Taz, Part 2

Popped in to see the guys at Rapid PCs on Saturday, just to see how Taz was progressing, and the news is beyond good. Simon has fitted the replacement PSU, the motherboard, CPU, the CPU water-cooling block and the RAM. He’s also fitted both radiators (though he’s still working on anchoring the smaller twin-fan unit) and equipped the triple-fan radiator with it’s ultra-quiet fans.

Yes, we’d have to concede that the beige/brown colour scheme of the fans isn’t exactly in keeping with the rest of the case… but my primary interest here is having something that’s ultra-quiet. The case isn’t windowed, so the interior won’t be on display, and I’m more concerned with near-silent operation. The picture probably doesn’t do it justice – this is a really great build…

Maybe a week or so to go, if I’m lucky… Whoot!

Taz, Part 1

Popped in to see the guys at Rapid PCs on Saturday, who are in the process of assembling a new machine for me. We’ve adopted a fairly slow, methodical and cautious approach to this build (which makes a change for me!), primarily because I have given the guys such an incredibly exacting specification, meeting it is proving to be quite a challenge. I have to say, it’s great to see them as excited about the build as I am!

The good news is that we’ve now got most of the components we need (pretty much the only pieces left to order are the tubing that will be used to make up two discrete water-cooling circuits and of course all the adapters and joints needed to put them together…  Then, of course, the real fun (assembly) starts in earnest!

Oh, the title of the post, you say? Well, one of the side projects for this build is the assembly of a suitably robust shipping crate in which to carry a machine of this size and weight. Early candidates for the design are based around something made from marine plywood (!!!) and fitted with castors (and probably forklift truck slots). The machine itself is pretty tall, so the case will have two large side panels that will be crying out for some decoration. Not entirely sure what I’ll end up with, but first bid is of a huge stylized “Tasmanian Devil”, in the Disney Cartoon sense. We shall see what I can find!

Components being tinkered with so far range from the very large (the case, image at left, is huge) to the very small (the shiny thing on the right is the machined water-cooling block for the CPU). Going to be good…

Space Shuttle

Question: what do you do when your “main” machine is a powerful gaming rig, but all you want to do is check your email? For me, the answer until very recently had been to use an early edition of the Acer Aspire Revo, a minimalist Small Form Factor PC. To give mine a fighting chance, performance-wise, I quickly upgraded to 4Gb of RAM, and put in a larger HDD than the original. A copy of ubuntu Linux (9.04 in this case) and it did a pretty good job of the basics.

Just two drawbacks: first, the primitive GPU was maxed out at 1600×1200, and under even moderate loads the laptop-sourced CPU fan would spin up with  horrendous noise levels.

Enter the Shuttle X35. As the third image below shows, it relies entirely on passive cooling [no fans, no moving parts] and a well ventilated case to provide CPU cooling. Add a solid state disc and the result is a 100% silent machine, with reasonably snappy performance. Drop on a copy of ubuntu Precise Pangolin and you’ve got a tiny machine that is perfect for most things short of gaming. The Intel Atom CPU might not look like much, but it’s more than a match for all basic office chores.

If you’ve got any form of network storage at home (Apple Time Capsule, NAS or RAID box) then getting extra disc storage is a doddle, and it’s perfectly capable of playing your iTunes library while you work. The latest nVidia ION GPU gives a crisp, clear 1920×1200 resolution and the efficient Linux kernel means it’s far more responsive than if it ran Windows 7…

What’s not to like?

For the curious, the above images were taken with a Canon EOS 7D, 24-70mm f2.8L lens and a specialist lighting kit. The results are generally excellent, although the “white” container/diffuser is prone to wrinkling in storage…

Liquid Refreshment

So, after quite a bit of research into different options, I finally took the plunge and asked my local PC Specialist, Rapid PCs, to build me a new “Gaming” system. The brief was simple: it had to be the best machine we could manage [within a not too tightly defined limit of sensibility]. The end result is, quite simply, stunning.

And the specification for the tekkies? CoolerMaster Stacker 832 Case, Xilence 1000W PSU, Asus Blitz Extreme DDR3 Mobo, Intel Q6850 Quad-Core, mildly over-clocked from 3.0 to 3.62GHz, 4Gb of OCZ Platinum Edition DDR3 RAM, Creative X-Fi, (Factory) Water-Cooled BFG 8800GTX nVidia-based GPU [just the one], Adaptec SCSI Card and Freecom 72Gb Tape Deck, 2 x DVD-RW/RAM Drives, Swiftech Water-Cooling system with wide-bore pipes, 2 x SATA Caddy units for removable boot drives and 2 x 500Gb water-cooled HDDs internally mounted for shared data…

The Asus motherboard came with a modified set of performance benchmark tools. We ran a complete set and basically confirmed that as at the time of build, this system is in the top 1% of all machines tested thus far. So on the whole, not bad…

With either Windows [XP] or ubuntu Linux [7.10] this absolutely flies!