New PC required

After some final testing, my main PC is completely fucked. I took all of the parts out and new memory in and it still doesn’t work. That means it’s either the board or the CPU, they’re the only parts I haven’t changed. Then I noticed what looks like a small melted component about a millimetre square in size on the top right of the board. Thats the only reasonable explanation. That means new PC time. I need a better ventilated case anyway and I have all of the rest of the parts, just need a new board and CPU.

I don’t know what motherboard/CPU combo to go with though. Intels are faster, AMDs are cheaper. AMD64s work better than IA64 and things are going 64bit so I’m better off doing it now than being the last man still running 32bit machines as it will serve me for at least the next 2 years. This will run as my main desktop so graphics and sound support are important for games and music and I don’t think Linux is quite there yet with those on 64bit. But what about Xeons, Semprons (the replacement for Duron right?), Opterons (3 types from what I can gather) or the 4 types of Pentium 4 and the different cores in all of them?

Recommendations are welcome for architectures Intel/AMD/64. I’ve lost the thread of where CPUs are these days. It used to be plain ole’ Pentium 3s or maybe an AMD Thunderbird only around 3 years ago. Now there are too many to be able to reasonable choice without spending days that I don’t have researching the difference between all the different types of processor.

I’d also like some kind of stability in terms of case ventilation and disk failover (can Linux boot happily from SATA now?) which might mean looking at RAID. I have a pair of Intel i960 SCSI RAID controllers but SCSI disks are expensive. Too many choices. SCSI RAID, SATA RAID which doesn’t work under linux with most embedded SATA RAID controllers as they use Windows drivers to implement software RAID, but I could do IDE software RAID, but I hear thats sloooooow.

I need a lot of PCI slots, an 8x AGP slot and lots of USB(2.0) ports. If I can choose a good, robust, well ventilated case with lots of hard disk bays – between 6 and 8, with some means of suitable cooling for those disks and I can then choose a suitable processor family, I might then be able to settle on a disk interface and finally a board. Please, if you can help me understand the myriad of options in any of these catagories I would be very grateful.

I could just buy one off the shelf, but I can build it myself, save money and ‘commercial hassle’ on the purchase and get exactly what I want.