Time To Go To Sleep? . . .

AMD Announces Hammer Chipsets By Themselves, Others

Ed Fixes Up Relative’s K6-2 300 System

Now what do these two have to do with each other and the title?

The Hammer announcement isn’t a snoozer at all. Rather, it’s a pretty good alarm clock.

Of course, you don’t need an alarm clock if you’re wide awake. The question is whether you need to be for most of this year.

It will be pretty hard to justify major upgrades for most of this year, especially if you’ve done so in the last year. We’re just not going to jump up a lot for most of the year.

What’s going to happen to mobos during 2002 are gradual infrastructure improvements transitioning to new standards. We’re going to see HyperTransport and equivalents to improve PCI speeds. We’ll see PC1066/dual-channel DDR (which will be DDR333, maybe more) on at least some platforms (though how much it will do remains to be seen). We’ll start to see Serial ATA support.

After these goodies are in place, then we’ll see a move upwards in official CPU speed.

Neither Intel nor AMD is promising much for most of 2002. Despite a .13 micron shrink, the Athlons will only go from XP2000+ to XP2600+ in the next six months. Intel isn’t going to jump very much, either.

Starting at the end of 2002 and going into 2003, then we’ll see Clawhammer and see what it can do. Then there will be Intel’s response (and from the results we’re getting now, Intel’s going to have to do some serious tweaking if .13 micron chips are going to get to 4GHz).

Not too much after that, off we go into .10 micron CPU-land.

Honestly, if I weren’t doing what I’m doing, do you know what I’d expect my next upgrade to be at the moment? A .10 micron Clawhammer.

I Have Pixie Dust, And So Will You

CPUs and mobos aren’t the only areas that will see technojumps. IBM is slowly rolling out hard drives with “pixie dust” (their term, not mine) in them. The 120GXP has some. “Pixie dust” is “a three-atom-thick layer of the element ruthenium, a precious metal similar to platinum, sandwiched between two magnetic layers.” What will that three atom layer (officially called antiferromagnietically coupled (AFC) media) do for you? It will give you 400GB drives by next year.

What it doesn’t give you is a reason to need 100Gb or 200Gb drives, but as we’ll see, if you are or have a typical teenager, you already have one.

Which Side of the Divide Do You Want To Be On?

.13 micron CPUs look like a fizzle for most of the year. Unless AMD and Intel are sandbagging (and if they are, then we’re going to have some wonderful overclocking opportunities around the middle of the year, but I would bet not), the first nine months of the year or so will be a slow paddle upstream.

Given that, if you’re reasonably current (and by that I mean 1GHz and KT133A level or better), I wouldn’t do anymore than maybe a CPU change for more than a while, and if your mobo won’t support the latest whiz-bang processor, live with what you have.

If you have to make your upgrade count, and you’re not especially hurting at the moment, I think I’d want to be on the other side of that motherboard divide. I’d want to have Hypertransport. I’d want to have Serial ATA support. I’d want to have whatever the latest memory standard looks like six months from now.

Obviously, if you’re a hobbyist changing components constantly for the thrill of it, you’re shaking your head “No,” and that’s fine. This isn’t meant for you. It’s meant for those who have to live with their decisions for years.

What About That K6-2 System?

I wish I could have sent clones of this box to every person who has sent me a “but everybody knows (some ubergeek knowledge).” Now this was a Joe Sixpack box for sure.

I was told that the box no longer functioned and that a burning smell came from it. I was also told that prior to dying, the machine operated very, very slowly.

The nonfunctional box didn’t turn on the first two times I hit the button. It did the third, and every single time since then. Should you be faced with a “it won’t turn on” machine, check the switch.

Next suspected arson victim: the monitor. Nope. It’s showing some signs that it’s on its way out, but the only thing that could have caused that burning smell in that house was dinner.

Yes, the machine ran very, very slowly. We’re talking minutes to boot, minutes to settle into Windows.

I don’t know which was more responsible, the literally dying-in-my-arms (well, hand) hard drive attached, or the 6,210 viral infections on the functioning hard drive. Inspired by the Winter Olympics, I gave them both a gold medal.

This wasn’t a hard drive; this was a VBS.Loveletter virus depot, with a few others for seasoning.

It’s bemusing to see the viral infection count jump up 50 or so at a time, then see a Symantec folder for Norton Anti-Virus go by. “Oh, you mean we have to turn it on?”

Going to take the teen in the family quite a while to replace about 15Gb’s worth of infected MP3s, warez games and movies.

Finding the heatsink fallen off the CPU (and a thermal grease virgin to boot) was pretty good, too. Maybe that happened when the CD-ROM got kicked.

I did what had to be done, but you can expect just so much out of a K6-2 300 system.

I found myself recommending essentially a new system, but not until towards Christmas or early next year. Why?

I know the replacement is going to have to do for the next 3-5 years; the person with the money was fairly outraged about replacing the system after “only” three years. I know the kid has to be hurting now, but he’ll be hurting more upgrading two or three or four years from now looking for equipment based on obsolete standards.

I’d rather put him on the other side of the divide, and let a dying monitor and Santa Claus provide additional incentive down the road.

In this situation, you have to ask not “What will an upgrade do now” but rather, “How long before the new one starts to suck?” If waiting nine months buys you maybe two years down the road, that’s the option you take.

Even if you don’t use these criteria, I bet you have friends and relatives from whom this would be a good idea. Consider this the next time they ask you about it. Unless you use them as your surplus equipment sales outlet, you might save yourself some headaches down the road.

If you need some real bang for your upgrade buck yourself, doing a mini-Rip Van Winkle might not be a bad idea, either.

Email Ed

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