Computers

I’ve been told that I have too many computers! I tend to agree especially with the number I have acquired in the past few years. Thankfully I’ve started pruning them out and consolidating as per purpose..

History:

My first computer was an Amstrad cpc464 with colour monitor. Great for simple games, and it kept me occupied as a kid.

First PC was an AST pentium 133 with a 2.1gb harddrive and 16mb ram running Win95, back in 1997. It got upgraded and frankensteined over the next few years up to 64mb of ram, 2 harddrives for 20gb, a cd writer and other goodies like a network card and a voodoo1 card.

After I got bought some components from various people in UL such as a p3-500 chip, 256mb ECC ram, 9gb scsi disc, 73gb scsi disc, a SoundBlaster Live! 64 soundcard and a TNT 16mb pci graphics card. I built up a rather nice pc from these, and I watched my first downloaded film on this – ‘The Matrix’ and I went to the cinema twice to see that film based purely on this!

I upgraded the motherboard, the graphics card, memory and a few other bits over the next year or so. It was great as a college machine, multibooting linux and various windows installations. This was the first case that I prepped and painted, and I installed a side-window in it as well. All long before it became popular.

I started overclocking this machine too, after buying a p3-650/100 socket chip on a slotcket adapter. This chip ram at over 900 safely and booted at 1.1ghz. Fantastic performance from a cpu that I paid €150ish for.

I did an upgrade jump then to an AMD64 3000+ with 1gb of ram, geforce 6600gt vivo graphics and a Chieftec case that I prettified with EL cable along the louvres in the front, LED illumination inside, UV cable sleeving and UV cold-cathode lamps as well. This was a fantastic machine, and my then-girlfriend bought me a 200gb harddrive as a wonderful Christmas present, I added another 400gb later. It’s a pity that this machine was stolen from the house in Elm Park that I shared at the time, and this pretty much killed my casemod desires. (may that thief get crotchrot.) I lost the voodoo card to this miscreant.

I bought a Lidl special Athlon64 4200+ a few years later. I had a few issues with it but it was serviceable. I ordered a new upgrade/replacement motherboard as I was getting fed up of not being able to populate all 4 memory slots and I was getting fed up of the bluescreens and crashes in all operating systems caused by high SATA i/o. That new motherboard fixed a few issues for sure. Since then I had upgraded my graphics card to an MSI HD5770 Hawk as the 7600GT was no longer giving DVI output which was a bit of an issue. I also got a few harddrives which I’m using in Raid for speed and reliability. I also got my hands on an Athlonx2 5000+ Black Edition chip to allow me to move from the then standard 2.2ghz to about 3.2ghz for a faster machine. Pity that Damien allowed that chip and motherboard to literally rot in a shed when I gave him a lend of those components..Yes Damo, I still want you to replace or refund me the current replacement cost. I’m serious about this too..

Current:

I also started up a bit of a retro computing journey. When I was in late primary school, my next-door neighbour had an Amiga A500, and I loved playing the games on that. When I was working in Cork post-college, I sourced an A500 and then an A1200 from Ebay. To the A1200 I added a 30Gb harddrive and a Blizzard 1230-IV, with the 50MHz processor and an additional 50MHz math coprocessor and sporting 32Mb of ram. With an HDLoad purchase and a torrent of all the Amiga games ever, I now had a perfect emulation of those gaming experiences as a kid. Adding a pcmcia network card meant that I could get this ancient machine actually onto the internet and browse the web. Mostly it gets used for nostalgia gaming. I have also sourced a re-cap kit, and I’ll start on that process at some point soon. It’s scary how much this system has appreciated in value since my purchase.

Keeping in the retro-Amiga area, I have a plan to run an Amikit environment on a Pi400 self-contained microcomputer, and attach that to the 75″ TV in the main room..

As well as that 16-bit gaming nostalgia, I decided to build myself a set of proper gaming machines for the various era of PC gaming, all from the parts in the parts bins I had lying around. There’s now:

  • a Dos/win3.11 machine with a P2-450, a whopping 64Mb of RAM, a 2gb harddisk, Matrox Millennium 4Mb pci graphics card and an Audician32 soundcard with midi soundbank daughterboard.  Dos 7 from WinMe works.
  • Next up was a Win98se machine using a Tualatin P3-1.13 and 512Mb ram and a ti4200 graphics card, and an Audigy SB Audigy2 soundcard. (If I ever get SLI Voodoo cards this will be in here, but the NVidia + glide wrapper works very well)
  • The 32-bit win2k era of gaming is taken care of by a P4-3.2 with 2Gb ram, a Quadro 600 graphics card, and an SB X-Fi Extreme soundcard.
  • The 64-bit Windows 7 “retro” build is based on a quadcore Xeon E5450 and 8Gb of Ram, with my old GTX660. It happily runs Crysis..

All more than powerful enough to run the games of their times at max settings or above, and I run their outputs through a KVM to my desktop monitor and wireless keyboard/mouse.

In the console corner I have a PS2 , a PS3, a PSP, and a Wii. None of these are used that much, though I have a moderate library of the common then-popular games for them. I’ve since sourced an Nvidia Shield Pro, and I hope to eventually emulate all of these on that device through the 75-inch TV and Yamaha surround-sound system.

My previous incarnation of the main desktop machine was a Behemoth of a machine: Started out in 2011 with an Intel Core I7-3930 running at ~4.3Ghz, 32Gb of ram, 4x1Tb drives in RAID 1+0 with an 240gb SSD for the OS, with an Asus GTX660. In it’s final iteration it was using an Intel Xeon E5-1680v2, 16Gb Ram, 480Gb SSD for OS and 2x6Tb spinning disks in Raid1 for storage, and sported an RTX2080 graphics card.

I built up a replacement primary desktop, and I’ve sold onwards the previous desktop. For the new main machine I have a Ryzen 9 3900X, Asus Rog Strix X570-E Gaming motherboard, 48Gb DDR4-3600 Ram, a Corsair 960Gb NVMe SSD, a handful of other SSDs, 2x6Tb spinning rust array, 4x1Tb spinning rust array, and a few RGB LED strings to make things pretty. There’s a Corsair HX1200i PSU to provide all of the clean and efficient power needed. There’s an Asus Dual OC RTX 2080 card to go in, and there’s also a GTX Titan Black as a secondary card. It’s running either Win10 with all the usual telemetry stripped out, or running a SystemD-negative flavour of Linux. There’s a lovely Asus 32″ 1440p 144Hz display and that’s just so absolutely comfortable to use. 144Hz on the desktop is definitely the way of the future.

Machines I own that are used regularly:

  1. Behemoth desktop, details above.
  2. Warspoils – 16Gb/500GbSSD Dell laptop
  3. Intel NUC (NUC10i5FNHN) (for all-sky camera)
  4. Slablet – Lenovo X220 tablet PC, i5/16Gb/SSD
  5. TheBrick – Dell Precision M4600 i7/16Gb/SSD/Quadro large laptop
  6. AmigaPi – Pi400
  7. Samsung A70 smartphone
  8. Samsung S10 phone for the work number.

I also have a handful of Raspberry Pis, and their current uses. These mini computers are amongst the most useful little devices I’ve had the pleasure of playing with.

  1. Pi4 4G; WSPR, ADSB listener, feeding all major aggregators
  2. Pi4 2G; WSPR, Plex, Cifs, torrents, remote access.
  3. Pi3b+; Pi-Hole server. One of the best things to have on a local network
  4. Pi3b+; KiwiPi radio server.
  5. Pi2b; Spare, currently not in active use.
  6. PiZeroW; ADSB testbed, radio server.
  7. PiZeroW; camera.
  8. Pi B+; generic testing.

Other machines that are lying around intermittently used.

  1. Win7 retro box; Xeon E5450, 8Gb, GTX660
  2. Win2k retro box; Core2Duo e8400/4Gb/Quadro sff Dell
  3. win98 retro box; Tualatin 1.13/512Mb/ti4200 desktop
  4. Dos/win3.11 retro box; P2-450/64Mb/Matrox desktop
  5. Galaxy S8, unmodded, broken screen (awaiting repair)
  6. Asus Eeepc 1000h linux 160gb in white (recycled)
  7. P3-1.13 dell Inspiron laptop. (recycled)

Current scores/details from the Ryzen-9 desktop:

When the desktop was the Intel Core i7, these were the results:

PassMark Rating