Current_Issue.tar.gz - Sometimes, Fast Just Isn't Enough

by Shawn Powers

When I first started using computers, “High-Performance Computing” basically meant how fast a person could type. People were considered high performance if they could type faster than the IBM electric typewriter could smack out the letters. In fact, if you haven't seen a race between a person on a manual typewriter versus a person on an IBM Selectric “golfball” typewriter, you haven't lived.

Times quickly changed, however, and now instead of counting characters per second, we use terms like petaflops. Although arguably more funny to verbalize, petaflops don't really measure the same thing as characters per second. In an abstract notion, however, they both measure “how much stuff” a piece of hardware can churn out. This issue is thankfully dedicated to high-performance computing, not high-speed typing. If I pitched an issue focusing on the IBM Selectric typewriter, I have a sneaking suspicion it would be my last issue as Associate Editor.

Our writers came through this month and, indeed, focused on high-performance computing. In fact, James Gray takes us to the headquarters of the Roadrunner supercomputer. It's not exactly the type of system most people can build in their bedrooms, but a fascinating look at some real horsepower. If such setups seem too “pie in the sky” for you, fear not. We have a bunch of other articles that you can dig right into.

You can supercharge your programming by using CUDA and leveraging some of the GPU processor time to bend to your will. Robert Farber explains how. Or, perhaps you'd rather take advantage of your high-performance operating system and replace your hardware RAID setup with a Linux-powered software RAID system. Will Reese shows the advantages of doing such a thing, along with instructions on how to do it.

There's a lot to be said for writing good code, however. Often, if the code is good, even a regular desktop machine can act like a high-performance beast. Reuven Lerner provides a big roundup of books that is sure to help along the way to some high-performance code. A word of warning, however; you may need to buy another bookshelf.

What if you're just a Linux desktop user like me? Well, we didn't leave you out. Marcel Gagné shows you how to streamline your blogging habits by utilizing the new microblogging services out there. Twitter? Jisko? Yep, plus more. Marcel explains how to make microblogging as efficient and effective as possible, and these days, high-performance blogging is 140 characters or less.

If you hate the whole Twitter concept, fear not. Kyle Rankin shows how to streamline your desktop experience with Compiz. I'm suspicious that Kyle just wanted to prove Compiz was a legitimate addition to a business desktop, when, in fact, he just likes wiggly windows. He, of course, would deny any such thing. Check out his column, and see what you think.

Can a person be a high-performance device in the Open Source world? If so, Cory Doctorow would be a supercomputer when it comes to open standards and free information. This month, we have an interview with a man on the front line fighting against DRM. As you can imagine, he has some kind words to say about Linux. You won't want to miss it.

Just like every other month, we have our regular cast of columns, reviews and tech tips. Whether you're looking for information on installing and securing Samba or you're interested in solving programming tasks with Python, this issue will be one you'll want to read from cover to cover. As for me, I think I'm going to go dig out that old IBM Selectric and see if I can still type faster than it can print. For some reason, I suspect I might not be as awesome as I remember (but I am hot—

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on

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