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I am currently a .NET software developer(SQL Server, ASP.NET, C#, MVC & Web Forms). In my spare time I'm researching different areas of environmental science. E.g.(Hydrology, Ecology, Atmospheric Science...) I'd eventually like to be working in a scientific field contributing in some way to the preservation and healthy, efficient function of our home. Clean water is my biggest interest. I wanted to say all that so you could get a feel of what type of sci-computing I could be doing; I might be working with Weather models or hydrology models. I've also stumbled upon BOINC(Berkley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) and wouldn't mind have my machine work with some Distributed Scientific Computing. E.g. http://www.climateprediction.net/ .

What kind of processing power do I need? Could anyone recommend a sample build?

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Many of us in scientific computing simply have well-equipped laptops for regular software development tasks, some multicore workstations for smaller-scale testing, and access to clusters for larger runs.

To give you an idea:

  • My laptop is a Dell M3800 (4-core Intel i7, hyperthreading, 16GB of RAM). This is good enough to regularly compile my software and do small-scale tests with a few hundred thousand unknowns.

  • My lab has a few 64-core AMD Opteron processors and 128 or 256 GB of RAM. For myself, one of these would be good enough, but they are shared with colleagues and my students and postdocs.

  • We have a ~1200 core cluster and a ~16,000 core cluster on campus to which I have access.

I believe that many others in my field have similar setups.

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  • $\begingroup$ Awesome! Thank you for the guidance! Out of curiosity... What OS are you running on your laptop and what OSes are on the other two machines? $\endgroup$ – JohnOsborne Jun 1 '15 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ All of these run linux of some sort or other. I've used OpenSuSE on my laptops since 1996 (though the Dell above comes with Ubuntu and I've not bothered to switch). $\endgroup$ – Wolfgang Bangerth Jun 2 '15 at 3:26

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