[sclug] New Mobo and processor - help requested

Will Dickson wrd at glaurung.demon.co.uk
Tue Sep 3 20:59:11 UTC 2013

On 03/09/13 13:18, Neil Haughton wrote:
> That was a typing disaster, so here's an edited version:
> I'm not looking for a smokin' games machine, but something that I can put a
> couple of GB of RAM in, comfortably runs a 64 bit Linux distro, supports 3d
> graphics accelleration, and (ideally) allows me to retain my PATA drives
> plus add SATA drives when needed. I need browsing, GIMP, Digikam,
> LibreOffice and that sort of thing to run at respectable (unfrustrating)
> speeds. In other words I want something that will clip along nicely and yet
> not eat my wallet. Oh yes, a reduction in power consumption would be very
> nice so my wife can leave it on all day without reducing me to tears ( :-(
> ), but a Pi is going too far.


For those needs, pretty much anything on the as-new market would
probably do. If you're going to do any hacking or using avant-garde
peripherals, you're probably better off going with Intel. OTOH AMD may
be better bang-per-buck - it varies with time. (My dual-boot workstation
is Intel, but that *is* intended to be a smokin' games machine, so
different use case :-) My LAN server is an AMD hex-core: I bought a
pre-assembled CPU / Cooler / RAM / mobo combo, because I'm lazy and it
was cheaper than buying the components separately. That's running Ubuntu
server headless (no GUI).

A couple of GB of RAM is probably fine, but personally I'd go large -
it's pretty cheap now. Both my machines have 8GB.

I have had negative experiences with AMD graphics drivers in the past,
so I tend to stick with nvidia - the cheapest one you can get will
probably do fine for the kind of 2D work you're talking about, plus
compiz-type 3D work if that's your thing. OTOH AMD are now more
FOSS-friendly I think? May be worth looking for a passively-cooled (ie
no fan) model - less noise. (Big fans can spin slowly and quietly; gfx
card fans have to be small and hence tend to be somewhat noisy.)

Many models of mobo have some sort of built-in graphics now: if you can
persuade the thing to work properly, it may well be good enough. If you
go down that route, definitely get plenty of RAM - a single 1080p
monitor will eat 8MB for the frame buffer, and once you start adding in
double / triple buffering and other Fun 3D stuff, that will climb fast.

Your PSU is unlikely to be any good: the mobo connectors have evolved
over time, although whether that's to accommodate increasing PSU current
draws or to force you to throw away kit, I'm not sure. :-/ IIRC they
went from 20-pin main connector, to 24-pin main connector, to 24-pin
main + separate 4-way extra +12V connector, to 24-pin main + separate
8-way +12V connector.

I second what Alex said about cheap PSUs: don't. Get a brand-name one
with plenty of excess capacity (say, 800W or even more); it'll run
cooler,  it'll have plenty of room if you upgrade, and last longer.
Seriously consider spending a bit more for an "80-plus" model (ie >= 80%
efficient); it may well pay for itself in reduced electricity costs
before too long.

If you're dual booting, the SSD will make the world a nicer place on the
Windows side - I wouldn't be without mine for that reason. If not, not
so much - spend the money on RAM instead.

How much do you care about your data? Unless you don't, RAID is your
friend; choose disks accordingly. After a rather scary mirror repair (it
worked fine, but doing it for the first time, on a system containing
data I really didn't want to have to replace, was... sub-optimal) I've
now gone for a 3-way RAID 1 mirror on my server.

(Contradicting what I just said, if you are going for a RAID setup it
could make sense to have a small SSD for the root fs - in this case
you're more interested in the reliability aspect than the speed, so an
old, small, slow, cheap model would work there. I haven't done this
because I didn't think of it until after the fact, but if I ever rebuild
that machine I probably will do.)

(If you do go for an SSD, there are options you should add to /etc/fstab
to improve the lifetime - SSDs have a finite number of writes for each bit.)

(How much do you care about being able to get rid of data? SSDs'
wear-leveling firmware breaks shred(1) and most similar utilities.)



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