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Hardware Linux

Building a $200 Linux PC 300

Posted by Soulskill
from the cost-of-a-cheap-tux dept.
WesternActor writes "Computers are getting cheaper to buy every year, but there are still sometimes advantages to building them yourself. ExtremeTech has a story about how they sought out the parts for a $200 computer that (of course) runs Linux as a way of breaking the budget barrier. They even test it against a commercially available eMachines nettop to see how it compares in terms of performance. This probably isn't something everyone will want to do, but it's an interesting example of something you can do on the cheap if you put your mind to it."
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Building a $200 Linux PC

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  • $200??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dskoll (99328) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:57AM (#33021078)

    That's crazy-expensive. We recently bought 6 second-hand little HP desktops for $69 each. They only came with 512MB of RAM, so another $15 each upgraded them to 1GB, and they are perfectly serviceable desktops for our sales and admin team.

    The CPU is slower than in the story (single-core Athlon 64 at 1GHz), but performance is just fine.

  • by FreonTrip (694097) <freontrip@ g m a i l.com> on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:05AM (#33021130)
    If I remember correctly the Mobility 7500 was never supported by the fglrx driver. It's a mobile derivative of the original Radeon core, so you're probably stuck with using the 'radeon' driver in X.org. Adding the PCI ID to the source, recompiling, and keeping two fingers crossed should do the trick; if it doesn't, get in touch with the developers. Good luck!
  • Re:$200??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pinkj (521155) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:18AM (#33021194)
    They explained that they wanted to create a box for $200, but still be able to upgrade. The mobo is AM3 with DDR3 support, so they could skimp on the CPU and RAM for now with the intention to upgrade with recent technology in the future. They didn't mention it, but it seems they wanted to build a box with new parts as oppose to second hand ones.
  • Re:What about atom? (Score:3, Informative)

    by BagOBones (574735) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:33AM (#33021268)

    ATOM processors are VERY slow compared to the dual Core they chose, unless you pair the ATOM with an integrated GPU on an ION board you would easily go over budget trying to cram in a GPU.. Then you are also stuck trying to use GPU accelerated applications or you suffer horrid performance for multi-media..

    Other than physical size they system they built vastly out performs a ATOM solution.

  • Re:What about atom? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:38AM (#33021290)

    It's ATHLON, damnit! ATHLON! Not "Athalon".

  • Re:What about atom? (Score:5, Informative)

    by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:42AM (#33021322)
    Were you only upgrading with Intel processors?

    The AMD AM3 processors are backwards compatible with AM2/AM2+ sockets and AM2+ processors are backwards compatible with AM2 sockets.

    AM2 came out in May, 2006.
  • Re:What about atom? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius@gmTWAINail.com minus author> on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:29PM (#33021594) Homepage

    Why? Dual core cpus give a quite noticeable increase in system responsiveness. Even if you are only writing e-mail or browsing the web. Sure mozilla isn't going to run any faster (actually with multi-threading this is changing too), but how windows (or linux in this case) responds to you will be certainly improved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:38PM (#33021646)

    An old $200 pc might not be able to play any high-def video with an underpowered graphics card, ditto flash as well.

  • Re:What about atom? (Score:3, Informative)

    by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe@@@jwsmythe...com> on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:41PM (#33021674) Homepage Journal

        In skimming the article, they wanted to have flexibility to upgrade. You could go from something like an 2.9Ghz Athlon II x2 (which they used), to a 3.2Ghz Phenom II x6 That's a pretty decent upgrade.

        I built my new desktop for Christmas (subsidized by friends and family as their presents to me). I went with an Asus motherboard with a AM3 socket, and an Athlon II x4. I actually intended to grab a Phenom II x4, but grabbed the wrong one. Oops. In some quick digging online, before taking a drive back to the store, it seems this CPU is can be overclocked to be rather comparable to the Phenom II x4, except it saved $100. I've been very happy with it, but will buy a good Phenom II eventually, as prices come down.

  • Re:What about atom? (Score:5, Informative)

    by maugle (1369813) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:50PM (#33021744)
    No, AMD's AM3 processors are potentially backwards compatible with AM2/AM2+ sockets and AM2+ processors are potentially backwards compatible with AM2 sockets. Getting a newer processor to work in an older motherboard may require the motherboard vendor to release an updated BIOS, and they might not do that.

    I found this out the hard way.
    Fuck you, Gigabyte.
  • Re:What about atom? (Score:3, Informative)

    by cynyr (703126) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @01:01PM (#33021816)

    why's that? dual core is nice even for that, so that you can run a flash app(farmville) and skype at the same time. simply unloading system processes to the second core is a huge gain in the way the system feels.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @01:36PM (#33022034)

    That's the OEM version which has too many restrictions to be viable for people who assembe their own PCs. If you regularly upgrade your system components you can find that the OEM version will deactivate and Microsoft will refuse to reactivate it. The retail version is the only real option for self-builders and that's retails for $200, or $180 at NewEgg:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116716&cm_re=windows_home_premium-_-32-116-716-_-Product

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @01:52PM (#33022142)
    You do realize all intel branded desktop/sff boards are in fact manufactured by foxconn?
  • Simple (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrwolf007 (1116997) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @03:00PM (#33022606)
    Updates wont break the "crack".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:08PM (#33023054)

    Read the disclaimer:

    "Use of this OEM System Builder Channel software is subject to the terms of the Microsoft OEM System Builder License. This software is intended for pre-installation on a new personal computer for resale. This OEM System Builder Channel software requires the assembler to provide end user support for the Windows software and cannot be transferred to another computer once it is installed. To acquire Windows software with support provided by Microsoft please see our full package "Retail" product offerings."

    I supposed you could build the machine, and then sell it to yourself to get around the resale clause.

  • Re:What about atom? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:09PM (#33023062)

    You overstate the power difference (by omitting an actual calculation). If we use an overblown assumption of, say, 10 hours a day at max load, and round up a bit to say the athlon uses 60 watts more than the atom... 60 * 10 * 366 * 2 = 439.2 kwh. At 10 cents per kwh that'd be about $44 difference in power use over two years.

    In practice, the *total* power that CPU would use over two years is probably less than that. (Very rarely is a desktop computer normally used at max load; for example, I'm running a chip that maxes out at 65w right now, and I'm running several things at once - IRC, messenger, torrents, music, firefox with a bunch of open tabs and using plugins, and I'm floating around 9-12%. Not even gaming or watching hi def video pushes me to 100%). And if you set your computer to go to sleep if it's idle for long - which is the default now in win7, I think - you can leave it "on" all day but it'll spend all night only drawing 2-4 watts to keep RAM refreshed.

    In that light, a 25-65 watt chip in a desktop is an odd thing to complain about. Complain about the CPUs that pull 95-125 watts, or the video cards that pull 45-180 watts. And if we were truly serious about the opposite extreme, we'd all be running Arm Cortex A9s - quad core 2 ghz chips that max out at... 1 watt total.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:41PM (#33023298)

    You're sure that it's not root kitted, and you sure it won't fail WGA (in the future).

Never put off till run-time what you can do at compile-time. -- D. Gries

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