A straight and simple review

This is my attempt in trying to review things that seem to get a lot of attention - especially in the engineering world. Not necessarily bad reviews, more like constructive criticism. I provide reasons why I make the claims and make equivocal arguments. I typically pick topics that I have a background in, or have gathered a lot of information. 2 articles a week is my goal - will keep it that way .

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Aston Martin DB9 or Jaguar XK

I know what’s in every one’s mind. Just like me, you are all wondering which car to buy – the Jaguar XK or the Aston Martin DB9 :). I’ve been inundated by emails asking me to suggest which one to get! So here is my blog comparing the two.

Well – here is a basic summary of the two cars.

The DB9 has the same engine as Vanquish (from Die Another Day – Vanish). The XK (’06) has the same engine as (’05) which is not really a bad thing – but suggests poor progress. Either way – the XK engine is a good one – not too far behind the DB9.

The DB9 transmission is probably the best transmission money can buy. If you ask me, its better than the Pagani Zonda’s transmission. The Jaguar has a very good transmission too – I don’t want to make it look bad. Its just very hard to beat DB9 in that aspect. Both are 7 speed steptronic/triptonic gear box.

Now – here is a photo of each of them.

Yes – they do look strikingly similar. Because they both were designed by the same person.

Incase you didn’t know this – I am sorry to break this to you. Aston Martin and Jaguar are owned by Ford Motor Company. So what Ford has done (not surprisingly) is design the two cars together – share some concepts, some ideas and even some fixtures. What do I mean by sharing?

So I took the above 2 photos and imported them in Matlab. Then I merged them with the image toolbox and created this photo.

You see the body (shape) is almost identical. The only differences I can see are the wheels, the light fixtures, engine side intake (behind front wheel) and the tail wing/tail light. Well there is some difference in the window and the seat – but that’s not a big deal.

But wait – it doesn’t end there – here are pictures of the interiors

Well – once again – you can see a lot of similarities. The instrument panel ; the steering wheel (minus the symbol on it) etc. No complaints here – I am not criticizing it – I am just showing how close they look.

Do you want to know something else? Well, the other company that Ford owns in Europe is Volvo. So what has happened here is they have put a lot of fixtures from Volvo. Once again, I am not particularly complaining as the interiors look very very good – but I am a bit offended that you can buy a much cheaper Volvo and get the same good Jaguar Interior looks. Here is a Volvo S80 interior photo – make your own judgment (especially keeping you eyes on the instrument panel).

Jaguar price are from its website. Aston Martin price is from other sites – not perfect.

Aston Martin DB9 170,000 $ in the US; and in the UK - 110,000 pounds (205,000 $)
Jaguar XK 80,000 $ in the US and in the UK - 60,000 pounds (112,000 $)

Don’t currency convert – I did it there just for the sake of it. I mean by converting – it will not make much sense. What you can see though, is that, the price difference between the 2 cars is about 50,000 pounds in the UK and 100,000$ in the US.
I think – definitely, that the Jaguar XK is a better buy than the Aston. (Deepak should be a bit happy – he was a Jaguar owner). Let me explain – the Jag is more Car/Dollar than the Aston is unfortunately. I know - when you own an Aston (especially in the USA), you are probably the only person in a huge radius to own one. That’s not the case with Jaguars – you are never to far from one. More over, the Jags some time tend to attract older “wanna-be-cool-but-too-old” people. But this XK is clearly different. I mean they even removed the trademark Jaguar marque/statue in the front. JD Power rating put Jaguar in Top 5 car manufacturer(results announced yesterday – will blog about that too). So basically, Jaguar is a very good company.

Let me put it this way, to own something this close to the DB9 for 100,000 $-off, is a jackpot. I mean the Aston is better in almost every technical aspect, but I don’t think it is worth the extra 100,000 $. So people, when you do buy one (either one), do give me a call.

(Phoro Credits : Aston Martin , Jaguar and Volvo website)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Intel Insight

When you go to Taco Bell – how do you decide what to buy ? They all cost roughly the same – so what do you do ?

I work in lab – Unmanned Vehicles and Surveillance. My job involves running huge computer simulations for long times (20hours sometime). So I thought I’ll do something.
I run about 7 computers in my lab. Basically there are 4 configurations – and I decided to see which one is the best. There are many websites and magazines that test processors – but no test is perfect. They are all skewed or only partially right. I though I should do my own test – may be its not perfect either – but its something I can do with my hand observe the results. Here’s what I did

The competitors

Xeon 3.2 Ghz or the ‘X’

P4 2.4 Ghz – call it ‘P4’

P4 HT 3.2 Ghz or ‘HT’

M 1.86 Ghz or the ‘M’

All the 4 computers run Windows XP. They all have atleast 1 GB RAM (the Xeon has 4GB). They are uswed just to run the code – no one is simultaneously using it for anything else. Minimum applications are running – not even an antivirus.

The code CMARC

The code I ran on them is known as CMARC. It is a FORTRAN code written by NASA for aerodynamics work. This code has NOT been optimized for any specific processor – which mean it’s a regular application. It just performs continuous mathematical calculations (in this case a 500 by 500 panel method matrix) and does not consume much memory. It only maximizes the processor – 100%. So basically, it depends fully (close to fully) on the processor – so I am going to use this as the test to judge the processors.


After running test I . I got these results

X – 916 minutes
P4 - 1333 minutes
HT- 1001 minutes
M – 1343 minutes

Next was test II – different number for cycles than last time. Here are some results

X – 330 minutes
P4 – 400 minutes
HT – 373 minutes
M – 500 minutes


I am not surprised to see that the Xion is the fastest it costs a lot of money. What is most noticeable for me, is that the Performance remained pretty much the same way for the complete duration in the Xeon. The system didn’t slow down in the middle. (The code shows number of cycles completed– so I used a stop watch and verify the duration per 1000 cycles now and then.)

I didn’t expect P4 HT to be any better than the P4, but surprisingly - it is. I have 2 P4s and 2 HTs actually, all of them showed very close results. Well its not much better – just a bit - infact may be its just the higher clock speed and nothing to do with the threading :). Just a couple of days ago, I was talking to my buddy GB and we were discussing how XP does not really utilize the multi thread capability. I am a bit surprised by these results.

The P4 was slow – true – but pretty surprising for 1 thing. It had stable performance too. It didn’t slow down in the middle. Looking closely – you can see that the P4 and M behave some what similarly – their performance overlaps. Why ?

I am truly astonished (not in a good way) with the M. I know it’s a small processor with a big bus. Its roughly the same speed as the P4 – but do you know why ? Well, the M slows down ! Towards the end, the system is much slower that it was during the beginning ! Well the keep varying a bit here and there – but finally its about 20% slower than it was when it began (verified by hand/stop watch) , I have no idea why – may be one of you guys can explain in COMMENTS section.

The Xeon stands out definitely – but that’s why it on my server with a huge price tag and 8 cpu fans. I mean there is a reason why they don’t have Xeon laptops !

So among the other 3, honestly – its not MUCH different. Especially, M – its not better than the rest. And I still believe XP ( and all XP applications ) don’t utilize the threading capability – its just higher clock speed (2.3Ghz P4 and 3.2Ghz HT) in the above case that made the difference. There is about a 400$ difference between each of these processor based computers – for what?

So to answer my first question – you go to Taco Bell what do you buy ? Well – they all have beans, they are all rolled in flour tortilla, they all cost the same roughly. Well - it doesn’t matter what you buy – they are all pretty much the same.

P.S : This is what I use :) . Too bad they don't make it any more.