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When overnight isn’t, Part II: FedEx screws up this time

This is the e-mail complaint I sent to FedEx through their contact system, Tracking->FedEx Ground->Re-routing of shipment, as a complaint:

Good day,

I placed the order for the given tracking number on 9/12/2014 to be delivered for Saturday delivery on 9/13/2014. Upon receiving the e-mail that the package had been picked up and was on its way, I attempted to customize delivery on the package to have it held for pickup at a FedEx Office location as I knew I would be out of town much of the day and wanted to be able to retrieve it on the day of delivery.

As the tracking information for this notes, the delivery change was acknowledged by the system. It even said the package would be redirected to FedEx Office. But the package was never redirected. Instead an attempt to deliver to my home address was made.

In other words, the delivery change was acknowledged by the system, but ultimately completely ignored. And as such I now must wait till Monday to receive my package unless there is a way you can get my package to me on a Sunday.

Thank you, FedEx. Thank you very much for screwing things up.

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Beta Orionis – Part II: New fans

Contents: All articles in this series

I got to work pretty much right away after picking up the fans from my local FedEx Office. I also made sure to test all of them out of the box with another power supply to ensure none were DOA before installing them. To hold the fans in place, I opted against using the typical self-tapping screws and the included mounts and instead picked up some #8 screws w/ nuts from my local Home Depot.

And I replaced all of the 120mm fans in the system, including the two on the AIOs. And initial temperature testing is acceptable.

I ran Prime95 small FFT for about 18 minutes (long enough for the 28K test to pass on all cores), and the temperature topped out at 60C. It bounced around between 59C and 60C when it topped out as well and there wasn’t any indication it would go any higher. This doesn’t have me very worried as the Prime95 test puts more stress on your CPU than typical unless you’re doing a lot of high-end stuff on your machine – video rendering, 3D modeling and rendering, and so on. Under the stress I typically put my computer, it should stay comfortably in the lower 50s.

It is still significantly higher than with the SP120 fans, so I might change the AIO fan out. Not sure yet.

For the ThermalTake water cooler on the graphics card, temperatures climbed into the 50s with Valley Benchmark. The GPU is one that would need to concern me a little more, though, because games can put a significant load on the GPU, but the temperatures are still quite acceptable. Unfortunately, though, the unit I have has developed a noisy pump, so it will need to be RMA’d to the manufacturer, meaning my graphics card is once again on the stock cooler. I’m thinking this time I might just leave it at that configuration until I start building the custom loop – still RMA’ing the unit since I can repurpose it.

I switched out the fans simply to have a quieter system, and that is certainly the result. I think quieting down the system actually revealed the noise in the ThermalTake’s pump – one good reason to go with quieter fans, as noise from any component is not a good sign.

I expected as well that there would be higher temperatures than with the SP120s. The question was whether the temperatures would still be considered "acceptable". The CPU is overclocked and cooled only on a single 120mm radiator, and now with a fan that has 10% less airflow and less than half the static pressure of the SP120.

So one question that could be asked is this: if I wanted a quieter system, why did I not just use the 7V step-down adapter that comes with the SP120 and saved the expense of buying the Bitfenix fans? Two reasons. First, these fans will be repurposed into the Zalman Z12 case for a server, which can benefit from the higher static pressure fans – and I’d probably use the step-down adapters there since there wouldn’t really be high-end components in the case. And they likely still would not be nearly as quiet as the Bitfenix fans.

There was a minor hiccup in installing the fans.

The fan filters, Silverstone FF123s, have a curl in their fabric. In the other fan filter I had installed months ago, the curl was toward the magnet side of the filter, with the magnet attaching side attached to the case, meaning it curled away from the fan. In the additional filter I ordered, the curl was away from the magnetic side, meaning it went toward the fan, rubbing on the fan as it spun and creating some additional noise. So consider this when you’re using non-rigid filters like the Silverstone FF123. Just take a glance and make sure any curl in the filter will go away from the fan.

Mountain Mods fan mount

Along with moving the hard drives to an external enclosure, I wanted to do the same with my Blu-Ray writer. External enclosures, though, aren’t exactly cheap. They’re also not really necessary for optical drives. Plug it into a SATA to USB 3.0 converter and you’re pretty much golden, then find a place to put it. Pulling out the optical drive allowed me to pull off the last SATA power line from the power supply as well as remove the last SATA data cable. The case is really starting to look bare, now.

Part of what pushed me to go this route is discovering this:

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This is bracket from Mountain Mods that allows you to mount a 120mm fan into 3 x 5 1/4" drive bays. This one is made of acrylic, though a metal one is also available. The fan is a Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm I ordered, and there’s a Silverstone FF123 filter between it and the grill. Unfortunately this doesn’t fit directly into the drive bay courtesy of the support "fins" for the optical drives, but a Dremel took care of that and allowed me to get it in.

But the screw holes drilled into it don’t line up with the drive cage, so I had to use some 3M VHB tape to get it held in place.

DSC_0063

I tried using the thinner filter on this, but it kept interfering with the fan, so this’ll have to do for now until I order another FF123.

I’ll definitely be ordering one of these for Absinthe since the fan controller isn’t used, and I’ll just think of something for the temperature sensor so the coolant temperature can be monitored. Perhaps I can make it an Arduino project of some kind. Anyway… This will come in handy for the top radiator in Absinthe to ensure it can get some fresher cool air from the outside. Not expecting a huge difference in temperatures, more just making sure the case pressure stays positive since the front 140mm fans have the 240mm radiator in front of them and the bottom 120mm fans have hard drives (that’ll be changing soon) and the pump and reservoir.

And when I build a server into the Zalman case, I’ll also be ordering one for that as well. That case actually has the benefit of having more than three drive bays, so if I wanted to use an optical drive with it, that’s still an option.

AlphaCool fittings

When I learned that AlphaCool was getting into the hardline business, I was intrigued. They have introduced the least expensive fittings I’ve seen so far, called the AlphaCool HT, which stands for HardTube. Currently they’re only available in black and chrome, and I ordered a pair of the chrome ones to try them out to see how well they’d fit with copper tubing. They’re listed for 13mm OD tubing, and 1/2" is 12.7mm, so I presumed they’d fit, but wanted a pair to be sure.

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This is a compression fitting like the PrimoChill fittings, but they seem to combine both the Bitspower/EK offerings with the PrimoChill offering.

Like the Bitspower and EK fittings, this has an internal O-ring that will seal around the tubing, so whether you’re using copper or acrylic tube, you will likely need to polish the ends of the tubing to avoid damaging the O-ring. Like the PrimoChill fittings, there is another O-ring that goes around the tubing and is compressed on by the collar. And further sealing everything is a rubber washer that goes between the O-ring and collar. The fittings appear to be about the same shape and style as PrimoChill’s Ghost fittings.

Will I be using this to build out β Ori.’s loop? I’m not sure.

I’m stoked about the price: Performance-PCs has them listed at just $6 each, less than the price per fitting of the PrimoChill muti-packs. But the internal O-ring gives me a little pause. When cutting tubing with a tubing cutter, the outside edge is tapered slightly by the cutting blade, but not enough that I’d be comfortable with just reaming the inside of the tubing and using it with these fittings. But having the external O-ring like in PrimoChill’s fittings kind of gives me a little bit of peace of mind. If I end up damaging that internal O-ring, the external O-ring plus rubber washer should prevent any potential catastrophe.

I’ll still need to polish the outside of the cut end just to be safe, but I don’t need to worry about it being perfect. And using just a reamer on the inside to make sure it’s clear of copper filings should also be adequate without having to take sandpaper or a grinder to it.

So we’ll see. It’ll be either PrimoChill or AlphaCool. It’ll be a while before I order fittings – I’ll be ordering the radiators, blocks, pump and reservoir first – so I’ve got plenty of time to make a decision. And it’ll likely be Swiftech for any 90-degree adapters I need, presuming suppliers will have them in stock – everyone including Swiftech are out of stock as of the time I write this. If I need to fall back to something else, it’ll likely be to Koolance.

Come to think of it, I may just go with them anyway – Koolance adapters and blocks, AlphaCool pump and housing, radiators and hardline fittings, and Phobya for the reservoir.

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Beta Orionis

Contents: All articles in this series

With Absinthe complete – well, pretty close as of the time I write this – I’ve started planning out a similar build for my system. Absinthe got its name from the green lighting, and the blue lighting in my system has lent to the potential for several different names.

There were a couple names I considered. One was Azurite, which is a blue copper carbonate mineral. While darker than the blue of the CCFL kit in my case, I will be using annealed copper tubing for this build, so the name would work well. The recent death of Robin Williams brought to mind the name “Genie”, as the lights would give it a blue glow similar to the genie’s coloration in the 1992 animated film Aladdin. I have more in-depth reasons for considering the name that I won’t elaborate here.

But the name I ultimately settled on is Beta Orionis (image credit: Guillebot at deviantART)

Rigel__The_supergiant_blue_by_GuilleBot

Beta Orionis is the Bayer designation for the star commonly known as Rigel, in the Orion constellation. It’s a blue supergiant star, the brightest in the Orion constellation, with Alpha Orionis – i.e. Betelgeuse – being the second. And as beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet, and my second watercooling build is going to be a large blue-lit computer, I think the name certainly fits well.

But enough talk on the name.

Specifications

Here are the current system specifications:

About the only potential upgrade on this system would be to double the memory capacity – I use this computer not only for gaming but also for writing code and running VMs for testing (see my AMD vs Intel discussion).

I’m not hugely concerned about the power supply. It is bronze rated, so going with a gold rated like the RM1000 in Absinthe would be better, but with just one graphics card I’m not hugely concerned.

Planned water cooling loop

For the water cooling loop, I’m going with Koolance for the water blocks: CPU-380A for the CPU and the VID-NX680 for the GPU. The PNY board is built into the GTX 680 reference board, so this should work fine. I could go with EK for the GPU like I did in Absinthe, but the only reason I went with EK with Absinthe is the fact no one else had anything for the GTX 660. Going with Koolance blocks means I’m going with Koolance coolant as well, so it all works out.

I’m also considering putting water blocks on the memory with the Koolance RAM-33. If all goes well with that, I might consider the same as an upgrade for Absinthe, though it’d be something requiring me to pull apart the loop to reconfigure it – possibly adding a second pump if restriction might be an issue. What I like about the Koolance block compared to other offerings is the fact it sends coolant down through a thin channel along the chips themselves. Most memory water blocks work by flowing coolant across a block that is mounted to heat spreaders, with minimal contact on the heat spreaders as well, while relying on passive heat transfer.

Now while most memory is water cooled purely for bling, with air cooling being more than adequate unless you’re running a server that is constantly hit around the clock, I might as well get some more effective cooling out of the bling. Plus it’ll go with the other Koolance blocks. And by taking the loop across the memory, it alleviates the need to figure out how to get around it in planning the loop, though it does add some complication to planning it.

Like in Absinthe, the radiators will be AlphaCool, 360mm at the top and 240mm at the front – a lot of radiator space for just two blocks, meaning I shouldn’t have any problem keeping things cool, even if I add the memory into the mix. The fans are going to also be switched over to the Bitfenix Spectre Pro fans, but not using a fan controller. And also like in Absinthe, I’m going with the AlphaCool VPP655 pump and HF D5 pump top.

Where things will differ with Absinthe is the reservoir: the Phobya Balancer 150 Silver Nickel. This will mean a different loop design to what I had in Absinthe, as both the inlet and outlet are on the bottom of the reservoir. I was first considering going with the PrimoChill fittings like in Absinthe, but AlphaCool has recently introduced their own 13mm OD fittings – 13mm is a hair above 1/2″ (12.7mm). So I will order a pair of those and give them a try to see how well they work with 1/2″ copper tubing.

Build phases

There will basically be two phases to this build: the fans, and everything else, maybe some experiments in between.

In selecting the Bitfenix fans for Absinthe, I was wildly amazed at how quiet they truly are. As my system currently sounds like a beehive, it’s something I’d certainly like to remedy, so that will come first before everything else. The Bitfenix fans aren’t that much quieter than the 140mm fans that come stock with the Corsair 750D, so it’s only the 120mm fans that’ll be getting replaced up front, five in all. The 140mm fans will wait until I’m building out the loop and have the front radiator completely positioned – I had to pull the front ones off too many times in trying to build out Absinthe that I’m willing to wait.

Now with two of the 120mm fans on AIOs, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be replacing all, or only the three that aren’t on AIOs. In Part 2 of Absinthe’s build log, I posted charts showing a comparison between the Corsair SP120 and two other fans: Noiseblocker PL-2 and Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm. The chart shows that for airflow the SP120 and Spectre Pro aren’t that much off, only about a 10% loss in airflow going with the Spectre Pro, but the SP120 has more than double the static pressure, but close to double the noise pressure as well.

The AIOs both have high fin densities, and with those kind of radiators you typically want to lean toward fans with higher static pressure to get the best performance. The question is whether they will still perform well enough with the Spectre Pros that I’m willing to live with it, and I’ll experiment to answer that question. I’m willing to sacrifice a few degrees on the CPU and GPU to have a quieter system.

For refrence, in testing the CPU with Prime95 to get my 4.3GHz overclock, the CPU temperature topped out at 45C on the cores and 49C on the socket running Prime95 on small FFT for about 15 minutes. For the GTX 770 running Unigine Valley Benchmark on Extreme HD preset, the temperatures barely touched 50C as well. So if temperatures are significantly higher than that, like climbing into the high 50s, I’ll keep the SP120s on the AIOs.

* * * * *

Well that’s it for this introduction into the next build I’ll be doing. The first order of fans is on its way and will be arriving later this week, so I’ll be switching out the fans and experimenting with the AIOs when those arrive. After that, parts will be acquired over time, so it may be a while before I have another actual update on any build progress.

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Teach hackers to not hack!

We need to teach people to not hack instead of teaching people to not get hacked!

– Said no computer security specialist, ever…

Just as guys learn how to overtake women in order to rape, computer hackers learn their trade in order to cause harm to others – the "black hat hackers" including the ones who got ahold of pictures celebs like Jennifer Lawrence were storing on iCloud. The outstanding question is how the pictures were stolen, as that will determine the course of action needed to be taken by others.

There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood you’ll be a victim of any kind of crime. You can lock your doors and make other changes/arrangements to your property to prevent burglaries. You can use a car alarm and other such devices to prevent car thefts – to varying degrees of success. Online you can generate secure passwords to prevent accounts from being hacked.

And there are measures a woman can take to reduce the likelihood she’ll be raped.

If Lawrence’s and other celeb accounts were hacked by guessing passwords, they need to use better passwords. If they were hacked by infiltrating the iCloud system, then there was nothing that Lawrence or others could have done, and the entire security breach rests on Apple.

Or perhaps we could tell hackers to not hack instead of Apple needing to beef up their security. After all, if we just taught hackers to not hack, then computer security wouldn’t be needed.

Again, said no reputable computer security specialist. Ever.

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Games for Windows Live (GfWL) and Windows 8.1

If you are:

  • Running Windows 8.1 or 8.1 Pro
  • Trying to log into Games for Windows Live Marketplace

because you have a game that requires it (such as GTA IV), then before you will be allowed to log in, you need to make sure the account you are using on Windows 8.1 is connected to the Microsoft/XBOX Live account you are attempting to log into on the Games For Windows Live Marketplace application.

If your account is not linked up with your Microsoft account, you’ll get some nifty authentication errors attempting to log in.

Microsoft, please address this!

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Stopped by police while carrying, revisited

Prior to this past evening, I had not been pulled over since 2010 when I got nailed for speeding. At that time I did not even own a firearm. This past evening, I was pulled over because one of our headlights was out. We were able to confirm such at a nearby gas station, where we were headed anyway.

When pulled over, after informing me he pulled us over for the headlight, he requested my license and insurance information, and I plainly informed the officer of my permit and the weapon I had on my person – lines I’d practiced numerous times. I had already pulled my money clip from my pocket and put it on the center console before the officer approached, my wife went for the insurance information, so everything else happened in plain sight of the officer.

I handed him the insurance info first, since my wife found that in short order, and then I handed him my license, then the separate ID with my CCW endorsement. He handed back that ID before taking my license and insurance information back to his car. When he returned to let us off with a warning about the light – i.e. get it replaced within a reasonable time frame – he thanked me for voluntarily disclosing that I had a weapon.

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Computer build tip: External enclosures, revisiting cable management

A lot of your time in building a computer is going to go into cable management. In October 2013, I upgraded the power supply in my wife’s computer from a Rosewill 500W supply to a Corsair GS850 in preparation for higher-end upgrades coming down the road. In making that changeover, I spent probably three hours on cable management in the mid-tower case that housed it. In building out a water cooling loop in her full tower case, again a lot of time went into cable management.

Mid-tower cases do not leave you a lot of room for managing cables, and there tends to not be a lot of space, if any, behind the mainboard tray for routing and management. Modular power supplies have made the task only a little easier by allowing you to reduce the cable bulk. And reducing cabling is really the only way you can make cable management easier. Even with full tower cases, you’d probably still want to make your life easier.

On this mark, one thing I’m surprised I don’t see advocated more often is the use of external enclosures.

Enclosing the past – USB and eSATA

Now in the past this path has been problematic.

First, USB 2.0 is slow compared to the bandwidth available SATA I – 480 Mbit/s for USB 2.0, compared to 1.5 Gbit/s for SATA I. Even ATA-4, the last PATA standard, was twice as fast at nearly 1 GBit/s. Most hard drives today are also faster than what USB 2.0 can support – SSDs most certainly are – so trying to use a USB 2.0 device as a primary boot device would mean a significant performance penalty.

If you search through Google for articles on trying to run Windows from an external hard drive, you’ll also find that it was problematic and certainly not recommended, though in most cases the discussion focused around USB external devices. I found an article from December 2008 discussing the pitfalls of trying to do this. It was apparently still doable, it just would’ve required a bit of work, and there was no guarantee on stability.

Even with today’s systems and Windows 7 and 8.1, there is still no guarantee it’ll work from a USB 3.0 device. The reason is that USB has traditionally been purely plug-and-play (PnP) with the ability to hot-connect a device (plug or unplug it while the computer is on), and Windows does a PnP device detection during bootup, which could cause your external hard drive to be reset while your computer is trying to boot.

This is where eSATA can make your life much easier, since eSATA goes through the existing SATA bus on your mainboard or SATA interface card. But eSATA as a standard connector option on mainboards didn’t really happen until within the last five years. My previous mainboard I bought in 2007 didn’t have it as an option, and neither did my wife’s. Our current mainboards do.

If you don’t have eSATA connectors, you can buy SATA to eSATA adapters for an expansion card slot, or a SATA controller card with eSATA ports on it, such as this one from SIIG.

Experimenting

Recently I acquired an external RAID enclosure. I’m probably not going to be using it for too long and will replace it with a different one as it doesn’t have all the RAID 1 features I’d like. But the purpose of acquiring the enclosure was to get the hard drives out of my case. I have a full-tower Corsair 750D, and even in full tower cases, hard drive cages affect airflow.

Now many cases have mount points for solid state drives that are completely hidden away – and the 750D is no different. That would only help with airflow, not with cable bulk. Plus SSDs are expensive – to get the kind of storage capacity I currently enjoy through SSDs would cost more than the rest of my computer combined. My wife’s build, Project Absinthe, prompted me to try this. The only thing I don’t like about the build is how the hard drives are mounted. There is better airflow on them compared to the stock hard drive cage that comes with the case, but there’s no doubt they’re a major eyesore.

So the only way to remove the eyesore without breaking the bank is to move everything to an external enclosure. Again this will also help with cable bulk and cable management.

Sure external enclosures can be expensive – especially if you’re going for a RAID cabinet – but it gets an eyesore out of your case while improving airflow. And single-drive enclosures are inexpensive if you’re running only one hard drive. It does leave a void in the case, though, depending on your case and where the hard drive cage is, but if I were running only SSDs, that’d be the situation anyway. In Absinthe, the radiator, pump and reservoir are all in the front section beneath the 5 1/4″ drive bays, and after removing the hard drive cage, I’ll put a fan grill on the exposed fan.

In a build on YouTube by OCTurboJoe called “Neptune 2.0″, he mounted the hard drive in an odd location in his modified case because he couldn’t think of someplace else to mount it and he didn’t want it in view like in his previous build, Neptune. An external enclosure would’ve saved him a bit of a headache on that.

Results

So far I haven’t had any problems with it. As I was migrating an existing system, I needed to image my existing RAID 1 setup before putting the drives in the external enclosure, then write the image back out. It booted without a problem on the first try.

I am also not seeing any performance penalty doing this. I didn’t take any benchmarks, so I cannot say for sure. I’m sure there is probably a small performance penalty, but to me it’s just not noticeable. If you put an enormous amount of emphasis on benchmark numbers, this may not be for you.

One other option as well is to use a pre-packaged external hard drive, but only if there is an eSATA option. This has the potential to be less expensive than buying a hard drive and enclosure separately, but you don’t have control over what hard drive you get, but the performance should still be adequate. I think it’s only if you’re anal about benchmarks, boot times and load times that you might not like that option. Again as attempting to do this through a USB 3.0 device could be problematic, I don’t recommend using that interface.

There are a couple minor downsides to this.

You are removing some cable bulk from inside your case and moving it outside your case. It is one more peripheral to connect to your computer, one more appliance to plug in, so you need to make sure you account for that with regard to your surge suppressor and desk space. If you want to get creative, you can always use 3M VHB tape or high-bond hot glue to stick it to the underside of your desk. It will also use slightly more power than if they were in the case, but it is a negligible difference you won’t notice on your power bill. Make sure to get one that has a fan as well.

In my case, I was able to remove one of the cables from my modular power supply along with several SATA data cables. And not having the hard drives inside the case also improves airflow, which is important for systems with water cooling loops. It can also help maintain positive pressure in your case, which reduces dust, provided your fans are properly configured for that.

Note as well that if you are migrating an existing Windows installation to an external enclosure or external hard drive, you may need to take your system into Safe Mode before it will boot correctly under the “normal” boot option. It may boot clean on the first go, as mine did, but if you encounter problems attempting to boot into it, take Windows into Safe Mode and make sure it boots clean there, then it should boot clean on a normal reboot.

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Project Absinthe – Intermission and future plans

Contents: All articles in this series

Well Absinthe is basically complete now. There’s not really anything left on it. Everything is installed that was planned to be, though there may be some adjustments in the future. I do plan to build out another water cooling loop in my own personal computer in the coming months, and I’ll probably be experimenting with a few things as well in building that out, but I don’t foresee many upgrade paths for Absinthe.

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The only plan on the plate right now is just figuring out how to get those hard drives out of the picture. Sure, I could switch them over to SSDs, and she’d certainly love the speed those would bring, but I wouldn’t like the expense: 2 x 1TB SSDs would cost more combined than the components in the loop and the tools I needed to buy to make it all happen.

Instead, I’m going to move them to an external RAID enclosure. I’ve done this with my computer, and it works quite well – though I’m going to be swapping out the current enclosure for something else with better features.

There are three hard drives in Absinthe: 2 x 1TB Western Digital Blacks and an older 250 GB Western Digital drive. The 1TB drives are in a RAID 1 setup, while the smaller drive is for backups. Moving the two 1 TB drives into a RAID enclosure that connects via eSATA, with the spare in another enclosure or removed altogether, will free up space and improve airflow and get rid of what is definitely an eyesore while removing some of the cable bulk. I may also move her Blu-Ray drive into an external enclosure as well, removing another eyesore.

But then with 256GB USB 3.0 sticks out for a reasonable price, and the amount of her hard drive usage being less than that, I could actually move her entire system over to a USB stick and have her run off that – and the read speeds I’m seeing for some of those, it could be better than her hard drive.

Now removing the hard drives exposes the inverter for the bottom CCFL, so I’d either need to move that behind the mainboard tray, if possible, or devise a way of covering it up. Or paint it. Probably cover it up, though.

* * * * *

Cleaner loop and look

JayzTwoCents is documenting on Instagram and YouTube an upgrade on a previous client machine in changing the loop over to acrylic tubing from soft tubing. The results are certainly quite phenomenal.

Before:

Now this could’ve been made cleaner by having the pump in a different location, such as finding a way to have it under the reservoir. It’s an AlphaCool VPP655 pump in this build, so he could’ve used a Z2 bracket or something similar to have it on top of the fans on the lower radiator.

In the update, he has it so the pump and reservoir are one unit. And with acrylic tubing, it looks so, so much cleaner.

This is very similar to the previous loop and current loop I built out in my wife’s computer. The original loop wasn’t terrible, mainly because I had the pump and reservoir as one unit, but it certainly could’ve been better. Now the previous loop was my first attempt at a loop, and even with all the reading and videos I’d watched, my inexperience certainly showed. But then there’s no doubt that rigid tubing – whether acrylic, PETG or copper – allows you to build a cleaner loop overall. Even with a new radiator added to the loop over the previous, this build is still much cleaner.

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And it’ll be much cleaner when I get those hard drives out of there. If I’m careful, I shouldn’t need to do anything with the loop to accomplish that.

* * * * *

Takeaways and lessons

So what lessons could be learned on this? What did I learn along the way of building Absinthe? Note: some of these might sound like common sense, but it’s often been my experience that things considered "common sense" are the things that need to be repeated the most to ensure you don’t forget them.

1. Don’t skimp on the tools

This doesn’t mean you should max out credit cards or drain bank accounts paying for them either. Annealed copper tubing is typically used for water systems, not water cooling systems. As such, those are the tools you need to consider if you’re going to go with copper tubing. The tubing bender I purchased was made for HVAC professionals. I just needed to shop around to find the best price for it.

There are more expensive options, but I didn’t need to go that route. If I was doing client builds, building out copper tubing water cooling systems for others, then I’d probably consider it to ensure I was building with the best tools for the application. But then I’d also have spent $200 on a tubing straightener or figured out how to build my own – come to think of it, I may consider trying to figure that out anyway before I build out a loop in my personal computer as I’m likely going to use copper tubing for that as well.

2. Practice before building

I went through an entire 10′ coil of copper tubing figuring out a few things before I built the loop. I wanted to know what I was getting into, what the tools were going to do, and figure out any "gotchas" before getting down and dirty. It’s amazing how many people just jump right in with acrylic or PETG tubing without spending a little time learning their tools and figuring out the techniques. That is a formula for waste.

Speaking of "gotchas", there’s one major reason I went with copper tubing: the bender all but guarantees the angles at which I’m bending. I can trust the marks on the bender better than I can my own judgment of where 90-degrees is. A lot of people who’ve built loops with acrylic have built jigs to assist in getting the 90-degree and 45-degree bends they may need. You may need to do the same if you go with acrylic/PETG tubing as opposed to copper.

There’s a common tip I’ve seen with regard to building out water cooling loops: build your loop outside your case before you build it inside your case. That sentiment is not just about planning, but about practice. It’s why I wanted to get a proof of concept on the copper tubing before planning out the rest of the loop.

3. Don’t be afraid to change your plans

I will guarantee you that most of the build logs you read across the web or videos you see online involve a lot of changed plans that may or may not be documented. The individuals behind the builds likely didn’t show you their entire planning process, including having to change plans. And I highly, highly doubt that all plans they had going into the build were maintained through it.

As I documented across the build log, I’ve had to change plans. A lot. I had a number of ideas in mind going into this, and a lot of them didn’t work out. I originally planned to have the reservoir mounted externally on a 140mm UN Z3 bracket on the back of the case with the pump sitting on top of the power supply. Then I discovered there wouldn’t be nearly as much room as I originally thought due to the lower graphics card.

I wanted to have the 240mm radiator laying on the floor of the case. I had an inkling going into this that it wouldn’t fit with the new power supply, so I had to change it so the radiator was on the front. This meant my original idea for how to mount the pump and reservoir would also have to change after seeing they would need to be mounted internally.

I even had to change the drainage system. Twice! With the second time being while I was doing the first leak test on the full loop.

So many plans, ideas and decisions needed to be changed through the course of this build – I know I didn’t document all of them. Changing plans does mean spending more money, which means…

4. Don’t purchase everything up front

If you’re going to be switching out fans, I’d say get those ordered first and get as many installed as you can. Work on the system little by little if possible. Then decide on your water blocks and radiators first and get those ordered. Decide on where your radiators will go. Everything else needs to be planned around those, including the pump and reservoir. Plus the blocks and radiators can easily be over half the cost of your loop, so getting those out of the way is going to be a good thing. Be sure to read reviews and watch review videos as well.

What you should not purchase up front are the fittings. Even in the original loop I built out back in March, the fittings were actually the last things I bought, and in my next loop that’ll hold true as well. The loop needed to be planned first, then the fittings acquired. Fittings can easily send your budget into the red, even if you’re just going with soft tubing and flush compression fittings. Because chances are you’ll discover something in building out your loop that you did not consider going into it.

One thing you’ll notice with the build log is actually how slowly things progressed until nearly the very end. I decided to change the fans after doing some research, so I bought those and got them installed.

5. Budget for contingencies

Back when I was in late elementary school into middle school, there was a cartoon series on television called "Darkwing Duck". In one episode, DW’s adopted daughter Gosalyn is sleepwalking around town (video here), having a very imaginative dream about historical events because, as the character Astroduck notes, she was "lazy and wanted a shortcut to avoid studying history".

Anyway, Gosalyn notes toward the end of the episode while still in her dream: "You should never let a minor setback stop you and nobody ever lands right where they plan to."

It is only with experience that you can plan out things well enough in advance that few of your plans will need to change during the course of building out a loop. Chances are you will never become that experienced. Chances are, neither will I. Regardless of how much you read online, or how many videos you watch, you will not be able to overcome your inexperience and the ignorance that comes with it. It’s just something you’re going to have to live with, meaning you need to insure yourself against it.

And the only way you can insure yourself against it is to keep some room in your budget to account for it. This is something that should be common sense, but then, to borrow the oft quoted phrase, common sense tends to not be that common. Given that in building out two loops I’ve had to in both instances overnight something seemingly at the last minute, and overnight shipping prices are likely going to be significantly more than what you’re overnighting, again you need to account for the possibility.

* * * * *

Inventory

You can see the current parts inventory, minus the water cooling equipment, on PCPartPicker. Here are the components of the water cooling loop:

Radiators: AlphaCool XT45 240mm and 360mm
Pump: AlphaCool VPP655 w/ AlphaCool HF D5 top
Reservoir: Assembled from these parts:
Bitspower Water Tank Z-Tube 100mm (BP-WTZACT100-CL)
Bitspower Z-CAP I (BP-WTZACC1-CL)
Bitspower Z-CAP II (BP-WTZACC2-CL)
CPU: Koolance CPU-380A
Graphics cards: 2 x EK FC-660
EK FC Bridge, dual serial 3-slot CSQ Plexi
Tubing: Type L Copper annealed tubing
Fittings PrimoChill Rigid Revolver, Nickel plated, Silver/Black
Swiftech 90-degree swivel elbow adapter, chrome
Swiftech 45-degree swivel elbow adapter, chrome
Bitspower valve, shining silver
Bitspower mini-D plug, shining silver
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Gun confiscation

Cracked.com recently ran a series called “If Every Lie on the Internet Was True“, in which this picture was included:

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The lie here isn’t that government agents will actively confiscate guns, it’s that gun rights supporters say that government agents will actively confiscate guns.

Here’s the thing, outside Alex Jones and a few other conspiratorial nutjobs, no one is saying this will happen. In fact the platform people like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck enjoy is actually the reason it won’t happen. The last thing gun control and gun ban proponents want is Alex Jones and Glenn Beck having a reason to say “we tried to warn you” or “we were right all along, and you should’ve listened to us”.

The issue here is the definition of “confiscation”. Too many people think of confiscation as a person taking something from you, such as when a teacher confiscates something from a student. But like many words in the English language, “confiscate” has more than one definition. Here’s the other one (emphasis added): “to seize as forfeited to the public domain; appropriate, by way of penalty, for public use”.

Remember when word of these first hit the news (from NBC News) after the TSA changed the rules, yet again, on what passengers were allowed to carry onto the plane:

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This is also a form of government confiscation. But these fliers have no choice but to surrender these items voluntarily before being searched by DHS agents, where they would ultimately be seized if they weren’t surrendered up front. The difference between that and a firearm is failing to surrender a water bottle won’t get you sent to jail, as it’ll just be seized from you later. Failure to surrender a firearm you are no longer legally able to have within the timeframe the statute or law enforcement allows for surrender becomes possession of an illegal firearm, which is a felony.

When a firearm you own is outlawed, you have two options: surrender it to law enforcement or sell it. Sure you can try to argue in Court how the law is an ex poste facto law, but by the time that argument comes around, you’ve already lost your firearm anyway.

That is what gun right supporters mean by confiscation.

But there’s another statement that many gun rights proponents have said: “Gun registration leads to confiscation”. And this is another thing that has already been seen in recent years. Many States and jurisdictions have gun registration. After the passage of New York’s inaptly named SAFE Act declared illegal numerous firearms – along with requiring a background check to purchase ammunition or bring it into the State – law enforcement took to the gun registry to determine what registered firearms were now illegal.

Did they then go driving around to each person’s house to confiscate the now-illegal weapons? No.

Instead they sent form letters naming the firearms in question – including make, model and serial number – that were now illegal under the law and declaring that they had a certain period of time to surrender the firearm or lawfully transfer it out of the State.

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This, folks, is what “gun confiscation” looks like. Not government agents going door-to-door to seize firearms, but law enforcement sending out letters demanding people surrender firearms, transfer them out of the State, or have them permanently modified to be in compliance with some law.

And whenever you hear of “gun confiscation” from a gun rights proponent, it is this to which we are referring.

But because gun control proponents have this insatiable desire to constantly portray gun rights proponents as if we are batshit insane, they’re going to still keep using the schoolhouse definition of “confiscate” when talking about firearms.

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Project Absinthe – Part XV: It’s alive!

Contents: All articles in this series

If you’re going to use Koolance’s coolant in your loop, don’t try using the little spigot that comes on the bottle. It’s worthless. Just pour it out into a jar and use a syringe to feed it into your reservoir. You’ll save yourself a bit of trouble.

But speaking of the coolant, as I suspected, Koolance said the amber bottle was not good. Thankfully Microcenter had a couple bottles in stock. My wife’s been waiting – as patiently as possible – for her system to be done since it was torn down last week. And I think having to order in more coolant would’ve driven her a little off the edge. So one bottle is going to Kansas City Water Services for proper disposal.

Draining the loop was again a little bit of a pain, as was filling it back up with coolant. But at least I was down to the point where I just needed to get coolant circulating.

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It took a while for the vast majority of the air to bleed out, somewhere around an hour and a half before I unplugged the external power supply and got everything plugged up and booted the system.

There was also a last minute upgrade. I earlier purchased a Sound Blaster Z SBX sound card. Okay not exactly last minute, but I waited until everything else was installed and running reasonably stable before installing the card. It went into the last PCI-E slot on the mainboard. I’m still considering getting a RAID card, provided I don’t just put her hard drives into an external RAID enclosure to just get them out of the case.

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And the temperature performance on this is phenomenal. Running Prime95 Small FFTs for about a half hour, the CPU got up to 48C. And running Valley Benchmark, the graphics cards got to 43C max. On World of Warcraft, the CPU barely broke over 40C and the graphics cards stayed under 40C with everything cranked up.

And the build is quiet. Very, very quiet.

A retrospective will be coming shortly where I’ll have additional pictures, specifications and parts, and some more discussion of the build.

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