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Subject: Re: WMCCC Hardware

Author: Bruce Moreland

Date: 09:50:59 10/04/97

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On October 04, 1997 at 11:10:11, Chris Whittington wrote:

>
>On October 03, 1997 at 14:06:34, Bruce Moreland wrote:

>>The reason people question the legality or fairness of an Alpha is
>>simply that it is not an Intel chip.
>
>No way.
>
>People question the fairness because the bloody thing runs at 50,000
>GigaHertz and the only way to get one is to be a student at a university
>computer science department. Now it seems they can be got by anybody
>crazy enough to spend the money. The end-users and opinion makers want
>the WMCCC to be a reasonably fair tournament, so they can believe that
>the winner is the best; but with so many categories of machine available
>this is no longer possible. And we'll all be talking about the winning
>PROGRAM, that's how we consider it; only now we'll have to speak it out
>loud every time: the winning program and hardware combination. Its a
>drag. The nieve won't understand. And so on and so on.

If you call DEC and try to order a machine, forget it.  They charge an
infinite amount of money.

But, there is another way.

http://www.enorex.com
http://www.polywell.com

Both of these companies will sell you an Alpha system at a reasonable
price.  They sell you a system that has a motherboard made by DEC, but
the rest of the components are PC components.  This saves you a huge
amount of money, but you still go fast.

I have done business with both of these companies.

Back in July or so I noticed that a Crafty account called "Data" was
doing an incredibly high node rate.  I asked the guy what he was using,
and he directed me to Enorex.  I called them on the phone and ordered a
machine.  I bought a machine with a CD-ROM, network card, nice graphics
card, sound card, 128 mb RAM, 2.4 gigabytes of IDE drive, a network
card, and a 500mhz 21164 chip, for something like $5000, maybe less, I
can't remember.

I got this machine and spent a couple of days messing with it.  There
was one big problem, which is that whenever I would boot my program it
would go at some random speed, anywhere between half-speed and
full-speed.  I could not get this problem to go away.  At about the same
time, Enorex released their 533mhz system, so I sent this machine back
and ordered the new one.  I figured this might solve my speed
instability problems since it has twice as much cache.

A few days after I'd sent my machine back, Enorex called me and told me
that their new machine wasn't passing FCC emissions regulations, there
would be an indeterminate delay, could I please wait.  I cancelled the
order and called Polywell.

Polywell sent me a 533mhz Alpha.  This machine has a 9gb SCSI drive
(almost a thousand bucks extra), but other than that it is similar to
the Enorex system.  It cost about $6000.  I am happy with it, the speed
instability seems to have mostly disappeared (I still get a bad boot
sometimes, but is rare).

I priced a 300 mhz PII from Gateway (which I don't think was available
at the time I ordered this machine).  I set it up to have approximately
the same stuff and it came out to $4200.  Polywell didn't charge me
sales tax.  Gateway would, I know that for a fact.  So add 8% and a
hundred bucks shipping and we are at $4600.

So I paid a premium of $1400.  I'm not quite sure what I got for my
$1400, I've never run on a PII/300, but I bet it is getting fairly close
in speed.  Notice in passing that nobody has complained about Fritz.

The machine I got has the same compiler that my P6/200 has, runs the
same operating system, and will run all of the tools I use, with a
little bit of degraded performance since it uses an emulator, except for
my text editor, which won't run at all, since it is an old text editor
that uses the OS/2 subsystem.

It is close enough to being a PC that it is a PC.  I wouldn't have
bought something that was abnormal.

bruce



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