Posts Tagged ‘computers’

The Quest for a decent computer mouse

Until recently I’ve never put much stock into a keyboard and mouse combination. I’ve invested some dollars in the keyboard, but as of late they’re all the same right? Well, I’ve come to realize they aren’t. The keyboard are getting pretty bad and the mice are cheap plastic. I even tried the new Microsoft Natural keyboard and found it far too stiff. Apparently I don’t have the devastating thumb action I thought I did because I couldn’t get the spacebar to register.

Mechanical keyboards are all the rage now and while I like the idea and even the sound of them, I’m not sure it’s the right keyboard for me. And the $100+ price tag is a pretty high ticket to ride.

And when it comes to mice, everything is geared towards gaming. That’s all fine and dandy, but do I need that many buttons? I only need a couple. And again, that $80 price tag gives me a bit of sticker shock.

As luck would have it, a guy at work has the Logitech G700S, pretty sweet gaming mouse that he uses at work all day. Ah, maybe it can live a life without games. I messed around with it and thought it was pretty impressive. I did like the feel, the clickity click action and the weight of it. Ok, maybe there is something to these top dollar mice.

And then luck struck again. Another guy I work with has the Razer Naga with a bevy of buttons and the ability to strobe through a kaleidoscope of colors. Actually, it was pretty cool too. It felt quite a bit different and t was much more game oriented. The four rows of buttons, while incredibly fun to look at while they changed colors, was a bit confusing to me. As stated, you need to get used to it, but then it’s no problem. Alrighty then, I’ve heard that sort of thing before and that’s usually when the problems start.

But in reality they were quite good. I see why people are drawn to them. They are indeed expensive, but as they put it, it’s the 2nd most important piece of computer equipment you use. True, maybe upgrading the apparatus is what I need to do.

So which one did I get? After taking them both for a hearty spin around the mouse mat, I bought the CM Storm Inferno. Who the hell has $100 to spend on a mouse! I could fund a Kickstarter project with that kind of cash!

Hey, it has lights and swirly bits, plus it has lots of buttons!

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Actually, the Logitech G700S is a sweet mouse, but it’s touch too expensive. I did get the Storm in the interim for work because the one I’m forced to use is really quite awful. Plus, I share both the mouse and keyboard with another shift and for sanitary reasons I think I need my own. If there’s a decent price drop on the Logitech I’ll consider snatching it up. As for the keyboard, well, I’m using the Microsoft Digital Media 3000. It’s not too shabby. It’s by no means a diamond in the rough, but I find I like it. I’m still waiting for something better to come along, but until that special something comes along, this is working pretty well for me.

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Time to cool the engines – Liquid Cooling for my CPU

Not too long ago I put together a new machine complete with 8-Core AMD processor and quite a few terabytes worth of hard drive space. It’s quite the beast of machine, but there is one small problem. Throwing all those cores at the problem sort of makes things hot. Most of the time it’s no big deal as it chews through work without breaking a sweat. But, break out a large file to convert and things get a little toasty.

That brings me to the Corsair H80i Liquid CPU Cooler. To be honest, liquid cooling makes me a tiny bit nervous. All that liquid. All those electronics. Sounds like a recipe for electrocution. But, the technology has come a long way and it’s even broken down into parts. You don’t have to run tubing through the entire machine. For this project, I just wanted to cool down the processor. The Corsair has a large radiator and two 120mm fans that push air into the case and pull air across the radiator. A friend of mine with the same chip and the same cooler says he sees a pretty significant temperature drop. The price is pretty reasonable and if increases the longevity of the machine I’m all for it.

While the cooler isn’t technically that hard to install, it is a bit of a pain in the ass and is wrought with danger. If I’d done this when building the machine it would have been a lot easier. The first problem came in getting the CPU out. Yeah, we bent a couple of pins. Second, the processor didn’t break away from the heat sink like we wanted or expected so we had to use solvent to break the two apart. Luckily I planned ahead and bought some from Arctic Silver. It wasn’t a big deal, just time consuming.

Next, getting the fans in place and wrangling the tubing inside the case is a bit tricky. They don’t have a whole lot of give and they can’t be pinched. Plus, there is some finagling to be done to get the cooler in place and anchored down.

Finally, the wires are kind of short, so cable management can be sort of tricky. I’m not a fanatic about that sort of things, but I try to make sure things are out of the way and won’t get sucked into the fans. Again, if this had been done when the machine was first put together it might have been better. But I had no interest in pulling out the motherboard just to tuck some wires away. All in all, they got routed out of the way pretty well.

When all is said and done it worked out nicely. Although, when you first turn the machine on, the fans scream like banshee for 10 seconds or so. Then they settle back down.

So how does it cool? Well, I took multiple files and converted them to MP4 for the iPad. For the sake of argument I encoded a season of Burn Notice. Make no mistake, the fans do kick in and kick in hard. The RPMs are 2400+ when it gets going, but the CPU sits at 34C. This means you’ll damn good and well when the computer is running at full capacity. It’s about the same amount of noise as the regular fans going full bore, but the CPU stays a lot cooler. Corsair provides custom software that’s free to download so you can monitor all the temps inside your machine. It pulls back CPU, video card and hard drive temps.

It hasn’t been in there all that long, but overall I’m pretty happy. In fact, I have a second unit ready for another machine I put together. It’s only an AMD Phenom X4, but after running games for awhile it gets a little warm too. Considering the price I don’t see a reason not to put one in the other machine.

Now, both machines are in custom cases. I don’t think I could get a cooler onto either of my Dell machines. The larger cases have extra fan ports which the Dells don’t. Corsair says the cooler fits most cases, but I say you better double and even triple check before you try this on an OEM machine. I bet these will be standard fare in another year or two.

But for now, if you’ve built your own rig or plan to, I’d highly recommend putting a CPU cooler on the list. It’s a bit of a slow process, but worth it.

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Corsair Hydro Series Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler H80i

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And then I bought a gaming rig

When you work in the IT field it’s inevitable to come across that “one guy” who lives on the bleeding edge of technology and buys all manner of gizmos just to toy with them for a short time before tossing them aside for the next “shiny” object. I work with such a guy. He likes the thrill of the hunt. The excitement of building or using something. Long term relationships do not apply. This explains how I have a new gaming rig. While it may not be the most powerful thing in the gaming realm, it’s actually pretty decent and is working like a charm.

The heart is an AMD Phenom X4 965 Black Edition. It rides on a lower end, but decent Gigabyte GA-78LMT motherboard that sports plenty of USB ports and SATA ports. It also allows for 32GB of Ram and can run two video cards in SLI. It also has a Cooler Master 500 watt power supply. For the video card he went with the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 with 2GB of GDDR5 ram. Some corners were cut with the hard drives, only a 1TB main drive and he got it with 4GB of ram. Not sure what the hell he was thinking there.

Since I have the 8-core machine I didn’t need to step down back to another 4-core. But he’s been trying to get rid of it for the past couple of months and the story of it wasting away in the corner collecting dust was more than I could bear.

I got the rig for around the cost of the video card and proceeded to beef it up with a full 32GB of ram. I won’t mess with the drives since it will only handle games. I added some simple Logitech speakers and added a 27 inch Samsung display. The video card pushes 1920×1280 in Call of Juarez without a problem. The display is the same one I got for my main machine. In fact, it was the last one on the shelf. And the price went up right after I got that last one.

While the motherboard may not raise eyebrows it has everything it needs and will support the same 8-core FX-8350 processor that my main machine has. And since news has come out of the new AMD chipset and the possible end of the line for the FX series and they jump to the nextgen, I might be able to double the processing power of this machine for well under $200. It’s right at the threshold now, so when it tips I’m snatching one up. This machine should have several years of longevity in it. Hell, I might even get another GTX 660 just to have the SLI.

So, who’s the guy in your office always buying machines and then turning around to sell them for dirt cheap prices? Get any good deals?

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