[Beowulf] Re: Linux laptops, and M$ advertisement

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue Apr 17 14:50:53 PDT 2007

On Tue, 17 Apr 2007, David Mathog wrote:

> "Peter St. John" <peter.st.john at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 4. Physicist who builds his own damn Supercomputer agonizes for days over
>> the emergency shut off switch wiring, because he can, he teaches
>> electricity; but he could just walk one hundred yards down Science
> Drive and
>> get an EE grad student to do it for him.
> The problem with the Emergency Stop switch is not designing or
> building the electrical wiring to implement it, it's interpreting
> the electrical code to determine if one is required.  Parts of the
> code were apparently written by a Zen master so that the answer to
> what seems like a straighforward question "do we need an
> Emergency Stop switch?" depends on the answer to "is this room full
> of machines a machine room"?  The latter is apparently an
> electrical code koan, as only the enlightened can divine the answer.
> And maybe not even then - there seems to be room for considerable debate
> on the issue.  Indeed, the answer may depend not so much on what
> the room holds, but rather on how it was wired, as certain sections
> of the code may be "relaxed" in machine room construction.

The Zen cluster geek asks, ``What are the parallel computations done by
a one-node cluster'' and spends the next twelve years (four three year
federal grant cycles) seeking an answer.  While doing so he completely
forgets to shower or do laundry, let alone worry about kill switches.
In year eleven he is Enlightened, unplugs his cluster and goes to live
under an overpass on I95 southbound, occasionally using a solar-powered
scientic calculator to compute the roots of a Riemann Zeta function to
ten significant digits.

I personally think it is more voodoo than Zen.  If the room has
witnessed the sacrifice of at least one chicken per rack and has a
voodoo doll of Bill Gates hanging upside down from the network wiring
tray, and a Loa has been invoked to protect the server's power supply,
then it is a machine room.  Otherwise it's just a broom closet with a
lot of computers in it.

> Suffice it to say that a definitive "required" or "not required"
> has not yet been obtained from the folks in charge of the room's
> construction.

Ah, but we should never forget that the >>definitive<< requirement will
only be known >>after<< resolving the lawsuit filed by the survivors of
the dead firemen >>or<< after the inspector man (if any) ever declaims
"you must have a kill switch" whichever comes first.  So the question
is: Do you feel lucky?  Well, punk, do ya?


> Regards,
> David Mathog
> mathog at caltech.edu
> Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech
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Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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