I feel your pain.

Story: Linux Motherboard FolliesTotal Replies: 17
Author Content

Jan 28, 2010
6:01 AM EDT
When my trusty old Athlon 64 box decided six years was enough, I also made the "let's do multi-core" bit.


It gets confusing out there.

I did buy a Gigabyte board and it works fine for me, except that --

I am such a freakin' cheapskate -- I really do try to get as little and as cheap as I can for what I want to do . A habit from building my myth frontend, I think, where low-end means not needing a bunch of noisy fancs.

Anyway, I also chose a Phenom II X3 -- I could have gotten a 4-core Athlon for a little less, but the X3 has faster individual cores, not to mention being substantially overclockable -- at least in the black editions...

Anyhooo, turns out the board I got didn't know about X3s. Boots up anyway and seems to work fine, but everything -- and I do mean everything -- thinks I have 4 cores.

There might really be 4 live cores there, but I'll bet not. More likely is that the bios doesn't understand 4 and the OS sees 4 cores with one just never managing to be ready for more work.

There is a bios upgrade for that -- which I've been a little frightened to apply, this being my main work machine. I've never actually had a bios upgrade fail, but it spooks me out that none of the mainboard manufacturers seem to have heard of linux when setting up their patche procedures.

Still -- seems a number of system processes get started up on a per-cpu basis, and I would bet that the dispatch process checks on all 4 cores, etc... So getting everything in sync is probably good.

And then there's 2 GB memory upgrade I've got sitting around, waiting to be installed. Gigabyte board - finicky, remember? We'll see how that goes as soon as I decide I don't need the machine for a little bit.

Sigh. Hey! The box works and that's a good thing.


Jan 28, 2010
9:17 AM EDT
Dino, we're in the same boat, or at least somewhere on the same sea.

Last summer I, too, had a nice P4 machine give up after 6 years, the venerable Vaio laptop.

So I used one of the custom Ebay white-box sellers to put together a machine, to avoid the MS tax and get, hopefully, exactly what I want.

4G Ram, which of course Linux never seems to need all of, and a Phenom II 4-core, 3GHz.

However, the clock (thank you kpowersave and /proc/cpuinfo) never said anything but 800MHz. Now 4-cores at 800MHz is still snappy, so I guess no one at the integrator noticed, but the folks at ASRock determined the problem was a back-rev BIOS. Just update it.

Yeah, right. Just update it. Easy enough were I running Windows or DOS.

DOS? FreeDOS to the rescue.

Burned the FreeDOS live CD, used it to format a USB thumbdrive, back to Linux to put the BIOS update program and data on the thumbdrive, then back to FreeDOS to run it. 3GHz it is, variable clock speed on all four independently, cool!

If only the onboard ethernet correctly utilized a cross-over cable. Ain't that the most silly thing? Works just fine normal cable to a hub, but cross-over just never sees the link come up.

Anyway, running Debian Stable, the ATI support is not as good as it will be when I give up on my KDE4 avoidance. I'm sure that the ATI graphics is why the ethernet doesn't work with a cross-over cable, too.

That is so cool that you got 4 cores for the price of 3. But seriously, let me know if the 2G Ram upgrade makes any difference. If it weren't for expected future maybe usage, I wouldn't have bothered to put 4G in this system. Linux be frugal, man.

Jan 28, 2010
9:39 AM EDT
>That is so cool that you got 4 cores for the price of 3.

Yeah, just like the government is going to create a bunch of jobs!

Or my wife, Elizabeth Taylor -- the young Elizabeth Taylor.

But hey, works is works.

Jan 28, 2010
10:33 AM EDT
> the government is going to create a bunch of jobs!

Please, oh Cromm please, don't get me started!

> the young Elizabeth Taylor.

Far outside my price range. Droool.

But seriously, I recommended to ASRock that they provide FreeDOS on their web site. I suggested that they could make a tiny FreeDOS live-CD image with their update program and BIOS data on it, which would be great for everyone using their MBs.

Jan 28, 2010
12:02 PM EDT
BIOS upgrade is one thing the Eee PC, at least the netbook version, gets right. Put it on a FAT12-formatted thumb drive, reboot, hold down ESC. (At least I think it's ESC, check the forums.) When the menu comes up, follow the instructions.

The only caveat is to make sure you get the right update for your system, natch, and make sure it's named correctly. The BIOS will take care of the rest. Asus gets a big thumbs-up from me for that.

And a big thumbs-down for not standing up to M$ last year.

Jan 28, 2010
12:20 PM EDT
> Put it on a FAT12-formatted thumb drive, reboot, hold down ESC.

Fat12 is going to get harder to find. Not too many thumb drives coming out in the 1-Gig range any more. :^)

My car stereo takes a thumb drive, but only up to 1G.

Jan 28, 2010
12:46 PM EDT

"mkdosfs -F 12" for all your yummy-licious FAT12 needs, my friend.

Jan 28, 2010
12:57 PM EDT
FAT12? Never heard of it. I don't see how Windows is ever going to catch on if you have to know a bunch of complicated details about filesystems in order to use it.

Jan 28, 2010
4:21 PM EDT
After years of running Linux on the last generation of hardware, (p3 when p4 came out, etc), I finally decided to get a big fat multi core CPU and board. I asked around my local LUG and found a great model from Gigabyte(1) that was getting good reviews from fellow LUG members and had lots of SATA connections. I also used the "Ubuntu" and "Linux" keyword search in Newegg's site to guide the rest of my research. I also looked for comments like "Never could talk to a human being" and "RMA process impossible" so I could avoid those companies. Connecting the power supply was an adventure, I've never seen so many cables. The whole thing has been up a month and it runs Kubuntu 9.10 wonderfully. Almost. It seems one of RAM chips is flaking out, so I'll be running memtest on both of them this weekend to figure out which stick is bad. What fun.

Could be worse. Could be running Windows!


(1) GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3R LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard


Jan 28, 2010
8:34 PM EDT
This is what I ordered from Newegg:

2 x ($50.49) MEM 2G|KST KVR800D2N5/2G R - Retail $100.98

1 x ($79.99) MB ASUS M4A785-M 785G R - Retail $79.99

I almost went with a nice full-sized Gigabyte board, it was just a few dollars more, but it has the 2x4 CPU power, and I don't want to mess with that. The manual says you can use 2x2 CPU power, but I have heard too many horror stories about wrong pinouts. Not going to buy a new PSU. I have a good one and by damn I'm going to use it.

The RAMs are low-profile, and will squat nicely out of the way of a big heatsink. The board has plenty of fun multimedia toys. Now I need to find a reasonably-priced 5.1 speaker system.

Way back in the olden days, in the mid-90s, when there were computer stores on every corner and used hardware and software all over the place, and the license police did not haul you away, I picked up used parts at this little shop that did not treat their wares kindly at all. They had motherboards strung up on wire hangers, random boxes of RAM, CPUs in plastic pickle tubs, sacks of hard drives, jars of sound and video cards---you get the idea. It was dirt cheap, and most of the time the parts worked fine. Not like these modern delicate circuitrys.

Jan 28, 2010
9:15 PM EDT
hee, I just learned more about the perils of changing technology. I took the hard drive from my studio PC and plugged it into my main work PC, thinking I could boot to Ubuntu Studio and do stuff. Well, no. It's 64-bit Ext4, which my older 32-bit Debian system has no idea what to do with :)

$ cat /proc/filesystems|grep ext ext3


Jan 28, 2010
9:56 PM EDT
Yeah, hence my Frankensystem. You can use a 64-bit Fedora 12 Live CD to install an updated GRUB. It knows how to navigate Ext4.

Jan 28, 2010
10:03 PM EDT
That would be cool, if I had a 64-bit CPU on this machine!

Maybe I should get an iHype instead.

Jan 29, 2010
10:42 AM EDT
Good idea, TC, tech specs.

ASRock M3A790GXH http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=M3A790GXH/128M

Phenom 2, 945 4-core 3GHz http://products.amd.com/en-us/DesktopCPUDetail.aspx?id=534

DDR3 2x2GB 1600MHz

I am pleased with the motherboard, there are tons of BIOS settings for everything. I had to go into the "overclock" settings to run the RAM at 1600MHz, but hey, what fun looking at all the things I can do.

ASRock has overclocking software, with "optimizing" interactive settings, graphical read-outs, etc, but it only runs on Winders. Haven't tried them under WINE yet, not sure it's worth it.

If ASRock realized that the Linux market exists, I think they could make serious inroads. If I'd picked Nvidia instead of ATI, it would have been _perfect_, everything works and works well. I will try the ATI again when I get back on the kernel upgrade ladder. (Debian has gone KDE4, so I'm still on Lenny)

The only thing I've done that's loaded this system is multiple sessions of video transcoding at once. =8^{D


Jan 29, 2010
11:55 AM EDT

If you want to test your system under CPU load, try running a distributed client, like SETI@Home or Folding@Home. The impact of CPU load is measurable on some disk/filesystem benchmarks (XFS in particular comes to mind).

Jan 29, 2010
7:42 PM EDT

I had a system serving Distributed.net back in the RSA and OGM cracking days, but it's been a while.

If having three video transcode tasks running is any indication, I couldn't tell the difference with most functions, although when they were doing heavy disk access it became obvious with program launches, etc. Obvious and expected things.

Let's see what Distributed.net is up to...

Jan 29, 2010
7:48 PM EDT
Video transcoding also creates I/O load, which will slow down any filesystem as the disk(s) approach saturation. SETI and Folding saturate only the CPU.

XFS's performance on my system was cut nearly in half by Folding@Home, even at max niceness. Ext3's degradation was noticeable, but slight, and tolerable.

Jan 30, 2010
12:42 AM EDT
Interesting, I've never actually tested the affect running Boinc all the time has on my system performance. Boinc is also pretty careful about the CPU time it uses. It runs at nice 19 so it doesn't steal CPU away from other tasks. Of course, the little impact it might have on my machine is pretty much nothing.

I was just laughing at how much my system is currently doing with no noticeable performance degradation: Running clamscan on 2 different customer backup directories (one on the fileserver across nfs). Ripping a DVD with handbrake. Running firefox. Running my typical gnu screen session with irssi etc. (the clamscan sessions are of course in 2 of the virtual terminals in screen). etc.

But then... Phenom II X4 955 (Quad 3.2Ghz) Black Edition OCZ Obsidian 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1600 MSI 790FX-GD70 GeForce 8400GS 512MB GDDR2 (not exactly high end, but the only decent low-profile dual DVI card newegg had)


Supposedly Boinc is using CUDA, but I haven't figured out yet if it's making a noticeable difference.

Which reminds me...haven't installed boinc on the mythtv box yet.... hehehe.

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