The Saga of Athlon

I bought a PC a couple of months after I started working in NYC. I wanted to save money but didn’t want to bother buying parts from various websites for the absolute lowest prices–newegg wasn’t even around back then. So I went to a PC shop next to a Chinese grocery store and bought all the components there.

I actually had never assembled a PC all by myself before, though I’d seen it done and worked with all kinds of PC components in countless times during the last 10 years. So finally, I thought, here’s the glorious moment to create my own modern marvel! So I wasted no time in putting everything together, plug in, press power–viola! Viola! Vio…

Blank screen. No self-test. No HD spinning. No beep. Not even smoke or spark.

I took the assembled box back to the store on the next day, all riled up. They opened the case.

“Umm–where are the standoffs on which the mainboard is supposed to sit?”

Standoff? What standoff? I ain’t never heard of no stinking standoff!

Wait a second… I did notice that the IO connectors were a bit lower than the openings on the back of the case…

That was one of the darkest moments of my life. The whole mainboard was shorted out via direct contact with the case. It was extremely fortunate that the only thing fried was the video card, which the store replaced at no cost–incredible customer service.

Braindead Dell

Fast forward a couple of years of happy PCing, the box suddenly died. I was braindead to order a new Dell immediately because of some stupid deal. The box doesn’t even have a drive bay for a second HD, so later I had to leave one loose in the 5′ drive bay. It’s not a total waste of money–I did use it to edit a friend’s wedding video because Adobe Premier has to use SSE2. And now it’s sitting behind the TV for media playback, which is actually pretty good use. But in general it’s a terrible investment.

After ordering the Dell, I took apart the old PC and found the power dead. Swap in a new one, plug in, press power–viola!

No, it did work.

Not for long.

I started to get strange hang and sudden reboot. I knew cursing M$ would be just another braindead act, so I poked around and found the box was very hot from CPU overheat, because the CPU fan was so clogged by dust that it could hardly spin. Got a new fan, and things got back to normal.

Not for long.

Big Bad Conroe

In the past few months the box was getting hot again, even after I cleaned the CPU fan. I began to consider upgrade, so I didn’t want to get a new fan and had to leave the box open when it’s on. It’s loud and ugly.

As if I really need a reason to convince myself for upgrade, Intel reclaimed PC processor performance crown by Core 2 Duo. For some benchmarks even the bottom Core 2 Duo outperforms the best Athlon 64. And another big incentive is to get something quiet. And newegg’s revenue is now only 1/6 of Amazon’s.

I basically stole the whole configuration from Puget Systems (reviewed by The total price from newegg was 1/3 less. Sorry Puget!

This time the installation was also quite smooth. I even heeded newegg reviewers’ literally bloody warnings and put on a glove when dealing with the massive and supersharp cooling blades on the Zalman headsink. Plug in, press power–viola! Viola! Vio…

Everything started but then stopped immediatedly. I tried several times, but the machine was like a miniature Sisyphus. If it weren’t 2 o’clock in the morning I would’ve cried out really, really loud.

No, I’m not that stupid–this time the case comes with standoffs.

Well, I’m a little bit stupid. I didn’t read the mainboard’s manual careful enough and missed a 12V EATX power cable. There’s no such thing 5 years ago, you know…

I installed Vista RC1 first. Aeron looks really nice and slick, but it devours more than half of the 1GB memory, and most programs I tried can’t even be installed, like mainboard and graphics card utilities, and Nero Express. So I reverted to XP Pro 64-bit, which leaves a nice 800MB memory to me.

Here’s a comparison table for my 3 PCs.

UPDATE: I had to reinstall regular XP because all my peripherals–all Canon imaging devices, not coincidentally–do not have 64-bit driver. WTF?!