Archive for November 2009

The TOP500 Supercomputer List

29 November 2009

The TOP500 Supercomputer list is published twice a year in June and November.  The November release comes out in time for the annual SuperComputing conference.  The newest version of the TOP500 list was formally presented a couple weeks ago at SC09 in Portland, Oregon.

The National Labs here in the US are well represented.  The Jaguar Cray XT5 Supercomputer at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility  is the new #1.  Jaguar has bumped the  Los Alamos Roadrunner system down to the #2 slot.  Note that the Roadrunner was the world’s first petaflop/s supercomputer,  topping the June 2008 list. These ratings are based on Linpack benchmark results.

Let’s talk about what makes a supercomputer.  Back in the day, a big monster computer was more often than not a large IBM Mainframe.  It was one computer with lots of hardware that could do lots of processing and talk to lots of users through lots of terminals.   It was designed for size, not speed.  In 1960, Seymour Cray designed the first supercomputer, engineered  for high capacity and high speed processing.  Today’s supercomputers are sometimes a large system like Jaguar, a Cray XT5.  But more often todays supercomputer is actually a large cluster of smaller systems, configured and tuned for tightly coupled multi-processing cluster performance.  An example would be the rendering farms that were used by Weta Digital for CG work on films like the Lord of the Rings.  They have five cluster listings around #195 on the current TOP500 list.

I work at Fermi National Accelerator Lab in the HPC (High Performance Computing) department.  We support several experiments, primarily the LQCD project.  LQCD stands for Lattice Quantum Chromodynamics.  Lattice QCD calculations allow us to understand the results of particle and nuclear physics experiments in terms of QCD, the theory of quarks and gluons. The 7N cluster at JLab is also used by this collaboration.

I get to work as part of a team supporting Fermilab’s HPC systems which are  used for running large scale numerical simulations.  Our J/PSI cluster is made up of 856 nodes, each running an instance of Linux.  They each have two 2.1 GHz Quad Core Opteron processors.   That’s 6720 cores altogether, tightly coupled with a double data rate Infiniband switch.  Our Linpack results were 37.42 TFlops maximal performance achieved.  That put our cluster at #141 on the TOP500 list published earlier this month.  On the list that was published just 12 months ago, that same result would have placed us as #69.

Supercomputing and HPC in general can be  a mind boggling field.  I’m fairly new to this arena having only started with this department about 12 months ago.  I find this stuff pretty exciting.  We expect the J/PSI cluster to more than double in size in the next 12 months.  I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

More later,

Ken S.


Claim your ID Follow-up

12 November 2009

Already with a follow-up. I got an e-mail telling me something I did not know related to the ClaimID service. They have a Best Practices page on their website. Every web service should have a page like this.

Now while I did not know that the page existed, I was aware of some of these tips. I have had Google Alerts searches in place for over a year now. Not just searching for my own name, but also for my wife and two kids. I first learned that my wife set up a page at LinkedIn because of the Google Alert. And of course I quickly checked that it really was by her and about her. Whether or not you use ClaimID, running such searches on a regular basis are an important step in protecting your on-line identity.

And if you own a domain, don’t forget to check regularly to see what the search engines have that is pointing to your domain. Regrettably, when I search for, I get hits on every page/article that discusses Smallmouth bass fishing. I guess that with my domain name, that’s not a bad thing.  I do need to keep up on that topic. 🙂

The ClaimID Best Practices also has a nice description of ways to improve a search by changing your search string. And while I rarely use search engines other than Google, they do give a good list that you can use.

One would think that a lot of these best practices would obvious just as good common sense. But even those of us who are interested in on-line identity protection can learn a new trick. You would think that as much as I depend on a spell checker, I would think of the value of searching for things by using common misspellings. While you may not get any interesting hits this way, I’d rather not miss something just because I assume everyone knows how to spell my 10 character last name.

If you have a suggestion for another best practice that could be applied here, please leave a comment. You might also consider e-mailing it to the ‘info’ at ‘’ address.  Their page does say that will keep this list of best practices updated.   Pages like this are a very good thing.  And let’s not forget that the internet is more valuable when we all share our best practices.

More later, Ken S.

What to expect

10 November 2009

As I start this Blog, I guess I have more than a few things to comment on. But I want to set expectations properly right up front. It is my expectation (and intention) to publish between one and three posts each week on average.  In the next couple days or maybe weeks, there may be more posts.  This blogging is still new for me, so I am riding a wave of enthusiasm right now.

My goal in writing all this is to share information about the cool stuff I have come across or to explain a confusing topic in simple terms.  Since I work at Fermilab and I work with HPC (High Performance Computing) clusters, some of the “cool stuff” may be of interest to only the geekier among those who follow this blog.  If I miss the mark and my explaination fails to make the concept clear, please leave me a comment so that I can try and correct the failed explanation.

If you have read any of my other web pages or postings, you will have figured out by now that I tend to “use lots of words”.  My goal in my writing is to explain things, sometimes teach and sometimes clarify.  I have a passion for teaching.  And when I am teaching, I want to make sure my point is made well and clearly.  I tend to err on the side of “thorough” at the expense of “to the point”.  I’m working on being more succinct and staying focused.  Constructive feedback is always appreciated and encouraged.  Feel free to send me an e-mail as opposed to more public comments where appropriate.  I want to write in a way that others want to read.

Would you like to hear more about Fermilab and/or computing for High-Energy Physics research? Or would you like more on internet services like or on-line privacy?

More later, Ken S.

Claim your on-line identity

8 November 2009

I went through high school thinking that I could be the last Schumacher. I’m the only son of an only son. Teachers back then seemed to find my last name difficult. I was sure they had not heard it before. Then I got to college and I found out that Schumacher is as common a name among Germans as Smith is to the English. Even knowing that, I was still surprised to find that there are eight Ken Schumacher’s in Illinois alone.

I have enjoyed writing web pages for many years. I would practice developing HTML by writing about my many hobbies.  As I begin writing this Blog, I need to update my listing.  The listing has links to and short descriptions of the pages out there on the internet that are either by me or about me.  Where possible, has also verified that I as the owner of the listing really are the person in control of that web page.  I verified most of the pages by putting a unique MicroID into the header of my web pages.  When I add the code, it demonstrates that I do have write access and/or control of the site I am verifying.

Do you see the value in maintaining this type of listing on  If I went on a job interview, I would expect a potential employer to do a Google search at the very least.  If I was hiring someone, I would want to make sure that the information I could find on-line agreed with what I learn of the candidate from his/her resume or after an interview.  Or let’s say you read one of my pages about on-line privacy.  It would hurt my credibility if you came across a site where someone else who shares my name had posted rantings about how good he is at breaking passwords.

My point is that since I do maintain a page at, I am not concerned about my on-line integrity.  My integrity is tremendously important to me.  If you read on a web page where I mention how important my family is to me, I know you will find the same sentiment on all the other web pages I have written.

In simple terms, I see the site/service to be a form of on-line identity protection.  No, it does not protect my social security number or other IDs.  But it does allow me to make it quite clear which pages one will find on the internet are mine and which are not. I recommend all web developers and bloggers use their service.  Their free service protects my integrity, and like I said, that is very important to me.

More later,  Ken S.

Disclosure: Other than being a verified and satisfied user of their site, I am in no way affiliated with

Update 12 Nov 2009: Please see the Claim your on-line Id follow-up posting.

Why ‘de N9KJU’?

7 November 2009

I am a ham radio operator, albeit not very active lately. My callsign is N9KJU.  I have used this callsign on occasions where I need a short, simple and/or unique username or handle that identifies me.  For example, you can find me on Twitter as @n9kju.  It seems appropriate to use the callsign as the unique part of the URL for this blog.

So what’s with the ‘de’.  Ham radio operators have passed messages for years.  We pass them as something like amateur telegrams. This started in the medium of morse code where keeping the message short is important.  More recently these messages are passed via RTTY (Radio TeleType).  One thing that is commonly done is using abbreviations as a form of shorthand.  Also, when hams communicate via morse code, they have common abreviations.  An abbreviation I have used when signing messages I delivered was “de N9KJU” which translates as ‘this is N9KJU’.

So this blog is about my thoughts, opinions and ideas.  If you visit this log over time, you will get to know a bit more about me and the way I think.  So the more you visit, the more you know.  Over time, you may come to the point where you will say “So… this is N9KJU”.

More later.  Ken S.

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