linux i7 rig

My newly assembled i7 rig

I ordered the component list on Friday (28/8) and I picked up the components from work on Saturday (5/9) after returning from Edinburgh.

http://www.dabs.com/ seemed a little slow (more than a week to get everything and I altered my list to ensure they had stock), gave me an authorisation form twice to fill in, even though I have been a customer for several years and offer no presales advice.

The presales question I asked dabs simply if the CPU came with a stock cooler. Turns out it does. I did search about and it did seem retail Intel CPU boxes contain a cooler, so I guess presales isn't really necessary.

Ebuyer's crappy compensation

Unfortunately the case from Ebuyer arrived damaged. I called Ebuyer, who asked me to send the pictures, which I did, for compensation. A week has gone by and they have not got back to me. Disappointing.

Despite Ebuyer promising to discuss the matter with me, I have since noticed Google checkout refunded me the grand total of 8GBP for the damage to the case door. That is a sad token amount, compared to even the time I spend photographing, uploading and chasing up the problem. I am too lazy to take out my mainboard and send it back to them and Ebuyer knows that. :(

Building the PC

It was actually quite difficult to find a Phillips screwdriver with a magnetic tip to build the PC. Eventually I found one, though the better looking ones from B&Q, were the PZ types. So I bought that one, worried that it might not be able to grip the Phillips screws, but it was fine!

I was quite impressed with the Gigabyte EX58-UD3R motherboard heatsinks (no fans, yay!). Fitting the i7 CPU was a little scary as there aren't pins any more and you have to be quite hard with the lever. I was also surprised to see it had an IDE connector. Nice for an old CD drive to read legacy backup CDs.

The case seems quite large, but it seemed quite tight fitting the full mainboard. I was surprised to see that the reset, power and HD leds were still little fiddly cables. I thought that would become like a combined USB cable after these years.

Power up was scary. It didn't power up. I was worried the speaker was malfunctioning as I expected an error beep. After losing my mind for 10 minutes, it turns out I didn't plug in the second ATX power cable. This is a right 'balls up' IMO as the cable from the PSU is 4x4 and you are expected to put it in a 8x8 connection on the motherboard near the CPU.

Thankfully I had it powered up and I tested everything worked by booting Webconverger from my USB keyring.

The BIOS was a little old skool and gives way too many tweaks on memory. Gigabyte are ricers. Need to figure out how the hell I am supposed to update the BIOS should the need arise.

After inspecting the BIOS, it seemed that only 2G of my memory was being picked up as I fitted them right after one another. Memory voltage, speeds, acronyms seem really complicated nowadays. I moved one of the bars across and thankfully 4G showed up.

The VGA card

The VGA card that Dabs sold me is not a dual DVI. Dabs has mis-sold to me as their Product page clearly says "Dual DVI support". They took more than a month to admit the :"advertising team have advised that unfortunately on this occasion the item was incorrectly described on our website". Next I ordered a BFG Graphics GeForce 9500GT to replace the card. This does have two DVI ports, but sadly it is noisier than the card it's replacing! :(

Yes, I tired upgrading to nvidia 190.x beta drivers and using:

Option "Coolbits" "4"

With nvidia-settings to no avail. Still noisy. :/

The 9500 GT although one model down and using DDR2... still powers Quake more than 125fps constantly!

Archlinux

I installed Archlinux from USB in about 5 minutes. It was that quick. I spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure out X support with nvidia. The keyboard/mouse was not working and it turned out that xf86-input-keyboard and xf86-input-mouse were not installed. Wtf!

http://static.natalian.org/2009-09-05/i7-cpuinfo.txt

make -j8 with makepkg

I installed abs and immediately tried to build libwebkit. Building Webkit is something I do quite often at work on my Thinkpad X61 and it's painful and sweaty work. Needless to say on the i7 building Webkit is insanely fast and satisfying.

Quake Live

Getting up and running with Quake Live was pretty quick. My name tag is draq btw. I was surprised it all worked so well without any tweaks. I ramped up the graphics to fit my 1680x1050 Samsung and it runs 125+fps and never goes down. I am serious. It's really quick. I am happy that I took advice not to buy a more expensive graphics card. I read some Quake Live linux threads WRT input lag. No input lag here. Fantastic gameplay. id Software get a lot of love from me. I wish there were now more decent Linux games!

Audio issues

I am not sure if this is Gigabyte's or Antec's fault. But the front side audio once connected to the mainboard is noisy. :(

Connecting my headphones to the back of the case is the workaround.

The VelociRaptor

X61 is about 2663

[root@i7 ~]# hdparm -T /dev/sda
/dev/sda:
Timing cached reads:   18948 MB in  2.00 seconds = 9487.43 MB/sec

X61 was about 38

[root@i7 ~]# hdparm -t /dev/sda
/dev/sda:
Timing buffered disk reads:  358 MB in  3.01 seconds = 118.96 MB/sec

The hard drive is not noisy and it seems fast. I now have a 1TB drive to go with it.

Incidentally the 1TB disk seems just as fast according to hdparm.

Sensors

I heard the i7 920 is good to overclock to 3.2GHz from 2.67GHz. Unfortunately acpi under Archlinux does not seem to report the CPU (or any) temperatures.

Solution was to sudo pacman -S lm_sensors, sudo sensors-detect and sudo /etc/rc.d/sensors start. Now running sensors reports:

coretemp-isa-0000
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 0:      +41.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0001
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 1:      +41.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0002
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 2:      +40.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0003
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 3:      +43.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0004
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 4:      +41.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0005
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 5:      +41.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0006
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 6:      +40.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0007
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 7:      +43.0°C  (high = +80.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

it8720-isa-0290
Adapter: ISA adapter
in0:         +0.94 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in1:         +1.90 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in2:         +3.31 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in3:         +2.99 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in4:         +0.30 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in5:         +3.15 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in6:         +0.13 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in7:         +2.14 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
Vbat:        +3.22 V
fan1:       1962 RPM  (min =    0 RPM)
fan2:          0 RPM  (min =    0 RPM)
fan3:          0 RPM  (min =    0 RPM)
fan4:          0 RPM  (min =    0 RPM)
temp1:       +33.0°C  (low  = +127.0°C, high = +127.0°C)  sensor = thermistor
temp2:       +37.0°C  (low  = +127.0°C, high = +60.0°C)  sensor = thermal diode
temp3:       +45.0°C  (low  = +127.0°C, high = +127.0°C)  sensor = thermistor
cpu0_vid:   +2.050 V