[rescue] Sun Kit Needed for EE Student Here

nate at portents.com nate at portents.com
Wed May 3 12:35:51 CDT 2006

> Bang for the non-existent buck, I'll take commercial-grade el-cheapo
> Sun or SGI or DEC or whatever.  Besides, I figured this list if
> nowhere else on the planet would be in favour of getting more rescued
> kit back into solid and productive use.  I must admit I am somewhat
> non-plussed by some of the responses.

Let me say that I am fully in support of going the used workstation route,
I have successfully purchased old SGI, HP, and Sun workstations, and they
have been very reliable and good performers for what I've used them for. 
I like the hardware in the machines a lot, they are built really well, and
the cooling is generally very well thought out.

-However- I also have to take issue with some of the other things said
regarding PC parts.  Before I counter them, let me say the following, from
my years and years of experience:

PC components can be very hit or miss in terms of reliability,
performance, and just overall design.  This goes from everything from fans
to capacitors to board layout to any software and drivers and BIOS
revisions and documentation, just, well, everything, so very, very hit or
miss.  And things change a lot.  One has to invest lots of time to even
begin to wrap one's head around the mess.

-But- it is possible.  There are good components out there, and it
possible to build a solid, reliable system for not much, but the path to
get there will either be frought with frustrations or be a very long one
where you have to absorb more info than you've ever wanted to.

For example, there are forums where people write thread after thread after
thread discussing the ins and outs of most every PC power supply out
there, including what is really inside them, who really makes them
(there's only about 8 manufacturers total, everything is basically a
rebrand), and how they really perform.  And trust me, when you finally do
figure out what is really good or not, you really kind of wish you never
did know, because you've had to absorb mentally just how much junk there
really is.

> The memory -alone- runs more than that.

You can get quite decent DDR400 (PC3200) memory for $150 for a pair of 1GB


> Any motherboard (PC type) that I can in good conscience recommend
> (reliability, longevity, and the like) costs more than $200.

Unless you need all the extra slots, I actually recommend to most people
interested in buying a PC motherboard that they save money and get a
high-quality MicroATX motherboard, of which there are a surprisingly
decent number of options now.  After I experienced much pain (which I
won't go into) with several socket 939 mATX motherboards, I have been very
happy with the Biostar TForce 6100-939, which happily runs an Opteron 165
(normally 1.8Ghz per core) at 2.5Ghz per core, just 100Mhz shy of the
$1010 FX-60 speed for only $327.  However, I don't recommend overclocking
for anyone but masochists (but hey, if you use a PC, you're already a
masochist so...)

Anyway, if you don't need dualcore, don't need 1MB on-chip L2 cache, and
don't need dual-channel memory, you'd be fine with a socket 754
motherboard, and I would recommend the Biostar TForce 6100 for $69:


(You could also save some money if you don't need 2GB of RAM and just go
with a single 1GB stick for about $80, btw.)

> The CPU -alone- costs more than $200.

Again, if we're going with socket 754, you can get a CPU with decent
performance, and low memory latency thanks to it's on-chip memory
controller - the AMD Sempron 64 2800+, which runs at 1.6Ghz, has 256k of
L2 cache, and includes MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, and 3DNOW! Professional for


It's not dualcore, it doesn't have a big L2 cache, it's not the speediest
thing around, but it's decent.

So about $230 on the core components (assuming 1GB of RAM).

Bleh. I hate recommending PC hardware.

- Nate

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