Aphie's Security Corner

Discussion in 'Trading Software' started by aphexcoil, Nov 29, 2005.

  1. At the request of several people, I am starting a thread in the software section to address security concerns with online trading and internet usage in general. Please feel free to ask questions or request clarification on any points I make.

    I will start a weekly column in the hopes that it helps you create a more secure and reliable setup.

    I'll post my first edition in the next day or two.

  2. Choad


    Thanks Aph!

    Looking forward to it. :cool:
  3. Alright traders, this week's edition is going to focus on optimizing your current setup and maintaining a clean setup. Before we get started, I want to forewarn you that this applies only to Microsoft operating systems with specific emphasis on Windows XP Pro and Home editions. Also, any changes you make to your configuration are your responsibility. I take no responsibility for any damages or misconfigurations that you cause by following my advice. Although the following advice is sound, if you do something wrong you could break your system by monkeying around in the registry and / or startup configurations. With that out of the way, let's begin!

    Beef up your RAM
    The first thing you'll want to do is make sure that you have plenty of RAM in your system. With RAM prices as cheap as they are today, you should have at least one gigabyte of RAM installed in your system. If you have less, consider upgrading your configuration to at least 1 gig. Where can you find quality RAM for cheap? Please check out http://www.newegg.com (I have no affiliation with this company but have ordered from them in the past and I was very pleased with their service).

    With more RAM installed, your system will not have to rely on the page file. This is a file that your OS resorts to using as temporary RAM when your physical RAM is running low. Why is this bad? When your computer uses the hard-drive as RAM instead of your solid-state RAM chips, it slows down your computer tremendously. One gigabyte of RAM would be sufficient in order to run a few programs concurrently while also giving your system some breathing room.

    Hard-Drives -- Size does matter, but so does the motion in the ocean

    There are two primary specifications that are important when selecting a good hard-drive for your system -- size and speed. Most hard-drives today are at least several hundred gigabytes in size. However, the speed of various hard-drives on the market vary tremendously. The speed depends on a number of things including spin speed, seek time and the amount of RAM buffers inside the drive.

    If you are trading, your storage subsystem is critical to your performance. You will want to select a spin speed of at least 7,200 RPM (revolutions per minute). You should also select a hard-drive that is SATA compatible if your motherboard supports it. Some of the best hard-drive choices would be a simple hardware based RAID 1 (mirroring) with two hard-drives. A good hardware based RAID controller is the 3ware 9500S controller (3ware is now partnered with AMCC). A good setup would include these items:

    2 Western Digital 10,000 RPM 72 gig drives

    1 3Ware 64bit PCI 4 port SATA RAID Controller

    This storage solution will set you back approximately $650 dollars, but it is well worth it in terms of speed and reliability.

    Selecting the best Processor

    There is a lot of debate concerning what processor is the best one for a new computer. There are two major players in this market -- Intel and AMD. Each company also has many different products that are applicable for certain applications. If you were a gamer, you probably wouldn't want to get a dual-core CPU with a lower clock speed. However, for application use such as trading, a dual-core processor is, without question, probably the best solution for you. Why? With two cores in one processor, your system will be able to execute multiple applications simultaneously without becoming unresponsive. The last thing you want to see happen is having your computer become unresponsive to your BUY / SELL button click because your e-mail program just kicked in to check for new mail.

    The Intel Pentium D (800 Series) is a solid dual-core processor that is a good solution here. Please check out this link:


    Keep in mind that if you select costume components, you'll probably want to build the system yourself -- or have one of your technically inclined computer friends assist you with this. ASUS and ABIT make excellent motherboards for these projects. Find the motherboard that supports the chipset you want and then make sure you purchase the correct RAM and other components to go with it.

    Basic House-Cleaning Procedures

    Unfortunately, the only clean XP setup is a brand new one after a format. As soon as the first few programs are installed, the registry is changed and startup programs are created (many of them possibly unnecessary).
    There are a few programs that come with Windows XP that allow you to tweak the performance of your system while also giving you, the user, some control of your system setup.

    Startup Programs
    If you go to START and then RUN and type in "MSCONFIG", you can see what programs automatically start up when you boot your system. When the menu opens, look under the "startup" tab and see what programs load when you boot your system. Do you see unnecessary programs loading? If so, you can uncheck them, save your configuration and prevent these programs from running in the future. If you happen to disable an important program, you can always go back and recheck it by following the same steps.

    Free Online Virus Check

    Even if you already have an antivirus program installed, it never hurts to run an additional scan from another vendor to make sure that nothing was overlooked. Trendmicro has a FREE online virus scanning utility located at: http://housecall.trendmicro.com/

    Defragment your Hard Drive

    After time, normal computer use will cause files on your hard-drive to defragment. What this means is that a file will get broken up and scattered across your hard-drive. This causes additional delays in accessing files and poorer performance from your storage subsystem. Here is a pointer to an excellent article from Microsoft on how to defragment your system and to schedule monthly defragmentation of your system: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;283080

    As a trader, if you choose to schedule reoccurring jobs, make sure they run when you aren't trading!

    Find out what your computer is running

    By hitting CTRL-ALT-DEL, you can bring up the TASK MANAGER and view the current running processes. If you notice certain programs eating up a lot of your CPU resources, you have a few options. If the program isn't important for your trading, find out why it is running and if you can live without it while trading. If it is an important program, you may want to invent additional money in a dual-processor system, a dual-core system or a hyper-threaded CPU.

    A company called SysInternals makes a great lineup of software that helps you track down program usage -- including illegitimate programs that have been installed by trojans or spyware. One such program is called Process Explorer. This program goes a step or two beyond the Microsoft Task Manager and gives you very detailed reports of which programs are consuming your various system resources. Please visit http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/ProcessExplorer.html for more information about this great program. You can download it from their website.

    Find out how much bandwidth you are consuming

    There is a nice program by a company called AnalogX that will monitor your bandwidth usage. Why would this be of use to you? Well, the greatest benefit is the ability to see if there are any programs in the background (specifically illegitimate ones) sending data out via your connection to unknown sources. This program will not give you specifics about that (there are other programs that will), but it will at least let you know if your connection is in use when it shouldn't be. Please check out the website http://www.analogx.com/contents/download/network/nsl.htm to download this program and test it out. It does not consume a lot of resources.

    That wraps up this edition. If you have any questions, please post them here so that everyone can benefit from the answers. Also, if you disagree with anything, please post your opinions as well. Thanks!
  4. Banjo


    Thanks man, always interested in this stuff, fwiw I 'm sure under " selecting the best processor" you meant custom instead of costume after the newegg link. Please do keep the thread going , it has value.
  5. Thanks Banjo -- I'd make the change but I can't edit after 60 minutes. :)
  6. One should also consider the AMD dual core Athlon or Opteron. Runs cooler and faster than the Intel dual cores.

    On the topic of AMD based machines, here is an interesting deal from SUN that is a viable alternative to a '"PC". They are giving away free SUN Ultra 20 Workstations (AMD Opteron CPU) if you sign up for 3 years paid support services which are $29.95 per month for the base model. These machines use normal PC memory and expansion cards.


    And yes, it does run Windows supported by SUN as well as Solaris and Linux.
  7. stav


    Since you mention Linux, anyone here is running trading software on Linux? If yes, which one? Native or emulaiton? Is it worthwhie to migrate? The learning curve seems long (at least for me) and I'm not sure about the results. I spent 1 full day trying to load FreeBSD on the D: drive I run XP on the C:, and the outcome was poor....
  8. aphie,

    Good to see you back here. That was a very educational post. One problem I have with checking resource use and startup programs is that they are not identified very well. Plus, I have no idea what is needed and what is not.
  9. Thanks, Aphie. I've already found some problems thanks to your advice!

  10. u130747


    Uh oh aphie's back. Gonna post all your trades again? Or maybe your picture again!!
    #10     Dec 21, 2005