Build-a-PC ’08– Part I: The Mobo

OK, so I want to build a new computer.  Right now I’m settled on an Intel rig.  While the new AMD Phenom chipset is tempting, performance is still lagging and Intel, as of right now, still has a leg up.  When the final decision comes (likely closer towards the middle of January) things may be different, but as of now, Intel seems the way to go.

Looking at components the hardest choice, regardless of chipset, is the motherboard.  Most, or at least many, reviews focus on overclocking (something I’m not looking for as of now) and customer reviews are peppered with comments about DOA boards and duds; even on the high-end and well reviewed boards.  This review-filled quagmire makes separating the wheat from chaff rather difficult.   As of right now I’m down to three Intel based boards ranging of the high-end/mid-range market.

At the top of the heap is the ASUS Maximus Formula. Retailing for about $260 it uses the new Intel X38 North Bridge while still utilizing the “standard” DDR2 memory (rather than the assrapingly expensive DDR3). It offers two PCIe x16 slots (2.0 specification) leaving room for a SLI setup. Of the three boards it supports the most memory speeds (1200/1066/800/667).

Middle of the heap is the ASUS P5K Deluxe Wifi Edition. Retailing for around $230 ($199 at newegg.com) it runs the older P35 north bridge and supports 1066/800/667 DDR2 memory. Unlike the Maximus it has only one PCIe x16 slot (with a second running at x4) but also has 2 eSata ports for external storage and built in Wifi.

Last is the GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS4 Rev. 2.0. Retailing for about $180 it’s features are comparable to the ASUS model above, minus the Wifi and only supporting DDR2 memory at 1066 Mhz.

All three boards support Quad-core and Core 2 Duo chips (the two ASUS boards also support the Core 2 extreme, but I’m not spending a grand+ on a CPU). Both ASUS boards have AD audio, the only thing I know about that is that it isn’t Realtek (a common standard and featured on the Gigabyte board).

Anyone out there with thoughts on matter feel free to chime in. Next time I’ll post on the CPU (right now I’m leaning towards the low-end quad core, Q6600) or maybe cases.

Top Five Part 3- Comics/Comic Events

The following are my top five comics (monthlies or minis) or events (crossovers, etc.) from ’07.

5. The Order, Marvel
Superheroes meet celebrity. It was a tough call between this and Avengers: the Initiative, but in the end The Order’s cast of newly minted superheroes wins out. A good team book that in many ways mirrors reality television, it uses the unique (to comics) device of the “confessional”/interview to both flesh out the characters and set the tone/theme of individual issues. Drama, action, excitement, and fantastic writing make this book the best thing to come out of Civil War.
4.  Messiah Complex(X-books), Marvel
With several strong X-titles “in” continuity and at least one outside (Astonishing X-men) the multi-book Messiah Complex brings the X-men back to the basics and the X-books back up to the standard of quality they deserve. Hated, hunted, backs to the wall Marvel’s merry mutants are doing things old school: fighting overwhelming odds, time-traveling, and playing catch-up with the bad guys. Old faces return. Heroes rise and fall. This is an X-men crossover done right.
3.  World War Hulk(Incredible Hulk, various one-shots and tie-ins), Marvel
A bunch of jerkwads sent Hulk into space to be at peace except they screwed up and sent him to a hostile world where Hulk had to fight his way to the top. Achieving peace, of a sort, Hulk had it snatched away when the shuttle that carried him exploded killing his wife and their unborn child. Enter World War Hulk with a supremely pissed Green Guy out for revenge. Carnage, destruction, and a boiling down of who and what the Hulk is. Look for the trade soon.
2. The Sinestro War (Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, various one-shots and tie-ins), DC Comics
Sinestro, the pink man with the plan, is back this time with an army of yellow ring toting psychopaths. Amongst which are Superboy Prime (not called such thanks to pending legal issues), the Cyborg Superman (Hank Henshaw), and the Anti-Monitor (of Crisis fame). All out war waged over the center of the universe (not where it used to be, nuts to you Guardians) with deaths all over the place. New laws are written for the GLC and hints of conflict to come thrown left and right.  An exciting read in the old school space opera fashion.
1. Starlord (Annihilation: Conquest), Marvel, 4-issue mini
The dirty dozen in space. A squad of misfits led by former Starlord Peter Quill face off against the technology devouring Phalanx. Great team interaction, gritty action, and refreshingly unique characters and settings set this book apart from other Marvel titles. If you haven’t already check out any of the “cosmic” Marvel titles for some great reads.

Music Top 5- Addendum

2007 was a long year and while shuffling through a stack of CDs I stumbled across one I forgot to mention.

Neil Young Live at Masey Hall 1971–  I was never a big Neil Young fan.  I appreciate his songwriting, and his presence at the forefront of the folk/rock scene of the late 60s and 70s is hard to ignore (nor do I mean to marginalize his impact on folk/rock/country music scene), but I was never a fan.  That is until I bought this album.  Released in March of this year with phenomenal sound recording beautifully remastered it’s easy to forget this wasn’t recorded in ’07.  Featuring a number of “new” (in 1971, now classic, some unknown) Young tunes the album presents an  intimate portrait of Young and his audience revealing a man both confident and excited in the work he was doing.  I found it easy to listen to this album with my eyes closed and see myself as part of the audience for what, to me, is a extraordinary performance.

A Note: Firefox 3 Beta 2

I had beta 1 installed previously but didn’t say anything much about it.  Beta 2 added a feature that I felt necessitated some comments.  The address bar.  Our old standard friend.  Every browser has one with some slight variation on implementation.  To date Opera, with its address bar search was king (enter “g” in the address bar followed by your query and it posts it to google, enter “z” and it searches amazon) FF3B2 added an interesting and wholly useful enhancement to standard auto-complete that gives Opera’s search a run for it’s money. In fact, the feature is so simple and obvious that you’ll wonder why no one (as far as my limited knowledge extends) has done it before.  Rather than simply auto-completing a URL FF3B2 auto-completes website titles as well.  Simple, effective, and more useful than you might expect.  Can’t remember the URL of that article you were reading (that you forgot to bookmark, shame on you!)?  Simply start typing the title and it shows up in the address bar!  Simple.  Effective.  Damned useful.

Beta 2 Address Bar

To give the beta whirl head on over here.  Don’t forget to check out the release notes.  For more detailed impressions check out the Wired blog or the mozillalinks blog.

Games that Don’t Exist but Should:

I was thinking as I drove into work yesterday of games that aren’t in development (as far as I know) but I think should be. Only have 2 for now, but if think of more I’ll add ’em in.

Oblivionesque space opera rpg
Mass Effect is a step in the right direction but it still employs the rigidity of plot found in older Bioware games (BGII, etc.). This isn’t a bad thing (Bioware makes quality product) but the game lacks the organic nature of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls games. As I’ve played through Mass Effect I’ve felt like I’ve been stripping the game world bare, rather than simply exploring. Oblivion is a game in which I’ve logged in more hours and done less towards the main plot. Between the guild quests, city quests, random dungeons/mines, and downloadable content the latest Elder Scrolls game is a fantasy sandbox of the highest caliber. Now imagine that same feeling of exploration and adventure you feel when playing Oblivion except translated across worlds to the vastness of space.
Developer: Bethesda. If Morrowind and Oblivion could be reproduced in the galactic scale i would consider myself satisfied.
Squad based X-com shooter
Few games of the 90s have as much an iconic presence in my memory as Microprose’s X-Com. The recent UFO games are certainly the thematic successors to the series but seem to me lack the fundamental appeal of the X-Com franchise. Given the popularity of tactical squad based combat games, Ghost Recon and the recent Rainbow Six games, why we haven’t seen a more recent squad based shooter based on this series is beyond me. Given recent advances in lighting technology rendered in games recreating the dark, tense, atmosphere of an X-Com combat mission would be an almost simple task.  You could even release the original X-Com on Xbox Live Arcade as a bonus download.
Developer: Monolith. They earned their Humans vs. Aliens chops making the AVP games.

Top 5: Part 2 (Music)

My music picks have a number of older titles in them, but everything I list here I bought this year.

5. Down -Sentenced (1997)
Down is a fantastic black metal album. Shades of this album can be heard in almost every metal, metalcore, and emo band album released recently and Sentenced still does it better. A metal classic.
4. A Line of Deathless Kings -My Dying Bride
Despite having a name that should belong to whiny emo band, My Dying Bride, manages to kick some ass. Gloom or Doom metal featuring melodic vocals and a driving rhythm the band manages to be equal parts hard and beautiful at the same time. Certainly an interesting departure from much of metal saturating the market today.
3. Angel Down -Sebastian Bach
A surprisingly hard solo album from former Sonic Youth frontman Sebastian Bach. It’s a shame that Bach’s vocal talents aren’t as well known as they should be. This album features three tracks with Axl Rose and I’m hard pressed to make the call on who tops who in the seeming battle for vocal oneupmanship. Solid rock album a far cry from most of what hits the market today equal parts retro and new.
2. The Dethalbum -Dethklok
Despite being a spoof on all things metal The Dethalbum sill manages to rock hard. Lacking the rather oppressive seriousness of most death metal bands the fellows over at Dethklok manage to turn out some damned entertaining tunes, hilarious in their over the top nature. How can one not smile at songs with such ridiculous names as “Hatredcopter”, “Bloodrocuted”, “Face Fisted”, and “Dethharmonic”. Hilarious metal fun.
1. Bang Camaro -Bang Camaro
80s metal “tribute” sung by a 15+ man chorus, with wicked guitar licks and simple easy-to-sing-a-long-with lyrics. No other album had me smiling as much as this one (The Dethalbum came pretty close) nor have I blasted any other CD quite so loud in a long time. If you’re a fan of 80s metal, Guitar Hero, or just fun music this is the album for you.

Top Fives: Part 1 (libri)

I thought about doing a list of top 10 books but decided against it. In its place I’m going to try for a list of top fives from a number of different media. At the very list you’ll get a list of my top five books (today) and top five albums. I may decide to do movies, comics, and video games later, we’ll see.

5. Reaper’s Gale by: Steven Erikson
In terms of sheer consistent awesome few authors can even touch Erikson. Interesting characters, action, violence, and magic on an epic scale. Probably my third favorite in the series (after Deadhouse Gates and The Bonehunters) Reaper’s Gale is a worthy addition to the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.

4. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Old school pulp action in the truest sense. A great action fantasy yarn with interesting characters. Robert E. Howard meets Robert Jordan. Britain always gets the best first.

3. Acacia: the War With the Meain by David Anthony Durham
A dark fantasy in a realistic setting by author known for his historical fiction. Low magic, evocative descriptions, fascinating family dynamics and a dash of mystery add up to make an interesting, exciting first fantasy.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Classic end to a classic series. An obvious pick I know but a worthy read for child in all of us.

1. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfus
BEST. FANTASY. IN. YEARS. Seriously, one is hard pressed to find a veteran author with a book this good let alone a debut novel. Must read fantasy of the year.

BIGGEST NEWS EVER: DUKE NUKEM FOREVER TRAILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Missed the preview pic:    Duke is a Baddass:

Just spotted this over at kotaku this morning, but it seems a trailer for DNF (in development since the beginning of time) will be released today, 12/19, at around noon central standard time (2 pm for us east coasters).  My heart nearly stopped when I saw that and I immediately checked the date to make sure I had not somehow timewarped to April 1st.  I’m both scared and excited to see what the game will look like.  Last we saw of DNF was a trailer at E3 around 2001 believe, since then I think the old engine has been scrapped and rewritten and the only previews seen were a couple of tiny photos in a magazine.

Anyway, check back after 2 for links and comment.

Full post with forum comment by producer George be available here.

Bring the sexy to your PC

Extremetech has a great buying guide for gaming keyboards and mice.  My G5 still looks to be a favorite though the new G9 and even Microsoft’s new Sidewinder look they might be worth a look if the price drops.

My poor keyboard is looking pretty beat up and some of these new gaming keyboards look pretty damn sexy.  The ideazon MERC stealth looks pretty badass but the upcoming Saitek Cyborg keyboard mentioned at the end of the article looks like it might just be the right melding of functionality and cheese to suit my taste for the absurd.

 Anyway head on over and check it out.