[Beowulf] Supercomputers - iPad versus Cray

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Mar 8 11:01:27 PST 2012

-----Original Message-----
From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of Mark Hahn
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2012 10:31 AM
To: Beowulf Mailing List
Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Supercomputers - iPad versus Cray
using iPad is just stupid, since it's an embarassingly expensive piece of eyecandy, not a computer.  (yeah, yeah, you might love yours, but you still wrote a cheque for 65% of what you paid that landed directly on Apple's big pile of cash.)

Ahh.. but precisely because it is eyecandy means that $/FLOP means you're comparing the wrong metric. iPads are not computers.  They're media storage and display devices.  So the value (not the cost) needs to be compared to alternatives.  It's "is my iPad cheaper than buying and carrying hardback books, watching pay-per-view videos,etc on an airplane or hotel room or airport concourse."

I decided to get an eReader/iPad when I was stuck at Phoenix SkyHarbor, having just paid over $20 for some hardcover book (which was a reasonable purchase price), and now lugging the book around.  And realizing that I had carried various and sundry hard and softcover books on most trips over the past couple years. And then, contemplating a 2 week long trip to Egypt without internet connectivity, but with teenage children and a couple of 20 hour-ish plane trips (counting layovers, etc), where the ability to get some mindless entertainment that I could just "watch" would be nice.

I can load up my iPad with dozens of books (not to mention countless .pdfs of journal articles that I never seem to have time to read) and with a half dozen movies ripped from DVDs I own.    *that* is what makes the multi-hundred dollar expense worth it.  Whether it cost Steve&Co a penny to manufacture, and Steve pocketed the rest, or whether they took a loss is immaterial.  It was worth the cash, to me.

As it happens, now that I have the device, I have found other uses (makes a dandy user interface to stuff controlled by a web-server interface... when I get my arduino temperature/humidity controller done,  I'm going to use the iPad (or an iPhone/iPodTouch) as the "touchable and viewable" part of the UI.

Would it make a good computational element?  I don't know. It's reasonably power efficient in a joules/computation basis, and certainly, as an element in a toy/gimmick cluster  to demonstrate things it might be nice. (but a better solution might be a bunch of androids or iPodTouch-es... cheaper, smaller, still make a cool tabletop demo, especially if you could figure out a way to do different "tinkerable" interconnects)

I can see a "mess o'iTouch" thing to do demonstrations of mesh network routing, for instance. Or perhaps to demonstrate aspects of cooperative processing in a fractionated spacecraft.

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