Jun 7, 2022

Upgraded desktop computer


I finally found enough time to upgrade my main desktop computer.

It was running a Gigabyte B450 motherboard with Ryzen 5 2600 from almost 5 years ago. Time to update the old beast.

Actually, I bought the parts during Black Friday last year but never got around to installing them. I built a mini-gaming PC in between that time so there was no rush to upgrade this one. But now's the time.

Build goal: This is supposed to be my main gaming PC but, since I couldn't buy a new video card for a while, I moved the old one to my mini gaming PC (to be used in the living room). This one will suffice as my WFH PC for now. As such, no overclocking is necessary.

Here's the config (new parts highlighted):

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Elite AX ($96)
CPU: Intel i7 10700K ($150) - Yes, I know, old gen CPU, but I got a crazy deal on it. Plus, it's more than enough for gaming.
Memory: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro - 32GB DDR4-3200 ($130)
Videocard: Built-in Intel UHD 630 (Free) - I'm waiting for a good deal on an RTX video card
Storage:
  1. ADATA SX8200 480GB NVMe
  2. 2x 240GB SATA SSD
  3. 1x 4TB 5900Krpm Seagate HDD
Case: BeQuiet Dark Base 700 - inverted ($130)
Cooling: Corsair H110i - front-mounted with 4 x 140mm fans in push/pull config ($90), 1 rear 140mm CM MF140 fan + 1 top-mounted CM MF140 fan

Other items:
Sceptre Nebula C345B-QUN168W 34" Ultra-wide curved monitor ($350)
Razer Black Widow Elite keyboard ($85)
Logitech G502 Lightspeed wireless mouse ($60)

CORSAIR - MM800 Polaris RGB mouse pad

Since I'm not done with this build (still needs to add a video card and a new 2TB NVMe drive), I'll re-use an old picture. New ones will be added once I add the GPU and synced all the lights.


Here's a quick spec link:

I already found someone on Craigslist to take the old parts off my hands. Never throw away perfectly good components. :)

ZEROSVN Tech Enthusiast

Mar 1, 2022

Heroism in modern time


To say that things have been crazy around the world is an understatement. Historic weather events caused by climate change, hyper-inflation, political strife & polarization, population unrest, and of course, the Covid-19 pandemic. Leaders come and go, but nobody has been able to do much to change the dark narrative lording over the world. Needless to say, the last few years weighed heavily on us. Many people are tired, disappointed, and, quite frankly, exhausted. Then comes the war in Ukraine.

It is an unjust, and wholly unnecessary war helmed by a bully intent on brute forcing his way into an entire country. For what? To relive a distorted dream of a unified USSR? Most people growing up in the past 30 years don't even know what that is. Those that knew, knew it to be a period of hardship and failure. Heck, many ex-Soviet countries (including Ukraine) are still rebuilding as of 2022!

But, something magical happened in the last week: heroism...real heroism and courage that reignited people's hopes; hopes that the world will change for the better. That the courageous few can give rise to freedom from oppression, that their struggles matter, that humanity can save itself.

What Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Ukraine's president) has done is nothing short of amazing. In the span of a few days, he redefined the definition of a leader, a politician. By choosing to stay and fight with his people, by taking the tough road despite easier options, Zelenskyy shows his people that he is there with them, fighting for them, and suffering through it with them. 
Through his action, Zelenskyy inspires, not only his people, but a generation to fight harder, push further, and, best of all, not be afraid of evil, no matter how big and scary that evil is.




Throughout recent history, we've seen countless examples of politicians who insist on fighting for their people only to run when shit hits the fan. The Afghan president bailed with millions of cash while Ted Cruz secretly flew to a Cancun resort when Texas froze. Such displays of selfishness betray the trust people should have in their leaders. It's not like people trust politicians in the first place, but come on...have a little decency.
It seems political leaders have forgotten what it means to lead. To be a politician is to be a servant of people, not to be served. It is a privilege, not a prize.

If Zelenskyy had taken the offer to flee, we would have witnessed a very different war. The Ukrainian people won't give up so easily, but their leader's action has massive impact on the outcome. Personally I'd like to thank Volodymyr Zelenskyy for being true to himself and his people. Because of their actions, the world is able to see courage defeat fear and evil. Other leaders around the world are stepping up to levy sanctions and provide support. There's a lot of courage there too.

All of the sudden, it's cool to be brave. It's cool to be patriotic, and it's trendy to support Ukraine.
The Internet is going crazy over all of this. Sad to say, it's become a new fad. But that's a good thing. If there's such a thing as a "good" fad, this is it. I feel this is the new Arab Spring, only bigger and it is sweeping the globe. I hope this results in long-lasting change and truly inspires a generation of couragous leaders who serve their people.

It is not easy being a leader, especially during tough times. We've seen many examples of weak and cowardly leaders, but we've also seen examples of strong ones. Say what you will about President Biden, but you cannot say that he hasn't served his people for most of his life. Being a leader is not easy. Anyone who thinks otherwise should try it. Being responsible for 10 people is hard, doing the same for 330 milllion is much, much harder. It takes a special kind of person to volunteer for the pain and suffering that comes with being a leader. The more people you lead, the heavier the burden. But that's where courage comes from. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the strength to act in spite of fear.

We need more leaders in the world. We need more people who are not afraid to bring about change, to make the world a better place. We need more heroes...not MCU heroes, real ones who goes on Dancing with the Stars then fight Russian dictator a few years later. We need heroes who played a president on TV then actually doing it in real life.

Modern day heroism is on display, and it is oh so refreshing to see.

Sure, the war's not over. Zelenskyy may not survive. But the torch he's lit will be carried on by millions of others.
ZEROSVN Tech Enthusiast

Feb 20, 2022

Our Lady Peace - In Repair


After 2 years of the pandemic, it's fair to say that everyone's in Repair.

Let's take some time to heal, and re-heal. We all need it.



ZEROSVN Tech Enthusiast

Jan 2, 2022

Phantom H1 - A mini-gaming PC


Happy New Year! 🎉🍾🍻

2022 marks a new year full of hope and opportunities.
What better way to ring in 2022 with a technology refresh, right? 😁

OK so 2021 has not been a great year for PC upgrades. Thanks to the pandemic and a confluence of factors, computer parts, especially graphic cards, are hard to come by. I've been hunting for a new RTX 3080 (or 3070) for over a year and still couldn't get it. 😔
Still, Black Friday brought some decent deals so I took the opportunity to upgrade my 3 year-old computer.


Did I need it? No, but it's fun to build and was a great project to undertake during the long holiday.

Actually, my current upgrade includes 2 phases. We're covering phase 1 in this post.
  1. New mini gaming PC - Move components out of my office/gaming PC to a new, mini computer connected to my big screen TV in the living room so I can game in 4K HDR.
  2. Upgrade office PC - Upgrade to an Intel motherboard and CPU on my office PC. It needs a refresh. I've been wanting to upgrade to a full-featured motherboard with front-panel USB-C connection. That was one big regret I had when building the old system.

A bit of history

The whole micro-ATX and mini-ITX form-factor never interested me until I saw the NZXT H1. That thing is so beautiful; compact, clean, modern, with a subtle sophistication to it. What's more is its quality build and great engineering. This case looks like a larger version of an XBOX Series X and comes in white, which perfectly complements my living room setup.

Needless to say, I fell in love when I first saw the H1, but the price of $349 was a little too much. It's actually a case, quality ITX (small form factor) power supply, and an All-In-One water cooler. Each of those components easily cost $100 so, I guess the price is justified. Still, it's a bit "too rich for my blood".

Thanks to the magic of Black Friday, NZXT put this case on sale for $180, then further dropped the price to $150. At this price, purchasing it was a no brainer for me.

Problem: mini ITX motherboards aren't cheap. They typically run north of $200 when my budget for a motherboard is around $120.
I can build both on Intel or AMD platforms as I can use a recently purchased an i7 10700K CPU ($150 from Microcenter) or a recently purchased Ryzen 7 5800X ($300 from BestBuy). Motherboard choices on ITX platform isn't great either. Luckily I came across another deal: Asrock B550 Phantom Gaming for $150. This thing has everything I wanted: front panel USB-C connector, 2 NVME slots (1 with heatsink), robust VRM, Wifi6, and RGB headers.

Component breakdown:
  1. NZXT H1 mini-ITX case, 650W power supply, 140mm AIO - $150
  2. Asrock B550 Phantom Gaming m-ITX - $150
  3. AMD Ryzen 7 5800X - $300
    Replaced with AMD Ryzen 5 5600X - $160
  4. EVGA GTX 1070ti SC - Re-used from old system
  5. Corsair Vengeance Pro 32GB DDR4-3200 - $130 (purchased 2 kits last year for my wife's video editing rig).
    Replaced with Crucial Ballistix 32GB DDR4-3200 for $90
  6. MSI Spatium M740 1TB NVMe Gen4 - $75
  7. 2 x 140mm NXZT AER-P static-pressure fan - $14. These are added to the rear panel for increased airflow.
Total system cost: $812 $639
This isn't a budget build but it is quite reasonable.
I excluded the price of the videocard but that could easily cost more than the entire system above. My little cousin was crazy and paid $1500 for a 3080ti!🤯

Future additions:
  1. 2nd NVMe drive on the back of the motherboard to add capacity.
  2. 4TB 2.5" HDD to add even more capacity.
  3. Add an RGB strip for fun. Might need to run in a diffuser channel for more class.
Here are some benchmark numbers (no overclock):
According to Passmark, this system is in the top 2% percent in the world. Not bad for a mini computer.


PassMark Rating

3/14/22 Update: I downgraded the CPU to a Ryzen 5 5600X since the 5800X runs too hot and loud for this mini-PC. The 5600X was on sale for $210 and I had a $50 off coupon so I got it for $160! This is almost half the already discounted price I paid for the 5800X. Since I wanted this mini-PC to be a gaming-only PC, downgrading to the 5600X was a no brainer at this price.
Turning on PBO helps boost CPU speed to about 4.7Ghz during load. I could OC past 4.9Ghz but there's not much value in doing so. The CPU now idles at a cool 35 degrees C (versus 56) and maxes out at 67 (versus 80).

My wife's PC will receive the 5800X since she does video editing and such.
 
I also swapped out the RAM for 32GB Crucial Ballistix 3200 since it is lower profile and will allow higher overclocking. The original RGB RAM was a bit too high and was pushing up against the CPU fan.

Here are the updated benchmark numbers:
It's a bit disappointing to see lower numbers across the board due to CPU downgrade but it's expected.
I'll overclock the RAM a bit to help boost some numbers.

Pictures:

Plays well with my KEF speakers

You can see a bit of that air gap at the top

Mod 1: 140mm static pressure fan

Mod 2: small magnets to create front air gap

Looking good while being benchmarked

System innards. Love the design.
Yes, that's the new, slightly downgraded PSU.

Can't believe so much fits into this little thing
There's a 2nd NVMe slot on the back for extra storage

Motherboard I/O Panel

ZEROSVN Tech Enthusiast