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