Hope everyone had a good holiday. It seems that everyone wants to get into the own home multimedia center. We currently use Mythbuntu, but are wanting to try linuxmce. linuxmce seems to be a more complete professional looking package. Will let you know more about linuxmce soon.  There is a live linux cd called mythdora that will let you try the home pvr (personal  video recorder) without installing anything. If you have an old machine that has a tv capture/tuner card, have a go at it.  (http://www.mythdora.com)

A bit of news. The supposedly great Microsoft Windows 7 (aka known as what vista should of been) is supposed to come out tomorrow.  We will probably get it just for benchmark testing and then wipe it out off the system we put it on.  Caveat emptor.

Now for the fun part.  So far I have talked about using single computers at a time.  What we plan to do this weekend is to build a computer cluster. That is two or more computers can act as one to be more efficient. Something as simple as two computers networked together to share files could be called a cluster.  Sometimes this is called a cluster of workstations (COWS).  So some computer users in Texas like to get home to tend to their cows. meaning they can not wait to get home to get on the computer.  Desktop and laptops are sometimes called workstations.There are two basic designs of clusters. The first cluster type is normally used in a scientific setting where a one problem needs to be solved as quickly as possible. If you have ever heard of the Seti project where you are asked  to be allowed to use your computer by the seti project to allow them to solve a problem such as a cure for some disease. All the computers together working is known as a high performance cluster (HPC). The hpc is built for speed, It is like having a car with two engines. You should go faster. But if engine fails, the whole system is down.   The second type of cluster is looking for dependability.  Including this web site is probably run on a cluster so that if one server goes down there is another server to take over without loss of service. The web site might run slower, but it is still running. An analogy in this case would be having again two engines, but each engine is in a separate car. Both cars run at the same time but if one car fails, you still have the other car to keep using.This is know as a high availability cluster (HAC). In a lot of cases the HAC will have additional software that will balance the load of work between to systems so no one machine is working harder than the other. The high availability cluster is generally used in business.  So you could say that HPC is for scientific and HAC is for business. Since we plan to use our cluster for business, we will be building a high availability cluster.Now how do we put it all together in general terms. You can purchase equipment specifically built to be a cluster. This is what most businesses will use. But not everyone needs such specialized equipment.

With linux you can easily build a cluster with off the shelf computers.from your local computer store. This is sometimes known as a sort of Beowulf cluster.  For a HPC you might use canned (pre-made) software known as pelicanhpc to put several computers together for say a small science lab.  For a high availability cluster, a bit more work is required.   Clusterknoppix is a live cd that can be used to set up a quickie sort of HAC.I want to build one from scratch.  I have found two identical machines for the magical closet to use for the basic two machine HAC.  Two or more servers working together is known as a server farm. So this weeekend we will get back to the farm (server farm that is) to take care of the cows. Will let ya know soon.