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Intel Skulltrail Benchmark and Analysis

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the coming-up-short dept.

Intel 111

Tom's Hardware has a detailed benchmark and analysis of Intel's new Skulltrail offering, taking a look at 8 vs 4 cores. The comparison uses games, A/V applications, office applications, and 3D rendering tools to help demonstrate benchmarks. "We were disappointed by the Skulltrail platform. Although we have tested and reviewed numerous Intel products, we have never had such a half-baked system such as this in our labs. If this sounds harsh, bear in mind that all we have to base this conclusion on is the Skulltrail system itself in its current state, which Intel provided as an official review platform. We do not know whether Intel plans to revise and improve the platform before the final versions ship to retail."

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A question (5, Informative)

warrior_s (881715) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352174)

that is very important

Are these games and benchmarks actually making.. you know.. use of all the 8 cores? i.e. were they modified so that they can make use of multicores efficiently.

Multicore machines are useful when either you run multiple applications or if you want to run single app and make use of the cores, then the apps have to be updated so that they can make use of these multiple cores.

Re:A question (5, Funny)

UID30 (176734) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352254)

No no ... you're doing it wrong. The REAL benefit of 8 cores is that you can get some work done while the Storm Worm is busily taking over the world.

Re:A question (3, Funny)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352592)

That's what you think. I'm working on a scalable multi-thread port of Storm Worm. Check out our site at http://sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Re:A question (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353062)

Regardless of the fact that you are obviously joking your point is valid.

Many peoples computers run significantly slower because malware is utilizing the majority of their system resources.

If the malware is running parallel to the users they probably won't even notice.(not that they noticed before...)

Re:A question (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352302)

Very true, in fact the article brings up the fact that there is very little software that utilizes four cores, let alone eight.

On the other hand, I know that Blender atleast lets you specify the number of threads to use while rendering. I would hope that the OS would be smart enough to put each thread on a different core but don't know for sure.

Re:A (Obligatory) question (1)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352752)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these?

For the informative TechReport Article on Intel's 'Skulltrail': http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/14052 [techreport.com]
Personally, I'd prefer a Seaburg chipset server board as photographed by TR's user "Leor": http://www.techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=55937 [techreport.com]

Re:A question (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355114)

Sure it does. SMP isn't that new/experimental..

Yes and no (5, Informative)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352342)

I'm not familiar with writing games on a multi-core game system a la the PS3, but I have written multi-threaded apps in Windows and I can tell you that the answer is:

Maybe.

The problem is that your app might be multi-threaded up the wazoo, but you're at the mercy of the OS (Windows here) to actually put the threads on separate processors/cores. You can *request* a thread on a separate processor (SetProcessorAffinity(), if I recall..it's been awhile), but the docs state that this is merely a request, and the operating system is free to ignore it if it thinks it can do better. A lot of time I observed that Windows doled out threads to other processors very grudgingly, and I was told that it's because to Windows, the overhead of keeping track of what thread is on what processor was, under a lot of circumstances, more expensive (read: slower) than if it just kept them all on processor 0 and just context-switched (which it was going to be doing anyway)

Most games have been, as I've seen, multi-threaded for awhile now; the complexity of these games means they'd have an event loop that's a million lines long if they didn't (and probably do anyway), but your performance is always going to be only as good as the hardware, and the operating system, let you.

Re:Yes and no (5, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352956)

Windows will happily keep everything on processor 0 until such time as a scheduling threshold is reached on processor 0 at which time it will move the thread to another processor if available. It will continue to use the same process until all of the processors have a full load. I imagine in the average case of a desktop system this probably IS the most efficient algorithm, but if you have lots of short lived high resource consuming threads it's probably not due to all the state copying going on. Also in Windows 2003 the kernel is aware of memory locality and so will try to keep processes on the processor closest to their largest pool of memory in a NUMA system. Also the reason that affinity requests aren't hard is that otherwise it would have to throw an error if that processor wasn't available either due to hardware issues or due to the process attributes being set so that it can't see that processor.

Re:Yes and no (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353526)

Also the reason that affinity requests aren't hard is that otherwise it would have to throw an error if that processor wasn't available either due to hardware issues or due to the process attributes being set so that it can't see that processor.
That's a stupid reason.

All the big unices have no problem with hard-locking a process/thread to a specific cpu.
If the cpu isn't available at the time of the lock, then the lock call returns an error and the process remains free-floating. If a cpu gets oversubscribed, the processes just get smaller time-slices (or none depending on their priority) and it is up the programmer to deal with that contingency.

If the cpu goes away (like a hot-plug event) then the processes get migrated somewhere else and may or may not get a signal to let them know what happened.

Re:Yes and no (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353912)

Windows will happily keep everything on processor 0 until such time as a scheduling threshold is reached on processor 0 at which time it will move the thread to another processor if available.

That's not my experience at all. Windows seems to balance the load pretty well, even if the system is 95% idle, all cores seem to have an equal chance at getting the load. It's not very often where I see one core getting a lot more load than another.

Re:A question (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352522)

That's why they need to let someone like me demo it, not Tom's...

I tinker with CFD and various simulation codes in my spare time, multi threaded based on the number of cores available. I could put all 8 of those cores to work, easy :)

No, they aren't (5, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352552)

At this point 2 cores is about all you'll really useful in a gaming rig. A lot of games are still single thread, especially old ones. However there are a good number of games out there that can make efficient use of 2 cores. Past that, it gets questionable. There are some games that claim quad core support, but in general it seems they don't make efficient use of it yet. Thus far, I've never seen any game that claims 8 core support, much less any benchmarks to back it up.

I think this is mostly targeted at the "My ePenis is bigger than yours," crowd. There are a non-trivial number of people out there who are willing to just drop obscene amounts of money on gaming rigs, and Intel wants to suck every dollar they can out of their pockets.

Same sort of deal with nVidia's new triple SLI boards. At this point even 2 card SLI isn't a great idea because it costs so much (literally twice what a single card does) and the benefits aren't that great. There isn't a lot of need for 3 card SLI. However, people will spend the money, so nVidia will happily make a product to take it from them.

Re:No, they aren't (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353478)

Yeah you're not likely to keep more than a handful of cores busy with games unless they are AI intensive, you have core logic, physics, sound, graphics, I/O, network, and per unit AI as possible threads, most of those won't keep a core busy in the least bit unless you are purposely wasting cycles by say making your physics too realistic you aren't going to keep more than 2-3 cores busy.

Re:No, they aren't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22356102)

A lot of games are still single thread, especially old ones.
The shear stupidity of this comment staggers me. Aside from a few rare and notable examples the development life after release of a game is very short. Of course the old games will be OLD GAMES.

Now, back to the real point. Game developers DO NOT push the envelope. They can't. Just use your brain for a second. Who the fuck is out there writing games for hardware that doesn't exist?

Hah! Trick question! You were going to mention Crysis, weren't you?! Don't fucking lie to me! No, incorrect, Crysis is missing the speed, not the technology, DX10 is all there.

So, let me repeat this point, first people buy multicores, then games are made to use multicores. It will never ever go the other way around, not with any successful game company that is.

Re:No, they aren't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22356268)

>The shear stupidity of this comment staggers me.

Oh, cut it out.

Re:No, they aren't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22357342)

Fucking homonyms! FF doesn't catch those.

Mod Parent +1 Punny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22357576)

And me with no mod points

Re:No, they aren't (1)

Arivia (783328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357164)

Doom 3 shipped with textures for cards with 512MB of VRAM, when the cards of the day had 256MB at most.

Re:No, they aren't (1)

MojoStan (776183) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357872)

Same sort of deal with nVidia's new triple SLI boards. At this point even 2 card SLI isn't a great idea because it costs so much (literally twice what a single card does) and the benefits aren't that great. There isn't a lot of need for 3 card SLI. However, people will spend the money, so nVidia will happily make a product to take it from them.
I'm not a gamer, but I do know that a few maniacs like to play their games on 30" LCDs at their native 2560x1600 resolution. Wouldn't multi-card SLI benefit them? Sure, the market's not big, but I don't think they're all wasting their money on nothing.

Re:A question (1)

AdamReyher (862525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352570)

Who cares? I've always wanted to render hours of high definition video while playing Crysis. It's a beautiful thing.

Re:A question (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353382)

But even if a program isn't massively threaded, it shouldn't run slower than on a system with fewer cores! And that's where I see the most damning problem here: "If a program only uses four of the eight processor cores, then the Skulltrail system is noticeably slower than a single-socket quad-core computer." It's one thing to have unutilized cores, but quite another for them to be a hindrance!

Re:A question (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353986)

The speed issue probably has more to do with Ram than the CPU.
This chipset uses FB ram. It is a good bit slower then DDR2 or DDR3 desktop ram.
The other issue has to do with the FSB. I read that the Intel memory system starts to falter at 4+cores. Memory access is one of the few areas where AMD still has an advantage.

Re:A question (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354414)

WRT the FSB, you would expect memory contention to be an issue with all 8 cores banging away, but that wouldn't explain why the 8 core chip is slower than a 2 or 4 core chip if there are only, say, 2 active threads.

Spend Millions to Rewrite Games for 100 people (1)

BBF_BBF (812493) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353690)

Do you know how much it costs to REWRITE GAMES to work properly and efficiently on 8 cores? Those rewritten games will also run terribly on machines that have less than 8 cores (unless there's a separately programmed path for dual cores, and quad cores, and single cores)... so ignore the thousands of gamers with dual core systems that make up the majority of your enthusiast customer base and spend lots of money satisfying the 100 rich dudes that will buy the SkullTrail for gaming that really don't care as much about performance, than about bragging about what they bought. Since one of the typical users the SkullTrail platform is aimed at is an ULTRA-High End Gamer, why not benchmark the machine against current games? If no games can utilize the extra cores, then that should be presented.

Re:A question (2, Informative)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353964)

Are these games and benchmarks actually making.. you know.. use of all the 8 cores?
No they are not, the article goes on to say the 2nd processor is basically left unused and even current quad core designs are out performing skull trail.

The problem lies in the fact Intel released this platform as a gaming platform. However they reached into their workstation kit to pull out this hardware. Dual processors are a nice bragging right for enthusiasts, but only if the performance is in the very top tier with software actually in use. And using fully buffered memory, is simply a big no-no when it comes gaming rigs. On top of that, there are no BIOS options for overclocking, something any respectable board designed for even modest gaming comes with these days.

The article goes on to state that this is supposedly a review grade board, but has some serious stability issues and consumes far more electricity than the performance justifies.

AMD has faced a similar problem with its Quad FX line (aka 4x4). It's thermals were also way above the norm with dubious performance benefits as well. However at the time of it's release it was holding it's own (as best AMD can mangage these days) against the current Intel top offering. But just one look at the thermal images of a system built around AMD quad leaves you wondering if it's going to spontaneously burst into flames. However at least AMD had the sense to not implement FB-DIMM's in a gaming platform.

In short, it looks like a really half baked package for gaming enthusiasts, which might of worked if it had overclocking support, DDR3, didn't crash, and could outperform AMD and Intel's top quad core parts. It just leaves one wondering why? Intel is the current performance leader it makes no sense to release something like this to the reviewers.

It's a flawed benchmark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354446)

There's a good chance they do make use of all cores, but it's also highly likely that the games are limited by the GPU speed, rather than the CPU. You'll note for example the Cinema 4D benchmark gets closer to 2:1 speed ratio than Serious Sam does.

One of the problems with using games as a benchmark is that typically they are serial problems - i.e. physics need to be updated, then the animation, then the AI, then the rendering can occur. It's not simply a case of putting physics on one core, AI on another - that will just not work. Instead, at every stage along that serial computation, you will attempt to make it as parrallel as possible. So, the 8 cores will be used at max whilst computing the physics for example - But that's not going to help you at all if your rendering is taking up 95% of the update loop. Given that the game is going to have a baseline spec of a 1Ghz CPU, and that it's update will be about 5% of the total frame time, I'm not suprised that an 8 core system will have little impact. In my own tests, I can switch our codebase between a single thread vs 4, and i get about a ~200% frame rate increase - that's without actually rendering anything to screen mind you. If i turn rendering back on, it's about a 15% increase. If i switch to 2 cores with rendering on, it's still 15%. Something tells me there that the GPU has maxed out ;)

Given that the Max and Cinema benchmarks give fairly close to a 2 x speed increase, i think it's fair to say that Skulltrail is probably not as bad as they make out. At the end of the day, if you want higher FPS in games, get an SLI/crossfire setup.

Or... (2, Interesting)

jgoemat (565882) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354826)

Are you multiboxing [wowwiki.com] , playing 5 or 10 World of Warcraft accounts at the same time? My new quad-core flies with five instances of WOW running. My AMD dual-core was faster, but could only handle three sessions at a time before starting to get choppy.

Missing from the review: (4, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352200)

"Although disappointing in performance, bikers and goths will probably be enthusiatic about the 'Skulltrail' name, and get new, annoying tattoos."

Re:Missing from the review: (4, Funny)

liquidf (1146307) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352242)

yeah the name turns me off too. now if it was skullfucking, however...

Missing from the review:Name Game. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22352338)

Sure beats the old name of "ZippityDoDah" or "CPUsonaplane".

Parallel programming now! (5, Informative)

TheSync (5291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352234)

Guess what guys? We've run out of GHz (mainly a power/heat problem). Start writing parallel programs.

Here is what the article says:

To be fair, though, it is not Intel's hardware that is at fault here, but today's software. If a program only uses four of the eight processor cores, then the Skulltrail system is noticeably slower than a single-socket quad-core computer. Since there are practically no current games or desktop applications around that can utilize more than four cores (if that many), the Skulltrail system does not offer any benefit here.

Read The Landscape of Parallel Computing Research: A View From Berkeley [berkeley.edu] which has the description of why, this time, there is no getting around parallel programming.

Also examine NVIDIA's CUDA [nvidia.com] platform, which scales from a handful of processors on your PC's NVIDIA chip to the 128 processor NVIDIA Tesla [nvidia.com] card. Scalable parallel processing is the future.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352466)

I enjoy the /. corrections like this (as usual). What I wonder is how do systems like this hold up under reasonable load in real multi-application environments? I mean looking at my task manager and task bar right now, on a normal business day, I have about 10 applications running using varying amounts of my system resources (plus services). Is the way I work multi-threaded and if so will I notice a difference when I spread this work across these cores? I mean I appreciate they might be saying that single multi-threaded applications are showing disappointing increases but in a normal working environment what about multiple multi/singe threaded applications? I mean single application test environments might not show a very complete picture when compared to real-world use, defeating the very point of the article(s).

Re:Parallel programming now! (3, Informative)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352760)


It's going to depend on whether those ten applications are actually making ongoing use of your processor. Encoding a movie whilst listening to music and editing photos - yes, proper use of multiple cores will see big benefits. But if you're talking about some spreadsheets, word documents, browser and an email client, then less so because no matter how quickly you think you're switching between these applications, it's going to look like slow motion to a CPU swapping processes. With this sort of usage, a CPU is actually sitting idle a lot of the time waiting for the next eternity between keystrokes to end. I'm not saying you wont see a benefit, but the benefit really kicks in when you've got multiple applications that are really doing something. A lot of applications (and probably the ten you have open at work) simply don't fall into that category.

Re:Parallel programming now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22352908)

Word: spell check, grammar check, font rendering. All parallelizable.

Spreadsheets: Practically a textbook case in parallel processing.

Browser: Wouldn't it be nice if JS ran in its own damn thread?

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22359012)


Somebody mod the parent up, please. AC is right to state that these could benefit from multiple cores. My point is that you're not going to see so much benefit from them as with applications that are "continuous." The thing with all these examples is that they do a task and then they reach another static point and stop. Yes, doing some calculations with a spreadsheet might cause a temporary slow-down, but it probably wont be taking long enough that you're going to go back to your Word document and do some more typing and spell-checking while you're waiting. The benefits are not the same as with tasks like movie encoding and playing music where you really can see a significant difference as they don't interefere with each other.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353306)

Encoding a movie whilst listening to music and editing photos
I think we can all agree that spreadsheets won't be a particularly taxing task. But ya, music/encoding/compiling/SETI/virus-scanning/searching-indexing/updating/archiving are all fairly common background tasks that have at one time or another probably impacted all of us.

I'm just wondering if the fellow who did the tests in the article would have been disappointed with the system performance if he'd used it over time with heavier (application) use.

It's fine to deride the extra cores as superfluous if in fact they are but I wonder if a real-world user might have a remarkably different experience (which would make 99.99% of these types of articles only useful to the ~5% of users who might actually only run single-task environments).

Anyway, it was really more of a question. The only seriously multi-core computers I use are database and web servers. I multi-task on a single-core, memory-starved workstation.

Nope (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356612)

Once 64bit has been common in the business workplace for a few years, Spreadsheets will burst in size. There are large companies who are frustrated because their spreadsheet are limited by a limitation built into them bacause of the memory addressing space issue.

CFOs and other executives would love to have a real time update from their books to a spreadsheet and have that data sliced a hundred plus way. With Color, graphics and an embedded video on different sheets.

They don't want there SAP, or any enterprise system) to export to a spreadsheet, they want it to BE a spreadsheet.

Well, replace "a lot of applications" with "A lot of threads" I can see a comples program using different cores for diferent needs. I hae 2 procesor handling physics, another handling story and disk usage, and a forth being used for interface. None of them running at 100%.

Then the remaining four cores do background tasks. Virus checker, email, im, etc. . .

Maybe on dedicated to streaming movies. There are a lot of uses for large number of cores. I hope the release some good compilers.

Re:Nope (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22358374)

Once 64bit has been common in the business workplace for a few years, Spreadsheets will burst in size. There are large companies who are frustrated because their spreadsheet are limited by a limitation built into them bacause of the memory addressing space issue.

There's this thing called a database - anything big enough to care about the 4G limit should be in one.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352904)

Is the way I work multi-threaded and if so will I notice a difference when I spread this work across these cores?
I think we're still bottlenecked in other areas. No matter how many cores you've got you are somewhat limited by HD and memory speeds which have not grown as fast as CPU power. I think intel and AMD might benefit me more if they did more mother board research instead of CPU research. I think the SSD mac is a step in the right direction. They just need better SSD.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

diskis (221264) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353222)

Uh, do the same thing with HDDs as with CPUs. Add more.
What's stopping you to buy 4 250GB drives and stripe them? Almost 150 MB/sec sustained speeds. And how much is a 250GB drive, 80 bucks? You'll get four of those for the price of a quad core.

Not like you need any RAID cards anymore, as any decent desktop motherboard has like 6 SATA ports and a onboard RAID controller.

HDDs are commodities, almost in the same way floppies was in the 80's.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353388)

And up your failure rate by a factor of 4 too. Because with striping, if any disk fails the data for the entire file is lost. No thanks. Besides, I have better things to spend $320 on. And none of these fix the memory problem, which is the real issue for most apps- memory bound, not CPU or IO.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

diskis (221264) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354124)

Which memory problem?
Google for some benchmarks. Here is one, appears to be in french, but luckily pictures are language independent.

http://www.matbe.com/articles/lire/357/ddr2-400-533-667-800-1067----que-choisir/page14.php [matbe.com]

Comparing DDR2-400 to DDR2-1067, gives like 20% more performance. And that's on a core 2 platform, which is supposed to be memory starved. That is 2.5 times faster memory and a 20% performance increase.

And, you have backups right? That 4*250 array is good to mirror overnight to a terabyte drive on a old server in the closet. Then you also burn on dvds the more important stuff.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355128)

Backups on my home machine? Nope. Not worth my time or effort. I only do that when I move files en masse between computers- once every few years. Which is actually still more than most people. If I lose data, I lose data. Oh well, I lose some game saves and my latest resume. I'm still not going to stripe my drives- quite frankly the mild performance benefit isn't worth the hassle of restoring even if I did have a backup.

As for memory slowdowns- are you for real? Memory is *the* biggest bottleneck in the modern computer. In the time it takes to do a single memory read, you have dozens of cpu cycles. Out of order execution only helps so much. If you ever have to hit main memory, you take a huge performance hit. Thats why we now have 2-3 levels of caches, driving up the cost of our processors and still not solving the whole problem. You get more of a speedup on a single threaded app by increasing memory bandwidth and latency 10% than processor speed by 100%.

Re:Parallel programming now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22357890)

Yes, but it's trivial to buy another disk for redundancy. Sure, it'll cut down on read speed (enormously), but if you get a good raid controller (soft or hard), it should only correct the redundancy disk in disk IO downtime.

Get parity (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22359136)

Um, has everyone forgotten about parity [wikipedia.org] ? I swear I see all these kids nowadays with striped raid setups and I have never seen one use parity. Raid 5 for the win.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353548)

In fact the fakeraid driver for 6 SATA cards is a good way to keep some of those cores busy =)

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

diskis (221264) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354178)

Actually, it's not that bad. Ever tried windows 2000's software RAID? 4 disks was barely noticable on a AMD K6-2.
If you really need that last 10% of a quad core, you need a workstation or server, and not a living room media machine :)

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353836)

Your still bound by the speed of the I/O bus, FBS limits, and speed of memory.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

diskis (221264) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354288)

No. Remember good old IDE cables? Those could almost handle that load. 133 MB/S. That's higher than any single hard can provide.

Are you like my roommate, who likes to use firewire/800 for his external HDD instead of USB2, as "FW is so much faster"?

Yes, FW is faster than USB, but both still outperform everything but the fastest 15k rpm drives.
And internal buses? Please... Remember good old PCI, bandwidth 133 MB/sec. Beyond any single harddrive. If that's not enough, get a new-ish computer with PCI-E. Bandwidth in the gigabytes.
Memory? Tens of gigabytes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_device_bandwidths [wikipedia.org]

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22359118)

Are you like my roommate, who likes to use firewire/800 for his external HDD instead of USB2, as "FW is so much faster"?
He might not be talking nonsense. While USB-2 has a 480Mb/s line speed, you'll be lucky to get more than about 30MB/s through it, which is the speed of my laptop's internal drive - my external disks peak at about 40-50Mb/s and can handle sustained transfers of 30MB/s. With FireWire 800, I can chain two disks together, have one wire going in to my laptop, and not be limited by the interface speed.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354128)

No matter how many cores you've got you are somewhat limited by HD and memory speeds which have not grown as fast as CPU power.

I don't buy the HD speed issue, since that can be solved with RAID and eventually RAIDed Flash solid-state.

Memory speed is a different issue - the only solution is to dramatically change how we think about memory from some chips on a bus to being intimate with and connected to in a parallel fashion to CPU cores.

The "The Landscape of Parallel Computing Research: A View from Berkeley" white paper says:

The good news is that if we look inside a DRAM chip, we see many independent, wide memory blocks. For example, a 512 Mbit DRAM is composed of hundreds of banks, each thousands of bits wide. Clearly, there is potentially tremendous bandwidth inside a DRAM chip waiting to be tapped, and the memory latency inside a DRAM chip is obviously much better than from separate chips across an interconnect.

In creating a new hardware foundation for parallel computing hardware, we should not limit innovation by assuming main memory must be in separate DRAM chips connected by standard interfaces. New packaging techniques, such as 3D stacking, might allow vastly increased bandwidth and reduced latency and power between processors and DRAM. Although we cannot avoid global communication in the general case with thousands of processors and hundreds of DRAM banks, some important classes of computation have almost entirely local memory accesses and hence can benefit from innovative memory designs.

The desktop doesn't need N CPUs (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352912)

Well. I suppose you could have a shit load of annoying widgets spinning in the background, but really, most people simply don't need more than a single CPU. Most rarely use more than 5% of the one they already have.

What I find rather humorous is that we currently try to consume any excess CPU performance by using less efficient languages... We make 100 million people spend another $1,000 each in order to save $500,000 worth of cost in programmer time... Then justify it as cost efficiency.

To really make use of N CPUs, the whole idea we have about the way we communicate with computers has to change.

The desktop doesn't need N Datapaths. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22353302)

Yes the Von Neumann architecture must die.

"We make 100 million people spend another $1,000 each in order to save $500,000 worth of cost in programmer time... Then justify it as cost efficiency."

It is if you divide that savings across your users, both present and future (old code never dies).

"Well. I suppose you could have a shit load of annoying widgets spinning in the background, but really, most people simply don't need more than a single CPU."

The crash and burn behavior of Windows has instilled this. For the rest of us we can have our computers do more than one thing, command-line and GUI without being penalized for it.

Re:The desktop doesn't need N CPUs (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354938)

Most rarely use more than 5% of the one they already have.
Huh? I've seen brand new out of the box dual-core Vista machines using 10-15% of CPU at idle. XP is (much) better, but once you start adding all sorts of crap on there, and there are like 40 processes running at idle, CPU usage certainly goes past 5% at idle ... and then they open AOL.

Re:The desktop doesn't need N CPUs (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22359172)

Even my grandparents ditched AOL, how are they doing nowadays? Isn't time warner going to dump them?

Parallel parking now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22352506)

Unfortunately the future costs, in a lot of different ways.

BTW I'm in the market for a new multi-core CPU. AMD or Intel and which?

Re:Parallel parking now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354252)

phenom 9650 in a few months or q6600 G0 on a badaxe2 now.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

carolusmagnus (1235842) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353452)

As a scientific number cruncher, I always need a few more orders of magnitude in speed. From the first PC until now, I picked up an order of magnitude with each hardware replacement cycle. But now it looks like the next order of magnitude will have to wait until 16-core chips reach commodity prices. So go for it.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354516)

The next order of magnitude won't be reached until the software is written to take advantage of it. You could have an 80-core CPU and not get any use out of it simply due to obsolete software. That's the point being made here. You're not going to get increases in performance in orders of magnitude with single-threaded applications anymore.

Much in the same sense that you can have 8 gigs of memory in your computer and you can't take advantage of more than about three gigs of it due, again, to obsolete software.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355342)

He says he's a "scientific number cruncher". He is going to be able to take advantage of this 80 core cpu.
About the 3GB RAM limit, way I see it MS is on the way to fix that by making this memory hog called Vista - people are going to go 64 bit just to be able to use enough RAM to run it efficiently.

Re:Parallel programming now! (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355664)

Guess what guys? We've run out of GHz (mainly a power/heat problem). Start writing parallel programs.

Or better yet, go back and clean out all the useless crap that's been gradually added to software in the past few decades.

Linux programming now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22357888)

You might want to read your paper because the OS mentioned is nothing like Linux. Linux made obsolete because hardware changes underneath it.

Stop writing crap code or using java & .net (0, Troll)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22358508)

Im sure if coders spent more time learning how a cpu works, they could achieve 16 cpu quality out of 4 cores, now if you stop writing crap in java and .net you can get
64 cpu quality out of c++ in 4 cores. Sure, I agree many solutions dont need it since they are crappy little tools that never use much cpu, but may use lots in doing
simple things like making thumbnails out of 24 images.

Im glad we've hit the wall on Ghz, it means these java/.net programmers cant assume in 3 years time their software will be faster, it will be slow-assed FOREVER!

Any one see a java/.net bytecode VM written in RAW AMD micro cpu code? Nahhhhhh! bad luck.

More Cores (2, Interesting)

markass530 (870112) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352266)

I'm the kinda guy who pushes any computer he has to the limits, and when I recently upgraded my computer, I went with the AMD 5000+ Black edition, and decided to wait on going quad. I Can play Crysis, while watching a movie on my 2nd monitor, no prob. About the only time I wish I had a quad core, is when I'm converting video, and other then that, can't really see much of a need for a quad.. let alone. Don't get me wrong, as soon as AMD Cranks out a worthwhile 45NM Quad, I will upgrade right quick, but It will be several several years until I even think about 8.

Re:More Cores (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355042)

HTF (how the fuck) is this a troll? Judging from this [tomshardware.com] I would take the parent's claim with a grain of salt, however this does not equal troll.

Re:More Cores (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355692)

Gracias, i have no fucking clue how somebody could mod me a troll, and as far as taking anything i say with a grain of salt, I live in Barracks Rm 531A Biggs army airfield, El Paso Texas, Feel free to stop by and get a Demonstration My Computer is: AMD 5000+ 3 GHZ ATI 3870 SB Xfi 2 Gigs Ram Standard HD I have no need to bullshit about what my setup does, and I don't bullshit either, I AM an AMD Fanboy, and just like their products better, probably just do to comfort with and experience with their products.

liesdamnliesbenchmarks (5, Insightful)

deander2 (26173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352280)

what?!? an 8-core machine doesn't run single-threaded benchmarks any faster than a 1 core? that's crazy! what a revolution! what's next? we'll discover that 9 women can't create a baby in one month?!?

shocked, i tell you! shocked!

Re:liesdamnliesbenchmarks (1)

McNihil (612243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352376)

Unless of course it goes like in "Spieces II"

accelerated gestation! Woohooo... OMG... hurl.

I know you're trying to be funny... (2, Insightful)

ruiner13 (527499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353346)

..but I think the article was saying that on single threaded apps, instead of the benchmarks being identical for the same processor in a single socket vs dual socket configuration, the dual socket one was slower. If you bothered to read the article, on multi-threaded applications there were indeed speed increases (40-50%, nowhere near the 80-90% gains you'd expect). They weren't expecting the single threaded performance to suffer.

My guess is that the memory controller is now becoming the bottleneck, since it has two sockets to feed instead of just one. In this application, the AMD chips with integrated memory controllers would seem to have an advantage (for now).

Re:I know you're trying to be funny... (1)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354564)

They've always had this advantage. It's just that this hasn't been an issue in consumer applications. It still isn't, since the vast majority of consumers aren't going to pony up the dough for Skulltrail, not now nor in the near future.

Re:liesdamnliesbenchmarks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354210)

Ok, mabey it's just late in the day or it's just me but I read, [I]MOUTH[\I]....

Time for some Sudoku.. focus kev, focus..

Re:liesdamnliesbenchmarks (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22359182)

I volunteer to test that theory with the 9 women and the one month thing. I will get back to you, I hope. ;)

Page 1 of 25 (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22352284)

At the bottom of the linked page I saw "Page 1 of 25" and I gave up. Bad submitter! Bad! Bad!

I didn't even get that far (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354184)

I haven't been interested in anything Tom's has had to say in a long, long time. Their methodology is often shoddy at best, and their opinion is oft swayed by whatever company is giving them the most schwag in any given month.

Re:I didn't even get that far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354292)

you got any proof or are you just making accusations as you go along?

Re:Page 1 of 25 (4, Funny)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355698)

At the bottom of the linked page I saw "Page 1 of 25" and I gave up.

I used an 8-core CPU to read the article and was able to get through it in just a little more time than a 3-page article would take.

Re:Page 1 of 25 (2, Informative)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357038)

At the bottom of the linked page I saw "Page 1 of 25" and I gave up. Bad submitter! Bad! Bad!

Tip: add print.html to the end of any THG URL, and you can read the entire thing on one page. THG would be completely and utterly useless otherwise...

Re:Page 1 of 25 (1)

MojoStan (776183) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357934)

At the bottom of the linked page I saw "Page 1 of 25" and I gave up. Bad submitter! Bad! Bad!
I know you were probably joking, but Slashdot comments have taught me the non-obvious way to get a single-page view of Tom's Hardware articles: If clicking that link directly results in a redirect to the multi-page version (for some reason Opera is doing this for me), then copy-and-paste that address directly into the address bar.

a trail of skulls & other body parts... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22352312)

that's about what'll be left of us should we continue along the greed/fear/ego based path of death, debt, & disruption that our fearful 'leaders' have chosen for us. let yOUR conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071229/ap_on_sc/ye_climate_records;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080108/ts_alt_afp/ushealthfrancemortality;_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A [nytimes.com]

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece [timesonline.co.uk]
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

3D Rendering... (2, Informative)

podperson (592944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352384)

The only real test to show the benefit of Skulltrail was the 3D rendering section where the Skulltrail machines really did post decent results. Even for video encoding you reach a point where the problem becomes IO-bound (and you can't compress video frame n independently of video frame n+1 because of interframe compression). Of course, the next question is whether a Skulltrail machine is cost effective against slightly cheaper machines used in parallel for 3D rendering.

Why it works for video compression (4, Informative)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352618)

Most video compression approaches use Keyframes which are uncompressed (across frames) in order to make sure the compression doesn't drift to far from the actual content. So doing Multi-core is actually pretty easy on video as you just dedicate a core as working on one key-frame to key-frame section. Given that key frames often occur as much as once a second (or on decent connections once every three seconds or so) then there is a huge amount of work that could be done in parallel and its not very difficult to make the encoders work in that way.

So video compression isn't one of the areas where it isn't an advantage to have multi-cores.

Re:Why it works for video compression (1)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354600)

Unless you have sudden and frequent changes in scene luminosity, in which case you can have many keyframes in a single second of video.

Re:Why it works for video compression (1)

matfud (464184) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357290)

The problem is that you need to compute when your next keyframe needs to be
created. You normally do this by computing frames from the last key frame (and
then sequentially from each subsequent computed frame) until you reach the
point at which the error in the calculated frame is too large. At this point
you add a new key frame. This is a serial process (in terms of frames) so does
not parallelise well.

There are some approaches to parallelise this but they do not scale well to
large numbers of processes/threads/processors (while achieving optimal
compression) and will quite often have to throw compued data away as it turns
out not to be usefull (first thread decideds that a new key frame needed to
be added some time before the second thread's key frame was started).

Parallel processing of each frame is feasible to a certain extent but there
often has to be a lot of shared state between the "threads" as most video
compression techniques have motion estimation in them. I.e. you can't simply
split the image into regular, independent blocks and assign one block to each
thread as motion prediction will cause "blocks" to move around the image. Shared
state tends not to scale well (at best O(log n) often far worse) due to
syhncronisation constraints.

matfud

Re:3D Rendering... (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352950)

Even for video encoding you reach a point where the problem becomes IO-bound (and you can't compress video frame n independently of video frame n+1 because of interframe compression).

The question is how much can you cache - you can throw a GOP at a core, you can cache the I-frame on chip and predict from that.

Or you could do the annoying solution and break up the frame spatially and work each "quadrant" or "region" on a separate core (though motion prediction between cores becomes troublesome).

There are folks doing H.264 encoding with Cell BE [igolgi.com] now, and H.264 can have some long, long GOPs.

Truth is that for Long-GOP compression, transforms and motion prediction are pretty CPU-hard problems. The I/O is not ignorable though.

FB-DIMMS + a high number of chips on the MB = high (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352472)

FB-DIMMS + a high number of chips on the MB = high power and high heat and it don't even have pci-e 2.0

The mac pro may end up costing less then this and it will likely use less power and give off less heat and it has pci-e 2.0.

If amd can just make some good quad cores then a amd based system with a AMD / ATI chip set or a nvidia one with PCI-E 2.0 in all slots with DESKTOP ram will blow this away.

Someone at intel likes DETHKLOK (5, Funny)

bmajik (96670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22352578)

"Nathan Explosion, front man of Dethklok, sums up the new processors performance:"

Skulltrail is FUCKING BRUTAL

I for one (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22352810)

Would like to see them run 8 virtual operating systems and play games on each one at the same time.

People still read Tom's? (1)

fineghal (989689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353208)

Do people really wade through Tom's site anymore? Try Anandtech.

And guess what? My psychiatrist said my misanthropic tendencies were counter-productive to my welfare. So I'm even giving you the single page version!

http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=3216 [anandtech.com]

Where this processor excels... (2, Funny)

tyler_larson (558763) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353368)

Where this processor truly shines, and this was unfortunately not reflected in their report, is in running 8 concurrent instances of the benchmark suite.

Re:Where this processor excels... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22358264)

Funny...and also true. The real value in moving to a dual core from single core (besides the speed of the Core 2 line) is being able to do more stuff at the same time without caring about CPU usage. I/O becomes the limiting factor, until you get a RAID. Then memory, which is cheap and now you can easily get way more than you need.

4 cores or 8 cores just means caring even less about how much stuff you're running at once.

XP performance? (1)

God of Lemmings (455435) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353694)

So, how well does this run XP? Since I'm certainly not even considering
switching until at least Windows 7...

Re:XP performance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22353886)

Well, since XP doesn't support that many cores, you probably won't be able to get the most out of it.

I think you have a typo (1)

insanechemist (323218) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354152)

It should be "um-limited" - like the phone commercials.

But... (1)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354962)

..does it run Linux?

I think it may be worth asking the people at Bestofmedia if it runs Linux and what the compile, I/O, etc benchmarks are like with 8 cores.

What is Skulltrail good for? That is the question (0, Troll)

Catalina588 (1151475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354992)

1. Skulltrail beats the pants off of any other desktop in rendering and encoding. It is a monster.

2. Skulltrail lets you multitask at levels far beyond what has been available. No, it is not the best price/performer at running a game. But if you want to record a TV show and rip a DVD to iTunes while simultaneously getting decent frames rates while playing Crysis, then Skulltrail does that too.

3. Eventually, the ECC in Skulltrail will fix a memory error that normal DDR2/DDR3 desktops would miss. That's why important business applications that require accurate computing use ECC. The implication is Skulltrail can be left on 24x7 without fear a cosmic ray will blow a bit away in some OS table. Yes, the cost in electricity will be measurable, but the analogy is that Hummer buyers can't complain about gas prices.

4. Software, including games, will move towards quad-cores as these chips reach the mass-market price points over the next two years. That uses more of the capacity, but for typical users, Skulltrail is overkill.

5. Vista Ultimate is actually perky on a Skulltrail. No flame, please. But it's true. Vista will throw little tasks onto eight cores with alacrity, and as a result, things get done more quickly due to multi-tasking at the OS level. I can't prove this with benchmarks, but perception is reality

Skulltrail will not appeal to everybody, and for sure, it won't fit everybody's pocketbook. For cutting edge, multi-tasking computing, it has a lot of horsepower. That's a fact.

It's not clear to me why Tom's Hardware is so bent out of shape about the Skulltrail board they received. Intel got the boards out two or three weeks ago; that's about two months before retail shipments, and allows for plenty of time for the monthly PC press (yes, they are still around) to get to print at launch. Would the press rather review products after they ship? No, they want to lead the market. Is the BIOS still a beta? Yes. But a working BIOS. Is the system noisy? Yes, but it's drawing north of 600 watts and doing a prodigious amount of work. Skulltrail is not a living room box, OK?

If you have intense computing jobs or a server-like workload with lots of batch jobs where completion time is less important than throughput, then I think you should seriously look at Skulltrail. That would mean lots of programmers, engineers, and scientists as well as media developers. Most consumers will not benefit from Skulltrail's capacity nor afford it.

Re:What is Skulltrail good for? That is the questi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355458)

They should do a deal with schick. "8 cores, and 6 blades! for the best benchmarks and closest shave, honest!"

Yuo fail It (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355270)

baby...3on't 7ear

Wow. Tom didn't like Intel. Imagine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22357300)

Looks like AMD are keeping up on their ad budget this month over at Tom's, huh?
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