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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do it yourself

Have netbooks changed anything in the last couple of years? They have for me. I bought a little, at the time recently released, Asus eee 900. After installing a Linux distribution and some messaging, podcasting and screencasting programs it was ready for prime time! Ever since, my 3 year old Compaq laptop has been seating on the desk, being used as a desktop computer.

Don´t get me wrong. It´s a fine machine, but I rather have a nice silent desktop with a big screen in there instead of a laptop. So I set myself on a quest to find the holy grail of machines. Not expensive yet silent and nice. Did not care that much about processor speed or graphics as I hardly ever use what I have in my 3 year laptop either. It turns out it is not that easy to find something that is already built up for you (at least in the Basque country).

So after going round and round for a bit, I decided to build my own machine. I did a little bit of research and found that a good desktop case is the way to start. The one I've chosen is an Antec P183. It is quite heavy but very well organised and nice looking in my opinion. The second most important thing was a silent CPU cooler. The one I got is Zalman CNPS9900. It´s big but size is one of the weapons we have to combat heat and we shall use it to our advantage. Next thing I focused on was a nice power supply. Antec has some that look nice but my choice was a Enermax Modu 82+. It has cables you can add or remove as you need them. This is a nice feature to keep the inside of the case well organised.

From this point onwards I did not paid as much attention to the details when buying parts and the guidelines were to avoid fans. I bought a ASUS P5KPL/EPU motherboard and filled with 2 modules of 2GB Kingston memory. I don´t recall what brand the PCI graphics card is but it does not have a fan. The hard drive is Western Digital 1 Terabyte Caviar Green and the CPU is Intel Celeron E3200 2.40GH.

Assembling everything is not difficult. Remember to add the fan support underneath the motherboard. Other than that follow the motherboard instructions.

Finally there is a point I want to make about efficiency. Lots of friends query me about what computer they should buy. Every time they do, I try to avoid answering. First I´m a software guy and don´t now much about hardware. Secondly, it depends on your needs. However, over time, I have realised that most of them have gotten it wrong and I can no logger hide my opinion. For an average office and internet user It´s not CPU speed and graphics what you have to focus on. The speed of the hard drive is one of the biggest factors on a cold start nowadays. The only focus on hard disk is however, on its size rather than speed.

Coming back to our home made, silent computer, there is a hard disk in town that is fast and completely silent, the Intel X25-M 80GB SSD. Although the price is quite high, it looks like they have finally found the way to speed these drives up. Keep an eye on these SSD drives!

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