Tuesday, December 23, 2008


On the second night of building the new system, I walked into Gloria's study, screwdriver in hand.

"How's it going?" she asked.

"Do you smell fear?" I asked.

"No," she said.

"Smell harder!" I said.

If you're wondering when I realized that this "simple" build was going to be something else entirely, I think it was the moment when I realized I was going to need one more tool.

A hacksaw.

That's right. Less than two hours into a simple build, and I'm using a hacksaw on the power supply bracket. Hunter S. Thompson would have taken out a .45 and fired a few slugs into the metal bastard right there.

Preparing to build a system is a decision making process, and the decision I was most confident about was the case. I had decided on the Antec P182, because in my efforts to build a quiet system, this was one of the premier noise-reducing cases available. According to SilentPCReview (a terrific website) and dozens of other websites as well, it was the best combination of airflow and noise reduction available. The P182 features three separate drive chambers and separates the power supply from the main case area to seal off as much noise as possible.

This decision was rock-solid. It was also entirely wrong.

I remember throw-in notices in a few of the reviews that "long" power supplies were an awkward fit. Not having built a system in five years, though, I really didn't understand what that meant. Not until I took my new Zalman ZM850-HP power supply and stared dumbly at the case after I removed the side panels.


So within thirty minutes of starting the build, I'm forced to pull out a fan in the middle of the lowest chamber, because otherwise, the power supply isn't going to fit. That fan is riveted in, by the way.

The power supply cage also doesn't fit, because it's meant for the smaller power supply. The problem with the smaller cage is that the opening on top doesn't fit the fan grille of the 850.

Ah, crap.

That's when I get the hacksaw out, because I'm not blocking part of the fan grille.

Oh, and there's a black plastic separator between the lower chamber and the main case area, but the cables from the Zalman are so thick I have to yank out the separator, too.

At this point, and it's taken a while, I haven't done anything except make this unique noise control case much less unique. I've only just gotten the power supply in, and it's taken longer than it takes most people to build the whole system.

Not helping is the documentation, which is generally sparse for both the case and the power supply. I like lots of documentation, and lots of pictures, and I still generally do everything backwards. This documentation refers to things that can be done without any explanation whatsoever about how to do them.

That's fine for most people, but nothing about this comes naturally to me. Every step is usually a struggle of some kind or another, and while I do eventually arrive at the correct answer to my questions, it's usually my third answer.

That's day one. I spent so much time screwing with case mods and the power supply that it just killed my enthusiasm, and I didn't even try to put in the motherboard until two days later.

When I do, I briefly get my mojo back, because after deciding on the EVGA X58 board (solely because of their ridiculously excellent forum support), I opened it up to find the clearest and most thorough documentation I've ever seen with a motherboard. It's beyond stellar, and there's even a giant fold-out picture of the motherboard with everything lableled, along with step-by-step instructions.

In a word, it's fantastic. So I installed the motherboard into the case and felt good again.

For about fifteen minutes.

I'll tell you the rest tomorrow.

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