Whatever happened to Dr. Thomas Pabst?

Whatever happened to Dr. Thomas Pabst?

In 1996, Dr. Thomas Pabst, a German MD then living in England, created a web page where he talked about motherboards, video cards, and a then little-known phenomenon called overclocking. Dubbed Tom’s Hardware Guide, it spawned a long list of imitators, creating a new industry: PC hardware enthusiast sites.

In 2006 he sold the site and walked away.

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History of overclocking

History of overclocking

Overclocking didn’t start in the 90s, and it wasn’t limited to PCs either. Here’s a history of overclocking from a guy who did it some, and talked to guys who did it a lot in the 80s.

I don’t recommend overclocking, and today Microsoft can prove it’s a bad idea. But overclocking has a long and colorful history. It’s less common than it used to be, perhaps. But it’s not completely extinct.

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Not your father’s Celeron

I picked up a Celeron G1610 CPU last week and I’m using it to build a Linux box. Yeah, it’s a Celeron. But it performs like a 2011-vintage Core i3 or a 2010-vintage Core i5, consumes less power than either, and costs less than $50. It’s hard to go wrong with that. Read more

Cyanogenmod 10.1 runs surprisingly well on a Nook Color

Cyanogenmod–the open-source distribution of Android for undersupported/abandoned devices–went to version 10.1 this week. Version 10.1 is based on Android 4.2.2, so it matches what’s in stores right now.

My Nook Color was sitting unused, so I figured I had nothing to lose by loading Cyanogenmod 10.1 on it. It was slow and laggy and crashed a lot under 7.2, so it wasn’t like it could be much worse.

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Hot-rod Cyanogenmod 7.2

Whatever you do, don’t call this post Optimizing Android 2.3 for Games, Graphics and Multimedia. I’ll kick your… nevermind.

But of course the first thing I wanted after I installed Cyanogenmod 7.2–which is based on Android 2.3.7–on my Nook Color was to make it run smoother and faster. What else would I want? So here’s some stuff I did, since adding three CPU cores obviously isn’t an option.

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Living with a past-its-prime computer

I’m playing catch-up a bit. This weekend, Lifehacker ran a guide about living with a computer that’s past its prime.

I’ve made a career of that. One of my desktop PCs at work (arguably the more important one) is old enough that I ought to be preparing to send it off to second grade. And for a few years I administered a server farm that was in a similar state. They finally started upgrading the hardware as I was walking out the door. (I might have stayed longer if they’d done that sooner.) And at home, I ran with out-of-date computer equipment for about a decade, just this summer buying something current. Buying something current is very nice, but not always practical.

So of course I’ll comment on a few of Lifehacker’s points.

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Is overclocking over?

Extreme Tech (via Slashdot) asks if overclocking is over. It’s an interesting question. It has a long and colorful history. But maybe it is history.

I have a 4-core machine whose cores can all run at a top speed of over 3 GHz. And it’s a midrange PC at best, these days. The only time I ever push its CPU usage is when I’m encoding video. Web pages that bring a P4-class machine to its knees momentarily bring this PC’s CPU usage to 10%.

Not being a gamer, I haven’t had any reason to overclock in years. In fact, even back in 2000 I was recommending against it. Bad things can happen when you overclock.
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How to buy a sub-$100 Android tablet and not get burned

Last year, a flood of $99 tablets built with extremely low-end hardware running dated versions of Android appeared. This year, slightly better tablets running slightly less dated versions of Android are readily available, sometimes for as little as $60. And I have to admit, these devices got me thinking. I didn’t quite pull the trigger. But here’s what to watch (out) for on the low end.
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Used dual-cores are coming! Used dual-cores are coming!

All this talk about new computers got me looking to see what’s out there in the channel. And it looks like the glut of Pentium 4s is finally clearing, making way for the 2-core revolution. Prices are low–I’m seeing dual-core systems, both Intel and AMD, with Windows licenses, for anywhere from $180 to $280 depending on configuration and some other factors that aren’t exactly clear to me.

Sound good? Here’s what to look for in an off-lease/refurbished computer.
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Stress test computer hardware with Prime95

Let’s say you’ve just bought a used PC with a short (typically less than 2 weeks) warranty. Or a new PC that’s not the brand you know and trust. Maybe you’ve built a new PC and you want to make sure it’s going to hold up before you start using it every day. Or you have a new server, and you want to make sure it’s going to hold up under heavy loads. What should you do to stress test computer hardware (or burn in computer hardware) like that?

Do what overclockers do.

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