I built the computer that I described in my previous blog post. I now have a six-core AMD processor running at 3.2Ghz with 8GB of RAM, a 120GB solid state drive and a 2TB external hard disk. I hooked the system to a 40″ 1080p LCD display on an a full-motion articulating wall mount.
The initial computer build took about two hours. The process was very easy and thoroughly described in the documentation accompanying my Asus motherboard. The only mistake I made was that my case has a display showing internal case and CPU temperature and I should have mounted a sensor between the heat sink and the CPU. I think I may try to attach it later with some thermal tape. Right now it is just loose in the box.
I initially installed Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) on the machine, but discovered that if I wanted to also dual boot Windows 7, I needed to install Windows first, so I trashed the system and started over. The Windows 7 install went smoothly, though I couldn’t get it to recognize the wireless adapter on my motherboard. After installing Ubuntu again, it also wouldn’t recognize the wireless adapter, so after a few days of installing drivers, I gave up and ordered a 300Mbs high-gain wireless N USB adapter (you can see its “horns” standing on top of my computer).
Getting Ubuntu to play nicely with my existing devices took a little work. I connected my 2 TB Western Digital external drive, a micro USB Bluetooth adapter, a Podcast Studio M-Audio microphone, and a cheap headset/microphone combo with no problems. My Apple Keyboard works well except for the function keys and multimedia keys. My Magic Trackpad works, but with limited gestural recognition. I was able to connect my Wacom Intuos3 6×8 tablet , but so far I haven’t gotten pressure sensitivity functioning. I ended up buying a new camera (Logitech 1080p Webcam Pro C910) since the one I had wouldn’t work and as I said before, I bought a wireless adapter as well.
On the software side, the Ubuntu Software Center application allows you to easily install or update a wide range of supported open source software. A System Update utility manages drivers and keeps installed software up-to-date. Open Office has worked well for me so far in opening, modifying and saving files in Microsoft Office formats. Chromium is a great open-source version of Google Chrome. WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator) is great for running Windows .exe files, although it wouldn’t run Warcraft for me (hence my Windows 7 dual boot setup). I can honestly say that I am extremely happy with the open source applications.
Ubuntu has been interesting to work with. It has been a while since I’ve looked at open source OS’s and things have really changed for the better. An Ubuntu system still isn’t as easy to maintain as Windows or OS X and it does still require some computer savvy to even get a system going (or at least mine did) but it is getting closer to the ease of use of proprietary systems. Perhaps some day soon, the “best” OS will be free.
I had planned to replace my iMac with the new computer that I built, but I enjoyed Ubuntu so much that I decided to also get rid of my MacBook. I bought the ASUS Eee PC Seashell 1215N 12.1-Inch Netbook which came installed with a 32-bit version of Windows 7 (although the dual-core AMD processor is a 64-bit CPU). I installed the 64-bit version of Ubuntu and made it a dual-boot system and am loving it.
At one time, I would have labeled myself an “Apple Fanboy,” but no more. I still appreciate Apple’s emphasis on aesthetics and ease of use, but their somewhat draconian policies concerning software development tools, restrictions on developers and their sometimes iron-fisted control over the iTunes Store has soured me on them somewhat.
The wild frontier of open source software is calling to me and in it I see not only hope for the future of computing, but perhaps, as metaphorical of a societal move away from pure competition and toward more cooperative endeavors. In this respect, the open source movement may represent the best hope for a positive step in the evolution of human society.
Check out “The Open Source Society” for an introduction to the idea of open-source as a new paradigm for economics, politics, science, education, and culture. (OSE – Open Source Everything)