Monday, August 30, 2010

Videocard Down!

     Sorry about the recent dearth of content here, folks, but at least I have an excuse for this weekend.
     It seems my big-bucks fancy-shmancy graphics card decided to fizzle out on me. On a Saturday morning, too. The very nerve. That's prime leisure time, folks! So I was left with a perfectly good computer system and a working monitor, and no way to see anything.
     The temporary solution was to run down to the local office store, and buy their cheapest card. I won't be playing Crysis maxed out, but I can see. The next step, of course, is to RMA the card, which means playing who's-on-first with the vendor and the manufacturer. Oh, joy.

     I freely confess to being a PC geek. I'm not a coder, and frankly get baffled by fairly simple networking problems, but I'm a gearhead. I like to build my own rigs, and tend to research components to a ridiculous degree, draw up parts lists, track prices and tech trends, and then save up and build my uber-PC.
     For those fellow geeks out there, the (currently dead) card is a Sapphire Radeon 5870. For me it hit the sweet spot of price, performance, heat and noise. I got it as part of a complete build earlier this year (along with an i7-920 processor, an Asus X58 motherboard, Windows 7 64-bit, etc...), when I decided that my six year old rig "Frankenstein", was getting old and inadequate.
     I loved Franky. Franky was indeed a monster: huge server-size full tower case, cutting edge (at the time) components, and most importantly, my homebrewed watercooling system.
     To the uninitiated and sane, the concept of buying the finest, most expensive electronic components you can afford, and then putting them in direct proximity to running water is simply not rational. The concept, however, is valid and fascinating. Quite simply, water has greater thermal capacity than air. It will absorb and transfer more heat. The cooler the system, the better it can perform. If you are overclocking your rig for performance (or just hot-rodding it for fun), heat is your enemy.
     Suddenly things like turbulence, boundary layers, thermal interface materials, lapping, etc... take over your thoughts.
     You research and buy pumps, hoses, custom waterblocks, radiators, etc... The end result can be exhilarating, and...


     Franky sat by my desk for six years, much as you see him here - no side panel, funky bluish-green tubes, and about the height and weight of a small child. An ugly small child.
     My wife hated it.

     My study is not the study she had in mind for me. She wanted shelves of elegant, leather-bound volumes of literature and philosophy, a fine desk and chair; oak and dark green leather, perhaps. What she got was my old college bookshelves crammed double-deep and sideways with Heinlein, Robert E. Howard, Burroughs, horror anthologies, etc... Family photos competed for space with Zeppelin and Pink Floyd CD's. One side of the room dominated by an old card table covered in a canvas dropcloth and littered with screwdrivers, files, stones, lubricants and assorted gun parts. My framed degrees and her picture on the wall, right next to the rifle rack.
     All this she accepted, but she hated Franky.

     So, when he became long in the tooth, and started running out of hard drive space, the petition for a new system was accepted. And this one is aircooled. The case is the HAF 932, High Air Flow, black, badass and elegant. High-volume, large diameter fans - actually quieter than the old rig. Should allow me to overclock the i7 from 2.66 GHz up to 4-ish easy.

     I'm happy, she's happy. Now I just need to get my gaming card back, and resume killing zombies.

Happy trails,


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