Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Current list of supported Projects

So having spent computing time on a large number of projects, I am now trying to cut back and focus my computing energies.  So my current list of supported projects is:

Project (resource share)
EDGeS@home (20)
Einstein@home (100)
eon2 (100)
GPU Grid (100)
Poem@home (40)
World Community Grid (100)
Yoyo@home (100)

Of course these are all projects I feel are quite interesting from a scientific point of view.  Though one thing I will say is not having much more knowledge of biology than what I learned Freshman year of high school, the science behind all the protein based projects ( SIMAP, Poem, and some subprojects of World Community Grid), is way behind my understanding, but I keep on being reassured that it's very important and fascinating research.

In trying to keep with Atlantic team tradition, I am attempting to more evenly distribute my credits/ crunching time between projects.   The problem though is, my GPU far out paces my three CPU's combined, in terms of performance.  So while the project I want to support the most with my GPU is GPU Grid in part because it can't be crunched by any of my CPUs, but when you look at the badge showing the credit earned, in basically 2 months of crunching my GPU by itself has generated over 75% of my credits.

So I am trying to rely more heavily on my project manage BAM, to see if through using it I could possibly more evenly balance out my credit distribution.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

BOINC on Raspberry Pi

Oh my, oh my, I am gonna try! Alright that's enough of the rhyming. So intrigued by technology, and fun ways to play around with items, and while not using them letting them crunch BOINC projects. I am going to experiment with crunching boinc projects on a Raspberry Pi. There will be a dedicated page at the top of the blog used to catalogue my effort, which will likely be coupled with many dedicated blog posts.

 Currently the page consists of some concerns and the discussions about the projects that would be able to run on the Raspberry Pi.  It will also be continuously updated as I find more resources and information pertaining to this endeavour. Again this is mostly something to tickle my fancy, as the processor is not all that powerful, and the GPU is not OpenGL enabled.

Though if I am having fun, and I can get these things successfully working, I may decide to really have some fun and try and set up a Bramble ( a raspberry pi cluster). Though that will completely test my technological abilities, and eat a lot of almost non-existent free time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Always Check Your Machines

I feel like I have taken for granted the fact that computers have gotten to the point where they basically just work, and just work wonderfully at least 90% of the time.  Well I recently got back from a trip to my parents in which I had my tower turned off the whole time. One of the first things I did upon returning was turn the machine on, which is basically set up to not require any other assistance from me besides that.  Not that I care about credits but 2 nights later and there seems to be little to no projects, especially no big projects that should have found their way through from my GPU.

Getting slightly concerned, I decided to pull up the computer and look at what is going on.  I was greeted upon opening BOINC with the following message next to the GPU Task: "GPU MISSING."  I am not entirely as two the cause, I have two guesses based on what had been going on.

Guess 1:  I am not absolutely sure about this but there could be something weird in how BOINC handles expired tasks for GPU's.  I had imagined it would handle it much like it handles any other expired task, abort it, or just run it to completion and continue crunching it to completetion.

Guess 2: The much more likely of the two, but still somewhat confusing in how I think computers work ( most of the time).  There was apparently an update for my NVIDIA drivers.  My guess is upon having the update register, even though I did not run the Ubuntu updater yet, it possibly caused my GPU to register as Missing from BOINC's perspective.

In either case running the updates, aborting the expired project, and restarting caused the problem to go away.  Has anyone had something similar happen? If yes, do you have any better idea of what the cause was?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hard Drives

Hard drives are the part of a computer that really drives me nuts.  While their are far more important parts of a computer, the hard drive seems to be the essential component of a computer that just calls it quits like a prima donna drama queen of computer components.  While I as a rule try to avoid dragging my computer from place to place unless absolutely necessary ( as a student when I spend time at a library it is almost always without my computer), just to help the life of the hard drive be extended that much longer.

Though still to this day on any of my computers so far the only components I have ever needed to replace are hard drives, batteries, or power bricks/ cords.  Which while batteries and power cords are a pain, they are an annoyance based on the frustration that involves needing to re-install everything that you use regularly on a brand new hard drive, most importantly of which is the operating system.

There has been an inkling feeling in the back of my head, sort of a persistent minor worry always in the back of my mind, though next to no real practical way for me myself to test the thought.  I have no question if the persistent use of my hard derive albeit somewhat minimal use by BOINC played a roll in the death of my drive.  But sadly hard drives just sometimes go bad, and when they go bad it can lead to major headaches.  I am writing this from a machine on its last legs with its current parts.  As such it is no longer crunching BOINC projects, and I am trying to decide to what role I will use boinc on this machine as long as it remains my primary machine.

Like I said sometimes drives just go bad, so I will hope to continue using boinc when I get my new hard drive, but if that one also fails in about 2 years, as long as this machine is my primary machine ( for day to day activities), I may have to suspend crunching on it just to avoid these headaches.

Monday, August 6, 2012

MSL Curiosity Rover

Breaking with the general theme of this blog, but still incredibly related to science an human understanding of our universe.  I would like to congratulate the MSL Curiosity rover team, on all their incredibly hard work and successful landing of the rover on mars.  I did not expect watching the feed would be as exiting as it was, nor prior to watching the feed did I realize exactly how involved and complicated getting this rover to land on  Mars really was/ is.

To try and connect this back to BOINC.  If Curiosity shows that mars was once able to support life, does this launch a push in the World to find adequate and successful terra forming techonolgy/ science?  If yes, I imagine there would be substantial amounts of number crunching needed, especially given the incredibly complex chemical and biological processes going on, I can not help but think they may need to employ the use of network computing grids such as BOINC.

If such a project were to emerge, I myself would not hesitate to add it to my list of supported projects.  While for the preservation of the Human race I can not wait for us to expand beyond just our system of planets.  But before we could imagine even accomplishing that, I imagine the first step would be getting a sustainable and viable human colony on Mars.

What are your thoughts?

Again Congratulations to the MSL Curiosity rover team!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dream Machines

One of the few magazines I subscribe to is MaximumPC, and I got around to reading part of the latest issue, which is this Dream Machine issue.  I could not help but imagine how incredible such a machine would be or crunching BOINC projects, though at about 14-15 thousand USD, it is definitely completely out of my price range.   It used an 8 core Xeon chip, which some googling indicates that it should have Intel's hyper-threading technology, meaning it can process 16 tasks at once.  In addition to that it has two double core GPU's making it a quad SLI set up.

The GPU configuration raises quite a few issues in terms of crunching.  Some googling seems to indicate that the later versions of BOINC disable SLI while in use, so each GPU should run independently.  Though I am not sure if this is true for the somewhat recent Dual GPU video cards.  Even with all my reading on those, I am still not sure if both of the GPUs on one card, could in fact operate completely independently of each other.  Either way I am sure as they are top of the line video cards ( though definitely aimed more towards gaming use) they can crunch away incredibly effectively to no end.

While for any intents and purposes I would want to use for the system, nearly all of it would be excessive, except or maybe half the RAM and the liquid cooling.  Though I have always been incredibly skeptical of liquid cooling, while I know it cools far more effectively, I am just incredibly worried about a leak and basically ruining the entire system.  But the items such as 12 TB or Hard drives, not counting the storage in the form of SSD's.

While I have started, and am working on building up what I have dubbed my "Technology Play Fund" it had been completely wiped out when getting all the necessary items for the Optiplex 745.  Though one push in this Dream Machine issue is the fact that technology is advancing so fast, and a fixed performance level is always becoming less and less expensive, that its not uncommon for some key components and high priced performance pieces to only 4 or 5 years later to not just be affordable, but practically standard.  So in 5 years will a good number of BOINC crunchers have similar machines?

While I do not quite have the technology background to do this, seeing how effective a video card can be at computing/ crunching these BOINC projects, my Ideal computer may be a cluster type system in which each  board has one or two graphics cards.  Better yet is this type of system could be modular allowing it to be expanded by adding new boards one by one, to increase its computing power.

What is your Dream Machine?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Being a dedicated Cruncher is not free

All the joy that came from releasing my first few batches of projects on my tower complete with CUDA enabled graphics card, basically came to a near grinding halt when my utility bill came at the end of July.  While not outrageous, and not un-affordable, it lead me to step back and consider a few things.

First things first, while the bill was almost double what I expected, I can not blame it all directly on the crunching, as here just like the rest of the country there was an outrageous heat wave throughout most of the month of July, causing my air conditioner to run excessively.  But at the same time having computers crunching projects is counter productive to an air conditioner.  Something I always try and consider, for instance in the summer my tea drinking is mostly teas that require less boiling of the kettle, which is basically a heat radiator that serves another purpose.  I also avoid using the oven when possible, and when I do use the oven I turn my air conditioner off, until well after the food is done cooking and the oven has been off awhile.

In that vein, I have decided during the summer I will keep an eagle eye on the weather, with often pulled up on my machine.  My goal is to turn off my tower when the outside temperature is over 85  F.   I will also keep it off on days that the night time low temperature is not below 70 F.  Both of these are aimed at keeping my AC from running like mad, and saving me a little bit of green.

 The positive side to this, is gas is usually more expensive than electricity.  As such in the winter months, I may view crunching the same way I view my tea drinking, while it is a use of energy, the heat helps heat my apartment, causing my furnace to run less, allowing me to get a little extra satisfaction out of the money spent on that energy.

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