Rebuilding, Part Two

So, I went in to work for some approved overtime a couple weeks ago, and that extra time was reflected on my most recent paycheck. That plus price drops on Amazon meant it was PC building time. So, I ordered a new motherboard, processor and RAM yesterday, to rebuild the CyberPowerPC gaming computer that I bought a little over a year ago. The fact that major components started failing a little over a year after purchase has made me start nicknaming this computer “Buyer’s Remorse.”

I’m not entirely certain what’s going bad, either the motherboard, processor or RAM. I didn’t feel like trying to test them, so I just replaced them. This is what was in the computer when I bought it:

-MSI B250M Bazooka motherboard: LGA 1151 socket, DDR4 RAM slots, and other stuff (do a web search if you’re interested in the stats.)
-Intel i5-7400: 3.0 GHz quad core
-MSI AMD Radeon RX580 graphics card (4GB VRAM)
-Windows 10 Home

From the start, the computer was a dream. It gamed so nicely. That RX580 could play Final Fantasy 15 on nice settings out of the box, and other notoriously “heavy” games like Arkham Knight and Ark: Survival Evolved ran nicely too. When I went to dual boot Windows and Linux, I ran into issues with the RX580. AMD doesn’t do proprietary Linux drivers anymore, and I had screen flickering with the “Pro” open source driver. So, I swapped the card for my EVGA Nvidia GTX950, which runs great in both Windows and Linux.

Well, more recently, the computer has started not booting correctly. It wouldn’t post the first time every time, leading me to come to the conclusion that one of the main components was going out, either the motherboard, processor or RAM. So, I decided to replace those components. Here’s what I got from UPS today:

-MSI B450-A Pro motherboard: AM4, DDR4, etc.
-AMD Ryzen 5 2600: 3.4 GHz base clock, 6 cores, 12 threads
-16GB (2x 8GB) DDR4 2133 MHz Corsair Vengeance RAM

The whole setup cost me less than $371, after tax and wth Prime shipping. Here’s a pic of my initial planned build:


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Ah, That New Monitor Feeling

I finally got myself a 1080p monitor.


It’s an Acer SB220Q 21.5″ monitor, 1080p display. It has VGA and HDMI hookups and it came with a VGA cable, but I don’t know who in their right mind would hook up a 1080p monitor with VGA. My graphics card doesn’t even have VGA, I’d have to have used a DVI to VGA adapter. Fortunately, I have HDMI cables a plenty, so I used one of those to hook it up. But, that was how I planned it. Had I not had one, I’d have bought a HDMI cable with the monitor.

I really like it, the display is nice and crisp. I had to do some minor text scaling fixes in both Solus OS (Linux) and in Firefox. That would have been necessary in Windows too, as no OS on the planet handles HiDPI displays that well. Fortunately, it’s only 1080p and I have excellent eyesight, so setting both to 1.1x scaling worked great. I watched some of Steve Neill’s Enterprise videos that he’s been re-posting on his blog on the new monitor. 🙂

Anyway, it’s Amazon’s choice for “monitor.” It’s only $90, and is considered by many to be the best sub $100 monitor, with 4.3/5 stars on Amazon.

Here it is next to my old Samsung monitor:


The Samsung I’ve had for ages, it’s a 20″ display with a max resolution of 1600×900. Not a bad monitor at all, but it has seen better days. (the screen has a pretty bad scratch in it, which is totally my fault) Even though it’s got a smaller display, the bezel is much larger, so the Acer and Samsung are practically the same size.


Well, it’s been an interesting weekend. Ordinarily where I work, it’s 40 hours maximum for hourly associates. Well, with it being a holiday and them being extremely shorthanded Friday night, another guy and I were allowed to go in for approved overtime. So, I’ll be getting 8 hours at time and a half on my next paycheck. It also means my weekend was only one day, instead of two, but that’s OK. (extra money is good) So, what did I do with my weekend? What I didn’t expect: tore apart two computers and put one back together.

So, about a year and two months ago, I bought a computer on Amazon. It was on sale and it was a sweet deal, especially for the Radeon RX580 graphics card that was included. That thing was amazing. Keyword: was. One of the reasons I bought the computer was for the Windows license, as those are expensive and by the time you buy the hardware, the license is basically free. I wanted to use some Windows only software, and hook up some devices that use USB and interface with some Windows software. Well, the build of Windows 10 that I have doesn’t like older USB devices, so getting said devices to connect when I wanted them to was extremely frustrating. Then the RX580 didn’t work right with Linux, which made me salty. So, I wound up putting my old EVGA Nvidia GTX950 in it. Most recently, the mouse started acting stupid (no biggie, pack in peripherals are shit) but worse, the computer has started not booting correctly. Sometimes, when I turn it on, it won’t do anything, not even load the boot splash. Since that’s stored on the motherboard, I’m thinking it’s a motherboard issue. Not good. The final straw was when I went to beta test a build for a Linux distribution I use. I got that all set up, got my bootloader where it needed to be, and it will only boot that OS, it won’t even let me choose the other Linux distribution I have installed. (I had unhooked the Windows drive, but that wouldn’t have affected the Linux drive) So, I messed around in UEFI, updated the bootloader in Linux, but nothing worked. So, I jettisoned the whole thing.

Enter my old gaming rig. Total custom, I built this beast from parts about 6.5 years ago. At that time, it was pretty cutting edge, and it’s no slouch now. It has a Gigabyte AM3+ motherboard, AMD FX8120 processor and 2x 4GB Crucial RAM. I put that GTX 950 in it, and two of my 1TB WD Blue hard drives. I also put a DVD-RW drive in it, just because I could. 😉 I have two of those, but I hardly use optical media in computers anymore, so one is enough. I was going to use the case for the newer computer, but the front panel uses a newer connector for the USB 3.0 ports that the Gigabyte motherboard doesn’t have, so I used my old Antec 600 gaming case, and my Rosewill either 400W or 450W PSU (can’t remember which it is.) Anyway, pictures:

I got everything pretty well cleaned up. There’s still some dust, but nowhere near as bad as it was. I also did what I could for cable management by carefully routing things and using wire ties, but the Antec 600 wasn’t really made for cable management. I do have some Patriot RAM on the way, it will be here tomorrow. I’d looked into getting a couple more Crucial 4GB modules, but it was going to be over $100 to get ones like I have. So, I just looked into totally replacing the RAM. They’re 1600 MHz DDR3, the Patriot RAM I ordered is 1866 MHz DDR3, 2x 8GB memory, so I’ll just totally swap the Crucial for the Patriot and have double the Memory. Then, I can get two more on down the road and max out the RAM for that board. 😎 I also have some 120mm Rosewill fans on the way, they’re supposed to arrive Tuesday. I have one Linux OS installed right now (the one I’m beta testing) and I’ll probably add a second sometime this week.

So, that’s how I spent my weekend. Fun fun.

I also got a book in the mail yesterday:


It’s really cool. The guy who took the pictures is the same guy who photographs systems for Wikipedia, which has some awesome pics. It says in the back that there were a number of systems that he couldn’t get, but there are way more than I knew about, from the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972 to the Nintendo Switch in 2017. Great stuff. 🙂

I’d tried getting this book from Amazon in December, but it was backordered. I didn’t want to wait, so I ordered it from Books-A-Million, who claimed to have it in stock. A few days, later, I got a notification that it wasn’t in stock and they canceled my order. I remembered about it again the other day and ordered it from Amazon, as it’s in stock now.

I Did Another Thing

Well, my love for Microsoft seems to be flowing lately, as I just bought a gaming desktop on Amazon. It’s a really nice looking system at a really nice price. There are a few side effects to this purchase, including coming with Windows 10, which means I’ll be able to go back to Lightwave for CGI. My main reason for the stall in my CGI is that I still don’t like working in Blender all that well. It has ways of doing things that I just don’t like, we’ll leave it at that. (no, it’s not the GUI, Lightwave’s is no less convoluted) Other software I use is all cross platform, so it will work in Windows as well as Linux. Anyway, I’m looking forward to this. It’s going to be fun, especially the getting back into Lightwave part. Fortunately, I still have my hardware lock for Lightwave 10, though I may eventually upgrade to the newest version. I can also download the software from Newtek, which is good because the computer doesn’t have an optical drive, as they’re not used much anymore. Though, I can easily get a cheap external one if I need one for anything.

I Did a Thing…

So, I did something yesterday:

I’ve been thinking of getting an XBOX One for a little while now. Yes, I’m a Linux user, but I don’t hate Microsoft, I just don’t like Windows, their game consoles are great. My 360 is several years old now and it has a 60GB hard drive. That was OK, but digital games take up more space than they used to. So, I figured I’d upgrade. I looked at new 360 E consoles on the odd chance they would be cheaper. Nope. For about the price of a 1TB XBOX One S, I could get a 4GB 360. A 360 with decent storage was more than the One S. So, I figured I’d get a One S with my Federal tax return. Then I was on the official XBOX site yesterday and I saw that Microsoft was having a deal where, if you bought an XBOX One directly from them you got a free game. I love free, so I took a look. No need to wait for my Federal return, I crunched some numbers and decided I could afford one. The XBOX One X is $499, but I don’t need one of those. It has beefier hardware and is designed for 4K TVs. Well, I have a 1080p TV, so no need for the One X. Besides, the One S can output to 4K, but it’s not designed around 4K like the One X is. But, the One X was out of my price range anyway. The One S, on the other hand, was totally affordable. I looked at a couple 1TB bundles that were $299, but the one I wanted wasn’t in stock. So, I kept going back to that Halo bundle. I love me some Halo, so that was calling to me. Sure, it’s only a 500GB system, but I can always add an external hard drive later. So, I put that in my cart.

When it came time to select my free game, there were a lot of good games there. However, Star Wars: Battlefront II was calling to me, so I selected that. However, that wasn’t all, it let me pick a second free game! So, I selected Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection, as I’ve been wanting to dive into some Assassin’s Creed for some time now. So, everything in the picture was $279 plus tax, shipping was free. And, it’s super cool that the two free games are physical copies, I was expecting download codes, like I got with the bundled Halo games. They always tell you that free shipping is 3-7 day, hoping you’ll pay for more expensive options. Nope, I’ll way. It turns out the wait wasn’t long. Less than 24 hours, in fact. I saw that FedEx truck pull up front, hurriedly disarmed the security system and unlocked the door. (and maybe freaked out the driver a bit, but he’ll survive) Anyway, I took it out of the plain box, posed it, snapped a pic and then tore into it. (not literally, I opened it like a civilized person) So, it’s hooked up where my 360 was and it’s updating right now. I have to go to work in a bit, but I’m looking forward to doing some game play after work.

So, I’ve never ordered anything physical from Microsoft before, just digital stuff. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty darn impressed with their service.

New Toy

So, I got my Federal tax return last week, which is always that great annual lump sum payout for paying too much in taxes the rest of the year that gives you some nice spending cash, cash for bills, whatever. Well, I don’t have a lot of bills, so I took advantage of the extra spending cash. So, I bought another expensive toy.


For those who are curious, that is a Steam Machine. Basically, it’s a tiny i7 powered PC that runs SteamOS natively and hooks up to your TV for couch gaming. SteamOS is based on Debian Linux, making this first computer I’ve ever bought with Linux preinstalled. So far, all I’ve had time to do is hook it up and update, which borked controller (it’s a common issue.) I’ll fix it when I get home from work tonight. At the price I got the thing, I’m not complaining. Since retailers are trying to get rid of them, I got this majorly reduced. The i7 is the top of the line, $800 MSRP. However, I got mine for a little over $450. That’s close to half off. You can’t buy or build an i7 powered tower with 8GB RAM, a 1TB HD and an Nvidia GTX960 for less, so I’m happy. I’m going switch my PC games over to this and use my desktop for other stuff.

I’m Giving Her All She’s Got, Cap’n

In the “Frack me, that was fast” department, the doorbell rang a little over an hour ago and it was the delivery man with my new hard drive for my desktop. This is the drive:

I don’t usually buy Western Digital, but I’m a customer review shopper. I brought up the list of 3.5″ internal drives and re-sorted them by average customer review. This was the drive that came up first. It’s the #1 seller among desktop drives and has a 4.5/5 average review with 982 reviews. So, that’s good enough to me. I know, WD’s Black series is supposed to be faster than the Blue series, but I could get a 1TB for $11 less than a 500GB by going Blue, so that works for me. (about the same product reviews) As long as it’s SATA III, I’m happy. I’m pretty sure my old Samsung 1TB drive is only SATA II, but I’ll have to wait until I pull it out of the PC to be certain. Right now, I still have the old drive in there so that I can install my upgrade copy of Windows 7 without installing XP or Vista first. Plus, I still have a few files on my Media partition to copy off of there before I yank it out.

Anywho, happy times. Windows just got done installing, so it’s time to switch computers. 😀

He’s Dead, Jim

The hard drive in my CGI machine is dying. So, if there’s a break in the “action,” (which there will be) that’s why. It’s been “losing” files for a while, which means it’s going. Probably most of today will be spent saving what I need from it before it goes kaput completely. Then I will stop using my desktop entirely until I can afford to change the drive. I do have a laptop (I’m using it now) and I can do CGI on it, but it’s slow. However, I’ve used worse. So, that’s what’s happening.

8-Cores and a New Tutorial

I know I haven’t been posting much lately, but I hope to change that in the near future. I’m probably going to do some “dirty” textures on the Constellation-class I finished a while back and then start a new build. I may also take some time to learn more about modeling in Blender, I haven’t decided yet.

Meanwhile, I took advantage of a Cyber Monday sale (on Monday, obviously :P) and bought some PC upgrades from Tiger Direct. Previously, my computer was running an ASUS LGA775 motherboard with an Intel Celeron 2.50 GHz Dual Core and 4GB DDR2 800 MHz RAM. It ran well for over two years and was still running well for CGI and gaming, but I wanted more power. (insert Tim Allen’s Home Improvement “More Power” thing here) So, I decided it was time for an upgrade. As people who know PCs know, upgrading a processor on an LGA775 is stupid. Even if you can find a processor for that board, it will probably be a Celeron, Pentium or Core2 Dual Core or a Core 2 Quad Core (yesterday’s tech.) Plus, it will probably be expensive. So, I obviously had to upgrade the motherboard. I chose a GIGABYTE AM3+ board with lots of goodies on it, including a lot of PCI Express slots, 4 RAM slots for up to 32GB RAM and lots of USB ports. I paired that up with an AMD FX-8120 processor, which is a 3.10 GHz 8-core processor and 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz RAM. I saved a shitload of money on that stuff and I love it. I got and installed everything on Wednesday and my computer has never been happier. Linux booted right up, as expected. Of course, since I moved my 1TB HDD to a new motherboard, I had to reinstall Windows 7. But, everything went well and it’s working great:




Ignore the stupid 4.9/7.9 on the Windows Experience Index. I could really give a damn how well it thinks it works with the Windows Aero desktop. It works fine, no matter what that idiotic thing says. I didn’t upgrade my graphics card because I have a perfectly good one that works great for gaming, no matter what that stupid thing says. What I haven’t figured out is the higher score for 3D Business & Gaming Graphics, which requires more graphics juice than the stupid desktop. What I like is the 7.5/7.9 on the Calculations Per Second and Memory Operations Per Second. 😀

Anywho, that’s lots of fun. Naturally, I had to try some rendering on it. TrueSpace was virtually useless as a test. It’s never been optimized to work any better with multiple cores, so it renders achingly slowly no matter how many you have. Blender, meanwhile, is a whole other story. I rendered a lightsaber I made a couple years ago. On my old rig, this took a few minutes to render. On the new one, it takes between 41 and 42 seconds. 😀


So, I’m happy. 😀 😀

Also, I was mentioning the rendering thing and showing that image on 3DSciFi and a friend of mine asked where I got the brushed metal texture for the ‘saber. So, I told him I made it and told him I’d write a tutorial. So, I did. There’s a new tutorial at the top of the page called “Brushed Metal Texture.” It’s a short tutorial and will only take a few minutes to complete.

You know you’re a geek when…

…you pay $14.99 + $3.00 S&H for this bad boy on eBay:

I bought a copy of it new back in 1998 with the other cover:

Unfortunately, that went MIA years ago, so I decided to get another copy. It said NM (Near Mint) on the sale listing and they weren’t kidding. I doubt the one I bought back in 1998 would have been in that good shape by now. 😉 I know $14.99 may seem like a lot to some people but it’s not to a Trekkie and X-Men fan who wants to get a piece of the good ol’ days back. 😀

Also, those pics are courtesy of my new camera:

And, since the camera obviously didn’t take a picture of itself, those pics are courtesy of my Samsung Galaxy Note:

(It’s a PADD :D)

The Note was a recent purchase. I went to Best Buy and exchanged my Kindle Fire for it because I didn’t like the Fire that well as a reader or as a tablet. So, I also got a regular Kindle:

(Also a PADD :D)

Anywho, having fun. Alas, still no CGI lately.