[Seth-Trips] USF impromptu supercomputer, April 3

Seth David Schoen schoen at loyalty.org
Mon Feb 23 17:50:15 PST 2004

This sounds like great fun!

----- Forwarded message from Jason Schultz <jason at eff.org> -----


February 23, 2004

Hey, Gang, Let's Make Our Own Supercomputer


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 

There are already many Internet-connected virtual supercomputers, like 
the SETI at 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.


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.


----- End forwarded message -----

Seth David Schoen <schoen at loyalty.org> | Very frankly, I am opposed to people
     http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/   | being programmed by others.
     http://vitanuova.loyalty.org/     |     -- Fred Rogers (1928-2003),
                                       |        464 U.S. 417, 445 (1984)

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