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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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  • What about atom? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mangu (126918) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:50AM (#33021046)

    For the price they paid for CPU+mobo they could have got a mobo with an Atom CPU soldered in. That socket doesn't come for free and, after all, when was the last time you had a CPU upgrade? By the time you want more performance you will most likely get a whole new system.

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

      by FreonTrip (694097) <freontrip AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:59AM (#33021090)
      I think there's a market for a cheap Atom-based Linux box used for internet browsing, but the Athlon II X2 245 is literally at least four times faster at everything. The prices for dual Atom-based boards are also a little bit high for what you get, so from a value proposition what they've done makes sense.

      For what it's worth, I upgraded my CPU about two months ago - from a 2.6 GHz Athlon64 X2 to a 3 GHz Athlon II X2 - and it's been decently peppy. More importantly, it let me take the old CPU and pop it into a cheap Linux box of my own. :)

      • by mangu (126918)

        the Athlon II X2 245 is literally at least four times faster at everything

        Depending on what you do, four times faster may be imperceptible.

        I have two systems with dual core Atom ITX mobos, one with the 330 chip and another with the 510 chip. The slower board I use as a file server and music player, it has 2 GB memory and 1 TB hd. It's in a small case bolted to the wall behind my desk and runs 24/7. It has no keyboard mouse, or display, I access it through NFS and ssh.

        The 510 system has a 1 TB hd and 4 GB RA

      • by Seth Kriticos (1227934) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @01:53PM (#33022158)

        I think there's a market for a cheap Atom-based Linux box used for internet browsing, but the Athlon II X2 245 is literally at least four times faster at everything.

        Indeed, it's around 4x faster at everything, including sucking up electric power and converting it to heat.

        The atom has a TDP of 8-14 W while the Athlon II is between 25-65 W. If you let both machines run for two years, then the combined purchasing price + the running cost put the Athlon in a very unfavorable spot, especially if you don't need the processing power on a regular basis.

        If you have a good reason to get a fast, power hungry CPU, then fine, but otherwise is would be a waste. Which is what I was wondering in the article about: what's the purpose of this kind of setup? Ignoring the running cost, noise output and some other factors. They seem to have been bored.

        • Re:What about atom? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @02:22PM (#33022302)
          Depends on where you live though and such. For a college student this is a pretty great deal because electricity is free, in many other places if you pay rent you get free electricity. For a lot of the unemployed, they can't afford to spend a bit more for less at the moment because they simply don't have the cash, on the other hand the electricity costs will come when they have a job to pay for it, etc.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

          ``The atom has a TDP of 8-14 W while the Athlon II is between 25-65 W. If you let both machines run for two years, then the combined purchasing price + the running cost put the Athlon in a very unfavorable spot, especially if you don't need the processing power on a regular basis.''

          On the other hand, the TDP is (as far as understand it) an upper bound on what the CPU could draw. If you do need the processing power on a regular basis, then you may get close to the power figures stated - but then the Athlon I

    • by julesh (229690)

      That socket doesn't come for free and, after all, when was the last time you had a CPU upgrade? By the time you want more performance you will most likely get a whole new system.

      Why? The only things they've really cut corners on here are graphics, memory, and CPU. All of these are upgradable without losing the rest of the system, so why would you get a whole new system when you didn't need to?

      The motherboard may be cheap, but it's not lacking in power and can support a much better system than the one they

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by houghi (78078)

        All the times I really wanted an upgrade (about every 3-4 years) the new CPUs needed a new mobo, as the slots of the new ones where different. In the end a new system was just easier then to hod on to the old outdated hardware. At least then I would have a complete system to give away.

        • 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: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: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Cylix (55374) *

            My last rig was an AM2 system and it's a bit simplified to say that you need to only upgrade the processor.

            The only time in my life in which I have purposefully upgraded the processes was when I used the planned obsolesce due to budget algorithm. This algorithm works on the basis of monetary limitations which directly limit the capabilities of the equipment available. ie, I could not afford the shiniest of the shiny.

            The general philosophy was to build a new system with something borrowed, something stolen a

            • by Cylix (55374) * on Sunday July 25, 2010 @01:05PM (#33021832) Homepage Journal

              I should also note that I had substantial issues upgrading my AM2 system. I purchased a new quad core Intel proc. I had substantial issues lining up the pins and when the dremel failed to produce favorable results I went to see the local computer shop.

              They were completely horrified and helped educate me on some changes in the world. Eventually, they sent me home with a brand new 200 watt power supply and serial mouse.

              When that failed to work I decided to go to radio shack (the shack!) and see if they could get me on the right track.

              They were completely horrified at both the previous shop and the things I had done. Eventually, they too sent me home with a brand new cell phone and a subscription to subscription to satellite tv service. They said to ask the sat installer for assistance when he comes out next week.

      • by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:34PM (#33021622) Journal
        The problem with upgrading just the cpu is that you're throwing out a cpu. Most people will upgrade both the cpu and motherboard, and keep the old ones as a spare, or make them into a headless file server, or give away the whole thing.

        Also, most people would be better off buying a cheap dual-core laptop $479 - 3 gig ram, dual core, 320 gig hd), refusing the MS install (-$55) and getting a refund on Windows, and they also won't have to buy a monitor (-$100), keyboard and mouse (-$25) mouse, ups (-$40), or wireless networking to steal wifi since they're so cheap ($25). So, laptop $479-$245=$234 vs their machine ($192) = $42 (and you don't have to pay shipping on the laptop or assemple it), for twice the hd space and 3x the ram - or you can sell the 2 gigs of ram to someone else and you're ahead of the game.

        • by tomhudson (43916)
          Oh, almost forgot - the laptop also has a dvd burner - their el cheapo box has NO optical drive. So, a cheap optical drive is $25, so the laptop purchase is a no-brainer instead of their cheap POS.
        • getting a refund on Windows

          Easier said than done

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tomhudson (43916)

            Only because people are lazy. Get out your camcorder, make a video of you refusing the agreement, and installing linux, and tell microsoft you want your money back. What's the big deal?

            Or if you want to get more than Microsoft will refund, find someone who wants a legit version, and do a dd if=/dev/whatever_windows_partition of=/their_bare_hard_drive-partition#2, and give them the license sticker.

            Even simpler, sell them the original hard drive with the install files on it, and use the money to buy you

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sortius_nod (1080919)

      I somewhat agree, however the performance difference is massive between an Athalon and an Atom. For a fully featured computer, you really want a proper processor.

      I've looked down both paths a lot in the past, and you pay for flexibility. That being said, it's about the same price, so why not go with a decent processor?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

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

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      By the time you want more performance you will most likely get a whole new system.

      Which, with an atom, will be a whole lot sooner than with a more powerful chip. If you're building your own system, then it's likely a desktop and that means it has to be able to handle desktop tasks and not just netbook ones (perhaps even act as a MythTV box, etc).

      But you're right, I almost never upgrade the CPU. I go for ram first, and I found a good, small SSD is worth much more in perceived speed than incremental CPU upg

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FreonTrip (694097)
        Newer Atoms fully support x86_64, but will not be quick.
      • by XanC (644172)

        Actually the Atom, when bundled with the Nvidia ION, is capable of being a high-def Myth box. I've set up a number of the $200 Acer Aspire Revos for this purpose. Was even able to get a Windows refund too (although I haven't actually received the check yet, so I don't know how much of one).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BagOBones (574735)

      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JWSmythe (446288)

      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,

    • Did you see the CPU that they used? A 2.9GHz, dual core, A64? That doesn't compare to the latest Nehalems by any stretch of the imagination; but it will absolutely annihilate the Atom at everything except power draw.

      Not to mention the fact that most of the Atom motheboards have pretty limited expansion. Not many people replace their CPUs; but being able to add a bunch more RAM, without throwing out your existing stuff, is a very convenient upgrade.
  • $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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tgatliff (311583)

      I think you would agree that performance no longer is a problem is most cases... Meaning, those HP desktops most likely will perform just as well (and long) as the new ones of today. Pretty sad if you think about it...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Doctor Memory (6336)

        Yep, my wife's machine is a 5yo Gateway laptop with a 3GHz P4 and 1.5G of memory. For lots of stuff, it runs faster than my 2.2GHz dual-core machine at work. Lots of stuff is still single-threaded, and even though that's changing, there's often a critical path that can't be partitioned. Faster CPUs still == win much of the time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by O('_')O_Bush (1162487)
          A 3 GHz P4 is slower on single-threaded applications than most 2.2GHz single/dual core processors (AMD Athalon/Core2) simply because P4's had high clocks but a poorly designed and underperforming architecture that made instructions take more cycles and memory accesses more frequent than on the Athalon/Core2's.

          What you see as "faster" is probably a combination of perception, dependencies on networked software, and background software overhead (anti-virus, outlook, etc) that tends to bog down business compute
          • The only real numbers I took are for repaginating a Word document I was working on. My work machine took ~34 seconds, my wife's machine took 30. Not a hard-core profiling job, but both machines were similarly loaded (no heavy background tasks). My work machine has 4G of memory, my wife's has 1.5G, both were using about 800M before I launched Word.

            I was surprised my wife's machine seemed faster, as it has a 5400RPM drive and my work machine has a 7200. So I assumed the difference must have been due to CP

    • 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.
      • That's a fairly standard way of doing a $X build while writing an article on the web.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rockoon (1252108)
        ..and considering that the AM3 will hold both the Phenom II 1055T and 1090T, which are both 6 core enthusiast monsters.. I've got to give them +++CREDIT TO TEAM+++ .. the machine is upgradeable all the way to the current bleeding edge.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by PRMan (959735)

          +++CREDIT TO TEAM+++

          Hey, watch those 3 pluses buddy, you just made me get a NO CARRIER!

      • Yeah, I know the article wanted all-new parts. But I prefer second-hand because it's usually much cheaper, usually just as reliable as new (except for power supplies and hard drives) and better for the environment. You're saving boxes that would end up in the landfill or some illegal third-world "recycling" dump.

  • by adosch (1397357) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:00AM (#33021096)
    Linux has always had the extreme flexibility to run on a wide range of processors types not to mention still get a nominal amount of performance and use out of something that is deemed 'obsolete' by Moore's Law. That's why I don't do bleeding edge hardware at home unless I have an absolute need for it (e.g. gaming, or some bloatware application that needs that type of horsepower) and it works great to be a bargain-basement shopper. Do I find this article surprising? Not at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by value_added (719364)

      Do I find this article surprising? Not at all.

      I'd generally agree, but it's nice to see an article like this. The biggest mistake attributable to new users is making uninformed hardware choices. If the hardware is fully supported, and there's an write-up somewhere on the web confirming that, then the rest is easy.

      That said, what's missing from the article is the dmesg output. A quick search suggests that the motherboard has onboard Realtek RTL8111B NICs, and those NICs aren't supported by FreeBSD. Wheth

    • by Hatta (162192)

      To be fair, XP would run just as well on this hardware. I wouldn't run it, but it's certainly a viable option. Don't even need 64 bits with just 1 gig of RAM. And who doesn't have an old XP license lying around?

  • Supported Hardware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by digitalhermit (113459) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:01AM (#33021102) Homepage

    With the right hardware Linux is perfect for old hardware. You can customize and tune it quite a bit better than most other OSes. However, the caveat is that the hardware must be decently supported. For example, I have an old laptop with an ATI Mobility 7500 on which I installed Centos 5.5. Normally I'd just grab the FGLRX installer from ATI and remake a module, but in this case, the modules don't work properly. As a result, I'm using a non-accelerated video driver which is painfully slow even for non-intensive graphics such as scrolling a terminal window. I'm not conceding defeat yet. It might be a matter of putting the correct hardware ID into the source and re-compiling or it might be something else entirely. Luckily I know how to do that, but sometimes it's a chore. Not difficult to do, certainly, but a PITA.

    On the other hand I have some old single-core AMD Athlons running some virtual machines via Xen and KVM. Even after years of service, they still do a very good job. On a nightly basis they run some software rebuilds in some VMs and in others run DNS, LDAP, fileservers and mail. I have imported the VMs into a newer quad-core system, but until they die, they use less power than the modern machine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FreonTrip (694097)
      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!
    • When we moved, I put my old Sun workstation (single core 2.4GHz Opteron) in storage. It took longer to find a house than I expected, so I wound up building a quad-core box. When we finally got moved in, I was quite surprised to notice that my old box actually felt faster than my new one. I put it down to OpenSolaris being tuned for the Sun hardware, plus having a proper graphics card (nVidia Quadro vs the on-board Radeon 4200 on my quad-core box). So now I'm working on setting up my new box to use as a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Last winter I put together a 100 euro (~130 dollar) gaming(!) rig.
    Took a oc-friendly last-generation graphics card, (~30e), low-end Intel core2 CPU (~25e), random used LGA775 Board (~25e) and 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM (~20e). All 3 off ebay.

    I got a IDE-Harddrive, CD-drive and PSU with IDE-style connectors laying around (who uses IDE these days anyway?) and repurposed an old case.

    With the graphics card and CPU oc'ed (CPU stable at around twice the stock frequency with boxed cooler) it's a quite veritable rig. Thoug

  • [160GB] would give us more than enough room for the OS, and still leave us lots of space for files--no, we wouldn't be able to store our entire photo or MP3 collections, but we wouldn't be hurting for space either.

    How many photos/MP3s do they have? I mean, jesus. I maintain a server here for a 3-person software development company where we also have all the personal data of all 3 employees, and we haven't come close to filling our 400GB RAID array. We have

    OS install = about 4GB.
    MP3 collections for three

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kevinmenzel (1403457)
      Well my "mp3" collection is over 400GB - though that includes quite a lot of FLAC and WMA-lossless... just saying... (And that represents over 30,000 tracks)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by couchslug (175151)

      "10 years' worth of digital photos for two people (the other doesn't have a camera) = about 10GB."

      Depends on what sort of photos you take. Da spouse has over 100GB of painted bunting photos alone (RAW images mostly).

    • by ZosX (517789)

      I have an mp3 collection approaching over 350 gigs. That's over 40,000 MP3s, OGGs, and FLACs. 20,000 raw photographs on a drive: 150 gigs (and that's just this past year). Heck the 140gb partition I have for my system barely holds windows, CS4 and a few (admittedly large) games. Its only got 40 gigs free right now. Heck I have about 100gigs of PSX ISOs alone, whereas all the 8-bit and 16-bit roms ever released fits somewhere inside the space of like 10 gigs. I never got into collecting PS2 and XBOX ISOs tha

  • assuming all new components, with motherboards available for under $40, should be able to build $150 PC (monitor not included though)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mariushm (1022195)

      Motherboard with video and sound integrated - 40$ , CPU - 37$ , case + psu - 30$, memory 20$

      We're at 127$ right now, well maybe at 135$ if we include mouse+keyboard

      The hard drive is what would push us over the edge, so how about we just replace it with a 8GB memory stick that's 13-15$ ? 2 GB for the OS should be enough (you would install a Linux in much less space if you want to) and you still have 6 GB left for documents and files.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:20AM (#33021206)

    Since Windows 7 Home Premium retains for $199.99 it obviously has to run Linux otherwise it would be a $400 PC.

    I remember reading an article about 15 years ago that said the operating system used to account for 2% of the cost of a PC but by then it was 10% of the cost. It seems that thanks to falling hardware prices and rising prices from Microsoft we've now hit the point where the operating system can be 50% of the cost of the PC.

    For purely economical reasons children should use Linux exclusively in schools. As things stand the education system is just generating customers for Microsoft which allows Microsoft to charge whatever they want for the products. I say this as somebody who uses Windows exclusively and who's pissed off at the prices Microsoft charge for their retail software. If I'd grown up using Linux I'd have saved myself a lot of money.

      • by cynyr (703126)

        Still makes their $200 pc a $300 pc and you still then need to get an AV package :P

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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

    • If you're putting together a system anyway, you can use MS's OEM pricing, which is about half of the $200 parent quotes.

      I can get it cheaper yet because the university I work for has a licensing agreement that, among other things, lets me download a copy of Win7 Pro for $66, or Ultimate for $90.

    • I ended up getting a refurb HP for my wife for $250. I came with an Athlon II X4 620, 3 GB ram, and a 500 GB HD, and Windows 7 Home Premium. I think it would be pretty hard to build it yourself for that price.

      BTW, she didn't like Windows 7, so it is running 64bit Kubuntu 10.4. I still left 7 on the machine though.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Since Windows 7 Home Premium retains for $199.99 it obviously has to run Linux otherwise it would be a $400 PC.

      Of course, nobody pays $199. That's some bullshit marketing number that everyone gets huge rebates on, it's 50% off at Newegg and probably 70-80% off if you're Dell or HP or Lenovo. Then they bundle it up with various trialware that the trialware makers pay for to make the net contribution more like $0-50 somewhere. I recently bought be a netbook with the XP netbook edition, which I can swear Microsoft sells for almost nothing to sell Windows, not Linux. Of course I wiped it and installed Linux anyway, but

      • Well, the two versions of the retail boxed copy are strange to begin with.

        The only apparent difference between the normal retail and Systems Builder editions is that the latter says you can't use it to do an upgrade install... but the thing is, why wouldn't you buy the Upgrade version if you wanted to do an upgrade install?

    • I just picked up an Acer One netbook from Target for $199 this week. Windows 7 basic (lose some features I could care less about). 10 inch screen LED lit, 1024x600, 1.66 Atom processor, 1g ram, 160g hard drive, and wi-fi.

      Why would I want to build anything with prices like that? Best of all, its very portable, has lasted almost eight hours on a charge, and the keyboard is good too.

  • by dirtyhippie (259852) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:30AM (#33021254) Homepage

    excluding taxes and shipping is pretty ridiculous. they could easily add 1/4 to the budget, and if saving money (not just "ooh, look what i can do") is really a goal, they would have included it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      There's this new thing called "teh internets", where it's possible to buy things from out of state, where you don't have to pay any sales tax. Also, I hear that some of the vendors you can find on this internets thing don't charge for shipping on orders over a certain dollar amount. If you're paying 25% for shipping, you're not doing it right.
      • Two things:

        1. Here in California, it's hard to bypass the sales tax because most of the major retailers have a local presence. The places that don't aren't necessarily cheaper, and if they are, they tend not to be places I'd trust with my credit card.

        2. Most states with sales tax also have use tax that covers out of state purchases. You're supposed to report them when you file your state taxes. As an individual making small purchases, you're unlikely to get caught for it, but it's technically illegal.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Well, 200€ actually, but anyway. This is pretty much how I've built the computers for myself and my family for quite some time now:
    - 50€ for Case + Power Supply
    - 50€ for Motherboard that has Audio, NIC and GPU integrated
    - 50€ for CPU
    - 50€ for RAM

    Some of the pieces could be a little bit less or more than 50€, but in general that's how it goes. And we've always been perfectly happy with the performance of the machines.

    • by nstlgc (945418)
      You're right. To hell with keyboards, mice, hard disks, speakers, optical drives and heck, who needs a monitor anyways!
    • And as a major benefit, it appears you run your OS (I'm guessing Damn Small, or Puppy Linux?) on a RAMDisk, making it extra speedy. Of course the inability to save local docs is also sure-fire virus protection. If it wasn't for those pesky boot times...

  • Used (Score:4, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:40AM (#33021310) Homepage
    I get computers for the school staff for $90 apiece at http://www.techcentercomputers.com/ [techcentercomputers.com] P4, 512MB, 80GB, XP.
    • I'd pay an extra $110 to build a server system that would be many times faster and use far less electricity. The latter alone would make the return on investment worthwhile.

  • by Simonetta (207550) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @11:58AM (#33021414)

    I don't see the point of this entire article. Why not just buy a used $200 PC and install Linux on it? Or just keep the Windows and install Linux as a dual-boot (If possible)? There are millions of used $200 PCs available. Nearly all will last another five years at least with normal use.

  • by Jon Abbott (723) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:21PM (#33021554) Homepage

    This system is not useful as a desktop if it doesn't include a monitor, keyboard and mouse. The cheapest monitor I see on Newegg is a $99 Hanns-G HW-173ABB 17" LCD monitor, so that would push the price up to $300. The cheapest keyboard and mouse set is about $10. Speakers are about $5. New total is $315 excluding shipping. There's also no mention of whether the integrated sound works in Linux, and whether the integrated video works well (or if Ubuntu resorts to safe graphics mode). I would not be complaining if they had mentioned any of these things in the article.

    • This system is not useful as a desktop if it doesn't include a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

      Do you typically replace old systems (so that you can reuse their peripherals), or do you just keep adding to your basement desktop cluster over the decades? I wouldn't normally ask, but this is Slashdot.

      • by Jon Abbott (723)

        Do you typically replace old systems (so that you can reuse their peripherals), or do you just keep adding to your basement desktop cluster over the decades? I wouldn't normally ask, but this is Slashdot.

        Neither... I used to stockpile old cables, monitors, etc. but eventually gave them all away on Craigslist. My complaints above were mainly to raise awareness of folks in my situation (who no longer keep spare parts lying around), or those who are starting from scratch.

      • by amorsen (7485)

        If you get to keep bits of the old computer, why not keep at least the hard drive and the case? Then we're down to a $150 computer.

    • on the curb / dumpster Yes you can find CRT there or just use a old one you have laying around.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jon Abbott (723)

        If you're going to dumpster dive for a CRT, why not just dumpster dive for the whole computer? :^)

    • by ZosX (517789)

      That was kind of my thought as well. It didn't seem like they spent any time looking at the actual linux compatibility of the hardware they were sourcing.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:31PM (#33021608)
    foxconn branded boards look good on paper, but they fail in about year. Like everyone keeps saying, just buy a well built Intel Atom based system.
  • by saihung (19097)

    I built a frankencomputer with the same budget limit, but I used lots of scavenged / recycled / outdated components where it didn't matter much. So the keyboard is an old discarded iMac jobby, the mouse is a no-brand PS/2, the monitor is a Viewsonic 21" CRT that someone left at the curb on recycling day, and the case was an extremely ancient IBM Aptiva. As long as it's ATX, it will fit (in this case, from 1998, and it made no difference). I also limited my new purchases to the absolute essentials, and pi

  • $300 Quad core (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @02:46PM (#33022480) Homepage Journal

    2.5Ghz quad, 800GB(64MB cache), 2GB DDR3-1333, HDMI out, crappy case.

    $75.99 AMD Phenom 9850 2.5GHz Socket AM2+ 125W Quad-Core Black Edition Processor HD985ZXAJ4BGH
    $59.99 Western Digital Caviar Green WD8000AARS 800GB 5400 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
    $69.99 MSI 760GM-E51 AM3 AMD 760G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
    $47.99 Crucial 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model CT2KIT12864BA1339
    $39.99 Foxconn TLM776-CN300C-01 Black/ Silver Steel MicroATX Mini Tower Computer Case 300W Power Supply
    ------
    $283.95

    shipping it works out to about $300, more if you have to pay tax.

  • by mrwolf007 (1116997) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @03:26PM (#33022800)
    While you can sure safe money on a diy-box there are far better reasons for that approach.
    Most pre-assembled boxes fail on a quite a couple of choices.
    Case:
    Unless you are getting some overpriced gamer boxes the case is crap! Hassle to upgrade, cheap materials, lots of edges you can cut yourself etc...
    I will be keeping my nice Chieftec tower for the next couple of iterations. Exchanging drives is a lot faster, everything is easy to to get too, nice cool and quiet (with the extra ventilation).
    Power Unit:
    One of the mayor sources of annoyance. Choosing an efficient and quiet one sure is relaxing.
    Mainboard:
    Mainboards happen to be the number one source of failure in PCs. Even rather expensive boxes usually have cheap boards since they cant advertise them (more ghz? No. More cores? No. More memory? No. More reliable capacitors? Ever see something like that in a description?)
    The mobo is the component i never safe money on. Its supposed to handle the next cpu as well and i rather keep a good mobo than getting the next asrock or similiar.

    Do i safe money compared to a similarly specced box from a retailer? No.
    But i know its more reliable and easy to upgrade, so i do safe money in the long run due to upgrading and have less hassle replacing sub-par components.

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