To Sun bloggers, about benchmarks

December 14, 2005

Speaking as a SPEC representative, we love to have people using
our benchmarks, but everyone has to follow the rules – bloggers too.
Standard benchmarks have reporting and fair use rules that
require for instance that performance claims be
backed up by fully rule compliant test runs, and in some
cases by prior independent results review; and that
comparisons among products must include the
appropriate information to offer a fair comparison.

Speaking as a Sun engineer, we have some great products and
I don’t want you to stop talking about them! Just please
take care to follow the rules. If you’re not sure what
they are, ask. Inside Sun go to SAE on SunWeb for
information on the benchmarks. Email them. Or email me.

See BMSeer’s postings for examples of footnotes saying
what he’s comparing, the basis for comparison, when
he looked at the competitive numbers, and
substantiation of the numbers – like

this entry about SPECweb2005.

You may find the required disclosure inelegant, but bits are free. Put
them in. It might just be exactly the information some reader
really needs to know.

Thank you.

See also:


San Elijo lagoon trail

December 11, 2005

We walked through the San Elijo lagoon in Encinitas, CA, yesterday. A sunny winter day is a good time to visit, though it’s open year round and a lot of joggers and dog walkers from the neighborhood go there regularly. The
San Elijo Conservancy gives guided walks every other weekend, and the volunteers really add to the experience. Now I can say I know what a real pack rat’s nest looks like, and it’s not exactly like my office. We saw ducks, teal, coots, cranes, sandpipers, and a California gnat catcher – and walked through a cloud of California gnats. On the way out we passed a group of true bird watchers, each one armed with binoculars, telescopes, and notebooks.

It seems like all the lagoons, though protected from development, are suffering from water flow changes that block the periodic floods that used to flush sediment out to sea and rebuild the beaches. Now the water drops sediment in the lagoon. Finally the outlet to the sea is blocked, marine animals can’t go back and forth, and finally becoming stagnant. The conservancy raised money to endow lagoon opening by bulldozer each year to let the sea water come in an replenish the lagoon. Many native plants and animals have re-established themselves in the lagoon since this program began. What I can’t understand is why every city that opens its lagoon has to go through a legal battle to prove it’s good to do, when the arguments and conclusion are always the same, time after time.

Top R&D Companies

December 8, 2005

IEEE Spectrum just published their annual
survey of R&D spending.
Sun ranked 56th in total spending at $1.8 billion, just
behind Proctor & Gamble and ahead of Renault. The
top 10 unsurprisingly include big auto manufacturers and
pharmaceutical companies, and just one entry from the
computer industry. You guessed it –

Sun really does very well on
R&D as percent of sales. Innovation costs money.

Rank Company R&D ($B) % of Sales
1 Ford 7.4 4.3%
2 Daimler Chrysler 7.2 4.0%
3 Toyota 7.1 4.1%
4 Pfizer 6.6 12.6%
5 GM 6.5 3.4%
6 Siemens 6.4 6.7%
7 Microsoft 6.2 15.5%
8 Matsushita 5.7 7.1%
9 Glaxo Smith Kline 5.3 13.9%
10 Johnson & Johnson 5.2 11.0%
11 IBM 5.2 5.4%
13 Intel 4.8 14.0%
25 HP 3.5 4.4%
46 Fujitsu 2.2 5.0%
51 TI 2 15.7%
56 Sun 1.8 16.1%
89 AMD 0.9 18.7%

Again, the full article with complete tables for the top 100 are
available at the
IEEE web site,
to members and non-members alike.

Before Eco-Responsibility was Cool

December 7, 2005

Hey Scott,
I was eco-responsible before before
was cool.
Not like a friend who endeavored to live so that everything
required for life, from food to energy to clothing, could be produced on a single plot of land a
few meters square. No, I’m the type of "green" who doesn’t want
to give up anything, but hears his mother’s voice: don’t waste,
leave some for the next person (or the next generation).

Power from Sun – the real sun

electricity crisis
and rolling blackouts of 2000-2001 hit us
here in San Diego before the rest of the west.
Day after day while working I kept a window open on the
CalISO system status page
to anticipate blackouts. It was obvious
then, well before the Enron revelations,
from the way generating capacity went offline when demand
neared capacity that somebody was gaming the system.

We bought a rooftop photo-voltaic generating system sized
to meet our household needs over the course of a year.
Economically it was about a break-even proposition
amortized over the life time of the solar panels verus
the current price of electricity per kW-hour.
We didn’t give up anything, like cutting off appliances to stay
within a power budget on a cloudy day.
We stayed connected to the grid, spinning the meter backwards
to sell electricity back to
during the day when they
need it most, and buying it back at night when they have
idle generating capacity. Win-win.
Mostly it was insurance, that even if the Electric Robber Barons
continued their looting, our price was fixed. We could leave
our lights on and thumb our noses at Ken Lay. In the worst
case, if the
grid did become too unreliable we could always buy batteries
and cut ourselves off the grid.

Driving Hybrid

We weren’t interested in the
Toyota Prius
in 2003 – too small
and too slow. But in 2004 it got really interesting, with as
much interior room, as much acceleration, and better carrying
capacity than my full size V6 sedan. Since a few hundred
thousand people figured this out before I did, there was
quite a waiting list, and I ended up with a 2005 model.

Power Efficient Computing

Sorry, I don’t mean Sun UltraSPARC T1. What would I
do with over 50,000 transactions per second in my home?
Go over to

Rich McDougal’s cross reference

if you want to read about CMT.
This is about how I picked a PC from my buddies at HP.
My goal really wasn’t power efficiency; it was quiet.
Power makes heat, heat needs fans, fans make noise,
noise doesn’t belong in my home.
I already had an old
Sony PC
that did everything fine,
except it sounds too much like a lawnmower when it runs.
It has an Intel Pentium III chip; you know, back before
they started really pushing the clock rate and the power.

So I started by looking at chip power consumption and
SPECint2000 ratings.
I picked an
AMD Athlon
processor which had
good performance per watt, and nice power management
These features were supported by
SuSE Linux,
upon which my desktop
operating system was based.
Several PC vendors used that chip, but colleagues recommended
Compaq Presario
and they were right.
That PC is so quiet that often if the screen is blacked
out you can only tell it’s running by spotting the
green pilot light.

Little Green Data Center

Thorsten writes
about running a Sun Fire T1000 powered by
the solar panels on his house. His PV system looks about
the same size as mine, but I generate a lot more electricity
(3 kW DC, about 2.2 kW AC on a sunny day) – just an advantage
of living in San Diego California instead of Hamburg Germany
I suppose.

If he only cared about staying within a 1 kW power budget,
Thorsten could build a home data center populated with
Motorola 68040
processors: 6 watts at 40 MHz.
Remember when an 040 was a fast machine?
Remember when Macs didn’t have fans?
No wonder power consumption of data centers has grown so dramatically.
But maybe he doesn’t want to give up anything either, like
thousands of transactions per second.

When is Santa coming?

December 5, 2005

The one sure way to recapture the magic and wonder of Christmas is to get yourself a 5 year old boy.
My son insisted that we put up our Christmas tree last Friday. Okay, I thought, what’s the harm in putting it up a bit earlier than usual? Then I found out. He set out a plate of cookies and glass of milk by the fireplace, despite all my attempts to tell him what 3 weeks aging at room temperature does to milk and cookies. The next morning he flew down the stairs at sunrise and yelled No Fair that Santa had not come.
Every day now we have to go through the calendar count-down, and why Santa hasn’t already started visiting all the houses.

There’s a danger in talking about Santa Claus with a 5 year old, that he may also lead you through all the theological ramifications of jolly old men who have lived for centuries. I tried the old chestnut, "Santa is still alive because of all the boys and girls who believe in him. So Daddy, all the boys and girls in my kindergarten class believe in me, so will I live forever?
And on and on it went…