[OS X TeX] What kind of operation is TeXing? (concerning hardware)

William F. Adams wadams at atlis.com
Thu Feb 3 13:20:35 EST 2005

On Feb 3, 2005, at 11:40 AM, Steffen Wolfrum wrote:

> I am thinking about to buy a Mac Mini (1.42 MHz).
> Reading some reviews I noticed that a lack of this machine are 
> disk-intensive
> operations – for the hard drive seems to be relatively slow.
> As my very main target by buying a new Mac is to have TeX (ConTeXt, 
> XeTeX)
> executed fast (at a resonable price: no option for dual G5!), I would 
> like to
> ask you for an advice:
> What kind of operation is TeXing (i.e. running texexec --pdf in the 
> terminal)?
> What kind of components are important for this (fast processor, lots 
> of RAM,
> fast harddrive)?
> And is a Mac Mini (1.42 MHz) a good idea, or do you recommend an other 
> machine
> (at a comparable price)?

It depends on the sort of jobs you're doing.

HD speed is going to be an issue if you're placing a lot of different 
and large graphics, but TeX is primarily processor-bound IME --- at one 
time, I installed the ``Flame.'' CPU monitor just so I could keep track 
of TeX jobs running in the background (they were taking ~5 mins. on my 
400MHz G4, when it went from all flaring yellow flames to banking red 
the job was done). The processor speed difference may be noticeable for 
longer documents (if you're watching the clock or using a stopwatch), 
so the 1.42 is probably worth the expense (I'd get it just for the 

TeX is incredibly memory-efficient by comparison to other programs, so 
memory shouldn't be an issue, so long as you've enough to keep things 
from paging out in general.

If you're doing a _lot_ of small jobs, loading the first instance of 
TeX can be a bit of a performance hit, but this being noticeable is 
kind of rare, say database driven applications---this is why J. Fine 
created the TeX Daemon and now pytex (http://www.pytex.org).


William Adams, publishing specialist
voice - 717-731-6707 | Fax - 717-731-6708

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