Daily Archives: August 22, 2007

Ubuntu Forums Re: How to build a PC that is 100% compatible with Ubuntu

[Update 09/10/2007: I have just posted a longer report on my experiences building this machine. See Building your own Linux Ubuntu computer using the ECS GeForce 6100SM-M motherboard]

A few minutes ago I came across a post in the Ubuntu Forums from someone interested in building their own machine just to run Ubuntu, in the thread How to build a PC that is 100% compatible with Ubuntu.

As it happens I recently built a machine for just that purpose, and have been planning to write about it soon in this blog. But then I realized that I had information at hand of value to the person who asked that question — a list of components of reasonable cost that I knew could be assembled to run Ubuntu — and so why wait to share that information?

Either I should write the blog post or provide something immediately to the thread, so I wrote up a quick note with the essential points and posted it. I’m also copying it at the end of this note.

This is an example of one of the key ideas behind open-source: release early, and release often. It is better to share sooner than to labor away in isolation. You don’t have to wait until a work is “done” or “perfect.” It can be better to release it in pieces or in multiple versions.

If may also make sense to release it to multiple audiences in different places. For example, I have put part of this experience in the Ubuntu thread, do plan to write it up later, and also should at some point add the appropriate parts to the “User Comments” section at newegg for some of the components mentioned.

On building your own machine to run Ubuntu:

My experience is that the motherboard does matter. For example, I recently upgraded one of my boxes to use the BIOSTAR TFORCE 550 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 550 MCP ATX AMD . It was a disaster, and I wasted lots of hours until I figured out I needed to install a BIOS update. Then it proved to be a champ running Ubuntu.

The motherboard determines which processor and memory you must use, as well as the available kinds of connections for external devices.

I built a machine from scratch a couple of weeks ago. I was aiming for low cost, with adequate performance for a desktop, aiming to spend about $50-$60 for each of the key parts (I had display, cd/dvd drive, mouse and keyboard at hand). I built the machine with parts from http://newegg.com. Read the user comments to find mention of “Linux” or “Ubuntu,” and pay particular attention to *negative* comments.

I used the following:

Rosewill R604TSB-N 120mm Fan ATX Mid Tower Computer Case+450W Power Supply. I picked this because it came with power supply.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M (1.0) Socket AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100S Micro ATX AMD Motherboard. This motherboard has the advantage of builtin graphics that is adequate for 1280×1024 resolution, so you don’t need to buy a separate video card if you are just doing basic text processing.

AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Orleans 1.8GHz Socket AM2 Processor Model ADA3000CNBOX – Retail. The “retail” part is important. It means that it comes with a fan. If you buy “OEM” then you will have to buy a fan separately.

Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G

Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD2500KS 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive

I was able to install Ubuntu 7.04 the first time I booted up the system.

Note that many recent motherboards have only one IDE connector and so can support at most two IDE devices. The supplied cable may not allow connecting both a cdrom/dvd drive and a hard disk drive. For example, when I upgraded another box to use a a new motherboard, I found it necessary to buy a SATA cdrom drive so I could use an IDE-type hard disk. If you are starting from scratch then I would recommend using SATA technology.

Sell support? Why not give it away for free?

A common answer to the question

How do you make money with open-source?


You sell support!

Could be, but it’s well worth noting there are many volunteers who aren’t in this for the money. Though you can always get the code for free, it turns out you can in a growing number of cases get support for free.

For example, I just checked Ubuntu Forums and picked a recent thread. Take a look at How can my son upload/download files from overseas to home PC?. It starts off with:

My teenage son soon heads out on a year-long student exchange to South America. He will have regular access to high speed internet. He would like to have access to our home LAN both to transfer images from his trip and to get mp3’s his brother wants to send him.

Our home LAN consists of:

* XP gaming desktop (newer)
* Ubuntu 7.04 laptop (older)
* Ubuntu 7.04 desktop (old)
* Ubuntu 7.04 server (really old)
Note: This is not a server in the truest sense of the word. I’ve installed the server version and have essentially used it as a local repository (music, images, homework) so the family can access their files from any computer in the house. I had SAMBA setup so WIndows boxes could access files and this setup worked like a charm within the home.

What is the easiest and most secure way to setup my “server” so family members can access files from outside of the home? I don’t intend on using this computer as a web or mail server nor will it be public. Just a basic box with files that can be accessed remotely
by the family.

How did the community respond? Read on at How can my son upload/download files from overseas to home PC?.

I noted five responses within twenty minutes! They are on the mark, show concern, have links to related material and — in every post — give evidence of a community that wants to help.

Maybe you knew about this kind of support. I know I didn’t, but seeing it in action has made me much more optimistic about the prospects for Linux and open-source.

It’s also made me a member of the Ubuntu community. I use the userid “daveshields” and have started to add to the ever-growing hill of beans.

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