Thursday, March 5, 2009

Yummy Greek Food & Computers

I had lunch today at Tinos Greek Cafe (once again). I realized that I failed to mention just how yummy their food is in one of these entries. When I looked them up online (www.tinosgreekcafe.com) I discovered that, while they are certainly a chain, they are a local Austin chain. While I'm sure that Tinos is probably considered "fast food Greek" to Greek food experts in the same way that Taco Bell compares to Mexican food, I feel that Tinos is different because their food really is, as their web site says, "Always fresh." It's true. I always order the Gyro plate (served with pita bread) with the feta salad, tabouli, hummus, and rice pilaf, and am amazed what a delicious, hearty, and fairly healthy meal I have for under ten bucks.

I haven't been adventurous and tried anything else there, but the one near work is always crowded at lunch time. All this said...I give my thumbs-up to the good folks at Tinos Greek Cafe. (PS: Yes, I know it looks like I left out an apostrophe and an accent, but this is the way they spell it...).

On to something completely different.

I am thinking about updating my computer system at home. Why? Not really sure exactly. Part of the reason is that I'd like to further reduce the number of Linux systems I leave running all the time. I'd also like to put Windows 98 (yes, I still run it, because I don't use Windows much anyway) in a virtual machine rather than have it running on a separate system. This would mean I could use Visio or Word from anywhere in the house without having to plop myself in front of the old homebrew Athlon 800MHz system. The other reason is that since I run Gentoo Linux, I am constantly compiling software, and having something better than a couple of 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 systems (all having quirks that prevent them from being upgraded) would allow the compiling to go faster. It would also be nice to have a video adapter that would support HDMI so the system could be connected to the TV/amplifier at one point. I also think the reduction in constantly-running systems would reduce my energy usage (aka "carbon footprint").

The goal of the system is to be reasonably high-performance (without necessarily having expensive, cutting-edge technology), VERY quiet, able to run Linux well, and would easily handle virtual machines as needed.

Have I convinced you I need a new computer yet? Good, because I haven't convinced myself yet either. However, as soon as I have, this is what I'm thinking of building:
  • Case: Antec P182 -- This was rated by Silent PC Review (SPCR) [www.silentpcreview.com] as being a very quiet computer case. Someone at SPCR helped design it. It shows.
  • Power Supply: Corsair CMPSU-650TX (650 watt PS) -- This also got good reviews for being a quiet device, but also has plenty of power for an additional hard disk and other components.
  • CPU: Intel Q9550 2.83 GHz Core2 Quad Processor -- The Q9550 has 12MB of cache for its 4 processing cores. It should scream. I thought about the I7 processor, but the motherboards are twice the cost at the moment, and like I said above, I don't need a cutting-edge processor.
  • CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-U9B -- This is a very quiet & efficient CPU heat sink/fan combination. It too has gotten excellent reviews, and while a bit on the expensive side, I understand it is worthwhile. It also has real metal screws, not cheap plastic clips that seem to pull-out of the motherboard after a while.
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P -- This system board is the best combination of features, quality, and cost that I could find. Every system board review had someone who complained that it was the worst one they ever found. This Gigabyte board is really cool -- it has two Gigabit Ethernet adapters built-in (good for allowing the system to act as a firewall), and that's just the beginning.
  • Memory: 2 X 2GB G.SKILL DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) -- 4GB of memory is all I feel I'll need at the moment (I don't feel like running a 64-bit Linux build yet). The G.SKILL memory has gotten good reviews, and the specific pair I'm getting is a nice balance of price and performance.
  • Video card: ASUS EN9500GT TOP/DI -- This video card has a HDMI, VGA, and DVI connector on it, so basically it will interface with any display I can dig-up. It isn't the highest performer, and is not what all the gaming community is buying. Those video adapters cost more than $200, and I would never use the features. The one I spec'd-out is under $100, but is plenty capable of driving full-motion video at 1920x1080 and will most definitely handle Quake III Arena (probably the only game I play, an oldie but goodie).
  • Hard drive: Western Digital "green" 640GB -- I recently purchased this (on sale) to replace a failing drive on one of my computers, and this drive will be moved to the new system. Right now, it is more space than I will ever need. In a few years...
  • Optical drive: Pioneer DVR-110D ATAPI DVD+/-RW -- I purchased this a couple of years ago and will be moving it from one of my systems to the new system. This will work just fine until Blu-ray disc recorders come down in price.
  • Wireless: This system will be wired, not wireless (servers shouldn't be wireless), but will drive my existing Netgear WG302 access point as is being done now. I could probably put a wireless card into this system and make it work as an access point also, but since I have the WG302 already, and it doesn't take much power, it isn't worth building myself.
The old 2.4 GHz Dell system that takes overly-expensive (and hard to find) RAMBUS memory will likely be donated to Goodwill. The 2.4 GHz IBM ThinkCentre (small form factor) would work out nicely as a "guest" PC. The homebrew Athlon 800 will more than likely also be headed for Goodwill. I will keep my Dell Inspiron 2200 laptop in its current duty as, well, the laptop. While a bit heavy in weight, and a little light in processing power (1.8 GHz Celeron processor), it does what it does just fine.

The only thing that's bothering me about doing all this is that I am burning out (to some extent) on computer stuff. This new system will have a fairly large price tag (to me, that is...actually it's a good price considering the performance) and I don't need a quad-core processor to read e-mail, "surf the web," and act as a firewall. On the other hand, there is something to be said for lowering power consumption and having less equipment to maintain. So I am thinking carefully about this. Given that my birthday is quickly approaching, I figure this would be a nice gift to myself (in addition to a new heating/air conditioning system, which will make this computer seem cheap).

If anyone out there has a suggestion or comment on the proposed system, let me know. I spent a lot of time looking into all these parts, and I think I've put together one heck of a fast & quiet system (quiet was a primary criteria in the system design).

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