The McBroom Family LAN
last updated 01-Jan-2003
Homebuilt Athlon 1800 XP
Function: Client PC, primary gaming platform.
OS: Win 98 SE
Notes: (05-04-2002) I was never happy with the Aptiva 2137-E84, which was always a quirky beast. However, I still consider the late-90's Aptiva case design the best in the business, bar none. This, then, is my take on a "Maximum bang for the buck PC," using that case. I intend to keep it around for a long while, upgrading it as required.
The assembly went quite smooth.. much easier than I expected, truth to tell. Since the OEM IBM implementation of ATX used a non-standard power connector (AT- style), I had to replace the power supply. However, the IBM swing-out carriage was a perfect fit around a generic 300-Watt ATX power supply, so I still retain the no-tools aspect of the excellent IBM design. The motherboard itself fit the case perfectly, though the clearance between the power supply and processor fan is very, very tight. All in all this project was a real pleasure.
(05-06-2002) The results are in! Comparison tests between this machine and the Athlon 1400, encoding MP3 files, indicate that it enjoys a 14% performance advantage. Since the actual clock speed of the XP chip is only 8% higher (at 1530 MHz), I attribute the balance of the performance increase to the DDR RAM. As for the value, it's safe to say that, at $560 all inclusive, it wins hands-down there, too.
Homebuilt Athlon 1.4 GHz
Function: Client PC. My primary platform for digital audio and video, CAD, and graphics processing. My backup for everyday web browsing and e-mail, plus a full suite of office and reference 'ware, too.
OS: Windows 98 SE (primary), Win NT Workstation 4.0 (on separate swappable HD)
H-P Pavilion 9694C
Function: Client PC
OS: Windows 98 SE
(6-10-00) So far, I am most favorably impressed with this PC. Compared to the Presario 4814, itís a real speed demon. Nothing illustrates this better than the encoding of MP3 files. Using the same software (CD-ex v. 1.20 with the Blade encoder plug-in) to encode a 3-minute test file in 44.1 kHz, 160 kb/sec VBR, 16-bit stereo MP3 took 14 minutes with the P2 / 233 MHz machine, but just 42 seconds with this machine! Yee-haw!
(6-12-00) Almost as impressive is this machineís ability to multi-task while burning a CD-R/W disc. Iíve just successfully burned a disc while running not one but two CD-ex MP3 encoding sessions, copying 300+ Megs of data to another node on the LAN, not to mention running my e-mail client and browser. ( ! )
IBM Aptiva 2137-E16
Function: Client PC.. sort of a "Guest computer", and my vehicle for playing old DOS games
OS: DOS 6.22/Win 3.1 (primary), Win 98 SE
Function: client PC
OS: Win 98 SE
To make a long story short, installing Win 98 SE on this machine was a nightmare. Windows setup did not recognize the sound, video, or modem. I guess I should feel lucky that basics like IDE, PCI, and USB were supported. Anyway, the machine booted to that incredibly ugly 8-color VGA that results from an unrecognized video card, and then the real fun started.
This was my first real experience with an e-Machine, and all I can say is that I'm amazed that the company manages to stay in business. Their web site is very unfriendly and flaky. They seem to post discrete drivers only when absolutely necessary. There were a couple of Win 2k and Win XP drivers, but nothing for Win 9x. They obviously put a lot of faith in the OEM Restore Disc they ship with the computer, and if you choose not to use it, you're damned well on your own, as far as they're concerned.
Visiting the sites of the component vendors proved fruitless. While I turned up several likely driver candidates, not a one actually worked. Curse you, e-Machine!
An exhaustive Hotbot search turned up a rogue BBS which caters to e-Machines, and I managed to find everything I needed there. However, it is a user-supported site, with users invited to upload individual drivers, so the quality of the 'wares varies greatly. I got lucky in the case of the video, and it worked on the first try. However, I tried 3 different drivers before I got the modem working. And I installed no less than five sound drivers before I got it operational!
'twas an educational experience, to say the least. I have, to my chagrin, occasionally recommended e-Machines in the past to folks who were shopping for a low-priced PC. Given the phenomenally inept support I encountered during this project, I will in future counsel such users to avoid e-Machines at all costs.
Computer Warehouse, Inc. 486/66
Function: Currently semi-inactive, I plan to make this my primary Linux machine in the future.
OS: Win 95
(7-31-00) My daughter, Dana, used this system as her bedroom PC for about 6 months, and we never had any problems with it. Its inability to play MP3 files was the main drawback for her. <grin> In any case, I passed it along to my youngest sister, and it became her first PC. The above info indicates its hardware configuration at the time I gave it to her. I did reformat the HD and install a fresh copy of Win 95, in the interests of saving disk space (a full-featured Win 95 install takes up < 25 Megs vs. 100+ Megs for a minimum Win 98 install!). As of this writing Iíve only received one tech-support call from my sister, so weíre doing good!
(1-3-03) I built my sister a new PC for Christmas (an H-P Vectra VL5, a P166/MMX machine), and so reinherited this ol' girl. The Tripplite 250va UPS which was part of the original package fried at some point, so my sis had the whole system packed away, thinking it was dead, too. When I got it home and tested it out, everything worked fine, with the exception of the CD-ROM drive (a 32x Memorex). Ironically, that drive was the most up-to-date piece of hardware in the whole PC! It was less than 2-1/2 years old. I've had such bad luck with Memorex drives that I will never buy another.
AST Bravo 486/50
Function: Dedicated Internet server (via Time-Warner Roadrunner)
OS: DOS 6.22 and Win NT Workstation 4.0 (primary)
LAN upgrade diary
8-19-99 Installed surplus P120 chip, a gift from a neighbor, in the Compaq Deskpro 590. Went real smooth! Thanks, neighbor!
8-21-99 Added modem and sound card to Compaq Deskpro 590. Somewhat to my surprise, they installed on the first try with no problems at all.. remember, we are talking Windows NT here.
3-15-00 Moved the LaserJet 1100se printer from the Compaq Deskpro 590 to the Aptiva 2137-E16. Though it worked fine as a local printer on the 590, I never could get it to work as a shared network printer under Win NT. On the Aptiva, it works fine and dandy as a network printer.
4-29-00 (Presario 4814) replaced Philips CDD-3610 CD-R/W drive with a brand-spanking new H-P 9310i CD-R/W drive. This is a 10 x 4 x 32 unit, and installation was a snap. Alas, it is not supported by Adaptec Easy CD Creator Deluxe v. 3.5c, so Iím stuck with the bundled OEM version of Easy CD Creator. To my utter amazement, the old Philips CDD-3610 fetched $70 when auctioned off on e-Bay!
6-2-00 to 6-5-00 Removed the IBM Aptiva 2137-E16. Reconfigured it as an early birthday gift / late wedding gift for my son Robert, and his wife Cassie. Removed 5-1/4 floppy drive. Pulled the old hard drives and installed an 8.4 Gb Western Digital along with a clean Win 98 install. Added an H-P 8250 CD-R/W drive (4 x 4 x 24) and a USB SmartMedia card reader. The latter works in conjunction with the Toshiba PDR-M1 digital camera, which was also part of the package. Yes, of course there was an ulterior motive in this gift. Namely, to insure that we get lots and lots of pictures of our granddaughter, Mikaela! <BIG grin>
6-3-00 Added H-P Pavilion 9694C. Added RAM, second hard drive.
6-6-00 (H-P Pavilion) cloned OEM hard drive to the Western Digital 45 Gb, thus making the WD the boot drive. The OEM Maxtor 40 Gb will be used as transient storage for graphics and digital audio. Added Lexar Digital Film Reader (USB SmartMedia reader) and 4-port USB hub.
6-13-00 to 6-15-00 Removed the Computer Warehouse, Inc. 486/66. Reconfigured it as a Ďjust becauseí gift for my youngest sister, Esther. This is her first PC. Removed the Ethernet card. Reformatted HD and installed a clean copy of Windows 95. Added Panasonic KX-P1123 dot matrix printer, Realistic amplified stereo speakers, and Sony CDP-1304 monitor.
8-3-00 Aptiva 2137-E84 arrived. Everything looks OK, and the initial shakedown looks promising! I then dropped in the Samsung Ethernet card and swapped in the hard drives retained from the 2137-E16. While I was able to get the machine to boot in safe mode, I wan not able to achieve a normal boot, despite many hours of tinkering.
8-4-00 to 8-8-00 Gave up and installed Windows 98 on the Aptiva 2137-E84. The Maxtor 13.6 Gb is the primary (boot) drive, with the OEM 4.0 Gb Seagate being an auxiliary drive. Also moved the H-P 9310i CD-R/W drive (10x-32x) from the Presario to the Pavilion, thus allowing me to move the Pavilion's OEM 8083b drive (4x-24x) to the Aptiva. I've wanted to do that since we first got the Pavilion! I blanched to see that 10x drive sitting in the Presario, when the lightning fast Athlon 800 machine had only a 4x. This left the Presario with no CD-R/W drive, of course, so I popped in a 5-1/4 floppy drive to fill the hole. I haven't had a 5-1/4 floppy drive online for quite a while, so I hadda do it just out of principle.
Loading Win98 on this machine was a real adventure. The install kept bombing out, with several different failure modes. After much testing, it turned out that the Samsung Ethernet card was the culprit. I had it in Plug-N-Play mode, which the Aptiva just did not like. Using the brute force method of resetting it to "jumperless" mode and assigning resources manually did the trick; Win98 installed perfectly on the very next go. When Plug-N-Play works, itís great. But when it doesnít, and that happens more than youíd think, itís a right bastard. In retrospect, this quite likely is why the machine wouldnít boot normally with the HDs in their original (2137-E16) configuration. Ah well, hindsightís 20/20. And, actually, Iím sure that Iíll be better served by a fresh Windows install.
The next step after getting a clean, bare bones Win98 install was to clone the DOS 6.22 / Win 3.11 partition from the 2137-E16. This turned out to be incredibly easy. I used Partition Magic to make a suitably sized partition and copy the partition data over all in one go. Then I booted from a DOS floppy, typed sys c: and presto! Everything worked perfectly! I then installed Boot Magic, and that was that.
8-15-00 to 8-26-00 Upon our return from El Paso, installing the H-P 5pse scanner along with its Symbios SCSI card was the first order of business. This turned out to be problematic. Always a finicky process (the H-P 5pse resulted in so many service calls that itís legendary among PC resellers), installing this hardware on the E84 bordered on the nightmarish. After the first couple of attempts failed, I researched it on the HP web site. I learned that the 5pse is not supported under Win98, only Win95. Incredible. H-P is not usually so shortsighted. But then given the track record of the 5pse, theyíd probably like to just forget it. (Though itís a great scanner, once you get it working!) Iíd been trying to install it using the realtime mode drivers, which do not require an IRQ. And which, I might add, worked like a charm on the Presario. In desperation, I tried using the normal mode drivers, and danged if it didnít work! Yippee! It wasnít quite as easy as that, mind you. It would boot only in safe mode at first, and in addition to the SCSI card and the scanner, an Unknown Device was detected. However, once I disabled this UD, all was well. Not elegant, but you takes what you can get!
After that began the process of installing all my software on the Aptiva, and removing software and fine tuning the Presario in preparation for Dana taking it over. This part went well, with no problems whatsoever. To my amazement, even the Aptivaís Lucent Winmodem got along fine with my old DOS comm program, Telemate. I never was able to accomplish that with the 2137-E16.
8-26-00 to 8-28-00 Installed 3dfx Voodoo 3 2000 PCI video card in the Aptiva 2137-E84. Sounds so easy. But in reality this was yet another nightmarish Ďadventureí. :-(
The 3dfx wasnít the first card I tried, you see. I bought an ATI All-In-Wonder 128 PCI first. I wanted the video capture function, as well as the front-panel audio inputs. The TV function would be gravy, I figured. Plus, since the Aptiva uses an ATI chipset for its onboard video, replacing it with a spiffier ATI seemed to make sense. Wrong!
I tried the installation a bunch of times on the 26th, and never did get it to work. The one lucky thing is that it proved easy as pie to re-enable the onboard video after the bombed installs. After installing the ATI card the system would autodetect it as a standard VGA card, per the installation instructions. However, at that point there was no way to add a video adapter or monitor. They did not appear on the Add Hardware menu! &*#$ed Wintel computers.. :-(
The next day, I thought about trading the All-In-Wonder 128 for another card. But I really, really wanted the video capture feature, so I packed the PC off to CompUSA and ponied up $39 for "professional installation". The old dude working there proved to be real sharp, and after 3 hours of farting around he found some back door that let him add video card and monitor to the Hardware Profile. It worked! Pleased as punch, I took the PC home and hooked it up to my Proview PX-988. It autodetected the monitor, and all was well. I set the res to 1600x1200 w/ 32-bit color, and spent a happy half-hour playing with Photoshop, Graphics Workshop, and so on. The difference in performance was astounding! Then I rebooted for the first time and.. Disaster! No video at all. Rebooting to safe mode got me some incredibly ugly 16-color VGA, and Device Manager revealed that no video adapter or monitor was detected. Despite several hours spent tinkering with it, I had no luck in finding the old CompUSA dudeís back door. Double :-(
The next day, incensed at having spent $39 +tax for an unstable installation, I returned the Aptiva to CompUSA. Only to find that the old wizard works only on weekends, and the young dufuses (dufii?) on duty had no idea how to make the thing work. This after having to get testy with them to even get them to look at it right away. Disgusted, I swapped the ATI for the 3dfx Voodoo 3 2000 PCI video card. Took that home and bingo! Perfect install first time! Or so it seemed.
8-29-00 Upon getting some sleep, then enjoying the spiffy 1600x1200 32-bit color for a few hours next morning, I discovered that my scanner no longer worked. Triple :-( A little digging revealed that the Voodoo3 had commandeered the SCSI cardís IRQ. And that I was fresh out of IRQs. After verifying that IRQ sharing was turned on in the BIOS setup, I was left with two choices; try to get the scanners real-time mode drivers working again, or to disable something to free up an IRQ. Since Iíd already tried the first, repeatedly, I disabled COM port 2, reinstalled the scanner drivers, and the scanner magically resumed normal operations.
Yes, conventional wisdom says that with Plug-N-Play devices, and with IRQ sharing enabled, this last contretemps should not have happened. But itís common knowledge that not all devices play nice when it comes to IRQ sharing. Apparently, all the devices which could share IRQs already were. In retrospect, it seems likely that the lack of a free IRQ was the whole problem with the ATI All-In-Wonder video card. I donít know whether to call the ATI card dumb for itís inability to seize an IRQ, or the Voodoo3 rude for taking over the wrong IRQ. The former, I think, since it was relatively easy to understand and come to grips with that problem. Iím only a bit disappointed with losing COM 2. While I had planned on installing the power-management and monitoring software which came bundled with my UPS, and which requires COM 2 to work, I donít really need it.
After a few hours of playing with the Aptiva, enjoying the stunning hi-res video, and including numerous reboots and scanning operations to verify the stability of the setup, I called it good. At that point I no longer needed the Presario 4814 for backup, and so we moved it into Dana's room.
8-30-00 A strange, vexing problem with the Pavilion. (!) All of a sudden, I couldn't run Exact Audio Copy ("No ASPI Host Adapter Found"). A quick check showed that the ASPI drivers were in place. Then I noticed that the CD-R/W and DVD drives weren't even listed in My Computer. Whoa! Further poking around revealed that the CD-R/W drive was totally dead; the tray wouldn't even open. "Ah ha!", says I. After popping off the side cover and reseating the power connector for the CD-R/W drive, everything was back to normal. Flaky connector, apparently, which is not all that uncommon. It's happened to me a couple of other times. Still, on a PC this new, it's a real vexation!
9-2-00 Conclusions about the Aptiva 2137-E84; Iím torn. Setting up the machine provided lots and lots of "interesting times". IOW, a Chinaman would say itís cursed. So is it indeed a "Friday computer"? Have I been soured on Aptivas? No, I donít think so. While itís true that the 2137-E16 never gave me even a fraction of the trouble that the E84 has thus far, I think that 90% of the problems Iíve encountered can be put down to quirky third-party peripherals.
9-4-00 In a few key ways, the past three days have shown the E84 to be better than the E16 on a day-to-day basis. For one, the Winmodem handles DOS mode so well. That was a major drawback with the E16, given my ongoing involvement in Fidonet. Then, too, this E84 handles transitions to and from standby mode gracefully, something the E16 never could manage (though it was light-years ahead of the Presario!). Yes, the E84 has shown a tendency to become clunky and truculent when left to run MP3 encoding overnight, which the E16 never did. It doesnít crash, mind you. It will finish the task of encoding the MP3 files. But itís so lame and sluggish that an immediate reboot is mandated. In its defense, this in no way unusual for Wintel boxes. I suspect memory leakage. Itís a fairly speedy booter (a minute 40), and the reboot does put things right, so itís no real hardship. I give the Aptiva 2137-E84 a thumbs-up! Great keyboard, the best case design in the business, and while its no Athlon 800, itís no slug, either. Indeed, itís noticeably perkier than the Presario 4814, more so than its 66 MHz clock speed advantage would seem to justify. And itís got a RAM disadvantage over the Presario! Time will tell, but for now, and considering the low, low monetary investment, itís difficult to see how I could have done better. Viva Aptiva.
10-8-00 (Aptiva E-84) OK, I've had enough of the crashing, locking up, and just generally up and puking after a 4-hour thrashing with Graphics work, MP3 generation, CD burning, dl'ing, etc. Acts like funny RAM, despite the fact that it'll pass a 48-hour looping RAM test with IBM System Doctor. Pulled the 2 x 32 meg chips.. they are a matched set! Installed a 1 x 32 meg PNY chip that I know to be good.
10-11-00 (Aptiva E-84) Been running 2 days.. slower, but system reliabilty does seem improved. A couple of 6-7 hour workouts as described above hasn't caused crashes or sluggishness.
10-12-00 (Aptiva E-84) Replaced test RAM with 1 x 128 Kingston PC100 chip. Booted fine and system seems transformed. Menus are snappy, boot time's improved. Only had a chance to give it a 2-hour test drive, but left it running processes all night; dl'ing from Napster and converting a huge batch of WAV files to MP3.
10-13-00 (Aptiva E-84) Machine's been up and running without a reboot (or a problem) for 26 hours. The difference is like night and day! The system is so much sweeter, it's hard to describe. Still has that "just booted" feeling, even after crunching MP3 files all night, then an early morning eMail session, followed by being left to run a batch 'net dl and more MP3 encoding while I was at work. Eureka!
10-14-00 (Aptiva E-84) Machine ran some 50 hours and change without a reboot. And even then I locked it up by doing something stupid; trying to decode a MPEG file that I knew was damaged.. I pronounce the operation a success!
05-01-01 (Pavilion 9694C) My old H-P scanner, the one which I moved heaven and earth to get working on the Aptiva, now refuses to scan in color. B&W scans are perfect, but no color. :-( I chose a Canon slimline scanner at Best Buy; the specs looked good, and since my space is limited, it seemed ideal. It's a USB-only unit, getting it's power via the USB port. This proved to be it's downfall, in my particular case, for despite several calls to Canon tech support, I never could get it functioning. Seems there's a bug in most all Athlon machines which prevents a (relatively) power-hungry USB device like a scanner from working. Cameras and keyboards and so on are fine, mind you, as are USB devices with their own dedicated power supply. Basically, the USB chipset used by 90% of Athlon machines just doesn't provide enough juice to power such a peripheral. Armed with this info, I returned the Canon and selected an H-P 4300cse. This unit sports both a parallel and a USB interface, and thus gets power from it's own wall-wart transformer. Setup was a piece of cake, and I'm happy with the results.
05-25-01 (Compaq 4814) Removed machine from LAN. Dana took this machine to N. Illinois, and will use it as her "college PC". Removed 5-1/4 floppy drive, Ethernet card, swapped printers, gave the HD a spring-cleaning.
06-12-01 (TcPC) Added to LAN. Added 5-1/4 floppy drive and Ethernet card.
08-18-01 (H-P Pavilion 7920) Bought PC at Best Buy, added it to the LAN. Upgraded machine with 10/100 Ethernet card, and moved Canon BJC-250 printer from the TcPC to this box.
09-07-01 Bought 3x 256 Mb PC133 RAM chips from TigerDirect.com for the spectacular price of $29.99 each. Alas, when I swapped two of them into the HP 9694C the machine became extremely flaky. It would boot, but almost immediately crash. Booting to safe mode and checking the system info told me that the RAM was being recognized, but the machine simply does not work. It may be a compatibility problem 'twixt the Athlon chipset and the cut-rate RAM (SimpleTech brand).. who knows?
True to form, the Aptiva 2137-E84 accepted the RAM, and works just fine. Indeed, it screams now! Well.. compared to before. The difference is most notable with Photoshop. I loaded up a 22 Mb bitmap and did some editing to test it out. Saves were almost instantaneous, a big difference. Now I'm in the curious situation of having a 300 MHz K6-2 machine with 512 Mb of RAM, while my 800 MHz Athlon machine has only 256 Mb. :-) It may not seem like a logical upgrade, but, in practice, it worked out well. After all, the K6-2 needed more help than the Athlon...
That left me with a spare 256 Mb chip, so I swapped that into the Pavilion 9720. It requires PC133 RAM, so it was a no-brainer. Doubling the RAM definitely perked it up! This leaves me with 2 spare 128 Mb RAM chips, of course, one PC100 and one PC133. I suppose I'll swap the PC100 chip into the TcPC when I get a round tuit...
09-28-01 to 10-01-01 Built AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz system.. actually, I built two, one for my buddy Shelton Bridges. Assembly went smooth, other than a bizarre problem with the floppy, where a tool-long screw bound it up when bolted into the case. Oh, and the ATI All-In-Wonder video card was a bit challenging to get operational.
10-05-01 to 10-08-01 Consolidated 3 systems (Homebuilt Athlon 1.4 GHz, H-P Pavilion 9694C, and IBM Aptiva 2137-E84) into the main computer workcenter. All run through a Belkin Omniview 4-port KVM switch, allowing me to control them with one keyboard, video, and mouse. All in all, a sweet system!
12-26-01 Installed an SMC 5-Port 10BASE-T/100BASE-TX Dual-Speed Ethernet Switch on the main 'loop' of the LAN (i.e. all the 'puters installed in my main workstation, aka the Star Trek Command Center.. [grin]). This lets the Athlon machines speak to each other at 100 Mb/Sec instead of the previous 10. It smokes! In tests, a transfer of 1/2 Gbabyte of data takes a minute 18 to 1:22, depending on individual file sizes. Formerly I could grab a sandwich followed by a smoke during a transfer like that! So that the entire loop could talk at 100 MbS, I yanked the old Samsung (Realtek) Ethernet 10T NIC from the Aptiva 2137-E84, and replaced it with a spiffy new SMC 100BASE-TX card in the PCI format.
Of course, the cable modem is limited to 10BASE-T, so there's no need to upgrade that loop of the LAN. Indeed the cable modem could never keep up with a 10 MbS data stream in the first place, and so the AST/Bravo RR server needs only 10BASE-T. The 'slow' loop of the LAN also includes the lines to the outlying bedrooms. There's a slow machine in Dana's room at the moment, so that's no sweat. It is kind of a shame to have Janice's H-P Pavilion 9720, with it's D-Link 10/100 NIC, using the 10BASE-T mode, but then there's rarely a need shovel massive amounts of data 'tween her machine and mine.
All in all, at $54 including tax, perhaps the most cost-effective upgrade I've ever accomplished. As the price of switches continues to drop, they make much more sense than a hub. ** Indeed, I expect they'll soon be in the under-$30 commodity range soon, along with USB hubs.. I may just upgrade the remainder of the LAN then, merely out of principle. As usual, upgrading the little IBM Aptiva was like fallin' off a log.. indeed, the whole project was like a walk in the park. Now, my current consulting project, building a dual-NIC WinNT 4.0 machine for use as a buddy's RR server.. well, that's another story.. :-/
** A word on hubs vs. switches- the best analogy that can be made, perhaps, is comparing each node of a LAN which relies on conventional hubs to a radio reciever, while a LAN which uses a switch becomes more like a line-of-sight microwave repeater. Hubs distribute a broadcast signal, while switches aim a targeted signal. Now, granted the huge increase in local-node throughput I've seen is due to the fact that I'm using the newer 100BASE-TX equipment, period, not that it's a switch vs. a hub. But switches are a more efficient solution, and can help immensely in a heavily-populated LAN where packet collisions are routine. [shrugs] They appeal to my inner Dilbert. :-) Plus, at the miniscule price difference, why bother with a hub? There was a time when packet switching technology was prohibitively expensive for a home user, but those days are no more! In short, always go for the Ethernet switch over the hub!
12-27-01 My latest computer addition is also my latest audio acquisition; a pair of KLH model 911B mini-bookshelf speakers for the computer center. Seemed a waste having that 100-watt amp in there & no speakers hooked up to it. The little KLH's are rated for 100 watts, 80 Hz to 20 KHz +/- 1 DB. They sound amazingly good for as small as they are. And at $10 for the pair (after rebate) you certainly couldn't beat the price! Got to love those after-Christmas Blowout Sales! ;-)
04-24-02 Blew up the Aptiva 2137-E84 installing a Microsoft IE security patch. The same patch installed just fine on two other machines, but trashed the Aptiva to the point where it won't boot to either Win98 or DOS 6.22. I'm a bit cheesed, 'cause this patch was supposed to protect against malware and virii.. yet no virus could have smoked my system more thoroughly than it did!
05-03-02 Began the process of rebuilding
the Aptiva 2137-E84. Alas, it did not go well. Numerous lockups installing
Win98, freezing at the BIOS screen, etc. So, in disgust, I decided to make
the Aptiva 2137-E16 my primary platform for old DOS games. Yes, the IBM/Cyrix
166 MHz processor gives up a bit in performance compared to the E84's 300
MHz K6-2. But not as much as you might think! It's plenty fast enough
for playing Commander Keen and the like. That still leaves me with a spare
Aptiva case to build my Dream Athlon machine...
05-04-02 Stripped the 2137-E84,
and mix 'n' matched the parts to get the 2137-E16 running. It keeps the 20x
CD-ROM, but gets the E84's bigger hard drives, 4-4-24 x CD-R/W, and RAM. Am
using the onboard audio and video. In contrast to the E84, setting up Win98
on the E16 went smooth as could be. Even setting up the DOS partition (of
which I, of course, had a CD-R backup) went without a hitch. So, indications
are that it may just live up to my first E16's reliability and ease-of-use.
[knocks on wood]
Interestingly enough, it became apparent
when I was stripping the 2137-E84 down that the motherboard had been replaced,
or at least removed, at some time in the past. I suspect that someone hacked
the poor little PC, resulting in it's flakiness. It's difficult to see how
my first E16 and that particular E84 could be so far apart in
the reliability department, otherwise.
a visit to the MarketPro Computer Show at the Agricenter, picked up the parts
needed to build my version of a "Maximum bang for the buck PC" using the spare
Aptiva case. Based on an ECS Elitegroup K7S5A motherboard with Athlon 1800+
XP processor, I also snagged an 80 Gb Seagate HD, a Hi-Val 24-10-40 x CD-R/W,
and 512 Mb of PC2100 DDR RAM at the show.
The assembly went quite smooth.. much
easier than I expected, truth to tell. Since the OEM IBM implementation of
ATX used a non-standard power connector (AT- style), I had to replace the
power supply. However, the IBM swing-out carriage was a perfect fit around
a generic 300-Watt ATX power supply, so I still retain the no-tools aspect
of the excellent IBM design. The motherboard itself fit the case perfectly,
though the clearance between the power supply and processor fan is very, very
tight. All in all this project was a real pleasure.
Along with a few odds 'n' ends like a
case fan, CAT-5 cable, etc., the total damage to my plastic at the show was
$440. Even counting the $50 I paid for the case, and the $70 for the video
card, the grand-total is still only $560. Dirt cheap for a PC this powerful!
And it's all housed in that great case...
05-10-02 Replaced the Athlon 1400's
Nikko stereo reciever with a Kenwood 50 watt/channel unit I happened to have
laying around. Yes, the power rating is half the Nikko's.. but in practice
50 watts/channel is plenty! While I was happy with the Nikko, overall, some
of the switches were getting a bit noisy, occasionally introducing pops &
crackles into the recordings. Yeah, a good cleaning would put it right.. but
since I had the Kenwood in reserve I decided to take the easy way out. :-)
05-11-02 Added a Creative Labs
Soundblaster PCI-16 soundcard to the Athlon 1800 XP machine. The onboard sound
just wasn't cutting it, the output level being very low. Hooked into the Kenwood
amp, an acceptable volume level could be achieved, mind you, but there
was an aprox. 20 db level mismatch compared to the other input sources. I
don't know if this is a generic fault of the ECS K7S5A's integrated sound,
or a fluke. Certainly I have seen no other complaints on this score. And,
with discrete soundcards being available for such low prices, it wouldn't
cause me to discommend the board, in any case.
I obtained the PCI-16 at Computer Liquidators,
an $18.95 overstock blowout. Since CompUSA is selling the same card for $30,
I think I did OK.. Yes, I could've gotten a generic PCI soundcard from the
same source for under $10. But I've always had good luck with Soundblasters;
easy setup and reliable operation, and this card proved no exception. So I
count the extra $9 or $10 to be money well spent!
05-17-02 Added a PCtel HPS56 AMR
modem to the Athlon 1800 XP machine. ECS wanted $30 +shipping for their unit.
Since I can get a generic 56k PCI modem for $20 at CompUSA, there ain't no
way I was paying that! However, I did want to use the AMR slot, if
for no other reason than to keep a PCI slot open for future expansion.
Much to my surprise, neither CompUSA,
Computer Liquidators, or Best Buy had AMR modems in stock. What to do, what
to do? e-Bay! Hey, if it's good enough for NASA... [grin]
A bit of surfing turned up several candidates,
with opening bids ranging from $1 to $12. I won the bidding on the PCtel unit
for $9, plus $1 shipping. It arrived in good shape and, despite the plain-jane
packaging and the CD-R install disc (!), setup was a piece of cake, and it
works just fine. Life is wonderful.
12-28-02 Welcomed the CWI 486/66 machine back into the fold. Replaced the defective 32x Memorex CD-ROM drive with a used 20x IBM I had layin' around, installed a spare Samsung 10T Ethernet card, and away we go. I reckon that, at some point, I'll wipe Win95 off the drive and install Linux...
01-01-03 Rearranged my CD-ROM and CD-R/W drives (and one hard drive) to better match the drive speed to the CPU speed of the PC in which it's installed. I mean, it's silly to have a Athlon 1800XP machine running a 5400 rpm hard drive and a 24x burner when you have an Athlon 1400 machine running a 7200 hard drive and a 40x burner, right? :-) The project went well, with the only hitch being that, in every case, Nero v. 5.5 refused to see the new CD burner. Seems silly, 'cause CloneCD had no trouble automatically detecting the new drive! In any case, uninstalling and reinstalling Nero did the trick.
Note-this diary was created on 7-28-00. The inclusion of such info in the LAN machine description section was causing it to become unwieldy. Events previous to that were reconstructed from those notes, credit card bills, and so on. As such, the log is by no means complete nor inclusive prior to August of 2000.
Gone but not forgotten
Past Members of the McBroom home LAN
IBM Aptiva 2137-E16
Function: Secondary client PC (Karen's PC).
OS: DOS 6.22/Win 3.1, Win 98 (primary), and Win NT Workstation 4.0
(7-31-00) This little PC was the most stable and trouble-free Win 9x platform that Iíve ever run across, bar none. So, when I decided that my son, Robert, had to have a PC for his growing family, this is the one I picked. The above info indicates its hardware configuration at the time I passed it along to them. I pulled the existing drives (the OEM 2.1 Gb Seagate and a 13.6 Gb Maxtor Iíd added), replacing them with a new 8.4 Gb Western Digital and a fresh, clean Win 98 install. Their one and only problem so far is mostly my fault; I forgot to test the modem before they took possession, and it doesnít work. Weíll soon fix that, though, since itís merely a driver problem! Karen and I plan to visit Robert and Cassie in late August, and if Cassie hasnít installed the drivers by that time, Iíll certainly fix them up. I also plan to replicate the DOS 6.22 / Win 3.1 partition from its days here, which contains a plethora of old games. Those ought to be a real blast from the past for Bob!
Perhaps the best indication of the esteem in which I held this PC is this; when I ran across itís big brother on e-Bay for $170, shipping included, I couldnít resist. <grin> Itís a 2137-E84, which basically means a 300 MHz AMD K6 processor and a 4 Gb HD, but it is otherwise identical to the E16. As of this writing, Iím still awaiting the arrival of this system.. but I have high hopes for it! Of course, that E16 might have been a particularly perfect example of the breed. A "Wednesday PC", if you will. Itís possible that the E84 will prove to have been built on a Friday, and will be nowhere near as trouble-free. <knocks on wood> Weíll see!
(8-3-00) Talked Cass through a long-distance phone install of new modem drivers. Went well, overall, and the modem is now operational. 'twould have been a piece of cake, had I realized that the original install had stuck the modem under Other Devices, and the fresh install made a new copy under Modems. Cass kept focusing on the yellow exclamation point by Other Devices, and by the time I realized what was going on, we'd wasted nearly a half-hour. Still, all's well that ends well!
(8-10-00) Karen and I flew to El Paso for a visit, so I had a chance to lay hands on the old girl again. Within a couple of hours of our arrival, I had the case open. <grin> Their setup was pretty involved, and not wanting to take a chance on blowing it up, I took along a spare 2.1 Gb HD so that I could back it up before firing up Partition Magic. The backup wasn't needed, of course, but better safe than sorry. The installation of the DOS 6.22 / Win 3.11 partition went smoothly, and you should've seen Bob's eyes light up when he saw the distinctive menu system! "Games" he was thinking. The one joker was their Canon bubblejet printer. I found Win 3.x drivers, but as far as I can tell no true DOS drivers exist for that printer. Ah well, I doubt they'll ever need to print from DOS, anyway. Probably not even from Win 3.x, but I had to get that working just out of principle. Perhaps even better than the DOS partition, I replaced the brain-dead WD version of EZbios with a Maxtor version, and was able to get the full 10.2 Gb capacity of the HD back. Probably a good thing, as maintaining FOUR 2.1 Gb Win98 partitions was confusing Cass a bit, I think. Now she has only 2 partitions, one just under 6 Gbs, another of 4 Gbs, which I recommend that she devote solely to digital audio. Of course, I also installed the spare 2.1 Gb I took along, so she still has to contend with three drives. Oh, and Cass had indeed managed to get the modem up and running.. though she somehow managed to get the system to detect TWO modems. <grin> That was easy to fix, though. All in all, The Little PC That Could is working great for them, and should do so for many more years.
Compaq Presario 4814
Function: Tertiary client PC (My daughterís bedroom PC.. chat-line city! Well, some homework gets done. <grin>)
OS: DOS 6.22/Win 3.1 and Win 98 (primary)
This PC now resides in N. Illinois, and will be used as Dana's "college computer". Before she took it, I removed the 5-1/4 floppy drive and the Ethernet NIC, and replaced the Lexmark Z-11 printer with the HP 694C.
Compaq Deskpro 590
Function: General tinker-toy and Linux testbed. Is also backup Internet server.
OS: DOS 6.22/Win 3.1, Win NT Wkst 4.0 (primary), and Red Hat Linux 5.2
(12-15-2000) I swapped this PC to a co-worker friend for a Technics stereo system and a stack of used vinyl. I reckon we both got a pretty good deal; he was certainly in desperate need of a PC! After the swap I wiped the drive and reconfigured it with a Win98-only setup.
H-P Pavilion 9720
Function: Client PC
OS: Windows ME
Function: Client PC
OS: Win 98
IBM Aptiva 2137-E84
Function: Secondary client PC. In other words, my backup for everyday e-mail, web browsing, word processing, etc. Just about everything except MP3 encoding and the manipulation of extremely large graphics files, in fact. Though I do use it for that duty, occasionally!
OS: DOS 6.22/Win 3.1, Win 98 (primary)
Notes: (05-04-2002) Always more than a little quirky, I decided to retire this PC.. or more accurately, gut the case and build a hot Athlon machine around it. The fact that Win98 wouldn't install, after being trashed by the MS IE Klez virus patch. was the last straw. Anyone wanna buy a 300 MHz AMD K6-2 complete with motherboard.. cheap? ];-)