Illiac IV and Raspberry Pi. Which is faster?

The Illiac IV (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ILLIAC_IV) was the biggest and baddest supercomputer of its time in the 1970s. It was eventually installed at NASA Ames Research Center in the San Francisco Bay Area and was reported to have been 13 times faster than any other computer at that time. Although fast, it was very hard to use and many of the scientists shunned it in favor of more conventional computers. So, it was relatively easy to get access if you could put up with it. As a beginning grad student I had no idea what was smart and what was not, so of course I said “sure” when my advisor asked me to consider using it for my thesis. None-the-less, it was my daily tool for four years and I learned a lot about fluid mechanics and parallel computing.

In more recent times there has been a list of the “TOP500” supercomputers in the world (https://www.top500.org/) and these are measured by running a standard software (benchmark) package called High-Performance Linpack (HPL), that will tell you how fast your computer runs. Modern computers are SO MUCH faster than the old machines, but I wondered how much faster than that trusty old Illiac IV. The Illiac is long gone and no one ever ran HPL on it, but estimates placed its speed at about 200 MFLOPS, or 200 million “floating-point” operations per second. I’ve been exploring a little $35 single board computer recently called the Raspberry Pi. So I built HPL on top of a communications library called MPICH and tested the little computer. I expected some big changes, but I was shocked. The little computer clocked 3.35 GFLOPS, or over 3 billion floating-point operations per second, 15 times faster than the fastest machine of the 70s! It’s simply astonishing how far modern computers have come. The fastest modern supercomputer runs almost 100 PFLOPS, or 100 million-billion flops/sec. That’s 500 million times faster than the old Illiac IV! Even my little Raspberry Pi can easily do computations that were the subject of my whole thesis!

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Building an inexpensive “NAS”

I have too many computers and they all have disks or SSDs to store my stuff. It’s a pain to keep the versions in order. But it’s easier if you can keep only one copy and all the computers can see it. If you have some old external hard-disks and can spare $35 for a Raspberry Pi single board computer, it’s easy to build a “Network Attached Storage” (NAS) . It serves files up to any computer. For example it’s now the place that I keep my music library and it serves my tunes up to my Raspberry Pi streaming computer attached to my stereo. Go here and scroll to the bottom for more detail and instructions on how to build.

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Montoso Loop

New Gravel/MTB ride and maps posted here

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Riding in the Black Range

The last weekend in February is the annual time for the Santa Fe Road Riders Truth or Consequences, New Mexico Ride. There were two road rides and one mountain bike ride in the Black Range this year (2017). I used the time after the rides to scout out new riding and camping possibilities. See this page for road and riding descriptions.

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Time Lapse Movies from Webcams

There are many generally accessible webcams in scenic places. They lend themselves well to time lapse movies as they usually point at the same place for days (years?) at a time and store snapshots at regular intervals. It’s pretty easy to write a program to download these snapshots as they are posted and then make a movie. Check out the movies and an example program on the time lapse movies page.

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The 505 Riding Season Kickoff – Annual Truth or Consequences, New Mexico Ride

The Santa Fe road riding season kicks off with the TorC weekend, February 25-26, 2017. Actually we ride all year, but it’s fun to have a kickoff anyway. See the ride routes on this page. Check the Facebook link for details

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Music Streaming Device

In about 2003 I bought dedicated audio streaming device, a Roku SoundBridge, in order to listen to internet radio. In the intervening decade, dedicated audio streamers have become obsolete and Roku discontinued the device. There appear to be no replacements. What can be done when the SoundBridge inevitably dies?  I built a streamer from a Raspberry Pi and it is now attached to my stereo. I put the experience together as a recipe in the Raspberry Pi Projects Page.

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Birdie Cam

Birdie-cam is deployed! But unfortunately the birdies have yet to show up. It’s still too early for them to arrive, but now we’re ready. Each year some finches build a nest on top of outdoor speakers that we have on our portale. For a long time I’ve wanted some way to watch without disturbing. A couple weeks ago I became aware of a small single board computer and webcam that can be built into a “spy cam.” This is the Raspberry Pi. The build and configure process took some research, so I put the experience together as a recipe in the Raspberry Pi Projects Page.

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