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Linux Desktop PC on Steroids From ZaReason - page 2

High-Powered Fun

  • September 23, 2010
  • By Carla Schroder

BIOS and Motherboard

The ECS board has all the bells and whistles and then some, and an equally feature-ful BIOS. Look at what you get on the rear panel:
  • 1 6-wire Firewire port
  • 2 PS/2 for keyboard and mouse
  • 2 eSATA ports
  • 6 USB ports
  • 1 S/PDIF port for optical multi-channel audio output
  • 1 stereo line in
  • 5.1 surround sound out
And my favorite thing, a "clear CMOS" button. You don't have to open the case and fuss with jumpers or CMOS batteries. The front panel has the aforementioned multi-card reader, plus audio inputs and outputs.

The BIOS supports overclocking, individual voltage controls, and much other stuff.

When you open the case you see tha there are several large copper heatsinks. You can install up to six SATA hard disks (hotpluggable!) and 24 GB maximum memory in six DDR3 slots. The X58 Northbridge chipset supports high-speed data transfer, and the ICH10R Southbridge chipset provides integrated RAID levels 0, 1, 5, and 10, which is configured in the BIOS.

<em>figure 4</em>
figure 4

Figures 4 and 5 show some cool features: internal power and reset buttons, standby and power-on status LEDs, and a built-in POST (power-on self-test) code display. Oldtimers might recall the days of spending hard-earned money on POST cards. The manual even includes a table of POST codes.

<em>figure 5</em>
figure 5

Hardware Compatibility

The design engineers at ZaReason don't send anything out the door unless it has 100% Linux-supported hardware. You should be able to run any Linux distro you want on any ZaReason computer, and get full functionality. This future-proofs your system, and makes repairs and restores easy. Contrast this with a typical Windows OEM computer; they try to lock the software to the hardware, and system repairs and restores are beastly awful and inflexible. Woe be unto you if you use the wrong restore disk and give offense to their authentication servers. We dumb little Linux hippies just download something and get on with it.

All components are good-quality. A lot of computer problems are caused by dodgy hardware. Spend a couple more bucks for the good stuff, it saves a lot of headaches.

Cost vs. Value

Linux PC shoppers can often find a lower-cost deal by purchasing an OEM Windows computer, and then blowing away Windows and installing Linux. It is worthwhile to consider the real costs of doing this: It sends money to Redmond, counts as a Windows sale, and reinforces vendor beliefs that Linux does not sell. The Windows OEM market is brutally competitive and they cut corners everywhere possible. So they sell PCs with junky, barely-adequate power supplies, lowest-end motherboards, use components that are slightly altered to force you to buy their own branded replacements, and design units to be disposable rather than upgradeable or user-repairable.

Independent shops like ZaReason (and System 76, Penguin Computing, and many others) offer superior customer service. If you don't see exactly what you want they will customize for you. ZaReason even gives you a screwdriver to encourage exploring and modifying your own computer.

Conclusion

The only nits I could find to pick are the louder-than-I-like Nvidia card, and no Firewire port on the front panel. This is a superior system that I recommend to anyone needing a high-powered PC.

Carla Schroder is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the Linux Networking Cookbook (O'Reilly Media), the upcoming "Book of Audacity" (NoStarch Press), a lifelong book lover, and the managing editor of LinuxPlanet and Linux Today.

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