Productive procrastination

Another busy week, which is becoming the norm these days. There’s always so much going on between university, fencing, filmmaking, plotting and fixing computers. And my driving test is now safely behind me, as of Wednesday, and I’ve never felt better. My posts seem to be getting later and later as time goes on, but I just spent so much time working on the computers today that I had to put it off until now. The only reason I’m not sitting over a computer swapping out a component or reinstalling Windows is because I’m lying in bed working on the laptop. It frightens me how big a part of my life computers are, and it would be worthwhile having a break from them. I’ve been stuck working on one particular computer since last June, and actually before that. It has had every problem imaginable – viruses, RAM failure, the PSU blew up and took the motherboard with it, random file corruptions, and much much more! I systematically worked through every component, and the only one left (bar the processor which wasn’t likely to be the problem) was the motherboard, which I replaced today with an ASRock model. I need a “Fun with RAM Segment” really, as there’s another quirk with this motherboard. It supports both socket AM2 and AM3 AMD processors, and as a result has slots for DDR2 and DDR3 memory. Unfortunately they don’t work together, so it’s one or the other, but I still thought it was pretty cool. I’m in the process of restoring all the programs which were installed previously, which is about the most tedious and time consuming process ever. Hopefully it will all be sorted soon, and I pray that nothing else happens to complicate matters even more. This post gets pretty technical now, so I’m putting in a warning. If you’re not that computer building inclined then feel free to skip the next section.

LOTS OF TECHNICAL STUFF

Hmmm...does something look out of place here

That’s not the only computer I was working on today. Dad’s computer was second on the agenda, as I had planned to replace the stock heatsink and fan that came with the Core i5 2500K processor with a better aftermarket job so the processor could be overclocked to reach it’s potential. Overclocking has become such a big part of the computer scene these days that AMD and Intel offer processors with unlocked multipliers, making them much easier to overclock, and combine that with a decent cooler and you’re almost there. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, tweaking of voltages and watching temperatures, and running stress tests for long periods of time, but it can be very rewarding and offer massive performance boosts. I’ve pushed dad’s one up from 3.3 Ghz to 4.5 Ghz, and there’s still room to go higher. I just need to tweak the heatsink to optimise thermal conduction.

Just a side-by-side with the old cooler. There is a huge difference in size, and this is really shaping up to be a serious machine

Enough of that techno-babble, you’re probably (or not at all) wondering about the cooler I’m using. Well, when I first tried overclocking the processor with a stock heatsink, everything seemed to be going fine. Temperatures weren’t too high and the system wasn’t complaining, but as soon as I pushed it, everything died. It was running too hot to be stable/safe, so another solution was needed. Out with the stock cooler, and in with the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but so it should be; it’s massive, as you can see from the picture. It dwarfs everything else in the case by a good margin. For an idea of scale, look at the red RAM modules beside the coolers. They are about level with the stock cooler, but are completely dwarfed by the Hyper 212. And that fan on there is 12 cm, which I can tell you is pretty huge. For quite a few moments I was completely stumped by the assembly instructions, as they appeared to be impossible to carry out initially, but that was soon sorted when I realised I was trying to put the backing plate on backwards. The assembly wasn’t too complicated in retrospect, but there were a few fiddly steps. The most annoying and time consuming part was disconnecting and removing the motherboard to fit the backplate, because everything had been neatly placed and hidden around the case with great care. But I just kept telling myself “it’s for the best”, and that it would pay off eventually, despite all the short term hassle. After fitting everything back again, and fitting a few extra 12 cm fans, the computer was really shaping up to be a beast. It’s the first time we’ve had a computer in the house that has had the “serious enthusiast” look about it. All in all it hasn’t been an expensive computer, but performs fantastically well, and there’s still room for improvement. I figure the next upgrade will be a 128 GB Solid State Drive for the operating system and programs, and then we’ll max out the RAM…to 32 GB! That has got to be approaching the absurd level, but if the price is right I will do it.

TECHNICAL STUFF OVER

The rather inauspicious exterior of Byblos

This week has been really fun overall. We have had an American couchsurfing with us since Tuesday, Kate, who has been travelling round various countries photographing peace walls and interface areas in zones of conflict. Her website is here, if you’re interested in seeing some of her work. We were out on Wednesday evening for Lebanese food in the centre of Belfast, and I was really impressed. The restaurant is called Byblos, and doesn’t look the most promising from the outside, but the food is excellent and the prices are pretty reasonable too. I was talked into having falafel by Kate, which was very good, and it was the first time I’ve had it properly made (not just made at home from a packet). Aside from that, the QUB fencing committee had a meeting with Northern Ireland Fencing to try and sort out insurance issues, which went reasonably well. There were a few contentious issues brought up, but for the most part they were helpful and straight to the point, and seemed to want the club to keep going. It’s a shame so much is needed to be covered under British Fencing insurance, as it may put off people just beginning fencing. We were told every club member should be a fully paid up BFA member, but you try telling a student they have to pay another £40 a year for no apparent reason. It’s a pain in the ass, but we live in a litigious culture and you never know what could happen. I wouldn’t be suprised if an accident happened just after the insurance cover ran out. All I want to do is fence! It shouldn’t be such a hard thing to ask…

I better stop writing, and get some sleep. I didn’t realise how long this post was going to be till I looked down at the word count there now – needless to say it’s quite substantial. But if you got this far then I salute you, and say thanks for reading. Don’t forget to like, comment, subscribe, or whatever you feel like.

 

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