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Belle replaced by Medusa

posted: July 14, 2010

Recom RC8 computer case After nearly six years of faithful service, I've decided to replace Belle, my current development machine with a more powerful version.

It took me quite some time to install everything (mainly because I decided to rewire all the cabling from the other machines during the setup as well), but Medusa is finally up and running.

I've always been very fond of Belle, my P4 3.4Ghz hyperthreader, were it not for the noise she produces. Back in the days when I bought her, Doom 3 came out, a game I really, really wanted to play, so I decided to get a rather beafy machine with a state-of-the-art graphics card. The upside was a machine faster than light itself, the downside was having to live with six (6!) fans inside the case, which obviously produced a lot more noise than I was used to.

Along the years, the fans became increasingly loud and heat became a real problem: regularly cleaning the dust from the case didn't do any wonders, but I've been able to keep the noise levels down a bit by using CPUIdle (a neat tool I've already documented in the past).

Skip ahead a year or two, and the need for a faster processor, more hard disk space and a bigger screen (I've remained faithfull to my Samsung Syncmaster 17" until now!) finally got the better of me, and I found myself browsing the internet for components, in order to build a new development machine.

So yesterday I picked her up at Bells and I've named her "Medusa", because for some reason or other the song "Dominatin' Fever Sucker" by Susi Medusa Gottardi got stuck in my head the day I was installing the software. Here are her specifications:

  • Midi Case ATX Zwart 450w PS
    While I do appreciate the look of a nice, modded case, I'd rather spend my money on some other parts. Besides, I don't have a particular need for a beautiful case, since it will spend most of its lifetime below my desk. The basic black Recom case (RC-8) has a power supply of 450Watt, which is more than enough for my needs.
  • X58-PRO-E motherboard, by MSI
    Basically the same motherboard as the high-end configuration suggested to me by Bells. I've had a good look around on the MSI website as well, but couldn't find anything better to suit my needs, or anything cheaper with the same benefits.
  • Core i7-930 (2.80GHz, 8MB Cache, 4.80GT/sec) LGA1366
    When looking for a processor, I always tend to get the second or third one "in command". The latest and greatest processor is sure to be the fastest, but never the best value for money (way too overpriced, because it's bright & shiny & new, oh my). The Core i7-930 was the last in the series where the increase of speed (relative to the predecessor) was actually worth the increase in price. The i7 950 for instance, is twice as expensive, but only offers a 14% increase in speed! Yowza!
  • DDR3 6GB 1333MHz 240p (kit of 3)
    My current development machine only has 1GB of RAM, which suited me fine for most of my tasks. Normally I wasn't planning on adding more than 4GB of RAM in this case, but the X58-PRO-E motherboard is a tripple channel board - adding an additional 2GB gave a total of three separate banks, which increases the total speed by roughly 50%.
    The graphics card: as I've said before, I spent a large sum on the card in Belle, but in hindsight the hours I've actually spent using the card to the fullest nowhere near justify the price I've paid for it.
    That's why I settled with a nice, decent graphics card which could handle most games and graphics I could toss at it, yet wasn't the latest and greatest state-of-the-art card.
  • X25-M SATA Solid-State Drive SSD 80GB MLC 2.5" drive
    My current C: partition is only 40GB, but the only reason I find it a little small is that I tend to put some data on there as well. With my new system I've made myself a new promise to separate the OS and my data on two different disks again - and keep it that way. Getting a Solid State Drive for the operating system felt like a no-brainer, because of the speed increase during boot time. The difference between this machine and my other machines (even the ones at work) is incredible. This SSD is twice the size of my old OS partition, so space will never be an issue in this machine's life.
  • 2x F3 Spinpoint 1TB 7200rpm SATAII (NCQ) 32MB Cache 3Years warranty 1pk
    Of course I'm going to have to put my data someplace else - 2TB of space should hold me just fine... for a while :)
  • Plextor PX-880SA
    By default a Samsung writer was suggested to me, but I've always had Plextors and I've always been very happy with those, so I decided to go the Plextor route again.
  • Samsung DVD 16x48 IDE (black)
    I've always preferred copying disc-to-disc, without having to buffer files on the harddrive, and given the current prices of a default DVD reader, this was a no-brainer.
  • Keyboard & Mouse
    I decided to keep my old Logitech keyboard & mouse combination from my previous machine - I like them very much, and I'm really used to them. Besides, I've had a long and hard look at the new keyboards Logitech offers today, and couldn't find a single one that suited me! Mostly because of the fact that these new keyboards have their Insert/Home/PgUp/Delete/End/PgDn buttons in a rearranged fashion: instead of the normal 3x2 layout, most keyboards now have a 2x3 layout. I really don't know why, but it's very annoying, especially since I would be spending half my time typing on an old layout keyboard at work, and a new layout at home. I just decided to keep mine around, and use Synergy to control my previous machine if needed. Also, I've hooked up an old keyboard and mouse, should I ever feel the need to do some serious work on Belle again.
  • Acer S243HLbmii instead of Samsung 2494HM
    After having bought my old Samsung SyncMaster 171N (twice actually, Nathalya and Belle both use the same monitor), I tended to stick to Samsung monitors, as I'm very pleased with them.
    However, Toon (at Bells) suggested that I had a look at the Acer S243HLbmii, a monitor they currently had in promotion. It's a 24", 1920x1080, LED display which looks very nice, and is an absolute pleasure to work with! I am truly thankful he suggested this screen to me, because I wouldn't want to swap it with any other.
  • Lacie 2TB external hard disk by Neil Poulton (glossy black design)
    The external hard disk which I'll be using as a backup disk for Medusa. I generally don't care about design, let alone who designed it, but in this case I've made an exception to mention the name. Not because I love the design so much, or because I'm such a big fan of Neil Poulton (who?), no, I mention it because of the glossy black design. It looks really, really nice - until you've removed it from its original packaging for more than about 5 minutes. Remember people: "glossy black" is a design term for "attracts tons of dust even in a vacuum environment". Apart from this annoyingly dusty behaviour, a very decent hard disk from Lacie (my fourth, actually).
  • Perfection V30
    I've also ordered a new flatbed scanner - ever since I bought my second computer, I've had a scanner. After Windows '98 there weren't any drivers for it anymore, so I just stopped using it, and never bought another one. I've never used it that much, but it's still a very handy piece of hardware to have laying around the house.
    Nowadays the prices of these flatbeds have dropped remarkably (back in the days I've spent nearly 400 euros on a base model), which made the decision to get a new one a lot easier.

You might have noticed by now that I tend to give my computers female names, but I've got a few very good reasons for it.

  • First, I've always got a few machines running simultaneously, all connected, so network names are a must.
  • Second, I don't like to give computers a neat and tidy name "official" name, I find it much easier to refer to computers with a proper name, rather than stuff like NT_SRV_05 or similar.
  • Third, I've worked at a few places where they named there servers after a group of people or characters - I remember a network with several Simpsons charachters, one with Lord Of The Rings names and one with all the characters of the first Matrix movie.
  • Last but not least, it takes away a bit of the drudgery which sometimes comes with running a network.

Medusa is now steadily running Windows 7, by the way. And if her predecessor is any indication, I won't be feeling the need to write a new article like this one for at least six years :)

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