Back to Windows as a primary dev platform

hardware mac windows

My primary development machine has been a series of nicely specced MacBook Pros for about 7 years. Over that time I’ve grown to love these shiny boxes of aspiration. My current machine dropped out of AppleCare in 2016 though, so it was time to start thinking about a replacement for my main work machine - as usual the previous model would be downgraded to our casual machine and would stick around for a good few years afterwards (or so I thought).

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My home-brew 'Steam Box' for the living room

Games hardware PC steam

I’ve already posted about how I’d decided to choose the PC as my ‘next-generation’ gaming platform, and last weekend I built the first iteration of that machine. I say the first iteration, because a PC is inherently an evolving platform, and I expect to refine it and upgrade it in future, but this is where I’m starting from. I thought I’d discuss the choices I made, and the experiences I’ve had so far. Be aware, this is a long one with quite a lot of technical detail, so buckle up 😀

My Criteria

The problem with buying a PC is that you can quite easily go absolutely nuts and blow a fortune on it, by creeping up specification scale gradually without even realising - it’s only a little extra to move one notch up on a component, but then the other components are letting the side down, and before you know it you’ve blown a couple of grand. So, I deliberately set myself very clear goals in building this machine and didn’t allow myself to stray from that:

  1. It had to fit in my cabinet under the TV and not look out of place, and had to work in a living room environment generally
  2. Despite 1, it had to be full ATX with room for 2 full-length GPUs (even though I only plan to buy one initially), and have good ventilation
  3. It had to be approximately the same performance as Xbox One / PS4, give or take, because that would be the benchmark for most game developers going forward. I’ll compare to the PS4 since that’s the more powerful of the two.
  4. I set a budget limit of £700-£800, or about 2x a next-gen console. Mostly this was because I felt I needed to set a reasonable limit to avoid the ever-persistent ‘just one more upgrade’ temptation on PC, but also because it felt like a reasonable test of whether you could build a decent lounge setup for a reasonable sum. It’s never going to be as cheap as a console, but I’m willing to pay extra for a more open & flexible gaming machine.

With that in mind, I went shopping 😀

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Looking for power-efficient barebones servers

hardware low power server

I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to get my local server situation sorted out - I’m still running an old version of Debianon my primary server, which works fine but really needs swapping for UbuntuLTSnow, and in addition, the hardware is getting long in the tooth. It’s still running on an ancient discarded home PC, an Athlon 1Ghz with 512Mb RAM and software RAID1 disks - and runs all my office functions (mail, web, test environs, backups, data sync, databases, you name it) beautifully with that.

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