First of all, Thank you for your attention to this post.
Here is what I have:
2x Opteron 240 (NOT EE, so it's ~100W per CPU, I think I have heard)
Tyan Thunder K8WE (S2895) (2x PCI-E x16, I think they said)
2x 120G HDD on Raid 0
2x 512MB PC2700 RAM(Generic, purchased at different location)
ATI AIW X600 Pro 256 MB
Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum
DVD rom+ DVD burner (sufficiently good for the time being)
550W Power supply
(I didn't buy these all at once, as you can obviously see)
I am using it for (in order of priority)...
2d/3d games|TV recording
Office|MATLAB|DV capture/encode (editing isn't that important for me right now)
3d animations rendering
the operating environment:
I live around Toronto, Canada... that's where I would shop for parts.
my home doesn't have AC, so at some occasions the room reaches ~40+C when this is turned on (CPU temp ~50C).
the lowest room temp for operating this computer is ~ 0C
I don't have a budget yet (I don't have a problem spending a lot on parts, the electricity bill is more of a concern because my parents notices those things, and then it turns to endless complains)
Question... when I am upgrading this piece,
1) where should I start? RAM, CPU, or some other things?
2) AMD probably is getting new stuff out for dual processor soon, so would year-end be a good time for these things? (apparently the places which sell these things don't have boxing-day sales)
3) Should I aim for 2x Opteron 246/248 HE (less power consumption, so I can get some better video card?) or just go dual core (probably ending up 2x Opteron 265)?
4) any recommendation for RAM?
Isnt the 240 200mhz fsb?
Replacing that ram would be the highest priority then. Get some 3200ddr so it isn't choking on 2700 anymore
If price of parts isn't to much of a factor I'd put at least 2GB of crucial in there. Either crucial 2x1gb pc3200 ecc reg or 4x512 pc3200 ecc reg. You will be guaranteed maximum stability with that stuff.
If you want to risk a little instability and go for speed get some corsair XMS pc3200 ecc reg. Those modules have a much lower cas latency but I have no clue whether that motherboard will take them or not.
Any other proc you put in there will use 3200ddr too so you wouldn't have to upgrade later.
The next thing to consider replacing would probably be the video card. Those procs arn't to bad yet and you have two of them so it shouldn't be to bad. The question for a video card will be how much do you want to raise your powerbill. Any upgrade to the current card you have is going to dramatically increase your power consumption. The ultimate video solution would be SLI 7800GTX cards but that would probably require a new psu and your parents would definatly see that change in the bill A 6800gt or x800xt would probably be the best power to power consumption ratio cards (unless you sli 2 6800gt cards).
The third thing would be the CPUs. The opteron 275 is a dualcore 2.2ghz cpu, that is pretty damned good. That would probably beat 2 opteron 252s in apps that can utilize them. Games probably wont be able to fully utilize 2 cpus much less 4 for a while but dv and 3d animation stuff sure will.