Monday, October 15, 2012


                                                  One day I ended up with a ten years old Hewlet-Packard desktop that still worked. What can I say? I thought the internet had potential. These dumb old computers; the whole world must be doing it but me! I must be a virgin! But there was mystery to it. I hate mystery. So I commenced to take the machine apart. But now that it was apart on the workroom table, I became confused about how to put it together again. Do-it-yourselfer's seem to run across each other in the toilets and way stations of this world. From my do-it-yourself friend, Byron, who assisted me in my confusions, I acquired two 144mb RAM sticks and a beautiful Hans G video monitor. I got the RAM from Byron for no, and the video for ten dozen eggs. This old machine ran fine on Ubuntu. But Byron is impatient with Open Source. Says Byron, "Too buggy for serious work, but enjoyable to fool around with." Byron's habits in computer programs and parts got too expensive for his wife; soon Byron became lost in the spheres of the geeks. This is what Byron told me before he disappeared into the world's shadowy rooming houses with bathroom in the void.


  Go to the dump, Man, get you a junker! Lots of people toss machines that work. I get them from the dump. I had a great time playing with a Compaq Presario from the dump. I put Linux on it, and it worked fine for quite awhile no matter what I did to it. I also got junkers that didn't work, which I tore apart down to the frame, and I popped the rivets on the frame, and then I put them back together. I got these junkers from the dump basically in order to practice installing CPU's. Whether AMD or Intel, CPU's must be installed carefully. You've got to learn your fundamentals. The tiny wire strands in AMD CPU's get bent easily. If you bend a strand and try to bend it back, it may break. Certain CPU's attach only to certain motherboards. The study of motherboards is fascinating and endless. Mr. Jobs was so inclined toward this study; there is testimony about a zen thing. Different mobo's have different sockets, and each socket uses a slightly different approach to attaching the CPU to the board. A slip of the screw driver can damage a board sufficiently that it won't work any more. A few practice runs with a junker reduces the stress. Start your study of computers at zero expense! Go to the dump and pick out an old desktop tower to take apart. The web has numerous sites that will help you name the part and learn the function. You can get into it as deeply as you want. Those old Gateways had some humongous fans. There is a lot you can learn from each different manufacturer. That's how I learned how to build Ajax, my supercomputer.
  Consider your mobo. Your RAM slots, for instance. A full size (ATX) mobo has four RAM slots. Right now DDR3 is cheap. You have to study what RAM to buy because there are all sorts of RAM. A good rule of thumb for RAM is to estimate what you think you'll need, and then double it. If you think you'll need 2 gigs of RAM, then get 4; if you're a gamer and you think you'll need 4 gigs get 8; and if you're like me, and not sure what you're going to do, fix yourself so you can eventually get the maximum that the mobo will support, which in my Ajax is 16 gigs. But even on sale RAM is expensive. If you need to cut corners, that's the first corner you will cut; but it should be the last. RAM is a riot. So instead of buying 4 1 gig sticks, buy 1 4 gig stick. So instead of 4 full slots, you've got one maxed out slot. A gig of RAM costs about the same whether it's on a 1 gig stick or a 4 gig stick. Then if you happen to fall into a few bucks, buy another 4 gig stick. And so on. There is no downside to buying RAM. Buy the most RAM your board can use. It makes everything work better.
  You can get into fans as deep as you can get into mobos. When I was building Ajax I lost my mind over fans. I spent all day for weeks looking at fans. There are fans that glow various colors; there are quiet fans, extra quiet fans and loud fans; there are fans that last forever, and fans that need to be oiled up every so often; there are four wire fans and three wire fans; fans that can be programed to run off the Bios, and that have temperature sensors; unholy expensive fans and fans that cost four dollars; there are big fans and little tiny fans; and lately there are water cooling systems that are attached to a radiator which is, you guessed it, attached to a fan, and so on till a sort of fan madness sets in. I guess this is a sort of zen thing too.
  After you get your mobo and have figured out the fan thing, time to find a case to put it all in. Every once and awhile you'll run across a plain hobbyist's case at the dump. There will be a hole in it for everything. But my mission is to be a high functioning adult. I couldn't explain that to my old lady. Why, why couldn't I explain to her that a grown man has to be able to hot swap hard drives! But what can you do? You can't explain these mission orientations to the old lady, you just get rid of them, or her, either/or. I needed to be able to hot swap, and that's it. The case cost me a hundred, hundred fifty, without going into details. Your power supply...the thing has gotta have juice. Good ones are pretty expensive. Anyway, Ajax's case has green cold cathode's lighting up a plexi window. And the fans! I've got an 80mm on the Southbridge and three 120mm. A 120mm over the copper heat sink is a four wire red LED and the fan in front of the hard drive bays is blue. The rear fan has a temperature sensor. Even on a hot day under a big load the CPU runs around 95 degrees F! You can always use plenty of cooling. I never got into liquid, though.
  Then I screwed my fans in the case, installed the disk drives, the power supply, DVD players. Then I screwed in the mobo, wired it all up. There's a trick to installing the CPU. Line up the hatch-marks and it should fall into the socket. Don't force it. Latch it in, and apply a drop of Arctic Silver to the top of the CPU. It is better to use less than you think you need than more. Drop the heat sink on the CPU, wiggle it just slightly to help spread the paste, and screw down the heat sink and attach the fan. Wiring up all this stuff takes awhile. You want the wiring to look right, as much of it hidden out of the way as possible. Then I booted Ajax. Didn't take long and I had Ajax running great. Time to overclock the processor. I'm always thinking of new ways to get the most out of Ajax.


  So that was Byron's advice before he disappeared into the spheres happy geeks go to. You don't want to make it too easy, Git-Hub! When I built my Ham, I followed Byron's advice to the T.
  Now Ham has 8G of RAM and a Radeon video card. But a family member has extorted Ham away from me! And no longer does Ham run Linux. They have desecrated Ham, who is now running System 7! Now how do people like that guy, the Microsoft guy, what's his name? I don't know. All this came about when I bought a...but that's another story.

If you look close you can see Deb is on the iBook. Still works.

This is my Ham in an early version.

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