Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Desktop PC - Memorial Day 2009 Edition

Update 6/3/2009: I was able to install Windows 7 RC (x64). Turns out that the Windows 7 installer has difficulty with the IDE/SATA adapter I was using to connect the DVD drive to a SATA channel. Removed the adapter, connected the DVD drive directly to the IDE channel on the mobo, and peace was restored to the land.

What better way to honor our military personnel[1] than to go shopping, and shopping I did, with geek style.

Video: Diamond Radeon HD 4870 (OEM version from Fry's)
HD (OS): Patriot SSD SATA2 32GB (my first solid state drive)
OS: Windows XP 32-bit Windows 7 64-bit RC

This was my first Gigabyte mobo. My previous mobo was an Abit IC7-G and I had very good experience with it, but since Abit is no longer a player I needed to pick a new vendor. The EX58-UD3R had good user reviews and seems to be well-made, but the BIOS update utility failed to retrieve an update from any of the 5 choice of server. It did, however, successfully update once I downloaded the BIOS update file manually. There are other nifty utilities for overclocking and monitoring, all of which seem to be working correctly. There's even a utility that allows you to upload a custom image for the POST boot screen!

I ordered the mobo, CPU, and RAM from MWave as a bundle, so these parts were assembled/tested before I received them. No thermal compound fun this time. :-(

The video card, SSD drive, and case were purchased locally at Fry's Electronics. I had a good sales person helping me who managed to find the smaller 32GB drive and an OEM version of the video card. I wanted to foray into the new SSD technology, but the drives are still relatively expensive. Given that I wanted a fast drive for the OS and that it didn't need to be very large, I opted for the smallest SSD drive I could get. Still, it set me back $120 for 32GB.

The Antec case is a good model from a quality manufacturer. I refuse to buy cheap crappy parts, and this includes the case. The one I picked at the store, however, was a return that had not been marked, and was missing parts. I went ahead and finished the build, knowing that I'd be disassembling the whole thing the next day to exchange the case. The case came with 3 120mm fans, which I need since I run a GIMPS client. I had fun assembling the machine and totally geeked out on the cabling.

I have a copy of Windows 7 RC, which I've installed on my other 3 year old machine and it worked like a champ (IMHO, Windows 7 is like Vista, only not crappy). I had plans to do the same on the new rig, but Win7 would not install. The previous installation on my old hardware took ~15 mins start-to-finish. However, after over an hour initializing the installation, I figured it wasn't going to work for some reason, and quit. I tried a few more times, disabling as much hardware as I could, but to no avail. Disappointing. I do hope that whatever the issue, it gets resolved for the final release because I don't want to be limited to XP for the next couple of years (and Vista is out of the question).

The machine is together now and I'm getting all my software installed (again!). GIMPS is chugging away, increasing both the knowledge of mankind and the temperature in this room. World of Warcraft runs like a champ now, too (Ultra mode, baby!).

[1] I, myself, am a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served with the 568th Eng. Co. from 1992-1996. Wild and Ready, Sir! Hoooah!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Crystal Method, House of Blues, Dallas

The electronic music band, The Crystal Method, played at House of Blues - Dallas (cool balcony photo) last night on their Divided By Night tour. I've been a fan of TCM since I first heard them on Total Trip Hop, and this is the second time I've been to their show (the other was at Lizard Lounge last fall). I took my friend, Kate, with whom we both share love for electronic music and for getting our groove on the dance floor.

The opening act was a DJ named L.A. Riots, who had intersting voice effects in his mixes. A good warm up, to be sure. Our seats were on the balcony (the only tickets available at the time), but we migrated down to the floor when TCM came on. We passed the sound engineering/VIP area on the floor, but Kate stepped in and got us a good spot next to a rail. We had an excellent view of the stage, but w/o the crush of the crowd. TCM played some new material, as well as some of their hits. They really know how to pump up the crowd, and put on an excellent show.

During the show, one of the lighting engineers started to give us bottled water. Much needed, considering we were wet with sweat half way thru the show. After the show, Kate and I stuck a conversation with him and he told us about the lighting he had been operating. During the conversation, this couple who had been sitting behind us approached and gave Kate a pass to the meet-n-greet upstairs with the band. Sweet! We eventually made our way to the elevator for the ride up to the VIP lounge. Others filed in to the elevator, including band member, Scott Kirkland! Since I didn't have a pass, I hid behind the rest of the group and they smuggled me into the lounge.

The VIP lounge is decorated with an East Indian decor, including incense and Kama Sutra art work. Kate and I hung out there for awhile and eventually got to meet the band. Fortunately, we still had our tickets, and both band members, Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland autographed them for us.

So that was our experience at the TCM show. Not bad for having started out with just balcony seats! The Lizard Lounge show was also off the hook, so that makes 2/2 awesome experiences at TCM shows. I'll be sure to catch them when they come around again.