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I'm looking for help from the hardware gurus on this forum. I want to buy a brand new system (my needs are explained below). Can someone recommend vendors and/or systems ...
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- 01-12-2007 #1
- Join Date
- Jan 2007
Completely New System - any recommendations?
I've been a GNU/Linux user for several years, and over the years I've always upgraded my systems piece by piece, lots of components. I have parts going back 8+ years, a hodgepodge of SCSI, IDE, PCI cards, the works.
I'm sick of it, it doesn't work anymore.
I REALLY need a whole new computer (mine is well behind the curve now, showing signs of age, hardware errors), I need new features, so I plan to start from scratch and buy all new. I might keep parts if I can (like the printers, of course, since they're very good, and the network card), but I need a whole new setup and need help figuring out what to buy.
I use my system for just a few purposes: photography, writing / desktop publishing, web / internet, music (internet radio, home recordings). Here are my needs:
* SILENCE. My fans sound like I'm in an airplane hangar, I can't hear myself think! I want a very, very quiet computer.
* EASY ACESS The case should be easy to open -- good design. I always bought full towers but I wonder if they're even necessary anymore -- I love the idea of a laptop or a sturdy "luggable" desktop that I could put in a backpack and take with me for a weekend. That's not really a requirement but I wonder if I should get away from the full tower...
* PORTS: USB (for a printer and future addons), Parallel (for a printer), a way to read my SmartMedia/CompactFlash, a way to hook up a scanner (I have SCSI now, and a SCSI card reader, but will upgrade to USB if I have to), PS2 (for my old keyboard that I love)
* DVD/DVD-R/CDROM/CDR. I use all 4. I don't care if this is 1 or 2 drives, internal or external.
* LOTS OF HARD DRIVE SPACE. I'm thinking SATA? I have a lot of photographs, a lot of audio, and have to figure out how to get it off my current IDE drives and into the new computer ...
* TILTING MONITOR. I want to be able to tilt the monitor sideways 90 degrees to read text. Do they have these for Linux/X?
* DECENT GRAPHICS (TEXT and PHOTOS). I don't play games but am a photographer so want good support for that and for text (framebuffer?), I do a lot of desktop work with fonts.
* ETHERNET. I have cable modem thru my ethernet now (PCI), so I can keep that card or use whatever the new system has.
* GOOD SOUND (ALSA). I have a good Ensoniq card now (PCI) and want something that will be good and well supported. Also, should I get speakers or will they be built in to the monitor?
* GOOD BACKUP METHOD. I burn monthly CDRs now, maybe I should switch to monthly DVDR, or RAID, or tape?
The hardware has to have 100% GNU / Linux support, of course. Thinking about it though, I think my needs are pretty simple / modest. I need lots of disk space and would like a decent system, though.
Can any gurus recommend vendors or actual systems for my needs, or what to do? THANKS!
- 01-15-2007 #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2006
I am not a hardware guru by any standards, but I've been looking for a somewhat similar system for half a year now, so here are some reflections.
This can be achieved, as far as it is technically possible, by opting for passively cooled components (motherboard, gpu) and exchanging the cpu's stock cooler with something more quiet. Check out "silentpcreview" for tips on how to keep things quiet and some component reviews. I'd like to use an Antec P180 case in a build myself since I really dig the design, but it's big.
Recent computers I've built or modified have been much easier to deal with than the "screwed down hood" which you might have on your old machine. Some cases open up the side (on hinges) for really easy access. I have never had a specially designed "silent" case like the Antec before, so I'm not sure how that will behave.
Today I don't think you'll be able to buy a new motherboard without support for USB, but apart from that you should start doublechecking the IO configurations you need. I favor firewire over USB myself and think it's a shame that that technology seems to have lost the "marketing war" to USB. I have an external harddisk and an audio device for recording that both use firewire so for me it is an essential ingredient.
This has shown to be a tough decision. I have been brought up thinking SCSI is the way to go for ultimate performance. However, SATA disks ( especially the WD raptors) have very fast disk access times indeed. What is difficult is finding out how they behave under heavy load. (things like: do they tie up CPU cycles so that audio effects become unusable when you are recording straight to the hard disc?)
I think I'm gonna try a pair of small raptors myself for the OS and audio working space, while having a larger cheaper drive for long term storage and see how that fares. I suppose an array of external harddrives (eSATA) could be an option for backups (it might be more convenient and even cheaper than DVDs in the long run), but then they would be outside the "silencer case"...
The easiest way to get stuff from your old drive onto your new one is also to hook up both of them inside your computer and then just copy the files normally using a file manager.
GRAPHICS & MONITOR
I don't play games either but I do develop openGL applications and occasionally do the odd 3d modelling. An ideal card for this would be a workstation grade nvidia card (quadro fx) but these are ridiculously expensive for some perverted reason. Before the era of 3D, matrox cards were my best choice since they had outstanding 2D performance and quality and very good linux drivers for some of their cards. I found their policy towards the linux community one of openness as well, I still have the technical specifications for the "matrox milennium II" after having signed up as a developer on their web site. I really wish they could churn out a new 3D card some day.
Monitor tilting is an unexplored area for me, but as a software developer I want a high vertical resolution which is of course not what is mainstream (read: cheap) now with widescreens all over the place. I don't care how wide the screen is as long as I can view 1200 pixels of code without having to scroll. Depending on your eyesight, the size of the monitor and what you feel comfortable with, you might be able to view complete pages with 1600x1200 (or 1920x1200) without tilting.
Regarding audio cards, what you should get depends on what you want to do. In any case, it sounds as if you would appreciate "external" speakers more than built-in ones. BTW make sure that whatever motherboard you get have enough PCI slots for your older cards should you keep them. Also, if you do audio work under Linux and haven't already done so, check out "Planet CCRMA" for audio apps and low latency tips. I'm gonna have at least two different linux systems on my new machine: one for everyday use and one with a specialized audio-friendly kernel as my virtual studio.
Sorry about the length of the post, hope there's something helpful in there.
The core 2 duo E6600 seems to be the sweet spot in processors at the moment; a bit pricey but offering extremely good preformance which will be satisfactory for some time to come. This is what I'm getting as soon as I have decided on a motherboard (still not very well supported).
- 01-19-2007 #3
- Join Date
- Sep 2006
navyvet, that's quite a list you have there. You seem to have frightened everybody away apart from drkdick and myself!
Below is part of a reply to somebody on another Linux forum so don't worry if some of the advice is not specific to your request and repeats some advice which follows next.
Let me say straight away that, in my opinion, you will have fewer hardware compatibility problems in Linux by using AMD motherboards instead of Intel. In addition, you should also save some money. Just visit Bugzilla and various Linux help forums to read the tales of woe with Intel 965 and 975 boards. The Core2Duo cpus are fast but just look at the combined price of the Intel motherboards and processors compared to the AMD AM2 combos. Intel is simply not good value for money at the moment, apart from the compatibility considerations. Bear in mind that the dual core AMD cpus are not exactly slow, plus they overclock easily. Just read the Newegg customer reviews! I would rather put the money saved towards high performance memory, a decent case or a quality power supply. I can put up with not having bragging rights down at the pub! Meanwhile, back in the real world.
With regard to silence I suggest the 120mm Akasa Amber Ultra Quiet fans, they are fantastically quiet with decent airflow.
For additional silence get the Scythe Mine chipset cooler. It slaughters the rest (see PC Pro magazine-December 2006).
For more silence and cool running look no further than the Seasonic 430w psu.
For a cool and quiet case which disassembles completely there can be no other choice than the aluminium Akasa Mirage 62, described accurately as the Coolest Case Ever. It is huge! It has also been described as the Hummer of pc cases. Without being boastful, my pc is the quietest I have ever come across.
I am no graphics expert, so I chose a cheap, silent, 3D-capable card. Others can assist you in this area.
Reply made earlier.........
Please excuse the long reply but this may well be useful to other openSUSE fans.
Having previously used a tired, 6 year old Pentium P4 pc (fine with SuSE 10.1), I decided to bridge the technology gap and build a new AM2 system which is 100% compatible with openSUSE 10.2.
My new AM2 system retains my 4 existing IDE drives (Samsung) simply because I heard of so many SATA drive problems in Linux. More experienced Linux/SuSE hands will no doubt say that I am worrying unnecessarily but I was not prepared to go looking for trouble.
The Asrock boards are okay but for a little more outlay I would strongly recommend Abit's better quality AM2 motherboards.
Before you go for a ready-built system do check:-
1) the component hardware compatibility with your proposed Linux operating system and, if possible,
2) the precise make, specification and quality of the major pc components.
3) is it possible to buy the pc without an installed operating system? If not, then you are paying for something you do not need.
If you do not feel confident about doing a self-build yourself, I am sure that you must know of someone locally who is a computer buff and can give you a helping hand.
I have checked out loads of attractive looking pc deals but upon looking more closely I have discovered inferior quality components and potential Linux compatibility issues. In addition I have usually managed to better their quoted prices with my own selected components which are of a superior quality.
PC manufacturers obviously have the huge advantage of being able to buy items in very large numbers and thus get massive discounts which are not available to the general public. Nevertheless, it may be possible to negotiate a small discount (eg free delivery) if all the parts are purchased from a single supplier such as (in the UK) Scan, CCL or Micro Direct.
The manufacturers often skimp on power supplies and fit cheap and nasty ones. This is a very false economy since these units will not last long and in the meantime they produce more heat compared to top quality units like the Seasonic 430w.
Likewise, the case quality is often poor with reduced airflow leading to overheated components.
Anyway, for what it's worth, my AM2, 100% compatible with Linux/openSUSE 10.2 system is as follows:
OS: openSUSE 10.2 (the best Linux OS by far, in my opinion)
Mobo: Abit kn9 nforce4 (2 IDE ports but no parallel or serial ports) Phoronix has a review of the single IDE port 570/590 Abit kn9 Ultra at:
CPU: AMD x2 3800 2000MHz 65w Economy OEM (no fan). Fantastic value plus dual core power.
Memory: 1 Gb Corsair Twin2X1024-6400C4 800MHz @2.1volts
PSU: Seasonic 430w
CPU Cooler: Scythe Mine (far superior and quieter to stock AMD cooler/fan)
Case: Akasa Mirage 62 (This is probably overkill but it is fantastic quality. The Lian-Li PC-7B Plus is also good)
Graphics Card: Asus EN 6200TC512/TD/256 DDR2 PCI-X (Does 3D graphics fine, is silent and not expensive)
Case Fans: 2 Akasa Amber Ultra Quiet 120mm (They really are fantastically quiet!)
Hard & Optical Drives: Samsung IDE (Use 600mm round IDE cables rather than the flat ones which restrict airflow)
You could go for slightly cheaper memory but the Corsair C4 runs at 800MHz with lower latency (4-4-4-12).
Please note that in order to run at 800MHz your AMD dual core cpu's frequency must be exactly divisible by 400, so this leaves basically these model numbers (all x2): 3800, 4000, 4600, 4800. (I think only the 3800 and 4600 are readily available).
The x2 3800 can be readily overclocked to 2400 MHz so there is little point in buying the much more expensive x2 4600 which already runs at that frequency. The moral of the story is, buy an x2 3800 pronto!
Refer to Newegg's customer reviews and the link below for further information on AMD processors and DDR2 ram respectively.
With regard to the build, do remember to clear the CMOS by putting the jumper on pins 2 and 3 for a few seconds. Then return the jumper to pins 1 and 2.
The next step is vital with high performance memory such as the Corsair 6400C4 (4-4-4-12-2T).
Insert only ONE stick of RAM in either number 1 or number 3 slot. (Twinned pairs should be placed in positions 1 and 2 OR positions 3 and 4).
Start up the pc whilst holding down "Del" in order to access the BIOS. Select "SoftMenu Setup", then go to DDR2 RAM voltage and increase it from the default of 1.8 volts to 2.1 volts (I am told 2.2 volts is also okay but I just followed Corsair's recommendation). Press F10 for Save and Exit then switch off the pc.
Insert the second stick of RAM and start up the pc again. The new memory should now be running stable at 2.1 volts and 800MHz. This worked like dream, as did the whole pc build.
Do note that the Abit kn9 has no parallel port so those people with parallel/parallel printer cables will need to buy a USB/parallel printer cable. However do be aware of Bugzilla bug number 229231 which causes YaST2 to hang in the printer database, usually at 4%/40%, in openSUSE 10.2. Go to:
and select the download for yast2-printer-2.14.17-6.
At the prompt, select "Open with zen" and give the root password. Install this with zen installer, go to YaST2 (root password again), select Hardware, then Printer and Add your USB printer. Before adding your printer it may be a good idea to remove any existing default printer, just to avoid any confusion.
Before installing 10.2, I strongly recommend that you have a very close look at Jem Matzan's excellent article, "Hacking openSUSE 10.2"
The article can be found at:-
The article as a whole should be compulsory viewing for all users of openSUSE 10.2.
That lot should give you something to research over the weekend! Good luck with your AM2 openSUSE 10.2 flying machine.
...............End of previous reply.
navyvet, I hope I have managed to answer some of the points you raised. No doubt others will have constructive comments to make to assist you. Happy 10.2'ing!
- 01-21-2007 #4
- Join Date
- Sep 2006
If you haven't fallen asleep from my earlier post, then I can strongly recommend Viewsonic monitors.
My (non-current production) model VP730 has tilt, vertical adjustment and 90 degree swivel for landscape/portrait mode. Readers of PC Pro magazine in the UK voted Viewsonic top of the charts once again.
On a minor point with the cpu and heatsink, do use Arctic Silver5 thermal paste and not the stuff in the supplied Scythe sachet. That may be ok but Arctic Silver5 is the best. Also do not use more than "an amount equivalent to 1.5 grains of shortgrain rice placed at the centre of the cpu".(Arctic Silver's words).
I kid you not!
The supplied syringe of AS holds enough for dozens of cpus, so maybe you can make a profit on the deal by supplying other pc builders!