Summer Kickstart intro

Who are we?

  • Aalto Scientific Computing:

  • In collaborations with other universities (Finnish Computing Competence Infrastructure)

  • And one talk in collaboration with CSC

What is this course?

Course contents

  • Day 1

    • General big-picture stuff about high-performance computing

    • Some practical skills

    • Mostly lectures and demos

    • Quite generic

  • Days 2 and 3

    • Using a computer cluster

    • Aalto’s cluster as an example, but applicable to others.

    • Much more hands-on

Who is attending?

  • Multiple universities, with different clusters

  • Our demos based on Aalto University

    • May need adapting to other sites

    • We will carefully explain about how things change in other sites.


How the workshop works

When some people teach online, they can reach a few tens of people at once. We can reach hundreds.

We have an interesting strategy:

  • Livestream broadcast, like a TV production.

  • Anyone can watch.

  • There are pauses for exercises, you can work (alone or in groups).

  • If you want, be in Zoom and switch there for exercise sessions.

There are many parts of the workshop:

  • Talking and demos (livestream)

  • Type-along (livesteam)

  • Exercises (Zoom or alone or your own groups)

  • Breaks, at least 10 minutes/hour

Chat and communication

  • Please don’t use the Zoom/Twitch chat for questions: who can keep track?

    • Instructors won’t see

    • But you can for practical questions

  • Use HackMD for chat: questions in bullet points:

    View and edit modes at top
  • From here you can also find important links and reference.

  • You can switch between view and edit modes:

    View and edit modes at top
    • You have to switch to edit mode once to get live updates (then you can go back to view)

    • Please leave in view mode if you aren’t actively using it

  • Someone watches these and will answer or raise relevant questions by voice.

  • Don’t get overloaded! The point is you can read later.

  • Don’t include names or identifies in HackMD: it is public.

Icebreaker: Please answer the icebreaker question in HackMD

Where do you focus?

There is so much information! What should we look?

  • Screenshare and lecture

  • Your own type-along

  • HackMD (all important links should be pasted here)

    • Only look at the bottom.

    • Come back and read detailed answers later, not during.

  • Lesson webpage (as needed, direct links in HackMD)

Screen arrangement

Arranging your screen is surprisingly difficult!

  • We share a vertical window, so half of the screen is for us, and half is for demos.

  • Zoom “Dual monitor mode” (in the settings) gives you two windows which might be useful.

Screen layout with broadcast on one side and learner on other side

We are accessible to many learning styles

  • We have more material than we can cover, but…

  • Not everyone needs to take the same path

    • Some may prefer to watch passively and self-study later

    • Some may be active in all the exercises

    • Some may leave it on in the background and pay attention when things sound interesting.

    • Some may miss a part and review videos later that evening.

  • Our material is constantly being improved

    • This is more like a guided overview of our actual tutorials than a standalone course.

    • You can help us improve.

Care for the community

Be respectful and helpful

It is actually hard to teach and mentor for tech like this. The course is much more than “only” instructors..

We leave you with four pieces of advice for now:

  • Everyone here is at different levels, and that’s expected. Everyone will be learning different things, and everyone will focus on different topics. Passive learning is OK.

  • Everyone is both a teacher and a learner. If not now, after the course when you are helping others.

  • Take time to check in. For example, ask “how’s it going? is everyone getting what they need?”, in breakout rooms.

  • When something isn’t going right, speak (or HackMD) up quickly. We want to help, even if the answer is “let’s discuss later”.

What can go wrong

You get overloaded with information

  • Don’t worry!

  • Change your watching style and know material will be available for you to watch later.

  • Instant video replays help here, but the material is also open.

HackMD is too fast to follow

  • Don’t follow it. It’s published for future reference.

  • Only look at the bottom during the sessions. Review later.

  • Write your question and come back to it later.

HackMD lags and you can’t edit / text goes wrong

  • This sometimes happens with high load

  • We recently upgraded but it could still happen.

  • Everyone: Switch to “view mode” and wait for it to calm down.

  • The real solution is that we (the staff) need to keep it shorter - we will move older data to an “archive HackMD”. Screenshot of HackMD with a link to Archive HackMD outlined in a red box.

Screenshot with "archive link" highlighted

Location of archive link.

We don’t have time to cover everything

  • This is just a fact - sorry.

  • You can review later

  • Talk with collaborators and make your own study network

We deviate from the schedule

  • We try to stay on track

  • But this is going to happen

There are major accessibility problems

  • e.g. audio quality is bad, screen not visible, breaks not coming, unintelligble explanation…

  • Write the problem in the bottom of HackMD immediately.

The stream suddenly dies

  • Broadcaster’s computer has crashed.

  • Stay around and it will resume in about 5 minutes.

You don’t yet have some important software installed or configured

  • Oops… but it’s OK

  • Switch to “watching” mode and work on fixing it for the next day.

  • Ask for help if needed

You can’t attend every day

  • Review material later, raw Twitch video delay is ready immediately.

  • Better YouTube videos later

A cat visits one of the instructors

  • How is this a problem?

The course is too cool and you want to know more

  • Check out our advanced information

  • Ask your local supporters

Final notes


  • The course is recorded and will be put on YouTube

  • But because of our unique setup, you can’t possibly be recorded yourself.

  • Don’t add names in HackMD. Don’t post any personal information.

  • All outputs, including HackMD, are CC-BY and published.


  • We don’t assign credits for attending this course - we can’t track attendance.

  • Use what you learn here in the online course Hands-on Scientific Computing ( to get credits.

Join us!

We are staff at Aalto but welcome others to join us in allowing everyone to do scientific computing.

More on this later.