* Posts by HPCJohn

202 publicly visible posts • joined 18 Sep 2014


Datacenter architect creates bonkers designs to illustrate the craft, and quirks, of building bit barns


Talking about solar cells on a roof to generate power.. Blackfriars rail station in London was refurbished to have entrances either side of the river Thames.

The new roof is covered in solar cells. The power they generate powers the lights for the station. All well and good of course.

But 100 ton trains need a good deal more power than that. I would expect the same thing for data centres. You might be able to power the lights and staff areas, but not racks of servers using roof mounted solar cells.

Want to feel old? Ethernet just celebrated its 50th birthday


Mainframe ethernet gatgeway

I was a gradduate student in the Glasgow High Energy Physics group. The group had an IBM mainframe - I think a 380, this was later upgraded to a 3090.

We got an ethernet gateway for the mainframe. This was delivered - an IBM PC which had both a channel adapter card (the big grey cables) and an ethernet card.

The ethernet card connected using an AUI (>) to the group thickwire ethernet which as I recall was up in the false ceiling.

All thjis in a building where Lord Kelcin lectured.

PC tech turns doctor to diagnose PC's constant crashes as a case of arthritis


Re: South don't work in the North

Talking about the effect of magnetic fields.. I worked on a CERN experiment at the LEP collider. The experiment had a 1.5 Tesla magnet which you could stand inside.

In the counting rooms in the experimental pit all the computer monitors had displays tilted at a crazy angle - so you had to tilt your head to the side to read them.

Those were the days of CRT terminals, VT220 usually as the experiment used VAXen of many flavours.

Me, I had a Falco terminal in my office which was a VT220 emulator AND toggled to Tektronix emulation for graphics display. There's fancy now.

Subsidies? All UK chip industry needs is tax, rule tweaks, claims rightwing thinktank


Re: Incentive

Indeed. "make it easier for highly skilled workers to come to the U" Well incentives were one of the reasons I went to work in the semiconductor industry - for ASML in Eindhoven.

The Dutch have the 30% rule for tax on highly skilled workers.

The Eindhoven region also actively encourages high tech workers to come and visit there.

Sadly I now live back in Blightly with 10% inflation.

Techies ask PM to 'prepare UK chip strategy as a matter of urgency'


Attracting highly qualified staff

Having worked at ASML in Eindhoven, I feel that I am qualified to make some responses here.

NL offers tax incentives to highly qualified staff to move there.

The Eindhoven region actively promotes itself as a high tech region which has lots of companies and startups

The towns in the surrounding area actively promote themselves as places to live for foreign workers. Can you imagine a town in Surrey organising a coach tour for foreigners asking them to coma and live in this lovely town?

Cleaner ignored 'do not use tap' sign, destroyed phone systems ... and the entire building


Now it can be told

As a fresh young engineer I was our on site at Liverpool University. Back in those days Myrinet switches exhausted to the side.. so we cut holes in the side of the rack.

In this case I remember having to use a hacksaw to cut a large bolt to length... in the machine room. I was spotted doing this and dragged out of the room by the machine room manager....

Dont cut metal in a machine room.... lovely swarf and filings don't do the servers any good.


Re: Concrete dust = Kryptonite

Winchester disk packs used to be removable and kept in circular plastic enclosures about the size of a fat waste paper basket.

Europe to have 2 of the 4 most powerful supercomputers as Leonardo comes online


Re: UK..

You joke, but the second fastest supercomputer in the Top500, Fugaku, uses ARM CPUs


Re: Leonardo DiCaprio?

HPC clusters like this normally run a version of Linux. However int he days of the SGI Ultraviolet NUMA systems, Eng Lim Go of SGI had a demo where he booted a huge UV system into Windows and opened Excel.

You can probably find this demo online.

NASA OKs spacewalks, upgrades helmets after fishbowl mishap


Danger of water in spacesuit

Chris HAdfiled has a section in his book where he is on a spacewalk and there is a water leak in the helmet. I don't remember the exact details but it is very dangerous as water obviously does not drain away in zero G. I believe it could easily have choked him.

Using the datacenter as a dining room destroyed the platters that matter


Wine cellar

When I worked in post-production in Soho, one of the engineers was a renowned gourmand. He kept wine in the server room.

Nice stable temperature.

Mouse hiding in cable tray cheesed off its bemused user


Well, my war story is about serial connections. Now IT Can Be Told (TM). When working for a leading effects/animation house in Soho we had some very tasty SGI systems for effects. One was a state of the art SGI 3000 systems, running some important software and costing $$$. One day I decided I needed a serial console on this machine.

Merrily fetch an RS@#@ cable and plug my laptop into the serial port.. then... sound of running feet as many engineers rush into the machine room. What the fsck is going on? The effects machine is down.

Turns out there was some process started at boot time which hung onto the serial port - the act of actually connecting something to the serial port brought the system down.

I don't think I ever figured out what process this was.

Psst … Want to buy a used IBM Selectric? No questions asked


Re: Switching on the "monitor stand"

I had a similar teletype hooked up to my TRS-80

Bought teletype from local GPO telephone exchange surplus , fo ra fiver or a tenner.

It still had the address of the hotel it worked in hard wired in.

Same electrical setup - cassette output port connected to a mighty big transformer to drive the teletype circuitry.

Sadly the teletype went to the dump many years ago.

Machine learning the hard way: IBM Watson's fatal misdiagnosis


Re: started in Jeopardy

Sorry to answer so late. My father worked in a Glasgow University research unit in the 70s which was doing what we would now call deep learning in medicine. They used a PDP 11 (!!!). The unit studied gastrointestinal diseases. They built an easy to use terminal with yes/no style buttons as people then would have been scared off by a keyboard. They found that people answered a computer more truthfully about embarrassing GI symptoms.

OF COURSE the computer system was never used to deliver a diagnosis to the patient.


UK.gov presents its National Space Strategy: Space is worth billions to us. Just don't mention Brexit, OK?


Black Arrow

The UK is th eonly nation which has developed a spacefaring capacity. Then abandoned it after the first successful launch.

Why tell the doctor where it hurts, when you could use emoji instead?


The Boak

My father worked in a research unit in Gastrointestinal medicine in Glasgow. They were pioneers before their time in what we now call expert systems as applied to medicine. They found that people would be more open and honest in giving answers to GI symptoms when asked by computer.

HE tole me that when foreign doctors (read English too) came to Glasgow they had to be given language coaching 'A huv the dry boak doctor'

The Register just found 300-odd Itanium CPUs on eBay


Remember that the world was meant to go Windows NT. Dave Cutler hired from DEC to produce WNT.

WNT was going to run on desktops through to mainframes. What really killed the Alpha was Microsoft pulling the port of WNT to Alpha, if I recall correctly.


Re: The SGI Itaniums were OK

I managed several SGI Itanium systems. They were very good for CFD work.

True tale - when a blade had to be replaced on an Altix, the SGI engineer had to phone a number in the States and get a unique code. Else the blade would not join the system.

Preventing $COUNTRY fro assembling a supercomputer by buying spare parts.

HP Inc slurps Teradici to get better at delivering remote PCs


How it differs? Built in encryption, adaptive compression of moving graphics.

You can do 3D CAD etc. over a PCOIP session.


The keyboard and mouse devices appear as USB devices.

SO the cute thing is that you can lock out unknown USB devices - such as USB drives - at the hardware level. Your remote workstation never 'sees' them at all.

For hardware PCOIP you have a daughter card power from the host workstation, and appears on the bus as a USB device for keyboard/mouse.

The graphics card output is looped into the PCOIP card and there is an onboard processor which does the conversion to a network stream. The card has its own ethernet connector.


Re: Switching on the "monitor stand"

Teradici PCOIP is fantastic - I have deployed it. RDP is of course adequate for desktop use. But if you are doing high end graphics and 3D then PCOIP is what you need. I gather it uses adaptive compression - different compression depending on the type of movement on the screen.

PCOIP Also 'builds to lossless' - so on restricted bandwidth when you stop moving or rotating you will get a lossless image.

PCOIP is also entirely secure - certified to UK Govt standards.

Go to L: A man of the cloth faces keyboard conundrum


My mother was a trained typist. Yes indeed with early computers she would use lower case L and letter O

When I got a TRS-80 Model 1 for Christmas she set it up on a special shock absorbing typists mat. Then sat if front of it in the proper position, wrists cocked.

She then proceeded to pound the hell out of it. You could actually see the case bend.

Typists in those days were STRONG.

'It's dead, Jim': Torvalds marks Intel Itanium processors as orphaned in Linux kernel


Re: Itanic industrial mistake

Bozos? You mean like Rolls Royce? And the hundreds of SGI Altix supercomputers?

These ran SuSE Linux and they weren't constructed in a shed by some wild eyed open source evangelists.


SGI Altix also

Itanium was a great architecture for CFD work and meshing.

Not only HP machines - SGI Altix were constructed from Itanium processors. NUMA machines which could address huge amounts of memory.

When a blade was replaced in an SGI Altic, when the machine was rebooted the blade would join the system.

Of course there were export control regulations - Uncle Sam did not want $nation to make supercomputers by buying up spare blades..

So when a blade was replaced the SGI engineer had to phone up a number in the USA and be given a code number to type in at boot time.

Or the blade would not be recognised.

You can drive a car with your feet, you can operate a sewing machine with your feet. Same goes for computers obviously


Typists using early PCs

My mother was a shorthand typist. I got a TRS-80 as a Christmas present. We introduced my mother to the machine.

She set it up on a special heavy rubber pad - such things were used to support typewriters and you are about to know why.

She sat in a proper position, hands poised above the keyboard...

Then proceeded to POUND THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of it. I saw the case flex under the onslaught.

typists were trained to operate mechanical devices which needed a lot of force...

Also she would use the letter l key for the digit 1 - I think typewriters lacked a digit 1 key as you could work out the sense from context.

Also she was an audio typist who used a foot pedal. Never used the mouse with her foot though - she was a smart lady!

'Massive game-changer for UK altnet industry': BT-owned UK comms backbone Openreach hikes prices on FTTP-linked leased line circuits



We have Hyperoptic in the apartment building where I live. they are excellent.

There is a half rack of kit in the underground car park and Cat5 out to each apartment.

I believe they use Openrach for FTTP - so what is this price hike going to mean for Hyperoptic customers? I guess we will end up paying more.

Lift us up where we belong: UK's Network Rail puts elevators online



At FOSDEM this year there was a marvellous talk by a German company. They have microphones on escalators, and have deep learnign models listening for clanks and squeaks. This gives early warning of breakdowns


Red Hat tips its Fedora 33: Beta release introduces Btrfs as default file system, .NET on ARM64, plus an IoT variant


Re: Switching on the "monitor stand"

Why not? You have to have SOME fun in life.

Are you feeling lucky, punk? Are you?

Hidden Windows Terminal goodies to check out: Retro mode that emulates blurry CRT display – and more


Re: Blurry CRT Mode

One feature of Windows I really want...

Sadly windows Terminal is not available for the build of Windows on my laptop.. grrrr


Love MobaXterm and I second this recommendation

This PDP-11/70 was due to predict an election outcome – but no one could predict it falling over


Re: The elevator did it

Magnetised monitors? You've never been to CERN then have you? Back in the days of CRT monitors I worked underground in one of the CERN experiments. We had a 1.5 Tesla magnet which you could walk into. We just had to tilt otu heads to the side to read the text on the CRTs...


Re: The elevator did it

Now it can be told.. I worked in a frather famous Soho effects and animation house. One of our very expensive effects suites had clients in payung $$$. The suite was run by a $$$ SGI Origin 2000 machine with fancy graphics pipelines.

Cue me in the machine room, needing a serial terminal to log in. I start a serial terminal ont he laptop and plug into an RS-232 port on the SGI Origin. Which promptly reboots.

Cue sound of running feet and the server room door bursting open...

Turns out there was a process sitting waiting on that RS-232 port. For what I do not know.. but as soon as it received any data the machine reboots.


Re: Switching on the "monitor stand"

I got sound from my TRS-80 by toggling the Cassette OUt line.

Attach a speaker to it an place into a hole cut ina yoghurt pot. voila

Oh what a cute little animation... OH MY GOD. (Not acceptable, even in the '80s)


Re: Adult floppies...

I shall look at that channel.

In my student days I bought a surplus BT baudot teleprinter for a fiver (or maybe a tenner). TI took two people to lift the thing. IT still had the hotel code for where it was originally stationed wired on, so would print this.

I connected it up as a printer to my TRS-80. Wish I still had it but it was huge and was binned at some point.

Never printed smut on it!

IBM job ad calls for 12 years’ experience with Kubernetes – which is six years old


Re: Switching on the "monitor stand"

I remember downlaoding stuff from wsmr - White Sands Missile Range - in the early days.

I though tit quite daring to log onot a military site and download files. If I'm not wrong that was an FTP site. might have been Gopher also.

Cool IT support drones never look at explosions: Time to resolution for misbehaving mouse? Three seconds


Re: Switching on the "monitor stand"

Back in the days of CRT monitors in offices I Was once warned against Christmas tinsel bedecking monitors.

Something about static charge being gathered by metallic tinsel.

I was also given the line that CRT monitors give you spots. The screen does get charged, which produces an image charge on your face which attracts dirt.

SO spotty IT nerds may not be that much of a cliche.

Swedish data centre offers rack-scale dielectric immersion cooling


Energy use

Having worked for a company which has liquid cooled servers, a lot of the energy use in a data centre is due to the small whing fans inside servers.

SO going for Opencompute with fanless servers and large fans in the rear is a plus already.

Then go for water cooled rear doors.


Re: With 500MW

It is in the Nordics. They probably have existing hydro electric capacity next door.

For the UK, I have often said that why is there not a green data centre in Kinlochleven?

There was a hydeoelectric plant there for an aluminium smelter.


I guess the hydro plant may no longer be active, and not worth reviving.

Danger zone! Brit research supercomputer ARCHER's login nodes exploited in cyber-attack, admins reset passwords and SSH keys


Re: SSH keys & the coming apocalypse

Oh DO come on... You want security?

PBS used to use rhosts trusts in the old days.


Re: how i'd do it

Quite often when you first log into an HPC system a script is triggered which generates a passwordless key pair, for use within that system. So yes, you have separate keys.


I would rather glibly say munge https://github.com/dun/munge

I guess though if an attacker gets root then all bets are off.

If you don't LARP, you'll cry: Armed fun police swoop to disarm knight-errant spotted patrolling Welsh parkland


Re: WTF ?!!


These tragic deaths are in the UK.

'Lightweight' UPS-style flywheels to power naval laser zappers


F1 KERS flywheels

Williams F1 developed a flywheel for KERS energy storage. This is tightly wound carbon fibre filaments. It is lightweight and spins extremely fast.

There is a danger when flywheels fail, I gather the carbon fibre one is safer than most as it explodes into carbon fibre particles (which probably should not be breated in).

That flywheel was said to be being commericalised - I wonder of the Navy are using that technology?


A new Raspberry Pi takes a bow with all of the speed but less of the RAM


USB-C port

I love the USB-C standard, and have it on my laptop.

Thoughts on why USB-C is not on Rasp PI? I guess that having a separate HDMI output is no big consumer os space, and it allows hobbyists and schoolchildren to hook up a cheal HDMI Cable to a standard television. With a USB-C port you would need a separate hub to fan out to HDMI, stanrard USB for keyboard and mouse, and for ethernet. Which would cost more than the Rasp PI

Also I guess USB-C chipsets aren't integrated with the SoCs used on Rasp Pi.


Julia 0.7 arrives but let's call it 1.0: Data science code language hits milestone on birthday



Loading 100GB of data and analysing 100 years worth of climate data


Achieved anything?

I am sitting in a talk right now where a researcher is analyzin biodiversity around the world.

OR how about the production risk model at a major insurance company?

Or using ulia to model pharmacokinetics?


Re: Indices...

Joe W, you have it exactly. You can change to using Julia for every one of those use cases, except LabView probably.

Give it a try - but at the Reg says use 0.7 for the moment. You may end up liking it!


Re: Gaston Julia

The discussion on naming Julia comes around n the Julia discourse regularly.

It is not named after anything in particular.

Sysadmin sank IBM mainframe by going one VM too deep



Those keyboard did make a racket though when you were typing.



Wow. That brings back memories.

As a graduate student in high energy physics, I got my very own 3270 terminal, connected to the mainframe downstairs by twinax cables.

Best keyboard I have ever had.

Many joyful days running virtual machines under CMS. I remember the REIPL CMS command to reboot (Initial Program Load). It probably would all come back if I got a 3270 in front of me!

In later days I got a FALCO terminal at CERN. VT220 emulation, plus a hotkey to Tektronix graphics emulation. I used a 3270 emulator on DEC VMS to access the mainframes there.