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If this is not the correct forum, I'm sure someone will let me know . Please pardon the length of this post; I hope to provide the necessary information. There ...
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  1. #1
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    Recommend hardware for Linux box.


    If this is not the correct forum, I'm sure someone will let me know . Please pardon the length of this post; I hope to provide the necessary information.

    There are two objectives I hope to achieve: 1) to install a RAID 1 array for backup/redundancy, and 2) to put together a Linux box. I haven't previously done either. I have zero interest in overclocking [am I the only one ?]; my primary concern is stability. I prefer a Canadian source for the components. All the prices below are $CDN, and I've included shipping and tax.

    For a very long time, I've been wanting to put together a Linux box, and now I hope to do so, as inexpensively as possible. Components I already have, include monitor, keyboard, mouse, 160GB WD Caviar PATA, 2 x 80GB WD Caviar PATA, 40GB WD Caviar PATA, 40GB IBM PATA, 40GB Maxtor PATA, 250GB Acomdata External USB2.0, Yamaha CD-RW, NIC100 PCI, Leadtek GeForce 2 64MB 4x AGP video card, and Gigabyte GA-7VTXE mainboard (VIA KT266A chipset). A DVD-ROM and 3.5 floppy are cheap. Some of those hard drives are presently on my Windows box, so they won't all be going in the Linux box; but any of the currently used ones can be swapped out.

    What I need: a CPU, memory, a case and power supply, and a PCI RAID controller.

    The case and p/s I've already picked out (about $220), but feel free to recommend them anyway .

    For the RAID controller, I was considering the Promise Fasttrak 100 TX/2 or TX/2000 at about $115 to $140. The 7VTXE mainboard takes up to an XP 3000 processor ($145 locally). Memory, 2 x 512MB sticks for about $145.

    That's $700, which seems outrageous, considering the number of components I already have. But here's where it gets even more interesting: for only very slightly more than the cost of the RAID controller card, I can get a new socket 939 mainboard with onboard serial/parallel RAID, dual 1G NICs, firewire2, and lots of other goodies! The same 1G RAM (dual channel) won't cost any more, and the Athlon 64 3000 will be about $100 more.

    So really, the new board route will be only $100 more than using the old mainboard, and be (I presume) much faster. The hard part is in choosing the mainboard. I would like a 939 board, and I would like an nForce chipset, because it supports RAID across parallel and serial drives. I don't presently have any serial ATA drives, but the thing is that the VIA chipset boards I've found either don't meet other requirements, or have only one RAID-capable IDE channel--and it's no good to put two drives in a RAID 1 array on the same cable. I also need the mainboard to be AGP, to use my video card. PCI-E mainboards are similarly priced, but then I would need a new video card, and PCI-E video cards can be very expensive. [Unless there's a cheap PCI-E card that will in fact provide performance equal to my old GeForce 2 4x AGP card?]

    So, should I go with the old mainboard, or with a new one. Either way, please recommend some good components . Thanks for reading, and all input is appreciated.

  2. #2
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    I wasn't able to read all of what you had posted, but skimmed through since I'm at work. If you're planning to run Linux, I believe you will have trouble with the RAID setup. I'm not sure if it acutally works (anyone correct me if I'm wrong). I will try to post more when I get a chance.

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    Hi Brotha. I'm guessing you mean trouble with the nVidia RAID with Linux? I sure hope it works.
    Looking for any feedback on any of this. Thanks for all responses.

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    As far as I know about the Linux and RAID, I've heard that it doesn't work at all, but I could be wrong. I probably recommened trying it out on your own system until you can get all the facts on it. Also, I'm not so sure if the PCI-E video cards play well with Linux, but again, I could be wront about that also. Everything else, hardware-wise, should be fine though.

    If you're looking as to which distro you want to run, I would suggest taking a look at this site: www.distrowatch.com

    Hope you get all the answers you need. Just post here, I'm sure someone will have an answer for you.

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    Most cheap IDE RAID controllers are partially supported in the 2.6 kernel. Partial means that the normal IDE functions are supported, not the RAID functions on the hardware. These devices need drivers to work properly.

    Some possibilities:
    You could use software RAID to mirror drives, the performance differences are minimal.
    Or you can get a better controller, which is much more expensive (3ware is an example).
    The 2.4 kernel supports some of these devices with RAID functions.

    I'm unfamiliar with the hardware you are listing.

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    Thanks for the replies, guys.

    You're saying that the Promise FastTrak et al will work as an IDE controller, but without its RAID functions? Yes, the hardward RAID cards are too expensive for me at this point, so it looks like Linux software RAID 1 is the way to go.

    I guess the first step is to decide whether my old mainboard would build a good Linux box [I'm sure it would, but it's still a lot 'o dough], or whether I should spend the extra $100-150 for a new mainboard with all the goodies. Any ideas?

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    I have a 939 board (Asus A8V) and it works fine with Linux, no troubles yet. Mine is a VIA chipset though, not nVidia, but that should be fine. I would suggest on AGP since PCI-E is just a little bit more, and you'll be saving some money with AGP. Honestly, the parts you already have are fine...

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    Yes, the current hardware would do well. It's just so frustrating that an old CPU and some memory will cost so much [and of course the case and p/s, but that's necessary whichever way I go], and that for about $100-150 more I could have all the latest goodies as well as a bit of future-proofing.

    But then again, if my best bet for Linux RAID is to do software, without the Promise PCI card, then the price difference becomes quite a bit more, so the current hardware looks better .

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    Linux Enthusiast puntmuts's Avatar
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    There are quite a number of Promise controllers supported in the 2.6 kernel but they work with different naming, so I can't see if the specific controller is supported. But they probably are. I was trying to say that RAID functionality is unavailable, because the driver lacks that part of the functionality.

    If stability is an issue, the X86-64 port is newer and therefore probably less stable then the 32 bits solutions. But if you choose the hardware with care you could also build a rock stable system This could take a lot more effort then a 32 bits system will take.

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    Quote Originally Posted by puntmuts
    There are quite a number of Promise controllers supported in the 2.6 kernel but they work with different naming, so I can't see if the specific controller is supported. But they probably are. I was trying to say that RAID functionality is unavailable, because the driver lacks that part of the functionality.
    Yes, I think that's what I understood . There's no reason to buy the card if the RAID functionality isn't available. If I need more IDE ports, a simple PCI IDE controller card is much cheaper than the RAID card. But as far as RAID 1 functionality is concerned, Linux software ought to provide it?

    So spending more on the new board route would provide some future-proofing, but sticking with the old hardware will give more stability. I'm fairly sure the hardware I listed (other than the Promise RAID card) is suited to Linux, but if anyone has any experience with it (or any other thoughts), feel free to chime in!

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