Building a BOINC farm for a beginner.


log in

Advanced search

Message boards : Number crunching : Building a BOINC farm for a beginner.

Author Message
Profile Ryan Rodney
Send message
Joined: 27 Apr 11
Posts: 14
Credit: 35,600
RAC: 0
United States
Message 1305732 - Posted: 13 Nov 2012, 6:57:47 UTC

I am interested in trying to build a BOINC farm, as in cannibalizing processors from old computers and putting them to work on crunching numbers for various projects. However I've never done anything like this before, so I really have no idea where to start. Does anyone know where I could find a guide or directions for how to do this? Would this even be possible for someone at my level of computer knowledge (very low) or would I need to get to know computers and their components a lot better before I could even attempt something like this?

Thanks for any answers!

bill
Send message
Joined: 16 Jun 99
Posts: 861
Credit: 24,148,117
RAC: 1,872
United States
Message 1305747 - Posted: 13 Nov 2012, 8:27:56 UTC - in response to Message 1305732.

Have you read this?

http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/forum_thread.php?id=69909&sort_style=6&start=0

.clair.
Volunteer moderator
Send message
Joined: 4 Nov 04
Posts: 1300
Credit: 23,080,640
RAC: 552
United Kingdom
Message 1305857 - Posted: 13 Nov 2012, 22:15:30 UTC

BOINC farm = Big Electricity Bill :(

Profile Ryan Rodney
Send message
Joined: 27 Apr 11
Posts: 14
Credit: 35,600
RAC: 0
United States
Message 1305864 - Posted: 13 Nov 2012, 22:24:49 UTC - in response to Message 1305857.

BOINC farm = Big Electricity Bill :(

BUT at the moment I live in a dorm, so I don't directly pay an electricity bill. So that's not a problem for me atm. And I'm not talking about putting a ton of processors in there...maybe like 2 or three, mostly to learn how to do it and for fun.

tbretProject donor
Volunteer tester
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 28 May 99
Posts: 2897
Credit: 218,381,660
RAC: 21,868
United States
Message 1305886 - Posted: 13 Nov 2012, 23:05:06 UTC - in response to Message 1305864.

BOINC farm = Big Electricity Bill :(

BUT at the moment I live in a dorm, so I don't directly pay an electricity bill. So that's not a problem for me atm. And I'm not talking about putting a ton of processors in there...maybe like 2 or three, mostly to learn how to do it and for fun.


I think the problem with getting help may be your choice of words. You were talking about "cannibalizing processors." To most of us here, that would mean taking the CPUs out of old computers.

That leaves you with a problem: What are you going to do with those old processors? They have to go into a socket and have all sorts of support chipsets and a BIOS and all kinds of stuff.

So you have to have a motherboard for the processor to go into.

So you really have-to-have all of the pieces of a computer to make an "old processor" work... it's not like you can just duct tape them together or something (that's humor, I know that you know you can't duct tape processors together).

That leaves the possibility that you are talking about taking old video cards out of computers and sticking them in a computer to crunch for SETI. The problem there is that the old video cards that you would pick-up for nothing aren't capable of processing for SETI, or, if they are, they aren't going to process much.

The word "cannibalize" sort-of makes answering your question difficult.

If you mean, "can I collect old computers," then, of course you can and run just as many of them as you can find.

The problem is that old computers aren't very good crunchers and draw a lot of power. I understand that the electricity bill isn't a problem for you at the moment, but you might find that if you stack six or seven old computers in your room somewhere two things are true: You might trip a circuit breaker, or if you don't burn the place to the ground you WILL feel the sum of the heat generated by all of those CPUs and power supplies.

If you could tell us exactly what you are sort-of contemplating we can probably tell you specifically why you really don't want to do it.

Generally speaking, the best crunchers are GPUs. Generally speaking, the least expensive way out is to run the fewest number computers with the greatest number of GPUs. Generally speaking, anything more than two GPUs in a computer requires expensive power supplies and big cases full of fans, BUT you CAN put together a multi-GPU system with no case and blow a box fan at it.

You still need a relatively expensive power supply, or a rat's nest of less expensive power supplies, all of which have to have power from the wall socket, and all of which will produce heat that you have to get rid of.

I'm not trying to discourage you from crunching for SETI. I hope you will add to your RAC. And there ARE ways of making a mega-cruncher **relatively** inexpensively, but you will have a rat's nest of wires, adapters, and the like taking-up a fair amount of space and definitely creating a ton of heat.

Trying to gather enough motherboard/CPU combinations (each with a hard drive, power supply, and Operating System) can be costly. More importantly, you would have to have ten or more inexpensive CPUs running to equal the output of one $200-ish video card.

Tell us what you were thinking more specifically and let's see if we can help you make the most of your time/money/energy.


Profile Ryan Rodney
Send message
Joined: 27 Apr 11
Posts: 14
Credit: 35,600
RAC: 0
United States
Message 1305979 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 3:40:49 UTC - in response to Message 1305886.


Tell us what you were thinking more specifically and let's see if we can help you make the most of your time/money/energy.




I think that my biggest issue here is I don't really know what I'm doing. I guess I had this idea that it was possible to get a motherboard and take processors from old computers and just plug them into it and somehow attach them all together to make one mega-processor, but from what I'm reading that doesn't seem to be the case. (So in a way you were right about the duct tape thing, I'm just not quite that dumb!)

Basically what I'm getting from this thread is that this idea I've been having is way beyond my skill level.

tbretProject donor
Volunteer tester
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 28 May 99
Posts: 2897
Credit: 218,381,660
RAC: 21,868
United States
Message 1305982 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 4:15:23 UTC - in response to Message 1305979.



Basically what I'm getting from this thread is that this idea I've been having is way beyond my skill level.



You've got to start somewhere and if you've got an interest, but made it to university age without sticking your head into a computer to see how it ticks, there's no time like the present.

These things are stuck together on assembly lines. It isn't hard to stick all the parts in a box and make it work. Making the parts is beyond any of us. So you have to acquire the parts and assemble it like a kit.

Do you have any easily available source for an old computer? (old, but probably not older than a Pentium 4). How much room do you have for all of this? A desktop? A bookshelf?

bill
Send message
Joined: 16 Jun 99
Posts: 861
Credit: 24,148,117
RAC: 1,872
United States
Message 1305989 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 4:32:29 UTC - in response to Message 1305979.


Basically what I'm getting from this thread is that this idea I've been having is way beyond my skill level.


Maybe you should start reading here.

http://techreport.com/review/13671/how-to-build-a-pc

Profile Ryan Rodney
Send message
Joined: 27 Apr 11
Posts: 14
Credit: 35,600
RAC: 0
United States
Message 1306001 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 5:15:09 UTC - in response to Message 1305982.



Basically what I'm getting from this thread is that this idea I've been having is way beyond my skill level.



You've got to start somewhere and if you've got an interest, but made it to university age without sticking your head into a computer to see how it ticks, there's no time like the present.

These things are stuck together on assembly lines. It isn't hard to stick all the parts in a box and make it work. Making the parts is beyond any of us. So you have to acquire the parts and assemble it like a kit.

Do you have any easily available source for an old computer? (old, but probably not older than a Pentium 4). How much room do you have for all of this? A desktop? A bookshelf?

Well, I've taken my computer apart a couple of times but never done anything more technical than clean and replace the fan and look around to see what was inside. I don't really know what I'm looking at when I open it though. I can identify a few things, such as the hard drive, CPU, RAM, etc, but I'm still mystified by most of it.

I know that my parents have (or used to have; they may have gotten rid of them) a couple old Dell laptops (from 03 or 04 I think) that they don't use anymore, and might give me if I ask. They also have an old desktop but I have no idea how old it is or anything else about it. If that doesn't work I could buy a cheap used computer like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Dell-GX620-Interlaced-Intregrated-Professional/dp/B003KJ04TA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352869855&sr=8-1&keywords=computer+under+100 and I'm sure I could find other similar deals on Amazon or Ebay.

Profile Ryan Rodney
Send message
Joined: 27 Apr 11
Posts: 14
Credit: 35,600
RAC: 0
United States
Message 1306002 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 5:24:14 UTC - in response to Message 1305989.


Basically what I'm getting from this thread is that this idea I've been having is way beyond my skill level.


Maybe you should start reading here.

http://techreport.com/review/13671/how-to-build-a-pc

Oh this is good stuff! It's not exactly what I was looking for but I think this could help me a lot.

Profile James Sotherden
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 16 May 99
Posts: 9043
Credit: 36,979,785
RAC: 14,177
United States
Message 1306102 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 14:57:06 UTC
Last modified: 14 Nov 2012, 15:03:25 UTC

Newegg has a 3 part video on how to build a pc. I watched it twice and with the help of my fellow crunchers in my quick question thread I built one. An I7 3770 . Im still afraid of adding up the total cost though:) Its been running since 28 Oct.

I would say dont use old stuff that you dont know how long before it goes up in magic smoke. Buy what you can and build what you want. I like the I7s but there is nothing wrong with the I3 or I5 chipsets either.

What ever you decide I wish you the best of luck. And dont be afraid to ask questions.

Edit- here is the link for Neweggs building a pc, it in 3 parts.build
____________

Old James

tbretProject donor
Volunteer tester
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 28 May 99
Posts: 2897
Credit: 218,381,660
RAC: 21,868
United States
Message 1306174 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 19:16:12 UTC - in response to Message 1306001.

If that doesn't work I could buy a cheap used computer like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Dell-GX620-Interlaced-Intregrated-Professional/dp/B003KJ04TA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352869855&sr=8-1&keywords=computer+under+100 and I'm sure I could find other similar deals on Amazon or Ebay.[/quote]

I finally clicked that link.

Something like that would be a good idea BUT, and this is good for you to know and remember, if you want to crunch for SETI in a large way, you will have to use video cards (GPUs). GPUs need space for cooling and power.

Many really inexpensive used computers have "non-standard" cases. Some of the cases require that you use cards that are called "half-high." The skinny cases usually do.

Half-high video cards are few and far between.

Also, the power supplies in these computers are often non-standard physical sizes, so they are not easily or cheaply replaced, and they are mostly inadequate to run a power-hungry video card.

When you are looking for cheap, you probably want to concentrate on "standard" ATX dimensions for the motherboard, case, and power supply.

However, you might find a non-standard computer that is such a deal (free) that it is worth disassembling it to salvage the motherboard and all of its parts, the hard drive, any optical drive, the Operating System, etc.

The only reason to do what would be if the motherboard had an available PCIe (not PCI, not AGP, not VLB) slot and you were planning on sticking a more modern video card in it. That way you let the old CPU (that won't crunch much) feed the GPU (which will).

Now "cannibalize" makes some sense in that context.

You wouldn't want to pay very much (or anything) for this.

The idea is that you're going to have to spend some money on a standard ATX power supply and probably pay something for a video card capable of crunching for SETI.

Now it becomes a matter of how much can you, or do you want-to, spend? How much crunching do you expect the computer to do? What would satisfy you that you've done what you set-out to do? How would you measure that?

I'm not suggesting that you do anything I've done, or that you let me influence what you want to do. I'm just trying to give you perspective. I've got an old P4 that I was given, with an operating system I was given, RAM I was given, hard drive I was given, etc. I had to add a $45 power supply and a $120 video card (refurbished, two generations old), and it is capable of about a 20,000 RAC.

Again, I'm not suggesting you do what I've done.

I've got another computer with a $59.95 motherboard, a reclaimed CPU from a junked computer, RAM I traded-for, a case I bought for $25, a $80 power supply, and a $250 GPU I bought new years ago, and a reused OS/HDD that I traded-for; that system does about 25,000 RAC.

I definitely like the price of the first system a lot better.

If you take your time and hunt as much free stuff as you can, you can build a very respectable crunching machine for very little money, maybe even entirely free if you can just find a source for parts nobody wants, or are too much trouble to put on eBay. You might find such things at garage sales or even on the curb to go to the garbage (people throw away strange things) or the local recycling collection depot.

It'll be a learning experience in every way.

Go for it. You'll learn a lot of things along the way.


Ianab
Volunteer tester
Send message
Joined: 11 Jun 08
Posts: 678
Credit: 12,737,647
RAC: 1,843
New Zealand
Message 1306178 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 19:26:59 UTC - in response to Message 1306002.
Last modified: 14 Nov 2012, 19:36:03 UTC

"If that doesn't work I could buy a cheap used computer like this one:"

Don't buy that as a cruncher.
The small form factor and puny power supply means you can't fit a high end Graphics card in there, and that's what gives you a serious cruncher. Using only an old CPU like that just gives you a small space heater. Useful if the weather gets cold, but that's about it.

Now buying a $100 refurb PC like that, but with a mini-tower case and a beefier 450w power supply, and then spending another $100 on a CUDA capable graphic card would get you something useful. Also makes a passable game machine for lan parties etc.

To make a "farm", just keep stacking them up. You can run them without screens and keyboards etc, just a lan connection and use remote desktop to sign in to the individual machines.

Once you get familiar with the innards of PCs you will know what you can mix and match to rebuild old machines. Often 3 dead PC's can be mixed n matched to get 2 working ones. You get a feel for the ones that are easy to rebuild.
No power at all? - Probably PSU, easy fix
Boots but comes up with a disk error? - Probably dead hard disk - relatively easy fix
Powers up but no picture - Who knows? But chances are you can recover a good PSU and HDD to fix the other 2....

Doesn't take long to build up a "farm", and if they can take CUDA cards, you can build something useful, without spending 1,000s of $$ on hardware.

Ian

Richard HaselgroveProject donor
Volunteer tester
Send message
Joined: 4 Jul 99
Posts: 8767
Credit: 52,717,113
RAC: 16,309
United Kingdom
Message 1306186 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 19:49:34 UTC - in response to Message 1306178.

... a CUDA capable graphic card ...

... use remote desktop ...

Don't go there - they don't play well together.

There are plenty of (free) alternatives to remote desktop - VNC is a popular choice. But it's yet another area where you need to put a bit of care and planning into the mix, not just pick the low-hanging fruit.

Ianab
Volunteer tester
Send message
Joined: 11 Jun 08
Posts: 678
Credit: 12,737,647
RAC: 1,843
New Zealand
Message 1306246 - Posted: 14 Nov 2012, 22:33:29 UTC - in response to Message 1306186.

... a CUDA capable graphic card ...

... use remote desktop ...

Don't go there - they don't play well together.

There are plenty of (free) alternatives to remote desktop - VNC is a popular choice. But it's yet another area where you need to put a bit of care and planning into the mix, not just pick the low-hanging fruit.


True. I do remember that whole RDP/ Nvidia mess now.

I should have been more specific and suggested VNC if you are running CUDA cards

But the genral idea is still the same, you have a row of PCs and run them headless, controlled remotely.

Ian

Profile Ryan Rodney
Send message
Joined: 27 Apr 11
Posts: 14
Credit: 35,600
RAC: 0
United States
Message 1306962 - Posted: 16 Nov 2012, 23:39:52 UTC - in response to Message 1306178.

"If that doesn't work I could buy a cheap used computer like this one:"

Don't buy that as a cruncher.
The small form factor and puny power supply means you can't fit a high end Graphics card in there, and that's what gives you a serious cruncher. Using only an old CPU like that just gives you a small space heater. Useful if the weather gets cold, but that's about it.

Now buying a $100 refurb PC like that, but with a mini-tower case and a beefier 450w power supply, and then spending another $100 on a CUDA capable graphic card would get you something useful. Also makes a passable game machine for lan parties etc.

To make a "farm", just keep stacking them up. You can run them without screens and keyboards etc, just a lan connection and use remote desktop to sign in to the individual machines.

Once you get familiar with the innards of PCs you will know what you can mix and match to rebuild old machines. Often 3 dead PC's can be mixed n matched to get 2 working ones. You get a feel for the ones that are easy to rebuild.
No power at all? - Probably PSU, easy fix
Boots but comes up with a disk error? - Probably dead hard disk - relatively easy fix
Powers up but no picture - Who knows? But chances are you can recover a good PSU and HDD to fix the other 2....

Doesn't take long to build up a "farm", and if they can take CUDA cards, you can build something useful, without spending 1,000s of $$ on hardware.

Ian

yeah, I was more thinking about getting something like that for learning about computers, but I'm going to see if I can get some old junkers for free (or at least really cheap) before I go throwing money at anything.

Profile James Sotherden
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 16 May 99
Posts: 9043
Credit: 36,979,785
RAC: 14,177
United States
Message 1307137 - Posted: 17 Nov 2012, 17:59:39 UTC

Now that I think about it, You will learn more about trouble shooting some old worn out pcs than building a new one. And will be cheaper to get a farm going that way too.

So keep us imformed on how you are doing.
____________

Old James

Profile HAL9000
Volunteer tester
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 11 Sep 99
Posts: 4603
Credit: 121,652,909
RAC: 38,054
United States
Message 1307718 - Posted: 19 Nov 2012, 14:41:07 UTC - in response to Message 1306962.


yeah, I was more thinking about getting something like that for learning about computers, but I'm going to see if I can get some old junkers for free (or at least really cheap) before I go throwing money at anything.

The free section on craigslist can have some surprising things from time to time. Depending on your area.
____________
SETI@home classic workunits: 93,865 CPU time: 863,447 hours

Join the BP6/VP6 User Group today!

Message boards : Number crunching : Building a BOINC farm for a beginner.

Copyright © 2014 University of California