Vendors. I’ve been trying to get out of the build-PCs-for-friends business and for the most part I’ve succeeded. My reasons for getting out are twofold: time and support. It takes some time to spec and build one, and if something goes wrong, I’ve got some responsibility for it. It’s something I don’t understand, because the systems I’ve built for myself have been reliable (I had a system appear dead that turned out just to be a corrupt MBR–I can live with that now that I know how to fix it, and it wasn’t the hardware’s fault) but the last two PCs I’ve built for friends have been horrendous.
One of those up and died last week, so we ordered replacement parts. I didn’t get around to placing the order until after close of business Friday, so the orders didn’t get processed until Monday.

I ordered a Gigabyte 7IX-E4 motherboard from Newegg.com. Newegg rakes you over the coals on shipping sometimes, but sometimes they run specials, and this board’s shipping was 5 bucks. Often they’ll charge 10 bucks to ship a CPU, which is ridiculous. Five bucks to ship a motherboard isn’t bad. And their pricing is first-rate–they’re obviously making their profit margins on shipping. But I’ll forgive Newegg’s shipping prices because the package arrived yesterday, even with the holiday Wednesday.

So, if you’re in the market for a motherboard, CPU, video card or hard drive, those guys are worth a first look. Figure out what you want, check the shipping, then check elsewhere and see if they still beat it. I’ll be doing business with them again.

I ordered the CPU, case, and fan (along with another case and video card for me) from Directron.com. Directron’s shipping prices are about as good as you’ll find, and the order is promised today. When Steve DeLassus ordered a batch of stuff from them it arrived promptly, so I trust them. Directron’s pricing is a bit spotty, but their shipping often makes up for it (they wanted $10 more for the CPU, but after shipping they ended up being cheaper than anywhere else I looked) and they’ve got the best case selection I’ve ever seen. Shipping for two cases, a video card, a CPU and CPU fan ended up being about $20, which isn’t bad at all.

Switchboxes. Gatermann’s Linksys KVM switchbox was a disappointment, but I thought to have him try connecting the extension cable directly to his monitor cable to see what that did to the image. I had a hunch that the problem might be the cabling, because I remembered yesterday morning that I’ve seen extension cables cause precisely the effects he was seeing. Sure enough, when he connected the cable (a Belkin, incidentally) to his monitor, the picture quality degraded–worse than it had been with the switchbox in the equation. So I’m going to dig up a couple of other types of cables (I use Fellowes cables on mine) and see if that makes a difference.