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F@H: Battle of the Distros

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
There has been some debate as to which Linux distro is best for folding. I have questioned this myself and had done some simple tests when I first started folding a few months back. When I first tried out Suse vs Ubuntu, I did not know enough to know that WUs do not perform identically, and that you could not test Suse with one WU, and Ubuntu with another. I have learned a lot about folding since then, and thought I would apply a more controlled approach to my test to try and find an answer.

I have finished my testing with a total of 5 different flavors of Linux for folding. I tested 5 in VMWare, and 2 as native installs.

I did tests with 3 different project WUs in order to make sure that I did not favor one type of WU on one version of Linux. I restarted a backup copy of the same WU on each of the distros at the exact same % in the WU. All tests were performed on the same computer without changes to any of the overclocking settings.

After the test of the first WU, provided by Burn, I had some pretty conclusive results. But to be sure I was not working with a single sample, I tested 2 other WUs. Burns WU, 2604 was a WU that really responded well to higher over CPU speed. 2609, on the other hand, can be sensitive to memory bandwidth and cache size. Finally 3051 is more of what I would consider the balanced WU that produces good results with a balanced overclock. Results will follow after discussing the Linux test distros.

I chose to test 5 different versions of 64 bit Linux. They were Ubuntu, Suse, Mandriva, Fedora, and finally Gentoo.

Here are some of the things I learned about each distro along the way.

Suse is a straight forward install, we already have a great walkthrough thanks to Bdatillo. The installation using VMWare had no problems at all. The Native install presented some issue with my identifying my network adapter correctly, and a manual change to the driver was needed. After that, it was smooth running.

Ubuntu was much like Suse in its ease of install into VMWare. The native install went smoothly and the newest version had no problem identifying all my hardware correctly. One big difference with Ubuntu compared to the other distros, is that it does not install the 32bit libraries by default, and it does not by default allow you to log in as root. The root issue is by design for security reasons, but can be easily overcome by going to the menus System->Administration->Login Window->Security Tab and selecting Allow local system administrator login. The 32bit libraries can also be easily installed with the command “sudo apt-get install ia32-libsâ€(sudo not needed if you are logged in as root)

Mandriva was simple to install into VMWare as well as Natively. It is not as popular as Suse or Ubuntu at the moment, but is a fine selection for folding needs.

Fedora would have to be the most colorful install of the bunch. I think more time went into graphics on there latest version 7 release. Other than that, no big surprises or problems with the install.

Gentoo too some work to get installed. I spent a few hours getting it installed correctly, after a few attempts. Gentoo offered a lot of option and I would not consider it a distro for the beginner Linux user (which I am). I can see how this distro offers a lot of flexibility for those that know what they are doing. But for the basic folding distro, it would not be my choice unless performance dictated it.

So, the moment you have all been waiting for after reading all the above info. Which is the best Linux distro for folding?............................... Drum Roll Please........................

Whichever one you find easiest to use!! That’s right, talk about a bit of a let down. The VMWare performance between then were almost identical. Literally within a few seconds of each other as far as time per percent completed. Those few seconds accounted for less than a 1% difference between them and could be considered just margin of error most likely. Now you can see why I ran 3 different types of WUs, hoping to find the golden nugget of information to swing the results one way or the other. Nope. It just was not there.

Now, I can tell you that the difference between Native Linux and VMWare linux was close to 10% average in favor of Native Linux between the different WUs I tested. Add that to an already almost 10% advantage VMWare has over the Windows SMP client and you can see how Native Linux folding is considered the most efficient folding setup. Efficient, maybe not as functional for some of us, but most efficient none the less.

Well at least I was able to answer the question for myself, and hopefully for some of you out there that have been wondering the same thing.

I am now doing some tests with low-latency kernels and learning to tweak the scheduler to see if I can squeeze out some extra performance there. There is still a learning curve for me, but I will let you all know if I discover anything interesting.
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post #2 of 11
Do you use Linux for all your folding rigs then?
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post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kennymester View Post
Do you use Linux for all your folding rigs then?
4 are Native Linux (2 Ubuntu, 2 Suse)
1 is Windows XP (Also used for software developement)
1 is Windows Vista (Also used for software developement)
1 is Windows 2003 Server (Runs SQL Server as well)

All are folding 24/7
I could likely squeeze out 2k more ppd out of the windows boxes by running linux, but they are used for business related stuff as well, so I can't switch them over to native linux. Unless Microsoft put out a version of Visual Studio that ran on Linux .
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post #4 of 11
So the 4 you have running Linux are the quads right?
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post #5 of 11
I use nothing but Ubuntu 6.06 to fold on

great distro.
    
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post #6 of 11
lol, well that's good to know Interesting result indeed.
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post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kennymester View Post
So the 4 you have running Linux are the quads right?
Well all 7 are quads, although the one running 2003 server is a dual Xeon 5130(2Ghz), so basically 2 X Core2Xeon on one board. The other 6 are all Q6600s.

3 of the Native Linux boxes put out between 3600ppd and 4000ppd depending on the WUs they are working on at the time. 1 of the Q6600 is on phase and puts out 4200 to 4600ppd. The Windows Vista and Windows XP boxes put out about 3000ppd, and the 2003 Server ($10K HP Proliant) only puts out about 2000ppd because it cant be overclock.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phantomgrave View Post
lol, well that's good to know Interesting result indeed.
Interesting and dissappointing in a way. But still good to know and at least for me it ends the debate on which distro performs the best.
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post #8 of 11
Incredibly interesting! I cannot believe that there wasn't a noticeable difference between distros! That came as a complete surprise to me! In any case, thank you for doing all that work and I can't imagine how many hours you spend banging your head on your desk asking why Linux Flavor B would not install

Excellent work and a job very well done!
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post #9 of 11
Knifelite, then your windows boxes run VMware linux SMP, or straight windows SMP...
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post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by H3||scr3am View Post
Knifelite, then your windows boxes run VMware linux SMP, or straight windows SMP...
I'm certain that he's running the Windows SMP, seeing as he only should be wanting to use reserve cycles.
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