Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Back in the Game



 Sometimes I just want to sit back and relax. Crazy, I know, but after school from 8 to 2 and work from 2:30 to 8 sitting back and watching a movie or playing a game sounds pretty nice. This is what brought me to a bit of a dilemma. My old gaming laptop died last year, leaving me with my school laptop that can not play modern games, and a Playstation that might as well be called the Netflix machine. All the long days take a toll and I wanted something for myself so off I went to my local store only to find that the current generation of video game consoles cost more than the television I was planning on connecting them to. $500 to play some video games? That doesn’t even include actually buying some games for it! Frankly, it is ridiculous. I have bills to pay, house hunting to do, and a wedding to plan, there is no way I could justify spending that much on something just for the sake of video games.

         Instead of sulking off defeated I took it as a challenge. I set myself a budget of what an Xbox One and two games would cost, $600, and built myself a fine computer. There is so much more value in that, so much more usability. I hear the naysayers now “oh Travis, you can’t play the shiny new games with that budget! There won’t be enough power!” and I respond you are wrong good sir or madam, times have changed and there have never been so many powerful and inexpensive options as there are now. I know the idea of putting a computer together seems intimidating to a lot of people as well. However, there are literally thousands of articles, how to videos, and guides all over the internet covering everything from picking your parts to the final assembly. The assembly and getting it running took about four hours, so it can be done in a free afternoon and all you need is a screw driver. If you just absolutely love sitting on the sofa to play a game, plug your computer into your TV and plug in a USB gamepad or an old Xbox360 controller; I promise, it works. Once you consider productivity ability, the computer is pretty much a landslide winner compared to anything else. You can use it for work, school, and whatever else you want. The bottom line is that building something yourself is less expensive in the long run, has a lot more usability, you can customize it to fit your needs, and you get something you can be proud of. That last part was the most important thing to me. I wanted to feel like I accomplished something, not like I just wasted a bunch of money to open up a box and plug it in.

So take a look and hopefully you will see there's nothing to be scared of taking on a little project like this yourself.

Figure 1. Ridiculous. What the devil is this!?

  Figure 2. What!   $500!?                 


Figure 3. Controller 
That better be the most amazing controller ever created.

Figure 4. What a bargain.
I guess that is less bad?

Figure 5. Underwhelming Options
WOW! There are 15 whole games to choose from. I am not impressed.

Figure 6. Puzzle Pieces
Here we have the puzzle pieces! Thank you free shipping!

Figure 7. Find the Fit
Think of a puzzle, the pieces go in the spots where they fit.
If it is hard to put something somewhere, you are probably doing it wrong.

Figure 8. Screw
All you need is a screw driver.

Figure 9. Proof
Proof it was me! I put everything together on my kitchen table.
Any flat surface will work but avoid carpet.

Figure 10. So Nice
This looks a lot nicer than the inside of an Xbox.


Figure 11. Cable Management
Velcro and Zip ties make everything prettier! When you look around online, you will see a lot of sloppy cable management. Take some pride in your work and clean that mess up!

Figure 12. Pride
Here it is, completed. Not everything goes according to plan though. You might notice that I cut a hole in the side of the case. While it does look sort of cool, I did it because that heat sink didn’t quite fit. That’s part of the fun though. The little surprise problems and the stories you get to tell about how you solved them make it special. Those stories are what makes it yours and if you do it yourself, you will come away with a much better story that "well, I went to the store and I gave a guy some money".

Closing Comments
       I think I did alright. I stuck to what I said I would do in the design plan. This concept is pretty broad, so it is hard for me to say this was totally effective. It would have been easier if I stated my goal would be to make people consider googling "how to build a pc". I think that, overall, people will get the picture.


Burns, J. (2014). Ridiculous. New Lenox, IL.

---. (2014). What!?. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Controller. New Lenox, IL.

---. (2014). What a Bargain. New Lenox, IL.

---. (2014). Underwhelming Options. New Lenox, IL.

---. (2014). Puzzle Pieces. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Find the Fit. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Screw. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). So Nice. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Cable Management. Joliet, IL.

---. (2014). Pride. Joliet, IL.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Experience with the Photo Essay

Well this started off pretty rough. Picking a topic was really holding everything up. Pretty much the only thing that I was sure of was that I had no interest in continuing my research into propaganda. It's depressing. With everything that is going on right now, I really just wanted to have some sort of fun and maybe actually enjoy doing this project. Life has been pretty stressful lately and I had been putting off spending the money to build a new computer for a while but this just seemed like a good opportunity. I got to do something fun for myself and I get to show it off a bit. That's pretty much a win win. As a little test and for practice, I posted a few write-ups and pictures to some PC builder forums this week. The response was very positive and it was nice to engage with an audience outside of school. My rough draft is a little um rough. I still need to add two pictures and I will probably rewrite the entire narrative. I'm OK with that though. It is a lot easier to write about something you're actually excited about. I really want to work on it to better convey that the project isn't just about building a cooler thing to play video games on. It's about doing something you can be proud of.