My PC Technology Area

Detail of my Intel CA810EAL Desktop Board

September 2005

I created this section while I was looking at upgrading my personal sytem. It will provide information I've gathered concerning various PC technologies.

Here is my current desktop configuration:

April 2005

Last year, I replaced the two 20 GB with a Western Digital 160 GB IDE drive for my data. I also replaced my monitor with a BenQ 19-inch LCD flat panel monitor. I installed LG's GSA-4082B DVD-Writer.

The first thing that struck me about this monitor is its brightness. When it was displayed among others, it was the one with the nicest output. At the store, they let me test out one from the box and it had one defective pixel. Fortunately, the salesperson allowed me to try another one and there were no bad pixels. If I was going to spend a lot of time looking at it, I wanted it to be clean. Playing Neverwinter Nights at the monitor's native resolution (1280 x 1024) made the game less smooth, and ghosting is quite noticable when changing the angle of view.

November 2003

Yay! Soyo released a new BIOS that fixes the boot issue! :)

October 2003

My third major upgrade. I finally upgraded my desktop PC to a Pentium 4. For this, I had to change my motherboard, RAM and power supply as well. I took the opportunity to upgrade my hard disk, video card and sound card. I wasn't looking for more space, but faster speeds so I got Western Digital's new Serial ATA Raptor 360GD drive. Probably the fastest consumer desktop drive on the planet at this time. It was designed for file server use in a RAID configuration, so the capacity is small (36 GB) but the speed is fast: it's the first ATA drive spinning at 10,000 RPM!

I love the new RF remote-control that comes with the All-in-Wonder Pro. The EASYLOOK interface for the TV is fun to use, simple and is quite responsive! Sad thing is, my monitor is still a puny 17-inch.

For some reason, I cannot boot from the Serial ATA drive if the other two drives are connected to the IDE channels and both the IDE and SATA controllers are enabled in the BIOS. I want to the Raptor to be the C: drive, with the other two configured for a striped volume as a logical D: drive. I sent a note to Soyo's tech support. For the moment, I boot from a floppy disk.

I was amazed at the difference in sound quality while playing Neverwinter Nights after upgrading to the Audigy 2! It's like playing another game entirely!

August 2003

I decided to get rid of the SCSI components in my desktop PC. I had already upgraded my internal DVD-ROM drive when I replaced a defective drive in my dad's computer. I saw a good deal on a CD-ReWriter at a new computer shop called PC Cyber.

May 2003

Well, I finally took the plunge and got myself a first-generation Apple PowerBook G4 (12-inch). With this computer, er, notebook, I have finally cought up to current technologies. Up to this point, I've always trailed the technology of the day. When 486s came out, I had a 386. When Pentium 4 came out, I had a Pentium III.

The PowerBook 12" is a joy to work with. The battery lasts all the way through an entire 1.5 hour long DVD movie. In my humble opinion, Mac OS X is the best desktop operating system in the world. The power of UNIX, the beautiful Aqua interface. It has built-in Bluetooth that goes well with my other new toys:

April 2003

My computer has been running without much change for the past year and a half as it was since my last upgrade.

My brother's company went down, so as a minor compensation for my work there, he gave me the Klipsch Promedia 4.1 THX-certified speakers that were installed in the boardroom. Very nice! I always believed the Klipsch to be top of the line in sound quality and Maximum PC touted them as the best speaker system for quite a while.

A failed experiment caused a little frustration and some lost money. Since I use my computer as my home theatre, I've been trying to get the DVD player to output 5.1 discreet channels through my Dolby Digital 5.1-capable Soundblaster audio card, with a Sigma Designs REALmagic Hollywood+ MPEG decoder card. The decoder board has an external S/PDIF coaxial connector. My Soundblaster Live! 5.1 didn't come bundled with an S/PDIF coaxial input connector, so I replaced it with a Soundblaster Audigy Platinum kit that comes bundled with a front-mounted set of connectors. To my dismay, the sound was delayed considerably. I found an undocumented solution on a forum that patched the 5.1 audio through the PCI bus to the audio card. It worked somewhat but the sound kept popping and got more out-of-sync as movies were played. I returned the Soundblaster Audigy Platinum kit, so I was charged a restocking fee. I purchased an over-priced OEM copy of PowerDVD and found out that didn't resolve my problem. I then bought Intervideo WinDVD which passes the 5.1 signal to the Soundblaster card. I've been using this setup ever since.

May 2002

Second major upgrade. As I've been working at my brother's company, Borealis Network, I've not had time to fiddle around with my own computer(s) most of last year. I moved in October. I prepared another system from parts accumulated over the year that would double as an entertainment system

Most of the other parts of the system I moved from the CA810EAL system.

With this system, I made the jump to Windows XP. Very nice! So far, it's been great as a complete entertainment system.

November 2000

I wired three rooms in my house for Ethernet and built a Linux system to act as a masquerading router for sharing my new Cable Internet connection.

Linux System
This is built around a Pentium-MMX 166Mhz on an Asus TX97-X (with all options) with 64 MB RAM and is running RedHat Linux 7 (Northern Micro, Tolga, Computer Recyclers, University of Ottawa Bookstore, $400 without monitor).
3Com 10/100 HomeConnect Kit
I like the quality and reliability of 3Com networking products. I used the kit's two PCI cards in the Linux system (Computer City, $270).
Broadband Internet Access
This service is provided by Vidéotron.
CAT5 cables, plates, jacks
(Network Supply)
(Rôna l'entrepôt)

September 2000

I've just replaced my Western Digital hard drive. What a piece of crap! The disk had bad sectors right where Windows is installed. That was the second time it happened with that drive. I should have known better than to invest in Western Digital since all my experiences with their drives were negative.

I chose to go with Quantum since it developed many of the hard drive technologies in use today, like UltraATA/66.

According to an April 13, 2000 article at Storage Review:

"Overall, the Fireball Plus LM delivers the most impressive performance we've yet measured from an ATA drive."

March 2000

My first major upgrade. After over a month of research, I finally decided to get Intel's CA810EAL Desktop Board (from Ovega, $275). It fit my needs perfectly:

Besides, it allowed me to discard old components due to the onboard features of the new motherboard:

I also took the opportunity to upgrade other components:

My old system was based on Intel's TX chipset (these parts were from Tolga):

My original system was built around Gigabyte's GA-586HX and Intel's original Pentium Processor (120MHz). Most parts were from Ovega, the CPU and hard drive were from Laurier Computer.

© Copyright Daniel Côté