Skip to content

More proof of concept

The Colony West project continues… this time with more proof of concept on the ideas I have in mind. In this case it’s hooking up the graphics cards through USB panel mount connectors rather than having the USB cables pass through an open slot in the back of the chassis. This test serves two purposes: confirm the idea is feasible, and, in so doing, build out a final (or near final) configuration for this system.

Obviously I needed panel mount connectors (I ordered both 3ft and 1ft lengths, two of each), but along with that I ordered left-angle extension cables — everything being USB 3.0 obviously. This required changing the configuration on the chassis, and I pulled out the Radeon card in the process along with the SATA RAID card. The cables were a little bit of a tight fit, so another set might not work out nearly as well, or I’ll have to get a little more creative. We’ll see.



The Fedora 21 install on the SSD didn’t like the changes, so I had no choice but to redo the Linux installation — taking it as a chance to upgrade to Fedora Server 22 in the process.

But the key thing is that the system recognized the graphics cards through the USB panel mount extensions with no loss in performance. While I had little reason to believe this wouldn’t work, again I wanted to be certain. There will be panel mount extension cables on the other side as well, and I have little reason to believe those won’t work as expected. Not sure yet if I’ll do a proof of concept on them, though. Maybe later.


Reply to the New York Times Editorial Board regarding gun laws

I will say up front that I have a concealed carry permit lawfully issued under the laws of the State of Missouri. I’m also up for renewal later this year. Contrary to what many may think, permits are not open-ended. In Missouri they are valid for three years from date of certification by the county sheriff — which is different from date of issue — and there is a statutory 45-day turnaround time while waiting for an extensive background check. If the 45-day time frame expires, the county sheriff must issue a temporary permit that can be revoked if necessary when the background check does come back.

Carrying a firearm concealed without a valid permit is a Class D felony in Missouri.

As I wrote in an earlier article, getting a concealed carry permit is no small endeavor. It’s expensive and time consuming — for Missouri the government side of the coin is $225 to start with a $50 renewal every three years.

So when the idea that a person who wishes to carry concealed must show “good cause” is offered by gun control proponents, in this case by the New York Times, it is about the same as needing to show “good cause” to exercise any of your other rights. Imagine needing to demonstrate “good cause” before the Court appoints an attorney to assist in your defense. Imagine needing to demonstrate “good cause” in saying No to a police search. It’s nonsensical at best, and tyrannical.

Yet I know the gun control proponents want it so that a person must show “good cause” to purchase a firearm. The New York Times stops short of actually saying that in this instance, focusing only on the current case at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but I have little reason to doubt they’ve advocated such in the past.

And once again I find myself having to say this: stop using the words “gun safety” to describe gun control laws. “Gun safety” refers to the rules and guidelines regarding the proper way to handle a firearm. The regulations on firearms manufacture that require various mechanisms in the design to prevent the firearm from discharging until the trigger is actually pulled, on the other hand, are gun safety laws and regulations. Laws restricting the size of a magazine or the kind of firearms you can own are not about safety, but control.

And as I’ve pointed out several times on this blog (here and here), gun control laws are racist in their implementation, and gun control proponents are racists, because they will disproportionately impact minorities, since they are more likely to be impoverished, by placing greater cost on exercising their rights.

And having to show “good cause” to exercise a right is a violation of the rights of due process (here and here).

So when the New York Times says that municipalities have a “right and duty…to determine what is necessary for their citizens’ safety”, you know your due process rights are about to be forcefully shoved off a cliff into the La Brea tar pits. You see, due process requires that the government show cause for why I should not be permitted to carry a firearm concealed, instead of the citizen showing cause for why they should be permitted to carry.


Follow-up on ASRock BTC Pro and other options

I’ll just say this up front: the ASRock PCI-E extender can be a little finnicky. For some reason, the GT 620 would stop being recognized by the BOINC client after a period of time, despite the card still being detected by the system. I believe the reason for this was the SATA cables.

I wasn’t using the stock cables that came with the kit. Those are flat, and I was using round cables. But I didn’t initially realize they weren’t the exact same length. So while they looked to be running fine for a period of time, I guess eventually there would be enough latency that the data across the two cables would get out of sync with each other and it’d stop working right. So I changed the cables over to two of the same length, but I didn’t leave the GT 620 connected to it.


Instead I connected one of the GTX 660s. And to ensure it was getting adequate power, I made sure to plug it up to a second power supply I had laying around (Corsair GS800) — not entirely sure if it’s completely necessary, but I’d rather have it than not. The card sat at just under 60C with a fan speed of 40%. Having a fan blowing on it — Corsair SP120 with a low-noise adapter — lowered the temperature a little, but also allowed for cool air to mix in with the hot air coming out the back.

The reference blower isn’t the greatest for keeping a graphics card cool — which is why the various brands sometimes make their own coolers for these cards. So when I actually build this out into a final configuration, it’ll likely be water cooled. The GT 620 runs cooler than the GTX 660 — but it’s also not able to process nearly as quickly, so putting a universal VGA block on it probably won’t offer any significant benefit.

But the GTX 660 could pull over 45 GFLOPS consistently according to the BOINC client, well over 2½ times the GT 620. So if I take the two GTX 660s plus the GT 620 together combined, it should get about 110 GFLOPS easily. For those wondering how I’m getting that number, I take the “estimated GFLOPS” for a task and divide it by the total processor time when it completes.

But this also shows that PCI-Express 1.0a x1 — which is a 2 Gb/sec lane — is not a bottleneck in this setup. The USB 3.0 cable can support up to 5Gb/sec, which is enough to handle either PCI-Express 1.0 x2 or PCI-Express 2.0 x1. The two SATA III data cables on the ASRock kit could handle 12 Gb/sec in parallel.

The GTX 660 is performing quite admirably compared to the GTX 770s in Beta Orionis, each of which are on PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slots and powered by an FX-8350. I wouldn’t expect it to perform up to the same level as a GTX 770, but staying above 45 GFLOPS compared to the GTX 770’s 64 GFLOPS average compares quite well to specifications I’ve seen online for both processors. The 770 is basically the same core as the GTX 680, though.

I’d actually be interested to see where a GTX 780 would perform, or even a GTX 980. Would the PCI-Express 1.0 lane be a bottlenec for the latest generation?

But if you want to put GPUs to work for BOINC or something similar, you don’t need the newest generation mainboard and processor — the nForce 500 SLI chipset on the MSI K9N4 SLI mainboard was released in 2006.

USB 3.0 PCI-Express extenders

The USB extenders arrived on Saturday. I was really stoked to use one since they are powered by a standard 4-pin Molex connector, and use a standard USB 3.0 male A to male A plug.




USB cables can be longer than SATA cables. The extenders I ordered come with 1m cables. Most SATA cables included with devices (such as the ones included with the ASRock BTC kit) are 6″ or 9″ at most, though you can buy cables that are longer. The maximum length of a SATA cable is also 1m — the ones I was using for the above experiment were about 18″.

There’s another consideration on this: USB 3.0 male A to female A panel cables.

Imagine this. Two or more graphics cards mounted into a 4U chassis — powered by its own power supply — with a USB 3.0 cable connecting it to the main system. This was the consideration I was talking about previously. This would allow you to create one system in either a 1U or 2U chassis, depending on cooling requirements, that acts as the device host while having any configuration of graphics cards in a second chassis connected only by several USB cables.

Now while similar SATA III brackets do exist, the cable length must still be considered — you are still tied to the 1m length limitation which will include the length of the cables used in the brackets. So if you by two brackets and they each have 12″ cables, you can only use a 12″ SATA cable between them.

So in getting the proof of concept with the GTX 660, I connected the GT 620 to it as well to get an idea of whether I could run the two simultaneously — given the age of the mainboard — and what the BOINC client would do with them. Would it run the GPUs only and not bother with any CPU processing?


Not quite. It took a little bit for the client to realize that it could run CPU tasks on one of the cores, with the second core being used to coordinate with the graphics cards. Both cards were able to process at expected rates. The GT 620 processed at 18 GFLOPS and the GTX 660 was staying north of 45 GFLOPs. No bottlenecks with either card.

Now three GPUs… not sure how BOINC would handle that with a dual core processor, and I’m not going to try to find out either at this point. The GT 620 is slated for the chassis that will house the FX-8370E.

The GTX 660s will go into a 4U chassis with 14 expansion slots so there is room to grow, and, as previously mentioned, I may water cool them to make use of the blocks I still have while also keeping their temperatures lower.

Next step…

So far everything has been working quite well when it comes to the experiments. I’m pleased with the results, pleased that everything is working as expected, and pleased with the performance I’m getting.

The next steps, though, will move this project in the direction of building this into a rack starting with the cabinet. I have the 20U rails, so it’s now a matter of buying the lumber and necessary hardware and building it.

Additional proof of concepts are needed as well. I need to acquire a couple sets of panel mount USB 3.0 cables (mentioned above) and test them as if that was between the graphics cards and the main system and make sure everything will continue to work as expected. I don’t have any reason to think they won’t work, but I’d rather be safe than sorry on that. If all goes well, then I’ll be acquiring chassis, likely starting with the aforementioned 4U chassis for the graphics cards.


Let businesses discriminate

Here’s an idea… given how much “social progress” is supposed to have been made over the last 50+ years, let’s do this: repeal all the anti-discrimination laws, let all of the bigots come out of the woodwork, and shine the light of day on them instead of forcing them to conceal their bigotry under anti-discrimination laws while they make up other excuses to refuse the business of those they don’t want — you know, just as those who dislike atheists will come up with any reason other than religion to turn us away, or will nitpick over any little thing as an excuse to turn us away.

Take away a bigot’s ability to use their bigotry as a reason to turn away those against whom they’re bigoted and they’ll find some other reason to turn them away that is still legal while concealing the fact the person is a bigot.

Doesn’t it make more sense to reveal the bigots for who they really are?

I mean, if they’re only going so far as to deny products and services, how is it fair to force business owners to provide goods and services to customers they don’t want?

If they are using their bigotry to justify violence against others — including the passage of provisions at the government level since government is institutional violence — then obviously that needs to be countered.

And has been countered. Numerous ways.

Let’s enter a hypothetical here. I run a shoppe and I don’t want to cater to — just for the sake of argument — gays. Now my business existing does not mean everyone with the ability to pay is entitled to the products or services I sell. Inherently I have the right to discriminate against whomever I want for whatever reason I want when it comes to the operation of my business — this includes hiring practices — unless I have entered into a contract that forbids such practices (such as a lease for the business space I rent).

To say otherwise is a violation of my right to transact business however I see fit. And this can be seen in the fact that many favor laws (i.e. violence, since government is institutional violence) that would force me to conduct business with customers I don’t want and hire employees I don’t want.

Setting aside the fact that turning away customers and talented employees would likely be bad for my bottom line, that is a choice I should be freely able to make. But at the same time, the consequences of those choices are also mine to accept — contrary to assertions that I’d be able to act on my bigotry “without consequences”. And if I don’t want those consequences, then it is up to me to change my practices.


Concluding the Supreme Court’s 2014 term

One thing that continually amazes me and pisses me off is how seemingly intelligent people can argue that more freedom is somehow a *bad* thing… And I’m not limiting this to just the many articles that have come out denouncing the recent Obergefell ruling.

At least one thing that can be said about this recent Supreme Court term is that they have slapped the government hard whenever Constitutional freedoms have come into play. They

  • declared unconstitutional a program wherein the Federal government seized without compensation half of a raisin production1
  • struck a law in Los Angeles, California, that requires hotels to keep records of patrons on file for 90 days to be searched upon request by law enforcement (I wonder what implications that has on 18 USC § 2257, actually)2
  • declared part of the Armed Career Criminal Act to be unconstitutionally vague (and I consider it to be a violation of Ring v. Arizona‘s requirement that all aggravating sentencing factors be put before a jury)3
  • declared that a State government does not have to honor any proposed license plate design, as the license plate is considered “government speech”4
  • limited applicability of the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986, striking a blow to the perpetual “war on drugs”5
  • citing the First Amendment, struck a city ordinance that limited the display of signs to specific times and places6
  • citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, declared Abercrombie & Fitch violated the civil rights of a prospective employee due only to her choice of clothing, which was selected due to her religion7
  • affirmed the mens rea principle of criminal law with regard to text published online, requiring that the prosecution show that text that appears to be threatening also be intended to convey a threat, that the mere possibility it could be viewed as threatening is not enough for a conviction8
  • limited the applicability of local income taxes to just income earned in that locality9
  • declared a police officer must demonstrate reasonable suspicion for extending a police stop beyond the initial cause for the detention10
  • declared a post-conviction GPS monitor to be a search under the Fourth Amendment11, the question of whether it is unreasonable is up to the lower Courts to address
  • declared that Amtrak acts as a regulatory agency when it issues “metrics and standards” (i.e. regulations) regarding the performance and scheduling of passenger rail travel12
  • declared that a “tangible object” under §1519 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is “one used to record or preserve information”, meaning it cannot be applied to fish13
  • declared that a Muslim prisoner can grow a beard of a reasonable length (in the case in question, it was ½”)14 — which can basically be summarized as “They’re not allowing the prisoner to grow a ½” beard because of an interest to regulate contraband? Are you serious?”

* * * * *

I cannot escape discussion of King v. Burwell here.

The Supreme Court ruled that the judiciary should, in short, overlook any drafting errors in a major piece of legislation simply because the regulatory agency responsible for implementing the law is going off some unspecified legislative “intent”.

The facts of the matter are quite clear. The text of the law does not extend Federal subsidies to the Federal exchange — to say it does means you need to re-learn how to read. The IRS even acknowledged such when writing the initial regulations.15 But instead of taking it up with Congress to address the obvious oversight — since many have asserted, though it’s been contested, that Congress intended to extend the subsidies to the Federal exchange — the IRS just wrote the rules to extend the subsidies.

Part of the contest of the noted assertion comes this question: “Why have the States set up exchanges at all when the Federal government can just establish its own exchanges in a State and subsidize it from the Treasury?” The only reason the Federal government would’ve been required to at least give States the option of establishing an exchange is State sovereignty, which is still violated by the Federal exchange anyway.

The implications of this ruling are far reaching. While the ruling does not grant the Executive Branch authority to write whatever rules it wants, it does grant the Executive Branch wide latitude to interpret laws in politically expedient ways. Such wide latitude is contrary to the Constitution, as all Federal power originates with Congress — see Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution — who then directs the Executive Branch through legislation on how to carry out that power.

Further, the Constitution does not allow the Federal government to spend money without Congressional approval, of which subsidies can be considered money “drawn from the Treasury”. Such a restriction on Federal spending has now been weakened so long as the Federal agency in question can cite some “intent” of the law or Congress.

While the case and ruling itself are limited to the Affordable Care Act, do not presume that the law’s proponents and other authoritarian politicians will not mine the decision for statements they can use to justify other policy implementations.

This ruling will have other effects. Reason Magazine, through its ReasonTV production, noted that this could have the effect of permitting States to shut down their own State-run exchanges in favor of going the Federal route. This could lead to only further limited choice with regard to health insurance, completely contradictory to the original promises of the law’s proponents — I’m still waiting for my premiums to go down, as they’ve actually doubled over the last 5 years.

* * * * *

In a case in which I’m mixed, Heien v. North Carolina, the Court upheld the validity of a police stop based on a police officer’s mistaken understanding of a law regarding vehicle brake lights. The stop led to a consented search of the vehicle, wherein the officer found cocaine, leading to Heien’s arrest and subsequent conviction.

The concern and controversy with this decision lies in the fact that the law that prompted the stop was somewhat ambiguous. And while the ambiguity of the law was resolved by the Courts — meaning you only need one functioning brake light — there was still an adjacent law requiring that all originally installed rear lights be in working order. While the officer cited the brake light as the reason for the stop, the stop was still reasonable under North Carolina’s statutes, making the subsequent consented search still valid under the Fourth Amendment.

The brake light citation itself could be reasonably challenged and vacated, but because the vehicle was still not operating within what is required by law, the stop is still reasonable. This is line with other standing precedent regarding officers being sued for violating a person’s rights. Typically an officer is allowed general leeway to be reasonably mistaken about how the law is interpreted, but the law does not protect those who are clearly incompetent or knowingly in violation.

I’ve seen interpretations of this decision as allowing officers to be ignorant of the law, and that is not the case. And it certainly brings up one very clear point as well: never consent to a search of your vehicle. And as the Court ruled in another case in this term, if you don’t consent to the search, the officer must demonstrate cause for that search, and the extra time detaining you for it.

* * * * *

Another case that also garnered some controversy is Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk. This is the case regarding Amazon’s security procedures for individuals leaving an Amazon warehouse.

The opinion in the case said, to summarize, that the time between clocking out of your shift and getting to your car is not wage time. What made the Amazon case unique is that every person who exits the building is subject to a security search that could take up to an additional half hour of your time. The Supreme Court upheld the conclusion that the employees are not entitled to additional wages for that time, at least under the text of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

This is one of those cases where the Court applies the law, but Congress is still free to act. Many thought the Court should’ve ruled that the time is entitled to pay. Nothing in the law prevents an employer from making that time payable, they’re just not required to do so, so says the Supreme Court. Congress is still free to expand the Fair Labor Standards Act to make that time payable, so lobby your Senators and Representative if you feel the law should be expanded.

This is somewhat contrary to King v. Burwell as well. In Integrity Staffing, the Court applied the law as it was written, but in King, the Court basically had to “go out on a limb”.

One thing that was fun, though, was watching all of the various commentators and bloggers online continually writing articles saying “This case shows how the Court will rule in King” or “This case shows how the Court will rule on gay marriage”. So many facepalms all around in that regard.

  1. Horne v. US Department of Agriculture []
  2. Los Angeles v. Patel []
  3. Johnson v. United States []
  4. Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans []
  5. McFadden v. United States []
  6. Reed v. Gilbert, Arizona []
  7. EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch []
  8. Elonis v. United States []
  9. Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne []
  10. Rodriguez v. United States []
  11. Grady v. North Carolina, per curiam []
  12. Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads []
  13. Yates v. United States []
  14. Holt v. Hobbs (unanimous) []
  15. Cannon, Michael F. (2015, March 4) “Seven Things You Should Know about the IRS Rule Challenged in King v. Burwell“. []

Adding the GT 620

In the previous article in the series on this project, I mentioned I had a spare GT 620. The card specifically is the Zotac GT 620 2GB. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it into the currently running system, but in making some considerations for additional hardware, I did come up with something else.

One product I’d seen on the shelves at Micro Center is the ASRock BTC Pro. For those unfamiliar with what it is, it’s a PCI-Express extension system — a PCI-E x1 “card” goes into the PCI-E slot on the mainboard, while a PCI-E x16 receiver goes onto the card. It has a custom 5-pin power cable to transfer power between the mainboard and graphics card, and it uses 2 standard SATA cables for data. Pretty nifty little thing.

And I used it to plug the GT 620 into the X2 mainboard to see how well it would work. And it’s working fairly well.



Milkyway@Home is reporting the card functioning at about 18 GFLOPS, about 9x the performance of one of the X2’s cores, but — unsurprisingly — about 28% of the performance of one of the GTX 770s in Beta Orionis.

As the pictures above demonstrate, the card is just sitting out in the open currently — this is just a proof of concept more than anything else at the moment. And the temperature reported by the card is just under 50C (fresh thermal compound might do better), so it’s staying well around a decent temperature. The interesting thing is that since part of one CPU core is dedicated to talking with the GT 620, only one core is being used for processing, keeping the temperature inside the case significantly cooler: the cores are sitting under 40C and the chassis is reporting an internal temperature of 37C.

The custom power cable and use of SATA cables doesn’t really impress me, though, so, again, consider this setup just a proof of concept. Searching online I did find similar setups that use a USB 3.0 cable instead — male A to male A. This got some gears turning in my head as to how I could create a setup. USB 3.0 cables can be longer than SATA cables, plus the USB options have a standard 4-pin Molex or 4-pin floppy power connector, meaning they can be powered directly from the power supply.

Again, seeing these got the gears in my head turning, and I’ve got some more experimenting to do as a result. This also provides interesting implications for what to do with regard to future upgrades.

But first, I’ll want to test one of the GTX 660s to see what kind of performance it can provide. I just need to pull the water block off one of the cards to put the stock cooler back on.


Colony West Project

In an earlier post I wrote about my plan to put a bunch of older hardware I have just laying around back to work. As I intend this to be an ongoing, evolving thing, I’ve decided to dub it “Colony West”. Now this isn’t just some name I came up with out of the blue — it’s actually a fictitious name I’ve had registered first with Polk County, Iowa, and now with the Missouri Secretary of State.

Before going into this full-tilt, I needed to have an idea of what I’d be in for.

I already had an Athlon X2 system running. It was the gaming server I built for my wife with the X2 4200+. I installed BOINC to it and have been running it for over 24 hours continuously as I write this so I’d have an idea of what to expect. With both cores maxed out for that entire time, the CPU core temperatures stayed around the mid-40s Celsius. The CPU is being cooled by a Noctua NH-L9A CPU cooler, and the system has three intake fans: two Noctua 60mm fans and an Enermax 80mm fan. The chassis reports an internal temperature of 39C.

So the system is definitely having no difficulty remaining stable and at a good temperature doing this. Currently the CPU time is being contributed to Milkyway@Home, chugging along at about 2.2 GFLOPS per core. My FX-8350, however, is getting close to 6 GFLOPS per core.

So I’m thinking this X2 4200+ system will stay running BOINC, and I’ll take the other X2 and use it for my wife’s Minecraft server. It’s a slightly slower processor, but the mainboard has 4GB of RAM on it. For some reason the MSI board won’t recognize the 4GB of RAM, but the Abit board has no issue with it. Oh well. The Minecraft server will benefit with the extra RAM more than BOINC. Plus that other X2 was my wife’s previous system, so it only seems fitting.

But the rest of the hardware will be purely running BOINC. I’m just not sure which system I’ll bring online next — likely transplant the running system into a 3U pr 4U chassis so I can use an AIO with it along with a better graphics card.

The current build for the X2 4200+ has a Radeon HD5450, which Milkyway@Home does not use — it only uses nVidia CUDA on Linux. I have a spare GT 620 I can put into this. I’ll have an extra cooling consideration, and it’s going to be fueling my decision on which chassis I buy next — I’m thinking a 3U chassis instead of the slim 2U.

I also have a couple GTX 660s still lying around too that I can possibly put into this — but that’ll likely happen when I get the 990FX mainboard up again. I’ve got a couple ideas in mind for that. Speaking of, I’ve opted for the FX-8370E for that system instead of the Opteron.

So given that my experiments have yielded desirable results, time to see where this’ll go. Next step, though, is building the cabinet.


On the Confederate flag

Following the recent mass homicide in South Carolina, attention has turned once again to guns. But it’s also turned to the Confederate flag. Mass calls are coming from within South Carolina and without for the flag to be removed from the state legislature grounds in Charleston.

Here’s an idea: ask the people of South Carolina what they want. Since the legislature is supposed to represent the people, put it up for a popular referendum. Simple question on the ballot: “Do you wish to see the Confederate flag removed from the State legislature grounds?” Yes or no, with abstentions counting toward “no”.

Then once the people of South Carolina have had a say on the matter, regardless of the direction they choose to go, the rest of the United States can just shut the hell up about it. There are more important things that require public attention and scrutiny than a piece of cloth flying over a Confederate memorial in South Carolina.


Putting older hardware to work

If you’re like me, you’ve probably collected a bunch of older hardware that is left over from previous upgrades. And it’s probably sitting around doing nothing. I’ve decided to change that, at least in my instance.

In getting into rack mounting hardware, I figure what I need to do is rack up some of these older systems and put them to work. To that end, here’s the hardware in question:

  • AMD Athlon XP 2500+ with Abit NF7 nForce2 mainboard, 512 MB RAM
  • AMD Athlon 64 2800+ with ASUS K8U-X 754 ULi M1689 mainboard, 512 MB RAM
  • AMD Athlon X2 3800+ with Abit KN9 Ultra mainboard with 4GB RAM

The systems should all fit into 2U server chassis, such as the one used for the server I put together for my wife. The downside is that those are $100 each plus ground shipping, so I’d be looking at just $300 for the chassis plus shipping on all of them. Add in the power supplies and silent fans and things will add up quick. Hopefully I’ve got plenty of spare graphics cards laying around for this as well.

I’ll get started on building these systems once I have a rack cabinet built for all of this, and another rack surge suppressor as well.

So now the bigger question: why? This is all hardware that’s been sitting around — in some cases, for a long, long time. So it is computing power that could be put to use and actually serving a purpose, even if it isn’t my purpose.

I’m talking about distributed computing projects like BOINC, Folding@home, and While the systems mentioned don’t exactly have a lot of computing power to contribute to these causes, it’s better than just sitting around. If the hardware is still viable, I want to put it to use — though given the XP is only a 32-bit processor, it’ll be interesting to see how well it can be put to use.

I also have a 990FX mainboard I’m considering adding into this, along with two spare GTX 660s that I can add in as well. I have a 4U rack chassis that can support that mainboard easily along with both graphics cards, or I’ll go with something shorter. All I need to use that mainboard is just another processor. The question is whether to go with an Opteron or FX. The former would be preferred if I can find one as it’ll have a lower power consumption, but I can go with an FX-8370E if need be.

The plan as well is for the rack to evolve over time. When Absinthe or Beta Orionis are upgraded, those mainboards and processors will replace one of the existing systems in the rack so there is only ever just three or four systems to keep power consumption down — I don’t need to be maxing out a 20A circuit doing this.

But everything first starts with the rack cabinet. I’m probably not going to just stack a set of IKEA RAST nightstands, but will probably build up something — likely similar to the plans over on Tom Builds Stuff. I do need to consider ventilation and cooling on this, especially since we’re talking about systems that will likely be running around the clock. Speaking of, that’s going to mean an interesting consideration for the Athlon 64 (Socket 754) and XP (Socket A) processors and trying to find quiet, lower profile CPU coolers that’ll mount onto their respective sockets.


Beta Orionis – Part XX: New loop

Build log:

First a recap on the current parts of the system, starting with the base parts.

  • CPU, mainboard, RAM: AMD FX-8350, ASRock 990FX Extreme6, 8 GB
  • Graphics: PNY GTX 770 4GB (2 in SLI)
  • Power supply: EVGA 1050GS
  • Case: Corsair 750D

And the water cooling system:

  • CPU: Koolance CPU-380A
  • Graphics: Watercool GTX 680
  • Radiators: AlphaCool UT30 — 3x120mm (1) and 2x120mm (2)
  • Pump: Koolance PMP-450 with AlphaCool HF D5 clear acrylic top
  • Reservoir: Phobya Balancer 150 Silver Nickel
  • Tubing: Type L annealed cooper, 1/2″ OD
  • Fittings: PrimoChill revolver, Koolance 90-deg, Swiftech SLI fittings, a few others

A few things about the loop will be changing:

  • CPU block: EK Supremacy EVO Copper Acetal
  • Reservoir: PrimoChill CTR Phase II D5 enabled
  • Voltage regulator block: Koolance MVR-100
  • Northbridge block: Watercool Heatkiller NSB 3.0
  • Southbridge block: Watercool Heatkiller SB 3.0

As mentioned in the previous article, the pump and reservoir will be mounted externally. To get the power through to the power supply, I ordered a power bracket from Amazon. But let’s start off with a little potential “oops”.

Wrong block?

In the list above you’ll see how I ordered the MVR-100 with a 140mm extension plate. Well, the 140mm plate was definitely not necessary, and it seemed the MVR-100 was going to be too large. Now the plate is 100mm long with 92mm between the centers of the mounting holes. In the interim I wondered if this would fit.

The ASRock 990FX Extreme6 mainboard is basically the Fatal1ty 990FX Killer without the upgraded network card — as one person discovered, they actually tape over the Fatal1ty logo with an Extreme6 label before selling it. But this means that finding a picture of either board to use for measurements should give me an idea of what I’d need. And I managed to find a review of the 990FX Killer board in which they removed the heatsinks. Lucky day it’d seem.

And it’s a tough call. Attempts at measurements from the photos show the block being a tight fit. I knew from another online post that the MVR-100 fits the Extreme9 mainboard. But the Extreme9 mainboard also has a longer heatsink based on measurements from images, so I’d expect it to fit. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if it barely covers all of the VRMs. But I have another option: MVR-40 with an 84mm extension plate. But then the question is whether the 84mm plate would be long enough.

Of course I can shortcut this entire discussion by doing something similar to the previously-linked instructions for the Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 board: modify another plate. It wouldn’t be the 140mm plate I bought, because that’d be a little too long and can only be mounted to the MVR-100, which might already be too long. Instead I’d look at getting the MVR-40 and the 107.5mm extension plate, and drill a hole closer to where I’d need it to be so I could properly mount the plate.

Now the 40mm block combined with a nearly 70mm longer cold plate isn’t going to provide the greatest cooling — I’d prefer the 100mm singular block if I can get it to work — but some IC Diamond between them should help things perform a little better, with Liquid Ultra probably being the best for it. So that is the route I decided to go with the order: buying the MVR-40 and adding the 107.5mm plate to it. I needed additional hardline fittings anyway for this — I ordered two sets of four on those just to be sure I had plenty. And the rush order fee for Performance-PCs was a great way to push the order over the $100 threshold for PayPal Credit to defer the interest.

Having both options available will be good when I actually take everything apart. If the MVR-100 fits and can be secured without concern, then I’ll use it. If I can’t get that secured down, then I’ll have little choice but to modify the 107.5mm plate and use it with the MVR-40.

Figuring out the loop

Okay let’s see if I can figure this out. One idea that cropped back up that I touched on during the original build was using acrylic tubing for the graphics cards. And I had purchased the fittings to do it, but decided against it because I didn’t have a proper mitre box. Thankfully Michaels had what I was wanting, and I picked one up, but that was after the build was finished and I never got around to doing it again.

If I leave the graphics cards in parallel, or even if I drop down to serial, I can do this. The issue is the southbridge chip cooler. Basically the way I’m seeing the loop is the southbridge goes to the outflow while the inflow goes to the lower graphics card — the rest just goes from there. The southbridge chip is centered right behind the second 16x PCI-Express slot, meaning the southbridge cooler is actually not an option — I can’t mount it and retain clearance on the second graphics card.

This might actually push me back to the Gigabyte board, as the southbridge on the 990FXA-UD3 isn’t centered behind the 16x slot. I could use the NSB cooler on the southbridge and the SB cooler on the northbridge with that mainboard. That’d just mean setting aside the Extreme6 board to use in a higher-performance server with an FX-8320 or FX-8370E processor in a 3U chassis so I can use an AIO to cool the processor and a spare full-size power supply to run it — which is what I actually planned to do with the Gigabyte board.

It’s a consideration, at least. I moved away from the 990FXA-UD3 due to how it operated when overclocked. But since I have a heartier power supply, I may not have the problems I did previously. And the whole point of going this far is to see how much of an overclock I can get.

If I stick with the Extreme6 board, then the loop is pretty well figured out. The graphics cards will still run in parallel with the inflow and outflow beneath the cards. The inflow would go to bottom, front, then top radiator, to the CPU, voltage regulators, northbridge, graphics cards, then back out.

If I switch the mainboards, then the southbridge would be part of the flow. I could still keep the graphics cards in parallel, but that would complicate things. The inflow would still go to the radiators first, then the CPU. From there I’d probably take it to the northbridge, then the voltage regulators, then the top graphics card. From there it’d go to the southbridge, then second graphics card, then to the outflow.

It sounds complicated, but I don’t think it’s going to be all that bad. There’s another slight complication to changing the mainboards though that might also end up working out in my favor: the MVR-40 and the 107.5mm expansion plate may not be needed. But the voltage regulators on the Gigabyte board would potentially be more difficult to cool without doing something a little custom — likely involving modding the 140mm plate in the fashion similar to the Sabertooth board.

So the question is definitely what I’m going to be doing. I’m leaning toward the Gigabyte board, in large part because I can prepare the board before disassembling everything else. I already have the chipset blocks and the MVR-100 with the 140mm extension plate. The next order with the fittings arrives next week, so we’ll see how things pan out then.