14 Aug 2009

boinc update

So, a new project has come into the BOINC world:


The Collatz project is designed to prove/disprove the Collatz conjecture through brute force techniques. The project will end when this is done.

Good thing about this project is that there are optimised apps for ATi GPUs and nVidia GPUs. The 64-bit CPU application is pretty good as well, the 32-bit one is a bit crap. But, it doesn't have the single precision requirement like MilkyWay, so I can use my two 4670 cards for it as well.

So I've put them into Dutchie, and Dutchie into the old P4 case I had. My ATi cards in HAL are now working on Collatz too, and when GPUGrid hits 1M, it'll transfer over too. My CPUs will still work on the goals mentioned in my last post. So far, time per WU looks like:

802.781 sec for 159.75 creds
780.875 sec for 149.11 creds

1359.91 sec for 155.14 creds
1442.56 sec for 157.38 creds
1434.11 sec for 158.53 creds

Q6600 @ 2.85Ghz, 32-bit:
32533.23 sec for 167.23 creds

So yeah, CPU is a bit crap at 2k creds per day per quad core on 32-bit. But 1M Collatz creds should take about 60 days on one 4850. Or 30 on two, 15 on four.

11 Aug 2009

boinc update

Ahh, more BOINC progress.

Just hit 13M credits total, nearly 10M in Milkyway, nearly 1M in GPUGrid and nearly 250K in SETI:

I'm hitting all my main targets here. I was wanting to pad out this graphic:

With results at each of the 10K, 25K, 50K, 100K, 250K, 500K, 750K, 1M, 2.5M, 5M and 10M milestones. Each milestone requires a certain amount of projects to reach that level, and SETI will be getting my my 250K one soon and MW will hit the 10M one soon. So that goal is done.

Well, what's left then? Gain more credits?

In respect to the fact that I'll be using a 16 thread machine at work in the near future, I've come up with the following plan:

a) Reach my main goals with respect to the second graphic. This means:
- Milkyway @ 10M
- GPUGrid @ 1M
- SETI @ 250K

b) Work on little projects where I am below 80% in terms of credit. For now I'll limit this to:
- Rosetta
- FreeHal
- Einstein
- Spinhenge
- Ramsey
- Malaria
- SETI-Beta
And for each of them I'll get them up to 50K, and hopefully above that 80% line.

c) Now for some bigger goals - get as high as I can on each project to get 1st or 2nd in terms of 'who joined the same day I did'. This means the following projects and targets:
- CPDN @ 250K
- QMC @ 600K / 1.2M
- PrimeGrid @ 250K
- WCG @ 1.25M
- Cosmology @ 1M
- Rosetta @ 500K/1M/5M
For Rosetta and QMC, the numbers gets me into 3rd/2nd/1st but because there is such a gap it might be worth doing it in stages.

All this time, my GFX cards will be doing MilkyWay (get up to 20M or something) and GPUGrid/SETI/Aqua.

I do have a motherboard and chip here (i.e. Dutchie) not in a case or with graphics cards, so I'm deciding whether to build it up into a machine, or try and sell it on as my father is needing a new machine soon.

9 Aug 2009

benchmark update

This week I helped a friend pick out a new laptop. I picked out a few, but eventually she decided on the Acer Aspire 5536:


CPU: AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 2.1 Ghz
GPU: Radeon Mobility HD 3200
HDD: 250GB
Screen: 15.6"
Price: Around 350

All-in-all, a very nice price for what is a very nice laptop. I also got to benchmark it.

The QL-64 was a never before seen chip on hwbot, so a quick request to support got it added. Needless to say, this resulted in a swathe of gold for me... :)

CPU-Z: 2118.53 Mhz
PiFast: 73.26 sec @ 2100 Mhz
1M SuperPi: 45.96 sec @ 2100 Mhz
32M SuperPi: 40 min 44.08 sec @ 2100 Mhz
32M wPrime: 39.35 sec @ 2100 Mhz
1024M wPrime: 21 min 1.12 sec @ 2100 Mhz

I wasn't able to benchmark using PC05 - for some reason it wouldn't install. Also didn't bother with the GPU due to time, and that card is hotly contested with better CPUs.

However, I still have a mountain of graphics cards and processors to bench. Lets see how far I get.

3 Aug 2009

designing a benchmark

So, this new benchmark I'm making. Let's call it gpuCompute.

The idea is to have a benchmark that exploits the capabilities of GPGPU and have nothing to do with graphics. So mathematics.

I did some tests designing a program that goes through every number from 1 to N, and determines if N is prime. This means, in general:

for i = 1 to N {
if isPrime(i) {

isprime(k) {
for i = 2 to k {
if k%i == 0 {return false;}
return true;

However, this can be shortened to go from 2 to sqrt(k), to make it go faster.

Well this benchmark checked 160 billion numbers in 3.3 seconds on my GTX280. If I stuck in an output (i.e. de-commented the prime++;) then it did 1 million in 0.2 seconds due to bad memory coalescence. When overclocking the GFX card, it only responded to an OC on the Core frequency. Hmm, not good.

Here's how it looked:

After conversing with the guys at BenchTec, they wanted a 2-3 minute benchmark. So utilising some functions I've done at work with 2D finite element simulation, I programmed some of that in.

In a nutshell, a 2D finite element simulation takes a grid of R*Z nodes, then computes each note in a new timestep as the average of the nodes around it of the previous timestep. So a grid of 1000x1000 has one million nodes - or one million threads for a cuda device. Then to increase the length of the simulation, add more time steps or increase the grid size.

This kernel function uses liberal amounts of texture memory, and 2*4*R*Z bytes of graphics memory. So I need something for the smaller CUDA cards to run, so I've limited the grid to take up at most 64MB of graphics memory and just increased the timesteps. Due to the liberal use of memory and reasonable levels of calculation per thread, this system responds very nicely to any sort of core or mem overclock. Niice :)

So all that's left to do is:

a) Change the program so multiple GPUs can be used.
b) Implement some sort of checksum to stop cheating.
c) Move it to OpenCL so ATi cards can use it too.

a haul in the mail

Today I went to my college post box to receive an awesome haul:

Celeron 1.7Ghz (Costa Rica)
Celeron 1.7Ghz (Malay)
Celeron 1.8Ghz (Malay)
Celeron 2.2Ghz (Costa Rica)
Celeron D 2.66Ghz (Malay)
Pentium 4 1.6Ghz (Costa Rica)
Pentium 4 1.5Ghz (Costa Rica) x 2

All for around £1.50 each.

Some pure socket 478 benching ahead at some point.

1 Aug 2009

benchmark update

I took a bit of a detour this past couple of weeks. I'm doing a big round up of all the latest Catalyst driver releases for ATI cards on all the 3D benchmarks. There are some significantly surprising results! I'm less than halfway through as the testing is quite rigourous, and the results will be put up in the members section of BenchTecUK forums. Not a member? Join the team at HWbot, put up 3 scoring results (which isn't that hard) and start posting on the forum.

I've actually been quite generous to myself recently, and picked up some more equipment:

ATi 2400 Pro
nVidia 7800GS
5 Socket A processors, from Duron 700 to Athlon 1400
Socket A motherboard and cooler w/VGA port (1.5V and 3.3V)
Various Socket 478 processors from ebay

I took apart my old P4 mobo from its case so I could mess around with it. I took the cooler off, and the P4 proc came off with it! Looks like they'd used 3g of thermal material to seat the proc, and it'd set. I had to douse the area with TIM to help dissolve the thermal material, then use two screwdrivers to seperate the proc from the cooler. But I reseated it the way I wanted, hopefully I can push that beyond 3.6Ghz now.

I bought the Socket A procs and gfx cards from the BenchTec forums. I didn't have a socket A motherboard, but the procs were cheap, so I picked up a mobo/proc/cooler combo off ebay for under 20 notes. Got the mobo combo in the mail yesterday, only to find they'd used EVEN MORE thermal material on the proc... it hadn't even set properly. So I cleaned that up, and I'll test it soon after my Catalyst round up.

As far is BOINC is concerned, I'm atm only running 2 ATI cards on Milkyway - it'll be four when I've finished the Catalyst roundup. Aqua isn't giving out as much work, or credit, as before - but I got enough WUs to push me over 1m this week. GPUGrid climbed over 750k and is onto 1m fairly soon. SETI is being very awkward, and is having trouble getting to 250k. I may swap my nVidia card on GPUGrid over to Seti when GPUGrid reaches 1m - maybe get SETI to 1m. We'll see what happens.

At the minute, Dutchie is laying without power supply or graphics cards. I'll sort that soon.

On a bright note, I'm being commissioned to design a couple of websites. No doubt you can guess where that cash is going.

Also as a side project, as I've been learning CUDA and dabbling in OpenMP, I've been thinking of writing a benchmark program. The guys at BenchTec are being supportive - it probably wont be used at hwbot, but might use it in some form of competition at BenchTec. I'll post it here too :)

Take care, I'm back to benching.

18 Jul 2009

belated update

So - not much happening. Until later today.

I'll finally get around to benching that 4850X2. Since then, I picked up the Gainward GS GLH 4870X2 (retails at £420) for £200 on the BenchTec website as well, so I'll be benching that too (and in CF). I expect some global points here, so wish me luck.

In terms of moving computers around, I finally organised the machine I'm selling to a mate - yes, I'm selling HarukaKanata in the CM 335 Elite. As such, my PC situation is being completely moved around (also so I can get my i7 out for benching).

JC now has a 550W PSU and the GTX280 in it. It's now my purely CUDA machine (BOINC and work).

HAL is now up and running - as a 2x 4850 in CF crunching machine AND my network storage:

E6400 @ 2.4Ghz
MSI Platinum PowerUp
700W PSU
2x4850 in CF with Akasa Nero Vortexx VGA Coolers
Antec 300

A few points about HAL - with two GFX cards in there always at full pelt, with the extra coolers, the temps are sort of in reasonable levels. The card on top never goes above 60C, however the card at the bottom hits 90C. While better than the 110 I was getting before, I'd like that 90 to be 80. Though I have noticed that if I overclock the cards, they actually use less shader cores on BOINC, and are cooler, but still crunch faster. Weird that. So the top card runs at 800/750 (mem speed doesn't matter for BOINC, so it's underclocked), the bottom at 730/750. Given that 3D speed is meant to be 625/1000, I reckon that's quite good.

In terms of Dutchie, well at the minute it has not got a PSU, and is going in my Verre v770. It'll get a couple of graphics cards (if at some point my 4670s become useful...) and a PSU as and when.

HELLFIRE is going into the Thermaltake Armour. It's big, roomy, and I've been spending money on things like the 4870X2 rather than on a case. I've changed the fan on the CPU cooler to an AC-Ryan 80CFM one rather than the Delta - I think it was going too fast for optimal air contact.

So today, my benching will hopefully consist of:

4850X2 in CF (i.e. a 4850X2 and something else)
4870X2 in CF (again, a 4870X2 and something else)
4850 in CF if I get around to it...

Maybe sort out my overclock on HELLFIRE, too.

In terms of BOINC update, well the ATI cards are doing wonders at MilkyWay. I'm now 6.3 million credits there, 9mill total on BOINC, top 1000 in world, top 50 in UK. I dabbled a bit with a project called Aqua@Home, which were giving very good credits per CPU time. But now their credit system is being moved around, so I'm doing a bit more on SETI to get it up to 250K, and Aqua to 1M. Would like GPUGrid on 1M too, with MilkyWay on 10M.

2 Jul 2009

mk-36 laptop benching

I was lucky enough to get hold of a friends laptop these past couple of days, to replace a hard drive. Needless to say, benchmarks were forthcoming!

The system is best described as:

Acer Aspire 5051
AMD Turion 64 MK-36 - 2Ghz stock
Radeon Mobility 1100

For both the CPU and GPU, there were less than 20 results for each benchmark, so I was guaranteed some points.

(Actually, as I'm writing this, I forgot to do some stock benchmarks for the CPU. Damn - that's for tomorrow then.)

Overclocking the CPU involved some SetFSB - managed 2213Mhz stable, and 2100Mhz for benching.

So, 2D results:

CPU-Z: 2213Mhz
PiFast: 57.97s @ 2100Mhz
SuperPi 1m: 41.11s @ 2100Mhz
SuperPi 32m: 35m 39.88s @ 2100Mhz
wPrime 32m: 1m 19.06s @ 2175Mhz
wPrime 1024m: 43m 50.33s @ 2100Mhz
PC Mark05: nothing, couldn't get it to work

Overclocking the GPU was a hard task. Hard enough that all I tried didn't work. So these are all stock scores, on an overclocked (2100Mhz) CPU:

Aquamark 3: 14207
3D Mark 01: 6008
3D Mark 03: 1523
3D Mark 05: 685
3D Mark 06: 186

So that's a nice haul of a bronze cup and 3 medals.

In other news, I ordered a 4850X2 today. So that means I can post some scores in the 4850X2 category, and the 4850X2 in CF (I'll team it with a 4850) categories. Also, the added bonus of crunching = win.

I've noticed I didn't put my 2x 4850 in CF scores up on the bot. And I can't find copies of them anywhere. So I'll do them again. It's a damn shame the UK is SOOO HOT AND HUMID at the minute. The results might be mediocre... at best.

29 Jun 2009

boinc update

Another week, another not much happening on the benchmarking front.

BOINC on the other hand, is going in leaps and bounds. Now at 3.88 million on Milkyway, I passed the 5 mill total mark, and The Clangers (the team I crunch for) passed 20 million.

As I was having a problem with my 4850s overheating in Dutchie, I've decided to purchase some VGA coolers:

At 11.47 a pop at SCAN, they seem OK to blow the air out the back, rather than just circulate it around.

It's also pay day next week. So along with the VGA coolers, I want a PSU for JC to put the GTX280 in, a PSU to put into my X2-4400 that I'm selling, another case for the X2-4400, and a 4850X2 to put into HELLFIRE to replace the GTX280. Then we'll see what's what on the BOINC front.

In other news, I was playing around with CUDA this evening, and got some things compiled. Though my basic idea of vector = vector * (vector+vector) at 512 threads didn't really see any improvement on speed. I have some things I need to CUDA up, so I'll have a bash at that soon.

19 Jun 2009

boinc update

Well, over a week later and lets see what is what.

Over the past few days, averaged around 140k points per day (PPD). MilkyWay are now issuing some work units that are slightly less points per second than before, but at least it's all work!

Gone from 1.59 million to 2.83 million since the last post. At the minute I have one 4850 card in HK, and the other in Dutchie. Having them both in Dutchie was putting making temps of 110ºC!!!

Looking at the cards in terms of cores and core speed, I posted the following over on the MW forums:

Cards that can process MW at the minute:

3850 - 668Mhz, 320cores, GDDR3 @ 828Mhz
3870 - 775Mhz, 320cores, GDDR3/4 @ 900/1125Mhz
3850X2 - 668Mhz, 640cores, GDDR3 @ 828Mhz
3870X2 - 775Mhz, 640cores, GDDR3/4 @ 900/1125Mhz

4770 - 750Mhz, 640cores, GDDR5 @ 800 Mhz
4830 - 575Mhz, 640cores, GDDR3/4 @ 900 Mhz
4850 - 625Mhz, 800cores, GDDR3/4 @ 993 Mhz
4870 - 750Mhz, 800cores, GDDR5 @ 900Mhz
4890 - 850-1000Mhz, 800cores, GDDR5 @ 975Mhz
4850X2 - 625Mhz, 1600cores, GDDR3 @ 993Mhz
4870X2 - 750Mhz, 1600cores, GDDR5 @ 900Mhz

So in terms of RAC, using the 3850 as a normalised value of 1:

3850 - 1
3870 - 1.16
3850X2 - 2
3870X2 - 2.32

4770 - 2.25
4830 - 1.72
4850 - 2.34
4870 - 2.81
4890 - 3.18 to 3.74
4850X2 - 4.68
4870X2 - 5.62

Formula = (cores / 320) * (1+((Mhz - 668)/668)

So a 4870X2 will get you roughly 5.62 times more RAC than a 3850.

Now, my intention at the beginning of the week was to get some 3850X2 cards, for 100GBP each, so crunch and also bench for some points (because not many have been benched...!).

I was going with the following:
HELLFIRE (i7 920) - 2x 3850X2
HAL (E6400) - 2x 4850
Dutchie (X2-5050e) - 2x 4670
HK (X2-4400) - GTX 280
JC (3000+) - 3850X2

But then the following occured to me given the numbers above. 3x 3850X2 cards at 100GBP each give the equivalent of 6x PPD. However, for the same price, 2x 4850X2 cards give 9.36x PPD. So I made a spreadsheet comparing price of the cards, and MilkyWay output:

Read it here.

So the way to go is 4850s or 4850X2s. Which in a sense is good - 4850s will get me some nice Global points at HWbot - though 3850s would have gotten me hardware points.

Also this week, a friend needs a new computer, so I'm going to sell HK, my X2-4400, to them. This will mean Dutchie will more than likely become my PC for network storage, and HAL will become a BOINC machine. It will also fund the above purchases :) :)

Thus the situation will end up:

HELLFIRE (i7 920) - 2x 4850X2
Dutchie (X2-5050e) - 2x 4670
HALBERD (E6400) - 2x 4850
JC (3000+) - GTX 280

It just means I also need to purchase a PSU for JC, and a case for HAL.

10 Jun 2009

boinc work

So, the BOINC project MilkyWay has work churning at an alarming rate :) Through a third party, the MW project can use ATI graphics cards with double precision accuracy to work on their science.

For the past couple of months, the users have been limited to 13 million credits a day - this meant for my two 4850s, they got around 15k a day because they were out of work for so long (and also there's an issue with cores to GPU ratio, as you could only get 6*cores worth of work units backlogged to crunch).

Now before when they had work all the time, each was getting about 60k a day (they were both in dual core machines). As of two hours ago, and because of a slight shift in their science over the weekend, the project is sending out work quicker than people can crunch it. So my ATi cards haven't stopped.

The change in science over the weekend caused some ATi cards to stop, meaning more work for the rest of us. As a result, I was getting 50k a day from my cards. Now hopefully I'll get 120k from the two cards, maybe even more:

Thanks to the ATi card development, MilkyWay is my top project, with 1.53 million credits as of 6pm today (it's 7 hours later, and now up to 1.59mil, which extrapolates to 205k/day).

At the minute I have several main aims in BOINC.

1) To increase the following graphic, by getting as many projects as required to certain credit levels - 50k (9); 100k (8); 250k (5); 500k (2); 750k (2); etc

2) To get into the top 80% of as many projects as possible
3) To beat my highest world position of 3185, which means getting 3.5million credits

As a result, my main projects are:

MilkyWay (for ATi cards)
GPUGrid (for nVidia cards)
SETI@Home (can use nVidia)
World Community Grid

3 Jun 2009

computex + XFX

Well, Computex is on. Computex is a tech show where manufacturers and stuff can show off their latest hardwares. There's always talk of new top end stuff, like the Core i7 975 to replace the 965, 1TB SSDs in 3.5 inch form factor, touch screen stuff and the like.

One thing that caught my eye was XFX, now moving into the PSU market. Now, I'm a secret fan of XFX - I love their styling, and their pricing. Green and black does it for me - 'nuff said.

The PSU on show was an 850W model:

Rated 850W at 50ºC with 88% efficiency. Looks like a myriad of connectors - hopefully enough 6+2 pins for the latest graphics cards.

If XFX can price this below the Corsair 850W model by at least a tenner, I think I now know where my next PSUs are coming from!

1 Jun 2009

cheap as chips

The 1GB Sapphire HD 4850 X2, PCI-E 2.0 (x16), 1986MHz GDDR3, GPU 625MHz, 1600 Cores, 4x DVI-I/ HDTV:

That's two 4850 GPUs on one card.

Now given I paid £120 for one 4850 a couple months back, how much do you reckon this is? £240? £260?

For today only (1/6/09), it's the low low low low low price of...


That's an awesome price.

Get it at SCAN.

I wish I had some money. This would be an awesome purchase.

26 May 2009

interesting case

The xClio 1000:

All the fans change from red to green to blue and mix em up. Massive case, only £180...

25 May 2009


So, I'm getting into the groove with this benchmarking thing. I have an optimised set up for 2D and 3D benchmarks, and over the week have benched the following:


Core i7 920 D0

GPUs: (w/ Core i7 920 D0 @ 4.1Ghz)

X550 256mb
X800 XL
X1900 XT
2x4670 in CF
2x4850 in CF
GTX 280

And thus the following results were garnered:

2D Stock:

2D Overclocked:

2D Combined:

3D Overall:

3D OC vs. OC, Stock vs. Stock:

In all graphs, the higher score is better :)

Calculation of 2D scores:
a) Take the highest time for test X out of my hardware
b) Divide each CPU time by highest time = score
c) Add all scores together for all tests

Calculation of 3D scores:
a) Take the best score for test X out of my hardware
b) Divide each test score by highest score, make a %
c) Add all % for all tests, max 500 points.

Interesting observations:

- The Core i7 blasts an overclocked Core 2 Duo E6400 out of the water.
- One 4670 isn't that good at gaming, however 2x4670 at stock beats a 4850 at stock.
- The GTX 280 is better at older benchmarks. However, 2x4850 at stock beats the GTX280 overclocked for a cheaper price.

24 May 2009

benchmark update

Just a small update, given I haven't written anything. HELLFIRE is still set up as a test rig; I'm currently chugging through all my previous graphics cards. Most are setting personal bests :) Also got some modified graphics to post.

And it looks like:

2x 4670 in CF > 1x 4850
2x 4850 in CF > 1x GTX280

Also, how come I get some monster memory overclocks?? =P More details soon.

21 May 2009

corsair products

Now to talk about Corsair - a well known manufacturer of PSUs, RAM, TEC Coolers and other stuff.

First of all, my initial impression of Corsair was tainted when I was searching for some decent DDR2 RAM back in January - a fair few of Corsair products had negative reviews purely based on 1066 Mhz RAM not performing as it should. People mentioned that it was just 800Mhz rebranded at slower timings and higher voltage.

Now, with the SCAN event in Bolton last Saturday, the couple of BenchTec guys were saying Corsair this, Corsair that. Also, a guy from Corsair was at the event.

The big rave from BenchTec was two fold - PSUs, and DDR3 RAM. The PSU being heralded was the HX 1000W:

It's a modular piece of kit, that is regarded as one of the best PSUs money can buy. 1000W at 50 degrees C, 80A on a single rail, 6 6+2-pin PCI-E connectors, 5-year warranty, the lot. So it looks nice, and performs well. There is one downside - the price. £190 per unit is a large pill to swallow when you're on a budget. In essence, that could be a whole system right there, if not most of one.

So if I was to get one, I'd go for the next one down - the TX 850W model.

Still 80%+ efficient, 4 6+2-pin PCI-E connectors, 5 year warranty, 850W @ 50 deg.C. However, it isn't modular - BUT only £115. At least in my opinion, that's more like it.

Now onto the subject of RAM. I did a little research for this, and basically I can sum it up in a phrase - Corsair make the ultimate RAM for benchmarking. Their flagship product is the DDR3 Dominator GT:

Rated at 2000Mhz and 7-8-7-18 1T timings, these blow everything else out of the water. Take my current G.Skill - 1333Mhz and 8-8-8-24 timings; that is a HUGE difference. The guy from Corsair said that for every 100 kits they aim to make of this GT stuff, only one kit actually passes (the rest get rated at lower speed). So it's crafted, hand tested, and looks good. Now comes the downside - again, price. A 3GB kit seems to be almost non-existent in the UK, but retails for $300 USD. The 6GB kit is around $540/£300. Again, a tough pill to swallow.

For good performance with a tighter budget, there are the 1866Mhz 9-9-9-24 Corsair Dominator kits for £125.

A friend pointed out that an increase of 1-1-1 in timings requires approx 150Mhz on the clock to get similar performance (I haven't done the math, but it seems fair). So if we raise the bar on each kit to 10-10-10, what would the speed be?

(£300) 6GB Corsair Dom GT: 2000 7-8-7 -> 2400 10-10-10
(£206) 6GB Corsair Dom: 1866 9-9-9 -> 2016 10-10-10
(£42) 6GB G.Skill 1333 8-8-8 -> 1633 10-10-10

That's a serious price to pay for quality RAM...

18 May 2009

the last post

Is an entry to a competition run by Thecus :) Post their press release on your blog, and 5 lucky people win one. Cheap advertising to Thecus, potentially free loot for 5 lucky people. =P

Thecus® Unveils the N0204 miniNAS Device

Thecus® Unveils the N0204 miniNAS Device
"The tiny RAID-enabled portable network storage device with big ideas"

Thecus N0204 NAS03/30/2009 – Big things are happening in the world of NAS devices. Today, Thecus® is proud to introduce the N0204 miniNAS device – the world’s smallest fully-featured NAS device.

Measuring a tiny 132 x 88 x 63 mm exterior, one could easily mistake the N0204 as a regular external hard drive. But look closer and you will see a very capable two-bay NAS device that fits right in the palm of your hand. The N0204 houses two 2.5” SATA hard disks, providing up to 1TB of storage. You can manage this storage with your choice of RAID 0, 1, and JBOD, making the N0204 the most robust pocketable storage device in existence. And because its drive bays are hot-swappable and feature auto-rebuild, you can change a hard disk without powering down the unit. The N0204 even comes with Thecus®’ Nsync for remote replication as well as the Thecus® Backup Utility for total data security. With huge storage, RAID functionality, and advanced data safeguards packed into a tiny device, the N0204 miniNAS is in a class all its own.

Tiny but mighty, the N0204 comes with many of the features and functionality possessed by its much larger cousins. For starters, the N0204 can function as a complete media hub with its built-in iTunes server, photo web server, and media server. With the built-in media server, you can enjoy your videos, pictures, and music with the N0204 by using any DLNA compliant media players. Plug in a USB web cam, and the N0204 turns into the world’s tiniest home surveillance server, allowing you to preview, capture and schedule image snapshots up to 640 x 480. Add to that support for both Windows and MAC OS operating systems and a whole new user friendly Windows Utility to easily set up and link the N0204 with your PC, and you’ve got some serious storage that you can whip out of your pocket and plug into virtually any network.

The N0204 miniNAS is a marvel of engineering. With advanced energy-saving capabilities, the N0204 only uses between 25~30% of the power compared to traditional two-bay NAS devices. You can even schedule power on/off for better power management. The N0204 also features whisper-quiet cooling, which means low temperatures and even lower noise during daily operation. A convenient USB 2.0 port in the front and the one-touch copy allow you to copy the contents of a USB storage device to the N0204 with a single button press. You can also copy data from the N0204 to any USB disk for data exchange. The N0204 supports USB printers, external hard disks, USB web cam, and even works with USB WLAN adaptors, allowing you to give this tiny NAS device wireless capability.

A complete NAS device in a form factor smaller than a paperback book, the N0204 miniNAS proves that great things do indeed come in tiny packages.

"When we tell people what the N0204 miniNAS can do, the most common reaction is disbelief followed by awe,” notes Thecus General Manager Florence Shih. "We've essentially created a fully-functional NAS device in a package that you can take anywhere. With the N0204, you can enjoy the power and convenience of NAS storage anywhere life takes you."

For more information on the N0204, check out:

day out at SCAN with BenchTec UK

On Saturday, BenchTec UK, Hexus and SCAN teamed up in the SCAN shop in Bolton to do a day of overclocking. I traveled 4 hours each way - it was fantastic. Free stuff and getting info on OCing was great.

Also, I should not be allowed the camera. I always get goofy grins on camera:

Though it was a thoroughly good day. A shame that the room was too warm to get some awesome results, but everyone there had fun :)

Link to the other photos:


I have some videos too I'll put up soon :)

the i7 build

Got to work on HELLFIRE thursday night.

Setup: EX58-UD3R, i7 920 D0, 3x1GB GSkill DDR3-1333, Akasa Nero

The Akasa Nero comes with a piddly 12cm Akasa fan:

So I strapped my 200CFM Delta fan on it:

Went to 3.7Ghz/185BLCK without any issues - just upping BCLK. RAM was set on auto SPD timings, but ran at 1480Mhz.

For 190BCLK I put the RAM down a ratio, also lowered the voltages on the core.

Had to up some voltages for 195BCLK, but w32 under 7 seconds:

All the time I was thinking temperatures. Using Real Temp 3.0, they were hitting 74-ish.

Going to 200BCLK, and the motherboard kept rebooting, no matter what settings I put it to. Until I put a few setting on Auto on the motherboard, then it booted first time. Went back to the mobo with those settings, put them in, and it failed to boot. WTF?

For 205BCLK, upped Vcore to 1.2875V:

Managed to get the timings for RAM down to 7-6-7-15 at 1230Mhz, but not done any benchmarks with it.

Using the EasyTune, put it up to 210BClk, got a cpuz:

But running any wPrime caused it to hang. Choosing 210 in the BIOS and it failed to start. I don't really want it getting hotter; I mean 75ºC is a bit toasty for me. Might clock back to 3.7 for day to day work.

Kept track of wPrime scores and settings:

EDIT: Since I wrote this, I went on the BenchTec/SCAN performance day in Bolton - got some good tips and I'll be redoing the overclock.

13 May 2009

i7 enabled, the birth of HELLFIRE

Yes, I've monitoring prices fervently, as well as my bank balance, to see what I could upgrade to.

This week, the CM Storm Scout reduced in price again, to £81.99. This, coupled with a £99.99 1.5TB hard-drive, would have been ideal as an upgrade path.

Though today brought about something different. Something epic.

Since the last update, I read a review over at Tom's Hardware regarding the CoolIt ALC. Overall, they concluded that a big air cooler was far better than the small ALC water cooler, and less of a fiddle to sort out. Then I saw this review, comparing all the major socket-1366 air coolers available at the minute. Two coolers stood out - a Thermaltake eXtreme for the enthusiast, and the Akasa Nero for the mainstream. At £60+ for the former, and £30 for the latter, the review showed that there was barely 5ºC between the two at full load (I should mention that the Noctua enthusiast cooler came 2nd in its category). At the end of the day, if a £30 Akasa performs similar to a £75 CoolIt, I'll take the Akasa and pocket the difference.

Also since the last update, my beloved XFX board I was after went up in price to £200. That was a bit of a bummer. So the task was to find a cheaper motherboard with a 3xPCI-E interface. Luckily, Overclockers had the Asus P6T motherboard, also 3xPCI-E, on sale at £165. I was thinking that is a result! Normally the cheapest board is the Gigabyte EX58-UD3R - a 2xPCI-E board with a unique 3+1 RAM setup (standard for LGA-1366 is 3+3) - at £170. Then, whilst searching on Overclockers, I came across their B-Grade section. B-Grade usually means 'ships with limited warranty, or scruffy box, or no cables, or no manuals, or all of the above'. But lo-and-behold, was the Gigabyte EX58-UD3R for £115. This was a bargain not to be missed.

jabski at BenchTec UK gave a review of the EX58-UD3R using a Noctua CPU cooler with a Core i7 920 D0; showing how he achieved 221BCLKx21 = 4.6Ghz. In reality, a 4Ghz stable system for day-to-day showed more likely - that's still a 50% overclock.

Also at Overclockers, they've added some G.Skill RAM in their lineup. Some 3x1GB DDR3-1333 joy came at the low price of £29. The 3x2GB set was £43, but I conjectured that I may want some DDR3-1866Mhz at a later date (£95), so save some money for then. Plus I use XP, so 2.5GB would be wasted.

If you hadn't guessed by now, this means I went ahead and bought a Core i7 setup :)

CPU: Core i7 920 (2.66Ghz), D0 Stepping (£241.99)
Mobo: Gigabyte EX58-UD3R (£114.99)
RAM: 3x1GB G.Skill DDR3-1333 (£28.99)
CPU Cooler: Akasa Nero (£30.99)

Plus shipping, this came to £423; about £122 less than my previous estimates of minimum requirements. Bargain. As long as the motherboard works first time :) Actually, I ordered this stuff, and it was dispatched 30 minutes later. How cool is that?

The question also arises on what to call my new beast. At first I thought of 'Scyther' - an edgy name which conjures up pictures of ninja, or Pokémon, depending on how your brain works. My brother thought of Sarge, given that at some point I'll want the CM Storm Scout case which is black and a bit militaristic. However in retrospect, Scyther does make me think of the green pokemon; and Sarge just as a word has never felt right with me. I thought of 'The Colonel', or 'Apache', however images of fried chicken and red indians followed suit. Given that the Scout uses red fans, and I want a militaristic and edgy name, I settled on HELLFIRE. The name itself is quite epic when you write it in all caps, and is the name of at least one type of missile. Like HAL, I'll abbrev. to HF for short (which yes, does look like 'Have Fun' - which I will do building it).

Several downsides to ordering this stuff in this order - I'm now one case short to put HAL, as HF will go in the Verre V770 til I get the CM Scout. I'm also a PSU short, so HAL wont be running. For BOINC, I'll probably put the 2x4850 in Dutchie in HF, and the GTX280 into Dutchie.

Though it does make it easier when I look at the next upgrades I want (in no particular order):

3x2GB OCZ DDR3-1866Mhz RAM (£95)
CM Storm Scout (£82)
CM Elite 335 (£30)
1.5TB HDD for HK (£100)
22"-24" montor (£120-200)
64GB SSD (£150)
2x4830 for BOINC/HAL (£150)

So, welcome to HELLFIRE :)

7 May 2009


For some reason, I can't stop looking at potential upgrade paths, or hardware to benchmark.

I've 3 processors I've identified as easy benchmarking points. However two are £60, one is £160. One I could use to replace my 5050e, however I'd need to sell my 5050e then to recoup some money.

The CM Storm Scout case is now only £90, but still not officially released yet.

I'm holding off on the CoolIt ALC until I get an i7.

An i7 starting cost is 220+175+45+75+30 = £545 for all the important components.

I can't upgrade my HAL mobo to a Foxconn BlackOps, which costs £155, because I'd have to buy some Dual kit DDR3 RAM, another £80. Don't know what I'd do with the MSI mobo or DDR2-1066 RAM.

I could upgrade the mobo in Dutchie to a K9A2 for £110 which would give me quad PCI-e slots for crunching, and a 4850 is only £90 delivered now. However the BOINC work situation at MilkyWay is still flaky. I could sell or keep the ALiveXFire-eSata2 though.

24" monitor is around £200, with 20,000:1 contrast ratio and HDMI connectivity.

A 1.5TB HDD now is only £100. However the 64GB Samsung SSD is £150.

I'm thinking of giving myself a budget of £200-£250 for the rest of the quarter.

What would you get?

6 May 2009

benchmarks in graphical form

Having played around with Excel (because I don't have Origin), I now have some graphs to show you the results of my various benchmarking.

First of all, the 2D Benchmarks:

The graph for this can be found over at http://borandi.googlepages.com/benchmarking:

BLUE = Singlethreaded Apps: PiFast, 1m SuperPi, 32m SuperPi
RED = Multithreaded Apps: wPrime 32m, wPrime 1024m
* = Not all benchmarks complete

I've decided to leave PCMark05 out of this, as it depends too much on the processor and hard drive used.

The slowest time is set as the max time, and all the scores are scaled to it. So if chip A takes 120 seconds, and chip B takes 30 seconds, chip B is rated 30/120 = 0.25

So for these benchmarks, LOWER IS BETTER.

The 3D Benchmarks:

The graph for this can be found over at http://borandi.googlepages.com/benchmarking2:

* = not all benchmarks completed yet

In these benchmarks, every score is normalised to the best score. So if GPU A gets 12000 points on a benchmark, and GPU B gets 6000 points, GPU B gets 12000/6000 = 0.5 points.

In these benchmarks, HIGHER IS BETTER.

i7 or not i7

I'm wondering what to do now. Put simply I have the following upgrade paths:

Common to both options:

GFX: 2xXFX 4830
PSU: 600W
HDD: *WD Raptor
Case: CM Storm Scout/CM Elite 335

Option 1: Core i7

CPU: Core i7 (2.66Ghz) D0 Stepping
Mobo: XFX MB (3 PCI-E x16)
RAM: 3GB DDR3 1600Mhz
CPU Cooler: CoolIt ALC

Option 2: Core2Quad

CPU: Quad core, very rare on HWBot (so I'm not saying yet)
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L
RAM: *4GB DDR2 1066Mhz
CPU Cooler: Asus Extreme

* indicates already own

Basically, when I upgrade, I have to decide what to do with HAL. If I'm to use it as a crunching machine, I need a couple of 4830s or something in there, hence the XFX graphics cards. Ideally I want to stick it into a CoolerMaster Elite 335 Case, like Dutchie, with a 600W PSU. I decided on 4830s over 4850s because the 4830s are £76 each, the 4850s are £93 - £17 difference per card.

The CoolIt is really a main option for the Core i7 build, and would ultimately require a CM Storm Scout case. Until that point, the Verre V770 that HAL is in at the minute is simple enough if I went ahead with the Core2Quad. At some point I'm going to have to figure out what to do with that V770 case.

Costs are as follows:

Common: £347
Option 1: £495
Option 2: £284

Though given what's said, if I went Option 2, I could wait a while for the CM Scout, removing £105. On both I could wait for the GFX cards, and thus also the power supply for HAL, which is £246. So to initially build and start would require:

Option 1 start: £630 (CPU, Mobo, RAM, Cases, CPU Cooler)
Option 1 final: £212 (GFX, PSU)
Option 1 total: £842

Option 2 start: £314 (CPU, Mobo, CPU Cooler, 335 Case)
Option 2 final: £317 (Scout Case, GFX, PSU)
Option 2 total: £631

Thus Option 2 requires a lower starting amount.

However, we are talking Core2Quad vs. Core i7 here, what about the performance difference? Well, the Core i7 does beat the C2Q out of the water in every benchmark by about 25%, but the option 1 package is 33% more than option 2.

What I have here is do I pick a decent build from current tech, or take the leap into the back end of new tech? This will decide my direction ultimately for the build after, as I'll always be using the best of the current, but never with the benefits of the new (with regard to CPUs anyway).

Then there's another chip I want to test as well for HWBot, but that's a lot cheaper AM2 :) !

4 May 2009

benchmark update

Apart from drinking the past few days, I'm finally getting around to putting the PSUs in the right PCs. Finished playing around with Dutchie, I just have to put it all it it's case now. I'm also playing around with the PCs at stock speeds, and getting some benchmarks for comparison.

Also managed to get admin access on my works Q6600, so was able to do a full suite of benchmarks for it:

CPU: Q6600 (2.4Ghz) @ 3.019Ghz
RAM: 2GB of something
Mobo: Foxconn something

CPU-Z: 3019.2Mhz
PiFast: 31.13s @ 3006Mhz
SuperPi 1m: 17.81s @ 3006Mhz
SuperPi 32m: 17m 39.920s @ 3006Mhz
wPrime 32m: 14.83s @ 3019Mhz
wPrime 1024m: 7m 45.63s @ 3019Mhz

Obviously none of them are placed - the Q6600 is a popular ship and I'm dealing with some crappy company that built this work machine. Pah.

1 May 2009

benchmark update

Now I have some Dutchie results :) Now the X2-5050e chip is 2.6Ghz on stock, however the motherboard I bought for it is useless for overclocking the CPU. It's awesome for tweaking the RAM timings, just naff for the CPU. For a start, I'm limited to 1.25 volts on Vcore. Also, with the RAM, I couldn't select DDR2-1066; only DDR2-800. As a result, I was only able to push the FSB from 200x13 (2600NMhz) to 225x13 (2925Mhz) a 12.5% overclock. Anything much above that and it'd refuse to boot properly. I'm not entirely sure why. It was having trouble at 225, until I boosted the RAM voltage from 1.8 to 2.05. This RAM is rated to 2.1V, but it didn't have the option. So is Dutchie RAM limited??

Nevertheless, I did some benchmarks. These are all at various speeds, as stability was a distinct issue.

CPU: X2-5050e (2.6Ghz) @ ~2.925Ghz
RAM: 2GB DDR2-1066Mhz (@ 833Mhz) 5-4-4-12 1T
HDD: WD Raptor
Mobo: AsRock ALiveXFire-eSata2
GFX: 2x4850 in CF

CPU-Z: 2947.2Mhz
PiFast: 45.08s @ 2936Mhz
SuperPi 1m: 31.03s @ 2937Mhz
SuperPi 32m: 28m 29.610s @ 2859Mhz
wPrime 32m: 29.24s @ 2962Mhz
wPrime 1024m: 15m 35.620s @ 2946Mhz
PCMark 05: 6180 @ 2859Mhz

I want to do wPrime 1024m and CPU-Z again, given I did run the wPrime 32m at 2962Mhz. I'll graph it all up and add some on later :) However, given the rarety of this processor on HWBot, 6 gold cups and 1 silver cup :)