Which PC?

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Which PC?

Postby Birdman » Mon May 30, 2005 5:06 pm

My PC is dying :cry: OK it is 1998 vintage and has been expanded and well used. Regardless of OS it freezes so that no input devices have any effect and I have to pull out the power cable to shut it down :shock: I have tried both my HDs in a spare old PC and fortunately they appear to be OK.

I have have been thinking about some new hardware in any case but would rather not have to do it in such a rush (daughter and wife need it for school and work). My first thoughts were Dell. There are such a variety of options however and I am very mindfull of linux compatibility. Anyone bought a Dell recently and have any broad guidelines?

Also, it will come with XP. I have only ever dual booted with 95 & 98. Also there is the SATA drive issue. My current distro is Slackware 10.1 with a 2.4 kernel. I really need to move to 2.6 and was hoping Slackware 11 would be here with a default 2.6 kernel before I had to go through a fresh install.

Oh well, I am interested in any advice or suggestions you might have.

Thanks.
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RE: Which PC?

Postby slowandgo » Tue May 31, 2005 3:31 am

I have a the following:
Dell 8300 3ghz
two 120gb SATA hard drives
1gb memory
1 DVD rom
1 DVD +RW

I am dual booting with XP Pro and SuSe 9.3 with no problems. I just added an HP 2355 AIO printer. I have had no problems with the Dell dual booting. I am even running a Dual Boot Dell 5150 laptop with XP Pro and SuSe 9.3. I haven't figured out the wireless yet, but soon I hope. Also, I am a newbie to Linux


Slowandgo :P
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Postby Birdman » Tue May 31, 2005 8:50 pm

Slowandgo, thanks for your experience - sounds encouraging.

What about sound and graphics. I know that on-board chips can sometimes cause a problem and I note that the Dell default is an ATi card - the nVidea costing a fair bit more. What did you settle for in the end?

Also, I note that AMD Athlon 64 boxes are a similar price to Pentiums. Anyone running 64 bit linux on the desktop? Are there any downsides I should be aware of?

Thanks.
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Postby Rhakios » Tue May 31, 2005 10:09 pm

The disadvantages of 64-bit (I'll just give you those rather than the many benefits) are:
1. Some odd behaviour with plug-ins in some browsers some of the time.
2. Some unexpected behaviour compared to the 32-bit distribution (such as with SuSE9.3, after one update I lost sound due to a change in device permissions on /dev/dsp0 this didn't happen with the same update on either 32-bit installation).
3. Problems compiling due to some configure scripts needing to be pointed to the 64-bit libraries and headers.
Bye, Rhakios
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Re: Which PC?

Postby nordle » Tue May 31, 2005 10:12 pm

Birdman wrote:My current distro is Slackware 10.1 with a 2.4 kernel. I really need to move to 2.6 and was hoping Slackware 11 would be here with a default 2.6 kernel before I had to go through a fresh install.


Slackware 11 is possible going to be around the beginning of September, just guessing from the Feb release of 10.1

In the meantime though, why not stick your own 2.6 kernel in? One of the plus points with Slackware is the fact it runs with a standard kernel, so you can just substitute it with another kernel no problems.

Creating your own kernel is reasonably easy, it sounds a bit horrific, but its not.
Just try to know what make/model hardware you have eg
CPU, motherboard, graphics, nic, sound etc

eg In this example, the old sources and settings will stay, a new option will be added, so if it doesn't work, no problem.

Unpack kernel source into /usr/src
>tar xvjf linux-version.tar.bz2 -C /usr/src

Change directory, into the new set of sources
>cd /usr/src/linux-version

Remove any stale dependencies (habit)
>make mrproper

To configure the sources, you need to select the options you'd like, such as sound card, motherboard chipset, CPU type etc There is a console based selection process or a couple of graphical versions, so just try them to see which you prefer, personally I prefer the console based version, just find it easier.

CONSOLE
>make menuconfig

GTK
>make gconfig

QT
>make xconfig

You have the option to compile an item into the kernel (Y), or as a module (M) which is loaded at boot time, or to leave an option out altogether (N).
If in doubt, compile an option into the kernel, its not a problem to have a kernel which is 2.5MB compared to 2.0MB, especially if a new machine has >=512MB RAM.

General options to consider:
- Remove Symmetric Multi-Processing Support (if you have a single CPU) (N)
- If using a totally standard kernel on a machine with >=1GB RAM enable high memory support (Y) otherwise turn it off (N)
- Generally speaking, if it involves the CPU, mainboard, filesystems, graphics, then compile the option into the kernel (Y). Some work fine as modules, but others may cause the kernel to fail to boot if they are selected as modules and not built into the kernel.
- Enable iptables network options for firewall to work
- Enable ppp options if using dial up connection, or built in ADSL card (if using ehternet, ie via a router and internal nic, then just select your network card)

When the config is complete, exit and say yes to saving it, then run

>make all
>make modules_install
>cp arch/i386/boot/bzImage /boot/vmlinuz26
>cp System.map /boot/System26.map
>cp .config /boot/config26

So, this has not overwritten any settings, but a new option does need to be added to the boot menu, as it currently won't know the new one exists.

Open /etc/lilo.conf in a text editor and copy the current settings down as another option, but changing the names to include the newly created files (eg vmlinuz --> vmlinuz26) and change the label.
Save the file and, if using lilo, write the new boot loader:
>jed /etc/lilo.conf
>/sbin/lilo

Done. Re-boot and select the new option, if it all goes horribly wrong, no biggy, as the original settings and files are all still in place.

Once you've done this a few times, honestly its a quick process, 10 mins max.
You might be interested in the ck patchset, it adds some extra options to the kernel to improve desktop situations, as well as getting the cd-writing working again (>2.6.8 broke this IIRC).
Then there is the cko patch which takes the ck patch and adds more stuff to it, like reiser4, sshfs, more dvb/bttv options etc

I'm currently running 2.6.11-cko5 because of the improved options (using a hauppage nova-t card)

http://www.kernel.org/
http://members.optusnet.com.au/ckolivas/kernel/
http://kem.p.lodz.pl/~peter/cko/

PS I have probably missed something important, or even dangerous, but there are boat loads of guides on the net, google is your freind.
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RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby slowandgo » Tue May 31, 2005 11:50 pm

Birdman

I have a NVidia Go5200 video card in my Dell and a Sound Blaster Audigy sound card. Both works

Slowandgo :wink: :D
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RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby Birdman » Wed Jun 01, 2005 12:31 pm

Thanks for the feedback.

Nordle, I have compiled the odd kernel in the past. I haven't done a major upgrade however (2.4 to 2.6) because I understand that there are several other changes required. I think I would feel OK about 2.6.x to 2.6.y but I am startin g from 2.4. I have done a bit more homework and note that the Slackware intaller does not offer the option of the sata.i kernel but it is available on the install disk! Just need to know that it is there ;)

Slowandgo - glad to hear that you have the sound and graphics sussed. I guess we'll never know how the on-board chips fair ;)


Rhakios - Is a 32 bit install on an AMD 64 a better option for the time being until things improve?
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Re: RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby Rhakios » Wed Jun 01, 2005 7:58 pm

Birdman wrote:Rhakios - Is a 32 bit install on an AMD 64 a better option for the time being until things improve?


Now where's the fun in that? I suppose you could do it, but if I were that wary I'd be inclined to buy something fast in the 32-bit line and be happy with that. As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, as hard drive speeds are the main bottle-neck in computing, you'd see more improvement from getting the fastest drives (perhaps raid with striping and mirroring) than you'd get from moving from 32 to 64 bit.
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Re: RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby nordle » Thu Jun 02, 2005 12:04 am

Birdman wrote:Thanks for the feedback.

Nordle, I have compiled the odd kernel in the past. I haven't done a major upgrade however (2.4 to 2.6) because I understand that there are several other changes required. I think I would feel OK about 2.6.x to 2.6.y but I am startin g from 2.4. I have done a bit more homework and note that the Slackware intaller does not offer the option of the sata.i kernel but it is available on the install disk! Just need to know that it is there ;)


The installer does ask which kernel you want to use, the full list is around 20 I think, including the sata one, just for 2.4, but as it uses standard kernels its no bother to drop whichever one you want in.
Slackware 10.1 is 100% 2.6 ready, you dont have to do a thing differently other than compile your own kernel with a new .config (ie use make mrproper).

As far as running Athlon64 on 32-bit, yeah do it, its a mother of a chip, cool, quiet and fast. Make use of the advanced design, getting a 939 based rig will enable the possibility to upgrade to dual core without changing mobo (when its affordable!), SATAII controllers, PCI Express etc etc are already on 939 mobo's too. There's no point going for a 32bit chip, as they all run hotter, are not upgradeable and not that much cheaper than an athlon64 either.
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RE: Re: RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby Birdman » Fri Jun 03, 2005 8:58 pm

Well. I have placed my order for an Athlon 64 3000. I did not go for the 939 however as I could not find out much about compatibility issues but did find some negative stuff about the nVidia chipset. The 754 on the otherhand has some good reports about working with linux and the SIS chipset seemed to get the thumbs up.

Like most PC users, I do not "need" the power but at the same time if you are forced to buy new hardware you may as well go for something you can have some fun with. I went for a Bare Bone package that gives me a tower with motherboard, CPU and heatsink. I needed a graphics card and decided to add an extra gig of RAM and a 200gig SATA drive. It came in below 400GBP. I will do a basic install of Slackware as that is what I know best, AND THEN.....

make use of that LXF DVD and build my own Gentoo 64 BIT :)
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RE: Re: RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby nordle » Fri Jun 03, 2005 10:13 pm

Good luck Birdman, you should be pleased with the 754, its no slouch and out of all the PC's I've used (mines also a 754) its been totally reliable and virtually un-crashable in both Linux and Windows (I have only had 1 system lock up in Slackware in 18mths, using a 2.6.7-bkn kernel)

When installing Slack, right after the CD has started to boot it sais "Welcome to Slackware x.x boot:"
By default it will boot the bare.i kernel, but thats not going to work with your sata drive (at least it shouldn't)
The SATA kernel supplied on the install media is called sata.i, to get more info press F2, or type sata.i after the text boot: then press enter.

Do you know what motherboard you've got in the barebones system, if so we can check whether the SATA controller is supported by the slackware sata.i kernel.
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RE: Re: RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby Birdman » Fri Jun 03, 2005 10:28 pm

The motherboard is a 755A01-6EKRS. It is supplied by Novatech, and from what I can glean is a Foxconn.

I wish we had had this dialogue prior to the order ;)
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Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby nordle » Sat Jun 04, 2005 12:00 am

Birdman wrote:The motherboard is a 755A01-6EKRS. It is supplied by Novatech, and from what I can glean is a Foxconn.

I wish we had had this dialogue prior to the order ;)


Birdman, you almost sound concerned ;)

Spec: http://tinyurl.com/7mpp9
Various drivers + manual etc http://tinyurl.com/dz2rs

Looking at the spec, it can use the SiliconImage Sil3112 SATA controller, which is handy because that is compiled into the sata.i kernel which is part of the installation media, so your laughing :)

Having said that, you might want to make a note from this forum
http://www.nforcershq.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=476995

It seems to depend on the hard disk which is used, but with the Western Digital, this person had to do a little tweaking to get lilo to play ball:

Some bloke wrote:I'm using Slackware 10.1 (2.4.29 kernel) an Adaptec 1210sa sata interface (same SIL3112 chipset as the A7N8X mb) and two Maxtor 200gb drives. This is what I had to do:

run Install with sata.i image,
when configuring lilo choose expert and insert the command:
Code:
append = "root/dev/sda1"

when it asks for extra options. This "append" tells Linux Loader where to find the root partition. of course adjust your dev as appropriate.


But you might not need that anyway.
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RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby Birdman » Sat Jun 04, 2005 10:05 am

Nordle, you certainly now how to cheer a boy up ;)

That's fantastic - I really appreciate your help.

I tempted fate only last weekend and said to my wife "Our 7 year old PC does a great job but we will definitely buy some new hardware in the next 18 months", only to have the box go belly up the following day. I always intended spending several weeks researching hardware, having not been in the market for some considerable time. Off course, sod's law means having to make pretty much a snap decision and hope all the kit lives up to expectations. It looks like I might have got away with it!

BTW I went for a Maxtor Plus 10 7200 SATA 200GB - could be the same as those referred to in your post.

Delivery next Thursday :( I don't know whether I can stand another week of a PII 350 win98 box until then.
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Re: RE: Re: Which PC?

Postby Birdman » Sat Jun 04, 2005 10:25 am

nordle wrote:Slackware 10.1 is 100% 2.6 ready, you dont have to do a thing differently other than compile your own kernel with a new .config (ie use make mrproper).


Clearly you know far more about this than me so pehaps you could help dismiss my preconceptions on this matter? Doesn't the 2.6 Kernel do things slightly differently and use different tools. Also, isn't there are push to move some of the subsytems to a new basis - ALSA, udev etc (I've obviously been reading too many LXFs and not understanding a word of it ;) )?

Whilst on this subject, my (now dead) Slack10.1 install had been updated to current in a few areas eg KDE3.4, this could be an oportunity to #swaret -upgrade, and grab the latest 2.6 kernel. What do you think?
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