Jeff Atwood, of Coding Horror, is on a blogging tear lately... I don't know how he manages to knock out such frequent posts on such consistently interesting topics. Today, I read his post on building your own hardware (with an interesting intro on how Google's servers have always been custom machines).
I've modified my machines in the past, adding RAM or drives here and there, but I've never built a machine from the basic components. For the last several years, I've purchased Dell machines (often from their Outlet, with great results) and I've never had a problem with their quality (and have yet to need to customer support, knock wood). Prior to that, I'd purchased Toshibas, Microns, and beige-box generic machines from local vendors.
That said, I'm not opposed to building my own machine. I can certainly connect the parts and troubleshoot various issues. So why don't I? Because I'm scared. That's right... I'm afraid.
My primary concern with building a machine from scratch is all the fine print I see in hardware compatibility. Whenever I read detailed specs or reviews for hardware components, I get the impression that it's VERY easy to build a door-stop. Front-side bus speeds here, parity errors there, chipset compatibility back here, and so on. And tracking down those types of problems scares the bejeebus out of me. I know how to debug software. I can find and fix memory leaks. But random reboots or POST errors? Cripes, where do I begin?
Reading Jeff's post earlier today, it struck me that there ought to be a way for a guy like him, who really follows the hardware world and enjoys spec'ing out machines, to make a little cash at it. Not enough to retire to the beach and I doubt Michael Dell will lose any sleep -- but if it's easy to set up, doesn't require any support, and it's something you're already interested in... why not?
On a whim, I checked NewEgg to see if they have an affiliate program... and sure enough, they do. I think it'd be awesome for Jeff (or similar hardware guru) to spec out a few machines on his site.
My primary machines for the last couple of years have been laptops. Currently, my work machine and personal machine are both fully-loaded Dell Inspiron 9400s -- a back-breaking desktop replacement that's very fast. The two are only physically distinguishable by a little fish sticker I let my daughter put on my personal machine. And I'm generally happy with these machines... but who has just one or two machines? Our house also has the aging "Wife Laptop" (due to be replaced with a Tablet, I think), an old file-server, and my music-and-video production machine (not to mention a couple of Linux boxes Tivos).
But... show me the list of parts to build a "Little Bang" machine, a Media Center PC, a Windows Home Server box, the end-result of the Hanselman Developer Machine, etc. I've purchased and assembled electronics kits in the past and it's great fun... mostly because the parts-list and compatibility issues are taken care of for me and I can focus on the actual building part.
You'd want to make it clear that you're NOT supporting these parts or the resulting machine. It's strictly "do it yourself" and "at your own risk"... but if it's a parts list from someone who actually groks this stuff, I'd be happy to add those parts to my NewEgg shopping cart using your affiliate links.