More new computers in 2008

New system #2: e8400

I bought my wife's system described earlier at the beginning of June, and used it myself for a couple weeks to work out the bugs. Or so I said to myself. Soon it became apparant I was just keeping it because I couldn't stand using my old slow computer... so I went back to the well and put another one together for myself.

Since I'm using the system to run the Wine conformance tests under Valgrind, which takes three hours, I decided to get something even faster. The tests I run are currently not parallelized, so quad core would be a waste; dual core is probably more appropriate. John Reiser pointed me to an Ars review that recommended the e8400 CPU. I'm willing to pay an extra $60 for twice the cache and a bit higher CPU speed...

So I bought an e8400 cpu and compared the e7200 and e8400, both in the same system, on the 'valgrind wine test suite with -j2' task. Results: e8400 is 18% faster than the e7200 (83 minutes vs. 99 minutes).

And, to see if faster RAM would do anything, I tried two different kinds of RAM, both from Mushkin: 2GB 5-4-4-12 PC-6400 and 2GB 5-5-5-15 PC-8500 There was no noticable difference in build speed. Evidently you just need RAM fast enough so the CPU runs at all. (And since I don't overclock, I have no reason to buy extra-fast RAM.) (Worse, the PC-8500 RAM itself seemed to cause occasional crashes, it may have been a bad stick.)

The motherboard I bought last time is no longer available, so I went shopping again. This time I decided to go for one with no onboard graphics. Searching on newegg until I found one with good reviews and with a chance of working under linux, I settled on ASUS P5K PRO; newegg lists it for $105. Its network chip is the Marvell 88E8056 -- same as the other motherboard.

For a video card, I searched on newegg again for one with 512MB of RAM, GeForce 7 or higher, good ratings, and cheap; best match seemed to be PNY 8500 GT 512MB PCIe; newegg lists it for for $55.

I also got two more sticks of the nice 5-4-4-12 RAM, a 1TB GP hard drive, and the same case. Total price, including shipping: $552.

memtest86 reports: L1 cache 64K 49,181 MB/s, Memory 1982M 19608 MB/s

New system #3: e7300

Once more, choosing a motherboard at random, this time with onboard graphics again: Total price: $375. (I think I forgot a few things in that list, sorry.)

New system #4: q9300

Once more, choosing a cheap motherboard nearly at random, but going for a quad core to make valgrinding wine go faster: Total price: $490. I later added a third gigabyte of RAM to it.

phoronix-test-suite benchmark jonas-18272-27994-11746
System Hardware: 
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q9300 @ 2.49GHz (Total Cores: 4), Motherboard: ECS GF7100/7050PVT-M3, Chipset: nVidia nForce 630i, System Memory: 3023MB, Disk: 500GB WDC WD5000AACS-0, Graphics: GeForce 8500 GT 512MB (450/400MHz)
System Software:
OS: Ubuntu 9.10, Kernel: 2.6.31-14-generic (i686), Desktop: GNOME 2.28.1, Display Server: X.Org Server 1.6.4, OpenGL: 3.0.0 NVIDIA 185.18.36, Compiler: GCC 4.4.1, File-System: ext2/ext3, Screen Resolution: 1280x1024
Results Overview:
Timed Linux Kernel Compilation dank-q9300-3gb-1 690 seconds
(Compared to 328 seconds on Jonas' i7 920.)

PNY 8500 GT fan noise problem

After a few years, one of the PNY 8500 GT graphics cards started making an awful noise. Various sources around the net, e.g. this post on the nvidia forum, suggested oiling the fan would fix the problem. So I unscrewed the fan from the heatsink, peeled off the sticker from the back, removed the big rubber plug, and put two drops of sewing machine (3-in-1) oil in the hole. Sure enough, that did it! Incidentally, the sticker I peeled off the back of the fan said "Evercool. Low noise. Long life time. EC5010L12D. EL Bearing." The manufacturer describes the EL bearing as having a 50,000 hour lifetime (that's 2000 days, or 5.7 years). Didn't quite make it that long here.