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Editor's Note: Fried PCs, Computer Sound Studios, Quiet!

Jan 10, 2009, 00:03 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

It's been an interesting week. My main workstation crashed; it boots to a Busybox prompt, and emits all sorts of interesting "drdy err, unc" errors. Which sounds like there is a pervert inside my PC who is related to me. But a quick Web search reveals that this means either I have a hard disk with bad sectors, or a filesystem with errors. The second one is repairable with an fsck or two, the first one is terminal. I'm not sweating it; I have spare PCs and good backups. Maybe I'll get to it this weekend, maybe not. Hopefully it's the old 10 GB PATA hard disk (remember when that was big?) and not the cool new giant SATA disk. It came with a three-year warranty, but who needs the hassle.

I've been suspicious of the mainboard for some time because both DVD drives are no longer recognized by the BIOS, and sometimes odd things happen when I plug something into a front USB port. Like a reboot or a freeze. But as long as it kept working well enough to get my work done, why worry? Now that it has attained a state of no-longer-ignore-able brokenness, I'm going to use this as an opportunity to build a sleek, powerful, super-quiet PC.

Pleasant Surroundings

I moved operations to my "studio" PC, which is in a nice little front room in my house. This is the official music room where we keep our recording gear and musical instruments, and the photo/music editing computer. It's nice and bright, and next to the living room which has the good stereo system. I'm thinking yay, now I can have good tunes while I work, instead of my ratchety old boombox way back in the computer cave at the other end of the house. But there is a flaw in this beautiful scheme, which is the studio PC is just noisy enough to get in the way of pleasant listening. Having it quieter in here also means I won't have to work in headphones so much.

Putting the PC down on the floor under the desk cuts down quite a bit of noise, but I make a lot of music CDs so that is inconvenient. Fortunately, thanks to the awesomeness of the USB protocol, I can buy an external CD/DVD writer. (Lightscribe, of course.) Sit that on top, computer underneath, quiet fans etc., and it should be pretty darn tolerable. How did we ever get along before USB? Remember the grotty days of serial ports and parallel ports? Nasty hackish parallel-passthrough that sometimes worked? Dog-slow buses that moved bits like glaciers? This is heaven, folks, in case you hadn't noticed. With USB 3.0--5Gbps data rate!-- on its way we're going to be flying.

I can use these experiences in my soon-to-be finished Audacity book, and I never mind a trip to Newegg, so as usual everything works out. (Who else remembers Egghead Software? They're not related to Newegg, it just made me think of them.)

I should mention the software I use on the studio PC:
Digikam, ImageMagick, and Gimp for photo editing and archive management
Audacity, K3B, Sox, LAME, VLC, and dvda-author for audio recording and editing, and CD/DVD authoring