A SETI OBSESSION
One of my first deductions early on was apparent from just a
glance at the SETI numbers. In order to rack up numerous Work units quickly run
multiple computers. Every high score is attained with more than one
machine, so no matter how slow the box is, recruit every computer with
internet access that you know of to do work units for YOU: your wife’s
computer, your kids’ computer, computers at work, computers your friends own. Do not convince people to just join
SETI, convince them to join SETI and rack up points for YOUR account.
For a short time at work I had
seven fairly good Pentium boxes crankin’ work units just for me. I got
greedy and ran them 24/7 which slowed them down enough that they ran like snails
when someone tried to use them to accomplish some work. The Boss got pissed
and I got kicked off all but one, but for awhile I was cookin’.
Anyway, the moral is find as many computers as you can to run SETI for you, but be
careful not to be a nuisance.
Also, if you can afford it, you might want to expand the number of computers
you personally run. In general, two medium speed computers are usually
faster than one super fast box. I’ve found two PII 350s will produce the
same number of units over a period of time as one PIII 900mHz. Of course
it’s not always easy to gather multiple machines together, and the
tribulations can be daunting.
BUILDING THE FLEET
When Seti came into my life, my one computer was a dual 350
pentium. This machine was not a good overclocker but would do 392, so I started
collecting work units. The good news was with a dual CPU machine you can run two
instances of the Seti program at once. The bad news was the PII would take about
10 hours per unit…..still not too bad.
With the dual procs I was getting about 5
WU per day. This was just fine for awhile, till then I got to wondering what a few
more MHz might do. My motherboard is an Iwill DBL100 w/ bx chipset and SCSI. The
processor it could take would be limited by the jumper settings on the board, but
when I checked the Iwill web site I was pleasantly surprised to find it would
take a 650. Oh boy!
And so I ordered two shiny new CPUs from Atacom. When they
arrived just a few days later, I plugged them in, fired up the old box
and…….nothing happened. I got in touch with Iwill and they told me the
good news. Seems that the board would have supported a 650 processor if it was a
katmai rather than a coppermine, but since Intel never made a 650 katmai the
setting they had shown on their site was an error…….so sorry.
Since I am
always tinkering with my computer I thought to myself, "What if I got a second
computer to be the object of my experiments and then the 350 could stay more
reliable". Brillian!. My wife bought it too. The new at the time Iwill VD133 Pro
board looked great. With a good case, some Crucial memory, a bunch of hard
drives for a Raid array, and a cheapo Voodoo 3 vid card, I would have the
basics. Add a switch and a hub to share my monitor
, mouse and keyboard I was in business.
Now the new computer would do work units
in under 7 hours with a 650 running stable at 845. For a while I was
happy once again.
But as you know, computer happiness never lasts forever…….or even a long time.
Even with two computers at home doing SETI@ home, I once again began to look at my old dual
350, and once
again I sent off for the fastest CPUs (now) listed for the Iwill board – two 600mhz Katmais. Atacom once again got
my order to me in a hurry and once
again I plugged them into the old box and …….nothing happened.
An E-mail from Iwill tech support assured me that
yes, the board will run 600mhz and no, it will not set the voltage
correctly without an RMA modification.
My motherboard would need to be
sent back to the factory. Bummer.
I have heard the stories about RMA hell
where parts are sent away only to return months and dozens of phone calls
later. It was not without some trepidation that I contemplated sending my
trusted M/B off into unknown danger, but the urge to run the 600s on the Iwill
board was strong. The other computer could handle my minimal computing
needs but the thought of not having my dual machine crankin’ on Seti was too much
to bear. I solved that problem. I bought a dual Tyan board to fill in while the Iwill was
gone. Ah, pure genius…….or wasteful excess…….depends on how you look
at it. OK. So I bundled up the Iwill board (in the Tyan box) and
sent it off for the mods. The Tyan plugged right in and worked like a
champ. On track again.
My Iwill board returned with the modifications completed an
incredible five days after I mailed it. Who would have guessed? Well
kudos to Iwill!
This time the 600 Katmais fired right up on the first try,
and I am back in computer heaven The 600s do work units in
under 8 hours. All is well, except maybe this one little problem: What can I do with all these extra parts? I have a dual
motherboard and two old 350 CPUs, plus a handful of extra hard drives – I gave up
Obviously, I’m thinking to myself, "With the addition of just some
memory and a video card I could have a third running computer". The
stumbling block here was not so much the money as convincing my wife why I needed
a third computer. Why do I need a third computer? I’m short on
answers there myself. Nobody can use three at once, can they?
The bottom line
though is, that for me, and probably a majority of overclocker.com readers,
computers are no longer a tool simply to be utilized, but are an engrossing
hobby. I think the word "hobby" was the breakthrough. My wife
has given me her limited approval to do as I wish so long as I maintain some
sanity, no going completely nutso. I went ahead and put together the
third computer. All was well again, and you know what happened
CPU prices have been falling of late, and when I found I could
pick up a new 800e for less than $200.00, I jumped on it. The idea was to
put the 800 in the VD133 board and then use the freed up 650 along with its
unused brother in the Tyan board. Brilliant! For a $200.00
investment I would have tons more computing power.
Of course, it did
not work out as I had hoped. For starters, the 800e cB0 I bought is an
overclocking dog. It will not even post past 920mHz. Then, also, when I
went to trade the 650e flip chips in Iwill Slotkets for the old PII 350s it was
a total no go. One or the other 650 would run just fine, but no way was
that board willing to run that second CPU, so I put the 350s back in the
Tyan. In retrospect, I got a lousy deal. My 650 was running at 845
on the Iwill where the 800 now runs at 920, and the Tyan got no upgrade at
all. For $200.00 (actually more than that with tax and shipping) I got
a silly little 75mHz improvement. I feel like I’ve been ripped off, but I
don’t know who to yell at.
Sorry about all that, but I had a need to vent. You can
relate. I did show some restraint. I didid not even mention my
"Fun With Video Cards" adventure. The bottom line is I’ve put together
an arsenal of machines to crank out SETI units. Yes, the computers are also
used for the normal assortment of "other" chores but first and foremost they all
run 24/7 cranking on SETI. It’s an obsession.
In fact, I’m to the point
where I refrain from fiddling with the settings for fear I’ll mess something up
and have a lot of SETI down time. Sick! Actually, I still mess but I
think about it first……think lots!
So what does the future hold? A fourth computer is a
ways down the line. I still have the idle pair of 650s but I don’t have a
lot of desire to buy and try other slotkets in an attempt to get them both
running in the Tyan. I would like to eventually put them to use. I
have been looking at Abits’ new dual board, and Iwill has a dual socket 370 board
to be released soon. Neat stuff.
Out in my work shed I have an old
tower case sitting on the bench. I also have a 5"x12" radiator
that looks like it might fit inside, and a couple of TECs that have never seen
any use, and three 10gb Quantum 7200rpm drives that are just sitting
around. Also, a while back I bought a couple of Danger Den copper water blocks
cause they are such pretty parts and I KNEW I could use them someday. So with
those CPUs what else would it take……?
When my wife goes into the shed for peanuts to feed the
squirrels, she has made note of the bare box sitting on the bench. When
she asks what that might be I mumble a reply. But SHE knows. We both
Currently number four on the team. But watch out number
three, I’m gainin on ya.