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spikegifted's stuff of dreams

Dream Rig, Dream Car, Drum Kit, Bass Guitar & Bass Amp, Dream Watch


Dream Rig

This rig represents what I would dearly love to have if money was no object. The approach is very similar to that of the folks over at Ars Technica on their 'God Box': "Sure, some might argue that a God Box could only be accurately identified as a CAVE, but at Ars, for a box to be the pinnacle of power and wisdom, it needs balance and realism".

CPU

Intel i7 956 Extreme Edition, S1366 (B), Nehalem, 3.2GHz (I'd dearly like to have a dual physical CPUs, but in this age of quad-core processors, a single physical CPU should be sufficient. Also single CPU allows much more flexibility when it comes to motherboard selection.)

Motherboard

Asus Rampage II Extreme, Intel X58 S1366 ATX motherboard (The only chipset that currently support the i7 processor range is the X58, which means motherboard choice is fairly limited. This Asus is one of the best, but there is a whole bunch of them in the market.)

System RAM

12GB (6 x 2GB) Corsair Dominator DDR3 PC3-16000 2000MHz (64bit OS allows much bigger memory access, so anything goes. The reason for choosing the Asus board is for the overclocking features, so I'll need the fastest and best quality memory money can buy. Triple channel, six slots, 2GB each.)

Graphics

XFX GTX280 XXX PCI-E 2.0 240 cores, GPU 670MHz, 1GB 2500MHz GDDR3 x 2 (The latest and greatest from nVidia and clocked to the max, then double up via SLI. Any games should be a walk in the park.)
Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital Edition (Massive graphics power requires a massive display, but to get a truly immersive gaming experience, multiply monitor is the only way to go. Three monitors at 1680 x 1050 will be just fine, for now).

Sound Card

Onboard SupremeFX X-Fi (I'm not ashamed of using onboard sound, especially if the it is as good this one.)

Speakers

Altec Lansing FX5051 5.1 Surround Speakers (Altec Lansing has been making speakers since the 1920s, so if anyone knows about speakers, they do. What attracts me to the FX5051 is the fact that it can be connected via USB. So it can be used in a media center PC setup in the future.)

Network

Onboard nVidia Gigabit Ethernet controller

Hard Disks

Seagate Cheetah X15.3 (ST318453LC) 18GB U320, 15,000rpm (boot)
Seagate Cheetah X15.3 (ST336753LC) 37GB U320, 15,000rpm x 4 (RAID 5 array + 1 spare, applications)
Maxtor Atlas 15K II 73.5GB U320, 15,000rpm x 3 (RAID 1 array + 1 spare, primary data)
Maxtor Atlas 15K II 73.5GB U320, 15,000rpm x 2 (secondary data, downloads, music, etc)

DVD+/-RW Plextor PX-712SA DVD+/- R/RW Serial ATA x 2 (Plextor is the best name in optical storage solutions. This unit can handle just about any form of optical storage technology. To add icing to the cake, this unit utilizes the Serial ATA interface. As most good DVD-ROM drive makers have now stop producing DVD-ROM readers, I'll need a second DVD drive to read the media, hence two of these Plextors are spec'ed.)

Monitors

Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP Widescreen LCD 1920 x 1200 monitor x 3 (Three widescreens provide massive desktop real estate, providing a truly multitasking environment, allowing a vast array of applications and information to be displayed simultaneously. The sharpness and response of this unit has been universally acknowleged. These displays also support a lower 1680 x 1050 resolution required for gaming under the TripleHead2Go.)
NTI LCD 3 Monitor Stand #HD320 (The Dell monitors come with nice base, but these three screens are suppose to perform as a single unit. What better way to bind them together and get the optimal viewing setup using a single stand. There are many freestanding multiple-monitor stand makers out there, NTI is the about only one that support 3 units larger than 21" on a single stand.)

Input

Microsoft Natural Multimedia Keyboard and Logitech Cordless TrackMan Optical and/or Logitech MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse or Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer (Very personal choices here. Both Logitech and Microsoft make excellent keyboards and mice, but I prefer Logitech's trackballs, though.)

Casing

Lian Li PC-78 Aluminum Server Tower (6 x 5.25" bays, 3 x external 3.5" bays and 12 x internal 3.5" bays, this monster can house my rig. I could have gone of a 'cube' case, but they're usually in steel while the Lian Li is in aluminum. Cooling capability is excellent as well.)

Power Supply

PC Power & Cooling Max-Performance ATX with PFC 510 XE/EPS12V (This is one heck of a PSU - 30A on 3.3V, 40A on 5V and 34A on 12V, peak power 650W! The only down side is that it is rather noisy at 44dB.)
Backup Exabyte VXA-2 80/160GB Tape Drive Ultra2 LVD/SE Internal (Backing up data is so important, but I've little knowledge on the subject. This unit is recommended by Ars Technica's crew.)

UPS

American Power Conversion Back-UPS Pro 1000VA (This is what I need to make sure that my investment is not blown away with stupid power surges and outages.)

OS

Microsoft Windows XP Profession x64 Edition (This is an extension of a matured platform, it is still full of security problems; however, I'm not knowledgeable enough to dive into 64bit Linux. So unfortunately, this is the only chose of OS...)


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Dream Car

Cars... Like so many things in life is all about personal circumstances and preferences. Once upon a time, I would heartily agree that my favorite car was an out-and-out sports car, and there had been many: Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris... They’re all perfect sports in their own right. The resources that have gone into to creating those beautiful racing machines meant that everything in every aspect is perfect in form and function. In short: beauty in motion.

But they were all sports cars! I’m way pass the typical boy-racer phase and still too young to be in a mid-life crisis, so that beautiful Ferrari F360 Spider in red is not for me, despite spending many years thinking that was my dream car. No, I’ve moved on. While I still like a dream car that can speed along, I like the car to be comfortable, or even luxurious. There’re plenty of cars that go very fast, every one of my previous ‘dream cars’ would go insanely fast. There’re plenty of comfortable/luxurious cars. But there are few that can honestly claim to be both.

One that really stands out of the crowd is the Bentley Continental Flying Spurs. It’s not the top of the Bentley range, the Azure has that claim. It is fast, nearly as fast as the Continental GT, and it is luxurious, but without looking like a ‘box’. The car, like many that I’ve considered dream cars before, is a perfect example of grace and beauty. It has a performance specification that leave many so-called ‘sports car’ in the dust. It may not have the expression of speed like many of the sports cars, both prestige or otherwise, but this car can move.

Any functioning vehicle can get you from A to B, and any sports car can complete that journey at high speed, but not many cars can get you there fast without making you feel like you’ve been wrestling a bull. A car like the Continental Flying Spurs can do just that - it wraps around you and your passengers in the most comfortable traveling environment and deliver you to your destination in complete luxury, at a good speed. The fact that the car can do all that while looking beautiful on the outside is a fantastic achievement. The lines are simple and clean. The overall impression is that of a stately car that delivers travel comfort in abundance.

No everyone will agree with my choice of a dream car, but always these are personal choices. There will be people who complain that driving a Continental Flying Spur, or any Bentley or Rolls Royce for that matter, is a bit like being a chauffer. I cannot but disagree with that assessment. The whole design philosophy is to provide the maximum level of comfort and luxury around each occupier of the vehicle. Others will make the mistake of thinking that being such a big car, the handling will be problematic and the ride be ‘spongy’. But that is not true as the car handles and rides like a much smaller car.

The only complain I can have on the Continental Flying Spur is its poor eco quadrennials - with a W12 engine that is nearly 6 liters, this car is very thirsty. But then, all ‘luxury’ cars suffer from this problem. Those ‘speed merchants’ have the look to justify such extravagance, but the Continental Flying Spur delivers both speed and comfort. In my mind, that is a far exchange.


 


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Drum Kit

I first started seriously taking up drumming when I was 12 and first gotten involved with a band when I was 15. Anyone who knows anything about rock music knows that drums are the engine to the music - it keeps the pace of the music, it drives the bass, guitars and vocals. Drummer through the ages have been seen as the laughing stock of bands as they're, by the limitation imposed on them by the instrument, more technicians than musicians. They are simply not the same as the rest of members of the bands.

My early drumming influence (late 1970s and early 1980s) was the late Eric Carr of Kiss, hence the double bass drum. Of course, Eric used to use a lot of drums and my fascination in drumming big kits also sets in. Since I learnt drums on my own, it took me a while to get to grips with the basic techniques. During that time, I also came across the excellent drumming of Karl Palmer of Asia. Karl is another big-kit drummer and he wasn't afraid to experiment (he was one of the first people, if not the first, to use a full-size china gong live in concert). Another drummer that attracted my attention at the time was Phil Collins of Genesis. By that time, Phil was not only drummer of the band but also singer, but it was his drumming that I was interested in. His technique and timing was just bar-none. Of course, he's left handed, so it was interesting to see if I could drum like him - left handed. This improved my appreciation of the different co-ordinations required to be completely comfortable with a big drum kit. In the mid-to-late 1980's, I was introduced to the music of Rush. How I didn't come across this excellent trio of musicians before is difficult to understand, but once I found them, I just found them irresistible. The energy, the arrangements, the skills in handling their instruments, the vocals, the lyrics. Neil Peart (listen to some of his work - here and here) is a superb technician, musician and poet. Guess what, Neil is yet another big-kit drummer! Of course, my drumming heroes are not limited these four guys. Omar Hakim (Sting, Madonna and others) is another big idol. While he is not a big kit drummer, it is his versatility that really attracted me. Rock, pop, jazz, you name it, he can do it. Another drummer I listened to a lot was Roger Taylor of Queen. Queen was such an amazing band. One of the bands I was involved in back at school played nothing but music from Queen.

The kit below was setup using an excellent drum designing utility (Pearl Masters Dream Kit Workshop) from the Pearl Drums web site. The kit is designed around a pair of bass drums, a relative deep snare and a standard 14" hi-hat. To covered a full range of toms, I choose to use concert toms at the high end (8" and 10") and floor toms at the low end (16" and 18"). The mid range is covered by regular tom toms. With the exception of the concert toms, I've selected the deeper bodies of each of the toms available for fuller and rounder sounds. An selection of various splashes, crashes, rides and china crashes builds up my selection of cymbals.


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Bass Guitar & Bass Amp

Being a drummer, the bass seemed to be a natural progression. After all, being a drummer doesn't really make you visible.  I first picked up a bass guitar in the mid-1980s. However, the guitar never really caught my imagination. The bass is the axle and the gearbox of rock music. Together with rhythm guitar, the bass gives the music structure and rhythm. It transfer the drive from the drums through to the leads (guitars, keyboard, vocals, etc). But at the same time, the bass can be played in such a way that it changes the speed of the music without actually changing the fundamental rhythm. In my early teens, I spent a couple of years learning the violin; but the violin didn't really ignite my interest. Then I switched over to the cello at around the same time as when my voice broke (when I was around 14/15) I just felt more comfortable playing something a bit deeper. I finally gave up playing any 'classical' instruments due to my busy school schedule and my commitment to other activities. I first picked up a bass guitar when I was 17, completely out of curiosity. When I plugged the strings, the sound was familiar (by then I was singing in 2nd bass in our school choir and chapel chamber choir) and felt 'right'. And I was hooked...

Unlike the drums, which I can name several major influence, I can only name one for the bass - Geddy Lee of Rush. The guy is simply the best. Of course, I listen and practice my bass on other artists like Guns 'N Roses, Def Lepard, Genesis, The Almighty, Korn and others, but in terms of real influence and admiration, Geddy is miles ahead of others in my book. (Listen to some of music from Rush - here and here)

In terms of any dream bass rig, it will include both a bass that is capable of producing the nice warm but punchy rock sound as well as a powerful amp that can delivering the power of the music. My choice for the bass is the Fender Geddy Lee Limited Edition Jazz Bass, "
a replica of the instrument Geddy has used extensively for both recording and performing in front of thousands of loyal Rush fans worldwide. Featuring an alder body with a maple neck/fingerboard (34" scale length; 20 Medium Jumbo frets with black fingerboard binding), this J-Bass is custom-fit with two U.S. Vintage Bi-Pole pickups (neck & bridge), and a Bad AssTM II Bridge" (from Fender's web site). I know this bass very well as I'm already a proud owner of a Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass (with an alder body, a graphite reinforced maple neck, a rosewood fretboard and a black finish). Geddy's bass has an almost identical body, a one-piece neck (maple), far better pickups and bridge and generally a higher quality finish. For the amp, it just has to be one from Marshall. I particularly like their Bass-State Series, specifically the Bass-State B150 Combo. The Bass-State Series features "Dynamic Bass System (DBS) - such as blendable valve and solid-state preamp stages, strong and effective primary rotary EQ network with a 7-band Graphic EQ, allowing detailed fine tuning of your tone" - some piece of kit, this is! And as the name suggests, it can deliver a body-shaking 150W (RMS) of base, this should be enough to give whatever room a good rattle.

 


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