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Hercules
2007-04-15, 13:10
Ever since buying my Squeezebox last year, I’ve just about survived on a Heath Robinson* server setup. I am running out of disk space, and it now seems sensible to re-evaluate my server system. I’ve set out my current thinking below (sorry, it's quite long...), and would be grateful for any feedback.

My environment

My server setup comprises SlimServer running on Xubuntu 6.06 on an old laptop (Compaq Armada M700 with 256MB RAM and 40GB hard-drive), with the music stored on an external USB2 160GB hard-drive. The laptop is dedicated to running SlimServer, and serves no other purpose. It is, however, a little too noisy to leave running, so I have to boot it up every time I want to play music.

In addition I have another laptop (Sony B3-XP with 1GB RAM and 80GB hard-drive) that serves as my main computer, and that I use for ripping/tagging/managing music. The laptop effectively acts as a desktop because I have to use it with an external keyboard (ever since I spilt some beer on the laptop and the keys stopped working.) It may be worth pointing out that this laptop is very noisy - as the fan appears to have been stuck on “max” ever since the beer incident.

These two computers, as well as the Squeezebox, are all networked together with ethernet cables via my Netgear DG834G router/modem.

My requirements

I’ve still got about half of my CDs to convert, and so would expect to need as least twice as much space as I am currently using. So, given that I have nearly filled up the 160GB hard-drive, I will need a minimum of 320GB, although to allow for future growth I was thinking of 500GB.

Other points to consider are:
1) The Compaq laptop was only ever a temporary solution and I am happy to dispense with it
2) I would like to be able to leave a server running so that I don’t have to boot up every time I want to listen to music
3) The server will probably have to be in a bedroom so will need to be very quiet
4) While the server will be primarily dedicated to SlimServer, I may wish to use it for running some other server software, and perhaps, at some point in the future, for ripping CDs, etc.
5) I would like to have a way of backing up my music (although am happy with a manual & infrequent option)

My current thinking

I'm not overly concerned about the detail of the backup strategy at the moment. I suspect I will just get a big hard-drive, put it in a USB2 caddy, and then connect it up every so often to take a copy of my music.

As regards the server, I have ruled out getting a bigger external hard-drive for the Compaq laptop because it will still be too noisy to leave running.

I have ruled out using the Sony laptop as a music server for the same noise reasons.

Options therefore seem to focus around replacing the Compaq.

I have ruled out using a NAS because it would not allow me to easily run other services, or rip music (should I decide to do so), etc.

My preliminary conclusion is that I should get a dedicated bare-bones PC, and so it comes down to a choice between buying or building.

One tricky issue is that I don’t have an external monitor, so am thinking I would need to buy a monitor in order to be able to get my PC up and running, even though I wouldn’t really use it once the server is operational.

Given the quirks of my requirements (basic PC with disproportionately large hard-drive and just a monitor – but no keyboard or mouse as I have plenty of them) I suspect there is unlikely to be a package that will be cost-effective.

Therefore I think I need to build a PC. A further argument in favour of that approach is that I will be able to create a quiet machine using low-noise components.

And that is where I have got to so far with my thinking. Any comments welcome, particularly anything I have missed, or false assumptions, etc. Thank you.


*Heath Robinson: a common English idiom meaning a slightly eccentric solution that is unlikely to work. Apologies to international readers who may not understand it!

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-15, 13:57
On first thought, the very cheapest components would do the trick horsepower-wise. I've seen some very cheap CPU-on-a-motherboard setups from ECS and Biostar that would easily do the trick.

The problem with such setups, though, is that they're not quiet. I can attest to this - I have an earlier-generation ECS CPU-on-board setup which I was using as a temporary SlimServer - well until I tried to get the Ubuntu Linux I installed on it to write to my NTFS music drive, which corrupted the volume. (Thank goodness for backups!)

The problem with that hardware is that although there is a hardware monitoring chip, it's "read only", i.e. you can't adjust CPU fan speed. Well, you can't from Linux anyway, but I also couldn't even when it was running Windows. Its low-quality CPU fan is VERY noisy. I realize this because it's installed in the same Antec Sonata case that formerly housed an Abit IC7 with a P4 2.8 that was much quieter but died almost a month ago now. It was quieter because the CPU fan could be controlled with SpeedFan. It even had an extra northbridge fan which was also controlled, making the whole thing much quieter.

I hear some of the more advanced CPUs out there have next-generation cooling sensors. For example the Intel Core 2 Duos have integrated temperature sensors that can control the CPU fan without additional hardware or software on certain chipsets (?) Unfortunately this is very new and not widely supported.

So your approach should be either:

1. Conventional hardware, yet sufficiently advanced to allow for fan control, in a quiet case like some of the Antec ones (SonataII, Overture, or just a good case with an Antec TruePower PS that uses a single fan and has "fan only" power connectors to turn down system fans.)

2. Mini-ITX/Nano-ITX VIA hardware. Very power-efficient, available fanless options, but performance is not as high, the motherboard is expensive even though it includes a processor, and the case is custom Mini/Nano-ITX, hard to find and expensive. But apparently the performance is fine for SlimServer and even another server program like a PVR.

Regarding the monitor, surely old CRT monitors are virtually free on eBay nowadays with everyone going to LCDs? Shipping would be pricey though. If your conscience could handle it, you could buy a new one, set the server up, install TightVNC on it, and return the monitor to the store. :-)

peterw
2007-04-15, 14:27
One tricky issue is that I don’t have an external monitor, so am thinking I would need to buy a monitor in order to be able to get my PC up and running, even though I wouldn’t really use it once the server is operational.


I'd try craigslist, http://london.craigslist.org/ for you.
Here in The States, such stuff is often in the "free" section.

JJZolx
2007-04-15, 14:47
See Mark's advice on choosing between a quiet PC and a Mini-ITX system. In either case you'll probably want to build it yourself, as not a lot of mainstream vendors offer truly quiet PCs. Like he says, the approach of using mostly standard PC components would likely be less expensive as well as more powerful than the VIA system. And it's possible to build some very quiet PCs these days with the right components. See the following site for a lot of good information:

Silent PC Review (http://silentpcreview.com/)

Do you actually ever use the Sony as a portable laptop? Another approach to consider would be to replace both laptops with a quiet desktop system. Recent AMD and Intel dual core systems would have no problems running SlimServer and allow you to do just about anything you want at the same time.

erland
2007-04-15, 15:22
If you have the space you might want to consider buying/building a "hush box/silent box" to put the comupter in. By doing this it would probably be enough if the computer itself was reasonable quiet, the slient box would take care of the rest to make it completely silent.

The advantage of a separate box to put the computer in is that the box can have larger fans that runs pretty slow (and silent) and still keep the heat out of the computer.

Ian_F
2007-04-15, 16:02
I suspect everyone on this forum has been through the same process at some point, or is currently going through it. The downside of this is that you're going to get many conflicting views on what you should do! For now I’m not going to give you my penny’s worth but instead ask you a few questions ;)

Point 4. “While the server will be primarily dedicated to SlimServer, I may wish to use it for running some other server software, and perhaps, at some point in the future, for ripping CDs, etc.”

The CD ripping part would imply you’d need a CD drive, keyboard, mouse and screen for your server to make this possible. Given the relative infrequency with which most of us rip new CDs wouldn’t it be better to use a regular pc/laptop for cd ripping and just run a headless box for the server?
I know you said you've already got the keyboard and mouse but it does seem a bit of a palaver connecting that all up just for the occasional rip. Or would this server also double as your desktop?

Can you give us some idea of what other “server software” you’re considering wanting to run? Is it just a case of wanting to keep your options open or do you have a rough idea of what you’ll be wanting to do?

Is power consumption a concern for you? Having a powerful pc/server running 24/7 is fine if you either use it a lot and/or you don’t care about your electricity bills!

How much money are you thinking of spending?

Balthazar_B
2007-04-15, 17:14
Most of the noise from a computer comes from the disk drive and the fans to keep it cool. This can be reduced by using 2.5" notebook drives, but they're more expensive per MB (I notice you didn't talk about budget). I use a NAS device, and one reason I do so is that I can put it somewhere where any noise it makes (and it's one of the quieter ones available) is not objectionable. It's capable of running Slimserver, but I'm going to be putting together an inexpensive quiet server for that (to replace an old noisy workstation -- now running SS -- I can't wait to get rid of). The NAS excels as storage, of course, and it's also my print server (and could do other back-end tasks like DHCP, etc., if I wanted it to). It can also be pretty easily expanded if I need more storage (music libraries never seem to shrink). I rip CD's, edit tags, and do other work on a new very quiet workstation. I think it's the most convenient and flexible way to go, but of course there is an upfront cost.

peterw
2007-04-15, 17:27
The CD ripping part would imply you’d need a CD drive, keyboard, mouse and screen for your server to make this possible. Given the relative infrequency with which most of us rip new CDs wouldn’t it be better to use a regular pc/laptop for cd ripping and just run a headless box for the server?
I know you said you've already got the keyboard and mouse but it does seem a bit of a palaver connecting that all up just for the occasional rip. Or would this server also double as your desktop?


You don't need kb/mouse/monitor for ripping if you're running an OS that has decent remote access capabilities. I typically SSH in to my Linux Slimserver box to start my headless ripping software. I use a Perl app I hacked up a bit, but it seems that *many* users are quite pleased with "abcde" for headless CD ripping.

You could probably even use a GUI-bound OS like Windows and GUI apps like EAC -- you just need the ability to log in from another device with something like RDP or VNC and control the ripping software.

-Peter

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-15, 18:15
Most of the noise from a computer comes from the disk drive and the fans to keep it cool.

Mmm...I'm going to have to disagree on that, at least judging by my previous defunct setup. I would say processor, chipset and power supply fans are much, much noisier and reducing their speed is paramount, even if it's just for sanity's sake. (I replaced the power supply first because I thought that it was the problem and with the new, non-quiet power supply, the two case fans and the CPU fan it sounded like a vacuum cleaner - so much so it made me laugh but I had to turn it off before it drove me crazy.)

I had two WD Raptor 36 GB drives, the 10 000 RPM SATA ones. They had a reputation for being noisy but I didn't think so - maybe if it wasn't for the fans I would agree. I also had a Samsung Spinpoint 250 GB which was VERY quiet.

Now this was in an Antec Sonata case where the drives are mounted on rubber grommets so you don't hear that case resonance and low-frequency hum.

Pale Blue Ego
2007-04-15, 19:09
I actually think a cheap Dell is pretty quiet. They usually don't have elaborate power supplies or separate graphics cards, and Dell does a pretty good job of routing the fan output where it does the most good. Get the cheapest Dell and add a big drive.

You can run ClarkConnect linux headless and it has a bunch of other server functions built in (mail server, web server, firewall, spam filters, proxy server, a photo database, etc.) Of course, you don't have to start these other services if you're not using them, but they're there.

If you really need a near-silent PC, these people can build them. It costs more, but if it's a matter of not being able to sleep because of a noisy PC, it might be worth it:

http://www.endpcnoise.com/

They also sell quiet parts if you want to built it yourself.

adamslim
2007-04-16, 05:53
You can get all you need from www.quietpc.com (a UK company); www.dabs.com sell loads of their stuff too.

I have considered the dedicated server route and rejected it, for cost and convenience. I use a decent near-silent PC as server, but also as my home machine (including gaming).

It has Spinpoint HDs, fanless CPU heatsink, near-silent PSU and case fans, fanless graphics card, QuietPC damped case and HD coolers/dampers. It's really quiet, and good enough to play new(ish) games, although I play strategy and RPGs rather than 3D shooters. WinXP Pro is stable enough to be up for weeks at a time. Backup is an off-site external HD synced regularly.

The computer is also a 'server' in that it holds the data for the wife's machine, so there is a single point for backups.

So that is what works for me. If I had spare cash and plenty of space, I would probably go the dedicated server route with big RAID drives and so on, but even this is flawed - I actually think that the future will be a huge powerful server and thin(ish) clients, so there are computers in every room. When this is in common use (it's what I have for work, and is excellent), I'll be glad to adopt it.

Everyone's mileage varies here :)

Adam

Rangdo
2007-04-16, 06:46
I run a headless Epia 10000 with a 400GB USB HDD hanging off it. It has a CPU fan so it's not silent but it is pretty quiet, the internal laptop HDD helps and the CPU is plenty powerful enough for Slimserver.

As XP kindly allows me to map USB drives to a directory rather than a drive letter, further HDDs can be added as soon as I run out of space (60GB to go!!)

bludragon
2007-04-16, 09:44
I would suspect you can get a crt for free these days. Actually, I have one that is waiting for a skip to rest in, but it's in Blackpool, so not that close for you. As for a quiet pc, it will be very hard to make it completely silent, and if it's not, that may well bug you while you sleep (it would certainly bug me). For that reason, I would strongly suggest relocating the server. It's not that hard to lay some ethernet under the floor (or under the carpet along the edge of the wall), and without a monitor, a pc can fit in a pretty small space.

Hercules
2007-04-16, 13:02
Many thanks for you replies. I very much appreciate you all taking time to reply (and also having the patience to read through my initial meandering post!) I'll respond to all the replies in one go, probably flitting from one point to the next. Apologies if it seems a bit disjointed!

I think your answers have reassured me that building a PC is the best way to go. I thought that there would probably be some sort of market for the kind of ready-made hardware I think I need, but having looked around a little, I was not able to find anything suitable, and am now comforted that perhaps my requirements are sufficiently "specialist" to warrant a custom self-build.

In my research I have become aware of the debate about motherboard sizes from ATX to mini-ITX. Your points (Mark) about higher prices for mini-ITX make me think that going for an ATX-sized board is fine, and besides I had pretty much decided that was an easier option for a novice when it comes to speccing & building a PC (I've not done it before!)

Comments about the various components have impressed upon me the need to understand the key parts for building a PC. Fortunately, there are plenty of good articles around about that sort of things (found some good ones on a site called Tom's Hardware) and I'm sure they will help. My initial thinking is that I don't need a lot: a case, power supply, case fan, motherboard, processer, CPU fan, hard-drive, and maybe a CD drive. I don't really have much of an idea as to what motherboard to get - I'd just like something reasonably modern (for future-proofing). The choice between AMD and Intel doesn't mean much to me, although AMD appeals because it sounds like better value for money.

A particularly important area in which to become knowledgeable will be the important components for near-silent operation. But collectively you have already hinted at those, and it looks to be power supply, case fan, and CPU fan. And maybe hard-drive too. I'm conscious that I need to understand more about running fans, and controlling their speeds.

In my brief period of research, I've come across the SilentPCReview and QuietPC sites, and I'll explore them in more depth to become better informed. I'll look at EndPCNoise as well. I've also done some thinking about cases, and had come across the Antec range, although specifically the P180 model rather than the Sonata.

Great ideas on the monitor conundrum! I'm sure I'll be able to dig out a virtually free monitor from somewhere thanks to your tips. I like the cheeky suggestion of buying something and then taking it back!

I'll respond next to some of specifc questions


Do you actually ever use the Sony as a portable laptop? Another approach to consider would be to replace both laptops with a quiet desktop system. Recent AMD and Intel dual core systems would have no problems running SlimServer and allow you to do just about anything you want at the same time.

I never use it as a portable. However, with a broken keyboard, I don't think it would have much of a second-hand value, and my gut reaction is that I suspect I would be tempted to spend more on a desktop that was going to be used as a main computer (i.e. start getting fussy about graphics, motherboard, processor, etc.). So all in all it would cost more. Interesting idea though, and one I will think through some more.


Point 4. “While the server will be primarily dedicated to SlimServer, I may wish to use it for running some other server software, and perhaps, at some point in the future, for ripping CDs, etc.”

The CD ripping part would imply you’d need a CD drive, keyboard, mouse and screen for your server to make this possible. Given the relative infrequency with which most of us rip new CDs wouldn’t it be better to use a regular pc/laptop for cd ripping and just run a headless box for the server?


I agree. Thanks for reinforcing that point. I think I was influenced by a post on here where someone was mulling over the idea of being able to insert a CD into a headless system and then have it automatically rip it etc. But I don't think that's a necessity for me.

And besides, as I see peterw notes, ripping could be done remotely anyway via VNC without need for a monitor/keyboard/mouse.


I know you said you've already got the keyboard and mouse but it does seem a bit of a palaver connecting that all up just for the occasional rip. Or would this server also double as your desktop?

I hadn't considered having it as a desktop, and it's an interesting idea. That said, I'd prefer to run some flavour of Windows on my desktop (sorry!) and have the SlimServer running on Linux admittedly (for no specific reason other than the appeal of the simplicity).


Can you give us some idea of what other “server software” you’re considering wanting to run? Is it just a case of wanting to keep your options open or do you have a rough idea of what you’ll be wanting to do?

I occasionally like to do a bit of tinkering, but I don't have any clear ideas as to what I would want to do. Maybe a web server? Maybe make my music accessible over a secure connection? Nothing specific at the moment, and, if I'm honest, it's not a "must have" requirement.


Is power consumption a concern for you? Having a powerful pc/server running 24/7 is fine if you either use it a lot and/or you don’t care about your electricity bills!

I didn't realise that could possibly be an issue so hadn't considered it! I'm not really that concerned, although don't want to kill the planet dy draining the world's energy resources!


How much money are you thinking of spending?

I was thinking I could get the PC for around £400. I was excluding the backup hard-drive and monitor from that figure. Obviously I now realise there is a good chance that the monitor could be free!

Finally, one more "strategic" thought that I forgot to include in my first post:
- I imagine that over the next few years, digital music systems will evolve (presumably driven by convergence), and though I love my Squeezebox at the moment, it seems inevitable that I will move on to a different system as some point in the future. I suspect that digital music formats may move more slowly, and so that my FLAC files will outlast my current system setup. So an underlying goal of mine is to ensure that I have an well-structured and well-tagged lossless music library that I can take forward to the next era of digital music systems. When that happens, the PC-based SlimServer solution may become defunct, and so my new PC could be recycled and take on a new purpose. I concede however that technology may have moved so far as to make my PC effectively redundant but it's still in the back of my mind.

Anyway, I think that's it for now! If I think of more to add, I'll do so later. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-16, 14:05
In my research I have become aware of the debate about motherboard sizes from ATX to mini-ITX. Your points (Mark) about higher prices for mini-ITX make me think that going for an ATX-sized board is fine, and besides I had pretty much decided that was an easier option for a novice when it comes to speccing & building a PC (I've not done it before!)

Mini-ITX would be easier though, because the processor and processor fan are already mounted for you.

Also it's more expensive only relative to equivalent performance. Conventional ATX hardware that performs similarly, umm...doesn't exist anymore. :-) The cheapest ATX/microATX hardware I've seen is a Biostar motherboard with an Intel Celeron 2.66 GHz CPU for $100 CDN. The most expensive ATX setup, well, the sky's the limit really.

But the Mini-ITX setup would win in terms of power consumption and noise hands-down. Cheap computer hardware is noisy.


Comments about the various components have impressed upon me the need to understand the key parts for building a PC. Fortunately, there are plenty of good articles around about that sort of things (found some good ones on a site called Tom's Hardware) and I'm sure they will help. My initial thinking is that I don't need a lot: a case, power supply, case fan, motherboard, processer, CPU fan, hard-drive, and maybe a CD drive. I don't really have much of an idea as to what motherboard to get - I'd just like something reasonably modern (for future-proofing). The choice between AMD and Intel doesn't mean much to me, although AMD appeals because it sounds like better value for money.

When it comes to cost/performance or value for money right now the Intel Core 2 Duos are in the sweet spot though. The E6600 is more or less just right here, although the E6700 may move to this spot come April 22nd.

An Intel Core 2 Duo is massive overkill for a SlimServer machine, but you should see its FLAC and LAME encoding benchmarks...blistering!

All this without significant heat or extraordinarily high power consumption.

It's a good time to be shopping for computer hardware. There hasn't been a revolution like this in a long time. When I last upgraded, the performance champs were the Intel Pentium 4 Northwood "C" chips because of their dual-channel memory bandwidth. Intel was in the toilet for a few years since then because of the fiasco that was Prescott and only started to redeem themselves since the introduction of the Core series.

When it comes to budget CPUs though, choose the AMD Sempron or low-end Athlon 64. The Intel Celerons are still based on the abysmal Prescott core - they run hot and consume a fair amount of power for what they do. A Linux SlimServer machine will run on an AMD Sempron or low-end Athlon 64 just fine. Also the AMD socket AM2 motherboards haven't done as well as expected - there should be deals out there. It's not that they're bad, it's just that the Intel Core 2 Duo setups are very popular right now.

About the hardest thing in choosing these components is the motherboard. You may decide on a particular CPU or a particular CPU with a particular chipset first. This will determine what type of memory is best suited, but you also have to decide on a manufacturer and then a model. With the huge variety of chipsets out there right now, there's a huge variety of motherboards. The motherboard will also determine if you can turn down CPU/system fans and the manufacturers are sketchy on these details.

I'm knee-deep in this stuff right now since I'm in the same boat. :-) Fortunately a site that really helped me out when I was looking the first time is www.abxzone.com


Finally, one more "strategic" thought that I forgot to include in my first post:
- I imagine that over the next few years, digital music systems will evolve (presumably driven by convergence), and though I love my Squeezebox at the moment, it seems inevitable that I will move on to a different system as some point in the future. I suspect that digital music formats may move more slowly, and so that my FLAC files will outlast my current system setup. So an underlying goal of mine is to ensure that I have an well-structured and well-tagged lossless music library that I can take forward to the next era of digital music systems. When that happens, the PC-based SlimServer solution may become defunct, and so my new PC could be recycled and take on a new purpose. I concede however that technology may have moved so far as to make my PC effectively redundant but it's still in the back of my mind.

Software needs are growing more slowly than hardware capabilities right now. It wasn't always this way. But it's still a good idea to get the best cost/performance you can. No one ever regretted buying hardware that was too fast, only paying too much for it!

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-16, 14:22
One thing I should mention when considering using Linux here - Linux does not seem to have the hardware monitoring and fan speed adjustment options Windows does.

At least not in my Linux experience. With 4 generations of hardware and several Linux distros, I have never once been able to control fans based on sensor temperatures. There are packages you can install, lm-sensors for one I think, but I'm not sure there are any packages to control fan speeds. There probably are, but they are not on any of the distros by default that I've tried.

Also if you get cutting-edge hardware, Linux plays catch-up. Manufacturers are reluctant to support Linux and it takes a while for the Linux community to get data from them or to reverse-engineer how their hardware accesses various other hardware. You may have to wait a while for support. For example, my chosen motherboard will likely not be fully supported using the Linux kernel of the distro I'm currently using, Ubuntu Linux 6.10 "Edgy Eft" - this is currently 2.6.17. The board needs 2.6.18. Fortunately "Feisty Fawn" :-) is coming out any day now which uses the 2.6.20 kernel.

So you may have to control fan speeds from the board itself, i.e. through the BIOS. Cheap motherboards are usually not able to do this.

This is not to say you shouldn't consider a Linux SlimServer. SS runs very, very well on Linux.

geraint smith
2007-04-17, 01:38
Loads of very good advice in this thread already, but I've not yet found the one that jumped to my mind so, with apologies for adding yet another choice: have you considered a Mac mini and matching Iomega 500 meg drive?

They are tiny, quiet (not quite silent, but really pretty good), and have between them slightly more than the storage capacity you seem to need. You get all the Apple software goodies for nothing, and moreover, the system has the great virtue of being incredibly easy, with little more to do than plugging in. Not that pricey: the cheaper mini is £400 in the UK, (although the £529 superdrive option is more sensible) and even the Apple shop sells the Iomega for £135 or so. Dabs would be a bit cheaper, I expect. Slimserver and OS X also make excellent partners, although I expect you could run it under Windows (if you really must!)

Geraint.


One thing I should mention when considering using Linux here - Linux does not seem to have the hardware monitoring and fan speed adjustment options Windows does.

At least not in my Linux experience. With 4 generations of hardware and several Linux distros, I have never once been able to control fans based on sensor temperatures. There are packages you can install, lm-sensors for one I think, but I'm not sure there are any packages to control fan speeds. There probably are, but they are not on any of the distros by default that I've tried.

Also if you get cutting-edge hardware, Linux plays catch-up. Manufacturers are reluctant to support Linux and it takes a while for the Linux community to get data from them or to reverse-engineer how their hardware accesses various other hardware. You may have to wait a while for support. For example, my chosen motherboard will likely not be fully supported using the Linux kernel of the distro I'm currently using, Ubuntu Linux 6.10 "Edgy Eft" - this is currently 2.6.17. The board needs 2.6.18. Fortunately "Feisty Fawn" :-) is coming out any day now which uses the 2.6.20 kernel.

So you may have to control fan speeds from the board itself, i.e. through the BIOS. Cheap motherboards are usually not able to do this.

This is not to say you shouldn't consider a Linux SlimServer. SS runs very, very well on Linux.

Balthazar_B
2007-04-17, 05:27
One thing I should mention when considering using Linux here - Linux does not seem to have the hardware monitoring and fan speed adjustment options Windows does.


From some reviews of the beta, the soon-to-be-released Ubuntu 7.04 has all or some of these features (now whether they work correctly is another matter, but I'm sure that will become clear very quickly).

Hercules
2007-04-17, 12:33
Thanks again for your replies.

My preliminary thoughts on a "good enough" PC spec are:
An Antec case (can't work out difference between Solo/Sonata II/P180)
ASUS M2NPV-VM motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 AM2 3500 CPU
1GB RAM
Zalman CNPS9500-AM2 AMD CPU Cooler
Samsung T-Series HD501LJ 500GB SATA-II hard-drive
A quiet power supply of some sort
Guess I might need a case fan as well

In selecting those components above, I've been inspired by the various "quiet PC" sites.

I'm guessing my choice of motherboard and CPU is likely to be wholly compatible with Linux given that it's not exactly cutting edge.

I hadn't considerd a Mac Mini but will read up on that.

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-17, 12:43
That sounds perfect.

Any reason for the SATA II HDD? The IDE counterparts are very quiet, just as fast (just because SATA II is capable of 300 MB/s doesn't mean it runs that fast), usually a few dollars cheaper, and will be more compatible with Linux.

Regarding power supplies, the P180 and the Solo don't come with one. The Sonata II comes with a quiet power supply.

You may not need an extra case fan. The Sonata II has one included I think. Not sure about the other ones. Generally one is enough though.

JJZolx
2007-04-17, 13:15
My preliminary thoughts on a "good enough" PC spec are:
An Antec case (can't work out difference between Solo/Sonata II/P180)
ASUS M2NPV-VM motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 AM2 3500 CPU
1GB RAM
Zalman CNPS9500-AM2 AMD CPU Cooler
Samsung T-Series HD501LJ 500GB SATA-II hard-drive
A quiet power supply of some sort
Guess I might need a case fan as well

Pretty good, but I'd place the operating system on its own drive. A 2.5" drive will potentially be cooler and quieter than another 3.5" drive, but it'll be a bit more expensive. This gives you the flexibility to easily swap out the music storage drive for a larger one at a later date and easily replace it with a backup drive should it fail.

You'll almost certainly need a case fan, but I'll bet most cases will come with one. Just make sure it's a 120mm fan and if it's not quiet enough, look into a quiet, low RPM fan and see if it's sufficient to keep the case internals and drive(s) cool.

Finally, particularly when using low RPM fans in a system that runs 24x7, make sure you open up the chassis every month or two and blow out the dust from fans, heatsinks and ventilation openings. Low RPM fans have a greater tendency to freeze up or become completely ineffective when they get dust bound, unlike high speed fans that slow down first and being making nasty noises. If that happens you're likely going to fry a CPU or a power supply or a motherboard.

Hercules
2007-04-17, 13:26
Why the SATA II?

Quite simply because I'd read that the Samsung SpinPoint drives were very quiet, and from a quick look on the Samsung site it appeared as they were only available in SATA II!

That said, I've just noticed on the Samsung site that they do seem to come in ATA6. Is that an IDE inteface, and if so, would it be better supported by Linux?

And having looked further around I now see that they are available in an IDE variety, although they seem to be limited to 400GB in size.

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-17, 16:43
Why the SATA II?

Quite simply because I'd read that the Samsung SpinPoint drives were very quiet, and from a quick look on the Samsung site it appeared as they were only available in SATA II!

The IDE ones are called SpinPoint P. I believe they should still be available, I can still get them here and I only got mine a year ago.


That said, I've just noticed on the Samsung site that they do seem to come in ATA6. Is that an IDE inteface, and if so, would it be better supported by Linux?

Yes, that would be ATA133. It would be better supported in Linux because a lot of the new SATA II controllers are poorly supported - like the one on that motherboard I was looking at, though that's a SATA I controller.


And having looked further around I now see that they are available in an IDE variety, although they seem to be limited to 400GB in size.

Well, capacity is definitely an issue then, if you were looking at a 500 GB drive - I missed that part. I'll do some Googling around later to find the controller on your motherboard and see how well it's supported in Linux.

I'm probably being overcautious and didn't mean to worry you. It's probably fine.

Balthazar_B
2007-04-17, 20:16
Thanks again for your replies.

My preliminary thoughts on a "good enough" PC spec are:

AMD Athlon 64 AM2 3500 CPU


Which series is that 3500+ CPU from? Orleans?

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-17, 21:21
I'll do some Googling around later to find the controller on your motherboard and see how well it's supported in Linux.

I'm probably being overcautious and didn't mean to worry you. It's probably fine.

Mmm, may have spoken too soon.

After waiting most of the night for the ASUS site to respond (?) I discovered that the motherboard you're looking at uses the NVIDIA nForce 430 MCP southbridge. The southbridge contains the controller for the IDE and SATA controllers as well as the LAN controller.

Googling "NVIDIA nForce 430 MCP linux" gets me three troubling responses right away:

http://www.mepis.org/node/8683
http://www.nvnews.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=57791&page=34
http://82.211.81.186/showthread.php?t=373474

That last link is very worrisome as it's quite recent, and the second last link concerns a very recent kernel revision, 2.6.18. For example, the current Ubuntu Linux distro is on 2.6.17 - only the newest one due to be released Thursday comes with a newer one by default, 2.6.20. You can custom-compile your own kernel but it's not for the Linux newbie, and the newest kernel is only 2.6.21, so if it's not solved with that you're out of luck.

The problem concerns the sound (no problem in a SlimServer machine) and the LAN controller (BIG problem in a SlimServer machine.)

Same problem here, same motherboard:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?p=1423924&postcount=5

That said, there's a preconfigured Linux machine with that very same motherboard here:

http://www.linuxtechtoys.com/ltt/product_info.php/products_id/197

so who knows...

But perhaps my advice to go with a socket AM2 motherboard was wrong, they may still be too new.

Hercules
2007-04-17, 23:16
Which series is that 3500+ CPU from? Orleans?

Er, being the novice that I am, I can't actually answer that question!

I took the motherboard and processor recommendations from this site.

AMD AM2 Quiet Barebones PC (http://www.endpcnoise.com/cgi-bin/e/std/sku=AMD_Barebones.html)

Hercules
2007-04-17, 23:26
Mark, thanks very much for all your help.

I'll look into that some more.

I'll drop the Linux Tech Toys people an e-mail to ask them specifically about the LAN support.

That system is unbelievably cheap! Makes me wonder if I've got some sort of mismatch in my spec if my PC is more likely to come out at around 400GBP (which is 800USD/900CAD)?!

Balthazar_B
2007-04-18, 06:45
FWIW, I just purchased the following:

Gigabyte GA-M61VME-S2 (Rev 2.0) mainboard
AMD X2 3600+ (Brisbane) CPU
2GB Crucial DDR2-667 RAM
Antec NSK2400 Case
Samsung HD321KJ Spinpoint drive

...and some other odds and ends. After trolling various websites, I found people who had successfully installed recent Linux builds on this motherboard. It's not the most modern (it has only 100MB network), but it seems to be very stable. It's really only a stopgap (cost for MB+CPU=$100)until the new and substantially more powerful and more energy-efficient Intel (and maybe AMD) platforms are released in 6-12 months, which will enable a fully functional media hub (and possibly built-in VM if I want to run best-of-breed products like Slimserver).

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-18, 06:48
That system is unbelievably cheap! Makes me wonder if I've got some sort of mismatch in my spec if my PC is more likely to come out at around 400GBP (which is 800USD/900CAD)?!

The case is probably a $40 throwaway, the DVD-RW costs $35, there's no processor, hard drive or memory included, and everything else is on the motherboard.

So you have the motherboard ($110 CDN) plus case ($40 CDN) plus DVD-RW ($35 CDN). $185 CDN. $179.99 US sounds about right.

Hercules
2007-04-18, 07:57
Thanks Balthazar. Just seen this which may help me work out which hardware I can use!

http://doc.gwos.org/index.php/HCL

Mark - I thought it was probably because half of the components were left out!

Hercules
2007-04-19, 13:16
I'm still a little unsure about the ASUS M2NPV-VM motherboard, so I think I'll use a different one.

So, my spec is now looking more like this:
Antec P180 or Solo case (still can't decide which one to get!)
ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe motherboard (http://www.dabs.com/productview.aspx?Quicklinx=4384&CategorySelectedId=11143&PageMode=1&NavigationKey=11143,405090000,50626,356410000)
AMD Athlon 64 AM2 3500 CPU
1GB RAM
Zalman CNPS9500-AM2 AMD CPU Cooler
A quiet 500GB hard-drive
A quiet power supply of some sort
Possibly a case fan

From having had a quick search around, the "ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe" seems to be well supported under Linux/Ubuntu, so I'll give it a go... Fingers crossed!

So, I just need to finish off the details of my spec.

I'm a bit confused by all the memory options. When I use something like the Kingston Memory Configurator (http://www.ec.kingston.com/ecom/config/mfrmod.asp), I get back lots of options, with choices such as: 533MHz to 800MHz; ECC or Non-ECC, and; CL4 or CL5. I need to sift through all of the info and work out what I should get.

Also, with the processor, there are different options, and it's not yet clear to me which one I need to get. For example, on this page (http://www.dabs.com/productlist.aspx?&NavigationKey=11147&NavigationKey=4294956104&NavigationKey=48640000&CategorySelectedId=11147&PageMode=1&PageOffset=0&RecordOffset=0#Paging), there are 4 different types of 3500 processor (or strictly speaking 2 lots of 3500, and 2 lots of 3500+). They don't make these things easy for us newbies ;-)

I'll keep looking & reading, and should work it out soon!

After I've done all that, then I'll have a think about whether to install Edgy Eft or try the exciting new Feisty Fawn!

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-19, 15:43
ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe motherboard (http://www.dabs.com/productview.aspx?Quicklinx=4384&CategorySelectedId=11143&PageMode=1&NavigationKey=11143,405090000,50626,356410000)

From having had a quick search around, the "ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe" seems to be well supported under Linux/Ubuntu, so I'll give it a go... Fingers crossed!

Should be good then, and sorry to say this - but you're paying extra for SLI which you'll never use. SLI is a technology that allows you to use two video cards to...I dunno...play games better or something. More like show up the other uber-l33tz. It never made any sense to me. However, it is a premium option.

It's no doubt a good motherboard and if it's supported well under Linux, sounds good. But if there's a non-SLI version that's a few pounds cheaper you may want to look into it.


I'm a bit confused by all the memory options. When I use something like the Kingston Memory Configurator (http://www.ec.kingston.com/ecom/config/mfrmod.asp), I get back lots of options, with choices such as: 533MHz to 800MHz; ECC or Non-ECC, and; CL4 or CL5. I need to sift through all of the info and work out what I should get.

Things like the Kingston Memory Configurator list all the memory compatible with the motherboard, including outdated and slow memory. It's probably better to look at ASUS's site or at the site of the northbridge manufacturer. ASUS's site says that the fastest memory is DDR2-800. Go with that if you can. Don't bother with ECC/non-ECC. This is error correction, it's really for corporate servers. You likely won't notice where the extra money goes in a consumer application.

CL4/CL5 refers to the "CAS latency", another measure of the speed beyond mere bandwidth. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAS_Latency. A CL4 DDR2-800 module will be faster than a CL5 DDR2-800 module, but you'll generally pay more for the privilege. You'll also see DDR2-800 referred to as PC2-6400. I used to remember why but can't. :-) There is a conversion method to figure this out.


Also, with the processor, there are different options, and it's not yet clear to me which one I need to get. For example, on this page (http://www.dabs.com/productlist.aspx?&NavigationKey=11147&NavigationKey=4294956104&NavigationKey=48640000&CategorySelectedId=11147&PageMode=1&PageOffset=0&RecordOffset=0#Paging), there are 4 different types of 3500 processor (or strictly speaking 2 lots of 3500, and 2 lots of 3500+). They don't make these things easy for us newbies ;-)

These are the cores Balthazar_B was referring to. There's some older technology and some newer technology.

See http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/ProductInformation/0,,30_118_9485_9487%5e10248,00.html and note the three 3500+ parts. There are two 90 nm parts, but one dissipates and consumes a lot more power (65W vs. 35W!) There's also a 65 nm part which is somewhere in between, 45W. All are listed as having 512 kB L2 cache, all are clocked at 2.2 GHz and all are socket AM2. All support up to DDR2-800. I'm sure an AMD aficionado could tell you the core names based on the specs - I wouldn't know.

LOL, I'm actually finding 4 on the dabs site. Comparing them, I see the 65W 90 nm versions but I also see two that do not have the die size and TDP listed.

Thinking about what you want to accomplish here, I'd avoid the 65W versions and go with the other two. I'm guessing these are the 45W TDP versions. These are probably the ones you should be looking at. They consume less power, run cooler and are probably the same speed.


After I've done all that, then I'll have a think about whether to install Edgy Eft or try the exciting new Feisty Fawn!

I've been downloading Feisty all day today. It's rather slow as I'm not the only one. ;-)

Hercules
2007-04-20, 07:11
Thanks again Mark!

The DABS site sells one 42W processor (ADH3500DEBOX - DABS link (http://www.dabs.com/productview.aspx?Quicklinx=4DHD&CategorySelectedId=11147&NavigationKey=11147,4294956104,354810000) & AMD link (http://www.amdcompare.com/us-en/desktop/details.aspx?opn=ADH3800IAA4DE)), and the other three are 65W.

The summary of models (found through this page (http://www.amdcompare.com/us-en/desktop/default.aspx)) is as follows:

ADA4000IAA4DH ADA4000DHBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 4000+ 2600Mhz Socket AM2 62W
ADA3800IAA4DH ADA3800DHBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3800+ 2400Mhz Socket AM2 62W
ADA3800IAA4CN ADA3800CNBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3800+ 2400Mhz Socket AM2 62W
ADH3800IAA4DE ADH3800DEBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3800+ 2400Mhz Socket AM2 45W
ADA3500IAA4CW ADA3500CWBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3500+ 2200Mhz Socket AM2 62W
ADH3500IAA4DE ADH3500DEBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3500+ 2200Mhz Socket AM2 45W
ADA3500IAA4CN ADA3500CNBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3500+ 2200Mhz Socket AM2 62W
ADA3500IAA4DH ADA3500DHBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3500+ 2200Mhz Socket AM2 62W
ADD3500IAA4CN ADD3500CNBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3500+ 2200Mhz Socket AM2 35W
ADA3200IAA4CN ADA3200CNBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3200+ 2000Mhz Socket AM2 62W
ADA3000IAA4CN ADA3000CNBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3000+ 1800Mhz Socket AM2 62W

I think I'm ok with choosing a processor now :)

So, I'll start looking at the memory next!

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-20, 07:46
ADD3500IAA4CN ADD3500CNBOX AMD Athlon™ 64 3500+ 2200Mhz Socket AM2 35W

Bing! I'd go with this one!

Hercules
2007-04-20, 08:30
Bing! I'd go with this one!

I was kinda thinking of getting all the parts in one store, and neither DABS nor another big store I checked appear to sell that 35W processor, so was planning on getting the 45W one.

But, I probably shouldn't be so hasty! I'll have a look around on a few sites later when I get home.

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-20, 09:03
I was kinda thinking of getting all the parts in one store, and neither DABS nor another big store I checked appear to sell that 35W processor, so was planning on getting the 45W one.

Should still be good. 45W is very good for a processor. I used to have a Pentium 4 2.8 that was 81.8W TDP. That ran pretty hot.

The Core 2 Duo I'm looking at is 65W IIRC, so 45W is really good. I think laptop processors are in the 30W range.

Edit: BTW, take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_AMD_Athlon_64_microprocessors The ~65W processors are "Orleans" core. The 45W processors are "Lima" core. The 35W is a special low-power Orleans core, probably destined for laptops, probably more expensive.

Hercules
2007-04-20, 12:51
Edit: BTW, take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_AMD_Athlon_64_microprocessors The ~65W processors are "Orleans" core. The 45W processors are "Lima" core. The 35W is a special low-power Orleans core, probably destined for laptops, probably more expensive.

In looking at that link, it struck me that the processor I intend to but (ADH3500IAA4DE) was only released on Feb 20th 2007. Do you think there is a possibility that Ubuntu will not yet support it?

(I'm not sure whether that's a valid question or not but thought I would ask just in case...)

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-20, 13:18
In looking at that link, it struck me that the processor I intend to but (ADH3500IAA4DE) was only released on Feb 20th 2007. Do you think there is a possibility that Ubuntu will not yet support it?

From what I've seen, processors are generally quite safe, because they can fall back to other modes should things not be supported.

The operating system talks to the processor in terms of instruction sets, and the Athlon 64 supports SSE, SSE2, SSE3 and MMX. See http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/ProductInformation/0,,30_118_9485_9487%5e9493,00.html. None of these technologies are all that new (heck, MMX has been out for 15 years!) and Intel processors support the same instruction sets, so there should be no issues.

The AMD64 instruction set is newer, but it introduced 64-bit computing for the desktop - it's been out for a while and there wouldn't be a 64-bit version of Ubuntu if it wasn't for AMD64.

There may be some very new things you'd miss out on. It's not that the processor won't work, it's just some of these nicer things that may not. Some newer processors can reduce their speed when in idle. The Linux kernel may or may not support this, and it may not support all flavours of the technology. I know the Core 2 Duo I'm considering does on-die thermal measurement, but Linux doesn't support it yet.

It's the chipsets that are the biggest problem in Linux - the northbridge and southbridge on the motherboard. There are so many varieties from so many manufacturers and they change so quickly it's hard for Linux to keep up. They determine pretty critical things like hard drive access, USB, LAN, etc.

Hercules
2007-04-21, 03:25
Hmmmmm, just been e-mailing a shop in Scotland asking for recommendations for a quiet PSU, case fan and CPU fan, and mentioned the rest of my spec, and how I wasn't going to have a separate graphics card. He came back with this comment...


Regarding the graphics card, I take it you’re using the machine as a network server or something? The reason I ask is I don’t know how you would directly use the computer without having a video output unless it’s just to be a server.

I hadn't even considered that my choice of motherboard wouldn't have a graphics output. I'd assumed that all motherboards included graphics output by default, and that when you bought a separate graphics card it was in addition to the motherboard's standard graphics output.

Looks like I may to think again about my choice of motherboard as I don't really want to buy an additional graphics card!

mudlark
2007-04-21, 04:12
I've built a new box which is quite quiet.
I use a silverstone sg-1 and asus P5B-VM board (775 core 2 duo) and 1 G ram. The LAN works fine. The 3.5 drive I tried was too noisy so i bought a 2.5 drive. not cheap, but brilliant. I use the other drive as storage.

The 2.5 is a sata drive so no cable problems. I also use a sata dvd writer which works fine.

I use Ubuntu as below.

all the best Mike.

Patrick Dixon
2007-04-21, 04:24
I can vouch for this MSI m/b with linux:-
http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/specpage.html?MSI-K9NU2F

It doesn't have integrated graphics, but it does have 6 sata ports (and 2 IDE ports), so you can make it into a serious server ;-) It also does Gbit Lan with 2 ports.

This one:-
http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/specpage.html?MSI-K9NNF
is a slightly cheaper version with only 4 sata ports.

I just fitted a cheap PCI graphics card:-
http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/specpage.html?SAP-A7KPCI
but virtually anything will do for a server, as it's only to get the os loaded and ssh or vnc configured.

I can also recommend these PSUs:-
http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/products/a559x1y0z1p0s0n0m240
which are very, very quiet and not too expensive.

Processor fans always seem to generate a fair bit of noise, so go for the biggest diameter fan and use something like a zalman fan mate to turn it down as low as you can. The more efficient the basic heatsink is, the less the fan will be required anyway.

If you need a case fan, this one's quite quiet:-
http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/specpage.html?NEX-S12CMF
In general, bigger fans running slower generate less noise for the same airflow.

New AMD m/bs seem to come with bioses that will automatically adjust turn fan speeds down for you, so you don't even need os support. Cool & Quite I think they call it.

HTH

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-21, 06:11
I hadn't even considered that my choice of motherboard wouldn't have a graphics output. I'd assumed that all motherboards included graphics output by default, and that when you bought a separate graphics card it was in addition to the motherboard's standard graphics output.

Only the lower-end motherboards include onboard video because the higher-end motherboards are more intended for enthusiasts using $700 video cards. (Yes, you can pay $700 for a video card!) That SLI motherboard you posted earlier doesn't - instead it includes two video slots and you pay a premium for them. You don't need this in a server.

You can get low-end PCIe and PCI video cards - either will do for a server. AGP has almost been phased out entirely now.

The problem with onboard video is the fact that it uses system RAM as graphics RAM, stealing it from the OS. If you plan it right, you can use it just to set up the server then deactivate it:

- to set up server: boot as normal, set graphics to use the minimum (usually 2 MB) of system RAM as video memory

- when server is set up with the appropriate remote viewing software, reboot, go back into BIOS and disable onboard video. Reboot. After this you won't get any local screen, so unless you memorize which keystrokes you need to reactivate video, you won't be able to.

- if you need to see a local screen again, you'll have to clear CMOS, which will reset all the BIOS options to default. You'll have to set them like you did in setting things up again though.

mudlark
2007-04-21, 08:11
Mark,
Disable 2M video. Good grief how would that be worth the hassle?

I have a cheap board, but I could fit PCIX graphics card if I want. On board graphics is fine for all but gamers. Oh and it's quiet, and cheap and reliable and eco friendly and less power. You get the drift?

Mike.

to Hercules
PS I fell asleep listening to my music last night. i just refered back to the first post and I think that the motherboard needs to have some flexibility. I bet you will want to mess about with video, myth Tv etc after you've got the slimserver system going. Most mini ATX boards have video.

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-21, 09:15
Mark,
Disable 2M video. Good grief how would that be worth the hassle?

LOL, I know but I'm cheap and my setups are usually low on RAM - every little bit helps. Plus it's not like it's hard to change it. Inconvenient, perhaps, but hopefully you won't have to do it that often.

Hercules
2007-04-22, 02:56
I've been reflecting on the advice given in this thread, and as I've put the pieces together in my head, I've started to understand more of the subtleties of the advice you have all been giving me. So, I just wanted to say thanks again!

I'm coming round to thinking that I should (as per Balthazar's recent hardware example) get a cheap motherboard + processor combo as an interim step for a year or two. If I ensure that all the other parts (case, PSU, case fan, RAM, possibly CPU cooler, etc.) are good enough to be reused then I can just upgrade the mobo + processor when I'm ready.

Will do more research later and hopefully place an order this evening (as DABS has a free delivery offer at the moment!)

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-22, 08:52
I'm coming round to thinking that I should (as per Balthazar's recent hardware example) get a cheap motherboard + processor combo as an interim step for a year or two. If I ensure that all the other parts (case, PSU, case fan, RAM, possibly CPU cooler, etc.) are good enough to be reused then I can just upgrade the mobo + processor when I'm ready.

Was what you proposed substantially more expensive than what Balthazar quoted? It's fairly economical and would run SlimServer for many years without much strain.

There will always be something coming up on the horizon. A lot of people are looking at the Intel Core 2 Duos (Conroe core) and are wondering if they should wait for the upcoming Penryn core processors. If you play the waiting game, you'll always play the waiting game - by the time Penryn comes out, Nehalem cores will be just around the corner. And new technology when it's introduced will always be expensive - and poorly supported under Linux.

What I'm doing with my current build is choose about the best current technology there is (Core 2 Duo) and wait until it's mature and the price comes down...which it did, today! Conroe's been out for almost a year now and this is the first major price drop AFAIK. Come Monday or Tuesday I'll seek out a dealer selling them at their new prices.

I can understand second-guessing a build. I've done that at least a dozen times on this one now. :-) But what you proposed is economical and would do the job you want it to do, fairly quietly at that.

mudlark
2007-04-22, 09:06
Was what you proposed substantially more expensive than what Balthazar quoted? It's fairly economical and would run SlimServer for many years without much strain.

There will always be something coming up on the horizon. A lot of people are looking at the Intel Core 2 Duos (Conroe core) and are wondering if they should wait for the upcoming Penryn core processors. If you play the waiting game, you'll always play the waiting game - by the time Penryn comes out, Nehalem cores will be just around the corner. And new technology when it's introduced will always be expensive - and poorly supported under Linux.

What I'm doing with my current build is choose about the best current technology there is (Core 2 Duo) and wait until it's mature and the price comes down...which it did, today! Conroe's been out for almost a year now and this is the first major price drop AFAIK. Come Monday or Tuesday I'll seek out a dealer selling them at their new prices.

I can understand second-guessing a build. I've done that at least a dozen times on this one now. :-) But what you proposed is economical and would do the job you want it to do, fairly quietly at that.

I very much agree with these sentiments. either buy something that is cheap now or go for something quite up to date. the hedging your bets won't work.

The next mobos (in a years time) will be using a different topology altogether such that your RAM and processor are likely to be weak. A 3 year cycle means redundancy i am afraid. I tried the former as you suggest hercules and found that RAM went to DDR2 the power supply was weak, and the processor was no use either. It cost me 1000 dollars to move one step forwards.

Ie try not to upgrade. use either a cheap machine for three years or a medium price machine for three years. Unless you want to do some video work or play games then the cheapest machine makes sense, IMHO.
Mike.

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-22, 09:16
The next mobos (in a years time) will be using a different topology altogether such that your RAM and processor are likely to be weak. A 3 year cycle means redundancy i am afraid. I tried the former as you suggest hercules and found that RAM went to DDR2 the power supply was weak, and the processor was no use either. It cost me 1000 dollars to move one step forwards.

BTW, this is why I want to go with that unusual motherboard. It's fairly unique - it allows me to reuse my DDR400 memory and upgrade to DDR2 when I can afford it (I'll upgrade to 1-2 GB at the same time.)

It also allows me to keep my AGP video card and upgrade to PCIe when I can afford it!

So for my next upgrade I will have DDR2 and I will have PCIe video which I should be able to reuse. The AGP and DDR I'll have to retire or put in a secondary machine. Ordinarily I'd have to do that right now - making this $450 upgrade $750.

This is pretty unusual and was only made possible with the VIA PT880 chipset which supports DDR and DDR2 plus AGP and PCIe.

Hercules, if you had some older technology to reuse I'd recommend the same - today's Core 2 Duo price drops make them very competitive, particularly the lower-end ones. The motherboard I'm looking at is quite economical as well.

Balthazar_B
2007-04-22, 10:27
After reading the last few posts, I feel I should reiterate what drove my decision. At this moment in time, I don't observe that there is any single media server solution -- or product strategy for that matter -- that is not seriously flawed, nor meets all my needs. Microsoft, Apple, the niche players -- none of them are where they need to be, nor is it clear that they're capable of shipping what I'd want within the next 12-18 months.

Of all the media formats, music is the most important to me, and where it is easiest to address my most immediate needs: to manage the thousands of CDs I have, give me access to Internet radio, and provide a good house/garden distribution system. Slim and Sonos are the best conceived of these solutions, and the latter fails because of the size of my library (Sonos' current architecture is fatally flawed for handling large collections).

I began by ripping my music collection to an Infrant NAS in FLAC format (still in progress) to give me good manageability, easy/quiet operation, format standardization, and future capacity expansion. I was running Slimserver on an old workstation, which was not a good solution because of noise/power consumption, so now I have a quiet, low power Linux box that handles Slimserver very easily (and library refreshes are pretty fast). I have the case I want in terms of form factor, energy efficiency, and lack of noise, and a very cheap, yet quiet and energy efficient motherboard/CPU combo that can be swapped out in a couple of years if the ideal PC-based media center solution (including HD PVR and other features) appears. What I did in the short term is on the calculated bet that the mATX format will endure and that the computer and network will still be central parts of a flexible, scalable media solution.

mudlark
2007-04-22, 10:34
BTW, this is why I want to go with that unusual motherboard. It's fairly unique - it allows me to reuse my DDR400 memory and upgrade to DDR2 when I can afford it (I'll upgrade to 1-2 GB at the same time.)

It also allows me to keep my AGP video card and upgrade to PCIe when I can afford it!

So for my next upgrade I will have DDR2 and I will have PCIe video which I should be able to reuse. The AGP and DDR I'll have to retire or put in a secondary machine. Ordinarily I'd have to do that right now - making this $450 upgrade $750.

This is pretty unusual and was only made possible with the VIA PT880 chipset which supports DDR and DDR2 plus AGP and PCIe.

Hercules, if you had some older technology to reuse I'd recommend the same - today's Core 2 Duo price drops make them very competitive, particularly the lower-end ones. The motherboard I'm looking at is quite economical as well.

Just checked the posts and I can't find which mobo can do ddr and ddr2. seems unusual to me?

My asus board is very quiet. The psu fan comes with a fan controller that will run the fan very slowly. There is very little noise from this. The power supply is also very quiet and is cheap because it is an ATX size. By far the most noise comes from the HDD. I replaced this with a 2.5 hdd and this has made a real difference, possibly 10 dB. Using the lowest fan speed the machine won't boot, but there is an option to allow boot with a low fan speed. The processor has a temp sensor operating in linux. Core 2 duo is really good. I use Kustom PC of scotland. they will give you lots ofm advice etc and a reasonable price.

Mike.

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-22, 10:48
Just checked the posts and I can't find which mobo can do ddr and ddr2. seems unusual to me?

ASRock 4COREDUAL-VSTA. http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=4CoreDual-VSTA&s=775

Yes, it is very unusual.

mudlark
2007-04-22, 10:54
ASRock 4COREDUAL-VSTA. http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=4CoreDual-VSTA&s=775

Yes, it is very unusual.

Yep and searching the asus site etc there is Asus P5VDC-X. This also passes a linux test. interesting, but both are full sized boards.

Mike.

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-22, 11:00
Yep and searching the asus site etc there is Asus P5VDC-X.

Wow, thanks for that, I didn't know about that one. I don't think it's available here though. Too bad, ASRock doesn't give me a case of warm fuzzies over quality/reliability, neither does a VIA chipset for that matter.

But ASRock is the budget arm of ASUS, hence the name. Also the ECS board I have has been pretty good.


interesting, but both are full sized boards.

I guess you have an mATX case?

mudlark
2007-04-22, 12:39
indeed
the ASUS board is available in the uk for Hercules.

By the way, talking about availability, I'm looking for an ASUS spdif adapter which I can't seem to get in the UK. I'm trying to buy one from a chap in Italy.
mike

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-22, 12:54
indeed
the ASUS board is available in the uk for Hercules.

I just realized it doesn't seem to support the Core 2 Duo. When ASUS supports Core 2 Duo they mention it quite prominently. It's also not listed here: http://www.asus.com/products1.aspx?l1=3&l2=0&l3=0&modelmenu=0&share=txt/core2. That's strange, the chipset can and ASRock equivalent can not only support Core 2 Duo it can support Core 2 Quad.

Perhaps it has something to do with how the power is supplied to the processor?

So yeah, the ASRock board is unique as far as I can see.

mudlark
2007-04-22, 13:07
yep,
i would agree the board I mentioned doesn't seem to support core 2 processors.

Mike.

mudlark
2007-04-22, 14:33
I have just discovered how to put my second hdd 3.5 into standby.

I run a sata 2.5 as system drive and a sata 3.5 for storage.

The command in kubuntu is

$ sudo hdparm -S 4 /dev/sdb

this shuts down the drive spindle motor after 20 seconds. I've just tested it with amarok with music and it works well. This has reduced noise again.

Mike

Hercules
2007-04-27, 09:32
Well, here's a quick update...

This is what I ended up buying:
Antec P180B case
ASUS M2NPV-VM motherboard
AMD Athlon™ 64 3500+ 2200Mhz 45W AM2 CPU
Kingston 1GB 677MHz DDR2 Non-ECC CL5 DIMM
Western Digital Caviar SE WD1200JS 120GB SATA-300 hard-drive
Samsung SpinPoint T133 HD401LJ 400GB SATA-300 hard-drive
LiteOn LH-201AH DRD-RW drive
Scythe Infinity CPU Cooler
Nexus 22.8dBA 120mm Fan
Seasonic S12-430 V2 PSU

I kinda decided I would take a chance with running Linux on the M2NPV-VM motherboard (having seen a few companies selling pre-built Linux PCs using them).

I built the PC up yesterday, and was pretty shocked at how loud it was, even though I had specifically bought "quiet" components. But having learned a little more about the BIOS-level functionality for controlling fan speeds, I have now got it to be very quiet, with the case and heatsink fans running at between 400rpm and 700rpm, while keeping the temperature perfectly cool. With a little more work (tidying up cables, removing unnecessary internals that may be impeding airflow, perhaps using more soft mountings) I may be able to get it a little quieter.

After all the agonising over Linux, I've now decided that I will have this PC as my main desktop, and so run Windows on it! I would very much prefer to use Linux - and was looking forward to messing around with Feisty Fawn - but using Windows will make it much easier for me to do a little work on it from time to time (using all the ubiquitous Microsoft products). Sometimes, the serious things have to influence decisions like that ;-)

As a bonus, a friend is desperately in need of a new computer, as her current one is about 10 years old, and recently collapsed during an XP upgrade attempt. As she already has a monitor, keyboard and mouse, my Sony laptop (with the broken keyboard) will work very well as a replacement unit with her peripherals plugged in. I may even get a few GBP for the laptop, and if so, will put them towards paying for the lovely new TFT I decided to buy :-)

Mark Lanctot
2007-04-27, 09:44
Cool! My new processor arrived about a half-hour ago. I'll be tweaking things all weekend. :-)

Balthazar_B
2007-04-27, 10:15
Hercules, consider setting up a virtual machine on your new box so that you can run Windows and Linux simultaneously. You certainly have the CPU for it, though you'd likely want 1 more gig of RAM.

You may find the system more stable and better-performing (though that seems counterintuitive), since your Windows apps and Slimserver (running in the Linux partition) would not interfere with each other. And SS is almost certain to run better :).

Hercules
2007-04-27, 10:36
Mark, I hope you have fun tweaking the processor!

Balthazar, I think that was mentioned earlier in this thread (maybe by you?) and I like the idea as it would still allow me to mess about with Feisty. Maybe I'll look into it. I know some of our people at work are looking at the benefits of using server virtualisation - and are developing some sort of strategy for doing just that - so I'll have a chat with them to get an understanding of what it's all about.

On the RAM front, I'd already thought that I would put an 1GB in given that it will now be my main machine (not that it is currently slow though).

Hercules
2007-04-28, 00:55
Looks like Ubuntu will work on either Virtual PC or VMware

http://www.geekzone.co.nz/freitasm/2184
http://www.petri.co.il/virtual_installing_ubuntu_as_virtual_machine.htm

Presumably if Edgy runs ok then Feisty will too

Balthazar_B
2007-04-28, 09:05
Hercules:

Another option. See https://help.ubuntu.com/community/KVM .