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Desert Sapphire

The time has come to introduce another build project, this one being a client build. All of the primary hardware has been purchased and I’m just waiting on water cooling parts to arrive. This one is called Desert Sapphire. It’ll have a mostly blue theme and will be water cooled.

Mainboard: ASRock X99 Extreme4
CPU: Intel i7-5820k
RAM: 16GB EVGA DDR4-2800 SuperSC (4x4GB)
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO M.2 SSD
Graphics: EVGA GTX 980 SC ACX 2.0
OS: Windows 10 Home
Chassis: Corsair 750D

This is going to be a very high-end build, and it’ll be the first truly high-end system the client has ever owned, and he’s very excited about getting this system. Currently he’s running a second-generation Intel i3 with a Zotac GT620, so the difference here is like night and day. There’s also an interesting story behind this build.

The client had actually been out of work for a while but wasn’t really actively looking for work — he’s a younger man in his early 20s still living at home. So I proposed to him that I’d build him a system if he found a job and put up some of the cost. So he’s put up about half the cost of the system, and I’m absorbing the rest. The chassis is actually the 750D from β Ori. that will be available once I move that system into a 19″ rack.

And as I said, the system is going to be water cooled as well. Many of the parts have already been settled and/or ordered, at least on brands.

CPU block: EK Supremacy EVO
GPU block: Aquacomputer kryographics with passive backplate
Radiators: AlphaCool ST30, size to be determined
Pump: Koolance PMP-420 or PMP-500

This system will actually be externally water-cooled. There will be an inlet and outlet to the chassis that will be connected via Koolance quick disconnects, very similar to what I did for Colony West. The question that’s up in the air still is what to use to house the external water cooling setup.

And I’ve had a few ideas, all of which so far involve modifying something from off the shelf. The idea on that mark is I want it to look like a piece of furniture with the tubing and cabling going from the back of the computer to the box. I’ve looked at night stands and small cabinets mostly.

I’m doing this for a couple reasons. First, the client lives in Nevada — i.e. desert, hence the name. This means that there will be what some would consider over-kill radiator capacity. I’m currently planning on 6x120mm. The pump is also a little up in the air as I’m considering going with something more powerful than a D5 to ensure there won’t be any flow problems. On that I’m considering two pumps from Koolance: PMP-420 and PMP-500. I may end up going with a D5 in the end, simply but again flow is the primary concern.

The other reason I’m doing this is simply because I can. The client has voiced no objection to going that direction with the loop and trusts my judgment on this. But at the same time I’m wanting to demonstrate what I talked about in a segment of the β Ori. build log and that AntVenom demonstrated with his setup:

The box will contain the pump, reservoir, and radiators. Coolant will pass from the pump up to the system, through the blocks, then back out to the box where it will pass through the radiators and go back to the reservoir. The quick disconnects will be color coordinated to ensure that the flow goes in the right direction. There will be a small ATX power supply controlling the fans and pump that will be synchronized to the main power supply. More on that when I get there.

And here’s the best part: the cooling system is independent of the chassis. This means that the client could later add a second GTX 980 without affecting the radiator box. It’d affect only the main chassis, and not really all that much. Plus with all of the radiators external to the system, the radiators will have completely open airflow, meaning maximum cooling potential. The chassis could even be changed out later without having to worry about the radiators, and the radiators could be upgraded or additional ones added without worrying about the chassis.

Doing this provides for so much flexibility I’m surprised so few people are doing this. While there are some complications with going this route, they are relatively easy to overcome, provided you actually put some thinking into it.

The only part of owning a water cooled system that the setup would complicate is maintenance, but even then not really by much. It is something I’ll have to keep in mind when building the box, though, as the client will likely be the one maintaining this system unless I agree to go back out there about once a year. Aside from that, all he’d have to do is keep the fans and radiators cleared of dust.

That’s it for this part of the build log. Some of the water cooling parts have been ordered, but with Thanksgiving around the corner, it’ll be interesting to see when they arrive. The Aquacomputer block was also ordered direct from Aquacomputer in Germany, so hopefully it won’t take over a month to receive it. But if that happens, there will still be plenty to work on in the mean time.


Follow-up on Colony West

So the system has been up and running for about a week now, so it’s time for a follow-up on how the system is performing.


First I couldn’t be happier with the water cooling loop. The radiators have no problem keeping the GPUs cool. MilkyWay@Home tasks tended to produce the highest temperatures on the cards while air cooled, so seeing the temperatures in the low 30s C on water is just phenomenal. But that was with the fans running at full voltage.

So to quiet the system, I used the voltage step-down I already have (read about it here) to take the fans down to around 8 volts. When I plugged it in, I didn’t realize the voltage was set that low. But the temperatures only went up a few degrees, hovering around the mid 30s C. The fans are inaudible compared to the fans in the graphics host and graphics enclosure, which is odd considering the fans in both chassis are undervolted as well.

Either way, that is phenomenal performance. I’ll see what I can do about the other fan noise later. If it’s the power supplies in either instance, then there’s nothing I can do about it.


Along with temperatures, I also need to talk about stability. And that is where so far I’ve had some concerns. In short I think I need to revisit the water blocks. Not for cleaning, but to remount them, at least with regard to one of the GTX 660s.

For some reason one of the GTX 660s does not want to remain stable. The Xid error code thrown by the NVIDIA driver is 62, which is labeled as an “Internal micro-controller halt”. Three possible causes: hardware error/failure (unlikely), driver error (also unlikely), or thermal issues. This is what makes me think the block needs to be remounted.

Now if the temperatures on the GPUs are in the mid 30s, how can this be a thermal concern? Simple. It’s either the memory or VRMs that is the issue. I just hope I have enough thermal pad material to do that.

What’s odd is the driver crash would happen consistently after about 36 hours of continuous load. So I reconfigured BOINC to take a 15 minute “break” at midnight every day. This alleviated the driver concern, but it didn’t keep the issues completely at bay. So re-seating the water block is a necessity, meaning I get to test how well I could drain the system.


Now for the real meat of the project: distributed computing performance.

Recall that there are four graphics cards: two GTX 680s and two GTX 660s. When the system remains stable, it’s able to clear over 100,000 points in a day.


After clearing the 5000 ranking for MilkyWay@Home, I decided to turn the system over toward Folding@Home to see what kind of performance I could expect. Since this is a headless system, I needed to manually configure the client through the config.xml file. First, I used the –configure command-line option to set up a few basic options, then I manually edited the file to provide four slots, one for each graphics card.

  <user value='Colony_West'/>
  <team value='0'/>
  <passkey value='********************************'/>
  <smp value='true'/>
  <gpu value='true'/>

  <slot id='0' type='GPU'><gpus v='0' /></slot>
  <slot id='1' type='GPU'><gpus v='1' /></slot>
  <slot id='2' type='GPU'><gpus v='2' /></slot>
  <slot id='3' type='GPU'><gpus v='3' /></slot>

So how well does this perform? As of the time I wrote this, the client estimates it can clear 260k points per day, sometimes estimating over 270k points per day. Given published numbers I’ve seen for the GTX 680 and GTX 660, this likely means the GPUs are being held back a little by either the CPU or memory. The 660s should be able to pull between 100k and 115k PPD combined, while the GTX 680s should be able to net 210k to 225k PPD combined, meaning this setup should be able to pull almost 335k PPD, but 300k at minimum.

So the GPUs are being held back, likely by the fact this is a 10 year-old dual-core CPU that is being used. As the Folding@Home FAQ says, the GPU tasks are still heavily CPU dependent, though that’s something they aim to try to change later. But that means that even one of the GPUs is going to be held back by the current client.

So for now, Folding@Home is out. Perhaps when the AMD mainboard in either Absinthe or Beta Orionis are freed up will I try doing Folding@Home again. For now, Colony West will be doing just BOINC.


Rack water cooling, cont.

EK got back to me pretty quickly on my inquiry. The screws in question that I’d need are M3x10 DIN 7991. They even offered to mail me a set if I couldn’t find them locally. Grainger says they carry M3x10 DIN 7991, but the screws they sell are actually longer than 10mm, so they wouldn’t work for this. Thankfully McMaster-Carr also carries them, so I was able to have them shipped in. Unfortunately I had to order 100 of them when I only need 16. At least the excess dowel pins I ordered can be put to use. Not sure what I’m going to do with these.

On cleaning the blocks, after a lot of research, and posting a thread to the Linus Tech Tips forum, I opted toward Mother’s California Gold Metal Polish. The difference is night and day, and the blocks look almost brand new.


Getting into the channel over the VRMs and in the fins over the GPU was interesting. And to get around the edge of the channels, I used a blue shop paper towel as it was easier to push into the corner than the microfiber towels I bought with the polish. For the fins over the GPU, just used a toothbrush.

But like I said, like night and day.

After seeing the EK blocks, though, I decided to also take apart and polish the Koolance blocks. Definitely glad I did, too, even though it meant having to re-flush the blocks. The liquid shown in the picture is distilled water, not old coolant.


Then came assembling everything. The GTX 660s went without a hitch. The GTX 680s, however, had a couple minor hiccups. On the Zotac card, there was a small foam block that was used to keep the massive cooler suspended over the card. It interfered with the Koolance block, but once I removed it, it wasn’t a problem.


For the EVGA card, I needed to pick up some M3 nuts from Home Depot along with finding spare PVC washers or a substitute for them. The reason is the Koolance VID-NX680 doesn’t come with a separate screw and nut for the back panel, while the EK-FC680 does. That extra screw wasn’t needed for the Zotac card since it didn’t use a reference cooler, but since the EVGA GTX 680 does use a reference blower, it needs the extra screw for the back panel.

A quick glance at the instruction manual for EK’s block showed what I needed to buy. I already had ¼” M3 screws — plenty of them — but I just needed a nut for securing it.

Unfortunately I would come to that realization well beyond Home Depot’s closing time. Oh well. As Gosalyn Mallard says in Darkwing Duck, don’t let a minor setback stop you. Unfortunately there was a more major setback.


For the graphics cards I intend to run them in a split parallel configuration. The GTX 660s will be in parallel, and the GTX 680s will be in parallel with a single line coming from the outlet on the GTX 660s going to the GTX 680s. And I want the GTX 680s to be right up against each other, and same for the GTX 660s.

I have the SLI fittings for the GTX 680s. I’m using Swiftech fittings for that. For the GTX 660s, I have an EK SLI bridge, but it’s a dual serial 3-slot bridge. So I decided to try to buy one from Micro Center, but it was an SLI Terminal I purchased, not the SLI Bridge. I should’ve paid a little more attention as now that means I have something I need to order in and more delays on this project.

But again, don’t let a setback stop you where you can. This isn’t a show stopper. There is still other progress to make in the mean time, and a receipt to find. Before closing out the night I attached fittings to the bulkheads: the male quick disconnects to the outside and compression fittings to the inside.



* * * * *

Sunday started off with a trip to Home Depot to obtain some more small parts. I needed #6-32 screws, ½” length, some 00 rubber washers, and M3 nuts (mentioned previously). The 00 washers and screws were for mounting the pump to the radiator — the 00 washers act as vibration isolation and work quite well.

At home, I turned my attention first to the EVGA GTX 680 to get the bracket screwed to the card, then turned to doing test fits. Unfortunately having the GTX 660s all the way at the back corner of the case would not be feasible. The mainboard standoffs stick up too far and aren’t removable from what I can tell. So I had to have them one slot over.



I turned my attention then to trying to get some of the cable management out of the way. The USB 3.0 panel mount cables, however, I should never have purchased. At least not the ones I did buy. So I placed an order for the 12″ cables as I think those will be much, much easier to cable manage. I ordered the 3′ cables as I didn’t think the 12″ cables would be long enough, and there wasn’t anything in between.

So basically until orders arrive later in the week, there isn’t much farther I can go on this, at least with the chassis. The radiators on the other hand…

* * * * *

The pump and reservoir were the easy part. Getting everything back onto the rack was a little interesting. But once I had everything on the rack, I started to tube up where I could. Which wasn’t much initially. I used EK 90-degree fittings plus Swiftech 3/8″x1/2″ fittings to run tubing between the radiators. And I ran a tube from the top radiator back to the top reservoir. That was about all I could accomplish initially.

The order arrived a few days later with the EK SLI bridge and the extra fittings. With these, I finished tubing up the graphics cards, mostly. After getting the SLI bridge mounted to the GTX 660s, I saw how close the fittings for the GTX 660s and GTX 680s would be.


I measured this gap at 2-3/16″, with about a 2½” offset. But I didn’t want to order more fittings, so I looked at what I still had. Leftover from moving β Ori.’s pump and reservoir external, I had a Koolance 4-way fitting and a male-to-male rotary fitting. This served as a make-shift 90-degree fitting and I just looped tubing around to reach the SLI Bridge. Sometimes you need to improvise. With that tubed up, I turned to the leak test.



I leak tested the graphics chassis in isolation simply because it was going to be much easier. Initially there was a pretty significant leak: I forgot to tighten down one of the stop fittings on a Koolance block. Thankfully that was the only leak.

Back to the rack and the radiators, or rather the pump and reservoir mounted to them. Between the pump and reservoir I opted to use 1/2″x3/4″ tubing just to avoid having to buy still more fittings to finish this. I already have such fittings with some tubing left over, so it was trivial, or nearly so.

The Swiftech 1/2″x3/4″ fitting wouldn’t sit flush and I didn’t want to go out and buy another extension fitting, so I used a T-fitting plus a male-to-male fitting to get things run. The tubing then curves down to meet another fitting on the pump. The outlet on the pump feeds to the quick disconnects. The outlet on the graphics chassis also goes through quick disconnects to get to the lower radiator. The top-most fitting on the top radiator goes back to the reservoir.


This actually made bleeding the system a little interesting. The reservoir is entirely bottom-fed, meaning the water blocking the inlet to the reservoir was going to also make it difficult to get air out of the system. It took a few tries to actually get fluid moving. But once I did, it didn’t take much to bleed it. With that bleeding, I turned my attention to getting the graphics host and my wife’s gaming server back onto the rack and getting the cabling managed.



And that was basically it. Unfortunately I’m having some stability issues, but I think I’ll just need to rebuild the operating system to get that figured out. But with Fedora 23 due out in a few days as of when I write this, I’ll just put up with the stability concerns until then.

I’ve got a couple other minor enhancements to make to this after doing some experimentation, primarily involved around getting the tachometer for the pump plugged into the graphics host and synchronizing the power supplies between the host and the GPU chassis.

Stay tuned…

But before I go for now, let’s talk about temperatures. To show that these are temperatures under a full load from the Berkeley client and not idle temperatures, I made sure to show both in the same image. These are two GTX 680s with Koolance VID-NX680 blocks and two GTX 660s with EK-FC680 blocks and two XS-PC EX360 radiators with Cougar Vortex HDB fans.


Right-click on the image and select “View image” to see it full-size. Given these temperatures I think I’ll see what they look like with the fans turned down. Stay tuned…


Debt settlements – Reply to Star Fresh Northwest

Recently I received an e-mail from Ron Burg of Star Fresh Northwest, which is a subsidiary of Lauber Dancey, PLLC, in Washington State:

Hi there,

My name is Ron, and I write primarily for I was looking for some information on debt settlement and negotiating a debt this morning when I came across your excellent page. While reading through it, I especially loved your “Correcting the Motley Fool regarding debt collectors” post!

I actually just published something on negotiating a debt:

I’d love to hear any feedback you have!
– Ron

As I said in the article Ron had read, I don’t like it when misinformation is published about debts and debt collections. And for misinformation to be published by a person writing for a subsidiary of a law firm is actually worse than if someone at publishes misinformation (and I’ve gotten on their case quite a bit as well).

So let’s get into this.

* * * * *

First what is a settlement? In general a settlement is an offer to satisfy a tort privately as opposed to via a lawsuit or arbitration. The defendant and plaintiff agree in writing that

  1. A specific tort occurred by the action or inaction of the defendant
  2. A specific remedy is sought
  3. Plaintiff forever abdicates any claim against defendant for the specific tort
  4. Defendant agrees specific tort occurred, whether or not the defendant accepts or disclaims liability for the tort
  5. Defendant ascents to the remedy outlined in the agreement and will satisfy the remedy in a manner considered “reasonable” or within specific terms outlined

Fairly simple. But how does this apply to debt settlements?

The tort in question is typically breach of contract, in that you are not paying on a liability in accordance to the terms of your agreement with the creditor. Whenever a tort can be demonstrated to have occurred — which is quite easy when we’re talking about debt accounts — one party is said to have been injured and is entitled under the law to damages. With debts the damages to which the injured party is entitled is quite obvious: the outstanding balance plus any additional fees or interest provided by the contract.

Either party can offer to settle the tort claim. The plaintiff, however, always has the option to file a lawsuit or take the matter to arbitration. With debt collections there are additional duties the creditor must satisfy first before filing a lawsuit or seeking arbitration, and that typically involves exhausting all other reasonable options to collect the debt.

Settlements are offered to make a claim go away. And whenever there is a tort claim, the plaintiff actually has a duty to attempt to settle the claim outside Court, with the lawsuit being filed only if those attempts fail. In other words, if a defendant first learns of the tort by being served, the defendant can request a continuance on the lawsuit and use that time to attempt to settle. If, however, there have been attempts to settle outside Court, then the continuance will likely be denied.

Tort settlements tend to specify damages and remedies significantly lower than what the law entitles the injured party. This occurs for many reasons that can basically be boiled down to this: it’s better to get something than nothing. And it should be pretty obvious as to how that ties into debt settlements.

I’ll use myself as an example. Back in 2010 my wife and I received a settlement offer from Wells Fargo on a credit card account my wife had in her name that had been charged off. The settlement offer was for a reduced total balance with payments spread across 6 months. We agreed to the terms of the settlement and paid as agreed. If we failed to pay as agreed, they likely would’ve taken us to Court.

Now the one thing that needs to be kept in mind with regard to negotiating settlements is that the injured party typically has the upper-hand in the negotiations. They always have the option to take their claim to Court or arbitration, which can be used as leverage in the negotiations. And with debt claims for which dollar amounts and payment histories can be conclusively demonstrated, that’s a significant amount of leverage. And a judgment also opens up other avenues for collection, giving the creditor still more leverage in negotiating.

But don’t think the defendant has nothing they can leverage. The question that plaintiffs to claims will always need to consider isn’t the likelihood of prevailing should the claim go to Court or arbitration, but the likelihood of receiving what the Court orders the defendant to pay. This works in the defendant’s favor a lot of the time, and can be quite useful in negotiating a settlement. However in negotiating a settlement, the defendant should always use language giving the impression they are trying to act as best as possible in the plaintiff’s best interests. A couple years ago I said this in the comments to’s article “Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?“:

It is in the creditor’s best interest to accept whatever payments the person can afford, but few actually mention that when talking to a creditor — probably because it sounds like you’re being patronizing. But demonstrating to the creditor that what they are demanding is unreasonable in light of your current income/expense outlook may work in your favor.

Or it might not.

They may still talk about Court or pursuing other collection options, so telling the creditor that doing so — up to and including Court — may or will not increase the rate of payment (as the debtor will show to the Court evidence of their current income, or lack thereof, their current expenses and obligations, etc.), and may only delay payment.

What you are capable of paying can be used as leverage in trying to negotiate a settlement. However, bear in mind that the plantiff will likely push back against your capability claims and demand you prove that is really what you’re capable of paying instead of being able to pay more.

Which brings me to Ron’s article.

* * * * *

Much of what I’ve written above is from the standpoint of a debt that has been charged off to collections. But if you read Ron’s article, that is not the context from which he’s writing. Instead he’s writing from the context of debts that are either still current or have only fallen one or two payments past due.

What surprises most people is finding that, yes, you can cut the debt on your credit cards bills in half, if not more! That’s right. Under the right circumstances, and equipping yourself with the right knowledge, you can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. If you are ready to say goodbye to financial burdens and finally start to gain control over your finances, follow our guidelines and tips for debt settlement and give yourself a fresh start today!

This isn’t “debt settlement”, but contract negotiation.

The premise of Ron’s article I have actually already addressed on this blog. Six (6) years ago. As such, I really hate the fact that much of what I’m likely going to be saying herein responding to Ron’s article is going to be a lot of repetition. But then, I’ve likely repeated myself a lot in most of the articles I’ve written on debt. Because those who write about debts and collections and settlements have likely never been through the situations they are writing about. I have.

So as I said, Ron is writing from the standpoint wherein a debtor has gotten a bit in over his or her head and is looking to unload some of that debt. As such they may look at their credit card statements and wonder what they can do to get out from under the totality of their balances.

While Ron is correct in saying that you can offer to settle your debt for a fraction of what you owe — even correctly stating you have a “right to ask for a settlement” — what if the creditor declines the offer? As I said in the above-linked article from six years ago, a creditor has no obligation to accept what you’re offering. So what do you do then? Since, as I said, all of these articles speak from the standpoint of “you can settle your debt for a fraction of what you owe”. No, you can offer to do so, but whether you will actually succeed comes down to a lot of variables.

When you take on a credit card or loan, you are signing a contract. Now you are free to attempt to renegotiate that contract at any time. On loans you can try to refinance the outstanding balance under new terms, such as a lower monthly payment and/or lower interest rate. With credit cards, you can ask for a higher credit limit and/or lower interest rate. You also have the option to try to renegotiate the outstanding balance under different terms.

For example if you have a credit card with an outstanding balance of $2,500 and you’re trying to pay off a lot of outstanding liabilities, you can contact the credit card issuer about this balance. In contacting them, you can explain your circumstances. If the account is still current within the contract and not over the limit, the credit card issuer is not going to have a lot of incentive to work with you. Hence Ron’s statement that “lenders will usually accept a partial payment if it looks like they might never receive a payment in the future.”

Now if you’re wanting to do this, the first thing you need to do is close the account before you start negotiating. And if you try to renegotiate the outstanding balance, the first thing the issuer is going to force on you is closing the account. Closing the account, though, doesn’t avoid additional interest charges on the outstanding balance in accordance with the original agreement, and the original contract will stipulate such.

This is where negotiations come into play. As the original account has been closed, you can attempt to negotiate different terms on the balance based on your ability to pay. Negotiating is about give and take. If you’re going to ask they do something that isn’t in their best interest — such as reducing interest rates or lowering the balance — then you need to be willing to give them something in return.

This means the more you request, the more you’d better be willing to give in return. This is likely why Ron focuses so much on the “lump sum”, as the quickest way for a creditor to agree to a reduced balance is if you’re able to pay that reduced balance all at once. However the ability to offer a lump sum payment of a reduced amount could also cause the creditor to push back: “If you can pay all of that in one lump sum, why can’t you make payments on the remainder?”

These are some notions that Ron attempts to address in a later section in his article. For now, he moves into determining whether you need an attorney. Recall from above that his article is being written for subsidiary of a law firm.

* * * * *

While you do need an attorney when filing for bankruptcy, most people don’t think they would need one for debt consolidation. By no means is it absolutely mandatory. However, using an attorney to help negotiate a settlement can take a lot of pressure off of you. An attorney already knows your rights and legal grounds. Attorneys will help to exhaust all options to see the outcome you desire.

In actuality I would suggest against employing an attorney to assist with renegotiating debts. Outstanding debts are not so complicated a situation that an attorney is necessary to ensure you understand everything. Plus what an attorney might help you save in renegotiating your outstanding liabilities could be overtaken or severely reduced by attorney’s fees, leaving you not as far ahead as you thought you’d get or worse off.

But let’s humor Ron’s idea to hire an attorney. He provides three ways in which “an attorney can help you with debt settlements”.

1. They recognize scams

Companies that claim to specialize in debt relief or consolidation, but ask for money upfront for their services, are usually scammers. They will take your money without a guarantee of results.

If you’re talking to an attorney about debt consolidation, you likely aren’t talking to other debt relief or consolidation firms. Instead you would have the attorney instead of going to a debt relief or credit counseling firm to represent your interests with your creditors.

2. They offer cease of harassment

When you work with an attorney, you can redirect all your harassing calls from creditors to them. Once you have an attorney to represent you and your case, creditors can ONLY talk to them and cannot call you again.

This is demonstrably false.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act at 15 USC § 1692c(a)(2) declares, with regard to debt collectors, that a debt collector cannot directly contact a debtor known to be represented by an attorney, provided they have the attorney’s information. So if the former is true, but the latter is not, they can contact the debtor directly to obtain or verify the attorney’s information.

However if the debt collector exhausts all reasonable effort to contact the attorney but is unable to actually communicate with the attorney, then the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows the debt collector to contact the debtor directly. It also allows the attorney to consent to direct contact with the debtor.

The same holds true with regard to attorneys retained to represent your interests to original creditors. If you tell your creditor that you’ve hired an attorney to represent your interests in negotiating your debt account, a couple things will come to light. First, they’ll wonder how you can afford an attorney but not afford to pay your balance in full. And second, if they exhaust all reasonable effort to contact your attorney but are unable to do so, the creditor can and will contact you directly.

Your attorney cannot stonewall negotiations on your debts by refusing to talk with them. And if they attempt such, you will be contacted directly by your creditor, or your creditor will file a lawsuit.

3. Negotiation is in their job’s nature

An attorney’s job is to convincingly argue for his or her client’s desired outcome. Attorneys will take on the creditors and be able to successfully negotiate until the credit card companies agree to settle for the partial payment.

An attorney’s job is to represent your interests to an opposing party, whether that is a private party or the government. Part of representing your interests is getting the best outcome possible given the facts of the situation. Their job is not to get your desired outcome, and being represented by an attorney does not mean you will get what you want.

Before approaching your creditors, your attorney will discuss with you the totality of your circumstances. In doing this, your attorney will get an idea of what you want and why, make sure your desires are reasonable, and then present your desires to your creditors. There will be push-back, which is why in discussing your situation with you, the attorney will figure out how far you’re willing to allow them to push back.

So if you say you want to negotiate a $3,000 balance to $1,500, the attorney will ask how you feel about paying $2,000 or even $2,500. He or she will present $1,500 to the creditor, expecting push back, will offer steadily higher amounts.

Often the credit card company will settle for the attorney’s proposed percentage because they know that if they don’t agree with the partial payment, then the borrower is likely headed toward bankruptcy, meaning the lender would end up with nothing.

Chances are if a debtor has taken on representation, the creditor may have in the back of their mind that the debtor is steps away from bankruptcy. However bankruptcy doesn’t mean necessarily that the creditors get nothing, but it could mean they walk away with a far reduced amount.

But at the same time, they’re not going to just jump at whatever percentage the attorney offers and will likely push back.

Next, Ron goes into some cons of settling your debts for less than what you owe.

* * * * *

First, remember that you are offering a large sum of money at once. If this is not laying around in a bank account, you need to consider the ways in which it will affect you and your family. Paying off a huge lump sum may cause some huge changes in the standard of living you are used to.

And again, Ron is focusing on the lump sum.

Here’s one thing that needs to be said: settling your debts does not have to involve lump sum payments, and your inability to make a lump sum payment does not detract from your ability to renegotiate your debts. While creditors would certainly prefer lump sum payments, it is not absolutely necessary.

If you are consolidating debts through a loan, then obviously you will be offering a lump sum. But if you are merely trying to get rid of the debt faster, you can negotiate for a reduced balance in exchange for a higher monthly payment, or an eliminated interest rate in exchange for a higher monthly payment. But the common token in negotiating your debts is you need to be willing to put more money to them each month in exchange for the creditor giving up its rights under the contract.

His second point about settlements being a ding on your credit report is accurate, but its difficult to measure the impact it’ll have on your future ability to get credit.

But it’s under his next section, “Negotiating 101”, that he finally gets factually accurate with his statements, in part because it finally addresses the caveats that you will face trying to do this.

* * * * *

Now a lot of what Ron says in his “Negotiating 101” section is on the money. I have only a few concerns with what he’s said.

To start off, I don’t think credit card companies have a “settlement” department. Typically you’ll likely be talking with their collections department on this, but the person to whom you will be speaking will vary from issuer to issuer. It’s probably best to initiate contact on settling your balance in writing, as that will ensure it gets to the right person who can then contact you.

But along with this is what Ron never says that I did above: negotiating to settle your balances will result in the account being closed. They’re not going to keep the account open if you’re wanting to do this. They will close the account if you haven’t closed it in advance. So along with cutting spending to the card, as Ron rightly suggests, you need to close the account as well.

Also, remember that your lender wants to hear a dollar amount for your offer. Propose a lump sum payment of around 30 percent of your balance. They will likely try to negotiate for a higher payment; however, if they ask for more than 50 percent of your balance, consider how that will affect your finances. If you can’t do that, consider offering a settlement to another company or saving up for that payment in the future.

The biggest problem with attempting to propose a lump sum payment is the credit card issuer will want to know where that money came from. If you had the money sitting in the bank, the creditor is going to be less likely to work with you.

You see your creditor is going to be working from the standpoint of what is going to be best for them. And what is best for them is keeping the account open and current within the contract while collecting the balance you owe in full plus any additional interest assessed in the interim. So if you’re going to lump sum pay off a balance for less than what you owe out of money you have sitting in the bank, the creditor is going to push back, especially if you’re saying you’re in “dire straights” but have enough savings sitting in a bank account to offer a several thousand dollar lump sum.

Instead the creditor is going to offer that the account be suspended to avoid new charges, and may offer to suspend assessing interest in that time as well to keep the balance from growing still more, and that you continue to make at least the minimum monthly payment as calculated by your contract. In the mean time they will want you to use your savings to keep your head above water while keeping them in the loop on your standing.

Now if you’re borrowing to consolidate your credit card balances and have been approved for a loan, then that will work in your favor, but still expect the creditor to push back on your offer since they are out to get as much back of what they’re owed as possible.

And certainly get any settlement offers in writing before you remit a single payment.

The rest of his article from that point talks about budgeting and saving, which have nothing to do with debt settlement or contract negotiation, so I’ll call it here. This rebuttal is getting long enough.


Rack water cooling

First order of business after getting the rack completed was moving everything into it. Three chassis (4U and 2x2U), two radiator panels (3U each), and a surge suppressor (1U). Plus I ordered a keystone panel and RJ45 coupler keystones, and an 8-port rack mountable switch. Total is 19U of space including 2U between the radiator panels which will be occupied by a blanking panel that’ll have a couple holes drilled through it for the fan cables with an NZXT Grid on the back of it for distributing power.


I based the spacing for the rails off the EIA-310 standard. If you don’t want to take measurements and figure the math on this, you’ll want to space the beams onto which you mount the rails at about 19 3/16″ or 19 1/4″, if you order the same rails I used. If you intend to recess the rails, that gap will be narrowed.

So with that out of the way, it was time to order parts:

  • 2xAlphaCool chrome bulkhead fittings
  • 10xSwiftech ⅜”x½” compression fittings
  • 3xKoolance QD3-FS10X13 female with ⅜”x½” compression
  • 3xKoolance QD3-MSG4 male G¼” threaded
  • D5 Vario pump (Watercool branded)

Two of the male QD3 fittings will be connected to the bulkhead fittings, which will go on the graphics chassis. I ordered a bare D5 pump as well since I do have a spare pump housing I will use for that. Two actually, if I remember correctly, an AlphaCool and Bitspower housing. As my local Micro Center has a decent stock of fittings, I waited till I started building everything out to determine if I needed any additional 90-degree fittings.

Parts arrive


Now this is a Halloween treat for a computer builder. A bag full of water cooling fittings. After accounting for the inventory (listed above), the first thing I assembled was the pump and pump housing. After moving the pump and reservoir on β Ori. external, the pump housing was freed up for another project. This would be used for flushing the radiators and water blocks. All 4 of the blocks.

To that end, I bought 12 gallons of distilled water from my local HyVee. If you have a Harbor Freight in your area, their 8″ jumbo aluminum hooks make carrying all of that water a hell of a lot easier. I was able to hook 4 jugs to it. Still heavy, but it wasn’t awkward.

Thankfully buying a lot of distilled water at once doesn’t get you added to the DEA’s watch lists. Or does it? Well if anyone from the Federal government happens upon this, know that the distilled water will be used for entirely peaceful purposes.

One other acquisition was needed: two blank panels. Specifically I acquired a 1U and 2U panel from my local Guitar Center. The 1U was going to be just a blanking panel. The 2U, on the other hand, was going to be going between the radiators. More on that later.

Tearing down the graphics chassis

Now for the fun to start. Before flushing the radiators and blocks, I wanted to get everything torn down first as it’d save a lot of time. And the graphics chassis was really the only thing that needed to be taken apart. And I don’t mean the cards just pulled out. I literally mean taken apart.

The front and back panels both had to come off the chassis. The front panel was needed as I’d be redoing the cable management, while the back panel was getting a couple modifications. The graphics cards were set aside — they’d be handled later — and the first order of business was drilling the holes for the bulkhead fittings and attaching the male quick disconnects. At first I thought I was using my carbide bits to drill starter holes, but I’m not sure what bit I was using. Whatever it was, it was able to punch through the steel, though it took a lot of force to do it. The carbide bit would likely have cut through it without issue — I bought it originally for drilling holes into copper.



Then my attention turned to flushing the blocks and radiators. I put two gallons of water through each of the water blocks. I wanted to make sure they were going to be clean and free of any possible obstructions. The radiators each got a gallon straight flush before being connected to the filter together.

The GTX 660 blocks, though, needed a bit more cleaning. The Koolance coolant that had been run through the blocks left some staining behind. There was also some green coloration left behind in the acrylic — no doubt from the copper tubing. So I had to disassemble the blocks and scrub the acrylic and nickel plating. Only disassembling the blocks turned out to be a nice set of challenges. I’d never had a hex screw strip on me. … … Okay I really need to get my mind out of the gutter. Anyway…

In the above picture you can see eight (8) small hex-head countersunk machine screws surrounding the coolant channel for the VRMs. Several of them stripped while I was trying to remove them. Since I’m going to destroy the screws getting them out, I wrote into EK to find out what I need as replacements:

I have two EK-FC660 GTX water blocks that I am attempting to disassemble for cleaning. On the blocks in the lower-right around the channel for the VRMs are 8 small hex-head screws. The hex heads on a few of the screws stripped while trying to remove them, meaning the screws will need to be replaced.

What screws are those so I know to what I need to buy to replace these screws?

As I didn’t yet have a kit for removing stripped screws and I didn’t want to stop progress for another night, I turned to the radiators and getting those flushed using a technique I’ve already detailed on this blog (here and here), with the only difference being that I had both radiators connected together when hooked up to the filter and I let that run overnight. Then I drilled out the holes in the blank panel for the fans to pass through.

The next day, the focus turned to finishing the radiators and getting that remounted onto the panels with their fittings. With the stripped screw kit I bought from Home Depot, I managed to get the last screw out of one of the blocks to take apart. The #1 and #2 extractors both more drilled out the head than engaged it, but the #3 was able to grip into the head and get the screw out.

It was bad.



The picture doesn’t quite pick it up entirely, but there was green tinting on the acrylic. That came off with a wet paper towel and not a lot of elbow grease — I had to do the same to the acrylic AlphaCool HF D5 pump top that houses the pump. If necessary I could’ve used dish soap as well, but nothing beyond that. The nickel, on the other hand, had some aggressive deposits. For that EK recommends using a non-abrasive automotive polish, so I left that for later and just decided to not make a lot more progress on the build.

While waiting for EK’s support team to return my e-mail, I decided to look at the screws in question and see if I can figure out what they are. They’re 10mm M3 countersunk machine screws, but I wanted the DIN for them so I could match exactly what EK used. So basically until I can get ahold of a non-abrasive metal or automotive polish and some new screws, I’m about as far as I can get on this, aside from putting the blocks on the GTX 680s, provided what I’m seeing with the GTX 660 blocks doesn’t prompt me to try to disassemble those blocks as well.


Revisiting still and video cameras

I’ve said numerous times on this blog that digital cameras and video cameras aren’t going anywhere because of the quality they have over smart phones. It’s been over five years since the first article I wrote that addressed this topic with regard to the then-new iPhone 4:

But there’s a major downside to higher megapixel camera phones: they’re camera phones. I avoid the camera on my iPhone 3Gs for that very reason. It’s great for quick pictures here and there, but a 12 megapixel camera on a cellular phone? That’s overkill.

And with regard to video, I said this over four years ago:

The DSLR cameras that are actually worth it that also shoot good HD video have 4 digits to their price tag before the decimal, yet you can get a good quality HD camcorder for around $300 to $400, possibly less, depending on where you go. Add on top the fact that a good quality point and shoot camera can be had for less than $200. Explore your options, of which your cell phone isn’t one of them.

So what’s the verdict after all this time? Let’s first turn to Briley Kenney of Gear & Style Cheat Sheet and his list of “5 Devices in Your Home That May Become Obsolete Soon“:

8-12 megapixel cameras are now standard in most smartphones. In just a few years, those cameras will have expanded in quality even more. For the folks who carry their phones everywhere, there’s absolutely no reason to carry a compact digital camera, as well.

In fact, most families and consumers have ditched personal cameras altogether. It doesn’t hurt that those phones can even record HD quality video.

The only exception to this rule would be the professional point-and-shoot cameras that people carry for better shots. Let’s be honest, smartphone cameras are convenient but they don’t always deliver the best quality photos – neither do low-end digital cameras for that matter.

Still, you can expect to see sub-par cameras, about $300 or less, fade away.

Actually, I wouldn’t expect them to go away, and the reason is a market that few people seem to consider anymore: those who cannot afford better cameras and the smart phones with higher quality camera capability. It’s as if these people don’t exist to these tech writers.

Here’s the thing: unless you get a very, very good deal on a good smart phone from one of the major carriers, you’re going to be left with something with a sub-par camera. To cut the cost of a phone, the camera is going to be one of the bells and whistles to see cuts in quality. Point and shoot digital cameras can be had for a decent price, and good deals can be found online and in pawn shops, so the point and shoot camera will always have a place in our increasingly digital environment to those with lesser-impressive budgets.

This is especially the case given that storage options for digital cameras are continually getting better in price. Lower priced smart phones, even ones with a half-decent camera, aren’t going to have expandable storage, meaning to get the pictures off the phone, you’ll either have to send them across your phone’s data traffic (unless you connect to a hotspot) to an online storage option, or connect it to a computer.

A few weeks ago I was able to buy two 16GB SDHC cards from Micro Center for just 16 USD plus tax. That’s .50 USD per gigabyte. That can store a lot of pictures. And with better newer DSLR cameras coming onto the market at lesser and lesser price tags, the bodies for older model DSLR cameras can be had for dirt cheap. The lenses have always been the bulk of a camera’s price tag, but you can probably still find good deals on used lenses.

But that’s still photos. What about video? That depends highly on what you want to do and the quality you want to get.

I’ve seen a number of tutorials online about how to get the best quality video from a smartphone, so the possibilities are there. But it takes a lot more effort and consideration than would be needed for a DSLR or dedicated video camera, many of which you can probably find for a good price used either online or through a local retailer. Just make sure to do your research to know whether you’re getting a good deal.

Today we are more in the age of the DSLR. A good DSLR that can also shoot HD video can be had for under 500 USD. If you can’t afford that, but don’t care about shooting video, then point and shoot digital cameras can be had for a good price that will outlast your smartphone.

That’s something the “smartphones will replace digital cameras” crowd doesn’t take into account. If you sink 700 USD+ on a digital camera, you’re going to take really good care of that camera and try to get as much longevity on it as possible. In the case of my old D40, the lens that originally came with it is being problematic while the body is still perfectly fine — kind of brings to mind an analogy of a gorgeous young woman with bad eyesight…

But let’s get back to the original question: will point and shoot cameras become obsolete? Not any time soon. DSLRs are still too expensive, and smart phones with good cameras are also too expensive. Technology is continually becoming less expensive, though, as we continually see more value added to our the tech we carry around.

But one quote I encountered years ago still applies today: smart phones are about taking snapshots, while DSLRs and point and shoots are for photographs.

And on the video front, those who care about video quality, such as home movies and the like, will get a DSLR or dedicated video camera. Indeed with action cameras coming down in price continuously, and used GoPro cameras available for a steal, dedicated video cameras will always have their place as well since that means you don’t have to risk your phone to get a good video.

So I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: digital cameras aren’t going anywhere, at least not anytime soon.


Correcting the Motley Fool regarding debt collectors

Time and again I read articles that make me wonder either 1. whether the editors were just not paying attention and 2. the authors actually have experience with the topic at hand. This is especially true with debt and collections. Today’s attention is turned toward the Motley Fool and the article “Dealing with Debt Collectors the Right Way“.

I really wish these places would stop spreading misinformation. I’ve gotten on’s case in their comments sections quite a bit over stuff like this.

The FDCPA also protects consumers from deceptive practices, as well as harassment from debt collectors.

The former is true, but the latter is not. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act isn’t what provides protection from harassment. That would be all of the other tort and criminal laws that have been on the books longer than the FDCPA. By the way, your State laws generally control in such matters, not Federal law.

There is some grey area here, but generally speaking, if a debt collector calls you more than once a day, it’s too much.


There is no “generally speaking” when it comes to harassment. Whether their actions rise to the level of harassment, and rise far enough to be actionable through the Court, depends significantly on the facts of your interactions with the debt collector and you should ignore any attempt at a hard definition such as the one above.

Debt collectors are not allowed to use profanity when speaking with you, nor are they allowed to call you at work if you’ve asked them not to. They can only call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and are prohibited from making calls intended to “annoy, abuse, or harass you.

Let’s clarify this. They cannot call you at work only if you have told them in writing to not call you at work.

The same with the 8am to 9pm time limitation. You can state in a letter that they are to not call you at all. But again, it must be in writing to be enforceable. You can’t just tell the over the phone.

See my article on debt validation for a letter template providing details.

Similarly, the statute of limitations on debt limits collection efforts after seven years.

The statute of limitations actually varies from State to State. It’s not 7 years universally. In some States, it is as long as 10.

The clock starts from the date the original account (not the collection account) first became delinquent.

Unless State law says otherwise, the clock actually starts from the last payment, and a promise to make a payment may count as actually making a payment under the laws of your State. This is why debt that is beyond the statute of limitations can be “re-aged“, with the clock completely reset back to the start and the ability to enforce the debt through the Courts renewed.

When negotiating with debt collectors, it’s important to realize that you have most of the bargaining power — and you may be surprised how much of a “discount” you can get.

Don’t read too far into this statement. You do have a good amount of leeway in bargaining with the debt collector since they are concerned with getting the money so they can get paid. However, their ability to accept an offer is going to vary.

Many seem to forget that there are actually two types of accounts that debt collectors control: assigned and purchased accounts. There is a difference between the two and it is significant in terms of your ability to bargain.

If the debt newly crossed over into collections, chances are the debt wasn’t sold to the collector, but assigned to them, with the debt collector having full power of attorney over the debt in exchange for a fee. The collector doesn’t own the debt, however, but is merely collecting it on behalf of the original creditor. Don’t expect to have much leeway  here. Your bargaining ability is going to be limited to negotiating payments on the balance in full unless you are ready to write a check for a significant portion of the charged-off balance.

If the balance is lower — say, under $1,000 — then the collector will likely offer a settlement up front with the initial communication. Take it if you can afford it, or try to negotiate. But don’t anything until after you have exercised your right of debt validation.

And bear in mind that if you try to stonewall them, they will turn around and sue you.

Now a debt buyer — i.e. purchased accounts — is going to be easier to negotiate. They likely purchased the debt for a significant discount, so anything over the purchase price is profit. As such you’ll have a bit more leeway for negotiating payments and settlements.


Finally a cabinet!… frame

First I’ll say up front that I love quiet fans. They tend to not move the greatest amount of air, but quiet is always a nice compromise in my opinion.

I mentioned previously that the graphics box came with a Yate Loon 120mm fan. It was rated at about 70CFM and 1650RPM, but has a noise rating of 33dB/A. In the triple 5¼” drive bays, I had a Mountain Mods fan mount (I didn’t realize I had a spare) holding a Power Logic PLA12025S12HH-LV. That fan was rated at 2000 RPM, able to move over 80 CFM, and rated at 27 dB/A. Needless to say: loud!

Well in a trip to pick up fittings for Beta Orionis, I looked at fans at the same time. I didn’t really have many spare 120mm fans around, and the ones I did have were largely cheap case fans — read: loud — or Corsair SP120s — again, read: loud. So in looking at what Micro Center had, I looked at fans by Cougar and bought two CF-V12HB fans to replace both of the 120mm fans I had installed. I’d read about these fans before but never tried them.

They’re rated at 60CFM, so they’re moving less air, but given the chassis doesn’t have any active exhaust except the power supply, this isn’t a major concern, but they do have a higher static pressure — 1.75 mmH2O. Temperatures on the graphics cards are a little higher. But they’re rated at 17 dB/A, and that is what I wanted. The difference is fantastic.

Just as a test, I wanted to find out what six SP120s sound like attached to the radiators. They look good on the radiators, but how do they sound? It overtakes the central HVAC unit in my apartment sitting only a few feet from it.


I found a listing on OutletPC for the Cougar CF-V12HB fans for significantly less than Micro Center’s price, so ordered six of them, and they arrived before I was finished with the cabinet. What do six of those sound like?

Watch the two videos again. The camera in both instances was about the same distance away from the fans. Again in the first, the fans were overpowering the central HVAC running just behind my shoulder. In the second, you could hear the hum of the fans, but anything else could drown them out. Put them in a computer case and you’d likely not hear them. Undervolt them and they’ll be completely silent, which is likely what I’ll do with these.

The cat you can see in the videos is Alice.


* * * * *

Building the cabinet

I was at the point in the project where I had to build the cabinet if I wanted to progress.

One thing I’ll say up front: this would’ve been a hell of a lot easier and quicker if I’d opted to go with pocket screws, following the instructions and design given in the plans I referenced earlier. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted a cabinet that would be a hell of a lot stronger, given some of what it would be holding, so I opted mortise and tenon joints for the side panels.

And I’ll say up front that I don’t have a lot of experience with woodworking, and I’m starting to wonder if I have a masochistic streak that is making itself known.

I knew going into this that I’d likely need a drill press, but I held off on buying one to see how far I could get with a hand drill and a standard V-Drillguide to keep the drill holes perpendicular. And I wasn’t able to get very far. Namely because the V-Drillguide wasn’t going to hold still (and yes, I was trying to clamp it). So I bought a drill press from Harbor Freight — only the 8″ model as I didn’t need anything bigger (keep your mind out of the gutter).

Except I didn’t do mortise and tenon joints for the cabinet. I started drilling for it with the press, but it would prove too much for my limited capacity. I had the tools for it — the press to drill out most of the material, and the chisels to hone them square — but I knew after getting through a couple of the corners that this wasn’t going to work for me and I’d end up going through a lot more wood trying to make it work.

I looked for alternatives, and the one alternative that kept popping up in my search was a dowel joint. Not only would it be a hell of a lot easier to implement, but, depending on the wood you’re trying to join, it could possibly be stronger than a mortise and tenon. Let’s also not forget the fact that a dowel joint involves just drilling holes.

Now since the dowel joint is basically an enhanced butt joint — again, keep your mind clean — I would need a jig to drill the necessary pilot holes in the ends of the pieces being joined. Again, Harbor Freight to the rescue. While I was there, I made sure to pick up some 36″ I-bar clamps. Then it was off to Home Depot after that to pick up some ½” dowel rods.

A note of caution: as reviews to the doweling jig point out, it comes nicely coated with oil, so have paper towels handy when you first open it. This also means that parts of it can get nicely coated with sawdust as if you were breading chicken, so expect to have to really clean it. The centerline for the holes was also a little off. In my case the center mark for the ½” guide looked to be about 1/16″ off, compared to the center brad on the drill bit. Not a significant amount and something relatively easy to account for in making your marks.

Also make sure you have a good 1/2″ drill bit for cutting the wood, and know that you’re going to have to alternate between drilling and pulling out (again, keep your mind clean) as you try to reach the depth you need…. (okay, I give up). The ½” brad-tipped drill bit that Harbor Freight sells as part of a kit wasn’t working out for me. It kept binding in the jig. The Dewalt Titanium-coated ½” pilot-point bit, however, worked perfectly.

Dowel joints would not be complete without dowel pins. But since it doesn’t appear anyone in Kansas City supplies ½”x3″ fluted dowel pins, the recommended size for this application, I had to order those in online. For that I turned to California Dowel and Turnings, Inc. I had to order 500 of them to meet their minimum order requirement, but since I have multiple cabinets planned, along with the potential to use them in other projects (or just giving them to my dad), I suppose it’s worth the $50 I paid to buy and ship them.

In keeping somewhat with the original plans, I used 2×4 Douglas Fir studs all the way around. The side panels have 2x4s spaced along the side to ensure there will be plenty of weight distribution and strength. The reinforcement is centered at 11⅔” intervals (20U = 35″) between the top and bottom. The original plans called for just one support on the side, but I opted for two. Each horizontal support is secured to the corner beams with three dowel pins on each end.

For glue, I used Titebond III for the pins and in the holes, and Titebond No-Run No-Drip glue, which is made for end-grain applications and doesn’t set nearly as quickly as the Instant Bond glue. Both I found at the Woodcraft Store in Lenexa. Additional support joists run across the top and bottom, secured with wood screws and glue — Titebond No-Run No-Drip.

Overall the cabinet is about 46″ tall with a 3½” clearance underneath, about 31″ deep, and a hair over 22″ wide. It’s not a perfect frame-up, not completely square all around, and the supports aren’t completely flush with the corners, but it should still hold. I went with the extra supports knowing it wasn’t going to be a perfect job.

With the framing done, it was time to turn attention to enclosing the cabinet and adding doors. I’ll cover that in the next section, though, along with pictures of the finished cabinet. For now, though, it was a matter of moving things into the rack frame to get weight on it and make sure it’s going to hold up.


Reply to Lonnie and Sandy Phillips regarding your lawsuit against Lucky Gunner

Mr and Mrs Philips,

In your op-ed posted to Huffington Post, you make quite a few troubling statements:

We brought our lawsuit because we thought it was outrageous that companies could sell a dangerous man an arsenal without getting any information about him, and without making any effort to see if he was a dangerous killer.

This is about the same as suing the gas station at which Eliot Roger filled his gas tank before going on his rampage. Or suing the shop that sold him the knife he used to kill his roommates. Or suing the liquor store that sold a bottle of whiskey to a guy who downed half of it before killing his wife on a drunken rampage. Or suing the liquor store that sold a woman a bottle of whiskey who downed half of it before killing her husband or significant other in a drunken rampage.

What effort could Lucky Gunner make “to see if [James Holmes] was a dangerous killer”? That is the question you need to answer. And any effort would fail anyway since Holmes was not a “killer” until he committed the rampage. Someone who has never killed is not a killer. Planning to kill does not make someone a killer, just as planning to steal does not make someone a thief.

Under Federal health care privacy laws, Lucky Gunner would not have had access to information that might have disqualified Holmes from purchasing firearms. And given Holmes was able to purchase firearms, an NICS check for an ammunition purchase (required by some States such as New York, but not required by Federal law) would’ve come up empty as well.

I know you don’t like the fact that people can and do buy significant quantities of ammunition for peaceful purposes. At a gun range, you can easily burn through several hundred rounds of ammunition. My wife and I have done just that. Here in Kansas City, to walk up to the counter at Bass Pro or Cabela’s with several hundred rounds or more of ammunition is not exactly unusual and won’t get you any odd looks or questions from the cashiers.

But then it is no one’s why you are purchasing such quantities of ammunition.

In the United States I do have a right to be presumed innocent, and I do have the right to due process. This also means that no person has the right to state a presumption that my purchase of a few hundred rounds of ammunition means I’m planning to commit mass murder.

You are also looking at this situation entirely from hindsight. Virtually every analysis of events like Aurora is entirely from hindsight. The problem, however, is that lawsuits originating from a hindsight analysis have questionable success, because essentially what you are demanding is that Lucky Gunner should have been able to predict Holmes’s actions. That is one hell of a high bar to reach.

In a lawsuit against an ammunition dealer, the Court will ask whether the seller had reason to know or should have had reason to know that the person to whom they were selling ammunition would turn around and use it to commit crimes. In legal parlance, this is called vicarious liability or contributory liability depending on the facts you are attempting to prove.

And the legal hypothesis that ammo dealers and gun manufacturers should be held as contributory or vicariously liable whenever a firearm is used to commit a crime has a long history of attempt, but virtually no history of success. It’s quite easy to see why such lawsuits fail. The reasons start with what I’ve provided above.

If Lucky Gunner had information saying that Holmes intended to shoot up the movie theater and did not act on that information to prevent it from occurring, your lawsuit would’ve been unnecessary as Lucky Gunner would’ve been shut down and their proprietors arrested on accessories charges. Since that has not occurred, they not only did not have such information, but also had no reason to believe that to be Holmes’ intent in purchasing the ammunition.

But your success only goes downhill from there courtesy of your mindset.

When the killer had left a voicemail with a shooting range, the range operator knew that he was bad news and shouldn’t be given access to guns.

And do you have direct quotes from the range operator to back up this statement? If you do not, then you have no right to make such a statement. If you do, you should’ve provided a direct quote in your op-ed to back up that statement.

Your next statements with regard to firearms and ammunition sellers, however, tell me that libel and slander are tools in your arsenal.

But these companies set up their business so people just like this killer can arm themselves at the click of a mouse.

Like a lot of other markets, it should not be a surprise that firearms and ammunition dealers would take their business online in order to expand their reach. Federal law still controls on this, as do State laws for the buyers and sellers. For example, do not think that a person can purchase a firearm online from any dealer and have that firearm shipped to their house. It cannot happen legally.

Ammunition sales require an age verification. This can be handled by the seller by requiring buyers to provide a copy of a government-issued identification. However no ammunition seller with whom I’ve done business has required this, but I know of some who have. The courier can enforce this as well by refusing to give the package to the recipient unless the recipient shows identification proving they are at least 21 years of age with signature capture as well.

There are significant regulations governing the shipment of ammunition, whether in small or large quantities. These regulations apply to the couriers and sellers alike.

Again, though, why someone is purchasing a significant quantity of ammunition is not any of your concern, nor is it the seller’s concern. A lot of people purchase significant ammunition quantities for legitimate, peaceful purposes.

You appear to act as if the legitimate reasons don’t exist, that everyone who purchases significant ammunition quantities must be treated as if their motives are anything but benign, and that is certainly not fair to the law abiding, which comprise the population of those who purchase significant quantities of ammunition shy of unanimously.

After all, do you want to be treated as if you’re going to maximize a Grand Theft Auto-style body count whenever you top off your tank or if you purchase, lease, or rent a high-performance vehicle? No? Then why do you want gun owners treated as if all we intend to do is shoot up a school like Adam Lanza or a movie theatre like James Holmes?

Your op-ed, again, shows this to be your mindset.

Everyone else in society has a duty to use reasonable care to not injure others — except gun and ammunition sellers.

This implies that injury occurs every time ammunition is sold to someone. Or that ammunition and firearms sellers bear contributory or vicarious liability for anything someone does with firearms or ammunition. Which, again, is like saying that alcohol sellers bear contributory or vicarious liability for the actions someone commits while drunk. Or saying that car dealers bear vicarious or contributory liability when someone intentionally commits vehicular homicide.

If a lawsuit is successful against the BMW dealer that sold Eliot Roger’s car, then I might be willing to side with the hypothesis — provided the legal reasoning on it is sound. Until that day occurs, or until a liquor store or car dealer is successfully held to such liability, your lawsuit against Lucky Gunner is nothing more than a frivolous attack not just on Lucky Gunner, but on the entire firearms and ammunition market, and firearms owners in general.


When the bell tolls One

One common feature of a clock is that it isn’t built into a briefcase or anything resembling one. So in building a clock, the one question that needs to be asked is why Ahmed Mohammed chose to do such a thing.

What is typically built into a briefcase with a circuit board and a digital display? Anyone who has watched movies — unless Disney and rom-coms are the extent of your cinema exposure (in which case, I pity you) — can readily presume such an item to be a time bomb, or at least the timer component to such a bomb if no explosive agent is readily visible.

Now true that the clock wasn’t built into a briefcase, but a small pencil box. It is still extremely atypical, though. And in building his clock — which actually appears to be merely a transplant of the internals of a digital alarm clock — he could’ve made a wiser choice as to how to contain it.

Let’s put some brain cells to this, shall we?

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was recently sentenced to death for killing several others with bombs made from pressure cookers. Our military personnel in the Middle East routinely have to be on guard for improvised explosive devices. Time bombs have seen a lot of action in real life, along with imparting drama into an action flick. And so when a teenager disassembles a digital clock and transfers it into a pencil case and takes that to school — an overly-paranoid, hyper-aware, zero-tolerance environment — how is the response he garnered unpredictable?

We can debate the appropriateness of it all we want, but whether it’s appropriate doesn’t set aside the question of whether it was avoidable.

Instead, all that Ahmed has received is nothing but praise in social media and the press. And he recently received several thousand dollars worth of merchandise from Microsoft — along with an invitation from the President to the White House. It seems his little $10 project has been quite profitable. I highly doubt that was his motive, as it’s an outcome that would’ve been impossible to anticipate.

But that doesn’t excuse the fact that he could’ve made a wiser choice in how to enclose his clock so as to avoid it being mistaken for the timer component of a bomb. With today’s zero-tolerance policies that have seen school kids suspended, expelled, or arrested for trivial crap, a simple box or one of the many craft boxes available at Wal-Mart and places like Michael’s would’ve been a much wiser choice.

While we should encourage Ahmed’s curiosities with electronics, and the same with all teenagers, we should also not overlook their unwise decisions or act like they’re not material to the discussion. Given how much people are erroneously informed about various things from movies, especially firearms and explosives, transferring the guts of a clock to something that resembles a briefcase should not have made the response he received all that unpredictable, regardless of how inappropriate it was.

Given this, I hope that Ahmed has at least learned to be a little more wise in how he designs the enclosures to his projects. Unfortunately I don’t think he’s really learned anything from this experience — and neither has anyone else, for that matter.