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Thread: Help me find the most graphically competant system in existance :D

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Default Help me find the most graphically competant system in existance :D

    Hi there.

    The mandatory story (scroll down if you're short on time or are like "TL;DR")

    Over the past few weeks, I've posted on forums, listened to people on IRC, thought, thought some more, and tried to get an idea of the kind of the computer I need. And, after way too much stringing myself out over the whole issue, I've finally decided to give up.

    You guys know Linux, in the sense that some of you use Linux for the reasons I want/need to run Linux for, and run the applications I want/need to run. So you're walking reviews of how responsive your hardware is under the stress you put it under (if you do at all), and in a prime position to explain to me what I need.

    Up until now, I've used old hardware that's anywhere between "OUCH." and "*faints*" behind today's tech - I was using DOS in 1997, Win 3.1 in 2000, and Win98 in 2005-2006. Then things took a turn for the better (I believe in God so I know he had something in that change of events) and I got an old P4 with 512MB RAM. And that's when I was able to finally install XP - and when XP went to the "wow" I could never make my own to the "bleough, get this thing off me" it is, aka I "saw the light". And install Linux. Arch Linux.

    But I've finally outgrown this PC by several Saturn-sized margins, and need a new one. I've processed a lot of information, did quite a cram (that didn't even break a sweat although I thought it would, this comic strip :P) and learned about FSBs, RAM speed/timings and the like in less than a week, finally put my finger on the reason why my PC is so slow, learned about RAM size, the upcoming Nehalem chipset, and so on... and started churning out keywords like a quad-core processor, 8GB RAM, etc... and then things suddenly got sticky.

    One afternoon while reading Digg for the first time in months, I noticed that Intel are going to be releasing a 6-core chip as the last of their Penryn line, and mentioned this to a friend (who has a way bigger handle on hardware than I do, and taught me most of what I know), and shortly after other (related) topics were discussed he hunted down and found me this server board (actually from this URL, the first is the product page) that would work with it. That board has space for 192GB of RAM... enough said? Enough said. Ooh, right - it also has space for 4 of those 6-core Intel thingies. I don't think anyone can beat 24 cores. Well, AMD will be able to, with their 12-core chips they're releasing sometime... 4 of those will give 48 cores... but then Intel will pwn them with their own 6-core Nehalems (which have HT, so 12-core)... and it will all continue.

    Anyway, that server board is only $1195. I'd think that a few people could manage to do a bit of saving and scrimping to get a board like that, and I was figuring out how to do exactly that... until my friend told me the small issue that that board has 24 RAM slots, and a single 8GB stick of FBDIMM RAM is going to set me back a relatively manageable $1,100! $25k for RAM anybody?!

    That board was off the list quickly. Very quickly :lol:

    And my ideas... they just all ended. I like the idea of 24 cores a lot, because I'd be able to run 24 different Linux distros at once, or perhaps encode a DVD while playing a really intensive game through WINE through while being logged in to 10 Folding@Home accounts while load-testing 8 different Linux distros in VMs to see their performance differences while watching a Blu-Ray disc on another screen while keeping an eye on a full-motion animation that was rendering under Blender while holding an image that was part of the aforementioned animation open in Photoshop. But... who's going to do all that, except for "look at me" videos (that would quickly become one of the most viewed videos in the tech category for whatever video hosting site it appeared on :P)?

    Thinking about it seriously though, some might not have any idea as to what to do with a system like that, but I think I'd know myself, because I see 24 cores and think "I can run 24 concurrent rendering threads and render 24 frames of an animation in parallel instead of only being able to render 4 or 8." So if I look at that system from a possibility perspective, I see a system that I think can do what I primarily want it to do: render animation, fast. And while I don't know a lot about hardware and how animation software interfaces with the CPU and GPU, when I see a lot of cores, I think that more cores has got to make a difference somewhere.

    But, since I have fairly old hardware, I've been thinking along the lines of what I currently have, because I can't think otherwise, and heavily overcompensating. Until now, that is; I'm handing the hardware decisionmaking over to you lot so you can tell me what I need in terms of hardware, because this is a hardware forum.

    What my long-term goal is (that I can't achieve by a long shot right now)

    I think visually, and I like getting ideas. And I'm into computers. So a lot of the ideas I get are computer-related or technically minded, and deal with pictures, and a few of them are good as well. Some of my good ideas focus around the concept of "immersive user interface experiences" - quite a mouthful, and quite a fair bit complex in design, but I think they'd work really well if created, so I want to get a prototype of them into a timeline, render them, and get them off to the opensource community so they can take them and turn my fixed movies into functional applications.


    What I want to generally be able to do

    ...throw highly intensive applications like virtual machines and animation software at my PC and expect it to handle it with speed, stay responsive, and complete tasks quickly and efficiently, and mostly have a few clock cycles spare for running something else if I want to as well.
    ...run 3 30" displays off my system and expect them all to run at 50 or 70fps with all 12288000 pixels of the 3 screens updating at the same time.
    ...run a decent number of VMs at once, say 8 or 12.
    ...edit impossibly large images and still have a responsive system.
    ...keep an insane (1000+) number of tabs open in Firefox, indefinitely.

    I think (read: hope) you're getting an idea of the kind of system I want here. Something that heads heavily into the field of realtime graphics, but also a system that functions just as well as an ordinary PC.

    Some various points to keep in mind

    * I want to be able to leave my PC on at night without it chewing its way through the local power station's reserves.
    * I want a decent amount of diskspace, say 5 or 10 TB. I currently have around 400GB of old files and triplicates of my duplicates, and I've not been able to sort it out. Ever. In 7 years. Meep? Meep. And for the ickies among you lot, FYI, none of that will be for pr0n. Just in case you missed the vague I-am-a-Christian hint above (or went TL;DR at it).
    * Watercooling is out, Zalman cooling fans are in.
    * I don't need a quiet system. Yes, I'm not joking, I don't care - I don't mind a whirr, or even a "FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF" when the system is at fairly high load (in fact I want that, it'll give me a nudge to to know that I need to consider toning my usage down, and also tell me when a process just went haywire and started eating 100% of the cores). I just... don't want something that's akin to a jet engine, and like that 24/7. I don't sleep in the same room as the computer but I don't want to have to plug my ears because I can hear it from my bedroom.
    * Overclocking is out - well, major overclocking anyway. I've never overclocked before, and it'll be likely to go *randomly scour web one boring afternoon* *wander into BIOS* *doublecheck manual* "okay, if I raise that by 1 MHz..." :lol:
    * Nehalem - to reiterate on this once again, no thanks. It's version 1.0 of the platform, and I want to let it settle down before getting into it.

    What I've been thinking is a good generic/generalized hardware target

    * An 8-core system by way of a dual-socket board and two 4-core chips
    * 8 or 16GB of RAM, so I can work comfortably
    * Two ATI Radeon 4870X2 for graphics
    * 3 HP LP3095 10-bit 30" LCDs
    * A G15 keyboard
    * Both MX Air and MX Revolution mice (for different situations - the Air for cinema situations and the Revolution for long-term general use)
    * A Lian-Li PC-V2110B case - yes, this case is $500, but it looks awesome while not looking either "violent" or "bland", something I find hard to avoid with computer cases.

    That's all I know for sure. Everything else is "?!?!?!?!... *dies*". And I've given up trying to respawn and think about it anymore. :P

    -dav7
    Last edited by dav7; 09-15-2008 at 07:23 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    you can't use two 4870X2 under linux, we lack CrossFireX.

    If you want to do heavy rendering, build a rendering farm with several cheap quad cores (C2Q6600) and DDR2 ram it's an aweful lot cheaper. House the thing on MB trays and shelves with a 100GB switch connecting them. (look up cluster computing and rendering farms to see what I mean)


    ...throw highly intensive applications like virtual machines and animation software at my PC and expect it to handle it with speed, stay responsive, and complete tasks quickly and efficiently, and mostly have a few clock cycles spare for running something else if I want to as well.
    ...run 3 30" displays off my system and expect them all to run at 50 or 70fps with all 12288000 pixels of the 3 screens updating at the same time.
    ...run a decent number of VMs at once, say 8 or 12.
    ...edit impossibly large images and still have a responsive system.
    ...keep an insane (1000+) number of tabs open in Firefox, indefinitely.
    I some how doubt you'll be doing this by yourself but hey it's not my money.

  3. #3
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    Unfortunately, what you described is only possible with Microsoft Windows.

  4. #4
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    Okay, I think I'm getting an idea of what I want then: a very powerful desktop (within reason) for various tasks including basic realtime animation, a server for delivering web content, file storage and the like, and a rendering farm for rendering the more complex animations I develop.

    Okay, so for the desktop (I won't cover the server or farm)...

    From a hardware perspective, the desktop is the same as before, but my requirements have changed. Can two single 4870 cards (what I'd be getting with two X2s at the moment) run 3 screens and continually, fluidly, update large portions of them? Most importantly, if it can't do it now will it have high chances of being able to do this in the future? I know the ATI drivers are open source so it's only a matter of time, but how long can I expect to wait for CrossFireX support and most importantly "fast rendering"? If the card isn't fast already?

    To put it another (slightly less graphically demanding) way, would it be possible to render - all in realtime - something with the graphical equivalent to 4 to 8 copies of Compiz Fusion running on the same graphics array (ie my 3 screens)... and run it smoothly?

    Because that's want I want to do right now. The cluster probably won't happen for a few months, for no other reason than the fact that I'm not "there" yet. I've barely animated much in my lifetime, and what I did animate was extremely primitive, and on low-end machines. I have a graphically minded head, but not much experience or skill as yet, so the chances are, if I was able to get something that could run Compiz 4 to 8 times over and update smoothly, I'd have a system that would keep me going for a few months (or even years).

    And the server, well... I already have couple of old P3s that do me just fine for now (only 1 is on haha), although they'll probably want upgrading sooner or later.

    -dav7
    Last edited by dav7; 09-15-2008 at 08:55 PM.

  5. #5
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    Feb 2008
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    Dang you for showing that server board to me *drool*

    Anyway, what you're doing is great and I wish you luck in getting it.

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