Building Trisquel/Debian Desktop

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Lloyd
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Joined: 04/17/2021

I am looking to build a new desktop PC, main purposes of it will be compiling source code, working in Libre Office, listening music, watching online videos in 1080p, and sometimes editing graphics and video clips. I also need it to be quiet, because I have a high blood pressure and noise from the fan(s) is causing me a headache. I am not limited by the money I can spend.

CPU: the one that can be corebooted completely, or at least to disable management engine. Also integrated graphics will be preferable if it can handle video editing and watching 1080p videos. My monitor's native screen resolution is 1920x1080. I would like a "cold" CPU, to be able to use fanless cooler. I don't trust water cooling.

Memory: at least 16 GiB, optimal would be 32 GiB.

Motherboard: a reliable one, preferable with PS/2 support: for me to use my favorite old PS/2 keyboard, however I can buy a new USB keyboard, if PS/2 is unavailable.

Video card: I'd rather use integrated graphics, if integrated graphics is enough for video editing.

Audio card: I have a high end old PCI sound card, if the motherboard has PCI slot and the card will be detected by the kernel, I will use old card. Otherwise I will need a good new sound card.

HDD: 3.5": High quality hard disk for backup. Preferably 2 TiB in size

SSD: High quality reliable SSD. I am not sure what size of SDD to choose. 1 TiB?

Wi-Fi card

Computer case: Preferable full tower/regular tower with no rgb lights.

Power Supply: Good quality, reliable.

CD/DVD Drive: With write capability.

Floppy Drive: My old Floppy Drive has IDE connector, I can buy a new one if they are still being made.

Card reader: Micro SD

Am I missing something?
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I will appreciate your advice.

nadebula.1984
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Joined: 05/01/2018

If you need coreboot support, you can build an IvyBridge platform. Otherwise Haswell/Broadwell can be considered, too, since they can be theoretically supported by coreboot. However, you'll need to discard some old peripherals, such as floppy drive. Here are my suggestions:

IvyBridge platform (currently perfectly supported by coreboot without any binary blob):

CPU: i5 3475S (lower power consumption than those models without S or T, but this model comes with the best HD4000 integrated graphics)
Motherboard: H77, Z77, or Q77, preferably with 4 memory slots
Memory: 8 GiB DDR3L *4
Hard Disk: any WD Black 3.5-inch model with desired capacity (3.5-inch WD Black models are not SMR, so feel free to purchase one of them)
Solid State Disk: WD Blue 1 TB (you'll need the SATA version)
Wireless NIC: DIY one using a mini PCIe to PCIe 1x converter card and an ath5k/ath9k mini PCIe card
Optical Drive: HLDT (LG) DVD-RW or BD-RE

Haswell/Broadwell platform (coreboot implementation is currently being developed):

CPU: i5 5675C (comes with powerful Iris Pro 6200 integrated graphics)
Motherboard: H97 or Z97
Other hardware are similar with those recommended above, except that on H97 or Z97 motherboards, you can also use an NVMe M.2 SSD if there is one slot on the motherboard.

Skylake platform (purchase it at your own risk, because it may be unsupportable by coreboot)

CPU: i5 6400T (very cool yet powerful)
Motherboard: Q170, H170 or Z170 with DDR4 memory slots
Memory: 16 GiB DDR4 2666 *4
SSD: WD Black NVMe
Hard Disk: WD Black 3.5 inch

Any platform newer than Skylake is not recommended, because there are too many anti-features introduced.

andyprough
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Joined: 02/12/2015

If Lloyd wanted the IvyBridge platform with Nvme, couldn't he just get the Nvme PCIe adaptor card? Or would that slow down the Nvme drive so much that it wouldn't be worthwhile?

nadebula.1984
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Joined: 05/01/2018

You can use an NVMe to PCIe 4x converter card. But it won't be bootable until you flash coreboot. NVMe was not present by then, so original UEFI firmware won't boot from them.

Magic Banana

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Joined: 07/24/2010

Can you list the "many anti-features introduced" after Skylake please? About the first processor you recommended, the i5-3475S, it has vPro (including AMT and TXT): https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/65515/intel-core-i5-3475s-processor-6m-cache-up-to-3-60-ghz.html

They are treacherous computing technologies, as far as I understand.

nadebula.1984
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Joined: 05/01/2018

One major anti-feature of post-Skylake platforms is that Microsoft forbids manufacturers to provide their drivers for Losedows 7/8.x, therefore if one has to temporarily use Losedows, s/he has to use Losedows 10.

Since 7-series chipsets are perfectly supported by coreboot. When you flash coreboot, the ME is gone (except a minimalized, non-function part in order to defuse the 30-minute time bomb), and those potential anti-features in the CPU won't function any more. Those high-end CPUs used by librebooted GM45-based platforms (e.g. X200 and T400 series) also supports TXT. We only need to neutralize the ME to prevent such anti-feature (namely, "Trusted" Computing) from functioning.

If you are familiar with Intel's processors and chipsets, you'll see that even the librebooted X60 is not perfect: It still has the first generation of (experimental) ME in the GbE NIC which is untouched when you flash libreboot.

Magic Banana

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Joined: 07/24/2010

One major anti-feature of post-Skylake platforms is that Microsoft forbids manufacturers to provide their drivers for Losedows 7/8.x, therefore if one has to temporarily use Losedows, s/he has to use Losedows 10.

Or GNU/Linux. Are there relevant anti-features for those who only use a 100% free GNU/Linux distribution such as Trisquel?

nadebula.1984
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Joined: 05/01/2018

For PCs preloaded with Losedows 10, the manufacturers may or may not allow users to change Secure Boot settings, therefore the users may not be able to install a free/libre distribution (not signed by Microsoft) at all. (This is not the case for Losedows 8.x)

Intel's integrated graphics begin to require non-free firmware starting Skylake. I have tested Debian/Trisquel on Skylake laptops (ThinkPad T460p and P50) as well as (mini) desktops (HP EliteDesk 800G2), and found that lacking of firmware may affect multi-display output but not graphics acceleration performance. But chances are post-Skylake integrated graphics no longer work so smoothly with free/libre GNU/Linux distributions.

Lloyd
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Joined: 04/17/2021

Thank you for your answer. What do you think about the sound card?

nadebula.1984
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Joined: 05/01/2018

The integrated sound cards are good enough for most people.

jlb
jlb
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Joined: 03/28/2021

Are there any guides on how to install coreboot on a supported board?

andyprough
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Joined: 02/12/2015

I appreciate you posting this Lloyd, because I've been thinking of doing the same. nadebula has already given a lot to think about. I notice that the parts for the IvyBridge system are pretty affordable on ebay.

Lloyd
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Joined: 04/17/2021

I've been thinking about building a new desktop for quite some time. Choosing the right hardware turns to be a rather complicated task (for me).

Lloyd
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Joined: 04/17/2021

Does disabling management engine solve the problem with "Spectre" vulnerability. Recent news report new "Spectre" exploits for both Intel and AMD:
Link to the news article.

lanun
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Joined: 04/01/2021

Appearances of Spectre always remind me of Alexandre Oliva's article "Who's afraid of Spectre & Meltdown?":

https://www.fsfla.org/ikiwiki/blogs/lxo/pub/who-is-afraid-of-spectre-and-meltdown.en

Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

Perhaps you considered that already but if you are not limited by the money and don't mind using only Debian, Talos II could be an interesting option, except that I don't know whether it is a cool enough CPU.

I am now using a D8 workstation from Vikings, it is not a cool CPU but the fan for water cooling is the only running fan so there is very little noise (but I am not able to provide a quantitative reference). My setup is not what Vikings sold by default (I am using the past because the shop is currently closed and due to reopen with a modified offering), I asked it to be silent and power-efficient.

jlb
jlb
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Joined: 03/28/2021

I recommend BeQuiet! CPU Coolers and PSUs. They are pretty silent.

Lloyd
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Joined: 04/17/2021

I want to thank everyone for their advices and suggestions.