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recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/07/31 13:18:27
by Michal
Hi all,

first of all. Yes I used the "search" here in the forum and I also used Google, but what I figured out was not satisfying, thus I try my luck here. :)

I need to build a Linux box, there should run a NIS server on it and should be also used for over-night compilation and testing.
So there is no need for high end hardware, but it needs a robust and stable solution.
I have to install CentOS 4 on it, and now I am looking for sample configurations of stable running boxes or other recommendations.

Currently, I tend to the following components:

mobo: ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe
cpu: AMD Athlon64 X2 5600+ (Winchester)
mem: 4GB DDR2 ECC
graca: ???


Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/07/31 20:32:24
by WhatsHisName
Your list of components should work fine with CentOS4. There was an issue with the sound not working properly on the Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe as of CentOS4.4, but I have not checked it recently.

One CentOS4 issue is that the motherboard (and all other socket AM2 Asus motherboards, afaik) will hang on reboot when running x86_64, but will reboot properly under i386. I just do a shutdown and then manually start it. Alternatively, I know CentOS4-x86_64 runs fine under the CentOS5 xen kernel, so you could do your CentOS4 work as a VM. It's shockingly simple to do.

There are no serious issues that I am aware of with that motherboard under CentOS5. I have several running CentOS5.2 with 2-8GB ECC memory.

The Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe may be the most linux-friendly Asus socket AM2 motherboard currently available. But better hurry, because it looks like Newegg is about to stop selling it. I just ordered one as a spare.

The only "problem" I have run into under CentOS5 was under the xen kernel and it had to do with frequency scaling support via cpuspeed not controlling a revision G2 AMD dual-core processor. With cpuspeed enabled and using a 45watt dual-core processor plus 4 drives (raid10), the system idles at 105watts under the normal kernel vs. 138watts under the xen kernel.

As of CentOS5.2/cpuspeed-1.2.1-3.el5, cpuspeed should function under the xen kernel. The cpuspeed changlog indicates that AMD revision F and earlier processors have been disabled due to clock instability. I am still looking into why my rev. G processor is not being controlled.

Regarding the processor, don't you mean Windsor, not Winchester? Wasn't Winchester a single core socket 939 processor?

One suggestion is to use one of the 45watt AMD dual-core processors (Brisbane).

Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/08/01 13:08:13
by Michal
Thanks for your feedback, WhatsHisName. :)

So, M2N-SLI Deluxe seems to be a good AM2 choice, but whats about other sockets? Do you think, that AM2 is the best choice for CentOS4?

Because of the CPU. Yes, I mean Windsor. The reason why I tend to Windsor is the biger L1 cache. So I heard they are a bit faster, compared to Brisbanes. Is that correct? Sure, the disadvantage is the higher power consumption, but it seems to be a good tradeoff.

Can you recomend any graca?


Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/08/01 18:37:42
by WhatsHisName
The "best" hardware choice for CentOS4 is something about 2 years old.

I detest the word "best" when applied to linux, opensource software, hardware, etc., since there are always tradeoffs.

1) If you mean AMD processors, then the only other real options today are socket AM2+ and socket F.

Who knows what CentOS4 will support. The CentOS5.2 kernel is supposed to support most Asus socket AM2+ motherboards, but I have no personal experience with one. After looking at the chipsets being used on those boards, I plan to give the kernel a little more time to catch up before trying one.

If you want to jump to dual quad core Opterons (55 watt), there are some interesting socket F options on the market.

Beyond that there are obviously Intel options.

2) The fastest Windsors (125 watts) do have higher clock rates than the fastest Brisbanes (45 watts), but you would find even the slowest Windsor to be sufficient. I have several 2GHz Windsors that run great. The Brisbanes do seem to have a relative advantage when it comes to overclocking.

Every Brisbane I have tried will run at 15% overclock with the standard heatsink and standard voltages, but I rarely set them above 10% when overclocking. But since the power consumption goes up with overclocking, you might as well run a Windsor of the desired speed. Most Windsors are lucky to overclock 5% out of the box.

If you want the fastest desktop processor, then you should be looking at the top-of-the-line Intel quad core.

But exactly how much speed do you need? Most of us look at cost vs. performance.

3) What is a graca?

Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/08/01 19:58:32
by Michal
I am loking for a stable system. So I have neither preferences for AMD nor Intel. That one, which makes less truble is the best for me. :)
But anyway, I think the Asus board is a good choice.

I do not need the fastest possible CPU. For me it is like for you, cost vs. performance is an importand criteria. I thought about the Windsors with 65W, the AMD EE line.

Sorry :). A graca is a graphic card.

Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/08/01 21:43:43
by WhatsHisName
1) Most of my Windsors are "EE"s (65 watt) and they work fine.

2) My top suggestion is to get a Nvidia-based video card. There is a nice dkms-based geforce driver available from rpmforge.

My graphics needs are modest, so I try to buy relatively low wattage cards, which are getting harder to find.

At the moment, I am buying [url=]Nvidia GeForce 7300-series cards[/url]. They tend to idle around 10-15 watts. In contrast, the [url=]GeForce 8xxx series cards[/url] are absolutely power pigs, idling around [url=]40 watts or worse[/url].

Recent purchases were mostly MSI 7300LE and 7300GS cards. I don't think the card vendor or specific model makes a lot of difference, but I typically buy either Asus, MSI or Gigabyte video cards.

Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/08/02 07:10:27
by Michal
Thanks a lot for your advise WhatsHisName. I feel now confident, to get the right components.

Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/08/02 16:29:05
by WhatsHisName
You are welcome.

Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/08/25 15:18:23
by Michal
Hi again,

I have now a system as discussed here and the installation went, without any problems. :)
Just the reboot after the installation hang as predicted, but that's ok.
But, after the installation, when I checked the bios settings with dmidecode, I saw

Error Detecting Capabilities: none


Enabled Error Detecting Capabilities: none

So, I enabled ECC in the bios and performed a boot. :(
And it turned out as a bad idea. The system hangs while rebooting in a very early stage. So early, that I am not able to enter the bios anymore.
So I had to open the box and make an bios reset.

The bios version is:
13.02 from 29.10.2007
and the memory is:
2x Kingston DDR2 ECC 667 2048MB

Any idea, where the problem could come from?
Is the bios maybe the problem?

Can I somehow check, if the memory is ok, I mean, if it is really an ECC?


Re: recommended hardware configuration

Posted: 2008/08/25 16:33:41
by WhatsHisName
Yes, the default "ECC disabled" in BIOS is easy to miss.

On the Asus AM2 motherboards, I have occasionally run into the need to clear the real time clock when making memory changes, so you should not worry a lot about needing to do it. Been there, done that.

The memory you used should work fine. In the not-so-long-ago days of expensive DDR2-667 unbuffered ECC memory when it was selling for US$150/GB (currently around US$25/GB), I bought the Kingston sticks and have had no problems with them.

With ECC enabled in the BIOS, you should find [url=]EDAC[/url] lines in the bootup messages:

[code]# grep -i edac /var/log/dmesg

EDAC MC: Ver: 2.0.1 Aug 5 2008
EDAC MC0: Giving out device to k8_edac Athlon64/Opteron: DEV 0000:00:18.2[/code]
If you are having ECC problems, then you will see lots of obvious EDAC errors in the syslogs. If all is well, then you should see something like:

[code]# grep -i edac /var/log/messages

Aug 25 10:48:36 localhost kernel: EDAC MC: Ver: 2.0.1 Aug 5 2008
Aug 25 10:48:36 localhost kernel: EDAC MC0: Giving out device to k8_edac Athlon64/Opteron: DEV 0000:00:18.2[/code]