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damber 07-01-2007 11:57 AM

New B uild... Hardware Selection Check

I'm building a new system and want to make sure that everything will work properly under ubuntu feisty. My current selection of hardware is (partially) listed below. Please can you have a quick look and let me know if you see any potential problems.

one of these:
Abit AW9D MAX with PCI-E WIFI Bundle Socket 775 7.1 Channel Audio Crossfire ready ATX
Asus STRIKER EXTREME 680I SLI Socket 775 onboard Audio ATX
I'm hoping to use the onboard RAID controller of these boards for one of the disk arrays - not much info on whether these are supported or not.. any ideas ?
I don't care about the wifi, I have a wifi bridge that plugs into the ethernet port, so not an issue

2x Innovision 3D 8800GTS 320MB GDDR3 DVI PCI-E Graphics Card
I will be using a tri-head/monitor setup, using 2 outputs from 1 card, and one from the other for 3x 19" flat panels - as used previously with both Fedora 6 and ubuntu feisty.
I see that some people have had issues with the 8800 gtx and even the 8800 gts with feisty - is this a common issue, or is it isolated/now fixed/etc ? - what alternative do you recommend of equivalent price/performance

Storage disks
Storage: 2x Seagate ST3500630AS 500GB Hard Drive SATAII 16MB Cache 7200RPM - OEM
System: 2x WD Raptor WD740DFD 74GB SATA 10KRPM 16MB Cache - OEM

Raid Controller
Adaptec RAID 1220SA - storage controller (RAID) - SATA-300 - PCI Express x1
For the other disk array

Processor & Memory:
Corsair 4GB Kit (4x1GB) DDR2 800MHz/PC2-6400 XMS2 Memory Non-ECC Unbuffered
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4GHz 1066MHz) Socket 775 L2 8MB Cache (2x4MB (4MB per core pair))

I'm thinking that the main concerns are:
- Graphics cards... as always, but at least they're nVidia, instead of ATi's...!
- Onboard Audio (I have a pci based audio card (creative audigy) I can use instead, so no real issue)
- Onboard Raid (I could add two raid controller cards instead of 1+onboard, but would prefer not to, as it makes things more complicated_
- RAID controller - adaptec seem to be reasonably supported, but I've not found specific confirmation of this card)
- Quad Core Processor - I don't expect this to prevent it from working... but how well will the OS take advantage of it ?

So.. what do you think ? Will this get me into endless hours of fretting over dumbass drivers / hardware incompatibility, or will I get a good working system out of it ?

Thanks in advance,

damber 07-02-2007 01:29 PM

any thoughts anyone ?

farslayer 07-02-2007 03:13 PM

Ditch the Adaptec card, it's a HostRAID card and not a TRUE hardware RAID solution..

Q: What is Adaptec HostRAID™?

Adaptec HostRAID is the marketing name for the software RAID technology that maximizes system performance and uptime for Adaptec software RAID products.
I would prefer a 3ware card such as the 3Ware 8006-2LP or the 9650SE-2LP, it is a TRUE hardware based RAID controller, but it's about 2-3 times the price of the adaptec card depending which model you choose.

Since the Adaptec card is basically software based anyways you would probably be just as well of using a standard supported SATA card and using Linux software RAID.

damber 07-03-2007 05:11 AM

Hi, thanks for the reply,

yes - I was a bit concerned about the adaptec card after reading more about it: and speaking to a few friends.

Are all 3ware cards hw raids, or do they have some sw/host raid versions ? I think it will be worth it for getting the primary system disks properly mirrored.

I'm finding it difficult to find 3ware cards for sale in the UK, other than their 500+ models (which are a little too much for what I want to spend) - though I have found an 8006/2LP - a 2 port version with SATA I (150mbps) interface in their 8 series - do you have any comments on this card - is it a) going to work and b) will it perform well/stability etc ?

- actually, just found a 4port 9500S on ebay for 100 - this is probably the best choice I've found so far - any thoughts?
Thanks again,

farslayer 07-03-2007 08:10 AM

All 3Ware cards are true HW RAID (at least I've never seen one that wasn't) they have very good support under Linux. Your distro should automatically detect the card without any trouble..

Take a look at the 3ware OS Support List

Linux 2.6.14 kernel or greater includes a driver for the 9550SX and 7000/8000/9500S/9590SE series controller.

damber 07-03-2007 11:00 AM

Thanks again - 3ware is definitely the right choice ---> spec ammended. :-)

I have (rightly or wrongly) decided to stick with the nvidia 8800's though - I've read a fair few threads in the ubuntu forums about issues with setup, but most seemed to get fixed, so although I expect a little pain, I should be able to live with it until nvidia sort out their drivers for these cards. (fingers crossed...!)

I've also decided to select this mobo:
as it has an intel chipset rather than an nvidia nforce one (which I expect to be better supported due to being more mainstream... please correct me if I'm wrong) and the striker extreme asus board had a few bad reviews noting several install glitches.


RainierPeak 07-03-2007 11:05 AM

I'd go with the Intel chipset board too, but for different reasons. Mostly because Intel chipsets run cooler and use less power, thus being more environmentally friendly and saving money in the long run, albeit the kinds of boards you're thinking of suggest that money isn't a concern for you. As for Linux support though, I don't know about Intel chipsets, but my nVidia chipset is perfectly supported, and with open-source drivers (except maybe onboard RAID, but then I don't use RAID at all). Albeit I'm using a nForce4 SLI chipset (MSI K8N Platinum/SLI), so it's possible that the nForce 6-series chipsets aren't as well supported yet as they're newer, but the same could be said about the newer Intel chipsets.

If you do go with nVidia though, stay away from the Striker Extreme. I'd go with either one of nVidia's board parters, like eVGA or BFG, and get a reference design, or get the MSI P6N Diamond (as you seem to want top-of-the-line) or a Gigabyte board. ASUS does not do well with nVidia-chipset-based motherboards if you believe the reviews.

damber 07-03-2007 11:19 AM

Thanks for the insight RainierPeak - I'll have a look into those alternatives and see what fits best with my needs. You're right about the latest intel chipsets, of course, they're probably going to have a risk of 'too-new-ness' about them aswell, but I did find this list of 'drivers' which seem to make a positive case: - it seems to support 2.6.x kernels, so I don't think it will be too problematic (though there is no raid driver it seems, hence why I need a proper raid card).

}WTF{Breetai 07-10-2007 08:19 AM

Been about a week since your last post and I'm curious to know how it's gone so far for you. I've got an EVGA 680i and 8800gts so you could provide some insight into what I can expect when I convert.

damber 07-10-2007 09:06 AM

Well, I've ordered and received the parts (some minor variations, but essentially the same) and have built the hardware.

I've also installed ubuntu (feisty) and got a running system...

The 3com raid card works well so far - threw an error code at me when first building the arrays, but it works, so I can't complain!

However,.. the only issue (as I expected) is getting the multi-head setup working... I'm about to create a new thread for that as I need a fresh pair of eyes, but it essentially boils down to the fact that I can get video output to each of the screens separately no problem (so all cards work and can be accessed ok individually), however getting them to work at the same time is proving difficult... basically it seems that the nvidia driver only sees(or at least uses) 1 card at a time - I managed to get a dual screen working from the one card that has two monitors attached, but that's about it. :-(

Although I love linux, I do hate linux hardware support (which effectively means vendor linux support)... even the beloved nvidia can't seem to put a card to market that actually works properly with linux without major hassle (if at all).

It's not time to give up yet though, I've only just started so hopefully with a bit of community support and possibly even some driver updates from nvidia, I may be able to have my cake (8800 GTS cards) and eat it (3 monitor display)

fingers crossed.. ;-)

damber 07-17-2007 09:35 AM

my final setup is as follows:

It runs like a charm now, but I did have some issues getting the graphics cards to work. Basically the OS/driver/whatever wasn't allocating enough memory address space for both cards to work/be initialised at the same time, so you need to increase this in the 32bit version of the OS using the kernel parameter vmalloc=256M (or whatever the value is to fix it - start at 128 and increment ) - the /usr/share/doc/NVIDIA*/README.txt document describes this in detail - search for "vmalloc" for more info. This doesn't/shouldn't happen in the 64bit version due to the greater memory addressing space. I simply upgraded to Ubuntu 64 bit and it resolved the issue immediately.

Couple of things:
  1. The 8800GTS cards are huge.. I mean really big - they take up 2 slots EACH (so make sure your PCI-E slots are not directly next to each other, and take this into account when thinking of adding other cards in there) - and they are as long as the ATX board is wide - so be careful of space in your case, as some cases would make the installation of these and the HDD's extremely challenging, and quite thermally problematic.
  2. The 3way raid controller was a great buy - I actually got it off ebay for 95 and it really has saved me a lot of headaches with my drives... turn it on, do some (really simple) config and then it "just works" - if you're going to get a raid controller, get a 3way or other REAL hardware controller - many of the cards (most I found) rely on os and bios drivers to make them work, and many will cause you problems in linux - some wont, but even those that work in, say, debian, may not work in feisty's install process.. a friend has this problem at the moment.
  3. The case is also quite big - but with the cards being so big, it's a good idea to keep your case choice of a similar size so it's not too cramped.
  4. The graphics cards run really hot (despite their onboard fan/cooling) - make sure you have a 'windy' case
  5. The HDD drive cage only holds 4x3.5" drives - if you want more, you can use the 5.25" space (there's plenty of it - x6 slots), but you'll need to buy extra housing.
  6. I used my old IDE DVD-RW, and used the only IDE connection on the board... I would strongly suggest getting an SATA based cd/dvd drive - I'll be replacing mine shortly.
  7. The PCI-E slots, although both PCI-Ex16 slots, don't run at x16 at the same time if 2 cards are installed - it downgrades one to x8. This seems to be common across boards using the intel 975 chipset, so if you want full power on both, you may want to search around some more and pay a little extra - or wait a while. For me the compromise was ok.
Other than that - don't be afraid of the newer nvidia cards despite some threads hanging around saying that they don't work yet - other than the memory allocation issue I had (because I was using 2 cards), there have been no issues with them.

Hope that's useful to someone who's looking for linux compatible hardware of this nature.

GrapefruiTgirl 07-21-2007 09:17 PM

Hi there!
I just wanted to throw in 2 cents worth incase it helps you or anyone.

RE: setting up your 3 screens

I also have 3 screens plus a TV and I have just ordered a P6N SLI-FI (MSI) with the 650i nVidia chipset.

I've learned a bit from a few weeks of browsing and comparing motherboards, and one thing I have come across several times is that when running 2 cards in SLI mode (on various motherboards), you are only apparently able to use the OUTPUT CONNECTORS from ONE of the 2 cards.

My board hasn't yet arrived, and (maybe luckily) I couldn't afford 2 video cards, but my intention was to use 2 cards in NON-SLI mode giving me 4 VGA outputs. From what I gather from reading the manual for my board, the board/chipset only allows ONE card to be used in a PCI-E slot when not using SLI. Therefore I would have wasted my money had I purchased 2 PCI-E cards expecting to use them as separate NON-SLI cards.

Please let me/us know whether you succeed, and how it went, as far as using outputs from BOTH your cards, while in SLI mode. And also, if you would tell me, *can* you actually plug in two cards and use them both, in NON-SLI mode with your board?

I realize it seems you got an Asus/Intel board in the end, but your feedback would still be interesting. :)


damber 07-22-2007 12:57 PM


As per my post above, it is possible, the reason I had initial difficulty was the default vmalloc setting in the kernel was too low to allow full addressing of the memory space of both cards - either change this in a 32bit system or upgrade to 64bit, which doesn't have this problem due to the increased memory address spacing in the 64bit kernel.

here's the link to the other thread:
(my intention was not to use SLI mode)

GrapefruiTgirl 07-22-2007 09:34 PM

Great :) Thanks for pointing me to the other thread too. And glad you did get it working!
The xorg.conf you ended up with is pretty similar to my current one, which runs two monitors using xinerama on my nVidia AGP card.
Ultimately I do want the three monitors & the TV but without xinerama, ie: 4 completely independant screens.
But I'll have my work cut out at first, just putting the computer together (hopefully this week) and recompiling my kernel to get my OS back up and running, before I start fiddling with the video options, download the new nvidia driver I'll likely need, etc :)

damber 07-23-2007 01:52 AM

yeh, there are several tutorials out there for using twinview - basically rather than define each card and screen seperately you define one screen as the twinview screen and the link the others to it so that it thinks its a bigger monitor than it is. The default config means that when you maximise a window, it maximises to the WHOLE screen (e.g. multiple monitors) - it is unlikely you want that, so research the config for maximising to a single monitor rather than screen (the meta modes tag I thinkplays a part in this, but there's also a flag). Although previously Twinview was considered to have better performance than xinerama, I get the impression that xinerama has caught up considerably, so unless you have a specific reason to move to twiniview, you may be ok with xinerama. If you want real independent multi-head then you'll have to do some searching - I did find some tutorials about this on my search for enlightenment on the problem I had, so they are out there and seem to give good details on how to approach it.

The best place to look for answers for nvidia issues is - that's where I found the help I needed to identify the problem, and seems to be more nvidia focused (i.e. specialist) than more generic forums.

If you are adding a new PCI graphics card for the other heads, you may need to search for Int10Module in the README.txt file - basically it helps to initialise the secondary card in some setups - for me it failed to load, but that could have just been my configuration.

Either way - Good Luck with the new build!

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