Sunday, July 13, 2008

More Room to Remember

Longtime Grand Stream Dreams followers may recall that our primary desktop system is a Shuttle SK41G small form factor (SSF) system.

At the time of home-build, it was the replacement for an aging Gateway 333 MHz cpu system that had a whopping 256 MB RAM and a 10 GB HD running Windows 98 in an expanded (2-foot) tower unit that had room for like eight device bays.

I had not to long before just successfully made the jump from a social-services job into the IT department, and one of the things that seemed to be needed was to build a rig worthy of the envy of my new team-mates.

So after much consideration, I opted for the SFF of the Shuttle. It seemed pretty fast, had decent specs, and should be pretty quiet.

I loaded it out with an AMD Athlon XP 2400+ processor (2 GHz), 512 MB RAM, and a 120 GB HDD with XP Home.  I also sprung for a dedicated AGP graphics card having previously always used just the on-board video. That was back in 2003.

It ran great for a few weeks before it died (PSU) and I was forced to RMA it for a new barebones unit.

That one did better.

In August of 2006 I upped the RAM to a full GB.

In November of 2006, the stock PSU finally gave up the ghost, having finally succumbed to the dreaded Shuttle PSU Capacitors of Death problem.  No matter, a beefier custom PSU was located and with case-modifications, was crammed into the shoe-box of the SFF.

The 1 GB of RAM has been great.  But lately I’ve been doing much more work in Virtual PC and granting just 256-512 MB of RAM to the virtual XP machines just hasn’t quite worked out.  At the low end they work, barely. At the high end the virtual machines work great, but the “real” system bogs down.

In July of 2007 the hard-drive started acting up, so I swapped it out to a 500 GB monster.

As the max RAM on this rig is just 2 GB, I figured it was time to max it out, before I couldn’t find RAM for it any longer.

The Shuttle takes DDR PC2700/3200 RAM. had a PC3200 combo for about $75.  Unfortunately, despite being know for my patience, I decided to pick some up locally for instant gratification.  Only kind I could find was PC2700 for just under $100. 

I’m telling myself that really wouldn’t have made a lot of difference with performance had I ordered the PC3200 instead on-line.  The front-side bus speed on this Shuttle is a paltry 266 MHz so I don’t think I would have seen a remarkable difference.

Overall the extra RAM has really made an improvement, especially when I have been working with virtual machines so it really is the best way to go.

And the Shuttle, despite its age, is still humming along very well.  The upgraded PSU has been rock-solid. While still a single-core, the AMD CPU’s 2 GHz processor is still more than up to the daily tasks we throw at it.

Probably in another year I will have to see about buttering Lavie up and going with a dual/quad-core rig with 4 GB RAM, and a dual-head video card for both my monitors.  My current drive is an ATA model and all new systems are SATA.

I would probably drop a 10 GB drive spare I have kickin-around into the Shuttle, get an ATA to SATA adapter to load the 500 GB drive into the new one, and then reload the Shuttle with PCLinuxOS for Alvis to use.  Then I can continue to run the XP Home system as a virtual machine a bit longer.  I still need to get back up to Tyler to get Dad’s virtual XP system I had recovered back on his his Vista machine.

Further Reading: | Review - Is More Memory Better?

Really great and readable tech testing-review on just how much system-memory you should get.  For most Vista 32-bit OS versions, the answer is around 3-4 GB, depending slightly on the RAM in your graphics card.  Me? I’d probably go with 4 GB and then spring for a 256 MB graphics card, not being a gamer.

If you sprang for a Vista 64-bit OS version, well, you have a few more options, being able to go up to just over 16 TB of system RAM…assuming you can find a system-board and RAM modules big-enough.

Wowzers!  I’m getting giddy just thinking about that…..More RAM than hard-drive storage….


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