Ready, Shoot, Aim

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I bet most of you are sports fans. Do you think your team is just a bunch of guys thrown together who just show up and play? Or do you think the team tries to get the best players they can, and the managers and coaches prepare the players for
what they’ll face each game?

Building a computer is a lot like getting ready for a game. You have to do a lot of scouting to get the best players on your team, and you’ll save yourself a lot of problems by figuring out what you’re likely to face when the game starts.

Like a successful sports team, whether you win or lose at overclocking is mostly determined by what you do before the game, not during it.

You can hit three home runs and make three great catches in the field, but if the rest of the team is lousy, and your pitchers can’t get anybody out, you still lose most of the time.

One of the saddest and puzzling tasks I have is to tell people who have already bought a lot of expensive equipment that they have the wrong stuff, and it can’t be fixed.

What baffles me is that people often ask me just AFTER they order, not BEFORE, when my advice could have actually done some good.

In most cases, individual overclocking skill means little. Skill starts becoming important in more extreme attempts. The overclocking game is about 70% preparation, 15% luck, and 15% skill.

Put most of your effort on the 70% first. Do that right, and you probably won’t have to worry about the other parts at all.

Some tips for successful buying

  1. ASK FIRST, BUY LATER!!! There’s no room for false pride here; you only hurt yourself. Who is ever going to know you asked somebody for buying advice? Ask wisely, then claim all the credit and genius you like. Nobody’s going to hunt you down like a dog to your bragging haunts and say, “Nyaaah, nyaaah, I told him what to buy.”
  2. No Pain, No Gain: Here, “pain” is learning about your buying options. It takes effort, and can be confusing and tedious. It’s confusing and tedious to everybody else, too, welcome to the game.

    Ask questions when you don’t understand something specific, but make some effort to understand the basic concepts and of the game. This means you have to read, probably for a number of hours. If that’s too much, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing this, because you are a sucker ready to be taken, and there are plenty of takers.

    I get quite a few emails that say, “Loved your article, now tell ME how to overclock.” For whom do you think I wrote the article? Do you think there are special rules just for you?

    If you went into a restaurant and told the waiter after he’s brought you a meal, “Spoon-feed me,” does he drop everything, get your bib, cut up all your meal into nice little pieces, put them in your mouth a piece at a time, and then burps you, all while keeping everyone else at other tables waiting? I don’t think so.

    But that’s what more than a few of you apparently expect, and we can’t do it anymore than the waiter for the same reason, we’re busy and can’t spend a ton of time with one single person.

    Now most people who write me don’t do this. Not talking about people who need some help on a point or two. Not talking about people who hand me a list of components and ask, “Is this good?” or “What do you think about . . .?”

    I’m talking about people who say “Do it all for me.” To me, that says, “I can’t be bothered with any of this, you do it.”

    How much respect does that show any author who spent time and effort writing something to benefit everybody? How much respect does that show the rest of the audience who have made an effort to help themselves and who would have to wait because you won’t do the same?

    Finally, ask yourself, “Why do I deserve this over others?” I think you’ll find that the only plausible reason anybody besides yourself could come up with is that you are special, not as in important, but as in Special Olympics.*** I’ve even had people try that angle. I even had one person ask me to explain overclocking like he was four years old. I was sorely tempted
    to tell him it was beyond the capacity of he and his fellow mental four-year-olds.

    The price of saving money from overclocking is spending time and effort learning how. You pay one way or the other. If you don’t want to spend the time and effort, there are plenty of folks out there who’ll do it all for you for a reasonable fee. You want to talk the talk without walking the walk, pay them the money.

    So read some introductory articles on overclocking. Read about the components, and go to a place like Deja to see how people have done with specific pieces of equipment. Ask specifics. Ask where to go to learn in general. But don’t expect someone to do everything for you out of pure love.

  3. Ignoring gravity

    It would be really cool if gravity only worked when you said so. You could fly through the air, be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, definitely have bragging rights.

    Try it now. Announce in a serious, I-really-mean-it-voice, “Gravity, take the day off.” Does gravity pay any attention to you?

    A computer system is a symphony of parts that must all work together at a certain tempo. You can’t just deal with one factor, and ignore the rest.

    That means buying a Coppermine and expecting PC100 memory to run at 155Mhz. That means thinking that if
    some people could reach 1Ghz with 700Mhz processors, buying an 800Mhz processor would be even better. That means thinking a cool-looking $12 heatsink was plenty cooling for a 1Ghz Thunderbird.

    Overclocking is really not that complicated, but you just can’t look at one thing, you have to look at a handful, and any one of them has the potential to kill The Great Game, and none of them go away because you don’t care or even know about them. Ignorance is not bliss.

  4. He Did It, Why Can’t I?

    It would be just as cool to be as good in sports as Shaq or Mark McGuire, too. Announce that, too, then try to slamdunk or hit a fastball. Works about as well as ordering gravity around, doesn’t it?

    More than a few of you look at our database, see the highest figure, and think that’s an entitlement. This doesn’t work too well.

    For one thing, a CPU with an Intel heatsink/fan is not exactly in the same league as a CPU using four stacked Peltiers. Even when it’s yours.

    Secondly, equipment varies. A lot. We’ve had people who have tested in near-laboratory setting processors made in the same batch, literally right next to each other, and they’ve had significantly different results.

    Some chips and components are just better than others. There are 700Es out there that can run at over 1Ghz if you just blow on them every once in a while. There are others that won’t run 900Mhz if you put the box in Antarctica.

    That doesn’t mean there are magic weeks or magic batches, yet another article of faith for a few. I wouldn’t be surprised if some weeks or batches were a bit better, but under normal circumstances, you’ll never know that, and even if you did, it probably would do you no good.

    You may think you know that, but you don’t. The reason why is that not even our database gets enough entries to say with any statistical certainty that one week is better than another, never mind a particular batch. Just because one chip in a batch is good doesn’t mean they’re all just as good. Chips made in the center of a wafer tend to be better than those out on the edges, and you don’t know what type that database entry is.

    But even if you were right, Intel makes around 2 million chips a week. Probably at least 100,000 of the specific chip you’re looking for. A week. Probably a couple week’s inventory’s worth out there. Out of several hundred thousand, you’re going to find one out of a batch of 100-200? Pretty steep odds, don’t you think?

    So if you see somebody post a big number, odds are that:

      1) that person spend good money and effort on components and especially advanced cooling and/or

      2) he got the luck of the draw.

    It’s a lot better and smarter to look at what most people are getting from their CPU under conditions like yours. Then you have a much more realistic idea of what you can expect, and adjust your buying accordingly. Once you get it, if you can manage to do better than that, great. But don’t plan on getting the greatest overclocking chip ever made.

  5. This equipment is so dumb it doesn’t even know that you’re the boss

    Computer equipment is really dumb. No matter what you do, you can’t scare it. It has no shame; it doesn’t care what you think of it. Not only does it not care, it can’t care. You can’t bend its will, it has none. Even when it works, it’s dead. When was the last time you successfully intimidated a rock, or heard a bad one say “Ouch” when you punished it?

    Equipment will either work or not under certain conditions. Many of the factors that determine whether it works or not are beyond your control. The best you can do is make the conditions that are under your control as optimal as possible, but even then, things may not work due to those other factors.
    If that’s the case, it doesn’t care how much you want to do it, or how important it is to you. Your willpower or desire means nothing. This isn’t the movies, and your computer is no Disney character.

Overclocking is never a guarantee, but give it enough time and effort and a little more thinking and less hoping in the beginning, and you’ll put the odds greatly in your favor. Don’t, and you’ll just do it later, plus hit the old wallet for more. Pay it now, or pay it later.

***I have the greatest respect for those who have overcome their handicaps in such events, but that respect comes from the effort and will to do so under tremendous odds. That
is quite the opposite of people with no apparent impediment outside of being effort-challenged.

Email Ed


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