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Subjectperformance counter 20% error finding retired instruction count

As an aside, is it time to set up a dedicated Performance Counters
for Linux mailing list? (Hereafter referred to as p10c7l to avoid
confusion with the other implementations that have already taken
all the good abbreviated forms of the concept). If/when the
infrastructure appears in a released kernel, there's going to be a lot of
chatter by people who use performance counters and suddenly find they are
stuck with a huge step backwards in functionality. And asking Fortran
programmers to provide kernel patches probably won't be a productive
response. But I digress.

I was trying to get an exact retired instruction count from p10c7l.
I am using the test million.s, available here
( )
It should count exactly one million instructions.

Tests with valgrind and qemu show that it does.

Using perfmon2 on Pentium Pro, PII, PIII, P4, Athlon32, and Phenom
all give the proper result:

tobler:~% pfmon -e retired_instructions ./million

( it is 1,000,002 +/-2 because on most x86 architectures retired
instruction count includes any hardware interrupts that might
happen at the time. It woud be a great feature if p10c7l
could add some way of gathering the per-process hardware
instruction count statistic to help quantify that).

Yet with perf on the same Athlon32 machine (using
kernel 2.6.30-03984-g45e3e19) gives:

tobler:~%perf stat ./million

Performance counter stats for './million':

1.519366 task-clock-ticks # 0.835 CPU utilization factor
3 context-switches # 0.002 M/sec
0 CPU-migrations # 0.000 M/sec
53 page-faults # 0.035 M/sec
2483822 cycles # 1634.775 M/sec
1240849 instructions # 816.689 M/sec # 0.500 per cycle
612685 cache-references # 403.250 M/sec
3564 cache-misses # 2.346 M/sec

Wall-clock time elapsed: 1.819226 msecs

Running multiple times gives:

Which is a varying error of at least 20% which isn't even
consistent. Is this because of sampling? The documentation doesn't
really warn about this as far as I can tell.

Thanks for any help resolving this problem


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