September 30, 2004

Some Myths Require A Wooden Stake

LinuxInsider, via its columnist Paul Murphy, has taken on two of the most persistent and pernicious myths regarding today's two main contenders for the desktop. In Macs Are More Expensive, Right?, Mr Murphy states:

"At the low end, therefore, the PC desktops are marginally less expensive than the Macs -- if you can do without their connectivity and multimedia capabilities -- and considerably more expensive if you can't. At the very high end, however, all of the design focus is on multimedia processing and the PCs simply aren't competitive from either hardware or cost perspectives...

"So, bottom line, are PCs cheaper than Macs? No, despite what you read in the PC press, it's the other way around. Compare Apples to apples, and Macs are cheaper than PCs"

In his follow-on article, But Macs Are Slower, Right?, he goes on to say:

"So are PCs faster than Macs?...a better way to do this is to look at the per system contribution in the cluster-computer business, where everyone uses their own Unix and the application developers don't have hardware agendas.

"For example, the NCSA 'Tungsten' cluster computer built last year was recently upgraded to include 2,500 dual Xeon Dell Poweredge 1750 servers at 3.2 GHz. According to NCSA public affairs, this thing has a theoretical peak capacity of about 32 Tereflops and yields about 15.36 teraflops in operation -- meaning that each CPU contributes about 3.1 Gigaflops to actual throughput.

"In contrast, the cluster built last year at Virginia Tech using 1,100 Mac desktops has a theoretical peak of about 18.2 Teraflops and initially benchmarked at 8.1 Teraflops to deliver a contribution of 3.7 Gigaflops per CPU.

"Although that was 19 percent better than the most recent Dell Xeon's, later machines built with Apple's X-Serves do much better because they have fewer I/O bottlenecks. Thus the Mach5 cluster built by Colsa Corp. and the U.S. Army, uses 1,566 dual CPU X-serves to deliver an expected 15 Teraflops in sustained throughput. That's 4.8 Gigaflops per CPU -- more than 50 percent faster than the Xeon -- and that's with last year's 2.0 GHz G5"

Unfortunately, as the articles' "Talkback" responses so strongly attest, no amount of factual presentation and good reasoning is enough to overcome the vested interests and chronic biases of the IT world. It will take much more than that to disturb the status quo of this industry.


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