How I Computer

I figured it would be fun to document the hardware and software that I use to get everything done on a regular basis. Even if it’s for nobody but future me, this should be a fun post to review later.

Pictured: the computer I actually need.

Pictured: the computer I actually need.

The Desktop

I built the desktop computer myself, so it’s more of a parts list than a computer and it’s definitely overkill. Parts were chosen for the 1% of the time that I play video games rather than the normal use of the computer (browsing the internet).

Short list:

  • CoolerMaster HAF 932 case – this is a huge case, but it’s easy to work in.
  • EVGA X99 Classified motherboard
  • Intel i7-5930K (6 cores, 3.5GHz)
  • 64GB of Corsair Vengeance memory (it’s PC4-25600 running at 3200MHz, if you care) – memory speed matters for gaming.
  • EVGA 1080 Classified video card – when I do game, I want everything to fly.
  • A pile of SSDs in various RAID configurations.
  • Two 27″ Dell 4k monitors (P2715Q) – in hindsight, I would have gone with a single, but larger, display.

As I said before, this system is complete overkill. The upside is that I don’t need to worry about much of anything – space isn’t at a premium, CPU is readily available, and RAM is close to limitless. Well, for my purposes these statements hold true.

The Laptop

My laptop is easier to describe – it’s a Dell Precision 5510 with the top options available. It’s total overkill for my purposes, but it works. Through some careful decisions and power tweaks, the laptop will run for about 6 hours on battery. While not impressive across the whole field of laptops, that is an impressive power figure for such an overpowered laptop.

If I were buying the system again today, I would go for the recently revised XPS 13 with a brand new Kaby Lake processor. In the right configuration, it can allegedly run for about 11 hours off of the battery. Most things I do don’t require a lot of processing power, so I can get by.

The Operating System

Both of my systems are running Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. Technically, the desktop is dual boot, but that will likely change in the near future as I make some additional changes to my configuration. Dual booting is a colossal pain and it’s possible to get great game performance these days through wine and/or virtualization.

Why Linux? I like it. I feel at home on a Linux system.

I ran Windows 10 on both systems for the first 4 months of the year and it wasn’t a bad experience. Since I mainly use my computers for school work (software written to run on Linux systems), it’s just easier to be in the same environment all the time. When I need Windows, I spin up a VM.

The Software

I write nearly everything using emacs. After messing around with several other editors and not being happy, I spent a half a day and configured emacs to work the way I wanted. This mainly involved downloading spacemacs, adding and removing several layers, and changing a few additional settings.

Almost everything else is done in a browser. I use Google Docs for presentations, documents, and spreadsheets. handles my diagramming needs. Google Play Music takes care of buying and listening to music (there’s even a desktop app Google Play Music Desktop Player).

Outside of emacs and a browser, it’s pretty much a laundry list of command line tools and utilities:

  • zsh and oh-my-zsh to keep the shell happy.
  • GCC and clang for compiling software.
  • clang’s extra tools for software analysis. I specifically use clang-tidy to try to find problems in my code.
  • valgrind for memory analysis. Valgrind helps find memory leaks while you run a program.
  • cmake for generating makefiles and managing dependencies.
  • exercism for programming exercises/practice above and beyond schoolwork.

Hand-knitted laptop” by KateMonkey is licensed with CC BY 2.0

14 Comments. Leave new

  • Erik Darling
    2016-09-27 18:52

    Lucky for you SQL Server runs on Linux now ;^}

  • Whaat nice laptop!
    How much did this setup cost?

    • The laptop was around $3000 and I don’t know what the desktop cost, probably around $2500 if you bought the parts today – many of the components have gotten significantly cheaper. That cost doesn’t include the monitors.

  • Great! So your evga x99 classified mobo works flawlessly in ubuntu? Have you tried multiple gpus?

    • It works pretty well, the soundcard was pretty awful, though. Driver support is basically non-existent. I disabled the onboard sound and put in a Xonar.

      I ran two Titan Xs for a while and that worked well enough, but ultimately I switched back to Windows because game FPS under Linux was frequently 20% lower, even after switching to a single 1080 Ti.

      There are probably more compatible boards you can pick up and definitely newer ones.

      • Good news that, but usually Realtek gets along well with linux but I guess you’re right: it’s been a while and there are better boards out there. The new kernel should’ve brought up sound support though.

        • Well, I don’t know about historically, but that particular board’s onboard sound doesn’t play nicely with Windows or Linux. The main issue I ran into is that the sound would work most of the time but every now and then, there would be no sound and it would take between 3 and 10 reboots for sound to return. This occurred even with the hardware enablement kernel in Ubuntu 17.04.

          My other complaint about the board is that EVGA support told me that the supported RAM list is no longer valid and any RAM should run at full speed in the board. Unfortunately, that’s not true.

          • That’s sad to see: I was hoping this board would make the cut for my Ci7 6850k based deep learning rig but seems it just misses . Looking at asus x99-e ws now though some say it’s discontinued . Any suggestions are truly appreciated. Thanks

          • I think it would work as a deep learning rig, a sound card shouldn’t be important for that. You can always risk the onboard sound and buy a replacement if the onboard flakes out on you. I think the Xonar was really cheap and itdoes a great job as a replacement card.

            I don’t keep up on desktop hardware unless I’m buying a new machine, but the X299 is out now, so I suspect you won’t see as many X99 boards around.

            Good luck.

  • Thanks Jeremiah. Will wrap up the build soon. Evga seems to make well built boards and have a global RMA : so worth looking at.

  • Curious, why would you have preferred one larger display over two smaller?

    • Personal preference – having a second monitor hanging off to the side doesn’t buy me any additional effective screen real estate. If I’d purchased a widescreen monitor, I would have more room that’s in my direct line of site.


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