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[ccp4bb]: To PC or not PC
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Some people have asked me to document our experience as I move our lab to
a PC based laboratory.
So I thought I'd send some details to the BB
I chose Win 2000 as the OS but of course LINUX works pretty well too.
What kind of PC's are we using
I built my own from the components, after changing filaments it was a doddle
Here are the components and price tags (from www.dabs.co.uk) (all in GBP)
Oxygen GVx1 Pro 32MB AGP 539
Athlon 800Mhz 228
SA AMD 750 ATX motherboard 85
Netgear 10/100 e/net card 14
DIMM 256MB (32M x 64) PC100 memory 189
Sound blaster Player 1024 PCI 48
21'' monitor iiyama 599*
Seagate UB 8.4GB hard drive 59
ATX mini tower case 45
Fans and heatsinks 50
Optical mouse 40
Win 2000 operating system 80
* This a top end monitor, if you are planning to run O you need to make sure
refresh rate is OK. A Belinea seems OK for about 100 GBP less
Total price approx 2148
Stereo emitter and glasses from Nuvison about 300
How do we integrate these machines?
We found NFS maestro from Hummingbird to be the best and most stable.
There is something odd about SAMBA and the DEC Unix.
NFS maestro is available to all UK universities for about 300 GBP site
NFS maestro allows all disk to be mounted and exported between WIN and all
UNIX flavours in our lab (Digital, Linux and SG)
Graphics I'd rate it above SGI O2's which we have but not just as good as
the DEC 350Powerstorm card machine. (Bear in mind this card cost more than
the entire PC). The speed in O is fabulous and much much better than our
O2's and faster than the alpha for the calculation bits (map drawing, refi
etc etc) (the alpha is a 433 two generations ago). The quality is very good,
the stereo is clear.
Calculations; With CNS, I'd rate it be comparable to our alpha server which
is one generation back 533. I'd think about 60% to 70% of the speed. Depends
on the task. I'll know better once we start using CCP4NT. I'll email some
numbers on this.
We also use Exceed (also Hummingbird site licence) as an X-client and can
run MOSFLM/DENZO using the PC as a gateway.
Those of you up with PCs will know the 800 chip is already pretty slow.
But I suspect the price will be about the same for the newest chip on the
block. My view is the Athlon is faster and cheaper than the Pentium chip for
the stuff we want. Perhaps for dedicated gamers the PIII might be a better
choice because other components (eg graphics cards) are designed to
interface with a PIII chip. However, using O , 3d card and Athlon chip works
really very very well.
The big problems I see is MOSFLM does not run under NT, Gerard's program do
not run under NT. Some other nice packages do not run under NT.
Many graphics programs can be made to run under NT (win 2000 is NT5),
POV-RAY works well and is very very fast on PC's.
So we keep the Unix boxes, but I would guess we will try very hard to not
A final word Alwyn is setting O to use the now discontinued space orb. Dials
do not work on PC's and are horrifically expensive anyway.
We got our orbs by bidding against another equally sad set of individuals
with limited social skills who spend all day in front of computer screens!
James H. Naismith | Research mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Centre for Biomolecular Sciences | Teaching mailto:email@example.com
BMS Laboratories | Office: 1334-463792 (24 hr)
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The University | Fax : 1334-467229
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