Got a new Toy

To be precise I got a PC a week back - geek's toy that is. I was looking for a fairly powerful home PC (though not a high-end workstation class). My requirements were thus: Gaming both of the Win\* and \*UX kind, Run educational SW for my daughter, development work on OpenSolaris, BeleniX, KDE, Xfce etc.

After a bunch of browsing and evaluating I settled on a Dell Dimension E521 with the following config:
AMD Athlon64 X2 5000+ (2.6GHz per core)
1GB DDR2 533MHz (non-ECC)
Nvidia GeForce 7300 LE (256 MB), PCIe x16
USB Multimedia Keyboard with 2-port USB hub, Optical USB Mouse
17in UltraSharp LCD Monitor (Analog + DVI)
250GB SATA HDD 7200RPM
IEEE FireWire 1394 Card
16x DVD+/-R/RW/Dual Layer drive
Integrated 7.1 HD Audio
In addition I purchased a 1KVA APC Back-UPS.
I had a look at the different models from all the OEMs/Vendors(Lenovo, HP, HCL, Zenith) in Bangalore and none were suiting my kind of spec/budget($1400<=) considerations. Most of the folks were offering either Athlon64 X2 3200+ or 3800+. Only Dell is offering 5000 series in Bangalore. In addition all the models were of fixed config. As far as I saw, only Dell offered the options to customize your system.Finally Dimensions are known to work properly with OpenSolaris.

The above config costed me about $300 more in India than it would have done in the US. Import duty and other stuff probably. 1G RAM is a bit less than I desire, but I had to stay with my budget. 1G DDR2 RAM costs $90 in Bangalore approx.

Till now I was doing my main development work on my Ferrari 3400 lappy. Yes, believe it or not, all the BeleniX releases I did till date have been churned out off the Ferrari laptop. But this has become a limiting factor. The 3400 hdd is slooow at 4200RPM(I think). The processor is 3000+. So a complete BeleniX ISO build takes close to 4hrs. OpenSolaris B52 took 6+hrs for a non-debug nightly without bfu archives being built. The ergonomics(or lack thereof) of a lappy was causing me back pain. Gaming is difficult. Screen is small.

As of now I am quite happy with the performance of this new hardware. A complete BeleniX ISO build took 1hr 45mins, a 3x improvement. A non-debug, non bfu archive nightly of B56 took 2hrs 47mins. The next upgrade I am going to do after recovering from the hole in my wallet is to get 2G RAM. Building BeleniX ISO while in GNOME causes massive paging while CDE is just fine. In addition, I am not really satisfied with the Graphics card, but the only other option with Dell was a Radeon - no way. I'd upgrade to a Nvidia 7900 GTX once I recover.

The other problem is sound and powernow does not work on Solaris Express B55. Sound card is a Nvidia MCP51 High Definition Audio (pci10de,26c). I tried update_drv with audiohd for the pci id, but it reports an unsupported codec. Here's the dmesg output:
Feb  1 22:17:34 rigel audiosup: [ID 553120 kern.warning] WARNING: audiohd0: unsupported HD codec: vid=0x83847618, rev=0x00100201
Feb  1 22:17:34 rigel audiosup: [ID 493330 kern.warning] WARNING: audiohd0: audiohd_attach() couldn't create codec

I will probably look at making the extra multimedia keys and the volume control knob on the keyboard do something useful in OpenSolaris/GNOME.

BTW if anyone is interested the complete prtconf output is here.

Comments:

You could try the audio810 driver. It worked for me on an Nvidia pci10de,26b device.

Posted by Gary Mills on February 04, 2007 at 12:39 AM PST #

Have you considered Intel Core 2 Duo? From some benchmarks I found on the net, it's pretty fast.

Posted by Sitchai on February 04, 2007 at 11:54 AM PST #

Yes I did check out the Core2 Duo and these beasties pack quite a bit more punch than the corresponding AMD systems. However They are quite a bit more expensive as well. A similarly spec-ed system with Core2 Duo would have overshot my budget big time. AMD is still value for money.

Posted by Moinak Ghosh on February 04, 2007 at 12:54 PM PST #

I hope that someone from Intel or Dell will read your blog and gift you a brand new box. ;-)

Posted by Joe on February 04, 2007 at 02:43 PM PST #

\*Drooling\* !

Posted by Anil on February 04, 2007 at 06:16 PM PST #

Hi Moinak, I got that MCP51 audio working by using OSS drivers for solaris.

Posted by Akhilesh Mritunjai on February 07, 2007 at 10:22 PM PST #

Thanks. The OSS driver(hdaudio) works for me as well. Only nit is that is a 6 month time limited version. The permanent use license costs $50 (Rs 2200 approx). I guess I will plonk $10 per month in a piggy bank and purchase a permanent license at the end of the 6 month period :-) I am able to control all the channels in the 7.1 audio card.

Posted by Moinak Ghosh on February 08, 2007 at 03:15 AM PST #

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