cluster using handhelds

Joel Jaeggli joelja at
Wed Sep 10 18:22:19 EDT 2003

On Wed, 10 Sep 2003, Jim Lux wrote:

> At 02:22 PM 9/10/2003 -0700, Joel Jaeggli wrote:
> >I could trivially do it with both my zauruses right now... the real
> >question is why...
> Which model of Zaurus, and what sort of wireless network interface (CF or 

5500sl it/they have cf wireless cards... you can pretty much get the whole 
arm build enivironment and toolchain on a large mmc card in the sd card 
slot. you can run open zaurus or the debian arm distro on them in a pretty 
simple fashion... They also have serial port pinout on the jack on the 
bottom which you can get a cable for so serial consoles are feasable. also 
they have keyboards so failing around on a text consoles is feasable.

> I'm looking at a distributed measurement application where each processor 
> needs to be able to talk to some local hardware and to share measurements 
> with other processors. I also need to distribute some computing across the 
> processors.  I'd rather not have to rewrite all the computing as platforms 
> change, so a standardized interface like MPI is attractive.
> Obviously, an alternative is a battery powered single board PC with a 
> suitable display and user interface, but, in the case of the handhelds, 
> someone else has already dealt with the hardware integration issues, and 
> the purchase price is generally lower than one would spend on all the 
> pieces.  I don't want to be in the PC design business, if I can avoid it.

basically the things that make me say why.... are the mips/watt equation 
on a pda is skewed by things like the active matrix display which is still 
power hungry even if the backlight is off. internal batteries, 
particularly with a wireless card inserted don't last useful lengths of 
time. in the zaurus's case about and hour and 45 minutes with the card in 
or maybe 6 without the card and the backlight turned all the way down. 
then we have the under-powered cpu's which for the 200mhz make it 
sufficent to compare to a cca 1993 pc which isn't bad but it's not huge 

We do a substantial amount of work around some embeded pc boards made by a
company called soekris engineering that come with
nice cases that might be appropiate for you application... in particular
it makes porting stuff a non-issue since i586 or 486 code will run happily
on them. I actually run a somewhat condensed version of redhat 8.0 on a
couple of their boxes. a number of people use them as wireless
accesspoints amount other things so they may be useful for you
application. they also have useful features that's pda's don't like gpio
pins. some of the models (4521) have very wide dc voltage operating ranges  
(11-56 volts) to accomidate things like power over ethernet.

> I note that the various variants of Linux at (formerly, and 
> possibly still, supported by Compaq) don't support the current versions of 
> iPaqs being sold by HP. This, in itself, is kind of a worrying trend, 
> because I've already got enough orphan hardware and software sitting 
> around.

the life-cyle in the pda market, especially the wince pda market is very 
very short.

> (I've got ISA bus machines running win95 down in the lab, because 
> that's what's needed to run the incircuit emulators for the "no longer sold 
> in the commercial market but still sold for spaceflight" DSPs)
> >On Wed, 10 Sep 2003, Jim Lux wrote:
> >
> > > Has anyone tried building a cluster using handheld computers (i.e. iPaq or
> > > Palm type) that use wireless LAN (802.11) or IR for the interconnect?  Is
> > > there an implementation of MPI that will work in that environment (WinCE,
> > > PalmOS) (perhaps MPICH in some form?)
> > >
> > > Yes, I know the performance will be hideous.
> > >
> > >
> > > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Joel Jaeggli           Unix Consulting         joelja at
> >GPG Key Fingerprint:     5C6E 0104 BAF0 40B0 5BD3 C38B F000 35AB B67F 56B2
> James Lux, P.E.
> Spacecraft Telecommunications Section
> Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 161-213
> 4800 Oak Grove Drive
> Pasadena CA 91109
> tel: (818)354-2075
> fax: (818)393-6875

Joel Jaeggli  	       Unix Consulting 	       joelja at    
GPG Key Fingerprint:     5C6E 0104 BAF0 40B0 5BD3 C38B F000 35AB B67F 56B2

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