Free Coursera online course: Heterogeneous Parallel Programming

Posted by Erica on Nov 27, 2012 in Making, Web and Computer |

I’ve posted before about Stanford and Udacity free online courses. Tomorrow I am going to be starting another one, offered by Coursera. The topic is Heterogeneous Parallel Programming. From the course description:

All computing systems, from mobile to supercomputers, are becoming heterogeneous parallel computers using both multi-core CPUs and many-thread GPUs for higher power efficiency and computation throughput. While the computing community is racing to build tools and libraries to ease the use of these heterogeneous parallel computing systems, effective and confident use of these systems will always require knowledge about the low-level programming interfaces in these systems. This course is designed for students in all disciplines to learn the essence of these programming interfaces (CUDA/OpenCL, OpenMP, and MPI) and how they should orchestrate the use of these interfaces to achieve application goals.

Putting this in plain English, the graphics engine sitting on your computer’s graphics card is extremely good at processing large amounts of parallel data, and quickly. We’ve all seen the increase in realism with computer graphics. It turns out that these techniques can be used elsewhere, for example, with high-volume scientific data. The catch is that you have use a radically different programming paradigm, otherwise you get no performance benefit. I brushed up against this in a computer graphics course but we had little time to go in depth. Hopefully this will be a chance to gain a deeper understanding.

It will also be good to get back into some maker projects. The firefighting robot burned me out a bit, frankly. Of all the challenges I’ve undertaken in the past decade, it was the most demanding both physically and mentally (yes, it took more of a physical toll than Mountains of Misery; lack of sleep will do that). A good deal of creative energy has gone into learning the art of cooking, which culminated in a successful Thanksgiving. At some point I will post about all of that, as I’ve managed to do some interesting things beyond the sous-vide experiments. For now I am looking forward to this programming course, and an upcoming Nova Labs series that will ultimately grant me access to their new laser cutter.

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