D. J. Bernstein
Computer hardware

How to build the 2006.01.07 standard workstation

This page is obsolete. I have a new page explaining how to build the 2007.12.03 standard workstation.
The 2006.01.07 standard workstation is a very nice desktop computer: solid, extremely fast, full of useful software, and reasonably inexpensive. This page explains how to

2007.01.01 update: The standard workstation needs updating for the latest generation of Athlons. The Core 2 Duo is an interesting alternative but seems slightly too expensive for its performance.

Collecting accessories

To build the standard workstation you will need a Phillips-head (four-point) screwdriver and an antistatic wrist strap. Collect this equipment for later use.

To install the operating system you will need a CD with ``ISO image'' ubuntu-5.10-install-amd64.iso (MD5 checksum 7fbe948be484ba2f4740ab6113890652). You can order this CD from Ubuntu for free; or you can create the CD using a computer that has an Internet connection (to download the ISO image), a CD burner, and a blank CD.

To configure and use the standard workstation you will need a keyboard, a touchpad/trackball/mouse, a monitor, and an Ethernet cable attached to the Internet. Collect this equipment for later use.

If you have only one keyboard, mouse, and monitor, and you need those to operate an older computer, you have two options:

Buying the components

The components of the 2006.01.07 workstation---CPU, motherboard, memory, hard drive, video card, CD/DVD reader/burner, extra fan, and case---cost $793 including shipping, if you buy them from the warehouses shown below. Residents of certain states will also have to pay sales tax.

Prices can change at any moment. Use Price Grabber to find the latest and greatest prices. Price Grabber takes a search term such as ADA3800BVBOX and gives you prices of the ADA3800BVBOX from various warehouses; you can then click on a warehouse link to buy the ADA3800BVBOX. Warning: Price Grabber labels some items as refurbished; don't buy those.

Most of the components of the 2006.01.07 standard workstation are available from ZipZoomFly:
$322AMD ADA3800BVBOX: 2000MHz L2-1MB Socket-939 Athlon 64 X2 CPU with a fan3 years from AMD92? (89 CPU; 3? fan) at +12V2
$83Asus A8V: Socket-939 UATA/SATA 305mmx245mm motherboard with audio and Ethernet; includes 2 SATA cables, UATA cable, ATA cable, floppy cable3 years from Asus20? at +3.3V, 20? at +5V, 10? at +12V1
$51Kingston KVR400X72C3A/512: 512MB DDR400 ECC memory in one DIMMlifetime from Kingston5 at +3.3V
$51Kingston KVR400X72C3A/512: 512MB DDR400 ECC memory in one DIMMlifetime from Kingston5 at +3.3V
$105Seagate ST3250823AS: 250GB SATA hard drive with NCQ5 years from Seagate34 at +12V1 (max for spinup), 5 at +5V
$33Asus V9400-X/TD/64: 64MB AGP 8X video card using nVidia GeForce MX 4000 chip with VGA, TV, DVI outputs3 years from Asus10? at +3.3V
$45BenQ DQ60BLACK: UATA DVD-ROM CD-ROM DVD+-R DVD+-RW DVD-RAM CD-R CD-RW drive (black)1 year from BenQ20? at +12V1, 8? at +5V
$19Antec TRICOOL 120 DBB (UPC 761345-75121-6): 120mm 1200RPM 39CFM 25dB fan, adjustable to higher speed3 years from Antec2? at +12V1
$0FedEx 2-day shipping

The following components are available from ebuyer:
$72Antec SLK3800B: 10.7kg 464mmx209mmx472mm case (black); one 1200RPM 38.94CFM 25dB case fan; 2.3kg SP400 power supply (max output watts: 390 at +5V, +3.3V, +12V1, +12V2 combined; 130 at +5V, +3.3V combined; 105 at +5V; 168 at +12V1; 180 at +12V2; 72 at +3.3V); two power-supply fans3 years from Antec10? for fans at +12V1
$12UPS 2-day shipping

Variant: single-core CPU. The Athlon 64 X2, like a dual-CPU computer, has two processing cores. Switching to a single-core computer means spending less money on the CPU (currently $152 instead of $322). Of course, this also reduces the computer's speed for parallelizable operations.

Non-recommended variant: Pentium D. Switching from the 2000MHz Athlon 64 X2 to the 3000MHz Pentium D 830 (and a Pentium D-compatible motherboard) doesn't change cost noticeably: it means spending slightly less money on the CPU and slightly more money on the motherboard. Most applications are faster with the Athlon 64, so I don't recommend this switch.

Variant: more memory. You can put four DIMMs into the A8V.

Non-recommended variant: non-ECC memory. Make sure to buy ECC DIMMs. I have a separate page discussing the importance of ECC memory.

Variant: more disk space. If you have more money to spend, the hard drive is one of the most obvious places to spend it. You can buy a larger drive; you can buy an external drive for backups; or you can buy several drives, and store data with parity using software RAID level 5. (Parity is an easy-to-use automatic backup mechanism: your latest data is still accessible even if a drive dies. Three disks with parity can store as much data as two disks without parity.)

Make sure you have enough cables for your drives. The A8V can support four UATA drives (two per cable) and two SATA drives (one per cable). The SLK3800B case has room for eleven drives.

Non-recommended variant: tape drive. Extra disks are a much better choice than tapes for backups. Disks used to be substantially more expensive than tapes, but they're now less expensive per gigabyte than almost all tapes. The only exceptions (160GB Super DLT I tapes, about $0.25/gigabyte; 200GB LTO Ultrium 2 tapes, about $0.20/gigabyte) require tape drives that cost over $1000. Even if you have so much data that you don't mind the cost of a tape drive, investing in tapes is silly: tapes wear out much more quickly than disks (a heavy-duty tape is rated for, at best, writing a few million gigabytes, which is equivalent to only about two years of disk use), and the replacement cost of disks is dropping much more quickly than the replacement cost of tapes. Of course, disks are also much faster than tapes.

Non-recommended variant: video cards using Radeon 7000. ``X DRI,'' standard software for Linux and BSD providing a graphics speedup, has bugs on the Athlon 64 causing Radeon 7000 video cards to crash. MX 4000 cards don't seem to trigger this problem.

Assembling the components into a working computer

The following pictures have some slight differences from the instructions. The instructions are for the standard workstation. The pictures are for a computer that Tanja Lange and I assembled on 2006.01.11, with the following differences from the standard workstation:

Opening the case. Unpack the computer case. Discard its plastic wrap. Put on an antistatic wrist strap, and attach it to ground (for example, to the screw on a typical light-switch plate).

Stand the case on its bottom (four rubber feet). Unscrew the big screws on the back of the case:
Remove the side of the case by pulling the two side latches towards the front of the case and then away from the case:
Put the side down:

From inside the case, remove the power cord, the brown box, and any other loose items (such as dessicants):

Locate the power supply near the top of the back of the case. The case may have a piece of paper taped to the top of the power supply and covering the back of the power supply, as shown above. To fix this problem, unscrew the power supply, grab the power supply from the inside of the case, pull the power supply a few centimeters into the case, and pull on the paper gently until the tape comes loose:
Then push the power supply back into proper position and screw it back in.

Opening the DVD slot in the case. The front of the case is attached in several ways. It may be taped:
It has two small bottom hooks, released by pushing inwards on the sides of the front:
It also has two small top hooks, released by pushing down inside the case, and two middle plugs, released by pulling the front forward. Undo all of these attachments to remove the front cover:

The case, without its front, should have a DVD-drive-sized hole at the top. If it doesn't, bend metal plates as necessary to make room for a drive. Sometimes this requires wiggling a metal plate back and forth until it snaps off; watch out for sharp edges.

Swing the front cover open. Pop the top 5.25'' drive cover out:

Opening the video-card slot in the case. Lay the case flat on its closed side. I will continue talking about the ``top'' and ``back'' of the case to mean the parts of the case that would be top and back if the case were in standing position.

The back of the case has several slots for expansion cards, each slot covered by a plate. Remove the plate in the second position from the top, by pulling up with moderate force on both sides of the plate:

Inserting the motherboard standoffs. Open the brown box to find a bag of screws and brass standoffs. Take eight brass standoffs out of the bag:

Look for a brass standoff already installed at the back of the case:
Screw eight additional standoffs into a 3x3 pattern of holes, with the second and third columns narrowly spaced, the second and third rows somewhat narrowly spaced, and the top-left standoff slightly to the right:
If additional standoffs are already installed in the correct locations, leave them in place, and put the extra standoffs back into the bag.

Exchanging face plates. Unscrew the face plate from the case:
If the face plate is attached by pressure rather than screws, find a hammer and gently tap the face plate out of the case.

Open the motherboard box and find a replacement face plate:
Tap the replacement face plate into the case, with two holes at the top and three holes at the bottom:
The face plate has two tabs bent into the case; bend them further so that they are at 90 degrees to the plate:
http://pictures.cr.yp.to/1/5352dbaf9f86816a41cfead3e6293325/9.jpg http://pictures.cr.yp.to/1/f082772452df7a83fa4d5c745bd8433f/9.jpg

Installing the RAM. Take the motherboard out of its box. Lay the motherboard on a solid non-metallic flat surface, such as a wooden table. Look at the pattern of silver-circled holes on the motherboard; those will eventually line up with the brass standoffs in the case. If any brass standoffs don't match the motherboard, unscrew the standoffs and move them to positions matching the motherboard.

There are two blue DIMM slots (and two black ones) on the motherboard:
Push apart the white DIMM holders on the ends of the blue DIMM slots:

Unpack a DIMM. Compare the middle notch of the DIMM to the bar inside the DIMM slots to figure out which way the DIMM should be inserted. Lower the DIMM gently into one of the blue DIMM slots. Once the DIMM is resting on top of the slot, aligned properly, push the DIMM into the slot until the white DIMM holders are lined up in their original positions. Repeat with the other DIMM:
Pushing a DIMM into its slot will require moderate force straight down into the motherboard. If the DIMM doesn't move down, apply slightly more force to one end until that end moves, then apply slightly more force to the other end until that end moves, and repeat until the DIMM is inserted. Never push the DIMM sideways; it could break.

Installing the CPU. Pull the CPU-socket locking lever slightly out, then up to vertical (picture shown for an older motherboard with the same CPU connection):
Take the CPU out of its plastic container and off of the black foam, revealing an array of gold pins:
Put the CPU into the CPU socket, with the CPU triangle on top of the triangle marked on the motherboard, at the opposite corner from the lever:
No force is required here; when the CPU is aligned properly with the socket, it will drop gently into the socket.

Push the CPU-socket locking lever back to its original position:
Here's a picture with the standard-workstation motherboard:

Installing the CPU's heatsink. Take the plastic cover off the heatsink. Put the heatsink on top of the CPU, with the gray square face down on top of the CPU, and with the big black clip toward the center of the motherboard:
Make sure that the big black clip is pointing up, and push the silver hook onto the black tab below it:
Do the same with the silver hook on the other side. Make sure that both hooks are firmly below their tabs. Rotate the big black clip---it will push back at you somewhat---and hook it into place:
Attach the dangling plug into the three pins at the edge of the motherboard labelled ``CPU fan.'' Orient the plug so that its lips hook around the pins:

Removing the hard-drive cage. Unscrew the 3.5'' drive cage from the case:

Push the drive-cage lever towards the screw and take the drive out of the case:

Releasing the power cables. Take rubber bands and twist-ties off the power cables from the power supply:
One power cable leads to a 12x2 array of plugs, consisting of a 10x2 array attached to a 2x2 array by two tiny pieces of plastic:
Push on the pieces of plastic to separate the 10x2 array from the 2x2 array:

Installing the motherboard. Push cables out of the way of the motherboard:

Put the motherboard gently into the case:
Slide the motherboard towards the edge of the case. The motherboard will fit snugly into the face plate, under the tabs that you bent earlier, and the brass standoffs will be visible through the holes:
Slight force is required to push the motherboard into its correct position; the face plate has small tabs that press back slightly.

One of the brass standoffs, the one already installed with the SLK3800B, has a ball fitting into the middle hole on the motherboard. Screw eight small Phillips-head screws into the remaining eight holes on the motherboard:
Don't overtighten.

Plug the 10x2 power plug into the motherboard until it clicks, and plug one of the 2x2 power plugs into the motherboard until it clicks:

Plug the power-supply fan connector into the PWR FAN connector on the motherboard:

Plug the reset-switch, power-switch, and HDD-LED (also known as IDE-LED) connectors into the motherboard, all labels facing upwards:

Plug the speaker and power-LED connectors into the motherboard, all labels facing upwards:

Plug the USB cable into the motherboard:

Installing the video card. Unwrap the video card:

Plug the video card into the motherboard:
http://pictures.cr.yp.to/1/5303e5a4a0ff5d7b42baf54774f8d3b4/9.jpg http://pictures.cr.yp.to/1/a1604a7c2fb7a7355827377ce8c95b5b/9.jpg
Moderate force is required, as for the DIMMs.

Screw the video card to the case:
http://pictures.cr.yp.to/1/fb83651c9ad6aefb17ce0006915386c0/9.jpg http://pictures.cr.yp.to/1/0d8088dee843888ea15d0f5f88c32f70/9.jpg

Installing the DVD drive. The DVD jumper is probably set to Slave. Pull the jumper out and push it back on Master.

Find two of the drive rails in the brown box, and screw them onto the DVD drive, flush with the bottom of the drive:

Slide the DVD drive into the case from the front until the drive rails snap into place:

If a small 4-pin cable was shipped with the DVD drive, plug the cable into the DVD drive and the CD connector on the motherboard.

Plug the UATA cable into the blue connector on the motherboard:
Plug the other end of the cable into the DVD drive.

Plug a 4-pin power cable into the DVD drive:

Installing the case fans. Connect a 4-pin power plug to the installed case fan:

Plug the extra case fan into the position at the front of the case exposed by the drive cage. Plug the 3-pin fan connector into the AUX FAN connector on the motherboard.

Installing the hard drive. Slide the hard drive into one of the five positions in the 3.5'' drive cage:
http://pictures.cr.yp.to/1/c7482b70ff0a9e253c12868a35b3b385/9.jpg http://pictures.cr.yp.to/1/f2bf5b8f60b8dec6260ffe415db1f6d6/9.jpg
Screw the hard drive into the drive cage:
Screw in the other side.

If you have a second hard drive, repeat with that drive, preferably leaving space between the drives:

Slide the drive cage back into the case, and hook it into place. Plug a SATA cable into the hard drive and the motherboard. If you have a second hard drive, plug a SATA cable into the second hard drive and the motherboard.

Connect a flat power plug into the hard drive. If you have a second hard drive, connect a flat power plug into the second hard drive:

Turning on the computer. Starting now, be very careful not to touch anything inside the case. Power will be flowing into the computer in a moment; if you touch something inside the case, you can electrocute yourself!

Take off the antistatic wrist strap. Turn the case's rear power switch off (0). Plug power into the case. Turn the power switch on (1). Watch the CPU fan, and press the front power button on the case. If the CPU fan doesn't start spinning, turn power off immediately; you have a problem. If the computer doesn't beep within sixty seconds, turn power off; you have a problem. If the CPU fan starts spinning and the computer beeps, turn power off; you have a working computer.

Assembling final pieces. Slide the front of the case back on, around the DVD drive.

Slide the movable cylinder onto the cylinder fixed to the open side of the case, with the smaller side of the movable cylinder closer to the side. Put the side of the case back on.

Put the computer in its final location. Attach the keyboard, touchpad/trackball/mouse, monitor, and Ethernet cable.

Configuring the BIOS

Turn the monitor on. Turn the computer on. As soon as you see the initial boot screen, press Del to enter the BIOS.

``BIOS SETUP UTILITY.'' Press Down Down Enter Up Up Up Up Enter to disable Legacy Diskette A. Also set the date and time at this point, using Greenwich Mean Time rather than local time. (The local time zone is set later; the BIOS time should always be GMT.) Press Right Enter Down Enter.

``Memory Configuration.'' Press Down Enter.

``ECC Configuration.'' Press Enter Down Enter to turn on DRAM ECC (if it was off), then Down Enter Down Enter to turn on MCA DRAM ECC Logging, then Down Enter Down Enter to turn on ECC Chip Kill, then Down Enter Down Enter to turn on DRAM Scrub Redirect, then Down Enter Down Down Down Down Down Enter to set DRAM BG Scrub to 640ns, then Down Enter Down Down Down Down Down Enter to set L2 Cache BG Scrub to 640ns, then Down Enter Down Down Down Down Down Enter to set Data Cache BG Scrub to 640ns, then Esc Esc Esc.

``BIOS SETUP UTILITY.'' Press Right Right Enter.

``Boot Device Priority.'' Press Enter Down Enter to set the DVD drive as the first boot device, then Esc.

You may wish to make additional BIOS changes at this point. I usually disable Quick Boot and Full Screen Logo.

Installing the operating system

Find the Ubuntu CD and insert it into the DVD drive. Press F10 Enter to save the BIOS setup and boot the machine.

``ubuntu ... The default installation is suitable for most desktop or laptop systems. ... For the default installation, press ENTER.'' Press Enter.

About 15 seconds delay. ``Choose language.'' Press Enter to choose English; or choose something else.

``Choose your location.'' Press Enter to choose United States; or choose something else.

``Select a keyboard layout.'' Press Enter to choose American English; or choose something else.

About 30 seconds delay. If your network doesn't have a DHCP server: ``Network autoconfiguration failed.'' Press Enter. ``Configure network manually.'' Press Enter. Type your IP address and press Enter. ``Netmask.'' Press Enter. ``Gateway.'' Press Enter. ``Name server addresses.'' Edit if necessary and press Enter.

``Please enter the hostname for this system.'' A hostname should be automatically obtained from DNS. Press Enter.

About 5 seconds delay. ``Erase entire disk.'' Press Enter.

``This is an overview of your currently configured partitions.'' Press Enter.

``Write the changes to disks?'' Press Left Enter.

About 10 minutes delay. ``Time zone configuration.'' Select your time zone and press Enter.

``Full name for the new user.'' Type your name and press Enter.

``Username for your account.'' Type an account name (e.g., your initials) and press Enter.

``Choose a password for the new user.'' Type a password and press Enter.

``Re-enter password to verify.'' Type the same password again and press Enter.

About 30 seconds delay. ``Finish the installation.'' Remove the CD and press Enter.

About 5 minutes delay. ``Configuring xserver-xorg.'' Select your screen resolution and press Tab Enter.

About 5 minutes delay. ``ubuntu Username:'' Type your username and press Enter. Type your password and press Enter.

Variant: RAID1 array. If you have two identical hard drives and want data automatically written to both of them as a backup mechanism (using 500GB of space to store two copies of 250GB of data), don't press Enter at ``Erase entire disk.'' Instead do the following:

Configuring the operating system

Upgrading the system. Click System/Administration/Synaptic Package Manager.

Click Settings/Repositories. Under Software Preferences, click on Settings. Click Show disabled software sources. Click Close.

Click all software sources, but disable the CD source. Click OK.

``Repositories changed.'' Click Yes.

Click Upgrade. Click Apply. Click Apply. About 30 minutes delay, depending on your network speed. Click Close.

Adding extra packages. Click Network. Right-click ntp-simple. Click Mark for installation. Click Mark. (The ntp-simple package keeps your computer's clock synchronized through the network.)

Click Base. Right-click linux-amd64-k8-smp. Click Mark for installation. Click Mark. (The linux-amd64-k8-smp package enables your computer's second processing core after the next reboot.)

Click Development. Right-click build-essential. Click Mark for installation. Click Mark. (The build-essential package includes development tools such as gcc.)

Click Library Development. Right-click ia32-libs-dev. Click Mark for installation. Click Mark. (The ia32-libs-dev package enables the gcc -m32 option.)

Click Apply. Click Apply. About 10 minutes delay, depending on your network speed. Click Close.

Working around the kernel TSC bug. ``Kernel TSC,'' in theory, makes the computer's clock slightly more accurate. Unfortunately, kernel TSC on the Athlon 64 X2 has bugs making the clock wildly inaccurate, so inaccurate that ntp-simple can't keep it straight.

Type Alt-F2. Type xterm and press Enter. Type sudo -s and press Enter. Type your password and press Enter.

Type vi /boot/grub/menu.lst and press Enter. Type /^kernel and press Enter. Type A notsc and press Esc. Type ZZ.

Rebooting to enable boot-time options. Click System/Log Out. Click Restart. Click Ok.

Reporting success

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