montag: A Home Computer

This machine was constructed in September 2007 to replace a 2000-era Pentium II system from Atipa. The old machine was still running well, if noisily.



My chief reference was Building the Perfect PC by Thompson and Thompson. I mostly used their "Mainstream PC" component recommendations of February 2007.

Decommissioned: Jan 25 2016. The hard drives were still running, showing no SMART errors. The case was pretty shabby and the DVD trays no longer worked reliably.


Antec P150

Power supply

Thermaltake Purepower 1.3 350W W0118RU


Intel Desktop Board DG965RY (BOXDG965RYCK)


Intel Core 2 Duo Desktop Processor E6300


Crucial CT2KIT12864AA53E 2GB kit (1GBx2), 240-pin DIMM

Hard drive

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3160815AS 160GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM

DVD burner

Pioneer DVR-212D

Assembly notes


I bought more mounting rails for the second optical drive before I realized that there were spares inside the case. I did not recognize them for what they were.

The case supposedly has cable-management hooks on the back of the drive cage, but I don't see them.

I mounted the hard drives using the optional rubber suspension cords, which is supposed to make them quieter.

(LATER: 3 years after, in Aug 2010, I found that one rubber cord on both drives had broken, causing them to hang at an angle. I remounted them using the metal slides. I will not use a rubber suspension system again).

The case front panel has doors to conceal the DVD drives. This blocks the view of the DVD driver indicator lights. Removing the doors would not help much.

The case fan does not connect to the motherboard. It has a manual 3-speed switch, but you have to open the case to get to it.

(LATER: in February 2011 the plastic start button on the front panel broke. I have to open the panel to start the machine now).

(LATER: in May 2011 the plastic spacer inside one of the front panel USB ports came out).

Power Supply

I could not get the bundled Antec PSU to work. Symptoms: the case fan and cpu fan would spin briefly and the indicator lights flash, all at about 2-second intervals, as if the power were pulsing at some low current. Since the case fan was connected directly to the PSU, I reasoned the PSU must be at fault. Googling revealed other people had the same symptoms. Some say (a) although Antec is well-liked for their cases, certain PSU lines have declined in quality, and (b) others say that the PSU must have a certain load on all three rails or it won't start. I tried moving the plugs around, to no good effect. I submitted the problem to Antec online support, but they simply responded with RMA info. LATER: Antec replaced the PSU quickly with a new boxed one still in the shrinkwrap. I'll use it for the next project.


The CPU cooler in the retail box had three small bits of thermal pad already applied. This processor does not run very hot, so this is supposed to be enough.

Even with the CPU flush in the socket, it took some force on the retention plate to get it clamped down, making me wonder if I had done damage, but it was unharmed.

The motherboard has a serial header connection but no serial port. Intel suggests a back panel serial port bracket that connects to the onboard serial header or a PCI serial card, but doesn't have either. I only need this for a dial-up modem; alternatively I could try to find a PCI or USB modem that works with Linux. LATER: HVS gave me a cable and bracket he had from an ASUS motherboard, which he said came with "everything". It works, but was a tight stretch.

The motherboard and original PSU had 24-pin power connectors; the replacement PSU used 20-pin. The MB manual says it is compatible with 20-pin and it did fit and function.

I skipped connecting the audio to the front panel. Too many tiny plugs, and the motherboard, case leads and docs for both did not match.

Getting the two-pin front panel "HD" and "power" lights connected correctly is a matter of trial and error; they are not keyed. The HD light was correct the first time, but I had to reverse the power light.

BIOS values:

Linux Installation

Trying to install SuSE 10.1 and 10.2, I encountered the CD not found problem. Fedora 7 installed without error. The relevant BIOS options seem to be:

  1. ATA/IDE Mode = Native
    1. SATA=ACHI
    2. SATA=IDE
  2. ATA/IDE Mode = Legacy
Fedora 7 installs and runs with (1.2) above; I can't get SuSE to install with any combination. I have tried the boot params shown in the article. Googling gives similar info.

LATER: I found a diagnostic procedure to discover the relevant modules needed. When SuSE begins installing (and can still find the DVD drives), cancel the install and use the "Show kernal modules" option to display the loaded modules. Compare this with the modules shown the same way after the install fails. I found that adding these to the boot params allows SuSE to install without error: "insmod=ahci insmod=ata_piix insmod=generic". As suggested on usenet, "ide=nodma" may also work.

LATER: SuSE 10.3 appeared about this time. The 64-bit version installed without error and recognized all the hardware automatically.

I wanted to try LVM disc-striping on the /tmp partition, for performance reasons when handling large multimedia files, and also to distribute wear on the discs. Using the custom partitioning option during install, I striped /tmp across two discs, allocating half of each, for a total of 160GB. None of the other partitions are managed by LVM. Root is on one disc and /home on the other. Swap is on one disc and /boot on the other.



The system idles at about 37-42C on the CPU. The only work that greatly increases the temperature is high-speed reading from the DVD drives; burning does not produce as much heat. When reading from both drives simultaneously, the CPU temperature reaches 55C, but cools off quickly as soon as the drives are idle.

Note: it important to clean the dust filter. The temperature rises a great deal when the filter is dirty.


It is a quiet system. The case fan is set to "low". I can hear the hard drives only when they are very busy. The DVD drives, when they are spinning, are louder than the rest of the system.


I haven't kept recent benchmark figures, so I can say only anecdotally that the new machine makes the old one look pretty sad. Audio/video conversion tasks are particularly impressive; the improvement is due to some combination of the faster CPU, the dual cores, the large cache, the faster SATA discs each on its own bus, and having the /tmp space striped across two disks.

I can max out both cores only by ripping two CDs using four encoding tasks simultaneously. On the old machine I was careful not to load the system while burning DVDs for fear of producing coasters; on the new machine it just doesn't matter.

The system starts up and shuts down quickly. Linux itself has been getting better in this regard. Startup time is about 25 seconds; shutdown about 10 seconds.