Late last December, my desktop PC “Fezzik” (the one of “Tiger Direct Sends Me the Wrong PC” fame) decided to very suddenly die — the victim of a fused, overworked P4 processor giving up after just two years of deficient service. I salvaged the box for parts, keeping the floppy drive, hard drive, DVD-ROM drive, keyboard, mouse, and speakers. The RAM and video card went back to my brother whence they came, and the casing, motherboard, and power supply were discarded on the “free stuff” table in the laundry room, along with the old secondhand CRT monitor — which I had picked up from that same table. Then I went about the task of getting parts for a new PC through NewEgg. The orders went thus:
- MSI MBOX K9N6SGM-V Barebones Kit (included power supply, motherboard, and native video and audio)
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Windsor 2.0GHz 2×512 L2 Cache dual-core CPU
- Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro fan and heatsink
- 2GB stick o’ RAM
- Acer 22″ LCD monitor
Total cost was under $500, and it was all quite easy to put together, requiring no more than two nights of casual tinkering. The fan/heatsink assembly did have a slightly troublesome latch, and the old hard drive started making alarming sounds which necessitated a trip to Staples for a new Western Digital 160GB drive, but other than that it all spun up fine.
Oh, this PC is named “Flonkerton.” We were watching an episode of The Office while I was at the “Name of your PC” part of installing Windows, and I was tired of “Princess Bride” references. As for performance, I wasn’t expecting much more than a slight bump over the speed of Fezzik, so it was quite pleasing to find that Flonkerton smoothly handles 3D environments like Second Life and Half Life 2, which Fezzik had been unable to run without crashing. More RAM, dual core CPU with bigger L2 cache, and the inbuilt NVIDIA Geforce 6150SE made much more of a difference than I had thought they would — all for relatively cheap.
Here’s how the setup looks like on my half of the desk (the other unseen half being Amy’s space for her MacBook and printer):
Two things I wish you to notice:
- I have no desktop wallpaper; just a solid gray background. This prevents visual distraction and color bias when designing.
- The tower is off to the right; the monitor sits atop a VHS and a DVD player. We no longer have a TV. I will explain my entertainment setup further in a future post.
For your downloading pleasure and for my future reference when putting together a new PC, a list of the applications I have installed so far:
- The usual range of browsers: Firefox, Opera, Safari, Lynx.
- Pidgin and Skype, and that’s it for messaging. Pidgin handles multiple protocols pretty well, and I use its GTalk functionality for Twitter.
- Gmail Icon Notifier to set a browser alias to Gmail as the default email app, and Google’s official notifier for system tray new mail checking.
- ConTEXT, free programmer’s editor for code and text editing.
- Photoshop 6, one of the few non-free apps on this machine, standard for graphic design use. This is a legal copy with a legit license, purchased cheap from a local business which closed shop. “CS3?” Piffle! I’ve never needed anything in Photoshop past v6.
- Filezilla and WinSCP for GUI-based FTP and SFTP, though I usually just go to the command line for quick single file transfers.
- PuTTY (and its accompanying binaries) for command line SSH/SFTP needs.
- VisionGS (free Personal Edition) for webcam still image uploads on a schedule. I’ve tried other webcam apps and I always come back to VisionGS for its feature set and relatively clean user interface.
- iTunes and Quicktime for music and .MOV playback.
- VLC Media Player for playback of video formats other than those native to Quicktime and Windows Media Player.
- Joost for some small quantity of TV-like entertainment, though all we’ve done with it so far is watch Home Movies.
- BOINC/SETI@home, which uses spare CPU cycles for distributed computing tasks assisting the search for aliens.
- RSS Saver, a simple screen saver which zooms through text from RSS feeds.
- ScrHots for simple screensaver hot corners.
- Tugzip for ZIP and other compression needs.
- Steam, which so far I’ve just used to dabble in some retro multiplayer action in the original Half Life. At some point when I have time (haha yeah right) I’ll get the Orange Box and get my butt kicked at Team Fortress 2.
- Second Life. Thanks to “Dwight Shelford” and Law and Order:SVU’s Another Youniverse for getting me back into this. Help me.
- Of course I will throw Apache, PHP, MySQL, and Python, and SVN into this at some point.
Anything else you think I should install?