Saturday 22nd February, 2014
2:40pm to 3:00pm
*This talk is part of the NEW FRONTIERS IN CITIZEN SCIENCE track*
Setting up a Crowd computing demo corner to explain distributed computing
AlmereGrid has started designing a “Crowd computing demonstration corner”. This will consist of two parts: a video wall and a micro demonstration desktop grid for demonstration and educational purposes. Core of this Desktop Grid demonstration corner are inexpensive Raspberry Pi computers that are well suited to demonstrate and communicate about distributed technology. A first partial set-up was ready in November 2013. A first complete set-up is planned for January 2014. The Desktop Grid demonstration corner description and software will be made available so that more Desktop Grid demonstration corners can be easily constructed.
First set-up of the Demonstrator corner
The first version is installed at the Big Data Value Center in Almere, The Netherlands. A lot of events are organised in the centre related to Big Data and distributed computing. The focus of this centre is on using the technology, hence there are many workshops, meetings, etc. For the centre, such a demo corner adds liveliness and a sense of technology. It makes abstract topics like distributed computing and Big Data more visible.
The goal of the video wall is twofold:
1. Continuously displaying videos with Desktop Grid information
2. Explaining distributed computing technology
For the technology we opted for inexpensive screens powered by Raspberry Pi computers. The inexpensive screens make the video wall very affordable.
The Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive credit card size computer developed by the University of Cambridge. It can run a full Linux (Debian) operating system and power a HD monitor. It is designed for educational purposes, but also very suitable for demonstration goals.
Video wall hardware
The video wall consists of 4 screens which are placed vertically. Each screen is called a “tile” so we have a 4-tile video wall.
Each screen is powered by a single Raspberry Pi. A fifth Raspberry Pi acts as the master that holds the video archive.
We used plexiglass to mount the Pis on. They are in the same order as the screens to ease explanation. The plexiglass secures and screens the Pis which are delicate while providing maximal flexibility for demonstration purposes. (We like to pull out a plug during demos to show how the data flows.) Text and pictures on the plexiglass aid explanations.
To hold the screens we put together an aluminium frame. Aluminium material is inexpensive and can easily be handled. For our linear set-up it further has the advantage that it is rigid. This makes aligning the screens easy.
Video wall software
The Raspberry Pis were loaded with the standard Debian operating system. As the basic video wall software we installed pwomxplayer, an adapted version of the standard Pi media player omxplayer.
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