My new computer

A couple of weeks ago I got myself a new computer - or rather, a new old computer. I did not actually want to, because apart from one particular habit, my computer was performing quite adequately. That habit, however, was simply switching itself off from time to time for no apparent reason. So, despite the fact that I could not really afford it (my dad agreed to pay for it), I had to get a new one. What I got was a Compaq AP550, a dual Pentium III.

I must say, I’m really glad I got it. That dual processor (you didn’t have dual cores in 2000, when it was built) really works wonders. A release candidate of the new version of Qt was released yesterday, and I grabbed it today and compiled it. This normally takes four hours; today, as you might expect, it took around two. I use Bibble to process my RAW pictures, specifically the Pro version, whose feature list says it’s “fully multithreaded” and that people with dual processor machines should see a 100% improvement - and I have (and both processors are faster than the single chip in my old machine). The thing really flies. The machine has 512 Mb of RAM, which I plan to upgrade as soon as I can reasonably afford it.

The other big advantage is that I am not restricted to low profile expansion cards, particularly graphics cards. When I bought my old Viglen, I had a real problem finding graphics cards which would fit, and I had to get a new graphics card almost immediately because the pre-installed Intel graphics chip did not work well with Linux. It took me ages to find a suitable card. I’m not going to rush out and buy another one right now, and even so, my graphics card slot is an AGP 4x, and there has been two other standards (AGP 8x and PCI Express) since then.

One of the first things I did was install the new release of Ubuntu (a Linux OS) on it, and I must say that this is the most impressive Ubuntu release I’ve used, particularly given that I’m a KDE user. Ubuntu’s main desktop is based on GNOME; they produce a spin-off called Kubuntu which you can install from within Ubuntu or by itself, but the Kubuntu KDE desktop for the last couple of releases was not all that nice to use; its responsiveness left a lot to be desired. This was much better, and it’s not just because my machine is faster (at least one other reviewer has said so). Dell is talking about selling PCs with Ubuntu pre-loaded, which would not be such a bad idea given that Windows Vista is such a hog and that Windows XP is being discontinued at the end of the year. The only problem is that many Linux users like to choose their version and not everyone will choose Ubuntu.

The only thing I have to do now is to put my old DVD-ROM drive into it (when I got it, I was just too eager to get it running to do something like that). Installing things like hard drives are likely to be much simpler in this system than in the old one - another problem with “low profile” boxes is that they don’t expect you to change components often, and they are crammed in close and not easy to get in and out. With this one, there is an extra space for a hard drive, which I haven’t yet put in but it’s not as if I actually need all that space - it’s likely to be used by another Linux version, so that I can put together packages for my blog management program.

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