My New Monstercomputer

I decided to make a new PC dedicated wholly for speed. It should handle my mp3z, CD burning, DVD playing and DivX;-) encoding. My "old" PC (K6-2 450 MHz) would only be used for internet tasks. I got myself a nice fat big tower (Procase PC-7040) but wanted it to look good, not just the dull beige color. I got inspired by Virtual Hideout and set out for the paint shop. The design was the front panel in deep blue with yellow details, like buttons and case feet. The metal side and top panels would be metallic blue (which the plastic front panel doesn't like) with big green metallic AMD logos.

The hardware

As I wanted a really fast PC, the choice for a RAID array was obvious. I selected the Abit KT7A-RAID as being the most flexible and also for having a single ISA instead of a crappy AMR slot. Also, onboard audio I could do without, and in any case the Abit is not very likely to appear in a OEM machine.

The CPU was to be a 1200 MHz Athlon. This baby can be reliably overclocked and is still not as power hungry as the faster AMDs. Of course an Intel P4 would have been better in this respect, but price/performance ratio of this chip is abysmal. Besides I'm an avid AMD fan... Of course, when OC'ing a chip power consumption goes through the roof!

OK, the rest is pretty straightforward: 20 gig Quantum 7200 drive for the OSs (running win2k and SuSE 7.1). The RAID array is made of two Maxtors 40 GB/ 5400 disks. I didn't choose 7200 RPM drives because the speed premium of the higher speed is offset by the RAID controller. I did use the special Ultra ATA100 ribbon cable. The two drives were screwed into a bracket which was placed on top of the 330W PSU. For mp3 storage I got a 80 GB Maxtor 5400 drive. A Matrox VGA card (G450, 32 MB DDR Dual Head) should give a nice video performance. Not top of the bill but it's not a gaming machine anyway. Throw in an Adaptec AH 2940 SCSI card for the CD RW and DVD drive, a 3Ccm 3c905 NIC and a SB Live audio card and we're all set! Oh, and as memory is dirt cheap now (October 2001) I filled all three slots with 256 MB 133 MHz SDRAM.

The case

The case presented some formidable problems. First the Procase case was so badly aligned that I had to drill the spotwelded joints of the rear panel and the base plate open to realign the two. Now the PCI and AGP cards would fit correctly.

Of course I wanted a different color. The plastic parts were easy: just two coats of spray paint were sufficient to provide a superb look. The side panels proved much more difficult. This had to do with the AMD logos on the sides. After the primer was put on, masking tape was used to mask out the green part. The tape was folded so no sharp edges would form. So far so good. I decided not to put lacquer on the green part in spite of the shop's recommendation because a colleague, who had worked in a car body shop, said that it was unnecessary. So I taped off the green part and put the blue metallic paint on. Two coats later I took off the masking tape and it had eaten into the surface of the green paint! I tried with benzine to clean it but it was too far gone. It had gotten a dull spotted finish. The clear lacquer improved the shine somewhat but the defects are still clearly visible. Duh!

Below the result as taken with my brand new digicam can be seen. Too bad either win2k or my Abit mobo can't handle the USB properly so I have to use the old machine for that. Ah well...

Front Side (1) Side (2) RAID Array Drive Bay CPU PCI

More mods

Of course I was not done yet. I added some more stuff, like a 60 GB 7200 IBM Deskstar drive, a 160 GB 5400 Maxtor drive and a WinTV card. The IBM went into a 5-1/4 inch rack, and the Maxtor into a removable rack (Datacastle). Both racks had to be painted in my color scheme, which was no problem as I still had some paint left. As I found the harddisk light a bit dim I changed that for a superduper hibrite orange/red LED. Can read the newspaper with that! I moved the ZIP drive back to my old machine as that was much more convenient (also needed the IDE port).

HD LED Drive Detail New Front View  

Software Problems

Needless to say I had my fair share of glitches: it transpired that my Matrox Dualhead output ate my system resources leaving me with an sluggish machine (understatement of the year). The RAID array had a throughput of only 12 MB/s, should be at least 50. Disabling it cured that (took me months to figure that out!). Also I had to make a new install of win2k as the old one got corrupt (maybe after all it was a hardware problem with my memory - never EVER mix brands!). The USB problem mentioned above was just a driver issue. Oh, and I had big trouble with IRQs- see for that! Only thing left is the 128 GB barrier with my 160 GB drive. From Maxtor I understand it is a mobo issue, the BIOS (version 7N) reports the drive size correctly.

A New Machine!

Sure enough, TAZ as my machine was called got too slow, and less than two years later I decided to upgrade to a Gigabyte 7N400 Pro, with a Barton 2500+, 1 GB DDR400 memory and lots and lots of harddisk space. The conversion was smooth, got my win2k running in an hour or so. Used my favorite configuration of putting the OS on a separate partition, and all apps on C:. This has the tremendous advantage that backup and restore (using Drive Image) is superfast, also all the silly Windoze junk (who needs frontpage, Messenger and Outluck Express?) is nicely hidden on another drive. Of course hit a snag when the FSB switch on the mobo was set to 100 MHz instead of AUTO, causing a wrong speed of my CPU: only 1100 instead of 1833 MHz. Duh! I then added a SATA drive (Maxtor Maxline Plus 250 GB) which promptly lost 170 gigs of movies... Fortunately I got it back with "chkdsk <drive> /f". Phew!

I then decided that my SCSI drives (DVD slot-in player and CD burner) would have to go as they seemed to upset the brittle win2k OS. So I got a nice Lite-On Combo drive, spray-painted it in my color scheme and fired it up. In the meantime I had gotten a 300 gig Maxtor Maxline ii ATA133 for that ever necessary data storage space, pushing total space to 800+ gigabyte. Mediabak, as my machine is called now, performs nominally now, fingers crossed! Oh, and I had to change the IDE driver to the nVidia one, and also set the drive speed to UDMA 5 (ATA100) to get proper operation of the 300 GB drive. Funny thing is that the drive speed was exactly the same! With UDMA 6 selected there were popups proclaiming "delayed write failed". Wha'ever...

Be sure to check my Epia case mod as well!

And my first Terabyte file server!

And my second Terabyte fileserver!

And my third Terabyte fileserver!

Skipping my fourth Terabyte fileserver, here's my fifth one!

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