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Xeon workstation funkiness

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a c 96 à CPUs
March 28, 2006 2:55:12 AM

I just put together a dual-Xeon workstation for the express purpose of running a specialized 64-bit PCI card. I've never put together a Xeon system before, but they seem to be very odd. Here is what's in it:

2 Xeon mPGA604 2.80GHz Irwindale 2M processors, active HSF.
Supermicro X6DVL-EG2 motherboard (E7530 chipset)
2x 1GB Transcend DDR2-400 ECC registered RAM
WD800JB SATA-150 HDD
Samsung DVD burner
Athena Power 520W EPS12V PSU
A floppy drive*
Raidmax ATX case (the $25 special)
3 80mm case fans

1. I was floored when I opened the processor boxes. The heatsinks are $EXPLETIVE huge!! They weigh about 2.5 pounds each and are solid copper. The processor and HS/HSF are just in a blister-pack and I wonder if anybody has broken one of the bloody chips when they tried to get it out of the blister pack. I kind of like AMD's approach to put the CPU in a little container on a foam pad. But their green disintegrating box kinds of stinks.

2. The heatsinks are so heavy that they require being screwed *through* the motherboard into a steel backing plate that bolts directly to the case. This makes you mount the heatsinks while the board is in the case instead of being able to do it outside the case when the HS is just cam-locked to the board.

3. An IDE channel crapped out on me and forced me to use IDE2 to recognize my DVD drive after the second boot.

4. EACH CPU puts out a maximum of 120W of heat, which makes for a system that idles at 37 C with three 80mm (3500 RPM) case fans near to the CPUs, not to mention two fans in the PSU. Those case fans are noisy, but Intel's HSFs are REALLY noisy. This thing would make MadModMike's unit sound quiet and rivaled my Harrier-engine-for-a-fan notebook for decibels.

5. The floppy drive sparked and burst into flames when I turned the power on. Thankfully the side was off the computer and I saw the sparks and flames within a second of it starting. I yanked the cord out of the PSU and it quit, damaging only the floppy and a FDD power-supply cable.

6. I was able to fix the above problems and get Fedora Core 5 installed per the professor's instructions. FC5 crapped out on me when it refused to talk to the switch and get a DHCP address, while the Ubuntu live CD I stuck in it worked just fine on the Intel GbE connection. Performance seemed to be okay, but I really didn't have much time to put it through its paces.

Did anybody else has as bad of a time with that kind of system as I did? My desktop (see sig) went together in 1/3 of the time and had only one issue with the rear faceplate that goes around the ports not having a hole properly die-cut out.
March 28, 2006 3:01:21 AM

Did you connect the floppy cable backwards?
a c 96 à CPUs
March 28, 2006 3:03:16 AM

No, I don't think I did. I think that I might have accidentally hooked the connector off by one pin. That or it was a very old floppy.
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March 28, 2006 5:57:51 AM

Opteron 200/800 series is the same.

The heatsinks they come with put shame to the standard one, copper and heatpipes in a stock heatsink is a good idea. Their (stock) fan is annoyingly loud though, and they also require a backing plate + screws for installation.

Quote:
What's so special about the PCI 64-bit on that mobo anyway?
It's just your typical PCI-X (3.3V) slot which can be found on Opteron mobo as well.


Was talking to MU_Engineer earlier, before he changed his avatar from 'Tux', he actually needed a PCI-64 bit slot, the one that predated 'standard' PCI-X 64 bit slots slightly for a very expensive camera card.

He started a thead about it few days/weeks ago.

If you go to the website for the board it actually says 'this is not a PCI-X slot' even though the 'recent' chipset it is connected to might imply otherwise.

I was surprised he could find such a board in this day and age, let alone multiple of them, he said searching for such boards was a total bitch.

See: http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon800/...

Only a handful of such boards exist, as there is only a very niché market for such backwards (PCI-64, pre PCI-X) compatibility today. The slot is closer to the early Apple/Mac PCI 66 MHz / 64 bit slots than the 'same spec' slots for early PCI-X devices. Chances are the card in question supports both platforms.

I was somewhat baffled when he posted the original specs. :p 
March 28, 2006 10:58:31 AM

PM MU_Engineer, he'll explain it. :p 
March 28, 2006 12:26:45 PM

Youre building a system only to use a PCI card?
Now THATS luxury (if I got it right)
March 29, 2006 9:01:37 AM

Quote:
Quick questions.
Will that card work in my mobo?
Will it work in yours?


a) Ask MU_Engineer / Check your mobo stats, I suspect not though

b) No, Not in the Tyan K8WE S2895, it only has 'normal' PCI-X slots, not 'pre' PCI-X :p  (PCI-64) slots.

He said the PCI-64 card was for very expensive camera hardware and it couldn't really be replaced.
March 29, 2006 9:44:25 PM

Quote:
Quick questions.
Will that card work in my mobo?
Will it work in yours?


a) Ask MU_Engineer / Check your mobo stats, I suspect not though

b) No, Not in the Tyan K8WE S2895, it only has 'normal' PCI-X slots, not 'pre' PCI-X :p  (PCI-64) slots.

He said the PCI-64 card was for very expensive camera hardware and it couldn't really be replaced.

A friend has the K8WE S2895, if you set a jumper, you can make the 2nd to last PCI-X slot operate forced @ 66MHz (he had to do that for a RAID Card).

~~Mad Mod Mike, pimpin' the world 1 rig at a time
March 30, 2006 7:15:22 AM

Yeah except PCI-'64' and PCI-X at 66 MHz are electronically pin incompatible.

PM MU_Engineer :wink:
a c 96 à CPUs
March 30, 2006 1:30:33 PM

I built the machine for a lab. We needed to use a $600 camera-control card that is a funky 64-bit PCI card (not 32-bit PCI, not PCI-X) to run a special $10,000 camera to use in fluid-dynamics experiments. It was much cheaper to build the computer to fit the card that worked with the camera than to buy a new camera and card to fit our old Athlon 2200+ machine that is currently in the lab. It was $1100 vs. ~$11,000 as cards for newer cameras are about a grand and cameras are still about $10k.

Heck, we also needed a new computer anyway. We do iterative simulations of the fluid flow once we have images to work with and for the few that we did a demo with (using a different camera that was too low of resolution to work well), it took weeks to put together a very small data set with the 2200+. We had wanted something on the order of a dual-core Athlon 64 or Opteron- two Opteron 265s/270s would have been GREAT, but all we could find was that one dual-Xeon board. Xeon DCs are $800 Pentium D 820s with the ability to talk to another chips, so we decided to save our money and get two single-core 2.8 Xeons. Not the fastest, but it should do better than the 2200+.
a c 96 à CPUs
March 30, 2006 1:33:29 PM

Yup, Tabris is right. I *certainly* checked that out as PCI-X boards are very common and much nicer for the price than the dual-Xeon board with 64-bit PCI slots that we had to get .
!