Mine the Harvest

Days You Remember

by on Mar.10, 2011, under My Life, ORNL

I’ve been waiting 27 years to see this:

[email protected]:~> date
Thu Mar 10 16:04:31 EST 2011
[email protected]:~>

Translated from Old High Geek (derived from early proto Unix) that output is similar in magnitude to the fabled Enochian Emerald Tablets of Hermes Trismegistus. But to explain how cool this was for me, a bit of a narrative is needed, but there won’t be much computer speek or techno mumbo jumbo in this post.

In 1983, when I was 12 years old, the movie War Games came out. Of course, I was already deeply in love with computers and had spent endless hours already using my 8 Mhz, 8-bit Atari 400 with 24K as well as my Vic 20 with 3K. Naturally, being a geek, I knew about Cray Supercomputers. (The word was pronounced with a slight pause and inflection when uttered, if indeed the ineffable need be put in human words.) The anecdotal relationship in War Game’s between professor Falken (John wood) and the real life Seymour Cray was  also common geek lore – cannon in fact. Cray was THE supercomputing company – the gold standard of computing.

My love for Cray systems continued unabated from that time, and I would always keep an eye on what the company, and there computers, were doing. Of course, the story of the visisituedes of the company and its founder are near legendary. But like a favorite sports team or rock band I was always a loyal fan – even though I had never once used a Cray system. Neither did I own any platinum, or anti-matter, but one need not have something to know its worth.

More years past until in October of 1996, while driving to work, I heard the news of the unexpected death of Seymour Cray. Wow, that sucked. The father of supercomputing was killed in a car crash, apparently by a drunk driver. I thought about it for days, with the surreal feeling you get when a hero figure is made so painfully mortal, and who’s life need not have been ended. It was just one of those days you will always remember.

Over the years computers kept changing. The age of the custom “big iron” vector supercomputers waned, replaced by commodity hardware running thousands of CPUs and powered by a little OS called Linux. Now, if there was one thing I liked equally as much as Cray’s, it would have to be Linux.

One thing lead to another, and I was recently offered a position at Oak Ridge, the home of Jaguar – a Cray XT5  system with over 220,000 cores running at 2.3 PF (2.3 quadrillion calculations a second).  Jaguar, my favorite computer in the World, running my favorite OS, on a Cray platform, was what lead me to the Lab and I’ve been quite happy with my position there.

So, while that output might seem like any other login, or some boring computer output, for me it had a bit more emerald tablet like glow to it.

Today is another one of those days I’ll remember.

Thanks Seymour.

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1 comment for this entry:
  1. nathan

    Hi there.

    Stumbled across your site googling and so forth and would like to see if you can help me with something

    I am trying to use pxelinux and memdisk to boot ophcrack and load the tables via NFS. This is great as I can add many tables as I like. I noticed you have a page and it looks like the right direction I should go in. I assume you have got this working successfully as you have a page with this information.

    Appreciate any help if you can, specifically the NFS syntax.


    this page here

    LABEL ophcrack
    kernel /hw/vmlinz.ophcrack
    #append initrd=/hw/initrd.ophcrack.gz ramdisk_size=6666 root=/dev/ram0 rw autoexec=xconf;startx changes=/slax/
    APPEND initrd=/hw/initrd.ophcrack.gz boot=ophcrack netboot nfsroot=

    I am trying to do a similar thing and have got this in my pxelinux menu

    kernel experimental/ophcrack/bzImage
    APPEND initrd=experimental/ophcrack/rootfs.gz boot=ophcrack netboot nfsroot= vga=normal lang=C kmap=us screen=1024x768x16 autologin

    So far I can boot into ophcrack via network, however I get the ‘No tables found !!’ error message on bootup
    I have a folder called /mnt/sr0 which is ‘Permission denied’ so I am guessing that this is the nfs share? however I dont know much about nfs..

    The part to do now is to get nfs setup properly

    I copied the entire contents of ophcrack2.3.1.iso into the /exports/ophcrack folder
    added to /etc/exports

    /exports/ophcrack *(ro,sync)

    restarted the nfs service – /etc/init.d/nfs-kernel-server restart

    This is where I dont know what I should be doing next.

    Thanks if you get this email!


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