He’s Dead, Jim

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I tried TWICE to resurrect my old NVidia GTS 250 display card.  The only thing wrong was that the GPU was overheating.  So TWICE, I removed the card, took off the GPU cooling fan, cleaned off the old thermal paste and reapplied new thermal paste and cranked it back down on the GPU. And before you ask: YES…the fan was working!  lol

Sigh.  He’s Dead, Jim.

Still, the GPU would climb to 60C+ and then start flaking out.  This graphics card carried me through so many World of Warcraft adventures…I feel genuinely sad at the loss of this stalwart companion.  Eh…you get attached; what can I say?

While I was at it, I found a used CPU (yeah…USED!) from Amazon that maxed out what my old MOBO could handle and was $100 less than a new one!  I also added another 4G of memory & a solid state hard drive.  With the exception of the new/old CPU and memory, I tried to buy an SSD boot drive, graphics card & CPU heat sink that would translate over when I create my so-called “GODBOX” workstation planned for later this year.

Specific Info for your perusal:

  • Motherboard: ASUS P5P43TD (base model) …its about 4 years old now I think.  T’was ‘Bleeding Edge’ back then.
  • Old CPU: Intel Core Duo E5200, 2.5 “Snail -a- Hertz”.  Again: a good friend but past his/her prime. (Not sure of CPU’s gender but I believe it to be male since it was not temperamental at all during it’s tenure.) <grin>
  • New CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 at 3.0GHz …not overclocking…I have too much work to do right now…no time to EFF around.  Still about 4-times faster than the E5200!
  • Memory: USED Crucial 4GB Kit (2GBx2) DDR3 1333 MT/s (PC3-10600) CL9 Unbuffered UDIMM 240-Pin bringing total RAM to 8GB. Cheapest I could find on Amazon.
  • New Solid State Drive: Crucial M500 240GB  …I put the Micron version of this drive in my wife’s i7 monster and they are at a discount now so go get ’em…they are fast and reliable!
  • Graphics Card: I intend on getting two highest-end cards and SLI-ing the sh** out of them in my future box.  In the meantime, I went for an MSI N650-2GD5/OC for just over a C-note.  Enough for me to create videos for my blog, run WoW, etc. but not so expensive as to invite the wrath of she-who-must-not-be-named.
  • CPU Cooling: After the GPU cooling fiasco, there was NO EFF-ING WAY I was going to rely on a boxed CPU cooler on a processor that burns at 95W (I have three new Intel coolers just taking up space in the garage).  I originally purchased a Cooler Master GeminII M4 via Amazon but one of the mounting brackets it came with had the wrong size (too large) holes drilled into it so I couldn’t attach it.  RMA-Baby…this is why I do business with Amazon.com …they have returns down to a flippin’ science.  Desperate for a NOW NOW NOW replacement, I went to Fry’s Electronics in Roseville, CA and purchased a Cooler Master Hyper N520.  Uh…talk about overkill, lol.  the Q9650 CPU puts out 95W…the Hyper N520 can handle up to 300W. lolol.  Sexy overkill.
    • You might also question why I purchased a Cooler Master brand product after getting BONED by them on the first cooler. Answer: Of all the coolers available at Fry’s, this one met all of what I wanted and could fit into my old Antec case.  I crossed my fingers and got lucky this time.  But I want it on the record that Cooler Master is on my “watchlist” for the time being.  If you’re Hyper N520 had not been such a beautiful beast, you would have been dead to me for your lack of Quality Control with the GeminII M4.  You are on NOTICE, Cooler Master.

Lessons Learned:

  • No matter how much you love them, people & things you love die. (All Things Must Pass).
  • All things being equal, don’t be so quick to blame, or SPEND AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF YOUR PRECIOUS TIME BLAMING… {wait for it} …the NVidia Display Drivers.
  • CoolerMaster CPU Coolers – in this case the CoolerMaster GeminII M4 – sometimes come with the wrong parts that render it useless.
  • Cooler Master CPU Coolers – ALL OF THEM – come with instructions that assume you install them about twice-a-week and already know how to do it right the first time.
  • I purchased an MSI replacement Graphics card on the basis of downloading their MSI Afterburner utility during the troubleshooting of my old board.
    • They put so much effort into that utility that I concluded they deserved a chance at my business.
  • Two free utilities that stood out during this upgrade:
    • MSI Afterburner
    • SpeedFan
    • They’re good enough to sell…in the case of Afterburner, it lead me to purchase an MSI graphics board.
  • Downloading free or even TRIAL utilities has become a battle of not installing what is popularly called “foistware“.  The junk that gets installed unless you very carefully navigate through the dialogs during download and then again during installation. Prominent among this crap is AVG Virus Protection/toolbar.  If I see any of their marketing people on the street I’ll kick their asses.
    • For the most part, I found the most hassle free download of utilities from filehippo.com.  Still got some foistware from filehippo…just not as much as the others.  Of course, you can always trust sourceforge.net for open source stuff without hassle…just that damn IBM advert while waiting for your download to begin.

Well…there is my experience out in the open for you to benefit upon & criticize.  There are a LOT of links in this post because there’s a lot of reference material if you want to actually understand this stuff.  I hope you all now go out and do stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with computers. <smile>


God Bless ‘Em, They Ask Your Advice…

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I’m honored to be asked for my advice on what to purchase in portable computing. It’s a compliment to me and a recognition of my 30-some years of being in the computer field; “Hey, this guy knows what he’s doing…let’s ask him!!”  I’d like to discuss the traps of providing this advice because most of you in computer support & helpdesk get a lot of these questions (formal & informal).

Sometimes you find the question, “What laptop should I buy?” a bit daunting.  I received this request from someone with a Doctorate <paraphrasing>:

I need a lightweight laptop.  It has to run SAS so it needs a lot of power.  I also would like it to have a large enough screen so I can clearly view the data and I have large data sets, so it needs a massive hard drive.  But, let me reiterate…it needs to be light so I can travel with it easily.

You see any traps here?

  • First of all, one person’s “light” is another person’s “too heavy” and vice-versa.  So I need to get back with this person and ask what “light” means.  I hold out no hopes for this because most human beings just stare at you when you tell them the laptop is 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 lbs.  It isn’t until it arrives and then pick it up and say, “This is way too heavy!”  I don’t know why I expect more out of people who have so much schooling they’ll never pay off their student loans in their lifetime but…there it is, isn’t it?
  • The second is the trap of not knowing system requirements & performance issues of the current release of SAS.  I know it must be highly optimised to do what it does but – and here’s an important point – We don’t use it  …PhD’s, MBAs and business students use it.  We’re in IT.  We do INFRASTRUCTURE.  Our role is providing our customers with the foundational tools (client computers, server computers, network, storage, database, printing, etc) to do their job.  It’s up to your customer to know how to use the tools of their trade.  This is a severe and way-too-prevalent misconception of the customer’s role & our role in IT support.  So, I’ve had to pour over support docs on SAS and system requirements to see what on the computer needs beefing up and what is superfluous.  No problem: its why I make the big-bucks <meh>.  With the current run of mobile i7 procs in laptops, I don’t think horsepower will be an issue but storage could be a bottleneck.  With the exception of solid state drives (SSDs), storage can be a bottleneck to performance.  Remember, this person wants MASSIVE storage in this laptop because of large datasets.  With large SSDs come exponentially higher prices.  However, in some work environments you notice the tendency not to care about price when its someone else’s money.  Henry Hazlitt mentions this phenomenon in his book, Economics in One Lesson.
  • The third trap and the most contributory to the weight issue, is the screen size.  From my customer’s request, I interpreted that to mean that 15″ is minimum but 17″ would be ‘optimal’.  Well…seeing as the difference in even the most weight-conscious laptops made today that going from 15″ to 17″ is 1.5-2.0 lbs… This makes 17″ is a deal killer under most circumstances.  Again, I need to get back to my customer with a clearer understanding of what is and is not acceptable in terms of weight vs screen.  Resolution on smaller screens can assist with finding a compromise in this situation but when you get to the point of needing an electron microscope to view your data, it may just hinder productivity <smirk>.
  • So we come back to the fourth trap which is also the first trap.  My customer reiterated that fact that they needed this laptop to be “lightweight”.  When someone goes back to their first point, it usually means that this is precisely where the emphasis should be kept.
  • And the last trap is one that isn’t apparent.  Wouldn’t an application like this be better served by a cloud infrastructure?  Of COURSE it would.  However, try getting management on board with that kind of capital expenditure or show them the cost of using an existing cloud and I promise you those ideas will vaporize before the last words leave your mouth.

I’ll talk further with my customer and ensure that all of these issues are clearly spelled out.  Like anything involving another person, it takes a lot of listening and knowing your audience.  But in respect to purchasing, the most important job (IMHO) is to ensure the customer realizes that even with today’s technology that any computer is a unique set of compromises; each tailored for a specific job.  Think ‘claw hammer’ vs. ‘ball-peen hammer’.

And that has been and will continue to be the hardest idea to get across to an academic; the concept of compromise.  I mean that in the most complimentary of ways because these folk operate at a very scary level in their specialized field of study.  Compromise is not something PhDs are accustomed to since they are quite uncompromising in their own lives.  That’s why we’re the little brains.  What’s a little brain?  Oh…that’s just something they call us behind our backs. <smile>.

So…what am I likely to recommend?  Well, based on the info I have now, probably this model:


I hope some of you benefitted from my little rant here.  If you think it has value, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN and whatever social media floats your boat.  I would also appreciate your opinions on this as well.  I don’t know everything …but want to <grin>  B$

Bulldozer’s Disappointing Debut

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Once an AMD fan, I fear their days are numbered.  Get ready for a flood of AMD engineers entering the very, VERY soft job market.

Can AMD survive Bulldozer’s disappointing debut?.