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Re: [LUG] distribution with good 386 support


On 09/01/14 21:59, Gordon Henderson wrote:
> On Thu, 9 Jan 2014, Simon Waters wrote:
>> I suspect I would have liked the SUN workstations that City University
>> had in 1988 if I'd spent any longer playing on them, I assume they
>> were SUN-4's and was my first exposure to that sort of high-end
>> workstation. Seems funny to call it high end now.
> They were Sun 3's in '88. 16MHz 68030 and 4MB of RAM (if maxed out). I
> used them when I moved to Bristol (about 89). We quickly outgrew them
> and an add-on board let us upgrade them to 12MB (pull processor & MMU
> out, plug into add-on board, plug cpu back in)
> (Megabytes in-case anyone think's its a typo)
> Sun 4's were Sparc based and came a little later.
> I had a Sun Ultra 5 workstation and a pair of Enterprise 2 servers at
> home for a while. Turned them on when I wanted to heat the room up, but
> that's about all they were good for. (366MHz Sparcs with 4GB of RAM -
> actually a lot of RAM for the time)
> It's a shame the Sparc never really lived up to the expectations. I
> liked it as an architecture (wrote a lot of assembler for them at one
> time) The "S" in Sparc stands for Scalable, but they never seemed to get
> that fast to me.
> One place I worked had some top-end Sparc servers to run chip design
> simulations on - took 2 days to complete. They then got some big HP
> boxes (J5600?) - took it down to 1 day - then they got some big Opteron
> boxes running Linux - 2 hours and the Sparcs remained switched off after
> that.

I owned an original Sun SparcStation 1 (aka, Sun 4/60) with a 20MHz LSI
RISC CPU and 4Mb of RAM, which would have been a pretty similar vintage
(actually not quite as old, the SS1 was at least Sparc-based) to those
Sun boxes. It had a huge, dire warning sticker on the bottom directing
pregnant users to consult their supervisor before using it!

Swapped it along with a very rare SUN4/50 SparcStation IPX (I had the
one with Calvin & Hobbes silkscreened onto the motherboard) with another
collector for my ill fated Alpha many, many years ago. Neither were
really usable, even for "fun".

I had Ultra2s and 5's as well - the Ultra2 basically just doubled up the
sockets from the Ultra1 and took slightly faster CPUs and more RAM. They
were great machines, I somehow got one running MythTV with an obscure
S-bus TV card mailed from Germany. I don't think anyone else ever
managed that (probably wisely, it was an exercise in sheer pain).

The Ultra5 (and Ultra10) was complete crap - they were the el cheapo
models Sun tried to flog: although they had UltraSparc CPUs, they used
crap commodity parts like IDE disks (hooked up to a notoriously flaky
IDE controller) and ATI graphics cards and suffered accordingly. I
eventually bought a Sun Ultra 60 and another two X7136A monitors from a
financial house in London and used that as my main workstation for
years: dual 450MHz CPUs, 2Gb RAM, 10k RPM SCA disks and 4 graphics
cards, which I was using to drive 3 x 21" CAD monitors in a 4800x1200
configuration when everyone else was using Windows 98 on a 1024x768 CRT.
I've always had a thing for massive overkill when it comes to computing...

That was almost the end of "proper" UNIX workstations for me (I was
already running Linux on it then, rather than Solaris though) - before I
inevitably switched to the same boring x86 vanilla boxes that everyone
else uses, the last gasp in expensive proprietary workstations for me
was a SGI Octane, which I eventually upgraded all the way to a maxed out
Octane2 configuration: 2 x 600MHz MIPS64 CPUs, 8Gb RAM, 15k fibre
channel disks, dual head VPro12. Had to run Irix on that, which was fine
at the time. One hell of a box (I've still got both the Ultra60 and the
Octane2) and a fine UNIX machine swansong.

I kind of share your sentiment about the performance and scalability of
Sparcs back then - they never did really live up to their promise. When
I first got to Kings College as a sysadmin they had a full-on Sun
Starfire 15K which had originally run massively complex medical
simulations. It was so underwhelming, even with a 100-odd CPUs and god
knows how much RAM, it had already been unplugged and left for dead. I
desperately, desperately begged them to let me resurrect it (mostly for
bragging rights on the Sun/Linux list I was on to be honest) but due
it's terrifying ability to consume electricity, I never once got to
power it up all the time it was there.

Modern Sparcs are a different beast entirely though. As much as I
despise Oracle, the modern M-series machines are absolute monsters and
for certain workloads, particularly heavy database stuff unsurprisingly,
they are face-shatteringly powerful. You'd need a whole room of x64
boxes to even compete.

Not to mention the scalability issue has been properly fixed by now, if
the Riken-K super is anything to go by:


705,024 cores, ~11 Pflops. All SPARC64 VIIIfx.

Excuse the rambling, I have a very soft spot for Sun hardware.


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