“Number of Cores Quad-Core
Processor Number 9850
64-bit Computing Yes
Compatible Processor Socket Socket AM2+
Clock Speed 2.5 GHz
Thermal Design Power 125 W
Type / Form Factor AMD Phenom X4 9850
Cache Memory Details L2 – 4 x 512 KB L3 – 2 MB”
See AMD Phenom X4 9850 SpecsThe original “Beast” had a 32-bit CPU running at 1.8gHz, with a modest 512KB L2 cache. That tiny thing actually would do more for 30 students running sessions on it in 1.5GB RAM than Lose ’98 on thick clients. It was faster to log in, and open an application and it never lost students’ files. About 2008, I was in the arctic and preparing for a conference where I was going to demonstrate a cluster of thin clients running on a single decent PC with GNU/Linux, something unknown thereabouts. I bought a 64-bit quad core thingy simply because the supplier delayed a couple of weeks hemming and hawing about delivering a nice dual-core Opteron… Sigh. So I got 125W TDP and have regretted it ever since. Anyway, it is time to fix that.
These days, I am contemplating buying a Lemaker Cello, an ARMed server board intended for developers. It has an AMD A1120 CPU crippled quite a bit by lack of interfaces with these specs:
Quad Cortex A57
L2 cache 1MB (local)
L3 cache 8MB (global)
The A57s have caches for data and instructions not too different than the original Beast (48KB instruction and 32KB data whereas the original Beast had only a 64KB + 64KB L1 and 512 KL L2. The A57 has 1.7gHz clock in the A1120 and the original Beast had 1.8gHz. Want to compare 1.5GB DDR400 RAM versus 32gB DDR3 1600? I’d say we have enough computing power for what we do today, with no labs full of twitchy students to serve… just me and TLW most of the time with a few visitors on special occasions. For what it’s worth, ARM64 code seems to be smaller by a considerable margin than AMD64, so those small caches may not be much of a problem. I expect with faster hard drives, Beast III will easily beat Beast II (7m to build a kernel). Beast I cost about $200 for CPU, $200 for mobo, $200 for RAM, and a bit more for video card and hard drives. Beast III will cost a similar amount in inflated dollars and give a lot more. I expect it may well be the last “PC” I buy except for the thin clients, Odroid-C2s. Sadly, it may still require a fan or two in the Cello. The Odroid-C2 is probably competitive for Beast I and it will cost less than $100 delivered.
I intend to run Debian GNU/Linux Stretch on these machines. It’s usable already, supports ARM64 on a wide variety of systems and is relatively bug-free. So, the world of IT turns and I get to enjoy the cooperative products of the whole world, standardizing hardware and software, and supplying it at marvellous prices.