Climbing Up The Charts (10/16/03)
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You know, we were going to cackle a bit about the latest batch of Windows security flaws to spew forth from Redmond (seven of 'em-- and five, count 'em, five are "critical," i.e. the worst Microsoft can describe), but then we were forwarded more news on Virginia Tech's "Big Mac" supercomputer, and we figured, hey, let's do that, instead. After all, if history's any indication, there'll be at least twelve more Windows flaws reported tomorrow, so what's the rush?

So you probably recall that we recently talked about how, when the new list of the top 500 supercomputers comes out next month, Big Mac has a decent shot of coming in third. We were basing that entirely on Big Mac's theoretical peak performance as compared to those of listed and ranked supercomputers, but, of course, the actual rankings are determined by LINPACK benchmarks, so it was just semi-educated guesswork on our part. Big Mac's LINPACK scores have indeed been calculated, but they won't be published until next month; however, faithful viewer Derek Kent informed us that, according to WIRED, "early benchmarks" of Big Mac's real-world performance indicate that it might score just high enough to take second.

According to one of the guys who works on the top 500 list, scores from a test of 128 of Big Mac's 2,200 processors imply that the cluster is "getting about 80 percent of the theoretical peak." If that ratio holds for the full cluster test, Big Mac could score 14.1 teraflops-- edging out the current #2 supercomputer, Hewlett-Packard's ASCI Q, which rates 13.9. And even if it missed second place, it looks likely to claim third by a pretty wide margin; the current third-place cluster only scored 7.6.

Of course, this is all based on last June's numbers, and Virginia Tech is quick to caution that "there are four or five new supercomputers coming online" that might make for some fiercer competition. The associate director of Big Mac's facility, Jason Lockhart, will only go so far as to say that he "expects the machine to place well" and that "the goal is to be in the top 10." Such reserve! Such caution! He could at least have said that "we'll definitely pound that Dell thing at UT into a thin, runny paste without breaking a sweat."


 
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The above scene was taken from the 10/16/03 episode:

October 16, 2003: Apple's dog-and-pony show leaves so much music-related awesomeness in its wake, five are dead and thirteen are injured. Meanwhile, rumors begin to take shape about Apple's next massive overhaul of the iMac's industrial design, and early benchmarks of the G5-powered "Big Mac" supercomputer hint that it might just be the second-fastest in the world...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4273: Failing To Shake A Stick (10/16/03)   Wooooo, what an event, huh? Jobs at the top of his form, a slew of incredible new music-related products and services, a sequined Phil Schiller on a pony... was that just amazing, or what? No, seriously, was it?...

  • 4274: What Are YOU Looking At? (10/16/03)   Whew... okay, now that the real, announced music stuff is out of the way (and we can all rest assured that the iTMS-iPod tag-team will crush any competitors underfoot while laughing at all those foolish enough to challenge its irresistible might), what say we cleanse our palates with a refreshing scoop of non-music-related unsubstantiated rumor and speculation?...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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