Dan's Data letters #26

Publication date: 6-Feb-2003.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.

 

Age of Aquarius (II)?

I have a few questions about water cooling - specifically, the new thingo that Thermaltake has brought out called the "AquariusII".

Is watercooling worth it? Will it make so much difference to my system that I will wonder how I got along without it, or will I regret installing it in the first place? I haven't ever seen a computer with watercooling, it seems very fidgety to install. But what worries me is this kit doesn't even have any silicone to hold the water in around the CPU, well none that I could see anyway. How would you get the water out before you upgrade your CPU?

Chris

Answer:
The Aquarius II uses some of the same components as the Infinipro kit I reviewed a while ago. The radiator's the same, as is the perfume-bottle reservoir. The undistinguished little reservoir-pump looks much the same, too, although now it's got a decorative, I mean depth-indicating, blue LED.

The radiator fan is now one of Thermaltake's show-off orange ones, the hefty copper water blocks are much better than the Infinipro ones were, and the included "intelligent" tubing's OK, too. With the standard pump, this kit performs like a really insane air cooler; I wouldn't bet my life on that brush-motor pump, though. With a fancier magnetically coupled pump ($AU150 or so), it'd perform better, and last pretty much forever.

The "intelligent" stiffening springs inside the provided tubing, by the way, stop it from kinking but make it essential that you use anti-corrosion radiator additive in your coolant.

Is water cooling worth it? Depends what you're doing. It lets you make a very quiet machine with good cooling, or a normally noisy one with very good cooling, but if you're not really pushing the overclocking envelope, possibly including below-ambient cooling with parallel thermoelectric coolers, then that's probably overkill.

The Thermaltake kit, like most water cooling kits, has a sealed water block that attaches to the CPU like a regular heat sink. No water actually touches the CPU, so you don't need any sealant. Some people do make direct-contact water cooling systems, which do indeed need sealant around the CPU and have to be drained before you can change the processor, but this isn't one of them.

 

Incremental overclocking

I pushed up my P4 2GHz to 2.4GHz on my GA-8IEXP mobo. I tried pushing it to 2.5GHz (with the stock Intel fan) but my RAM had problems with the bus frequency. I'm using 2 sticks of Kingston 256MB DDR266. I was wondering if I can put DDR333 instead of 266 in the board (that can only support up to DDR266) so that I can get 2.5ghz without RAM or stability problems. Will it work?

Oh, and I'd like to know if it's really OK to run my AGP bus at 80MHz, and is there any performance gain? The folks at THG said running the AGP over 75MHz is a bad idea. I did run the AGP at 80MHz for quite some time without any problems.

Adam

Answer:
If the RAM's the limiting factor, then there's a reasonable chance that upgrading to RAM with a higher redline will help. But it's rather a lot of money to spend just to go from 2.4 to 2.5GHz; that's only a 4.2% overclock.

Even if you manage, say, 2.7GHz with the new RAM (which you very probably won't), that'd still only be 12.5% more CPU speed than you've achieved already.

On the AGP speed issue - generally speaking, if the computer doesn't go flaky, it's fine. You're not slowly cooking something.

Many computers will go flaky with a 20% AGP overclock, though.

 

Wh47 7H3 h3CK?

Been checking your site regularly for ages, and I love the reviews and your style of writing; having links all over the articles I find also very entertaining. If my boss finds out how much time I spend on this and linked sites, I'm sure she wouldn't be too impressed ;-).

Anyways, I've come across "l337 h4XX0rZ" a couple of times or your site, and get the feeling it relates to hacking into buggy operating systems/LANs or something... can you point me to somewhere that'll give me a better understanding of this expression? Like, how do you even pronounce it?

Frank

Answer:
I'm glad you like my links.

The pronunciation of l337 h4xx0rZ and its various variants is somewhat open to question, but the first word's pronounced "leet" and the second one's probably "haxorz", if you're saying this term aloud with the intention of making sure your audience knows you're using "leet speak" outside its natural, typed, domain.

Some handy-dandy E2 references:
L33t sp34k
Hackspeak
Hax0r

 

Bike lighting

I was wondering if you could tell me if a 5W Luxeon Star gives a strong enough beam to replace a 5W quartz halogen MR11 light. I want to build a system for my mountain bike.

Jeff

Answer:
A white 5W Star running at full power - which means it'll need to be stuck to a pretty hefty heat sink, unless you provide it with a fan - should have about the same visible light output as a five watt halogen bulb. Its light will be more useful, though, because it'll be bluer. The halogen's colour temperature will be down in the yellow region around 3000 Kelvin, while the LED will be 4500 to 8000K, depending on the LED and the drive current.

A Star should give you a pretty good beam angle, too; for a bike light, you want a pretty broad beam, so the lack-of-focus problems that many LED lights have shouldn't be an issue. A "Star/O" module...

Neater lamp install

...like the one on the top of the flashlight I review here, should work well.

Star/Os are rated at a 25 degree beam angle (90% of their output is in a 25 degree cone), with a fairly mild "hot spot" in the middle. That's pretty much what you want from a bike light, I think. MR11 "baby downlights" have about a 30 degree beam angle.

 

Cable balderdash #2837

Are plain old generic Toslink patch cables good enough to hook up a DVD player to a receiver? If so, what's so special about the one meter supposedly Super-NASA-Grade Monster Cables that the nice people at the local Sony Store are trying to sell for almost 100 Canadian dollars?

The guy even went into his bit to tell me that the cables have "special" EM shielding so that the optical signal isn't distorted. I didn't know that photons interact with EM in the Sony Store...

Paul

Answer:
Yes, cheapo cables are fine. Flashing red light go in one end, flashing red light come out the other end, everything digital, everything perfect. If you want an unusually long or tough cable then brand name stuff may well work better, but for domestic purposes anything with the right connectors should be fine.

The Monster cables are, presumably, one of these models; Monster is the mainstream stupid expensive cable brand. Their products are perfectly fine; if someone gives them to you, you have no cause to complain. Things like tough insulation and excellent strain relief are well worthwhile. But, on top of that, Monster products are generally hilariously overengineered. He who thinks there's a reason to isolate an optical audio cable from mechanical vibration, as per this, is well on the way to a nice white jacket with very long sleeves that tie at the back.

If Monster made boxer shorts, they'd make them out of triple-layer cross-weave aramid fibre, on the grounds that some men have, upon occasion, had their penises cut off.

 

Off, more off, and really off

In letters #24, you wrote "The next step after Suspend-to-RAM is Suspend-to-disk, by the way, which allows the RAM to be powered down too, because the system state is dumped to the hard drive. This draws less power again, but takes longer to start up. Windows calls Suspend-to-disk "Hibernate" mode."

Would I be wrong in saying that Hibernate/Suspend-to-disk actually turns off the PC? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying it uses as much power when in hibernate mode as it does when the computer is off, because the computer will probably draw less power when off then when slightly on.

Mike

Answer:
Hibernate mode turns the PC as close to off as you can turn an ATX machine. An ATX PC that's "off" is still drawing a little power; the +5VSB (five volt standby) line from the PSU is still energised, which is what allows the PC to do tricks like Wake-on-LAN or use the space bar to power up. This standby power's also used, on half-decent motherboards, to maintain the CMOS memory; the motherboard only uses its backup battery when there's no mains power at all. This is a good thing, as it extends the life of the little coin cells that current mobos use for backup.

A computer in Hibernate mode can, however, be completely powered down - turned off with the hard switch on the back of the PSU, or at the wall socket, or unplugged completely - and will still be able to resume when you give it power again. A PC in Standby mode needs mains power to maintain its RAM contents.

 

Net sharing 101

I want to network just two Windows computers for joint sharing of an Internet connection (am also considering a link upgrade to cable or ADSL). One machine is in the study and one in the family room about 12 metres away. Primary interest is for each machine to be able to access the Net without having to switch the other on. I have read your networking pages but it is still not clear to me whether a switch, hub, bridge, router, or none of the foregoing is needed to achieve this independence.

Alan

Answer:
If you get an Internet sharing box (commonly known as a "router", but there are other things with that name as well) with an in-built switch (or hub, but pretty much all of these things have switches, now), you can just plug the router into your broadband adapter or dial-up modem, and plug the computers into the router, configure the router from one of the computers, and you're done. It'll work the way you want it to.

Alternatively, you could use a router without a switch (one with only one "LAN" port on the back, that is, rather than several), and connect it to a separate switch or hub somewhere else. This is worth doing if it makes the wiring simpler; it depends on whether your Internet connection point is convenient to one of the PCs, or not.

 

Wumm... wumm... wumm...

I am working on my latest case mod, and rather than trying to recreate the Las Vegas Strip, this time I want to go sort of subtle. What I would like to do is to recreate the LED strip from the front of KITT from Knight Rider. I can buy LEDs and put them in a bar and everything, and I'm good with a soldering iron and have a very basic knowledge of circuits and things, but what I can't figure out how to do is make the LEDs light up in the correct sequence. For example, in a 6-LED block, numbering them from left to right, I'd want the sequence to be 1-2-3-4-5-6-5-4-3-2 and then lather, rinse, repeat. Any help you could give me, and light you could shed on my ignorance, would be most appreciated. Best Wishes,

Paul

Answer:
A KITT scanner (known to people familiar with earlier Glen A. Larson productions as a Cylon scanner, and possibly to really cool people as a Klaatu scanner; I don't know whether Knightboat had one), is a pretty simple circuit at base, though it can be gussied up in various ways.

There are many places where you can buy packaged chaser kits - they may come with a bunch of low brightness LEDs that you presumably don't want, but adapting them for brighter LEDs is trivial.

For some examples of what I'm talking about, from a store that's useless to you unless you live in Australia, go to Jaycar and do a search for "knight". Here's an example that might be more use to you. And here's a neat-o how-to guide.

There are off-the-shelf versions, too. And there's always, of course, the lunatic fringe...

If you want to ask me a question, feel free - but please read this and this first.

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