Nerval's Lobster writes "Scientists at the University of Manchester in England figured out how the largest animal ever to walk on Earth, the 80-ton Argentinosaurus, actually walked on earth. Researchers led by Bill Sellers, Rudolfo Coria and Lee Margetts at the N8 High Performance Computing facility in northern England used a 320 gigaflop/second SGI High Performance Computing Cluster supercomputer called Polaris to model the skeleton and movements of Argentinosaurus. The animal was able to reach a top speed of about 5 mph, with 'a slow, steady gait,' according to the team (PDF). Extrapolating from a few feet of bone, paleontologists were able to estimate the beast weighed between 80 and 100 tons and grew up to 115 feet in length. Polaris not only allowed the team to model the missing parts of the dinosaur and make them move, it did so quickly enough to beat the deadline for PLOS ONE Special Collection on Sauropods, a special edition of the site focusing on new research on sauropods that 'is likely to be the "de facto" international reference for Sauropods for decades to come,' according to a statement from the N8 HPC center. The really exciting thing, according to Coria, was how well Polaris was able to fill in the gaps left by the fossil records. 'It is frustrating there was so little of the original dinosaur fossilized, making any reconstruction difficult,' he said, despite previous research that established some rules of weight distribution, movement and the limits of dinosaurs' biological strength."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
xynopsis writes "Looks like the final version of the Linux based Steam Gaming Console has been made public at CES. The result of combined efforts of small-form-factor maker Xi3 and Valve, the gaming box named 'Piston' is a potential game changer in transforming the Linux desktop and gaming market. The pretty device looks like a shrunk Tezro from Silicon Graphics when SGI used to be cool." Looks like Gabe Newell wasn't kidding.
1sockchuck writes "Some data centers are kept as chilly as meat lockers. But IT operations in colder regions face challenges in managing conditions — hence Facebook's to use environmentally controlled trucks to make deliveries to its new data center in Sweden, which is located on the edge of the Arctic Circle. The problem is the temperature change in transporting gear. 'A rapid rate of change (in temperature) can create condensation on the electronics, and that's no good,' said Facebook's Frank Frankovsky."
miller60 writes "Calling your product the 'Big Brain Computer' is a heady claim. It helps if you have Dr. Stephen Hawking say that the product can help unlock the secrets of the universe. SGI says its UV2 can scale to 4,096 cores and 64 terabytes of memory, with a peak I/O rate of four terabytes per second and runs off-the-shelf Linux software. Hawking says the UV2 'will ensure that UK researchers remain at the forefront of fundamental and observational cosmology.'"
angry tapir writes "Australian academic supercomputing consortium iVEC has acquired another major supercomputer, Fornax, to be based at the University of Western Australia, to further the country's ability to conduct data-intensive research. The SGI GPU-based system, also known as iVEC@UWA, is made up of 96 nodes, each containing two 6-core Intel Xeon X5650 CPUs, an NVIDIA Tesla C2050 GPU, 48 GB RAM and 7TB of storage. All up, the system has 1152 cores, 96 GPUs and an additional dedicated 500TB fabric attached storage-based global filesystem. The system is a boost to the Australian-NZ bid to host the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope."
An anonymous reader writes "The recent critical zero-day security flaw in Flash 10 may have fast-tracked the release of Flash 10.1 today. Adobe 10.1 boasts the much anticipated H.264 hardware acceleration. Except for Linux and Mac OS (PDF): 'Flash Player 10.1, H.264 hardware acceleration is not supported under Linux and Mac OS. Linux currently lacks a developed standard API that supports H.264 hardware video decoding, and Mac OS X does not expose access to the required APIs.' Your humble anonymous reporter, who is using Fedora Linux with a ATI IGP 340M, is very pleased that the developers of the OSS drivers have provided hardware acceleration for my GPU ('glxinfo : direct rendering: Yes,' 'OpenGL renderer string: Mesa DRI R100 (RS200 4337) 20090101 NO-TCL DRI2'), but even if Adobe did provide hardware acceleration for H.264 on Linux, they wouldn't provide it for me because they disable it for GPUs with SGI in the Client vendor string. Adobe 10.1, with all its goodness, now gives me around 95% CPU usage as opposed to about 75% with the previous release. Good times. I anticipate my Windows friends will have a much better experience."
CWmike writes "They aren't selling personal supercomputers at Best Buy just yet. But that day probably isn't too far off, as the costs continue to fall and supercomputers become easier to use. Silicon Graphics International on Monday released its first so-called personal supercomputer. The new Octane III system is priced from $7,995 with one Xeon 5500 processor. The system can be expanded to an 80-core system with a capacity of up to 960GB of memory. This new supercomputer's peak performance of about 726 GFLOPS won't put it on the Top 500 supercomputer list, but that's not the point of the machine, SGI says. A key feature instead is the system's ease of use."
Tri writes "Scientists at the Siding Spring Observatory have built a new system to map and record over 1 billion objects in the southern hemisphere sky. They collect 700 GB of data every night, which they then crunch down using some perl scripts and make available to other scientists through a web interface backed on Postgresql. 'Unsurprisingly, the Southern Sky Survey will result in a large volume of raw data — about 470 terabytes ... when complete. ... the bulk of the analysis of the SkyMapper data will be done on a brand new, next generation Sun supercomputer kitted out with 12,000 cores. Due to be fully online by December, the supercomputer will offer a tenfold increase in performance over the facility's current set up of two SGI machines, each with just under 3500 cores in total.'"
1sockchuck writes "Cloud computing is causing servers to get naked. HP today announced a 'skinless' server optimized for customers packing thousands of servers into cloud or HPC environments. This follow the lead of SGI/Rackable, which ditched the cover when it introduced bare bones servers for its CloudRack (previously discussed here). HP says the skinless design makes servers far lighter, which is apparently an issue when shipping them by the rackload."
iliketrash writes "From the PLplot development team is the announcement of their 10,000th commit: 'PLplot is a cross-platform software package for creating scientific plots that has been in continuous development since its inception 17 years ago. On May 23, 2009 the PLplot developers quietly celebrated our ten thousandth commit since our initial software repository was populated back in May 1992. This longevity puts PLplot in some select company amongst open-source software projects. We may even be unique within this group because all PLplot development has been done by volunteers in their spare time. The enthusiasm for PLplot development continues; we have averaged more than 100 commits per month over the last year which is double our 17-year average, and we are looking forward to the celebration of our next ten thousand commits!'"
codesmythe writes "The Fates, through SGI nee Rackable, have granted a new beginning to Silicon Valley's once darling Silicon Graphics. Despite old mistakes and economic misfortunes, Silicon Graphics' engineering contributions are legendary: their systems (oh, the systems!), and software such as the well known OpenGL and the little known Performance Co-Pilot. PCP is an enterprise-class open source system monitoring, measurement, and visualization infrastructure — overlooked in last fall's monitoring tool discussion. Since its proprietary beginning in 1993, PCP has been re-released as open source and ported to all major operating systems. Readers of Slashdot's recent Beginning Python Visualization book review will be pleased to hear there are Python interfaces to PCP data sources. Here is an example of using Python and Blender to visualize PCP data (registration may be required). The PCP dev community is well and active, and includes several of the original team members."
Zadok_Allan writes "It's a bit late, but since many readers will remember the SGI O2 fondly, this might interest a few. The gist of the story is this: NetBSD now supports hardware accelerated graphics on the O2 both in X and in the kernel. We didn't get any help from SGI, and the documentation available doesn't go beyond a general description and a little theory of operation, which is why it took so long to figure it out. The X driver still has a few rough edges (all the acceleration frameworks pretty much expect a mappable linear framebuffer, if you don't have one — like on most SGI hardware — you'll have to jump through a lot of hoops and make sure there's no falling back to cfb and friends) but it supports XRENDER well enough to run KDE 3.5. Yes, it's usable on a 200MHz R5k O2. Not quite as snappy as any modern hardware but nowhere near as sluggish as you'd expect, and since Xsgi doesn't support any kind of XRENDER support, let alone hardware acceleration, pretty much anything using anti-aliased fonts gets a huge performance boost out of this compared to IRIX."
Hugh Pickens writes "In a surprise corporate move, after Rackable Systems received bankruptcy court approval on April 30 to close its purchase of SGI, the company announced on Monday that the deal had closed and that the combined company would be called SGI — short for Silicon Graphics International instead of the original Silicon Graphics Inc. The revival of the SGI brand will certainly please people in Silicon Valley with a historical bent, as SGI has been one of the area's true icons. However, some consider this a curious turn of events, considering that Rackable has come to represent the new guard in the server market, while SGI has struggled for years. Executives hope the name change will help it expand its business overseas, where SGI is a better-known brand. The new SGI will also continue to develop and support the high-performance computing systems that Silicon Graphics was known for, says Rackable's president and CEO. 'There should be no disruption to Silicon Graphics customers.'"
plasticsquirrel was one of several readers to send in the sharpening rumors that IBM is on the verge of acquiring Sun Microsystems, as we discussed last week. The pricetag is reportedly $7 billion. According to the NYTimes's sources, "People familiar with the negotiations say a final agreement could be announced Friday, although it is more likely to be made public next week. IBM's board has already approved the deal, they said." After the demise of SGI, one has to wonder about the future of traditional Unix. If the deal goes through, only IBM, HP, and Fujitsu will be left as major competitors in the market for commercial Unix. And reader UnanimousCoward adds, "Sun only came into the consciousness of the unwashed masses with the company not being able to get E10K's out the door fast enough in the first bubble. We here will remember some pizza-box looking thing, establishing 32 MB of RAM as a standard, and when those masses were scratching their heads at slogans like 'The Network is the Computer.' Add your favorite Sun anecdote here."
UnanimousCoward was one of many people to submit a story that might be an April Fools day joke, except that I don't think it is. Rackable Systems has announced that it is buying SGI for the bargain basement price of $25M. Time was that there was little cooler than an SGI workstation. And note to Rackable's PR: Either this was a genius joke, or a terrible day to announce huge news. Someone either deserves a promotion or a firing.
overheardinpdx writes "I'm sad to report that longtime HPC technology pundit Roland Piquepaille (rpiquepa) died this past Tuesday. Many of you may know of him through his blog, his submissions to Slashdot, and his many years of software visualization work at SGI and Cray Research. I worked with Roland 20 years ago at Cray, where we both wrote tech stories for the company newsletter. With his focus on how new technologies modify our way of life, Roland was really doing Slashdot-type reporting before there was a World Wide Web. Rest in peace, Roland. You will be missed." The notice of Roland's passing was posted on the Cray Research alumni group on Linked-In by Matthias Fouquet-Lapar. There will be a ceremony on Monday Jan. 12, at 10:30 am Paris time, at Père Lachaise.
StoneLion writes "Since its release, the OpenGL code that is responsible for 3-D acceleration on GNU/Linux has been running on licenses that were accepted by neither the Free Software Foundation (FSF) nor the Open Source Initiative. Today, however, the FSF has announced that the licenses in question have been rewritten, the problems resolved, and the code freed. Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF, says, 'This represents a huge gift to the free software community.'"
cecom writes to share that Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games and the main brain behind the Unreal engine, recently sat down at NVIDIA's NVISION con to share his thoughts on the rise and (what he says is) the impending fall of the GPU: "...a fall that he maintains will also sound the death knell for graphics APIs like Microsoft's DirectX and the venerable, SGI-authored OpenGL. Game engine writers will, Sweeney explains, be faced with a C compiler, a blank text editor, and a stifling array of possibilities for bending a new generation of general-purpose, data-parallel hardware toward the task of putting pixels on a screen."
ruphus13 writes "A lot of developers for open source software have full-time day jobs too. As economist Milton Friedman said, 'The business of business is business.' So, does it make sense for companies to encourage their developers to contribute to the open source community? OStatic discusses a blog post by Alfresco exec Matt Asay, who makes the case for why they should. '"Companies like IBM, Intel, SGI, MIPS, Freescale, HP, etc. are all working to ensure that Linux runs well on their hardware. That, in turn, makes their offerings more attractive to Linux users, resulting in increased sales." While I don't think we'll ever see companies everywhere subsidizing employee development of open source tools, many tech and non-tech companies alike could benefit from subsidizing open source development from employees with talent. If more companies woke up to this idea, we'd see more purpose-driven, mission-critical open source software shared by firms in the same industries. That, ultimately, would benefit the companies providing the subsidies.' Should your employer pay you for time spent on open source development?" snydeq points out an Infoworld story suggesting that there's something to learn from the way French companies are promoting open-source development.