A Rough Guide to Scientific Computing On the Playstation 3

Eugen Leitl has just posted on the Beowulf list a message with a link to a draft of a paper by Alfredo Buttari, Piotr Luszczek, Jakub Kurzak, Jack Dongarra and George Bosilca called A Rough Guide to Scientific Computing On the Playstation 3. It’s a 74 page PDF looking at the possibilities and problems with using the PS3 for scientific computing (there is already a PS3 Linux cluster at NCSU).

The introduction to the paper lets you know that this isn’t going to be easy..

As exciting as it may sound, using the PS3 for scientific computing is a bumpy ride. Parallel programming models for multi-core processors are in their infancy, and standardized APIs are not even on the horizon. As a result, presently, only hand-written code fully exploits the hardware capabilities of the CELL processor. Ultimately, the suitability of the PS3 platform for scientific computing is most heavily impaired by the devastating disproportion between the processing power of the processor and the crippling slowness of the interconnect, explained in detail in section 9.1. Nevertheless, the CELL processor is a revolutionary chip, delivering ground-breaking performance and now available in an affordable package. We hope that this rough guide will make the ride slightly less bumpy.

Of course, it’s unlikely you’re going to see the PS3 being used in production clusters anyway, so the interconnect shouldn’t be such a problem there.. 🙂

The paper covers the hardware, Linux support and how to get it onto a PS3, programming methods and models, MPI, performance, etc. The paper isn’t complete as I write, but it is still a very interesting read. HPC folks will certainly want to read section 9.1 “Limitations of the PS 3 for Scientific Computing”, especially the part that says:

Double precision performance. Peak performance of double precision floating point arithmetic is a factor of 14 below the peak performance of single precision. Computations which demand full precision accuracy will see a peak performance of only 14 Gflop/s, unless mixed-precision approaches can be applied.

Welcome to WordPress, Russell!

Russell Coker, SELinux developer, Bonnie++ maintainer and fellow LUV person has now switched from Blogger to his own WordPress installation, which makes leaving comments a hell of a lot easier! 🙂

He’s also now got a blog on “random things that are large or of limited interest“, though why that isn’t just a category on his main site (and using WordPress’s handy “more” marker to stop the whole thing showing up on the front page) I’m not sure.

Anyway, welcome to WordPress Russell!

Compare and Contrast – Pre-entrance Chinese University Question and First Year UK University Question

For anyone who doubts that graduates in China are going to be more than a match for the rest of the world, go and read this BBC news article comparing a maths question set to first year chemistry students in the UK with a maths question that is set to students wishing to enter university in China.

The Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK is running a competition offering a GBP500 prize to a winner who can correctly answer the question from China. This is because of their concerns about the poor level of mathematics that Chemistry students in the UK have:

Increasingly, universities are mounting remedial sessions for incoming science undergraduates because their maths skills are so limited, with many having stopped formal lessons in mathematics two years earlier at the GCSE level.

Book meme from Mark Greenaway

Via Mark.

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the next three sentences in your journal along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t dig for your favourite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.
  6. Tag five other people to do the same.

Here we go..

The mainboard connector provides a standard PS/2 keyboard connector for attaching a PS/2 keyboard. You can plug a PS/2 keyboard directly into this connector. PS/2 Keyboard (6-pin Female)

That’s from the VIA EPIA Mini-ITX (“Dream Catalyst”) mainboard manual that happened to be sitting in front of me. Extra boring points for me I think!

People can work out themselves if they wish to be infected by this meme.. 🙂