Tuesday, September 25, 2007


My current computer, the one I am editing this very blog entry on, is getting old. It’s pushing 4 years now, which in human-years is roughly the equivalent of a 70-year-old man with sciatica. It makes a loud whining noise on hot days. It always seems to forget where it put its glasses.

In preparation for the day I will have to retire it, with extreme prejudice, I have started looking at getting a new computer. However, because I am a computer nerd with misplaced pride, I am considering building one from scratch, instead of buying one from someone like Dell, dude.

Putting together a computer for a computer nerd is similar to tricking out your Honda CRX for a teenage car enthusiast. You start looking online for advice and prices for the most capable parts you can get for the money, that’ll still be “cutting edge” for at least 6 months. You then buy said parts, break out the screwdrivers and grounding wrist-strap, and get to work. After you're done, you brag about your fancy new "rig" to anyone who will listen (which, by the way, is no one).

The problem is, I haven’t really paid attention to the changes in computer technology for a little while, and as such, am now completely out of the loop. Going back to the car analogy, I’m the weird guy that still thinks most cars have mechanical fuel injection systems, rather than electric.

So, I’m doing my research (I am not endorsing any of the following products, btw). I’ve learned that at the moment, AMD AM2-socket chips are probably the best cheap CPUs, but Intel Core 2 Duo’s are probably better in the long run. Motherboards by Gigabyte are generally recommended. The ATI X1950-series video cards are good choices, but anyone banking on Direct X 10 is either buying an Nvidia 8800 GTX, or waiting. However, for goodness sake, do not buy a 8600 card. This is, I’m told, a rookie mistake.

Did I lose you in the last paragraph? I think I may have lost myself. You see, the terminology and products are all new to me, and I know everything is going to change in about 2 months, so I can’t even motivate myself to commit anything to memory. On top of all this, there are terms now used by computer do-it-your-selfers that I don’t understand at all. Here’s one example from a user-review on a website regarding a CPU fan:

“I used it with a S-FLEX 1600rpm & my Q6600 runs at 32 idle 35 load on a light-overclock (3.05ghz) & stock voltages. YOU WILL NEED TO LAP IT! Without lapping, it will not work!”

Did you get that? Because I didn’t. What’s a Q6600? What are “stock voltages” in this particular example? What the heck is “lapping”?

Lapping, as it turns out, is a polishing operation of metal contact surfaces to improve fit and increase heat transfer efficiency. I guess I didn’t take enough machine shop classes in high school. Also, after lapping with polishing liquids and fine sandpaper, I’m supposed to use some sort of thermal paste. Seriously. A few more hours of learning about stuff like this and I may just be giving Dell a call, dude.

1 comment:

Ken said...

As you may or may not know, I assembled my current computer. I think the most difficult part was dealing with the little voice that kept saying "No tech support. No tech support."

Amazingly, the thing booted up and worked on the first try. But if it had not, I don't know what I would have done. Actually, I do know. I would have cried like a little girl. I don't know what I would have done after that.

I probably saved myself about $1000, but no less a nerd than Derek told me that for his next computer, he'd be buying a Dell. (Which turned out not to be technically true, as he bought a Mac, but he was probably talking about a real gaming computer. Though he was running C&C Whatever on it.)