A reasonably modern machine, in January 1999, looked like this:
All of which, I'm happy to say, makes a great workstation to run Linux (RedHat 5.2) on.
- ABIT BH6 motherboard
- Celeron 300A CPU
- 128MB PC100 SDRAM
- 10.2GB Quantum disk
- ATI Xpert98 video card
- Soundblaster PCI128 sound card
- Adaptec 1540CF SCSI host adapter
- Generic NE2000 clone ethernet card
- Logitech 3-button mouse
- (borrowed) 20" workstation monitor
- Archive Python DDS-1 SCSI tape drive
- "40x" CD-ROM
- Odds & ends like ATX case, keyboard, floppy drive
Update: Feb. 27, 2001
Moore's Law is in full operation. For the same prices as I paid
for the components above, I could now get four times as much memory
and hard disk, and a 2.5 times faster CPU. But I don't have an
excuse to upgrade... yet.
The machine has changed in the following ways:
The machine currently runs Redhat 7.
- I'm only using 100MB of the 128MB after discovering that
the memory has a bad bit just above the 100MB mark. This is easily
done using "mem=100m" as a Linux kernel boot argument.
- There is an additional 4GB laptop hard disk in the machine
(I got it free)
- The SCSI card is now an Adaptec 2940. The old ISA card
gave very bad performance under Linux, burning CDs at 4x nearly
saturated it. With the new one I can burn a CD and do streaming
reads from three tape drives (DAT, 8mm and QIC150) simultaneously.
- The ethernet card is now a 3C905B. With this I can transfer
9MB/second with no noticeable CPU load. The old ISA ethernet card
gave high CPU load and maxed out at about 850KB/sec.
- The video card is now an Xpert2000 (32MB Rage128). Like
the other upgrades it was an opportunistic flea market purchase.
- There is a PCMCIA adapter, giving two PCMCIA slots just like
on a laptop computer. Matthias scrounged this for me. It allows
unloading digital camera memory cards automatically (a hack to the
PCMCIA "ide" script detects them and unloads them automatically,
just insert, wait for three beeps, remove and put back in the camera).
- Oh yes, I now own a 20" monitor identical to the borrowed one
(HP4033A with homemade VGA-5BNC adapter cable).
Who am I kidding? Who could possibly be interested in this blather?
Update: Nov. 6, 2001
It's hard to believe, but the computer can still hold its own, going on
three years old. I upgraded to Redhat 7.2, which finally supports the
hardware acceleration features of my video card. This allows fullscreen
video playback, using xine
and mplayer. DVDs and .asf
files even. Not bad for my old CPU, which I'm running at 450MHz and 2.2V
Other than that, the computer has changed in the following ways:
This means the CPU is now the least modern thing in my computer. But I don't
have a good excuse to upgrade yet (anyway, most of my upgrades have been
stuff that came along secondhand).
- I replaced the CD-ROM drive with a Creative Dxr2 DVD drive, which
was a garage sale purchase. This allows DVD playback. Also it reads
cheap CD-Rs much better: The cheapest brand I've tried, burned with my
burner, only read at about 4x on my old drive, this one zooms through
them at 20x.
- The memory is now a 256MB PC100 stick from Micron. With the extra
chip for ECC, and ECC turned on in the BIOS settings. No more bad memory
problems for me!
- 40GB 7200RPM hard disk (and removed the old two drives)
- I removed the DAT drive, as I never used it any more. Backing up to
CD-R is so much better.
- For the ultimate in modern computer convenience, a 5.25" 1.2MB floppy drive!
I used this to archive the contents of all the old non-Commodore 5.25" floppy
disks I have, which are in obscure formats (Superbrain CP/M, NABU Xenix and QNX,
as well as the odd old DOS disk). Ask me how to decode these formats under
Update: March 28, 2003
I upgraded the computer last November. It's now an A7Pro motherboard
with an AMD Duron 1300 on it and 384MB of non-ECC memory (alas, the motherboard
doesn't support ECC) running at 100MHz CAS2. This is pretty slow memory for
such a fast CPU, but I've done tests and for most practical applications
(e.g. audio/video encoding, JPEG image scaling etc.) it doesn't impact
performance very much. And it was a cheap secondhand purchase. Other stuff
currently in the computer is
Externally, it's still the same old computer because I re-used the case.
- An Enermax power supply with variable fan speed (turned all the way down
so the machine is nice and quiet)
- A 16x IDE CD burner
- The 20GB disk taken out of my old server machine
- A Hauppage WinTV card that I meant to use to digitize camcorder tapes
with, but never really use for anything
- The same 40GB disk, DVD drive, audio card, video card, ethernet card and SCSI card as before
I retired the P133 server machine and built a new one with the BH6 motherboard
and Celeron CPU from my main machine and a new 80GB disk. The PCMCIA adapter
lives in this machine, since my main machine no longer has ISA slots for it to
I've been running Redhat 8 since it came out.
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