Quit talking about the L.A.P.D.

For your information George, my “long ass post” is always UP. < --- Don't do it.

Thanks for the big help, B-Diddy… are you trying to move in on Mark’s compu-guru status? Anyhow, I’ve deleted the log version. Hey George, what are you going to be doing now? Are you living in Portland for the foreseeable future?

Robin, good stuff on the cookies, but I must say as a scientist that your “cook for exactly seven minutes” lacks an error bar. My cookie recipe would go something like:

2.0 +/- 0.3 cups flour, 10 +/- 2 decacups of sugar, 365 +/- [0.3,0.4] drams of water. Cook at 542 +/- 14 Kelvin for 7 +/- 2 minutes or until brown +/- pink. Spit out 0.57 +/- 0.12 seconds after eating. Serves 5 +/- 1.

see? that’s how to get people to use your recipe!! But you get a 10 for the picture.

Make-the-Pain-Go-Away Cookies

Make-the-Pain-Go-Away Cookies

I’ve adapted this recipe, originally called Chocolate Fudge-Candy Cookies, from Maida Heatter’s Cookies. Instructions are pretty much verbatim. The recipe was already one of the easiest and richest I’ve used, but I decided it needed an optional chocolate glaze, too. You know, for the kids.

12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 oz (1/2 stick) butter (unsalted if you want to get fancy)
1 14-oz can unsweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or some kind of hard liquor)
1 cup sifted flour
8 oz (2 ¼ cups) pecans, toasted (see note), broken or cut into large pieces (optional, really)

yield: 55 “rather small cookies”

If you have more than one cookie sheet, adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds. If you have only one, put the top rack in the middle. Preheat to 350?F. Line cookie sheets (or equivalent) with foil shiny side up, trying not to crease it.

Place the chocolate and the butter in the top of a large double boiler or Bain-marie over warm water on moderate heat. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Avoid getting water in the chocolate.

Remove from the heat and wipe the hot condensation from the bottom of pan or bowl with a towel. Stir in the condensed mild and vanilla, then the flour, and lastly the pecans.

Use a rounded teaspoonful of the mixture for each cookie; pick it up with one spoon and push it off with another. Place the cookies 1-2 inches apart on the foil.

Bake two sheets at a time (if you have them), reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back once during baking. Bake for exactly 7 minutes. The cookies will still feel soft; they will become firmer as they cool.

If you bake only one sheet at a time, reverse it front to back once during baking.

Before baking, the dough will look varnished; after baking it will have changed to the dull look of fudge candy.

If you have used a cookie sheet with only one raised rim, as you remove it from the oven, slide the foil off to cool completely. Then slide the hot cookie sheet under another piece of foil with unbaked cookies on it. If the sheet has raised rims all around, let the foil stand on the sheet until the cookies are completely cool. (Or take your chances at being burned and pull the foil off anyway.) When they have cooled, use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks and let stand until the bottoms become dry. (If you don’t have cooling racks, the slatted top of a clean broiler pan turned upside-down works in a pinch.)

Glaze if desired.

Store with wax paper or plastic wrap between the layers.

Note: To toast pecans, place them on a shallow pan in the middle of a preheated 350? oven for 12 – 15 minutes, stirring them occasionally, until they are very hot but not until they become darker in color. They are usually done when they start to smell good. For a quick cool-down, pour them into a bowl and put them in the freezer for 2 or 3 minutes. Chop when cool enough to handle.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze to Lick off Your Fingers Post-Cookie

This is a pretty large batch. Extra may be eaten with a spoon, spread on peanut butter sandwiches, rolled into truffles, and/or smeared on croissants or good French bread.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Bring the cream to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and add chocolate all at once. Shake the pan to make sure all the chocolate is submerged in the hot liquid. Let stand 5 minutes, then whisk smooth. Leave to cool until ready to use.

To glaze cookies: After the cookies have cooled and while they are still on their cooling racks (or sheets), place foil under the racks and pour spoonfuls of ganache on each cookie. Smooth it out with the back of the spoon to coax the glaze to the edges. Some may pour off onto the foil. It may be licked off later. If the ganache has cooled too much to pour, warm it over hot water for a few minutes while stirring. Leave the cookies until the chocolate is set.

Obsessive-Compulsive Variation: Press a toasted pecan half into the still wet glaze on top of each cookie.

Ben’s Excellent Adventure

Hi all. I thought I’d stoop to one small step above the mass email (TM) and use the massblog to give a recap of what I’ve been doing for work recently (and will continue after I graduate in May).

Since last summer, I have been working for a company called Micromagnetics. Our web page is rather bad so far; I wouldn’t click over there unless you want to be unimpressed. Last summer we got $1 million in venture capital from an “angel” investor to develop our first an only product: a magnetic microscope which coincidentally I developed for my thesis research with my advisor at our lab at Brown. The basic idea: we use a super small magnetic sensor (almost exactly what’s in yer hard drive) to see very small-scale magnetic fields. In particular, we can see the fields above a working integrated circuit: a pentium processor, pretty much anything with electrical flow. So the idea is to measure a map of the fields above the surface, do some math, and we can tell exactly where the current is flowing in the chip. This is a super important thing for IC makers to be able to do; right now, if there is a problem with a chip, they generally have to strip away layer after layer and look for a “needle in a haystack” to find the problem; this takes several days to a month the way they do it now. We hope we can reduce this time to an hour by being able to see a change in current flow with this technique. So, we make these things and sell them to Intel, AMD, TI, IBM, etc.

In July we hired a president to run the show, and in September we hired an engineering team. At the moment we are up to 12 full-time employees: six engineers, three business type people, another grad student from our group, my advisor, and myself. Last semester I got a grant from the NSF to develop one particular aspect of this instrument, and we have applied for a few more grants based on other applications. One upshot of this is I have to be a full-time employee to apply for these grants, and they run starting July 1…soooo…I have to graduate by then! Nice to have a “set in stone” date. Of course, Bush’s budget completely axes one of the grant programs we applied to…but it survived last year and hopefully will this year too. We are shipping our first prototype unit to Johns Hopkins this week (they bought it to study some biological applications). Right now, the focus is to get two customers to commit to purchase our “beta test units”. The idea is to have these done by the summer and get them into the company labs so they can start to see how best to use them.

My role is basically to interact with the people who come to visit, to tell them what we can do, and to scan any samples they bring and get good results. Because I am the “point man” in terms of getting results and making customers interested, I feel a lot of pressure to deliver so we can get them to commit some $$$ to buy a unit. It’s stressful and exciting all at once. I am also in the process of exploring some other applications of the technique, trying to publish them and get our name out there. Finally, I’ve done some scanning on a “contract basis” for some of these guys (i.e. they send samples and pay X$ per day for use of the microscope and I tell them what I find). It’s nice because I get to meet the best scientists all over the industry and already two of them have suggested we collaborate on papers (publish or perish! if I ever want to go back into the academic world)

In the next four weeks, we have four companies coming with samples: Analog Devices this week, then Intel, then TI, then AMD. So the next month will be critical. If we get two companies to commit to work with us, then we go out and get another round of funding (~$3-5M). Without the sale of the beta units, funding will be hard to get. If we do get funding, then we hire a few more people and start developing the first “normal model” which will be available to sell in 2004? 2005? in slightly larger quantities (5? 10? 20?)

The other thing I do in my free time is write my thesis. I will defend in mid- to late-April so I can walk in May. After I graduate, I have a standing offer to stay with the company, and I plan to keep with it until we fail or until I get to the point where I am not doing any interesting research any more.

After that, who knows? It’s fun, but a lot of work, so I apologize for my limited communications with y’all. If any of you want to come out for a few days to visit and hang out, please let me know. They pay me a lot more than I am used to spending, so I feel one of the best things I can do with extra cash is to help keep in touch with my people; therefore, don’t let expense keep you from coming on out here! The price of a ticket is nothing compared to seeing a good buddy. As always, time is harder to find! (Besides, as Brandon knows, even though I may pay for plane tickets, I still find a way to get some value out of my “guests”…like having them help me move 2600 lb. tables around.)

cheers, Ben

P.S. I would also be willing to subsidize George’s next haircut…preferably sooner…little hairy wiry tae-kwon-do bad-kung-fu-villian lookin scruffball

George’s Chang’s Celebration

Yay for George!

Here’s the photos I took when we went out on the 9th to Chang’s.

We went to the Chang’s on 99E. How far is it? When you start to think you must’ve passed it and should turn around, keep going about another mile. It’s on the right.

Mark, George, Colin, Diana, Robin. Note, I am the only one sticking with the traditional root beer. How pitiful.

Mark’s standard bowl except with mushrooms and brocolli since it was dinner and they had the fancy stuff out!

Mark’s spinach dish. The spinach takes up way too much space in your regular bowl pre-cooked. Perfect to make a nice side dish. Just add garlic, salt water, and oil.

The dinners at Chang’s feature questionable fish. George’s dish smelled extremely foul, he couldn’t eat it, but the waitress was cool and said to not worry about it and took it away.

George is happy with his next bowl (third and last, btw–the George of old is as faded as the Chang’s of old).

The ladies! Chang’s, I always thought, was more of a guy thing. I mean, how many women try to eat four bowls?

Colin and George had me pour some of my root beer into their ice creams. Nice memories, but again, if they were going to do it right, it’d be full glass of float.

Final verdict? While I don’t want to go every week again, I do sometimes still get that Chang’s craving and when I have it, man does it hit the spot!

Perhaps it’s fitting that the Chang’s outing experience be superceded by this awesome sign. Whenever you all are in town again, we’ll go to Chang’s, but we’ll also go to a ton of other great restaurants which we’ve discovered since our Chang’s days.


The Chang’s Experience

So, I figured I’d do a write-up on Chang’s since we all went to celebrate George having done well on his thesis orals. In gearing up to do this write-up, however, I realized that, no matter how long our garlic breath lingered, no matter how full our stomachs were, our memories are far richer and last a great deal longer than the food itself.

With Ben’s and Chris’ passing to the East and with Chang’s closing its Burnside location, any outing to Chang’s will never match the memories we had. So, that’s what this article is about really. To keep us in touch, to help us remember the great times we had, and to remember the Chang’s of by-gone days.

I invite all of you to edit this article and add your own thoughts or memories relating to our Chang’s outings…


bbq!I don’t remember why we started going to Chang’s but I remember I had already graduated from Reed. Honestly, I don’t remember if it was the 95-96 or the 96-97 school year that we (Chris, Ben, and I) went almost every Friday for lunch. Chris and Ben already knew each other pretty well from physics and whatnot, and there was one summer when Chris was working in the reactor and pretty much he and I had a BBQ at the RCAs every weekend, along with playing Doom 2 and swimming in my apartment complex’ pool. So that’s how we started hanging out… I think poor Chris had no one else to hang out with that summer except Derek and Jenny, of course, oh and Amy next door to Chris, but I don’t think they were into the BBQ thing quite as much as us.

Anyway, I think the physics people went to WWD every week the year before and that either fell apart with the new school year or Ben and Chris lost interest or something… or maybe it went on but they wanted to add yet another weekly outing to their calendars. So, I was working for Reed and so my lunchtimes were always free (man, Reed was pretty sweet to work for). Once in a while we’d string along some of Ben or Chris’ dormies.

Chang’s was great, but by the end of the school year I was getting a little sick of it. I kept suggesting we go to other places, since for me it was the company that mattered. Still, I suppose if we had gone to other places, our Chang’s memories would’ve been a little diluted. I had a set bowl I would always make (pork, carrots, spinach, green onions, some hot peppers, noodles, 1 soy sauce, 1 sesame oil, 1 oyster sauce, 1 garlic). Ben and Chris would load up on the hot oil, but I always thought the hot peppers were the fresher ingredient and wasn’t as oily. I would usually not do as many noodles the first bowl so that I could have a good Mushu thing going with the Chinese pancakes and Hoisin sauce. Once in a while I’d vary the recipe just for kicks and I often just got a bowl of spinach, garlic, and oil (a dish my mom used to make all the time).

Fondest memories? Chris getting hot sauce in his eye. Chris putting soy sauce in Ben’s root beer as Ben was away getting another bowl and then not being able to keep a straight face about it. I loved how the waitress, and later on the waiter, would know as soon as we walked in that we wanted a booth, a pitcher of root beer, chopsticks, and no soup.


It was me and Chris’ senior year which was the Changs year (that was 96-97). I remember because I never even went to Chang’s before that year’s HA training. I think the first time I went was just before we went up to Mount Hood…it was Chris, Claire, Dharma, and I…and there may have been someone else. And I think our normal day to go to Chang’s was usually Thursdays..because I remember having a class at 1:00, so we went early..leaving around 10:30 in the morning. Some days Melhus would just come into my room, grab my leg, and start trying to yank me off my bunkbed onto the ground. In general, Thursdays meant that I’d be in either Mark or Chris’s car roughly 45 seconds after I woke up. This was typically a great excuse when I inevitably came up on the short end of the Changs-cramming eat-a-thon. I was usually hustling (and in pain) trying to make it to that class. I remember now, it was a Philosophy class: Ethics. Was that the one where CDC taught it and I accidentally suggested to Alex Stein that he ask CDC what was the ethical basis of sleeping with your thesis students? And then he actually went and did it, in front of the class and about 50 people who just came to see the carnage??

I remember the guilty pleasure of using Mark’s Vollum funds to fund the bowlage. Mark was the only person who was creative enough to vary his bowls on a regular basis. I think Chris and I just did the same thing over and over like robots. I also remember going to Chang’s the day I took my GREs…with my dormie Mike and some others. I remember George’s four-bowl day…I think it was at night actually. I remember the year after I graduated getting a story from Kati Weinstein. She was an HA that year and had gone to Changs, and had written on her door “Gone to Changs”…and one of her dormies asked her when she got back…”Who’s Chang?” Having our table all set up when we walked in was a pretty fresh moment too. And talking to the people who worked there (they were all freaky struggling-artist types..that one guy was in a band called Beef right?? And Chris was actually thinking about going to see him play, as I recall).

By about December, Mark and Chris and I could all know automatically whose rogue food had gotten mixed up into our bowl and would generally fling the offending item towards the root beer of the guilty party. I do think my #1 favorite meal would still be Chang’s or the equivalent, and I think the reason has to be the kind of meats they have there and the ability to add an essentially unlimited amount of garlic and sesame seeds/oil. Most painful Chang’s moment: all of us getting our bowls and realizing we didn’t yet have chopsticks…for some reason we all waited with the food right there next to a perfectly good fork…and didn’t start eating until they brought us sticks. Mark’s best homemade fortune cookie: “You like cookies!”.

Ben’s bowl: Beef, noodles, carrots, celery, bean sprouts, water chesnuts, baby corn? (did they have it? I can’t remember), mushrooms (for dinner), 2 soy, 1 1/2 garlic, 1 oyster, 3/4 hot sauce, 1 sesame. Bowl order: sauce, meat, veggies, noodles. Pile o’ food MUST rise 2.5″ above the lip of the bowl. Lots of sesame seeds. Open but don’t eat the fortune cookie. One mint: strongly recommended. Toothpick: required. Softserve: only for the strong of heart. Watering the bowl: avoid at ALL costs.

Speed walking into Chang’s: 4.7 MPH. Speed walking out of Chang’s: 2.1 MPH.


Wow, Mark. Those summer bar-be-ques were the best. I think I might have eaten more food (on average) during those bar-be-ques than on the average Chang’s trip. Of course, stretching the eating out over a six-hour period makes it a little easier to cram it all in… It is funny though how grilling, drinking Super Big Gulps, playing Doom, and going to Chang’s really set the groundwork for friendships between the varied personalities in this group. Amazing… And Mark, you were my only friend that summer, as you may recall, the other two (Jenny the good friend and Derek the roommate) hooked up on the first night that I spent in the apartment.

“You want some cereal Derek? Errrr… Jenny !?!”

I think that the WWD became an institution for me after graduation. I went there plenty while working as the Associate Director of the Reactor, then I discovered the Chavez- another story for another day. I don’t remember how Changs became weekly, because I think we rotated the site a few times at the begining (e.g., Than Thao (Sp?), Oasis Pizza, and FuJin are all places I remember going to on Hawthorne for lunch). By the spring semester, there was never a question where we were going.

Anyway with so many Chang’s trips under my belt, it’s hard to pick out a few classic moments. I will say that I recall getting hot sauce in my eye at least twice and probably three times. But it wasn’t really memorable until Mark and Robin made a group of us individualized fortune cookies. I remember laughing like crazy: “Hot sauce is not Visine.

I still can’t believe that the original lunch price was around $5. What a deal! Shrimp was only at night or on the weekends, and there was the occasional wire in the spinach. Then the drinks were no longer bottomless, and it became dishonorable to have the cook add water during the grilling process. The evolution of the honor/dishonor of events at Chang’s will always be shrouded in mystery or at least in one off-hand comment that stuck. For Ben, there seemed to be a quantitative measure of how much your bowl was piled above the rim, and my bowls were always smaller, weaker, or whatever. Trash talk was common, but no one ever got too bent out of shape…. Not like that plastic Bam-Bam club that I had my junior year, that thing caused A LOT of problems….



Add Your Name Here:

Bleh work bleh work

I find that the day of the week has no relation to how motivated I am to work. I suppose the cliche is that Mondays are days when everyone just feels a bit sluggish and not much work gets done. But I’ve also heard that Fridays are whoohoo, end of week, let’s party days and not much work gets done then either. And of course, who could forget hump day; no one works on Wednesday.

Well, cliches aside, I find I don’t feel like working almost every day. And then some times I do feel like working and I work really fast and of such high ?CARTMAN?qaleetay?/CARTMAN? that I figure it makes up for days like today.

Anyway, thought I’d waste even more time by posting something…


Mark’s PC Project part 3

Alright! It feels good when you solve a problem and set things right.

I’m glad I took the time to wonder if other people have the same problem with their computers. I thought it was reasonable to rule out memory since below 50 degrees C really isn’t all that hot. So I hopped on the web and started with my RAM.

Going to Corsair’s website lead to their support forums. I love their support forums; they have great response time and have several helpful FAQs up.

Here’s one topic: http://www.houseofhelp.com/v2/showthread.php?s=bccc0fb38b2b172374fc911d6929883d&threadid=10464

It describes my exact setup. I took their advice and set the CAS Latency to 2.5 and everything booted up fine and the RAM test utility that I downloaded went well! Finally!

So, since not much was on the computer yet, I reformatted and installed Windows yet again! This time, though, I took a chance and booted from the WinXP CD (just like I did the very first time) and it worked flawlessly! Nothing like bad RAM settings to suck up three days from your life, huh?

So, now I either settle with this RAM set to a slower setting or I trade it in for what they suggest, the LL RAM… Will decide later… for now I’m playing Fallout (funny how much of an overkill this system is for Fallout)!

Mark’s PC Project part 2

(I have no idea if this is worth it, but I’ve been thinking maybe I should edit these two articles so that non-PC techie people can read them and know what I’m talking about. Ah, maybe later. You know, I had meant to take photos of the installation process, but I was too embroiled in it to remember… Sorry for the dearth of images.)

Refer to my previous article for the plans and theory of upgrading/getting a new PC. Basically, I wanted to get a nice little mini-PC to take to LAN parties, but also to minimize the amount of space our stuff takes up and hopefully to lessen the sound coming out of our PCs collectively.

Juicy parts--the Shuttle mini-system, 2 sticks of Corsair XMS PC2700 256MB RAM, Zalman 3100plus HS, Duron 1.3, Maxtor HD
Juicy parts–the Shuttle mini-system, 2 sticks of Corsair XMS PC2700 256MB RAM, Zalman 3100plus HS, Duron 1.3, Maxtor HD

The first step was to back up all the important stuff of ours to CD. I needed to export Outlook email and contacts to external files, zip up our Favorites folders, collect the rest of our unique data, and burn it all to a CD. (I actually ended up never using the CD since I never had to reformat any hard drives and I had the foresight to stick all of Robin’s old files on my old computer so that when it became her computer the files were already there. But the CD is handy to have around just in case.)

After I got a nice back-up, I ripped the two computers apart. I removed the Athlon and GeForce4 from my computer, set them aside nicely… I took out two of the case fans and taped a piece of cardboard covering the gaping hole in back that one of the fans left. I put in the GeForce2MX from Robin’s computer into mine and put the new Duron in and the new Zalman HS on. Put the case back on and everything boots up wonderfully!

Zalman 3100plus HS
Zalman fan-shaped heat-sink and fan

Restoring Robin’s files went like a knife through butter. uh… soft butter, not that stuff straight out of the freezer. She seems to be enjoying the quieter, Windows XP Pro, faster computer.

The new Shuttle was not so simple.

The putting together of the computer went without a hitch. First I unscrewed the heatpipe thingamabob and remove it. Then I popped in the Athlon, put a teensy bit of thermal grease on, and put the heatpipe back on. The grease that I used was the same one that came with the Zalman fan, but I noticed that a little packet of the stuff also came with the Shuttle system. I have no idea which one is actually more thermally conductive but figured they were probably close enough that it didn’t matter. I then popped in the RAM and the drives. The first build I did included the HD and DVD drive but no floppy. I figured I wouldn’t need one since the WinXP CD is bootable and launches directly into setting up the OS.

The Shuttle heat-pipe
The Shuttle heat-pipe

Well, it did go directly to the WinXP setup and I went through the process thinking alright this is going smoothly, having never booted from a WinXP CD before… But then for some reason, I kept getting a lot of read errors from the CD and eventually the setup process just sort of died. Okay that didn’t go so well… I remembered that the last time I installed WinXP it was by upgrading an existing Windows OS. But the only way I’ve ever installed a Windows OS in the past was to format the hard drive and boot with a floppy with CD drive support and then run the setup program from the CD.

I remembered from my cursory glance at the BIOS settings when I first turned on the Shuttle that it supported booting from a Zip drive and coincidentally I had one of those in Robin’s old PC. Okay cool, I thought, I’ll have a Zip drive instead of a floppy and then I can still use all my old Zip disks (though in hindsight, I probably would’ve decided to take out that Zip drive eventually since it wouldn’t get used and would just take up room and generate heat (tho very little I would think)).

I had to temporarily take the GeForce4 card out of my new computer and pop it into Robin’s old computer (since its GeForce2 was now in Robin’s new/my old computer–with me?). I then unplugged the new computer and used all those cables in Robin’s old computer, turned it on, and then created a bootable (Win98 DOS) Zip disk with the files needed to support a CD drive. Then I redid that process in reverse–unplug the cables, take out the GeForce4, take out the Zip drive, put the GeForce4 and Zip drive in the new computer, and plug in all the cables to the new computer. Then I booted from the newly formatted Zip disk.

Okay things got a little weird here. The BIOS assigned the Zip drive C, the hard drive D, and the DVD drive E. So I typed in fdisk and made sure that I had the right drive by looking at its size and then created a new partition and all that. Then I formatted D drive and all that was good. Then when I typed setup from the Windows Me CD (remember I’m going to install a Windows OS and then upgrade to XP) it had the default directory set to C:\\Windows. I thought, okay that isn’t right since my HD was D drive. So I changed it to D and then setup did its thing. Its thing was to install some files on C and some files on D and completely screw up the bootable Zip disk.

Shit. So now what? Better sleep on it. It was 2 am Thursday night. On Friday morning I woke up thinking screw the Zip drive!

I don’t want that to happen again and this freaking drive letter thing is weirding me out. So, I rip the floppy drive from Robin’s old rig and pop it in place of the Zip drive. So now I boot up with the floppy and all is right with the world. The hard drive has been assigned C, the floppy A, and the DVD drive D. Anything else would be heresy. I formatted the HD yet again, but this time instead of installing Windows Me, I figure I’d give Windows 2000 a shot. This went well! Then I upgraded to WinXP, but for some reason the setup hung. I thought maaaybe it hung because I didn’t install the motherboard drivers before trying to upgrade to XP. At the same time, though, I started to think there might be a hardware issue.

This might not have been first evidence of some larger issue with the hardware, but it was my first seed of suspicion. It might explain why the initial XP install had read errors. I didn’t know what it was, but at the time I thought the most likely culprit was heat. While not new, the processor I have in there is definitely hot. The GeForce4 didn’t help matters, either. So, I took out the video card and tried again just using the on-board video. If I had to live with just the on-board video, it might not have been so bad since it is a GeForce4 MX. It still hung up on installation.

All this time I’ve been checking the hardware monitor in the BIOS to get a general idea of how hot the system was. About 48 degrees C, which actually isn’t sooo bad, but I thought it still seemed the most likely culprit. So, at this point I had to remove the drive cage to get at the processor. I removed the heat-pipe and made sure the CPU was seated correctly. I wiped the thermal grease off and applied some of the grease that came with the Shuttle case rather than the stuff that came with the Zalman fan. I then put the heat-pipe back on making extra-sure that it was on correctly. The drives go back in (you can’t just connect the drives without locking the cage in for this case since the IDE, floppy, and power cables are so short to minimize clutter), and boot up and look at the hardware monitor. The temperatures dropped to below 30! Still, afternoon turned to evening while I was doing this (each install attempt takes quite a bit of time!), and I had also cracked open the window, so maybe the temperature difference was just reflecting the ambient temp difference. Ah well, so much for scientific method. At this point, I also noticed this smart fan technology where the fan would not spin up to maximum speed until a certain temperature was reached. I turned this feature off so that the fan is always on at maximum. Unfortunately, it made the computer much louder. About as loud as my previous computer, and my disatisfaction with its noise is part of the reason for this upgrade!

In any case, Win2k installation went without a hitch this time! Ooh ooh! So, thinking I was in the clear, I put the GeForce4 back in and tried booting up. Good. I installed the motherboard drivers. Good. Then I popped in the XP CD to upgrade. Good. Everything seemed to be going well! I went about setting up the network and copying my Favorites over, installing software, Office, and whatnot, getting Outlook set up, etc. Super keen!

Then I installed a game, Independence War 2, and copied my save games over and tried to play. It crashed to desktop. I tried again after remembering to set the properties of the application to run in Win98 compatibility mode. This time I get the blue screen with a memory dump. Ah crap. But maybe it’s just this one game. So I tried to install Dungeon Siege. The installation hung and I had to reboot.

Hmmm…. I started to think maybe it wasn’t heat after all and something was wrong with the memory or motherboard or hard drive or I don’t know what!!! I went to download.cnet.com and got a system checking tool. Unfortunately, the one I got, though rated really high, only checked some of the system settings and only checked the first 8 MB of RAM. Still, no problems were detected, so I went back to thinking maybe it was a software issue.

Shuttle PSU
Maybe the PSU isn’t powerful enough for the Athlon AND GeForce4?

I found a bunch of forums for making IWar2 work in WinXP, so I followed all the advice I could find, but it still didn’t work. While I was looking for help with the game, however, I found a link for a comprehensive free memory checking utility.

So I downloaded that and tried it out and guess what? It ran several tests and found a whole slew of errors on the second DIMM! To double check, I pulled that stick out and ran the tests again with flying colors. Then to just make sure it was the RAM and not the slot on the motherboard, I put the bad one in and took the good one out. It passed the tests again! So, I thought, maybe it was the motherboard all this time! On a lark, I put the stick that was out back in and ran the tests again. At this point, the two sticks were swapped with each other from the original configuration. It passed the tests. Huh. Cue twilight zone music.

Mark’s Theory:
Here’s my theory. When the computer boots up it automatically checks memory timing by testing out the first stick. Even though the two sticks of RAM are the same model by the same compay, maybe one of them is actually a little bit slower than the other (in other words, less tolerant to heat). So when I originally set up the system, the faster RAM was in the first slot and the computer thought all the RAM was like it and set its timings aggressively. The second one couldn’t keep up and crashed the system or caused errors. When the slower one was in the first slot, as it is now, the computer set the timings less agressively and the faster stick can keep up just fine.

Here’s why I think my theory is spurious at best. From my experience with other motherboards and RAM and configurations, I had always thought the motherboard checks all the RAM before setting the timing since I’ve had computers in the past with completely different sticks of RAM in at the same time and I don’t recall memory errors. Also, I haven’t checked yet, but I believe you just set the timings in the BIOS, it doesn’t dynamically alter them. And finally, the Corsair XMS memory I got is made for overclocking; they shouldn’t have problems with aggressive settings!

Anyway, with the RAM set in their new places, I was able to install Dungeon Siege, Half-life, and some other games. Half-life crashed the first time I tried playing, and so I went and looked at the BIOS settings again and decided to turn down the AGP to 4x not 8x since I think I have a 4x card. Half-life worked. Things seemed good. I turned the smart fan feature in the BIOS back on. Ahh, nice and quiet again.

I played Fallout a bit on Sunday and things seemed to be going well, but Fallout doesn’t take many resources… George and I installed the graphical NetHack last night and surprisingly it hung, but a quick reboot, turning smart fan off just in case, and we were playing NH just fine.

So, now the computer is there. I am not sure about its hardware stability. Might be motherboard driver issues. Might be normal hiccups… The other computer, Robin’s new computer, is running like silk, by the way. I suppose I can live with a reboot every day or so… seems a bit odd though. And I’m not sure if the smart fan thing, in other words, heat is having an effect.


George passed his orals! -colin


Your benevolent host, JohnnySnake, has decided to post a full list of users and usernames, for those among us who can only see the shadow on the wall (or who don’t know you are supposed to bring food to your orals…duh!). As more users come on line, they will be added.

Secret fact: Sixteen marmots found in sock drawer.

John Chopper AKA Chris Melhus

Secret fact: High-level corporate operative for Dr. Skipper Corp.

Johnny Danger AKA Mark Chen

Secret Fact: Arrested for stalking Al Roker.

B Diddy AKA Brandon Parker

Secret fact: Bathes in rice vinegar.

Johnny Reb AKA Robin Varni

Secret fact: Majority shareholder in www.uglypeople.com

Johnny Woohaa AKA George Wu

Secret fact: Ate 18 Moon Pies in one sitting.

Johnny Srilanka AKA Isuru Senagama

AND, yours truly,

Secret fact: Not… wearing… underwear…

Johnny Snake AKA Ben Schrag

Actually this post has some kind of hidden purpose…that is to maybe try to get some real pictures and brief introductions for each of us on here somewhere, just in case people don’t know friends of friends. Mark you said that’s possible to do right? If we need to do something, let me know. I would love to help any way I can with my meager HTML skills.

sporadic ramblings of a gamer in academia

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