The Unix Hardware Buyer HOWTO

Eric Raymond


Revision History
Revision 2.02001-08-09Revised by: esr
Major update. Revisions based on Ultimate Linux Box experience. Caches are on-chip now. DDS4 tape drives are here. 486 machines, CD caddies, and most non-DDS backup technologies are gone
Revision 1.12001-06-13Revised by: esr
Mid-2001 update.
Revision 1.02001-02-06Revised by: esr
Initial revision; but see the history in the introduction.

This is your one-stop resource for information about how to buy and configure Intel hardware for cheap, powerful Unix systems.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
1.1. Purpose and History
1.2. New versions of this document
1.3. Feedback and corrections
1.4. Related resources
2. Overview of the Market
3. Buying the Basics
3.1. Getting Down to Cases
3.2. Power Supplies and Fans
3.3. Motherboards
3.4. Memory
3.5. Buying a Video Card
3.6. Selecting a Monitor
3.6.1. What To Look For On The Spec Sheet.
3.6.2. Eric Buys A Big Monitor: Smart Shopping Tips
3.7. Keyboards
3.8. Floppy Drives
3.9. Printers
3.9.1. GDI printers: avoid!
3.9.2. Non-GDI printers
3.10. Power Protection
3.10.1. Overview
3.10.2. Surge suppressors
3.10.3. Line Conditioners
3.10.4. Standby power supplies (SPSs)
3.10.5. Uninterruptable power supplies (UPSs)
3.11. Radio Frequency Interference
4. Performance Tuning
4.1. How To Pick Your Processor
4.2. Of Memory In...
4.3. Bus Wars
4.3.1. Bus Types
4.4. Disk Wars: IDE vs. SCSI
4.4.1. Overview
4.4.2. Enhanced IDE
4.4.3. SCSI Terminology Logical: SCSI-1, SCSI-2, SCSI-3 Electrical Interface Handshake Synchronous Speed (does not apply for asynchronous option) Path width
4.4.4. Avoiding Pitfalls
4.4.5. Trends to Watch For
4.4.6. More Resources
4.5. Other Disk Decisions
4.5.1. Disk Brands
4.6. Tuning Your I/O Subsystem
4.7. Souping Up X Performance
5. Hardware for Backups
6. Of Mice And Machines
6.1. Mouse Types
6.2. Buying a Mouse
7. Modems
7.1. The Simple Answer
7.2. Overview of the Modem Market
7.3. Internal vs. External
7.4. Pitfalls to Avoid
7.5. What to Buy
7.6. Fax Modems
8. CD-ROMs and Multimedia Hardware
8.1. CD-ROM Drives
8.2. Sound Cards and Speakers
9. Special considerations when buying laptops
10. How to Buy
10.1. When to Buy
10.2. Where to Buy
10.3. Computer Fairs
10.4. Mail Order
10.5. Computer Superstores
10.6. Other Buying Tips
11. Questions You Should Always Ask Your Vendor
11.1. Minimum Warranty Provisions
11.2. Documentation
11.3. A System Quality Checklist
12. Things to Check when Buying Mail-Order
12.1. Tricks and Traps in Mail-Order Warranties
12.2. Special Questions to Ask Mail-Order Vendors Before Buying
12.3. Payment Method
12.4. Which Clone Vendors to Talk To
12.4.1. Some pans
12.4.2. Some picks
13. After You Take Delivery
14. Software to go with your hardware
15. Other Resources on Building Linux PCs
16. Upgrading Older Machines
16.1. Older Memory Types