Most powerful force in the galaxy

I finally got around to installing Mac OS X 10.2.8 onto my iPod. Booting from an iPod is not an officially supported feature but it is just a hard drive so I gave it a go. It works! I don't plan on booting from it often but at least I have a backup boot drive with Norton products installed just in case something bad happens.

Building your own PeeCee

Reid has been hounding me to post something about what I have learned about building a PC. :-)

The first thing I will say is that there is no perfect PC out there. There are many ways to go (SFF for the perfect LAN box or a big tower for big air and expansion/watercooling, etc.).

The first place to start is the case. I would love to have a SFF (Small Form Factor) system but for the time being I have opted to go for mid to high tower cases. The SFF is great for multi-media systems or for LAN party boxes. The Shuttle series of SFF PC's currently have my vote for the #1 SFF box. Shuttle SFF's are cool because you can pop in a Rage 9800XT or a 9800 Pro AIW with a P4 or Athon XP/64 and have a sweet gaming/TV box. The newer Shuttles also have SATA! Very sweet. The tradeoff is that the power supply is rather weak and that you really should not overclock due to the moderate CPU/system cooling. If you want expandability then go for a mid to high tower case. Don't be cheap with the case!!!. Get a case with a minimum of two fans (front/rear). The more fans the better. I have seen cases with two front, two rear, two side (blows air down onto the mb/vid card), one top. The front fans should blow over your main hard drives. The amazing thing is that even with all these fans the cases are super quiet. Aluminum cases are all the rage now. Aluminum is light, provides a good route for heat extraction, and looks damn good when done right. Look for cases with thumbscrews throughout – a tool less case is a big plus. Some cases come with doors to cover the front external drive bays. I like the front door if my drives don't match my case (yes, I have thought of painting them) otherwise get a case that matches the colour of your drives (or drives that match your case)

Don't forget about the power supply! Toms Hardware has run two articles on power supplies (1 & 2). I went with Antec and Vantec for my systems as they were available in my area.

Processor fans are a big pain in the ass! I am currently using the stock Intel fan on my P4 2.53 system. I have had no complaints as the system is very quiet. I went with a Thermaltake fan on my 2.4C overclocked system. I came with a manual speed adjustment control which I like (most of the time). The sucker does get loud when I crank it to 6,000 rpm. It appears that Swiftech are the current cream of the crop as far as air cooling is concerned.

Hard drives – I love the current state of hard drives!!!!! So cheap and soooo big. 7200 RPM PATA drives with 8MB cache are very quick. Get a couple and RAID them if you can. I don't have a RAID setup on my 2.53 system but the drives are plenty fast (fast enough to record weekly Enterprise episodes without breaking a sweat). There is always something faster it seems and that is without a doubt SATA 7200 drives with 8MB cache (the WD Raptor 10,000 rpm SATA drives are cool but they are really tiny so what’s the point (and they are not much faster)). RAID them if you can (I use RAID 0(ya ya, everything is backed up)). SATA RAID blows away my PATA single drive system as far as load times are concerned.

Video card – ATI is the king at the moment. Try and get a 3rd party Radeon 9500 Pro or a 9700 Pro if you can. The 9600 Pro/9600XT are also good options. The 9800 Pro 128 MB is a great card. Don't waste your money on the 9800 Pro 256 MB. The 9800XT is the current king of the hill. A great card but not much of a difference between it and the 9800 Pro. Keep in mind that AGP is nearing the end of its life so you don't want to sink too much into a new vid card at the moment. The best video card ever made has to be the 9800 AIW Pro. It has it all.

What OS? The only OS you should consider is Mac OS X. No, wait, Windows XP Professional. (whoops)

Motherboard – MSI/ABIT/ASUS/DFI/GIGABYTE – stick with the main brands – current chipsets to look for are the 865/875 for Intel – nForce2 400 for Athlon XP (ya, I know about the other one but they dropped the ball after the 266A chipset). Check the feature set (SATA/RAID/Surround onboard audio) I am too tired to list the Athlon 64/FX mobo's.

Processor Intel – P4 2.4C and overclock the shit out of it!!!!!!! AMD – Athlon XP “Barton” 2500+ and up. If you have the coin then go for the P4 EE (if you are completely insane!!!) or the Athlon FX series (a better choice).

Memory – If you don't plan on overclocking then get some good mainstream memory. If you want to overclock then the sky is the limit. DDR 500 + is what you want on the Intel side of things. I am running 2x512MB OCZ PC4000 Dual Channel Kit Gold. Corsair is another manufacture to look at for high performance memory.

Get a CD-RW and a DVD drive (a DVD burner if you need it). It is useful to have both for CD duplication on the fly as well as have both your favorite DVD movie and favorite game CD ready to go at a moments notice.

Networking – after switching over to Gigabit Ethernet I cannot go back. Many motherboards now ship with Gigabit Ethernet onboard. Look for the Intel CSA Gigabit Ethernet controller.

That’s it, I am off to bed.

Hard Drive Prices at Canada Computers

The usual spreadsheet dump, in increasing cost per gigabyte. Prices courtesy Canada Computers, whether they know it or not.

tech brand capacity cost $ per gig cache rpm
PATA Maxtor 120 $132 $1.10
PATA Seagate 120 $132 $1.10
PATA Maxtor 120 $144 $1.20 8
PATA Seagate 120 $148 $1.23 8
SATA Maxtor 120 $148 $1.23 8
PATA Western Digital 160 $198 $1.24 8
PATA Seagate 80 $100 $1.25
PATA Maxtor 160 $201 $1.26 8
PATA Western Digital 180 $228 $1.27 8
PATA Western Digital 200 $254 $1.27 8
PATA Maxtor 80 $102 $1.28
PATA Western Digital 120 $154 $1.28 8
SATA Maxtor 160 $209 $1.31 8
SATA Western Digital 120 $159 $1.33
PATA Western Digital 80 $107 $1.34 8
PATA Seagate 180 $246 $1.37
SATA Seagate 120 $164 $1.37 8
SATA Seagate 160 $219 $1.37 8
PATA Western Digital 250 $375 $1.50 8
SATA Maxtor 80 $123 $1.54 8
PATA Seagate 60 $99 $1.65
SATA Seagate 80 $138 $1.73 8
PATA Maxtor 40 $80 $2.00
PATA Seagate 40 $80 $2.00
PATA Western Digital 40 $84 $2.10 8
SATA Western Digital 36 $174 $4.83 10k

Price check!

A quick comparison of prices amongst some Toronto-area vendors:

Price Comparison
vendor\item ASUS A7N8X Deluxe (Ultra 400 Socket A nForce2, SATA) MAXTOR DRIVE IDE 120GB SATA 7200 8MB 512MB DDR400
Canada Computers $177 $148 $130
Infonec $175 $159 $119
JNet $180
only 333MHz?
$165 $102
GreyTech $180 $180 $140
Razor $184 $n/a $126

Another flawed IDC study

MacCentral is running a story titled Microsoft dominance of OS market grows, IDC study says. Here's a brief excerpt:

Microsoft's Windows accounted for 55.1 percent of new shipments of server operating systems in 2002, up from 50.5 percent in 2001, while paid versions of Linux accounted for 23.1 percent of new shipments in 2002, up from 22.4 percent in 2002, the Framingham, Massachusetts, market research company said in its report.
The IDC report did not take into account the free versions of Linux available. That last line is the killer. Given the Open Source nature of Linux, there are many, many installations that are based on downloaded, free copies of Linux. Yes, there are many places that buy Red Hat or what have you, but certainly the number of free installs is significant. Any report on the installed base cannot ignore it. Instead of “Microsoft dominance of OS market grows”, the title should be “Microsoft share of paid OS installs grows”. If it were the case that free Linux installs accounted for 98% of the market this year, up from 23% last year, this entire report would read no different. *sigh.