Upgrade me, baby.

Well, the last couple of months have seen a few changes on my PC side (my faithful Mac laptop is waiting for that G4 upgrade :) ) OK, so what have I done?

  • Upgraded memory from 64MB to 192MB;
  • Swapped my Diamond S90 for a Sound Blaster Live!;
  • Swapped my 8MB ATI Rage Turbo for a 32Mb Elsa GeForce;
  • Upgraded drivers;
  • Installed CD-RW;
  • Upgraded BIOS.

Why the upgrades?

Well, several reasons - changing requirements, there sheer techno-fetishism of it all, and also because I'm building a 'B' machine for family use. (Nice excuse to go to Akihabara and look at the toys.)

Memory

I always knew 64MB wasn't enough, certainly for WinNT, and sometimes for Linux. OK, Win9x tends to ignore anything above 64Megs, but since I often try different systems, and because it was cheap, I thought I'd put a bit more in.

Sound Card

The Sonic Impact S90 is a great, cheap card, and my replacing it is more to do with building the 2nd machine than it's quality. However, many Linux distributions don't like it, as it's Soundblaster emulation isn't exact enough. However, it works great with Win9x, and it's A3D sounds great in those games which support it. The new card, a Soundblaster Live! Value, is another cheap n' chearful card, using Creative's EAX 3D sound technology. This is a fine sound card, well supported in games, which give a nice fat sound. It also has digital out as well as all the MIDI whistles we expect. As always, my favourite game, Myth 2 (M2), is used as a testbed, and to be honest, this new card sounds better than the old one, although I think Aureal's 3D is a little more convincing.

Graphics Card

If you want a good 2D Windows card, the odd Quicktime file, then you need an ATI (or a Matrox maybe). If you want games, and something a little funkier, better look elsewhere. As a new range of graphics cards are about to be unleashed, it's a good time to get a cheaper older one. I picked up a 32MB Elsa Erazor X based on NVidia's GeForce 256 graphics chip-set. It is awesome. Believe it or not, on my meagre 333MHz Celeron, and the old card, Direct-3D Myth 2 got about 10 fps (20 in software)...this thing gives me 40fps in the highest res. Nice. However, when playing Myth, I use the NVidia standard drivers, as the Elsa ones kept crashing the game. I should say though, that the new card's Windows performace is better too, and it's quicktime is great.

Updated drivers

It's always good to keep those driver's updated: I changed my sound and graphics on install. If you're looking for new drivers, check out :www.winfiles.com for PC, and the ever cool www.versiontracker.com for Mac. So, I upgraded the sound drivers, the graphics card, my ISDN terminal adapter (noticeable decrease in connection time).

Installed CD-RW

Great for storing 650 mins of MP3 music, and great for backing up stuff. Just generally great. I picked up this Panasonic drive for about 12,000-en. A pretty good deal. Works with Win98SE no problems too. It's also suprising how useful it is to have 2 CDROMs...

Upgrading BIOS

It sounds scary, but often people don't upgrade their BIOS and miss out on new features and bug fixes. This update from Abit allows the use of faster CPUs and increased sized hard drives. It's worthwhile and usually just involves using a boot disk, running an .exe. file and re-starting. I think that's all the upgrading for the time being. I think the next thing will be a new motherboard/CPU upgrade to take a P3 or Athlon...not till winter though! My only concearn right now is power. My current PSU only supplies 230W and I think everything I've got right now might push that pretty hard, so maybe I'll buy a cheap PSU and case next month.

With Hindsight - April 2018

We can always have a good laugh at PC specs and prices from decades past, but this was fairly balanced I suspect for the time. Ah, VersionTracker, I used to check that thing every day until RSS and in-application updaters were a thing. I have fond memories of that first GForce, if only because it was indeed my first gaming card. I want to say there was a DDR version. Mine wasn't that. Also, that obsession with BIOS updates would take a long time to abate...