OCT 11

22.7 GHz of Vegetable Fueled Recycled Goodness

Written by on October 11, 2006


Imagine a place where your trusty old computer can continue to compute long after its components have become obsolete.  A place where the machine that you played solitaire on for hours now works out complex calculations, instead of being shipped to China for questionable recycling.   

The Alameda County Computer Resource Center ( ACCRC,) where "obsolescence is just a lack of imagination," has combined two of our favorite things, vegetable oil and old computers, in order to create something rather surprising: supercomputers. 

During MAKE: Magazine's Maker Faire in San Mateo this past summer, ACCRC collected old computers, clustered them and powered them using their own vegetable-oil fueled generator. CNET donated a dual-processor 1 GHz Pentium III server for them to use as their master node.  The slave nodes consisted entirely of discarded old computers collected during the Maker Faire. The software ACCRC used for their supercomputer was a modified version of ParallelKnoppix, which is a GNU/Linux Live CD.  
The cluster from the Maker Faire consisted of 31 PCs with a sum total processing power of 22.7 GHz and an average 733 MHz per node.  Their peak power consumption on their vegetable-oil-powered generator was about 30A. 

ACCRC not only builds supercomputers out of discarded computers they also give away free refurbished computers to schools, non-profit organizations, and economically and/or physically disadvantaged individuals.  It's time that we learn that 'obsolete' and 'useless' are two very different things.


14 Responses to “22.7 GHz of Vegetable Fueled Recycled Goodness”

  1. ken says:

    Veg oil generator – anyone?
    Veg oil power generation is not that new – Rudolph Diesel was doing it back in 1900.

    Have a look at this site


    It’s a 1951 single cylinder diesel engine generator that runs the whole house, heats the water and the rooms and uses about a US gallon of veg oil every 2.5 hours.


  2. beasty says:

    oil power?
    Props to the computing, but tell me more about this cooking oil generator… did they make that themselves? Are these things all over the place? Where can I get one?

  3. mb says:

    Nice trick, but don’t add gigglehurts, that’s why we have FLOPS.

  4. This thing though runs on cooking oil, you could use old cooking oil to fuel it.

  5. Sid Hoffman says:

    Horrible power consumption
    Well the US is supposed to be 110-120 with most household power ranging 115-120. Even if we use the low end of 115v that’s 3450 watts. 3450/22.7 = 152 watts per ghz of computing power. Using a kill-a-watt power meter, my AMD 2.2ghz system at full load uses only 115 watts thanks to it’s exceptionally low voltage. That’s 52w/ghz. A dual core will use more power, but not a lot more. Figure a dual core 2.4ghz would likely draw 140w for 29w/ghz of effective computing power. The quad cores likely have even better efficiency, and if you have a dual CPU motherboard, that improves it even further. Fully optimized, you could likely reach somewhere in the 20w/ghz at best.

  6. Keith says:

    Excellent but not Efficient
    The good thing is that old machines get recycled and reused, which is [url=http://www.neohide.com]totally environmentally friendly[/url]. However, at the same, we may overlooked the fact that by powering 30 over computers, it’s not going to be energy efficient.

  7. VNA says:

    I suppose you live in the USA so you use 110V connectors. U*I=P so 110V*30A=3300W
    I live in Hungary btw and I did not take GCSE yet.
    I didn’t want to offend you or any resident of the US I’m just surprised at some people in the USA.

  8. Interesting
    Yes, a new computers could probably be faster but you can make this with out spend alot of money. However I could see a few good uses for this. Such as a college department doing research. Image what this babby could do on folding@home!

  9. interesting
    I could see this used at a college for research purposes. Image what this could do for folding at home!

  10. Avery Knapp says:

    Amps aren’t a measure of power. Watts are. How many watts did this system use? My guess would be on the order of a thousand.

  11. Phil says:

    They should have chosen DOS 6.22 with and ran Interlnk Server on the 1ghz PII. That would have impressed me.

    Or, they could have added an analog modem per/node with an analog phone line, and hired 31 Pakistani operators for an instant old-skewl call center.

    Probably though, they should have used lighter fluid instead of veggie oil, piled the hardware up, ignited it, and had a big nasty geek orgy. That would have been more productive.

  12. Nate Lanxon says:

    This is so pointless, I love it! Superb waste of time for good reason.

  13. GTW says:

    It’s good to see vegetables being good for people in more than one way… we have to wait and see if the overweight computer geeks will start sacrificing their frying oil to power their computers… this might just be a multi-faceted achievement! :)

    Btw, just for reference… total processing power is not measured by the sum of the individual CPU speeds and it won’t be accurate for several reasons such as software and hardware scaling inefficiencies, architecture differences between CPUs and interconnect qualities etc. The accepted way to measure the outputs of clusters used for high performance computing (HPC) is by the total number of floating point operations that can be done in a second (on average).

  14. Western Infidels says:

    Yes, But
    That’s dandy and all, but I think it’s likely that a mere handful of the latest-and-greatest CPUs would provide equivalent processing capacity while consuming dramatically less electricity.

    If one adopts the near-meaningless convention of adding up all the CPU clock speeds to get “22.7 GHz,” for example, then a single tricked-out Mac Pro machine scores 12 GHz (4 cores X 3GHz) all by itself. And it’s [url=http://techfreep.com/eight-core-mac-pro-a-reality-with-clovertown.htm]possible to run two quad-core CPUs in a Mac Pro[/url], scoring, by this silly method, something like 20 GHz [i]in a single box[/i]. I don’t know how much power that consumes, but I bet it’s a [i]lot[/i] less than 30A.