Project Hyuga

It’s finally time to start building a new machine again. After several delays, mostly of the monetary kind, I purchased the first half of the parts for constructing a new PC named “Hyuga” for the mental model from Arpeggio of Blue Steel. It will be the first in a series of overhauls and new projects to replace our dated hardware and improve file storage and backups in-house. Should be some degree of fun.

Hyuga will be my fourth machine in the line since 1999:, which began with Elyham (Xenogears), a P3-400 pre-built machine bought in 1999 that was decommissioned in 2004 and disassembled in 2008. It was my very first personal PC that ran Windows 2000 for its entire run. The next was Azmaria (Chrono Crusade), a P4-2.4 that was my first self-built custom machine assembled in 2004. It’s nickname was “the hamster cage” when my wife and I first met, it had two blue and green Antec colored fans in it. For some reason, she thought it looked like a hamster cage. It ran Windows XP and supported my World of Warcraft addiction with its Radeon 9600 GPU until 2009-2010, when I took parts from a school computer I had and built Nanoha (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha), a Core2-Duo 2.93 with a GeForce 9600 GTX and Windows 7, which remains in service today. Azmaria was actually virtualized and resides as a VM now while the hardware has been disassembled, its case being used by the XBMC media PC, which was reformed from most of the school machine parts plus a new motherboard.

Considering I do not live on the bleeding edge of computing, nor need to, I’ve been pretty good about getting 4-5 years out of each machine I build, and usually I can re-purpose the old machine for some lab tasks. Hyuga represents probably my most significant investment hardware-wise since Azmaria, as I researched the best Intel chipset to pair the i5 CPU with, sprung for a higher-end GPU in the GeForce 650 TI Boost 2GB, and am going with an SSD hard drive for the primary system partition. Speed and responsiveness are two of my chief goals in computing, so having a machine that will snap to what I call it for in a reasonable amount of time is what matters to me most. Certainly I could have spent another six hundred dollars for a better (or second) video card, i7 or better CPU, and more RAM, but I don’t always game, so spending money on resources that will be under-utilized is a waste of money. That’s a misconception among PC builders, that you must have high-end parts. Budget-minded people can spend 400-600 and build a PC that will play almost all of today’s games at decent settings and work with everything else just as well. Pro gamers can nudge that up a couple hundred for an even more solid experience. Certainly if you have the money to spend and can justify the cost, by all means, but for novice builders and those who don’t know better, don’t be tricked into spending a lot of money on a machine you will barely utilize 30% of its total resources. Also, if you build a low-end machine thinking you’re just going to upgrade in six months, don’t. Spent the money and go high from the start. You’ll spend more money to upgrade than you would to build high from the start. Pay attention to your CPU and GPU, scale them to fit your expected needs. Everything else is pretty much a fixed cost no matter what, unless you like to overclock things.

After Hyuga is complete, my next tasks will be to do some retrofitting between Reinforce, the XBMC media PC, and Nanoha, my current PC. The board in Reinforce supports more RAM than the board in Nanoha, but the CPU and GPU are better in Nanoha than Reinforce. I want to reassemble the two into a more powerful media system in the front room that may handle Steam games, as well as movies, TV, and other media. I haven’t decided on sticking with XBMC or doing Win7 with XBMC for Windows or something else, it’s a toss-up. The other alternative is to use Nanoha as a lab PC for professional development, but my goal is to actually build a beefy machine with ESXi and run multiple VMs off of it for that purpose. It depends widely on how much money it will cost.

Another project is to build a new machine for my wife. Her Core2-Duo is older than mine, as it was built about a year before, and it on it’s final legs before decommissioning. I’m hoping the success of Hyuga will have me order roughly the same parts for her new machine. Her old XP laptop is also up for being replaced, but it’s a low priority given how she doesn’t use a laptop often. I’m actually looking to nab a good cheap Woot sale laptop they have so often, a full keyboard layout and size, preferably an i3 or i5, but under 400-500.

The last project is a storage system, either a full server with drives, or just a network device with drives for storing media and machine backups. Part of my plan with Hyuga is to run only an SSD and one mechanical drive, either 1TB or 2TB, for files and games only. I’m looking to have all of the media stored on a low-power, always-on network device shared among all of the computers. I also want to run regular backups of data and send it to this drive, and backup to a second off-site drive, or maybe Amazon S3. I’ve never thought much about backups, and I don’t really care to backup things like Steam games or TV/movies/music because I can download most of those things back, but pictures, files, and other unique items need to be backed up more than I have been.

Lots of plans, lots of ideas. Sadly they all cost money, and with home things and such to pay for, I can’t fund it all right now, but they’re things I’m slowly looking into over time. Should be exciting.

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