Infinity3 - Page Two


Autumn 2003


This is a Quantum Fireball Plus LM20 hard disk:

In October 2003 it failed, shortly after its three year warranty expired, and one thing led to another... I'd been intending to upgrade the disks and the RAID controller at some point, but the failure accelerated and expanded my plans somewhat - before I knew it I'd spent a lot of money, and found myself staring at this:

An empty PC case, and a large collection of obsolete Pentium III hardware. I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in... The only parts of the old system that I kept were the case and fittings, and the tape and CD drives. Everything else was upgraded to the state-of-the art at that moment - although I think I set a new personal record for obsolescence, as my graphics card and CPUs were replaced with a later model while they were actually in transit to me! The final shopping list was:


Supermicro X5DAL-TG2 motherboard

Supermicro DAC-ZCRINT (ICP GDT8500RZ) Zero-Channel S-ATA RAID Card

Two Intel 3.06GHz "Northwood A" 533MHz FSB HyperThreading Xeon CPUs

Two 512Mb Corsair Dual-DDR ECC PC2100 SDRAM DIMMs

Four 160Gb Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 Serial-ATA disk drives

Sapphire ATI Radeon 9800 Pro All-In-Wonder

Antec TruePower 550 EPS12V power supply

Akasa AK-680Cu Socket 603 heatsinks with YS Tech 70mm Tip-Magnetic Driving fans

S-ATA data and power cables

Black Molex connectors and Molex pin removing tools

Assorted braided cable sheathing and heatshrink tube


The heart of the system is Supermicro's X5DAL-TG2 motherboard. I've been very pleased with the P6DBE PIII board that lasted for so long in the previous incarnations of my PC, and although Supermicro's boards are notoriously devoid of over-clocking functionality they have a well-deserved reputation for stability, build quality and future-proofing that made them an easy choice for the new system. With my heart set on another dual processor system, a HyperThreading Xeon was the obvious choice for an Intel bigot, and although most boards using the E7505 "Placer" chipset that matches best with the workstation Xeons are in the larger Extended ATX form factor, there are a couple of the regular ATX format required to fit my sleek desktop tower case.

I was quite concerned over the lack of PCI slots on these smaller boards, having filled all five slots on my old system and still wanting more, but with two gigabit network interfaces on the motherboard itself I decided that I'd be able to manage. In the event, I retired my PCI serial port card in exchange for greater reliance on USB connectivity, and I still have a 100MHz PCI-X slot free for whatever "the next big thing" turns out to be. One significant lure was the presence of a Zero Channel RAID facility based around a 64bit 66MHz PCI slot, and the availability of a matching Serial-ATA RAID card to replace the ageing Promise Fastrak IDE controller was what finally decided me.

A gigabyte of fast error correcting memory filled two of the four DIMM sockets, and the two legacy IDE channels are used serving my tape, CD and DVD drives with a port to spare for emergencies. As usual, the inside of the PC is full and rather busy with wires and connections, but there's still room for growth when even the rather generous initial specification begins to look dated. So far, so good - but the build was not without its painful moments, and in the end took around a week!



Read on for all the techy details...



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