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Is Assembly Programming Still Relevant, Today?

Madwand Renaissance of the efficiency-optimized program (676 comments)

We're going to hit the quantum wall and the end of Moore's "Law" soon. The signs are all around us: CPU manufacturers throwing more processors ("cores") into chips and systems, CPU clock rate increases slowing down year over year. You won't be able to just "throw hardware at the problem" any more, in the very near future.

So, what does this mean for programmers?

Two things:

1. Parallel programming. You're going to have to figure out how to pull as much parallelism out of your problem (and spread that across all the CPUs you have to use) as you possibly can. However, there will always be an irreducible, non-parallel part of your program. That's the message of Amdahl's Law. Which leaves us with ...

2. Instruction-efficient programming for those non-parallel codes. We won't be able to make the individual CPUs go faster once we hit the quantum wall; all we can do is use what we can get out of the hardware as efficiently as possible.

Study your algorithms well, and learn assembly language, if you want your programs to run fast. Compilers still aren't that good (though I have no doubt that there will be a renewed interest in making them better so that all the programmers who can't grok assembly can still be useful; it's called "leverage").

Oh, and keep an eye on FPGAs - reconfigurable computers morphed for the problem to be computed might just be the next big thing.

more than 7 years ago

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NetBSD 6.1 has shipped!

Madwand Madwand writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Madwand (79821) writes "The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 6.1, the first feature update of the NetBSD 6 release branch. It represents a selected subset of fixes deemed important for security or stability reasons, as well as new features and enhancements.

NetBSD is a free, fast, secure, and highly portable Unix-like Open Source operating system. It is available for a wide range of platforms, from large-scale servers and powerful desktop systems to handheld and embedded devices. Its clean design and advanced features make it excellent for use in both production and research environments, and the source code is freely available under a business-friendly license. NetBSD is developed and supported by a large and vibrant international community. Many applications are readily available through pkgsrc, the NetBSD Packages Collection."

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NetBSD 6.0 has shipped

Madwand Madwand writes  |  about 2 years ago

Madwand (79821) writes "The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 6.0, the fourteenth major release of the NetBSD operating system. Changes from the previous release include scalability improvements on multi-core systems, many new and updated device drivers, Xen and MIPS port improvements, and brand new features such as a new packet filter.

Some NetBSD 6.0 highlights are: support for thread-local storage (TLS), Logical Volume Manager (LVM) functionality, rewritten disk quota subsystem, new subsystems to handle flash devices and NAND controllers, an experimental CHFS file system designed for flash devices, support for Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) protocol, and more. This release also introduces NPF — a new packet filter, designed with multi-core systems in mind, which can do TCP/IP traffic filtering, stateful inspection, and network address translation (NAT)."

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