My desktop computer at home is about five years old, so I thought it's time to buy myself a new computer. There are two features I'm particularly interested in new computer: media center PC and AMD 64-bit CPU. So I looked around for a Media Center PC with AMD 64-bit CPU. This blog entry will document my process of buying the computer and get it working order as an ender user.
March 11, bought a HP m7334n Media Center PC from BestBuy. Some computers on the market are labelled as having Microsoft Media Center Edition operating system. But they're not really Media Center PC, because they do have not a TV tuner. HP m7334n is a real Media Center PC with TV turner and remote control. But the label in the store does not clearly state the fact that it has a TV turner with remote control. I had to ask the sales person for confirmation. Price $900 + tax - $50.
This new computer comes with AMD Athlon 64 X2 Processor 3800+, 1 Gb RAM, 250 Gb SATA hard disk, DVD+-RW/CD-RW drive with double-layer support, another DVD-rom, etc.
March 17, the new computer has been up and running with connection to my home network. But before I install software on the machine, I would like the hard drive properly partitioned. Out of factory, the 250-GB hard disk is partitioned into two partitioned into two drives. Drive C is the main partition, with 225 GB. Drive D is recovery parition with 7.46 GB. (225 + 7.46) * 1024^3 = 249,602,024,407 byte. I guess that is where the 250 GB number coming from. It's normal for PC vendors to get rid of CDs/DVDs in packaging and put everything in a recovery partition. But it's strange that HP makes the recovery partition visible instead of hidden,and assigned such an important drive letter to it. Struggled a while with reparitioning. Searched internet for Partition Magic, downloadable version, $69.95 for single machine. So I decided to give HP support a try. Early Saturday morning, it was very easy to get through the system to talk to a real person. That guy suggested that I would using the fdisk utility which is part of the recovery tool set to repartition the hard disk, but I would be at my own risk and the machine would run much slower after that. He said that to get complete instruction, he could transfer me to a partner, but I would be charged $30 for that service. So I just tried on my own, making two DVDs and one CD from the recovery drive, trying to reparition the hard disk. But somehow the recovery system decided to repartition from scratch to the same factory setting. After 5 or 6 hours, I'm getting nowhere except the recovery disk set.
March 18, Ad in newspaper says that a 160 GB internal hardk disk is only $39.99 after rebate. So I thought why not just add a new hard disk to my machine. But it turned out that the 39.99 hard disk on sale is for the old IDE interface, while my new machine supports the new ATA interface. So I ended with a Seagate 160 GB SATA hard disk for $109.99, a Samsung 930B 19-inch LCD display ($350 + tax - 50), a set of Creative Lab Inspire P5800 5.1 speakers ($75 + tax - $10, the HP machine does not even have built-in speakers), and a free-after-rebate Canon Pixma iP1600 printer ($50 + tax - $50).
March 19, partitioned the 2nd hard disk into three 50 GB partitions. Now I can install multiple OSes on the machine. The machine comes with readers for SmartMedia, CompactFlash, MMC/SD, and Memory Stick. They each have their own driver letters. But as I would only use one of them and would like use it often, I reassigned them to drive letters W-Z.
The LCD monitor is way too bright, so I need to adjust it to be more comfortable. It comes with a program called "Natural Color". When I installed it, I noticed it copies over MFC42D.Dll. So I checked the files it installed on my hard disk.
- NaturalColorMain.exe is 1.6 Mb,
- CalibrationClass.dll is 3.1 Mb,
- PrinterClass.dll is 2.3 Mb,
- MonitorClass.Dll is 1.1 Mb,
- GammaClass.Dll is 1.0 Mb.
- Help.hlp is 6.3 Mb.
Installing the speakers was quite fun too. The instruction for the speaker only talks about how to interface with fancy sound cards. The HP Getting Started Guide has lots of information. But it was written for lots of different configurations. So I hard to read through lots of switch statements to find the instruction suitable for my situatiion. It turns out that I can connect front speaker line to audio out, rear speaker line to audio in, and center/subwoofer line to Mic in. After that, I need to tell operating system my setup through the Multi-channel Sound Manager control panel applet. But the HP manual mis-stated that Multi-channel Sound Manager can be found under "All Programs". The speakers turned out to be quite nice. Now I just need to figure out where to put those two rear speakers.
March 20. Cleaning up 2nd oldest machine in the house to give to someone else. It is a Dell Precision 330 with P4 at 1.3Gb, with 40 Gb hard disk, 32 Mb GForce display card. The last person using the machine was Andre, a German exchange student who stayed with us for one school year. It has lots of spywares running. The oldest machine in the house is a HP Vectra XU 6/200 with Pentium Pro processor, 64 Mb of RAM, running Windows 2000. That was one of the two machines I wrote my book on. It has a SCSI interface which can be hooked to a JAZ drive reader which reads 1 Gb or 2 Gb JAZ disks. Amazingly enough the machine and the JAZ drive are still in working order, except it's really really noizy.