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HEP Leads The Computing World… Again! July 3, 2006

Posted by gordonwatts in physics life.

We used to lead the computing world. Clustered computers, custom circuits for custom algorithms, the web, etc.. Recently, with computing becoming such an important part of business that hasn’t been the case. On the other hand, that has meant cheap computing for us! But this quote from ex-Microsoft Scoble blogger gives me hope:

Gnomedex stands alone for one reason: it is the only conference where every attendee has a computer out and on.

He clearly hasn’t been to a recent HEP conference or workshop! I remember at a conference with about 200 people a few years ago Andy, talking about our Level 3 Trigger farm, said something like “the computers are off-the-shelf PC’s, much like everyone’s portable I see opened here.” Literally, talking at one of these conferences is a bit odd if you are have ever given a conference in the pre-PC days: you look out at a sea of portables. Is anyone actually listening to you talk!?

If you walk around behind all the glowing screens, and look at what everyone is doing you’ll see there is quite a mix. I’d say, on average, a good 25% have downloaded a local copy of the talk, email is probably the most ubiquitous app open. People are often working on their upcoming talk. Also, lots of people submitting jobs and looking at results.

To or not to have wireless in a conference room is a conversation that, surprisingly, conference planners continue on to have to this day (and the parallel conversation: should we have power outlets or not?). For me, I see a direct parallel to my teaching: the students will read a paper in your class. There is really nothing you can do about it. About the best you can do is shut them down if they are making distracting noise.

My opinion? The more access and the more power outlets the better. Who knows, maybe they will look up the new fitting package you are talking about and start to read up details while you go on in your talk! At the conference I’m currently planning for later this summer I’m doing my best to make sure there is plenty of wireless and plenty of power cords…



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