This FlashMob is something super

This FlashMob is something super

What are you doing on April 3? If you’re in the San Francisco area, you could be part of something big. Really big. Super big.
On that one day, the University of San Francisco will attempt to create an ad hoc, networked supercomputer from the assembled processing power of an expected 1,000 laptop-toting geeks. The goal of the event, called “FlashMob Computing Supercomputer: FlashMob I”, is to build from the grassroots one of the top 500 supercomputers in the world.
It’s a big – and very intriguing – idea. Today’s supercomputing power is generally controlled by the government, university researchers, or big business. Because of this, supercomputing power gets focused on a relatively narrow scope of problems, things like the human genome, advanced nuclear systems, and feature film animation. The FlashMob supercomputer experiment seeks to democratize computing resources so that big computational problems can be solved with relatively low-cost resources – a local area network and ordinary PCs. The idea is as interesting a social experiment as it is a computing one. The FlashMob supercomputer is temporary. It uses volunteers and conventional PCs. Most interestingly, it is designed to allow ordinary people to harness supercomputer-like power to work on problems of interest to them – problems that aren’t otherwise likely to see the light of research funding.
The baseline computer for the experiment has a 1.3-GHz Pentium III or equivalent processor with just 256 MB of memory, an Ethernet connection, and a CD-ROM drive. As participants arrive at the university’s gym on April 3, they will be given a CD and assigned a hub captain who will assist FlashMobsters in joining the network. The CD contains the operating system, networking, configuration, and benchmarking software. Participants will boot their PCs from the CDs, and voil√†! Let the supercomputing begin.
Because watching a networked supercomputer work is only a little more exciting than watching paint dry, the university has planned a day of exhibits, gaming tournaments, and educational sessions. The day wraps, appropriately enough, with a LAN party featuring gaming on a 10-gigabit LAN.
At the end of the day, FlashMob Supercomputer aims to place this proof-of-concept exercise on the TOP500 Supercomputer List (http://www.top500.org).
So, what are you doing April 3? Find out how you can be part of history in the making at http://www.flashmobcomputing.org.
End Notes
DEMO 2004 alum Six Apart is finding success overseas. The company announced that Japanese telecom company NTT Communications licensed its Type Pad blogging software. NTT plans to offer the so-called Blogzine Weblogging Service to its 4 million Internet service subscribers in Japan. An NTT director said that the “Weblog is the next generation standard in communication after email and the World Wide Web.” Six Apart also unveiled its formation of a wholly owned subsidiary, Six Apart KK, to promote its software and services for the Japanese market . . . A veteran of DEMO and DEMOmobile is enjoying a nice round of Series C funding. BitFone Corp., a maker of firmware update technology for mobile phones, said it has closed more than $21 million in its latest investment round led by Prism Venture Partners. The company boasts a total investment tally of $57 million. Flextronics also lent its name to the growing list of investors, including Nokia Venture Partners, Nexit Ventures, St. Paul Venture Capital and KTB Ventures, among others. Prism’s general partner David Baum will join BitFone’s board of directors. BitFone executives say they’ll use the money to expand sales, support and development of the company’s over-the-air update solutions . . . The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is mulling over an expansion of the top-level domain space. ICANN received applications for 10 new address endings. Such extensions as .post, .tel, .travel and .xxx were among the ideas thrown into the ring. The goal is to create alternate endings for niche markets. “.mobi” was also put on the table by players in the mobile content and services arena. For more on this, check out: http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2004/0322tengroup.html.
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Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld’s DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at chris@demo.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.

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