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Showing posts from November, 2010

Christmas Comes Early

Christmas came early for one little girl at NAG Ltd. Being in charge of office services has its ups and downs (hands down a blocked loo or physically being up a ladder changing light bulbs) are part of my normal day. But a call from the local fire brigade certainly cheered me up. Since the fire service has stopped its annual building inspections we are now reliant on paying somebody to come in every year to carry out a risk assessment and for some reason these people are always rather bland and lacking in making their work (although serious) fun. Anyone who was here two years ago and was lucky enough to have training on the use of fire extinguishers would know this has to have been the best training course ever; it was a laugh from start to finish. The request was to familiarise themselves with the layout of the building so if there was ever a real emergency and they would have some background knowledge. They had promised to arrive in a full rig and I had expected one or two officers,…

Now you see it...

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A few weeks ago, I presented the HECToR scientific visualisation training course to a group of researchers at the University of Reading. This course looks at the use of visualisation as a tool for the improved understanding of numerical data (as produced, for example, by calculations or simulations run on HECToR). We started by exploring the different types of data - characterizing each according to its structure, dependencies and dimensionality - before reviewing the different visualisation techniques (such as contouring, particle tracing, volume rendering) that are applicable to each type. Some examples of the techniques, used to display a variety of data types from several application areas, are given in the figures below.Figure 1. Fluid flow around a cylinder Figure 2. Visualisation of MRI data, showing an aneurism Figure 3. Potential energy in the space between three atoms Next, we briefly reviewed a few applications for performing visualisation, of which there are a plethora …

Fortran Fame

I was standing on the NAG booth here at SC10 yesterday, muttering to myself about the difficulty of maintaining an internet connection in the exhibition hall. The organisers claim that there's more bandwidth available at SC10 than is used by any but the five largest countries in the world - I think they're exaggerating because I can never get any of it. Anyway, along came a dapper fellow wearing a baseball cap who started a converstaion about the way standards were being implemented in the NAG Fortran compiler. I asked whether he was interested in using Fortran. "Well, I used to be", he said. Belatedly I looked down at his name badge. It turned out to be Tom Lahey, founding father of the Lahey Fortran compiler. What could I do but shake his hand and bow.

It's a hard life.

Every year in November NAG staff attend SC, formerly known as SuperComputing, an annual showcase where computer hardware and software vendors can display their goods and services, along with a huge technical agenda covering all aspects of HPC and scientific computing. The show moves around different cities in the United States. This year SC10 is in New Orleans, Louisiana, and running from 14th to 21st November, with around 10,000 registered attendees. It's the 23rd outing since the first one which took place in Orlando, Florida in 1988. NAG has attended every single one of these events, and is one of just a handful of outfits to do so. New Orleans was founded in 1718 by French speculators interested in making money from trade and finance, and named after the then French Regent, Philippe, Duke of OrlĂ©ans. In the mid-eighteenth century it was ceded to the Spanish. They're the ones who actually created most of the characteristic architecture in the heart of the city now known as…

Looking forward to meeting people with new ideas at Supercomputing.

I’m someone who enjoys talking with people at exhibition booths and the International High Performance Computing event, which is being staged next week (http://sc10.supercomputing.org/ ), will provide good opportunities. Here is a chance to spend time with many current and future users of NAG products and services as well as with NAG collaborators. Attendees at this conference and exhibition work in such a variety of different areas that the conversations are always fascinating and informative. Meeting with people face-to-face inevitably triggers more new ideas, and results in innovative solutions being created faster, than any electronic communication method. I look forward to meeting some of you there (NAG have Booth #3131 – right at the heart of the main hall).

Creative Programming

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As I was being asked to write this blog post my brain awoke from it's number crunching stupor and I realised that I couldn't think of anything to write. The past few hours of sitting, programming in front of a computer seemed to have wiped out the artistic half of my mind. I know at least for myself that staring at a monitor seems to obliterate all of my thoughts until I've finished the click clacking and click clicking of my current task and I can finally put blessed ink to physical paper to plan my next step. So in order to re-enliven my thinking and my creativity, I sought a nice picture of a stunning scene. There's nothing like the beauty of creation to awaken something deep in your heart. As I was quickly sketching the above picture to get the other half of my brain warmed up to it's full creative potential, I started wondering about creativity in programming. Firstly there is the beauty of the written code itself, the ideas encapsulated within it and t…