Students attempt to build powerful, portable marvel
Published: Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 03:10
Computer science professor Tom Murphy and a handful of students are currently working on building a supercomputer named "Little Al."
When completed, Little Al will contain the power of four computers and will fit in a metal briefcase.
Murphy plans to use Little Al as a teaching tool for students, to make games that will only work on Little Al and put it on display in trade shows.
All parts of Little Al were donated to the group. According to group member Alejandro Ramirez Escanellas, Intel has provided four Intel Xenon CPUs, four Intel Blade Server motherboards and a switch, which is a piece that serves as the network drive. A 7-inch LCD monitor was donated by Display Link, and Newegg.com, a computer hardware and software retailer, has provided the RAM.
Computer science major and member of the project Edward Thang said Little Al currently has 98 gbs of RAM, but there's a plan to upgrade up to 192 gbs of RAM.
There are four CPUs in the computer, each connected to a motherboard. The processors are hyper threaded to manipulate the operating system into believing there are eight cores in order to achieve doing multiple tasks at once at a faster rate.
The motherboard holds all the pieces together and is the key to all the parts receiving power and being able to communicate with each other.
Instead of using a conventional hard drive to store information, a 40 gbs solid-state drive will be used in its place.
The computer will run on Debian, an operating system that pre-dates Linux. For the most part, the operating system works, but it is not perfect. However, Thang said, "We are currently working out the problems."
This project stems from another supercomputer Murphy helped build with several other college professors called Little Fe back in 2006.
In addition to using Little Al as a teaching tool, Murphy also plans to have the supercomputer achieve a world record of World's Most Powerful Portable Computer.
In order to achieve that record, the computer must be a standalone computer that contains a keyboard, mouse and a screen. Additionally, it must weigh no more than 22 lbs and has to run for at least 30 minutes.
After Little Al's completion, Murphy plans to make more Little Als and possibly build a Big Al.
Contact April Halog at firstname.lastname@example.org.