Pipsqueaks #24 – Part 2: Trading Machines – The Black Box Build

For this experiment I wanted the “best bang for my buck” to rule the day, which may incur sacrificing simplicity and time for cost, speed and robustness (disclaimer- I realize not everyone will want to pursue building their own machines, and that’s okay, this is just a discussion of what is possible). So where to start? Interestingly, this journey started at Amazon.com with a pair of used Intel Xeon 5450 3.0 GHz processes for the outrageous the black box trading machinescost of four dollars each! These are used server CPUs and the reason for the low cost will become apparent later. Why two? Well, the CPUs are quad core but no hyperthreading – using a 2 CPU set up will give me eight real cores to support eight simultaneous threads, just like a quad core I7 (four cores x 2 equals eight threads), which might send you back hundred bucks or more for a used chip. Now onto the motherboard. We need a board that will support dual Xeon CPUs and be tough to boot, and the one I picked was an Intel S5000 server board (with onboard video), which I picked up from eBay for 25 bucks. Now onto memory. Being a server board, I had to use compatible error checking RAM, and since the board had eight DIMM slots, I bought eight 4 gig DIMMs (yep that’s 32 gigs) for a budget stressing $72. Next add a disc, a new 60 GB SSD from Amazon for $29, 2 used CPU fans from eBay at $15 each, and the power supply from Amazon at $44. I already had a full tower case that was not being used. All told $208. Not too bad…time to put this bad boy together.


The Intel server board is a full size ATX board that requires a case big enough to put it in. I used a full-size tower case, with lots of room inside. And now I came to find out why the basic parts were so darn cheap. The processes I used are socket 771 CPUs. Try finding cooling solutions for socket 771 – not a lot to pick from, I just used stock Intel CPU fans, 15 bucks apiece on eBay. Since these are designed to mount directly into the chassis, unlike most desktop CPU fan setups, I had to do a bit of fiddling to install them. But everything went together nicely and I fired up the rig for the first time and… It worked! Word of caution here – you need to be somewhat familiar with some of the do’s and don’ts of using server boards but, that notwithstanding, I was able to load an operating system on the machine (I eventually settled on Ubuntu Linux running Windows XP in a VM) and was able to load MT4 and run a bunch of charts.


Of course, no activity of this type is without its downside, which partly explained the low cost of some of the parts. When it was running, it was LOUD! Darn thing sounded like a vacuum cleaner. Happily I was able to fix that with $40 worth of acoustic insulation. So where has all this taken us? At a very minimal cost we now have a very robust machine capable of running 24-7 (remember network servers are intended to run around the clock), something important if you want to support around-the-clock trading activities, running expert advisors and the like. The power consumption of this unit was less than expected, averaging about 205-250 Watts measured, albeit a little more than triple my laptop’s typical 60 watt consumption when it’s busy. The configuration as tested also included an Nvidia 970 video card which added a few more watts to the power draw, but was not necessary for trading activities.


So, at the end of the day, where has all this gotten us? For a modest cost, I was able to put together a very robust machine, which can run continuously, should be very stable and reliable, and can run just about any software you can throw at it, specially MT4 with 28+ charts. Is this sort of thing for everyone? No. You can spend more; or you may spend less (I once picked up an I7 laptop screamer for $150 on eBay), but there’s always a way to get to where you’re going – this was just one possible path.

trading machines computer

Just one last thing, something that’s easier than building your own black box, and that is, for those of you thinking about becoming a Sapphire member in Slick Trade, it’s time to stop pondering and sign up! More than anything else, a great opportunity to learn Forex while getting some hands-on experience with trading, receiving trade signals, access to expert advisors, great strategies, help and insight from other traders just like you and more! So what are you waiting for? Sign up today!


That’s all for now – next time were going to get into some interesting discussion about Renko charts, something we don’t seem to talk about much lately. Until then good luck in the room, and, as always, thanks for reading!  JC


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