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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | August 3, 2002

PQ Mailbag

Greetings everyone, time for another weekend mailbag. Buckle up and get ready for the usual whirlwind ride through the best of the reader mail. Yes, you heard right - these were actually the cream of the crop from the letters we received. Scary, isn't it?

Q&A time

As usual, we'll start it off with the responses to last week's topic. So what about those case mods? Read on to learn more.

From: Marshall "raptorE" Moore
Subject: Nothing more specific than usual...

Hi there, man-who-is-mad. Looks like I'll be writing twice, sending once. This fool computer decided it might be funny to see what I'd do when it showed a blue-screen-of-death while I was writing, returned me to just enough of my desktop to see the E-mail I'd been writing, and then lock down my backspace key. Bah.

I've seen a picture somewhere of a computer case with grass all over it. Real grass. I also saw one with a disco ball inside, displayed through a case window. Ugh. Personally, I'd rather spend my 'green' on the insides of my computer. I mean the insides that have useful functions. My case is the traditional generic creamy white color. Sure, I would prefer it was black or something, but I don't want it enough to spend money on it. I'd love to stare at a cool computer case- someone else's, made with someone else's money.

I've been thinking about the Mailbag. For one thing, though I send this simply to 'feedback' at PQ, I expect the first person to read this to be a_madman (I know you hate that =). I imagine the Mailbag as a sort of sorter/shredder that sifts the juicy bits out of the mail sent to, before allowing the rest of it to pollute the otherwise clear river of E-mail going to the people whom the writers actually wrote to. As a rare occurance, I'm really writing to a madman, but 'feedback' doesn't know that. People who send mail to 'feedback' aren't neccesarily submitting fodder for the shredder; they could actually be responding to someone else. Do you forward the mail to the correct destination mailbox? It's an interesting question, considering the kind of mail that comes through.

I could go on, but I could also shut up. I'm sure you'll have to use half of this mail in one Mailbag, and the other half in the next, if you decide to use it at all. This one's for the shredder, folks.


Dire Hamster: You know, it's funny how computer cases are all almond-colored because way back in the 1970's IBM started selling computers that matched the color of their existing printers. As if anyone would care if their office equipment is color-coordinated. It's not like almond goes with anything else in the office.

a madman: Except, perhaps, for the industrial-drab off-white walls.

Dire Hamster: Or maybe the acoustic ceiling tiles.

a madman: I think now would be a good time to clarify the official PQ Mailbag "mail policy," though. Anything you say can - and will - be used against you, unless you specify otherwise. That is, if we think it's even moderately interesting, or can find something particularly insulting to say about it, you're likely to end up here unless you have "do not use this in the mailbag" written on it.

So I might as well clear up another misconception while we're at it. Writing to is a bit more like forwarding a message to a list - it just happens that there are only two people on the mailing list. I also do not, fortunately, have to presort and foward Pappy's mail to him (I don't get paid nearly enough for that). However, if a nice, private conversation with an individual is what you desire I would recommend that you actually write your letter to that person, rather than firing off an email to feedback@PQ and apparently hoping they catch it next week in the mailbag.

Back to the letter, though, I'm still not sure which is more tasteless... the chia-case, or the disco ball.

From: Phoenix
Subject: Question of the week: Computer cases

Well I certainly care about my computer's case! Case design influences your system every bit as much as the rest of the components. The things I look for in a good case are space, airflow, accessibiltiy to components and sturdiness. There's no point having something that looks really nice if it's impossible to work in or causes the system to melt down. I used to have a desktop case that was so small and cramped that you had to rip the entire thing apart just to take the hard drive out. The ventilation was so poor in that case that it caused my Voodoo 2 card to start plastering colored blotches all over Quake 2 after a while because the card was overheating. It's pretty sad when you can overheat a Voodoo card! I've also seen some cheaper ATX cases that are too short front-to-back. If the motherboard places the CPU toward the forward edge of the board it can interfere with placing drives in the 5-1/2" bays. You end up with a case that has only 2 out of 4 bays useable that way. Longer cases offer more room and better airflow. It's also nice to be able to get to the RAM modules without having to rip out drives to put them in if you buy additional memory. Another less thought of issue in purchasing a case is electromagnetic interference. Some people are unfortunate enough to live near a radio tower or some other area of high interference. All cases shield EMI to at least some degree, but there are cases that offer higher levels of shielding than others. Good shielding can prevent random system lockups and anamalous behavior caused by microwave interference. If you can throw in good looks as well that's a plus, but looks should take a back seat to function.

The aluminum cases, on the other hand, cost a small fortune. They conduct heat out of the case faster than steel, but having the proper ventilation on a case makes more sense. I see no reason to spend $150 and up on an aluminum case just for cooling. Aluminum cases do have an advantage in the weight department however. A lot of the sturdier steel cases can be quite heavy, and when you add in the components the case ends up weighing as much as a large monitor. If you're not into lifting heavy weight cases or if you LAN a lot then a lighter aluminum case might be worth the extra cash. Either way there's plenty of good cases out there. Shop around, find one that fits your needs and that you like. There's no excuse for buying a lousy case if you care at all about what you're going to put in it.

a madman: We'll soon see if Phoenix cares that I hacked his letter to pieces in order to prevent it from sounding like a spam ad for cooling supplies...

Dire Hamster: Ok, first off, a computer is a tool. That's it. When I go to buy a hammer, I really don't care what color it is, or if it used to be madman's 3DO. All I care about is whether or not it will pound a ing nail. Sure, you can go on about how your putting pleather trim on your case, or calling your computer "Gwyneth" will add 4 cpu cycles. All I can say in response to that is "Blah, blah, blah, I can't hear you..."

Honestly, I'm getting to the point that I'm just plain getting tired of upgrading. I don't know of any other tool that requires regular socket upgrades just to keep working properly. I swear, if I had to put as much effort into keeping my toaster working properly, I'd just stop eating toast. Not that I'm going to go out and do anything crazy, like mailing pipebombs, or buying a Mac...

a madman: All right, first of all I never owned a 3DO. Not that I would admit to it if I had, but that's beside the point. I did, however, have a roommate who ran his computer without a case for two weeks because the full deal was too large to use as carry-on luggage. It ran just fine with all the pieces sitting exposed on his desk, except that it tended to reboot whenever some nimrod touched the motherboard. You'd be surprised how often that happened. "Hey, is that your computer there?" *zap*

Aside from portability and nimrod protection, though, what does a case really buy you? Sure, you can spend $150 on your aluminum case for superior heat dissipation and to give your nerd friends a hard-on, and another $50 on half a dozen fans, or you could simply spend another $100 and get a faster chip. Hell, I'd be just as happy with my motherboard nailed to a plywood plank using a box fan as my "cooling solution."

From: Stephen Howe
Subject: Do I care about my computer's case?

Of course I are! I took great care in buying a nice looking $15 case.
It was so perfect, that after I installed my motherboard, my CD rom wouldn't fit, so it sticks out 1/4 inches! Isn't that care? I painted my old case blue. Dropped it a couple times, but i took great care to make sure the power supply cooling fan worked after it burned out (my bbs was down a couple days because of that!).

The case also serves to defend the inside components from my son. He's love to get his hand on the HD, or CPU fan.

Heck, one time I had to fit an ATX motherboard in an AT case... and I'll just say that hack-saws came in VERY useful for that!

a madman: Ok, buying a case with neon lights and LCD readouts is one thing. Buying a case your computer FITS in is another thing entirely.

Dire Hamster: This is probably the least psychotic response we got to this question and I still don't know what the hell he's talking about. Of course, "least psychotic" is kind of a relative term - it's a bit like saying that building a hotel out of ice is a better idea that teaching bats to firebomb Tokyo. Seriously, this has to be the worst question of the week we've ever come up with.

a madman: Perhaps you forgot July 12th's question. You did overlook the fact that the ice hotel makes millions of dollars each year, and that Operation X-Ray had the best weight/fires ratio of any US military action.

Dire Hamster: No... no, I didn't.

a madman: Fine, but it still got roughly the same number of answers as any other question. It's hardly my fault that they were mostly irrational. I do still find it odd that the best letter we got was from the only man in America still running a BBS, though.

Next: Tech support... of DOOM

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