Building a Computer the Google Way

If you're ever in Silicon Valley, I highly recommend checking out the Computer History Museum. Where else can you see a live demonstration of the only known working PDP-1 in existence, and actually get to play the original Spacewar on it? I did. It was incredible. I got chills. And my wife was bored beyond belief, but I love her all the more for soldiering through.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Why the love for the Antec P180? All the reviews I’ve seen for that case say that it’s got some nice touches, but it’s a PITA to work with due to weird PSU placement and cable channeling…

As an owner of a P180 who built two P180-based computers (mine and another one), here’s why I still recommend it although it’s fairly difficult to work with intially due to bizarre cable routing (and you need long PSU cables too, most PSUs are fine, but some aren’t, depends of your motherboard connectors position):

  • It’s beautiful. Not in the “Leds’n spoilers’n stuff” sense, but in the “this looks like a huge slab of black/grey metal [2001: A Space Odyssey style]” sense, it looks simple and smart. I really like that look.

  • Litteraly reeks of quality and solidity. Antec had some false start issues (plastic front doors bending) but they’ve now resolved them all.

  • Helps your computer be silent, the case was built for silence and it shows/feels, unless you’re a silence expert you won’t do much better. And its heavyness (the skeleton is solid iron) means that the vibrations are mostly stopped dead in their tracks.

  • Helps your computer run cool, the bizarre PSU position also means that the PSU doesn’t get warmed by the CPU and GPU, nor does it warm them, works really well

  • Apart from the PSU issues, it’s extremely well thought of and easy to work with (if you forget about the huge number of screws), and it “feels” solid and fine (not like some flimsy cases with flesh-cutting corners)

In fact, the only “issue” I (could) have with my '180 is the fact that its weight would make it impractical to transport.

Of course, since I hooked it to a Reserator 1 Plus (passive watercooler) and own a laptop this is an non-issue.

I frigging love my '180.

Yeah, but in the world of PCs, you will end up doing this troubleshooting anyway. Trust me. There’s too much beige box crap out there, and too many parts to fit together and interoperate. Better to learn how rather than avoiding it.

That’s true, unless you supply the PCs being used with the hardware for which you are developing.

Anyone else amused by Scott cheering Jeff on in this endeavor?

“If you treat your PC like an appliance you plug into a wall, you’ve robbed yourself of a crucial lesson on the symbiotic relationship between software and hardware. The best way to truly understand the commodity PC is to gleefully dig in and build one yourself.”

Scott, stop robbing yourself!

No doubt, the jump from 1 core to 2 cores is a big, and important one. But beyond that, the benefits become increasingly dubious unless you have an app that’s highly parallelized.

Compilation is one of those things. Let’s take a look…
Linux Kernel compilation
time make -j# of Cores + 1

Xeon 5150 (Dual Core 2.66 GHz)

2x Xeon 5150

Xeon E5320 (Quad Core 1.86 GHz)

2x Xeon E5320

Going from 2-4 cores reduces compile time 44%. Going from 4-8 cores reduces compile time 37%. Notice anything wrong there?

Unfortunately, we can’t directly compare the 2/4 and 4/8 results since the clock rates are so different.

Preach on.

The P180 in my opinion is an OK case but as most Antec cases go its very flimsy. They tend to cut corners and not give enough support to the skeleton of the cases. I have a P180 and bought it for the room thinking it might be a good case. The plastic front is cheap, the case sides do not line up well with the frame, and the plastic filter covers are nothing but flimsy. Cable management is a pure nightmare with 7 hard drives and 2 DVD drives. I use it for my personal machine/server and it includes 2 74gb Raptors in RAID0 using the motherboard controller and 5 300gb Sata drives in RAID 5 using a LSI Sata 150-6 raid card. I plan to move everything over to a Lian Li PC201B. From past experience the Lian Li cases are of much higher quality, you can just feel it as you work with the cases. Plus the placement of the 12 internal drive bays makes much more sense than that of the P180. I do like the PSU being located in the lower part of the case, that works rather well and is another reason I will be using the Lian Li case. Trust me when I say once you have your hands on a Lian Li case, you will see what I mean.

And to those that do not have the time to build your own, but dont want to settle for a Dell/HP etc, go see your local mom and pop computer store. They can do the research for you and sell you a nice well balanced machine with a local warranty.

Angry American

I see your point and would agree completely, were i not completely in love with the Mac Pro :wink:

I used to be a believer in off-the-shelf machines. I thought the large Hardware producers would know best how to combine the right components. Apparently this is not so. So how do you know how the custom components you use are going to work together optimally? You would need a test-review of a system which consists of all (or most) of these parts. Or is it really enough to just buy each component on its own w/o having proof of how the overall system performance is going to be?

You know well what programmers like to read.

Couldn’t agree more. I’ve bought one pre-built PC 12 years ago and went with DIY machines since then.

I appreciate your recent hardware-related posts as I’m currently in the planning stages for a new Vista machine. Based on your research, what do you think about the spacious Lian Li PC V2100A Plus II case, disregarding its price?

I have to say that there is one particular advantage with a company like Dell (and presumably others) - they can fabricate stuff that you are unlikely to be able to make yourself. For example, I have a very nice Precision 650; Dual 3GHz Xeon processor, 4GB memory, 15k SCSI RAID.

Two of the really cool things inside the box that make it stand out are a processor shroud that means the case fans pull air past the CPUs - and these fans appear to be temperature controlled because they do not run all the time…

Secondly, the case is a dream in some senses. The power connectors are all clipped in place, and there is a molex connector for every bay… and not only that, each connector is stamped with it’s position ‘HDD 1’ ‘BAY 3’ etc.

Plus, I got an amazing deal on it at the time (Dell Outlet).

But all your points about knowing your hardware are really valid, and Dell is certainly not forward about what specification (if any) it’s mobo’s / psu etc follow.

This works great for big, kitchen sink dev PCs, but no so well for other situations.

I still think the mac mini is the best option for a small form factor PC that you want to mount / place somewhere. Even shuttle cases are just too big.

It’s also hard to really have control over everything in a laptop. Best you can do is really research well and try to buy a quality machine that will give you a good amount of memory and reasonably fast disk drive.

But for desktops, yeah, even with my perchant for Macs I’d still build a linux box over a Mac Pro (which I find overpriced).

P180 is a nice case BUT have a look at the Coolermaster Stacker 830.

I have this case and let me tell you, its the palacial mansion of cases. Roomy like no other. I have 8*120mm fans in there all connected to 2 front panel fan speed moderators.

This case is big, has great airflow and was so easy to setup (the motherboard tray literally comes out so you can set it up nicely and then shove it back in). Not only that, this case supports ATX and BTX too if thats your game.

This is the kinda case that makes you WANT to be a modder :slight_smile:

That museum is now on my “see before you die” list. There’s something wired into us to love this stuff. And something wired into wives to just not get it at all…

I built my first PC in 1987, complete with 8086 processor, 10MB hard drive and 32K RAM. It was a monster. Played Empire on it til all hours.

These days, I’d rather build code than machines. So I have that Dell XPS, with dual nVidia and 3 20" monitors, and do my construction in cyberspace. I know it’s just a Mercedes, not an AMG; but I can live with it.

Hope this doesn’t sound to frivolous, but I really liked the look of the Antec P180 case and was sorely tempted to buy one until I saw someone else’s. The beautiful looking brushed metal seemed to me to be made from aluminium as thick as a milk bottle top and plastic on the front cover wasn’t in the slightest bit rigid, so the damn thing didn’t even shut properly! While the structure inside seemed fine, the outside made it seem really cheap.

Have you already got the case Jeff? If so I’m curious as to what your opinion is, if not then I’m inclined to say “avoid”.

I learn more every time I read your blog… XD

Sushant, you might as well go with the Antec Nine Hundred at that point:,1697,2036830,00.asp

But both the Antec 900 and the CoolerMaster Stacker are very different approaches compared to the P180. The P180 is designed to block direct sound paths from your ear to the fans, not expose them directly to your ear!

I’m sure it’s possible to make these cases quiet, but it’s difficult when there is nothing but wire mesh and a fan between you and the noise sources.

thats 12 hrs burned

It’s a question of persective. I can buy software, too, instead of writing it, so why do I bother doing that? Think this through.


Can you elaborate on the details for the XPS 710 configuration you came up with for that cost?

For the life of me, I can’t get a configuration down to that amount…


I once saw racks and racks of box-less servers in a large facility on the east coast about 2 years ago. At-a-glance it was obvious it was google, but no one would say. But they were commenting on how hard facilities was always trying to keep the heat down on that side of the building. With densities that high, no wonder.