With less Juice

March 8, 2011


This stuff used to be so good.

After making a post about energy drinks, I thought I’d also post about Rockstar’s Juiced energy drinks. They’re made with juice! Or at least, they used to be. You see, the original cans were filled with 70% juice. They were wonderful. I actually skipped regular Rockstar and went straight for these guys. After a while, they reduced the Juice portion down to 50%. Ok, half is still not bad. I can still taste a lot of the juice and I don’t feel too bad about downing an energy drink (if that’s possible, feeling bad that is.)

Today, I ventured to Safeway to snag one and when I took a swig from the can, I noticed that it now said there was only 10% Juice. WHAT? Seriously? You went from 70% to 50% and that felt like cost cutting already. But 10 freaking percent is just ridiculous. That’s not Juiced like your title says. That’s a spritzer. Lightly sprayed with juice. Pathetic. The taste is different now, very much noticeable as it’s now more energy drink and less juice. That’s sad. More juice, please. I’m going back to Red Bull from now on.


My friend Red Bull

March 7, 2011


Red Bull… it gives you jet propulsi- wait, that’s not how it goes.

Warning: This post is kind of a rambling post, nothing important and totally unorganized opinions.

Ah, Red Bull. The “hate it or love it” de facto choice for when it comes to energy drinks. I love the little hyper bombs. For the longest time, I didn’t know that it was actually made by the Australians and that it was created in 1987. 1987! It must have been destiny.

I can’t tell you how many times Red Bull has been the savior for my dragging moments. I remember downing an RB in preparation for the dread Black Friday sales, both while as a shopper and a store employee. Insane.

Some people claim that RB doesn’t do anything for them and that it’s useless if it has no effect. I’d concur except that I’m lucky enough that RB still exerts that uplifting jolt in my body. And I believe that I’m part of the minority who actually enjoy the taste of this drink. It’s sour tang rings through your body, almost like an announcement of, “Hey, check what I got!” It may not go down easy for everyone, but energy drinks aren’t supposed to. At least, I tell myself that. Long nights, late nights, and even those no-night overnighters,  this little can has always been an easy access potion of booster power. The only competitors when it comes to stimulant beverages would be coffee and tea. But both have caveats, too, that can wreak havoc if you don’t plan ahead.

Coffee tastes great (for those who like the taste) and can easily be customized to your preference with a simple dousing of milk, cream and sugar. It’s also almost always served hot, which in itself is a stimulus to your body. So, what could go wrong? Well, coffee’s blast of energy is just that, a blast. After that coffee high, you’re gonna come back down. It’s a quick road trip so be prepared to venture back for another cup o’ Joe a few hours in. Rinse and repeat. Coffee also takes a while to prepare, be it “drip” or the drive-thru at Starbucks. And coffee has the ill-wanted effect of playing tricks on your stomach and can induce a stint in the bathroom. Coffee also has a high penchant for staining your teeth. Yeah, coffee isn’t so great when you really think about it. Too bad it tastes great in the morning. I love macchiatos.

Tea is supposed to be the drink of the sophisticated. And rightfully so, it’s energy inducing prowess is smooth, livening you up without making you seem like a maniac. And it doesn’t wreak havoc on with your bowels, all the while having a (specific) taste that diehards will spend their entire lives trying to find the perfect blend. The only things I can faults I can find for tea are it’s taste and the energy duration. The often times bitter taste and boring mystique create a barrier that many young people find hard to break through. As for a long lasting smooth energy burn being a fault, it can only be acquitted by the fact that this is not a great drink for late night because you might find your mind wandering in the wee hours, even if your physical energy level maybe dormant and waning. As with coffee, tea is great for those who love it. I love prefer Oolong, Earl Grey, and a great Asian milktea. Just doing it at night isn’t such a great idea for me.

Red Bull is available in most stores in their small 8.4oz cans. They also make them in two larger sizes, too. It’s just weird seeing them go large but it makes sense. With the likes of Rockstar and Monster shipping huge cans, RB definitely had to follow suit to maintain is drinkership.


More blowup-y goodness

February 28, 2011


Picture: Capacitors exploding like party poppers, my actual video card.

That’s right, yet another post about some sort of mishap/adventure I’ve had with some piece of computer component or technology. This time, it was my video card.

After doing a recent modest upgrade to the main parts of my computer, my video card was still trudging along like a true trooper. NVIDIA released the GeForce 8600GT in April of 2007 and XFX released an overclocked “XXX Edition” shortly after that. At the time, I’d just finished a computer build in the summer and followed up the holidays by treating myself to a video card upgrade for Christmas by nabbing XFX’s card. After tossing it into my system, I immediately noticed two things, it was hot and it was loud. Sure, it was a mid-range card and heat wouldn’t be too bad, but the noise was unbelievable. This was all due to it’s tiny heatsink fan, imagine something like a 60 mm fan.

Since it was so small, it would need to spin really fast to keep the chip at bearable temps at overclocked speeds. What resulted was a high whirring sound that was woefully ill-representative of it’s cooling performance. In fact, in a test where I actually opened my case up and stopped the fan with my fingers, I got total silence. It was the loudest thing in my case! It easily was the single source of ridiculous noise coming out the side of my computer. I immediately went in search of an aftermarket cooler to mount on so that I could alleviate the stressing heat and the brutal noise. After placing on a Zalman VF900-Cu LED heatsink fan onto the card, it performed brilliantly thermally and acoustically. Cool and quiet, this guy became my soldier for light gaming since the end of 2007 till just a week ago, over three years of work.

It’s demise came loud and sudden, a popping sound emanating less than a foot away from my right leg. After jumping in fright and then calming myself down, I checked the inside of my case and couldn’t find any wreckage. Thus, I trekked on usage for another day. That is until the next day. My computer started show artifacts and glitchy graphics on the desktop itself followed by having the display driver crash repeatedly. I wiped, reinstalled and upgraded drivers in safe mode and still no avail. My computer was now starting to lock up even before finishing to load it’s system tray apps (to which I have a bunch.) I’d read on some forums that heat might have been an issue, but I’d dusted the card recently so airflow should not have been an issue, especially for my better performing cooler. Many others said the chips might have cracked and that I should toss it into the oven to bake it. Quite insane.

There was one good advice from someone online. He said to take the card out and examine it. You just never know what you might notice could be wrong unless you fully unplug the card and take it out to review. So, I did just that. The card looked all good and fine until I notice the bottom right hand corner of the card. What manifested there is the photo I took at the top of the post. Three capacitors had burst their tops like party poppers. I didn’t even know this was possible because I thought they were solid capacitors. I was definitely NOT plugging this back into my computer. The next day, I went video card hunting for a replacement. For pretty much the same price I paid years ago for the 8600GT, my computer’s graphics are now powered by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX460. A marvelous card with great performance that, just six months ago, was $200 brand new.

As for my now dead 8600GT, I found that there were many reports of the same three capacitors bursting on many others’ cards. It turns out XFX’s supplier was loading up the card with low quality, and in some cases, fake solid capacitors that were prone to bursting. Most others cards hit the fail wall after the first year or two, mine got an extra year that I owe to the extra cooling. Andrew now has the carcass and is looking into whether he can replace those caps and maybe revive the bugger. If he can, it’ll truly be amazing. For myself, I’ll continue blasting along with my new card because realistically, 2-3 generations of cards have passed and it was time to move on.


Early morning, Long computer rant

February 4, 2011


Ack, the sun! It burns!

You know, most of my posts are done at god-awful hours of the night. Right now, it’s probably 6 or 7 in the morning. That doesn’t seem bad. Wake up, get dressed, get on the computer for a post. In actuality, I’ve just gotten back from breakfast with some friends. A meal with friends? That takes ages. I’ve been up since 5AM. That’s right, I got up at 5AM and it was actually on my own accord. I invited some friends to breakfast because apparently waking up early randomly today was a trend. Side note: When I left the house (and when I came back, too) the sun wasn’t even up yet.

I upgraded some computer parts over the last week or so. Went with Sandy Bridge, that’s the latest in Intel’s line of computer processors. That entailed  also upgrading what is essentially the core components of a computer, i.e., the CPU, the motherboard and the RAM. I got some great prices on the parts with the help of some sales and a rebate. The annoying part was actually taking out the old parts and putting in the new. You see, quite a few of us have the good old Antec 900 computer case. This guy is amazing, it comes stocked with 4 fans and room to add a fifth! Airflow is superb and I know many a new computer builder still going out to buy them. However, there are some faults.

The first fault is that there are no air filters on any of the fans, removable or not. What it equates to is the amazing airflow also encourages amazing dust flow. I swear, I open up the case once every few months to find nearly everything with at least a fine layer of dust snow. In some cases, dust cake. UGH.

The second fault I notice is that for you to have optimal airflow, you’ll want less cables obstructing it’s path. That would incur that you do some cable management inside the case. Well, that’s where the 900 fails in my mind. In early versions, there were no cable management holes cut out, basically requiring you to pray that you could get a cable to bend and staying out of the way. In later versions, including the one I own, they cut two holes to the side of the motherboard. That’s better, but they’re basically worthless, too. The holes are placed almost directly next to where a hard drives SATA cables will be positioned. That encourages placing the cable through the hole, but it requires you to either bend the cable in a ridiculous fashion or bend it safely but have it stick out quite a distance from the drive itself. Even once you get the cable into the hole, you’re presented with a slightly idiotic quandry. The SATA ports on the motherboard are basically an inch away from that same whole you just got into. AGH. It’s almost 10x easier to just go straight from the drive directly to the motherboard and not even bother snaking the cable anywhere. I did that and tucked the excess of the cable through the hole, but that still leaves quite a bit of cable obstructing air flow. The other side of the case itself is also very thin, making it difficult to get the side door back on if you have cables looping through the holes.

The third fault is that it is very much a hassle to add or remove a hard drive. The 900 uses a cage compartment system where you can mount three hard drives to a cage. To get to it, you must first remove said cage. This seemingly simple maneuver entails the unscrewing of thumbscrews on BOTH sides of the case, requiring you to pull off both side panels. Also, since you are removing the entire cage, you need to disconnect cables from every hard drive mounted previously in the cage and also disconnect the power cable from the fan mounted at the front of the cage. Once out, you can then mount a hard drive using 2 (nearly proprietary) screws to both sides of the cage. From there, reinsert the cage into the case, reconnect all the drives in the cage, reconnect the power for the fan, screw in the 8 cage mounting screws and then close both side panels.

Seriously, to install a single hard drive requires to unscrew no less than 12 screws (side panels and cage screws) and disconnecting too many cables which you no doubt spent a lot of time trying to route in crazy places. GAH.

The Antec 900 is a case with great airflow and lots of hard drive mounts. However, it’s not a great case to work with as it falls short in a few key areas. If you’re a person who builds and forgets, this case is fine. If you’re like me and you find yourself working inside the case every months (maintenance, cleaning, new parts), you’ll grow tired of it’s weaknesses very quickly. I’ve used it for three years because I wanted to justify the price at which I bought it (90 bucks back then) but nearly every single occasion where I’ve opened it has cause me frustration and longing for a new cast. Thus, I’ve gone and upgraded to a different case with still great airflow but improves on all the faults of the 900.

I only did this because I had some special financial backing from a few friends, so I got this new case really cheap. It’s a Cooler Master HAF X, a full-sized tower case. It’s huge and it’s heavy. So much so that it actually came with wheels to mount on the bottom. I transplanted my entire pc over to it and it was very easy to do. This case also has excellent cable management that can make even a novice look like a pro. For the owners of the 900, it might not be feasible to just go and buy a new computer case. As for a stickler like I am and coupled with wishing for a new case for so long, this move has been delayed enough.

Post has been edited for typos and some grammar issues.


Technical failure

January 25, 2011


A nerdy computer related post. Just ignore this post if you don’t care.

Pictured above is a Western Digital Elements external hard drive. I have one just like it: 2TB and it’s plugged into my htpc in the living room. The little guy serves as a home for my Asian Dramas (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, the whole bit) and works well because each series itself is averaging 20-40 GBs. Yesterday, I was transferring over a new series so that I could enjoy it on my living room TV later that night. I started a regular copy and let Windows take care of it. Weird because I usually make sure TeraCopy handles Copy/Move operations. Oh well, it should be fine. Worst comes to worst, it crashes and I have to restart the transfer. That’s still time lost, but I’ll be ok.

It’s now dead.

What happened totally baffles me still. An error pops up telling me that it can no longer read from the source, a portable 500GB drive I use for transferring on-the-go. I frantically check what happened with the 500GB drive, but it’s fine. So, I decide to restart the transfer. Well, now it can’t read my 2TB drive. I guess when it failed it locked up the drive and possibly killed the partition table. I freaked out a bit but I remember that you can rebuild partition tables, so I do some research and go about doing so. Instead of finishing and being greeted with a working drive, I’m now greeted with a drive that’s not initiated and that the info is corrupt. Great. Looks like I’ll have to reformat.

After several attempts to quick format, my drive still isn’t alive. Windows just gives me a cryptic error message that says it wasn’t able to complete a format. Lame. I try a full format. The bad part about doing so is that it’s incredibly slower. Couple that fact along with 2TB of space and you’re looking at hours before you see the finish. In this case, I estimated 10 hours. It was 8pm. That puts the ETA at 6AM. Uhhhhh. I let it run and eventually went to bed. When I awoke today, I get the same error message before. DARGH.

I ran some diagnostic tools from WD and they say my drive is essentially dead. I’m still under warranty, so they’re shipping me a new replacement drive and then I’ll send this one to them. Total suckage. I’ll be using TeraCopy for sure next time, that thing makes copy/moving files an almost guaranteed safe thing. You can also try SpinRite, but I just didn’t feel like wasting more time and warranty coverage allowed me to get an immediate shipment processed.


TRON: Legacy

December 18, 2010


Pictured: Daft Punk at the premiere of Tron: Legacy

I remember watching the original TRON movie back in 2000. Even then, it’d been an old movie at 18 years old. It was pretty weird seeing something kind of low tech looking yet knowing that it was supposed to be considered high tech at the time of it’s release. My biggest comparison at the time would have been The Matrix. But, I knew that this was the matrix before the Matrix was even thought of. I thought the movie was ok, but I knew there were people out there who considered it a huge classic.

This week, I watched TRON: Legacy. Literally 28 years since the original came out and a decade since I’d seen the original, this was a long time coming. So long in fact, that I had to go back and rewatch TRON because I didn’t remember a thing besides the light cycles. If watching TRON in 2000 was an interesting experience, watching it in 2010 was a wild one. Everything seemed super old, I was half expecting to hear more Pong and Pac-Man sounds come out of my speakers! But after going through it, I was ready for Legacy.

I actually watched Legacy at on opening night at the midnight showing in 3D. They said a majority of the film was done in 3D, not just converted. I was actually surprised to see that there was no line at all for this movie and I assumed it was either because only old people would be going to watch it (those old enough to remember the original) or because a storm had just come in and people didn’t feel like going out to the movies. I ended up in the theater about half an hour before show time and only half the seats were filled. By the start of the trailers, all seats were packed, amazing.


The movie was pretty awesome, the whole “TRON 3D in your face” was done pretty well, although I can imagine it not being needed since the CG was done really nicely. I can definitely see the TRON clothing style coming back into fashion after this movie, albeit in clubs and junk. A major highlight for me was when Daft Punk had their cameo in the movie. Daft Punk actually did the soundtrack for the movie and it was EPIC. Mixing old school with modern house and the occasional classical thrown in made it an incredible music experience while watching this movie.


Light Cycles!
Of course, everyone wants to talk about the new generation Light Cycles. Those things were wicked! When I started to miss the old school Light cycle, it shows up in the movie, too! Haha, very cool. And there’s a huge surprise at the ending battle with jets. Let’s just say, I’m still speechless and I want to watch it again.


TRON: Legacy is definitely a great movie. Online reviews say the ending it pretty weak, but seriously, how many movies can top their cult classic forefathers? This movie has great action, awesome light showings, and to top it all off, this offering is coming from DISNEY. You can’t go wrong with this movie, 3D or not. And I’m definitely getting this movie when it comes out for our homes.


Caked on Dust

December 11, 2010


You know what’s gross? Opening your computer to find it with tons of dust bunnies breeding like mad. Ok, that’s not a very accurate way to describe it, but it’s pretty messed up. Most of us don’t see the inside of our computer case often, if at all, unless we’re installing something new into it. Realistically, that’s the better part of a year or two. When we do, we’re are exposed to the dusty caked-on nasties that have grown and developed since the last time we opened up our beastie (maybe even from the time before). I had a new hard drive to install today, so I thought it was a good chance to spray the insides.

Oh, this is by no means a guide to cleaning your computer. Take it as just friendly advice.

Suit up
Wear a face mask and maybe gloves, it’s dirty inside and things will definitely go flying. You don’t want the crud on you and you’ll most definitely won’t want to be sucking the gunk into your lungs either.

Blast that foo!
Seriously, disconnect your cables, drag the big guy (your computer) out into your garage or yard (don’t do it in your house), and blast that sucker with some compressed air. Remember, short bursts do the trick or else you’ll soon find yourself with a wet computer that won’t be happy when it comes time to power up. Hit the major hotspots first: Fans and heat sinks.

That can is going to get cold fast as the result of a chemical reaction, so either have patience as you wait for it to get back to room temperature and continue or else have a secondary can so you can switch off.

Spray your cards, drives, and cables. Heck, give a blast of your mobo, it’ll start snowing dust. Finally, blast the case inside and out.

If you think you’re done, go again.
The thing with dust is that it’ll creep everywhere in your case. Every crevice, crack, or gap will be a hiding spot for these critters. If you’ve blasted every visible area, it’s time to get creative. Grab a flashlight and start probing around inside. You may have to grab a screwdriver and pull out some hard drives or a sound card, but really, check everywhere. You’ll be surprised to see that dust gathers in the smallest of places, kind of like how sand at the beach gets everywhere.

Feel proud it’s clean, prepare for next time
A clean computer will only stay clean for so long. After a year, you’re going to be in the same situation. It’s ok, that’s normal. If you place your computer on the floor, on the carpet, or have pets, this caked-on accumulation takes no time to form. Make it at least a yearly habit to clean your computer. You’ll thank yourself the next time you go to install that new video card. And, with less dust inside your computer and clearer airways and heatsinks, it’ll allow your computer to breathe easier and be less prone to overheating.

It took me about 30 minutes to clean my computer. I had two cans of compressed air so I could switch off and I was wearing a facemask. It’s actually pretty fun blasting air from the can, that little nozzle makes it feel powerful. Just remember, keep it to short bursts. I actually did a prolonged spray on a piece of cardboard (about a full second) and it got wet, so remember, SHORT BURSTS. Rick knows this firsthand, he ruined some of his own computer stuff a few years ago Smile.

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