[NBLUG/talk] Intermittent USB failures getting worse;
search for new motherboard becomes more urgent (long)
sampln at sbcglobal.net
Thu Mar 15 23:46:30 PDT 2007
It looks like I may have to replace my motherboard a bit earlier than I
expected, as the USB failures I've been seeing intermittently over the last
few years are becoming more frequent now (thus breaking the pattern I'd seen
earlier). So I'm taking a second, closer look at my options.
Here's what I've noticed since first looking into the matter in January:
* If I go for a motherboard that supports PCI Express but not legacy PCI, I'll
need the motherboard and/or new expansion cards to handle dual monitors (at
least 1280x1024 each), four PATA/133 drives, one SATA drive, sound, and
gigabit Ethernet. (I'm assuming that all new motherboards have onboard USB
2.0, so I won't even mention it.)
* If the new motherboard supports legacy PCI, it only needs onboard support
for PATA/133 (at least one controller).
* It would be convenient if I didn't have to replace my CPU (AMD Athlon
2.167GHz, Socket A), RAM (two 512MB modules, DDR PC3200) or video card (ATI
Radeon, 8x AGP), but I can replace them if necessary. Given past experience,
I'd be surprised if I could keep any of them with a new motherboard.
* A dual-core or better system would be a very good idea, given how I use the
computer. In fact, I wouldn't mind having a quad-core system, if I can
Anyway, I started by looking at NewEgg, and here's the motherboard that got me
It looks like it takes a pair of quad-core CPU's, for a total of 8 cores.
However, NewEgg doesn't carry the quad-core CPU that goes with it, although
Tiger Direct does carry it. It has one PCI slot, so at least I can keep one
of my old PCI expansion cards (probably a PATA card, since it only has one
onboard PATA controller). And I have no difficulty finding compatible RAM
and video cards.
Unfortunately, the motherboard and new CPU's alone would set me back $1,000
plus shipping ($300 for the motherboard, $350 each for two CPU's), so I
highly doubt I'll be going that route (at least for now). But since it is
geared toward high-end systems using the newest hardware, I think I can
safely use it as an upper bound for what I might actually get, and to get a
sense for the maximum number of peripherals I'll need to replace (the
lower-end motherboards seem to be surprisingly compatible with my current
setup, although most of the really cheap ones don't have enough PCI slots).
This leads me to a few questions, all of which should be applicable no matter
which motherboard I choose:
* My system currently uses a KDE desktop, oftentimes with lots of programs
running on various desktops, as well as the occasional network daemon. Is
there any upper bound for RAM at which point having more becomes
* I know that Linux runs well on dual-core (and dual-processor) systems, but
what if there are additional cores? Is there a point at which the Linux
kernel can't handle multiple cores efficiently enough to be worth using them?
* I see that the different memory modules that are compatible with this
motherboard have varying CAS latencies, with NewEgg's offerings ranging from
3 to 6 (I haven't yet looked up the minimum supported by this motherboard).
I can tell that lower CAS latency will generally lead to better performance,
but is it possible to put the difference in practical terms?
* What about RAM voltage? I seem to remember that the lower the voltage, the
less power it needs. Is it significant enough that I should worry about it?
* My impression from following the list has been that nVidia video cards are
easier to set up on Linux than ATI video cards (and I hope that AMD's
purchase of nVidia will motivate even greater Linux compatibility). Any
recommendations for a Linux-compatible video card that uses PCI Express and
has dual DVI ports?
* At some point (not now), I want to replace both of my monitors with LCD
monitors. At that time, I will probably want to connect them using DVI
instead of VGA, but neither of my current (CRT) monitors support DVI. So
should I get a dual-DVI video card and use a DVI-to-VGA adapter for each
monitor (I already have one for my MacBook Pro), or is there some reason to
stick with a video card that has built-in VGA ports?
* I don't use my Linux system for any serious gaming, although I like to watch
movies on it. At some point, I would like to be able to watch HD content,
but only if I can have a DRM-free experience (suck it, MPAA!). What sort of
GPU specs would I need to do that? (No plans at this time to hook it up to a
TV, although I might do so with another computer later.)
* Is there any reason I might want to consider an Intel CPU instead of AMD?
At the moment, I'm looking at the offerings of NewEgg and Tiger Direct,
although I plan to expand my search to other vendors over the next few days.
Although to be perfectly honest, right now I'm more inclined to favor NewEgg
simply because it's so much easier to search their website than Tiger
Lincoln Peters <sampln at sbcglobal.net>
BOFH excuse #11:
magnetic interference from money/credit cards
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