June 2023 / Intro to Scientific Computing / HPC Summer Kickstart

Quick links

  • Videos are on YouTube in this playlist.

  • Final notes

    • Thanks to all who attended, we hope you enjoyed the course as much as we enjoyed giving it.

    • We know that this course was a lot. Learning scientific computing is a lot. If you felt overwhelmed, it’s OK: do what you can for your work, and keep referring back to our material as you work. Consider coming back next year for the course again - you’ll learn much more then.

  • You can still register to get HackMD access for Q&A. Sharing: You may definitely share the livestream with others!

  • Quick links

Kickstart is a three × half day course for researchers to get started with high-performance computing (HPC) clusters. The first day serves as a guide to skills you need in your career: a map to the types of resources that are available and skills you may need in your career, so that you can be prepared when you need more in the future. This part is especially suitable to new researchers or students trying to understand computational/data analysis options available to them. It won’t go into anything too deep, but will provide you with a good background for your next steps: you will know what resources are available and know the next steps to use them.

The second and third days take you from being a new user to being competent to run your code at a larger scale than you could before using a computer cluster. This part is good for any researcher who thinks they may need to scale up to larger resources in the next six months, in any field - this is many new researchers in our departments. Even if you don’t use computing clusters, you will be better prepared to understand how computing works on other systems. If you are a student, this is an investment in your skills. By the end of the course you get the hints, ready solutions and copy/paste examples on how to find, run and monitor your applications, and manage your data.

If you are at Aalto University: the course is obligatory for all new Triton users and recommended to all interested in the field.

This course is part of Scientific Computing in Practice lecture series at Aalto University, supported by many others outside Aalto, and offered to others as part of CodeRefinery.

Practical information

This is a livestream course with distributed in-person exercise and support. Everyone may attend the livestream at https://twitch.tv/coderefinery, no registration needed, and this is the primary way to watch all sessions. Aalto has an in-person exercise and support session (location TBA), as do some other partners, and a collaborative document is used for a continuous Q&A session.

Time, date: 6 – 8 June (Tue–Thu). 11:50-16:00 EEST

Place: Online via public livestream, Zoom exercise sessions for partners, and probably in-person discussion/practice rooms at some campus.

Registration: Please register at this link: https://link.webropol.com/ep/scicomphpc2023 . It’s OK to attend only individual sessions is fine.

Cost: Livestream is free to everyone. Aalto in-person is free of charge for FGCI consortium members including Aalto employees and students.

Additional course info at: scip@aalto.fi

Other universities

If you are not at Aalto University, you can follow along with the course and will learn many things anyway. The course is designed to be useful to people outside of Aalto, but some of the examples won’t directly work on your cluster (most will, anyway we will give hints about adapting). How to register if you are not at Aalto:

  • Regardless of where you are from, you may use the primary registration form to get emails about the course. You don’t get anything else.

  • Participants from University of Helsinki can follow how to connect to their Kale/Turso cluster by following their own instructions.

  • Participants from University of Oulu: please follow instructions on how to access the Carpo2 computing cluster.

  • Tampere: this course is recommended for all new Narvi users and also all interested in HPC. Most things should work with simply replacing triton -> narvi. Some differences in configuration are listed in Narvi differences

  • [no active support] CSC (Finland): Participants with CSC user account can try examples also in CSC supercomputers, see the overview of CSC supercomputers for details on connecting, etc.

If you want to get your site listed here and/or help out, contact us via the CodeRefinery chat (#kickstart-aalto stream). We have docs for other sites’ staff to know what might be different between our course and your cluster.


All times are EEST (Europe/Helsinki time)!

The daily schedule will be adjusted based on the audience’s questions. There will be frequent breaks and continuous questions time going on, this is the mass equivalent of an informal help session to get you started with the computing resources.

Subject to change

Schedule may still have minor updates, please check back for the latest.

  • Day #1 (Tue 6.jun): Basics and background

    • 11:50–12:00: Joining time/icebreaker

    • 12:00–12:10 Introduction, about the course Richard Darst and other staff Materials: Summer Kickstart intro

    • 12:10–12:25: From data storage to your science Enrico Glerean and Simo Tuomisto

      • Data is how most computational work starts, whether it is externally collected, simulation code, or generated. And these days, you can work on data even remotely, and these workflows aren’t obvious. We discuss how data storage choices lead to computational workflows. Materials: SciComp Intro

    • 12:25–12:50: What is parallel computing? An analogy with cooking Enrico Glerean and Thomas Pfau

      • In workshops such as this, you will hear lots about parallel computing and how you need it, but rarely get a understandable introduction to how they relate and which are right for you. Here, we give a understandable metaphor with preparing large meals. Slides

    • 13:00–13:25: How big is my calculation? Measuring your needs. Simo Tuomisto and Thomas Pfau

      • People often wonder how many resources their job needs, either on their own computer or on the cluster. When should you move to a cluster? How many resources to request? We’ll go over how we think about these problems. Materials: How big is my program?

    • 13:25–13:50: Behind the scenes: the humans of scientific computing Richard Darst and Teemu Ruokolainen

      • Who are we that teach this course and provide SciComp support? What makes it such a fascinating career? Learn about what goes on behind the scenes and how you could join us.

    • 14:00–14:45: Connecting to a HPC cluster Thomas Pfau and Jarno Rantaharju

      • Required if you are attending the Triton/HPC tutorials the following days, otherwise the day is done.

      • 14:00–14:20?: Livestream introduction to connecting

      • 14:??–15:00: Individual help time in Zoom (links sent to registered participants)

      • Break until 15:00 once you get connected.

      • Material: Connecting to Triton

    • 15:00–15:25: Using the cluster from the shell (files and directories) Richard Darst and Teemu Ruokolainen

      • Once we connect, what can we do? We’ll get a tour of the shell, files diretories, and how we copy basic data to the cluster. Material: Using the cluster from a shell.

    • 15:25–15:50: What can you do with a computational cluster? (Jarno Rantaharju and Richard Darst)

      • See several real examples of how people use the cluster (what you can do at the end of the course): 1) Large-scale computing with array jobs, 2) Large-scale parallel computing. Demo.

    • Preparation for day 2:

      • Remember to read/watch the “shell crash course” (see “Preparation” below) if you are not yet confident with the command line. This will be useful for tomorrow.

  • Day #2 (Wed 7.jun): Basic use of a cluster (Richard Darst, Simo Tuomisto)

  • Day #3 (Thu 8.jun): Advanced cluster use (Simo Tuomisto, Richard Darst)


We strongly recommend you are familiar with the Linux command line. Browsing the following material is sufficient:

How to attend: Online workshops can be a productive format, but it takes some effort to get ready. Browse these resources:

Technical prerequisites

Software installation

  • SSH client to connect to the cluster (+ be able to connect, see next point)

  • Zoom (if attending breakout rooms)

Cluster account and connection verification:

  • Access to your computer cluster.

  • Then, connect and get it working

    • Aalto (and possibly useful to others): try to connect to Triton to be ready. Come to the Wednesday session for help connecting (required).

Next steps / follow-up courses

Keep the Triton quick reference close (or equivalent for your cluster), or print this cheatsheet if that’s your thing.

Each year the first day has varying topics presented. We don’t repeat these every year, but we strongly recommend that you watch some of these videos yourself as preparation.

Very strongly recommended:

Other useful material in previous versions of this course:

While not an official part of this course, we suggest these videos (co-produced by our staff) as a follow-up perspective:

Community standards

We hope to make a good learning environment for everyone, and expect everyone to do their part for this. If there is anything we can do to support that, let us know.

If there is anything wrong, tell us right away - if you need to contact us privately, you can message the host on Zoom or contact us outside the course. This could be as simple as “speak louder / text on screen is unreadable / go slower” or as complex as “someone is distracting our group by discussing too advanced things”.


See the schedule