Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ordered a second hard drive

As I think I said before I am constantly installing and re-installing operating systems. In the last week and a half I've re-installed Windows and Linux at least three times. Every time I end up losing data on my hard drive.

So I just bought a second drive -- a small one of just 80 GB, just for operating systems. So from now on I can keep my files safe on their 750GB drive and play musical chairs with operating systems on the 80 GB drive.

I should have done this from the start.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Everything works!

I'm posting this long after the fact.

The stuff arrived last Wednesday, but I had obligations that kept me from working on it. Thursday it all came together and booted up on the first try!

I booted to a Linux pen drive before I installed the hard drive. Worked fine, so I finished the build.

The next day I bought the monitor -- a ViewSonic 22" LCD flat screen. How did I live without it for so long?

I also bought some Altec Lansing surround sound speakers. You don't just hear them. You feel them! I've only connected the subwoofer and the front speakers, since the PC is in a temporary location for now.

I'm using a wireless keyboard and mouse, to keep wire clutter down.

I installed Win XP first, because I wanted a native install, just in case I ever need it. I put it on a 25 GB partition, so it is pretty limited. I booted to it only once. Then came Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon. It works very well indeed! Then I installed VirtualBox and a new Win XP install in a virtual machine. I use it quite a bit. Sometimes you just need Windows (sorry Linus T.)

My original plan was for 4 GB of RAM, but I started out with only two because of a rebate I wanted to take advantage of. So far the PC runs so fast that I can't imagine more memory making a difference.

I can run two operating systems at once, watch a video, while ripping a DVD, all at impressive speeds. Ripping DVDs took hours on my old 1.2 GHz machine. It takes minutes now!

With the great sound, great graphics, and awesome speed, I'm totally set!

Still needed:

  • TV tuner card
  • Internal card reader
  • Maybe a second DVD burner to speed up the burn/rip process
  • Maybe headphones

I haven't installed MythTV yet, because (obviously) I don't have the TV tuner. MythTV with a remote will make it a true media PC.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just bought everything (almost)

My patience with my old PC reached the breaking point today, so I ordered all the stuff I listed in my first post. It's on its way!!!!

Still lacking important stuff like the monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. But the basic machine has been ordered. No more click and wait!!!

Can you feel my frustration?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another purchase

TigerDirect had a good rebate deal on 2GB of DDR2 800 MHz memory, so I couldn't pass it up. Not the memory I had originally chosen, but equivalent, and half the price (after rebate).

Ordered yesterday. Already mailed the cooling fan rebate.

Learned today that the president is planning a tax rebate to stimulate the economy. That'll be plenty enough for the whole PC and perifs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ordered MythTV book from Amazon

I've decided that my DVR interface will be MythTV, which is an open source media center suite that seems to be able to handle everything having to do with media. I had thought about using Linux MCE, but it appears to have far more features than I'll ever need, and for my purposes, it's too bloated (It can control your security system, appliances, etc... don't need all that).

So I found a book on the subject and ordered it this weekend. It will hopefully help assure that I get all Linux-compatible hardware.

P.S. My new CPU fan arrived last week. Good god it's huge. I'm still running an old machine with one of those matchbox-sized CPU fans.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Great How-To website

I just stumbled onto this site that explains how to build a computer. Seems to be kept up to date, and there are current hardware recommendations, with current prices.

They even have a support forum.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

First money spent

I was going to buy everything at once, because of the 30-day return policy, but the CPU cooler had a $20 mail-in rebate (for a $25 item), so I figured I'd take a chance. The rebate was about to expire yesterday, so I had to act fast.

The ball is rolling now!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Should I run a tiny OS?

I know I'm building a semi-beefy machine, but I'm thinking I might run a tiny Linux distro on it, then use the Virtual Machine idea (see previous post) to choose a larger OS when needed.

Puppy Linux is so compact and fun, and can meet my web surfing needs. If I can use it as a home base for VMs of Ubuntu and Windows, then those operating systems should run like native installs, since the real native OS will be so minuscule.

Here's a thread I found. These guys actually made it work.

Edit: Here's a different distro bundled with VirtualBox AND Compiz Fusion!

My operating system plan

My current PC is a dual-boot system. Despite what Linux cheerleaders tell you, you still need Windows sometimes. Some websites, like NetFlix's streaming movie page, won't work without it.

But I hope to have a single-boot system nonetheless.

My plan is to always boot to Linux, then run Windows (when needed) in a virtual machine. provides the software for this, and it's free. You need to have a system capable of running two operating systems at once, which is why I haven't tried it yet (well, I tried and failed, with my current 256MB RAM).

Here are some of the advantages that I anticipate (which may not be realistic, since I have no experience with virtual machines)...

  • No need to have separate drives, or separate partitions.
  • No need to reboot to change operating systems.
  • In fact, you don't "change" OS's at all. You run both at once
  • If I understand correctly, I can do a clean install of Windows, then make as many copies of it as I want. Windows can get as cluttered or corrupted as it wants, and all I have to do is have a second copy I can use. I can keep a backup of a clean install, another of an install with lots of software, and others for other purposes. I can ditch one install and try a different one, all without re-booting. Maybe I'm being too optimistic.
Unfortunately, Virtualbox does not support 64 bit operating systems. That's a shame, since the new PC does, and I'll have to run a 32 bit version of Linux, and miss out on some of my processor's potential.

Since I plan to use the PC as a media center, I'll install MythTV, which should do everything I need -- media wise. There's a flavor of Linux made especially for MythTV, but I'm not planning to use it, as this machine will be a general-purpose PC, as well as a media PC. I really like the standard Ubuntu releases, and plan to stick with them.

Proposed hardware


ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe AM2 NVIDIA nForce 570 SLI MCP ATX AMD Motherboard

Original Price: $134.99
You Save: $10.00


Chosen for combination of features, price, and large number of positive customer reviews. (prefer customer reviews to those done by publishers. These guys aren't trying to sell advertising).

Here's the Asus page for the mobo.


AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+ Windsor 3.2GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM2 125W Dual-Core Processor

Chosen because it's fast and won't be obsolete in a while.


Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory

2@ $22.99 each

This specific memory, along with others, was mentioned in the motherboard owner's manual. I suppose any DDR2 memory would work, but if it's recommended by the manufacturer, it's probably optimized for the hardware.

For now I only have 2GB of memory in my shopping cart. Most 32 bit operating systems don't utilize more than 3GB, so I chose not to buy 4GB. I'm still not completely decided about it, as I plan to run multiple OS's, and may be able to make use of more memory than one OS at a time can use.

Hard Drive:

Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD7500AAKS 750GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive


This is way more space than on my current PC. It's way more than I currently need. But the new PC will be used as a DVR, so it will consume up to 2GB of space per hour, so I really need the space.

1TB drives are now available, but a little too costly for me right now. My new system will be able to support six hard drives, so future upgrades are almost certain.

Video Card:

ASUS EN7600GS SILENT/HTD/512M GeForce 7600GS 512MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express x16 SLI Supported Video Card


My motherboard doesn't have onboard graphics, which is good, because they'd go to waste, since I would want to upgrade from the start. This looks like a great card. It's fanless, has 512MB memory, and is made by the same company that makes the motherboard, so compatibility should not be an issue (I still need to consult with NewEgg about this).

I'm hoping for serious graphic quality on this system.


APEVIA X-CRUISER-YL Yellow Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case


I'll miss out on the mail-in rebate on this, since I'm not ready to buy just yet.

This case was chosen for its great looks, price, and customer reviews.

Customers made many comments about the color, which looks different in various images online. In this image it looks like a mustard color. In others, it looks like neon yellow. Judging by their comments, I'd say this picture is more accurate, which is more to my liking. I'm taking a chance on the color, but the quality does not seem to be an issue with customers who posted reviews.

I could save a little money by buying a plain vanilla box, but this is a custom system, and I want it to look that way!

Power supply:

APEVIA ATX-CW500WP4 ATX 500W Power Supply 115/ 230 V UL, CSA, TUV, CE


Nothing sexy about a power supply. I'll make sure the 500W is adequate before buying.

It's made by the same company that makes the case.


No monitor chosen yet, but I want a 22" LCD flat screen, which will be wall mounted.


I don't get excited about keyboards or mice. I'll probably go cordless on both to eliminate clutter. Cord clutter has been a major annoyance on my old system, and I have run out of tolerance for it. For this reason, I'm also hoping to find a discreet surge protector.