Ubuntu Linux on AMD X2 and GIGABYTE GA-M51GM-S2G


Update, 2009-04-27: This system died of capacitor plague. I replaced the motherboard with a TA790GX XE and AMD Phenom 9600. Ironically, the iDEQ before the GIGABYTE is still going strong.

In early 2007, I bought a new system to replace my 1 1/2 year old biostar iDEQ. The system I selected cost about $610 plus shipping and includes:

This page will include information on the compatibility of this hardware with Linux, and in particular Ubuntu 6.06 LTS.

I've called the new machine "tall", because it's much bigger (and particularly taller) than the case of the machine it's replacing. I keep typing "tree", though, so maybe I'll change the name to satisfy my fingers.

I've completed the OS installation and started the process of moving files and services from the old server. Right at the moment the system is running memtest86, which I will let it do for at least 18 hours or so. After that I plan to run OpenGL programs and CPU-intensive programs to continue the "burn-in" process. While I could presumably move the hard drive from the new machine to the ideq (they're both amd64 systems), I would prefer to be confident that the new system is stable.

I'd like to have all services moved to the new system by the end of the weekend, but I suspect I won't meet that goal. (hah! I missed it by years! It's 2009 and services are still running on the machine it was supposed to replace.)

Initial impressions

The power supply in the Antec case (a 450W "SmartPower") was DOA. Currently I'm trying to get newegg to accept an RMA of the power supply only, and I'm using an ANTEC power supply from a different system. The installation of drives in the Antec case is a pleasure. The installation of all the cables is no better than in any other traditional case (and far worse than in the ideq), and the cables are all still routed poorly. The system does seem fairly silent, at least at low loads, which was one of the main reasons I chose the Antec SONATA case. Fan and drive noises are both well below the noise level of the (not new) ideq and the (old) laptop which are also in the same room.

The Ubuntu live/install CD only booted in "Safe Video" (VESA) mode. After installation, I disabled the bootsplash in menu.lst and installed the nvidia closed-source driver. Now, video works including accelerated OpenGL. However, there are occasional glitches in the display on a VGA monitor. They last for a short time (presumably 1 refresh) and seem to be composed of white pixels for 1 or 2 rows of the screen. Without removing "splash" from the grub configuration, I got a corrupt display when switching to text mode or killing the X server. The "nv" driver didn't seem to work, so you may have to choose between using an unacclerated driver or a closed-source one.

All the other on-board devices seem to work. I have not tested the Firewire ports, however.

The machine benchmarks 10% to 50% faster than a Sempron64 3000+ (1.8GHz) in sequential tasks (gcc file.c), and 100% to 150% faster in parallel tasks (make -j2). For example, compiling emc2 with "make; make clean; time make -j2" takes 106 seconds on the sempron but only 49 seconds on the Athlon 64 X2.

Unlike on the ideq/fc4, CPU frequency scaling works right out of the box. It's nice to see the speed stay at 1GHZ most of the time, but spring right up to 2GHz when I run something processor-intensive.

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