Archive for the 'gaming' Category

Game Machine Back Online


Pictures don’t do it justice.

Psyko Carbon vs. Zalman 5.1 surround-sound headphones

Psyko Carbon & Zalman side by sideShort review: Zalman wins.

Long review: Welll…

Ever since I saw this video, I’ve been wanting a pair of these Psyko 5.1 surround-sound headphones. The video explains the tech of how they worked and it looked like a good design. However, there are two major drawbacks (and one minor drawback) with the Psyko system.

Front of Psyko ampPsyko major problem #1: The sound is not as good. Why? My theory is because the sound originates in drivers on top of the headset, and then this sound needs to travel down through sound tubes, or channels, to your ears. I’m thinking that this is causing the mid-range to be reduced, leaving the headphones sounding “flat-ish” and “tinny”. The Zalmans, on the other hand, sound rich and full.

Back of the Psyko ampPsyko major problem #2: The amp generates a low “buzzing” sound, or line-noise, when the volume is cranked all the way up. Why do I need the volume cranked all the way up? Because the volume in Skyrim is low and there is no way to crank it any higher. I’ve searched. There is a way to do it in other operating systems, but not mine. Besides, in an amp, I do NOT want it generating line-noise at any volume level. The Zalman’s don’t need an amp.

Psyko minor problem #1: The headrest hurts the top of my head after about a half hour. No good for gaming, and no good for movies. If they had placed a wide band across the headrest, it would probably have been fine. But instead, they’ve got five narrow pads under each speaker driver set, and this puts too much pressure into too small of an area–at least for me. I can wear the Zalman’s all day and half the night (and have, playing Skyrim).

There is a feature of the Psyko Carbons where you can lever open the side of the earpiece so that you can hear what’s going on outside the headset. I think this is a waste. When I’ve got a headset on, I don’t want to hear anything else in my environment. On the contrary, I want my environment isolated. This may be contributing to the “tinny”, non-rich sound.

Good things about the Psyko system:

Psyko goodness #1: The spatial-positioning is excellent. Things which are in the rear channels really sound like they’re behind you. Front and center are also excellent. This is the whole point of a “surround-sound” system, and the Psyko system delivers.

Psyko goodness #2: The amp has a light for each channel. This is cool when listining to 5.1 surround-sound, and also useful for debuggin.

Creative Sound Blaster X-FiAs part of my quest for awesome 5.1 surround-sound, I picked up this cute little Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi. For some reason, the surround-sound card built-in to my motherboard lost it’s right channel, so now I just use the X-Fi and it works very well. The software that comes with it is excellent.


Zalman ZM-RS6FM Virtual 5.1-channel stereo headphones with microphone at This is my affiliate link.

Youtube video explaining how the Psyko system works.

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi at Creative’s online store.


This game looks awesome!

And it comes out 2011-11-11!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I’m anxiously awaiting this game! I’ve already pre-ordered it. Droool over this extended kick-ass preview:

Hit play, wait for it to cue up a bit, then hit the full-screen button and crank up the sound!

Gaming Machine: Minor Disaster

I had a big problem with my gaming machine last month: it failed to boot up. It didn’t even get to the point where the BIOS beeps and starts it’s start-up routine. The power was on, the lights were on, but nothing happened after that.

At first, I thought it was the power supply. So I got another one. I got a Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 750W. This is one impressive power supply! The packaging alone is worth mentioning. Came with a slew of cables, too. Check thess out:

Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 750W Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 750W Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 750W

However, the problem persisted. It was not the power supply. Then I started to suspect the motherboard, then the CPU, then the RAM, then all three. Then I noticed that there were three red LEDs on the primary video card, near the corner. I had not seen these before, and a quick search led me to forums where others had experienced similar issues with this video card. There were lots and lots of suggestions on how to fix, but nothing I tried worked.

Finally, I decided to get to the bottom of the issue. I started removing components and trying to boot up again. Turns out the secondary video card was the issue. I don’t know if it’s dead, or if my system suddenly doesn’t like it any more, or what. But without it plugged in, my system boots up just fine. With the secondary video card plugged in, my system is completely dead (lights but nothing else).

More bad news: the new power supply doesn’t fit properly in my clear acrylic case. Warning, this is ugly. I don’t mean the kind of ugly that gives you nightmares. More the kind of ugly that makes you turn your head away and say, “Dang Hawk! Does that thing work?!” Take a gander, if you dare:

Gaming Machine minor disaster Gaming Machine minor disaster

Yes, the power supply is outside the case. Yes, the RAID is also outside the case. Yes, my system works well. It’s been running fine for many weeks. I can’t get the power supply in the case due to the length of the screws. How to explain?… ummm…

This clear case is made of acrylic, a type of plastic. It’s not as strong as metal. Therefore, any part of the case which must support weight is made much thicker than it would need to be if it were made of metal. This includes the back, where the power supply mounts up near the top.

The case came with plenty of extra-long screws to accommodate the additional thickness in the acrylic. These extra-long screws work fine for every device I’ve used… up until now. This new power supply has rounded corners. These rounded corners mean the part of the power supply chassis which grabs on to the screw is set back further than normal. To accommodate this extra space, the power supply came with extra-long screws… just like the ones which came with my clear acrylic case.

I have plenty of extra-long screws, but none of them are long enough to bridge the additional space to the power supply chassis and the additional thickness of the clear acrylic case.

Now half my system is inside the case and half my system is outside the case sitting on the shelf. But hey, everything works! And I can save some money on cooling equipment. 😐

Secondary Video Card

Yep, I did it. I added another video card to my gaming machine! It’s the exact same model (though it does look slightly different). Got it on Ebay for about half what the first one cost. I hooked them together with the little crossover cable.

Wow! What a difference! These two cheap cards rock! Now Fallout 3 never skips a beat. It never chunks, never stutters, never pauses at all, not even in the middle of a fire fight with stuff flying all around and lighting effects and so on. I’m impressed, and I’m not even state-of-the-art here. I’m living way back from the bleeding edge (I dislike bleeding–out my wallet).

So, if your system can handle it, I would recommend it. I paid a little more for my motherboard so that I could get the x16 speed with both video cards, and I’m very happy with it.

Gaming Machine: RAID 0

In order to make my gaming machine seem faster, I decided to go with a RAID 0 using two identical hard drives. What is a RAID 0? RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (or Drives). But in this case, there is no redundancy. Instead, both drives work together to deliver data at about twice the speed of a regular drive.

There are many different RAID configurations. Here’s more info:

The advantage of a RAID 0 is speed, but the disadvantage is I loose all my data if either drive fails. So a two-drive RAID 0 has (about) twice the speed but also twice the chance of failure.

With Windows XP, this speed advantage pays off. I notice my system is faster. It’s a noticable difference and I have not yet upgraded the CPU. This motherboard can take a CPU which is much faster than the one I have in it now. When I bought the CPU, I only went up to my price-point and stopped. After I add another video card, I’ll probably upgrade the CPU.

Next up, adding another video card just like the one I already have and hooking them together. Onward!

New Gaming Machine: New CPU Cooler

This post has a lot of images. Why? Because I wanted to show what is involved in installing a CPU cooler like this one. Actually, once I started, it didn’t take very long; did it in one evening and finished before bedtime. Who knows… maybe this will be useful to someone!

CPU Cooler prepHere, I’ve removed the original plastic bracket which surrounds the CPU socket. This bracket was used to lock down the original heatsink & CPU fan. See previous game machine posts for detailed pictures of the motherboard and CPU as I assemble them together into the case.

CPU cooler prep, back of motherboardHere, I’ve removed the metal bracket which lays across the CPU on the back of the motherboard. When buying this CPU cooler, I had no idea it would entail removing the entire original brackets. Well, live and learn.

New CPU cooler, partsHere are the parts, old and new. Near top-right are the old back-bracket, front-bracket, and heatsink with fan. The new brackets are below, and the new heat-sink is the huge tower of heatpipes and heatfins near center, the Thermalright Ultima90. Bottom is the new fan, way too big but what the heck, let’s see if it fits anyway. It glows evil red, you’ll see, keep reading. That screwdriver, by the way, is one of the most useful screwdrivers I’ve ever used; you can find it at Thinkgeek.

new back-plate installedHere, I’ve got the new back-plate installed. It was easy. The instructions which come with it are pretty good, but the stuff they’ve got online is better.

new_game_machine_red_cpu_cooler_06The new support posts are visible here. I’ve already removed all the old thermal paste from the CPU. I used paper towels or small squares of toilet paper to get it off. Be careful with the stuff, the tiniest spec may short out your motherboard There is no new plastic bracket which surrounds the whole CPU area. You’ll see, keep reading…

thermal paste on CPU Arctic Silver 5Here, I’ve put the new thermal paste on, Arctic Silver 5. Good stuff. I used the flat edge of the knife pictured here (it’s not good for much else as it has a tendency to close on your fingers when prying with it). Be sure to spread it nice and thin. Also, you may notice that the two new side-brackets are installed on the posts from the back-plate.

thermal paste on CPU heat tower Thermalright Ultima90Here, I’ve got the new thermal paste on the bottom of the CPU cooler tower of heatfins and heatpipes. Spread it nice and thin, as even as you can. Use a square of toilet paper or tissue paper to wipe up any excess.

CPU cooler Thermalright Ultima90 installed on CPU using Arctic Silver 5Finally, the new gigantic tower of heatpipes and heatfins (Thermalright Ultima90) is installed on the CPU with plenty of thermal paste, (Arctic Silver 5). I call this tower the “Tower of Coolness”. Makes the motherboard look small. Hell, it makes everything else in my case look small! I had concerns that the side of my case wouldn’t fit. As it turns out, this is sort-of true. You’ll see… wait until I put the huge CPU fan on!

new_game_machine_red_cpu_cooler_10Here’s how the Tower of Coolness is fixed to the top of the CPU. Those two side-screws are connected to the two brackets on either side of the CPU, and those two side-brackets connect to the back-plate. So there is lots of good, solid, non-damaging leverage here. The two side-screws hold down the base of the tower using springs which push down upon a flat cross-bar. The flat cross-bar pushes down upon the top of the base of the tower. This cross-bar piece has a pointed dent in the center, visible in the previous picture, which seats perfectly into the top of the base of the tower. This is the only pressure on the Tower of Coolness, and the only thing holding it onto the CPU. All of these components are visible in this shot. If you look carefully, you can see some of the thermal paste squishing out between the top of the CPU and the bottom of the cooling tower (maybe I put too much on).

CPU cooler fan 120mm glows redHere’s the new CPU fan! It’s huge! It’s taller than the huge stack of heatpipes & heatfins which make up the Tower of Coolness. I think I’m overdoing it a bit here. Oh well, gonna be cool!

new_game_machine_red_cpu_cooler_12Here’s another angle of the new gigantic CPU fan.

new_game_machine_red_cpu_cooler_15Once it’s installed, it will blow air straight up into the power supply’s huge 120mm fan. Perfect.

new_game_machine_red_cpu_cooler_16Here, the mobo has been re-installed in the case, the power supply is also in place, and I’m almost done. Those of you who work with fans like this one may notice that I’ve got it installed backwards; it’s facing down, so it would be sucking air down instead of blowing air up. I realized this mistake and turned it around later on, but didn’t get a picture of it.

new_game_machine_red_cpu_cooler_17Oooo, coool! It’s back in operation and glowing with fantastic red evilness! Everything still works perfectly.

new_game_machine_red_cpu_cooler_18The evil red CPU fan is directly under the tower of coolness, blowing air straight up, where the heat gets sucked through the power supply and out the back of the case. The side of the case no longer fits; the huge 120mm CPU fan sticks out too far. I’ll replace it with a smaller, 80mm fan soon.

new_game_machine_red_cpu_cooler_19OoooOOO! Evil red CPU fan spinning away, good evil glowy red goodness. Just to the right you can still (barely) see the lights on top of the high speed gaming RAM. The blue fan to the left is the one that came with the case, and I’ll be replacing all the original blue fans with red ones soon.

I sure don’t have to worry about my CPU overheating!

New Gaming Machine: Kick-Ass Video Card

ATI Radeon HD 4870This here is the big, bad, ATI Radeon HD 4870. Yep, it’s big, and it’s bad. This card kicks some serious ass. Of course, by the time you’re reading this, it’ll be obsolete/ancient. But right now, it kicks ass and I love it. I got it from

ATI Radeon HD 4870It’s a double-wide card. Even though it only plugs in to one high-speed PCI (x16) slot, it’s so wide that it takes up two slots. This is one of the reasons why I chose the particular motherboard that I did. It’s got room for two of these bad boys. Actually, technically, it can take four, but four double-wides like this one won’t fit.

game_machine_red_video_3Yes, those are heat-pipes. This is why it’s double-wide. It’s got heat fins and heat pipes all over the place, and the fan there blows all the heat straight out the back. Nice design, good cooling.

Here’s some info on overclocking this card without buying anything else, but just using the onboard fan:

ati radeon HD 4870 video cardIt’s installed, the case side panel is on, the side panel case fan is on (and glowing blue, but soon to be red), and all lights are all on in nifty glowy red goodness. You can see the lights on top of the RAM near the top.

new game machine with new ati radeon hd 4870 + red cold cathodesHere’s a better shot, pulled-back a bit more so you can see the whole case. Oh yeah, my new game machine kicks ass. And this new ATI Radeon HD 4870 kicks some serious ass, too! Those red cold cathodes are so bright that they light up my room at night. Who needs a night-light when you’ve got a kick-ass gaming machine with evil-red cold cathodes?

Up next: New CPU cooler with evil-red fan.

New Gaming Machine: life!

game_machine_red_life_1Here, I’ve got pretty much everything ready to go in the case: new power supply, new motherboard with new CPU & RAM, old hard drive and old video card (just to make it work with something). Additionally, I put in both red cold cathodes.

game_machine_red_life_2Yet another view of the new cool game machine goodness. You can see the red cold cathodes fixed to the front and bottom of the case. The power box is right next to the one on the bottom, near center, right next to the speaker. This power box powers both cold cathodes.

game_machine_red_life_3Here, my new game machine is plugged in, but not yet powered up. Still, the thing has glowing power and reset buttons right on the motherboard! Is that cool or what? I don’t even need to plug it in to a case to turn it on! I love this mobo!

game_machine_red_life_4Life! This is a comparison shot between my linux server (green) and the new gaming machine (red). Yes, the linux server was always intended to be green. And yes, the game machine was always intended to be RED. It’s designed for destruction, after all! Destruction of my enemies (both AI and human alike). Muaa aah aaahhh! (evil laugh)

Neither case has the left-side panel installed at this time. The fans are blue because that’s the only option with this case, so I’ll have to get some green and red fans later on.

You may also notice the new high-speed gaming RAM has two little rows of lights on ’em, red and green! I didn’t even know this when I got it. It’s so cool , they change and flicker with activity! Yes, I also put in a DVD burner drive; how else will I install all my games?

game_machine_red_life_5I use the motherboard box to store all the miscellaneous stuff such as cables, adaptors, manuals, screws, unused hardware, etc., when putting together a new system.

Next: New, kick-ass video card.

New Game Machine: Connections

game_machine_red_connections_1I wanted to make a point about these connections. Here, you can see the power connections to the motherboard. Personally, I don’t need the labels, but I love ’em anyway; it’s a good idea (helps keep the smoke in) even though they are idiot-proof these days.

game_machine_red_connections_2And here I’m holding the CPU power connectors so that you can see the label. Nice, eh? I love this power supply.

game_machine_red_connections_3And these little guys… I think this is a huge leap forward. I LOVE these little connectors!

You take the individual case connectors, in this case, the USB connectors, and plug ’em in to this little blue thing. This little blue thing is labeled on all sides, it’s just brilliant. Once they’re all in there, just slide the whole thing down on to the motherboard! Saves my back!

I love modern technology!

My new gaming machine: Mobo, CPU & RAM

game_machine_red_mobo_ram_partsTime to put all this new stuff in the case! Here’s all the stuff I had at the time. Power supply, motherboard, 4G RAM kit (2 x 2G), AMD CPU, cables, connectors, manuals, stuff… see pic.

The Motherboard is an ASUS M3A79-T DELUXE, AMD 790FX chipset, ATX form factor, 4xPCI-E(x16) / 2XPCI / 4XDDR2, SATA2 RAID, 1GB lan, 1394 (firewire), lots of USB 2.0, and amazing audio capabilities. CPU type: AMD Socket AM2.

game_machine_red_mobo_in_casePower supply and motherboard installed in the case. I popped out the connector plate which came with the case, installed the one that came with the motherboard, and it all fits perfectly!

game_machine_red_mobo_cpu_ram_in_case_1The RAM installed in the motherboard, and the CPU is ready, along with the CPU heatsink & fan.

The RAM is a CRUCIAL 4GB KIT (BL2KIT25664AL80A), high-speed gaming RAM set.

I like this motherboard because I can simply add two more 2G RAM sticks and double it. I’m not saying Windows XP will be able to use it (as of now, not all of my 4G is used), but I can expand it easily. This ease of expansion is important to me.

game_machine_red_mobo_cpu_ram_in_case_2CPU installed. It went in easy as pie.

The CPU is an AMD ATHLON X2 7750 2.7G – Black. It was just under my pricepoint for this system. I can always upgrade.

game_machine_red_mobo_cpu_ram_in_case_3And finally, the CPU heatsink & fan. Now I almost have a working computer.

I’ll probably replace this heatsink & fan with the kind I’ve got in my linux server; it looks like a tower of heatfins with a fan on the side.

Most of this stuff has been discontinued, but you can find suitable replacement components at

So far, so good! More to come.

My new gaming machine: power supply and case

I’m building a new game machine! Yaayyyy! It’s way overdue.

be quiet! STRAIGHTPOWER 700W PSUHere’s the new power supply. It’s a 700W, which should hold me for at least a week, maybe even two. The maker is called “be quiet!”, believe it or not. And with a huge 120mm fan, it’s pretty darn quiet. The type is called “STRAIGHTPOWER”, and it’s got enough cables and connections to power anything I may put in this machine (for a very long time). Most of the connections are labeled with colorful pictures of where they go (which is just nice of them).

gaming machine case, clear acrylicThis is the case. Yes, it’s the exact same case as my linux server.

I like this case. It’s clear acrylic by Logisys. It’s big enough for whatever I may need to put in it. It’s easy to work on. It’s clear. Did I mention that it’s totally clear acrylic? Way-cool.

game_machine_red_case_2This case comes with three small blue fans: one in front, one in the side, and one in back. They are lit by four blue LEDs, one in each corner. No, there is no option for green, nor for red. 🙁 I’ll eventually have to replace them all with red fans, but they are still cool as-is.

I don’t know if they still have these items, but you can find most of this stuff at and Mwave beats just about anyone else on price, and FrozenCPU specializes in all kinds of stuff for tricking out your computer big-time. That’s where I got the cool red cold cathodes from (in subsequent posts).

More to come.

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