Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I learned an important lesson this week. Heat kills video cards, but only you can prevent heat death.


Anyway, the full story is like this. My previous computer, we’ll call Monster-Lappy because of its size, had all sorts of trouble with the video card. Since it was a Dell system and under a long term warranty, I had the video card replaced three times in four years by Dell technicians. The symptoms were always like this. First I’d start getting artifacts in the games I was playing. The artifacting would increase until the computer locked up, and I rebooted and played again.

Those of you in the know are already nodding sagely realizing that this is probably an overheating problem. I was clueless however. I would keep this up until these visual glitches were constantly occurring even in non 3-D applications, like, Windows for example. Eventually, the card would fail to the point where I couldn’t even run the system anymore and I’d call Dell for a replacement.

When the warranty expired and my video card died again I looked at buying a video card and replacing it myself or at just getting a new system. With the Monster-Lappys track record, I just decided to go ahead and purchase a brand new system instead.

I found an excellently priced refurbished HP mini-tower system, we’ll call Brainy-Comp because it’s an i7 quad with 9 GB of RAM. Brainy-Comp was full of new components including the video card a 1 GB GeForce GTS 250 card and it is really fast and even has the new Windows 7 that I have really enjoyed. However, I noticed that after playing any 3-D game for a while (Fallout 3, Dragon Age Origins and Star Trek Online) I was getting artifacts appearing in my game again. Some games were worse than others, but eventually, they would always lockup and force me to reboot.

With all this evidence, it finally sunk in that I needed to figure out what was going on. This was now happening to me on an NVidia card so I couldn’t just blame it on ATI (who made the card in Monster-Lappy) any more. A bit of research turned up the interesting conclusion that the stock cooler on many video cards only works in optimum conditions. Conditions that are not usually found in your average off the shelf computer system.

A bit more research turned up a thriving after-market full of replacement VGA coolers. I installed a program called RightTemp to pull the temperature data from the CPU and GPU and was shocked to find that at rest my video card was running at 63 degrees Celsius. That was way too hot. Leaving the tool running showed my card maxing out at 93 degrees Celsius and generally that is about when it would lock up. Artifacts started showing up around 79 or hotter.

Convinced now, that it was a heat problem I ordered the Scythe Setsugen model cooler for my card. The installation took me around 40 minutes to fully remove the stock cooler and add the new one. After re-routing a bunch of cables I got the card put back into my box and fired it up. The base line temperature of my card was now 41 degrees Celsius, slightly cooler than my CPU at base.

Running the game that caused crashes the quickest before, Star Trek Online, gave a result of a maximum high temperature of 54 degrees Celsius. That is around a 40 degree difference. Amazing, plus the fan on this one is much quieter than the fan on the old cooler.

I have to say, I’m very pleased with this result. I hopefully, have saved myself the heat-death of a video card, which is a good thing. It’s also good because by modifying my video card I’ve certainly voided the warranty that it may have had. However, I think it’s a perfectly fair trade off in this case because I expect that Brainy-Comp will live much longer running that much cooler.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dry Aged Meat

Most of my creative writing is going towards the food blog with my wife. We just completed an experiment in dry aging meat before cooking it and it turned out really really really well. For the complete story (and pictures!) head to the food blog for the write up.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I'm convinced that the proper way to say this year is twenty - ten. Not two thousand ten. However, even though I believe that it's hard to change the habits of the last ten years by saying two thousand first. I'm working on it though since I like the right way better.

Speaking of this year I have a thing for calendars. Since I was a teenager I've been buying the yearly Tolkien wall calendar. I've really enjoyed them and the drawing of the events and places from all of the Tolkien works has always given me a bit of a longing to go to Middle Earth myself. It's just one of those childhood things that I've kept up. It's a good way to indulge my inner child while still being an adult.

A few years after I started buying the Tolkien calendars I also started buying the Star Trek (The real one that is) calendars. I've also done that annually for years and years now. I did have a bit of a crisis this year though thinking about which Star Trek calendar to get since there was one based on the new Movie as well. In the end, though, I decided to go with tradition and I'm glad I did, since the suspiciously calendar shaped object under the tree turned out to be the 2010 (twenty ten) Star Trek wall calendar.

A few days after Christmas I went online to Amazon.com and ordered the 2010 Tolkien wall calendar for around $9 plus shipping. Two days later I got an e-mail saying that my order was canceled because they were out of stock. That was really weird. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before on Amazon.

Oh well, I thought (foolishly as it turns out), I'll just try again. This time I could only find the calendar for around $12 plus shipping. No big deal, that's about right anyway so I placed the order. Two days later I got an e-mail saying my order was canceled because they were out of stock. That was REALLY WEIRD. Only one other time in my life had that happened and it was just two days ago for the same item.

I went back onto Amazon. Now the calendar was only available for $33.00. Holy crap. What is going on here. As of today, the lowest price for one is about $40 and the highest... Wait. Are you sitting down? Because this one will probably surprise you. The highest one is listed at $2,634.

Are you kidding me? Why would anyone pay that much for a calendar. EBay shows a similar story. There aren't any currently available on EBay and the archives show them selling for around $110 each. Amazing. I suppose that they just didn't print enough. Sucks for me though. I am hopeful, that there is another printing that will drive the prices down. I intend to check these out from time to time, who knows, maybe the price will drop after the new year demand is over.

But worse case scenario for this year? I'll just run with my Star Trek one.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Wow. Blog neglect. It's a terrible thing.

However, I am also blogging at a new food blog called the Paces We Eat. Since my wife and I are booth foodies and are incapable of eating out without sharing plates and trying to figure out what the food is cooked with and what we could do to replicate it. A food blog was just natural.

That doesn't mean that all my creative writing will go there but it is definitely a division of my attention.
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