Category: Computers and Internet

Today is the Big Internet Slowdown, if you weren’t aware. Take action here.

I’m a 3D modeling hobbyist, and I just uploaded my entry for a contest to make a model in Blender depicting what really happened during a famous historical event (contest rules). Blender Guro, A.K.A. Andrew Price, hosted the competition. If you want to get into 3D modeling with Blender, he has a bajillion great tutorials.

Before you see my entry, I just want to make sure you’re aware of the enigma UVB-76, also known as “The Buzzer.” There is a short Wikipedia article about it, and there’s a Wired article about it which is longer, but a more interesting read (this article is how I actually heard about it in the first place). TL;DR, it’s a radio station in Russia which transmits a series of buzzing sounds and no one knows why. Its ownership is a mystery, and the eerie buzzing, which has been going since the 1980s, has never been deciphered.

With that in mind, here is a link to my entry (if the link doesn’t take you to my exact entry, my username is Real Food Man). In case you don’t get the joke, it was inspired by TwitchPlaysPokemon (which also has its own Wikipedia article).

Twitch Plays The Buzzer

There were quite a few excellent entries in the contest. If, by some fluke, I end up an honorable mention, I’ll post about it. Regardless, I’ll update this post when the winners are announced.

A buffalo does the Titanic in.

“Weather balloons”

Chariots of Fire

How the pyramids were built.

Stonehenge’s origin, which can only remind me of Beast Wars

Why Atlantis is at the bottom of the ocean

Loch Ness “monster” (edit: This one won)

The sword in the… oh

Stone Minions

An idea somewhat similar to mine

It’s actually been the contest with the fewest entries that I’ve ever seen, but I think the results were pretty great overall. Fingers crossed for an honorable mention!

Edit 5/28/14—The results are in, and, as expected, mine didn’t pull an honorable mention. It was definitely fun to do the competition, though, so it won’t be the last one I enter.

With the parts in hand, it was time for me to write this love letter to the integrated circuit. I began by moving the included fan from the front of the case to the side so that A- its blue light would show up better and B- it would be closer to everything that actually generates heat (except the hard drives, but screw those guys).

Side fan

No, I did not let a girl attach it for me. What do you mean, “Those look like Ari’s hands?”


There, all done. Oh wait, I forgot to put all the computer in it.

Next came the motherboard, or as no one but me calls it, the Nexus of Power. Actually, even I don’t call it that, except I just did. Drat.

Bare motherboard

I liked the color scheme on this motherboard. Red, white, and ‘Murica.

Northbridge heatsink

Northbridge heatsink with enough aluminum to make a few 12-packs of Mt. Dew cans.

Southbridge heatsink

The southbridge never gets as much attention, or as cool of a heatsink, but hey, be thankful. Some southbridges don’t get heatsinks at all. Now eat your peas.

Random heatsink

I don’t know what this is a heatsink for, but it’s the coolest. It’s between the processor and the ports on the back, so maybe it’s for all the USB/eSATA/ethernet components?

The processor tin was secured with a stick that I’m pretty sure could have patched a leaky dam.

Processor sticker

A dam, I say. This is a full minute’s work with good fingernails.

Open tin

*sound of soda can opening*

The processor went in easy peasy, ushering in a moment of reprieve…

Processor pins

All 942 pins are tiny little spires of silicon cocaine. I mean, that’s what I see. That’s what you see, right?

Thermal paste

Applying the teeny, tiny bit of thermal paste to the processor. I borrowed some aftermarket paste from my bro who just built a box of his own.

Then came the even more unexpectedly hard part: putting the heatsink and fan on. I thought it’d be a simple matter of sitting it on carefully and screwing it in.

I was so wrong.

Happy boy

This is my happy face, but it is also likely the expression the mad scientists at Zalman made when they invented such a byzantine way of securing a heatsink to a motherboard.

After several attempts (and hiring a Voodoo priest), we were able to attach the heatsink securely. The RAM, being the well-behaved child, didn’t give me any trouble, thereby securing its spot as the favorite kid.

Finished motherboard

“Suck it, I’m the favorite.” -RAM
“Yeah, well I’m more expensive.” -CPU
“I’m the best-looking.” -Heatsink/fan
“I’m biggest!” -Motherboard
“Hey, don’t make me come back there, or no one gets ice cream.” -Me

Next in were the power supply and graphics card. They also behaved, so I guess they’re also my favorite children. You can have more than one, right?

Power supply

“Yeah, but I’m still the ‘extreme’ one.”

Graphics card

Not a gamer’s dream, but it renders the $#&! out of Command & Conquer 3 at max settings. Also good for Cycles rendering engine in Blender. It’s somehow even faster at it than the aforementioned 8-core 4GHz processor, or at least was for one project I’ve done so far.

But wait, I have all this nice thermal paste left. What if I were to, say, put it on the graphics card’s GPU?

GPU heatsink removed

Yep, that comes off. Does this void the warranty? Probably.


The actual GPU: about the size of your thumb’s fingernail. Also pictured: all the hair and dust in my apartment magnetized to it like a cat to its owner when a dog is near.

Believe it or not, the aftermarket thermal paste DID actually decrease the temps by about 5 degrees Celcius. I didn’t test the processor with and without the paste like I did the graphics card, but I assume it produced similar gains over the stock stuff.

Last in were the hard drives. The SSD will handle the Windows and Ubuntu OSs, programs, and certain temp/working files (particularly for After Effects and Premiere).

Samsung 840

SSD: Solid State Domination. Not pictured: old, creaky, 300GB traditional hard drive.

Don’t forget the speakers. These were actually bought from Best Buy, since they were $10 cheaper there. And, you know, it’s right by where I work. I got them like half an hour after ordering them.


Does anybody else think of these guys?


“I just sit under the desk… waiting for my moment…”

With everything installed, it was time to cross my fingers and see if it would turn on.



A successful POST! Granted, it took me a few minutes to realize the power supply switch was in the “off” position before this happened, but hey, what’s the Internet for if not editing out the less awesome parts of our life and putting our best selves forth?

I actually copied the contents of the Windows 8 DVD onto a flash drive in advance and installed the whole thing from said flash drive. It actually speeds the process up quite a bit, especially when you, er, forgot where you put the DVD drive.

Windows 8 disc

And mailing the disc here is still faster than downloading the digital version on my Internet connection.

But again, editing! The Windows 8 process was, like the operating itself, markedly different than its predecessors, doing certain things automatically while asking to do certain customizations right off the bat.


Remember Windows XP, when there were 3 choices?

Mouse movement

Why don’t you move your mouse into any corner!

And at last, I booted to a fully functional operating system. Some of the new…

Start screen

Behold that which wadded many a panty.

And plenty of the old and familiar…


Behold that which some apparently aren’t aware is still a part of Windows 8.

Oh, don’t forget my pal, Ubuntu. GRUB didn’t install at first for whatever reason, but I put on my intimidating voice and it jumped right into action. Nah, I got help. Big thanks to rigved at Ubuntu forums for the answer in this thread.

The finished result is below.

Finished computer

And there was much rejoicing.

And with that, my work is done. Big thanks to Ari, who helped build it like a good nerd wife, and to our cats, who provided needed moral support.



I have a new computer! It’s something I’ve been dreaming of for… well, about 6 years, now. Getting my (used and refurbished) laptop in 2010 was a temporary stopgap that at least allowed me to edit videos at home, but it wasn’t a powerful machine at the time, even for a laptop.

So this, The Box that I have planned for many years, creating wishlist after wishlist on Newegg to make sure I got exactly the machine I needed, finally became a reality. I had a few parts on hand: an SSD I’d received as a present a few months ago; a 300GB hard drive (they make those?) from a dead computer someone gave me; and a DVD drive (which I’ve only used once since I finished the build a month ago. Even the operating system was installed from a flash drive).

Somehow, one order was split into two orders (charged separately), each of which was subdivided again into two shipments, making a total of 4 shipments coming to my home. The first two, the case and the monitor, arrived on Monday.

Computer Boxes

Which Frequency pretended to crap on. Out of respect.

The next day, the box with almost everything else came in. Of course, the motherboard was not one of those things, so I was at a standstill. It gave me plenty of time to salivate, though.

The processor came in a cool metal tin, rather than a plain ol’ box. Very luxe.


As for me and my house, we will AMD.

There's a window in the tin so you can see the actual processor.

There’s a window in the tin so you can see the actual processor.

You don’t just get an octo-core processor running at 4GHz and use the stock fan, of course. No, you get a great behemoth of an aftermarket fan/heatsink and lock your processor to your motherboard with it. Like this.

Zalman CNPS9500A

Were it any larger, it’d need its own IP address. Or zip code.

I shun obscenities like 1,000W power supplies and go for more reasonable amounts that are only double my likely power draw.


But in the computer parts world, even mediocre is EXTREME.

I put in a hefty 16GB of RAM, which even with my most intense After Effects projects never exceeds 10GB of total system usage. I didn’t go for the fancy kind with red heatsinks or anything, but disappoint they do not.


Always two there are. No more. No less.

I also ordered a mouse, a 10ft ethernet cable (only $1.49!), a copy of Windows 8, and a memory card reader that didn’t end up being compatible with my motherboard (I gave it to someone else).

The next day, the final package with the graphics card and motherboard arrived.

At long last!

At long last!


GeForce GT 640

I’m not a huge gamer, so I settled for something with more transistors than all the computers ever used to put a man on the moon.


In the PC-building world, if it doesn’t have overclocking mentioned on the box, it’s almost an insult.

With everything out of the box(es), it was time to build. In the next post, I’ll get into the assembling, building, booting, thermal pasting, and all that jazz.

Empty box

It glowed for a few hours like a concrete cube formerly containing plutonium rods for a nuclear reactor.

Last month, I began training on my new job. I won’t say who it is or paint too negative a picture, but let’s just say the turnover rate is probably one of the highest of any workplace I know of. As such, I expected the training to be pretty standardized and routine, since they obviously have to do it several times a year.

Well, needless to say, I was a little disappointed. The trainer seemed to have a number of things to take care of besides actually training us (even though he is a designated trainer year-round), so we ended up spending a lot of time sitting and waiting for him to get back to us.

But aha! There are computers in front of us! Computers which, I came to learn, were the most limited, firewalled, gutted out, worthless sacks of crap I have ever had the displeasure of using. Very nearly every website on the Internet is blocked (for reference: I did a web search for “compound interest calculator” and had to go through 14 results before I found one that hadn’t been blocked), and some, like Amazon, don’t load their CSS, so they’re mostly unusable.

Thankfully, there was one site that I could spend countless hours on that wasn’t blocked: Wikipedia.

Since “countless hours” was basically what I had at my disposal, I think I browsed about a quarter of the English Wikipedia by the time I was done (and a few articles in French for good measure). A game I developed to help pass the time was to keep track of what article I started on, what article I ended the day on, and then try to find the most interesting article in between. I really have no idea how some of these jumps happened. I suppose the thing to keep in mind is the part about “countless hours” being only barely an exaggeration.

Below are a few of my favorites.


Starting article: Leopard

Ending article: Black-footed Cat

Most interesting: Permian-Triassic Extinction Event


Starting article: Cross of Gold Speech

Ending article: Darwin (OS)

Most interesting: Bitcoin


Starting article: List of Lost Episodes

Ending article: Charles Fort

Most interesting: Sprite Lightning (warning: potentially creepy)


Starting article: Quadratic Equation

Ending article: Quasar

Most interesting: Ultra-luminous X-ray Source


Starting article: Inception

Ending article: Googolplex

Most interesting: List of Large Numbers

I work in tech support, and I’m surprised by the number of times I ask someone to read me their web address, only to hear, “HTTP, colon, backslash backslash, yadda yadda yadda.” If that is, in fact, what they have written in their address bar, their browser is going nowhere fast. As it turns out, backslash and forward slash are never interchangeable.

Perhaps my experience is abnormal, but when I think about it, I NEVER hear anyone call a forward slash by its proper name. Everything is a backslash to them. Here’s how I remember it:

You are reading this text right now. You read it left to right. The sentence is moving forward as you move to the right. Now, imagine that you have a young, budding slash that hasn’t really decided his occupation, yet. He stands straight up like this –> | and hasn’t leaned either way. Now, if this strapping lad of a slash leans forward in the flow of the sentence, he is a forward slash. If he leans backward in the flow of the sentence, he is a backslash.

But more important than what you call a slash that’s already chosen his path is how use one in a situation that needs a slash. Typing in web addresses, network names, and file paths will give you errors if you use the wrong slash. If that’s not bad enough, try putting a backslash in a sentence. That no-no will throw up red flags on the Punctuation Radar of every grammar snob in a 10-mile radius.

/ is a forward slash, often just called a slash. It is used if you want to make something in a sentence as an option. For instance, “I’d like any faculty/staff/students in the area to participate.” Forward slashes are also used in web addresses ( and Linux/Mac OS X directories (/home/anthony/Desktop).

\ is a backslash (one word). It is only used in computing. It is what Windows uses in its file paths (C:\Users\anthony\Desktop) and network names (\\server\folder). It is also used in programming and scripting as an “escape,” which makes the character after it behave differently than normal.

I hope I’ve clarified this for a few people. Anything I missed? Let me know!


Something like seven years ago, in the days of yore when my older brother was in college and I was not, said older brother spun me a tale so fantastic that it captured my imagination for years, affecting the fervor with which I pursued more knowledge of computers.

Our older sister and her husband had been visiting him in his college dorm, and, like any self-respecting nerd, her husband wanted to get on the Internet. My brother offered to type in his username and password to allow him to access the Internet, but he declined, saying it wasn’t 1337 enough.

For the uninformed, 1337 (pronounced “leet”) is a way of saying “cool” in reference to computery things. For instance, “I just built an awesome gaming box! It’s so hardcore 1337!”

Instead of doing it the easy, normal way, my brother tells me, he changed his laptop’s hardware signature to match my brother’s computer, so when he connected to the school Internet, it allowed him on without additional credentials.

This story undoubtedly helped play a part in the year of my life when I learned more, ahem, hacktivities than any other. In particular, it helped motivate me to start using Linux (which isn’t only for people who like computery things, but nonetheless).

Today, I was sitting at work remembering hearing this story. That’s when I suddenly realized: I can do that now! I know how to change my “hardware signature,” also called a MAC address, to match another computer! I am the next generation! I am 1337!