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Help Me Build A System For A Person With Special Requirements


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#1 samwales

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 12:27 AM

Hi,

I need to make a desktop computer for a seriously ill person who has
special requirements.

I am thinking of sourcing all of it from one trustworthy source if
possible, and putting it all together.

Even if you have no idea about some of these, I will be grateful for
your comments on the others.

Here are the priorities:

1. ROHS (Restriction Of Hazardous Substances) certification or better to help reduce outgassing. (This is
for medical reasons. If you wish to discuss it, please use a
different thread to keep this one focused.) I have also heard of
EPEAT and Greenmark, but know little about them.

2. Linux compatibility. A video card that has an open-source Xorg
driver will be necessary so that future upgrades will not break. He
doesn't need a fancy video card.

3. Very reliable components from trusted manufacturers. Downtime and
maintenance are a serious problem.

4. Standard, non-fussy components. To keep maintenance low.

5. Very low noise.

6. Good price/performance given the above.

Here is what I think he will need:

(Note: what I see when I edit this is an outline format with indentation by spaces. But this site removes all those spaces. Sorry.)

case
easy to work on
good quiet cooling
can support air filters
air filters
any options here?
aftermarket 120mm fans?
PSU
80-plus certified
does overspecing make a PSU last longer?
something like Enermax 550W? (We might have a fairly recent one of these in the old box.)
CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX 550W ATX12V V2.2 Power Supply otherwise?
motherboard
pcie, usb2, sata, esata, ps/2, db9, etc.
if i go with onboard Intel video, which models do you like?
processor
low end quad core 64 bit
relatively cool running
XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler?
4GB or so of memory
Kingston or Corsair?
2 sata hard drives with 750GB to 1TB each (to last a while)
Seagate?
dvd/cd writer
Lite-on?
floppy drive, maybe :)
ethernet card unless onboard
sound card unless onboard
soundblaster-compatible
video card unless onboard
fanless?
I have heard that Intel onboard and ATI are or will be open source; any others?

Other stuff:

The machine will run Linux continuously in a dry climate.
We live in the USA.
Debian and possibly later Xubuntu/Kubuntu.
Low power consumption would help reduce cost and heat.
I've heard Newegg is good, but they do have a restocking fee.

Edited by samwales, 24 July 2008 - 03:01 PM.


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#2 DJBPace07

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 02:12 AM

I'm not entirely sure where to begin, but I'll just dive in. ROHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Certification became effective July 2006, any electrical component sold in the EU should comply with this regulation. If this PC is going to be built outside North America, NewEgg will not be an option. I've used NewEgg for years and they are really good, even with the restocking fee. You have not listed a price for the PC, I'm going to assume a midrange for the cost. Also, I'm assuming this isn't designed as a performance PC.

As for the video card, the EVGA GeForce 8400 GS would be a good choice for an Nvidia card. If you want an AMD card, I suggest SAPPHIRE 100233L Radeon HD 3450 256MB. These cards should run with Linux drivers, whether or not they are open source I do not know since I use NVidia's drivers for my own card.

For the case, this is a balance between noise and style. SilentPC has reviews that focus largely on how noisy components are. If air filters are going to be used, they may reduce the amount of air flow in the case fans, this will heat things up and cause the fans to spin faster making the PC louder. Also, replacing the stock fans that come with the case with quieter ones can help reduce noise. A fanless design is not suggested unless you know how to use liquid cooling. Despite the name liquid cooling the system will still have, and need, fans so there will be some noise.

The motherboard type will vary depending on whose processor you wish to use, either AMD or Intel. If Intel, the ASUS P5QL-E LGA 775 Intel P43 ATX Intel Motherboard (This one has on-board audio). If AMD, ASUS M3N72-D AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA nForce 750a SLI ATX AMD Motherboard (this one has on-board graphics and audio). As with most modern motherboards, they come with onboard NIC, PS/2, and many other commonly used connections.

If you're going the AMD route in processors I suggest the AMD Phenom 9650 2.3GHz. It's about $25 more than the lowest end AMD quad Newegg offers, but it does have more speed. If you're going the Intel route, the Q6600 is a good choice for the same price as the AMD.

For memory, I suggest buying Kingston or Corsair for high quality RAM. Note: You will need a 64-bit operating system to see and use all 4GB+ of RAM. Most Linux distributions offer 64-bit support.

A good PSU is the CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX 550W ATX12V V2.2 Power Supply, it has 85% efficiency and gets good reviews.

For very low noise with the CPU, and better control over heat, I suggest getting an aftermarket cooler. The XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler is very quiet albeit large.

For the drives, Lite-on makes excellent optical drives. For the hard disk you're best bet is Western Digital or Seagate (That's an enormous amount space you want over two drives).

Since you're going with Linux, I suggest Ubuntu because of their community and hardware support. I use the Kubuntu flavor of Ubuntu but there are others: Ubuntu (the regular vanilla flavor with GNOME), Kubuntu (Ubuntu with KDE UI), Xubuntu (Ubuntu with XFCE), and a few others. All have 64-bit support.

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#3 samwales

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 02:07 PM

Thank you DJB. I have edited my post to reflect your advice.

Are you saying that Newegg is bad for ROHS, or that Newegg doesn't ship to Europe?
We are in the USA.

You're right, this is not a gaming box. The reason we're going quad core and large HD is to make the machine last as many years as possible with as little maintenance as possible. He is not physically capable of working on the machine and asking others to do so is difficult. He has few people to help. The price will depend on all the other priorities, including price/performance.

It will be good to find out whether those drivers are open source. A closed-source driver means more maintenance if the OS upgrades but the manufacturer doesn't upgrade the binary blob. Downtime and maintenance are a *much* bigger problem for him than they are for most people.

If Intel onboard video is the only option, then he has to go with Intel. If ATI or another card works then he can go with AMD. Which Intel MB's do you like that have onboard video?

He uses Debian now, so he will try that first. If it doesn't work, then he wants to use Xubuntu or Kubuntu, and to try to make it more like Debian (i.e. less dependent on GUI stuff, etc.).

Edited by samwales, 24 July 2008 - 06:14 PM.


#4 DJBPace07

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 05:28 PM

I know that AMD and NVidia have open source drivers (at least through Ubuntu's Synaptic/Adept) so they should work. I just don't know how well they work though. Keep in mind that hard drives don't last forever, they typically last five to ten years before failure. Newegg only works with North American customers. Ubuntu is a branch of Debian so the systems are very similar, if Debian doesn't work out, Ubuntu would be an excellent choice. You should check out Xubuntu or Kubuntu, I've used both but I like the KDE 4 remix of Kubuntu. I use my PC for gaming and other high performance tasks, so I stay away from integrated (on-board) video. If you're going for a motherboard that supports Intel CPU's that has integrated video, there aren't many available that work well with an Intel Q6600. The best option, regardless of CPU manufacturer, is to always get a dedicated video card. They are easy to change out and when they become obsolete and they can be easily replaced.

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#5 samwales

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 11:02 PM

OK, so need to find out which cards/boards have good open source drivers. I hope the Nvidia drivers work well And maybe we can drop down on HD size to 500.

Both the 2.3 amd and 2.4 intel look like a good speed and are not too expensive for a machine that will last a long time. Since you recommended them, i will trust that price/performance, cooling, power use, reliability, chipsets, bugs, etc. are all good. I assume that a quad core is the right choice compared to 2 cores if you're likely to utilize all 4 frequently. I also assume that debian and ubuntu packages have the same number of bugs on both.

> If you're going for a motherboard that supports Intel CPU's that has integrated video, there aren't many available that work well with an Intel Q6600. The best option, regardless of CPU manufacturer, is to always get a dedicated video card. They are easy to change out and when they become obsolete and they can be easily replaced.

OK. Just for devil's advocate, though, can the onboard be disabled if it breaks or becomes obsolete? Here is my reasoning, some or all of which might be faulty: onboard intel driver supposedly works open source ok; it might be cheaper; it might have a direct connection to memory, so no drawback of slowdown of memory bus maybe; it might have no fan; we don't need anything particularly fancy (mostly just lots of videos, which I think doesn't depend on the high end stuff? Gaming is a low priority.). I don't know much about this stuff as you can probably tell, so those could be wrong.

I am totally open to anything as long as the requirements are met.

#6 DJBPace07

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 12:15 AM

Nvidia open source drivers support many models in one package. Unless you get a bleeding edge card, they should work.

Yes, since Debian and Ubuntu share many of the same underlying technologies so too are their bugs. In fact, the two distros are able to install .DEB files designed for Debian.

The onboard graphics cards often use drivers that are used in dedicated cards, the drivers should work. Disabling the on-board should be simple to do in the BIOS, but onboard does add to the number of things that could go wrong with the motherboard. If a dedicated graphics card fails, it can be easily replaced. If the onboard fails, it has the potential to affect more on the motherboard. There is a direct connection between onboard (integrated) cards and memory. The card uses the system memory which depletes the amount of memory available to the OS. A dedicated card has the memory built into the card so there will be no memory loss. There are some fanless dedicated cards, but that does not mean the system can be fanless. The heat has to be dissipated using the case fans. All on-board cards are fanless, but they will heat up the inside of the case more. On-boards are usually associated with businesses that want to get cheap PC's and cut corners on the graphics. This can lead to problems if a demanding 3D image is to be rendered. Also, many video playback programs are utilizing graphics cards shifting more of their workload on them. Some on-boards may not be able to keep up. The on-board graphics cannot be upgraded in the future as the technology advances whereas a dedicated card can be swapped out.

In short: Use a separate dedicated card. There are cheap cards available. The ones I listed offer a good balance between speed and cost. There just is no adequate cost/benefit with on-board unless you are planning on replacing the PC in a few years and don't foresee upgrading the card.

Edited by DJBPace07, 25 July 2008 - 12:22 AM.

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