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About Lev Lafayette

Crocodile Logo

Lev Lafayette has an MBA (Technology Management) from the Chifley Business School, where he was on the Dean's List, a Graduate Certificate in Project Management from the same institution, and an honours degree from Murdoch University in Politics, Philosophy and Sociology which is commented upon by the Vice-Chancellor of the time. Many years later he completed a Graduate Certificate in Adult and Tertiary Education at the same institution.

He is a certified PRINCE2 Practioner, and an Adult and Workplace Trainer. Clearly not satisfied with one masters degree, he's started another, this time a Master of Education at the University of Otago. With a interdisciplinary approach, Lev's interests include the political implementation of universal pragmatics, the relationship between communications technology and society, and comparative economic systems. On again and off again, he plods his way through completing a PhD in Social Theory as well.

Professionally however, Lev is an experienced systems administrator, specialising in the Linux operating system and scientific applications, a project manager, systems engineer, and quality management systems coordinator, specifically for ISO 9001 (Quality assurance) and ISO 270001 (Information Technology Security). He also does a lot of training for researchers and technical staff in Linux, High Performance Computing, mathematical programming, Postgresql, and related subjects, with graduates and post-doctoral learners from a variety of organisations including: RMIT, La Trobe University, the University of Melbourne, Deakin University, Swinburne University, Victoria University of Technology, Monash University, the Australian Synchrotron, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, the University of Sydney, Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Western Australia, the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, the Westmead Millennium Institute, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, and the Australian Institution of Marine Science.

Previous employment and clients include several years working as a computer systems trainer and database management for the Parliamentary Labor Party in Victoria. Following this he worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Timor Leste (East Timor) managing their computer network and providing training and technical expertise to that Ministry in their first year of self-governance. Dr. Ramos-Horta provided the following comments on his work.

Lev works for the Research Platforms group at the University of Melbourne, and prior to that Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing, as a systems administrator for Linux clusters. As per those roles, this site is mostly dedicated to issues concerning High Performance Computing, Scientific Computing and Supercomputing. Lev is involved in Linux Users of Victoria, having spent four years as President, two years as Public Officer, two years as Vice-President, a year as Treasurer and is now in his third year as an ordinary committee member. He is has a coordinating role in the annual Multicore World conference and typically take the role of MC.

The crocodile logo was designed by Victoria Jankowski. It was first used on the cover of Neon-komputadór, the first IT training manual for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in East Timor which was printed and translated by the United Nations Development Programme. The crocodile represents the Timorese people and is the emblem of their land. The integrated circuit represents their independent connectivity to the wider world.

You can also find a political site that Lev subscribes to, The Isocracy Network, a synthesis of several progressive political orientations, and RPG Review which covers his interests in roleplaying and simulation games. As a secular humanist with an interfaith perspective, he manages and contributes to the Lightbringers website. He also has a livejournal, which will probably be quite boring to anyone who doesn't know him personally.

That's enough of me talking about myself in the third person like Cerebus The Aardvark.

Installing R with EasyBuild: Which path to insanity?

There is a wonderful Spanish idiom, "Cada loco con su tema" which is sometimes massacred as the English idiom "To each their own". In Spanish of course it is more accurately transliterated as "Each madman with their topic" which in familiar conversation means the same, has a slightly different and is a more illustrative angle on the subject. With the in mind, which path to insanity does one take with R libraries and EasyBuild? A similar question can also be raised with other languages that have extensions, e.g., Python and Perl.

High Performance Computing in Europe : A Selection

For about two weeks prior and a week after presenting at the OpenStack Summit in Barcelona I had the opportunity to visit several of Europe's major high performance computing facilities, giving each a bit of a standard pitch for the HPC-Cloud hybrid system we had developed at the University of Melbourne.

Supercomputers: Current Status and Future Trends

The somewhat nebulous term "supercomputer" has a long history. Although first coined in the 1920s to refer to IBMs tabulators, in electronic computing the most important initial contribution was the CDC6600 in the 1960s, due to its advanced performance over competitors. Over time major technological advancements included vector processing, cluster architecture, massive processors counts, GPGPU technologies, multidimensional torus architectures for interconnect.

GnuCOBOL: A Gnu Life for an Old Workhorse

COBOL is a business-orientated programming language that has been in use since 1959, making it one of the world's oldest programming languages.

Despite being much criticised (and for good reasons) it is still a major programming language in the financial sector, although there are a declining number of experienced programmers.

Spartan: A New Architecture for Research Computing

Thursday July 30th, at the Gryphon Gallery at the University of Melbourne, was the official launch of the 'Spartan' high-performance computing and cloud hybrid. Speakers at the launch included Dr Stephen Giugni, Director, Research Platform Services., Prof Margaret Sheil, Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne., Professor Richard Sinnott, Director, eResearch and Professor of Applied Computing Systems., Mr Bernard Meade, Head of Research Compute Services, Research Platform Services, and yours truly, in my role as HPC Support Engineer, Research Platform Services.

As I argued in my presentation, the great advantage of Spartan is that it is designed around what users need. Based on research from the previous general compute resource, Edward, most people wanted to submit lots of jobs with a relatively small core count and memory footprint with data parallel approaches, but some really needed a large core counts with a fast interconnect. Putting the two types of users of the same system was not ideal. Also, engineers tend to want performance from a system, whereas managers want flexibility. Spartan provides both through its partitioning system. I am convinced that this will be architecture of future research computing.

Spartan's launch has received extensive media coverage, including high ranking sites such as HPC Wire, Gizmodo, and Delimiter. In addition to the aforementioned speakers, particular thanks must also be given to Linh Vu, Daniel Tosello, and Chris Samuel for their engineering excellence in helping put together the system, and to Greg Sauter for his project management (and for his photography). Welcome to Spartan!

Universal Numbers Presentation to Linux Users of Victoria, May 3rd, 2016

Due to underlow and overflow, computers suffer rounding errors. These errors are highly significant, computers make them constantly and with great speed. Sometimes those errors cost millions of dollars, or directly lead to a tragic loss of life. Many of these errors are caused by the way that computers store numbers. The use of scientific notation, as implemented by IEEE floating point standards, is not only imprecise, but also requires too many bits - which is costly in power, time, and money.

Password Praise in the Future Tense

Apropos the previous post, I am coming to the conclusion that University's are very strange places when it comes to password policies. Mind you, it shouldn't really come to much of a surprise - the choice of technologies adopted are often so mind-bogglingly strange one is tempted to conclude that the decisions are more political than technical. Of course, that would never happen in the commercial world. All this aside, consider the password policy of a certain Victorian university.

The constellation is changed, the disposition is the same

Ars Technica has reported of a relatively small GPU-Linux cluster which can crack by brute force standard eight-character MS-Windows passwords in under six hours. There are, of course, a reasons and caveats. Firstly, as online servers will typically block repeat password attempts, is system is most effective against offline password hashes, which then of course can be used for online exploits.

The Danger of Reusing Old Scripts

Did you know you can bring down an entire HPC cluster with an old script? Well, this week I had such an experience. As the systems administrator for a seriously aging cluster with over 800 post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers, "stress" is a normal part of daily life (for future reference: it's probably killing me).

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