Building a Computer

Gustin Johnson gustin at
Mon Oct 13 12:34:36 BST 2008

Hash: SHA1

Sean Darby wrote:
> Hello,
> I will soon be building my very first computer, am looking forward to
> it, though am also curious about a few things pertaining to hardware
> selection, compatibility, and quality of product. Before I insert the
> details of various computer components I have been looking at (currently
> with totals between about $1,300 and $1,600) I thought I would go ahead
> and open up a discussion on the subject.

This budget is a little tight if you plan on including a Windows licence
*and* a decent sound card.  For a little perspective my sound card (RME
9652)  alone was ~$700, I still needed input/output devices on top of
that.  This may be overkill for you, but keep this in mind with repect
to your budget.  An M-Audio solution will cost between $150 and $750
depending on the interface.
> The primary purpose of the new computer:
> Music & Gaming.
> The secondary purpose:
> TV/movies/multimedia.

> Regarding gaming:
> I was invited to privately test a game that is in alpha/beta/etc. stages
> of production and it requires more computer muscle than what I currently
> have. I'm not much of a computer gamer, though this one is the
> exception, it's a must have/must play (at least for me, personally).
> Regarding music:
> I am a professional musician and require the ability to record out of my
> music lesson studio. Any functions that would benefit my music
> instruction would be great, too. I teach guitar, bass guitar, drumset,
> and percussion.

Probably best to stay away from firewire devices until you are more
comfortable with Linux.  M-Audio and RME make PCI and PCIe gear that is
well supported.   M-Audio makes excellent gear for the price point.
> The tv, movies, and other multimedia functions should be pretty easy,
> though I might need a few hardware components with special features if I
> want to ever hook the computer up to a tv (or perhaps hdtv) in the
> future. Some nice DVD rip/burn functions would be nice, though that can
> probably work fine with the appropriate software. Those are only a
> couple aspects of that purpose in the computer, otherwise I can simply
> watch the tv shows and movies on my computer as I do now.
> For gaming, I am looking into a few obvious things - nice graphics/video
> card for example, perhaps a "gaming pad" so I don't stress my normal
> keyboard out. I've heard NVIDIA is crossplatform but ATI is not.
Both nVidia and ATI have drivers for Linux, though IMO they both suck.
If you need to do high performance gaming then either ATI or nVidia will
do the job and still work under Linux.  You may need to do some work to
get these cards properly working.  If you do not *need* an ATI or nVidia
I actually recommend the Integrated Intel solutions, as they work out of
the box with Linux.  ATI has open sourced their drivers so they should
work out of the box in a year or two.

> For music, I am looking into similar - nice audio/sound card for
> example, perhaps an external sound module to bridge the sound card to
> any additional external components (boards or instruments). I've heard
> mixed opinions on Sound Blaster, and am unfamiliar with other options.

Sound blasters are bad, and have been for a while.
> For tv/etc., I'm guessing I'll need s-video capability, though am not
> sure what else.
> The game will be running on Windows Vista, everything else will be
> Linux/Unix (specifically Ubuntu Studio, OpenBSD, and a "floating" 3rd
> *nix (partition reserved for different distros/flavors/etc.).
I am not a fan of multi-booting but it is your time to waste.  Just make
sure you have enough disk space and also make sure that you are very
familiar with GRUB.  There is a lot of documentation for GRUB, and it is
well worth getting to know it.

> The short-term goal is to have a computer immediately ready for gaming
> that also includes the basic components for producing music.
> The long-term goal is to maintain the gaming component requirements but
> mostly to add to the music producing aspect of the computer. I hope to
> eventually have a true home studio for use with teaching music lessons,
> composing music, and especially recording music.
> I am also going for a 64-bit, quad core. I have details available of
> what I've looked at so far but thought I'd introduce this subject and
> ask a question first.
> Does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations on computer
> components that would work with the above?
These days I really only recommend Intel based systems.  Get as much RAM
as you can afford, get new fast disks, and don't cheap out on the power
supply.  I also have a preference for ASUS boards.  For sound cards I
would go with M-Audio.  There are some firewire devices that do work
under Linux, but if you want a stable DAW that will just work, stick
with PCI for now.

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