Day 307: New Design/Build Project

As several of my friends already know, I’m in the process of designing a replacement for my current computer. This will be the first box I’ve put together myself, and I’m both excited and nervous. Luckily, my current box is still working (knock wood!), so I should have time to get it finished before I have to have it.

For now, I’ve decided to build a PC rig for graphics/video processing. Since I don’t game, I have slightly different needs than most gamers. I need a bunch of horsepower for things like 3D rendering, frame-by-frame animation, basic video editing and Photoshop, but I understand that it’s different from the kind of thing serious gamers use. I’m still getting input from my geekiest and nerdiest friends (and I mean that in the most loving and awestruck way) to help me decide which components I should buy to build this beast. And once it’s done, I will have to think of a name for it. Still not sure if it will be “male” or “female”, but it might just end up being a kickass “female”. Maybe something like Xena? Or Red Sonja? Hmmm…

I had been thinking that I would like to build a “modded” (or modified) box, but I think that is just a bit too much for me to handle just now. Eventually, though, I hope to make that happen, too. I’m sure it will be both fun and frustrating, as it always is when learning something new.

If you want to see what I mean by mods, start here: or Google “computer case mods” and look at the images.

Here’s one of my favorites:  I’m partial to the Steampunk theme. But I also love these:

There are lots of mods out there that that are amazing works of sculptural art (too many to link them all, but a notable few are at this site), or make me giggle (check out the boombox, the toaster, and Wall-E), but some are just downright ugly. (Look for the toilet computer. No, really. Go look.) The mods that impress me the most are the hand-built cases with hours of work that showcase real artistic talent. Some of those simply have painted cases, but even those are more impressive to me than the case with a window and pretty lights inside, or even the cool-looking tubing for liquid-cooled rigs. Nowadays there are several companies that sell the parts or even pre-modded cases to get the aspiring modder started. Still, I’ll just be happy to get my box put together and have it work when I plug it in and flip on the power.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this look at what I ended up with yesterday:

Day 307: Inside-Out Dell
Day 307: Inside-Out Dell

That is my old 2004 Dell XPS box, with its guts all torn out. The large silvery panel facing the camera is the bottom of the box, and is hiding the power supply, which I can’t figure out how to remove (it appears to be permanently riveted into place). Top center, you can see the original heat sink standing above the rest of the mess, and beside it to the right are my CD and DVD drives (yes, one of each). To the left of the heat sink is one of the two hard drives. In front of that are my audio and video cards, piled up on top of my motherboard, and to their right is the other hard drive. On the chair to the left are most of the plastic covers and such, along with a few of the fans (there are still at least 2 fans in the bottom of the back of the box, to cool the power supply, which no longer works). I used up that tiny can of air on the left side of the table to blow out about half of the dust bunnies before it ran out. I was shocked to find out how little screening there was to keep out dust! See that little piece of slotted black plastic on the chair? That was the air intake. No screening whatsoever! On the table to the far right you can just make out part of the power cord, which I am keeping, of course.

The Dell box is a very pretty blue plastic on the outside, and has lights in the front that can be set to change colors. Even empty (except for the power supply) that box is much heavier than I thought it would be. This was supposed to be a gaming rig, and was near top-of-the-line when I got it for an early Christmas present back in October of 2004. I’m thinking of making parts of it into jewelry, like the CPU (which is pretty small), but maybe I’ll hang onto most of it for now. Maybe one or two of those fans still work. Or something. I don’t think the video or audio cards are worth much to me or anyone else at this point, and those memory sticks are just sad. I’m still amazed at how far personal computing has come in just 9 years. I mean, I consider myself a “power user”, but even I don’t scratch the surface of what some people are doing with their personal or professional rigs. I am awed and humbled by the greatness of others, some of whom I know.

So, that’s about it for tonight. I literally spent about 80% of my waking hours since yesterday morning researching how to build a PC from scratch, and what I should get for what I want the new rig to do, but I haven’t bought anything yet. And now it’s time for bed, then it’s back to work in the morning. The weekends are just way too short!

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