I'm looking into building a new system, though I'm not going to start for a bit -- I'm fishing for general ideas for now. My needs are peculiar: I'm doing scientific/mathematical calculation, and so need a fast system but don't mind multiple cores. Also, overclocking is impossible: a single processor error could ruin days or even months of work, so anything that reduces stability is right out. (Crashes aren't great, but I'd prefer to crash than to get an error in calculation.)
Of course the other parts of the computer then become less important. I don't need a good graphics card, sound system, or the like; 2 GB would be great, but I'd even consider 1.5 if the system otherwise seems expensive. I have considered RAID -- is this practical for home users? -- since I've enjoyed the RAID on the servers I maintain at work, but I don't know how much that would add to the pricetag. In any case I have limited hard drive space requirements; whatever is on the market is probably enough for me.
If any setups seem obviously right, or even (heresy!) a prebuilt, I'm all ears. Otherwise, some questions to lead me to a good system:
1. How cost-effective is it to use multiple processors? Would I be better off with a single relatively fast quad-core or two (or more) cheaper processors? I think of most inexpensive processors and OSs as being primarily designed for one processor or two at most, but that might be dated.
2. What kind of processor seems best-suited to my needs? (If you know clocks per instruction & such for various CPUs, be advised that integer ops, especially +-*%, are important to me, more so than floating point. Good branch prediction is also important.)
3. Since I'm fairly new to the hardware world, what can I do to make building this easier on myself? Any dumb neophyte mistakes to look out for?
4. On a system like this, am I essentially forced to go desktop/minitower?
5. Any OS recommendations?
I would look into the server type CPU such as the Xenons and Optrons. Multi core CPU's will speed up calculatons by far. as to say what would be faster 1 quad core or 2 dual core i think i would go with the quad core, but im not 100% sure on that. As for the OS i would stick with XP since Vista has no real advantage for your application.
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Thanks! I'll look into all that.
Quad-core Xeons look really expensive -- a Xeon E5345 is maybe $450, where a higher-clocked Core 2 Quad Q6600 can be had for under $300. What are the advantages of the server chips?
Two dual-cores are usually more expensive than a single quad-core, and would surely use more power, so I'm happy to leave well enough alone there. As for operating systems, I was wondering if you had thoughts on Windows vs. Linux, as well as versions within. I've been using DOS/Windows for 20 years, but I wonder some times... especially since there are a lot of math/programming/etc. tools written for Linux; I've had to use MinGW to run them (badly) on my PCs.
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