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Author Topic: Laptop/Desktop expansion mining w/ desktop cards with an external PCIe enclosure  (Read 8894 times)
mmortal03
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May 17, 2011, 03:33:15 AM
 #1

Here's an idea to bounce around.  DynapowerUSA makes these TurboBox external PCIe enclosures, and one of their models, the NA211A, has a self-contained 220W power supply and a double-sized slot space for potentially a graphics card. These enclosures have the option of interfacing with a laptop over ExpressCard34 (!), or a desktop with a provided expansion card. At that wattage, might you theoretically drop a 6970 into this, or maybe a 6950 if you wanted to be safe? I really wonder if one of these would work to just plug into a laptop and mine with, or expand a desktop that is already at capacity or doesn't have a powerful enough power supply to add any more cards.

Here's the product page: http://www.dynapowerusa.com/dyna/ASP/CP_i_NA211A.asp

The problem seems to be their price point, though: http://www.mypccase.com/pcexbox.html

If these were a few hundred bucks cheaper they'd arguably be worth it, for the convenience of being able to use it with an older system you already own, and for the fact that it's self-contained. It might even save you power costs long term versus a full-blown rig if you could run it connected to a more power-conserving laptop over ExpressCard.


For more powerful options, they also make these (but they are prohibitively expensive, as per the same price listing above):
http://www.dynapowerusa.com/dyna/ASP/CP_i_NA250A.asp
Quote
NA250A-GPU

Desktop PCI-Express Expansion Enclosure, 1000W Single Power Supply with extra 8* PCIe connectors (6+2 pin) for up to 4 double width GPU cards


NA250A-PRO

Desktop PCI-Express Expansion Enclosure, 400W Single Power Supply for PCI-Express Add-on cards w/o requirement for extra power connector


On a similar note, it also looks like it might be possible to build yourself one of these from parts for much cheaper than any of the above by purchasing from the following people (they have the peripheral cards, the host cards, and enclosures, and you would need to add a power supply and I guess some sort of fan):

http://www.arstech.com/item-XPRS-PCI-Express-x16-peripheral-card-xprs_px_x16.html
http://www.arstech.com/item-XPRS-Host-card-ExpressCard-Notebook-xprs_host_ec.html
http://www.arstech.com/item-Enclosure-for-3-ISA-PCI-cards-isax3b1.html
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Rage
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May 17, 2011, 03:53:25 AM
 #2

Oooh this is kind of juicy. I wish they were a little cheaper though.
bulanula
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May 17, 2011, 04:34:40 PM
 #3

Very interesting project. Waiting for somebody clever enough to work this all out and tell us how it is done exactly.

Most laptops take about 90W-120W for the whole system.

Say the card takes 200W + 120W = 320W for a system mining with one 5870 or 6950 etc.

I'd like to see you doing that with a normal desktop !
foggyb
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May 17, 2011, 06:09:51 PM
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Very interesting project. Waiting for somebody clever enough to work this all out and tell us how it is done exactly.

Most laptops take about 90W-120W for the whole system.

Say the card takes 200W + 120W = 320W for a system mining with one 5870 or 6950 etc.

I'd like to see you doing that with a normal desktop !

Easy. Athlon II 160U socket AM3 processor draws 20 watts at load. I have seen systems that draw 75 watts total (minus PCI-e cards) that were NOT using the 160U.
mmortal03
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May 17, 2011, 06:14:17 PM
 #5

Researching into products like this a little more, MSI demoed a product last year called the GUS (Graphic Upgrade Solution), that would house lower powered ATI graphics cards, but from what I've read, it's been shelved.  

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Graphics-Upgrade-Solution-ATI-External,10527.html

ATI looks to be coming out with their own external stuff that uses a proprietary connector, which isn't very useful for us when trying to use pre-existing computers.
TenthReality
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May 17, 2011, 08:43:53 PM
 #6

My company has 4x of a simmilar product in our 3d render farm, speaking from experience, avoid these at all costs.  If we did not have as much $ invested in them as we did, I would have ditched them long ago, they are an IT nightmare.  In most cases, its a downtime issue that with mining will start adding up to some serious BTC, in other cases we had hardware itself go bad that required painful support processes to get fixed.

mmortal03
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May 21, 2011, 02:44:26 AM
 #7

I picture someone fitting a setup like one of these into a backpack and plugging it in out in in a public place while they use their laptop, as long as it could be set up not to fry it on power outages, etc.
metastable
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May 21, 2011, 06:16:12 AM
 #8

Was doing some research into external cards and found this, http://forum.notebookreview.com/gaming-software-graphics-cards/418851-diy-vidock-experiences.html it's not overly expensive, DIY, and it looks promising for those who don't want to spend money on an entire rig.
Anonymous
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May 21, 2011, 06:34:24 AM
 #9

Was doing some research into external cards and found this, http://forum.notebookreview.com/gaming-software-graphics-cards/418851-diy-vidock-experiences.html it's not overly expensive, DIY, and it looks promising for those who don't want to spend money on an entire rig.

Someone make a ready to run version and sell them for bitcoins.....
mmortal03
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May 21, 2011, 09:11:16 AM
 #10

Was doing some research into external cards and found this, http://forum.notebookreview.com/gaming-software-graphics-cards/418851-diy-vidock-experiences.html it's not overly expensive, DIY, and it looks promising for those who don't want to spend money on an entire rig.

I just purchased the x1 kit,
http://www.harmonicinversion.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&product_id=193&vmcchk=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=3

along with a 500 watt (2x PCI 6+2) power supply so that I'll be able to use it with cards up to at least the 5970.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139027

Total, with shipping, after discounts and rebates: ~$125

In the short term, I'm going to test this out on my laptop using a buddies' 5870 card, and go through all the ins and outs of that notebookreview forum thread that metastable kindly posted.  I've already skimmed through some of it, and it looks like because I have Vista 32-bit with 4 GB of RAM on my laptop, and the Intel ICH8 chipset, there will be some hoops to jump through to get it all working, but it should be doable.

After I know it all works, I'll decide on which card I want to pick up for myself, and how I might ultimately want to enclose the thing.

I'll keep you guys updated.
bulanula
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May 22, 2011, 03:54:02 PM
 #11

Indeed would be very intrested to see the result of this experiment !
vennardk
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May 22, 2011, 09:44:36 PM
 #12

Do you think I could grab one of those for each of my two laptops, throw in a 5830 in each and run them on one 500watt power supply?  Is the limiting factor for mining always the GPU?  These laptops are like 5-6 years old.
mmortal03
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May 22, 2011, 11:46:12 PM
 #13

Do you think I could grab one of those for each of my two laptops, throw in a 5830 in each and run them on one 500watt power supply?  Is the limiting factor for mining always the GPU?  These laptops are like 5-6 years old.

Conceptually you should be able to, and yes, for most computers that you would be using, the limiting factor for mining is going to be the GPU. As far as the things that could make a laptop setup like this more difficult are going to be the chipset behind your ExpressCard slot, the amount of memory in your laptop, and the drivers/functionality provided by the version of Windows you have.

The thing is, until I've set one of these up myself, I can't say for sure that it's going to work. I'll be getting my parts in the mail this week, and then it'll go from there  This concept is brand new at the moment, so no guarantees yet.
bulanula
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May 23, 2011, 12:02:55 AM
 #14

Cool.

If you manage to get it working please share with us as it will be VERY interesting to see how this pans out.

Thanks !
mmortal03
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May 29, 2011, 11:13:18 AM
 #15

Here's an interim update.  I found a good deal last week on eBay on a Gigabyte Super Overclock HD 5870 (1GB ram, 950 MHz factory overclock GPU).  I had already received the rest of the parts in the mail last week (PSU and Expresscard x1 kit), and now just received the card in the mail. Here are my initial results:

My advice to anyone, after hours of working on trying to get it to work, is to just don't try this with Vista -- it isn't worth the hassle. Odds are you aren't going to get it to work.  Instead, please use Windows 7, or maybe XP, and that's it. I won't go into all the details here, but just please don't waste your time with Vista.

On my Vista laptop, I did finally get it to recognize the card with no errors in Device Manager (I had to disable my Intel integrated graphics to get this far), but the card still wouldn't output to my external monitor, and I couldn't get OpenCL working, nor CCC to function.  None of this is a deal breaker, however, because the other day I realized that I wasn't going to want to have my main laptop tied down to mining, anyway. So...

Instead, I decided to buy a used netbook with Expresscard! I found a very good deal on eBay for an older model Lenovo IdeaPad S10 that the owner had modded with a solid state drive and had installed Windows 7 Professional.  I should be getting it in the mail after the holiday, and will give another update here once I get it all set up.  One great thing about a netbook is the lower power contribution of the Intel Atom processor versus a full blown laptop or desktop, given that you want to cut back on any extraneous power usage other than the GPU.

If you happen to be interested in this kind of netbook w/ Expresscard route, one small thing to keep in mind is that if yours comes with Windows 7 Starter, make sure to upgrade it to Home or Pro, because Starter will also cause you problems, similar to Vista.

So, what's next while I wait on the netbook in the mail? I will be testing my card in a friend's system just to make sure the problems I was having above weren't simply a problem with the card!

Oh, and my total price for the PSU, Expresscard x1 kit, the Super Overclock 5870, and the S10 netbook? $574.98!
mmortal03
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June 17, 2011, 02:34:29 AM
 #16

New Update: After a long, inconvenient delay in receiving my Lenovo netbook in the mail, I finally received it today and set things up, and... drumroll... IT WORKS!  I'm mining away right now with a desktop GPU connected to a netbook!

The only problem I have run into is that the Gigabyte OC GURU software doesn't recognize the card in this setup, so I can't tweak the clock speeds.  For some reason, just running the OC GURU software running in the background upped my MH/s when I had the card running it on a friend's desktop, so I'm going to see if I can find out from anyone over at the DIY ViDock thread if they know how to get it to work.  I also like to use it to monitor the temperatures, so hopefully I can figure out how to make it work. Any ideas from you guys on why the OC GURU software wouldn't detect the card?
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June 17, 2011, 02:45:37 AM
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New Update: After a large, inconvenient delay in receiving my Lenovo netbook in the mail, I finally received it today and set things up, and... drumroll... IT WORKS!  I'm mining away right now with a desktop GPU connected to a netbook!

The only problem I have run into is that the Gigabyte OC GURU software doesn't recognize the card in this setup, so I can't tweak the clock speeds.  For some reason, just running the OC GURU software upped my MH/s when I had the card running it on a friend's desktop, so I'm going to see if I can find out from anyone over at the DIY ViDock thread if they know how to get it to work.  I also like to use it to monitor the temperatures, so hopefully I can figure out how to make it work. Any ideas from you guys on why the OC GURU software wouldn't detect the card?

Probably because it's not the default gpu, try something that supports multiple cards.
mmortal03
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June 17, 2011, 06:01:35 AM
 #18

Probably because it's not the default gpu, try something that supports multiple cards.

I just tried MSI Afterburner, and it detects the card, but won't let me change anything.  CCC is also not supported.  What other tools are available?
mmortal03
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June 24, 2011, 09:15:28 AM
 #19

Just so people can get an idea of the numbers, I tested my friend's 5870 card in my netbook ViDock setup, running it overclocked to 950 MHz GPU, and underclocked 600 MHz Memory, and with it hashing at just under 400 MHash/s, my Kill-A-Watt measures only around 233 Watts.  How does that wattage compare to your full size rigs out there?
mmortal03
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October 08, 2011, 06:22:24 AM
 #20

Yeah, it works great, and I've been able to overclock my card by using cgminer now, so no more problems there. This setup is, as mentioned above, much more power efficient for a one card setup than running a full blown desktop.  Where I live, electricity isn't the cheapest, and this allows me to still be profitable with one overclocked 5870.

The only downside to this that I've run into is that you can't automate any kind of reboots of the machine because you have to be there to physically eject the card and re-insert it, and only after the computer boots up past the BIOS info screen (otherwise the laptop's screen stays blank and you get nothing through the card's video output, either, and I don't even think it goes into Windows).  

I've read that the next version of the PE4 boards will have a workaround for this issue, by integrating a timer that will delay initialization on power startup/reset for some short period of time, to give the laptop they're connected to enough time to start up the integrated graphics first.
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