Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dear Jane letter to the iPhone

Hilarious stuff. More than one reviewer wants to love his lovely iPhone, but it just isn't going to work out. I kid my friend and colleague Trevor that he's driving a Ferrari on a dirt road.

Don't get me wrong; I think the iPhone is an absolutely amazing piece of engineering. In 2007 it is 100 times more than the Newton, and it makes my beat-up Treo 650 a dinosaur. But listen to two iPhone lovers whose love has altered when it alteration found:



I'm Dumping the iPhone
Dearest iPhone,

I must admit that things between us had a great and beautiful start. I
was in love with your bag before I even saw you. And when I logged onto iTunes
for easy activation, I was enthralled with your sleek beauty. Remember our first
night together? We stayed up all night getting to know each other and then you
went to sleep in my arms. God, you were gorgeous.

Yet, a few weeks later, it seems that none of the promises that we
planted in those fields of hope has flourished. In fact, after a brief and
torrid first few days together, things have gone steadily downhill, making me
realize that it's best to sever ties now while we still both have our dignity
and I have not smashed you on the sidewalk in frustration.

Unfortunately, simply put, it just didn't happen for us. Nothing
remains of what looked like a growing love, besides some memories
and a few dozen photos that are now safely tucked away in my iPhoto, images
of a love that once burned white hot, but now are just a flicker of sadness.
How did everything lose its enchantment so quickly? All that remains is a
bitter taste of what once tasted like such sweet candy.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Twin heartbeats: watching a multi-core processor at work

Recently I started using a Lenovo (nee IBM) Z61t laptop, replacing my late lamented X40. The new computer sports a dual core Intel processor. This means it sort of has two CPUs.

It's fun to watch the two processors vie for work to do when a single-threaded task is at hand. I do a lot of work crunching search logs, and when you exceed about 32,000 rows in an Excel spreadsheet, things begin to bog down. Even gathering the data in a large Internet Explorer window can take a lot of CPU and a lot of real time. If you are running one single-threaded program, Windows reports your CPU as 50% or so until the task completes. The Windows Task Manager shows this in action. The "extra" core of the processor is available to handle other tasks, and the work appears to be divided equally between the two:

Click to see full-size image

If you're running more than one app, or if the app you're running is multi-threaded, then both halves of the CPU can do useful work. For instance, when I copy 200,000 rows of data from IE to Excel, the CPU runs at close to 100%.

My friends Chuck Severance, who literally wrote the book on high performance computing, and Bill Punch, who heads the High Performance Computing Center at Michigan State, understand all this full well. For me, an amateur observer of the end of Moore's Law and our multi-processor future, it's fun to watch.