Amberwolf's Music Studio Technical Stuff

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amberwolf
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Re: Amberwolf's Music Studio Technical Stuff

Post by amberwolf » Nov 27, 2017 10:08 pm

Local ES member wturber was about to recycle some old computer components, when he saw my post in the trike thread mentioning I was looking for something, so he brought the parts by last week, and over Thanksgiving and then the last couple days I've put a computer together that *finally* lets me work with my equipment and projects the way I used to before the fire destroyed the computer I used then (an old Intel Core2duo 3200, IIRC). :) :) :)

Pics later, I didn't take any while working on it, so I'll take some of the finished system when I'm not as wiped-out.

It's a dual-Xeon 2.8ghz; each fo the Xeons is a dual-core type. Motherboard is a Tyan S2668, has the option for SATA but no chip/etc installed, so had to use a PCI board for that (Adaptec S3112-based, IIRC). Video card is NVidia-something-or-other AGP. Uses a fan on it's heatsink, gonna fix that by swapping out to a larger heatsink that will let it work fanless. (noise is kinda problematic in a music studio computer).

CPUs came with REALLY LOUD fans on them that move a fair bit of air, but they're only a couple inches (if that) across, so they have to be high-RPM to do it. SInce it sounds like a small vacuum-cleaner even inside a case, they have to go. I tried running them at 5v instead of 12v, to slow them down by more than half, but it's not enough noise reduction, and then they don't move nearly enough air--CPU temperature went up to the 40C+ range just sitting idle.

So...I had an old dead (bad caps) PSU I'd been saving to either fix or use for parts, that years ago (win98 era) I'd replaced it's little internal fans with a 5"+ diameter AC-powered fan that only runs around 1500RPM, and is pretty quiet for what it is and does. I've had laptops that were louder. ;) Instead of screwing it down, I glued it in place with a thick bead of silicone (to dampen vibrations/noise; it was my music pc at the time). So rather than taking the fan off the PSU cover, I pulled the whole cover off, and simply inserted it's edges into the outer edge of each of the two Xeon CPU heatsinks, so the fan now blows directly down onto those.

Originally the fan wired into the AC socket on the PSU, so I ran a separate AC cord for it out of this new PC case (later maybe I'll wire it right into the new PSU--for now it's switched so I can turn it off for a few moments during critical microphone recordings--there's enough other air circulation in the case taht it won't overheat the CPUs in that amount of time). If I run across it, I have a 30V transformer-based wallwart for some old printer, that I can take the transformer out of, and put a switch in there that disconnects the AC from the fan, then connects the transformer between the AC and the fan, so it still runs but at about 1/4 to 1/3 of the original speed.



I did still ahve to deal with doing the f6 driver install during the repair-reinstall of XP, since the chipset of this motherboard is different (of course) from the system this copy of XP was on before. Also, I had to use the SATA HDD and PCI card to do it on, because right now none of my other desktop systems are working right, and nothing on any of my utility cd's or thumbdrives I could to boot to on this one could be used to clone the SATA HDD to a PATA HDD. I ahd a problem with floppy disks and drives that wasted some hours until I got a combination that worked to read the driver, so the whole process from plugging board/PSU/drives/cards together to getting a basic bootable system with my studio-xp setup on it took over 10 hours. :/

However, of course it had to be re-activated before I could even log in to install drivers/etc. Since there were no network drivers yet, I couldn't re-activate. I've gone thru phone-activation before, and the hassle is tremendous despite me having my very own complete retail copy of XP in original folder with key and all, that I really do use on only one computer at a time (I have other complete ones to use on other machines as needed). So I used one of the various "bypass" routines posted around the web to get into Windows long enough to install all the drivers. Then I tried to do the activation over the internet, and it says it cant' reach the activation servers. :roll: So I'll probably have to deal with this again at Christmas (since the bypass usually works only 30 days, and only 4 times total).

I loaded up a CPU-heavy project that barely ran on my original system from before the fire, and it didn't even put a load on this one--maybe a few percent according to the in-program meter, and a few more according to XP's monitor. I copy/pasted all teh tracks and effects to 8x the CPU/memory loading, and it began to get a bit boggy, showing up to 140% cpu usage within the program (which I've never ever seen before--typically anything over 70-80% will simply stop the transport playback), and something close to 80% usage in XP's monitor. Even then, even with the lower airflow on the CPUs, they didn't get past the low 50's C.


That's basically as far as I got the first day, so yesterday I dug out a case to put it in, and the old system from Bigmoose that I'd had the GL8*24 card and other stuff in, and assembled it all, and amazingly it all still worked.


Basic temperature is up a few degrees to around 40C inside the case, as opposed to out in open air, but it still doesn't get past the mid-50's under loads that begin to cause garbled sound and near-locked-up-unresponsive-GUI.

Rest of the system appears to be working ok, and projects load up well, both old and new. Iv'e added a few new synths and effects in the past couple years so I had to install those, but other than that it's had no problems with the music-studio stuff.

I spent the last half of yesterday playing music with it, though nothing worth posting up--just noodling around having fun with it. :)







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For those still reading, a bit of history, condensed from four years of frustration:

I've had a few computers working with some of the equipment, like the AMD Athlon desktop Bigmoose sent me right after the fire, various systems local friends gave me (mostly pieces to build from) and the little HP P4-something (I think) Grin Tech sent me (that used to be one of their office systems) after I moved back into the house, and after that died the Win10 laptop that Greenmachine sent me, but none of them could use everything for one reason or another, and all were pretty restrictive in the projects I could run / create, either because the systems were too slow or had too little RAM in the case of the various desktops, or because the software (or hardware/drivers) was not compatible (mostly with the Win10 laptop).

Between some stuff my friend Bill gave me shortly before he moved back to Texas, and some stuff eTrike sent me a while back, and things I already had, I built a pretty good system that would've been comparable to what I had before the fire. But I could not get it working with my stuff, because it did not have a built-in FDD controller, and to install XP on it I had to use the "F6 driver install" during setup (or repair reinstall), or else it'd just BSOD whenever it actually started to boot into XP post-setup. I tried slipstreaming drivers into a setup CD, but that didnt' work either. I also tried the various workarounds for no FDD on a system to do the F6 driver install, no joy. In each of these cases, it'd appear to work, but it didn't actually do it, or else it'd have some other problem. It could have hardware issues, but it passes all the dozens of tests I can throw at it, and swapping parts out to troubleshoot takes too long because I have to start over from the beginning every time. I eventually was so frustrated with it that it sat long enough to accumulate a layer of dust thick enough to not see many of the labels/etc thru. :/

Similar problems happened with various other systems with no SATA controller on them, and nothing that worked had the same chipset as my old computer, so a repair-reinstall was always necessary. Installing fresh XP and then reinstalling everything for the music studio from scratch was a no-go, simply way too complicated and long a process. I tried it a couple of times and the first one, after several months of trying, I gave up on, because I'd had to start over from scratch several times, due to not having hte right order of installation to make everything see everything else, plus not having installation media anymore for a bunch of things (lost in the fire, companies no longer exist, etc), and having to copy files and registry entries/etc over from a "working" installation. The second one I gave up on sooner.

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