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 Post subject: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 10:29 pm 
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For the past three years my wife and I have been using Athlon XP based computers as our workstation and entertainment systems. They've performed admirably, even powering Photoshop in a reasonably swift manner. These systems have also been reasonably quiet, thanks to SPCR. At the time they were built I hadn't a digital camera so, alas, there are no records of the building process and the efforts that went into it. Unfortunately these systems are beginning to showing their age. While we have gigabytes of memory, Photoshop simply gets a bit sluggish with multi-layer 20,000 x 15,000 x 8 images. Corel Painter doesn't fare any better. Since Athlon XP isn't even in production anymore and much more potent hardware is available, it's high time to upgrade!

We were originally aiming for a system based on Athlon64 X2 3800+ processor, when its price had had dropped to a more reasonable level. This would have been an evolutionary upgrade of our systems; toss in a new motherboard and the processor and you're good to go. As luck would have it, we got an unexpected and unique opportunity to get reasonably priced true workstation hardware instead! Basically we got an opportunity to buy AMD/Microsoft Tech Tour server bundles after the fact. Naturally we jumped at this opportunity, and now, instead of Athlon64 X2 systems, we're going to build dual Opteron rigs!

This time I have a digital camera handy, too ;)

Going with Opterons instead of Athlon64 meant that the idea of evolutionary upgrades went out the window. Almost every component had to be replaced, except for the drives and the case. Since the old cases weren't optimal to begin with, and we weren't really happy with their size anyway, we decided to get new cases too -- cases more suited for quietly cooling a dual processor workstation.

Ultimately we chose the Chenbro SR107 pedestal server case to house the new systems. We chose this case because of the good reputation of the maker, low price for a server chassis, low height (I'll get back to this later), and the unique internal layout. That you can add eight hot-swap drives didn't harm things either. This case has a lot of cooling potential. It can take five fans, three 120mm and two 92mm, and has room to spare. While we're not interested in maximizing the leafblower-factor of this case, I think it has a lot of potential for unique solutions for quiet cooling.

These are the components that make up our new systems:
This is hot-running hardware. I don't think there's a reasonable way to silence this kind of a system to SPCR-accepted levels, but I think it can be made reasonably quiet reasonably cheap. That's what I set out to do anyway, armed with a pair of tin snips and the wealth of information available on this site. This is still very much a work in progress, though the systems are nearing completion. All I'm waiting for is the memory, and then I can move the drives to the new systems.

How about some pictures?

Here's a publicity shot of our two cases :)

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With the bezel removed you can see two removable hard drive cages:

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These cages are just the right size to vertically suspend a 3.5" drive or two.

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Yeah, that's four Scythe Ninjas posing on top of the case :D Fortunately they fit the EATX motherboard just fine.

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On the right of the picture above you can see the two internal drive cages. They're separated from each other by a layer of steel, and I've taken advantage of this by creating a separate air intake tunnel for each of the two 120mm Yate Loon D12SL-12 fans pulling fresh air from the front. The upper fan is conveniently adjacent to one of the heatsinks. The lower fan will, hopefully, provide sufficient cooling for the rest of the components including the motherboard. The lower fan will also have the two hard drives in front of it.

There was a very, very restrictive stamped fan grill separating the motherboard compartment from the fans, and those were the first things the tin snips ate out. With the drive cages removed there is now a completely unrestricted path for the air to flow into the case and the motherboard space. Because of this the net airflow is surprisingly good even with the fans at low voltage. The fan grill at the back of the case was similarily removed:

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There's a third Yate Loon fan in the rear of the case. All three fans are decoupled from the case in one way or another. They're also connected to a fan controller, and will probably never be run at 12V.

The video card has Zalman's old passive cooler on it. Before the X700 Pro cards these Zalmans were cooling our old Radeon 9800 Pro video cards. I recall that they should be in the same ballpark power consumption-wise, so I think the old Zalmans will be just fine.

Here's a publicity shot of the system with the video card installed:

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...and a closeup of the motherboard compartment with all the components, minus the memory and sound card, in place:

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That's the only visible part of the cablegami on the bottom right-hand corner. The rest is hidden out of sight. The motherboard and drive spaces are quite clear of cable messes, but as you can see there's still quite a cable-salad up in the PSU compartment. To be honest I'm not sure I can sort that mess out. The power supply gets a decent shot at air, so I think I'm just going to leave it as-is...

That power supply, by the way, is a Fortron-Source FSP550-60PLN. It's a temporary power supply we'll use until someone comes up with a decent passive model or until SPCR reviews the new Antec's NeoHE units. I know the Fortron isn't ideal, and it's not intended to be one. It's just something to get these systems up and running so we can start selling components from our old systems.

So there. That's my master plan for our two new workstations. Both are identical, so I won't bother describing the other one :)

So far these systems are reasonably quiet when I have turned the systems on. The fans move a decent amount of air even though they're undervolted. A simple test with a match shows that air goes more or less where I wanted it to go, so I've high hopes that both processors, the motherboard, and the video card can be sufficiently cooled with undervolted fans. The power supply, unfortunately, is by far the noisiest part of the system, so we'll be quite happy when we can either perform a fan-surgery on it or just get a better model.

Come this weekend these systems will go live. I do not expect any surprises... duh :) ...noise-wise.

Both of these systems were built for future flexibility. In the long-term we have all kinds of plans: better separate the PSU from the motherboard space, get a passive PSU, dual-core processors, add some weight to the side panels of the chassis, maybe experiment with a duct between the exhaust fan and the top internal fan so that the processors and the memory are in a tunnel of their own, switch to SATA laptop drives and build hot-swap RAID arrays out of them... things like that. We've high hopes these systems will tide us over all sorts of socket M2s and stuff like that :)

Oh yeah, in the beginning of this post I mentioned that the low height of the Chenbro SR107 was one of the deciding factors. This is because they need to fit on the pedestals of our computer desks and there's only so much space there, height-wise:

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Here are a few extra pictures of the SR107 innards:

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The last picture above shows well the quite restrictive fan grills.

These are the fans that came with the case...

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Those are the drive cages, by the way. Originally I had intended to only use one of them in the case, serving as the holder for the two suspended IDE drives...

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...but then it occured to me that the 92mm fan holders these cages have are ideal for holding removable air filters! The cages themselves come out of the case quite easily, and the filters can slide in from the top...

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...so in the end I'll probably just cut off the grill from the cages and use both of them.

Here's a picture of my lovely wife with her new 'puter :D

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You can see the two suspended drives through the grill of the lower drive bay. The computer will look better by the time I'm done with it :)


Latest update: temperatures.

Now that the thermal paste has had the chance to settle in a bit, the temperature sensors attached to the bottoms of the heatsinks...

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...give following readings for temperature at fans running at ~9V:

CPU1: ~6°C above ambient at idle, ~8°C above ambient at load.
CPU2: ~8°C above ambient at file, ~11°C above ambient at load.

These are c0-stepping Opterons without any sort of fancy PowerNow! features, which probably explains why the delta between idle and load isn't greater. These are hot running chips, and I suspect the more modern versions would run cooler. The load, by the way, was two instances of Prime95 torture test, two instances of CPU Burn-in, and three instances of K7burn at high priority. The system was basically unusable while running this test. Everything was simply frozen. It took five minutes for a mouse click to register, and about fifteen minutes to terminate enough programs for the system to become responsive again.

I think this system can operate well even with the fans at 7V, and maybe even at 5V. However, at this point the noise generated by the system fans even at 9V is a moot point, because the power supply fan drowns out all other noises by a good margin...

The power supply temperature, as read by the thermal probe...

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...hovers at around 31°C at idle, but I forgot to record what the temperature was at load :(

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Last edited by Irianta on Sun Nov 13, 2005 2:17 am, edited 18 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:41 am 
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Hi, looks likes should end being very nice systems. Dual Ninja's is just fantastic!
As for the PSU according to Seasonic's page the S12-430/500/600 all have the correct connectors to power your systems and even the 430w will be ample for your systems as outlined. I doubt you'll ever have them so quiet that the Seasonic PSU would be audible in which case the extra cost/complication/worry of a passive PSU isn't justified. But that's just my opinion.
You could even upgrade at some time to dual dual core, if the software can take advantage that would be something :D (I believe Windows is/will be licensed by socket so shouldn't need a server version)
Should be great systems, enjoy them,
Seb

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 1:19 pm 
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Heh, yeah, dual Ninjas is cool! And big. And dual-dual core is definitely in the plans :D

I actually have a Seasonic S12 powering my old system and I agree that it'd be plenty quiet with all the necessary connectors. The big problem with the S12 series, though, is the 120mm fan in the bottom: in the SR107 there's no space directly underneath the power supply. The PSU sits in its own channel separate from the mobo space, and a bottom mounted fan would be flush against metal. This chassis needs a power supply with straight-through or passive cooling.

Now, Seasonic's Super Silencer rev.3 models have straight-through air path, have all the appropriate connectors, and are very quiet to boot. Actually we ordered two 460W refurb rev. 3s from Seasonic's store, but there were problems with them and we ended up sending them back. They would probably have been a really good choice otherwise. We were able to get the brand new Fortrons quickly and for about the same price as the refurb Seasonics, so we'll just use them to tide us over for now. Suggestions are always welcome, of course :)

In general a fanned PSU seems like the best option at this point in time. That is not to say, however, that someone won't come up with a really, really good passive model. It's only a matter of time before someone will.

I should be able to get some more interesting temperature readings tomorrow. I wouldn't put much weight on the idle readings I'm getting at this point..


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 2:57 pm 
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Hi, yes looking at the pictures more carefully I see the problem with bottom fan PSUs :oops: So you want a straight-trough air flow PSU that's dual CPU capable and as quiet as possible. The Phantom 500 may fit the bill but your dual CPU system may mean it's fan is on much of the time, see the review.
These Silentmaxx PSUs are also EPS (24+8pin) compatible. (but lots $$$/£££)
How much space is there above the PSU? Would it be possible to use a bottom feed PSU upside down? Just a thought as you seam to be happy doing little modifications and it has "replaceable PSU bracket".
Seb
(edit: added Silentmaxx)

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:44 pm 
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You are absolutely right in that Phantom 500 would fit the bill. It was on my short list for these systems, but unfortunately all Antec power supplies in the U.S., prior to the NeoHE, seem to have passive PFC. Only the European models have active PFC. That was one of the requirements I imposed on these systems; their power supplies must have active power factor correction. They'll be plugged to a UPS, and that's where APFC vs. PPFC matters :/

I think you could flip the PSU upside down and have it feed from above, but I doubt it'd work optimally. The space isn't that big, and it'd suck in the hottest air in that part of the case. Still, it's a novel idea worth considering :D

Have you seen the reviews for that XG Magnum 500W passive power supply? It seems a bit dubious to me, but it would fit the bill...


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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 8:42 pm 
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Quote:
Both of these systems were built for future flexibility. In the long-term we have all kinds of plans: better separate the PSU from the motherboard space, get a passive PSU, dual-core processors, add some weight to the side panels of the chassis, maybe experiment with a duct between the exhaust fan and the top internal fan so that the processors and the memory are in a tunnel of their own, switch to SATA laptop drives and build hot-swap RAID arrays out of them... things like that. We've high hopes these systems will tide us over all sorts of socket M2s and stuff like that :)

I am surprised that the PS shelf is indented, allowing in MB heat and thus providing mainly structural support. Also, the back grill below the fan seems counterproductive to air flow. Without some form of air flow assistance, I can't imagine a passive PS in this case. Your pictures and story have been very helpful because Chenbro's documentation links are broken.

Regarding the Tyan, do you know how many circuit layers it has? Perhaps something in the range of seven to nine? The stability of the Tyan's plus their outstanding BIOS are very appealing.

BTW, it looks like AMD will initially focus on the 1xx for socket M2.


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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 9:52 pm 
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salvo wrote:
I am surprised that the PS shelf is indented, allowing in MB heat and thus providing mainly structural support. Also, the back grill below the fan seems counterproductive to air flow.


Aye, the PS shelf is a bit of a bummer, but it's nothing a sheet of metal, cardboard, or plastic can't fix.

I'm going to experiment with covering the grill at the back. I'm not sure if it's helping or hurting cooling at this point. If I were to make a random guess without any basis on evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, I'd say that it's probably helping video card and mobo cooling but hurting CPU cooling.

I've to get back to you on that though.

salvo wrote:
Without some form of air flow assistance, I can't imagine a passive PS in this case.


Not without modifications to the case, absolutely. I think the material is there though. A thermal probe attached to the Fortron PSU shows that it's running at ~30.5°C at idle, ambient room temperature being slightly below 25°C. Replace it with a more efficient unit, add a sheet of cardboard to better isolate the mobo space, and I think a passive unit might work alright.

salvo wrote:
Your pictures and story have been very helpful because Chenbro's documentation links are broken.


I'm glad you've found it helpful :) There are more pictures to follow soon.

salvo wrote:
Regarding the Tyan, do you know how many circuit layers it has? Perhaps something in the range of seven to nine? The stability of the Tyan's plus their outstanding BIOS are very appealing.


Unfortunately I haven't any idea on how many layer PCB it is, sorry :(


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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 10:08 am 
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Irianta wrote:
Not without modifications to the case, absolutely. I think the material is there though. A thermal probe attached to the Fortron PSU shows that it's running at ~30.5°C at idle, ambient room temperature being slightly below 25°C. Replace it with a more efficient unit, add a sheet of cardboard to better isolate the mobo space, and I think a passive unit might work alright.


Those are very favorable temps and I suspect your Fortron is running very quiet. You might not need to bother with the idea. The onboard video easily meets my needs; so I might get away with a passive unit. Though the recent Antec Neo HE review gives me little cause for concern regarding fan noise.

Irianta wrote:
I'm glad you've found it helpful :) There are more pictures to follow soon.


I'm looking forward to them, Irianta! I am teetering between a 1-socket and 2-socket app server. The latter is an extra financial stretch I had not planned for, but Microsoft's decision to charge per instance instead of per processor helps to grease the skids in that direction. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 10:14 am 
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Hi, you wanted a quiet, powerful, 80mm rear faned PSU that's EPS compatable?
Looks like Antec heard you as the Antec NeoHE 500 (and 550) bigger brothers of the recently reviewed NeoHE 430 are just that! It is mentioned in the review.
Shouldn't be long before they're available at newegg (currently at $99.99)
Seb

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 11:27 am 
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SebRad wrote:
Hi, you wanted a quiet, powerful, 80mm rear faned PSU that's EPS compatable?
Looks like Antec heard you as the Antec NeoHE 500 (and 550) bigger brothers of the recently reviewed NeoHE 430 are just that! It is mentioned in the review.

The NeoHE and Super Silencer seem well suited for Chenbro SR107. Seasonic appeals to me because of their good track record, as well as their bling-aversion. The NeoHE cable management adds extra value.


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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2005 8:04 pm 
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Sorry for taking so long to respond! I was whisked away to my sister-in-law's wedding in Pennsylvania, and Internet-access was sketchy at best. I'll try to make up for it by adding a follow-up.

salvo wrote:
Those are very favorable temps and I suspect your Fortron is running very quiet. You might not need to bother with the idea. The onboard video easily meets my needs; so I might get away with a passive unit. Though the recent Antec Neo HE review gives me little cause for concern regarding fan noise.


The Fortron is running somewhat quiet but it's still by far the loudest part of the system, even after I switched the fan controller to an inferior-in-performance-but-better-in-bling unit. I'd guesstimate the new controllers run the Yate Loons at ~9V, and the Fortron still overshadows them :(

On the plus side the Fortron hasn't yet had to spin up, so it's been reasonably pleasant and stable noise.

Quote:
I'm looking forward to them, Irianta! I am teetering between a 1-socket and 2-socket app server. The latter is an extra financial stretch I had not planned for, but Microsoft's decision to charge per instance instead of per processor helps to grease the skids in that direction. :)


I'm editing the post above to add more pictures now :)


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 5:54 pm 
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nice modding, and in a good case. i used to run a server in one too, but one of the other bezels.

real shame it only allows one side door to be removed, kinda limits its cable-hiding abilities.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2005 12:08 pm 
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It does diminish the cable-hiding possibilities, but IMHO the open space next to the drives more than compensates. The mobo space would not be nearly as clutter-free if that space didn't exist, even with meticulous cablegami.

I'm really happy with this case. Originally the SR105 was my first choice because it's slightly smaller overall and because it could take a PSU with a down-facing 12cm fan. The SR107 is larger, but it has been a real pleasure to work with. I feel there's still a lot untapped potential, even after all the modifications I've already done. The best part is that it converts into a 4U high rackmountable case if I ever decide to go that route.

I only wish I could find a different bezel for it.


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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2005 10:15 pm 
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Irianta wrote:
Sorry for taking so long to respond! I was whisked away to my sister-in-law's wedding in Pennsylvania, and Internet-access was sketchy at best. I'll try to make up for it by adding a follow-up.


That's understandable, Irianta. A week ago I was off visiting relatives in Portland, OR. Any spare time for server research has been mostly in the area of power. I have learned a lot about UPSs lately.

Irianta wrote:
The Fortron is running somewhat quiet but it's still by far the loudest part of the system, even after I switched the fan controller to an inferior-in-performance-but-better-in-bling unit. I'd guesstimate the new controllers run the Yate Loons at ~9V, and the Fortron still overshadows them :(

On the plus side the Fortron hasn't yet had to spin up, so it's been reasonably pleasant and stable noise.


Maybe when you have had enough of the Fortron, enough time will have elapsed for you to have better passive choices. I won't be making my commitments until June, but if nothing better comes along, I will probably opt for the Seasonic Super Silencer 460W. Seasonic's track record looks better to me than Antec's. And while Antec's NeoHE cable management is appealing, having spare cables in a case is a minimal detriment IMHO, and I can't help but think that hard-wired cabling is better in the long run than plugged cabling.

Irianta wrote:
I'm editing the post above to add more pictures now :)


Thank you for sharing! Fine looking lady too. So are not the Tyan-provided PWMs sufficiently controlling the case fans? I was unsure and decided to wait and see how well the K8SD Pro would perform before considering something like the Aerocools or the T-Balancer.

Great job suspending your hard drives. :!: I am confident I can suspend four Samsung M40S HM040HI notebook drives in one cage. :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2005 11:32 pm 
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salvo wrote:
Maybe when you have had enough of the Fortron, enough time will have elapsed for you to have better passive choices. I won't be making my commitments until June, but if nothing better comes along, I will probably opt for the Seasonic Super Silencer 460W. Seasonic's track record looks better to me than Antec's. And while Antec's NeoHE cable management is appealing, having spare cables in a case is a minimal detriment IMHO, and I can't help but think that hard-wired cabling is better in the long run than plugged cabling.


Aye, I'm somewhat disappointed that the NeoHE didn't turn out to be better. It looks like that for the foreseeable future the Seasonics are the best way to go. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you, despite my dubious experience with them. On the other hand the Fortron's running so cool that I think I could get away with a nice fan replacement :)

salvo wrote:
Thank you for sharing! Fine looking lady too.


Thank you! :D We're approaching our sixth anniversary early next year.

salvo wrote:
So are not the Tyan-provided PWMs sufficiently controlling the case fans? I was unsure and decided to wait and see how well the K8SD Pro would perform before considering something like the Aerocools or the T-Balancer.


Well, I've looked at the fan headers on the motherboard, and descriptions in the manual, but for the life of me I can't figure out a) whether they're beefy enough to handle 12cm fans, and b) whether they can control fans with only three wires. If I read the manual correctly -- and I'm not convinced I am -- it can only control fans with four wires.

salvo wrote:
Great job suspending your hard drives. :!: I am confident I can suspend four Samsung M40S HM040HI notebook drives in one cage. :wink:


Need you suspend at all? Maybe you could get away with using soft grommets instead of out-and-out suspension? If I'm understanding correctly these new notebook drives don't vibrate nearly to the same extent as the 3.5" versions do.

It's really nice that this case can take eight hot-swappable SATA drives... eight hot-swappable 7200 RPM notebook drives.... yummy!


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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2005 12:23 am 
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Quote:
Need you suspend at all? Maybe you could get away with using soft grommets instead of out-and-out suspension? If I'm understanding correctly these new notebook drives don't vibrate nearly to the same extent as the 3.5" versions do.


The "soft" gromets just aren't soft enough to effectivly dampent the vibrations. Suspension is easily the most efficient method for silencing.

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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 11:04 pm 
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Irianta wrote:
Well, I've looked at the fan headers on the motherboard, and descriptions in the manual, but for the life of me I can't figure out a) whether they're beefy enough to handle 12cm fans, and b) whether they can control fans with only three wires. If I read the manual correctly -- and I'm not convinced I am -- it can only control fans with four wires.


I see what you mean. :( I just looked at the v1.02 K8SE manual, and it makes no mention of PWM fans. I originally assumed it would be similar to the K8SD which has three.


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 Post subject: Re: Two not-loud dual-Opteron workstations.
PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 10:32 pm 
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Irianta wrote:
It's really nice that this case can take eight hot-swappable SATA drives... eight hot-swappable 7200 RPM notebook drives.... yummy!

At work this would have value, but at home I am less enthused. Using RAID 10, I don't mind taking my time to replace a failed drive and powering down my server for a short duration to replace it with a good one. Enjoying full image, offsite backups is where my real interest lies for the money. And eSATA has got my attention. Here is an example.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:35 pm 
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Well, the allure for me is that they're removable. We've this habit of removing the hard drives from our systems and putting them in the safe when we leave home for extended periods of time like, say, a vacation. Removing and re-installing suspended drives is an enormous hassle, so the idea of quiet and removable drives is enticing.

Once you have the drives in removable caddies an external enclosure works just as well, except for having yet another box cluttering the desk. You could put the whole enclosure in the safe, I suppose, but we don't have that kind of room.

IOW, internal removable bays are the best compromise for us. YMWV :)


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2005 2:08 pm 
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Posts: 16
Irianta - have just been directed to your thread from this one and am really interested in your project.

Couple of questions; do you think the Scythe Ninja would be up to the task of cooling dual-core Opterons, I'm thinking specifically of the 275 or 280, and are they blocking some of the RAM sockets? It kinda looks that way from the fourth picture you posted.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2005 2:41 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2004 8:41 pm
Posts: 67
Location: California
SMRGroup,

Replied in your thread :)

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