dohashi

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14 years, 348 days
I am a Senior Software Developer in the Kernel Group, working on the Maple language interpreter. I have been working at Maplesoft since 2001 on many aspects of the Kernel, however recently I have been focusing on enabling parallel programming in Maple. I have added various parallel programming tools to Maple, and have been trying to teaching parallel programming techniques to Maple programmers. I have a Master's degree in Mathematics (although really Computer Science) from the University of Waterloo. My research focused on Algorithm and Data Structure, Design and Analysis.

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Computers with multiple processors have been around for a long time and people have been studying parallel programming techniques for just as along. However only in the last few years have multi-core processors and parallel programming become truly mainstream. What changed?

Here are some definitions for terms used in this post:

  • core: the part of a processor responsible for executing a single series of instructions at a time.
  • processor: the physical chip that plugs into a motherboard. A computer can have multiple processors, and each processor can have multiple cores
  • process: a running instance of a program. A process's memory is usually protected from access by other processes.
  • thread: a running instance of a process's code. A single process can have multiple threads, and multiple threads can be executing at the same on multiple cores
  • parallel: the ability to utilize more than one processor at a time to solve problems more quickly, usually by being multi-threaded.

For years, processors designers had been able to increase the performance of processors by increasing their clock speeds. However a few years ago they ran into a few serious problems. RAM access speeds were not able to keep up with the increased speed of processors, causing processors to waste clock cycles waiting for data. The speed at which electrons can flow through wires is limited, leading to delays within the chip itself. Finally, increasing a processor's clock speed also increases its power requirements. Increased power requirements leads to the processor generating more heat (which is why overclockers come up with such ridiculous cooling solutions). All of these issues meant that is was getting harder and harder to continue to increase clock speeds.  The designers realized that instead of increasing the core's clock speed, they could keep the clock speed fairly constant, but put more cores on the chip. Thus was born the multi-core revolution.

My name is Darin Ohashi and I am a senior kernel developer at Maplesoft. For the last few years I have been focused on developing tools to enable parallel programming in Maple. My background is in Mathematics and Computer Science, with a focus on algorithm and data structure design and analysis. Much of my experience with parallel programming has been acquired while working at Maplesoft, and it has been a very interesting ride.

In Maple 13 we added the Task Programming Model, a high level parallel programming system. With the addition of this feature, and a few significant kernel optimizations, useful parallel programs can now be written in Maple. Although there are still limitations and lots more work to be done on our side, adventurous users may want to try writing parallel code for themselves.

To encourage those users, and to help make information about parallel programming more available, I have decided to write a series of blog posts here at Maple Primes. My hope is that I can help explain parallel programming in general terms, with a focus on the tools available in Maple 13. Along the way I may post links to sites, articles and blogs that discuss parallel programming issues, as well as related topics, such as GPU programming (CUDAOpenCL, etc).

My next post, the first real one, I am going to explain why parallel programming has suddenly become such an important topic.

I noticed that the urls for forum topics are of the form: beta.maplesoft.com/forum/forum_topic_urls The url is formed from the title of the topic. What happens when there are multiple forum posts with the same title? I assume the software is smart enough to deal with, but I wanted to make sure. I was going to do a test, but I figured I'd just ask instead. Darin
What is the point of the everthing but forum? It seems like the topics that might go in that forum could be just as easily (and perhaps more appropreately) posted as blog entries. Do people really want to discuss their hobbies in the Maple Primes forum? I think it is better not to have off topic forums like this because it might confuse less savy (or ESL) users.
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