Past EED rants


Live leaderboard

Poker leaderboard

Voice of EED

Saturday 6 September 2003

Wench upgrade = Asus Pundit [lurks]

If anyone recalls the various hardware incarnations of Wench, you may recall that pretty much every upgrade has ended up in a hardware failure apart from the second generation ancient incarnation consisting of a Celeron 500 with a passive heatsink in a Slotket on an Intel BX mobo. This has been up 24/7 for years now. All is good and I'd leave it like that but unfortunately some of the things running on Wench are fairly processor intensive and they're snailing - namely Netjuke.
So an upgrade is in order. I have learnt the number one rule of servers now. That rule is that Thou Shalt Be Intel. This is going to cost me a lot of performance/price ratio at the lower end of the performance bracket. I wish I could slap in a Duron 1.3GHz but I've been there, done that and scrapped the remains of the motherboard out of the case. Never again.
As a typical lounge server, there are some priorities which need to be looked at, here they are in order;
  • Noise - server must be as quiet as possible.
  • Connections - USB and stuff on the front panel.
  • Looks - Beige boxes? We've moved on.
  • TV out - watch some movies innit!
  • Integrated stuff - audio and LAN at least.

Fairly quickly I realised it was a toss-up between one of the cube-designs and some sort of build-it-yourself box. The cubes carry a price premium and they struggle on the noise front since they have to force air through confined spaces. However they certainly do meet the looks criteria, front panels are bristling with all the connections you need and they always have built-in LAN, audio and often video etc.
I investigated a number of mini systems and it looks to be that Shuttle is still the king of the cubes. I had set on the Shuttle SB51G as the best choice. Intel i845 based box, fan controller on the heat pipe job. Looks superb. There were a couple of good reviews. Actually there's better reviews than that but I can't find them at the minute.
The other option is building a box myself, I had a look around for cases and had some difficulty sourcing one good for the job. An Antec Sonata would do the job possibly. That'd allow me to slap in a decent Intel mobo etc. Plenty of space in it. Good plan that. Bit of a faff to buy quiet cooling but, well, this is the approach I took with Wench and it served me well. Despite the Antec case costing a good whack of wonga, this case plus a full spec mobo would cost less than a cube.
It was a hung jury, then I discovered a compromise. The Asus Pundit. Weird name I know but basically it's an upright mini-itx mobo based case. The base can be removed from the side to sit down as a mini desktop. It has nice panels to cover the drives and the ports. On the ports from, the front is absolutely bristling. Audio, USB 2.0, Firewire 4 and 6 pin (!), S/PDIF in and out (!), memory card reader (!) and even a fucking 32-bit cardbus slot!
The other thing that drew me to the pundit is that it has a reasonably large PSU and fan and Asus have particularly targeted noise. The back has all your usual connectors, a DVI connector and a couple of PCI slots. The only negative thing is the lack of an AGP port. Oh and the chipset is SIS based, I was hoping to have an AGP port so I could slap in a graphics card for TV-out if the built in was shit (got burnt on the Shuttle like that in the past). The SIS, well, just an issue of trust. However the box has ATA133 which means that the external Maxtor 160GB drive can go in the box.
CPU cooling on the Pundit is simple but very effective. It has a bunch of holes in the case, an 80mm fan with a plastic funnel blowing onto a heatsink on the CPU. There's a temp fan controller to set the speed. So it draws air specifically from outside the case with a large fan. That's ideal. The reviews I found are comprehensive and quite clear about noise. There's bugger all.
You always make compromises here and I've found little mention of the quality of tv-out of these SIS chipsets. If it's stinky, I'm in the same boat as I am now, using the Xbox media player so it's not a disaster. I managed to get a P4 2.4GHz off Ebay for £80 which was a bit of a bargain and a good step up from the Celeron 2.0GHz I was going to buy new. 512MB stick of PC2700 from Crucial, bosh. Wench will be about as fast as this desktop, I expect. Better at encoding and ripping, which is excellent since I plan to shift that sort of job to Wench.
I will probably also put my DVD-R drive in the new machine too, since Wench can happily sit there burning stuff while I'm mucking about on my desktop. That'll take care of DVD and CD-ripping requirements too.
So far this is all theory, my next post on the subject will be after the components have arrived and I have upgraded Wench. Again, the standard XP 'repair install' will be utilised then a lengthy patch up to current security patches etc. We'll see how it goes.


  1. Just unpacked it at work. I didn't expect it to rock this much. It's very heavy but sexy as hell. Dinky small, grey sheen metal. Front panel is insane with I/O when you pop it open. Hopefully the CPU and memory are waiting at home so I can crack on with building it...

  2. What price the Pundit case?
    The problem I have with the cube cases is that they aren't a suitable shape. They sound great, in theory, but if you want to put it in a AV rack or stack it with AV equipement, it's just too bladdy tall.
    The Pundit on it's side would be ideal for me (price depending)

  3. About £120. BTW it only has one IDE header instead so it's one drive and one optical. Or you could scrap the optical and have two drives. There's no floppy at all. The drive thing is a tad annoying, means I have to leave my firewire drive plugged into the front panel, I had planned to rip the drive out and put it in the case...

  4. The other problem with cube style cases, or at least my cube style case (shuttle) is that the vents are on the side. This means you've got to keep a load of free space at the side of the fucker, so you might as well have had a bigger case without vents. Bit annoying, but they still look cute.

  5. The P4 turned up, upgrade done. Not easy to fit everything in the case at all, the drives bay is a right bastard. Not much room between PSU fan and the DVD drive either.I put in a slot-based DVD drive as I figured that was most suitable for verticle mounting and for DVD playback. PIC: Here's my lounge.PIC: Close up.Another annoyance thus far is that the Pundit apparently wont mount a firewire disk on boot, it has to be unplugged and replugged. That's fucked, means not possible to do an unattended reboot and have anything that relies on my MP3 collection coming back up, like Apache/netjuke. On the plus side, you have to enable the fan control in the BIOS and once done - it went from quiet to very quiet indeed. Nice.Worst fears comfirmed concerning the video out though. It's big pants. Everything is in order but it's got this weird pulsing interference which ruines the whole thing. Bloody annoying, means I've got to go buy a cheap-ass PCI Radeon 7000 or something if I want to use it for TV. I'll tell you this though, going from a 500MHz Celeron to a 2.4GHz P4 is unbelievable. It's a joy to use via remote desktop, make no mistake.

  6. My shuttle died. Not surprising, the things been dying when its been left on more than a few hours from the heat, and it just gave up. So I bought a pundit too, as I wanted a quiet livingroom pc that'd do tv out.
    I'm very pleased with it. A delight to put together compared to the shuttle. Far better because of its flat design than the box of the shuttle, much easier to fit stuff in. only downers really are that you can only fit one hdd in it, where you could get two in a shuttle if you sacrificed the hdd, and that it's got no agp. That doesn't bother me, cos this isn't a gaming rig, but it will put many off. Very chuffed with how quiet it is, love the natty blue neon light, and the nifty little cd drawer. Nice to be back on an intel that seems to run nice and cool.

  7. Presumably you mean when you sacrefice the floppy. Yeah, Wench was a shuttle for a long time with two HDs, one in the floppy slot. Yeah I've got a 2.4GHz P4 in Wench and it still seems to run bastard cool. Good riddance AMD quite frankly.

  8. Bought my Pundit-R last week 5-2005. Pentium IV 3.0.
    Love the design.
    I still think it makes too much noice for the living. Yes I flashed the latest bios.
    I do not miss the floppy drive.