Jeff Barr's Blog

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Ordering a New Computer

I’ve been planning to build a new PC for way too long. My current system is a bit long in the tooth, with a clock speed measured in Megahertz. Fortunately, my friend Francis Shanahan did all the hard work of choosing the best parts, as he explains in his article, How to Build a Computer From Scratch (With Pictures). Like him, I ordered all of my parts from I have dealt with them before and their service is first rate. I placed my order on Saturday afternoon and the UPS tracking number was in my mailbox early this morning.

So here’s what I got:

In plain English, this is a 64 bit dual core machine with 2 GB of RAM, 900 GB of hard disk space, a DVD burner, a wickedly fast video card, and the baddest looking CPU fan and heat sink ever. I didn’t buy it just because it looked cool (ok, maybe I did). I’m not sure why I got the floppy, but it was only $10, and it might be useful once or twice. If need be I can back up that 900GB of data using just 671,088 floppies!

I am planning to use the first 300GB drive for the system and for installed software, and then I will RAID the other two for improved reliability. A few years ago my son Stephen and I were pretty sure that my next computer would have 1 TB of hard disk space. Looks like I missed it by a little bit.

It looks like I will end up running the 32 bit version of Windows XP SP2 on this new box, which I have decided to nickname Homer (because it cost a lot of Doh and because one reason for all of that storage is to store all of the family home directories). I was lucky enough to get invited to do a product evaluation at Microsoft today (something cool that I cannot say a word about, of course). As a reward for doing this evaluation, I can get 1 copy of pretty much any piece of Microsoft software for free (except SQL Server or Windows 2003 Server). So Windows XP should do it for now.

I should have all of the pieces by Monday, and I hope to be up and running a day or two after that if all goes well. Putting these machines together isn’t really that hard. Honestly, the biggest challenge for me is that my closeup vision isn’t as good as it once was, and I need a lot of light to read the fine print. I always wondered why I would see “old guys” at the Safeway holding items at arm’s length in order to read them. Now I understand, and I am one of them!

This should be a bit of a learning experience. I’m not sure I understand all of the ramifications behind SLI video technology, for example. I know that I can use it to have 2 video cards drive the sample display (basically getting more graphics pipelines and shaders into the action). I am not 100% sure that I can run two independent cards yet, and I don’t understand all of the nuances of the various “widths” on the PCI Express bus. I will learn, return, and report.

Thanks to Francis for doing all of the work of choosing good parts!