First post, by dexter311
Tonight I have been rearranging my retro machines (decided these two will be my mains), so why not take some pics and finally get around to making my own thread here on Vogons? 😊
All the computers on my home network are named after antagonists from the Diablo series. These two are two of the Lesser Evils - sister/brother twins Andariel and Duriel. Andariel is the "Maiden of Anguish", sent by Diablo to guard the Rogue Monastery. Andariel's twin brother Duriel is the "Lord of Pain", and guards Tal Rasha's chamber.
After seeing the BitFenix Comrade case, which is available in white and black, I had the idea to build my two retro rigs to be twins (they used to be built on a shitty DIY test bench and in a Fujitsu-Siemens case). After sourcing complete Platinum packages of the SoundBlasters I wanted to use, both builds got a Creative LiveDrive and an optical drive in the drive bays - one black and one white. I'm considering adding a 3.5" floppy drive to Duriel (I already have the drive and adapter) but I'm not convinced I need it in there permanently just yet.
First off, we have Andariel. She's a Q4 1999 rig with a few "embellishments" (namely HDDs and RAM), but otherwise pretty suitable for the period. The specs are:
Mobo: MSI MS-6163 Version 2 (Intel 440BX)
CPU: Intel Pentium 3 500MHz Coppermine SECC2
GPUs: Matrox Millennium G400 32MB
2x Creative Voodoo2 12MB in SLI
RAM: 3x 256MB Micron PC-133 CL2 (768MB total)
PSU: 300W Excellent Power
HDDs: 2x 40GB Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 8 7200rpm
Promise Ultra66 PCI IDE Controller
Sound: Creative SoundBlaster Live! Platinum (CT4760+CT4860)
Creative SoundBlaster AWE64 Gold (CT4390)
Network: 3com 3C-905CX 10/100 NIC
Optical: A-Open 16x DVD-ROM 48x CD-ROM
Floppy: Mitsumi 1.44MB
Case: BitFenix Comrade White with Window, 2x 120mm fans
OS: Windows 98 SE, MS-DOS
On the inside, the case is fully loaded - every slot is filled with some sort of expansion card (can't have a 90s retro machine with free slots, can you? 🤣 ). I have a Voodoo3 3000 which I occasionally swap into it, but I keep going back to the G400/V2SLI setup because it's so badarse, and the Matrox card is fantastically sharp and clear compared to the V3.
The case is actually quite good for a retro build considering it's so cheap - managing cables is important to me, and this has just enough room to keep them tidy behind the mobo tray. I spent a few hours organising the cables to make sure it looks as clean and uncluttered as possible.
At one stage I had a Slocket with an 800MHz 100FSB Coppermine in it. This was plenty fast, but the Slocket was just too unstable (physically) and I had to constantly re-seat it. Instead, I've swapped that out for a proper SECC2 500MHz Coppermine until I can find an SECC2 800MHz 100FSB model.
The only thing I'm not 100% on board with is the PSU - it's kinda shit. I should swap it out for something of a higher quality, but it's fine for now.
In terms of software, I'm in the process of wiping it and reconfiguring the whole thing (since I decided not to use my old DOS build anymore). It'll have Win98SE and a pure MS-DOS config.
Next up, we have Duriel. He's a Q4 2003 build, mostly based on Maximum PC's 2003 Dream Machine with a few substitutions. It was built to be overclocked and pushed to its limits! This machine was quite an interesting build for me, because from 2003 to 2007 I was in my Mac phase and only owned Apple laptops - I completely passed by the whole Netburst/Athlon era, and I was eager to know more! Here are the specs:
Mobo: ASUS P4P800-E (Intel 865PE)
CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.4GHz Northwood Socket 478
Scythe Shuriken Rev.B CPU cooler
GPU: MSI FX5950U-VTD256 (Nvidia FX5950Ultra 256MB)
RAM: 4x 512MB Corsair XMS 400MHz CL2 (2GB total)
PSU: 430W Enermax EG465P-VE
HDDs: 2x 36GB Western Digital Raptor 10000rpm in RAID 0
320GB Western Digital Caviar SE 7200rpm
Sound: Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum
Network: Onboard Marvell 10/100/1000 NIC
Optical: Pioneer 212 DVD-RW SATA
Case: BitFenix Comrade Black, 3x 120mm fans
OS: Windows XP SP3
I managed to source almost all of the core components that Maximum PC used in their 2003 Dream Machine. The substitutions I made were the motherboard, no liquid cooling, and small upgrades to the GPU and sound card. Really happy with the result, it's one beastly build!
The centerpiece of the build is that glorious MSI FX5950Ultra! This thing has one of the blingiest coolers I've seen on a GPU, with plated heatsinks on the front and rear of the card to go perfectly with its bright red PCB. I love this thing, and seeing it on eBay and needing to have it is basically what kicked off this whole build.
The CPU, RAM, mobo and CPU cooler were all chosen to get this thing overclocking. I couldn't find the Abit IC7 they used in the Dream Machine, but this ASUS board is the next best thing, and I was lucky enough to snag the Scythe Shuriken with the proper mounting hardware for Socket 478 on a lucky eBay auction. It's still running at stock clocks for now, but once I have it all configured I'll start to bump them up and see what this baby can do! 😅
The drive bays are filled with a speedy pair of WD Raptors configured as a RAID 0 stripe with the P4P800-E's onboard SATA RAID controller. It's fast as balls, and since the contents of the drive won't be missed if it goes wrong, I can get away with the poor redundancy. A big 320GB IDE drive, an old unused HDD I had sitting in the cupboard, was put in for storing ISOs and stuff.
Again, the case is a BitFenix Comrade. This build was a bit more difficult to manage cables for, and the back panel takes some fiddling to get back on, but it works and I'm happy with the results! Shame about the ribbon cable for the Audigy front panel though. Also, I just realised that I'm missing a couple of PCI slot covers - I ran out of black vented ones. 😕
Just like Andariel, I'm in the process of wiping Duriel's boot drive and reconfiguring it. It's easy enough to plug in a 3.5" FDD temporarily for the RAID driver, but otherwise it isn't needed, so I left it out. If I feel as though I really REALLY want them to match, I can put it in I suppose.
Here's how I have them set up in my desk. They have their own compartment to buddy up in underneath my modern rig:
A stack of modules connects it all together (really gotta do some dusting!):
First in the stack is a Roland SC-55 which is attached to the AWE64 in Andariel. Next is an Aten CS84U KVM for the two retro rigs. Additionally, there's a 2-port USB switch under the desk which switches my keyboard between my main modern desktop and the KVM, and a Microsoft WMO is attached directly to the KVM for controlling the retro rigs (my Steelseries Kana V2 doesn't play nice with the older ones). Finally, I have an Aten VS92A 1-to-2 active VGA splitter - I use this to attach a 19" 1280x1024 monitor to if I feel the need to have a more suitable aspect ratio screen without messing around with the cables under the desk. All the computers are plugged into my Logitech 2.1 speakers.
All this feeds into the middle screen of my 3x1080p setup (bonus Linus sadface):
I hope you enjoy perusing my retro rigs! 😁 These two have been over a year in the making, with the time spent mainly sourcing parts and tinkering. Once I get around to reconfiguring them both, I'll do some benches and start overclocking the Lord of Pain!