Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

30 Apr 2007

My desktop PC is a frankenstein, with parts from here and there. It has been crashing and hanging once a week or so since December, and I was getting clues in #hardware on FreeNode about how to diagnose power supply problems.

"Put the multimeter away and get yourself a new PC," the systems guys at W3C told me. Still, it wasn't until about a month of research on PC hardware that I outsourced the decision to Brian at the local Micro Center. "I want a quiet machine," I told him.

It came down to a choice between two HP Pavilion machines; the a6030n with AMD Live! (Athlon 64 X2 etc.) and the a6040n with Intel Viiv (Core 2 Duo etc.). I picked the AMD machine... partly because the cheaper CPU lets them include 2x the RAM for the same price or a little less... but partly because Intel is the market leader and I like to root for the underdog.

I didn't open the box right away when I got it home, because I wanted to research it just a bit more during the 7 day return period without risking a restocking fee. I had some buyer's remorse when I remembered that "at present the nv driver has no 3D acceleration."

I'm still wrestling with so many choices:

  • stick with debian or switch to Ubuntu for integration and support?
  • stick with debian sid or switch to a more stable release?

    I used to get a few dozen updates when I'd apt-get upgrade after my once-a-month business trip; now it seems that there are hundreds of updates every week; what's going on?

  • Install x86-64/amd64 packages or stick with i386?
  • stick with LVM or use the more typical fixed-size partitions?
  • stay with reiserfs or go back to ext3?

I picked Ubuntu and amd64, at least for starters. I didn't realize I needed the alternate CD image to do LVM until after I had downloaded the desktop image.

The live CD feature is pretty nifty, though it takes longer to come up than a text installer, which starts to add up if you're restarting the install as much as I am. I thought maybe a USB flash disk would be faster than a CD, but it doesn't seem to be. I guess speed varies quite a bit with those things, and the one I was using was a very cheap one.

I picked a goal of getting my Quicken-under-wine setup running as a way to get a feel for the amd64/i386 issue, and then I realized... Why am I still tied to quicken?. I have been noodling about Quicken, RDF, and JSON for a while; why hasn't anyone done an AJAX quicken work-alike yet? Of course, the diff/sync problem is interesting too. The IBM Boca system looks promising. I digress... that's probably a story for my semantic web research blog than this one.

On the other hand, the invited talk by the Mercurial lead developer probably belongs here as well as there.