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Developer Reading List

, July 01, 2014 The best summer reads.
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Build An Awesome PC (2014 Edition)

by Mike Riley

All hackers who were doing serious computing in the '80s and '90s remember the fairly arduous work of building their own PCs. Software developers in those days were often quite knowledgeable about their hardware and the performance of various components. Not only was assembling your own PC fun, but the price of doing it yourself was significantly better than buying preassembled machines from IBM, HP, Dell, Gateway, and the other mainstream PC vendors. By the late '90s, though, the PC wars had lowered vendor prices sufficiently that the dollar edge of creating your own system was minimal. At that point, building your own PC became mostly an activity of hobbyists and gaming aficionados. It remains that way today.

While there are many sites that provide reviews of hardware components, few explain how to put those elements together to create a top-line system. The component-rich but system-poor information stream is ably addressed by this book, written by Dr. Dobb's blogger Mike Riley.

As with most of Riley's writing, the content is supremely approachable and very clear. Where he takes positions (the ever-annoying and at times political choices of Intel vs. AMD, Nvidia vs. AMD, air-cooled vs. water-cooled, and so on), he presents his logic and explains how to accommodate other choices should they better appeal to the reader.

Riley's model is a high-end gaming rig with lots of CPU and GPU power and plenty of capacity (both RAM and storage). The list prices for the components total $3000, but the street prices suggest the system can be built for considerably less than that, especially if you don't choose exclusively high-end components.

The text itself is liberally interspersed with photographs (in full color in the electronic versions of the book) that show the steps in intelligent sequence and without skipping over difficult topics. Because of the detailed wiring and plugging necessary, I believe readers will need to commit at minimum to the case (Corsair Carbide Series 500R mid tower), motherboard (ASUS Maximus VI Formula), and CPU (Intel i7-4770K) combination that Riley uses to get the real benefit of this volume. Everything else can be swapped out without losing the thread of the book's directions.

For those who actively (or secretly) hanker to build their own systems, this book is definitely the right guide — a great help, and a lot of fun.

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