Sunday, October 20, 2013

Station Computer Upgrade

I had enough!  My creaky Intel Atom-based computer had enough oomph with Ubuntu to run fldigi, but just barely.  It couldn't handle a browser and logging program running alongside very well. So the D945GCLF motherboard supporting an Atom 230 processor and 1 GB of RAM is now surplus. (See right.) Note that it has on-board serial and parallel I/O ports - a rarity now! (I originally chose the Atom board as an experiment to see how small a processor was really necessary. I answered that question.)
Upgrading was straightforward.  I could keep the power supply, case, DVD drive, etc.  The board is an MSI B75MA-P45, which will run many current Intel chips.  (Left) I selected the "Celeron" G1610 (2.6 GHz, 2 cores) to run with a "mere" 2 GB of RAM.  Choosing the configuration was helped quite a bit by Ars Technica's "Bargain Box" System Guide. My logic was that any new system, even a "bargain" system, would be way better than what I had been using.  And that has proven correct.

The hardware change went smoothly enough.  The real work (no surprise) was building the new Ubuntu environment with needed development tools and Amateur Radio applications. It will be some weeks before we get all the way back to equilibrium.

Added: I ran the BOINC Whetstone and Dhrystone benchmarks on the G1610 and then on my "big" i7-920 machine.  For 2 cores, the G1610 gives 2768 floating point and 16928 integer MIPS per core. For 2 cores (of 4), the i7-920 delivers 2869 floating and 16577 integer per core.  So core for core, today's "budget" CPU is comparable to a premium chip of a few years ago.  Such is Moore's Law. The '920 will run 8 independent execution threads across 4 cores, giving it 2-4 times more potential in terms of throughput. In practice, that throughput is only realized when I'm cranking 8 threads of BOINC apps, which is a nice thing to do, if your tastes run to extraterrestrial intelligence, pulsars, or gravity waves.

Purists will note that Whetstone and Dhrystone aren't great benchmarks, and I'd have to agree. All I will say is, they came easily to hand, and they're better than BogoMIPS.
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