Dearth of Venice

About a month ago I decided that it was time to put my Athlon XP machine out to pasture. The three-year-old motherboard and CPU offered few opportunities for reasonable upgrades, and the motherboard had suffered more than its share of indignities. (One of the memory sockets had had a few of its pins bent by a careless heatsink-removal attempt; a few of the capacitors had sprung leaks, and while Bill helped me replace those, some of the front-panel I/O headers seemed to have failed somewhere along the line.)

Ah, well, thought I, it’s time to find out what life is like in 64-bit-land anyway. So I proceeded to do a little research, decided that Socket 939 was the way to go, and ordered an Abit AV8. I chose Abit because I fell in love with the company’s highly-tweakable BIOSen long ago, and the AV8 because it’s a no-nonsense PCI design based on VIA’s KT880 Pro chipset. This machine is going to be a Linux workstation: PCI Express is clearly the wave of the future, but there’s no point in placing a workhorse on the bleeding edge.

Linux also motivates the choice of chipset: while the members of the nForce family generally outperform their VIA counterparts, nVidia tend to be highly-proprietary bastards when it comes to technical data, making Linux support patchy. Bill got badly burned by this a while back, when he tried to make an SFF nForce 2 box his home Linux machine. (Come to think of it, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the nForce 2 even under Windows. It was fast, to be sure, but it had all kinds of weird and sometimes-dangerous quirks and compatibility problems. They seem to have ironed this sort of thing out in nForce 3 and 4, but I’ll let someone else play guinea pig this time around, thank you very much.)

At any rate, the board arrived scant days after I ordered it. I was on the verge of picking up a Winchester-core Athlon 64 for it when Alex happened to lend me an issue of c’t containing a detailed description of Intel and AMD’s processor roadmaps. From it I learned that the Winchester Athlon 64 I coveted was already on the verge of being rendered obsolete by the new Venice core, which was to be released that very day.

Naturally, “released” is a many-splendored term, especially when it comes to two companies like Intel and AMD (or nVidia and ATI) engaged in a years-long struggle to club each other over the head with anything that comes to hand. In this context, “released” apparently means “we put out an announcement, and shipped a handful to hardware-review sites we like.” It’s got sweet fuck-all to do with “you can plunk down your cash and actually buy one, sucka.”

So here I’ve been for the last month, on tenterhooks, sure that if I waited just a few more days, the floodgates would open and a cornucopia of purchasable Venice-core CPUs would spill forth. The best estimate I’ve heard so far is Friday, May 6th. “Soon, baby.”

Of course, with my luck, it’ll turn out that my motherboard needs a flash upgrade before it can use a Venice CPU, and all of that waiting will have been in vain. Let’s hope not.

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