Happily, all components arrived safely and timely. I spent a couple of hours on a Friday night installing the power supply, assembling the CPUs and motherboard on the case’s removable tray. Then came plugging in the memory, video card, and the case’s switches and LEDs harness. Finally, attaching the power supply cabling to the motherboard and PCI express card. There was a series of red blinking lights on the video card, with one remaining steady after boot. The rest of the simple power on test made certain that the screen lit up and the BIOS did not complain, so all was well enough for the evening.
The next morning, it felt like Christmas. I got to install the SATA drives: DVD and two hard disks. The Lian-Li case design made that remarkably easy, with its rubber rings and rails. Choosing the SATA ports on the motherboard was the hardest part, because it was not clear from documentation or labeling what could be planned as optimal. After settling on a choice, it was time to install something that would boot.
I am a long-time, satisfied user of V-COM System Commander. I was immediately tempted to plunk down another $70 and download their latest version. I may yet do so, however, I figured it was a good time to tinker, and take this opportunity to try a fresh approach. I downloaded and installed FreeDOS 1.0 on a 500MB partition. Having tried some of their earlier releases, I was completely surprised by the 1.0 milestone. Its installer is well-organized for an open source project. It also comes with a Smart Boot Manager.
Next step was originally planned for XP Pro 32-bit installation, but that would have required some SATA drivers for Windows installation, and I did not want to have to install a floppy drive. I might go the VM route for that. So, I left its 40GB partition in place; when I go to install Fedora, it might just go there instead.
So I jumped head first into Vista Ultimate 64-bit. I had forgotten just how painful a Microsoft operating system install was. I attribute much of that pain, though, from bleeding edge hardware. But even with all the DVDs and CDs that get packed, why doesn’t it just work? The packaging should boldy warn: “Access to the Internet from another computer is required.” After years of listening to weekend warrior geeks complain about difficult Linux installations, I just have to chuckle to myself that this is to be expected, accept it as a challenge, and complete the systems integration.
Fortunately, I had my laptop handy to gather up the proper Intel NIC drivers, which by the way, comes packaged with a very friendly installer. The new workstation was on the ‘net! The Radeon HD 3870 x2 installer went like a breeze, but the subsequent reboot revealed that the driver could not initialize. It was then I realized that the remaining red light on the card, despite nothing in its printed documentation, meant there was trouble.
Again, the printed documentation for hardware installation did not reveal that there were TWO required PCI-e power connectors: a 6-pin and a 4-pin outlet. I only had the 6-pin wired. That solved the problem. After instructing Vista to re-evaluate my desktop experience, it jumped from 1.0 to their highest rating of 5.9. Really? I cannot be the only person that is shaking their head from that
crap scoring method. Without any tweaking, I ran the cool benchmarking tests with the included 3DMARK software and got a number over 15,000. Well, at least it looks more technical than 5.9 …