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How to Fold Cheap and Green


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#1 Nvyseal

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 08:54 PM

While doing an inventory of my PC’s being used for folding using the Windows Console and Windows Graphic client I realized how much power and CPU cycles were being wasted with 8 single core PC’s running 24/7. Not only were my electric bills getting out of hand, but the heat all these units were generating put a demand on air conditioning. This leads to pollution, global warming and cancer causing particles being released into the air, a vicious circle I want to break. Doing some quick power consumption calculations, in 3 short months these machines and monitors could gobble up $500.00 in electricity, and give me very little F@H points in return. I had to do something.

The 9th CPU, a PS3 was consistently putting out my 287 points in a little under 7 hours, and the thought of getting another PS3 could pay for itself in electricity savings in a little over 5 months, but the way F@H has the points setup for the PS3, and the amount of work they do for such a little return made me think twice quickly.

I now had a $500.00 target budget amount, and wanted to see how much “bang for the buck” I could achieve, while cutting my electric bill back down to a manageable level, and retiring my single core machines.

The first thing on my agenda was to get to know the Windows SMP Client on my Dual Core AMD64 3200. Still in beta at the time of this review, this actually is a pretty stable client IF you don’t use your PC for anything else but folding. After a week of trial and error, and a total of 5280+ points lost because of errors, I mastered the Windows SMP client. You must have a very stable PC, if it’s overclocked and not completely stable, or you have the slightest bug in your hardware drivers, or your RAM timings are just a slight bit off, your work unit will be rejected. If you use your PC for anything else such as gaming, ripping to web surfing, it could cause your client to become unstable and at the end of your workup contain errors in your work unit, which will be rejected. The same is true if your PC requires a reboot in the middle of a work unit or you terminate the work unit early and restart it, even if you have the checkpoints enabled. With this learning curve behind me, I was now receiving 1530 to1760 points per work unit at a pretty good clip, just about every three days, but had no use of my primary desktop PC.

I now had my budget, and the software knowledge I needed to build a Cheap Green dedicated PC for Folding at Home. First on my list was to take a look at the Intel Q6600, a very worthy chip, but at $300.00, plus the board, RAM, Case, PSU, HDD, Vid Card, Optical Drive would put this way out of budget. Besides, I was looking for Cheap and Redundancy, and a dedicated Q6600 was like buying a Ferrari Enzo just to use to go to church. I wanted the most points for my dollar, and didn’t care how it looked. Then AMD cut their prices…

Now my new goal was set, I was not going to build 1 Folding PC but 3 Folding machines clustered, but independent in case one were to go down, all wireless, and all power misers. All of them would be the identical, but one would have a optical drive, and each machine could not cost me more than $166.00.

Newegg had what I was looking for in CPU’s I picked me up 3 AMD64 X2 4200+ 2.2G 939 OEM’s and 3 BIOSTAR GEFORCE 6100-M9 939 as a combo for just about $100.00 each with the instant rebate, I also purchased 3GIG’s (1GIG for each machine) of Mushkin RAM from Newegg for $100.00 total after instant rebate. Ebay had what I was looking for in HDD’s, and I bought 4-40GIG HDD’s (one extra one, because you never can have enough hard drives) for $12.00 each. These PC’s had to endure punishment, and I wasn’t about to pamper them with special cooling, so I hunted down a PC builder who built high end PC’s and discarded the stock AMD fans. I purchased 3 new stock CPU fans for $5.00 each. I didn’t need a Vid Card, because the MainBoard already had it onboard, and although the board included onboard Ethernet, I had 3 wireless Airlink cards that I had purchased some years ago at a Fry’s grand opening for $6.00. This is actually overkill and I didn’t include it into the price of the overall PC, as I could have wired an Ethernet to my spare bedroom, but I was just too lazy and heck, I already had the cards, and I wanted them independent, right? Now I have 3 units with interchangeable parts.

Now this is where I was really going to get cheap, I was going to mount the Motherboard on little plastic stacking cubby holes, and cut the legs so I would have minimal height clearance. I need power supply’s, and went on a hunt for the least wattage possible. Ideally, looking for 200 watt generic power supply’s was my goal, knowing I wouldn’t be pulling more than 175 or so watts. I quickly found a guy on Ebay selling a 6pack of unused 200 watt power supply’s for $89.00, I went on to buy it now, but he retracted the bid, saying he was all sold out, But as luck would have it, I ran across a vendor on e-bay located in El Monte (very close by me), who was not only selling 425 watt power supply’s for 25.00 each, but they also came with a case. Now, if I had these sent out to me, Shipping it would have been way over my budget, so I did a road trip, and in about an hour I was back with 3 great cases and power supply’s and wouldn’t have to worry about my crazy idea of modifying plastic cubby holes. OK, so I’m a dollar over in budget, not bad!

Making it all work!!!

How many times have you bought things from different suppliers, and when putting it all together, you create a “Frankenstein” a monster that seems to be alive, but just doesn’t work right. Well I was expecting this, but it was NOT the case, everything worked, and it was a great learning experience for Matt, my shop employee, as he had interest in building a computer, but never had the chance. I built one, and had him watch (bart), then WE built the second one (marge), and then HE built the third one (homer). I did another quick search on Ebay, for a 4 way, monitor, keyboard and mouse switch, along with the cables and picked them all up new for $37.00. All of the PC’s came online running the Windows SMP client within 3 days of each other and started churning out the points!!

…but

Now I had 3 little zombies, with one purpose in life, to fold. I couldn’t live with that!!

As Bart was finishing up I believe his 3rd work unit, and he was the guinea pig of the tribe, I decided to delve into the world of Linux via VMWare. I had already downloaded the VMWare server console and received my 10 FREE licenses (you can request up to 100 I believe), but was worried about what it would do to a production machine. Now was my chance to see what this VMware was all about without hurting anything but a drone, that could be reformatted and on its way in no time flat. I contacted my good friend WFO, and he gave me the in and out’s of my tasks at hand. He also pointed me over to a great guide written by him from our friends over at PAMD64. I read, and re-read the tutorial, as I said before, I have never used VMWare, let alone Linux Ubuntu, but within an hour (more like 35-40 minutes not including the Ubuntu updates) was running VMWare, Ubuntu, and the Linux SMP folding client on my $167.00 machine. Believe me, it was SUPER easy!!

After my production machine finished its Windows SMP work unit, I wanted to see if I could regain control of Windows, while folding, using VMWare, Linux, Ubuntu, Linux SMP Folding. I quickly installed the necessary software, started up the folding client, and YES! I now can safely use windows, surf, rip, share, print, DO ANYTHING IN WINDOWS without upsetting my Linux SMP. As for performance, just a wee bit of slowing in windows, but not near as bad as if you were running Symantec AV, more like if you were running MSN Messenger. As for the gain in folding speed in Linux SMP Folding, It depends on the work unit. But it seems it cut about a day off certain projects.

When its all said and done, I still have one PC running Windows SMP, and doing it well, and 3 running Linux SMP under VMWare. I try and stagger them so as to not provide so much "shock and awe", but sometime they get out of sequence, so i shut one or the other down for a bit. Bart has the DVD Optical, and has gained a 250GIG HDD. He is folding using Linux SMP and also is used for my multimedia storage controlled by Windows to any one of my PC’s or PS3 to TV. I’ve reduced my folding down to 4 PC’s 24/7, and the rest are running the Windows Graphical client when on. I figure I’m down about 575-700 watts/hr. (better on the weekends) but up a bunch of points.

Anyone new to folding, and needs me/us to clarify on how you can increase your folding scores please feel free to ask here, as we all learn together.

I know this guide/review/explanation is kind of long, and thanks WFO for the help in getting me set up on Linux. Thanks Brewin for kicking my butt into rethinking my folding tactics and pushing me to fold smarter, and thank you all for taking the time to reading this. If we can get everyone to folding “green smart” the world will be a greener safer place. I guess I owe someone, somewhere sometime an explanation, hope this helps. We hope to see you all on team 51370, and I hope to see you all @ the 300,000 club soon!!

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#2 brewin

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 11:50 PM

When you said you would "concoct" a story this weekend, I thought you'd robbed a Best Buy or something. :D Anyway, very interesting and well done. I'm glad my one day atop the team rankings encouraged you to take it to another level and leave me in the proverbial dust. :D Now all you have to do is install Ubuntu to the hard drives to churn out even more work units once you become a Linux expert. ;) :rofl_mini:

:cheers: :cheers:

#3 Nvyseal

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:02 AM

View Postbrewin, on Aug 25 2007, 04:50 PM, said:

Now all you have to do is install Ubuntu to the hard drives to churn out even more work units once you become a Linux expert. :D :D

:cheers: :rofl_mini:
That will be my next step! ;)

Oh, hehe, and Brew, i had to chuckle, when you first asked what i was doing, and that you couldn't seem to keep up anymore :D

:cheers:

#4 brewin

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:15 AM

View PostNvyseal, on Aug 25 2007, 08:02 PM, said:

That will be my next step! :cheers:

:cheers:
Cool. Ubuntu 7.10 is supposed to make everything a lot more graphical. Ideally, one won't need to use the command line for anything. We'll see how well it works in October.

#5 Sphere

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:19 AM

time to fetch all my stuff out of the closet :cheers:

I got at least 4 working AMD 3000+ systems lying around....

Just Linux Gentoo clean install and FAH for me though, no VMware or so :cheers:

#6 brewin

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:28 AM

View PostSphere, on Aug 25 2007, 08:19 PM, said:

time to fetch all my stuff out of the closet :cheers:

I got at least 4 working AMD 3000+ systems lying around....

Just Linux Gentoo clean install and FAH for me though, no VMware or so :cheers:
Sweet. Did you know that Folding@Home is in Portage? I just switched back to Gentoo from Ubuntu and on a whim did an "emerge -s foldingathome" and found it. I think the SMP client is hard masked though. I don't know how long it's been in Portage, but I just thought that was pretty cool. I never realized it was in there.

#7 Nvyseal

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:40 AM

View Postbrewin, on Aug 25 2007, 06:15 PM, said:

Cool. Ubuntu 7.10 is supposed to make everything a lot more graphical. Ideally, one won't need to use the command line for anything. We'll see how well it works in October.
If thats true, i hope it comes with better drivers, I would have only used linux as my OS, but i couldnt find drivers for my Airlink wireless, and didnt want the hassle of having to configure the network in ubuntu.

#8 brewin

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:53 AM

View PostNvyseal, on Aug 25 2007, 08:40 PM, said:

If thats true, i hope it comes with better drivers, I would have only used linux as my OS, but i couldnt find drivers for my Airlink wireless, and didnt want the hassle of having to configure the network in ubuntu.
What model is it? Most hardware works "out of the box." Some wireless cards don't though.

#9 Nvyseal

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 02:03 AM

View Postbrewin, on Aug 25 2007, 06:53 PM, said:

What model is it? Most hardware works "out of the box." Some wireless cards don't though.
Here we go... http://www.airlink10...s/awlh3028.html

#10 brewin

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 02:40 AM

View PostNvyseal, on Aug 25 2007, 09:03 PM, said:

Hmm, only 3 results for that card on google. :cheers:

Let me know if/when you want to set it up in Ubuntu. I'm sure I can walk you through it on Skype.

#11 Nvyseal

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 02:44 AM

View Postbrewin, on Aug 25 2007, 07:40 PM, said:

Hmm, only 3 results for that card on google. :cheers:

Let me know if/when you want to set it up in Ubuntu. I'm sure I can walk you through it on Skype.
Sure thing... BTW, how is your skype working now? able to get where you need to go?

#12 brewin

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 02:59 AM

View PostNvyseal, on Aug 25 2007, 09:44 PM, said:

Sure thing... BTW, how is your skype working now? able to get where you need to go?
Yeah, I switched some files from my new account folder to my old account folder and now I can get to the Generations chat with the old one while saving all of my contacts. Thanks for helping me solve that problem.

Skype. :cheers:

#13 Christopholofigus

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 06:28 AM

Wow, nice X. My printer server (or is it my Lappy) runs the good old grapical client in XP for the x64bit team. I kinda am down a computer as well... i just lost one of my rigs due to a PSU failure. Luckly it didn't fry anything on the board. Oh, just a FYI, i recommend NOT installing all the language packs that Vista offers on its updates...i kinda corrupted my install. That means 2 systems down now. I see that as a good thing though, I will install Vista 64 over that partition instead. Now i just need to RMA my PSU. Sigh.

#14 Sphere

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 08:19 AM

View Postbrewin, on Aug 26 2007, 03:28 AM, said:

Sweet. Did you know that Folding@Home is in Portage? I just switched back to Gentoo from Ubuntu and on a whim did an "emerge -s foldingathome" and found it. I think the SMP client is hard masked though. I don't know how long it's been in Portage, but I just thought that was pretty cool. I never realized it was in there.
Not et, I need to build the systems first :cheers:

So, don't knew yet

#15 hog

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 12:21 AM

View PostChristopholofigus, on Aug 26 2007, 02:28 AM, said:

I kinda am down a computer as well... i just lost one of my rigs due to a PSU failure. Luckly it didn't fry anything on the board. ... Now i just need to RMA my PSU. Sigh.
I understand how you feel. I miss my motherboard :cheers:

That's a great setup you have now Nvy! Also for going together with the "cheap" and the "green", go "non-evil" with a full Linux setup! :cheers:




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