James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

October 6, 2008

Potential Upgrade

Filed under: Electronics — James @ 9:36 pm

As I recorded here, this past summer I constructed an energy efficient PC for 24/7 use.

This $150 dollar computer has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. As the result of an unfortunate BCK error my venerable modded xbox was rendered non-functional shortly after my arrival in Berkeley. (BCK stands for between chair and keyboard, it means I did something stupid.) Fortunately at the same time I was bricking my xbox, the people who wrote XBMC were porting to program to run elsewhere: windows, mac, and ubuntu linux computers.

So now it sits under the TV in the living room, doing the job formerly done by the xbox, at the same time serving video (some of it in high-def) to any-and-every other computer in the apartment since they are all capable of running XBMC (although for macs I recommend Plex, a fork XBMC maintained by apple enthusiasts.)

The end result of all this being that between pretending to be an xbox, file serving, and other processes I have running in the background, my poor $150 computer is buckling under the strain of keeping up. On top of that I’m contemplating installing a BLAST server to help with my research/show off to my fellow students.

Which brings me to the contemplation of a system upgrade less than three months into the twenty-five it’ll take for electricity savings to pay off. (Although the experience I’ve gained with Linux and the command like have already been more than worth the expense.) 


Current: 1.8 Ghz single core. 35W maximum power draw. 

Proposed: 2.5 Ghz Dual Core. A lot more horsepower, but also a higher maximum power draw (65 watts). This may be somewhat offset by higher efficiency since the processor is manufactured on the new 45nm process and the smaller processors are, the less energy they take to run.


Current: 1 Gig

Proposed: 3 Gigs, the current 1, plus a 2 gig chip. I’m not sure if my current set up is RAM limited to begin with, but an extra two gigs isn’t going to substantially impact electrical usage.

I’m going to take a while to think on this (and save) before I place any orders so I’d be interested in any suggestions on more efficient/effective upgrades I could make to improve performance on what is rapidly becoming the nerve center of my apartments electronic ecosystem.

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