My Motto - Build it while you can!

Last Update: August 20, 2021

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Or Select a Build Directly: AVP Requiem Rebuild, Through the Looking Glass, Ryzen Nine, Bowl Me Over, Purrfection, Monolith, Game-A-Tron-2, Ryzen-Sun, Laptron, Micro-Tron, Game-A-Tron, Thermaltake Level 10 GT, Thinking Outside The Box (TOTB)

LAN Box, Curio Cavern PC, Mathmos Madness, Scan-a-Tron-2, OsbornAgain-2, Chopper, AVP Requiem, Upgrade for OsbornAgain, Semper Fidelis, Scan-a-Tron

Thermaltake Powerhouse, 2006 Small Projects, OsbornAgain, Sun X-Terminal, Printer-to-Computer, Printer-to-Computer-Deja-Vu, Other Projects 2000-2003

History of Big Al's Computers

Welcome to my site. I am Big Al and my hobby is case modding. I've been doing this since I built my first computer back in 2000. Previous to that I owned several "normal" computers, starting with an Osborne Executive in 1983, and then a few Pentium computers by Packard Bell and Compaq. Case modding, if you've never tried it, is a blast. The basic steps aren't all that difficult, but when you take case modding to the next level it will become a big deal. I'm somewhere in-between those levels, and what I have on display below depicts my handiwork, from my most popular "Semper Fidelis" project to the original "Globe of Retribution" machine.

Big Al himself (that would be me of course) has been more focused on motorcycles since 2005 when he bought his first Harley-Davidson (Fatboy), so most computer activities are associated with just keeping the current set of machines running. There have been some new builds of course, but most of the money goes to the bikes - I didn't mention that I got a chopper in 2009, did I? There there was a new Harley touring machine (traded in the Fatboy) in February 2014 after Big Al retired from the normal work life. Two motorcycles means twice as many rides you know. Anyway, computer maintenance can be tough sometimes. When you build so many machines and try to keep 8 gaming rigs operational, you need to plan for system maintenance. Also, a lack of funds to build new machines means that the old machines must continue to function so we can have LAN parties periodically. We don't always document the parties but we'll continue to take pictures for the major ones. Thanks for stopping by.

To help out my friends and to support the community, I have done reviews on products and services offered to consumers, mostly via the Internet.

You can find most of my reviews at FastLaneHW and Velocity Reviews.

If you need to contact me, please send an e-mail to:

Big Al's "How to" Mod Articles and Product Reviews:

Custom Logo Mod

Antec VCool Device Product Review

MGE XG Ninja2 Case Review

Hyperkore Laser-Etched Window Review

Cooler Master AeroGate 1 Review

HyperKore HK-Xtreme Gaming System Review

Corepad Mouse Products Review

Download Big Al's screen savers:

Custom Motorcycles 2008 (exe) Custom Motorcycles 2008 (zip) MountainFest 2008 (exe) MountainFest 2008 (zip)

Ride of the Patriots 2008 (exe) Ride of the Patriots 2008 (zip) MountainFest 2007 (exe) MountainFest 2007 (zip)

Ride of the Patriots - Rolling Thunder 2007 (exe) Ride of the Patriots - Rolling Thunder 2007 (zipped)

Ride of the Patriots - Rolling Thunder 2006 (exe) Ride of the Patriots - Rolling Thunder 2006 (zipped)

U.S. Botanic Gardens "Orchids in an Art Deco Garden (exe)" U. S. Botanic Gardens "Orchids in an Art Deco Garden (zipped)"

Philadelphia Flower Show (exe) Philadelphia Flower Show (zipped)

Friends of Big Al's Computers:

Infinity Customs Think Computers Fast Lane Hardware Velocity Reviews Pro-Clockers The Mod Nation

Big Al's Computers Gaming and Contest Events

2021 Memorial Day Weekend LAN Party

So it's been more than a year since we hosted a LAN party at Big Al Computers, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that struck in early 2020. Last year was quite a disaster for many families and our hearts go out to the ones who lost family members. When the vaccinations started appearing in late December 2020, it was a slow roll-out under Trump, but when Biden took office in January 2021, things improved drastically. Now about half of the eligible Americans have received their COVID-19 vaccinations. As a result, we hosted the LAN party and did not require masks to be worn, but everyone in attendance had at least one (of two shots) vaccination under their belt. The event itself started in mid-afternoon and gaming started once we had a core set of gamers in attendance - this included Shaun, Tiz, Sheraz, Greg and Allen of course. Other folks like Lynn, Jenn and Sandra were enjoying a some nice wine and a fire in the family room. Team Fortress 2 was played a bit, plus some other games. Allen didn't play this time, as there was chicken to grill and people to entertain. The party ended late in the evening, always a good sign.

A new build (Through the Looking Glass) was featured at this event.

2019 Holiday LAN Party

The holiday period is always a difficult one to get a bunch of gamers together at one time, due to family committments and things of this nature. It's also flu season and one gamer missed this event due to having caught the flu. We did have six gamers in total at this event however and the major award was won by Tom H. It was a an 'Eye of the Storm' plasma display. A few other raffle prizes were mouse pads and even a Hooter's 2020 calendar. Anyway, there was plenty of Big Al's grilled chicken to go around, a good selection of snacks and a few bottles of wine too. The major game played was Team Forgress 2. John arrived first and he was quickly put to work to solve a Linux problem on an old machine on the workbench. Those in attendance included John, Thomas, Daniel, Shaun, Jayce and Allen of course.

Needless to say, Allen was getting his butt kicked in the game.

2019 Labor Day LAN Party

We actually held this gaming the day prior to Labor Day, so folks could stay up late and game all night if they wanted to. Many did - the last ones crashed at 0600 the next day. The most popular game of the evening was Visera Cleaner, as it was played for 4 hours during the wee morning hours. Big Al was of course in bed by 11 PM, but then again, there was plenty of wine and Lynn brought over a bottle of Jagermeilter, a potent after dinner drink. The new build 'Bowl Me Over' made it's debut but nobody played on it since this machine is more for browsing the web and such. Good times though, and Daniel won the raffle prize - a stereo system!

Daniel gives thanks for the raffle prize.

2019 Memorial Day LAN Party

It's hard to believe it, but three years ago on this day Valerie and Belle agreed to marry and the proposal was at our 2016 Memorial Day LAN party. After a year they were married (on Memorial Day weekend in 2017) and so this event in 2019 marks their 2nd Wedding Anniversary. As such, we had an excellent turnout, with around 15-16 people coming over for gaming, beer, wine or just to socialize. Several games were played and Unreal Tournament was at least one that was played by many of the gamers. We had nine gaming machines online, with the newest machine being Purrfection that was built earlier this month. Good times and good food - grilled chicken, chicken skewers, hot dogs and things of this nature.

Ora has devised a devious plan of attack!

2018 Holiday LAN Party

As we approached the end of 2018, news of a holiday LAN party at Big Al Computers spread like wild fire. Of course it was Allen spreading the news on Facebook and by word-of-mouth, but you get the idea. The day before New Year's Eve is actually a good one to have a party, but we didn't anticipate that this LAN party would go on for a full 24-hours! Yes, all night gaming was the result and several people (three gamers, John, Tom and Diana) never went to sleep. Games played included a board game (some variation of Monopoly), our favorite LAN game Unreal Tournament and then the overnight sensation was Stardew Valley. Lots of food was available, including the now famous 'Big Al's chicken' from the grill, with Sandra seasoning the chicken and fingerling potatoes perferctly. We had a total of 10 gamers supporting the event with 9 gaming machines available. There were a few no shows that were signed up to attend and then bailed out at the last minute. Good times however just before the New Year of 2019 began.

Diana and Dan planning the next attack on Micro-Tron.

2018 Labor-Day-Weekend LAN Party

Ah, the end of summer vacation for the grandkids and time for them to return to school. Yes, the fall approaches but alas it's still hot outside and even hotter inside the home of Big Al's Computers LAN party. This event on a hot Sunday afternoon-evening hosted seven gamers to play one main game - Unreal Tournament. This older game has been made 'free to play' by EPIC, as long as you create your account and thank them for creating such an awesome game. Most of us remember in years gone by when we played the original Unreal Tournament, but this game is a bit enhanced with user-added content and interesting game play. We played it for several hours and it was so good that we might play it again at the next Big Al Computers LAN event.

Shaun was first to arrive and claim his gaming machine!

2017 Holiday LAN Party

Here we are, at the end of another year. There were lots of parties people could attend, but gamers look for LAN parties! The big one for 2017 was at Big Al's Computers of course. We had about a dozen attendees, although not everyone came here for the gaming - our cuisine is a big draw too. Valerie helped prepare the meats and vegetables and Allen grilled the meat outside in the freezing weather. It was nice and warm inside for the gamers though, especially with eight gaming machines running. Our big game of the evening, with all eight machines involved, was Team Fortress 2. We're not sure who was the overall winner in the game, but Belle drew the winning ticket and won a complete computer system. The fun ran past midnight, maybe to around 1 AM.

Belle won our prize - the complete computer system running Linux from our Memorial Day LAN party!

2017 Memorial Day LAN Party

What to do. What to do on the Memorial Day Weekend? I mean, we already attended Belle's and Valerie's wedding on Saturday, 27 May 2017. What more could you possibly squeeze into the holiday weekend, the defacto start of summer? How about a Memorial Day LAN party at Big Al Computers? It was a fun time, and we offered a prize this time, a complete computer system running Linux. Greg won the ticket draw, which our grandson Arthor drew out of a bowl that I mixed up in front of people. We had fun playing Call of Duty 4. More than a dozen people showed up, but not all were playing games. Many folks wanted to talk about the wedding activities a few days prior.

Greg won our prize - a computer system running Linux; he wanted a Windows machine though so he ended up with 'Chopper' (built in 2009) as his prize.

2016 Labor Day LAN Party

Nice weather on Labor Day and we scheduled this to be a 12-hour event - started at 11:00 AM and ended at 11:00 PM. The first gamers actually arrived at 11:30 AM, so Big Al had a few extra minutes to prepare things. This LAN party was a first for trying 'Serious Sam Revolution', which people accessed via their Steam accounts. We had a few good games early on, but then some folks lost interest and wanted to try other games. Our 'Call of Duty 4' game, a usual game that we play at these events, was somehow not working this time and although we got it to start up, we could not successfully start a local server. Anyway, some gamers decided to shoot some pool while dinner was being prepared and we had several people join them. Dinner was tasty but the gaming was pretty much over by 9:00 PM. A few gamers played longer, with Greg winning the longevity award for arriving at 11:30 AM and departing at 10:55 PM. We might try a 'Counter Strike' game next time, probably during the holiday season.

First gamers to arrive select the best machines. It's nature's way.

2016 Memorial Day LAN Party

It was a warm day here in Northern Virginia, so we turned the air conditioning down a few notches and fired up the machines. Over a dozen gamers showed up for this Memorial Day event (30 May 2016) and they were warmly greeted at the door before being showed an even warmer gaming computer ready to do their bidding. The excitement reached a climax when Valerie proposed to Belle and they exchanged rings in front of everyone. Oh, there was that nice spread of food too that kept our energy levels up until the last of the gamers left close to 11 PM. Keep your eyes peeled for notifications on Facebook for the 2016 Labor Day LAN party!

Tom hopes to invoke the power of banana warfare.

2015 Holiday LAN Party

We closed out the year at Big Al Computers with a big LAN party, featuring for the first time eight gaming machines on the LAN. The newest machine to join in the fun was Micro-Tron, which received a gaming video card (AMD 280X) from the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday sales this holiday season. Of course there is no point in having eight gaming machines if you don't use all of them and you bet we did. Those in attendance at this LAN party were: Valerie, Belle, Tom, Tinah, Greg, Sheraz, Tiz, Bennett, Brian, and of course Allen. The grand kids were there too, but they played with Legos and things of this nature. Valerie prepped most of the food and Allen grilled the chicken on the grill before the rain started up again. Timing is everything, which is especially true as we played Team Fortress 2 for around six hours (Belle configured the server for us) and after that we were basically too tired to play Call of Duty 4 this time. A few gamers hung around until the end of festivities (11 PM; it started at 2 PM) but the gaming was pretty intense a few hours into Team Fortress 2.

Allen considers his options with Micro-Tron.

2015 Labor Day Weekend LAN Party

The Labor-Day LAN party was quite a bit of fun at Big Al Computers. Valerie cooked up some tasty food while Belle configured the server for Team Fortress 2; we gamed for several hours before taking a break to play some cards and get the usual chit-chat in. Attendance was good, and Shaun was here even tough he suffered a recent foot injury. Sheraz, Tiz, Darlina, Jacye, Kat, Steve, Valerie, Belle, Tom, Tinah and a few others were in attendance this gaming evening. Yes, there was chicken on the grill too. Beer was in abundance this night and most of it was consumed. Some people needed to spend the night to recover. Gaming is always a blast at Big Al Computers.

Belle configures the server for Team Fortress 2.

2015 Memorial Day Weekend LAN Party

We sure did enjoy the beautiful weather on this Memorial Day Weekend, and Monday was the date for our big LAN party. There was a good turn-out again, with Tiz, Tom, Tinah, Greg, Valerie, Kat, Darlina, Cody, Steve and a few others in attendance. Most of the LAN games had six players, and a board game was even going on later in the evening. We mostly played Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4. Our grand kids were here too, along with Sandra's parents so we had a full house. The chicken on the grill was paired with a rice dish and a salad. Of course there were lots of snacks and soda / beer / wine, so everyone was happy.

Arthor is keeping an eye on Tinah to make sure she doesn't look at Tom's screen.

2014 Holiday LAN Party

The 2014 holiday season came up pretty fast here at Big Al Computers. Big Al himself was busy in December trying to do a quick-type build using an old slot machine that was rescued from the dumpster by a fellow motorcycle rider (Jim Musgrave). After that system was operational (see Game-a-Tron build), it was time for our annual holiday LAN party with seven gaming computers ready to do battle. The game of choice wasn't Call-of-Duty-4 or even Unreal Tournament; it was Team Fortress 2, which is available free (free to play on Steam) if you have a Steam account. This turned out to be a lot of fun for the gamers that attended the party - all seven machines were in use on Sunday, 28 December. Snacks were plentiful and hot dogs were grilled even though it was raining a bit outside. Nothing stops gamers from enjoying themselves.

Tiz enjoys the neon surround lighting effects.

2014 Labor Day Weekend LAN Party

Big Al's Computers needed to run a Labor Day LAN party because the community demanded it. We had several groups of gamers show up, using most of the available seven gaming machines throughout the night. Call of Duty-4 was the primary game again, but next time we are thinking about an even older game - Unreal tournament 2004. We'll give it a try, perhaps over the 2014 holiday season.

Arthor was acting as an Internet cop. He ensured everyone got their fair share of the bandwidth.

2014 Memorial Day Weekend LAN Party

To support the gaming community we had seven gaming machines on the Local Area Network (LAN) for this Memorial Day Weekend event. Allen's big basement cleanup project was completed (3 months into retirement) so there was plenty of room to stretch out. In attendance were Sheraz, Tiz, Greg, Tom, Tinah, Valerie, Bell and myself so all machines were in use, even with Tom and Tinah switching off so one of them could watch Ora and Arthor (our grand kids). We lasted until about 11:30 PM when a few of us were basically pooped. For dinner we had the grilled chicken & roasted-then-mashed potatoes. Snacks included Sandra's deviled eggs and about 10 bags of chips and several soda selections. There were plenty of beers in the fridge too. Nobody had to game on an empty stomach.

Simba ensured nobody cheated - if they turned around he was supposed to bite their noses.

End of 2013 LAN Party

Another most excellent turnout for this gaming event! We had Sheraz, BJ, Ivan, Glenn, Greg, Tom, Valerie and myself gaming into the late evening hour. Two games stood out in this event - the usual Call of Duty 4 kill fest (two teams this time, upstairs and downstairs) and then Hawken (a free mech warrior game). The teams were evenly matched until Big Al himself was playing, and then his team started to lose.... :-(

Labor Day Weekend 2013 LAN Party

A good showing at this gaming event, although some key players were unable to make it. We enjoyed several hours playing "Call of Duty 4" while chowing down on a nice chicken dinner grilled to perfection. The party ran paste 12:30 AM but most folks left soon there after. We had Tom, Tinah, Valerie, Tiz, Greg and Allen gaming at this event. Perhaps there will be a holiday 2013 party? We shall see.

May 2013 LAN Party

There's a new computer in town, and it's reason enough to have a LAN party at Big Al's Computers! The new machine is TOTB (Thinking Outside The Box), and it was completed on 19 May 2013. Taking several months to build, this custom machine is totally custom - lighting effects, open chassis, hangs on the wall, and best of all - it has an AMD CPU and runs Windows 7. The friends of Big Al's Computers got to see TOTB in person on Memorial Day Weekend as our LAN party started at 6PM on the 24th and ran straight through 11PM on the 25th. We had six machines on the LAN Friday night and Shaun brought over his machine on Saturday to make six. The game of choice was Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare because we all wanted to beat Sheraz. He is just phenomenal at this game.

October 2012 Call of Duty 4 LAN Party

The boys have been itching to have another LAN party over at Big-Al's Computers - was it the gaming or the tasty dinner and snacks? It's too late to determine that now, but I must say that everyone had a great time. Greg came over Friday night and didn't leave until Sunday morning. Shaun and Sheraz arrived Saturday afternoon and stayed well into the early Sunday morning pre-dawn hours. Call of Duty 4 was the favorite LAN game but the boys were playing all sorts of games throughout the night. Look for another LAN party in 2013.

December 2011 Call of Duty 4 LAN Party

On the same day that Curio Cavern was hosting their PC Tourney to win a Big Al's Computer, there was also a Call of Duty 4 LAN party going on at Big Al's Computers. The timing wasn't good for several players however as finals were the following week so studying took priority over gaming. None the less, gaming was done and four gamers were in attendance for the event. For 2012, look for more LAN parties but hopefully scheduled without conflict of school duties!

September 2011 Call of Duty 4 LAN Party

A relaxing Labor Day Weekend was off to a good start when Big Al's Computers hosted a Call of Duty 4 LAN party! We had five gamers at this event; several of the usual crowd were either working (Curio Cavern is a popular work location for Tom and Chris, since Tom and Tinah own the store) or doing Dungeons & Dragons. I know what you're thinking - Dungeons and Dragons over computer gaming at Big Al's Computers? Anyway, the evening was full of good times. We did a chicken barbecue with roasted potatoes; a rice dish and salad rounded out the dinner. There were plenty of snacks and soda too. There were seven gaming machines available for the event, three on the main level (in the den) and four in the basement, which was enhanced with green neon lighting. Be sure to watch for our next LAN party - we notify friends via Facebook.

May 2011 "Win a PC Tourney" at Curio Cavern

Big Al's Computers participated in the Curio Cavern "Win a PC Tourney" event on 21 May 2011. A real Big Al's Computer was the grand prize and guess who one after several rounds of Magic card playing? Chris Barrett is the lucky guy! Keep an eye open for a another Big Al's Computer prize before the end of 2011. Who knows, you might be the lucky winner next time.

Chris caught in the act of gaming

Holiday Gaming on December 27th 2009

We started at noon and in total we had eight gamers with seven gaming machines running on the wired network. While most of the gamers had to leave in the evening ('cause they gotta work), a few gamers plan to stay here for the long haul - into the wee hours of Monday morning. As usual Sandra prepared some tasty food, Allen grilled some hot dogs, and a few gamers (like Greg) brought over a snack item for the enjoyment of all.

June 27th 2009 Gaming - Largest Turnout Yet!

The summer is meant for gaming and that's what we like to do at Big Al's Computers. There are 8 machines on our wired LAN and for this event we had 10 gamers ready to rock and roll. So a few gamers had to watch as others played their hearts out with the goal of total domination of the others. Lots of fun really. Anyway, there were lots of snacks, drinks and barbecue chicken / corn on the cob / potato salad to keep our energy up way into the late night hours - would you believe it didn't end until 0700 the following day?

Now we did have one minor problem. We tripped a circuit breaker on one of the circuits supplying juice to the machines in the basement. The circuit can only handle 15 Amps but only half of the machines down there were on that circuit. We turned off a few lights and powered the machines back on with minimal downtime. Overall it's hard to say who came out on top, but if you look at the picture of Sharaz, he's showing a 7-kill streak in Call-of-Duty-4 - that's pretty good. Of course, he's on our newest machine, an AMD Phenom II Quad Core with an Radeon 4870 graphics card.

May 2009 Gaming - Call of Duty 4 on the basement LAN

November 2007 Gaming - Call of Duty 4 on the basement LAN

Big Al's Computers Machine Builds

AVP Requiem-2: Rebuilt August 2021

* Alien Vs. Predator Requiem Rebuild: Running well and looking good!

The original Alien Vs. Predator Requiem was built back in 2008, when Tom completed painting the side panels of the Cooler Master Cosmos case. Time marches on and the machine wasn't being used much anymore, so Allen decided he could salvage the case and a few components (optical drives, spinning hard drives, the centrifical fan and things of this nature) but replace most of the other stuff with modern hardware. Since video cards are still twice their retail prices due to COVID-19 in it's second year, Allen waited for the new AMD 5,000 series processor with integrated graphics. This should be sufficient to game at 1080 x 720 resolution for the time being and then the system can later be upgraded with the addition of a video card for higher resolution gaming. The AMD 5700G CPU was purchased the day it was first available (05 August 2021) and the rest of the components - motherboard, RAM, CPU cooler (mostly RGB stuff), etc. was assembled in the orginal case.

Many things have changed in the computer world over the past thirteen years. AMD is now on top of Intel, Red/Green/Blue (RGB) colors are part of the culture, and SSD drives are much quicker than the old spinning HDD drives. The machines are quietier too, due to sofisticated fan curve voltage control in the BIOS of the motherboards. Yes, it's a different world now. My major modification to the case was in the hard drive cage area, where I removed a panel that was pop-riveted in place. I wanted better air flow though this case, with air being drawn in from below with two fans, and then air expelled from the top All-In-One (AIO) CPU cooler and of course the rear fan. Inside the case I still have that centrifical fan blowing air across the motherboard. These fans are nice and quiet too, as the new fans are magnetic-levitation ones from Corsair.

Through the Looking Glass: Built January 2021

* Through the Looking Glass: It's a colorful one! Alice would love it.

The past year (2020) has been rough with COVID-19 keeping us from going out to events and such. By the end of the year, I was starting to think about building a new gaming machine for the new year. Another update to the ZEN architecture (now called ZEN-3, the 5000 series of CPUs) meant I had to have one. AMD also came out with new video cards, those being the Radeon 6800 series. However, both these parts are almost impossible to find at anything near retail pricing. A new 6800 XT video card easily goes over $1K. I elected to settle for a previous generation PowerColor Red Devil 5700 XT and it was actually at retail pricing (just under $500). I did get screwed on the CPU though, as I had to pay about a $250 markup on the AMD 5800X CPU - meaning I paid about $680. Well, it's only money.

This gaming machine has 32 GB of DDR4 3600 Corsair Vengenance RGB Pro RAM and a whopping 1200W Be Quiet! PSU. The Motherboard is the ASRock X570 PG Velocita, and it was ready for the new 5000 series without a BIOS update being required. The All-In-One (AIO) CPU cooler is the same Cooler Master unit (ML360R) I used in Ryzen-Nine in March of 2020 - very colorful and great at cooling the CPU. For storage I of course went with a PCIe 4.0 M.2 Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus drive at 1 TB for the system drive, and then a few Western Digital Blue SATA SSD drives at 2 TB and 500 GB for data / backup. There are no spinning HDD drives in this build. The components are matched to a 32" ISP 4K monitor from LG, along with a Corsair K60 RGB Pro keyboard and mouse pad. Oh, I guess that's a Corsair Dark Core RGB Pro mouse too.

What sets this gaming machine apart from previous builds at Big Al Computers is the idea of hanging the case (Thermaltake P5 or at least part of it) below the glass table. To do this, I had to fabricate a steel frame, using shelve brackets and steel bars. This frame simply hangs onto the edges of the metal in the glass table that I already had (The glass table was prevously supporting Osborne-Again-2, which I moved to another location). I made it out of steel because it had to be strong. I didn't want to hear a crash in the night from a weaker design, you know what I mean? Anyway, the Thermaltake P5 case (minus it's own glass top and feet) just sits on the metal frame. I had to install the P5 motherboard tray to rotate the motherboard 90 degrees - moving it closer to the CPU cooler; otherwise the CPU cooler pump / CPU block would not reach the CPU. I added three more RGB fans to get more airflow across the components, and thus I needed to fabricate a frame to hold these (now I used aluminum bar instead of steel).

Overall the system is running very well. I would like to find a figurine of Alice to place on the case, and so I will keep an eye out for one. I have installed several games and assuming everyone can get their COVID-19 vaccinations by the month of May, this machine will be first available to gamers at our Memorial Day 2021 LAN party.

Ryzen Nine: Built March 2020

* Ryzen Nine: Vertical video card mounting and running nicely.

AMD came out with their third generation of the ZEN architure in late 2019; the best processors were available soon after that but the absolute tasty ones came out in early 2020 - like the 3900X. Prices were'nt too high either but there were a few price drops and Allen jumped on one when the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X dropped to about $420 on several web sites. It was the time to buy this microprocessor and build a new gaming machine! This is a 12-core microprocessor, the largest number of cores built at Big Al Computers to date. There are bigger ones of course, but as an example, the 64-core AMD 3990X costs about $3,000. That's a bit too much and who is going to use that processing power at home anyway?

This machine was destined to replace the aging Ryzen-Sun, which runs the AMD 1800X CPU processor (first generation Zen process). It needed to be a gaming machine yet remain reliable for daily taskings too, such as web page development and email distribution processes. For the first time at Big Al Computers, we went with 64 GB of DDR RAM (2 sticks at 32 GB each); that upped the price a bit but with a 12-core microprocessor you are basically talking about a workstation now.

In November 2020, I decided to modify the video card mounting, making it a vertical mount so you could see the RGB fans on the video card. This meant buying a vertical mounting kit from Lian Li and also a special PCIe 4.0 extender cable to maintine the same bandwidth that the motherboard PCIe ports were capable of. This change looked very nice once I got it installed.

Bowl Me Over: First Built August 2019, Rebuilt in May 2020

* Bowl Me Over: Needs a new name now.

So the Raspberry Pi series of computers run a form of Linux called "Raspbian Buster"; this is a chance to learn a bit more of the Linux world of software. Games are out there too, and this device actually supports 4K HDMI video output. There is a Linux-based office suite and of course Chrome has a browser that runs well. The computer is a bit slower for web browsing than our other machines at Big Al Computers, but that's to be expected from such a small investment in money. Hell, this computer costs less than just an SSD from many of the Big Al Computer machines! Bowl Me Over made it's debut at the 2019 Labor Day LAN Party, and several gamers took the time to see it in action.

Fast forward to May 2020, and the whole world is suffering with a pandemic known as COVID-19. Schools have been closed since mid-March 2020 and people are getting bored sheltering in place. I'm one of those people too, but my bordom led me down to the workbench at Big Al Computers to see what I could do in terms of fabrication. I liked the cat watering bowl concept for this Raspbery Pi computer but it was time for a change. I searched around my basement and found this single bottle box that once held a 40th anniversary Octagon wine bottle from Barboursville Vineyards in Charlottesville, Virginia. It only took a few hours to figure out how to install the Raspberry Pi into this new case, while adding a few cool features to make it easier to plug things in. The lights are battery powered Christmas tree lights and they work well. I'm still struggling with getting this new SSD to work with the Raspberry Pi as the boot drive, but eventually I'll figure that one out. Overall this is a pretty cool case.

Purrfection: Built 09-10 May 2019

* Purrfection: You might notice that this gaming computer is built inside of a cat carrier. Yes, now you see the connection between the name and the case. But why? Well, I'm running out of things to mod into computer cases. I've done the microwave oven, a printer, a flat-bed scanner and was time for a cat carrier. There is good ventilation too, so I don't need too many fans stiring things up. But the real reason for building another computer so soon after Monolith (built in November 2018) was that we gave Monolith to Valerie a few weeks ago (April 2019) so the desk was vacant. I don't need much of a reason to build something anyway - I'm retired after all.

So this is the third 4K gaming machine constructed by Big Al Computers. It uses the same 32 inch 4K LG monitor as the Ryzen-Sun machine and Valeries' Monolith (she got the computer and the monitor), but this time I changed to just 16MB of DDR4 RAM; its RGB RAM though so it displays pretty colors. This is also my first all-SSD machine. I'm using a 1 TB M.2 SSD for the main drive (this plugs into the M.2 socket on the motherboard) and then a 2 TB SSD SATA drive for data - meaning games of course. The AMD 2700 CPU and the CoolerMaster ML240RGB CPU cooler are the same ones I installed in Monolith, but the video card is a slightly cheaper XFX RX590 'Fatboy' which I had to have since I ride a Harley Fatboy.

Being a long time builder of custom computers, I've learned a few things about fabrication, especially when it comes to the structure that holds the motherboard, the video card and the PSU. This time I took apart an old HP desktop computer (from the 2003 time frame I believe) that was given to me years ago. I drilled out the case rivets and separated the case frame to get an ideal section that would hold the motherboard, the PSU and the video card. This also fit into the cat carrier pretty well, although it's mounted a bit to the side so the top of the motherboard would clear the cat carrier handle section. I even fabricated the CPU cooler mount using an aluminum bar saved from my old 'Printer-to-Computer-Deja-Vu' that I tore apart a few years ago, plus a piece of Australian Cypress wooded flooring that was leftover when our floors were installed many years ago. Lots of reuse in the fabrication section of Big Al Computers!.

Oh, you see that old CPU metal container on the work bench? I cut that up to make mounting plates for the Blu-Ray burner. I thought that was pretty tricky. I even used the top of the can as an outline for the cable access hole I cut into the base of the cat carrier. As you can see, I don't pussyfoot around. The whole build took about 15 hours over just two days.

Monolith: Built in November 2018

* Monolith A new build to make use of a very large case obtained in 2017, Monolith was the result of internal components bought on Black Friday deals over the Internet. As such, this gaming machine is actually quite capable for the tasks at hand - gaming and more gaming! It sports an AMD Ryzen 2700 CPU, 32 MB of DDR4 RAM and a Vega 64 Video Card. Of course there are a few SSD's involved, including an M.2 drive for the system. It will make it's debut at the Holiday LAN party on 30 Dec 2018.

It should be noted that this is the second 4K gaming machine constructed by Big Al Computers. It uses the same 32 inch 4K LG monitor as the Ryzen-Sun machine, and in fact it has the same 32 MB of DDR4 RAM. Since the Vega 64 video card is not water-cooled as is the one in Ryzen-Sun, we had to undervolt the video card to make it perform at it's peak when the system is under stress (i.e. gaming). The days of overclocking the CPU are now pretty much gone but video cards still require some tweeking now and then.

Game-A-Tron-2, Upgraded in August 2018

* Game-A-Tron-2 was upgraded from the original Game-A-Tron because of the demise of it's Athlon 64 CPU (or possilby the motherboard). The system was last running Linux (32-bit version) and was generally being used to enable Big Al to learn more about this operating system, but it would no longer boot up at all. The case was still pretty cool, so why not make this into a real gaming machine for the Big Al Computers LAN? And thus the upgraded version took shape, with some of the latest components (AMD Ryzen 5 2600 CPU, Gigabyte B450 AORUS M AM4 motherboard, 16 GB of G. Skill Ripjaws DDR4 memory, a Thermaltake 750 Watt 80 Plus Gold with RGB PSU, two 240 MB SSDs, Windows 10 Home Edition, and a PowerColor AXRX Radeon RX-580 Golden Sample video card. The machine has total SSD storage and thus it's quite fast, but it's not running in 4K resolution because that would require another monitor so we're still using 1080p resolution, which is fine of course. Good times.

Ryzen-Sun, Completed in March 2017

* Ryzen-Sun came about for two reasons. First, AMD had just released a new processor design (Ryzen) that was now on par with the current Intel processors but for less money, and second - Allen's been using the Level 10 GT for over three years now and a new computer is always a nice thing to have. The release of the new Ryzen processors was the beginning of March 2017, and of course new motherboards and things of this nature would be required too, but Allen was going on vacation in early March. Some things were ordered though, with Valerie taking delivery of those and Allen ordered the remainder of the components upon returning from vacation. The cost? The Ryzen 1800X was $500 itself; add in the Asus Crosshair Hero VI ($250), the 'Be Quiet' 1000W PSU ($210), the Cooler Master AIO Master Liquid 120 ($70), the Samsung 960 EVO 1 TB M.2 SSD ($500), the Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 32 GB memory ($230), the InWin 707 full tower case ($120), the Klipsch ProMedia BT speakers ($150), two 4 TB spinning drives ($280), and optical Blue-Ray drive ($53), a Kensington Slim Blade mouse ($100), an HP wireless keyboard ($40) and the Windows 10 Home OS ($90) - well, you've spent upwards of $2,600. On top of that, I'm still using the old monitor and a video card borrowed from my Microtron build until the new AMD Vega series video cards come out this summer and I'll also get a new 4K monitor then too.

Build notes: I've learned from past builds that you should assemble the components on your workbench, outside of the case, to first test things out. Something always comes up, and it's easier to figure it out if you don't have to disassemble things when you fail to boot up. For this build, I first forgot to connect the power leads to the video card. Next up was an error code on the motherboard that had no reference in the motherboard manual, and of course it wasn't booting. After a few minutes I remembered an old trick - clear the CMOS. On this board it's a simple pushbutton; in the past you used to remove the CMOS battery. Anyway, that worked and once I had the Windows 10 OS installed an running smoothly, I updated the BIOS to the current version. I'll still be tweaking things here and there, such as memory speeds and maybe a bit of over-clocking, but for now I am happy.

So, how well does this new machine perform? So far, I really like it. I was using a good machine before this though (Level 10 GT) and it was running almost 5 GHz with that AMD 9590 processor. So time will tell as I get used to daily life and of course, adding in the new video card and monitor later this year will be a big step up.

Laptron, Completed in June 2016

* Laptron was designed to take advantage of a laptop (about four years old) and also make use of a useless/non-functional VCR that we bought back in the 1980's. Following along the development lines my earlier Scan-a-Tron, I removed the laptop display but not the top cover/keyboard. You see, the whole laptop was intended to reside within the chassis of the VCR, which I had to disassemble and then grind down with a Dremel Tool. An external display would be utilized and because this laptop (a Sony VAIO) had an HDMI port, I could retain the HD (1080p) picture. I needed an external keyboard, mouse and speakers too, since I would no longer be able to touch the laptop within the VCR. Wanting to spend something on this project, I ordered a glass keyboard that was about half it's original price. The keyboard has blue LED illumination when you are typing on it, but don't rest your hands on the keys because they will activate. This is a hunt & peck keyboard and not intended for normal 'touch typists' unfortunately. But it looks cool so why not. I also spent a bit on the IKEA LED strip set that I've used in a few previous builds and that worked quite well on the glass table.

I should mention that while taking apart the VCR, I discovered why it was not functioning properly (it wouldn't eject the VHS tapes). I found a broken belt on the bottom of the tray. I probably could have repaired the VCR but I no longer have any VHS tapes to watch so it's a moot point to hang onto the relic. Better to be repurposed than to be tossed in the trash, right?

Micro-Tron, Completed in March, Enhanced in May 2015

* Micro-Tron is a build intended to bring new life to an old microwave oven that died a few years ago. I knew that someday I would build a computer into the microwave oven and that day has come! This time I used all new parts, including the AMD APU 7850K which has those graphics cores built into the chip along with a nice quad-core CPU. This way I don't need a separate video card and I can put that extra money into a new 27" monitor and wireless keyboard. The 16 GB of DDR3 RAM was a good investment because the APU can use lots of memory for the graphics processing. Micro-Tron is my new workbench machine and it will replace Scan-a-Tron and the Sun X-Terminal for browsing the web and such when I'm working down in the basement. It took about 30 hours to build this machine, so it wasn't a walk in the park. Take a look at the photos below and you'll get an idea of what's involved in the fabrication process. Oh, those three pictures in the third row are the 'magnetron' that generates the microwave energy that cooks the food. It's basically a vacuum tube that emits microwave frequencies when high voltage is applied.

In May 2015, I did perform an update to include a clock display and to add some nice case feet. The clock was fabricated using the guts of an alarm clock I found at the local CVS store and it fit almost perfectly once I had the clock pulled apart. It even has a battery backup for when I turn the machine off.

Game-A-Tron, Completed in December 2014

* Game-a-Tron consists of mostly used parts - many came from my old 'Printer-to-Computer-Deja-Vu', which I disassembled in the fall of 2014. Some of these initial images show that disassembly. It's hard to tear apart something you put perhaps 80 hours into constructing, but the old rig was just not needed anymore and it took up lots of space. The old parts were supplemented with a new SSD so Game-a-Tron would boot and run fast, even though it has an old Athlon 64 3000+ CPU (dual core) - I could not even use a 64-bit OS with this CPU so I ended up loading in the Windows 10 Technical Preview (Windows 10 was announced to be available in mid-2015). The chassis of Game-a-Tron comes from a slot machine that was given to me by an old WORMS (motorcycle group) friend called Jim. He found it on a trash pile near a apartment building he manages and I kept it for several years until now. The time has come to turn a slot machine into a real computer.

Now Game-a-Tron is not actually a gaming machine per se. Why? Because of the old parts that were utilized - an old CPU, slower memory and an old video card. No, this is a machine intended to be a test platform for the new Windows 10 Technical Release, and eventually just an every-day browser machine once the new OS is officially released. Game-a-Tron was built in short order, to the tune of perhaps 15 hours not accounting for the deconstruction of my old 'Printer-to-Computer-Deja-Vu' machine.

Thermaltake Level 10 GT, Completed in October 2013

* Level 10 GT was to be a quick build, mostly because I wanted to get my hands on the recently released AMD FX 9590 8-Core CPU! This processor requires liquid cooling and a very powerful motherboard that can provide the juice to keep it running. I built the machine using some good parts: A Samsung 240 GB SSD, a 2 TB Western Digital Black Edition Hard Drive, 16 GB of DDR3 RAM, an Asus Crosshair V Formula-Z Motherboard, the new Asus Matrix Platinum Radeon R9 280X video card, and a Coolermaster Silent Pro Gold 1KW PSU. I finally was able to procure that Thermaltake Level 10 GT case that came out a few years ago (it was pretty expensive back then). No big mods performed on this case because I liked it just the way it was - lots of good fans with a built-in fan controller and color-changing settings too. It's running at 4.9 GHz, and it clocks up in turbo mode beyond 5 GHz. Very impressive!

Thinking Outside The Box (TOTB), Completed in May 2013

* TOTB was conceptualized in January as Big Al himself was participating in the 1K Beer Walk in Crystal City, Virginia. The idea was to have open frame construction, using some type of light-weight case, and hang it on the wall above the computer desk. This would be the third machine built at Big Al's Computers that was designed to be wall mounted, but it would be the first with an open chassis. With weight minimization being a top priority, and money always a bit tight, I decided to utilize a simple plastic storage container for the surrounding case. It could bear no weight of course, so the interior must be designed to support the weight of the computer components, including the PSU. Aluminum bars served as the framework, along with a scrap piece of plywood. For wall mounting, I used molly bolts with their heads cut off so the whole unit rests on pins - which go through the aluminum bars. Component choices were the obvious AMD microprocessor - in this case the six-core 6300 running at the stock 3.5 GHz. The graphics duties are performed by the AMD/Sapphire HD 7950.

LAN Box, Completed in February 2013

* The LAN Box machine uses the CPU from Tom's Curio Cavern machine, which had a power supply go bad and it took out several components on it's motherboard, such as the motherboard itself and the video card. Tom ended up getting one of the other Big Al's Computers while I worked on getting that machine running again. I ended up replacing most everything, so I got a new case to make this machine into a LAN Box for Valerie. It's rocking a Geforce GTX 660 Ti video card from MSI and that AMD 6-core Phenom II CPU was still cranking out the cycles so it's in there too. Valerie just got it to play with on 03 Feb 2013, so she's been loading games and giving it a try. So far, so sweet!

Curio Cavern PC Tourney Prize Computer for December 2011

* Curio Cavern has been doing very well since they opened the doors in January 2011 (almost one year ago). Big Al's Computers is proud to supply a second prize computer for their late-fall Magic Tournament called "PC Tourney". The event was held on 17 Dec 2011 and after several hours of intense gaming, Patrick Cox was the winner of the machine. Speaking of which, this was an AMD Dual-Core rig with 2 GB of DDR2 RAM and a nVidia 8800GT graphics card. The components were housed in a Coolermaster Scout case and it even came with a 24 inch LCD display, wireless mouse and keyboard.

Patrick Cox is all smiles after winning his very own Big Al's Computer.

Fall 2011 Project: FX-8-Core "Mathmos Madness" Build

* Mathmos Madness was built as soon as AMD released the new FX Bulldozer CPU. In fact, I ordered the CPU the second I saw it was available - good thing too because it sold out within minutes! This new 8-core CPU is designed to clock higher (4 GHz is easily obtained) and boy is it fast. Some folks say it isn't much of an improvement over the previous 6-core CPUs but I am very happy with the increased performance over my previous AMD Quad-core. We'll see how this new machine performs on gaming nights with it's AMD Radeon 6950 graphics card and 8 GB of DDR3 RAM. The Mathmos name comes from the LED Mathmos light that I installed into the rear/top portion of an older Lian Li full tower case. I did a review on this case several years ago and now it has finally achieved success as my case of choice for this build.

Video clip of the Mathmos Light

Summer 2011 Project: Scan-a-Tron Rebuild (Scan-a-Tron-2)

* The original 2006 Scan-a-Tron needed a rebuild because it was running so bloody slow, likely due to a compromised Windows XP operating system and just that fact that I've been using much faster AMD machines these past few years. So I set out looking for a faster laptop that I could gut and exchange for the old AMD Athlon XP HP laptop that was the original Scan-a-Tron. Tom offered up his old AMD eMachines M6805 laptop which runs an Athlon 64 3000+ CPU - this would be twice as fast and it had decent ATI (now owned by AMD) 9600 graphics built in too. So the project started and ended on Labor Day 2011. It took about nine hours to complete the dis-assembly of the eMachines M6805 laptop and to get it into the Scan-a-Tron chassis without breaking anything.

Spring 2011 Project: OsbornAgain Rebuild (OsbornAgain-2)

* OsbornAgain was showing it's age this past year, with a dying hard drive and a bad SATA cable too boot. The new Duke Nukem Forever game was finally coming out in July so I figured it was time to rebuild this machine into a powerful and modern gaming platform. I opted for the Nvidia GTX560 in the Duke Nukem Fully Loaded Package along with a tasty AMD Phenom II X4 975 CPU (running at 3.6 GHz without overclock). I needed a new motherboard, PSU and memory too so this was basically a complete rebuild. The results speak for themselves - gaming has reached a new level of coolness with this machine and my 28" LCD monitor. While I haven't finished the game yet, I am destined to reach the end before the year is out. OsbornAgain-2 was well worth the investment.

Spring 2009 Project: AMD Quad-Core Dual-GPU Gaming Machine "Chopper"

* AMD Quad-Core Gaming Machine has found it's theme. This machine is called "chopper" because I mounted a picture of my chopper (including a few Hooter Girls for good measure) on the backside of the motherboard. I started this project in early March 2009 and ordered the remaining big parts (motherboard, video card, etc.) on 14 March. I built this machine for powerful gaming but for now I started with just one video card, the Radeon 4870 with 1GB of memory on the card. The system is capable of cross-fire support, so in the summer of 2009 I added a second Radeon 4870 video card to run cross-fire. This is an awesome gaming machine now. It has the mother of all heatsinks, the Zalman 9900 - which is even bigger than the Zalman 9700. I have a 1 TB WD black edition hard drive. I have 2 optical DVD burners. I have a CoolerMaster case. There is 4 GB of DDR2 RAM so Windows Vista 64-bit edition has plenty to play with and of course I'm running the top of the line (at the time) AMD 940 Quad-Core Phenom II black edition. Overclocking is expected, naturally, but not until later when I feel I need more power. This machine is running most excellently right now at stock settings. Below are a few pictures of the assembly. Oh, the new monitor is a 25" LCD - is that big enough for gaming?

2008 Build: AVP Requiem Gaming Machine

* AVP Requiem is a movie-theme case that's based on the 2007 release of the Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem movie. This project was a 2007 holiday build that was mostly finished before the start of 2008 - the hardware was complete but the painting took a bit longer - as in 3-4 months longer! Check out some pictures below, and for more details, follow this Mod Nation forum link where I have my work log.

Old News: Gaming Power Upgrade for OsbornAgain

* OsbornAgain received a videocard infusion, gaining an eVGA Geforce 8800 GT Super Clock card after I extracted the older BFG 7800 GT Over Clock card. The new card fit easily into the PCI-e slot and now there is plenty of clearance between the VGA cooler and the nearby optical drive. Check out the pictures below.

* Scan-a-Tron has been included in CPU Magazine's Mad Reader Mod article in the October 2007 issue. Also, PC Magazine's on-line ExtremeTech Build It / Case Mod department has a custom review of Scan-a-Tron.

2007 "OsbornAgain Gaming Upgrade"

AMD Athon 64 X2 3800+, eVGA 8800 GT Super Clock and 2 GB of tasty DDR2 RAM

2007 Project: "Semper Fidelis"

This project is almost complete; it's up and running with a mid-level videocard (MSI 8600 GTS OC). The case mods were built for a great Marine and good friend of our family - Lt. Col Greg Davis. The modded case was presented to him on his 50th birthday (late April 2007), and now we are awaiting final funding for either one or two videocards - perhaps one or two nVidia Geforce 8800 GTs. Money is tight, just like it is with the government due to the war effort. Stay tuned for updates this holiday season as Greg wants to have the machine completed before the year is over.

If you click on the link found in the title for this project, you will be taken to The Mod Nation forums, which is a very well respected forum site for computer modders like myself. You will be in the link for this project worklog, and there are plenty of additional pictures there to look at.

2006 Holiday Project "Scan-a-Tron"

Scan-a-Tron is fabricated from an HP ScanJet 6100C Scanner, an HP Pavilion ze4145 Laptop, and a custom Laser-Etched Window Made by Hyperkore Computers.

Scan-a-Tron has been included in CPU Magazine's Mad Reader Mod article in the October 2007 issue. You can also see Scan-a-Tron on ExtremeTech here!

Download the build history of Scan-a-Tron here.

2006 "Thermaltake Powerhouse"

AMD Athon FX62 (2.8Gz dual-core), dual eVGA 7900 GT's in SLI on an Asus Crosshair motherboard

2006 Small Projects

Upgrading bottom motherboard in "Printer-to-Computer-Deja-Vu" machine.

Vista Beta 2 Upgrade for the Printer-to-Computer

Color scheme change and some new parts for the Globe of Retribution

Laser-etched window in Sun X-Terminal keyboard

2005 Holiday Project "OsbornAgain"

OsbornAgain was developed from the original Osborne Executive CPM computer (circa 1983).

Velocity Reviews Forum link: here.

Big Al himself gets interviewed on 01-26-06 by Extreme Tech! Here's the link.

Download Extreme Tech's interview, without pictures here.

Major Projects 2004-2005

Sun X-Terminal Mod

Maximum PC Magazine Forum link: here.

Download the build history of the Sun X-Terminal Mod here.


Winner of Maximum PC "Rig of the Month" (ROTM) in February 2005 issue!

Download the build history of the printer-to-computer here.


Winner of PC Extreme magazine "Mod of the Month" in issue 26!

Winner of Bawl's Hot Mod "Out of the Box" contest in February 2005!

Download the build history of the printer-to-computer-deja-vu here.

Other Projects 2000-2003

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