Tuesday Mar 15, 2011

getting ready for SPEC awards

You can call this a placeholder entry, getting ready for the coming merger of blogs.sun.com into blogs.oracle.com where I will write about recipients of the SPECtacular awards. Or you can call this a "teaser" as I point to the achievements of SPEC's volunteers in 2010, listed on the SPEC home page: www.spec.org

Monday Mar 29, 2010

TurboTax on VirtualBox problem solved

Murphy's Law punishes the procrastinator. TurboTax 2009 wouldn't install (on Windows XP on VirtualBox 3.0.6 on Ubuntu 8.04). There was no error message; the installer just silently quit. TurboTax 2008 installs fine, and TurboTax 2009 also fails on a different, fresh XP virtual machine. So I think something changed in TurboTax, not in my Windows installation.

Intuit support was little help, but did tell me how to create and access a verbose installer log file. That pointed me to a .NET error: "Handle does not support synchronous operations." Searching for that message I found a lot of people were getting the error with various programs including TurboTax, and with various versions of Windows running natively, as well as on VirtualBox. I did a repair installation of .NET with the Windows installer, to no avail.

Finally I tried what seemed a long shot to me: I updated VirtualBox to the latest version 3.1.6. Problem solved! The installer ran to completion, updated the program from the net, and I proceded to begin my tax return without incident.

I don't see in the change log what might have fixed the problem, but I'm grateful to the VirtualBox team! 

Wednesday Feb 24, 2010

SPECtacular awards - High Performance Computing

Recently released SPEC MPI2007 2.0 benchmark adds support for testing much larger clusters, up to 2,048 ranks (cores). This represents a big leap over (the currently shipping with SPEC MPI version 1.1) Medium Data Set, which is designed to scale to 128 processing cores. The Large Data Set enables fair comparison of modern HPC systems as they have outgrown the Medium Data Set.  SPEC awarded six engineers for their work on this benchmark.

Andrey Naraikin - Intel
Huiyu Feng – SGI
Pavel Shelepugin - Intel

When creating new benchmarks, testing is vital, especially of a benchmark that can run into the thousands of cores. Andrey, Huiyu, and Pavel provided the testing needed to make sure our SPEC MPI2007 large dataset benchmark works at the largest sizes. They have provided the testing, problem identification, scaling analysis and bug fixes required to allow us to make progress on the benchmark.

Brian Whitney – Oracle

Brian is HPG’s release manager who prepared many benchmark test kits integrating all the changes brought by the entire SPEC HPG group. He also implemented numerous infrastructure improvements.

Carl Ponder - IBM

Carl was a crucial contributor for the development and management of MPI2007 documentation, especially with respect to the run rules, FAQ, and configuration file

Cloyce Spradling – Oracle

SPEC MPI2007 uses the tools that SPEC CPU2006 is based upon.  Cloyce adapted the tools to the HPC needs and extended them to include new flexibility needed for MPI2007.

Photo:  Klaus-Dieter Lange (SPEC Awards Committee Chair, right) presents award to Brian Whitney (Oracle)

Tuesday Feb 23, 2010

SPECtacular awards - academia meets industry

More SPECtacular awards. As engineers know, academics are impractical. And as university researchers know, industrial practicioners have sorely limited vision. What does it take to bridge those two worlds so that industry can take full advantage of theoretical advances, and so that academia can leverage an industrial base to more quickly and easily develop relevant results? Two SPECtacular award recipients are answering that question: Kai Sachs of Technische Universität Darmstadt (top photo), and Samuel Kounev of Universität Karlsruhe (bottom photo).

SPEC has long offered reduced price benchmarks to educational institutions, and enticed universities to join as "associates" for a nominal fee. Yet when SPECies talk about our work designing, developing, and analyzing benchmarks, we mostly talk to each other. And when academic researchers talk about their work, they mostly talk to each other. Samuel and Kai have worked diligently to bridge the gap by growing SPEC's series of informal industrial benchmark workshops into a major performance conference co-sponsored by the ACM, with refereed and published proceedings, a diverse set of tracks, and a program committee drawn equally from industry and academia.

Few people would have earned the respect and credibility in both the academic and the industrial spheres to be able to bridge the differences in culture and outlook and bring us together like this. And they are not finished yet - but that is a story for a later date. For now I'll just say, Kai Sachs and Samuel Kounev are SPECtacular!

Monday Feb 15, 2010

SPECtacular awards - Java

Last December SPEC released the SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmark, the third generation of Java Enterprise Edition performance tests from the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) consortium. Steve RealmutoThe new benchmark tests Java EE 5.0's significantly expanded and simplified programming model, with a realistic workload stressing the entire system including JVM, middleware, Database, CPU, disk and servers. Yet although the benchmark test is much broader, it is simpler than ever to run because it takes advantage of Java EE 5.0 features and because it uses the open source Faban general purpose driver.

One of the most enjoyable duties of SPEC President is thanking the people from all the member institutions who make SPEC's success possible. I fear that it is all too easy for SPEC people's achievements to miss recognition, in our environment where their successes are most visible to their competitors rather than to their own management. So each January at the annual meeting we present awards to SPECtacular contributers. And now I write here to give them a bit of public recognition. I start this year with award recipients from the Java committee. Awards were presented by Alan Adamson (on right in photo, presenting award to Steve Realmuto). Alan is a SPEC Awards Committee member, member of the Board of Directors, and former chair of the Java committee.

Akara Sucharitakul - Oracle

The silent partner. Akara developed Faban, made it available to SPEC, and implemented new features needed to facilitate its use in SPECjEnterprise2010, so that the benchmark can be broader in scope and still be simpler to run.

Anil Kumar - Intel

The greenie. Although SPECjEnterprise2010 version 1.0 does not include an energy metric, the code is there thanks to Anil, awaiting adoption of suitable run and reporting rules.

Anoop Gupta - Oracle

The quiet achiever. Anoop seldom took part in the committee's sometimes raucous debates, because he was busy working on the code, making sure the workload is correct and correctly balanced.

Bernhard Riedhofer - SAP

Mr Specification. Berhnard speaks very quietly and politely , but the development group learned early on that when Bernhard speaks , it pays to listen. Of his many code contributions, those to make the database loader run truly parallel are going to be most appreciated by folks running large submissions.

David Keenan – Oracle

The chair. The job of chairing one of SPEC's largest and sometimes fractious committees is not an easy one, particularly while running results review for 4 benchmarks plus development of two new benchmarks. David combines a soft touch with firm determination to get the job done.

John Stecher - IBM

The closer. At then end when "only" a few tough action items stood in the way of benchmark release, John got additional resources committed from IBM to "get this thing done," pitching in for plenty of the closing work himself too.

Rahul Biswas - Oracle

Mr WebServices. Rahul provided most of the web services code, plus the code and ant scripts to integrate the benchmark into the Faban harness.

Robert Wisniewski - IBM

The reporter. Rob wrote the reporter code and built the test kits. He also served as secretary: taking good notes is vital to an open development process of multiple (competing) vendors.

Saraswathy Narayan - Oracle

The architect. Sara took the time to make a deep study of the entire benchmark from a transactional and data flow perspective, ensuring the correctness and function of the database schema and benchmark data partitioning.

Steve Realmuto - Oracle

The chief of police. Steve contributed much to the organisation of the benchmark development effort, and helped the team follow SPEC policies. He was editor of the run rules, driving the review and ensuring correctness.

Tom Daly – Oracle

The instigator. Tom was a relentless leader in driving the project forward, and a tireless worker in helping to push at every stage. The benchmark became a much richer and diverse test of Java middleware because of Tom’s influence.

Congratulations to these outstanding engineers, and to the entire SPEC Java team!

Tuesday Jan 26, 2010

Oracle Takes Off!

Oracle biplane flying out of the sunset“Some may try and tell us that this is the end of an era. But what they overlook is that in America, every day is a new beginning, and every sunset is merely the latest milestone on a voyage that never ends. For this is the land that has never become, but is always in the act of becoming." - Ronald Reagan

"Kicked Butt, Had Fun, Didn't Cheat, Loved Our Customers, Changed Computing Forever"- Scott McNealy

Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Derived from photos by, with thanks to:
Adam Ziaja, http://ziaja.name   sunset
Guillermo Esteves, http://blog.gesteves.com   biplane

Saturday Jan 23, 2010

Music for today

Sheila Brody, Paul McCartney, Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, Benny Goodman

You take a chance, you throw the dice
You risk it all, it's just a part of life

There'll be a change in the weather, a change in the sea.

[Read More]

Friday Dec 25, 2009

Fixing OO 3.1 spellcheck on OpenSolaris

One of Santa's duties at our house is system administration, Ubuntu, XP, Vista, and OpenSolaris. Why doesn't the OpenOffice (version 3.1) spell checker work on the OpenSolaris PC? It turns out the dictionary was packaged wrong in OpenSolaris. This affects US English. I don't know if there are similar problems for other languages. See openoffice.org for the problem report and solution. It's an easy fix. In OpenOffice go into Tools -> Extension Manager to delete your existing US English dictionary; otherwise the extension manager will refuse to overwrite it with what it thinks is to be an identical version. Then do Tools -> Language -> More Dictionaries Online. Select US English; install; and you're done. 

Sunday Sep 27, 2009

Another new U-verse feature

Word of mouth is the best marketing. Literally in this case. My neighbor told me another new feature was delivered to AT&T set top boxes to allow you to play media content from your hope PC's to your TV. Already of course I could sync my iPod, and carry it down to the docking station in the living room. Or I could write music and photos to a USB stick and plug it into the TV to see and hear it. Or I could upload content to Yahoo and view it through U-verse.

This is different. The set top boxes simply connect to Windows Media Player on PC's through the home router to access content without sending anything outside the home. Well this won't work for me, I thought, because I don't run Windows native. I run Windows XP under VirtualBox virtualization software.

I only had to install Media Player 11 (version 9 is too old) and select "bridged adapter" networking for my Windows virtual machine. (I doubt that NAT would work since the virtual machine wouldn't be visible on the network, but I didn't try it.) Now all my TV's can browse music and photos on two PC's. Select background music and start a slide show of today's snapshots. Really nice.

Monday Jun 08, 2009

Street Smart hybrid electric bicycle

Last weekend I went to Street Smart San Diego where, among many interesting booths, they offered test rides of various hybrid electric bicycles. I really liked the Eneloop from Sanyo which is coming to the U.S. this Fall. It's not just an electric assisted bicycle (in the spirit of "mild hybrid" automobiles) but a hybrid integrated drive (in the spirit of Toyota's hybrid synergy drive. You don't have to think about controlling the electric motor. The way you ask for power is to pedal, and the bike matches your effort 2-to-1 at low speeds and 1-to-1 at high speeds. Coast on a slight downhill and it reclaims some energy to recharge the battery. Brake and it reclaims more.

Friday Jun 05, 2009

SPECtacular awards & new web performance/energy benchmark

The last of the 2009 SPECtacular awards. SPECweb2005 is the industry standard performance metric for web servers, and today it is joined by SPECweb2009, the industry standard performance and energy metric for web servers. The benchmark includes a banking workload (all SSL), a support workload (no SSL), and an ecommerce workload (mixed). This is the first application of the SPECpower methodology to potentially large system under test configurations. In the initial benchmark results you can see one system with and one without external storage, and the test report lets you see the power consumption of just the server, of the storage, and of the entire configuration at various utilization levels. The entire committee did a fantastic job with this benchmark. As always, I won't list anyone's name without permission. (But give me the okay and I'll update this posting!) SPEC recognizes:

Gary Frost (AMD) who stepped in to fill a key developer role in an emergency with the release clock ticking. He took over the control code after a sudden reassignment, and frankly we handed him quite an undocumented mess. Gary was up to the challenge and produced the finished code.

Another engineer from AMD had primary responsibility for the reporting page generator. You often can't know exactly what information ought to go into a full disclosure report (FDR) until you see it. Nor how you want it organized and arranged. Nor what data integrity cross checks need be present to avoid errors. So the committee changed requirements often during development. But no matter how many requirements were placed on him, he turned around with the needed code within a week!

An engineer from Fujitsu Technology Solutions became the de facto quality assurance office because of his thorough and methodical testing practices. If there are a hundred ways software in general can go wrong, then there are a thousand ways benchmark software can go wrong, as by its nature it runs on systems stressed to the limit. When SPEC benchmark software just works that is largely due to people like this engineer who forsee, test, and diagnose every possible failure unanticipated by the authors.

And, if you'd like to see all of the SPECtacular awards, then follow the tags!

Wednesday Jun 03, 2009

Alan Adamson is SPECtacular

Another SPECtacular award from the SPEC annual meeting: Alan Adamson retired from IBM where he had been their primary SPEC Representative, held a number of different elective positions in SPEC, and earned deep respect and trust from his colleagues. Coming from the IBM Toronto Software Lab, Alan was a natural to lead SPEC's Java committee. Having put that very large committee in smooth running order, Alan was elected secretary to the Power committee helping it to produce the first industry standard power performance benchmark. Meanwhile he led the OSG steering committee which coordinates activities of all the SPEC OSG committees.

Alan genuinely cares about the well-being of SPEC and the people involved. He demonstrates incredible thoughtfulness and effectiveness in thinking about SPEC's benchmark development. He fosters the fun and friendly SPEC culture where there is always time to share a joke or a funny story if appropriate. At the same time he creates space for candid discussions of serious matter. Alan's leadership and personal effort has been a big contributor to the success of SPEC.

Alan continues to hold one position in SPEC, as a director, because members of the board of directors are elected as individuals, not as companies. Alan serves as a general chair of the 2010 WOSP/SIPEWInternational Conference on Performance Engineering, a joint conference of SPEC and ACM which brings together top academic researchers and industry practitioners in performance engineering.

You can follow Alan on his blog, for interesting insights on art, technology, politics, and life - where he is just as opinionated as ever, just as modest as ever, just as intolerant of stupidity, and just as tolerant of the people involved - even when we are opinionated, immodest, and stupid at times. For all his hard work in SPEC I can think of nobody more deserving of a relaxing retirement than Alan, and nobody whom we will miss more than him!

Monday Jun 01, 2009

Klaus-Dieter Lange is SPECtacular

Another SPECtacular award from the SPEC annual meeting: Klaus Lange (HP) has become a valuable conduit across different levels of the organization and across benchmark subcommittees, by virtue of becoming indispensable in all of them. Though Klaus is an experienced "SPEC hand" he never forgot what he faced as a newcomer, and took it on himself to organize a new member orientation program to help new institutions integrate into SPEC more easily and effectively. As chair of the SPECpower committee Klaus delivered the industry's first energy efficiency benchmark, and leads the committee in aiding other groups as they add energy metrics to a wide range of benchmarks. These groups include many SPEC committees as well as other industry consortia. As HP's representative on the OSG steering committee Klaus has earned respect for his opinions with his diligence and fair mindedness. As a member of the Board of Directors he is often the first to step up to volunteer for important projects, as well as exercising sound judgment in conducting SPEC's business operations.

Friday May 29, 2009

John Henning is SPECtacular

Another SPECtacular award from the SPEC annual meeting: John Henning of Sun Microsystems is secretary of the Open Systems Group steering committee. John has been the driving force behind improvements to our policy document. This is crucial to efficient operation of the organization, especially as so many new organizations have joined SPEC and so many new participants have joined into the work even from long time SPEC member companies. John is also the one who reminds all of us to pause in our lecturing and really listen to our adversaries, the dissident minority voice. Sometimes they have a point that is valuable to the task at hand, if we only recognize it, and thereby harness all of the energy and creativity of the group.

Thursday May 28, 2009

David Morse is SPECtacular

Another SPECtacular award from the SPEC annual meeting: David Morse (Dell) served as vice-chair and now chair of the Open Systems Group steering committee, his effective organization and leadership of a rather fractious bunch, with successful release of many benchmarks, and formalization of rules and procedures to put everyone on an even footing with the "good old boys" and reduce risk and uncertainty in members' use of the benchmarks. Another example of his dedication is his implementation of bookmarkable search extensions to benchmark result queries on spec.org. David is equally comfortable and competent in the most complicated leadership roles and in the most difficult and detailed technical roles.


I am a software engineer in San Diego, president of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (spec.org), formerly a mathematician and a violist.


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