back to article Dinky Florida machine 'could whup world No 1 computer's ass'

Which is the most powerful computer in the world? Easy: the Tianhe-1A at Tianjin in China. Just ask the chaps at the TOP500 supercomputer list – or President Barack Obama. "Just recently, China became home of ... the world’s fastest computer," said the prez in his latest State of the Union speech. That makes the high …

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  1. John H Woods

    PR Opportunity

    Just reconfigure it to be good at the LINPACK tests.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      I dont know though

      that there Linpack is only 35 years old so it might have some computing paradigms in it that come as a surprise to a southern US university.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      re: Just reconfigure it

      LINPACK is a test for which conventional supercomputers are well suited anyway, the Novo-G will never be able to compete in terms of massive brute-force number crunching, but that's not what it's designed to be good at.

  2. NB
    Happy

    obligatory:

    Sounds good but does it run linux?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Joke

      More importantly...

      ... How well does it play Crysis?

      1. h 6
        Happy

        Crysis?

        Who cares about Crysis. Cant it play ANGREY BIRDS?!!

  3. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Go

    Only one true standard of computing power

    Whoever can brute force the encrypted Wikileaks file first, wins...

  4. Jeff 11
    Thumb Down

    FPGAs are better at specific applications they're reconfigured for...

    ...not news?

    I couldn't comment authoritatively on why it doesn't do well in LINPACK, but the answer may be because the parallelizable components of the test scale well to the many thousands of cores in the top supercomputers, as opposed to the 200-odd in this machine.

    If they'd reconfigured their machine to make a (proportionally) bigger dent in LINPACK with the same number of cores as the Chinese super machine, this would be interesting. But there's no substance to this hot air, it's effectively just a whinge that the benchmark doesn't suit the architecture...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      re: it's effectively just a whinge

      Actually I think it's more a reminder that biggest isn't necessarily best and often isn't cleverest.

      1. Richard 120

        re:Actually

        Let me get this straight, some actual AMERICANS are saying that the biggest and fastest is not the best?

        That's colossal, it's like they've turned British.

        Superpower not quite so super any more?

  5. Ed Deckard
    WTF?

    So if I build the world's biggest abacus

    Do I get to claim my computer is "for some applications, it is the most powerful computer of any kind on the planet" - like adding numbers when the power's out?

  6. TeeCee Gold badge
    Joke

    My test is better than your test.

    I've just come up with a new benchmark, the "How effective is it as an aircraft hanger doorstop once it's obsolete?" benchmark.

    It's been downhill in computing since the '50s folks.....

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Or rather...

      .. my testis better than your testis.

      Which brings us back to the basics of the exercise: dick waving.

      I happened to notice that the yanks are really fond of having "the first/best $IMPLEMENT in the world", Cue Philadelphia being "The first city in the world to have free running water" (yeah right, ancient Rome might have something to say about that) and "the world's most beautiful murals" (don't even know where to start with this one), Boston being "the home of the first computer" (ha-ha, interesting claim) etc etc...

      Pick any tourist-oriented leaflet in any city in the US: they're all full of such wild (and very amusing) claims. It almost looks like the "the world" means "anywhere I can get in a 2 hours drive" for some.

  7. John Savard Silver badge

    Define Powerful

    I'm not too impressed even by the Chinese machine. One can build a bigger computer by connecting more smaller computers together.

    The meaningful measure of computer power isn't throughput, but latency. That's the real bottleneck, in principle, to solving any given problem within a short time, one that can't always be cured by throwing more hardware at it.

    So, if someone could make a processor that runs at 10 GHz, and returns the result of a double-precision floating-point divide one cycle after being given the numbers to be divided, I'd be impressed. Even if it's hideously expensive and draws a ruinous amount of power.

    Just one of those, to handle the bottlenecks in a program, while a massive pile of ARM or Atom processors in parallel handle the easy part of the program, could get you your answers significantly quicker.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    It's all down to the algorithm that reconfigures, you see...

    FPGA-based reconfigurable computing is old as old. I remember an article in Byte Magazine circa 1990 about how you could make machines go zoom with PAL components.

    Yes it works, the problem being the program that maps your application to the (modern) FPGA array. Not so easy.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Sour Grapes?

    Perhaps he should 'configure' it to run the LinPack Benchmark..

    Mouth Hole + Money Wad = Satisfaction.

  10. Mike Richards

    Reconfigurable computers

    I reckon they're like the Infinite Improbability Drive and work best when provided with a *really* hot cup of tea.

  11. Tzael

    Transmeta

    So basically this is just an evolutionary step from Transmeta processors?

  12. Kev99

    Gators Rule!

    Once more Florida has turned some blustery braggart into so much Gator-Bait. Any school that keeps a live nuclear reactor across from the student union without making the cafeteria food taste any worse (or better for that matter) has got to be reckoned with.

    GO GATORS!

  13. Lennart Sorensen

    Sounds reasonable actually.

    I suspect the reason this machine is faster at some problems, is that if your problem is genome related what you really need is a 2 bit integer machine, not a 64bit floating point monster (which is what LINPACK wants). The floating point capability would be completely wasted on such a problem. That is the kind of thing the FPGA is good at. Most super computer designs focus on floating point since that seems to be what most work requires.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unreliable Source

    It wouldn't matter if the Florida machine could calculate worldwide weather patterns for the next decade in sixty seconds; there's no possibility Obama would put his country ahead of his employers.

  15. Roscoe
    Alien

    No Bragging

    The CHREC kids aren't bragging: Reconfigurable processors really *are* wildly better than Von Neuman architectures at some classes of computation. Floating point isn't one of those, but integer arithmetic (and every algorithm that can be based on it) sure is.

    As an earlier commenter pointed out, the pain lay in the "reconfigurable" part - mapping the algorithm to the device. Many have tried to develop tools that take in an algorithm expressed in a high-level language (usu. C) and spit out config files for the target device, but none have really succeeded. It still takes some human cleverness to puzzle out a good FPGA implementation.

    An Alien for a surprisingly still-alien technology, despite having been around forever.

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