Andrew McNabb

Hardware Recommendations and Warnings

If I'm going to spend money on something, I want it to be something that works and works well. However, sometimes it's hard to tell what chipset something uses or whether it's reliable. In the past I've put a lot of effort into researching potential purchases, and it can be time-consuming and error-prone. On this page I'm giving recommendations and warnings based mostly on personal experience. It relates primarily to use on Linux, although some of the information will probably apply to other OSes as well.

Wireless Networking

Wireless networking (802.11) is a brand new market. It's also very popular, so manufacturers have made a habit of rushing products out the door. Whenever a new standard is developed, devices which "conform" to it are sold before the standard is completed. Wireless access points (WAPs) from most, if not all, vendors crash frequently and have compatibility issues with wireless network interface cards from other manufacturers. One particular WAP used to drop my computer from the network at least once a day, and the access point would have to be power cycled before it would return to speaking terms with my wireless card. The WAP worked fine with most other cards, and my card worked fine with most other WAPs.

In Linux, the problem is exacerbated because manufacturers have, on the whole, been very uncooperative with driver developers. To make matters worse, many manufacturers will completely redesign a card without changing the model number. Frequently one "revision" of a model will work well with Linux, while another revision (with the same model number) will be completely incompatible.

Wireless 802.11g PCI Card

I wanted to buy an 802.11g wireless PCI card with a native Linux driver that supported Master mode because I wanted to turn my firewall into a wireless access point. Researching the matter online revealed that getting a card with the Intersil Prism54 chipset was the most promising approach. Unfortunately, it's hard to find good new Prism54 wireless cards. After several hours of searching, I found a wireless card that uses the Prism54 chipset in all revisions and is not discontinued. The manufacturer even advertises Linux compatibility. I highly recommend this card, which worked right out of the box with the Prism54 driver.

Hard Drives

I've had a lot of hard drives die on me over the years, and it's never pleasant when it happens. I've had the best luck with Seagate drives, and since they're the only manufacturer with a 5 year warranty, I won't buy from anyone else. I interpret the measly warranties from other companies as warnings from their actuaries.

Seagate is NOT the perfect company. I actually hate them. I just hate them less than everyone else. If some other hard drive manufacturer starts providing 5 year warranties, I'll certainly consider buying them. Here are some of the pros and cons of working with Seagate:

I am also only buying SATA drives from now on. They're much more convenient than IDE, and now it only costs about $20 extra per drive. My favorites about SATA are:

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