Mad, Beautiful Ideas
New Hardware

I've been looking at buying new computer stuff for a while. My current rig has always been a little unstable, and I'm really left wondering if my Motherboard isn't maybe a little screwed up. Lately, I've been rebooting at least once every few days without actually requesting it, my USB subsystem has certain devices that it will just decide to stop reading, usually while locking up my USB Mass Storage subsystem. Luckily it doesn't lock this up so bad that I can't do a proper restart, but a proper restart is required. I've tested the memory, and it seems to be fine, so I'm really at a loss.

Still, it's been about 5 years since I upgraded last (at least, it was a year or two before I met Catherine), so I think it's about time. Plus, with the recent drop in prices on CPUs, it seems like a really good time to upgrade. The research that I've done suggests that AMD is probably the best choice for desktop processors right now, when it comes down to power, efficiency, and price, and I've always liked their chips so that's who I'm sticking with. Keeping that in mind, I think it's best to start construction with a solid processor.

The AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ 3.0GHz Socket AM2 Processor is currently my weapon of choice. Multi-core was my only major requirement, and part of why I was attracted to the AMD chips was that teach core had it's own cache, unlike the shared cache on the Intel Core 2 Duo. In my opinion, the shared cache was potentially a performance bottleneck on desktop PCs because where multiple cores were really going to shine will be in running unrelated processes, in which case a shared cache basically cuts your cache size in half. This processor was a little more than I'd originally planned, but I really think the few extra dollars will let this chip last another half-decade or so.

As I said above, I feel the real problem child in my case right now is probably the Motherboard. I don't remember the brand, but I think it was Biostar. Biostar's a good brand, but I think I may have just gotten a dud. One that worked just well enough that I didn't do anything about it. Of course, I think it may have been responsible for at least one hardware failure, in addition to that USB Mass Storage problem. But, I've decided to go with Biostar again, on their TF560 A2+ ATX AMD Motherboard The only downside is the lack of Firewire support, but I don't have any Firewire devices, and if I really needed it, the Mac has it, so I don't consider that a big loss for my desktop PC. Supporting up to 4 GB of RAM, a ton of USB connections, and sporting that one serial port, I think I'm going to be happy with this board, and the Crucial 2GB DDR2 800 Desktop Memory should be a nice accompaniment. The only worry I have about this motherboard is the strange "additional power connector" that's on the diagram. I'm not sure my current Antec True 480 has a connector for that.

Finally, to wrap the whole thing up, I needed a PCI-Express 16x Video Card. An ASUS GeForce 8600GTS looks pretty nice, plus it's DVI-only with two DVI ports. Now, if only I had money to replace this old CRT... At least the Mac came with the DVI->VGA Adapter, so I don't need a new one of those.

If anyone has any comments about what I'm looking at purchasing, I'd love to hear them. I've priced this out to about $450, plus any shipping, which I think is pretty reasonable. I'm planning to order probably within the next few days. It'll be nice to have a stable computer for once. I can't wait to know that when a bit of software crashes it won't be because of wonky hardware.

Update: So, i guess that special power connector is important, otherwise my fancy new Video Card wouldn't work. I'm going to stick with Antec, but I think I can easily get away with a 430W PSU instead of the 480W I'm running now, since I don't have that much running off it. I'm looking at a Antec earthwatts EA430 430W, not the least because of it's apparent efficiency. If it guarantees 80% under heavy load, it should do much better under Normal loads.