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Lorin Thwaits A geek says what?

The postulation of Douglas Engelbart back in 1965 that the complexity of computers would double every 24 months has held true ever since he said it.  Although it was originally Engelbart's theory, it was carried to the press by Gordon Moore back in April of 1965, and has thus been famously attributed to him as “Moore's Law“.  This means we've seen exponential advances in computing power over the past four decades:


(Handy chart of Moore's law from Wikipedia)

But is this coming to an end?  We've reached the limit of easy performance gains by making the traces smaller and increasing the clock speed in order to get better performance.  Things are getting so close together that principles of RF come into play as neighboring traces on the teeny chip act like broadcast and receiving antennas, and further miniturization is tough without having the chip go nuts.  Instead of one faster core, the big chip makers are resorting to multiple cores, but this has been met with mixed reviews.  Performance reports of the Core Duo processors are coming in at about 35% faster than their single-core cousins, laughing in the face of Intel's claim of a 68% performance gain.  Being curious, I wanted to experiment a bit further to see what all the fuss was about, so I got a groovy Sony SZ-120 whose Core Duo processor runs at 1.8 GHz.  I could then easily compare it to the single-core 1.8 GHz Centrino machine I have been using for the past two years.


The Sony SZ-120 on the left, and the Dell D600 on the right both run the processor at 1.8 GHz.

After a little testing I found that Moore's law is in fact still alive and well, but it is now up to us, the programmers, to bring to pass the next wave of performance gains.  Let me explain.

I set up both laptops to perform the processor-intensive task of compressing video.  I deliberately chose an older compression engine that operates just single-threaded, the Tsunami MPEG encoder.  With each machine running one instance of TMPGEnc compressing the exact same video, the Dell took 90 minutes to complete, and the Sony 65 minutes.  So the Sony was 38% faster, which is in keeping with the kinds of performance gains recorded by others who have reviewed Core Duo machines.  But what about running multiple instances of the same thing?  With the Dell running two instances it took about twice as long, completing the task in 178 minutes.  And with three if I would have let it complete would have been around 267 minutes (but I got impatient and ended it early).  No big surprises there.  To do twice or three times the work took twice or three times the amount of time.

The wonderful thing was that on the Core Duo machine running two instances completed in only 68 minutes instead of 65.  So it can do twice the amount of work in pretty much the same amount of time if there are multiple threads involved.  As expected running three instances took only about 50% longer than two, at 106 minutes total.  So here's the breakdown:

Instances
1 2 3
Dell single-core 90 178 267 (estimated)
Sony duo-core 65 68 106
% faster 38.5% 161.8% 151.9%

Minutes to complete the same compression task 1, 2, or 3 times

Major portions of the various speed tests reviewers have used are apparently single-threaded, and as such fetched the same bleak performance gains seen in the single instance column of my chart.  But if the code the reviewers used threw more threads then we would see the kinds of performance gains Intel has promised.  Here's one great review from Tech Report that goes the distance to analyze performance with multi-threaded applications.

Moral of the story for us as programmers: if performance matters then we need to make better use of .NET's System.Threading and Java's java.lang.Thread classes in order to get the best possible response out of our applications.

Posted on Monday, May 8, 2006 3:40 AM Performance | Back to top


Comments on this post: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court!
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What RPM are the drives in both laptops?
Left by JBarbatos on May 08, 2006 3:24 PM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court!
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Both machines have 5400 RPM drives with seemingly similar performance. (Even though the Dell is a paltry 40 gigs in size and the Sony a roomy 100 gigs.)
Left by Lorin on May 08, 2006 10:06 PM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court!
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They are many factors to be consider. Like anti-virus and other applications running. Hard drive size will also matter if you have more hard drive space the swapping of the files will be faster... I think so you need to do a different method of test.
Left by Tam on May 29, 2006 5:59 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court!
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No, his tests are fine
Left by Matt on May 31, 2006 3:58 PM

# What about Pentium M 2.0 with 1.86???and for gaming only.
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please email me at terminaladvantage@yahoo.com

I had a 2.0m with quadro1400go 256.
1gb ddr2.

now i am buying.

1.86cduo.,7600(128), 2gb ddr2??

which one is better?please hepl me
Left by W Malik on Jun 04, 2006 2:51 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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The tests are fine, Multi cores only come into effect when theres multiple threads.... A single program is a single thread, unless its programmed to devide its tasks and delegate to multiple processors. You will see a small gain in performance as the operating system and its services are devided up across the procs and then a single threaded proggy is executed and it gets allocated to the most free core. You will see a large gain however if you run multiple instances of a single thread program (as the test above) or the prgram can break its process up and thus devide the work among however many cores there are. Furure games promise to adopt multi-threadding to sepearately execute AI, physics and such to take advantage of multiple processers. So the advantage is coming and will be clearly seen.
Left by paul on Aug 30, 2006 4:54 AM

# Core Duo Rocks!
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I got a Dell Inspiron 6400 it comes with Core Duo T2400 1.83Ghz, 667 FSB, 2 Mb L2. 1 Gb DDR 2 533, 120 Gb HDD 5400 RPM. And i have compared it with my old Vaio, Pentium M 2.0, 1 Gb DDR 2 400, 100 Gb 5400. And I Can say that the Core Duo make the Pentium M looks like a 486. Core Duo beats in every test I did. Core Duo RuleZ
Left by Reinhard on Sep 24, 2006 3:58 PM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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I just bought a Sony Centrino 1.83Ghz, 512 RAM, laptop and I don't know if I should spend an extra $100 to buy a Sony Duo Centrino 1.83Ghz, and with 1024 RAM laptop.
Is it worth the extra 100 Bux ?
Left by Yussef on Dec 04, 2006 10:15 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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Left by Andre on Mar 12, 2007 5:12 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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Left by west on Mar 21, 2007 6:51 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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I doubt technology will ever slow down!
Left by cute vids on Mar 31, 2008 7:29 PM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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I had a 2.0m with quadro1400go 256 - good machine.
Left by best driver scan on Aug 13, 2009 11:47 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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You have a guide for vista?
Left by DDos Protection on Nov 06, 2009 11:16 PM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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Very right. all citizen need to keep this law live.
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# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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Left by Mark on Jan 24, 2010 9:33 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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This is the same fact as well.
Left by HID kit on May 23, 2010 2:12 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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Left by fat burning furnace scam on Jun 01, 2010 10:41 AM

# re: Keeping Moore's law alive: This time the ball is in our court
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The moral of the story is get effective use of .NET's System.Threading and Java's java.lang.Thread in order to get best response from your application.
Left by new laptops on Aug 27, 2010 12:48 AM

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