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I Made The 'Best' Hacking PC Under a Ball-Busting Tight Budgetby@ifoysol
1,428 reads
1,428 reads

I Made The 'Best' Hacking PC Under a Ball-Busting Tight Budget

by Ishtiaque FoysolJanuary 17th, 2023
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We often run after cutting edge technologies while building a PC. This might result in nothing but a fancy desktop showpiece. However, if an unbiased builder knows what exactly s/he is going to do with a PC, the build might not result in a dream one but the best hacking tool for solving problems efficiently with a smooth user experience.
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So, my younger brother’s Secondary School Cert exam is over, and he needs my old Pentium G2020 box built in 2013.


It was December 2022 when I was rambling about the medical cost of my family members.


Meanwhile, I needed a Personal Computer urgently to do my professional and geeky tasks smoothly. I needed to build the best PC, not the dream one, under a ball-busting tight budget by the shortest possible time during the ongoing fluctuation of local currency value.

Being True to the Necessity

I need full control over a toolbox to accomplish my tasks with efficiency and smoothness. The task list is given below:


Professional

  • Software Testing
  • Running Testing Tools/Frameworks/Virtual Machines
  • Moderate Bash/Python Scripting
  • Writing Articles, Reports, and Documentation
  • Online meetings and screen sharing with multiple browsers and tabs opened


Geeky

  • Audio Production
  • A little bit of Video Editing**
  • Programming Problem Solving [Irregularly 🙃]
  • Savoring Movies


All of my audio-visual productions released as of the date had been mixed on the aforementioned G2020 + 4GB DDR3 box, now extended to 8GB. A high-end workstation is an overkill for my present needs whereas a cheap one will be a waste of the base budget I borrowed from one of my friends.

Building the Box Like a Hacker

I headed for an ‘E-Waste Bazar’ like a cyber-junky on the post-apocalyptic Friday morning of December 23, 2022. Finally, the moderately good build took a form with a bit of addition of money.  Photo: Stable Diffusion


I could have made a high-end workstation from a reliable vendor by adding some extra money. But I had to consider buying some future equipment apart from the aforementioned inevitable family needs, for example, an audio interface with a microphone for better audio productions.


So I observed the market for the past six months, looked for a cheap build as a baseline, and phoned a moderately reliable local vendor. The vendor was sensible enough to respond to my urge, ‘Please cut down these RGB things and ensure that the Motherboard, RAM, and PSU are not refurbished.’


I headed for an ‘E-Waste Bazar’ like a cyber junkie on a post-apocalyptic Friday morning of December 23, 2022. Finally, the moderately good build took a form with a bit of addition of money.


Components to Consider

The assembling session. Photo: Author


After some research on the internet, I found that a lower mid-range i5 chipset would be the perfect fit for my needs. So, I looked for a cheap baseline i5 sixth-gen build where investing some more money can ensure a bit


  • better motherboard
  • more memory
  • an SSD and
  • a PSU with a stable power supply


As i5-6600 is a discontinued chipset, a tray CPU along with a refurbished motherboard is inevitable. The shop owner assured me of a new H110M-K Asus motherboard, although I am not 100 per cent sure whether it was a good refurbished one. Anyways the following components were new in my new build


  • two 8GB ddr4 Speed RAMs with 2666 MHz bus speed
  • a 128GB Kingsman sata SSD
  • a Revenger 350w power supply
  • a micro ATX casing


Note: Asus H110M-K can handle only 2133 MHz bus speed for each RAM. So, I had to sacrifice some 533 MHz bus speed.


I had never heard of a RAM brand by the name of Speed, nor found it on the internet. Most probably it is a generic or wanna-be player in the market. However, I did not face any issues with any of the components mentioned above. The final build cost BDT 23,500/- or US$220.97 as of January 02, 2023.

Shortcomings

Benchmarking

Bunch of Open Tabs and Online Meeting

I assume an extreme rush during work-from-home when I need two browsers – one for testing different tasks in the agile board and another for communicating with the dev team or clients. To simulate the closest scenario, I let the browser give some scope to consume system resources.


The following bash script opens 30 Chromium tabs of my latest composition on YouTube

#!/bin/bash 

output=$(printf 'https://youtu.be/1LfbLjmGXZk %.0s' {1..30})
chromium $output

Meanwhile, a Google meet session is sharing the whole screen. The test ran for 31 minutes. I found a moderately OK environment for chasing a tight sprint from home and doing basic to moderate audio-visual editing for my future productions.


You can listen to the composition while reading this article further

Sysbench Benchmarking

A single threaded sysbench test for 1000000 prime numbers gave the following stats

total time:                          10.3825s
events per second:                   1.93
total number of events:              20
events (avg/stddev):                 20.0000/0.00
execution time (avg/stddev):         10.3822/0.00


And a 4 threaded test for the same range gave the following result

total time:                          10.4319s
events per second:                   7.57
total number of events:              79
events (avg/stddev):                 19.7500/0.43
execution time (avg/stddev):         10.3310/0.15


I am not a benchmark veteran, but I assume the system is powerful enough to handle multitasking as per my present needs giving some performance penalties as the single core performance I can’t boast of.


Wrapping it Up

Thank you for reading this write up this far. Have you noticed that I have not mentioned any conventional “hacking related” tools or activities?


To me, hacking is a subset of testing and tweaking things by looking at them from a different point of view. In this case, the human brain is the most active thing to consider while a workstation is one of the tools to realise its thinking.


So, such a lower mid-level Personal Computer is enough for a hacker if s/he is not going to test blockchain or quantum things right now. But this configuration is a good starting point indeed!


Yes, there are still some scopes of fine-tuning, my learned hacker friends might argue over a better build and find some bottlenecks also. But one thing I believe from my heart is that tooling does not make a hacker. It is the hacker who invents or develops tools to achieve her/his goals.