Part 2: The Reckoning–Actually building an Evil Supercomputer to take over the world

Creative types today need more than a typewriter or any old computer that can run Word.

You have to do social media, and maybe some video, which means having a computer that can run things like the Adobe Creative Suite, which wants you to have a supercomputer that can model nuclear explosions, even if all you want to do is add captions to Ice, Ice Baby.

If you haven’t read Part 1, which is about why this is smart, and how to pick out all the parts, go do that now, then come back to read this post while you wait for the Postal Service–which always, always delivers.

Once all of your precious, fragile, and magical parts have arrived, it’s time to unbox that stuff and build, right?

This is where things go wrong. Totally normal.

Keep the boxes and receipts in case (a) parts are broken or (b) you screwed up and there are incompatible bits.

The Case: You can’t have a Black Box of Doom without a black box

Retrieve all the wires they may have snaked all around. THERE ARE MANY.

These wires are actually Important, since they’re the ones that make the Evil Supercomputer turn on when you push the power button, or connect your USB ports and such to the actual computer bits that make them go. Those things are not wireless.

Thus the wires.

If you bought a bare case with no fans pre-installed, now is the time to screw some fans.

Your Motherboard is the Matriarch of All Power

Everything connects to the Motherboard, which has to corral all the random parts and make sure everybody gets fed power and data. She basically runs the world.

Treat your Motherboard right by having the correct number of Weird Little Bolts (I believe they are called stays, but who knows) to screw into your case to support the MotherBoard, which then is secured to your case with more normal-looking black screws through holes pre-drilled through the layers of silicon.

I say the word “pre-drilled” intentionally. You will not be drilling any holes today.

Double-check this step very, very carefully.

If you just put Weird Little Bolts wherever the hell, and not in the right spots for your size of Motherboard and case, things will not end well. Having random bits of metal poking in spots it’s not designed to poke can short your Motherboard, zap, goodbye, goodnight, game over.

Not having enough Weird Little Bolts can make it so your bendy and fragile MotherBoard isn’t fully supported. I made this mistake because the old components I took out were a little smaller and needed fewer bolts and screws. This could have been a disaster, as you need to press pretty damn hard to make the graphic card, sticks of RAM and such connect.

I got lucky. Nothing broke. But I should’ve gotten more Weird Little Bolts, which leads us to this pro-tip: No, do not order them online and wait two days for amazon.com.gov.org to deliver more tiny shebangs while your dining room table is covered in computer parts and half-opened cardboard boxes. Head on down to the hardware store, which will have them on that long aisle full of every screw, bolt, and nut ever invented.

Install the Hyperdrive

You are required by law to have bought one of those tiny and fancy M2 drives, the kind that connect directly to the Motherboard and make her extremely happy because now homework gets done A BILLION TIMES FASTER than connecting a stupid cable upstairs to the attic where an obsolete thing known as a Hard Drive lives, playing eight-track tapes of Billy Joel, who is fine and all, but please listen to something new because none of us can hear Uptown Girl on endless repeat, that is the torture.

There is a trick with these M2 drives. They come with a tiny, tiny screw–get a microscope, seriously–that is insanely easy to drop and lose. Also, this screw didn’t seem to fit in the hole.

I finally read the instructions again, and found a Silver Weird Little Bolt hanging out on the Motherboard, asking strangers if they’d buy him some beer, I’ve got money, come on, man, a six pack of whatever, please. Put him in the right spot, dropped the tiny screw for you know, six hours, and finally secured the Hyperdrive.

Other drives, they are optional

If you are smart, and starting from scratch, using an M2 Hyperdrive means two fewer cables to worry about: one for power and one for data.

This becomes important.

Since I saved money by reusing the same Black Box of Doom and FOUR DIFFERENT DRIVES (optical, SSD, then two big fat spinny hard drives), that means wrestling eight different cables. It worked, eventually, but it was not fun.

Try to connect the power cables first, then the smaller data ones are a lot easier because of the orientation of cases and drives. I had the data ones all hooked up, making me happy, and had to undo them all from not being able to see a damned thing when trying to shove power cables into tight spots.

Learn from my stupidity, and thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Has the moon lost her memory?

She is smiling alone.

Sticks of memory–RAM, build Dodge tough–do not like being alone. They also hate dust and cat hair, so be aware.

You gotta install RAM in identical pairs, like junior high kids who synchronize outfits and go everywhere together, even the bathroom.

If you’re only putting in two sticks of RAM, they gotta go in specific slots. Listen to the Motherboard and re-read her patient instructions.

I put in four sticks of 16 gigs apiece. If you want to upgrade later, you gotta use identical sticks again.

Pinky and the Brain

Your CPU is itty bitty. A little square. Make sure you do all the things and put it in correctly, given the fact that bending the pins is a sin against the tech gods, who will punish you with the Slowness, the Black Screen of Death, or the eternal damnation of This Thing Won’t Even Turn On.

Put it in the right way. Read the damn instructions, for brand new CPUs cost many dollars.

CPU’s have sidekicks called coolers. Your own Brain may have come with a Pinky cooler, with the manufacturer designing them to get along. Maybe these things got ordered separately, and you’re hoping this arranged marriage will work out.

The CPU is easy, as long as you don’t flippantly put it in the wrong way and bend all the pins.

Coolers these days are like oversized carburetors on muscle cars, giant air-breathing contraptions with metal tubes running everywhere. I will bet you the deed to my house that the the people who design CPU coolers drive muscle cars, or have posters of them on their wall.

You gotta have thermal paste between the Brain and its cooler. Read the instructions. Do not cook Brain or you’ll be eating the cost of a replacement.

All the random non-power cables

I would suggest this as the time to put the funky cables coming from various parts of the case, along with any cables you might need for drives and such.

Manufacturers, hear my plaintive cry: this part does not have to be so hard.

Connecting fans isn’t bad. Same deal with the cables that make your USB ports talk to the Motherboard without pissing her off.

What’s truly awful, and The Stupid, is a set of cables every case seems to have that ends in a nightmare of a rat’s nest. Some need to get plugged into single pins, others double, except they all go into the same array of pins and there’s no room to see what you’re doing and whether it worked and OMGWTFBBQ.

If you do this wrong, pushing the power button and such will do nothing.

Please, please, manufacturers of cases and Motherboards, pick a standard configuration of pins and that Rat’s Nest Cable from Hell, and make it so it’s all together and you simply plug it into the right spot instead of wanting to drive to whoever designed and engineered this and put a flaming bag of donkey doo-doo on their porch.

The Graphics Card

These things are pretty big. Get that sucker in there before you go wild with the power cables, which will totally get in the way.

That’s it. I’m not even making jokes here. Pretty simple.

Power Station

Nothing runs without the power supply, and it knows. Oh yes.

When you order one of these bad boys, the photos are deceiving. A square box, no big deal. Except when you take it out, there are all these fat cables coming out of the end. Tons of them. And they are long.

If you only have one M2 Hyperdrive, and maybe a big old obsolete spinny hard drive as your storage, the number of power cables you need is way down.

Since I had four–FOUR–different drives already in the case to hook up, my cause was lost. Cable management? Hah! We were shooting for Yes, This Looks Messy, But the Evil Supercomputer is Happy and Turns On.

The instructions here are a little tough. Be careful. There are what seems like 25 different types of power plugs. I will not go into it here except to say a giant plug goes into your Motherboard, another feeds the CPU, and your graphics card may get TWO plugs, because he is a selfish dweeb who drinks straight from the milk carton no matter how many times you tell him that’s gross and will tell you he plans on going pro playing Call of Duty when really that’s an excuse to spend all day wearing a headset and talking smack when he should be not failing Pre-Calculus already when the school year is only a month old.

Will it turn on?

Unless I’ve forgotten steps, which is possible, all the parts should be installed and fed a steady supply of power and data.

This is where you hook it up to your monitor, keyboard, and such, and get out the USB drive of Windows 10 to install. You pretty much buy the DVD for the product activation key, then stash that thing in a shoebox full of CD’s from way back that you plan on converting to MP3’s someday.

And the magical moment arrives: you hit the power button.

It will not turn on.

I mean that literally. Unless you are lucky, and smart, and have spent the time to locate and sacrifice a TRS-80 to the tech gods, your Evil Supercomputer will sit there and laugh at you while you swear in languages you did not know until now.

This always happens.

Unplug it all and open the thing back up. Check every single cable and plug.

Did it happen to me this time? Oh yes.

I checked every data cable and power plug. Nope. Then I considered the unthinkable: unplugging that rat’s nest of connectors, the ones that go to the power button and such. Except getting to that was impossible with all the power cables and data cables clogging up the works. Couldn’t see a thing.

After talking to my brother, who is an actual Tech God, I figured out one stick of RAM was rebelling and poking out. Once that thing was fully connected to the Motherboard and listening like a good stick of memory, the Evil Supercomputer came alive and asked me if I wanted to play a game. You know, tic-tack-toe or Global Thermonuclear War.

Final thoughts

Though the hour or so the new computer would not come alive was maddening, overall this time wasn’t that bad and I could not be happier with how much faster this thing is than the old Black Box of Doom.

It’s not even close. Most of that is because of the M2 Hyperdive, but doubling the RAM and having a modern CPU and graphics card doesn’t hurt a bit.

Economically, building your own is smart, and having thought about and researched trying to upgrade the old one, building a new one every three years or so makes sense–but only if the current one can’t handle the latest requirements of Adobe and such.

If you’re not focused on creative things, and are more concerned about hitting 140 frames-per-second as you play Call of Duty on a 4k monitor that takes up an entire wall of your house, that’s a different deal.

I hope you find this useful, and if you do go down this path, please remember me when your 3D-printed army of robots designed on an Evil Supercomputer starts taking over the world.

This ROUS is the friendliest creature on the planet

You probably remember the Rodent of Unusual Size in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, which was indeed unusually large and scary. Here, now you’ll remember just fine.

Scary, sure, but fiction, though I lived in NY and know people swear these things live in the sewers along with some alligators flushed down the toilet when Timmy’s pet grew too large.

I’m talking about the real ROUS, which is the capybara, which you cannot spell without looking up. It’s pronounced “Cappie Beara,” like the Captain of Bears or whatever, and seriously, these animals are friends with EVERYTHING.

First, an overview.

There are freaking SONGS about our these guys.

I kid you not.

Squirrel monkeys in Japan love love love them, and happily ride around on their backs.

And they foster parent, too.

I am not a fan of rodents in general–am at war with the moles right now, and channeling Adam Driver’s oil baron as we crush our mole enemies–but the cappies could not be more chill.

VERDICT

Every home and office would be a happier place if you added capybaras.

Each diplomat shall now be issued a capybara partner, and peace negotiations will not be complete without them.

 

Two great music videos that cost zero dollars

These days, you need to put up music videos on the Series of Tubes to make a living as a musician, which is great, except it costs the gross domestic product of Paraguay to do proper music video. Which makes it tough for scrappy bands trying to make it.

So it’s refreshing to see bands do good videos shot on their friend’s iPhone and edited in MS Paint or whatever, all for a total budget of $593.93, most of that budget going for pizza.

What’s even more impressive than a cheap music video?

One that cost absolutely zero dollars.

Here are two short little snippets of music on video that warmed my heart in two completely different ways.

First up is a man playing the Careless Whispers saxophone bit for cows. 

Why do I love this? Because it’s pure joy, on his part and from the cows. He’s just learning the sax and isn’t world class yet. The man won’t be going on tour. But my God, these cows are into it, which gives him, and anyone watching the video, a pure sense of joy and wonder. 

Next up: one minute of pure talent.

She’s using a couch cushion, a baby toy and I don’t know what else for drum equipment and it just doesn’t matter. 

I would pay cash money to watch her live. Right? Moar moar moar.

Also: I wonder what the cows would think of drumming like this. Are they into all music, or just horns?

 

MEET ME IN THE LADIES ROOM by Klymaxx

Sometimes, you can’t make this stuff up.

SNL has been working hard lately to do insane music videos, and the latest one seems too absurd to be anything based on reality.

But you’d be wrong.

Here’s the parody:

And here’s the original:

VERDICT:

Well played, SNL — you got all the details right. I’m just sad the original didn’t feature parachute pants.

A Tour De Force of ’80s Videos

If you were breathing during the ’80s, you will remember these songs and videos. If you weren’t alive, use this chance to learn about the songs coming to Classic Rock stations after they get done with their rotation of ’60s folk and ’70s disco-funk.

You may recognize some tunes from this thing they used to call the radio, which plays random songs and ads you don’t control, no matter how many buttons you push, though you could use these things called telephones to call the DJ to request a song, win prizes or try to get on live air to say something horrible, clever or horribly clever.

This era is actually important, in a musical sense, because ’80s rock and pop stars were the first to deal with music videos and MTV, so they broke a lot of ground in terms of visuals. It’s hard to go from “here’s some live footage of a concert” to “which Hollywood director should we hire for our $3 million shebang that *might* hold a candle to Thriller?”

Check it out:

The clip from Top Gun still cracks me up. How did we ever think that movie was cool?

Unlikely animal friends will restore your faith in the world

Because we’re apparently living in a reality show dystopia, and watching the news can put you in therapy, take a little break to watch this video.

Then cuddle your cat, play with your dog or befriend a murder of crows by feeding them peanuts (in the shell, it’s a happy puzzle!) every day until they start bringing you shiny objects as tribute. These shiny things may include car keys. Resist the temptation to turn your crow army into a crime ring with a chop shop behind the wrecking yard.

If taking some time with your furry pookies doesn’t help, watch THIS video of unlikely wild animal-human friendships.

Why MELANIANADE is peak SNL and brilliant comedy

Music has never been more competitive. A good music video adds another layer of difficulty–and when you add comedy–the hardest thing of all–then it’s no wonder that truly funny music videos are rare.

Your typical parody video looks cheap and takes easy shots at the artist who made it. Weird Al Yancovic has been the king of parody videos for precisely the opposite reason: he knows poking fun of the singer or band will only go so far, so he takes a song and twists it to make fun of something entirely different, like when he used American Pie to rip on Star Wars.

Comedy is hard because it speaks to painful truths. Cheap, easy laughs aren’t deep. The deeper the pain, the more truth gets revealed.

This video works because the cast of SNL clearly put a lot of time and effort into it. They committed, absolutely, and didn’t hold back.

James Corden did something similar with his Lemonjames video. Take a look:

Corden is making fun of himself, and his industry, more than he’s taking shots at Beyoncé.

The quality of both these videos, in how well they’re shot and edited, may seem like an irrelevant point for comedians. Why waste so much time and effort making the lighting, costumes and settings so perfect.?

Except it’s not a waste of time. Chances are, most people have seen the original video. A cheap knock-off that’s badly shot and uses thrown-together sets and locations will keep dragging you out of it. Instead of noticing the jokes, you’ll get distracting with how amateurish things look compared to the real video–and these days, music videos are expensive affairs, often shot by moonlighting Hollywood professionals. So the bar is high.

These two videos leap over that bar of quality, letting you focus entirely on the comedy.

Well done, SNL and James the Corden–give us more, more, more.

Why this video is intentionally bad and tremendously good

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Those two things seem contradictory, don’t they?

No.

A book, movie or TV show can be technically good and awesomely boring at the same time. Example: every CGI-crazed “blockbuster” in the last 10 years that cost $250 million to produce and generated $50 in ticket sales at theaters. Stuff like JOHN CARTER OF MARS and AVATAR (the cartoon, not the blue monkey saga) and five zillion other movies you don’t remember and didn’t see because they stank up the place.

So take a look at this, the Best Ad for a Restaurant in History:

The ad does a number of things badly on purpose.

  • The special effects look like they were put together by a 7th grader who started teaching himself Adobe After Effects yesterday.
  • The script itself put 1,792 grammar teachers in treatment.
  • This actor’s body language could not be more awkward.
  • Casting aside his accent, which I loved, the actor’s inflections keep going astray.
  • The editing and production values, let’s be honest, stink.

If the individual parts of this ad are so horrible, why is the whole thing so great? Continue reading “Why this video is intentionally bad and tremendously good”

Age and size matter not — attitude is everything

friendly friday friendly dog meme

The great thing about the Series of Tubes is that so many people are sifting through so much stuff, you’re bound to find random bits of awesomesauce. Things you would never intentionally seek out.

John Lindo is wonderfully random bit of awesomesauce, and I am happy to do a little Friendly Friday shout-out to him.

Watch this, then let’s talk about why it works, and why it went viral.

This works because there’s a massive gap between expectation and result.

As an audience, we’ve been trained to think of professional dancers as size zero models that come in male and female. They’re young, tanned and costumed. They dance with the stars, and sometimes date the stars.

John is proudly the opposite of all that. He looks like an average middle-aged dad from the suburbs and shatters your every expectation. He’s full of joy, competence and confidence. I’m not a dance expert or fan, and I’d happily watch more videos of him, and try to learn a bit from him. My wife would go nuts. If we men were crazy smart, we’d do Fight Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then get John to teach us to dance like this on Mondays and Wednesday while our bruises fade, then we’d surprise our wives or girlfriends on Friday nights. Continue reading “Age and size matter not — attitude is everything”