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 19, 2004

IceBox Update: El Phantasmo and the Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama

For those who don't know, the title above is a reference to the soothing music of White Zombie. As it turns out, they produce a somewhat appropriate soundtrack for today's update.

So, a while back I let y'all know about my plan to build a computer in a fridge. Then, later, I described my efforts to do just that. The machine that emerged out of this horrible crossing of two distinct types of home appliance I dubbed the "IceBox." This is, obviously, because I have all the creativity of a four-year-old.

As I said I would, I have been conducting tests on the IceBox, hoping to see if a fridge is a viable solution to heat problems. After the better part of two weeks of work, I'm ready to give you an update.

Initial results are very encouraging. Previously I knew that the IceBox remained cool when the computer was merely idling, but what about when it was actually heavily worked? Would the CPU heat up and overwhelm the refrigerator? To find out I decided to put the system to work on something pretty complex. Now many people would find a video benchmark program and set it to running over and over again. Seeing as how I'm both lazy, and working with a truly ancient system, however, I decided on another approach. Instead I decided to employ UCINET for this task. While UCINET is certainly... unconventional, it does offer compatibility with older systems, and the ability to impose a pretty heavy computational load on the system. Besides, if you're feeling annoyed you can pronounce it "Yucky-net" and feel witty for a second or two.

Once UCINET was loaded into the IceBox I had to pick a dataset and a process. For the dataset I selected Padgett & Ansell's interesting data on the Medici family. This data is both available as an example file in UCINET, and is reasonably complex. For a process, I instructed the software to calculate all possible permutations for automorphic equivalence. It isn't much important what this does in a technical sense, only that it involves a lot of calculations and takes a long time. How long? Well, I once set a 1.2Ghz system to this same task using a smaller dataset and didn't see a solid answer for several hours, so I expected the IceBox to require the better part of a day, at least. On the upside, this would certainly provide the long-term heating/cooling data I needed.

Once this process was initiated I began checking the temperature with my trusty cardinal-themed thermometer about every 15 minutes. I am quite pleased to report that during the test period the temperature inside the fridge didn't rise by more than two degrees. This is obviously good, as it suggests that the IceBox works, but there's bad news as well.

After about 50 minutes, the computer spontaneously shut down. Confused, I restarted the system, and reinitiated the testing process. Again, after 50 minutes or so, the system went down. Next, I thought perhaps it could be some hardware or software setting and spent some time hunting for an option that might explain this behavior. After disabling all screen savers, stand-by devices, and even power management options, however, I was still left with a system that consistently switched itself off after about 50 minutes.

Next, I tried unplugging the fridge while the system was on and then plugging it in again after twenty minutes. See, I was wondering if, maybe, when the fridge's compressor kicked in it generated a strong enough EM field to momentarily interrupt the function of the computer's power supply and shut the whole thing down. This line of inquiry was not conspicuously successful. Finally, wondering if it was the cold, I tuned the fridge off, allowed the computer to return to room-temperature, and tried again.

As expected, it switched itself off after about 50 minutes. So, I am left with the unpleasant conclusion that the stunt computer I employed in the IceBox is a malfunctioning piece of crap. Or, more likely, the power supply.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes is famous for having remarked that, "Once you have eliminated the possible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth." Perhaps there is one possibility that I haven't considered before now. What is this possibility? Evil spirits!

"But how," you ask, "can you test for evil spirits, Drek?"

A good question! There exist in this world objects that are such total embodiments of perfect evil that we can only explain their nature by understanding that they are evil magnets. Evil forces are drawn to them and infest them as ants are drawn to a picnic. Also, as it happens, thanks to some of my more interesting friends,

I am in possession of a few of these evil-attractors.

The hard part was selecting which evil attractors to use. There was, of course, the previously mentioned CD by Mandy Moore...

...but, horrifying though it is, I just didn't think it was evil enough. Fortunately, I have access to a far more terrifying CD by Britney Spears.

Worry not, it's only a single and is, thus, not a full strength evil CD. Still, try not to stare directly at the picture for too long, lest your soul be sucked out through your nose or something. In any case, the only way to explain the second and, god help us, third tracks on this CD is with reference to some form of ultimate evil.

For a second evil attractor I chose a copy of the movie M.D. Geist II.

This movie is bad. Really bad. Really, really, really bad. On the badger scale this movie probably ranks a ten... which is pretty impressive considering that the highest "official" badger scale rating for any movie is (for the moment) a twelve.

To round out my "evil" scheme, I needed to sweeten the pot a little bit. I can't just attract the evil, I have to give it a reason to stay. For that purpose I made use of a special little something I acquired in college. And no, smartass, I don't mean "herpes." During my freshman year, you see, there was a guy on my hall that we'll call... Wilbur. Now, Wilbur was something of an idiot. Mostly harmless, I suppose, but irritating. One day a handful of us were imposing upon our RA for a ride to a local burritto joint and Wilbur decided he wanted to come. Wilbur begged, and wheedled, and pleaded, and finally gained permission to come along. On arriving, however, he promptly announced that he had forgotten his wallet and asked me if he could borrow some cash. Having lost the will to argue with him I agreed. At this news, Wilbur said he'd pay me back as soon as we returned to the dorm. Being somewhat of an asshole, however, I turned to him, met his eyes, and said, "Oh, I don't want your money..."

"I want your soul."

Surprisingly, Wilbur complied and I found myself in the possession of one freshman's (slightly used) soul. How slightly used I wasn't to learn until later, when Wilbur went on to be investigated by the student honor council, be implicated in the worst case of student government embezzling in my school's history, and then went to law school. To be frank, I think I may have done old Wilbur a favor in his current profession by unburdening him of something he had no use for anyway.

In any case, I still have Wilbur's soul, and decided to add it to my cunning trap. I took these items and arranged them in as inviting a manner as possible.

I then settled down to wait.

So far, I see no signs of evil spirit activity, although the items I placed in the IceBox have lowered the temperature inside by almost twenty-five degrees through the power of their darkness, as you can see on my charming cardinal-themed thermometer:

Still, patience is as necessary in evil trapping as it is in fishing, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

And, you know, if nothing happens, I guess I'll just have to get some new parts and build a less-shitty computer inside the fridge. All in the name of science, right?


Blogger Brayden said...

This is all interesting Drek, but have you tested it against a control group?

Monday, July 19, 2004 1:24:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey, just gimme a mini-fridge and a stunt computer and I'll have a control group up and running faster than you can say, "Ow, ow! Please stop hitting me!"

Monday, July 19, 2004 2:20:00 PM  

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