Purdue football predictions — 2010 edition

Finally, the college football season is almost upon us.  Let’s take a moment and extend our sympathies to my wife, who will effectively be a widow for the next three months of Saturdays.  I’ve got my tickets in hand, my jersey cleaned and ready, and my optimism at full throttle.  Last year was pretty disappointing for Purdue fans, although there were encouraging signs.  A questionable timeout at the end of the Notre Dame game might have been the difference between a bowl game and staying home.  A respectable Oregon team barely managed a win at home, and eventual Big Ten champion The Ohio State got a big shock in West Lafayette.

The Boilers haven’t received much love from the national media (gee, doesn’t that sound familiar?), but that’s okay.  If everyone stays healthy, and no one else ends up academically ineligible,  Purdue could wind up being in the hunt for the Big Ten title at the end of the season.  Of course, many of the games it takes to get there will be close, so the end result could vary quite a bit.  Of course, I’ll be taking a look at each game week-by-week for Beonard’s Losers, but in the meantime, here’s my poorly-researched, quickly-written view of Purdue’s season.

At Notre Dame: The Irish are on their fourth coach (fifth if you count George O’Leary) this decade, and Brian Kelly has his work cut out for him.  Notre Dame has a new quarterback who is recovering from a knee injury, and a new coach to learn.  Notre Dame has some votes in the pre-season polls, but that’s more name recognition than anything else.  South Bend is not normally a friendly location for the Boilers, but they should be able to get a win.

Western Illinois: Directional Illinois isn’t necessarily a guaranteed win, as Northern showed last year.  Fortunately, Western is a less worthy opponent.  There’s no excuse for losing this game.

Ball State: BSU isn’t quite the pushover they were back in 2004 when Kyle Orton and company hung approximately one trillion points on them.  In fact, there was a time not that long ago when I considered the Cardinals the best team in the state.  That time has passed, and I wouldn’t expect to see Ball State do much better than they did last season.  This should be another confidence-builder.

Toledo: The Rockets have been a favorite early-season opponent the past few years, and generally help the Boilers get off to a confident, if overrated, start.  Toledo will be a good final test before conference play starts, but shouldn’t be too challenging.  There’s a reason I consider Purdue to be the MAC champions, and after this game they should be 4-0.

At Northwestern: It doesn’t seem to matter how good Purdue is, Evanston is always a tough place to play.  Since this game is in the first half of the season, the weather shouldn’t be too horrible, but it’s going to take more than a nice fall day to turn this into a win.  If senior quarterback Dan Persa can keep the offense going, Purdue will have a hard time winning this one.

Minnesota: Tim Brewster is the first of several coaches that Purdue may see the last of in 2010.  In three years under Brewster, the Gophers have never gone .500 or better in the Big Ten and their best finish is a tie for 6th.  Adam Weber needs a strong season, but without Eric Decker, I don’t think we’ll see anything better than “fair” from him.  If the Purdue secondary can play at all, the Boilers should win this game.

At Ohio State: Some of the key pieces are back from last year’s matchup, notably Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who gave Terrelle Prior nightmares.  It’s tempting to pick Purdue to get the upset again, but it’s worth noting that this game is being played in Columbus, not West Lafayette.  Not to mention the fact that the Buckeyes are pissed about last year’s game and will be out for revenge. This won’t be a guaranteed loss for the Boilers, but it’s likely.

At Illinois: Boy, this team is hard to gauge.  Ron Zook has a talent for recruiting good teams that under-perform.  He’s the second coach that may be packing his bags at the end of the season; it’s just hard to imagine that Illinois would be content with another disappointing year.  The Illini schedule is very front-loaded, so it remains to be seen how the team will handle facing Penn State and Ohio State on consecutive weekends.  Frankly, I think it’s more likely that Purdue will lose this game than that Illinois will win it.

Wisconsin: Last year’s 37-0 shellacking in Madison can’t sit well with the Boilers.  Purdue will be worked up for this game, but I’m not sure it’ll be enough.  The Badgers should be good this year and all of the emotion in the world won’t fix that.  This year’s matchup will be closer, but Purdue loses this one, too.

Michigan: Purdue has only beaten Michigan 14 times in the history of the sport, and never three times in a row.  Yet that’s what’s at stake this November.  If the NCAA hasn’t done him in already, a loss in this game pretty much guarantees that the Wolverines bring the RichRod era to an end.  Michigan seems to be improving, but they won’t have enough to win this one, unless the two-game losing streak saps Purdue’s will to live.

At Michigan State: Purdue had the lead through three quarters last year, and, if they’d held on, would have become bowl-eligible.  It seems like (and I’m too lazy to check) Purdue and Michigan State have been very well-matched the past few years, and this year should be no different.  I’m not sure the Boilers will be seasoned enough to take away a win from East Lansing, but it should be a fun game to watch.

Indiana: Indiana has lost the last 2 matchups, and hasn’t won in Ross-Ade Stadium since 1996.  They’ve got a good quarterback, and a few other pieces, but I don’t see much of a team.  Bill Lynch is a pretty lousy football coach, and he may be done after failing again to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket.

So that’s my look at this season.  We’ll see how horribly wrong I end up being.  If the above predictions hold true, Purdue finishes 7-5 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten, 6-1 at home, and 7-1 in the state of Indiana.  This would be a big improvement from the past few seasons, and might help bump up the flagging ticket sales.  Boiler up!

Who doubted Purdue? Not this guy!

You’ll have to excuse this post.  It’s one of complete fanboyism, written while still under the influence of a nail-biting win and the 92 fluid ounces of Killian’s I had at Buffalo Wild Wings.  If you don’t want to read my excited babbling, it can all be summed up in two words “Boiler up!”  Remember a week ago when everyone was saying that Siena would be the only 14-seed to be favored in the first round?  Remember how even President Obama had written Purdue off?  Remember how the Big East was God’s gift to college basketball?  It seems things have changed.

Purdue has earned its way back into a second consecutive Sweet 16.  Like I had written last week, the Boilers needed the bench to step up.  D.J. Byrd and Ryne Smith certainly earned their scholarships this weekend, although Patrick Bade made some solid contributions of his own. But it was senior Chris M.F. Kramer who really carried the team through the first two rounds.  Kramer simply refused to let his career be over, and in a repeat of the game at Alabama in December, took the team on his shoulders at the end and carried them to victory.

Let’s be honest, it’s not all beautiful for Purdue.  When JaJuan Johnson is shooting from the perimeter, there’s absolutely no one to get an offensive rebound.  E’Twaun Moore scored 15 points, but was still 7 of 17 from the field. Point guards Lewis Jackson and Kelsey Barlow still make some really poor decisions at times.  Despite all this, Purdue is still one of only 16 teams playing in the NCAA tournament at the end of the week.  Very few people outside of the Purdue locker room and the loyal fans even considered this as a possibility.  You know what?  Some of us still believe that this Purdue team, without Robbie Hummel, could get past Duke and make it into the Elite 8.  How’s that for a big middle finger to the “experts” who figured Purdue would lose in the first round?

While we’re on the subject of disrespect, which conference was supposed to be the best in the country?  All season long we’ve heard about how the Big East is just leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of Division I basketball.  The funny thing about the tournament is that it points out when people are full of crap.  If you look at the teams in the Sweet 16, you’ll notice that there are three from the Big Ten, and only two from the Big East.  Even that pathetic conference called the Pac-10, which we were told was barely worthy to even play basketball at all, has a team in the Sweet 16 (and an 11 seed at that!).  So really, to all the experts out there (who will never read this), I cordially invite you to shut the hell up.

It’s also worth noting that the state of Indiana has two teams represented in the Sweet 16: Butler and Purdue.  Both teams survived close games in the second round, but either or both of them could find themselves in the Elite 8.  Considering how much basketball means to the state of Indiana, that is only fitting.  Although I have a bit of a personal dislike for one of the Butler players, I’d be happy to see them keep progressing through the tournament, and I hope my Boilermakers do as well.  All I know is that the moment Robbie Hummel’s ACL gave way, most of the country was done with Purdue.  But not me, not the other loyal fans, not the coaches, and certainly not the players.  Boiler up, and beat Duke on Friday!

A warning about Condor access control lists

Like most sane services, Condor has a notion of access control.  In fact, Condor’s access control lists (ACLs) provide a very granular level of control, allowing you to set a variety of roles based on hostname/IP.  One thing we’re working on at my day job is making it easier for departments across campus to join our Condor pool.  In the face of budget concerns, a recommendation has been drafted which includes having departments choose between running Condor and powering machines off when not in use.  Given the preference for performing backups and system updates overnight, we’re guessing the majority will choose to donate cycles to Condor, so we’re trying to prepare for a large increase in the pool.

Included in that preparation is the switch from default-deny to default-allow-campus-hosts.  Previously, we only allowed specific subdomains on campus, but this means that every time a new department (which effectively means a new subdomain) joins the pool, we have to modify the ACLs.  While this isn’t a big deal, it seems simpler to just allow all of campus except the “scary” subnets (traditionally wireless clients, VPN clients, and the dorms. Especially the dorms.)  Effectively, we’ll end up doing that anyway, and so keeping the file more static should make it easier to maintain.

So on Wednesday, after the security group blessed our idea, I began the process of making the changes.  Let me point out here that you don’t really appreciate how much IP space an institution like Purdue has until you need to start blocking segments of it.  All of 128.10.0.0/16, 128.46.0.0/16, 128.210.0.0/16 and 128.211.0.0/16.  That’s a lot of public space, and it doesn’t include the private IP addresses in use.  So after combing through the IP space assignments, I finally got the ACLs written, and on Thursday I committed them.  And that’s when all hell broke loose.

Condor uses commas to separate as many hosts as you want, and asterisks can be used to wildcard hosts (Condor does not currently support CIDR notation, but that would be awesome).  The danger here is that if you accidentally put a comma in place of a period, you might end up denying write access to *. Obviously, this causes things to break down.  Once people started complaining about Condor not working, I quickly found my mistake and pushed out a correction.  However, Condor does not give up so quickly.  Once a rule is in DENY_WRITE, it will not stop denying that host until the Condor master has been stopped and re-started.  A simple config update won’t change it.

We had to learn that by experimentation, so I spent most of Friday helping my colleagues re-start the Condor process everywhere and testing the hell out of my changes.  Fortunately, once everything had been cleaned up, it worked as expected, and this gave me a chance to learn more about Condor.  And I also learned a very important lesson: test your changes first, dummy.

All is not lost for Purdue

Anyone who pays even the least bit of attention to college basketball has heard about the total blowout that happened in Indianapolis on Saturday. Minnesota earned their way into the NCAA tournament with a 27-point dismantling of Purdue.  With the loss, Purdue dropped to 0-2 against NCAA-bound opponents since Robbie Hummel’s season-ending ACL injury.  There’s a lot to be disappointed about for Purdue fans.  11 first-half points, 14% from beyond the arc, 44% free-throw shooting, being out-rebounded by 25, Lewis Jackson and E’Twaun Moore getting injured.

But not is all lost.  My good friends at Boiled Sports have summed the game up pretty well, but their tone is unsurprisingly deflated.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crushed after watching the game, but there’s no need to give up yet.  This season isn’t quite what we’d hope it would be. A Final Four run seems nearly impossible, but there’s still a Big Ten title to hang in Mackey.  And who knows what the NCAA tournament will bring?  There’s a reason March is the best month.

For Purdue fans, Saturday’s game does have some positives to take away.  Most notably, the contributions of two key freshmen.  The oft-maligned Patrick Bade has spent most of the year being a liability, but he has stepped up since Hummel’s injury.  At 6’8″, Bade helps fill the gap between JaJuan Johnson and the rest of the team.  In the last five games, Bade has played an average of 9 minutes. Those minutes include 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds. Those aren’t great numbers, but he’s turning into a solid basketball player, and that’s important for the Boilermakers right now.  Bade still picks up a foul every 5 minutes or so, but his fouls have become fouls of effort, not of clumsiness.  If Patrick Bade continues to improve, Purdue’s chances for success increase dramatically, not only this year, but next.

D.J. Byrd has also received some scorn in his freshman year.  The Mister Basketball candidate had a lot of expectations  and has been fairly underwhelming through most of the schedule.  At 6’5″ and 214 pounds, Byrd could also find a spot on the football team’s depleted secondary, and some of his fouls have resembled tackles. On Saturday, though, Byrd provided what was closest to passing for a spark.  Making his first three-pointers since December 22 (ending a streak of about 13 misses), D.J. Byrd provided nearly a quarter of Purdue’s points against Minnesota.  That was Byrd’s first double-digit scoring since the season opener. For a team that has been relying on Johnson and Moore for most of the points, Byrd’s off-the-bench contributions will be very welcome, and even necessary.

On Friday afternoon, Purdue takes on the Siena Saints in Spokane, Washington. Siena has a losing record against the Big Ten, but includes a first-round upset of Ohio State in last year’s tournament.  Purdue has won its last 11 first-round NCAA tournament games, and has a good chance to extend the streak to 12. It will depend largely on the contribution from the bench, and on Johnson and Moore not having bad games. Even noted optimist and Purdue basketball expert Sara Yelich has said she “might [have] Purdue getting beat (sic) in the first round.”  By Friday evening, we’ll know, but Purdue fans still have reasons to be optimistic.

Big Ten tournament predictions

This afternoon, the 2010 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament tips off in Indianapolis.  This marks the beginning of the best five weekends of the year.

Game 1 Michigan vs Iowa – Without a doubt, Michigan has been the biggest disappointment in the conference this year.  The Wolverines beat top-seeded Ohio State at the beginning of January, and swept 6th-seeded Minnesota. Their other four conference wins came against the bottom three teams in the conference.  Iowa, meanwhile, has exceeded expectations by winning four conference games. Iowa has been playing hard, but they’ve got no answer for Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims.   Michigan by 11.

Game 2 Northwestern vs Indiana – After starting the season 10-2, it looked like Northwestern might make the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history, but without Kevin Coble it has been a tough season for the Wildcats.  They closed the regular season with an overtime loss to an underwhelming Indiana squad. The Hoosiers have played most of the season without their best player as well, which has contributed to their 4-14 season. They’ve had trouble against Northwestern, but Indianapolis is practically a home game, and I think they’re ready to pull off an upset.  Indiana by 4.

Game 3 Minnesota vs Penn State – Penn State is a better team than their record suggests. The Nittany Lions closed the season by nearly upsetting Michigan State and Purdue.  Talor Battle receiving help from his teammates has been the difference in the late part of the season.  In fact, Penn State looked better against Purdue when Battle was on the bench being treated for leg cramps.  On the other end, Tubby Smith plays Minnesota deeper than any other team in the Big Ten, with every player on the roster getting at least 2 minutes per game, and no one in the thirties.  That kind of depth, along with the multiple threats that the Gophers pose, will spell the end of the season for the defending NIT champs.  Minnesota by 7.

Game 4 Ohio State vs Game 1 (Michigan) – Thad Matta’s strategy is the exact opposite of Tubby Smith, keeping the starters in for most of the game. The key to OSU having a successful tournament run will be the ability to keep that level of effort going.  And, of course, Evan Turner, who was out with a back injury when Michigan defeated the Buckeyes in January.  Ohio State is the hottest team in the conference right now, and with the best player in the country healthy, Michigan will miss the tournament again.  Ohio State by 10.

Game 5 Wisconsin vs Illinois – These two teams faced off on Sunday to close the season, with Wisconsin blowing out the Illini in Champaign.  The Illini have been two different teams this season, but the bad team lately, having closed the season 1-5.  In large part, the fortunes of Illinois follow the performance of Demitri McCamey.  Illinois is playing for a tournament appearance, and a win here would help reserve them a space.  However, the Badgers have been playing very well of late, excepting a loss to Minnesota.  Wisconsin by 8.

Game 6 Purdue vs Game 2 (Indiana) – The conventional wisdom is that it is very difficult to beat a team three times in one year, but most Purdue fans are looking forward to a potential re-rematch against an in-state rival that has looked really bad lately.  Without Robbie Hummel, the Boilermakers need to re-prove themselves and a convincing win on Friday would do just that.  The Hoosiers ended the season by snapping their second 10-game losing streak of the year. People in Bloomington would love to see Tom Crean’s team win this game, but they’re at least another year out from that.  Purdue by 6.

Game 7 Michigan State vs Game 3 (Minnesota) – If the Gophers want to make it into the NCAA tournament, they need to win this game.  With wins against Wisconsin and Illinois in February, and a pair of close games against Michigan State, that doesn’t seem out of reach.  Michigan State has looked vulnerable in losses to Purdue and Ohio State and a near-loss to Penn State and will note the absence of Chris Allen.  If the Minnesota guards can contain Kalin Lucas, they’ll move on to the semifinals. Minnesota by 2.

Game 8 Game 4 (Ohio State) vs Game 5 (Wisconsin) – Both teams ended the season by dismantling Illinois and they’ve yet to face each other healthy. Wisconsin defeated a Turner-less OSU in Madison and then fell in Columbus when Jon Leuer had a broken wrist.  This is definitely the sexiest matchup of the tournament, and will be a good chance for Evan Turner or the Badgers to impress people.  Despite what the Big Ten media might think, Bo Ryan is the better coach and I think he’ll have his hot team a little hotter.  Wisconsin by 4.

Game 9 Game 6 (Purdue) vs Game 7 (Minnesota) – Losing Robbie Hummel in the first half of the game in Minneapolis nearly derailed Purdue, it was all the Boilers could do to stay in the game and manage a very close win. Minnesota still hopes to be invited to the big dance, and defeating two of the Big Ten co-champions on consecutive days would give their resume a nice boost.  By spreading the minutes around, Tubby Smith should ensure that his team is relatively well-rested, and the Gophers have a range of weapons.  However, Purdue can shut down any weapon that you can bring. If E’Twaun Moore has come out of his recent slump, the Boilers will have a chance to defend their tournament title.  Purdue by 6.

Game 10 Game 8 (Wisconsin) vs Game 9 (Purdue) – Purdue has had Wisconsin’s number in recent years, going 5-1 against them in regular season play the past three years.  If Purdue can manage to win the tournament, they can ensure they remain a high seed in the NCAA tournament and certain sportscasters will be told where to go.  Wisconsin won the first matchup this season even after losing Jon Leuer mid-game and nearly got the upset in West Lafayette on the back of Keaton Nankivil’s 25 points.  This may be the lowest-scoring game of the tournament, but Purdue will have a hard time containing the Badgers without the help of Robbie Hummel. Wisconsin by 7.

A tale of two Mackeys

It was the happiest of crowds, it was the saddest of crowds.  That’s how I’d describe the 14,123 fans who filled Purdue’s Mackey Arena on Sunday afternoon to watch the Boilermakers play host to Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans.  A win would have kept Purdue in sole possession of the Big Ten lead and an easy road to the first conference championship, but everything changed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night. Robbie Hummel’s torn ACL was big news in college basketball, so big that “Robbie Hummel” was a trending topic on Twitter for a while.

The national media gave up on Purdue very quickly. After Kansas and Kentucky both lost on Saturday, there wasn’t even mention of the fact that #3 Purdue might win against the 13th-ranked Spartans and would be the default choice for a #1 ranking. Loyal Boilermaker fans refused to be swayed by the lack of confidence displayed by writers and analysts across the country, though, and they showed up early to give their team encouragement.

Twenty minutes before tip-off, the seats were nearly full.  By the time the teams came out for the game, Mackey Arena was as loud an energetic as I’d ever heard it.  Two hours later, the fans were slowly shuffling out in disbelief.  A game that was winnable and would make a big statement turned into a seeming vindication of the doubters.

My good friends over at BoiledSports.com have already written about some of the numbers from yesterday’s game, so I won’t repeat the effort.  While it is obvious that Purdue could have benefited from Hummel’s presence, his absence wasn’t the difference maker.  It’s hard to blame E’Twaun Moore for his poor shooting, since Tom Izzo made sure he was always covered in a sea of green.  But you can blame Chris Kramer (never thought you’d hear me say that, eh?) for committing five turnovers.  You can blame JaJuan Johnson for spending most of the day away from the basket.  You can blame Kramer and Keaton Grant for not pulling the trigger on open threes. You can even blame Tom O’Neill, Curtis Shaw, and John Higgins for repeatedly missing MSU walks in the first half.

Still, there are positives to take away from the game.  Patrick Bade, while not very impressive on the box score, looked about as good as he had all season.  He looked like a basketball player today, albeit a young and confused one, and he’ll need to continue this in order to give Purdue a non-Johnson inside presence.  The defense as a whole played quite well, as evidenced by the low score.  Michigan State had more turnovers than made baskets, and that gives the offense a lot more breathing room.

Up next is the final home game of the year, against a comically bad Indiana team.  Anything less than a 20-point win on Wednesday should be disappointing to Purdue fans, especially given that it is Senior Night (maybe Mark Wohlford will even get to play).  After that, the season closes for Purdue at Penn State. The Nittany Lions have finally figured out how to win a few basketball games, and this one might not be as easy a win for the Boilers as some might expect.  Still, if Chris Kramer (and/or Lewis Jackson) can keep Talor Battle contained, there’s no reason Purdue shouldn’t end up 14-4.

This means that Purdue will likely end the season sharing the title with Ohio State and Michigan State.  Michigan State closes out the season with home games against Penn State and Michigan, and has no business losing either of those two contests.  Ohio State has only to host Illinois on Tuesday night.  Illinois has lost 3 of the last 4 games, but will be playing for an invitation to the NCAA tournament, so they should keep it close.

The fact remains that there’s still a lot of basketball to be played, and Purdue fans have a lot to be proud of.  In the tradition of “One Brick Higher“, expect to see 14,123 loud fans on Wednesday night.

Twitter made me feel important

I know it’s hard to imagine Twitter serving a useful purpose, but it did on Monday.  Not only did it make me feel useful, but I was able to pass along information.  Allow me to set the scene.  Purdue University announced last month the need for a $30 million cut in the budget to address a “structural deficit.”  Recently, the governor announced a cut of $150 million in higher education funding for the remainder of the biennium.  Because of cuts and RIFs earlier this year, there are a lot of questions among the faculty and staff about what these cuts might bring.  In order to address some of the concerns, President France Cordova held an open forum on Monday, joined by Provost Randy Woodson and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Al Diaz.

The South Ballroom in the Purdue Memorial Union was standing-room-only, and there were still many people who could not attend.  In order to keep my colleagues (and other followers who are interested in the state of Purdue’s finances), I live-tweeted during the 45-minute discussion.  As I expected, it was rather difficult to try to summarize important points in 140 characters or less while listening for the next useful piece of information.  What I didn’t expect was how fun it was to do it.  It was fun trying to meet the challenge, and I was encouraged by the fact that I got a few follow-up questions from followers (and amazingly, no one complained).  I’m not about to quit my job to become a full-time Twitter reporter, but I do hope I get a chance to do this again.

Beonard’s Losers — 2009, week 6

This week’s show.

I’m rather proud of myself. For the first time in a long time I got the script for Beonard’s Losers written by Sunday night.  That’s a good thing, since I’ve included a Thursday game into the mix this time.  Of course, being done ahead of time doesn’t really help if I don’t record it until Thursday evening.  Oh well, baby steps.

At this point, I’d normally talk some about last week’s games.  I’m not sure I can bring myself to do that in a way that would still leave this post family-friendly.  Purdue played one of the most awful games of football I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.  It was an absolute travesty, and it’s not the first time this season that my beloved Boilers have folded.  I hate to place the blame on a coach that’s been in charge a full 5 games, but there’s clearly some problems in the program.  There’s talent on the field, we’ve seen it (just never for an entire game).  Our big problems are mental errors, and at some point you have to say “well the coach just doesn’t have them well prepared.”  I wanted to say that Purdue will beat Minnesota this weekend.  I think they’re certainly capable of it, but I can no longer pick them to win until they’ve shown that they can.  Is it basketball season yet?

A 650-node 10Gb computer cluster: easy peasy

At Purdue, we have a long history of being a leader in the field of computing.  (After all, Ctrl+Alt+Del was invented by Purdue alum David Bradley.)  Since we’re a pretty geeky campus anyway, it is more than a matter of professional pride, there’s street cred on the line too.  After building a large compute cluster last year, the research computing group on campus decided it needed to be one-upped this year.

Once again, volunteers from around Purdue and a few other institutions gathered to set up the cluster in a single day.  Once again, we finished way ahead of schedule.  This year, approximately 650 nodes went from box to OS install in less than three hours.  Jobs were already running by lunch time.

The process wasn’t entirely smooth though.  For reasons not adequately explained to the volunteers, the 10 gigabit network cards (NICs) were not installed by the vendor.  That meant each machine that was installed had to first be opened and have a NIC installed.  That is what I did for two hours yesterday morning.

The NIC installation process wasn’t too difficult, there were only 4 screws to contend with.  The organizers had expected 15 NICs per person per shift would be installed.  I did 42 in my two hour shift, and several others installed 50 or more.  At several points, they couldn’t get the machines unboxed and on our tables fast enough.

Several hundred more nodes will be installed once the external funding is processed, and it is likely that Coates will end up reaching the maximum capacity of just over 1200 nodes.  This gives it over 10k cores, all joined by 10 gigabit Ethernet connections.  This allows an obscene amount of data to be processed and transferred, which is very helpful in big-data fields like the atmospheric sciences.

Expectations are high for Coates.  It is, like Steele was, the largest compute cluster in the Big Ten at build-time.  Coates is expected to rank in the top 50 internationally when the supercomputer rankings come out in November.  Coates is also expected to be the first academic cluster connected solely with 10Gb that is big enough to achieve international ranking.  Perhaps most importantly, Coates is expected by Purdue researchers to facilitate some serious science.

Even though my contribution didn’t require much technical skill, I take pride in the fact that a whole rack of nodes can transfer data on the fast because of the network cards that I installed.  This cluster is a big deal to those who care about clusters, and it is really nice to be a part of something so geekily awesome.  If you’re one of those people who care about clusters, the technical details are at http://www.rcac.purdue.edu/userinfo/resources/coates/

One small website for a man, one giant website for mankind

Like many other kids, I spent a fair amount of time lying on my back with my feet on the seat of a chair.  That was the only way to pretend to be an astronaut.  As I got older, I discovered that the Louisville Science Center had a mockup of the Gemini capsule that you could get in.  Only one of the two seats was open, and many of the controls were behind plexiglass, but that didn’t matter.  There were switches I could switch and no trip was complete without sitting in the capsule for far longer than any normal kid would.

Although the dream of being an astronaut slowly gave way to reality, I never lost my fascination with the spectacle of manned space flight.  It seems fitting that, although I never set foot in an astronautics class, I attended the “Cradle of Astronauts.”  Purdue University has contributed 22 astronauts to NASA (including two on the current shuttle mission), but the most famous has to be Neil Armstrong.  You may have heard of him.

Purdue has buildings on campus named for Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, two alum who were tragically killed in the Apollo 1 fire.  In 2007, a third astronaut-named building was dedicated.  Armstrong Hall stands majestically at the corner of Northwestern and Stadium Avenues — the brick, glass, and steel shaped in such a way as to evoke the thought of flight.  On a chilly October morning, I joined hundreds of others to stand in the mud and witness the dedication ceremony.  I knew this would be a very memorable moment for me because of the list of speakers.  Of course the University’s president and the Dean of the College of Engineering would speak, but also there would be remarks from the most recent man to walk on the moon: Purdue alumnus Gene Cernan.  Oh yes, and NEIL EFFING ARMSTRONG!

Neil Armstrong, by all accounts, is just a guy who wants to get the job done and get back to being Neil.  For years he has shunned the spotlight, rightly arguing that he was just one man on a team of many who succeeded in the goal of putting humans on the moon.  He is reclusive, so it is very rare to get the opportunity to hear him speak, so there was never any doubt that I would go and watch.  I don’t even remember what he said, I just remember that the entire time he was speaking I completely geeked out.  “OMG!  This is Neil Effing Armstrong!”

Later that day, the Purdue football team played host to Northwestern.  A while back, a tradition what started that I don’t particularly care to partake in.  At the end of the third quarter, a guest of some sort will wave a large flag out of the press box window and give some variation of “Hey Boilermaker fans, it’s time to shout!” and then Otis Day and the Knights will regale us with their version of the lively tune while the fans occasionally join in.  Well on this particular day, who should be waving the flag but Neil Effing Armstrong!  I had no choice but to shout.  If Neil Effing Armstrong says to do something, you do it.

On the same note, the football team was losing 14-17 at the end of the third quarter.  In the fourth quarter, the Boilermakers scored 21 unanswered points to win 35-17.  Clearly the thought process was “hey, this guy walked on the damn moon.  The least we can do is win a football game for him.”  If only we could get Neil Effing Armstrong to show up to all of the football games.

So later today, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Unfortunately, some of us didn’t exist when it happened originally, so we can’t relieve it in our minds.  Fortunately, everyone can relive it on the internet.  The JFK Presidential Library is re-creating the entire Apollo 11 mission in real time at www.wechoosethemoon.com.  You can be sure I’ll be following it closely, and re-living the dreams of my childhood.