Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Best Case Scenario

IT'S HERE! The Lian Li PC-A77B arrived today and OMFG it is HUGE! It is also beautiful with the side window. I couldn't believe the size of the carton. The Purolator guy was NOT impressed either, but at least it didn't weigh a ton. ACP also included the full blank side panel with the shipment. I can see why the ground shipping was 40.00!


The unfortunate part of this is I will have to wait till next week to do the assembly. We are having company this weekend and it will take me more then a couple of days to transfer cases and set up the water cooling and replace the stock coolers on the video cards. But the advantage to that is the spouse may be out of town next week so I can make all the mess I want!

I thought the spouse would be a little more impressed when the actual case got here. But I got the usual grunt. Ah well I don't get excited about the latest "Cold Case" on tv either so I guess we're even.

Bored and Blogging

So here I am at 2 in the afternoon hanging out in my pyjamas still, working on other people's computers (and they are not co-operating) waiting patiently for the Purolator knock on the door (the case is supposedly on a delivery truck as I type) and basically bored out of my skull. This is NOT the way one should spend their vacation.

The spouse is working the midnight shift so I have to be quiet through the day. Although there are numerous verbal barbs around this house about how much time I spend on the computer, it IS the QUIETEST activity I can do.

While I wait for files to transfer and updates to download and install on client computers, I use the time to catch up on current events. The world is just a plain scary place isn't it? I don't know when exactly the next U.S. presidential election is, but I certainly hope it happens soon before Bush manages to start World War III. Between Russia, China, and Korea, I don't know who that man is trying to aggravate more. You would think from the perspective of most of the world that he has already gone too far in the Middle East, he would have learned to keep his fingers OUT of the cookie jar. Yet he seems determined to stir the bee's hive as long as he still holds office. He really needs to try to consider WORLD PEACE instead of WORLD DOMINATION. I don't care much for Obama or McCain, but ANYBODY has to be better then him! That is my political rant for this month. Now for a lighter look at politics check out Pete and Petunia. VERY FUNNY!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Weight of the Wait

The parts from NCIX arrived today. I wish the case could have been in the same GROUND shipment as this stuff as it got here mighty quick for ground service. The case continues to appear and disappear off the Purolator tracking page and doesn't seem to have left B.C. yet. I'll give it a day or so more and then investigate further.

The Accelero Twin Turbos are a lot smaller then they look online. They are still large but the ads made them look gigantic. They come with some pretty teeny weeny screws as well. That should be a challenge for my stodgy digits. Interestingly enough the package does not say they are for the 4850 or 4870 cards. I wonder if it's an omission or due to the fact there are some complications with the fit. All I can say is they better not leave me in a lurch once I get the stock coolers off these cards!

I have been getting a steady influx of computers to fix, so that's keeping me fairly busy. Got a motherboard with blown caps, got a very badly messed up Windows XP that I cannot repair and will require a format, and just for fun I got a supposedly dead power supply that miraculously came back to life and is working fine. I love those kind of repairs. Of course all three clients are worried about losing their files. So I say once again, (and once again I will note that I never listen to my own good advice) BACK UP YOUR DATA REGULARLY!

My most interesting clients are people who actually use their home computers for work or business, then let their kids play numerous games or cam/voice chat and download music on the same machine. How many ways can you spell DISASTER! Stop being a cheapo and buy yourself a laptop or buy a second computer and let the kids use JUST ONE of them. If you don't you'll be paying someone like me on a regular basis I promise you that. Kids are my best clients!

The kids in our house have their own computer, no administrator rights, no web cams and they are blocked from the home network. I rarely have problems with their computer. I monitor all the installs and all the downloads. All the other computers in the house are password protected INCLUDING the media centre. It's called PARENTAL CONTROL and I exercise it to the nth degree. By the way, the "kids" are 23 year old twin boys. One lives at home and one is a drop IN sort. But when it comes to computers and tools I AM GODDESS AND I WILL BE OBEYED. Well I like to think so.

I have also been working on organizing my Karaoke collection on the Media Centre. It is an incredibly large collection that has been continuously added to an never properly organized or catalogued. Now it's a nightmare. It will probably take me a couple of weeks to sort it completely. But it's great fun at parties! Maybe after that I will organize the 350 GB music collection. Then there's the movies.....

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vacation Starts NOW!

Well it's officially my vacation time again but unfortunately I am going nowhere at the moment. My case seems to have slipped off the Purolator grid as the tracking number is no longer working?? I hope they have not lost yet ANOTHER package of mine. I sense a phone call to Purolator in my near future.

The other parts I ordered from NCIX haven't shipped yet. (VGA coolers, water hose clamps, non-conductive fluid). So it looks like the first part of my vacation will be devoted to catching up on all those household chores I have let slide. That is a LONG list.

I am sure I will be able to squeeze a few hours of computer games in there somewhere. I would really like to finish FarCry sometime THIS YEAR! I swear I have been playing that game for at least 3 years and have not gotten through t it ONCE yet. Half Life 2 Episode 2 is another one I seem to keep restarting but never finishing. I also started Assassin's Creed a couple of weeks ago and would really like to get through that. And of course Bioshock is still waiting in the wings. So many games, so little time.

But mainly I am excited about getting the new case, adding the new VGA coolers, hooking up the water cooling and getting this system finalized. Lets hope that all goes without too much trouble. I think I have had more than my share of bad luck for one year.

Tomorrow I plan to veg. Well right after I fix the two customer's computers waiting on the bench. I need to earn the extra cash to pay for my (computer) addiction.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Woman's Prerogative

So I changed my mind again. Not about the case - I ordered that today along with the window panel. It's on it's way as I type. The change is about the whole water cooling setup. I am going to use the Nautilus 500 to cool the CPU and North Bridge but I have had a change of heart about water cooling the 4870's. Mainly because I don't think the Nautilus can handle all that heat even with an extra radiator. That's a helluva lot of heat.

When I chose to use aftermarket coolers on my 8800GTS cards I was very pleased with the Arctic Cooling Accelero Xtreme coolers, so I figured why not go the same route with the 4870's? I had visited this idea earlier and with the expense of this new case it's getting really hard to justify spending another 300.00 on water cooling. So I went ahead and ordered a pair of the Arctic Cooling Twin Turbo coolers. At 35.00 each it is a MUCH cheaper solution.

There are a couple of hitches in this scenario however, the first being that there are a couple of hitches with the mounting of these coolers on the 4870's as outlined on Arctic Cooling's website. It doesn't sound like a huge problem but I do not like the idea of there being issues with mounting the VR heat sinks. I am pretty sure that burning out one of those babies is going to cause problems. Perhaps I'll have to find an alternate solution to that myself.

The other issue is I cannot find a review of these coolers ANYWHERE on the web. Not even for other video cards, as it supports quite a few ATI and nVidia cards. That's seems a bit strange. Surely I am not the first guinea pig to try them am I????

Anyhow in the effort to save some money (ROFLOL) I am having everything shipped by Purolator Ground so I won't see anything till at least next Wednesday or Thursday.

The spouse has been silent. Not the dreaded "silent treatment" yet, just reserved on any further comment on these events. I think that's a good thing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I Plead My Case

I promise to stop with the corny CASE titles very soon. Anyhow I ran my brilliant idea past the spouse, who of course thought it much less than brilliant.
"You spent all summer building that computer and now you want to sell it?"
Perhaps I failed to mention I actually built two computers, but I was sure this was apparent. Then of course the next line was:

"You won't be happy till you get the damn case so just get it and get it over with."


So I am going to get it and I am going to sell my EVGA rig. I will be ordering it tomorrow along with the window panel. Of course I can't put the EVGA rig up for sale until I get the case and do all the the transfers. Hopefully I will get it by next week because I will be on vacation after that for a week and well we know what I'll be doing.

Then the week after that will be the water cooling. I still have to break that one to the spouse as well. One step at a time.

Sleepless in St. Thomas

This case business is making me crazy. I want the damn thing but I don't want to aggravate the spouse any more then I already have and we know I have pushed all the buttons I dare push. I can't sleep cause I just keep going through all thoughts on what's the best solution to make everybody happy.

My latest brainstorm is to sell the EVGA system. That's right, load it back into the Apevia case and sell the whole damn thing. I don't REALLY need 3 freaking computers. The spouse is not at all interested in it I can guarantee that. Of course I will be losing money hand over fist by selling it. Probably close to 750.00 dollars based on what the components are worth now. The good news is it will cover the cost of the new case WITH the window side panel.

Maybe I'll run THAT idea by the spouse in the morning. Maybe I can sleep now. Maybe I should take up needle point like the spouse already suggested.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I Rest My Case

Well I was up until the wee hours of the morning scouring the Internet for a retailer in Canada that might have the Lian Li case. If you dig deep enough and long enough you WILL be rewarded. I actually found TWO retailers with TWO very different prices, a difference of $111.00 no less. ACP Canada has the case for $268.00 which is the lower of the two and unlike the other retailer they actually have it IN STOCK, and also have the optional side window panel.

That's just great! However I was breaking this earth shattering news to the spouse today and the shattering was the windows from the resulting piercing scream when I mentioned the price. I was mentioning the HIGHER price of course so when I dropped the 268.00 figure it sounded like a SUPER DEAL. Well it did to me.

I wouldn't exactly say I have the nod of approval to go ahead and buy this case. That IS a good price for this case compared to other retailers, and the shipping is reasonable. I may forfeit the side window panel because if I include it, with tax and shipping I will be pushing 350.00. That amount makes me want to scream. It's a CASE for heaven's sake. It doesn't even include a crappy 450W power supply.

I just bought a case for my sister that cost 35.00 and INCLUDED a 650W power supply. Just because the case was only made of heavy duty tin foil doesn't matter, the power supply is guaranteed to run a Pentium 3.

If I were to get this case there would be the added dilemma of having to move my ASUS system out of the Apevia case into the Lian Li case, and move the EVGA system into the Apevia case. Then I would be forced to find something to fill my old full tower case. Or I could just take it out to the garage and practice case modding.

Add to this I may still need to spend an additional 300.00 on water cooling - well lets just say things could get ugly around this house pretty quickly.

I am just going to sleep on it tonight. Want, need and divorce are three very different things. But they all cost a lot of money!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Making My Case

The deeper I get into this water cooling expedition, the deeper I get into a lot of things. The computer case for instance was not designed for mammoth video cards, or snaking water cooling assemblies. The case that would suit these things would be -well, MAMMOTH. I found an interesting site called Mountain Mods that builds just such cases. Of course they come with equally MAMMOTH price tags. And of course they are not in Canada.

So I was thinking maybe I could just take an old two drawer file cabinet and with a few modifications accomplish the same thing at yard sale prices. But fitting it under my desk might be another issue. So I started combing the Internet in search of the perfect case, which of course I didn't think existed till I tried the Lian Li site.

The Lian Li PC-A77B case is everything I was imagining the perfect water cooling/mammoth video card case should be. First of all - it is MAMMOTH.
Just look at the space inside this case! Plenty of room on both the top and bottom of the case for power supplies, reservoirs, pumps, radiators and anything else you can think of.


The Motherboard sits in the MIDDLE of the case meaning there is room below the motherboard to fit those HUGE aftermarket video card coolers. And there is plenty of room on the right side of the motherboard for those long ass video cards! The drives won't be hanging right over the power and SATA connectors either. Nothing but tons of breathing room for cables and hoses.

That opens up the interior cooling options. There is no where in this case you can't add a fan. Front, top, bottom, back, side there is an option for single or multiple fans at every angle. The power supply cage at the top even extends out the back for those super long 1200W nuclear power supplies.

The case comes apart in every way imaginable so there will never be a reason to disassemble things to get at something. The list of special features is LONG, including anti-vibration mounts, special graphic card mounts, and even built in eSATA.

Granted the case is not "pretty". It tall, black and maybe even a little bland. But what it lacks in bling it more then makes up for in unique offerings.

Am I going to get this case? Well it still has a fairly MAMMOTH price tag of about $300.00. That of course is a minor hurdle compared to finding a retailer for this case in CANADA!

I swear I am going to open a computer store and sell everything that seems impossible to find in Canada. I am sure I would make a killing. The really sad part is even Canadian retailers who carry Lian Li cases do not have, and will not order this one for me. WTF is that??? It's really hard to support Canadian retailers when you have to deal with this. It looks like I'm headed to EBay.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Small Sigh of Relief

Things seem to be relatively stable for the moment. I have both systems working without errors or glitches, just some heat issues. I re-installed one of my DVDRW drives in the ASUS system today. I also installed a nGear 3.5" Internal Flash Reader with USB and eSATA. Everything seems to be working despite a molex connector on the nGear box that fell apart.
The EVGA system has some serious heat issues and I need to work on a fan system for the case but I am doubting that will happen until next week sometime. I would also like to get the water cooling set up on this ASUS board, but the thoughts of ripping it all apart AGAIN do not appeal to me right now. Once I get the EVGA system stable I may be more inclined to do it.
Tomorrow I am going to set up my sister's new system. That should prove interesting I am sure. I have no idea what her case looks like or whether it will fit my old ASUS K8V-SE Deluxe motherboard.
In the mean time things around the house are falling apart and the little jobs I have been putting off are piling up. The spouse is not impressed. Next week will be better. I just keep saying that every week now.
On the technology front the ATI 4870x2's are out but hard to find. Another 500.00 video solution I wouldn't pay for. I am very happy with my straight 4870's, with the exception of the heat. I can't even imagine what kind of heat the X2's produce. But the benchmark numbers are rattling some nerves over at nVidia. The GTX 280's are taking a kicking!
nVidia has also released it's PhysX Experience Pack for GeForce 8 and up cards. It includes PhysX drivers, demos and a free game - Warmonger, which looks like it would work for the Unreal Tournament crowd. I gave it a try but am not "thrilled" about it. PhysX does lend some interesting graphic capabilities to video.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dark Cloud PLEASE Move On

Another day of frustration and anguish. Once the heat sink was installed I tried firing up the EVGA computer. First of all in my haste, I hadn't connected the IDE cable for the DVDRW drives. Then I had the freaking floppy cable backwards. So once I get that all sorted and recheck ALL my connections AGAIN, I plug it in and VOILA I have a GREEN screen. Everything is green and stays green all the way into Windows and it stays green there too. So I tried the other DVI port, and the POST is white but it won't boot to Windows. Right before it starts I lose the video signal completely. Ok take one card out - the other works fine on both DVI ports. Try the other card, now I get PINK instead of green. Maybe I am just losing my mind. So I try the other DVI port on the same card and it works fine. WTF??? Ok pop the other card back in, now they are in reverse slots from when I started, keep the DVI connector on the port that worked and the cards boot like normal. Obviously the video card is a little wonky. I am going to stress it a bit and see what happens.
My sister's computer is not going well either. The more stuff I clean off it the worse it gets. It's needs a fresh install of Windows, which means I need to buy a floppy drive. GRRRRRR. I'll just pick that up when I go to exchange the tube of Thermal Glue tomorrow. I could pull the floppy out of the EVGA machine but after all this I am afraid to touch ANYTHING on that computer.
Just for a change I think I'll rent movies and have a TV night.

A Much Needed Break

It was nice to get back to work if just to get out of the house and away from the computer mayhem for a couple of days. The last straw was on Friday when a heatsink fell off one of my 8800GTS video cards. A friend happened to be coming from the next city so I asked her to pick me up some Fujik Thermal Glue as the town I live in does not have a decent computer parts store. She got me the $20.00 tube no problem, but when I opened the package the tube was hard as a rock and all the glue was dried out. It was too late to return it and that particular store is closed till tomorrow. It was a that point I threw my hands into the air and GAVE UP!
I managed to get some 2 part thermal epoxy on the weekend so I am giving that a try today. I am also trying to reformat my old computer to give to my sister but it's giving me headaches as well. That ASUS K8V SE board will NOT work without RAID drivers for some stupid reason even though I am not using RAID. The only way I can install the driver is with a FLOPPY drive, that I of course no longer have. So I am just going to delete everything on it and give it to her that way.
In the meantime I am waiting for the epoxy to dry a little before I try the EVGA board again. I managed to get it all into my old case but I am going to have to do some serious modifications for air flow.
I doubt I will get to the water cooling setup this week. There are some ideas I have for cooling the GPU's as well but I need to do a lot more research.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Warming up Your Mother - Board

I am still torturing the new board, running Prime95 right now but the CPU temps are holding pretty steady between 46-48C with the OCZ Vanquisher cooler. Maybe it wasn't that bad of a cooler after all. None of the temps look that bad with the exception of the MCP which is hovering at 62C at the moment. I have posted a long rant about this on this thread in the EVGA forums. Not that it will do any good, and I don't see any replies from any of the techs yet either. It's the old "ignore her and she'll go away". Oh no I wont!

I will be only too happy to RMA this board AGAIN if it fails due to high MCP temps. Which incidently is exactly what I think happened to my last board. Somebody needs to actually ADDRESS this problem and quit expecting consumers to foot the bill for repairs or modifications to a system that obviously does NOT WORK.


nVidia get your **** together!

I am not going to "mod" this chipset cooling, but I am going to replace the crappy chipset fan with a Sunon KDE-1207PHV1
. I may work a mod of the existing fan in too for a push/pull setup. Even though I would RMA the board AGAIN, I would like to actually USE it for a while. Tomorrow I am going to put it in it's coffin - oops I mean case.
On the upside of another nightmare in my ever so dull existence, I now have half of a new roof. The roofers FINALLY arrived this morning. They should have the job done tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Christmas in August

All the computer parts I have been waiting for arrived today. The E8500 CPU, the Corsair Nautilus Water Cooling Kit and the BRAND NEW IN SHRINK WRAP EVGA 780i SLI Motherboard. Imagine that, they actually sent me a NEW one. That'a how it SHOULD have been in the first place. If they want to sell their refurbished boards as B Stock that's fine, but don't pawn them off on customers who paid for a NEW WORKING motherboard.
I would be less disgruntled if I had plugged this NEW motherboard in and it had actually WORKED like it was supposed to. But of course that was not to be, I got the lovely INSTANT FF right off the bat. It took a few minutes and deep breaths to keep from hurling that thing across the room. So of course I start with the whole troubleshooting step by step AGAIN. This really SHOULDN'T happen. However eventually I actually get the thing to POST successfully. Do I have any faith that this board won't crap out on me like the last TWO? Absolutely not.
DO NOT and I REPEAT, DO NOT BUY THIS MOTHERBOARD!
I am currently installing things on it even though it is still not in a case and just hanging all over my test bench. I am going to torture the hell out of it for a couple of days before I put it in a case, and then I am going to torture it some more. Just like it has done to me.
I have put the new E 8500 CPU in it. I might just leave it there as late last night I got brave and decided to overclock the ASUS board. I have the Q6700 CPU running very stable at 3.2GHz at the moment. For the hell of it I overclocked the 4870's as well and then ran 3DMark. I got a freaking whopping 18275 (http://service.futuremark.com/compare?3dm06=7715359). I have down clocked the cards since because I just can't take all that heat wafting out from under my desk!

War Is Hell

I just finished playing COD4 for the second time. Man I love that game. I cried at the end. I am sure gonna miss those guys. Checked the temps again after playing, and they weren't really that bad. Hit 53C on the Northbridge. Still it's like sitting next to a blast furnace. I imagine some heavy Crysis playing will probably warm things up a little more.
I have been searching for info on adding the VGA blocks to the Nautilus but I haven't found very much that seems relevant. Most set-ups have only been with one card and the biggest was an older 7950GT. It wouldn't come close in matching the heat on these Radeons. The most impressive thing is that everyone who uses it seems to really like it. I just like the idea that it's all self contained in one nice neat little box.
The spouse doesn't know anything about my water cooling plans yet. The credit card bills haven't come in. Things should really heat up then.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Water Cooling Cascade Effect

So I got to thinking about this whole water cooling idea and the fact that the video cards seem to be the hottest part of the system it would make sense to water cool them no? The questions that arise are is the Nautilus going to be able to handle that, and do I really want MORE hoses in this box? I was considering the Artic Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo coolers for the video cards, but I may well run into the space issue I ran into with the 8800GTS coolers. That and the fact that all those fans are going to do is blow more hot air into the case.
This isn't something that's cheap to experiment with . The VGA water blocks are 100.00 each. The Twin Turbos will probably be about 40.00 each. If I make a choice I have to stick with it. If the Nautilus can't handle the CPU, chipsets and 2 VGA coolers then what? I suppose the sensible thing is just do one thing at a time. I'll start with the CPU and chipset. Then go from there. Yes I am positive that's what I think I'll do.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Late Night Surfing Yeilds Great Finds

Sometimes when I can't sleep I like to check out other people's Mods and Rigs on the EVGA site. It's a great way to find new hardware that I can add to my wishlist. Tonight I came across the Saitek Cyborg Range of gaming devices, the keyboard in particular caught my attention. It certainly looks like a should have item, but then I would want all the matching components to go with it. My Logitech G15 keyboard works just fine, and I don't even make use of all it's features. But they are worth checking out if you are looking for a cool new gaming keyboard.

I played COD4 for over an hour and then checked my chipset temps. They were still around 50-52C which isn't bad. I do all my gaming with the VisionTek HD 4870's fans on high (85%) so I assume if I keep them cool the rest of my system benefits.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Jump to Water Cooling My PC

I am about to venture into absolute untested territory as I make the move to PC water cooling. Since my motherboard already has a built in water block for chipset cooling, and my current passive air cooled temps are too high for my liking, this move makes sense.

The fact that numerous overclocking enthusiasts use water cooling in order to push their rigs to the limit should be assurance that water cooling is safe and easy enough to do by oneself. Since I am an industrial mechanic by trade, hydraulics are not new to me. But the thought of adding fluid to a $2500.00 maze of electronics that sits right next to me is a bit intimidating.

The intent is to start small and most likely stay that way. I only need to cool the motherboard chipset, but the current Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme CPU cooler is sitting right on top of the built in chipset hose connections.

The only solution is to water cool the chipset AND the CPU. The easiest way to do this would be with a small kit that contains all the necessary components and is geared for the beginner.

After much searching I finally decided on the Corsair Nautilus 500. It's one neat little package with all the necessary components and was under $200.00 at NCIX. It got excellent reviews and while it is not intended for some of the extreme systems it should work very well for my needs. I will be doing a full review on the installation and results later on.

I did a search on "normal" chipset temperatures for the ASUS Maximus Formula SE and found many conflicting results. Apparently Intel says these chipsets can run up to 90C safely. That sounds a little too high to me. Most users with passive cooling report temps from 40-60C. In their review, AnandTech cites chipset failures at 47C for prolonged usage. My current temps are NB : 50-65C and SB: 45- 60C. I am just not liking that. There is really no way to air cool these chips effectively in my case. So it looks like I fork out a little more cash on this rig.

SOMEBODY STOP THE MADNESS!

This Blog Has Been Moved

Hello World!
This is my first post on Blogger, and once I get the technicalities ironed out all should be well. Much has already happened and if you want to catch up you'll need to read my blogs from April 2008 till now on my home page at http://webbed.netfirms.com .
Basically I love computer games and in order to play some of the great ones out there you need an awesome computer. I have been trying to build one, but it isn't easy. Follow along with my triumphs and caveats. It's incredibly entertaining and you might just learn something. I learn something new every day and am only too happy to share these experiences with others. Because we all know that anybody who spends this much time alone with their computer has no real life.
I also review hardware and software from a layperson's perspective. No quantum numbers, no undecipherable technobabble, no pushing the envelope (well not too far anyway), and absolutely no bull. This is real world every day usage from a struggling wannabe geek.