Ever since working at the now defunct ECI Telecom right after high school in 2000, where I saw my first double monitor configuration, I’ve longed for my own set of dual screen awesomeness. After my stint at ECI I was a poor college student, and while I did at different times have two monitors they would often be second hand CRTs. I was in school, I couldn’t afford a fancy 17″ LCD. Back in those days the idea of a wide screen, 24″ cinema display in satin brushed aluminium was unheard of.
Then I left the US to work in Liberia. In Liberia computer parts were over priced, and not always of reliable quality. Plus, who wants to spend a lot of money on a fancy computer just to have the generator run high and blow it all out.
So finally, upon returning to the US, and letting my savings build up after the wedding, I bought myself a pretty sweet computer setup. Basically what we have is a home built computer composed of the following parts:
- CPU – Intel Ci7 950
- Motherboard – GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R ATX 1366
- RAM – 24GB of Corsair D3 1600 DIMM
- Hard Drives – 2 Seagate 1TB 3.5″ SATA 7200rpm
- Graphics Card – GIGABYTE ATI Radeon HD5770 1 GB DDR5 2DVI/ HDMI
- Case – Thermalta Dokker ATX case
- Power Supply – Thermalta TR2 RX750W PSU ATX12
- Monitors – 3 23.6″ ASUS VE247H LED LCDs
So yeah, I blew straight past 2 monitors and went with 3.
I’m running Ubuntu 11.04 64 bit. So far it’s been pretty good. This is my first attempt at running Linux as my primary OS. I’ve run Ubuntu 9 for a long time on an old laptop, but now I’m trusting Linux with my livelihood. That’s me building the beast on the left.
I was super happy that Ubuntu recognized my wireless card (I didn’t feel like running 100 feet of cat5 from the router to my computer) a Linksys WMP600n with out any special drivers. It just worked, like it should. I was also very happy that getting the desktop to span all three screen was a piece of cake. Again, no fancy drivers. I’m not sure if I’m getting all the accelerated 3Dness out of the video card, but I don’t care. I bought it to be productive, not to play games. I did have to buy a DisplayPort to DVI adapter cable to run my 3rd monitor.
I have had some programs randomly close, and a hard disk crashed the first time I tried putting the computer to sleep, more about that below. Most programs are pretty easy to install, but some are a bit tricky, and wouldn’t be something I’d recommend for the non-technical. It’s not as user friendly as Windows, but pretty close.
I been really impressed with how Linux just works with all my hardware. My wife’s old HP Officejet 4315 works, the Samsung DVD-RW works, no installing extra crap. That’s been nice. No downloading drivers.
So far one of the Seagate hard drives crashed. That sucked. It was noisier than I thought a hard drive should be when I first installed it, so it was probably bad from the factory. I had to reinstall all my programs and reconfigure them. I’ve been using Dropbox to back-up all my data, so that was no biggie. Though it takes Dropbox like 40 hours to resync everything. I bought everything from Micro Center and they were super cool with me returning the bad disk. No worries there. I also bought the 2 year service plan. I don’t normally do that, but since I’ll use this computer to make my living, I’d rather just take it to someone and tell them to fix it than waste a lot of my time figuring it out.
I also bought, for the first time ever paid money for, a copy of Windows. I now own Windows 7 64-bit. I run it in a Oracle Virtual Box 4.0.6 virtual machine. This is also my first time experimenting with virtualization. So far it’s been great. With 24GB of RAM, I’ve never had to worry about running out of memory while running another OS and all my favorite programs work fine, except Skype. Skype crashes every time I start it up in my VM Windows. I have no idea why.
I use my virtual Windows machine for checking that the web site stuff I make works on all Windows web browsers. It’s also handy to have a copy of Office around. LibreOffice is pretty good and does a lot, but MS Office is still pretty awesome. I also use the VM to stream movies from Netflix. Netflix uses Silverlight which hasn’t been ported to Linux.
And of course the computer is fast. So far I haven’t really had to wait for anything, ever. Even when running 30 plus programs and a copy of windows 7 everything is fast. I’ve only ever used up 13 GB of ram, leaving 11GB unused. And with three monitors I no longer used ALT+TAB, I just look to the left.
With three monitors I couldn’t keep using the old card table that my laptops used to sit on, so I went to Home Depot, my favorite furniture store, and bought $100 worth of wood to make a proper work bench. Here are some pictures of that as well.
I plan on looking into what it would take to have a RAID array. That one hard disk crashing wasted a lot of time and I’d like to not do that again. So I’ll probably wait a month or two and then look into getting a few more hard drives.
But that’ll be another day,