Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I could fry an egg on the damned thing!

Good morning everybody, I'm your host, Drek, let's play our game!

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you're a computer person. By that, of course, I mean that you like computers and have a fair to middlin concept of how they work. Further, if you're a computer person, there's a good chance you're a gamer, or someone who plays video games a little obsessively. Someone who can recount with pleasure the last tense match of Counter Strike or Halo that you played, a little like some guys talk about playing high school football. You may even be a little like these guys.

Now, brothers and sisters (Sisters? Who the fuck am I kidding?) if you're a gamer you are, of course, familiar with the gamer's worst enemy. No, not work, or even one's significant other or, god forbid, spouse. No, the gamer's worst enemy is heat. Yes, folks, heat. The dreaded heat that slows down framerates and causes choppy gameplay. The same heat that can overload your system and burn out your CPU. That demonic heat that can even cause your mainboard to catch fire. No, I'm not kidding, it's actually happened to me. Actual FLAMES coming off of the board. Happened just a few weeks before I defended my MA, too. Not good. But I digress....

Yes, kids, heat is the enemy, and it is an even more pernicious enemy if, like me, you don't have an air conditioner in your apartment. I have a device known as a swamp cooler which, despite the claims on the website, does NOT cool by as much as 25 degrees. For all intents and purposes a swamp cooler is a device that is constantly performing in the air conditioner tryouts, and doesn't get a call-back. If you're a gamer, then, a swamp cooler in the summer is a veritable ban on gaming, and even more so if, like me, your landlord is a crack-smoking spazz-monkey who can't keep it running for more than 2 days at a time and never answers his damn phone. But, again, I digress....

So, as an enterprising young gamer, I have been investigating new cooling solutions for my home computer. I've added blower fans, and thermal control fans for both intake and exhaust (mine don't have the LEDs). I've pulled the CPU fan off and applied new layers of thermal grease and I've slapped in the new rounded IDE cables to improve circulation. Nothing has solved my trouble with heat. I've even tried these things which are like a punishment from god.

Now, I could, of course, go whole-hog and try one of those new liquid cooling systems but, aside from not wanting to install a sprinkler system in my computer case, those are expensive. So, I've decided to conduct a little experiment of my own in computer cooling. You see, objects like computers (and humans, incidentally) release heat by radiating it through surface area to some other substance. The amount of heat that is lost per unit time is determined by (1) the amount of surface area available to radiate the heat with, and (2) the temperature differential between the two objects. The greater the difference in temperature, the faster heat is released. This is the principle behind wind chill: if the air is still, as your body releases heat, the temperature of the air surrounding your body will rise, reducing the rate of heat loss. If, on the other hand, the air is moving, heated air is constantly replaced with unheated air, keeping the rate of heat loss at a constant level.

Computers, with their fans, take advantage of this property. The fans increase airflow and replace the air around components, that has already been heated, with new air from outside the case, that, presumably, is cooler. Now, as ambient temperature rises, the amount of heat the computer can dump into a particular volume of air decreases. In order to maintain the same rate of cooling, then, larger volumes of air must be moved. Of course, sooner or later you hit a ceiling with this process, and no more air may be moved per unit time than you're already moving. That's roughly the position I'm in now. My computer has about as good an airflow as it's going to get. So, what's next?

Well, if you can't move more air, you just have to move cooler air. How do you do that, you ask? Simple: build a computer inside a fridge.

And if you want to know more about that, you'll just have to come back tomorrow.


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