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The Net Takeaway: SPSS and Hyper-Threading


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SPSS and Hyper-Threading · 07/14/2004 01:21 PM, Analysis

Stumbled on these posts about SPSS crashing on Hyper-threading machines.

1st Post


Update Post

For those who don’t know, modern Intel processors can pretend to be 2 processors to the OS. The OS and/or running program can then split off pieces of itself to run “in parallel” (this works on single-proc boxes as well, but not as cleanly). Its not really in parallel, but the chip can make it seem pretty close. In some cases, this can perceptibly impact performance… and in other cases, programs are written in such a way so as to not benefit at all from multiple processors. In the past, SMP or “symetric multi-processor” machines were very expensive, but this “Hyper-Threading” brings some of that capability to the user in an very affordable way.

When a program splits off parts of itself (often called “threads” or “processes”, hence a “multi-threaded” program), having multiple processors (or the illusion of such) can really help. Now, its really, really hard to do this well, so no surprise it took SAS 9 versions to do it. But it really needs to be done in SPSS (yes, and Clementine!), given the new size of data that we are all dealing with.

These postings exemplify a couple of things:

Yes, these things are hard. Hey, its hard for MS themselves to keep track of the variety of OS and Hardware combinations out there. But SPSS has a special mandate: They need to calc fast. Any hardware or OS features which support that goal should be tested at SPSS headquarters. If a bug is found affecting performance increases, then that should be patched, because if its affecting one guy loud enough to pipe up, you can fix it before it affects lots of people who won’t pipe up, and will instead switch from the crashing software to another product.

Dumb Joke:
A pilot is flying around Seattle in the usual misty fog and gets a bit lost. He hovers as close to the ground as he can to look for landmarks, and sees a guy on top of nearby building.

Hovering close to him, our pilot yells “Where am I?”

“You are in a helicopter!”, yells back the rooftop guy.

Immediately, the pilot turns 30 degrees to the right, flies high speed for 10 minutes, and then cuts power to drift right onto the center of the pad.

A ground crew rushes out to him, “How did you do that in the fog?”

“Simple”, the pilot replies. “I asked a guy a question, and he gave me a technically correct but useless answer. So, I knew I was above Microsoft, and that Sea-Tac was 30 degrees to the right, exactly 20 miles!”

Update:Mr. Turner posted that he has written a program to force an exe onto a specific processor. It’s linked in his recent post at his blog.

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