Aside from my main desktop system, you can read my old pages concerning the Toshiba Libretto subnotebook, and the DEC Multia Alpha-based system.

My main desktop system currently consists of:

Other computer gear I use with the system: I still have my previous system set up and use it occasionally: Both systems normally only run Linux. I have very little use for Windows (or DOS). On rare occasions that I need to run Windows software, I usually run it in a VMware "penalty box".

If you're bored you can read about my old system.

Disk drives

I'm not running SCSI disk drives any more, because the performance of modern IDE drives is nearly as good (and sometimes better), and the IDE drives are much more cost effective.

However, as electromechanical devices, all disk drives are prone to failures that can lose your data. I recommend using a RAID configured for mirroring or RAID 5 so that when one drive fails you haven't lost any data. Most of my data is now stored on Maxtor IDE drives attached to 3ware RAID controllers in server machines (not listed above).

If you get 7200 RPM (or faster) drives, bear in mind that they dissipate a lot of power in a small space, so they need good cooling. It isn't a good idea to put them in a PC case unless you add an extra cooling fan that provides airflow directly across the drive.

When considering the MTBF numbers quoted by manufacturers, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Design life:
The manufacturer's specifications for a drive include a design life, which typically is five years. No matter how high the MTBF rating is, they aren't making any claims about the drive lasting beyond the design life. Many people flame about what they call "ridiculous" MTBF figures. What they don't understand is that MTBF is a statistical measure of a population of drives, not a single drive. An MTBF of 500,000 hours means that if you take 10,000 drives and operate them for 10,000 hours, you can expect an average of 200 failures. This does not mean that the average drive will last 500,000 hours.
Environmental requirements:
The specifications for a drive include the allowable temperature and humidity ranges for operation and storage of the drive. The MTBF only applies to drives used within the manufacturers specifications, so if you stick a drive in a PC case without adequate cooling (i.e., almost any normal PC case), and it gets too hot, all bets are off. Excess heat will cause a reduction in reliability.

Hewlett-Packard C1537A DDS-3 tape drive

Hewlett-Packard C1533A DDS-2 tape drive

Hewlett-Packard offers a wide range of DAT tape drives.

The C1533A was one of the fastest DDS-2 tape drives currently on the market, with a sustained uncompressed transfer rate of 510 kilobytes per second, more than three times the transfer rate of most DDS-1 drives.

DDS-2 tape drives have a native (uncompressed) capacity of 4.0 gigabytes on 120 meter DDS-2 tape. HP quotes typical compression ratios of 2:1 for "technical" data and 4:1 for "normal" data. The sustained transfer rate for compressed data can be as high as 1.5 megabytes per second.

Using 60 and 90 meter DDS-1 tape, the native capacities are 1.3 and 2.0 gigabytes, respectively. However, the C1533A achieves the same 510 kilobyte per second sustained transfer rate for DDS-1.

HP also offered the C1553A, which was essentially the same drive mechanism built into a six tape autochanger in a 5.25 inch form factor.

The tape drive offers a vast amount of status and log information which may be obtained via the SCSI Inquiry, Mode Sense, and Log Sense commands. Some of the most useful information includes error logs that can be used to assess the quality of your tapes and/or the condition of your drive, and compression statistics. I have written a TAPEINFO utility for Linux to provide an easy way to get at the information. TAPEINFO is not public domain, but it is available under the terms of the Free Software Foundation's General Public License, Version 2. If you agree to the terms of the license, you may download a copy of tapeinfo-0.2.tar.gz.

To interpret the data, you will probably need a copy of "The HP C1533A OEM Product Manual", Edition 3, January 1994, Part Number C1533-90900. This document seems to be hard to come by, but it has a wealth of useful technical information.

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 400 ATX power supply

Though they aren't as sexy as 2 GHz processors or 21 inch LCD monitors, power supplies are one of the most important parts of a computer, yet they generally receive the least attention. PC Power & Cooling offers much higher quality power supplies, fans, etc. than the typical junk found in PCs.

I was skeptical when I heard the claim that the Silencer series power supplies produce up to 84% less noise than typical supplies, but I decided to give it a try. I was amazed at how quiet it is. And they have a two year warranty!

The Silencer 400 ATX has a 35 CFM ball-bearing fan, and has a noise rating of 24dB(A). Typical cheap power supplies have a 28-30 CFM sleeve bearing fan, typically with a noise rating around 44 dB(A).

APC SmartUPS 1400 UPS

APC offers many UPS models. I like the SmartUPS because it has a lot of fancy monitoring capabilities. Unfortunately APC considers their protocol proprietary, so people have had to reverse-engineer it to get it to work with Linux. Here are some programs that deal with it:
Back to my home page

Last updated April 27, 2008 (but still woefully out of date!)

Copyright 1995-2000, 2002, 2005-2006, 2008 Eric Smith

Valid HTML 3.2! check now