Saturday, December 28, 2013

Experiences with BOINC for Android

Let me preface this with, for the most part I am happy with BOINC for android devices, having used on my nexus 7 ( old not the new one released in 2013) for half a year or so now.  Doing this really makes me happy I abandoned my BOINC on raspberry pi quest, as on the nexus with just as powerful if not more so processor as the raspberry pi.  So to explain that last comment a brief discussion on a noticeable technological difference between ARM and the ubiquitous personal computing x86 CPUs.

ARM processors are loved because they use far less energy than x86, not to mention are more cost effective to make.  This though comes at a terrible cost.  From a mathematical perspective, if the integers were the only numbers we have, ARM processors would be the leading processor technology in every device.  This is because ARM processors are just about as good as x86 processors when dealing with integers. The trouble comes from decimals/ floating point numbers. ARM processors are horribly bad in comparison to x86 processors when dealing with those numbers in calculations.

Now I do not claim to be any expert on the calculations done on any BOINC project, but I can not recall the last time I have done any science problem and not had to use decimals.  As such these calculations take longer on ARM processors than x86 even with somewhat comparable speeds quoted.

That being said as someone who loves being able to use his tablet exactly when it is needed, I often have it charging when it is not and use, and fairly often when it is in use as well. So it can work freely doing tasks most of the day/ week / month /year....

For those getting started with BOINC this can greatly propel them forward in points, and make them feel like they are making great progress. But a downside to being a serious cruncher is that my main machine could bring in more cobblestones in a single day than the nexus 7 could do in an entire year of nonstop running.   Not to mention this still touches upon my last post, I am not convinced that there are the projects, and especially the willpower to code, to bring in all these additional devices, with limited individual ability, but massive collective ability.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Is Boinc losing its ability to draw projects?

This is both a post to raise awareness, and a question that I am not sure I know the answer.  Long story short, I realized how lopsided mine, and the Atlantic teams credits were recently, and I wondered if there was anything I could do to throw a little spice into the mix by adding another project.

That is where the issue came in, besides WCG and GPUgrid, there seem to be few to no projects that offer somewhat wide base appeal and focus on humanitarian issues with mass appeal.  As much as I am a fan of all sciences, you must admit, in terms of questions we need answers to now to vastly improve the lives of everyone on the planet, are mostly medically or biologically based.  Which seems to have few projects out there (few scientists with the know how/ time/ funding to do so?).  Moreover even WCG seems to be starving for projects and if anyone could attract top talent I'd imagine it would be them.  World Community Grid is down to 6 projects, 3 current and 3 intermittent.

Moreover the power of GPU computing has been recognized, almost to the point that it is almost making supporting GPU computing on any single project a self defeating task, in the sense that the people willing to complete the tasks will finish them in a fraction of the time it seems to talk your team to find a new item to study, then code the project for the GPU tasks. In fact it appears the only projects that can sustain GPU tasks either have a dedicated team of researchers/ programmers designed to churn out item after item after item as part of their funded research, or are actually tied to something that has such a massive amount of test cases that they can be considered near inexhaustible. (Scanning space for a given items.)

So is this lack of projects that *matter* and to a larger extent projects in general that there are currently as opposed to just a few years ago, a sign that the ability for BOINC or BOINC like systems are not effective?  Or could it in fact be that they are actually too effective?  I do know, and have realized that in large quite a few people lose faith in BOINC after awhile, I mean for one look at BOINCstats and just look at how many thousands of thousands of people you can flip through from the bottom of the ranks in which a majority of people listed have zero credits listed for the past month and an average credit that is very low or zero.

I for one certainly hope more projects are in the works-- in general, or at the very least for World Community Grid.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Balancing credits...

... sometimes it is basically impossible.
Especially if you have a GPU set to crunch GPUgrid tasks.

Basically nearly every single GPUgrid result returned is worth insanely more credits than the amount that 3 cores of my CPU and minimal credits from my Nexus 7 contribute.   Take is as you like, but you must definitely get used to seeing credit distribution pie charts like:

But in the effort of saving a bit of cash, after having my main rig offline for a month, and viewing that power bill, vs, my most recent bill in which it ran for an entire month, it is about a $15-$20 difference in the cost of my utility bill.  So needing to update it badly, I am pulling things offline for about a week, hopefully allowing the weather to cool off again before turning it on.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Good and the Bad for August

I will admit, I have stopped following my stats on boinc very closely, and I am incredibly sure I have fallen a great deal recently.  Especially as I am not sure how many/ if any days in August my main machine has run.  Honestly 2 of my machines were taken off line from crunching, to be replaced by an android tablet when ever it happens to be plugged in ( which is less than I would like).  The tablet of course pales in crunching ability compared to even my oldest computer that I have since taken off line.

So the bad for August will be dismal numbers, and dismal contribution to science through the abilities of my computers.  The good?  Well if you can consider this good, I managed to save over $30 dollars  this past month due not crunching, and other efforts I have undertaken to conserve energy in my household.  While I know that is not all my computer, as August was quite a cool month, and for quite a few weeks my AC barely ever ran.

When things cool off for the winter I will feel far better about having my machine run 24/7 again.  So to my team members, I apologize and it will hopefully only be a bit longer till the credits start raining again.

Monday, July 22, 2013

BOINC on Android!

I will admit after the Raspberry Pi frustrations I was skeptical about feasibly running any projects on any non x86 processor.  Though through all the endless searching for how to get things working properly on the Raspberry Pi I did come across a few groups working hard and getting decent results getting certain BOINC Projects to run on Android Devices.  I did not give it much thought at the time, because I had no Android Devices.

Fast Forward to today, having somewhat recently come into possession of a Nexus 7 through a promotional offer with my TV and Internet Provider, I have been enjoying the wonderfulness of Android devices as my first tablet backed by a good sized and fairly well rounded App store.  (Sorry nook, did you ever think that is why you can't really survive?)  While a few times the thought has crossed my mind that I should look into setting up BOINC on the Nexus 7 mostly I wrote it off as a bit too busy for that distraction right now.

Then I got a wonderful email from World Community Grid. With a Subject line of "World Community Grid: Now on Android!"  You can bet I did a little dance on the inside.  Now it took some time for me to realize WCG does not have their own Android App but rather there is a BOINC app available with a handful of compatible projects available for you to select.  I have not had much time to play with it yet, but some initial positive opinions.

There are two great power conscious options available.  One is the one that I would have been shocked and almost considered removing the app right away if it was not there, and FYI it seems to be preset to not be selected.  That is: "Run while on Battery."   Like I said this one is automatically not checked, meaning it won't run while you do not have it plugged into the wall.  This is a great thing because my Nexus already has enough little things running in the background where if I don't power it off, but simply let it sleep, 4 days later the battery is nearly dead, or completely dead, if it is not plugged in.

The second nice option, and I am sure it has a reason beyond just nice to have it is:  "Do not run when battery is below: XX%."  While this may mostly be aimed at being tied with the above option, this one is automatically set to 90%, which seemed a bit high, but call it suggestion bias, I figured I likely shouldn't bump it lower than 70% in case it actually flirts with that line by drawing so much power.

Either the nexus has a far more powerful processor than I thought, or they have special tasks in either size or crunching needs tailored to ARM processors, as in the time it took me to write this post ( about 20 minutes so far), I downloaded 4 tasks, and 1 is 7.5% complete and another is 5.5% complete.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oh Yeah, it is Summer

While I don't even closely watch my Statistics any more, if anyone happens to keep a close eye on my statistics, they will likely see that for the last week and a half they have been rather dire.  By that I mean I am not sure if I have completed a single task in the last week and a half.   The honest truth is I shut everything down to go on a short holiday for July 4th, and never started everything back up.  Now it is not hard to start things up, heck it basically is a single push of a button.

Why have I had such a mental delay in starting things up?

Well I have had a strong focus lately to get my budget back on track ( between the move and getting settled along with a new improperly gained sense of entitlement on a few things now that I have a job that pays me substantially more than I did as a Teaching Assistant)  has been absolutely horrid.  So I am trying to scare myself into straightening things out for a few months at least through my brothers wedding to no longer be living beyond my means, and get back to living well beneath them.

What does this really mean?  Well for one it has meant less tea, and less crunching of boinc projects on all of my computers.  I find all of those far easier to justify when the weather is cold out side.  As if I am paying to heat my place anyway, I might as well have a few things generating heat that are doing good things for society.  In the summer though it feels like I am using up even more money crunching because not only are the machines heating up my place through their use of electricity, but I also am using electricity to cool the very same rooms that my machines are heating up...

I hope to start up my tower again soon so I can start making progress on tasks again, but I am not making any promises and it may turn into something that I only run at night when it is cooler outside.  Decisions... decisions, why must they often face off against each other?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

May Update

I am thinking of implementing a somewhat regular set of updates just to make sure I have some regular posts to make on this blog.  I am trying to echo the Atlantic Team blogs lead on this by hopefully making them short and sweet but sharing interesting tid bits about what has happened with my mini farm in the past month.

I am not sure if this happened in May, but I think it happened in May.  In the hustle of the move and new job I did not get a chance to check stats regularly, but I now have a plethora of Silver badges in the World Community grid ( I know I need to update the ones shown on this blog).  But even more amazing in a little over a year of crunching for the World Community grid I have surpassed the 2 years of computing time dedicated to World Community grid.   I heard they are retiring some projects, and hopefully starting some new ones, which is good as I feel I got on several of them in their last days and even though I am set to crunch everything almost equally a few of them I rarely ever see a task from them.

The only other project I am really crunching at this time is GPU Grid, which hopefully has settled things down, as they had a few bugs in the early months of the year trying to upgrade some new software and coding techniques into their tasks.  I do not crunch GPU grid for the nice bonuses they give for quick turn around times, but for the size of some of these tasks, and knowing I am not getting the biggest bonus, I am still amazed at these massive tasks. I mean over 100k credits in a single task.  (Granted it takes my nVidia GTX 640 about 30-36 hours for each one, but still!)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I am still alive and Crunching!

It has been over a month since I last posted, and let me just say life has happened.  While crunching has more or less continued besides for a week of down time last week.   My graduate studies in mathematics have come to a halt, and I am now gainfully employed working as a developer on the database side of things.   What does this mean in the long run?  I really do not know, maybe once I get my finances back on track from all the cash I have haemorrhaged in the past month related to the move, I may be able to start saving for a really nice top notch crunching system.

Moving the systems seemed almost painless, though AdamBuild001 my very first self built computer is in quite a massive case and as such on one of the trips up to my new place, got to ride shot gun, with me holding onto it around corners.   I am thinking of ways I can try and give it a bit more oomph, maybe a really nice GPU?  If I do that I will need to get a mess of fans to fill out its sides and likely cause a relatively silent machine to suddenly sound like a jet.

I hope to have more things to report about crunching activities soon, but for now, this is just a post letting you know that I am still around.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Learning to Program

I have lately taken up a concerted effort to remind myself how to program.  While I am not foreign to the task of programming, once I completed my minor in computer science, I more or less hung up my keyboard ( figuratively) in an effort to focus on mathematics.  I rather regret that, as I really enjoyed programming when I cared about what I was actually programming.

For those of you looking to refresh your skills, or learn to program from scratch, I have a few interesting sites that are great fun resources.   These are Code Academy and Project Euler.  

Code Academy is constantly adding more and more languages and tutorials to their offerings, making it more and more indispensable, but it already has HTML, Javascript, Python, Ruby, and several others.  It focuses more on web based programming but the skills it teaches are useful in most areas, once you learn the given syntax and work through the tracks.   They have an interesting rewards and badge system, which I dare say seems way to easy to get badges.  I have not done much I would consider of note on there yet, and I already seem heavily decorated.

Project Euler needs you to be familiar with programming and after the first few projects be a fairly good programmer.   It is not a teaching material, but rather it is a series of problems that are supposed to test you programming abilities to work through complex problems that could not be worked out by hand in any reasonable amount of time, but a decently coded program should be able to find the answer in under a minute of computation time.

While I am sure there are many many other valuable sites, these are the ones I am currently spending my time on, and enjoying greatly.  Do my readers have any suggestions?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Not all Projects are Equal

I by no means am telling anyone what they should or should not crunch, but the more and more I have been looking into various projects the more I am wondering why some projects have such massive appeal.  So I am a mathematician by training, so you would imagine I would be all over prime grid and a number of other mathematical based projects.  In fact the state of things as they currently stand I crunch two "projects"  World Community Grid, and GPU Grid. More on why to come later.

Sadly I feel the people that crunch any mathematical based project, really do it just for the cobblestones, and couldn't give a damn about what they are actually accomplishing.  Finding a new prime number really won't change the world, and has just a minor impact on encryption schemes.  Cracking a code ( Moo! Wrapper) by brute force is far worse than actually looking for prime numbers because in that case you are simply applying an algorithm to try and unscramble a message. Looking for a counter example to Collatz conjecture, or any other mathematical conjecture is not research.  It is just letting your computer work through piles and piles of computation just for fun.

I am not sure there is a single mathematical conjecture on Boinc that has profound impact on the world, as they all tend to be in the purest of area's, in which showing that they are true might have some impact at some point in time, but guess what our computers could never show that these conjectures are true. We can check a google of numbers, do you know how many are left?  (Infinite!)  The longer these projects crunch the more we see that they could be true, but they can not be established as true until there is a proof that establishes them as fact.  And before you bring the four color theorem into this which was "proved" by computers, that is far different than this.  The difference is some mathematicians in that case developed an algorithm and classified all possible maps into a finite number of categories.  They provided a proof that all maps had to fall into that finite number of categories, and then used the computers to check the coloring on each of those finite number of categories.  As far as I have heard no such thing exists for any Mathematical Conjecture on Boinc, they are simply constantly checking a few more off the infinite list to check.

I would much rather see people contribute their crunching time to something that is doing actual research that can be conclusive in either way.  If searching the stars are your thing then there are wonderful projects in which you can check for Extra Terrestrial life, or scan for pulsars.  If you are a chemistry or physics enthusiast  then there are wonderful projects working on research in each of those areas.  If you want to feel like you are really contributing to the state of humanity by tackling medical, or world problems there are projects that can do that too.  I fall in the later which is why I currently am focused on World Community Grid and GPU Grid.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why I am never the first to buy a new technology

There seems to be several different types of people in this world, those that always want the newest of everything, and those that like to see what kinks each product has and wait for them to be either worked out or written off as design flaws.  Maybe its because I was one of the early adopters to a particular smart phone, way back several years ago, lets just say anyone that ever had one, mostly refers to those smart phones as intelligent paper weights, which barely functioned well enough to make calls 90% of the time ( if you want to do something besides make a phone call forget it nearly 100% of the time).

Since then I have learned that, I'd rather not be the first to test out a new version of a software, or buy the newest graphics card before they have been tested and been through several versions of drivers, and so on.  So why am I writing this?

nVidia recently released its newest consumer GPU the Titan, which while it is in theory a massively powerful GPU, I read of quite a few crunchers that bought them basically the second they were released, got them, put them in their computers, only to learn that due to driver issues they either did not work or worked poorly with the projects they really wanted to use them on.  Does this mean that Titan will never be a massive crunching card?  No, it simply means the kinks need to be worked out of the development process and find its way into the tweaking of the drivers before they can really shine.

In a certain sense, the people that like to hold off, like I do, owe thanks to those that want the newest items, as we learn from their mistakes, and when we do buy we have products that work near perfectly thanks to the early adopters.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Running On Autopilot

I am happy to announce that I have gotten my systems up to the point that they are running almost entirely on autopilot.  Part of it came with a little training of myself as well, mostly to not mess too often with the computers.  Due to power concerns I am running my least efficient machine only on weekends, and my highest powered machine, which is incredibly quiet runs most of the time.

Every Sunday night I run updates, and each morning before work, each day after work, and then every evening before I go to bed I check to make sure things are running without issues. Its a simple processes that actually takes very little time out of my day, and has been working like a charm.

To do Still:  The main thing I need to do is resetup SSH capabilities into my machines. While not hard I feel as I moved around the ethernet cords in the router, the IP addresses changed so I need to go back in and figure out what they are and record those so I could then have SSH working again, so I can remotely check on my machines.

While that is easier to do remotely, most of the time I want to check on it, I am in my place, and it is as simple as turning on my TV and switching input settings to the appropriate computer.  (If that's not just as easy (if not easier) as going in the terminal and entering commands and passwords, I do not know what is).

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Testing Loyalty

I dedicate all of my GPU crunching time to the project GPU Grid, because I honestly believe in the work that they are doing.  But I hate to say this my loyalty was really tested this past week, possibly made even worse because I was stressed out for another reason and the last thing I needed was to be worrying about how my machine is working on things.

Lets just say a large amount of GPU Grid tasks were released with a major error in their code. I spent over 170,000 seconds crunching these tasks, which as I was distracted I did not notice any problems until they were reported as aborted by my machine some time later.  ( My GPU is on a computer that is dedicated to crunching and not regularly used).  But I was disappointed to see that between that and the one time it froze my computer ( which I did check and manage to fix), that I lost several days of crunching time from this error.

Thankfully I gave it just long enough for the problem to apparently be fixed, but I was really starting to question whether or not GPU grid should continue to receive my support.  But I think I have the biggest soft spot for GPU grid of any project I have yet dealt with as they are people pursuing their doctorates carrying out their research, in a rather similar place in their lives as myself and my brother.  So I can sympathize with them, and want to help them in any way possible.

So to my readers, have any of you ever encountered an error with a project that really had you questioning whether or not it should receive your continued support?  ( I do feel odd posting this so close to a post on Battered Volunteer Syndrome, but I think this is a qualified complaint, and not just a rant.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Battered Volunteer Syndrome

I am borrowing the turn of phrase from a poster in the GPU grid forum, because it seems aptly appropriate about what I want to talk about today.  I am amazed at how many people on project forums like to complain about everything that is going wrong at these various projects. Now for one I am known to be a rather laid back person ( passionate yes, but laid back more or less), as such I do not tend to get angy until it is really warranted.

I am not calling out all complaints on forums, as system crashes, and faulty work units should be called out in the right area's so the scientists and programmers can fix the issues.  A bit more on the questionable side seem to come with GPU crunching, in the sense that a very well programmed GPU task will be using everything on the GPU that it possibly can, so when running such a task, it may render your PC unusable from a normal user experience side of things.  While I can see how that can be frustrating, I believe that is why BOINC has options to disable either CPU, GPU or both when you decide to use the PC.

But I have seen some rather outlandish complaints issued against a variety of different projects.  People being completely irate because a project has unexpected down time, often waving around statements like "it would be unacceptable for ATT to go down for this long."  I honestly really need to laugh at that, because guess what you are not paying these projects unless you regularly donate to the projects you support.  As such these projects are almost all on a fairly shoe string budget, and on a shoe string budget one of the first things you cut out is as many redundancies as you can, which means when things crash there's not a backup server just waiting to get put in the game.

Then fewer and far between but almost insanely out of left field are crunchers ( usually with already some substantial amount of credits, so its not like they have only been doing it for a few days), making posts telling the projects that they should be paid for their efforts.  Yes we are doing the science for the projects, but we volunteer to do that work.  Unless the definition has changed since I first learned that word, it means we help with no real expectation for a reward, except maybe emotional, and an atta boy or two.  I fully understand the machinery we buy, and the electricity to run it, not to mention the internet service to keep it connected are all expensive, but if you can not afford the extra bump in electricity, then you likely have bigger financial issues you need to deal with and should not be crunching ( and you definitely should not be buying top of the line machines).

Sorry if this is a wake u call to anyone, but I feel this had to be said.   We are volunteers, our goal should be to help the projects, because we believe in the projects, not to seek some sort of reward.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Computer at Play, While you are Away?

I have my newest computer crunching 24/7 lately, only rarely being restarted for updates, or shut down occasionally for a few hours.  That means it runs when I am at work, sleeping or doing most anything else.  I was more concerned about doing this right after it was assembled feeling it wasn't quite battle tested yet.

Now that its run for many many hours staying incredibly cool, and running with no real issues. So I have no real problem leaving it running while I am away for less than a day.  Now I am away from my place for a few days, and I decided not to shut off the computer while away.  It is leaving me oddly conflicted, but I can not quite explain why.

In all my logic I see no real reason why something should go wrong while away for four days that could not go wrong in a few hours.  In fact I have been so busy lately, I have easily gone more than four days without checking how that computer was doing on multiple occasions lately.  So currently my little bit of solace is to look for new results being returned by the computer letting me know that everything is still running peachy-keen.

So for other crunchers, do you leave your machines running all the time, even while you are away for a few days?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Farms are Expensive!

Today I received my monthly email from my Electric and Gas company letting me know what my bill was for the past month.  Well I didn't completely do the math when the January notice came, ( as I am on a 21st to 21st schedule), but because I was home for the holiday break, my one machine was offline until the 6th of January, missing about 2 weeks of the billing cycle, and I didn't assemble my additional system until a few weeks later.

Well February even though I knew I was using quite a bit of power and shutting down the noisy systems at night most nights, combined with the fact that its been the coldest month I have had since I have started crunching ( so the gas bill was extra high as well). While my winter bills are often higher than the rest of the year, I will say that despite being concerned about electricity consumption ( apart from my crunching machines), but 110 for my small little place is quite shocking, as such, I have first lowered my thermostat, but I am hoping it warms up enough soon that that becomes mostly a moot point.

Yet oddly I am contemplating getting a new GPU for my main crunching machine trying to figure out if it is feasible to crunch two GPUs at a time in one machine.  Though should I do that I will likely turn my least powerful machine into a Media tower, and rarely crunch BOINC projects on it to save energy.

Its a little bit of a lesson in humility to realize how much even 2 towers and one laptop can really cost just to upkeep.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Should you Beta?

I have really been going back and forth on the question of "should I allow beta tests on my machines?"  When I first set up machines specifically for boinc crunching, my initial thought was these I really wouldn't mind allowing Beta tests to run on them. Though the more I read beta test support forums there are quite a few things that give me pause.  So lets start with a Pro and Con list.

  • Beta testers are an essential part of most if not all BOINC projects.
  • By allowing beta tests you allow quicker upgrades to projects and programs
  • I dare say you make yourself more valuable to the project ( though I do not really know of any major way projects show any sort of loyalty for this). 
  • The projects want feedback from the Beta testers on how the projects ran, and dealt with their machines.
  • Beta tasks can cause quite a few issues, while I have not heard of any completely horrible CPU beta errors, with GPU tasks I have heard about Beta's messing up drivers, and causing completely lock ups and freezes of the machines.
  • You should have a decent ability to trouble shoot technological issues. At the very minimum you should know how to check a multitude of log files to pinpoint the output from the error to the log so you can give detailed feedback of exactly what the error was to the project.

The pros and cons are interesting, in the sense that to just about everyone the cons sound far worse than the pros, mainly due to the second bullet. The other two cons are of little consequence to me, I have no problem being in contact with the project through their project forums, or checking log files, and troubleshooting to some degree.

The real reason why I decided I am going to shy away from crunching beta tasks is the fact that I do not use my other machines on a regular basis for how they function usability wise while crunching. So I can't give feedback to the projects about how the Beta altered my computer more than it consistently errors out, or seemed to run fine.  While on my main machine, I get very scared every time something goes wrong on my main machine, even though I back up major files on a regular basis, I just hate going through the hassle of fine tuning my main use machine again to get it back to the condition I like it. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Noise Concerns

For those of you that have a decent sized place to live, and your computers are no where close to your bed, this post will not apply to you.  But I live in a small studio apartment.  So basically everything I own is on one large room, and the only other rooms are a closet and a bathroom in my place.  What that means is all the computers I have on my "farm" are located in the same room I sleep in, and I hate to say this rather close to my bed.

I have recently really been working on improving my quality of sleep, and while the numbers are not certain yet, but with the Sleep Cycle application using sleep notes to monitor how my sleep is altered when I have my two noisiest computers on, computer fan noise is a big issue in affecting sleep when you computers are in your room.  While I hate to say this, but at the same time I am glad from power concerns, my solution is to power down my noisy systems every night.

This has been working wonders, while it is slightly more work for me each night and each morning to turn them on and off, I feel it is really helping.  Combine that with the fact that I am getting more and more frustrated with my optiplex system.  It has no real way to improve its cooling, and it clearly wasn't designed to have a mid to low level GPU added with its own cooling mechinisms and keep things at a nice and cool temperature. 

I try and avoid looking at the temperatures listed on my temp monitors on that computer.  My GT 440 OEM seems to be running steady at 94C while not horrible is still rather scary as 6 degrees between constant running temp and its Maximum recommended temperature is not kosher for me.  At the same time the more and more I look into that computer I see no real way to improve that situation, there are no additional fan mounts, and the after market CPU cooler is designed to basically occupy the entire frontal intake system, which then pumps hot air into the rest of the computer case.  I will repeat that, this system has basically no way to get cool air into the rest of the case that has not travelled past the CPU heatsink.

While I have not measured the temperatures coming off the CPU heatsink, understanding Thermal properties cooling, and Newtons law of cooling basically saying that the bigger the temp difference the quicker and easier the heat goes from hot to cold.  Either way it is very frustrating.

So I am planning on shutting down two computers on my farm each night for the foreseeable future. Just so I can get a nice good night sleep.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ugh--- UBUNTU!!!

I jut came off of a very frustrating nearly 24 hours. As it turns out a software update buggered my Wireless drivers, as such caused some rather odd behavior in which it could find and locate networks, but not connect even with the proper credentials.

 But to be fair I slept and did other things through 16 hours of those 24 hours.  But in the trouble shooting those other 8 hours where split with 6 hours stumbling around in the dark, probably doing equally as much harm as good.  But if there is one thing I learned from this experience is:

When dealing with Ubuntu, the second you isolate your issue, do a detailed ubuntu help forums search.  I had long since narrowed it down to my wireless card, but the second I figured out the actual pci number on my wireless card I should have googled that instantly, as that is when the problems got resolved.

I say this because once I googled that little number, I found a plethora of threads ( all incredibly recently letting me know that I was not alone with this issue, and gave me hope that one of these actually has a proper worked out solution.  That it did.

I find it funny, almost ironic, that I had a botched upgrade from Ubuntu, less than a week after I defended Ubuntu even with their botched upgrades to someone from Highschool on Facebook.  Oh irony thou art a heartless bitch!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dust My Arch Nemesis!

I do not know what it is about this apartment, but dust is pervasive, and almost sadistic in this place.   Those of you that know my other interests, know I am rather into Tea and Teaware, and I thought it was bad just to consistently clean my teaware display, which seems to always be getting coated in dust.

Well that build up on the teaware should just be a hint at what is getting sucked into my computers.  The Dust vents are the number one clue of what is really going on in my computers.  So today my mission if I choose to accept it is to try and clean these vents to help keep my computers cool.

Sadly neither of the front panels to my computer have removable dust screens, so I went with the trusty power down and vacuum clean the front.  It was mostly cosmetic on my newest system, as that has been running incredibly cool the entire time I have had it.  The machine that caused concern was my old Optiplex.

Opening it up and really inspecting airflow has me a bit worried.  As the only fan inside the case is a specialized fan meant to funnel air from the front past the huge heatsink for the CPU.   This partially explains why the GPU has been running so toasty, and it may be to early to judge, but I do think my efforts were not completely in vein.

After being on and crunching for nearly 15 minutes My GPU is mostly levelled off at 92C  Which is not quite the improvement I was hoping for of getting it sub 90's ( it has been idling at 95-96C).    I will need to consider what I am going to do with this GPU, as while its Max recommended temp is 100C, I do not feel comfortable running a processor so close to its max recommended temp consistently.  I hate to say this but I may turn this into a machine just for crunching CPU projects and a media center for movies and what not.

Not to mention at night it sounds like it is getting in a fan noise fight with my Laptop when both are crunching away at full force, and I think its starting to get to me and alter my sleep.  So I am now in fan of saving a bit of energy and powering down my loudest systems each night.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What do you do to protect your systems?

Last night into today, large portions of the Midwestern United States into the North Eastern portion had bad ice storms.  While lately I have been taking to turning of all but my most silent system during the night, last night I left my computers off for quite some time to protect them from the storm.

While I have not directly attributed any technologies faults to power surges, I am now quite scared about ice storms.  As such now any time massive ice storms are predicted I take extra precautions with my systems.

Why?  Two years ago we had the worst ice storm I have ever seen, which caused my place to lose power for nearly exactly 24 hours.  While power outages do not worry me much, as in my experience when ever there is a power outage, it for the most part seems like someone flips a switch for the entire neighbourhood. With the ice storm two years ago though, there was a loud humming as my lights flickered on and off ( If my memory serves me right the lights even got far brighter then they normally would be).  All I can figure out is while rain and snow melt and run off, ice builds up and then causes a giant arch which is a giant power surge.

Now every time ice storms are predicted, I power down all non essential electronics which includes my crunching machines. This storm had me extra worried as the last thing I wanted to do was fry my brand new computer by simply trying to earn a few extra points!

So asking the readers besides the typical surge protector, what do you do to protect your machines?  Do you power down for all major storms?  Or just some subset of them?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Building a Computer Part 2: The Build!

I am not sure what to believe any more, the more you watch videos on building a computer the more and more the emphasize what goes wrong. ( New Egg has a nice 3 part series, part 2 features the actual building. ) These issues, seem like they can be so accidental, and not actually something you consciously do.  Static electricity being the biggest one.  Keeping this in mind probably pointed to my biggest issue in this build, sometimes force is necessary.


Part one was the test build before putting everything in the case.  the biggest thing to do in this portion is get the CPU into place.  The Intel i5 3350P uses a socket which they bill as "zero insertion force"  which let me just say can be quite misleading.   Let me just say while you just lightly drop/ place the CPU into the socket, of course being very careful to not touch the processor itself.  To close "cage/bracket" which locks the CPU into place it both sounds and feels like you are breaking something, as it honestly requires quite a bit of force.  Then it is simply putting on the heatsink/ fan, I decided to go with the stock fan included ( while I am a cruncher I am not into overclocking, so this should be sufficient).  Hook up the ram and the GPU, plug in the few required cords for the PSU, and do a test boot, hope you see the splash of the BIOS on the screen, and celebrate.


This is where the first issues of this build started to plague me,  I was not getting sustained power, so I was very scared something was shorting out the entire system.  Careful examination of the cords, caused me to realize the cord was not completely plugged into the PSU.  This was not the end of the issues, I was not getting anything on screen even though I did have sustained power this time.  Turns out more cords were not plugged in all the way, this time being the HDMI cord from the GPU to the screen.

Then comes the annoying part, putting everything into the case.  Let me just say your motherboard users guide is so important for knowing what cords go where.


Everything is in except the GPU and the cords are not a complete mess.  Lets see it with the GPU in, a double form factor though passively cooled card Nvidia GT 640.


Alright lets boot up!  Uh Oh, nothing is showing up on screen.  The cord is completely plugged into the GPU, but the not enough force plagued me once more, turns out I did not completely seat the GPU, it needed that extra force, which I was scared to give because the MB bends slightly while inserting it.

Well now it is crunching away, though still in tweak mode.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Building a Computer Part 1 Finding Parts

In the past week, I sourced the parts for a new Crunching machine, had the parts arrive, assembled them and set up the entire computer.  This is going to be a post detailing my thought processes behind finding the parts.

Step 1: Find your favorite computer parts supplier.

I went with new egg because they have worked wonderfully for me in the past, and I figured "if it ain't broke don't fix it!"  Normally every time I have dreamed of building a computer, and even assembled shopping carts of what I would like to buy, it was really just that a dream machine.  Top of the line everything, including more than what I spent on this computer in Video cards alone, and nearly as much in terms of processors.

Step 2: Decide are you building a Dream machine, or a Realistic affordable machine?

This time I put together a cart, I said, I am going to do to things, look for nice parts that I like, but not top of the line parts, and if possible I am going to go for sale items that have high ratings for user reviews. As I already had the Video card I was going to use in this machine, lets just say it involves a lot of stupidity on my part, and buying a part without actually checking to see if it will fit in its intended machine, all I had to do was get a few key parts, and I even realized I could save money on an optical drive, as for the time being I do not intend on inserting any CD, DVD, etc. into this computer any time soon ( I may purchase a Blu-ray drive for this later).

So as I was going for affordable, and did not need an optical drive, and had a GPU, I needed a Processor, Memory, Mother Board, CPU, Hard Drive Disk, and Power Supply.   Honestly that is it.  ( I should note I also already had the cable to hook the computer up to my TV for graphics.)

Proceeding by my intentions,  I am a major Intel fan, but instead of going for the i7, I decided go for something about half the price, but still incredibly powerful, with an i5 quad core processor.   Then the rest was more down to personal preference, of course making sure each of these parts was compatible.  That being said prior to any mail in rebates I had saved 50 dollars on this computer, for a total price of just under 600 dollars, nearly 700 dollars if you factor in the GPU I already had.

Now I make no claims that 700 dollars is a small amount of money, but I did scope similar systems from large computer companies that make hundreds of identical computers, and I even looked at companies that custom build PCs to specs.  In the first case through large companies like Dell, and HP, a similar system would cost at least $1,000.  While the custom build to design were somewhat close ( of course you realize you pay them for putting it together for you, but at least they take responsibility for that), and for having them take on those burdens, you pay them an extra $100-$200 dollars.

Stay tuned for Part II featuring the actual build.  ( I took pictures, I hope some of them are good enough to post!)


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Boinc on Raspberry Pi Page Updated

The page about Boinc on the Raspberry Pi has been updated. 

The good news Asteroids@ home announced support for the Raspberry Pi, and it appears to attach, and recognize its ability to run as easily as setting it up on any typical PC.

The bad news, it appears I was far to early to the game in getting my Raspberry Pi.  I got my pi before they doubled the memory on the Model B boards.  Which the more and more I look into it and work with it, seems to have been my biggest issue getting any project to run on Pi.  It appears even running close to bare bones, I have far to little available memory to run any project successfully.

So as of now I am diverting my attention elsewhere, and likely swapping or selling the pi to a friend.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pending Upgrades

Well this week has been disappointing into receiving shipments, but I won't completely go into that.  The one that matters on this blog is not that major, but I caved an decided to upgrade the GPU in my Tower, also known as the Frankenstein computer, or the Workhorse computer.  This worries me slightly as while I hear from my friend that the GPU works fine with the PSU in the system,  and all power calculations say it is acceptable, it is a little below the recommended wattage on the GPU specs.

But this should roughly double the computation speed of the GPU tasks, which rather excites me.  I am going from a 1.5GB GT 440 OEM, to a 2GB GT 640 both of which are Nvidia cards.  This goes from 144 Cuda cores to 384 Cuda cores.  Sadly I am still trying to unravel GPUs so I am not sure if the Cuda cores run on the Graphics clock or the Processor clock, but either way the 640 should be a good improvement.

Thinking I was being both power saving, and nicer to the noise levels in my place at night ( this PC is located rather close to my bed),  decided to go with a passive cooling card.  I hope I will not regret this decision, but I do know for the first few hours of crunching once I receive the card, and get it installed, I will be watching the temps on the GPU like a hawk, and if it gets anywhere close to too high, I will pull the plug, and try and get new fans for my computer.

I hope it does not come to that, but I honestly never tried to look at how well the air flows inside that computer.

Happy crunching!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

World Community Grid Badge System

Based on a post on the World Community Grid statistics system, I have decided to write this post hopefully starting a discussion on the pros and cons of each system.  World Community Grid uses total run time dedicated to each project instead of relying on the point system that basically every other badge awarding project uses ( though there seems to be no firm set standard for what gets a point/ credit between projects).

While World Community Grid attracts a different type of cruncher rather than the point based crunchers of several other well known projects. In theory total run time helps put everyone on an even playing field, where it really just measures how many hours each core has been logged on and crunching.  So the amount of money people pour into their machines, or spend on building farms for crunching, does not make as large of a difference on other projects.  I.e someone with a 10 year old machine, can not lag far behind someone with a 3 year old machine, even though the 3 year old machine has a far faster and more efficient CPU.

My issue, is that World Community Grid minimally takes into account how much work someone is actually doing towards their projects.  I have a GPU that has crunched quite a few of World Community Grids Help Conquer Cancer's GPU tasks, which from what I have read is roughly the equivalent of 2 of the CPU tasks for Help Conquer Cancer.  A HCC CPU task takes about 2.5 hours on average based on the statistics on the World Community grid site, while the run time awarded to an HCC GPU task is the total run time of that task, so for me it would be about 30-40 minutes.  This seems very odd as for the same amount of work towards the project, one person can be awarded 5 hours, and another person can be awarded half an hour towards a badge.

I see both sides of this argument, in GPU Grid people basically buy their way to the best badges, and into places of high recognition, though having several of the top of the line graphics cards.  So I understand why World Community Grid wants to try and avoid that, but at the same time I feel they fail to properly acknowledge someone actual contribution to a project in terms of work done.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

I did not post this goal for the year I set 1 week ago ( I know it was a very long term goal), but seeing as how I was close to the Gold Medal Ranking on World Community Grids Human Proteome Folding Phase 2. Seeing that it was close to possible, I put forth all of my limited ( for the holiday seasons) crunching efforts towards getting that badge.

As you can see by the side bar, and the World Community Grid Page I have, I successfully reached my goal, during WCG's nightly/ evening compilation of statistics. I made it before 2012 was up, by less than a single task. I was honestly worried going into today, as I was almost a full two days away, and while I had several tasks awaiting validation I was curious how many would actually validate in time for the recomputing of statistics.

 Feeling happy that I reached that goal, I am going back to crunching a wide variety of tasks on my computer, though I have a few backlogged tasks to clear first. Also seeing as how it is now 1am EST and just past midnight CST where I am currently residing for the holidays, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone that 2013 is full of health, for yourself, your family, and your computers ( especially those that crunch). 

World Community Grid Signature