28 December 2008

CUDA issues

It seems the Seti CUDA application has a few issues that need sorting out. So I have ceased running it and have returned to cpu-based computing for the time being.

BOINC 6.4.5 also has some issues and shows that it isn't quite ready for CUDA, although it detects and can assign work to the graphics card. It needs some work around scheduling of tasks and cannot currently run a cpu and a gpu version of the same science application.

Just to keep the graphics card warm I have joined GPUGRID. Their application seems to work fine, and keeps the gpu busy for hours on end. A typical work unit takes my 9800GT card between 8 and 10 hours. The only thing I don't like is they have very short deadlines, typically 3 or 4 days.

I managed to hit 2.5 million credits for Seti and 3.5 million credits overall. I am not treating them as a milestone as I am aiming to get Einstein up to 1 million. If all the machines were running it would take about 5 days to get there, but they are all switched off at the moment due to the heat - Current loft temperature is 30 degrees.

26 December 2008

Qui-Gon graphics

Here's the Palit 9800GT card that I bought to upgrade the graphics in Qui-Gon. I had never heard of them before I bought this one.

As the ACER power supply isn't grunty enough and only has SATA power connectors I had to upgrade it too. As you can see from the picture this is a Seasonic M12 mark II, rated at 500 watts.

Here is a picture of the card and the power supply installed in Qui-Gon. I also added the case fan seeing as it now generates even more heat.

And here is another shot of the innards of Qui-Gon

And lastly I got a few Star Wars figurines. Naturally I got the ones that belong with the computer names, so here is Qui-Gon Jinn sitting on top of himself.

21 December 2008

CUDA Seti application

As mentioned in my previous post, the Seti@home guys have released their CUDA-based application. After upgrading the hardware I spent most of today experimenting with the app_info settings.

It needs a CPU to "feed" the GPU, so it runs as 3 cpu tasks + 1 gpu task at a time on my quad core machine. Below is a screen shot of it running a Seti multi-beam work unit on the gpu.

This is a screen shot of the temperature utility for the graphics card, showing its getting a work out.

18 December 2008

Qui Gon returns

I got an email response from ACER today. They advised a combination of things that obviously resets something (unplug it, hold power button for 10 secs, wait 15 mins, plug it back in). Anyway it got the thing going, not too sure what it resets but it worked and now Qui Gon Jinn is off and running again.

The Seti guys have released the CUDA application. So now its official. I will have to sort out the appropiate power adapter cable for the video card pretty soon. I will be installing the CUDA aware version of BOINC on Qui Gon in anticipation of getting the video card working.

17 December 2008


I went out and bought a new NVIDIA 9800GT video card. Seti are currently testing a GPU application. I was planning on putting it into Qui Gon Jinn (one of the 5 ACER quad core machines).

I shut it down yesterday, opened it up to check the power connectors as the video card requires a seperate power cable. Qui Gon has SATA power connectors and the supplied adaptor cable is for molex connectors. So I closed it up without doing anything to it, plugged it in and now it won't power up at all. I have booked a service call with ACER. They have already failed their own benchmark of contacting me within 4 business hours.

12 December 2008

Plodding along

Nothing much to report on the BOINC front at this point in time. My machines get a few days of running because the weather is cooler and then it gets hot again and I have them only running overnight, so my RAC (recent average credit) is all over the place.

I haven't reached any milestones recently, although Einstein is closing in on 1 million credits.

My father passed away last weekend.

23 November 2008

Astropulse 5.00

As mentioned previously I was running down the cache of Seti so that I could update the machines with the latest optimized app. It went something like this...

As they finished off their old Seti work I have uploaded the results, reported them, shutdown BOINC, updated app_info, removed older apps, put new apps in place, restarted BOINC, allowed new work and told it to update project. Repeat 5 times quickly to cover the entire farm.

The machines have now returned a few results and it shows a good increase. Astropulse 4.35 was taking 20-21 hours to complete a work unit. Astropulse 5.00 is taking 16-17 hours to do the same work. Once again a great effort from the optimizers.

21 November 2008

Some progress

This week the farm has made some progress. I have managed to have it running for 4 days straight, but today was a bit warm so had it shut down during the day. Being the evening and a little cooler its running again. The thermometer on the top of the shelving unit is saying 28 degrees at the moment.

A new version of the Astropulse application was released last weekend, so i'm running the cache down to clear out all the Seti work and will install it on all the machines once they have cleared their current work.

11 November 2008

3 million credits

I hit the 3 million credits for all projects today, only a day later than anticipated. The warmer weather here in Sydney has meant that I have been turning the machines off during the day.

Here is my BOINCstats image.

31 October 2008

Too hot

The farm has been switched off twice this week due to the heat. The first time at the beginning of the week it was off for 2 days. Today I turned all the machines off in the morning, but by the time I got home things had cooled down, so I powered-up the farm and off we go again.

I have reduced the work unit cache down to 1 day so I don't have as much work, seeing as the machines aren't running 24/7 at the moment. Its only spring. I hate to think what summer is going to be like.

Oh and the Microsoft keyboard on the KVM switch gave up. Half the keys don't register any more, so I had to replace it. They just don't make them like they used to.

I am closing in on 3 million credits for all projects, so if I can keep the machines running maybe I will get there in about 8 to 10 days.

19 October 2008

Spoke too soon

Looks like I spoke too soon about there being 5 machines. The new machine (Anakin) is working fine but Yoda has given up the ghost.

Yoda has been running the CPU fan flat out for the last 3 weeks or so. I checked the BIOS which displays the core temps and it wasn't reading the fan speed at all, so I decided to open it up. I thought it might be clogged with dust and fluff but there was nothing to see. Now it won't power up at all. It just beeps constantly. It looks like I will have to make a call tomorrow to see just how good the ACER 3 year on-site really is.

Rang ACER tech support and got position 42 in the queue, so hung up. Yoda seems to be back working so I suspect its the intruder detection, even through its disabled in the BIOS. It still runs hot but i'll leave it for the time being.

And then there were 5

I bought myself another quad core machine about 3 weeks ago. I finally got it out of the box this weekend. I spent a few hours getting it ready, getting the crap off it that vendors supply, updating windows, etc. It has been crunching some Seti work to start with, but now has joined my usual 3 projects.

I will post some pics when I have reorganized the farm as its just sitting in the middle of the floor at the moment. The "farm" now consists of 5 quad core machines.

I need to get myself another KVM switch then it can share a screen and keyboard. I also need a longer network cable (which is why its sitting in the middle of the floor). And just to tidy things up I will probably get another shelving kit.

18 October 2008

Seti 2 million

I finally got to 2 million credits for Seti@home. Below you can see the certificate. It looks like my estimate of 10 days was spot on.

I have now set the machines to allow work for the other projects so things can return to normal. Tomorrow is forecast to be another hot day so I will probably power-down the farm when the loft gets too hot.

15 October 2008

A little AP drama

The guys over at Seti@home have managed to come up with an optimized version of the Astropulse application. As I already use the optimized application for normal seti work units I didn't think twice about installing it.

I put the files in their directory and had to edit a small XML file that tells BOINC what programs to use. I made the mistake of opening the sample one provided using Internet Explorer and doing a cut and paste. I put the appropiate bit into my existing XML file and restarted BOINC. BOINC immediately trashed all my Astropulse work. I tried the same on a second machine and it too trashed all its Astropulse work.

I left a message on the Seti@Home message boards. I was pointed in the right direction within a few hours. It tuns out Internet Explorer adds a space before the trailing / within a tag, which BOINC doesn't understand so it trashes all the work units.

Normally Astropulse work units take me 40-41 hours to process. They now take 20-21 hours. Now thats some speed improvement! A big thankyou to Raistmer & Jason G for building this optimized application and also to JD Whale, Josef W. Segur, Urs Echternacht & Richard Haselgrove.

The Einstein@home guys have also released an optimized application that is somewhat faster than the previous version - around 20 to 25% faster, so I took the opportunity to update all the machines with it while I was at it.

08 October 2008

October musings

Nothing much to report at the moment. Last week had a couple of hot days so I had the farm turned off for 2 days ("the farm" is in a loft which got up to 33 degrees). The weather has been a bit cooler this week so all machines are running now.

I have reached 1.9 million credits on Seti so I have set the other projects to not collect any new work for the time being. This should allow me to ramp up Seti output so I can crack 2 million credits. My estimate is about 10 days to get there.

01 October 2008

BOINC view

I've been experimenting with a 3rd party program called BOINC view as you can see from the screen shot. Basically it allows you to remotely access the machines running BOINC and manage them. All in all a very useful tool for managing a farm.

In the screen shot above you can see that I have selected Yoda and can see what work it has done (in blue), what it is currently running (in green) and what work it has queued up but has yet to start.

20 September 2008

Spring has sprung

Today was rather warm now that we are in spring. The loft in which my farm lives got up to 33 degrees C. I shut down all of the machines due to the heat. Tomorrows forcast has things a bit cooler so hopefully I can leave the farm running.

Orbit has started resends of work units and two of my machines have picked them up. I will try and leave them running as long as possible so that they can be completed fairly quickly, well as quickly as you can for a 300+ hour work unit.

The guys over at Seti have started churning out lots of Astropulse work units, which usually take me 40+ hours to process. One of my machines was running 3 at the same time.

13 September 2008

BOINC 6.2.18 upgrade

Following on from last nights LAN upgrade I ran around updating the version of BOINC (which is the framework software used for all this distributed processing). I had version 5.10.45 on all my machines, but the current release version is 6.2.18 which has been out for a few weeks now.

Its not hard to upgrade the machines, just takes a bit of time to do each of them. While I was at it I took the opportunity to apply windows patches, delete log files and defrag the hard disks.

The basic software on my crunching machines is Windows XP Pro and BOINC. For Seti I also use the optimised application (AK_v8). Both Einstein and Orbit are running the "stock" application provided by the project.

Network upgrades

I just spent the last couple of hours upgrading the farm's network to gigabit. The file/proxy server now has a new network card in it and the switch for the farm has been replaced with a gigabit one. Unfortunately the ADSL connection to the outside world is the slowest part (not to mention a tad unreliable). Not too much I can do with it at this point.

This upgrade is more for future use than anything else. Its possible the file server may also become a BOINC storage server, although I am not aware of any projects currently using them. More likely, if the BOINC developers ever get around to writing it, a Superhost.

Here is a link decribing the Superhost idea http://boinc.berkeley.edu/trac/wiki/SuperHost

09 September 2008

2 million and counting

My current target is to get Seti up to 2 million credits, its looking like 23 days away. I am currently on 2.3 million for all projects (1.73 million for Seti). This has not been helped by both Seti and Einstein reducing their credits so they can be on par with other projects.

My ISP seems to be having some troubles recently and the internet connection has been dropping out. I have to reset my router to get it going again. This is compounded by the fact the BOINC machines are only allowed to connect to the internet during my ISP's off-peak hours (6 hours per day) and if the connection has dropped out I usually don't find out about it until the next day.

29 August 2008

A treat

I treated myself to a new 22" widescreen flat panel monitor. Staring at the old 15" one was getting a bit hard and I couldn't make the Boinc Manager window large enough without having to use a horizontal scroll bar.

Suprisingly the Acers didn't have the option to select 1680 x 1050 resolution and they are less than a year old. I spent a bit of time on the Intel website searching for an updated video chipset driver. Installed it on each of the 4 machines and now I have a nice crisp wide screen display.

Finally a piece of hardware that works straight out of the box - unlike my KFSN4.

This is a Boinc Manager screen showing the various tasks.

26 August 2008

Einstein 500k

I hit 500,000 for Einstein today. Here is their certificate.

Project shares have been returned to normal now so the other projects will get some work done. Still no news from Orbit as to when they will start creating some more work.

23 August 2008

Seti suspended

Seeing as Einstein is getting close to the 500,000 mark I have suspended Seti on all the number crunchers. This should allow Einstein to hit its target in a few days and then things can return to normal.

I got the 8 core AMD machine up and running for a short while before totally stuffing it up. Its even managed to download 34 Seti work units that it started. Hopefully I can fix it up before the work units hit their deadline. See my KFSN4 blog for details.

19 August 2008

Seti donation challenge

The guys over at Seti are running a 5 day donation challenge, due to finish on the 22nd of August. Given recent problems they can certainly do with all the help they can get. If you'd care to participate in the project and/or make a donation please drop by.

Click on the following link... http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/

13 August 2008


Not only do I run computers for number crunching but I also make donations to the Seti@home project, which is run by the University of California. I was quite chuffed today to receive a tax receipt from the University of California. Unfortunately I don't think the Australian government will let me claim it as a tax deduction :-)

The front of the envelope had "If undelivered return to PO Box xxx, Malmo, Sweden" printed on it. I wonder if thats where the other ones went?

I passed the 2 million credits milestone today, despite Seti still being off the air. Here is my BOINCstats image...

12 August 2008

Problems Problems

Since Seti introduced Astropulse they have been having problems. Nobody has been able to upload results (Seti or Astropulse) since before the weekend. Also there is hardly any new work getting created so we've all run out of work. As of tonight I have managed to upload all my Seti results but still no new work available.

Fortunately I also do Einstein work so its been getting a boost until Seti sort out their woes. Orbit doesn't have any work either.

08 August 2008

Build your own

Here is a link to the other blog that I started about the home built computer. The rumour turned out to be true.


04 August 2008

Out of work

Yesterday all the machines ran out of work. Due to Einstein going off the air for 5 days while they did server upgrades in preperation for S5R4 and Seti couldn't produce enough work.

Today Einstein is back up and handing out work as well as Seti getting back on top of things. All the machines are back crunching and all of them seem to have scored new Astropulse work units from Seti as well (they take around 40 hours to crunch).

Orbit on the other hand seems to have gone quiet with no sign of new work for the last 3 weeks. This is probably just as well as the last lot of work units took around 12 and 1/2 days each.

Rumour has it that my dual cpu motherboard has been repaired and is on its way back (even though I wanted to go and collect it). If this is the case it may eventually get to do some processing (just when Intel starts shipping their Nehalem processor).

02 August 2008

More shuffling

I went out and bought another shelving kit and spent the next couple of hours rearranging things. Here is the end result...

20 July 2008

New addition (part 1)

I added another quad core machine to the farm. Its the same as the others. It will replace an old P4 (when the P4 finishes off its current work).

This latest addition brings the farm up to 4 quad-core machines. They are all Intel core 2 quad Q6600's running at 2.4Ghz with 2Gb of RAM.

The new machine is on the bottom at the front and is called Luke Skywalker (in keeping with the tradition of naming them after Jedi knights).

New addition (part 2)

Here is a closer look at the new addition and the rearranged stack.

Einstein at home is coming to a close with its current run (S5R3) so I will cease doing Einstein work in a weeks time, until S5R4 starts up. When it changes a new science application will be required.

12 July 2008

Orbit wu

Our friends over at Orbit have been experimenting with work unit sizes recently. The latest batch have been taking my quaddies around 300+ hours at a time. Ahh the joys of joining a beta-test project.

If you have seen the movie Deep Impact or similar, even if you discount the hollywood dramatics, you'll realise what a mess a big rock can cause if it crashes into the earth. Anything that can help search for them has to be a worthy cause.

My home-build computer is dead as a dodo, so there is a bit of a delay in getting pictures of it up. I started a seperate blog for it here: http://kfsn4.blogspot.com/

17 June 2008

Seti 1 million

I finally joined the millionaires club for Seti today (17th of June). Here is my certificate.

Now that I have reached this goal I have reduced my Seti commitment so I can concentrate on Orbit as work becomes available.

07 June 2008

Einstein 250k

Hit 250,000 credits for Einstein yesterday (6th of June). Here is the BOINCstats image.

05 June 2008

Twiddling thumbs

Had a power failure today. I came home and all the computers were off (except the old Dell). I started them all up one by one and got them all going, looks like they spent half a day doing nothing.

I have ordered bits to make a dual cpu machine. Some have been delivered and others back ordered. I will post some pictures as I proceed with construction.

31 May 2008

1 Million credits

Passed the 1 million credits (for all projects) last night. Woo Hoo!

Still heading for the 1 million mark for Seti but thats a few days away yet.

11 May 2008

Farm rearranged

I brought a shelving kit to stack some of the PC's on. Kind of a poor mans rack system.

It was done to try and tidy things up a bit and allow better air flow for the machines. A side effect is that I could throw a few more machines in the same space now.

10 May 2008

BOINCstats link

Here is a link to BOINCstats where you can see my current (well updated daily) stats.


06 May 2008

Einstein 50k - April 2008

I passed 50,000 credits for Einstein today (8th of April). Unfortunately they don't have a certificate like Seti, so I have to use the BOINC Stats you see here.

Seti 250k - April 2008

I hit 250,000 for Seti today (6th of April).
My next target is 1 million, but that might take a while to get to.

Seti Farm - March 2008

Here is my Seti Farm. Not much to see except some pretty blue lights and a tangle of cables.

You can see the 3 quad core machines that do most of the number crunching. There is an old Dell on the left of the table. At the bottom is an ancient desk fan to help with cooling.

The 3 quaddies have names of course. Going from left to right they are Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Qui Gon Jinn.

Current BOINC projects are Seti and Einstein.

Seti Classic

Back in 2005 I used to do number crunching for Seti Classic. Then along came BOINC and I left for a while.
Here is the last certificate I got under Seti Classic.

Welcome to my BOINC blog

Welcome to my BOINC blog.

Einstein is a program that uses your computer's idle time to search for spinning neutron stars (also called pulsars) using data from the LIGO and GEO gravitational wave detectors.

The mission of orbit@home is to apply distributed computing to the study of Solar System dynamics. At first, we will focus on Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) research, focusing into:
  1. NEA search strategies and
  2. NEA impact hazard monitoring
SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data.

As you can see all the BOINC projects that I am running are astronomy related. There are many more projects, but these are the ones that I am participating in. Feel free to leave a comment.