correct me if I made any mistakes.

hope this helps,

Sean

Last edited by Sean DeMerchant; June 4th, 2006 at 10:39 PM.
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  #8  
Old June 5th, 2006, 07:04 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Great info Sean, thanks very much. Regarding not allocating 100% of memory to PS ó I have 4GB RAM in my system of which XP sees 3 and PS sees only about 1.75. Is it OK/advisable to allocate 100% to PS in these circumstances, or no?

Nill
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  #9  
Old June 5th, 2006, 12:22 PM
Will_Perlis Will_Perlis is offline
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Sean, that's a great exposition. Thanks. I can always make a cup of coffee while the RAW batch conversions are running but the number-crunching the sharpening filters do drives me totally nuts. This will help much.
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  #10  
Old June 5th, 2006, 01:20 PM
Sean DeMerchant Sean DeMerchant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nill Toulme
Great info Sean, thanks very much. Regarding not allocating 100% of memory to PS ó I have 4GB RAM in my system of which XP sees 3 and PS sees only about 1.75. Is it OK/advisable to allocate 100% to PS in these circumstances, or no?

Nill
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It depends upon what else you are running at the same time. Are you running Bridge? I am a power user and often have half a dozen or more applications running on top of PS which would make that a poor choice. If you are only running PS (no email, no web browser, no Bridge, ...) then it may be safe.

In practice I would say to try it with your workflow and the filters you use and see if it works. Set the monitor section at the bottom of an image window to show efficiency and if that drops below 100% you have allocated too much RAM to PS and not left enough for the OS & filters.

Not a straight answer, but I do not know what filters you use. Levels and Curves adjustment layers should be a non-issue, but duplicating a layer and running Lens Blur uses RAM and if you run any third party filters (noise reduction, selection plugins, ...) you need to ensure they get the memory they need. Depending on what you do the best answer can vary.

enjoy,

Sean
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  #11  
Old June 5th, 2006, 01:45 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Thanks, no, don't run Bridge, and my non-graphics apps (e-mail, web, etc.) are on another machine. This machine is dedicated to photo processing and to a much lesser extent to html (MS Frontpage). PS is very much a secondary app for me at the moment. Most of my processing work is done in Capture One, printing in Qimage.

Here's the other part of what I don't understand, though (or at least of what I *recognize* that I don't understand... I'm sure there's a whole lot more that I don't understand in addition). If PS is only seeing 1.75GB of the 3GB that XP sees, and allocating 100% to PS apparently still only gives it all of that 1.75GB ó isn't the rest of the 3GB available to other apps and processes?

Nill
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  #12  
Old June 5th, 2006, 01:50 PM
Sean DeMerchant Sean DeMerchant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdemerch

5) On XP your can go Start->Run->perfmon.msc and run the performance monitor and run extensive profiling to see what is slowing you down to eke out the last gasp of performance or find insidious sources of lost performance.
On OS X take a look at Activity Monitor or install X Resource Monitor. You can find more discussion of this at:

http://blogs.adobe.com/scottbyer/200..._good_day.html

14) The above link also brings up another thing that can bog you down. Do not have too many fonts or filters installed as both use memory and slow down startup of PS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sdemerch
6) On XP you should reboot occasionally as system performance goes downhill fast if elements of the core OS get swapped to disk.
Another thing you can do on XP is climb down under the hood and tell the OS to never swap out the kernel to disk which will help greatly if you are working with huge images that exceed your RAM and in general whenever you use more RAM than you physically have.

As this involves tweaking the registry and you can trash the OS by using it I will just give a link ( http://hacks.oreilly.com/pub/h/3099 ) and note you should use system restore to create a restore point before changing the registry.

enjoy,

Sean
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  #13  
Old June 5th, 2006, 01:59 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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p.s. I do run some filters occasionally though... mostly PK Sharpener, Neat Image or Noise Ninja, and Fred Miranda's B&W toolkit.

Nill
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  #14  
Old June 5th, 2006, 02:01 PM
Sean DeMerchant Sean DeMerchant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nill Toulme
Thanks, no, don't run Bridge, and my non-graphics apps (e-mail, web, etc.) are on another machine. This machine is dedicated to photo processing and to a much lesser extent to html (MS Frontpage). PS is very much a secondary app for me at the moment. Most of my processing work is done in Capture One, printing in Qimage.
I cringe at the thought of using FrontPage for HTML. But I am programmer and prefer to deal with it straight (well, in truth, I script it with other languages).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nill Toulme
Here's the other part of what I don't understand, though (or at least of what I *recognize* that I don't understand... I'm sure there's a whole lot more that I don't understand in addition). If PS is only seeing 1.75GB of the 3GB that XP sees, and allocating 100% to PS apparently still only gives it all of that 1.75GB ó isn't the rest of the 3GB available to other apps and processes?
By default the address space in XP for any application is limited to 2 GB (31 bits out of a 32 bit address space). And while the rest of the 3 GB is available to other apps, you also have some of that RAM going to your disk cache (writing files to RAM really fast and writing them to disk in the background along with storing read files there) and filters may use that (especially 3rd party filters).

Testing it and see what works with 100% efficiency (i.e., no disk access in PS) is the best way to see what works.

I would also suggest looking in your BIOS to see if it will remap your RAM above 3 GB to be above 4 GB and then using the 3 GB switch in boot.ini via Start->Run->msconfig if your system supports it (research into CPU and motherboard chipset abilities is required to do this safely).

In simple terms, you just need to ensure that there are enough memory resources for everything that you will run and the Efficiency counter at the bottom of an image window in PS will let you know that. Quite often, using more RAM will "slow" a system down a little while greatly improving human efficiency.

Another thing you can try is batching your sharpening and doing it on a new layer and then getting a cup of coffee or lunch and reviewing the results later. This is another human efficiency method that can be helpful.

enjoy,

Sean
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  #15  
Old June 5th, 2006, 02:50 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Thanks again. I understand your feelings about Frontpage. My html needs have remained extremely simple so far (I originally designed my site in Word!) and I haven't had the need or energy or time to learn a better app, or the incentive to cough up the $$ for one.

I actually installed the 4GB in anticipation of x64 or Vista. I might play with the 3GB switch though in due course. This Asus mobo required an arcane BIOS setting (something about the "memory hole" or some such) before it would even recognize the fourth gig.

Nill
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  #16  
Old June 10th, 2006, 07:30 PM
mburke911 mburke911 is offline
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Hello,
Well I totally dropped the ball on watching this post. There have been a bunch of great comments about performance optimizations. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is keeping an eye on the amount of software that automatically run in the background. You would probably be surprised at the "helper" apps that are installed. To take a look use Start-> run -> and type "msconfig". Click on the "startup" tab. This is a list of all the software that starts when you boot windows. Most of these apps are not necessary and they slow down the machine, use resources, and waste memory. You can turn them off by un-checking the check-box on the left side.

=========
Disclaimer
========
If you turn something off it might have drastic effects on your computer. Some of these are necessary for the machine to run correctly.

=========

Most of the items can be identified by searching the internet. If you can identify the software and don't think you need it turn it off. If you did really need it and the system won't boot, you can always boot into safe mode and re-enable the item. Now to be fair, I have personally never come across an item that caused a system to fail to boot. Typically an application you want to use won't work. Once you re-enable the helper app it works again. The disclaimer is to make sure everyone thinks carefully before randomly un-checking things.

I typically turn off (you might not have these if you don't use the same apps I do):

versionCue Tray
agent
Logi_MwX
qttask
rcman
CTL Task
CTL tray
updreg

You will be quite surprised as to the increased boot time and overall performance increase. I was at least and I have a pretty robust workstation.


Something else worth mentioning. Backups. I recently started using external hard drives as "next to user" backup space. While we have had a few floating around for IT use we have not issued them directly to our users. Primarily because the larger ones, capable of doing regular backups of our systems were dual drive RAID 0's. UCK!
Maxtor recently released a new external disk (tri format... USB, Firewire 400 and 800) at 1TB of storage, for $800. The best part is that it is possible to reconfigure the unit from RAID 0, to RAID 1. While you loose half the storage space (from 1TB to 500 GB) you get a redundant storage unit! Very Cool! This is the first USB/Firewire unit like this that I have seen (someone here might contradict me if I said it is the first one on the market... I haven't seen one before now).
For those not sure what a RAID is: basically it is a way to combine multiple disks into one unit (called a array) that the operating system sees as a physical disk. So a RAID 0 need a minimum of two disk, but can use more than that. RAID 0 is also called ďspanningĒ. It means that the data is spread out across two or more physical drives at once. Disk Read and writes take significantly less time because you can read/write to more than one disk at a time. The draw back to RAID 0 is that if you loose any disk in the array you loose all data in the array. There are other types of RAID arrays:

RAID 1 also called mirroring, which means two disks act as one. If any one fails the other automatically takes over. No lost data, no lost time. Great but cost per GB is expensive.
Raid 5 is three or more disks, spanned with redundancy. Any one disk can fail and the array keeps working, no lost data. Two or more disks the whole array is lost. Raid 5 gives the best performance with redundancy.
Raid 50: (this one is only really used in big business) two RAID 5 arrays then configured as a RAID 1. So if you have two 10 Disk RAID 5ís they are then mirrored. So your using 20 disks and only getting the space on 9 of them. Very expensive. In this configuration you can loose multiple disk from any one array and not loose any data.

This is a bit of complex configuration information condensed way down. Hopefully I didnít confuse anyone. There really is a reason IT folks make good money (especially if they are really good).

OK so your not impressed and you think that is really not necessary. Here is why I got excited. I, personally, have a 500GB external firewire drive that I use as a ďsecondĒ backup of my important personal stuff (photos). The unit is really two 250GB SATA drives in a RAID 0. Right before I was scheduled to move to a new home, I double checked my backups to the drive. Well something had gone wrong and it stopped responding. It said that the disk needed to be FORMATTED. Great! While I had other backups I donít like loosing any of my recovery options. All the data was gone. While it was only backups, it was important on the eve of the move. It turned out that one of the internal disks had malfunctioned and stopped working. Since it was a RAID 0 all the data on both drives was destroyed. Had I been using the new Maxtor the unit would have complained that a drive was bad, but it would have kept working. I could have moved all the data elsewhere and sent it back to Maxtor for a replacement.


On another note: Jason Anderson, we are actually hiring. I have three positions open and possibly a fourth. It depends on your experience. Send me an email with your CV/Resume and I will take a look.

Best,

Mark Burke
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  #17  
Old June 11th, 2006, 02:39 AM
Sean DeMerchant Sean DeMerchant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mburke911
... Start-> run -> and type "msconfig". Click on the "startup" tab. This is a list of all the software that starts when you boot windows.
This is not true. msconfig lists many but not all startup items. Take a look at StartupList to get a more complete list. Please be aware, this tool exposes even more system internals to you and you can break things if you do the wrong thing. This is especially true when you modify the registry as an obvious and simple change may fail if you do not take simple things like the order drivers are loaded in into account. i.e., I have shot myself in the foot this way. Although, it has been about 9 years since I did that and it was with NT 4. But the OS is the cause here, it is my additional caution from being burned.

I should note that the company responsible for StartupList also puts out HijackThis which is an excellent spyware/malware/... detection and basic correction tool (kind of like a fancy thermometer that takes your blood pressure, white blood cell count, blood sugar, ... all at once).


Quote:
Originally Posted by mburke911
Most of these apps are not necessary and they slow down the machine, use resources, and waste memory. ...
Many of them take trivial amounts of memory and can save you time in your workflow. For instance acrotray.exe uses about 2.5 MB of RAM and saves 20 or 30 seconds every time Acrobat starts for reading a PDF. Unless your system is dedicated to PS alone, some things that save time in your total workflow (beyond just photos) are worth keeping. I think the Version Cue (I prefer Subversion to get versioning of directories) example is a poor one as simply not installing it is the best choice if you do not want it. Practically speaking it uses less than 3 MB of RAM and if you have over a GB of RAM it should be a minor issues.

Caveats given, if you do not use it, then jettisoning things you never use may be wise from a performance standpoint. Just be aware that working some extra hours and buying more RAM or a faster CPU may be a more efficient use of your time.

enjoy your day,

Sean
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