Brain Clutter

June 15, 2007

10 Steps: Buy-Order for a Piecemeal PC

Filed under: computers, tech, tutorials — brainclutter @ 12:26 pm

While some people may not have cash problems, they may have cash-flow problems, which can lead to difficulty when building a computer. They really have two options in this situation: save up until they can afford the entire system (taking advantage of price drops) or buy new components as they can afford them (taking advantage of sales and rebates).

Both options have pros and cons, so I really suggest taking advantage of what each has to offer by mixing it up.

Useful price insurance tips:

  • Hold onto receipts because some vendors offer price-protection policies, allowing you to get a refund on the difference in price if it drops within a certain amount of time.
  • Some mail-in-rebates extend coverage for purchases made prior to the release date of the actual rebate (read the fine print).
  • Some businesses will even allow you to return your items outright (e.g., within 30-days) if you change your mind or want to take advantage of a better item at a lower price.
  • Do your research before committing your hard-earned dough!

The order I suggest when purchasing computer parts over time is this:

  1. Monitor – Monitors aren’t really improving at a fast rate (compared to other components), nor are they dropping in price that frequently. If you choose one you can use in your current system as an upgrade, at least you’ll be able to take advantage of it while you wait for your next paycheck!
  2. Keyboard/mouse – The reasons for buying these sooner are the same as the reasons for buying a monitor first. They’re also cheaper that the rest of your build (a decent keyboard/mouse combo will only run you $30-50).
  3. Case/PSU – These are components that have a long shelf-life and don’t often drop in price. They’re also cheaper items (depending on model-type) that won’t hurt as bad if you do miss out on a rebate, sale, or price-drop (hold onto those receipts just in case!). You can find these items as a pre-built combo or sold separately, which may give you something to work on until you can afford the next parts.
  4. Hard drives/optical drives – Again, these aren’t usually very pricey, so you won’t get burned if they drop in price, and they’ll also install much easier with less items in your case.
  5. Motherboard – Getting this component now will allow you to connect the main guts of your system (power, cables, etc.) and plan for the memory, CPU and video card.
  6. Memory – While memory price does change often, you’ll need it before the CPU to make your system usable. One idea is to buy half the amount of RAM you want in your final build and buy the remaining half afterwards to take advantage of the ever-dropping prices.
  7. Processor (CPU) – The CPU can be fairly pricey depending on your performance needs and the prices fluctuate often. Installing this now will get your computer functional, and if your motherboard has onboard video, usable for basic tasks. At this point I’d start installing any software and operating systems (OS) you’ll require. If you don’t have an OS yet, I’d buy it with the CPU or immediately afterwards when you can afford it).
  8. Video card – These can also be very pricey if your focus is gaming and/or graphics intensive tasks (3d modeling, animation, etc.). Video cards are released, go on sale, and receive rebates very often, so holding off until the last possible moment will definitely save you cash. Also, new games and benchmarks are released all the time, so you’ll be able to get the best bang-for-your-buck by waiting and making an informed decision.
  9. Sound card/speakers – These aren’t integral components as most motherboards come with onboard audio and you can find a cheap set of speakers/headphones almost anywhere. If you’re into gaming or music though, this is when I’d buy the upgrades.
  10. Remaining memory/additional hard & optical drives/media connectors/etc. – Now is when I’d buy the extra parts that will finish off your system. They aren’t integral in getting your system off the ground, so you might as well wait until the end to buy them.

Alternatively, you could push the monitor to the very last step of this process if you have an older monitor you don’t mind using on the new system. This will allow you get the machine up-and-running a bit quicker (maybe by 2-4 weeks depending on your income versus the monitor you buy). Also, if you can catch a really good deal (e.g., an awesomely priced video card on eBay before your motherboard is in place) go for it! The goal is get the best system you can for your buck, so slight variations of this process may be beneficial.

Let me know if you agree or disagree with this order by posting your own!


June 6, 2007

A little computer pricing experiment…

Filed under: computers, gaming, personal, tech, Warhammer Online — brainclutter @ 8:18 am

I plan to chart the cost of building a computer for myself over a six-month period, around about when Warhammer Online will be released (as it’s the only game I’m currently looking forward to).

I’m not ready to buy a new machine yet, but I was interested in running a cost comparison between a computer that can play the latest and greatest games today with the same build six months from now when I will likely build myself a new system.

I don’t foresee many changes in the next six months in terms of rising game requirements, but to be safe I have chosen to build the system with a DirectX 10 compatible video card along with Vista Home Premium (rumour has it, MS doesn’t plan on releasing dx10 for WinXP). Also, the motherboard supports SLI because it’s nice to have that expandability in the future.

Here’s what my NCIX shopping cart rings up if I were to buy the system today:

Here’s a breakdown and links to the individual components.

The total price for this system, less tax, is $1667.93 CAD (as of June 06, 2007) with free shipping promo and $20.00 in mail-in-rebates.

Beyond building this machine for gaming, I also want it to run quietly; hence it is using the most reasonably priced, “silent” components available. Also, I am shopping at NCIX because I’ve had wonderful experiences with them in the past and they are a Canadian company (based in Vancouver, BC). I could probably save a few bucks by shopping at Newegg, but they are prejudiced against Canadians or something, ie., they won’t sell to us.

I’ll post an update every two months with charts to show the price decreases (at least you’d hope there would be a decrease). Hopefully, this little experiment will further prove that patience reaps savings, in terms of technology at least, and beyond that, I’m not too sure. Maybe I’m simply trying to justify making an informed decision to myself rather than submitting to my Id (me want shiny toy NOW!).

Check back in a couple months!

January 5, 2007

TechCrunch has cash to spare — introduces forums

Filed under: business, crunchgear, forum, jive, social networking, tech, techcrunch, web — brainclutter @ 10:55 am

TechCrunch logo

Things must be going pretty well over at TechCrunch for them to be able to afford a Jive forum worth thousands of dollars!

The new TechCrunch forum is a place for users to continue discussing hot articles that have dropped off the front page. It’s also a place where entreperneurs can plug their new start-up if they haven’t been lucky or newsworthy enough to warrant a spotlight article by Arrington or his staff. The idea itself is fantastic and solves the major catch-22 of popular, fast-paced blogs — They want discussion but when they post 12 articles per day and only display 5-10 on the home page, stories can quickly become “old news” and it’s less convenient for users to participate in active debate/speculation/whatever.

I don’t question the need for a forum — the need is obvious. What deserves speculation is their choice of software.

Firstly, take a look at Jive’s forum pricing chart:

Jive's pricing chart

Yowza… I’m unsure which version TC is using, but I’m guessing “Gold” because of their customized theme, a feature only available with the Gold package. Also, I’m not sure if they worked out an advertising deal with Jive but these prices are a bit steep when compared with open-source forum software or even a custom-built forum app. I live up in Canada (northwestern Ontario), where you could pay someone to build you a custom forum that would be just as feature-rich for a fraction of that price. Maybe “Valley” programmers/designers are in much higher demand and would therefore charge much more… I don’t know.

Next, look at the features of the Jive forum software. You can’t argue that Jive provides an amazingly rich feature set, but does TC require every single bit of functionality they provide? Multi-language support? Reporting? Workflow efficiency? These features are pretty darn cool, sure, but TC’s background is in BLOGGING. Comparing the feature set TC is used to with blogging to the micro-management tools available with their new forums is like comparing Meebo to Bebo… they just aren’t the same. Then again, perhaps TC has been frustrated with the lack of administrative options with their WordPress blog framework and welcomes all the itty-bitty details of the Jive forums.

Finally, let’s look at the decision to pay lucrative fees for a forum from a business perspective (if they did indeed have to pay). TC supposedly earns $10,000.00 per sponsored ad per month on their home page — $60,000.00 total per month (TechCrunch ad policy). With that kind of income, you probably need to write off as many business expenses as you can to reduce income, come tax-time (and hey, that time is just around the corner). Also, one of the big features of a Jive forum is the customer support they provide. When the solution to a problem is just a phone call/email away, it makes administration that much easier. Also, let’s face it — TechCrunch is in the business of reporting web/tech news; not building forums. While they could probably build their own forum without too much hassle in RoR/PhP, it would take time away from their primary focus of reporting cutting-edge news.

Also, let’s not forget the “bragging rights” a Jive forums enables your business. TC is now in a league with Apple and Sun in terms of their forum software… Can I get a Borat, “Wuw wuw wuw!?”

TC forums

One last thing I’d like to mention is that their forum article states that they “quietly launched a new area of the site.” Why would they “queitly” launch the forum and then post a front page article about it? Seems contradictory, no? Especially when you consider that their forum is in pretty rough shape right now — it lacks organization, proper theming, and users are reporting that their confirmation emails aren’t arriving in a timely manner. Maybe they wanted to generate buzz or maybe they wanted to conduct a “live beta.” If so, can I get another Borat, “Great success!?”

My suggestions for improvement:

  1. Create subcategories in the main forum (published articles, new startups, general discussion, etc.)
  2. Bring the theme more in-line with their visual identity (maybe it’s the designer in me talking, but the green in the header does not match the green they use over at TC).
  3. Use the “Reward System” to boost user participation… Come on… CrunchGear gives away lots of goodies! 😀

Bravo, TechCrunch for enabling yourself with a discussion solution for your extremely popular blog and generating a little controvery along the way… intended or not, it’s a great strategy. 😉


December 28, 2006

My new Sony DSC-W50

Filed under: Flickr, life, personal, photography, photos, reviews, Sony, tech — brainclutter @ 10:58 am

Merry post-Christmas and a happy new year!

My wife and I were very lucky this year to receive our first digital camera (I know… we were stuck in the middle ages with our old 32mm). There’s a bit of a funny story attached to it actually. You see, my parents were at a Christmas party last week and somehow misplaced their camera. They didn’t hear anything about it for a few days and assumed it was stolen since no-one could recall having seen it. With our family gathering coming up on Christmas day, they really wanted to have a new camera to capture the memories so they asked me to review the Sony DSC-W30, which was on sale at our local Staples for $199.91 CAD (roughly $175 USD).

I headed over to Steve’s Digicams and read the entire review.

The review was very positive so I told them to go for it. I also dropped the hint that we were interested in upgrading to a digital camera and would probably buy the same model they did. So if they wanted to be generous, they could give us a cash-money gift this Christmas to be put towards our very own camera. They thought it was a fine idea.

Shelby the dog

Fast Forward to Christmas morning… well, technically afternoon.

My father hands my wife and I a smallish box and says it’s from him and mother. As we start to peel away the decorative paper, my mother yells, “SMILE!” We look up and are temporarily blinded by a flash of light. After a few seconds of refocusing I realize the camera she took the picture with is actually her old digital camera. I then look down at our package and observe the Sony(tm) logo peering out at us from behind a piece of scotch tape.

Apparently, my parents bought the new camera and actually decided to upgrade to the DSC-W50 model (Steve’s review). An hour after they got home and began reading through the manual they received a phone call from a friend who was at their Christmas party last week. The friend informed them that for some reason she had their digital camera along with her own in her purse. You can probably blame the excessive drinking for the friend mistaking their Fuji camera for her own Canon, but anyway, they were very happy to hear the news because my parents never remember to download the photos off their memory card. In fact, there’s probably a year’s worth of great pictures on that camera (we did download them on Christmas day).

Bandit the cat

Anyway, knowing that we wanted a new camera and being the loving and generous folks they are, they decided to spoil us this year with the new camera. Score!

The Sony DSC-W50 is awesome! I won’t give it a technical review because Steve’s Digicams has already done an amazing job of that. I added a Flickr sidebar widget to this blog where you can view all the new pictures we’ll be taking with this sweet camera. One thing I noticed is the reflection in our pets eyes isn’t technically “red-eye” but its still annoying. I don’t think it’s the camera’s fault — I think we have the wrong settings selected right now.

Once I get a chance to read through the entire manual, I have no doubt this thing will be taking great photos.

Feel free to comment on our cute pets here or on Flickr!

My dog's teeth

Have a happy holidays!


December 16, 2006

Crunchgear give-away!

Filed under: contest, personal, tech, web — brainclutter @ 12:54 am

Welcome to my first blog entry for Brain Clutter, a place where I’ll let my brain regurgitate whatever happens to spew forth. Ah, the imagery!

Let’s start this blog off with a positive story:

Crunchgear logo

I’m a winner! No, that’s not positive self-reinforcement — it’s true:

Crunchgear ( is a prominent “blog covering gadgets, gear and computer hardware,”which I happen to read every day. From time to time (very frequently) they run community contests aimed at increasing reader dialogue and overall participation on their site. The catch is, they don’t want meaningless spam — they want quality feedback for the products they review or non-product stories they write. Good on ’em and lucky for me!

Today I won a free copy of M2 Convert for iPod ( I’ll write a review as soon as I receive it! 🙂

Crunchgear has been good to me in the past as well. I won an 4GB iPod Nano for posting the 2000th comment to their blog earlier a few months back (!

Head on over to Crunchgear’s blog to get the latest gadget news and possibly have a chance at winning awesome prizes!

The next giveaway I’m going for will be the Nokia D40 ( . Come and give me a challenge! 😉



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