Profile: Bob Mahoney Design

Personal background
June 2009:
The computer pictured above was developed during much of 2008 and the first few months of 2009. On SETI@home it achieved a top RAC of 52,000+, and ran at that rate for a few months (to get there) with attention needed only occasionally.

This was an attempt to optimize the compromise of the conflicting goals of performance vs. component longevity vs. noise level vs. wattage draw vs. heat injected into environment vs. dust intake accumulation. I worked with the design goal of a new desk-side class supercomputer appropriate as a workstation for CG, animation, engineering, or heavy scientific environment.

In final tune and at maximum output it drew 1020 watts at 120V and was quiet enough to comfortably fit into a normal office environment. At full output it was reliable at ambient temperatures slightly above 80F.

From my tests, at the internal temperatures created by 24/7 SETI@home processing, with all GPUs OC'ed, the air-cooled GPU lifetime should be between 6 months to a year. (That explains the GPU layout for 5-minute replacement of any GPU, and the air-cooled ones are under warranty.) The processor (QX9770) and power supply (Tagan BZ series 1300) are good for at least a year at ambient below 75F and processor MHz at 4.0 or lower if you tune to the minimum voltage that keeps it alive. The motherboard (ASUS Striker II Extreme) has been solid.

To keep it simple, water cooling was handled by a single Reserator XT.

From the view of today's tech (June, 2009), this system is obsolete.

It was retired in June, 2009.

The layout I'm working on for the next system is about the same processing power, takes 200 fewer watts, is near silent, and should have a component life-expectancy beyond 3 years. With one large plane of air intake with filter, it has conquered the dust problem. Oh yeah.

June 2008:
I ran an ISP called ExecPC, many remnants of which still litter the digital landscape. That was fun, but it burned me out. Now, 10 years after selling my company, I'm finally getting back into computer technology. Wow, what a great time to be alive! Hi-speed disk space for 17cents per gigabyte! Quad processors under $300! 20,000kbps download speeds on Comcast for $33 a month!

I'm the guy who named ZIP files. Phil Katz asked me what new name to use. I suggested "zip" - it implied fast, and a little naughty; you know, unzip it, etc. He said "Nah, that's kind of dumb." He used it, though. After a long career, I sit here lamenting that my most signficant contribution to the history of mankind is a three letter file extension. As my dad said, that plus 25 cents still won't get you a cup of coffee...
Thoughts about SETI and SETI@home
I truly believe we are not alone in this universe. SETI@home is the most personal involvement available to us normal citizens for this type of search.

Distributed computing is the future. SETI@home, out of pure intellectual interest, is laying the groundwork for all future "populace-based" endeavors of this type. I've always been a huge fan of the lowly microprocessor. Yes, I've collected some salvage parts from the Cray X-MP series, got to sit on one at NASA-AMES a long time ago. The world is different now. Millions of microprocessors, working in union, will always win. Looking at it another way, SETI@home (BOINC) is actually designing the super-computer of the future. Right now it requires a million computers in cases in offices and homes around the world, using the Internet as the backplane for communications. Someday that will shrink down to a single rack in a data center - so the future is here now, just a bit on the large size.

I wish there were some type of national campaign that could influence corporations to run BOINC projects as screensavers on more corporate computers. Think of all those wasted CPU cycles out there. Sigh.

Oh yes, I hope to be the one to find THE signal via SETI@home. That, I bet, will get me that cup of coffee for free!
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