CMSC 714 High Performance Computing

Fall 2003 - Programming Assignment

Due Tuesday, September 30, 2003 @ 9:00 AM

The purpose of this programming assignment is to gain experience in parallel programming and MPI. For this assignment you are to write a parallel implementation of a program to simulate the game of life.

The game of life simulates simple cellular automata. The game is played on a rectangular board containing cells. At the start, some of the cells are occupied, the rest are empty. The game consists of constructing successive generations of the board. The rules for constructing the next generation from the previous one are:

    1. death: cells with 0,1,4,5,6,7, or 8 neighbors die (0,1 of loneliness and 4-8 of over population)
    2. survival: cells with 2 or 3 neighbors survive to the next generation.
    3. birth: an unoccupied cell with 3 neighbors becomes occupied in the next generation.

For this project the game board has finite size. The x-axis starts at 0 and ends at X_limit-1 (supplied on the command line). Likewise, the y-axis start at 0 and ends at Y_limit-1 (supplied on the command line).


Your program should read in a file containing the coordinates of the initial cells. Sample files are located and You can also find many other sample patterns on the web (use your favorite search engine on "game of life" and/or "Conway").

Your program should take five command line arguments: the name of the data file, the number of processes to invoke (including the initial one), the number of generations to iterate, X_limit, and Y_limit.


Your program should print out one line (containing the x coordinate, a space, and then the y coordinate) for each occupied cell at the end of the last iteration.


The goal is not to write the most efficient implementation of Life, but rather to learn parallel programming with MPI.

Figure out how you will decompose the problem for parallel execution. Remember that MPI (at least the mpich implementation) does not have great communication performance and so you will want to make message passing infrequent. Also, you will need to be concerned about load balancing.

One you have decided how to decompose the problem, write the sequential version first.


You should submit your program and the times to run it on the input file (for 1, 2, 4, and 8 processes).

You also must submit a short report about the results (1-2 pages) that explains:


To compile MPI, run the program usr/local/stow/mpich/bin/mpicc as your C compiler

To run MPI, you need to set a few environment variables:

setenv MPI_ROOT /usr/local/stow/mpich
setenv MPI_LIB  $MPI_ROOT/lib
setenv MPI_INC  $MPI_ROOT/include
setenv MPI_BIN $MPI_ROOT/bin
# add MPICH commands to your path (includes mpirun and mpicc)
set path=($MPI_BIN $path)
# add MPICH man pages to your manpath
if ( $?MANPATH ) then
     setenv MANPATH  $MPI_ROOT/man:$MANPATH
     setenv MANPATH  $MPI_ROOT/man


The command line arguments should be:

 life < input file> <# of generations> < x limit> < y limit>

The number of processes is specified as part of the mpirun command.


The project will be graded as follows:



Correctly runs on 1 processor

15 %

Correctly runs on 8 processors


Performance on 1 processor


Speedup of parallel version




In addition, extra credit of 5% is available if you complete and turn-in the log for the study.


For additional MPI information, see (MPI API) and (for MPICH)

For more information about using the Maryland cluster PBS scheduler, see .
This page needs to be updated (path names are not correct for the current Linux environment), which should happen soon.