PR: Bay Area University to Build World’s First FlashMob Linux Supercomputer

On April 3, 2004 hundreds of computer enthusiasts will create
FlashMob I, the first FlashMob Supercomputer in the world, and
attempt to break into the Top500 Fastest Supercomputers on earth.
Sponsored by University of San Francisco, FlashMob I will be
created on the University of San Francisco (USF) campus, using USF
student and faculty-designed open-source software.

A FlashMob Supercomputer is created by connecting a virtually
infinite number of computers via a high-speed LAN, to work together
as a single supercomputer. A FlashMob computer, unlike an ordinary
cluster, is temporary and organized ad hoc for the purpose of
working on a single problem. It uses volunteers and ordinary laptop
PCs, and is designed to allow anyone to create a supercomputer in a
matter of hours.

This is a radical new idea in supercomputing, as well as an
important scientific and social experiment, said John Witchel,
graduate student and co-creator of FlashMob Computing. The goal of
the FlashMob I project is to demonstrate the viability of
widespread supercomputing. We hope to give ordinary citizens the
power to explore and address problems that are most important to
them whether its a high-school science class looking to participate
in study of global warming, or a family impacted by breast cancer,
or even a chess club looking to build an electronic grand-master.
In short, we want to democratize supercomputing.

FlashMob Computing was effectively invented in the course of a
classroom discussion, said Pat Miller, USF lecturer and computer
scientist at the Center for Applied Scientific Computing at the
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory A student posited that could
break into the Top 500, by simply inviting people to come together
to create a supercomputer for a few hours.

Today, supercomputers are reserved for issues the government
deems important, primarily defense research, said Greg Benson, USF
Professor. We envision a supercomputing landscape where individuals
can effectively vote with their laptops by volunteering to lend
their computers to causes that are important to them regardless of
governmental interest and support. Because FlashMob supercomputers
are relatively easy to set up and its code is so portable,
scientists can develop can write programs that are flashable, and
put out a request for a FlashMob, breaking sciences long-time
dependence traditional supercomputer centers. Our ability to
harness the power and promise of supercomputing will directly
impact our individual and global well-being and prosperity.

FlashMob I FlashMob I will occur on April 3, 2004, at the
University of San Francisco gym. Network setup will begin on April
2. Doors open at 8:00 AM, with arrival times staggered throughout
the morning. Participants will be assigned a specific arrival time
when they register. As participants arrive, they will be given a
copy of FlashMob I Software which they will boot from their CD-ROM.
Because the program runs entirely from the CD-ROM, hard drives will
never be touched, safeguarding personal data security. Once the PC
is connected to the network, it will self-configure and begin
processing requests from a central server. With the addition of
each volunteer computer, the power of the supercomputer grows.

At 1:00 PM on April 3, USF students and faculty will run
LINPACK, a well-known benchmarking software package. The last
benchmark will be run at 5:00 PM that same evening. The best
benchmark will be submitted for inclusion in the Top 500
Supercomputer list.

Throughout the day, USF will host a series of lectures and round
table discussions, with industry experts from Microsoft,
Hewlett-Packard, NASA, NERSC and others, as well as technology
exhibitions and an XBox tournament.

FlashMob I is a modified Linux kernel containing original
software that allows individual PCs to join a network and operate
as a single supercomputer. Standard supercomputer libraries such as
MPI have been specially tuned for the unusual nature of a FlashMob
and original code has been written to facilitate bootstrapping PCs,
real-time reporting, on the fly network and node diagnostics, and
ad-hoc performance optimization. Both the modified Linux kernel and
the accompanying software are burned onto a bootable CD-ROM and
duplicated in volume.

In the tradition of Open Source computing, raw data from the
experiment will be made publicly available at
www.flashmobcomputing.org, a website where people can share ideas,
tune software, and improve implementation, to encourage further
research in the area of FlashMob Supercomputing, and to provide a
strong baseline of practical experience in preparation for FlashMob
II and FlashMob III. Additionally, the site will start tracking
FlashMob computers with a Top 500 Flashes list — separate from the
top500.org list to encourage the exploration of this exciting new

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