The Quiet PC

Wow. After placing my order late on Wednesday afternoon, the components from arrived yesterday (Friday). They came in a huge and heavy box, that had me slightly worried. I haven’t taken a note of the dimensions of the AcoustiCase (£99 ex. VAT) before I ordered it. What if it didn’t fit on my desk? Gulp.

Fortunately, the box contained a lot of packaging. The case itself turned out to be slightly narrower than my old one. It is a good bit taller and longer, but that’s okay–it means there’s more room to manoeuvre inside. (It also has a flat top, which means that stuff I leave lying on it won’t keep rolling off. Cool.)

Another thing I hadn’t checked before ordering the case was the page of installation instructions. If I had, I wouldn’t have been surprised when Abi heaved an enormous bag of acoustic padding out of the box. Some assembly is required, you see…

What you start with is a nice, solid case. A good old-fashioned steel PC case. It weighs a tonne, but that’s part of the deal: with a heavy case like this, there’s less possibility of bits rattling around and making noise. You also get three different kinds of acoustic padding, all carefully cut to size: plain acoustic foam, which slots into spare drive bays and other empty spaces; acoustic barrier mass, which is heavy rubber, backed with strong adhesive for adding dampening weight and thickness to the case; and acoustic composite, which is a combination of the two, for places in the case where there is room for both.

It looks like a daunting task at first, but the instructions are clear. (Once you find them, that is. They were hidden inside the case itself). Overall, it took us about an hour and a half to assemble the case and transplant my PC from its old case to its new one. Installing the Ultra-quiet PSU (£52 ex. VAT) was a simple matter of slotting it into the case and attaching it with a few screws. The Flower Cooler (£33 ex. VAT) looked at once beautiful and scary, but turned out to be easier to snap on to my CPU than my current heat sink and fan.

When it was finished, the whole package looked fantastic. The acoustic padding is cut to perfect size, and is cleverly thought out to fill all the spaces through which sound might escape. The case is large enough to accept an ATX motherboard with stacks of room to spare for running cables. The Flower Cooler comes with a fan that attaches to the case itself rather than the heat sink, and hovers a centimetre or so above the fins to ensure maximum airflow. It also has an attachment that allows you to adjust the speed of the fan, so you can balance trade off some cooling power for more silence.

But the main reason I bought the case was to silence my PC. So does it work? Oh boy, does it work. It is gorgeous. When the computer is idling away, there is a very light thrumming noise from the CPU fan. Sitting a few feet away on the sofa, watching TV at normal volume, the sound is barely noticeable. It makes me cringe at the noisy rattle the old case and cooling fans had been producing.

I had been a little bit worried about heat build-up inside the case, because the acoustic baffling looks like it restricts the airflow in places. But the worry turned out to be unfounded. My CPU (a Duron 800) is ticking over at a happy 45°C, which is lower than it had been in my old case. Excellent! Given that the rear of the AcoustiCase has much better ventilation than my old one, I could probably get away with not running the fan at all right now. But I know I’ll need it when I move up to a high-speed Athlon next year, so I don’t want to get used to complete silence, only to be disappointed when I have to turn the fan back on.

Looking at it sitting on my desk now, the AcoustiCase is a true beast of a case. But it purrs just like a baby kitten. It wasn’t cheap, but this is definitely one of the best computer purchases I’ve ever made.


Silence is golden…

…or at least a substantial pocketful of silver.

Our new washing machine arrived yesterday, and just in time too, because Alex went barfy with winter vomiting again during the night on Tuesday. Our old one still worked–sort of–but the filter for the waste pipe was giving us problems, and the wash cycle didn’t always advance properly. So last weekend we went out and bought a new one.

The best thing about it is that it’s so quiet. We knew the old one was loud. It had lost most of its internal stability some time ago. When it went into full spin mode the whole house would shake. But it had deteriorated slowly, over several years, and we had just come to accept it. But this new one…wow! With the kitchen door closed, you don’t even notice that it’s on. Even when it’s doing a full spin, we don’t need to raise our voices, or turn the volume up on the TV.

It’s immensely satisfying to have a purchase turn out so good.

And on the subject of quietness, I ordered some components from yesterday: the AcoustiCase, ultra-quiet PSU, and Flower Cooler that I mentioned on my PC upgrade list the other day.

I was very tempted to buy the rest of the components as well, and spend some time upgrading my PC while I’m off work this week…but I decided to hold out until the new year. There’s nothing I’m doing with my PC right now that really requires extra oomph (i.e. games), so I’d be upgrading just for the fun of it. Best to let Moore’s Law run for another month or two, and save myself a few pounds. The case components, however, are not electronics, and are unlikely to come down in price much. And they will provide a tangible benefit for our everyday life and computer usage: they’ll make our living room substantially quieter.

New validator?

The W3C has just made some changes to their HTML validator service. As a result, most of my pages have stopped being XHTML 1.0 compliant.

The main problem seems to be that I have two or three blank lines at the top of each HTML page, before the <?xml version=”1.0″?>. Strictly speaking, this should always be the first line in an XML file, and it looks like they are now applying that rule–strictly.

I think the extra lines are coming from the MTMacros I’m defining at the top of each template. It shouldn’t be too hard to re-work these, though.

New MT plugin: MTExtendedAttribute

I’ve just released the <MTExtendedAttribute> plugin for Movable Type into the wild. I’ve been working on this off-and-on for the last month or so, but other things have been keeping me busy, so it’s taken a while to get it polished enough for anyone else to use.

Movable Type only gives you a limited number of fields in which to store data for entries, blogs, categories and authors. With <MTExtendedAttribute>, you can add new fields by adding the extra data into a CSV file, which you drop into your file system, or into a Template Module. I’m using it right now to define multiple icons for each category in my “Quick Reviews” sidebar (which is itself a Movable Type blog).

It’s possible/probably that future versions of MT will allow you to defined custom fields for your entries, categories, and other stuff, but this plugin allows you to do this right away.

Food…must eat more food…then sleep…for months

The Atkins diet has been getting lots of publicity recently. That’s the one where you cut out most of the bare carbohydrates, and stick to eating foods that are high in protein. It’s not quite as simple as sausage, steak, and bacon, but it does allow you to eat lots of stuff you’d think you’d have to turn down if you wanted to lose weight. I think I’d have trouble living without bread.

Whenever Abi and I try to slim down, we go for a simple calorie-controlled diet: 1500 calories a day. We eat whatever we like, only less of it. It means I get a packet of hula hoops and a finger of fudge each day :-).

I’m back up to 74kg again, and I’d like to lose some of that before Christmas rolls around. I’m finding it hard to get the motivation together, though. As we descend into the depths of winter, my body keeps saying “bulk up…eat more fat…hibernate.” And there’s all of the festive season thing going on with visitors (hi Andy!), birthdays, gaming days, work dinners, etc. Sigh.

It’ll get better after the solstice. Or at least, after New Year.