29 October 2012


Remember a while back I mentioned Adapteva? They were making a 64 core RISC CPU chip. Well they completed that a couple of months ago. The problem with their development kit was it cost $10,000 and the board was fairly large.

Following in the footsteps of the Raspberry Pi they decided they would make a $100 version of their development board with a dual core ARM processor and the 64 core Epiphany IV processor. It is to be called the Parallella. They started a fund raiser on KickStarter with a goal of $750,000:

They exceed their goal by the deadline (Sat 27th of October). Of course yours truly made a pledge. Now we wait for Adapteva to get their development board shrunk and make them available. In return I should be getting a couple of boards.

Farm news
This weekend I spent a bit of time cleaning computers. You know vacumn cleaner and a paint brush type of cleaning. I was going to replace the 140mm fans in the bottom of both of the GPUgrid crunchers, however the Noctua 140mm fans are round so they don't fit into the bracket. Instead I replaced the case fan at the back of the case. They were already Noctua fans but 120mm. I also prefer to use the rubber mounts supplied with the Noctua instead of screwing the fan onto the case as this reduces the vibrations (and noise).

The temporary fans I put into the file server were also removed and put into the spares box. They were swapped out for Noctua fans which has cut the noise down.

I dug out the old file server. Its a Pentium @ 1.8Ghz. It was too slow for number crunching but had a nice case so I put a couple of network cards, a RAID card and a couple of 500Gb hard disks in it about 5 years ago. Its been sitting in the corner for the last 2 years. I powered it up, let it download its 157 windows updates and apply them. It was having a problem with the network card which I tracked down to a 2nd network card not working. Removed the 2nd card and threw it away. Suprisingly the rest of it still works. The CPU heatsink was clogged up with dust so I removed it and gave it a clean and reapplied thermal paste before putting it back. I also had to swap the battery on the motherboard as it had gone flat. It should be right for another couple of years. Why waste the time on it you ask. Well its the backup file server in case the new one dies. So I keep it in a working condition just in case.

I took one of the old Core 2 quad machines which had blown capacitors over to the computer shop. No point in trying to fix it, but I was thinking I might be able to replace the motherboard with another P8Z77. In order to keep the cost down I will try and reuse the case, power supply and so on. I might get an i5-3570 instead of i7-3770 and a lesser amount of memory. Anyway we will see what pricing the shop comes up with. My main concern was if the case was large enough, although they did find the front-panel connector was different to the usual motherboard pins.

24 October 2012

More on the Raspberry Pi

It seems the B model of the Pi has been updated to 512Mb memory. Hopefully the Pi that I have on back-order will turn up with this as the one I have only has 256Mb.

I've been doing a bit of searching to see if anyone has a compiled Seti app. It seems a few people do but none are in the repo. In fact if you do a sudo apt-get install boinc-app-seti it returns an error saying it can't find it but its referenced.

The other issue is there is an armel version and the Pi should use the armhf (ARM hard float) version so the apps need to be compiled for this platform to get the best performance.

The good news is you can download it manually from the Debian pakages page:

I had to download it to my PC, stick it on a USB memory stick and then copy it across to the Pi. Once its there you'll need to unpack the files into the appropiate directories. The File Manager that comes bundled with the Pi  will allow this.

20 October 2012

20th of October

Again not much to report this week. The weather turned hot so the farm was off for a couple of days. This of course makes a fair dent in the amount of work that can be processed. I give priority to the machines doing GPUgrid as I figure medical advances are more important than astronomy.

Today I finished installing all the GTX660's in the various machines. One each for the 12 core machines and last week I put two into one of the new 8 core machines. I also had to move a couple of machines around to fit the KVM cabling. The 12 core machines have PS/2 keyboard and mouse but the newer machines don't so I need to use USB connectors for them.

The file server was making various noises at the beginning of the week. This turned out to be a case fan that had died and was no longer able to spin up. It was supplied with the case, a Fractal Designs one. I had a couple of old CoolerMaster fans sitting in a box so put them into it temporarily. I have ordered a few Noctua fans. When they arrive I will remove the CoolerMaster fans (they are noisy and also tend to fail after a couple of years).

I managed to find a nasty little bug with the BOINC Manager by accident early in the week. The result is it will lock up the manager and use a whole CPU core. It then needs to be terminated by Task Manager. The developers have been made aware of how to do this and have reproduced it, so they will get a fix out soon.

Project news - Seti
They have commenced their annual fund raiser. The money they raise is used to fund the project rather than specific bits of hardware, which is what the GPU Users Group concentrate on. I will be making a donation, but probably not as big as usual seeing as I gave at the office, I mean the last hard disk fund raiser. As it is I have donated a 5 figure sum since joining Seti@home in 2008.

Adapteva on KickStarter
Adapteva are seeking funding to make their 64 core processor more readily available. This is a nifty way where people can give money (from $10 up) towards their target and as many people can do so as it takes to reach their target. Their target is $750,000. As I type this they are on $405,000. It closes on the 25th of October. The link to their project on KickStarter is here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adapteva/parallella-a-supercomputer-for-everyone

06 October 2012

6th of October

Farm News
Not a great deal to report this week.

Two of the four GTX660's have been installed in one of the P8Z77 machines. The good thing is the P8Z77 has two of the PCIe slots triple spaced, that is there is enough room to put two double-width graphics cards in there and still have a gap between them.

We had a couple of hot days this week, so the farm was powered off for two days. Its spring in Sydney so its probably going to be a long hot summer. Not good for number crunching.

GPUUG fund raising
One of the users has decided that for this weekend only he will match any donations up to a limit so the Green Bank transport fund raiser can be finished off. Well not one to miss an opportunity I made a donation and so have a number of other people. These donations have now completed this fund raiser.

Project news - Asteriods
This is a newish project that is calculating the shape of asteroids from multiple observations. Their science app is written for Linux, so I have setup a Virtual Box machine in order to run some of the work units. They were looking at using Vbox from within BOINC, but have now decided they will port their app to Windows (which represents about 60% of the user base). This is good news as BOINC running in Vbox is not as efficent as running it on the host operating system.

Project news - CPDN
Climate Prediction had one of their servers run out of disk space a fortnight ago. That then meant the upload server also filled up its disks. Its taken two weeks for the project staff to move the files around so we could get the uploads through. The climate models produce large files and with everybody uploading work its a constant battle just to clear space on the upload servers.

The new i7-3770 CPUs are much quicker, so much so that they get through a regional climate model in around 60 hours. The older i7's were taking 100+ hours. I have decided to only run CPDN on the new machines.

Project news - Seti
They have been having a lot of trouble with network bandwidth. This was made worse by all the short work units which were taking longer to download than run. They have moved onto some longer running work units so things have improved a bit. They are trying to get the v7 multi-beam app out, this will do an additional calculation thus taking longer to process and that will reduce the demand for work. Unfortunately its taking longer to get this app ready for deployment.