New Computer Build: End of Q1 Edition


We ended making a gigantic Fry’s run to build a new a computer a couple of weeks back because old faithful had been in the process of giving up the ghost for a about a year and some change. for those who are curious: It was a combination of 0x124 BSODs for hal.dll (hardware abstraction layer), random restarts, and lockups; BSODs most often with no discernible pattern other than it always occurs when I am doing something and never idle (albeit minor tasks like clicking on a link). It would choose to crash/restart about once every hour or two at the rate of about one day out of every two or three months (and then be fine for another month or two and then repeat the cycle).

As of late, the cycle has become more frequent (it was happening about once a week). I have narrowed the issue down to some piece of hardware, either the PSU or the motherboard (extensively tested everything else). I am pretty sure that it’s the motherboard that was going bad based on other issues this machine has been having. But, long story short: New computer toy time \o/. This build is what I ended up going with. Several compromises were made in interest of being able to pick everything up at Fry’s in one trip (and not having to deal with package delivery and pickup):

Component Item Price (approx)
CPU Intel Core i7-2600 3.4GHz $299.99
Motherboard Asus P8Z68-V/GEN3 ATX LGA1155 $179.99
Memory Samsung 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 Memory $45.00
Graphics XFX 1GB HD 6870 (from old PC) N/A
Storage Primary: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5″ 7200RPM
Data: WD Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM (from old PC) N/A
Optical: SAMSUNG SH-S223B (from old PC) N/A
PSU Corsair 850W ATX12V $189.99
Case Antec P280 ATX
Cooling  Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $29.33
Sound Asus Xonar Essence STX (from old PC) N/A

I am reusing my video card, soundcard, optical drive (HTPC has a Blu-Ray drive, don’t need one for this machine), media HDD, and two of my case fans. It is kind of tempting to pick up another HD 6870 to go crossfire because those cards do not cost too much (and just for the sake of running with two VGA cards). Overall though, I know that I am probably better off going for a single card solution. The 680 looks nice, but I don’t feel like dropping half a grand on even more computer parts independent of the fact that it is effectively sold out everywhere.

I am a pretty big fan of Antec’s Performance One case line; My previous two cases being the p180 and p182. They are great at dampening fan noise among other things but anyone who has ever worked with these cases probably knows how much of a pain in the ass they are to build with in regards the the general lack of able routing options in combination with the chamber partitioning (routing all PSU cabling through one or two holes without the benefit of a modular PSU is a small nightmare).

The p280 on the other hand was so much easier to work with. It is first of all, way lighter (by about 10lbs) due to changes with the internal design (no more partitioning or drive cages). It is a bit wider and deeper than the 183; Roomy enough to fit a long video card and route wires without any issues. For example, the SATA ports on my motherboard are located along the right edge, which would be hard to reach in most cases but easy in the 182. Also there are, at long last, cutouts that allow you to route cables behind the motherboard.

Speaking of which, I really do wish that the CPU power hookup wasn’t located at the way way top of the board. That is fine for most cases, but since the p280 has a bottom loaded PSU (though without the partitioning, good riddance), it was impossible for me to route that one cable behind the motherboard as intended.. Eyesore.

Oh also: Modular PSUs are nice. (Build photos are included below in the full post)

We learned not to forget to do a quick power on test of the board before mounting everything in the case after discovering that the original HTPC mobo was DOA…

The case interior has a nice finish. Optical drive bays (top right) are completely toolless by the way. This was about as clean and cableless that I cared to get it.

Fan wiring for the top and back fans go out through the back.

Fan speed controls are on the top right. There are two speeds: slow and fast. I haven’t noticed any significant temperature difference between the two speeds so I just keep them both on low.

Unlike the p182, all fan filters are removable. Pop it off and run it underneath the sink. Very easy to clean. Those two fans by the way, did not come with the case: The orange one, from Noctua, was pulled off of my old case. The bottom black one is a spare Scythe that I had in my pile. Both move a decent amount of air and are dead silent.

….the 5.25″ floppy drive is a tradition. It’s like the President. It’s not really Airforce One without the President.

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer No Interactions Bug

This happens to other people, right? Every once in a while (one out of every 8 to 10 games) the game will glitch out in such a way that I will not be able to interact with anything on the map. As in, unable to resurrect downed players, damage enemies, climb ladders, receive ammo or cap objectives. It doesn’t happen too bad in this video since it eventually seems to go away after dying and being resurrected. Most of the time though, I end up quitting out of the match. Unsure if it’s a glitch or just dodgy ass netcode. I had assumed that I was joining a game with a host on a bad connection, but we were hosting this game and the bug was inconsistent.

The Apple Magic Trackpad & Windows 7

Just in case anyone else was curious, here is all of the collective knowledge that I was able to gather in regards to getting the Apple Magic Trackpad device to work in Windows 7 (64-bit in my case). It’s not really that hard, but the device seems to be somewhat finicky and just about every guide I read left out at least one critical piece of information. All of the one finger gestures and most of the two finger gestures will work on Windows 7. A compatibility chart can be found on this Apple KB Article.

I have seen two separate sets of instructions: What I typed below and another set that told me to rename the .bin file to an executable. I was able to install the drivers by renaming the .bin, but the trackpad would only function as a basic mouse without any gestures or any tapping. Anyway, the instructions below worked flawlessly for me.

  1. Download, but do not install the Boot Camp Software Update. Here are the download links for 32-bit Windows and 64-bit Windows.
  2. Extract ‘BootCamp_3.2_64-bit.exe’ with 7-zip. Doing so should create a file called ‘BootCampUpdate64.msp’.
  3. Extract or navigate into the MSP file and find the ‘BootCamp3200aToBootCamp3200’ folder.
  4. Look for the ‘Binary.AppleWirelessTrackpad_Bin’ file which is in itself yet another compressed item. Decompress the contents of this file into a folder.
  5. Look for DPInst.exe and run it.

Several things:

  • I don’t think that the trackpad will work with anything but the Microsoft Bluetooth stack. So, if you have 3rd party drivers installed, consider removing them. If you are having trouble getting the Microsoft drivers to install, this program is supposed to work: Bluetooth Driver Installer.
  • If you have the Motionjoy bluetooth drivers install, you may have to delete them manually out of the Device Manager since the drivers remain even after uninstalling the software itself. For some reason, the trackpad would only pair as a motionjoy gamepad so long as said drivers were installed. All of this by the way was occurring while I was attempting to install the trackpad on the third party bluetooth drivers, so I don’t know if there is actually any conflict at all.
  • The pairing code for the trackpad is ‘0000’.

If you wish to customize the trackpad, this program works pretty well.

Tribes Ascend Beta


I have been playing Tribes Ascend a lot lately, or more accurately: a lot pre-Mass Effect 3 (forgot to publish this entry :P). Admittedly, for whatever reason, this game is my first real descent into the Tribes series. The game itself is a free-to-play class based science fiction themed multiplayer FPS. It is currently in open beta with a slated release date for early/mid April (the 12th I think).

Tribes’ unique movement system is what sets it apart from the standard fair of copypaste shooters currently available on the market. The game experience has a whole is literally almost constant high speed movement. If you are new to the series, it isn’t a bad idea to run through the movement tutorial to review skiing and jetpacking basics before jumping online. It’s not difficult or anything, but the game doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you do not have a grasp on the movement concept. If there is a downside, I guess it is that almost every other online shooter will seem like a slow speed camp fest in comparison.

I had the beta sitting on my computer for quite some time, but started playing quite a bit after the big update in early February which more-or-less overhauled most of the interface and added an assortment of interesting new things (classes, weapons, and the like). The skill trees were nixed in favor of a more straightforward linear upgrade system and the interface looks just way way way less of a clusterfuck. As a whole it feels like a much more polished game.

Vehicles at the moment, unless this has changed, are purely call-in perks. As such, they really aren’t utilized all that much. Basically, it’s pretty rare to see anyone use a vehicle which is a kind of a shame because they are cool. Learning to lead shots takes some time to get used to. It’s fun, it’s (mostly) free, it’s fast paced and a breath of fresh air. Random video footage below: