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Re: Building a NOW with Debian

I too am exploring a very similar project.  I am a senior in Physics with
delusions/dreams of Computational Science as a Phd.  I see the Physics computers
running NT and think...I need a Masters project,  and my advisor and the Physics
Chairperson both agree that building a working beowulf would do fine.  It doesn't
need to do grand challenges, just demonstrate principles.  The CIS department has
offered me old slow network cards.  I am a year away from starting, but would
appreciate being pointed at good reference materials.

Jose Marin wrote:

> Hi there,
> Since there's a very low traffic on this list I thought it would be OK
> if I send a long post with many questions ;-)
> Sorry if some of them are not exactly Debian-beowulf related, but none
> of the other Debian lists seemed appropriate.  And since I use Debian
> I thought I'd ask here before I turn to the Beowulf list.
> I've got a project in my hands which involves using an existing PC lab
> (the undergrads PCs, which runs NT) as a Beowulf-like Linux cluster.
> The machines dual-boot NT and Linux, and we make use of them when the
> students are on vacation.  The project is mostly for "experimental"
> purposes in parallel computing.  They're connected by lowly 10Mbit
> ethernet, so we're hardly going to run any Grand Challenge stuff.
> This brings up my first question: anybody knows of a "loadlin" type of
> program for WindowsNT?  Or a way to hack LILO to decide what to boot
> by looking at the clock?  (the CMOS clock I assume)  It's more or less
> trivial to schedule reboots from one OS or the other, but then I'd
> like to have control also on the bootloader.  The idea is to have
> automatic (unattended) switching from one OS to the other (and back)
> based on some programmed schedule.  I asked this some time ago on
> c.o.l.setup and didn't get any answers.
> Now for the real meat.  I've decided that I'm building the cluster as
> a NOW, rather than a Beowulf cluster.  The idea behind this decision
> is that since each machine has 1Gb of HD available, I might as well
> build a NOW, and make it more versatile than a Beowulf.  Graduate
> students may then use the lab under Linux, and do both parallel
> computations and "workstation" stuff.  It would somehow duplicate the
> NT lab, and would be a perfect working example to show the University
> how they could save $$$ if they chose Linux instead.
> So here's my question: where are the docs relating to building a
> Debian-based network of workstations?  I checked the Debian
> Administration Manual and it's all "work in progress".
> To be a bit more precise: I chose Debian because in the long run it is
> the best to administer on a single machine.  But when dealing with a
> distributed network running NIS/NFS, how does one go about in order to
> keep the benefits of apt/dpkg?  (like painless upgrades!)  I guess I'm
> just looking for tips, howtos, and possible gotchas when using Debian
> for a PC lab running NIS/NFS.
> An overview of my planned network structure:  [comments welcome!]
> --------------------------------------------
> *  there are 16 identical machines, each one with 1Gb of HD available
> for Linux.
> *  all Debian installation/upgrades centralized on one machine. This
> will be also the NIS server.
> * the rest of the nodes copy their root filesystem (everything except
> \usr and \home) from the server, probably using rsync.  The finer
> details of the personalization for each node (IP & hostname, \var
> hierarchy and such) will be taken care by scripts, adding maybe DHCP
> in there too. I'll need some comments here.
> * each node, including the server, will have a largish \home
> partition. User accounts will be distributed, then cross-mounted with
> NFS.  A subdir in \home\scratch will be world-writeable locally on
> each node, for ``scratch'' parallel I/O in MPI or PVM jobs.  The
> server would actually have a smaller \home partition hosting only a
> \home\scratch directory, because it won't have room for other user
> homedirs.
> * some other client nodes might also have smaller \home partitions and
> then have a \usr\local or \opt in order to install non-Debian stuff
> (commercial compilers or what have you), and export it with NFS.
> * since the machines have IPs on the Net (I can't change that), I'll
> need to use ssh. I hope it works OK with MPI and PVM.
> * I plan to use shadow passwords now. Do they work OK with NIS in
> slink or potato?
> ---------------------------------------------
> So you see that under this plan all Debian upgrades (with apt or dpkg)
> would take place on the master server, and then I would take care of
> the rest of the machines more or less by homebrew methods.  But is
> there any other better way?
> Cheers,
> JL
> =============================================================================
> Jose L. Marín                                   jose@ma.hw.ac.uk
> Dept of Maths                                   marin@wanda.unizar.es
> Heriot-Watt University
> Edinburgh EH14 4AS, U.K.
> Phone: +44 131 451 3893
> Fax: +44 131 451 3249
> Former address:  Dept. de Física de la Materia Condensada
>                  Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Zaragoza
>                  50009 Zaragoza, SPAIN
> =============================================================================
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