Sun May 24 07:58:31 UTC 2009

small iron II

Small Iron: I, II

Build post! Before I get started, I'd like to explain the fairly stupid pun behind the name.

I name my computers after elements, after the venerable MIT hack. Nitrogen was the dual athlon box, Magnesium was the athlon X2 box, and so the next box had to be a heavier element. I picked Iron, because it would be like Big Iron, only small.


All right, let's kick this off with a glamour pic of the components.

The specs are (before overclocking):

  • Intel Core i7 920 2.67 ghz.
  • Radeon 4870
  • Patriot Viper 6GB DDR3 PC1600
  • Cheapest 1 terabyte 7k RPM SATA2 drive I could find.
  • Corsair CMPSU-650TX PSU
  • Then a wireless mouse and keyboard, an external drive box, the motherboard, freebie flash drive, etc.

The 650TX is the little bother to the 750TX, but still comes with the amusing velvet carrying bag.

The 920 is surprisingly weighty, thanks to the integrated heatspreader, as well as its hilarious price. As any hardware nerd will know, the Core i7 uses the LGA 1366 "socket", which puts the pins on the motherboard, and you flip the arm to press them against pads on the CPU. It's a really zero insertion force socket, since there's no insertion being done, more of an aligning. Plus, it's shiny.

It also comes with an amusingly beefy heatsink.

Looking back on the progression of ever-larger stock heatsinks, (My Pentium 133, way back in 1995, used a passive heatsink.) it occurs to me that eventually Intel or AMD is going to hit the limits of air cooling, and have to move to some water or heatpipe solution, that is, if Moore's Law doesn't run out first.

Speaking of physical limits, here's a good shot of the wiggly traces around the socket designed to synchronize signals to the northbridge, thanks to that tricky speed of light.

Assembly was completely unremarkable, except that iron was somewhat balky at booting from the dvd drive, requiring several reboots, and refusing outright to recognize the eSATA box, requiring the drive to be plugged in directly.

Installation of 64-bit Vista was similarly unremarkable, except for missing drivers for the onboard NIC, which had to be installed from the provided driver disk, if you can imagine such a thing.

Steam was slightly more problematic, since I didn't bother to copy it over from magnesium; and thus installed everything from scratch. Steam, for future reference, when I say "pause updating", I mean, "stop saturating my connection you jackass, I'm trying to murder strangers with knives."

This does not mean "pretend to stop updating, then start again after I alt+tab back into tf2". This also does not "stop updating, then refuse to start again", you bastard infernal machine.

Block one is complete, block two will be proof testing of mineral oil immersion cooling and radiator cooling, block three will be as outlined in the original post, and block four, if there's enough time, will be TEC cooling of the CPU. My deadline is September 4th (ISO 8601: 2009/09/04) so I can take it to PAX's BYOC event, though I'll want it to be done before that, for promotion purposes.

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