Archive for December, 2007

C is for Computer [Assembly Pics]

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

I have really good news – not only do all of the components that shipped with my computer work but this beast really rocks the house! I was actually concerned some of the components (no matter how reputable the manufacturer) might be defective (when newly shipped). Fortunately for me, everything that shipped was functional.

The computer arrived sometime Wednesday, December 12 at around 3:30-ish. Here’s an account of the following 12 hours after when all of the components arrived.

I wanted to take pictures of all of the boxes and then of all of the components out of their respective boxes:

(click this link for high res version)

Furthermore, I wanted to take before and after pictures of my room (with only the older computer and then the new setup with both computers):

Before Shot of Room
(click this link for high res version)

So I probably spent an hour and a half or so unpacking, taking pictures, and then organizing my unpacked goodies.

Now onto the fun stuff. The first component I opened was the case [1]. I have to praise cooler master on the case as it is incredible. Not only did it make the assembly process easier and more enjoyable, but I absolutely love how the new PC looks with that case. Plus, because it is a full tower ATX case, the inside, with all of the components installed, is vary spacious. I installed the fans [2], the SATA DVD Drive [3] and the hard drive [4] without picking up a screw driver. The motherboard [5], the power supply [6] and the floppy I did need a screw driver for.

Installing the DVD Drive and the Hard Drive into the case was easy so I did them first. Then after unpacking the motherboard, I knew the processor would be next. I did manage to get a picture of the processor (probably the last time I will ever see it) before mounting the Tuniq 120 heat sink fan on it. Unfortunately, I had the camera set so it focused on the background instead of the foreground and the picture of the processor’s bottom side [7] came out blurry.

Now the processor did come with a stock heat sink fan, but that thing is mediocre at best and was of course replaced with after market goodness. Below is a side by side comparison with the Intel stock heat sink fan on the left and the Tuniq 120 after market heat sink fan on the right:

HSF Comparison
(click this link for high res version)

On the Intel HSF on the left, the gray strips are thermal strips. I used the Tuniq 120 HSF on the right with arctic silver thermal compound. I had forgotten how to apply the arctic silver and found this very helpful guide for doing so. Here is a shot of the thermal compound applied to the top of the processor [8]. Note – before applying the compound, I did clean both the top of the processor and the bottom of the heat sink fan with isotropyl alcohol applied to a static free (eye-glass cleaning) cloth. Any residue (such as a finger print) between the air tight connection of the processor and HSF can reduce the cooling performance of the HSF for the processor.

The Abit IN9 32X Max provides braces for placing a 40mm fan on top of the passively cooled north bridge 680i chipset. After installing the HSF, I then placed the ram [9] and the 40mm fan [10] on the motherboard as well [11]. Then the graphics card [12] was installed onto the motherboard next. Then finally the motherboard was mounted onto the case culminating in the following:

(click this link for high res version)

I did my homework with this motherboard, as it was by far the most difficult component to choose. My advice to you to limit motherboard selection (as there is what seems like millions of motherboards out there) is to consider computer parameters:
1. What ram (specifically ram bandwidth) do you want your computer to be able to support?
2. Do you want SLI?
3. What processor will you be going with? Is it AMD or Intel? If it’s Intel, what is the FSB speed?
4. Do you want PCIe 2.0?
5. What bios features do you want with your motherboard?
I read for the ABIT motherboards that if your ABIT is shipped with a version 1.0 bios, that bios will NOT support 1333 MHz FSB chips (i.e. the E6850 processor I bought).

Now keep in mind, my heart was racing a little bit as I first powered on the computer. This is the point where we find if any components are defective or if I hooked up stuff incorrectly. I searched all over the motherboard manual, triple checking the components and the case to mobo connections, to ensure nothing was going to explode. Surprisingly enough and conveniently there were no jumper settings I had to mess with for the ABIT mobo. And when booting, I did was very happy to see no smoke and the screen light up. However, sure enough I got an error from the motherboard’s LED screen – 7F. Remembering what I had previously read on the net, I proceeded to power down the computer, install a floppy drive and make a bootable, flash bios disk and upgraded the bios to version 1.3 (latest version). You can find all of the available bioses for the ABIT IN9 32X Max here [13].

Then after flashing the BIOS, I did see a windows Vista loading screen followed by the dreaded blue screen of death. I then remembered reading previously that windows Vista will not install with 4 gigs of ram plugged into the mobo. After taking out one of the 2 gig sticks, it installed flawlessly. After installation, I placed the 2 gig stick back in.

Here is a mid night shot of me rejoicing in the fact that I have made it as far as a windows installation screen:

(click this link for high res version)

Once Vista loaded, then I installed some basic drivers and then powered down the PC again. I sloppily rigged up everything with the case open like that in case something did not work, then it would be relatively easy to get to it. Once I had a working Windows installation, I then (after turning the PC off) completed assembly. I twisty tied everything I could and installed the rest of the case components [14].

Here is an after shot of my room with the new computer:

(click this link for high res version)

I partitioned the 150 gig Raptor into 110 gigs (for Vista and other stuff) and 30 gigs (for XP). From what I read, both OS’s have to be installed on independent partitions. I have not installed XP yet. I have a really big research related deadline coming up this Wednesday, so an XP installation and then 3DMark06 score will have to wait till after Wednesday. I can say WoW, with all the settings cranked (including 8x Multi Sampling), and 1920×1200 resolution plays at 40 fps in major cities. Also, I ran Call of Duty 4, Unreal Tournament 3, and Civilization 4 with all the settings maxed out on all of the aforementioned games and did not notice any hitches, slow downs, errors, etc. – the games played very smoothly. I don’t know the /FPS command for the games I just listed, so I will have to report back later with exact frame rates.

The 40mm fan on the north bridge seems like a waste. It only wound up cooling the system temperatures by as much as a single degree Celsius. Maybe it might play a bigger role when I get into over clocking later. The computer does run COOLER with the case ON (as opposed to off). I was really pleased with this as I bought the case with air flow in mind. The processor idles at about 27C and under load tops out at about 32C. So much OCing will have to be done. The mosfet PWM temperatures run at about 42 to 46C (nvidia SLI chipset temps are apparently supposed to be this ‘hot’).

Windows Vista does boot quickly, but I am not sure how much the improvement is strictly because of the 150 gig Raptor Hard-drive (10,000 RPM spindle speed).
I said 12 hour account for everything after 3:30, as it took me a while to move the old computer into its new location and wire up everything in a rather neat fashion for where that old computer will now rest. Furthermore, when taking the floppy drive out of the old computer and putting it into the newer computer (I didn’t buy another floppy drive), I noticed the older computer had tons of dust in it. So I proceeded to take out some of the components and air spray down the inside. I think I also took some food breaks in between this entire venture which thus all then amounted to a 12 hour ordeal.

Overall, it has been a very merry Christmas and I am definitely really happy with my new toy. I am having a lot of fun with Call of Duty 4 and am really enjoying playing Civ 4 without occasional hitches/slow downs in game play. I will report back in the future with benchmarks and then later on with Overclocking results.

Have a very merry Christmas!!!


Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Computer parts will be here tomorrow. So no assembly pictures just yet. Due to the lack of the new computer, I decided to go to the lab and get some more research done (shows you were my priorities lie – wink).

I had just finished coding something and had decided to take a mental dump and go stare at the parking lot from the third floor of the engineering building (it’s surprisingly a nice view) when a professor, leaving the building, noticed me and commented on the building (adjacent to the Engineering building) which was under construction. I recognized the professor who had given a lecture recently at the University. He’s younger than the average EE, CpE or CS professor at the university and seems to have tons of energy (as opposed to being burnt out). I happened to know what his area of research was and when it was brought up in our conversation, seeing his enthusiasm in passionately speaking about his research, was indeed inspiring. But it’s not only his excitement about his research that’s admirable, when talking to you in casual conversation he was able to convey a gargantuan amount of knowledge and understanding from such a broad area of topics in a humble manner. His interest was not showing off that he was smarter than me, rather he went into depth in certain areas to ensure I comprehended his message.

Speaking with that professor reminded me of when I was considering the pros and cons of getting a doctorate of philosophy in electrical engineering. You don’t get a PhD for having the title of “Dr. So and So” or for graduate students to look up to you and salute you in the hallways. The 3+ years this endeavor entails will shred you to pieces if you seek this end degree for such shallow reasons. The motivations for a PhD, I think – at least for those who actually survive the degree, are ideals and virtues such as self understanding, mentoring/teaching, and contribution.

Attaining your PhD means at some point you made a novel and significant contribution to the academia. This significant contribution typically requires the merit of several journal publications and must be defended against a board of professors critiquing your work. To go through these trials is like stress testing or benchmarking your brain to see what ingenuity and creativity it is capable of. Furthermore, the duration of the degree will show how capable you are of being devoted to a given project that spans such lengths. It is these tests, these trials which enlighten you on how far you are willing to go for something.

New Computer Ordered!

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

I finally settled on all of the computer parts for my new computer. I will probably dedicated several posts to the construction of this beast. In this post I will simply just list the specifications of the parts ordered. These parts should be here before this coming Tuesday. I will post assembly pics and then benchmarks and then over-clocking results in the near future.

For now, without further adieu, Nick’s new computer is as follows:
Case: COOLER MASTER Stacker 830 Evolution RC-830-KKN3-GP Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

Mother Board: ABIT IN9 32X-MAX LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 Conroe 3.0GHz 4M shared L2 Cache LGA 775 Processor – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

Hard Drive: Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB 10,000 RPM 16MB Cache Serial ATA150 Hard Drive – OEM – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

DVD Burner: ASUS Black 18X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 18X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 14X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA DVD Burner with LightScribe – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

North Bridge Cooling Fan: EVERCOOL EC4010 40mm Case Fan – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

After Market Heat Sink Fan (for Processor): Tuniq Tower 120 P4 & K8 CPU Cooler – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

4x120mm Case Fan (to go with Cooler Master Case): Rosewill RFA120L-R 120mm 4 Red LEDs LED Case Fan – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

Ram: OCZ 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

1st Graphics Card: Shader OC 1650MHz MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC GeForce 8800GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

2nd Graphics Card: MSI NX8800GT 512M OC GeForce 8800GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card – Retail NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad (Black) EPS12V 750W Power Supply 100 – 240 V UL, ULC, CE, CB, RoHS – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

Other Computer Components (I am basically carrying these components over from previous builds, they were not freshly ordered like the components above):
Monitor: Dell 2405 Flat Panel LCD (Bought New, Monitor only offered as Refurbished now) – Dell Link

Speakers: Logitech Z-5500 505 Watts 5.1 Speaker – Retail – NewEgg Link, Archived PDF

Mouse and Keyboard: Cordless DesktopĀ® LX 700

In the above, I also hosted PDF’s of the components with their specifications. Sometimes, after a component on newegg gets old enough, newegg will no longer host that part and the associated new egg link will go bad. I doubt that will happen for some time as most of the components are relatively new. In the event the newegg link does not work, click the hosted PDF file instead.

As mentioned before, because I will not be doing video rendering with this new rig, I chose the E6850 Dual Core over the Q6600 Quadcore. I did some research about this and saw the following posted on Anandtech:

If you’re strictly building a gaming box, you’ll get more performance out of the dual-core E6850. However, if you do any encoding or 3D rendering at all, the quad-core Q6600 is a better buy. Our pick is the Q6600 and if you want to make up the performance difference you can always overclock to E6850 speeds, but the chip only makes sense if you’re running apps that can take advantage of four cores.

I linked the source for this quote here.

I also only ordered one 150GB raptor, NOT two.

For end-users, though, the picture becomes far murkier. Most home computers occupy large amounts of time seeking from small file to small file, with the resulting speed limitation imposed by the physical mechanisms of the drive itself (rotational speed, etc). These limitations are not overcome even by the top-performing RAID 0. The only benefits, therefore, that users can seek in RAID are to increase overall capacity of their single drive, add a level of redundancy for their system, or to improve large-file performance.

The above quote can be found here at Anandtech.
The above also represents why I did chose a 10,000RPM hard drive instead of a cheaper 7200 RPM harddrive.

Christmas has indeed come early! emote

Earn This

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

Everything anyone has ever been able to accomplish has been dependent on the success of one’s predecessors. The light used to stay up late to read research papers on theory, the computer used to model an invention or aid with calculations, the books used to provide knowledge on a subject, all the utensils fundamental in bringing about a modern revelation – a new age epiphany in today’s lifetime were provided by previous entrepreneurs, scientists, and explorers’ ambition to bring about some great change, device, or discovery. Therefore, we are all in debt to our ancestors for our privileged style of living where we enjoy the utilization of their great achievements; and only in proving ourselves; in honoring our predecessors’ names and causes; in striving to lead a moral, sound life; in bringing about great truths to society; in serving our brothers and sisters and the Lord our God; do we earn the right to our very existence. One’s very existence is indeed an exonerating privilege, and we therefore have the obligation to earn that blessing of being brought into this world by repaying our brothers and sisters with the enlightenment of a great truth that only one such as yourself with your unique perspective and knowledge can fathom. Therefore, go, not walking this earth as a mindless zombie programmed by television and driven by materialistic wantonness; but as a participant in the crusade for an enlightened society.

Computer Geek E6850 vs Q6600

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

There is a gargantuan debate on the internet right now –
For $270~ish, do you buy the E6850 Dual Core or the Q6600 Quad Core?
E6850 Q6600
I am personally undergoing this discussion and found the following threads to be of help:
(1) First and foremost (one of my favorite computer geek places on the internet), the OC Forums – Poll: E6850 or Q6600 for the same price?
To summarize, in this thread, the Q6600 wins over the E6850 by a 2:1 ratio (twice as many voted for the Q6600).
(2) The people over at Anandtech do great benchmarking tests and basically said the decision is based on what you will be using the computer for.

If you’re strictly building a gaming box, you’ll get more performance out of the dual-core E6850. However, if you do any encoding or 3D rendering at all, the quad-core Q6600 is a better buy. Our pick is the Q6600 and if you want to make up the performance difference you can always overclock to E6850 speeds, but the chip only makes sense if you’re running apps that can take advantage of four cores.

[Source Linked Here]
(3) Tom’s Hardware also has a thread running this debate as well – [Source Linkage]

Here’s a NewEgg Price Comparison between the different CPUs – [Click Link!]

After all of that hoopla, the bottom line comes down to this for me (and Anandtech really helped with this): The quad cores rule with applications that take advantage of the 4 cores (which at the moment primarily are exclusive to 3D rendering and media encoding applications). For the time being, the dual core performs faster. I therefore am going to bank my money on the Dual Core and figure by time applications are properly optimized for quad cores, I will probably be in the market to buy yet another computer then.

I recently gotta a deal on the 8800GT (mentioned in this post) and have decided I will be buying another computer to house this graphics card. Since I will in fact have two computers, one will be devoted for my dissertation work and the one I am building (with the 8800GT) will be devoted to video games. This therefore is yet another reason I think I will stick with the E6850.

I know several others currently struggling with this decision and figured I would link some of the research I have unearthed.

So far the specs for the computer are as follows:
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB 10,000 RPM 16MB Cache Serial ATA150 Hard Drive – OEM – $169.00

Shader OC 1650MHz MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC GeForce 8800GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card – Retail – $221.51

Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 Conroe 3.0GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6850 – Retail – $279.99

Items currently in debate are the mother board, the power supply, ram, a CPU cooler and a case.
Once I have settled on those remaining items, I will probably start a thread over at the OC Forums soliciting for critiques (i’m sure they will have a lot to say about the E6850 ;) ). I will post a link to that thread once I get the rest of the components sorted out. The graphics card, the 8800 GT, although linked at NewEgg was actually bought through dell and does not have a ship date till December 10. Therefore, I am not really looking to move until December 10 as it would be kind of useless to have all of the computer parts without the graphics card.