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Review Building the Perfect PC

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Jan 10, 2007.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

    Building the Perfect PC
    Authors: Robert and Barbara Thompson
    Format: Paperback: 422 pages
    Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 2nd edition (December 22, 2006)
    ISBN-10: 0596526865
    ISBN-13: 978-0596526863

    Review by James Pyles
    January 10, 2007

    To quote from the book's preface: "Building PCs isn't just for techies any more. It used to be, certainly. Only gamers and other geeks actually built their PCs from the ground up. Everyone else just called the Dell Dude and ordered a system. That started to change a few years ago. The first sign was when general merchandisers like Best Buy started stocking upgrade components." Someone told me years ago that building a PC was like building something with Legos. While I don't think it's a perfect analogy, it comes close. Building a PC or small server is well within the grasp of anyone who can use a screwdriver and likes to tinker. Building the Perfect PC, 2nd Edition makes it a snap.

    If you are an "├╝bergeek" who can build systems in your sleep, you won't need to buy this book. If you are someone who would like to "roll your own" and aren't afraid to get your hands dirty, Thompson and Thompson wrote this book for you. The first chapter starts out "Building a PC is no more technically challenging than changing the oil in your car or hooking up a DVD player." That lets out those people who have never been able to set the time on a VCR or microwave but opens the door to everyone else.

    There are several really cool things about this book. First of all, you aren't limited to building one type of generic computer. Sure, chapter 3 is called Building the Mainstream PC but the rest of the book covers building a SOHO server, Gaming PC (did I hear a yell of glee?), Media Center, Small Form Factor and Budget PC. These aren't all the choices in the universe but they cover most of the options home and small business users want. Chapters 1 and 2 start the reader off with a general introduction of the topic as well as PC design and choosing PC components.

    The only thing the book doesn't have that I would have liked to see is a chapter on building a laptop. Ok, it may not be as common as building a PC but I have a friend who buys IBM Thinkpads on eBay and refurbishes them, so I know it can be done. That said, there are a lot of computer types not covered in this book, but building a file and print server for a company with 1000 employees is beyond the scope of this text. If I want material covering that area, I'll get a different book.

    One of the features that sets this book apart from the herd is the "Advice from" sidebars. There are a number of technical commentators that add their wisdom on a variety of topics and almost have a "running dialogue" with the authors. The Thompsons occasionally disagree with the sidebar items which is very interesting. This illustrates that not all technical people agree with each other or do the same tasks the same way. Much to my surprise and joy, the authors are "Linux people". This is the source of some "disagreements" in the book since most technical editors are Windows people. I found the exchanges illuminating and especially liked learning how to build a PC without the "Windows-centric" point of view.

    Lots and lots of photos are included so you have plenty of visual cues to go along with the instructive text. The book is written in a friendly, straightforward style and is technically accurate without drowning the reader in "techie-ese". Some of the steps in the chapters seemed repetative but then some of the steps in building a "mainstream" PC and building a "budget" PC are the same. The book is heavily indexed and there is a bonus section at the end of the book listing numerous "make kits".

    Robert and Barbara Thompson maintain a website at http://www.hardwareguys.com but most of the material there is dated. I don't usually contact authors about their websites, but I was so impressed with the book and kind of disappointed with the site, that I emailed them. As it turns out, the forums on their site are the current focus in terms of web presence and the rest of the site is more legacy. Checking out the forums, I found this quite true. If you are a Linux person who wants to learn more about Linux and hardware, joining their forum (http://forums.hardwareguys.com) would be a plus.

    An unintended audience for this text might be those folks who want to forge a career in hardware or desktop support. Many people are flocking to CompTIA and studying for their A+ certifications as the first step on this quest. While Building the Perfect PC doesn't specifically map to any of the A+ domains, the process of building and troubleshooting different kinds of PCs will give the would-be technician invaluable experience that can't be learned from reading books alone.

    I know a little computer shop where I can lay my hands on all the hardware components I would ever want. I've got my eye on the SOHO server chapter. I could use a web and mail server with a little more horsepower. Looks like it's time to go shopping and put my copy of Building the Perfect PC to good use.
    Certifications: A+ and Network+
  2. zimbo
    Honorary Member

    zimbo Petabyte Poster

    this was the one aspect i loved about my first job... deployments.. building pc's i often used to put 30-40 pcs together!

    Thanks for the review trip! 8)
    Certifications: B.Sc, MCDST & MCSA
    WIP: M.Sc - Computer Forensics
  3. Bluerinse
    Honorary Member

    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

    Cheers James, great review there 8)
    Certifications: C&G Electronics - MCSA (W2K) MCSE (W2K)
  4. greenbrucelee
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    greenbrucelee Zettabyte Poster

    found a cheap version of this book the other week,havent read it all yet, here's my pc (crap pics)

    Attached Files:

    Certifications: A+, N+, MCDST, Security+, 70-270
    WIP: 70-620 or 70-680?

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