From: John Stone (
Date: Wed Aug 27 2003 - 00:26:11 CDT

Dear Fred,
  I believe that the problems with SMP machines and NVidia boards
have been fixed since I wrote that email. In the last year I can
say that the NVidia SMP problem we used to see seem to have gone away.
I tested the Wildcat 7100 series drivers back in April/May and at
the time they did not support SMP kernels at all. I.e. the driver
won't even load. This was a documented limitation with the Wildcat
drivers I tested at the time. I suspect this is still the case, but
to make sure, you should send an email to the 3DLabs folks. Also,
the Wildcat Linux drivers are picky about what motherboards they support,
I had to get a loaner machine to try out with the Linux drivers because
none of our machines had the right motherboard chipset to work with the
drivers I tested.

Regarding CPUs, I personally favor Athlon-based systems as they
perform better on the codes I tend to run. Your mileage will vary.
The Wildcat Linux drivers don't support Athlon yet, so if you have
an Athlon, your only option would be to go with NVidia or ATI.

Of the 3 major vendors with Linux drivers, NVidia's drivers are
the most mature and full-featured. ATI's are next maturity-wise,
and the 3DLabs drivers are the youngest and have the most work
ahead of them as far as stability and completeness goes.

In the long run the 3DLabs hardware is definitely the way to go,
as their cards perform faster than the others, at least with VMD,
I can't give them much of a recommendation yet since I only got to run
test drivers, and they don't support the Athlons I have in my office.
If you're interested in the 3DLabs cards, I'd definitely suggest to get a
"demo board" to try out with the Linux drivers before you commit to
them since they weren't quite ready for running VMD last I checked.

For what it might cost to purchase a Xeon based machine, you could
probably afford to buy a real Unix box from Sun or SGI, with a good
graphics board even, so I'd recommend against going with Xeons.

I'm biased as I personally would MUCH rather use a stable machine like
a Sun/SGI box than a PC for graphics work. So, unless you've got a good
reason to blow cash on a Xeon, I'd stick with more cost-effective
options or else just buy a real workstation.

I hope that's somewhat useful information for you.

  John Stone

On Tue, Aug 26, 2003 at 08:49:41PM -0400, Fred Salsbury wrote:
> Hello all --
> I've been using VMD for a few years, but I am new to this list.
> I am looking to acquire a workstation primarily to use with VMD and I was
> looking through the archives of the mailing list, and I came across the
> following remark by John Stone (in reply to someone mentioning wanting to
> run on a dual Xenon workstation:
> >>>>
> Several of the vendors have had problems with their OpenGL drivers
> on SMP machines, so any comments you have about the stability you get on
> such machines would be very interesting.
> >>>>
> Can someone comment on this? I was pondering either one of the new dual
> 3.06MHz (1MB L3 Cache) Xenon workstations or a P4 3.2GHz desktop, and with
> either a Nvidia QuadroFX 1000 graphics card or a 3Dlabs Wildcat4 7110
> graphics card. So I'm wondering if there have been noticeable stability
> problems, and is an AMD athlon workstation would be better then.
> thanks!
> Fred
> Dr. Fred Salsbury
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Physics
> Wake Forest University

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