Niall's virtual diary archives - Thursday 8th March 2007

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Thursday 8th March 2007: 6.05pm. Things have been noticeably brighter last two weeks - I think entirely helped by weekly Friday visits to my home here by S- and I- where despite being very, very tired (especially last Friday), I did have a lot of fun. Additionally, I quite fancy this girl I've met though rather unfortunately she's a fourth year and of course will be leaving for good within three months. It's quite a thought that we all have just over a year to go. Nevertheless, I must admit that for the last week this girl I fancy has quite illuminated my life, and much of the world feels right again.

Also now I've started handing bits of coursework in and getting back (so far) very high grades it's taken off a lot of the pressure and that guilt if you do your own stuff when you think you should be studying. That gets better as the term progresses of course, and already last weekend was very definitely a nexus point as we have had every year around this time. Such weekends are highly emotional, and set in train a great deal of consequence later on this semester. So far, this semester looks like it'll be even more fucked up than previous semesters .... it's going to get interesting.

I still don't have my new computer, much to my chagrin! I am waiting on just one part, but sadly the most important: the motherboard. I specifically want the MSI P6N Platinum rather than its cheaper cousin the MSI P6N SLI-FI, but the Platinum edition is on sale in every part of the world except Britain!!!

MSI P6N SLI Platinum motherboard

Now the reason I specifically want this one is the heatpiping (the copper piping stuff you can see above). Heatpipes are like little refrigeration units - they use latent heat of fusion (ie; the energy it takes to turn water into stream) to rapidly shift heat from one place to another. Not only are they cool (and look cool), they seriously improve motherboard cooling which is rather important as I'll be converting the cheapest processor Intel sell into something faster than the most expensive one they sell. This fiddling with the electronics can generate a lot of extra heat, hence the desire for heatpiping.

Speaking of heat, I have bought a power monitor for £15 which is basically a socket with a LCD display telling you how much power the plugged in item consumes. I bought this for my MN4238 essay which requires me to enact an action plan to improve sustainability, so I was thinking I could do with reducing our electricity bill which has always been unusually high.

Now I had been pretty sure it was me leaving my ancient dual 1700 Athlon desktop computer turned on 24/7 where it acts as a server, but of course I never had any idea just how much power it actually consumes. Well now I know, and it's disturbing: it consumes 4W when turned off (it never is, so that doesn't matter), 228W when turned on but doing nothing and 221W when fully occupied (eg; encoding video).

Anyone familiar with computers will know why that result is disturbing! Computers for the last ten years plus are supposed to have an idle state which saves power so when it's idle it uses less power. My desktop actually uses more power when idle, the opposite of what it's supposed to do! As a comparison, Johanna's laptop uses 8W when off, 38W when on but idle and 83W when fully occupied.

Modern computers are far more energy aware than older ones, and the new one should be able to significantly reduce the power consumption at least when idle, not least due to the far more efficient power supply unit I have purchased. This directly impacts our bills of course ... electricity currently costs about 10p per kWh, so my desktop currently chews up 60p/day or £220 a year! If I could halve that, I'd be much happier. Some might suggest why don't you turn it off when you're not using it? Well, for two reasons: (i) it's always in use over the internet and (ii) hard disc drives fail vastly more rapidly when you cool them down and heat them up regularly. Right now, I don't have the ability to risk losing data on them due to them being in a RAID 0 configuration (this means that if one drive fails, it takes all the data on the other drive with it). I'll be rectifying this problem with my new hard drive which is big enough to temporarily hold all the data on the old drives while I remove the RAID 0 config. So thus in future I will be able to turn it off far more frequently - or even better, get it to turn itself off and back on automatically.

Okay, time to hunt through the freezer for food! Be happy everyone!

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