One of my favorite old fables is "stone soup" which tells the tale of a masterful bit of social engineering taking place several hundred years ago. (google it- if you've never heard of it) Its one more proof (as if one was needed) that human nature never changes. What does stone soup have to do with "the backyard supercomputer'? [BYS] Well yesterday when I was out I stopped into the local PC repair shop to check on the cheapie HP Omnibook I'd bought for a song on EBay- all the pretty lights went on, but nothing else happened. After waiting an hour, I concluded that this was rather slow, even for a PC and took it on over to the intensive care unit. Too late. It was dead as a doornail, which in itself was no big deal. I'd only paid $40 for it and I got that refunded with an email. I'd bought the Cadaver-book as a mobile way to run Knoppix STD and, though I'm an apple tech and spend a good portion of my time fixing and refurbing powerbooks and ibooks, I know absolutely nothing about x86 machines. More by inclination than anything else I guess, but when the choice came down to finding a YD ST distro (or trying to port the Knoppix over to YD) and spending $40 on ebay, The choice was clear. In the true spirit of enterprising laziness, I broke down and bought one of the PIII buggers. That is how I ended up in a PC repair shop that fair winter afternoon. And that is how I ended up loading 5 free windows boxes (III's to be fair, but processing is processing and the IV's aren't actually that much faster until you get into the 4ghz range- and they're actually faster in many cases than the celerons. btw, this is all info from PC pros, and not Apple propaganda) into the trunk of my Saab convertible. It seems that word spreads quickly. I'd only been officially at this for a couple of weeks!
But the stone soup model holds up yet again. And this is just one of the things I have up my sleeve as I attempt to build the BYS into something approaching the supercomputer standard.
Now that doesn't mean I'll be relying on serendipity, there's a few more strings to the bow than that!
The BYS went from months of idle speculation to full blown project in the space of a week or so, on the strength of 2 events. The first happened while I was down in my home office- which has a small network of a dozen or so mac's and pc's running a mix of linux distros, BSD's, Windows, OSX and the new OSX Leopard server- frustrated by the fact that the world of cluster OS's that will run on PPC's is either of the Xgrid variety, which doesn't really scale well in a mixed cluster and lacks some things that I'll go into later, or... Pooch.
Yep, as in small irritating dog. It was Pooch that first piqued my interest in the idea of the home supercomputer. Its really an incredible bit of software, in that it can utilize all types of Macs- old world machines running OS9, G3's, G4's, G5's, anything!
One just links the disparate mob together with ethernet cable and that's it! Done!
Its infinitely scalable and gives a nearly linear performance increase with each new processor added to the cluster. It also has one thing that makes it really sexy- it runs without a head node. What could be simpler? Right, except the company that makes it overlooked the magnificently promethean opportunity to bring supercomputers within reach of the masses and opted for greedy stupidity!!!!!
They got the bright idea to charge by the NODE for this thing! I was livid when I got to that little gem of pricing strategy buried deep below all the marketing hype and value added BS. Not just a few bucks either, $120 a node! A miniscule cluster of 20 computers would set you back $2400 just for the software! (Unless you opted for... you guessed it, Pooch PRO for an even heftier sum) And if you wanted to add another computer to the mix... you guessed it again, pony up another $120!!! But to be fair, there is an educational discount... I think its like $5 a node.
So much for supercomputers for the masses! Power to the People! Free Information. No more like pandering to the Wealthy and widening the gap between rich and poor!!! Phillistines, Whores of Babylon!!! I couldn't hate these guys more!!
Not even Adobe gets that kind of bucks!
And for all that, you still have to program everything from scratch to actually get it to do anything other than draw pictures of fractals. Not exactly the same level of functionality as CS3.
It took every bit of willpower not to drop it into Ida Pro and... well I didn't.
What I did will have to wait till my next post as I have run out of time for now.