I'm interested in building my own computer, but I really don't know where to start, so I've decided to ask for opinions and ideas as to what to do. I want the computer to use as a testing ground for playing with linux (but also windows compatible in the case that I want to use if for that) and it sould be capable of realitivly good preformance for general home use (internet, music, some light gaming, and of couse programming / running java stuff). My budget for this is around $1600 for the computer its self, I have a monitor, speakers, and mouse/keyboard. Any suggestions for where to start?
Start on deciding what CPU you want in it (AMD or Intel, and which architecture). When you know that, set minimum specs for the motherboard (number of RAM slots, number of PCI slots, onboard sound?, onboard networking?, onboard video? etc.). (*)
Based on those specs, select the best possible motherboard. Once you have that determined, select RAM, harddisk, and CPU. Then select the extra cards needed (video, network, sound) based on your requirements and budget.
(*) I prefer to never use an onboard videocard. Video changes rapidly, so you're likely looking at getting a new videocard several times during the lifetime of the machine.
In your case, you have to be extremely careful. Linux hardware support is extremely lacking especially for modern video and soundcards!
Of course you also need to select a case to hold it all. Go for the biggest powersupply you can get, and select a case that's as large as you can comfortably store (it's likely to get crowded over time as you add more and more stuff). [ July 30, 2004: Message edited by: Jeroen Wenting ]
Looking for hardware-compatibility for a linux-system is a good advice, in my opinion. While most hardware is supported, you may pick unluckily an unsupported one.
Do you know how to go to the internet? Internal cripple-(Win-)modems are a source of frustration often.
While most people look primarly for the processor speed, I made good experiences with looking for a lot of RAM. I wouldn't buy a new machine with less than 512 MB today - for special purpose even more.
My last desktop was very cheap but is much too loud - might be of more or less interest to you. A laptop is often a nice thing. Small, less power-consumption, mobile. ACPI-support for linux differs from model to model.