Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

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The Science of Dell

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This week was a sad week for me.  I jumped on one of those 40% off coupons for a Dell Dimension E510 desktop machine.  In the frenzy to buy, I broke one of my cardinal rules.  Research thoroughly…  The machine I ordered was an Intel Dual Core 2.8GHz PCI Express based machine with 3gig of memory, 250gig hard drive, ATI X600 video card with 256meg of memory, Windows XP Media Center, 16x DVD burner, etc. delivered to my door for $850.  Not bad?

From the time I ordered the machine to the time it was at my door was 48 hours.  That is freaking amazing.  Ever wonder why they have grown their business so fast?  That is why.  They have build-to-order down to the science.  It was pointed out to me the machine I ordered was probably already built.  Ok, I’ll concede that.  At worst, they needed to configure the 3gig of memory I wanted.  It’s still amazing that from the time I hit the submit button to the time my doorbell rang was 48 hours.

7900gtThe problem is that after cracking open the case, I discovered to my chagrin that the power supply would not support a video card upgrade.  I had planned all along to purchase the BFG Technologies NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT and pull the ATI card.  However the power supply cable octopus didn’t have a power connector for that.  Heck the card I am interested in needs two power connectors but the Dell E510 doesn’t even have one.  Technically, there are a couple of connectors available.  One for another SATA drive and one for a CDROM drive.  I should have known when I read 305 watt output.  Let that be a lesson to me and you.

So I called Dell Tech Support and inquired about a power supply upgrade.  Nope, nada.  Decision time.  Do I buy an after market supply and void the warranty or return this puppy?  Return it is.  One thing to note about returns.  You pay for return shipping and possibly re-stocking fees. 

Dell, please discount the XPS 400.  I read somewhere they aren’t doing deep discounts on the XPS line.  Bummer. 

I may end up building a custom machine this time around.  I am worried because if I do, I know I’ll be itching to build an iSCSI SAN to go with it.  FYI, in a few hours, I’ll be posting a detailed post on Windows Server 2003 R2 storage management.  The research is done, the post is written, but I still need to record the screencast.  I’ll do that tomorrow unless I play Easy Rider all day on my Harley.  Vroooommmm 

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  • I remember you speaking about that SAN at your technet event down in Harvey but you can't beat the enjoyment and satisfaction you get when you build your own machine. I've built numerous machines for friends and I love it. Plus you can save a few bucks if you play your cards right... all without cutting the "meat" from the system.

    Take the plunge and the build the puppy :->

  • Yea, I'm probably going to start pricing cases, mobos, etc. soon just to see what the market looks like.  

    I'm probably going to build an iSCSI SAN so I need to price some good cases for that anyway.

    Unfortunately, summer is almost here, so honey dues, road trips, yard work, real work, and all of the parties (grin) are going to suck up all of my time.  Winter is the best time for my IT projects.

    I need a dual proc or dual core machine now.  Video transcoding is a killer and I need a machine that can cut some time.

    I'm with you.  Getting your hands dirty adds to the satisfaction or frustration.  You learn a lot going down that road. I'm afraid this time around I won't have the time and will have to pick something good from the market.

    We're getting ready to get some top notch laptops, so I may defer my plans for a few months anyway.  

    I guess the IT Gods spoke on the E510. So be it.

  • I've built my own PCs for years but you know what?  It sure is nice to get one ready made for you.  Dell deals with economies of scale that I can't touch.  You can go down to Frys and buy parts and get a world class PC, but for the same price or less you can get one from Dell.  That's a tough call.

  • Besides, knowing you as well as I do (grin) I'm shocked that you were only trying to run one 7900GT.  It does support SLI afterall...
    BTW, just retired a server from work.  It's going home with me and I'm putting SBS on it.  Any suggestions?

  • RE: Multiple video cards, does anyone really need that power?  I can do without the extra heat and power requirements.  I am not that hard core of a gamer.  Plus, I have a Xbox360 and plenty of games I have not mastered.

    RE: the SBS box, what kind of machine did you get?  SBS is a really nice product.  I use it to support five domains for my wife and I.

  • I wonder that myself.  Dell has an XPS with FOUR video cards sli'd together.  I'm all for wretched excess but that's a bit over the top I think.  I guess if you have two 30" lcd's that would help keep your framerates up.

    I got an old server we retired.  It's a nice IBM xSeries 220.  A bit dated for use at work but it should rock at home.  Mainly I wanted it for a sandbox to mess around with Active Directory stuff I can't do at work without making the people mad at me. (like the time I accidentally set a group policy to turn on the screen saver after 60 seconds and password protect)

  • Consider getting a PC Power and Cooling power supply.  They are not cheap, but they are the best power supplies I have found.  You can get a model with more power and better cooling than the OEM power supplies.

    I have been using them since they started business (external add-on fan to cool my XT/AT machine that had a National Semiconductor processor board!) and they are awesome!

  • is there a power 350/400 watt power supply that will work in a dell E510

  • I'm sure I could replace the power supply, but on a brand new machine, that would void the warranty.

    I ended up buying a Core Duo laptop instead.