What You Said About SMP

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On the whole, I was quite pleased by the responses I got, and learned from them.

The most usual response I got basically said, “I run at least two applications that hog CPU cycles at one time. Things run smoother if each can have their own CPU rather than have the CPU jump back and forth between the two all the time.”

OK, that makes sense to me, and if you’re in that boat, and you’re finding yourself frequently stalled with that happening, then maybe you ought to look into that.

What was common in the responses was this line of thought:

  1. I have a particular problem.
  2. SMP should help with this problem.
  3. SMP does help with this problem.

Computers are tools. If SMP is the right tool for you, certainly use it. I had one fellow who’s thinking about an SMP machine for his wife’s web-browsing. Usually, this would seem silly, but let’s just say
the wife’s web-browsing is pretty unusual. Like running four pay-to-surf-the Web programs at one time, for openers.

The point of the article was to stress that before you apply solutions, make sure you have a problem, and the solution solves the problem.

Hobbyism

Probably the next biggest group of people basically said, “I do it for the fun of it.” That’s fine, too.

Compared to some other hobbies, computers are pretty cheap. But when you do it to have fun, fun is your primary goal, expectation, and reward, not a ton of increased performance in situations where it’s not going to happen.

Our goal is inform you. This is a very diverse audience, pursuing quite different goals, and having much different priorities.

If you say, “OK, SMP won’t do much for me, but I want to do it anyway for the joy of exploration,” we’re not saying that’s a bad decision. What we are saying is that being clueless outside of a vague expectation that SMP will be much faster is likely to be a bad decision.

Some Maybe Not-So-Good Reasons

If Everybody Goes SMP, We’ll Get More Support for It I got a few of these. I’m very familiar with this argument. A version of it is often used by Macsters, who will prattle about the Mac being so much faster than an x86 machine even when they know and acknowledge that it isn’t so just to get
more sheep into the fold.

I am rarely convinced by “the ends justifies the means” arguments. I don’t like shepherd arguments, it shows a lack of respect for the “sheep.” It also fails the Golden Rule test. If I did that to you, would you like it? No? Then do not do unto others.

Revenge on Intel Some seem to take this as almost a personal vendetta. Jeez. Intel didn’t kill your mother or leave a horse’s head in your bed. You want to dislike or not buy from Intel, fine, but is it vengeance when the victim doesn’t even notice?

“I would like to see 16 CPU desktops as the norm” I swear to you, that’s a direct quote.

The quoted does a lot of Java development, and down the road, he’s likely to be right if we end up in a world where you send out lots of agents to do your business for you, and most of your work ends up being what are now considered “background” operations. I also think eventually, CPU development
will turn towards multiple processors.

However, while a 16 CPU desktop might be a wonderful thing for this particular person, it’s not a realistic or even desirable goal for the vast majority of desktop users anytime soon.

I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for this. 🙂

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