Cool vs. Noise — a delicate balance in my quest for the silence of the fans. I ask myself, “just how many fans are too many before I find myself having to crank up the volume on a riveting scene of Burn Notice?” Fans do the job, but they can be annoyingly loud for the purposes of home entertainment.

One of the problems I’m having with Trinity’s fan setup is airflow optimization. There really isn’t enough space to direct air in a straight path over the components I want to keep cool, mainly the CPU. From the power supply, to the mess of wiring, air is buffeting around the case’s many obstacles. I’ve tidied things up quite a bit with wire sheathing and cable ties, but it’s still pretty messy. Read the rest of this entry »

By what was probably my fifth teardown/revision, Silvia had a new lease on life. Maybe I was just used to slow, agonizing hours of talking to an hourglass, but by comparison the performance boost was like night and day. The only trick was getting her started. That darn power button. My earlier attempts at applying pressure to force the connector into place didn’t hold up over time. The connection was intermittent and got worse as it slipped in and out-of-place, getting more and more loose. I fiddled with it so much the connector actually ripped right off the motherboard (yikes!). But I maintained my calm, scraped off the excess solder with an Exacto blade (Mr. Sharpee) and carefully re-soldered it with my fresh new skills. For good measure, I also anchored it with some krazy glue. I really hope that doesn’t come back to bite me later. Read the rest of this entry »

—Silvia (part three)…

December 24, 2011

(image credit: Home Theater Shack)

I stopped by my local Home Depot and bought my first soldering iron. When I was little my uncle had a soldering gun he used for small car related projects. I thought the concept of fusing metal was pretty cool. The pins on the faulty power button connector were so tiny I was afraid of shorting out the board. My early practice attempts at soldering ended in a fruitless, sloppy, unattractive heap on my workbench. Since I was such a novice I needed to learn some basic skills. I found a web tutorial on the proper soldering techniques. By this time I had also learned I could have purchased a better soldering iron and kit from Radio Shack, one of many regrets.

In any case, I had another project in mind that I figured I could hone my skills on Read the rest of this entry »

—Silvia (part two)…

December 22, 2011

Thanks to Dell’s excellent documentation on shall we say not-so-excellent products of the time, I discovered that a bluetooth card could be installed pretty easily (eBay!). That little blue LED lit up for the first time and I was so pleased with myself. I now had the ability to sync my BlackBerry wirelessly, though painfully slow… and not all files were compatible. Yea.. cool.

I started playing with Linux, or more specifically Ubuntu after a serious hard drive crash (another casualty of that fan). I ran one of their recovery programs to try salvage my data, as at this time the only option Windows was giving me was to install a fresh copy. It dumped file fragments in a bunch of folders. (I still haven’t gotten around to piecing them back together as it wasn’t really critical stuff.) Didn’t exactly save the day, but I liked the concept of Ubuntu, its light weight, and simplicity. And I loved the startup sounds of the drum. Read the rest of this entry »

—Silvia (part one)…

December 21, 2011

My very first computer was a Dell Inspiron 600m laptop which I affectionately named Silvia for somewhat obvious reasons. It had a 30GB hard drive, the then spanking new “Centrino” chipset (a 1.3GHz Pentium M processor combined with an Intel wireless card for power efficiency), and a whopping 384MB of RAM. I was so pleased with my acquisition. It was thin for its time and I really liked its shape. The grey on grey plastic with silver lettering and blue accents. The removable optical drive which could be swapped for other components (I also got a floppy drive). Sure it only had 2 USB ports but who cared? I finally had a computer to call my own. It worked great for less than a year, then the power button started acting up, media keys died, fan clogged eventually causing the hard to drive to overheat… Well, this might have been the end, but it actually posed several challenges for me to overcome and learn from. And with the internet, that Dell service manual, and a screwdriver set from Radio Shack Read the rest of this entry »

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