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SaintDanBert 11-12-2013 03:08 PM

so you want to config all new workstation hardware
 
Is there any online list(s) that report about linux friendly hardware in a manner similar to the way Distro Watch reports about Linux software? I don't have time or budget for a lot of trial and error and tinker until something mostly works.

(hoping beyond all reason) Have things gotten to the point that almost any desktop box hardware will "just run" almost any linux distribution?


Clarification: It might help if you knew that I'm looking to build a graphics workstation -- photo and video editing, no games, (grin) some TV watching -- that can also provide file and print services to my home-office LAN. The rest of the workload will be technical writing and web page building and testing.


I would like to find something that reports:
  • top NNN motherboards
  • top NNN video devices
  • top NNN audio devices
  • top NNN keyboards
  • ... and so on ...
Of course, Gamer systems will have different preferences than will a Photographer/Videographer system or a Music Composer system or a Digital Artist or a Technical Writer ad nauseum.

Also, no sooner does anyone say, "... use this ..." then there will be others who cry out, "... nay, use that ..."

I started my research with Linux Hardware Compatibility List. There you can enter the details of any hardware component and learn about how successful others have been with a Linux deployment. This is a great bottom-up service but not that helpful until the near-purchase stage of new-box configuration.

Thanks in advance,
~~~ 0;-Dan

Kustom42 11-12-2013 03:50 PM

Besides the HCL's there isnt any resource that I am aware of. And when you say Top systems that is simply a matter of opinion. I would suggest you look at what hardware you want to purchase first, then check the mobo, gpu etc.. on the HCL and see if it is listed as compatible.

In my experience I have used ASUS hardware almost exclusively in Linux builds and havent had an issue but I ALWAYS check the HCL before I purchase.

SaintDanBert 11-12-2013 06:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kustom42 (Post 5063355)
Besides the HCL's there isnt any resource that I am aware of.
...
In my experience I have used ASUS hardware almost exclusively in Linux builds and havent had an issue but I ALWAYS check the HCL before I purchase.

Your comments about ASUS hardware is the sort of information that I hoped to get from LQ folks. Starting with "... these folks are linux friendly ..." is a great start. I'm technical but not hardware savvy enough to sort parts at the chipset-revision-level details.

Cheers,
~~~ 0;-Dan

cascade9 11-13-2013 02:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5063339)
I started my research with Linux Hardware Compatibility List. There you can enter the details of any hardware component and learn about how successful others have been with a Linux deployment. This is a great bottom-up service but not that helpful until the near-purchase stage of new-box configuration.

Seems to be rather useless if you want new hardware. I havent given it a huge look over, but from what I have done it seems to only have old/very old stuff listed.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5063339)
I would like to find something that reports:
  • top NNN motherboards
  • top NNN video devices
  • top NNN audio devices
  • top NNN keyboards
  • ... and so on ...

NNN?

What one person considers a 'top *insert computer part here* others will consider to be low end, and others still will consider the same part to be overly expensive and pointless.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5063339)
Clarification: It might help if you knew that I'm looking to build a graphics workstation -- photo and video editing, no games, (grin) some TV watching -- that can also provide file and print services to my home-office LAN. The rest of the workload will be technical writing and web page building and testing.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5063339)
Of course, Gamer systems will have different preferences than will a Photographer/Videographer system or a Music Composer system or a Digital Artist or a Technical Writer ad nauseum.

There might be less difference in those systems than you are guessing.

Sure, 'gamers' systems will have big, fast, hot and power hungry video cards....but so will many 'graphics workstations'. Depending on the software used, some video/image can have major performance increases. Its probably worth checking if whatever software you want to use can make use of GPU hardware.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5063339)
(hoping beyond all reason) Have things gotten to the point that almost any desktop box hardware will "just run" almost any linux distribution?

Not really, though its closer than it was in the past.

zhjim 11-13-2013 03:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cascade9 (Post 5063565)
Sure, 'gamers' systems will have big, fast, hot and power hungry video cards....but so will many 'graphics workstations'. Depending on the software used, some video/image can have major performance increases. Its probably worth checking if whatever software you want to use can make use of GPU hardware.

Want to second this. Specially Blender profits on a good GPU. Take an nvidia card with CUDA. ATI lacks here. Also the new render engine might change this or even broden the gap. Might dig into this if you intend on using it.

I'd check if the mainboard is supported as well as the harddrive in case of a SSD one. Graphic wise you'd also check ati and nvidia page for their linux drivers. During the last 5 years any new hardware I got my hands on worked out of the box with debian, beside one minni itx with an gma500 graphic cards. cpu and gpu combined processors might be another case. But those come along nicely also I would go with ubuntu or maybe even arch.

SaintDanBert 11-13-2013 11:47 AM

Thanks to all who have made comments and suggestions.

Several folks said something like "... check compatibility ..." Given the age of parts in the Linux HCL, how and where does one accomplish a hardware check?

My computer career goes back to the Sixties. We used to tell folks:
  • Identify what you want to accomplish with your computer.
  • Identify the software that delivers the benefits you require.
  • Identify the hardware that runs that software.
  • Verify compatibility among your chosen hardware and software.
So far, I find that I'm on my own in a mine field when it comes to hardware that is linux friendly. As several mentioned, one person's best part is someone else's paperweight.

Thanks in advance,
~~~ 0;-Dan

PS/ As I make selections, I'll report back so others can at least learn my decisions ... if they care to know.

273 11-13-2013 03:01 PM

I would switch your order of working on its head a little. When looking for a new machine I decided what I wanted to be able to do and what I was willing to spend then found hardware which would allow me to do that. Then, after pricing things up, checked Linux compatibility through the simple means of googling "<motherboard> Linux" etc..
I take it that unless it's cutting edge or very high performance hardware the Linux support is usually pretty good nowadays -- though occasionally a brand-new graphics card, for example, may need the Debian "experimental" repository or the NVIDA website as source of drivers rather than using the default you would get in the repositories.
Another way of looking at it is the top hardware for any given task is likely the same under Linux as it is Windows with only the odd exception that a quick google would probably show up.

DavidMcCann 11-14-2013 12:35 PM

I think the last poster has the essence of it: first short-list your hardware, then check that no-one's having a hard time with it.

Currently, the most important thing to avoid seems to be laptops using the Nvidia Optimus graphics system.

SaintDanBert 11-14-2013 01:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cascade9 (Post 5063565)

I would like to find something that reports:
  • top NNN motherboards
  • top NNN video devices
  • top NNN audio devices
  • top NNN keyboards
  • ... and so on ...
NNN?

There are all sorts of lists "Top 5", "Top 10", "Top 25", and so on.
I used 'NNN' as a placeholder for whatever number someone wanted to use.

Thanks for keeping my posting honest. Someone new to LQ might think there was magic in my use of 'NNN' -- that or some techno-babble, geek jargon.
Instead, it was a verbal artifact that I failed to properly explain in my original post.

Cheers,
~~~ 0;-Dan

gradinaruvasile 11-14-2013 01:58 PM

As a rule of thumb, dont buy the latest (as in released yesterday) hardware. That might have some caveats (driver, even hardware issues) which surface after a while and can make your life miserable especially if you plan on working on it and not tinkering.

CPUs are a non-issue usually from the OS point of view, but make really sure that:
The mobo ACTUALLY has out of the box support for your CPU (as in it boots with it). Certain mobos support multiple generations of CPUs, and sometimes the newer generations require a BIOS/UEFI upgrade. There were cases where the mobo with the older BIOS didnt even boot with the newer CPU.

Other than that, regarding chipsets - fortunately nowadays (for some years actually) the main chipsets in the motherboards are made by the CPU maker and generally are well supported. The problematic chipsets can be the peripherals:
- network - although i havent seen anything that doesnt work in an up to date distro for some time, it can happen with older kernels that the network isnt working or has all kinds of issues.

- audio - this can be the real issue if you use an old kernel. Which happens IRL if you use a conservative "stable" distro such as Debian stable. Other issue can be some annoying quirks that sometimes take quite some time to sort out (filing bugs sometimes helps). So, make sure the chipset (e.g. ALC892) has support for your target distro and kernel version or you either compile a new kernel yourself or have the possibility to install a newer one from some repo.

- other stuff such as third party USB3 chipsets may be an unknown factor with Linux.
If you want USB3 and SATA3 best is to choose a mobo that has the main chipset with built in support for these (e.g. the AMD A85X chipset that goes with the FM2 CPUs has both SATA3 and USB3 support built in and works well).

As DavidMcCann said earlier, best is to make a list with the stuff you think you need (with links to the actual products) that fits your budget and open a discussion about it.

SaintDanBert 11-15-2013 11:45 AM

(blush) I feel like I will be going to the dealer carrying a list of nuts and bolts and hoping to arrange something like a car ...
I'm really loathe to buy any off-the-shelf desktop or tower workstation. Yes, they have known integrated hardware for most things. (grimace) Yes, they usually have win-dose, too.

Some Summary
  • I've been advised to get a Z77 chipset (or similar) motherboard and the corresponding CPU.
  • That choice implies that I'd follow-up with a PCIexpress video card that meets my needs.
  • The mobo provides USB and SATA and eSata and audio -- both out the back and through on-board connectors.
  • Consider an SSD for the boot drive
  • Consider software RAID for the "server" drives
  • Any optical drive is complete optional
  • One case to hold it all (... and in the darkness bind them)
QUESTION:Should I put a wifi NIC into a desktop/tower workstation/server? If so, suggestions? I can always use a USB NIC but a PCIe part would be faster.
QUESTION: Where does one find break-out panels for mobo on-board audio, IR, USB, 1394, card readers, etc?
QUESTION: Can anyone recommend an enclosure for multiple (4,6,8) external SATA drives? I'd rather have two modestly sized boxes than one behemoth with acres of drive bays.

Again, Thanks in advance,
~~~ 0;-Dan

gradinaruvasile 11-15-2013 12:28 PM

Well USB 2 theoretically supports 480 Mbps rate ( and if there are USB3 wireless adapters, 5 Gbps). Wireless is up to 300 Mbps theoretically. So, i dont think there is any need of faster interface.
If you are close to the router, a cable is always a more stable and faster solution anyway.

273 11-16-2013 08:26 AM

I'd say, from my limited experience, forget the RAID and just get a big disk instead. You'll have to back it up anyhow, as RAID is no substitute for a good backup, and I don't see RAID in a workstation giving you any advantages over a big drive and an external drive as backup.
What I mean by that is:
RAID 0 may be a little faster than a single drive but if you use a fast drive anyhow I'm not convinced you'd see a difference.
RAID 1 does provide redundancy but you're effectively buying two drives to work as one and you'll still want an external backup drive anyhow.
RAID 5 in my experience will fail and will need to rebuild itself every so often -- I also find it a little slow sometimes compared to a single drive. Also, the saying goes that if a drive fails in your RAID 5 array then another may well fail while it's rebuilding -- leaving you with no data.
The other levels are, pretty much, the same as those I've listed.
The above, of course, is just my opinion based on myself an friend using three drives in RAID 5 for a few years.

cascade9 11-17-2013 12:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5064454)
There are all sorts of lists "Top 5", "Top 10", "Top 25", and so on.
I used 'NNN' as a placeholder for whatever number someone wanted to use.

Ignore lists of 'top hardware'. Really.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5065116)
(blush) I feel like I will be going to the dealer carrying a list of nuts and bolts and hoping to arrange something like a car ...
I'm really loathe to buy any off-the-shelf desktop or tower workstation. Yes, they have known integrated hardware for most things. (grimace) Yes, they usually have win-dose, too.

It wont matter if you buy 'of the shelf' hardware, corporate or 'white box', its going to be laden with intergrated hardware.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5065116)
Some Summary
  • I've been advised to get a Z77 chipset (or similar) motherboard and the corresponding CPU.

If you go looking for unspecified 'top end' stuff, this is exactly the kind of suggestions I'd expect.

Z77 chipset- the 'top of the line' mainstream 'ivy bridge' LGA 1155 chipset. Its 'mainstream' because you can get X79 chipset boards for LGA 20111 which will cost more.....

But do you need a Z77?

This is why IMO you should ignore what some random tech writer considers 'top end' and concentrate on what you _need_.

List of LGA 1155 chipsets and features here-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGA_115...ridge_chipsets

I dotn know what you need, or want, but I'd guess that you arent going to need chipset RAID (if you're going to use RAID, use a hardware card or madam software RAID), I'd really doubt you'l need 'Intel Rapid Storage Technology', 'Smart Response Technology' doesnt work with linux AFAIK, no idea on 'vPro' but probably not needed either...

So you probably dont need Z77.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5065116)
Some Summary
  • That choice implies that I'd follow-up with a PCIexpress video card that meets my needs.

No, the Z77 choice doesnt really imply a video card. You'll need to check against whatever software you want to use if you adding a video card will help at all..if it doesnt, dont bother with expensive 'gamers' cards, they wont help at all and will just hurt you (higher power consumtpion, more heat output, etc..)

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5065116)
Some Summary
  • The mobo provides USB and SATA and eSata and audio -- both out the back and through on-board connectors.

OK...now I'm confused.

Why ask about 'top NNN audio devices' when you just going to use onboard junk audio?

USB, and audio are on pretty much every motherboard you'll find now. eSATA is a bit less common, but its nothing amazing...and quite often the eSATA ports on what some tech writers consider 'top end' motherboards is $^&$%&* marvel controllers which are plain awful.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5065116)
  • Consider an SSD for the boot drive
  • Consider software RAID for the "server" drives
  • Any optical drive is complete optional
  • One case to hold it all (... and in the darkness bind them)

Yep, a SSD is a good idea.

'Server' drives? Oh dear...you havent been talked into 'enterprise' hardware have you? Its good stuff, but really expensive, not really any faster than standard desktop stuff.

Yep, optical drives are optional. But they are cheap, dont use much power, and generally worth it unless you are trying minimise space used, or maximise space avaible inside the case.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5065116)
QUESTION:Should I put a wifi NIC into a desktop/tower workstation/server? If so, suggestions? I can always use a USB NIC but a PCIe part would be faster.

You can, but why bother? For myself I perfer wifi to be off as much as possible.

For speed, you dont want wifi anyway. Sicne its seems like your building a fairly large system, its probably not going to be moved much if at all, if you dont want ethernet cables running around you can get some powerline LAN adapters.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5065116)
QUESTION: Where does one find break-out panels for mobo on-board audio, IR, USB, 1394, card readers, etc?

Onboard audio and USB 2.0 ports are mounted on the front outside of almost all current cases. USB 3.0 , firewire and eSATA are around if you go looking.

Card readers dont need break-out panels.

IR, not at all common.....but do you need IR?

Quote:

Originally Posted by SaintDanBert (Post 5065116)
QUESTION: Can anyone recommend an enclosure for multiple (4,6,8) external SATA drives? I'd rather have two modestly sized boxes than one behemoth with acres of drive bays.

Do you need this many drives or HDD space? That spec is getting well into NAS territory anyway.

SaintDanBert 11-17-2013 05:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cascade9 (Post 5066003)
...
Do you need this many drives or HDD space? That spec is getting well into NAS territory anyway.

I have a not-so-small collection of external drives. Most are in the 500 GB range. There are a couple of 1 TB drives as well. These are "archives" of documents [50%] (I'm a teacher & writer.), photos[30%] and music[10%] ... and some programs that I've written. I'd like to ditch the tiny boxes and get my archives online to the new workstation-server.

I've not thought out the details of NAS-available versus available-thru-workstation-server file services. I know that NAS enclosures are available, but I'd like to find an external local-attached drive enclosure before I take that decision.

Re: "server" drives comment
When I said this, I mean "drives that are attached to the server-workstation and somehow shared with my LAN." No, I have not been tempted into enterprise hardware. In fact, some of my hardware is really quite olde (try late 90's) and still running. I know I'm on borrowed time and so I've started this new hardware project.

Since I run my hardware until the bits fall off, I really mean NEW hardware, but the enterprise parts are too rich for my cheap blood.

Regards,
~~~ 0;-Dan


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