New drivers, but the same results

How did we get here?

A few months back I bought Intel’s Arc A750 graphics card to test. The day one drivers, Intel admitted, were lacking support for some older games. Newer games use Direct X12 to interface with Windows, while older ones use DX11 or 9. Some games also use the Vulkan API, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The Arc GPU’s were optimized for DX12 and Vulkan with plans to catch up as they went. If they went.

Newer titles perform very well , and the A750 can be picked up right now for under 250USD. It’s a great deal for the money, and they have updated a wide variety of games. There are, however, some issues. Some games are good for benchmarks because of how they stress components. They may not always be popular, but they have a purpose.

One popular for testing is Borderlands 3. It stresses the graphics card and often makes the best cards run hot. It also runs on DX11 AND DX12, except it doesn’t; not with the Intel drivers. Okay, DX 11 technically works, but DX12 crashes and won’t restart without going into the games config file. I don’t think that is a default setting.

While using DX11, performance is less than stellar. The game measures performance from the mid 70 frames per second to around 100 whether render the resolution is set to 1440P or the more standard 1080P. Generally, 1080P should be between a 10 and 20% improvement over the higher resolution. It’s not, if anything it’s worse, AND its worse with the new driver. Only a few frames and in margin of error, but worse.

Other issues

World War Z is another game with a different problem. Why would I mention a game that has a limited popularity? Because its a dual API game, with a choice between DX11 and Vulkan. Well, it’s supposed to support two protocols, but Vulkan isn’t currently an option. I haven’t looked at the config file yet, but from the menu, it’s a no.

Still, that’s not the real problem. The real problem is the DX11 drivers are all but broken. Any combination of texture and resolution nets you 60fps or less. GPU and CPU usage are both extremely low and memory usage is through the roof. Tears, frame drops and missing textures are all common, making it almost painful to watch. WWZ isn’t that popular, so it probably won’t be fixed for quite a while. it is, a valuable benchmark, however, or was.

They didn’t list either of these as games as improved, but I had hoped.

Will there be better drivers?

Most assuredly. Intel has done a fantastic job of updating every few weeks with a larger one about every quarter. Each time, there is an improvement and we have to remember, they haven’t been producing graphics cards for two decades plus, like the other two have. For a freshman effort, it’s outstanding and priced extremely well.

The card is under 250 USD and compares well to cards that cost at least one and a half times as much. It’s a worthy opponent, and it is a beautiful, sleek looking card that compliments almost any system. The AV1 encoder will be of great use rendering video content, and it is power efficient, as well. The issues with some older titles is an inconvenience for some of us doing benchmarks, but the card performs well in newer titles. It’s actually a solid card.

I was skeptical when it came out, but thought the price was affordable if it turned out to be junk. I’m happy to say, it’s not junk. It’s actually a great card, and a great buy. With the constant improvements to drivers in Arc, I’m excited to see Battlemage when it releases, and I never imagined myself saying that. If the current example holds true, the next gen will also be affordable, putting pressure on NVidia and AMD.

This card will stay in my build and will so be my editing rig. In turn, I will use my other PC for testing, but I think the Arc will make a decent gaming and streaming option, so it gets a try. If it doesn’t cut it, I’ll just swap it out with the RTX 3060Ti I’m using.

The video on this is located here

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Old equipment can only do so much. Time to make it better.

How did we get here?

My original thought for this weekend was to bring Danny DD to my sister’s to do some streaming. I brought some of my own equipment like a second monitor, mic and camera, and I thought I would have pretty much everything I needed. Not so fast, my friend.

As it turns out, there is a small issue of an eight year old router to contend with. Now, back in it’s day, it was a great choice. It is capable of 2.4 and 5Ghz and rated up to 802.11 ac (including a/b/g…….). It does a fair job with only two people and the occasional guest, but even my brother in law has expressed frustration, because, after all, the modem is new, everything should be fast and not buffer.

The modem is new, but that means a very fast signal can’t go anywhere.

The modem is fine, and the internet speed is quick, I don’t yet have the cap on the download speed, but they are getting in excess of 50Mbps upload, which for a cable company is rather impressive. The problem is several fold and as technology improves, it causes more of a gap. One that the older router just cannot make up. We didn’t have the technology that now exists, eight years back.

What’s the big deal

There are a few factors here. A few years ago, they switched to streaming content instead of using a cable tuner. That meant more devices running more often. A lot more often. TV, a home pc and laptop, phones, a tablet……… you see where I’m going with this. That is just the devices that they now might use everyday and/or stream from. That doesn’t include the son on the other side of the house with several devices, the TV in the family room that streams, and guests that come over like myself.

That router is rated to handle, on it’s best day, about a dozen devices. These days, even your kitchen appliances or security systems try to use the same internet. It’s a lot more than the old equipment was ever designed for.

Time for a change.

This is a very typical situation, with a typical family. Yours may be slightly different, but as we move away from a device like a cable tuner and get the next great phone, tablet, or laptop, we may be disappointed with the results if we don’t look at the equipment we use to connect with. We go all out on a bigger tv or new phone, but they can only do as well as what is supporting them.

Think of it like getting a shiny new sports car that does 150 mph (240 kph). Do you know how to drive that fast? Are the roads you travel on designed to handle a car that fast? Probably not. It’s similar to a high speed train traveling on a freight train track. It’s not made to do that. The train can go fast, but the track won’t handle it.

So, what’s the solution?

Time for new equipment

Now this can be tricky, too. Some internet providers furnish one that works with their equipment, and some have you furnish your own. My provider supplied one, their provider supplies the modem, but not the router. Both have advantages and disadvantages. In my sister’s case it means they have a very wide range of routers to chose from. Too many to choose from. It’s not hard, just go buy the best one, right? Do you need the best one? Probably not. You may not need something that expensive to do the job.

Find the one(s) that best fit your situation. Do you need something capable of covering several thousand square feet or when one covering a couple of thousand will do? If you aren’t adding on to your house any time soon, you don’t need one that covers three times the area.

Budget is another concern. You can buy a great quality router for less than two hundred USD and be set for another five or six years. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to do a great job. Keep in mind, you probably spent a lot on that new phone, or TV, and the supporting equipment deserves to fit the situation.

Brand quality counts. If you’ve never heard of the company, there may be a reason why. Keep in mind, though, just because you recognize the name doesn’t mean greatness. We all know at least one brand of our favorite products, that we absolutely stay away from. Bad reputation might make a company famous. Just saying.

My advice on new equipment?

Do your research. And even after you ask questions and look at different models, look at different retailers to make sure its a good deal. Sometimes it also may be worth it to pay an extra few bucks to go see, feel, and touch it before you buy it. There is a lot to be said for a hands on experience, after all, that’s what you will have to do when you have it home. You can also go get hands on, then order it from a retailer that has it on sale.

Still no idea? Get your brother, you know the one with tech experience, to tell you what the actual issue is, then have him find the best tool to solve it. Put your trust in a third party with no bias. He may even write about it and your movies won’t buffer when he tries to play online.

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The new NAS project is nearly complete.

How did we get here?

The new NAS project started a few months ago, when I had the bright idea to create a back up solution. I had planned to use a ‘My Cloud’ device that I already had, but found one of the reasons I bought doesn’t apply anymore. (I bought it a few years ago). Gone, is the stand alone app, replaced by a web app. A web app that has no back up scheduler like the stand alone did. A reason I was trying to use it. Faced with using what amounted to a drop folder for external storage, I decided I’d create my own.

This took on a few iterations, but each made progress over the last. The goal, however was still. find something easy to use to get bulk storage off individual PCs and make it centralized. First was a proof of concept in the HP FrankenDell, then we would scale up. The combination of Dell motherboard, Xeon processor, and HP case was an interesting project and did work, but I thought a standard motherboard would work better.

The new NAS next step

The great deal on the motherboard combo was a great surpise, coming with the mobo, CPU, and memory. It was a perfect solution, but it meant shelving the Xeon again. To be honest, I thought I might stil use the Xeon, but the combo deal appeared to be solid, all I needed was a larger hard drive. I found an 8TB solution, and got to work. As it turns out, still a lot of work.

My choice for software was TruNas Scale. It’s an open source solution that is linux based and can make use of different Docker containers for easy integration. I managed to get things set up, and realized I had no idea what I was doing. Okay, maybe that isn’t quite accurate, but it’s close. It may be versitile and overall easy to use, but there is still a learning curve. I relatively steep one, but not impossible. I managed to get a server up and running within a couple of hours. A few days should see most things worked out, and I may even be able to call it a success.

It did give me a bit of feedback telling me a single drive in a pool by itself was a bad idea, but I will be able to change it later. There has also been a few issues trying to get Prometheus (monitoring software) to play nice, but I’ll figure that out as well. The rest of the set up was easy. Well, not easy, but not brain surgery. It’s up, it’s running and it’s transferring files. Later I will also work on automatic backup, but that’s another day.

What’s next for the new NAS?

For now it’s functioning and makes a good swap file, but the goal is to have a stand alone solution that I can use as an auto backup. The use of containers might make it easier to get what I want out of the server, but at the very least, I know have a large data back up solution accessible from my entire network. That leaves two goals, autoback up and remote acess.

I don’t know enough to get it set up immediately, but I know there is a large community of resources to pull from for TrueNas, so a solution is out there. I also know this solution is better than any I’ve had, so that’s a plus. Within a few weeks I should have a solid workable solution that will last until I need something bigger. In the mean time, I’ll use it to learn as much as I can and enjoy it.

The video can be found here

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My new network server, is my old Optiplex? Seriously?

How did we get here?

To begin with, why would anyone need a network server? There can be several answers, including file storage, a plex server, or even a game server. Different uses means different ways of creating and storing data. There is no wrong way and virtually, no wrong equipment There are limitations, however, as to what you can do with what equipment.

In my case, I have a YouTube channel and keep not only raw footage, but finished videos. I do have a back up, of sorts, but it’s poorly done and not an elegant solution. There are duplicate files on two computers, and I use of a back up USB, and Western Digital cloud device. A device that needs to be reconfigured to be more efficient. Long story, short, I have no reliable, streamlined solution. I may not lose data, but it would be a pain to retrieve some of it.

Enter the HP FrankenDell. This computer has a Xeon E3 12700 v3 four core/ eight thread CPU on a Dell motherboard. It came from an Optiplex 9020, and has 16GB of memory tucked very creatively in an HP case from 2008. I’m looking for reliable file storage with something that runs efficiently, and the Xeon fits the bill. Originally, this a sleeper gaming PC, but the extra drive bays make it perfect. There is still the execution to tackle, though.

Setting up the network server?

One of the easier ways is simply create a new file on a hard drive and make it shareable. Doing this will give you an address of sorts that other computers on your network can find. The drive needs plenty of room and to stay connected to the network. The second step is to go to the next PC and find that drive location.

Click on ‘This PC’ in the file explorer. That presents you with a few options across the top, but it may require you right click on ‘This PC’ and chose ‘map network drive’. Select a drive letter you aren’t already using, and put in the address from the first PC. You need to use a double backslash ‘\\’ for this, so don’t forget. In my case, I also copied it to the desktop and changed the icon.

A simple test making sure anything going into that folder gets ‘dropped’ in the other PC’s shared folder and we were in business. It doesn’t solve all of my issues, but it’s a start. A start I can build on and improve. After ordering some new sleds for the additional dives, I have room for at least four or five drives and I can start the next step.

What is that, you ask? redundant storage, a raid solution to make sure I don’t lose data, and creating something I can access from anywhere. Those are some pretty lofty steps, but the first one was to get the ball rolling. Mission accomplished. The drive bays came in, so it’s time to add more storage, but very soon, we begin the next part, and of course, I’ll share the story.

The latest video on it is here, and to go back to the blog page, go here.

Cooling the CoolBlue build. It should be very easy, right?

How did we get here?

This started easy enough, add an All-In-One cooler to CoolBlue. Yeah, not so much. Oh, everything leading up to the change went well, but it wasn’t until getting our hands dirty that things took a turn. Let’s start from the beginning.

I had a Corsair H100i CPU cooler not being used, but it wouldn’t fit as it was, so I went shopping. I had to find a retro kit, which in this case was four slightly shorter stand off posts. That was easy enough, they are widely available and not unreasonably priced. Not unreasonable until you factor in shipping.

The Corsair site had these for 7.99 USD, great, let’s order them. 9.99USD for shipping. What? They cost more to ship than the item cost? You’ve lost your pea picken’ mind! There were several sellers, however, on eBay, so that’s where we ordered. Four days later, things looked ready to go.

I chose to reuse the DeepCool fans already in the case, which was fine, but as it turns out, the case has a flaw. The fans that mount to the top of the case, can only mount in the center. Many case manufacturers add additional grooves so things can be pulled closer to the glass panel and not have an issue with the height of cooling blocks on the motherboard. This case lacks that. My next option was mount the radiator behind the front panel.

A Different Problem

Technically it fits, but it looks awkward. The front has three fans mounted and now the top two reach into the case further, making things look sloppy. There is also the matter of the CPU cooling block having a lot of extra cables causing clutter. Still, I could look past that if it kept things nice and cool. It didn’t.

Okay, it did keep things cool, but only as much as the tower cooler I took out. Not a good trade. It looked bad from the front, more cables to manage in the back, and now the temps were only slightly better. By slightly better, I mean margin of error better. I was able to get slightly better temps by removing the front panel, but that’s not ideal. So, you’re thinking, a horrible fail.

Yes, and No. It was a failure, but I learned something. What not to do.

What’s next for CoolBlue

The very next thing to do is remove the All-in-One cooler from the build. Aesthetically, it’s not pleasing and it’s also not effective.

Next, I will look at the big brother to the current AG400 CPU cooler, the AG620. This is rated for a higher total power output, and although it’s more than that CPU needs, it pushes more air directly out of the case. It may only mean a few degrees cooler, but to be honest, temps weren’t bad, I was just looking to improve them so I wouldn’t have any throttling when I edit.

This also may mean a different case. CoolBlue gets it’s name because is a Intel CPU/GPU build with DeepCool parts, (including the case), but I did put a CoolerMaster power supply in. I may be able to do the same with the case and still keep the theme. I may even be able to find a blue case. If I find one with better airflow, that can solve all of the problems at one time, and that would be cool. No pun intended. After that it will be the process of swapping SSD’s and loading programs I use most often, then it may be ready to become my new every day driver. We’ll see.

Link to the YouTube video

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The Amazing Lenovo M700. Slow and Dirty Edition

How did we get here?

That part is actually easy enough. My friend Tom has a Lenovo PC he ‘inherited’ from work and it needed some attention. It came complete with an intel i5 6500 four core beast of a processor, 8GB or memory, a 640GB Western Digital Blue spinning hard drive and a fair amount of dust. The dust wasn’t the problem. Okay, it was a problem, but a very small one.

The big problem was the hard drive. I’ve been working with computers a long time and never seen a 640GB drive in the wild. To top it off, the drive had a lot of data, so a 500GB was out of the question. To anyone that hasn’t been SSD shopping lately, prices have fallen, drastically, so now may be a good time. I found a 1TB TeamGroup drive for around 50 bucks. Then, it was time to clone. We’ll get back to that in a minute.

Dusting didn’t take long. I got out the electric duster and blew out the big stuff, then turned my attention to the fans, and repasted the CPU cooler. It didn’t have heat problems, but I erred on the side of caution. A microfiber cloth and some alcohol wipes, and it was cleaned up and ready for the next steps. I needed a video card, and to replace the antenna on the wifi card. Taking care of the drives would be easy, and it would be ready to give back. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. The drives were not easy, but we’ll get back to that.

Starting off with the easy steps

The final step mechanically was to add in a graphics card. Nothing fancy, Tom said he just needed an HDMI port, and NVidia’s GT1030 has that. To any that may be reading this, and not familiar, the GT1030 was the low end of the 10 series cards from NVidia. After its release with 2GB of DDR5 memory, NVidia cut corners on future models by using DDR4 instead. There is a very real difference between DDR4 and 5. DDR5 is twice as fast, for one. Still, this fit the need. This isn’t a gaming PC, it just needed a tune up and an HDMI port, which the 1030 definitely has.

With the CPU in good shape and the graphics card installed, it was time to tackle the hard drive issue. Total time for this thing to boot up was about three minutes. It should have taken less, but the BIOS was set up to boot with a network connection. The problem? It wasn’t on a network to boot from. The HDD did have an operating system, though.

Every boot first went through the network process, then checked the HDD, which sounded bad. It almost sounded like scraping on something. I’m sure most of you have heard the sound of a drive clicking as it searches. This one sounded tired. It was time for the new SSD. Luckily, I now had one. I just had to clone the old one.

The cloning process

Did you know there is no company that offers a true open source cloning program? They all either make you pay up front, sign up for an elaborate scheme to get your data, offer only a small trial period, or a very limited set of utilities until you subscribe to a monthly program. Hmmm, Yeah, that’s the reason I don’t use Adobe products, either. Then, I remembered the only thing good about that 640GB drive. It was a WD. That means it has a version of Acronis specifically for Western Digital drives. Nice. I downloaded the software and I was in business. I chose what type of cloning and was ready to start.

Then came the real problem. The drive sounded like it was on it’s last leg, and I wasn’t 100% sure it would even survive the cloning process. That wasn’t the only issue, though. It was going to take five hours to clone. Five. There was no way this was going to survive five hours of activity. I started the process and left it over night expecting an error message when I woke up. Instead, I was greeted with success. Nice! I unplugged the HDD and tried it. After the network attempt, it booted into the SSD. We were doing well, so far.

The next step was to get into the BIOS and redirect the boot order to the SSD. I plugged the HDD back in and it promptly failed. It booted first to the network, then from the HDD. What? Seriously? But I already changed the boot order! The flipping thing had four different boot up scenarios in the BIOS. Completely ridiculous. This was definitely a former office PC.

The finished Lenovo

I set all of the boot orders the same. Check for a USB device first, then move to the SSD, then to the HDD. I saved, exited, and waited for it to punk me again. It booted straight from the SSD in about twenty seconds. Finally, we were in good shape. There were some final touches cleaning, a new antenna for the network card, and we were truly in business. This thing had new life.

Then curiosity took over. I chose to test Shadow of the Tomb Raider and CyberPunk, and wasn’t surprised by it’s lack of achieving even twenty frames per second, but that was never the goal of this computer. It will be primarily used as a creative tool, and not need to be the end all/ be all PC. There’s no need to equal to a two thousand dollar custom PC, or even a budget gaming PC. It just has to be solid, start quickly, and output using HDMI.

After running it through a few tests and making sure the graphics driver was good, I gave it my blessing. With any luck, this PC will last several more years. Or, at least long enough for Tom to get all of the use he needs from it. Now, it’s on to the next project.

The video can be found Here.

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CoolBlue Gets a Huge Upgrade – So Much Better!

How did we get here?

It started simple enough with only wanting to build a PC with two brands. CoolBlue was a combination of DeepCool parts and Intel, but it was incomplete. I wasn’t using an available intel NVMe drive and the fans were not all addressable RGB. Sometimes, I don’t leave well enough alone. The link to that blog is here

While looking for said parts, I found a price drop on a 12700KF from intel. It was a good deal, but I was only interested if I found an equally good deal on the motherboard. Damn. I found one. That meant if it turned out better than my editing rig, I had work to do. Swapping platforms is a huge deal.

There was only one way to find out if the combination would be better, so I got to work. The parts came in and this time the build went much quicker than the last effort. With everything installed, including the new NVMe and fans, I started testing. So far, the tests have only included the Arc A750, intel’s graphics card, but the CPU intensive tests told the story.

The testing

On a free benchmark render tool called Cinebench R23, I saw what amounted to a 50% uplift in performance over my current setup. This test renders a complex image using only the Central Processor with no help from the Graphics. One and a half times better performance out of the 12700KF was far more than I could have planned. It was time to run the game benchmarks.

Not having run benchmarks on the Ryzen 7 5800X combination with the Arc A750, I had to rely on uplift from the intel 11400 tested previously. The change was not only noticeable, but I was getting results from the A750 that before had been failed tests. It just ran better with the new CPU. The A750 wasn’t good enough to be my daily driver, but it was obvious, the new CPU was.

I used a DeepCool AG400 tower cooler, which will handle most activity well. And, with four PC120 fans, temperatures were very stable during most testing. It throttled during CPU stress tests. Yes, the same R23 test that measured a 22000 score did so with a red CPU light on. It was impressive.

This is a great processor, and better than what I’m using. I now had a conundrum.

Is CoolBlue my new everyday rig?

My set up with I Am Number Four is very solid and stable. It’s been my workhorse for the channel, and my growing social media effort. Changing, would require me to swap a lot of drives, and programs over. I was hesitant. I’m still hesitant.

I will need to find which drives to move, and what to do with I Am Number Four, but CoolBlue, will indeed become my editing, streaming and gaming rig. You don’t realize how comfortable you are with something until you go to change it. I still don’t use the gaming setup in the other room, so I will be breaking that PC down as well. I didn’t see that coming, but I guess I’m crossing a threshold of sorts.

This is a very capable PC and will be a great next step in handling everything I need to throw at it. And, for the first time in a very, very long time, my ‘Go To’ rig will be an Intel. I will, of course change out the graphics card and the power supply, but it will be a Cooler Master, so the name will stay the same. Paired with an RTX 3060Ti, there won’t be much it can’t handle. Welcome to the family CoolBlue.

The YouTube video can be found here.

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Intel’s new GPU and CPU, match made in heaven?

How did we get here?

It started when I thought it would be a good idea to buy the Intel Arc GPU to test. I picked up the A750 for a reasonable price, (which is about to drop), and went to work. Testing did have it’s issues and there were some bumps in the road, but I got results that were helpful. I then turned my attention to building and testing a rig with both Intel CPU and GPU in it, and that wasn’t so easy.

There were issues recognizing the GPU and an NVMe drive, but the primary problem was acting like something altogether different. After realizing a BIOS update was necessary, I was back on track, but nowhere near as excited. Links to the BLOG and VIDEO, in case you are interested. It was some work, but it did work.

I wasn’t able to complete benchmarks because of issues with time, but I needed to post the video. So, I went back to work on the same rig after posting, and ran into more issues. I was already aware that some games were not going to run properly, so I left them off the list. I was also aware that one game just takes forever to benchmark, so I left it off as well. Bad choice. Benchmarking on that is going on as I write this.


One of my biggest issues was that the game with the Vulkan graphics API won’t select that protocol, forcing me to stick with DX11, a known shortcoming. In fact I had problems with another title that has DX 11, Borderlands 3. It’s a game I have thought about dropping, but now I may actually have to.

I was testing on DX11 and DX12, and it just quit. Period. Won’t run. It shows the splash screen then shuts down completely and won’t start up. I have a similar problem trying to run this game on my editing rig, but Borderlands3 now defaults to DX12 and I have several games with that setting. It’s great to benchmark, but it may be time to retire it.

Other issues included World War Z where it caps the framerate and I get horrible artifacting, and Horizon Zero Dawn has the same framerates no matter the actual resolution. The latter of the two was confusing during my tests with the Ryzen CPU, so I was expecting it, but it shows Intel still has some work to do on their drivers.

What’s next for the Arc GPU?

I’m not done with this one yet, though I decided that CoolBlue (intel test rig) needs some changes. Instead of just changing a fan and getting an Intel NVMe to bring this closer to a true DeepCool/Intel build, I ordered a new platform. For the first time in over ten years, I am probably going to make my main rig an Intel.

I will be changing the GPU, mind you, but I will test this A750 with a 12700KF in a brand new B760 motherboard. The choice wasn’t made lightly. I was going to go with AM5, but recent problems with motherboards overvolting these CPUs had me turn to something already proven for my new build. But that’s another story…..

The fun in assembling a great Intel Test Rig

How did we get here?

The first part of building a solid intel test rig, is of course, the platform. The i5 11400F was my choice for the CPU. It has six cores and twelve threads and is a great midrange processor. Recently purchased was an Arc A750 graphics card, so all I needed was the support material and cooling. I have a DeepCool case, and recently picked up a set of DeepCool RGB fans, so a plan was forming. The power supply and storage were also ready, so I gathered everything I needed, and was off to a great start.

Assembly wasn’t difficult. The case is great to work in and the fans fit perfectly. There was already an NVMe drive installed, and except for an errant motherboard screw, things fit well together. The second step was going well. That’s where the fun stopped, though. The motherboard chosen had a BIOS from before the Arc A750’s release, and it wasn’t until a fair bit of troubleshooting, that I discovered this.

The NVMe drive also didn’t show up as a boot drive, although it had a new copy of Windows 10 Pro. Troubleshooting one problem at a time is fair, but this masqueraded as a DRAM problem and CPU issue, instead of the GPU. One complete disassembly and reassembly later, I thought of the BIOS. Achievement unlocked.

I still had no drive showing up, so I tried to repair Windows. I don’t know why there is a repair utility in the Media Creation tool. It never works, EVER. Time to reinstall it instead. Nope, the NVMe already had a master boot record. Seriously? BIOS says it doesn’t (even after the update) and the Win Utility says it does. This isn’t going great anymore.

Day Two

With a cooler head, I came back, grabbed an SSD with no data, and started over. To my amusement, everything worked. I then started with my normal installs only to realize that if I were going to do this right, I would need an Intel NVMe. Stop installing stuff, Paul. And, while you’re at it, order another DeepCool fan to balance out the RGB. Done. Time to edit what I had, and post it on YouTube.

Everything wasn’t done yet, but there was enough material for the build video. The video was up, so I went to dinner. I then realized that I forgot the thumbnail. Oh, I made one, I just forgot to use it. The frustration finally got me. It would be hours until I could fix it, but it couldn’t be helped. It would wait.

Finishing the Intel Test Rig

All I had to do was wait for the new drive and the extra fan and I could start benchmarks. What? A notice about my order? Delayed? What the……?

To be continued. In the meantime, check out the Arc A750 GPU post.

The HP Franken Dell. Scary project or a outstanding idea?

Not everything is a bad idea.

So, recently I tried a few fairly standard upgrades on an old Dell Optiplex. They were simple, but effective, and all was good. So, how did we get from there, to the HP Franken Dell? There were a few steps.

Over a year ago, I ordered the cheapest DX12 capable prebuilt PC on Amazon. It was a refurbished Dell Optiplex with an i5 4670 four core, four thread processor and no dedicated graphics card. It did come with dual channel memory, but only 8GB. Upgrades were relatively simple. More capacity on the RAM, an SSD instead of the hard disk drive and a graphics card. It wasn’t the best Gaming PC in the world, but for about 330 USD, accounting for price drops, it was solid. One of the videos benchmarking current games can be found here.

Then came the idea of upgrading the CPU, a Xeon. The choice of the Xeon came from the natural upgrade path (i7 4770) being more expensive. The E3 1270v3 has almost the same clock speed and the same number of cores and threads. It was also only 28 bucks and some change.

The surprise came when it turned out not to be an upgrade because of the GPU. A better GPU meant needing more room, and while I was at it, I might as well, pick up the motherboard for another 18. Nice.

Not an Optiplex anymore

Freed from the Optiplex case, I could test the Xeon with other video cards and find that the four core, eight thread actually performed very well, for a ten year old processor. The problem was, it was stuck in a lousy case. The temps were a bit high on the GPU side, but not horrible. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it.

At the same time, I was considering turning the old HP a6512p into a bit of a sleeper build. The fifteen year old PC wasn’t very capable of playing modern games, even with a decent GPU, but it did have a redeeming quality. A standard mATX fit inside and it took a regular size Power Supply. The same size motherboard that the Xeon called home. Hmmm. Nah, but maybe, just maybe, it would work.

I knew there were going to be a few issues; the front panel accessories being one of them. The front panel lacked the USB3 available from the newer Mobo and there was a firewire (1394) connection that was useless. An expansion bay including USB3 was cheap, so it made the list. Also on the list was something to help with the adapters I had already purchased that worked for the pink case.

Finally, the HP Franken Dell.

When it was all said and done, it worked. Temps weren’t great, but I know there isn’t a lot of airflow in that case, so it’s something to work on. Maybe a Noctua fan will move more air and be more quiet. As it stands, I have some room, but not a lot, for more drives and I have to consider if the FrankenDell will be a better solution for my server that I keep putting off. Noise and temps first, then I will explore more drives.

Overall, it was a fun experiment. Parts fit where maybe they shouldn’t have, and I can see why companies like HP and Dell try to now make proprietary parts. (Though, some of their parts could use a good swap). I don’t yet know what will become of the older HP motherboard and Q6600 that where originally in the 6512p, but I also have an AM3+ motherboard around somewhere without a home. Hmmm, I wonder if I should get a FX processor and pit it against the intel CPU’s like the Xeon. To be continued………maybe.

Link to the YouTube video about the HP FrankenDell.

And of course, back to the blog section