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Specs for New Core i7 Computer

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Computer Hardware | Posted on 08-04-2009


How do you describe something that is so fast it responds as fast as you think?  I would describe it as my new Intel based Core i7 machine that arrived on Saturday.  To say this thing is fast is an understatement and it has been a dream to work on the past few days.  I’ve gotten more work done and have cut a tremendous amount of waiting time down.  Before I bring out the benchmarks on the machine I thought it would be nice to just talk about the specs on the machine. 



CPU  / Motherboard

At the heart of the machine is the Intel Core i7 920 processor sitting on top of an EVGA X58 SLI motherboard.  If you’ve been researching this CPU it doesn’t disappoint.  Take my word for it.

The 920 is a great cheap because it is the cheapest in the lineup but can be severely overclocked.  I went with the EVGA X58 SLI motherboard because they offer great support and built this board with overclocking in mind.  There are even reports of the 920 being overclocked to 4.2GHz on air with EVGA boards.  Given the base speed of 2.66GHz that’s a lot of overclocking to say the least.  These CPUs are known to run a tad hot so I opted to go with a water cooled system for the CPU.

For the water cooling system I chose the Asetek water cooler.  I have to admit that it is weird opening the case of the computer and seeing what looks like a car radiator in the back.  I wasn’t able to find an exact version of the model I have but here is the closet picture I could find that shows you what it looks like.


This model is supposed to dissipate about 250W of heat from the CPU and is doing a fine job so far.  Currently I’m overclocking the CPU to 3.2GHz as seen here.


Things are staying pretty cool even after I overclocked it.  EVGA provides a great utility for their customers called “eLeet” which is an overclocking utility among other things.  Here’s the current temperature of the machine after a morning’s worth of development, builds, and heavy use.


I haven’t tried to push it yet but I know without a doubt I’ll be able to push more out of the system.  Probably the coolest thing about the new processor is looking over at my Sidebar CPU Gadget.


“Wait… there’s 8 cores on it? I thought there were 4?”

Well, there are only 4 cores on the CPU but I have HyperThreading enabled.  Basically what that means is I have 8 logical cores and that’s why it shows up in the CPU monitor as 8 CPUs.  I can tell you having HyperThreading enabled is great.  The point of HT is to keep the machine responsive.  Example.  Yesterday I was building documentation for our Framework at work in a Virtual Machine I develop on.  It takes about three minutes to build the documentation.  It is an intensive process.  After I started the build, I minimized the VM and checked email, twitter, glanced at stocks and read some news.  Doing all of that was flawless and instant.  It was as if the machine was idling.  If you aren’t familiar with this technology here’s a real explanation:

Hyper-threading is Intel’s trademarked term for its simultaneous multithreading implementation in their Pentium 4, Atom, and Core i7 CPUs. Hyper-threading (officially termed Hyper-Threading Technology or HTT) is an Intel-proprietary technology used to improve parallelization of computations (doing multiple tasks at once) performed on PC microprocessors. A processor with hyper-threading enabled is treated by the operating system as two processors instead of one. This means that only one processor is physically present but the operating system sees two virtual processors, and shares the workload between them. Hyper-threading requires both operating system and CPU support;

The EVGA board is working out very nice so far.  I’ve already used the CMOS reset button when trying to overclock and with 8 USB ports on the back of the machine as well as 4 on the top of the case I got rid of my USB Hub finally.  The only thing about this board I don’t like is it takes it about 10 seconds just to get to a boot screen when you turn it on.  Not a huge deal, but it does take it awhile to get going.  Once it starts loading the OS though it is only a few seconds away from a login prompt.

Hard Drives / Video

I went with two 300GB 10,000RPM VelociRaptors from Western Digital to store my data.  These drives fly and provide a good balance between storage and performance.  While the EVGA motherboard supports RAID, I am running them individually for now (hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day you know!).  The main reason for running them separately is it is faster to run Virtual Machines on a separate drive.  Thus one drive is for VM’s and other data and one for the OS. 

Having these two drives provide a nice upgrade path as well as I will probably RAID the VMs down the road by purchasing another two drives when prices come down, and then take the 2 300GB drives and RAID them. 

Since these drives are churning at 10,000RPM heat can be a concern thus I’m keeping the drives cooled with the Vigor iSurf II Hard Drive Cooler.


The machine has two EVGA 1GB 9400GT video cards in it which allows me to support 4 monitors.  These aren’t the fastest / latest / greatest cards on the market but since I don’t play games on the machine (that’s what Xbox is for!) my main reason for getting them was to get more screen real-estate.  Each card has 1GB of memory and supports as high of a resolution as I need to go to that’s for sure.  In the future I am sure I’ll upgrade them but for now they’ll do just fine. 

That’s about it.  That’s the main parts in the machine.  Hopefully this post will satisfy all my friends who’ve been emailing and IM’ing me wanting to know.  Next up, I’ll show you some interesting benchmarks I did on the machine as well as the Virtual Machines. 

New Computer – Cyberpower iCore7 Unboxing

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Computer Hardware | Posted on 07-04-2009


Back last December I posted an article about building a new developer rig.  Fast forward a few months and I was finally able to make it happen.  Well, almost.  I say almost because I didn’t build the *exact* machine I listed earlier.  I skimped on a few parts here and there to pour the foundation for something I can upgrade overtime, yet something that would give me a great bang for the buck based on my needs as a developer.

Like any good developer/geek waiting for a new machine to arrive I took all the precautionary steps to make sure the FedEx driver knew someone was home on Saturday.  On large purchases like this some vendors require a signature and FedEx will typically not leave it unless you sign.  Here’s my pre-delivery routine:

  1. I got up early and took a shower.  The worst thing is hearing the doorbell ring while in the shower and by the time you get out the driver is gone.  If you are waiting on a delivery like this, you should be done no later than 7:45/8:00.  You just never know when they’ll show up.
  2. I opened the front door shades to allow the driver to see into the house.
  3. I turned on lights in the living room and turned the entertainment system on and very loud so the driver could hear someone was home.
  4. I opened the garage about half-way so the driver could see a vehicle was home.
  5. I let the dogs out in the house.  They are great at figuring out when someone pulls up or is outside.  I call them an early warning signal.

With the pre-delivery routine set it was time to wait.  The computer finally arrived about 12:30 PM.  Due to the early warning signal I had in place I was alerted to the drivers presence but I couldn’t find him.  I finally saw him walking back from around the house and he said he had put the computer in the garage.

I finally got the computer into the office ready for the unboxing.  Below are the pictures of the unboxing.


Don’t let the boxes you see below fool you.  The keyboard in the box I didn’t want, but it wasn’t an option to take off the build.  The 650W power supply box had all of my cables in it and the Kingston memory box was completely empty. 

CyberPower is the builder of the machine.  Who is CyberPower?  Well, they have been making custom-built computers for years and they allow hardware enthusiast to build a machine with specific high quality parts.  Since these are custom-built machines, they aren’t packaged like a Dell or Gateway or an Apple.  One mainly buys this product because you can get exactly what you want.  Thus, if you are expecting me to beat them up on their packaging I’m not.  I’ve had friends order from them before and on their custom built machines this is sort of par.  They can do better though, no doubt.  But, I’d rather keep the prices lower than having a pretty package that raises the price another $30-$50 per machine.


Moving on we can see the free t-shirt and bag and the box of cables opened. The bag is cheap and t-shirt not much better (at least for a guy).  I gave the shirt to Ellen.


Getting through the foam we are finally down to the machine.  Seeing the Cosmos-S Cool Master case at the bottom started to get me excited.


The case comes with a cover.  Honestly, I’m not sure why.  


But the cover does make a great doggy bed addition.  I placed the cover on the ground and the dogs immediately thought it was a new bed and added it to their bed in the corner.


After getting the machine out and inspecting the case (which is awesome by the way), I finally got it plugged up ready to load Vista x64.


Surprisingly I thought this machine was going to sound like a 747 taking off when I turned it on.  To my surprise it is extremely quiet (for a PC).  Stay tuned in, next up I’ll share the specs and some benchmarks, you know the REAL FUN STUFF! 

2008 Christmas Developer Machine

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Computer Hardware, Howtos | Posted on 01-12-2008


Christmas is right around the corner and what better time to start thinking about building a new developer machine.  I’ve been wanting to build a new computer for several months now but I haven’t kept up with the new boards, cases, video cards, etc.  Over the Thanksgiving Holidays I spent a fair amount of time researching and pricing the kind of machine I would build if I built one right now.  Instead of keeping all this hard work to myself I decided to share it.  Who knows, maybe someone out there is looking to upgrade or do a new build.

Here’s what I did.  The first thing I did is throw price completely out the window.  Well, I threw it out up to a point keeping in mind that this is a development machine, not a gaming machine, although they both have the same things in common, SPEED.  I also tried to weigh certain things out, for example, the video card I chose is not the fastest thing on the market, but it is pretty close. 

Case $149 – Coolermaster Cosmos S

imageI like to start with a case when building a new machine.  The case is important on many fronts.  I’ve owned cases that took 15 minutes to get into and I’ve own ones that took 15 seconds.  The case I settled on is the Coolermaster Cosmos S.  Personally I like front I/O panels and this one is nicely concealed.  It is also pleasing to the eyes and has 7 bays.  This makes it easy to support hard drive coolers and plenty of drives for RAID 0, 1, 5 or 10 configurations.  I had a full tower years ago that had 5 and I had it completely full.  Thus 7 is very welcomed.

Motherboard $299 – EVGA X58 3X SLI

imageThe most important thing in building a new machine is the motherboard.  Researching this machine I spent probably 4-6 hours just on this one part.  I read more reviews and forums than I care to mention. 

For years I have been an Asus motherboard fan.  But I have kept my eyes on EVGA for awhile.  They are renowned for their support and support of over clockers.  The EVGA X58 3X SLI motherboard was just released a few weeks ago and it is the board right now to own.  Some features are it supports the new X58 Intel chipset which supports the new Core I7 Intel processors.  This board also supports 3 SLI video cards as well as 12GB of memory.  On a lot of other boards, the highest you can go is 8GB, but the new chipset expands this with 6 DDR3 slots which support 2GB each.  This means that you will either have 6GB or 12GB in the machine as you buy the memory in a sets of three. 

CPU $1029 – Intel Core I7 965 Extreme Edition

image Intel’s new Core i7 965 Extreme Edition is crazy fast and not only that, it can be over clocked to 4.2GHz reliably with the EVGA X58 motherboard.  Just be sure to invest in a water cooled unit.

This processor has 4 cores and is capable of running 8 threads at a frequency of 3.2GHz as well as supports the new bus interface called QuickPath.  Windows will report your machine having 8 processors in it since it can support 8 threads. 

To give you an idea of what this new processor is capable of, the current Core 2 Extreme QX9770’s scored a 3D benchmark of 4,922.  The i7 965 Extreme Edition clocks in at 5,716.  And the other kicker is the price for the QX9770 is $1399.  Enough said.

2 Video Cards @ $259 / each – EVGA GTX 260 Superclocked Edition 896MB

imageFor the video card I settled on the EVGA GTX 260 Superclock Edition.  As I mentioned earlier, it is not the newest board out.  But honestly, the difference in price doesn’t justify purchasing the GTX280.  Of course to support SLI we need two of these, however, for a developer rig, one could get buy with just one, unless you wanted to support more monitors.

The other reason I settled on this card is EVGA has a current special on this card and the X58 3X SLI board.  This is not easy to find and I stumbled upon it.  The deal is you buy the board and 2 GTX 260 cards you get an instant $70 rebate (more if you buy three).  Even comparing prices on NewEgg, this deal still worked out to be cheaper.  Here is the link to the deal:  http://www.evga.com/articles/00443/ 

Power Supply $339 – Thermaltake ToughPower 1,200 Watts – Quad SLI Ready


To support the higher processors, multiple video cards, multiple hard drives, DVD, etc, more power is needed.  A power supply is something one absolutely cannot skip out on.

I settled on the Thermaltake ToughPower 1,200 Watts power supply.  Thermaltake uses industrial grade components and is used by high-end OEM’s.  You really can’t go wrong with this one since it supports Quad SLI, Crossfire and more.

2 Memory @ $249 / each – Patriot Viper 6GB DDR3 1600 (12GB)


To get true performance I wanted to go with 1600 memory and the EVGA X58 3X SLI board supports it.  Patriot Viper is a highly regarded and the price isn’t bad either.  Since the motherboard supports 12GB, that’s 12GB of memory for $500!  Not bad.

DVD $94.99 – LG Blu-ray / HDDVD / DVD GGC-H20LK


Blu-ray drives have come down tremendously.  LG is known for making great products and since I really don’t use this device except to load software I’m not looking to spend a fortune.  This model supports Blu-ray, HD DVD and is a DVD RW. 

Sound $0 – On Motherboard

Conserving money I decided to use the built-in sound on the motherboard.  I would probably opt for the Creative X-FI Elite Pro or something higher end only because I work with audio so much for our podcast.  The onboard audio for the motherboard is perfectly fine.  Thus, $0.

2 HDD @ $229 / each – Western Digital 300GB Raptor 10,000 RPM

The Western Digital Raptor hard drive clocks in at 10,000 RPM.  The slowest part of a computer is the I/O and having 10,000 RPM drives definitely helps.   The only thing I haven’t decided is if I would put these in a RAID 0 configuration or just use them as two separate drives.  As a developer I run a lot of virtual machines and need to have virtual machines run on separate drives.  RAID 0 would be the fastest option but not for VM’s if there is only one drive.    There are still plenty of options for storage and I haven’t completely settled on what I’d do at this point.   All I do know is these drives will be in the mix somehow. 



That includes 2 video cards, 2 300GB drives, 12GB of memory

What’s missing?  Obviously I didn’t list a liquid cooling system, I’m still shopping around for options.  I would also probably include a couple of HDD coolers.  Those drives spinning at 10,000 RPM are going to generate heat, best to keep them cooled.  I like the Vigor iSURF II’s if you are in the market. 

Like I said, I spent a lot of time figuring out what I’d build starting from scratch today.  Hopefully someone else out there will find this useful.  And of course, if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them.  I don’t know when I’ll start to build this machine, certainly not this year, but at least this gives me an idea now for cost. 

My Video of A Zune to Zune Squirt

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Computer Hardware, Mobile Devices | Posted on 20-01-2007


I haven’t blogged about this yet but I acquired a Zune back in December.  The reason I haven’t blogged about it is I haven’t traveled anywhere with it  yet.  As a matter of fact I got the Zune while I was on a trip in Michigan and since I run Windows Server 2003 on my laptop I couldn’t even play with it.  When I got home it wasn’t supported on Windows Vista either but not to long after that there was an update and it works now.  Once I got it setup on my Vista machine and over the initial shock the Zune didn’t sync with Windows Media player at all (I’ll blog more about this later) nor support podcasts or video casts I then installed http://www.feedyourzune.com.  I know what you are thinking.  “It doesn’t support podcasts out of the box?”.  Answer: nope.  It probably will in the future since it is just a software upgrade, but right now it doesn’t, therefore the need for FeedYourZune.  With FeedYourZune you can then get podcasts and video casts onto the Zune. 

The night before I left for CodeMash I spent some time getting video and audio casts downloaded to the Zune.  I haven’t traveled with a video device before so I was curious what I would play the most, audio or video.  Turns out I never stopped playing video on the plane or while waiting in the terminal.  I probably played video for about 2.5 hours and I had about 2/3 battery life left.  I’ll blog more about the Zune experience later on sometime after I get a feel for it so let’s move onto the squirting video!

Zune Squirt Video

The Zune has a wireless card built into it and one of the things you can do today with the wireless card is transfer a song to another Zune.  Since I work at home and know absolutely no one else where I live that has a Zune, this is something I couldn’t play with without a partner in crime.   During the first day of CodeMash we were having lunch.  Patrick and Alex of SRT Solutions were at the table along with Steve and Bob and last but not least Jason Follas.  Jason had just acquired a Black Zune and had it with him.   Being geeks we immediately thought it was the perfect chance to squirt.  I pulled my Canon SD630 camera out and took a quick video.   

Just a few more screen shots so you can see how the experience is.  Here are our devices sitting side by side on the table.  Mine is white, his is black.  This is what the screen looks like when you are searching for nearby devices.  Sorry for the bad pic but the lighting in the room was really bad.

Once the transfer finished which we didn’t want to wait for it in the video so here is what the screen displays once it is finished with the transfer.  Note that it says you can play the song 3 times in 3 days.  This is something that digital rights management needs to address because the file I transferred Jason was in fact just a podcast which should have no restrictions.  I don’t have any ideas how this should be solved in order to mark a file with a different license but we need to figure it out.  Especially when it comes to podcasts and video casts.


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Apple Announces iPhone, Who’s Going to Buy One?

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Computer Hardware | Posted on 09-01-2007


Today at Macworld Apple announced what has been discussed and speculated to death on every blog and major publication, their iPhone.  Ok, so let’s talk about who is going to buy one.  Honestly I’ll probably buy one for Ellen.  She has been wanting a new phone since her Motorola phone is showing wear and she still uses the iBook I bought her several years ago.  We also have Cingular and we are due an upgrade (although I don’t know what the upgrade price will be).  I am not happy about the lack of 3G.  How can you release a new phone and not have it 3G enabled.  I guess we’ll have to wait for iPhone 2.0. 

Besides my wife, who else will get one?  If you are planning on getting one add a comment.  Of course a lot of the MacFanBoys will be jumping on one no doubt.  But who else?   What about corporate America?  The Enterprises?  Will they give up their Blackberry’s?  I don’t think so.   Why not?  Well the iPhone only supports IMAP and POP email which allows you to only check personal email.  Basically the phone is going to be really good for personal use, but will not see adoption in the Enterprise.  A lot of companies don’t allow phones with cameras to be brought even into the work place so there is another reason.  Thankfully, I don’t work for one though.  Which means Palm with their Treo’s running Goodlink or the Blackberries are safe for now in corporate America.

However, if this device takes off then that creates demand.  With demand comes market share and with market share comes third party ad ons.  So if you are Blackberry or Goodlink and you read this start now developing a “plugin” or something for the iPhone to get it into the enterprise.  You’ll make millions.

Anyone else planning on buying one for the whopping $499 for the 4GB version or $599 for the 8GB version?