Benchmarks are a problem, and while the gratuitous use of benchmarks is most notable in computing, the effects of poor use of benchmarks extends well beyond computing. The problem also applies nicely to school grades and the usage of standardized tests.
When they are useful, benchmarks commonly have only a small area in which they can be validly applied.
When Linux systems boot up, they display a "BogoMIPS" value. This value specifically reflects the number of cycles eaten up by a particular timing loop.
BogoMIPS are useful values for synchronizing the use of "null timing loops" within device drivers, and that is the direct purpose of the measurement.
BogoMIPS values that do not conform with expections for the hardware in question tend to be good indicators of hardware configuration problems.
But comparing BogoMIPS values between different CPUs in order to compare their relative performance, and hence to see which is more powerful, is virtually useless, because the thing that is measured is so limited in its utility.
Similarly, "intelligence quotient" tests are very good at indicating how good people are at writing "intelligence quotient" tests. Extending this to try to indicate some "actual intelligence" is rather misleading. And even if we assume this can be done successfully, extending this to provide expected performance in other areas is not likely to provide much useful information, because "intelligence" represents too many distinct things to readily measure in the single metric of "an IQ of 114."
And even if the IQ of "114" was an accurate reflection of "intelligence," the relationship between this and anything practical is highly questionable.
(Note that the correct interpretation of "an IQ of 114" is usually something like: An IQ of 114 indicates that the subject's test results on a particular test were 1.4 standard deviations higher than the mean. )
People argue over whether the X Window System is horribly slow or not.
The answer depends so much on what applications are being run, what displays are serving them, and the nature of the network, that making snap judgements about its speed or lack thereof is foolish.
On the Thesis that X is Big/Bloated/Obsolete and Should Be Replaced discusses this issue in greater detail.
"MIPS" is commonly described by terms such as "Meaningless Indicator of Processing Speed."
Sales people love to sell customers on the number of MHz of processing speed that a CPU provides. Unfortunately for the typical customer, that number will only be vaguely related to the overall performance of the computer system. System performance typically depends on such things as:
Quantity of memory (which can be split across various varieties of cache, as well as various kinds of RAM)
Speed of disk drives (seek time, transfer speed being separate metrics)
Speed of disk interface (SCSI is usually faster than IDE)
Speed and memory availability on video hardware
Quality of the interface between software and hardware (often called "hardware drivers")
With the complexity of modern computer systems, the speed of the CPU is falling in overall importance.
Intel obviously doesn't want you to believe that...
Since both systems provide fairly good performance on "average" sorts of files, it proves necessary to benchmark primarily using cases that would be considered unrealistic in practice.
One conclusion that can be drawn from the situation is that most people probably won't care to "upgrade" from ext2 to reiserfs any time soon, at least not for performance reasons. ext2 is certainly more mature.
Another is that benchmarks must both be carefully constructed and interpreted. I believe that Hans Reiser does so; he has been pretty honest not to use his benchmarks to claim superiority of his file system except in those respects that it provides better performance.
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