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

July 12, 2008

The New PC

Filed under: Electronics — Tags: , , , — James @ 10:49 pm

As a computer geek I need a computer that’s online 24/7. This uses a lot of electricity which A. costs money B. Makes the environmentalists in my life hate me.

Now I could choose between my computerized lifestyle and ever dating another environmentalist (GMO issue aside). Or I could cut my power usage by building a second (super efficient) PC so I can turn off the powerful, power hungry, machine I use for the computational heavy lifting whenever I don’t need it. Guess which option I chose? 😉

Now for the second challenge, my budget for my entire energy efficient computer: $150 (Note that the cheapest computer listed on the best buy website as of this writing is $280.)

  • Processor: Celeron 430L 1.8GHz – Maximum power usage of 35 watts. A standard CPU draws 90 watts, enthusiast CPUs 125 watts or more.
  • Motherboard:MSI P6NGM-FD – On-motherboard graphics save energy vs. a discrete graphics card, and I’ll barely ever even connect a monitor.
  • Memory: 1 Gig G.Skill DDR2 800 – not much to say here, it’s the right speed, it’s cheap.
  • Case: Rosewill R102-P-BK – MicroATX case, cheap, enough room for my hard drives.
  • Operating system: Ubuntu Linux – It’s free, and on this budget I need that.
  • Hard drive: I can use my current hard drives
  • Power Supply: Left over from a system upgrade. Aftermarket power supplies are more efficient. Cheap ones have conversion efficiencies as low as 60-70%

All the components arrived from new egg the middle of last week. Initially set up goes well:
Linux Box Step 2
But then problems arise. Ubuntu is on a DVD. The only DVD drive I own is already installed in my current PC and I can’t remember how to get it out. The solution? Siamese computers!
Computer Life Support
By flipping the new computer upside down and running IDE and power cables between the two I can manage the linux installation!
And now, a mere 72 hours later, I have a working computer!

Ubuntu has many positive qualities. User customization (without spending hours on google and the absolute beginners ubuntu forums) is not one of them.

Anyway the end result: The computer I used to run 24/7 drew 110-120 watts idle. The new one just under 50. For $150 I’ve reduced power consumption by 43-50 kilowatt hours a month. At an electricity rate of 12 cents a kW/h, bringing this new computer online will save 70 bucks a year in electricity and pay for itself in 25 months.

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