[TOOLS] Motherboard and CPU

Subject: [TOOLS] Motherboard and CPU
From: Kevin McLauchlan <kmclauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007 12:31:49 -0500

Hey all. Any hardware mavens out there?

The company just got rid of some ancient PC carcasses. I snagged a tower
that (apparently nobody else noticed) had had its power-supply upgraded
sometime during its life. The motherboard, and any remaining drives were
junk, but they weren't what interested me. A reasonably spacious tower with
a 450W PS is what I wanted and got.

I thought I'd get a modern MB-and-CPU combo, a middlin'-good video card, a
couple of SATA drives, and have myself a useful system for home.

Here's the thing. I haven't bought a motherboard this century... meaning,
I'm out of practice and out-of-the-loop regarding what's good, bad, or
indifferent. There are SO many standards now, types of memory, processor
variants, buses, that I don't have a feel for what's old-and-soon-to-fade
away, what's current and likely to remain so for a few years, and what's
bleeding edge and might not gather sufficient following to be around for a
few years (think Beta-vs-VHS if you're old enough).
So, for example, between Intel and AMD, there are various approaches to
64-bit processors, multi-processor, multi-core,
multi-core-multi-processor... egad.
Motherboards tend to support just one flavor (possibly family) of memory,
but (from my reading so far) it seems that a given processor might mate
satisfactorily with several motherboards (socket-this, socket-that,
socket-the-other) that support very different memory variants.

What I want out of this exercise is a good, beefy home system on which to
run (mostly Linux with Beryl (http://www.beryl-project.org), some office
apps (OpenOffice, Scribus, inkscape, dia, GIMP), maybe view the odd video -
nothing fancy. There's no such thing as "future-proof", but I'd like to be
"future-resistant" for (say) the next five years, able to buy more memory
without needing to seek out antique dealers, able to upgrade a video card
(by the way, what's the likeliest card bus to keep its feet under it for the
next few years?). Um, what I want to avoid is "I remember those - no,
nobody makes parts for those anymore; shoulda gone with the Mumbo-jumbo
motherboard and Intel Quad-diddly processor when you had the chance -
everything uses the DSRIbbit memory and the Serial-extra-squinchy
expansion-card bus nowadays."

For what it's worth, I've been to some distributor sites (like TigerDirect,
and followed links to vendor sites, and read reviews on Tom's Hardware and
other sites, but it all feels like gobs of info with not much perspective.
I'd really hate to misunderstand the implications and buy a crippled variant
(remember the old Intel Celery... er Celeron), or get a bleedin'-edge thing
that would never have Linux drivers.

So you with perspective, and recent experience, speak up! :-)
Talk to me off-line if you figure other techwriters wouldn't be interested.


Kevin in Ottawa, Canada

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