Super Computer

Ported From Blogger

The following post was ported from my old blogger account.

One of my good friends recently purchased a super nice computer system which should last him quite some time. He and I go back a couple years, and we devised a plan as to how I would set up his supercomputer when he got it a year and a half or so ago. This past weekend we carried out our plans. Saturday morning I woke up early and took my road trip up to Montana to take care of business.

I arrived at my friend's house around 10AM and work immediately commenced. Before I get too far into the details of the weekend, let me share a few of the vital specs of his computer:

  • Processor: AMD Athlon64 x2 4200+ (2.2Ghz) with liquid cooling
  • System Memory: 2GB DDR
  • Video: nVidia GeForce 7600 GS (512MB RAM)
  • Hard Drive: 2x 160GB SATA-II (320GB total)
  • Optical Media: 2x DVD+/-RW drives
  • Network: Wireless RaLink 2500 series
  • Monitor: 2x 19" Viewsonic LCD
  • Speakers: 5.1 Creative Surround Sound

Yeah, it's pretty sweet. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to work on it. I'll have to post some pictures of my friend's computer sometime. Ok, now on to the details of setting up his system.

My friend wanted to have both Windows and Linux on his system. We spent quite a bit of time around each other. Being the Linux nut that I am, he heard so much about Linux and wanted to get his fix. But he also wanted Windows for games and whatnot. Understandable. So we began the day trying to install Windows XP SP2 on his box. That was thoroughly painful, as usual. Installing a single driver, rebooting, installing another driver, rebooting, installing yet another driver, and once again rebooting. You'd think that the actual installation of Windows XP on a system such as his would be quite speedy. No, no... Microsoft never ceases to amaze me with the speed of Windows--or the lack thereof. It took at least an hour to get through all of the initial booting, setting up the partitions in a fashion that Windows could handle, installing drivers, and finally minimal essential software. Very rediculous. One of the best parts was that Windows somehow installed itself on the second hard drive...because of this (or some other unknown cause) Windows could not boot itself up. We had to use another bootCD in order to boot Windows. I assumed that GRUB (a Linux bootloader) would be able to circumvent this problem.

Once the first installation of Windows was complete and we had a backup of the installation, we proceeded to install SuSE 10.1 x86_64. This installation was painless. Everything worked extremely well. The hardest part about getting Linux to function properly was figuring out why his wireless adapter wouldn't connect to his router. It took a bit of time, but eventually we found the solution online (this solution also applied to my laptop, so I have great wireless in Linux now). As I was getting certain multimedia applications installed on Linux (since they're not included with SuSE for copyright reasons), we watched Hitch on the second monitor. It was great. Eventually Linux appeared to be set up and running perfectly. That was about the time we reboot Linux for the second time (once during installation, if I remember correctly).

Come to find out that not even GRUB could boot Windows. We were greatly frustrated, and my friend began to understand slightly more why I like Linux more than Windows. We decided to swap the hard drives around so that the drive with Windows already on it would be the primary master. I warned him that it would mean reinstalling Windows because it wouldn't know where to find itself after swapping the drives around. He was down with that, so that's what we did. We ran through the whole bloody process again. At least this time we knew what to expect when Windows complained about drivers--we'd already experienced it only hours before.

This installation of Windows went a bit more smoothly, but it also meant that we'd have to do something to get Linux back to an operational stage (firstly, get the GRUB boot menu back). I believe it was the first time I rebooted the computer after the second Windows installation that we got a "NTLDR is missing" error. Blasted Windows. I solved that problem, but then it started complaining about an invalid boot.ini file. Rubbish.

All we needed to do for Linux was pop the first install CD back in and run a rescue utility. It examined the existing installation and modified configuration files according to the drive swap. Linux was back up and running within 5 or 10 minutes. Windows, on the other hand, continues to complain at boot about the invalid boot.ini file.

And once again, my contempt for Windows has been reaffirmed. The only reasons I keep Windows around is for Adobe Creative Suite 2 and a game here or there. Even Google Earth runs natively on Linux (as of yesterday).