Adventures in New Computing

So, in the interim of remembering what I did and writing down the nuts and bolts of the Pentium 133 build, I decided to (for one) redo it now that it’s mostly working and I remember how to work things like Windows 95 and DOS, and, secondly, to utilize some spare parts I had to build a somewhat newer machine. (In a future post, I plan on going over this HP all-in-one I’ve got, and what I did to upgrade it in a not particularly intelligent sort of way. The gist of it, though, is that I had some spare disks and a spare CPU or two to use.)

Armed with a fairly meager array of spare CPUs and such and a new case acquired by trade, I went off and went through the normal channels to find matching motherboards and such. And.. ended up just building a modern PC. The CPUs I had floating around were both of the AM3-socket Athlon II variety, which meant new motherboards are still being built to support them, which also means that really stupidly inexpensive parts were sort of hard to come by, which then leads to replacing the handful of parts I had with new stuff being not much more expensive.

The parts I ended up getting included an ASUS H310M chipset (such that there are chipsets these days) motherboard, coupled with a Raidmax 500 watt power supply, 8GB of Crucial DDR4 RAM, a really cheap NVMe 256GB M.2 SSD, and a Pentium Gold G5400 CPU running at 3.7GHz, all of which slotted into a Rosewill Raider-M case or somesuch. In essence, this is a cut-down Core i3-based system - the CPU has a crappier version of the GPU that the Core i3 does, and it’s got 2 cores with HyperThreading rather than 4 without. There’s some evidence that at least some of these are binned CPUs so there may very well be 4 actual cores in there, and it’s a 9th-gen Core architecture CPU so easy to swap in a Core i9 when I finally actually do go insane. I went with Xubuntu 19.10 on it - Eoan Ermine - with ZFS roots and whatnot. For the $250ish I paid for the parts, it’s really damned quick, though playing games in Linux still sucks a bit.

In terms of the computer itself, I came away with two main things:

  • Even this cheap no-name 256GB NVMe SSD can push a full GB/s, in my totally unscientific and probably pointless GParted benchmarks I ran when I was also installing games in Steam.
  • Parts to first boot - everything just sitting on the desk for sanity/functionality check - took like 10 minutes. No kidding. Another 10-15 to put things in the case, and maybe 20 more to install Ubuntu, and.. like.. a few more to make sure the front-panel USB and audio worked before I closed everything up. Had I actually prepared, this would have been a 30-minute build.

On a whim, I bought a regular SATA SSD with an odd name (Alertseal! Almost as good as Fatty Duck Racing) and then slapped that in there haphazardly for a Windows 10 install. It’s also real fast, and now I’m using a disk drive that has a picture of a happy seal on it. And a 5-year Wrrnty. Whatever that is.

I haven’t put it through paces with coding and such but VirtualBox.. runs.. on it (admittedly with Windows 10, which isn’t the best of ideas given limited resources) and it’s certainly snappy enough to play high-def YouTube videos OK. Games are a bit more of a mixed bag; I’ve only tried GTA:IV and Portal 2 so far. Portal 2 is totally cool at 1920x1200 - hits the 60FPS limiter - on Windows but dips into the 20s on Linux and is happier at 1280x800. GTA:IV on Windows needs a lot of things turned down/off but is playable at 1280x800 or so. (I’m just happy to actually be able to play it finally. I bought that years and years ago and have never really been able to run it - either my computer wasn’t good enough for it at all, or it doesn’t work well in virtualization, or something. So far, it’s.. not really all that great but we’ll see.)

Next steps for ridiculous stupidity include trying to get macOS on it, because I obviously need a crap Hackintosh to run along side my real MacBook Pro. And then, I dunno.. maybe more fiddling with Docker/K8s, media serving, Android dev, stuff like that. Or a Core i3 sans video and a real video card for gaming funtimes. (I have a bunch of games I’ve never played because no Mac versions.) In any case, throwing together a machine was pretty fun, if quick and somewhat anticlimactic.

Some More Information For Y'all

Hi, I'm James. Some people call me 'murgee'.

I'm a web developer, general computer nerd, and music geek based in Memphis, TN.

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