Is SMP worth it?
Or is it just hype?
I won't bore you with 50 graphics from mostly useless programs
showing stuff that's equally useless. My style is a little different;
I'll tell you what I think, show you some stuff to backup what
I say, and maybe entertain you in the process. All of the tests
were done in "real-world" scenarios. I have ICQ going in the background
all the time, I usually have a minor thing or two like Word installed
on the machines, and I don't run in 640X480. All the installations
were less than a week old, with the most minor of applications
installed (98/NT ICQ, PhotoShop, and Pegasus Mail. On Linux-Gnome
ICU running in the background, with every other service turned
off). I've not yet met a serious gamer with the typical "test
system" used in benchmarks. We all typically have a thing or two
going on, and our OS has some crap on it, so these benchmarks
are geared towards the general public.
Multiprocessors) have traditionally been only in the realms of
the technically elite or the people with way too much money. Abit
has changed all of that with their new BP6 motherboard. Now you
can go out and spend a couple of hundred bucks and enjoy all the
benefits of having more than one CPU. Or can you?
avid gamer, when I first heard about Quake 3: Arena supporting
SMP, I raised my eyebrows. When Abit announced a dual motherboard
using socket 370 processors, I picked up the phone and placed
my order. For the three or so of you who haven't heard of the
Abit BP6 Motherboard, here are the quick stats:
Dual Socket 370 Processors (From 300A-466Mhz)
Intel 440BX Chipset (66/100Mhz FSB)
Supports UDMA/33 IDE protocol
HPT366 UDMA/66 Supporting up to Four DMA66 Devices
3 168-pin DIMM sockets supporting a maximum memory configuration
of up to 768 Mb
Soft Menu II (More on this in a moment)
the beast into the box
here I am, motherboard in one hand, CPUs in the other, and well,
one CPU on the bench. Assembly wasn't much different than putting
together any other system, I just had to plug in two processors
instead of one. The Abit motherboard is surprisingly small,
not much bigger than the usual baby-AT style motherboards at all.
Another high point was the manual. In fact, it would be an insult
to call this a mere manual... It's a freakin novel. Considering
these motherboards originate in Taiwan, I expected the usual "You
put moterboard in case. Plug cpu into moterboard and turn on,
best results shall follow." Not the case with Abit. You get a
nice book with pictures and well written descriptions, lacking
any blatant mistakes (how many times have you jumpered exactly
as the manual indicates, only to find out the motherboard has
a newer version of the settings stamped on it that completely
contradicts what the book says?). So I put in all my goodies from
the old Asus mobo, and flipped the switch. The system came online,
I entered the BIOS and was presented with heavenly joy.
I had a bad experience a long time ago, so this was my first experience
with the "Soft Menu". All I can say is "sweet!" Complete
control of your CPU's functions from within a menu, what a great
feature. I hate jumpers. Jumpers are evil. I know how to use jumpers,
but they suck. Shut down the PC, move jumper, turn on PC, rinse,
lather, and repeat. Naturally, being the overclocking kind of
guy I am, I tinkered with things a bit, rebooted and had a nice
black screen. That's not a good thing. A quick flip of the battery
jumper and everything was back to the way it came to me. After
much tweakage, I was able to get my 466's stable at a cool 522.
This motherboard is simply an overclocker's dream... you're able
to control the voltage of both CPUs individually and fine tune
the bus speeds in amazingly small increments.
With 2 CPUs (Sorta)
partitioned my drives in preparation for this new beastie, so
I installed the appropriate operating systems, and began the tests.
Most people would call this "leading edge" technology. I refer
to it as "bleeding edge" technology. Allow me to explain. The
test monster consists of:
Dual Celeron 466's overclocked to 522Mhz (using regular fans)
192MB of Micron 100Mhz SDRAM
Voodoo 3 3000 AGP w/latest Drivers for 98, Linux, and NT
Western Digital Caviar 6.4 & 3.4GB Drives Enclosed in Cooler
Master's DCD-4001 CoolDrive
Sound Blaster AWE 64 ISA (I'll explain why in a moment)
Windows 98 Build 4.10.1998, NT 4 Server w/SP 4 (Build 4.00.1381),
and Redhat Linux 6.0 with 2.2.5-15 kernel compiled with SMP Support
I don't know
if I'm the only person with this trouble, but it seemed to me
the Abit's Plug 'N' Play was not as fine tuned as some of the
other motherboards out there. I spent hours fiddling with the
BIOS settings, removing stuff, putting stuff back in, simply trying
to convince my LAN card to stop sharing it's IRQ with the "mass
storage controller". Finally I contacted some friends and they
suggested moving the PCI network card to the bottom most slot.
Oops. Some habits are just plain hard to break. I like everything
in a neat little bundle up top where the fans can blow across
it all. After I did that everything appeared to be happy.
ought to write a howto on getting all of these OSs happily sharing
the same PC. You want a challenge? Go try it. Once I remembered
that 98's FAT32 was getting in my way, things became a bit easier.
I'll spare you the gory details of setting up the operating systems;
it's a painful memory. I thought I'd start with Linux first, knowing
it was going to be the most difficult.