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Hi Guys, I've decided to build my own computer (first time ever), and am getting round to choosing my hardware. Before I committed any of my hard earned money I ...
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  1. #1
    Linux Guru smolloy's Avatar
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    Building my own machine and have some questions before I start


    Hi Guys,
    I've decided to build my own computer (first time ever), and am getting round to choosing my hardware. Before I committed any of my hard earned money I thought I'd ask your advice.

    I'm planning to build a AMD 64 X2 4600+ machine with four 250GB hard drives set up as a RAID0+1. Since the 4600+ can be purchased for a AM2 socket I thought I'd go for two 1GB 800MHz RAM DIMMs. I have no idea about a graphics card or sound card (I'm not much of a gamer)!!

    I'll probably install SUSE (or maybe Fedora) first, and then think about making it a dual boot machine with XP. But I might put Gentoo on it before XP -- dunno really.

    I'll primarily be using the machine for standard desktop stuff -- email, browsing (youtube!), word processing, etc. -- but I also run a fair amount of memory and hard drive intensive physics code (which is why I want the RAID and the super-fast memory)

    My Questions
    1/ With a RAID0+1 is it easy (or even possible) to partition my drive (for root, /home, /usr, /var, NTFS for windows, and a FAT32 for sharing)?? Maybe there's not even a simple yes or no answer to this question, as I could imagine that it depends on the RAID controller on the motherboard. Any advice/wisdom would be welcomed!
    2/ Is it true that SATA has been out long enough that it will be well supported by all the major linux distros? Or, once again, is this dependent on the SATA controller on the motherboard?
    3/ I'd like to include a wireless NIC -- does anyone have any suggestions for one that works well with linux?
    4/ Are there any motherboards or motherboard manufacturers I should avoid due to lack of compatibility with linux, or just because you have found them to be of poor quality?
    5/ Any other suggestions before I start spending money?

    Thanks for reading this far
    Last edited by smolloy; 10-15-2006 at 08:36 PM. Reason: Screwed up the title.
    Registered Linux user #388328 || Registered LFS user #15880
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  2. #2
    Linux Newbie objuan's Avatar
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    The hardware sound great for running a web server or a high end cad system or animation rendering. But a bit much for checking email and word processing. Here are a few links that will help you with hardware
    compatibility with linux http://www.linux-tested.com/
    http://www.linuxhardware.org/

  3. #3
    Linux Guru smolloy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the links objuan.

    I admit that the hardware I've chosen would be a bit too much for just checking email, but, like I said I run a lot of physics code (heavy duty matlab code) that is very memory and hdd intensive. At the moment I can't run it on my laptop (P3 512MB) without a serious re-write -- and then it can take an entire weekend to run! I expect to be able to reduce this to an hour or so with this system.
    Registered Linux user #388328 || Registered LFS user #15880
    AMD 64 X2 4600+ :: 2X1GB DDR2 800 :: GeForce 9400 GT 512MB :: ASUS M2N32 Deluxe :: 4X250GB SATAII
    Need instant help? Try us on IRC -- #linuxforums on freenode

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  5. #4
    Linux Guru bigtomrodney's Avatar
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    That's sounds pretty nice. Sata is supported in the main kernel now so it shouldn't be an issue. The RAID question though - it really does depend on the controller. Often boards that claim to have RAID controllers really only support software RAID. It's a crime that they are allowed to even state it because your OS still looks after it. A proper RAID controller will be at least STG£100, and most likely more.

    Have you considered RAID 5? You will get better throughput. Granted you will only be able to lose one disk, but with 1+0 you can only lose one disc from each RAID 1 subset. If the wrong two disks go you're borked either way.

    The two other things I might suggest are get a hefty power supply. At least 650w for what you're looking at, possibly more if you can. And for a graphics card you won't need anything tough if you are not gaming but it should take a big load away from your CPU. You could pick up a slghtly older nVidia 6xxx or 7xxx for less than £50-60.

    For a wireless NIC, if you can get something with an Atheros or Prism chipset then try to get them. A google should tell you what chipset a particular card has. Anything will work with ndiswrapper but Broadcom and Realtek chips in particular have extra complications with dynamically loading firmware so although it's doable I would avoid them.


    Aside from that I offer all my usual advice on Cooling/Noise. Spend the extra fiver buying a batch of quiet fans. Antec do triple bearing fans for abou £4 each but they ,make a big difference to noise and smooth airflow. I got the Antec P180 case also which has nice compartments for airflow and cooling for Harddrives which makes a noticeable difference.

    One last thing - with that much storage - I use ReiserFS in LVM across two 320GB drives. The filesystem check takes about 15 seconds. The biggest delay in my booting. There are no problems with it, I think it's just having a 550GB /home that messes it up. Just something to think about.

  6. #5
    Linux Guru smolloy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney
    The RAID question though - it really does depend on the controller. Often boards that claim to have RAID controllers really only support software RAID. It's a crime that they are allowed to even state it because your OS still looks after it.
    Thanks for the heads-up bigtom -- I wasn't aware of that. This is the motherboard I bought. From a quick browse around I can't tell if it is software or hardware RAID -- can anyone point me in the right direction?

    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney
    Have you considered RAID 5? You will get better throughput.
    I had thought about RAID 5, but, to my embarrassment, I couldn't make head nor tails of the Wikipedia description of it!

    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney
    The two other things I might suggest are get a hefty power supply. At least 650w for what you're looking at, possibly more if you can.
    Dammit! I already went and bought a 500W supply! As far as I can tell my hard drives will use ~15W each when seeking, and the CPU will use ~200W under load, but I can't find any good info on the graphics card I bought -- see this link. Can anyone let me know the wattage I should expect this thing to use? Should I cancel my PSU order, and get something a bit beefier?

    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney
    And for a graphics card you won't need anything tough if you are not gaming but it should take a big load away from your CPU.
    You can see the card I chose in the link above. Now I admit that this purchase is probably overkill for my needs , but some of my friends are trying to get me into gaming, and I heard that Matlab may be releasing code that makes use of the special vector maths abilities of graphics cards. Pretty poor excuses for buying something so overblown, I know...

    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney
    For a wireless NIC, if you can get something with an Atheros or Prism chipset then try to get them. A google should tell you what chipset a particular card has. Anything will work with ndiswrapper but Broadcom and Realtek chips in particular have extra complications with dynamically loading firmware so although it's doable I would avoid them.
    Thanks for the tips.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney
    Aside from that I offer all my usual advice on Cooling/Noise.
    I went for a Coolermaster case on a recommendation from a friend, so we'll see how that goes. The computer will probably be sitting in my living room, so I imagine the wife's patience might start to run out if it's humming away like a 747 on take-off!

    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney
    One last thing - with that much storage - I use ReiserFS in LVM across two 320GB drives. The filesystem check takes about 15 seconds. The biggest delay in my booting. There are no problems with it, I think it's just having a 550GB /home that messes it up. Just something to think about.
    I'm not familiar with LVM -- Logical Volume Management? -- so I'll look it up and see if it suits me.

    Thanks for the help bigtom -- I really appreciate it.
    Registered Linux user #388328 || Registered LFS user #15880
    AMD 64 X2 4600+ :: 2X1GB DDR2 800 :: GeForce 9400 GT 512MB :: ASUS M2N32 Deluxe :: 4X250GB SATAII
    Need instant help? Try us on IRC -- #linuxforums on freenode

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