Monthly Archives: March 2008

You Can’t Spell Job Without OH BOY!

It has been a while since I’ve made a personal blog post; as has been kindly been brought to my attention.  It is because a lot of things and yet at the same time, not much had happened.  I feel confident now in having something substantial deliver to my audience.

Important things first:  I purchased Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii) and Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (X360).  SSSB is an amazing game with a surprisingly very enjoyable single player and co-op.  I recommend it for any Wii owner.  (We even got Elizabeth to play and she seemed to be having a bit of fun once she found a character she liked.)  RSV2 is a lot like RSV1 with sprinting and a RPG aspect not unlike COD4.  The single player story is fun to play but ridiculous.

Hockey has been down right amazing.  The Gophers went on a streak to beat Mankato 2 out of 3 games that all went into over time to get into the Final Five.  The Gophers then went on to beat St. Cloud State and Colorado College to make it to the championship game.  Ultimately Denver won but The Gophers put up such an amazing effort that it is impossible to be upset.  If they continue to play this hard they have a great chance in the Frozen Four.

This past Tuesday I made crab cakes.  They were pretty good and with some tweaking they could be great.   Perhaps I’ll share the recipe if there is any interest.

I leave on my Ski Paradise vacation soon.  A whole week of water skiing in wonderfully warm and sunny weather.  It should be an absolute blast.  I only hope that my body can survive 4 sets a day for 5 days.  I leave on the 5th and come back on the 12th.

I had a slight cold this past couple of weeks, but nothing Halls cough drops couldn’t fix.

Visited the family on Easter.  Really strange when only half the family is there.

Gas is expensive ($3.10+) and influences me not to drive anymore.  I have the feeling that when I look back and read this post I will be jealous of the low price.

It appears that a lot of my favorite shows are starting to air new episodes again.  Reaper is on, South Park has been on for a while and I think the office should be coming back sometime soon.

The snow is melting and things are heating up.

I got a job.

Wait what?  Yup 🙂  I have been offered a position at Accenture as a Consulting Analyst and I have accepted it.  The start date is May 27th.  Meaning, I’ve got a couple of months to wait.  However, as an entry level job I would be hard pressed to find anything better in this line of work.  The job will require hard work, networking and perhaps frequent travel, but at this time of my life that sounds incredibly exciting.

The last week or so I’ve spent going through the interview process.  I first was contacted by the recruiter and communicated with her.  After that it was a phone interview.  Having success in the phone interview led to an office visit.  At the office visit I had a couple of interviews and lunch with a fellow potential hire and three employees who were in our position a year or so ago.  Even though it was an interview and interviews are supposed to be huffy, I had a great time and met some very wonderful and interesting people.

I had originally been informed that I could start in April.  This date has be canceled for some unexplained reason.   My guess is that they don’t have enough new hires to warrant batching the training process.  This means I will be starting in May with all the new college graduates.  That’s fine and waiting the extra month while I live on a budget is fine.  Where things get complicated is the 2 weeks of training at Accenture’s campus in Chicago.  This will likely occur at the end of June.  Right about the time Becky and Brad get married.  I can only hope that I’m allowed to fly back, if even on my own dime for that, or that the training wraps up on Friday and we leave Friday night.  If anyone has any thoughts on this I’d be happy for any advice.  What if I’m not able to come back?  For now it’s as the old adage goes, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

I now have about 2 Months (minus vacation) to spend on a side project or catch up with friends, because once I start working I have a feeling I will fall off the face of the earth.  I kid, but seriously during the week I will be a ghost.  You will only be able to catch me on the weekends.  Weekends are pretty sacred at Accenture.   I’d be happy to share more details in person.  I don’t feel comfortable expunging details on the internet, never know who is listening.

That leaves us with today.  I’m going to be picking up the parents from the airport after their two week long cruise.  They have yet to hear about my job, so that should be good news for them.  I’ve got laundry that needs to be done and some other misc. cleaning to do in preparation, so have a great weekend everybody!

Shatter expectations and conquer the world!

Things I’m looking forward to:

  • Starting training for my Job
  • GTA4
  • Spore
  • Water Sports

Things I’m not looking forward to:

  • Juggling personal and work life
  • Commuting/Driving

Building a Computer 101: Useability

In a bit I will get to the meat of the post, but right now there are updates to the list. Upon further research I’ve learned that the motherboard I choose is not SLI capable. For SLI you need a nvidia northbridge chipset. This means you are looking at a 780i or 790i (recently released). As a different option there is the 9800 GX2 which is recently released and it is a factory made SLI card that works on non SLI motherboards. (I told you research is important.) With the production of the 790i motherboards we will finally have DDR3 and SLI boards. (Prior to now it was one or the other for the most part.) nVidia is starting to roll out their 9000 series cards so look for prices on the 8000 series to begin to drop.

…and now for your regularly scheduled programming:

We have a computer and it’s peripherals. You should have a lot of Driver CDs, perhaps some free games and plenty of ad pamphlets. Software choices are exactly that, a choice. This is where you can truly customize your computer and make it your own. I do not condone piracy. However, I do know that it happens and I will say that the one thing I extremely advise against pirating is your OS. A legal version will make your life easier and aid in keeping you virus free. (Unless you consider windows a virus to begin with.)

Operating System

First things first, choose your OS (operating system). Since my aim with the computer is to play games among other tasks, I will be going the Windows route. Vista will be our choice since it is the “future” and SP1 should be out sometime soon. I’m not an expert on the different flavors of vista, but I would recommend getting one of the top tier packages. It will allow more control over your computer as well as some nice features. (Pure speculation, but if it’s comparable to XP Home and Pro, yea… go bigger.) Pay attention to whether your processor is 64 bit or 32 bit. As you will need to get the appropriate OS type.

My Selection: Windows Vista Ultimate
Price: ~$550

  • I’m a sucker for fancy titles
  • I like as much control as possible

Office Suite/Tools

Right after getting taken to the cleaners purchasing windows, it’s time to find a suite of professional tools. The most basic choice is to pick up a version of Microsoft Office. If you can find one for cheap or you just can’t do without brand name toys, then go ahead and spend more money. I however will go the opensource route.

My Choice: Open Office
Price: Free, but donate for Karma!

  • Free
  • Open Source
  • Saves in condensed xml format (about 30% the size of a MS filetype)
  • Can save to many different file types, so you can still interact with your MS buddies
  • No Bloat

Internet Browser

Without a browser how else would you waste your time? IE will likely be on your system because of the OS install. I suggest getting a better browser that is less susceptible to hacks.

My Choice: Firefox: Everyone should be using Firefox!
Price: More opensource Freeness!

  • So many useful plugins
  • Opensource
  • Free
  • Safer for less experienced users to surf the web (No one can truly protect you from yourself.)
  • Handles CSS properly

E-Mail Client

If you purchased MS Office, then you will have Outlook and it’s a nice program to use for email. However, it is often targeted by hackers because of it’s wide spread use. This is why I suggest using the Mozilla (firefox) email client: Thunderbird.

My Selection: Thunderbird
Price: Free, More opensource

  • Nearly all the same features as Outlook
  • Free
  • Not targeted by hackers
  • Low footprint
  • Doesn’t hog resources

Other

The rest of the programs that you install are all preference. I will list a few here that I have on my computer and a brief description of what they do. If you are interested you can Google them to figure out more or ask me and I’ll do my best to help.

  • Hijackthis: great for figuring out what is running on your computer
  • Superantispyware: Great for removing spyware and other malicious code
  • WinPatrol: Amazing tool for seeing what your computer is doing and what is doing it
  • Hamachi: If you’ve ever had trouble playing WAN/LAN games with your friends, this is a nice program that will set up a virtual LAN for you.
  • Alcohol 120%: Wonderful burning program and tool for utilizing virtual drives (Reads .mds and .mdf)
  • Nero: Great for burning
  • Notepad++: If you code and want an opensource editor that is like Notepad but much better, this is for you.
  • Adobe CS MasterSuite: Graphically inclined, apply within!
  • Audacity: Free editor for MP3s (actually audio editor, not just ID3 tags)

In addition to these great programs, it’s a good idea to upgrade and update all software and BIOS. Also you will likely need to download some video and audio codecs as Windows doesn’t always supply the necessary codecs. A quick google search can net you some positive results. Good luck and good building.

Total Cost: ~$4400

Building a Computer 101: The Supporting Cast

We have a computer! (in theory…sigh.) We can’t see what we are doing, we have no input, we have no Operating System (OS) and if we could get to a desktop and listen to something the sound would be “bleh”.

Cue the supporting cast. This rag tag band of misfits is employed to make your computing experience as resplendent as possible. We will be seeking out the services of a mouse, keyboard, sound card, monitor, 7.1 speakers and head phones.

Mouse:

This better be comfortable. You have a few key decisions to make when choosing a mouse-like input device: wireless vs. wired, trackball vs. laser vs. stationary track ball vs. other, number of buttons, on board memory storage, input type (PS/2 vs. USB), size and weight. To properly make the decision you should know what dominates your computer use. I will be using my mouse for graphics work and gaming. I will want something that is wired, because wireless gains me no advantage and batteries are bad for the environment.

My Selection: Logitech G9 Black 5 Buttons Tilt Wheel USB Wired Laser Gaming Mouse
Price: $75

  • Wired
  • Laser (My Razer trackball is annoying when it picks up dust and etc.)
  • High DPI, meaning high sensitivity
  • On-the-fly adjustable sensitivity
  • Various weights and other cool crap

Keyboard:

The keyboard is your second major input device. You will likely spend an insurmountable amount of time on this thing. Pick something with durability and comfort. (Or keep buying the same old crappy keyboard every time it breaks.) Once again there are a number of features to balance and choose from but the main choice is between wired or wireless. I will be going wired again because I don’t like batteries in something I use a lot.

My Selection: Logitech G11 Silver & Black USB Standard Gaming Keyboard
Price: $60

  • Wired
  • Light up keys at variable illuminations
  • Hot Keys
  • Programmable

Sound Card:

A good sound card is vital in having decent audio quality. On board audio, while sufficient for office type use, will seem lacking when you demand higher quality during gaming or video playback. The quality during manufacturing of the codec as well as the codec itself is extremely important in determining whether or not you rip your ears off. There are a decent number of options when it comes to sound cards. I prefer to take the easy route and go with the tried and tested. I will be picking up a soundblaster x-fi based card. However, if you want to shop around…make sure to look for high sample rates, well reviewed chipsets/codecs and that the card supports the output you want. (2.1, 4.1, 5.1, 7.1, etc.)

<note>My Selection comes with head phones. This is useful if you don’t want to annoy family members. My headset also has a mic, this would be useful for all you WoW types.</note>

My Selection: Creative 53SB000003000 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Elite Pro Sound Card and HS-900 Headphone Bundle
Price: $150

  • Uses the Soundblaster X-Fi chipset
  • Better ranges than the high end gaming card
  • Supports all of the fancy EAX and 3D sound options for gaming
  • Comes with well reviewed headset
  • Don’t have to buy a separate headset

Monitor:

Choose LCD (new hotness) or CRT (old heaviness). (There are other options like projectors and such.) Choose the size of the screen, while keeping in mind where you will be putting your rig. Make sure it has inputs that coexist with your video card. Look for contrast ratios, resolutions, brightness, refresh rates and power usage. I will be going with a 24″ LCD that can take input from the GeForce.

My Selection: Westinghouse L2410NM Black 24″ 8ms HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor 500 cd/m2 1000:1 Built in Speakers
Price: $410

  • Justin actually has this monitor and he likes it. (I found this monitor before asking what he had.)
  • 24″ and widescreen
  • 1920×1200 resolution (To gain full advantage from the vid card I would need a 30″ widescreen.)
  • Well priced for how well it is reviewed (which is high) and what you get (plenty of features).

Speakers:

A better person to talk to about audio would be John. He knows a heck of a lot more than I do. I will say that you want something with decent wattage per speaker, a good frequency range and a high signal to noise ratio. There is so much preference based decisions in this department. We have the capability to go 7.1, but do we have the space? Some of the 2.1 systems are better designed for use with a computer and have more wattage. (More wattage generally means more sound.) This one is really hard for me to decide on because I feel my current 5.1 from soundblaster is pretty crappy. (I’ve read that the fault could lie with my Audigy 2 card.) I also have a hard time setting up 5.1 because I won’t spend money on unsightly stands. So I’ve picked more of a placeholder set of speakers and hope to converse with more knowledgeable individuals to ascertain a better solution.

My Current Selection: Creative Inspire P7800 90 Watts 7.1 Speaker
Price: $80

  • I know they will work with the Soundcard
  • 7.1 audio for a cheap price
  • Only 90 watts 🙁
  • Where am I going to put all these speakers? I’ll need to build some kind of audio add on to my desk.

Headphones:

All that is true for speakers is the same for headphones. Look for wattage and frequency range. The quality of the components and the type of ear piece is important as well. If you want VOIP make sure to get a headset with a mic or you will be needing to purchase a separate mic. Remember that the human ear is only so capable and unless you are an extreme audiophile, any headset in the $40-$120 should do you just fine.

My Selection: Included with the Soundcard.
Price: See Soundcard.

That is it. Our computer is complete, the final tally from Newegg.com for all of the components is…

$3,716.86

 

 

That is before any shipping and mail in rebates, of which there were many. This is a top of the line brand new, completely functioning (some assembly required) computer with Grade “A” components. The only thing missing is another video card running in SLI which would add about $400 to the price and last you about 7 years. (We also need to go software shopping, next post! ^-^)

Ironically, only days after the first list there has already been announcements of a newer graphics card coming out in the GeForce line. This is why it pays to be informed and have a list. As parts get updated you can decide if they deserve to replace the incumbent part. If not then you can feel good knowing that the price on your current part will drop. When it eventually come time to buy this computer I feel that I will be spending about $3,000 all said and done.

I’d like to hear your thoughts or suggestions on the subject matter. If you have any questions about specific parts or where to get more information, I will do my best to be of service.

A Consumer Alert: Crest Pro Health

From your friendly friends here at the friendly Cube.

It has come to my attention that the oral products by Crest that go under the brand name Pro-Health may cause staining of the teeth.  Link

I first heard about the mouthwash causing staining on Digg.com.  At that time I had already purchased the toothpaste and decided to see if anyone had experienced trouble with the toothpaste.  If you read the link, it appears as if there have been issues.

It would seem that the active ingredient that provides the many oral benefits is also the culprit of the staining: Stannous fluoride.  Crest now acknowledges the potential staining on their toothpaste (at least the one I purchased.)

“Products containing stannous fluoride may produce staining of the teeth.  Adequate toothbrushing may prevent these stains which are not harmful or permanent and may be removed by your dentist.  This Crest is specially formulated to help prevent staining.  See your dentist regularly.”

Make of it what you will.  I’m just trying to get the word out so that you can make an informed decision.  Especially because as I walk the aisles in the health care departments, I see the Crest Pro Health items on sale and established on the end caps.

Shattering the PR myth here at the Cube.