Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My New Old 64-bit AMD

It might be a sign it's time to upgrade when you find a better computer in the dumpster!

Melissa (my future wife) and I just moved to a nice little apartment in Norman. One of the perks of living in "the city" is people throw out way better stuff here. Just our first day in the apartment I spotted a computer tower sitting next to the dumpster. I was surprised Melissa didn't say anything when I came back from taking out the trash, carrying something larger back into the house than what was in the bag when I went out. She rolled her eyes but let me keep my new little "toy". Maybe she's used to it by now, or just tired of trying to talk me out of it! Because I'm a bit of a junk collector - it runs in the family. But I just get such a charge out of taking things that were broken/worthless and turning them into something that can be used.

This one was a real find - a 64 bit AMD Athlon 3200+; only a few years old. I was hoping it was a dual-core; it wasn't, but the board supports one, and as it is this processor is still slightly faster than my current best computer (a 2.6 GHz Pentium 4). Even though the clock speed of my Pentium is greater, AMD chips get more work done in each clock cycle, and this AMD one is 64 bit vs. my old one which is only 32 bit.

I can only imagine what kind of hot rig the previous owner must have if he throws away a good 64 bit machine! Perhaps he thought it was broken? Dead computers are almost always salvageable; usually a dying hard drive or finicky power supply is the only ailment, but I guess owners get so frustrated with such problems that they get pissed and throw out the whole thing. Or they don't understand that the CPU tower has interchangeable components inside it, many of which contain no moving parts and theoretically never wear out. This guy obviously knew at least a little about computers, because he removed the RAM, which I was sad to see missing because I'm always short of DDR sticks.

I cannibalized some RAM from one of my other computers, and I'm super excited now because the junk-computer seems to work fine!

In order to furnish this new computer, I'm going to basically split my best computer in half and make two: my best computer had 2 GB of RAM and matched hard drives in a mirror RAID; so I'm just going to put 1 GB of RAM in each and break the mirror. Sure it was fun setting up the mirror RAID a few months ago... (What am I saying? It was a pain in the ass setting up a software RAID to work with both Windows and Linux! Way more trouble than it's worth!) Anyhow as I was saying it's been fun playing with a RAID, but I can get more use out of the drives separately at the moment.

(Gosh, how do you break a mirror RAID? Do you just yank out one drive and just make the system deal with it?)

Unfortunately there'll be no pictures of this project. My beat up old camera finally died its last death. Cracked LCD, confused CPU, and it won't stay on anymore no matter how high I boost the voltage (it previously had an undervolt problem that I fixed by adding a 3rd battery). Even I can't fix it.
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