All hardware sucks.

I have to build a computer, and I need another set of eyes before I buy things.

Considering what I do, I’m really not much of a PC hardware geek, especially on consumer-level hardware. But our file-and-everything-else server at home did not fare well during a scheduled power outage lately, and won’t POST. And not only that, but it managed to confuse both (RAIDed) disks such that they are not recognized on any other machine.

(Luckily I kept the previous disks from that machine; that way I only lose a full year’s worth of data. Even more luckily, everything that I had on there from the past year is somewhere else (original CDs, Oink, flickr, etc.) except for the financial and guest minutiae about the wedding, which at this point we didn’t really need to hold onto anyhow. On the other hand, I feel kind of dumb because I had a perfectly good AIT tape drive in that machine but hadn’t yet got around to procuring tapes.)

So I figured I’d just pick up a used PIII-750 or something and away I go. But no! I need to hang serious quantities of disk off of it (enough to hold 1000 or so CDs worth of FLAC), and that means I need a motherboard that can see those big disks. So that means I need a modern machine. Ok, fine — might as well get something that’s modern, and then it’ll last me a while like the 500Mhz Athlon that died did.

The machine doesn’t do much; the busiest it will ever be is transcoding FLAC to mp3 in real-time for streaming audio. Mostly it sits there serving files out to Candice‘s and my laptop via NFS and Samba, and handles DNS, DHCP, printing, outgoing mail, incoming ssh, and so on for our home network. It does need to run cool and quiet, though.

So I’m thinking of picking up a Sempron 2800, because it’s the cheapest modern CPU anyone around here is selling, and it’ll run cooler than a cheap Celeron. I don’t know what to grab for a motherboard yet, but it’ll be something basic with onboard network, video, and SATA and more than two PCI slots (need one for the SCSI controller, and one in case I need to add another SATA controller later, and then one for the thing I didn’t think of.) Disk will be a pair of 320GB SATA drives — probably one Western Digital and one Seagate to avoid the “both disks from the same batch fail at the same time” problem, and the local Cheap Disk Store has both for the same price. For RAM, 512MB of whatever the motherboard takes, generic and cheap. For a case, probably an Antec SLK2650 quiet edition, if I can find one in stock locally, which comes with a 350W Antec SmartPower power supply. I don’t think I’ll bother with a DVD writer, although I considered it. All I’d be doing really is making backups on it, and the tapes hold a lot more than a DVD.

Anything I’m not thinking of? Any recommendations for motherboards?

Also, I see that a lot of SATA motherboards support hardware RAID, or at least hardware-ish. My inclination is to use software RAID-1 anyhow, because that means I can take the disk and put it in any other computer and still get at the data, but I haven’t had the opportunity to play with built-in SATA RAID. Thoughts?

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