Thinking of buying a new workstation - need some advice

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haikan
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Thinking of buying a new workstation - need some advice

Unread postby haikan » Fri Dec 15, 2006 4:59 am

Hi! Currently I'm using a 360MHz Ultra 5 w/scsi disk, 640MB ram and a raptor framebuffer (It was originally a 270MHz U5 that can't do 24bit at a reasonable resolution with the onboard frambuffer). While it was a quantum leap for me when upgrading to the U5 from my old SS10 in 2001, today it's lagging behind both in the cpu and graphics departments.

Currently I'm looking at the Ultra 60 or the Blade 1000/2000 with creator or elite 3d. Are there other similar systems that I also should consider? (Budget is limited, I have a family to support)

I'm leaning towards the blade as 900MHz US III should be way better than 2*450MHz US II, plus on the U60 I'd have to by an extra pci card to get usb support.

Questions about the Ultra 60:
- The U60 has a optional part called "Noise reduction kit". Is the U60 really that noisy it needs a noise reduction kit?
- Is a 2*450MHz U60 a worthwhile upgrade from a 360MHz U5 for normal desktop usage? Are there other factors other than MHz to MHz comparison that makes the U60 faster than the U5 save the obvious fact you can have two CPUs in the U60 (I don't use the IDE bus on my U5).

Question about the Blade 1000/2000:
I know blades take usb kb and mouse. But finding a Sun usb keyboard with Norwegian layout on ebay isn't easy. Is there a way of getting my current type 6 non usb kb to work on a blade?

What would you prefer, the Ultra 60 or Blade 1000/2000 given that the latter will cost about twice that of the former.

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Re: Thinking of buying a new workstation - need some advice

Unread postby mgtremaine » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:17 am

haikan wrote:Questions about the Ultra 60:
- The U60 has a optional part called "Noise reduction kit". Is the U60 really that noisy it needs a noise reduction kit?
- Is a 2*450MHz U60 a worthwhile upgrade from a 360MHz U5 for normal desktop usage? Are there other factors other than MHz to MHz comparison that makes the U60 faster than the U5 save the obvious fact you can have two CPUs in the U60 (I don't use the IDE bus on my U5).


The noise reduction kit is just a voltage regulator with a temp sensor on it. Makes the fan spin slower. Generally yes Sun Desktop can be pretty loud they tend to use big fans that are not all that quiet. You can replace the stock fans with higher quality more silent fans to reduce noise also.

As far the performance boost from Ultrasparc IIi 360 -> 2 X Ultrasparc IIi450mhz it depends on what you are doing with it. Yes it is going to be faster and the dual cpu is going to give you better response under load but its still a 450mhz CPU so if you are doing any heavy lifting it will still seem slow. The Ultrasparc III 900mhz if going to feel much faster.

Your choice comes down to price. If it is your main desktop then it is probably worth the extra money [or wait another year and it the price will drop a little more.]

Also note Blade 1000 use FC connected Hard-drives [at least most of the early units?]. I've never used a Blade 1000/2000 but I've certainly looked at the prices dropping on ebay and thought about it... :) My main desktop is still a VA Research [aka VA Linux] P3-550MHZ with 768MB ram 2x60gb ATA/133 drives. Purchased in 1998 hehehe someday I'll buy something else.

-Mike

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haikan
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Unread postby haikan » Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:57 am

Thanks for the reply Mike! To be honest I don't do any kind of heavy lifting, but whats bugging me is:
- pine is slow when opening large mailboxes
- compiling stuff takes too long
- firefox is very slow, especially when scrolling up and down web pages

At work we get the latest and greatest intel laptops, and coming home to my Ultra 5 firefox runs dreadfully slow. When I scroll the web page it takes forever to repaint the screen. I'm mostly a command line guy, but I gave up web browsing with lynx a long time ago.

I once read somewhere on usenet about a guy who replaced the PSU on his sun with a modern super quiet ATX PSU. Problem was it didn't make that much of a difference. If I remember correctly he concluded that the chassis fan also had to be replaced, just like you said Mike.

My next workstation will defenatly be tower based, not a desktop. Towers can more easily be placed under the table, more stuff fit in them, and they can more easily be fitted with noise absorbing material inside of the cover.

If anyone else would like to share what Unix gear they are considering getting next and why I would really appreciate that :)

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mmendez
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Unread postby mmendez » Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:43 am

The Ultra 60 is a very nice machine. I have one that is currently used for web/mail/nfs services. But for certain tasks the US-II cpu shows its age. I've been considering getting a Blade 1000 to toy with an US-III box.

So, my opinion:

Ultra 60:

- Pros:

Dirt cheap.
Dual 450MHz still enough for most tasks.
SCSI disks
On board 100BaseT
Not that noisy.
Low power usage compared to other Sun boxes.

- Cons:

US-II can be slow for some tasks
Only two internal disks.

Blade 1000:

- Pros:

Up to two US-III processors, way faster than any Ultra or Blade 100/150.
Getting cheaper on Ebay to the point that it's now very affordable.
Accepts USB keyboards and mice.

- Cons:

Very heavy.
Very noisy.
Uses quite a lot of power. If you leave a Blade 1000 on 24/7 you'll notice it on the electricity bill.
Needs FC-AL disks which can be pretty expensive.
None of the BSDs work properly with the US-III processors.

That's my two cents. I personally use a PowerMac G4 as my main desktop right now and use the Sun gear for server purposes. My U60 runs web/mail and my Ultra2 is my Oracle testing box.

In general Sun hardware is rock solid (Ultra5/10 being the exception) and always a pleasure to work with. Still, not as beautiful as an SGI box :D
SGI: :Indigo2IMP: :Fuel: :O2: :Octane2:
Sun: Ultra2, Ultra60, Sun Fire 4800
Apple: G3, Powermac G4 MDD, PowerMac G5, Mac Mini, iBook G4 12", MBP
Dec 3000
IBM RS/6000
AMD64 FreeBSD box

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Unread postby mgtremaine » Fri Dec 15, 2006 12:05 pm

haikan wrote:Thanks for the reply Mike! To be honest I don't do any kind of heavy lifting, but whats bugging me is:
- pine is slow when opening large mailboxes
- compiling stuff takes too long
- firefox is very slow, especially when scrolling up and down web pages
.
.
I once read somewhere on usenet about a guy who replaced the PSU on his sun with a modern super quiet ATX PSU. Problem was it didn't make that much of a difference. If I remember correctly he concluded that the chassis fan also had to be replaced, just like you said Mike.


Those Raptor cards are also sort of slow with refreshes, most Sun video cards are slow guess there are not enough first person shooters for Solaris ;). You might try Opera over firefox. I use thunderbird for mail now because evolution got slower and slower until I gave up. But someone I doubt thunderbird would be faster then good old pine.

For Ultra 5 the PSU upgrade is a good move if you want to try for the 440mhz CPU and the 1 GB 50NS ram.

You know what would be the best is if you could find someone close by that has a Ultra 60 setup so you could give it a quicky test drive. It certainly seems to be the "sweet spot" as far as price goes for used Sun gear. 2x450 with 2gb are sub $100 in the US now. Get a good video card and some nice new drives and it shoudl be rock solid.

-Mike

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kokkiklhs
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Unread postby kokkiklhs » Fri Dec 15, 2006 2:33 pm

I vote for U60, for sure!!! Ofcoz the blades are better and more modern machines, but still very expensive for a low budget project!
You could buy a DIRT cheap U60 from ebay.de (also low postage, as it weighs more than 25kg with CDROM & 2 disks) and enjoy its power!
For everyday desktop purposes you will NOT notice a dramatic difference from your U5, but when it comes to the second CPU (e. g. The GIMP), the difference is big!
As for the Creator or Elite 3D cards, you will probably get disappointed in matters of speed, especially with OS other than Solaris, as they don't get 3D acceleration from the Xserver, and even some simple GL screensavers will be DEAD slow! Excellent color quality and nice resolution options (on C3D), though!! Don't forget that U60 accepts the XVR1000 framebuffer, but this would cost more than buying TWO second hand blades :D
Oh, and U60 is not THAT noisy, in fact I think that my I2's fans produce the same or even a little more noise :lol:

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Unread postby unixmuseum » Fri Dec 15, 2006 3:05 pm

kokkiklhs wrote:I vote for U60, for sure!!! Ofcoz the blades are better and more modern machines, but still very expensive for a low budget project!
You could buy a DIRT cheap U60 from ebay.de (also low postage, as it weighs more than 25kg with CDROM & 2 disks) and enjoy its power!
For everyday desktop purposes you will NOT notice a dramatic difference from your U5, but when it comes to the second CPU (e. g. The GIMP), the difference is big!
As for the Creator or Elite 3D cards, you will probably get disappointed in matters of speed, especially with OS other than Solaris, as they don't get 3D acceleration from the Xserver, and even some simple GL screensavers will be DEAD slow! Excellent color quality and nice resolution options (on C3D), though!! Don't forget that U60 accepts the XVR1000 framebuffer, but this would cost more than buying TWO second hand blades :D
Oh, and U60 is not THAT noisy, in fact I think that my I2's fans produce the same or even a little more noise :lol:
I'd personnaly go for a Blade 100 or 150, more modern, faster, light and cheap on ebay...

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haikan
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Unread postby haikan » Fri Dec 15, 2006 3:22 pm

Ai caramba! I checked the hardware specifications for both the Ultra 60 and Blade 1000, and you're absolutely right about the power consumption Mmendez.

Ultra 60:
Input power 350 W
Heat output 1194 BTU/hr
Acoustic noise Operating: 6.1 bels / Nonoperating: 5.9 bels

Blade 1000:
Input power 670 W
Heat output 2286 BTU/hr
Acoustic noise Operating: 5.64 bels / Idling: 4.77 bels

If I go for the Blade I won't have any problems with heating through the winter :D However, if these numbers are correct, the ultra is the more noisy one.

And regarding bsd, the OpenBSD team claims support for ultrasparc III including the blades since OpenBSD 4.0. But I've never tried it myself, I'm just pretending to be smart here :wink:

You're right about trying a ultra 60 is the only way to really know, Mike, but there's not many old school geeks like me in my area. And I know this to be a fact because when I haven't read my usenet newsgroups (with tin) for a while the news server has removed them and must download them from upstream :lol:

kokkiklhs: I am aware that Xorg currently don't support acceleration for anything other than the ati framebuffers, but I'm sticking with Solaris on sparc hw anyway. I'm hoping the creator 3d will give better 2D performance because it's a better card than the raptor and because it uses UPA not PCI. It's nice to hear your opinions about the noise level of the ultra 60, because this is very hard to get an idea about from reading the hardware specifications.

Thanks for your opinions guys, you got me swaying towards the ultra 60 now. Mostly due to the 670 watt on the blade :roll: and having to find a new sun keyboard with norwegian layout for it could be difficult.

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Unread postby haikan » Fri Dec 15, 2006 3:40 pm

unixmuseum wrote:I'd personnaly go for a Blade 100 or 150, more modern, faster, light and cheap on ebay...

Checked the hardware specifications on the blade 100 and 150, they're quite good with regards to power consumption and noise it seams. And the blade 150 goes up to 650MHz which would be a substansial upgrade from my current 360MHz. But I had the impression they where descendants of the ultra 5/10. Do they share the IO performance issues of the ultra 5/10?

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Unread postby coredog64 » Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:02 pm

The SB1000 isn't all that loud as long as an OS is running. Of course, for the first minute after power-up I think I'm working in a GE jet engine test fixture ;)

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Unread postby digitalpioneer » Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:31 pm

haikan wrote:....<snip>

Ultra 60:
Input power 350 W
Heat output 1194 BTU/hr
Acoustic noise Operating: 6.1 bels / Nonoperating: 5.9 bels

Blade 1000:
Input power 670 W
Heat output 2286 BTU/hr
Acoustic noise Operating: 5.64 bels / Idling: 4.77 bels

</snip>....


As with my SGI boxen, though I prefer to operate with an Octane2 with all the heat and noise aside - I can't justify it to myself when the electrical consumption of the 747 watt PSU so noticably affects my monthly electric bill... so instead I typically drive my O2 on a day-to-day basis.

For me it is the same with SUN boxen, although I am sure I will purchase a Sun Blade 2000/2500 in CY07 and enjoy the experience thoroughly, I will most likely continue to use my Sun Blade 150 as a daily driver.

Just to round out the comparison... here are the specs for the Sun Blade 150.

Blade 150:

Input power 250 W
Heat output 853 BTU/hr
Acoustic noise Operating: 5.5 bels / Idling: 4.8 bels

----------

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R-ten-K
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Unread postby R-ten-K » Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:54 pm

The power figures you quoted were for worst case scenario. I have a Blade 200 with 1Ghz processor, singe hdd and an expert3d board and it is pretty much not that bad power-wise. It is also much quieter than the ultra30/60 and it is fairly useable for the tasks that you described: web browsing, compiling, etc. The blade 100/150 are only worth anything if you get them for free, they are nothing stellar. I use one for debian/BSD purposes but for desktop they pretty much suck when having to deal with firefox. They are cheap for sure though...
"Was it a dream where you see yourself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a
pyramid with thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?"

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digitalpioneer
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Unread postby digitalpioneer » Sat Dec 16, 2006 12:10 am

R-ten-K wrote:......The blade 100/150 are only worth anything if you get them for free, they are nothing stellar. I use one for debian/BSD purposes but for desktop they pretty much suck when having to deal with firefox. They are cheap for sure though...


I have to agree that for free they are a good value, I paid $USD20 last year for my SB150 650MHz 1GB RAM XVR-500 and am quite pleased with the investment.

------

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haikan
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Unread postby haikan » Sat Dec 16, 2006 2:05 am

R-ten-K wrote:I have a Blade 200 with 1Ghz processor, singe hdd and an expert3d board and it is pretty much not that bad power-wise.


Tried searching for the Blade 200 as I've never heard of it before. Did you mean the Blade 2000?

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Unread postby mgtremaine » Sat Dec 16, 2006 7:26 am

A Blade 100/150 would be a step up for sure and you'd have the advantage of 3rd-party memory & PSU should anything go wrong. [At least I think it's a normal PSU]. The unofficial Blade 100 FAQ is worth a read.

http://040.digital-bless.com/texts/Unofficial_Sun_Blade_100_FAQ.htm

Taking the SCSI out of your Ultra 5 and putting it into a Blade 100 would be good. The IDE [dad] is better then the Ultra5/10 but it is still nothing to rave about [it does ata/66] the same thing is in the Sun Fire v100 which I have one of. When I compare the performance it is a little better on the v100@500mhz then my Netra t1@440mhz but not that much. If you can get the 650mhz Blade 150 that would be the best - digitalpioneer's rig for $20 sounds like the deal of the century, the XVR-500 alone is... :shock: very nice.

Still something to be said for dual Proc's. With a little love you could get an Ultra 60 to be quiter. Newer SCSI drivers will bring the power and heat down, but the Blade 100/150 is obviously going to be much better on these points.

Oh the agony of choices. :)

-Mike


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