In Ter Mu Lations

New computer day. This lil’ guy’s pretty nice. The Air’s been pretty nice too, though. Four years with that one, and I immediately get spoiled by the Pro’s screen.

That makes it official.


My 780 Ti was getting a little long in the tooth and I wanted a closed-loop GPU, but was basically too impatient to wait for water-cooled 1070s and 1080s to come out. Fortunately, their release made 980 Tis cheaper, so I picked this thing up for $400. It’s very slightly slower than the 1070, and a 1070 Hybrid will probably be around $450, so that’s alright. I bet I’ll regret not waiting for the 1080, but this thing should be fine at 1440P for a good while.

I actually tried to water-cool my 780 Ti with a Corsair H60i, but its hoses weren’t long enough for installation like this. Which I probably should have thought of.

Hoxopleuratical Intermulationz

In this entry from a few years ago, I wrote about putting an SSD in an iBook from 2001. I got another iBook because I like them and they play Starcraft and if I didn’t who would, and I thought that it’d be fun to revisit that and see what a new IDE SSD did against that one from 2011.

Unfortunately, that was a short-lived plan. KingSpec (and others) do still make IDE SSDs, but almost all of them use the SM2236 controller, instead of the older SM2231, which seems to demand a couple more channels than the iBook knows what to do with. It can’t start up from a preformatted SM2236 drive, and it can’t install from a CD onto the drive either. Since clamshell iBooks are one of the trickier computers to do a drive swap on, I found this realization very amusing (although, truth be told, it’s not a terrible job at about 40-50 minutes; it’s just a fuss).

So that was out. But then I figured, in that last article I made reference to my CompactFlash-bedrivulated iBook — what if I revisited that? I made that thing in 2008 or so, surely CF has gotten faster. I also sold it in 2011 without having benchmarked it, lending an air of pointlessness to this whole thing, which was perfect.

So, I got a neat Syba IDE-CF bridge in 2.5″ drive format. Pretty nice; it has two CF slots. I used a Lexar 16 GB 800x card, since I had a spare one; presumably a 64 GB 1066x card would be faster. I also added a 512 MB stick of RAM and a new “CWK” battery to the iBook — which must be made using decade-old NewerTech tooling or something, but it works shockingly well.

Installation was the usual pain in the ass. Installation was the usual pain in the ass.


I also lost my Air’s disc burner and had to resort to, err, backup measures. I didn’t realize this iMac only had 10.1 on it, but it burned the Panther CDs fine, so that’s alright.

Anyway, long story short, it works great. On the left, here is the SM2231 KingSpec SSD in the other iBook. On the right, that iBook’s original Travelstar HDD.


Now, here’s the iBook with 800x 16 GB CompactFlash: 

A nice improvement! Slower small random writes than the KingSpec, but everything else is a decent little bit faster. Again, I think you could address that by going with a faster CF card if you were so inclined. The CF and CF-IDE bridge is also slightly cheaper than the 16 GB KingSpec was (in 2011) and the 16 GB KingSpec (with SM2236 controller) is now. The computer is fast for a 2000 laptop, silent, and gets pretty good battery life even by modern standards. The only downside is that the first-generation AirPort cannot use WPA2.

Obviously it’s sort of pointless. When I was little, the three computers I really wanted in 2000 were the Indigo/Key Lime iBook and the Cube, as well as the “Lamp” G4 iMac when it first came out in 2001. I couldn’t afford any of them at the time (although I eventually did have a 1.25 GHz 20″ iMac G4, bought slightly used in 2004, which lasted me until the Intel switch), and made do with a PM7100/80 upgraded to G3. But I guess buying now-useless things you couldn’t afford when you were small is part of being a grown-up or whatever. I have the iMac and a couple iBooks, and I had a Cube upgraded to a 1.33 G4 in 2007-2008, but sold it. That was real dumb since Cubes cost insane monies now. Ah, well. The point is, I don’t really use any of them and it’s pointless. But if you like pointless old nonsense, I guess I recommend shoving CF cards all up ins it. Sometimes you just gots to have a Starcraft 1 LAN party.

The Cromp

I wanted to do this for a while — Game Boy shelf. It’s just an Ikea Nornas with a little middle-thing I made out of scrap wood, but it’s nice to have all that stuff in one place. Top row, we’s gots R. Monkeys’ first Game Boy, R. Monkeys’ Color, the Color I modified with an Advance speaker and frontlight, my first Game Boy. Middle row, my modified Advance (AGS101 backlit screen), the Advance SP I put together for R. Monkeys to match her 3DS, and my Anniversary Micro. Bottom row, 3DS XLs. I’ll probably paint the Nornas white to match the rest of our shelves when I have more time.

I did have time to set up the important stuff, though:

Moltustulates: A Porcine-Gelatine Love Story

I didn’t necessarily not like the XYZ Da Vinci, but despite its low price I think one would be better off buying something like the Dremel Idea Builder. Technically the XYZ hardware is capable (although it came with a misaligned X-axis), but the catch is that the software is slow and terrible. The hitch there is that converting a 3D object into a printable file is a pretty big job, where good control of nozzle temperature, nozzle speed, infill, print head positioning, and so on needs to be taken into account. And the problem with the Da Vinci software is that it just goes “buddy, that shit sounds complicated”, and skips it.

R. Monkeys was okay with it being right next to the bed for some reason?  R. Monkeys was okay with it being right next to the bed for some reason?

You can use your own software — the free Slic3r or the $140 Simplify3D — although to do so you have to screw around. Likewise, you can use your own ABS filament, not the XYZ cartridges, but only if you screw around. I get that at this point consumer 3D printing is a Sisyphean hobby in which one should expect to screw around, but even for $400 it’d be nice if “You have to screw around!” wasn’t essentially written on the box. I’ll give them the cartridge thing, since I never had a problem with ’em and XYZ has to make money some how, but the software is just the worst, with no profitable reason to be that awful. The printer is a nice unit for a good price, but it couldn’t print a single model downloaded straight from XYZ without messing up a part or the whole. The demo swirly-vase-thing came out as I think it was supposed to, but that’s in the printer’s firmware, not being generated by the XYZ software.

It was a fun thing to try, and practically-speaking it probably requires less screwing around than a lot of other 3D printers, but I just didn’t like the fact that what you’re having to fight is a conscious decision on the part of the manufacturer. It’s like if you’re reading a book, and somebody takes it and throws it on the ground. If that person is a toddler, it’s like, hey, that’s toddler stuff. But if that person is 33, they’re just an asshole. And the software makes the Da Vinci an asshole.

The cartridges are proprietary because XYZ is clearly undercutting other manufacturers on the printer’s price, and wants to make money like HP does on printer ink. But I don’t get why they go to such lengths to prevent you from using other software. You’d think if they got a reputation as a good printer where you can bring your own software, that’d be great for them — they get a good reputation and they don’t have to invest in making their awful software anymore. But they insist on trying to lock you out, so they’re getting a bad reputation and they have to invest at least a token non-zero effort in the software. I don’t get it.


Back in the game, okay? I had to sell my overclocked orange iBook that ran on CF cards, plus the indigo one I put a real SSD into a couple years ago, to pay for grad school, or at least groceries while at grad school. But now I’ve pulled this PowerBook 1.33 outta storage and gotten another iBook, so I’m all set to do it all over again, to create another Quake 2, StarCraft, and WarCraft 2 LAN kit. This iBook was walking-around money, not “save up for it” money — I wanna grab a Key Lime iBook, as well as a Cube, but those things are pretty expensive. Of course, it’s particularly stupid because I had both of those things, but sold them in early 2008 for a lot less than what I will undoubtedly have to pay for them now. My Cube even had a 1.4 GHz upgrade, wastrel that I was.

I’ll grab a Transcend PATA SSD for the iBook this time, to compare it to the KingSpec I put in the last one, as well as a 4400 mAh battery. Runcore and OWC also do a PATA SSD, but they use real parts for theirs, as opposed to things they found in their cereal boxes, so they are too expensive.


Always Be Concealin’

It’s a good thing neither of us wants kids, because if had any I don’t think I’d be able to resist introducing them to people as my off-site backups.


I sold the modified Mac Pro about which I have written previously, as well as the 11″ 2011 Air that served as a sort of tender to it. I replaced it with a 13″ 2013 i7 Air and a two-bay consumer-grade Synology NAS, and the Synology is such a pleasant surprise that I thought I’d ramble about it. However, unlike rambling about putting PC GPUs in the Mac Pro, there’s nothing experimental or new to find out. So, I will caution gentle readers — in a fashion that only a true and certificated Kentucky Colonel can employ — that this isn’t very interesting.

Aside from the extreme setback that a week without a computer posed to the sanctity of my digestion, the switch to the Synology was pretty easy. I backed up 3 TB of things to a USB drive from the Mac Pro and sold it, then I put a pair of 3 TB WD Reds in the Synology thusly:

They’re not hot-swappable, but then I wasn’t planning on that being a necessity anyway. When assembled and turned on, the Synology is fairly small and quite quiet. There’s a 92mm-ish fan that seems to default to a fairly low RPM which is generally inaudible (my Synology is hiding behind a row of books, so there’s some insulation), and the drives don’t exceed 34°C. It’s a nice little unit.

The Synology has two USB ports and knows what to do when you plug a drive in. Unfortunately, it cannot read Mac-formatted drives, so my way of getting 1.5 TB on to it went External drive –(USB2)–> 11″ Air –(WiFi)–> Router/Ethernet/Synology. This took 65 hours.

Once loaded, though, it’s great. Pretty fast, inaudible, etc. However, their software really sold me, and shamed me for having considered a Drobo or LaCie. I mean, really filthy shame. The caning, sirs, the caning. At any rate, their DSM OS is very sporty, and mixes powerful features including but not limited to a selection of BitTorrent clients, any sort of hosting (web/mail/forum/media/etc.), and so on with a graphical joie de nostril that salves those of us who know our way around a command line but feel that extended use of such is for foreigners and the unkempt. Do try their “live demo“. Here are two screen shots of nothing happening, because I am paranoid about displaying it showing anything real.

Although the Synology and the two 3 TB WD Reds cost as much as 650 generic-brand popsicles, I dare say that the result is enjoyable as at least that many popsicles. As Bob Lutz observed, after about ten popsicles the palate is bruised and sugar-worn. So I don’t think 650 popsicles is a great value for money, and thus the Synology is a justifiable expense for anyone who might consider one.

The Haswell Air is great too, but that’s not surprising. It was this or an outgoing 15″ Retina Pro. You can’t really go wrong, when it comes to consumer laptops. I will note that the 12-hour battery life is real and extremely nifty.

My Grande Designée was to ditch the computers that encouraged me to spend time on phatic tasks — that is, the Mac Pro encouraged tinkering, games, and things like that which are fun but relate to the silver box itself, and not extremely rewarding. So this simplification was a pain but for the best, I think. Similar to the new car; it’s not very interesting compared to the last one, but that’s sort of the point.