Archives for November 2012

In My Weekend Gaming Digital Hands


So I have been in Atlanta all week on business, working 12+ hour days and eating like a king for five straight days (oh, and a ride in the corporate jet). But long days like that on the road leave little time for my hands to touch gaming keyboards, so I’m looking forward to seeing my beautiful wife and kids again, and once they’re all comfortably tucked away in bed, getting a little “me time” with Borderlands 2 and Mr. Torgues Campaign of Carnage.

What will you be playing this weekend?

Lumia 920

So I just picked up a Lumia 920 and I am pleasantly pleased with this fine work of art.

I post this because I am going to be looking forward to playing some Windows Phone games on it. If you hear of any you would like a review of shoot me a message or comment here.

We’ve Got a Heartbeat!

It is with excitement, relief, and a slight sense of pride that this post has been composed and posted from my new computer. What was originally a collection of pieces parts in their own respective packaging is now a functional – albeit neutered (…temporarily. I shall explain.) – rig that makes me giggle just to look at. I am very grateful for the generosity of my parents for shouldering the greater burden of cost. I had originally thought Indy’s Bullet wouldn’t be built until well after the 2013 tax season. So it came as a delightful surprise when last week at Thanksgiving Pops pulled me aside saying, ‘Let’s go shopping tomorrow’. Indeed! Wandering around MicroCenter with Papa Bear and a shopping cart for close to two hours on Black Friday 2012 will forever be a fond memory. Awesome. Now, on to some pictures.

In the end, the main objective of the trip to MicroCenter was to purchase the necessary parts to get up and running. A graphics card can wait. Another hard drive can be added. RAM can easily be swapped. My dad kept me grounded in the decision-making process. Pictured here is not a barebones rig, though.  Despite the absence of a GPU, the i5 and P8Z77 are a slammin combo. It’s been close to a week now and I am continually amazed at how well this rig can pull its own weight. I may not even bother buying a separate graphics card after all. The previous sentence is a lie.

Installing the CPU was the most nerve-wrecking part. There’s a whole lotta pins that have to fit exactly into a whole lotta slots. I’ve got jittery fingers to begin with, and knowing this made me all the more nervous. One minor slip – one bent pin – and   I would have wept for a week. Seeing as how we’re now a week later and I can listen to a Paul Simon CD through headphones while a demo of Crusader Kings II downloads and updating USB 3.0 drivers all simultaneously testifies that I did not screw anything up. Awesome sauce.

Yojimboz and xJonesicusx were there, too. They did stuff.

 

So, funny n00b story: We learned that 2-pin molex no likey 4-pin molex the hard way. The faceplate of the MSI case HAD (note the tense usage) a separate USB charger slot. Fried that sucker like we was havin’ it for supper. We were getting all headlong and just started connecting stuff to the PSU – This 2-pin case connector just didn’t seem to want to go into the 4-pin of the PSU – maybe if we push harder… On first bootup the abundance of smoke looked pretty groovy being lit by the case’s deep blue LEDs. We tried to patch up the lead and try a different connector but yielded the same smoldering result. So now there’s an orange USB slot on the faceplate looking all eager and useful. This ultimately could have just been a problem of plug compatibly between case and PSU. We searched fervently for a provided adapter but to no avail.

Despite the folly of n00bishness, the end product didn’t turn out too shabby. I removed all four of the tool-less 3.25″ drive bays to help air flow as well as providing extra space for unused PSU cables. I intend to pick up an aftermarket CPU cooler in the future. My only concern at this point is whether or not the GPU will have sufficient length clearance – there’s a whole lot going on in that tight little area…

Here’s a closeup shot of the concerned area. I kept the SSD in one of the bays, attached some Velcro on the back of the bay, and stuck it to the bottom of the 5.25″ bay area. This way I’m only using one SATA power cable for both the optical drive and SSD. I gotta tell ya: SSD’s are great! All that initial driver updating was a breeze when the windows boot screen doesn’t even have a chance to finish its animation before the desktop loads. Golly. And my new Hearts of Iron III campaign loads in a fraction of the time compared to what I’m used to. Good times.

Beautiful Skyrim

James pointed me to a post over at the PC Gamer Blog showing off some STUNNING enhancements that are possible with Skyrim.

It’s no surprise that the modding community was going to tear into Skyrim and tweak every nook and cranny and really improve upon it. Bethesda and Steam facilitated that, to their credit. But I’m actually beyond amazed what has already taken place.

What has me more interested is what the PC Gamer writer says: “Keep in mind that when that grass fills the screen Unreal reports framerates as low as 5 fps, so super-modded Skyrim isn’t always playable. But think of it as a preview of the near-future.” This is what really excites me. The near future. I’m still torn between becoming a full-time PC gamer and a console gamer. But the thought of what the next Xbox or Playstation is going to be capable of makes the graphics whore in me giddy beyond belief.

Seriously, just look at these beautiful images. Now to pick one for the new PC background.

Planning a PC Build Before the End of the World

For over a decade now I have had an itching desire to construct myself a gaming PC – burning, even, probably from all that itching. Indeed, a computer that would facilitate ultra graphic settings; where I don’t even have to consider a game’s system requirements or even recommendation because the rig would be so slammin’. I’ve had my fair share of personal computers, be they gifted or shared or hand-me-downed, and am forever grateful for my time with them. And they weren’t utilized just for gaming. I taught myself the basics of HTML4, maintained a couple of websites, and dabbled in Photoshop, Visual Basic. A Compaq Presario was, amongst other things, my tap into the wonders of mIRC where I discovered a whole musical genre that I will take to my grave. This here HP Pavilion laptop, now 5 years old and running strong, has facilitated just about every computational task our family has ever needed… except running Black & White 2 or Medieval II: Total War or DreamFall. So, for as useful and pragmatic as these confangled doohickeys are for pretty much every facet of life, my main desire has always been to use them to game, though I haven’t always been able to be indiscriminate to system requirements.

But for whatever reasons I’ve never actually given myself the opportunity to build one. So, leave it to recent case of envy for my little brother’s ad hoc rig to help motivate me to get this project in gear. Plus, the world is ending in a month so why not go out with a bang? I’ve spent the last couple of months reading up and shopping around, and if more than anything else this has been a fun research project. The power and price of personal computing these days is enticing. What follows, then, is a glance at my thought processes towards what I want, what I can get and finding the happy space in between. Nothing has yet been purchased; this is all theoretical.

As a quick illustration to what I want my new computer to be, please watch the following clip:


Bam. Right there. Indy’s reaction. Love it.

I continue to read about these maxed out $5000 gaming systems – donning black and red color schemes, looking menacing, swinging weapons garishly to and fro –  and, although I do not doubt their superior computing power, I know there’s a more practical and economical way of freaking playing StarCraft 2. For this reason, my new system will assume the moniker ‘Indy’s Bullet’. Indy’s Bullet will be tight, precise and will get the job done. It will be forward-compatible. And it will be built from the following parts: (*NOTE: I’m still learning, please correct and/or suggest where necessary)

CPU – Intel i5 3750K

Motherboard – ASUS P8Z77-V PRO (no Thunderbolt)

I am listing these two main components together because I will be purchasing them at MicroCenter, thusly introducing a major variable to the construction of Indy’s Bullet. MicroCenter is within reasonable distance of me. Purchasing as much as I can from this at-a-loss retailer would only be wise. MC has a combo deal where they will automatically knock off $50 from the price of a motherboard with the purchase of a CPU. Plus, such a close proximity would be extremely advantageous should any part be defective and a plan of action for returns need to go into effect, which I am accepting as a very real possibility.

As per the Intel vs. AMD debate: I’m going with Intel because of reasons… And that’ll be the end of that. Plus, MicroCenter sells these babies at close to $40-$50 less than online stores. Win/Win so far. I’m choosing this model because 1) Ivy Bridge supports PCI-e 3.0, which is necessary for GPU(s), 2) i7 will just be overkill and 3) it is unlocked, and I find this appealing because I want to tinker with overclocking. And overclocking wouldn’t be possible if my motherboard is shoddy.

Yes. I have spent more time researching motherboards than I have any other component. After a great deal of pondering I’ve decided on the P8Z77- PRO because, compared to competing mid-level mobos, this board is more about focused performance than bells & whistles. Indeed, I do not need freaking six USB 3.0 ports. Although, it does come with a Wi-Fi antennae – Asus touting that Indy’s Bullet could also serve as a wireless router ( for what it’s worth this is appealing as our current wireless router is crap). But, back to performance: can overclock memory to 2800; two SATA 6gb/s; two PCI-e 3.0. It has a back-up BIOS, which is good in case I royally screw something up while overclocking. The P8Z77-PRO also has independent fan control, appealing to gamer and tree-hugger alike. And it has this new VirtuMVP technology which, if I understand correctly, will also help with power consumption and contribute to longevity of the GPU.

GPU – Gigabyte GV-N670C-2GD NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 2048MB GDDR5 PCIe 3.0 x16

Translation: Bottom of the top tier of video cards, or top of the middle tier video cards. I am intentionally rounding down on all other computer components to finance this powerful tool. I am choosing NVIDIA because, more than anything, I’ve just been hearing too many scary stories about Radeon cards, especially when it comes to tweaking. There’s also a 4GB model for about $50 more, but I don’t know enough yet  about the ins/outs of GPUs to determine whether or not this would be worth the extra money. The 2GB model is reported to be nearly-silent, stable and efficient. Me Gusta.

Memory – G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866

I must confess that the memory component is one that I’m still fairly ignorant to. But, nonetheless I am confident with my decision with the G. Skill Sniper Series. It’s got a good speed with a reasonable latency. It does not have flashy heat spreaders like Corsair sticks, which could very well get in the way of an after market CPU cooler. Plus, the Sniper Series is compatible with the P8Z77 – minor detail. And 8GB is plenty – PLENTY – for a gaming/enthusiast build; any more and you’re just playing with yourself.

Storage – Intel 330 Series 2.5″ 180GB SATA6Gb/s Solid State Drive(SSD)

Intel has been bringing the hammer down on other SSD manufacturers by creating capable drives at competitive prices. Despite their smaller capacity, SSDs are appealing to me because I simply do not need an abundance of HD space: I uninstall games as soon as I complete or grow bored with them; I do not plan on storing dozens of HD movies. The only media I foresee taking up any moderate amount of space will be audio files – And even then it won’t be that much because 90% of my music are stored on these circular plastic compact discs, or ‘CDs’ for short, that I keep in binders out of the reach of my kids; an even smaller more exclusive group are on larger discs made of wax, which, in the biz, we call ‘vinyls’. Snarkyness aside, a SSD would be right at home in Indy’s Bullet, and with prices dropping by the week there’s no reason in the world to go with a mechanical drive.

Monitor – *undecided brand* 24” Widescreen 1920 x 1080

I had originally thought about aiming towards a true color 1200 resolution but quickly came to my senses. For five years I’ve been using a laptop with a resolution that doesn’t even reach beyond 1280 x 800 (gaming with even less). Therefore a new 24” standard HD monitor will have plenty of WOW! factor. And I think 24” is the sweet spot because 27” is just a migraine waiting to happen.

Power Supply

Still researching these. Probably Corsair. 700, maybe 750 Watt. That GPU wants at least 550 – the hog.

Case

No more than $100. USB 3.0 headers. Front headphone jack. Nothing too gaudy or flashy so as to not be a temptation for my kids and their curious button-pressing fingers. It can’t be more than 22” tall in order to fit under my desk; I refuse to put my desktop on my desktop. I like what NZXT does.

This isn’t ugly.

 OS –

Windows 7. Eff Windows 8.

When all is said and done I feel that this is a very reasonable, well-planned build. Indy’s Bullet will play the RTS games that I long for, as well as facilitate any programming or audio editing/mixing that may come my way. All hail the PC.