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How Do I Learn about Hardware?

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I'm a budding Computer Science Major who, like most of us here, has an interest in Game Design. I'm a firm believer that the best way to do a task is to understand all aspects of said task, though, so I'm interested in learning not only good game design, but also the basics behind the psychology of gamers, programming languages, 3d art techniques, and all of the other tools used in Game Design. Of course, I don't plan to be an expert in all of the multitudes of fields involved in making a game, but I'd like to have at least some grasp of each, so I know what's realistically possible, and what's not. I'm currently attending a university which offers plenty of classes in the fields of psychology, C, C++, Java, and art programs like Maya... but if any classes are available to teach me more about motherboards, RAM, building computers, etc. then I can't take them for at least 2 years. My current plan is to set aside about two-thousand dollars and build myself a computer that will help me in the upcoming years as a Comp Sci Major. The computer I currently work on is fine for running IDEs and some of the simple games and programs that I've written, but in the near future, I plan to delve a little deeper into Graphic Design, which I understand requires more than a 64 MB on-board video card, and any FPSes I design would likely enjoy having more than 128 MB of RAM. My hope is that, during my first computer building experience, I'll be able to find plenty of reliable literature to help me in not only building a new computer that will aid me in my studies for the next couple of years, but also help me to understand most of what goes on inside this box that I tell to "cout<<" all the time! The problem with this, though, is that the Internet is cluttered with sites that provide "information" bought by various hardware manufacturers, or is written by experts for experts who already know what an "MS149 Intel-supported 43-prong Super Athlon Radeon MCI Telephone AC/VI IN AC/VR OUT 128-bit sound-supported LR adapter" is, or is just plain difficult to find! I thought that www.tomshardware.com would provide some useful information but, if it's there, then I couldn't find a bit of it. All I could see were reviews of various hardware, but didn't tell me what any of the reviews were rating. So, I'm asking here, where a healthy community of thriving computer enthusiasts are eager to share their knowledge ;) Where can I find some relatively-easy-to-understand information about computers and their hardware?

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Keeping up to date on computer hardware is a full time job. I used to build my own machines with an eye towards the best price / performance ratio. These days, I just buy them outright. The margins on computers is laughably small and these days onboard sound and video arent as horrid as they used to be ( although I still wouldnt go with onboard video, unless it could be turned off ).

I hate to be that guy, but I just dont think its worth building your own for performance reasons. However, building your own for the experience is a much better idea.

If you dont want to dedicate hundreds of hours to research, your best plan of attack is to look at what pieces Falcon Northwest or Alienware are putting in their machines, order those, and build it yourself. Both those companies do an excellent job at picking out best of breed hardware.

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Some things I've found:
How To Choose a Motherboard And Not Be Sorry Afterwards
This seems like a pretty in-depth article that goes into the various little components of a motherboard, what to look for, and what to avoid, especially when worried more about stability than performance. It references a site, though, iXBT which seems to be a site that specializes in evaluating the various hardware components that come out constantly. Does anyone know whether there is an equivalent to iXBT or their corresponding magazine that is printed in English?

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I'm majorning computer engineering and I've covered all that jazz to a fundamental level. I'll give an outline of the subjects I've covered.

Fundamentals of Electronic Circuits:
Current
Voltage
Ohms law
Capacitance
Inductance
Kirkoff's laws
Related: How does a pn junction work?
Related: How does a diode work?
Related: How does a transistor work?

Digital Logic:
And, or, xor, nor, nand, not gates built from transistors
Multiplexors
Demultiplexors
Flip-flops

Computer Architecture:
...


Ooops, I gotta catch a bus or I'd finish this. Sorry.

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I'm in the same prediciment as you, I would like to learn about both engineering and software from a university. Guess it's just a choice you have to make.

Best thing I can do is just read books/articles on engineering* in my free time.



*I'm not trying to say that I don't read about programming, and that in school you will recieve all the knowledge you need about CS.

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Quote:
Original post by kevtimc
Best thing I can do is just read books/articles on engineering* in my free time.

*I'm not trying to say that I don't read about programming, and that in school you will recieve all the knowledge you need about CS.


Have you found any books worth reading on the subjects?

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Quote:
Original post by twystidmynd
My current plan is to set aside about two-thousand dollars and build myself a computer that will help me in the upcoming years as a Comp Sci Major.

Entirely too much money. Spend half of that, at most, and use the rest for software, pizza, beer, movies, girls, games... whatever.

Quote:
So, I'm asking here, where a healthy community of thriving computer enthusiasts are eager to share their knowledge ;) Where can I find some relatively-easy-to-understand information about computers and their hardware?

HowStuffWorks.com "Computer Channel"

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Quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Entirely too much money. Spend half of that, at most, and use the rest for software, pizza, beer, movies, girls, games... whatever.

Let me tell you that this man speaks the utter truth! I spend $3800CDN on my Alienware notebook, $4800CDN on my Dell XPS notebook, and $3000 on my FX55 desktop system.

They were all a waste other than the FX system because I gave it to my wife (a graphic designer) and it will last her at least 4-5 years if not more. The laptops I sold the one and I'm in the process of selling the other.

I could put a nice system together right this minute (I was looking at it last night as I need to replace my notebook I'm selling) and for about $800CDN I can get a dual core system, 2GB ram, a 7800GT, 300gb drive, etc.

Although I am the guy also anticipating the Intel Kentsfield and nVidia G80.. so you can see this as an addiction. Listen to Oluseyi! Otherwise you could form the addiction and it is bad on the wallet and very very hard to break.

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Well, ideally, I would be able to build myself a relatively nice 700-1000 dollar machine. I try to plan for the unexpected, though, and I'm thinking that, since it'll be the first computer I've ever built, I might screw something up. If I'm lucky, it'd be something inexpensive and I'll be out 50-100 bucks as I replace it. If I'm unlucky, I'll crack the motherboard, or leave a screw in and short circuit everything in the world. In that case, I'll need another 700-1000 bucks to replace it ;)

That's where my numbers are coming from. With any luck, I won't be spending more than 1000 =)

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Quote:
Original post by twystidmynd
I try to plan for the unexpected, though, and I'm thinking that, since it'll be the first computer I've ever built, I might screw something up.

Buy a kit that comes with a case, mobo and PSU. Those are the three areas where you're most likely to screw up.

That said, it's really not complex to build a PC from scratch. Just be patient, read everything twice and make sure you match ratings, pin configurations and power requirements.

Quote:
That's where my numbers are coming from. With any luck, I won't be spending more than 1000 =)

With any luck you'll build an excellent machine for about $700. It's never worth it to buy top of the line (something new comes out next week, and suddenly you're "dated"). I always buy at least one "generation" behind.

Hell, I often just send Dell about $600 and forget it...

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Quote:
Original post by twystidmynd
I try to plan for the unexpected, though, and I'm thinking that, since it'll be the first computer I've ever built, I might screw something up.

It is impossible to screw anything up as putting together a computer is pretty much the most basic thing you can do really. It takes me about 5 times longer to put together the damn desk, as putting a machine together requires zero effort and about 15 minutes (or 30 if I want to make a clean wiring job with lights).

I mean all you are doing is screwing 6 screws into the motherboard, plugging in a cpu and fan, plugging in your RAM, plugging in your video and other PCI cards, plugging in your hard drive and ROMs, plug in the PSU, done. It's drop dead simple, you have nothing to worry about.

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