I have a question for whoever reads this:
I’ll soon be working with a Silverstone TJ07B, and I’ll be modifying its interior (I’m simply not excited by the naked aluminum finish of the interior structure of the case). The question, therefore, is: Should I paint the interior panels flat black, or should I cover the interior panels completely with carbon fiber film?
I have functional experience in doing either modification, but as far as choosing what to do for this particular project, I’m finding it impossible to choose.
Please register a response, comment, or opinion on the question. It would help me a ton!
In case you didn’t know, whichever course I take I’ll be documenting the progress of the project on this blog.
Many thanks for any and all responses!
I’ll be back.
I’ve been away too long, but I’ll be rebooting soon and will hopefully be better than ever.
A brief update, after a very long time away:
I’ve not been active on the blogosphere lately. Life has happened while I was busy making other plans, to pinch a line from John Lennon. All of my blogs have seen a reduction in activity.
This will soon change, especially on this particular blog.
Very soon, this blog will be quite a bit more active than it has ever been. I can’t say precisely yet how or why this is going to happen, except to drop the hint that the substantial increase in activity will be due to the involvement of a well-known, highly-regarded PC accessories manufacturer.
Discretion demands I not reveal precisely the name of the manufacturer at this time; some details have not yet been finalized, and some T’s need to be crossed and some I’s need to be dotted. What I CAN say, however, is that this is something akin to a realization of a personal dream for me. What’s coming up, hopefully imminently, is so much COOLER than cool, I’m just dying to let the cat out of the bag. It’s taking all of my self-control to MASTER my excitement over what is coming soon.
This blog will still be about the art of technology, how something you don’t necessarily associate with aesthetics and beautiful can still be wondrous to the senses. Technology and design will always be a melding of art and science for me, and so I will try to express things I put into this blog in that specific context.
So, yeah, please be patient, my dear reader. We’re turning the page and starting a new chapter in this blog. I know it’s going to be a great adventure, and I can only hope that you will be there with me.
It has been a while since I last posted on this blog. One reason is the fact that my writing energies have been directed at three other projects. Another reason is the simple fact that lately there have been preciously few things technological that have captured my aesthetic sensibilities. In fact, the only new technological object which has really captured my attention of late (and stimulated my ridiculously stunted capability to acquire an example thereof) is Corsair’s latest computer case, the Corsair Obsidian 650D.
Rather perversely, my tech aesthetic radar lately has been focused far more on examples of technology gone wrong. Human beings, of course, are imperfect. So it stands to reason that our technological creations are likewise tainted with imperfections as well. No matter how much we try, there is no such thing as a “perfect” technological artifact.
Here is a short list of examples:
Thought to be the best ocean-going vessel ever built, an emblem of man’s ingenuity through the application of superior engineering and technology, it instead lost out in a joust with an object born from nature. It took many of its passengers on its final voyage down to its watery grave.
With a name reminiscent of a noble race of native Mesoamericans, it instead became a consensus choice as “ugliest automotive design ever” according to numerous surveys. At least its name is spelled differently from the now-extinct ancient empire.
Auto-Tune is one of those abominations which gives birth to further abominations. It’s a shortcut, a cheat; instead of requiring an aspiring singer to learn the art and craft of singing, it instead manipulates recorded audio signals so that pitch and other properties are corrected and therefore hit the right notes and stay on the appropriate rhythms. In my mind, Auto-Tune is like herpes: It’s the gift that keeps on giving, even though nobody in his/her right mind really wants it.
Here’s proof of the horrific result of using Auto-Tune:
Well, there you go. A short list of some horrific products of our technology. They were meant to perform well, to do things better than ever before. Instead, they’ve become emblematic of disasters, or the butt of jokes, or the source of consternation amongst those who appreciate what it is to be a true aesthetic success. I’m sure there are many, many more. But the truth is, this was meant to be a somewhat light-hearted hop around some of humanity’s worst inventions and products of technology.
A brief disclaimer of sorts before signing off: By mentioning the RMS Titanic, I mean absolutely no disrespect to the people who perished when it sank. I can just see how someone might suggest that I am making light of the disaster that the sinking of the Titanic has come to represent.
Sometimes people in the computing industry make me chuckle wryly. I get a certain degree of amusement when I see certain codenames of certain product lines.
My favorite example of this came in the mid-1990s, when AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) transformed from being a company that designed and built Intel-clone microprocessors to designing and building their own unique chips. The first all-new AMD microarchitecture design was designated the K5.
You might be wondering, what is the significance of the “K” designation?
Believe it or not, “K” stands for “Kryptonite.” Yes, it’s a reference to the very same Kryptonite of DC Universe comic book lore. It’s an artful way of saying that AMD’s product lines are meant to be deadly to the Intel “Superman” equivalent. If you think I’m joking, just look at wikipedia’s “Kryptonite” disambiguation page (it’s the third entry from the top).
I couldn’t make this stuff up!
Anyway, it’s an old game that the computer industry has been playing, poking fun at each other with these product line codenames that they choose.
Right now, the newest round of the game is set to be unleashed to the market place. The Goliath Intel is set to release its newest series of product, codenamed Sandy Bridge. It will feature an integrated graphics processor built into the main CPU package.
In answer, AMD is going to introduce its Bulldozer series. As part of its over-arching Fusion platform, it too will feature graphics processor modules integrated with the main processor package.
Sandy Bridges and Bulldozers? I guess the idea is that the Bulldozer is supposed to be able to topple a Sandy Bridge with ease…
Don’t you just love marketing departments?
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve messed with anything to do with S939.
Well… that’s not quite true. I installed Windows 7 on a S939-based desktop over at my parents’ house a couple of weeks ago. But I did absolutely no overclocking with that machine. It’s running at stock speed.
But lately I’ve been feeling that itch to overclock a S939-based machine. It’s a familiar and welcome feeling, to be honest. And it’s absolutely exciting.
I recently sold my A8N32-SLI Deluxe, which was actually one of my absolute favorite motherboards. My very first motherboard, in fact, was another A8N32-SLI Deluxe; the one I recently sold off was a replacement under warranty for the original, which had incurred some damage some years ago.
So, to scratch this newly-incurred overclocking itch, which motherboard was I going to use?
I actually have a small collection of S939 motherboards:
- Abit KN8-SLI (it used to be the basis of my father’s primary PC; I’m looking to sell it, though I’m a little reluctant since it’s a monster overclocker)
- DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-DR (broken – its primary SATA/RAID controller looks to have been damaged)
- DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-DR Expert (virgin, though it may need a new CMOS battery on account of its age)
- DFI LANParty UT CFX32oo-DR #1 (as with the SLI-DR Expert, it likely will need a new CMOS battery)
- DFI LANParty UT CFX3200-DR #2 (used)
Yes, I’ve got two of the CFX3200-DRs. The first one I acquired I’ve already dabbled with a couple of years ago. I had mixed results with it, to be honest. On the one hand, I was able to take an Opteron 170 from its stock speed of 2.00GHz up to 2.80GHz; that’s a pretty cool 40% hike in CPU clock speed. And that was with a fairly heavy-handed stab at overclocking (basically just goosing up the CPU core voltage without any other refined adjustments).
Sadly, though, when I tried a more surgical approach to overclocking with it (which is my more usual approach, to be honest), the motherboard started exhibiting a lot of instability. After studying and analyzing the symptoms, my research very strongly suggested that the symptoms were typical of quite a few examples of the CFX3200-DR. Suffice it to say that it was likely a congenital defect in at least some of the CFX3200-DRs which left the DFI factory.
I’ve never really been satisfied with my experience with my older CFX3200-DR. I’ve always had the highest hopes for this particular model, if only because I had read enough stories about it to suggest that, when it was working right, it was one of the very best S939 overclocking motherboards ever. Obviously, I want to see if mine qualifies for that description.
Most people probably would have given up on the CFX3200-DR by now; they are probably more sensible folk than I am. Me, I want to exhaust every possibility and explore every solution before I admit defeat. So when I read that some CFX3200-DRs which misbehaved when they were in Windows XP magically started working a lot better in newer versions of Windows (Vista, 7), well… to say I was most intrigued would be a gigantic understatement.
And so that brings us to the here and now.
I’ve got the ability to now to test the CFX3200-DR in both Vista and Windows 7.
I now can see for myself whether or not the reports I read are true.
Can I have a fully-functional and stable, and overclocked, CFX3200-DR-based system?
We’ll find out in the coming weeks and months.
I’ll be documenting the journey of discovery in this blog as I proceed.
I’ve dubbed this adventure Project: Lazarus, named, of course, after the Biblical figure who miraculously was raised from the dead. I hope to be able to resurrect my older CFX3200-DR.
Here are a few photographs of the project so far:
The CFX3200-DR, just after I removed it from its old case. It will be re-mounted in a Silverstone TJ09-BW.
Here’s a closeup of a naked AMD Opteron 170 mounted in the CPU socket:
So that is Project: Lazarus. Hopefully I’ll find some satisfaction at the end of what promises to be a most illuminating adventure.
Mark Twain once remarked, “The clothes make the man.”
A person’s clothes are often amongst the first things that create that all-important “first impression.” Could you imagine yourself going to that much-sought after job interview you’ve been pining for dressed in a flamboyant Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, and sandals? Probably not, unless you were asked to do so in an interview for the Islands restaurant chain or something.
The notion of propriety, a sense of what is appropriate for the purpose or circumstances at hand, is what I’m getting at here. Propriety basically functions as the context and as a primary governing principle when it comes to determining what is appropriate.
In the world of performance computing enthusiasts, there is an analogue to that famous portion of Mark Twain’s quote. Often a computer’s status as an objet d’art is expressed primarily by what our eyes see first, the case which holds the computer’s components within.
A computer case is, in essence, simply a chassis on which various bits of the machine are hung, a box designed to contain and protect these bits from the potentially ravaging effects of the environment. So how can something so apparently prosaic, so ordinary in function ever be considered something with artistic merits?
I suppose this notion is a bit on the pretentious side, but bear with me. After all, until fairly recently, most computers were also called “beige boxes,” a pejorative term that does nothing but sustain the idea that a computer is nothing more than just electronic bits inside a literally beige box made of steel, some aluminum, and a lot of cheap plastic.
Back when PCs were synonymous with the term “boring beige box,” that’s really what they were. Not everyone owned one, much less used one; it was a specialist’s tool, acquired at great expense usually drawn from a corporate budget. We didn’t use a PC to do something as ordinary as write letters to people or papers for school. We used either a pen/pencil, or a typewriter or a word processor if you needed the project to be anything but handwritten. Even engineers and designers didn’t use PCs when they worked, generally speaking; they sat at a drafting table with their pantographs and pencils.
In fashion terms, you might equate the boring beige box to, I don’t know, something akin to a Victorian-era outfit. Sure, it was functional enough to do the job, but there was a decidedly ugly and unsexy.
(No offense intended to those who have a taste and appreciation for Victorian-era clothing, of course.)
Things sure have changed greatly.
I don’t really know precisely when it happened, but for sure the boring beige box met that most inevitable of fates that most things technological meet: It became obsolete.
Obsolescence is the ultimate conclusion of most products of our technology; this is particularly true of anything to do with computers. Things just progress and evolve so rapidly, and yesterday’s awesome kit is today’s has-been. Nothing lasts forever when it comes to the world of computers.
The boring beige box was no different, and so it gave way to an assortment of forms.
The beige box became the white box, which really was just the first custom personal computer.
The white boxes evolved, acquiring some color and character.
Then the PC gamer case exploded onto the scene. Molded plastic clipped onto the steel bare chassis defined the look of the early days of this stage of the PC case’s aesthetic evolution.
Cases styled like the Raidmax Scorpio pictured above were all the rage from the early 2000s until the middle of the decade. Garish styling sensibilities seemed to owe much to the 1950s era of American automobiling. Over-the-top styling was the name of the game, especially in the rapidly mushrooming market sector now known as the performance computing enthusiast sector. Case windows with stylized cutouts and fascias that looked like the faces of gigantic mecha/robots were all the rage. And the kids ate it all up.
(I blame Alienware for not only strongly reinforcing and encouraging that PC case styling trend back then, but also for continuing to do so to this very day.)
Meanwhile, in another corner of the personal computer market space, Apple showed that styling and design for computer cases need not be an exercise in excess. The Apple iMacs were a demonstration of the design ethos that simplicity can be beautiful.
Yet no matter how easy on the eyes Apple’s designs were, their products of the time were undeniably anemic in pure performance terms compared to their PC (i.e., non-Apple PCs) counterparts. Then Apple unleashed the Power Mac G5 and its more powerful sister, the Mac Pro, with their monolithic yet beautiful, powerful, and sleek case styling.
The Power Mac G5/Mac Pro’s case styling is simply classical to me. The perforations all over the case’s fascia may remind some of a cheese-grater, but I personally love the look simply because this is a perfect example of where form absolutely complements function. The holes facilitate the intake of air into the case, which helps keep the hot electronic bits cool and therefore stable. To my eyes and sensibilities, this is a near-perfect marriage of a design’s details and the larger concept governing why things look the way they do. Nothing looks tacked on, and everything that’s there plays a very specific role.
Some PC case vendors were evidently inspired by Apple’s Mac Pro and came up with their own iterations on the theme of form’s perfect marriage with function. My favorite example of this was Lian Li’s PC-Vxxx series of cases.
I really loved Lian Li’s PC-Vxxx series from the mid-2000s. I loved these designs so much I wanted to own at least one of these. They were, and still are, considered to be analogous to a Lamborghini or a Ferrari: They’re luxury items, yes, but when you run your hands all over them, when you start to use them, you instantly know where your money went. Lian Lis are crafted from aluminum, which partly explains why they’re expensive (aluminum is more expensive to shape than steel is due to the metal’s properties. It’s also lighter than steel.). Fortunately, in 2008, just when the original PC-Vxxx series was on the verge of being discontinued, I was able to acquire both a PC-V1000B and a PC-V2000B.
I’ve seen many dozens of computer cases, but this family of design is still one of my all-time favorites.
The mid-2000s saw a proliferation of really outstanding PC aesthetics. Some of the highlights include Antec’s P180:
Cooler Master’s ATCS 840:
The Silverstone TJ07 and TJ09:
The late part of the first decade of the 2000s saw even more excellent designs that are destined to be classics. One of my favorites: The Corsair Obsidian 700D.
These are by no means the only PC cases that look good. But these are my personal favorites, cases which I wish I had the money to buy without any qualms or reservations. They make a strong first impression, all of them, and they each convey a certain character. Definitely not boring, like the beige boxes or white boxes of yore. Sexy, to my eyes at least. Definitely functional, all of them, if all imperfect in some way.
This wasn’t meant as a strictly chronological romp through the evolution of PC case designs. Rather, this was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek, if ultimately serious, run-through of your author’s thoughts on the continuing evolution of PC case design.
What are your thoughts? Please share them in the Comments section, and let’s get a discussion going!
It’s been a long time since I’ve built a PC for myself (as opposed to building one for someone else). The last complete machine I built was an AM3 790FX-based machine. I used an AMD Phenom II X4 965 (C2) quad-core for the CPU, a MSI 790FX-GD70 for the motherboard, and 4GBs of G.Skill F3-10666CL7 Ripjaws RAM.
The system has three 750GB Western Digital hard drives; one HDD is for the OS and programs, while the other two are purely for data storage. All this is housed in a Lian Li PC-V1000B, which I bought a couple of years ago just before it was discontinued. The video card is a Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 (1GB VRAM version, not the 2GB VRAM version I linked to), and the whole machine is powered by an Antec TruePower Quattro TPQ850 850W power supply.
Many of these parts were actually reused and re-purposed from a previous machine I had also built, one which had its SATA/RAID controller break, rendering the RAID 0 array I built pretty much useless (unless I bought and used the identical motherboard, which was I was unwilling to do given the age of the motherboard’s technology).
This machine has been running trouble-free ever since late February 2010 and represents a bit of a departure of sorts for me. You see, I had been using AMD‘s old yet classic Socket 939 ever since 2006, the year I built my first custom PC. At that time, S939 was pretty much the top of the tree when it came to performance computing. By the beginning of 2007, however, AMD’s mighty rival, Intel, had regained its position as the performance leader in the personal computer market segment with its Core 2 CPU designs. Intel has remained the class leader in performance and market share ever since.
All through this time between 2006 and 2010, I had not been tempted to change my own computing platform. My S939-based machines (I had several; I tended to have specialized machines during those years, and I usually had at least two PCs operational simultaneously) offered enough performance to satisfy my needs. Even in gaming, which is a fairly intensive activity for PCs, my S939 gamer played like a champ.
I learned the black art of overclocking with my S939 machines. Accordingly, all of my S939 machines ran faster than stock. Truth be told, that was a source of pride, knowing that my PCs were hot-rodded, running faster than what the factory had intended.
I had two favorite S939 machines. One was my first, a rig based on the ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe.
My other favorite S939 motherboard was the venerable DFI LANParty UT nF4-SLI DR.
I learned most of my overclocking craft and built up my knowledge using the ASUS. I learned so much with that machine, including the imperatives of system and sub-system cooling and the intricacies of the myriad RAM settings. I used quite a gamut of CPUs on the A8N32-SLI Deluxe, as well as quite a few CPU coolers, RAM kits, and video cards. The highlights as far as CPUs are concerned include the Athlon64 4000+ (“San Diego” in AMD CPU core nomenclature), which was the first CPU I used on the system; the Athlon64 X2 4400+ (“Toledo”), which was my first dual-core CPU; the Opteron 165 (“Denmark”), a monster overclocking dual-CPU chip that was virtually identical to the Toledo CPUs in terms of features and design; and finally the Opteron 170. Amongst the CPU coolers I used on the board were the Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro, the Thermalright Ultra 120, and the Noctua NH-U12P. By the time I retired that system (there was absolutely nothing wrong with the machine when I decided to retire it, incidentally), the CPU was being cooled by a Thermalright SI-128SE.
I built my final S939 machine (so far, anyway) on the DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-DR. This wasn’t my first DFI motherboard, having started on my DFI journey with the nF4 SLI-DR’s little brother, the LANParty UT nF4 Ultra-D. Visually, there was very little difference between the nF4 SLI-DR and the nF4 Ultra-D; indeed, the only differences of note were in the chipsets’ video capabilities out of the factory (the nF4 SLI-DR was capable of SLI, as the name suggests; the Ultra-D was not), and the nF4 SLI-DR had more SATA ports (8) than the Ultra-D (4). (Incidentally, the “R” designation in this family of motherboards indicates the presence of the four extra SATA ports, which increased the motherboard’s capabilities of hosting RAID arrays). That final S939 machine had the HD 4850 X2 as its video card, was powered by the same TPQ-850 PSU, and was housed in the same PC-V1000B that my current AM3 system is presently in. I built that machine in late 2008 – early 2009.
I broke my RAID cherry with the nF4 SLI-DR, running a RAID 0 array for the OS+programs with a pair of Western Digital 150 VelociRaptors. I also ran the system with a “naked” Opteron 170 (that is, a CPU with its IHS – integrated heat spreader – removed for optimized cooling) clocked up to 3.0GHz. Actually, I’d been running naked CPUs for a few years now, having built up my confidence in performing the necessary surgery on several CPUs I ran with the A8N32-SLI Deluxe (a selection of Opterons I had collected through the years and sold off). Finally, I also ran Windows Vista on this machine, a bit of a departure for me since I’d been running nothing but Windows XP since my first build in 2006.
I loved this machine. It was wickedly fast and responsive. The RAID 0 array probably accounted for most of the perceptible improvements in responsiveness. I truly enjoyed using this machine, and it was a source of great personal pride.
Unfortunately, the motherboard’s SATA/RAID controller broke, and I couldn’t boot into the OS any longer. Thankfully, all my data were safe (housed as they were on separate hard drives and backed up on my data server). I could have recovered this system if I had an identical motherboard model on hand, or if I had another motherboard with the same chipset. Lacking neither, I decided to finally move on from Socket 939 and move onto the brave new world of AM3.
I don’t think I’m done with S939 just yet, though. There are one or two things I’d like to do with a system on this platform before I completely divorce myself from it. Perhaps the greatest challenge in front of me is to see if I can get one particular DFI S939 motherboard working properly. I have a LANParty UT CFX3200-DR, and when I first ran it it was the single most frustrating motherboard I had ever encountered. My research into my challenges with this system suggested that there was something fundamentally flawed with this particular model, but I also found some rather intriguing workarounds to the problems I encountered (they had to do with the motherboard’s primary SATA controller).
If/when I decide to work with my CFX3200, I’ll tell everyone about it in this blog.
Until next time!
I suppose I’m a man with many different passions. As such, I am often moved to write about them. I already have a blog dedicated to discussions on sports, as well as a more personal kind of blog that documents my thoughts and feelings about certain events and people from my personal life. I love sports, and I love life and people, so I write about them.
I also have a huge enthusiasm for technology and engineering. That should explain why I feel the need to expand my blogging reach to writing about my thoughts and opinions on various technological topics. I have a very wide spectrum of interests when it comes to technology, so I hope my ability to discuss these interests will reflect that diversity.
More than anything, though, I hope to be able to convey my genuine enthusiasm for the subjects I will be writing about. Perhaps this is an enthusiasm and fascination we can share together!