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My DIY Linux PVR
Saturday, August 20, 2005
  The Motherboard
Now that a Socket 939 AMD 64 CPU has been chosen, deciding on a motherboard is the next logical step. Motherboards should be the most future-proof component of any home-built system. Because every other component depends on what the motherboard supports, you don't want to grab hold of an aging technology and be stuck scrounging for old components on eBay when new parts have completely converted. Also driving the decision to invest in the most up-to-date mobo technology is the range of prices. Even the most expensive, technologically advanced motherboard on the market is less than $100 dollars more expensive than the cheapest of the cheap. This contrasts from components like CPU and ATX enclosure which can exhibit an enormous variance.

Conflicting with my desire for a future-proof (or at least future-compatible) board, is the Linux kernel's sometimes slow adoption time of new technologies. A casual browsing of issues encountered by system builders at LinuxQuestions.org reveals more than a few people struggling with Fedora Core 3 and SATA and PCI-e. Both of these technologies are going to eventually replace parallel ATA and AGP respectively, so leaving them out of my PVR is not an option. Adopting Windows Media Center is the last thing I want to do. More browsing of the discussions reveal that recent updates in X.org and Fedora Core 4, support both SATA and PCI-e. Just in time.

Most of the top motherboard manufacturers (Asus, Abit, Gigabyte) offer similar features and pricing, so I am going to choose any one and focus my research efforts on the product line of that particular manufacturer. A coin flip nominates Abit as the motherboard manufacture choice. Their current top of the line model is the Fatal1ty AN8 SLI. This is really geared toward hardcore gamers and over-clockers. With items such as dual PCI-e graphics ports, on-screen and real-time over-clocking control and monitoring, more heat dissipation mechanisms than a Las Vegas showgirl in the summer. The general computing specs list is impressive though, Gig-E, SATA Raid, PCI-e, 7.1 digital sound. A look at the rest of their line reveals that an AN8 SLI is available that drops some of the superfluous gaming features, but I really don't need that much graphics bandwidth. Luckily Abit also makes a standard AN8 with all of the meat and very little of the fluff left over from the Fatal1ty. PCI-Express, SATA Raid, Gb Ethernet, IEEE 1394, OTES passive cooling, perfect.

Abit AN8 nVidia nFORCE4 Chipset Serial ATA150 ATX Form Factor ...
$100.25 - Mwave.com: 4.3 / 5
ABIT AN8 nVIDIA nFORCE4 CHIPSET SERIAL ATA150 ATX FORM FACTOR 1xPCI-E(X16)/2xPCI-E(X1)/3xPCI/4xDDR W/SATARAIDLAN(Gb)1394USB 2.0 & AUDIO (CPU TYPE:AMD ATHLON 64 ...

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