% fortune -ae paul murphy

Ten embarrassing questions

While reading a comment by s_souche yesterday I was struck by the extent to which he believes he knows things that just aren't so - and, more interestingly, by a style of argument based on the supreme belief that majority mistakes are morally right - and those who don't share desired delusions correspondingly dispicable.

You don't get to vote on reality: it is what it is. You can, however cast a vote on all kinds of things where majority makes right - or, in other words, the fact that a million brunettes can be wrong validates a market for ten million bottles of peroxide without saying anything about relative levels of fun.

There's an interesting parallel to politics. A few days after the recent American elections John Ziegler published a Zogby International poll showing that only about 2% of the people who voted for Obama knew enough about him or his promises to correctly answer at least 11 out of 12 pretty basic questions - like which party controls both houses of Congress, or who promised to raise energy costs and bankrupt the coal fired power industry.

Ziegler's poll drew a lot of negative attention - so much so that Zogby International refused to do more work for him -specifically one including McCain voters and focused on the question of where both those who knew, and those who only thought they did, got their information.

Eventually done by Wilson Research that poll showed the same polarization: with 35% of the McCain voters getting at least 11 of the 12 answers right and discovering that those who relied on MSNBC for information were most likely to get nearly all the answers wrong, while those who relied on Fox and/or talk radio were most likely to get them right.

What's important to bear in mind here is that neither survey had anything to do with voter IQ or voter commitment: both surveys measured only what the voters know, and the second then focused on who told them what they thought they knew -and therefore didn't tell them what they should have known.

Think about this in the IT context and you should see the relevance: imagine getting all your information about Apple from Wintel advocates - you'd think one button mice relevant to the discussion and argue that MacOS X can't be used in offices because directX games don't work.

Similarly, imagine you got all your Apple information from the MacMedia: you'd probably still be suffering whiplash from their abrupt about turn on x86 vs PPC - and you'd know nothing about PPC evolution since the 2002 G4/G5 generation, nothing about issues like Apple's need to rapidly grow warranty reserves; nothing about its tripled DOA rates; and Apple's remarkable new faith in OS patching wouldn't really be front and center in your consciousness.

What's going on, of course, is that those who choose to get their information from major player finger puppets may share that tingle going down the salesman's leg, but won't have a clue about what's really going on around them.

In celebration of which idea I've put together a little quiz of our own -so grab a pencil and try to answer quickly and honestly without looking things up or betting on what you think my biases might be:

  1. What is the dominant processor in seven of the top ten super computers labeled most power efficient in the green500 supercomputer listings for 2008?

    1. AMD Shanghai
    2. Sun SPARC N2
    3. Intel Core i7
    4. IBM Cell
    5. IBM PowerRISC V (G4+)

  2. Which of the following computers will complete the job of searching one trillion strings, each three million characters long, for matches to a given string of length 11,200 in the shortest time using off the shelf OpenMP software?

    1. Sun T5440 (4 N2 processors, 1.4Ghz)
    2. HP DL 580 (16 x86 cores, 2.9 Ghz)
    3. IBM Cell DD3 blade (2 Cell processors, 3.2Ghz)

  3. Among the top five x86 hardware sellers by volume who makes the lowest cost (at list) quad core Opteron server?

    1. Dell
    2. IBM
    3. Sun
    4. Apple
    5. HP

  4. The following text applies to which OS?

    "a thread refers to an operating system or application instruction stream."

    1. Windows/XP and later x86
    2. Windows for Itanium
    3. Linux
    4. Solaris/x86
    5. MacOS X for Intel

  5. Which of the following statements about IBM's role with respect to Linux is least wrong?

    1. IBM has spent a billion dollars improving Linux and has made notable technical contributions to kernel development driving both scalability and reliability

    2. IBM has developed a powerful suite of entirely open source applications that are helping drive Linux adoption

    3. The success of IBM initiated Linux adoption efforts in cities like Munich has helped spread the technology

    4. IBM's position in response to the SCO initiated lawsuits has greatly reduced fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the Linux market place

    5. IBM's Linux adoption has proven to be, at best, a mixed blessing for the Linux community

  6. Which of the following statements about Linux is certainly true?

    1. You cannot run Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint under Linux

    2. Linux offers true SMP on 32 and 64 Core Xeon machines

    3. Linux is great in the server room, but not the desktop because it's too complicated for ordinary users

    4. Linux consists of the Linux kernel and most of the same GUIs, tools, and applications you find on other Unix variants including Solaris and OpenBSD.

    5. If you use AD, you can't use Linux

  7. Which of the following statements is true:

    1. Microsoft's directX is its proprietary implementation of MIT's X11 technologies

    2. The source for Microsoft's Windows XP TCP/IP stack has significant code commonalities with the stack for Apple's MacOS X.

    3. SQL written for Microsoft SQL-Server can be ported, unchanged, to any standards based database management package including DB2, oracle, and PostGres

    4. The latest Microsoft Word release reads and correctly formats files made by all earlier versions of Microsoft Word.

    5. Major open source winners like the Apache/PHP group do not work on Windows - for Microsoft based web services development you have to use IIS and the .net technologies.

  8. Intel's performance advantage over AMD is largely determined by:

    1. advanced technologies like hyper threading and fully virtualized 8-way SMP

    2. Microsoft's compilers

    3. its ability to manufacture at smaller scales

    4. its ability to deliver level three cache on the die

    5. Intel's compilers and firmware

  9. Which of the following is false

    1. Sun's "coolthreads" chips aren't conceptually much different from Intel's 8 core machines;

    2. A single, 8 core, 1.2Ghz Sun N2 processor can generally serve more web pages, and process more php/MySQL requests per second, than a cluster of four two way Dell Xeons.

    3. The Intel i7 "Nahelem" processors now entering the market offer significant performance gains while reprising many technologies reviewers generally said offered no performance gains in previous AMD processor generations

    4. the biggest combined technical and managerial problem faced by Intel and Microsoft is finding ways for the compilers to make effective use of more than four light weight processes (i.e. Wintel threads + contexts) in the execution of one non obviously parallel task.

    5. People using Vax gear to run BSD Unix in the mid 1980s routinely ran dozens of concurrent applications - including everything from email to database management.

  10. Which of the following statements is true:

    1. The various "Windows" OSes together constitute the most common OS group in use today

    2. Intel makes more CPUs than anyone else

    3. The basic list price for a 64 core IBM z10 is around $26 million dollars - about what you'd spend on 20,000 small Xeon servers.

    4. Linux supports 2048 concurrent fully SMP CPUs in the SGI architecture.

    5. The 3.9Ghz IBM cell2 outperforms its nearest x86 competitor on tailored OpenMP floating point applications by less than five to one.

    6. The third fastest super computer on earth, the "longhorn" facility at Texas A&M, uses 1,023 Sun UltraSPARC N3 ("Rock"), 16 core processors at 2.8Ghz.


    1. 4 IBM Cell (see: The Green 500
    2. 1 string search: Sun N2
    3. 3 Sun
    4. 1 Windows/XP (see Windows Threading Guide)
    5. 5 (This is arguable - since decelleration is just negative accelleration #3 has its attractions)
    6. 4 "Linux" is really GNU/Linux
    7. 2 Formerly very controversial, but recently confirmed.
    8. 3 45nm vs 65, now moving to 32/35 vs 45.
    9. 1 CMT really isn't a multi-core implementation in the x86 sense at all.
    10. 3 Not a joke, it really is $26 million for a 64 core machine!

    So, how'd you do?

    If you got less than eight right, you should probably think about where you get your information - because somebody's been selling to you.

    Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.