Saturday, May 16, 2015

Building Compy, Software

Building a new computer can be a daunting task, especially if you've never done it before. Fortunately it's easier than ever to put together a machine the way you want at a price that fits your budget...

When you build a computer, one of the things you need to consider is the software that you'll be using. For gamers, there's only really two "legitimate options" for gaming: Windows and Linux, then there's the other software that you're going to want around for things like doing homework or reports for work, image editing software to insert disembodied and wildly disproportionate body parts onto your friends pictures. You'll want to listen to music, browse the internet, etc. When you think about it, there's really quite a lot of programs the average user will download shortly after they set up their computer, and we haven't even gotten to installing games yet. Still, we need to start somewhere so let's talk Operating Systems before we get ahead of ourselves...

The big boy when it comes to pc gaming, and it's for a reason. First, Windows has a very simple installation process for games and hardware. Getting a driver for a new Video Card for example is generally easy, go to the manufacturer site and download their driver tool. Click a few prompts and you've got the driver installed, probably even with some monitoring and overclocking tools. Easy!

The same goes for games, want to play then just download Steam,, GoG, etc and pick the games you want to download after logging in with the appropriate account information. Generally speaking, Windows is very no muss, no fuss when it comes to gaming.

There are exceptions of course, I recall having to rewrite a few files to make certain games function in the past. This was however the result of two things: first, game developers with shitty code. And second, the fact that I once upon a time had a beastly video card using new/weird architecture that a lot of games developers were at a loss for how to deal with. Oh but I do miss that FrankenGPU so...

How do we make a video card faster and more expensive? Bolt another video card onto the back of it (literally).
So Drivers and Games aren't generally a problem on Windows, however it actually does cost money. Right now you can find a copy of Windows online for around $100. If you're on a shoestring budget, that can be the difference between a video card that works, and one that's AWESOME! So, what do you do if you're a cheap bastard?

Price is certainly a concern for people looking at alternatives to Windows, traditionally the best way to be a tightwad is to go Linux. However, there is a stigma attached to the OS for a lot of people. Linux is the hippy guidance counselor of operating systems, it's open source and offered free of charge. And much like the shirt that self same counselor would wear to work on casual Friday, Linux comes in a HUGE variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Fear not however, there are standard distributions of Linux that are excellent for the novice to play around with. They tend to be very lightweight as well, so you can for example install a new version of Linux on a 10 year old laptop for example and make the thing usable again (I know, I've done it myself). Additionally you can tinker with the software if you are so inclined (and capable), even a novice however can find a distro that will allow them to customize their desktop radically creating a fully personalized environment. Personally, that's the greatest draw to Linux aside from the price tag.

That isn't to say that both options are without fault. Linux is notorious for having issues with games, especially new releases. The specialized software necessary to make the game function properly is written by the equivalent of volunteers at the local co op. The guy who normally does RPG game drivers for example may be on a spirit quest somewhere with a bag of mushrooms for all we know when a game is released. Even if they're not, remember these are just regular people with lives doing this in their spare time, not people on the clock ensuring your gaming experience is as smooth as possible.

Same applies for hardware updates, one of the things that kept me away from Linux for a long time was my ex roommates complaints when building new computers. In multiple cases I could hear the most withering vitriol coming from behind a closed door as the new super expensive sound card he'd just bought to push his 7.1 system was completely unrecognizable to his Linux distro. He ended up running windows for a month waiting on the drivers to finally be released for Linux. Additionally, just to play games like World of Warcraft for example you often have to run through WINE (virtual windows box inside Linux) just to make them to work... wait, we're simulating Windows now just to make it work on this OS? Weird...

THEN you have to actually edit game files to make it playable, often meaning you have to use OpenGL video drivers instead of legit ones for your awesome new video card, ouch. So yeah, if you want to tinker or are willing to jump through a bunch of hoops to save yourself $100 when building your computer, then go Linux (I would recommend Mint for someone starting out for gaming, though I personally prefer Arch for my own Linux environment).

On the Windows side, there's also a few problems. First, like Linux there's actually more than one version to consider. Currently it's between 7 and 8.1, however as I write this Windows 10 is quickly approaching. Sources indicate a July release for the newest version of Windows, which complicates things a little further. A lot of people prefer Windows 7, however it's also more expensive than 8.1 and cannot be direct downloaded from Microsoft anymore. If you're a student you can get a copy of 8.1 for cheap or EVEN free from Microsoft. Regardless, you can upgrade to 10 for free if you have 7 or 8.1 installed. But that leads to another issue, with the impending release of 10 it stands to reason that there might be some price fluctuation for the existing software in the very near future.

A lot of that will depend on how well the latest OS is received, if people embrace it whole heartedly then I would imagine we'll see some falling prices for Windows 7 for example. If however people dislike it, the opposite could be true. So, for someone building a computer right now (like myself) this can be a tricky situation. Personally, I've decided to pick up 8.1 and soldier on. I'd rather have 7, I'm definitely more accustomed to it, but if I'm going to have to deal with tiles and crap in 10 I may as well start getting used to them now. Also, I found a copy for sale (cheap) which was another big motivator, since I could grab 2 copies for the price it would take to get 1 copy of 7.

Now that you've got your OS sorted out, it's time to grab the other stuff. For games, you've got that on lock, right? Get the Steam download. Get Go to, etc. But what about the rest? Well, I'm going to cheat here. I'm just going to tell you to go to

Yep, just go down their lists and check all of the boxes for the software you want, like Foobar and Chrome for example. Once you're finished, click Get Installer and you have everything you need, EASY. And if you really want to get creative you can create an ISO of your OS and those basic programs and mount it to a Flash Drive for those times when burn it to the ground and start over is the simplest option. And so ends our basic guide to building a computer, hopefully you've learned something. Comments, questions, corrections? Feel free to share - and remember...

Always Be Closing,

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