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Cameron and Tracey Hughes

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

HPC Joins the Dummy Revolution?

November 30, 2009

We've been trying to figure out exactly what the attraction is. What is it that causes someone to be drawn to a book that explicitly states that it's for dummies? Is it the yellow and black motif? Maybe because 'dummy' rhymes with 'yummy'? What exactly causes someone to reach for a book entitled 'X for Dummies'?

Is it that he/she is relieved that someone may have taken a complicated topic and have reduced to its most simplest representation? Or maybe the subject is so intimidating that one equates their level of understanding to that of a dummy?

So what are the 'For Dummies' book series describing? The presentation of complicated material to the uninitiated, those who are not familiar with the subject matter. Well there are others ways to present complicated material than to pigeon hole the demographic to whom the book is marketed. For example, 'An Introduction to', 'The Basic Principles of', 'The Fundamentals of', that would be okay. But the success of the book series is the rather tongue-in-cheek name, a silly character to take the edge off the subject matter, and recognizable look-and-feel and organization of the book that works.

The For Dummies series began in 1991 with the DOS for Dummies book. The series initially focused on software and techie topics. John Wiley & Sons acquired Hungry Minds/IDG Books in early 2001 while Cameron and I were writing our 5th book, Linux Rapid Application Development for IDG Books, (not a Dummies book by the way). This series is now popular all over the world with over 1400 titles about any subject (some complicated and some not) and over 150 million books in print. The fact that so many people all around the world flock to such titles that reference the reader as a dummy is interesting in itself.

So present company included, there is a Dummy eBook that I have to recommend, High Performance Computing For Dummies online. The book was written by Douglas Eadline, the senior HPC Editor for Linux Magazine and sponsored by a Sun and AMD collaboration. The book starts off with what is HPC of course and who should be using it (not just rocket scientists). It walks you through the 'cluster' concept, what constitutes a 'cluster', choosing the hardware and software, putting the cluster together, and introduces you to the HPC and Open Source communities. The book can be downloaded here.

If you haven't already done so, download the book and join the Dummy Revolution.

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