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Flashmob Supercomputer!

More than 600 California 'geeks' link PCs to form supercomputer
Saturday, April 03, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Hundreds of California technophiles wired their computers together Saturday in an attempt to generate computing power on a par with the world's strongest supercomputers.

The experiment, organized by researchers at the University of San Francisco, was designed to determine whether a gymnasium full of off-the-shelf laptops and desktops networked together can muster enough power to process the most complex research problems.

Organizers hoped to break into the ranks of the world's top 500 supercomputers through the event, which they called Flashmob I.

"Flashmob is about democratizing supercomputing," said John Witchel, a graduate student at USF who helped develop the concept.

"It's about giving supercomputing power to the people, so that we can decide how we want supercomputers to be used."

Supercomputers perform highly sophisticated functions, such as predicting weather patterns, modelling biological processes or animating movies. Most are run by government laboratories or big corporations because they are expensive, sometimes costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Saturday's event, which continued into late afternoon, was a dry run designed to measure how much computing power could be generated, rather than tackle a specific task.

About 660 volunteers took part, including programmers, self-described "computer geeks," teenagers, college students and researchers. Cables connecting various laptops and desktops were strewn across the gym.

"I just want to be part of history," said Glenn Montano, a USF senior majoring in computer science.

The term "flashmob" comes from the spontaneous Internet-organized gatherings that gained popularity last year. During the events, hundreds of people suddenly appear at a predetermined location, perform a wacky stunt - such as wearing purple hats or spinning in circles - then quickly disperse, leaving bystanders scratching their heads.

Saturday's event was not the first time citizens have pooled their computing power. For example, the SETI(at)home project has created a virtual supercomputer through Internet-connected PCs to search for signs of extraterrestrial life.

Organizers hope the Flashmob concept can eventually be applied to problems requiring high-powered computing, such as the study of global warming or AIDS research.
Harmonics 04.Apr.2004 00:51

Red Suspenders

Wouldn't it have been interesting if someone had put a ossiliscope on the feeders supplying that gymnasium.

The cheaply made (in China of course) power supply on any of your basic home computers puts all kinds of nasty stuff back out on the neutral wire... The easy way out is to oversize the neutral where you know a lot of 'puters will be plugged in. Somebody ought to take a stand for "clean" well designed power supplys. All this effort to make 'puters "faster" and very little effort goes into making them better.