Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Let it Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain!

Yes it's raining on Christmas Eve. That was of course after we got a foot of snow the night before. Needless to say last minute shoppers will need water wings.

We have Christmas pretty much under control here. The credit cards are maxed out, chequing account is in the red, yep it must be Christmas.

The company has started arriving, the alcohol is flowing, the spouse has been in the kitchen all morning, yep it must be Christmas.

I'm checking email, blogging and looking for very last minute bargains. Oh wait, that's like every other day.

The difference is today I wish one and all Happy Holidays and all the joys and happiness the season brings. The rest of the year your on your own!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Trust Your Instincts - Shop Safety 101

I just had a "close call" in the shop. My fault, I was cutting a couple of pieces of wood on the sliding compound saw and didn't bother to clamp them first. I actually THOUGHT about clamping them first, but then though "naw - it's just a quick cut". More like a quick way to loose a body part. Fortunately the wood didn't take my fingers with it when it bucked under the saw. Lesson learned.

Wood working is NOT for impatient people. Everything you do requires 5 or more minutes of set up, even just a "quick cut". Skip a step and you are inviting disaster. So I must practice patience before I practice any wood working.

OK I just needed a little break from the near disaster.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Butts In

It's been a while since my last post due to the sudden onslaught of Christmas. I must have missed the memo. So it's been rush, shop, drop everything, search the Internet, price compare, tear your hair out, normal Christmas frenzy type stuff. It leaves little time for the things I REALLY want to do.

I have been trying to get out into the shop more. Been upgrading some tools and ridding myself of useless ones. I have been learning that I really know absolutely NOTHING about wood working. It's been a lot of fun when I could squeeze it in here and there. My Christmas wish list grows daily with new tools, books, jigs, bits, blades, etc. etc. Due to the fact that it IS Christmas, I cannot divulge what might be in the works.

Gaming has really taken a back seat to everything. There is NOTHING computer related on my wish list this year. The whole Core i7/X58 dream is way off as I follow along in the forums with the trials and tribulations of the early adopters. Sometimes patience IS a virtue. The ONLY game that might be on my wish list would be Call of Duty: World at War and I have too many other games I haven't finished to even consider it.

So bring on the New Year where things slow down again, I work insane overtime to pay Christmas bills and still have NO time for the things I REALLY want to do. Life is grand.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Woodworking for Novices

Ahhhh the smell of fresh cut wood, the rattle and buzz of a table saw, the mounds of sawdust under the router. These are the joys of woodworking. Unfortunately in my garage there is the smell of burning wood, the rattle of loose blades, and the ends of broken bits among the sawdust. But I am really enjoying it.

I fixed a drawer in one of our "antiques" today. It required a trip to the hardware store for wood and numerous power tools to cut rout and dado the panel. The best part was it actually fit when it was done and all the parts mated perfectly. HAH! I can do it. Even the spouse was impressed. I did however break a router bit in the process, but I figured out what I was doing wrong to cause that. So the lesson was learned.

I joined the Router Workshop forum hoping to get some help and tips there. Just browsing some of the posts I learned a lot. The biggest lesson was RTFM!!! A couple of posts lead me to realize some capabilities of my router that I hadn't noticed. It's amazing what you can learn from actually LOOKING at your router and reading the manual. Suddenly it a whole new tool!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Too Many Hobbies

Gaming seems to be on the back burner lately. The garage workshop project has taken over my free time. But it is coming along very nicely. The spouse has finally quit nagging me about not using all those tools. There are plenty of other things to nag about.

The "business" is coming along as well. Sometimes it feels like things are at a standstill, but I am getting things accomplished slowly. Today I worked on the new logo as seen here. I am not much of a graphic designer, but this will do for now. I am trying to get a temporary website and email set up as well. Today I ordered business cards and a couple of t-shirts with the logo on it for the spouse and myself. There are still many more important things to do.

Christmas is also looming and I really need to start thinking about that. Just another money grab as far as I'm concerned. But I must not be a scrooge AGAIN this year. Bah Humbug!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Workshop 101

I got a few more details about the new business sorted out today. I am now officially registered with the government aka TAXMAN. Everything is pretty much in place, except for the website, suppliers, inventory, bookkeeping and a few other minor details. Good thing I don't officially open till next year!

The garage has been my focus this week. I have quite an ensemble of tools and I am trying to set up a space where I can actually USE them. Perhaps I have too many for a garage. However I have been making very good progress out there. One day I will actually BUILD something.

I finally got all the parts for my little test bed computer, and I now have to admit complete defeat and say that the HD 4870 video card I have been hanging on to in hopes of a miracle is absolutely and officially DEAD. It is now in the trash.

The E6700 processor I bought on Kijiji along with my ASUS Maximus board is also a dud. Fortunately it is still under warranty from Intel and I may get it replaced. If that happens the deal will have been worthwhile, although I have NO complaints about the motherboard.

Tomorrow it's back to my REAL job for a couple of days. Someone has to pay for all the toys I keep buying.

Monday, November 17, 2008

i7/x58 IS OUT!

It's official the Intel Core i7 and X58 Motherboards have hit the shelves and all the early adopters are buzzing loudly and scrambling to build the new "biggest e-peen" rigs. The i7 comes in 3 flavours, the basic 920 at 2.66GHz, the mid range 940 at 2.94 GHz and the extreme 965 at 3.2 GHz. Gone is the old Front Side Bus (FSB) and in it's place is the new Quick Path Interconnect (QPI). If you want all the nitty gritty on this new architecture check out this WIKI page.

There have already been numerous tests and benchmarks done but now that it's finally in the wild we'll get to see the true performance of this much hailed processor. The motherboard vendors have all jumped in the ring as the X58 chip sets support BOTH nVidia's SLI and ATI's CrossfireX technologies.

I myself will wait till sometime next year after all the bugs have been ironed out before I consider jumping on this bandwagon. And it's not an inexpensive venture either. X58 only supports DDR3 memory and this time it's TRIPLE channel memory. But it will be fun to watch all the boys revving their new engines in the forums.

I finally got caught up on all the computer repairs I had last week. It was quite busy around here. This week I have a little remodeling project in the garage to take of. I also have to give the spouse's computer a little tune up. And I am still trying to get that dead VisionTek HD 4870 to work. Yes I am flogging a dead horse, but I am trying to get my 300.00 worth out of it SOMEHOW.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Business of Business

Looks like I got caught up in the plan to market thermal pads. I have made some contacts, got quotes for materials, registered a domain, applied for a business licence, vendors permit, tax exemption, etc etc. The only thing left to do is sort out the import and export end of things. That is one pile of red tape I am not looking forward to dealing with.

I don't plan on officially launching the business until the new year. It will be web based for the thermal merchandise, but I might as well umbrella all my computer activities under one moniker. Besides, if I have legal on paper business maybe folks will be more willing to pay for my services. I really am tired of freebies.

I am already looking into product expansion. There really are a lot of thermal products that computer modders could easily use. They just aren't readily available. I am hoping to change that.

The other snag is trying to do business with North American companies. The big guys just don't want to deal with the little guys like me. They want to sell you 1000 products but you only need 10. Sadly Asia is much more willing to help the small business owner, and much more cost effective. I really want to buy North American, but they are making it very difficult. Hopefully if things go well that will change.

I am getting a hard fast course in thermal dynamics. It's a complicated science. We are never too old to learn right? NOT!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One of THOSE Days

Have you ever had one of those days where you just can't seem to accomplish anything? That was basically my day, although in retrospect I HAVE accomplished things. I raked leaves, mailed letters, did shopping and errands, and fixed two computers. Still, it somehow feels like an "empty" day.

I had a client computer with a Zip drive installed in it. The problem was one of the grand children had inserted a nickle into the Zip Drive. I did manage to get the nickle out and got the computer to boot, which it wouldn't do before, but I have no way to test the Zip drive. Yes it was a very old computer. I don't think the Zip drive is worth a nickle personally.

The other computer had a software conflict between the HP camera software and the Lexmark printer software. One or the other has to go. I voted the Lexmark printer off the computer island. It's still cheaper to buy a NEW Lexmark printer then it is to buy ink cartridges for it.

I haven't played any games today at all. I did give the Merc Stealth a bit of a workout yesterday in Frontlines: Fuel of War. It is going to take some getting used to but I like it a lot so far. The colour illumination is very cool also. I am liking the purple.

Don't think I will accomplish anything else today. Blah!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can!

Congratulations to the USA for electing President Barack Obama! What a fantastic day in history it is indeed. To bad Bush left him such a incredible mess to clean up. Let's hope the US can pull together like they have demonstrated they CAN in this election, and clean up the disaster.

I attended the Intel Channel Conference in Toronto on Tuesday of this week, and while I always look at this little segway as a mini holiday, I was certainly unimpressed with Intel's offerings. One would have expected them to be all hyped about Core i7 and the new X58 platform but they glanced over it like it was old news even though the processor isn't being released until mid month. It seems they are trying to keep the Xeon and older Intel chip sets alive a little longer. Hmmmm... are they lacking some confidence in i7? They are also pushing the ATOM processor and miniITX boards. WHY??? I left with more questions then answers.

I discovered a new DVD rental service called It's basically a DVD-by-mail rental system. I have a 4 week free trial coutersy of Telus Perks. If it goes well, it is a great offering. They claim to have over 72000 titles available. They offer everyone a 2 week free trial. I have already received my first DVD - Man On Fire. I'll post more on this as I go along.

I also got the Merc Stealth gaming keyboard this week. Going to give it a whirl tonight. So far I am REALLY liking it. I just need to get the whole profile set up sorted out. I'll give an update on this later on as well.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Computer Completions

Today I put my computer back together hopefully for the last time for a while. I took out a couple of the fans now that I only have one video card. I moved the Antec Spot Cooling fan into the spouse's computer to help cool the MCP. It did drop it about 5C so that's better then nothing. Then I swapped out the Logisys Blue LED for two of the Logisys UV LED's, and put the blue LED in the spouse's case as well. So now we have different colour schemes. The only problem is the UV LED's are not very bright even though I have 3 of them in my case. Guess I need something more UV reflective in there. The spouse's case however is a bright blue glowing demon! Too bad it gets so little use.

I emailed VisionTek and told them the whole sordid story about my dead video card in hopes that they might give me a break and honour the warranty. No such luck. They didn't even bother to reply. They are now on my POO POO list. They could have at least offered to repair it at a reasonable cost.

Even though my computer is working just fine and my games are running extremely well, I am still miffed that I only have one video card. All I can do is wait till the dollar gains some strength and the next wave of overpriced GPU's comes out and HOPE that the 4870's drop back to a reasonable price. I really cannot blow another 400.00 on a card.

The latest disaster around here occurred on Tuesday when the spouse and I returned home from shopping and heard what sounded like hail hitting a window, although it was neither raining or hailing out. The sound was coming from the patio door. The inside pane on the fixed door was cracking into a million little pieces right before our eyes. It was extraordinary to watch even as I felt my wallet screaming in my pocket. I completely expected the pane to "blow out" at any moment so the spouse and I sealed the door up with plastic and duct tape to prevent the glass from shattering all over the dining room. Oddly enough it continued to crack into the middle of the night but the pane is still firmly in place. It looks like frosted glass now. And of course it will be about $600.00 to repair it and we have to wait 3 weeks for the glass. There is no explanation for why it happened but I searched Google and found other people have experienced the same thing. Very weird.

Another reason why there is no video card in my future.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vista Surprises

A client brought me a computer today with a printer installation problem. She told me it was running Vista Ultimate and so it was. On a 1.7 GHz processor with 512 MB of SDRAM. Unbelievable. It was slow but was working just fine. The printer problem was a simple software fix. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to run ANY Vista installation on such little memory.

It was a slow vegetative day today. Played a little, trolled the forums, ordered a Ideazon Merc Stealth Illuminated Keyboard. The spouse will be happy to hear that. I just hope the illumination on it is better then this Logitech G15 and I hope the keys wear better. I may just sell the G15 along with the Belkin Nostromo N52 SpeedPad.

Tomorrow I hope to do a little house cleaning, something I am way behind on, and maybe get out in the workshop and do some organizing out there. Winter is coming and it's home improvement time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Getting Creative

Now that I know it wasn't the Creative Zen that was messing up my computer, but a bum video card, I decided to check this little freebie out. Turns out the thing KICKS ASS! I put a couple of movies on a 8 GB SD card and loaded up some music and I was entertained all weekend. The software converts movie files to a readable proper sized format and it does a very nice job. The picture is crystal clear and the screen is big and bright enough to make viewing comfortable. The sound was perfect crisp stereo with excellent channel separation. The battery life was very impressive, letting me watch a full length movie, listen to an hour of downloaded music, and listen to the radio for almost 4 full hours on one full charge. WOW!

The Zen also handles photos, slide shows, Zen Casts, Audible books, music videos, recorded television, movies, FM radio, links to Outlook Contacts, a task calender, and voice recording. That's a lot of bang for the buck.

I showed the spouse a sample of the movie and that was all it took to be added to the Xmas wish list. However, I managed to completely forget our 9th anniversary on Saturday, so I went to The Source today and bought an 8 GB model to make amends. I think I am forgiven.

I got a Mastercraft Maximum 2 HP Plunge Router, a beautiful card and flowers as my anniversary present and am VERY happy with that. I am such a heel for forgetting!

I just bought a couple of acrylic cases for the Zens on EBay along with a car and electric charger for them. The exchange rate is brutal AGAIN, but that was still the cheapest place to get them. I think these little gadgets are going to get a lot of use.

So if you are in the market for an awesome mp3 player that has more to offer then just music, I strongly suggest checking out the Creative Zen. They are very reasonably priced and come in 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32 GB models. But with the added SD card slot these players can hold infinite amounts of digital entertainment.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

FarCry 2 Hits The PC

It's launch day for FarCry 2 WOOT! I downloaded it on Steam and have been playing on and off all day. It's another great FPS of course but I am a little disappointed in the graphics. It's certainly is not Crysis. Actually it's very far from "realistic" but there is great scenery. My single 4870 is handling it like a charm. All the settings are at VERY HIGH and the fan is only at 35%. Maybe two cards was a waste of money anyway?

I found some rather disappointing information on the Twin Turbos. I could have plugged them directly into a molex plug instead of using the fan header on the video card. It seems the fan performs much better that way. I don't know for sure that it spins up at power on in that setup, and I am not about to fry my good card to find out. I may experiment with the dead card later on. It would be really sad if that was the case and this whole screw up could have been prevented. Hind sight is always 20/20.

I have to say that I am really thrilled that the one card is still working so flawlessly after all it's been through. I suppose if another 400.00 falls into my lap I might still opt for Crossfire, but I don't see that happening any time soon. And with the loonie taking a beating now, it might be a very long time before there are ANY more computer upgrades. I am glad I built my systems when I did.

The one thing I am SERIOUSLY considering is a GTX 280 for the spouse's computer. That of course does not impress the spouse. And it too will have to wait for a lottery win.

I have to get back to killing things for a bit before bed. I sleep so much better knowing the world is a safer place.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lady Luck Drops In

The video card dilemma got a small boost. I decided to replace the stock coolers with hopes of maybe RMAing the cards. I did the first card and thought what the heck, I would plug it back in and see what happened. Much to my amazement it is working PERFECTLY! I can run all the video stress tests, I can play my games FULL SCREEN and at a pretty decent frame rate I might add. I even got a Vantage score of over 9200! Needless to say I was blown away.

I installed the ATI 8.10 drivers and Catalyst Control Center, and set the fans to 35% and am running at a cool 45C at idle and 57C under maximum load. WOW! It's almost unbelievable.

The downside however is I was not as lucky with the second card. Most of the original thermal material was gone and I made some improvised replacements but I think the card was already toast. I do not get a video signal whatsoever from it. Bummer. Now that the card is obviously been tampered with, there is no hope of an RMA. I am still going after Arctic Cooling, but I don't expect much.

At least my gaming rig is up and running again! I don't think I am going to fork out money for a replacement card unless I see serious issues in my games. I just played FFoW and pulled off more head shots in five minutes then I have ever done! If I do decide to replace the dead card I think I will look seriously at a 4870 x2 only because of the fact there are less heat issues with a single card.

So I am still out about 400.00 but that is somewhat less painful then 700.00. And I still have a usable rig. It is a good day.

Hot Video Spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

My VisionTek video cards are officially DEAD. Sadly, the reason for their demise only became clear as they flashed their final BSOD. They were defeated by HEAT.

After all my praise and high regard for the Arctic Cooling VGA solutions, it turns out they are the culprit in this epic failure. The Twin Turbos suffer from a critical hardware deficiency. They are not programmed to have the fans start when the computer is powered on. In fact they do not start until the OS has actually loaded and whatever utility that controls them (i.e. CCC, Riva-Tuner) has started.

This translates to anytime you are in the BIOS, in Safe Mode, installing the OS, or in a situation where the boot hangs, the fans on these cards are NOT running. Your video card is being cooled by a large and ineffective heat sink. So it is in fact slowly cooking itself to death. Kiss 700.00 goodbye.

Most video card manufacturers do not honour the warranty if you "modify" your video card. So you are pretty much out of luck. I, however, refuse to go down without a fight and at this point I am holding Arctic Cooling responsible for the damages. I don't think they were clear enough when they stated "the fans spin up late". They should have pointed out the fans do not start at all until the OS loads. And that situation pretty much renders these VGA coolers as useless AND dangerous.

I am going to be making a lot of noise in the next little while to anybody who will listen. I doubt AC is going to make good on my loss. But I can't help but wonder how many others are suffering the same aggravation without realizing what the actual cause is. There may be a Class Action Suit in Arctic Cooling's future.

In the meantime, I am out of the gaming scene until I can save enough cash for the repairs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Many Phases of Grief

There seems to be some disagreement on the number of stages of grief. It varies from 4 to 8, depending on how you choose to break it down. But however many there are, one must pass though all of them at some point.

Today I am grieving for the tragic loss of a friend and colleague, who sadly took her own life while struggling through a battle with cancer. I am still in the first stage of shock. The depth and reality of the situation has not had time to sink in yet.

There is no comfort in the numbness of shock, like the word itself, it is harsh and electric and makes your insides tremble like your world is caving in on itself. Nothing makes sense, and all logic and reality is a fog. Everything that was so important yesterday crumbles away meaningless. Life and all it's irony laugh at you from the grave. All we are left with is "Why?"

It's been a tough weekend, with lots of time spent thinking deep provocative thoughts. I wanted a break from my "problems", well I certainly got that. In my deepest moments of sadness I sometimes just wanted my problems back as a distraction. They were so trivial and so much easier to deal with. They did not involve death.

Tomorrow I have appointments and clients and the world will keep turning and my "problems" will be waiting for me. The grief will follow me like a ghostly shadow. A subtle reminder about what really is a "problem" and how we too often fail to recognize the real problems of real people who disappear in a heartbeat. Perhaps in grief we can find a way to change that.

Rest in peace Heather. You are truly missed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back to Work, CAN'T WAIT!

I am SO VERY HAPPY I am going back to work tomorrow. Right now all I want to do is go Incredible Hulk on all my computers. There are the video issues on my gaming rig, and my laptop absolutely refuses to install Windows SP3. I have tried every fix known, conventional and unconventional but it does NOT want to cooperate. The spouse's computer has decided to run in low gear, taking FOREVER to boot and then just taking FOREVER to load programs. I haven't even really tried to fix it yet. I can't get beyond my desk it seems.

So yes, work will be a WELCOME break. I am going to take all my woodworking magazines and not think ANYTHING related to computers for TWO whole days. Maybe this permanent headache I seem to have developed will go away.

Of course the headaches will be back next week. I have two client computers to deal with Monday and Tuesday. Then I will have to return to these nightmares. A vacation FAR AWAY from all these machines is what I REALLY need.

OK I am done ranting. I am going to go play Text Twist or Solitaire or Mine Sweeper. Hopefully they will actually be able to run on this POS!

I Just Wanna Cry

The video card saga is almost at an end. I have all but given up on these things. Today I wanted to try something and made a small change in the BIOS and lost the PCI-E slots completely. I had to go out and buy a PCI video card just so I could boot back into the BIOS to fix things. This is getting crazy. Then I bought and tried to run 3DMark Vantage and it will not even run on this system as long as I have Crossfire enabled. Both the cards work fine by themselves, but that's not what I am after.

My very last attempt to recoup the glory of these cards is to put the stock coolers back on and see if they work like they did in the beginning. The after market coolers should not be the issue but I really am out of options now. If that doesn't work then I will be selling them and looking at a 4870 x2. Of course this is easier said then done because I can't seem to find thermal pads anywhere and they are necessary to put the stock coolers back on. Should be interesting trying to get the heat sinks off after using that industrial thermal adhesive.

So it was pretty much another wasted day trying to get my computer to actually WORK. It's 1:30 a.m. and I am no farther ahead then when I turned my computer on this morning. I HATE these kinds of days!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Catching Up

It's been a couple of days of "reload" and I am not really happy. I am getting lots of little bugs, probably my fault for not formatting and doing a clean install, but I was trying to save some files that I could have easily saved another way. Shortcuts do NOT pay. I am going ahead anyway but I smell a "clean" install in the near future. What a PITA!

I finally got the spouse's computer reloaded too but I have a sneaky feeling that somewhere in the process I lost a whole lot of files. Hopefully I will be the only one who notices them missing. NOT BLOODY LIKELY. There will be an "I told you so!" coming.

I got one of those bargain Acer computers from The Source for a client and I like it. It is NOT a high end gaming machine, but it will do photos, videos, and daily computing just fine. Of course it came loaded with the usual "crapware" and useless "trialware" but I cleaned all that up. It is absolutely silent. Something we are not used to around here with all the massive cooling going on in these gaming machines and the media centre. I think the client will be VERY pleased. I love deals even when they are not for me.

The Creative Zen is still an issue. I haven't figured out what format I have to put the movies in to be able to watch them. I thought it was AVI or MP4 but they don't work. I will NOT plug it into my machine again so I am going to have to keep looking.

Yes the election is over and now that we are through wasting time and money I will give you my latest political rant as posted on the EVGA forum:

As a fellow Canuck I am disappointed in the election also. Right back where we started, maybe worse. Harper did a great job masking the recession we are into. Another factory closure was announced in my home town the day of the election. Dion is and always was a joke, and he really needs to step down. Heck I would have voted for Bob Rae before Dion. Looks like Justin Trudeau is our Great White Northern hope, but I doubt he can or even wants to fill daddy's shoes. And yes Canadians really did not have a "good" choice in this election. It was lose lose. Perhaps if all those "lazy" Canucks had voted we could at least have a minority NDP government just to mess things up for a bit. Jack Layton doesn't seem like a really bad guy. But can he run a country? What's Harper going to do when he can't hold Bush's hand anymore?

That's the way *I* see it anyway.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cold Turkey

Well I had the "ULTIMATE" meltdown. Yes my Vista Ultimate 64 installation absolutely puked and I had to reinstall. There is NOTHING I hate more then that. I lost almost everything important like MY GAME SAVES. Starting from scratch AGAIN. GRRRRR!

I do know what caused this catastrophic meltdown. It was my new "FREE" Creative Zen. Every time I connected it to my computer I had trouble rebooting, and this time it was an absolute no go. Now I KNOW why they are giving them away.

Speaking of Newegg, they were quite concerned with my review on My only beef was that they weren't located IN Canada. A customer service rep CALLED me today to assure me that they are indeed going to open a brick and mortar Canadian warehouse. These things just take time. That's GREAT! I am really glad to hear that. And they were nice enough to give me a couple of other "perks" to assure me that customer satisfaction is #1. Well, Creative Zen issues aside, I would say my view of Newegg has changed to a more positive angle. They ARE listening and THAT'S impressive.

Now it's back to re-installing EVERYTHING on my computer. I have a TON of other work to do, now all on hold of course. GRRRRRRR.

If you are in the market for a cheap (as in inexpensive) new computer or second computer for the kids, don't miss this deal at
ACER M1200-E1520B DESKTOP PC - $299.00 (249.00 after 50.00 MIR)
It's a good deal for a little powerhouse. I am not keen on the 250W power supply or the 1GB of Memory, but you can use the 50.00 rebate to upgrade both. Other than that it's a good deal. It's only available till October 22 so hurry!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Happy? Thanksgiving

So I am still plagued by video problems. I can play if I either run the game in a window or turn off CrossFire. Either of those conditions and the games run fine. If I try to play in full screen mode I get artifacts, but I CAN play in full screen mode with Crossfire turned off and the effects on normal. Basically I am NOT winning this video card war.

I still haven't got around to fixing the mod on the second card yet. Sometime next week I imagine I will have some time. Mostly I have been very busy celebrating my birthday and I am way too old for all that celebration is what I am finding out. Time to just chill a bit.

I got my Creative Zen MP3 player from Newegg and it's pretty cool. I have ordered some SD cards so I can load up movies to watch - well wherever I want. I also got some other ear buds as I have very tiny ear canals and can't wear most ear buds. These ones are by Phillips and actually go right inside the ear. Much better for me.

I also ordered another Seagate 500GB 7200.11 hard drive because NCIX had them on sale for a ridiculously low price of 56.00. It's hard to justify NOT having a good backup drive at that price. The spouse wouldn't agree. I can only hope the Purolator guy comes when I am home alone.

Today I was busy cooking cabbage rolls for tomorrow, we are having Thanksgiving at the "mother-in-law's" house tomorrow. I get along alright with MOST of my in-laws. I just don't usually stay long.

I have been playing Frontlines: Fuel of War and it's alright. It's just tough in windowed mode because it keeps switching out of the game on me even with the game button on the G15 enabled. I don't get it. So I do a LOT of dying. Gears of War is getting some game time as well. Really great graphics in that game.

So even though it's been a while between posts, nothing much is happening. Just the usual video headaches, and then Vista would not boot today, it just kept restarting. Some driver problems - go figure. I finally got that sorted out.

FarCry 2 comes out October 22 and of course I have already pre-purchased my copy on Steam. Hopefully I will get FFOW finished by then. Maybe even GoW too. Oh wait - the "TO-DO" list is still looming somewhere.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Growing Pains

My birthday is coming up soon and there have been some time honoured celebrations. Unfortunately I am NOT as young as I used to be and these have taken their toll on me. I am looking forward to going to work this week for a rest. Needless to say I have seen very little of my computer the last few days. I tried playing some games tonight, but I am actually getting motion sickness. UGH!

But I did get a nice surprise from Newegg. It seems they are sending me a free Creative Zen 2 GB MP3/MP4 player for being one of the first beta users of their new Canadian site. SWEET! I have never really been interested in a MP3 player, but if it's free what the heck! It looks like a reasonably decent one too. Might be useful for entertainment at work.

Speaking of which I am working 3 days this week so I probably won't fix my video card till next week. There are more birthday events planned and Thanksgiving is coming up so it will be a busy week for me. But right now all I need is a good night's sleep!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vista, Bad Vista

Today was a heart attack waiting to happen. I was trying to fix a client's computer and hooked the drive up to my computer to try to recover the data. I had to change permissions on the drive to access it and that's when Vista lost it's mind. It copied all my files and documents to the client drive and basically totally messed things up. It took a couple of hours and a couple of system restores to get everything back to normal. I can only HOPE I got all my information off the client's drive. I may have to check that out one more time.

So on that note I just discovered a use for the spouse's old computer. It will now become the computer I use to fix other people's stuff. I was almost sure I was going to have to reformat my ASUS gaming system after that meltdown today. OMFG I do NOT want to have to go through THAT!

Other then that I got nothing accomplished today. I have to work tomorrow and then the weekend is all booked up with a wood show and my "surprise" birthday party. Looks like I won't get to fixing the video card till late next week sometime as I am working Monday through Wednesday as well.

Working through the week is a good excuse to use my evenings for gaming:)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crysis Warhead: Mission Complete

I just finished Crysis Warhead! Yes despite the evil video card temps. I put the Antec Spot cooler in the case and managed to keep the temps from igniting something. It's still too hot, but it will have to wait for another day for repairs.

Warhead was okay, not great. Not as good as Crysis, never as good as Call of Duty 4 but it was playable. I found it had way too much video and not enough game play for my liking. It was a short game, not worth the price. The Crysis/Crysis Warhead package should retail for no more then 49.99 in my humble opinion. Mainly because you still have to build a $2000.00 machine to run Crysis.

So I am running out of games again. I will have to finish Crysis for the second time, just to have it complete on this rig. I see Frontlines: Feul of War is on sale but I think I will wait. That reminds me I still have Gears of War, Assassin's Creed and Bioshock to finish too. Okay maybe I am NOT out of games yet.

Hot Video

Well I did the video card mod and it looks disastrous. The card is now running hotter then ever some of the temps in GPU-Z pushing 130C!!! The GPU itself is not as bad but still pushing 75-80C and it did look like I got it seated properly this time. The only difference is I used the supplied thermal paste and heat sink adhesive. Looks like I am going to be redoing this card.

This should be no surprise as our ceiling fan replacement went just about as well. The spouse and I are no longer speaking to each other at the moment. We got the fan in and it IS working, but it was no piece of cake. That was the WORST fan installation design I have ever seen. How do I manage to find all these "special" items?

I think I'll wait till the spouse goes to work then I will rip apart the video card AGAIN. It looks like I should just plan to do everything TWICE. The card heat is not just a card problem but the heat it's producing is heating up the North and South bridge as well, pushing them up to 55C! This is the problem with these coolers blowing heat into the case instead of out of it. Looks like I may have a different application for the Antec Spot Cooler then planned.

I will use the MX-2 thermal paste and the Fujik thermal glue on the heat sinks and see if I can't get the heat under control. Looks like Arctic Cooling is going to get ANOTHER blast about their coolers.

Modding Dilemma

Today is the day I am hoping to mod the other VisionTek HD 4870 with the Accelero Twin Turbo cooler. It's a sad state when I am afraid to do this. I finally have things working again and really hate the thought of screwing things up. Talk about lack of self confidence. This whole computer build and all it's associated nightmares has really shaken it. Well I guess I'll feel the fear and do it anyway.

There is some household modding happening today as well. When the spouse gets up we plan to replace the ceiling fan in the foyer with a new remote control one. Being that I am the vertically challenged one in the house and the fan is 12 feet off the floor this will be a nice upgrade for me. I will actually be able to turn the damn thing on and off now. No more unreachable pull strings.

Later on tonight I will start transferring the spouse's files from the old computer to the new one. It was used so rarely no one knows what's actually on it. But it would be my luck that the ONE file that is needed one day will be the one *I* lost in the transfer. Oh well such is my life.

Okay enough of this pity party. I have a video card to mod. There will be a full update on that with pictures on my website. Everybody cross your fingers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Home Improvement 101

Today was somewhat unproductive as I managed to sleep till noon. The night shift really catches up with you eventually. I didn't really get mobile till about 2:00 p.m. so I didn't want to get into anything too taxing on the "to do" list.

This evening I decided to get the EVGA system under the spouses desk at least, but of course I couldn't just MOVE it, I had to rebuild it first. The heat issues were still bothering be so I swapped out the OCZ Vanquisher for the Thermalright Ultra 120 and the Panaflo fan. That of course meant ripping apart the entire computer. I must be getting good at it because it didn't really seem to take that long. I also reversed the fans AGAIN so now there is intake on the front and side panel and 2 exhaust fans on the rear and one in the top of the case.

The MCP temps on that board just continues to be the thorn in my side. It's still 51C at idle even with all the new airflow. I did install a 60 x 25mm fan in a pull formation on the MCP heat fins but those warm video cards right underneath it blowing hot air up at it just don't help. But it is working and I can live with it. The spouse doesn't do any heavy gaming so it shouldn't be an issue. I bought one of those Antec Spot Fans and if it continues to be a problem I will try that on it.

I also bought one of the Monster Gecko Pistol mice because it was on sale for 7.99 and looked like a fun novelty. And that's all it will ever be. It's not easy to use, the trigger and secondary mouse buttons are not responsive enough and unless you have LARGE hands (which I thought I did until I tried this) you are going to die in any FPS you use this in. If you want one of these, buy it ONLY if it's on sale for under 10.00 or you will be regretting the waste of money. It will make a fun desk ornament for me.

I was playing Crysis Warhead for a bit today, and I noticed that I am not so much "playing" anymore as monitoring game performance and waiting for "crashes". That really takes the fun out of games and hopefully I have things under control again and can get back to just enjoying a game. Speaking of which, I think I'll go do that.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recovering Radeon Drivers

Last Friday I spent the few hours I had before work trying AGAIN to get these video cards working. I finally found some help on the VisionTek forums. Once again I explained the problem and instead of offering more hacks and BIOS updates I was directed to once again clean the drivers out and reinstall. But this time in a little more depth.

I followed the instructions and reinstalled the 8.9 drivers and things are looking very good now. I can only HOPE this really is the solution this time. It would be a huge relief to know it was only corrupted drivers all along and not an actual problem with the cards. For the moment I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I just played about 20 minutes of Warhead and saw one slight split second "blip" of the artifacts. But I was running the cards overclocked from 750/900 to 780/1090 at the time. Of course I have to push the envelope.

At present I have also down clocked the CPU back to stock speeds. Before I go to bed tonight I am going to bump that up again and retest. Yes I am a glutton for punishment. If I am not too frustrated I will post my results before bed. Wish me luck.


Well I over clocked the CPU back to 3.2 GHz and that seems stable again. I can run everything OK, but I can't OC the cards AND the CPU and play games. That's no biggie to me as long as I can OC the CPU I am happy.

Yes it looks like maybe the issue is finally resolved. I will think twice before I update drivers again. Now it's time for sweet sweet bed :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's a Far Cry From Over

EVERYBODY LISTEN! After 3 years and many thousands of dollars in computer equipment I have FINALLY finished FARCRY!!!!! YEEEHAWWWWWWWWW!

It is indeed a glorious day! FarCry will live in infamy in my games collection along with Gunman and Half Life. These are really some great FPS games. Crysis was great with the exception of the struggle to build a machine that could run it. Call of Duty 4 is a game I will play and play again and again. But actually finishing FarCry was the bomb! Now I am truly ready for FarCry 2. I suppose I should finish Crysis Warhead first though.

There have been no glitches today. I have no idea why. The only thing I changed was when I created the fan speed profiles in the Catalyst Control Center, I included all the Catalyst settings instead of just the OverDrive settings. I am still using the 8.7 drivers. I am going to play a little CW and see what happens.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Game Game

Today was a bit better in the gaming department. I played short bursts of FarCry and CoD4 and no spots before my eyes. Nice. I still have no idea what the problem is. has been launched and I ordered a power supply tester because I need a new one and thought it would be good to open an account. Then I read the return policy. Yeah I did that backwards unfortunately. It seems returns have to be sent to the U.S.

Once again an American company wants to pander it's offerings to a willing Canadian consumer base but they do not want to service us in our own country. Well I for one am not going to order another thing from NewEgg until they change that policy. I hope more Canadians boycott them for the same reason. If we are good enough to sell to within our own country, then we are good enough to service properly without making us jump through international shipping hoops and expense. BYE BYE BAD EGG!

I got the CrossFire bridges today finally. I can only hope they are long enough to do the job. This means I will have to figure out a time to mod the second card. It probably won't be until next week unfortunately. That long household "to do" list has been keeping me busy. Besides with all the recent video troubles I am scared to touch anything. But I will do it. Eventually.

The spouse is now keeping the EVGA computer, I just have to transfer all the stuff off the old computer to the new one. That will be a full day job. At this point I am opting not to reformat. I can just delete my stuff off it. I never got much on it as I was busy with the ASUS system.

Looks like I am keeping the monitor "as is". I just can't be bothered with the whole RMA process AGAIN. It is still under warranty and if it gets worse I can always take advantage of that.

The ATI Lament

It's 4:00 a.m. and I have been TRYING to get these video cards working properly all night without much success. Seems we are back to the artifacts/lock ups/black screens. I am NOT happy.

I checked out the ATI forums to see if there were any solutions but all I found was lots and lots of people with the exact same woes. Seems the Sapphire cards suffer the worst (or have the loudest complainers) but pretty much everyone is experiencing this to some degree.

So what is the issue? No one really knows but I myself suspect heat and bad drivers. I think the heat issue is with the MEMIO although I haven't actually had any time to research exactly what that is yet. Beyond modding these cards with after market coolers I don't know how anyone will correct the heat issue. Once again it looks like water cooling may be the only solution.

So who will be held accountable for this? Probably no one. Like nVidia hiding their faulty chips, all these guys will duck the issue until someone proves them the culprit. And they still aren't likely to make good on it. Bad drivers might be fixed, but heat problems are a whole other ball game.

Might just as well say to hell with it for tonight. Good Morning! NOT!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Drive Me Crazy

This morning I went to work trying to resolve the monitor dilemma. Once again I am afflicted by bad ATI drivers it seems. Many years ago I stopped buying ATI cards JUST because of driver issues. Seems they have not quite figured out how to write software for their hardware. I ended up going all the way back to the 8.7 version and guess what? Everything works perfect again. So until I have some REALLY good reason to update these drivers I will be sticking with these.

Now my only other issues are whether or not to return this monitor, and I need to find some way to set up the brightness colour on this monitor because it is WAY too bright and the colours are a little washed out because of that. I will have to investigate the options on how best to tweak these settings.

I really like this monitor, but I still have that issue on the right side of the screen that just persists in mentally annoying me. It really does not affect the picture except on absolute blacks and even then it is not distractingly noticeable. I don't know. I'll go eat breakfast (it's now 2:00 p.m.) and then I will ponder it a bit more.

Gaming Crysis

Things are not going well. I am having so many display problems when trying to play games they are not really even playable anymore. Finding what to blame for the problems is proving to be impossible. I am trying different settings and I have tried disabling programs but nothing seems to change. The temps are all fine, nothing is overheating. So WHAT could it be?

My next step is to try a different monitor. I don't think the monitor is the issue, but I have been wrong before. I might even try the HDMI connection. If that doesn't resolve it I will try reinstalling the drivers. After that I am at a complete loss.

There is the REMOTE possibly I messed up the card I modded, but the temps are all very good on it now so I don't really suspect that is the problem. This is VERY frustrating after all this time and money to start having issues now.

It's late and I have been at this for hours again, but tomorrow if I don't get this resolved I will be returning the monitor. I will try another one, but if that fails I will be returning it for a refund. I will of course still LOSE money AGAIN, but not all of it at least. if that is the end result, I am wondering if I shouldn't just opt for a nice 24" monitor and be happy with that. Perhaps trying to scale to these high resolutions is just not a good idea.

I STILL have not got the extended bridges for CrossFire. The seller insists he sent them EXPRESS, but the tracking number does not show them in the system. I really better not get burned for those overpriced pieces of hardware. That would just be a serious kick in the you-know-what.

We did manage to get a couple of those "household" jobs done today. A new fluorescent light in the rec room and two new light fixtures in the upper bathroom. Of course all that did was add to the "to do" list because now the bathroom has to be repainted as the lights don't fit exactly the way the old ones did. That is the thing I always hated about home repairs. It's NEVER a simple thing. Oh wait! Sounds a lot like building a HIGH END GAMING COMPUTER doesn't it?

Speaking of high end systems, if you are in the market for one and want to save yourself a LOT of headaches, check out Uberclok PC. These guys build awesome overclocked systems and back them up with a 3 YEAR warranty that INCLUDES return shipping costs. I was SUPER impressed with their warranty AND their prices. They are not outrageous like some of the "supposed" high end systems. These guys do all the over clocking for you too. If I had found them before I got into this mess I would own one of THEIR systems.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Game ON!

I am really lovin' this new monitor. Tiger Direct suggested I RMA it, which was about what I expected. It's a lose lose proposition to RMA it. First it will cost big bucks, secondly there is no guarantee the next one I get won't have issues too. It really isn't affecting my gaming or other computer use so I think I am just going to keep it as is. It sucks that it is somewhat defective, but it sucks more to have to spend MORE money to get a BRAND NEW item fixed. I will just never like that whole idea that the buyer has to pay return shipping.

I was having some other problems in the games, a lot of artifacting and screen slicing. I thought it was maybe the video cards over heating, or them just not scaling well to this new resolution. Then just an hour ago I got notice about new ATI drivers (8.9) so I thought I'd give that a whirl. Yippie! seems to have solved the problem! So far at least.

But once again technology disappoints me slightly. While I must admit this whole new system, kick ass computer, big screen monitor, killer video cards, makes gaming much more fun and realistic, it still does NOT make me any better at the damn games!!!

Ah well next week reality kicks back in. The spouse and I have been making a "to do" list around the house and it has gotten quite lengthy. We agreed to kick it into high gear after the weekend. Unfortunately I have to work this weekend so no rest for me. I better suck up what I can today and tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Monitor Madness

Monitor Madness was the title of Tiger Direct's sale. However it might become the mantra of people buying the monitors. The I-Inc 28 inch monitor arrived today and aver getting it all hooked up and going into panic mode because it wouldn't even turn on, I finally figured out how the buttons ACTUALLY worked. Then things went downhill AGAIN. The monitor itself is HUGE which is great, and it is bright, almost too bright, and VERY clear. Mine however has some issues.

The top right corner of the screen looks "washed out" when the background is black and there are two spots on the screen that almost look like dents. There is no physical damage to the screen but it's the appearance of these spots that is a bit disconcerting. You can not notice any problem on a white or light background. But I KNOW IT'S THERE!

So now I have the dilemma of do I return the monitor or not. I am sure return shipping for this baby will NOT be cheap. The problem is not horribly bad and I could just live with it, but that's not what I paid for. This will require some serious deliberation I can tell.

Other then that, for the price the monitor is awesome. No dead pixels and no real bells and whistles and I have no idea what the speakers are like because I have no intention of using them anyway. But it tilts and swivels and lifts which is all really nice.

I have tried a couple of games and it's really fabulous, until the artifacting starts. Now I don't know if that is a monitor or video card issue. I had no problems on the 22" Dell so it leads me to believe it COULD be a monitor issue.

Speaking of games I got the new Crysis Warhead and it seems OK. Lots of video in it and I haven't found the settings that will make it run the way I want it yet. There are some hiccups that get annoying real fast. Guess I'll spend the rest of the evening tweaking things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

All Work and No Play

I have been working the midnight shift this week so computer time is at a minimum. I am just too damn tired to play anything.

There have been no bites on the sale of the EVGA system, but I think I may have the spouse talked into using it. I sweetened the deal by offering my 22" Dell monitor along with it.

Tiger Direct must have got more of the I-Inc 28" monitors because they were back on sale for $399.00 and THIS time I jumped on it. If I absolutely hate it I can always sell it and at least get most of my money back. But at that price it was definitely worth a try. Most of the reviews were pretty good so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Tomorrow I have a couple of computers to fix, but I will be off the midnight shift after tonight. I am thinking Thursday is going to be PLAY day! Hopefully on that ginormous monitor! I pre-ordered Crysis Warhead on Steam and it will be available tomorrow. WOOT - can't wait!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Week End

It was a reasonably good week, things got done and the results were positive. I guess I can't ask for anything more. The weekend is here and for me it's back to work at my REAL job. My work schedule is a little messy for next week so in between I will be concentrating on getting some around-the-house jobs completed. Heaven knows they have certainly piled up in a hurry. I am sure there will be some computer time squeezed in there somewhere.

I have been playing FarCry again and every time I think I must be close to the end, there is another twist. Even though I have purchased that game a total of 5 times now, I honestly have to say I have certainly got my money's worth out of it. I am sure I will finish it THIS YEAR. FarCry 2 is just around the corner.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Missed The Boat

Tiger Direct had a huge deal on I-Inc 28" monitors that were regularly $658.00 on sale for $399.00. I was so close to jumping on that it was scary. But of course I had to research the whole thing first and that took most of the day. By the time I thought I decided I should maybe go for it, they were SOLD OUT!

That's a good and a bad thing. It really was a heck of a deal. The monitors themselves are not that highly rated but for that price you can't really go wrong. But in retrospect I really would much rather have a high quality monitor that I am not going to regret buying in 3 months. I just wish they didn't have the HIGH PRICE TAG to go with them. I am still waffling between the Dell and the Gateway 30 inchers.

EVGA is sponsoring a "Design Your Own Avatar" contest, probably in light of the long forum discussion about some inappropriate avatars that some people are using. It's a great idea really and they are giving away some great prizes. So I thought what the heck and gave it a shot. It required an instant learning course in how to make animations in Photoshop. It took me a few hours but as you can see I think I got it down. I probably won't win any prizes for it but it was fun to do just the same. This was actually my second attempt but I like it. I don't think the animation works in Blogger though.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Post Apocalypse

It's really nice just to be able to enjoy my computers for a change. There is just a void created when things go from total chaos to normal. I am almost at a loss for what to do with myself.

The EBay deal sorted itself out. The seller knocked the shipping down to $19.00 USPS Express shipping for both items. That is MUCH more reasonable, although still a bit pricey for a package the size of a small envelope. But alas, such is the cost of everything these days. However I will test the bridges out for length and connectivity BEFORE I mod the second card.

So now I am back to building my wish list. If I sell my other computer my first purchase will be a 30" monitor since I have decided to sell the 17" Samsung 712N LCD with the computer. I am sure the spouse will take the 22" Dell I am using now. If not, I will sell it too. The new monitor will either be a Dell or Gateway, although I do have a lot more faith in Dell then Gateway. But the 30" Gateway has had some excellent reviews. Guess I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

The second item on my list would be two HD 4870x2's. Oh yes this could actually be an even SWEETER system if my wishes come true. Right now I am paying down the credit cards and appeasing the spouse. But my birthday and Christmas are both on the horizon :)

Tomorrow I have some video editing to do so that will be another test for this system. The video is for the baseball team and the party we are having Saturday. I did manage to get the "wreck" room cleaned up. Well the worst of it anyway. Now I am off to write my Nautilus 500 review.

Repair Week Day Two, Phase Three

I cracked open the Apevia case and debated long and hard about changing the OCZ Vanquisher CPU cooler with the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme. I just couldn't convince myself to go through all that. So I just reversed the two rear exhaust fans and the top intake fan. I also replaced the MCP 60mm x 15mm aftermarket fan with another 60mm x 25mm 5000 RPM aftermarket fan. I set it up as pull instead of push because all the airflow is now toward the top of the case.

There is some success here but it's minimal. The MCP is now idling at 53C which is better then 65C! The CPU temps are normal and the video cards are around 50C with the fans on 75%. Not great but I did try stressing the system and the temps increases were minimal. Nothing got to 60C which I can live with.

I have officially put the system up for sale on Kijiji. I will also advertise it in a few other venues.

So basically I am DONE with the exception of modding the other 4870 video card. I did find a couple of longer CrossFire bridges on eBay and I bid on them and won. UNFORTUNATELY the seller insists that I pay DOUBLE the shipping because I ordered 2. That would mean the bridges cost me 20.00 and the shipping will cost me $44.00! That's freaking NUTS. I didn't expect that when I bid on them, but I guess that's my fault. Looks like I will have to pay that OUTRAGEOUS price for a couple of items that shouldn't have cost me anymore then 20.00 INCLUDING shipping.

Time to relax for a bit.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Repair Week Day One, Phase Two

Things may actually be looking up! There were some problems installing the card reader due to cable connection lengths. It took some reworking of both DVDRW's and a drive bay and fan to finally get everything to fit. It might not be the way I wanted it but it is all functional and I was able to keep the two intake fans in the front which was important.

After a couple of glitches with SATA cables that had disconnected themselves somehow, and some drive renaming I actually had EVERYTHING WORKING! I ran OCCT and Furmark simultaneously to see how much heat I could generate. It got warm after about 25 minutes but no EXTREME temperatures except for the unmodified video card which did manage to hit 80C. I do have to keep the Nautilus unit pulled out from under the desk or it gets pretty toasty.

I loaded up Crysis and forgot I had Everest running in the background. Previously when I had done this, Crysis stuttered BADLY. This time it played smooth as butter? Maybe it has something to do with not cooking both video cards at the same time. I don't really know but I LIKE it!

It's been one nightmare after another but I am really thrilled now that it's all working and working VERY WELL. I FINALLY have an AWESOME GAMING SYSTEM. I will still do the other video card mod, as soon as I can find a bridge that will work.

Tonight I am just going to enjoy my new system. Maybe I will actually finish FarCry. Tomorrow I will tune up the EVGA computer.

Repair Week Day One, Phase One

This morning I tore apart the modded video card. The Fujik thermal glue on the heat sinks works very well and you have to use a bit of force to remove them but the good news is it does clean off reasonably easily with alcohol and patience. When I removed the GPU heat sink it became painfully obvious that there had been improper contact. About 1/3 of the GPU had NO thermal paste whatsoever on it. Very BAD sign. So I cleaned everything up and then bent the feet on the heat sink up a little bit to make sure that the copper base was making full contact with the GPU. I also trimmed the corners off the VRAM heat sink that was making contact with the heat pipes.

Originally I had used only 2 heat sinks on the VRAM chips, this time I used 3. I use two to cover the 3 chips that were close together putting half of each heat sink over the middle chip. I reseated the GPU heat sink and made sure the screws were good and tight and that I had full contact. I used MX-2 Thermal Paste on that.

Because the GPU had not made good contact the first time, and because the temps were so high I was really concerned that I might have permanently damaged the card. But I plugged it back in and was pleasantly surprised that it worked flawlessly AND the temps are now lower then the non-modded card! And yes I can now load my games without crashing!

Phase One has been successful! However I cannot mod the second card until I get a longer flexible CrossFire bridge for these cards. I will be sending an email off to Arctic Cooling to tell them that I think THEY should provide such a bridge with these units.

Now it's on to the next step of adding in the card reader and closing up the Lian Li Case. Wish me luck!

Hell Week II

Last Friday night I thought I would try playing a game on my ASUS computer to see what the temps would be like under load. I tried loading FarCry and the computer completely crashed to a reboot. I tried again a couple of times because I had just done a Steam update and wondered if that was it. Same results. So I tried loading Crysis. Reboot AGAIN. I opened GPU-Z to look at the video card temps and the modded card was reading 115C on the MEMIO sensor. WTF!

That was the straw that broke my proverbial camel's back. I shut the computer off and went and watched Wargames II on pay-per-view. I haven't looked at the computer again till now. The modded card's temps are insane. Tomorrow I am going to tear it apart and start from scratch. If that doesn't resolve the problem I am going to put the stock cooler back on it and hope that fixes it. If not, I will try an RMA.

Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the warnings on the Arctic Cooling site. In the meantime I have done some searching and found other people with issues after modding their cards with the Twin Turbos. If I have wrecked this video card I am NOT going to be happy.

I still have numerous things to do with both computers but sorting out this video issue is priority one. What the hell good is a gaming computer that can't play games?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Last Day of "Vacation"

Yes it's the last day of my so called vacation. I got nothing accomplished with the computers today, I went out and did some shopping instead. And yes I bought some more computer parts. Just small things like a couple of fans and mounting rails and power connectors. The bezel from NCIX arrived today too, but honestly I am too wore out to do anything more with these systems today. I still haven't heard from Direct Canada about my missing IDE cable. I will call them on Monday if I haven't got it by then.

I think I will just do a little clean up and organization and maybe relax tonight and catch a movie. Next week I will go back to work on fixing the cooling issues and whatnot. It wasn't until I got away from all this today that I realized how stressed I have been about it. Going back to work will be a welcome escape even if it's only for two days.

I was running the Nautilus with the fan on low today and noticed that the temps are a little higher. It's also interesting that once the temps are up turning the unit on high does not really lower them. Of course I have the case pushed farther under my desk to keep the cat from jumping on it and knocking it off so it may not be getting as much cool air. I sense a desk modification in my near future. I think I need to put a couple of fans under there for air circulation. But that's down the road a bit.

There is also the fact that I really need to get out in the yard and start the fall/winter preparations out there. There is gutter guard to install, some soffit to repair, the pond needs to be winterized and the leaves will soon be making their annual mess.

All I can think about right at this moment is a NAP.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Two Computers, Twice The Headache

The ASUS water cooled system is up and running! It was a tenuous series of events but it is working, just not up to expectation. The Nautilus is performing superbly! CPU cores are averaging 35C at idle and 45-50C at maximum load. I have the CPU overclocked to 3.2 GHz as well so these are fabulous temps! The North and South bridge are idling at a beautiful 37C and 48C under load! I couldn't ask for better then that! Despite the crappy tubing that comes with the Nautilus it is an EXCELLENT water cooling kit for noobs like me. But I am glad I didn't add the video card water blocks as I don't think it would perform as well under that load.

Speaking of video cards that is where the final nightmare was and is. I originally installed the Arctic Cooling modded card in the first slot with the non modded card underneath it. I noticed a kink in the CrossFire bridge but didn't pay enough attention to it apparently. The initial boot would stop in the middle of the POST and then the screen would lose the video signal. I tried the modded card by itself and still nothing. Oh Oh! So I tried the non modded card and finally got a boot. Then I put the modded card in the second slot, connected the CrossFire bridge and noticed the "kink" was gone. The heat pipes on the Twin Turbo stick up right under the bridge! I don't know if they originally shorted the bridge but it booted in this position with both cards in.

Right after it booted I noticed a red light on the back of the modded card. I opened Everest to check the temps and things went downhill from there. The modded card was running 10C hotter then the other card and the temp was rapidly rising. I tried changing the fan speed with the ATI Catalyst Control Center profile mods but that wasn't helping. The temp hit 80C on the modded card and it could have gone higher but at that point it stopped registering. OH OH!

I shut the computer down and restarted it about 10 minutes later. The modded card is still running 10-15C hotter then the other card, but the red light disappeared. I searched it out and found out it was a code for a power connector being unplugged, however both plugs were in!

So either the Twin Turbo is a crap cooling solution or there is a problem somewhere. When I initially installed it I didn't like the way the GPU heat sink was seated, so I think tomorrow I will tear it apart and reseat it with some better thermal paste then what came on the card. I am pretty sure it didn't seat properly because of one of the VRAM heat sinks being in the way of the heat pipes. I may try to grind down that heat sink till it clears the pipe. I am really glad at this point that I only modded one card.

I closed up the case on the EVGA system and moved it back to the 19" LCD monitor and ran into the same issue I had earlier of having to reinstall the nVidia video drivers to get a video signal. I have no idea why changing monitors would cause such a problem but I assume it's the crappy drivers that everyone seems to be complaining about. I remember the day when ATI had the crappy bug ridden drivers. The tables have certainly turned between those two.

The other problem on the EVGA system is the temps went from bad to worse once I closed the case. The MCP is now idling at 65C and the video cards are running between 55 and 60C. So I will try my fan inversion next week and see if that helps. There is no place else in that case to add anymore fans. You would think 5 120mm fans would be enough. These heat issues are ridiculous.

I have yet to close up the Lian Li case and see what happens to the temps. But I have to fix that video card first, even if it means putting the stock cooler back on it. I am going to give the Twin Turbo one more chance though. I will definitely have to put a fan on the window panel somehow to blow air directly at the video cards. That will put 5 120mm fans in that case as well. Maybe water cooling is the only real solution for these issues.

When I get some time next week I will be posting a full review of the Nautilus 500 on my website. First I have to get these systems finished and get this "wreck" room cleaned up before the spouse's annual baseball team party next weekend. It's looking like a monumental task at the moment.

The Rain Has Stopped

The parts came, well not ALL the parts as it seems the shipment from Direct Canada is missing an IDE cable I ordered. I have emailed their support, just waiting to hear back. But I got the hose clamps I was so patiently waiting for.

Once I restarted the assembly I immediately ran into problems. Go figure. It seems the barbs on the the chip set water block are too close together to fit a 5/8" OD hose AND hose clamps. I didn't figure on that. Fortunately the hose is thick enough that I could trim a bit off the outside of both sides to fit the hoses and clamps on. It's probably not great for hose integrity, but it's all I can do other then ordering new 1/2" OD hose and starting from scratch. I really don't want to go there.

So I finally managed to get everything connected and filled the reservoir and fired up the pump to get the air bubbles out of the system and to check for leaks. It is running as I type and has been for the last hour. So far so good - no leaks.

Along with the UV blue hoses, I am using UV blue liquid so if I do have any leaks they will show up nice and bright on the white paper towels I have set in there temporarily. I plan on letting the pump run for a couple of hours at least. Then I will put all the rest of the parts in and connect the wiring. After that I will run the PUMP ONLY again for another hour or so to make sure I haven't jiggled anything loose. Once I am confident everything is ok, I am going to fire that puppy up!

I think I am going to head to Tim Hortons for a LARGE DOUBLE DOUBLE because I think it's going to be a LONG NIGHT!

Please Mr. Purolator Man Look and See....

I am hanging out in my pyjamas again waiting for parts, that are supposedly on a truck on their way here. Not ALL the parts unfortunately, it seems the 5.25 to 3.25 bezel I need for the nGear card reader is back ordered. That's really odd because the NCIX website said they had several in different warehouses. Oh well. I am really at a standstill till I get the water hose clamps.

In the meantime I fixed a client's computer this morning. Nothing exciting there just a dead power supply. She was also having some digital camera software issues. The fact that she has software for 3 different digital cameras installed on the computer was my first clue there was a real issue. I will sort that mess out later.

I have some ideas for cooling both the Apevia case and the Lian Li case. Trying to find Lian Li case accessories is almost impossible. They advertise these great accessory fans on their website but no one seems to carry them. I am back to eBay hunting for them.

I am going to try reversing the exhaust fans in the Apevia case and change the top fan to the only exhaust fan. Maybe that way I will get enough airflow over the board to cool the chip set. If that doesn't work I am going to pull the board out AGAIN and replace the OCZ CPU cooler with the T.R.U.E. 120 and have it blow towards the top or front of the case. I really am at my wit's end with that thing.

If I get the hose clamps and get the water cooling hooked up I will run the pump overnight to get rid of the air bubbles. I still am not hooking up any power to the board, just going to use a power supply hack to get the pump working. I just want to get that damn thing back together and running again. Last night I was reduced to playing Windows Pinball for entertainment. But I did score over 10 million points! That is SERIOUS withdrawal.!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Computers SUCK!

Since I had no parts to work with on the ASUS setup, I turned my hand to the EVGA rebuild. All I wanted to do was move the system out of my old case and back into the Apevia case. It SHOULD have been pretty straight forward. But like most of my futile attempts at computer building SHOULD is a four letter word.

I really did nothing more then change cases and reorient a couple of fans. I also put a new fan on the MCP hoping to lower the temp. However when I tried to start it back up I had video failure. It would almost boot all the way into Windows and then I would lose the video signal completely. I had to uninstall the nVidia drivers in VGA mode then reinstall them. After that it was fine, ALMOST.

The temps are ridiculous now. The MCP is 60 C and the SPP is 48 C at IDLE! The video cards are hovering between 48 to 55 C at idle even with the fans cranked to 100%! The CPU cores are 44/50 C at IDLE. Even the motherboard is hovering at 40 C.

I set up the fans so there is intake in the front, top and side, and 2 exhaust at the rear, not including the power supply. There should be AMPLE air flow in that case. I am too pissed off tonight to change it, but change it I will - AGAIN.

I am going to try using the rear fans as intake and using only the top fan as exhaust. I could pull off the MCP/SPP heat sinks and reapply some better thermal paste but I absolutely REFUSE to do that because not only is it a PITA but there is no way end users should HAVE to do this. It is insane that they run at these temps. EVGA says they are fine up to 70 C but that is a helluva lot of heat if you ask me! No wonder these boards have so many problems.

If necessary I will put the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme back on the CPU with the Panaflo fan, but I just don't understand how moving this board into a case with BETTER air management can raise the temperatures anywhere from 5 to 15 degrees Celsius!

I really want to sell this system but I can't do it with a clear conscience until I have these temps under better control. The spouse will probably think it just another excuse but you can't ask 1500.00 for a machine that is on the verge of a meltdown!

There has to be a BETTER cooling solution for these systems. It's ridiculous to imagine people spending thousands of dollars on something that is running on the brink of failure at all times. Imagine how rich the person will be who finally solves THIS mystery.

I just hope my parts come tomorrow before I start something else that will aggravate the hell out of me.

Water Water Everywhere!

So I decided to "dry test" the water cooling system. Things aren't good. I filled the lines with fluid and I had leaks pretty much everywhere the Nautilus tubing met a connector. The Primochill tubing was fine and I didn't even have any hose clamps on it! I knew I didn't like that tubing from the get go. So I drained it and ripped everything apart.

I am thinking I am going to skip the Y connectors completely and just run the Primochill tubing from the pump to the chip set, then to the CPU block and back to the reservoir. I think the Primochill tubing would have been fine with the Y connectors, but unless I want to buy another 10 feet of it I don't have any long enough pieces to do that now. I only need about 2 feet.

I started off the morning by connecting all the small wires for fans and temp monitors. That went reasonably well at least. I don't want to put the video cards in or connect any of the motherboard power connections till I am sure I am leak free.

I ordered some parts including 5/8 inch OD hose clamps for the Primochill hose so now it's just a matter of waiting for that stuff before I go any further. I could start reassembling the EVGA system into the Apevia case but I already have parts scattered from one end of the rec room to the other so I don't need anymore mess to fight through.

It's always something.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Let The Games Begin!

Well the rebuild has finally started. I spent all day today at it and I didn't get all that far. I got one of the Twin Turbos installed on a video card. Until I see how it performs I am going to leave the other one with the stock cooler on. Once again Arctic Cooling has failed to put decent thermal adhesive on the VRAM heat sinks. Fortunately I have a tube of Fujik thermal glue that seems to work somewhat better.
If you want to clean the thermal adhesive off of those heat sinks before applying your own solution I suggest using Goo Gone. It works very nicely but you stil have to re-clean them with alcohol as the Goo Gone leaves a slight oily film.

Despite the issues Arctic Cooling warned against, the Twin Turbo installs relatively easily. The VRAM heat sink does not interfere with the cooling pipes as much as I expected. I wasn't completely happy with the way the GPU cooler seated so I will be monitoring temps very closely.

The Nautilus 500 CPU water block mounted without a hitch. I have all of the hoses installed, but I had the wrong size clamps for the Primochill hose so I have ordered the proper ones. I don't care much for the tubing that comes with the Nautilus, it is very flimsy and kinks easily. I also ordered some anti kink coil for it. If that doesn't work I will order more the Primochill hose. It is very solid yet flexible and it doesn't kink at all.

I still chose to use the Y barbs but that is something else I will have to monitor as well to make sure I am getting a balanced flow. I didn't put in any flow meters so it will be all visual and temperature monitoring.

The Lian Li case has a built in LCD thermal monitor with 3 probes that I will mount on the CPU block and the North and South bridge. It also has 3 fan sensors, one I will use to monitor the Nautilus radiator fan, one for the Nautilus pump and the 3rd will just monitor one of the system fans. I don't believe there is any speed control for the fans, just a speed sensor.

I had to do a small mod to one of the 5.25 bay covers to mount the ASUS LCD POST monitor. It isn't pretty but I can live with it. Tomorrow I am going to buy a StarTech 5.25 to 3.5 drive bay adapter to install the nGear card reader as the case has no way to mount a 3.5 inch drive. That really surprises me because it is so jam packed with every other feature imaginable.

I also installed another case fan in the bottom to blow air upwards to the video cards. There will be another fan mounted on the side window panel grill to blow air in as well. The only fans out will be one at the rear of the case and the power supply. There is plenty of ventilation for hot air to escape so it's more important to pump lots of cool air in. A fan at the very top of the case would have been nice, but that is where the Nautilus will be sitting so that wouldn't work anyway.

I am really happy with the Lian Li case. There is so much room and so many excellent features. They provide more then enough hardware and it is all very good quality. Chrome speed screws, a very good anti-vibration mounting system for the hard drives, 4 - 120mm fans and numerous ways to configure your hardware.

If I don't get the clamps I ordered tomorrow, I am going to get some temporary water clamps and test the water cooling system for leaks. I don't expect any issues but I want to be absolutely sure. I don't imagine I will get to fire the computer up before Friday. If all goes well and the Twin Turbo works as promised I will install the second one next week.

Hopefully tomorrow I can post some pictures. It's late and I am beat! It's a long process, but slow and steady wins the race!