Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The 16 Year Itch

The oldest mini-Red is back home for winter break after her finals*, and practically the first thing she did after arriving was to get together with some friends to go play SWTOR.
Although this isn't the Smuggler I've heard
so much about, I've been told that the Mini-Red's
friends created toons that would qualify for the
Fashion Hall of Shame on the Hawtpants of the
Old Republic blog.

I must have done something right.


Our main PC, the one I use for gaming, is over six years old now. At the time, the i7-3770 was pretty much the best processor you could buy, and while I skimped on a few other parts of the build I definitely made sure the processor would last. And last it has.

However, that also means that the hard drive and other components are six years old as well, and I've grown a bit nervous about the hard drive in particular. Sure, I back up data to an external drive on a regular basis, but if you've ever had to deal with a hard drive crash it's not what I'd call fun. Therefore, I'm looking at replacing the hard drive with an SSD and adding another HDD for the pictures/movies/whatever storage.

That ought to keep the PC active and running for a while.

However --and you knew this was coming, right?-- I'm planning on building a replacement over the course of the next year or two. Not to replace the main PC in general, as it'll be perfectly fine for what my wife uses** for the next 4-5 years at least, but a separate PC that I'll be able to use for gaming going forward.

I have a small confession to make: I've not built a PC from scratch since Windows XP was the current version of Windows.

I used to build and rebuild PCs back through the 90s, mainly to keep our old 386/SX20 486DX33 486SX66 going, and yes, I was one of those people who would spend hours perusing the telephone directory sized Computer Shopper on a monthly basis. However, after the Windows XP machine's motherboard failed in 2007 I priced out the cost of replacing it directly with a prebuilt vs. building it myself, and I was surprised to find that it was more cost efficient to just buy a computer with Windows and MS Office already installed as opposed to building one myself.

Yes, I know that in general this is still the case, but after dealing with the HP Phoenix for the past six years, I think I'm ready to go back to building one myself. The reasons are pretty straightforward:

  • I control what goes in the machine.

    I didn't realize just how much I missed controlling the hardware when I was trying to see if I could tweak the system. The machine has all the prerequisites for handling overclocking, except for the motherboard. If it were me selecting the components, I'd have bought a motherboard that could handle overclocking. I might not have tweaked anything, but I prefer having the option to do so.
  • The price of MS Office isn't a limiting factor any more.

    Since Microsoft is pushing people into MS Office 365 as a subscription service, I've been moving in the direction of using either OpenOffice or Google Drive. I've no reason to get a new version of MS Office when Office 2010 on the main PC still works and I've got free options.
  • The cost versus performance of the components hasn't changed that much over time.

    Back when I last built a PC, the performance of the components kept changing drastically on a yearly basis. In 1999, I bought one of the first AMD Athlon PCs, and for a brief period of time I owned one of the fastest PCs in the world. Three months later that was no longer the case. After 2-3 years, the Athlon was showing its age to the point where it wasn't keeping up with the new games at all.

    The i7-3770, however, is in a different situation. Three years after it was built, it was still a fine performer. And now, six years after it was built, it has finally slipped off the recommended requirements for the latest games. We're not talking the minimum requirements, but the recommended requirements. By contrast, that old Athlon was off the minimum requirements for a lot of games by 2005-6.

    Why the change? Advances in processing power have come at a more incremental rate, especially the last several years, and AMD's Ryzen architecture has propelled them back into the performance game with Intel and given PC builders a good alternative to Intel at a great price for performance. Intel may still be the gamers' processor of choice, but AMD is now a viable option, particularly once their 7 nm Ryzen 3rd Gen architecture ships in 2019.
Given all this, I've started getting the itch to build a PC once again. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to start perusing the enthusiast web sites/YouTube Channels while I dream a little.

*Finals are stressful for anybody, but for a Music Performance major, the jury cranks the stress levels up to 11. For the uninitiated, a jury is a performance you give before either the entire department or a significant number of them that determines whether they believe you fit enough to continue progressing in your music career. Think of it as a Masters' Thesis defense, but every semester, and you get the idea.

**And for gaming in general.

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