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MIT student blogger Chris M. '12

IAP: It’s Amazing Pterodactyl by Chris M. '12

I'm not good at acronyms

Oh hi there. I’m back on campus now for IAP (Independent Activities Period, but I think “It’s Awesome Pterodactyl” is much more descriptive), which traditionally is when all the students return to see all their beloved green covered in snow, and those from equatorial climates suffer at the horrifying discovery of what “windchill” is. This year however, is a bit different. There’s no snow to be seen, and temps are relatively warmer than usual. Not bad for campus, but unfortunate for those of us hoping to ski–there’s not really snow anywhere in North America.

But some fluke warm winter weather won’t prevent the Outdoors Club (MITOC) from having it’s annual “Winter School”. Winter School is a series of lectures and trips designed to help introduce people to the fun they can have in the snow. They go through everything you need to know if you haven’t been out in the snow before, including layering, eating, drinking, and the technical aspects of many different wintersports, such as: Hiking, Ice Climbing (yay!), Backcountry Skiing (yay!), Snowshoeing, Camping, and Mountaineering (yay!). Lectures are during the week and trips are over the weekend, where you can visit one of MITOCs two New Hampshire cabins. Given that 90% of the gifts I received for Christmas was outdoor gear, it should be no surprise that I’m thrilled to be back just in time to get my feet wet (err…only metaphorically) with Winter School. It’s always fun to meet other people as excited to intentionally put themselves in situations that are other people’s nightmares. I’m particularly excited about the Ice Climbing trip, because Ice Climbing is ridiculous.

Not all of IAP has to be crampons and ice axes though, there’s still ample down time for doing things with your friends. I’ve been working with some friends on our startup project (another blog entry, but there’s some stuff we’re not done with that I really want to add), and building this monster of a machine:

This is my workstation PC I built over Black Friday (crazy deals). I know some of you are spec groomers, so here we go:

CPU: intel i5 2500K (OC’d to 3.8Ghz)

CPU COOLER: Hyper212+


RAM: 16Gb

PSU: Corsair TX650W

GPU: Gigabyte HD 6950 (reflashed to 6970, and OC’d to 900Mhz)

HD: Seagate 3Tb 7200rpm Barracuda

CASE: CoolerMaster HAF 932 Advanced (it’s worth noting that there are now 10 fans in this machine trying to keep it cool.)

I’ve named this computer “Galactica” because when I first started it, it had no network capabilities (Windows didn’t like the drivers). That and because it’s frackin’ huge and I love me some BSG.

My favorite part of building commputers though, is the wiring:

It’s not my finest work, and I’m sure I’ll redo it again in the future, but it works for now. You might think I’m crazy for liking cable management so much, but there are dozens of us.

So what do I do with such a behemoth of a machine? Well, this is my workstation computer, so I normally crank through SolidWorks stuff, MATLAB, programming–that sort of thing. But here lately, I’ve been using it to….well….


If you don’t know what this is from, then I envy the amount of time you haven’t sunk into it. This is Skyrim. The most life-consuming of games. And it’s very pretty. One more:

(as an aside, I really like the dwarves, because I think of them as ancient engineers. Building robots and mechanical things, living underground away from the light. The similarities are uncanny.)

Yes, I’m using my powerful work computer to play games. That’s what IAP is for.

15 responses to “IAP: It’s Amazing Pterodactyl”

  1. Mohammed Amr says:

    @Chris M. ’12
    My bad, you completely right. I think I sized it up wrong. Beast build anyhow.

  2. {Unregistered} says:

    That build is pretty awesome and cable management seems neat.

    The only thing I’d like to complain about is….WHY JUST 3.8 GHz on the i5 2500k?
    Seems like you’re wasting a lot of its potential. I’ve seen 2500k’s overclocked to 4.5GHz easily, even on air coolers. Your 212 should do fine as long as you keep the voltage down.

    And I agree with you that larger cases are better because they allow more airflow. Also, the machine just looks cooler. :p

  3. lolercopter says:

    yay FIRST!!!

  4. Jayant says:

    I have a Sapphire HD 6850 & Intel Core i7 960 but I don’t get the environmental effects in Skyrim as your’s. Have you used a mod for enhancements? And yeah.. Skyrim is a must-play game.

  5. Will says:

    Have you tired liquid cooling on any of your computers? Liquid cooling is any geek’s dream smile

  6. Mike says:

    “This is Skyrim. The most life-consuming of games.”

    Minecraft is better.

  7. Mohammed Amr says:

    Hi, quick question. Why did you use such a small motherboard? That thing is tiny. For upgrade purposes wouldnt it have been better to get one with more than expansion slots? Were you low on budget? Maybe you can take advantage of the small form factor and build a cool weird looking case. If I had a build like that I would definitively go for something like that. Ive seen some very small cases. You could make something like a small power box.
    That’s my opinion anyways. Thanks for the post. Keep it up!!!

  8. Chris M. '12 says:

    I’m running at Ultra, 1920×1200. Maybe that’s it?

    The z68x is an ATX motherboard, so it’s not what most people would consider tiny. Maybe it looks that way because the CPU cooler and video card are both very large, as is the case. The only sizes larger are eATX and XL-ATX, but those boards are expensive and don’t add any value for me. I have no need for more than two PCIe slots. This one has all the features I need and I got it on sale for $99. I could upgrade to an i7 in the future if I wanted to, but I probably won’t, as the programs I really use this for (Solidworks) don’t do well with more cores. And by the time a new socket comes out, I’ll be buying a new motherboard anyway…

    I tend to lean the opposite way with my desktop builds, wanting big cases with lots of airflow to support easy overclocking and additional drives, but to each their own! I have a friend with a small machine and he loves it.

  9. Austin says:

    But the real question is… where are the CCFLs?

  10. Keith says:

    Wow, Skyrim looks like 2000% sexier than I thought it could. I envy your PC. Have you installed any mods yet? Are you waiting for the Creation kit to come out? Or are you one of those purists who avoids making any changes to his games? I personally love all the HD texture mods, but wish I had a machine that could run them more smoothly.

  11. kilanko says:

    try ” Rise of Nations” for a change and you wouldnt complain

  12. Zach says:

    dwarf fortress is better.

  13. Mike says:

    Dwarf Fortress is very good, but may I recommend D&D.

  14. Nilanjan says:

    Oh my GOD!!!!
    Mom can you get me one of these beauties?
    Mom:-NO!! But I can afford Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress. It will give you a fair idea of what this is.

  15. Nilanjan says:

    I don’t like magical adventure games much. I recommend Modern Warfare 3.