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A "Big Box" Custom Build - The Shape of Cool To Come? 
If you have ever wanted to build the hottest custom computer, but did not envy the prospect of working next to a bonfire, then I have some great news: By way of recovering from a recent series of unfortunate events, yesterday we cobbled together an 8-Core AMD big-box leviathan, and the build is cool.


The Heat

Beweaponed with 16GB of RAM, along with the usual several terrabytes of HDD, this monster sits in my office so close to my face that my wife is getting jealous. But the unit actually is keeping my room cooler!

No, saying that a computer is keeping my workspace cooler is not a joke. I use a lot of custom sensors throughout my Florida office. Amongst other gizmos scattered about, home-grown thermacron probes and AVR monitoring devices are all over the place. After normalizing the curves for both the exterior and internal temperature and humidity, I am pleased to tell everyone that this latest build is *a lot* cooler than our previous one.

The Build

Of course, hardware-heads of all predispositions know that the new codename for the most responsive builds - at the moment - is "Gamer." Yet, like most of my builds, games are not what we have in mind: Virtualization is.

Like most real-world automation hackers, we are also 'into' the greatest game there is - extreme data acquisition, number crunching, as well as real-time heads-up display.

The Case

The moment I saw the Cooler Master HAF XB Case I knew it was "cool." Why? Well, aside from the 2 over-sized fans it comes with, the board sits as flat as a pizza on a cooling rack.

After that wonderful air SPACE, is the air CURRENT: The power supply - rather than being jammed atop the hottest part of computer, actually sits underneath it. -By aligning your power supply so that the fans pull air away from the upper layer, additional space around that cooling rack actually goes a long way to putting your motherboard in a state of blissful, forced double-air-current, free-fall: as the expelled hot-air rises, that forced-air, as well as convection cooling, seems to make a huge overall thermal-difference.

The Board

Even though my experience with the ASUS Desktop two weeks ago was less than satisfying (boom went the power supply after a mere 4 days use - my paranoid side hints that it is a plot - the return has convinced it that the returns depo is into harvesting data from returned hard drives. Classic covert way of thinking.) was gracious enough about the refund. Moving forward, rather than risk tripping over another "strange guts" computer, we wanted to know what was in-the-box.

Of course, we still wanted an ASUS "Mo-Bo." Since most 'techs agree that the full-sized M5 A97 R2.0 is 'da bomb, we torqued one of those into the case, as well. (Note: The targeted processor Socket was "AMD3+" so as to support the FX processor mentioned below.)

An appropriately-colored bank of 4 x 4 Kingston DDR3 balanced out the final build. (We admired the color scheme so much, that I hated to put the cover back on. (--Maybe we'll Plexiglas the case later.))

Next, in as much as AMD has the only 8-Core on the consumer market at the moment (the architecture holds the present world-speed record of 8.429GHz in the Guinness World Record), we opted for the FX-8150. By way of a bonus, my parakeet got the tin for use as a new nesting 'Condo.

How green can you get?

Least & Last

Once you have a respectable power supply, what the Gamers put first, is what I personally tend to put last. Not because it is not important, but because - for my purposes - selecting a graphics card is always an afterthought.

Indeed, when I noted that the motherboard did not have a built-in VGA port, I was tempted to simply slap in an ancient PCI VGA Adapter I had laying about, just so as to call it a day. Relenting, I hopped on the C50T and instead waltzed over to my nearest retailer to see what they might have on the racks.

After lamenting that - due entirely to the previous back-to-school tax week - that their computer card shelves were pretty much picked to the bone, I was relieved to find that there yet remained a simple - and completely competent & affordable - Nvidia 1GB card on the shelf. While, presumably for technical-support reasons the company does not officially support Linux, one does not become as excellent as Nvidia without being pretty savvy. I had faith that drivers were available for my most-used 'Distro. We were not disappointed.

After booting from ye olde hard drive:
sudo bash
apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
apt-get update
apt-get install nvidia-current

Followed quickly by a:
apt-get upgrade

then a reboot, was all we needed to do to pick up our R&D activities right where we left off the previous day. --Something I would not dare risk doing - because of those funky board drivers - on Windows.

Total Cost of Cool

While the receipt for the main purchase flew out of my pocked as I piloted the saddlebags to the closest video-card retailer, my dead-reckoning priced this build out at just under $700.oo.

Keeping in mind that I had lots of spare I/O that I did not need to purchase (Disk & DVD Drives), even this complete custom build-up could be easily put together for about $50 less than the price of those "strange guts," computer-company "gamer bargains." (From ISA to ATX, for a mere handful of dollars more, far more of us need to let our manufactures know that standards are g-o-o-d ... for keeping today's hardware out of the oceans of tomorrow!)

Better still - I don't feel like I merely purchased a computer case. I feel like I just procured an asset that will see us through the next decade of cool-revolution.

So rather than purchasing a $245 cooler and a $300 case, we have discovered that the copper-permeated AMD heat-sink works as great as it looks. Unless one is trying hard to impress allot of teenage head-shot specialists, then why not just try the virtues of Cooler Master's newfangled, turbo-airy, $99 case? (... and I didn't even mention the easy access cover removal screws, side-locking 5.25 drive slide-ins, or the removable storage bays!)

Happy Hardware-Hacking!

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