Windows sucks, sucks so profoundly that words cannot express my loathing for it, yet it’s the standard OS for gaming and I love my gaming action, so I’m stuck with it. I took Friday off last week because windows registry cruft had finally gotten to the point where the machine was taking ~5 minutes to finish booting and no amount of registry scouring could cleanse it of the problem, plus the boot volume was writing a disturbing amount of error messages to the logs, making me fear for its life. It was time for the ‘once every couple of years’ clean install of windows.
Since I was having to go through this, I took the opportunity to buy a new motherboard and videocard. The motherboard only supported 1066 bus speed, leaving me unable to upgrade to newer faster cpu’s including the new wolfsdale 45nm cpus. The videocard has had overheating problems since the day I bought it – it’s an ATI 1900xt and I basically dislike the thing. Performance wise it was ok, but it’s been loud and flaky due to the heating problems the whole time I’ve owned it.
I went cheap but effective on the motherboard side of things, with a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L. It’s lean on the features but the right price and with a solid review and reliability record. The one thing it lacks is firewire, which my last board also lacked and I survived without (though not without the occasional annoyance). It doesn’t support DDR3 RAM either, but I figure I am at least one machine away from moving to DDR3 anyway.
On the videocard end of things, I switched to Nvidia after at least 4-5 ATI cards in a row. ATI still produces decent cards but the 8800GT I bought is basically the value performance leader these days and ATI cards continue to run hot and loud. I didn’t want a repeat of my last ATI card is what it boiled down to. It also helped that I found a deal on an ASUS for around $150 after a rebate.
The build went pretty uneventfully. The only problems I had were initially getting it to boot, which turned out to be because the cooler on my CPU has a broken peg which was causing it to not stay seated against the cpu. Boot, overheat, shutdown immediately. I figured it out pretty quickly and brute-forced a solution. Next time I upgrade the CPU I’ll toss the cooler. The other problem was me being a dummy coupled with bad labeling on my RAM. For some reason I had it in my head that I had 4GB of Patriot RAM, the the labels on the RAM are misleading, so I spent a ton of time fiddling with ram slots and BIOS memory timing settings before I had a V8 moment and realized all was already working well – I had 2GB and the machine was seeing it correctly.
On the OS side of things, I did a couple of things differently. For the first time I used a slipstreamed installer disc, in this case one with service pak 3. I had an initial blue screen with it but the second install went smoothly, and it was a beautiful thing to go to windows update and see only a small handful of patches instead of the usual hours worth of patches to apply. I also installed Ubuntu 8.04. I’m going to try and force myself to only use windows when I’m gaming and linux the rest of the time. We’ll see how that goes.
Anyway I just figured I’d write up how the build went, as I’ve done a number of times in the past. The whole thing took me a full day and then some, though portions of it were spent watching progress bars creep by, fiddling with my DS or PS3 while I waited. The current build’s name is ‘suckeggridesaga,’ which is short for ‘Suck Egg Rides Again.’ Every one of my machines has been named some version of suck egg, cause, well, you know – Windows really does suck eggs.
Oh – one other thing to mention. Steam, as in the software service from Valve, is just awesome. I have at least a dozen games installed in Steam, and to get everything up and running again all I had to do was install a new copy of the steam client, log in once, then log out, copy 70 some gigs of data into the steampowered folder, and re-login to the client, and all my games just worked. Compare that to installing a dozen games using the physical media, then installing all the patches and adding in all the mods and addon content. There’s no contest – digital distribution is totally the way to go. The same was basically true of my gametap stuff as well – I copied over the client and binaries and all my games were good to go. Physical media for PC games can bite me. Given the choice, I will go digital distribution every time.