The little Linux Box that could

I decided that in order to tinker without disrupting the smooth operation of my workhorse PC, I ought to just build a testing box. In the event that I can actually tinker enough to stop wanting to tinker (like that’s going to happen), I also wanted the PC to serve a dual role as an eventual Media Center PC (Windows or otherwise). So I laid out some requirements:

  • Multiple Core - I’ve read that the latest versions of software that play High-Def video (DVD & Blu-Ray) recommend having dual core. No reason to skimp on this as many inexpensive CPUs have this now
  • Onboard DVI - While I may eventually get a better video card for this system, having the ability to otuput to my HDTV using a DVI->HDMI converter will come in really handy.
  • Small Case - I’ve owned plenty of too-huge computers. This should be able to blend into my entertainment setup
  • Maximum Linux compatibility - If I’m going to be running Linux and don’t want headaches…Linux needs to be able to recognize my hardware pretty much out of the box. Not that I can’t install drivers/whatnot - but the most promising thing when putting together a machine and installing the OS is actually seeing that none of your hardware is DOA.

With these goals, I set out to find the parts I wanted. I’ve had mostly good experiences at Newegg, and chose to use them again. After several hours of comparison shopping and checking the Internet for Linux compatibility - I came up with this setup:

  • Case: Apevia X-QPack
  • Motherboard: ASU M2 NBP-VM CSM
  • Processor: AMD Athlon X2 3800 (Socket AM2)
  • Ram: Kingston DDR2 533 1GB
  • Hard Drive: WD 320GB SATA
  • DVD Burner: LG 18X

At the time I purchased the parts - the Intel Core 2 Duos were definitely outperforming their AMD counterparts. However, the Athlon X2 3800 was cheaper than any Core 2 Duo. I’ve also had good experiences with Nvidia chipsets & Linux - so what the hey. I got the ASUS motherboard primarily because of my excellent experience with prior ASUS mobos. It’s also nice that it has onboard DVI.

Everything arrived quickly and nothing was DOA. I did experience some minor sound issues with different Linux distros and Windows - but not enough to call the motherboard defective or anything. Probably more of a driver issue. If you are using this motherboard under windows - I would suggest uninstalling the Nvidia firewall which is installed when you use the unified driver on the ASUS CD. Find another firewall… Never really liked the Nvidia one.

I’ll detail my Linux installation fun (fun is also code for excrutiating frustration in some cases) in a future article. Thanks for the read!