So I built the new PC using the parts I planned on. I went for 2GB of memory as it was just so cheap. Assembly was pretty easy. The processor slipped in and the supplied AMD heatsink has a lever to make clipping in place a screwdriverless effort. The harder bits are the mechanical ones, getting the board and drives screwed in. Then there's the usual fiddly bit of attaching the case wiring. Maybe, one day, someone will make a single connector version. The motherboard has plenty of spare headers for things like serial, midi/joystick, digital audio output. Finding the appropriate backplates may be tricky. It all worked first time. I may still have to tweak the BIOS, but nothing major is wrong.
It's running from my old drive with no re-install. Everything is working so far, but I have been unable to get the non-free nvidia driver to work. I tried Envy, which is supposed to sort it all out, but that didn't work. I've also tried making the changes manually, but there seem to be some files missing. I really need this if I'm to use some of the fun stuff like 3D games and Google Earth. It might even let me try the latest 3D desktop gimicks.
The PC is pretty quiet. I can just hear the CPU fan plus the hard drive when it's working hard. With dnet maxing out both cores it runs at a steady 40C. General usage feels quicker. I spend less time waiting for things to happen. My stats should show a healthy increase. Converting an MPEG to Divx ran about 4x quicker, but was only using one core. I would hope that annoyances like a Flash web site left running in another user session will have a much smaller impact than previously.
I hope that this PC will keep me going for a few years. What is likely to come along that will require much more power? I guess things like Photosynth may make it to the desktop and suck up all available processing power. If Moore's Law holds then I'll be able to afford an upgrade when the time comes.
The first computer I owned had 16kB of memory, a 1MHz 8 bit processor and used audio tape for storage. A lot has changed, but it still takes me about as long to type this much text.