Forum OpenACS Q&A: cheap Dell servers for next 4 days

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
If anybody needs a spiffy new tower (not rackmount) server for very cheap, Dell Small Business has some great deals through March 12, 2003. Check the March 7 description on techbargains.com:
Budget Dell Server - P4-2.4Ghz $269!, Mar 7

Dell has slashed Price on the 600SC, 1600 SC, 2600, 4600, 350, 1650, 2650 servers!

Dell Small Business has a good deal on a basic server. PowerEdge600SC P4-2.4Ghz/533Bus 128MB DDR/40GB 7200 IDE HD, 48x CD, Embedded Gigabit Ethernet, No OS 1yr on-site warranty $499 - $110 discount - 5% off coupon - $100 rebate = $269.55 shipped free.

Select Servers, Choose PowerEdge, Choose PowerEdge SC, Customize It on Middle config, 1.8 Celeron/IDE/No Raid - Continue, Select Free upgrade to P4 2.4/1-Yr Warranty/Keyboard/Mouse - Continue, Continue, Add to cart, Apply coupon: 8D2755970FD4

Includes 4 64-bit/33mhz PCI Slots, Serverworks Grand Champion SL chipset, up to 4GB ECC DDR SDRAM, 3 on board IDE Channels, 2 USB 1.1 ports, ATI Rage XL Video on board.

This machine lacks an AGP slot and on-board sound, other wise it would make a capable desktop.

For use as a real server you'll want to add more ECC RAM and 1 to 3 additional hard drives (for RAID 1, 5, or 10), optionally a hardware IDE RAID card (otherwise use software RAID), but otherwise the thing seems ready to go.

I don't know where techbargains.com got that detailed description of the server components, as I didn't see that on the Dell site. But if it's accurate $270 sounds like a great deal to me. I ordered one for myself. :)

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Yeah, I found out about these yesterday ...

check it out

"But that says $689 .."

Unselect the nearly $300 support option that's marked by default and choose the no-cost option (something like parts for a year) and remember that the resulting $389-ish cost does NOT include the $100 mail-in rebate. I haven't seen the 5% coupon so am not quite sure how you get from $289 to $269 but the free shipping is real, as is the free upgrade from a 1.8 GHz Celeron to a 2.4 GHz P4.

For most of us Linux hackers a decent $40 PCI graphics card's sufficient unless you plan to add a bunch of extra stuff. The basic box includes an on-board NIC and all the pieces are supported by Linux.

Buy a 256MB DDR stick from Crucial for about 25% less than Dell charges and you're in business with a nice box.

I don't know how many memory slots the machine has ... or if the MB supports USB ...

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Posted by Randy Ferrer on

Ok. Final price is $416.23 & there is a $100.00 rebate included in the box. I called Dell to be sure. I suggest you do the same if you get one and get a name. ;-) So all in all not a bad little server for $316.23. Thanks for the tip on Crucial Don. I'm getting some extra memory from them.

Some Specs:
Memory   
 
 128MB up to 4GB ECC DDR-266 registered SDRAM
 
Expansion Slots   

 5 Total PCI Slots
 
 4 x 64-bit/33MHz (Supports 3.3V cards)
 
 1 x 32-bit/33MHz (Supports 3.3V cards 

Ports   

 2 USB 1.1, 1 parallel, 1 serial, 1 video, 1 NIC, 1 PS/2 mouse, 1 PS/2 keyboard

Oh - shipping is free. Only additional payment was for taxes... Thanks for the heads up Andrew.

--Randy
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Posted by Don Baccus on
How about $638 for essentially the same thing with two 36GB 10K RPM SCSI disks?

Holy moly ... that's a real computer!

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Well I just bought one with a single 36 GB 10K RPM SCSI disk for $389.  That's not bad at all.  Seeing as my fasted computer currently is a P500 that cost me about $800 to build three years ago I'm not complaining, not at all.
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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
Don - Did you get that from Dell? I did look at the SCSI drive option but couldn't price anything there for less than $529 after rebates. Since this is a secondary dev. server for me, I didn't want to pay the additional $213. But for $73 the SCSI option is attractive. TIA.
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Posted by Don Baccus on
It was $100 more (I don't have to pay sales tax, I live in Oregon)

Yes, it was Dell, it took awhile to figure it out but the person who told me about the current low prices had told me the SCSI increment was only $100 more so I dug and dug through the site until I figured it out.

If you go to one of the main server pages and click on the 600 SC series, one path through there will land you on a page that has you check off your processor choice (P4 2.4 GHz) and disk drive type choice (IDE/SCSI/SCSI w/HW RAID)

The next page looks scary because it's in the $1K range.  But ...first you "upgrade" to the "P4 2.4 GHz at a 1.8 Celeron" ("price" is supposed to be there but the line's too long so it's truncated) "-$99"

That knock $99 off the price.

Then you knock off $348 for their cadillac three-year service option.

That gets you down to $599 - $110 discount - $100 mail-in rebate with free shipping.  $389.  Woo-hoo!

Then you add two $54 256 MB ECC DDR 2100 Registered RAM sticks from Crucial (I've never had any problem with Crucial memory though overclockers prefer Mushkin etc, I don't overclock) and Oracle and PG and everyone else runs happily ever after all on the same machine.

I'll probably add a second platter and RAID 1 the thing but Dell's add-on price for a second disk seemed high.  I have Fry's here ...

I'm going to migrate my world to this sucker and get rid of the P200, P350 and P500 systems with various 3GB, 6GB etc disks on which everything lives at present.  I'll give those away or sell them cheap.

I've been considering upgrading for about a year and being able to buy a sweet little box like this at this price sure beats scrambling for parts and building my own, not to mention there's no way I could beat the price.

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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
Thanks Don. I cancelled and put another order in. You're right - it is a sweet little box and you can't beat the price. For an extra $70 I'll take SCSI :-)) I hadn't noticed the P4 upgrade option. I do have to pay sales tax since I live in Florida, but not at all a big deal. I too will buy some extra memory from Crucial. I don't need a second drive on that box - yet... ;-)
Now - I was checking out the rack servers since I'll be needing a production grade server soon and I can get:
PowerEdge 2650 Xeon 2.4GHz. w/512k Cache. 2U Rack 
Memory - 256 MB DDR. 2X128 DIMMS (this is the minimum)
Hard Drives - 3 36GB 10K RPM Ultra 320 SCSI Drives
Primary Controller - PERC3-DI, Embedded RAID
NIC - Intel Pro 100 + Dual Port 
On board SCSI    
They take $400 of the price + $100 rebate. Grand total is $3,213. I want to have 1 Gb of memory so I need to check memory prices outside of Dell. They charge like $500 range for the 1 Gb of memory. I also need to check hard drive prices. Additional drives are a bit pricey @ $249/each. So taking the two out will knock $500 more off the price. Not too shabby no? Any recommendations? This server will be running an Oacs site - or two. TIA.
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Posted by Connie Hentosh on
My husband works for Dell in the Linux group.  After I asked about this deal he said it was a nice machine, and as far as he knows is cheaper than the desktops they sell with the current $100 discount.

Only caution is that the machine uses the ServerWorks CSB6 which has 3 IDE channels.  Not all the patches for the CSB6 latest revision are in Red Hat Linux so you won't see your third channel in the /proc filesystem and you won't be able to turn DMA on the 3rd channel (It works fine, but not in DMA.. the other two channels work with DMA). The CD-ROM is cabled to that channel.

The errata after the next release of Red Hat should contain the patches for the CSB6 to allow DMA on the 3rd channel.

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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
pretty sweet deal.

one thing, though -- you can get a kingston 512MB DDR 2100 ECC dimm from any number of resellers for $70.  I'd give kingston at least a tie with crucial, quality-wise, and using up less ram slots is always a win for future upgrading.

still trying to figure out how the devil you got it to let you pick a scsi disk with the 600 though.

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Thanks for the info, Connie.  Yes, I explored desktop options and this was definitely a better bet.  Since I went SCSI for my hard drive I don't mind moving the CD-ROM cable from IDE 3 to IDE 2 :)
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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
ah, I got it...  just have to start with the P4 version rather than the Celeron.
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Posted by Don Baccus on
Go here.

You'll should see a price of $936. Choose the "P4 upgrade at 1.8 Celery price -$99" radio as mentioned above, choose the least expense support option (-$348) and you're at $489 plus a $100 mail-in rebate.

Good luck!

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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
the coupon from techbargains is 8D2755970FD4 and does appear to work.

I was going to build a dual athlon setup but this sure is a tough price to beat...

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Right, Jonathan, sneaky of them, eh? :)  Pardon all the typos in my previous post.

And don't post that link to Slashdot!!!!

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Posted by Gilbert Price on
What about the hard drive controller? Keep the default or select the  Ultra 3 (Ultra 160) PCI SCSI Adapter Card

I'm not all that familier with SCSI...

Thanks,

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Posted by Don Baccus on
I don't know what the onboard chip is.  The separate PCI Adaptec is undoubtably top-of-the-line ... but the onboard chip may be an Adaptec also (though maybe a slightly older one.)  No idea.  It works with Linux, that's all I care about. My personal webserver has an Adaptec SCSI interface but then again I got the dual, non-SCSI board for pennies (thanks to Mike Sisk of Furfly.)  If that hadn't been true, I would've bought the motherboard with on-board SCSI for an extra (at the time) $200.

I haven't investigated modern SCSI (my server's board is UWII, we've passed U160 and are at U320 or whatever) so the separate board may offer two channels or other high-end features you might need if you plan to add a half dozen 36 GB drives :)  Onboard SCSI usually offers one highspeed bus capable of handling 8 devices (but again I haven't checked in a long, lnog time) but in this case the tiny tower case rules against putting that much stuff in anyway.

Onboard SCSI has been the choice for rackmounts for years now along with onboard NIC.  The only thing missing is the external plug for adding external drives, but if you're looking for that much storage, you probably want a more robust server anyway (this one has four internal bays for drives, though using two is probably best for cooling purposes)

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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
Thanks for the information, Connie. With Don's assistance I also got my 600-SC with SCSI so it should not be an issue. :-) Jonathan, I did check Kingston and their memory is about half the cost of Crucial's. I am not familiar with Kingston though. Their 1GB DDR kit sells for $286 (2 512's), while Crucial sells for $429 for the same. Kingston doesn't provide much detail on the memory. I'll also check Mushkin out and see what they offer. Prices on the HD are pretty close to the $249 from Dell on pretty much everything I've seen so far. Anyone know of any place to get good deals on HD's?
Gilbert - I don't think you will need the Ultra 160 Adapter Card if you get the Ultra 320 drive that comes with the 600 SC. The HDC these days is on the drive. If I remember correctly, Ultra 320 is based on the SCSI-3 - Parallel Interface (SPI-4) standards which is the latest greatest. I think that you will only need the Ultra 160 card which is based on SCSI-3/SPI-3 standards if you have an Ultra 160 SCSI drive. Hope that helps a bit. Perhaps someone else can confirm this or not just to be sure...
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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
I wonder why Dell offers a U160 PCI SCSI Adapter Card rather than a U320??? In theory it should be ok to mix newer drives with older host adapters, but of course you will be limited by the older, generally slower technology. So if you put the U320 together with a U160 card your results will be suboptimal. U320 is still evolving and the U320 drives are now just starting to become widely available, so I think the card is an option in case you have U160 drives you might want to hook into the box. As Don mentions, if you truly need massive storage, you would go for a larger server, so I don't quite see the point otherwise. They don't charge extra for it if you noticed. Anyway, I don't think that the PCI SCSI Adapter Card is necessary if you get the U320 drive.
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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
Randy,

as I posted, kingston is cheaper if you buy from their resellers instead of direct from their site.  Check pricegrabber.com.

whether you buy direct or from a reseller, you're covered with a no-hassle lifetime warranty.

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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
Hi Jonathan - Thanks for the tip on pricegrabber.com. The lowest price for the Kingston memory is $212.00 which is less than half the cost for Dell memory. Now if I can find a couple of HD's at a great price, I'll be set. Search goes on...
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Posted by Don Baccus on
Are you guys sure you're looking at ECC Registered PC2100 DDR?  I went to pricegrabbers and entered "ECC registered DDR" and Kingston did not come back as one of the manufacturers.  No cheap deals from Viking, Corsair, Crucial either (well, 2x256MB for $108 *is* damned cheap when you think of it!)

Anyway, I then searched for "ECC DDR" and a bunch of cheaper options came up, including Kingston and Crucial DIMMS.

But ... this board requires ECC Registered DDR.  Not sure what it will do if you put in non-ECC registered DDR but I do know what will happen if you put in non-registered DDR ...

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Ahhh ... Kingston ECC Reg PC2100 (not "registered") is on the list ... but at $104, not $70-ish, for a 512MB stick.  Still cheaper than Crucial, though.
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Posted by Don Baccus on
Ground shipping brings that to $110.45, while two 256MB sticks from Crucial includes 2nd day shipping in the price ...

Enough :)  Quibbling over a few bucks per 1/2 GB of RAM, sheesh! :)

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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
requires registered?

damn. :0

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Posted by Jon Griffin on
One of the reasons I didn't jump on the server was the ECC requirement.

ECC memory is actually slower (about 2-3%) and unless it is a mission critical box a waste of money. And, DRAM is
VERY reliable these days. I can't remember the last memory error I had that ECC would have corrected.

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27: ECC RAM (response to 1)
Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
According to DJB:

"According to memory manufacturer Corsair, a typical computer with 256MB of non-ECC memory has several memory errors every year. ECC memory, when properly used, eliminates this problem."

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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
Can anyone confirm that the drives in these machines are Maxtor's. If so I found a matching drive @ $196 + shipping. TIA. No luck finding a brand for the drive on Dell's site. grrrrrr.......
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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
I always thought ECC = error correction code = parity bit builtin.  While registered = some kind of on-chip buffering.  Hence you have ECC and registered ECC which are not the same thing.  plain ECC is about 40% more than regular DDR but reg ECC is 100% more. :(
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Posted by Don Baccus on
How would you know you've never had a one-bit memory error correctable by ECC?  There's no way to know ...

It's not that much more expensive.  We're talking about $425 to put 2 GB of ECC Registered DDR (Kingston).  Good grief!  2 GB!  Add a $200 second platter and you've got great little OpenACS server for $1000.

Now think about prices three years ago for a decent SCSI-based server box with 1 GB, say a P733, and a couple of 9 GB platters ...

Consumers.  We'll be bitching when they pay *us* to take their server boxes off their hands!

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Posted by Roberto Mello on
Add me to the list of people who bought this Dell deal too :-)

Thanks for the tips everyone.

-Roberto

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Posted by Fred Yankowski on
It looks like a good deal and I've ordered a system.

But I've since heard that some of Dell's low-end servers have quirky on-board hardware that is not supported by some Linux distributions -- Debian in particular.  Does anyone know if the video and NIC chips on the motherboard are supported by the latest Debian release?

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Posted by Stan Kaufman on
Fred, last year I bought a PowerEdge 500SC that was perfectly compatible with Debian. I presume the 600SC that people are getting will be also but I don't know for sure. Roberto is a Debian PowerUser and is getting one, so I'd ping him when you get your box.
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Posted by Roberto Mello on
If it's supported by the Linux kernel (for Debian GNU/Linux, Debian GNU/Hurd is a different story) then there's no reason for it not to work on Debian, just like any other distribution. Unless of course, that distribution includes proprietary drivers (which I don't believe is the case with Red Hat).

I haven't heard anything about lack of support on the Dell machines, especially since Dell gives you the option of having Red Hat pre-installed. I don't think they would have a separate configuration for Windows and Linux, but that's a possibility.

-Roberto

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Posted by Fred Yankowski on
I walked through the Dell configurator again to see if adding Red Hat would change anything else.  Near as I can tell, it comes out the same.  However, my order confirmation email does not list specific part numbers (why the hell not?) so I can't compare to what I ordered.

The base discount is $80 today, whereas I think it was $110 yesterday -- the miracle of dynamic pricing, at work.

One person who bought a similar server recently found that it ran very hot and needed more/better fans.  He said this applies to a dual-processor capable system, which (to my surprise) is the case for the Serverworks Grand Champion SL motherboard.

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Posted by Fred Yankowski on
I ordered a system with a single SCSI drive much as Don described.  I just got a call from some dude at Dell who says that I need to add a SCSI controller!  Since Dell's online configurator program let me select the SCSI drive, I thought the system had built-in SCSI support on the motherboard.  Seems not.  Dell wants $299 for a SCSI controller!  (WTF!)  If this is true, I think I'll go with IDE.  Or cancel the whole thing -- I'm not sure.
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Posted by Don Baccus on
What ?????  I was called by Dell and they said no such thing to me.

Also the base discount's down to $60 ...

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Posted by Don Baccus on
I just re-checked the order page and it allows you to add the SCSI adaptor FOR FREE, which is why I assumed the other option was an on-board SCSI chip ...

I'll switch to the IDE option, too, if the cost really goes up $299 ...

Friggin' Dell ...

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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
I haven't gotten a call from Dell so I called them and they didn't say anything about paying extra for a scsi controller. I just asked them to check the order to make sure everything was ok. The order page clearly does not charge extra for the controller. Perhaps they're having second thoughts about this sale???
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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
The base discount is now at $50.00. This base discount is rather fleeting wouldn't you say???
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Posted by Don Baccus on
They supposedly were processing my order yesterday but I haven't got an e-mail confirmation, it will be interesting to see what shows up on my doorstep next week!

I suspect someone screwed up that web order page ...

If you take the $389 and add $299 you get $688 (after rebate etc)

On their site you can order a 1600SC - bigger box, dual-processor motherboard - with a 2.4 GHz Xeon (SMP capable)  with onboard SCSI and the 36 GB 10K disk for $699 (after rebate etc) which would be a better deal than the "you have to buy a $299 SCSI card!" rip and a non-dual motherboard.

And that page only shows $199 for a separate SCSI card *and* makes clear that "embedded SCSI" is the no-cost option.

Something's screwed up at Dell ...

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Base discount is *gone*!
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Posted by Roberto Mello on
Dell called yesterday to make sure I wasn't reselling, and said everything was ok.

There's one thing I don't get though.. Dell just sent me an e-mail that has an order number, but no customer number, and the totals for my order are all zeroes. And as far as the web site goes, I don't have an order yet.

Is that part of their "zero inventory" thing?

-Roberto

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Posted by Don Baccus on
I just got my system information after calling up Dell to get my customer and order numbers:

PE600SC,2.4GHZ/512K,533 FSB,P4,W/FLOPPY
128MB DDR, SDRAM 1X128
NO KEYBOARD OPTION
NO MONITOR OPTION
36GB,U320,SCSI,1IN 10K,68P
NO OS - O = OTHER
MOUSE OPTION NONE
ON-BOARD NIC
48X CD-ROM,PE 500SC
ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTATION ON CD
C8,SCSI ADD-IN,NO RAID,533
NBD,SVR,WANG,INIT (SC VLOW) BSD
NO WARRANTY,YRS 2 AND 3,L1
ONSITE INSTL DECLINED(SVR)
TRACKING,D AND C

Note both the SCSI drive and the "C8, SCSI ADD-IN, NO RAID, 533"

Either that's a controller or code for a motherboard with built-in SCSI (probably the latter as the 533 refers to the FSB speed)

I'm in!  A $389 SCSI box!

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Roberto, that doesn't sound right. I ordered mine Saturday, and later the same day got two automated emails from Dell, first an "order acknowledgement" email price and spec info like what Don posted, then about 10 minutes later, an "order confirmation" email with my customer and order numbers, plus a repeat of all the info from the previous email.
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Posted by Randy Ferrer on
Confirmed!! I will also be receiving real soon a brand new SCSI Dell for $389 + Tax. I also got the same part - C8, SCSI ADD-IN, NO RAID, 533 - in my parts list. What a deal for a SCSI box!! I was told to expect like 3-4 weeks for delivery. Is this about what everyone else has been told that got this box?
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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
I went with the dual 1600.  No confirmation; mailed them 5hr ago.  Grr...
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Posted by Roberto Mello on
Andrew, well, probably by the time I placed the order a bunch of other people had too, so that might be slowing down the process.

Don, can you give me the number you used to talk to a human at dell?

-Roberto

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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
I called up just now and they said they're just running behind,  but everything looks normal.  The phone number I dialed is the one they emailed in the order acknowledgement -- 877-284-3355.
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Posted by Fred Yankowski on
After some discussion with Brian Bassham at Dell, he agreed to include a SCSI controller with my order. This shows up as a line item that I haven't seen mentioned in this topic. Here is my complete bill of materials:
[462-0205] PE600SC,2.4GHZ/512K,533 FSB,P4,W/FLOPPY
[311-2749] 128MB DDR, SDRAM 1X128
[310-3281] NO KEYBOARD OPTION
[320-0058] NO MONITOR OPTION
[340-7899] 36GB,U320,SCSI,1IN 10K,68P
[340-6054] 39160 ULTRA3 SCSI LVD CTRL,FACT
[420-4106] NO OS - O = OTHER
[310-0024] MOUSE OPTION NONE
[430-0488] ON-BOARD NIC
[313-2602] 48X CD-ROM,PE 500SC
[310-0438] ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTATION ON CD
[340-8436] C8,SCSI ADD-IN,NO RAID,533
[950-3040] NBD,SVR,WANG,INIT (SC VLOW) BSD
[900-9054] NO WARRANTY,YRS 2 AND 3,L1
[900-9997] ONSITE INSTL DECLINED(SVR)
I also had to take steps to ensure that I'm still entitled to the $100 mail-in rebate. We'll see...
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Posted by Don Baccus on
Fred, you just scored, it looks like you have both onboard SCSI *and* a PCI SCSI board for the same low price!  That's amazing!

Good job.  With a few more customers like us they'll be swimming in red ink the next quarter :)

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Regarding RAM errors check

this thread

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Posted by Gilbert Price on
WooHoo, according to Dell, my box went to Shipping Today. Ordered on March 9th. They say it will be 2 or 3 days before it goes out and I get a tracking number...

YEAH!

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Posted by Gilbert Price on
Heads Up!

My Dell box arrived today. Inserted the 2gb ram and I'll probably load Redhat 8.0 tomorrow, or I may wait till RedHat 9 at the end of the week. Have to work around a pretty busy schedule the next few weeks.

I ordered the ISA drive options. If you haven't gotten yours yet, be on the lookout.

Now to get that mail-in rebate sent off...

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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
damn you :)

I'm still waiting for Dell to un-botch my order.  Bleh.  I just have no luck with Dell...  couple years ago I ordered a Lattitude from them, but when it still hadn't shipped after 5 weeks I cancelled.

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Posted by Roberto Mello on
My Dell (which I'm taking to Brazil to be my mom's clinic's server) was shipped on the 21st with "Fedex 2Day Service" and I just checked it. It's in the truck in Logan, coming to be delivered. Yay!

-Roberto

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Incidentally, my Dell PowerWedge 600SC arrived early last week. I haven't ordered the RAM and disks I want to put in it yet, and I haven't had time to do a proper inventory of just what the heck hardware I've really got, but so far:

The case is small, but looks very slick. No fans blowing directly over the hard drive area (which is a nifty feature of the nice $70 Chen-Ming 601 case on one of my other machines), but there are two big honking fans in there blowing air in and out. The one in the back is nearly 5 inches across, the fan in the front is smaller but looks somewhat bigger than the usual 80 mm size, maybe 90 or 100 mm. I don't think cooling will be a problem.

Running memtest86 on the paltry 128 MB (but registered ECC!) RAM from Dell shows 49 errors within the first minute or two, most almost immediately, then no additional errors over several hours. The power supply is only rated 250 W max and has only a single fan, so maybe it's a low quality unit, and responsible for the problems. Or maybe the RAM's just bad. Won't know till I try the real RAM for the machine.

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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
wth, I get less errors than that (two dozen, maybe) on a [kingston] pc133 512MB non-ecc part on my old box.  and yes, I've had to recover from PG corruption.  memory errors suck.

going to bed now, I'll run memtest86 on my dell tomorrow :0

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Incidentally, my Dell PowerWedge 600SC arrived early last week. I haven't ordered the RAM and disks I want to put in it yet, and I haven't had time to do a proper inventory of just what the heck hardware I've really got, but so far:

The case is small, but looks very slick. No fans blowing directly over the hard drive area (which is a nifty feature of the nice $70 Chen-Ming 601 case on one of my other machines), but there are two big honking fans in there blowing air in and out. The one in the back is nearly 5 inches across, the fan in the front is smaller but looks somewhat bigger than the usual 80 mm size, maybe 90 or 100 mm. I don't think cooling will be a problem.

Running memtest86 on the paltry 128 MB (but registered ECC!) RAM from Dell shows 49 errors within the first minute or two, most almost immediately, then no additional errors over several hours. The power supply is only rated 250 W max and has only a single fan, so maybe it's a low quality unit, and responsible for the problems. Or maybe the RAM's just bad. Won't know till I try the real RAM for the machine.

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Oops, that'd be "PowerEdge" for the Dell model name, not "PowerWedge". Hopefully my typo won't turn out to be prescient of the machine's performance. :)
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61: OT: Forums error (response to 59)
Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Now isn't that interesting, a double post. Apparently one of the times I clicked "confirm" and got "server error", the post actually got through, it just took minutes to show up. By which time I'd posted the same message "again", since it clearly hadn't seemed to work before.
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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
well, hell...

memtest86 locks up HARD 2% of the way through test 4.  (After detecting errors in three locations.)  It's quite reproducible.

Should I bother waiting for my crucial ram to come, or return this server now? :-/

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Posted by Fred Yankowski on
I received my 600sc last week and I've been having too much fun getting it set up

My server, with the default 128MB RAM, runs memtest86 (tests 1 thru 7) without any errors at all, at least over the several passes that I've done so far.  I ran the tests after the machine had been up for several days straight.

What other tests are people running to smoke out any hardware problems?  I tried hdparm, but since I've got only a SCSI disk, there isn't much it can do.  I've built the linux kernel several times (just over 3 minutes -- sweet!) and have seen no glitches.

BTW, the "e1000" module code from Intel works fine with the onboard NIC.  I didn't manage to find any standard driver in the 2.4.18 kernel that would work.

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
I tried swapping out the Dell "Model: NPS-250FB B Rev: 00" 250 W power supply for an Achieve "Model: AX500.N Item: PW606" 500 W supply. No difference, same memory errors.

Unfortunately, I sort of suspect the Achive supply is a lower quality unit than the Dell (it feels slightly lighter, despite being rated for twice the wattage!), but I don't have a known-good high quality power supply free for testing.

But at any rate, this strongly suggests that the memtest86 errors on my new Dell box are due to either the memory or the motherboard, not the power supply unit.

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Posted by Kent Durand on
I got our system a few days ago and it looks like a real nice server.  What I found out though is the "C8, SCSI ADD-IN, NO RAID, 533" is just a cable.  I thought there would be an onboard SCSI and an extra SCSI card but apparently not.  I spent an hour with Dell trying to get this part and all they sent me was a cable.  Did anyone else get something different?  My system information is the same as Don's except that I also have the "Controller Card, SCSI, 39160" added.
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Posted by Bart Teeuwisse on
It came as a suprise to me as well that the PowerEdge 600SC doesn't come with an on board SCSI controller. The board is a plain IDE motherboard. I was fortunate enough to have ordered the SCSI controller with the (FREE!) secondary 73Gb SCSI drive.

I think that not only their customers were utterly confused but their own staff too. Or they would have never shipped such an expensive drive for free.

/Bart

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Note that Jonathan gave and returned his Dell. I am talking to Dell right now to see what they'll do about mine.
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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Dell is shipping me a new motherboard, which should arrive Monday. We'll see if that makes the memtest86 errors go away...
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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
The new motherboard from Dell arrived earlier than expected. I tried it, and... Exact same problem as before. Lots of errors in memtest 86 tests # 3 and 4, then it freezes up entirely at "Pass 15% Test 7%" on test 4.

I've emailed the guy who wrote/maintains memtest86, as I'm wondering if maybe the hardware is ok and memtest86 has some bug/interaction with it. Either way, it's awfully annoying, and argues against using PowerWedge servers. :(

Other than that, I guess it's possible that the cpu is bad, but that seems unlikely given the identical symptoms Jonathan reported, etc.

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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
interesting, you originally said
Running memtest86 on the paltry 128 MB (but registered ECC!) RAM from Dell shows 49 errors within the first minute or two, most almost immediately, then no additional errors over several hours.
I had no idea yours was freezing too. I probably wouldn't have been so quick to return it if I'd known someone else was in the same boat... That's 3 boards now, maybe it _is_ something on the memtest86 side.

Good luck, I'll be curious to see how it works out for you.

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Posted by Gilbert Price on
Andrew,

I have the same problem as you stated with memtest86 on my 600SC. I never tested the supplied memory that came with it as I had 2gb of ram waiting when it arrived.

The Crucial ram had similar problems running the check, but I said "what the hell" and loaded RedHat 8 anyway. Installation went without a hitch. I loaded 4.6.2 and had it installed with Postgresql and running the way I wanted in under 4 hours. Followed Joel's new instructions and left out the qmail part.

The machine for the past week has been stable and presents no problems. I'm thinking the error may be an incompatibility with memtest86 and Dell's hardware, but then again Dell could have been dumping hardware with known problems that had failed other tests, no one can know for sure, since we all seem to be seeing the same general errors.

Next week, after Easter I'll find another memtester and try again. But for now, I'm pleased with the 600SC, 2gb Ram, 4-40GB IDE HD's.

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Jonathan, yes, I believe I was originally mistaken and simply didn't notice that memtest86 was sitting there frozen doing nothing for several hours! But I looked again this time, and hm, the progress bar never moved, nothing. In hindsight I think it was doing the same thing before too.
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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Gilbert, what IDE controllers did you use for your 4 drives? And are you doing Linux software RAID? I believe the 3 IDE ports on the 600SC motherboard are only IDE 33. Is that good enough, or is it going to slow down my IDE 100, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache drives?

Here are some useful Dell PowerEdge 600SC related links I've collected: overclockers.com review, 2cpu.com review, Dell PowerEdge community forum Useful stuff like pointing out that the power supply connector is slightly non-standard (missing the 5 V line I think), the type of PCI cardsd the motherboard takes (newer "universal" 3 V only, no old 5 V cards), etc.

About the 600SC ethernet, on IRC Jade said: 'The eepro100 and e100 drivers didn't work. I had to download the e1000 drivers. eepro1000 might have worked, but they weren't in any of the kernels or install disks I had. It works now. If you're installing Debian on a 600SC though, you can go here (Intel) to get the driver.'

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Posted by Gilbert Price on
According to this link http://premiersupport.dell.com/docs/systems/pe600sc/multilang/docupd/4Y169A01.pdf , only the first 2 IDE chains support hardrives at 33, 66 or 100. So, I bought 3 more identical drives to the one that came with the box and put them on the fist and second IDE controller, leaving the CD-Rom on the 3rd one.

I'm not doing software raid, just too dense to figure it out quickly. The current installation I have is just temporary, I wanted to test for any software vs. hardware issues before I got down to a serious install. Later next week I'll redo the install (and set-up RAID) and keep a complete log of everything I do.

I didn't have any issues with ethernet drivers, in fact I installed a second 32bit 3-Com 3c509 card and both the internal and added card were detected by Redhat 8. Since I had a spare Redhat Network system allocation, I did an immediate RHN update and haven't had any problem with the 3rd IDE controller and the CD-Rom as reported by Dell.

Thanks for the link references, I'll look them up after the kids go to bed. But, overall I'm happy with the box. I'd look up the network driver for you, but I've got it at work and won't see it again until Monday. I'm leaving it there until I get it completely set up and ready for the 'net, then home and on the cable modem!

Oh, according the the docment I referenced about, it's the 3rd IDE controller that's only a 33, that's why Dell says it's for CD-Roms and such, not hard drives.

Good Luck...

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Ah yes, thank you Gilbert, you're right, the first two onboard IDE controllers on the 600SC do support ATA/100. So, now my question is, is attaching two high performance IDE disks to the same ATA/100 controller going to significantly degrade performance due to bus contention?

The conservative approach is to attach only one drive to each port no matter what, but I'm wondering if that's really unnecessary. I couldn't find any definitive answers by searching on Google. Anybody know for sure?

Unfortunately, I really don't have the time and inclination right now to actually set up my hardware both ways (shared vs. non-shared IDE bus) and collect some real benchmark data, so if that's the only way to get a definitive answer I probably won't, I'll just stick in a Promise Ultra100 TX2 two port PCI controller card.

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Posted by Roberto Mello on
I just recently tested my Dell. I experience the exact behavior as Jonathan and Andrew: memtest86 throws a bunch of errors then locks up.

I'm going to have faith in Dell and let it be for now. Weighing in that decision is that I just don't have time to return and buy a new computer for my mom (she'll be using it on her clinic).

Can someone confirm to me the type of RAM that I need to get for this machine? I don't know where my invoice is and need to purchase some more.

-Roberto

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
PC2100 Registered ECC. That's what Dell sent me, and what I bought more of. (I didn't check whether the motherboard is capable of using higher speed RAM or not, I just assumed Dell must have sent me the fastest RAM that would work.)

Their prices seemed to the lowest at the time, so I bought mine at newegg.com. I've ended up buying a large percentage of my computer stuff at New Egg, they're a good vendor. techbargains.com is a good place to compare RAM prices. Sometimes Crucial's prices are actually the best but usually not.

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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
For those we didn't buy one last year, seems the Dell 400SC machines are back on sale again as of today. The techbargains.com website makes it annoyingly difficult to link to any particle deal info paragraph, but type "Dell 400SC" into their search box and you should get additional useful information.
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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Oh, last year's offer was for the 600SC; Dell's prices on that model currently seem noticeably higher and aren't available with the 800 MHz FSB at all. The 400SC sounds a lot like basically the same machine in a smaller case, but that definitely isn't true, or at least it wasn't true last year. The info and pictures in that helpful Unofficial Dell PowerEdge 400SC FAQ page make it clear that the c. July 2003 400SC is quite different from my March 2003 600SC:

My 600SC motherboard appears to have 4 64-bit PCI slots and no AGP slot, while the 400SC had 4 32-bit PCI slots and an AGP slot. Besides the obvious case differences, the the fans and heatsinks are also clearly different: The 400SC is described as usually having only one 92mm 0.68A fan at the back, and a passive heatsink on the CPU. My 600SC has a ~120mm 1.50A fan at the back, ~80mm 0.90A fan in the front, and a smaller 0.25A blower on the CPU.

At any rate, the P4 2.4 GHz configuration is the cheapest CPU with an 800 rather than 533 or 400 MHz front-side bus; minimum price for that configuration (1 small IDE drive, only 128 MB of Dells' usually-overpriced ECC RAM, etc.) is ($498 - $100 rebate) = $398.

Going with the cheapest Celeron 2.0 GHz 400 MHz FSB still only brings the price down to ($399 - $100) = $299, so I don't know where that advertised $179 price is coming from. Perhaps I missed something in Dell's configurator, or prices have changed since yesterday when the techbargains.com info/ad actually went up.