The machine formerly known first as “precious” and then as “vilya” has undergone quite a few changes. A while back, I upgrade the hard disk from a 40GB Seagate Barracuda to a 120GB Samsung Spinpoint. Then, on my birthday, I transplanted it to a new Antec NSK2400 desktop-style case, so now it looks like this (it’s the larger one in the middle of the picture). This past weekend, I replaced the CPU, motherboard, and memory. The CPU is an Athlon64 3000+, which is the baby of the “Venice” family. The motherboard is an MSI K8NGM2-FID, which has just about everything. The onboard video (GeForce 6150) is better than what I had and it also has onboard Firewire, so that let me eliminate two PCI cards. It has PCI Express and SATA, which I’m not even using, but those plus the newer CPU socket and the two still-empty memory slots give me upgrade options in several different directions. At this point the only thing that hasn’t changed is the CD-ROM, but Windows still seems to recognize it as the same machine.

Installing the hardware was easy; getting the software to work was a pain. Windows wouldn’t boot, or even crash properly, so I now have a fresh install. On Linux I had to give up on the open-source Ethernet driver and use the vendor’s, which is going to be a pain every time I update the kernel. I can’t even be bothered upgrading to the accelerated video drivers since everything works fine using the “vesa” XFree86/Xorg driver. Since audio and video operations were the main reason for the upgrade, I timed some operations before and after. The result is that the system is about 50% faster than it used to be, which is actually a bit less than I had expected but still OK. Also, I can overclock by about 20% with some simple BIOS settings (CPU temperature is still only about 30C) so it’s roughly an Athlon64 3500+ except that it’s $80 (40%) cheaper. That makes it the fastest system I have regular access to, displacing the systems at work which previously would have held that title. Also, with Cool’n'Quiet turned on and smart fan control ndash; this is apparently one of the only motherboards that has managed to get that working properly with CnQ – the system’s actually quieter than it was before.

Faster, quieter, and not all that expensive. I’d call that a success.