[BUG?,FEATURE?] One core idles with 4 nice and 1 regular process

From: Jason Lynch
Date: Tue Jun 16 2009 - 15:15:18 EST

First, a description of the problem, and a fairly simple way to test it:

All of this is running on my quad-core Q6600. First, I start four nice -n
19 processes, each of which does nothing but busy-wait. (In my case, I
used a simple python script, but any CPU-bound process will do.) At this
point, top shows all four cores being utilized, at approximately 100%
nice each.

At this point, I start another of these busy-waiting processes, except
with no nice adjustment, so it runs at regular priority. After doing so,
top now reports the following CPU usage: one core is 100% user, two cores
are 100% nice, and finally, one last core is 100% idle, doing nothing,
despite a total of five processes being available to run.

I thought I first noticed this running a 2.6.29 kernel, and thought about
bisecting, but my test 2.6.28 kernel also exhibited the behavior. I
couldn't test any previous kernels due to a lack of ext4 support. Both my
current 2.6.30 kernel and the torvalds/linux-2.6.git HEAD also show the

Now, I'm not sure if this is a bug or a strange feature (though it seems
very bug-like to me) or perhaps a configuration problem, but I'd like to
find out nonetheless.

If I can provide any additional information to help, I'll be happy to

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