What PC do you have handy?

Customers often ask us about the hardware requirements for our products before purchasing. While we have some recommendation, the reality is that many of our customers use Amped FIVE (or our other products) on unbelievably old computers. Sure, Amped FIVE would be slower, but for working on low-resolution CCTV videos, even a 10-year-old PC with Windows XP (not recommended!) still works mostly fine.

I recently taught one of our courses at a customer’s premises. Since the class was quite full and they didn’t have enough recent laptops to bring into the training room, about half of the students had pretty old laptops. During the training, we normally provide the software installer and training examples on USB drives. Some people claimed that their PC was not able to see the drive. We figured out that they were using Windows XP SP2, they were not connected to the Internet and had not updated in ages.

The problem was that our USB drives were 32 GB and formatted in FAT, and Windows XP was not able to properly recognize them. So, we copied the training material on some other (lower capacity) drives.

Some people then went on and installed the software. On some computers it was working, on others not. We figured out it was because the recent versions of Amped FIVE use the latest versions of developer tools and libraries which support “only” Windows XP SP4 and not earlier versions. And some students had either SP2 or SP3.

I solved the issue for some of them, giving them a version of Amped FIVE from about a year ago which was able to run on these systems, although lacking some new features.

The issue remained for two people who had a Pentium laptop with 1 GB of RAM! For some reason, on one computer the trial license was not being decoded properly on this PC, despite being of the same type used by the other students. On the other computer, Amped FIVE loaded successfully but some of the graphics, such as buttons and icons, were missing. I guess in both cases the issue was that the system had too little resources available to successfully manage everything at the program startup. Interestingly, other students with the same kind of PC (though some of them had an amazing 2 GB of RAM!) were able to successfully work on all the examples provided during the training, just with a little more patience (but not much) during the processing time.

When I started developing Amped FIVE in 2007 the above specs were the norm (and for a while, I was able to develop it on a notebook that cost only a few hundred bucks, although it was a pain). I was positively surprised that the current version of Amped FIVE works on such hardware nowadays. I don’t recommend using this kind of hardware, but if it’s needed for some emergency situation, we’ve got you covered!

How do we achieve this? It’s a matter of development practices: first of all, we ensure our products are able to run on old 32 bit Windows XP systems, carefully setting up our development tools and libraries (not always an easy task). Secondly, we rely on very efficient languages, development practices and software modules to avoid wasting precious system resources. You may not know it, but all our products also work well on major virtualization environments: this is very good to play with unsafe codecs and players.

I must admit, that recently, I briefly considered dropping support for Windows XP. But this experience told me once more, that you can never know what comes next!