PreK-12 BOINC Machine Question

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Profile WiltonObservatory

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Joined: 29 Jan 19
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Message 89830 - Posted: 29 Jan 2019, 18:10:21 UTC

Greetings! I'm director of the newly established Wilton Observatory, Grant Harkness. Part of our PreK-12 astronomy initiative is SETI and distributed computing and displaying the real-world applications of both. As part of our initial donations, a large corporation donated used computers to us for data processing. We have since upgraded our computer work stations and have now allocated all 14 work stations to BOINC applications spread amongst the various projects that fit our profile.
That said, is it possible that our 14 HP Elite 8300 i5 Small Form Factor towers could be stripped of their housings and placed in a server rack, linked together to form a single machine? I do have an IT professional on the project but he is heavily burdened with other tasks and has little time for this.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
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Les Bayliss

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Message 89834 - Posted: 29 Jan 2019, 20:35:31 UTC

Hello Grant

Always good to see an interest in astronomy spreading.

As for your question, BOINC was originally envisaged as something that could enable the use of many small computers, without any other connection between them.
There have been posts from people with similar ideas of making a big computer out of a lot of little ones, but I don't recall seeing the end results.
They may have been dropped for one reason or another.
I think that the last one was joining together lots of Raspberry Pi boards.

And it may be a while before anyone with an interest in this aspect shows up here.
It's not heavily frequented as it is.
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jglrogujgv

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Message 89839 - Posted: 29 Jan 2019, 22:02:53 UTC - in response to Message 89830.  

The device you are inquiring about is called a computer cluster. Google it and you'll get numerous hits. Google "boinc cluster" and you'll get more hits.

Why do you want a cluster? Are you aware that you can control the client via an instance of the the manager running remotely (on a different machine)? You don't need to have a monitor attached to each machine.
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Jim1348

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Message 89844 - Posted: 29 Jan 2019, 22:52:41 UTC - in response to Message 89839.  
Last modified: 29 Jan 2019, 23:44:44 UTC

Are you aware that you can control the client via an instance of the the manager running remotely (on a different machine)?

And BoincTasks is a good way to do that. You install it on each machine. I use it on a Windows machine to control BOINC on Ubuntu machines over the LAN.
https://efmer.com/download-boinctasks/
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Profile WiltonObservatory

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Message 89850 - Posted: 30 Jan 2019, 0:48:26 UTC - in response to Message 89839.  

The device you are inquiring about is called a computer cluster. Google it and you'll get numerous hits. Google "boinc cluster" and you'll get more hits.

Why do you want a cluster? Are you aware that you can control the client via an instance of the the manager running remotely (on a different machine)? You don't need to have a monitor attached to each machine.


I'd like to put them all in a single server rack and run them with a single monitor and some form of remote access to stream results to the students.
Thanks everyone for the tips!
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Profile WiltonObservatory

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Message 89851 - Posted: 30 Jan 2019, 0:50:41 UTC - in response to Message 89834.  

Hello Grant

Always good to see an interest in astronomy spreading.

As for your question, BOINC was originally envisaged as something that could enable the use of many small computers, without any other connection between them.
There have been posts from people with similar ideas of making a big computer out of a lot of little ones, but I don't recall seeing the end results.
They may have been dropped for one reason or another.
I think that the last one was joining together lots of Raspberry Pi boards.

And it may be a while before anyone with an interest in this aspect shows up here.
It's not heavily frequented as it is.


I'd like to know their results! That said, we have the resources and finances and I'd like to complete this task and crunch as many packets as quickly as possible. I like growing numbers, what can I say?
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Gary Roberts

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Message 89854 - Posted: 30 Jan 2019, 6:40:33 UTC - in response to Message 89851.  

I'd like to know their results!
By 'their' I presume you are talking about organisations/institutions that have large computing clusters. As mentioned already, you need to google them and go find where they document what they have done. Nobody is likely to come by here and give you the full picture (or even a satisfactory part picture) when it's already likely to have been done elsewhere.

However (also as mentioned already) you wont achieve a better outcome by 'joining everything together to make one big computer'. Even if it's possible, it doesn't really gain you anything. You will be just as efficient if you simply keep your machines as individual machines (housed in server racks if you wish) but networked so that you can monitor each 'node' from a central location. They can be headless, but for ease of maintenance, you may like to make it convenient to hook up peripherals when necessary. If you have funds to make each node more productive (and if each node has a suitable PCIe slot available) upgrading each one with a suitable discrete GPU may give you quite a boost in output. You just need to put some thought into power and cooling needs.

From what you mention in your profile, and from what you mention in this thread, the astronomical facilities you have are not generating data that needs processing by your proposed 'cluster'. In other words you're not trying to set up a new BOINC project to crunch your own data. You just wish to use the donated computing power to process work from existing BOINC projects that are related to Physics/Astronomy/Cosmology, etc. If that is so, I presume your comment about "crunch as many packets" or "I like growing numbers" is more to do with getting your students interested in, and excited about becoming a scientist in these fields :-). If so, that's a very worthy aim, as we certainly need lots of malleable young minds interested in and fascinated by the process of scientific discovery. Just make sure you look at the whole range of different projects working in these and related fields, and not just SETI :-).

I contribute to the Einstein@Home project because I'm quite fascinated by the sheer scale of the universe and how our understanding of it has dramatically improved since I was at school. With the recent discovery of gravitational waves as predicted by Einstein, and the opening of a new window on the universe through the prospect of gravitational wave astronomy, it's a very exciting time to be interested in the science behind it all.
Cheers,
Gary.
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MarkJ
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Message 89855 - Posted: 30 Jan 2019, 8:14:48 UTC
Last modified: 30 Jan 2019, 8:39:15 UTC

Basically BOINC runs on each machine. Those machines do not need screens or keyboards - commonly called headless. You can run Windows or Linux on these compute nodes. Linux is free. Each machine works independently of the others. This is called a CoW (Cluster of Workstations) arrangement. These machines would be connected to your internal network. They will need internet access to download work units (what you called packets) and so on. You can use a proxy server if you have one.

You would use one machine to monitor and manage the others. It doesn’t have to run BOINC, but will need a screen and keyboard. As mentioned before BOINCtasks is a good program to run for monitoring the others. You can see all the tasks that are running on all the machines at once. You can use this same machine to login to your compute nodes and apply operating system updates, etc as needed.

BOINCtasks is a Windows program but will also run under Linux using wine. My BOINCtasks machine is an old laptop running Win7 and my compute nodes are running Linux. I have Intel machines, AMD machines and a bunch of Raspberry Pi’s as compute nodes. The BOINCtasks website is here which has some screen shots so you can see what it looks like, the program of course and instructions on how to use it.
MarkJ
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Coleslaw
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Message 90134 - Posted: 15 Feb 2019, 3:41:30 UTC

To get an idea on BOINCTasks and how it looks and works, check out this thread in my teams forums - https://hardforum.com/threads/efmer-boinctasks.1848989/
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Message boards : Projects : PreK-12 BOINC Machine Question

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