It’s been a while….

Not really. But for me, it feels like it’s been a while.

This is the third time in 6 days that I’ve been awake for 32+ hours in one go. Yes, and this run is about 36~ hours, and I don’t feel tired. This is bad. I was tired earlier, but caught a second wind, so to speak.

Okay, so what is it this time – why did I stay up all night again? In one word: ncix. I finally (actually from order to pick-up, it was only a few days) got all my needed parts, i.e. the motherboard, with all the other pieces.

I bought a case built for mATX motherboards, but don’t let that fool you. It’s the Antec Mini P180, and it’s far from being small. I believe it’s actually bigger than my Antec Lanboy. It’s also heavier because it’s not aluminum, but steel. It’s geared towards a very ambiguous market: gamers/enthusiasts who want a quiet PC that can be packed up on the go due to the fact that it’s a “mini” case. Gamers and quiet don’t really mix, and to say that it’s easily usable for, let’s say, lan parties is a bit ridiculous. As I mentioned, my Lanboy (Super Lanboy actually) is slightly smaller than the Mini P180, is a LOT lighter, and fits ATX motherboards, so it’s not restricted in what you can put in it.

So, enough of my griping; in truth, I still like the Mini P180. It’s black, it’s cool (in the literal and idiomatic sense), and has some very nice organizational units. Of course, I went through a number of steps to get my “finished” product (which is still rough; later on that).

I had to put all the components for my motherboard (Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H) in their proper places. Not much to say here. I decided to just use the pre-applied thermal pad on the OCZ Vanquisher heatsink I got instead of applying thermal paste. I almost forgot to mention the main actor in this show: AMD Athlon X2 5000+ (AM2 socket, 2.6GHz rated) Black Edition (more to come!).

So, that went fine. Then I had to put it in the case. The case, despite being as big as my ATX case, did not fit the mATX board without giving me trouble first. The I/O shield… I hate the bits that stick out. That’s what got me first when I lowered the board into the case the first time. Took me at least 5 minutes to pry the sucker out of there. Change in plans – I actually measured checked which holes I needed to use in the case. Those standoffs didn’t want to go in without a fight. So, I fixed the I/O shield, put in the standoffs, then got my motherboard sitting pretty in there. Did I mention that this is after I removed both HD cages to give myself some extra room to work with?

So, where exactly did all that width and height come from? The power supply is actually put at the bottom of the case. There’s a hole in the thick partition (big weight and height to add on there) that lets you sneak your cables up to the motherboard. The width comes from the fact that you get about an added inch on the right side of the case to run your cables through to be hidden from sight. Like I said, it’s got some nice organization.

On the top of the case, there’s a 200mm fan that blows air out, like a spout. Obviously, I chose to have my heatsink fan blow in that direction. The huge fan actually got in the way of my main optical drive (my recently purchased Pioneer DVR-212D), and thus I had to place it at the bottom of the case, just in front of the PSU. This just about gave me trouble, with all those cables in the way, but the smaller sata cables were a blessing to be sure.

Along the way of transferring my drives from my old case into my new one, I accidentally stepped on the connected cable that was on one of my hard drives. It was the locking kind of connector, so it went *snap* and I wasn’t a happy camper. I managed to McGuyver my way out of complete frustration, and set the slightly broken hard drive such that it worked (no details, but it was annoying). I plan to RMA it when I’ve transferred all the necessary data (i.e. all of it; I don’t trust I’d necessarily get the data back). Yeah, so all my energy went into that, and I lost track of every thing else I was supposed to do. So, I ended up backtracking a couple times to set up the bloody pins everywhere. Done right?

WRONG! It wouldn’t start. No explanation, it just wouldn’t power up. Too much power being drawn? I doubt it. But in any case, I redid some of my cabling, unjuiced some components…then somehow presto! It turned on and Windows loaded. Oh, wait – I don’t have an optical drive set up right now. So, I plug in my IDE DVD-ROM that I put in the top slot (where I was going to put my DVD+-RW) and give it a shot. It powers on, all’s good then right? Right?!?

WRONG! The single IDE connector on the motherboard doesn’t seem to appreciate my DVD-ROM. Combine that with flakey power, (I should have sufficient power, but it’s been weird to me), and you’ve got a certified annoyance. So, no problem, I had my nice new Pioneer, and that worked. So, I finally get to install the drivers on the provided disc. Because I wasn’t getting a connection to the internet, I presumed I just needed to install the LAN port’s drivers….

WRONG AGAIN! So, here I am using my laptop to write this. And, yeah… I had to re-activate Windows XP on my new rig because it was apparently too much of a change in components (i.e. change of motherboard). It was morning (dark morning) and I didn’t have internet, so I just put up with the annoying note about activation. I eventually called in and got an automated procedure which cleared up the annoyance without (amazingly) too much annoyance. Microsoft got a +1~pt. for that one.

But, to summarize the events, which felt unnecessarily long and excruciating, I put together an unfinished , slightly broken product for myself. For now, I’m content to overclock my rig and burn some DVDs. The problem is that I’m running out of DVDs (no prob, I’ll order some), and overclocking is actually pretty boring.

Speaking of over-clocking, the Black Edition that I mentioned earlier…that’s my CPU. It comes with multiplier unlocked!! Yes, stock voltage, no hassle, I was able to turn the sucker into a 3.1GHz machine by simply setting the multiplier from 13x to 15.5x. I didn’t do any stress testing at that point, I just wanted to see the awesomeness that is the unlocked multiplier. At this point, I’m doing the boring stuff. I’m not very patient, so I don’t wait hour upon hour for each new setting to be tested.

I actually chose to do some undervolting first, staying at the stock speed of 2.6GHz. The voltage went down. I actually just decided to stop at a point where I felt comfortable. So, at this point, I’m trying to slowly work up to where I was before, except with lower voltages (that is, under stock).

I don’t admit to be an extreme overclocker, but with this awesome (and cheap <$100) CPU, it feels like it’s really worth it to put it to the test. That much almost makes me forget that I’m hunched over a laptop and having haven’t gotten sleep for 36 hours or so.

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