Friday, December 14, 2007

What to do?

The semester is over. The urge to tinker is overwhelming. I have plenty of machines to work on for Free Geek, but that's almost getting routine. A good routine:
  • Pickup or receive equipment
  • Wipe the hard drive(s)
  • Check and upgrade if necessary
    • BIOS
    • Memory
    • Graphics card
  • Load Ubuntu or Xubuntu as an OEM installation
  • Deliver to recipient or have them pick up
    • Usually deliver, since people who can't afford a computer usually can't afford a car.
  • Prepare for the inevitable onslaught of "Thanks You"s
Yep. A good routine.

The Gateway I recieved is a pretty good one, except for the RDRAM. Now RAMBUS is actually a really good technology, but the company messed themselves up on the licensing, so RAMBUS is just way too expensive. To upgrade the memory from 512 mb to 1 Gb would cost almost $500. Not practical at all. The only choice with a machine that uses RDRAM is to wait till other machines like that come it, and use those memory chips. For our purposes, RAMBUS is a show-stopper.

So, I've decided to scavenge the Gateway for parts. As I am the primary volunteer, I get first pick of best-of hardware. So, I'm going to try to use the parts from the Gateway to upgrade me Dell:
  • The Pentium 4 processor from 1.8 GHz to 2.26 GHz
  • The graphics card from 32 meg to 128 mg
Those would be the main upgrades. I would eventually want to upgrade the memory from 1 GB to 1.5 GB on too. I use my desktop for lots of projects using a virtual machine, so memory is important to me. When you have two virtualized servers going, and two virtualized desktops going, memory tends to forget.

The problem is: my desktop is working fine. It dual boots Windows XP and Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake. I set it up like that right after Dapper Drake came out, so it was around June 2006. I've been running that setup this long - probably the longest I've gone without doing a system reinstall. Every once in awhile, I'll scan my Windows installation with different tools for malware, but nothing comes up. I use the Ubuntu side to do 90% of my internet surfing or IMing. I use the Windows side mostly for school assignments that require Windows, so my Windows side is rarely exposed to the outside world.

Windows XP SP3 (service pack 3) is due out soon, and I hear good things about it -as far as security and speeding things up. Also, Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Herron will be an LTS release (Long Term Service, like Dapper Drake is) meaning 3 years support for the desktop. My original idea was to wait till both are available, and do the hardware upgrades and system reinstalls then. Part of the reason is that I don't look forward to the Windows installation. Getting the system installed, updated, and programs reinstalled and updated can take almost 48 hours -or more even. Getting everything setup and installed just like I want -including programs and desktop settings- in Ubuntu take two hours, three at the most. It would probably be shorter if I didn't walk the dogs during the install process.

There is also the possibility that if I wait till both of those are available, even better equipment donations will come through Free Geek, and I can use some of those. That, and while RAMBUS is expensive, it runs very well with just 512 mb. I could give the Gateway to a volunteer -provided they'd never need to upgrade the memory.

So, to my avid readers, what do you suggest?

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