atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#6777: Achernar

So: system is complete and operational and I am writing this post on it.

I started to write the post on Floristica, but then remembered: the tradition here at the Fungus is to write the first post celebrating a new computer on the computer itself, and so here we are.

The computer's name is Achernar. I couldn't think of an anime world quickly enough so I used one my own. "Achernar" is of course an actual star; there is a colony world in orbit around a gas giant in the outer reaches of that star system, named "Titania"--and the habitable world orbiting Titania came to be called "Achernar" itself. Originally dubbed "Eden" by its discoverer, the colonists that came afterwards found the place to be anything but paradise. It's an always-cloudy, hot, jungle world. Think "Venus" from the pulp SF era and you would not be far wrong. And so the indigenous lifeforms there are nasty.

Anyway, Achernar: ASRock A320M motherboard, Ryzen 2200g processor, 8 GB of RAM. Currently no graphics card since I want to transplant WoW onto the thing and see how fast it runs with just the GPU in the processor. Before I do that I need to do half a dozen other things, like finish putting the covers on and such, but she's running.

Took me two hours to get to this point.

Went downstairs and grabbed the old Acer Aspire M3450 from Dad's house. Can't tell what processor it has but the computer came with Windows 7 on it, so it can't be newer than about 2012. Anyway I wasted no time getting the motherboard out of it and making sure everything was clean, then started in on the new motherboard.

Put it into the case and checked where the screw holes were with regard to the mounting points in the chassis. Everything lined up and nothing would short-circuit, which was excellent.

Got the CPU out of its packaging and put it into the socket. Checked the fit of the heat sink, could not figure out how it went on, and the instructions weren't clear, either. Then I realized that the heat sink bolted directly to the spreader plate under the motherboard and the big plastic things were only there for a clamp-type, so I removed the screws and test-fitted it, and it was right. There was a light coating of thermal tape on the thing but I put a little more compound on and smeared it around before installing the thing. Got the screws started, then tightened them each a few turns at at time in a criss-cross pattern to make sure it was tightened evenly.

Tried to put the RAM in and couldn't because the heat sink was in the way. Took it back off, installed it pointing in the other direction, and then put the RAM in. Okay.

Went to mount the motherboard to the chassis. Got the plate in the back inserted and seated, and then got the motherboard in position. It was kind of hard to get the screws in but I've built so many computers that I'm used to that. With the motherboard installed, I started working on the cabling.

Power cables, front panel...wait a second, which one is the front panel, again? All these things look alike...I should have labeled them. I have way too many USB ports for this motherboard. Where does this go? Is this...?

Ended up having to take the top panel off to get at the top USB ports to figure out which one was which. The case has six external USB ports plus the SD card reader, which is a fifth, but the motherboard only supports four total. The old motherboard had four USB 2.0 headers plus several coming out the back. Jeeze.

Anyway, I figured out which USB ports I could do without and got it set up so the SD card reader is usable, two of the USB ports on top are, and then all the ports in the back are available. The new motherboard has four USB 3.0 ports and two 2.0 ports in back, and then I've got the two on top plus the card reader; if that's not enough, I'm screwed.

Buttoned up the top and got all the cables routed and plugged in. Gave it one last thorough look-over to make sure everything was okay, and...oh, damn it, the grounding tabs for the HDMI port are in the port rather than outside it. So I unscrewed the motherboard again, diddled the tabs in place, and tightened it down again. Gave it the second once-over and verified that all is well, and then...fired it up.

And here we are. It took Windows a little while to set itself up--with the old motherboard I'd gotten the OS installed but not finalized--so I did that, and now, here we are. The machine is up and running.

Not bad for $190.

Remaining: going to put slot covers in the open slots (though I might put the wireless network card back in first) and put the cover on, and then we're doing the WoW test.

Wish me luck.

UPDATE: Mother-pus-bucket! WoW doesn't support the in-processor graphics. You have to have a video card installed. Bargle-gargle. Well, this thing's meant to be an anime viewing box, anyway, so I guess that's okay.

SECOND UPDATE: So! Buttoned her up and put her in the entertainment center where she'll sit, and then hooked her to the TV and tried running some anime. Problem: no audio via HDMI. Many bad words said.

I had copied the driver DVD to the C:\ drive--oddly, it took an egregiously long time to do so--and so I was able to run the driver install program and install the audio driver. Reboot, no change.

Then I tried installing the video drivers. "AMD All-in-one plus VGA" it said, something like that; I installed it. And presto after that was installed and the system rebooted, the speaker icon in the system tray no longer had a red X over it. Ran the anime, and it worked! The audio is a bit faint, even with all the volume sliders maxed out, but it's fine.

Then, on a hunch, I tried to run WoW, and it worked too! The install of WoW on Achernar was copied from Floristica, which has a GTX 1050 Ti video card, but I was getting 29 FPS standing on the ship in Boralus Harbor. I went into the settings and modified them--turning them all down just one notch lower than the settings for Floristica--and got about 30 FPS in areas with short view distances. Took a gryphon to a distant place; the view from up high gives you a very long sight distance, and with that running--remember, one step below Floristica's high-zoot dedicated video card settings--I was getting 21.5 FPS consistently.

That is fucking impressive.

Understand, this is an $80 processor and no dedicated video card. The motherboard was $60 and the RAM was $30. The heat sink came with thermal compound already applied to it so I didn't technically need to spend $8 on thermal paste. Even so, I'm into this for $190 and I've got a computer which can play WoW tolerably well without a video card.

One downside: the GPU part of the processor takes 2 GB for video memory, so I've got 6 GB of memory available to me. For Win 10 this is really not that much of a problem, especially since I won't be doing much with this machine other than watching videos on it. If I really get unhappy about this I can either toss in one of the spare video cards that I've got floating around, or else I can pop for another DIMM like the one I bought and toss it in the other slot. That'd give me 16 GB of RAM, or 14 GB after the video takes it cut. Or both.

Other enhancements: the system has an M.2 slot; for $80 and shipping I could get a 512 GB SSD that would plug into it and run much faster than the 1 TB HDD in the system--and even faster than a SATA SSD would.

A case and power supply would have run me another $100, in all probability and depending on what I bought. Figure the $80 for the M.2 SSD I just mentioned. That's an all-new computer for $370 that is decidedly no slouch.


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