Friday, October 19, 2012

My biggest issue with Linux

Do not get me wrong, I love Linux, and I have found a way to get to use basically any program I want to use from Windows on Linux.  But for a cruncher, whose biggest work horse, non GPU processor is located in a laptop with serious heat issues, Linux has one big flaw.  That flaw is its lack of tools to be able to effectively manage heat.

 When I ran windows I relied heavily on a TThrottle program which would automatically throttle down your cpu if the temperature exceeded a certain pre-set amount.  It worked wonderfully, and if I was ever doing something that caused the computer to run extremely laggy, I knew I had to suspend boinc to get through what I was doing.   Otherwise there were little to no problems.

Somehow the Linux community feels no need to develop such a tool, even doing googling for such a piece of software leads to more people talking about it being a hardware error, or poor computer design.  But then again, if its happening under normal use, it likely is one of those errors.  But so few people think about the heat BOINC generates, because so few people crunch boinc, and next to none of them do so on laptops.

It also occurs to me that another reason why they would never think about such a program is that they care so much about performance, that they do not realize that even when you machine is constantly under a mild cpu throttle, for most things that people do on their computers, with the exception of viewing videos for machines with integrated graphics, you see next to no noticeable side effects.  But a pure machine performance purist would consider the fact that for that one program start up, which would have spiked the temp higher than your settings, that it is actually slowed down by fractions of a second.

This makes my biggest issue the fact that even with everything I am trying to do to keep the temp down on my machine, even taking it apart and cleaning out the dust a few months ago, I still face somewhat regular heat issues, on this laptop, which I honestly think was giving too much CPU  for the design, as it does a horrible job getting the heat out of the plastic case.   While my old laptop the base would feel like a stove top that has been turned on, but it never over heated once, because all the heat found its way out of the case in a hurry.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Milkyway@home on Raspberry Pi (FAILED)

Tuesday Oct 9th:

Found out yesterday that there are a few other projects that offer files which you yourself can compile to customize it for your own system.  These even work on ARM processors ( the big hurdle towards crunching boinc projects on the Raspberry Pi). One of which is Milky way @ home, so I got to work on it last night, only to realize somehow the whole boinc client and manager pair was FUBAR.  After trouble shooting, googling, and searching even more, I realized that the authorization configuration file was to blame.

Through trying to get things to work, somehow I wound up with copies of the authorization file all over the place on my Pi.  And the one everyone said was important oddly seemed to be blank.  ( Hard to have a password in a file, when there is nothing in the file!)  So I did a complete wipe of everything boinc related on my Pi, then reinstalled the client and manager.   This time it was able to connect to the client host, so success on that front.

Then I attached to Milkyway@home, and got the usual message that my arm-linux-unknown type CPU was not supported.  I was not shocked, I had this next trick up my sleeve.

sudo apt-get install boinc-app-milkyway

Running that in the terminal and installing the source code for the milkyway project. I went back to the GUI manager, and clicked update on Milkyway@home.  Going to the event log one of my best friends when trouble shooting BOINC, I see a red message and my heart sinks.  But I read the message, and got very excited all of sudden, it was not about an unknown and unsupported processor.  It was that I had a lack of disk space to download a task for the project.  Changed settings, and I still was slightly short, so I cleared out a few Raspberry Pi programs I have no intent in using for awhile, the big one that cleared quite a bit of space was "Scratch" sorry MIT but if I am going to code I am going to relearn a far more substantial programming language such as C++, Java, or Python.

Hit the update button again, hopped over to the event log and saw this glorious message :  "got 1 new tasks."  While it gives an ETA of 36 hours or so, not shocking due to the hardware on the Raspberry Pi.
The Bad:

Things seemed good I watched it crunch for 10-20 minutes with no issues.  Switched off the screen and went to work on other items.  Checked back a few hours later, and it said that it had only crunched for "1 hour"  thinking that's not right, I checked if the raspberry pi was going to sleep or some other sort of standby, found no such sign.  But in the event log there was a troubling set of notices.  It seemed for nearly 10 minutes, every 30 seconds or so the task would get reset.  Then after that 10 minutes the task would abort as failed.

While I can not know this for certain, it is my belief that why the project curnches fine for roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes, is I believe that is when the project reaches its first check point.  When it hits that check point, it runs into a bunch of errors, and freaks out so to speak.

So while I had a lot of hope, they were dashed as while I can get projects and have them start crunching with Milkyway @ home, I have not been able to get one to complete.  ( I ran it for a half a day, and each task it got ran into the same issues).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cold Weather Joys

I have seen a few articles, about how many large IT companies, such as Facebook, that need massive server farms to keep their "product" available to everyone all the time, have started building quite a few of these sever farms far far north in which the weather almost year round acts as natural cooling for the servers, while the heat from is used to heat the offices of the workers in those facilities.   Now that it is starting to get cold in Michigan I am really starting to understand, believe,and embrace that idea.

While when I started running the tower in the middle of the summer, when my electicity bill nearly doubled.  Though sadly there only seems to be 12 months of usage history on the utility companies website, so I only know it is double what my electric usage was in the spring, fall and winter months, and I can not compare it to the previous year when I would have been running the AC consistently.  But now that it is mid to late fall, even with a few rather cold days, I have yet to notice my heater running once even though my Thermostat has been set to heat for the past 3 weeks.

While based on last night, I am sure my furnace will run when winter fully sets in as yesterday with a High of 47F and a night time low of 33F even with the technology running all night long in my little BOINC farm.  And this morning my place was quite cold, but still not quite cold enough to prompt the furnace to kick on, I have hopes that while the electricity usage will remain up, the gas use which often cost the most will be down, and down considerable.

So oddly enough it may seem that the extra electricity costs may help me save money on natural gas costs this winter.  That is very good news.  Now if only I could move to a place where its 40s-60s year round, and get lots of machines.

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