Asus P7F-M

As I was migrating or build another workstation or battlestation, I opted to build the machine based on Intel Xeon X3430 and LGA 1156 socket instead of trending AMD's Ryzen. Yes, it was an odd choice due to the sentimental feeling I have for old Xeon processor, especially the X series. And it's good to bought used anyway and I don't want to waste my existing ECC RAM. If you're looking to build a system through used parts, the X58 LGA 1366 would be a better choice as it's still quite relevant and supported.

Getting the motherboard is not easy as LGA 1156 socket is a deprecated old architecture. Furthermore, getting one that support ECC RAM and micro-ATX form factor is even more harder. Luckily I managed to found Asus P7F-M and Xeon X3430 CPU through Tao Bao with a reasonable prices. The former costs around MYR 150+ and the later, around MYR 40+.



One key lesson I've learned when build a PC is that you really need to read the damn manual. I've spent several nights for the past week trying to figure out what went wrong when the machine cannot POST (power-on self-test). And the root cause is simply I don't RTFM and wasting time plugging and unplugging each hardware components from the motherboard. More on this later.

Unknown to me, the cheapest heatsink fan I've bought have the 3-pin power source instead of regular 4-pin. Initially I thought it will not work but luckily, the motherboard support switching the CPU fan from default 4-pin to 3-pin. The diagram below illustrated how to switching the CPU fan selection. It has been so long since I last need to change the jumper of a motherboard. Interesting time indeed.


Next, which is the part I struggled to boot up the machine, I didn't realize that desktop and server motherboard behaved differently. A server motherboard will immediately POST up once power supply have been turned. Not so with desktop motherboard, you will need to "jump start" (like pressing the power button if installed to a casing) it manually. Turned out it's quite easy, you will need to take a screw driver and touch both the POWERBTN# and GND pin at the same time. In the diagram below, it's located at the System Panel 20-pin connector, second row, pin number 5 and 6 from the left.

Upon realizing this, I was sitting at my computer and starring mindlessly at the motherboard. I was troubleshooting it for days and it just dawned to me that everything was working fine. I just need to power up the system from the motherboard.


Next, the default onboard VGA controller. Since I've existing graphic card which support multiple monitors, best to disable the VGA controller. The VGA controller was way better than my HP Proliant's VGA controller running Aspeed AST2050 8MB of RAM. Even without installing the external graphic card, the usage was snappy enough in Fedora 26.


Upon completion on setting up the system as well as the Operating System, checking through the temperatures, everything seems to be within acceptable ranges.
$ sensors
radeon-pci-0100
Adapter: PCI adapter
temp1:        +60.5°C  (crit = +120.0°C, hyst = +90.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0000
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 0:       +47.0°C  (high = +83.0°C, crit = +99.0°C)
Core 1:       +41.0°C  (high = +83.0°C, crit = +99.0°C)
Core 2:       +46.0°C  (high = +83.0°C, crit = +99.0°C)
Core 3:       +44.0°C  (high = +83.0°C, crit = +99.0°C)

Is this motherboard better? Indeed, it felt way faster compare to my old HP Proliant's motherboard. However, there are certain underutilized features, for examples, the RAID and extra dual LAN ports. Furthermore, I believe two memory slots were broken (can't complain much since it's bought used) and I ended up with only 16G of ECC RAM. Suffice to say, should be good enough for my daily usage since my old workstation's motherboard have been partially broken and kept restarting somehow. My hope that this motherboard is good enough to give me maximum three more years of continuous abuse.

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