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Old 12-21-09, 12:12 AM   #1
ragejg
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Default So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

... well, at least it wasn't an SDRAM-equipped rig.

I was out in Colorado for a week (Summit County/Dillon/Breckenridge FTW!!) at my Mom's. She had an old Dell Dimension 2350 plugged into her Sony LCD TV and home theater setup (and a nice wireless Logitech set), and wanted me to do whatever I could for it to let her enjoy as fluid of a media experience as possible.

Model: 2350
CPU: Celly 2.0 Northwood 400fsb 128k cache
RAM: 256mb
Advertised DDR maximum memory: 1gb
Video: Intel Xtreme

I'd just as soon throw the damn thing to the curb... but hey, it was a challenge that I accepted, lol. It had a fairly clean XP install on it, and it was free of most crapware.

I found out that the 2350 can take more RAM than advertised, so I got 2gb for it.

I ordered a relatively modern Geforce 8400 GS G96 PCI.

... and through Buy.com I found a P4 2.8 400fsb 512k Northy... and a better HSF.

... so now, with a (much) stouter cpu, a vidcard that with a G96 core offers a bevy of hardware acceleration for video playback, and the fortunate addition of 1792mb of DDR, maybe this thing could serve as a standard-definition Hulu and Boxee rig?

What sucks is that I had to fly back to NY before the cpu came... so that's not gonna get installed until some time into this week...

So I tried to optimize as much as I could with just the vidcard and RAM addition.

Damn, the Celly 2.0 is a dog.

This rig was trying really hard to do the job but was barely cutting it... SPECIALLY before I snuck the developer preview of Silverlight 4.0 and the Flash 10.1 beta in there... at least with those the rig stood a chance with the Celeron... I'm thinking the addition of the 2.8 P4 will actually bring the system up to spec for playing standard definition content off the web. Netflix works great with the dog of a cpu, and so does full screen SD avi movies and YouTube videos... Hulu through the browser is almost OK but not quite...

I wish the motherboard supported the higher FSB P4's, but I don't think the 2.8 with 512k cache will do that bad.

I hope to never touch a PCI video card again. I think I raised this rig from the ashes but DANG, I'm almost asking too much of it.

I hope to hear soon about how much the cpu upgrade helps.

.. and FWIW I did suggest just buying a newer cheap media PC... my mom doesn't like throwing away non-broken stuff, so I had to do what I could with what I had.

Merry Christmas Mom.
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Old 12-21-09, 12:16 AM   #2
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)



Nice bro.

That chip will be much faster than that Celery. I was rocking Vista Ultimate x32 on a 1.8Ghz P4 for a while. Had 3GB DDR400 RAM and rocked an AGP 7800GS. The system could do most anything I wanted it to. Granted, things did take a moment to load, but it was far from unbarely. I was thoroughly astonished at how well the rig ran.

If that 1.8Ghz P4 could do, this 2.8 most certainly will.
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Old 12-21-09, 12:38 AM   #3
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

Even with a 2Ghz Celeron and 256Mb of ram the Intel graphics was still the weakest point.

That Mini ITX PC my brother and I built inside an Atari 2600 has a 2.4Ghz Pentium 4 Northwood with a 400Mhz FSB, 512Mb of DDR and the horrid Intel Extreme Graphics. The thing had a lot of trouble with some pretty basic things, like Flash ads on websites and video playback. I love that little machine but the graphics chip really kills it.

Putting an 8400GS in your mom's system was probably the best thing you could do for it. Followed by adding a ridiculous amount of memory. The 2.8Ghz P4 will definitely help though.
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Old 12-21-09, 03:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

I know the feeling... I just resurected a dual-core Opteron 165 (socket 939) system into a CAD system for my father... and left 4 dead 2 dedicated server for me.

It feels damn good making something out of garbage and spare parts... but it is hard to justify even the $150 it took to get that system off the ground with all these old parts... I went back to a 6800 GT AGP for it. Painful dumping money into an motherboard again
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Old 12-21-09, 03:39 AM   #5
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowmanwithahat View Post
I know the feeling... I just resurected a dual-core Opteron 165 (socket 939) system into a CAD system for my father... and left 4 dead 2 dedicated server for me.

It feels damn good making something out of garbage and spare parts... but it is hard to justify even the $150 it took to get that system off the ground with all these old parts... I went back to a 6800 GT AGP for it. Painful dumping money into an motherboard again
I just put together a system for my mom and I had to spend around $17 to get it going. Its pretty ancient by our standards (Athlon XP 2400+, 1GB DDR, , Ti4200, XP) but its better than the dinosaur she's been using (my first PC... a Gateway 400Mhz PII).
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Old 12-21-09, 07:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

Why not just get her cable or satellite tv?
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Old 12-21-09, 11:12 AM   #7
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

Quote:
Originally Posted by betterdan View Post
Why not just get her cable or satellite tv?
Cmon.

Really? Do I have to answer that?



They have cable, but after visiting my house a few times in the last year they really dug my media PC and the way I use it. They'd like to be able to watch shows they've missed (hulu), easy to access youtube clips, and possibly use Netflix. Plus they'd like to be able to sit and couch-browse a bit when they want to.
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Old 12-21-09, 02:03 PM   #8
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

I just never understood why people want to hook a computer up to the tv to watch tv.
With our Directv DVR we can watch shows we've missed and if we want to watch Netflix we can either get it via the XBOX 360 or even better use our Sony blu ray player for Netflix, Youtube, Amazon on Demand movies and more. It seems to me these devices that were specifically made for those sorts of things would be better.
Just saying.
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Old 12-21-09, 02:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

Honestly it'll probably be used for YouTube clips & web browsing just a bit more than Hulu/Boxee. I just want the rig to be capable of doing the other stuff for whenever they get an itch to watch Hulu or NetFlix.
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Old 12-21-09, 03:50 PM   #10
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

How is the cpu usage?

Does the graphics card stop it crapping out?
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Old 12-21-09, 04:21 PM   #11
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

CPU usage with the celeron is really, really high. It's a shame that I won't be there to see in person how much the P4 2.8 helps with its extra cache.

And the gpu, well, it's surprisingly doing its job not too bad.

The addition of the Flash 10.1 beta and the Silverlight 4.0 developer preview edition helped tons, and appeared to help offload quite a bit to the GPU. I'm fairly certain that once the 8400GS is paired with the P4, a 10-12k score in 3dmark 01 would be attainable (Geforce 3-4ti, FX5700, 6200), but it would probably game at least like a 6600GT... plus that specific G96 gpu has some of the best PureVideo support in its class.

I wonder if I could throw a P4 with HT in there, one with the highest possible multiplier (doesn't teh BIOS have to support multithreading though?)... I know it'd get kicked down to 400 fsb, but Hyperthreading plus whatever other features the newer 478 cpus had might offer a performance advantage in media playback over the 2.8... just something to think about.

This reminds me of a few years back when I bought a dual slot 1 AGP motherboard originally equipped with single PII 266 with the intention of throwing two Powerleap 1.4 slot 1 upgrades in... I never did finish that project; it sure would have been cool though...
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Old 12-21-09, 04:24 PM   #12
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Default Re: So I was asked to turn a tired Dell (Celeron/PCI) into a Hulu box... (facepalm)

Quote:
Originally Posted by XDanger View Post
How is the cpu usage?

Does the graphics card stop is crapping out?
That's like a passage from the book of Revelations- it'll be a million years before I figure out what it means.
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