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[ccp4bb]: PC 3D hardware (was RE: SunBlade 100)

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>it was pointed out to me that the SUN Blade 100 workstation
>with Expert3D-Lite graphics board could be a sensibly priced
>alternative to Linux machines (leave alone SGI).


	I am doubtful.  There are significant advantages to current
"consumer-level" PC hardware when it comes to cost, performance, and
	Even with the Expert3D-Lite, the Sun Blade 100's listed graphics
performance at only 4 million triangles/sec should be far below that of
a 1.3 Ghz AMD Athlon equipped with an nVidia GeForce2 card, at 31
million(!) triangles/sec.  I can't be sure we're talking comparable
triangles, but from personal experience, but I can confirm that a ~$1000
AMD/nVidia system will exceed an Max Impact Octane's performance (~2-3
million tri/sec) by up to a factor of five on typical molecular modeling
tasks using free software such as VMD
http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/vmd/ or PyMOL
http://pymol.sourceforge.net .  We recently obtained a GeForce-equipped
Pentium III laptop that beats the OpenGL performance of all our SGIs --
no kidding.

	Plus, a 1.3 ghz AMD machine will give you about the same
real-world crunching performance as a Sun Blade 1000 (better than a
100?) and about half the performance of a high-end Alpha ( serious
benchmarks can be found at
http://www.dl.ac.uk/TCSC/disco/Benchmarks/paper/compchem.html ).
European availability and pricing is another issue, but with the
AMD/nVidia/Linux option, you have the flexibility of dual-booting
Windows for certain tasks, and you save money on the OS and compilers in
order to buy additional RAM.

	Probably the biggest issue for crystallography is: Does the
machine support stereo glasses?  That is the one key feature lacking in
all low-end PC-based solutions  I know of.  Has anyone out there found a
low-end graphics card (<$200) which supports real OpenGL hardware-stereo
under Linux or Windows?  Once that happens, you will be able to write
off SGI as a crystallography platform in the long term, and probably the
others as well.  Yes, Linux can be more difficult to support, but there
are plenty of sites around the internet to help you out, and problems
are almost always resolved once word gets out.

	Given that computer gaming requirements are pushing 3D and
floating-point performance on consumer hardware to astounding levels, it
is hard to see how any non-PC-based vendor will be able to compete in
this market over the next 1-3 years.  Unless you absolutely need
hardware stereo, PC hardware is the way to go, and you should pressure
software developers to continue support of Linux and Windows.

- Warren

Warren L. DeLano, Ph.D.
Informatics Scientist
Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
3696 Haven Ave., Suite C
Redwood City, CA 94063
(650)-562-3106 fax: (650)-556-8824

-----Original Message-----
From: Manfred Buehner [mailto:buehner@biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de]
Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2001 10:21 AM
To: ccp4bb@dl.ac.uk
Subject: [ccp4bb]: SunBlade 100

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 Dr. Manfred Buehner             Phone:  +49-931-888-4100
 Physiologische Chemie           FAX:    +49-931-888-4150
 Theodor-Boveri-Institut fuer Biowissenschaften
 Biozentrum der Universitaet Wuerzburg
 Am Hubland,  D-97074 WUERZBURG,  Germany
 Email:  buehner@biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de