Monday, July 31, 2006

AACDirect / All American Computers

AAC Direct, or All American Computers, custom builds each PC separately, with results that show up in Tom's Hardware as The Best: Beats Alienware, Falcon Northwest and CyberPower. Coupled with great (if comparatively few) reviews on, I realized they might be a good alternative to a Dell XPS, given Dell's recent pricing changes and lack of a cohesive plan to move to Conroe. AAC already has a plan, given they've been beta-building Conroe ATI Crossfire rigs already.

So I e-mailed them and asked for a quote for a computer costing no more than $2,800 with shipping & tax, that can run Oblivion fluidly. I specified no parts other than "I want a Conroe Crossfire capable setup."

AAC shot back:
  • MOTHERBOARD: 975XBX (handles Crossfire)
  • RAM: DIMM 2GB 800MHZ - GEIL 800MHZ DDR2 2X1024MB VALUE DIMMS (or something)
  • HD: SEAGATE 320 GIG 7200 RPM SERIAL ATA HD (double up for RAID 0)
  • SOUNDCARD: (built-in)
Damage? 2,599.00! Much less than the limit I specified.

But before I ordered from them, I had to know "what is their support like?" I had read that the owner, Kyle Felstien, will sometimes answer the phone and talk as long as is necessary (indeed, he gave me the above quote), but I had to call them for myself.

The Phone Call:
Well I got Dave, who got Kyle because he said Kyle would know my order, and Kyle and I talked for 1 hour and 45 minutes. First we went over each item in the PC build - does the onboard sound work well or load the CPU? Okay, Audigy SE "Suck Edition" takes the load off of the CPU and doesn't have any fandangled features, but does do 5.1. Great. What's the difference between X1900 XT and X1900 XTX? $100 and 3-4%? Okay. Thank you for not making a "ka-ching" sound and quoting me the XTX. What's a LIAN LI case? Oh it's that good? Okay. I want that.

Then we talked about Gainesville, Florida, because Kyle used to live here. He even knew Burrito Brothers, the famous burrito shop where my dad used to work. I told him the rat story. He kind of chuckled and didn't say anything, like he was wondering "Was I eating there, then?"

Then we talked about the state of technology today, and two things became obviously clear: much of my two weeks of hardcore research had proved me right on many points (from Crossfire Express 3200 - 16x to the old 8x standard and what that means) and Kyle knew of tons of topics I just didn't know about - such as why ATI's roadmap for the future is better than Nvidia's and a distributor's nightmares in dealing with Nvidia (though he offered me an Nvidia rig 5 times just as a manner of speaking), why Conroes are so freaking hot (he knows about the architecture), and why ATI cards made now will, to a degree, support the DX10 standard of using GPU's as CPU's.

Warranty? How about Custom Burn-In of Every PC to go with that?
Oh, and did I mention that every system shipped goes through a complete burn-in? Comes with a 3 year parts warranty (1 year labor) and phone support for the life of the system?

Well, obviously, I found out about their phone support, and though they are a small shop that isn't there 24/7, they sold me.

As Kyle said "We put our major costs into building the computers and making sure they work, rather than technical support down the road." He has the latter, but as he said "We've only got so many people, so you can only reach us at business hours." However, they seemed helpful and glad to discuss any questions about the computers they sell you.

Kyle talked about build quality - about CyberPower's cheap computers that aren't even tested to Falcon Northwest and Alienware's costly systems. He builds custom "show cases" to more gamer oriented PureXS systems (LiquidXS systems are for rich folks at around $4,000).

Kyle and I spoke about art and laying out beautiful computer cases, cabling and cooling, airflow; more about why Conroes are badass, lighting, why fan lights are better than lighting tubes (basically the tubes are so bright many people get annoyed after several months, while fan lights are more subtle)...

It was an incredible phone conversation and I was riveted the entire time. I never told him that dinner (I was already going to eat alone because my mother had taken my wife & kids out shopping) was ready at 6:30pm. We didn't get off the phone until 7:50 (I'd called just after 6pm EST, when their store closes). Kyle is also an expert at Mexican goodbyes - where Mexicans say goodbye to each other, and in doing so think of something else fun to talk about, and go back at it. I'm great at it because I live with a Mexican girl, but Kyle can hold his own!

I have not had a more exciting conversation about computers since I worked for Rusty Butler in 1998. Only conversations with Jock and Billy come close, but since we're not industry developers like Rusty and Kyle, there's only so far we can go.

Money spent with AAC, I'm sure, will be well-spent.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

E3 Dead

It's true. "The ESA will today seek to salvage some good from the wreckage of E3; but the spectacle that has held the industry in thrall for 12 years is at an end."

"...all major exhibitors have effectively pulled their support from the show, prompting the majority of game publishers to also cancel plans for high-cost booths." "The days of an industry event attended by all the major publishers, spending big money, are gone."

"The decision by big manufacturers and publishers to walk away has left ESA in damage-control mode. As we reported yesterday, E3, in its present form, is dead."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Can't Keep Terecita

Dulce, Alejandra and I have all gotten sick because of Terecita. I made sure to leave the kitten with the girls last night so that Dulce would wake up sick and realize what needed to be done without us just landing the bad news in her lap. It worked. The poor dear got so sick she had trouble breathing, woke up, put the kitten in the guest/girl's bathroom by herself, and went back to sleep.

Alejandra felt so guilty that she tried to hide her symptoms.

I just don't know why I was able to keep Midnight for two weeks and not get ill, as I recall, and this kitten had my allergies going after the first night. We've bathed her and she's quite clean. We keep the litterbox in her bathroom.

Alejandrita showed me a purse this morning with a lab puppy on it that looks reminiscent of Bella. She said "I don't want Bella here because she try to bite Gose (jose)." I talked with her and made her feel better. I realized instantly that she was preparing herself for losing Terecita - she saw that her sister, Dulce, was sick, and her mother.

That poor child. She is so good with animals. I ordered Maria to take the kitten to bed with her for the purpose I stated earlier, and Maria said that the kitten kept leaving her and going to sleep with Dulce and Alejandrita. I knew why - Alejandra has played with the kitten, petted her and let her sleep in her lap ever since I found her.

This morning, the kitten meowed softly, then sadly, then angrily, then despondantly, wanting someone to let her out. She's become so attached to people - she's the cat I've dreamt of having, but alas - I can never keep cats. Alay can't use Dr. Chance's remedy while breast-feeding.

Perhaps my friend, Brandon, can help keep her until he finds a home for her.

A cat like Terecita is good enough to make me wish I had no allergies, that is for sure. She's just so - odd - for a cat. She likes to be around people and is content being in someone's lap much of the day. I taught the girls to let her go when she'd leave, so she wouldn't feel constrained, and it worked. The kitten just chooses to be in a lap and tries to nurse my daughters' long dresses. She doesn't want to sleep alone at night, though she'll nap in her cat bed you bought for her. Sad. I'll have to find a friend to take her - no way this kitten goes to a stranger.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Teresita the Kitten rescued from the street

I was driving to work this morning along the urban-green streets of Gainesville, avoiding the main roads, when I saw a college student walking along the side of the road with a kitten hopping through the grass trying to follow him. Periodically he'd stop and try to wave her off with his hands or feet. The kitten would duck, but continue following him.

A cat that tries to follow a stranger? I did the math quickly and stopped at the STOP sign, turned right, stopped immediately (this confused the red land-yacht behind me, who eventually passed me), turned the minivan around, and drove back up to the walking student, kitten still in tow.

I asked him "Mister, could you grab that kitten for me?"

"Sure," he said, "she's going to get hit by a car." He picked her up; the kitten ducked but did not protest.

"My girls will love her." I said, taking her into my arms.

I held her in my left arm and drove with my right on the ride home; she pressed against me and purred. Every moment I was stopped or slowing down, I'd pet her, and she purred. I showed up at home and got out of the 1986 Plymouth Voyager minivan, Rafael. My daughters, perplexed at my return, opened the front door and saw the kitten. The picture above was actually staged; I had already come inside and given them instructions and was then leaving.

All I said was that her name was Teresita and we were keeping her and to keep Dulce Maria (my 6-year-old) from getting too close because I didn't want her asthma or my allergies (which seem to be fine around a clean one-cat house, but kill me around male cats or dirty houses) to stop us from keeping her.

Lunch Time
When I came home for lunch, she was lapping up her milk. I stepped into the girl's bathroom with her (the crate is in there with some of the colored wrapping paper you gave us outside the crate and a towel inside the crate) and my daughters quickly followed. I brought her out and put her on the kitchen table.

Teresita saw the spaghetti and steak Alejandra had made (though it was cut super-thin, Alay didn't realize until she got home) and stepped over to it and tried to find something to nibble on, so I cut up a piece of steak into tiny bits and fed her one noodle and lots of bits of steak. So she sat on the table and ate with us, and she seemed to think this was perfectly normal. She'd look up at us once in a while and go back to picking at her food. Sometimes she'd come over to my plate, especially if she had finished what I had given her (so naturally I'd give her more).

Once she was done with that we put her back in the bathroom and kept eating. She hopped out immediately and went under the table and startled Maria de Guadalupe (and vice-versa). I picked her up and held her in my lap and proceeded to pet her and scratch her softly. The girls joined in. Then Teresita surprised me by suddenly splaying out her side and lying prone, so we continued to softly scratch and pet her.

Then she suddenly jutted out her neck and chin, offering us her most tender spot without fear or doubt, and I scratched her ever so gently, at which point she fell asleep. After it was time for me to go, I carefully lifted her and put her in Lupe's lap, who was on the couch, and she fell back to sleep. Her head stirred when she heard the garage door, but when I called home at 2:48 PM, Teresita was still asleep in Lupe's lap. I left at 2:20. Talk about a patient 9-year-old!

So, that is what we know about little Teresita so far.