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jballou
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 3:37 am    Post subject: "Best" SGI system for Gentoo? Reply with quote

I'm looking to get a few off-the-beaten-path workstations here. I've got a fairly large budget that affords me the ability to buy pretty much whatever I want, so I picked up a few dual SPARC stations, I'd like to get an SGI box as well, but I need one that can run X and Firefox or a compatable browser(read that Mozilla hates compiling, but that was in an O2 thread). Flash and all that stuff is not needed, the administrative stuff here is all W3C compliant HTML code, since I need to do half the work via Lynx in SSH. I've seen that there are issues with certain models, and within those models, certain cards. Any advice will be much appreciated, even if it's "This has been covered here" with a link, since I went 6 pages deep and did a search and didn't find the answer. Thanks.
Edit: Duh, reading more posts and hit http://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-t-375576.html
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The MIPS Hardware Requirements page would be your best official resource for this.

By far, the best supported machines are the Octane and Indy workstations. Almost everything works, these machines run the most reliably under Linux. (particularly Octane).

For X support, you need either an IMPACT SR (marketed as SI/SSI/ESSI/MXI...etc in the case of Octane) or a Newport (XL 8 or 24-bit in the case of Indy) graphic card.
Octanes (and Octane2s) with ODDISEY (V6/V8/V10/V12 graphics) run too... but there's no X driver for those yet.

O2s also run reasonably well, sans sound card, and accelerated video. They are quite a bit slower than the Octane though (but much faster than an Indy), and so may or may not suit your needs. Linux only runs on the R5000 and RM5200 variety ... R1x000-based O2s are a work-in-progress (they run ... but any heavy SCSI activity soon sends them into a fatal Oops).

Indigo2s (R4x00-based) run ... but very few of them have supported framebuffers. There's no support for Extreme boards yet (someone is working on a console driver, X will be a long time though) however, if you can get one with Impact graphics (SI/MI, etc... basically an older cousin of the Octane's IMPACT SR chipset) or XL graphics, X is a possibility.

Indigo2 R10000s run reasonably stable, but suffer a cache coherancy bug which affects DMA I/O (the same bug that causes R1x000 O2s to crash on disk I/O) which threatens to bring the system down. They run Linux suprisingly well nonetheless, but are best avoided for production use. Most of these came with Impact graphics, which these days, runs suprisingly well. Here you'll see a photo of my Indigo2 R10000, showing the KDE 3.5.0 desktop.

Indigo2 R8000s don't run Linux AT ALL. This is due to the largely weird layout of the R8000 CPU -- no one knows much about it at this stage.

For web browsers... There is a version of Firefox 1.0.6 floating about, but it's quite old. Konqueror works fine on MIPS however, and is probably the best browser available on Gentoo/MIPS. Other options include Links (with X support) and Dillo.

I hope this answers some of your queries. :-)
Regards,
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jballou
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the reply, but I'm a little confused. I was under the assumption that the Indy worked great, O2 worked well, and the Octane was a hit-or-miss for X and due to the R10K series chips. When I checked the Linux MIPS HW link you posted, it confirmed that. Just trying to make sure I don't go getting a hobby PC that I can't justify asa work expense :)
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Errrm, no, the R10000 issue is a cache coherancy bug that affects the O2 and Indigo2. They are hit-or-miss, due to the speculative execution feature of the R10000 CPU, on a non-cache coherant system, there's the chance that a speculatively executed STORE op could clobber data, leading to data corruption, and thus, a crash.

What makes Octane hit-or-miss, is the lack of support for Oddisey graphics. Under Linux with Oddisey graphics, you'll get a console, but nothing more. On ImpactSR however, X works as well. The Octane is cache coherant, and thus doesn't suffer any CPU-related problems. It's still experimental in that the kernel requires patches to make it work on Octane, but stability is greatly improved from the early days of that port.

And unlike the O2, almost everything in the Octane works. http://www.linux-mips.org/~skylark/ has the full detail, but every core device works, with only a couple of things left to complete support.
The O2's framebuffer works (but it lacks a proper X driver), as does ethernet, SCSI and other parts... but things like 3D acceleration, the multimedia compressor chipset (VICE) and the audio chipset are dead weights under Linux -- at least for now.

Having compared KDE 3.5 on my O2, to KDE 3.5 on my Indigo2 (R10000 w/ Impact graphics), the Indigo2 has much better graphics. KDE is noticably laggy due to the unaccelerated 2D video on the O2. Octanes are even faster than the Indigo2, and thus will likely perform much better in the long run.
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jballou
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2006 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, cool, just scored an Octane 250MHz and an extra gig of ram, I'm sure I'll be back here once I get it. Thanks for the help.
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