12 May 2018

12th of May

Farm status
Intel GPUs
All running Einstein gravity wave work

Nvidia GPUs
Off

Raspberry Pis
All running Einstein BRP4 work


Other news
Winter weather has arrived allowing numerous machines to run constantly. I’ve been concentrating on Einstein work but have the Intels running down so the Nvidia GPUs can be used. Due to the power available (domestic grade power circuits) I can’t run all of them at once, even if the weather allows me to.

Additional USB chargers and some Y split fan header cables arrived, as did three Pi3 model B+. I have swapped the NFS server over. One has been put into service crunching, that gives 11 compute nodes for the moment. I am waiting for the L shaped power cables to be able to get the remaining one into my third Pi^4 case.

I haven’t worked out what to do with the remaining Pi2 and Pi3 model B’s, but I do have the prototype Pi^4 case with the 40mm fans that I could use to get some of the Pi3’s going. The Pi2’s don’t need active cooling so can run with the top off their case. I will need more network cables and SD cards to be able to use these. I really should have another look at NFS booting them. Or I could give the Pi2’s away.


BOINC testing
We’re testing 7.10.2 at the moment which is a release candidate. It looks like it will finally fix the BOINC event log (aka messages) stuffing up the time format under Linux. It also moves the boinc data directory in Linux to be in /var/lib/boinc with a symlink to the old one at /var/lib/boinc-client.

25 April 2018

25th of April

Farm status
Intel GPUs
Running Einstein and Seti work

Nvidia GPUs
Two running Seti work

Raspberry Pis
All running Einstein BRP4 work


Other news
I have been able to run some bursts of Seti work and Einstein overnight (their tasks take 9 to 10 hours). Einstein has started processing their 2nd observation run of Ligo gravity waves so that will keep things busy for 3 or 4 months. They have access to the Atlas cluster as well as what additional processing power the rest of us add.

AMD released the Zen+ CPUs which use a slightly smaller process size (12 nano meter) and so has allowed them to increase the speed of their CPUs while using the same power as before. They have also tweaked the design a bit to improve the cache hit rates. I don’t think its worthwhile upgrading just for a speed increase.

I still haven’t managed to swap out the i7-6700’s for the i7-8700’s as my PC installer guy seems to have disappeared. Time to find another one I think. At the moment I have one i7-8700 running and seven i7-6700’s which are a bit faster but less cores. There are another five i7-8700’s sitting in boxes.

The Nvidia GPU machines got an updated driver so I have installed it on one machine. The last time they pushed an updated driver out it kept dropping the GPU into low power mode so I am a bit wary of updated drivers as its difficult to get back to the previous version.

08 April 2018

8th of April

Farm status
Intel GPUs
All off

Nvidia GPUs
All off

Raspberry Pis
All running Einstein BRP4 work


Other news
This last fortnight has been all about the Raspberry Pis. Its still too hot to be running the other machines so I have been concentrating on the little ones.

First off was the arrival of the 11 Pi3 model B+ and swapping out the Pi3 model B’s. First problem was a lack of heatsinks. I put as many into service as I could (5 of them) and ordered more heatsinks. Once heatsinks arrived I then decided I would use new SD cards rather than reusing the ones from the older Pis. A trip to the shops fixed that. Then a late night imaging a bunch of SD cards and firing up each Pi3B+ and installing the software.

Because I now had a bunch of spare Pi3 model B’s I decided I would use one of them as a NFS server in conjunction with the PiDrive that wasn’t doing anything. That made life a lot easier as I can now just copy various config files from it into the appropriate directories instead of what I used to do (manually edit file and cut and paste). I know I tried setting up an NFS server a couple of years ago but it wasn’t reliable. This time it seems a lot better.

At the moment I have upgraded 9 out of 10 number compute nodes and one support node. I have one more compute node left to swap over that is finishing off the work it has which takes around 11 hours.

I looked at the 3rd Pi^4 case that I had and thought why not put the two other compute nodes, currently in official Pi cases, into the Pi^4 case and get another two Pis. And while I am at it lets replace the Pi3B that is running the NFS with a 3B+ as well. I can feel the need to order more parts.

I broke a stand-off in one of the Pi^4 cases due to the screw holding the Pi3B in getting stuck. The head of the screw was stripped so the screwdriver couldn’t get a grip. In the end I had to deliberately break it to get the old Pi out. The M2.5 screws are so tiny and the metal isn’t hard so its easy to strip the head on them. I took half an hour just to get the piece of stand off and screw separated. Needless to say that screw got thrown away. I will have to glue the stand-off into the case now.


HT Condor
I have been using the freed-up Pi3B’s to experiment a bit with HT Condor. Its the software they run on a real cluster for scheduling batch jobs and its available in the Raspbian and Debian repositories. The HT stands for High Throughput. All was going fine until I enabled the firewall. After that I can’t get the components to talk to each other so I am trying to resolve that.

A number of compute clusters run HT Condor and have BOINC as a backfill task, that is if the cluster doesn’t have anything else to run it will start up a single instance of BOINC for each available core on each compute node. I don’t think thats going to work too well with the Pis due to the lack of memory however it should work on the larger machines which don’t have the memory constraints.

17 March 2018

17th of March

Farm status
Intel GPUs
All off

Nvidia GPUs
All off.  Ran Einstein gravity wave work during the last week

Raspberry Pis
The ones with fans running Einstein BRP4 work


Debian point release
Stretch had a point release 9.4 so a few updates came out of it, plus various security fixes during the week. Raspbian followed the day after with the same fixes but also updated firmware to support the new Pi.


New Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi foundation released a new Pi called the Pi 3 model B+. It has a faster CPU (1.4GHz now), the same memory (1GB of DDR2) and better WiFi and networking. I promptly ordered 11 to replace my current farm before the distributor ran out of stock. They arrived yesterday.

I have swapped out four Pi3 crunchers and the support Pi3 already with Pi3B+ models. I only had 5 spare copper heatsinks so I need to order more.

I also got another 5 port USB charger which I use to power the Pis. It turns out its only rated to supply 3 x 2 amp plus 2 x 1 amp even though I have one running 4 Pi3’s in a Pi^4 (Pi to the power of four) case plus the fans. I might need another charger or two.


Pi^4 case
I have two more Pi^4 cases that are waiting on some M2.5 screws which I had to order off eBay. They are coming from China and take up to 30 days to arrive. I couldn’t find any in the local electronics parts stores or hobby shops.

To make it a bit safer I also have some chrome fan grills on the way but they aren’t holding up the build. Just don’t stick your fingers in the fan. The 60mm fans hurt.

Photos of the Mk I case coming soon - once the screws arrive.