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.

NewEgg.ca 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!