How do I run a machine without a HDD?


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Profile Mahoujin Tsukai
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Message 730854 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 1:38:33 UTC

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.

Profile Paul D. Buck
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Message 730856 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 1:47:32 UTC - in response to Message 730854.

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.

Virtual Machine Software ...

Though most want to back the disk up to a actual physical disk... but, there are some that will allow full memory imaging. The other thing to lookk for is disk virtulization ... Best bet would be the Linux world ...
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Message 730967 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 13:18:25 UTC

Another possible solution is to use a compact flash card as a solid state hard drive. There is a discussion about it on the team Seti.USA site. Here is an IDE to CF adapter for about $5.00 With this set up, several people are running without hard drives.
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Message 730976 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 13:42:24 UTC - in response to Message 730856.

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.

Virtual Machine Software ...

Though most want to back the disk up to a actual physical disk... but, there are some that will allow full memory imaging. The other thing to lookk for is disk virtulization ... Best bet would be the Linux world ...

off topic] Apologies.

Long time, no see Paul. But good to see you, still trying to get them to RTFM.

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Message 730998 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 14:45:28 UTC - in response to Message 730856.

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.

Virtual Machine Software ...

Though most want to back the disk up to a actual physical disk... but, there are some that will allow full memory imaging. The other thing to lookk for is disk virtulization ... Best bet would be the Linux world ...


Yes....welcome back Paul. Good to see you again, hope you stay for a while.

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Message 731009 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 16:07:02 UTC - in response to Message 730854.
Last modified: 27 Mar 2008, 16:09:06 UTC

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.


I use BoincPE... Boots minimal XP installation from USB memory stick, auto launches BOINC, persists data to network share. You can probably get by with as low as 512MB RAM on dual core, 1GB for quad core if you keep your WU cache relatively small. Personally I run 2GB Dual Channel (memory is cheap these days) because I've setup to have 768MB RAM disk. I'd recommend 512MB ramdisk if you run with 1GB RAM.

Caveats: It ain't easy to setup, but the info is on the web if you are persistent. Project detatched WUs are commonplace, esp after power failures and can require maintainance by cancelling the detatched WUs else you get 0.0 credits granted for "Received too late to validate" if both wingmen have already reported (Shouldn't be much of a problem if you keep your cache small, ~1 day). WindowsXP licensing might become an issue.

FYI: Be sure to shutdown "A43 file manager" after use... there seems to be a memory leak that can be fatal.

BOINC On..On...

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Message 731026 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 17:07:36 UTC

The answer that hasn't been posted yet.....

Many motherboards support something called PXE.

PXE will let a system boot from the LAN without any permanent storage at all.

To make this work, you need a DHCP server that assigns IP addresses (because the motherboard can't store the IP anywhere) and it needs to tell the boot process where to find the bootstrap.

The bootstrap file usually lives on a TFTP server.

The motherboard downloads the bootstrap, uses that to get the OS, and log into some sort of file server for everything else.

Obviously, for this to work, you need at least one hard disk somewhere, but you can have dozens of motherboards without anything but the built-in Ethernet.

-- Ned

P.S. Nice to see you back, Paul.
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Message 731117 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 21:47:10 UTC - in response to Message 730854.

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.


NetBooted Macs?

If you want to know more PM me. I mentioned Macs, people will shout at me :-)
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Message 731143 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 22:24:32 UTC - in response to Message 731117.

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.


NetBooted Macs?

If you want to know more PM me. I mentioned Macs, people will shout at me :-)

You can buy Macs without hard disks?
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Message 731186 - Posted: 27 Mar 2008, 23:38:16 UTC - in response to Message 731117.

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.


NetBooted Macs?

If you want to know more PM me. I mentioned Macs, people will shout at me :-)



Most of us may be PC types, but with Macs pretty much having taken over the top 10 spots, I don't think you need to worry about anyone shouting at you.
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Message 731208 - Posted: 28 Mar 2008, 1:08:13 UTC - in response to Message 731186.
Last modified: 28 Mar 2008, 1:09:49 UTC

What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM? Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.


NetBooted Macs?

If you want to know more PM me. I mentioned Macs, people will shout at me :-)



Most of us may be PC types, but with Macs pretty much having taken over the top 10 spots, I don't think you need to worry about anyone shouting at you.

I've got some possibly bad News for the MACs folks then, Once the Uncle B's get done with two more projects that are still under a million each(Spinhenge and Tanpaku).

After their done with those two projects, Their leader says He wants to do a Full Scale Frontal Assault on SETI!

In other words possibly the top spot, Or 1st place.
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Message 731920 - Posted: 29 Mar 2008, 17:19:18 UTC - in response to Message 731143.
Last modified: 29 Mar 2008, 17:19:36 UTC

You can buy Macs without hard disks?


Nope, but you can get old ones and boot them from a 'server' Mac using a disk image rather than their internal HDD.

Not exactly the solution, but easy to do and it works really rather well, and for this kind of task even over a 100Mb/s network (as long as it's switched).
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Message 732138 - Posted: 29 Mar 2008, 23:28:51 UTC

I think all macs come with a hard disk, so if you wanted to make a diskless one you'd have to buy it from a 3rd party or make it yourself. But if you have several macs that boot, a high speed lan, and one mac with disks running OSX server (from apple), you are all set to boot over a network. If you have a mac, you can see this by going to system prefs, startup disk and staring at the network boot thingy. You'd have to image a 'example' system first with it's install (macos) disk (cd), which each system would look EXACTLY like and WOULD RETURN TO THAT STATE AFTER EACH RESTART. For this reason, you'd have to run boinc off of thumb drives on the computer or a storage system on the server. If anyone wants more info, I'll pm you a link to the mac os network booting guide. You can also post if you have stones to throw in what I just said. I'm not quite an 'expert' yet, being almost twelve years old.....
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Message 732243 - Posted: 30 Mar 2008, 2:20:05 UTC - in response to Message 732138.

I think all macs come with a hard disk, so if you wanted to make a diskless one you'd have to buy it from a 3rd party or make it yourself. But if you have several macs that boot, a high speed lan, and one mac with disks running OSX server (from apple), you are all set to boot over a network. If you have a mac, you can see this by going to system prefs, startup disk and staring at the network boot thingy. You'd have to image a 'example' system first with it's install (macos) disk (cd), which each system would look EXACTLY like and WOULD RETURN TO THAT STATE AFTER EACH RESTART. For this reason, you'd have to run boinc off of thumb drives on the computer or a storage system on the server. If anyone wants more info, I'll pm you a link to the mac os network booting guide. You can also post if you have stones to throw in what I just said. I'm not quite an 'expert' yet, being almost twelve years old.....

The original poster said "computer without a hard disk" so the original question wasn't limited to the Mac.

I know of no practical, economical way to purchase a Mac and not have a hard drive.

Setting aside the Macintosh for a moment.....

PXE can deliver enough info to each machine (either through the boot images or by some other means) that each can log into the server with different shares.

Each share on the server can hold a unique installation of BOINC.

Since BOINC keeps track of progress directly, and each installation is separate (i.e. each has a separate instance of BOINC) nothing else is needed.

A thumb-drive might be nice, it might be handy, but it's not needed.

Takes a bit to get that first one to work, but from there it's a piece of cake.
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Message 732625 - Posted: 30 Mar 2008, 17:48:28 UTC
Last modified: 30 Mar 2008, 17:59:59 UTC

[edit] Lordy, I didn't realise how long this post was, sorry! [/edit]

I'll admit what I said about Mac OS X and NetBoot was really just to throw another alternative into the mix.

Here's another:

There are comparable systems available to the *nix (Linux, Unix etc.) fraternity, from what I understand Ubuntu is the easiest in this respect. As a bootable *nix is smaller and less resource hungry than Windows or Mac OS X it might well be worth a bit of research as the hardware requirements will probably be a lot easier to fulfill.

I fear we've gone slightly off-topic from what the original poster asked, so I'll try to break it down a bit. Bear with me:


What must I do in order to make a computer run the operating system and BOINC from the system RAM?

Firstly you need a server that can handle the task: Fast Disks, As much RAM as you can throw at it, as decent a processor as you can lay your hands on and preferably a Gigabit Network.
Then you need to have a Disk Image of a pre-configured OS to push out to the client and a few other bits (Information from DHCP, kernels, boot loaders and what have you. Mostly stuff automatically generated by the solution you use).


Which operating system is best suited for such a configuration? And how much RAM is recommended?

It depends on your area of expertise/what you're looking for. Mac OS X Desktop / Server is going to be the easiest and mid-priced (from a software point of view) , Linux/Unix the hardest/most technical but cheapest and probably least resource hungry and Windows the most generic and probably the most expensive.
With the Mac OS X solution your stumbling block is going to be getting the Mac hardware, so if you only have generic PC hardware to hand, forget it.
As for RAM: How much have you got/can you get? Get more! As with most things server you'll benefit from as much RAM as you can throw at it. I'd say that 2GB is a good starting point. For the clients I'd say 1GB is probably the minimum I'd go for, though most NetBoot solutions will work with as little as 256MB. The more RAM you put in the clients the less virtual memory they have to do over the network.


I know this comes with risks like losing ALL data and having to reinstall from scratch when there's a power failure.

Oh no, not at all! NetBoot solutions have the ability to write what are known as 'shadow files' over the network back to the server. They have to to be able to handle virtual memory. While these shadow files are usually destroyed when the client reboots there are ways of keeping them. Though what most people do is to have a standard sharepoint mounted on the netboot client (AFP, SMB, NFS etc.) where the critical data gets written (e.g. SETI work in progress). Voila, no loss of data.

Just remember that all these solutions rely on a quite powerful machine as a server in terms of disk size/speed and RAM mainly, but to an extent Processor and Network Speed too. I certainly would recommend an absolute minimum of a 100Mb/s switched network. A 10 Mb/s switched network will be far too slow and using a 10Mb/s hub? Forget it! Not only that but they do tend to need a bit of loving care in planning and execution. They pretty all rely on a reasonable understanding of DHCP and DNS too. So if you plan and experiment first then the final product
tends to work a lot better.

And I just thought of another solution. Knoppix. I'm sure you could build a Knoppix LiveCD with everything you need on it. Interesting, why didn't I think of that before? That's probably the actual answer you were looking for *lol* Everything I've said about client systems applies to this solution too.

Anyway...

If anyone actually does want help in setting up a Mac OS X NetBoot solution for anything, not just a SETI farm then let me know. I've been doing things like that for a living for about 15 years. :-)
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Message 732645 - Posted: 30 Mar 2008, 18:48:18 UTC

I do not think you can get a new mac w/o a hard disk ... you MAY be able to get a used one that way ...

I know since the migration to the Xeon line the older G5 macs are probably more reasonable in price. And, in *MY* history with EAH and SAH they COULD be faster than the INtel chips that were supposed to be comparable in speed.

*MY* memory is that the G5 optimized EAH app blew away my Xeon 3.2 (HT) machine by about 3x for the work of the day.

I installed the "optimized" apps on both my old G5 and the new Mac Pro and for EAH I do not see any improvement in speed ... not sure what any of this means.

However, I am not clear on the reason you want to go diskless.

Speed, increase the time to write to disk on BOINC and sleep the disk quickly and the disk will rarely spin up because of BOINC... IAW sleep in 15 sec inactivitiy, write only every 8 hours ... then most WU will only write when done.

Other wise, the other suggestions below make sense to me ...

Perhaps I am still missing the point ...

======

For all the welcome backs ... thank you ...

I added a Mac Pro to my line to allow me to "retire" the G5 to other work (or maybe shut it down) because I ran out of room and needed to upgrade ... I have posted several lengthy posts as to that and other topics and it might be easier to go through my link and just read my posts if you want my take on things ...

At the moment, in that I did D/L one CPDN task on the old Xeon I will be around for about 17 days ... but I have that on no more work and ... well, read the other posts ... start with the last couple that described why I left ... and move up ...

At the moment, things "feel" worse here and I am only slightly encouraged by a couple straws in the wind ... but, I have a couple more days to see what happens ... personally I think I was terse and to the point ...

Others have described it as a long-winded, non-specific rant ... YMMV ... to my mind, for what it is worth, though long, I wasted few words... and was very specific ... the problem is that, like much of my writing, you in fact have to read it and think while you do so ... uncomfortable as that may be, and as much time as that might take ... As I said elsewhere, not all things can be said in 248 words ... or in the "ten little words" of the sound bite ...

=====

For the Mac Pro, it is the 8 core 3.2 GHz with 10 G Total RAM and a 30" monitor and the 512M video card (the faster one) ... I also added the RAID card and 4 ea 1 TB disk drives so I have a 2.38 TB boot disk ... I also used softRAID to make a "TimeMachine" backup disk out of 4 each 1.5 TB Maxtor externals on the FireWire 800 bus (5.46 TB) ... I used a conversion kit to allow me to use the SATA bus 2 so I have two 500G drives there giving me another TB (well almost) ... and I can pop in bigger drives when I start to get crowded ...

Of course I have the externals from the old G5 so I may do a full migration and add the older 1.5 TB drive I have over there to the strip set and expand that (Don't know how well Soft RAID handles odd size stripes, or buy another to give me 6?) and then I have the 5 1TB disks too (one in RMA 4 alive) ... and some odds and ends ...
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Message 732737 - Posted: 30 Mar 2008, 23:46:02 UTC - in response to Message 732645.

However, I am not clear on the reason you want to go diskless.

If you take This thread along with this thread, I think it starts to make sense.

If you wanted 100 cores crunching, you could buy 25 systems: 25 cases, power supplies, disks, motherboards, CPUs, memory, etc.

You could also build one server, then set up 25 motherboards with CPU and RAM to boot off of the network -- saving the cost of 25 cases, disks, and their power consumption.

I'm not sure the server would have to be a "great" server, it isn't doing anything but file serving. It could probably run BOINC on top of everything else.

The OS on each machine would not have to write back to the server that often, because we're really only interested in the science application checkpoints. If we reboot we lose the work done between checkpoints.

That's settable, you can double the interval between checkpoints and halve the LAN traffic.

Most of the "wisdom of the net" seems to talk about doing this with LINUX, so that's what I'd try if I was serious.
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Message 732875 - Posted: 31 Mar 2008, 14:58:27 UTC - in response to Message 732737.

All good comments...

However, I am not clear on the reason you want to go diskless.

If you take This thread along with this thread, I think it starts to make sense.

If you wanted 100 cores crunching, you could buy 25 systems: 25 cases, power supplies, disks, motherboards, CPUs, memory, etc.

You could also build one server, then set up 25 motherboards with CPU and RAM to boot off of the network -- saving the cost of 25 cases, disks, and their power consumption.

To give quite a big saving on cost, space, and power.

I'm not sure the server would have to be a "great" server, it isn't doing anything but file serving. It could probably run BOINC on top of everything else.

If you're patient for a slow boot-up, then just any old machine with a HDD would do! Just make sure it is reliable enough.

The OS on each machine would not have to write back to the server that often, because we're really only interested in the science application checkpoints. If we reboot we lose the work done between checkpoints.

That's settable, you can double the interval between checkpoints and halve the LAN traffic.

Just ensure that each diskless machine has enough RAM to avoid needing to swap memory to the server too often. RAM is cheap so it is silly to sacrifice performance by having too little RAM. Then again, too much RAM is completely wasted. So best is to put in just what is conveniently just 'enough'.

Most of the "wisdom of the net" seems to talk about doing this with LINUX, so that's what I'd try if I was serious.

It's already been done, in various ways, and for a long time now...

The hardest part is in finding a nice "Howto" to talk you through the steps.

You could also add Boinc to an existing standard LTSP linux setup...


Anyone doing this already?

Good luck,
Martin

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Message 732954 - Posted: 31 Mar 2008, 20:20:25 UTC - in response to Message 732875.

The hardest part is in finding a nice "Howto" to talk you through the steps.

Well, once you have done it, you can take your notes and add them to the UBW and the next person can improve upon your work ...

There is a How-To section to put your work ....
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