Saturday, August 24, 2019

Extra Appreciation and an Update

I have the best donors ever!

That's right, I'm lookin' at you guys again! After posting my Donor Appreciation post on Wednesday, I also reached out looking for (a) some donations, and (b) some team members. My hospital (Children's National) issued a challenge to raise $100 and recruit 3 people by the 30th. And while I haven't had anyone successfully join the team, you guys did donate another $286 in the span of 24 hours. That is seriously impressive, and I'm very grateful for it!

This puts my total for the year at $651, which is double what I am usually at in August.

The vast majority of the donations have been coming from members of my kinship in Lord of the Rings Online, so I am seriously considering making a special reward for ASF if I meet a stretch goal of $1200 (because the game has been going for 12 years and is the reason I started participating in Extra Life to begin with). If you're in ASF, please feel free to comment with suggestions! Last year I was able to give away gifts of LOTRO Points, and I could probably request codes for that again -- but I also think you guys deserve something special!

In other news, I'm sure you've noticed I haven't done much with my new computer yet. I haven't gotten around to getting my old hard drive set up with the dock or installed the CD drive yet. My husband and I have been busy with a lot of stuff in the last few weeks! That said, here are some by-the-end-of-September promises I'm going to make (and do my best to keep):

  • Live-Tweet Event of the first Twilight movie (recap blog for the rest) 
  • 2018 Milestone blog about Dead Mountaineer's Hotel
  • 2018 Milestone blog about a really terrible book I read

If I'm lucky, I'll get a few more things done, because pretty soon I'll have to start working on the 2019 Milestones! I also have a new static page here on my blog that is not-quite-finished, but you can go take a look at it: a calendar, of a sort.

Thank you again to those of you who are donating every year (and some more than once)! I couldn't do this without you, and I appreciate the help you give me in doing this #ForTheKids.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Donor Appreciation 2019, Round 1

These six donors have helped me accomplish 1/3 of my goal for the year!

Many thanks to:

  • Thaeodin
  • Edward M.
  • My mom
  • Anonymous (I know who you are!)
  • "One of Many"
  • Galadphen

This thank-you goes out for every donor who donates at least $5 on my donation page. Other incentives are available the more a person donates #ForTheKids, including choosing content for the blog, Amazon gift card drawings, and custom artwork by yours truly.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Building a New PC, Part 3

This is the last part! This is where you see the PC come together! (Mostly.)

This past Friday was the night my husband and I planned to sit down and put my new PC together. I had everything except a disc drive (which arrived in the mail yesterday -- see below), and we were pretty confident we knew what to do. I anticipated a couple hours. I did not anticipate FOUR. I got a little snappish at times because I was already super tired from a long day of work, which was also the worst day of the month at my workplace. Despite that, my husband was awesome at helping me through the whole thing. I mean, we didn't murder each other, so I can only assume our marriage is that much stronger after this experience. Right?

This is just the empty tower we started with. Cougar gets bonus points for sending me a decal sticker with it. I like stickers.  The tempered glass side is a dark tint, but you can still see everything through it. The mesh coverings on the front and top are also spaced enough that you can see into the tower that way also -- and provide good places to add fans in the future if I want to overclock (which this build has the capacity to do -- it's built in and expected, in fact!).

This is the tower with both sides removed. Super empty, but very spacious! This tower definitely gives you a lot of room to work with if I want to upgrade later -- and it also provides a lot of good air flow to keep the components cool.

Yep. I got attached to my PC super fast. This is an anti-static wristband that has a metal disc under the band that lays against your skin, and there is an insulated wire that ends in a metal clip that you attach to a metal part of the tower as you're working. This prevents static from building up and discharging on any of the sensitive components. Not a good idea to zap your motherboard before you even get to use your PC!

Let there be light! We clearly didn't have enough light where we were working, so my husband grabbed a lamp to help out. This is me installing the motherboard. Very important step before doing this is checking out the screws that come with your tower. Make sure you have offset screws in the right places for your motherboard so it aligns with its back plate on the back of the tower and no part of it will be susceptible to bending in bad places. There is a fair bit of pressure when installing the motherboard, hence my left hand pushing it against the back plate so the offsets line up with the matching holes of the motherboard. Also: God bless the person who invented magnet-tipped tools. Here you can also see a better picture of the anti-static wristband.

A step right after this which I didn't take a picture of was installing the CPU chip into the motherboard. See that silver square? There's a lever that lifts up. I have an AMD Ryzen CPU, so it was super easy to install. The CPU itself has pins on the back, and they fit down into matching holes on the motherboard only one way, so there's no misalignment possible, and then you just secure the level back down. I wish the entire build process had been that easy!

"Uh, snark? What's with the arrows and stuff on this pic?" I'm glad you asked, imaginary reader!

The copper thing in the top right (which you can see more of in the previous picture) is the heat sink/CPU fan. A step that I didn't take pictures of, because it was messy, was me swabbing q-tips with rubbing alcohol on that flat copper surface to remove the thick square of pre-applied thermal paste. This is a good thing to do if you are installing your own or replacing one. The pre-applied thermal paste is always too thick, and too much is as bad as too little. The purpose is to have a smooth heat transfer. Too much and that transfer isn't going to be very good.

So! That little tube in my hand is Arctic Silver -- thermal paste my husband recommended I buy. It costs $6-ish or so, and will only get used once, and you'll never use the whole tube unless you're building multiple computers at the same time. But the quality is worth it. The thermal paste gets applied directly to the CPU (that silver square). It should be placed right in the middle, and should be between the size of a grain of rice and a pea. Since I had a whole tube at my disposal, I did a few test squirts on to scrap cardboard first so I'd get a feel for the flow and size.

The heat sink/fan then gets pressed down onto the CPU, and there are brackets (to the left and right of that silver square in the picture) that give you a place to clamp it down onto the motherboard. Some heat sinks/fans require a back plate to be attached to the back side of the motherboard, but that thankfully wasn't the case for mine (we checked before installing the motherboard).

Not shown is the struggle we had getting the hard drive installed. The SSD just got screwed in. The hard drive was a tight fit into a tray which then didn't want to go back into its slot. This is one of the times when I snapped at my husband because I just knew the drive attached to the tray a certain way and he was trying to suggest another, but then neither option was working. In the end, I had to bend the plastic tray to get two little prongs to slide into holes on the hard drive, and then had to find just the right way to push the tray back into place. If that hard drive ever goes bad, I'll have to put a new one in the second tray -- because that first one isn't coming back out without a crowbar and a whole can of WD-40. Screw that tray. (Literally -- we put in a screw to keep it from moving once it was installed.)  But this picture here is showing that the fan was installed, and also that we got all the little front panel plugs put in the right places on the motherboard (no easy task).

Here you can see my nifty tool kit I acquired for the purpose of building my PC which will also serve well for repairs. The anti-static wristband came with this kit, as well as a host of other tools we (thankfully) didn't need during the build process. You can get your own from Amazon for $20.   Also shown here is the power supply with all the cables I will need for my components. I used every single plug option on there. One SATA power cable goes to both the hard drive and SSD, and I have a second SATA power cable in reserve for the soon-to-be-installed disc drive. Since the power supply is in the small "basement" of my tower and is closed off from the rest of the interior of the case, I made sure I wasn't going to need to plug in any cables after the fact -- and still managed to have to finagle the VGA cable in for the graphics card later in the process. The fan on the unit faces downward and blows out another grid covering underneath the tower, so none of the heat is impacting the rest of my components above it -- this was one of the reasons the tower was recommended for the build I chose.

After getting everything plugged in, the fun part of cable management came up. The back side of the case that closes entirely is where all the cables run to the power supply, and it's where cables go for the drives, and where the front panel cables get routed to stay out of the way. The last thing you want is for cables to be everywhere or touching parts of the motherboard, graphics card, or fans. So, I happily sat down in another chair after un-tethering myself and let my husband help out by organizing the cables and using ties to keep them neat. I was so tired at this point that I certainly wasn't going to refuse assistance! (Compliment his beard. He'll like that.)

After getting the cables situated, the last thing we put in was the dual-slot graphics card. It's easily the biggest graphics card I've ever owned, and when we got it installed we both prayed we'd never have to go back in to do anything with the front panel plugs because they are now impossible to get to. With that bad boy installed and its cables secured, we closed the tower up with both side panels, consolidated all the empty cardboard boxes and instruction manuals, and went to bed. Seriously. We had started this around 8 pm and it was well after midnight at this point. I had even neglected to eat dinner and let a banana sustain me through the process. (Probably not the wisest decision I ever made.)

The next morning...

The next day after we were done with our early morning tasks (mostly food), we tested plugs in the bedroom to make sure they weren't the cause for my Dell's power failure. Once we knew those were good, we hooked up everything to the new PC and hit the power button.

It worked on the first try! The motherboard's BIOS screen came up and it was recognizing all of the components. The fans were working, and everything on the front panel of the tower was working as well (which was the most impressive part to me, since those tiny little plugs are so poorly labeled and the motherboard manual is as clear as mud). So we plugged in the flash drive with Windows 10 on it and got the installation going. (If you're wondering, it's the Education version, not Home or Pro.) Took less than 20 minutes to get Windows installed and running, and then we were off to the races!

Important to note: The OS is on the SSD, and EVERYTHING else is on the hard drive. This means that this PC boots up SUPER FAST and will run nice and smooth.

I worked on installing my antivirus. My preference that has lasted me several years without fail is the free version of Avira -- I just uninstall the Opera browser, Phantom VPN, System Speedup, and Safe Shopping. They aren't necessary features, and I prefer using Chrome as my browser. I also installed Steam and worked on customizing my desktop and Windows experience. I renamed my computer Sharp Soul after the sentient sword of my RP/fictional character, Pompilidara. 

To my husband's credit, he spent a LOT of time on Saturday trying to get Steam folders moved over to my new PC. He had downloaded games for me onto his laptop, and he tried valiantly to get network sharing set up -- but it didn't work for some reason. We ended up resorting to flash drives, and at one point he had three different transfers happening.

But for whatever reason, Steam on my PC wasn't recognizing the full game files and wanted to redownload everything. No good when we have a set amount of data each month. So my husband did some research and discovered that we also had to move over some app manifest files before running Steam. And that worked! We haven't finished moving all of the games over, but I have fired up several of them and they play beautifully. Lord of the Rings Online with ultra settings and their new 64-bit client is absolutely stunning. There's no delay or lag when using combos in Remember Me. Fights finish faster because there's no visual lag in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. 

So what's next?

I still have to go in and install this lovely ASUS drive. It is for CD and DVD, which is all I really need it for. For $20 and being one of the brands I trust the most, it was a good purchase. The installation will be a breeze: We pop out the front panel and slide it in. It then gets some screws. Then it's a matter of plugging in that extra SATA power cable I made sure to have, and attaching a SATA cable between it and the motherboard (which has 2 empty SATA connections). The SATA cable for the motherboard is going to be a repurposed cable swiped from my old computer because I have to take the hard drive out of it still.

The old hard drive is going to get plugged into this Sabrent dock I purchased for $22. I have, in the past, used a converter cable to access information from old hard drives to move it to new computers, and that's what I had intended to do this time. But you know what? The cable was the same cost as this dock, and the dock is more secure. The dock also makes the hard drive more portable should I need or want to use it as an external storage option. It will take me time to move files over from this hard drive because I want to organize my music, Photoshop, font, writing, and game files the way they deserve to be organized.

If you followed me through this adventure, thanks for tagging along! I hope you learned something or were entertained. Building your own PC is a worthwhile investment, even if you feel a bit broke afterwards, and I'm looking forward to all the things I will now be able to do.

Also, I am currently at $360 for Extra Life. At $400 I will have to put in some hours in Monster Hunter World until I reach hunter rank 5. If you want to help the sick kids who rely on me to be their hero, please consider donating the $40 and make a difference in the lives of the kids and their families! Click the image below to visit my Extra Life page.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Building a New PC, Part 2

This is the part where I share badly-taken pictures of my components.

It took a little extra time for everything to arrive at my doorstep because of a bad pick/sort on behalf of the USPS and the ensuing rerouting of one item. I did not pull the components out of their packaging for pictures because I didn't want to risk compromising anything before I'm ready to put it all together. So, some pictures are just product pictures from the internet.

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Processor

XFX Radeon RX 590 Fatboy - 1580MHz, OC+, 8GB

Patriot Elite VIPER 4 16GB Series 3000MHz

Seagate BarraCuda 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive 1TB

Kingston 240GB A400 SSD

EVGA 550W Bronze Fully Modular PSU

MSI Performance Gaming B450M PRO M2 Micro-ATX Motherboard

Cougar MX330 Mid Tower Case

The side of the tower is glass, so the processor's LED cooler is going to look awesome. I've never had a computer with glowy parts before! The lower portion of the tower has a cover that hides the power supply, and the front/top panels allow for the installment of additional fans. I have ordered an optical drive as well, but it won't arrive until next week (Why, Amazon? It's Prime!).

The plan goes something along the lines of my husband and I watching some how-to videos tonight to make sure we're on the same page and ready to do this. He has taught actual classes on how to build a computer, but not put one together himself. I have been in sponge mode the last few weeks, making sure I know what to do to the best of my intellectual ability. Tomorrow night is when we plan to piece it all together. If we are successful, we will see the motherboard's BIOS when we start it up and can then proceed to install Windows 10 Education.

From there, I can use a flash drive to transfer some Steam files (after installing Steam, of course), and I'll be ready to play games to my heart's content. When the optical drive shows up, it will be an easy additional installation and then I'll be able to play my games that are on CD and DVD. There is also a hard drive dock on the way so I can safely, easily, and leisurely retrieve the files on my old hard drive (and maybe organize them like they deserve to be!) -- and then use that hard drive as a good back-up location.

One of the things I will enjoy doing is playing an assortment of games to get a feel for the new PC's limits and to bask in the 9-years-newer performance. Games I will transfer over from my old hard drive or had my husband download for me:

What games would you run on a new computer? Which components would you change out for something different? Let me know in the comments!