Sunday, February 24, 2013

Farms are Expensive!

Today I received my monthly email from my Electric and Gas company letting me know what my bill was for the past month.  Well I didn't completely do the math when the January notice came, ( as I am on a 21st to 21st schedule), but because I was home for the holiday break, my one machine was offline until the 6th of January, missing about 2 weeks of the billing cycle, and I didn't assemble my additional system until a few weeks later.

Well February even though I knew I was using quite a bit of power and shutting down the noisy systems at night most nights, combined with the fact that its been the coldest month I have had since I have started crunching ( so the gas bill was extra high as well). While my winter bills are often higher than the rest of the year, I will say that despite being concerned about electricity consumption ( apart from my crunching machines), but 110 for my small little place is quite shocking, as such, I have first lowered my thermostat, but I am hoping it warms up enough soon that that becomes mostly a moot point.

Yet oddly I am contemplating getting a new GPU for my main crunching machine trying to figure out if it is feasible to crunch two GPUs at a time in one machine.  Though should I do that I will likely turn my least powerful machine into a Media tower, and rarely crunch BOINC projects on it to save energy.

Its a little bit of a lesson in humility to realize how much even 2 towers and one laptop can really cost just to upkeep.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Should you Beta?

I have really been going back and forth on the question of "should I allow beta tests on my machines?"  When I first set up machines specifically for boinc crunching, my initial thought was these I really wouldn't mind allowing Beta tests to run on them. Though the more I read beta test support forums there are quite a few things that give me pause.  So lets start with a Pro and Con list.

  • Beta testers are an essential part of most if not all BOINC projects.
  • By allowing beta tests you allow quicker upgrades to projects and programs
  • I dare say you make yourself more valuable to the project ( though I do not really know of any major way projects show any sort of loyalty for this). 
  • The projects want feedback from the Beta testers on how the projects ran, and dealt with their machines.
  • Beta tasks can cause quite a few issues, while I have not heard of any completely horrible CPU beta errors, with GPU tasks I have heard about Beta's messing up drivers, and causing completely lock ups and freezes of the machines.
  • You should have a decent ability to trouble shoot technological issues. At the very minimum you should know how to check a multitude of log files to pinpoint the output from the error to the log so you can give detailed feedback of exactly what the error was to the project.

The pros and cons are interesting, in the sense that to just about everyone the cons sound far worse than the pros, mainly due to the second bullet. The other two cons are of little consequence to me, I have no problem being in contact with the project through their project forums, or checking log files, and troubleshooting to some degree.

The real reason why I decided I am going to shy away from crunching beta tasks is the fact that I do not use my other machines on a regular basis for how they function usability wise while crunching. So I can't give feedback to the projects about how the Beta altered my computer more than it consistently errors out, or seemed to run fine.  While on my main machine, I get very scared every time something goes wrong on my main machine, even though I back up major files on a regular basis, I just hate going through the hassle of fine tuning my main use machine again to get it back to the condition I like it. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Noise Concerns

For those of you that have a decent sized place to live, and your computers are no where close to your bed, this post will not apply to you.  But I live in a small studio apartment.  So basically everything I own is on one large room, and the only other rooms are a closet and a bathroom in my place.  What that means is all the computers I have on my "farm" are located in the same room I sleep in, and I hate to say this rather close to my bed.

I have recently really been working on improving my quality of sleep, and while the numbers are not certain yet, but with the Sleep Cycle application using sleep notes to monitor how my sleep is altered when I have my two noisiest computers on, computer fan noise is a big issue in affecting sleep when you computers are in your room.  While I hate to say this, but at the same time I am glad from power concerns, my solution is to power down my noisy systems every night.

This has been working wonders, while it is slightly more work for me each night and each morning to turn them on and off, I feel it is really helping.  Combine that with the fact that I am getting more and more frustrated with my optiplex system.  It has no real way to improve its cooling, and it clearly wasn't designed to have a mid to low level GPU added with its own cooling mechinisms and keep things at a nice and cool temperature. 

I try and avoid looking at the temperatures listed on my temp monitors on that computer.  My GT 440 OEM seems to be running steady at 94C while not horrible is still rather scary as 6 degrees between constant running temp and its Maximum recommended temperature is not kosher for me.  At the same time the more and more I look into that computer I see no real way to improve that situation, there are no additional fan mounts, and the after market CPU cooler is designed to basically occupy the entire frontal intake system, which then pumps hot air into the rest of the computer case.  I will repeat that, this system has basically no way to get cool air into the rest of the case that has not travelled past the CPU heatsink.

While I have not measured the temperatures coming off the CPU heatsink, understanding Thermal properties cooling, and Newtons law of cooling basically saying that the bigger the temp difference the quicker and easier the heat goes from hot to cold.  Either way it is very frustrating.

So I am planning on shutting down two computers on my farm each night for the foreseeable future. Just so I can get a nice good night sleep.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ugh--- UBUNTU!!!

I jut came off of a very frustrating nearly 24 hours. As it turns out a software update buggered my Wireless drivers, as such caused some rather odd behavior in which it could find and locate networks, but not connect even with the proper credentials.

 But to be fair I slept and did other things through 16 hours of those 24 hours.  But in the trouble shooting those other 8 hours where split with 6 hours stumbling around in the dark, probably doing equally as much harm as good.  But if there is one thing I learned from this experience is:

When dealing with Ubuntu, the second you isolate your issue, do a detailed ubuntu help forums search.  I had long since narrowed it down to my wireless card, but the second I figured out the actual pci number on my wireless card I should have googled that instantly, as that is when the problems got resolved.

I say this because once I googled that little number, I found a plethora of threads ( all incredibly recently letting me know that I was not alone with this issue, and gave me hope that one of these actually has a proper worked out solution.  That it did.

I find it funny, almost ironic, that I had a botched upgrade from Ubuntu, less than a week after I defended Ubuntu even with their botched upgrades to someone from Highschool on Facebook.  Oh irony thou art a heartless bitch!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dust My Arch Nemesis!

I do not know what it is about this apartment, but dust is pervasive, and almost sadistic in this place.   Those of you that know my other interests, know I am rather into Tea and Teaware, and I thought it was bad just to consistently clean my teaware display, which seems to always be getting coated in dust.

Well that build up on the teaware should just be a hint at what is getting sucked into my computers.  The Dust vents are the number one clue of what is really going on in my computers.  So today my mission if I choose to accept it is to try and clean these vents to help keep my computers cool.

Sadly neither of the front panels to my computer have removable dust screens, so I went with the trusty power down and vacuum clean the front.  It was mostly cosmetic on my newest system, as that has been running incredibly cool the entire time I have had it.  The machine that caused concern was my old Optiplex.

Opening it up and really inspecting airflow has me a bit worried.  As the only fan inside the case is a specialized fan meant to funnel air from the front past the huge heatsink for the CPU.   This partially explains why the GPU has been running so toasty, and it may be to early to judge, but I do think my efforts were not completely in vein.

After being on and crunching for nearly 15 minutes My GPU is mostly levelled off at 92C  Which is not quite the improvement I was hoping for of getting it sub 90's ( it has been idling at 95-96C).    I will need to consider what I am going to do with this GPU, as while its Max recommended temp is 100C, I do not feel comfortable running a processor so close to its max recommended temp consistently.  I hate to say this but I may turn this into a machine just for crunching CPU projects and a media center for movies and what not.

Not to mention at night it sounds like it is getting in a fan noise fight with my Laptop when both are crunching away at full force, and I think its starting to get to me and alter my sleep.  So I am now in fan of saving a bit of energy and powering down my loudest systems each night.

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