Archive for July, 2006

Computer upgrade time (again)

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

I finally decided to take the plunge and update my computer that has served me well for probably the longest of any computer that I’ve ever owned without a significant upgrade. I last overhauled my computer in January of 2004. Since that time the only upgrades that I performed were bumping the RAM up to 1GB of PC3200 (in December of 2005) and installing a wireless network adapter a couple of months ago.

I had originally decided that I just wanted to upgrade the video card as the 5700 Ultra was beginning to show its age. Since my old machine only had the AGP slot I really only had two options in this regard: buy an nVidia 6800GT or buy a PCI express video card and upgrade nearly everything else in my computer. Once I managed to scrape up enough cash I decided to do the latter.

I decided early on that I would have to reuse some of my old components to keep the cost down. I determined that I would reuse my mouse, keyboard, monitor, case, and power supply. I also wouldn’t necessarily go for the top of the line system, midrange would be fine. I would further lessen the blow of purchasing all the components by purchasing the components in two stages.

Stage One

The motherboard

The motherboard I decided on was the ASUS A8N-SLI Premium. I chose this motherboard primarily for several reasons: it supports Socket 939 processors (I’ve always been a fan of AMD), supports PCI-e and SLI, and has enough things integrated that I can get rid of a couple of add-on cards.

The Processor

I had originally wanted a dual-core processor because, hey, two cores. I quickly realized two things: most of the stuff I used my computer for wouldn’t really see much benefit from having an extra CPU, and a processor with two cores costs roughly the same as two seperate processors. I decided that in order to keep costs down I’d go with the Athlon64 3500+. I have always had good luck with AMD’s stock heatsink and fan, so I decided to go with the retail kit.

The Video Card

Shortly before I decided to upgrade my PC, nVidia released their GeForce 7600GS GPUs, specifically aimed at the “midrange market”. Perfect. I have always had good luck with XFX, so I decided to get the GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition since it supports SLI, which I was wanting to try, it comes slightly overlocked out of the box, and XFX has an unbeatable double-lifetime guarantee.

Stage two

I gathered the remaining components for Stage two.

The Video Card 2

Sometime between purchasing the components for Stage One and beginning the purchase of the components for Stage Two, I decided that I wanted to try out SLI since I had both a motherboard and video card that supported it. So I picked up another identical GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition.

The Removable Media Drive

Nothing too exciting here, I picked up a 16x DVDRW/CDRW that supports Lightscribe.


A few months ago I bumped up the 512MB of Kingston RAM in my machine to a full gigabyte of slightly faster Corsair RAM. I decided to go ahead and fill up the remaining slots on my motherboard with another gigabyte of matching RAM to get myself up to two gigabytes.

The Hard Drive

Since storage is becoming dirt cheap these days, I decided to retire my old reliable 80GB IDE drive and go for a 320GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10.

The Assembly

Now that I had all my parts together, I began the process of removing the old components from the case and fitting in the new. Motherboard installation was a breeze, and I was nearly finished routing the power when I came to a realization: the power connector on my power supply didn’t have enough pins.


One emergency trip to Best Buy later yielded:

The Power Supply

I was pretty much at the mercy of what the Best Buy had to offer, so I got their 430W Antec power supply over whatever house brand they were hawking that day.

The Assembly 2


Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

Why is it that my local library waits until I’m:

  1. Too old and
  2. Living 2,000 miles away

before they decide to do something like this?


“Prizes, food, and fun are included!”

Fun included? Yes. Very yes.


Thursday, July 20th, 2006

I’ve decided to give the personal broadcasting site PiXPO a try to showcase the videos that I’ve made over the years. The link is now to your right. Or you could check them out at Google Video. Or MachinimaHQ. If enough people like them, I may be motivated to do more in the near future.

From the SPAM Files

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

Spammers are getting quite creative in their attempts to lure me into clicking random links so they can get my login information. I’m going to share a couple of my latest favorites.

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $63.80. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access the form for your tax refund, please click here (link removed)

Internal Revenue Service

(c) Copyright 2006, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A. All rights reserved..

Clicking on the link took me to a fairly convincing site, but I’m fairly certain that the United States Internal Revenue Service hasn’t yet decided to run its servers out of Japan, and even if they have, they probably would want more information from me than my Social Security Number and my credit card info. Unfortunately, I don’t need $63.80 bad enough to fall for this one.

Subject: Microsoft Outlook Lucky winner…

From: Mrs. Helen Van Patt
(Lottery Coordinator)


We are pleased to inform you the result of the Microsoft Outlook Award Lotteries, held on the 15th July 2006.

Your e-mail address attached to ticket #: 4434/2113-78 with prize # 83429/2 drew ?1,000,000.00 which was first in the 2nd class of the draws.

You are to receive ?1,000,000.00 (One Million Euros).

Because of mix up in cash payouts, we ask that you keep your winning information
confidential until your money (?1,000,000.00) has been fully remitted to you by our
accredited pay-point bank.

This measure must be adhere to avoid loss of your cash prize – winners of our cash
prizes are advised to adhere to these instructions to forestall the abuse of this
program by other participants.

It’s important to note that these draws were conducted formally, and winners are
selected through an Internet ballot system from 60,000 individual and companies
e-mail addresses the draws are conducted around the world through our Internet
based ballot system.

The promotion is sponsored and promoted by WORLD MICROSOFT OUTLOOK PROGRAMM.

We congratulate you once again. We hope you will use part of it in our next draws; the Jackpot winning is 2, million Euros.

Remember, all winning must be claimed not later than 20 days.

After this date all unclaimed cash prize will be forfeited and included in the next sweepstake.

Please, in order to avoid unnecessary delays and complications remember to
quote personal and winning numbers in all correspondence with us.

Congratulations once again from all members of Internet Microsoft Lotteries.

Thank you for being part of our promotional program.

For immediate release of your cash prize to you, please kindly contact our Paying Bank (Laagste Heypotheekofferte Bank Amsterdam,)

Send them the following Information Through the Email Address below:

(i). Your names
(ii) Contact telephone and fax numbers
(iii) Contact Address
(iv) your winning numbers
(v) Quote amount won.

Laagste Heypotheekofferte Bank. N.L.
Mrs. Jennifer Clark,
Email : (removed)
Email: (removed)
Tel: (removed)
Fax: (removed)

Congratulations once again.
Yours in service,
Mrs. (Grace Ferry)
(Lottery Coordinator)

I’m not so much surprised that I won one million euros, that seems to happen every couple of days. I’m more concerned that the From: line at the top of the email and the signature are two different names. I briefly considered replying to the people on the list, but then I realized that by posting this I have already forfeited my claim to the money. You know, since you all know my winning ticket number and can now claim my winnings that were previously held up in some kind of mix-up… or something like that.

And finally:

Subject: Re: cat who has inherited a castle

That’s it. The email didn’t have a body, just a subject line that I found humorous for some strange reason.

Xbox 360 and Media Center Disappointments

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

Been thinking about trying to get your Media Center PC and your XBox 360 working in tandem? You might want to give this article over at Stage Select a look. From the article:

Once you face the reality of Media Center though, it’s a god-awful mess, and no one seems to be talking about it. The problems that I’ve had with Media Center really boggle my mind. So, I wanted to talk about it – to open an Internet discussion. If you’re looking at putting your Xbox 360 in the mix with a Media Center PC, you should be aware of just how fickle the Media Center software is, especially when streaming TV or other video.

Questing for Progress

Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

For about the space of a year, I was beholden to the MMORPG monster. I spent nearly all my free time grinding levels and not much else. I mostly enjoyed it, but came to the realization that in the space of an entire year I had only played two games, and the others that I wanted to play were just sitting around gathering dust. So last summer I decided to go ahead and shelve Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft for good.

Then I started having the cravings. I needed to slay some monsters, loot the corpses, and sell the loot so I could get better gear to kill stronger monsters.

I then remembered about Progress Quest

Progress Quest is an interesting MMORPG with all of the tedium abstracted out of it leaving you with the the meat of the MMO experience without the tedium of actually working for it.

Starting a new Progress Quest character is relatively straightforward: you select if you would like to play online (you then must choose your realm) or offline, you choose a name for your character (there’s even a random name generator included that generates fairly pronounceable names), select your race from 21 choices (including Half Man, Double Hobbit, Demicanadian, and Gyrognome), select one of 18 character classes, and then Roll your stats (Progress Quest even sports an “Unroll” feature should you change your mind and wish to go back to the previous set of stats). Once you are satisfied with your character you hit “Sold!” and embark on your quest.

This is where you sit back and let the game take over. The story is a bit cliché, but it gets the job done. Your character then heads off into the killing fields and begins murdering wildlife, looting the corpses, selling the loot and then getting better equipment. One of the best features of this game is that since it’s all automatic, you can still play and progress even if you have to leave your computer for any amount of time, or even while you’re playing something else.

The latest version of Progress Quest will minimize unobtrusively to your system tray so you can concentrate on other tasks while your character dutifully continues to make progress. You can at any time bring back up the main window which will show you everything you need to know about how your game is… um… progressing. There is a window that shows your character sheet, spells learned, inventory, equipment, plot development, what quest you’re currently doing, and what your character is doing at any given moment.

If you’re playing online, Progress Quest supports three kinds of guilds (evil, neutral, or good) that you can create and recruit people for. You also have access to the PQ Hall of Fame where you can see how your character measures up against the other players in your realm, who’s in your guild, and other exciting stats.

If I have to explain why Progress Quest is a great game, then you just won’t understand. But, trust me, it’s great.

See also

The official site
PQ in Wikipedia