Box Project #2: Guess what I’m using to write this post!

Hint: it’s not something I got at Best Buy (except for the power supply, monitor, and keyboard anyway), and it’s definitely running Debian.

So, my build worked first time! I put the fire extinguisher away after it passed the smoke test. (Safety precaution. I didn’t actually expect it to burst into flames, but, well, you never know.)

The only thing that didn’t immediately work was one of the case fans, which I saw in the BIOS wasn’t on. I opened up the case again, rechecked the connection, and I don’t know if it’s on right now (I’ll probably check at some point) but nothing seems to be hot and bothered so I call that a result. It’s surprisingly quiet, too! You have to really listen to hear either the case fans or the stock CPU cooler. I guess they’re better than they used to be. Of course using an Antec case does help. It was really nice to work with, especially compared to Take Apart A Computer Day (which I wrote about earlier). Though, I don’t know if the computers sold whole to schools are actually meant to be taken apart. Probably you’re just supposed to buy 50 new computers. -_- Although I think assembly is just easier than disassembly, and for good reason, or computers would just fall apart in shipping.

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Steam games in my library that are actually compatible with Debian. I’ll be asking for a graphics card for Christmas though–integrated graphics really can’t handle Don’t Starve and some of the other stuff in my library. It can, however, handle Cave Story+ perfectly, a game I haven’t played in years. (Classic RPGs tend not to demand much of graphics cards.) I missed Cave Story. Years ago I beat the Hell levels (several times, actually) because I was just That Determined to save Curly Brace. And then I did it again in Curly Mode, to find all the secrets. If you haven’t played this game, you need to. There’s a free version available for download online and there’s a Steam version (which may or may not still support Mac, I’m not sure.)

It’s okay that my box can’t handle the other games immediately, though. After all, my MacBook still works, although compared with the sleekness of the new rig it feels outdated and sounds asthmatic. I haven’t tried working on digital art yet with it, but I’m working on getting that set up. It’d help if more of these multi-platform programmers knew what a package manager was, though. >.< They go through the trouble to port to Linux and then they go “download here!!!”. I wanted to hear “the command is apt-get install whatever” — even if I had to add an aptitude source — the random .deb packages are not so helpful! (Edit: I miiiight have figured out how to do this. Not sure yet.)

I picked up and put down several assembly guides over the course of the project, but this one is the best I found: https://choosemypc.net/assemblyguide/

Other tips:

  • Install the motherboard port shield the right way up before getting confused about why the mobo isn’t fitting. I spent two minutes trying to figure out what was wrong and another five feeling really dumb.
  • I cut some cardboard from the box my case came in to put down on my workspace so my coffee table wouldn’t get scratched, and another piece to kneel on because a) it’s comfortable to have some padding and b) my apartment is all carpet and I was hoping it’d reduce the static.
  • I used an ice cube tray to separate screws. There are lots of screws and you don’t need them all. My extras are in a pickle jar along with the tube of thermal compound, the extra hard drive brackets, my green sticks, the protector cover that comes on the motherboard over the processor contacts, etc etc.
  • There aren’t instructions on which screws are used for what. You have to guess. My motherboard used two types of screws in different holes, too. Just be careful with your trial and error.
  • Sometimes Google is better at finding stuff in your motherboard manual than you are. Manuals are online, and it took me forever to find where you’re supposed to plug in the power button and reset and stuff–it’s easily overlooked in the manual but search is good at finding it.
  • Don’t be afraid to slide a side panel back on (to keep your cat out) and get some sleep. Even letting it sit for a few days isn’t going to hurt it if you can make sure it won’t be disturbed.
  • It helps to have a frozen dinner ready in your freezer that evening. Either it’ll take you a while because it’s your first time, and you’ll be tired and need a break and food and not want to cook, or you’ll have a new computer and you’ll want to set it up right away.
  • Fiddle with the buttons on your monitor until you can get it to auto-adjust or otherwise cooperate with your OS.
  • A wired connection, at least at first, doesn’t hurt. I tried one of those wireless USB adapter sticks and I don’t think it’s going to help. Debian doesn’t know what it is. I figured that was a nonfree driver issue, but it has bizarre install instructions for Linux and the manufacturers maybe don’t know the difference between Fedora and Debian systems? I don’t know what’s up with that, and I may look into it later, but for now I just bought a long CAT6 cable to run around the edge of the room and be done with it.

That’s that for now. I’m really pleased with this setup, and of course I have something to brag about when I go back to classes 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Box Project #2: Guess what I’m using to write this post!

    • Why’s that? They’re only like $20 and it’s a convenient way to install your OS and some other stuff like drivers that come on a CD or DVD.

      Besides, I burn a fair number of DVDs with things like Linux .iso files or gparted or antivirus software, because I sometimes get called by friends or family to fix ailing tech or install a Linux partition on something.

      It wasn’t particularly difficult to install either, if that’s what you’re saying, but that’s a factor of buying a good case. The cases most computers come with are cheap and stubborn and awful and aren’t really designed to be worked in. Kudos if you managed it, but this wasn’t that difficult.

      Like

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