Tag Archive | quiz machine

Cray re-soldering Titan’s connectors

Hundreds of connectors are being re-soldered each week, and the Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory—the world’s fastest machine—could be in regular production by May, a lab official said Wednesday.

Jeff Nichols, ORNL associate lab director for computing and computational sciences, said connectors on the $100 million computer’s motherboards had too much gold, and solder was interacting with the gold on connector pins, making the solder unstable and leading to cracks.

There are about 20,000 of the pencil-sized connectors, which link central and graphic processing units, or CPUs and GPUs. Each connector has about 100 pins.

Motherboards from Titan’s 200 closet-sized cabinets are being shipped back to Cray Inc., and the company is removing the connectors, laying down new ones with the right amount of gold, and re-soldering them, Nichols said.

ORNL had hoped to complete acceptance testing on Titan, allowing it to be put into production with full-scale user operations, by the end of 2012, Nichols said. But that was an aggressive target and assumed that everything went well, he said.

Lab officials now plan to have all the components back in service by April 6, and they plan to run the acceptance test one more time. It includes a 14-day stability test that will ensure Titan is finishing problems, producing the right answers, and performing appropriately. The acceptance testing could be complete by the end of April.

The testing was almost completed once before, but workers noticed a degradation in communications between the CPUs and GPUs.

While repairs are being made, research is continuing on Titan. The machine’s GPUs give it a lot of power, but the CPUs still allow it to be used.

“Right now, the users are on it, but they’re not able to take advantage of the full system in the way that they could in the future,” Nichols said.

Titan has 24 pizza box-sized metal “blades” in each of its 200 cabinets. There are four connectors per blade or about 100 connectors per cabinet. Nichols said Cray is repairing connectors in about 12-16 cabinets per week.

He said the lab is not assigning blame for the solder problems on the big, cutting-edge machine. The solder started to crack as Titan heated up and cooled down, and blades were moved in and out of cabinets.

“We have the biggest machine on the planet,” Nichols said. The setbacks are part of “life on the leading edge,” he said.

He said Cray is bearing the cost of the repairs, and the company won’t get all of its money until the machine is accepted.

Titan received a first-place ranking in a semiannual Top500 list that was released in November at the SC12 supercomputing conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. A test showed Titan is capable of reaching a speed of 17.59 petaflops, or more than 17,000 trillion calculations per second. It had an even higher theoretical capability of 27 petaflops.


Incentives Push Massachusetts Residents to Go Solar

To be green, sometimes you need to spend a little green. That’s the lesson Massachusetts officials have learned by enticing homeowners to invest in renewable energy through tax breaks, rebates and other economic incentives.

Since 1979, Massachusetts has offered a $1,000, one-time tax credit to homeowners who install solar systems, but that incentive didn’t exactly push residents to invest in these relatively costly systems.

What really drove the solar energy market, according to Dwayne Breger, director of the Division of Renewable Energy at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), was the legislature’s passage in 2008 of the Green Communities Act. Among its most notable initiatives, the legislation established one of the nation’s first renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS), requiring that 15 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020. For the record, Rhode Island beat its neighbor to the north by establishing an RPS four years earlier at 16 percent by the end of 2019.

To enact this and other green legislation, the state created the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) in 2009. The agency started providing rebates to homeowners, businesses and municipalities that installed solar power systems with the capacity to generate up to 15 kilowatts.

DOER also implemented a solar carve-out program, which issues a solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) to solar system owners for each megawatt-hour of electricity they generate. SRECs trade at market value, which floats currently between $200 and $250 apiece — a price often higher than fossil fuel-generated electricity. Retail electric suppliers gobble up these certificates, as they are required by state law to buy a certain number of them annually in support of renewable energy production.

If homeowners are hesitant to invest in the upfront costs of a photovoltaic system, third-party businesses have stepped in to fill the void by installing the equipment and racking up SRECs while hosts enjoy lower energy costs.

“It may take an upfront cost, but the payback with incentives is quite strong,” Breger said. “If you don’t want to have the upfront cost, you can do the third-party arrangement and have small but immediate energy-cost savings over time.

So far, nearly 4,000 residential solar projects have been installed and only 10 of the state’s 351 cities and towns don’t have some form of solar activity, Breger said.

Deval Patrick’s goal in 2007 of stalling 250 megawatts of solar by 2017 now seems like an easy layup, considering residents, businesses and municipalities have already installed 205 megawatts, according to the MassCEC. The state has since readjusted its goal to 400, because of the success of its solar carve-out program.

Homeowners’ embrace of solar energy means the state’s RPS currently stands at 9 percent, Breger said, with an annual growth rate of 1 percent — on pace to meeting the 2020 goal.

Adoption of small-scale wind energy production has been less feverish, with the MassCEC reporting that 100 megawatts have been installed so far, despite an eventual goal of 2,000 MW by 2020. Most projects are based on farms or homesteads interested in testing out the systems, Breger said. Wind may be less popular because the financial incentive is only $50 per megawatt-hour generated — not to mention the fact that slapping solar panels on a roof is less complex in terms of zoning and neighbor relations than erecting a wind turbine in the backyard.

As for other projects, MassCEC plans to distribute $10 million through 2016 in rebates of up to $3,500 to homeowners, businesses, nonprofits and municipalities that install solar hot water systems as alternatives to oil or natural gas burners. The agency is also piloting a program that provides grants of up to $2,000 to homeowners who replace coal stoves, non-EPA-certified woodstoves or outdated fireplace inserts with high-efficiency, low-emissions fireplace inserts or wood-pellet heating systems.

Brit man makes 60k a year playing quiz machines

Trivia titan Christian Drummond earns up to 60,000 a year playing pub quiz machines. The 40-year-old, from Brighton, Sussex, makes his living solely by playing the games in pubs, bars and nightclubs all over Britain. Christian estimates he has visited well over 10,000 pubs, earning between 40 and 60 an hour, and tax free because his earnings are classified as winnings from gambling.

The English literature graduate has even earned enough to pay for university, holidays abroad and his wedding from winnings.

Christian, who favours the Chris Tarrant-fronted game The Colour of Money, said, “You can earn 40,000 to 50,000 a year no problem. If I run out of pubs in a city, I just head to another one. I have measured out my life in pubs. When you get paid in coins every eight minutes you go a little crazy.”

Christian can name all 500 Dickens characters, the populations of African cities and the number of sets in every Wimbledon final. He has been evicted just once by an angry landlord in Harrow on the Hill and had two machines turned off by barmen to prevent him winning.

Christian takes two-week trips visiting as many pubs with a quiz machine in his chosen city as possible before travelling to the next. One of his well trodden routes is Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, and on to Glasgow before doing the journey in reverse.

Christian added, “The travelling around can be difficult and it is very taxing on the brain, staring at a screen. After doing it 10 hours in a row, you begin to get a bit flaky and crazy by the end of the day. I wanted to use my brain to earn money, and I am doing that, but it is not quite how I imagined I would do it.”

His career began while studying English Literature at Sussex University, which he achieved a top first class degree in. But after watching punters win the jackpot on the quiz machine, he decided to give it a shot himself and has never looked back.

Christian said, “I was working in Scotland and saw a guy playing and realised you could win as much as 40 out of them. I had a go on my lunch hour and I won 20 on my first go. I did the maths and decided I could make a lot of money from it. The first day I ever did it, I won 80.”

After moving south from Glasgow, he struggled to find work as the recession bit. “I couldn’t get any job, not even a bar job, so I decided to try to ‘go pro’. I’ve been doing the quizzing for five years ever since as my main source of income,” he said.

Christian, who honed his general knowledge skills on long car journey’s with his map maker father, revealed people never truly believe him when he says what he does for a living. He said, “It is very difficult when I have to tell people what I do. My wife didn’t believe me either when I first told her what I did.”

Now the former University Challenge team captain is planning his exit strategy. Christian said, “It was very exciting at first, but now it has become work, but not just that it has become drudge work. It is not what I studied for, so now enough is enough and I want to get a normal job.”