Banned to the Geek-cave again

By tonyhughes Hughes, in , posted: 14-Apr-2007 11:32

With more renovations, new carpet going in soon, and my long-suffering non-geek partners desire for a tidy home, the computer desk (and its positive plethora of gadgets, add-ons, devices, printers, drives, peripherals, papers, cds, dvds, manuals, boxes and more) has been banned to the garage.


It used to be there anyway. It came back inside on the promise that if it was to live in the lounge, it would stay tidy. That failed miserably - just not possible to do.

Its not all bad, the geek cave is a room about the size of a single bedroom, with more than its fair share of windows (the glass kind), plenty of power points, a phone jack, lots of shelving, good lighting and carpet.

The biggest problem is that some time ago, I ditched our desktop in favour of a laptop, that spent 50% of its time on the coffee table, and 50% of its time docked to peripherals on the computer desk. This was okay when it was all in the same room, but not to go back and forth between the house and the garage!

All I really need is a modern processor, and lots of RAM and HDD. I dont need super huge grunt, or a dream graphics card, so on the budget PC hunt I went.

I probably could have got a slightly better machine on Trademe for about $50 - $100 more than I ended up paying, but I got something locally, and I got it immediatley.

From Warehouse Stationery of all places, I got an AMD 3400+ with onboard Aero capable graphics (using it now, runs fine), 256MB DDR2 (immediately upgraded at home to 768MB, and it has four slots, so I'll increase this to 2GB soon), an 80GB HDD (will use this as a system drive and add a couple of SATA 500GB drives for storage), a lightscribe DVD writer, XP Home licence, nice Compaq keyboard and mouse (these will be kept as spares), all for $400 on runout. Harvey Norman had the same model for $850 (just for the box), and couldnt/wouldnt do it any cheaper.

The bundled XP Home with all the Compaq add-ons ran so slow it wasnt funny (and this was with the extra 1/2 gig of RAM installed!). It was like using a Pentium 500 with 128MB of RAM after XP had slowed down from months of crud building up.

So I ghosted the hard drive, then reformatted the drive, installed Windows Vista Ultimate, and its flying along at a great rate of knots, even with Aero and all other eye-candy turned on. So the message here is that its okay to buy a branded machine, but always blow that hard drive away and start from scratch with a fresh untainted install of your chosen OS (make sure you have drivers for you hardware first, especially your network adapter, so you can at least connect to the net to find other required drivers).

I have another similar machine (an AMD1.8GHz with 3GB RAM) that is about to be put into service to run Ubuntu Linux full time.

Both machines will be connected to my regular keboard, mouse and monitor via a KVM, so I can switch over at will. I like Linux, and I like Windows, and with me wanting to increase my Linux capability, having a permanent Linux machine makes sense, and to do that effectively, you want to have it hooked up to your regular 'good' keyboard, mouse and monitor, otherwise no matter how good your Linux system is, if you run a Windows box with better Human Interface Devices, you will keep going back to it because its nicer to use.

I also bought a new monitor, as the only real monitor I had was an ageing Proview CRT 17", so a quick trip to DSE to buy a 5ms 1440x900 19" WXGA Widescreen LCD for $399 was in order. I could have got one from work or from Trademe a bit cheaper, but its a pain to deal with my own personal warranty issues at work, and at least with DSE, if I dont like it, I can take it back and get a different model - try that with a Trademe seller.

It takes a while to set up a brand new computer for a geek, especially loading all device drivers and things on, but I guess Ill be finished by the end of the weekend!

So the banishment wasnt too bad, I got some new hardware out of it at least!!

Another plus, is that the laptop will be left permanently setup with my partners email and IM etc, and her preference of settings, and I will simply use remote desktop from the laptop should I wish to use my PC without heading out to the garage - I can leave my IM and email etc running full time, without having to worry about anyone getting confused and reading then deleting messages in the wrong account!! (It happens).

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