Say Hello to Vanity

There’s a reason the latest PC in my apartment is named Vanity: I really didn’t need another PC. I certainly didn’t need a small form factor PC.

But… I kept seeing references around the net to the Intel BLKD201GLYL motherboard, which is a mini-ITX form factor motherboard with a 1.33Ghz Celeron M processor and integrated graphics, sound, LAN, USB, everything you really need for a basic PC.

It was also $69.99 from Newegg, which is much cheaper than other small form factor motherboards I’ve seen in the past. Mind you, you don’t get a fancy box or manuals for your 70 bucks:

vanityboard.png

But who needs that stuff anyway?

And here’s the thing: I have an old Athlon box I use for, well, leaving on for days at a time while it downloads huge files.

And when I’ve done a lot of that in any given month, I notice it on the electric bill. Athlons, while great processors for the time, are not exactly shy on the power usage.

Building a box around the D201GLY, with a 2.5″ HD, means that I have a PC that pulls less than 40W of power.

It’s also a lot quieter and doesn’t push out nearly as much heat as the Athlon.

So that’s my justification.

Getting everything together was trickier than I’d anticipated, and not just because I had to take the case completely apart to get the motherboard in. I’d expected to have to fuss about with getting components to fit, and I’d actually expected to wind up having to go out shopping for some essential adapter or another that hadn’t been included with the motherboard or case. It turned out that the iStar case came with a whole mess of cables, so the physical assembly actually went off all right.

The biggest problem was that, to save power – and also to save the cost of a slim-line DVD drive – I didn’t build in an optical drive.

I was booting from an external USB DVD-ROM drive and that didn’t work very well with the first drive I used, which was an I/O Magic external DVD-RW drive – I couldn’t get a Windows XP CD to boot at all.

I could get a Windows 98 CD to boot, but this motherboard doesn’t play nice with Windows 98.

I had the best results booting from a bare IDE drive hooked up with a Newertechnology Universal Drive Adapter, which is an essential piece of kit and one I strongly recommend to any geek who finds themselves having lots of bare drives lying about.

Once I switched to that, XP booted up promptly and the rest was a matter of partition, format, install, blah blah blah.

Installing Windows XP from a pre-SP1 CD is fun, by the way. Windows Update doesn’t work when you’re starting from that far back, so I had to find a way to manually download SP2 from Microsoft’s web site, and after that was installed I wound up with 90 (!) updates to install from Windows Update.

Here’s Vanity, assembled, OS installed, and ready to be put to work:

vanitycomplete.png

Cute, no?

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