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I'm in the UK and I'm very much a Linux newbie. I want to buy a new computer and would appreciate recommendations. I want a Windows XP box I can install a dual boot version of (k)Ubuntu. I'd like to have a machine that will be able to do all the XGL tricks. I'm thinking of buying through Dell.co.uk
What should I be looking for and what should I avoid? What is going to give me the smoothest transition between the operating systems. I know Dell Keyboards and Mice are now USB. Will this be a problem?
If you're willing to put the time in, you'd be best off buying the components separately and building the computer yourself. That way you can check whether everything is supported under Linux. It was a difficult job putting Linux on my work PC (a Dell) when I started, because it turned out some of the hardware wasn't yet supported in the kernel. The last pre-built computer I bought for home use also turned out not to be supported. I'm currently installing Linux on it for the first time at the moment, I've had it over a year but it's taken a long while for the kernel to include drivers for it.
USB input devices shouldn't cause a problem with most modern Linux distros. In fact, thinking about it, I installed Kubuntu 5.10 on my work computer which uses only USB, and there was no trouble with that (there were other problems though).
If you decide to build your own computer, I've heard that Tyan are good for Linux support on their motherboards. Asus are best avoided as they're extremely Windows-centric. You'd be better off getting an nVidia graphics card than an ATI, as nVidia's linux support is a little better. Other than that, I suggest finding components that look interesting, and then Googling them to see what other people's experience with them in Linux has been. The HCL (hardware compatibility list) on this site also has quite a lot of Linux info about various pieces of hardware.
DNUK have workstations that come with Linux insltalled if you wish, there a little pricy I think they atart at around £398+vat upwards for the base model which is a P4, then you can choose which components to up[gradw when its built, e.g hdd, graphivs cards, wether you want speaskers a floppy drive etc.
The hardware in theirmachines is 100% on Linux as far as I know. There a UK company so prices are in £ sterling.
If you are going to get a system already built, I would go to a custom PC shop. These shops use all standard hardware, and you can choose what you want from a large selection. There is a custom shop where I live that will take all the parts I buy and assemble them into a PC for $80 USD. I can even show them the list of parts and they can tell me if those parts(i.e. motherboard, video board, memory, hard drive) will all work together. I can buy whatever parts I forget about from the custom shop, and I don't pay retail prices for all the expensive stuff. One thing you want make sure of is to use an Enermax or Antec power supply. The computer starts with the power supply, and if you don't have plenty of good, smooth, well regulated power; not only will the PC suffer damage from running outside of voltage tolerances, but it will run erratically. Bad PSU's are bad news; Antec or Enermax, and at least 450 Watts.
You probably want 64 bit processing. So, you would want a 64 bit processor by AMD or Intel. If you buy a Dell it will have Dell proprietary drivers that you can't get for linux. That is a big mistake with linux. Don't buy a Dell and expect it to work with linux. Plus, you don't get an operating system CD with a Dell. You get a restore CD that isn't really all of MS Windows XP Pro. If you try to install it to a blank drive it won't work. So, you can't replace the HDD yourself.
OK, DDR2 ram is little better than DDR, and DDR is much cheaper. That is why many 64 bit mobos are going with DDR, not DDR2. I think Intel and Asus mobos are fantastic. But, there are many good boards out there. You just have to make sure the mobo chipset is linux compatible. When I first was making a PC, I went on eBay.com and bought everything. There are a ton of already assembled machines on eBay.com, and you want one that's a little bit old, like six months or a year old, so linux developers have had a chance to get the machine to work with linux. eBay has some deals if you know what you are looking for.
Here are some tricks PC makers play on you. They tell you how much memory is installed, and what rating it has, but they don't give you the timings. PC3200 memory running with 6-2-2-2 timings is way faster than PC4500 memory running at 11-6-6-3. And, that PC 4500 memory looks better when you see it is PC4500, but it actually is slower, and less expensive. PC makers don't like to tell you which mobo they used. That's because it is a no name junk board that sells for $23.00 USD. Everything in the computer runs off the mobo (motherboard). If the mobo is no good, nothing else matters. If the PC maker can make you think you are getting a good machine, but it is actually marginal, it becomes obsolete faster, and you have to buy another one. If you pick a system built from the ground up to be fast and solid it will last you 7 years. If you don't, you might buy 2 or 3 machines during that time. The mobo choice can result in double the performance.
Let me give you an example. I have a real world PC performance test. It take a huge MS Access database and run a script will all kinds of complicated sql statements, exports to text, and the like. Then, I see how long it takes to do. I had a AMD Athlon 3200+ system that was built for speed, solid. It ran through that test in 6 seconds. I took the database and loaded it on a Dell Pentium 4 3.2 GHz system and the test took over 60 seconds. That's ten times as long. I'm not knocking Dell. There are some Dell machines that do well on bench tests. But, you have to buy that exact model, exactly as it is reviewed. People see a fast bench and they think all of that company's equipment is fast. Wrong. They make that one model to be fast. They sell it for less than what it cost them to build it. But, since people think all of Dell's equipment is lightning fast, in a few months, when Dell stops making that exact model that the magazine reviewed, they can say that one is discontinued and sell people on a different model that they make a lot of money on.
It is the same thing with monitors. A monitor manufacturer will make 1 model monitor super, super fantastic, but price it in line with all the other monitors they sell. Unless you get the exact model monitor, that you saw in a monitor review, you won't get the quality you expect. But, the company will only make that monitor for a short time because it costs them too much for what they sell it for. But, everyone thinks all their monitors are as super as the one reviewed so they settle for a different model. No one ever knows the difference. Not until I came along, that is
Seagate are the only HDD's ( hard disk drives ) which follow the entire SATA specification. All the other SATA drive manufacturers implement only part of the SATA command set. This makes their drives much slower. Also, Seagate is the only manufacturer to integrate SATA 2 spec 'NCQ' command (native command queueing), which allows the drive to receive requests from the operating system or DMA and stack the commands in a different order than they were delivered to the drive so they can be executed together in the smallest amount of time. NCQ also allows the head to start reading data in the middle of the track. Usually the head needs to wait over the track until it gets to the beginning of the data. BUT, with NCQ, it can start reading immediately after it hits the track, and append backwards in the drive cache.
There are no good deals on memory. There are some bad deals, but you get what you pay for with memory, and only if you know what you are doing. Good memory can double the speed of your processor over bad memory. That's because the processor core works at about 300 times what a cycle of memory is. If you can get that core number down to 250 times as fast as a memory cycle you double processing speed. So, do your homework on memory. If you have someone custom make a PC, insist they use Arctic Silver thermal paste, not the pad that comes with the heatsink/fan combo. Get a really good HSF that really cools.
I use aluminum, full tower cases with four case fans each. I like the L.E.D. fans because I use window cases, and the fans light up the inside of the PC. You want to use round cables for good air flow through the case. The same five manufacturers make all the CD/DVD CDRW/DVDRW drives for everyone. They have many different names on them, but they are all made by one of five companies that sell to everyone else. Just like there are only five companies that make L.E.D monitor display elements. The monitors are made by many different manufacturers, but they originally come from only a few comapnies
I think you are making the right choice. Most linux distro's need you to know your parts. The last three computers I have had all were cutom built and I have not had many porblems. As for Ati and nvidia, I would pick nvidia. Whoever said their support for linux is better, was right. I have been able to get just about any nvidia card I have came acrossed to work.
Dell has rubbed me the wrong way and that is why I do not like them. Some of their business practices are flaky.