CCL: Workshop on Computational Biophysics (Berkeley, Aug 3-7, 2015)

On May 20, 2015, at 9:38 PM, Billy McCann <> wrote:

Sent to CCL by: Billy McCann [thebillywayne]~[]
Are you sure a discrete graphics card is required?

That they specify a "graphics card" and not a "graphical processing
unit" indicates, to me, that this workshop requires a laptop with a
*discrete* graphics card and not an integrated graphics solution.
Also the specific brand mentioned, nVidia, supplies *solely* discrete
graphics solutions in consumer grade laptops.

Also, consider the advice given regarding the Mac platform:
"Macintosh computers often come with sufficient graphics processing
power, so no additional card is necessary."

By inference, non-Macintosh computers  *will* need an additional card.

Overall, reading the laptop requirements page leaves me somewhat
confused. (".... up-to-date hardware, operating systems, and software
.... Windows 2000, Max OS X 10.3 ... G4 ... Pentium 4 ..." ???)

The system specs listed are very low — in the Windows realm, they don’t even mention Windows 7 or 8 (although I am sure that those would probably be fine since they are successors to XP & Vista). They also mention a Pentium 4 processor with 512 MB RAM — a processor that was common from 2000 to 2008. Most systems now are Core i5 or Core i7, and even low-end systems have at least 1 or 2 GB of RAM, so 512 MB RAM is a very low requirement.

In the Mac realm, the G4 processor (minimum requirement) is 10-15 years old, and predates the intel Macs. OS X 10.3 is also very low — their up to 10.10 (Yosemite) now (having left the era of the “big cats” behind several versions ago). And even my iPhone has more RAM than the 512 MB minimum requirement they specify.

From my own experience with molecular dynamics simulations, I do think that a discrete graphics card will be an advantage, however. And as a Mac user, I may disagree with the statement that, “Macintosh computers often come with sufficient graphics processing power, so no additional card is necessary.” In fact, the higher end MacBook Pros do come with quite powerful nVidia or AMD graphics boards (the new ones have intel graphics as well, which they use for light tasks such as word processing, and switching into the higher discrete graphics for gaming or graphics visualization as needed). I have had students working with the FoldIt protein folding game using low-end Macs without discrete graphics cards that have not been able to complete the introductory levels of the game, as their computer crashed for not enough power (but these students also had low amounts of RAM as well).

Intel-based graphics has also come a long way, too. And an intel-based graphics with sufficient system RAM (say at least 8-16 GB) should be able to perform at least comparatively to some of the earlier discrete graphics boards from several years ago (such as the nVidia Geforce Ti4600 mentioned). But if you have 4 or less GB of system RAM, you could have problems.

I think if you’re uncertain whether your system meets the minimum requirements, the best approach would be to contact the workshop organizers and send them your system specs and ask them directly what their recommendation is. After all, they should be familiar with everything that they are planning to conduct, and would be most knowledgeable in finding out where your system falls short.

Derek J. Cashman, Ph.D.

"A drug is any substance which, when injected into a rat, produces a publishable, scientific paper."