Command Performance: A Norton Today Article

My All-Time Favorite Article on Norton Today So Far. Nothing like comparing software speeds to two shakes of a lamb’s tail…literally. See the original at Norton Today.
June, 2008

Command Performance

Your security software shouldn’t just outperform the competitors; it should challenge every speed cliché in the book.

Above and beyond features that minimize risk, security software user experience is driven by efficient speed and memory size. In testing completed by PassMark™ at the end of 2007, Norton Internet Security 2008 proved substantially superior to nine competitive Internet security applications on five key performance measures, by margins ranging from 20% to 83%. Norton Internet Security 2008 is the current standard for user experience of fast downloads, scans, boot time, user interface, and minimized memory.

This is all well and good. But just as world-class athletes emerge from the pack to find themselves competing against the record books rather than other athletes, Norton must now turn its attention to timeless measures of performance in order to keep the industry moving forward.

The true measure of success is how this software fits in with your life, seamlessly and simultaneously enhancing your confidence in a connected world while maximizing your time. To measure this, we must understand how the industry stacks up against idiomatic measures of time that everyone understands. Imagine – is download speed as fast as two shakes of a lamb’s tail? Is user interface response time on par with the blink of an eye? And is current memory utilization indeed the greatest thing since sliced bread?

Let’s figure it out.

Download Speed vs. Two Shakes of a Lamb’s Tail

Clocking in at 17.19 seconds to download 25 MB of data, Norton Internet Security 2008 download speeds are 62% faster than competitors’ and, for that matter, 47% faster than even Norton Internet Security 2006. But can we honestly say you can now download in two shakes of a lamb’s tail?

Even though lamb’s tail shakes are oft-referenced measures of speed, a review of lamb tail mechanics depicted in multiple YouTube postings demonstrates why old-fangled seconds are still more widely used. With seconds, there is the continuous methodical ticking at regular intervals, whereas with lamb’s tails certain variables are introduced that may cause durations to vary, including the demeanor of the lamb, and its surroundings at the time of the shake. Indeed, it appears that some lambs (under some circumstances) require considerable coaxing to muster a single shake, raising the question of whether the interval should be limited to only the actual time for the tail to complete one full shake, or include any time spent tickling the lamb with a stick to try and induce a shake. We think a baseline of tickling (or other equivalent stimuli) should be included.

Let us ignore for the moment that there is an actual standardized unit of time called a shake, developed by nuclear physicists and described in more detail on Wikipedia, which is precisely 10 nanoseconds. Instead, we will standardize to the work of at least two lamb-tail videos posted on YouTube. The duration of these videos, demonstrating how a bit of playful stick-tickling can coax a lamb’s tail into two successive shakes within the space of exactly 10 seconds, seems somehow authoritative.

Therefore, we must conclude that while Norton Internet Security 2008 is not yet as speedy as two shakes of a lamb’s tail (comparing 10 seconds to the Norton Internet Security 2008 time of 17.19), it is fully 1.57 lamb tail shakes faster than competitive download speeds (the difference between Norton Internet Security 2008 and the industry average). And perhaps most importantly, at its current rate of download speed improvement (47% over the 2006 release), Norton is poised to move the industry past the lamb’s tail benchmark within two years.

User Interface Response vs. The Blink of An Eye

At 1.33 seconds, the user interface (“UI”) response time in Norton Internet Security 2008 is more than twice as fast as industry average of 2.92 seconds. But is it as fast as the blink of an eye? With apologies to lambs, the human eye proves a slightly more reliable comparison measurement than the tail shake.

A quick check on Wikipedia teaches us that humans average 10 blinks per minute. Each blink lasts approximately 350 milliseconds, meaning that the blink of an eye is an event for which one would expect to wait 6.350 seconds. Inclusive of this wait time, Norton Internet Security 2008 (with its 1.33 second response time) is 4.5 times faster than the blink of an eye.

However, limiting the comparison strictly to the 350-millisecond duration of a single blink means Norton Internet Security 2008 UI response time clocks in at approximately 3.8 blinks. Still sounds quick, but not blinding fast, until one realizes that Norton saves 4.5 blinks over industry average. And, with a 400 milliseconds improvement over 2007 UI response times, Norton Internet Security 2008 is speeding up at the rate of one blink per year.

Norton Internet Security 2008 Memory Requirements vs. The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

At 9.36 MB, Norton Internet Security 2008 takes up 83% less memory than competitors. It’s a 76% improvement over the footprint of Norton Internet Security 2006, and makes one think of other measures to explore in future articles, such as light as a feather or small as a pipsqueak. Better still, it takes up less than 1% of a baseline recommended minimum memory of 1 GB for new PCs (a baseline determined via an informal poll of computer retail and review sites). So for now, we’ll focus on what turns out to be a quite favorable comparison between this percentage and the efficiencies realized with the advent of sliced bread in the early part of the 20th century.

The benchmark sliced bread innovation allowed for the efficient parsing of a loaf of bread into 20 parts such that each part used only 5% of the whole. It is presumed that prior to this, our ancestors either sawed recklessly into their whole loaves, leaving behind a wake of glutinous lumps and crumbs, or simply made gargantuan whole-loaf sandwiches that were unwieldy (at best) and perhaps simply impossible to consume.

While great strides in bread technology resulted in more efficient loaf usage as sliced bread steadily became ever more widely available, the ability to parse bread size to 5% of its previous scale is not the net boon to convenience realized by Norton Internet Security’s relative impact on computer memory. After two years in which available computer memory effectively doubled (applying Moore’s Law, which states that the baseline for memory doubles every two years), and Norton Internet Security memory usage quadrupled in efficiency, the Norton memory footprint now stands at under 1%. We may need to perform similar analysis on the printing press, fire, or Post-It® notes to establish a new innovation benchmark as Norton Internet Security continues to evolve on this front.

So there you have it. Performance redefined not for the layman, but for people who are digging deeper than staid concepts of time to understand more fully where the industry is headed. Look for future installments to compare Norton performance favorably to other idioms and widely understood activities like Minute Rice®, whistling Dixie, a generalized verdict of lickety split, the time it takes to say Jack Robinson, number of jiffys, as far as you can spit, and a New York minute.

~ by joshuakelly on October 1, 2008.

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