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ATPM 18.04
April 2012




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by Mark Tennent,

Do Androids Dream?

Usually we have been avid adopters of the latest and greatest the Cupertino Conjurers can deliver. Very often their announcements coincide with our need to upgrade, and so we do.

I was hanging on Steve’s every word when he announced the Power Mac G5s and put my order in while he was still making his presentation, only to discover that all the early Macs had been diverted to build a super computer. Not a bad one, too; it was in the top five in those days.

In the past, we have skipped one or two Mac editions such as the Quadra series. We upgraded our 7-series PowerPCs with faster CPUs in the glorious days when Apple made Macs with daughter cards. While my partner moved to the iMac, I prefer four internal drives and went Mac Pro. She goes for screen appeal and constantly reassures me that size isn’t everything. After all, 23″ is enough for any man or woman, eh?

Lately we became a two-path Pad family, the distaff to Android, while I remain strictly Infinity Loop. And this is where a real difference becomes apparent.

I usually charge up my iPad once a week if I remember to; she charges her Samsung iPad clone every night because she has to. The tablets get about the same use each day, the iPad possibly more, because it spends much of its life as a TV in the kitchen, streaming from the ’net or from the server, and playing movies which have been copied onto it. These are power-hungry activities that easily knock 10 or 20 percent off the battery charge.

Meanwhile, the Samsung might be being used for a little light reading or Web browsing, where the CPU sits idling away battery life and burning power at a rate of knots. Yet it still needs a good seeing-to afterwards.

Then I read about Dr. Dongarra at the University of Tennessee and a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He keeps track of the world’s fastest computers and recently benchmarked the iPad 2.

First, he discovered that it is ten times as fast as the original iPad, and this is just using one of the iPad 2’s processing cores. He reckons the iPad 2 will eventually benchmark at over 1.5 gigaflops, making it a supercomputer in 1994 terms. In those days, the dream machine was a Cray 2, washing machine-sized, and cooled in a bath of Fluorinert. Nowadays we hold the equivalent in one hand.

Just to make life interesting, Dr Dongarra is thinking of getting a couple of stacks of iPads and seeing what they can do as a cluster. Which means, if it’s anything like my G5 order, don’t hold your breath if you’ve ordered an iPad 3. Dr. Dongarra’s going to grab the first batch for his new supertoy.

Androids, read and weep.

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Reader Comments (1)

Grover Watson · May 13, 2012 - 18:18 EST #1
I'm still using my first gen iPad, and I'm really in no hurry to replace it. I"m going to buy a 2nd gen iPad simply because I like the thinner, lighter form factor, and need the additional 32Gb of storage. The 3rd gen will have to wait for a while. Got tons of good cameras, and 'facetime' is just plain silly to me.

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