seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

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zambusa
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seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby zambusa » Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:55 pm

I'm thinking about getting an sgi of some sort, mainly to have something a bit different to tinker with - been playing with old pc's and mac's until now. Apart from learning about unix etc., I might be interested in doing some music composition [midi] and video processing [in the form of archiving vhs and digital 8mm tapes] but otherwise the system would be for email and web browsing, light office-type work [occasional small spreadsheet or word processing], and possibly some programming though probably not involving much by way of sound or graphics [using fortran and thinking about parallelisation of calculations might be avenues on my mind for other reasons].

I've been browsing the sgi depot website so I'm thinking that may be where I buy from, ebay seems pretty thin on sgi systems in the uk. Though there was that crimson lately!

Looking for some advice on models and options - to me, it's looking like an o2 or a fuel but I'm tempted by the octanes because of the possibility of dual cpu's, the xbar architecture, the looks etc.

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby PymbleSoftware » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:32 pm

zambusa wrote:I'm thinking about getting an sgi of some sort, mainly to have something a bit different to tinker with - been playing with old pc's and mac's until now. Apart from learning about unix etc., I might be interested in doing some music composition [midi] and video processing [in the form of archiving vhs and digital 8mm tapes] but otherwise the system would be for email and web browsing, light office-type work [occasional small spreadsheet or word processing], and possibly some programming though probably not involving much by way of sound or graphics [using fortran and thinking about parallelisation of calculations might be avenues on my mind for other reasons].


You may be disappointed with the performance of older sgis, and word processing, etc is probably better on modern machines. Web browsing (and no flash at all - no youtube, etc) is not the best experience on older sgis. However older sgis are fun to play with in their own right.

zambusa wrote:I've been browsing the sgi depot website so I'm thinking that may be where I buy from, ebay seems pretty thin on sgi systems in the uk. Though there was that crimson lately!


Ian has been around for a long time and if I was in the UK, sgi depot would probably be my first thought.. Sellers on fleabay are generally greedy and think if something is rare then charge as much as possible for it.

zambusa wrote:Looking for some advice on models and options - to me, it's looking like an o2 or a fuel but I'm tempted by the octanes because of the possibility of dual cpu's, the xbar architecture, the looks etc.


I'd grab anything I could get my hands on and/or afford to get started. Octanes most generally have a 13w3 unless its a VPro with DCD. You might be more likely to find a DVI output on a Fuel. 13W3 to VGA topic: http://www.nekochan.net/wiki/13w3_to_VGA .

O2s have VGA so thats another good option, but they can be temperamental, especially if not used for a while.. The CD drives lose the cog, etc, but they are great starter machines.

The original post represents a lot of new members first post along the lines of "What should my first SGI be..?", perhaps a sticky topic or a wiki article would help..?

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby SAQ » Fri Dec 23, 2011 7:11 pm

SGIs are great machines, but if you're looking for a machine with a purpose (other than specifically SGI) I'd look elsewhere.

For video work I'd go Macintosh. I have a few friends/relatives who are perfectly happy with PCs for this, but I've been burnt once too often to trust them yet. Mac+Final Cut is hard to beat, though iMovie is not bad either. SGI video options (hardware) are very expensive, disks are expensive in large capacities unless you have a IP35+SAS/SATA card, and SGI video software is expensive, tempermental, hard to learn, or some combination of all the above. It can be great - I'm not downplaying it, the movies postproduced on IRIX speak for themselves - but at this point there are probably better options.

MIDI, email, web browsing, and office I'd go for any modernish PC or Macintosh running MacOS, Wi***ws or L***x. If you're willing to do a bit more work on your own NetBSD/OpenBSD are great and very stable. IRIX is just too far behind in Office software (OpenOffice 1.3, WordPerfect 6.0 and the like are the latest you'll find) and Web software to make using it productive, pleasant or secure. You can, certainly, but be prepared for some creative problem solving.

For having fun, playing around with different/older/very well-designed at the time systems SGI is great. If you're learning programming and can beg, borrow or steal MIPSpro it's also good, provided that nothing beyond c99/f90 is needed. MIPSpro is a very pure compiler that won't let you get away with much, and neither will IRIX. That said you should also learn on a more modern platform concurrently - again L***x is where it's at commercially for UNIX (the Intel compilers are available for free non-commercial use if you want to try something other than GCC, don't know if there's anything as strict as MIPSpro out there, but an Open64 derivative is probably close [based on the MIPSpro frontend]).

If you want the best hardware support, go for Fuel. IP35 has built-in PCI and supports some LSI SAS cards, 1000base Ethernet, and some other hardware not supported by other machines. O2 is the smallest/quietest/least-power-using option, though it's older and has some limits. Octane is great - that's what I have, but you need add-in modules to use PCI cards and SCSI/Ethernet/RAM bandwidth is at 1997 levels. It has very good build quality, and is snappy, but is heavy.
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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby smj » Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:34 am

Welcome, zambusa!

I'd say you're on the right track - a Fuel if you can find one within your budget, an O2 otherwise (or in addition, you never know). Octanes are great, but an average Fuel will match or beat all but higher-end Octanes. Again, once the madness takes hold and Octane or three would make a fine addition to your Fuel and O2... ;)

Kidding aside, once you get some familiarity with IRIX on your first box, you can let your interests guide you in selecting a follow-on.
Then? :IRIS3130: ... Now? :O3x02L: :A3504L:- :A3502L: :1600SW:+MLA :Fuel: :Octane2: :Octane: :Indigo2IMP: ... Other: DEC :BA213: :BA123: Sun, DG AViiON, NeXT :Cube:

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby josehill » Sat Dec 24, 2011 10:06 am

I agree with everything that the other guys have said. If you are certain that you are after a real SGI experience, then definitely go with a Fuel or a higher end Octane; they will be noticeably quicker than even the fastest O2. On the other hand, if you are just curious about the platform, O2s are perfectly fine machines, particularly the 300+ MHz models. If you are patient, you can find O2s at minimal or no cost, particularly if they are on the lower end of the product line (150 MHz R10k/180 MHz R5k). Look for a minimum of 128 MB of RAM, but 256+ MB is much more comfortable under IRIX 6.5.

As an aside, the fans in Fuels and Octanes can be very noisy. Even the O2s can be noisy, as the R10k/R12k models have pretty substantial cpu fans.

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby skywriter » Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:12 pm

looks like we got another one of them fancy typers.
:Skywriter:

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby hamei » Sat Dec 24, 2011 10:43 pm

I'd go with the Octane, myself. If you want the full SGI Desktop experience, an Octane is the most usable while still being truly Silicon Graphics. Fuel is faster and more versatile (CF cards, SATA disks, etc) but the build quality and design is meh. Octane was probably the height of what made SGI special. Or an Indigo if you don't care about doing "modern" stuff. The other models all have their quirky interesting features but I'd say those two would give you the best initial feel for why people got excited over Silicon Graphics.

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby zambusa » Sun Dec 25, 2011 2:44 pm

Thanks for all these replies - much appreciated! It's not an easy decision so I will probably sit on it a while longer and dwell on the above comments :D . This would be pretty much a shoestring project - pricewise I'd be looking at most at a 400mhz Octane [or 360 dual], or maybe a 500mhz Fuel, or a low-end r12000 o2. Maybe even an Indigo2.

Probably at first I'd want to plug it into my kvm so I'd want something that takes ps/2 keyboard at least - needing to get a mouse doesn't matter so much, I've ended up with 3 in use for 4 pc's so another one won't make a lot of difference :lol:.

However - regarding sgi ps/2 keyboards:

- are these likely to work with a kvm for both the sgi and pc's?
- what's the action like? are they rubber-dome type? I'm guessing they aren't buckle-spring but I saw a reference to ALPS relating to sgi kb's somewhere, wasn't sure what that meant.

On the mice I'm assuming I would need a proper 3-button mouse - a windows wheel-mouse won't do? Or would the middle button work, though not as a wheel?

Monitors...

Mine is a Lacie electron 22 blue iv aperture grill crt - I imagine that it's something else rebadged [sony, mitsubishi, iiyama, etc], but it does 1600x1200 [I think up to 2000 or so horizontal in fact]. It has 2 vga inputs, I guess I will google to see if it can work with a vga/sync-on-green cable which I guess I will/may need for Octane or Indigo2.

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby ajw99uk » Sun Dec 25, 2011 3:48 pm

zambusa wrote:Thanks for all these replies - much appreciated! It's not an easy decision so I will probably sit on it a while longer and dwell on the above comments :D . This would be pretty much a shoestring project - pricewise I'd be looking at most at a 400mhz Octane [or 360 dual], or maybe a 500mhz Fuel, or a low-end r12000 o2. Maybe even an Indigo2.

Probably at first I'd want to plug it into my kvm so I'd want something that takes ps/2 keyboard at least - needing to get a mouse doesn't matter so much, I've ended up with 3 in use for 4 pc's so another one won't make a lot of difference :lol:.

However - regarding sgi ps/2 keyboards:

- are these likely to work with a kvm for both the sgi and pc's?
- what's the action like? are they rubber-dome type? I'm guessing they aren't buckle-spring but I saw a reference to ALPS relating to sgi kb's somewhere, wasn't sure what that meant.

On the mice I'm assuming I would need a proper 3-button mouse - a windows wheel-mouse won't do? Or would the middle button work, though not as a wheel?

Monitors...

Mine is a Lacie electron 22 blue iv aperture grill crt - I imagine that it's something else rebadged [sony, mitsubishi, iiyama, etc], but it does 1600x1200 [I think up to 2000 or so horizontal in fact]. It has 2 vga inputs, I guess I will google to see if it can work with a vga/sync-on-green cable which I guess I will/may need for Octane or Indigo2.


I think you mentioned you were looking in the UK, and some of your comments echo my starting point, so let me share my experience:

I had a KVM with an unusual PC (running Debian) and a RiscPC, so also looking for a PS/2 machine that would be a foray into workstation territory. SGI because I had seen it in action as a molecular modelling tool in the mid-90s. Limited outlay for a hobby/experiment: 40 quid on an Indigo2 last March, plus a bit for postage and a 13w3-VGA converter. At the time there was a cheap O2 (though only a R5K) and an I2 Impact, just after I'd bought (so there is never a best time!).

Result: knockout! Nekochan support/enthusiasm really good, IRIX and the IRIS desktop seemed great, since bought a Fuel. Yes, does work on a KVM, but not really at the same time as the other machines; does drive VGA nicely (both I2 and Fuel have been fine with my 17" Iiyama CRT). Scroll mouse support there from IRIX 6.5.16, so get the free upgrade to 6.5.22 from SGI. This works through the KVM (despite comments to the contrary) although not with all applications.

For a Fuel, on ebay "usedunix" did have some on "Buy it now or best offer" so worth seeing whether your budget counts as an acceptable offer. There has been a 500MHz at around 200 quid lately, as well as a fairly low-spec O2. Decent O2s are priced higher, and there don't seem to be many Octanes around. Unless there is an application for which you need dual-processor, I would recommend the Fuel. That said, once you have one, the Tezro becomes an "I want one of those" item!

Whereabouts in the UK are you? there may be someone willing to lend you a machine for a taster, but better to avoid postage if you can - SGIs are heavy!

Also worth a look in the nekoware and SGI freeware catalogues to get an idea of available software (and recent-ness of versions) compared with what you want to do. Some things are kept reasonably up to date, but no OpenOffice beyond version 1 as far as I can see!
Fuel; Indigo2; RiscPC Kinetic-StrongARM/448MB/RISCOS4.39 or Debian-etch; EspressoPC ViaC3/900MHz/256MB/Debian-testing; RPi B RISCOS5.21 or Raspbian-jessie; A5000/33MHz/FPA11/8MB/RISCOS3.11; A540/25MHz/FPA10/16MB/RISCOS3.11 or RISCiX1.21; R140/35MHz/4MB/RISCOS3.11 or RISCiX1.21

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby PymbleSoftware » Sun Dec 25, 2011 4:58 pm

zambusa wrote:On the mice I'm assuming I would need a proper 3-button mouse - a windows wheel-mouse won't do? Or would the middle button work, though not as a wheel?


Please take the time to search the wiki, blog and forums, you will learn a lot. The answer to scroll wheel mouse support part is in Nekonoko's blog:
http://www.nekochan.net/weblog/archives ... e-sup.html

In http://www.nekochan.net/weblog/archives ... e-sup.html it is wrote:Here's a great tip if you're wanting a little more flexibility with your input devices under IRIX. As of IRIX 6.5.16, support for multi-button mice (including scroll wheel) has been added, though it's not active by default.


There is also some information in the wiki including a link back to that blog entry:
http://www.nekochan.net/wiki/Wheel_Mous ... Under_IRIX

Putting scroll wheel in the forum search box and selecting SGI returned something like 41 results, several of which link back to that blog entry.
search.php?keywords=scroll+wheel&terms=all&author=&fid%5B%5D=20&sc=1&sf=all&sk=t&sd=d&sr=posts&st=0&ch=300&t=0&submit=Search


ajw99uk wrote: Some things are kept reasonably up to date, but no OpenOffice beyond version 1 as far as I can see!
You want later versions of OpenOffice, then you go through the hassle of digging through other peoples horrible convoluted Linux orientated code and port it yourself.

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby SAQ » Sun Dec 25, 2011 9:32 pm

OpenOffice version 1 is there only because SGI contributed a couple of people to the effort.

Newer versions are unlikely because of the lack of a modern IRIX Java. At this point let's not discuss making a newer one or the merits/lack therof of Java - just leave it at this.
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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby zambusa » Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:27 am

PymbleSoftware wrote:Please take the time to search the wiki, blog and forums, you will learn a lot.


Thanks and my apologies for not trying this first. I see from the wiki that my monitor is on the sync on green list too, so setting up an sgi on my kvm is looking pretty practical :).

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby recondas » Mon Dec 26, 2011 8:58 am

zambusa wrote:However - regarding sgi ps/2 keyboards:

- are these likely to work with a kvm for both the sgi and pc's?
- what's the action like? are they rubber-dome type? I'm guessing they aren't buckle-spring but I saw a reference to ALPS relating to sgi kb's somewhere, wasn't sure what that meant.

Might be a few less keys than you're used to, but SGI keyboards should work just fine with other PS/2 keyboard systems. If you want to use a non-SGI keyboard (with more than 101 keys), SGI provides for a few expanded keyboard layouts. The alternative keyboard arrangements can be found/loaded with the IRIX ipanel tool. ipanel is accessible from a command line or via the desktop gui from the Toolchest (Toolchest > Desktop > Customize > Language - select the keyboard icon, drop the menu below "Show Keyboards:" and select "All" to see what's available)

It's worth noting that SGI systems with PS/2 keyboards use a different keyboard scan code than what's commonly used by most other systems. Because the scan code used by SGI was part of the original PS/2 standard, the differing scan code sets don't typically cause problems with non-SGI PS/2 keyboards directly attached to SGI systems. Most keyboards (that follow the PS/2 standard) were designed to provide either the SGI or PC-flavored scan code set.

If there's a fly in your PS/2 ointment, it's likely to be the KVM. Not all KVMs provide for the less-common scan code set used by SGI. Hopefully yours will, if not, you might still be able to use the KVM to share just the KVM monitor connection with the SGI and use Synergy or something similar to provide for the keyboard and mouse. BTW, if you boot the SGI system without a keyboard or mouse attached it won't start the GUI. To get around this you can use an inexpensive PS/2 kb&m emulator, or maybe even get by with connecting just the easier-to-conceal mouse.
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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby vishnu » Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:29 pm

There was a guy trying to port openoffice to IRIX as recently as 2008, don't think he got very far: http://groups.google.com/group/comp.sys.sgi.apps/browse_thread/thread/29a09a278701a7fa
Project:
Temporarily lost at sea...
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World domination! Or something...

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Re: seeking advice on hardware - new to sgi

Unread postby zambusa » Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:44 pm

Well in the end I got an old Indy to have a go with. R4600 100MHz, 8 bit graphics, Irix 5.3. Ps/2 keyboard works on my kvm but the mouse didn't so I have one plugged direct into Indy.

Have managed to install fsn, ftp'ing to debian in a vm under windows 7, then ftp across to the indy [convoluted way to do it but worked].

It came with some indyzone and other cd's but I don't have a scsi drive so I guess I will try to mount them on a pc and access them over the network, if that's possible. Thought I saw a thread about that but can't seem to find it now.


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