Anyone using PC-Chips motherboard?

Velocet math at
Mon Sep 10 11:51:26 PDT 2001

On Sat, Sep 01, 2001 at 01:55:52PM -0400, William Park's all...
> I would be grateful if I can get a feedback (good or bad) on PC-Chips
> motherboards?  I'm looking at using them for cheap diskless nodes.

(These are all Athlon boards, note. We're using 1.333Ghz Tbirds)

I had a bunch of M812 boards which have onboard AGP and a PcChips ethernet
adapter. However, the M817 LMR board came out which has an onboard RTL 8139.
Unfortunately it has no onboard video which is great for diskless nodes,
allowing them to boot without an extra videocard and reducing the vertical
profile. However, it has DDR SDRAM DIMM as well as regular 133Mhz DIMM slots,
though you can only use one at a time. This is good for our expansion path
actually, and besides, I havent seen a board that has DDR and onboard NIC

The great thing about the first 12 I got of these boards was that they
boot without a video card (freeBSD in serial console mode works great).

For diskless the M817 LMR is ideal due to the onboard RTL8139 and PXE.  It
also has RPL booting (like the M812, but the M812 has no PXE) but FreeBSD
doenst have an RPL daemon and because of the nature of the packets it has to
generate, the Linux RPL daemon doesnt work under freebsd. Sides, RPL is a
nasty hacque.  PXE is much more standard and works great.

I can boot up new nodes almost as fast as I plug them in (we've played
around with 'overlaying' directories of unique files per node on the 
filesystem image - kinda neat stuff). So I modify 3-4 files (with a bash
script, actually :) and the node's up and ready to go.

No major problems really, a couple boards were page faulting immediately
after boot and they were returned and the new ones work great.

My only complaint is that after node 12 we need a videocard to boot these
things now :( I dont know what they did to the BIOS but I wish they'd
put it back. Im going to try and contact their engineers to find out if I
can flash back down to an older rev or something to try and get it to work...

If anyone has an experience with the later with the M817 let me know.


> --William
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Ken Chase, math at  *  Velocet Communications Inc.  *  Toronto, CANADA 

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