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Re: buy or build computer?

On Sun, 9 Mar 2003 13:55:32 -0500, Peter Christensen
<christenpet@snip.net> wrote:

> My five-year-old Gateway Pentium 200 MHz died recently.  (It won't boot from
> the hard drive or a rescue disk, and it won't go into bios-setup mode.)  I
> don't think it's fixable, and anyway, it was so slow that it's probably time
> to replace it.  Temporarily I'm using a borrowed computer with Win95.  Yuck!
> For my next computer I want to make sure that everything is compatible with
> Linux.  I searched this list and found a few posts about buying computers.
> They were a little old (one or two years), so I'm wondering if the situation
> has changed.  A few people recommended the AMD Athlon processor over
> Pentiums.  And Matrox for video, Soundblaster or Ensoniq for sound.  Any
> thoughts on this?
> I've heard that computers nowadays are built with the cheapest possible
> components, so I was wondering if building it myself would be a good idea.
> It might not be much cheaper than buying one from Dell or Gateway, but if
> the result was a better quality machine it might be worthwhile.  So far I've
> only had to replace broken components in my Gateway, such as the hard drive
> and CDrom, also added memory.  Building a computer would be a challenge, but
> I think I'd enjoy doing it...

I would definitely advise against buying a computer from a mainstream
vendor, eg IBM, Dell, etc.

However, there is a third option which you are not considering, which
is buying a computer from a small place, which will build it according
to your specifications. This is the way I went. I went to
resellerratings.com, and eventually settled on a place called Envision
Computer Solutions (http://envisioncs.net/), which was highly rated. I
had some technical problems with the order (not the owner's fault) but
eventually got them settled, and the computer in question is now
humming away quietly near me. I would definitely buy from this place
again, and I am very picky when it comes to service.

The owner, Todd Keller, is pretty neutral when it comes to Linux. He
does not know anything about it, but neither does he freak out when it
is mentioned, like the big resellers supposedly do (I have no personal
experience with this). He is generally very cooperative and

Bear in mind that if you assemble the computer yourself:

a) There is a chance you may damage something if you don't know
exactly what you are doing. At the very least a book or two is
required, and no book can stop you from making mistakes.

You might want to take a look at the book "PC Hardware in a Nutshell",
which I have a copy of, and the corresponding web site,

I found it useful in educating me about the issues. However, I would
not necessarily take their specific picks too seriously. These choices
are often quite subjective, and the best choice changes all the time
anyway. In particular, I am not convinced that PC Power and Cooling
power supplies are all that great.

b) You'll have to research the components in addition to putting them
all together. Just the research by itself is quite a bit of work. I
spent several weeks on understanding the issues. Of course hardware
doesn't change that much so you won't have to do this very often, but
you will need to do this once. Bear in mind of course you want things
that are well supported by Linux.

So, it might be an idea to get someone to actually assemble it for
you. Otherwise, it could be an expensive (not to mention
time-consuming) learning experience. I think, however, most people in
this group would disagree. You can see what they think from two
earlier threads on debian-user which I started.

1) On Mon, 2 Jul 2001
From: Faheem Mitha <faheem@email.unc.edu>
Subject: buying a computer

2) On 25 Feb 2002
From: Faheem Mitha <faheem@email.unc.edu>
Subject: hardware quote comments?

The above hardware selection is rather different from my final
hardware selection, which I can send you if you want. Also, I
eventually did not go with this vendor, since Envision was rather
cheaper and I wasn't willing to pay a big premium to have Debian


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