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I've got a dual proc machine here I'm playing with and I've got a mamouth SQL query that's got one CPU locked up at 100%, yet the machine is still completely responsive and I can do everything I need to do on the other proc.
Nice. Can a dual core do that?
Having said that, a single processor system might do better than you think - it depends on how the task scheduling works, and, to some extent, how the software is written (and the nature of the task). For instance, a big job could be scheduled to run with idle-priority. In this case, the system should still be responsive whilst CPU usage for the major task remained at about 95% or more.