Archive for the 'motherboards' Category

Brain transplant for my flagship computer.

January 4, 2009

I’ve been agonizing over what to do about my dying computer.  Normally, I would put it out to pasture as a backup and build a new machine from scratch.  I did some Core i7 pricing tonight.  While the processors themselves are quite comparable to the Penryn chips, the motherboard and memory prices are out of sight.

So I got to thinking.  Is this the right time to go crazy on hardware?  I decided that it’s not. So I just bought a new motherboard, chip and RAM with a Zalman cooler.  I’m going to replace these parts only in my main machine and keep the video card and raptor hard drives and everything else.

I did splurge on the Q9550.  I think with the Zalman, I should at least get 3.6 GHz.  It will easily be the fastest computer I’ve ever worked with.  It will be faster than my kids’ computers and the upgrade cost me less than $600.  It would have been over $2000 building a new Core i7 system.  I think, for now, this was the smart way to go.

Building a Quad Core Q6600 machine.

March 1, 2008

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Quad-Core Processor, 2.40 GHz, 8M L2 Cache, LGA 775
On Thursday I went to Microcenter to buy the external monitor for my damaged laptop. Microcenter was having a sale on Q6600 processors. I could not resist. The thought was that I would use the chip, memory, motherboard power supply and chip fan to build a new video server.

When I got home I realized that the video card from the old video server would not work in the new computer. So I decided to buy a fairly decent video card for the quad core machine to replace my current flagship machine. The goal has always been to have two really fast machines. I have been waiting for the new Penryn chips to come out. I figured though that I could spend a little money now and still have enough money to build an even faster flagship machine later.

Silly boy. I ended up spending way more than I wanted to.

I did however get to spend last night building a new machine. Even a casual reader of this blog knows that I enjoy building computers so yesterday was very special. This is not to say that it was easy. I had hoped to overclock it. I bought a special fan to help keep the chip cool. However, had I had a great deal of difficulty installing the fan. Ultimately I ended up using the stock fan.

While the new machine started on post, after I loaded XP I had many problems. I stayed up until past midnight but I didn’t figure out what was wrong until this morning. I traced it down to a piece of software that was causing the machine to be unstable.

That is why I enjoy building computers. You never know what types of challenges will arise I enjoy the finished product as well. For example I’m using NaturallySpeaking 9 to write this blog. The new machine runs this program faster than any machine I’ve ever used previously. That being said, the overclocked dual dual core machine I built almost two years ago is still comparable to the new machine. It is no longer 4 GHz, but even at 3.2 GHz, it’s not too shabby.

Then again I have not been able to overclock this machine because I had to use the stock cooler. I may try again at a later date to overclock it. However, right now, I don’t have time. I haven’t been playing with the new computer much today as I have been busy working.

I now also have a philosophical quandary. In my home office, I now have two powerful computers. There are two other not so powerful computers (and my daughters two computers). The quandary is this: I don’t need another computer. I realize that my hobby is not about need, it’s about want. However, even I have my limits. As I sit here today, I have no idea what I would do with two quad core machines and an overclocked dual core in addition to all my other computers. Not building another computer solves the budget problem. If I don’t build the new flagship machine I was planning on, then the current spending spree wasn’t for naught.

I could still use a laptop. Maybe I should start saving for that.

Skulltrail

February 9, 2008

Intel released its Skulltrail motherboard to the media for testing.  I’ve been following this on Tom’s Hardware (a most excellent British tech site).  TH found that 1) the test machine didn’t beat single core machines in performance and 2) the board Intel sent TH was rushed and shoddy.  TH didn’t understand why Intel would ship something like that when they have no competition right now.

I feel that Tom’s hardware missed something on the second point, to a degree.  Look at the new Mac Pro.  It is an 8 core machine with a dual quad core motherboard.  The quad cores are Intel, of course, but I have no idea who makes the mother board.  Skulltrail, as bad as Tom’s says it is, give PC enthusiasts something to turn to besides the Mac Pro.

We’re in a strange time in modern computing where hardware manufacturers are producing chips that are considerably ahead of anything that programmers can use.  Increasing speed by adding multiple cores doesn’t help programmers.  Increasing clock speed is great for programmers because they don’t have to do anything to take advantage of the increased speed.  Adding cores presents a real challenge. It’s too bad there isn’t a chip or a piece of software available that automatically allocates cores to processes.  Then programmers wouldn’t have to worry.  We need to make things as easy as possible for programmers.

Tom’s said Skulltrail is 2 years ahead of its time.  I disagree with that.  I think it just needs a few refinements to make it work.  The biggest bottleneck with Skulltrail as it stands is the memory.  Make the memory DDR3 and everything changes.  While that’s probably not brain dead easy, it’s certainly not impossible.  With a little refinement, I would buy a Skulltrail motherboard.