Wed Aug 31, 2011: The unfortunate demise of zooty (my totally silent computer) left me scrambling for a system that worked and had all my stuff on it. I did a Frankenstein job, moving the disks from zooty into an old PC I used for testing (which has zooty's old motherboard in it from the last upgrade). I picked up a cheap video card locally because I thought zooty's problem might be dead video, but the problems are deeper than that - seems to be the motherboard (swapped memory, video card, power supply - none of them worked). Anyway, I got the disks to boot in the old system, but it is really loud (and really slow, and doesn't support my virtual machines, and doesn't have much memory, and did I say it was loud?). Time to build a new system.
Fri Sep 2, 2011: After a day or two of poking around on the internet, ordered a bunch of stuff from newegg:
The Noctua CPU cooler is enormous, but also enormously quiet (look it up on youtube if you want to see it in the context of an actual motherboard, or being compared to the size of a human head :-). I plan to run the fans at minimum speed, which should make them nearly undetectable to the human ear from all the reviews I've seen, while still providing plenty of cooling for the 95W i7 CPU. I think I understand why they provide a full tube of thermal compound as well: Every time you need to fool around with anything on your system (especially memory), you are likely to need to remove and replace the cooler again.
The Crucial SSD drive was a very good price for a 64GB drive and runs at the SATA 6Gb/s speeds supported by the ASUS motherboard, so keeping a couple of boot partitions on it (one for normal use and one for installing the next revision of the fedora distro) should allow me to boot and run system programs very fast. I'll keep the old disks for lots of storage, even if they are only SATA II.
The G.SKILL ram is listed on the Noctua website as fitting under the cooler OK, and the ASUS website as being compatible with the motherboard. Add to that the 1.5V operation (instead of 1.65) and the CAS 7 (instead of CAS 9) and it is both speedy and cool.
The ASUS motherboard and i7 CPU combo supports Intel HD 3000 graphics (whatever that is :-). If the graphics work well enough for my purposes, I shouldn't need a separate graphics card, so that will avoid another fan.
The Enermax power supply has really good reviews. It uses a fan with speed controlled by load on the supply, so with nothing much drawing vast amounts of current, it should be very quiet most of the time. It also has a modular cable system, so I can avoid cable clutter by only plugging in the cables I actually need.
I'll find out when all this junk arrives if I can fit it in the existing Lian-Li case I have (which I was planning to reuse). If it fits, I may get some additional Noctua case fans to make it a bit quieter. If it doesn't fit, I'll have to select a new case (and I might as well pick one designed to be quiet, but I don't have any great ideas for what case I might want just yet).
The total for all of the above is less than $800, which seems pretty decent to me.
Sat Sep 3, 2011: I've been looking at case options, and while I think I might be able to fit the new system into the old Lian-Li case, I have come very close to deciding I should get one of these since it has good reviews, I like the way it looks, and I can pick it up from the local CompUSA store in Deerfield:
Here's a picture of the Corsair with the Noctua cooler installed, so it is clear that the cooler will fit, and it has a nice hole to provide easy attachment of the cooler mounting bracket in the back of the motherboard tray.
Sun Sep 4, 2011: Amazingly, got tracking number from newegg today (Sunday on the Labor Day holiday weekend :-), I doubt it will show up in the UPS tracking system till it actually gets on a UPS truck which will probably not be till Tuesday, but since it shipped from Memphis, that should get everything here by Friday for assembly Friday night or Saturday.
I also popped over to the compusa store and picked up the Corsair Graphite 600T case today, and I am suitably impressed. It is one thing to read reviews, and another to see it in person. The 200mm fans are really huge (much closer to the size of a pizza than a CD), and the case is fantastically well made. The only thing I'm not going to like about it is the annoying LEDs in the fans. I think I can just cut the wires to the LEDs and glue down the leftover bit so it doesn't flail around in the wind from the fan. Or, looking at it close, I may be able to pop the LEDs out then cut the wires off at the hub so there is nothing left to flail.
One of the things none of the reviews I saw really convey is the size. They say it is big, and they rattle off dimensions, but there is no flavor to that, so I took some (fuzzy) comparison pictures. Here is a side by side shot of the "mid tower" Corsair case next to an indisputably mid tower Lian-Li case. And here is one of the 200mm fans compared to a DVD-R disk.
It was about $150 which was the same as the mail order prices I saw, and while there was tax to pay, there was no shipping, so I think I actually came out ahead buying from brick and mortar for a change.
I hope it turns out to be quiet enough, it is bound to be quieter than the old case I'm listening to now.
Tue Sep 6, 2011: The package did indeed get on a UPS truck today and delivery is actually scheduled for Thursday (I was expecting Friday), so I'll have to take Friday as a vacation day :-).
Thu Sep 8, 2011: Have to do something to kill time while waiting for the package to arrive, so I have produced Tracking Info: The Musical :-).
Hot dog! The parts have arrived (around 2:35 in the PM). The newegg box wasn't stuffed with very much paper to fill in the gaps, so looked a bit squashed, but nothing inside appeared to be too squashed, so hopefully it is all good.
I took my time and put everything together very carefully, and right at 7 PM, I powered up for the first time (no disks yet, just getting into the BIOS and setting things up). The motherboard shipped with the latest BIOS version (0712), so there is no need to update the BIOS. I have all the fans at the lowest speed, and everything is quite cool and very very quiet. Not totally noiseless, like the old zooty, but still much quieter than things like the air conditioner running, so it will definitely be acceptable.
Despite being careful and double checking, I still managed to get a couple of the silly ground connection tabs on the back panel inserted inside the USB plug instead of on top of it, which I didn't discover till after I screwed down the motherboard, so I had to undo some of the construction and redo it with the little flimsy metal tabs in the right place. That was the only real adventure so far. The giant cooler was very easy to install following the directions, and it does clear the G.SKILL memory.
The next step is to add the SSD drive and see if it needs a firmware update, then I can start installing fedora.
OK, did that, the drive now says it has 0009 firmware, which is the latest (or was last time I checked :-).
The drive wouldn't screw on to the disk caddy without me first ripping off one of the studs that is in the way. I don't know if there is a reversable way to do that, but I just grabbed the soft plastic grommit and tore it off.
Now I have to wait for the fedora 15 iso image to transfer to the only system I have with a working DVD writer (should have thought of this earlier and made the DVD while waiting for UPS to arrive :-).
It is now 10:23 PM and I have a stand alone grub partition for chainloading other kernels as well as fedora 15 installed and a nice empty partition reserved for fedora 16 to go in. The 3D graphics do seem to work with the Sandy Bridge and H67 chipset, so I doubt I'll need to put a separate video card in this box. The DVD drive was quite a lot louder than the rest of the system, but I won't need to use it much.
Time to whittle down the junk I have installed and get rid of rpms I don't have on my old fedora 15 before I waste time updating stuff I'll get rid of to make the new fedora 15 match the old one. Once I finally get updates loaded, I should be able to move the disks into the new box and finish configuring things to finally get back to normal.
Got network hooked up, and I'm slowly adding repos and installing rpms to get the system to match what I have on the old computer. The faster CPU and SSD disk are very impressive at installing rpms, but downloads are as slow as always :-).
Fri Sep 9, 2011: Pretty much completely back to normal by 2:30 PM. This morning I got the disk drives from original system moved into this new system, tied up the cables well enough to allow the back panel to go on, and moved the system back to the shelf where it belongs.
While building the system I took a few pictures.
I then proceeded to poke and prod and tweak copying stuff from the old disk to the new SSD root drive till it is back to near perfect. A few little things remain (like tweaking my nightly backups), but I'm running again.
As long as I don't need sound, that is :-). Stupid Intel video driver either isn't smart enough or can't tell because the hardware won't tell it that I'm using a DVI -> HDMI cable. So it insists on telling the TV that it will be sending sound over the HDMI cable, but there is no sound on DVI.
See freedesktop bug 40748
Maybe I'll tweak the intel driver source to add the same kind of EDID override that the NVidia driver provides, or maybe I'll just buy an HDMI cable long enough to reach the TV :-).
Another weird thing: This screenshot from the neverputt game has this weird cross visible that always follows the ball. I never saw that before, so either something funky is going on with the intel graphics, or they updated neverputt while I was putting my new machine together and this is a new "feature". (I finally decided it was a bug and filed freedesktop bugzilla 40811).
Sat Sep 10, 2011: I didn't connect up two of the mainboard USB plugs or the serial port plug when I did the initial build, but when poking around I found I had a couple of USB expansion slot gadgets with cables to plug into the motherboard, and I also had a serial port expansion slot connector. One of the USB connectors also had a joystick connector on it, so I unscrewed the joystick and put the serial plug in its place (not a great fit, but it should serve). So now I have 4 more USB 2.0 plugs on the back, as well as a serial port while only using up two expansion slots.
While I had the case open, I clipped all the wires on the 200mm case fans leading to the silly LEDs. The fans still spin perfectly well, but now are no longer generating glare when I'm trying to watch a movie at night.
I also ran a couple of passes of memtest86+ 4.20 (which took about 1 1/2 hours). No errors were detected, so it is good to know both of the 4 gig memory sticks work fine.
I'm running out of things to play with. I may actually be finished :-).
Thu Sep 15, 2011: I previously ordered a high speed HDMI cable and a Blu-Ray burner from newegg. They came on Thursday, so I did some final tweaking. I got rid of the old IDE DVD burner (and the annoying bulky IDE cable) and replaced it with the SATA Blu-Ray burner. I also found a 4 port USB extension bracket in a different box of old computer junk, and replaced the two separate two port USB brackets, moving the serial port back to the bracket it was designed to fit in, so now everything on the motherboard is exposed for external use and nothing is in a kludged bracket anymore.
When plugging everything back in, I got rid of the DVI to HDMI cable and used the new HDMI only cable. I now get sound (Yea!), the picture is as good as ever, and I don't need the analog audio cable cluttering things up any longer.