[Update 09/10/2007: I have just posted a longer report on my experiences building this machine. See Building your own Linux Ubuntu computer using the ECS GeForce 6100SM-M motherboard]
A few minutes ago I came across a post in the Ubuntu Forums from someone interested in building their own machine just to run Ubuntu, in the thread How to build a PC that is 100% compatible with Ubuntu.
As it happens I recently built a machine for just that purpose, and have been planning to write about it soon in this blog. But then I realized that I had information at hand of value to the person who asked that question — a list of components of reasonable cost that I knew could be assembled to run Ubuntu — and so why wait to share that information?
Either I should write the blog post or provide something immediately to the thread, so I wrote up a quick note with the essential points and posted it. I’m also copying it at the end of this note.
This is an example of one of the key ideas behind open-source: release early, and release often. It is better to share sooner than to labor away in isolation. You don’t have to wait until a work is “done” or “perfect.” It can be better to release it in pieces or in multiple versions.
If may also make sense to release it to multiple audiences in different places. For example, I have put part of this experience in the Ubuntu thread, do plan to write it up later, and also should at some point add the appropriate parts to the “User Comments” section at newegg for some of the components mentioned.
On building your own machine to run Ubuntu:
My experience is that the motherboard does matter. For example, I recently upgraded one of my boxes to use the BIOSTAR TFORCE 550 Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 550 MCP ATX AMD . It was a disaster, and I wasted lots of hours until I figured out I needed to install a BIOS update. Then it proved to be a champ running Ubuntu.
The motherboard determines which processor and memory you must use, as well as the available kinds of connections for external devices.
I built a machine from scratch a couple of weeks ago. I was aiming for low cost, with adequate performance for a desktop, aiming to spend about $50-$60 for each of the key parts (I had display, cd/dvd drive, mouse and keyboard at hand). I built the machine with parts from http://newegg.com. Read the user comments to find mention of “Linux” or “Ubuntu,” and pay particular attention to *negative* comments.
I used the following:
Rosewill R604TSB-N 120mm Fan ATX Mid Tower Computer Case+450W Power Supply. I picked this because it came with power supply.
ECS GeForce6100SM-M (1.0) Socket AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100S Micro ATX AMD Motherboard. This motherboard has the advantage of builtin graphics that is adequate for 1280×1024 resolution, so you don’t need to buy a separate video card if you are just doing basic text processing.
AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Orleans 1.8GHz Socket AM2 Processor Model ADA3000CNBOX – Retail. The “retail” part is important. It means that it comes with a fan. If you buy “OEM” then you will have to buy a fan separately.
Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/1G
Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD2500KS 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
I was able to install Ubuntu 7.04 the first time I booted up the system.
Note that many recent motherboards have only one IDE connector and so can support at most two IDE devices. The supplied cable may not allow connecting both a cdrom/dvd drive and a hard disk drive. For example, when I upgraded another box to use a a new motherboard, I found it necessary to buy a SATA cdrom drive so I could use an IDE-type hard disk. If you are starting from scratch then I would recommend using SATA technology.