Monday, May 17, 2010

Cluster Meetings X & XI - If at first, you don't succeed....

Aim 5/18: Let's install a Rocks Cluster (with crossover cable).
Aim 6/01: Let's try OSCAR over CENTOS too!

Reading 5/18: Building Parallel Programs, Chapters 10
Reading 6/01: Building Parallel Programs, Chapters 11
Attending 5/18: SteveB, DevonB, ArthurD
Attending 6/01 (last meeting): TBD

OK, this has been a tough year!  Thanx for your help doing all that research this year into 64bit Linux distros related to clustering.  Based on your work, I think we have 4 options open to us as well as next year's CIS(Computing Independent Study) team:

1) We can try to install a head node with the Rocks DVD.  Then we can install one worker node via PXE using a crossover cable thereby avoiding all the networking issues we've encountered with the new gigabit switched ethernet network.  Then, at least, we'll have 4 cores to play with!

2) I installled two nodes using the CentOS DVD.  We should be able to install OSCAR on these two nodes thereby getting 4 cores to experiment with.

3) I'm still not convinced that we couldn't PXE boot all 50 cores off a pelican HPC CD (or BCCD) as we did a couple of times last year.  IDK what's wrong with PXE boot lately....

4) Maybe we need a corporate sponsor to donate equipment to the school for this project so we can control all aspects of designing this cluster from the network up! 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Destinies Radio Show going strong after 27 years!

I discovered the I-CON Science Fact and Fiction convention in 1990, I suppose that was I-CON 9! In the back of the program book was an ad for a radio program: "Destinies The Voice of Science Fiction: heard every Friday night at 11:30PM on WUSB Stony Brook 90.1 FM, the first station of the 90s!" Thanx to Destinies, I made it through the 90s in one piece. There wasn't much genre related programming on TV in the late 80s and early 90s except for ST: NextGen! There's only so much ST:TOS and original Twilight Zones you can watch. So, sue me, I'm a massive fan of all things Star Trek, Twilight Zone as well as Stargate! I must have watched all the TV episodes of each during their first run. What's that, nearly 800 hours for Trek and over 300 hours for Gate? What got me through the years of endless reruns were Destinies and the Star Wars and Star Trek movies. Of course there's been a flourish of genre related TV since then (new Outer Limits, Babylon 5, BattleStar to name a few).

The rest, as they say, is history. I've been a fan of Destinies ever since! Howard Margolin, the host, just celibrated the show's 27th anniversary with this installment:

and all I can say is: WOW!!! I expected a retrospective of all 27 years. What I got was even better: a very detailed overview of the best of Destinies for this past year. What a great show! The production values and sound quality are top notch. The variety Destinies offers is quite eclectic. You have Flikers singing, Authors reading, Artists interviewing, Musicians composing and even Scientists doing Science! You have tributes like the one for the Space Shuttle Challenger. You have live shows and panel discussions. You have the annual I-CON Trilogy and Movie Reviews. You have Destinies Radio Theater, the AudioBook Sampler and Graphic Detail (about the comic book industry). You even have deFlipSide!

Recently, there was an installment reviewing the best and worst films of the past year. A debate ensued as to the best genre movie trilogy of the decade (2001-2010) and I must agree with the consensus: Lord of the Rings. OMG, they finally got it right! They've been trying to get this story to the big screen ever since the novels came out over 50 years ago. As such, maybe we should call LOTR the best movie trilogy of the past century! Then I got to wondering, what's the best genre movie trilogy of each decade? I loved Star Trek II-IV so that one gets my vote for 1981-1990. Don't forget, however, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones from the same time period. Where would you put the original Star Wars 4-6, 1971-1980? I suppose Planet of the Apes falls into 1961-1969. What of the 50s and 90s? I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader as us math types like to do....

BTW, thanx so much to Phil Merkel, aka Capt Phil, for archiving so many of the Destinies shows. I especially like the convenience of being able to download the latest installment of Destinies a day or two later and burn it to CD to listen to during the week for my massive commute! In the early days, I actually stayed up until 11:30PM on a Friday night just to hit record on my combination boom box, radio and cassette recorder just to be able to listen to Destinies on the road! This is no small feat as I teach Calculus and Computer Science every weekday sometimes from 7AM to 7PM!

Congrats to Howard for a great 27th anniversary show! Kudos to Christopher DeFilippis for his 100th! Take a look at and

for more info. You know, I actually feel like a kindred spirit now that I have my own youtube channel with nearly 100 screen-casts of my math classes:

I recently made a financial pledge to WUSB Radio in Destinies' name as Howard asked me to and they were having a pledge week. Of course, Howard sweetened the pot by enticing me with a premium! I was so happy when I received it earlier this week. It was the sound track for season 4 of BattleStar Gallactica. This music was composed by Bear McCreary and it is clear that he has a deep love of not only his craft but of the genre in general and BattleStar in particular! His music is hard to describe. It has classical western and oriental themes as well as celtic and new age influences not the least of which is a massive percussion section with Japanese taiko drums! Look, I'm a huge audiophile. I have a large collection of classical instrumental music and all kinds of guitar music (Baroque, Spanish, Flamenco, Celtic, Acoustic and New Age). So, when I say that Bear McCreary's instrumental music is being added to my collection as one of the premiere pieces, that's saying a lot! I didn't get a chance to watch all the BattleStar, or Caprica, episodes as religiously as I would have liked, but listening to these pieces brings me right back to specific scenes in the show. I never realized how integral the music was to each scene of BattleStar. It was so percussive, that sometimes it seemed like special effects for the show. The music is so visceral you don't hear it as much as feel it. I suppose my old TV set's speakers didn't really do this music justice. Do yourself a favor and get this CD!

Well, I don't think Howard will mind my quoting him when I wish you all "the best of all possible Destinies!"

Generally speaking,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

KNOPPIX to the rescue!

OK, this week was a comedy of errors is my Computer Math class!
Actually it was my Advanced Computer Math class, the second semester of our pre Computer Science course. We were doing some simple object based projects in C++ recently. So, I thought it would be nice to try a graphics class. I decided to use the graphics class from "Computing Concepts with C++ Essentials" 2nd edition. I've used this class in the past without a problem.

I forgot, however, that we had upgraded our server, based on Debian, from the XFree86 to the newer Xorg Linux windowing system last summer. The graphics class we were using needs to link to the files in a directory called X11 in /usr/X11R6/lib which doesn't exist anymore! So I tried to reinstall it with the command line "sudo apt-get install libX11-dev" as suggested by some people with the same problem at Drexel University. This didn't work as apt-get reported the file deprecated in the Debian repository.

So, I downloaded the last version of QUANTIAN DVD iso (based on KNOPPIX 4.0 which, in turn, is based on Debian from 2005) and burned it for my students. This was a great fix as the old X11R6 system worked fine on a PC booted from that DVD! The problem now was that my clients have Fedora 12 installed and the burning software is a little buggy. It took so long to burn just 12 DVDs that I had to have the class burn and test the remaining 12 DVDs that we needed. What good sports!

OK, the next day my students booted up the whole class with QUANTIAN and we were ready to go, right? Nope, the DVDs would not recognize eth1 which is configured to be used as our private Linux intranet so we can remotely store files on our sftp server. It worked fine the day before, so that network must have been down for some odd reason (never been down before).

Anyway, I showed my students how to be the "super user" and setup static IPs on their eth0s and we were finally good to go. We successfully wrote, compiled and saved a few lines of graphics code without errors and the bell rang!

I think that next week I'll download the KNOPPIX 4.0.2 CD and burn that for them. It should still have X11R6 but be a bit less buggy with our modern hardware (also faster to download, burn and boot).

...the best laid plans of mice and men.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Stuff to do after the AP exam during AP week...

I posted this exactly 1 year ago on the ap-calc listserv, thought peeps might like it still:
I do a movie marathon based on nick names for the TI calculators we made up over the years:

TI-7X = Robot, "Lost in Space" (org)
TI-80 = Robbie The Robot, "Forbidden Planet"
TI-81 = OB1, "Star Wars IV"
TI-82 = Kaatu, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (org)
TI-83 = Ziggie, "Quantum Leap" (tv pilot movie)
TI-84 = Jashua, "War Games"
TI-85 = Johnny5, "Short Circuit"
TI-86 = Spock, "Star Trek: The Voyage Home"
TI-89 = Hal, "2001 A Space Odyssey"
TI-92 = Colossus, "The Forbin Project"
TI-Voyager = 7of9, "Star Trek: Voyager" (tv ep)

I haven't decided what to name the TI-Nspire, so I will be showing films
from the following list this year:

TI-Nspire = Dr. Neville, "Omega Man" or the newer "I Am Legend"
Dr. StrangeLove, "Dr. Strange Love"
Dr. Doctor Zhivago, "Doctor Zhivago "
Dr. Zaius, "Planet of the Apes"
Taylor, "Planet of the Apes"
Thorn, "Soylent Green"

Of course, there's always "Stand and Deliver."
Actually, I caved in this year and am showing the Star Trek Trilogy remastered for DVD (ST II, III and IV)! This is one big story arc based on the original Star Trek episode "Space Seed." After this I do a final project involving SAGE, Octave or R.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How to Self Evaluate???

OK, let me ask you a question.  Does your boss let you write your own end of year evaluation?  Well, mine makes me do it!  Oh, she doesn't say it in so many words, but she gives everyone in the dept a questionnaire where she asks about 12 different categories.  These categories range from successful lessons to professional memberships and other assorted contributions to the dept and the classroom.  She told us to be detailed in our responses.  You better watch out what you wish for....
Take a look for yourself on the sidebar.

Teaching with Technology, 

Ra Ra Sis Boom Baaaaaa

I'm sorry, but I never got this "guess vs. no guess" on the AP exam issue! This topic has turned into a bit of a flame war on the ap-calc listserv of late.
If you are going into a test - be it Regents, Final, AP, SAT, etc - you go into it PREPARED! I don't know, do these kids need cheer leaders or something?  

Personally, I made it my business to never go to a test without first being ready to RIP IT TO SHREDS! I don't do guessing. So, I guess I'm in the "no guess" camp, but I'm ALSO in the "leave no blanks behind" crowd....

Don't get me wrong, I know my kids, so:
I know I HAVE to do tons of review in class, not only the last 2-3 weeks before the AP, but all year long.
I know I HAVE to tell the kids to get a review book and pour over it with a fine tooth comb months before the AP.
I know these kids may get confused on some of the questions, so I DO tell them to leave a few blank and only make educated guesses.

...but it just goes against the grain!