Shutting down the Atlas port

Vincent Habchi vince at
Tue Nov 3 10:52:32 UTC 2020


Atlas, the software meant to provide scientific computing tools with a high-performance assembly-based library has, IMHO, reached its end of life. 

My case is this:

• Last developer (unstable) release is more than two years old;
• Last stable release is twice older (2016);
• Consequently, ASM snippets Atlas relies on might not be up to date with the latest Intel processors;
• Atlas will prolly never be ported to the new ARM-based architecture Apple is about to unveil;
• The method used by Atlas to select the best assembly snippet (a.k.a “kernel”) for a given computation task is defeated by the power saving steps included in recent versions of MacOS, namely a gradual lowering of the priority of any power consuming task. This can lead to erratic, non-reproducible, and sub-optimal choices, rendering Atlas pointless;
• Atlas build time from sources varies around 3 to 4 hours, regardless of the number of cores available (the selection process is mono-threaded), which makes Atlas cumbersome to build, and still more cumbersome to debug, barring on the quickest machines;
• Since Atlas is CPU-based, no precompiled binaries should be available: at best, they will be suboptimal; at worse, they could contain unknown instructions old CPUs would crash on.

For all these reasons, I’m convinced that pulling the plug on Atlas is a good idea. Any thoughts?


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