The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

The end of an era

Posted By on February 17, 2016

So, this weekend, the boys and I decommissioned my last remaining Linux desktop. It hasn’t been powered on for about the past three months. Now, I still have a few low-powered “kiosk” machines – like the one I use to control the 3D printer, but those don’t really count because I only use them for a specific purpose and they’re off most of the time.

Anyway, the history of that machine (or, at least, the big blue case) dates back to June of 2003, when I built a Dual CPU Athlon system (note – not dual-core. This is 2 separate CPUs, so 2 separate sockets. This is what multiprocessing used to look like, folks.) I used that machine largely as it was for 5 years, though I think I might have upgraded the video card and RAM along the way. I think at the end it had 1.5GB RAM and some variety of ATI (now AMD) AGP video card. I know I replaced the heat sinks at some point as well, because one of the original fans failed, so I replaced both while I was in there.

In June of 2008, I rebuilt the box into a Core 2 Quad CPU with 8GB of RAM and a Radeon X850 with 256MB RAM and a 4 bay hot swap cage with 4 1TB drives (in 2 RAID 1 mirrors, so 2 TB of usable space). In the fall of 2010, I upgraded the video card, replacing it with a Radeon 4870 w/ 512MB RAM, because Steam was starting to sell Linux games, and the ATI/AMD drivers now supported the Radeon HD series, so it was worth the upgrade. In July of 2012, I pulled the RAID cage out because we built up a SOHO server with 4 3TB HDDs (in 2 RAID 1 mirrors, so 6TB of usable space) and used it there. Since my desktop was no longer the whole house storage / DLNA server, it lost 2 drives for just a mirrored 1TB RAID 1 configuration. Somewhere in 2013, I upgraded the video card again to a Radeon HD 6870 with 1GB RAM for the same reason as before – more, newer games on Steam. It sat like this, being used for games and remoting into work for the next 3 years.

Now, in parallel to this, for my birthday in 2011, my brother gave me a mid-spec box (which we’ll call the “black box”) explicitly intended to run Windows so he and I could play some of the Battlefield games together over the internet, which we did for a couple of years until kids and such got in the way of that. In the following couple of month I maxed out that box with an AMD Phenom II X4 940, 8GB RAM, and a Radeon HD 6870. (For those paying attention, I liked the card so much in this box that I bought one for the Linux box too). That box came with XP, I installed Windows 7 on it, and then upgraded it to W10, and upgraded it from a 500GB HDD to a 1TB HDD somewhere along the way, mainly because I ended up with 2 surplus 1TB drives after I pulled them from the blue box. And that box sat that way, used to play games that only ran under Windows, until this weekend.

This weekend I took the blue box, put both Radeon HD 6870’s in it, configured them for Crossfire, then proceeded to do a fresh install of Windows 10 on to the blue box, because that box had RAID hardware in it. (As it turns out, the black box did to, but I didn’t know this at the time. Still, I like the blue case better, and the machines are otherwise very similar, so which box got kept came down to the case that the board and CPU happened to be in). After testing that for a bit, and coming to realize that these cards, while still officially supported, are effectively legacy so not all features (like, say, Crossfire) work under Windows 10 with all the games I tested them with (Fallout 4, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, and L.A. Noire), I pulled out the second card because it wasn’t doing much good. Finally, I realized that Fallout 4 requires a video card with 2GB of RAM, not the 1GB of RAM that I had, so I needed a new video card.

What do to? Well, I had a perfectly good quad core box with 8GB of RAM, and a Radeon HD 6870 w/ 1GB RAM. So I sold it to a guy at work, and used the proceeds to (mostly) fund the acquisition of an ASUS STRIX R9 390 w/ 8GB RAM. The 750W PC Power and Cooling PSU can run it, so we should be good. It came in and I installed it yesterday. It is enormous and barely fits:


I had to remove the lower hard drive bracket (empty except for the fan it was holding) in order to get clearance, and, even then, the GPU heatsink is about 5mm away from the remaining metal bracket.

But, it fits, it’s quiet, and it ran Fallout 4 for 2 hours last night with no crashes.

Still, I’m somewhat saddened by the departure of the Linux desktop, but it does free up some space in my small office. The only thing constant is change, I suppose.


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