I appreciate that gpus are a faster option, but how would someone - who's never dabbled in that side of computing - exploit the gpus in our own system? I have two graphics cards in my system, an NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT and an ATI Radeon HD 4300 (which is primarily there to speak to my TV so it's available most of the time). Are either suitable? (or do you have to dedicate a machine explicitly to the task)
In order to mine with GPU your card must be compatible with either OpenCL (ATI) or CUDA (NVidia). You can check that here:
NVidia CUDA: http://www.nvidia.com/object/cuda_gpus.html
Ati OpenCL: http://developer.amd.com/gpu/ATIStreamSDK/pages/DriverCompatibility.aspx
Once you verify that it is compatible, just do a search on the forum for GPU miner and you will find a few of them along with the instructions on how to install and use them. I personally use m0mchil's miner: http://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1334
And, in any case, is 4400 the kind of rate we'd expect from a modern CPU? It's an I7 quad core 2.8Ghz. Initially I allowed it to use 2 cores only, but the rate was only 2300, so I permitted the other 2 to join in. If it's relevant, I'm running Win 7 Ult and have 12Gb Ram installed.
Yes, it is. CPU mining doesn't make sense anymore, IMHO.