Nelson

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About Nelson

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    LED Head

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    Male
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    PC Modding, Drone racing, Machine Learning, Commodities+Futures Trading

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  1. Day 5: Today's worklog is going to be pretty short, since the only things I really did to day were painting and cable sleeving. Here's a quick shot of the case after it was done in paint: I finished the power supply today as well, so we should be all set to build tomorrow!
  2. Day 4: I started today by test fitting a couple of my components into the case. In this case, I tested that my support structure design for a hovering PCIe bracket could support the full weight of a GPU. It worked just fine. I think that this design will provide a unique look to the finished build, as it is something you don't see in very many cases. Next, it was time to install the front panel USB ports. I used a jigsaw to cut out the square holes. I made the holes slightly larger than required so that I could make sure that they were straight. Once I was happy with the placement, I taped them in place from the back using a piece of gaffer tape and filled the area around them with body filler. I like to use small finish nails to place the body filler into this type of small space because they give you a lot more control than you would have using your hand or a larger tool. Once the filler had dried, I carefully sanded the usb port flush to the case using a small file and a sanding block. I then repeated the process for the second usb port. I also drilled the holes for the front panel status LEDs and headphone/microphone jacks. I soldered wires onto the audio jacks and then fixed them in place from the back with epoxy. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of this step. Next, I wanted to test the paint colors I had selected for this case. After spraying a small sample on the GPUs, I decided to go ahead and paint the GPUs and power supply. I also cut and painted 6 rings from a 2 liter soda bottle. I intend to insert these rings between the fan's blade and the fan to provide a ducted look as well as to tie the hideous black fans into the color scheme of the build without painting them. I refuse to paint fans. Here are the GPUs after painting. I think they will fit into the theme of the build a lot better now! The next five hours were spent working on the power supply and waiting for the filler on the case to dry enough to paint. Working on the psu was dreadful. I started by mapping out the rails by loading each connector individually and measuring the voltage drop. Then, I cut off the old SATA connector blocks and spliced on PCI express 6+8 connectors. Since there was no money left in the budget to buy these connectors, I salvaged them by cutting the middle 6 or 8 pins out of old ATX 24 pin power supplies. I also sleeved the cables with more of the aluminum braid. I only finished about half of the power supply work (the other half will have to be done tomorrow), but it looks decent. By the time the filler had set up to paint hardness, it was about 11:00 at night. I took the case outside and used my car to create enough light to apply the two coats of primer. By the time I was done priming it was 1:00 AM, so I put off another build log and went to bed. Fortunately the primer came out very clean despite the poor lighting, so I should be ready to go to paint first thing tomorrow.
  3. Day 3: I ended up working late on Monday and Tuesday to get everything prepped for paint and cleanup today, so I was too tired to post worklogs as it happened. I'll post the next two this morning, and try to get back on track after that. My first step today was to test fit the motherboard and power supply (which also arrived yesterday) into the case. Everything fit as expected, even though the case had been built without ever seeing the parts. Quite a relief! My next goal was to heat out any dimples on the acrylic. I used a heat gun and a metal plate to bend out any imperfections in the material. Once it was done, it formed very nicely to the case even without any support. I used Loctite Power Grab construction adhesive to bind the acrylic to the sides of the case. I really enjoy using this adhesive in mods because it has a relatively strong grip, binds well to a bunch of materials, and is a rubbery material which makes it easy to scrape off any glue which is pressed out from under the seam. It also has a nice white color which will match well with the theme of the build. While the adhesive set, I went to bend two additional pieces of acrylic that will make up the two bottom corners of the case. I cut the acrylic to size and put it in the oven to heat to a nice, malleable consistency. Once the acrylic had heated, I placed it over a piece of PVC pipe with the same diameter as the corners of the case. When it's heated to about 325-350 degrees, the acrylic behaves almost like a sheet of fabric. It's really amazing (and hot!) Once both corners were completed, I sanded them so that they would easily take paint. It's amazing the difference before and after sanding! Then it was time to secure the bottom corners in place, again using construction adhesive. While I waited for the glue to set, I used auto body filler to fill the cracks between the corners and the bottom of the case. Body filler is another one of my favorite modding supplies. You can hide anything with this stuff! While I waited for the adhesive to set up so I could take off the tape, I decided to work on getting my front panel electronics ready. I took two USB 2.0 port stacks off of old motherboards to use as our front panel USB. The carnage: Next, I soldered wires onto the USB ports in the correct order, terminated them, and sleeved the cables. I used an aluminum braid sleeving for my cables, which is taken from the inside of shielded cables such as parallel printer cables or USB cables. I think that this style of sleeving fits in very nicely with the theme for this build. By the time I had made both of the front panel USBs, the construction adhesive was nice and dry. I went ahead and filled and sanded the joint between the transparent acrylic side panel and the sanded acrylic corner. I then filled the seam between the acrylic and the edge of the wood front and back panels to ensure that the front and back would look like one solid piece of metal when painted. After filling and sanding all the cracks four times, as well as filling and sanding gaps between the bottom panel and the front of the case (if you look at the previous day's last picture you can see that the case's bottom panel does not go all the way to the edges) I had a product that I was happy with, and was able to go to bed.
  4. Thanks Bob, I'm really excited to see how it comes out as well!
  5. Day 2: With the basic structure of the case now finished it was time to start carving out the front and back panels. The first step was to route out a channel to allow the motherboard tray to slide in and out. Next, I cut, routed, and sanded holes for the 120mm case fans on the front and back panels. Next, I routed a 1/4" deep square around each hole to allow the fans to sit slightly inset into the piece of wood, allowing the mounting screws to reach the fan itself. While I was finishing the rear panel, I was greeted by the arrival of another two GTX-480s. Back to the case, it was time to put in the PCI express card bracket. I used an angle grinder to cut it out of an old tower case. The bracket was horribly stubborn, as the seams had been riveted AND fully welded. You only see that kind of quality on early-90s cases! I took some of the back of the case as well when I made my cut, so it was now time to cut the welds to remove only the actual bracket. This took about an hour to do At this point, the motherboard arrived. Unfortunately, it did NOT come with the heatsinks that were shown in the ebay listing. Instead, it came with two mystery cpus, complete with crusty, dried thermal paste. After scraping off the nasty paste, I found they were completely unmarked. Very strange! If anybody has any thoughts/ideas on these cpus, let me know! I'll probably throw them into a system some time later this week to run a few benchmarks and see what their deal is. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the next step, but I screwed in the PCIe bracket as well as routed out another 1/4" hole for the power supply to sit in. Since the motherboard also didn't come with the specified IO shield, I also routed out a hole for the ports. I slipped a bit while routing this hole, so I'll have to go back with some filler and fix it later on. Finally, I permanently screwed+glued the front and rear panels to the bottom panel, making sure to have the bottom slightly raised so that it lines up with the thickness of the acrylic when it is installed. I also slid in the motherboard tray to add some temporary support while the glue dries and before I fix the acrylic in place. That's about it for today. Since the motherboard didn't come with the "included" heatsinks, I may just drive to Micro Center tomorrow and pick up a pair of regular heatsinks to go with it. I'm confident enough that it isn't "cheating", and really don't want to make heatsinks out of scrap aluminum fins, etc. Let me know if you guys have any thoughts on either the heatsinks or the mystery CPUs. Until tomorrow!
  6. Day 1: This morning, I woke up and dove right into CAD to try and get a final design worked out for my case. Even though I'm doing a slightly different type of design, I stuck to my three modding principles: Clean design, good airflow, and authenticity (I never try to turn the PC into something it is not, but rather try and exemplify the qualities that the format has itself, especially in some of the classic designs that got PC gaming+modding started). While I chose not to go with an "authentic" retro case design, I did incorporate some classic design elements that I'm a big fan of: The case's focal point is a large, curved sheet of acrylic which forms the top and left side of the case. Working with acrylic will be very interesting, as I haven't used it in a build for about five years, instead choosing to use tempered glass. The front of the case will have four USB 2.0 ports, a power switch, and four status LEDs which are not pictured. The entire outside of the case will be finished in a matte aluminum finish, while the inside will be painted a gloss white. Since this is an air cooled build, I didn't build in any radiator mounting points. I set up a strong front-to-back airflow pattern, making sure that the front intake fans will exhaust directly on the rear of the GPUs to provide a bit of extra airflow and hopefully shave a few degrees off these already very hot cards. The rear exhaust fans are positioned higher up to remove warmer air that tends to rise to the top of the case in open builds such as this. With the basic drawings finished, it was time to choose materials. I initially planned to build the case in metal, which would make it much easier to get the desired finish, but was unable to find sufficiently large panels at a price that was friendly to my budget. Unfortunately, this means building the case in wood. I went to my local Home Depot, and was able to buy a cutoff of 1/2" birch ply for $5. While I was there, I also picked up two cans of spray paint (in a gloss white and "aluminum look" color for $2 and $3.50 respectively. When counting the $12.48 I spent on fans, and the $3.29 I spent on metal fan grates from aliexpress, that left me with a whopping $8.84 to find a sufficiently large sheet of acrylic to make the top panel of the case. I spent a good two and a half hours looking for this, but ended up being able to get a sheet with a few scratches from Laird Plastics in Warwick RI for the $8 after explaining the project. With $84 cents left for incidentals, I returned home and started work on the case. The first step was to cut out front and back panels for the case. After doing the rough cuts, I rounded the corners slightly using a jigsaw. Here you can see the rough cut, then how it is transformed after routing and sanding: Now that the side panels' rough shape was finished, I turned my attention to the acrylic. The strip was about 1" too wide, so I cut it down using the circular saw and set it to heat (I place large slabs of marble on top of my steam radiators to keep the room at the right temperature because heat escapes so quickly in the winter). At this point, I went and grabbed some lunch. When I returned, my first part had arrived! Next up, I cut out another piece of ply for the bottom of the case and temporarily tacked it in place to support the acrylic during bending. From there, it was time to start bending! While everything went super quick for you guys, bending the acrylic took FOREVER, and thus ended up my day. Tomorrow I'll try to get any sags/dimples in the acrylic straightened out and cut out some of the front and rear panel holes. Until then!
  7. Part 1 -- Parts Selection: After a busy couple of weeks, I was finally able to set aside the next week to dedicate to this project. In preparation for the build, I have gone ahead and ordered all of my components. I'm saving any work on the case, as well as associated items (fans, etc) for the main challenge period on Saturday.. I spent a total of 5 hours on part selection and deal-finding, which I'll take off the start time on Saturday morning. Without further ado, here are the chosen parts (prices include shipping): CPU - 2x Intel Xeon 5670 (6 core @ 2.93ghz): $69.98 Motherboard: Supermicro X8DTE Dual LGA-1366 motherboard (with integrated heatsinks) - $39.99 GPUs - 4x EVGA GTX-480 - $113.97 RAM - 48gb (12x4gb) Hynix DDR3 ECC RAM - $28.00 Power Supply - Dell T7500 1200w OEM PSU - $24.99 SSD - Mystery 128gb SSD (It didn't say!) - $30.00 4x PCI-e 8x-16x riser cables: $7.96 Leaving me with a whopping $35.11 to build and fan my case. Oh boy. Picking parts for this system was a really unique experience. I spent a ton of time searching around on auction sites and classifieds to find deals on really old parts. Most of my parts were found on ebay, where they had been pulled from decommissioned servers. I was able to win the CPUs and memory from auction-style listings, which was great to save a bit of cash. The GPUs were bought from separate sellers on ebay, and one was also bought on craigslist locally. The PCIe risers were bought on aliexpress. I've got a couple of concerns with the parts going forward. Firstly, the power supply is incredibly sketchy. GTX-480s are notorious power hogs, and this setup would be really, really pushing a 1200w supply from a reputable brand. I'm half expecting the used Dell-branded (but probably made by the cheapest OEM in China that week) supply to explode during benchmarking. I'm also concerned that the PSU will severely limit the overclock I can put on the GPUs (and bclk on the CPU). If that wasn't bad enough, the power supply only comes with 2 PCIE 6+8 connectors. It does, however, come with 24 (!!!) sata connectors spread across 2 dedicated rails. I'm planning on leaving the two 12v motherboard connectors on one rail, putting the main ATX connector, HDD, and any lighting on a second rail, then rewiring the sata supplies to have one 6+8 on each. I'm beginning to think that this system poses an actual fire risk... If the power supply does end up working out, however, it looks like I'm on track to meet my performance goals. The distributed nature of the benchmarks I have chosen should (and that's the big word here, should) allow the multiple cores+cards to excel. We'll see once we get everything thrown together. Until next time!
  8. I've decided to try something a bit different for this competition, both to challenge myself and just because it's something different, something light and fun. In addition to the standard World Series rules, I am imposing these restrictions on the build: 1. The build must be finished in one week, midnight to midnight. Components may be ordered before the start of the week to ensure they arrive on time, but research and design time will be deducted from the available build time. 2. The build must cost less than $350, including all components and case construction materials 3. The build must match or beat my current system (6800k/1080) on multithread CPU-Z and on a neural net benchmark using the Tensorflow backend (https://github.com/soumith/convnet-benchmarks) I'm also moving a bit away from my "standard" modding niche (custom '80s and '90s cases and system retrofits) and doing a system with a more modern look to it. Am I crazy? Possibly. But I don't think that it's an impossible challenge. While I am sure that the system will not outperform its modern competitor in gaming applications, and may not be the most competitive mod in this competition, I'm really looking forward to trying something a bit different and having some fun. We'll see how it goes!