Computer Hardware and Operating System LatencyFurther information: Access time
Computers run on a set of instructions called an executable. In operating systems, the execution of the executable can be postponed if other executables (a.k.a. processes) are also executing. In addition, the operating system can schedule when to perform the action that the executable is commanding. For example, suppose a process commands that a computer card's voltage output be set high-low-high-low and so on at a rate of 1000 Hz. The operating system may choose to adjust the scheduling of each transition (high-low or low-high) based on an internal clock. The latency is the delay between the executable instruction commanding the transition and the hardware actually transitioning the voltage from high to low or low to high.
On Microsoft Windows, it appears that the timing of commands to hardware is not exact. Empirical data suggest that Windows (using the Windows sleep timer which accepts millisecond sleep times) will schedule on a 1024 Hz clock and will delay 24 of 1024 transitions per second to make an average of 1000 Hz for the update rate. This can have serious ramifications for discrete-time algorithms that rely on fairly consistent timing between updates such as those found in control theory. The sleep function or similar windows API were at no point designed for accurate timing purposes. Certain multimedia-oriented API routines like
timeGetTime and its siblings provide better timing consistency. However, consumer- and server-grade Windows (as of 2011 those based on NT kernel) were not to be real-time operating systems. Drastically more accurate timings could be achieved by using dedicated hardware extensions and control-loop cards.
Linux may have the same problems with scheduling of hardware I/O. The problem in Linux is mitigated by the fact that the operating system kernel's process scheduler can be replaced by a real-time scheduler.
On embedded systems, the real-time execution of instructions is expected from the low-level embedded operating system.
Read more about this topic: Latency (engineering)
Famous quotes containing the words system, computer, hardware and/or operating:
“An avant-garde man is like an enemy inside a city he is bent on destroying, against which he rebels; for like any system of government, an established form of expression is also a form of oppression. The avant-garde man is the opponent of an existing system.”
—Eugène Ionesco (b. 1912)
“Family life is not a computer program that runs on its own; it needs continual input from everyone.”
—Neil Kurshan (20th century)
“A friend of mine spoke of books that are dedicated like this: To my wife, by whose helpful criticism ... and so on. He said the dedication should really read: To my wife. If it had not been for her continual criticism and persistent nagging doubt as to my ability, this book would have appeared in Harpers instead of The Hardware Age.”
—Brenda Ueland (18911985)
“Go on then in doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword; shew that reformation is more practicable by operating on the mind than on the body of man.”
—Thomas Jefferson (17431826)