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The following is an archive of a post made to our 'vox-tech mailing list' by one of its subscribers.

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Re: [vox-tech] Building a computer
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Re: [vox-tech] Building a computer



Alrighty, here we go:

   0. Before you go to the computer store, ask around and do some research
      to find out what kind of hardware performs best and have in mind
      a range of hardware you want to purchase.

   1. Pick a computer store.  You have no car, but still pick a
      dependable store with good reputation -- you'll have this
      computer for a *long* time (in computer years).  Your choice
      of CPU and hardware also depends a lot on the store, so picking
      a store shouldn't be overlooked.

   2. Check out their selection of CPUs.  Select a brand (ie - Intel, AMD,
      etc.), select a model (ie - Pentium II, III, Athlon, etc.), and
      select a clockspeed (ie - 450MHz, 1.5GHz, and by the time you find
      a ride to a computer store, 15GHz. :)

   3. Select a motherboard.  Chances are, the store will only have a
      couple motherboards that are compatible with your chip selection.
      Out of the selections, get the one with the features you want.
      Things to watch for on the motherboard:

      - (E)IDE controller capable of UDMA100 (lower models have UDMA66 or
        UDMA33).  Sometimes they call 'em "ATA100", "ATA66", and "ATA33",
        respectively.  The controller should be capable of interfacing
        with 4 IDE devices.  If the controller allows only two devices
        to be UDMA100 and the others UDMA66, it's okay.

      - USB, PS/2, serial, parallel ports -- they should all be built-in,
        and there should be two of each except for the parallel port
        (one parallel port is plenty).  If there is less of any of those,
        you might want to get a different motherboard.

      - IEEE1394 (Firewire) connector.  Not all *that* necessary, but
        good to have for fast, easy-install, high-quality hardware.

      - Built-in sound card.  You'll want one if you just want a simple
        sound card; make sure it's compatible with Linux, as it may not
        be.  Built-in sound card won't matter to you if you want a
        separate, high-end sound card (ie - Creative AWE64).

      - Built-in video card.  You'll want one if you just want a simple
        video card, but my advice is to get a separate, good one,
        especially if you wanna play games.  This group seems to like
        Radeon and GeForce, respectively.

      - Fast bus speed.  I don't know much about this... I think 133MHz
        for Intel CPU and 200MHz for AMD CPU is good?

      - Built-in SCSI controller.  They probably won't have a motherboard
        compatible with your CPU that has SCSI controller built-in, but
        you never know.

      - And whatever else features you want.

   4. Get RAM.  Get the type that's fastest yet compatible with your
      motherboard (most motherboard support different types so you can
      use an older RAM in them.)  Probably 256MB is good, but more the
      better.  Get all memory on one stick (ie - if getting 256MB, get
      one stick with 256MB, not two with 128MB each.) -- this will make
      upgrading easier and cheaper later (you can upgrade just by adding
      more RAM to open slots, not replace the existing ones.)

   5. Get a computer case.  Get a case compatible with your motherboard.
      Also, consider a case with a lot of open space so won't have
      difficulty adding new hardware when you upgrade in the future
      (something you can reach in deeply easily, something with the
      least amount of sharp edges).  Also, the case probably
      comes with a power supply -- make sure it's rated well; probably
      250W is too little, and probably 300W is the minimum to go for,
      but this rating also depends on how much power the CPU (especially
      the new ones) needs and how many drives (hard drive, floppy, CDROM,
      etc.) you add, so ask.

   6. Get a motherboard mounting kit, if necessary.  My computer case
      came with 'em and they worked perfectly fine, but apparently that's
      not always the case... :)  Get something that works with your
      motherboard and the case, obviously.  There are several mounting
      kit types; get something stable, long-lasting, durable, and easy
      to install -- you don't want the mother board flopping in your case.

   7. Do you want a SCSI controller?  SCSI is more responsive than IDE,
      but it gets expensive.  SCSI controllers come in several types
      -- Type 1, 2, or 3 (or even 4, if such a beast exists.)  Type 3
      is more expensive than 2, 2 more than 1.  Type 3 is also faster
      than type 2, type 2 faster than type 1.  Type 2 and below probably
      shouldn't be used for hard drives, type 1 probably shouldn't be
      used for any type of drive (ie - CDROM, DVDROM, ZIP, etc.)  In
      any case, get something compatible with Linux, and Adaptec is
      probably the best brand.  Linux installation can also be a slight
      pain in the rear with non-standard (ie - non-Adaptec-compatible)
      SCSI cards.  Then again, I don't use SCSI -- too  expensive.

   8. Get a hard drive.  You can get an IDE drive or a SCSI one.
      If you go for an IDE drive, get an ATA100 IDE controller - this
      includes pretty much all the hard drives in the market right
      now so you won't have much problem.  I'd say 40GB at the least.
      If getting IDE, avoid Western Digital or IBM -- they got bad
      reps at the moment.

   9. Pick one - CD drive, DVD drive, CDRW drive...  Again, you have to
      decide whether to get SCSI or IDE.  Faster the better.  For DVD
      drive, get something with a DVD playback card for better
      performance, but it probably won't matter under Linux since Linux
      doesn't support many DVD playback cards (it *will* matter under
      Windows.)  Peter knows more about DVD playback under Linux -- As
      for me, I gave up... I don't mind switching to Windows for it.

   A. Get a floppy drive, if you so desire.

   B. Get a video card, if you didn't get a built-in one.  As mentioned
      earlier, Radeon or GeForce is the choice of this group.

   C. Get a network card if you want networking.  Get 10/100 dual-speed,
      something compatible with Linux.  These days, many network cards
      say "compatible with Linux" on the box -- SMC, Linksys, for example.

   D. Get a sound card if you want a separate sound card from your
      motherboard.  Creative AWE64 seems to be pretty reliable under
      Linux, and Creative Live! seems to have some problems.  Many
      sound cards are compatible with Linux, but check
      http://www.alsa-project.org/ for a good list.

   E. Get a printer, if you so desire.  HP Laserjet is always a safe bet.
      Certain printers are "winprinters" -- they won't work well with
      Linux.  Check http://www.linuxprinting.org/ for a good list.

   F. Get a monitor.  17" or bigger is nice.  Get a good brand.  There's
      nothing specific you need to look for, though.

   G. Get speakers.  Again, no specifics besides the obvious (size,
      quality, brand, subwoofer, etc.)

   H. Get a modem, if you so desire.  Avoid PCI-types and avoid
      "winmodems".  Get an ISA-type that's not plug-and-play (or at least
      can be made into non-plug-and-play).  Chances are, you won't
      find any of these unless you look hard elsewhere.  If you really
      want a modem then and there, get an external modem, as it should
      work with Linux.

   I. Get any other peripherals you want -- Zip drive, scanner, etc --
      just make sure it's compatible with Linux (Zip drive should be,
      but many scanners aren't... check http://www.mostang.com/sane/).

   J. Go home happy :)

-Mark

--
Mark K. Kim
http://www.cbreak.org/mark/
PGP key available upon request.



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