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Re: low-MHz server [OT]


Thanks for your continuing interest, and for the interest of those new
to the thread.  I'll summarize where things are at to avoid duplication.
Sorry if this gets a bit long.  I'll also mark it OT since its not



The problem is real.  There is no placebo effect to worry about.

Currently, Athlon64 box is as far from my wife as possible (70 feet).
Based on our experience of other high-MHz or GHz devices, she would have
to be at least 250 - 500 feet away.  To avoid this problem, we have to
stay below 200 MHz if at all possible.  Unfortunatly, this represents a
huge divide in available systems.  If she could tolerate a 233 or 266
MHz system there would be no problem finding a suitable box.

We intend to keep the Athlon for graphic-intensive applications but only
on an as-needed basis, not as the main home computer.

Slow boxes are getting harder and harder to find so the one we want will
have to meet not just current needs (ours and the OS's) but future needs
as well.  This drives the following criteria.

PCI bus:  in the future, may need different or replacement drive HBAs
which aren't available (as of today on eBay) for sbus (sun systems e.g.
SparcStation 20).  Also, many of the old boxes didn't have USB which is
an important connectivity bus to have now.  Would like to be able to
drop in a USB card.

Drives:	SCSI.  Bioses of the vintage we're dealing with may not accept a
modern huge (even 70 GB) PATA drive when at the time of manufacture,
drives were 9 GB or less.  Ultra-640 scsi has a clock of 160 MHz with
lesser scsi busses much lower.  SATA is either 1.5 Gb/s or 3.0 Gb/s
which suggests a clock rate somewhere around the same and far above 200

Number of drive bays:  The box will be in use for years.  If you
extrapolate the storage capacity of when these boxes were made (9 GB per
drive, for total of 9-36 GB for a workstation or 72-108 GB or more for a
server) and compare it with a typical home system today; compare the
storage space taken just with the OS and applications of 10 years ago
and today, then consider the future.  Unless the box comes with a drive,
I'll put in a new scsi drive.  When that one becomes full, I'll want to
add a second drive and not have to reinstall and restore from backup
over a 10 MB/s ethernet link from the Athlon64.  Over time, I expect the
box to have a few drives of different capacities and ages.

Prefer server over workstation:  Servers have more powerful fans since
they don't have to worry about noise as much.  I've got a place I can
put it where it won't bother us.  New scsi drives are at least 10KRPM.
I don't know how fast they were 10 years ago.  They probably generate
more heat.  I'd rather have a server with lots of bays and the fans to
keep them cool with a few new scsi drives and a few empty slots between
them than a workstation crammed with a couple of 10KRPM drives trying to
stay cool.  Also, it may be that there is less radiated EMF from a
server with a metal case in a metal rack with metal doors than from a
workstation even if it has a metal case.  Also, servers are more likely
to have more than one PCI bus.  Workstations tend to have a bridged
single PCI bus.  This gets important as drive speeds increase.

Memory:  the more the merrier, especially during fscking of a big hard
drive.  I've been told that at a minimum for fsck (to avoid swapping) I
should have 1 MB ram for every 1 GB drive.  The box will be a file
server, and application server via ssh, for two users.  If its a slow
box, some things may be done in batch mode (don't know what).  Memory
footprint of software has been going up.  Consider how it has increased
over the past 10 years.  10 years ago I was running OS/2 with
WordPerfect with 16 MB of ram.  3 years before that, OS/2 with
wordperfect with 2 MB of ram (at $1K per 1MB).  What will it be in 10
years?  That's what I want this box to be able to take (I know, I'll
never find a 10 year old server that can take 1 TB of ram :) )  Another
reason for server over workstation: servers had more ram.

CPUs.  Would prefer SMP option but I know that current OS support of SMP
on old boxes is spotty at best.

I could take a server MB from a small server and put it into a larger
case (more bays, more fans, etc.).  

The problem with underclocking is that there's more than the CPU to
consider.  The whole I/O system has to work together; a modern box with
things underclocked will mean a mess of bus speeds that I haven't


Boxes and their limiting specs which I have looked into (in no
particular order).

AlphaServer 2100 min 250 Mhz

Sun SparcStation 20: mbus/sbus; workstation
Sun Ultra1 model 140: ditto
Sun Ultra1 model 170: ditto
Sun Ultra Enterprise 150: mbus/sbus.  
	Right now on eBay, can get sbus scsi HBAs, ethernet cards, and
	graphic cards.  No USB.  Would not discount these just for USB.
	Note that apparently, Sun drive bays are physically shorter and
	need special hard drives, not off-the-shelf.  I see this as a
	major upgrade problem.  

IBM servers of this vintage were RS/6000 PowerPC and are either not
supported or tricky and finicky to boot any of the free OSs.

IBM desktops: PC-300 series are available.  Pentium 75-200 MHz.  Only
room for one EIDE hard drive and poor cooling if I put in a large one
(assuming the BIOS accepts it).

HP-9000 J2240 workstation with room for 2 drives (BIOS will take 9 GB,
don't know about larger).  236 MHz.

HP/Compaq Proliant 5000.  200 MHz (may be available slower) is a
possibility at $300 USD on eBay plus shipping it across the border to
Canada.  2 PCI busses with 5 slots (2 shared with EISA), max 4 GB ram,
Pen Pro CPU, 5 bays in a rack-mount, 4 in a tower (may be other options
but I haven't got the manual for this unit).

HP/COmpaq Proliant 2500.  166 MHz Dual P. Pro.  1 PCI bus with 6 slots
(4 shared with EISA).  Max 1 GB ram, 4 bays (plus two half-height) +
floppy + CDROM.  Also a possibility at $300 USD on eBay.

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