It Fits! (Kraken, Part 3)

“We might have another little problem,” declared the email, cheerfully.

Uh-oh, I thought. I’ve seen something like this before…I’d best read on…

“I’ve been making progress on doing some basic layout testing. I decided to start by confirming that we could get a fully-assembled radiator in all the locations we agreed to put one.” Sensible fellow, I thought, seeing as this build will have 5 radiators, that’s a good idea…

“And, well, I’ve hit a problem. Your radiators don’t fit in the case.” He sent me a picture, to illustrate the point:-

Now, this might not be too informative, so let’s try a second picture and an explanation:-

In this second shot, you are looking across the width of the case plinth. Front is to the left of the image; rear is to the right. Take a look at the top left corner of the plinth unit, where you can see that three pieces of angled steel come together to make the corner. Can you see the curve of metal that forms the corner to the side panel? With the small locating hole drilled in it?

Now look at the radiator assembly. Screwed to the far side of the radiator you will see a “mounting plate” that is provided with the case. The idea – and it’s brilliant – is that you fit the radiator to this mounting plate and then you fit the plate to the case. Use some flexible raidator hosing with lengths just long enough and you can open the side door, pop off the radiator and move it just far enough out of your way to get in to the plinth, without having to disconnect and drain the radiator. Neat, huh?

Except.

Except the radiators I’ve bought simply won’t fit in the case. They’re too big. For the record, these are EKWB CE560 radiators, each being 560mm long ~150mm or so wide and 45mm thick, capable of taking 4, 140mm fans. As you can see in the above picture. The problem is that the claims Thermaltake made for the case turn out to be complete bunkum, because the radiators won’t fit.

Take a look at this (slightly grainy) enlarged image:-

See the separation from the inner edge of the steep “corner” to the locating hole? (marked with the fat red line at the top left of the picture)? Now see the separation from the mounting plate locating hole to the corner of the radiator as mounted?

See the problem?

At this point, Simon decided that cowardice was the better part of valour and got in touch.

So… I went down to see him, armed with an electric screwdriver and a range of drill bits. Dismantled the plinth, bringing all 4 of the connecting pieces home. Whereupon I got busy with a Dremel and a cutting disk, removing just enough of the bracket metal in the frame to connect the “locating hole” with the edge of the bracket. Used the locating hole to give a nice, clean, rounded corner (which is safer and stronger) and now producing a hole in the side panel large enough to fit the radiators.

Why on earth would Thermaltake claim their case could take a 560mm radiator there and then build it so that it could not?

A better question would be: why did I believe them? In fairness, this was the first time I’d come across a case where claimed fitting dimensions turned out to be an exaggeration – it’s not the sort of thing you expect to find, to be honest.

Problem solved with the BFI Technique (Brute Force and Ignorance), I then set about re-assembling the plinth and testing it’s strength (by standing on it and using it as a makeshift skateboard to zoom around round the shop, of course) to confirm structural integrity was preserved.

I’m starting to get the idea that this build might become something of an adventure. Are you?

(Un-)Hinged and Bracketed (Kraken, Part 2)

“We, er, we might have a problem,” he said, cheerfully.

And that, it turns out, was the beginning of quite the little adventure.

“Go on,” I replied, cautiously…

“Well, to give me an idea about clearances and general layout, today I fitted the motherboard and some of your front bay devices to the new PC. And in so doing I’ve discovered that we have a problem with some brackets. Specifically, these…”

This was Simon, the engineer from Rapid PCs to whom I have entrusted all of my whacky PC builds for the last few years. Or, more accurately, this was Simon letting me know that he’d spotted a problem with some mounting brackets for any devices for the front-facing 5.25” drive bays.

Then he sent me this,

to show me how the brackets were used to fit devices in to the case.

That’s a bit of an odd way to do things, you might be thinking. You would be right. But, by making the mounting points for front bay devices optional, it meant that the Thermaltake case could free up more space if only one or two front-mounted devices were required.

OK,” I ventured, still cautious, “but what’s the problem?”

“The case only provides 6 brackets. Enough for 3 front-bay devices.”

“Hang on,” I muttered, puzzled, “exactly how many front bays does this case have?”

“Ten!” he declared, cheerfully. “Take a look…”

Sure enough, there are the 10 bays, 12 if you want to be excessive and include the two slots at the top which are used to house the front panel basics (power and reset switches, USB and headset ports) for each of the 2 systems the case is capable of holding.

“So you’re telling me that a case which includes 10 drive bays only provides brackets to use 3 of them?”

“You got it,” … cheerfully.

“Bother.”*

* That’s not what I really said. Children’s show, etc…

“Bingo!”

“OK, leave it with me…”

Some time later, I’d been in touch with Thermaltake directly, in the US (headquarters in California) and determined that since the case had been discontinued, they had of course cleared their central warehouse of all spares and accessories and none were available.

Then I tried their European distribution hub. Florian, the guy I’d contacted before, spun me the same line. Then eBay. Then basically anywhere. No luck. Then I had an idea and went back to Thermaltake in the US.

“Do you by any chance use the same mounting bracket in any of your other cases; specifically any other cases that you do still have in production?”

“No. Why would we do that?”

“Well, to cut down on your spares inventory and manufacturing and tooling costs?”

“No. We don’t.”

“Well, that’s very helpful of you. Thank you.” (No, they didn’t detect the sarcasm).

“You’re very welcome. Have a nice day!”

After a brief interlude for some cathartic swearing, I embarked upon a bold, two-pronged strategy with which I hoped to skewer this particular problem.

Plan A was to go to a local specialist engineering company, Precision Fabrications, to ask them if they could, possibly, duplicate said brackets.

“Oh yes, not a problem,” Anthony declared confidently.

“You can?” incredulously…

“Absolutely!” with complete conviction…

At which point I collected a sample bracket from Simon at Rapid PCs and shot round the corner to Anthony. “We’re just finishing a bit of a big order,” he explained, “So if you can give me a bit of leeway, I’ll do this as soon as that’s clear…”

Happy, I went back to check on Plan B.

Which consisted of buying another Thermaltake case, if I could find one. As time passed and I waited for the duplicated brackets, I eventually came across one being offered by an Amazon reseller. Now, if you are thinking, Hang on, wouldn’t that be a bit expensive, just for the sake of obtaining 6 more brackets? Well, you’d be right. Especially as the second case cost in total about £630.

But in defense of this insanity, I offer the following questionable justifications:-

1. The absence of sufficient brackets basically rendered the entire purpose and design of this major build null and void. The design needed 5 front bays to be used, without which the whole thing was compromised. And I’d already spent a crazy amount on the “innards” for the build.

2. If I got a second case, then at some point in the future I could assemble it, put my next, new machine in it and only borrow bits from the current one that I really needed. As long as the case “held up”, I was future-proofing my requirements.

Sod it. Order placed.

At which point Anthony got in touch. “Your brackets are ready!” he declared, cheerfully. And so they were:-

Unlike the originals (which appear to be some form of powder-coated mild steel), Anthony went for the tried-and-true British tradition of over-engineering and used double-thickness stainless steel.

And, of course, he made me a total of 14 brackets – 7 pairs. For £48.

Because you can never have too many of a good thing. Unless, of course, you’re as unhinged (or bracketed) as I am…

The Kraken Stirs (Kraken, Part 1)

Back in May, 2013, I enlisted the help of local PC specialists, Rapid PCs, in the building of what became my current gaming system. Based on a quad core i7 Processor, 16Gb of RAM and an nVidia GTX 680 graphics card. In the interval since then, the system has been upgraded twice. Firstly I replaced the original GTX680 with a GTX 980.

Then, a couple of years later, I added a third monitor to this machine, and that took me through an upgrade that included replacing the original Gigabyte motherboard with an MSI alternative, the original 4-Core Core i7 with an Extreme Edition 6-Core i7 and the GTX980 with a 1080.

Good as this is, I’ve reached the point where the latest crop of AAA game titles can stress even this platform. Driving the 5760×1200 resolution of this triple-screen setup is pretty demanding… So: upgrade…

My original plan was to replace the Xigmatek Elysium with a CaseLabs Magnum STH10,  a remarkable, US-built case with a huge range of configuration options. Then the US decided to impose trade tariffs on aluminium imports and, surprise surprise, CaseLabs went bust.

Enter Thermaltake, and their WP-200 case. This is nothing short of a monster. For a start, it’s huge. Try: 878 x 475 x 678mm – nearly 3 feet tall, 18 inches wide and about 26 inches deep. It’s also *solid* – it ways more than 39 kilos or 86lb, empty.

Not quite as light as the CaseLabs model, this is, nonetheless, absolutely fantastic – even more flexible. It’s too early to commit to a final configuration at this early stage, but the general idea will be a top-of-the -line processor, a pair of the latest 2080 generation GPUs in SLI, and enough water cooling so that this won’t be too stressed.

The first part of the process has been to construct the plinth. Current thinking is that this will be used to contain the power supply and also a couple of radiators and the pipework necessary to connect them to one of the two GPUs. It’s possible – some experimentation will be required – that this can be assembled with relatively quick-release connectors [drip-free in the case of the radiators] so that the upper and lower parts of the case can be separated, for easier transportation… That’s going to need some experimentation, which is always a good idea – and quite often fun, too…

The Kraken stirs.

Well, That Was Close! (Part 1)

As a user of Mint Linux for many years now, I’ve become somewhat familiar with the upgrade process needed to switch between successive versions.

So when Mint 19.0 was released, the first thing I did was drop a spare SSD in to my PC and install a copy. Effortlessly easy process [done in under 15 minutes] and with a very slick, polished result. Except. One of the applications I tested happened to be my email client of choice, Claws-Mail.

Obscure, old-fashioned in the extreme, this client can’t even handle proportionately-space fonts, never mind HTML or any embedded content. It won’t even launch helper programs to handle attachments without being specifically told what to do. So why use it? Simples: it’s absolutely bullet-proof secure. There isn’t a lot of damage you can do with simple text files – and anything that isn’t simple text is just ignored by Claws.

So I tested Claws under Mint 19 and it worked like a charm. But when I went back to my regular desktop and tried Claws under Mint 18.3, I got an issue whereby any time I tried to do anything, I had to re-enter account passwords. Ulp.

Knowing that I’d allowed the upgrade to 19.0 to make some kind of unknown change to my shared config files, I found my way to the #claws IRC channel and asked politely for help.

Step up the awesome Ticho, who wasn’t just incredibly patient with me, but also had extraordinarily detailed knowledge of the workings of this mail program. The fix required me to back up my key mail folders, make some manual changes to a critical configuration file, then switch permanently to the newer version of Claws that ships with Mint 19.

All told it took an hour or so to fix, but the process was never especially “dangerous” and was completed without so much as a hiccup.

Eternally grateful to Ticho for their wonderful assistance – and, best of all, I am free to carry on using Claws Mail.

Incompetence Comes As Standard

Back in March of this year, Windows 10 updates caused massive disruption to all three of my Windows 10 builds. (All are Pro/64-bit). All are paid-for licenses.

The two with major impact are used for gaming and office tasks on my more powerful, water-cooled “gaming” system.

You can read about the sundry disasters here. They key point to note being that:-

  • The “Office” machine suddenly stopped recognising one of my 3 Dell Monitors. The unit that “vanished” was connected to my nVidia 1080GTX via a “DisplayPort” connector
  • The “Gaming” machine just, well, stopped, with all 3 monitors remaining dark, despite the fact that “windows sounds” indicated that the machine had booted successfully.

But wait! Isn’t that exactly the same ####ing thing that has just happened with the latest update? Why yes, I do believe it is.

So… having completely ####ed up two of my builds in March, causing me extensive down-time and a nightmare of an issue with getting my Omnipage OCR software re-activated [it somehow thought I had installed it twice already, which I hadn’t], it looks as though I could well be left with a repeat of that experience just 4 months later.

It isn’t as though I’m able to telepathically know in advance that the update is going to be applied [and stop it]. With Microsoft’s new updating mechanism, I have no ability to determine what gets updated, or when.

All I’m left with is [literally] a box of bits. With no Operating System, the hardware doesn’t exactly do much. This is entirely, completely and utterly unacceptable. In my case, Microsoft can’t resort to, “Well, it was free…” because I had to pay for both licenses. £200 each, thank you very much.

They don’t even provide direct support – oh no – if you go to their support forums [ “http://support.microsoft.com/”] you are left dealing with volunteer MCPs. Don’t get me wrong – the people I’ve dealt with have been excellent – patient, friendly and helpful. But that doesn’t excuse Microsoft from shipping sh1te product.

Microsoft: Incompetence Comes As Standard.