Building a gaming computer for winter

  1. I used to identify and select parts, using their guide for a Great Intel Gaming build.
    • I modified the setup to include a less colorful Case and the recommended 1 TB solid state drive (SSD) from The Wirecutter
    • I added in a wireless/bluetooth card since (don’t tell anyone) this computer won’t be using an ethernet cable for data and I like the option for bluetooth headphones
    • I purchased a Windows license from Microsoft directly since I didn’t feel like dealing with Linux and game compatibility
    • Decided that a soundcard was overkill since we already have one computer with a nicer soundcard and we’re not planning to record sound or run speakers from this computer
    • Any extra cords needed for monitors
  2. Install the frame for the motherboard inputs so it doesn’t come back and bite me later. This required me to remove the fan (take a photo before removing) and took a bit more force than I expected to push it into place.
  3. CPU install: lever to open case was awkward to pull out. CPU just floats in place. I used the triangle to line it up in the correct alignment.
  4. RAM went into non-adjoining slots (Got this advice from BIOS after initial install). Took a bit more force that I wanted to install.
  5. Cooler had goo on it and I used that instead of the thermal paste I had since I didn’t want to clean the cooler goo off. This may be a mistake and I may have to go add back in again.
    • Push pins on cooler base took more force to go into place than I wanted.
  6. Hard drive was easy peasy to install following the instructions that came with the drive
  7. Install the power supply unit.
  8. Install motherboard on the risers.
  9. Install GPU.
  10. Plugg all the things in
    • the power went into two places on the motherboard
    • all the fans
    • the case plugs took some work to sort out where they wint
    • install the case plugs before any extra PCI installs (I had to remove a card on a different computer install in order to get some wee sound plugs in place)
    • GPU probably needs power. ūüôā
  11. Turn things on and follow any instructions.
  12. If everything is happy, rationalize the cords. I mostly used little velcro straps. My case had a ton of extra room (but will be nice and cool?) so I used the bottom of the case where the optical dries would go to store extra cords since my power
  13. Add the operating boot disk (I use a wee USB drive)
  14. Install operating system
  15. If everything is happy, close up the case.
  16. Install drivers/support for GPU (I went to AMD for my Radeon card and it worked like a charm)

Extra notes:

Civilization didn’t work until I installed Microsoft C++



Standard programs for a fresh computer

  1. Chrome and Firefox browsers
    • Tighten privacy settings, install PrivacyBadger, change search to DuckDuckGo
  2. Dropbox
  3. Password management tool
  4. Gaming software
    • Steam
    • Epic
  5. Productivity software
    • Scrivener (for writing novels)
    • Evernote (capturing things online and ideas)
    • Adobe Reader (when needed)
    • Zoom/Skype/etc. as needed
    • Paint.NET (simple image editing)
    • Microsoft Office (if license available/needed)
    • CutePDF (if still supported)
    • Notepad++ (editing code/text)
    • BeyondCompare (File compare and SFTP)
    • FileZilla (simple SFTP)
    • 7Zip (when needed)
    • VPN software¬† (when needed)

Notes for reinstalling Android on a phone

These are my running notes for when I’m reinstalling Android on a phone. Most everything these days is synced to Dropbox or Google, but there are still a few little gotchas. (Sorry, Ben! And everyone who texted him in 2017-2018)


  • Signal messages
  • Contacts – should be syncing to Google
  • Photos – should be syncing to Dropbox
  • 2 factor authentication apps for work will need to be reinstalled. Have spare codes if possible.
Music setup:
Convince VLC to see the music on the phone. I thought that I had convinced it to see the Dropbox music folder, so all we needed to do was make some music files offline via Dropbox. But VLC did not like the Dropbox music location in July 2018, so we moved files into Android Music location. Bah!

Things to consider when purchasing a new laptop

My running notes on what to consider when purchasing a laptop computer. And I also run over to The Wirecutter to review their latest advice, along with the little googling.

  • Screen resolution: screen resolution and how does it play with programs (the blurry tool bars with my silver Asus)
  • Track pad: can it take two finger input? Does it get bumped really easily (my blue Acer)
  • Physical assembly: Can the screen push way back? When sitting on the coach, I want to push it way back (more than the silver Asus)
  • Ports: options for connecting to other things (what are the plugs and how many are there? USB, USB-C, HDMI, mini-HDMI, )
  • Keyboard: quality of the keyboard and placement of keys
  • Drive: Solid State Drive that is big enough for Dropbox to sync
  • RAM is comparable to other computers in similar price point
  • CPU is comparable to other computers in similar price point

Installing CyanogenMod on Samsung Galaxy s2 i777 (AT&T)

*Note, I am NOT an Android developer. This documentation is for my own reference as much as anything else. There is a second Galaxy s2 that I’ll need to tackle at some point.

My device, the¬†¬†Samsung Galaxy s2 i777 (AT&T) running Android 4.1.2 (but connected with T-Mobile since I got crabby with AT&T). Since I’m well off warranty, a nice clean install of Android was highly tempting. We have two of these phones in our household, so below is the second, clean install I completed. The meandering of the first attempt is outlined in more detail below.


  1. Charged phone
  2. external sd card in phone
  3. usb cable
  4. Windows 7 computer


  1. Charge the phone and remove it from its case.
  2. Change the phone settings to allow transferring the files (if not already possible). I used Settings->Wireless and networks->USB utilities when Windows Explorer was not displaying the phone. This was not always necessary.
    • I also changed Security->Unknown sources for application installs, but I’m not sure this was necessary.
  3. Move (the Clockwork file) using whatever mechanism you prefer to the external sd card for the phone. This was the second of two phone drives visible in Windows Explorer for me when using the USB utility or simply the “card” when phone immediately displayed in Windows Explorer. Eject the phone from the computer if possible (icon usually in lower righthand corner of computer screen).
  4. Turn the phone fully off.
  5. Restart the phone in recovery mode by holding down the up and down volume buttons and the power button until “Samsung” displays on the screen. Quickly release them to get into a Recovery screen.
    1. Move through the screens using the volume rocker and power button to select.
    2. In retrospect, I’m not sure if this was necessary since I repeated it below.
    3. Select: “apply update from external storage” and then (the file you added)
    4. Select: “install zip from sd card” and then “apply /sdcard/”
    5. I also did a factory reset at this point, but I’m not sure it was necessary.
    6. Reboot using the menu option
  6. Attach phone to computer again with USB cable.
  7. Transfer (again using Windows Explorer in my case) and gapps zip files. Probably could have just done this in step 3 above.
  8. Turn off and restart in recovery mode. Follow step six above so that the right version of clockwork mod is running. Then repeat for the cyanogen and gapps zip files.
  9. Reboot the phone
  10. In my case the CyanogenMod loading animation hung. I then restarted again and it booted up nicely.
  11. Start setting up your new phone!

ADB push

I totally disregarded the adb push instruction the second time

  1. In a command window, change directory (cd) to the abd directory and push the modified cyanogenmod and gapps zip files. For whatever reason, abd push did not work after I had unzipped (flashed?) the cyanogenmod file on the first phone, so I’m carefully pushing both of them now.

I first tried to use the simple, lazy person¬†install of CyanogenMod, and had it fail. It¬†seemed like it should work, but failed on step 4 in fall 2013 (when on AT&T) and in March 2014 (When on T-Mobile) with an “unsupported device” alert.

I then moved onto the wiki for the i777 installation.

A few things I learned:

  • Recovery mode: volume up/down and power. Nav: volume up/down and power for enter
  • “Flashing” appears to mean unzipping a file
  • Finally figured out checksums using the Microsoft utility fciv.ext
  • Not sure I ever got¬† running right, but could fire it off from recover mode
  • Need Java Development Kit ¬†to run ADK
  • Eventually just moved the zip files to the external card using file manager (ignoring
  • cyanomod only installed after remove the version check:¬†
  • gapps had a metadata failure:¬† Successfully installed after the supposed cyanomod install
  • Stuck in the cyanomod loading animation
  • Booted into recovery mode.
    • Noticed running clockwork mode, not which is the approved version for i777. Read some errors.
    • Did a restore
    • INstalled original
    • rebooted
    • Seems to be working
  • Discovered installed wrong version of Google Apps ¬†for the version of CyanogenMod I’m running on my phone.
  • Couldn’t convince adb to push the correct gapps version (tried the Developer settings — 7 clicks on version and activating various debugging, restarting), ended up transferring with Windows Explorer. Restarted in recover/reboot mode, shifted to ¬†the correct, and the unpacked the hand transferred gapps. Worked fine.


Other resources


Original time estimate: 2 hours.
Actual time: 4+ hours