The purpose of this document is to give you the background information you need to be a savvy buyer of Intel hardware for running Unix. It is aimed especially at hackers and others with the technical skills and confidence to go to the Internet/mail-order channel, but contains plenty of useful advice for people buying store-front retail.
This document is maintained and periodically updated as a service to the net by Eric S. Raymond, who began it for the very best self-interested reason that he was in the market and didn't believe in plonking down several grand without doing his homework first (no, I don't get paid for this, though I have had a bunch of free software and hardware dumped on me as a result of it!). Corrections, updates, and all pertinent information are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial «we’ reflects the generous contributions of many savvy Internetters.
If you email me questions that address gaps in the FAQ material, you will probably get a reply that says "Sorry, everything I know about this topic is in the HOWTO". If you find out the answer to such a question, please share it with me for the HOWTO, so everyone can benefit.
If you end up buying something based on information from this HOWTO, please do yourself and the net a favor; make a point of telling the vendor "The HOWTO sent me" or some equivalent. If we can show vendors that this HOWTO influences a lot of purchasing decisions, we get leverage to change some things that need changing.
Note that in December 1996 I published an introductory article on building and tuning Linux systems summarizing much of the material in this HOWTO. It's available here. In 2001 I published an article on building the Ultimate Linux Box.
This Buyer's Guide actually dates back to 1992, when it was known as the "PC-Clone Unix Hardware Buyer's Guide"; this was before Linux took over my world :-). Before that, portions of it were part of a Unix Buyer's Guide that I maintained back in the 1980s on USENET.
It may be a matter of historical interest that the page count of this guide peaked in mid-2001 and has been declining since. Video, sound, and other functions are migrating onto motherboards. Several bus types have disappeared, as have all the old-school backup technologies that couldn't scale up to match disk capacities, Spec sheets are getting simpler. Accordingly, there are parts that used to have whole sections to hemselves that I barely even write about anymore — mice, floppy disks, CD-ROM drives, and keyboards, for example, are utterly generic now,
Another consequence of the technology stabilizing is also that I'm updating this guide less often than I used to. Years can now go by without the PC market changing in any fundamental way.
In retrospect, the success of the ATX standard for motherboards in 1998-1999 was probably the turning point. The PC industry has become sufficiently commoditized that your choices are now getting simpler rather than more complicated. This is a Good Thing.
New versions of the Unix Hardware Buyer HOWTO will be periodically be uploaded to various Linux WWW and FTP sites, including the LDP home page.
You can view the latest version of this on the World Wide Web via the URL http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/Unix-Hardware-Buyer-HOWTO/.
If you have questions or comments about this document, please feel free to mail Eric S. Raymond, at email@example.com. I welcome any suggestions or criticisms. If you find a mistake with this document, please let me know so I can correct it in the next version. Thanks.