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How To Build a Supercomputer In 24 Hours

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the foxconn-this-ain't dept.

Supercomputing 161

An anonymous reader writes with a link to this "time lapse video of students and postdocs at the University of Zurich constructing the zBox4 supercomputer. The machine has a theoretical compute capacity of ~1% of the human brain and will be used for simulating the formation of stars, planets and galaxies." That rack has "3,072 2.2GHz Intel Xeon cores and over 12TB of RAM." Also notable: for once, several of the YouTube comments are worth reading for more details on the construction and specs.

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quantum entanglement -- my brain to wind ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870739)

http://www.random.org/

God says...

said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 13:29
But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also
the wheat with them.

13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of
harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares,
and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my
barn.

13:31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of
heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed
in his field: 13:32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when
it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so
that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Re:quantum entanglement -- my brain to wind ? (2, Funny)

edibobb (113989) | about 2 years ago | (#41870781)

Why do you use 16th century English? Is this really how you speak, or did you run this through an obfuscator? What are tares, and what does "lest while ye" mean?

Re:quantum entanglement -- my brain to wind ? (3, Informative)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about 2 years ago | (#41870823)

What are tares

"Any of several weedy plants that grow in grain fields." -- http://www.thefreedictionary.com/tare [thefreedictionary.com]

and what does "lest while ye" mean?

The sentence would be approximately "But he said: 'No, out of fear that while you root the weeds you also root up the wheat with them.'" Ie. "lest" is used to denote the fear or danger of something happening.

Re:quantum entanglement -- my brain to wind ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871733)

In today's language: These are not the "weeds" that you are looking for.

Re:quantum entanglement -- my brain to wind ? (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 2 years ago | (#41872513)

I can translate that into something a bit more modern. Don't ask why, you just owe me a cold beer later.

said to him, is your will that we go and gather them up? 13:29
But he said, no; unless while you gather up the weeds, you also root up
the wheat with them.

13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of
harvest I will say to the harvest crew, Get the weeds pulled first,
and bind them in bundles to burn them: but put the wheat into my
barn.

13:31 Another parable he gave them, said;" The kingdom of
heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and planted
in his field: 13:32 Which in fact is the smallest of all seeds: but when
it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and grows into a tree, so
that the birds of the air come and live in the branches there

Now that you can read them, can you make out what the parables mean?
Cause after I get a little beer in me, 'm gonna want a lil something else.

Pretty sure (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870743)

that my old palm pre has more computing power than most human brains on this planet.

Headline is stupid (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870771)

Build a computer in 24 hours? I guess it's possible.

Fund its costs and gather the materials? I guess not.

Re:Headline is stupid (5, Informative)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871351)

it took ~year to acquire the funds, benchmark tests, fix the design, make the tender for the parts etc, but all the construction was done in 3x8hr shifts

Re:Headline is awesome (3, Insightful)

Barny (103770) | about 2 years ago | (#41871549)

I will ask the inevitable questions, as a system builder.

How many parts were DOA?

How many failed inside of the first month?

Re:Headline is awesome (5, Informative)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871629)

surprisingly few - a couple of bad motherboards (or static ;). its only been up for a week or so and we are still testing/installing stuff before making user queues live.

Re:Headline is stupid (1)

Gerzel (240421) | about 2 years ago | (#41871669)

Not to mention to mine the ore and manufacture the chips. It's all relative.

Re:Headline is stupid (-1, Troll)

craigminah (1885846) | about 2 years ago | (#41871573)

They should change the title to, "students and postdocs at the University of Zurich spend a lot of money in one day" or something to that effect. Building supercomputer today involves some skill and a lot of money but it's not the chore it used to be.

Re:Pretty sure (0, Troll)

tnyquist83 (2720603) | about 2 years ago | (#41870785)

You also have to remember that the human brain also has to handle all of those useless background process like "breathing" and "heartbeats". If you only took into account the user-taskable portion of the brain, then computers have surpassed that level a loooooong time ago.

Re:Pretty sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870869)

Indeed, what's interesting about this, other than the speed of assembly, is what a difference optimization makes. A human brain couldn't do this task, mainly for reasons you mentioned, but a computer hasn't yet been developed that can handle the tasks that a human brain can at a similar speed.

Re:Pretty sure (3, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41873265)

Google's cars say different.

Looking at physical complexity:
A human brain has about 86 billion neurons. An Intel Core-i7 process has 731 million transistors. A neuron is more complex than a transistor. Let's say it does a job, for the sake or argument, that would take about 16 transistors. So say the Core-i7 has the equivalent of about 45 million neuron-equivalents. That's a factor of about 1900 in physical complexity.

But the brain manages to pull off a clock cycle about 200 Hz, based on the neuron's firing rate. Maybe 1000 Hz at most. The clock rate of the CPU is 3.2 GHz. It is 16 million times faster than your brain.. Since the computer can execute programs of arbitrary complexity, it can simulate your brain's operation -- if properly programmed, with a much smaller hardware set running much faster. In raw computational capacity, it apparently has 16 million / 2000 = 8000 times the computational capacity of your brain. So even if its' simulation were quite computationally inefficient, it should still be able to do the job of a number of brains, if programmed to do so.

In short, exceeding the capacity of a human brain isn't a hardware problem any more. It hasn't been for years. It's a programming exercise, albeit a particularly challenging one.

Re:Pretty sure (5, Informative)

bertok (226922) | about 2 years ago | (#41870987)

Computers have surpassed that level a loooooong time ago

Doubtful.

The computational requirements for simulating the human brain have been severely, even hilariously, underestimated in the past. To quote Wikipedia: One estimate puts the human brain at about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses.

That's... a lot.

First off, a lot of people think that 1 FLOP = 1 Neuron, which is not even close. The active points are the synapses, of which there are about a thousand per neuron! Each may receive an impulse over ten times a second, and involve dozens of parameters, such as the recent history of firings, neurotransmitter levels, hormone levels, membrane potentials, etc... A very conservative estimate would be that a single neuron, receiving impulses at around 10 Hz on 1000 synapses would require on the order of 1 megaflop to simulate. That's ONE neuron. Now multiply that by 100 billion, and you get a picture of what's required: about 100 petaflops, minimum. Storage is nothing to sneeze at either. Assuming a mere 50 single-precision floating point values per synapse to store all simulation state, you're looking at almost 18 petabytes of memory! That's over $100M for the memory sticks alone, even with a deep bulk-purchase discount. Unlike most server or HPC workloads those 18 petabytes would have to completely read out, processed, and possibly updated again at least ten times a second.

Second, consider that the first simulations won't be very optimized. We still don't really know what's relevant, and what can be simplified away. Hence, I suspect that the first attempts will be much less efficient, and may require 10x or even 100x as much computer power compared to later attempts. For example, neurons don't just fire impulses, they also grow and change shape. I don't think there's even a good model for how that works in the complex 3D environment of the brain!

We are getting closer, but expect to wait at least a decade or two before people start talking seriously about a full human brain simulation.

Re:Pretty sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871261)

Computers have surpassed that level a loooooong time ago

Doubtful.

The computational requirements for simulating the human brain have been severely, even hilariously, underestimated in the past. To quote Wikipedia: One estimate puts the human brain at about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses.

That's... a lot.

First off, a lot of people think that 1 FLOP = 1 Neuron, which is not even close. The active points are the synapses, of which there are about a thousand per neuron! Each may receive an impulse over ten times a second, and involve dozens of parameters, such as the recent history of firings, neurotransmitter levels, hormone levels, membrane potentials, etc... A very conservative estimate would be that a single neuron, receiving impulses at around 10 Hz on 1000 synapses would require on the order of 1 megaflop to simulate. That's ONE neuron. Now multiply that by 100 billion, and you get a picture of what's required: about 100 petaflops, minimum. Storage is nothing to sneeze at either. Assuming a mere 50 single-precision floating point values per synapse to store all simulation state, you're looking at almost 18 petabytes of memory! That's over $100M for the memory sticks alone, even with a deep bulk-purchase discount. Unlike most server or HPC workloads those 18 petabytes would have to completely read out, processed, and possibly updated again at least ten times a second.

This is why we've invented discrete event simulation [wikipedia.org] . Beyond "faster is better", read/write times should not be an issue.

Re:Pretty sure (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871341)

Doing equivalent computation to a human brain, and simulating a human brain, are two very different problems.

You have to solve a non-linear coupled differential equation at 1MHz to simulate a 5kHz sawtooth wave generator in Spice. It's about 30 MFLOPS. But, functionally, all you're doing is generating a 5kHz sawtooth wave, which is 15 kFLOPS of work. This is a 2000:1 efficiency difference between simulating an analog system and running a direct digital equivalent implementation.

So divide that 100 PFLOPS by the fundamental inefficiencies of simulating the analog domain in the digital domain, and you get a more reasonable figure for when a computer can functionally compete with the human brain.

Re:Pretty sure (3, Informative)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871365)

your assumptions are close to mine when i estimated the ~1% compute capability of the brain. individual neurons send an outgoing signal depending on the amount and rate of incoming signals), but i am an astrophysicist, not a neuroscientist ;) the zBox4 can calculate at over 10 petaflops.

Re:Pretty sure (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871637)

We are getting closer, but expect to wait at least a decade or two before people start talking seriously about a full human brain simulation.

Boats and submarines don't "simulate" fish, but they still swim.

Airplanes don't "simulate" birds, but they still fly.

Artifical intelligence may not need to "simulate" the brain to reach human level.

Just sayin'.

Re:Pretty sure (-1, Troll)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#41872007)

You cannot compare brain computing to modern computer computing. The brain is parallel, so no reasonable amount serial processors will match it.

Quantum computing is some interesting tech that might allow up to simulate it, or using specifically designed parallel hardware.

I would say that we have far surpassed the human brain is computer processing power, but have not yet simulated it, and cannot using normal modern methods (but we could simulate a human brain if we really wanted to using current technology).

Re:Pretty sure (2)

bmacs27 (1314285) | about 2 years ago | (#41872767)

Lol... most of your brain does sensory and motor processing. You're saying we have a deep blue that could suit up and compete in the NBA? The complexity of the problem is vastly under appreciated.

Re:Pretty sure (1)

bmacs27 (1314285) | about 2 years ago | (#41872725)

We just don't know how to estimate the theoretical computing power of a single cell in your fingernail, let alone your brain. It's worthless to even try.

Re:Pretty sure (1)

wdef (1050680) | about 2 years ago | (#41871041)

You also have to remember that the human brain also has to handle all of those useless background process like "breathing" and "heartbeats".

Fyi those are called autonomic functions and are handled by low level centers in the reptillian part of the brain that only do that stuff and things like balance and the other complex bodily coordination tasks that we normally don't need to think about. Some of it happens in the spinal cord alone. Some functions can control themselves if all connections to the central nervous system are severed (the heart is like this and has a built-in processor of its own). Actual conscious thinking happens in high level centers like the frontal cortex. So these things happen on different (connected) machines if you will. Every neuron is a processor in itself anyway.

If you only took into account the user-taskable portion of the brain, then computers have surpassed that level a loooooong time ago.

Citation needed.

Re:Pretty sure (1)

wdef (1050680) | about 2 years ago | (#41871057)

Actually, to correct myself, it's specific types of thinking (involving planning) that happen in the frontal cortex. IANAB (not a biologist).

Re:Pretty sure (5, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41871189)

So these things happen on different (connected) machines if you will. Every neuron is a processor in itself anyway.

I think that's part of why computing power greatly surpassed humans long ago, and will not reach human levels for many years. The brain isn't digital. It holds an "infinite" number of analogue states, simultaneously. With massive errors and gaps filled in with guesses made from other parts, without even an minor error check that indicates that he information being determined to be "true" is 100% interpolation with 0% fact or actual memory. The very idea of an error check that was wrong more than right and kept no indication of where the result actually came from is so incredible that nobody would ever create a computer capable of operating that way. It won't be until we have computers many millions times more powerful where we can remake a "perfect" brain, until then, we'll never be able to match the capabilities of the human brain.

Re:Pretty sure (1)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | about 2 years ago | (#41871759)

I couldn't agree more. That is why I think we should re-explore the concept of analogue computers and/or fuzzylogic computers. In order to get more 'brain-like' computers. Not an expert on this, just thinking out loud...

Re:Pretty sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41872681)

takes a few billion years to construct a decent analogue computer

Re:Pretty sure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41873275)

we'll never be able to match the capabilities of the human brain.

That really should be a statement unto itself. From the human brain comes "mind," that is personal experience, the myriad of emotions of pain, pleasure, sadness, joy, inspiration, interest and boredom etc. Computers have already overtaken the human brain in speed of mathematical calculaculation (the "speed of thought" is actually very slow compared to the lightspeed of connections in a computer, the chemical messages in the human brain move far far slower than the speed of electrons through conductive wires). But that is the only achievement digital computers will have over the human brain. It is not the status of the technology of computers that prevents them from having "mind," but our own limited understanding of the epiphenominal nature of mind-from-brain that prevents computers from matching the brain. Yet even in that distant future when medical science has advanced far enough that humans begin to fully understand the nature of brain and mind, computers are still never going to have any chance of matching it. It is difficult for anyone that loves computers to accept, but a computer will never be sentient. [wikipedia.org] The best that can be hoped to achieved is that a computer appears sentient.

It's already done. (1, Funny)

edibobb (113989) | about 2 years ago | (#41870767)

Just use a bunch of AWS instances (or the equivalent cloud system) and enjoy your own supercomputer from the "privacy" of your own internet connection.

Re:It's already done. (2)

DMiax (915735) | about 2 years ago | (#41870855)

Not if you want to have a result in your lifetime. Cloud-based systems can be more powerful than your desktop, but are terribly slow compared to even an average supercomputer like this one (they are using ethernet cables for the interconnects...). The stuff you want to compute on these machines requires a high level of communication between the processes, else you would simply run them on several decoupled machines in parallel. You cannot access the required speed for inter-process communication on the cloud.

Re:It's already done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870863)

Most any on demand compute services like AWS allows you to use local LAN for interconnect.

Re:It's already done. (1)

DMiax (915735) | about 2 years ago | (#41871093)

I find it hard to believe a standard LAN would be sufficient. You need static routing and possibly optimized paths for gather-scatter of the data. There is a lot of work in designing and optimizing the topology of the network. A very important number is latency. Can you get a reliable microsecond-scale latency on the cloud? In these things if any node lags all the computation does.

I am sure Amazon and buddies can deploy good and even exceptional hardware, just that it is not what they are selling normally and the rates will not be much lower than building one supercomputer in your backyard. Cloud computing is not high performance computing.

Re:It's already done. (1)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871443)

exactly. gravity is a long range force, so all parts of the simulation volume are constantly transferring information. we need high bandwidth and low latency networks.

Re:It's already done. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871181)

HPC is not about raw computing power anymore, Amazon or Google have way more power than most supercomputers. HPC is memory bound. CPU memory bandwith, interconnect bandwith, and filesystem bandwith.

Try writing results from 500.000 processors to disk once. Each processors writes to one file? You end up with 500.000 files. Try doing ls on 500.000 files in a distributed filesystem, it'll take hours. Actually, they write to disk 1000s of times per day, to a single file. Amazon and Google can actually wait for writing to disk. In HPC, processors cannot keep working before they write to disk. If each processor has to stop, you waste a lot of money.

Most HPC applications require communicating Gbs of data between all processors multiple times per second. Google and Amazon need to communicate information between their nodes too, but in HPC you cannot continue computing until you have received your information! On that league, even InfinyBand is not enough. You need very fast NUMA aware Message Passing technologies.

Now let's talk about resilience. It is really hard to know if one CPU out of half a million is spitting out bad floating point results every now and then. It might do that a lot before it fails, screwing your simulation on the way. So one can say that you are lucky if one node completely fails. In that case everything is easier, Google and Amazon just keep going with one node less. But in HPC you will need to restart from the last write to disk, and distribute the workload amongst the survivors, if possible. Sometimes if one node fails, you just don't have enough memory to keep going.

So yes, Amazon and Google share similar problems with HPC. However, the applications are so different that the solutions have nothing in common.

Re:It's already done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871051)

Amazon offers special cluster instances with 10Gb interconnects...

Re:It's already done. (2)

DMiax (915735) | about 2 years ago | (#41871193)

Yes, and it is nice. the question is whether you value having the hardware or not, i.e. for how long your money will get you running on those servers rather than a one-time payment and keeping the cluster with you. More in general, I take issue with the attitude that the best solution to any problem is always paying some company to do the work for you. It is, if you have the same needs as everyone and a dedicated company can lower the costs, but you should always ask yourself if this is the case.

Title could be (3, Insightful)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 2 years ago | (#41870773)

"How to spend $800,000 in one day"
Price, from comments:

Just under 750,000 Swiss Francs, or about $800,000

Re:Title could be (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870813)

Amazing things can be accomplished with cheap labor and tons of money: look at the pyramids... these people didn't aim high enough!

Re:Title could be (3, Funny)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about 2 years ago | (#41870829)

"How to spend $800,000 in one day"

Challenge accepted! Now to seek someone to finance the challenge!

Re:Title could be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870901)

Went to an online shop to calculate the cost before seeing it, around 1 million with our local tax rate.

Re:Title could be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871293)

Someone got ripped off.

They should never have paid retail for an entire rack.

Re:Title could be (2)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871435)

we benchmarked various configurations with our codes. then we made a tender for the motherboards, memory, cpu's. we got a pretty good price ;)

Re:Title could be (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871919)

No, title could be:
"Youtube comments worth reading found".

1% of the human brain ? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 2 years ago | (#41870797)

Knowing that the base assumptions can make this kind of silly estimate vary widely, I demand the methodology for this number! Once you take into account the frequency and even if you consider that a neuron is ~ 1000 transistors, such a machine easily outperforms the weak human with his 10 kHz (while being *very* nice toward humans) parallel machine.

Re:1% of the human brain ? (1)

tsa (15680) | about 2 years ago | (#41870841)

Yes indeed it's a ridiculous claim. If it has the computing power of 1% of the human brain, why even build it?

Re:1% of the human brain ? (-1, Redundant)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41871201)

The computing power of the human brain is infinite, by some standard definitions, as it is analogue (at least partially, according to some theories) and there are an infinite number of analogue states.

Re:1% of the human brain ? (2)

Thiez (1281866) | about 2 years ago | (#41873229)

> The computing power of the human brain is infinite, by some standard definitions, as it is analogue (at least partially, according to some theories) and there are an infinite number of analogue states.

Just because the brain theoretically has a practically infinite number of possible states does not mean all (or even most) of those states are meaningful and important. People lose thousands of neurons each day without changing significantly (with respect to both personality and intelligence). Obviously the brain contains a lot of detail that it doesn't really need. There is no reason to believe it is impossible to create a significantly less complex model/simulation of the brain that is both functionally equivalent and finite (except our ego, which seems to prefer to think of the human brain as infinitely complex).

Re:1% of the human brain ? (0)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41873339)

That ignores some basic problems.
1. A neuron isn't really analog. A synapse either fires or it doesn't. 2. Claiming that an analog system's operation can't be adequately simulated by a digital system is wrong. The analog system is only different from the digital system if the digital system doesn't simulate it down to the noise level. 3. What's the noise level of a synapse anyway?

Re:1% of the human brain ? (1)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871877)

because its hard to train the human brain to make 10^13 floating point calculations each second and solve the poisson and navier-stokes equations..

Yes, but... (2)

jerry.tk (1145609) | about 2 years ago | (#41870807)

... can you build a Beowulf cluster of those?

Re:Yes, but... (2)

ls671 (1122017) | about 2 years ago | (#41872085)

Didn't you notice the modern miniaturized version of on board Beowulf cluster integrated in a chip chips they put it there? I would guess they put about 50 of them in the rack but since it was in fast forward, I couldn't count accurately. Anyway, if they build a Beowulf cluster of those, we will end up with a Beowulf cluster of Beowulf clusters.

Garbage bin of the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870815)

There are quite a number of instructional, scientific videos on youtube, but for the most part it is the garbage bin of the internet. Also some videos showing inventions, or just people assembling something for you to try. Everytime I go on there they have nothing but the front page filled with idiot videos. There are a few more sites that are mostly science class, experiment videos.

Metacafe being one of them.

Had to be asked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41870861)

But can it run Crysis?

Re:Had to be asked (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 2 years ago | (#41872119)

It supports Crysis 3 only. Crysis 1 and 2 are not supported because of some input problems related to the complexity of game controls in 1 and 2.

News For Nerds (1)

Tim12s (209786) | about 2 years ago | (#41870945)

Now this is what I call news for nerds. None of this 'how would you crap'!

Go team zurich.

Re:News For Nerds (1)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871419)

i posted the original zBox1 specs/website here about eight years ago. our server was immediately slashdotted & crashed. quickly fixed it and we had over a million page views in 2 days ;) its the same design - shelves of motherboards arranged in a cube. cold air is blown into the center of the machine which has a custom design to allow even air flow over all the shelves. we could possibly run the machine without the cpu coolers which would double the density. its a little over one cubic metre and needs about 40kW of power.

Also notable: (4, Funny)

tbird81 (946205) | about 2 years ago | (#41870981)

"for once, several of the YouTube comments are worth reading for more details on the construction and specs."

Yeah, unlike the impeccably high standard of comments you see on Slashdot. Mod me up if you hate Bieber!

Re:Also notable: (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871147)

Racist comments don't routinely stay modded up on slashdot as they do on many parts on YouTube. Use of dubious debating techniques such as the strawman usually gets noticed here. Unpopular viewpoints are often modded up to +5 Interesting if they are sufficiently well argued.

Slashdot ain't what it used to be, but it still has standards.

Re:Also notable: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871197)

Modded you up and posting anonymous to let you know, you're very very right.
I'm pretty much a renowned (sp?) contrarian on several forums. Slashdot is for the most part is still fairly sensible in the way the community promotes well thought out discussion regardless if it follows the crowd. (Although I did just have a post in an Apple thread mod'd down for critisizing ios for not innovating in the last few years, really? Really?!)

The community here, is still quite good, so while it may never become reddit sized - it's far older and I suspect will continue to get traffic long term due to this loyalty.

Also of note, the majority of 'moderated by members' sites like reddit (and more so Digg) are an absoloute bastard if you didn't follow the groupthink. You're basically modded out of sight and then people make a point of following you around to ensure other, completely unrelated posts are hidden too.

Re:Also notable: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871263)

Thanks for the reply. Slashdot is pretty much the only place I post for leisure. Places that I would be interested in posting, such as the BBC News comments, are simply too dominated by the groupthink you describe. More often than not, I can guess the tone and the substance of the top-rated comments before I've seen them. That's no fun. Slashdot sometimes throws a curveball your way.

There may be better specific forums out there, but I've never found a satisfying alternative to slashdot for general tech news.

Be Professional (1, Insightful)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about 2 years ago | (#41870983)

Be Professional about the whole operation:
1) Brag about how you will succeed well before knowing what it's all about.
2) Immediately after, seek the lowest standards you should comply with.
3) Then, study rhetorics in order to getting away with even lower standards.
4) Subsequently explore the deep and dark lows and lower your standards to the absolute minimum.
5) Hiring time. Get yourself people capable of realizing your preposterous proposition and seek the lowest fee to pay.
6) With a bit of delay -being late is after all quite chique- announce a result and plan a party.
7) Not too late after, make sure the bitmonkey comes up with a result of some kind. Be sure NOT to appreciate his efforts in meeting your egocentric targets.
8) Be smug about the whole adventurous undertaking. Well, you were already from the start, weren't you?
9) Be a celebrity for making headlines with sub-mediocrity.

Re:Be Professional (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41872245)

"chique"?

Re:Be Professional (1)

BorisSkratchunkov (642046) | about 2 years ago | (#41873549)

The French. They exist.

That pesky static discharge (4, Insightful)

hardtofindanick (1105361) | about 2 years ago | (#41870985)

only seems to bother EE majors and everyone else seems to be immune to it.

Re:That pesky static discharge (1)

Skylinux (942824) | about 2 years ago | (#41871273)

I was messing around with micro controllers a few years ago and had a few mysteriously die on me.
I started to wear an antistatic wrist strap and did not have another unexplained failure.

PC components may not be as fragile but I always ground the case before doing any work and wear my AWS when handling expensive or important hardware.

Re:That pesky static discharge (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | about 2 years ago | (#41871309)

The risk is so small that most people, rightly, choose to ignore overbearing advice about the handling of "sensitive" electronic equipment.

Re:That pesky static discharge (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#41871631)

The risk of damage depends on the sensitivity of the component. For instance good luck wreaking a standard BJT with ESD. On many ICs the I/O is either suitably protected against ESD, or the nature of the design makes it less vulnerable to the effects of a sudden static spike.

It's a very different story for say working with high frequency MOSFETs, uncut silicon wafers, or pretty much any RF gear. I remember in our lab one of the PHD students was working on a silicon wafer. The instrument had the wafer suspended on a cushion of air. One of the other students rushed into the room suddenly and the wind from opening the door made the wafer float towards the edge of the instrument and was stopped instinctively with a hand that prevented it from falling off. 2/3rds of the transistors failed testing after that, the survivors were on the opposite side of the hand that steadied it.

Also you think EE majors are bad you should try Hams. A Motorola technician nearly bit my head off when he saw me dismantle one of their repeaters without an static strap.

Re:That pesky static discharge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871887)

probrability of latent damage VS number of nodes = jeez why not use a wrist strap. just use the big metal platters and work your potential from that. No EPA no problem just sensible precautions are enough.

Re:That pesky static discharge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871917)

from uploaders comments: "3 boards had problems and were sent back. Everything else is working. It's been running tests for the last week."

Software (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#41871141)

will be used for simulating the formation of stars, planets and galaxies

It was nice to hear about the beefy specs, but how about a bit more information about the piece above? What kind of simulation, what software applications and so on.

Re:Software (5, Informative)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871393)

we use various astrophysics simulation codes, i.e. GASOLINE, PKDGRAV, RAMSES etc. some are developed by us. they are all MPI and solve the coupled gravitational and hydrodynamic equations that can describe the dark matter and baryons evolving in the expanding universe. memory and speed of the computer limit the resolution that can be attained, so various "sub-grid" physical processes have to be treated carefully. for cosmological simulations we know the initial conditions - those are the fluctuations that we can read off the microwave background. they show the universe was hot, dense and smooth early on. the codes follow the perturbations into the non-linear regime when dark matter haloes, stars and galaxies form. we can then compare the properties of simulated structures with observational data etc.

Re:Software (0)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#41871455)

Thank you!

Mod parent up.

Re:Software (1)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | about 2 years ago | (#41871963)

But can it calculate 9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 times 9999999999999999999999999998999989999989899999999999999999999976499 ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KKgvRw1rrU&feature=endscreen&NR=1

Just asking aaaait? :-)

Re:Software (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 2 years ago | (#41872165)

I just logged into it and yes since bc is installed:

$ bc
'bc 1.06.95
Copyright 1991-1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2006 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
For details type `warranty'.
9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 *\
filter trap
9999999999999999999999999998999989999989899999999999999999999976499
filter trap
99999999999999999999999999989999899999898999999999999999999989764990\
filter trap
000000000000000000001000010000010100000000000000000000023501
filter trap

1% of Human Brain Neuro Cap. & Used For *Whar* (0)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 2 years ago | (#41871203)

The machine has a theoretical compute capacity of ~1% of the human brain and will be used for simulating the formation of stars, planets and galaxies."

May I be the first to say; Formation of stars, planets, and galaxies my ASS!

Nominate it in a special Act for POTUS!

I mean, c'mon. Could it seriously be that much worse than the choices at present?

At least then, maybe the US populace would begin to grasp the concept of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) and maybe begin to apply it to the other parts of government. And no, nothing at all to do with political party/ideology. Rather, more a perspective from a "CS101 basics" point of view. :)

Strat

Re:1% of Human Brain Neuro Cap. & Used For *Wh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871353)

Not everything is about your fucking elections.

This computer stands in Zürich, it has nothing to do with POTUS.

Don't always drag it into the direction of the US and then not always in that of those stupid media-hype-elections where you can either pick the right or the ultra-right wing of the The Party. Stop doing that. There is no, none, zero, nade US relation here.

Apart from that, the claim the computer would do as good as a human governing a nation is either outright stupid or stupid trolling.

Re:1% of Human Brain Neuro Cap. & Used For *Wh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871521)

U mad? LOL!

OCZ Rebates (4, Funny)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#41871229)

So who's job was it to mail in all the OCZ rebate forms?

Re:OCZ Rebates (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871469)

Easy, only one was sent, since there's a limit of one per customer.

Nice rack! (1)

bazorg (911295) | about 2 years ago | (#41871307)

and it actually runs Linux.

Come on, anyone can do it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871459)

As long as you have the dough to pay for all the hardware.

Couldn't it be smaller ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871557)

If the team had used a cluster of GPGPU capable graphic cards I believe the number of Xeon CPUs would have been smaller and probably cheaper.

Re:Couldn't it be smaller ? (1)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41871599)

see my reply to the post about software. we have some codes that run on GPUs but the main astrophysics codes are too complex to re-write or to fit onto a GPU. some subroutines can use the GPU as an accelerator and we hope to find the extra ~100,000 money units, to put GPUs on all the motherboards at some point.

Antistatic (1)

Toast or Rice (2766955) | about 2 years ago | (#41871673)

When I had to be build PC's for a living (when men were men and super IO cards were not builtin) we had to wear antistatic wristbands and not rub ourselves with balloons before shift. Am I missing something ? is that not important any more? is that Swiss exercise ball just a big van de graaff generator?

Re:Antistatic (1)

mrand (147739) | about 2 years ago | (#41871945)

You're not missing anything - and I had the same thought about the Swiss ball. It is really too bad that they didn't take basic anti-static precautions - it really isn't hard at all. It's like wearing your seat belt...

Re:Antistatic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41872073)

They should have taken anti-static precautions. ESD protection is still important IMHO. We all know that many components might fail in subtle ways. Oh well....

"YouTube comments are worth reading" (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 2 years ago | (#41871675)

Individually, five words. Collectively, in that order, the cause of me needing a new keyboard.

China doesn't need timelapse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871771)

If they would have used china to assemble, there would be no need for
Timelapse. They simply work that fast

WTF?! have these kids never heard of ESD? (2)

metaforest (685350) | about 2 years ago | (#41872181)

NO grounding straps.
NO signs of any ESD precautions!!!

Lacking from the video is the debugging process.

Sure they built it in 2 days... but how many nodes came ready?

I was cringing through the whole video over their lack of concern for basic ESD prevention. They don't need to be wearing bunny suits or anything that extreme, but FFS.... could ya show a little bit of respect for the hardware? Heck even clipping the freaking base-plates to ground during assembly would have been more than adequate.

That video was like watching "OW MY BALLS" for geeks!

Re:WTF?! have these kids never heard of ESD? (1)

itpuzh (2766999) | about 2 years ago | (#41872493)

We had three bad boards (of 192, i.e., less than 2%). Everything else has been working perfectly for the last week.

Re:WTF?! have these kids never heard of ESD? (1)

metaforest (685350) | about 2 years ago | (#41872547)

Maybe that 2% loss was due to sloppy ESD protocol? You'd never know, unless you take proper precautions, and vet nodes before final assembly.

Hey... but that is what ya learn in school, yes? To cross all the 'T's and dot all the 'I's?

Re:WTF?! have these kids never heard of ESD? (1)

metaforest (685350) | about 2 years ago | (#41872613)

Sorry for the second replay.

IF you had a 2% fail on assembly in a commercial environment... you'd be looking for a new job.

Re:WTF?! have these kids never heard of ESD? (1)

zbox4 (2766677) | about 2 years ago | (#41872515)

no nodes came ready - we assembled/installed all the motherboards, cpu's, memory, disks, power etc.. on custom made shelves. they are arranged on four sides of a cube and we cool everything by directly blowing cold air into the centre of the frame. a custom insert distributes even airflow over the shelves. its a compact design and easy to maintain/upgrade. grounding straps essential? what is your source for that??

Re:WTF?! have these kids never heard of ESD? (1)

metaforest (685350) | about 2 years ago | (#41872593)

no nodes came ready

I'm going to assume that my comment was misunderstood.

When accepting new hardware it is typical to verify that it works.... THEN assemble it into the desired configuration. THEN verify that each sub-system is fully functional... at least all the I/O. These are basic functional tests... yes?

Where I have issue with the video is the lack of precautions taken during assembly...

That is all.

A lot of CPUs != Supercomputer (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 2 years ago | (#41872729)

A lot more goes into make a 'super' computer than just a bunch of cpus and some ram.

Umm.. (1)

kakaburra (2508064) | about 2 years ago | (#41872857)

That rack has "3,072 2.2GHz Intel Xeon cores and over 12TB of RAM."

I'm not sure if I would like that much silicon...

Like clockwork (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41872885)

They build supercomputers in Zurich like clockwork.

But what about all the Garbage? (5, Interesting)

Grumpinuts (1272216) | about 2 years ago | (#41872993)

Used to do this kind of stuff when I was with IBM about 10 years ago, we had a group in XSeries Manufacturing who specialised in quick turnaround configuration of HPC rack systems just like this. Funnily enough, one of the major logistical elements was dunnage, ie the empty cardboard/foam and plastic that all the option parts arrive in. When running full out we used to have 1-2 guys per shift just to move the rubbish out to the big compactors out back. You wouldn't believe just how much packaging even a comparatively small cluster like that can generate.
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