[Beowulf] Re: ECC support on motherboards?

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue May 20 14:33:18 PDT 2008

On Tue, 20 May 2008, Peter St. John wrote:

> Apparently ASUS intends to embed linux on every motherboard (not just server
> motherboards) so maybe we are seeing the end of messing with BIOS.
> http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/05/14/173220
> Peter

Very interesting article, but 1 GB is still a bit tight.  The really
interesting times coming are in one year, when the motherboards comes
with linux in 2 or even 4 GB flash.  In one GB you can load a
bootstrapper, and/or a fairly sparsely equipped version of linux.  GUI
sure, but still far from a kitchen sink installation that won't need
enhancing with more packages to be individually useable and "happy".  In
4 GB you can load a fully functional GUI version of linux complete with
e.g.  Open Office, X, and lots of bells and whistles, and if you install
3 GB and give it the ability to add user selected pacakges in the
remainder people can end up needing nothing else.  In 8 GB you can load,
well, pretty much the kitchen sink, especially if you get a 2 GB "base
system" that includes e.g. yum or apt based package managers that
"automatically" interface to 10 to 20 thousand packages that can be
installed or removed from the remaining 6 GB at will...


We've been discussing this in the department for a while now, as I've
already got a linux-bootable USB flash drive I carry around in my
pocket.  Show me a machine that can boot from flash, and five minutes
later I'll show a machine running linux (allowing for the time required
to go through the USB boot etc).  We are within a year or two of every
major mobo vendor selling motherboards with AT LEAST a GB of bootable
memory onboard as the default boot path.

So what will they put there?

I have some direct experience with embedded Windows, and it is crap.  It
is partly DELIBERATE crap, as MS is in competition with itself and
doesn't want its internally bootable products to compete with its
mainline OS.  It won't run Office, for example, as a consequence.  It is
also expensive AND crippled.

Many office users need a tiny handful of things.  They need a browser.
They need an office suite.  They need, well, actually, that's about it.
In fact, it is good NOT to have kitchen-sink installations, as all those
games interfere with productivity.  MS tries to accomplish this with
"terminals" and terminal server, but I have direct experience with the
scaling of this as well and a) it suck; b) it's pointless or will
shortly be made pointless by Moore's Law.

The interesting thing is, as the slashdot discussion indicates,
Microsoft may be completely oblivious to this one coming.  Big truck,
lights out, dark night.  Vista, at least, suggests that the deer is
square in what will be the headlights when the light finally turns on.

The other thing that people will put there in that onboard bootable
flash drive is not JUST linux, but linux running a VM, e.g. Xen or
VMware (or more likely one of the new ones that pass low level devices
through relatively efficiently).  Oooo, downright scary, that one.  It
could be the steam roller that comes through and flattens the
still-twitching deer carcass out so that it becomes indistinguishable
from the pavement...


> On 5/14/08, Robert G. Brown <rgb at phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>> On Wed, 14 May 2008, David Mathog wrote:
>>  Greg Lindahl <lindahl at pbm.com> wrote:
>>>  The AMD servers I've been buying default to ECC off. I figure that
>>>> anyone who doesn't care enough to go through the BIOS and find things
>>>> like this deserves what they get.
>>> I agree, although sometimes going through the BIOS isn't an option...
>> I agree with both you, but if you're building a big cluster, it is a
>> real PITA to have to hook up every system with a KVM and reset a BIOS
>> option.  Can't you get the vendor to do that for you before delivery?
>> One would think that if you buy systems with ECC memory, the vendor
>> "should" configure the bios to use it.  No?
>>   rgb
>> --
>> Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
>> Duke University Physics Dept, Box 90305
>> Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
>> Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb <http://www.phy.duke.edu/%7Ergb>
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Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Duke University Physics Dept, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
Book of Lilith Website: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Lilith/Lilith.php
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