Wednesday, December 30, 2020

AMD Ryzen 9 5950x Nvidia RTX 3090 FE PC Build

So it's been over 7.5 years since I've done a a completely new desktop PC build for myself.  With the huge generational leap in CPU (zen 3) and GPU (RTX 3080) and Cyberpunk 2077 release I figure it was the perfect time to pull the trigger on a new pc.  It was the best and absolute worst time to build though.  Great as far as technological advancements and a target application/game that can take advantage of it creating a perfect storm but horrible from a product availability standpoint with demand way out stripping supply and scalper bots gobbling up a lot of the scarce inventory.  

I have to say Best Buy really came through for me.  It is where I was able to get both the PS 5 and Xbox series X pre orders in, rtx 3080, and now finally the ryzen 5950x.  The cpu took almost 2 months to finally acquire.  I'm so glad I was able to buy everything at retail prices.  I did use alert bots (does NOT auto buy, just alerts) like this one running on a dedicated pc with mullvad vpn with kill switch on.  There are also several discord shopping bot servers like this one.  Finally, I wrote my own bot because I could.   

In the past I've typically targeted mid to high end with a budget of $1300 or less. This time I kind of went all out.  The hope is this PC will last a LONG time with the typical GPU upgrade every 2-3 years.

Here is the complete parts list:

This is by far the most insane and expensive build I've done clocking in at $3,100 and after taxes closer to $3,355.  But it runs Cyberpunk 2077 so totally worth it! Seriously, I'm loving it with 60 hrs in so far and still in Act 2.  

Some notes on the parts I chose:

  • Rzyen 5950x: Pretty much overkill for purely gaming but I want this cpu to last a long time and to use it for more productivity tasks, virtualization, and coding.  First cpu I had was a 5600x which partially  broke in the first 4 hours.  You can read more about my painful experience if you are curious.  I know  the 5600x are the lowest bin parts but I think this one fell out of the bin, got smashed under the bin, was found and shipped to me.  So far the 5950x has been working great though.
  • Noctua NH-D15: It's massive but so effective, quiet, and surprisingly really easy to mount.  Just a really well designed cooler.  Worth it if you've got the space but again probably overkill if you are running stock (which I plan to for quite a while).
  • Arctic MX-4: Spread method for LIFE.
  • Asus TUF Gaming x570 pro.  Has all the headers I wanted to plug in all the connectors for my case including front usb-c.  Wifi is pointless so that part is a waste but I like having bluetooth built in.  It was a bit more than I wanted to spend.
  • Corsair Vengeance LPX 32 GB 3600:  Went for higher speeds vs lower latency since higher clock speeds directly impacts infinity fabric in a 1:1 scenario.  
  • Samsung 970 evo Plus 2TB: Got a pretty good price and I wanted to fill all the nvme holes since filling it later would be difficult with that Noctua in place.  I stuck a cheap little heatsink on it since the motherboard only came with one nvme heatsink.  Not sure if it helps all that much but might as well.
  • Sabrent Rocket 4.0: Gen 4 speeds for the boot drive
  • Evga RTX 3080 XC3 Ultra: It's a 3080. 
  • Upgraded to a RTX 3090 Founder's Edition.  See details below.  DLSS and ray tracing were very important features for me.  I run a 4K 32" display so the more GPU the better.  
  • Phanteks p500a: First time working with a phanteks.  I love the overall build quality with a lot of nice cable management features.  I HATE that this particular model is missing a HDD LED and reset button which I had to add on myself and just have it tied to one of the gpu pcie power cables.  The phanteks fans are really nice too and having all the RGB synced up is cool.  Good Temps, Good looks, Good low noise levels.  If you find it a bit confusing on how to wire up all the fans and rgb take a look at this video.
  • EVGA 850w: Spent a bit more here for more headroom to accommodate any future gpu upgrades.
  • Seagate 16TB: Immediately shucked it and installed it internally.  It's always nice to have a large amount of local storage.
Bios Settings (currently on version 3001).  Download latest from here:
  • Install latest chipset drivers directly from AMD.
  • Start from optimized defaults
  • AI over clock tuner: DOCP
  • SVM Mode: enabled
  • Wifi controller: disabled
  • Resize BAR: ON
So there wasn't a huge difference between gen 3 and gen 4.  Gen 4 isn't really cost effective right now but I got one just to be more future proof.

Gen 3 (Samsung):

Gen 4 (Sabrent):

CPU Temps:
Cinebench R23 multi core:




Additional Parts:
  • Ducky One 2 Midnight TKL Double Shot PBT Mechanical Keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches
  • Logitech G Pro Wireless Gaming Mouse
  • SeelSeries QcK mouse pads
  • Grifiti wrist pad
  • Xbox Series X Controller in Shock Blue with wireless adapter.  I think it has lower latency than bluetooth.
  • Jabra Evolve 40 Mono headset.  I prefer to keep game audio on speakers and only have chat through the headset.
  • 32" 4K 60hz monoprice monitor with freesync.
  • Cheap HP and LG 1080p 60hz IPS 27" monitors (each were around $100-120)
  • Logitech Z-5300e THX-Certified 280-Watt 5.1 Surround Sound PC and Gaming Speaker System.  I don't have the rear speakers hooked up just because I don't have a good place to put them.
  • Logitech c920s webcam

Overall I'm super impressed with this rig.  I thought my old machine still felt pretty fast but this machine is so much faster.  Highly recommended if you have the money and the patience to get the parts.

UPDATE: 05/24/2021
  • I picked up a RTX 3090 Founders Edition from Best Buy at retail price.  I got pretty lucky.  I gave my son the 3080.  Now there is literally nothing left in my system I would want to upgrade.  It's about as top of the line as it gets for me at least.  I think it's time I stop fiddling and enjoy the system.
  • Updated pcpartpicker list.  Now it's up to $3842.  So around a bank breaking $4160 after taxes.  Uggg!!!

That 3090 is a beast compared to the already large 3080.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

New Consoles - Xbox Series X, PS 5, Nintendo Game & Watch


Xbox Series X - Arguably the most powerful console well at least on paper anyways.  Feels fast, polished, complete, finished.  Seems very stable.  Silent.  Nothing really to play since it really doesn't have any big exclusives since Halo got pushed back to next year.  Amazing backwards compatibility.  Game pass is probably the best value in gaming right now (netflix of gaming).

Playstation 5 - A behemoth!  Also fast and silent.  Less ssd space (667 gb usable).  Buggy, rushed, unfinished.  Currently it is recommended you do NOT use an external hdd and also disable rest mode.  I had one power shutdown the first night when I had my external hdd connected.  It actually has good exclusives like Spider-Man (performance mode FTW), Demon Souls remake, and Astro's playroom which is free and really really good.  Amazing haptics on the controller that feels truly next gen.  Hand candy!  Badly needs a firmware update to fix issues.

Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros - Nintendo doing its own thing.  It's my favorite desk clock.  Cool easter eggs.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Casio Digital Piano (CDP-S150)

So we normally play on our Kawai KG2 Baby Grand which is really an amazing instrument.  We've had it for over 20 years now, and it still sounds really nice for the most part.  The hammers are hardening a bit making higher notes sound a bit off but other than that it is still pretty great.  It's a bit heavier action especially when compared to like a Yamaha.

So why a Digital Piano when we already have a nice piano?  Mostly it is to have a portable option.  We wanted something we could bring to the parents house and our kids could still practice if they wanted to.  My youngest is now much better than  I am.  We also wanted something that could be battery powered so that limited our options much further.  If the power ever goes out you can still play!  Also, having headphone option so as not to disturb the rest of the house is great too.  No need to tune it every year either so that's quite a nice maintenance cost savings.

We first tried a Roland GO:PIANO88.  It sounds good and has some great modern connectivity options like bluetooth midi and speakers.  It has semi weighted keys and well if your are intermediate or better I would say that's just not going to cut it.  The weight and action all just felt way light, cheap, and plasticky.  Remember, we are coming from only really ever playing on that Kawai so for a beginner who hasn't had much play time with a particular piano this might not be that big of a deal.  So I returned it and grabbed this Casio.  It has fully weighted scaled hammer action keys and they feel SO MUCH BETTER.  I really like the texture on the keys too.  Everything felt so much more premium.  It costs and weighs quite a bit more than the Roland but I feel it is definitely worth the money.  Also, it can run 6-13 hrs on 6 X AA batteries.  I didn't like the sound quite as much and I felt the samples were way too short but those are pretty easily fixed.  The one thing you can't fix/upgrade on a digital piano are the keys so I think that is where you should spend the money.  The short pivot point does make it bit harder to play deep into the keys but it wasn't that bad and with a bit of practice you get use to it.  

Full Setup:

  • Casio CDP-S150: $479.
  • M-Audio SP2 Sustain Pedal: $25.  The included pedals on all these cheaper pianos are hot garbage.  Definitely get an upgraded one.
  • PageFlip: $90.  A must have if you use an iPad for all your sheet music.  I use my left foot to turn pages with this incredibly handy bluetooth device.
  • Yamaha UD-BT01 - Wireless MIDI Adapter: $55. This will convert the standard usb midi on the Casio to wireless bluetooth midi to easily work with iOS devices.  If you have a newer iOS device then this is must since you will need to use a lightning to headphone jack adapter.  Works well with GarageBand and Ravescroft 275.
  • Piano Stand: $119.  Built for this piano model.  Pretty sturdy though there is still a little bit of front to back movement.  Side to side is very stable.  Uses 4 big oversized thumb screws to attach the piano to the stand so it's very easy to remove by hand.
  • Piano Bench: $45.  Cushioned, lots of height adjustments.
  • ForScore: $15. Amazing iOS app for all your sheet music needs.
  • Ravenscroft 275: $36 Amazing sounding piano samples.

So to overcome the short samples and sound of the Casio (which really isn't that bad to begin with) I use the Ravenscroft 275 app.  It can run in the background.  I have an iPad Air 2 connected to the keyboard using the bluetooth midi adapter.  Just go into the midi settings in the ravenscroft app and connect to the UD-BT01.  Then, make sure you tick the checkbox.  If you don't check the device after pairing it won't actually use it.  This had me stumped for a while.  After that just use a standard stereo 3.5mm cable to connect it from the ipad headphone jack (or lightning adapter) to the aux in on the keyboard.  Turn the volume all the way down or change the midi setting on the keyboard so you only hear the sounds from the iPad which is then piped into the keyboard aux in and out the built in speakers.  I leave everything at default settings in the app. It sounds really good especially on headphones and the samples are nice and long for much better sustain pedal use.  It does occasionally glitch in sound with a bit of crackle but it's very rare.  It could be it's because this is a pretty old model of iPad.  Overall, it's a very noticeable improvement over the built in keyboard sound.  I use around 10% iPad battery for about an hour of practice.

I spent around $760 total for this setup (some things I already had and are also really useful with the real piano).  I've done a few long practice sessions with it, and no it's still not the same as a real piano but it's darn close and really quite good for the money.  Any practice on this setup will translate very nicely to a real piano.

UPDATE 10/31/2020:
So for the ultimate low latency solution you can go all wired:
  • a cheap usb sound card like this one.  I haven't tested that particular model but I had a logitech one lying around and it worked fine: $8
  • USB 3 camera adapter: $39
  • I had this cheap little unpowered usb 2.0 hub sitting around but I'm sure any usb hub would work: $8
So lightning to usb (didn't need to add power.  worked fine without).  Then the usb hub and finally connect the casio and usb sound card to the hub.  Then headphones to the sound card.  It all worked great and I was able to use my newer iPhone XS which I'm happy to report produced a clean glitch free sound.  I still use my iPad but only for forscore now.  It's a little less convenient than the bluetooth midi dongle, and really it's still only one lightning cable you need to plug into your iPhone, but overall I feel the results are worth it: Zero lag and cleaner sound!

Monday, October 05, 2020

Getting to Legend Glory rank and Not Forgotten in Destiny 2 (survival freelance)


So I just got NF 2 days ago pretty much all freelance.

  • It was a long road for me. I use to be a fabled person but over the last say 6 months and playing with purpose I slowly raised my glory ceiling every season. 2700-3000, then 4200, and then finally this season I've been bouncing around 5000. This Saturday I fell back down to 4850 and then hit a 7 win streak to end at 5498. It wasn't easy. There were some real close matches at the end there. Several games went to 7 rounds.

  • Get a feel for the size of the pool of players is. I like it when the pool is larger. If it takes a long time to queue and you keep getting matched with the same players and losing a lot I would call it a night. Saturday afternoons worked well for me (xbox).

  • I stayed away from PC which is where I usually play PvE. It's just way faster pace, sweatier, and there is always the threat of cheaters.

  • Get comfortable carrying and having to pull off clutch final 1v1 or 1v2 wins. Get use to playing well under pressure. In solo queue it's going to happen.

  • I watched a lot of youtube videos and streamers and of course read this subreddit. It helps to some extent but try not to focus too much on just their mechanical skills. Yes, I can sometimes pull off some of those moves but never as fast or smooth. I'm just flat out old at 49 and my reflexes are no where near where they were at 20. Instead I focused on their game sense, map awareness, radar, positioning, always having the right weapon out, etc. These are areas I knew I could make much bigger strides in.

  • I'll bring up positioning and right weapon out again since I think this is pretty critical. Being able to read the radar and the player and predicting what they are going to do next is huge. When I die it's usually because I expected them to do one thing or be in some spot and they weren't.

  • Stick close enough to your teammates that you can help with team shooting in a moments notice but not necessarily holding hands. Learning to support your teammates without voice is huge no matter how good or bad they are.

  • Get comfortable with 2 different loadouts and practice, practice, practice with them. Don't keep cycling through like 20 different weapons. One for close range/aggressive teams and another for bigger maps/more passive teams. After a while you should know which loadout you prefer based on which maps. I pretty much stuck to mostly meta: hunter - suros, felwinter/beloved, hammerhead, stompees, middle tree void, 100 mobility, 80 recovery, 80 int.

  • Learn to recognize EARLY when you are going to lose a 1v1 and immediately get OUT (slide, dodge, dash). Survivability is key....well in survival.

  • So with shotgun I really don't ape. I know I don't have the mechanical skills to really pull it off consistently. But I did get good using it defensively. I got pretty good at judging distance, baiting, let apes come to me, backpedal and finishing them off with suros if they were far enough way or quick swap to felwinter to kill them first.

  • That was key for me. My style is generally defensive. I don't mean passive either. I'll push when I see the advantage but I don't often if ever go for those big montage clip type of plays because I know I would most likely be just throwing my life away or a trade at best. Learn to recognize and pick fights or create situations you know you will win.

  • I grinded out the last 1000+ points in longer sessions. I like to set limits like ok if I'm down 300 points I'm out for the day or if I've been playing a while and starting to feel a bit fatigued (say 4+ hrs), and I'm on a solid win streak I will say I will keep playing until I lose.

  • The worst is AFKers and a close second is people who drop. You can kind of work with people who NEVER use their super, don't understand playing life advantage, feed like crazy (love it when you get knocked out after your first death), don't play for heavy, doesn't challenge the overtime capture point, try to 1 v 3 instead of regroup with your respawning teammates, don't sit passively when it's a 1 v 3 (or worse) and you are the last guardian letting 3 enemy team members charge their supers, but man AFKers are the worst in this mode. (The tip here is make sure you are NOT one of those people!)

I know everybody says it but really if I can do it almost anybody can. I'm old and not all that fast, my aim isn't too bad but nothing amazing. My lifetime glory stats are .92 KD and 42.1% win rate. Jump to the current season and I have a 1.10 KD and 55.2% win rate. Nothing amazing but apparently good enough.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Remove Sticky Rubber from electronics


  • I hate electronics especially mice covered in that grippy rubber that we all know eventually turns into a sticky mess.  Here is how to remove it.
  • Above pictured is an original Razer Orochi bluetooth gaming mouse.  It still works fine but the entire surface was a sticky mess.
  • You will need:
    • Some finger/toe brushes.  I guess a toothbrush would work too
    • Goo Gone Adhesive Remover
    • Baking Soda
    • Isopropyl Alcohol - I used 70% but I'm sure higher would work fine.
    • Gloves
    • Rags, paper towels.
  • Add just a little water to some baking soda until it has a consistency of toothpaste.
  • Start with some goo gone.  Spray 2-3 times on a folded paper towel.  Thoroughly wipe the sticky rubbery surface. Scrub it with the brush vigorously.
  • Next, dip your brush into the baking soda paste and scrub the surface again.
  • Finally, wet a folded paper towel with the alcohol and remove all the remaining rubber.
  • Repeat everything again as many times as need to completely remove all the rubber.  Usually twice should be enough.
  • In the above picture I scrubbed really hard with the alcohol and removed some of the plastic I think but the point is the mouse is nice and smooth now and still works great.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol can be absorbed through the skin so gloves would be a good idea.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Handheld Game Consoles

  • I just got nostalgic and decided to get all my handhelds together for a group photo.  Most are in great condition with screen protectors and cases so no scratches.
  • I thought I still had my MicroVision but I'm having issues locating it.  I'll update if I find it.
  • Top row (left to right)
    • Game Boy
    • Game Boy Pocket
    • Game Boy Color
    • Game Boy Advance
    • Game Boy Advance SP
    • Game Boy Micro
  • Second Row
    • Nintendo DS
    • Nintendo DS Lite
    • Nintendo DSi
    • Nintendo 3DS
    • Nintendo 3DS XL with Circle Pad Pro
  • Third Row
    • Sega Nomad with the battery pack that clips on the back holding 6XAA
    • Game Gear with the TV tuner adapter, Sega Master System adapter, and magnification lens
    • PSP
    • PS Vita
  • Bottom Row
    • Nintendo Switch

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Raspberry pi 4 Laptop / SBC Mobile Workstation

Lots more photos

  • Goals:
    • Build a dirt cheap raspberry pi 4 laptop or really just a mobile workstation for any sort of single board computer (SBC).
    • No permanent modification to any of the parts so it can be easily disassembled and used for other purposes or projects.
    • Completely battery powered.
    • Large screen.
    • Use as many parts as I could that I already had lying around.
  • Parts:
  • Details:
    • It took forever to find a box the right size.  It is 14X9X2 which pretty much fits everything perfectly.
    • I had already owned everything else on the parts list before starting this project except for the plastic box, monitor, and the dremel.  I wanted a new dremel and monitor anyways.  So I'd say I dedicated $12 specifically to this project.  The monitor makes a nice secondary monitor for a regular laptop or a bigger screen for Nintendo Switch.
    • It weighs about 5.5 lbs total.  
    • I wanted a large 15.6 screen.  Portability was secondary.  I'm getting old and small screens are much harder on the eyes for me.
    • My dremel skills are horrible, and the cuts are really rough.  I didn't really care about looks that much.
    • I cut the corners off the velcro dots so they fit better on the corners of the lid.
    • Make sure you put the soft side of the dots on the monitor cover (both the side to attach to the box and the inside for the keyboard)
    • You can open the box with the monitor still attached.  Just be careful it doesn't flop backwards hard.
    • I used elastic cord to keep everything together when moving it around.  You could just as easily add some more velcro dots instead.
    • Cutout on the left for easy access to ethernet and usb ports.  Cutout on the right to get to the battery so I can unplug the monitor and rpi 4 to save battery.  I had a little usb-c power switch dongle that worked great with an ac adapter but doesn't seem to work with this battery.  So I just unplug everything from the battery on the right side when not in use.  I can also easily charge the battery through the cutout.
    • I have 2 dividers attached together with duct tape and cut down half height.  I use it to separate the rpi 4 and the battery so I can plug cables into the battery without pushing it into the case.  It's half height so cables can still be laid on top.
    • I routed the cables out and back in the back side of the case for micro hdmi and usb-c power to the rpi 4 to prevent bending the cable so much.
    • Temps stay under 60c under load.
    • Lots of room for improvements.  I need to find a better way to stabilize the monitor cover hinge.  Still, it works pretty well on your lap for the most part.
    • Typing is a little cumbersome mostly because of how thick it is.
    • Totally NOT worth building from scratch.  You can easily get a real laptop that is a lot more portable and usable for the money.