[conspire] & now ive gone nuts + 64x2

Peter Knaggs peter.knaggs at gmail.com
Sun Apr 8 11:41:33 PDT 2007

On 4/8/07, Bill Moseley <moseley at hank.org> wrote:
> It's been two years or so since I built up a machine.  Last was built
> with very quiet components and is almost silent.  It took some
> research to figure out what parts to buy to get it that quiet.

It's indeed interesting that the on-motherboard graphics have improved
remarkably for Linux with Intel's help:
For HDTV playback, avoiding a graphics card with a fan turns out to
be quite an advantage in quietness if the graphics card is able to take
over the iDCT part of the MPEG2 decoding (it's called "xvmc"). So far,
I've found that the nVidia 5200 (very old, cheap card) handles xvmc
startlingly well, and the 5200 is fairly easy to find without a fan these days.
Unfortunately, it still has to use the proprietary drivers to do xvmc (although
I'm tempted to try to help out with the nouveau project, they have xvmc on
their todo list), and these same drivers currently have a black-windows bug
that somewhat detracts from using beryl with them (on the cheaper 128MB
nVidia cards). I did a writeup on xvmc for the 5200 here:

> I've been trying to follow discussions here on new hardware -- I'm
> not that up on current desktop hardware.  Well, clueless would not be
> too far off the mark.  The above is helpful, and gives me some leads.

I tend to think that "new" hardware might not be as good as well-chosen "old"
hardware. Except for the CPU, of course. The modern SATA drives run
quite hot (given their low RPM) compared to the older 10000 rpm SCSI drives.
For backup storage these days, I tend to use those external firewire/USB
seagate drives, and attach them via the firewire port on the soundcard.
The external drives seem (at least at the beginning of their life) to be very
quiet -- there's no fan and the drive mechanism can only be heard during
spinup/spindown. Somewhat surprisingly, the drives spin down all by themselves
unless they're being accessed (even when the filesystem is mounted).

> Did you make any effort at building a quiet box?  What kind of fans
> and cooler did you use?  How about power supply?

Not so far. I've been using the "extra-long-video-cable" approach to making
the boxes quiet: by running the cables from the closet behind a door. Works
fairly well. Even DVI cables can be as long as 20ft, from B&A computer.

> Again, it's bee a few years, but it was the graphics I have had most
> trouble getting working correctly.  I run multiple monitors so I
> suspect I'll always need an external video card.  Is there a best
> choice if you intend to run run graphics like Beryl?

The onboard i810 graphics seem to be very well supported for beryl. For external
cards, beryl has recently started to run fine on the ATI X800 with the
open-source driver,
and of course it works somewhat OK on the old nVidia 5200 (proprietary
driver, in Ubuntu
Feisty Fawn beta).

> Not sure how much I'd use Beryl -- I have a Mac that has many of those
> fun desktop features and I find running my Debian machines with Icewm
> much more productive.

I'm getting to really like the "negative" and "magnify" accessibility features
of beryl, the others I haven't really gotten "hooked" on yet. I hope they'll
change the key shortcuts to be more "mainstream", at the moment I think
both of them involve the use of the "Windows" key (which I don't have, since
I tend to only use IBM Model M "clicky" keyboards these days - kind of
conflicts with any "minimize-the-noise" philosophy, eh?).


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