The Register SETI competition – the results
Tough call for judges
A fine selection of entries (see Take The Reg SETI challenge) ranged from the ridiculous to the, er, slightly less ridiculous. Thanks to everyone who entered.
We were tempted to award a special prize to Darren Stewart, who claimed to have overclocked his ZX Spectrum, which he assures us is now completing SETI work units at a rate of one every 298 years. UK law forbids us from mailing class A drugs, but we reckon Darren probably has enough already.
Another contender for slowest processing was Bob Cunningham, who tells us his Cyrix 6x86 PR200L running RedHat Linux 6.1 takes a mere 45 hours per work unit. At the other extreme was Bob Gulien from Amsterdam who has completed work units in 2 hours 20 minutes on a two-processor HP9000/L1000 under HP-UX 11.0. An impressive time, but ruled out under the 'machine must have been paid for by the user' regulation.
As some kind of yardstick, SETI is currently reporting an average time per work unit across all types of machine of 20 hours 15 minutes. Our reference Katmai 500 box (128MB RAM) is currently averaging 8 hours 10 minutes, while a Coppermine 800 (256MB RAM) is chomping through the data in an average seven hours.
Several users with Celerons overclocked to within an inch of their lives reported some good times. Chris Dent runs a Celeron 300A overclocked to 450MHz and averages around nine hours a work unit. Stuart Irving's home PC, a Dual PIII 600MHz Katmai on a Giga-byte GA-6BXD, with 384MBb RAM runs two copies of the command line client simultaneously, one on each processor,
Stuart's machine chugs its way through two work units every eight hours. We would have expected this class of machine to perform a little better than this if our 500 dual Katmai is anything to go by (Katmais and even Pentium IIs put up a good showing due to their larger level 2 cache). Macs put in a very strong bid for an award, again large L2 caches proving to be worth more than raw horsepower.
The same applied to Xeons with 1MB or larger L2. Alfred Choy's Power Mac G4 450 with 128MB RAM averaging 6 hr 49 min per unit.
Kristoffer Laurson describes his machine as a standard out-of-box Apple PowerBook G3 500MHz with 1MB 200MHz L2 cache. An average of 5 hr 27 min 29.9 sec certainly puts this well ahead in the fastest laptop stakes. Vying for the best overclocked box award was LKY's Intel Pentium III 550E @ 770MHz (140 fsb), using an Asus P2B-B M/B, 128MB Micron PC-133 -75B RAM, running Windows 98 SE, which averaged 6 Hours 15 Mins per work unit.
Chris Barbour runs an Athlon 500MHz under Linux 2.2.14 which averages 8 hr 02 min, while Matthew Sullivan is sticking with old (2x 200MHz Pentium Pros) technology and managed respectable timings of around 10 hours /a unit on his Dell Precision 410 - it's that full speed cache that does it. He adds that a colleague has done packets in just over 3 hours on a bank of 5 Sun E250's (twin CPUs) churning out 10 packets every 3hours or so...)
Todd Jolley from the US works at a large bank and uses SETI to determine relative speeds for new server hardware platforms. His fastest server is a Compaq Proliant 570 running NT 4, with 4X Pentium III Xeon 700's with 1MB of L2 cache per processor and 1GB RAM. Running 4 instances of seti@home, one dedicated per processor, he can process 4 work units every 3 hours. Shame you didn't buy it yourself, Todd, otherwise you'd have won for sure.
And now we have a dilemma: the prize of an Intel Seattle 2 motherboard is unlikely to be of much interest to our high-scoring overclockers. Nor is it likely to appeal to dyed in the wool Mac owners.
So after much agonising, we have awarded the Intel SE440BX2 mobo to Bob Cunningham, who describes himself as a self-unemployed engineer from San Diego, on the grounds that he desperately needed to upgrade his creaky old Cyrix 6x86 PR200L and hopefully improve on his shocking time of 45 hours per work unit. Bob informs us that his Cyrix and/or mobo blew up on the same day he sent his competition entry and asks if the two events could be in some way connected.
And the bunnyperson goes to... ... Pamela Portman, from DeVry Institute of Technology, Columbus, Ohio, who averaged 8 hours 34 min on her 400MHz G4 Mac. Not the fastest time by a long shot, but Pamela wrote: "Although I am sure you will find much faster results, I figured I would give it a shot. I am thoroughly impressed with the performance of my machine and would love to at least give it a chance to shine." How could we not award the prize to someone who obviously cares so deeply for their machine?