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University Team Builds Lego and Raspberry Pi Cluster

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the build-a-beowulf-wait-a-minute dept.

Education 147

hypnosec writes about a neat little hack using Lego, Raspberry Pis, and Scratch to construct a "supercomputer." From the article: "A team of computational engineers over at the University of Southampton led by Professor Simon Cox have built a supercomputer using Raspberry Pi and Lego. The supercomputer is comprised of 64 processors, 1TB of storage (16GB SD cards in each of the Raspberry Pis) and can be powered on using just a single 13-amp mains socket. MPI is used for communications between the nodes through the ethernet port. The team managed to build the core of the supercomputer for under £2500. Named 'Iridis-Pi' after University of Southampton's supercomputer Iridis, the supercomputer runs software that was built using Python and Scratch. Professor Cox used the free plug-in 'Python Tools for Visual Studio' to develop code for the Raspberry Pi." Lots of pictures of the thing, and a howto on making your own.

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Memory (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312467)

The supercomputer comprises of 64 processors, 1TB of memory (16GB SD Cards in each of the Raspberry Pi)

Is it too much to expect from a tech site to not call SD cards "memory"?

Re:Memory (1)

Dave Whiteside (2055370) | about 2 years ago | (#41312497)

yeah 64* 256MB = 16GB
less than that is usable
even if you use the 240Mb split
but you do get 64 processors and 48*64 gpu processors - though using those is going to be a bit hard for a while

Re:Memory (4, Insightful)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41312629)

SD cards are memory. Wikipedia: "Secure Digital or (SD) is a non-volatile memory card format for use in portable devices.".

Hard disks are memory too. So are tapes. So are CDs.

Just because you might habitually use "memory" as shorthand for RAM, doesn't mean it's the only meaning of the word. And why do you think we need the "Random Access" disambiguation?

Re:Memory (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312743)

memory is shorthand for RAM? Which one is easier to say, and write?

Re:Memory (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41312813)

Just because you might habitually use "memory" as shorthand for RAM, doesn't mean it's the only meaning of the word.

Exactly, everybody has known for at least half a century that we are supposed to call that one "core storage".

Re:Memory (1)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41312847)

I work with some people who persist in calling hard disks DASD -- even on PC hardware.

Re:Memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313819)

I work with some people who persist in calling hard disks DASD -- even on PC hardware.

Then please step away from those people. You could catch a bad case of...dust.

Unless the object they're referring to is the size of a commercial washing machine, tell those old hippies to GTFO with that DASD nonsense...Sheesh, I thought I was old school...

Re:Memory (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41313011)

When it's absolutely necessary to differentiate, use "primary storage" (typically RAM) and "secondary storage" (typically hard disk). After all, VRAM is essentially just using a secondary storage device for primary storage. RAMDISK is essentially using a primary storage device as secondary storage. The lines get pretty blurry if you try to say a specific physical device is only used as primary or secondary storage.

Want (2)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#41312529)

Gussy it up however you want, Trebek. What matters is does it work? Will the Rasperry PI supercomputer calculate large prime numbers? Because I've ordered devices like that before - wasted a pretty penny, I don't mind telling you. And if the Rasperry PI supercomputer works, I'll order a dozen!

Re:Want (5, Informative)

the_humeister (922869) | about 2 years ago | (#41313285)

Unfortunately, the term "supercomputer" isn't really being used properly. They built a cluster of computers, sure. But "supercomputer"??? Hardly. The Raspberry Pi uses a processor based on ARM v6. Lemme give a single-threaded rendering comparison (Povray 3.6 running the benchmark scene [povray.org] (here's what the benchmark image output looks like [povray.org] ) with my old HTC Aria, which uses a Qualcomm MSM 7227 processor and has similar processor specs as the Raspberry Pi (ARM v6 + VFP2 floating point hardware):

HTC Aria (MSM 7227 @ 0.6 GHz) *
    Debian 6.0(armel), gcc 4.4, -mfloat-abi=softfp -mthumb
    Parse Time: 0 hours 1 minutes 3 seconds (63 seconds)
    Photon Time: 0 hours 53 minutes 49 seconds (3229 seconds)
    Render Time: 57 hours 31 minutes 41 seconds (207101 seconds)
    Total Time: 58 hours 26 minutes 33 seconds (210393 seconds)

For comparison, here's a faster ARM processor from my Samsung Galaxy S II:

Exynos 4210 @ 1.2 GHz (ARM Cortex A9),
    Debian 7.0(armhf), gcc 4.6, -mcpu=cortex-a9 -mhard-float -mthumb -mfpu=vfpv3 -ffast-math -funsafe-math-optimizations
    Parse Time: 0 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds (4 seconds)
    Photon Time: 0 hours 1 minutes 33 seconds (93 seconds)
    Render Time: 1 hours 26 minutes 34 seconds (5194 seconds)
    Total Time: 1 hours 28 minutes 11 seconds (5291 seconds)

And here's from an Intel Core i5 2400s @ 2.5 GHz:

Core i5 2400s @ 2.5 GHz, Ubuntu 12.04, gcc 4.6, -march=corei7-avx
Total Scene Processing Times
    Parse Time: 0 hours 0 minutes 1 seconds (1 seconds)
    Photon Time: 0 hours 0 minutes 14 seconds (14 seconds)
    Render Time: 0 hours 10 minutes 12 seconds (612 seconds)
    Total Time: 0 hours 10 minutes 27 seconds (627 seconds)

The ARM v6 processor took more than 2 days to render something that takes 10 minutes on a Core i5. So, "supercomputer" this cluster is not.

* You may say, "Hey, this test is running using soft-float! If you used hard float, it'd be faster!" Well, you would be right that it would render faster under hard float, but this processor still wouldn't finish rendering in less than a day, let alone come anywhere close to Core i5 or Cortex A9.

Re:Want (2)

the_humeister (922869) | about 2 years ago | (#41313359)

Forgot to add the following:

The image rendered is 384 x 384 pixels. MSM 7227 results are 0.70 pps and 1.17 pps/GHz. Raspberry Pi is runnying at 700 MHz, so it should theoretically get 0.82 pps. Its possible (and fairly easy) to split up the rendering among all the CPUs in this cluster with some custom scripting, so this benchmark image could theoretically render at 52.42 pps. That Core i5 2400s I mentioned above renders at 235.18 pps!

Re:Want (2, Interesting)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#41313449)

There's a bit of apples and oranges comparison there. You are comparing single-core processors to a quad-core processor. Of course the i5 is going to be faster. It would be better to divide the performance of the i5 by 4, to represent the performance of a single core of the processor.

There's also a cost comparison. Just the i5 processor is ~$200, not to mention the motherboard, RAM, etc. Let's just say you can build a computer with an i5 for about $800 That's the same price as 32 Raspberry PIs. So if you take the MSM 7227 processing time and divide by 32, you get ~1.8 hours. Not stellar, by any means. However it is an interesting figure. There's also power requirements, cooling requirements, etc.

Not saying that everyone should flock to SoC cluster computing, but the story is interesting nonetheless.

And perhaps Celebrity Jeopardy was before your time.

Re:Want (3, Informative)

the_humeister (922869) | about 2 years ago | (#41313481)

Povray 3.6 is single threaded, so all results are single threaded.

Real news for this article (5, Funny)

BooMonster (110656) | about 2 years ago | (#41312539)

One university managed to get a hold of 64 Raspberry PI units.

Re:Real news for this article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312777)

Since that was the main purpose for the Pi's in the first place, why do you think Universities wouldn't get as many as they need?

Just because most of us could only order 1 from each supplier, doesn't mean Universities had the same limitations.

Re:Real news for this article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313151)

Except they did, because the first collection of batches weren't directed at the education sector, despite the original purpose of the devices.

Re:Real news for this article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313451)

Since that was the main purpose for the Pi's in the first place, why do you think Universities wouldn't get as many as they need?

Main purpose? Why, are the grad students taking them home in the evening to learn programming?

Re:Real news for this article (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312831)

They must have ordered from Farnell, because they sure as hell wouldn't have received them from RS.

Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313075)

Why the hell do you think the rest of us can't find any?

AH YES. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312547)

I was wondering when this would make it here. Seemed slower than I thought, anything Raspberry Pi is usually up in a heartbeat.

But really, this is neat.

Not really interesting (1)

filmorris (2466940) | about 2 years ago | (#41312551)

They should have built a Beowulf cluster. The regular one is such a cliché.

erm, good (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312553)

So a cluster of 64 pi boards don't exceed ~3 kilowatts... Why would you expect them to given that they are supposed to run from a 5V supply at 1A (5W * 64 = 320W)

Re:erm, good (2)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#41312725)

So a cluster of 64 pi boards don't exceed ~3 kilowatts... Why would you expect them to given that they are supposed to run from a 5V supply at 1A (5W * 64 = 320W)

The comparison point is that a 64-node cluster of regular PC hardware couldn't fit behind a basic mains line.

Re:erm, good (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 2 years ago | (#41312817)

No, but a single computer that has 16 or rmore cores, many GB of RAM and multiple TB of storage would. I'd guess it would out perform the PI cluster too.

Re:erm, good (3, Insightful)

M1FCJ (586251) | about 2 years ago | (#41313141)

Of course, this being a teaching tool, having the performance would mean nothing. Having the discrete computing units do.

Re:erm, good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312827)

I'm guessing a 320W PC would outperform this cluster of 700MHz ARM11s.

Re:erm, good (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#41313019)

Oh, that might of course be true.

Re:erm, good (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#41312853)

Well, yes. It would also be magnitudes faster than this.

Re:erm, good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313163)

The comparison point is that a 64-node cluster of regular PC hardware couldn't fit behind a basic mains line.

Nonsense. You can put 64 AMD cores in a single box and run it off a 1.5kW power supply with plenty of room to spare. Only get you half a TB of RAM, but there'd be no network latency, no network hassles, no replication of OS. The R Pi cluster is cool, but so were Pet Rocks.

Not a `Super' computer (3, Insightful)

colin_faber (1083673) | about 2 years ago | (#41312555)

Sorry but doesn't even crack the top 10,000's in machine performance, not exactly a super computer. A cluster yes. Super computer, HPC machine, etc. no.

Re:Not a `Super' computer (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41312653)

A supercomputer is any overall system that's IO limited not CPU limited like most machines. At least at full theoretical CPU use. Hard to define a rasp pi as anything other than IO limited, so... An alternative def more popular recently is programmer limited as in its hard to parallelize some algorithms. Either way it fits.

Re:Not a `Super' computer (2)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41312711)

A supercomputer is any overall system that's IO limited not CPU limited like most machines.

So if I cripple all IO to my 486, except a 300 baud modem, I've built a supercomputer?

Re:Not a `Super' computer (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#41312755)

Actually many normal desktops are IO limited for a number of applications. That hardly qualifies them as supercomputers.

Re:Not a `Super' computer (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#41312779)

That seems like a pretty poor definition to me. In fact, it seems like something could be or not be a supercomputer depending on what job you have running on it.

Re:Not a `Super' computer (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#41312783)

A supercomputer is any overall system that's IO limited not CPU limited like most machines.

Do all your computers have a 286? Last time I checked, modern PCs are always IO limited.

Re:Not a `Super' computer (2)

colin_faber (1083673) | about 2 years ago | (#41313503)

Sorry but this statement is completely wrong. HPC (Super computers) are a moving target and the term represents the top 500 (or less) machines world wide.

This statement is also wrong in respect to I/O limitations as bottle necks have nothing to do with whether or not a system is considered a "Super computer".

Re:Not a `Super' computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312747)

Seriously, what did you really expect from a cluster of ARM11 a?

Especially given all of the other limitations ? Slow storage limited ram, etc.

So this is why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312565)

I still don't have a Raspberry Pi - this University took them all!

Re:So this is why... (1)

Ice Tiger (10883) | about 2 years ago | (#41312619)

Your's wasn't the only one they had!

For the old timers (4, Funny)

thammoud (193905) | about 2 years ago | (#41312571)

Can we now retire "Bewolf cluster" jokes?

Re:For the old timers (3, Funny)

wild_quinine (998562) | about 2 years ago | (#41312717)

Call me old fashioned, but my time on Slashdot has taught me that it's much better to *imagine* a cluster than to create one.

Re:For the old timers (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313181)

Call me old fashioned, but my time in jail has taught me that it's much better to *imagine* a naked, petrified Natalie Portman covered in hot grits than to create one.

Meme overload (4, Funny)

Plammox (717738) | about 2 years ago | (#41312581)

Aaaargh...imagine a.....in the Soviet Union....***carrier lost***

Re:Meme overload (2)

Howard Beale (92386) | about 2 years ago | (#41312931)

OMG!!! PONIES!!!!!!

Re:Meme overload (1)

Narnie (1349029) | about 2 years ago | (#41313801)

So... are they mining bitcoins on that cluster yet?

Abuse of the term "Supercomputer" (3, Insightful)

CajunArson (465943) | about 2 years ago | (#41312597)

Calling this thing a cluster.. fine.
Calling it interesting for students to learn about how clusters work... fine.
Calling it a supercomputer? Maybe if the University of Southampton got sucked into a time vortex to the early 1990's, and even then while the raw theoretical number crunching capability of the RPis would be impressive, the lackluster I/O and interconnects would mean that even supercomputers of that time would still win on many common workloads.

It's called a bramble, guys (5, Funny)

Bovius (1243040) | about 2 years ago | (#41312607)

Cluster of Raspberry Pis = Bramble. Slashdot has been so drooly over every nitpicky update about these, I thought everyone here would know that by now.

Re:It's called a bramble, guys (1)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41312841)

A quick google validates this. But I abhor it. It's blackberries, not raspberries, that grow on a bramble.

Re:It's called a bramble, guys (4, Funny)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#41312843)

Brambles are blackberries, you'd need a cluster of mobile email devices to use that name. I believe this is the more generic "Thicket".

Mixed feelings (2)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 2 years ago | (#41312611)

Whenever I see "professional" projects like this use legos- I have mixed feelings. Here is another example, a lab using legos for automation [hackaday.com]

I love to see legos doing advanced things, but for a chassis? I feel like people can be very smart, but sometimes afraid to learn how to build something with their hands. The lab example I posted above is at Cambridge University. Cambridge has a very competent engineering department, why not reach out to them?- It could have made for an excellent project for some engineering students.

I'm reminded of the very cited researcher who reinvented some calculus instead of simply reaching out to someone in another department for help [slashdot.org]

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#41312815)

I love to see legos doing advanced things, but for a chassis? I feel like people can be very smart, but sometimes afraid to learn how to build something with their hands. The lab example I posted above is at Cambridge University. Cambridge has a very competent engineering department, why not reach out to them?- It could have made for an excellent project for some engineering students.

Aside from your Lego-assembling robot, Lego is always assembled by hand. It's also cheaper and faster to build a Lego chassis than get the engineers to weld up one from mild steel.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 2 years ago | (#41312923)

Engineers do not weld.
They use a computer to let others know that they need to weld those two pieces of steel together.

Re:Mixed feelings (2)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 2 years ago | (#41313413)

It is this kind of thinking that makes people build something out of legos instead of trying to learn a new skill.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 2 years ago | (#41312909)

"The rack for the supercomputer has been built using Lego under the guidance of Professor Cox's son James Cox (aged 6)."

Also "reached out" is a stupid phrase.

Re:Mixed feelings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312943)

Whenever I see "professional" projects like this use legos- I have mixed feelings. Here is another example, a lab using legos for automation [hackaday.com]

I love to see legos doing advanced things, but for a chassis? I feel like people can be very smart, but sometimes afraid to learn how to build something with their hands. The lab example I posted above is at Cambridge University. Cambridge has a very competent engineering department, why not reach out to them?- It could have made for an excellent project for some engineering students.

I'm reminded of the very cited researcher who reinvented some calculus instead of simply reaching out to someone in another department for help [slashdot.org]

Whats wrong with using lego? It is a usefull tool to build prototypes and proof of concept things with. It is easy to make changes quickly when building with lego if you make a mistake, unlike if you give competent engineering department some wrong instructions where it may take days to get a fix. Now if you want to make 100's of them take your lego prototype to a competent engineering department.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#41313121)

Plastic is always a bit problematic case material for larger-size electronics. It might build up some static electricity, and you can't create grounding and RF shielding. However I agree that LEGO is simply practical for sculpting quick prototypes.

Re:Mixed feelings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313017)

2 reasons: cost efficiency, and geek cachet.

Cost efficiency speaks for itself, while the geek cachet will give the project appeal in a number of circles, some of which would certainly lead to more publicity.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313649)

I love to see legos doing advanced things

So would I, whatever "legos" might be. Sounds Greek.

Meanwhile all we have are these LEGO bricks. That being the plural of LEGO brick.

No leggo project is complete... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312627)

...without a "short person table".

Supercomputer? (0)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 2 years ago | (#41312643)

I get 64 cores a hell of a lot more memory and storage in a single quad proc server. Does this make every new VM or DB server I buy a supercomputer? It's not even drawing as much power as this stack. Maybe there planning on using there undocumented GPU's I can throw a couple of those as well and still trounce this setup. Am I missing something? Besides the putting them together with legos with his I assume son.

Re:Supercomputer? (3, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 2 years ago | (#41312881)

Yes, you are missing something (though I have slight reservations about the 16 cores to a die CPUs you claim to be using). There's this thing called education...your large server running loads of VMs is not going to be nearly as useful or informative at getting the ideas across as a rig like this. There is a big difference between working with virtual networks and seeing the hardware of a real network, as well as being able to program the thing with "small" languages without monster frameworks just to make anything happen.

However, you do win a "Miserable git" award for being unpleasant about Prof. Cox.

"Miserable Git" Awards (1)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about 2 years ago | (#41313067)

Can I get nominated for that award? I'm creeped out by his Mini-Me son.
All parents that dress their children as tiny doll versions of themselves actually.

Re:Supercomputer? (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 2 years ago | (#41313691)

You mean you have reservations about stock shipping AMD server procs? If you want education you want to be able to do things like artificially inflate the latency of the linking network that's easy to do on VM's. Test the effectiveness of different storage methods vs the type of workload. Looks at nodes with different processing capabilities. Honestly I find it amazing hard to fathom that it took a whole group of people to stack 64 SBC's load them with an OS and connect them up to a switch. This is a mornings work for an intern.

Thanks for the miserable git been awhile since somebody called me names on the internet I'll try and be offended. I did not talk about the prof outside of mentioning that it was cool that be built it out of legos with his son.

Computer does things a computer can do! (5, Insightful)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41312661)

I'm a big fan of the RP project. But I'm a bit bored of seeing news items in which someone does something with this Linux box, which obviously a Linux box can do. Raspberry Pi compiles C! Raspberry Pi controls a robot! Raspberry Pi runs MAME! Well of course it does, it's a little PC, and that's what PCs can do.

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313109)

Did the definition of PC change. Last I checked PC == x86. These aren't them. However your point still stands. What would be news is if they got it to run WINE or Microsoft Windows. Of course that isn't news for Slashdot. Slashdot is about GNU/Linux. Not Microsoft.

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (1)

Selfbain (624722) | about 2 years ago | (#41313251)

Last I checked PC == Personal Computer regardless of architecture.

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313259)

Last I checked PC = PERSONAL COMPUTER, jsut because x86 dominated for the last 20 years doesnt mean its the only personal computer platform. PC does not mean Wintel.

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313275)

PC == Personal Computer.

Raspberry Pi, Apple Mac, Commodore 64 are all examples of PCs.

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (1)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41313297)

Did the definition of PC change. Last I checked PC == x86.

The meaning of PC was never really solid. It just means "Personal Computer". In this case I just meant "something with a CPU, RAM, a filesystem, keyboard, monitor and ethernet. (although the keyboard and monitor aren't relevant to this particular project).

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (1)

the_humeister (922869) | about 2 years ago | (#41313455)

PC = personal computer. Also, running Windows isn't theoretically impossible, just very very slow if via emulation x86 (not least of which is due low memory and swap thrashing). Or you could get the source code for the ARM version of Windows 8 (which I'm sure the academic person could get) and hack it to work too.

You forgot BitCoins!, the MPAA, and Unity, etc. (5, Funny)

sirwired (27582) | about 2 years ago | (#41313187)

You clearly need to turn in your Slashdot commenter license... to REALLY entice editors to post a story, work BitCoins into the mix. Oohh... better yet, work in references to the MPAA, And Ubuntu, and whatever else can be stirred into the pot. References to MAME are old school... (although that can be forgiven, Mr. 4-digit UID.)

How does this sound? "Raspberry Pi used to mine BitCoins to help pay an MPAA Lawsuit Fine. However, due to a security hole in Ubuntu caused by the new Unity interface, the new coins were stolen from the user by someone claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous. Wil Wheaton offers to sponsor a live D&D game played with Arduino-programmed robotic miniatures to make up for the lost funds."

Did I miss anything?

Re:You forgot BitCoins!, the MPAA, and Unity, etc. (1)

rochrist (844809) | about 2 years ago | (#41313701)

You need to blame either Apple or Microsoft.

Re:You forgot BitCoins!, the MPAA, and Unity, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313737)

You forgot to mention something about Apple and/or Samsung... also a mention about how Windows 8 would have given them a superior experience due to its well designed interface.

Re:You forgot BitCoins!, the MPAA, and Unity, etc. (2)

Rotag_FU (2039670) | about 2 years ago | (#41313777)

Yep, you forgot about how kick-starter was used to fund the creation of the robotic miniatures. Also, the Raspberry Pi was actually running MineCraft which had a working implementation of an 8-bit processor that was doing the actual BitCoin mining. Researchers were observing the operation of the MineCraft processor using the Oculus Rift headset. In the future, the designers plan to port this all to the upcoming Ouya.

There, I think that has it covered. :)

Re:You forgot BitCoins!, the MPAA, and Unity, etc. (1)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | about 2 years ago | (#41313883)

I think that your biggest contribution is putting in the words: OLD SCHOOL in your reply, although I'm almost completely convinced that you didn't mean it as a school that has been there for a long time.
What I am really missing is an article about a school (especially in the 3rd world). Wasn't this whole RPi concept about bringing tech lessons to schools (in the 3rd world) in the first place? Yet I haven't seen 1 single contribution (and 1 would suffice) about a school in say, Angola, with kiddos all huddled around a RPi trying to get "hello world" on a tv-screen. That would be more impressive than a professor with years and years of academical skill's and drills getting Deb to run IMHO. That would be cool wouldn't it? (yeah I know, you've all been there, done that and got a "hello world"t-shirt, but for those kids it is a different ball-game)

So to conclude, I think you are funny AND analytical! Congrats on that!

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (0)

ortholattice (175065) | about 2 years ago | (#41313325)

I think this is a great project for students, because it will let them develop and test simulations and other algorithms for parallel computing without tying up expensive "real" supercomputers. A bonus is that the relatively slow speed may encourage techniques to make such computations more efficient, with a corresponding payoff when the algorithm is put onto the real thing.

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (1)

TheTrueScotsman (1191887) | about 2 years ago | (#41313767)

Or they could just use a desktop PC with 64 VMs.

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about 2 years ago | (#41313407)

I agree. The original post also omits relevant number of Lego blocks used for construction of the cluster.

Re:Computer does things a computer can do! (1)

JosefSit (1805244) | about 2 years ago | (#41313811)

If you put an armada of cute kittens in front of a horse carriage, you do not get a super carriage - just a super cute, very slow, high maintenance carriage...

Recommendation (1)

puddingebola (2036796) | about 2 years ago | (#41312793)

I would like to recommend the red and white suited astronaut lego people to maintain the server, or to work as sysadmins. They seem very dependable. If not them, then maybe the Lego people from the 70s that didn't have the smiley face painted on them. They seem more analytical and inclined to this type of work. Anybody remember them?

That's a supercomputer? (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 2 years ago | (#41312829)

Wouldn't a dual Xeon server be able to easily out-muscle that "supercomputer"?

waste of money / publicity stunt (0)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 2 years ago | (#41312921)

64 SoC 700mhz cores connected via universal serial bus ethernet controllers, using flash memory that can at best pull about 10-30MB/sec read, and maybe 10MB/sec write if you're lucky.

If this is an example of applying high-performance computing and data handling techniques to tackle complex engineering and scientific challenges", this is a massive fail.

$4,000 buys you at retail (not with any sort of educational discount) a 1U machine (ie, a formfactor of about one quarter or less) with 12 Xeon 2Ghz cores connected by a bus that is orders of magnitude faster. 20-40MB of L3 cache between the processors. 16GB of ram (32GB if you're willing to spend another $600 or so), and TWO terabytes (wow, two!) of storage that will run at well over 100MB/sec sequential read. And guess what? It'll run on "one mains socket" too. In fact, because you don't have 64 separate DC linear regulators, it might even be *more* efficient.

Spend $7k and you can get 64 xeon cores on four chips...still in 1U...

More power than a 1U machine, most likely (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 2 years ago | (#41313045)

I just did the math. The Pi community supposedly recommends a minimum of 1A@5V if you intend on using any peripherals, including ethernet. 700mAh is the minimum draw with *nothing* connected. 5W x 64 = 320W. That's quite close to the max capacity of the power supply for the dual-socket machine I mentioned. The E5-2620 processors have a max TDP of 95W each. Now, that doesn't count the auxiliaries - but there's still a 120W difference between typical power usage for the Pi, and MAXIMUM power usage for the Xeons, and I haven't even counted the power loss from the AC-DC power supply against the Pi (the rackmount machine's supply is ~95% efficient.)

Re:waste of money / publicity stunt (4, Insightful)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41313065)

Mmm, but it *is* a nice environment for *students* to experiment with the *principles* of parallel computing in a tactile manner.

I began learning to code on an 8 bit 2Mhz CPU, with 32KB of RAM. If I wrote an inefficient loop, I'd often notice the slowness without benchmarking. If I was careless with memory, my program would crash. On my quad core laptop today, I only notice issues like that if I benchmark or do deliberate load testing. So working on low-spec systems is instructive.

Likewise, working with clusters of low-powered units on a slow comms bus is going to teach these students a lot about optimising parallel programs. They're going to have to deal with race conditions, memory ceilings, etc. which might not even show up on faster systems.

Re:waste of money / publicity stunt (3, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | about 2 years ago | (#41313113)

Exactly, whilst the system isn't powerful, it is instructive in cluster design and programming, which is very relevant at a university.

They won't be running "real applications doing real calculations" on this thing. They'll be writing student-level clustered applications. For the price paid, it's probably a really instructive system for the university to have installed, if they make use of it in student courses and/or projects.

Re:waste of money / publicity stunt (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 2 years ago | (#41313243)

I thought the same thing. It's much easier to notice errors in your code and how the whole thing works when using a machine that is slow or purposely slow.

Re:waste of money / publicity stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313085)

Spend $7k and you can get 64 xeon cores on four chips...

Where are you getting 16 core Xeons? That sounds like a decent price, we're paying over $1k a piece just for 8 core Xeon chips.

Re:waste of money / publicity stunt (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | about 2 years ago | (#41313129)

So.. You have a little server there. Good luck with using it for teaching a bunch of students about how scalable clustered software works, how to write the software, what are the pitfalls and else.

Good luck running 64 separate VMs on your small server (not saying it's not impossible but I really wonder which one is faster to set up) and you won't be able to test any of the very different interconnects that easily.

Re:waste of money / publicity stunt (1)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41313441)

Good luck running 64 separate VMs on your small server (not saying it's not impossible but I really wonder which one is faster to set up) and you won't be able to test any of the very different interconnects that easily.

Very easy indeed, and almost certainly quicker/easier to set up than the physical way, either using something like Vagrant [vagrantup.com] or by rolling your own scripts to drive VirtualBox.

However, I think it's instructive for students to do it the physical way first. By analogy: first understand LANs, then learn about VLANs.

Re:waste of money / publicity stunt (4, Insightful)

Simon Brooke (45012) | about 2 years ago | (#41313155)

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

There is a whole lot of point missing going on here. Yes, you could build a faster computer cheaper using other hardware. But it wouldn't explain the concepts to children (and to first year CS students, which is pretty much the same thing) nearly so well. Throw together a heap of little itty-bitty boards each of which, individually is, as everyone knows, relatively low power, and knit them together with ordinary cat5 cable, and get out of the collection high compute performance, and you have something which will intrigue children|students and get them thinking about how it works. Show them an anonymous 1U box doing exactly the same job, and you won't get them thinking, because they can't immediately see and understand what it comprises and how it's put together. This is a teaching machine, not a practical machine. It's job is to teach students. It teaches students by being perspicuous.

It's not (yet) a requirement for getting a Slashdot account to demonstrate that you have an IQ slightly south of that of a stick of used chewing gum, but some of you clearly haven't yet got that message.

Re:waste of money / publicity stunt (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 2 years ago | (#41313849)

There is a whole lot of point missing going on here.

You're the one missing the point here. I can fit in 1U what used to take an entire rack.

When you can fit that kind of power into 1U, and given the massive leaps in computing power per core, traditional nodes-connected-by-networks clusters are applicable for far fewer people these days. What they should be teaching is proper multithreaded programming techniques.

get out of the collection high compute performance

Were you not paying attention when I said that 64 700mhz ARM nodes connected via USB (which requires enormous CPU overhead, on a processor with virtually no cache and slow busses, which means lots of out-of-cache memory access and context switching) with shitty, slow storage - does not make "high compute performance"? That cluster probably struggles to match one single 6-core Xeon.

It's not (yet) a requirement for getting a Slashdot account to demonstrate that you have an IQ slightly south of that of a stick of used chewing gum, but some of you clearly haven't yet got that message.

http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ad-hominem

SuperBe(rry) (1)

SimplexBang (2685909) | about 2 years ago | (#41313025)

Supercomputer as in ' Super Structure' not as in ' Super Man'

Great project, but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313041)

I really love this project, it warms the cockles of my heart, but I must admit to something here...

You can do much better for much cheaper. For 2,500 GBP, you would be much better served if you used multi-core AMD CPUs (e.g. 12/16-core, soon to be 24-core), used multi-processor motherboards, put together a few workstations and networked them together. Much faster CPUs, substantially more memory, much cheaper and higher capacity storage. In a $/performance and performance/Watt comparison, it would be hard to beat the configuration I'm proposing.

I've managed 75%+ parallel processing efficiency with a setup similar to the one described above - very much worth the money/effort.

So what are they going to use it for? (1)

Guillaume le Btard (1773300) | about 2 years ago | (#41313419)

Calculate the billionth digit of pi?

I love it...that got Many PI.... (1)

haplo21112 (184264) | about 2 years ago | (#41313491)

....I can't even get one! I've been in the Queue since before initial release and still have yet to receieve mine, and even got an email two weeks ago about further delays!

Still a really great accomplishement though.

Re:I love it...that got Many PI.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313575)

I ordered one through Farnell about 3 weeks ago and received it a week ago. Did you go through RS components?

I would have got there first! (1)

polyp2000 (444682) | about 2 years ago | (#41313563)

But unfortuntately they would not sell more than one per customer - Unless you purchased one from both RS and Farnell.
I'd even bought a rack mount case to house the cluster :(

N...

Lego + Raspberry Pi (1)

csumpi (2258986) | about 2 years ago | (#41313615)

This story has built out of Legos, and Raspberry Pis, so it's definitely worthy for the slashdot front page. But it could be better, like they called the order in from their Nokia phone and paid for it using Bitcoins.
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