Category Archives: Build

Impressing Myself with a Hardware Fix

As prosmised, I will tell a tale in which I impress even myself!
A few days after setting up my computer I tried to plug in my flash drive. As I pushed the drive in, the USB plug slid backwards into the case. To clarify, it means that instead of looking like this:

It looked like this:

I opened it up and soon saw what was happening. The USB hub, as I learned it was called, should look like this when secured properly to the case:

The hub is held in place by those washers and screws. As you pushed on it, the hub was sliding past one of the washers like this:

My first plan was to tell Newegg that this case was broken, which was double-annoying because it had been a replacement for the first broken case I’d been sent. One of my friends, who may not have understood what I was trying to explain to him, said that this didn’t sound like a manufacturing problem so I needed to deal with it since they probably wouldn’t replace it. I still don’t see how this could be anything but a manufacturing problem, but I went about trying to deal with it anyways. First I chatted with a customer service representative at Newegg, who said that I could send the case back and then they’d decide if I got a new one. I’d already built my computer in it, so I really didn’t want to have to take it all apart and then go another week without it. I decided to call Rosewill, the manufacturer, in the morning. In the mean time I set to trying to fix the problem, in case they couldn’t or wouldn’t send me a new one.

The real problem was that the shaft that the screw was in was chipped, as you might be able to tell from the following picture.

Since that plastic was chipped, the screw didn’t sit in straight, so the washer wasn’t covering as much of the hub as it was supposed to, and that was allowing the hub to slip right past it. Another friend suggested I try to wedge something in there.

I asked, “What would be safe to use? Like a coin or something?”

“Noting metal preferably.”

Oh of course nothing metal, I thought, but then what could I use instead?

“Oh. So like cloth?” I asked. In my defense, it was now 1AM and I’ve never done anything like this before.

He said, “Hmm plastic?”

I admire his patience. Why hadn’t I immediately thought of plastic?

After several tries with some random plastic objects nearby I asked, “Is super glue a bad idea?”

My friend responded, “As long as it only touches the green part of the board and not the silver or brown parts.”

I have a really bad super glue track record. I always get it all over everything and my hands. So, I decided to keep trying with other plastic objects, but nothing worked. Then I had an idea.

“Does it matter what kind of plastic?” I asked.

“No? Are there different kinds?”

“Like does it need to be hard like a pen cap or can it be softer like a watch band?”

“Either is fine.”

I sacrificed an old watch that had run out of batteries. I put the screw through one of the holes on the band, then screwed it back in like that. I put my flash drive into the slot and pushed a bit. It held! I cut the small part of the band off, fixed the front panel of the case back on, and went to sleep.

The next morning I gave Rosewill a call. I did my best to explain what was wrong. After several minutes the man said they’d send me a new front panel. The best thing that could’ve happened! I wouldn’t have to take apart the machine, I could use it in the meantime, and I would get only the exact part that I needed. Oh, but it gets better. When it came in the mail I got another surprise. The new panel had USB 3.0, where my old front panel had USB 2.0. What? Awesome! USB 3.0 is faster than firewire and all the fancy, new computer have it. Boy, am I lucky! I unplugged everything from motherboard that connected to the old front panel and had to figure out how to plug everything back into the motherboard with my new front panel. I did it right on the first try. Yeah that’s right, I know how to do this kind of stuff now. I felt so accomplished to have done all of that completely on my own. Here’s the new panel on the case with the old panel next to it. I’m still trying to decide the most artistic way to mount the old panel to my wall.

This is the inside of my computer, which I’ve named Topher Clocker. Did I explain this already? The type of motherboard I have is called T-Overclocker, but the box it came it makes it look like Toverclocker, which is a ridiculous word. That silly word does, however, translate quite well to Topher Clocker. Cute, right?

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Things You Deal With

Let’s talk peripherals.

What are peripherals? The things other than the computer box itself. Things like the monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers. They’re way more important than I initially recognized. But really, they are the only parts of the computer that you actually have to interact with. Before I learned this I made some pretty glaring mistakes.

The Monitor.

I bought a crappy 19in Dell monitor on Amazon.com. I chose this monitor for a few reasons. First, I’d spent the last couple hours buying all the other parts and I was tired. Plus I hadn’t thought about what I really wanted from a monitor and hadn’t made lists like I had with all the other components. Also, I had no idea that monitors were as expensive as they were and this one was the cheapest decent one on Amazon. Finally, none of my computer-minded friends/family told me anything about monitors. This monitor was a mistake. A $94 (including shipping) mistake. As soon as I pulled it out of the box I knew. I immediately put it for sale online on three different websites. Luckily someone bought it from me for $80 not long after, so it was only a $12 loss. And boy did I feel stupid.

So, what did I want from a monitor. Widescreen. HD resolution. 20-ish inches. DVI plug (My Blu-ray player only works with monitors that have a DVI or HDMI plug). I mentioned this to my sister’s boyfriend and he immediately offered to sell me his monitor since he was upgrading. I waited until I sold the first lame one then bought his. So, I got a 23in Samsung 2343 BWX for $150 minus power and DVI cables. Samsung no longer sells this model, but it’s still an excellent monitor. It’s this monitor, click the link to go to the Newegg product page.

I love it. It’s biiiig! So much screen space! And, trust me, I am using the Windows 7 snapping feature like ain’t nobody’s business. In fact more often than not I am looking at two windows at once. Now I understand people who prefer to have two monitors at all times. But I won’t be doing that any time soon. No, sir. I had to wait a few more days before the power and DVI cables came in. I almost bought them on eBay, but my sister’s boyfriend wisely advised I buy them from Newegg. After the lesson I learned with the monitor I decided to buy a good product, not just a cheap one. As soon as they came I plugged this baby in (after making the cable hole in my desk a little bit bigger. Don’t tell my landlord.) and popped in John Carter. Oh it looked good. But I was too busy to watch it. I was going to watch it tonight, but I decided to update this instead. You’re welcome.

Speakers!

I listen to music pretty much all the time plus there’s no way I was going to have crappy speakers to go along with my excellent movie watching capabilities. However, I didn’t want to spend that much. I talked a bit with a friend of mine who does sound for film and decided that a 2.1 set of speakers with a sub-woofer for about $40 was a good plan. I went to Best Buy, found a salesman, told him I wanted computer speakers for about $40, he immediately took me to a set that were on sale from $50. I took a minute to make sure I was sure, then I bought those suckers. Logitech Z313 Speaker System. Click the picture to go to the Logitech info page.

I went home, plugged them in and turned on Justin Timberlake. He sounded so good. I tried turning them up all the way and they were too loud to be near. Good! I’ll never be disappointed by how loud they can get. I’ve been using them for a few weeks and I love them. Score at Best Buy!

Keyboard and Mouse

I already had a wireless mouse that I’d bought one night at 2AM when I had some task that was going to take 80 years using a trackpad. Best late night purchase I’ve ever made for two reasons. One, I love that mouse. Two, I made it in and out of WalMart in less than 20 minutes. The latter would be an accomplishment all on it’s own, but coupled with the great mouse this is a total victory.

I had been given an Apple keyboard for free and was happy with it for the most part. I was having to learn again how to use the Control and Alt keys the way they are programmed with Windows, but that wasn’t the keyboard’s fault. I really liked that it had the pause, track forward, track backward, and volume buttons. But then I needed to take screen captures. Not possible without reprogramming the keyboard. I thought about doing this, but decided I wanted a for real keyboard that I had paid for. Finding the right one was a journey. I went planning on spending $20-30.

One night about 7:30 I had time to go to the store. I went to Best Buy, who close at 9:00pm. While in the keyboard section I had a pleasant conversation with the salesman. In the course of this conversation he said, “You conceal your age well, elf! Tell me your secrets.” Oh and then he complimented my sweatshirt and started telling me about a jacket from South Korea he was thinking of buying online. It was not weird. Seriously, he was cool. All of their keyboards were reeeally expensive. Who knew! All of the ones that were $20-30 were not great. So I left.

I went next door to Office Depot.  The salesman here was also helpful. He talked to me about which keyboard his wife had and what was good about all of them. There were some good keyboard there, but all of them were out of my price range by a lot.

I went to WalMart. They had a few keyboards, but no good ones. The ones in my price range were not ones I felt like spending a lot of time typing on. Onward!

To Target! About the same story as WalMart. Not a big selection.

Back to Best Buy! It was 8:40. I found one I liked on display, but they were all sold out. I found a salesman, he checked in the back. Yup, all gone. But I could order one without shipping, though it would take a while since it was Friday night and they wouldn’t get the order in until Monday. Blah blah blah. Darn it.

Back to Office Depot ten minutes before closing! They had the same keyboard! But for $25 more. And guess whaaat! They price match. It took a minute because it was only on sale for that price in that store so they had to call over. I talked with a salesman there about computers. I told him I work with movies and that I’d worked on one that was really popular with gamers. He hadn’t seen it yet, but was planning on it very soon. He proceeded to talk to me about the video game industry, which I know a bit about. We discussed where that industry will go in the next 20 years. It was not as fun as talking to the Best Buy guy who was in to Korean fashion.

But I got a great wireless keyboard and mouse for $40. They’re unified, which means that one USB reciever works for both of them. Sadly, this mouse is gray. My other mouse was blue and thus prettier. Even though they are the same model of mouse the USB receiver for the keyboard and the gray mouse doesn’t work for the blue one. I used my blue mouse anyway. So, the whole point of buying a unified wireless set was completely ruined. Sadly I keep having to use my laptop for things once in a while and so I’ve reserved the blue mouse for that. As soon as I’m done with that laptop, I’ll most likely go back to the blue mouse. Frivolous, I know, but I can’t fight who I am.


Here’s the final product, with which I am quite pleased. Moral of the story is that it’s very tempting (and easy) to skimp out on peripherals, but at the end of the day these are the parts of the computer you actually have to deal with so it’s worth the extra time and money to get what you really want.

              

The first picture is a frame from The Tree of Life, which looks excellent on this monitor on Blu-ray, though it’s nothing compared to seeing it in the theater. I wanted to show off my monitor. If the print-screen button wasn’t disabled by my Blu-ray software, this image would be my desktop background. It’s one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen.

The second picture is my actual desktop. Yes I am thoroughly enjoying No Doubt’s new album Push and Shove.

In my next post I’ll impress myself and you as I do my own hardware changes and software fixing.

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For My Next Trick I Will Build a PC

Once all of the parts of my new computer finally came in the mail, including the replacement computer case I set about building the pieces.

In order to prep I watched this lovely video, care of Newegg. – Side note. Is Newegg supposed to be two words or not? Is it Newegg or New Egg?

It wasn’t really hard at all. The toughest thing was figuring out which direction some of the single-prong plugs were supposed to go. This is what motherboard manuals are for. This is also why the trial and error method of problem solving exists. It was cool and pretty fun putting all the pieces together. I love the click when the plugs lock into place. It’s so fulfilling!

Of course the build was not without a hiccup. Everything was plugged in, but when I did the test boot the lights and fans would turn on for a second then turn off again. After a pretty long while of unplugging everything and plugging things in one at a time, the solution became apparent. Everything was connected except for the plug that gives power to the processor. Hahaha! When I was pressing the on button I was basically just turning the fans on and off over and over again. So, yeah, don’t forget that the processor needs power too. Ya know, because it makes everything go.

The thing that surprised me the most about putting together the computer is how long it took to install the operating system. For some reason I thought it was going to be really quick. It wasn’t. And then there were a lot of updates to install. This took longer than the physical building itself. By a lot if you don’t count the time spent discovering that the processor wasn’t getting power, which I suppose you should count. But some of that time was actually just me watching the last half hour of Mean Girls.

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Rookie Mistakes and A Stupid Question

Sometimes things just go wrong.

The case I bought came dented and uneven. It didn’t happen in the shipping process, because the biggest dent was on a part that was covered by thick styrofoam and the smallest dent was coming out of the case. It was uneven. We even whipped out a leveling app and yeah, it was uneven. Luckily it was a manufacture problem and not shipping damage or I wouldn’t get a new one for free. I sent it back and luckily the new one has already shipped. It should be here no later than next Tuesday! Perhaps even on Monday. So, that was anti-climactic, but not a big problem. I just get to be patient now.

I live in an old house that has one ethernet plug, but managed to forget about a wireless card. In fact, I didn’t even remember that was a thing until my computer wizard asked me if there was a ethernet plug near my desk earlier this week. He sent me a link for one and I promptly bought it. Luckily it was on Amazon Prime so it came already. Holler atcha, Amazon. I just remembered that when I was a kid my Dad a laptop that he had to plug a card into to get the internet. Of course wireless cards are a thing! I remember now! Also, good save, computer wizard. Good save.

The big problem and mistake I made was the stupid monitor I bought. That was a bad move. I bought the cheapest, good quality monitor I could find on Amazon around 20 inches. It was refurbished and made by Dell, a good brand. It was late at night and I was being impulsive. I had to force myself to be impulsive to finally click buy on all of the good decisions I’d made and maybe I was on a high from that. Well, it came and I excitedly pulled it out of the box only to be greeted by this sight.

My first thought was, “Oh, hell no!” My smile died immediately. It’s square! I had been careless in my excitement for a computer. I hadn’t made lists about what I wanted from a monitor. I hadn’t thought about it at all. I’d only been thinking that I needed one and that I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Turns out, I did want to spend a lot of money. So, I put it for sale on several web sites. Let’s hope it sells. I’ll probably use it in the mean time, while I look for a nicer monitor. I just can’t imagine watching my two blu-rays over and over on this square old guy. John Carter and The Tree of Life deserve better.

What do I want from a monitor? Widescreen. HD resolution. Internal webcam, if possible. Less than $150. Any suggestions? Even just good brands, would be helpful. Is my price point even realistic? – Let me know in the comments below.

Oh and I’m still missing speakers. Another forgotten thing. My plan is to get something at Target or another store that I can drive to. I’m sick of shopping online for now. My plan is also to not make the same mistake I made with the monitor and buy some crappy ones that I won’t be happy with. Spending a little bit more makes a big difference, especially with sound quality.

Sometimes trying to save money just ends with you getting something you don’t want.

Clearly I’m learning. Some of you who have built computers before might think I’m an idiot. Perhaps I am, but really I’m just a rookie. I’ve never done this before so I ask stupid questions. Better to ask them and look foolish than to not ask them and regret it later. Someone recently mentioned sound cards to me. So I said, “Computer Wizard! Do I need a sound card?” And Computer Wizard said, “No.” And I said, “Oh.” And Computer Wizard said, “People haven’t needed sound cards for a long time. It’s integrated into your motherboard.” And I said, “That’s what I thought! They must just be for people who love amazing sound.” And Computer Wizard said, “Your motherboard supports 7.1 sound.” And I said nothing, my jaw just dropped, because that – that is awesome.

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Laptop to Desktop. Plus the Hardware

I had a hard and fast plan to get a laptop a few weeks ago. I was looking at 14-15in laptops for about $700. The more I looked at laptops the harder it was for me to pick one. They all seemed fine, but there were so many choices it was paralyzing. My brain was like, “This seems good for me. Oh, but so does this one. And this one looks nicer. Oh, but it’s more expensive. But looks are important to me. But should it be? Well, it is. Even if it shouldn’t be. But what about this other laptop? It also seems good for me. I guess I should also look at this other brand. Oh, they have a lot of different laptops!” It was like that. Endlessly. So I came to the conclusion that I would wait until my computer died to get a new one. Putting off the inevitable seemed like a good plan.

I commenced conversations with plenty of computer-savvy people while continuing to search the internet for the best laptop. Ya know, so I’d be ready when the time came. Everyone I talked to had built several computers, had just built their first computer, were currently building a computer, or knew stuff about building computers. Could I build a desktop from scratch?

But, wait. I wanted a laptop. Wait again! Did I need a laptop? What an idea! What did I do remotely on my computer? Honestly, nothing. I’d gotten used to not being able to use my laptop anywhere because of the terrible battery life. Maybe I should build a desktop…

I decided. I would build a desktop and later get a tablet (probably a Surface) for when I did want to use a machine remotely. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities… and choices. Choices that were terrifying and paralyzing. I decided again to wait until my computer died.

But every day as I used my computer I would be mad that it couldn’t do things that a PC could do. I was mad that my version of Word was so bad. But mostly and always I was mad that computer didn’t have the snapping feature from Windows 7. You know, this:

So, I decided to make a leap. I watched a great tutorial from Newegg about how to build a computer. If you have any interest in  knowing what parts are inside your machine, check this video out.

From there I tried to look around, but got confused, lost, and frustrated. I asked several people for help and eventually came to a final decision. Here’s how my build is going to look. Click on the pictures to be directed to Newegg where you can look at the full specs if you like.

First, it’s going to be in this pretty case. It’s a Rosewill Redbone mid-size case. Isn’t it purdy?

I decided to go with an Intel processor. I wanted an AMD at first because it was cheaper, but I was soon informed that Intel is much better for media while AMD is better for gaming. I plan on watching a lot of movies, using Adobe Creative Suite programs like a crazy person, and pretty much never gaming, so the extra $20-30 is worth it. I got a duo core i3 chip. It should do the trick for now and I can always upgrade later.

For my motherboard, I went with this Biostar TZ77B. It has the same specs and plugs as an ASRock one that was recommended to me and is quite a bit cheaper. So, here’s hoping it performs the same. It’s got two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, one HDMI port, along with some other great stuff I’m looking forward to using. It supports up to 32GB of RAM, which sounds like a freaking heck of a lot to me!

I bought two 4GB sticks of RAM made by Crucial. My favorite part about these is that they’re called Ballistix Sport. I laughed when I saw that. I guess sticks of RAM have a “sport” category. I may not have a sports car, but I have sport RAM!

I’m getting this EVGA GTX550 Ti graphics card for free from my friend who is a video editor/gamer/nerd. He assures me it’s a good one, though a bit old. I believe him because it costs a considerable amount more than the one I was planning on getting. Yay for friends and spending less money!

For a hard drive I got this 1 terabyte drive made by Hitachi. It rotates at 7200 rpm, so that means I’ll get good performance from it, even if it’ll get a little hot.

I’m also getting an LG Blu-ray disc player/burner. That I am super pumped about. I only own two Blu-rays, but you best believe I will watch The Tree of Life and John Carter until the laser on the Blu-ray player doesn’t work anymore. Yes, I know, lasers don’t work like that. It was hyperbole.

I bought a 19in monitor on Amazon.

So that’s what my computer will look like. All in all I spent less than $600 including shipping. Ka-boom. Take that $700 laptops I was looking at before! Take it!

Get excited for some sad stories about getting damaged equipment, ordering something I don’t want, and forgetting something important!

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