Did something that - for a variety of reasons - I have wanted to do for a long time.

Put together an AMD Athlon 64 3500 system with 4GB memory and 380GB disk. Installed Ubuntu 5.10 and VMware 5 (using instructions from the Unbuntu wiki).

Wow. Setting up Ubuntu 5.10 is a lot easier than setting up Windows (any version), and - so far at least - everything just works. I’d expected some grief setting up printers. One printer (HP DeskJet 5550) is shared off a Windows box. Another printer (HP Photosmart 8450) is directly connected to the network. In both cases, bounced through a couple of Printing dialogs, and both printers work(!).

Installed Windows 2000 and 2003 Server (I have an MSDN license) in VMware virtual machines. Subjectively at least, it seemed that setup, boot and shutdown are all faster. Might be the underlying Linux OS and all that RAM acting as a cache and optimizing disk access. Add to this VMware’s ability to snapshot and clone VMs, and testing multiple OS configurations becomes fast and slick.

This leads me to wonder if hosting multiple Windows VMs under Linux might often yield better performance, as in typical use not all VMs are going to be busy at the same time, and the large pool of physical RAM is going act as a very large disk cache. Another topic…

This all went into an old PC Power and Cooling case (solid, well-built, but nothing flashy). The original power supply was somewhat noisy (not atypical, just louder than I’d like), so after a bit of research ordered a Seasonic S12 power supply (moderately priced, quiet, efficient, good performance - see review) and after installation, you can scarcely hear the machine running.

In fact I ordered *two* power supplies. Any noise from the new box is drown out when the nearby Linux file server is running. Guess which box is up next for rebuilding??

As an aside - I was somewhat surprised to see the BIOS report that the Athlon 64 3500 is running at 34°C (94°F) with the stock AMD-supplied fan/heatsink. To me the low power usage (and heat generation) suggests that the Athlon 64’s coming out of AMD are no longer on the bleeding edge for chip fabrication. This has two implications. AMD can produce the chips at low cost, and (very likely) there is an excellent chance the chips will overclock very well (an adventure for another day).