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Power User system recommendation

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September 15, 2005 7:28:52 PM

Hi All,

I am what you call a "power user". I'm looking for a new “high power” RAID-5 Win XP workstation. I am currently using an Intel 3.2Ghz HT (SATA-150) system and it’s too slow for me for my daily use. I work faster than the computer…  I want something faster. It’s not for gaming, just very heavy everyday heavy all around use. Do you think the following specification will work for me? Feel free to make any suggestions if necessary (my budget is <$2000)

Asus A8N-SLI Premium (does it have a RAID-5 controller?)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+
2.0GB RAM
3 x Hitachi HDT722516DLA-380 160GB SATA2 8MB 7200RPM (for RAID-5)

Does the Asus A8N-SLI Premium have on-board RAID-5 controller? I can't tell from the specs?!

Also, can anyone recommend a knowledgeable on-line system builder to built my system for me? Thanks for your help!

- Jeannie
September 15, 2005 8:05:04 PM

Geeze. Where to begin...

First, I doubt that mobo has RAID5. Even <i>if</i> it did (which is unlikely) I doubt that it has the hardware XOR or the cache to run a RAID5 array without sucking the life out of your CPU. (Because without hardware XOR and on-controller cache, the drive controller will just use your CPU and RAM and that'll almost assuredly slow down whatever you're doing.) For that matter, I don't think I've ever even seen a mobo with hardware XOR RAID 5.

Anywho, you could instead mod WinXP to have a software RAID5 feature like Server 2003 has. There are articles on that and it requires no special hardware, but again, it's useless to most people because it'll use up your CPU badly and perform subpar from a normal RAID5 array.

In fact <i>most</i> SATA RAID cards don't have hardware XOR or cache to do a proper RAID5 array. Even if they claim RAID5 support, chances are they do it using up your CPU too.

It's for this reason that the vast majority of people using IDE RAID5 are doing it in a way that really socks it to their CPU, and the performance is, of course, far less than a RAID5 array actually should be because of this.

So if you want to do RAID5 right, go SCSI. Spend a couple hundred on a good RAID5 card with hardware XOR and cache. Then add three (or more) 15K U320 SCSI drives.

Or, if that's too expensive (and it is to most people) just do two SATA drives in RAID0. You get great performance, but have no redundancy in case of a drive failure. Or if you absolutely need redundancy but still can't afford the good SCSI solution then do SATA RAID10 (1+0/0+1/whatever) with four drives.

But if you're looking at RAID5 purely for performance reasons, chances are high that you'll be disappointed with any IDE/SATA RAID5 solution that you put together because they'll all sap your CPU and RAM to do the XOR.

:evil:  یί∫υєг ρђœŋίχ :evil: 
<font color=red><i>Deal with the Devil. He buys in bulk.</i></font color=red>
@ 197K of 200K!
September 15, 2005 8:31:37 PM

Wow! Thank you very much for the quick and detail reply. It was quit an education!

I had no idea about the things you said regarding RAID setup/controllers.

Looking at the cost of 3 x 15K SCSI drives and Adaptec RAID U320 SCSI controller, I don't think I can afford it.

My friend suggested RAID 1 in case of drive failure. (That's the real purpose for my RAID 5 in the first place, I can't afford to be down). Do I give up performance with RAID 1? Should I just bite the bullet and buy 4 drives using RAID 0+1 or 1+0 (which is better?)

Any thoughts on the CPU/MB? or system builder/website who I can order my system from?

-Jeannie<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by jeannie on 09/15/05 04:33 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
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September 15, 2005 8:50:08 PM

>I am currently using an Intel 3.2Ghz HT (SATA-150) system and
> it’s too slow for me for my daily use

Maybe you could be a bit explicit what your "heavy heavy" daily use is, because I cant think of many everday usage patterns that would run slow on that setup. For all I know you might need a faster DVD recorder or upgrade your 9600 baud modem to a broadband connection...

= The views stated herein are my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my wife. =
September 15, 2005 11:31:43 PM

Quote:
My friend suggested RAID 1 in case of drive failure. (That's the real purpose for my RAID 5 in the first place, I can't afford to be down)


To me, unless used in critical non stop operation environnement, RAID 1 or security in not really important. Let me explain.

Let say that you have a nice hdd filled with garbage and personnal data. One day, it fails! But, as a smart person, you dont care about the garbage and you personnal data are backed up, so it is only a case of getting a new drive, do a fresh install of windows, reinstall some of the program that you were using the most and letting the old one unstalled until you need them again. And bring back your personnal data.

Now, you have a RAID 1 array in your computer, with all the stuff, good or bad, that I explain in the other situation. One drive fail.. nice, the RAID take care of it, and you get another drive and restore the array and keep going. but.. a virus get into the array and corrupt most of your file to a point where your data get lost and windows is not working anymore. And worse, sisn you were counting on the RAID 1 to securize your data, you didn't do backup as often and well, you had some unbacked up data on that drive... No good.

nothing can beat backup for real safety. And using 2 HDD without the RAID feature, keeping the data on the other HDD ensure that if a virus get to your system disk, it wont mess with the DATA hdd, meaning that you may not loose everything and you wont care to reinstall Windows on the corrupted HDD because no personnal data was on that drive.

I do use RAID. RAID0 which is stripping. With HDD being reliable as the never been, you have much more chance to get hit by a virus that a drive failure. But with a backup, your are protected for both case, while RAID1 leave you vulnerable to viruses attack.

As for something faster... well, you have a nice system right now, and as P4man said, maybe you need only a device upgrade than a complete upgrade.

And, I could build you one, if you get an X2 and let me play with it for a week, to see how it perform....

I just get hit by a situation where a dual core could be useful, but I don't know yet if it worth it or if it is only because my 3000+ is not fast enough.. and they are a bit expensive right now for trial and error kind of testing ...

(\__/)
(='.'=)
(")ώ(")
September 15, 2005 11:45:12 PM

I am a programmer by trade. So I do alot of coding and compiling. While my 30,000 line code is compiling, I wait and wait. I also burn alot DVDs. I Chat on-line, email, download 4MB pictures from my digital camera, work on these pictures with Adobe Photoshop. I also run Dreamweaver to work on my websites. I also run other applications like RealPlayer, Adobe Acrobat Pro, etc.

I have 2 x 24" monitors (side by side) displaying all these applications.

I think you're getting the idea..?

-Jeannie
a b à CPUs
September 16, 2005 1:06:14 AM

um maybe an opertron is good for you lol, a friggin 4 way one with each dual core :)  or just a 2 way one with dual core....

BTW i think that DFI Lanparty Ultra and SLI-DR version have raid 5 for sata and it could span both sata and ide controllers.... i give linky to manual once i find it

AMD A64 3200+Venice
DFI Lanparty UT NF4 Ultra-D
OCZ 2x512mb EL Gold VX PC3200 ram 3-3-3-8
evga eGeforce 6800GT 256mb GDDR3 ram
Enermax 485W PSU
Bios 3/10
WIndows XP SP2
No OC
a b à CPUs
September 16, 2005 1:10:44 AM

<A HREF="http://www.dfi.com.tw/Support/Download/manual_download_..." target="_new"> manual</A>

well this mobo could support raid 5 but i don't know if its got the XOR xhip that was mentioned above...

this is a S939 mobo so no two way opertrons for it.

i would think if ya need raid 5 a raid card that is good would be better no?

BTW from personal experince its better to have w/e you buy (cpu, ram, etc.) checked by the people in www.dfi-street.com, because i have heard that the DFI boards are not that good with X2s....

and sorry can't help ya if you decide to go s940 though... don't have the xhance to touch top end workstations or servers....

AMD A64 3200+Venice
DFI Lanparty UT NF4 Ultra-D
OCZ 2x512mb EL Gold VX PC3200 ram 3-3-3-8
evga eGeforce 6800GT 256mb GDDR3 ram
Enermax 485W PSU
Bios 3/10
WIndows XP SP2
No OC
September 16, 2005 1:13:56 AM

In your position, I would look to the local bricks and mortar computer shops. That way you can get a system of your own design, and faster support for warranty issues. Depends on where you live though. Then again, something can be said for DIY. It's handy being able to render some of your own support. It really is easy you know.
September 16, 2005 2:17:25 AM

The only people I see complaining on the dfi boards about x2's are the dorks that play their gay little games. Also there is no onboard solution that will support raid5 via hardware, so I think you should be castrated for even mentioning it.
a b à CPUs
September 16, 2005 2:57:31 AM

I didn't see anyone mention it, so here goes: RAID 1 should have minimal impact on system performance. The data gets sent to two drives rather than one, with no need for additional calculation. That's easy for the system to do.

<font color=blue>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to a hero as big as Crashman!</font color=blue>
<font color=red>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to an ego as large as Crashman's!</font color=red>
a b à CPUs
September 16, 2005 4:52:21 AM

lol why does it say raid 5 support in the manual then? i didn't say that it was the best raid5 support, but its there though. and if you see correctly there was serveral people who are having trouble with the X2s just when they put together the system, no games or anything.

AMD A64 3200+Venice
DFI Lanparty UT NF4 Ultra-D
OCZ 2x512mb EL Gold VX PC3200 ram 3-3-3-8
evga eGeforce 6800GT 256mb GDDR3 ram
Enermax 485W PSU
Bios 3/10
WIndows XP SP2
No OC
September 16, 2005 1:52:35 PM

wusy,

There is a reply above describing my everyday use. I need both fast CPU and fast HD transfer.

Can you can please make a MB/CPU/HD(RAID) recommendation?
September 16, 2005 4:40:39 PM

Quote:
I am a programmer by trade. So I do alot of coding and compiling. While my 30,000 line code is compiling, I wait and wait. I also burn alot DVDs. I Chat on-line, email, download 4MB pictures from my digital camera, work on these pictures with Adobe Photoshop. I also run Dreamweaver to work on my websites. I also run other applications like RealPlayer, Adobe Acrobat Pro, etc.

Well, aside from compiling, there's really not much there that actually needs much CPU power, apart from maybe Photoshop effects, but it's not like you'll be waiting hours for them....

What you need is <i>loads</i> of RAM, and Some Raptors I reckon.

What the hell do you write in if 30,000 lines takes that long to compile? That's not that large really.. :eek:  I'm a programmer too (Delphi mainly), and I don't find 250,000 lines to take unacceptably long.....

---
<pre> (\_/)
|~~~~~|======
|_____| This was bunny. He was tasty.
/\/\/\/\</pre><p>
September 16, 2005 5:06:18 PM

As to RAID1, I myself use it, and I couldn't imagine not having the redundancy. I've had too much lost from hard drive crashes. In a way it's costly because you're buying two drives for the storage capacity of only one drive, but it is the cheapest redundancy solution out there.

The performance however is nothing like RAID5. You basically get the performance of a single drive. (The read is a <i>little</i> faster than just one drive, but not by much, and the write speed is the same as a single drive.) So I'm not sure how impressed you'd be with RAID1 for speed if your current setup is too slow.

RAID 10 (there are a couple of ways to combine RAID 0 and 1, but they all seem to do about the same thing) performs noticably better than RAID1 because the RAID0 striping does boost it's performance. But it's still not as fast as RAID0 by itself, and again, the cost is that you're using four drives but only have the storage capacity of two, which can be expensive. By the sounds of it, this is probably the most fool proof solution for you in your price range. Because striping (RAID0) and mirroring (RAID1) are both very easy for a drive controller to do, an awful lot of cards and even motherboards will support this. (And even if they don't, Windows XP can do it in software, though I personally don't like relying on Windows for these kinds of things.) It's no where near as draining as the XOR or RAID5 is. So your only real cost is four drives and a case that can hold them. It should be easy to find a motherboard for you that'll do RAID10 without having to use Windows to do it.

However, as a programmer myself, I can identify with your need for speed. Back in the old days my projects used to take hours to do a full recompile, which of course makes debugging very ... painful. Things are much better today, but still, time is money. So you might want to consider something faster (and cheaper) than RAID10.

You might want to try a RAID0 array with two 10K SATA drives. Since RAID0 doesn't waste hard drive space (because it has no redundancy) two 36GB drives for a 72GB total would probably do. (But you could easily look into two 72GB drives if you needed the space.) Then get a large slower SATA or IDE drive for backups. I think Windows XP even comes with a backup utility. (Though personally I prefer using Norton Ghost myself since the latest version runs fine in Windows.) Set up your system to do automatic nightly (or whenever you're not on the computer) backups of the RAID0 array onto your large slow drive. This way you get great hard drive performance when you need it and almost as good of a redundancy system as RAID for a <i>lot</i> cheaper than RAID5. True, it's not quite as fool proof as RAID10, but it definately costs less and outperforms it, so long as you don't mind your computer having some downtime to do its backups. And if you're worried about virii you can even put your backup drive in an external USB instead of putting it in the PC directly so that it's not always connected.

And, of course, there's still software RAID5. If you're only interested in redundancy, software RAID5 is pretty cheap too. With three drives it'll perform noticably worse than RAID10, but a bit better than a single drive. With four drives software RAID5 performs <i>about</i> the same as RAID10. (Sometimes better, sometimes worse.) So it's not completely bad, but again, it's not as stunning as what you'd think when compared to a good SCSI RAID5 setup. But in your case with a lot of compiling taking up CPU resources, you might see software RAID5 perform noticably worse because your CPU is being heavily used. I'm really not sure how that'd turn out.

So the RAID10 solution is obviously easiest and least prone to human error. The software RAID5 solution should cost a little less, but in your case will probably perform hardly any better than a single drive would. That, of course, puts it on par with RAID1, which would be cheaper yet, but offer no performance benefits at all. And then there's the RAID0 + backup solution that would give the best performance out of all of the above, still have redundancy, and is at a reasonable price. It's just also definately the most fiddly way to do things and requires your PC to have regularly scheduled downtime.

Of course you could also do something like a RAID1 array of two 10K SATA drives (or even two 15K SCSI drives) for your coding, and have a seperate drive (or even 7200RPM RAID1 array) for everything else. Just splitting your hard drive usage so that the compiling is done on its own drives and controllers could improve your real-world performance noticably, especially with SCSI involved. Just a thought.

By the sounds of it you'd also benefit from a dual-CPU computer. Dual-core CPUs are the fun new cheap(ish) way to do that. I can't say that Intel's dual-core CPUs are very impressive yet though. AMD definately has the one-up there. So an Athlon64 X2 would probably help you out. If you do go dual-core or dual-CPU, the software RAID5 might look a little more attractive then as you'd have a bit of extra CPU to throw around at it.

And if you <i>really</i> want to get rid of your compile time, try switching to a nice interpreted language like Python. PyQt makes for some very nice GUIs you know. ;) 

Actually, I almost miss the old compiling days. Having an excuse to goof off while your code compiled had its benefits. :o  MUDs were killer ways to spend compile time.

And as for where to buy the system from, I partly agree with endyen that a local shop could be the best place to look for such a custom build. I always like to support the small businesses when I can. However, I've also been soured on that when it comes to PC shops lately as I must have moved into a den of f'ing rip-off artists that believe in 500% markups and even some flat out cons. :(  So if you do go local, go in armed with good research first and be prepared for disappointment, just in case.

Otherwise, I don't really know of a good online shop that'd build a more exotic setup. Hell, I don't even know of a good online shop that'd preconfigure a RAID array. :o  Hopefully someone else knows of a good one if you go that route. Otherwise you might have to go at it yourself. Building a PC isn't really so hard these days and can be a fun learning experience, but you'll definately want to get an anti-static device if it's your first time and keep the old PC around to jot online for help when needed. :) 

:evil:  یί∫υєг ρђœŋίχ :evil: 
<font color=red><i>Deal with the Devil. He buys in bulk.</i></font color=red>
@ 197K of 200K!
September 16, 2005 5:32:54 PM

30,000 line is just one module out of the 300 different modules that I work on. I work for the military so I can't tell you any more than that.. :-)
September 16, 2005 5:34:01 PM

Quote:
Well, aside from compiling, there's really not much there that actually needs much CPU power

Yeah, but my own experience is that if you do those things regularly <i>while</i> compiling, you're gonna be hurting badly. :o 

Quote:
What you need is loads of RAM, and Some Raptors I reckon.

I've got to agree, on both counts. And if you're going up in RAM then a 64-bit version of Windows would probably be wise too.

Quote:
and I don't find 250,000 lines to take unacceptably long.....

What C++ code is still in my project (since Python can wrap C++) only ammounts to about 50,000 lines, and on my 2.26P4B with 1GB of RAM and a 7200RPM IDE drive I have to wait about 15 minutes on a clean compile/link. Sure, I don't always need to wipe the object files first, but since most of the code is Python and the C++ code is rarely touched, I don't mind that extra wait since way too many times have I seen unexplainable bugs crop up from reusing intermediate files. (Damn M$!)

:evil:  یί∫υєг ρђœŋίχ :evil: 
<font color=red><i>Deal with the Devil. He buys in bulk.</i></font color=red>
@ 197K of 200K!
September 16, 2005 5:59:01 PM

It sounds like RAID 10 (0+1) is the ultimate way to go with Dual Core CPU's.

I am not very good with hardware stuff. I can program 10 different languages, but I can barely plug in a computer (not exaggerating)!

What I’m learning is that getting a “power system” is not an exact science. There are so many different ways. I shopped around locally and nobody in my town can build a system to the specification I described (RAID 0+1, etc). These computer stores never even heard of RAID 10 or 0+1! I don’t live in a big city. So I will probably have to mail order it on-line from somewhere? Dell?

Can you make a MB/CPU recommendation?

-Jeannie
September 16, 2005 6:45:47 PM

Quote:
These computer stores never even heard of RAID 10 or 0+1!

That doesn't surprise me. A lot of people get into computers because they hear it pays well. Most don't even get a degree. They just take some training course and suddenly call themselves experts. Or you get the opposite, ancient farts that were experts in their day but haven't kept up with the times. It seems to be that these days most computer shops just don't have the experience that they should. :o 

Maybe it's because most of us with the experience just build our own. Heh heh.

I'd say that you're probably going to want to look for an AMD Athlon 64 X2 (dual-core) CPU. What speed depends on how much you want to spend. What motherboard you get will probably be determined more by what the online shop that you go with has available. Most of the time those shops don't really give you a choice because the less choices they give you, the less inventory they have to worry about finding a way to sell.

But yeah, online shops that'd meet your needs... Really, I don't know. I don't know of any that deal in RAID10. I'd avoid Dell, not just because they're Intel-only and you're probably better off with AMD right now, but also because their quality and customer support has dropped like a rock lately. :o  For that matter, I don't trust HP much more than Dell. Of course if you want to go Intel dual-core, you're welcome to try. AMD just seems to be doing a better job of it at the moment. But I don't really know who'd support RAID10. Maybe Alienware... They're kind of pricy because they're a fad, but they are very unique when it comes to online computer shops. I don't see a RAID10 option on their online forms, but they do have RAID1 and RAID0 individually, so maybe if you called or emailed a sales rep you might be able to work something out with them.

If anyone else can suggest a good place to buy a PC set up with RAID10 online, that'd be cool. I'm kind of intrigued to see who'd offer it.

:evil:  یί∫υєг ρђœŋίχ :evil: 
<font color=red><i>Deal with the Devil. He buys in bulk.</i></font color=red>
@ 197K of 200K!
!