A New Computer

Computer Q’s floppy drive Following the lead of Ben, I made the decision to replace my “frankencomp” with something new & shiny, something not hacked together by yours truly. While having a self-built computer was something I was proud of, it has started showing signs that it needs to be retired. The floppy drive has evolved into an interesting state: now instead of reading a disk, it will conveniently render the disk useless and in need of formatting.

My DVD drive simply no longer opens. It tries to. I can hear the motor working. But the tray has decided it likes it inside its warm little compartment.

Likewise, my CD drive, though it still opens and closes like a good little drive, it occasionally makes a nice, loud roar when the motor is going. As you can imagine, that makes listening to music or playing games which require disk access all the more enjoyable. Who doesn’t enjoy a good loud roar?

Let’s not forget that this same drive is supposed to be able to write disks as well. It, like the floppy drive, has evolved the ability to ruin disks, this time allowing the burn process to proceed until just about time to finish, at which point the disk is ejected in a state of ruin. Fantastic.

Computer Q It would have been cheaper to order new parts, but frankly I do not want to go digging around inside the computer case again. To get the disk drives into the case in the first place required several tools, one of which was a hammer. They simply were too wide for the case, and the case is pretty big to begin with! I doubt they’re ever coming out of there…

And so, I have made the leap and ordered a computer quite similar to the one Ben describes, though not nearly as powerful. I ordered one of the n-Series computers from Dell, which ship without an installed operating system. Ben did this to install a flavor of Linux. I did it because I can’t afford to buy Windows again. I’m simply going to install Windows XP Professional on the new box and wipe the hard drive of my current computer after rescuing my data files.

I love open source software and am thankful for the software which drives my various sites. I enjoy Windows XP Pro and have had only minor problems in the past, and currently I have no reason to switch.

And since everyone loves a comparison, I’ll share with you the stats of both my current computer and the one currently in production for me.

Q, my self-built “frankencomputer.”

Many parts for “Q” were purchased new, but several were recycled from a Hewlett Packard computer Mom got for me back in ’00. The stats were as follows:

  • Intel Pentium 4 clocked at 2.60 GHz with an 800 MHz FSB, with HyperThreading
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 120 GB hard drive
  • Artec WSM-52Z CDRW disk drive
  • Toshiba SD-M1302 DVDROM disk drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 4000 graphics card with 128 MB ram

Q2 (tentative name), a custom-built Dimension n-Series E520 computer.

  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6400 clocked at 2.13 GHz with an 1066 MHz FSB
  • 1 GB ram
  • 160 GB hard drive
  • 48X CDRW/DVD Combo Drive
  • ATI Radeon X1300 Pro graphics card with 256 MB RAM

I didn’t order a new monitor — my 19″ ViewSonic Professional Series monitor works fine and dandy for my purposes — so that shaved several hundred off the price right there.

As far as miscellaneous accessories go, I ordered a transfer cable to assist in moving all my stuff from computer to computer as well as a new surge protector. A pair of 30 watt speakers (with subwoofer) was ordered as well, so that I can give my current speakers to Alicia so that we both have some for our comp. Why I didn’t hang on to the several-hundred watt surround sound stereo system I used to have my computer’s sound piped through, I’ll never know. (Okay, yeah, I do know: we simply didn’t have room for it at the apartment when we got married. I wonder what ever happened to that thing…)

What good is a new computer without some sparkling software to go with it? I went ahead and splurged on the full version of Adobe Dreamweaver 8; Dreamweaver has always been my favorite web development program, and from what I’ve seen and read about the latest version, it has only gotten better.

And for the environmentally conscience among my readers, you’ll be pleased to know I opted to pay a couple of extra bucks for Dell to plant a tree on my behalf. I’m undecided what I’ll be doing with my current computer, though I do plan on harvesting at least the graphics card out of it for Alicia‘s Presario. Currently, she’s using only the motherboard’s graphics abilities, though she has a beautiful new flat-screen ViewSonic Graphics Series 19″ monitor and spends her time editing photographs and such. Seems to me that having twice the memory allocated to graphics (probably more than twice, considering it will all be dedicated now) will be a boon to her activities.

18 thoughts on “A New Computer”

  1. Sweet new machine. I’ll bet you can really tell a difference in speed with that 1G of RAM!

    BTW, if you ever do decide to go with Ubuntu on this machine let me know, you’ll need a couple of extra resources to run that ATI Radeon X1300 graphics card;)

  2. I should’ve taken a picture of the case of almost 50 colorful floppy disks I haven’t ever been able to use… Or the stack of around 80 writable compact disks that have been lingering around for over a year. :P

    Ben: All your writing about Ubuntu has got me curious what it’d be like. And for sticking around with Windows XP, I don’t really have any big hang ups: Firefox, OpenOffice, the Gimp, and of course Gmail for mail… All of that is no problem in an Ubuntu environment. I just do *really* like Dreamweaver, though, and it’s the one program I wouldn’t want to give up as I’ve yet to find a free replacement that does all that it does — site management (local & remote) with very powerful editing for a variety of file types.

    Honestly, if I knew somehow I could run Dreamweaver 8 on Ubuntu, I’d at least be willing to try it out. But I didn’t shell out the $399 for version 8 for Windows to never use it. :P

  3. Oh and I forgot to mention, I don’t even play video games. The one computer game I am likely to pop open every now and again would be Civilization III (I *almost* added Civ IV to my order, but thought better of it)… I can’t even claim the standby, “I need to stick to Windows to play games.” Heh. Just Dreamweaver.

  4. Justin, if you get this, I just read your last comment on my post. I think you will be a big help in our discussion. If you can, go to the “Send E-mail” section on my blog, I would like to have your email address so I can talk with you outside the blogospehere. Be Blessed borther!

  5. As an update, Dell reports that my computer has shipped; Dreamweaver, the transfer cable, and the surge protector, however, have not. They can assemble and ship a computer faster than they can put three items in a box to ship. If I didn’t work in retail, I’d wonder how something like that is even possible, but since I do work in retail…

  6. What I find odd is that Dell has used two different carriers: UPS for the computer and DHL for the software and accessories; UPS reports tomorrow as a delivery date, with DHL reporting March 2. So, we’ll see how accurate they are… :)

  7. Well, I’m up and running on the new computer. I am simply amazed at how speedy this thing is. Booting up, opening programs, reading files from a CD, and so on, all of it is very fast in comparison to my old computer.

    That isn’t to say there weren’t a myriad of problems, which I probably wouldn’t have had had I gone with Ubuntu. :P

    1) The Windows XP disk didn’t recognize my hard drive at first and kept shutting down the installation before it began. Ugh. FreeDOS installed just fine, though I had no idea how to use it — I couldn’t even get its Chkdsk to work, per the Windows installation recommendation to see whether the hard disk was faulty or not. After getting frustrated, I tinkered around in the BIOS a bit and flipped a setting (I can’t recall what exactly, at the moment) dealing with how hard disks are recognized, and following that Windows installed nicely.

    2) Windows installed nicely, but it didn’t recognize a single piece of hardware that I was looking forward to using — the integrated sound chip set, the graphics card, the network card… So I had an uber-powerful computer that still showed slow-down when dragging an Explorer window with more than a handful of icons displayed. Nice. Thanks Microsoft. Even better was that the only disks the computer came with were for FreeDOS, DVD watching, and CD writing. No drivers. Maybe they were on the hard disk before Windows overwrote the whole thing. I dunno.

    I couldn’t get the new computer on the network to check the ‘net for the drivers, and the burner on both my old computer and my wife’s computer are is faulty. Thankfully, a few days before ordering the computer I had ordered Alicia an external CD/DVD writer. Were it not for that, it would have been very inconvenient getting the drivers installed.

    So, after downloading everything that seemed relevant on Dell’s E520 drivers download page, everything seems to be working smoothly now. I even managed to update the BIOS, not that I actually know what changed between versions…

    Now I simply wait my copy of Dreamweaver 8. :)

  8. niiice. I’m really really interested to know what you did to let it recognize your hard disk though. Installing ubuntu went fairly well for me, just had to install some extra drivers for the graphics card but that was the only thing. Everything else, the internet, sound, chipset, hard disk, etc, worked fine. I know the frustration you must have been feeling though. When I get a new tool all I want to do is plug it in, turn it on and have it work. Glad to hear that Dell has a page of drivers available though. It really would have helped if they had a disk of them though, right? I suppose they thought that a lot of folks who would get the “n” series would be using Linux and wouldn’t need a disk full of drivers :P. Nah, I’m just giving you a hard time now ;).

  9. Well, they do call them “Open Source Desktops” in the drop down menu (which seems to be one of the few ways on their site of finding the n-Series computers)…

    Though, I have gone more and more open source. Other than Windows the only closed-source software that I use often are Word, Dreamweaver, and Winamp. I keep *wanting* to use OpenOffice Writer more, and while certain aspects of it are nice, I’ve grown accustomed to Word’s interface and for me, it works.

    Though, most of my writing is done here, and WordPress is open source, so I think that makes up for it. :P

    Next time I reboot, I’ll be sure to jump into setup to make note of which BIOS setting I changed around, and I’ll share it here for you.

  10. That’ll be great. I was in the same boat as you, using mostly open source software except for Windows. I don’t know what spurred me to “jump ship” though. Hmm, interesting analogy. After “jumping ship” I’ve had to learn how to swim too ;). I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll say it here: Windows isn’t as bad as people say. If you maintain your system and are diligent about anti-virus and spyware protection it’s really a good system.

  11. Okay, in the BIOS Setup screen, there’s a list of options categories on the left; one of them is “Drives” and under it is “SATA Operation.”

    When I was poking through the options originally, I noticed that under SATA Operation it is noted that changing the setting from the factory default of “SATA On” could cause the operating system to stop loading.

    Well, since mine wasn’t loading anyway, I went ahead and tried switching it to the “RAID Autodetection / ATA” setting, which apparently will use RAID if the drives are signed, falling back to ATA otherwise.

    Whatever that means, I dunno — hardware isn’t my cup of tea — but it worked. The options also mentioned that RAID provides better performance (even if only one drive is present), but frankly I’d rather have a bootable OS than a few extra milliseconds saved on hard disk accesses.

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