Building the Ultimate Linux Box

Focusing on maximum crunching power and PC hardware whendeveloping the Ultimate Linux Box (ULB).

See “Troubleshooting the Ultimate Linux Box” on the Linux Journal web site.


I find it impressive that, after having specified it on a cost-is-no-object basis, the total system cost is so low. I tried to gold-plate as much of the system as possible and load on all the extras and accessories I could, and I was still unable to raise the total parts bill over $7,000 US.

If we discarded the most extravagant peripherals—the Klipsch speakers, the Radeon, and the DVD and DDS drives—the cost would drop to a quite reasonable $4,200 US or so. As Rick pungently observes, “People pay more than that for crap computers every day.” This design will be available for purchase from Los Alamos Computers as the ULB-200108.

And how fast does it build kernels? After make clean, the Ultimate Linux Box builds the ULB's 2.4.8 Linux kernel from a cold standing start (make -j3 'MAKE=make -j3' dep; make -j3 MAKE=make -j3' bzImage) in 2 minutes and 21 seconds flat. Sweeeet.



Eric S. Raymond is a wandering anthropologist and troublemaking philosopher who happened to be in the right place at the right time and has been wondering whether he should regret it ever since.



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Re: Building the Ultimate Linux Box

Sime's picture

Hi Eric - Nice article ...

Shame about the mother board though... it is apparently JUNK! If you are thinking of parting with your hard earned cash in exchange for a Tyan Thunder K7 MB you would be well advised to read ALL of this!

The next couple of paragraphs will give an insite as to why and the link(s) that follows will reveal the whole sorry mess....


We have a bit of a problem here. Before reading any further, read this thread here, and this one here

In short, matters with the Tyan Thunder K7 are not as rosy as can be. In fact, it seems like they

Re: Building the Ultimate Linux Box

Anonymous's picture

Well, yes the mother board suggested seems to be barely worth it's weight in packaging bubbles...So I still want to build an ULB---> but I'm I'm really not on top of my hardware info...Any replacement motherboards to suggest?

Re: Building the Ultimate Linux Box

Anonymous's picture

I am puzzeled by your choice of components. First the CPU's and MB, AMD processors are better space heaters then CPU's, Xeon's run much cooler and use a 400MHZ FSB. Next the MB, why an integrated SCSI controller? I would use a MB with 64 bit PCI slots and 29160 or 39160 controller that could upgrade to a U320 controller when available. Next the hard drives, I would use Seagate Cheetah X15 drives, 3.6ms access time, U320 standard now, better throughput and above all faster warranty turn around. The MB would use a 860 chipset to avoid compatability issues like video timing. I dislike trouble shooting and resolving problems that should not occur. I realize that I may have angered some AMD bigots but I am a pragmatist and have fewer problems with Intel, so it is the path of least resistance. For those that wish to argue benchmark performance everthing come to a screeching halt when you need to resolve compatability problems, the score is 0 when your machine is down.

Re: Building the Ultimate Linux Box

Anonymous's picture

Thank you for a well written article. Being technically disabled there is a part I don't understand.

If there is a floppy-there is ide yes/no?

If yes is there not already the 10% hit ?

Quess I would have saved a few pennies taking non scsi cd-rw and dvd-rom and a possible hit here and using both scsi channels for the hard drives with the backup chained to one. Like I said technically disabled but favor daily improvement over hit for occasional cd write.