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Operation Dai-Q Update 2

So progress on Operation Dai-Q has been great and today I have passed a new milestone. With everything cleared, I have successfully ordered the initial shipment. I'm still missing the CPU and USB 3.0 back plate which I will have to order with the CPU together. The CPU is still the Core i5 3570K and the new motherboard would be the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H. After weeks of shopping around and consulting with friends and online colleagues, I have finally nailed down the final design of the rig.

The final full specification of the rig will be:

Name blutyphoon (Operation Dai-Q)
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UD5H
Processor Intel Core i5 3570K 3.4 GHz (Ivy Bridge)
Graphics XFX Radeon HD 6870 Dual Fan w/ 1 GB GDDR5
Audio Auzentech X-Raider 7.1
Cooling

Zalman CNPS8700 LED

Power Supply OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W PSU
Memory Patriot 4 x 4 GB DDR3-1600 CL9 (PGQ316G1600ELQK)
Solid State Drive Mushkin Chronos 120 GB SATA III (MKNSSDCR120GB)
Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black 500 GB 7200 RPM 32 MB Cache SATA,
Seagate Barricuda ES.2 500 GB 7200 RPM 32 MB Cache SATA (data drive),
SAMSUNG EcoGreen F2 1 TB 5400 RPM 32 MB Cache SATA (backup drive),
Hitachi DeskStar P7K500 320 GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA (tray drive)

Optical Drive ASUS DRW-24B1ST
Operating System Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard (RTM)
Build Date

May 2012

Decommission ETA 2017-2018

Operation Dai-Q Update

As the launch of the highly anticipated 22nm Ivy Bridge series of processors from Intel gets near, motherboards and pricing details for these chips have been flowing out on tech sites. Based on the information from retailers and tech sites, I have essentially spec'd out the next build.

Remember, this is meant to be a leap forward but not so much that it'll break the bank. It is anticipated that with this upgrade, there's going to be a substantial increase to system performance. For reference, this is my current rig.

Preliminary Upgrade Spec

  • Intel Core i5 3570K 3.4 GHz CPU
  • ASUS P8Z77-V LGA1155 Z77 chipset motherboard
  • G.Skill RipJaws X 4 x 4 GB DDR3-1866 CL9 RAM (F3-14900CL9Q-16GBZL)
  • LG DVD-RW 16X SATA (GH22NS90B)
The anticipated cost of the upgrade: $566.97 before taxes and shipping
Anticipated build date: Late August 2012
 

Since Ivy Bridge is expected to use less power to run, it is believed that I do not require a new power supply unit. Therefore, no power supply upgrade is required. As for a new heatsink/fan (HSF), I have yet to decide which fan will be purchased, I am still in the process of researching the proper fan for my use case scenarios. All other components types that were not listed on the preliminary upgrade spec will be kept along with the system.

Decommissioning of Penguin1

 

After 10 years of being built, penguin1, the first machine I built 10 years has been fully decommissioned and destined to the scrapyard. It was the first computer I had during my initial foray into computer science. This rig took much abuse from my variety of experiments and I almost blew out the motherboard several times only to find it was fine after the experiments.

penguin1 desktop interior

This is a toast to my old desktop which went through 6 years of constant service before its retirement from active service in 2008 when I replaced it with BLUTYPHOON. Starting off with Windows XP when it entered service in 2002, it has gone through many operating systems including but not limited to: Windows, MacOS X (Hackintosh), Linux (Fedora, Mandrake/Mandriva, SuSE Linux (pre-Novell and current), Slackware, Gentoo, Ubuntu and etc.), FreeBSD and NetBSD. It has saw many upgrades as well. It was fitted with two hard drives and my first experience with sound cards as well. There were many great memories with this system. Surprisingly, all this was only powered by a 300W power supply!

The one thing though that I didn't like about my rig was the use of Pentium 4. It was highly inefficient and drew a lot of power. It only used a bit lkess than an dual core as its TDP was 61.5W. Dual cores these days uses only about 65W (to drop when 22nm processes come in). Though, I have to give credit for the machine for surviving this long with only one fault which occurred after the system was decommissioned where the IDE controller on the motherboard was failing.

So as the system has been sent to the scrapyard, there will always be parts of it remaining. I have salvaged the RAM, graphics card and its main hard drive from the system. 

System Specifications at Time of Decommission

Name penguin1
Motherboard ASUS P4B533-VM
Processor Intel Pentium 4 2533 MHz
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT
Audio Creative Soundblaster
Cooling

Intel Stock

Power Supply Generic 300W PSU
Memory Kingston 2 x 1 GB DDR-400
Hard Drive

Maxtor 120 GB 7200 RPM PATA
Western Digital Caviar 80 GB 7200 RPM PATA 

Optical Drive LG DVD-ROM 52X
LG CD-RW 48X 
Operating System Windows Vista Business SP1
Build Date

March 2002

Decommissioned March 9, 2008

One thing of note is that the system has actually survived two generations as BLUTYPHOON is going to go through a second overhaul and would essentially be a completely new computer by end of 2012 if it all goes well. So let's take a moment to reflect on such a great computer.

Microsoft Announces Redesigned XBOX 360

What an interesting start to E3 today; Microsoft kicked off E3 by announcing a load of products including the highly anticipated Project Natal which is now called the Kinect. Along with the all new Kinect, Microsoft also announced a completely redesigned XBOX 360 but is it just a gimmick or is there something really awesome we should take note of?

All new and redesigned XBOX 360
(The front of the brand new XBOX 360 design. Courtesy of: Larry Hyrb a.k.a Major Nelson)

Microsoft went all out and did a complete overhaul of the XBOX 360 as noted in the photo above forgoing the matted black and curvy designed for an angular and stealth fighter look. It's approximately 60-70% the size of the current XBOX 360. Originally people reported that the hard drive is NOT removable but this is incorrect. The hard drive is indeed removable. It's just hidden on the left/top side of the XBOX 360 depending on if you're laying your box flat or vertically. From a Engadget unboxing video, it is revealed that the hard drive now resides inside the XBOX 360 and is encased in a small 2.5″ shell which I believe is removable (not confirmed). However, what is confirmed is the fact that the new XBOX 360 hard drive does come with 250 GB of storage and uses the standard SATA data and power ports found on any consumer devices and computers. This means that the new XBOX 360s are not, I repeat NOT compatible with the existing hard drive accessories. Furthermore, it should be noted that the new XBOX 360 doesn't support the memory units that Microsoft has sold before. However, I don't think this is an issue for most people because most people simply never took interest in memory cards when there is this huge hard drive and the fact that USB drives are now supported for saving games (for certain games). In addition to the changes to the hard drive and the basic feel for the system, Microsoft has converted all the buttons to be touch buttons and not mechanical buttons to further the “futuristic” feel.

Back of the all new and redesigned XBOX 360
(The back of the brand new XBOX 360 design. Courtesy of: Larry Hyrb a.k.a Major Nelson)

In the photo above you can see that not only did Microsoft made the new XBOX 360 incompatible with the current generation hard drive accessories, you can't plug in your current power supply to the new XBOX 360. However, one good thing is that you can still plug in your current component AV cables through the component AV plug for those people like me who don't have TVs with HDMI support. In addition, audiophiles are definitely going to love this, but next to the video-out column, you'll see a S/PDIF optical audio output, so now you can plug your awesome 7.1 setup and enjoy your XBOX. This is something that the Playstation 3 doesn't have. In addition, you might notice that there's now even more USB ports. There are now 3 rear facing USB ports in contrast to the 1 USB port on the current generation of the XBOX 360. In addition to the 3 USB ports at the back, there's also two in the front which is in the bottom right slot of the first photo. So now there are 5 functional USB 2.0 plugs for you to use! Then you got your basic connectivity to a wired Ethernet. Guess what? There's also an extra port up to. It's labelled AUX on the XBOX 360 and it's used for you to connect the all new XBOX 360 Kinect into that slot. It is indeed a proprietary plug. At first I thought it was a Mini DisplayPort output, but after closer inspection of the photos, it doesn't appear so.

In addition to the all new design and extra plugs, there have been changes to the innards of the XBOX 360. Has anyone notice that there's no longer a retention area for the XBOX 360 Wireless USB adapter? That's because the brand new XBOX 360 comes with a built-in XBOX 360 Wireless N adapter. That's right, the new built-in adapter is Wireless-N capable. However, I'm unsure if it's a dual-band adapter or a 2.4 GHz Wireless N adapter. However, it's still a great thing considering the current adapter is expensive as is. Having it included adds extra value to the current product line-up. It is also reported that the new XBOX 360 has both the CPU and GPU sharing the same die made with the 45nm process. Hence, eliminating the requirements of two fans inside the XBOX 360 for cooling which is good news as that means that the box should be a lot quieter which it is.

Don't believe me about its quietness? Check out the unboxing video from Engadget!

Excited about the all new XBOX 360 like I am? Well, you don't have to wait long as the XBOX 360 250 GB goes on sale later on this week! That's right, it's not going to be a long wait for us in North America. To my European friends, unfortunately you have to wait until July 16th. In other regions, you will have to wait between July 1 – 8. Oh and another thing, the new XBOX 360 will be priced exactly the same as the Elite model at US$299.99. In addition, the current generation XBOX 360 gets $50 off to clear of its inventory. Microsoft also announces that the current generation are discontinued and will also apply to the XBOX 360 Arcade. Before the arcade crowd cry foul, Microsoft pledges that in the coming weeks or months ahead, Microsoft will release a redesigned XBOX 360 at the US$200 price point.

So enjoy the rest of E3 and the new XBOX 360. I'll see you all on XBOX Live!

My thoughts on Facebook privacy

Facebook has become a day-to-day tool for many to share their thoughts and their memories. Facebook currently boasts over 500 million users; in fact, 1 in 5 Canadians have a Facebook account which is quite significant considering that there are approximately 34 million people in Canada. That's basically 6.8 million Canadians are on Facebook or about 1.4% of the total Facebook population. With so many people on Facebook, you need to control who can and cannot access some of the data that you declare a secret from public view.

Facebook has come under fire these past few years between privacy and business. Let's face it, Facebook is in the business of selling personal data. They are a data mining company and as a Facebook user myself, we are willing to allow companies like Facebook to sell our data to third parties. However, that data is up to how you want to share it. People have been complaining about their confusing privacy policy which I do agree was a bit confusing. I did print a copy of their privacy policy and not everything was clear and concise so I also left my feedback on the Facebook Site Governance group page a few months ago on what I found was confusing. However, Facebook has since cleaned that up which is extremely satisfying to know that Facebook has been listening to their users. Without users, Facebook might as well be non-existent.

The privacy settings has also have become under fire. Hence prompting members of the Facebook community to start an event called Quit Facebook Day on May 31, 2010. The group argues that Facebook's privacy policies and settings are confusing for the average user. I've been reviewing the privacy settings on Facebook for a long while and let me tell you this, there are way more confusing settings on Windows than there will ever be on Facebook. I mean, how hard is it to set between three settings within each application or function on Facebook. There are three main settings: Everyone, Friends of Friends and Friends Only. How hard is that? Like really, people are quitting Facebook because they can't figure out the difference between these 3 options? I just find that absurd and ridiculous.

In response to this, Facebook came out yesterday to try to quell the uproar caused by Quit Facebook Day. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook has pledged that they will slowly introduce an even easier to use privacy settings in his video as shown below.

I believe that this is indeed a great step forward. However, there's always one thing that it won't be able to prevent, and that's how much you yourself are willing to share. One must remember that the Internet is a public place, just like any public spaces you go to. Privacy starts with you and Facebook is only there to help you with your privacy. Just remember that only share what you want to share. It's up to you to choose what you want to share, if you find it as something really personal, then don't bother sharing it at all. On another note, don't get Facebook if you don't intend to share anything at all. Facebook is all about letting people share ideas, photos and what's happening around you to friends and/or family. Even more, it allows you to easily share things to random people on the web if you really wanted to.

Facebook is only providing you the tools to control the information flow, but they can't completely control it for you. You must invest the time to tweak the settings if you're really worried about your privacy or don't share at all. The people who generally complain about privacy are the same people who are just lazy at changing privacy settings. Spend 15 minutes out of your day and you can learn how to tightly control your account. It's really not that hard. If you really want to learn, watch the video below and it'll teach you how to control your information on Facebook.

So, if you're really concerned about your privacy here's some steps you can take to make sure that nothing leaks:

  1. Spend time to learn how to use Facebook's Privacy controls
  2. Do NOT share anything that you deem to be personal
  3. Set the default settings to be Friends Only and if you want to share certain things to others, you should set that up later
  4. Do NOT randomly add applications. Be smart, only install applications you trust and when you like them
  5. Facebook is like your computer's operating system, there can be trojans or hidden data mining operations in third party applications. Be vigilant.

Quitting Facebook won't change a single thing. Instead, participate in Facebook's Site Governance page and send feedback in. This is a better way to tell Facebook what you feel instead of just quitting as it won't do a damn thing. In addition, historically these boycott groups don't do a thing. The gaming industry definitely knows this as there have been high profile boycott groups like boycotting the PC version of Modern Warfare 2 and the outright boycott of Left 4 Dead 2 due to having a sequel right after the first game. We might not even know if the 200,000 Facebook users pledged to quit will actually quit. I only expect up to 5% of the 200,000 to actually quit and probably only 1% of them would permanently quit.

Why soundcards matter?

Sound is an integral part of the overall computer experience these days. It has been years ever since people have been able get sounds emanating from computers. Computers used to require soundcards, but apparently it seems like they have been replaced by onboard solutions in contemporary motherboards?

Personally, I think not. Yes, there are different grades of onboard audio solutions from the two main onboard competitors, Realtek Semiconductor and VIA Technologies. They range from really basic to what they claim as HTPC class. However, even with the HTPC class onboard chips like the ever popular ALC889/1200, they still cannot fully compete against the most simple sound card like the ASUS Xonar DS or the Auzentech X-Raider 7.1. Even the “next-generation” onboard solutions like the ALC892 and the VT1828S can't compete with the card options. They may be good for basic listening, but if you have even a cheap $70 speaker system, you would still be missing out on its full potential by sticking to onboard.

Now, you might be asking why, why on Earth should I spend at least $50 on a soundcard when my onboard sounds just fine? It all boils down to something called a Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR). SNR is usually measured in decibels, the higher the ratio, the better the sound. Electronics, especially sound reproduction systems like soundchips and soundcards are susceptible to noise caused by electrical interference. The higher the SNR, the crisper your audio will become since it won't sound muddled due to the interference. However, SNR alone doesn't decide how crisp your sound will be outputted. Other things to consider is the chipset, Operational Amplifiers (OPAMPs), Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) and Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC).

Normally, onboard solutions are an all-in-one solution where the ADC and DAC are both integrated into a single chip. The ADC and DAC usually found inside the onboard audio chips also are considered low grade due to manufacturers want to provide a low-cost solution. Additionally, onboard solutions tend to use utilize CPU cycles in order to produce sound whereas soundchips may be able to offload these sound processing. Some chips are even able to fully hardware accelerate every aspect of signal reproduction including 3D sound.

Although modern sound cards are no longer a necessity as they once were, anyone who spends a bulk of their music listening experience on the computers should do themselves a favour and get themselves a soundcard. Something like the ASUS Xonar D1, Auzentech X-Plosion, Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium or the HT Omega Striker 7.1 are excellent solutions for the gamer and the HTPC builder.

Thoughts on AMD Thuban CPUs

Well, AMD did it, they released their Thuban hexacores today with much praise from many review sites. The Phenom II X6 1055T (clocked at 2.8 GHz) and the 1090T (clocked at 3.2 GHz) were released for (C$216 and C$316 from NewEgg.ca respectively).

So now you're wondering, what's so good about these processors? It's the fact that AMD added so many new improvements to the core like Turbo Boost, hardware C1E and the fact there's now 2 more physical cores. With Turbo Boost, the CPU will overclock one or more of its cores as long as it shuts down the unused cores to provide better single threaded or not that multithreaded application performance. Hardware C1E allows faster CPU frequency scaling for each of the cores. The original Phenom II design (revision C2) had C1E working at the BIOS level and caused issues with overclocks and was slow. With the new enhanced hardware C1E, frequency scaling is now done a lot faster and much more stabler.

If anyone has read my post about hexacores, then they would know my stance about AMD and Intel rushing them out before the market truly needs them. However, I think the reason why these hexacores are worthwhile is because of those added functionalities and the fact that they run surprisingly cool and doesn't use that much power. Guru3D reports that they were able to run the cores at stock at 30C at full load. This goes to show the strength of AMD's revision for Thuban. The only issue I see is that the Phenom II integrated memory controller isn't strong when compared to the Nehalem memory controllers. I hope that for Bulldozer, it will be much better.

In a couple of months, AMD will release a quadcore based off the Thuban dies called the 960T (a Thuban with 2 cores disabled) which will definitely be welcomed by those who don't need a hexacore but would still want the improvements brought by the improvements AMD has added to Thuban. What's great is that it also means you get a chance to unlock them if you're willing to risk it. A hexacore for the price of a quad core? Who's not sold at that idea, but remember, unlocking is NOT guaranteed and if anything happens it's your problem.

At a price as low as C$216, why not jump aboard even though you probably won't fully use the full potential for a couple of years? It's a definite recommended buy due to the price and improvements and not really the fact that it's a hexacore.

Time for Relaxation?

Well, it's been pretty quiet on this website and for good reason too, I just did a lot of school work and I'm finally done!

I am so happy that it is finally over and now I get to do whatever I want legally of course lol. To reward myself for a good job, I recently bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and I can tell you that it's a pretty awesome game. The game performance is definitely better than the beta. The beta was really really laggy which really pissed me off. Now it's silky smooth.

It's interesting to see that DICE decided to bring Battlefield back to the PC as it was missing for Bad Company 1 which is really odd in my opinion as Battlefield is and always was a PC game and I still don't think it translates too well on the console as I'm not sure if you can have so many people stuffed onto the same multiplayer game on a console over a residential internet service line.

Also, now I get time to probably finish Batman: Arkham Asylum, it's a really great game, but it's so long lol, normally I complain that games are too short but lately it seems that this game is epically long. Although that is a good thing because I did pay like $30, so it's stretching my dollar worth.