There’s no joy like driving with a Xeon, boy!

Hello there eveyone with a nice workstation!

To translate the title to it’s original Finnish words it goes: “Ei ole riemulla rajaa, kun Xeonilla ajaa!” :p

I bought a few weeks ago a new workstation for myself, a Xeon E3-1230v3, ASUS Z87-PRO Motherboard, 16GB of Kingston HyperX 1600MHz RAM, 120GB Samsung EVO SSD (for operating system and /home), 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black HDD (for backups and storage), a Fractal Design R4 case, SilverStone ST65F-G power supply, NVidia Quadro 600 graphics, Asus 23″ MX239 (pretty good for it’s 249€ price tag, except those speakers are total rubbish and i have stereos at home too) display (well, I’ve had this display already for a year or so) and then some like an Eaton ProtectionStation 650 UPS (from which i’ve heard some bad things about). I decided not to get any more power for the graphics than that, as i don’t do gaming much and what games i’m playing are Frozen-Bubble 2 and some kind of Breakout clone 😀

Shiit people, it’s awesome to run this box! I used to have that Early 2011 13.3″ MacBook Pro with 2.3GHz Core i5 (dual-core, four threads) and then in a situation I had it with 16GB of RAM, but the RAM failed and I got a refund (so now it’s back to 4GB RAM). That MacBook Pro is now a BOINC calculator and nothing more… Now I have four cores at 3.3GHz, eight threads, completely working RAM, and a nice SSD to boot from, not to mention GPU able to do CUDA calculations and because of that being used for BOINC-projects even better. Goddamnit this machine is a beast compared to that older MacBook Pro, like sofware just jumping in half a second when that MBP took a minute 😀 The Eaton has been working mostly fine, except i’ve lost connection to it on some reboots, so no monitoring for it then and a reboot of both UPS and the workstation needed.

Guess what I decided as the OS for this shiny new workstation? Well, no, not FreeBSD… I’ve been a BSD zealot long enough to try something “new” and exciting! I already had installed Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to my mothers old MacBook (from 2006 or 2007) and found it quite suitable for her needs, which are quite limited, but still. Well, from that background I decided to try out the just released Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on my new machine, and damned, it really works like a charm. Just everything in my machine works without any problems, just install and run, even the Wi-Fi connection just works. Go and see ASUS documentation for this Wi-Fi device embedded to my motherboard if you wish. Only problem was to make proprietary NVidia drivers to work, which didn’t happen out of the box. I installed the drivers from “Additional Drivers” panel in Ubuntu, but next boot gave me a black screen without a chance to go to a text-based terminal. I’ve been out of Linux and on Open- Net-, FreeBSD and OS X quite a long time, so it was a nice smell of fresh air to try out Ubuntu and it seems like a nice chap 😀

Administration wise Ubuntu is just plain stupid easy for a workstation, i could guess it being headless and running as a server quite nice too, except the upstart; I’ve been used to the BSD init quite a lot, not to mention OS X launchd which seems like a horrible cludge with it’s XML startup files (who knows when i swap my personalized init on OS X from /etc/rc.local to lauchd :p ). Well, upstart is not so bad, /etc/rc.local still exists and works if needed and “sudo service <servicename> start” works between reboots… So, now I’m running this strange Ubuntu as an administrator all the time, so software updates show as they come, on my mothers machine she’s not an admin, just to be sure.  The one problem mentioned above, NVidia drivers, got solved by hand meddling with /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf file and adding “blacklist nouveua” at the end of the file, which in fact just disabled loading the Nouveua Open Source, no 3D-accelerated kernel driver which then conflicted with the binary nvidia.ko making the machine unusable except in recovery mode with a root shell. This was something I wasn’t expecting from an OS made for the masses, but it was trivial to achieve after some googling (not to say my mom could have done what had to be done…). I’ve now got used to a lot of software available (FreeBSD has a lot too, but not everything Ubuntu has), the only thing i had to install away from apt sources was Komodo Edit from ActiveState. I have KeePassX, Komodo Edit and NetBeans on Ubuntu just like on OS X, but kept up to date by the package manager (except for Komodo Edit just to be sure 😉 ). Now I have Darktable for RAW images from my DSLR and Shotwell for “developed” images, like .jpg exported from Darktable, these were available on OS X for Darktable, but not AFAIR Shotwell, which is a great photo library software, except it doesn’t have online ordering of photobooks and somesuch like iPhoto on OS X, but who cares, the photo services here have enough options to make your books just fine online.

Bottomline is this: do try Ubuntu if for nothing else, then for the sheer fun of it in a VM. It configures your devices automagically, no need to edit a config file to load the kernel drivers except for that nvidia.ko, which, by the way seems to have put it’s piece of config in /etc/modprobe.d/nvidia-graphics-drivers.conf afterall, not by me 😮 There it blacklists nouveau and it’s bits and pieces in addition to some other stuff… The other thing is this: don’t buy a i7-4770k if you’re not using it’s integrated graphics, as it’s a hefty bonus more expensive than my Xeon and you’re probably wanting discrete graphics afterall. My Xeon is as fast as that i7, but just lacks the integrated graphics, so wtf, go for the xeon!

Happy hunting people! 😀

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