Since they announced this $25 wonder of a mini computer, I’ve been quite keen on freeing up some cables to my Desktop and make a dedicated Multimedia and Video Streaming Centre.
And now thanks too Raspbmc, it couldn’t have been easier.
Here’s the hardware I started out with:
The Raspberry Pi Model B which is slightly more expensive but with more oomph ($35) and some hardware I had lying around the house (keyboard, mobile phone charger, old memory card, cables, etc).
Then the assembly:
Yep, as simple as that. Just plug it all in.
Software-wise, I just downloaded the easy-install file from the Raspbmc site and followed the on-screen instructions. With the memory card loaded with Raspbmc, I just plugged it in the system and powered it all up:
It went about its install process without me lifting a finger.
And before I knew it, voila… a full-featured, XBMC powered multimedia and internet video streaming behemoth (I can even work the menus from my trusty remote so the keyboard was barely used):
Installing all the Internet streaming Video plugins were a snap as well, just a matter of downloading and reeling them in. I actually meant to do this as a weekend project, but with Raspbmc released, it ended up as a 15-20 minute project.
It’s well over a decade since I had to build a PC myself — Ancient history in IT terms.
So this dinosaur knuckled down and checked if he can still mold a desktop together using ancient knowledge with (more or less) modern components. Here’s how it went –
The resulting rig would be used as a business desktop, souped up to be able to handle multimedia (graphic & video ad creations) and extremely demanding application multi-tasking.
With cost, power efficiency and noise levels as primary factors I chose the Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H as the motherboard, an Intel i5 3570K processor to provide the grunt, a Sapphire Radeon HD 7750 Ultimate to facilitate a 3 monitor setup in the future in high resolutions whilst being silent and Vengeance 8GB RAM (CL8) kit to give the system an extra oomph.
I started with having a look at the general motherboard layout. Much of the key slots I can still easily recognize. The labeling in the motherboard is superb, definitely much better when I last had to set a PC up. A bit of my nervousness on mucking this process up was starting to dissipate.
I then proceeded to opening the core processor box. The picture above shows the processor itself (quite miniscule from the last ones I’ve handled) and the bottom side of the heatsink/fan combination that came with the processor. I’ve decided to stick with this standard cooling system over purchasing a new one as overclocking in this rig would not be required that often. I did purchase extra chassis fans.
I now installed the processor and stock cooling in the motherboard. Like in the days of old, there was not much to it.
I love the plethora of cases available for desktops nowadays. This one (Thermaltake MSI Snow edition) was relatively cheap and will suit my office decor (all white) just fine.
I opened up the case and just had a quick look at the lay of the land so to speak. For an inexpensive case, I was quite pleased with the organization, thumb screws and those roller locks for the drives. The only real problem I had with the case is with the innards that I chose, it’s gonna be pretty tight when putting on those additional fans.
I now installed the motherboard to the casing. Normally I’d do this first before installing the CPU / Cooling system but the setup seemed light enough and I wasn’t really too sure of the rigidity of the board — a doubt that turned out to be unfounded. So not much into this either, I’m slowly beginning to realise this process is really much easier than the old times when case makers weren’t as careful with the general layout of their designs.
Next stop for me was the RAM. Again, the modern way of making this process idiot-proof made this step another no-brainer with color coding of the slots and the like.
I love the look of this Graphics Card (Radeon 7750 Ultimate). The grill is reminiscent of a car’s and I love the fact that it doesn’t have fans that’ll add to the power requirements and overall noise of the rig. Installing it was another easy matter , just had to make sure I installed it at the fastest slot available in the motherboard. Easy peasy.
Now I added the last bit of peripheral I needed to stick in the motherboard — a wi-fi card. I had to smile while I was doing this as I would’ve considered this a magical piece of tech back in the day.
Now to install the juice master for this rig. Old cases commonly had this pre-installed, but I guess the increased power requirements of the various options now available in modern setups makes it more practical to have it sold separately.
I had to fiddle with a screw but once in, the power supply proved to be a snug fit.
Normally I’d do the Power supply after the motherboard and start planning the cables before inserting any peripherals. However the modern layouts are really good, so had confidence to stick most of the bits in before doing the cabling as I remember hating all the wires getting in my way when inserting stuff in.
Around this time, there was a mountain of cartons, static shields, cables and what-nots floating around my work table. I decided to tidy up a bit for my own sanity.
Now its time to put all the drives in. Had to smile again as the ubiquitous 3.5″ floppy drive that I was used to installing is now a 3.5″ 75-in-1 card reader with a USB port to boot. I wonder what my old self would’ve said if he saw all those slots in this one “drive”. I’d probably remark “Sheesh, how do you remember which format to use?”
Like crocodiles who’ve been on earth longer than we humans have, the optical disc (albeit in a different format) is still here. I went for a Sony DVD-RW. No Blu-Ray for this rig, prohibitively expensive for what I will use this setup for.
Now this piece of tech is the one I was really curious about. Normally placed on a laptop hence its small format (2.5″), this thing is amazingly light as a feather for a full 512GB of storage — lighter in fact than my 8GB RAM kit with its cooler fins. This thing was also the most expensive piece of tech in the rig, yes, much more expensive in fact than the Graphics card and processor. So I was a wee bit scared of dropping the thing or inundating it with static that I handled it like a blob of mercury as I installed it onto the bottom of the case.
Not the most elegant cabling work I admit, but it’ll do
I closed the case and attached the antenna for the wi-fi. Looking so sci-fi.
And here’s how it looks like on the front side, with all the bits and pieces in.
And of course, the finishing touch — the intel sticker that came with the processor
Of course all those goodies inside should be complemented with these pretties on the outside. Two 24″ Wide screen monitors, a solar powered aluminum keyboard and wireless mouse in a white leather mouse pad. W00t!
And the reason for the selection of these monitors is not just the color but the availability of putting the screen in portrait mode for those inevitable long documents.
Overall, the process went smoothly. Although technology have progressed, they were I found mostly incremental leaps. Nothing really completely new in the make-up of a PC so this old hack can still put one together from scratch with minimal effort. Actually even less effort in my opinion than roughly a decade and so many years ago.
As a final note, I’m happy to report that the installation of Windows 7 went blazingly fast (less than 10 mins) thanks to the SSD. It was expensive but I reckon it was worth every penny as the machine is now running like a dream.
So there ya go – A Dinosaur like me CAN in fact still build a PC
Or at least I was. I was blind of the possibilities outside the iOS-Android arena and then Nokia sprang this Pureview tech on everyone, and boy I’m sure glad they did!
But I won’t bore you with fanboi-like drivel on how good Pureview and the Nokia 808 is, but rather simply show you how amazing it truly is.
Check out this loss-less zooming demo:
1. The top photo shows the default setting without any digital zoom — check out the wide angle, almost panoramic shot.
2. The middle one is at full Pureview Zoom, amazing level of detail.
3. The bottom shot is a crop-zoom from the one above and shows the level of detail you can see in the photo without any loss in quality.
Note: These are not the full-res images
Another area where I believe the Nokia 808 is on a league of it’s own but not touted much in the mainstream media is in the area of video recording.
This phone captures rich stereo sound with of course crystal clear full-HD video — even at full zoom. Don’t believe me? Have a look at this video I took at a nearby lake in Munich, and see if you don’t agree:
Try switching to 1080p and see if you can spot the birds flitting by and the tadpoles swimming in the water, and while you’re at it, try on some stereo headphones to get the full experience