Originally Published: Thursday, 3 August 2000 Author: Brian Richardson
Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Reviews Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Get Your Learn On

Brian has made his opinion known that most "computer folks" don't know much about hardware. Now he helps you find some resources to solve that problem. This installment lists some computer hardware resources.

Keeping Up With The Jones 2.0

With technology comes progress, with progress comes change, and with change comes an annoying jangling noise as nickels and dimes bounce off of the car keys in your front right pants pocket. But change is a constant in the computer industry, especially in the arena of hardware. Any computer information you learn your freshman year in college can be taught as computer history when you're contemplating graduate school.

Keeping up with change in computer hardware is tough. It's even tougher when you're a novice trying to get into the PC market. The PC is composed of layers ... newer technology stacked on older technology stacked on technology designed to be compatible with a processor older than Regis Philben's TV career. So learning the Pentium III and Athlon requires you to play with the IBM PC and the oh-so-spiffy Intel 8086/8088.

Come To The Mountain Top For The Wisdom

Yes, Brian has made his opinion known that most "computer folks" know as much about hardware as George W. Bush knows about geography. While George enlists the help of Rand McNally, I hope to help you find some hardware guidance. This installment lists a few of my favorite computer hardware resources. Some are news sites, some are on-line help guides, and some are books (book: portable computers with great battery life, no upgrade capability, and lousy refresh rates).

Note: The author recieves no financial or material benefit from the mention of these sites. In fact, I get nothing for this. If I missed your favorite site or book, be sure to add it to the talkback ... I would like to add a permanent set of links to hardware.linux.com

Stuff In Print

First, you might need to learn the basics of the personal computer. Newbies should start with titles like Peter Norton's Inside The PC and How Computers Work. There are also a large number of books for A+ certification that go into the same hardware details.

You might note these books have a slant towards DOS & Windows (gasp). No problem ... Scott Muller's classic series of upgrade & repair books has been updated for LINUX with the help of the folks at the Linux General Store in Atlanta (The eigth edition of the "standard" edition is also available on-line).

Once you're over the hump and ready to write software that plays with the hardware (drivers & BIOS), you'll need books that get into the nooks & crannies of the computer. My personal favorite is the Indispensable Pc Hardware Book. This book exposes the under-pinnings of every PC. While is spends a lot of time on technologies that are "on their way out" (like ISA), the information is essential to making any "PC compatible" computer work. The folks at Mindshare do a good job at printing books for the serious hardware hacker. Fatbrain has most of their titles. These are for the serious hardware dude, like kernel hackers and driver authors.


Most hardware web sites sites are generally reviews of products, which may or may not be helpful to your learning experience. If you're into the "bleeding edge" of hardware, sites reviewing gaming-oriented hardware will give you insight into the fastest stuff on the market. This includes (but is not limited to) Tom's Hardware Guide, HardwareCentral, Sharky Extreme, and Ars Technica. Yahoo! has a wealth of info for you to eyeball .

Again, most of these sites are focused on Microsoft Windows. But linuxtests.org is a new site trying to bring LINUX-focused reviews on-line. Their site is small, but growing every day (like linux.com, they're powered by volunteers).

Some respectable help guides are on-line ... too numerous to list in any great detail. Hardware review sites offer some help, like Tom's Storage Guide. You can also find info on some shopping sites.

There is a "shareware" guide to PC hardware (A complete illustrated Guide to the PC Hardware), plus whatis.com ... a list of all those acronyms and obscure terms geeks throw around like bumper stickers at a political rally.

News You Can Use

Once you've caught up to the Jones', you might want to try and pass them. Getting the scoup on new tech is tough, but the web makes it easier. I read The Register daily (spies in all the right places). Now I know what happened to all of thise retired MI6 guys from Her Magesty's Secret Service ... they work for "the vulture". Slashdot, Cnet, Zdnet and others help folks stay on top of the industry.

What Else?

I have seen some very good hardware know-how passed down by ZDTV since they went on the air. I also know of several good radio shows dedicated to computers (check your local listings). You may even want to consider taking an A+ certification class, if paying for your know-how is the way you like it. I help a lot of people learn computer repair at Freebytes, a non-profit computer recycler in Atlanta (check around, there may be one of these in your town). This gives people a chance to tinker with older PCs, and help those who benefit from their time and effort.

The point is no matter what you read, see or listen to ... you gotta get inside the box to master this stuff. And by the time you've learned what's already out there, something new is on the horizon. So get used to learning.

When it comes to hardware, Brian Richardson stays as low as a freshman sneaking into a girls' dorm after curfew ... not that he would ever do such a thing when he was in school (Brian was always smart enough to sneak in before 2 AM).