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PC Computer Hardware Parts Components and Accessories:

Building a Linux Computer System

This covers Linux PC (Personal Computer) hardware information, components, peripherals and accessories to build the ultimate computer system.

Related YoLinux Tutorials:

°Linux Sys Admin

°Linux Networking

°YoLinux Tutorials Index


The availablility and lack of licensing restrictions of source code for the Linux kernel, has allowed Linux to be ported to a plethora of processors. There are the most popular for desktop, laptop and servers:

RAM Memory:


RAM heat sinks:


  • SRAM: Static RAM (SIMMS connector)
  • DRAM: Dynamic RAM. Typically 70 ns. Can only read or write but not both at the same time. (DIMMS connector)
  • EDO DRAM: Extended Data Output DRAM
  • SDRAM: Synchronous Dynamic RAM. (PC100 compatable) Typically 10ns. DIMM module has 168 pins.
  • RDRAM: Rambus DRAM. Requires motherboard chipset support. (RIMMS connector)
  • DDR/DDRAM: Double Data Rate/Double Data RAM. Operates twice as fast as conventional memory by performing two memory operations for every CPU clock cycle. (PC133 SDRAM compatable) DDR DIMM module has 184 pins.
  • DDR266: Double Data Rate at 266 Mhz. Throughput=8bytes x 266 Mhz/sec = 2.1 GB/sec. Hence the term: PC2100
Memory naming convention set by JEDEC, the semiconductor engineering standardization body of the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA)

Video Graphics and video capture:

My choices for best video graphics are:

For the ultimate list of supported video cards and the latest information see the XFree86 Project Home Page

Video Capture and TV cards:

  • Hauppague analog WinTV bt 878 (Brooktree chip-set) - Hauppauge Linux support page
    I purchased the Hauppauge model 447 which includes a PCI WinTV television and FM radio tuner card, video camera, FM antenna, an internal sound card connector and an infrared remote. The TV tuner card is cable-ready, supports 125 channels and closed captioning. The card is capable of supporting a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 pixels, and has S-Video input, audio in/out (1/8" = 3.5mm, 3 conductor minijack), coax connectors for cable TV and FM radio cable/antenna inputs well as a remote control (IR) reciever socket (2.5mm minijack). An external IR reciever is also included. (Newr versions include headphones with mic and volume control.)

This capture card works with qVIX Video conferencing for Linux

The prefered Hauppauge video camera has an S-video or RCA video connection such as the:

These use RCA connections on the Hauppauge capture card. (connection diagram.-Model 447 has one more cable connection for the FM radio) Note: The cameras listed are pure video and require a video capture card such as the Hauppauge. Cameras which use a USB port are often slower.

The default Red Hat 7.1 kernel comes ready to support TV/Video. If compiling the kernel, note that it requires the following modules: I2C Core, I2C Devices, I2C Algorithms, Video4Linux (v4l) API driver, Bttv drivers (this includes everything required for TV, radio and teletext) and Bttv mixer device (from the sound section).

Also see:

HDTV cards:

Also see:

Video Monitors:
A variety of pixel response rates (25ms-12ms) sizes (19", 21"), resolutions (1280x1024, 1600x1200, 1920x1200, ...), aspect ratios (HD), video inputs (VGA, DVI, S-Video, Composite), power supplies and

LCD Monitors:

Dual monitor LCD's: Mounts for dual monitors:

Network Interface Cards (NIC):

The winner these days seems to be Intel. They also manufacture the Intel Pro/100 Dual port server adapter which has two 10/100 Mbps Ports. This can be used to increase bandwidth, enable routing or setting up a firewall (ipchains/iptables) and only use one PCI slot. See Using Linux and ipchains/iptables to set up an internet gateway for home or office. In the near future Intel will present I2O (Intelligent I/O) NICs which are supported by the current Linux kernel. This will offload the TCP/IP stack to the network card reducing the CPU load. This will be essential in supporting iSCSI (network SCSI storage)

  • Intel - Pro 1000 and Pro 1000 Dual Port
  • Intel - Pro 100 and Pro 100 Dual Port:
    This PCI NIC card supports two physical ethernet connections (eth0, eth1) on one card conserving valued PCI slots. Great for a firewall set-up.
  • 3Com - 3c905 (Not the 3c905B and C) - [Drivers]

Other network hardware:

  • Cyclades - T1/E1 with built in DSU/CSU PCI cards
  • ZNYX - PCI embedded Ethernet switch

Keyboard and Mouse:

  • Logitech wireless "Cordless iTouch" or "Cordless Freedom Pro" mouse and keyboard. An RF receiver plugs into the regular PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports on your computer. (USB mouse connection is also available) The keyboard and mouse are wireless using radio technology. The mouse is a two button mouse with middle scroll wheel. (As a programmer, I prefer three button mice for UNIX workstations.)
  • Logitech 3 button mouse.
  • I-Rocks - Illuminated keyboards
  • PCKeyboard.com

Hard Drives:

Hard drive standards: IDE, EIDE, ATA, SATA, SCSI, Fibre Channel

  • IDE: Integrated Drive Electronics. Same as ATA, just another name.
  • EIDE: Enhanced IDE. Supports ATA and ATAPI standards. Uses Master/Slave, Primary/Secondary configuration, 40 pin cable.
  • ATAPI: Advanced Technology Attachment Packet Interface - Compatible with IDE. EIDE for CD ROM and Tape drives. Includes SCSI-3 like command set.
  • ATA/100: Advanced Technology Attachment. Just another name for IDE.
  • PATA: Parallel ATA - Refers to older IDE/EIDE/ATA/ATAPI 40 pin ribbon cable parallel interface.
  • Ultra DMA/66: 80 pin ribbon cable, 66MB/s transfer rate
  • SATA/150: Serial ATA - Reduces crosstalk across parallel cables by using a single chanel high speed connection. Uses single bundle of 7 wires of which 3 are ground. 2 TX (transmit), 2 RX (receive)
  • SATA/300: (3G) 3 Gigabit (Gb) bandwidth.
  • SATA II: Added feature set support for SATA/300 drives.
  • eSATA/XSATA: External SATA and next generation eSATA, XSATA for greater cable length.
  • NCQ: Native Command Queuing - reorder disk requests to optimize seek time.
  • SCSI: I, II, 3, fast-wide, 160, 320, ...
IDE/ATA History

Disk Drive Vendors:

Disk Drive Coolers/Heatsinks:

Storage Systems:

NAS: Network Attached Storage

Computer Cases (Enclosures):

PC Case Manufacturers:

  • Aerocool (Acrylear: All acrylic and clear. No EMI shielding.)
  • Antec (P160: 1.2 AL, 4/2/4 bays,USB top upper fron panel, removable mother board pannel, air filter) (Sonata: Steel, 3/0/2/4 bays,120mm silent fan,2fans,airfilters, HDD rubber grommet mounted trays) ** Good 2 **
  • Atech (STK6551: acrylic-steel)
  • Athenatech (A100SC: micro)
  • BuyRaidmax.com: Raidmax (Scorpio-668: Aluminum, acrylic sides, Galaxy-988)
  • Chenbro (Xpider: plastic, 4/1/6bays)
  • Coolermaster (Cavalier T01, Centurion: basic, power supplies, fans)
  • Chieftec (Extreme Series: honeycomb, fan filter, 4/2/4 bays)
  • Chemming
  • GlobalWin
  • Pyrinex.com: Kingwin: Kingwin (K11-BK-WM, KT-424-BK-WM: 2mm Aluminum, acrylic sides, motherboard tray, 4/2/4 bay,3 fan, antishock HDD) ** Good 1 **
  • Lian Li solid basic cases
  • StoreCase.com - (Kingston Technology subsidiary) Rack and desktop cases for storage drives.
  • Supermicro.com - Cases
  • Thermaltake
  • Yeong Yang (YY-5601)
  • Enermax
Notation note: # 5.25" external bays/# 3.5" external bays/# 3.5" internal bays

Home Theater Cases:
PC cases for home theater. These cases make the PC look like a stereo component.


Power Supply Unit: (PSU)

Active PFC (Power Factor Correction): Reduces harmonic distorion for a cleaner power source. Controlled voltage for a higher "power factor". This is preferred.

Passive PFC: Uses a capacitive filter.

Note that most computer cases require airflow provided by the power supply fan. This makes some of the fanless units inappropriate. There are also super quiet "noiseless" or silent but not fanless powersupplies.


Cooling and misc:


Sound Cards:

The Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy or Live PCI with output for digital speakers is about as good as it gets. This is not because it's the best sound card, it's because it's the best supported. I tried to get fancy with a Turtle Beach and as far as I got was being able to play my CD and that was it. (I basically failed and ended up buying a Sound Blaster) If you want to get fancy you may have to buy commercially supported drivers from 4Front using Open Sound System (OSS). (Note: Most other references to OSS refer to Open Source Software) See the 4Front list of supported cards.

Misc: I use a Radio Shack Three-Headphone Cable Adapter (42-2458) on my audio input (1/8" minijack) so the sound card may accept input from my Hauppauge WinTV card, aux input and headphone/mic headset.

Audio and Speakers:

  • Creative Labs speakers

    Four channel/4-speaker digital audio. The FPS2000 Digital is the only speaker system that provides proprietary DIGITAL DIN connection with Sound Blaster Live! The speaker system also includes a separate front and rear audio inputs, compatible with any other four-channel PCI sound cards. On my Linux system with the SoundBlaster Live Platinium, both the line-out and rear-out jacks work.)

  • Altec Lansing
    • Altec 641LA 5 PC 110V Speaker System
    • Altec 4100LA 5 PC 110V Speaker System 70Watts
    • ATP3UA 3PC 110V 3PC Speaker System BLACK 18W Subwoofer
  • Klipsch
  • Harmon Kardon
  • Monsoon Audio
  • Eminent Tech
Audio Speaker Links:

Head Phones / Headsets:

Choose headphones which contain a volume control and microphone on/off switch.


Some of the old CD-ROMS which were driven off of the sound card may not work, but in general, most work without any problems.

  • Plextor - CD-RW
    32X/12X/10X REWRITABLE EIDE CD-RW Internal

I mention the Plextor because all the others are so much alike and this one stands out. It has the fastest write throughput, available in Ultra-SCSI and comes with "BURN-Proof" features which allow it to stop in the middle of burning a CD. This is unique to Plextor. It has been ranked the best by all the reviews I have seen.



The Red Hat compatibility list does not list any DVD players but I have seen many in use. (I'm not sure of those listed below.)


  • Sony DRU110A/C1:

    Combines DVD+RW and CD-RW recording with DVD-ROM and CD-ROM playback in one. Expensive but it is truly all-in-one!

  • Pioneer: DVR-A03 DVD-R/RW, CD-R/RW combo


  • Toshiba SD-M1401:
  • Pioneer 304S/305S (10x DVD and 40x CDROM)
  • Pioneer DVR-S201 1X DVD write, 2X DVD read, SCSI-2

There are only two manufacturers with licensed software support of DVD system for Linux.

  1. Creative Labs: I saw the Dxr2 DVD at Linuxworld in NYC. The Creative Labs site does not seem to have the DVD playback software for the Dxr2 anymore but instead refers you to the developers Andrew de Quincey and Lucien Murray-Pitts.

  2. IBM: IBM Thinkpad notebook computers with Linux pre-installed and a DVD come with the InterVideo, LinDVD player installed and configured.

There is DVD player software available for Linux but its legality has been under attack in the courts. The battle has not been resolved and unless the Linux DVD developers lose the battle, the OMS (Open Media System) software is available from: http://linuxvideo.org

OMS Notes:

  • The DVD disk must be mounted: mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom
  • Use the hdparm command to enable DMA access to the DVD drive or else video playback will seem slow, broken and ragged.
    i.e.: hdparm -d1 -c1 /dev/cdrom
    Also see YoLinux: System Optimization and hdparm
  • New DVD players do not have a country code burned in. Burn this in with specialized Linux software or run it under Windows once before use under Linux.
  • Requires udf file system support in kernel.
  • When compiling OMS from source, bootstrap with autogen.sh to create a configure file, then run configure and make.
  • Components:
    • omi: GUI
    • oms: Main program
    • libccs: DVD decryption
  • Configuration files: $HOME/.oms/

Linux Related DVD links:


If a modem is required, I prefer external modems. No IRQ, Winmodem driver headaches. The Novel/S.U.S.E. Hardware database gives the best list.


  • U.S.Robotics - analog

    • Data Compression Protocol: MNP-5, V.42bis
    • Error Correction Protocol: MNP-4, ITU V.42, MNP-2, MNP-3
    • Analog Modulation Protocol: ITU V.21, ITU V.22, ITU V.22bis, ITU V.29, ITU V.32, ITU V.32bis, ITU V.34, ITU V.90, ITU Group 3 Fax, ITU V.17, ITU V.23, ITU V.27ter, x2, ITU V.92
    • Interface Type: Serial RS-232
  • 3Com - DSL, Cable
  • Best Data
  • ActionTec - DSL
  • Vicking components
  • Xircom - Notebook modems
  • Zoom - (Hayes)
  • IBM: Mwave - While it is a Laptop ThinkPad "WinModem", IBM provides drivers.



The easiest solution is to use a Postscript compatible printer.
The following designations are often used within the model numbers to designate various features:

  • n - Network
  • t - Extra paper trays (i.e. paper tray one and paper tray two)
  • d - Duplex (Print on both sides of a sheet of paper)
  • f - fax


Tape Backup:


  • HP SureStore DAT40 DDS-4 40 GB

    Recording Standard: DDS-2, DDS-3, DDS-4 ( ANSI/ISO/ECMA DDS )

    • Recording Standard: DDS-2, DDS-3, DDS-4 ( ANSI/ISO/ECMA DDS, ANSI/ECMA DDS-DC )
    • Native / Compressed Capacity: 20 GB / 40 GB
  • Overland Data Inc.
  • Ampex
  • Tandberg Data
  • StorageTek
  • Tandberg
  • Quantum
  • SpectraLogic

Tape form factors: DAT, DLT, SDLT, LTO, AIT, SLR, Quarter inch, 9 track tape.

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS):

  • APC - American Power Conversion
    UPS BP1400: BACK UPS PRO 1400 1400VA 6 OUTLET 120V LINE-INT

    • Voltage: AC 120 V ( 50/60 Hz )
    • Average Run Time: 60 min
    • Capacity: 1400VA/950W

    • Load Rating: Small workgroup server
    • Average Run Time: 11 Ah / 15.3 min
    • Capacity: 620 volt-amp, 390 watt
  • PowerWare.com - (Best was purchased by PowerWare)
  • Tripplite

Miscellaneous and Specialty Hardware:

PCI Cards:

Data Acquisition and Measurement:

  • Comedi.org - Open Source drivers for hardware from all manufacturers
  • National Instruments - Measurement, analog and digital data interfaces
    Linux Drivers:
    • GPIB - power supplies
    • NI-DAQmx (pdf) - analog/digital acquisition

Linux PDAs and Mobile Computing:

Hardware Notes:

  • When using a KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) switch to use one Keyboard Video and Mouse connected to multiple computers, remember to configure each computer to have the same resolution. Some monitors will freak out upon an instantaneous switch to a higher resolution.

Linux Laptops:

Hardware Publications:

Non-Computer Hardware Links:


Extreme Systems:

News Groups:

Book imageBooks:

Upgrading and Repairing PCs (with CD-ROM)
Scott Mueller
ISBN #0789723034, QUE

The authoratative book on computer upgrading, maintenance, interchangeability, and repairs. It's the best reference out there.

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