— 10:54 PM on June 25, 2003

Some folks think us hardware reviewers have amazing, high-spec PCs with all the latest and greatest stuff installed. Well, that's not me. To give you some idea, my main system is an Athlon XP 2100+ box with a KT266A motherboard and 768MB of DDR266 memory. Running Windows 2000. I have intended for months now to build myself a new system, but the time to do so just hasn't materialized for me.

Instead, I've been sticking in upgrade parts piece by piece in a desperate attempt stave off obsolescence. First, I went out and bought a pair of 80GB Western Digital JB-series hard drives on a rebate deal just after the first of the year. Then, I picked up a M-Audio Revolution 7.1 sound card. These parts were supposed to go into a dually AMD 760MP-based system for me, but instead, the 760MP board, processors, and one of the hard drives became a TR test server, since the hardware roughly matches our main web server's—close enough to boot from its drive image once I hacked it the boot config from a SCSI device to an IDE device.

Anyhow, I put one of the JB drives and the Rev card into my PC to get me a little better performance and sound until I could find time to build myself a new box. Tonight, the other shoe fell, and I installed a Radeon 9500 Pro card in place of the old GeForce4 Ti 4600. (If you're questioning that move, you haven't read my 9500 Pro review.) I also ripped out the tired, old AMD PCNet NIC with its high CPU utilization and replaced it with a trusty 3Com 3C905B. (I often use my PC as a Ghost server, so the NIC matters.) I installed DirectX 9 and the works. Pure craziness.

The next step would cinch it for me. I wouldn't have to upgrade for a long, long time. I pulled out my secret weapon: the original, rare-as-hen's-teeth Athlon XP 2800+ T-bred. With an unlocked multiplier, I could get it running at 2.2GHz on a 133MHz bus and be rollin' right along. Right?

Wrong. Turns out my Shuttle AK31 rev. 3 motherboard won't support a T-bred processor.

Now, it's one thing to be running an Athlon XP 2100+ processor when you have the option of dropping in a faster chip at any time, and quite another when you realize you're running maxed out with a Palomino 2100+. This, my friends, is a full-blown crisis.

The sad thing is, I have a raft of PCI cards in this system, and I've realized that if I went to a Shuttle SN41G2, I wouldn't need any of them—not the NIC, nor the Firewire card, nor the sound card, although I'd prolly want to keep the Rev 7.1. (Note to nForce2 fanboys: my pro DACs rule over your lame ALC650 chips anyday.) And I have a SN41G2 just sitting here, beckoning to me with its near-silent operation and rugged, industrial good looks.

Still, I can't do it. To go SFF, I'd have to buy a DVD RW drive of some flavor, and I'd have to give up either my floppy drive (need it occasionally for Win2K/XP driver floppies for test systems) or my second hard drive (which holds my MP3 collection). I mentioned this to Andy, and he suggested I put the second drive in a server somewhere. But you see, my main PC is the Damage Labs server. Everything flows from it. Adding an additional box wouldn't achieve anything beyond moving the noise, heat, and PC footprint elsewhere.

So I'm now kicking around the idea of getting a silent ATX case (perhaps one of these?) to house a Canterwood system for me—just as soon as I can get around to building it.

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