Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Parallelization problems and Python procrastination

I've been working on porting my simulation over to the big cluster at work with no success. It won't compile with the nifty hardware-specific compiler, so I've been using gcc (Hooray for GNU! It's everywhere!), which isn't the recommended compiler for this system. I can make small simulations run, but as soon as I try a large test I get a segmentation fault. It doesn't help that it is a non-deterministic bug. Argh! At least I've gotten familiar with TotalView, a rather spiffy debugger that can handle parallel programs nicely. It's memory debugging tools have helped me eliminate every obvious possibility for what the problem could be.

Fortunately (sort of), I have established that the problem does not lie in my code (at least not entirely), since a small example written by the guy whose library I am using also fails mysteriously. It's either a problem with his code or with something lower down. Perhaps something isn't configured properly on the cluster. Whatever it is, I have sent this other guy a number of emails with details of all the things the problem isn't.

Now that I've dumped the problem in someone else's lap, I need to get back to work on something else. I contemplated adding some new functionality to the simulation, but decided to explore Python instead. I've been thinking that this would be an interesting language to learn, if I could find a reason to learn it, and today I came up with one. I need to do some data conversion from one file format to another to generate the XML input files for my simulation from the input files from the software we hope to replace. I have been using SXML, which let's me manipulate the XML as S-expressions in Scheme, but the many standard libraries of Python are tempting me. There are people here at work that use Python, which is kind of nice. I'm going to try to write something useful in it tomorrow to see if I want to continue down this path.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Rambling, and a book recommendation

Time has passed and my wine festival sunburn has faded to a pinkish tan on the back of my neck. My skin is not designed for direct exposure to sunlight. I should hide during the day and only scuttle out from under my rock when the sun is low in the sky. *grin*

Glancing out my window just now, I see four shirtless young men in short running shorts exiting the house across the street and strolling off down the sidewalk. I'm not sure if they are heading out for a run and are just warming up with a bit of a walk first, or if it is laundry day over there and the shorts were the only thing they have that is clean. They weren't giving off a crazy runner vibe, so I'm guessing some sort of low-key exercise in the park down the street.

When I find myself sitting at my desk, watching people through my window, I sometimes wonder if this is how nosy old ladies get started. Will email and blogging change the spread of gossip? I think of how much information some of my older relatives spread just by word-of-mouth and wonder how much more dangerous they would be if they didn't fear computers. (Of course, spreading information in a written, public forum does make it easier to organize and verify. News in my family often gets distorted like a childhood game of Telephone.)

Speaking of family news, I forgot to post a link to my uncle's book when it came out last month. Dream-of-Jade: The Emperor's Cat was written by Lloyd Alexander (the author of The Black Cauldron and other award-winning books) and illustrated by Brent Burkett, my very cool uncle. If you are shopping for a child and want to give a well-written book with awesome illustrations that all ages will enjoy, please consider Dream-of-Jade (If you want to search for it on your own, the ISBN is 0-8126-2736-9)

Was that too blatant a promotion? It really is a good book.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Burning pain!

My husband and I went to a wine festival this afternoon and had a delightful time. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, the samples of food and wine were quite tasty. Did I mention the sun was shining? I always put on sunblock after my shower, but I have gotten rather accustomed to the coverage of work clothes and spending all day in an office building, as opposed to shorts and a v-neck t-shirt in a sunny open field. Let's just say I wasn't quite as thorough as I should have been. I have a ring of sunburn around my neck, clearly defining the space between my shirt collar and where I stopped applying sunblock. I also apparently forgot that there is a back to my legs and have much painful red skin along my calves and up to the back of my knees. Ouch!

My husband, wonderful man that he is, made a special trip to get me some soothing lotion to help with the pain. I'm not feeling too bad right now, but I'm really not looking forward to trying sleep comfortably tonight. I think I'll have to dope myself up with aloe vera and hold very still.