Computer New computer build: Getting out of the Dark Ages

jack action

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It seems it is time to upgrade my 32-bit AMD Athlon 64, 2 GHz with 2 Mb RAM and 2X 80 Gb hard drives. The programs (mostly browsers & Windows 10) are just too demanding for my little machine which starts to show signs of fatigue anyway. I kept pushing this time as long as I could, mostly because I didn't want to loose access to my 32-bit programs (some 20 year-old, but still very useful).

I always bought my machines used and kept them for a long time, but parts are so cheap nowadays that I intend to build my first computer from scratch with brand new parts (but I still intend to keep it 10-15 years without major changes).

First time I will completely build a machine, so any advice is welcome.

Of course, I didn't kept current in the field and I was a little lost. I found this wonderful site where you can virtually build your computer and compatibility issues are taken care of, so that was a great help. Here is my build:

https://ca.pcpartpicker.com/list/HR7gKB

All the parts are from one place to keep the ordering process cheap and easy. It turns out to be 550 $CAD (local taxes included), which is the kind of money inline with my usual "computer" budget.

I will also probably put my old CD/DVD writer on it, although I don't ever use this anymore.

To have a machine that will be up to date for a long time, I chose the latest technology from AMD (it seems cheaper than Intel): AM4 chipset & DDR4 RAM.

I went with an entry-level gamer processor, so I should be "up to date" for a while, performance-wise. The processor comes with an integrated graphics processor which seems to be good enough for me. I don't play games and do not watch movies or TV on the computer. Maybe the latter will change in the future, but I'm not heading this way for now. Still, with my current set up, I can't watch a simple YouTube video or even a simple e-card with flash animation anymore. I also use a 3D CAD program that can be pretty demanding, but I'm gonna loose that with my 64-bit machine and I'm still not sure how I will replace that with open source software.

The motherboard is sold as "Windows 10 supported", but I'm not sure about what is the deal with Linux OS. I read a few comments here and there, such as "It doesn't accept other OS" or "You need special drivers, some tuning on the BiOS" or "There are problem with the sound card". I would like to be reassured that it is not too much of a problem going this way. Having to start with new 64-bit software, I 'm tempted to migrate to open software and move away from Windows 10 (which I will probably keep as a dual boot).

I went with the 8 Gb - 2400 MHz RAM as this is what seems to be on the better side of the norm right now (I know my 2 Gb doesn't suffice my needs for sure). My biggest memory requirement comes from multitasking, where I can have dozens of text files and dozens of browser windows opens at the same time. If 8 Gb is not enough, the system can be upgraded to 32 Gb, so I don't worry for the future on that level too.

Finally, because speed is more important than storage for me, I want to try the SSD way. With 480 Gb (3 times what I use right now) I think I will be OK for a while and there is always the possibility that I still use my 80 Gb hard drives. (Although, I would like to keep my 32-bit machine intact as much as possible in case I get nostalgic with my older programs.) I have no experience with that kind of product, but it seems to be amazing. Any thought on that is welcome.

I haven't ordered anything yet, so it is still time to give me some advices on this set up. Thanks in advance.
 

Borek

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I don't remember being unable to run 32-bit programs under 64-bit W10 (doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but it is definitely not a common situation).

And I would go for 16 GB RAM, Chrome alone uses well over 3 GB on my machine right now (with about 20 tabs opened) - and higher numbers are nothing unusual. Don't get me started on what I think about trends in software development :mad:
 

jack action

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I don't remember being unable to run 32-bit programs under 64-bit W10 (doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but it is definitely not a common situation).
Well that is good news. I guess I was badly informed.
And I would go for 16 GB RAM, Chrome alone uses well over 3 GB on my machine right now (with about 20 tabs opened) - and higher numbers are nothing unusual. Don't get me started on what I think about trends in software development :mad:
That was my first choice, since the motherboard has 2 slots and a 32 GB limit; you know, fill the first half to its full capacity and double it later on. But I often get too excited in that kind of decisions and waste money on stuff I don't really need, which I would want to avoid today (Supposed to be wiser with age :rolleyes:). So 8 GB might not be enough?
 
I will also probably put my old CD/DVD writer on it, although I don't ever use this anymore.
I am afraid your old CD/DVD drive is an IDE one so you can't connect it on your new motherboard which supports only SATA.

You have to buy a new one for 10-20$, yes they are very cheap and I recommend that you buy one unless you know how to boot PC from a USB stick in case of emergency or when you want to install a new OS.

Borek is right. Buy 2x8GB DDR4 and you're ok. And just in case that you want to use a graphics card in the future I recommend 600W. A 450W power supply is not enough.
 

rbelli1

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I don't remember being unable to run 32-bit programs under 64-bit W10
Some old 32-bit programs used 16-bit components but that is rare. Those will not run under 64-bit Windows.

Don't try to reuse your power supply even if you can swing it with a bunch of adapters. The 5V standby probably will be too weak and the 12V may be to weak as well even if the total watts are enough. Older boards used 3.3V and 5V for the heavy loads on the MB. Newer boards almost exclusive get the high current rails from 12V. This includes the ~1V 50-100A+ core supply.

BoB
 

Mech_Engineer

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I have a couple of thoughts from experience building computers recently, feel free to take as you need:
  • For CPU I would lean towards as powerful as possible under your budget, this is one of the hardest things to upgrade years from now.
    • Your configuration uses a Ryzen 3 2200G (benchmark link), which costs around $100 on NewEgg; but for $60 more you could consider the Ryzen 5 2600 (benchmark link) which has more CPU cores and benchmarks at about twice as fast as the Ryzen 3 2200G.
    • Ryzen 5 also has twice as many PCI-Express lanes (16 lanes on Ryzen 5 vs 8 on Ryzen 3) for future expandability if desired.
  • Along the CPU lines I'd recommend a dedicated graphics card rather than integrated CPU graphics. Consider something like a Gigabyte GT 1030 which is around $85 and will give you better overall performance in most modern applications (and just Windows in general). I would try to stick with nVidia 900-series or 1000-series cards to maintain modern graphics acceleration ability.
  • For RAM I would use 2x 4-gig sticks instead of 1x 8-gig stick, the chipset supports dual-channel RAM which means you'll see double the memory bandwidth by using 2 sticks.
  • The motherboard seems fine, seems compact with some nice features. Definitely want as much modern features as possible for future upgrades (for example in the future you could install an M.2 hard drive which would be a big upgrade in performance).
  • The Patriot Burst SSD drive you specified seems to have inconsistent reliability issues in its reviews, I'd recommend leaning towards a Samsung 860 Evo 500GB drive which is similar in price with better overall reliability.
  • Case and power supply seem like good choices

If you're up for it consider the NewEgg Supercombo Deals as well, sometimes you can find a great deal on components for a partial or full system build in there!
 

jack action

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The time is up; parts were all ordered.

Based on the input from the wonderful people on PF, I upgraded the build with a 1X 16 GB - 2400 MHz RAM. I know, 2X 8GB is better. But I'm still convince this is huge for my needs and I prefer letting room for a future cheap upgrade.

To further reduce the price, I took a chance for deals in the used department and ended up with a cost of 577 $CAD (15% local taxes included). I really had this OCD-kind-of-thing to not have a price beginning with a number larger than 5! o0)

I'm pretty sure this set up is already well above my needs. I have never run a computer that was less than 5 years old, so I'm used to relatively "slow" computers. I can ever imagined this set up will feel slow to me; anyway, for a while. The Ryzen 3 is already "a step above" what I could of gotten (here is a cheaper build I explored) and based on past experiences, I will never upgrade to a graphics card. I might upgrade to an extra 16 GB RAM, one day that I will be exasperated by a slow program and - as experienced in the past - I will not see any difference once done. :H

I hope I won't have problems with reliability, as I have no clue what I'm really buying (quality-wise). Everyone has their opinions, but it is often difficult to understand where they come from in this rapidly-changing-field and in the end, I tend to go towards the "let's try the cheapest way and go up" option. It seems to have worked well for me until now. [fingers crossed]

Now it's a waiting game. Since the case is out of stock and the post office is on strike in Canada, I'm not sure when I'll have this new computer.

Thank you all!
 

Mech_Engineer

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What operating system will you be installing on the machine? I find Linux Mint to be very good these days in terms of driver support, but its hard to beat Windows 10 for its raw breadth of hardware coverage.

Make sure and post pictures of the build!
 

jack action

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Now that I know that my old Windows programs should work on a 64-bit machine, it gives Windows a better chance. But I don't know how it will go with the Windows 10 installation. I got my 32-bit version as a free upgrade of my (legal) Windows 7. Will I be able to do a new clean install of Windows 10 64-bit without paying? Not sure. If it costs me something, Windows 10 will lose points big time, as I'm not too impress with it (too invasive to my taste).

Then again, I will probably operate a server in the near future, so I wish to use Linux to force myself to get used to it. I did play with a Ubuntu version a few years ago (don't remember which animal) before I went back to Windows. Today, the advantages of Windows are always diminishing. I didn't like how Ubuntu did a lot of stuff (through the Internet) on my computer without my knowledge; but now Windows is doing exactly the same. I liked how easy it was to play with parameters in Windows in the backend and the lack of "administrator" role (as I'm the only user), but all that changed. And I have very few needs to share documents with others now, so unpopular file types are less of a problem.

I guess I'll have to start a new thread about which Linux version to use when the time comes. :smile:
 
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FWIW, you should be able to get inexpensive SATA / IDE adaptors. You may need to change the IDE drive's primary / secondary jumper.
You'll certainly be able to get an external SATA & IDE adaptor which connects to USB for temporary use.

Store your old drives safely, you'd be surprised what you may want to recover in several years time...

And, I must humbly agree with needing lots of RAM. Sadly, program bloat is rampant, each browser tab slurping astonishing quantities...
 

Mech_Engineer

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I guess I'll have to start a new thread about which Linux version to use when the time comes. :smile:
I would definitely recommend trying out Linux Mint for a start since its free, and you can try running your existing Windows programs using WINE. In my experience you'll spend more time troubleshooting driver issues and unforseen software/kernel update incompatibilities (as compared to Windows 10); but barring that Mint is a great free and secure operating system.

If it doesn't work for whatever reason, you can purchase a Windows 10 license for about $100 (NewEgg: Windows 10 Home 64-bit OEM Disc).
 
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FWIW, you should be able to get inexpensive SATA / IDE adaptors. You may need to change the IDE drive's primary / secondary jumper.
You'll certainly be able to get an external SATA & IDE adaptor which connects to USB for temporary use.
No need for that, plus they are hard to get.
The OP will use a 3.5'' HDD enclosure PATA to SATA which connects to a USB 2.0 or 3.0 port on the PC. The disk stays protected thus.
 
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I hate these system builder websites.

https://ca.pcpartpicker.com/list/CgG9XP

The price tag is always so depressing. I suppose my (former) supermachine will have to keep churning along for another decade, even adjusting for inflation the new object of my desire always seems to come in at ~4x the previous bill.
 

Mech_Engineer

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The price tag is always so depressing. I suppose my (former) supermachine will have to keep churning along for another decade, even adjusting for inflation the new object of my desire always seems to come in at ~4x the previous bill.
I mean, if we're being honest that spec is wayyy beyond what's necessary to play any AAA game title on max settings at 4k resolution, and the spec at that link only has a 1080p screen. You can build a high-end gaming machine for about $2500 these days depending on a few factors and performance goals, and a mid-range machine for a lot less...

Here's a high-end Intel system for $2500: https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883227792
Here's a mid-range AMD system for only $1150: https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883102455
 
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I hate these system builder websites.

https://ca.pcpartpicker.com/list/CgG9XP

The price tag is always so depressing. I suppose my (former) supermachine will have to keep churning along for another decade, even adjusting for inflation the new object of my desire always seems to come in at ~4x the previous bill.
A big chunk of the price tag on the system in the link above is the processor, a 16-core i9. The cost for just for this part alone is shown as $1856 (in Canadian dollars, I assume). And 128 GB of RAM seems like a lot, with a price tag of $1273. Not to mention two graphics units at more than $1500 a pop. Just these four components add up to more than $6100, nearly twice what I paid for the Dell I just bought.

My new computer is a Dell Precision with a Xeon Silver 4114 10-core processor. Total cost to me was about $3500 (US). It has 32 GB of RAM, a small SSD drive for the (Windows 10) OS, a couple of 1-TB SATA drives, and an nVidia graphics card.

I picked a computer with a Xeon Scalable processor because I wanted the abillity to write code that can use the 512-bit wide registers available in AVX 512. These are available only in Xeon Phi and the Xeon Scalable (in flavors of Bronze -- the cheapest, Silver, Gold, and Platinum -- top of the line).

A friend of mine just put together a computer using parts from PCPartsPicker. I think he paid about $2000, and got a system with an Intel i7 6-core processor.
 
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jack action

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UPDATE:

So I got my computer parts this week. I bought some used (i.e. returned) parts to lower the cost. Nothing noticeable from new parts, except for the CPU who had already been installed, so the grease was all smeared on the CPU and the heat sink. So I had to buy some grease. Never did this kind of installation before, but it turned out to be a fun experience.

The grease

The hardest thing to figure out was to understand how to apply it. The guy on the video found on the official AMD site said «Some like to put a pea-sized drop in the center, others like to cross 2 lines in an X shape. I chose to use pea-sized drop method.» It seemed to be a matter of personal preference. I did not found any clearer instructions on the net. When I received the CPU, there is even less indication in the instructions.

I finally bought Artic Silver 5 grease, which was well recommended on the net. You have to turn their official website to get the instructions, but, boy, is it worth it! Rarely have I see such good and detailed instructions for a product. Not only do they tell you what method is the best, but what method is the best for every particular CPU. Yes, there is not one method better than the other; it depends on how the CPU is build. I used to work on the production line at IBM when I was a student, so I understood what they meant. Before installing the cap on the CPU, you put an amount of thermal grease on the chip to create the thermal link between the chip and the cap, which in turn, becomes the "heat sink" for the CPU. When you put the actual heat sink on the cap, where there is thermal grease inside the CPU, it will be the hottest part of the cap. This is where you need to apply the grease outside the CPU. Since CPUs are mostly multi-core nowadays, you need to have grease on every spot where there is grease inside the CPU. It turned out that a single line in the center - in the appropriate direction - was needed to reach the 4 cores of my CPU. So glad I did not went blindly with the pea-sized method.

That was the easy part. The software installation is where you can test your patience.

The OS

I decided to go with Linux Lite OS. It's lightweight (which I like to encourage), and it is build with a Windows user in mind to help the migration. So I have my OS on a USB stick, plug it in and I can already play with it, without installing it. That's different from Windows.

When you installed it, it takes a few minutes before you can access your desktop. That's different from Windows (never done an installation in less than an hour).

At first, I wanted to run a dual boot system, so I tried to install Windows 10 by inserting my other USB stick. I'm waiting for files to load, the screen freezes and I finally get a message saying that I have a bad driver for some hardware and it is an unrecoverable error with only one advice: «Insert the DVD and try again.» I have a USB stick!

Tried many times, search online, nothing worked. Worst, it screwed my GRUB file and now I have to choose the recovery mode every time I want to get on Linux.

I also have a DVD for Windows 7, but I choose to not have a DVD player, so I can't installed that one either.

So I reloaded LL and I said «Screw Windows! Linux will have to do.»

The speed

Damn, that thing is fast! And so silent! I never upgraded hardware before and see that much of a difference in performance. I don't know how fast those $2000+ CPU are, but I'm sure you will need some very heavy programs to notice a difference.

There is a program on the OS to test your CPU speed in different tasks and compares it to every other CPU it tested. I was on top the list for every single test except one where I was second. On one test, there was the result for a CPU equivalent to my old machine, my new machine was 25 times faster!

New programs

Since my last time with Linux, programs seem to be more «Windows friendly». The MS Office documents seemed to be more accessible to other programs now, so not too many problems there (Libre Office came with the OS).

I found Kate to replace my amazing Notepad++ as a text editor. It seemed to be a good match where most features are there (a few missing).

For my 3D CAD program (I used to have a copy of a very powerful commercial program with Windows), I found FreeCAD, but I couldn't run it on my machine. There is some internal error about threads and it won't initiate, just gives an error message. It looked promising, so that was a bummer. I finally found SolveSpace which is very simple and very easy to learn (nice tutorials on the website). But, in the end, it really does everything you need; maybe not for professional use though, but it's mostly for personal projects now for me. The only thing missing is a rendering engine.

The backup system was a huge problem to solve. DejaDup comes with the OS. Very simple, but when you use it, there is only one restore button and it restores all your backup files. I'm used to have a «file history» with Windows, so when you screw up a file when modifying it, you just restore that single file to correct your mistake. Looking around on the net to find a simple solution for backup was harder than I thought. Long story short, I finally came back around to DejaDup, as it happens that the program CAN restore selected files, just not with the GUI, just with the command line. With the desktop, I can customize the right-click menu (in a rather simple way), so now I only have to right-click a file and have a «Restore» option. When I right-click on a directory, I have a «Restore all deleted files» for that directory. Very nice, but boy do open source programmers make it hard to find the features of their programs.

The LAMP installation is also problematic. I thought I would have found a LAMP package somehow like for WAMP, Nope. I did found one, but it seemed to be commercial and was with MySQL instead of MariaDB. Now I have Apache and PHP working great, but I still have some work to do to get MariaDB to work.

Well that was longer than I expected.
 
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Mech_Engineer

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Glad you're having a net positive experience! Building your own computer can be intimidating no doubt, glad you're open to troubleshooting and making it happen.
 

davenn

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I don't remember being unable to run 32-bit programs under 64-bit Win 10 (doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but it is definitely not a common situation).
it's actually very commonly done :smile:
32 bit under 64 bit OS is no problems at all ... windows installs them into a x86 folder

I have a whole bunch of 32 bit progs on several home computers running Win10 and also on my work PC
which is Win7 but again there's a bunch of 32 bit progs


And I would go for 16 GB RAM, Chrome alone uses well over 3 GB on my machine right now (with about 20 tabs opened) - and higher numbers are nothing unusual. Don't get me started on what I think about trends in software development :mad:
totally agree .... don't skimp on memory ....


So I got my computer parts this week. I bought some used (i.e. returned) parts to lower the cost. Nothing noticeable from new parts, except for the CPU who had already been installed, so the grease was all smeared on the CPU and the heat sink. So I had to buy some grease. Never did this kind of installation before, but it turned out to be a fun experience.

have fun buddy,

I have been building my own PC's since 1990 when I built my 286 which in those days the math co-processor was a separate device

It has been a great learning experience as the technology improved and the prices dropped over the last 30 yrs

I'm a real fan of the Gigabyte motherboards, they have been the core of my last 3 home main PCs

upload_2018-11-28_17-59-22.png


and a crap load of storage
somewhere around 12 to 13TB

upload_2018-11-28_18-1-56.png



One important change I did with this PC, when I built it earlier this year, was to keep programs separate from data

All programs are installed on that "This PC C:" drive which is a SSD ( Solid State Drive) Sata .... very fast !
and I don't block it up with data .... it gets spread across the other drives depending on topic etc

I highly recommend this approach :smile:


Dave
 

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fluidistic

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The backup system was a huge problem to solve. DejaDup comes with the OS. Very simple, but when you use it, there is only one restore button and it restores all your backup files. I'm used to have a «file history» with Windows, so when you screw up a file when modifying it, you just restore that single file to correct your mistake. Looking around on the net to find a simple solution for backup was harder than I thought. Long story short, I finally came back around to DejaDup, as it happens that the program CAN restore selected files, just not with the GUI, just with the command line. With the desktop, I can customize the right-click menu (in a rather simple way), so now I only have to right-click a file and have a «Restore» option. When I right-click on a directory, I have a «Restore all deleted files» for that directory. Very nice, but boy do open source programmers make it hard to find the features of their programs.
BorgBackup seems to be popular nowadays.
 
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I decided to go with Linux Lite OS.
If you want something more mainstream (i.e. better supported), I'd consider either Mint MATE or Lubuntu.

So I have my OS on a USB stick, plug it in and I can already play with it, without installing it. That's different from Windows.

When you installed it, it takes a few minutes before you can access your desktop. That's different from Windows (never done an installation in less than an hour).
But you have installed it now haven't you? With an SSD it should take a few SECONDS to access your desktop.

At first, I wanted to run a dual boot system, so I tried to install Windows 10 by inserting my other USB stick. I'm waiting for files to load, the screen freezes and I finally get a message saying that I have a bad driver for some hardware and it is an unrecoverable error with only one advice: «Insert the DVD and try again.» I have a USB stick!

Tried many times, search online, nothing worked. Worst, it screwed my GRUB file and now I have to choose the recovery mode every time I want to get on Linux.
Erase the whole thing and start again. Or...
Bash:
## Boot from your Live USB

## Open a terminal window (<Ctrl>-<Alt>-T should work)

## Add boot-repair to the list of installable software
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair

## Update the list of current software
sudo apt update

## Install boot-repair and run it
sudo apt install boot-repair
boot-repair
I also have a DVD for Windows 7, but I choose to not have a DVD player, so I can't installed that one either.
Download an iso file from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows7 and google Install windows 7 USB. Or don't bother. Or run it as a virtual machine under Linux. If you need your product key to install, download Belarc Advisor.

Since my last time with Linux, programs seem to be more «Windows friendly».
No, it's Microsoft (Office rather than Windows) becoming more rest-of-the-world friendly by moving to the open standard Office Open XML with Office 2010.

I found Kate to replace my amazing Notepad++ as a text editor. It seemed to be a good match where most features are there (a few missing).
Notepad++ is a great editor but somewhat surprisingly, Microsoft Visual Studio Code (which is a free product and works on Windows, Mac and Linux) has taken the coding world by storm in the last couple of years.

The LAMP installation is also problematic. I thought I would have found a LAMP package somehow.
Bash:
## <Ctrl>-<Alt>-T again
sudo apt install tasksel
sudo tasksel install lamp-server
sudo apt install phpmyadmin
## press <space> to select apache2 and <tab> and <return> to select OK
## hit <return> to accept defaults on the next 2 dialogs
That will install MySql rather than MariaDb. You may also have to do the following (choose any name and password).
Bash:
sudo mysql
CREATE USER 'yourname'@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'yourpassword';
GRANT ALL ON *.* TO 'yourname'@localhost WITH GRANT OPTION;
exit
You can then use this name and password to log in at http://localhost/phpmyadmin.

Note that the web server files are in /var/www/html by default. To make things easier, set up a folder in your home folder called 'html' with an index.html file in it (or index.php) and then in a terminal do:
Bash:
cd /var/www
sudo mv html html_old
sudo ln ~/html . -s
Hope that helps - have fun in the new world of Linux, but don't become obsessive - it's just like learning a new language, and if you are bilingual and can slip between languages depending on where you are and what you are trying to achieve you will be a lot more productive than someone who always insists on English because it is 'best'.
 
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