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Building a Teraflop Donated Beowulf Cluster

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the crazy-fast dept.

Hardware 118

A number of people have written in about the new Teraflop Project aka Project Übermensch. It's an interesting idea-these folks want to get essentially the equivalent of 10757 AMD KII 350s, and turn it into a monster Beowulf cluster. In exchange for donating a machine to the project, you get a month of full bore processing power from your old machine, as well as a for-life e-mail address. They've got an address on the site to send machines to-but how often do you think one of these things is gonna break? I'd hate to sys-admin thousands of old boxen.

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Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795430)

And who will donate the power stations?

No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795431)

What does a KII-350 equipped PC go for these days? Sure looks like an expensive way to get an e-mail address.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795432)

Remember, you don't get a month of Uber-computing power; you get less than 300 seconds. They said you could have the equivalent of a month of your original processor's computing power.

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795433)

give you or the recipiant of your choice the equivalent of one month of your old machine's full bore processing power.

What do they mean by equivalent, if you left your machine on for one month and id nothing but process X data, they would processes the same amount of data for you on this "Super cluster".

Ok, the thing here, someone sends in a 386 w/2 megs of ram, the equivalent of one month of this processing data, would be able 1 nano-second on this "Super cluster", right? What the hell can you do in 1 second.

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795434)

Who cares about what you don't want. I certanly don't. Stores on /. are for people that are interested in them. People like you who feel the need to pipe up to say they're not interested in a story just create noise. If you're really not interested prove it by keeping your mouth shut.

Re:Top of the seti charts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795435)

If you are number >36 you will have to wait >3 years for your month. This seti@home project will have come to an end till then.

Re:Top of the seti charts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795436)

Forget my other reply:
You only get the equivalent of one month of cputime of the computer you give them. Depending of the size of the cluster this is just a few minutes. IMHO it's better to keep your machine and let it run for some months.

Project ‹bermensch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795437)

This sounds more like mad scientists eugenic experiments to create human v2.0.

"Überrechner" still sounds stupid but is a better suited name. I guess, people read too much Nietzsche without really reading him...

Some Things are Legit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795438)

Looking at some whois queries, Superior Systems actually does exist, and has since April of 1998. Eric Sayward is their contact. So if this is a scam, it is putting the "company" at risk. So the program might be extremely flawed, but I'm not so sure that it is a scam.

Re:Wow, with a month of teraFLOP I could... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795439)

Hey what about the GNU "Gnome" guy, what ever he is called, "nothing says loving like GNU"

You sick bastard.

Waste of good computers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795440)

This is a blatant waste of good computers. The CPUs in an olde box is hardly the most valuable part.

Each old box comes with a case, a powersupply, a harddisk, RAM, a screen adapter, etc. If one wanted to get maximum yield from something like this, one doesn't stack them togetehr and abstract away everything except the dirt slow CPU.

One gives them away to people who can only run Windows on their main computer, so they can learn linux. Or to linux users who want to try out *BSD, or even Be.

We do this ourselves (collect, biuld and give away older boxes), but I won't give you the address of our site, so you won't think this is a plug.

Daniel Mikkelsen, on.tfelypoc@leinad

Re:it won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795441)

Correct. Hardware maintenance is a very real killer for all large systems. Once you are at a few thousand CPU plus all the other associated hardware, you can essentially hire one to two teches to just run around and swap out broken HW. IF your stuff is smart enough, you can have a couple sysadmin sitting in a control booth, telling the techs where to go. Otherwise, you will be reduced to hunter-gatherer-type interaction with bad HW.

Indeed.. Reminds me of something I heard about ENIAC, didn't it have a MTBF of a few minutes?

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795442)

"Übermensch" was Nietzsche's idea about the perfect human in one of his books. It's not about races or something like that at all.

Heat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795443)

Actually we need special racks with cold air blown in from under the floor to keep our 12 servers up and running.
Once the cold air system went out in this large CPU room (+100 CPU's, routers, bridges,...). Temperature went up to 40 degrees in the room. Inside the racks temperature was up to 60 degrees making the CPU reboot and go completely out of control.
Multiply by 100 and I'm outa there!

Re:Godwin's law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795444)

I find that name - Projekt "Übermensch" - a very very bad choice. The word reminds me too much of Nazi terminology.

I hope that not too many decisions in the world will be based on what your anti-German racism "reminds" you of. Not everything German is about Nazis.

Re:Huh?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795445)

Donate it to a local school and write it off, and if you can't find a local school, we're always open to donations, working or otherwise. :)

I'm just dying to help the corrupt public school system. How about donating it to the FSF, or if they don't want it, selling it and donating the money to the FSF.

You are hours too late... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795446)

I've corrected myself a few minutes after I've posted the article.

well I made the roadtrip ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795447)

.. and this is what I found. /8737/

If you go to this page please note that items in ALL CAPS are my comments.

I can say however, after visiting the comound, this does not -look- legit; if they want to restore confidence they should come up with something more comforting than -

Re:some detective work. Summary: why is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795448)

They seem to have some pretty hefty goals for this computer system... It sounded a little off, now that I think about it.

roadtrippin' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795449)

To avoid confusion I put up links to larger views (600x450px) of the images. /8737/

You be the judge.

Re:well I made the roadtrip ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795450)

Oh, man. You made my day. That page was a riot. Thanx for sharing ;)

nietzsche an anti semite? please do some reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795451)

one of the most brilliant philosophers ever.

He was not racist or anti semite in any way. The nazis most certainly did not understand him.

Re:well I made the roadtrip ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795452)

hahahha.. how ironic.. in Quebec-french, "lacrosse" (phoneticaly) can mean "The Scam"!!
NO JOKE!! :-)

so could be interpreted as "The Internet Scam" :-)

Beowulf, Schmeowulf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795453)

What I want to know is what happened to the nice Vietnamese grocery that used to be in your facility.

I see your point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795454)

Taking pictures of the outside of downtown buildings in daylight is just plain subversive and weird.

Re:Beowulf, Schmeowulf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795455)

Who is Brian and what happened last time?

Re:Some Things are Legit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795456)

Good one! ROTFL.. yada yada yada

Whoever posted his number (if it in fact it was sent via email) probably opened themselves up to a nice little lawsuit...

Re:nietzsche an anti semite? please do some readin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795457)

Maybe, but he definitly was a pervert!

"Wenn Du zum Weibe gehst, vergiß die Peitsche nicht".

Isn't that about SM games? :-)

And they can't even email... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795458)

I doubt that anyone who can't even email the correct way can built up a well working cluster.
Just look how he quotes. An he's using HOTMAIL!

MOSIX is better. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795465)

Why don't they get stingy with the processor time and use MOSIX?

Re:Different Network (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795466)

The ususal network type is made as a circle or as a "web" if it is switched. But if you are going to use that many mashines, I think that we have to think in a new way. The best way must be a pyramid system. That is a place where the main-machine uses the resources of about 10-100 machines. These macines then uses another 10-100 machines each. The network-lines are only stretched from master to slave in the cluster-system.
Then the presure on the machines on top gets less, and the preasure on the Network gets much smaller.
I got no solutin for the place to put it up, but a big Gym like The vikingship could hold that many. (The site for TG (Worlds greatest temporary LAN)).

Kids these days... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795467)

Back in MY day, when we wanted to scam free hardware, we had to go to the trouble of getting several dialup accounts and spamming USENET. And we had to write our own spam scripts! All this for a couple dozen NeXT cubes!

Sheesh, hardware scammers have it way too easy these days. Young punks. Hmmph.

some detective work. Summary: why is this news? (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1795468)

traceroute =

If you open up, you see an offer for free business website hosting. If you open up you see their page. Clearly, they're using HTTP/1.1 - too cheap to use an IP address per virtual host.

TERAFLOP.ORG was registered 5 days ago. I'd bet they haven't even paid for the domain yet.

As noted, their POC is a hotmail address.

Uh, guys???? Do you think this could possibly be a um, SCAM???

Sheeeit. Their total outlay is $0. If even one person is stupid enough to send them a computer, that's a pretty hefty profit margin. Why is this on slashdot?

Re:Godwin's law. (1)

stevied (169) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795469)


I was wondering that, too. Then I thought maybe I was being over-sensitive, I dunno.

BTW, I think the reason it reminds use of Nazi terminology is that it *was* (or, unfortunately, still is).

I'd like to... (1)

MacJedi (173) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795470)

I'd like to get a beowulf cluster of those...


HEAT dissipation. (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795471)

Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangst:

I only have 4 machines in my bedroom and it gets freaking HOT. With the air conditioner in the next room running at full blast and a big ass box fan blowing cool air into the bed room it's still this how.

Imagine my problem multiplied by 2500. It might even be worth their while to explore the possibility of recapturing this heat for other uses.

(in some cities large building's air conditioning units run on steam power)


What's the point? (1)

Misfit (1071) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795472)

What's the point of having a month of Uber-computing power. My PII is more than capable of keeping up with my key strokes, and I can compile anything *I* need in less than ten minutes.

As far as a permanent address, I'd rather not. I like to get a new one every now and again to keep undesirables confused.


Been there, done that (1)

aXion (1389) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795473)

While of course my cluster didn't reach teraflop speed, it was all donated, and let me say right now, that converting around 40 donated old 486's into working, fast, boxen was a royal pain in the ass. Especially when you still have high school to deal with!

With our cluster, we attained speeds of around 1.7x faster than a dual pentium II 450. We did some rc5 cracking, beta testing for mathematica, and are looking into investigating parallel povray rendering. Once the machines are running, I have to say, it is quite a pleasure to work with!


ps. right now, our cluster is offline, but it should be back online soon at

pps. if any of you want to donate some *fast* machines, (and by fast I mean above a pentium 100), email me, chris, at thanks!

Re:Pipe dream? (1)

tolldog (1571) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795474)

But what if it was possible? What if you could do it with linear scalability? What if you could have 2000 machines opperate at the speed of 2000 machines? Then, it might be possible.
More info later... :)

Re:Been there, done that (1)

tolldog (1571) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795475)

Parallel povray.
It has been done. Many times. Look at pvmpov for a good example. I have heard of other places doing much better in scalability. Like linear.

Re:Godwin's law. (1)

nstrug (1741) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795476)

Well, Übermensch means 'superman' and was originally coined by Neitzche and later incorporated into the Nazi philosophy - much as the swastika was. Although Neitzche had some pretty dodgy ideas (although I think claims that he was a raving antisemite are overblown) and seems to attract a fair share of knuckle-draggers, he was no nazi.


Sad (1)

eGabriel (5707) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795478)

Are they going to build a hydroelectric dam on
the Mississippi? Rent out space for the cluster in the old Heileman six pack?

I am sure there are a lot of Ueberdoods just waiting for these machines so they can have shell accounts and crack password files in record time.

From the account given, it doesn't appear that anyone has given much thought as to what one would do with over 10,000 machines. I doubt they have the physical space, much less the administration resources.

Keep your computer and install a nice bathroom terminal. If you use it at all it will have been a better investment.

Re:Some Things are Legit... (1)

eGabriel (5707) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795479)

SS certainly does exist. No scam, as far as that
goes. How a company of that size can continue
making money while maintaining 10,000 machines,
I am not sure.

Re:well I made the roadtrip ... (1)

eGabriel (5707) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795480)

And hey, neat, if there is no such legal entity,
if they don't get all 10,000, maybe they can
just put a "Superior Systems" label on them and
sell them for $500 apiece.

Hrm, Is this for fun or profit? (1)

arrow (9545) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795481)

As I was reading the site, the first thing that came to mind was.. after everyone has there month of CPU time, what will they do with the machine? Most likey they will be selling time on your donated machines.

Almost anyone can call themselfs "non-proft" these days and get away with anything short of murder. (For that you have to work for a place like Microsoft)

Re:Question (1)

arrow (9545) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795482)

Log in :P

Re:Different Network (1)

OnyxRaven (9906) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795483)

In all reality I'm sure this is the sort of network they are planning to set up - where different racks are already on their own switches, everything in the rows connected to the next switch, rows connected to the larger switch where the control would be - obviously this would help in breaking off a rack for maintnence or for a smaller project. whatever... sounds like a nightmare (and what exactly could I do with a beowolf cluster if I was to donate a computer - i'm assuming that it won't be configured for SETI or better yet

better incentive system, an economy of beowulfs (2)

WillWare (11935) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795485)

This is a cool project, except for the crummy incentive for contributing hardware, which many other posters have already mentioned (4 minutes and all).

Here's a better approach. You donate a 100-bogomip machine, they knock off 15 bogomips for networking overhead, claim 40 bogomips for their own use in exchange for the trouble of building and maintaining the system, and you get to keep 45 bogomips. That is, you get the right to use 45 bogomips-worth of the system's cpu load, forever if you so choose. (Assuming Beowulf system administration allows this kind of control...)

You can buy, sell, rent or barter your bogomips. You can donate fixed time periods of your bogomips to worthy causes (seti@home, the mersenne guys, the rc5-cow guys, whoever).

Several shared beowulfs might come into existence and there could be a whole beowulf-share economy with cryptographic protocols for electronic bogomip transfers. It would be cute.

Godwin's law. (1)

Hanno (11981) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795486)

I find that name - Projekt "Übermensch" - a very
very bad choice. The word reminds me too much
of Nazi terminology.

Re:Godwin's law. (1)

Hanno (11981) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795487)

>>I find that name - Projekt "Übermensch" - a
>>very very bad choice. The word reminds me
>>too much of Nazi terminology.

>I hope that not too many decisions in
>the world will be based on what your
>anti-German racism "reminds" you of.
>Not everything German is about Nazis.

Well, Mr. Anonymous Coward: I, the original poster of the comment above, *am* German.

I am quite sure that being a German, I have a pretty good perspective on when the use of a word from my language is inappropriate or not. The words "Übermensch" (human above the standard) and "Untermensch" (human below the standard) *were* used by the Nazis to describe their ideas of arian and non-arian "races".

Others already pointed out that the original use of the word "Übermensch" was not coined by the Nazis. Yet still, using this word in this context of a "superiour computer system" *will* raise a few eyebrows over here.


Hanno (11981) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795488)

That still doesn't mean that the word is a *good* choice as a title.

There are several words and symbols that were innocent in their original sense of meaning, but that have a terrible historical burden today. And "Übermensch" is one of these words.

(And no, this is not a question of political correctness. I hate PC, but I know my first language. See my other post in this thread.)

yeah right (1)

johnjones (14274) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795492)

its a massive task and without *alot* of help its just not going to happen !

space admin it all requires money and they dont have it

good luck but without a backer they just wont get off the floor

350MHz is old boxs ?? not where I come from

john jones
a poor student @ bournemouth uni in the UK (a deltic so please dont moan about spelling but the content)

Yay, 4 minutes of free processing time! (2)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795493)

If that's not enough, we will give you or the recipiant of your choice the equivalent of one month of your old machine's full bore processing power.

So, if you donate a K6 II 350 box, you'd get about 4 minutes of time. Of course, most people would plan on donating much weaker PC's... Granted, it would have a LOT of RAM if you needed it for some project, but you could just leave you box running for a for a month yourself at least a dozen times over before they could ever complete this thing...

Darth Vader? (1)

orcrist (16312) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795494)

>>My name is Eric J Sayward head of the Übermensch project. I find your lack of faith disturbing.

"Scamming" Machines (1)

IanCarlson (16476) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795495)


WTF is this? Was there even *one* person who didn't believe this was a scam? This is total bullshit; they don't even give you a physical location (that I saw).

The post about "scamming" NeXT cubes made me crack up though, as I used to do something similar (minus the scam). Key up a USENET session and say something to the effect of:

"I'm a student and I enjoy working with old computer hardware and software. Please get in touch with me via e-mail to get rid of that old box, and I would be more than happy to pay S&H."

That sure doesn't seem like to much of a scam to me. I've gotten 4 386's about 7 286's a TRS-80, a NeXT slab, two Mac Pluses ( one piece, B&W screen), and a top-of-the-line Pentium III machine that was throw out as *defective* at CompUSA. I got it home and found out the IDE cable on the hard drive was backward.

God, I love America.

--Dr. Ian

Top of the seti charts... (1)

rde (17364) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795496)

Imagine; get rid of your shitbox doorstop, and you'll have a month of calculating seti@home blocks. You'd be unbeatable (until somebody did the same thing with more computers attached)

Wow, with a month of teraFLOP I could... (1)

Crag (18776) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795497)

Create an interactive, real-time, ray-traced...

Pengiun porn! (With cameos by the BSD Daemon)

email address? (1)

eldamitri (19790) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795498)

I find it interesting that one of the rewards for donating a box to this endeavor is a lifetime e-mail address with them, yet the director is accessed via a hotmail account. Maybe they'll make him donate a box, too, if he wants a teraflop alias.

"there once was a big guy named lou

Huh?? (1)

SONET (20808) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795499)

To think someone would actually donate a 350MHz(?!) machine to this just makes me ill. Chances of this project ever even getting off the ground are slim and none, these guys are probably going to end up just using the for gaming boxes or something worthless when the project fails.

Really, if you have a computer you don't want, donate it to a school. I work/volunteer at an elementary school, and we wouldn't have literally 70% of what we have if it wasn't for hardware donations, and another 10% of what we have can be attributed to monetary contributions towards technology.

Donate it to a local school and write it off, and if you can't find a local school, we're always open to donations, working or otherwise. :)

Computer stuff we need []
Just my two cents.


Re:Huh?? (1)

SONET (20808) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795500)

How convenient of you to post as an AC, clever thinking there. :)

I agree that there is a ton of useless bureaucracy in public education, and some systems are corrupt as well - especially in the larger districts. However, I can't think of any way an elementary school could find anything corrupt to do with such a donation. Perhaps you could reveal yourself and explain how an elementary school could do anything that you could classify as 'corrupt' with donated hardware.

If the system is indeed corrupt, then that would mean the students aren't getting what they should be getting - the technology necessary to learn skills that will be required of them when they become part of the real world. It goes without saying that this is really wrong. However, I think it is even worse if somebody has the means to help the kids by donating 'useless' hardware and helping and not doing it. That's just ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away as it just continues to get worse.

It is one thing to sit around and bitch about things, it is another to shut up and actually do something positive about them. Personally I don't have any extra hardware laying around to donate. Instead, I donate my time to make a difference. Maybe I'm making up for something someone else is paid to do and isn't doing it. Or maybe I'm doing something that would have otherwise never have been done. Either way, I'm not sitting around bitching about the situation.

FYI there have been a couple Slashdotters who have helped us out in the [recent] past. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have our caching proxy server or our file server, or some parts that are going to make it possible to put a couple linux machines into classrooms for a test run.

Giving children access to technology... what a horrible thing to do. I would hate to see them learn any of this stuff. Instead we should let them suffer for the fact that they are involuntarily a part of a corrupt system. I mean come on, think about this for a minute...

If you don't want to post a reply here here, maybe you could e-mail me, - feel free to use your hotmail account... I'm sure you would hate to find yourself accountable for anything you might say. I will be interested to hear what you come up with.


Re:Hrm, Is this for fun or profit? (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795501)

I have even less faith in these guys then you do. As mentioned above, the real estate, the electricity bill, the air conditioning, and the network cabling, will cost serious cash. A few thousand good hearted, naive, nerds may send in thier old Pentium 133s, but nobody's going to send them the miles and miles of cabling they would need. I think they're going to give up, sell off the hardware and keep the money. I'm sure there is little to no legal paperwork involved in this project. Even if you were to sue them, what would you claim in losses? A 3 year old computer that you were willing to give away basically for free. I was at a police auction this weekend where someone bought a Power PC 7200/133 for $650. Let's say people donate more than 1000 PCs and they can sell them off for $100-$300. Those few guys can pocket a quarter of a million dollars with almost no overhead. But then again, I might just be a cynical, bitter, mean guy.


it won't work (3)

stange (23848) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795502)

Having worked on a system with 12,280 cpu's, I can
say right now with confidence that hacking together 10000+ odd intel systems simply won't work.

First, I worked on the QCD Teraflop system

It consumes a substantial amount of power, generates a lot of heat and has a lot of components. Component reliability is a major issue. We don't have 10000 disk drives, 10000 network cards, 10000 power supplies, 10000 everything.

Keeping all the pieces up and running requires careful engineering, checkpointing results at intermediate steps (the checkpoints can be BIG), etc, etc.

It won't be done with el-cheapo PC hardware.

from there ligal page: (1)

delmoi (26744) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795503)

By donating to Project Übermensch you are donating to "individuals" who cannot he held responsible for anything that happens. By choosing choosing to use the Übermensch you agree that the individuals involved cannot be held responsible for any damages or losses incurred through system failure, network downtime, or anything Übermensch or it's administrators may do.

well, I don't think this is a scam per se, but I don't think these guys are going to be able to pull it off ether
"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

nazis (1)

delmoi (26744) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795504)

Well "Übermensch" means "super human" acording to bablefish.
if it would have ment "super machine" or somthing, It would be beter, but "Übermensch" was what hitler called the white race, it was a lot more then just technology to him, "Übermensch" was what he was striving for, with things like the Hitler Youth, etc.
he wanted to bring about "Übermensch" through ugenics, and of course, mass murder
"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

your emal.......? (1)

delmoi (26744) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795505)

", the hardest place on the net, men fucking men 24x7"

"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

Re:Road Trip!!! (1)

BigDaddy (28409) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795506)

I'm thinking about trying to get there this week end. I live in MN, not too far (nor too close) to LaCrosse. For me shipping would be more exspensive, plus I want to see the place.

Beware- 10000 386s = Top Secret! (1)

BigDaddy (28409) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795507)

I live not far (nor close) to LaCrosse, so I emailed the head honcho about a visit.
Synopsis: This project is so secret that a donor can't come see where his machine will go.
I was interested in the project before - but now it just sounds like a scam.
see the whole email [] (kinda interesting which questions he answers (hah!) and which he doesn't)

Cost of a 386 cluster? (1)

PapaZit (33585) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795509)

Considering that a 386 is far less powerful than a current top-of-the-line machine, but uses only a little bit less power, a point will quickly come where it's cheaper to buy a new machine than to pay for the electricity for a bunch of older machines.

Not to mention heat. At my former workplace [] , they got 10 rack-mounted quad-processor Xeons with the intention of clustering them. They were planning on testing the cluster in a small room in the basement before moving them to the main machine room. Plans had to be changed because of the amount of heat that 10 machines put out. The heat produced by 10000 machines would be truly phenominal.

Average user gets 4 minutes (2)

IIH (33751) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795510)

If you read the article, it says you get a month's equilavent of your original machines power.

so, a month of an average AMD350 is
30*24*60 = 43,200 AMDMinutes
which is worth
43,200 /10757 = 4.01 AmdMinutes.

So, the proud donater of a 386SX25, could get of the magnitude of 1 second :)


Re:it won't work (1)

cweber (34166) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795511)

Correct. Hardware maintenance is a very real killer for all large systems. Once you are at a few thousand CPU plus all the other associated hardware, you can essentially hire one to two teches to just run around and swap out broken HW. IF your stuff is smart enough, you can have a couple sysadmin sitting in a control booth, telling the techs where to go. Otherwise, you will be reduced to hunter-gatherer-type interaction with bad HW.

This is NOT how supercomputers are run, and with good reason. There is simply no easy way to cut corners.

Re:Different Network (1)

cweber (34166) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795512)

No, pyramids won't work. Hypercube is the way to go, or perhaps a hyper-torus. Essentailly, you will want to guarantee a consistent maximal path length for each A to B connection, irrespective of where nodes A and B are.
Then you pile on a handful or more of control nodes to monitor and steer the system.

The Illustrated Beowulf (1)

ElJefe (41718) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795513)

Check this out, it's pretty funny.

President Bill Clinton as Beowulf
Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (and Pope John Paul II) as Hrothgar
Cookie Monster as Grendel
Michelle Pfeiffer as Grendel's mother
Boris Yeltsin as Wiglaf
Godzilla as the Fire Dragon
Hillary Clinton as Wealhtheow
The A-Team as Beowulf's thanes
David Letterman as the guys in the Geat castle

Where are they going to put this thing? (4)

ElJefe (41718) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795514)

Let's have a show of hands: how many of you have actually seen a Beowulf cluster? Where I work (Caltech's CACR [] ), we have a 114-node system, and it's pretty damn big. You can't just have all of the nodes packed densly: you need to be able to access the backs for networking, power, etc. It takes up a pretty sizeable amount of floor, and reaches up to the (rather high) ceiling.

Here's a couple of pictures [] . The one up top is just one side of it.

These guys want to make one that's over 100 times as big! Can you imagine the network cable nightmare? Not to mention the power requirements. Makes you feel sorry for the technician that has to set it up.

The other big problem with a large cluster is network latency. You can reduce the effects of this by passing larger packets of info, but there's still a limit that you reach. Just because you make something 100 times bigger doesn't mean it'll be 100 times better.

I also think that the software configuration would play a major role in the efficiency. I'd rather trust trained scientist (not me; I'm just a student), who's been working with large-scale parallel machines for years to set this up, not some tech guys who thought it'd be a neat idea. But maybe I'm just pessimistic.

Still perfectly happy with my 1-node PII... -ElJefe

Definitely A Scam (1)

Dharma (41782) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795515)

Good detective work! The pics pretty much speak for themselves.

Somebody post this up!

Re:some detective work. Summary: why is this news? (2)

draco ni (42765) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795516)

Yes. I concur; this looks like a scam to me. I mean, heck.. They're attempting to build a massively parallel computer, yet they consistently misspell the word "parallel" itself? Once or twice I could pass off as typo... But they never spell it correctly. Smacks of ignorance of the subject matter to me. Even if they're not scamming, I suspect they haven't really thought this all through.

Road Trip!!! (1)

mykey2k (42851) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795517)

I would volunteer to go to 611 Main Street, LaCrosse, Wisconsin, 54601, but since I'm 270 miles away, maybe someone else can go and scout out the digs :-)

If you see a house with a rusty front door, run. If you see a multi-block warehouse with an air conditioner the size of a couple Mack trucks, then there might be some truth to the whole thing...

Re:Where are they going to put this thing? (5)

drudd (43032) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795518)

To be more efficient they'd probably have to have multiple layers of clustering, i.e. have a gigantic Beowolf cluster which is made up of smaller Beowolf clusters.

Assuming they can get the networking and power resources and have the warehouse necessary to house all of these computers, there's very little you can actually do in such a massively parallel system. The hardest part would be simply feeding it enough data to keep all the nodes processing concurrently.

A much more efficient use of such massive resources would be to split them into smaller clusters of 50-100 computers in size, and allocate time individually. Then when a really large project comes along you can merge a few of the smaller clusters together.

IMHO, if this project is for real, it's still a pretty shabby deal. Granted that old 386 box you have is pretty near worthless in today's sub $500 market, but email addresses are cheap too. Donate that box to Goodwill and give some poor child the chance to familiarize himself with the technology necessary to succeed in the next millennium.


A Month of processing time? I don't think so... (2)

Salis (52373) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795519)

If you read more closely, you'll find that one gets 'credits' for each computer one donates. Imagine how much time you'd get if you donated a hour perhaps? There is no way they can allocate one month of computing to each donater and expect a few hundred donaters.. This is most likely a scam, or perhaps a little-thought out, but good-intentioned project a couple of bored techs thought up. A bit too idealistic and very improbable.

Re:What's the point? (1)

teraflop user (58792) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795520)

There's very little point in it unless you have an interesting problem, and a heap of data.

But if you do, then there is suddenly a great deal of point. Unfortunately I don't think the machine they are proposing is very useful - it certainly wouldn't run any of my jobs, which will require a lot of work to migrate from vector supercomputers to any sort of parallel machine.

Even for jobs which can be massively parallelised, there is always the problem of compiling the results. Even for very simple tasks like searching for primes or crypto keys this becomes a headache with so many machines. For anything more complex, it will require a supercomputer with multiple fibre channels just to combine the results.

I hope they have thought of... (2)

teraflop user (58792) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795521)

Where they are going to get a couple of megawatts to run this thing. Also, enough airconditioning to get rid of a couple of megawatts of heat.

Clearly the networking of this many machines will be impractical for most mathematical problems, I guess this will only be good for problems which could already be tackled by or seti.

Pipe dream? (1)

DrNO (61310) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795522)

Yeah, we've got a proto-Beowulf with (usually) four nodes (seems like you've got to have something like 16 nodes to make the claim to fame) so I'm somewhat familiar with them. This story sounds like BS to me. Even with a reasonable setup (hypercube, n-tori or such) the communications overhead makes it hardly worthwhile to use old i368 based boxen.

Pipe dream anyone?

A thought. (2)

j a w a d (66763) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795524)

from their " "we'd be really happy if [] " page.

We'd all be happy if...
(wishes here)

or if we had a bunch of media attention so we could get all these things, that would be nice too. :)

i guess they got the media attention?

..................................@ @

Re:Question (1)

fdiv(1,0) (68151) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795525)

Nahh, you technically couldn't even do'd be disconnected before the entire login process text finished being transmitted to your end of the connection.

Re:Where are they going to put this thing? (1)

Syslevel (69599) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795526)

Donate that box to Goodwill

Last time I checked, Goodwill is pretty snitty about what they will even accept, hardware-wise. I can't blame them, as they have to pay by the ton to dispose of junk they can't sell. I remember that they refused a few boxes I had to donate because I couldn't swear it was 100% operational hardware.

There really should be some form of a "People's Computer Recycling Center" in all sizeable communities where people could come to give and get old-but-still-usable computer hardware. Kind of a "Computer Renaissance" store but with no cash registers. It could turn into a hub of Linux and other free OS distribution. (DR-DOS for the really old hardware, and slower-modems and Freenet accounts for all who want them)

Could keep a lot of kids off the street if they had access to some of the hardware sitting idle with capacitors drying out and EPROMs loosing their memory in warehouses around the world.

Re:it won't work (1)

Syslevel (69599) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795527)

Maybe they are trying to create the modern equivalent of the first mainframe computers, which ran on vacuum tubes. Technicians worked full time running around changing tubes as they went out. In this new system, technicians will run around yanking Leading Edge and Packard Bell boxes that have quit working (and are spewing volumes of smoke). It could make for a good short comedy film, but I don't see the value beyond that.

Re:Some Things are Legit... (1)

Just Your Average Li (70368) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795528)

Yeah, it *could* be legit. But in addition to the webpage being on a free hosting site, a couple of other things have changed since this morning when I first read about it and the time when I am making this post.

The "ideas" link still doesn't work, but now gives a 404 instead of the default ad for

The hotmail contact and the yahoo contact are however explainable. Superior systems may have said "Do this on your own time." So they had to use external email, rather than business email. But then how can they receive all these boxes that are (not) going to be streaming in at that work place. And why does the web site for their "workplace" refuse connections?

The logistics behind this project would not be feasible. According to them, they want the equivalent power of 10757 K6-2 350s. How many of those do they think they'll get? Based off of's client speeds for rc5, k6-2 350s crack at (avg for linux) ~590000 Kkeys/sec. The high end 386dx/40 gets ~20558 Kkeys/sec. This is approximately 28.7x slower. This would mean that if they get a large portion of 386s, they could end up with as many as (rounding down to 28x) 301,196 machines. If they get to an average speed of a 486dx4/100, they would still have about 100,000 machines. I don't know of many people who would part with even a low speed pentium. They still work sufficiently even with M$ Windoze.

Setting up 100,000 machines? Most users don't have networks at home so they would have to purchase say, 50,000 network cards. Even at the low cost of $5 per machine for a NIC, cabling and a share of the hub, that's $250,000. Since they're mainly asking for machines, they would need to invest a considerable amount. And can you imagine setting up the IP addresses, host tables, .... INSTALLING THE OS? Well, they might use remote boot workstations. Can you imagine the traffic generated by those machines? I guess those $5 NICS aren't gonna cut it. You're going to need 100base-t. Or more.

Power? According to PG&E (my local electric utiltity) at, a PC uses .08 kW per hour. Let's see.... .08 times 24 hours, times 100,000 computers, is 192,000 kW per day, or 5,952,000 kW per month. In contrast, the average residence uses 6,400 kW per year (about 17.5 kW per month). Who's paying the bill? Also, given that the average family uses 6400kW per year, and their larger Pittsburgh power plant with 7 energy generating units has a capacity of 2,022 MW (per year) or a mere 168,500 kW per month. Oops. And we haven't even run the A/C to cool them yet.

Maintenance. With 100,000 machines and 99% uptime (1% downtime is not really reasonable given the hardware) is 87.6 hours per year of maintenance per machine. Multiplied by 100,000 machines and you need to have 8,760,000 hours a year to fix them. Well, you would need 4211 technicians, working 40 hour weeks to fix it. And this is only the routine maintainence. Not counting unplanned hardware failures. Remember, this isn't high quality stuff. And how long would it take to find the right machine if you have to open the case or find the console (i.e. crashed)?

And space requirements. Even if all the boxes are those compact 18" x 18" x 4" boxes, if you set up a row of these, if you put it in a room seven-feet high, you would have 4761 stacks 21 boxes high, which in a line would stretch 7142.85 feet, or approximately a mile and a half. "Machine Z434 is not responding!" "Damn, that one's on the end!" Since you need access to the backs, if you put them front to front with aisles in the back (say 3 feet wide) in rows, you would need 32,142 sq. feet, approximately 3/4 of an acre.

My vote? Either a scam or a not-well-thought-out project.

Re:it won't work (1)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795533)

the ammount of support we have had on this project is amazing. System admins are poping out of the woodwork begging to be a part as well as countless hardware support. We feel confident that If we get to the point where we can not handle it that there is more than enough people out there who would be more than willing to help out.
- Eric J Sayward


way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795534)

finally someone who knows whats going on here, The project was named after the image of the perfect being and has absolutely no relation to nazi's or any other political, religious, or social group of any kind !!! Read the info on the site. .
- Eric J Sayward

roadtrip my ass.. (1)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795535)

Here is the exact reason we did not relese the location of the system because every tom dick and hank would drive here to see it, hack it, steal it, or whatever the case may be. CAN U SAY SECURITY RISK ? Until we get phase 2 of our security up we will not be releasing ANY info on the location !

Eric J Sayward

Re:Beowulf, Schmeowulf (1)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795536)

They moved two blocks down.

p.s. brian, remember what happened last time?

Re:Beowulf, Schmeowulf (1)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795537)

long story,

Our group has been doing odd projects of all sorts over the years and have had many people come and go. Brian was one of our best linux guys who turned on us and cost us alot of time and money along with a network that was donated by our then financial backer after he lied about us to gain the network for himself after he became greedy and wanted it all for himself and didn't think we were giving him any credit. needless to say the poor guy ended up with nothing while we continue on in our quest to build our network.

mailing list (1)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795538)

Übermensch mailing list is now up

I would lilke to be able to speak to everyone at the same time and answer all questions or concerns.

Re:Hrm, Is this for fun or profit? (1)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795539)

This project is strictly non-profit

Re:What's the point? (1)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795540)

We have done alot of testing and are currently writing scripts to check for bad processors.. etc, anyway our goal is not that hard to obtain if everyone works together.

Re:Where are they going to put this thing? (2)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795541)

We have over 80,000 sq ft. of warehouse space which will be cooled by a combination of fans and a climate control unit. Adn yes the thing is huge and we have only just started.

- Eric J Sayward

Re:Kids these days... (2)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795542)

If this were a scam I would not give my phone number out publicaly...
_Eric J Sayward

Re:Road Trip!!! (2)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795543)

The system is not located at 611 main, that is our office front. current location of the cluster is currently top-secret (for lack of proper security) and with good reason. Once we have completed phase 2 of our security upgrade we will publically release the location of the system.
- Eric J Sayward

Re:Some Things are Legit... (2)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795544)

This project has spawned alot of doubt. We have spent the last 6 months designing it and how it would be built. Once we reach a break point of 10+ gigaflop cpu power we can put it to good use and make enough money from it to speed up it's growth and design. We admit it is a project that seems to be impossible and welcom the challenge as we have met many in the past with success. We are a company dedicated to making the impossible a reality and If it looks like a scam than don't donate your pc. When LINUX was first put on the internet people had their thoughts on that as well and now it's one of if not the greatest OS in exsistance so why cant we build the worlds largest super-computer? It's not about what we can't do, it's about the fact that we can do it but not without help. If I could afford all new CPU's and Mother Boards ect. I would and It would be alot easier. But our company budget is not large enough to buy 10,000+ AMD CPU's. Our goal is to use this system to better humanity by using it for medical research, educational use, advancement of science and whatever other uses we can find that our government has obviously fogotten about. Did you now that our government has miles of underground computers that are used for traking satalites, runing national security and everything else under the sun to benifit them. This is our chance to have a public super computer. Imaging If it cures cancer, or aids. What if we descover Inteligent life on other planets (god help us if we are the supreme beings in this universe). We are asking you to open your eyes to what we can do. I'm really sick of people telling me it can't be done. If I had listened everytime somebody said that to me in my life I would have ended up dead or in prison by now, that or a total mental case. If you think it is a scam than call me (608) 782 3006 ... Eric J Sayward

Re:well I made the roadtrip ... (2)

way (70426) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795545)

My name is Eric J Sayward head of the Übermensch project. I find your lack of faith disturbing. Do you have any Idea what this system will be doing? Have you ever donated to cancer research, or helped in the advancment of science? Obviously you have been scammed in the past and must now think that everything is a scam. When we get security up to par, I will personally give you a tour of the facility just to prove to you that we are no scam and that things which everyone thinks are impossible really are possible. Everyone laughed when we said we were going to the moon ! think about it.

Eric J Sayward

P.S. note that said person did not speak with us personally... and on top of that posted anonamously.... Pictures of the system will be up soon.. and also if said person had half a brain the would have taken pictures of our building not the one next to it.. the airconditioner is not ours with the bag on it.. ce ce ce some people I tell ya

Re:Top of the seti charts... (1)

JDevers (83155) | more than 15 years ago | (#1795547)

You misread the article. You get the EQUIVALENT of a month of your old CPUs time, in other words about 3 or 4 minutes tops on the new machine :)
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