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Author Topic: System without hard disk.  (Read 9695 times)
nightflier
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Vectorian
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« Reply #15 on: October 26, 2007, 06:16:05 pm »

The system is now set up dual boot. VL 5.8 SOHO #1 on an IDE hard disk and VL 5.8 SOHO #2 spread over the CF card and the i-Ram.

When I get them similarly configured, I will try timing boots, program launches and shutdowns.
In the mean time, here are some raw performance numbers for the drives, according to hdparm.

WD800JB 80 GB UDMA2 IDE hard drive: 53 MB/sec.
Gigabyte i-Ram: 94 MB/sec.
Transcend 8 GB 266x CF card w/ IDE adapter:
using stock 2.6.20 kernel: 19 MB/sec
using ck2-2.6.21 kernel: 39 MB/sec    <------------- thank you, Con Kolivas!   Grin

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nightflier
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Vectorian
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« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2007, 03:49:15 pm »

This is working out quite well so far. Some rather unscientific timing tests indicate some performance gains too. Although the Compact Flash can not match the raw throughput of the hard drive, it must have lower seek/access times.

Here are some results, in seconds:
Boot from LILO prompt to desktop: Hard drive: 56  CF: 42
Shut down: HDD: 15  CF: 12
OpenOffice Writer cold start: HDD: 10  CF: 7
Firefox cold start: HDD: 4 CF: 2

The system will not boot with a USB stick inserted, so right now I'm running without any swap.

Using a file server and Samba for storage, my gigabit network gives me about 18 MB/s read, 22 MB/sec write.
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caitlyn
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« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2007, 09:42:49 am »

Simply do a swapon command after boot and inserting the USB stick Smiley  That's a workaround to your swap problem.
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eMachines EL-1300G desktop, 1.6GHz AMD Athlon 2650e CPU, 4GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6150 SE video
VLocity Linux 7.0-rc1

HP Mini 110 netbook, 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU, 2GB RAM, Intel 950 video
VL 7.0 Light
nightflier
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Vectorian
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« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2007, 05:14:48 am »

There's a great idea. I'll just keep it the way it is for normal use and add swap when I think I will need it. Thanks!
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rbistolfi
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« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2007, 07:26:48 am »

Ok, I am thinking at loud here. Perhaps you can make an udev rule to automount that device as swap when plugged. The first trouble is that could not be vl-hot friendly, but you could put the udev rule right on top of the vl-hot ones, and use the last_rule option to avoid the effect of vl-hot rules trying to mount the device too.
http://reactivated.net/writing_udev_rules.html#external-run

The rule needs too match that particular device only and not any other block device, perhaps using the serial number for matching the dev.
http://reactivated.net/writing_udev_rules.html#udevinfo

Looks like a lot of work, but you could end with the coolest system of the nordic region Roll Eyes
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"There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite."
Jorge Luis Borges, Avatars of the Tortoise.

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Jumalauta!!
nightflier
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« Reply #20 on: November 06, 2007, 06:35:08 am »

Thanks again for your input.

USB flash swap is working now. I moved the USB stick to another port and it started working. Put it back in the original one and it kept working. Not sure what the issue was, but another lesson in "keep trying".

I am quite pleased with how this is turning out. For one thing, spreading the filesystem over three devices (CF, i-Ram and network), seems to have reduced some read/write bottlenecks. Right now I'm running a batch conversion of video files, reading and writing to network shares. One core is pegged at 100% and the second one bounces between 20 and 40. I tried some file copy operations between the local devices and they were quick. The desktop is very responsive, application launch is fast and browsing seems like it always does.

The next step will be to modify the case and replace the current cooling fans with one slow-turning 120 mm one.
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rbistolfi
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« Reply #21 on: November 06, 2007, 06:45:32 am »

That is amazing, you are doing a great job there. Congratulations.
It is cool how you built a system to your liking. I could love to have a box like that, I am being jealous now  Smiley
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"There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite."
Jorge Luis Borges, Avatars of the Tortoise.

--
Jumalauta!!
nightflier
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Vectorian
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« Reply #22 on: November 15, 2007, 11:18:08 am »

Appreciate the encouraging words!  Grin

Next phase is in testing. I removed the PSU and CPU fans. Using foam board, hot glue and the handyman's secret weapon, I built a box around the CPU/chipset area. There is a 120 mm variable speed fan right over the CPU/chipset heatsinks and the air if forced out through the PSU.

With the fan running at minimum (~ 700 RPM), during normal use the CPU is running around 28 degrees Celsius. That is about 5 degrees hotter than before. From what I can find, the "worry temperature" of this Northwood is 57. Under stress with both cores at 100% it reached this temp after 15 minutes (before, it would peg at 40). Increasing fan speed to 1100 RPM brings it down to 50. Dang, why didn't I put the temperature sensor on the bottom of the heat sink before putting everything together?!

At the minimum setting I can still hear the fan, but the constant and unvarying noise is a lot less noticeable than the variable hum and chatter of the hard drive. I'll run it like this for a few weeks before changing anything else.
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nightflier
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« Reply #23 on: November 27, 2007, 08:18:23 am »

Like with many other things in life, the last 20% gain takes 80% of the effort!

After getting the cooling fan so quiet that I could hardly hear any airflow noise, I became aware of the sound from the electric motor. An annoying, high pitch sound that would vary in pitch according to CPU usage.

I ended putting the fan back in the PSU (an automatic 135 mm fan, probably about as quiet as they come). I made some baffles so it would pull the air across the CPU heat sink, and it seems to be very effective. CPU now runs cooler than when I had a fan on it. Obviously, if I want it silent, I will need to go with a fanless PSU and one of those monster overclocking CPU heatsinks.

For most people who would want to reduce the noise of their machines, I think the greatest cost to return ratio would come from buying a high efficiency PSU ($60-100), which will also give you some power savings. Mounting a quiet fan ($10) over the CPU also gives good results with little effort.
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exeterdad
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« Reply #24 on: November 27, 2007, 09:41:29 am »

I saw a article some time ago on the net about a guy who made a completely fan less system.  It was a pump less water cooled system.  The coolant would be sent to various parts of the computer and finally the power supply heatsink(s).  As the coolant would heat up, it would create it's own flow.  Was made completely from hardware store parts. With the exception of the cpu watercooled heatsink.  Pretty neat stuff.

That would get you silence.  Smiley
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exeterdad
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« Reply #25 on: November 27, 2007, 09:57:58 am »

Couldn't find the page I mentioned, but this link may interest you.
http://www.silentmods.com/
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nightflier
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« Reply #26 on: November 27, 2007, 07:10:40 pm »

Some of those silent mods are really neat.

I have resisted the temptation to use liquid cooling so far, as that is getting quite exotic. I prefer to keep it relatively simple. So far the parts used are either cheap or have other applications.

For now the box is very usable. I can only hear it when the rest of the house is quiet, so will give it some more time.
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nightflier
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Vectorian
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« Reply #27 on: August 22, 2008, 09:22:35 pm »

It has been nine months, I thought a long term update might be of interest.

The system is unchanged since last post. However, I had to make some small changes to my user habits. Without the seemingly unlimited storage capacity of the hard drive, I can no longer just dump everything into my home directory. Once used to saving ISO's and other large files to my network server, the machine acts and feels much like it did before. It remains a little faster, and almost silent. I can only hear it when no appliances are running and the (physical) windows are closed.

All in all, I have been very happy with the experiment. It was rather involved, combining a CF-card, an iRam, tmpfs, a network server and a gigabit LAN, but it was very rewarding putting it together and getting it to work.

I'm getting ready to build a new one, and plan to use the same setup on it. Hopefully the low-powered Intel Core 2 CPU's will be equally cool-running as the old Northwood.
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nightflier
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« Reply #28 on: April 27, 2009, 07:54:02 am »

Another update.

My plans to upgrade the system got deferred as other projects took preference.

I am happy to see that hardware development has changed direction, now going towards smaller and more efficient, rather than just higher GHz numbers. I can see getting one of the fanless, SSD equipped mini-systems available.

However, as the current hardware still serves me well, I will be keeping it as it is for now. I finally upgraded from VL SOHO 5.8 to VL 6.0 Light. After adding KDE3 I'm ready to go for at least another year with it.

Some observations worth mentioning:

The i-Ram could have been improved by Gigabyte. For starters, using SATA-1 is a waste when the on-board RAM could fully take advantage of a SATA-2 connection. Second, the battery is a weak point. After a year and a half, I found mine bulging like a balloon. It still worked but was not very confidence inspiring. Obtaining a new one was neither easy nor cheap. I ended up having to contact Gigabyte customer support and special order a new one for $35 plus $8 s/h. I was tempted to hack together some other solution, but it has three contacts on it and two voltages, so I let that go for now. From what I can tell, it looks a lot like a Kodak KLIC-5001. I speculate that may be an option. Maybe later.

Only once did I lose some data when severe weather knocked my power out for three days in a row. After that I set my email clients to leave the mail on server for a few days, and tweaked my backup script to run more often.

NFS has replaced SAMBA for the network connection to my file server. It handles mount/umount better, integrates more seamlessly into the filesystem, and properly manages Linux file permissions. Write speeds jump around some but average about 26 MB/s. Read speeds are higher and more consistent, seem to match the performance of the hard drives on the server. I have seen read speeds over 50 MB/s.

I use XFS on all the local drives and have had no issues with that.

2 GB of RAM is sufficient, not once have I noticed any slowdowns that I could have attributed to running low on memory and usage of swap. I normally shut the machine down every night, so it gets a fresh start every morning.

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nightflier
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Vectorian
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« Reply #29 on: October 29, 2009, 01:43:22 pm »

Wow, two years have gone by.

I started seeing warnings about read and I/O errors in the system logs. Also, the i-Ram has lost its memory a couple of times in the last few months, so it was time to upgrade.

I replaced the cf-card with a 64 GB Patriot Torqx SSD. USB stick is gone. Took the battery out of i-Ram and relegated it to swap usage only.

Buffered disc read speed of the Torqx is actually faster than the i-Ram by about 20%.
Boot time is down to 35 seconds and overall system performance seems better.

This homebrew setup gave me a quiet, fast system until SSD's became cheap enough for me.
It was also a fun and rewarding project. I'm glad I did it.
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