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Currently, I am still working on this computer, so there will not being images of it until completion, but here is an overview of what I envision.

Sherlock is too large to be useful right now. Having so much complexity is really a downside when having to track all of the services and platforms its running. Do not even mention security, because that is a whole different ballgame of nonsense. Also worth mentioning is that the whole system weighs slightly under 700lbs.

Watson was great, but I killed it, with water. A lot of water. Oof.

I needed some hybrid of the two, something with a ludicrous amount of computational power in a small(ish) package. Also, I wanted to experiment, because that’s just what I like.

Laplace’s Demon is therefore the best amalgamation of the two possible. Mid-range single core clock speed, high core count, graphics that exist, and a workable amount of storage. (Have you ever tried to run Gnome or Windows on a RageXL card? Its the computer equivalent of pulling teeth.)

I put some components together, combined with some purchased recently to build something best described as a full-blown server masquerading as a workstation.

Here is the current loadout:

  • Dual Xeon E5-2660 8 Core, 2.2Ghz (Base) Processors
  • 192 GB (24x8GB) ECC DDR3
  • Supermicro X9DR3-LN4F+ Motherboard
  • Nvidia Quadro K4000 GPU
  • Quad Xeon Phi 5110P Coprocessors
  • 7x Seagate 3TB 7.2k SAS Drives
  • Quad Crucial M550 256GB SATA SSDs
  • Dual Samsung 850 256GB NVMe SSDs
  • Dual 1K28P-SQ 1280W Supermicro PSUs
  • A crazy looking hand welded 4U frame with handle

Sue me, but it runs Windows Server 2019. Not the obvious first choice, but I was limited by the crown jewels of the build, the Xeon Phi’s. I am also starting to enjoy Hyper-V, but the lack of GPU acceleration really throws me off. Having the K4000 available to the host really helps, as development on the machine natively is much easier than ssh-ing in and hoping for the best.

I also am so afraid of Windows implementation of large storage volumes (ReFS), that currently using a FreeNAS VM with all the SAS drives passed through is a better option.

The Xeon Phi’s are, to most people, a crazy investment. They only really support FORTRAN and C++/C, only work with highly parallelized workloads, and have hardware/software compatibility problems so numerous you would be lucky to even get the things accessible. So I bought four. So far, they have not been doing much other than making the room hotter (300W TDP), but I’ve been able to run a few MPI test programs on them. I hope to get NEK5000 working on them before my internship at Argonne ends for the Summer, but they are challenging to work with. Not that I did not know that ahead of time.

One of the biggest problems is heat. Laplace’s Demon is incredibly power dense, being able to pull 2560W in 4U. Right now, cooling it is a few SUN Ace 40s, but they run at 14000RPM+ (the fans are pegged at max speed), making them rival the sound output of a small airfield. Temps look great across the board, only pulling about 50*C at max load across both CPUs. I’m looking into controlling them with an Arduino, but time is not my friend right now.

Finally, I get a lot of funny looks when people see it, for two reasons. One, it’s 85 pounds and massive for a computer. Two, its name. I won’t get into how I came up with it, and why I am using it, but both are integral to the design of the computer. Essentially, Laplace’s Demon is a being that could theoretically compute the past and future using the known positions, momentum, and interactions of every particle in the known universe.

I’ll update this page when the system is mostly complete, but for now, its still under construction.


It’s not completely done, but it is to the point where I am using it as my daily driver for work. Here are some pictures to hold over the page until I make the full writeup:

The Unpainted Steel Frame for Laplace’s Demon
Welding Three Flat Steel Bars Together in Place
The Fan and Light’s Controller, Being Wired.
The Fan and Light’s Controller, Fully Built and Ready to Go
Laplace’s Demon Being Built
Laplace’s Demon Mostly Complete.
Laplace’s Demon Stress Testing