All entries for June 2008

June 13, 2008

David Davis

David Davis’ resignation appears to have caused shockwaves throughout British Politics. He could have stayed in the safe and comfortable position of Shadow Home Secretary, and pushed for his issues when the Conservatives get elected in two years time. Instead he has chosen to gamble.

Their Opinion

People’s reaction to David Davis’ actions seem to be strongly split among those who agree or disagree with his argument.

Jackie Smith, Home Secretary, and Hazel Blears, Communities secretary, when interviewed ignored the issues and just talked about Conservative ‘disarray’, and David Blunkett called it ‘political theatre’. Conservatives who made their opinion know publically seemed to back his decision, this includes David Cameron and Dominic Grieve, the new shadow home secretary.

Civil Liberties campaigning groups, such as NO2ID and Liberty have backed his stand. Newspapers position is consistent with their editorial stand on the issues, for example The Independant is describing him as a ‘Freedom Fighter’, whilst the Sun claims he has “gone stark raving mad”, is “a quitter” and describes it as “Treachery”.

A real Motive?

A lot of people have claimed that this isn’t the real motive for his resignation, but its quite clear that Cameron & Co are backing his move, albeit cautiously. His replacement, Dominic Grieve, takes the same stance as he does on the issues so there will be no change of Conservative Policy, which means there’s no rejection of his views in central office. Whilst I’m sure many Conservatives are pissed off that he taken an action that won’t improve their electoral prospects, I doubt he was being muffled by party policy.

Another assertion, made by both The Sun and The Daily Express, is that this is a politically motived act of treachery towards David Cameron. Its certainly not Cameron’s style of politics. Its hard to see what this gets David Davis politically. He has lost his position as Shadow Home Secretary, and may loose his seat as an MP. The level of risk to his seat is, I believe, quite low – he has a strong majority and liberal democrats won’t be opposing him, but certainly the move from his current position to a back bencher is a long step down. The Sun reconcile the lack of motivation with their cynical claims by asserting that he has gone mad, an unsound argument if ever I heard one.


The liberal democrats won’t be standing against him, because they agree with him on the issues. If I were they, I would campaign for him, the only way you can get political advantage out of this is to show that you have a non-partisan principled stand on the issue.

The Labour party haven’t made their decision clear. I would be very surprised if they put a candidate forward, their narrative of these events is one that tries to undermine David Davis at every turn (‘disarray’, ‘theatre’) the most sensible way to continue this approach is to not stand a candidate against him. Furthermore, they are unlikely to win, (at the last general election their candidate placed 3rd with 6,000 votes to David Davis’ 22,000). It would also cost the party campaigning funds that it can ill-afford.

The BNP won’t be running a candidate against him, since they agree with his position, and UKIP don’t know what they are doing. Unsurprising for a party who published its manifesto for the 2005 General Election with a typo in the headline of its first page. Even worse than one of my blog entries!

Kelvin Mackenzie, former editor of the Sun, has said he will stand. This is the first time that Rupert Murdoch has directly pushed his own candidate, instead of backing existing parties. Quote of the week: “The Sun has always been very up for 42 days and perhaps even 420 days.” Since he will have financial support from Mr. Murdoch its highly likely that he will have a funding advantage. This entirely suits Mr. Davis, since it will result in a debate, it also suits the Labour party since they have someone to fight their battles. I doubt Mr. Mackenzie will win, since I find it impossible to believe that anyone could like an editor of a tabloid newspaper.


Don’t believe the ‘cost to the tax payer’ argument: the total cost of a by-election according to the BBC is £2000. The cost to political parties is far greater.

Whilst there are clear negative effects on the Conservative party, people are completely ignoring the positive effects: no news about nannygate! This is a far more interesting story than the alleged corruption of the Conservative Party Chairman, whilst the corruption story is potentially more damaging. The real concern people have here is the risk factor.

For years people have called on politicians to take actions that are nonpartisan, based on principle, and creative. This is certainly creative, due to its unprecedented nature, as already established this is based on principle and its clearly not a partisan act – the man is operating off his own bat. If there is a rejection of this action by the British public I can only conclude one thing: that they are more hypocritical and two faced than the politicians.

June 10, 2008


I was playing around with scimark 2 this evening, and its vaguely interesting.  Over the last few years I've noticed some terrible benchmarks lying around online, but scimark seems to have gotten some things right.  Its identified what its laying performance claims about (sequential scientific computing) and implemented common algorithms to benchmark.  Unfortunately their code seems a little too amenable to optimisation.  There's no crazy control flow, or methods that are hard to inline, etc.  I suppose this is more the preserve of things like Spec Java business stuff, but still.

I decided to benchmark the scimark stuff in various forms, the numbers reform to claimed performance in MFlops.

sun-java6 -server sun-java6 -client GCC GCC -O3 Mono
Compsite 607.575 385.856 232.89 553.56 209.29
FFT 379.183 301.043 146.82 467.62 75.15
SOR 788.766 596.027 497.92 602.17 589.72
Monte Carlo 206.568 73.7055 49.9 79.89 6.96
Spare Matrix 444.312 386.757 204.16 639.38 200.97
LU 1219.05 571.748 265.63 978.73 173.65

GCC is version 4.3, Java is 1.6.0_06 and Mono is 1.9.1, all are using the packages from debian unstable.

I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from these benchmarks, since they probably aren't representative of anything many people are doing, just vaguely interesting to see how they panned out.  Its probably worth having a look at which jvm options hit performance here, or comparing the assembly output by hotspot with that of GCC at some point in time.  The implementation for c# that I found seemed to be a direct translation of the Java source, I have no idea if that is a sensible approach from a performance point of view.

June 09, 2008


Last week I gave a talk on Virtual Machines (their architecture, intermediate representation and JIT Compiler techniques) at the language club. I’ve finally got round to updating my talks/publications list on my website as a result, which now includes that talk, and past talks at the GNU/Linux user group as well as research related work.

June 2008

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