13 Apr 2009


You may have noticed that HALBERD is Crossfire compatible, but I've stuck only one 4850 in it, and the other 4850 into HarukaKanata. This makes sense in two circumstances - both are being used for games, or I'm using BOINC.

What is BOINC? It's a program which allows you to help scientists around the world with computational problems.

The project I'm helping with at the minute is MilkyWay@Home, as it uses ATI clients as well as CPU clients. However, work is distributed to a max of 6 'work units' per CPU core in each machine. Each work unit takes 30 seconds on a 4850 (compared to 15 minutes on the Q6600), and it's sporadic to get work, so by seperating out the GFX cards I can do more work.

They are working on a sub-project so the ATI cards can do longer work units (up to 8 hours each), and when that happens I'll consolidate both 4850s into HarukaKanata.

So, what is MilkyWay@Home? Well the project is developing an accurate 3D model of the Milky Way. They are focusing on strips of the sky, currently working on the Sagittarius cluster. Given the whole MilkyWay is a large place, there'll be lots of work to do!

From the website:
The goal of Milkyway@Home is to use the BOINC platform to harness volunteered computing resources in creating a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This project enables research in both astroinformatics and computer science.

In computer science, the project is investigating different optimization methods which are resilient to the fault-prone, heterogeneous and asynchronous nature of Internet computing; such as evolutionary and genetic algorithms, as well as asynchronous newton methods. While in astroinformatics, Milkyway@Home is generating highly accurate three dimensional models of the Sagittarius stream, which provides knowledge about how the Milky Way galaxy was formed and how tidal tails are created when galaxies merge.

How does a BOINC project get help from people like me? Because depending on how much work we do, we get credits for it. Credits are awarded on a system such that (from what I found), a Pentium III 800Mhz system will get 100 credits a day. I used to run a BOINC group called BOINC@Hull (from when I was in Hull university) for two years, and in that time and given that I had 11 computers, I made 800,000 credits (so 8000 days worth on a P3 8Ghz).

However, since then we now have dual and quad core computers (or 6x with the Dunnington core) that run at 2-3Ghz and compute 50-100 GFLOPs. Or take an ATI 4850, with 800 stream processors, that can run 800-1000 GFlops. So with that output, in the past month, I've already made 700k quite easily. In fact, a 4850 at full tilt all day can earn around 80k credits.

However, given the work situation at MilkyWay, currently that's around 20k. That is set to change with the new MilkyWay side project thing.

I currently 'crunch' for a team called The Clangers - a nice bunch of people. If you want to crunch, come join us and meet us on the forums! As a team, we have 14 million credits:

Our current push is on MilkyWay, however there have been other pushes before on Rosetta (protein folding) and SIMAP (protein matrix calculation).

Personally my score on MilkyWay is skyrocketing thanks to these 4850s:

This graph shows the last 60 days. Got my first card about 20 days in, and the second card around 20 days after. Time dictates I should get another?? =P I could stick it in JC. (The recent tail off is because of me benchmarking :) )

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