DEM-PCsolutions Blog
Tips and tweaks from DEM-PCsolutions & Friends

Jul
29

Hello readers,

 

I must apologise for this, but we haven’t been on here in almost a year.

 

So, here’s a little treat for you. We will soon be posting an article on another tri-boot. But this time on a PC. And also with Lion.

 

Stay tuned,

 

Jack.

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Sep
07

This is somewhat of a followup post from my Tri-Boot post I did earlier, although this post very much applies to anybody running OpenSuse on an Intel based mac (in my case, the newer Core 2 Duo Macbooks.)

As i imagine the audience that this kind of post will extend to is very small please don’t hesitate to e-mail me; dannywalton33@googlemail.com all i mention worked for me and i hope it does the same for you.

I’m going to take you through many aspects of making your OpenSuse system friendly and useable. I will talk about how to gain; trackpad support, iSight support, ntfs write support, full wifi support, how to get the proper resolution, how to create a swap file and others.

In my previous Tri-Boot post i explained how to install OpenSuse 10.2, this was essential because certain configuration aspects such as wifi must be accomplished in 10.2. So to start I’m going to assume that you are running OpenSuse 10.2. I will soon show you how to upgrade to 10.3 although on a macbook the issue with installing 10.3 straight ment that 10.2 has to be installed first, the first issue is taken of installing and the second issue was wifi, so i will show you how to configure your wifi card for use and then how to upgrade.

For now, put up with the poor resolution, this will be sorted later.

1. Wifi configuration.

To enable the use of wifi on your mac read on.

In most newer Macs, certainly Macbook’s and iMac’s the wifi card is the atheros based apple airport extreme card, to enable this to work effectively within Linux you need a driver.

The “Madwifi” project has developed a driver for atheros based wifi cards to be used within Linux, its an excellent project and without them i would of given up on Linux possibly entirely.

The Madwifi version needed for the our wifi card can be found in the madwifi trunk, once you have this you need to collect files from various places and put it together ready for compilation, luckily i have done this for you and you can get the file off this site, located on the sidebar on the right hand side of the screen, the file is called “madwifi1.zip”

Download the file and unzip it into you’re home directory on your Opensuse system, the files i have given you should work straight off and therefore are ready for compilation, so open a konsole window;

cd /home/user/madwifi1

su

make

make install

modprobe ath_pci

All the above commands do is switch you to the madwifi folder, give you root privileges, compile the driver, install the drivers then activate them. You have now installed the madwifi driver, now you need to configure it using Yast2, open up yast and browse to Network Devices then to Network Card. You should see an entry in the network card list called “Atheros WLAN Controller” this is your wifi card, it is not yet configured so click on it and then click configure and configure it to preference, i advise enabling knetwork manager and not using ifup, far easier and more graphically friendly in my opinion. You should then be able to scan for and join wireless networks.

P.S Try different encryption settings etc when connecting to WEP networks, I’m not sure why but if you cant connect first time this seemed to work.

2. Upgrade to Opensuse 10.3

Now you’re wifi is working fine you’re ready to upgrade to Opensuse 10.3. Download a copy from http://software.opensuse.org/, try to get the actual installerable version as apposed to the live cd, I will tell you how to do this with the installable version.

Pop the disc into your mac and if you have refit, refit should pick it up, boot from it by selecting the icon, if not hold C to boot from the disc drive.

When you are prompted with some options, choose install.

This brings you to the normal Opensuse installation, follow it through until you get the option of a new install or an upgrade, choose upgrade and proceed.

Your Opensuse partition should be picked up automatically, if you have been following the tri boot then it shoould be /dev/sda3.

Following the installer through is easy enough, you just have to select which repositorys you want to transfewr to the new system and select the packages to be upgraded.

Once the updater has finished your upgrade is complete, you now run Opensuse 10.3. Download all updates from the net using ysats built in update manager.

Now your wifi that you configured earlier won’t work, you need to go to yast and configure it again, once you have configured the wlan card in yast you should be able to use your wifi card with opensuse 10.3. Although this worked for me, it has been reported by friends of mine that they had to completley reinstall and compile the madwifi drivers to get their cards working in 10.3, if so, don’t worry, just complete step 1 again although this time do it from your new Opensuse 10.3 system.

3. Correcting the Resolution.

Now, on my Macbook the resolution was reported to be 1280×800 (Macbooks maximum resolution) it is in fact not. Both the desktop configuration tool and sax2 tell you this. To change this you need to use a free bit of software called 915resolution, which comes pre-installed on OpenSuse systems. To configure your Macbook to use its maximum resolution run the following commands:

su

915resolution -l

This switches you to root and lists all the possible resolutions that your graphics can display.

You need to overwrite one of these with the proper resolution; I chose to overwrite 5c.

To do this;

915resolution 5c 1280 800

Then if you run;

915resolution -l

again, it reports there to be a 1280 by 800 resolution.

Now, restart X, by pressing crtl+alt+backspace

Once X has been restarted you should see your new sparkling resolution, although for this to happen everytime you boot you need to run the command before X starts, you can do this by adding the command “915resolution 5c 1280 800” into the startup script file. This can be found in “/etc/init.d/boot.local” Just add that command to that file and everytime you start up your OpenSuse system the resolution should be correct and looking good.

4. Mounting Your Other Partitions at Boot

For the purpose of this I’m going to assume you are following this post off my last post about how to tri-boot your mac so the commands i tell you will be relevant to that, if not, its easy when you see my preset commands to integrate your own situation into the commands.

Ok, In my case i have two other mountable partitions on my hard drive, a Windows partition and a OS X partition, so both of these are mounted at boot enter the following lines into the file “/etc/init.d/boot.local” just open it with your favourite text editor to enter them;

mount -t hfsplus /dev/sda2 /media/MacintoshHD

mount -t ntfs /dev/sda4 /media/WindowsHD

These commands consist of;

mount = the mounting command

“hfsplus” or “ntfs” the = the type of filesystem on the partition

“/dev/sda2” or “/dev/sda4” = the location of the partition on the disk.

“/media/MacintoshHD” or “/media/WindowsHD” = the location of the folder that the filesystem’s will be mounted to.

So for example one way of using this command would be;

mount -t FAT32 /dev/sda1 /media/FAT32DISK

Now these commands don’t actually mount the disks on your suse system, they mount the filesystem inside the disk into a folder. Also the folders you mount the filesystem’s into may have to be created before you attempt to mount to them.

To make both the filesystem’s accessible log on as root and change the permissions on the folders you mounted the filesystem’s to by right clicking on the folder and changing access permissions, (you will not be able to write to the ntfs partition until you have installed the ntfs-3g driver which i will show you how to do later.)

Once you have entered the commands into the /etc/init.d/boot.local file the filesystem’s should be mounted everytime you boot up.

Anyway. Thats all for now. Look out for part 2!

Sep
01
Jun
15

There’s a new search engine around, called Wolfram Alpha, but it’s quite different.

Instead of giving you a list of webpages that relate to what you have searched for, Wolfram Alpha will display a list of facts and data. For example, try searching for China. You will see data regarding population, religion, race and economy. Searching for a particular company will show you it’s revenue and profit etc. Searching for Calcium will give you information about the element, and so on.

Downside is that if you are looking for webpages, you won’t get any. Wolfram Alpha is extremely useful though, when you are doing some coursework or an assignment and need a list of facts for one particular thing, nothing comes close to beating it.

Try it out for yourself at http://www.wolframalpha.com

Jack

Jun
15

Hello. Were back.

I’m only really back cause of the success of my tri boot post. So to keep with the times I am currently writing a new post of similar nature but for Leopard, Windows 7 and Suse 11. Watch this space it’ll be up shortly.

Jan
10

Difficulty Rating: 1/5

You may have heard this term a lot, and all it means is downloading. It is very easy to download files using torrenting, but first there are a few things you need. You’ll need a torrenting program, such as utorrent and we’ll assume that you have the Internet as you are reading this.

Now, this really is incredibly simple, though you may wish to consult the Jargon section below.

Step 1:
Go to http://www.utorrent.com/download.php and download the program, utorrent.

Step 2:
Run the program.

Step 3:
Go to a torrenting website, such as http://www.mininova.org/ and search for what you want. On mininova you can browse and search by categories such as music, movies etc.

Step 4:
Decide what to download. You can search by categories and find exactly what you’re after. Click on the name of the torrent and download it.
NB The file you download from mininova does not contain the content of what you’re after. The torrent file links you to other peoples computers and you download the files off of their computers.

Step 5:
When you download the file, choose to open it with utorrent when it finishes downloading. This just saves you having to find it and double click on it.

Step 6:
The downloading will commence, assuming that there is enough people to download off.

Jargon:

Seeds: How many people there are to download off
Leechers: How many people are currently downloading this item.
Upload Rate: The rate at which people are downloading off you.*
Download Rate: The speed at which you are downloading the item.**
Peers: Computers you are connected to via the Internet.

When you click on the name of a torrent, you can view the details of what you would actually be downloading, which is very important. If you are expecting to download an image or music file, and it says that the files you are going to download is an .exe, then you can be pretty sure that it isn’t what you’re after.

*You may wish to limit the upload rate so that more bandwidth is free to download with.
**You may wish to limit the download rate to allow more bandwidth to other Internet dependant tasks.
DISCLAIMER: DEM-pcsolutions and it’s authors do not condone the use of torrenting, or the Internet, where it is used for illegal purposes. DEM-pcsolutions and it’s authors provide this article merely as a guide to download files for legal purposes. Any user that downloads files illegally using this article as a guide does so at their own risk.

Thanks,

Jack White

Dec
27

Right, I’ve been thinking of writing up this post for a while but I’ve been putting it off because of its enormity, it’s very long and very annoying but the end result is real nice. As I imagine the audience this specialized post will reach out to is pretty small, don’t be afraid to email me with any queries as I know that things don’t always work first time; dannywalton33@googlemail.com

Difficulty Rating: 4/5

I’m going to assume anybody attempting this kind of thing knows their way round a computer, if you don’t, give it a go and good luck.

I’m going to tell you how to set up your Mac (in my case a newer Core 2 Duo Macbook) to tri-boot with Mac OS X (Leopard or Tiger), Windows Vista and OpenSuse 10.2 Linux.

You will need:

An Intel based Macintosh Computer

Mac OS X (Tiger or Leopard) Installer Disc

Refit

Windows Vista Installer Disc

OpenSuSE 10.2 Installer Disc

An Internet Connection!

Refit is a free program that is needed to allow the tri boot to take place; it works by syncing the windows MBR with the Mac GPT. It is one of the most excellent pieces of software I have ever come across and it made my life very easy. You can get it from here: http://refit.sourceforge.net/

Opensuse as I am sure you already know is a popular Linux distribution and my personal favorite. Version 10.3 is out now but for this tutorial you have to use 10.2 and then upgrade (which I can explain to do later.) You can get it from here: http://software.opensuse.org/old/10.2

Now you’re good to go.

1. Install Mac OS X

For the purpose of this post I’m going to assume your Mac is blank and without an OS, or, you are formatting and re-installing OS X. So…

Insert the OS X installer DVD and hold down C to boot to it.

Select the disk utility program from the programs located on the top menu bar.

Now, for the partitioning;

Primary partition formatted as HFS+ (OS X)

A partition for Linux formatted as FAT32 (This will be formatted again later)

A partition for Windows formatted as FAT32 (This will be formatted again later)

Once that is done apply the changes and exit the program, this will bring you back the OS X installer, choose your OS X partition and select a clean install of OS X.

Proceed with the installation until you have entered all your personal information and are logged in for the first time.

Once you have logged in you will see two extra hard drives on your desktop, these are the partitions we created for Linux and Windows earlier.

2. Preparation

Download and install all software updates for OS X via “Software Update” and restart your computer, Mac OS X should be booted automatically.

Once all the updates are installed you are ready to download and install refit, jump on http://refit.sourceforge.net/ and grab a copy of refit, install it as you would any other piece of software and reboot. Once you have rebooted use the partitioning tool on the refit menu to sync the MBR with the GPT, reboot and then boot into OS X.

Refit as well as a nice boot menu, gives you the chance to manually sync the newer GPT style partition table with the older MBR partitioning table which Windows uses, hence forth allowing you to run 3 OS’s in harmony together.

Now don’t worry if refit doesn’t look very appealing you can quite easily edit the config file and customizie it with your own banners and icons and removing certain aspects of it, I will tell you how to do this later and have a picture of how my beautiful refit boot screen looks, although for now it is essential that you leave the default refit screen alone!

Now would be a good time to make a cd for Windows containing Macintosh device drivers so that all the hardware works properly in windows. Now, like me if you have leopard then simply pop in your Leopard DVD into a Windows computer and the boot camp drivers are already there on the disc and a simple installer does all the work for you. Although if you have Tiger you need to download a free bit of software from Apple called Boot Camp. You can get it from http://mac.softpedia.com/get/System-Utilities/Boot-Camp.shtml

Once you have downloaded boot camp install it, then you need to make a driver cd for Windows, this can be done by right clicking the boot camp program and clicking “show package contents.” Then copy the Contents/Resources/diskimage.dmg file to the Desktop and use Disk Utility to burn that image to a CD, save this for later when Windows is installed.

(DO NOT PARTITION ANYTHING WITH BOOT CAMP)

3. Preparing the Windows partition.

Ok, you’re ready to start installing other OS’s to your Mac.

Insert the Windows installer disc and restart the Mac, when it reboots refit should pick up the Windows disc. Select the disc from the refit menu and boot to it.

Once you have booted to the Vista disc follow the install through up to the hard drive selection screen, now, there will be far more partitions there than you thought, but don’t worry, just make sure to choose the last partition that you created and not the third. There will be one for refit (200mb,) one for OS X one for Linux and one for Windows, with some smaller partitions in-between. Select the last larger partition that you created for Windows and format it as NTFS.

At this point I will say that you will encounter many errors when trying to install Vista, mostly being told that your disc is not suitable etc etc, just keep rebooting and keep retrying, TRUST ME it does eventually work.

Now you don’t actually want to install vista at this point this process is just to prepare the partition, so at the first reboot that the setup undergoes don’t continue with the reboot and move on to the next step.

4. Installing OpenSuse Linux

Insert the Opensuse disc and boot to it from refit.

Follow the installer through and when you reach the configuration options screen do as follows:

Partitioning,

Format the 3rd partition (the FAT32 one created earlier) to ext3 and set mount point to /

Nothing else should be formatted or mounted, only touch this third partition.

Do not create a swap partition and ignore the two warnings you get when you click apply.

Boot Loader,

Set the boot loader to LILO and not GRUB as GRUB will fail to install.

Remove the windows entry from the bootloader options screen as it will cause LILO to fail.

Set the bootloader to install to the Linux partition (most probably /dev/sda3.)

Change any other settings to your preference and continue with the install.

At the first reboot of the install you must use the refit partitioning tool to sync the MBR and the GPT again. This, unfortunately, has to be done although it causes you some problems.

Because you have to sync the MBR and the GPT the LILO bootloader will have been destroyed. So we will install it again…

Boot to the Opensuse installer disc as you did the first time, when you get to the first stage of the install screen do not continue, Press crtl + FX to change the init level (X = the number of the text based init level, usually 4, 5 or 6, therefore for example, press crtl + F4.) You should then be prompted with a nice command line interface. At the command prompt enter the following commands to reinstall LILO:

mkdir /media/suse

mount /dev/sda3 /media/suse

mount –bind /dev /media/suse/dev

chroot /media/suse

lilo -v

(sda3 is the partition you installed Linux to, it should be sda3!)

Once you have reinstalled LILO, reboot and once again use refits partitioning tool to resync the MBR and the GPT. The reboot and you should be greeted with a lovely OS X icon, a Windows icon (won’t boot) and Linux icon.

boot into the Linux partition from refit and continue with the Opensuse installation. Complete it and reboot.

5. Windows Installation

Insert the Windows disc again and boot to it.

Do the same as you did the first time and install to the 4th partition and format it to NTFS.

This time, upon reboot, select the Windows partition from the refit menu and finish the Install.

After this you’re done and you have a Tri-Booting system.

6. Extra Notes

Instead of Vista you can use Windows XP as long as it has service pack 2.

To install the Mac drivers on Windows just pop in the disc you created earlier and run the installer, and everything just, works, easy.

OpenSuse will not be very good as it isn’t configured yet; You need to configure it fully, including wifi support, trackpad support, creating a swap file, iSight support and a proper resolution! If you find yourself strugling with this then don’t hesitate to email me and I will tell you how to do it, dannywalton33@googlemail.com, or send me a message to my wordpress account, djw42.

To configure your Refit boot screen open refit.conf and edit it to your wishes (its pretty self explanatory) and remember to remove the #’s once you have made your changes. To use custom icons (like me…) replace the icon in the refit directory with a custom icon of the same name and it will be automatically used by refit.

Try not to mess around with any partitioning tools from within either of the OS’s and if you want to change the name of your Vista hard drive do it within windows and the changes will occur on OS X as well.

If you want write support to your NTFS partition within OS X or Linux you will need the ntfs-3g driver, which can be found for free here; http://www.ntfs-3g.org/

Ok, you’re done, enjoy.

27122007263

Daniel Walton

Nov
22

Difficulty Rating:            2/5

Right ok this is my first blog entry so bear with me. Dan the good being that he is has asked me to help with this blog in the vast world of the Internet, now this may be quite a feat for a young lad like myself but I will try to post here as often as I can. And for my first entry I am going to go through the process of setting up your own website. Now I cannot cover all aspects of webdesign as it is a huge subject area, but I will be able to take you on the steps to getting started.

Firstly you will need a domain name, for this you can either register one, or if the name already exists then you will need to purchase one. To do this you will need a name registrar, so either google “register domain name” or the website I use is http://www.namecheap.com/, now this isn’t the best price on the Internet but I find the user interface very easy to use. To use these name registrars you simply type in the name of the domain name you would like, for example www.dem-pcsolutions.com and then it will tell you whether it is available or not and then possibly with different extensions for example: www.dem-pcsolutions.co.uk or www.dem-pcsolutions.org. next you simply register the domain name and then its yours to use.

Next you will have to find a host which will allow people to view your website on the Internet. This is basically a server (which is just a normal computer mostly) which is connected constantly to the Internet, so when the people who wish to view your site type in the domain name or search for it, then all of the files will be uploaded from that server. Now again there are many servers out there that you can use, and there are many differences between them, and you can find them by searching in google for “cheap web hosting” or my friend has a server and it may not be the cheapest around but it has many advanced features that can produce a better website (www.bassethost.com). For example you may see that some are significantly more expensive, but this is normally because there are many different types of packages just like say for your mobile phone contract with different number of minutes, texts and Internet time. Same with web hosting packages, the 2 mains areas to look at are diskspace and bandwidth. Now these are pretty simple (diskspace is the amount of memory the website will take up on the server and bandwidth will usually be the amount of data you transfer between the users and the server per month)and the package you want will depend on how you want your website to perform. For example if you want a website with lots of high memory data like audio or video then you will need lots of bandwidth and diskspace. But if it is just a simple website then not as much resources will be needed.

Now once you have your domain name and hosting set up, you will need to register your domain name with the server and to do this the interface on your account with your domain registrar will allow you to use the “nameserver” given to you by the host.

Then you have everything set up to start making a website. At your server there will be a place where you can view all of your files, just like in windows explorer. Here you can upload files or create a new one that you can either copy code into, or start writing the code in there yourself. Then you need to start building your website, now there are 3 ways to go about this: Firstly the easy way out, by downloading a program that will have a user interface and create the code for you. The second way is to download a template and then simple put the information you want into it. Or the third way (which in the long run will turn out better) is to start learning the code that makes up the websites. The simplest way to go about this is to start with “html” which is the most basic code and is the building blocks of every website. I would recommend that you google for tutorials on this and I find this website very useful for beginners http://www.htmlcodetutorial.com/, this site gives you the basics and also some useful little functions that can be put together to make a nice little website for a novice. Using just simple html and some more advanced “php” code (which I will talk about in a later blog) for the contact page, I created a simple yet effective coming soon page- http://www.nerja-online.com/.

I hope you found some of that information helpful, please post any questions if any of this was unclear(which is very likely). And I will hopefully be writing more blog entries in here about more websitey stuff, like some useful codes and tips. Well goodbye for now.

Wes

Nov
15

Hi there.

I’m going to talk about how to install the latest Windows operating system on your computer from scratch, by this I mean either with a new hard drive or by wiping clean your old hard drive. This although does not cover the upgrade method of installing vista. this tutorial may be helpful if you are buying a new hard drive and want to install an operating system on it, if you want to have both windows vista and XP or if you want to reformat your computer to help clear up clutter and enable it to run smoother.

Difficulty Rating:            2.5/5

To do this you will need:

-A working computer!

-A Windows Vista installation CD and a valid Windows Vista serial number

-Some backup media such as an external hard drive or DVD discs.

Right to get going,

1. (this step only applies if you wish to backup your files)

If you have files you want to keep then firstly you must back them up. To do this insert the storage media stated above and copy your files over to it. Your files can then be later retrieved by copying them back over to windows vista after the installation is complete.

your storage media will appear in My Computer after inserting it/plugging it in so you can easily drag and drop your files.

Something I also like to do is make a list of the software installed on my system so that I know what to install again after I have installed windows.

2 (Booting to the installation interface)

Ok now we can properly get rolling.

open your cd tray and insert your Windows Vista disc.

When your computer restarts you should see an option about selecting your boot device, usually this selection is accessed by pressing either F12 or Esc at the very start of the computer boot process. It will look something like this:

2007.09.27-00.29.09 (2)

You will then see a menu with a list of devices on it, these are the devices that your computer can boot to (load up from) we want to be selecting our windows CD therefore select your CD drive to boot from the windows vista CD, it should look something like this below:

2007.09.27-00.29.09 (3)

After you have selected the CD drive to boot to Your computer will tell you that you need to press a key to boot to the CD, once you have done so you have successfully booted to the installation cd and are ready to start the installation.

3. (Starting the installation)

After you have booted to the CD Windows will load the required files and you will then be greeted with a language selection screen as shown below. Select your required language and keyboard layout and proceed to the next page.

Parallels Picture 2

After you click next you will be greeted with another screen which displays among other thing, a big “Install Now” button, click this and proceed to the next page.

Parallels Picture 3

You are then presented with the license agreement which you should quite obviously through read and read and read at least five times until you commit yourself to agreeing the license agreement!

Parallels Picture 4

Then a screen will appear asking you which type of installation you wish to do. We will be choosing the “advanced” installation (its not don’t worry) as we are installing Windows from scratch.

Parallels Picture 5

(if you want to keep your programs and settings etc by upgrading then this is the wrong tutorial for you but check back soon as I am planning on doing an upgrade version)

So click advanced and proceed to the next step…

you will then see the all important disk partitioning screen, now to be quite honest this is about how complex as its going to get and this is pretty easy. In this table are your hard drives and partitions on your computer (a partition is a section of a hard drive that acts as a different hard drive altogether).

Parallels Picture 6

If you are wiping your hard drive clean then there should only be one hard drive in the list (possibly 2), click on the drive options button and format your hard drive, you will be displayed with a warning and after this is completed your will drive will now have the NTFS filing system (windows filing system). This will look as it does below:

Parallels Picture 7

If you have 2 partitions and you want to consolidate them into one bigger partition (think of it like slices of a cake) then click on drive options and click delete on both partitions, then click new and create your new partition which will be formatted with the NTFS filing system.

Right looks like your ready to let the computer do its work, hit next and sit back for 10 minutes as the installation begins.

Parallels Picture 9

4. (completing the installation)

After the previous part of the installation has completed you will be greeted with the very polite notice that Windows vista is starting for the first time!

Parallels Picture 14

You shall then see the same screen as you had before the restart, and now it will display the fact that it is completing the installation.

Parallels Picture 16

5. (Configuration)

After this is completed your computer will reboot again, this time it will display the loveable windows loading screen.

Parallels Picture 20

Once the restart is complete you are asked to enter some details, nothing too personal mind just desired username and password for your account (oh, and display picture,) enter the info and hit next.

Parallels Picture 23

Next screen, nice and easy, enter the name of your computer and choose your desktop background then continue.

Parallels Picture 24

Possibly even easier unless you don’t know what county you are in, choose your time zone and hit next.

Parallels Picture 26

Annnnnnnd, Thank You!

Parallels Picture 27

Hit start and windows will asses your computers performance.

Parallels Picture 29

Then you can log into your account for the first time.

Parallels Picture 30

Windows will then prepare your desktop and you will see it in all its glory for the first time!

Parallels Picture 31

Parallels Picture 32

Well Done! you have installed Windows Vista on your PC. Now all there is to do is to restore your files if you saved any. and update your system by going to all programs then Windows Update.

Not so bad…

So thanks for reading, if you found it interesting then I will be doing/have done similar walkthroughs for different operating systems so check back any time. If you need any help don’t hesitate to ask.

Thanks a lot…

Danny Walton.

Oct
17

Difficulty Rating:            3.5/5

Now, as many computers go out of date, more and more people strive for a new PC. So here is some advice on what to do now, starting with a new case.

Case: Now you may be one of those people who doesn’t care what your case looks like and just goes out and buys the first reasonably priced one they see. The only thing good about that is the price. When you want a new computer, a fairly good one, cooling is all-important. See what fans can be attached to the case, but don’t be conned by it having several 120mm fan slots, if you want a 120mm fan, you will have to spend near £10 to get one that beats and 80mm fan; but I’ll go into cooling later on. The next important thing about your case is the size of motherboard that it can hold. If it supports micro ATX or just ATX, then you should be fine, but check with the supplier first. How many CD/DVD drives can it hold? Does it have space for a floppy drive? You may have noticed that this can take some time to check, but it is to avoid disappointment and a hole in your wallet later on. Also, check what power supply (aka PSU) comes with it. 350Watts will support most systems, but it you want a more stable, crash-free system, aim for 450W minimum. This is important if you are going to be using a power-hungry graphics card, so aim for 500W at least. Another thing to consider about the PSU is that the one that comes with the case is OK but if you want a high end system then you should be looking at around £50 extra to spend on a good PSU. One thing I like with my case is that the left side of the case is made from acrylic (aka Perspex, Plexiglas etc) so I can see right in it, and since I bought nice fans which are see through and glow different colours, this makes your case something special and something to show off.

Now we have the case for your computer, it’s time to think about the stuff inside, behind the curtains. You may rarely see it but it’s what makes it tick and knowing what your doing and seeking advice can make a world of difference. So it is now that we move onto the Motherboard (now called mobo).

Mobo: With the way the market is going at the moment, you want a socket AM2 (made for AMD processors) mobo. This will however mean that you will need DDR2 RAM (aka Memory) which is most likely not what you have at the minute. DDR2 RAM is faster than the current DDR, but they still make slower, cheaper versions. Aim for 533MHz as a starting point, you can always upgrade later. Whilst we’re on RAM, check how many slots there are on the mobo, 2 is normal, but if you can, get one with 4; this means that if you want to upgrade or add-one to your RAM you have more potential to do so, also check what the maximum memory it can support is. Another thing you need to look at on your mobo is how many PCI slots it has (these are the slots where you plug in sound cards, network cards etc), some mobos only have 1, if this is the case, do you need any more or is there anything you can do without? Like a sound card for example: onboard sound will most likely be good enough on a decent mobo. Try to get a mobo that has SATA (Serial ATA), this is a slot for your HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and is much faster than IDE (the now-outdated transfer type). If you get a SATA compatible mobo, then also get a SATA HDD too. There is SATA2, which is the same as SATA, but twice as fast. Also, you motherboard should have PCI-Express (PCIe) which is a new type of slot for you graphics card (GFX) and is 16x memory transfer as opposed to AGP which is only 8x. Twice as fast see? Now that we have come to the GFX part of the mobo, we come into either ATI CrossFire, or NVIDIA’s SLI. SLI and Crossfire are practically the same but you need a compatible motherboard for one or the other. SLI and CrossFire is where you can have 2 GFX cards installed on you motherboard and effectively double your GFX power, as it is shared between 2 cards. If you intend to CrossFire or SLI your GFX cards make sure they too are compatible and that your mobo has 2 PCIe 16x slots. On a more trivial part of the motherboard make sure it has enough USB 2.0 ports on the back for your needs, and if it doesn’t, can you connect some more for the front of your case? Or do you have a spare PCI slot in which you can put an USB card?

And so moving on from the motherboard, we go to its conjoined twin, Memory, or RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory.

RAM: RAM is needed for you computer to load data into so that it can be easily and quickly accessed by your computer. This is much needed in games where there is a lot of data which could be needed at any given moment. RAM comes in small, flat sticks, about 5 to 6 inches long. If you’re getting an AM2 mobo then you’ll need DDR2 RAM, which is nice and fast, but remember there are slow versions! So make sure you get 533MHz or above. RAM comes in different capacities; from around 128Mb to up to 4 GB. A 1 GB stick should cost you between £50 and £60 but don’t be ripped off as I have seen Maplin sell it for £100! Any system should have a 1 GB stick as a starting block. Whenever you get more memory, always get a 1 GB stick, or above, if you can afford it. Also don’t be conned into buying Kingston or Corsair, you will pay a lot more for it and get around the same performance but it will however be more reliable, so you must think, if you’re thinking of over clocking it, buy a name brand so that you know it can handle great strain.

There isn’t much else that comes to mind about memory (excuse the pun) so I’ll move onto the Graphics.

Graphics Cards: There are 2 major GFX card producers, NVIDIA and ATI. I prefer ATI but that’s just me. Let’s assume you have the PCIe mobo and it supports CrossFire, just for the purpose of explaining, besides, SLI is almost identical. Don’t forget, you don’t have to CrossFire your GFX right away; you can go on very well with just one GFX card until you have enough money to CrossFire the two, the difference being of course, that you won’t have as much GFX power as you would if you CrossFired them. When you want to CrossFire them, you will need the cable (this should come packaged with your motherboard) of course. Also, you need two of the same cards to CrossFire, two with different speeds or size, will clock down to the lower of the two, so there’s no point really. A good card to get for this is an X1600-XT,low price, around £75-£100, but make sure you get one that supports CrossFire of course. When you see GFX cards on the internet, or in a shop, you will notice that some are 128Mb, 256Mb or 512Mb in size. Aim for 256Mb or above but also bear in mind the speed of the cards, DDR3 memory is faster than DDR2 remember? So a card with GDDR3 memory will load images faster than a DDR2 card, so bear in mind, though a 512Mb card can hold more data, it will be s**t-kicked by two CrossFired 256Mb cards that have GDDR3 memory.

That’s enough for GFX now so I’ll move onto potentially the most crucial part of your PC, the processor, or CPU.

Processor: This is the heart of your computer, all those programs you use, all the data you need is analyzed by the CPU first. There are two major CPU companies, too. They are Intel and AMD. So what do you go for? AMD or Intel? AMD Make very good processors, like the X2 dual core range, which have VERY good prices and are very fast too. Or do you go for Intel, with their new Core2Duo range (the fastest on the market)? Intel gives best performance at the minute, but AMD are much better value. So, you can get an AMD processor and over clock it* or get an Intel but be left brassic. The clock speed is, effectively how fast your CPU is, it means how much data it can pass through it, and is measured in Hz. However, it is not the only important factor. Your processor may only be 32bit and a 64bit one would be faster, also your CPU may be dual core, so a 2.2GHz AMD dual core CPU would be faster than a 3.4GHz single core Intel Pentium. AMD is better for multi-tasking, because of their faster speeds and dual cores, though not all AMDs are dual core! Now, you need to make sure that the socket for you mobo is the same as for your CPU, this will be something like 939, 940, AM2 etc… The Core2Duo processors I mentioned are S775 and the new AMD ones are SAM2.

• This is not advised unless you REALLY know what you are doing!!!

Moving onto a slightly less important peripheral than the CPU, but still essential, your HDD.

Hard Drive: You will be getting a SATA or SATA2 HDD. You would be stupid to do otherwise. 160 GB of HDD is more than enough for storing everything on, but it is advised that you have a smaller HDD, 30 or 40 GB for your OS (operating system such as Linux or Windows). Get a high spindle speed, this is measured in RPM, and aim for 7,200 RPM at the least, there are 10,000 RPM ones, so I’m going to get one. So yeah, get a smaller HDD for your OS and then a larger one, 160GB or 250GB for storing all your data on, music, photos and even games should be installed here etc, you don’t need to install your OS on this one, just install everything there.

Now for some drives. CD, DVD and Card Readers will all have less text to them as there isn’t as much to say simply.
CD/DVD/Card Drives: It is the norm to have one high speed drive to read things such as games off now. This drive tends to be a DVD drive, only a reader, doesn’t write at all. Your other drive will be one that writes CDs, and maybe even DVDs. But do you need one? Does someone else in the house have a drive that does all you need it to? How often will you use it? Ask yourself those questions and decide on what’s right for you. Next, do you need a card reader? Chances are you don’t but if you use digital cameras a fair bit, then this can be very handy as you don’t need to use USB as these will be much faster. Not much to say on these as they tend to be a speciality item.

Now onto another, seemingly mundane topic: Cooling. Never has a man been more wrong when he said that “Cooling isn’t important”. It is, so I dispense my advice now:

Cooling: To start off with what I began with, the case. It can get quite stuffy in there and things won’t work quite so well if they are hot. Putting some fans on your case should move some air around; it’s ideal to have fans blowing in, and fans blowing out, for obvious reasons, Cold air in, and hot air out. Piece of cake. Your CPU cooling however is a different matter. If you intend to over clock it then the stock cooler (the one that comes with it) just won’t do. You’ll need some proper cooling. Look over brand names such as Zalman to find what you want, and remember to get one that will fit onto your socket motherboard! There are 2 types of cooling really, air and water. What’s that I hear you say, “WATER IN A COMPUTER?”, yep that’s what I said, they’re all contained of course and in theory it wont burst, but don’t put it past them. I don’t know much about water cooling, except that it’s much more expensive than air cooling but it is much more effective. Because of its price it is reserved for those who intend to seriously over-clock their CPUs, something which you should NOT do without seeking professional advice. So for now, go for air cooling, get a decent size heatsink and a decent fan (though most heatsinks come with one). Try to get one that ahs “Heat pipes” in them. Those are a more effective way of dissipating the heat. Zalman have very good heat pipe coolers. A HDD cooler may be necessary but HDDs work fine without them, though it doesn’t hurt to get one as you can buy one for under £7.

So there isn’t much more to say on Cooling. So I will now briefly explain what to do with your PCI slots.

What to do with your PCI slots: In these, a various number of things can be added, a sound card perhaps, but if you buy a good motherboard, it will probably have at least 4.1 surround sound already on board, so a cheap £10 sound card will actually be worse. You may need a network card, so check if there isn’t what you need on your mobo. You will need one if you want a wireless network, though I think you can get USB versions, if all your PCI slots are used up. If you have a lot of spare money, and want to go into the deep-end, then you can buy a PCI card which processes the Gravity for games, though few systems and games support this so watch this space for more info.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Also a big thanks to Jack White for this excellent walkthrough.