Building a New Desktop Part I

by Nick Thursday, May 29, 2008 6:46 PM

This is the first in a multi-part series on building a new desktop computer.  To be honest, I've been horribly lax in my computer setup at home.  I've had desktops in the past, but have let them go unused in favor of various laptops that turned into my do-all machines.  As I looked at the things I've wanted to do going forward, and projects that I wish to undertake, I've realized that I need to offload some things onto a more dedicated server type machine, and under take new practices personally like my own source code control for personal projects.

I used to build new machines every few years, but haven't done it for a while, and haven't really even kept up to date on the latest hardware available.  But after reading a few articles on Coding Horror and Maximum PC, I've built up a nice parts list.  But before I share the list, I thought I'd share some of my goals for the machine.

Server:  This machine will not run a serve operating system as it's primary OS, but it will have many server like responsibilities.  I plan on using Vista Ultimate 64-Bit.  I'd like to run SQL Server, SVN, IIS, and potentially Mantis on this machine, as well as use it for basic file server and print server uses.

Testing:  I'd like to have multiple Virtual Machines running with different operating systems that I don't normally use in order to experiment and learn.  I'd like to have Windows Server 2008, Ubuntu, and possibly OS X installed as virtual machines.

Fun:  Yes, I'd like to have fun with this machine as well.  I'd like to be able to have decent media capabilities, and possibly be a stronger workhorse for more complicated photography operations and video editing.

Of course there is the old saying that a jack of all trades is a master of none... but I'm going to try to make this machine a good all around workhorse.  With that said, here is what I've purchased:

Case: Cooler Master Cosmos 1000

Power Supply: Corsair CMPSU-520HX

Motherboard: MSI P35 Platinum Combo

Video Card: MSI NX8800GT 512M OC GeForce 8800 GT

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Yorkfield 2.5GHz

CPU Cooler: Scythe SCNJ-1100P

Memory: 2 X Corsair Dominator 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (Total of 4 GB)

Optical Drives:

LITE-ON 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe

Disk Drives:

2 x Seagate ST3500630AS 500GB 7200 RPM
WD1500ADFD 150GB 10000 RPM

Monitor: Samsung 2043BWX High Gloss Piano Black 20" Widescreen LCD 

Everything is currently on order, and will hopefully arrive next week.  I'm also considering what's on my old desktops that I might want to salvage.  For instance, I have an Adaptec 1394UW with some decently large SCSI drives, and a SCSI Zip Drive.  Is it worth hooking up?  I also have an IDE media card reader which will get hooked up as well.

My next post will be the build!

How Do You Type That?

by Nick Monday, May 19, 2008 8:33 PM

On Saturday when I was out with the Cream City Flickr Group on a photo walk, I happened to take a picture of this sign outside of La Fuente, which if you don't know, is a fantastic Mexican restaurant in Walker's Point.

I Heart La Fuente

Now I remember that the "heart" character is in the extended ASCII character set, but can you actually type it in the address bar of a modern web browser?

Incidentally... their website is actually which I suppose is a close approximation to the sign in Spanish.

Quotable Twitter

by Nick Wednesday, May 14, 2008 8:39 AM

From Jeff Atwood:

"How will this software get my users laid' should be on the minds of anyone writing social software (and these days, all software is)."

Isn't that the reason why men do anything?  To impress women?

Monday Music - Coulton Craze Edition

by Nick Monday, May 05, 2008 8:37 AM

In honor of a fantastic Jonathan Coulton concert in Madison on Friday, I give you a Monday Music twofer!  First there is RE: Your Brains

And of course, I would be remiss if I didn't include Code Monkey.

That's the great part about his fan base... they are all perfectly willing to make his music videos for him with World of Warcraft.

I took a few pictures with my camera phone if you're interested.  It should come as no surprise that the crowd is very geeky, and almost everyone there was wearing "the uniform"... i.e. khaki's and a polo shirt.  And when Paul and Storm announced a giveaway for the first person who could show a 12 sided die, not only was there one person there with one, but it was a race between a dozen people to see who could get it out first.  And when Jonathan asked for a Mac Book power cable because he forgot his, there was actually someone there who had one to loan.

That's Not What I'm Doing!

by Nick Friday, May 02, 2008 1:23 PM

It is my belief, based on previous experience, that every software developer should at some point in time have to watch someone who is new to your software, actually use your software for the first time.  If software is truly simple, and very usable, then it should be pretty obvious to even the most novice of users, and they shouldn't need a manual.  Moreover, things that would make someone's life very easy seem to become crystal clear as you watch the struggle to do something, and watch them try to do something the way they think it ought to work.

Today I had a similar experience to this (although not with software that I wrote), when my girlfriend started using Twitter today.  She was trying to send me an @ reply, but kept sending them as direct messages, and wanted to know how I was sending the replies so they showed up in my micro log.  We went back and forth in various emails, when finally I said this:

OK... in the box where it says "What are you doing?", you can type something like "@NickSchweitzer You are a twit" without the quotes, and it will then show up in my private twitter area, and also be visible to people in your twitter log.

Then she replied with this:

that's silly!

it's asking me what I'm doing but I want to message someone else? that's not what I'm doing!

I read that and sat back in my chair for a minute, and then went to the Twitter site, and then looked at how the twitter badge displays my micro log starting with the phrase "what am I doing...".  "Damn, she's absolutely right."  And the funny thing is, the Twitter home page has an incredibly simple layout which on the surface just screams "easy to use and understand".  And yet, just by the simple phrasing of a label, they completely mislead their users so as to not understand how to use their application.

Making something simple really is much harder than it looks.

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Nick Schweitzer Nick Schweitzer
Wauwatosa, WI

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I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit. ... Full Bio

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