As many people know, I like computers, well, like may not be a strong enough word, I love computers. What some people may not know is, I haven't always been that way. Not that many years ago, my knowledge and interest in computers was a lot less than it is today. The reason for this is more to do with my lack of income to afford a real computer, and my drive pushing me in different directions. During those times I floated by borrowing computers, sharing them, and eventually getting my hands on my very own very used old work laptop. It barely ran, but it did what I wanted it to do at the time; it ran a web browser, it had a wireless card, and it played Diablo II, sort of. These are the times you would catch me sitting in an old fluffy rocking chair, in my walk in closet, leaching WI-FI off of my neighbor. That neighbor was also my boss from work, and is now one of my writers here at The Drakkarium. This and more, we will discuss on our walk through the evolution of my home computer. Shortly before the times of the dinky weak laptop, I had a very good friend who was college educated in computers. He was a system builder, and subsequently had his own self built computer at home. Small silver box with a couple multi-colored lights on the front, and a lighted fan on the side. At the time, it was a pretty impressive machine, seeing as it was my first real look at a computer that a big company didn't put together. I consulted with this friend all the time, trying to learn as much about computers as I could, so maybe I could one day be talented enough to build something like that myself. We never got into the nitty gritty of building, never actually tinkered with his computer, but he taught me a lot of the things I would one day use.
Fast forward a few months, my job changed, my life was different. I made a few friends at work that invited me to come hang out all the time, and one of them in particular was a computer enthusiast and system builder. He told me stories of his computer, and how much work he put into it, and it made me very interested in it a lot. I have always had the little itch of "I would love to do these things, I am extremely interested in them, but I am too poor to pursue it", so when presented with the opportunity to see another custom build, I jumped at the chance. It was a very interesting computer, shiny and simple, like my previous friend's was. So my journey to learn even more about them continued with this new friend. He taught me even more than I ever thought I could. Not much time had passed and he and I became roommates. After enough time making fun of my dinky weak laptop, he decided to take assorted parts and components and throw together a Frankenstein build, to give me something better to play games on.
That box lasted a while, but as would be expected with using old loose parts, something broke. Something important; the hard drive had taken a dump. So, with a fresh stack of loose parts, and a mostly whole HP tower, we rebuilt. The HP tower had great longevity when it came to computers in my possession. That computer lasted through two moves and a new baby. It had a dual core processor, which was pretty beefy compared to what I was using before, plus it came with a flat panel monitor (Square, not widescreen), which was even more impressive to me. My passion for computers, for customization, for building, was growing exponentially.
Then came a day that a little money came my way, and I had my eyes set on a new case, and a new cooling system for the processor. The case? An XClio 380 Black full tower. The Cooling? The Gigabyte Galaxy II liquid cooling system.
I wanted a full tower computer, I wanted something people would immediately wonder about, and I wanted a eye catching and efficient water cooling system. I chose this combination because they just fit me, for me. So, I used that money, and I ordered those new pieces. Finally I got a kick start into a computer I would be proud of, something I put some work into. I didn't know this would be the first of many hours put into the customization of my computers.
While waiting for my new parts to show up, I decided I wanted to get my current parts ready to move, like a kid on Christmas, I just couldn't wait. Well, somewhere in the mess that was my preparations, I broke something. My computer would no longer boot, no longer do anything but turn the fans on when I hit the power button. Naturally, I panicked. I didn't know what to do, all the things I learned to try weren't working, and my system builder roommate had no ideas either. Thankfully, I had someone who cared a lot about my happiness, because not long after declaring time of death, I had a new motherboard, processor, and memory on its way. I turned my attentions to her computer to get it viable enough to use while waiting for my new components to arrive, and as luck would have it, I broke hers too. I felt horrible, but there was nothing I could really do about it other than not touch anymore computers.
I did touch another computer again of course, I had to, I had my new parts to play with. After too many days (around 4) of waiting, I had all my parts in hand. My big tower case arrived with the water cooling a day or two before the rest, so I had been staring at them for 48 hours, shaking with anticipation. Spread in front of me on that fateful day was my new case, open and waiting, cooling system, my new ASUS motherboard, my new Dual Core AMD processor, and my 4GB of DDR2 memory. Carefully I pieced it together one by one, being more careful than I ever thought I was capable of being. I was too afraid of ruining another computer. After far too much time taken, I was finally done, and ready to prime the cooling and boot the computer. And everything ran perfectly.
That was it, a small interest, turned into a fun hobby, hit full blown obsession right there. Not long after that I started replacing more and more pieces of the HP's remaining components with my own hardware choices. I replaced the small power supply with a more powerful BFG model gaming power unit. I replaced the old parallel ATA (IDE for those who know) hard drive with a new Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive from Western Digital, because the transfer rate was supposed to be a huge improvement. It didn't take long to add a real advanced graphics card, but as I am always restrained by a budget, I got the EVGA Nvidia 9800 GT, instead of the 9800 GTX or GX2 that were also out. I also spoiled myself and purchased a new 22" LCD widescreen monitor from Samsung.
So here it was, an aptly named Blue Monster computer. Boy did I spend a lot of time on it, tinkering, gaming, browsing, you know, computer things. Something I was very proud of, and something I carried with me in my turbulent life that happened not long after I finished her. It came with me when I was couch hopping to and fro, when I crashed with my Mom to get back on my feet, it traveled with me to Pendleton to visit an online friend, and survived two more moves after that. I made minor tweaks here and there, but as my life became more complicated, and my priorities changed, I began to neglect her.
She got dusty, and I never did anything about it, her coolant got low and I just threw water in it, and any time I would dig in it to adjust or change anything, I would leave the cables strewn about. Blue Monster quickly became depressed. I soon would stop using it very much at all, using my playstation or netbook for my small computer needs. Blue Monster lasted me a little over two years before I had near given up on her.
My roommates shuffled around a bit during this time, and eventually I ended up as the leader of the house. I brought in people I could trust, people that were my friends, to take over empty roommate spots. With that, two friends who shared an interest in computers (and one was my original system builder roommate). Being exposed again to the wonders of what computers are capable of, my interest slowly regained its former momentum. During the initial stages of roommate-ship with my friends, I cleaned out Blue Monster, reorganized the cabling, and got her all presentable again, but it just wasn't enough. So, my dreamer mind started browsing new components, things I might be able to afford to make her better. It was that, that small little window, that my obsession needed, and this started the new journey, one that would lead me to what I have today.
I was visited by my friend Todd, one of my very best friends and the very same friend I drove to Pendleton multiple times with Blue Monster. We were all geeking out and having a good time, and the topic of new parts came up, naturally. Todd had a new item, a computer case, he found and wanted to share with us. This case was the Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 full tower case. I was immediately in a deep love with this case,
and all of its very interesting features. I had never seen a case like this before, and even the red color theme it had didn't deter me from immediately wanting it. 9 Internal hot swap capable drive bays, two shielded external drive bays, a external 2.5" hot swap drive slot on top, and a total of 7 fans built in. It became my dream case, the case I knew would open up opportunities of hardware I once could never even think about. The case also opened up the chance to use the larger CPX style power supplies, and mount them on the bottom of the case (This will come into play later). It wasn't long before I found a way to order the case, and not much more than a week later I added an upgraded liquid cooling system to the build as well. The new cooling would end up suiting the new case a lot better and also be a lot more efficient than my previous cooling unit, that also leaked, so it needed replaced.
The transition went smoothly and the case was just as fantastic as I thought it would be. The new cooling unit looked cleaner, and moved the bulk of the unit to a space much more suited to it, instead of it floating on the bottom of the case, taking up precious air flow room. Blue Monster was a lot cooler looking, wasn't remotely all blue anymore, and I was in no way ready to settle with this. After wrapping it all up, I began scouring the Internet again, looking at more replacements. Just a few days later I had ordered the new CPX style power supply. A huge, more powerful, and much more versatile power unit than I ever could have imagined having. A big difference in both power output and size, and gave me, at least in part, a modular power supply like I had wanted since I learned they existed. Staring at the comparison between old and new, I was just shocked at the size. I had dealt with standard sized power units so long I never even considered that a larger size would make sense.
- Antec Dark Fleet DF-85 Chassis
- ASUS Sabertooth 990FX System Board
- AMD FX-4100 Zambezi 3.6Ghz Processor
- Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus drive bay mounted Liquid Cooling System
- G.Skill Sniper Series DDR3 1600Mhz dual channel Extended Memory (16GB)
- EVGA Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti Superclocked Primary Graphics
- EVGA Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+ Seconardy PhysX Processor
- OCZ Vertex 3 120GB Solid State Drive
- Intel 520 180GB Solid State Drive
- Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB Storage drive
- Seagate Barracuda 2TB Storage Drive
- Western Digital Caviar Blue 320GB Ubuntu Drive
- ASUS Blu-Ray Optical Drive
- Antec CP-850 CPX factor Power Supply
- ASUS LED 24" LCD Primary Display
- Samsung 22" LCD Secondary Dispaly