Build a Linux PC for a Dummy
February 27, 2008 5:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm building a PC for the first time and need someone to check my work.

There was a recent question on this very topic and he even has basically the same requirements that I do: Linux1, cheapish2, would like 3D3. The problem is, I already have my parts all picked out and I'm way too ignorant to be able to compare the lists. He also already had a bunch of components so it isn't a complete list.

This question is really better suited for asking a knowledgeable friend of mine. And I did ask the one person I know about it, but he's so far above me I got no intelligible reply.

My hand-holding questions are these:

Will the below components all work together?
Have I made any shockingly dumb choices (i.e. twice the speed/capacity/sexiness/brandnamitude for the same price or not much more)?
Have I forgotten anything? (I have keyboard, mouse and speakers and I got a nice big digital LCD monitor for Xmas)
Since I'm obviously so frightened by (and uninterested in) this process, would I be better off just buying a Dell?

My choices. I based these picks on this list but the Newegg reviews indicated that the MB wouldn't work well, if at all, under Linux. After spending 2 days poring over incomprehensible numbers and acronyms, I swapped it for a working MB....I think.

1I'm not at all new to Linux, but that said I don't want to have to do a bunch of crazy configuring and/or compiling to make my hardware work. Ubuntu is my most recent fave distro.

2I was originally thinking $500-$700, but my wife did our taxes last weekend and even the frugal she declared I could go higher. She didn't quite say "money is no object" but she seemed fairly upbeat...say to the tune of up to ~$300 more. This money might be best spent extending the lifetime of the performance, since I will probably have this computer for 4-5 years.

3I don't play games, but there are many non-game programs I'm barred from running because my CPU overheats trying to do the graphics, if it runs at all. Maybe I don't need hardware acceleration so much as a modern computer (my current one is from 2003)...?
posted by DU to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Will the below components all work together?
Yes.

Have I made any shockingly dumb choices (i.e. twice the speed/capacity/sexiness/brandnamitude for the same price or not much more)?
Nope, everything looks in order and are fine choices. However, your motherboard supports even faster RAM than your spec'd (DDR2 1066 instead of the DDR2 800 on your wishlist). For just $20 more, you might as well get the faster set.

Have I forgotten anything? (I have keyboard, mouse and speakers and I got a nice big digital LCD monitor for Xmas)
Nope, but with the extra money you may want to invest in a separate video card. It may not be a hug improvement depending on what you'll be doing on the computer but in terms of best bang for the buck, I'd say either the video card or a bit more room would be nice. You can definitely pick up something decent with the extra $280. In fact since you're not playing games, I recommend staying under $100.
posted by junesix at 6:16 AM on February 27, 2008


I'm not sure why the other mobo you were looking at wouldn't work under linux, I would think that most modern chipsets would be supported.

The mobo appears to support DDR2 1066 RAM, whereas the RAM you have is only DDR2 800. It'll still work, so that isn't a big deal. If you followed a guide, it probably did that so you would save money. There's a small speed difference between the two, probably not enough to spend money on the more expensive RAM.

You big new monitor is probably DVI in, and you'll need an adapter to go form the VGA port on your mobo to DVI. Like this one. The thing is though, that's not going to convert an analog signal (like VGA) to a digital signal (like DVI-D). It'll only work if your new monitor accepts DVI-A (which I assume is an analog signal over DVI. Wow, that's confusing.

If you have more cash, I'd suggest buying a mid-grade video card. The onboard video isn't going to cut it if you ever want to get into gaming or anything that requires a lot of graphics power. 300 bucks would buy you a very nice card.
posted by pete0r at 6:16 AM on February 27, 2008


A case is a case is a case. You might be able to save some money by picking up a less expensive case at a local store (save on the cost, the shipping, and be able to touch it and see how sturdy it is); the power supply can either be ordered with the rest of it or added/upgraded at the local place. Antec makes some nice cases but the no-name $50 one I use (with a $40 Thermaltake power supply, on sale!) has worked fine for me for the last 4 years or so. If you are buying the case based on noise reduction, cooling ability (less important if you are not overclocking), looks, or some other feature, go ahead and splurge if it's in the budget, but this is definitely one place you can shave a few dollars off if need be.

ASUS boards have a good reputation: I use one myself, and even though it's older I have no problems running Ubuntu (live CD) on my machine. You should be good there. Processor, well, Intel vs. AMD is basically a personal preference now, Intel will set you back more, AMD is currently a bit behind in terms of speed but for the most part they're pretty equivalent.

You mention 3D graphics as an issue: With a nice big new LCD screen, why use the onboard video? It's going to be underpowered compared to an expansion card, and it doesn't have digital output (if your LCD supports it, why use the old RGB?) You can pick up an nVidia card from NewEgg; they have solid support in Ubuntu for the nVidia graphics as discussed in the other thread you linked. The remainder (ethernet, sound, etc.) is fine with the built-ins; I use them on my own system, but strongly consider an expansion GPU card.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:26 AM on February 27, 2008


Hardware seems fine, but lack of dvi out on the motherboard sucks. It's not a big deal, you can just pick up a low end video card when/if you need it. If you have some more cash, I'd go for 4GB RAM instead of 2. You can also make the jump to DDR2 1066, but if you don't really care that much and would rather have the money, then it's not that big a deal either.

If you want to get really fancy, you can use the extra money to get a different heat sink (and some thermal grease) for your CPU, because the stock one that comes with the retail kit is pretty loud (I think). You'll probably need to get a good fan, too, since most coolers don't come with one. SPCR always has good advice and recommendations.

on preview: stupid slow fingers. At least we have consensus.
posted by tracert at 6:31 AM on February 27, 2008


Also, should mention, if you go for more memory you will have to run 64 bit Linux in order to use it all.
posted by tracert at 6:35 AM on February 27, 2008


I was pretty surprised the MB wouldn't work under Linux too, but there were multiple reviews talking about it.

I did notice the RAM thing, but I don't remember why I didn't bump it up. At the time I made the list I was trying to be more frugal, so maybe that's it. $20 + 2 more GB seems reasonable, considering the longevity issue.

No DVI port on motherboard. Damn, I'm glad I posted this AskMe. I just assumed it would be there on a modern board. So yeah, maybe a video card. I probably don't need a $300 "very nice" card but sub-$100 "not playing games" card might be underpowered. Any specific recommendations?
posted by DU at 6:36 AM on February 27, 2008


Looking over the incomprehensible reply from my acquaintance, I see he mentioned this card. All the secret handshakes and mystic symbols (DVI, nVidia, "PCI x16", etc) seem to line up, so I think I'm good there....?
posted by DU at 6:48 AM on February 27, 2008


You big new monitor is probably DVI in, and you'll need an adapter to go form the VGA port on your mobo to DVI. Like this one. The thing is though, that's not going to convert an analog signal (like VGA) to a digital signal (like DVI-D). It'll only work if your new monitor accepts DVI-A (which I assume is an analog signal over DVI. Wow, that's confusing.

Well, What you want is DVI-I which accepts both a digital and analog signal. I'm planning on getting an AMD machine soon with an AM2 socket, basically trying to get the cheapest 64 bit machine I can get my hands on (I have a older AMD system now, running win32 and I don't want to install a new OS or dual boot). I'm planning on getting a new graphics card for my PC for DVI, plugging in my old CRT as a second monitor on the new cards VGA port, and using the VGA port on the new monitor as a secondary input to the new PC.

Looking over the incomprehensible reply from my acquaintance, I see he mentioned this card. All the secret handshakes and mystic symbols (DVI, nVidia, "PCI x16", etc) seem to line up, so I think I'm good there....?

Yup, that looks fine. Although you could get a much cheaper motherboard if you wanted. This one probably costs a lot due to the built-in video, which you're not even going to use. $180 is very expensive for a motherboard. The board I'm getting has built in DVI and only costs $50 (It's an AMD board, though)
posted by delmoi at 7:00 AM on February 27, 2008


I'm using an Nvidia 8600GT (mine's from XFX), that has dual monitor out. I'm using it under 64 bit Ubuntu, and it's working great. I got it on amazon for a hundred bucks, which is pretty cheap.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:03 AM on February 27, 2008


(and, by the way if you could scrape $100 off the price of your motherboard, you could spend the money on a quad-core CPU). This board has an Nvidia graphics chip and a DVI output port, and it only costs $79. That would give you what you need and save you $180 in terms of the cost of the board and the graphics card.
posted by delmoi at 7:11 AM on February 27, 2008


The MB is $130, not $180. Still may be over what I need to pay, though.

Switching the motherboard from the original recommended one was so daunting the first time that I'm not sure I can face a second attempt. But a specific link to something that will work with everything else I have would be welcome.
posted by DU at 7:13 AM on February 27, 2008


What you have in your list works out just fine and everything ought to work together. I just built my own machine from the mobo up and what you've listed looks very similar. In fact, you've chosen the exact same CPU and memory as my build. The memory is perfectly fine so far and the CPU has given nary a problem. Also, the CPU runs remarkably cool even with the included heatsink/fan in the retail box.

If you don't mind, I would make a couple of suggestions. For the video card, you can rank up to the 8600 GTS for just a few bucks more. The EVGA model lists for $169, but NewEgg has it for $139 with an additional $40 mail-in rebate. For $10 difference, you'll be getting a much more future-proof card.

Also, you could possibly save some cash on your motherboard by going with the GigaByte GA-P35-DS3L that I used. Plenty of flexibility there, enough SATA ports and so on. And NewEgg has it for $89 at the moment. While you won't be able to use the included Win-based over-clocking software, I don't think you'll be missing a whole heck of a lot. And the BIOS on the GigaByte is very friendly.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:46 AM on February 27, 2008


OK, I added that MB to the wishlist for comparison. Does the GigaByte mobo get a second from anyone?
posted by DU at 7:59 AM on February 27, 2008


I use the close relative of your GigaByte wishlist MB and while I don't have linux installed, I've used live CDs a few times without a hitch. I like this MB and it does some mad overclocking- I run a 1.6MHz dual core at 2.8 without a problem.
However, GB's drivers are only for Windows. Then again, I've found recent linux distros to be significantly better at properly configuring new hardware than XP.

When I was looking at building my system, I didn't go with 1066 RAM because at the time, it was more expensive and most the of the affordable RAM wasn't getting stellar reviews. Plus, I just OC it anyways.

While you won't be able to use the included Win-based over-clocking software
I could be wrong, but I'd assume the ds3p and ds3l offer similar BIOS which more than covers most OC needs.
posted by jmd82 at 8:18 AM on February 27, 2008


"Windows-only drivers" is a bad sign, so I googled and found bad news. Back to the original mobo.
posted by DU at 8:24 AM on February 27, 2008


Ars Technica puts out System Guides every few months where they take a look at current prices and technology and create 3 different parts recommendations; a budget system, a hot rod, and an insanely powerful and expensive system. I've been using it as a starting point for years, and it's always the first place I link people to when they ask about building a new system. The latest one is from January. I suggest you take a look at the recommendation for the budget box. Here's the link: http://arstechnica.com/guides/buyer/guide-200801.ars
posted by BeerFilter at 8:40 AM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Order placed, thanks everyone!
posted by DU at 9:30 AM on February 27, 2008


Heh. Because of this thread I switched a motherboard from one with an ATi chip to one with an NVidia chip (apparently Asus makes two versions of the same board)
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on February 28, 2008


Followup: I put everything together with zero trouble whatsoever and Ubuntu (7.10) recognized and configured everything. It Just Works.

Oh except for one annoyance: I went with 64 bit (even though I remained at 2 GB RAM) and Flash for Linux is only 32 bit. There's a wrapper thingie that fixes that, but Flash is still unstable. Doesn't crash the browser, though, so I'll just wait until They fix that.
posted by DU at 5:36 AM on March 3, 2008


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