My Sort Of Fast Computer, Al

Al is my fastest machine and the one I use the most. It currently runs Kubuntu Linux.


SuperMicro SC760-A case

www.supermicro.com

The SC760 is just like the SC750, except that it adds an extra 9mm fan on the left side that's supposed to kick in if the primary fan dies, and chassis intrusion detection. My side fan is on all the time, and my chassis intrusion detection is turned off in the BIOS. So I probably should have saved a few bucks and bought the SC750 or some other version of the same Addtronics design.

My case got seriously bashed by UPS. There's a noticable dent on the left rear corner. But it still does the job, and returning it for another one would be a pain, so I decided to keep it.

The $10 Sunon 8mm case-front fan I have isn't powerful enough to make much difference. And the one I used to have died. Bad fans give a false sense of security. Not that my machine's overheating or anything, but I'd really prefer to use a better brand. Unfortunately, the only ones I ever see are the same junky Sunon models.

With those complaints noted, the SC760 is a seriously nice case. It's huge, with more drive bays and power connectors and fan slots than I need. My motherboard sensor is reading about 10C cooler than it was in an In-Win Q500, a huge difference. And unlike the In-Win, the SC760 doesn't have nasty sharp edges on top.

HEC Silent Op 385W Power Supply

My old Abit NF7 wouldn't boot with the 300W PS that came with the SC760, so I got this one. It's got the new extra 12V connector required by some newer boards, allegedly 385W maximum power output, and a reasonably quiet fan.

Asus M3A78-T Motherboard

www.asus.com

AM2+ socket, AMD 790FX chipset, AMD 750 south bridge, Marvell 88E8056 Gb ethernet, Azalia audio, ATI HD3300 video, support for 140W CPUs, 4 DDR2 1066 slots.

Pretty nice motherboard. The onboard video is too slow in Linux, but that's probably the drivers rather than the hardware. Network and sound worked easily.

My video card recently died, so I was happy to have the onboard video.  Less happy to spend several hours messing with all the various ATI Linux drivers, trying to get dual monitor support working again.

Retail AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition processor

www.amd.com

64-bit, quad cores, 512 KB of L2 cache per core. Runs at 3.0 GHz stock. 45nm. 125W.

4 Mushkin 2 GB DDR2-1066 DIMMs

www.mushkin.com

They seem stable. I've got 8 GB but I'm still running 32-bit Linux, so I can only use up to 4GB in a single process. Though the kernel is in 64 GB PAE mode, so all 8 GB do work.

Yamakasi Sparta 301 30" Monitor

An inexpensive Korean monitor that does 2560×1600 resolution at 60 Hz.  No on-screen controls, and the manual is only in Korean, but lots of pixels for not a lot of dollars.  I'd like a 4000×4000 monitor but the cheap ones currently only work at 30 Hz.

EVGA Nvidia GTX 650 1 GB video card

www.evga.com
www.nvidia.com

The onboard ATI/AMD HD 3300 video on my motherboard works fine for two monitors and 2D, or one monitor and 3D, but I couldn't get it to do dual monitors and 3D at the same time. So I picked up this video card. I'm using the Nvidia proprietary video drivers because they're faster, though the Nouveau drivers work too.

Crucial M4 CT064M4SSD2 2.5" 64GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

www.crucial.com

I finally got around to replacing my boot/root drive with an SSD. It's faster than a mechanical hard drive, but it's only 64 GB (because I was cheap), so I have to be careful to avoid filling it up.

I didn't really notice a huge difference in performance with the SSD, but I noticed a difference in noise.

Unfortunately, after about a year of good service, this drive started consistently giving me errors a couple of hours after boot. (Maybe heat related? Maybe just that flash has a finite number of reads and writes?) So I copied all the files off it onto my hard drive, and retired the SSD from service.

Hitachi HDS722020ALA330 2 TB SATA hard drive

www.hitachigst.com

A cheap 2 TB internal hard drive. I use this for /home. It's worked great.

WD Ext HDD 1021 2 TB SATA external hard drive

www.wdc.com

A cheap 2 TB external hard drive. I use this for backups. It's been fine so far. My previous one (also a 2 TB WD) died, but only after being knocked from the desk onto the floor while running, which I can't really hold against WD.

NEC NC-3540A DVD-RW

www.nec.com

It's a cheap DVD-RW drive. It's fast enough. I still mostly burn CDs rather than DVDs, so it doesn't matter too much.

Yamaha System 45 speakers

www.yamaha.com

The Yamaha 45W bundle consists of the YST-M15 speakers and the YST-MSW10 subwoofer. I'm very impressed with the speakers, for their size and price, but less so with the subwoofer. Just doesn't
add as much as I would expect to the sound, considering the price.

Logitech Optical Mouse

www.logitech.com

I'm using one of the simple ones with two buttons plus a clickable scroll wheel. That's enough. I got tired of replacing batteries in my cordless mouse and moved it to my laptop, which gets used less.

IBM Model M PS/2 keyboard

www.pckeyboard.com
www.modelm.org/mboard.html

The most perfect keyboard ever made. Weighs as much as a small truck. Clicks loudly enough to keep the neighbors awake. Will never break. Has no stupid/evil Windows 95 keys. A bargain at any price.

Mitsumi 1.44 MB 3.5" floppy drive

www.mitsumi.com

Yes, Apple, we still need writable, removable, bootable devices. Floppies are too small and slow, but nothing else has the same level of hardware support. (USB thumb drives are getting there, though.) Mitsumi has a well-deserved reputation for making cheap junk, but their floppy drives seem to hold up fine. The new motherboard has the floppy connector way on the bottom, and the cable is too short, so this is actually not connected. (But it's there just in case.)

Brother HL-2270DW Laser Printer

www.brother-usa.com

My decade-old Lexmark recently died, so I picked up the cheapest laser printer with good reviews on Amazon and a Linux driver in Cups. It's got wired and wireless networking, so it doesn't need to hang off a powered-on computer. All my computers found it right away on the network using ZeroConf. It's a bit annoying to load paper (you have to pull a drawer out of the front rather than just dropping it in the top), but I can't find anything else to complain about yet.

Linksys WRT54GL Wireless Router

www.linksys.com

These are great because they run Linux and you can replace the firmware with better open source firmware. (I use Tomato.) I also have the router that Verizon gave me, but its wireless can barely reach the middle floor of my house from the basement, so I turned off its wireless and hooked the old Linksys back up. (I'd prefer to only use the Linksys, but the Fios TV box is setup to talk to Verizon's router, and it's easier to run two routers than to figure out how to make it work with the Linksys.)