Best Linux distro for crunching?

Gary Roberts
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RE: Well, I finally landed

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Well, I finally landed on Linux Mint. I tried PCLinuxOS and the installer kept freezing up.


Over the years, I've installed PCLinuxOS on hundreds of occasions and never once had it freeze. I've thrown all sorts of oddball hardware at it and I can't recall a single instance of it failing to properly detect what was there and install cleanly on it. I can't fathom why you had problems but if you'd care to give a bit of detail, I'm sure it would be easily fixable.

Entirely up to you of course.

Cheers,
Gary.

Phil
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Right now I'm going to stick

Right now I'm going to stick with Mint because it works. Now, with that being said, I'm not exactly a Linux guru. So I do plan on revisiting PCLinuxOS at some future point in time because I HAVE heard so many good things about it.

I'll get hold of you when I decide to try again. I'm sure it's something my lack of knowledge is unable to find. If it sounded like I was bashing PCLinuxOS that was not my intention. No way that it's a bad distro with so many people using and liking it.

Phil

mikey
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RE: RE: Well, I finally

Quote:
Quote:
Well, I finally landed on Linux Mint. I tried PCLinuxOS and the installer kept freezing up.

Over the years, I've installed PCLinuxOS on hundreds of occasions and never once had it freeze. I've thrown all sorts of oddball hardware at it and I can't recall a single instance of it failing to properly detect what was there and install cleanly on it. I can't fathom why you had problems but if you'd care to give a bit of detail, I'm sure it would be easily fixable.

Entirely up to you of course.

I will ask a question, I went to the PCLinuxOS webpage to download it and see multiple versions available, LXDE Desktop, FullMonty Desktop, and Mate Desktop, which one do you suggest for running Boinc only? I need one that works for out of the box with both ATI and Nvidia gpu's and even on the MB network cards. I am not a Linux guy, so the easier the better for me, plug and play is ideal.

Gary Roberts
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For crunching, the 'MiniMe'

For crunching, the 'MiniMe' (ie minimal system only) versions (with a good desktop) are best. Even though I use the command line quite a lot, it's very good to have the convenience of a full desktop environment. I came to Linux from Windows XP and I found the KDE look and feel to be very easy to adapt to. I've been using the 32 bit KDE-MiniMe version and I've now converted the bulk of my hosts to 64 bit. I can't really observe a performance difference crunching with KDE loaded or crunching with no desktop environment. Sure, KDE is big and uses RAM but even on 2GB systems I don't really see a loss of performance. The choice of DE is very much a personal matter.

The MiniMe versions fit easily on a CD (550-600MB) although I don't use CD's these days. I have a 160GB USB external hard drive (2.5 inch) with about 6 or 8 previous versions of the OS together with a complete local repository of both 32 bit and 64 bit repo stuff and all the BOINC stuff. The disk is still less than half full. It makes both installs and updates extremely quick.

PCLinuxOS is a 'rolling release'. You install it once and update it from time to time without having to reinstall. They release a new fully updated set of .isos every 3 months. Updates are quite regular - after 3 months there are so many of them that I actually find it just about as fast to reinstall the OS itself (all user files and user configuration is preserved) as to update it. If you only have a couple of machines, updating say once a fortnight would be relatively painless and quick.

The stripped down MiniMe versions don't contain multimedia or office stuff but they do contain (almost) everything needed for crunching. Nvidia drivers are installed automatically (appropriate for the GPU installed) but you have to add the Catalyst drivers if you have an AMD card. It's a point and click operation using a graphical control centre. With both types of drivers, CUDA and OpenCL capability are in separate packages and have to be installed separately - once again, point and click. The only thing extra needed by the current recommended BOINC is a wxwidgets library used by BOINC Manager. It's a point and click install from the repos. I think the newer alpha versions might use a newer version of wxwidgets that's not (yet) in the PCLinuxOS repos.

As always, with just about anything, there are a couple of little tricks here and there that need to be understood. Simple things like the fact that BOINC seems to base its GPU detection on the presence (or absence) of CUDA or OpenCL libs in a very particular location and under a particular name. PCLinuxOS installs these libs in a subdirectory (either nvidia-current or fglrx-current) and BOINC can't find them even although the science apps actually can. The solution was to make a symbolic link (using the name and location that BOINC needed) to the actual libs. End of problem.

The biggest problems for any Windows user converting to Linux for the first time would probably be coming to grips with a text editor and understanding unix file 'permissions'. It was easy for me because I had learned 'vi' under Unix back in the 70s and 80s. With KDE, you get a utility called kwrite which I find to be a nice graphical (wysiwyg) editor that's pretty easy to use. Vi has a pretty steep learning curve, but having re-learned it in the last few years, I love it for quick tweaks in config files.

If anyone reading this wants to try out any version of linux, I'd certainly try to offer assistance if you got stuck. I'd be able to offer most assistance if it was PCLinuxOS but I'm sure there are others around who would be skilled with other distros.

Cheers,
Gary.

tbret
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RE: You might want to

Quote:

You might want to be sure that the Mint you have can update to the latest fixes before committing.

Let me be the first to risk looking like a complete fool by asking what's probably a really simple and obvious question. Please keep in mind my entire experience with Linux was two machines running Mint 14 for a very short time.

Once I got Linux running on any given machine, and I managed to download a driver that could crunch, and I got BOINC running, IF that machine were a "cruncher only" would there be any need of or advantage to updating it at all?

Gary Roberts
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RE: ... IF that machine

Quote:
... IF that machine were a "cruncher only" would there be any need of or advantage to updating it at all?


From a pure crunching point of view, there's no real need. I have had machines that have crunched for years without problems and without updates.

I've essentially done two complete updates of all hosts during the last two years. The first was to modernise old installs dating back to the 2008/2009 era (and running KDE3) with KDE4. I did that during late 2012 and in 2013 and ended up with quite a variety of 'update states' since I used several iso images released over a period. The second was during the last month or two where I've switched virtually everything to a 64 bit OS using a single April 2014 iso image and all updates as at the middle of May. I'm very happy with these 'as they are' and plan to leave them alone, probably for at least six months or more, unless something drastic happens. It's tedious to contemplate visiting a large number of machines every week or two just to apply the latest batch of updates :-).

The biggest reason for updating is to take advantage of new technology when it matures, eg KDE3 -> KDE4, or new hardware and drivers. I've added a lot of GPUs and I've seen modest performance gains with newer drivers. If you are going to the trouble of adding hardware and drivers, it's often just as easy to do a fresh install at the same time. I think that cleans up a lot of clutter that builds up over time.

Cheers,
Gary.

mikey
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RE: RE: You might

Quote:
Quote:

You might want to be sure that the Mint you have can update to the latest fixes before committing.

Let me be the first to risk looking like a complete fool by asking what's probably a really simple and obvious question. Please keep in mind my entire experience with Linux was two machines running Mint 14 for a very short time.

Once I got Linux running on any given machine, and I managed to download a driver that could crunch, and I got BOINC running, IF that machine were a "cruncher only" would there be any need of or advantage to updating it at all?

I personally have turned off all updates even on my Windows cruncher only boxes!! Why update what works when I don't use the thing for anything but crunching? I did load Firefox to get on the net, and it does upgrade automatically whenever I use it. And the newer Nvidia drivers require the .net software to be loaded, but it does all that itself during the driver load process. I do have an a/v running, the free version of AVG, and it does update itself automatically in the background.

I do manually update Boinc every once in a while, NOT often though, and almost never update the gpu software as it is working as it is.

robl
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RE: RE: You might want

Quote:
Quote:

You might want to be sure that the Mint you have can update to the latest fixes before committing.

Let me be the first to risk looking like a complete fool by asking what's probably a really simple and obvious question. Please keep in mind my entire experience with Linux was two machines running Mint 14 for a very short time.

From a "crunch only" perspective its probably not necessary to upgrade a box.

For me and this is me only I always take the position that after I install the initial OS image I bring it up to the latest standard before running with it. A lot of fixes occur between the time the ISO image was made and the time you download/install it so why not do that "initial" upgrade. After that there would be no need to upgrade in a crunchers environment if you don't want to.

That initial "uplift" of fixes is important to me because it demonstrates the integrity of the product I have installed. If it fails to allow me to upgrade then I am not interested in using it. Basic functionality must be present. If you skip this step and later you want to install a specific package to support some functionality not present then that "install" will probably fail for the same reason. I don't want to troubleshoot basic functionality so I won't waste my time with such a distro.

Now if this box is a server then I would seriously consider updating software. In light of the recent SSL issues there have been numerous fixes in all Linux distros to address these issues and I would definitely want to capture these.

[Edit] I would also add that it depends on a users experience/expertise with Linux. If you know what you have installed you are in a better position to judge whether to upgrade or not, i.e., are you headless, did you install servers, etc. There are many factors to consider.

Phil
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I decided to go ahead and try

I decided to go ahead and try PCLinuxOS again. I downloaded MiniMe KDE64 and made a bootable USB drive.

I'll let you know how it goes. Somehow I missed the MiniMe the first time around and that's actually what I wanted was a stripped down version.

Be about an hour till the machine is done with it's current tasks and I'll get started.

Phil

tbret
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RE: From a "crunch only"

Quote:

From a "crunch only" perspective its probably not necessary to upgrade a box.

Thank you for that response. As you can probably guess, that was what I suspected would be the case.

I like the idea of every few years going through and completely updating everything, but leaving everything alone in the meantime.

One of the things I find infuriating using Windows is the constant updating. It reminds me of AOL in the bad-old days of dial-up when every time I was at the computer and wanted to reboot it, the first thing that happened was AOL "took over" and would update for a long time.

I was a CompuServe nerd, but I had people in the house with AOL accounts and so had AOL, too. The daily updating really, really got on my nerves and Windows is doing the same thing. Now, without Windows 8, you have to be seriously insistent if you don't want to have a Microsoft account with "cloud services" and all that stuff.

"HEY, Microsoft! MY hardware, MY license. Go away."

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