The Humble Geek

Stuff I write.

Keyword - hardware

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Belated Christmas Gift Ho-down

Now I can barrage the Internet with my own crappy drawings.


Powered by Wacom, the Gimp, and of course, a penguin. For less than a hundred dollars, you too can have a very thin time waster.

How-To: Earn Your Carbon Credits

The past few years have showed us a boom in the fad of "going green" with everything from automobiles to your home. Some people have taken advantage of the situation and claimed the need to put a price on the amount of carbon emissions each individual puts in the air. Everyone should be given a quota and if you go over that quota you need to buy "carbon credits" otherwise you face "penalties." I'm glad we haven't reached la-la land just yet, but there are simple ways to go green without going overboard.

I run a server at home for routing, web, email, files, and almost any little idea I think of. Now that I've told you I will have to kill you as ISPs frown on this freedom of expression. Anyway, this server has been comprised of spare parts and/or whatever I could buy for $20. Now that I have a decent job, I decided I wanted a computer I could call a server and stand by it. It also had to draw less electricity and put out less heat and noise. Let's compare my setups:

Junker
  • 1.4ghz "Tualatin" Pentium III-S
  • 512mb PC-133 RAM (i815 chipset limitation)
  • ASUS TUSL2 motherboard
  • 320gb Seagate 7200.10
  • Intel 100 mbit and 1000 mbit PCI cards
  • $50 case with 350watt PSU (all-in-one)

Upgrade
  • 1.86ghz "Lynnfield" Xeon L3426
  • 4gb DDR3 1333 ECC RAM
  • Supermicro X8SIL-F motherboard
  • 2x1TB Seagate 7200.12 (RAID 1)
  • Dual on-board Intel 1gb NICs
  • Antec MicroATX case + SeaSonic 500watt 80 Plus Bronze PSU

The junker runs at a nice loud, slow pace. PHP and any disk intensive request was a several second ordeal. Most of that is due to the limited amount of RAM. I hooked up the Kill-a-watt power meter to the junker to see how much electricity I'm wasting. 62 watts - at idle. The computer is lifeless and it's eating enough energy to power an old school light bulb. Think of all the nuclear power I'm wasting; I can't sleep at night.

Putting the new server together was the fastest assembly for me yet. Most things are now on-board and the only power connections were for the motherboard and hard drives. Hitting the power switch brought forth... silence. Ah... What's this? A BIOS prompt. After installing Fedora 11 x86_64 using my USB drive (no CDs or floppies were hurt in this process, something other OSes can't say), I ran the power meter on it. A whole... 40 watts at idle. With more than 10 times the computing power (and 1 vs 4 cores) and an additional hard drive, the new system was eating 22 (woot math) less watts! Just to put this in an even more interesting twist, my one year old desktop computer pulls a hefty 96 watts out of the Earth. It has a 9800 GTX+ helping it get that high though.

What's the meaning of all this? Well, I should get some nice medal from Al Gore for saving the planet, right? Heck, I'd take just a letter. Now get out there and green up your computing environment. Doctor's orders.

Slackers 'n Motherboards

Go to an online computer hardware retailer and click over to their motherboard section. What will you find? IDE ports and, what's this? Floppy ports? Yes, you will in fact find a 3.5" floppy controller on a brand new Intel Core i5 motherboard made in the year 2009. The news gets worse when you find this on a micro ATX motherboard. Yes, a motherboard you would be putting into a case that has no room for a floppy. Were the electrical engineers trying to be funny?


This brings us to the almighty point of the blog post. It seems motherboard manufactures are continuously living in the past for no reason. There is no need for a floppy port, coaxial audio out, PS/2 ports, PCI slots or even firewire now. Yet you will still find any and sometimes even all of those outdated technologies on boards put out within the past few weeks. Let's not forget that all of this stuff is powered by BIOS technology dating back to the very first 286 PCs. That's over 15 years that the BIOS has not changed! For frakks sake let's get up to date with some EFI BIOS motherboards! A Google search will reveal MSI's feeble attempt at releasing one EFI motherboard that seemingly never made it into the hands of a real consumer.

ASUS, DFI, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, and XFX please listen good. Here's what should be on a motherboard made in the year 2009: Eight USB ports, two powered eSATA ports, optical out, dual Intel or Broadcom LAN (not Realtek), 1-3 16x PCI-E, 1-4 4x/8x PCI-E. EFI BIOS. That means no IDE controllers, no PCI slots, no PS/2 ports, and no floppy controllers. Oh, and lower power consumption while you're at it. I'm sure you'll find lots of nice savings by removing that legacy hardware.