Project Osmium: Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup’s default shading model is far from fantastic, but works fine for drafting. Here, the effects of the black acrylic side panels are poorly rendered, but the effect should be like dark glass — semi-transparent, with a bit of a mirror finish.
Aluminium is used for the top, back and bottom; acrylic is used for the front and sides.

On the left, two renderings that are hopefully more pleasing to the eye: hidden-frame and X-ray renderings. Hidden-frame rendering looks the nicest in my opinion, although it does obscure some details, and shows no information about texturing or colours. The X-ray renderings are a little cluttered, but the internal components should be easily identifiable.

A quick orientation: The radiator is on top, the PSU is mounted at the bottom, flush with the back.

The motherboard is mounted on a second clear acrylic base (attached to the internal frame), and the CPU socket sits right underneath the PSU (a tight fit for anything, really). Yeah, like an SG03 layout, but more cramped.

Lastly, fan grilles and other orifices have not been modelled yet; Thus far, only the back I/O [plate and PCI slots have been cut. Tubing for watercooling is likewise incomplete, as are the CPU and GPU waterblocks.

Here, you can see the internal frame to which all components are attached. Some sections are still incomplete; I am pondering how to add a support bar to the rear assembly, which holds the PSU and peripheral cards. Still, it should be easily clear how the components are attached, even if the screws have not been modelled and rendered.

These are the components, displayed without the skin and supporting frame. The video card is not shown. (There were no pre-rendered models available, and I didn’t not have one on-hand for reference.)

The pump was placed in front due to the lack of mountable surfaces; the SSD is in front so I can possibly illuminate it for some cheesecake night shots.

The radiator assembly and the bottom intake fan actually serve to support the aluminium skins (which will be directly attached to them) as well.

The skin and frame are shown without the components. The skin is made up of 2 pieces of aluminium and acrylic each; aluminium for the top and bottom (which curve around to the back and fold in interesting ways to form it), and acrylic for the base side panel on the motherboard side, as well as the curved front+side panel.

It might be interesting to note that the base panel is attached to the internal frame only via perspex blocks (rectangular blocks, of which there are currently 4; I will need to add a few more), so as to reduce the drilling requirement and make the mirror finish more perfect.

The aluminium panel skins will be attached to the frame via flat countersunk screws, polished to match the anodised aluminium.

Details of the hinge mechanism, as well as other missing details, will follow in future updates.

Project Osmium: Materials and Hardware

Materials

The materials of choice are black transparent acrylic, and black anodised aluminium (brushed finish). While I am not particularly inclined towards lighting in my computer cases, I felt it would be nice to have some diffuse white lighting in the case, accentuating particular elements. Black acrylic would show this off nicely, while hiding the internal components behind a mirror finish when the case lights are switched off.

Hardware

Small form factor here means a micro-ATX form-factor (socket-1156 mini-ITX boards will be a long time in coming…) In addition, I wanted to minimise cost as far as possible, and since I will not be doing heavy overclocking on this setup, it should prove relatively easy to stay on a small budget. This rig will be mainly used for multimedia playback and heavy multitasking, essentially a do-it-all build (excluding gaming; I am not a PC gamer).

The following key components have been picked out so far.

  • Intel Core i7-860
  • Gigabyte P55M-UD2
  • Corsair XMS3-DHX DDR3
  • XFX Radeon HD5750
    The watercooling elements are tentative and may be replaced by other picks sometime.

  • Swiftech MCP350 pump

  • Swiftech MCR220-Rev dual-120mm radiator (built-in reservoir)
  • Dual Noctua NF-P12 for radiator cooling
  • Enermax Enlobal Marathon / Magma for air intake & memory DIMM cooling

Project Osmium: Introduction

noun Chemistry.
atomic number 76. Osmium is a hard, brittle, blue-gray or blue-black transition metal in the platinum family, and is the densest natural element.

Many months ago, when Lynnfield was announced, my interest in a power-efficient, small-footprint quad-core system was piqued. No northbridge, and individual core control; A quad-core system that stays within the 200W power envelope and yet sits in a case smaller than a mini-tower was unthinkable, then.

My earliest ideas revolved around fitting a Core i7-860 in a Lian-Li MUSE PC-C37 case, cooled by a sealed closed-loop cooler such as the Corsair H50. The optical drive + hard drive cage would be removed and replaced with a segregated cooling tunnel for the 120mm radiator, and a 70mm fan intake would cool the memory DIMMs. This idea bounced around in my head for quite a while, until I started looking up case mods on bit-tech and other sites.

The idea of a scratch-build was very appealing; low-form-factor cases have not gained mass-market appeal yet, so pickings are still slim. The only case I could find that would take a full-sized ATX PSU was the C37, and it was still a little too wide for my taste. I also wanted a case that would stand upright to reduce the desktop footprint, and the C37 didn’t look like it could do that comfortably.

Hence, enter project Osmium. The name was (uncreatively) inspired by the element of the same name; this build aims to maximise performance in as small a volume as possible (highest performance density), and it would be decked out in black, like the rest of the other electronics on my table.

Porting search engines from Firefox to Chrome/Iron

This is a quick method for those seeking to improve the functionality of Chrome/Iron/other Chromium variants on their system.

If you already have Firefox installed and have been playing around with it, then you probably have quite a list of search engines already added. you can, with some expenditure of effort, bring them over to Chromium/Iron. Here’s how.

  1. Browse to your Firefox profile folder. On most systems, this should be something like C:/Program Files/Mozilla/Firefox/profile (I’m using a portable build so I can’t verify this).
  2. You should see a folder labelled searchplugins. If you see a number of files with extensions ending in .xml, then you’ve hit jackpot :) Those files are search engine configurations, and should be named according to the search engine they are configured for.
  3. Right-click the appropriate .xml file, then “Edit” (or just open it in your text editor of choice). Look for a line with the following:
  4. From the same line, copy the URL that comes after template="…", without the quotation marks.
  5. Right-click on the Location bar in Chrome/Iron, and select “Edit search engines…”. Click “Add”, and a dialog box for adding a new search engine should appear.
  6. Type in a name and keyword of your choice in the first two text entry fields. In the third entry field, paste the URL you copied earlier. Replace &$8220;{searchTerms} in the URL with %s.
  7. Click Ok. You should now be able to search using the search engine in Chrome/Iron, simply by typing in the search keyword, then the search terms to use, separated by a space.

Of Sky Crawlers and Change

I finally watched The Sky Crawlers (from a source I will not name), and it left me with mixed feelings. It has been a long time since I have thought about so many things after watching anime, so I will pen some of them down.

First, a warning to readers: No, I did not have an outline of this written on a sheet of paper, nor did I plan an introduction, body (replete with elaboration) and conclusion, so I am afraid you will have to suffer some of my brain diarrhoea. Any academic body would tell you this is bad writing style, so do not emulate this. But for a blog … whatever.

Without revealing too much of the story and plot, The Sky Crawlers is a story about Kildren: adolescents doomed (or perhaps blessed) to live the prime of their youth over and over again, in an unchanging landscape. Like with other Mamoru Oshii works, this one is a thinker. What makes this one different is that it’s boring, absolutely boring, but intentionally so. Here I should immediately clarify that I do not use the word “boring” with the intent of insult.

Truthfully, the film piqued my interest only after I read Justin’s review of it (scathing look at the anime industry? Ooooh…) I don’t fully agree with him. As one of the posters on the ANN forums says, the theme of this movie is so general that it could apply to almost anything. It could be a scathing look at anime… or at engineering, or business, photography, or any number of fields and disciplines that have fallen into the rut of wash-rinse-repeat. From a general perspective, Sky Crawlers is the embodiment of pretty-but-boring; lovely textures and lighting, sharp CG, but flat textures on flat characters, and bland voice-acting. I wonder if this is Oshii’s way of making his point that invariability is an undesired result we should not be aiming for.

As a teenager I sometimes thought to myself, “How nice things would be if they could stay the same so I would never have to grow up”. Now the irony of that statement comes back to bite me. It’s triflingly amusing because at that moment in time, I was looking forward to an eternity of constancy; the preservation of a state that includes my preference for an eternally unchanging state of constancy. If that state could have been perfectly preserved maybe I would have been in frozen, time-preserved bliss. Wouldn’t that be a dandy state of things?

But in retrospect, perhaps invariability is desirable only in the context of an inevitably changing background. In a world where things are changing slowly but surely, constancy is the flip side of the coin, the greener side of the field. I As a teen, my thoughts aligned with dreams of never growing up or graduating, because growing up and graduating is the de-facto state of things I could not avoid. I wonder what I would have said in an alternate reality where ideas such as graduation never existed.

In the first chapter of The Nature of Physical Reality, (part of) a paragraph reads “Professor William Lyon Phelps, in his charming informal lectures to the undergraduates at Yale, insisted that physics had far less to say about truth and reality than did poetry. and to prove his point he asked them: ‘Would you now read a physics text that is 100 years old? Of course not. But you still read Shakespeare!’ ”

So much for truth and reality then, as convenient and useful constructs of the mind. Maybe they are not constant either, changing as our perceptions and collective ideas do. Perhaps, as the cliché goes, the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. And if change is the only thing we can count on, then it’s probably time for me to grow up and stop getting too comfortable in my little academic pigeon-hole.

Fockkkk

More than 6 years (nay, closer to 7) with Windows XP, and I only just realised that every time I disconnect a USB device, my tablet says fockkkk. In a computerish accent, nonetheless quite clearly and distinguishably, fockkkk.

Killing It Softly

I have a habit of trying to hold the power button for the shortest time possible before the computer performs a hard power down. I never gave too much thought to this until today, when I realised that I still feel queasy about holding down that power button. Pressing down on the windpipe of a whirring, breathing animal, until it ceases all activity, while you watch pensively for further stirring before confirming its state of death.