Hein (fub) wrote,

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Thoughts on hardware

In the past, I have proclaimed that I will not allow brand-name pre-assembled hardware into the house. My reasons for that were three-fold. For one, brand-name hardware has a worse price/performance ratio than handcrafted systems. Second, you have to live with the choices some product manager made for your hardware. And third, upgrading most brand-name hardware is a nightmare (if at all possible).

So far, this policy has served me well. But as hardware is getting more and more integrated (the MACH G consists of merely a motherboard, two sticks of RAM and a CPU), tweaking options diminish anyway. But this integration also has its advantages: less hassle, better thermal performance, and fewer possibilities of screwing up hardware dependencies.
I'm not a PC gamer, so I don't need a super-duper videocard. An integrated videocard is good enough for me. Hardware has become 'good enough' that I can treat a system as a whole, as an appliance.
As such, the only things I would want to upgrade are RAM and disk-space, and most brand-name machines don't make that a problem. Heck, I even upgraded the RAM and harddisk in my mom's old laptop. I know how to wield a screwdriver.
I already have a piece of brand-name hardware at home. It's Kodama, the Eee 900 laptop. Sure, one can't build their own laptops, so it's either buy pre-made or not buy at all. But that particular Rubicon has been crossed.

Lately, the noise of my desktop machine has really been bugging me. I have a CoolerMaster WaveMaster, which looks awesome, but it's an outdated design. It supports only 80mm fans, which means more noise than of the 120mm fans like they are used in klik's machine. But what do you want? It's a P4, which means it holds a lot of power but also radiates a lot of heat that has to be spewed out of the case by noisy fans. I could try to find a new case, and migrate the system components to that case.
But most of what I do (browsing, reading mail, writing the occasional entry, downloading torrents) does not require the computing power that the P4 provides. But even when idling, it still gives off quite a bit of heat. The P4 is over-powered for almost everything I do -- especially now that I do not have to recode fansubs anymore.

I have the Eee, so I could use that as my main rig: hook it up to the monitor, hook up the USB keyboard and mouse, and simply work on the laptop. But the thermal design of the Eee is... lacking. The 900 model has a mobile Celeron, which gives off quite a bit of heat: it's not uncommon for it to hit 55 degrees within a few minutes of use. And the keyboard is the heatsink for the CPU (srsly!) -- sometimes I hear slight creaking when the material of the machine expands of the heat... I read somewhere of someone who keeps his Eee always on -- he wrote that after a day, even the underside of his desk was warm where the Eee had been.
I'm not looking to start a fire in my house, so using the Eee as 'always-on' machine is out.

It was with quite some interest that I read about the EeeBox. It has a 1.6 GHz Atom chip -- Intel's power-efficient chip for applications that don't demand lots of processing power. It has 1 GB of RAM (the same amount as I have in the P4), it has 80GB of harddisk (which can be upgraded with any 2.5" HDD if it proves to be insufficient), and it has wireless too.
It's small (about as big as a Wii), the power-draw is minimal, and it can be mounted at the back of a TFT screen using a bracket. The power draw and noise production is minimal. The EeeBox can be had for EUR 250 in stores here -- even EUR 100 less than what I paid for the Eee 900 laptop!

I could envisions getting an EeeBox for everyday use, and only firing up the ol' P4 when I need access to an optical drive and need to offload some files from the EeeBox... The only thing holding me back is the thought of how much I have invested in new hardware recently (the Eee 900, the MACH G), and the fact that it comes with WinXP. I'd install Ubuntu on it (and apparently that is possible), but I don't think I'd be able to get a refund for the 'Microsoft tax'...
Tags: eeepc, hardware, windpc

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