New build for Linux Mint 13 - need help selecting hardware

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New build for Linux Mint 13 - need help selecting hardware

Postby Doranwen on Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:43 am

This is my first post--hopefully I have it in the right place. I have done immense amounts of googling and am starting to get frustrated sorting this out alone, so I figured the best place was to bring this to the community and see if any of you could help me out.

My parents want a new computer, and are ready to switch from XP to Linux Mint; they've seen my brother use the laptop I put Mint on and like what they see, plus they're not super enthused about Windows 7 and do not like the sound of Windows 8 whatsoever (I'm completely with them there). So I'm trying to plot what hardware to put together to build it. I'm going to do a comparison with premade systems from Dell and HP to see how the prices match up, but I'm not afraid to build my own and would like more practice, since later on I plan to build my own Mint system as well. For my parents I'm considering Mate since it sounds like Mate is more for durability/simplicity whereas Cinnamon is flashier/may not always work. If my impressions are wrong there, feel free to correct me.

The only special requirements they have beyond a basic home office machine are:
- dual monitors (my mom will be remote logging into work at times and needs two monitors to do her job easily)
- capability to start up a VM for the one or two Windows-only programs my dad requires every now and then, which have only garbage ratings in the Wine HQ database

I'm using Newegg to filter for familiarity (I bought the parts for my last computer there, but it was for an XP build so my uncle was able to provide a lot of support there, and I'm a little out of my element on this one).

Choosing a hdd is pretty basic. Since they're not doing any video or photo editing and the only databases my mom works with are lists of names and addresses, I went for this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6822148764
It's comparatively inexpensive and with room to store more music as well as photos as videos taken with their digital camera.

This is the monitor my mom went for, based on size and adjustment options: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6824001434

Based on the monitor connections and some advice from geeky friends and various people on IRC, I was able to narrow down the rest of the hardware to these possibilities:

CPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductLi ... =Core%20i3
(I chose dual-core because unless running a VM means a quad core is essential, they're not going to be playing games, they never have more than 10 tabs open at once, and no more than six applications open ever.)
Motherboard: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductLi ... chInDesc=#
Graphics card: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductLi ... ark=False#
Network card: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductLi ... 201000Mbps

As you can see, the narrowed list is still way too many items for me to decide between, plus I don't know what is compatible with Mint or not (the hardware database is difficult for me to navigate when I've got 91 possibilities to wade through). I like to know why I'm selecting a specific unit, which specs matter and which don't, what makes something better than another--and whether my parents need that specific improvement. (When I have the money saved to build my own Mint setup, I'll probably need all those things they don't, too!) Also, if some filter I've placed on it makes no sense, please let me know why you think so so I can learn from this.

I'll select a tower and power supply (either as a unit or separately) after I get all this settled, but if someone has a recommendation for a mid-sized tower (I'm assuming that's the right size? it's not a tiny slimmed-down thing but neither is it a super tall server, pretty standard) with usb/audio/sd card reader in the front (those are going to be essentials for them) and power supply, I'll take those suggestions too. I'm assuming that selecting a DVD burner will not take any special consideration with regards to Mint. (Sound system, mouse, and standard keyboard being pretty interchangeable no matter the system, I'm not worrying about those right now.)

Thank you in advance! :)
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Re: New build for Linux Mint 13 - need help selecting hardwa

Postby homerscousin on Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:15 pm

This is not going to be a gaming rig at all, right? I think you would be better off skipping the graphics card and using that saved money to get the cpu I have, the Intel i5 3570k with the onchip HD 4000. Around $100. more for the cpu. You still have more money left for a bigger monitor. That graphics card link showed a bunch of fairly expensive cards. Way overkill, and it will only increase power use. Typcally you don't need a network card-- it's on the mobo.
i5 3570k, ASRock z77 Extreme 4, 8 Gb Ripjaws 1600, Antec 430w psu, HVR 1600 tv tuner, custom case- marble top, oak face. Carver & DCM Time Window sound system. Mint 14 KDE.
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Re: New build for Linux Mint 13 - need help selecting hardwa

Postby Doranwen on Tue Nov 06, 2012 12:06 am

You're correct--they will not be gaming. The key thing is, will a standard motherboard have the ports to connect two of those monitors without a graphics card? (This is the part I was unsure of, and what I googled seemed to indicate you needed a graphics card to get the two ports, so that's why the cards had the filters on them that they did, to match with the monitor's connections). I'll happily skip graphics if that is so--I'm just not sure about the whole dual monitor setup, which my mom definitely needs for her working at home. She does not want one larger monitor, she uses two standard ones set side by side, so that is the biggest "must have" for what I'm looking at (the selected monitor was the only one of the right size that will fit on their desk side by side and has the right amount of adjustment options for what she needs, so that monitor is pretty set in stone unless you can find a cheaper 17" standard size that has both height and tilt adjustments).
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Re: New build for Linux Mint 13 - need help selecting hardwa

Postby xenopeek on Tue Nov 06, 2012 1:54 pm

You won't find that info on Newegg I think. Look at the manufacturer's website to find out if the motherboard supports dual display and with which interfaces. Most will support it I think.

Also note that most motherboards have a wired network interface on board, so you don't need to buy that separate either. And with you having dropped the graphics card and the network card, going for an ATX form factor motherboard seems like a waste. You can save some more money by going for microATX form factor.

I have the ASRock H67M-GE/HT with the Core i5 2500k (Sandy Bridge) and it all works perfectly on Linux Mint 13 MATE. Supports dual display with DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort or VGA (you can use two at the same time; and the HDMI port you can also connect a DVI monitor on with a converter).

From all the money you can save, perhaps find it in the budget to buy at least a small SSD (32 GiB would easily be enough if you put /home and swap on the hard disk and keep the rest on the SSD). Buy something good (quality reviews here http://www.storagereview.com/) and your parents will be very happy with a fast booting system, which also loads applications fast. Don't buy a fast processor unless you also buy a good SSD. Hard disks are horribly slow.

What you didn't share is how much RAM you will put in the system. With you wanting to run a virtual machine for Windows, I'd suggest doing at least 4 GiB RAM.
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Re: New build for Linux Mint 13 - need help selecting hardwa

Postby Doranwen on Wed Nov 07, 2012 2:16 am

Yeah, it didn't take me too long to remember I didn't have to buy a NIC (I'd helped build a computer to be a server for our house once upon a time, and of course you have to buy one for that, and it's been too long).

My mom just realized today that while she does dual monitors at work--she can't use them for remote login! So she's switching to one large monitor--and my uncle pointed out that they could be fine with a pre-built system (dual-boot with Windows 7 is looking like a wise option since it's uncertain if the remote login she will use for work will work with any other OS). We found an inexpensive one at Costco that has a decent-sized hdd and enough RAM and processing power to handle a VM if desired. So all in all, I count this as a learning experience--I've picked up quite a bit that I can use later when I have the money for my own system (because I most certainly will build my own).

While this isn't the end I had figured on for their computer, I'll still get to have them use Linux Mint (they're going to pick a Dell Inspiron 660, which should handle Linux Mint OK). Thank you very much for your assistance. :)
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