After an unusual gap of around five years, I recently got a new dream PC. For the first time in quite a while, I was able to splurge on some pretty mean hardware though it didn’t come without issues.
Selecting the CPU was the first step. I’ve always been an AMD fan, but they have lately lagged behind Intel when it comes to performance. The choice of motherboards is also severely limited in the local market since for some reason, the misconception still prevails that AMDs heat up and burn out in the hot Pakistani weather.
Core2Quads are readily available, but judging by the benchmarks, the slight performance gain wasn’t worth the extra money. I went with the tried and tested Core2Duo family and looked at what was top of the line in that. The E6750 runs at 2.66GHz with a 1333MHz bus. It supports Intel’s VT enhancements and fared very well, sometimes better than the Core2Quads, in the performance benchmarks.
There wasn’t much choice when it came to motherboards so Intel’s DG33FBC was it. RAM is also really cheap these days so getting 2x 1GB chips was well within budget. The biggest splurge was also what caused the most headache though. I decided to go with a 7200rpm, 500GB hard disk from Western Digital with a nice 16MB cache. It may sound excessive, but someone like me, with more than 5 years worth of backups and data, can easily utilize that.
The Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) install went great and I had a running system within minutes with all the updates installed. However, once I was halfway through copying my many Gigs of data, to my utter horror, the system became unresponsive and ultimately froze. Another attempt after a reboot resulted in the same problem though I caught some of the generated errors with dmesg:
[43.400] ata7.00: exception Emask 0x10 SAct 0x1ffe0 SErr 0x4810000 action 0x2 frozen [43.400] ata7.00: (irq_stat 0x08400040, interface fatal error, connection status changed) [43.400] ata7.00: cmd 61/00:28:5c:9e:44/04:00:0b:00:00/40 tag 5 cdb 0x0 data 524288 out [43.400] res 40/00:84:c6:c0:0c/00:00:0d:00:00/40 Emask 0x10 (ATA bus error)
It clearly says “ATA bus error”, but I figured there must be something wrong with the drive, so the next day, I took the system back to the vendor (in Blue Area) and asked them to replace the drive. They were quite cooperative and impressed with the Ubuntu interface, but all attempts to reproduce the error failed. Once back home, the same errors mysteriously returned. A full bad-block scan didn’t show up anything so I imagined the issue must lie somewhere else (like those cosmic rays maybe?).
After an extensive search, it seemed like I would have to reduce the drive’s throughput to avoid the errors. But then, I tried something different which finally solved the problem. A new SATA cable. It seems that SATA cables are prone to interference and can malfunction if the cable is only slightly loose or bent the wrong way.
I’m still missing a few things on the system (good graphics card, DVD writer), but I can live without them for now. Otherwise, I have a nice and powerful system to work and play with.