Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Restrictive Software, Crazy Computer Administrators...

... and other causes of heartburn!!

God! I hate software which feels the need to own its user and thrives in its user-unfriendliness. The one I'm referring to now is this Finite Element code called ABAQUS which has led to a few ulcers spawning inside my body ever since I had the misfortune of running into it when I started my Ph.D. I swear, the software tries its utmost to be unhelpful. The documentation that comes with it is laughably inadequate when it comes to debugging errors. While I usually manage to find the bug after a couple of days of despair, this time, I think I have run into a titanium wall!. The program gives the message: "Error code 5. Access is denied" and basically stops running! I guess it never occured to the Einsteins in the software team to include an explanation of the error codes! Either that or they have hidden it well! Really, really, really well!

And obviously, the computer adminstrators in my university have no idea what this error means! No way, that would make things too easy! Of course, given the brain damage it seems to require for someone to qualify as a computer administrator, they wouldn't have helped much anyway. When I run into problems, usually brought about by that other paradigm of user-friendliness, UNIX, and am forced to turn to these Hitler-wannabes for help, they start by giving me a look that plainly says: "Do I really have to explain to this idiot he has to modify the kernel at the machine level in order to properly emulate the startx terminal?" (That probably makes no sense but they either say something like that or something like "Ok, you look at the keyword and type "L-O-G-I-N". You with me so far?") There is no middle-ground with these chaps, I swear, its impossible to communicate with them!

(another ulcer has grown while typing the above)

Now to more unversal reasons for hearburn...

Sharapova's brutal defeat of Sania Mirza. Yes, it was expected, but my friends and I were really crushed after seeing how unprofessional Mirza's game was. Granted, she's a newcomer, the first Indian girl to do all that, but, come on, she could have at least been a trifle better. I sincerely hope that she works hard on that second serve of hers and on the consistency of her groundstrokes (which were spectacular when they came off). Here's wishing her luck!

Then there's the Indian cricket team...Boo hoo hoo :(

That's enough hearburn for the day. Now for some good news. India aside, this has been a spectacular season for sports. First, there was the Ashes, awesomely entertaining, one of the best, if not THE best series of all time. Who'd have ever thought Australia would go on the defensive? (I'm referring to Ponting complaining about being picked on for the team's failures). And now, after two days Australia look to be in a good position after Warnie stepped up.

And how about the US Open, y'all? It seems to me that this has been the most competetitive Grand Slam I have seen, especially in the Men's side! What quality? How many 5-setters? What power? Blake, Dent, GInepri, what amazingly physical players? The magic of Fabrice Santoro! The Blake-Agassi match! Blake-Nadal! Dent-Hewitt! And on the women's side, Clijsters taking out Venus! And now she's up against Sharapova!

It's a pity I didn't realize earlier that the US open would be on during the Labor Day weekend. Else a trip to NY city would have definitely been on the cards!


Blogger Anantha said...

I do agree with the fact that the program is unfriendly, but it is one program that can simulate almost anything. I used it for my thesis, and I do agree its not the easiest, but surely is the most powerful. I simulated some funny rubber deformations and hysteresis in it. I agree that he manuals for it are like law books (a million volumes), and finding info in it can be quite tough. And if the program crashes, there is no way you can release the license. It has to automatically release itself, which can sometimes take a couple of hours. I was lucky that there were quite a few licenses in VT which i could lock up ;) All said, I do empathize with you.

4:59 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

i agree its powerful, dude, but those guys absolutely DO NOT care about the user! Other than what I wrote, get this: in the latest version, ABAQUS CAE and Viewer are no longer compatible with UNIX! WHy? For what reason?

9:09 AM  
Blogger Anantha said...

wow, thats news. I always used the CAE to verify my coded input. And I did it on a Fedora Machine. Yeah, that sucks! Good luck with your PhD man :)

9:24 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Thanks (I think...)

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello santosh,

I too am in a simialr situation as you. Same error code 5, access denied. Could you figure out the solution for it? I use XP OS. by the way I am anand.

3:49 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Yeah, according to the people at ABAQUS Tech. support, the PC is probably running out of memory. The problem shouldn't occur if the program is run in UNIX, as was the case for me. (It just took a loooot longer). Here is their exact answer:

"Error code 5 on a Windows machine translates into "Access is denied" and refers to memory problems. You have already tried running the input file on a Unix platform (64 bit vs. 32 bit) so it is most likely the case that the PC is simply running out of memory.

A less frequent occurrence is when the PC runs out of disk space, but usually a different error is printed in that case- one that is more descriptive.

If you monitor the memory use on the Sun you can see if it exceeds 2 Gb- if so, it is most likely overtaxing the PC."

You know, the reason I mentioned the exact error code (in the blog entry) is in the hope that someone who had the same experience would maybe see it and get in touch. I'm glad it worked!

And finally, the above reply from Tech. Support was free only because I asked the question within 45 days of installation of the new ABAQUS version. Otherwise it gets pricey $$$$

7:10 AM  
Blogger Anantha said...

I am sure your school would have some sort of tech support which they pay for. VT had paid for tech support and ABAQUS owed us an answer each time we sent in a question. i am sure Purdue must have it. Worth finding out

7:18 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Well, unfortunately Purdue doesn't!! The main computer admin. here told me that ABAQUS offers 10-hour increments of tech support for $800 each and apparently the professors here weren't interested in chipping in for it :(

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

googled for ABAQUS + Error CODE 5 and voila! landed on ur blog...

did you figure out what it meant? howz ur phd commin? am still tryin to figure out y my abaqus aborts...

5:59 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Hilarious! If you look at one of the above comments, you'll see that it means that the PC is running out of memory i.e. the job is too large for Windows to handle. You'll have to run it in UNIX where you have pretty much unlimited memory if you are running it in your university network, for example.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry for this abrupt comment. i am almost desperate with the ABAQUS. same message with you, error code5, access is denied. faint with ABAQUS, i tried two times, and aborted at different increment, one is around 440, one is around 420. funny thing is i have runned a bigger model on the same computer, and seems ok. but this time not work.....
by the way, how do you fix it finally?
sorry, i use anonymous, coz i donot have a user name on blogger...

2:48 PM  
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