cluster using handhelds

Joshua Halpern jhalpern at
Thu Sep 11 09:34:24 EDT 2003

IF you really wanted to do this, one way would be to contact a large 
organiztion that had a lot of the same kind of laptops with broken 
display screens/keyboards...much more bang for the buck at less power 
and they probably WANT to give them to you.  Of course the power brick 
farm would be interesting.

Josh Halpern

Jim Lux wrote:

> At 04:48 PM 9/10/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>> 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.
>> Ok, I can not help but to comment.
>> Once upon a time, just for S&G's, we spec'ed out a T-FLOP cluster out of
>> PalmPilots. Assuming no space for wiring, we figgured we could fit
>> about 144 of my Palms into a cubic foot.
>> Crammed floor to ceiling, had our building had 1,500 stories, it would
>> have almost held the thing.
>> Sorry for my silliness, but i still find it funny.
> You may laugh, but consider a structure that looks like a floppy ball 
> some 100 meters in radius with sensing elements scattered every 10-20 
> cm across the surface, each with it's own processor that needs to talk 
> to some (but not all) of the other elements to make the measurements.  
> Perhaps not TFLOPS, but a huge pile of small processors, nonetheless.
> Now consider that before anybody would give you the tens of millions 
> of dollars required to actually build such a thing, they'd want to see 
> some sort of credible demonstration that it's feasible to do the work 
> with processors of limited capability, but, yet, still general purpose 
> and programmable.
> Further, one probably doesn't want to spend a huge amount of time 
> designing processor nodes, but wants to buy something off the shelf, 
> preferably consumer mass market. One would also prefer something where 
> the internal architecture is published and understandable so that one 
> could make credible estimates of what that fancy custom element is 
> going to need.
> Hence the question about clusters of handhelds:
> handhelds are consumer mass market and cheap
> linux on a handheld is "open and visible" as far as internals go
> WinCE might be (depending on licensing, etc.  It's been a long time 
> since I was an "embedded windows" (forerunner to WinCE) developer)
> 802.11 is a wireless comm scheme with known properties.  The eventual 
> system would probably use something else (Snaggletooth, Forkbeard 
> (Bluetooth's son), Zigbee (802.15.4), CCSDS proximity link, or whatever)
> MPI because I'm lazy, and I already know how to use MPI for stuff.
> By the way, handhelds that can talk to a cmos/ccd camera and grab 
> frames on demand would be even better.
>> -- 
>> Rocky McGaugh
>> Atipa Technologies
>> rocky at
>> rmcgaugh at
>> 1-785-841-9513 x3110
>> http://67.8450073/
>> perl -e 'print unpack(u, ".=W=W+F%T:7\!A+F-O;0H`");'
> 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
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