Tag Archives: build

Project Rogue: Conception and specification

Project Rogue in action in Crysis 2

Project Rogue in action in Crysis 2

Introduction

Project Rogue was conceived out of necessity in September 2012. Constituent components were researched in October 2012 and then subsequently ordered end of October 2012. A week later the project was complete in the sense that it functioned as a whole. It was alive and breathing. One month later, in December 2012, Project Rogue has now completed its extensive accessorisation phase and now I reveal it to you in all its glory.

How was Project Rogue conceived?

Early September 2012 I started working with some insanely powerful desktop workstation hardware – dual xeon 16 core 32 thread watercooled cpus, 8 water cooled gpus, 128GB ram, dual 1200W power supplies and immensely large cases. We were loading up these beasts with heavy computations that were utilising both multiple physical cpus and multiple gpus.

At that time my personal machine at home was a humble 11″ macbook air which although previously had been more than adequate for my needs it had now essentially been made suitably redundant and in a sense outdone. It was clear that I would need something a bit more ambitious to be able to do the kind of work at home that I was doing at work.

Something that would allow me to do uncompromising computations on the cpu and across multi-gpus but within the constraints of a personal budget (which I far exceeded in the end due to my own uncompromising nature). Something that within loose constraints would be uncompromising in its demands for high quality components and power and not settle for what was just good enough – something almost rogue in nature.

What is Project Rogue?

Sadly it’s nothing as grand as the preceding section makes it out to be where I got a little carried away but to me, actually, it is grand for reasons I’ll get into below. Project Rogue is a home computation and gaming rig with modern high quality components within the constraints of a home budget (sadly a characteristically generous one).

There are two things that make Project Rogue highly significant to me which is why it is being made into a series of posts on this blog. Firstly, it is a real world machine born out of a real world need created from scratch in the modern day and I’m sure that there are many that would benefit from an account of the entire process of creating such a rig. I certainly wish there was such a guide for me when I started.

Secondly, and more importantly, this was my first pc build ever which I admit without reservation and given that fact and the calibre of this machine I feel a sense of achievement and would like to catalogue this milestone of mine. I also think that the latter point makes, this account to come, even more valuable for those out there who haven’t done this before in making it that much more accessible and approachable to them.

I have to say, that whilst my assumption was (as always) that I was the only one who hadn’t done anything like this before, that could not have been further from the truth. I was really very surprised to learn that most ex-colleagues and some current colleagues over the years had either had no exposure to hardware to date or had simply become totally disconnected from it in mainstream commodity development.

I’ve been there and I know what it’s like. You’re developing on a virtual machine. You don’t need to know where it runs and you don’t need to care. The illusion of abstraction and portability reassures you that as long as you write your code to be fast it will automatically run faster when put on better hardware but in reality that is not necessarily true. Hardware is never proactively part of the development process and developers are generally unaware of what hardware they are running on in production.

Home computation and gaming rig component list

Here follows the component and accessory list for a home computation and gaming rig. Each component was picked with a particular motivation in mind and I’ll write about those motivations in a separate post. But generally I tried to go for the best, not unreasonably expensive, quality components that were released most recently.

For the experts out there if you are expecting a workstation or server specification build or a high end consumer build such as a multi cpu, xeon or sandybridge build you’ll be disappointed. This is, sadly, a bit simpler and a bit cheaper but at least up to date with ivybridge and the latest 7970 cards. It is a consumer grade build built with two gpu computations and gaming in mind. It is uncompromising in the gpus chosen however. If you’re expecting a full build watercooled solution you’ll also be sorely disappointed. I needed to start with air-cooling but no doubt next up is water.

In terms of cost – the total cost of the following component list comes to £4385 but a few parts having been bought have been replaced and the sales of the older parts are still pending and once they go through the total cost will reduce to £3533 which sounds a little less mindless.

# Component Price Model Vendor Notes
1 Case £143 Corsair Obsidian 650D Amazon, OC Windowed and matte black
2 Motherboard £231 Asus Maximus V Formula/ThunderFX Amazon, OC Multi-gpu PCI-E, dual band wifi
3 PSU £205 Corsair AX1200 Amazon, OC Fully modular and future proof
4 CPU £240 Intel IvyBridge i7-3770K Amazon, OC 4 cores, 8 threads
5 CPU Cooler £80 Corsair H100 Amazon, OC Sealed liquid cooler
6 Memory £200 Corsair 16GB Dominator Platinum Amazon, OC Pure aesthetic beauty
7 GPU 1 £395 Asus Matrix HD7970 Platinum Amazon, OC Top end triple slot AMD radeon card
8 GPU 2 £395 Asus Matrix HD7970 Platinum Amazon, OC Top end triple slot AMD radeon card
9 GPU 3 £380 MSI R7970 Lightning Boost Edition Amazon, OC Top end dual slot AMD radeon card
10 GPU 4 £380 MSI R7970 Lightning Boost Edition Amazon, OC Top end dual slot AMD radeon card
11 Monitor £489 Asus PB278Q Amazon, OC 27″ LED, fully adjustable
12 SSD 1 £171 Corsair Force GS 240GB Amazon, OC 90K IOPS, bright red
13 SSD 2 £171 Corsair Force GS 240GB Amazon, OC 90K IOPS, bright red
14 HDD 1 £66 WD Scorpio Blue 1TB (Spec) (PDF) Amazon, OC Fast 2.5″ 1TB HD
15 HDD 2 £66 WD Scorpio Blue 1TB (Spec) (PDF) Amazon, OC Fast 2.5″ 1TB HD
16 Bluray writer £80 Asus BW-12B1ST Amazon, OC Multi-purpose drive
17 4x SSD Rack £58 Icy Dock 4×2.5″ SSD/HD Rack Amazon, OC 4x drive hot swap rack
18 Fan controller £47 Lamptron FC5V2 Amazon, OC Multi-colour multi-output
19 120mm fans £18 Corsair SP120 Quiet Edition Amazon, OC Radiator fans with red fan rims!
20 120mm fans £10 Corsair AF120 Quiet Edition Amazon, OC Airflow fans with red rims!
21 200mm fan £15 Bitfenix Spectre Pro Amazon, OC Quiet black 200mm fan
22 Speakers £183 Corsair SP2500 Amazon, OC Top end 2.1 speakers
23 Keyboard 1 £11 MS Keyboard 600 Amazon, OC Cheap and nasty
24 Keyboard 2 £70 Logitech G510 Amazon, OC Soft touch with macros
25 Mouse 1 £45 Logitech Performance MX Amazon, OC Cordless
26 Mouse 2 £35 Logitech G500 Amazon, OC Corded
27 USB3 Stick £50 Corsair Survivor Stealth 64GB Amazon, OC Stunning and fast
28 USB3 adapter cable £7 Akasa USB3 adapter cable Amazon, OC Converts usb3 to mb header
29 Thermal paste £10 Artic Silver 5 Amazon, OC Thermal paste and cleaner
30 Cable ties 1 £3 Large velcro cable ties Amazon, OC Multi-coloured and chunky
31 Cable ties 2 £4 Large velcro cable ties Amazon, OC Black and chunky
32 Cable ties 3 £12 Small velcro cable ties Amazon, OC Thin ties bulk pack
33 Power meter £19 Efergy Socket 2.0 Amazon, OC Shows real time watts used
34 Sata cables 1 £5 Akasa 50cm sata3 Amazon, OC Fat sata cable
35 Sata cables 2 £17 4x Akasa super-slim 50cm sata3 Amazon, OC Super slim form factor
36 DVD-R £7 25x Verbatim DVD-R Amazon, OC System restore discs
37 CD/DVD pens £5 Fellowes CD/DVD Pens Amazon, OC No comment
38 External HDD £62 Samsung M3 1TB Amazon, OC Out of case backup

A sneak peek at Project Rogue

Sadly there was only room for two but the sight of four was nice while it lasted!

What’s next in the series?

Project Rogue will become a series starting with a step by step account of its own build in the form of a photo journal and then continuing to document its evolution in real time. I will also focus on important aspects of a computer build that would be relevant to anyone attempting any build. Post Project Rogue there will be another good few builds coming each offering a progression of some kind of previous builds and if I haven’t run out of cash by then and had to shut the site down I’ll document those too! Stay tuned!

Presentation: Development at the Speed and Scale of Google

Since I’ve never had the good fortune of being able to afford QCon (one day this will change) I appreciate the fact that InfoQ post QCon videos online for free albeit late. Recently I watched ‘Development at the Speed and Scale of Google‘.

Prior to watching this presentation I knew only what I had encountered in the wider industry and really could not have foreseen any of what I was about to watch. The tools that I use on a daily basis and the difficulties that impede me now both seem primitive and outdated in comparison to the progress that Google has made. The key point on the subject matter of this presentation is that it is not about development but what makes it possible to develop at the speed and scale of google: in this case – build and release engineering.

Highlights from the talk that I found worthy of note are listed below.

  • Working on build and engineering tools requires strong computer science skills and as such the best people.
  • We cannot improve what we cannot measure. Measure everything. This, in my opinion, is a fantastic quote. This stops a team going off on open ended endeavours that yield either intangible or no results.
  • Compute intensive IDE functions have been migrated to the cloud such as generating and searching indexes for cross referencing types across a large codebase.
  • The codebase required for building and running tests is generally larger than that which is worked upon but delivering the entire codebase to every developer either in source or in binary form would kill the network. Here – a fuse daemon detects when surrounding code is required using a fuse (user space) filesystem and retrieves it incrementally on demand.
  • For similar reasons to the above point – they’ve developed a virtual filesystem under Eclipse and contributed it back. The obvious benefit is that directly importing a large code base into Eclipse kills it whereas incremental loads perform.
  • They build off source and not binaries and maintain an extremely stable trunk from which they release. If you imagine that all code is in a single repository (in fact the largest Perforce repository in the world) then it really puts into perspective the achievement of using only trunk.
  • The designated owners for a given project who review code have at their fingertips all the intelligence metadata on the code to assist them in the reviewing process. If you think about it that makes a lot of sense. To review you need more than just the code to spend your time effectively. You may want the output of introspection, test runs etc.
  • Compilations are distributed and parallelised in the cloud and output is aggressively cached. It’s fascinating to hear a case study where this has actually been implemented. I’ve often considered remote compilations but never come across a concrete implementation until now.

The importance of build and release engineering is often underestimated. It is often portrayed and perceived as an area of work that’s second class in nature and rather unglamorous. However, as this talk attests, it is very much the contrary. It can massively boost developer and organisational productivity and efficiency and requires the best people. I’ll end with a quote from the presenter: “Every developer worth their salt has worked on a build system at least once”.