Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Passwords and 1Password

In a way, us computer security people allowed it to happen. We allowed credit card databases to get hacked, phishing emails to fool users, and magstripe ATMs to get skimmed. However, our greatest mistake was that we stayed quiet when PHBs decided that, rather than fixing the actual security problems, instead decided on a false sense of security by forcing users to create ridiculously complex passwords, then forcing users to change passwords almost constantly.

The frequently-changing gibberish passwords with numbers and symbols actually made things far worse. XKCD explains the information theory behind why crazy number and punctuation rules actually make for weaker passwords. Forcing users to change the password frequently just makes said gibberish passwords even harder to remember, ensuring the users will have to commit the cardinal security sin of writing their passwords down. Even worse, with so many services requiring passwords, you either need to maintain a whole list of passwords, or use the same password (or pattern of password) across multiple sites. This can lead to the nightmare of one of your passwords getting exposed (especially if you wrote it down), then having to go through and chaotically change the password to almost every service you use.

I am hoping that the increasing ubiquity of mobile computing will help solve the problem, since it makes two-factor authentication essentially free. The idea being that having two separate levels of security (a simple password, plus a physical item you possess), when done right can be far more secure than any password. Blizzard has already demonstrated this with the Battle.NET Authenticator devices and apps, and I can only hope others go this route. Google is finally trying this too, though still has a lot to learn.

Sadly, until the world catches up, we’re stuck with passwords.

I found a piece of software that I’m actually really liking to help manage the insanity. 1Password is an application for Windows, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android; currently $30 for the Windows version. It stores an encrypted list of all your passwords, locked by one “master password”. This means you can have unique, complex, and changing passwords for each service, but only need to remember one strong password. While I’m not often one to pay premium prices for software from random small vendors off the Internet, I’ve found this software to actually be quite worth the investment.

When on the road, you can look up a specific password (or even other data such as a passport number) from a mobile app synced to your desktop. Even if you lose your device (and don’t have remote erase capability), the data is encrypted with your best password.

While on the desktop, 1Password integrates with your browser. After typing your master password, it can automatically log you into most websites. If creating a new password, it can generate a strong (high entropy) password – such a password is almost impossible to remember, but you don’t need to ever remember (or even type) it.

Across computers (or to certain mobile devices like Windows Phone), the list of passwords is shared via the Dropbox cloud file replication service. Admittedly, I had never used Dropbox before using 1Password, but I’ve grown to like it. Plus, it’s free for the first 2GB of space. There’s not much security risk here – even if you don’t trust Dropbox’s security, they only ever handle the encrypted version of your passwords, and never have access to your master password.

Admittedly, from a security standpoint, password repositories can be dangerous, as the repository and master password is a single point of attack. Realistically though (and I’m sure all the security experts are cringing as I say this), anyone capable of capturing your master password is just as capable of capturing a bunch of separate passwords. So, given an equivalent level of risk, why not take increased convenience and improved password habits?

Update; FiOS TV DVR

Awhile back, I raved at the great improvement of FiOS TV. I’m still quite happy overall, but I’d like to retract my statements about the Frontier DVR. Frontier’s software still isn’t as buggy as Comcast’s on the same hardware, but it still has its share of bugs and other usability issues.

  • Series recordings seem to be spotty – some series record reliably, but others seem to never find new episodes. I am missing way too much Mythbusters!
  • When moving through recorded content, sometimes the video stream will fail to restart – frozen video stream, but audio will keep playing. You have to FF/RW to a different stopping point to get things moving again.
  • Pause/resume has some significant lag. When you ask to pause, it plays a few more seconds, pauses, then rewinds to the point you actually wanted to pause.
  • Favorites are good, but why on earth can’t you set favorites from the guide?

Certainly tolerable, but definitely not what I’d call a polished experience.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Windows Phone: Mango

Phone updates are like Christmas – you wait months, and it feels like it will never come, but then you wake up one morning and have a bunch of presents waiting for you. Well, today I got my Mango Christmas, and it was quite a haul!
Really, the one feature Mango is missing is a tour of all the cool new stuff it can do. I’ve been finding out bits and pieces through news articles. There are literally hundreds of changes. Below are a few functional additions I’ve enjoyed so far.

New Bing search options: music (ie. Shazam), barcodes and tags (ie. Tag Reader, ShopSavvy), and automatic text recognition (OCR) plus translation. The “Scout” feature shows nearby restaurants, attractions, and shopping (ie. replace the rather bad WP7 Yelp app). Overall, this equals a much needed boost to the usefulness of the capacitive “Search” button.

Map improvements. Most notably turn-by-turn directions with text-to-speech. Also, favorite places. On the down side, no transit directions

Bluetooth audio improvements. Now with track data and elapsed time, more control of play modes.

Custom ringtones. On one hand, the lack of any tools to create, edit or manage ringtones is annoying, and the excuse of “Apps will do it” is a shameful cop-out. But still, one has to appreciate the elegance of the solution from a technical standpoint. Just edit any song < 1 minute to genre “Ringtone”, and it’s a ringtone. Trimming an existing song down to an appropriate length takes some third-part tools, but the genre can be edited right in Zune. Unlike Apple, there’s no attempt to monetize or otherwise prevent you from legitimately building your own ringtones.

Voice commands – speech to text, and text to speech. The experience seems heavily optimized to text messages, with some incredibly accurate dictation of outgoing messages and reading of incoming messages. There’s a few places where you can activate specific speech-to-text, but you can hold down the capacitive “Windows” button to trigger voice commands. Sadly, the selection of voice commands seems limited. Plenty of commands to control phone calls or text messages, to do Bing searches, and “open” to launch apps, but I’ve yet to find other voice commands. One noteworthy absence is the ability to control the media player, which is a pretty big downside compared to iPhone.

Other interesting notes.
  • No visual voicemail yet, but apparently that’s a carrier issue instead of a software issue, and “Coming Soon” once AT&T turns it on for us.
  • Task switching available by holding “Back” capacitive button. None of my third-party apps support running in the background yet. It appears that the “Windows” button leaves a capable app running, while tapping “Back” from a main screen will actually exit an app outright. Still waiting for the Glympse app to support background execution.
  • Cut and paste is there. I still don’t care.
  • Apparently businesses can now make “private” apps that you can access through links but don’t show up in app store searches. Useful for Microsoft internal apps at least.
  • Set Facebook status updates and check-ins direct from contacts screen.
  • Still no separate volume per audio output. Grrr.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Comcast Free, all hail Frontier!

It was a painful victory when we first rid ourselves of Comcast Internet – while we welcomed the impressive new FTTP connection, it was hollow in that we had to continue to pay Comcast excessive rates for unreliable budget-grade TV service. But finally, we said a very unemotional goodbye to Comcast, and welcomed our new FiOS TV service.

It took some time to finally be rid of them. First, the lack of a “franchise agreement” (essentially a state-enforced TV monopoly) with the county blocked us from getting service. Once we were annexed into Kirkland, that was no longer an issue. But then, Frontier insisted that we get service from their close partner, DirecTV. To be fair, I’ve heard nothing but good things about DirecTV, but large trees to the South of our home makes that a non-starter. Finally, in a victory for the Internet generation, I was able to reach a district manager through Twitter, who talked to the right people and got us scheduled for hook-up right away.

First impressions are incredible. Just a few of the improvements compared to Comcast:

  • Reliable signal. We’ve yet to see a single pixel out of place since we turned on the service. With Comcast, we’d lose half our channels for hours at a time almost every day. Their techs were never able to really correct the issue, plus the fact that they try to charge you service fees for the privilege.
  • High quality signal. The HD is HD, and even the SD (what little of it we use now, given our “extreme” package) is crystal clear. The Comcast SD channels - which, on our overpriced basic plan meant most of them – were brutally over-compressed. My TV isn’t that big – I shouldn’t have to tolerate compression artifacts.
  • Great DVR. Despite almost identical hardware, FiOS has great software on their devices, compared to the buggy crap software Comcast pushed on us. No longer am I playing the “rewind an hour because the DVR lost our place” game.
  • No jerking around on price. A fair fixed price for years at a time. None of this “introductory rate” scam, where the price skyrockets after a few months. While many people have observed that you can threaten to leave Comcast to get back on promo rates, I much prefer just paying a fair price consistently without any games.

Now, we have a wonderful bundle. Reliable 25/25 Mbps unlimited internet (yes, symmetric broadband and no data cap, I can feel the jealousy radiating from Canada already). Combined with the “Extreme” HD package – including a 24/7 HD NHL channel, a few movie channels, and more HD specialty channels than I know what to do with. All for less money than we ever paid Comcast.

Admittedly, I’m not much of a TV watcher anyways – Netflix covers most of my needs. But if I’m going to pay for TV, I expect to get the best, and Frontier really delivers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spiral Knights

I fought Nomae so hard on it. No way was I playing some new online game, especially an MMORPG. But it was free, and I was bored enough to try it.

Spiral Knights is four-player Zelda. Imagine all the fun you had in A Link to the Past, but with friend! Sure, it’s the future, and there’s no Princesses, but you’re still running around with a sword, shield, bow gun, and bombs, hacking up the local monsters for fun and profit.

The freemium concept of SK is clever – you buy ‘energy’, which you use to play levels and for crafting. You naturally regenerate up to 100 energy a day, meaning you can play up to 10 levels without paying anything.

However, they are rather devious in how they latch onto your wallet. The first of three tiers of levels can be completed with gear purchased from vendors. Access to the second tier requires gear that can be crafted for less than the 100 energy you gain naturally a day. But the crafting energy costs shoot up dramatically, with the next gear upgrades requiring 200 energy each (and rising exponentially from there). Since you can only acquire 100 energy naturally, this mandates buying energy, right around the point where you’ve played enough to really build a taste for the game.

This additional energy can only enter the system through real money purchases, meaning you either have to pay real money yourself, or grind enough of the in-game currency to buy it from other players at market rates. Ultimately, you’re left with the choice of paying real money to progress as fast as your natural pace, or refusing to sink real money and being forced to alternate between skipping days of play and grinding money to build up the energy to craft to gear requirements.

So far, I’ve kept the purse-string closed. I’d have quit by now, but admittedly the multiplayer aspect drew me back in, and I’m still having fun.

Humble Indie Bundle

Recently picked up the Humble Indie Bundle #3. An interesting concept – five indie games, DRM-free, and you can pay as much or as little as you like, distributing your payment as you like between the five developers and two charities. Plus a bunch of free games – the entire Humble Indie Bundle 2 plus two “bonus” games.

I’m all for indie games, rejecting DRM, and even charities, but I’m not convinced that the bundle was a good idea. On one hand, some of the games have such critical acclaim that they never needed a bundle to bring them any more publicity (ie. Braid). While on the other hand, some of the games are worse than your average school Flash project.


  • Cogs. It’s slider puzzles.That’s it. But with so many interesting puzzle mechanics integrated (pipes and gears to name a few), that it can keep you going for hours. A professional-grade engine keeps the game polished.
  • Crayon Physics Deluxe. An enhancement to the iPhone classic – solve simple 2D physics puzzles by drawing any machines you want. So simple, yet so many possibilities.
  • Atom Zombie Smasher. One of the “bonus games”. The main gameplay is almost insultingly low-tech – rescuing 'people (yellow pixels) from zombies (purple pixels) in a top-down city view (rectangles). It’s not even all that well balanced. Yet it’s scarily addictive, and I’ve lost many nights to it already.


  • VVVVVV. Side-scrollers may be retro, but when your graphics makes the XNA example code look like high-tech, you’ve better have the world’s best gameplay to make up for it. This game does not. After about 5 seconds, you get bored of the single novel gameplay mechanic, about 10 seconds later the insane difficulty has you uninstalling.
  • Hammerflight. Way to take a really interesting 2D air combat gameplay mechanic, and wreck it by forcing a ridiculously bad story on you. Then repeating it every time you die (which is a lot).

Also, I find a bit of irony in the fact that I’m playing the HIB games, DRM-free, through Steam.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Personal Homepage

After the better part of a decade, I have finally replaced my old broken personal website and resume. It really was time – replacing a website designed for academic life. Also, making it actually render sensibly in a browser newer than IE6, without giant blobs of purple box model leaking all over the page..

While a mundane task, it was ultimately quite challenging. While in school, every project, class, hobby or thought seemed to deserve prominence. But now, nothing seems important enough to share. I ended up deleting most of my content, with nothing relevant to replace it. The same with the resume – after years in the industry, it’s hard to even remember what all those old awards and volunteer projects were about, let alone why anyone should care.

So now, the site is little more than a placeholder for links. Two meager pages of content, and a one-pager resume.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Windows Phone: Samsung Focus

The eighteen month reign of my iPhone 3GS is over. I have succumbed to a combination of shame of not supporting my company, a curiosity towards the latest technology and development platforms, a frustration with the ever increasing fail of iTunes for Windows, and the lust for a good deal. The result: I now own a Samsung Focus, one of the more popular Windows Phone devices, with a store-installed 8GB memory upgrade (to 16GB total).

So far, the experience has been great; it’s refreshing to get a new experience after so long on Apple tech.The screen and camera are both everything good you’ve heard about. Finally being able to sync to Zune is a great relief. The Windows Phone 7 interface is a refreshing change.


  • Battery: Great! Meter shows over 3/4 at the end of the day, including speakerphone calls, WiFi on, compulsive email checking, and Fruit Ninja.
  • Screen: Everything you’ve heard is true. Black blacks, vibrant colors (particularly for photos). Respectable at 4”.
  • Camera: Also deserving of its reputation – clear focused shots with good color and handling light. LED flash gives even lighting. 
    In fact, the on-board camera is noticeably better than my recent Casio Exilim purchase, which even at 12Mpx had such horrible optics that I gave the damned thing away.
  • Memory: 8GB is obviously not reasonable for a modern device, especially with nearly 2GB reserved space, but luckily, you can expand the on-board memory with certain microSD cards. I’m disappointed that AT&T only had 8GB cards certified, but it beats taking the risk of crashes (a worry for many). The upgrade has been reliable for me thus far.
  • Call Quality: perfect, both in-ear and on speakerphone, in a variety of environments. People on the other end report hearing me clearly with minimal noise.
  • Signal: who knows. I’m in the Seattle area: our 3G coverage is as strong as our Starbucks coverage.
  • Form: Light and thin; sits comfortably in my front pocket.

Samsung Focus vs HTC HD7S

Some may question my sanity to buy the Focus the very day the HD7S came out. After all, how can 4.3" of screen be wrong? Well I did try both phones, and what really sold me was the audio quality for calls – the HD7S was really hard to hear to-ear, especially in the noisy Commons area. While the HD7S had the louder speakerphone, the Focus had noticeably better sound quality. Combined with reviews that point to the Focus as the undisputed King for screen (the coveted AMOLED), battery life, camera, and the fact that the Focus could be upgraded to match the HD7S’s 16GB of storage, it was an easy decision to take the Focus.

Windows Phone 7 vs iOS

I like the new Windows Phone 7 home screen. Tiles really are better, and given how many apps the average person has these days, relegating all but the most important to a list makes great sense. I’m less enamored with some of the other UI elements like the side-scrolling ‘tab’ views, but I think I’ll grow to like them.

I like the ‘People’ focus in WP7 over iOS. Out of the box, my phone’s already aware of Windows Live, my work Outlook, Facebook, Google, and texting and is capable of linking these all into a single contact.

Random cool feature: you can go to a website, and request to see your phone’s location, force it to ring (even if it’s on vibrate), or lock it (with a custom message). Lost phones will be a thing of the past!

iOS may have the largest app collection out there, but Microsoft did a good job of getting apps that matter fast. Netflix, Kindle, Yelp, Battle.Net authenticator and recently even Glympse are all available, plus a solid selection of games (and yes, soon even Angry Birds). I’ve had no problems finding all the apps I’ve wanted, with the exception of Zillow and AAA Roadside.

Only a few features I found noteworthy in their absence vs iOS:

  • Custom ringtones, though this is rumored to be coming in the next major update.
  • Visual voicemail. After being on iPhone, the idea of actually *calling* your voicemail seemed primitive by comparison.
  • Separate volume state between speaker and the aux jack. The same volume doesn’t make sense between the speaker and headphones.

I did not miss Cut and Paste (which is apparently available now) or Task Switching (coming soon) at all. For all the people that whine about these features, the scenarios where such features actually useful are not that common.

Zune vs iTunes

I hate iTunes. So very much. Sure, it does the job, but it just makes me so very mad that a company acclaimed for their UX could make such an unintuitive piece of software. Even simple things, like how many clicks it takes to update apps, or how it’s nearly impossible to actually find anything through browsing the iTunes store, or how hard it is to simply choose what music you want to sync. Or how it can’t automatically pick up PDFs as new books without manually dragging them over. Or how the process will deadlock half the time on device connect. Or how I have to send my photo sync through a separate application. Or how every version update I have to remind it that I in fact will never ever care to run Safari.

Zune is just an awesome piece of software. Everything is simple, yet easy to find and manage.It’s particularly easy to determine what music ends up on the phone – either drag it to the big sync icon, or for the more advanced users, specify rules (eg. “sync all of my favorite metal). You can also sync your entire collection, but given that Zune pass lets you download as much music as you want, that could fill a device in no time.

It’s not all rosy though. Application data (or the apps in general) from your Windows Phone doesn’t seem to sync to the PC.This matters a lot if you wipe your phone (or replace it outright) – iTunes is always one sync away from being back to normal, while with Zune there’s almost no way to avoid data loss.

Miscellaneous Complaints

The included headphones with the Focus are horrible, even for earbuds. Not a trace of bass, and distortion through the rest of the audible range. The iPhone headphones are great in comparison.

The first sync was a bit flaky – device install errors prevented Zune from recognizing the device. It took some driver manipulation and reboots on both sides to get a clean first connection.

Capacitive buttons, while fun to poke at, can be a bit sensitive when handling the device, especially the search button on the right side (coincidentally, the one button of the three I never actually want to push).

The games I’ve tried thus far don’t seem to perform as well as their iOS equivalents. In particular, both Doodle Jump and Fruit Ninja feel like the framerate is just that tiny bit too low. Not sure whether it’s an effect of the screen technology, the underlying compute power vs the demand of XNA, or even just all in my head, but it certainly detracts a bit from arcade games.

A nitpick – but it’s really frustrating that you can’t actually use many of the phone’s features while it’s connected to the PC.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Canada Election 2011 = Conservative Majority…

… you gullible bastards. Yes GTA, you know who you are! This is all your fault!

Just kidding! People all around the world are dying simply because they asked for the privilege that Canadians (except a few poor non-resident souls *cough* *cough*) get to exercise on a regular basis. Thirty-seven days of political competition without anybody being shot would be an unthinkable miracle for many places in the world, and that we could choose a leader by consensus without bloodshed is something we can all be proud to be a part of, no matter who won.

Harper won his coveted majority fair and square, and by a healthy margin no less. He has earned four years (assuming he finally decides to follow his own election law) of our support.  The many upsets in the opposition are largely irrelevant – the Conservatives may dictate Canadian law, policy, and foreign relations entirely at their own whim, and if the past is any indication, by the supreme command of Harper alone. The only question is whether, when this Session ends, whether Canadians will be able to reflect honestly upon its legacy.

While perhaps no more than points of trivia in a majority scenario, there was some interesting aftermath. Layton and the NDP given an opposition mandate that would have been unthinkable fantasy a mere week ago. The Bloc razed to ashes, and  leader Gilles Duceppe resigned in defeat. No matter what one’s opinion of the separatist movement, one cannot deny the contribution of Duceppe and the Bloc to modern politics, especially the past few minority Parliaments. The Liberals being told definitively that they are out of touch with Canadians through a historically unprecedented election spanking. I still don’t quite get this one – I didn’t see any major blunder from the Liberals, so I’d love to hear some opinions on how they got so badly crushed. Though given that Ignatieff didn’t resign outright, I’m starting to get a hint at the problem (seriously, at least Dion got his seat).

And finally, no matter how wacky the Greens, one has to respect Elizabeth May for winning the first Green election.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Canada Election 2011

Hooray, another election! Okay, so not everyone is entirely thrilled (canada.com), but all two of my blog readers know I enjoy playing armchair (lownewulf.com) pundit (lownewulf.com). Sadly, this year my contribution is no more than commentary – I have exceeded the “five year limit” and am thus no longer eligible to vote by mail.

For the rest of you - DON’T VOTE CONSERVATIVE! Beyond platform preferences or overall political leanings, there is a fundamental issue of ethics – lack of accountability to the people, their elected representatives, longstanding traditions, or even the law of the land. I mentioned many of these during the 2008 election – including blatant violation of the very election and campaign finance laws that they helped pass! It’s only gone downhill from there, with parliament being prorogued TWICE (wikipedia.org) for political reasons, and the Government ultimately found in contempt of parliament (cbc.ca), which became the confidence measure that triggered the election.

The parliamentary system in Canada depends on separation of powers – any part of government that can ignore the will of the other parts can operate with unchecked supremacy. Given that the latest incarnation of the Conservative party has shown contempt to the only elected part of Canadian government, it is inconceivable that they can be even considered a legitimate democratic party, let alone ethically fit to participate in Government.

Rant over. On May 2nd, we’ll see if Canadians are paying attention, or even care. Until then, I’ll try to write a few posts on specific policy issues or data analysis, and keep the rhetoric to a minimum.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

US Taxes 2010

All done, and barring objections from the IRS, a hefty refund coming my way, with an effective tax rate of 14.51%. Look on me, Belgians, and despair!

Public Service Announcement for Canadians:
Don’t forget, if AT ANY time in 2010, you had $10,000 or more across all your non-US bank accounts, you have to mail TD F 90-22.1 to the Department of the Treasury (NOT with your tax return).
Also, if you hold a Canadian RRSP, even if if it’s just sitting idle, you must file Form 8891 with your taxes. TurboTax seems to have improved their interviews, and will now guide you to both as part of the standard interview process.

Public Service Announcement for Americans: if you’re not discouraged by the upcoming rant, you can get a 25% discount on TurboTax from Fidelity, whether or not you are a member. See the deal at this link.

As usual, the bane of my existence is capital gains – I can power through pretty much an entire return in an hour except for the days I have to spend on stock sales. In theory, it’s quite simple – proceeds minus cost basis = taxable income, then split into short and long term. But the devil is in the details.

My problem – TurboTax REALLY sucks for handling multiple-source stock, and that’s using the Premier version, which costs extra specifically to handle this sort of thing. TurboTax simply does not admit that it’s possible to get stock from the open market, ESPP, and vesting grants, and sell it at once.

But I’m used to that – split the transactions up by category, assign the commissions at random, and you get a reasonable result. However, this apparently convinces TurboTax that you can’t process wash sales! I then spent AN HOUR with tech support, asking them how I could possibly just enter the wash sale amount (literally an hour of “well the question should be there” … “but it’s not, so now what”).

Eventually, I figured it out (after ditching tech support). I had to follow the ‘guidance’ for all my sales to calculate the cost basis (because it’s ridiculously complicated to calculate an ESPP cost basis), write the numbers down. Then I had to delete all the sales, then re-enter the raw proceeds and cost basis in the “advanced spreadsheet”, mark it complete. Only THEN will it ask about wash sales. Of course, since that amount may affect your previously-calculated basis, you then have to delete the stocks and re-enter them AGAIN with the new basis, and keep iterating on this process until your values have steady state.

The tech support lady said that in the downloaded product, you can just edit the forms directly. Well great. Fucking cloud!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

First look: New Computer

New computer is built and running. Following the tradition of car names (my previous computer being DELOREAN because of its distinctive brushed steel case), this new rig has been christened CORVETTE.

Final set of equipment is listed at:

PCMark Vantage: 15670.0 PCMarks
Windows Experience Index: 7.5

I haven’t even attempted an overclock yet, because I have no need. Every computer game I own runs at max settings at great framerates. World of Warcraft averages between 70-100fps depending on the zone. Left 4 Dead 2 runs flawlessly.

Most people wonder about the RevoDrive. It really was an easy experience – I had to use a USB key with drivers during Windows 7 setup, but it installed without complaint, and once installed, the system automatically booted from it without complaint. Only quirk was that the installer still put the recovery partition on my data drive, but I grudgingly must admit that this is a sensible thing to do anyways.

My boot time is indeed quite impressive, but not the instant-on that some people experience with even SATA SSDs. I attribute this to the large array of devices and software I boot with even from a clean build, many of which are installed to my data drive.

I havent installed WoW to the RevoDrive yet… the 22GB seems like a lot when there’s only 70GB left after OS and the many applications that still refuse to install anywhere but C:. I imagine it’d be pretty amazing though. I’ll let people know if I try it.

Some other thoughts:

The Antec case is nice - really slick black aluminum, airflow everywhere, blue LEDs anywhere you’re likely to see, and giant fans for quiet running. Having three separate internal fan speed selectors isn’t as impressive – am I really going to open my case and manually adjust each fan each time it gets warm out? The thing that I miss the most from my old case are sideways-mounted HDDs - trying to add or remove hard drives while delicately avoiding both my video card and my RevoDrive (which is a surprisingly long and fragile card) is a nerve-wracking experience!

Gigabyte board has behaved admirably – I love the serious passive chipset cooling, especially given the variety of chipset coolers DELOREAN went through (which came with a 40mm plastic piece of junk on its MSI board). Not a hint of complaint about any of the devices I connected to it. CMOS clear right on the back faceplate (with blue backlight) for those serious overclockers However, their software for overclocking and temp tracking is pretty serious load of MFC fail. Also – 8 SATA ports, four DIFFERENT controllers, each with their own drivers (from different companies), and their own configuration. Finally, there’s a weird quirk when cold-starting – the box will spin up, turn off for five seconds, then magically power up. The first time, I thought I fried the CPU for sure!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Build, part 2

Thanks everyone who had advice for me on this build. I’ve updated it slightly, and would love further feedback.

What’s changed:

  • Replaced the 64GB Crucial SSD SATA 6Gb/s with a 50GB RevoDrive PCIEx4. The speed is meant to be absolutely epic, which is saying a lot given the already epic SSD it’s replacing.
  • Switched from 2x640GB SATA 3Gb/s to 1x1TB SATA 6GB/s. Cheaper for similar space.
  • Switched from a GTX465 to an overclocked GTX460. The Cyclone is very well reviewed. It’s meant to be both cooler and quieter than stock cards, and rivals 465s and 470s even on the stock overclock.
  • Switched to 12GB of cheaper RAM from 6GB of high-end RAM.  I doubt the current system would get full advantage from such aggressive timings.

What stayed the same:

  • LGA1366. One could save some money with LGA1166 (presumably accompanied with a switch to i5), but I’d rather have the more capable hardware and more room to grow. I suspect the LGA1366 will be (only slightly) more future-proof than LGA1166, though I doubt we’ll ever get to relive the glory days of LGA775.
  • Gigabyte board. Has everything, and no downside in its specs. It sounds like it’s a bit finicky on RAM and drives, but it’s hard to truly compare the relative quirkiness of motherboards. That being said, if anyone has a source that shows a better alternative (Asus?), I’d love to hear about it.
  • Corsair 750W power supply. While I *know* I don’t need the power (even for 2-way SLI), the single-rail 12V, 140mm fan, among other features make it worth the price. Only thing missing is modular connections.

PS. If anyone can find a way to make Newegg wishlists post well in Blogger, I’d love to know about it.

Product Description
Unit Price
Total Price

Mushkin Enhanced Silverline 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model 998770

Mushkin Enhanced Silverline 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model 998770
Model #:998770
Item #:N82E16820226096
Return Policy:Memory Standard Return Policy
In Stock

-$10.00 Instant

Antec Three Hundred Illusion Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Antec Three Hundred Illusion Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Model #:Three Hundred Illusi
Item #:N82E16811129066
Return Policy:Limited Replacement Only Return Policy
In Stock


GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
Model #:GA-X58A-UD3R
Item #:N82E16813128423
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock

-$10.00 Instant

MSI N460GTX CYCLONE 1GD5/OC GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card

MSI N460GTX CYCLONE 1GD5/OC GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
Model #:N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5
Item #:N82E16814127510
Return Policy:VGA Standard Return Policy
In Stock

-$10.00 Instant

CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply

CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power ...
Model #:CMPSU-750TX
Item #:N82E16817139006
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
Mail in Rebate Card

-$30.00 Instant

Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield 3.06GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor BX80601950

Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield 3.06GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor BX80601950
Model #:BX80601950
Item #:N82E16819115211
Return Policy:CPU Replacement Only Return Policy
In Stock

-$10.00 Instant

OCZ RevoDrive OCZSSDPX-1RVD0050 PCI-Express x4 50GB PCI Express MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

OCZ RevoDrive OCZSSDPX-1RVD0050 PCI-Express x4 50GB PCI Express MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Model #:OCZSSDPX-1RVD0050
Item #:N82E16820227596
Return Policy:Limited Replacement Only Return Policy
In Stock


Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Model #:WD1002FAEX
Item #:N82E16822136533
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock


ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM

ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM
Model #:DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS
Item #:N82E16827135204
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock