Category Archives: AMD

System hard freezes with the AMD FX-8350

As an update to my post here, I observed seemingly random freezes on my system upgraded with the AMD FX-8350. The behaviour encountered was a total freeze of the desktop environment, no response to local keyboard nor mouse, no response to attempting to launch a virtual console, no reponse to pings over the network, and no ability to log in remotely. The only way to restore system operation was to perform a hard reset. Interestingly I could also consistently crash the system running a GraphicsMagick benchmark. Additionally, the freezes were OS-agnostic, occurring under both OpenIndiana and Ubuntu Linux.

Looking around online you can find several posts from folks on AMD Bulldozer rigs with very similar issues (such as detailed here), including a few from people who have rather alarmingly downgraded to a Phenom or Intel CPU as a “fix”, after having received advice to alternately update the motherboard BIOS, faff around with multiple BIOS settings, test and replace the RAM, power supply and hard disk, RMA-ing the new CPU (!?), and on and on and on. Most of this didn’t really add up, and similarly my problems were encountered on a system that was hitherto generally stable using an older-generation CPU (the Phenom II X6 in my case).

To cut a long story short, this quite simply turned out to be the motherboard not stably supporting the FX-8350. Although the ASRock 870iCafe 2.0 is an AM3+ compatible part and advertised as being “8 Core Ready” (to the point of specifically claiming compatibility with the FX-8350), the reality is that the latest BIOS release was in December of 2011 – a major red flag. After upgrading my motherboard to a Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD3 with the recent F9 BIOS, the system is now stable. And yes, this is using the original PSU, RAM, graphics card etc.

For the OpenIndiana readers, the GA-990FXA-UD3 works fine, although don’t expect USB3.0 support:

Gigabyte GA-990FX-UD3 driver support on OpenIndiana


AMD “Piledriver” FX-8350 on OpenIndiana

FX-8350 unboxed

I’ve recently acquired a brand-spanking-new AMD FX-8350 CPU as an upgrade to my Phenom II X6 box. All the recent benchmarks of this CPU seem to fairly consistently point to it being a multithreaded monster. Plus, AMD has dropped the price of the new FX CPUs compared to the original Bulldozer architecture parts – and the icing on the cake is that the upgrade path is as simple as performing a BIOS update on my budget ASRock motherboard, and swapping out the old CPU for the new. Bliss!

So, given that AMD’s Piledriver archtecture might be a bit of an unknown as far as compatibility with Illumos and OpenIndiana goes, how does it fare? Well, the system seems to boot fine and run: here is the CPU as detected by Peter Tribble’s Solview app:

FX-8350 detected by Solview

8 cores, running at 4.0GHz – good. Let’s throw half a dozen VMs its way and see what happens:

VirtualBox VMs and the FX-8350

CPU utilization as measured by Solview is in the foreground. I should mention that this is also with a couple of OpenIndiana Zones running: GlassFish serving up a wiki, and a local BIND resolver.

In the time since I’ve installed the CPU I’ve experienced a couple of system freezes, so I’ve disabled core power saving features in BIOS to see if that changes anything. Yes, this is a new CPU architecture on a development build of an OS, but all in all, it’s working fairly well. Assuming I can iron out any stability issues, the FX-8350 is easily an incredible bargain.

Update 1: After further investigating the system hanging issues, it’s not limited to OpenIndiana, and is also encountered with Ubuntu Linux installed. Further updates to happen as I get to the bottom of this 🙂

Update 2: See here.

OpenIndiana 151a is out – and powered by Illumos

In case you haven’t already heard, OpenIndiana development release 151a is out. The critical change in this release is that it’s now based on the Illumos kernel, developed by star ex-Sun Microsystems talent in the wake of Oracle’s compeltely styleless killing off of OpenSolaris. Substantial new features which you won’t be seeing in Solaris 11 anytime soon such as KVM support are built-in and tightly integrated. And yes, KVM support for AMD CPUs is on the way – hopefully in time for the 8-core AMD Bulldozer architecture desktop CPUs…

There are also a nice set of desktop software additions, some of which OpenIndiana and OpenSolaris before it has been needing for ages, for example a capable suite of multimedia playback applications. OpenIndiana now has dedicated SFE repositories from which VLC and Mplayer can be installed, as well as bonus goodies such as Scribus and more.

OpenIndiana download links, release notes, and SFE repository details:

After running 151a for a few days (the upgrade from release 148 was completely seamless by the way), I was presented with something I hadn’t seen for a long time, not since OpenSolaris development was closed off a couple years back…

OpenIndiana update manager

Intel makes Ars Technica staffer’s head hurt (and mine too)

Great article published recently by Ars Technica on the product differentiation methods used by Intel in the marketing and pricing of their CPUs:

Gotta agree with most of what Peter Bright has written about here. I also happen to be one of the poor saps that got caught out by Intel’s shitty marketing, having purchased an Intel quad core part that as it turned out was missing Intel VT-x. Ever since that discovery I’ve vowed to look for alternatives in future upgrades, and over the weekend I made good on this by upgrading the OpenIndiana oi_148 box to an AMD Phenom II X6. Six cores on the desktop, great for heavily threaded workloads, a no-unwelcome-surprises feature set and all for a terrific price.

AMD Phenom II X6

AMD Phenom II X6 - cores working in OpenIndiana