Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Finally got all the hardware pieces for my new workstation: i7-3770 (non-k), Intel DQ77MK and 32GB DDR3. I'll be unwrapping and assembling them in the the coming days though most likely that will be only on Friday :(

These will go along with 2x 200GB SATA Maxtor HDD and 1x SSD Intel 330. For the moment I'll keep the PSU and case but most likely will be getting a new PSU (and probably case) in the future as I want to keep noise and power consumption as low as possible.

Depending on the power consumption and my ability to setup a proper XEN/KVM environment with PCI pass-through I might decommission my FreeBSD server and virtualize it.

The coming weeks I'll be messing with hardware settings and benchmarking. In late August I expect to be able to have an initial XEN/KVM environment with VGA pass-through for ET.

The new workstation setup should be able to:
  • Run Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
    • Benchmarking with my demo should give at least 120FPS else I'll have to look into getting a dedicated GPU
    • Should run on x86_64 in bare metal though as I've blogged early I doubt this is possible
    • Should run on Linux/FreeBSD x86_64 or i686 under a VGA passthrough VM
  • Run 5 VM concurrently
    • FreeBSD VM as a testing ground for my FreeBSD server
    • General purpose VM for web surfing, adming and gaming running Linux (CentOS, Debian and Gentoo are the likely candidates pending HD4000 driver availability)
    • CentOS VM as a testing ground for my laptop and rpm package rebuilding
    • Linux VM for security purposes
    • CentOS or Debian host
The following are projects that I'd like to run on the machine :
  • File-sharing FreeBSD VM with direct access to disk controller with PCI pass-through running Samba/NFS, SSH and OwnCloud. This would imply adding my 3x 1TB SATA HDD and most likely upgrade them to WD Red HDD and going for ZFS
  • Router VM running on one of the two NIC provided by the motherboard. This VM could be CentOS, DD-WRT or OpenWRT
  • Personal CentOS/RHEL repository
  • Run ET, RTCW Demo, UT and Ventrilo servers
  • Play Doom3, RTCW (online) and Wolfenstein: Quake Wars (online) with stable 100FPS
  • Segmentation of VMs (DMZ, different LAN segments, etc)
This means I need to delve on virtualization using XEN or KVM being XEN the most likely candidate. Plus this also means I have learn much more related to networking as the motherboard has 2 NIC which I want to take advantage of.

To have everything running it will takes ages, most likely years due to both my availability and knowledge gaps.

Big challenge!

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    The desktop revolution has started...

    ... at least for me as I'm finally upgrading my Athon XP desktop from circa 2003!

    It sure is about time ;)

    These days my web surfing and administration of local network computers is performed on my Dell D620. It's quite a nice machine specially after being upgraded with Intel Core 2 Duo (15€ !!), 4GB, 128GB SSD and HDD drive caddy. It does however lack the graphics card to power Enemy Territory.

    For my gaming needs I kept using the old desktop, however the bastard is noisy and has been overheating, so much that I had to drop from 2200 to 2000Mhz so that I can actually compile anything without segmentation faults errors.

    But if it were only because of ET I'd keep the bastard. However I long for full blown virtualization, the kind that let's me run 4 machines without sweating, the kind that will let me passthrough PCI devices, the kind that leads me into spending hard earned money :(

    The old Athon XP crawled under GNOME3. YouTube movies and Flash websites were choppy. Compiling world in Gentoo took ages (LibreOffice and Firefox have long been the bin kind). On FreeBSD I had to start using packages instead of ports due to the time (and electricity) needed to compile ports. On top of that it meant x86 and no x86_64 and KVM fun.

    Also, in the past months I'm getting more and more interested in XEN and KVM namely their VGA and PCI passthrough abilities with proper virtualization instructions from the CPU. Both Intel and AMD have solutions for this however this time I've elected Intel.

    I ended up with Intel due to lower power consumption, overall better performance, GPU with more-than-enough-for-ET performance and opensource graphics driver. Funny enough what tipped the scale was the power consumption and opensource graphics driver.

    The selected weapons of choice were i7-3770 (non-K), Intel DQ77MK motherboard and 32GB DDR1600. I've placed online orders for all except the i7 but I'll take care of that until the end of the week. To ease the expense I've already started selling all the computer parts I have laying around (DIMMs, SO-DIMMs, graphics cards, NICs, etc), so far I've already scored 50€ with more in the pipeline - not bad.

    I'll move my laptop SSD to the machine and re-use my old case and PSU for the time being - though those SeaSonic fanless PSU are damn appealing!

    The decision for the non-K 3770 was rather simple: I wanted a fast, energy efficient and muticore processor and this version has that and VT-d support. Combined with XEN and KVM, VT-d means device passthrough to be used directly and natively in the virtual machines.

    To guarantee that VT-d is supported I've chosen the Q77 chipset as it has100% guaranteed VT-d support. Some Z77 motherboards have VT-d support however it is un-official as Intel pulled VT-d support from Z77. I didn't want to take any chances so I went for Q77.

    Why Intel's own board instead of ASRock or ASUS? For a few reasons: documentation on the Intel board is simply superior, 2x DVI, mSATA and mini-PCIe. Though I wanted the 2x PCI slots from ASRock and ASUS offerings I wanted to keep an eye on the future and for that the extra PCIe slot is better (though that eSATA port should really have been another normal SATA port Intel!).

    Now let's just wait for the parts and assemble the machine ;)