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cayenne
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2004 4:52 pm    Post subject: What is best config/bang for buck Sparc w/Gentoo? Reply with quote

Hello all!

I've done a few installs on x86, and I've been looking around eBay and see Sun sparc Ultra5's, Ultra10's and others for like $200. I'd love to play with one of these...but, know virtually nothing about Sun hardware.

Can ya'll make recommendations on what boxes are the best to work with with Gentoo? I understand the Ultra5's have IDE controllers..which would mean you could throw in a much larger HD in them to replace the older one....is there a size limit here anywhere? Do other Ultra's have the IDE controllers or are other ones all SCSI? If I get a SCSI box...will pretty much any SCSI HD work in it?

I understand that these boxes require Sun mice and keyboards...but, how about monitors? Will most any pc monitor work on them till I buy a Sun one?

These boxes are 64 bit, correct? Is the Gentoo Sparc version of Linux 64 bit here? Any limit on applications you can run on this (is there 64 bit emacs?)
:-)

This is just playing with ideas, but, at this price...would it be feasible to make a beowulf type cluster of these things? At this price...getting a few over time wouldn't be too expensive...

I think I want one just to be a stand alone webserver to start out...but, really want one to play, and the price looks right.

Anyway, complete noob here on this topic, and would really appreciate some pointers, suggestions, war stories, and links on this...

Many thanks in advance!!

cayenne
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ibtim13
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2004 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would recommend going with an Ultra 2 with dual 300Mhz or faster proc's (but that's just me, I don't like PCI based suns). The Ultra 2 is all SCSI, and uses Sbus for expansion and UPA for graphics (this machine is old, but the UPA bus provides graphics bandwidth close to AGP 8x, much better than a PCI solution) You could go for an Ultra 5, they're apparently great for getting into Sun stuff, but I won't touch a system that doesn't have at least 2 processors. I have a great little Ultra2 system running gentoo and I am very happy with it, I spent ~ $200 on it. All Ultrasparc processors are 64-bit, and Gentoo sparc version is also 64-bit (in fact, the 32-bit version for 32-bit sparc chips doesn't work that well, not nearly as well as the 64-bit version). Installing gentoo on an ultrasparc system is surprisingly simple. Most suns will not use normal PC-monitors. Unless it specifically says it has a 15-pin vga port you can bet it won't work with a PC monitor. Suns use a 13W3 connection for the monitor which is VERY different from a PC connection. Although, you can get sun monitors very cheap on ebay (My 19 in was $45 including shipping). You can also get adapters for vga to 13W3 for ~ $15 but beware, SGI machines also use a 13W3 connection, which, while they look the same and will physically fit without a problem, are completely incompatible with Sun's 13w3 connections, and most ebay sellers do not note this difference, they just advertise "13w3 to vga" and don't tell you whether they work with suns or sgi. At the moment I have only one problem with my Ultra 2, and that is php-core is masked for sparc and even if I unmask it it will not compile. Also, at least from what I can tell (after having used solaris 9 on this system for over a year, and 8 for 4 months prior) Linux is MUCH faster on my Ultra 2 than solaris was. Faster, more responsive, and I like it better too!
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2004 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

I've done a few installs on x86, and I've been looking around eBay and see Sun sparc Ultra5's, Ultra10's and others for like $200. I'd love to play with one of these...but, know virtually nothing about Sun hardware.

Can ya'll make recommendations on what boxes are the best to work with with Gentoo? I understand the Ultra5's have IDE controllers..which would mean you could throw in a much larger HD in them to replace the older one....is there a size limit here anywhere? Do other Ultra's have the IDE controllers or are other ones all SCSI? If I get a SCSI box...will pretty much any SCSI HD work in it?


Personally I wouldn't pay $200 for an Ultra5 or 10 with no monitor or KB - $100 would be a bit nicer price. With the peripherals it'd be fine. Of course this all depends on how much you want it, and how much you're willing to spend.

IIRC the Ultra5 IDE controller has a size limit (18GB rings a bell). Don't quote me on this, ask someone who knows what it really is, but I'm pretty sure there is a limit somewhere.

Other Ultras (newer ones) have IDE mostly I think. The older Ultras (U1, U2 - I'm on my U1 right now) are Fast-SCSI systems.

Far as I know any old SCSI HD of any size will work in the SCSI Ultras. My U1 takes standard 50pin SCSI/Fast-SCSI drives. The only problem that might appear is the Sun disklabel but fdisk offers a 'custom' label type so it looks like it would be fine. I think the /boot partition needs to be at cylinder 0 though.

Quote:

I understand that these boxes require Sun mice and keyboards...but, how about monitors? Will most any pc monitor work on them till I buy a Sun one?


For the earlier Sparcs (All sparc32 - sun4, sun4c, sun4m, and sun4d and the earler Ultras including U1/U2) you need either a real Sun monitor with the odd 13W3 plug, or a 13W3->VGA adapter. NewerUltras (I've seen a U10 like this, it had an Elite3D card in it) usually have a standard VGA output. Don't know about the U5 but I suspect it may be VGA - check the specific box you're looking at.

Quote:

These boxes are 64 bit, correct? Is the Gentoo Sparc version of Linux 64 bit here? Any limit on applications you can run on this (is there 64 bit emacs?)


They are 64-bit CPUs, and the kernel runs in 64-bit mode. The catch is that the distros that are out now are 32-bit userland, which means that all your apps are going to be 32-bit. I hear that the new Gentoo in the works might be both 32 and 64 bit userland compatible, but the current setup is 32 only.

32 bit userland is actually superior in most cases. 64-bit really only should be used in two cases:
1) You need to manipulate numbers greater than 2^32-1 (although this can and is done in software in 32-bit mode, albeit with a speed penalty).
2) You have more than 4GB of memory to address.

32-bit is faster in other cases because it takes 1/2 the RAM, so 32-bit instructions fit twice as much into the CPU's L2 cache as 64-bit. Moving 64 bit instructions around instead of 32-bit is going to cost you a lot of memory bandwidth.


Quote:

This is just playing with ideas, but, at this price...would it be feasible to make a beowulf type cluster of these things? At this price...getting a few over time wouldn't be too expensive...


A Sparc64 Beowulf would be really cool. But x86 boxes are way cheaper for the performance in 32 bit mode, so this isn't going to be as cost effective. Things might change if we were taking about SMP UltraSparc-III boxes at 1+GHz running 64-bit code though :twisted:

Quote:

I think I want one just to be a stand alone webserver to start out...but, really want one to play, and the price looks right.


That's the perfect use for one of these. A nifty toy, and a webserver - these are very reliable boxes. My father's workplace recently replaced almost all of their Sparcs, most of which had around 8-12 years of continuous uptime discounting power outages.
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NewBlackDak
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2004 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We had two that had 7 yrs 123 days, and 4 hours uptime on it. The showstopper on that one was one of the fool maintenance people forgot to fill the generator with fuel, so when we lost power, everything went down.

We also had a novell server that had a year more than those sparc boxes.
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Ferris
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2004 6:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd go along with the dual processor U2 recommendation (at >= 300MHz).
I have two of them, and find them to be quite reliable.

But, you can't put just any SCSI in them. Internally, you really need the
ones listed as part numbers for them, and they require a special bracket
to hold them. You can get the 18GB models on eBay for about $80,
complete. (The 36GB models will fit, but are quite expensive. If you
get a U2 someplace, it will probably come with 2x9GB installed, which is
fine for GenToo. And, 512MB memory should be fine. I have one with
1GB installed, but it never comes close to using all of it.)

However, you should be able to hang about any external SCSI-III disk you
have on one of these.
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charlesnadeau
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2004 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello,

I have the opportunity to buy an UltraSparc workstation and would like some comments about the configurations I am looking at:
The first one is an UltraSparc10, UltraSparc II 333Mhz CPU, 128MB Ram, 9GB IDE HD, FDD, CDROM, and a PGX video card. This one is 170 US$
The second one is an UltraSparc60, UltraSparc II 450Mhz CPU, 512MB Ram, 9GB SCSI HD, FDD, CDROM and a PGX video card. This one is 580 US$
The third one is an UltraSparc80, 2x UltraSparc II 450Mhz, 2GB Ram, 18GB SCSI HD, FDD, CDROM. This one is 2000 US$
The fourth one is a SunBlade E100, UltraSparc IIe 500Mhz, 256MB Ram, 20GB IDE HD, FDD, CDROM and a PGX64 video cardfor 770 US$
My budget tells me to go for the first configuration but if the price/performance ratio is much better with the second/third one, I may tighten my belt and go for it.

So, which one offer the best price/performance ratio?
Any caveat I should to be aware of? I already know about their special keyboard and mouse. I'll access it through the serial port.
How easy/difficult is it to install/configure Gentoo using the console on the serial port? Any model with a higher installation success rate?
Which communication software should I use from an x86-based Gentoo workstation to connect to the Sparc via the serial port?
Can I plug them on a normal VGA monitor?

Thanks!

Charles
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phygradmarko
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2004 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

charlesnadeau wrote:


I have the opportunity to buy an UltraSparc workstation and would like some comments about the configurations I am looking at:
The first one is an UltraSparc10, UltraSparc II 333Mhz CPU, 128MB Ram, 9GB IDE HD, FDD, CDROM, and a PGX video card. This one is 170 US$
The second one is an UltraSparc60, UltraSparc II 450Mhz CPU, 512MB Ram, 9GB SCSI HD, FDD, CDROM and a PGX video card. This one is 580 US$
The third one is an UltraSparc80, 2x UltraSparc II 450Mhz, 2GB Ram, 18GB SCSI HD, FDD, CDROM. This one is 2000 US$
The fourth one is a SunBlade E100, UltraSparc IIe 500Mhz, 256MB Ram, 20GB IDE HD, FDD, CDROM and a PGX64 video cardfor 770 US$
My budget tells me to go for the first configuration but if the price/performance ratio is much better with the second/third one, I may tighten my belt and go for it.

So, which one offer the best price/performance ratio?
Any caveat I should to be aware of? I already know about their special keyboard and mouse. I'll access it through the serial port.
How easy/difficult is it to install/configure Gentoo using the console on the serial port? Any model with a higher installation success rate?
Which communication software should I use from an x86-based Gentoo workstation to connect to the Sparc via the serial port?
Can I plug them on a normal VGA monitor?


Since no one else has replied, I will give my 2 cents...

There is a difference in class of machine between the Ultra 10 and the 60 that isn't made up by the Ultra 10 costing $410 less. Let's compare the two machines...

Lets start by examining the drive subsystem. The chipset of the Ultra 10 is such that it will only run in UDMA mode 2 (someone correct me if I am wrong, I only have experience with Ultra 5s which I believe have nearly the same motherboard found on the Ultra 10). This, along with the fact SUN decided to equip these machines with poor performing (and noisy) drives leaves one lusting for better hard drive performance. On the other hand, the Ultra 60 contains an Ultra-SCSI interface (two actually, one for the internal drives and a second bus for the external interface). Bottom line, much better drive performance with the Ultra 60.

Second, the CPUs are different beasts. The Ultra 10 in question has a 333MHz Ultra IIi with 2M cache which pales in comparison to the 450MHz Ulta II with 4M cache found on the particular Ultra 60 in question.

Third, the memory on the Ultra 60 is four times the quantity found on the Ultra 10 in question. While it would be less than $100 to bring the Ultra 10 to 512M (purchased off Ebay) the fact remains there is a difference in quantity.

Fourth, the Ultra 60 may be expanded to two CPUs while the Ultra 10 is fixed to one. Perhaps not an issue, you decide...

Both machines contain a PGX framebuffer. The Ultra 10 does have a single UPA port into which a better framebuffer may be placed (such as a Creator3D or Elite 3D card). The Ultra 60 has two such slots...

So there is a difference between these two machines which may justify the additional $410.

Now, let's briefly discuss the Ultra 80 and Blade 100.

The Ultra 80 is similar to the Ultra 60 except it has room for 4 CPUs and a maximum RAM of 4G (compared to the Ultra 60s 2G max). I am not sure I would spend the extra $$ for the 80 unless you believe you would take advantage of these extras...

The Blade 100 effectively replaced the Ultra 5 as SUNs low end, IDE machine. The CPU is slightly faster (at 500MHz) and does make some difference. Still not a great performing disk subsystem. However, the Blade 100 has USB onboard. This allows one to make use of USB devices such as printers (works quite well with some of the HP inkjets I have tried).

Finally, the question of monitors was brought up. The Ultra 10, 60 and Blade 100, with the optional PGX framebuffer, should connect to a standard VGA monitor. The Ultra 80 would also if running a PGX card (not mentioned in the post). The higher end cards such as the Creator3D or Elite3D require a monitor with a 13W3 connector.

If I was pressed to decide best bang for buck with the listed machines, I would choose the Ultra 60.

As far as connecting a console through the serial ports, I couldn't comment but others on this forum can.

Like I said previously, just my 2 cents (OK, maybe that was a whole nickel). Hope it helps somewhat...

Marko

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