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Building a new box from scratch 1 April 2004
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There is definitely something genetic about getting new toys. I see it in people from a wide variety of backgrounds (not just computer geeks). I have been fortunate enough to have obtained a new workstation. This is the first time in over 10 years that I have owned anything close to the latest-and-greatest when it comes to computer gear.

This mini-project was initiated by a hard drive failure which occurred this past Saturday at Open Source Weekend. I came back to the OCUUG area to find that the primary drive on my workstation had died and was giving read errors. No amount of love and care would allow it to pass an fsck. It was then that I decided it was time to upgrade. Sure, my Dell workstation had given me a couple of years of great service, but over the past few months, I noticed it had started to be overwhelmed by the demands I was placing upon it. Thus I started down the slippery upgrade path, determined to have something which was better than what I had now and resistant to hard drive failure.

Along the way, I'll discover Antec cases and what a great product they produce.

The components

I bought everything I needed from right here in Ottawa. They are about a 25 minute drive from my place, but it is well worth it. Paul helped me to create the following shopping list. All prices are in CAD (taxes extra) and have been rounded slightly.

CPUIntel Pentium4 2.8C Ghz 512K 800FSB S478$260
RAMDDR400 PC3200 256MB Kingston$65
RAMDDR400 PC3200 256MB Kingston$65
Main boardAsus P4P800 Intel 865PE SATA RAID A/L$150
CaseAntec Performance II SX1040BII blk 400W$130
HDDMaxtor 80Gb 7200RPM ATA133 FluidBearing$90
HDDMaxtor 80Gb 7200RPM ATA133 FluidBearing$90
RAID3Ware 2 Port Parallel ATA 133 card$186
CDLG 52x CDROM 128k 80ms E-IDE/ATAPI OEMnil
NIC3Com 3c905C-TX Fast Etherlink XLnil
VideoATI Technologies Mach 64 GXnil

components I already had the CD (in another computer, but unused) and the NIC (unused, sitting in a drawer). I bought the drives on Saturday night (right after the drive failure) and placed an order for the 3Ware card on Sunday evening. First thing Monday morning, after dropping the cat at the vet for his little snip-snip, I headed off to OEMExpress to purchase the other items. The hastily laid plan was to assemble everything at Eric Rosenquist's place. It wasn't until I got to his place that I learned I had no video. Eric graciously extracted the ATI card from his parts graveyard and that allowed me to get started. Eventually I'll put something a little better into the box.

You might ask why I went with another RAID card and not use the on-board Serial ATA raid. I wasn't interested. SATA is more expensive than PATA. I've also heard that they don't last as well as PATA when under pressure. They are more aimed for a desktop box than a server. Although I am building a workstation, much of what it will do is server-type work.

The motherboard

The motherboard is pretty nice. I liked the way it was laid out. So far it's given me no grief. Attaching it to the case was easy. Installing the CPU was straight forward.

motherboard1 motherboard2 motherboard3 motherboard4

The case

This is the Antec Performance II SX1040BII. It comes with an Antec 400W power supply. This is a very nice case, and made of aluminum. The case is very well put together and has lots of cooling power. By default, it comes with four fans (two in the PSU, two in the case) and room for two more optional case fans. I like this case quite a bit. Just look at the number of pictures...

case case front case rear side

case open case inside case drive bays case bays close up

bays empty bays one disk case interior case fan

The following is a picture of the motherboard diagram supplied with the Asus motherboard. It peels off and sticks to the chasis. I think it's a fantastic feature. No more must you scramble to find the motherboard manual! There is it is! Right where you need it! This is an amazing idea!

motherboard diagram


I was impressed by the size of the CPU and heat sink. Things have grown smaller but now require more cooling.

cpu cpu closeup cpu onboard

The Install

This box is destined to become my new development box. It's what I use for work such as FreshPorts, FreeBSDDiary, and BSDCan. That means it needs to have 4.9-STABLE on it because that's what runs on the production webserver kindly hosted and donated by They allow me to have complete control over that box.

When I first attempted to install, from CD, the / partition ran out of space.

install failure

When I pressed ALT-F4, I got to the emergency holographic shell. From there, I checked the partition details. As you can see, /dev/md0c was full. But I have no idea why it was writing there.


So I ran the install again, from scratch. This time I took a photo of the partitions I wanted. Compare this to what you see in the

partition success

After running this, everything installed fine. I'm stumped. Any ideas?

How fast is it?

Here are the running times for building:

Build kernel3 minutes
Install kernel< 1 minute
Build world20 minutes
Install world2 minutes

This is a far cry from my first build world, which took 57 hours.

It pays to buy quality

I never thought I'd be paying $130+ for a case. I have previously mentioned how much I liked a higher quality power supply (and I've said it more than once). When I considered that the PSU originally cost me about $70, and a bare bones case is about $30, I began to appreciate how much value you can get from a higher-end case. When I saw the features of this Antec case, I knew I wasn't going to get a lower end case.

It's a good case. It's a fast box. Watch this space. The 3Ware RAID card should arrive on Thursday so I'll outline how that goes in my next article.

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