Feb. 19, 2018, midnight
By : Eric A. Scuccimarra
On my laptop it takes forever to train my TensorFlow models. I was looking for cheap online services where I could run the code and not having any luck finding anything, Google Cloud Computing does give you $300 worth of free processing time, but that's not really free. I did find Google Colab which is a Python notebook based environment where you can run code for free, and it includes GPU support!
It took me a little while to get everything set up, but it was relatively easy and it runs incredibly fast. The tricky part was getting my data into the notebook. While Colab saves the notebooks to your Google Drive, they do not run on your Google Drive so you can't just put the data on the Drive and then access it.
I used wget to download the data from a URL to wherever the notebook is running, then unzipped it with Python and then I was able to read the data, so it wasn't all that complicated. When I tried to follow the instructions on importing data from Google Drive via an API I was unable to get it to work - I kept getting errors about directories and files not existing despite the fact that they showed up when I did !ls.
They have Tesla K80 GPUs available and the code runs incredibly fast. I'm still training my first model, but it seems like it's going to finish in about 20 minutes whereas it would have taken 3+ hours to train it locally. This difference in speed makes it possible to do things like tune the learning rate and hyperparameters, which are not practical to do locally if it takes hours to train the model.
This is an amazing service from Google and I am already using it heavily, just hours after having discovered it.
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