Zed Lopez

New Machine

So Malasada’s computer was acting flaky and the hardware’s old enough that I didn’t want to keep relying on it. In keeping with the laws of geek/non-geek mixed marriages, that meant I got to buy a new computer and hand mine down to her.

And I was indulgent, getting an i5 quad-core CPU and a fast SSD.

But then tragedy struck. After taking my old machine apart and installing it into the case for her machine, it didn’t work. Not wanting to let her suffer for my computer-building ways, she then got the spiffy new hardware and I went without.

Her machine had been running Ubuntu 12.04 with an XFCE desktop; for the new one, I gave her Mint 16 Cinammon. Getting the relevant bits of the old environment back was fairly easy. I was disappointed to find I couldn’t set up a vertical panel, apparently due to a limitation of Gnome 3. Yay progress. I tried a couple of dock apps, but they were so visually cluttered and noisy and determined to reproduce some of the worst mis-features of the Mac dock that I gave up.

The only thing she’s really hated about Mint: Yahoo as the default search engine. But that’s easy to fix.

The hardware from my old machine was good enough that I didn’t want to give up on it, so I ordered the cheapest motherboard compatible with the CPU and the cheapest CPU compatible with the motherboard so I could figure out what had failed. Then tragedy struck again. I’m used to using New Egg’s cheapest shipping, advertised as 4-8 business days, but getting it in 2 or 3 because it’s coming from their warehouse in the City of Industry in SoCal. But the motherboard came from New Jersey and actually took 7 business days with two weekends in the middle, so I’ve been computerless for a while. (I tweeted about this with the #firstworldproblem hashtag…)

Finally, it arrived. I could finally do the testing to find that my old mobo and one stick of memory had gone bad. I suspect my comically oversized heatsink (and concomitantly heavy) put too much flex on the board on its way in or out of the case. Mental note: remove comically oversized heatsinks before removing the board; install them after mounting the board. (This had been an unattractive option due to how hard it was to get to one of the mounting screws, but thanks to my beautiful new precision screwdriver with a 6” shaft, it’s not a problem anymore. And it’s a much better tool for the motherboard mounting screws than all my old screwdrivers and I wish I’d had it years ago.) I don’t have an explanation for the memory stick.

I took apart Malasada’s new machine again, and put it back together with the newly arrived replacement CPU and motherboard but with the same drive. And finally I could assemble the new machine as I’d originally intended.

And, oh, is it conspicously fast. I’m running the current Debian Stable (Wheezy); my setup hasn’t changed a lot. Maybe I’ll start mining some digital currency just to give all those cores something to do.

Building quiet computers doesn’t even offer a challenge anymore. Malasada’s is dead quiet – the power draw is so low and the power supply so efficient that the power supply’s fan doesn’t even go on. I’m not loving the noise from the fan that came with my new comically oversized heatsink, but I think that’s due to it being clipped to the heatsink without any padding. I’m going to try some thin foam at the corners, or just going without a heatsink fan and using a case fan. Maybe I’ll even use the 200mm fan in my comically oversized case.

Plenty more excitement to come: this whole process has left me with some parts left over. Which means… more computer building!

So that’s part of why the blog has been silent.