A Supercomputer for $6,000 (plus ultra-wideband wireless)

From: J. R. Molloy (jr@shasta.com)
Date: Fri Dec 28 2001 - 08:37:55 MST

A Supercomputer in Every Garage!
The process is moving forward only as I can afford it, but so far I have six
new dual Athlon XP motherboards, each with a pair of 1.4-GHz processors, a
gigabyte of DDR RAM for each machine, and a total of 24 network adapter cards.
These will all plug into a 24-port 10/100 network switch to create a flat
network neighborhood. While my supercomputer won't be quite as fast as KLAT2,
it will be a lot smaller and cheaper at right around 24 gigaflops, which is
comparable to a top-of-the-line Cray T90 supercomputer from 1998. And while
that Cray cost millions, my out-of-pocket supercomputer budget is $6,000.
Unlike KLAT2, the operating system for my little supercomputer won't be Linux.
It will be QNX, a real time OS that supports massive parallelism and has very
low overhead. QNX is fast! QNX is also Posix compliant, so there is lots of
software that almost works under it. And even though QNX is a commercial
operating system, it is free for noncommercial purposes like mine.
Beyond using it to heat my office, I plan to keep the supercomputer busy with
a video compression project I'm doing as well as further experiments in
wireless communication. Having not learned any painful lessons from my long
distance 802.11b experiments, I've decided to get even wackier in my attempts
to improve Internet connectivity and will be looking into Ultra Wide Band
networking. UWB is a form of wireless data communication that uses radio in a
completely different way, sending short pulses of energy across the entire
zero to 60 GHZ frequency band. Not long ago, only spies and Secret Service
agents used this stuff, but now there are many companies, including Intel,
that are developing UWB chipsets. UWB could replace communications of all
types, ending forever our dependence on wires and making worthless the
ownership of radio frequencies.
UWB is like magic or quantum mechanics, whichever you prefer. It is immune to
interference just as it doesn't interfere with traditional radio signals, so
the FCC is considering UWB as an unlicensed service across all frequency
bands -- even cellphones and broadcast frequencies. How could they regulate
communications they can't even detect? UWB uses one ten thousandth the energy
of networks like 802.11b, yet offers the prospect of greater range and greater
privacy along with data rates that are presently around 60 megabits-per-second
and might eventually hit one gigabit-per-second. UWB is virtually undetectable
by traditional radios, since its signals are considered noise -- noise spread
across such a wide band as to be beneath the threshold of traditional
receivers. UWB uses multipath interference as a form of error correction! What
was formerly considered bad is now good. In fact, UWB only works at all
because we know precisely where and when to listen. It is based on a complex
and very rigidly-structured encoding scheme, and that's where my little
supercomputer comes in.

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Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
non-sensory experience, SETI

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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