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:
- Asus A8V Deluxe socket 939 motherboard
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ CPU
- Zalman CNPS7000B-Cu CPU heatsink/fan, copper
- 2 GiB of unbuffered ECC PC3200 DDR SDRAM
- 3ware 8506 SATA RAID controller
- 3 320GB SATA drives, RAID 3
- Pioneer DVR-108 DVD+/-R/RW drive
- Coolermaster CAC-T05 Centurion 5 case
- Antec NeoPower 650 power supply
- Sapphire Radeon XT1950 Pro 512MB AGP video cardn
- Samsung SyncMaster 213T 21" LCD monitor, 1600x1200 resolution
- Samsung USB keyboard
- Logitech cordless optical mouse
- 2 IOGEAR 7-port powered USB hubs
- APC SmartUPS 1400 UPS
- Epson Stylus R300 printer
- Plustek Opticbook 3600 book (flatbed) scanner
- Mustek Scan Express A3 USB 1200 Pro flatbed scanner
- Thermaltake BlacX SATA drive dock
- 4 Antec
- Linksys WRTSL45GS wireless router running OpenWRT firmware
I still have my previous system set up and use it occasionally:
- Sony SRS-A57 amplified speakers
- Ricoh IS-520 high-speed duplex scanner (B&W only, but very fast, 400 DPI optical resolution
- Hewlett-Packard ScanJet 3c, color at 600 DPI optical resolution
- Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 6MP printer
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".
- Asus A7M266-D dual Athlon socket A motherboard, 760MPX chipset
- Two AMD Athlon XP 1900+ CPUs
- 256 Megabytes of registered ECC DDR SDRAM
- PC Power & Cooling Silencer 400 ATX power supply
- Asus AGP-3400 video card (based on NVidia Riva TNT)
- Nokia 445Xi 20-inch CRT monitor, 1600x1200
- Panasonic AL-D40 LCD monitor (Japanese model), 14 inch, 1024x768
- Diamond FirePort 40 Dual SCSI host adapter (LSI/Symbios/NCR 53C875 based)
- Swann IEEE 1394 host adapater
- Maxtor 60G internal IDE disk drive
- Maxtor 160G external 1394 drive
- Pioneer DVR-A03 DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-RW drive in external 1394 case
- two TDK 32/10/40 CD-RW drives in external 1394 cases
- Plextor UltraPlex 40 Wide SCSI CD-ROM drive
- Plextor Plexwriter 12/4/32 SCSI CD-RW drive
- Hewlett-Packard C1537A DDS-3 tape drive
- Netgear 10/100 Ethernet card (older model, DEC 22140 based)
- Microsoft Natural Keyboard
- Logitech cordless mouse
If you're bored you can read about my
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 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.
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
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 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