Southern Man

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Supercomputing Conference Day 2

Our SC11 sessions kicked off with talks about the Undergraduate Computational Engineering and Sciences (UCES) program finalists. Or, in other words, work by undergrads who are way smarter than Southern Man was at that age. One of the talks was by LittleFe guru Charlie Peck and he was followed by the ever-dynamic master of supercomputing Henry Neeman, which took us to lunchtime.

Now comes the real purpose of our trip. As Charlie pointed out in his talk, single-core is dead. In a year you won't be able to buy a single-core phone, much less a single-core computer. Thus, we should be teaching multicore programming from the outset. But teaching on a production supercomputer isn't easy - you submit your job, you wait ten minutes to ten hours, you get an email stating what you did wrong, and repeat until you figure things out. And you don't want to teach on a production machine anyway; it's too busy doing weather models and physics and chemistry. And on top of that production machines are high maintenance and are not quite as reliable as one would hope - our local supercomputer goes down all the time (usually with cooling problems; it sits under enough air conditioning for a small city and that's barely enough). And teachers should be teaching, not administering a computer. Thus, LittleFe - a portable, lightweight, low-maintenance mini-supercomputer designed for classroom teaching that you program just the way you would the real thing - and if you screw up, you can just reboot without a dozen production-machine scientists screaming and sending you hate mail.

Beginning by one of our assistants, who spent as much time juggling cameras as actually assisting. Not that we needed that much help...

Building the chassis. Photo by an assistant using Dr. S's camera.

Dr. S and Dr. A mounting the by Southern Man.

Done! Photo by an assistant using Dr.A's camera. It was about this time that Charlie came by and claimed that we were the first team in the history of LittleFe to do a buildout in jackets and ties.

LittleFe buildout assistant Mobeen manages the head node first by Southern Man.

All nodes up and running! Photo by Southern Man.

A little historical perspective: in the early 1990s the SX-3 was the fastest computer on the planet. LitteFe blows it away, costs less than $2500, and has wheels.

After the buildout we hauled the beast back to our hotel room and after a bit of rest Southern Man returned to the Gum Wall and found that damn cache! He'd also slipped out during a break and picked up one in an elevated park just a few minutes from the conference center. He's now three for three in Seattle and will try for a couple more before we have to leave.

Caching in Skyline Park. Photo by a kind stranger.

At the Gum Wall. Photo by one of a zillion passers-by. Pike Alley is a busy place!

And to celebrate our fine achievements the three of us enjoyed dinner and drinks at the Elephant and Castle...

That's right, we built a supercomputer today. Yeah, baby! Photo credit - our server.


At Sunday, November 13, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard of the program "Project Blue Beam"? Would appreciate your comments on this.

At Saturday, November 19, 2011, Blogger Southern Man said...

Project Blue Beam is conspiracy theorist hogwash. The truth is far more frightening.


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