Well, I can say one thing right away about the CoolerMaster Cosmos 1000 case. It’s BIG – measuring 23-1/2 x 10 inches, including helicopter-style landing skids.
Another thing: it’s QUIET. CoolerMaster really soundproofed this design well. It’s even quieter than any laptop I ever owned. I can hardly hear it at all.
I needed a new case for a new machine. I just didn’t want to take the old CoolerMaster offline for a week while completely rebuilding it and reinstalling all the software. As I use DataPort removable HD cartridges, the internal 5 inch drive bays have to all be deep to hold them. I knew from experience that the bays of some of older cases could only handle one DataPort because other parts of the internal structure got in the way.
The Cosmos has FOUR huge 120mm case fans. They can move more air and still rotate more slowly, so you don’t hear them. It has five 5″ bays, and one of these doubles as a floppy bay with a converter plate. It also has six 3.5″ drive pull-out bays down below, with handles. All the bays have quick-mount hardware, allowing you in most cases to install or remove a hard drive without using a single machine screw.
The photo above shows the completed unit with the case door open. Top to bottom bays: Pioneer SATA CD-DVD-RW, SATA DataPort (250GB Samsung), empty bay, my old Silverstone image card reader (USB2), and the Sony floppy drive unit I installed at the last minute. The other 3.5″ hard drive, my SATA Samsung 500GB music drive, is mounted internally.
To the right is the case with the front cover closed. The cover is reversible – it came opening from left-to-right, and I changed it over to left-to-right for this installation, which is already getting messy. The cable modem doesn’t enhance the appearance, but it’s cool up there, and I had no place else to put it.
The interior is quiet capacious, as you might guess, and even though the motherboard tray doesn’t slide out, there’s plenty of room to work on it.
I had no problem installing the Antec Neopower 550 power supply, ASUS M2N-SLI motherboard, ASUS EN7600GS silent video card, or other components. All drives are SATA – this is my first installation without any IDE cables.
This is just as well, as the ASUS M2N motherboard doesn’t support legacy IDE. If you want to hang on to the IDE technology, you have to install a PCI card in a slot.
I installed four 1-GB Corsair DDR2 memory modules. Not believing that either Vista or XP-64 is quit ready for prime time, I installed Windows XP Pro in the 32 bit version, which recognizes a maximum of 3.5GB or RAM.
The Cosmos 1000 case has a shipping weight of 35 pounds. By the time I installed everything, I believe the weight was around 50 pounds, and it was an unexpected chore to lift the completed unit onto its wooden stand.
The top console houses the traditional power and reset buttons, plus (4) USB2 ports, eSATA, IE1394 (Firewire) and audio out/microphone in connections. As mentioned, I installed my “old” Silverstone USB card reader. I had purchased a nice “new” one, and prompting bent the pins in testing when I tried to insert an IBM 1 IGM CompactFlash hard drive, which is a little fatter than the nonvolatile memory cards.
Initially I feared I had ordered too much case. Indeed, it has expansion capacity I will never exploit. Its near-absolute silence, thoughtful design features and convenience of use make it a most worthwhile investment.
ASUS M2N Motherboard: as previously noted, IDE is no longer supported on this board, but there are a generous 6 SATA onboard connectors, plus support for RAID. Two onboard USB2 connectors are barely adequate, but there are four rear panel USB2 connectors as well. Audio is SoundMax 8 channel hi-def, and superlative on my early tests with my 200GB WAV music collection. I was disappointed that the driver CD was for the new Vista OS, but I was able to download and install everything I needed for XP from the excellent ASUS website.
The CPU is the AMD AM2 X2 6000+ 3GHz Athlon. The retail kit includes a beefy cooler, with factory adhesive thermal paste. I used to always use Arctic Silver thermal paste, so I monitored my AM2 installations carefully(the first one is already in Phoenix). I never saw CPU temperatures go above 40 degrees Centigrade on the ASUS mobo monitor (BIOS), with 38 being average. A lot of thought has gone into ease of assembly for these chips and coolers, and the whole installation is a piece of cake compared to the old days.
DataPort: I reviewed the DataPort cartridge system in 2002 and still use it. Currently there is only one DataPort as the carriers and cartridges for SATA are quite different than my large inventory of older IDE units, and they’re fairly expensive.
CoolerMaster internal HD Bays:
With the HD capacity above, you could almost start a server farm. I am just using the one bay. Cooling should be adequate as it’s served by one of the big 120mm fans. I took a number of other photos as assembly went along, but there are plenty of other articles (here and elsewhere) on building your own machine. Mostly, this unit was routine. To be honest, that’s the way it should be. A typical machine knockup takes about all the daylight hours of one weekend day. Software installation takes all available time in the week to follow. I would rather talk about the software this time.
Windows XP isn’t as facile as it could be about SATA yet. It took me three tries to get the OS installed as a C drive; twice it installed as drive E. Windows will boot into this boot drive E, but your software program installers will go bonkers, and you will have to do it over again. The trick turns out to be not to connect your other hard drives until this one is up and running as a C drive.
Networking File Sharing has become increasingly balky with every new Windows OS and Service Pack. Getting new machines to talk to the others has become an increasing frustration. It turns out the culprit and the solution here was Master Browser. This is a registry setting, and you can Google it yourself or just check out my link in the last sentence.
- Only one machine on a peer to peer home network must have this registry setting as TRUE; the others must be FALSE or blank. All of mine were false. Once I set the new Cosmos to TRUE, my problems disappeared on the whole network (I have up to three machines on at various times).
Zone Alarm firewall : I decided to give McAfee and Windows Firewall a rest and try a new suite. Zone Alarm had a 3-user suite of firewall, antivirus, antispam and anti-spyware on sale for $49.95 – same price as the single user license. Zone Alarm gives you two way firewall protection: inbound and outbound. It is “trainable” but very unobtrusive, very powerful and it does not seem to be a resource hog. I like it. I do have a hardware firewall (NetGear FR114P firewall, router and print server) but a hardware solution is not programmable on a per-application basis, and, while highly recommended, is not considered enough by itself. For one thing, the consumer hardware firewall has no outbound protection in the event malware does get through and tries to propagate itself to everybody in your address book. Zone Alarm handles all this.
Adobe PhotoShop: I am going to mention this only because of the exceptionally nice treatment Adobe Customer Service gave me not once, but twice. First, I inexplicably lost my PhotoShop CS3 upgrade CD. They deactivated the old one and shipped me a replacement for only $20, for shipping and handling. Second, when I went to install it, CS3 wouldn’t accept my “upgrade serial number” from the aged PhotoShop 4.0. And I didn’t know what the serial number of the replacement CS3 was supposed to be, either. They looked it all up and talked me through it, and didn’t offer to end the call until I confirmed I was up and running. This struck me as wonderful because (1) I already felt like a total idiot, and (2) this kind of hand-holding is very rare in today’s abrasive customer service environment. I am grateful, and Adobe won back loyalty from what had been increasing disenchantment with previous problems with the firm or its products and offers.
PGP 9.7: I’ve used PGP encryption to protect my sensitive data, going all the way back to pre-1997 Macintosh days, but I haven’t written much about it. If you leave your Quicken files and accounts on your unprotected hard drive, you’re just asking for trouble, no matter how good your firewall and security. What do you do with your old hard drives? You don’t just throw them out, do you? What if your machine is stolen? I create “PGP disks”, 128-bit encrypted file partitions about 300mb each (they can be any fixed size that fits your needs). The passphrase is so secure that it would take NSA’s supercomputers quite a while to crack it.
The whole idea of “encryption” frightens most people, but leaving my financial data unsecured is one thing I never have to worry about. For gawdsakes, don’t write down your passphrase — and don’t ever forget it! If you don’t use encryption, it might be because of intimidation, or fear of loss of data. I’ve embraced encryption in my personal computing world for over a decade. Not only is it a completely routine and easy process, I’ve never lost any data from a PGP disk. Ever.
BOINC Project SETI– this actually started this construction project. I noticed that the new M2N machine I built for Phoenix was cranking out work units faster than all of my other machines combined. Awesome! I am really not so interested in being the poor sap whose machine actually ever “discovers” intelligent signals being beamed to the massive Arecibo radio telescope. I used to use BOINC for a cancer genome project, but the project ended. I also devote some CPU time to project Einstein@Home, which detects pulsars. But, mostly, I still crank our work units for Seti@Home. I’m part of the Cloudy Nights SETI team. I guess I still have some of the old competitive spirit.
The image below shows recent average credit (March 2008). The graph doesn’t extend far back into the past, so it’s hard to get an idea of machine productivity. If you remember high school geometry, the “slope” of the curve was dramatically flatter before the first M2N went online. I’m currently cranking out over 1000 work units per day.
The next image shows the four machines online within the past 30 days. Top to bottom, Silverstone music server (living room), the new M2N machine just built, the old AMD 3800+ machine being replaced, and the new M2N machine doing part-time duty in Phoenix since February. To give you a good idea of daily output rates, the 3800+ had been doing SETI for over a year; the new M2N machine, about a week.
Mind you, AMD currently isn’t making the fastest processors, but (compared to Intel) they do give you the most bang for the buck.
SpamWasher version 2.0.1 – a friend recommended a spam intercept program, and I downloaded, tried and paid for the wrong one – but it turned out to be right for me. I like it. Here’s how it works: on installation, SpamWasher copies your email signons, and, optionally, all your trusted email addresses – for its whitelist filter. From that point on, SpamWasher gets all the email headers from your mail server(s), sorts content into “Approved” and “Spam” based on trusted lists, training and preset rules. No mail is actually downloaded to your machine. You inspect the day’s mail catch, tweak and train for any “flyers”, and send the “Wash Spam” command to delist all the spam mail headers. Opening your email client, “Send/Receive” downloads approved mail only. You can let SpamWasher do the physical spam deletes at your leisure, so there is a second chance if you make a mistake.
The concept is not new – PocoMail was doing this years ago – but I like this implementation. Despite Outlook’s strong spam filters, I think it’s better to never download suspect mail at all. And, SpamWasher has a “look ahead” feature to see if there’s mail waiting on the server, and whether it’s friend or foe, so you don’t waste a lot of time looking for mail when there isn’t any.
SuperFlexible Pro: In 2004 I reviewed SuperFlexible, this wonderful file synch product by Tobias Giesen. I still use it exclusively for incremental file backups, and I do a lot of them over the course of a week, because it’s so easy. I also use it for file-synching machines over my local network. This saved my bacon on recent machine builds, since a clone of your boot disk can get that OS license decertified under the Windows Genuine Advantage if you try to mount it on another machine – even if to only copy non-system files. Currently I lean toward only backing up personal files, and I use Superflexible exclusively for that. Backing up an OS on a disk mirror is a nice feel-good precaution, but OS and application updates and upgrades change so rapidly you’d have to do it once a week to make a backup really useful.
I really should update my review, but here’s a new example of why SuperFlexible is so great. I don’t have any spare SATA DataPort carts to clone my 200GB WAV music collection, and I’m too lazy to swap one out for a disk clone with Norton Ghost. I let SuperFlexible copy all 4,011 “songs”. SuperFlexible manages the file transfer smoothly through the Windows API. A raw Windows “drag and drop” will choke on a huge collection of files (as many of you must have noticed). Before the native Windows routine crashes completely, it will corrupt many of the files it has tried to copy. You won’t know which ones, and so will end up copying them all over again from scratch by some other method. SuperFlexible is that method.
I recommend you read my article if you have any interest in reliable, efficient solutions to file backups. Software QA analysis tells us every application has bugs by definition – even NASA software – but I’ll be darned if I can say for sure I ever personally noticed one in SuperFlexible since I started using it. And I’m in the software QA business. I look for bugs for a living.
Saving Time Is Amost Everything
Why? It leaves you more time for the important things in life, like this:
copyright ©Alex Forbes March 31, 2008
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