Archive for the “Special Projects” Category

See a You Tube video of last night’s 10 p.m. ISS pass here.

Mute the audio when playing.

The ISS will make an appearance about a minute in towards the centre/right.

The ISS exits top-left.

Comments No Comments »

Comments No Comments »

If you had clear skies last night you may have noticed that Jupiter was very close to a 12-day old Moon.

The main image is a fisheye lens view of the scene over the New Forest Observatories, and the inset top-left is a telescope view of the encounter.

Comments No Comments »

So the Prime Number the MegaNode computing facility just found has now been confirmed – it is:


Which is 388,342 digits long and is in the top 5,000 largest primes.

I just ran the numbers through Mathematica to see what the whole thing looks like – it takes up many pages – and the last digit is a 9.

Comments No Comments »

As we are entering galaxy season, Leo is well-placed for imaging.  So I went for a deep shot of Regulus as I wanted to get the dwarf galaxy Leo I.  What I was not expecting to get was this object in the FOV – 

Thank you Jim at EPOD for continuing to publish my work.

Comments No Comments »

A 22-degree lunar halo from last night (09/03/2017) taken around 8:20 p.m.

The red flashing light is a military helicopter that photobombed the image.  What doesn’t show is the military helicopter it was tailing that had NO LIGHTS showing!!


Comments No Comments »

As a month has now gone past, I have just this minute ordered another 4 x Xeon 2.93GHz hex-core CPUs for the DELL PowerEdge C6100 quad node server.  So when they arrive and are put in I will have 4 dual processor nodes number crunching the primes.

Comments No Comments »

Top right, two of the 4 nodes, the other 2 nodes are underneath. This is a 2U rack mount unit. Bottom right the 1100W psu soon to be replaced by a 1400W supply.  All along the left hand edge are the HDD bays. This unit holds 12 x 3.5″ HDDs, 3 HDDs for each node. I have 4 x 1Tb Western Digital black drives (one for each node) in this unit.


Comments No Comments »

Yesterday I got all 4 nodes of the DELL PowerEdge C6100 up and running.  This is a beautiful machine.  I am running the BOINC PrimeGrid project on all 4 nodes and have now got enough data to work out the next step in the upgrade.

I have been running PrimeGrid on a DELL PowerEdge T610 server.  This amazing machine has a pair of 3.06GHz hex-core processors giving me a total of 24 logical processors (2 processors per core) and it has 48G of RAM (24G per processor).  PrimeGrid doesn’t use any RAM worth talking about so it is down to the grunt in the processors.  In addition you don’t want hyperthreading enabled running PrimeGrid so the processors are run at 50% giving me an effective 12 cores running the program.  In addition – the T610 processors are run in turbo mode at 3.2GHz when running PrimeGrid – so this system is blistering along!  Power consumption is 327W and the processors are running well within their temperature limits (as we are talking a server here used to doing heavy lifting).  Each core runs through one of the Prime Number tests (a work unit) in around 35 minutes – so every 35 minutes the T610 chomps through 12 Prime Number candidates.  These are the statistics for the DELL T610 that the DELL C6100 has to measure up to.

What do the numbers look like for the DELL C6100 as bought?  Well the processors are a bit on the slow side as they are only 2.1GHz quad core Xeons, and there is only 1 processor per core, and 2 processors per node.  So the computing grunt I have for PrimeGrid with this system is 8 cores per node running at 2.1GHz – I also have 6G RAM per processor, but as I said above the RAM requirements are minimal for running PrimeGrid.  What is VERY nice for running PrimeGrid is that with 4 running nodes I have a total of 32 cores to throw at the problem, and these are running at 100% as there is no hyperthreading to worry about.  As with the T610, since we are talking servers there is no temperature problem running these processors flat out and they run at 100% well within their temperature limits.  The big problem is that it now takes 1 hour and 40-minutes for a core to chomp through a Prime candidate, compare this to the 35-minutes per core on the T610 – and you can see this is not good.  And of course, if it takes so long to get through a work unit then the power consumption per work unit isn’t going to look too good either.  I have no accurate figure for the overall power consumption of the C6100 with all 4 nodes running flat out, but I estimate we are talking around 800W in total, as the unit runs comfortably from an 1100W power supply.  You can see the power consumption figures per work unit are not going to compare favourably against the DELL T610 even with 32 versus 12 effective cores.  Plugging all the numbers in, the DELL T610 is costing me approximately 0.0136 kWhr per work unit, and the DELL C6100 is costing 0.111 kWhr per work unit – and that’s not very good.  In fact it is very expensive computing.

It is obvious what I need to do to bring the DELL C6100 up to spec, I have to swap out the slow quad core processors for faster hex core processors.  The added power consumption for carrying out this upgrade is only 15W per processor, or 120W overall.  However, as I only have an 1100W psu fitted, I have purchased a beefier 1400W psu just to be on the safe side.  I will swap out 2 sets of processors this month and then check how the system runs.  If it all runs as expected I will swap out the other 2 pairs of processors next month.

I love this stuff – it’s now getting really interesting to see what the real cost of computing power turns out to be.

Comments No Comments »

I am very interested in running computer-intensive programs that really hammer the system looking for things like new large Prime Numbers.

It is ridiculous the computer power you can now buy very cheaply from E-Bay for a few hundred pounds that cost tens of thousands of pounds new.  Not complaining, I’ll just set myself up with some heavyweight computer gear at bargain basement prices.

In December 2016 I bought a DELL PowerEdge T610 server with 48G of RAM and a couple of lightweight processors for around £300.  Another £150 got me a pair of heavyweight processors –  Xeon hex-core 3GHz beasts, which has now provided me with some very impressive computing power.  A massive bonus is that the T610 actually runs quieter than my desktop PCs – remarkable!!  So for a few hours per day I run the BOINC PrimeGrid software searching for new Prime Numbers.  The only downside of running these systems is that when being pushed by some heavy number crunching the T610 draws 333W so I can’t leave it running day and night.

I bought the T610 as my son had done the same thing a few months earlier and it seemed an ideal route to get into some serious number crunching with a decent computer system – on the cheap.  I hadn’t considered going down the server route before he showed me what was available on E-Bay.  So a few days ago I thought I would take another look at what E-Bay has to offer.

It didn’t take long for me to find an amazing offer – a quad-node DELL C6100 for £310!!  Basically this is 4 complete computers in one unit with 12 x 3.5″ hard drive bays on the front to take 3 HDDs per computer.  Like the DELL T610, these C6100 computers are twin Xeon CPU beasts that will take 5500 or 5600 series Xeon CPUs.  My system came with bottom of the range 2.1GHz quad-core CPUs – and I will get the whole system up and running with those processors before slowly upgrading each node to 2.93GHz hex-core Xeons.

I have 4 x 1Tb HDDs in the caddies, one for each node, and so far I have fired up one node with Win 10 to check it works o.k.  It runs as expected (slowly with only a 2.1GHz processor) but that’s fine – so long as it works!  I have the Prime Number search program running on this one node so I know it can handle some heavy abuse (the processors are running at 100%, but the temperatures are only around 60C, which is fine).  Over the next few days I will set up the other 3 nodes and check the Prime Number program runs as expected on all the nodes.

This DELL C6100 came with an 1100W PSU which can clearly handle the system as supplied.  However, if I swap out all 8 CPUs for 3GHz hex-core Xeons, then I will add around 15W per processor to the system, or around 120W.  In preparation that this might be pushing the 1100W PSU a little too hard, I went back to E-bay and found a 1400W PSU for £40 – so I am (I hope) prepared for the upgrade when I eventually take the plunge.

All sounds too good to be true?  Well yes there is one negative.  Unlike the almost silent DELL T610, this DELL C6100 is a REAL server, and it sounds like a jet taking off when it’s fired up.  It is way too loud for me to be able to work in the study if it is running – but I can use it during the early hours with the door shut, no problem.

For me this is like living science fiction.  I had no idea you could get your hands on such immense computer power (for a home user) so easily and so cheaply.  The only downside is the equally immense electricity bill if you don’t carefully monitor your use of the systems.

Keep watching this site as I will (unlike T May) give a running commentary on how I get on putting this amazing computing MegaNode together at the New Forest Observatory.

Comments No Comments »