[rescue] The best 'rescue' workstation

Ryan Thoryk ryan at tliquest.net
Sat Apr 23 15:51:51 CDT 2005

I own multiple workstations, and the one I've used the most was my Sun
Ultra 2 (I would've loved to have a newer Sun, but can't afford one).
Here's the advantages/disadvantages of mine:

The only machine I have that beats them all (mostly) is my Athlon 2600
box, but I don't really like the x86 architecture anyway.

Sun Ultra 2 (dual 250mhz UltraSPARC II, 256mb RAM, 9gb 10krpm SCSI):
-good cpu performance, and SPARC is generally cheaper than MIPS cpus (SGI)
-this comment is only for raw int/fpu performance - SPARC cpus are still
being enhanced, while it seems that MIPS development has slowed to a
crawl - the fastest SPARCs are (at least by clock speed) faster than MIPS
-my favorite firmware infrastructure (OpenBoot, which is based on
OpenFirmware, also used in Macs) - this would be the 'bios' of these
machines, and make the PC BIOSes crappy in comparison
-very good OS and software support (runs many operating systems; I run
Solaris 10 on mine)
-Solaris is very compatable with GNU software
-these machines accel at the server end, unless you have a good graphics
card in yours (mine has a slightly slow framebuffer)
-usually extremely flexible upgrade options; my machine has 16 RAM slots,
and supports up to dual 400mhz cpus (which is very good for a machine from
'97) - supports up to 2gb ram.
-machines support cdrw drives, and newer machines support DVD and DVDR
drives, including USB, etc
-awesome keyboard (I originally used a type 6, but a key broke, and so I
switched to a type 5 which is wonderful)
-these machines are normally considered the "official" UNIX workstations.
-fast system buses
-very good audio hardware and software support - the OS assigns volume
controls for each application using sound output
-Solaris is free

-graphics support in this machine is not that great; newer Suns have much
better support
-my machine uses proprietary RAM
-uses proprietary keyboards and mice (but I like them) - the
keyboard/mouse bus is very similar to Apple's ADB bus

SGI Indigo2 (200mhz Toshiba MIPS R4400, 192mb RAM, 9gig 7200rpm SCSI,
High-Impact graphics)
-extremely fast 2D and 3D graphics (3D support depends on what card you
have) - this machine's frambuffer seems to run much faster than my
-very fast system buses (uses the 64-bit GIO bus for graphics cards)
-this machine uses standard 72-pin SIMMS (in groups of 4)
-good memory expansion (12 ram slots, etc)
-IRIX has terrific OS-level graphics support, and also a very good user
-machines look cool (mine's purple)
-The IRIX UI seems to have been inspired by the MacOS - there's many
-decent sound hardware, but unbelievable software support for sound - this
machine allows you to completely configure the sound hardware's built-in
synthesizer, and much more (which is unheard of in PCs, as far as I've
known) - this seriously is probably my favorite feature, since I have a
regular synth keyboard here (a Korg Karma)
-uses standard PS/2 keyboards and mice

-has many proprietary buses, expansion bays, and some newer machine have
proprietary ram.
-cpu upgrades aren't as easy (as in system compatibility) or cheap as Sun
-the machines are usually more expensive than Suns (the reason should be
obvious lol)

DEC Alpha Peronal Workstation 433a (433mhz 21164 cpu, 256mb ram)
-excellent firmware architecture (seems to have many more features than
-fast CPU speed
-works with most PCI cards
-Runs NT4 (lol - I just like to play with it hehe - but FX!32 is cool)
-very good OS support
-seems to take (I think) ECC SDRAM chips, or EDO DIMMS
-even though it is hard to find, level 2 cache is extremely expandable (I
heard that the cpu supports up to 64mb of L2 cache lol)

-system bus seems to be slower than a PC's bus at the equivalent cpu clock
speed, but considering it's age, it makes perfect sense
-the machine I have is very buggy, since it uses the old PYXIS chipset -
avoid that chip like the plague (this also causes PCI issues, and the
32-bit PCI slots are behind a PCI to PCI bridge, slowing them down - the
64-bit slots can only be used with certain cards, unless you override the
warning, which then graphics cards can be used)

Apple PowerMac 8600 (250mhz Motorola PowerPC 604e, 64mb ram, 4gig scsi)
(this system needs more ram lol)
-very nice system, even though it's old.  It has an old version of Sun's
-MacOS 8.6 (which I have on it) flys on it
-Linux runs great on it, and has good hardware support
-very quiet system

-this machine uses proprietary ram (5v EDO DIMMS; I've got tons of 3.3v
EDO DIMMS though - I wish they worked in here)
-uses proprietary ADB bus for keyboard and mouse, but I like it

I actually like all my machines (each one has it's own unique features)

Ryan Thoryk
Unix and Network Specialist
ryan at tliquest.net

On Sat, 23 Apr 2005, Zach Lowry wrote:

> Hash: SHA1
> I have a PeeCee that has served me well for many years. However, more
> and more I move to Apple and other machines, and I run Debian on this
> PeeCee anyhow. So, I realized the other day that I could just swap it
> out with another *real* Unix machine and be just as happy. Barring Macs,
> which I already have several of, what would you guys consider the
> "perfect" rescued workstation? Something that's in an appropriate price
> range so that it can be had cheaply. Also, I should note that it will be
> replacing a Dual 1GHZ PIII machine. I've thought about a Dual 300MHz
> Octane, a Dual Ultra60, a HP J-Class (not sure which one), and an Alpha
> 1200 Ultimate Workstation. If I knew more about IBM stuff, I'd put one
> of those in there too. Another possibility is me using an E450 with
> 2/A5000s that I'm fixing to get from a company I work for for a
> workstation.
> Anyhow, the real question is to ask what you guys run as primary
> workstations, besides PCs and Macs. I know that a lot of folks on here
> run Macs, as do I. :) I just want to discuss what systems would make
> really great desktop machines for fairly cheap, that can compete with my
> 1GHz PC.
> - --
> Zach Lowry
> MTSU, Murfreesboro, TN
> zach at zachlowry.net
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