Hardware

What if you were low on the food chain but wanted to put together a used system or render farm together using linux as the os. What would be the best bang for the buck?

what type of computers?

they of course would be x86 machines [you couldnt get equlivent mac power as cheap]

as for which x86 systems you should look out for, I couldn’t really answer

honestly, I’d lean towards some like $400 athlon xp systems (say 2200+es… or 2000s even), which you would probably have to build from parts
[$100-$120 mobo/chip, $40 case, $100-$150 ram [512Mb iirc], for small enough scenes do not need hard drives [can boot off network or cdrom, cdroms are I guess $15 like floppies]]

of course, my [home] system somewhat resembles what I describe there [I have 1gb of ram and a nice video card]. you could probably get a bunch of pentium 2 systems for cheap, but they would not have enough ram and mantinance [labor] would certainly be an issue.

EDIT:
You can read all of the following crap if you want to, but look here first, I think this is what you’re looking for. Be weary of the feedback though, these are the rock bottom prices, and those dealers tend to care less about customer satisfaction.
/EDIT

X-box supercomputer

Even if you just bought one (used they are under $100) you will have a 700 mhz rendering machine with powerful graphic capabilities. It requires modification, however. My brother did this with a special chip (don’t know the cost) and a $60 hard drive. From what I understand the chip is hard to get working because of a quasi-legal file you have to download (hard to find). More info on this is available at X-box hacking forums.

My eldest brother is buying a Dell to use as a server for $350. It’s pretty fast and the low price is due to its blank hard drive and lack of peripherals. You could go that route and get a computer that’s probably faster than the one you have, put Linux on it and use the monitor and keyboard you already have to get it rendering, then move them back to your main computer.

People who upgrade often sell their old ones in garage sales or pass them down to their children. You can get those if you know a lot of people and ask around. Unfortunately your locale may work against you here. :-?

Getting the parts and building one yourself is an option - check out Price Watch. It searches the web for the cheapest computer parts possible. If you use it, be sure to know what you’re buying… read the specs carefully and try to figure out what they mean if you don’t already know.

If you check the “Barebones” section of pricewatch there are some great deals too.

HTH

Best bang for your buck at the moment is either the second hand machines around the 700MHz-1GHz mark, or athlon XP’s at about 2400… I’d personally go for at least a Gig of RAM, but I tend to overdo the sub-surf… then all you need is a decent file server to boot off and save files to, and you are set… If you are going second hand, try to get some old workstations when some company is auctioning them off, esp. if they are homogenous… It makes it far easier if your are buying RAM in bulk, and means you can image them more easily. Also, you could set up a knoppix disk with everything you need on it, and then they wouldn’t need hard drives, or to be net bootable…

/out

[edit]

I tend to be heavy on the poly count myself. That’s what’s prompting the query. I’m so blasted paranoid of on line hardware stuff! I got burnt bad by Tiger Direct on some ram a while back. They pulled a bait and switch that they never corrected.
Thanks for the leads. I’ll bookmark them and keep my eyes peeled.

Pricewatch has feedback now, probably for that precise reason.

Do be careful though, I’d hate to see you get burned on such a large purchase.

woah! those are decent prices. I’ve been really interested in AMD for a long time. Your systems? Your happy with them? How about sound and video cards? What’s blender run on best? I hate doing all the homework again. :stuck_out_tongue: I built my first and second box from scratch but I’m way behind the curve. All feedback is welcome.

[quote=“oxman”]

woah! those are decent prices. I’ve been really interested in AMD for a long time. Your systems? Your happy with them? How about sound and video cards? What’s blender run on best? I hate doing all the homework again. :stuck_out_tongue: I built my first and second box from scratch but I’m way behind the curve. All feedback is welcome.[/quote]

You’re going to have to buy upgrades (video card, memory, possibly hard drive) because those computers can be fast but usually come with 128mb RAM and 20gb hard drive space. The video and sound cards are typically on-board chips, and not actual cards. Note that the monitors, keyboards, etc in the pictures aren’t actually part of the deal, it’s kind of misleading, but you still get a boxed ready to go system for the price of a motherboard/CPU combo. Expect to spend a little under $500 total without peripherals (also not counting shipping) and you could get a really great system. Check out the sections for memory and video cards while you’re browsing, because those will definately need upgrading for a decent rendering system. A system like Zero mentions could be had for as low as $300-$400.

[edit]

I am getting hyped :o :smiley: The above is very much the kind of configuration I’d like. It seems such a system is really possible for even such as I.

Can we talk graphics and sound cards? I suppose the most simplistic method would be to have all cpu’s, mb’s and such the same make and model. I happy not to have to overclock. As it is I’m SLIGHTLY patient to render on my own box :expressionless:

A real gold idea from me what I did and I succeded:

In these days, pentium 4’s and new amd’s come up and people are impressed by these machines and buy them. But what to the pentium 1, 2, 3? Well if you believe it or not, they throw them away. And do you know, in the Netherlands you have to pay money to get rid of your monitor or pc if you bring it to the garbage distroyer? Well help people saving money (and yourself getting a pc)

  • Go to a school and ask if they have pc’s somewhere they don’t use, and you want to have them.
  • Write a paper with: “poor student searching for a old computer” and place it somwhere on a billboard in your local supermarket.
  • Go to big shops, bussineses and ask for old pc’s, monitors and so on.

I did al of these, and I got a pentium 1, 166 mhz, 64 mb ram for free with 3 gig hd. I also got a G4 Macintosh power pc, and a 21 inch monitor also for free included photoshop, and all software on the power pc ^_^. Then they give me a bunch of network cables, 2 hubs with 1 of 4 inputs and another 8 inputs, a router, and 8 64 MB Ram memory sticks. Then they also gave me a old printer (deskjet 500c, handy for newsletter or basic text on paper) and some old mouses and keyboards. All for free.

This year or next year I ask around again and see if I can get a pentium 2 or 3 for free. These computers are really usefull for coding, servers, and more. 8)

[edit]

[edit]

I’ve been there. But it was many years ago and I wasn’t looking for bargains at the time :wink:
I use linux 99.9% of the time.
The U of W shot is awesome!
Now I’ve got to sluth about for boxes. Even a few Pll’s would make life a lot easier for me. I would prefer to have a hardrive (relatively small ones) for each box and configure it as a back up for it’s job.

Even a modern new computer with no graphics card, big harddrive etc should be quite cheap. If all you want is the processor and some RAM, you should be able to get some good new stuff without having to hand in your right arm.

Actually not a bad idea, now that you mention it. I could possibly use that as a method to gradually upgrade my hardware and use the equipment in the mean time. We’ll see how I score in the Pll department first. 8)

Actually not a bad idea, now that you mention it. I could possibly use that as a method to gradually upgrade my hardware and use the equipment in the mean time. We’ll see how I score in the Pll department first. 8)[/quote]

Check out for small shops that specialize in providing IT specialists and network retailers, such as PC Outlet. When I went there to buy my last computer, they were selling dozens of boxes with 2 GHz CPU and 256 Mb RAM for equivalent 200$ US. Don’t remember if the were refurbished or new but hey ! around a good server it could make a render farm for cheap.

Jean

I’ll check it out! Thanks.

Ox,

For render machines pretty much any graphics will do, even built in stuff. If you do buy a card, I’d avoid ATI. I have an ATI and Blender’s never liked it under linux. Old NVidea cards are dirt cheap, and have better open GL support. Even for a design machine, you don’t need a super card, and any solution with high enough resolution and full Open GL 1.5 support will do.

For sound cards, of course, a render machine doesn’t need one. For “audio workstation” you’ll want a card capable of full duplex recording (so you can play and record simultaneously, and in sync) and a decent synth. Sound Blaster Audigy is a decent choice for a higher end unit, they run about $150 US for the nicer ones. They use Sound Fonts, so you can change the samples used, and there’s tons of free Sound Fonts available. For a lower end machine, see if you can find an old Aurreal Vortex. They’re under $20, reportedly work well in Linux (but not Win XP at all). They have one of the best PCM synths I’ve heard on a sound card. I wish I still had mine, I miss the bass guitar sounds. Even my top of the line Audigy doesn’t do bass as well!

I forget which distro you use, but I’d consider Gentoo for a farm. It’s very customizable, and since it’s fully compiled from source on the target machine it can be optimised for the CPU you’re using. If you get lucky enough to use identical hardware on multiple machines, you can ghost the install easily so you only need to compile once. Since there’s an E-build (a gentoo package that handles dependancies and comipilation of source) for Blender (slighly older versions, anyway) I’ve found it easy to compile the latest Blender version (building the older version E-build installed all the dependancies, which don’t change ofter).

I’d consider AMD CPU’s, they are faster at floating point math than an “equivalent” intel, and are priced lower. If you optimize for the AMD chip (easy to do in Gentoo) you’ll see a signigicant speed increase.

Tommy