Dabbling with virtual machines

The software I’m using to do some of the Monte Carlo simulations (PCXMC) for my PhD research is Windows based (fortunately it runs without any issues under Wine) and single-threaded, which makes some of the larger simulation sets I’m doing extremely inefficient when running them on my computer. The PCXMC window would also pop up every 5 minutes or so when another simulation started up and interrupt whatever I was trying to do at the time. It was tolerable since the smaller sets only took a few hours to complete, but I decided I was going to need a better solution.

One solution I attempted was to try running multiple instances of PCXMC, but they ended up clobbering each other and was just ugly.

The next obvious solution was to run PCXMC in a virtual machine (VM). Until now, I haven’t had much need to learn much about creating and managing VMs but they seem like a perfect solution to the problem. I can spin up a few VMs to run PCXMC and have each of them run different parts of the larger simulation sets or different simulation sets.

Virtual Machine Manager , I’ve discovered, is a super handy utility that makes creating and keeping track of VMs super easy. It offers a nice intuitive GUI interface for creating and managing VMs. I can use a live ISO image of my choice to create a new VM with the amount of RAM, storage, and number of CPUs needed. Once I’ve got a VM set up and configured with everything it needs, it’s easy to clone however many copies of the VM that will reasonably fit into my hardware.

Virtual Machine Manger window
Virtual Machine Manager window

The first VM I created had 500 GB of storage, 8GB of RAM, and 2 CPUs. Created a few more with only 250 GB of storage, 8GB of RAM and 1 CPU. Put four of these to work on one of the larger simulation sets over the weekend. The first time I ran a version of the set, it took about 10 days to finish on my computer. With 4 VMs each running a different part of the simulation set, everything was finished in about 2.5 days. Sweet. I can peek in on each VM with a viewer application to see how each one is running, but otherwise they run quietly and hidden away on their own. No more PCXMC windows popping up on my desktop to interrupt me while I’m doing other things.

Quickly realized that these VMs were way more than was needed, and 4 VMs with 8 GB of RAM each didn’t leave my computer with much memory left for doing much else (it only has 24 GB RAM). Next task will be to create some VMs with one of the other lighter Fedora spins (LXQT maybe) and a smaller footprint (100 GB storage, 4 GB RAM) to run PCXMC with.

Front yard rocket launch watching

It’s not often people in South Carolina can see a rocket launch, but the Atlas V launch trajectory for Boeing’s uncrewed Starliner test took the rocket over the Atlantic ocean along the US East coast this morning making this launch visible to a lot of people.

Most launches from Cape Canaveral head east out into the Atlantic, so this one was a bit different and made for an exciting early morning show.

We were watching the live stream of the launch on the phone, so when the Atlas V lifted off, we started scanning the skies. We were looking towards the east-southeast when a couple minutes after the lift-off, I looked over to the south and saw the exhaust trail of the rocket.

It was a pretty impressive sight to see something streaking across the sky that quickly.

Boeing uncrewed Starliner launch
Boeing uncrewed Starliner launch

We followed the rocket along until after the Centaur stage separated (I think that’s what it was) and it faded into the glow of the rising sun.

Atlas V exhaust plume from the Boeing uncrewed Starliner launch
Atlas V exhaust plume from the Boeing uncrewed Starliner launch

Unfortunately, some issues with the Starliner’s orbit insertion left it in an unsuitable state for meeting up with the ISS, but it’s still in orbit and I’m sure they’ll spend the next couple days running all kinds of tests before its scheduled landing in New Mexico on Sunday.

Computer upgrades

The computer got another hard drive upgrade when the 1TB drive holding my home directory started throwing errors and disappearing from the system. After causing a small amount of panic and a few reboots, the drive managed to stay stable enough for me to get it backed up to the LVM partition. Now it’s been replaced with a 1TB SSD which has given me a nice speed boost.

The nearly 10 year old mid-range (at the time) video card, a GTX 260, also got an upgrade to a much newer and higher end GTX 1660 Ti. The GTX 260 was getting pretty old, and I was starting to get some weird errors with the nouveau driver, so I figured it was time for an upgrade. The new card is about 2/3 the length of the GTX 260, which gives a little more room around the SATA ports and hard drives to work. Hopefully I’ll be able to put the GPU to some number crunching work at some point, and later maybe get into a bit of gaming (after the PhD of course).

KitKats: Canada vs USA

One of the things we brought back from our trip to Edmonton a few weeks ago was a variety box of Halloween candy: Aero, Coffee Crisp, Smarties, and KitKats.

Naturally, we got some US KitKats to compare with the Canadian KitKats. These are the mini Halloween sized candy bars, not the full size bars.

In Canada, KitKats are a Nestle product while in the US, they’re a Hershey product manufactured under license from Nestle. Size differences aside, they’re also a little bit different on the inside.

KitKat cross-section. Left: Canadian KitKat. Right: US KitKat

First thing that’s noticeable is that the layer (chocolate?) between the wafers is darker and more distinct in the Canadian KitKat. It’s hard to tell there’s anything between the wafer layers of the US KitKat, but it turns out the inter-wafer stuff just a different colour.

Between the wafers. Left: Canadian KitKat. Right: US KitKat.

Taste-wise, the Candian KitKat seems a little crisper, and a bit more chocolatey than the US KitKat. If I was doing a taste test, I’d choose the Canadian KitKat.