Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Path of the Jedi

Jeff Attwood has been discussing the geek ethic of building your own PC, particularly in relation to Google's use of commodity components.
We aren't typical users. We're programmers. The x86 commodity PC is the essential, ultimate tool of our craft. It's the end product of 30 years of computer evolution. And it's still evolving today, with profound impact on the way we code. If you treat your PC like an appliance you plug into a wall, you've robbed yourself of a crucial lesson on the symbiotic relationship between software and hardware. The best way to truly understand the commodity PC is to gleefully dig in and build one yourself. Get your hands dirty and experience the economics of computer hardware first hand-- the same economics that have shaped the software industry since the very first line of code was stored in memory.
I'm definitely singing from the same hymn sheet. Every PC I've owned has been built from the ground up, from a Texas Instruments 486-clone CPU to an Intel Core 2 Duo; the day that I buy a desktop PC is the day that some kindly men fit me out for a white canvas jacket that does up at the back. (Laptops, of course are a different matter). Naturally, rolling your own does lead to other problems, particularly in the tricky realm of hardware compatability. I've built some pretty unstable PCs in the past, where the motherboard doesn't like a particular sound card or graphics card, and the typical DIY-er doesn't really have the luxury of experimenting too much, at least if they're paying for everything themselves. My current interest is in media centres, and I'm reaping the benefits of Intel's VIIV campaign, at least in the interaction between MCE2005 and the hardware (the less said about the special 'content' the better, because as is sadly typical, countries outside the US don't actually exist) P.S. In case you're wondering about the heading, it comes from one of the comments on Jeff's posting:
It's the whole Jedi build their own light saber bit.
While I might not claim Jedi to be my religion when the census forms come round, the man has a good point.

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