[sf-lug] the build-a-box project -- LIST

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Sep 6 01:17:29 PDT 2006

Quoting jim stockford (jim at well.com):

> Asus P5P800 SE motherboard with Intel 865PE chipset

Modern motherboards consist (mostly) of two chip clusters (actually, two
chips in total, integration having proceeded to that point),
dubbed the north bridge and south bridge chips, plus maybe two or three
extra peripheral chips not yet emborged^W integrated into the main two
clusters, usually ethernet, video, and/or Firewire (aka IEEE-1394).  

When a motherboard integrator (like ASUS) says "Intel 865PE chipset",
it's really a reference to the north bridge -- which ironically has
basically nil relevance for driver support issues.

In this case, we have:

Intel 865PE north bridge:  This is the part that talks to the CPU(s) and RAM.
                           In this case, it supports an 8xx Pentium D series 
                           P4 Prescott/Celeron D CPU out of the box, and 
                           the BIOS can be reflashed to support a 9xx series 
                           CPU as well in a Socket T (aka LGA 775).  Does 
                           DDR400 aka PC 3200 SDRAM DIMMs in up to four 
                           184pin DIMM sockets.  Buy unbuffered, non-ECC
                           DIMMs for this puppy.  It maxes out at four
                           1GB sticks.  If you're feeling lucky and buy 
                           really good RAM _and_ are careful with cooling,
                           the BIOS Setup's frequency-setting options are 
                           even overclocking-friendly.  (Good luck with
                           that.  Send me a postcard.)
Intel ICH5-series south bridge:  This is the part that supports all of
                           the other I/O functions.  This ICH5 drives four 
                           regular ol' PCI slots (no PCI-X, no PCI-Express) 
                           at 800/533MHz and one AGP 4x/8x slot (0.8V
                           and 1.5V only).  Four USB, two PS/2, one legacy 
                           serial, one legacy parallel, blah blah.  ICH5 chip 
                           drives 2x SATA (Linux ata_piix driver) or two chains 
                           of PATA aka legacy IDE (Linux piix driver) for 
                           mass storage.

ICH5 is a pretty traditional south bridge chip family at this point --
the current offering being ICH7 -- so it poses no real challenges for

Separately on this motherboard, there's a Intel 82540EM gigabit ethernet 
chipset (Linux e1000 driver) and a ADI AD1888 sound chip.  Linux snd_atiixp 
(?) ALSA driver support for this markedly improved a/o 2.6.13 and later.
No integrated video -- so you need a video card, preferably AGP, of

Form factor is regular ol' ATX (30.5 cm x 21.3cm).  Requires a regular
ol' ATX 12V PSU.  AMI BIOS.  

> Pentium 4 processor 531 3GHz 800 MHz FSB 1MB L2 Cache 

Actually, up to 3.8 GHz in-spec, more if you do overclocker tricks.

> "Intel EM64T supporting 64-bit computing" "Intel Hyper-Threading
> Technology" 

Yeah, all that.  Dual-core if you want to pay for one.  (Don't forget,
depending on role, most Linux boxes, most of the time, are I/O and
RAM-bound.   It's a really rare Linux box's CPU that isn't loafing
almost all the time.  Personally, I'd sink the discretionary money 
elsewhere -- unless you're a 3D gamer, in which case you throw money in
big wads at the video card and a bit for the CPU as well.)

> "Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) for fan speed control"

You _may_ be able to assert software control of that.  You will
definitely be able to monitor it.

> two kingston KVR400X64C3A/512 RAM sticks

Me, I'd buy two 1GB sticks, but it's your money (and already spent ;->).
Kingston's all right.  Personally, I like Crucial or (better) Mushkin
EMS, but choice of local vendor's really more important, and you know
these folks.

> Western Digital WD800JB 80GB hard drive

Nice average PATA drive.  Inoffensive, and they don't run hot.

> No-big-brand-name-sticker, little teeny NEC Corporation credit DVD
> R/RW and CD-R/RW drive Model ND-3550A

I used to say, treat these like they're a little fragile, but they're so
inexpensive these days that who cares?  ;->  Anyhow, it's ATAPI, and
thus runs off the aforementioned piix driver and the rest of the
bog-standard drivers/ide subsystems.  No problems there.

> Plastic bag with CD ROM and yellow sticky with hand writing "Driver
> for ATI RD 9500 Pro 128 MB VG"

Who-hoo!  Frisbee!

> Sony model MPF920 Floppy disk drive

(Party like it's 1989!)  Hope you didn't forgo a perfectly good pack of
chewing gum for that one.

> Sparkle Power Int'l Ltd (SPI) Switching Power Supply Model No
> ATX-300PA Max DC output 300W

These are really good.  I keep a few of these around as spares.

But where's the video card?  Is that the ATI 9500 Pro that went with
that frisbee^W driver CD?  Either you didn't list the card explicitly,
or I stupidly snipped it.  Anyway:

Hmm, let's see:  Radeon 9500 Pro AGP....

That's built on an R300 NE (PCI ID = 0x4E45) graphics processor.  Which
means you can almost certainly get really decent 3D performance using
just the standard X.org (e.g., v. 6.9 and up) open-source "radeon"
driver and Mesa open-source 3D libraries, without having to resort to
ATI's proprietary, binary-only fglrx driver set.  

On account of the sound chip if for no better reason, you should for
heaven's sake stick to distros using modern 2.6.x kernels, and stay away
from antique chozzeroi that still use 2.4.x kernels in the 21st century
(**cough** RHEL3 **cough**).

Basically, you should have no driver problems with any _modern_ distro.

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