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Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:44 pm
by Justin_C_Norman
I just inherited a couple of old servers, Dell PowerEdge 2300 and 2400 boxes with small hard drives, over the top gigs of RAM, but the only problem is the ancient P3 and duel P3 processors on them. I installed Ubuntu 9 on them as a start but they are fairly dog slow for running FAH6.

So: any suggestions for what I can do with them other than send them to the re-use/re-cycle group in my town?? maybe throw a monster nvidia graphics card in there and fold on that? or is the machine power/cost ratio just not there for this application?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:56 pm
by bruce
There have been some pretty significant improvements in processor technology since the P3 and although you CAN fold with them most people look at the points per watt and decide that donating/replacing them makes sense. Some folks do add one or more GPUs but the motherboard probably doesn't have PCI-e slots so you'll be limited to AGP or PCI hardware which does limit your choices. You will probably also require a power supply upgrade.

If the servers are installed somewhere and already doing useful work, then somebody else is already covering the cost of electricity and the effective Points/Watt goes down, but if I had been given those machines and I was considering running them just for FAH, I'd donate them.

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 1:29 am
by Justin_C_Norman
well that is good enough for me then! to the re-use center they go and i sense a 6th refurb PS3 in my near future then since they seem to be the best point/watt for the moment.

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 1:39 am
by PlayLoud
Justin_C_Norman wrote:well that is good enough for me then! to the re-use center they go and i sense a 6th refurb PS3 in my near future then since they seem to be the best point/watt for the moment.


The PS3 is nowhere near the best point per watt.

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:19 am
by Justin_C_Norman
that's probably true, i kind of threw that out but i have never studied it... the PS3 refurbs are dirt cheap and pack a lot of punch, but i don't know what the point per watt might be. a quick search of the board (not much depth) didn't seem to yield a lot, i take it there is a forum/thread that keeps people updated on this? Since I have a little bit of space in my cave I would like to use it for FAH.

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:50 am
by PlayLoud
If you aren't looking to spend a lot of money, a cheap Core i5 system would probably do well. Get a good heatsink, overclock the frak out of the cpu, and it will get you many thousands of points per day.

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:01 am
by divery4eyes
let us not forget about the Athlon 2 X4.
@ stock I think it gets around 4K PPD :-)

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:29 am
by Pick2
I bought an Athlon 2 X4 620 running stock speed for $99 , with a $49 GIGABYTE GA-M68M-S2P GF7025 motherboard. add in a gig or two of ram and a power supply:
Code: Select all
 Index 2: finished 1920.00 pts (178.360 pt/hr) 6.69 X min speed
   server:; project: 2662
   Folding: run 2, clone 354, generation 60; benchmark 0; misc: 500, 200, 12 (l
   issue: Sun Jan 31 04:35:12 2010; begin: Sun Jan 31 04:35:39 2010
   end: Sun Jan 31 15:21:32 2010; due: Wed Feb  3 04:35:39 2010 (3 days)

 Index 3: folding now 1920.00 pts (181.366 pt/hr) 6.8 X min speed; 65% complete
   server:; project: 2677
   Folding: run 19, clone 55, generation 79; benchmark 0; misc: 500, 200, 12 (l
   issue: Sun Jan 31 15:24:16 2010; begin: Sun Jan 31 15:24:46 2010
   expect: Mon Feb  1 01:59:56 2010; due: Wed Feb  3 15:24:46 2010 (3 days)

about 4,300 PPD !
Priceless :lol:

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:10 am
by djchandler
I picked up a dual socket 604 cpu Supermicro motherboard in a BOXX case that I bought mainly for the case and power supply for $20 at my local recycling center. There's a lot of heavy gauge aluminum in that eATX case. It has 2 Xeon DP 2.4Ghz CPUs (Prestonia core,130nm, sse2 and hyperthreading, 32-bit only) in it and 2 GB of ram. It will run Windows 7 just fine with a 256MB AGP Pro Nvidia Quadro 500 card that came in it as well. It's being powered by a 400w PS at present which seems underpowered to me--it really needs a 500w minimum if you start pushing the graphics card at all. For grins I put a 32-bit Linux install on it. It can run 2 single core clients simultaneously. I don't think it's capable of meeting the deadlines running smp WUs using Windows of any version, and I'm not going to try based on results of the single core clients. It's about to be donated to a deserving person in a different case. It's not worth the energy it takes to run 24/7 on F@H.

Comparing an Athlon 64 3400+ (Venice core, 90nm, sse3), which also runs @ 2.4Ghz, against one of the Xeon CPUs, the 3400+ completes 1 frame in about 60% of the time it takes one Xeon running WUs from the same project. If it wasn't for the fact that the Athlon is running MythTV (Linux based DVR) besides, which runs comfortably on a 400w PS, I probably wouldn't bother running F@H on it. It gets about 300 PPD.

That's a drop in the bucket compared to a Phenom II x4 @ 2.8Ghz that's now getting >5000 PPD running WUs on CoreA3 and Core A2. I think I'm way underestimating the PPD I'm actually getting--I'm basing that estimate on Kasson's calculations used to set up the new point system.

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:38 am
by Justin_C_Norman
thank you for the input... i smell a weekend project in my future to upgrade the boards (and maybe power supplies) in these to something super speedy and awesome. thanks again for all your postings and pointing me in a new direction. -jn

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:53 am
by herbak
Well, I was looking for something else entirely in this forum and stumbled upon this posting and yes, I admit it, I got side-tracked...

Having just not had the heart to consign an old PIII 733MHz chock-full with 384MB RAM to the local scrap recycling and just having brought it back to life this last week, I found the post of interest for sure. I don't know of any people to donate such a machine to, except people like me which is kinda recursive as I'm the only such person I know... so I end up with a working PC and not the heart to throw it out whilst it's still functioning. You know, putting the old PIII box out to scrap kinda makes me think of the Eskimos and what happens with the elderly :(

Anyhow, I found an old "extra" EIDE drive of 40GB which I put in to add to the 20GB already there, formatted it as JFS for TV-recording, since I also added-in my Hauppauge PVR-500 TV card which was lying around as it fundamentally doesn't work in my main box but it does run in this PIII, stuffed in an old HP Colorado 8GB internal EIDE tape backup drive I "re-discovered", got a 10/100MB on-board ethernet connection in there so I connect it over my LAN router and now off-load the tape backup from the main PC. Before that, no real backups to speak of - which is always a somewhat "sporting" approach and, yes, I have had a couple of "near-misses" with disks dying - even with a RAID1 config on 2x SATA-II disks on my main PC. Last - but most definitely not least - I installed Xubuntu 9.10 for the OS.

For graphics, the PIII PC has an on-board Intel i810e chipset, so was toying with the idea of a GPU graphics card if I'm going to buy a graphics card at all (for example, general OpenGL support and TV-viewing whilst recording etc will all benefit from hardware support in almost any half-decent graphics card available in the last 5-10 years...). The card I am thinking of is the nVidia GeForce 9500GT *PCI* (and not PCI express) card - theoretically still available for a comparatively low price - but has a relatively low number of shaders (32) although it is rated at ~130 GFlops which must surely beat the PIII CPU GFlops rating alone ;-)

So with this PIII up and running again, my thoughts naturally turned to folding when I wasn't doing tape backups and/or watching TV. So I installed the Folding@Home "standard" client on this box. In fact. I am running it right now as I am typing this posting in my Mozilla Firefox web browser (with several other tabs all open, too). Now how all that *still* fits into 384MB of RAM I guess I'll never know... but you know, the system is still usable. A _little_ slow at times, perhaps, but certainly serviceable all the same.

Points-per-Watt? Yes I guess it is no longer much of a competitor with the current PCs available, however isn't some Folding@Home better than none? Am I really being just too sentimental? I don't know... I find a strong sense of achievement (job satisfaction?) to be had in getting the ol' PIII gal back up on her legs and running. I also think the ultimate up-grade here would be to stop at the GPGPU enabled card, but at that point I don't think the PIII CPU will have that much left to do, even if I am watching TV on it! Furthermore, Folding@Home does indeed have GPU enabled clients... so Points-per-Watt then if I manage to procure a GPGPU graphics card? Surely a lot more than now...

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 6:18 pm
by vladh4x0r
I don't think putting a 9500 GT PCI in there will work for folding - the Nvidia GPU core needs an SSE2 capable CPU, and P3 only has SSE(1).

Re: Ubuntu on ancient server, upgrades??

PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 5:10 pm
by herbak
Nvidia GPU core needs an SSE2 capable CPU, and P3 only has SSE(1)

Quite so, as my researches also showed.
ATI Radeon GPU seem to require "only" SSE(1) [also here: ]

The ATI Radeon HD 4350 with 80 stream processors [ ] and *PCI* (not PCIe) connect is available. I managed to pick one up for 60 euros (around 80 US dollars?) inclusive of all taxes and shipping. Using this in a PIII box is kinda like putting rocket boosters on a bicycle, I know, but all the same...

So as far as PCI GPU and nVidia goes:
I _still_ bought a 9500 GT to put in my main PC (Dual-core Athlon AMD64 4400+, Asus A8V Deluxe mobo -> PCI + AGP8x and _no_ PCIe connect on the board!). I now have both my original GeForce 6800 LE (AGP 8x) and GeForce 9500 GT (PCI) running very nicely indeed under Windows XP and am about to try same with my dual-boot of GNU/Linux Fedora on said PC.

(Note: it seems Vista doesn't support >1 graphics driver being loaded at the same time but Windows XP and Windows 7 do. However, I can't verify that as I don't have Vista, but just in case you were tempted...)

In case you were wondering, I run folding@home on the nVidia 9500 GT GPU with their high-performance client and "standard" Boinc stuff on the main CPU. I will probably run folding@home on the PIII/ATI Radeon combo once I get a rainy weekend to get that combo up and running too.

On the PIII box side of things: running xubuntu with 384MB of RAM on mobo (chock full!) gives me around 140MB used when OS + Xfce window manager loaded with a corresponding circa 240MB RAM free for application use.

So was it all worth it?
I'd say "Yes!".

Good to be using the old boxes for something useful and sprucing up the main box a bit with some GPU capability, especially as the mobo seems to be one of the last PCI-only boards. Job satisfaction and some folding well-done. As I pointed out recently in a discussion with a friend of mine:
"Mathematically speaking, some folding is infinitely better than none." :P