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Here is a description of the machines I build and what I use them for:
I have 3 computers at the moment. My fastest systems is an:
Athlon 1.2 Ghz
1 40gb HDD
3 80gb HDD
SB Live 5.1
Radeon 7200? (The driver says 7200, but they didn't have numbers when the Radeon's were first released.)
This computer runs SuSE 8.2 and is my network data server. The sound card is hooked up to my stereo for playing MP3/Ogg files. The radeon card sits in this machine for when I feel like loggin into the server to things that are too graphics intense for my other computer. When I'm not directly futzing around this machine, its used as my public FTP server, and my NFS server.
My other PC is a:
This machine multi-boots, SuSE, WinXP, BeOS, and QNX. It runs all of these OS just fine. When I say just fine, I mean its as responsive as OSX does on my 500mhz TiBook, or SuSE on my server. This machine is just for email, web-browsing, writing stuff, minor photoshop stuff - heavy stuff I'll either use my TiBook or if Gimp does it I'll use my server.
Obviously I didn't build my TiBook, but I use it for word processing, photoshop stuff, on the go email, web, real video feeds of class lectures, on the go video editing, web design. I works fine for most of the things I want to do, not as fast as a dual 2ghz Power Mac, but still nice.
Honestly, it really does help to know what you want a computer for. That way you don't go out buying a P4 2.4ghz computer just to use it for email, web browsing, when a P2-400 that can be gotten on eBay now for about 100 dollars, or a WalMart microtel is more than sufficient. More over from what I've seen, it helps to have a good idea of what a system can do. I've seen a lot of shouting from people that XP is slow on a P3, or that RedHat is much faster then Windows on a P4 2.8 ghz. However, every time I've gone into Best Buy and CompUSA I've played with the computers they have there and 2.8ghz doesn't seem to open the start menu or load IE, Outlook, Word sufficiently faster than my 400mhz to warrant spending 1,000 to 2,500 dollars.
The only market I can see that kind of desktop hardware for is games, home video editing or general 3d rendering. Although I have to admit - before I changed my Athlon to a data server, WarCraft 3 with all the details up didn't even phase it; nor did StarSiege, or MechWarrior 4. So maybe its just FPS games that need a P4 3.06.