Lets Build – SSD And It’s Elusive Firmware

I did it, you will be pleased to know – but how? The next few blog posts in the “We Must Rebuild” story will be about how I built the new beast and the problems I encountered along the way – so that if you are looking at building your own computer, maybe you won’t be as scared as you see it is possible. I tried to take many photos as I built so that, for example, if you were looking at buying an OCZ 600w PSU like mine, you know and can see exactly what comes in the box, and it may help you make a more informed decision for if you want to go for that exact product, or something a bit different.

Tuesday

Today the case came! Hoorah! It was the right case, it wasn’t damaged, and all the bits came with it – all of which I was fearing. In the morning I had already got up to update the SSD firmware and maybe start getting the board ready for when the case arrived. However, I didn’t count on the SSD update being so fiddly.

SSD Problems

On the OCZ site, it tells you to download this little program (OCZ Toolbox), that will detect the drive and update its firmware. Bingo, I thought. No. I plugged in the SSD to a SATA port (had to unplug my data drive (not OS!)), so I could still boot my normal Windows – (you can’t update the drive you are booting off this way, incidently). I ran the ToolBox, and it did not detect the drive… problem #1. A short time later, I found that my board had to be set in AHCI mode. A long time later, I eventually came to the conclusion that my board did not HAVE a AHCI mode :(, and thus that option was out of the window. The other option from OCZ is a “linux-based” firmware updater tool, however this is not a little bootable image or anything – its like a linux program that you untar and run. Okay fair enough, so I booted my virtual Super Ubuntu in VMWare Player. Gave it full access to the OCZ SSD, and downloaded the file and decompressed it. I wasn’t quite sure what the device was called (should have looked in the linux version of my computer – hover over it and it tells you – mine was sdb1 I think). Even using the commands off the guide, and other ones I found on the internet, still no luck. I don’t have ubuntu installed on my PC – and I could not use my netbook as you can’t use a USB to SATA adapter… problems #2 and 3.

Solution? I remembered I had an installation of BackTrack 3 (UNIX) on a flash drive, and booted my pc up with that. Perfect – it recognised the SSD, could use the little OCZ program, but.. problem #4 – you need internet. Where I currently live, there is no wired LAN – we use wireless, and I did not have the driver (for linux) for my new TP link wireless adapter. After some rooting around, I found a pair of Belkin adapters that I had bought for use with BackTrack3 (investigating WEP network security). Popped one in, then the other (first one was dead – but I think windows likes it) and it worked! I could see networks – so I hit our home network and connect… could not connect.

Problem #5 – MAC address controlling. Our wireless router lets computers connect by registering their MAC address first within the router, and as I was using a different wireless adapter – it’s MAC address was different and could not connect. Just register it, you say? Problem #6 – the router belongs to one of my housemates, and despite asking him countless times to tell us the password for it, he still wont. So we have to ask him to register new things, and he will only do that if he wants to… So again, lets think outside the box – need another way to access the internet – BTFON! If you have a BT homehub and broadband, you can subscribe to BTFON and BTOpenzone. These services allow other BT users to connect through the Openzone or FON network that is now emitted by your router, and in return you can connect to other FON or Openzone spots. As we have BT total broadband at home, bingo – logged onto the FON spot (with the poor ancient Firefox browser in BackTrack3 that didn’t know what JavaScript was… which was an issue).

So after all that, I used my old PC, running BackTrack3, with a compatible wireless adapter, on a BTFON network. Once I had eventually tempted the FON to actually connect and work (JavaScript issues), I ran the command again (fwupd /dev/sdb1) and it connected to the internet, downloaded the latest firmware (2.15) from 2.13 I believe. Finally, SSD firmware updated and ready. At some point, I think when I was in Windows – I formatted it to NTFS, but that was earlier – I know this because when I tried to boot Windows again, it kept hanging on the loading screen.. I had somehow managed to break both of my 1tb HDDs.. probably by trying to give them some OCZ firmware.. That put my main PC out of service for the rest of the build. Eventually fixed it by letting it CHKDSK /r from a Windows repair disk  that it made a while ago (took about 4 hours).

Recommendations: Check whether your board has AHCI. Be competent with Linux if not. And unplug any non-vital hard drives! Also back up :) Always backup.

We Must Rebuild – Keyboard!

Although I had noticed that the new Asus board did not include a PS/2 port, I thought I had a PS/2 to USB adapter for my PS/2 Logitech Internet 350 keyboard that I got for about £13 a while ago. I love the thing, don’t want to get rid of it but why?

  • It’s Logitech! I have fallen for Logitech recently, I have their speakers, mouse, wireless mouse and keyboard. They are all fantastic, well priced, and work very well.
  • Most importantly – big Enter (Return) key. Not split in half and shared with the “\” key.
  • The “\” key is by the “z” key, where it belongs.
  • There are 2 Windows Keys.
  • There are 2 Alt keys
  • There is a menu key on the right by the left CTRL.
  • Backspace is big.
  • Page up and down are to the right of Home, Insert etc, where they should be

All of these things should be on EVERY keyboard – they are STANDARD. But most keyboards now split their enter key in half, move the blackslash key, and can halve the backspace key too.
Other reasons I like this keyboard for that not all keyboards “should” have:

  • Chunky keys that you can tell when you have pressed. If they go down, the letter appears. 100% of the time.
  • Media keys – play/pause, vol up and down, mute on the right. Music, Email and Home (never used) on the right, as well as calculator! (Regularly used!).

Only improvement I could make on this keyboard – no skip back and forwards media keys, but this is no biggie. Also it could be USB!

Upon investigating whether my keyboard would work with a PS/2 to USB adapter, I came upon mixed reviews, some say it worked fine, some say it half worked or was not consistent, some say it didn’t work at all. So I decided not to risk it, and bought another (USB) keyboard. I will also buy a cheap adapter off eBay to see if it will work, can always keep it as a spare for the future. At this point I had already ordered everything else, and would have to pay a lot to get it delivered next day (which would have been Monday, ordering on Thursday/Friday ish). After a quick look on Amazon and Ebuyer – I didn’t find anything I REALLY liked (Ideally a USB version of what I have now :/). I had a quick look at Argos (as there is one here in Aberystwyth), and then my friend looked too for me and found a keyboard that I REALLY liked the look of! Can you guess the make..? I bet you can – yes it was a Logitech. A Logitech K200 to be exact (See picture). Lots of pictures, big keys, even proper F keys at the top! They have removed the right Windows key, but I can live with that – I don’t use it too regularly.
So that’s it for now. I have received everything but the case, which I hope will come tomorrow.. or technically later today. I still have a couple of things to do to prepare, need to update the SSD firmware by (the easiest way) plugging it into my current PC and running a little OCZ program. More on that later.
Matt out

We Must Rebuild – Case and PSU

The power supply and case, two items that go hand in hand? These were the only items I did not buy from scan - I got them from Amazon, as they were either cheaper or
much cheaper there. The PSU I selected was again an OCZ unit, but packing a 600w punch rather than the 400w poke that my current OCZ Stealth has. I also decided to get a modular PSU – where some “modules” of the power cords can be detached if they are not needed to keep the case interior tidier, make it look better, and improve airflow. [I love how you can just paste in parts of a link to WordPress and it will keep the hyperlink attribute!]. You can find it here: OCZ 600W ModXStream Pro Power Supply. I paid about £64 pounds. Not bad at all for a branded, modular 600w power supply! Although I do search for the very best deals.

 

On the case of the case

Well the case was actually the last component I picked, and the first I actually ordered, and it is going to be the last delivered. Let me explain… I was very undecided in regards to case for a long time, I really like some of the CoolerMasters – the HAF series, the Storm and the Scout. Many with quite a cool red glow. I also did like the Antec 900, and it’s newer brother (Antec 902). These are fantastic cases – great cable management, USB 3.0, lots of fans for cooling etc.. but they come at a price. The newer Antec 902 costing around the £100 mark. I then discovered the Dark Fleet series. The cheaper DF-10, the medium DF-30 and DF-35, and the bigger DF-85. These cases are very nice, come accompanied with many fans and some cool little tricks.. All except the DF-10 I believe have 2 or 3 (3 for the 85) fans at the front that hinge outwards to provide easy access to the drive bays. The fans also have dust filters that snap out to be cleaned, which is pretty cool. On the front of the case, there are some very small, almost unnoticeable rotary switches to control the fan speed (and therefore noise) which is a nice touch. These fans come in different colours – white for the 35, blue for the 30, red I believe for the 85.

Also on the back, there is a couple of switches to control the back and top (exhaust probably) fans. I do not believe these are LED as Antec said something along the lines of “Not everyone wants their room looking like an 80′s rave party at night” or something similar. Antec take user feedback it seems, and improve their cases – dedicated SSD bays, one screw hard drive securing etc.. read more here. They have done many things like making many things tool-less for easy access etc.

Antec DF35 and DF85In the end I chose the DF-35, which I found for a very reasonable £52 on Amazon (which has shot back up to £67 at the time of writing, I knew it was a good deal! Much more expensive elsewhere. Many other things have started to drop in price, and I haven’t even installed them yet! i7 has dropped about £7, RAM dropped about £3, board dropped about £4). The Dark Fleed DF-35 looks a really good case, many fans, nice and big, and some fancy things from Antec. These include dedicated places for the SSDs – a little place for them to plug into (then I guess the other side connects that to the board. I’m yet to understand how they are supported from the drive bay walls – big screws?). Also there is a 2.5″ hot swap SATA bay ontop of the case! May come in very handy for repairing other people’s laptop hard drives. Other than that.. I don’t see a whole host of uses for it yet.. unless I can hook up some kind of USB 3.0 adapter to it? As I don’t believe this case has USB 3.0 on the front.. not yet anyway.


We Must Rebuild – SSD and CPU Cooler

OCZ SSD

Solid State Drive
I also knew I wanted an SSD. I really liked the look of the OCZ agility 3 series, and recently found a Corsair Force 3 for around the same price (£125-130). Both of these drives are SATA3, 120gb, and have read / write speeds of about the 550mb read / 500mb write mark. Very hard choice between the 2, and I’m sure there is barely any difference between them, but in the end I went with OCZ – as I was a big fan of their RAM and PSU from my current build. I heard some bad stories about upgrading the firmware on these devices, and about recalls of the Corsair Force something, and about the reliability of the devices. But nevertheless, I still wanted an SSD. In the end I went for an 120GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD [£128].

 

CPU Cooler

CoolerMaster Hyper 212 EvoAfter some Googleing, I was fairly sure I didn’t want the stock Intel cooler, as many people say it runs hot, and therefore probably noisy, and one of the key things I want from this system, is for it to be quiet. I looked at Arctic Cooling again, as well as Be Quiet, Zelamon?, CoolerMaster and many more. The Noctua NH-U12 looks to be a fantastic cooler, probably one of the best. However, it looks huge, and I wasn’t a fan of its looks with the brown and cream. The CoolerMaster V6 and V8 look amazing, have brilliant performance, and I would really like the V6 especially, however I am very aware of the fact that they are so big they would likely overhang at least 1 RAM slot. I considered the Arctic Cooling Extreme cooler, as I liked Arctic Cooling, and for £28, it was fairly priced. It was large, but it’s fan is in the middle, and it doesn’t have a fan on the back to overhand the RAM slots, so it may fit, but some photos showed otherwise, and it did overhang on some boards. After a lot of searching online for “best i7 2600k” cooler, I noticed a trend. Although many coolers were being reviewed and they all looked fantastic, one kept popping up, multiple times even on one forum page – the “Hyper 212″. It looked as though everyone really loved it, whereas I had dismissed it quickly upon seeing a photo of it, as It looked small and not powerful enough to cool a quad with 8 threads. However, you have to take into account that that fan on the side of it isn’t an 80 or 92mm, its a whole 120mm (case size) fan. And by the looks of it, it works very well. After reading more stunning reviews about mainly the “Hyper 212+”, it’s newer brother, I was decided – this was the one for me. I found a fantastic review of what’s in the box: here. I like reviews where you get to see exactly whats in there, as I see there is thermal paste, lots of screws etc. I will probably buy some good thermal paste after reasearching it at some point! I also liked the fact this cooler can have another 120mm fan stuck onto the other side with it’s provided brackets. In the end, I managed to find the Hyper 212+’s slightly newer brother – the Coolermaster Hyper 212 EVO for a very reasonable £24.

We Must Rebuild – Board and RAM

Board

From the processor decision, it was decided I needed a socket 1155 board. This was very hard to choose – so many different ones, with many that are very similar to each other. I considered MSI, Asus, and to a lesser extent, Gigabyte. MSI and Asus looked like fantastic boards, many good reviews, and I happened to go down the Asus route. I found a board I really liked, a P8P67 something. About £90ish, and it had everything I wanted. PCI slots, a few PCIe’s, 4 RAM slots, USB3.0 on the back, even bluetooth and a PS/2 port for old keyboards and mice I think. However, a friend told me not to go for a P67 series, go for a Z68. The Z68′s apparently are newer – therefore newer chipset, with many lessons learnt I’m sure from the P67′s which seemed fantastic. I also heard tell of P67′s having trouble with SSDs. So to be safe, I went for a newer Z68. [Asus P8Z68-V £126]

RAM

From there, I needed some DDR3 RAM, and although I loved my shiny OCZ RAM with heatsinks on each side, I had heard a lot of good reviews about this Corsair Vengeance, and a friend recom

mended it to me as good RAM, and even 16gb of it was only £80ish. In the end I went for 8gb – by the time I need another 8gb, the price will most likely have dropped. [8GB (2x4GB) Corsair Vengeance Blue DDR3 PC3-12800(1600) £40.99]

We Must Rebuild – Starting Out

It is the night before I build, well hopefully, anyway. The case should arrive tomorrow (delayed due to pretending to have stock – thanks Amazon merchant Ballicom), everything else came on Friday. Went to Gregynog Friday evening and night, as well as most of Saturday. Was hoping to build Sunday. I haven’t unboxed anything as yet, as I am waiting for everything to arrive first. Also the case is kind of the bedrock for everything else.. [Minecraft reference].

I started writing about my new computer build here, as I had that page before I created this blog. Everything now has been transferred over to the blog in appropriate posts :).

Over the past few weeks I have been looking more seriously into building again, and just over a week ago I started looking into specifics. I knew I ideally wanted to build an i7 based computer, wanted a Solid State Drive ideally, a nice (big) board and more RAM than a field of sheep [Red Dwarf reference ^^]. So I started researching, looking at benchmarks, reviews and talking to my friends about what they had done.

Starting out

So I decided I wanted to build another computer. Where do you start? It’s a tough one – I started with the processor. I wanted an i5 or i7, they should last for the near future and far beyond I hope. I have always wanted the i7 2600k (I don’t plan to overclock it, but hey – if I ever want to, the “2600k” is better for it than the 2600). Whilst looking at components, I created “Idea boards” in microsoft paint, to show the ideas of what I currently wanted, and some of the choices. It helped me choose parts as I could easily see their pictures and prices, and look them up for more info with their full name if needed. This was my first price list of ideas on Aria from a few months ago. This was a more recent idea board, almost everything has changed since then though, as I have found different boards, and CPU coolers, and I have changed from a 60-120gb SSD, due to my current programs already taking up around 60 plus windows files. I also decided I didn’t really need 16gb of RAM, and 16gb was pretty much double the price of 8gb, rather than being less than double. My last ideas board is here.

I chose the i7 2600k fairly quickly, yes it is more than I need right now – but I am hoping this new machine will carry on for years to come. I know computers are getting better / cheaper all the time (in accordance to Moore’s law), but I am hoping an i7 will still be more than adequate for browsing the web and playing the odd game 6+ years now when the SandyBridge E’s and the IvyBridge’s have come out.

Next post about board. Recommendations will likely follow at the end of the build :).

Matt

Old Computer Build

Why buy a computer pre-built, when you can have all the fun of building it yourself, maybe save some money, and get EXACTLY the computer that you want.

As you may guess, I quite like building my own computers – since working at a computer repair shop whilst studying for my A levels, I have the knowledge needed to start looking into building computers myself. I made a webpage (before I made this blog) about my current computer. You can find that here. Have a quick look – there’s pictures! Basically I am currently running a Dual Core AMD 2.0 GHz desktop with 3GB of RAM, 2 x 1tb HDDs and a nice meaty XFX ATI Radeon HD6850. All it’s details are on the aforementioned page. I acquired the case, board and CPU from work a good year or two ago. I bought some nice OCZ RAM and a PSU, popped those in. Grabbed a nice big terabyte hard drive and slotted that in. Also invested in an ATI HD4650 graphics card which unfortunately died when someone dropped a USB card reader into his open computer case..

I kept adding bits and bobs to that PC, nice fans and lights, and even went so far as modifying the start button cabling to include my own ignition-style key switch. I wish I blogged back then! But this page should tell you enough about it. Go on check that link out, there’s pretty pictures of shiny ram and fans glowing in the dark etc!

After having that PC for a bit, I upgraded to an Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro (Rev 2) CPU cooler, which was much quieter than the stock AMD cooler, although it did over hang one of the RAM slots – making me worry about this a lot for my new build. I also replaced my HD4650 with a HD6850 (ranked 12th at time of writing on CPU benchmark – google it).

However, now in my second year at university, I have decided we must rebuild. Read the next post for more.

Recommendations: Arctic Cooling coolers and fans are lovely – aesthetically pleasing, quiet, and must shift some air. Tip – if in a university room especially, check your fans every few months at LEAST. My HD6850 was running at about 60 degrees C (with its fan automatic – before I found that you can manually shut it up in the Catalyst Control Center), and when I removed the upside-down card from my PC to clean it, I found the heatsink was caked in dust. I’m sure there are photos knocking round somewhere of that.. it was bad. Also I cleaned the CPU cooler and 120mm Arctic Cooling exhaust fan. (I used cotton buds/Q-tips and toilet tissue – at university, you don’t have all the fantastic cleaning products that you do at home… but it did the job. Also a hoover is a great help, but be careful!!).

Searching Quickly In Google Chrome

Searching With Chrome Search Engines

How to search the web, faster

In Google Chrome, you may have noticed when you type for example “amazon.co.uk” it prompts you to “press tab to search amazon.co.uk”. You either press tab (or space if you have finished typing all of it) and it quickly searches Amazon (using Amazon’s search) for whatever you type after. Useful? But we can do better.

Head into the “wrench menu” of Google Chrome. If you don’t have Google Chrome, get it, you won’t be disappointed, and are unlikely to go back to another browser. In the wrench menu, under options, under Basics, hit “Manage Search Engines…”. Under here are all the search engines you have encountered. It shows what you must type (e.g google.co.uk, 7dayshop.com) to search their respective sites. However, you can change this keyword to what you like, for example I changed YouTube’s to “yt”. So if I want to search YouTube for christmas songs, I just type “yt christmas songs” into my main Google Chrome address bar, and bingo – it searches YouTube for some festive tunes. So try out a few yourself, I also added another for Facebook (just copy and paste the search URL code to a new entry at the bottom) to “whois” so I can type “whois Peter Griffin” and it will search Facebook for Peter Griffin (Jeopardy reference :D).

I’m unsure how the picture will come out, as its the first blog post I’ve added a photo to. Now searching YouTube or Facebook is quite useful, but what can’t you quickly search for from the Google Chrome address bar that you CAN search with from Google.co.uk? Images. Maps. Shopping. I’m feeling lucky. There’s a few – so Google away, find the search code, add it as an entry under Manage Search Engines, and you are away! Want me to get you started?

For I’m feeling lucky, create an entry – call it what you like, give it a keyword (I just used “\” – when will you want to search just that?) and use the code without quotation marks:

“{google:baseURL}search?{google:RLZ}{google:acceptedSuggestion}{google:originalQueryForSuggestion}sourceid=chrome&ie={inputEncoding}&q=%s&btnI”.

So add away, maybe do one for YouTube, Wikipedia, eBay and your other favourite website.

Recommendations: Have a search on Google for those search code’s, they will be out there somewhere. If you are feeling generous, comment them here so we can all add them :).

Matt out

 

 

Config settings

WordPress, as great as it is, doesn’t magically work out of the box – you have to give it a few settings of the database you want it to use. Fair enough.

The file for this is located in the root of the directory you extracted into. The name of the file is “wp-config.php”. In here, you must set the database name, host, and a username and password.

Where do you find this information? Well when I did it for a university assignment, we had to set up our uni accounts with the MySQL server, create a database, name and password in a special way. However, in the real world – turn to your webhost (assuming they provide you with MySQL etc). My free webhost (000webhost) provides this, and it was easy to create a new database by going to MySQL under the control panel. I created a database, provided it with a username and password, and it was done. It provided me with a nice little text that I could save that included all the details I needed for the config file. Change the config file’s username, password etc in your favourite text editor, I use (Notepad++). Save these changes, make sure that the updated file is on the server, then go to www.BLOGDIRECTORY/wp-admin/install.php  replacing BLOGDIRECTORY with where your blog was extracted. This brings up a nice little WordPress user interface if the database is all good, (the new blank database you created earlier) to name your blog and create an admin name and password.

Bingo. You should be all done. Go and have a look around, and delete the “Hello World” post under posts. Choose a theme (see which one I chose), and start blogging away!

Why do I write what I do in detail?

I write in a reasonable amount of detail so that people can follow exactly in my footsteps if they wish. This way they know exactly what to do, and what the end result should be. I think this comes from my own worries – In technology it can be hard to do things exactly right if instructions are lousy. For all I know, someone reading this post may have little computer experience, and may be interested in having a look at blogging. A “power user” however will not need this level of detail, but it may be useful for them to refer back to if something goes wrong.

If you are a new user, and have tried to follow something I’ve done and it hasn’t gone quite as expected, please do get in touch. (Click that link to open your email client. Email not displayed freely on the webpage to give me a tiny line of defence from bots crawling through web pages picking up email addresses to spam).

Recommendations: Try WordPress. Look at their site for lots of awesome themes. Use Notepad++, it highlights the syntax of many different languages, loads quickly and is very useful. I’d buy it if it wasn’t free.

Matt out

Theme

I had a good look around some themes, and decided that the “LightWord” theme suited me quite well. Quick, simple and easy to read. Find it here: LightWord.

Matt out