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Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:05 am

After a lot of thinking - probably too much, really - I've come to the conclusion that our house needs a server. We have enough data that keeping it in a centralized, stable location with quality hardware and a regular backup schedule is a sensible thing to do. And I might even be able to farm out some scientific processing duties to it. To that end, I've got two options that are appealing to me.

The first is to repurpose a Core i5 750 + EVGA P55 LE motherboard a friend of mine gave me after building his first new computer in a decade. I think it'd be adequate - 12 gigs of DDR3-1600, four reasonably competent cores, rock solid stability, and a little playing with overclocking reveals that it can push to 3.60 GHz without touching core voltage. However it's not the most exciting option: no USB 3.0, a motherboard with legacy BIOS that could have problems with newer GPUs, no AVX support, and various other issues associated with a decade-old platform. The advantage is that it's free and ready to go now.

However, there have been a number of YouTube videos and discussions in the past year about the recent manufacture of new Chinese LGA 2011 motherboards to support the flood of retired Xeon CPUs hitting the secondhand market. I won't lie, dropping $110 combined for a competent new UEFI motherboard with recent trimmings and an eight core CPU with AVX(1) support is pretty tempting. I scared up about that much cash selling off old hardware lately, so the meaningful hit to my pocketbook would be nil. The DDR3 I have on hand could be reused until I splurge $40 or so for 32 gigs of ECC DDR3. And I could mothball the Core i5 and bring it out for some future, dedicated legacy project.

What I don't know is how reliable something like this would really be. The buzz on the sources I've checked is that they're quirky but solid enough if you don't care about overclocking - which I generally don't - and accept them within their limitations. What do you think? Has anyone here had experience with them?
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:20 am

It's fine if you don't mind your data being surreptitiously siphoned off to some Chinese data warehouse...
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:22 am

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
It's fine if you don't mind your data being surreptitiously siphoned off to some Chinese data warehouse...


Do you have a source for that conjecture?
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:25 am

I'd be more concerned about long-term stability and reliability. At least it looks like they've used all solid capacitors, which should help in that regard.
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:30 am

Concupiscence wrote:
Igor_Kavinski wrote:
It's fine if you don't mind your data being surreptitiously siphoned off to some Chinese data warehouse...
Do you have a source for that conjecture?

Especially since the Supermicro mobo hack story has NEVER been confirmed.
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:33 am

just brew it! wrote:
I'd be more concerned about long-term stability and reliability. At least it looks like they've used all solid capacitors, which should help in that regard.


The VRM cooling implementation and cooling are reportedly pretty decent. And I'm not going with the bottom-feeders of this market, because who on Earth runs quad-channel capable parts with dual-channel memory?

edit: If I end up getting three to five years out of it before it unceremoniously croaks, that'd be pretty swell bang for the buck.
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:47 am

Concupiscence wrote:
Igor_Kavinski wrote:
It's fine if you don't mind your data being surreptitiously siphoned off to some Chinese data warehouse...


Do you have a source for that conjecture?


You have seen "The Hangover" trilogy, yeah? Don't trust little Chinese men with little, uh, you know...

UNLESS you can verify that nothing other than soft, smooth female Chinese hands were involved in the manufacture of this mobo. But wait, even then they might have taken orders from the little Chinese men!

Seriously though, don't try saving money if your personal private data is at stake, data which you really wouldn't want getting into anyone's hands.
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:56 am

Concupiscence wrote:
The first is to repurpose a Core i5 750 + EVGA P55 LE motherboard a friend of mine gave me after building his first new computer in a decade. I think it'd be adequate - 12 gigs of DDR3-1600, four reasonably competent cores, rock solid stability, and a little playing with overclocking reveals that it can push to 3.60 GHz without touching core voltage. However it's not the most exciting option: no USB 3.0, a motherboard with legacy BIOS that could have problems with newer GPUs, no AVX support, and various other issues associated with a decade-old platform. The advantage is that it's free and ready to go now.


Don't overclock it, please. It will degrade over time and start causing bit errors which will affect the integrity of your data. Happened to me when I ran a Sempron 2GHz at 3GHz for several months. Even the USB ports stopped working normally. You can install a USB 3.0 PCIe card in the P55 LE mobo. As for latest GPUs, maybe borrow one or if you already have one, try running it in the mobo to see how it fares.
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:58 am

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
Concupiscence wrote:
The first is to repurpose a Core i5 750 + EVGA P55 LE motherboard a friend of mine gave me after building his first new computer in a decade. I think it'd be adequate - 12 gigs of DDR3-1600, four reasonably competent cores, rock solid stability, and a little playing with overclocking reveals that it can push to 3.60 GHz without touching core voltage. However it's not the most exciting option: no USB 3.0, a motherboard with legacy BIOS that could have problems with newer GPUs, no AVX support, and various other issues associated with a decade-old platform. The advantage is that it's free and ready to go now.


Don't overclock it, please. It will degrade over time and start causing bit errors which will affect the integrity of your data. Happened to me when I ran a Sempron 2GHz at 3GHz for several months. Even the USB ports stopped working normally. You can install a USB 3.0 PCIe card in the P55 LE mobo. As for latest GPUs, maybe borrow one or if you already have one, try running it in the mobo to see how it fares.


It was an exercise in morbid curiosity. I ran it that way for a couple of days, but generally make it a rule not to push hardware past stock. The current eBay special FirePro V8800 does everything that box needs to and more for the time being.
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
Science: Ryzen 7 1700, 16 gigs RAM, RX Vega 56, Xubuntu 18.04
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:59 am

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
Concupiscence wrote:
Igor_Kavinski wrote:
It's fine if you don't mind your data being surreptitiously siphoned off to some Chinese data warehouse...


Do you have a source for that conjecture?


You have seen "The Hangover" trilogy, yeah? Don't trust little Chinese men with little, uh, you know...

UNLESS you can verify that nothing other than soft, smooth female Chinese hands were involved in the manufacture of this mobo. But wait, even then they might have taken orders from the little Chinese men!

Seriously though, don't try saving money if your personal private data is at stake, data which you really wouldn't want getting into anyone's hands.


I'm really thinking you're on to something here. Given a moderately bigger budget, what would you recommend instead? Something more like this?
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
Science: Ryzen 7 1700, 16 gigs RAM, RX Vega 56, Xubuntu 18.04
Server: Xeon E5-4640, 32 gigs ECC RAM, FirePro V8800, Win10 Pro

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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:07 am

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
Concupiscence wrote:
Igor_Kavinski wrote:
It's fine if you don't mind your data being surreptitiously siphoned off to some Chinese data warehouse...

Do you have a source for that conjecture?

You have seen "The Hangover" trilogy, yeah? Don't trust little Chinese men with little, uh, you know...

UNLESS you can verify that nothing other than soft, smooth female Chinese hands were involved in the manufacture of this mobo. But wait, even then they might have taken orders from the little Chinese men!

Seriously though, don't try saving money if your personal private data is at stake, data which you really wouldn't want getting into anyone's hands.

Malware installed over the internet is a much bigger threat than any hypothetical pre-installed back door. Especially given that this thing is being marketed as a cheap gaming solution, I don't see how the effort, expense, and risk of compromising the design to incorporate a back door would be worth the expected returns.

As noted previously, overall stability/reliability are the main concerns here.

TBH my reaction when anyone tries to build something like this is "What, no ECC RAM?", but I realize that in this case he's trying to keep costs to a minimum.
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:09 am

just brew it! wrote:
Igor_Kavinski wrote:
Concupiscence wrote:
Do you have a source for that conjecture?

You have seen "The Hangover" trilogy, yeah? Don't trust little Chinese men with little, uh, you know...

UNLESS you can verify that nothing other than soft, smooth female Chinese hands were involved in the manufacture of this mobo. But wait, even then they might have taken orders from the little Chinese men!

Seriously though, don't try saving money if your personal private data is at stake, data which you really wouldn't want getting into anyone's hands.

Malware installed over the internet is a much bigger threat than any hypothetical pre-installed back door. Especially given that this thing is being marketed as a cheap gaming solution, I don't see how the effort, expense, and risk of compromising the design to incorporate a back door would be worth the expected returns.

As noted previously, overall stability/reliability are the main concerns here.

TBH my reaction when anyone tries to build something like this is "What, no ECC RAM?", but I realize that in this case he's trying to keep costs to a minimum.


32GB of ECC DDR3 would set me back like $40. I'm planning to make that investment, it might just be a couple of weeks after getting it initially setup. Considering that I could get a setup like this, I'm considering selling the i5 setup and what little spare hardware I have left and just snagging something like this as a solid foundation.
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
Science: Ryzen 7 1700, 16 gigs RAM, RX Vega 56, Xubuntu 18.04
Server: Xeon E5-4640, 32 gigs ECC RAM, FirePro V8800, Win10 Pro

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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:15 am

Concupiscence wrote:
I'm really thinking you're on to something here. Given a moderately bigger budget, what would you recommend instead? Something more like this?


How about this? https://www.ebay.com/itm/HP-Proliant-BL ... Swt5Va~BiA

The 16GB RAM should be ECC since it's in a server. You can confirm with the seller.
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:18 am

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
Concupiscence wrote:
I'm really thinking you're on to something here. Given a moderately bigger budget, what would you recommend instead? Something more like this?


How about this? https://www.ebay.com/itm/HP-Proliant-BL ... Swt5Va~BiA

The 16GB RAM should be ECC since it's in a server. You can confirm with the seller.


It can't accommodate a GPU, and I'm planning to keep this in the corner under my desk. A tower's preferable for my needs, but I appreciate the pointer.
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
Science: Ryzen 7 1700, 16 gigs RAM, RX Vega 56, Xubuntu 18.04
Server: Xeon E5-4640, 32 gigs ECC RAM, FirePro V8800, Win10 Pro

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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:35 am

Concupiscence wrote:
32GB of ECC DDR3 would set me back like $40. I'm planning to make that investment, it might just be a couple of weeks after getting it initially setup. Considering that I could get a setup like this, I'm considering selling the i5 setup and what little spare hardware I have left and just snagging something like this as a solid foundation.


Looks good. I like HP products in general.
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:16 am

Captain Ned wrote:
Concupiscence wrote:
Igor_Kavinski wrote:
It's fine if you don't mind your data being surreptitiously siphoned off to some Chinese data warehouse...
Do you have a source for that conjecture?

Especially since the Supermicro mobo hack story has NEVER been confirmed.


https://arstechnica.com/information-tec ... le-as-200/

It might cost a fraction of that in China, especially when done on a large scale.
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Sun Oct 13, 2019 11:33 am

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:
Concupiscence wrote:
Do you have a source for that conjecture?

Especially since the Supermicro mobo hack story has NEVER been confirmed.

https://arstechnica.com/information-tec ... le-as-200/

It might cost a fraction of that in China, especially when done on a large scale.

Sure. But nobody was ever able to provide any real evidence that the alleged Supermicro compromise ever occurred, and the researcher who supposedly found it claimed he was mis-quoted. Enterprise users also have network monitoring tools in place to detect unexpected traffic; someone would've stepped forward to corroborate the claims if a real breach had occurred.

IMO it's more likely that it was some sort of scam initiated by (if not carried out) by people who had a motive to tank Supermicro's stock price. Essentially a reverse "pump and dump".

That said, it's certainly feasible (as the above article notes) that a malicious manufacturer could plant something like this; and if you're responsible for a network that handles highly sensitive data (I'm talking national security level sensitive), it's certainly something worth worrying about. As a typical end user? Not so much. Worry about run-of-the-mill malware/ransomware, using strong (and unique) passwords for each site you log into, and phishing attempts - as an individual user, that's where the real threats are.

Oh, and guess what? Even if your motherboard isn't some off-brand Chinese budget board, in all likelihood it was still manufactured in China. You'd probably need to go back 20+ years to have decent odds of finding something that wasn't.
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:29 pm

So... My morbid curiosity got the better of me. I ordered the motherboard I linked last week for $72 and it's en route now from China, so it should arrive some time between a week and a half from now and just in time for Christmas. I also ordered a Xeon E5-4640 - Sandy Bridge EP with eight cores, 2.4 GHz with 2.8 GHz max turbo, 95W TDP - because I'm not dumb enough to expect a power-hungry CPU to work well with a motherboard of questionable caliber for the long haul. And just yesterday, GamersNexus uploaded... this.

What's coming in the mail is gonna be even weirder and less predictable than I imagined. I'll do a full build log with pictures on my blog, and post it here when that's done. The executive summary is that this will probably be the weirdest computer I've ever built. Stay tuned.
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
Science: Ryzen 7 1700, 16 gigs RAM, RX Vega 56, Xubuntu 18.04
Server: Xeon E5-4640, 32 gigs ECC RAM, FirePro V8800, Win10 Pro

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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:38 pm

just brew it! wrote:
That said, it's certainly feasible (as the above article notes) that a malicious manufacturer could plant something like this; and if you're responsible for a network that handles highly sensitive data (I'm talking national security level sensitive), it's certainly something worth worrying about.

Not really, unless you/your security folks are completely inept. Nothing truly important is on a non-airgapped network. Management connections are completely out of band on all networks. Unless they manage to bug a board well enough to intercept/inject packets on networks not on the BMC interfaces (and in general you shouldn't use onboard ports that the BMC has potential access to for any other data) I can't see it really being much of a concern. That last hurdle would be pretty difficult too, given the way PCIe connections are routed. Snooping *could* be done, but unless you have an egress route, there's no real gain there. Injection of packets onto the PCIe bus would be even harder unless you'd also compromised the target device...and even that would be noisy to the CPU/OS.

Anyway - if you're careful, no huge worries. If you're a home user, though, be wary. Surely you're not a target, but that doesn't mean you aren't vulnerable to hijinks if they exist. Botnets are bad!
Desktop: X570 Gaming X | 3900X | 32 GB | Alphacool Eisblock Radeon VII | Heatkiller R3 | Samsung 4K 40" | 1 TB SX8200 Pro + 2 TB 660p + 2 TB SATA SSD
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:30 am

Waco wrote:
If you're a home user, though, be wary. Surely you're not a target, but that doesn't mean you aren't vulnerable to hijinks if they exist. Botnets are bad!


Can you recommend an easy to use personal firewall or network activity monitor for managing network requests going out over the internet? What do you personally use?
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:29 am

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
Waco wrote:
If you're a home user, though, be wary. Surely you're not a target, but that doesn't mean you aren't vulnerable to hijinks if they exist. Botnets are bad!


Can you recommend an easy to use personal firewall or network activity monitor for managing network requests going out over the internet? What do you personally use?

I'm not a networking guru for that kind of stuff - mostly just ensure you have a firewall running, stealthed ports, UPnP running only to machines that actually need it, and spot-check your upstream bandwidth from hosts on your network to ensure they aren't going crazy.

I'm sure there are many more qualified than I for home networking protection, all of my "real" experience is on the enterprise side of the world.
Desktop: X570 Gaming X | 3900X | 32 GB | Alphacool Eisblock Radeon VII | Heatkiller R3 | Samsung 4K 40" | 1 TB SX8200 Pro + 2 TB 660p + 2 TB SATA SSD
NAS: 1950X | Designare EX | 32 GB ECC | 7x8 TB RAIDZ2 | 8x2 TB RAID10 | FreeNAS | ZFS | LSI SAS
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Thu Nov 07, 2019 2:25 pm

I'm going to put a bigger update here soon, but the executive summary is that the system is up and running, and has given me no problems. A couple of benchmarks are below, with other systems I've got for reference.

Handbrake v1.2.2, 1080p30 Fast preset, x264, source media Terminator 2: Extended Cut MKV
Core i7 7700 (office PC): 34.4 fps
Xeon E5-4640: 35.8 fps
Ryzen 1700: 59.1 fps (currently hobbled by DDR4-2400 RAM)
Core i9 7940x: 78.0 fps

Cinebench R20
Core i7 7700: 2074
Xeon E5-4640: 1849
Ryzen 1700: 3190
Core i9 7940x: 6907
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
Science: Ryzen 7 1700, 16 gigs RAM, RX Vega 56, Xubuntu 18.04
Server: Xeon E5-4640, 32 gigs ECC RAM, FirePro V8800, Win10 Pro

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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:42 am

Pics would be nice.
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:45 am

Oh, there's gonna be an entire blog entry with pics. But I only built the thing a few days before hopping onto a plane to Napa, and just got back earlier this week. Watch the thread, I'll have something up by the time the weekend's over.
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
Science: Ryzen 7 1700, 16 gigs RAM, RX Vega 56, Xubuntu 18.04
Server: Xeon E5-4640, 32 gigs ECC RAM, FirePro V8800, Win10 Pro

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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:54 am

What did you have to do different in building a server compared to building a regular desktop? What software/utilities did you run to confirm everything was OK?
 
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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Fri Nov 08, 2019 12:51 pm

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
What did you have to do different in building a server compared to building a regular desktop? What software/utilities did you run to confirm everything was OK?


There weren't that many concerns different from a desktop build in broad terms - it's a server CPU in a desktop-ish board, living in a Chenbro midtower case. It reminded me a little of my LGA2066 build from late last year. My initial concerns about CPU compatibility with this Frankenboard were unwarranted: I grabbed a Xeon E5-4640 (certified for use in quad socket scenarios - Sandy Bridge EP with 8 cores, base clock 2.4 GHz, single core turbo 2.8 GHz), popped it into the socket, and after everything was assembled it obediently fired right up. What benchmarks I've seen indicate it's at least as fast as the E5-2650 many people grab to throw into one of these.

The biggest potential stumbling block for me was LGA2011's heatsink mounting, which rules out some readily available heatsinks. Luckily I had a be quiet! Dark Rock 4 with accessories in my closet, left over from when I took Intel's nominal 165W TDP for the 7940x at face value. While the Dark Rock 4 throttled that behemoth under sustained load, it has been a quiet, effective solution for a relatively piddly 95W Xeon.

There are some other quirks to the board which I'll point out once I've got images for reference. I did keep certain things in mind for this build to stay on the conservative side. The Frankenboard allegedly has a VRM implementation that's about on par with a cheap B450 'board, which means a high wattage CPU would be unwise. I don't overclock, which is good - Sandy Bridge-era 6 core chip power consumption shoots into the stratosphere if you push them hard, and rumor has it this board has a ~200 watt effective limit. The E5-4640 felt like a safe choice, though I'd say it's optimistically about 60% as fast as my Ryzen 1700. Even factoring in the difference in clock speeds there's a LOT more gap between Sandy Bridge and Ryzen v1 in IPC than I'd expected, though for transcoding a few 1080p videos and serving files for my the house the Xeon's still qualified.

The box is currently running 12 gigs of DDR3-1600 left over from a previous machine. I've confirmed it's running quad-channel and ran memtest86+ for 24 hours, then ran a CPU-Z burn-in for 24 hours. I'll replace that with 4x8GB sticks of ECC memory from eBay for the princely sum of $40 or so in the near future, and will repeat the memtest86+ test. I'll also be investing in an NVMe drive for the OS, and determining whether I want to stick with Windows 10 Pro (for which I'm overflowing with product keys) or dig up my ancient Dreamspark-procured license for Windows Server 2012 R2.

I'd write more, but I've gotta save some for the blog post, right?
Last edited by Concupiscence on Mon Nov 11, 2019 9:41 am, edited 2 times in total.
Media: Core i9 7940x, 32 gigs RAM, GTX Titan Xm, Win10 Pro
Science: Ryzen 7 1700, 16 gigs RAM, RX Vega 56, Xubuntu 18.04
Server: Xeon E5-4640, 32 gigs ECC RAM, FirePro V8800, Win10 Pro

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Re: Taking a Chance on a Chinese x79 motherboard?

Fri Nov 08, 2019 1:40 pm

Windows Server is a better idea. That way you can be assured it won't just refuse to boot due to some update shenanigan on Microsoft's part.

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