Thu, 31 Dec 2009

My dream machine

In an effort to optimize my home office, I recently donated my server rack to a local Boston record label, to hold their Red Hat servers. I'm also in the process of donating all of my computer hardware for re-use/recycling (~10 or so frankenstein boxen).

So, once I clear everything out, I'm going to replace it with a new machine. I usually sit in front of 1-3 laptops (thindpads and XOs) on the daily, and I absolutley love them, but I need something beefier. I do most of my work on remote machines, but I have found that I still spend too much time waiting on computers.

I'm not much of a gamer, so I probably don't need too high-end of a graphics chip, let alone SLI/Crossfire. The extent of my gaming these days consists of the occassional wesnoth, open arena, nethack, and my current favorite Cube 2: Sauerbraten. I just want a card that will work well in Linux, ideally without having to install proprietary drivers.

Anyway, I haven't built a desktop machine from the ground up in 12 years, and I've been out of the hardware game for a long time, so let me know what's good! Here is what I've been looking at so far...

Intel DX58SO Extreme Series X58 ATX Tri-Channel DDR3 16GB SLI or CrossFireX LGA1366 Overclocking Utility Desktop Board
ASUS Rampage II Extreme LGA1366 Intel X58 DDR3-1600 ATX Motherboard

Intel Core i7 975 Extreme Edition 3.33GHz 8M L3 Cache LGA1366 Desktop Processor
Cooler Master V8 Nickel Plated Copper Base Aluminum Fins 8 Heatpipes Core i7 1366 CPU Cooler - (RR-UV8-XBU1-GP)

Corsair 6 GB Dominator GT PC3-16000 2000Mhz 240-pin Triple Channel DDR3 Memory Kit
Corsair CMPSU-1000HX 1000-Watt HX Professional Series 80 Plus Certified Power Supply

Intel X25-E Extreme SATA Solid-State Drive

Corsair 256 GB Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) CMFSSD-256GBG2D

DELL ULTRASHARP 3008WFP - 30-inch Widescreen Flat Panel Monitor
EVGA 01G-P3-1180-AR GeForce GTX285 1024 MB DDR3 PCI-Express 2.0 Graphics Card


Cooler Master HAF 932 High Air Flow ATX Full Tower Case

Also, if you appreciate my software and want me to write it faster... donations are accepted ;)

posted at: 01:05 | link | Tags: | 16 comments

Posted by Julian Aloofi at Thu Dec 31 01:14:01 2009

If I may give you a tip, most ATI cards with R600 or R700 chips (Radeon HD 2xxx - 4xxx series) should work without proprietary drivers (yum install mesa-dri-drivers-experimental).
The drivers are experimental yet (as you may tell from the name), but they work very well on my machine.
Definitely more comfortable than updating and integrating proprietary drivers with every major Xorg/Kernel update.

Posted by Luke at Thu Dec 31 01:51:38 2009

@Julian: Thanks for the tip!  It's good to know that there are at least experimental drivers that work relatively well -- I may take a harder look  at the ATI chipsets.

Posted by Kelly Clowers at Thu Dec 31 06:40:04 2009

Wow, you may not game, but that looks like a gaming god-box.

I really doubt you need a 1000 Watt PS. Probably 600 Watts would be more than enough. Too little power is bad, but having way more power than you need will move you out of the high efficiency bracket, making 80+ pointless.

In fact, putting in some guesses here: , I only get ~400 watts (which is minimum recommended). The major thing to look for is actually the available amps on the 12v rails, as this is critical for powering large modern video cards.

Incidentally, the ATI cards use less power, as well as having a more OSS-friendly driver situation (Although r800/5xxx series OSS support is currently non-existent. Hopefully that will change soon, since it isn't that different from the r600 and r700, and docs have already been released).

The monitor is one I would love to have: 1600 vertical pixels, DisplayPort, IPS

Intel and Asus both make good MBs (Gigabyte is another top tier MB company).

I can't really comment too much on the MBs and the rest, it seems pretty good, if overblown: personally I go for small, cool-running, near-silent boxes these days.

My comment keeps getting rejected by the spam filter without an explanation or workaround. Trying without the link.

Posted by Kelly Clowers at Thu Dec 31 06:41:58 2009

Ok, the link was the problem. Just Google for "PSU calculator", it should be the first one.

Posted by Luke at Thu Dec 31 06:53:46 2009

@Kelly, thanks for the suggestions!  You're right about the PSU overkill, I was planning to do the calculations once I had all of my hardware picked up, and then scale down to what I need.

As for using small, cool-running, near-silent machines -- My thinkpad x300, small and quiet, but it overheats when I work on it, so I have to use this laptop cooler, which makes a ton of noise.  So, I'm willing to compromise with a larger, cool-running, sort-of-quiet box :)

Posted by TK009 at Thu Dec 31 06:56:19 2009

Nvidia is the way to go for linux right now. Proprietary drivers and all they still perform better than anything anyone else is doing.

Julian please correct me if I am wrong but I noticed no mention 3D ability? Last I checked, no 'free' driver is capable of 3D. Why buy a nice GFX card to get only half the functionality?

1k power supply is overkill unless you intend to do something you've neglected to mention. Heat and noise with no real gain. Are you going to run 2 GFX cards? 5+ sata drives?

SSD at those prices say to me money to burn. Must be nice, gratz. Even if I had that kind of scub at $700+ I think I'd pass on being one of the cool kids.

The heatsink I know from experience, the case I have something similar in the antec 900. Cooling is a must, however be prepared to have a jet engine running at your feet. If I had 'extra money' I would spend on heat/noise reduction. I hear my quad three rooms away.

The parts are quality without doubt; I would have to believe you'd be one happy camper with such a system. However, I have no doubt you could build a better system in that price range.

The ram is nice I would get more than 6g though. The extra comes in very handy for running virtuals which I assume is something you'll want to do. I like the GFX card as well. That one card is plenty even if you are a gamer.
Good choice on monitor, one question though, just one monitor? Another monitor will increase your productivity. I couldn't live without at least two.

Good luck with your system brother.

Posted by Christof at Thu Dec 31 07:08:36 2009


The current ATI drivers are good enough for 3D desktop effects and some games. If you are not a gamer they are probably the better solution, because it means one less closed source bit on your computer.

You can also get pretty cheap silent ones, for one less fan to be noisy or break.

Posted by Luke at Thu Dec 31 07:38:04 2009

@TK009, Probably won't be running 2 GFX cards, but will definitely have many drives other than the SSD.

I really want more than 6G of RAM.  One of the benefits of getting the Asus mobo is that I could get 6 sticks (12G), as opposed to the 4 slots on the intel board.

I'm also thinking about sticking with 1 monitor.  Both my home and work setups are dual screens, and I find myself more productive when I'm in front of just a single monitor. Sometimes it's just faster to switch virtual desktops than to move your eyes/head/mouse to another screen.  I also think 30" should be plenty of space for a terminal or two :)

Posted by Kelly Clowers at Thu Dec 31 07:49:05 2009


No 3D? That is not the case at all, I have run a number of 3D games with OSS drivers, both Intel and ATI. See for ATI details.

As for SSDs, I know several people that have one, and they love it and wouldn't trade it for anything. On moderately high end boxes and up, an SSD is one of the easiest ways to get a big increase in how fast it feels, not to mention the very quantitative performance increase for anything disk-bound.

Posted by TK009 at Thu Dec 31 09:09:29 2009

Correction noted on the OSS drivers and 3D support.

I still say bah to the SSD, the price just to high. I am not knowledgeable on the performance of SSDs but couldn't a raid configuration give the same feeling at less than half the price and twice the storage?

I just can't get past the price, is the performance really all that?

Posted by Alexander Boström at Thu Dec 31 21:18:09 2009

Gigabyte motherboards are worth looking at, it's a good quality brand.

X58 and Core i7 9xx is overkill, P55 and i7 860 is fine. It's even better in some ways. (Higher clock-speed when running a single-threaded app.)

That cooler looks cool, but is it? A Noctua U12P perhaps?

Keep in mind that those really fast memory sticks need a voltage that's right at the limit of what you can safely use with a Core i7 CPU.

600-700 W is plenty unless you want to install multiple graphics cards. has good reviews and background info.

Posted by drago01 at Sat Jan 2 12:32:10 2010


No a RAID setup might get similar or even better transfer rates (depending on the number of drives, but SSDs are pretty much limited by the SATA II Interface, same goes for SATA based RAID) but it does not fix the main issue that traditional disk: seektime.

And that is what makes SSDs so much better (0.1ms seek time); just use one for a week and you won't want to go back to a system without one ;)

As for the price; yes it is high but you gain more (noticeable performance) by buying a sightly less powerful CPU (and videocard) and spend the extra money on the SSD.

@Luke I'd go for the i7 960 the extra 133Mhz are hardly noticeable and not worth the price tag (and you can gain that speed with a modest overclock should be a non issue with this cooling)

Posted by Bill Davidsen at Fri Jan 22 14:41:57 2010

I would wait until March when Intel releases the next CPU on 354nm. They will have a desktop with six HT cores, three way memory bus. Going dual channel per bus gives an affordable 12GB machine. ASUS has a board out now which will take that CPU when it ships, has SATA-III and USB-3 support and dual Gbit net.

That's my target for a compile server and VM hosting. Should be reasonably state of the art for 3 years or so.

Posted by Luke at Sun Jan 24 17:06:13 2010


Yep, that's the plan.  I'm definitely waiting until march to get the latest 6-core intel. 

I also saw some dual-socket i7 boards in the works, however, I think the intel extreme chips have dual QPI's, but one of them is disabled.  So, we'll see about that.

I'm also hoping that the SSD prices go down, and hopefully size goes up, but that's a lot to hope for in 2 months.

Until then, I've already purcahsed the monitor, which is absolutely incredible :)

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