The Quintessential Linux Benchmark
This article first appeared in Linux Journal in January, 1996.
How to (Ab)use BogoMips
When Linux boots, it displays a ``BogoMips'' number. What does that mean?
Is the number displayed correct? What use
is the information? This quintessential part of Linux is demystified in
by Wim van Dorst
Some device drivers in the Linux kernel need timing delays. Either they
need a very short delay, or the delay must be very
accurately determined. A simple non-busy loop cannot do this. Therefore,
Linus Torvalds added a calibration in the boot
procedure to predetermine how often a specific busy-loop algorithm can be
calculated in one second. This predetermined
value, called loops_per_second, is used in the device drivers to delay for
precisely measured times.
For fun, Linus also added a print statement presenting this predetermined
value (divided by 500,000) as BogoMips. Linus
apparently loves it when millions of Linux users are gazing at their
computer, baffled by these bogus MIPS. Note that
BogoMips have nothing to do with the million instructions per second that
the name suggests; that is why they are bogus.
The only serious reason for paying attention to the BogoMips presented on
booting Linux is to see whether it is in the
proper range for the particular processor, its clock frequency, and the
potentially present cache. 486 systems are especially
prone to faulty setups of RAM caching, turbo-buttons, and such things.
Which Value to Expect
People continuously ask on Usenet: ``I have an XYZ CPU running at clock
MHz. How many BogoMips should it do?'' The
answer can be calculated from the following table:
Intel/AMD 386SX clock * 0.14 (1 0.01)
Intel/AMD 386DX clock * 0.18 (1 0.01)
Cyrix/IBM 486 clock * 0.33 (1 0.04)
Intel/AMD 486 clock * 0.50 (1 0.01)
Pentium clock * 0.40 (1 0.01)
680x0 (insufficient data)
PowerPC clock * 0.77 (1 0.02)
Mips (insufficient data)
Alpha clock * 0.99 (1 0.01)
From the above calculation we see several important points. First of all,
the Intel and AMD 486 CPUs are not showing the
same BogoMips as Motorola, PowerPC, Mips, and Alpha
processors are similar to the Intel type
processors calculations. Because the non-busy loop algorithm is coded in
Assembler, however, they cannot be identical. It
clearly shows that comparison of BogoMips between CPUs is really bogus,
even between two different Intel type CPUs.
Last but not least, you see an allowed variation in the multiplication
factor of about 0.01. The BogoMips calculation loop is
``quantizised'' (Linus's term), so it is likely that you will get exactly
the same number all the time. Yet, if the speed is just
on the edge, small variations, such as different lengths for interrupts,
will cause your machine's BogoMips to vary.
The Most Frequently Asked Question
``When I boot Linux I get the message:
Calibrating delay loop.. ok - 23.96 BogoMips
Where or why has the calibration delay loop failed?''
The obvious answer is that it didn't fail. If it had failed the text would
Calibrating delay loop.. failed
What likely did fail was a driver for some gadget which may not be in the
machine. The point is that just after calculating
the BogoMips, all device drivers are initialized: first the SCSI devices,
then Net devices, etc. Any failure in these
initializations is duly reported. The AHA152x drive is noted for such
failures. Other effects of failing drivers (and not of
failing BogoMips calculations) are systems crashes, long waits, and
complete system lock-ups.
Since Linux 1.2, many error messages have improved, so upgrade to at least
that version to find out which particular driver
Standalone BogoMips Program
For people without Linux systems, or for those people who do not want to
reboot their system time and again, a
stand-alone program for calculating BogoMips is available in the standard
archives (e.g., on sunsite.unc.edu in
/pub/Linux/system/Status/bogo-1.2.tar.gz). On Linux, by default, it runs
the same code that is used in the Linux kernel
while booting, but runs as a user program. Note that due to system load,
values calculated with the stand-alone program
may be lower than expected for the CPU you are running, and lower than
reported during boot. For the non-Linux
systems, a portable C version is available that may run on any system that
supports an ANSI C compiler and library.
Complete Reference Table: BogoMips Mini-HOWTO
The BogoMips mini-HOWTO gives a full table of reported BogoMips for
various systems. More than 250 BogoMips
references as reported on Usenet, or sent directly by e-mail to the
maintainer, are listed with information about CPU type,
clock speed, BogoMips, and the name and e-mail address of the reporter.
For example, the lowest and highest BogoMips
reported in the current version of The BogoMips Mini-HOWTO are:
The Lowest: H. Peter Anwin firstname.lastname@example.org 386SX/16 387 nocache 0.57 BogoMips
The Highest: David Mosberger-Tang
email@example.com Alpha 21064A/275 273.37 BogoMips
In the BogoMips mini-HOWTO, values that do and do not comply with the
aforementioned BogoMips calculation
methods are listed. The non-complying group is named ``Oddly or Faultily
configured'' because non-compliance does not
necessarily mean that the system is faultily configured.
The BogoMips may be used to see whether your system is faster than mine.
Of course this is completely wrong, unreliable,
ill-founded, and utterly useless, but all benchmarks suffer from this
problem, so why not use it? This inherent stupidity
has never before stopped people from using benchmarks, has it? [Note for
the humor-challenged: no angry letters to the
editor will be accepted on this point.---ED]
Isolde van Dorst is the beautiful daughter of the author. She is just over
one year old, and is now playing around in the
garden, walking over that still unfamiliar, ticklish stuff: grass. She can
be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.