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Flash Mob Supercomputer?

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the all-the-cool-kids-are-doing-it dept.

Hardware 259

dan of the north writes "The NY Times (free reg yyy bbb) is running an article on flash mob computing. More info on the first event in SF on April 3, 2004. The goal is to run Linpack and "build a home-brew computer powerful enough to be added to a list of the world's 500 fastest computers." Minimum requirements are 1.3 GHZ Pentium III/AMD equivalent or better with 256MB of RAM, a 100 Base-T network connection and a CD-ROM - laptops preferred. "After taking a shot at a speed record, the computer will be reorganized to serve as the host of a giant multiplayer video game tournament." Cool... a 2fer!"

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Obvious... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360732)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these babies!

Re:Obvious... (0, Redundant)

The Gravedigger (753969) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360810)

Comedy gold indeed.

BBW Adventures - Dunkin Donuts (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360734)

OK so here's how it went down: I was driving early one morning and stopped at a Dunkin Donuts to get some coffee. I got myself a big coffee and sat down to drink it. As I looked around, I noticed a few other people in the place, a young couple, a big beefy truck driver type, a few others and -- lo and behold -- over in a corner of the restaurant, a big fat ass BBW stuffing her goddamn face with a box of donuts.

I was disgusted, but I tried not to let the BBW ruin my day. The sight of one of these human beings turned farm animal often does, because it disgusts me to the core. But I kept drinking my coffee.

And eventually the coffee took effect. I had to take a dump! So I went into the bathroom (they only had one bathroom for both men and women) and sat down on the toilet and took a massive, huge logpile. The turds were enormous and twisted all together. I wiped my ass and tried to flush -- but no luck. The toilet was clogged with my massive dump in it!

I shrugged and went back to my table, leaving a sopping wet pile of huge turds and paper in the clogged toilet. I sat down again and started to read the paper. All of the sudden I heard something really unpleasant. A burp from the BBW's corner. That damn pig burped out loud.

I tried to go back to my paper. But then I heard another burp. This time, when I looked up, I noticed that the big beefy truck driver type was looking annoyed. His face was flush with anger.

I hadn't read much more of the article when the BBW let a loud fart rip over in her corner. And then another. And then I heard her sigh... and then she ripped a really loud one -- brrrrrpppfffffttttt!! I was thoroughly disgusted, but before I could do anything, something unpredictable happened.

"Goddammit!" the truck driver said, getting up from his table. "Goddamnit to hell! You disgusting pig!" He walked over to the BBW's table and shouted right in her face. "You stinking animal! You fat ass pig!!!! Why don't you go fart in the damn bathroom?" He was getting angrier by the minute. The BBW just sat there, looking like she was going to cry. And then, maybe she just lost control, but she let another fart rip. BRFFFFFPPPTTT!

The truck driver was in a rage. He grabbed the fat ass by the hair and dragged her out of her seat! She was whimpering and crying and he was screaming obscenities: "you goddamn stinking fat pig! I'll teach you some goddamn manners, you filthy fat ass!"

The other customers yelled after him, to stop him, as he dragged the BBW over to the bathroom door, and kicked the door open. We all rushed to the door just in time to see this guy, in a complete rage, grabbing the BBW by the hair and dunking her head in the shit-clogged toilet! Clogged with my turds!!! The BBW's face came up, soaking wet, covered with toilet paper! Somebody shouted to the truck driver to stop -- but he just dunked the BBW's head in the toilet again! This time she came up and spat out a fat turd!

Somebody was getting ready to call the police. But right at that moment someone in the crowd said, "Well, I guess this gives a whole new meaning to DUNKIN donuts!" And we all started laughing hysterically! The whole place was laughing at the turd covered, soaking wet BBW!!!

We all went back to our cars, and drove away. What a way to start the day: with a laugh!

ACHTUNG TROLLEN!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360794)

I have carried your message of hilarity to those of comfortable stature

http://www.abundancemagazine.com/cgi-bin/boards/ma in/main.pl?read=13956

I suggest others do the same, till all the gutbuckets realise the futility of flatulence

Wicked. (3, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360736)

Won't be long before sporting events and rock concerts will be able to host such supercomputers, too ...

Imagine, iPod2 has WLAN ... good enough node spec for me! ;)

Re:Wicked. (5, Insightful)

illuminata (668963) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360859)

Singer: Let me see your nodes!

Crowd: *yells*

Singer (to promoter): What the hell is a node anyways?

Promoter: Don't worry about it, just go with it!

Singer (to crowd again): I said let me see those fuckin' nodes!

Crowd: *yells louder*

Singer: Fuck right. That's what I fuckin' like to hear. Now, for our next motherfuckin' song, I want to see the most massive, the most fuckin' atrocious motherfuckin' pit on this motherfuckin' planet.

Yeah, that scenario was implausible. Thus, I don't see supercomputers in concerts anytime soon.

Re:Wicked. (5, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361022)

You walk into the concert arena, your iPod2 uses zeroconf (rendezvous) to identify itself to the concert host system.

anyone whos' got the 'share my compute cycles' checkbox set on their ipod2 automatically shares their ipod2's cpu cycles, again announced by rendezvous, with the rest of the system.

for the duration of that gig, the machines are all bound together, beowulf-style, to distribute the live recording of the event that is being produced for prosperity during the concert. some 'secrets and surprises' are thrown into the tracks too, just for grins.

at the end of the gig, everyone walks away with their own digital recording of the event, custom, unique, 'branded to the event'.

the whole thing was included in the price of admission, and open to anyone who walks into the concert arena with their boxes turned on ...

I can totally see this happening. In fact, if I had the resources, I'd start a company that does just this service for concerts and gigs and such ... now would be round about the right time to get into this market, since its infancy-stages ...

HA! I can already do this without leaving home... (3, Funny)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360987)

It's called the internet. D'oh!

Re:HA! I can already do this without leaving home. (1)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361066)

yeah, boring. i'd rather be at the beach.

licenses (5, Funny)

SHEENmaster (581283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360738)

I'm sure the first thing on the minds of the people building this is whether they should buy client or server licenses from SCO.

(It's 4:20am and I don't have any coffee; I'm sure of a lot of things at the moment.)

Re:licenses (3, Funny)

baneblackblade (682424) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360767)

nah, they'll probably use the supercomputer to DOS sco.com again as the kicker for their gaming competition.

Re:licenses (5, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360786)

I'm sure the first thing on the minds of the people building this is whether they should buy client or server licenses from SCO

No, the first thing on their minds is the question "why aren't there any girls here?"

Re:licenses (3, Funny)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360819)

Because the girls know they can't compete for attention when there an Unreal Tournament server running on a super-computer.... so they give up and go elsewhere.

Re:licenses (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361007)

This is why I think there should be two additional moderation choices, namely "+1, Intoxicated" and "-1, Shitfaced". :)


Article Text (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360742)

Hey, Gang, Let's Make Our Own Supercomputer

Published: February 23, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 22 ? Some class science projects get out of hand.

That is certainly the case with Patrick Miller's graduate course in do-it-yourself supercomputing at the University of San Francisco. On April 3, his students plan to assemble the first "flash mob supercomputer" in the school gym.

While brainstorming about how to build a home-brew computer powerful enough to be added to a list of the world's 500 fastest computers, Mr. Miller and his students, along with Gregory D. Benson, an associate professor of computer science, came up with the idea of an electronic barn-raising. They decided to build on the concept of flash mobs, the sudden Internet-organized gatherings with no particular purpose that became an unlikely fad last summer.

Last week, the class put out a call for about 1,200 volunteers to bring their computers to the Koret Gym here for a day and plug them into a shared high-speed network.

"This is what happens when crazy ideas catch fire and people say, `Wait, there is nothing to stop this,' " said Mr. Miller, who is a lecturer at the university and a computer scientist at the Center for Applied Scientific Computing at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

There are already many Internet-connected virtual supercomputers, like the SETI@home project, which uses the spare computing cycles on the personal computers of volunteers to hunt for signs of alien civilizations. Several universities have shown that it is possible to hook hundreds of off-the-shelf personal computers together to create supercomputers. But until now no one has tried to build an instant supercomputer in one place.

"It struck me as being something of a 60's idea," said Dennis Allison, a founder of Dr. Dobbs, a Silicon Valley magazine for computer programmers. "This could easily be an idea from one of William Gibson's science-fiction novels, where everyone gathers in Grand Central station to save the world by plugging their machines into the Net."

Before stumbling onto the idea of the volunteer project, the class considered a variety of ways to make a cheap supercomputer, including buying many Microsoft Xbox game machines. However, the students would have needed to install the free Linux operating system on the machines to tie them together, and Microsoft has recently made that more difficult.

John Witchel, the graduate student who had the original idea of building a volunteer supercomputer, says he thinks flash mob computing will make it possible for high school students and community groups to harness computer power now available only to large corporations or government laboratories.

"We're trying to democratize supercomputing," Mr. Witchel said.

The group has high hopes for its gym machine. It plans to run a speed benchmark program known as Linpack. The group estimates that to make the next Top 500 list, scheduled to be released in June, the machine will need to reach a speed of about 550 gigaflops, or billions of mathematical operations per second. The No. 1 spot on the list is held by the Earth Simulator in Japan, which can run at more than 35 teraflops, or 35,000 gigaflops.

Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who helps maintain the Top 500 list, says the students have a shot at making the list, but it will not be easy.

"It could be that electrical power will be an issue," he said, adding that the slowest computer will limit the speed of the entire supercomputer. To make certain that they have enough speed, the students are asking that volunteers bring only computers with at least a 1.3-gigahertz Pentium or AMD processor and 256 megabytes of memory, requirements that most recent home machines will meet. Laptops are preferred because they use less power than desktop computers.

When all the machines are plugged together via donated high-speed networking switches, the students will be able to tackle the benchmark program, a series of equations that can be broken into parts and computed on many processors simultaneously. Depending on the size of the problem, Mr. Dongarra said, it could take 1,000 laptops about 4.4 hours to solve. By contrast, a single desktop machine would take about 4,000 hours, while the fastest computer could solve it in 4.8 minutes.

With a thousand people and computers packed into the gym, heat could be a problem, but Mr. Miller said he was not worried because the gym has a high ceiling. After taking a shot at a speed record, the computer will be reorganized to serve as the host of a giant multiplayer video game tournament, he said.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360747)

Re:Article Text (-1, Troll)

dncsky1530 (711564) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361010)

Now only if those 1200 volunteers brought dual processor G5s they'd have a shot at the top 3 spot.

Final proof that niggers are fundamentally stupid (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361049)

Boycott hits 'final' polio push

Kano officials are still not happy with the vaccine
A huge push to eradicate polio is starting in 10 West African countries.

The immunisation drive, billed as the final effort to wipe out polio, will cover some 60m children in three days.

However, the northern Nigerian state of Kano is refusing to cooperate saying it will not take part until the vaccine has been confirmed as safe.

Nigeria accounts for a half of all new polio cases. Kano, where the anti-polio drive was halted last year, is at the centre of the disease's resurgence.

Kano suspended immunisations following reports by Muslim clerics that the vaccine was contaminated with an anti-fertility agent as part of a US plot to render Muslim women infertile.

At last something that qualifies (4, Funny)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360745)

At last, something that qualifies for the appelation "News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters".

Twice over, even.

Re:At last something that qualifies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360858)

While we are still on the topic of nerds, and at the risk of sounding stupid, whats a 2fer?

Re:At last something that qualifies (2, Informative)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360904)

2fer usually means "two for one". At least, that's how I interpret it.

as in, two birds with one stone, etc.

this just in... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360750)

... on bash.org:

<@amoeba> hey, what's the keyboard shortcut to discard the current buffer in emacs?
<@thatguy> do you have 12 fingers?

And just below that... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360756)

<pihlopase> Jesus Saves
<jbroome> pases to moses, SCOOOOORE

Fucking hilarious!

Rock on! (3, Funny)

lord_nightrose (652871) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360753)

I can provide two - a 1.5gHz P4 with 640MB of RAM and a 1.83gHz Athlon XP 2500+ with 512.

Of course, that would require me to turn them off, first... and I'm not sure if a massive multiplayer game is incentive enough for that.

Perhaps if they provide free drinks...

Re:Rock on! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360896)

yeah, at a jesuit college... good luck

YEAH, It's a Jesuit College smart guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360908)

I posted this above but nobody will read it unless it's in the subject line!

Printer friendly flash-free link (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360754)

Link [nytimes.com]

I'm there! (5, Insightful)

enigmatichmachine (214829) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360760)

so, I'm going, obviously, but my big question is, beyond benchmarking, are we going to actually COMPUTE anything?

Re:I'm there! (3, Funny)

illuminata (668963) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360803)

so, I'm going, obviously, but my big question is, beyond benchmarking, are we going to actually COMPUTE anything?

I can't say for sure. Let's hope for their sake that somebody brings a keyboard with a pi button on it, otherwise the whole damn thing will be a waste.

Re:I'm there! (5, Funny)

FisterBelvedere (754614) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360809)

The article clearly notes that the this will be used to estimate the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow. If there's enough time the organizers said they would try for both the African and European Swallow.

Re:I'm there! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360881)

This event is more about community-building and fun than about science. Most of the people attending probably aren't billing by the hour, but still: Who's going to leave their computer unattended? Is the computational power of a single CPU worth binding its owner's time for the duration of the event? A bare-bones system which meets the requirements can be built for less than $200 (ATX-case, board, AthlonXP, 512MB, no CD, no HD, PXE boot). How many flashmob supercomputers are you going to join before it occurs to you that you could have contributed that kind of node to a community-controlled permanent supercomputer instead? More cycles, less investment.

Reg. Free Link (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360761)

Same article, different place, thank you Google.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/161702_fl as hmob23.html

I'd make it clickable but the submission mechanism is being funky right now...

- Neil Wehneman

Re:Reg. Free Link (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360812)

Man that was tough ;) [nwsource.com]

Re:Reg. Free Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360825)

He's probably using IE to post to Slashdot. I've noticed MS's browser sometimes has hiccups when making POSTs.

Other Practical Uses are Bound to Surface... (5, Interesting)

baneblackblade (682424) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360763)

This doesn't sound like such a bad idea. seems like a lot of things could be done this way much faster and more efficiently. if this works we should look into other applications for the Flash Mob, like a rocket-building day for the X-Prize, or a random code-swap where a bunch of us get together and hand eachother a blank disc with the source code to something nifty on it to play with.

Re:Other Practical Uses are Bound to Surface... (1)

rholliday (754515) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360873)

That'd be cool. But what do you figure the percentage of viruses/trojans/worms that would be handed around, instead of cool homegrown apps?

Re:Other Practical Uses are Bound to Surface... (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361013)

If you're swapping blank discs, the only thing changing hands is fingerprints.


Re:Other Practical Uses are Bound to Surface... (1, Funny)

zangdesign (462534) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361050)

a random code-swap where a bunch of us get together and hand eachother a blank disc with the source code to something nifty on it to play with.

I was pretty much right alongside the whole idea until you typed that last bit. Having heard that, I'm thinking you might want to reexamine your plan a bit.

Laptops preferred? (4, Funny)

Brainix (748988) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360766)

But these [joe-ks.com] are so much cooler!

Watch out for those basketball players... (3, Funny)

xoran99 (745620) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360771)

Seriously, I'm worried that the very smallest mishap will bring this crashing down. If this works, it'd be the greatest thing ever, but if it doesn't, what a spectacular failure. It'd be interesting to count how many power cords are tripped over in the process.

What's amusing is that people are encouraged to bring laptops, and are then expected to play games that way...

Re:Watch out for those basketball players... (4, Informative)

GrodinTierce (571882) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360808)

What's amusing is that people are encouraged to bring laptops, and are then expected to play games that way...
Maybe you're trolling, but laptops can be perfectly serviceable game machines. They may not be able to match an absolute top-of-the-line desktop, but with DDR3200, 7200 RPM HD's, and 128MB graphics cards, they can be pretty competitive.

On a related note, I've never seen anyone on /. mention iBuyPower [ibuypower.com] . Their prices are $1000 less than Alienware, and probably a few hundred less than a Sager or Clevo. They really are in a (price) class of their own.

Check out one of their laptops [ibuypower.com] compared to an equivalent Alienware [alienware.com] .

Strikes me odd (1)

AllenChristopher (679129) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361073)

Sig: "Who sponsors your feelings?"

That's just what I was wondering.

SkyNet is coming!!! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360773)

The next thing you know, SkyNet will be born from this cluster! Especially considering this would take place on the Governator's state. ;)
Better get those EMPs ready though, I'm expecting robots from both Terminator and Matrix to come to life after a few days. ;)

Re:SkyNet is coming!!! (1, Funny)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360915)

If Skynet emerges from this project, expect it to do nothing more than camp spawns, wallhack, and bitch and moan about anyone who knows how to use a rocket launcher really well.

Re:SkyNet is coming!!! (1)

vanillacoke (646623) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360948)

Theres no skill in rocket launchers, sniper rifles OTOH.....

Re:SkyNet is coming!!! (1)

ultrasound (472511) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360978)

SkyNet is already Here....

UK backs PFI military satellite [bbc.co.uk] Skynet 5 is a huge 15-year project...

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

GO USF/DONS (5, Informative)

Zero_K (606548) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360774)

As a USF Student, I will be there with my laptop...All I have to say is GO DONS... The computer science department already has a cluster called the "keck cluster". Basically 64 nodes of dual P3 at 1GHz, with 1 Gig ECC Ram. There is talk about throwing the keck cluster into the flash mob cluster, but the biggest hurdle is appearntly laying the lines. Harney Science center is about 200 hundred yards from the gym where this is going to happen. And just FYI, they wanted it to be done on the 1st of april, but that didn't work out for some reason.

Whats the CD for? (4, Informative)

eadz (412417) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360779)

Cluster Knoppix of course!

Re:Whats the CD for? (1)

Raztus (745280) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360818)

Wait a second. I can see the threat of a released virus being stomped out by using Knoppix, but what about when the gaming begins? Are they just going to play what is available on the CD?

Imagine... (-1, Redundant)

lucas teh geek (714343) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360782)

Imagine a Beowolf cluster of.....


The first time ... NOT (5, Informative)

kb (43460) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360791)

Maybe somebody should point out that is not the first time somebody has done such a thing... back in 1998 there was a quite similar event at the University of Paderborn where 512 normal home PCs brought by people were connected for one night (the event was even broadcasted live on German TV). I have to admit that the "flash mob" element here is more predominant (back then people knew about this two weeks in advance), but it's definitely not the first attempt to create a spontaneous supercomputer with home machines. The cluster even made it into the Top250 IIRC. :)

More info... [heise.de]

Re:The first time ... NOT (2, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360921)

> Maybe somebody should point out that is not the first time somebody has done such
> a thing.

Yeah, but now the media has invented a stupid name for it. But yes, it is a little late 1990s, isn't it.

Why not combine it with wardriving? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360799)

Add a few thousand temporarily owned computers and the odds go up quite a bit towards getting on the top 500 unclassified supercomputers.

Re:Why not combine it with wardriving? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360953)

Key difference between cluster computing and grid computing: connection between the nodes. Grid computing works best with relatively low amounts of data on which much individual computation has to be performed. Clusters can handle bigger data and more interrelated computation.

Re:Why not combine it with wardriving? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361051)

You do realize that 802.11a can handle up to 54Mbit streams? That puts it fast enough for cluster computing.

The next step at scientific conferences (4, Interesting)

HermesHuang (606596) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360801)

Next thing you know they'll have a room at science conferences where people leave their laptops when they're not presenting so that protein folding or whatnot gets worked out on-the-spot.

Then we're gonna... (5, Funny)

wan-fu (746576) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360802)

From the FlashMob FAQ:
"How do I setup my own flashmob supercomputer? First and foremost, if you can come to FlashMob I -- there's no substitute for first hand experience. Otherwise, start here and get some experience running a one node flashmob. Then run two. Then run ten. Then take over the world."

We're gonna to do it on your computer, then two computers, then ten computers, then your neighborhood. And then we're gonna do it at USF, then California, and then we'll take over the world! YEEEEEEAAARRRRGGHHH!!!

Welcome (0, Troll)

DustinB (220805) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360805)

Well I for one welcome our new home-brewed PC overlord.

been there done this ... (5, Informative)

thehosh (755582) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360807)

guys from the CLOWN '98 [http://www.tlachmann.de/linux-cluster/] already tried this (even it was not the main goal). it was a temporary cluster for only one night, but to get into top500 you have to build a durable cluster.

Re:been there done this ... (1)

//rhi (15411) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360843)

see http://clown.gt.owl.de and http://cluster.gt.owl.de The thing that was fun doing was the "non-destructive install" - this was long before knoppix ;-) enjoy //rhi

Re:been there done this ... (2, Interesting)

kb (43460) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360895)

If "non-destructive" excludes the buggy 2.0.36 Adaptec SCSI drivers which fried a handful of AHA2940 controllers... yep :)

OK, here is the deal (5, Interesting)

heironymouscoward (683461) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360814)

I have an idea as how to make Wifi hotspots economical. Imagine the Matrix meets Slashdot - in our wifi hotspot, imagine a network that sucks the living cycles from a beowulf cluster of you!

Here is the deal... to use a hotspot you have to download a package that connects your computer to the local "grid". In exchange for network access the grid gets your spare CPU cycles. The best hotspots could leverage the power of hundreds of notebooks, and then resell this on the market as a computing resource commodity, for multiplayer games, data crunching, whatever.

Though... I'm running a high fever and this is perhaps the fruit of a deranged mind.

Re:OK, here is the deal (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360833)

It will never work. Clusters are bad enough bandwidth wise. Wifi will get destroyed. Processing power is relatively cheap and easy these days, but to really get a top50 you need to have a bandwidth solution (such as myrinet, or host of other proprietary things). Gigabit ethernet isn't even fast enough for a lot of applications.

It will never work? (4, Insightful)

heironymouscoward (683461) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360911)

I think the comment proposes distributed computing, not clustering. This is pretty reasonable wrt network consumption. (seti@home is not known for slowing down your net connection!)

It could actually work.

Re:OK, here is the deal (2, Insightful)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360913)

For notebooks, 100% cpu usage has a definite impact. Seriously reduces battery life.

Home Brew? (1)

pseudonaja (755586) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360831)

Did someone say Home Brew? gimme a few kegs of that!

Dorm Clusters (5, Interesting)

HFShadow (530449) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360832)

The next logical step I think would be for a university to provide free internet in dorm rooms, as long as you leave your system on and run a distributed computing client for them. The student saves $$ without any noticable problems on their side, the university gets free computing time, seems like a win win situation.

Powerbill ? (1)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360984)

Erm... who pays the powerbill ?

Re:Powerbill ? (1)

electrichamster (703053) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361024)

Most students in university halls leave their computers on 24/7 anyway...electricity is paid for by the uni.

Re:Dorm Clusters (4, Interesting)

joib (70841) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360988)

I don't think it will work. Reliability, bandwidth and latency tend to be the biggest problems with purpose built clusters. I imagine a setup like the one which you describe is going to be much worse in these aspects. Not to mention that most simulation software is written for homogeneous clusters, i.e. all the computers in the clusters should have an identical software environment, and the slowest node limits the speed of the entire calculation.

A similar but slightly less pie-in-the-sky thing would be to use the lab computers for batch processing during the night. Lab computers tend to be centrally administered and perhaps identical computers could be grouped together so that CPU cycles aren't wasted to the extent that they would be in a homogeneous environment.

Re:Dorm Clusters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361036)

Well, at the two universities where I've studied (Lulea University of Technology, Sweden and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) we had free internet access (10 mb) without having to run anything for the uni... And power was included in the (pretty cheap) rent to, so having my three computers on 24h was not a problem :)

Only had a laptop while in .sg though...

Whatever happened to proof reading? (3, Funny)

terremoto (679350) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360835)

They could perhaps put together a super spelling/grammar checker. From the web site...

>your computers' firepower

>Plus they'll be prizes

>the first of it's kind

>least one students thesis

>By in large

>software for it's problem set

>information on Flash Mob Computing computing

>couldn't finish it's job

>better at solving certain types of problems then grid computers

Re:Whatever happened to proof reading? (1, Funny)

mek2600 (677900) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360924)

The spellchecker will be the first thing they run on that cluster. You'd need a badass powerful system to sort through all those errors.

Robot Genitals Burning Your Retinas (3, Funny)

jms258 (569015) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360849)

In Soviet Russia, Supercomputer mob flashes YOU!!

Depending on what the verb 'to flash' means. (1)

drosselmeyer (707244) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360887)

Depending on the meaning of the word 'to flash', I think this could well be arranged. :)

Welcome to March 2001! (-1, Offtopic)

coopaq (601975) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360850)

Minimum requirements are 1.3 GHZ Pentium III/AMD equivalent.

Ahhh... the PIII 1.3ghz. The last computer chip people
got when geeks had money to buy computers.
Before all those layoffs and outsourcings.

They have the same event in India
right now, cept their min requirments are
Athlon 64 3400+. Must be nice to be on
the cutting edge.

why does /. tempt me to right such things?

Indians (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360865)

Indians could do this cheaper

When you get home (2, Funny)

Illserve (56215) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360879)

Take that hard drive out and scrub it with a brillo pad.

A better name for this project might be Flash Petri Dish.

Re:When you get home (1, Funny)

PowerBert (265553) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361056)

That has a ring to it.

Flash Petri Dish. Instant Culture.
It could hit the charts somewhere between SARS and Chicken Flu.

Tough one to call... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360885)

I really think 1200 is overkill for this. Take a look at the Top500 list and see how badly all the Gigabit Ethernet systems scale: most of them have worse than 50% efficiency and that's with only 1/4 the number of nodes. Now cut the interconnect bandwidth by a factor of TEN, cause Apple is pretty much the only company putting Gig-E standard in their (pro) computers, and it seems to me that hundreds of people are going to be sent packing because adding them to the cluster would actually make it SLOWER.

Re:Tough one to call... (3, Informative)

unixbob (523657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360936)

Dell have been shipping their poweredge servers with gigabit ethernet as standard for nearly 18 months now

Re:Tough one to call... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361011)

I bet we'll be seeing quite a few of those at flashmob supercomputing events...

SETI@HOME is #1 at 63 TeraFLOPS (4, Interesting)

billstewart (78916) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360962)

SETI@HOME isn't on the Top500 list, because it's not running Linpack, but according to its stats page, it's been running at about 63 TeraFLOPS today, which is comfortably #1 on the list. So this should be fun...

Re:SETI@HOME is #1 at 63 TeraFLOPS (1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361084)

Such a waste of good computer power...

Good marketing but still shoddy science.

Re:Tough one to call... (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360972)

Intel has a 10GigE controller and it has begun sampling the industry's first 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapter that fits in a standard PCI-X slot. Model # is 82597EX if you want to look it up :)

So many geeks, so few outlets... (2, Funny)

Cerberus9 (466562) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360928)

I wonder how many extension cords they'll populate before they flip the circuit breaker.

1200 laptops could be a big problem (5, Insightful)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360935)

Given how long this will take to set up, battery power isn't a viable option. Still, using a laptop is a pretty good idea. If you compare a laptop drawing 65 watts to a desktop drawing 300 at full CPU utilization, with a knoppix CD spinning at full speed, plus monitor power, you see that they gain nearly an order of magnitude in energy efficiency, though this is probably offset a bit by the lower clock speed on the laptop processors.

Now, let's generously assume that each laptop is drawing half an amp at 110 volts. At 1200 laptops, that's 600 amps. The circuit breakers in my house trip at 15 amps, but I'll generously assume this facility has 50 amp wall circuits. That would still require 12 entire circuits, plus a safety factor, nevermind all my generous back-of-envelope assumptions.

Okay, so assuming they've got a lot of extension cords, now we just have to deal with space. Let's assume, again, generously, that each person + computer + associated infrastructure needs only one square meter of floor space. This makes the space requirement equivalent to a 30m x 40m area, or about two World Cup soccer fields. I hope they've got one hell of a big gym.

Heat is, by comparison, a relatively minor issue. If the facility can handle a crowd that large, adding their low-power laptops is minor. People tend to dissipate about 100 watts anyway, so the laptops won't be the most significant source of difficulty.

It sounds like a very daunting task they have ahead of them. I hope they've already gotten these problems figured out, because this project sounds really cool.

Re:1200 laptops could be a big problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360955)

Knoppix CD won't keep spinning once the pages are cached (probably a few dozen seconds).

Re:1200 laptops could be a big problem (2, Insightful)

Lost Race (681080) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361093)

I don't know what the maximum power draw of a fast notebook at 100% CPU is, but I do know that a desktop is nothing like 300W. More like 90-120W -- sans monitor of course, since a cluster would never have one monitor per node. And that's a real full-power CPU, not the throttled down "mobile" version. You simply cannot put a 70W CPU in a notebook, it would melt. So notebook CPUs have to be slower even on AC power than standard CPUs. Notebooks are not going to give a very big computron/watt advantage, if any.

30x40 meters doesn't sound like an unusually large gym. (Soccer fields are quite a bit larger than 30x40.) University gymnasiums can generally hold more than 1200 spectators, not even including the playing areas.

I'd be very surprised if they hadn't considered power requirements. Part of the experiment might be to see how long the "supercomputer" can run on its own batteries, though for logistical ("cat-herding") reasons that's likely to fail -- half the nodes will be out of juice before the other half are ready to start. Most likely they really do have 600 amps available in the facility.

700Mhz or Bust (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360956)

So my 700Mhz T-Bird ain't good enough for you, eh? Go Fuck Yourselves, I didn't want to participate anyway.

Can't wait (5, Funny)

mstefanus (705346) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360958)

I can't wait for the next Slashdot headline on this. I'm imagining...
"Flash Mob: 13 people turned up. No GigaFLOPS, just a flop"

New York Times Random Login Generator (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360990)

All Slashdot postings linking to NYTimes articles should always also link to this url:

http://www.majcher.com/nytview.html [majcher.com]

A javascriptlet there will allow you to generate a totally random login for viewing the article. Every Slashdotter which accesses the article should create a new random login in turn, filling their database with useless random login id's that are only used once and then forgotten about.

Erm, well good luck....you'll need it... (5, Insightful)

grahamlee (522375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361003)

The goal is to run Linpack and "build a home-brew computer powerful enough to be added to a list of the world's 500 fastest computers."

Yes, but you require a minimum of a 100 Base-T connection. You want to create one of the world's top 100 supercomputers using Ethernet? Good luck in beating that latency, guys....next time, see if you can get a flash mob of infiniband vendors to come along for the ride.

Re:Erm, well good luck....you'll need it... (5, Informative)

thesupraman (179040) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361032)

Exactly, speaking as someone who has run CFD code on smallish clusters, 100MB ethernet falls flat on it's face at about 20 machines, and those were dual 500MHz machines - it will be worse with faster ones! (to preempt some silly comments, CFD code and linpack have a LOT in common)

And that was using specially tuned low latency ethernet drivers and TCP stack under linux.
These guys have very very little chance of doing anything useful at all - which is a bit of a pity, but perhaps if they did just a little research first..

I wonder if they even have network switches that will efficiently route 1200 nodes.. let alone a decent plan to interconnect them.

The first step would be to use 1Gbit or faster concentration to some very smart switches to at least cut down the network blockage a little.. It won't help with the terrible latency, but will give them a little headroom at some vector lengths.

They will also suffer terribly from the differing speeds of nodes - I've yet to see a solution for linpack that distributes efficiently over a wide speed range of machines.

Of course, I bet in the end they just come up with a great SETI score, or something similar - something that would actually scale at all on a cluster like this.

Oh well, I wish them luck anyway.

What, no macs? (3, Interesting)

morganjharvey (638479) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361016)

Minimum requirements are 1.3 GHZ Pentium III/AMD equivalent or better with 256MB of RAM
Perhaps I'm missing some fundamental requirement of cluster comptuing, but why wouldn't macs work? I'm sure a 1.25 ghz G4 could hold its own with the above mentioned. It can also run linux. College campuses seem to be a hotbed of mac users, so it seems that they would want to tap this. Does clustering require that all nodes be of the same architecture?

Re:What, no macs? (2, Insightful)

the3mcsand1dj (755599) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361055)


I'm not sure the SOFTWARE aspect of this "Super Computer" but, uh... maybe the programmers are coding this in a Microsoft language...

Mentioned before is SETI@home (software distributed amongst many clients) and another (I'm too lazy to scroll back up and read). This "Psuedo-Supercomputer" aspect is mearly a distributed software application which shares data over a network. All hosts must run a program to "Link" them together in such a manner that they distribute the computing. Therefore, the platform of which this client is programmed for would be the limiting factor in the sucessfull implementation of this "SuperComputer". (eventually they may write clients for other platforms... but it sounds like they have settled on the PC for now).

Plus, they are Macs... heh. (what I mean by this is that I have an underlying contempt for something I can't rip open and reassemble the guts of, and Macs are much too "User Friendly" to properly "fix" in this manner.)

Hopefully this is coming off as humerous and not offensive, both of which I am capable of in a somewhat unpredictable manner, but in all actuality, it's probably just me rambling...

Origins of "flash mob" (5, Interesting)

archilocus (715776) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361035)

Interesting term "flash mob". The first time I encountered it was in the writing of sci-fi author, Larry Niven. In some of his series personal teleportation becomes ubiquitous giving rise to the 'flash mob'.

When a news broadcast reports a certain kind of story (riot, fire, etc) people start to teleport into watch the fun. The news reports the growing mob and before long it reaches critical mass and turns into a real riot as people take advantage by teleporting in and doing a quick bit of looting.

I'm not sure if Larry originated the term though ? Anyone know an ealier source ? Is it a 'real' phenomenon ?

Electrical power could be an issue... (4, Funny)

TitanBL (637189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361080)

Bullshit, eveyone just bring a powerstrip and 'daisy chain' those bad boys....


the3mcsand1dj (755599) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361089)

Well, not exactly... but kinda.

Since I was a small boy, I have been facinated with computers... I researched paralell processor computers (by this I mean that I asked my Computer Engineer uncle about them) and quickly thought about alternate interfaces for "linking" processors, other than building custom mother boards capable of distributing computing power amongst multiple processors... and was quickly discouraged by the lack of comunication speed inherent in the options available at the time (namely: Serial, Paralell, ISA ... etc.).

And then, what's interesting... is that I was JUST thinking about this the other day .. and told my friend Kevin about my idea that I had when I was a kid... and said "I want to design a software or maybe a type of "add-on" card that would allow you to connect multiple computers together to form a type of super-computer".

Then I log in today, and see this headline! Blink a few times and read it again, then read the article and don't quite understand it and then realize that, although neat, it's not that cool the way they are doing it...

First, even 10/100 LAN is a bit slow to properly transfer data at rates that would be condusive to properly handling large amounts of data. I would liken this method to a Muliti-Processor Xeon motherboad with a 66mhz front side bus. Yes, the processors are super-fast, but what's the point if you can't send them the data or receive it fast enough to use them?

Second, if all they are doing is connecting computers, what do they plan to acheive? From the article I see no plans for organizing the computers into "Pre-Processing", "Processing" and "Clean-up" groups in the true form of a Parallel Processor computer...

And Third, I thought of it first... haha

Anyway, I still wish I could be there to see what happens and how it goes... I hope the benchmark tests will be properly designed to include both small and large datasets and sufficiently complex procedures...
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