Penelope

This page lists the full timeline for the life of my main workstation, Penelope. This page is updated when the system is.

Mk.I

August 2001

This was the first build, running Windows 2000

Case: In-Win Q700 fulltower with 300W PSU

CPU: AMD Athlon (Thunderbird, Socket A, 1333Mhz) with ThermalTake Volcano II cooler

Mainboard: Asus A7A266 with 256 MB of DDR266 RAM

Drives: 60GB IBM Deskstar 60GXP IDE harddisk, Asus 50x CD-ROM drive, no-name Floppy drives (3.5″ and 5.25″).

Expansion cards: Riva TNT2 (AGP 32MB) GPU, Creative Live! soundcard, Realtek Fast Ethernet card.

Originally, 512 MB of memory was installed, but a bug in the BIOS of the Asus board prevented stable operation with two modules installed, so one was returned.


December 2001

A second 60GB IBM Deskstar 60GXP IDE harddisk was added to the system, as well as a Philips PCRW2010 20x CD burner.


April 2002

The Riva TNT2 card was replaced with an XFX GeForce Ti4200 (AGP, 128MB RAM) card .
An AOpen 48x DVD drive (DVD1648, IDE) was added to the system. To add the required extra IDE port, a Promise Ultra 100 TX2 PCI card was also added.


May 2002

A 120 GB IBM Deskstar 120GXP IDE harddisk was added to the system.
The 60GB system disk failed. It was replaced under warranty. Later, both 60GB drives in the system were combined into a RAID 1 array connected to a Promise FastTrak 100 PCI controller.


September 2002

A second 120 GB IBM Deskstar 120GXP IDE harddisk was added to the system


January 2003

The other original 60GB harddisk failed, and both 60GB disks were replaced with two 80GB IBM Deskstar 180GXP IDE disks.
The brandless 300W PSU was replaced with an Enermax EG465AX-VE 465 Watt supply.


November 2003

The system was upgraded to a dual-screen setup.


March 2004

After well over 500 burned discs (including several overheating incidents), the PCRW2010 burner was worn out, and replaced by a newer Philips burner(PCRW5232K, IDE)


May 2005

On hot days, the Volcano II cooler was incapable of keeping the system stable under load, and was replaced by a Zalman CNPS7000B-Cu cooler.


Oktober 2005

A 250 GB Hitachi Deskstar T7K250 IDE harddisk was added to the system.


Februari 2006

Since Asus had provided a BIOS update solving the earlier problems with multiple modules, an additional 1GB of 400MHz DDR memory was installed.

An attempt was made to add a Creative X-Fi Elite Pro soundcard to the system, to replace the Soundblaster Live! with a surround capable card. However, the card suffered serious driver issues and was returned.


Mk.II

April 2006

2006 saw the transition to the Mk.II designation, with an upgrade to a multi-core CPU, PCI-e graphics and dual channel memory. The primary reason for the change was lack of SSE and similar instructions on the old Thunderbird CPU, which was becoming noticable in everyday tasks. The newer mainboard had more on-board peripherals, so the Mk.II upgrade removed the soundcard and the NIC from the machine. In addition to this, the upgrade saw the transition to a triple screen setup.
The new mainboard only supported a single FDD, so the 5.25″ drive was removed from the system.
The Zalman cooler used for Mk.I also supported Socket 939, so it stayed in the system.

CPU: AMD Opteron 165 (Denmark, Socket 939, 1800MHz, 2 cores)

Mainboard: MSI K8N Neo4 FI with 2GB of Corsair 400MHz DDR CL2 memory

Graphics: Asus GeForce 7900GT (PCI-e 16x, 256Mb) and Matrox Millenium G550 (PCI-e 1x, 32Mb)


May 2006

A modified Zalman ZM-MFC1 fan controller was added. In addition, two extra 80mm fan openings were cut into the front of the case, providing extra cooling to the harddisk bay.


July 2006

A 250 GB Hitachi Deskstar T7K250 SATA harddisk was added to the system.


August 2006

A Philips DVD burner (SPD6000FD, IDE) was added as a fourth optical drive.


November 2006

A 320 GB Hitachi Deskstar T7K500 SATA harddisk was added to the system.


June 2007

One of the two 120GB disks failed. To prevent further failures, the other older disks were also cleaned out:
The aging 80GB RAID system disks were replaced with two Seagate Barracuda ES 250 Drives in RAID 1 configuration. Since these connected to the mainboard’s SATA ports, the Promise FastTrak controller could be removed. An additional bracket was added to the top of the case to house the system disks.
A Promise SATA300 TX4 controller was added for more Sata storage, together with a 500 GB Seagate Barracuda ES drive to replace the remaining 120GB disk.


July 2007

To provide extra airflow for the CPU and GPU, two additional 120mm fan mountings were cut into the side of the case, with Zalman ZM-F3 fans installed. The new inlets, as well as the two custom 80mm inlets at the front were supplied with dust filters.


August 2007

System was changed to running Windows XP 64-bit.


October 2007

The Enermax PSU was replaced with the similarily powered but newer EG495AX-VE 485 Watt model. This simply because the old model was lacking most modern cables such as SATA, 24-pin ATX, PCI-e power, etc.

An intel Fast Ethernet PCI adapter was added to the system, so it could operate as a network router.


February 2008

System was returned to running Windows 2000.


September 2009

The GeForce 7900GT failed. One of the memory chips started giving errors, causing screen corruption. It was replaced by a Radeon HD5850 (PCI-e 16x, 1GB), which was by itself capable of powering three screens, allowing for the removal of the secondary Matrox card. The upgrade to the HD5850 required an OS upgrade as well, moving to Windows 7 64bit.
This in turn required replacing the last IDE 250GB disk with a SATA version, as no Windows 7 drivers were available for the Ultra 100 TX2 card, which was removed from the system.


October 2009

Since the system was now running a 64-bit OS, an attempt was made to add an additional 2GB of memory, but Penelope refused to boot, regardless of settings. I first noticed then that several of the regulator capacitors on the mainboard were starting to bulge.


August 2010

Penelope refused to boot, not even entering POST. Looking inside, the bulging caps noticed a year before have become noticably bigger, and were the probable culprit.


December 2010

A total of 8 capacitors was replaced on the MSI mainboard. The repair was successful, and Penelope booted as normal.
Later a new attempt was made to add the additional 2GB of memory. This time, it worked without problems, and at higher speeds than the motherboard should support.
Since the machine no longer operated as a router, the secondary Intel network adapter was removed.


Februari 2011

One of the sata connectors on the MSI mainboard was giving intermittent problems, causing one of the raid disks to disappear. Since many of the drives in the system where nearing warranty expiration, a full replacement was done. A Kingston 64GB SSD drive was added as a new system disk. For mass-storage, a new Areca ARC-1200 2-port PCI-e RAID controller was added, together with two 2TB Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen drives.
All other drives were removed from the system, together with the Promise SATA300 TX4 controller and the secondary harddisk bracket.


Mk.III

September 2012

Penelope was once again beginning to show its age. When post-processing photos, the system was permanently loading both cores fully, with lots of waiting. Newer games were also bottlenecked by the comparatively slow clock speed of the CPU, so the decision was made to perform a second major upgrade.

Mk. III saw a transition from the AMD to the Intel platform.

CPU: Intel i7-3770K (Ivy-Bridge, Socket 1155, 3500MHz, 4 cores, 8 threads) with Corsair H60 cooler

Mainboard: Asus P8Z77-V LK with 16GB of Corsair 1600MHz DDR3 CL9 memory

Since the 64GB SSD drive was too small to support suspend-to-disk with the larger RAM size, it was replaced with a 256GB Samsung 830 SSD drive.

Most of the fans in the system were rather old, with some completely dead, so all were replaced with Arctic Cooling fans. The Zalman fan controller was removed, and the new fans controlled by the Mainboard via PWM, with the exception of the fan in the top half, which was temperature controlled. Where applicable, fan mountings were modified for increased airflow by removing obstructive fanguards and replacing them where needed with wire-frame versions.

The new mainboard did not support firewire, IDE or FDD, so a Sweex FW005V2 PCI firewire card was added. The 3.5″ Floppy disk drive was replaced by a front-connector panel with USB 2.0, eSata, audio and firewire. The optical drives were connected via IDE-to-SATA converters. I also added a custom panel with two USB 3.0 ports, as well as status leds for the Areca RAID controller.

The Enermax PSU lacked some of the required connectors (8-pin EPS, dual PCI-e), and it was doubtful whether its power was sufficient, so it was replaced with a Corsair Gold AX750 750 Watt PSU with modular connectors.

During the last months, I had several failing displays, and though I’d been building up a stockpile, this now ran out, so I bit the bullet and finally made the switch to TFT panels.


April 2013

I found myself using RAM disks a lot when working on large sets of photographs, so another 16GB of Corsair 1600MHz DDR3 CL9 memory was added, filling all slots for a total of 32GB.


November 2013

Pushing nearly 7 million pixels when running modern games in Eyefinity was proving too much for the Radeon HD5850. It was replaced with a Radeon R9 290X (PCI-e 16x, 4GB).

The CD and DVD burners were not playing nice with the IDE -> SATA converters and the optical drives were hardly used anyway, so the AOpen DVD drive and the two Philips burners were replaced with a single LiteOn SATA DVD burner. The Asus CD-ROM player was kept.

The two freed-up 5.25″ slots were used to mount a Lian-Li EX-H22A hot-swap harddisk bracket, to house the two RAID disks connected to the Areca. This allowed for removal of the internal harddisk bracket from the case.


January 2014

The old Asus CD-ROM player was often not being detected, or behaving erratically, so it was disconnected.


Summary (as of november 2013)

3 CPUs, 3 mainboards, 11 memory modules (combined size 37.5GB), 17 harddisks (combined size 6.75TB), 2 floppy drives, 6 optical drives, 4 power supplies, 5 GPUs (combined memory 5536MB), 4 disk controllers, 2 network controllers, 2 soundcards.

Right now, the only two components that were part of the original Mk.I are the Asus CD-ROM drive (which is actually older, as it was part of my previous system), and the case. I still have the same keyboard as well (also part of my previous PC), though my original trackball was recently replaced after being worn out.

From 2006 till 2010, the machine was running 24/7.

The period between August and December 2010 was the only time the system was forcibly offline for more than a day (I was moving at the time, so repairs had a low priority)

The first display was the 15″ Compaq CRT from my previous system. This was then expanded with a 17″ NEC CRT. Later on, the 15″ Compaq was replaced by a 17″ Iiyama. The two 17″ screens were then replaced one by one with 19″ Iiyama Vision Master Pro 450 models, and a third was added. For the entire Mk.II period, three Iiyama 450s were used at 1600×1200 pixels, for a 4800×1200 pixel desktop, though several replacements were necessary as individual models failed. With the Mk.III upgrade they were replaced by three Dell U2412M 24″ widescreen displays, for a 5760×1200 desktop.