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Dual CPU blues. I’ve had my dual Celeron-500 apart for a while, for reasons that escape me, and over the weekend I finally got around to putting it back together. At one time this would have seemed an impressive system–Aureal Vortex 2 audio, TNT2 video, dual 500 MHz CPUs (which I’m actually running at around 510 MHz because I bumped the FSB speed up to 68 MHz, within the tolerance levels of most modern peripherals), and 320 MB RAM. But let me tell you–it’s a lot faster than it sounds. The 733-MHz Pentium IIIs at work used to make me jealous. No longer. I’ll put my dualie 500 up against them any day of the week.

Just out of curiosity, I tried my CPU stress test from last week on it. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get CPU usage up to 100 percent. I’d top out at about 96 percent. I’m not sure if that’s because of the dual CPUs or because I’m running Windows 2000 on it instead of NT4. I’m sure a complex Photoshop filter could max both chips out, but that’s not what I do. I fired up Railroad Tycoon II, and it was unbelievable. CPU usage hovered around 60 percent and it was smooth as silk, even with the more system-intensive scenarios from the Second Century add-on pack.

Unfortunately, the golden age of inexpensive multiprocessing is over, at least for now. Current Celerons won’t do SMP. I understand why–Intel doesn’t want you to buy two cheap CPUs instead of one expensive one. Like I said, I’ll take my dual 500s over a P3-733 any day of the week. A P3-733 costs about $200. My 500s were 40 bucks a pop. So, unfortunately, to get dual processing these days, you have to get a pair of P3s, which will start at about $140 apiece for a P3-667. The least expensive SMP board I know of is the VIA-based Abit VP6, which sells for about $140. So you’re looking at about $450 to get into dual CPUs by the time you get the board, CPUs and fans. That’s not an outrageous deal, but seeing as an Abit BP6 and a pair of Celerons with fans used to set you back about $350, it’s a shame.

If AMD can ever work through the problems they’re having with the AMD 760MP chipset, it’ll help a little but not as much as you may think. The AMD-based boards will be expensive–expect them to start at $200 or possibly even $250– because they use a different bus that requires a lot more pins and a lot more added expense. So while you’ll be able to multiprocess with $60 CPUs again, you’re looking at higher up-front cost. The least expensive dual-Duron rig will only cost about $50 less than the least expensive dual-P3 rig. But the dual-Duron rig stands a decent chance of outrunning the dual-P3, because the clockspeed will be higher, and the CPUs each get their own path to all the relevant buses.

And I’ve reached a new low. Last night I had a craving for a burger. So I did what any self-respecting part-time vegetarian who didn’t know any better would do: I went on a quest to find soyburgers. My friend Jeanne, who says I stole the idea of giving up meat for Lent from her (and maybe subconsciously I did) warned me they won’t taste like meat. And I’m pretty sure my dad–whose idea of four servings of vegetables a day was the pickles and ketchup on two hamburgers, beef of course–was rolling his eyes at me from Upstairs (If God has a sense of humor, which wouldn’t surprise me, He opened the portal so Dad could get a good look at the look on my face after the first bite).

And? Well, I guess soyburgers aren’t too much of an atrocity. Better than McDonald’s? Well, yeah, but then again so’s the cherry-flavored flouride treatment at the dentist’s office. They’re somewhere between beef and imitation bacon bits in both smell and taste. You definitely want to put other stuff on it to distract you–I got some good pickles, some good mustard, and ketchup, and wished I’d gone further. Hmm. Lettuce and tomato, no question. And I’m wondering if alfalfa sprouts would be good on a burger? I’m also wondering where you buy alfalfa sprouts. Oh, and get REALLY good rolls.

I can probably develop a taste for them, but it will definitely be an acquired taste. There was a time, back before I realized I wanted to live past age 27, when I could eat real hamburgers two meals a day for weeks at a time and be perfectly happy–and jokingly wondering why I didn’t eat them for breakfast too. That won’t happen with the soyburgers. I think what’s left of my package of four should get me through Lent.

Oh yeah. They aren’t as good as the real thing and they cost a lot more. What’s up with that? I thought stuff that was lower on the food chain was supposed to be cheaper. I guess that’s only when it’s not being marketed to SUV liberals. (Psst. Marketing tip: SUV liberals like unbleached paperboard. The paperboard that went into my packaging is definitely bleached. And lose the plastic wrap on the burgers. SUV liberals hate that. Good move on putting two burgers per plastic bag though–you’re at least thinking a little. But you gotta go all the way. That’s why they put two “Be Kind to Mother Earth” bumper stickers–printed on unbleached material, of course–on their Ford Excursions.)

I think I’ll be eating a lot of mushroom ravioli for the next few weeks, if I can ever find someplace that sells it again. You’d think in St. Louis, of all places–where there are almost as many good Italian restaurants as there are stop signs–you’d be able to find mushroom ravioli. I guess true blue St. Louisans like beef.

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