Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

How a Supercomputer Beat the Scrap Heap and Lived On To Retire In Africa

Unknown Lamer posted about two weeks ago | from the spread-the-computing dept.

Supercomputing 145

New submitter jorge_salazar (3562633) writes Pieces of the decommissioned Ranger supercomputer, 40 racks in all, were shipped to researchers in South Africa, Tanzania, and Botswana to help seed their supercomputing aspirations. They say they'll need supercomputers to solve their growing science problems in astronomy, bioinformatics, climate modeling and more. Ranger's own beginnings were described by the co-founder of Sun Microsystems as a 'historic moment in petaflop computing."

cancel ×

145 comments

In an alternate universe (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453401)

In an alternate universe much like our own, I invite you to contemplate how the press would react to a white first-term Senator from Chicago, IL, who was proposing to run for President, who had these matters to be accounted for:

-- His ties to a sleazy felon and fixer who had "assisted" him in buying a lavish mansion, said fixer taking a loss on the deal

-- A wife who worked for a local hospital where her role was to find ways to dump lower-income, uninsured, lower-profit African-American patients off onto other medical centers

-- Worshipped for years at a church which had an explicitly stated racially "white" theological underpinning, and whose pastor damned America from the pulpit

-- Helped privatize local housing projects, handing them over to people who were major campaign contributors of his, and having the housing fall into horrible disrepair afterward, including black families living in unheated apartments with broken windows through brutal Chicago winters

Of course, the press would have gone into utter ballistic cyclonic shitstorm mode if any white candidate had been linked to any of these things, much less to ALL of them, and more yet.

But it is true that Obama has been treated differently on account of his race.

That is, he has been treated far, far, far more _leniently_ than a white candidate of comparable background would ever have been treated. And that leniency and special pleading that he was extended as a candidate has now been allowed to extend through six years as President.

Re:In an alternate universe (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453423)

If anyone doesn't think Obama is a racist they haven't looked at his appointments.

Head of Homeland Security, Black.

Sec of Transportation, Black

Attorney General, Black

Head of CIA, Muslim

National Security adviser, Black

Chief of Staff, AKA, asst president, Black, Val

And the worst,

Head of Federal Housing Finance Agency, Black. I know him, he IS a racist, Mel Watt.

He'll appoint a white guy, just only if he can not find a Black guy.

Re:In an alternate universe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453463)

Don't forget his boyfriend Reggie!

Re:In an alternate universe (2)

Circlotron (764156) | about two weeks ago | (#47453727)

Head of CIA, Muslim.

A person *cannot* change their skin colour. A person =can= become a Muslim. Therefore being a Muslim or not has nothing to do with race.

Re:In an alternate universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453747)

A person *cannot* change their skin colour.

Not unless they're the King of Pop.

Growing Problem In Sociology (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453855)

They say they'll need supercomputers to solve their growing science problems in astronomy, bioinformatics, climate modeling and more.

THE biggest problem in sociology: how these African scientists can convince their American bruthas that all teh gangsta thug bullshit is moronic and selfdefeating

Re:In an alternate universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453787)

Well, at least in the United States.

But in most Muslim countries you're Muslim at birth based on your ethnicity, and choosing to convert to another religion is illegal and often subjects you to the death penalty. And in a substantial number of such countries, the penalty is carried out in actuality. Islam is a one-way straight, and in real life is heavily race oriented, notwithstanding the theological doctrines. This is what happens when you permit state established religions; the vast majority of nation-states also have a strong race/ethnicity component to their identity and this carriers through into religious practice and doctrine when they co-mingle.

To understand this dynamic look at, e.g., Malaysia, where the conflict between Islamic values and liberal values--such as of religious freedom--constantly clash in the public sphere. Malaysia is a good example because the secular civil courts and the religious courts are near parity in terms of real power, and constantly jockey over these issues. This isn't the case in most Muslim countries, which either lack a Western-style legal system entirely, or where liberal civil courts are subservient to Islamic courts and generally only exist for the benefit of commerce.

Re:In an alternate universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453789)

It's called tanning, asshole.

Re:In an alternate universe (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about two weeks ago | (#47453757)

Head of CIA, Muslim

Wow, which one?

Re:In an alternate universe (1)

mtthwbrnd (1608651) | about two weeks ago | (#47454235)

Whites or Jews?
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrar... [jewishvirtuallibrary.org]

Do these Jews, many of them dual citizens of Israel, do they have American or Israeli/Jewish interests at heart when they decide to continue funding their own racist nation of Israel where only Jewish immigrant are welcome?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

Re:In an alternate universe (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about two weeks ago | (#47455085)

Reality check: Most Jews are white.

Re:In an alternate universe (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453437)

He'd be regularly invited on and fellated by Fox News.

Re:In an alternate universe (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453493)

The remark of an idiot.

We have a perfectly valid point here and the defense that the best the left can come up with is;

Fox News derpa derpa derpa.

I'm surprised you didn't blame Bush and Cheny.

Ya, you guys are literally the smartest of the geeks. You are like awesome geeks, made up of the stuff of lesser geeks.

I'm not worthy.

Re: In an alternate universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453515)

Ask retarded questions and you'll receive stupid answers, and you'll continue to receive them until the point where anything you fucking loons have to say is worth being taken seriously. Now fuck off back to Bellevue, it's time for your meds.

Re: In an alternate universe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453551)

Fuck off back to the bay, its time for your anal prolapse and facial.

Re: In an alternate universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453571)

Retarded? Indeed, more insightful careful and hard hitting analysis from the geek superstars out at Slashdot central.

Of course you fail to explain how this is retarded, these are actual facts, I'm not sure facts are retarded. Are they sooper genuis?

And using facts to present a contrasting thought experiment is retarded? You may or may not agree with the conclusion, that is your choice, but to call such a logical progression retarded to me is the mark of a coward and a reactionary idealogue.

So how about it sooper genius? Got any actual argument to use other than 'you are a poopy head'?

Re: In an alternate universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453607)

Interesting how you think your bullet points are being argued and not your racial slant.

See you at the rally, Brother. White Power.

Re: In an alternate universe (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453625)

On top of everything you sooper geniuses lack reading comprehension?

Such a basic thing.

My entire point was illustrative of - and arguing against - the double standard in the media and in government as to how a black man was being treated with kid gloves because of his race - this of course is the definition of racism. That is I am the one here arguing that this behavior is racist and wrong.

And you garner from this that it is I who is racist? Are you all really this blinded by idealogy and institutional hatred for conservatism?

That is the only explanation, because facts and logic are just not on your side.

Well at least you didn't blame Bush and Fox News so I guess you get points for that.

Re:In an alternate universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453717)

Better response. It's off-topic, so fuck off.

Go hang in /r/politics

Re:In an alternate universe (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453791)

Your lord and king, the Obama. Fits to a T. You jerks are being played so well. No go on, do what you are told and holler loud for all to hear 'It's BOOOSHS fault!! Eleventy!! Derpa Derpa!'. Don't bother using your brains at all mr. progressive. Statism all the way!

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/07/11/obamas-psychological-tapestry/

"Early on with Mr. Obama, I assumed his chronic finger pointing was simply cynical. It may be that in part, but it seems to me to be more than that. It’s one thread in a larger psychological tapestry.

The president is a man who has a grandiose sense of himself, a very strong sense of entitlement, and is, even for a politician, unusually prickly and self-pitying. He is blind to the damage he’s doing and the failures he’s amassed. His self-conception--pragmatic, empirical, non-ideological, self-reflective, willing to listen to and work with others, intellectually honest, competent at governing–is at odds with reality. Mr. Obama is constantly projecting his own weaknesses onto his political opponents. There are never any honest differences with Obama; he is always impugning the motives of his critics--they put "party ahead of country"--while presenting his own motives as being as pure as the new-driven snow. And whatever goes wrong on his watch is always the result of someone or something else. There's a kind of impressive consistency to Obama's blame game. It never rests, and it applies to every conceivable circumstance....

What all these things in combination result in is an inability to adjust to circumstances and self-correct. There’'s a marked rigidity, a lack of cognitive flexibility, in Mr. Obama. He has to be right, he is always right..."

Re:In an alternate universe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47455433)

Yawn...That's nice. He's not my lord, nor even my president as I'm not from the US.

Again, you're off-topic. Go elsewhere.

Really now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453445)

Do those countries really have the resources to invest in that research? Shouldn't S. Africa be more concerned with the civil strife and restoring peace than researching astronomy? This is just an easy way for white westerners to send second-hand garbage over to poor countries to dispose of, all the while making them feel like they really made a difference.

Re:Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453473)

Why bother doing anything at all? People are still starving!

Enough with the false dichotomies.

Re: Really now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453539)

Does the US have the resources to spend time looking at the same inane shit with all the problems we are facing? When I see researchers spending time worrying about how many dimensions and "multiverses" exist because they are obsessed with comic books and it really doesn't fucking matter because it amounts to a hill of bullshit even if it does exist, yet we still have diseases and needless suffering going on due to a great number of other things, I think the same thing. I don't disagree with you, really, but we are no better - if anything, worse, because we waste so much. These folks are just taking leftovers from our over abundance of equipment to study bullshit that really doesn't matter by folks who would be better spent looking into real, tangible issues now and worry about the other theoretical crap when and if we ever solve our own actual problems (and please spare me the bullshit that most of that shit matters, it doesn't, even I like reading about it because it is interesting, but it's in no way actually beneficial to society as a whole practically and is just a pissing contents between folks who write needless papers for a living).

Re: Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453615)

Does the US have the resources to spend time looking at the same inane shit with all the problems we are facing?

The US uses these systems to validate the design of ICBM warheads. The alternative to simulation is testing real nukes. Unless you want to argue that the US should unilaterally disarm, "inane shit" is not a reasonable way to describe the work in question.

Re: Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453641)

Lasers are interesting as a physical phenomenon, but it took _ages_ for practical uses to be thought of. Would we be better off now if we had no lasers, but realized we needed something like them, and said "Ok, scientists, now you need to go find physical phenomena that can be wrangled into something that solves these problems -- and do it fast"?

Re: Really now (1)

Circlotron (764156) | about two weeks ago | (#47453751)

E-waste gets positive spin in news article.

Re: Really now (3, Insightful)

ranton (36917) | about two weeks ago | (#47453839)

and please spare me the bullshit that most of that shit matters, it doesn't, even I like reading about it because it is interesting, but it's in no way actually beneficial to society as a whole practically and is just a pissing contents between folks who write needless papers for a living

Many of the fields of study we now use as the backbone of the modern era started out as mere intellectual curiosities, and often stayed that way for centuries until practical applications were invented. Scientists started seriously studying electricity in the 1600s, but we found few practical uses for it until the late 19th century. The scientists studying theoretical physics and astronomy today are no different than the likes of Michael Faraday, who never created useful inventions from his research in electricity.

No one knows what the next technology will be to usher in the next age of mankind. The study of multiverses may bring about faster than light communication, and quantum mechanics may bring the computational power of thousands of today's supercomputers into your cellphone. Or maybe they will do none of those things, but we can be sure some other intellectual curiosity will change the way we live our lives.

I for one think we spend far too little on intellectual curiosities. Increasing funding that goes towards basic scientific research ten fold would be a good place to start.

Re: Really now (4, Insightful)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about two weeks ago | (#47454175)

Many of the fields of study we now use as the backbone of the modern era started out as mere intellectual curiosities, and often stayed that way for centuries until practical applications were invented. Scientists started seriously studying electricity in the 1600s, but we found few practical uses for it until the late 19th century. The scientists studying theoretical physics and astronomy today are no different than the likes of Michael Faraday, who never created useful inventions from his research in electricity.

This in spades.

One of my favorite Michael Faraday stories (of which there are variants) is a visit to his lab by Prime Minister Robert Peel, during which Peel asked "what use is electricity?" Faraday replied "what use is a new-born baby?"

Re: Really now (1)

AudioEfex (637163) | about two weeks ago | (#47455241)

Yeah, that's lovely and all - let's cure cancer, first. I like Star Trek, too - but let's be real here.

Re: Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47455539)

Yeah, that's lovely and all - let's cure cancer, first.

There are over seven billion of us. It's OK if we work on more than one problem at a time.

CALLING EVERYONE! (2, Insightful)

captjc (453680) | about two weeks ago | (#47455573)

Hey, all you physicists, mathematicians, geologists, astronomers, programmers, researchers, astronauts, engineers, marine biologists, architects, electricians, lawyers, politicians, professors, businessmen, defense contractors, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists what the hell are you doing!?

Don't you know that there is no cure for CANCER!? Drop everything and find a cure for it. We must start teaching everyone everything we know about cancer starting in elementary school so that we can eliminate this problem fast. What do you mean you have no interest in medicine or medical research? If you're not with us, than you're against us. We as a society can and must only focus on one problem at a time.

Re:CALLING EVERYONE! (1)

buckfeta2014 (3700011) | about two weeks ago | (#47455695)

Sorry, too busy playing xbox.

Re:Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453651)

South Africa isn't poor enough to need to give up on research. If you want a direct application, weather simulations do wonders to optimize farming. Try to plant at the wrong time and see how long it takes until you're bankrupt. That's why rich nations care about weather. That you can know when to take an umbrella with you is just a happy coincidence.

Re:Really now (1, Insightful)

kwbauer (1677400) | about two weeks ago | (#47453739)

But do we really need a supercomputer to know when spring will arrive? Pro-tip: It will happen next year on almost exactly the same day as it did this year. Seriously, farmers have been doing this for literally centuries and the decades of super-computing haven't improved the averages in the "developed" countries

The weather for planting, as the whole climate change community is constantly saying, is weather and cannot be modeled. Only multi-decade average trends can be modeled.

Re:Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47454007)

But do we really need a supercomputer to know when spring will arrive?

You don't. One more reason these weren't sent to you.

Pro-tip: It will happen next year on almost exactly the same day as it did this year. Seriously, farmers have been doing this for literally centuries and the decades of super-computing haven't improved the averages in the "developed" countries

Knowing the first day of spring is useless. Knowing when it will (probably) rain or not is useful since the farmer can better decide whether he should fertilize today or wait a few days. There are also some crops that depend on this, but I really don't remember any examples.
Crop yield with modern farming techniques is much better than it was centuries ago. That's why the old models for population limits failed, they didn't account production would go up so much. Sure it isn't due to weather models alone, but hardly any real improvement is due to a single technique.

The weather for planting, as the whole climate change community is constantly saying, is weather and cannot be modeled. Only multi-decade average trends can be modeled.

Weather can and is predicted. The weather one year from now is anyone's guess, but you can have somewhat good predictions for the short-them. They sometimes miss, but it's better to have numbers, however imprecise, than leaving everything to luck alone.

El Nino, La Nina, Monsoons (2)

dbIII (701233) | about two weeks ago | (#47454101)

Let's turn that bullshit around and inject some reality.
El Nino, La Nina, Monsoons - The 19th century called and suggested that a bit of modern science could help in that field. And it did.
Scientists have been doing this for literally centuries and it has made a massive difference to the world.
Unfortunately any suggestion that the world has changed since an apparently very limited God put it together one week 6000 years ago is seen as a financial threat to some merchants in temples, hence the rise of ridiculous luddite attacks like the "farmers have been doing this for literally centuries and the decades of super-computing haven't improved the averages in the "developed" countries"

Re:El Nino, La Nina, Monsoons (0)

kwbauer (1677400) | about two weeks ago | (#47454193)

Yes, science has greatly improved farming (large-scale farming that makes efficient use of tractors, fertilization techniques, genetic advances, etc.) but, speaking of luddites, the liberals are pouring huge resources into undoing all those advances with their attacks on "factory farming", the push for "organic" farming, using terms such as "frankenfoods", etc.

What science has not done is improve weather forecasting to the point that it is useful for knowing when to plant and when to prepare to plant. It is barely useful for determining whether to cut hay today or wait until next week (don't worry if you don't know why weather affects cutting hay, farmers will). Farmers have been predicting when to plant for centuries and modern science has done nothing to help with that prediction and it is calculated as some offset from the first day of spring.

Re:El Nino, La Nina, Monsoons (1)

dbIII (701233) | about two weeks ago | (#47454205)

What science has not done is improve weather forecasting to the point that it is useful for knowing when to plant and when to prepare to plant

Of course it has and I put three forecasting examples used since the 19th century in the subject heading.

Re:El Nino, La Nina, Monsoons (0)

kwbauer (1677400) | about two weeks ago | (#47454343)

No, science is an utter failure at predicting when a hurricane (monsoon) will form in time to affect planting. Even when we know a hurricane exists, we can't accurately predict more than a a day or two in advance when and when it will make landfall. It fails to even accurately predict how many will occur in a given year without a +/- of about 20. El Nino and La Nina were known long before modern science because they are cyclic in nature. Determining when they started, after the fact, does not help adjust when to plant.

Please stop kidding yourself and others about this. This has nothing to do with how much modern science has done for us. It has done plenty, just not what you are stating.

Not a spelling bee therefore failure (1)

dbIII (701233) | about two weeks ago | (#47454803)

Very amusing post. Look up how "monsoons" is used in terms of seasons and climates to see exactly why :)
So much certainty from someone with zero clue - WTF are you doing here on a site that discusses technical matters where reality trumps bluster?

Re:El Nino, La Nina, Monsoons (1)

dbIII (701233) | about two weeks ago | (#47454813)

El Nino and La Nina were known long before modern science

Working it out was the start of modern climate science.

If you don't believe reality then try your Bible (1)

dbIII (701233) | about two weeks ago | (#47454947)

Not every year is the same. Seven good years, seven bad - want to deny the Bible as well as science now?
Not so convenient for your luddite bullshit propaganda is it? WTF is it with Christianity-Lite franchises and science denial? Haven't you people got something better to do like help out the poor like mainstream religion does?

Re:Really now (3, Funny)

kwbauer (1677400) | about two weeks ago | (#47453721)

No, no, no. Those are just the public reasons they gave. They are really for all the Nigerian princes to help get out the message about their uncle and his money problems. Now, we can also hear from the Tanzanian, Botswanan and Zulu princes as well.

Re:Really now (3, Informative)

Hartree (191324) | about two weeks ago | (#47453817)

Horse hockey.

South Africa (one of the destinations) is the tech hub of southern Africa and has long been highly competitive with Europe and the Americas in research and industry.

Supercomputers can be used for all sorts of problem solving and are part of the basic modern scientific infrastructure. You don't have to have the utter best and fastest to still be very useful.

To keep at the cutting edge you have to get ever faster systems. But most day to day research work doesn't need that much horsepower. (full disclosure: I work for the chemistry department at a major US university. I'm in the same group that supports research computation, though I do lab instrument repair)

How do you propose to train and keep researchers to solve the problems of those countries if there are no facilities?

Are you saying that they should shut down everything in their research centers and universities until every problem is solved? That's like locking the toolbox until the car is fixed. Doesn't make much sense does it?

That's like saying you should shut down US universities and research labs until we take care of the many civil problems we still face (poverty and crime ridden areas, for example)

Re:Really now (4, Insightful)

mendax (114116) | about two weeks ago | (#47454393)

While reading this a thought occurred to me. Assuming that our African friends are ingenious in their use of this computing power and do a lot of good with it, in a few years perhaps more decommissioned government supercomputers, like the one that replaced Ranger which is 20 times faster, will head in their direction and bless other African universities. African universities are full of very clever, brilliant people who will make use of this gift, and likely do it in ways that will surprise us.

Re:Really now (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about two weeks ago | (#47455021)

I'd leave it to the experts to say exactly when the electrical costs and maintenance make it more cost effective to buy something newer; but by the looks of this system, it has the additional advantage of being large enough, and new enough, that (aside from being able to attack nontrivial problems, though not the biggest ones) it should provide the user experience in working with, and around, the strengths and weaknesses of a comparatively large, moderately tightly coupled, system.

That sort of experience should be applicable to much larger and more powerful systems; but isn't necessarily something you could easily get with a cheaper system. If your problem fits in a socket or two, it's delightful how many cores you can buy for not much money, and if your problem is loosely coupled, it sure is handy that GbE is pretty much impossible to not buy with any remotely recent system; but stepping up to infiniband remains quite costly.

You could probably cook up a virtual infiniband cluster system with a bunch of VMs and some creative tuning of the latency and throughput of the virtual network interconnects; but that would be pretty agonizing for anything that isn't an absolute toy problem. With a chunk of this system, you should at very least be able to develop experience in dealing with these sorts of systems, even if you might have to beg, borrow, or scrounge time on somebody else's faster system to attack very large problems.

Re:Really now (1)

mendax (114116) | about two weeks ago | (#47454377)

Do those countries really have the resources to invest in that research?

When I came across this article I immediately called my dad, a person who has lived and taught in Africa and maintains an interest interest in the place. His thoughts were along the line of what projects do they have which demand supercomputing power. My response was, "If you build it, the demand will come." These computers are going to be placed in an academic environment, where brilliant people who have not had access to such computing power are now, all of a sudden, going to have it. The ideas will come forward quickly enough. Give our friends in Africa a few years and they may surprise us with their ingenuity.

Re:Really now (1)

ruir (2709173) | about two weeks ago | (#47454863)

I also lived in Africa for years, and my thoughts are either this will rot in customs until someone higher up has his hands greased, or will be sold to the Russian mob or something similar at sales prices.

Re:Really now (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about two weeks ago | (#47454635)

Dollars are fungible; but how you react to that fungibility can have real, and long term, consequences that you can't necessarily cheaply or quickly buy your way back out of.

In the case of South Africa, say, you've got high crime rates and substantial pockets of poverty; but you also have areas of fairly well developed civil society, economic development, higher education, and similar. Unless you are god's own gift to social engineering, do you really want to bet that you can divert resources from the less-dysfunctional areas of the country efficiently enough that you can fix the defective ones before the functional ones brain-drain away to somewhere with higher salaries and lower murder rates?

One must, of course, do something about the festering issues (even if you have no humanitarian interest, crime and low quality of life are very, very, expensive in terms of guard labor, instability, etc.) and one must also be very careful not to treat a given sector of the country as 'well developed' just because it's rich and looks good in a suit (any Russian oligarch, middle eastern petro-sheik, or American white-collar criminal could say that much, and those tend to be cancers on their respective societies); but unless you have the good fortune of having social problems that can be solved with mere money (rather than money along with sustained good governance, anti-corruption efforts, and assorted other tricky bits), you probably don't want to slash support for the parts of your society that aren't totally screwed merely to hire more of the police that aren't keeping crime in check now to wander around.

Re:Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47455781)

Dollars are fungible; but how you react to that fungibility can have real,

Dollars are what, now? If you use actual real words that others will recognise, you may actually get your point across. If you use silly-sounding made-up terms you end up sounding like you fell out of Farscape [youtube.com] . Pseudo-elitism is amusing, but ultimately futile, particularly when you're trying to make an argument but sound like a fool.

TL;DR: Grow the fuck up. Use English and others will be able to understand you. Made up words don't make you sound smart.

Re:Really now (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about two weeks ago | (#47454903)

To paraphrase: "My god, why are these people trying to build a knowledge economy and generate growth when people are starving? Long-term economic development doesn't put food on the table." or to paraphrase further: "Why are you teaching that man to fish? Can't you see that he's hungry?!?"

Re: Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47455167)

I'm a software engineer, but the computing industry has more issues with stupid IP laws than it does with staff shortages. Does that mean I should give up on what I love and am good at I order to pursue a career in politics? There's no guarantee I'd make a difference or be remotely competent, and I doubt I'd be happier. But sure, since the human race is only allowed to focus on one problem at a time, I should just do something else with my life.

And why not (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453461)

Just because it may not be fast enough for bleeding edge research * dosn't mean its obsolete, Or if your Cynical keeping the military industrial complex welfare system going.

Re:And why not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453623)

The cost of power in developing countries is astronomical compared to ours.

Re:And why not (1)

Kardos (1348077) | about two weeks ago | (#47453711)

But when the capital cost of the machine is zero, the higher power cost is not to bad.

Re:And why not (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about two weeks ago | (#47453879)

To say nothing of the value of having their own computing resources for research, available locally. Internet access to remote supercomputers is certainly helpful, but having a machine in the next room is a big boost for their industry and academia.

Re:And why not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47454021)

Tell that to the managers outsourcing own datacenters to amazon :-/

Re:And why not (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about two weeks ago | (#47454909)

Your counterargument should possibly include the letters FSA and GCHQ, and the keywords "trade secrets"....

Re:And why not (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453957)

the higher power cost is not [too] bad.

You couldn't be more wrong.

I went through the Wikipedia page that compares Nvidia GPUS [wikipedia.org] and looked for the most efficient card in each generation (GFLOPs/W).

GeForce 8800 GTS (G92): 4.62 in Dec 2007.
(...skip some generations...)
GeForce GTX 750 Ti: 21.8 in Feb 2014 (actually alightly more efficient than the GTX Titan Z, and they list for about 1/3 the price in GFLOPS).

That's 4.7x improvement in efficiency in just 74 months = efficiency doubles in 33 months on average.

Consider the cost of operating 1 PFLOPS of each of these. That's 1603x 8800's (unknown list) or 766x 750 Ti's ($114,900 list). How much does it take to run these 24/7? Assuming $0.11/kWh, the 8800 will cost you 1e6 / 4.62 = 216 kW ($23.8/hr), and the 750 Ti will cost you 46 kW ($5.1/hr).

How long does it take to justify purchasing the new cards if you were given the old cards for free?
$115k / (23.8 - 5.1) = 6144 hours = 256 days = 8.4 months. (Or about 25 months if you're an idiot and you decide to buy Titan Z's instead).

In other words, I've given you an example where you're definitely better off throwing the old tech in the trash and buying new tech if you plan to use it for for a couple of years.

p.s. The time goes down as the cost of electricity goes up, and the GP told you that electricity is more expensive in developing countries.

p.p.s. AMD GPUs [wikipedia.org] have similar gains:

Radeon HD 2600 XT: 4.27 in Jun 2007.
Radeon Radeon R9 295X2: 22.9 in Apr 2014.

That's 5.4x improvement in 82 months = efficiency doubles in 34 months. I'd love to see someone do similar analysis for the actual CPUs in question.

Re:And why not (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about two weeks ago | (#47454915)

You haven't factored in the mainboards and the racking equipment...

Not a factor: (1)

Hartree (191324) | about two weeks ago | (#47453881)

That's a complete failure of energy usage understanding.

The power use for one supercomputer is nothing compared to that used for even a small oil refinery, or steel mill (which all of those countries have).

When you have massive data centers like Google or the like, power cost becomes a big factor. This is only 40 racks total plus a high speed switch.

Any of those countries can easily afford the power for 40 racks of even pretty inefficient computer gear.

Re:Not a factor: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47454639)

While this is true, with the K computer clocking at "only" 10MW, the power requirements are stringent enough that the site has to be very carefully planned (and I'm sure the steel mills are in very close proximity to the electricity plants). For one, I would imagine that computers are much less error prone to power failure or fluctuations in power.

Re:And why not (1)

Livius (318358) | about two weeks ago | (#47453833)

They're still working, and likely just as hard as before, so it's really not what you would call retirement. I suspect the writer has a prejudice that research in Africa is a vacation compared to 'real' research in places like Europe, North America, or Japan.

Then again, continuing to work is what retirement is starting to look like for a lot of people.

Re:And why not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453871)

Well one factor cluster computing is reliability. If there are enough working nodes (the system is 8 years old now) then it's still OK. But surely everything is out of warranty now and replacement components may not be available.

Re:And why not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47454495)

Just because it may not be fast enough for bleeding edge research * dosn't mean its obsolete, Or if your Cynical keeping the military industrial complex welfare system going.

If it were economical to keep it running, it wouldn't be going to the scrap heap. Duh.

Nice (2)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about two weeks ago | (#47453543)

I'd take a CDC-6600 into my home, just for fun.

Re:Nice (1)

geezer nerd (1041858) | about two weeks ago | (#47453579)

Where would you put it? It needs better environment than the typical garage. Plus, it is HUGE! Especially if you have the appropriate vintage peripheral equipment with it. And your power bill! Oh, the humanity.

I remember my many happy hours spent using 6600 serial 13. Especially because they were much fewer hours than I would have spent doing the same work on the CDC 1604 it replaced.

Re:Nice (2)

geezer nerd (1041858) | about two weeks ago | (#47453627)

I just looked at the TFA. When I made my earlier comment, I did not realize the Ranger supercomputer was from University of Texas at Austin. UT Austin is, of course, where I spent my happy hours using 6600 serial 13, which was installed early on in my graduate school career. It was the main computer on campus during my stint as Asst. Prof. of CS, too.

Re:Nice (1)

stox (131684) | about two weeks ago | (#47453593)

Good luck with that. A CDC-6600 sucked down 150Kw. The power bills would be murder, let alone the HVAC needs to keep it from cooking.

Re:Nice (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about two weeks ago | (#47453745)

Meh, I wouldn't power the thing.

A 1950s jet engine can supply 20MW (1)

dbIII (701233) | about two weeks ago | (#47454129)

A 1950s jet engine hooked up to a generator can supply 20MW - that puts that "massive" 150kW in perspective doesn't it?

Re:Nice (2)

d'baba (1134261) | about two weeks ago | (#47453621)

I'd make a CDC-6600 into my home, just for fun.

ftfy

Re:Nice (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about two weeks ago | (#47454291)

+5 funny, but alas, you were a bit too subtle. Let me help:

I'd make a CDC-6600 into my home, just for fun.

Re:Nice (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about two weeks ago | (#47455317)

I'd make a CDC-6600 into my home, just for fun.

I guess that would make you a mechanical turk.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453699)

You could probably just emulate it on your phone.

Re:Nice (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about two weeks ago | (#47453815)

You could probably just emulate it on your phone.

Given that there were only about 100 CDC 6600s ever built, you might just be able to emulate all of them on your phone.

Re:Nice (1)

mendax (114116) | about two weeks ago | (#47454425)

Hmmm... maybe not ALL but several. They ran at 3 mips and there is an emulator [iinet.net.au] .

My old desktop... (4, Interesting)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about two weeks ago | (#47453559)

... is now my FreeBSD ZFS-based 5TB media server.

.
Why not use older computers for tasks that are appropriate for their capabilities?

Re:My old desktop... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453583)

In some cases, you can.

In others though, it takes too much air conditioning, power, and maintenance.

Re:My old desktop... (2)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about two weeks ago | (#47453811)

Hence my use of the word "appropriate". :)

Re:My old desktop... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453647)

... is now my FreeBSD ZFS-based 5TB media server.

.

Why not use older computers for tasks that are appropriate for their capabilities?

Power consumption. It's not necessarily a bargain if you have to build a building with special cooling and a power-plant to keep it running.

Re:My old desktop... (1)

ruir (2709173) | about two weeks ago | (#47455787)

Power consumption, spare parts, administrating your infra-structure as a whole, dealing with malfunctions, supporting several operating systems, the ease of administration virtualisation technology has brought...Recycling older hardware is a waste of electricity, time and money.

power usage (2)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about two weeks ago | (#47453873)

If you can buy a new computer that will consume less power to do the same, chances are that within a few years you'd be cheaper off using the new hardware, even if that means that the old machine is written off completely. Scrap value, land fill or whatever happens to it doesn't matter then. I have plenty of old machines that have sentimental or "collector" value standing about my home. I don't power them on and actually buy new hardware (NAS boxes and raspberry pi) or run VMs to do things that the old hardware is more than capable of doing. My power bill has gone down since I started doing that, easily paying back the new hardware in a short amount of time.

It's only six years old (1)

dbIII (701233) | about two weeks ago | (#47454187)

It's only six years old, which should put it well after the power hungry Pentium4 type "netburst" Xeons and into the more modern Xeons or AMD cores that don't consume much more power or run much slower than what is available now in multi-way systems. What more recent stuff has on this is density, which is not always a big deal.
Storage has improved massively over six years but x86_64 CPUs not enough to make this a losing proposition.

Re:It's only six years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47454517)

Mainboards etc. have gone way down in power consumption in the last years, especially when idle or near idle (which a home media server is most of the time). Nowadays you can build a computer from desktop components with idle opower including one HDD in the range of 10 watts. Six years ago this was more like fourty or more.
Depending on the actual consumption of the old computer when idle and the power bill where you live you can save quite a few pennies buying new -- or not.
Let's say the power difference when idle is 30W and you pay 28 Euro-cents per kWh (price in germany) then you save 73.6 Euros a year, nearly 300€ in four years.
Just calculate for yourself!

Another feel good slashdot post (1)

the_skywise (189793) | about two weeks ago | (#47453597)

About a computer that beats ageism!

ssh 129.114.50.163 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453691)

I bet most slashdotters tried.

That supercomputer (1)

Horshu (2754893) | about two weeks ago | (#47453753)

sounds like it needs to be riding into the sunset with Lorenzo Lamas, duster valiantly flapping in the wind.

Afrika third wold country (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453773)

Heap and Junk go to poor country allways.

That poor fuckin' machine (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47453799)

I bet it won't do a bit of science, but it sure will process a ton of emails from the Nigerian royal family!

Cost lies in power consumption and maintenance (1)

PineGreen (446635) | about two weeks ago | (#47453849)

The reason why 3 year old supercomputers are scrapped is because the power consumptions per flop becomes just uneconomical and the maintenance costs escalate (all kinds of failures increase dramatically after a few years).
So, unless they have real cheap maintenance guys (which they probably do) and super-cheap power (which they probably don't), it is not really worth it. Better buy a smaller modern cluster.

Re:Cost lies in power consumption and maintenance (4, Insightful)

dltaylor (7510) | about two weeks ago | (#47453913)

There's still the initial outlay to consider. You can buy quite a bit of expensive ZA power for the up-front cost of a new cluster (USD $25-30 million). Any work to create the facility is recoverable if/when they do choose a newer cluster. Additionally, there shouldn't be much in the way of "teething problems" if they can give it clean-enough power, so it becomes useful, almost on day 1.

Incredibly short life? (1)

m.alessandrini (1587467) | about two weeks ago | (#47454643)

In the article it's stated that it started working in 2008. Is a supercomputer's life so short, given the huge investment it surely needed to be built?

Re:Incredibly short life? (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about two weeks ago | (#47454969)

"Supercomputers" change over time, and eventually become "computers". Actually, that's slightly unfair, otherwise this would be scrapped and they'd be using stock PC components instead. Supercomputing is about parallelism as well as raw power, and the limit on supercomputing expertise is the low number of people with exposure to parallel computing. This news is probably not going to have much effect in the immediate term (Amazon et al have supercomputers for rent) but will give the researchers a bit more freedom to experiment with the tools in order to learn better how to use them.

Tinkerer's Blessing vs. Resource Curse (2)

retroworks (652802) | about two weeks ago | (#47454651)

The "curse of natural resources", also known as the paradox of plenty, refers to the paradox that countries and regions with an abundance of natural resources, specifically point-source non-renewable resources like minerals and fuels, tend to have less economic growth and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources. The skills to succeed are in government control of billion dollar resource control contracts, and being related to people with sharp elbows.

By contrast, nations which have succeeded despite having few natural resources - Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, etc. - usually develop from import for repair and refurbishment. Fixer economies reward problem solving skills and education. "Good enough" tech. I like Hartree's phrase "like locking the toolbox until the car is fixed" (mod him up please)

"Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care; and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so." - Adam Smith

"Happy Sithole"? Really? Well, ok then. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47455019)

My parents weren't anywhere near that creative with naming us kids.

Beowulf (1)

countach (534280) | about two weeks ago | (#47455371)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

Hand Held Model (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about two weeks ago | (#47455655)

In other news the new iPhone beat the heck out of the Ranger Super Computer while only using 1 Watt of power.

Seriously though, the shipping alone, the energy cost alone, of this beast is enormous and for either of those you could build a massive super computer out of off the shelf personal computers even pocket computers that will be more powerful and have greater flexibility and repairability by simply swapping or adding core units (e.g., iPodTouches).

I'm all for keeping useful old hardware going but the cost of doing so needs to be considered.

Re:Hand Held Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47455821)

Dont worry, this will have 0 watts of power. Africans are not that MUCH fond of working their asses, it will rot in a basement,or probably be sold for scrap parts.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...