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Build Log: OCEANBLUe Upgrade

I laid hands on OCEANBLUe for the first time since it traveled with my parents to Moscow, Russia. I did get the opportunity to perform some work on it remotely, but performance remained sluggish. Maybe it was time to give the hardware a rest.

After my parents came back to the United States, my father expressed an interest in upgrading OCEANBLUe. I ordered parts.

Order Placed: OCEANBLUe Upgrade

I livestreamed much of the initial build, stopping when it was time to sit down to dinner.

A couple of notes from the build process:

Plastic brackets for HSF needed to be removed, but I didn’t need to remove the motherboard from the tray to get at the metal bracket underneath

Orientation of the AMD Wraith cooler is important – AMD logo protrudes, making the RAM slot closest to the CPU inaccessible

Houston, we have a problem

My first attempt to power on the system was unsuccessful – the system did not POST successfully, and the board indicated that the CPU was at fault. Symptoms were as follows:

The LED strip lights up briefly, then goes dark. With CPU HSF spinning, the CPU status LED remains lit

CPU orientation is foolproof, but I double-checked to be sure.

I decided that the CPU probably was not getting enough power: OCEANBLUe’s existing PSU had a 4-pin ATX 12V power connector, whereas the motherboard takes an 8-pin connector.

I wanted to get the machine up and running ASAP, so I made the decision to purchase a new power supply unit instead of taking a gamble with a four pin to eight pin adapter, even though I would have liked to have gone the latter route. I selected an EVGA 450 BT (Amazon.com) over a slightly cheaper power supply that lacked the 80 Plus efficiency rating.

When I received shipment of the new power supply on July 9, I resumed work on the build. With the new power supply installed, the system still failed to POST. No change in status.

Diving deeper into the GIGABYTE GA-AB350-Gaming 3 motherboard’s documentation showed that support for AMD Ryzen 5 processors was introduced in BIOS revision F6. Is it possible that the motherboard I received shipped with BIOS revision F3? If that’s the case, my options are either to ship the motherboard back to Gigabyte for an upgrade, or to borrow an AMD Ryzen 7 processor for the sole purpose of flashing the BIOS (I did this before when building my DIY FreeNAS server).

Feedback online suggested that the GIGABYTE GA-AB350-Gaming 3 should support Ryzen 5 out of the box, regardless of BIOS version. Some posters wrote about long first boot times, anywhere from five minutes to two and a half hours. These seemed unreasonable to me.

In any event, I submitted a ticket through GIGABYTE’s eSupport ticketing system. Unfortunately, I’d set my profile to indicate that I was in the UK. I corrected my profile and submitted a new ticket.

While waiting for a response, I phoned in to GIGABYTE’s technical support line. A pre-recorded message advised me that all of their technical support representatives were busy helping other customers, but I could leave my number and my call would be returned.

I followed troubleshooting guidelines and powered up the board with the RAM installed in each of the board’s four slots, clearing the CMOS between attempts. Still no change in status.

I received a call back from Robert, a GIGABYTE technical support representative, and asked if they could check to see which BIOS revision the board had gone out with. He placed me on a brief hold, and informed me that his supervisor had stated that the board should POST regardless of BIOS revision. I asked if he could run the serial number of the board to be sure, and was told that I could expect a call back soon.

Robert called back to state once more that it should POST with any AMD Ryzen CPU – perhaps there were bent pins on the motherboard? I told him that I’d checked and found nothing out of place. He suggested returning the board to the retailer.

I phoned back in to GIGABYTE technical support again later. I had managed to find a speaker to wire up to the motherboard. No matter what, the motherboard wouldn’t issue any beep codes. I didn’t think polarity was important, but I verified anyway. The GIGABYTE technical support representative had me try powering on the system without the CMOS battery inserted. I jumpered the CMOS reset pins on the board. Still no change in status. Maybe, just maybe I’d managed to foul up the CPU installation. I put the probability of this occurring at zero, but checked anyway.

Later, I tested the speaker by plugging it into my workstation. It beeped.

And so begin the RMAs

By this point I was beyond frustrated. I started the RMA process on July 11 by going to Newegg. The box that I received from them had taken quite the hit, so it seemed like the logical place to start.

FedEx came to pick up the motherboard on July 12, and Newegg sent out a replacement motherboard on July 18.

I received shipment of the replacement motherboard on Thursday, July 20. I remembered the GIGABYTE technical support representative’s advice to test outside of the case. With only the CPU + CPU HSF installed, the board’s CPU status LED lit up to indicate that the CPU was faulty.

SuperBiiz approved my RMA request on July 21 and issued a return label for me on that same day. I cleaned the AMD Ryzen 5 1600, placed it back within its packaging, and dropped it off at a nearby UPS Store on Saturday, July 22.

Meanwhile, my father indicated to me that he would be interested in driving a couple of ultrawide displays from this new workstation. The NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT has a maximum digital resolution of 2560×1600. The NVIDIA GeForce GT 1030 (specifications) may fit the bill nicely: it’s also available in a passively-cooled configuration. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support NVIDIA G-Sync. I’m also considering the Radeon RX 550 to stay under the AMD umbrella.

I phoned in to SuperBiiz on Monday, July 31, to see if there was any update on my order. The CSR informed me that their system showed the item was received, but there was no additional information. She suggested that I call back on Thursday.

I called back on Thursday, August 3, and was informed that the CPU had been sent to their vendor. The turnaround time was longer than I had the patience for, and I was certain that the CPU was faulty. I asked if I might escalate to a return instead of a replacement order – the CSR got it approved, and I went back to the drawing board.

I ordered another AMD Ryzen 5 1600 and an NVIDIA GeForce 1030 from Newegg on the morning of August 4. Unfortunately the CPU was not available for ShopRunner two-day shipping, but the GPU was.

My order arrived on August 8. I tested by building on top of the motherboard box. I powered the machine on, hoping for the best.

Just the same as before, the CPU light came on as soon as the board powered up.

I called GIGABYTE support and spoke with Robert again. I brought him up to speed on my situation. This time, he offered that a BIOS update may help move things along. Robert offered that he could give me a call back the next day, but I told him that I could drop him an email if there was any improvement.

I called Micro Center. They moved at the tail end of 2014, and I wanted to be sure that there was a space where I could tinker with the build in-store.

Meanwhile, I drafted a plan of attack:

Plan to start by swapping the CPU to a Ryzen 7. If the board POSTs successfully, I will upgrade the BIOS, swap back to the Ryzen 5, and test again. Hopefully that’s as far as I will have to go.

If the board fails POST with the Ryzen 7, I’ll swap RAM.

And if all else fails, I’m throwing in the towel, because I just might not have the patience for building systems ūüėÄ

On August 9, I headed to Micro Center with parts in tow. It takes about half an hour for me to reach the store. After parking my car, I went in, and headed for the Knowledge Bar, which struck me as being an appropriate first step.

I signed in there, then asked an associate who was standing by the laptops whether there was any space to tinker with builds, explaining that I’d brought my parts with me and wanted to get to the bottom of my no POST issue. She told me that the old store had a designated space for tinkering, but there was no such space in the new store, and the Knowledge Bar was probably my best bet. I thanked her and moved on.

I headed to the Build Your Own PC counter, where I explained my situation to an associate working that area. He asked me which motherboard I was using, and remarked that it was picky on RAM. He told me that I could test at their counter, so I went back to my car to retrieve the parts.

The associate brought me a module that was known to be compatible. Running that lone stick of RAM resulted in a successful POST, and I was greeted by the GIGABYTE UEFI for the very first time. The board was running BIOS F6.

That stick of RAM had relatively loose timings, so I opted for something tighter. I verified that the board would POST using my newly selected RAM, paid, and went back home.

I installed Windows 10 Professional – the process went smoothly.

I was outside of the return window for the Patriot RAM that I initially ordered, but I decided that I ought to test it further now that I had the system working. Was it DOA?

With only the Patriot module installed, the board predictably failed to POST. The strange thing is that the board POSTs successfully with both modules installed, and all 16GB of RAM are addressable. I don’t understand.

Final Parts Listing

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 (Amazon.com)
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-AB350-Gaming 3 (Amazon.com)
Memory: 8GB Kingston HyperX DDR4-2400 HX424C15FB2/8 15-15-15-35 (Amazon.com, datasheet)
Memory: 8GB (1*8GB) Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-2400 PV48G240C5 15-15-15-35 1.2V (Amazon.com)
SSD: SK hynix SL308 250GB HFS250G32TND-N1A2A (Amazon.com)
PSU: EVGA 450 BT, 80 PLUS Bronze Certified (Amazon.com)
OS: Windows 10 Pro

Final Notes

My eagerness to get this build completed resulted in some unfortunate oversights, resulting in significant expenditure of time and energy to rectify.

Before placing the initial order for parts, I referenced the QVL. The memory that I ordered, PV48G240C5, does not explicitly appear on the QVL. However, PV48G240C5K does.

While the GeForce 1030 specifications (NVIDIA) indicate that it is capable of driving 7680×[email protected], the GIGABYTE GeForce GT 1030 Silent Low Profile 2G (GIGABYTE) that I ordered outputs a maximum 4096×[email protected] through its HDMI-2.0b port. The DVI-D port can drive at most a 2560×1600 display.

Furthermore, Newegg’s product listing for the GIGABYTE GeForce GT 1030 Silent Low Profile 2G erroneously stated that it had three ports: one each of Dual-Link DVI-D, HDMI 2.0b, and DisplayPort. Referencing the product images on Newegg would have uncovered this discrepancy, leading me to seek the ground truth at GIGABYTE’s product page, and avoiding the hassle of returning a product. Fortunately, I was able to return the GPU to Newegg without incurring a restocking fee.

Order Placed: DynaTrap DT1100

I’ve been relying on the Flowtron BK-40D (Amazon.com) to whittle down the mosquito population here, but it relies on 1-Octen-3-ol (octenol) to attract the bloodsuckers. Problem is the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus, Wikipedia) that’s prevalent here doesn’t care for octenol.

DynaTrap came onto my radar one day while I was surfing the web, and I was intrigued by its marketing claims. Aside from UV light, it relies on a catalytic reaction between titanium dioxide (TiO2) coating and UV light to generate CO2, which lures in all mosquitos.

I was skeptical of DynaTrap’s claims at first because I saw no way that TiO2 should emit CO2 in the presence of UV light. Some searching yielded the Honda-Fujishima Effect (sciencewatch.com/nobel/predictions/titanium-dioxide-photocatalysis), though threads like this one (eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=341328) cast doubt as to whether DynaTrap could possibly work.

I decided that I had best try a DynaTrap product (for science!), and selected the DT1100 (MSRP $139, Amazon.com) because of its convenient mounting options.

I will record whatever the DynaTrap manages to catch. Of course it may very well be snake oil, so I performed some legwork in the event that the DynaTrap just doesn’t deliver on its promise‚Ķ

One reasonable alternative for luring Asian tiger mosquitos is Lurex3, a patent-pending product of American Biophysics Corp., the same outfit that produces the Mosquito Magnet.

Lurex3‘s active ingredient is L(+)-lactic acid. More information on Lurex3 starting from [0074] in US 20060127436 A1 filed by American Biophysics Corp. “System for trapping flying insects with attractant lures” (google.com/patents/US20060127436)

Orlando-based U-Refillit, LLC (urefillit.com) sells a variety of lures, including a three-in-one lure consisting of octenol, lactic acid, and ammonium bicarbonate that attracts both the Asian tiger mosquito and the northern mosquito (http://www.urefillit.com/images/AsianTiger.html)

Finally, an interesting read on the efficacy of various lures is available at alcs.ch/mosquito-attractants.html – the key takeaways: carbon dioxide is a very effective lure.

More
DynaTrap Official Website can be found at dynatrap.com
DynaTrap on Amazon.com
Mosquito Magnet on Amazon.com

Order Placed: OCEANBLUe Upgrade

Pre-upgrade
CPU: Intel i5-760
Motherboard: ASUS P7P55 LX
Memory: 4GB (2*2GB) G.SKILL DDR3-1333 F3-10666CL8D-4GBHK 8-8-8-21 1.5V
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT
Sound Card: Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit

I was given a budget of $500 to bring the system up to speed, and began putting it towards parts that would keep processes humming along nicely for years to come.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 (Amazon.com)
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-AB350-Gaming 3 (Amazon.com)
Memory: 8GB (1*8GB) Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-2400 PV48G240C5 15-15-15-35 1.2V (Amazon.com)
8GB of RAM is quite generous for basic computing. I selected this particular module because it offered tighter timings than the competition at the same price-point. I debated whether to go for two 4GB modules over a single 8GB module – in the past, I would have gone with two 4GB modules in a heartbeat because of the theoretical benefits of dual-channel, but real-world benchmarks suggest that the performance improvement is marginal.
SSD: SK hynix SL308 250GB HFS250G32TND-N1A2A (Amazon.com)
OS: Windows 10 Pro

Notably missing from this parts order is a new GPU. OCEANBLUe already has an NVIDIA 9800 GT, and we’ll be sticking with that until it bites the dust. Similarly, we’re holding onto the existing PSU, which has plenty of headroom.

One detail that I wanted to address before finalizing the parts order was the maximum height CPU cooler supported by the Cooler Master Wave Master case. I measured roughly 5.5 inches (139.7 mm) of clearance.

Roadtrip: Houston, TX > Princeton, NJ > Denver, CO > Houston, TX

Roadtrip began on June 3, 2017, and ended on June 18, 2017, covering a distance of 4,581.4 miles (7762.24 km)

Ba and I picked up the rental car, a Dodge Caravan, on June 2 with 8,307 miles on the odometer.

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We left home just before 8AM on June 3rd.

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After dropping Paul off at Justin & Hope’s home, we commenced our journey in earnest. The first leg had us driving to Princeton, NJ, to attend Alice’s commencement ceremony.

I woke up on the wrong side of my bed that morning, and rested most of the way to our first rest stop in Lake Charles, LA. I found a dollar bill on the floor of the gas station that we’d stopped at, which I placed onto the countertop before stepping into the men’s room. It was still there when I came out, so I pocketed it before poking my head into Cash Magic. I learned that smoking is allowed inside all of Louisiana’s casinos. I stepped out, realized that Ma and Ba were aleady at the car, and hopped aboard so that we could move on.

Ma and Ba had planned to make a stop at Sam’s Club in Covington, where we’d get an opportunity to fill up the car and eat some pizza, but I suggested to Ma that we check out some more regional fare. We stopped at Billy’s Boudin & Cracklins at my suggestion and tried their pistolettes (boudin, crawfish), along with their smoked boudin. We also ordered the cracklins, both seasoned and unseasoned. I contributed my dollar from the gas station to the tip jar, and we moved on.

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Big Mamou offers beef jerky in boiled crawfish flavor!

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We like our elbow room here in the south

We stopped at Sam’s Club in Covington, LA amidst rainfall. I had forgotten how exciting Sam’s Club is in a different market!

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Hannah’s Ready to Eat Pickled Eggs

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Heavy rain continued to hamper visibility as we forged on (video taken along I-59N, Purvis, MS), and led to traffic delays (18-wheeler)

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Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama

We overnighted at Hyatt Place in Birmingham, Alabama. High humidity, the carpet felt moist.

The next day, we set out after breakfasting at the hotel, stopping for a late lunch at Arby’s in Bristol, VA, where we managed to catch the tail end of happy hour: $1 sliders and $1 small Jamocha shakes! I didn’t even know that Arby’s served sliders‚Ķ

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“PORK BELLY IS BACK”

Stopped at Radford Rest Area North.

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KFC signage

The three of us enjoyed dinner at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (200 Front Royal Pike, Winchester, VA 22602). I had a chicken-fried steak.

We made it to Princeton, NJ on the afternoon of June 5, in time to catch Alice’s Class Day reception.

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Ba checks out a Princeton class mug

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Ba and I attended the event, finding it quite disorganized, owing perhaps to the explosion of Computer Science students within the ranks of Princeton University’s engineering department.

Alice took us into the engineering library. I observed that most of the task seating was Herman Miller.

I was especially taken with the material library.

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In preparation for Alice’s small celebration that night, Ba and I took Alice to McCaffrey’s to pick up some last-minute items, including chips.

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Ba gravitated towards the Lays chips

We met some of Alice’s friends from Princeton, and I was glad to see Uncle Charles, Stephen, and Auntie Sun once again.

Princeton University’s 217th commencement ceremony took place on June 6th under overcast skies.

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We lingered on Princeton’s campus a while to take some pictures

Afterwards, we helped Alice pack and load her things into the back of the minivan.

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Dodge Caravan saddled down during loading

We had dinner together at Shanghai Park (not Alice’s first choice) and spent the night at the hotel.

On June 7th, Ba and Alice flew together to Denver, CO, to scout ahead, while Ma and I began the drive from Princeton, NJ to Denver, CO, stopping over in Columbus, OH and Kansas City, MO.

Pennsylvania toll road – Ma remarked that the toll was especially high (~$30), and posited that there must be limited revenue from other sources for roadway maintenance.

Heeded roadside banner ads for Blue Springs Caf√©’s famous foot-high pie. Seeing traffic slowed down along the interstate made my decision to turn off that much easier.

We made a fuel stop at QuikTrip in Columbia, MO. The building had changed completely since I last saw it.

Overnighted in Independence, MO, where Ma and I ate at Smokehouse Barbecue, I took some photos of the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum, and we enjoyed the best hotel breakfast that we had along the entire trip, during which I learned about “Brie” in America.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/entertaining/2013/09/12/_slate_s_rules_for_entertaining_never_bring_brie_cheese_to_a_party_it_s.html

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This was my first time driving this far west along I-70 – I saw road signs for Manhattan, McPherson, and Wichita, and smiled a bit as I remembered Joseph J and his brother, Jesse.

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Wind turbines have become a common sight, dotting the landscape around I-70. I first encountered them when visiting the Netherlands, and didn’t see them stateside until we visited Big Bend National Park in December 2015.

We arrived in Denver on the afternoon of June 9th. Ba had rented a pickup truck, which turned out to be a handsomely-equipped Ford F-150 4×4 crew cab.

Alice had settled on an apartment that she liked: a modern loft located near her workplace. I was very fond of the exposed HVAC ducting – I would love to have sheet metal ducting in my own home.

Ba flew back to Houston, TX on June 11th, while Ma and I stayed and helped Alice get settled in to her new digs.

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We slept on air mattresses that we picked up at Wal-Mart (the area Sam’s Club didn’t stock any).

On June 12 I finally responded to the voicemails left by area Mazda dealers, went for a test drive in a 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring hatchback followed by a 2017 Mazda CX-5 Touring, visited an area Honda dealer for comparison’s sake, and brought back a sleeper sofa from IKEA.

The Colorado DMV stopped taking walk-ins for learner’s permits and new driver’s licenses on June 1st, and the first available appointment in the Denver metropolitan area wasn’t until July, so we made the drive to Pueblo, CO on June 13th. Alice successfully passed the written test, and with her new learner’s permit, we immediately sat her behind the wheel. She drove on the highway for the first time in her life, taking us to Colorado Smokehouse, where we had lunch.

I took over from that point onward. We stopped by the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) on the way back where we watched the short film showing the life of a cadet, visited the cadet chapel, and stopped to take pictures by the B-52 on display.

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This visit started me on a bit of a history tear. I found this particular article very interesting: http://www.historynet.com/mig-madness-the-air-war-over-korea.htm

I made a long-overdue pilgrimage with Alice to the Apple Store to see if they would help her out with her compromised Apple Watch. I walked away very impressed by Devialet Gold Phantom (Amazon.com) and DJI OSMO Mobile (Amazon.com). I also tapped away briefly on the recently-updated 12″ MacBook with second-generation butterfly mechanism. Really dug what Apple have done with their Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad.

On June 15, Alice received shipment of the Ghostbed that she ordered and picked out her first car, a 2017 Mazda CX-5 Touring with Preferred Equipment Package in Soul Red Crystal. I met up with Forrest “WrinkledCabals” O., a friend that I met through streaming, and we enjoyed Wagyu burgers together at Metropolitan Bar & Grill.

I briefly considered not sharing my goofy grin, but decided that I may as well.

By the time that Forrest dropped me off back at the dealership, Ma and Alice were on their way out of the box.

On June 16, Ma and I took the day off from helping Alice and engaged in some sightseeing of our own. We visited downtown Denver. Unfortunately, the Mint is closed on Friday for inventory, so all our talk of buying gold coins was for naught, but we did enjoy touring the (very stately!) Colorado capitol building and walking the 16th Street Mall.

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We had lunch at Rialto Café, where you can get a beer on the house on Fridays.

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I requisitioned Alice’s Apple Watch that evening wore it on the way back, setting aside my Seiko Arctura SNG045 for the time being.

We started our journey home on June 17, overnighted in Wichita Falls, TX where we had dinner at Cotton Patch Café, and reached Houston in the afternoon of June 18.

Trip total: 4851.4 miles

There were times during our roadtrip where having lane keep assist would have been very helpful: long stretches of straight highway as far as the eye could see