SRS Business


Friday, May 22, 2015

Generation Loss

Tuck in folks, it's time once again for me to keep it 100. This time, about something that hits both literally and figuratively close to home. Time for the real...

Earlier this week a story broke that 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar had molested five children as a teenager. I've seen a handful of episodes of the show in passing, it never interested me. It still doesn't. The idea of profiting off of your children has always been morally distasteful to me, but I honestly didn't think too much of the show or the family, though I met several of them once upon a time... an interesting exchange, considering I'm an atheist. But that is a story for another time.

I actually live fairly close to the Duggars, they're probably 45 minutes away from me as I write this. And in general, they and their show have little impact on my life other than Robo Calls from the Matriarch of the Clan suggesting woe and ruin if homosexuals and transgender individuals be given anything resembling equal treatment under the law. Mostly, I follow a pretty strict policy of live and let live. If they don't bother me, I won't be particularly ill disposed toward them. But woe betide he who steps into my garden...

I don't think it's particularly controversial to suggest that people who molest children are basically human shaped sacks of excrement in general, but what about the people who knowingly cover it up? According to reports, Josh was 15 when he confessed his transgressions to the Duggar Patriarch, who then pulled some strings to ensure his kid wouldn't get in any trouble more than a scolding by a buddy cop (who coincidentally is now serving a lengthy prison sentence for Child Pornography charges). Holy balls, this story gets crazier as I read/write about it!

"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends," Josh Duggar

Twelve years ago is an interesting point in time, that's roughly around the time that Jim Bob Duggar the paterfamilias of the clan left his position in the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he was vice chair of the House Corrections and Criminal Law Subcommittee, he also participated in the Insurance and Commerce Committee and Judiciary Committee. Well that's a relief, I'd be worried if he was somehow involved in criminal justice while... oh. Shit.

Further, during the hushenning Jim Bob ran for the United States Senate, twice. Most recently in 2006 he lost by only 200 votes (which is a pretty narrow margin for a guy who hid his son's felonious philandering of kids, some of which were his own sisters). Additionally, Duggar and his wife have been very heavily involved in Conservative politics since then, as with the recently mentioned automated calls where Michelle lent her celebrity to the cause of protecting children from the gays.

Now, 15 years later the secret is out. And Josh Duggar has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council, because this incident would impact his ability to lobby against the rights of others effectively...

This isn't the first time that TLC (The Learning Channel, a network original created by NASA to promote learning, really) has had a mess like this fall in their lap. Remember John & Kate Plus Eight? Another family profiting off of their children, there was a lot of drama when John left the family. And now it's Kate Plus Eight. TLC apparently loves dysfunctional families as it's also the network that brought us the American Chopper, where we got to see a tattoo'd New York family basically fall apart every week for several seasons.

Then there's crap like Long Island Medium, where the producers decided to find a photogenic snake oil saleswoman and edit out all of her "mistaken readings". If Houdini were still alive he'd have gone after that show with a hatchet and a torch. But for real family values there was Toddler's in Tiaras, and it's popular spinoff/trainwreck Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. A show that was dropped when news that the mother's boyfriend was a convicted pedophile.

And interestingly, Mama June has already spoken out on the Duggar Family woes, and for once I have to say I agree with her; "I read that the Duggar family said, this happening with their son brought them closer to God and each other. So they're saying it's ok to have family touch time? Hell no." Hell no indeed Mama June, hell no indeed. Speaking as someone who was molested by a relative that lived in close proximity to me, I can tell you this... as a victim, it's not all right. It's not ok...

My story is similar to that of Josh Duggars, only I was on the receiving end. Growing up, I was always larger than most of the kids my age. I hit puberty early, and by the age of 12, I was physically much larger and harrier than my classmates. When I was around the age that my son is now, my parents divorced and my mom remarried. The man she married was a little younger than her, and he had a younger brother a few years my senior, Marty.

There was enough of an age difference between Marty and me that we didn't really play together, he had largely grown out of that "kid stuff" so generally speaking when we visited my step dad's family I played alone, which was fine as I grew up as an only child I was quite accustomed to going solo. Then as I got older the disposition of our relationship changed dramatically.

My transition from boy to man was met with the approval of my uncle, who molested me regularly for years. It's hard to type it, even as much as I have here. Which is telling in itself, as I am now a reasonably adjusted 35 year old with a wonderful wife and son. I told no one for a very long time, it wasn't until some years later that I confessed the deed to a girl I knew online, it had been my private shame for a very long time. It was an admission of utter vulnerability to someone I cared for in her own time of need. She was going through a lot of crap herself, and at the time was dealing with similar issues and I felt obliged to let her know she wasn't alone.

My mother found a copy of the exchange in a txt file on the computer, she called me at my friend Derek's to confront me about the situation. She was in a towering rage (understandably) and demanded to know more. I can understand where she was coming from, as a father now I can understand more than ever. If anyone hurt my son, I'd want to know exactly who it was. I'd want to know exactly how much vengeance to exact from them. Only, there's a problem here.

For me, as the victim in question. This demand to recount it all from the blindside was like a second violation. I had not come to her with this information myself for my own reasons. And now it was taken from me. For me, in that situation it was essentially denying my own right to agency yet again, and in a different way. It was a very awkward night there with my friend afterward, and I don't remember how much I told him with regard to the dramatic phone call, though I know I told him something. If you're reading this now Derek, thank you. Awkward as it was, you did nothing to make it worse and you've been one of my truest friends since.

I didn't go to the cops, I didn't even go to my parents. Because I was ashamed, and I knew I had to deal with that before I could deal with any of the rest of the situation. Now, it's many years past the point where any litigation would be possible. But I would be lying if I said that the boy who was mistreated long ago wasn't forever changed by what happened. I'd be lying if I said I don't sometimes wonder what I'd be like if it had never happened. It is like a scar in a place seldom seen, occasionally you'll find it again and remember anew and wonder at what was lost.

I don't have sympathy for Josh Duggar, I can't. Likewise, I find it hard to sympathize with a family that kept it hidden for 12 long years while speaking from a position of ineffable moral authority. Honestly, I can only say that when I first heard the story I was struck by the fact that there were no words from his victims. For someone like me, that silence is telling and it's deafening. We suffer quietly, because who wants to relive that pain? And besides, how can the general population understand the victim? We occupy a space that is entirely alien to 99.99% of the rest of the world. Or at least, that's how it seems.

So, before I go I would like to leave you with this: if you've suffered from sexual abuse, please understand you are absolutely not alone. There are people in the world who have suffered as you have suffered, there are people who will not judge you. There are people who genuinely want to help you. I recommend visiting RAINN Online for help, and to support the cause of victims of sexual abuse. These people are professionals, and they make a difference everyday in the lives of victims across the country. You don't have to suffer in silence anymore...


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Building Compy, The Parts

Recently I talked about options for AMD and Intel based gaming computers, today I want to talk about my personal build and give you some rationale for why I chose this specific setup...

When my computer died a couple of months ago I decided to start looking into building a new one, first objective was to identify my needs: I wanted a sweet spot gaming rig optimized for playing World of Warcraft, specifically for five boxing. I also wanted video editing/streaming capabilities (which will be important later this year). Something relatively quiet, preferably lower power consumption, and it's got to look nice when it's finished. So let's get into this...

Sweet Spot rigs tend to be built on a budget, it's all focused on the biggest bang for your buck. As frankly, after a certain point there's diminishing returns on the amount of performance per dollar spent. It's not the cheapest PC possible, but there's not a lot of wasted money on bigger and badder. In some areas however I am willing to spend a little more, like fans for example. I'm willing to spend a little more to get a quieter/cooler experience. So, what did I pick up?

GHOST Mk 38.1
Originally I'd intended to build an AMD based computer, I suffered something akin to buyers remorse however. I actually purchased an AMD FX-8350 Black Edition with a Gigabyte 970 based motherboard. However, I had to RMA both to Newegg. Then I got the worst news possible: the processor was damaged, and I would not be receiving a replacement. So, I changed my RMA to refund for the motherboard and went back to the drawing board.

The chief advantage of AMD over Intel is about dollars and cents, you can buy a 6 Core processor and compatible board for under $200. So, why did I switch sides to Intel? Actually, part of the decision comes from my recent guide on building a computer. After a lot of research and review of comparison tests, I found that Intel processors are optimized for World of Warcraft. This isn't exactly news, but I was legitimately surprised at just how significant of a difference this can make in performance. Then I recalled my previous efforts in multi boxing.

My main rig at the time was a Q6600 Intel based machine, my secondary rig was a budget AMD equivalent that was the next generation chipset. The main rig could run all five instances of the game like a champ, but the secondary machine required more settings to be turned down, for less instances of the game. Add to this the unmistakable bad juju of two AMD systems in a row having DOA processors, and the choice was clear. Here's what I ended up with...

CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor  (SuperBiiz)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler  (Newegg)
Motherboard: MSI Z97-G45 Gaming ATX LGA1150 Motherboard  (NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 4GB (1 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory  (Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 4GB (1 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory  (Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 4GB (1 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory  (Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 4GB (1 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory  (Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5 Solid State Drive  (Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5 Solid State Drive  (Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB 3.5 5900RPM Internal Hard Drive  (Salvaged)
Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB TWIN FROZR Video Card  (SuperBiiz)
Case: NZXT S340 (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case  (SuperBiiz)
Power Supply: XFX XTR 750W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply  (Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit)  (NCIX US)
Other: NZXT AC-GRIDP-M1 GRID+ Digital Fan Controller (Newegg)
FANS: 2x be quiet! Silent Wings 2 140mm 1000RPM 60.4CFM 15.8DBA Cooling Fan,
3x be quiet! BL062 Silent Wings 2 120mm 150RPM 50.5CFM 15.7DBA Cooling Fan

Not a bad setup, and for the price it's not only lean, but mean to boot.

Due to budget constraints I won't be using the MSI card starting out, instead I'll be using a PNY 560 Ti salvaged from my previous machine. It's a competent, if old card that should see me well until I can afford the upgrade. Additionally, I only have 2 sticks of memory for basically the same reason. And I'll be using some Cooler Master fans I've got laying around until I can move up to the be quiet fans listed above. Having said that, this will be a huge step up from my previous PC that was already running World of Warcraft pretty comfortably, despite it's heat throttling issues it was suffering in the end. I'll also be using the 550w version of the power supply listed, it was a mistake on my part during the ordering process but one that's actually going to be usable down the road...

The obvious place to start is the ram, and the power supply. The first 8 gigs of RAM that I'm putting in this machine were freebies provided alongside the SSDs I purchased a month ago. On the AMD board I was originally planning to use they were as good as it would get, on this one however there's room for improvement. With regards to the PSU, I plan to replace it with the 750w variety, I will then move the 550w to a server I plan on building this summer. With the extra power I'll be able to pick a solid video card, I will be sticking with an MSI Twin Frozr, but with more power I'll likely have some good single card options open to me as well as a respectable overclock. I'll also be keeping a weathered eye on the horizon with regards to the processor, I picked a solid i5 but with new releases the i7 chips will start dropping in price inevitably and there's room in the system for a stronger chip down the line...

Over a long enough time frame the life expectancy of every computer drops to zero, at some point upgrading just isn't going to be an option anymore. However, I'm looking forward to getting the thing running and to having my own PC again. Particularly, I'm looking forward to having my own PC that I built again. Because really, I could've gotten a deal on Craigslist again. I could've gotten a pre built system from Cyberpower or another company, but in the end I chose to build it myself because there's a pride in using something you made with your own two hands that's not something you can replicate off the shelf. Not everything I make is practical, this however is. And I think you need both in your life if you want to be fulfilled.

Right now, despite the headaches and the setbacks, I'm in a good place. I'll be in a better place once I install Windows again. But for now, I've got few complaints. With that, I leave you. If you have questions, comments, or criticisms feel free to share. And remember...

Always Be Closing,

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Building Compy, Software

Building a new computer can be a daunting task, especially if you've never done it before. Fortunately it's easier than ever to put together a machine the way you want at a price that fits your budget...

When you build a computer, one of the things you need to consider is the software that you'll be using. For gamers, there's only really two "legitimate options" for gaming: Windows and Linux, then there's the other software that you're going to want around for things like doing homework or reports for work, image editing software to insert disembodied and wildly disproportionate body parts onto your friends pictures. You'll want to listen to music, browse the internet, etc. When you think about it, there's really quite a lot of programs the average user will download shortly after they set up their computer, and we haven't even gotten to installing games yet. Still, we need to start somewhere so let's talk Operating Systems before we get ahead of ourselves...

The big boy when it comes to pc gaming, and it's for a reason. First, Windows has a very simple installation process for games and hardware. Getting a driver for a new Video Card for example is generally easy, go to the manufacturer site and download their driver tool. Click a few prompts and you've got the driver installed, probably even with some monitoring and overclocking tools. Easy!

The same goes for games, want to play then just download Steam,, GoG, etc and pick the games you want to download after logging in with the appropriate account information. Generally speaking, Windows is very no muss, no fuss when it comes to gaming.

There are exceptions of course, I recall having to rewrite a few files to make certain games function in the past. This was however the result of two things: first, game developers with shitty code. And second, the fact that I once upon a time had a beastly video card using new/weird architecture that a lot of games developers were at a loss for how to deal with. Oh but I do miss that FrankenGPU so...

How do we make a video card faster and more expensive? Bolt another video card onto the back of it (literally).
So Drivers and Games aren't generally a problem on Windows, however it actually does cost money. Right now you can find a copy of Windows online for around $100. If you're on a shoestring budget, that can be the difference between a video card that works, and one that's AWESOME! So, what do you do if you're a cheap bastard?

Price is certainly a concern for people looking at alternatives to Windows, traditionally the best way to be a tightwad is to go Linux. However, there is a stigma attached to the OS for a lot of people. Linux is the hippy guidance counselor of operating systems, it's open source and offered free of charge. And much like the shirt that self same counselor would wear to work on casual Friday, Linux comes in a HUGE variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Fear not however, there are standard distributions of Linux that are excellent for the novice to play around with. They tend to be very lightweight as well, so you can for example install a new version of Linux on a 10 year old laptop for example and make the thing usable again (I know, I've done it myself). Additionally you can tinker with the software if you are so inclined (and capable), even a novice however can find a distro that will allow them to customize their desktop radically creating a fully personalized environment. Personally, that's the greatest draw to Linux aside from the price tag.

That isn't to say that both options are without fault. Linux is notorious for having issues with games, especially new releases. The specialized software necessary to make the game function properly is written by the equivalent of volunteers at the local co op. The guy who normally does RPG game drivers for example may be on a spirit quest somewhere with a bag of mushrooms for all we know when a game is released. Even if they're not, remember these are just regular people with lives doing this in their spare time, not people on the clock ensuring your gaming experience is as smooth as possible.

Same applies for hardware updates, one of the things that kept me away from Linux for a long time was my ex roommates complaints when building new computers. In multiple cases I could hear the most withering vitriol coming from behind a closed door as the new super expensive sound card he'd just bought to push his 7.1 system was completely unrecognizable to his Linux distro. He ended up running windows for a month waiting on the drivers to finally be released for Linux. Additionally, just to play games like World of Warcraft for example you often have to run through WINE (virtual windows box inside Linux) just to make them to work... wait, we're simulating Windows now just to make it work on this OS? Weird...

THEN you have to actually edit game files to make it playable, often meaning you have to use OpenGL video drivers instead of legit ones for your awesome new video card, ouch. So yeah, if you want to tinker or are willing to jump through a bunch of hoops to save yourself $100 when building your computer, then go Linux (I would recommend Mint for someone starting out for gaming, though I personally prefer Arch for my own Linux environment).

On the Windows side, there's also a few problems. First, like Linux there's actually more than one version to consider. Currently it's between 7 and 8.1, however as I write this Windows 10 is quickly approaching. Sources indicate a July release for the newest version of Windows, which complicates things a little further. A lot of people prefer Windows 7, however it's also more expensive than 8.1 and cannot be direct downloaded from Microsoft anymore. If you're a student you can get a copy of 8.1 for cheap or EVEN free from Microsoft. Regardless, you can upgrade to 10 for free if you have 7 or 8.1 installed. But that leads to another issue, with the impending release of 10 it stands to reason that there might be some price fluctuation for the existing software in the very near future.

A lot of that will depend on how well the latest OS is received, if people embrace it whole heartedly then I would imagine we'll see some falling prices for Windows 7 for example. If however people dislike it, the opposite could be true. So, for someone building a computer right now (like myself) this can be a tricky situation. Personally, I've decided to pick up 8.1 and soldier on. I'd rather have 7, I'm definitely more accustomed to it, but if I'm going to have to deal with tiles and crap in 10 I may as well start getting used to them now. Also, I found a copy for sale (cheap) which was another big motivator, since I could grab 2 copies for the price it would take to get 1 copy of 7.

Now that you've got your OS sorted out, it's time to grab the other stuff. For games, you've got that on lock, right? Get the Steam download. Get Go to, etc. But what about the rest? Well, I'm going to cheat here. I'm just going to tell you to go to

Yep, just go down their lists and check all of the boxes for the software you want, like Foobar and Chrome for example. Once you're finished, click Get Installer and you have everything you need, EASY. And if you really want to get creative you can create an ISO of your OS and those basic programs and mount it to a Flash Drive for those times when burn it to the ground and start over is the simplest option. And so ends our basic guide to building a computer, hopefully you've learned something. Comments, questions, corrections? Feel free to share - and remember...

Always Be Closing,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Building Compy, Peripherals

Building a new computer can be a daunting task, especially if you've never done it before. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to put together a machine the way you want at a price that fits your budget...

What are peripherals? They are the one thing most computer build guides skip, the assumption being that you already have them on hand. For completion sake, I wanted to cover these as frankly they're important as the peripherals are actually the parts of the computer you literally interact with. Common peripherals include the monitor, keyboard, and mouse but also include the speakers, headphones, and mic. There are also more esoteric peripherals like the USB hubs, wacom tablets, etc.

For our purposes, I will be talking specifically about the basics. Since this blog definitely has a gaming bias however, we will also be discussing some things that will come in handy for when you want to pwn. First, let's look at monitors...

Much like with the video card, there's a few things to consider here. Space is definitely a concern, if you're in close quarters or if you don't have a load of cash then don't bother with a 4k monitor. In fact, I would recommend to most people sticking with a 1080p panel for the time being anyway, 4k monitors are nice, don't get me wrong. But they are prohibitively expensive, have higher requirements in terms of hardware, more limitations in terms of software support, and frankly don't offer an appreciable improvement for most people who would use them.

The exception of course would be for those really interesting in simulation games, if you're on the ATI side of things you might consider pushing for 4k sooner than the rest of us. Having a large wrap around (or multiple panels) in panorama can be very immersive if you're in a racing or flight sim for example. For productivity it's nice too, and for some specialized interests (dual boxing for example) it can have benefits for MMO players. For the rest of us, we're talking a single screen.'

Much like our earlier discussion about video cards, my advice tends to be get the best/biggest you can afford. Fortunately, with 4k being the new hotness the 1080p panels are currently on the downturn in terms of price (remember what I said about last year's tech? It definitely applies here). For gaming, regardless of what type you're doing there's a few things you want to consider.

Size, response time (lower is better), refresh rate (higher is better), display lag (less than 10ms), inputs, and of course features. The last part can be somewhat nebulous, but things like adjustable height, smaller bezzles, etc can be the final push a good monitor needs to set apart from the competition.

My personal favorite right now is the BenQ RL260HT, not only does it have the inputs to run 1080p gaming from PC or console (yes, xbox can sit next to the computer comfortably) but it has several nice features including height and tilt adjustment and an HDMI passthrough for streaming (bonus). It's a 24 inch widescreen with good stats all around for gaming, the price is right too ($230 on Newegg currently).

For these input devices there is a HUGE amount of variance, more so probably than any other part of your machine. It seems every manufacturer has 50 different "GAMING" branded mice, and another 50 with similarly labelled keyboards. Unfortunately that gaming label can add some cash to the purchase pretty quickly. One thing that's always proven useful to me when buying a new mouse or keyboard (something I haven't done in a VERY long time) is hitting up a Best Buy, Frys, or similar store and simpy getting my mitts on the various options they have available on the sales floor. A lot of what's going to sell you on either is the feel and responsiveness.

Aside from ergonomics, you also need that tactile sensation to make an informed decision. Some people really like a hard clicking keyboard when they press a button to fire at their enemies. Others like a softer response, I'm probably somewhere in the middle. I like something I don't have to fight with, preferably less noise than a lot of mechanical keyboards, spammable, and preferably with some macro capabilities for MMOs.

It's a similar situation for mice, I've used both Microsoft and Logitech mice for a VERY long time. I was an early adopter of the Microsoft Optical mice back in the late 90s/early 00s. Since then, I've moved to the Logitech mice with their adjustable weights, dpi tuning, and more buttons. I've always been of the opinion that if a mouse doesn't have at minimum a forward and back button on the side, it can piss right off.

However, there is a point of diminishing returns for me. Some of the modern "GAMING" mice really turn me off personally, Razr has proven to be particularly troubling in this regard offering me a Nokia numpad worth of keys literally under my thumb while I'm trying to pull a boss might be appealing for some, but not for me. Ergonomics can be especially annoying with some specialty mice, the worst mouse I've ever owned was the original Creative Labs Fatal1ty branded mouse...

It's like pornography with nothing but plot and dialog, it makes no sense and it's completely frustrating to look at...

So, I can't really tell you what to get here. I can only tell you that you really need to get your mitts on several options and pay for whatever feels right. Personally, I'm looking at upgrading my mouse and keyboard after I finish building my new rig, so I'm sure I'll revisit this topic.

This might be controversial to some, but I don't recommend getting speakers if you're building your first gaming rig. Or at least don't spend much on them. First, if you get the BenQ listed above, it has speakers built in, they suck, but they function. And that's really all you need for gaming. I also absolutely advise against picking up "GAMING" branded headsets, they have a very troubling tendency to make sacrifices in the name of putting both a microphone and headphones in the same package. Instead, grab a good set of headphones (or earbuds if you're a child) and a mic.

My personal preference is the Superlux HD668B, comfortable with excellent sound and you can put replacement pads from the much more expensive AKG headphones on it for a more comfortable experience (thanks Tek Syndicate). For the mic, grab a Zalman ZM-MIC1 it's a simple clip on that will work fine for talking in Vent or Mumble. Should work fine for streaming as well until you can afford something more serious. For around $60 you end up with something that's MUCH better than the standard gaming headset, and going to be used more than speakers.

And with that, I leave you today. But check back for the next installment where we talk operating system and basic programs to get you started. And remember...

Always Be Closing,

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Building Compy, Video Cards

Building a new computer can be a daunting task, especially if you've never done it before. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to put together a machine the way you want at a price that fits your budget...

For gaming and visual applications like graphic design and video editing, the video card is arguably one of the most important parts of your computer. They come with a variety of output options, various cooling hardware, sizes and shapes, etc. So, how can you pick the right video card?

Much like when you're planning your new computer, you have to ask yourself some basic questions first. What is your budget? They can get expensive. How much space do you have in your computer? If you're using a small form factor mini itx case you're almost certainly not going to have room for a Gigabyte Windforce Video Card as an example. Power consumption is another consideration, does your power supply have the juice and the connectors to push the thing?

Then there's output, though not typically a concern you can run into trouble if you're running a video card with DVI and HDMI connectors when your monitor only supports VGA, there are adapters to get around that, and a lot of video cards have an adapter included. Most importantly what size/resolution do you intend to run this at? But it's something to consider. Now, you've got that - which card should you buy?

Both ATI and NVIDIA offer some very unique advantages. ATI for example has Eyefinity, which is killer for surround gaming and productivity with multiple (more than 2) monitors. NVIDIA offers some real out of the box features for streaming and DirectX, in addition to 3D support. Both are capable performers for gaming, however the feature set of each supports different use.

If you're interested in creative work like 3d Rendering, Digital Art, Design, Software Development, etc. ATI might be more attractive.

If games are your thing, NVIDIA offers some features that are quite attractive: especially if you're interested in streaming.

Again though, I can't stress enough that both are capable of performing in either environment. And there may at times be price differences or compatibility issues that factor in, depending on your needs. So, this isn't a case of me being able to tell you specifically which card is best for you. Before we get too specific, let's answer the question: "Why not have two at twice the price?"

SLI and Crossfire allows more than one video card to be installed on a single machine. You could for example install two GeForce Titans, having both of those cards in an SLI setup will presumably give you double the video power for say, a large 4K monitor. Of course, if we're talking silly money here you could always go with three or even four video cards on a compatible motherboard for EVEN MORE POWER!


Unfortunately, all of that power comes at a cost. First, and probably most important is the actual monies involved. An EVGA GeForce Titan Z is $1,599 on Newegg as of this writing. So, running this thing in SLI would require anywhere from $3,200 to $6,400 for the video cards alone. Then there's power consumption, according to PC Part Picker our AMD setup from earlier is at 209w without a video card. Add a single Titan and we're at 589w, meaning each card draws 380w on it's own. Adding the second card puts us at 959w, so there's the first problem. If you go to big you have to start upgrading other parts of your machine to accommodate, Power Supply being the first.

This can lead to a domino effect if you invest too heavily in the idea of a multi GPU setup, because you don't want that second card on an 8x PCI slot you'll have to upgrade your motherboard. And while you're at it, may as well grab a new processor and some RAM to take advantage, before you know it you've built a totally different system. And if you're looking to build a machine like that, you don't need my help.

Honestly, the answer I always give to this question is buy the best video card you can afford. If you've got a modest budget of say $150 for a video card, you can easily find a good GTX 750 (remember, last year's tech is still good and generally cheaper). You can even find a deal second hand, though that in itself can be problematic. I prefer buying new when possible, but if you find a sweet card for cheap on Craigslist or eBay, I say go for it.

For our purposes, I'm going to stick with something in the $200 range or lower. This keeps the overall price of our machines around $700 total.

For the NVIDIA side of things, I chose an MSI GTX 960 which at the time of this writing is listed on Newegg at $192.99 after $15 Mail-in rebate, additionally it comes with a free copy of Witcher 3.

For ATI we'll go with the SAPPHIRE Vapor-X 100364VXL Radeon R9 270X, which comes in at $199.99 with similar stats and a free copy of Dirt Rally.

It's interesting that both cards offer a free game, it highlights the biggest difference in terms of gaming with these two architectures, if you're into simulation gaming and racing games, or creation/productivity go with ATI. If you're into other types of games like MMOs and regular RPGs go with NVIDIA. Looking through the offers available on Newegg it's definitely not isolated to these specific cards. Some NVIDIA cards offer the Witcher or the new Batman game, some offer both. But with the ATI cards it's all about Dirt Rally racing sim.

And that wraps it up for me today, but check back for the next installment of this series where we'll be talking about peripherals, until then remember...

Always Be Closing,

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Building Compy, the Buildenning

Building a new computer can be a daunting task, especially if you've never done it before. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to put together a machine the way you want at a price that fits your budget...

Previously we looked at some basics for researching the individual components that go into your computer, today we're going to take a look at two potential builds. One built around AMD's AM3/AM3+ socket and the other Intel's LGA 1150. I built both of these with a budget of $500 each, with the purpose of creating a solid machine which can be scaled up in the future with various upgrades to increase performance.

Now, let's take a look at the two builds. Each starts with the same case and power supply. An NZXT S340 and XFX XTR 650w fully modular PSU. I use these myself, and for a budget minded PC with room to grow they're pretty much my go to choice for each. I also started each build with an inexpensive SSD from Sandisk.Now, let's look at the AMD build...

There's pros and cons to whichever system you choose, AMD tends to be more forgiving on the wallet. However, AMD Processors are notoriously hot. They also draw more power, however the difference in power between an AMD and comparable Intel chip is not significant enough to warrant the price difference over a reasonable amount of time.

Motherboard: MSI 970 Gaming
Processor: AMD FX-6300
Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
RAM: G Skill Ripjaws X Series 8gb DDR3-1866
Storage: Sandisk 128gb SSD
ADDITIONAL Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB, 7200 RPM Internal HD
Power Supply: XFX XTR 650w
Case: NZXT S340

PRICE: $508.59 (After $35 Mail-in Rebates)


As mentioned above, Intel systems are more efficient with their power. Which means that over time (think years) the upfront cost of picking the Intel system breaks even in terms of your utility bill. However, that doesn't mean there are no advantages to Intel based systems, the premium cost of an Intel chip generally means a boost in performance. The two tend to perform better in different environments because of the architecture that they focus on, so depending on your needs you may prioritize one over the other.

Motherboard: ASUS Z97-A LGA 1150
Processor: Intel Core I3-4130 3.4 Ghz, Dual Core
Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport 8gb DDR 3-1600
Storage: Sandisk 128gb SSD
Power Supply: XFX XTR 650w
Case: NZXT S340

PRICE: $512.31 (After $35 Mail-in Rebates)


At this point the economy of the AMD system shines, after getting the essentials I nearly had enough to grab Windows, I however opted to add a Seagate 1TB Hard Drive, this hybrid storage setup is pretty common these days offering something fast to run the OS and favorite games while offering a large space to dump the less often used software and general clutter files like pictures, videos, and music.

You'll also notice that at this price point the AMD has 6 Cores VS the 2 of the Intel Processor, however don't let that distract you. The Intel chip is actually quite capable, unfortunately it IS still more expensive than the AMD chip. Additionally, a beefier motherboard was also in order (the Z97 series is a fave for a reason).

Either machine can be upgraded from here quite easily though, another memory kit for each would push them to 16gigs. A bigger processor like the AMD 8350 or an i5. Another or even a larger SSD is another possibility. And of course there's the cooling solutions to keep things stable, the current cooler is more than capable but upgrading the Case fans or even adding liquid cooling is an option down the road.

Still, I feel like there's something vital that's missing...

Of course! Video cards! Unfortunately, that's all the time we have today, but be sure to check the next installment when we'll discuss all things video. And remember...

Always Be Closing

Monday, May 11, 2015

Building Compy: The Basics

Building a new computer can be a daunting task, especially if you've never done it before. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to put together a machine the way you want at price that suits your budget...

In early April my computer died, I had been planning on upgrading to a more powerful system since way back in 2011. But real life happens, we moved (twice), had a child and if I'm honest I didn't really feel an urgent need for a new PC for a while. Now though, things are different. My son is older, my interest in online games has been rekindled, and with a sudden lack of computer... it's time.

As I write this I'm thirty five years old, and I built my first computer over twenty years ago, so my perspective with regards to fitting slot A into tab B is going to be different than some people reading this. Much of PC building is however very straight forward, if you can put together a desk from Ikea you can put together a computer. There are a variety of videos on YouTube that walk you through the step by step of building a computer.

With this guide I hope to offer some information that others might gloss over or simply assume you'd already know, because I don't like to assume anything about the people reading this. With that out of the way, let's get started...

Before you hit Google, it's time to ask yourself a few things. If you've ever dealt with a pre built PC retailer like Dell, Cyberpower, etc then you've already heard a variation of these. First, what do you need from your computer? If you're reading this presumably you're interested in games, what about Streaming? Video & Sound editing? Will you be doing other creative work such as 3D Modelling/Printing? All of these things will affect and be effected by your choices when you build the machine; understanding what's important to you (and how important it is) you'll be able to prioritize specific parts to maximize potential within your budget.

Speaking of budget, what is yours? Are you looking to blow your load all at once, or are you willing to delay gratification over a protracted period of time? And finally, do you have a manufacturer preference: do you prefer AMD or Intel? NVIDIA or ATI? This can likewise have a big effect on the budget. Never fear fanboys, I will be offering samples from both sides of the fence later on.

Have you ever heard of Moore's Law? Last month was the 50th anniversary of the term first posited by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel Corporation. In the 60s he noted that number of integrated components per integrated circuit doubled yearly. He predicted that this phenomenon would continue, and his prediction has held true for longer than I've been alive.

What does that mean? That means that as I began writing this enthusiasts have been running eight core processors in their computers, today I watched a video of a new chip from Intel running sixteen with more cache than my first computer had physical memory. For those of you not fluent in nerd, it's a big deal. As big of a deal as the fact that the computer I'm building now has nearly double the RAM that my first gaming machine had in HD space (36gigs vs 20gigs). My point is, every year computer parts become obsolete. The 16 core beast that Intel is releasing? Right now it's $4500 USD. In a couple of years you'll be able to drop two zeroes off of that figure, because the technology is just moving that rapidly.

A few years ago I was the only person I knew with a Solid State Drive, I spent several hundred dollars on a small one and for a time was enjoying the benefits of being the only kid on the block that could load Windows and a Game in the time it took my roommate to open his web browser. Now, for $100 you can get a better SSD and a 1TB HD to store everything else.

A judicious shopper can save a lot of cash by looking not at the newest hotness, but at last years offerings. Another way to save some money (at least over the short term) is to build incrementally. In my case for example, I have a video card from my previous machine that will suffice until I can afford something better. I also have a hard drive (though I did find a deal on SSDs that I couldn't resist). Similarly, if you've got a case you like you may want to simply clean it and possibly give it a fresh coat of paint (maybe).

Once you've chosen the direction you're going, it's time to really start researching individual parts. There is an urge to rush here, especially if you've got some money burning a hole in your pocket. I would advise spending a couple of hours looking around sites like Bit-Tech, Tek Syndicate, Linus Tech Tips to narrow your search down on specific components. Register an account with PC Parts Picker and you can then move the pieces around until you find the sweet spot (don't forget to save your parts list, and you may want to create several to find the right mix of parts before you start paying people).

Yeah, if you're like me and it's been a few years since you messed around with components PC Parts Picker is going to make rainbow farting unicorns shoot out of your forehead. Not only does this troubleshoot components on the fly for you (how much power your machine is expected to draw, compatibility problems, etc) it also shows you who has the best price per component. So for instance the old reliable Newegg may have a deal on an SSD and some RAM, but another company may have the Video Card you want at a better price. Still another may have the best price for Windows. In terms of comparison shopping it's a game changer.

When narrowing down your search for the perfect component, be sure to check reviews. Looking on Newegg or Amazon is a good start, but see if there are any reviews of the item on YouTube as well. If Linus for instance tells you about problems with a motherboard for example, you may want to see what he recommends instead. Now, I know I haven't really gotten into any specifics at this point, but be sure to check out the next post where I get to the meat and potatoes with some sample builds.

Remember to do your homework, don't be that guy. Seriously...

Bit-Tech - An excellent source for reviews.
PC Parts Picker - The single most useful website for building a new computer.
Linus Tech Tips Forums & YouTube - Excellent reviews, news, tips, and community.
Tek Syndicate Forums & YouTube - Another excellent source for reviews, news, tips, and community.

If you want to learn more about Moore's law you can check out the following on Wikipedia. As a bonus I highly recommend a recent article on the subject at Forbes.

Always Be Closing,