Peace For All

May 2, 2012

Switcher, an awesome alt-tab replacement, with search!

Filed under: Life in general, technology — Tags: , , , — Devlin Bentley @ 12:11 pm

I was needing an alt-tab replacement that allowed me to search open windows (yes I have that many windows open!), and after a few minutes of searching I found the amazing utility Switcher. The animations are a bit slow, but you can turn them off and have a really rapid alt-tab replacement utility that allows for search! Search is amazing, I have 20 windows open right now, alt-tabbing through them is generally a pain, but I type at 120WPM, so searching is faster than using my mouse of having to hit “alt-tab”, do a visual check of which app is selected, rinse, wash, repeat.

My only complaint is that when using multiple monitors, which monitor search results show up on seems fairly arbitrary. It also seems to split across screens, but it would be nice if there was a way to tell it to stick to one screen or the other.

But those are minor complaints compared to the amount of time and frustration I am saving with it!

July 11, 2009

My New PC

Filed under: Hardware Review, technology — Tags: — Devlin Bentley @ 3:17 am

Waiting for Brown

On days like today I think UPS is worse than Santa for one single reason:  Santa does not taunt you with a tracking number.

Yes, Friday was a day spent waiting for UPS to come and delivery goodies in boxes, boxes containing many parts, and with much assembly required.

Though personally I happen to think that the end result looks rather good

Front of Case Power Off

Devlin's PC Build 2009 042

But getting there was not as easy as it should have been.

Of course, where are my manners, first the technical specs for those of you who care.

Geek Specs

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 905e 2.50GHZ (energy efficient 65 watt version of the quad core 2.5GHZ Phenom II)
Motherboard: Asus M4A78-EM MicroATX
Video Card: HIS ATI HD4850
RAM:  8GB DDR2 PC1033
Primary HD: OCZ Vertex 64GB SSD drive.
Secondary HD: 250GB drive from previous machine
Case: NZXT Rogue MicroATX Silver (Brush Aluminum)
Power Supply: Some crazy Antec unit I probably paid way to much for
OS: Windows 7 RC

Naturally everything except the power supply and OS was purchased on Newegg.com.

Until about half an hour after first boot I thought the SSD drive was a waste of money.  Since then I have had continuous issues involving picking my jaw up off of the floor.

NZXT Rogue Review

This is, no doubt about it, a very lovely case.  On sale for $80, it was a very affordable, lovely case.  Of course three days after I bought one its sale price has been dropped by $10 down to $70 but such is life in the world of technology.  My CPU is also $5 cheaper now.  🙂

In spite of its good looks, this case, as many of the Newegg reviews hint at, has some issues.

Getting the Case Apart

I have never had to remove so many screws to get a case apart.  It must have been around 10 screws total to get to the hard drive cage.  This also counts removing the motherboard tray, since builds with this case must be done in a very particular order or else you will find yourself stuck.

In the past I have built many computers where the hard drive/CD-ROM drive mounting cage eloquently popped out of the case, I slide my drives in, threw on some screws, and popped the cage back into the case, and went on my way.  This case is nothing like that.

Granted few MicroATX cases allow removal of the drive cage once other components are in place, but even so a removable drive cage would have shaved at least an hour, if not even more, off of how long it took to do the initial installation of components into this case.

The 1 Hour DVD-ROM Drive Install

Let me put a disclaimer in here and say that I have built many, many, PCs.  I have done quite a few years of lab work at various times in my life, in addition to building PCs at home. Going at a good clip and after I get into the rhythm of things, in an hour I could install a dozen plus DVD-ROM drives.

This case aims to adjusts one’s expectations in a rather downward direction.

I am guessing that my DVD-RW drive just so happened to be a fraction of a millimeter too wide to fit when using the included drive rails.  Abandoning the rails I tried to screw the drive in, but the screws that had secured the drive in its previous case would not reach due to the layer of sound dampening material that lines all the drive enclosures.  All the drive enclosures are a little wider than normal to make room for the sound dampening material, so normal mounting screws do not reach.

If you add together how long it took me to unscrew my way to the drive cage and how much pushing and shoving I had to do to get the drive into place, it was at least an hour to get a single DVD drive installed.  It was immediately after declaring success that I noticed NZXT’s included bag of "”CD-ROM screws” happened to be a bit longer than typical 5.25” drive mounting screws, such as the ones I had failed to use.

I have a box of 5.25” drive mounting screws (as a subset of my larger “computer screw box”).  They are all the same thread pitch, same length.  The screws used in this case are not.  I can’t fault NZXT for having sound dampening material in their case, quite cases are good cases, but unusual screws are, well, unusual.

Tin Foil Motherboard Tray

If the metal used for the Motherboard tray was any thinner, it would qualify as tin foil.  I do not think I have ever seen a piece of any computer case that was so easily deformed, and I have repaired a lot of cut rate computers. The thinness of the metal was quite surprising given that

This Thing Weighs a Ton

Ok not a ton, but the case does weigh around 20 pounds.  Much to the amusement of reviewers, NZXT advertises it as a portable LAN party case.  Thankfully I did not buy it with any intentions of taking it to LAN parties, but the included carrying strap (carrying harness?) is all the more hilarious for thoughts of what would happen to anyone’s back if they pretended that this case was portable in any sense of the word except for “not nailed down”.

To make it clear, I am not criticizing the case for its weight.  I wanted a case made of brushed aluminum and I got it, and I am much more pleased with it than I am with the “brushed aluminum door cover” style case that I purchased previously.

However I do find it amusing that my MicroATX based computer, weighing in at 31LBs total, feels like it is just a few pounds shy of my full tower case, which has yet to be formally weighed.

Seriously, this case is unexpectedly heavy.  I am still not quite accustom to the idea of such a small computer weighing so much.

More Complaints about Assembly

This would be a really good case if assembly wasn’t so evil.  Of course not that many cube’s have a total of five 3.5” bays, (four internal, one with an external facing), but actually installing anything into the drive cage is a very convoluted process.  A good example of this is how installing any 5.25” device first requires removing any installed 3.5” devices, as can be clearly seen in one of Newegg’s promotional shots:

NZXT Cube Newegg Drive Bays

Notice 3.5” drives are mounted vertically next to the 5.25” bays.

Thankfully I read the manual first which clearly warns users to install any 5.25” drives first.

Speaking of the manual, the pictures are either so poorly taken or poorly printed as to be universally too dark and it is indistinguishable which part of the case is being shown in any of the (far too few) photos.

Lots of Bags

Many bags of screws, all very well labeled.  Awesome job on this.

What’s Up With The Fans?

None of the chassis fans use smart fan plugs, instead they all opt for Molex.  I can understand the fans with LEDs perhaps needing more power, but the side fans could stand to have proper speed controlled monitored plugs on them.  Although I must admit one very awesome thing about the fans is that

The Fans Have Filters

Fan Filter on Side Case Panel (repeat for other side panel)

Except for, you know, the huge fan in back which just has a standard useless grill

Rear Case Fan

If the 3 included case fans are not enough, it is possible to install 2 more fans, 1 on each side of the case.

Well it would be, almost.

Where Are The Rest Of My Washers?

Case Side Fan Washers

NZXT installs filters on the two spare fan slots, but only includes enough washers for one more fan.  This confuses me a bit.

Other Build Issues

My front USB ports are busted

Broken Front USB

The top port does not work at all, Window’s does not recognize when something is plugged into it, while anything plugged into the bottom port results in the error “A USB Device Has Malfunctioned…”

Yes, I’m a little pissed about this.  Come on folks.  20 lbs of brushed aluminum and you skimp out on the build quality of the front USB ports?  Even the internal header is flimsy! (Admittedly in my experience internal USB headers on cases are always rather flimsy.)

The plastic top window also looks like a layer of it is peeling away

Top Window Peeling

I apologize for the quality of the picture.  Apparently to my digital camera the case’s top window is just slightly more reflective than a mirror.

It actually looks a fair bit worse in person.  At first I thought it was another protective layer of plastic wrap, but it is something internal to the plastic window itself.

Neither of these issues is going to get me to RMA the case, mostly because of how hard it is to put together.

Other Thoughts

I have no internal cable running skills

Internal Cable Nest

This is why I did not want a case with a side window.  :)  After 20 more minutes of attempts at organizing the cables the situation did not improved by much.

The Motherboard has PCI slots.  I have no clue why.  I would much prefer another PCIe 16x slot so I could put another 4850 in here next year when they’ll be going for $50 a piece.

SSD drives are fast.  I read about it being like “night and day” but of course I didn’t take it seriously.  I do now.

Overall Performance

REALLY DAMN FAST.

Apps install so quickly it is insane.  The system boots so quickly it is crazy.  This BIOS has a “fast on” feature where it can boot to some minimal OS ASUS provides.  This “fast” boot time is 10 seconds.

Why bother when I can wait 15  and be into Windows?

July 31, 2008

ZIPing a self extracting ZIP does not make it smaller

Filed under: Stupidity, technology — Tags: , — Devlin Bentley @ 10:28 am

I have been witnessing the stupidity of people putting their self extracting ZIP files into a ZIP file for years now, and it still pisses me off.

If grouping files together then ZIPing them up in “no compression” or “archival” mode may be useful, but that is it.  A single lone file?  Pointless!  (And yes, I will explain why at the bottom of this post!)

Here is a list of other things that do not belong inside of ZIP files:

  • Any other compresses sound or video file
    • MP3
    • AVI
    • MPEG
    • MPEG2
    • WMV
    • etc
  • Any file already compressed with another compression program
    • JPEGs
    • RAR files
    • .ACE files
    • .7z Files

The reason for this is actually easy to understand.

Imagine taking a piece of paper and folding it up really small so you can fit it in a really tiny envelope to mail off.  You fold the paper up as small as you possibly can, and put it in the envelope.  The paper is your original data file and the envelope is the ZIP file.

Now imagine trying to take that envelope with your paper inside of it, already folded up as tight as possible, and putting it inside another envelope.  You cannot fold the paper any more, so nothing is any smaller.  In fact by adding another envelope you have actually made your package larger!  It is only a little bit larger because an extra envelope is not all that thick, but it still is larger.

This is exactly what happens when you try to ZIP a ZIP file, or any other type of already compressed file.  In some cases when you ZIP up a compressed file of some other type (e.g. JPEG) you may save a little bit of space, typically a a kilobyte or two if it is a really huge image that is in the megabyte range, but the time it takes users to open up the ZIP file and hit ‘extract’ is longer than it would take them to download the extra few kilobytes.

This seems like only a minor annoyance, but it because a huge pain when some fools who should know better put huge 2GB+ self extracting game demos inside of a ZIP file.  They save maybe one megabyte overall (if even that), but it can take 15-20 minutes to extract their stupid EXE, which then takes another 10-15 minutes to extract the installer.

Bonus points go to the real idiots who do all of the above, and then their installer is itself a single compressed setup.exe when when run then extracts files to a temporary directory before copying them to their final location.

2GB ZIP -> 2GB self extracting EXE -> 2GB Setup.exe -> 2GB temporary files -> 4-5GB installed game

And that is why the tag stupidity is on this post!

Blog at WordPress.com.