Custom Build

A little while back in response to a poorly researched article on a tech website I decided I would list out the parts I would use of building a basic gaming PC for less than £350. With Windows 8 and AMDs latest FM2 socket processors now out it seemed to make sense to update that article.

So for a mere £349.28 from (at time of publishing including postage) here is what you should be looking at getting.

Just one thing before I go any further – proper gaming PCs that run games at their very highest detail are expensive items of kit (£650+) if that’s what you are looking for then this is not the PC for you. However if you are after something to keep the kids happy or just like to dabble in gaming and are happy with medium levels of graphics detail then this is ideal for you!

CPU/GraphicsAMD A10-5800K – £95.26 At the top of the line of the new FM2 socket APUs (CPU and GPU combined) is the A10-5800K with its quad core design and 3.8Ghz clock speed its one mean machine with professional review websites (link) showing that it performs very well for basic gaming.

MotherboardASRock FM2A55M – £37.41 This basic motherboard comes with 4 USB ports, DVI and VGA monitor ports and the 2 SATA cables you will need for the hard drive and DVD drive.

RAMCorsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600Mhz – £30.99 Plenty of RAM is a must for gaming these days especially as the APU uses system RAM for graphics. With 5 star customer reviews across the board on you can’t go wrong!

Hard driveSeagate 500GB Barracuda – £41.98 Its a hard drive, its got 500GB of storage space, if you need a bigger one get a bigger one…not much else to say!

DVD driveLiteOn DVD-RW – £12.68 I’d like to believe that most people have a old PC lying around somewhere that they can use the DVD drive out of but if you need one (to install Windows/Games) then this will meet your needs.

Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 8 – 64-bit – £69.99 Windows 8 is out, with a new Windows store for casual games (Hydro Thunder and Angry Birds included!) its an easy choice for any new gaming PC. You also get the added bonus of the latest version of DirectX which is used in the latest games.

Case and power supplyFractal Design Core 1000 & OCZ Technology 500W CoreXStream – £27.99 & £31.99 Fractal design are very attentive in the design and manufacturing of their products with premium features (like dust covers and anti vibration grommets for the hard drives) showing up in very affordable cases. Going for the OCZ power supply over generic unbranded ones is a good call as you get the assurance of 80+percent power supply efficacy which will help make sure your new PC isn’t chewing through power needlessly.

Buying powerful PCs pre built is all so well and good but the fun comes in when you build them yourself!

That’s just what we have done at work with some media suite PCs which use 6 core processors, modular PSUs and all other kinds of fun things – full specs and photos to come after the video.

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This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Custom RemoteFX RDS Farm

Well its taken a little while but the light at the end of the RDS Farm tunnel is in sight! After heavily modifying two X-Case RM 206 HS cases we now have our first batch of cookie sheet style servers ready for use. The video above goes around a bit of a tour of the case and the photos below go into some particulars in more detail. Continue reading

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Custom RemoteFX RDS Farm

While waiting for the cases/power supplies to arrive for our RDS Server Farm I thought we might as well fire one up and do a little stress testing, the first results (which look at application load times) can be seen below.

Here you see pretty much the entire Office 2007 and Adobe CS6 suite (with a few other programs thrown in for fun) load in almost no time at all.
In the background we had 6 students playing videos on YouTube (RemoteFX doing its thing) however this realy is just a test of the OCZ Vertex 4 SSD.

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Custom RemoteFX RDS Farm

Following on from my first post I am going to look at what will make up by RemoteFX RDS farm including the software and hardware architecture.

First I’ve started out as you would with any small RDS farm; in this case with 4 session hosts and a single connection broker (which will also act as licence server). The 30 endpoints are pointed at the connection broker which then decides which session host they should be logging into.

In my case the servers have only 2 hops between themselves and the endpoints over a fibre optic to a local network switch and then down copper 10/100mb to the client. For the time being the endpoints are just re purposed PCs however we hope to replace them with dedicated thin clients (mainly for power saving reasons) in the next few months.

The connection broker will be hosted as a virtual machine on one of our Hyper-V servers however to make use of RemoteFX technology (will go into this in a little more depth in a later post) the session hosts will all be running directly off physical hardware. Continue reading

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Custom RemoteFX RDS Farm

Sufficed to say budgets are still tight for schools and nothing chews through the budget more than replacing a computer room full of PCs.

One alternative has always been to convert the PCs in the room to ‘fat thin clients’ with a small OS (say Windows Thin PC) and hook them up to a Terminal Server/Remote Desktop Services Farm. The biggest show stopper in this has been the lack of graphics acceleration which performing graphics intensive tasks difficult if not impossible.

Luckily Server 2008 R2 SP1 has come around with RemoteFX technology – this allows you to harness the power of graphics processing in a server. Another issue crops up though – few if any servers (from leading OEMs like HP and Dell) support graphics cards and those that do are just as expensive as normal PCs.

My solutions is – build custom servers out of AMD Fusion APUs (which combine a powerful CPU and GPU on one chip) in true ‘cookie sheet style’.

This series of posts looks at the hardware, software and endpoints (fat thin clients) that I’m going to be using in this project.

For the past few months we’ve had a donated storage server sitting in our storage room, with 8x1TB HDDs it was the perfect chance for us to supplement our daily tape backups with the speed of hard drives and move tape to monthly.

The only issue was that the server came with a rather pants Intel Core2Duo processor that didn’t even support 64bit! As such we couldn’t load our OS and Backup Software of choice (Server 2008 R2 and System Centre DPM 2012).

After a few months of waiting for budgets now we have been able to spend the £280 that it took to get some proper components into this server and the photos of it are below, full spec list is on the next page.

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